Monday, April 26, 1993 - 1:30 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
We will begin with Prayers.
Speaker: We will proceed with the Order Paper.
Introduction of Visitors.
Are there any Returns or Documents for tabling?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I have a legislative return for tabling.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I have a legislative return respecting casual and auxiliary positions.
Speaker: Are there any further Returns or Documents for tabling?
Are there any Reports of Committees?
Introduction of Bills.
Are there any Notices of Motion for the Production of Papers?
Are there any Notices of Motion?
NOTICES OF MOTION
Mr. Harding: I would like to give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that the Government of the Yukon should show economic leadership by actively supporting the immediate stripping of the Grum ore deposit in the vicinity of Faro as an infrastructure investment to stimulate economic activity to keep thousands of Yukon people working and to stave off private sector economic collapse due to the lack of any other immediate private sector opportunities of comparable scale.
Speaker: Are there any Statements by Ministers?
Taxation measures to be phased in; amendments to be proposed to reduce 1993-94 spending accordingly
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: In our budget speech of March 25, 1993, in order to provide for a balanced budget, certain revenue initiatives were announced by our government. Among those initiatives were proposals to change the rates of income taxation in the Yukon, effective January 1, 1993.
It was proposed that Yukon personal income tax rates be increased from 45 percent to 50 percent of basic federal tax and that, in addition, a high income surcharge of five percent on Yukon personal income taxes paid in excess of $6,000 be levied.
It was further proposed that corporate income taxes also be increased. The small business corporate tax rate was to increase from five percent to six percent and the general corporate tax rate was to rise to 15 percent from 10 percent.
The total taxation package proposed in our March 25, 1993 budget would increase the government revenues by approximately $8.8 million. The income tax changes I have just mentioned would, in themselves, account for $4.6 million of that figure.
The rate increases were necessary if we were to accomplish three tasks with the budget. Firstly, as I noted at the outset of this ministerial statement, we are committed to a balanced budget. Secondly, we wanted to avoid massive layoffs in the public service and finally, we wished to maintain basic service levels in government programs.
While not insignificant by any means, we felt the increases were bearable in light of the spending objectives to be achieved.
Even with the proposed rate increases, Yukon tax rates will still be among the lowest in the country. While there is good reason for rates here to be lower than Canadian averages because of our high cost of living, I believe many Yukoners recognized that there was some room to move on the revenue side, unlike other jurisdictions in Canada, where taxes have gone up every year.
In other words, we felt we had achieved a balance between spending priorities and revenue initiatives that best served the interests of Yukons citizens.
Since presenting the budget in this Legislature, we have received comments from a number of people, including certain Members of this House, the business community and members of the public. It would appear that the general consensus seems to support the general direction of the budget based on the three elements I referred to a moment ago: a balanced budget, no massive layoffs, and maintaining basic service levels. Also, the fact that eight government departments are planning to spend less than they did last year has not been lost on the average taxpayer, because they know that has not happened anywhere else in Canada this year.
However, a concern has been expressed about the proposed tax increases. Indications we have received suggest that the rate increases, while not unreasonable in and of themselves, may be too much all at once.
We have given very serious consideration to these concerns and we have decided to respond. As a result, I would like to inform the House that we intend to introduce amendments to Bill No. 46 that will result in some of the income taxation measures being phased in over a two-year period.
These amendments will propose that the personal income tax rates be increased only from 45 percent to 48 percent of the basic federal tax, effective January 1, 1993, and from 48 percent to 50 percent, effective January 1, 1994. This contrasts to the current bills proposal to increase rates by the entire five percentage points, effective January 1, 1993.
We will further introduce amendments such that the general corporate tax increase will be three percent, effective January 1, 1993, with an additional two percent to come into effect on January 1, 1994. This will replace the previous proposal that saw the entire five percent become effective January 1, 1993.
Our government takes public input very seriously. I believe these amendments demonstrate a commitment to not only listen to what the public says, but also to act on that advice. In this regard, I would like to thank the public, as well as those Members of this House, who expressed their concerns to us on this matter.
With these changes, we are forecasting our tax increases this year to bring in some $1.7 million less than we had projected. As we have stated many times in the past, it is this governments policy to operate on balanced budgets. We are determined to avoid mortgaging our childrens futures to finance present consumption.
We will therefore be introducing amendments to the main estimates that will reduce the 1993-1994 spending by a similar amount; that is, $1.7 million. In carrying out this reduction, we are not expecting to see any layoffs within the public service. The reduction, however, will have some impact on the quality and quantity of certain programs in some departments.
The O&M and capital budgets of 11 departments will be affected by the $1.7 million reduction. They include the Executive Council Office, Community and Transportation Services, Economic Development, Education, Finance, Health and Social Services, Justice, Public Service Commission, Renewable Resources, Tourism and the Yukon Housing Corporation.
The phasing in of the tax rate increases will leave more disposable income in the hands of consumers and businesses in the current fiscal year, and it will enable these same groups to adapt their affairs to the new rates in a gradual manner. This was the major concern expressed to us and we are pleased to be able to respond to that concern. Thank you.
Mr. McDonald: I would suppose that the Yukon Party government believes that this statement today allays peoples concerns about the record-high tax increases. The Yukon Party appears to believe that, if the government removes an extra $7.1 million from an economy in danger of collapsing this year, instead of $8.8 million, the public will accept the increased taxes as palatable.
We, in the official Opposition, do not think so. After all the criticism the Yukon Party budget plans have received, one really has to wonder why the government feels this change to their tax plans will receive widespread support.
In the first place, our view is that these tax increases are unnecessary. The government could easily modify its spending plans by one and one-half percent, delay some projects and shave expenditures without cutting services or laying off public servants.
The tax burden in the Yukon is already similar to that which exists for other Canadians. The way to handle the perversity factor in the formula financing discussions is not to cave in to federal pressure to raise tax rates beyond what is reasonable. We also believe that the tax increases are inappropriate. The tax burden should not be increased on the working population that is reeling from the setbacks in the mining industry. With the tax increase, there will be significantly less disposable income around for small businesses, which will already be hurting from the general economic collapse and the high unemployment rate in the territory.
People will have a hard time paying for the taxes, when one considers tax increases planned at the municipal levels, and the increases in fees planned by the government and the increased electrical rates planned by the Yukon Energy Corporation.
The government has indicated that they have three budgeting principles that they want to respect: they want to maintain a balanced budget, they want to maintain basic service levels, and they do not want what they refer to as massive layoffs. We already have plenty of evidence to suggest that the government does not have a balanced budget - the unbudgeted Dawson commitments alone make that clear.
We are also convinced, based on the announcements of the various Ministers, that they had no intention of maintaining certain basic service levels in some departments. This further announcement, this compromise, is no solution to the problems the Yukon Party faces. I am sure that the government will feel they have softened the public up enough to accept this phased increase without protest. We do not think so. We oppose these tax increases as being wrong for our time.
Mr. Cable: The Opposition generally has been looking for a sign from the east on the flexibility of thinking on the part of the government, and I would have to say that this phased-in tax increase is a first sign of flexibility. It is hoped that during the course of the debate, we will find further flexibility from the government in a recognition that the government is in a minority status.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I will be short in my rebuttal to the Members opposite.
We will have plenty of time to debate this as we get into line-by-line debate on the budget. As I said in my statement, we listened to the concerns of business; we listened to the concerns of Yukoners and this was the message we were getting. As the Member for McIntyre-Takhini said, I do not believe we have softened the people in the community, but I believe they will find this much more palatable than having to pay a five-percent jump in taxes all in one shot. The tax increases were not, and I reiterate that, put in to deal with the perversity factor; they were put in to balance the budget and to keep from having to have massive layoffs at a time when we are having great difficulties in the private sector in the Yukon.
Those taxes were necessary to maintain some semblance of the standard of services that Yukoners expect and deserve.
With those changes, we hope that this will be acceptable to the majority of Yukoners.
Speaker: This then brings us to Question Period.
Question re: Tax increases
Mr. McDonald: I have a question for the Minister responsible for Finance.
Before the election, the Government Leader indicated that it would be obscene for the Yukon NDP government to have raised taxes during its seven years in office. After the election, they indicated that, in order to support the biggest budget ever and at the insistance of the federal government, they wanted to raise taxes. Now, in response to some questions about the federal budgeting plans, the Government Leader has indicated, and I quote, Canada is in a financial crisis. If we are to get the cost of government under control, we cannot do it by continually raising taxes. The people have said they do not like tax increases.
Can the Government Leader indicate whether or not his government has a consistent positions on tax increases?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: We certainly do have a consistent position on tax increases. What was really obscene was the $2 billion the Opposition spent without doing anything to broaden the tax base in the Yukon. That is what was really obscene.
The fact remains that Yukoners have had a tax holiday for many years. We wanted to keep people working here. We did not have the luxury of being able to cut services and lay off civil servants, as has happened in other jurisdictions in Canada, in order to balance budgets. We in the Yukon have not had continual tax increases year after year.
Mr. McDonald: The Government Leader has indicated that the Yukon people have had a tax holiday for years. During the election campaign, he indicated that it would have been obscene for the NDP government to have raised taxes during their period in office. Can he explain that inconsistency?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I have no problem explaining anything to the Members opposite. It takes a lot of explaining to get through to them.
What was really obscene was the misinformation and misrepresentation by the side opposite in not telling Yukoners what the financial health of the government was.
I received a note from Finance this morning. As of today, we are still $1.3 million into our line of credit. That is after massive transfer payments during the month of April.
Mr. McDonald: Can the Government Leader indicate why he is advocating tax increases for the Yukon government, which has no debt servicing to worry about, and why he tells the Government of Canada that taxes are not the way to go, that Canada is in a financial crisis and if we are going to get the cost of government under control we cannot do it by continually raising taxes? Can he explain this obvious contradiction?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I can remember when we were in session for a few short days in December and all of the criticism and ridicule that came from the side opposite because some term positions were not going to be renewed. There was a horrendous kefuffle from the other side of the House saying it was disgraceful. The fact remains that to keep those people working we had to balance the budget.
Question re: Curragh Inc., financial assistance
Mr. Penikett: On May 3, 1993, the people of Faro, Watson Lake, Whitehorse - and indeed everyone involved in the Yukon economy - face an important deadline in respect to the restructuring of Curragh Inc.s affairs in the Ontario court. The people of Faro are organizing a fight to keep their town alive. Officials of the company are working around the clock to raise new capital. Could the Government Leader tells us what he has done in the last week to save the jobs at Faro, Watson Lake and Whitehorse?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: We are as concerned, if not more concerned, than the Member opposite with the plight of Faro. I have been in touch, at least three times last week, with Curragh officials with regard to what is happening with their restructuring plans. I will continue to stay in touch with them and hope that this situation can be resolved satisfactorily and that the people in Faro can go back to work.
Mr. Penikett: The Government Leader says he is concerned and that he has been in touch. Can he tell this House if he, or any member of his Cabinet, has made any new proposals to the negotiating table which would have the effect of seeing the Grum ore body stripped immediately and people put back to work now?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I would love to see the Grum ore body being stripped immediately. I would have liked to have seen stripping started before the company went under CCAA. The fact remains that the government does not own the Grum ore body and we cannot do any work on it without the companys, or now the courts, approval.
Mr. Penikett: The question was about whether this government had done anything or proposed anything to resolve the situation, since that appears to be not the case. Can the Government Leader tell us if he is now prepared to accept the suggestion that the decision makers in this matter - Curraghs leadership, his negotiators, the Toronto money men, and other participants, like the banks, the employees and the representatives of the town - could be brought together in a summit conference here in Whitehorse in a last-ditch effort to save that mine, save the mine at Watson Lake, and to save the jobs of many, many people in this territory?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: If I thought a summit conference here in Whitehorse were the solution, it would have been called a long time ago. As I understand it, the fact remains that the chairman of the board of Curragh Inc. is in Asia right now trying to raise funding. It is hoped that he will be successful in that and we will be able to get on with the job of restructuring the company.
Question re: Curragh Inc., financial assistance
Mr. Cable: I have some further questions for the Government Leader on Curragh. The Companies Creditors Arrangement Act application made by Curragh was accompanied by an affidavit by Mr. George White that stated that he believed that the value of Curraghs assets exceeded its liabilities. I wonder if the Government Leader could take the representatives of 63 percent of the voting population into his confidence and advise as to whether he shares that opinion?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: Whether I share that opinion or not is really irrelevant to the situation right now. The fact remains that this government is committed to helping Curragh if we can. There is always going to be a controversy about what assets may be worth by whomever is issuing figures.
Mr. Cable: That issue is very much alive in relation to the first of the conditions that the government placed on the $34 million guarantee, in relation to the need for priority. Could I ask the Government Leader - and this is a follow-up to a question I asked on March 18 - has the Government Leader sought an opinion as to the value of the Grum ore body as stripped?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: Yes, we have those opinions.
Mr. Cable: Is the Government Leader prepared to share those opinions with the other Members of the House?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: The House is fully aware that the government has certain confidential documents it is not at liberty to share with this House.
Question re: Whitehorse General Hospital, construction, local hire
Ms. Moorcroft: I have a question for the Minister of Health and Social Services regarding construction at Whitehorse General Hospital.
Is it the governments intention to ensure that local people will be hired to work on the construction of the new Whitehorse General Hospital?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: The government has in place an array of policies that are designed to ensure local people are hired as much as possible and that local hire occurs. Those policies will be used during the construction.
Ms. Moorcroft: What specific conditions will be put in the tender package to guarantee that local workers will be hired to work on the hospital construction project?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: When we get to the point that tender documents will be issued, I will certainly be pleased to make a public announcement.
Ms. Moorcroft: Will the hospital construction project be tendered in one package with one general contractor or will the project be broken down into small tenders?
Hon. Mr. Devries: Our instructions to Government Services are to try to break the tender down into smaller packages to give Yukon contractors the best possible opportunity to bid on these contracts.
Question re: Whitehorse General Hospital, tender documents
Ms. Moorcroft: I would like to go back to the Minister of Health and Social Services and ask him if he can tell us when the tender documents for the new hospital are going to be finalized?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I think that I have answered that question several times in the Legislature. The target date for tendering will be November.
Ms. Moorcroft: Will the Minister tell us who he is consulting with, if anyone, in the local construction industry before the tender documents are finalized?
Hon. Mr. Devries: Again, I do not think the Member quite understands the process.
The tender documents, once the tenders are prepared, will go out as early as August for some of the preliminary work and grounds preparation.
Government Services held a contractors briefing about one week ago. At that meeting, contractors had the opportunity to speak with Government Services about all of the contracts that are being administered by Government Services.
Ms. Moorcroft: The Minister has said that they will not begin construction until the buildings design is in its final form. Can the Minister guarantee that there will be no change orders required on the project, and that waiting for perfection is the reason why construction will not begin during the spring or summer?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Change orders are very common in large projects.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Phelps: That seems to come as some kind of surprise to the Members opposite, and I am not surprised they are surprised, particularly given the woefully inadequate way in which they administered government projects during their time in office.
We intend to ensure that the scope of the project will not be compromised and that the tender documents will be in as ready a stage as normal and practicable for this type of operation. There will not be undue haste with respect to preparing the tender documents.
Question re: Seniors, services for
Ms. Joe: I have a question for the Minister of Justice. During the election, the Yukon Party - which is not the Ministers party, but he has a happy coalition with them - promised to improve services for seniors. Since then, they have proposed higher income taxes, higher gasoline taxes and higher business taxes. There are many seniors in my riding who still work, drive cars and own businesses. These proposed tax hikes will affect them.
They would like to know if this is what this government had in mind for seniors when they promised to improve services for them.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I was watching carefully, and I must say that I have some admiration for the Member. She read that question from her notes with a straight face, so I will treat it as a serious question.
This government definitely intends to continue to ensure that the quality of life for seniors is as good as possible in the Yukon. Of course, we are taking steps to deal with problems we have inherited, such as the extended care facility, which, when it is fully operational, is going to cost at least as much as the additional revenue from the proposed tax increases.
Ms. Joe: When I stand here and ask questions, they are of a serious nature, and I want that on the record.
The pioneer utility grant has been cut by $45,000 in this years budget. Can the Government Leader, or the Minister, tell this House if this is what they had in mind when they promised to improve services for seniors?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I am sure that all seniors in the Yukon are very curious about many of the items in the line by line of the main budget. Thus far, because of Mr. Fill and Mr. Buster on the opposite side, we have not even got into the supplementaries. I suppose they are trying to cover up their numerous mistakes while in office.
I look forward to getting into the main estimates and being able to discuss these types of items with the Member, which is why the sittings of the Legislature are designed as they are.
Ms. Joe: The contribution to the Handybus has been cut in this years budget. Taxi service for staff serving seniors has been cut. Can the Government Leader or the Minister of Health tell us if this is what they had in mind for seniors when they promised to improve those services?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: The side opposite continues to say to the people of the Yukon that they want services enhanced and taxes reduced - or, at least, taxes held the same and services enhanced. I suppose what they would like us to do is to make the same mistake as their mentors in Ontario, so that in a couple of years we would be really in the soup.
Question re: Playcare Centre
Ms. Joe: Unfortunately, he is not answering the questions and seniors really do want to know.
I have another question for the Minister of Health and Social Services. The Playcare Centre is about to lose its space downtown - and he is familiar with that. I would like to know what efforts the Minister will be making to ensure that, when the lease runs out on August 31 this year, there will be a space and a certain amount of certainty for the parents and children who use this centre.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: We are quite willing to meet with the people from that centre. We have in the past. We are quite prepared to provide assistance with respect to government buildings that may or may not be available for lease by the centre. We will do what is appropriate and what we can in the circumstances.
Ms. Joe: I understand that the St. Elias building would be a suitable replacement for the centre and that, last year, the Department of Health and Social Services was in the process of acquiring that building from the Department of Education. What is happening with the St. Elias building, and will it be used to house the Playcare Centre?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: The St. Elias building was certainly raised in discussions with the people from that centre. There are some serious problems with the structure of the building, but we are quite prepared to continue discussing that issue with the Playcare Centre people and with the pertinent departments.
Ms. Joe: Time is running out for the Playcare Centre. Can the Minister tell this House when he intends to make a decision with regard to the St. Elias building?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: We will be looking at this situation. I am not sure exactly when a decision will be made, but we are certainly looking at it, and I am sure the House will still be in session by the time a decision is made. The way things are going here, it could be made next year and we would be fairly safe with respect to this session, it seems.
Question re: Fuel tax exemption for recreational vehicles
Mrs. Firth: I have a question for the tax man - the Minister of Finance - who maintains that Yukoners have all been on a big tax holiday. I asked this Minister a question previously about a tax initiative of this government that was announced without any consultation or analysis about the administrative costs and without any idea about how it was going to be administered. I am referring to the fuel tax exemption for recreational vehicles.
I would like to ask the Minister if he is still directing his department officials to waste valuable time and dollars trying to figure out a way to make this tax exemption work?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I do not know that it is a waste of time. If one puts in a tax rebate to a tax, someone has to administer it, but the Department of Community and Transportation Services is investigating means of refunding this particular tax.
Mrs. Firth: What the Minister of Community and Transportation Services is saying now is that Finance officials are not the only ones who are going to be wasting time trying to figure out how this initiative is going to work; his department also is going to be wasting valuable time and dollars trying to make an exemption work that is unworkable.
I would like to ask the Minister of Finance the question, because it is a tax initiative. Will the Minister of Finance direct his officials and the officials in Community and Transportation Services to forget about this proposal and direct their energies into more valuable and beneficial pursuits for Yukoners?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: That is not my intention.
Mrs. Firth: I would like to ask whichever Minister is doing this now how much money it is going to cost to administer this program?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I cannot put an exact dollar figure on it. Due to the fact that we already provide an exemption for a great number of people - loggers, farmers, off-road machinery and so on - it should not be an appreciable added burden to the administration.
Question re: Faro, Government Leader meeting with people of
Mr. Harding: Next Monday, May 3, is the bank-imposed deadline on a restructuring plan that will affect the Faro and Watson Lake mines, as well as many jobs in Whitehorse. It is my understanding that a community group in Faro that is calling itself Spotlight on Faro has asked the Government Leader to live up to his January commitment to the town to revisit Faro to discuss the mine situation. Due to the urgency created by this deadline, they would like to hold the meeting tomorrow evening, Tuesday. All MLAs are invited and our caucus will be well represented.
Will the Government Leader and the Minister of Economic Development be attending these important and urgent meetings on behalf of the Government of the Yukon?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: We got this invitation just prior to noon today. It is under review right now. I doubt that we will. I do not think we have anything to add over in Faro right now.
Mr. Harding: I think that is absolutely horrendous and irresponsible. The government may be willing to give up on these mines, these jobs and the economy, but the people of Faro will not give up on this territory. Could the Government Leader tell me what other engagement might be so pressing and held in so much priority by this government that they could not attend this important meeting to discuss the economic future of this territory?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: If I thought anything would be resolved by going to Faro tomorrow evening, there would be no decision to be made. I would be there forthwith. We are working to try to get the operation back to work. We are not going to resolve it by going to a public meeting in Faro tomorrow night.
Mr. Harding: The Government Leader must have quite the crystal ball, because he knows that a summit meeting to discuss the mine situation will not work. He now says that he knows that a meeting in Faro will not resolve anything, or help in any way, shape or form. I would like to ask the Government Leader this: what does his government think will help to resolve these incredibly pressing concerns of the people in the Yukon and the people in my community and the people in Watson Lake, as well as the people who are being laid off in Whitehorse? What is a more pressing priority?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: As I said, if I thought that anything could be resolved by attending a meeting there, I would be happy to be there. The fact remains that the company is under court protection. We cannot advance money to it, without the courts agreeing to it. We are standing by and are prepared to do anything we can to get the mining going, but certainly going to Faro is not going to resolve the situation.
Question re: Yukon Energy Corporation, impact on by Curragh closure
Mr. Cable: I have a question for the Minister responsible for the Yukon Energy Corporation. I understand that Curragh uses approximately $12 million worth of electricity per year. If Curragh remains down, of course this will threaten the solvency of the Yukon Energy Corporation. Has the Minister had an opportunity to discuss with the board of the Yukon Energy Corporation as to what will be done if Curragh remains down?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Of course there have been some discussions among the board members and the president of the Yukon Energy Corporation, and I am apprised of the general information with respect to those discussions. The board is going to be meeting next month to discuss this very issue. If I have something to report at that time, I will.
Mr. Cable: If the Curragh operation remains down and is threatened with insolvency, is it the governments position that the solvency will be protected by the taxpayer, or will the rates be raised and the ratepayers be made to bear the brunt of the reduction in revenue on the part of Curragh?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: There is no formal decision at this time. We are going to have to wait and see how things shake out with respect to what monies are collectible and collected by the Yukon Energy Corporation before that type of decision could be made in a responsible manner.
Mr. Cable: I am not sure I got the answer to the question. Various Members of the government have spoken about contingency plans in the event that Curragh remains closed. If that is the case, is one element of that contingency plan the handling of the possible insolvency of the Yukon Energy Corporation?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: The whole issue with respect to the problems that might be experienced by the Yukon Energy Corporation turns very largely on whether or not energy bills are paid on time, what and when the final chapter - at least in the foreseeable future - for Faro is written. It would be premature at this time for a decision to be undertaken with respect to the whole vast array of scenarios.
We are aware of the situation. We will be discussing the situation with the board as matters become more clear, and we will be making decisions based on realistic options.
Question re: Faro, Government Leader meeting with people of
Mr. Harding: I have another question for the Government Leader with regard to the meeting that is proposed for tomorrow night, to which an invitation has been sent to representatives of the government. The government promised, on January 21, to revisit my community to discuss this mine situation. With the deadline of May 3 fast approaching, when does the Government Leader think would be a better time - when it is too late to come to Faro to talk about saving the mine?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: As we said, the government has offered to provide money for the Grum stripping. It was refused. The money is there for the Grum stripping. Until such time as the problems are sorted out with Curragh, and they are prepared to start stripping the Grum, there is not much the government can do about it.
Mr. Harding: I suggest to the Government Leader that it was not refused. There were just impossible financial conditions to be met. It was an empty offer.
The Government Leader said that he feels nothing would be resolved by the Government Leader and the Minister of Economic Development upholding their promise to return to Faro to communicate with citizens regarding the mine situation. Yukon citizens need to hear from their government in these troubled times what economic leadership they will demonstrate.
Does the Government Leader not realize that is what will be resolved at a Faro meeting?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: The Member opposite seems to be suggesting that the taxpayers of the Yukon should give another unsecured $5 million to the Faro operation. I do not think that the taxpayers of the Yukon would want this. We have stated our commitment to Faro. When we have something positive to announce, we will certainly go to Faro.
Mr. Harding: Five million dollars was not given, unsecured. Even if we assume that it was, at least that $5 million invested by the previous government kept thousands of people working in this territory for another year, unlike the Members opposite who have doubled the unemployment rate since they came into power.
That $5 million was very important, but it has not worked. What new initiatives is the government considering this week to try to address the very important May 3 deadline on behalf of my constituents in Faro, the people in Watson Lake and the hundreds of people who are going to be laid off in Whitehorse in the coming months if these mines go down.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I thank the Member opposite for that question. I was wondering when he would get around to asking it. Go back to the debate one year ago in this House, when the then-government gave $5 million to Curragh. Go back and look at Hansard and see the comments made by the now-Leader of the Official Opposition where he said this would help Curragh raise the equity that was required to keep their operation going. That was his reasoning for giving the $5 million advance.
Question re: Hazardous waste storage facility
Mr. Penikett: I guess the previous government was wrong, we just kept people working; the new government is right - we have 16 percent employment rate. I would like to ask a question of a Minister from whom I hope to get an answer. It concerns the admission by the Minister Community and Transportation Services, some days ago, that several years of public consultation and thousands of dollars in site assessment and facility planning for a safe hazardous waste storage facility were being trashed by his government and the money identified in the budget might be adequate to build a special waste storage fence. Since some time has elapsed, can the Minister now outline exactly what measures - what kind of fence - he is proposing and where does he plan to locate the safe storage of special wastes?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I think the fence the Member opposite is referring to is taken from the media. There is in fact $100,000 identified to review the proposal put made by the previous government to build a $4.2 million facility. If there is some money left over after the review of the project, then we may buy some materials, such as fencing materials.
Mr. Penikett: We are going to spend $100,000 reviewing a proposal from the previous government that was the result of public consultation and thousands of dollars in site assessment - more studies.
As the Minister knows from public education programs and consultation on special wastes, they can pose very real threats to public health and the environment. Since Yukon people reasonably fear that stockpiling of home and business small wastes, in a wide variety of sub-standard and unsupervised sites, is an unsafe and an unacceptable practice in the absence of a storage facility, does the government of the Yukon have any plans at the moment to collect this material and ship it south or does it plan for the time being to leave it where it sits?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The intent is to do a Yukon clean-up.
Mr. Penikett: The Minister has not made it clear whether that is part of the spring litter campaign or some other initiative.
I would like to ask the Minister a very straight question, because this is a serious issue: has the Government of Yukon adopted a formal policy regarding the storage of hazardous waste, and, if so, would the Minister be prepared to table the policy in this House?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: There has been no change to the existing policy for the storage of special waste.
Question re: Game farming regulations
Mrs. Firth: I have a question regarding government growth for the Minister of Renewable Resources.
The new game farming regulations indicate that game farming and game farmers will be regulated by four different territorial government branches, as well as federal agencies responsible for federal agriculture regulations and federal animal, disease and protection regulations.
The four territorial branches employ over 80 people, many of whom will have some influence on the six existing game farms. My question to the Minister responsible for Renewable Resources is: how many new people will his department be hiring to implement these new regulations for the game farmers and game ranchers?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: The regulations are much the same as the ones that are being used right now and the people are already in the positions. The only new committee that I know of will consist of three people.
Mrs. Firth: The Minister said the new committee will consist of three people. Is that a committee or is that three new employees within the department of Renewable Resources?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I said committee.
Mrs. Firth: Will the Minister make a commitment that his department will not be hiring more people to implement game regulations for the six game farms in the Yukon?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: That is a hypothetical question. We do not know if the proposed game regulations are going to be passed; we still have to consult with the public on them.
Question re: Game farming
Mr. Harding: I am glad that game farming was brought up. I have a question for the Minister of Tourism regarding that very issue. Some Yukoners are concerned about game farming and potential threats to our indigenous wildlife, which are a valuable tourism resource for the Yukon. Since the Minister is also a director at large of the Canadian Wildlife Federation, which has 650,000 members, and the Minister has voted to ban the industry outright over a period of years, how does the Minister feel about the direction his party is taking as it pertains to him as a director and a Minister?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I thank the Member for Faro for the question. For the past seven years now, and specifically for the past four or five years, I have been very concerned about game farming and what has happened in southern Canada. I have until now, and intend to continue in the future, to make all of my colleagues in Cabinet aware of the hazards and concerns of game farming in Canada and what effect it will have on wildlife.
Mr. Harding: It is true that the Minister must be very concerned about the potential threat of game farming to our valuable tourism resource, as demonstrated by his actions of voting to ban the industry nationally outright. How many times has he informed his Cabinet colleagues of his outright objection to his partys support for an industry he wishes to eliminate?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I am not sure exactly how many times; anywhere between 20 and maybe 500. I know I have raised it several times with my colleagues. I do not know what the point of the question is - my colleagues know that I have raised it with them on several occasions and will continue to do so in the future.
Mr. Harding: That is very interesting because, in Committee of the Whole discussions, the Government Leader stated that all Cabinet decisions were unanimous. Does this mean that the Minister has taken a position to ban the industry on one hand, with the Canadian Wildlife Federation, as a director at large, but has also taken the position in Cabinet of supporting the industry, as has his renewable resources colleague, the Minister responsible for real Yukoners, who supported it in the House, in Hansard, in December of 1992?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I find it interesting that the Member for Faro believes that every single Member in this House, whether he is a member of a party or not, should not have his or her own views; that if the party takes a stand on something, each Member believes in it, stands for it, and that that is that persons view for ever and ever. In our party, we can have differences of opinion and we respect those differences of opinion on many issues. In some cases, we do not always agree, but unlike the Members opposite we do not follow along like little sheep.
Speaker: Time for Question Period has now elapsed.
We will proceed to Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
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 Hon. Government House Leader that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Motion agreed to
Speaker leaves the Chair
COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
Chair: I will now call Commmittee of the Whole to order.
Is it the wish of the Committee to take a brief recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: At this time, we will take a brief recess.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order.
Committee will be dealing with Bill No. 83. Is there any further debate?
Bill No. 83 - An Act to Amend the Employment Standards Act (No. 2), 1992 - continued
Ms. Joe: The Minister of Justice would certainly like us to clear this at this point in time; however, I do not think that his wishes are going to be granted that quickly.
I have some concerns about the bill before us. As mentioned in prior speeches, the Council on the Economy and the Environment recommended, among other things, that this section be included in the act. As you are now familiar - after listening to the debate all day on Thursday - we were very strongly criticized for not complying with all of their suggestions, and that we had only incorporated 52 of their 53 recommendations in Bill No. 13.
The Minister of Justice has stated that he will come forward at some time - who knows when, it could be in the next decade or in the year 2000 - to look at the bill again. The Minister stated that he will allow all of the players a chance to participate. I really worry about that, because I know what the governments position is on employment standards.
I know that different Members who are on that side of the House now, and one who is still on this side of the House, spoke very strongly in favour of businesses, with no concern whatsoever for the worker. Not one single speaker spoke on behalf of the worker in this territory. That does concern me because there are a lot of serious problems in the Employment Standards Act right now. There is no consideration for a lot of those individuals who have to work under situations that are not appropriate. It was for that reason that we chose to bring the amendments forward, which were passed and voted for by every single Member of this House, except possibly the Member for Riverdale South.
The Minister already explained to us his reasons for bringing this act forward, and I am not entirely sure whether he expected that we did not realize what he was going to be proposing, or that we did not understand and that we would, with a great deal of acceptance, let him clear this bill in the House.
I was wondering whether the Chamber of Commerce made representation to him before he brought this amendment forward. It appears that everything that members of the chambers of commerce right across the territory were proposing at that time, were unacceptable, at least to us. Now that they have put this bill on the shelf - and who knows when they are going to be bringing it back - I would like to know whether or not the Chamber of Commerce made representation to him in regard to bringing this bill forward.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: In response to the Members preamble, I have already explained the intent of this bill. It is a very modest intent, and it was not intended as a bill to atone for the feelings of the Members opposite for valid criticisms in the past with Bill No. 13. It is a bill that is designed to ensure that we have the fullness of time to deal with amendments to the Employment Standards Act.
The question I have been asked is whether I have received specific representations from the Chamber of Commerce. All I can tell the Member, at this time, is that I have received quite a number of briefs from employers and, quite possibly, from the Chamber of Commerce - although I cannot exactly recall that - asking that the briefs be given due consideration before any amendments were proclaimed.
As Minister, with the sanction of Cabinet, my intention is that there are enough problems with Bill No. 13, in our view, and enough problems with the climate it seems to encourage - that of some distrust and bad feelings between employees and employers - that we feel a much better job of consultation can be done and a much more satisfactory set of amendments could come forward, in due course.
Therefore, that is the route I have been authorized by Cabinet to take, and it is the one I intend to take, as Minister.
Ms. Joe: The Minister gets advice from lawyers in his department in regard to any bill that is proposed before this House. I understand that there were lawyers in the Department of Justice, during our time in government, who probably had some concerns about the bill as it was passed in the House. Some lobbying on behalf of this party or under the direction of the former deputy minister not to proclaim the act might have been done at that time, possibly while our seats were still warm as Cabinet Ministers.
Can the Minister tell us if his lawyers have given him any kind of an opinion about what problems the old act might have caused this government?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: The information provided to me by the department itself with respect to Bill No. 83 was a briefing from which I took every point in my introductory speech at second reading. That is the extent of the information received from the department itself - if that is what the Member is asking. No, the concern, essentially, is that Bill No. 13, the one we are seeking to amend with the current bill, was not, from our perspective, a bill that had our wholehearted endorsement. There were problems and a lot of bad feeling; a lot of employers and Yukoners were not satisfied that there had been a full consensus on what was required for Yukon. Our position, as a government, is simply that we want some time so that, after due consultation with all the stakeholders, we can come forward with something better. That is all.
Ms. Joe: One section of the old act that we chose to repeal was, I believe, section 50, which provided that if someone quit their job without notice, the employer did not have to pay that employee a weeks wages. We did not think that section was very fair because, as mentioned in the House, no one really knows the real reason sometimes why some of those employees leave their employment. It could be for many reasons. It could be for unfair working conditions or it could be in regard to sexual harassment. For that reason alone, there should be a provision in there for the worker who might have had to leave their employment. An employer, if he or she does not feel like it, does not have to pay a weeks wages if somebody quits without notice.
That is a very serious thing. Every single individual who works a day or an hour should be paid for that time and for the work they have done.
I would have thought that something like that would have been much more important than bringing to this House this amendment that repeals a section that requires that this government be bound by the Employment Standards Act as are all other businesses in the Yukon, which is only fair.
That section of the act is so much more important. Another section that was very important to us, too, was in regard to notice of overtime work. Something like this would greatly affect a lot of single parents who might happen to have young children in day care where it is almost impossible for them to find an alternative for baby sitting after day care centres have closed.
I mention those two concerns because they do affect women in particular. It would have been much more important to bring something like that to this House, rather than something that will satisfy the needs of the present government. I would like to know whether or not the Minister can comment on that.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Only very briefly. The Member seems intent on getting into issues that really have nothing to do with the principle of the very modest bill before us at this time. I have said that, in bringing forward the bill, I would be interested in hearing from all Yukoners and stakeholders. The Member will have ample opportunity to make her observations known to us before amendments become law.
With the greatest respect, I really do not think that going on at length about the principles of Bill No. 13 has anything to do with the principles before us. It is a very simple amendment to deal with section 6 of Bill No. 13; to not have that section come into effect except on a date to be fixed by the Commissioner in Executive Council. That is all this bill deals with.
Ms. Joe: I am very familiar with what this bill is trying to do, but there are some concerns in the public about what it is that this government is going to do about employment standards. We are working with an act right now that is outdated. It is probably an act that the present government would like to keep for the next 20 years. It would certainly suit their needs. There is an electorate out there who is looking for progressive changes to the Employment Standards Act.
I, on behalf of many of those workers in my riding, would certainly like to know what the intentions are and how soon we can expect to be looking at this wide ranging consultation on amendments to the act. I would certainly like to know if the Minister can inform me, so that I can inform my constituents, about when he intends to look at other new amendments that will be meaningful to the workers in the Yukon. I would like to be able to go back to my riding and tell my constituents, such as single mothers and people who work for very low wages, what the intentions are of this progressive government.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Within the anticipated mandate of the current government, which, from this side, would be from within three years from today.
Ms. Joe: He has to be kidding. I guess that I should not say that because everything that has happened in the last six months tells me that he is probably telling the truth.
Mr. Harding: I have some questions that I would like to ask that are in the same vein as those that some of the Members on this side have already raised. We have not really received the answers. The Minister of Justice, when he really does not want to say yes or no, talks in a skirting manner to try to avoid answering the question directly. He is quite good at it; his legal training helps him out more and more as he continues to avoid issues in his two capacities as the Minister of Health and Social Services and the Minister of Justice, while working for the happy coalition.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Harding: I think that during my preamble in general debate I should have the opportunity to state clearly how I feel about the answers that we have been getting from the other side. I intend to do that, even over the objections from the Member for Riverdale.
The employment standards were supported by the Members opposite; they were supported by the Minister of Justice. I would like to ask the Minister if that is a correct statement?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Let me say that, as the Minister for Justice and Health and Social Services, I recognize my limitations and I hope to be able to rely on the sage advice and wisdom that I anticipate receiving from the good Member opposite - wisdom that he has gleaned through his studies and practical experience in the fields that we are discussing at this time.
Mr. Harding: Again we get a coy response from the Minister. I would like to ask him the question again. Did he support the amendments that were proposed? I am not asking for an arrogant, coy or legal response. I would just like a yes or no to whether or not he supported amendments to the Employment Standards Act.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: It would be interesting to ask the Member whether or not he has read Hansard on the issue. The record shows that the Yukon Party proposed various amendments that were turned down by the government-of-the-day. Some Members of the Yukon Party stood and said that any support given would be reluctant. I am here to tell the people of the Yukon that there has been an election; there is a new government; they do not have to worry, the side opposite is no longer governing the territory; and that we intend to proceed on our agenda, as promised to the people of the territory. We think that we will, in the course of our mandate, come forward with a superior package of amendments to the Employment Standards Act, which will find acceptance among a broader number of Yukon citizens.
Mr. Harding: Again, I did not get the answer I wanted. I will have to ask the question in another way. In his answer, the Minister certainly illustrates the lack of principle that was demonstrated by the Members opposite when they say they expressed reservations.
Can I ask the Minister, who has read the Hansard so thoroughly, if he voted against the bill?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: The position taken by this Member, and others on this side who were here at the time, was very straightforward. We wanted amendments to the package that is known as Bill No. 13. From our perspective, it was not a perfect bill - far from it. Now, we are in a great position to make changes to the amendments, to review them all, and to come forward with a package that, in our view, is closer to perfection than the bill known as Bill No. 13.
Mr. Harding: The position of the Members opposite, at that time, was as clear as mud. I am trying to establish exactly where they were. Again, I asked a question, to which I received no answer. Did the Minister vote against the bill?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: There was no recorded vote on that bill. If the Member has a look at Hansard, he will see that. It really does not matter, because it was made very clear during debate in Committee of the Whole that we, on this side, at that time, had many deep reservations about the bill. We suggested amendments that were turned down. Now, we are in a position, as government, to come forward with our agenda which, in the course of this mandate, includes a review of the current Employment Standards Act and a look at all the principles that were discussed under the ill-fated Bill No. 13. We will be coming forward with what we feel is a more appropriate resolution to the many issues raised by the old bill, the current Employment Standards Act.
Mr. Harding: Again, the answer illustrates the lack of principle demonstrated by the Members opposite. The Member says there was no standing vote recorded. If there were so deep reservations by the Members opposite, if this bill was so terrible, if they felt so strongly against it, why did they not call division, and why was there no standing vote? They did not vote against it; they sat on a fence, they are now saying. Is that the case?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: No, that is not the case.
Mr. Harding: Perhaps the Minister could tell me then why they did not vote against the bill.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I believe if the Member reads Hansard he will get the answer that he is looking for.
Mr. Harding: I have Hansard right here in front of me, which I have read and highlighted. I know exactly what Hansard says and the answers why they did not vote against the bill are not clear. I will ask the Minister now: why did they not vote against the bill?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: This is a rather inane line of questioning from the Member opposite. With the greatest respect to him, his wisdom, his studies and his life experience - I have said over and over that Bill No. 13 was a bill about which we had strong reservations. These reservations were demonstrated by a number of amendments that were made to the package, but were turned down by the previous NDP administration.
These reservations were expressed in closing arguments made by several Members in third reading. We do not think this bill is appropriate for the people of the Yukon. We feel that a much better bill can be brought forward and we intend to bring a better bill forward; we have that right, the voters gave us that right - they did not give that right to the side opposite.
The side opposite decided not to pass their bill because it was too politically controversial, so political expediency prevented them from putting the amendments into place.
Instead of worrying over spilled milk, perhaps the side opposite should stop the filibuster and move on with an agenda that will at least provide some security and a good number of jobs to Yukoners; let us get on with the budget.
Mr. Harding: The answer that we have received from the Minister of Justice is inane. The accusation that we on this side are filibustering is absolutely preposterous. I feel very strongly about what the bill proposes. I believe that the public sector should set an example, and I believe that the government should have to follow that example and set that example.
The Employment Standards Act imposes some very good terms and conditions of employment upon employers that I believe are fair, and I believe that it is incumbent on the public sector, when they ask the private sector to uphold those terms and conditions, that they also uphold those conditions.
I am still going to explore it further. The Minister says that they did not vote for the bill and they did not vote against the bill, hiding behind the fact that there was no standing vote called. Okay - the Minister shakes his head - well, let me ask this: did the Members opposite say, We will support this bill?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: At that time, I think that we felt the side opposite in government were very serious about this bill. They told us over and over about their philosophy and their principles and no one was more shocked and dismayed than this Member when, for purely political reasons and political expediency, the Cabinet-of-the-day did not have the gumption to ask that Bill No. 13 be proclaimed.
I was more dismayed because I had made erroneous judgments about the human character of people in this place. I felt that my judgment had really been somewhat clouded by the fine speeches I heard at the time from the then-Government of the Yukon. Then we saw them take a purely politically expedient position that showed they really did not give a damn about the workers of the Yukon and their highfalutin principles.
They would much rather not take a chance with the electorate, because of the shakiness of their mandate and their position with the voters of the Yukon. They turned tail and ran from their political convictions, and now they come into this House and talk about principles and how strongly they feel about this bill. It is like Hemingway once said, It is like relieving oneself in his old mans beer.
Mr. Harding: I have got all week; I have got all month to keep asking this question until I get an answer from the Minister. I know sometimes by the dancing he does around questions, you wonder if he is not taking the line dancing lessons that are offered at the Roadhouse. I think it is incumbent on the Minister to respond with an answer to the question.
The fact remains that the bill was put forward and the Commissioner decided that it was not going to be proclaimed, in his view. That is very unfortunate, and we have a lot of reservations about the judgment shown in that regard; nonetheless, the Members opposite are now the government. We are not the government. We have the ability to ask questions regarding actions that they take as government. We will expect that they give us answers to our questions, especially in a situation like this. I do not know what they thought. They must have thought that they would just come in here and try to ram this bill forward, when they took the position that they did regarding this bill.
I have read through the notes and the tremendous furor that they stirred up to oppose this, and then decided to support it. They criticized the previous administration over and over again for not accepting recommendations. Now, when they are in government, we have them not accepting recommendations, but yet feeling that they are somehow so aloof with their overwhelming majority that they won in the election of 37 percent of the popular vote - one more than the NDP - that they do not have to answer those questions. This landslide victory enabled them to sweep to power with a minority government and 37 percent of the popular vote - this overwhelming show of support demonstrated for the Yukon Party and now the happy coalition. I have to ask the question again.
Did the Members opposite, when they were in Opposition, say, we will support Bill No. 13 when it was introduced and read a third time?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: The Member does raise an interesting question. I wonder if he would answer a question for me. He talks about the 37 percent of the vote that the Yukon Party got, one more percent than the NDP, throughout the Yukon. I recall that the Yukon Party did not run anyone in Ross River-Southern Lakes. I wonder if he would agree that the 37 percent does not include the vote that was garnered by this part of the coalition? Is that not correct?
Mr. Harding: The Minister is trying to turn the tables on the debate, as usual. I will buy that one. I am sure that the voters in Ross River-Southern Lakes would have been absolutely horrified had they known there would be a happy coalition formed with the tunnel-vision people they are now sitting with.
They thought they were electing an independent, free-minded and free-thinking Member. Unfortunately, they bought the whole package. It is turning out to be a disaster for the territory. The Yukon Party got 37 percent. I suggest to the Minister of Justice that, had he been running under the Yukon Party label - and I suspect this is why he did not - he would have known that he would have been hammered at the polls and would not be sitting where he is today. If he wants to add his vote to that 37 percent now and play the numbers game, I will allow that.
Once again, I would like to ask him a question. When Bill No. 13 went to third reading, standing in the name of the Hon. Ms. Joe, Minister of Justice, did the Members opposite say that they would support the bill?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I suggest that the Member, during his filibuster, might just read all the speeches that were made on that subject at that time. I would also suggest that this line of questioning does not deal with the principle of this bill, which is to change the timing of clause 6.
Mr. Harding: It certainly does speak to it. It speaks to the reservations that the Member has spoken to regarding the bill when it was introduced and the fact that the government-of-the-day should live by the recommendations of the Yukon Council on the Economy and the Environment. Yet, when we try to introduce a line of questioning that seeks to delve into the lack of principle demonstrated by the Members opposite when they discussed this bill and now bring forward a change to it that in essence says what is good for the goose is not good for the gander, with regard to what binds the public and private sector, they become extremely defensive and call it a filibuster.
The next thing we know, when we start asking questions of the government in Question Period they are going to say it is holding up legislative time and that it is a filibuster. We are waiting for that line.
It is amazing the way they seize things. When they got support on this bill, I never heard the claims about the Member for Riverdale South: Bea and the NDP. No, we did not hear that. But, if the Member for Riverdale South ever expresses concern about the disastrous policies and the disastrous direction we are being taken by the new Yukon Party government in their happy coalition with the independent party from Ross River-Southern Lakes, then all of a sudden she has to be aligning herself with the NDP. Unfortunately, what it says is that a budget has to be pretty, pretty bad and policies have to be pretty, pretty bad when they are getting booted from the left, the middle and the right. And that is exactly what is happening in the political spectrum here in this territory.
When one cannot stick to a principle, and when one does not, as the Members opposite have not with regard to this bill, the people of the Yukon want to hear about it. That is why we ask questions about it and that is why I am asking the Minister from Ross River-Southern Lakes: did they vote against Bill No. 13 and the provisions and the amendments that were proposed?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: We voted against principles of the bill throughout discussion of the bill in Committee of the Whole. Look it up. We wanted changes to the principles of Bill No. 13. We proposed changes; they were voted down. Now we are the government and now Members will have a different bill to amend the Employment Standards Act. The one that was voted for and adhered to rigidly by the then-Minister and by the NDP was an imperfect bill, but if they felt very strongly about it they had ample time - months and months and months - to have it proclaimed. They did not, because it was controversial. They proclaimed a few of the acts that were passed in that sitting, though, because it suited them politically. Political expedience ruled the day.
Now it is too late and, clearly, there is going to be brought forward in the mandate of this government new amendments to the existing Employment Standards Act - amendments we are comfortable with, amendments that we hope will not be worrying enough to bring amendments during our Committee of the Whole hearings.
That is where it stands. Look it up. We were not happy with all the principles of the bill. Look it up. We proposed and voted for amendments and the side opposite voted against them. That is the history of the bill.
Mr. Harding: Let me ask the Minister of Justice this then: if the amendments they proposed were so important and changed the whole context of Bill No. 13 and would have had such a tremendous impact to make the bill better, as he obviously claims, and would have had an important impact, could the Member tell me why they were not principled enough then, if they felt so strongly about their amendments, to vote against the bill?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: The issue is a very simple one, and that is that we are now in the unique position of being able to go ahead with a bill that is much better than the bill the other side attempted to pass. It is quite true that they got it through the House. They had the reluctant endorsement of the then-Opposition.
The issue now is that, because of the principles we enunciated in the House when we wanted to change sections of Bill No. 13, we feel the voters have given us the right to come forward with better legislation for them, and that is what we will do.
Mr. Harding: The Minister takes this sanctimonious stand this afternoon on behalf of seeking to improve the bill. He also said that, in his mind, there was the full belief that the government-of-the-day, the previous administration, had full intentions of making sure that the bill was passed, that it became enacted and went into law. Yet, he also says that they had strong reservations and had proposed amendments.
What they did was to propose amendments that were not successful, knowing in their minds all along that the bill was going to be enacted into law. Yet, knowing this, they did not vote against the bill.
If they were so sure it was going to be enacted into law, and they were so hung up on their amendments, which were supposed to be so important, why did they not take the principled stand against it, as the Member for Riverdale South did? Why did they not say they would not vote for Bill No. 13?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: If the Member wants to see sanctimonious, I would suggest he buy a full-length mirror, not a rear-view mirror.
The position is very simple. We had before us a very imperfect piece of legislation. He wants to know if we gave our extremely qualified support to the bill. Look it up in Hansard. Yes, we did. It was qualified, and we feel that it was not the bill that the people of the Yukon were entitled to, because it failed in many respects.
Mr. Harding: Finally, he admits, albeit with some form of caveat, that he gave it qualified support. I know what is in Hansard, but I simply wanted to extract from him that they did support the bill and did not vote against it. He has now given me that. He now says it was qualified. That is fine.
Now, I want to explore the reservations and move on to the next step in this debate. All he has to do is answer the questions.
With regard to those reservations, let me just read the Hansard into the record. Then I will ask a couple of questions regarding it.
The Member for Riverdale North, who is still the Member for Riverdale North, stood up and said on behalf of their caucus, which included at the time the Member who later formed the independent party of Ross River-Southern Lakes, who now sits with the government in the happy coalition and fills in as leader every now and then, We will support this bill, but with some strong reservations. We have established that. Then he goes on to talk about the process. The point is that they supported the final product regardless of the process. They can talk about the process all they want, they supported the product of that process.
Their next concern and strong reservation was that there was a recommendation that was not accepted by the government; it was debated in the Legislature and valid reasons were given for not accepting it. It was an recommendation made by the Council on the Economy and the Environment. That was one of the reasons why it was not accepted by the previous administration - probably the major reason that there were strong reservations about supporting the bill, even though they did, with their tacit support qualified.
How can they now turn around and say that in the bill that they are proposing they want to take out a recommendation made by the Council on the Economy and the Environment?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: This amendment does not do anything of the sort. It deals with timing. When one discusses principles to be included in an appropriate bill to amend the Employment Standards Act, we will look at all the old principles of that old committee under the old government. Perhaps the Member opposite does not have the right mirror; he should trade in his rear-view mirror for a full-length mirror.
Mr. Harding: I can assure the Member that I would much rather look at myself than I would look at him; unfortunately, while he continues to filibuster and not answer my questions, I am going to have to continue to look at him - that is very unfortunate; he is not as cute as the Member for Kluane when he is angry, but he is pretty cute.
I would like to ask the Minister of Justice if when they were in Opposition - when they gave their tacit or qualified support as he put it -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Harding: Now the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes says it was reluctant support. I am now reading the Member for Riverdale Norths comments and I do not see in his comments who was speaking on behalf of the caucus, when he said, We will support this bill. Now when the Member for Watson Lake was speaking he said, I. Apparently, he was speaking about his stand within the group, but we are talking about the Member for Riverdale North; he said, We will support this bill. There was no mention of reluctance in the statement, just some reservations and that is what we are talking about.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Harding: He said, strong reservations; yes, he did. Now the Member for Riverdale North says that I have a lot to learn; I suggest to the Member that he has a lot to learn and I do not think his seven months as the Minister for the government is enough for him to stand there and say that he knows everything about everything. I guess the Minister is obviously finding out that things in Opposition are a little bit different than in government, and as they continue to wreak havoc upon this territory and more and more people become concerned about the governments direction, he will also learn that he has a lot more to learn, no matter what his age.
The Member for Riverdale North continues to grumble and as I try to move -
Chair: Order please. Let us return to discussion on Bill No. 83. Mr. Harding, please continue.
Mr. Harding: Thank you, Mr. Chair. I would be most happy to continue.
When the discussion surrounding the recommendation of the Council for the Economy and Environment were taking place, was it not the position of the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes that they were in support of the recommendation - that the legislation, as it stands without the amendments and as the act stands with the amendments should not only bind the private sector, but also the public sector?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: As Bill No. 13, which never was and never will be proclaimed, makes very clear, the principle of government being bound by an act was founded on there being an amended Employment Standards Act. That has not happened yet.
When we amend the Employment Standards Act, we will be revisiting that principle and, without prejudging the process, be coming up with something that most Yukoners agree with.
Mr. Harding: I suggest that the Minister think back to what is in Hansard and what was said regarding the discussions on the recommendations put forward by the Council on the Economy and the Environment. Did he support the recommendation, when he was in Opposition, that the public sector should be bound by the provisions of the Employment Standards Act, as well as the private sector?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: This is a bill about timing. If the hon. Member wants to get into the issue about the timing of a provision coming into effect, I would be pleased to answer his question.
Mr. Harding: This is not just about timing. It is about a double standard. My question is the same as before; I have not yet received an answer. When the Minister of Justice was in Opposition and debate was going on about recommendations from the Council on the Economy and the Environment, did the Minister of Justice support the recommendation that the public sector should be bound by the Employment Standards Act - the old one and the amended version that was not proclaimed? Did he not support the position that the public sector should be bound by the provisions, as well as the private sector?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: As I have said before, this side, when in Opposition, gave very reluctant support, with strong reservations, to Bill No. 13. Bill No. 13 is history. The government of that day is history. At this point in time, the new government will be taking a position on the principles that were discussed during the debate on the process surrounding Bill No. 13.
I am not sure what the Member is trying to do. Perhaps he does not feel comfortable with the very obvious truth, which I am sure is known by his friends in the union, and that is that the previous administration - his comrades - did not have the gumption to go to the Commissioner and have the act proclaimed prior to the election call.
Ms. Joe: I have been sitting here listening and actually I was not going to get up and speak any more in regard to this bill, because I thought we were making some kind of progress. We are familiar with the history of Bill No. 13 and a lot of the work that went into it. We go back to a workbook that was presented to the general public in November, I believe. There were a number of suggestions in there, not the governments policy on what we felt should happen in the amendments to the Employment Standards Act.
What we got back were a number of submissions that indicated that there were certain sections of the workbook that individuals were absolutely opposed to. What we had asked the department to do was to look at all of those proposals that came back to us and they eliminated a lot of the sections of that workbook that the business sector especially was opposed to. The Minister knows that. We tried to come down the middle to get an act that would be fair to all people. What we ended up with was a bill with minimum standards and with the terms and conditions for thousands of employees and employers. I think that, based on the kind of information that we received, it was a fairly decent bill.
There were a number of amendments that were proposed by the Opposition at that time that were accepted and were passed by this House. There were certain amendments that they suggested that were not. I think that, all in all, we looked at the general concept of fairness to the employer and to the employee. I think that we did have a fairly decent bill before this House. We all know that both parties have different philosophies and that, according to them, there are no workers in the Yukon and they should not be given any provision. We feel that there are workers in the Yukon in everyones riding, believe it or not, even in the riding of the Member for Riverdale North.
I would just like to know from the Minister whether or not he intends to seek the advice of some of those people who do work for very low wages, who do work under conditions that are not acceptable? He is responsible for the employment standards now. He knows that each year we have a number of employers who have to be told by the courts that they have to pay wages, in the amount of almost one quarter of a million dollars a year.
That is only one problem that we are facing under this legislation now. We are looking at improving the conditions all around. I am very concerned because of the philosophies of this happy coalition in regard to workers, as opposed to the employers, how fair his legislation is going to be. He says maybe three years down the road we might be looking at new amendments to the Employment Standards Act, but who knows whether or not the happy coalition will still be around. It is hard to say. Who knows what is going to happen within the next six months. No one knows that.
I am concerned about their philosophies on fair working conditions for the workers, especially those workers who are making very low wages and working under conditions that are not acceptable to them. I think that that is very important. It seems that government has never considered them.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Even though this is a long way from the principle of the bill, I will respond and say, certainly, we expect full consultation with all Yukoners on what will be an important piece of legislation.
Ms. Joe: I have one last comment in regard to the proclamation of this bill. It was not as if we were setting a precedent in regard to proclamations happening after an election has been called. There was in the works, by lawyers from the department, a lobbying effort to make sure that this bill was not proclaimed. I do not know whether or not that was coming from the newly elected government, or from the former deputy minister.
We are serious about legislation that is going to be fair to all people, and I really fear the workers will be left out in any new legislation that is before the House. The bill in front of us now is doing a favour for the government by changing this section of the act. I wonder whether or not they feel this is fair to the general public, and whether it is fair to the employers. They are required and bound by this legislation; why should the government not be? How fair does the Minister think that is?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I should think, from the eloquent representations made by the last Member, and the dogged determination displayed by some of her fellow Members of the Opposition, that any attempt by the new government to bypass representations made by all sectors of the Yukon will be rigorously called to task in this House. She has certainly convinced me, having spent hours and hours debating the principle of a very simple bill that deals with timing that, once she gets her teeth into something, she can speak very eloquently on behalf of the cause she represents. It is unfortunate that her party does not feel as strongly as she does, and does not have the political fortitude to proclaim a controversial bill prior to the vote being called in an election.
I am sure the Member will carry on and grit her teeth and try to do what she can to overcome the reluctance of people in her party to support her.
I certainly feel that there is a good case to be made for a spokesperson from any party and I certainly would urge all Members in this House to speak out on matters of principle, even though they may be part of a party that does not have the fortitude to defend what they are saying by simply proclaiming a law just before an election is called.
Mr. Cable: Just some answers for the unwashed. I note that the Minister has advanced the four reasons for wanting this bill enacted. I wonder if I could walk through those four reasons. He talks about section 9(2) triggering the compressed work arrangement. I wonder if the Minister can tell me and the other Members of the House what that compressed work arrangement is.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I do not think I can do it complete justice. We have flexibility with respect to dealing with people working for government in various circumstances, including those circumstances in which we require people to work extended hours and take more time off, when they are looking after 24-hour facilities such as hospitals or homes for the elderly and that sort of thing. We have special working arrangements with auxiliaries in various circumstances - everything from highways on - whereby the arrangements under contract and with this government would be upset by the government currently coming under the provisions of the Employment Standards Act, which is meant to be an act that provides the basic safety net for workers. It certainly is not an act that is intended to pile on additional rights to those very, very expensive and special rights that have been exacted through the bargaining process between a very powerful union and the previous government - which we have heard from the Members opposite was extremely predisposed to ensuring that those rights would be more than are enjoyed by most people of the Yukon.
Mr. Cable: He alluded to the fact that this arrangement had been agreed upon. I take it then that this is an arrangement in the Public Service Alliance of Canada contract with Government of Yukon. Is that correct?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: That is my understanding - I am not exactly sure it encompasses all the work arrangements; I do not have a list of them before me - but if the Minister wants, I can certainly get him that information.
Mr. Cable: Is the Minister aware of whether or not any other employers have made applications to the director with respect to compressed work week arrangements?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I presume they have.
Mr. Cable: Have these arrangements been granted by the director? For the record, I think the Minister is indicating that he is not aware of any applications.
Is there any reason to believe that if the Public Service Alliance of Canada and the Government of Yukon make application together, indicating that they are in agreement to the compressed work week arrangement, that the application will be refused?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: That is a very hypothetical proposition; all things being equal, if that were the wish of the union, I presume the request would go ahead.
Mr. Cable: Section 53(2) of Bill No. 13 has not yet been triggered to bring section 6 into force. The issue with the teachers, which is the next issue that the Minister raised on April 22, has not yet arisen. Is the Minister aware of the time that teachers spend during an average work week, including marking and preparation time? Is the Minister aware of what the total work week would be when those hours are included in the teachers hours?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: All I can say is that it seems to vary from teacher to teacher and from school to school. I know teachers who spend all kinds of extra hours on these kinds of issues and they do not receive overtime.
Mr. Cable: What is the perception that this presents a problem? Is there some perception that most teachers, most of the time, are working more than 40 hours per week?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I am sure that many teachers are working more than 40 hours per week. I could - from personal experience - say that many teachers work more than 40 hours per week. Again, it is simply an issue that was not dealt with by the previous government. They tried to buy time to deal with the issue, but they did not have the gumption to have the entire amendment package proclaimed, let alone deal with this issue.
Again, I would hope that these are the sorts of things that would be worked out in the course of amendments to the current Employment Standards Act and become part of an amending package.
Mr. Cable: The next reason that is advanced by the Minister for wanting this amendment is that government employees would have the right to complain about matters not addressed to their satisfaction through the grievance process. I wonder if the Minister could refer me to the sections of the act that give rise to this proposition. I am just thumbing through it and I cannot put my finger on it.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I do not have the details of the current Employment Standards Act before me, but the issue is simply whether or not, in the current situation, if the government were under this act, the grievance process would be the final decision-making procedure on matters that union members were grieving about. I am told by the Department of Justice that they would have recourse to the act on any number of issues if they were unhappy with the result of the grievance process.
Mr. Cable: There are a number of collective agreements in the private sector. Is the Minister saying that the grievance procedure is not exhaustive in that area, too?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Again, these are the kinds of issues that have to be entered into very carefully and to the satisfaction of both employer and employee. By simply imposing external legislation not contemplated in the negotiations that lead to collective bargaining and a signed contract, these things are unduly expensive and cumbersome.
That, if I may say, is the concern we have: that we inherited an unsatisfactory bill. Part of it is due to come into effect and we feel that this is a very shoddy way in which to try and carry on the business of government in a manner that meets the requirements of the workers, the employer and economically address the situation, given the tight financial constraints we are under.
Mr. Cable: I guess the Minister did not understand the question. I have not been able to put my finger on the section of the act that is relevant here. Is the problem the same problem that is applicable to the private sector where there is a collective agreement?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: If a contract is entered into - a collective agreement between two parties: employer and employees - in contemplation of also being subject to the Employment Standards Act, the issue is dealt with in the creation of the agreement. That is clearly not the case here. What we have here - and have had for a long, long time - are successive collective agreements that have been entered into with the clear understanding that the government is not subject to the act.
My preferred position - and I am rather amazed that it is not supported by the Member - would be that if government is going to fall under the purview of the Employment Standards Act, it should be done in the appropriate fashion. The amendments to the Employment Standards Act should be worked out in consultation with all the players, including the employees of the government, so that, falling under the purview of the Employment Standards Act, as amended, would provide the least cost to government and, ultimately, to the taxpayers of the Yukon. This is a bad way of doing it. That is the position we are taking.
Mr. Cable: I am not exactly sure what the Minister is saying. Is he saying that, in the upcoming negotiations for the new collective agreement with the government employees, this problem could be negotiated out of the arrangement?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I suppose that is an issue that could be addressed in the current negotiations. We have a situation where we have had no complaints from employees about the collective agreement not coming under the Employment Standards Act - none. We are in a situation where we can see a lot of unnecessary expense created in simply allowing this one clause to go unchanged. The whole issue of the principle of government falling under the jurisdiction of the Employment Standards Act is one that ought to be approached fairly carefully so that the amendments to the Employment Standards Act enhance this change of jurisdiction in a manner that is contemplated by all the parties, in a manner that will not bring unnecessary expense to the taxpayers of the Yukon. These are requirements that simply have not been met by the current process, because the government took no steps in the six or eight months that they were in power without having the bill proclaimed to deal with those issues.
Mr. Cable: What I am trying to find out is what is peculiar to the government as an employer that does not relate to private sector employers. If the government has a problem meeting this arrangement - the lack of exhaustion of the grievance procedure - why are we saying the private sector should be doing that and not the government?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: All of these issues are issues that would be dealt with in the bargaining process in the full course of time. Dropping this act on government in the way that it is contemplated by Bill No. 13, which we do not intend to have proclaimed, is an inappropriate way of doing things. We are saying that these are all issues that will have to be addressed to the satisfaction of the players before government falls under the jurisdiction of the Employment Standards Act.
There are various ways of ensuring that that is done - one of which is to make some amendments to the act itself. This was done, presumably under Bill No. 13. Another way is to deal with some of them in the collective agreement prior to agreeing to fall within the ambit of the Employment Standards Act. There are two ways of proceeding, and I am suggesting that by not supporting and endorsing Bill No. 83 is to simply try to obtain some cheap benefit at the expense of taxpayers - by pretending that one is in favour of some principle that the very proponents did not have the gumption to have proclaimed prior to the election.
Chair: Order please. Is it the wish of the Committee to take a brief recess at this time?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: We will take a brief recess.
Chair: I will call Committee of the Whole to order. We are dealing with Bill No. 83.
Chair: Before we go further, I would just like to make a comment. Last Thursday, and again earlier this afternoon, I heard Members on both sides of the House referring to other Members opposite as being unprincipled, or lacking in principles. I do not think it is right, so I would just like to urge and ask Members to stop using words of that nature.
Is there any further debate?
Mr. Cable: I would just like to finish up the questions I was asking on the grievance procedure problem that is outlined by the Minister in the Hansard of April 22. I gather from what the Minister has said that he is of the opinion that the government should have some special rules attached to it with respect to the grievance procedure that are not applicable to the private sector because it costs more money. Is that what the Minister said? The Minister is shaking his head. Maybe he can fill me in on the real reasons.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I would think that the parties to the bargaining process, in contemplation of coming under the Employment Standards Act, could agree on a collective agreement that would not cause unnecessary duplication and expense. Failing that, the amendments to the existing Employment Standards Act could be fine-tuned to overcome the problem, or a combination of both.
The problem right now is simply that the act contemplates rather quickly placing government in a situation where these problems are a reality. It is my view that they are issues that should be addressed in the fullness of time when we come forward with new amendments to replace Bill No. 13.
Mr. Cable: The government is in the same position as any other employer that has a collective agreement. Is what we are saying is that they have to negotiate this non-exhaustion of the grievance procedure out of the arrangement?
The Minister is shaking his head.
What we are saying, then, is that we want this amendment because we want to put the government in a position other than that in which we have put the private sector - is that accurate?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: No, it is not accurate. As I said, what we do is suddenly create a new position for the government that has a grievance position in a collective agreement that has a lot of history attached to it. It seems that what we are doing is rather needlessly imposing certain new additional issues on government at this time when it is in the midst of collective bargaining. It would be our intention that that not be the timing. We have before us, potentially, a bill that really does not achieve anything with respect to clause 6 that has been demanded by the workers. Indeed, we would expect a fair amount of cooperation in dealing with some of the issues that were raised in the paper the Member has - the briefing note I provided him. We feel that it is a very poor way of running the government, to simply impose this for political reasons when there is no demand and these issues have not been sorted out to the satisfaction of the employees or the employer and leave us in a situation of playing catch-up for no obvious reason.
Mr. Cable: That is the problem, of course, that the private sector had to face when the act originally came into force. I have yet to hear a reason that would put the government on a higher plane than the private sector. If we are going to put the legislation through and it affects the private sector, perhaps a little head-clearing on the part of the public sector would be in order.
That leads me to the last reason that the Minister has advanced for bringing in this bill; that is, the necessity to change the payroll system within government. What is so peculiar about governments procedures that justifies setting a different standard for the government than we had for the private sector?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Again, this is the way in which the contract between the employer and employee has been going on for some time. If the Member is saying that we are amending the Employment Standards Act and then are suddenly going to drop it on the private sector and that the consequences should be felt as well by the public sector, I understand that argument. That is presumably the argument of incorporating that change of jurisdiction of the Employment Standards Act into a package of amendments. It would also change the relationship between employers and employees throughout the private sector in the Yukon. That is an argument I can have some sympathy for.
We are not, at this time, dropping the old act on anyone. It is there; it has been there for about 10 years, if I remember correctly. What we are saying is that, when we make changes that are expensive and comprehensive, they should be done as a package. We are saying that Bill No. 13 will not be going ahead. Therefore, we are suggesting that the principle of the government coming under an amended Employment Standards Act is one that ought to be part of the package of the amended Employment Standards Act.
Mr. Cable: I do not know when the original Employment Standards Act was dropped on the private sector, whether it was the previous administration, or the one before that. In any case, the act was originally dropped on the private sector. What is so peculiar about the government that requires some special rules?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: If the Member is taking the position of hang the cost; we simply want everyone to come under the purview of this act and cost is not a problem. It does not matter that the Employment Standards Act is a safety net, and the rights of employees of this government far exceed the rights that are set for those who do not have collective agreements; if the Member is saying there is some kind of principle that he is adhering to and that cost is no object, then I understand what he is saying. At least, we have it out in the open.
My suggestion is that the best way to approach an amendment to the existing Employment Standards Act - which I think was passed in 1983 or 1982 - is to have a comprehensive package that is not going to have inefficiencies, in terms of unnecessary costs, imposed on any of the unions or employers. That is the position I am taking. It is a fairly innocuous amendment, from where I sit.
If this principle of the Member is, Never mind the cost or the problems inherent in the current negotiations that are ongoing; we want it the same way just because..., that is fine. It is a principle that is at least out there, and people can view it from whatever perspective they want.
Mr. Cable: I do not recollect saying that. What I did say is that at some juncture this act was brought in and put on the backs of the private sector. If, in fact, it is something that was costly for the private sector, what is so peculiar about the public sector that we now think there should be different rules?
Is the public sector of this government not capable of re-programming its computers to meet the section that states seven days after the end of the pay period that an employee shall be paid? If the government cannot figure out how to do it, why are we asking the private sector to do it?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I will give the Member credit for one thing: I know that he is not filibustering, which is more than the person saying hear, hear can say for himself.
The point is that we have no intention of proclaiming the act, which is Bill No. 13. The previous act, drafted in the early 1980s, called for a great deal of consultation with all the players, including the private employers. There was not a demand at the time to have the government come under the act.
When you comprehensively amend an act, the intention is that you work with the players to ensure that not only the principles that they want to see are in the act, but that implementation is done in an effective manner. I submit that you do not know that by suddenly changing the rules, as this contemplates, it will change the whole scope of the act with respect to public employers. That is as much as I can say about it.
Mr. Cable: Is the Minister aware if there have been any prosecutions under the section that requires private employers to pay their employees within seven days at the end of each pay period?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I can get that information for the Member.
Mr. Cable: I do not want to belabour this but I believe the Minister is probably aware of the fact that there were a number of complaints about suppliers to the public service not being paid on time. It seems to me that the situation was corrected - I assume, by the elected officials leaning on the public officials. Is the Minister of the opinion that it is more expensive, or simply more difficult, for the government to meet the terms in the Employment Standards Act that require employees to be paid within seven days of the end of each pay period?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: My own opinion is that it is a change that would cost money, and a change that I have not heard one person come forward and demand. I do not understand there being a feeling that we suddenly have to start doing things - at some cost - without a comprehensive review of the Employment Standards Act and looking at how to best fit the government as an employer into an amended act.
Mr. Cable: What was the reasoning behind the Yukon Partys support of that section at the time that it was passed in the House last spring?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: The very simple reason was that we were amending the act and this is a principle that we can see in the comprehensive amendment. We are not through this amendment on timing. We have said that we would like to proceed with comprehensive amendments to the Employment Standards Act. We were very unhappy with aspects of Bill No. 13 - we made that very clear during the process that we went through in seeing the act passed with reservations and strong doubts expressed by various Members. We do not have to do that any more. We are in a position to bring forward a better package of amendments that enjoy more support from more of the players. The reason was that we were amending the act.
Mr. Harding: I have a few questions for the Minister of Health and Social Services with regard to the reasoning for bringing forth this bill. A number of reasons were identified by the Minister, but yet in questioning on those reasons, it became readily apparent to me that there has been nothing done by the Minister to thoroughly investigate ways to find solutions. If solutions were found for the problems that have been identified as being the reason to bring the bill in, then there would be no necessity to have this bill here. I ask when, for example, the issue of the compressed work week is brought forward to this House as a reason for the necessity of this legislation, and the Minister has indicated in his answers that he was not fully aware of whether or not it was a possibility for the public sector employees to get permission from the director to engage in a compressed work week situation, then why would the Minister bring the bill forward?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: There are a number of issues that have been explained to the Members here that would involve a fair amount of work and/or negotiation with the unions. The appropriate way to make a sea change to the relationship between employer and employee is to look at the Employment Standards Act and bring forward amendments that will be acceptable to most Yukoners, and that will be capable of being implemented at the least conceivable cost to the players.
We are saying that the unfortunate thing with respect to Bill No. 13 was that it was not proclaimed last year. It is not going to be proclaimed. We have this issue of timing still outstanding. We intend to go back and come forward with better legislation. I just want to say, I am not aware of any demand by employees that clause 6 come into effect.
Mr. Harding: I would like to ask the Minister then if he would concede that it is certainly well within the realm of possibility that the compressed work week arrangement, which has been identified as a reason for bringing forth this bill, could be something that could be agreed upon between the employer and the employees and, through mutual agreement, could certainly form the basis of a work schedule arrangement.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I would think that, after a great deal of consultation and so on, it is possible. The Member is asking a hypothetical question. We have similar problems with the cost of the issue regarding teachers and overtime. We have similar problems with the other issues that have been raised here. I am rather surprised at the focus of the Member - whether or not there is a need is not the issue; whether or not there is a demand from the employees is not an issue. All that is of concern to him at this point in time is whether or not it might be possible, at some cost and effort and time, to do this because his party did it back when they were government.
Mr. Harding: The Minister does concede, then, that it is possible.
The second question I have regarding this - and I have lots of questions for the Minister - is on the issue or the that one of the reasons for this legislation was that the existing legislation would allow an employee in the public sector, if they are not happy with the grievance procedure or if things are not resolved in the grievance procedure, to try to look for some redress under the Employment Standards Act. Would the Minister concede that that is presently the case in the private sector in any bargaining relationship between a bargaining agent, i.e. a union, and an employer?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I am not sure about the question, even, but no, I am not going to concede that it is always the case.
Mr. Harding: He obviously was not sure about the question, because I did not ask if it was always the case. What I said was and what I asked was: would the Minister concede that, in the private sector, it would be possible, in a bargaining agent/employer relationship, that, where an employee had a grievance represented by their bargaining agent to the employer, pending the outcome or even during the process of that grievance, it would be possible for the employee to approach employment standards for further redress? Would that not be possible?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I am not sure, and I am certainly not sure that it is the case under any collective agreements in the Yukon at this time. But if the Member can provide me with information that shows that it would be the case, I would be delighted to review it and discuss it with my officials and say yes or no.
Mr. Harding: I am not the Minister. I did not bring the bill forward or state the reasons for the necessity of the bill. The Minister of Justice did that. The Minister stated that was a problem, and that was a reason. Obviously, the departments gave him the briefing notes to give out, and he identified that as a serious problem that justified the necessity of this bill.
I will put my question in the following fashion: is the Minister aware that, in the private sector in a union/employer relationship, if an employee feels they would like to seek another form of redress, they can usurp the boundaries of the collective agreement and go to employment standards?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I am not sure I understand whether or not the Minister is making a representation to me. Is he saying that is the case in all cases? I am interested in that. Wherever there is a collective agreement in place, is he advising me, as a matter of law that, at all times, the grievance procedure can be usurped by the Employment Standards Act?
Mr. Harding: I am asking if he is aware. He continues to refer to me as Minister. I am not sure if he is having visions of the day after the next election, or what is happening. I am not the Minister. He is the Minister and the one who brought the bill forward.
What I am asking is if he is aware that is the case. I am not saying that it is always the case but, in the private sector, an employee in an employer/union relationship, whether they get redressed to their satisfaction through the grievance procedure or not, has the right to go to employment standards for redress. Is he aware that that is the case? I am saying that it is.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I certainly want to apologize for referring to the Member as Minister. It was not a vision I had; it was a recurring nightmare. Perhaps, because it is Monday afternoon, it keeps recurring even as I am sitting here - not that the debate has not been extremely valuable and interesting.
I have not sought a legal opinion from the department as to the validity of the hypothetical proposition put to me by the Member, but I am sure that I could obtain one fairly quickly and bring it back.
Mr. Harding: It is not a hypothetical situation. It is a reference to the existing legislation and practices we have here in the territory. If I was speaking on behalf of one employee that a situation might happen to, I guess it would be. What I am asking is if the Minister is aware that, under existing legislation, that right exists. That is all I am asking. I am not speaking to a specific instance, or anything of that nature. I am simply addressing the reasons the Minister put forward in his brilliant opening remarks at the introduction of this bill. I am addressing the reasons for the bill, and I am asking him if he is aware that, in the private sector, in a union/employer relationship, if an employee feels that they would like to go further in a grievance procedure, they have the opportunity to seek further redress through employment standards. Whether or not they get another form of redress is not the issue. I am just asking if he is aware that that right exists.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I am aware of the right. I am just not apprised as to whether it is universal.
Mr. Harding: If that right exists right now for the private sector, why would it be damaging to the government in the public sector?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: The issue with respect to grievance procedures is that this could become an added cost to the government at this time. That is the issue. Whether the collective agreement could be changed so as to reduce its impact is a question I have not even considered. It is one area where there is the potential of additional costs to government, if we suddenly drop ourselves into a situation where we fall within the ambit of the Employment Standards Act, as it is presently written.
Mr. Harding: This bill reminds me a lot of the off-road gas exemption in the way it came forward. It is obvious that the groundwork and investigation has not gone into the reasoning for putting the bill forward. That is exactly what happened with the off-road gas exemption. Even today, even though it was put forward weeks ago, they do not have an estimated figure to give to us on what it is going to cost to administer.
The Minister has conceded that the right exists in the private sector for an employee in a union/employer relationship to seek further redress, of whatever form, under the legislation in the Employment Standards Act. If it would be so devastating to the public sector to allow the same thing, even though the private sector employers have to put up with it - and quite properly so; it has not led to a total collapse of the economy, at least it did not, although the Members opposite are contributing heavily now to that end, and they are making decisions on their so-called vision in that regard - and that a potential cost could arise, could the Minister give me some indication as to the work they have done to determine what that potential cost would be?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I would like to turn that around, because we see a whole number of areas that are not resolved, and there was no attempt to resolve those areas by the previous administration. Since this has become such a partisan issue with the Member opposite - note that I said Member, not Minister - I would be very interested to learn exactly what the NDP thought it was going to cost to implement clause 6 of the bill?
Mr. Harding: I am not surprised the Minister wants to turn that question around, because he likes to do that with every question he cannot answer, but I am not going to bite.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Harding: The Member for Riverdale North says that I am too smart for him, and he is probably right. I am certainly too smart for the Member for Riverdale North.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Harding: If the Members would stop filibustering, I could get on with my line of questioning. Unfortunately, the Members opposite do not like answering questions, and they do not believe in the democratic process. They think that they should be able to introduce bills and not have to answer any questions asked by elected representatives who are concerned about the content of the legislation that they are trying to bring forward and the changes they are trying to make to this territory. I do not think that is right.
I would like to ask the Minister of Justice something once again, because he did not answer my question. I am not the Minister, and I would not want to give the Minister any more nightmares, as he put it, so I am not going to answer my question, but I am going to ask the Minister of Justice to answer my question.
Prior to putting this bill forward, when did the government investigate the potential cost to the employer of this reason for bringing the bill forward? What was the estimated potential cost? Could he be specific in telling me how it would damage employers?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: That is fairly simple to answer. This bill was brought forward when the House sat before Christmas. The bill was tabled in the Legislature for two reasons.
The first reason is that we, on this side of the House, continued to be extremely unhappy with Bill No. 13, and the strong reservations that we had a year ago continue to this day.
The second reason is that we were absolutely appalled by the lack of preparation and groundwork done by the previous administration, with respect to having Bill No. 13 proclaimed. We were also appalled by the fact that there was no estimation of the cost of moving ahead with this section of the bill.
We had those kinds of unknowns, and we wanted to come back with a much better piece of work, so we immediately introduced legislation that would get rid of the mischievous aspect of clause 53 of Bill No. 13.
I can only say that, given the blind faith that the Member opposite has shown in the abilities of the previous government, I am sure that perhaps there was some groundwork that was done that I was not aware of. I would be delighted if he would bring it forward because it would be interesting to see what their estimation of the cost would be.
Mr. Harding: Would the Minister then concede that they have not done any studies, any consultation or any work before introducing this bill regarding the estimated added costs to employers of the potential for public sector employees to seek further redress outside the collective agreement?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: We do have a practice of not performing unnecessary tasks. We gave notice of our intention back in November or December, shortly after we took office, to come forward with Bill No. 83, which is before him. To look at some of the issues that concern us - the issue of teachers having the right to require overtime, or those kinds of issues -are somewhat hypothetical because we do not know how many people demand that right. It is a very large public service with a very rich contract. We have no idea what the reaction would be at the table where we would be forced to unnecessarily start negotiating these issues on top of the other issues that have been under discussion between the parties for some time now.
I am rather underwhelmed by the questions, to be quite frank, because they are the type of hypothetical questions that do not make much sense when, in principle, we stated that we would not be proclaiming Bill No. 13. We gave notice of our intention with respect to this timing question at the end of November or the first of December.
Mr. Harding: To use the Ministers words, as he is underwhelmed with the question, I am equally underwhelmed with the answer. Perhaps the Minister could tell me simply, without a long diatribe, whether or not he would concede that they have not done any studies or work to determine what the potential cost added would be to the public sector if this provision, which the private sector deals with, was in law?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I thought I answered that last time. With respect to all of these points that were raised in my speech on second reading, the answer is, Of course not. We came forward right away in our new mandate, as a new government, saying that we would be coming forward with Bill No. 83. The purpose of Bill No. 83 is to place clause 6 in the same time frame as the rest of Bill No. 13 - which is not going to be proclaimed.
Mr. Harding: I am in a quandary as to why the government would introduce legislation that removed from them the obligation that came from a recommendation from the Council on the Economy and the Environment, which formed the basis of many of the reservations that have been spoken about by the Members opposite - when they did support the bill.
They have brought forth a bill that absolves them of the responsibility to set a leadership example for the private sector as a public sector employer; they have brought that forward rather than look into possible reasons to deal with the problem.
Will the Minister please answer the question as to why they would so hurriedly absolve themselves of responsibility to take a leadership position in that regard rather than looking into concrete ways to deal with the problems that he has identified? He has made the claim that they are serious problems. Would he please tell us why they feel that now that they are in government, they have the right to absolve themselves of setting a leadership example?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I am jumping into the debate here, because I think it is important to provide some useful information to the Member for Faro who was not in the House when we debated the amendments to the Employment Standards Act. He keeps going back to the question of the past government and this government not accepting the recommendations and that the previous government accepted all but one recommendation - 52 out of 53 recommendations. What he forgets, or maybe does not understand, is that the Council on the Economy and the Environment was pretty upset with the government at that time when they made a recommendation on the report simply because the government selectively chose certain recommendations that it would agree to.
What upset the Council on the Economy and the Environment was that they did not want to make every single recommendation in there unless there were some trade-offs. Some of those trade offs were section 50 and some of the other areas they had concerns about. That is why they were upset. He should be fully aware that there were some trade-offs made, but the Council on the Economy and the Environment was upset that the government did not accept the recommendations.
I think this government is doing the right thing. It is taking away a timing clause in that particular set of amendments, which will come into play, and it is going to review the whole process of employment standards in the future. We will be bringing in a better act than the previous government did and we will be listening to the players out there and the concerns they have over the proper employment standards legislation we should have in the territory.
I know the Member for Faro knows a great deal and has a great deal of information about everything that goes on in this House; he knows what Ministers do every day; he knows the types of things we deal with, but the Member for Faro simply does not know everything and this is one area where he is a little lacking in his information.
Ms. Moorcroft: Let me begin by thanking the Minister of Justice for his good advice and encouragement for the Members of this House to speak out on all matters of principle. That is just what I have been waiting for an opportunity to do this afternoon.
The amendment before us deals, in part, with timing. The Minister of Justice wants to be sure the Yukon government does not have to comply with the Employment Standards Act, unlike private employers in the Yukon.
Under Bill No. 13, An Act to Amend the Employment Standards Act, the Yukon government would have to fall under the same regulatory requirements as the private employers of the Yukon on January 1, 1995, or on the date that the Yukon government reaches its next collective agreement with the Public Service Alliance of Canada, whichever comes first. Under Bill No. 83, An Act the Amend the Employment Standards Act (No. 2), 1992, Bill No. 13 is relegated to the dusty shelf where unproclaimed legislation goes until a date to be fixed by the Commissioner in Executive Council. The Minister of Justice has indicated this would be never.
Let me say in passing that there are five too many bills already on that dusty shelf of unproclaimed Yukon legislation. Bill No. 13 is one of five Yukon statutes presently held in limbo, which were fully debated and passed in this Legislature during the third session of the Twenty-seventh Legislative Assembly. Bill No. 13 was supported at third reading by representatives from both sides of the House, as the Minister of Justice acknowledged earlier this afternoon. Indeed, Bill No. 13 received assent on June 2, 1992. Therefore, I must say how disappointed I am by the amendment before us, which does not revive Bill No. 13, but kills it.
Then again, perhaps the Ministers amendment is a positive signal to negotiators on both sides of the bargaining table that the government expects to reach a collective agreement sooner, rather than later, with the Public Service Alliance of Canada. I hope this might be the case.
Last week, I referred to the fact that the Yukon Party consults with the Yukon Chamber of Mines, the Yukon Chamber of Commerce and the Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce, and so they should. The proposal to have the Yukon government live in the same environment as the private sector, vis-a-vis the Employment Standards Act, is a proposal that came from the business community. Employers took the position, during the review process, that the government should be bound by the same rules it establishes for private sector employers. If small and large businesses, all over the Yukon, can get an averaging permit to accommodate the hours worked by their employees, so too can the Yukon government.
The Minister of Education drew our attention to the previous administration accepting 52 of the 53 recommendations of the Yukon Council on the Economy and the Environment. I will be dealing with clause 50 later.
The Yukon Party government has stated repeatedly their commitment to listen to the advice of boards and committees. I would draw their attention to the Yukon Council on the Economy and the Environment report on proposed amendments to the Employment Standards Act. The Yukon Council on the Economy and the Environment said, The Government of the Yukon should lead by example and should be legislatively bound to adhere to the provisions of the Employment Standards Act.
The amendments to the Employment Standards Act are not, as Members of the side opposite have said, a collective agreement for unorganized workers. Rather, the amendments address some needs for the 1990s employment world. There is a provision allowing unpaid family leave, to enable workers to meet their family responsibilities. There is a provision for maternity, parental and adoption leave. The act complies with the Yukon Human Rights Act, in recognizing same sex couples as partners. The amendments establish penalties where the law has been broken.
I have reviewed a number of recent employment standards boards decisions, and find that the most common matter to be heard for the employment standards board is an employer appeal of a certificate of wages issued before the board. A certificate of wages is issued by the labour services branch of the Yukon Department of Justice, where the department has conducted an investigation and determined that wages are due. Employers must under the law pay overtime pay to employees who work over eight hours in a day and 40 hours in a week. An arrangement with an employee to agree to work overtime hours at their normal straight time rate is not legal.
Time and again, the board has found that overtime wages are due to employees. Ignorance of the law is not an excuse for breaking the law. As has been stated in some of the boards decisions, the matter somewhat tiresomely comes before the board that employers will not pay overtime because they do not consider it practical in their operations. The employees sign a pre-employment agreement that they will not receive overtime pay. It is not a legal arrangement for an employee to bargain away their right to overtime pay and to other minimum standards or working conditions.
Section 3 of the Employment Standards Act clearly provides that an employee can not abrogate his or her rights under the Employment Standards Act by way of any contract or arrangement with the employer.
When negotiating contracts of employment, the first obligation of employers is to ensure strict compliance with the provisions of the Employment Standards Act.
I am well aware that the majority of Yukon employers do not break the law. This is why I am puzzled by opposition to the measures in the act that put the burden of responsibility for infractions of the Employment Standards Act on employers who violate the act.
The amendments call for an employer to post $250, or the amount of money owed to their employees, whichever is less, before an employer can appeal a certificate of wages issued by the director of employment standards in the Department of Justice. In some cases, thousands of dollars of wages are owed to employees and a $250 bond is minimal payment if the employer does not meet their obligations to pay employees wages, even after the board confirms an order. It is the position of the Yukon Federation of Labour that the deposit should be raised to a minimum of $1000 or the amount owed to the employee, whichever is less.
Over the years, many employees have had to wait for months to be paid wages due to them for hours worked. Even in cases where the board finds in favour of the employee, the employee sometimes never receives the money. It is also an unfortunate reality that workers lose their jobs when they challenge the illegal actions of their employers. This is not mere speculation, there are cases in the Yukon where employers have not paid their employees the wages due to them, even when they have been legally ordered to do so.
While the maximum penalty of $1000 for employers who defy the law and refuse to pay employees their wages is not a significant deterrent, it is hoped that it will have the desired effect of giving employers pause to think before they appeal a wage certificate, causing a board hearing to be held at public expense when employers know from past board decisions and the clear intent of the Employment Standards Act that they do have to pay workers wages for hours worked.
Conscientious, decent employers do not suffer when a penalty is assigned to an employer who breaks the law. The majority of business owners are responsible people. I know many small business owners who live in my riding, and I have a great deal of respect for them and their contribution to the economy. Responsible business owners who treat their employees in accordance with the law do not object to the provision of penalties for those who break the law.
Part 6 of the act establishes maternity and parental leave. This enables an employee who has 12 months of service with an employer to take up to 17 weeks leave after the birth or adoption of a child. In other jurisdictions, 12 weeks of service with an employer establishes the right to parental leave. This leave is unpaid leave, and I believe it corrects an injustice that has been done to working women for many years. Women who leave the paid workforce in order to bear children lose their jobs, lose seniority, lose their ability to contribute to pension plans as well as other benefits they were entitled to when they were working for wages. The provision of a parental leave means that employees can return to work after spending some time at home with their young child and that another worker has an opportunity to work on a term basis and learn new job skills.
Another provision in Bill No. 13 is a section that allows workers the right to refuse overtime work without 48 hours notice or in cases of an emergency.
Point of Order
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Point of order.
Speaker: Mr. Phelps, on a point of order.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I respectfully submit that a speech on Bill No. 13 surely is out of order, since what we are discussing here is the timing, the very simple clause that deals with the timing as to when the government would come within the purview of the existing Employment Standards Act.
Mr. McDonald: As much as it pains me to do so, I am going to have to take issue with the Members point of order. As much as I am waiting to balance my colleagues remarks, I must say that this speech is relevant to the act itself.
The section that we are talking about repealing is a provision that allows the Commissioner in Executive Council to bring into force any part of Bill No. 13 that is under consideration. Clearly, any element of Bill No. 13 can be debated, particularly if there is a concern about when the provisions of that bill ought to come into force and effect in this territory. Therefore, I disagree with the Member.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: That was a backhanded way for the hon. Member who just spoke to support my submission. What we are simply dealing with here is clause 53, as it applies to clause 6 of Bill No. 13, not the rest of Bill No. 13.
Chair: The time being close to 5:30 p.m., I would like to recess until 7:30 p.m., at which time I will make a ruling on the point of order. Are we agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order.
Chair: Before proceeding with tonights business, I will now give my ruling on the point of order raised just before 5:30 this evening.
The Chair believes that there is a lot of connection between Bill No. 83, which is now before Committee, and Bill No. 13, which was passed by the last Legislature. This does not mean that Committee can debate all over again each section of Bill No. 13. However, the general contents of Bill No. 13 can be raised in discussing Bill No. 83.
The Chair would ask, when Members refer to Bill No. 13, that they help the Chair and the Committee by making sure that their comments are clearly related to the contents of Bill No. 83.
Chair: Is there further debate on Bill No. 83?
Ms. Moorcroft: I will endeavour to make the connection perfectly clear between Bill No. 13 and Bill No. 83 before I conclude my remarks shortly.
We have to recognize that when a worker is hired to work for an employer, they do not cease to have a private life. Many workers appreciate and take the opportunity to work overtime hours for overtime pay. However, many employees cannot, on short notice, make alternative arrangements for children or other family members for whom they may be responsible. I believe it is reasonable to have to ask employees if they are able to work overtime hours and to allow them the opportunity to refuse overtime.
The Yukon Council on the Economy and the Environments submission states that a reasonable notice to refuse overtime, even with required notice, should be recognized and defined. The council acknowledged that circumstances, such as child care arrangements, can sometimes make overtime work an unreasonable hardship and constitute, in effect, an emergency for the employee.
There is a provision of the Employment Standards Act that I believe to be unjust; Bill No. 13 removes section 50 of the Employment Standards Act, and rightfully so. No other jurisdiction in Canada has such a Draconian law. Bill No. 13 corrects an injustice to working people that must be corrected. The existing section 50 allows an employer to deduct an amount equal to one weeks wages from the employee when the employee terminates employment without notice.
There are many possible reasons why an employee would quit their job with short or no notice. An employee may have serious problems in their immediate family that would require them to leave the territory for more than the maximum leave period permitted them. An employee may be harassed in the workplace, and this is not as rare as some federal Tory Ministers might like to think.
Workers do not quit their jobs irresponsibly, especially in times like these, with rising unemployment. A longstanding basic union principle is that a worker is worthy of their hire. It could also be translated to state that wages are owed for hours worked.
I spoke to my MLA during the debate surrounding the amendments to the Employment Standards Act, who at that time was the Member for Hootalinqua. I urged him then to support Bill No. 13 on behalf of the working people in his riding. I have very grave reservations about what better package of employment standards legislation might result from a government whose Minister of Economic Development questions, whether we should have standards.
We on this side of the House believe that Bill No. 13 should be proclaimed. Therefore, I would now like to urge the Minister of Justice to support the following amendment to Bill No. 83, which we are debating today.
I move that Bill No. 83, entitled An Act to Amend the Employment Standards Act-
Chair: Order please.
The amendment cannot be made until we get into clause-by-clause debate.
Ms. Moorcroft: All right.
Chair: Is there any more general debate.
On Clause 1
Clause 1 agreed to
On Clause 2
Ms. Moorcroft: I move
THAT Bill No. 83, entitled An Act to Amend the Employment Standards Act (No. 2), 1992, be amended in clause 2 at page 1 by deleting all of 53", and substituting for it the following:
53.(1) Other than section 6, this Act, or any provision thereof, comes into force on June 1, 1993;
(2) Section 6 comes into force January 1, 1995, or on the day after March 31, 1993, when the Government of the Yukon next enters into a collective agreement with the Public Service Alliance of Canada, whichever is the earlier."
Chair: It has been moved by the Member for Mount Lorne
THAT Bill No. 83, entitled, An Act to Amend the Employment Standards Act (No.2), 1992, be amended in clause 2 at page 1 by deleting all of 53" and substituting for it the following:
53.(1) Other than section 6, this Act, or any provision thereof, comes into force on June 1, 1993.
(2) Section 6 comes into force on January 1, 1995, or on the day after March 31, 1993, when the Government of Yukon next enters into a collective agreement with the Public Service Alliance of Canada, whichever is the earlier."
Ms. Moorcroft: This motion comes before us to amend Bill No. 83 and to, in essence, revert to Bill No. 13.
I spoke earlier on the merits of Bill No. 13, and I believe the Members of this House should support this amendment.
Chair: Are you prepared for the question on the amendment?
Some Hon. Member: Division.
Chair: Division has been called.
All those in favour of the amendment, please rise.
Chair: All those against the amendment, please rise.
Chair: The results are six yea and 10 nay.
Amendment to clause 2 negatived
Chair: Is there further discussion on clause 2?
Clause 2 agreed to
Title agreed to
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Mr. Chair, I have a very important motion to make. I move that Bill No. 83, entitled An Act to Amend the Employment Standards Act (No. 2), 1992, be reported out of Committee without amendment.
Motion agreed to
Bill No. 4 - Second Appropriation Act, 1992-93 - continued
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I will advise the House that we will now proceed with Bill No. 4.
Department of Community and Transportation Services - continued
Chair: We will be continuing discussion on Bill No. 4, entitled Second Appropriation Act, 1992-93. Is there any further debate on this item?
On Office of the Deputy Minister - continued
Mr. McDonald: During the last round, when we were discussing this particular budget, I was left confused as to where one might find the costs associated with the separation of the deputy minister. The reason I am confused is due to the varying messages that we have received in the last few weeks with respect to this matter. I would like to see if the Minister can help me.
Last Wednesday night, I had asked some questions with respect to location of the costs associated with severance of the deputy minister.
First of all, the Minister told us that it was not in this supplementary, and we were later told that we could find this item in the Public Service Commission budget. Then we were told that it may not be in this budget at all.
Those are all interesting messages, but they all ran counter to what the Finance Minister indicated would be the case in general debate on the budget. We were told on a number of occasions that the cost of severance pay to the deputy ministers could be found in the supplementary and the relevant departments. As far as I am aware, this is one of the relevant departments, because the deputy minister of this department has left the employ of the government.
We were further told by the Finance Minister that the cost will show up, and I will just quote from page 360 of Hansard, March 31: It will show up in the line wherever the deputy minister was paid, or it may be that the department had savings within the department and were able to cover the severance package - the bottom line being that it would be in the supplementary in this line item.
We were also told by the Finance Minister that Members who had questions about these subject areas would have an opportunity to ask each of the Ministers, as they are going into line-by-line debate on their departments.
Does the Minister have any intention of answering those questions? Is the cost associated with the severing of the deputy minister found within his departments supplementary and in this particular line item?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The particular item the Member opposite is asking about will be in the period 12 variance, which will show up on what is called the period 13 supplementary because, when this expenditure was made, it was beyond the date at which the supplementary now before Members was put together.
Mr. McDonald: Therefore, the Minister is saying that the Finance Minister was not exactly giving us the straight goods when it came to answering the question about whether or not we could find these items in this particular supplementary. We are now told by the Minister, and I guess this is the final word on the matter, that the cost associated with the severing of the deputy minister of this department is not to be found in this budget at all. Is that correct, just to be sure?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: That is right. I cannot speak for the other departments but, for Community and Transportation Services, it does not appear in the supplementary before us. It will appear in the period 13 supplementary.
Mr. McDonald: The difficulty we face is that, given the fairly healthy supplementary that is being proposed here by the government, the likelihood of us having an opportunity to debate the period 13 supplementary is very small, indeed.
If the government has a surplus in both of its O&M and capital vote, then there is no requirement to bring a bill before the House to turn back funds that are not needed. There is only a requirement to bring before the House bills that make requests for expenditure of funds. What the government is doing by incorporating this in a period 13 supplementary, rather than the final supplementary, is effectively avoiding the questions that can be put on the subject - if we are simply to allow the explanation that only expenditures and projections made at period 8 would be incorporated into the supplementary.
Under normal circumstances, one would have to take issue with that particular claim. We have heard from the Finance Minister that there are savings, found in the supplementaries, that were secured by decisions that were made after the supplementary cut-off date. We discovered this through questions and answers in the Legislature.
Under normal circumstances, if one were to stick to the story consistently, that these expenditures are only for expenditures and projections made at the end of period 8, then we could feel comfortable about that explanation. Unfortunately I cannot, because we do know that decisions have been made subsequent to the period 8 cutoff that are found in this budget.
This Minister is the wrong Minister to lecture, because I really want to speak to the Minister of Finance, who is the responsible agent, and not this Minister at all.
I thank the Minister for being fairly straightforward with me with respect to the costs associated with the deputy minister. While it may be inconsistent with what the Finance Minister said, it is, as I understand it, the truth - finally.
Ms. Moorcroft: I would like to ask the Minister for the breakdown of the subcategories within the Office of the Deputy Minister.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I thought I had done this. Under the Office of the Deputy Minister, for the increases, there was $38,000 for personnel costs, consisting of $25,000 due to deputy minister acting pay and $13,000 in overtime for EMO response to flood waters from May to August. There was $169,000 associated with emergency measures, of which $129,000 is due to EMO response to flood waters, costs for heavy equipment, sandbags and engineering. There was $15,000 for the Ministers conference, $15,000 for EMO preparation training, and $10,000 for contracts to cover heavy workload. There was $118,000, of which $97,000 is the result of the mobile radio charge-out rate being reduced, $10,000 for the development of an emergency communications plan and $11,000 to implement a 911 system in Whitehorse. There was a reduction of $61,000 in communications. Of this, $35,000 was due to the program manager position being vacant for six months, and $26,000 was due to savings from decentralization.
Ms. Moorcroft: Were there any expenditures related to departmental land claims within the Department of Community and Transportation Services? If so, did that expenditure come under the Office of the Deputy Minister?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The departmental land claims do come under the Office of the Deputy Minister. It shows a forecasted requirement of $190,000, resulting in a surplus of $25,000. This surplus is a result of a reduction in the contribution payment amount.
Ms. Moorcroft: During the period of the supplementaries here, how many person years or full-time equivalents - or have there been any people - have been on contract with the Land Claims Secretariat? What is the breakdown of personnel in that area?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: In the departmental land claim office there are two people who are on term positions that expired on March 31. The department is in the process of re-staffing those positions.
Ms. Moorcroft: What are the responsibilities of the positions that are terms that have expired and that are being re-staffed?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I do not remember the exact titles. One is the land claims director, I believe. That position is responsible for liaising with the Land Claims Secretariat, the Department of Community and Transportation Services and the Association of Yukon Communities. The other position, I believe, is a land claims researcher who works under the director and does exactly as the position title suggests. They are responsible for working with the lands branch and the Land Claims Secretariat to determine land uses for the department, having partial responsibility for the municipalities.
Ms. Moorcroft: How will the positions be re-staffed?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: They probably will be filled through internal competitions. We see the positions staying for about another year and one-half. It will either be through some sort of a secondment or through internal competitions.
Ms. Moorcroft: Is it not the priority of the government to attempt to continue jobs for people? Here, there are term positions expiring and now new positions are being rehired for essentially the same work. What are the opportunities available to the people whose term expired?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: My understanding is that the renewal of the term position was offered to the two people who were in the positions. They chose not to continue.
Ms. Moorcroft: What has the greatest area of activity been with these two land claims positions since October 20?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I understand their main tasks were implementation, the lands research for the department, and policy development for the department.
Ms. Moorcroft: On the area of policy development for the department, and given that these positions work with the Association of Yukon Communities, as well as with the department, can you tell me what the government position is with regard to municipalities being entitled to third-party observer status at the land claims table?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The department policy is that the department would support the municipalities having observer status, but only if the other two parties at the table would show the same support.
Ms. Moorcroft: Within the sub-item of departmental land claims, what is the status of financial support to the Association of Yukon Communities for land claim implementation?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The department funded the Association of Yukon Communities with $50,000 approximately one year ago. I understand that they have not as yet expended those funds.
Ms. Joe: I have some questions about the current land claims situation.
The Minister is aware that there is some discontent among the Taan Kwachan and the Kwanlin Dun First Nations with regard to their land selections. The Government Leader has stated that the land selection is not balanced, therefore he does not choose to negotiate.
My question is - and I am really curious about this - how does the Government Leader determine what is balanced or unbalanced in his mind? Who tells the Government Leader that? Do the negotiators go to him and tell him that the land selections are unbalanced? Does the Government Leader make a unilateral decision that land selections are unbalanced and then say, no, I am not going to negotiate until you come to me with a balanced land selection?
I think that all First Nations would like to know what criteria the government uses to determine unbalanced land selections.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: To start with, I do not believe the words balanced or unbalanced are my words. I believe the question should be put to the Government Leader and not to me.
Ms. Joe: The Government Leader has used the term of balanced and unbalanced. Certainly, I would like to have the Government Leader answer that question, but the Member opposite is the Minister responsible for the Department of Community and Transportation Services, and one of the things that he is responsible for is development.
The two First Nations groups in the Whitehorse area are concerned that development is going ahead while they are still negotiating land claims. We have no objection to development, but there has to be some form of fairness with regard to the manner in which you conduct that development. I would like to know if the Minister will tell us whether or not he intends to take some kind of position with regard to what is happening with the First Nations and his responsibility as the Minister responsible for land development in that area?
We have to arrive at some kind of solution, and you cannot do that if one side refuses to negotiate because they have determined on their own that it is an unbalanced selection. First Nations would like to know, I would like to know and I think Yukoners would like to know what this governments position is with respect to unbalanced land selections.
IHon. Mr. Fisher: In the main estimates for the Department of Community and Transportation Services, as the Members opposite are quite aware, there is a large amount of money identified for land development. My understanding is that some of the land development is in conflict with the Kwanlin Dun Band selections. It is, as is appropriate, before the land claims table at this time.
Ms. Joe: I am still waiting for my answer. The old village for the Kwanlin Dun First Nation is in a section of the Marwell area. Most of us who have been here for a lot of years have seen what has happened to that area where a small area of land was selected for the Kwnalin Dun First Nation group to live. Every year, for decades, the land was taken away - it was unfit for human habitation. There were no water and sewer services and there was a swamp in their backyard coming down from Takhini. I fear that the same thing will happen in the area where the First Nations group have their housing right now. I think it is imperative that some kind of fair decision be made in regard to what this government is going to do about negotiating land claims.
The government cannot just say that they are not going to negotiate any more. One has to be able to take a position on something that is going to be fair. They appear to be taking a position on something that is very unfair to one group of individuals.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I disagree with the Member opposite about taking a position that is unfair. I believe that the example that the Member opposite used is a fair example of the Yukon government being quite fair - in that the amount of land is substantially more than that was vacated by the Kwanlin Dun.
I believe that the place to deal with the land question is at the land claims table, where it now rests.
Ms. Joe: There was never any question about what was fair and what was not fair in regard to the exchange of land. When the government takes a group of people out of a small area of land where the old village was and puts them into a much larger area, the government is not doing them a favour. They are offering something that was rightfully theirs, and that is the land. But what is happening right now is the same thing that was happening down there, where land is being selected and they are not being allowed to sit at the table to negotiate it. The Minister is saying that the proper place to do that is at the negotiating table, but if one is not at the table, one cannot negotiate.
A very big problem is being created here, in Whitehorse, because the government decided, on its own, that the land selection was unbalanced. The First Nations group had been trying to come to some kind of solution in land claims for 20 years, but here we have a government that is not going to negotiate because it has already decided it is unbalanced.
I would like to know who is making those decisions. Is it the Government Leader? Is it the Minister responsible for land development, or are the negotiators coming to them and advising them that, in their opinion, it is unfair? The First Nations group in the Whitehorse area would like to know what is going to be happening with regard to land claims. It is very important to them.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The planning and the development that is going on in the Hillcrest area today has been on the books, and it has been discussed at length, since 1977 or 1978. It was at city council when, in fact, the Leader of the Opposition was a member of that council. It has been at the land claims table since that time where it is being dealt with in, I hope and believe, a very fair and equitable manner to all parties.
Mr. McDonald: On the same subject, I would like to ask the Minister what the department is doing in the absence of active land selection discussions between the Government of Yukon, the Government of Canada and the Kwanlin Dun First Nation. What is the department doing to inform Kwanlin Dun of its immediate development plans and what they will do should the land claims table fail to produce the kind of results he has indicated he is seeking in terms of resolving land conflicts?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The Kwanlin Dun is very aware of plans that we have for the very near future and for the long term. They have been for quite some time. In the department, we rely quite heavily on our Land Claims Secretariat, who deal at the land claims table. We will continue to rely on those people to represent our needs and to ensure that the Kwanlin Dun are fully apprised of any changes we may make to what has been a longstanding plan.
Mr. McDonald: I am puzzled, because I have had discussions with lands people at Kwanlin Dun, very specifically, about the consultation - how many meetings they had, with whom they met and to what extent they understand the development plans of the Yukon government. In speaking with, for example, Pat Joe, who is the land claims negotiator for the Kwanlin Dun Band, I got the very distinct impression that the residential land development plans that the department has near the McIntyre Village are not known in any detail to the Kwanlin Dun Band, with the exception that the lands negotiator for Kwanlin Dun went to City Hall to a public meeting and had a look at the land development plans.
That, of course, does not constitute consultation with the band. I hope that would not mean consultation with the band, because that does not show respect for the band as an entity. It would require something more formal than that. Putting immediate press releases out or notifications in the newspaper is not sufficient.
Just to focus on the consultation a bit here, what precisely has taken place - meetings between the government and Kwanlin Dun - that constitutes consultation?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The Member opposite knows very well how the lands branch operates, and I went through the people in land claims for the department. Nothing has changed from November 9 until this day in regard to how they operate. The departmental land claims people deal with the negotiators at the table. They deal with individual Indian bands, when necessary. On the Hillcrest subdivisions, the planning process has been going on since 1977 or 1978. The City of Whitehorse has had a very extensive official community plan process, plus zoning processes. We have changed nothing since November 9, so I am at a little bit of a loss to try and figure out exactly what the Member is getting at.
Mr. McDonald: Let me spell it out, then. The first problem we face is that the land claims table currently is inactive. By the Government Leaders own words, it is not working. The Government Leader is waiting for something he calls balanced land selections to be tabled by the Kwanlin Dun First Nation before the land claims table becomes an active process again. We have land development proposals that are very real, are scheduled for construction this summer, and are scaring the living daylights out of some people at Kwanlin Dun. That is the basic political problem we face.
I am the first to admit that the lands branch has undertaken some very good consultation in the past. I am also prepared to admit that, even while I was with the department, the lands branch undertook some not-so-good consultative exercises. Without passing the buck, I took responsibility for both good and bad while I was there. However, I am not prepared to state, as a matter of general principle, that everything that the lands branch lays its hand to is blessed.
Right now, we have a situation that is particularly acute and critical, and potentially explosive. The Kwanlin Duns perception of the land situation in Whitehorse, no matter what may be the actual case as the department sees it, is that land development decisions are being made every day in their absence. Under normal circumstances, this may not matter, but they are now slated to undertake land selections. They do not want to have their land selections relegated to lands that are either far too controversial to select or poorer lands, such as swamps, tops of mountains, inaccessible bush country, et cetera. They want to have a choice about lands around their area.
Of particular concern is this situation for the land development projects in the Granger/McIntyre area. I am certain that the Granger/Hillcrest D/Logan et cetera, have been on the planning table for a long time - long before I even entered politics; I am certain of that. That does not excuse the government from its most immediate need, given the circumstances we face now, and given the situation at the land claims table now with the Kwanlin Dun - this is their moment in history, the time they make their land selections, where the rubber hits the road for them - to undertake serious and tough discussions with the Kwanlin Dun First Nation on those land development projects.
As a First Nation government, particularly after the umbrella final agreement passed this Legislature, they expect to be treated like a government, which means that they expect that there is notification, government to government, department to band, about projects that affect their immediate and critical interests. Those projects include the land development projects in and around their core residential area, which is McIntyre. They are expecting some respect from the government through official notification.
The Member can correct me if I am wrong, but I am told that their first official notification in writing in the last couple of months about land development projects going forward was a copy of a letter they received from the Yukon Electrical Company, indicating that they wanted to proceed with some underground systems work in June.
They are anxious to resolve the problems between themselves and the government. They are not stating that they do not ever want any land development to go ahead ever. They are stating that they want to protect their interests for all time - this is their moment in history - and have some serious discussions now.
The Ministers department is undertaking these land development projects and under normal circumstances an answer such as, it will be resolved at the land claims table, would be credible to me because that is where land claim discussions ought to take place. Unfortunately, the Ministers departments plans are proceeding inexorably forward and the land claims table option appears to be closed to the band. Now, the desperation level rises very quickly and what they want is an alternative so that they can have these intelligent discussions, government to government, to resolve these issues. They do not want to be accused of holding up land development in Whitehorse when there is a critical need - incidentally, the need is something that we will discuss in the main estimates, given the collapsing economy, but that is a different story and a different set of questions.
What they want is to be able to resolve their own land needs now, or at least to get something on the record, and there has to be a table of record where they can do that. If the Minister does not offer it, no one is going to offer it because the land claims table does not seem to be an option, according to the Government Leader. That is the reason why it is critical and that is the reason why the situation is slightly different, but different in an important way from that which normally exists.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The lands branch of the Department of Community and Transportation Services - and I will agree with the Member that they have conducted very good consultation in the past, and in some cases they have possibly neglected to conduct good consultation; I will go along with what the Member opposite says - has, in this particular case, I am very confident, made all of the proper moves. To give the Member opposite the assurance that he is looking for, I will quite happily instruct the department to advise the Kwanlin Dun about what the departments intentions are with respect to subdivisions, both long term and short term, in planning for the area beyond Hillcrest, in the Granger and Logan areas.
Mr. McDonald: Having undertaken such a process is a good first step, because certainly nobody wants to fight paper tigers here. They want to know precisely what it is that is being planned, so that they know what they are having to deal with.
I would point out to the Member that a couple of very, very angry letters have crossed my desk very, very recently from the chief of the band and also from CYI, indicating that this is a serious problem. One of the letters even requests a summit meeting between party leaders in the Legislature to discuss the problem, so to suggest that this is a business as usual situation is to ignore the reality out there. The representatives of Kwanlin Dun have been speaking to the matter through the media; they clearly care about it deeply. Taan Kwachan have also been commenting on land selections; that has been raised in the Legislature by my colleague from Whitehorse Centre.
We will follow up in the mains estimates as to how progress is going. I would urge the Minister to have thorough briefings with the First Nations about their land development projects in the City of Whitehorse as well as those they anticipate going forward, such as Pineridge, which may not be their own project but for which they may bear some responsibility, such as the transfer of land to the City of Whitehorse.
This is going to be critically important. Time is of the essence, because clearly they have to have some sense that when they select lands they have some options in front of them, and not simply the dregs or the remnants of whatever is left over. They have to have some options to acquire some reasonably valuable land for their own purposes and, at the same time, there has to be some land development to meet the obvious needs in Whitehorse.
This is something I would urge the Minister to undertake thoroughly but with haste.
Chair: Order please. Is it the wish of the Committee at this time to take a brief recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: Okay, we will take a brief recess at this time.
Chair: I now call Committee of the Whole to order. We are dealing with Community and Transportation Services. We are on Office of the Deputy Minister. Is there further debate?
Ms. Moorcroft: I have one other question regarding the land claims activities of the department. I would like to inquire about the need for quarries with highways, under Community and Transportation Services, and what the status of land claims talks regarding that is, if there has been a deal made, or if it is still under negotiation?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Where we see the need for a quarry to be developed in any particular area, the appropriate First Nation is notified of our requirements. If there is no conflict with land claims selection then we go ahead, once we have all the proper permits.
If there is a conflict with the selection, then it goes to the land claims table and is discussed in that forum.
Chair: Is there further debate?
Mr. Harding: I have a question with regard to the Emergency Measures. I am interested in a breakdown of the spending in Emergency Measures.
Chair: We are still on general debate.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The Member opposite is right; it is under the Office of the Deputy Minister. Emergency Measures shows a forecast requirement of $433,000, resulting in a deficit of $189,000. The major portion of this is due to expenditures for emergency measures response to flood waters in Yukon watersheds from May to August in the amount of $143,000.
Emergency measures preparation shows a deficit of $46,000, mainly resulting from additional funding required for Ministers conference of $15,000, training of volunteers for $15,000 and to cover a heavy workload via contract services, $10,000. The balance of $6,000 results from new MDMRS repeater responsibilities for $4,000 and duty officer standby charges of $2,000.
Mr. Harding: Within Emergency Measures in the department, how many person years, full-time equivalency positions or contracts are there?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: There is only one paid person in the Emergency Measures Organization and there has been some casual support used throughout the year.
Mr. Harding: So there is no one on contract, just the one full-time equivalency and the people who are on casual? There are no contracts let by a department?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: As far as I am aware, the only contract that I can think of is perhaps a short contract with a secretarial service, or something like that. It may be only a day here or there, but I am not aware of any amount spent for contracting personnel and there is only one full-time equivalent.
Mr. Harding: During the period of the last fiscal year, the election that took place on October 19 and the subsequent taking over of the reins of the new Yukon Party government, could the Minister tell me if there have been any shifts in policy in emergency measures? Is he contemplating any in the near future?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: There have been no specific shifts in policy. At this time, we are not contemplating any.
Mr. Harding: Just while we are dealing with Emergency Measures, could the Minister tell us what the spring runoff for this year looks like?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: It starts with a little drip.
That is quite a technical question. I do know that the snow pack in the mountains is fairly heavy. We are monitoring it and water resources people will be advising us. They put out bulletins. Our emergency preparation person is keeping in close contact with the proper people.
Mr. Harding: Could the Minister provide a breakdown of the communications aspect of the Office of the Deputy Minister?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Communications shows a forecasted requirement of $404,000, resulting in a deficit of $61,000. The major portion of this deficit results from the reduced charge-out rate for the VHF mobile radio system, $97,000, and $11,000 for implementation costs on the 911 system, of which $9,000 has been spent to date. These deficits are partially offset by a reduction in administration costs of $46,000, mainly resulting from a vacant position for six months for $35,000, and reduced costs of decentralization, for $26,000. Communication administration has some increased cost for an emergency communications plan of $10,000, and other smaller miscellaneous items totalling $5,000.
Mr. Harding: Could the Minister tell me how many person years are in that specific area and what the equivalent of it is in full-time equivalents?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: There are four full-time equivalents.
Mr. Harding: What would the equivalent of that be in terms of person years?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: It would be the same.
Mr. Harding: Could the Minister tell us if any contracts were let in the area of that department line?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: There are some contracts for repair of the TV stations scattered throughout the territory and for the MDMRS, the radio system. Those are repair contracts. As for contract employees, I do not believe there are any.
Mr. Harding: In this area of the department, have there been any policy shifts since the new government took over?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: No, there have not been any policy shifts since the new government took over.
Mr. Harding: I heard in the breakdown that there was a reduction in decentralization accounting for $26,000. Could the Minister provide me with a detailed explanation of what that represents?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I am not exactly sure of what the reduction was. I will endeavour to get back to the Member with the amounts and what they were for.
Mr. Harding: I noticed that there is a $25,000 reduction in the expected recovery in communications under O&M recoveries, from $130,000 to $105,000. Could I have an explanation as to why there is a reduction in that expected recovery?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: There was $10,000 allocated for TVNC because four sites were dropped from the maintenance contract; the $15,000 reduction is a result of fewer anticipated federal users of the mobile radio system.
Mr. Harding: I am quite interested in this MDMRS. I would like to ask the Minister if he could explain, or describe to me, what it does?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I knew that I would be asked that question. It is the Multi-Department Mobile Radio System. I think that several people in the House are familiar with the old VHF system. This is the new system that is used throughout the territory.
Mr. Harding: Could the Minister please tell me how much it costs?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: No, I am sorry, I cannot.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Harding: Perhaps the Minister could tell me exactly who does the work on the MDMRS and also what specific benefits are hoped to be gained from it.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The name of the company that does the repair work is Teleconsult. I am sure that most Members are familiar with the radios. They are in most of the Yukon government vehicles. They are in all the ambulances around the territory, in the RCMP cars, and there are several stationary units in some of the weigh stations.
Mr. Harding: It is my understanding that the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes, in his capacity as Opposition Member - before he became part of the happy coalition now in government - was quite interested in two TV stations in Tagish and Carcross last year. Do these stations form part of the supplementary budget?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: They are not in this particular budget. Those two stations - the one in Tagish and the one in Carcross - have been there for a number of years. They would have been lumped together in the main estimates.
Mr. Harding: The Minister did not answer my question. It was the position of the previous administration that every community should first get one TV station before others get two. Since they have announced that there have been no policy changes since October 20, would it be fair to say that the Minister would be concurring with the position of the previous administration?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: At this point in time, we have no plans to put in second TV channels, if that is what the Member is asking.
Mr. Harding: I have a procedural question for the Chair. Is it the procedure to clear the line before asking the capital questions?
Office of the Deputy Minister in the amount of $266,000 agreed to
On Corporate Services Division
Mr. Harding: Could the Minister give a breakdown of what categories fall within the Corporate Services Division and give a brief explanation as to what these departments are doing and what their directives are?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Perhaps the Member would go to the main budget where the program objectives are laid out. There are various branches under that department in the main estimates. I can tell the Member the make up of the supplementaries - but that is all I can do.
Mr. Harding: I am asking for subcategories in this division and it is of interest to me to learn what the subcategories are in the Corporate Services Division and to run through the breakdowns in the departments and ask questions.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I do not have that information with me. I refer the Member to the main estimates where it is outlined very clearly.
Mr. Harding: The Minister provided information on the Deputy Minister subcategories without much of a problem. Is the Minister saying that he cannot give me a breakdown of expenditures in the assistant deputy ministers office, for example?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I will read off the increases and reductions in the Corporate Services Division. Fifteen thousand dollars was due to new positions through the Alaska Highway devolution. Only a portion of one position will be utilized this year. Fourteen thousand dollars is due to maternity leave backfill and various acting pay appointments. Those were increases in the supplementary. Reductions were $41,000 in human resources administration; $29,000 due to secondment of staff to PSC for training and development; $7,000 due to savings in casual staff, and $5,000 due to reduced employee training; $23,000 consisting of $5,000 from economizing on supplies and $18,000 resulting from cancellation of program evaluation and policy planning and evaluation.
Mr. Harding: I am looking for the questions I have to ask. I am getting heckled here. Could the Minister please tell me if there have been any major shifts in policy decisions in this area since they came into government?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: There is a policy change that actually is reflected in the main estimates, and it is the elimination of the assistant deputy minister position in corporate services.
Mr. Harding: Have there been any service contracts awarded within the Corporate Services Division, in any of the subcategories?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The contracts from Community and Transportation Services are being tabled in a few days, as a result of a previous question in the House.
I can say that policy, planning and evaluation, for instance, would have consulting contracts, but I think that the Member opposite will find all of the answers to his questions when we table the contracts for the department.
Mr. Harding: Could the Minister please explain why there is a $35,000 reduction and could he tell us where exactly the $35,000 was saved?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I believe that I just read that off a few minutes ago.
Mr. Harding: The Minister has given me a lot of information, so perhaps he could go over it once again.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: There is $15,000 due to new positions through the Alaska Highway devolution, only a portion of one position will be utilized this year; $14,000 is due to maternity leave backfill and various acting pay appointments.
With respect to reductions, there is $41,000 in human resources administration; $29,000 is due to secondment of staff to the Public Service Commission for training and development; $7,000 is due to savings in casual staff and $5,000 in reduced employee training; $23,000 consists of $5,000 from economizing on supplies and $18,000 resulting from cancellation of program evaluation in the policy, planning and evaluation unit.
Mr. Harding: What would the $41,000 represent in human resource administration savings?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Again, $29,000 of that was due to the secondment of staff to the PSC for training and development, $7,000 was due to savings in casual staff, and $5,000 was due to reduced employee training.
Mr. Harding: Would the savings in casual staff have been some budgeting plans for the hiring of some casuals that were never done?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I would expect so. There would have been some amount budgeted that was obviously not spent.
Ms. Moorcroft: I would like to ask about the departmental policy on hiring surveyors. Will the department hire surveyors, or are they going to hire contractors to do that?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Normally, the surveyors are auxiliary positions that come back each year, and then we hire periodically, depending on the work. Highways and/or municipal engineering will hire some casuals and then, again depending on the amount of work, there may very well be some contract work.
Ms. Moorcroft: Was pre-engineering and design work also done in-house, or were engineering firms or contractors hired to do that?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Generally, the pre-engineering is for work done in-house. The engineering people charge out their time on a project-by-project basis, and a lot of that time is charged to pre-engineering.
Ms. Moorcroft: Has the government contracted out project inspection?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: In the lands branch land development, where a consultant is hired, a lot of the inspection service is done by the consultant so, in fact, that is contracted out. There is some in highways but, generally, that is handled by our own project inspectors.
Ms. Moorcroft: The Minister mentioned some savings on evaluation. Was that program evaluation, or was it evaluations to do with actual work within the transport area?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The $18,000 is from the cancellation of one or more program evaluations conducted by our policy, planning and evaluation unit.
Corporate Services Division in the amount of an underexpenditure of $35,000 agreed to
On Transportation Division
Mr. Harding: Could the Minister give an explanation for the request for the $3,000 increase in the supplementary?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: There is a whole list of items that show increases, then a whole list of items showing reductions, which net out to a $3,000 increase. Given the hour, I would suggest that I not get into them tonight.
Mr. Harding: Does he mean that in a $41 million budget, the Minister is not prepared to defend a $3,000 request for over-expenditure? And they claim to know how to budget.
I move that the Chair report progress on Bill No. 4.
Chair: Are Members agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
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 Committee of the Whole?
Mr. Abel: Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 83, entitled An Act to Amend the Employment Standards Act, (No. 2), 1992, and directed me to report it without amendment.
Further, Committee has considered Bill No. 4, entitled Second Appropriation Act, 1992-93, and directed me to report progress on it.
Speaker: You have heard the report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I move that the House do now adjourn.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Hon. Government House Leader that the House do now adjourn.
Motion agreed to
Speaker: This House now stands adjourned until 1:30 p.m. tomorrow.
The House adjourned at 9:27 p.m.
The following Legislative Returns were tabled April 26, 1993:
Summary Convictions Act regulations regarding litter: amendments prepared to implement a ticketing scheme for littering infractions (Brewtser)
Oral, Hansard, p. 634
Casual and auxiliary employees definitions; number of positions for 1992 and 1993; George Black ferry workers (Fisher)
Discussion, Hansard, p. 563-570