Tuesday, May 18, 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.
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I would like to introduce to Members of the House the Society for Educational Visits and Exchanges in Canada students here today from Haines Junction with their guests from Beauceville, Quebec. The students will be staying for seven days in the Yukon, and I hope they brought the good weather with them. They will be visiting Whitehorse and other Yukon communities. The Haines Junction students have already been to Beauceville with their supervisors, Jean Bastien and Andy Hall, and the supervisors from Beauceville are Paul Rodrique and Andre Garant.
I would like all Members to make them welcome here in the House.
Speaker: Are there any Returns or Documents for tabling?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I have a news release on campgrounds.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I have a legislative return.
Speaker: Are there any Reports of Committees?
Introduction of Bills.
Are there any Notices of Motions for the Production of Papers?
Notices of Motions?
Are there any Statements by Ministers?
This then brings us to the Question Period.
Question re: Yukon Fish and Wildlife Management Board, recommendations
Mr. Penikett: Monsieur Rodrique, pour tous les Députies, on dit bienvenue à Whitehorse.
I have a question for the Minister of Renewable Resources concerning the quite outrageous comments he made on CHON/FM indicating that he rejected not one, but three recommendations of the Yukon Fish and Wildlife Management Board, a complete contradiction of the published election promise of his party to implement all the recommendations of the board. I would like to ask the Minister how he explains this abandonment of yet another election promise of the Yukon Party, and ask him if it is now the policy of his government to ignore the advice of this important board, which has legislated responsibility to consult the public and make recommendations on wildlife management, and why did he insult the board members by comparing them to an Egyptian king, dead for 1000 years, rather than treating them with respect as a living, breathing body of real Yukoners?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: The reason that the three rejections were made was simply on biological facts - facts that the department picked up when they travelled to the communities. They were asked to do exactly the things we did.
Mr. Penikett: The Minister says that they are biological facts. In the radio report about the Ministers rejections of the boards recommendations, the Minister commented that he considered his practical experience to be more relevant than the advice of professional wildlife biologists, to whom, I might point out, the government pays millions of dollars a year for their advice. I would like to ask the Minister if it is now his policy to ignore the advice of experienced, professional wildlife biologists, as well as the board?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: No, it is not. I made the simple statement that biologists are very cautious. They will not make the final move if they are not completely sure. I do think - and I am still prepared to say this - that the people who live in the bush - the elders and everyone else - have something to contribute. After my years in the bush, I also have something to contribute.
Mr. Penikett: Since it now appears to be the policy of the Minister not to listen to the boards and the biologists, is the Minister not concerned that he may be perceived by the public to be a tad arrogant with respect to wildlife matters?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: We will be listing the reasons we did this to the public next week. I do not think that we are completely irresponsible one little bit.
I took the advice of the biologists and I have a great deal of respect for them and, I might add, a great deal more respect than the government on the other side, which never took their advice at all.
Question re: Yukon Fish and Wildlife Management Board, recommendations
Mr. Penikett: The Member opposite screamed blue bloody murder because the previous government rejected one recommendation. He has already rejected three, and he was criticized by the board today.
One of the recommendations rejected by the Minister would have curtailed moose hunting in the Aishihik area where a wolf kill program has been implemented.
Since moose are one species, which, along with caribou, are seriously affected by both human and wolf harvest, does the Minister not consider it somewhat inconsistent to control only one of the major predators in the area where predator control is underway?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: There were two reasons for that. The biologists advised me that biologically taking out the moose on permits - of which there are only five per outfitter and five per resident - would not cause any ruckus.
On top of that, you do not close an outfitting business without some type of notice, which they would not have had for this falls hunting season.
Mr. Penikett: That is a very interesting statement. I would like to ask the Minister if he can confirm that virtually every person or group that provided comments to the Wildlife Management Board on closing the Aishihik area to moose hunting spoke in favour of this recommendation, except the outfitters. Can he confirm that?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: No, I cannot confirm that because it is not true.
Mr. Penikett: Can the Minister confirm that it is his policy as a Minister, and a former outfitter, and a policy of his government, headed by a former outfitter, to give greater weight to the views expressed by outfitters than to the other concerns and other public interests in wildlife management? Can he confirm that?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: That is also not true.
Question re: Wolf control program
Mr. Cable: I have some further questions for the Minister of Renewable Resources on the Aishihik wolf control program. Given that the number of wolves taken in the area and the number of wolves found there during the program was less than the government expected, and given that his department will soon evaluate caribou calf survival rates in the Aishihik and Burwash areas, can the Minister tell the House if the results of the calf survival study will affect the second year of the wolf control program - that is the activities originally planned for the coming winter?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: We said at the beginning of the program that it would take two years to assess it; however, I personally am very confident that we will have more caribou calves in there this July than we did a year ago.
Mr. Cable: Can the Minister tell the House whether his department has been able to determine if the discovery of poison lard balls in this area has had a substantive effect on the total number of wolves found in the Aishihik and Burwash area last winter?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: From our evidence, no poisoned wolves were found in that area.
Mr. Cable: With respect to the wolf conservation and management plan that was submitted several months ago, has the Minister decided yet whether his government will adopt that plan?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I said that when the First Nations decided that they were in favour of it, I would bring it before Cabinet. So far, they have said that they object to it in several ways.
Question re: Yukon Fish and Wildlife Management Board, recommendations
Mr. Harding: I found the comments from the Renewable Resources Minister absolutely outrageous regarding the recommendations of the Wildlife Management Board.
The Minister said about boards that so many people get on them and think they are King Tut, that they are going to push one around and that the buck stops there; they are to advise him. Yet, during the election, the Yukon Party promised that they would listen to and implement the recommendations of the Fish and Wildlife Management Board.
Is it now going to become the policy and practice of this government to publicly berate members of boards when they do not agree with the recommendations put forward?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: No, it is not.
Mr. Harding: The Minister stands up and cutely says that it is not. Yet, today, on the 7:00 a.m. CHON/FM news, he did just that. Could he explain to me this contradiction - whereby he says it is not the policy to publicly berate members of these important boards, which they promised they would listen to, and yet make statements that directly contradict that?
Could he explain to us why he did that in this case.
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I did not berate them. I just made a simple statement that they are advisors and that one does not always accept their advice.
I might also point out, at the same time, that every group in the Yukon asked for predator control when the Opposition were in government. They did nothing but form another committee.
Mr. Harding: I guess the new government feels there is no more need for boards and committees. If we are talking about the Aishihik Lake disaster, the Minister thinks it is quite appropriate to study that mess, for which the Member for Riverdale North thought someone from the previous government should have been thrown in jail.
He says that he did not publicly berate the members of the board. Could he tell me if he thinks being compared to King Tut and making the inference that the board was trying to push him around as a Minister, rather than make specific recommendations on behalf of the people of the Yukon, is not a slap in the face to that board?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: There were 15 recommendations. We changed three of them.
Question re: Recycling, containers
Mr. Penikett: In September, the Yukon government implemented a recycling regulations package, which established a deposit/refund system for aluminum cans, which has proven to be an effective incentive and financing mechanism for aluminum recycling. I would like to ask the Minister this: since recycling centres in the territory are anxious to add other materials to the recycling regulations in order to meet the Yukon government and Green Plan goals of 50-percent waste reduction by the year 2000, can the Minister advise the House when glass, tin and plastic beverage container regulations will be passed by Cabinet?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: Right now, we took the one we thought had priority and that was the pesticide. We can only do one regulation at a time, due to constraints on our money.
Mr. Penikett: I would like to ask the Minister, if he is not prepared to make additions to the recycling regulations a higher priority, for environmental reasons, will he consider fast-tracking regulations in the interests of providing a level playing field for retailers, since aluminium beverage can retailers and consumers are now paying the bill for most of the recycling program?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: It will come up when we do the regulations.
Mr. Penikett: Will the Minister confirm that the development of regulations under the Environment Act has been slowed dramatically by the 36-percent reduction in his environmental protection budget for this year?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: No.
Question re: Clean-up campaign in Whitehorse
Mr. Penikett: Observers will note the contradiction between the Ministers first and third answers.
I would like to ask him this question: has he received a letter from the Mayor of Whitehorse, dated May 13, challenging the territorial government to compete with the City of Whitehorse in a clean-up campaign tomorrow noon?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I have received a phone call from him. We have one to start on the May 20. His is on May 17, because he is with the Chamber of Commerce. I will be attending both of them.
Mr. Penikett: I would like to ask the Minister if he and his colleagues are going to be participating tomorrow in the clean-up campaign, and has he responded in substance to the suggestion that there be an impartial referee, - namely the Leader of the Opposition - to evaluate whether the territorial government or the city has done the better job on the clean-up.
Hon. Mr. Brewster: No, I did not, because I thought it might be biased.
Mr. Penikett: Maybe the Minister is worried it might favour the territorial government.
Can I ask the Minister again to respond to the question of exactly what commitment will be made by his Cabinet and caucus colleagues to the clean-up program tomorrow noon? Can he tell us that? Will anybody other than himself be participating?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: This is a free and democratic government on this side and what they do is up to them. I do not force people to do anything.
Question re: Bison, death of cow and calf
Mr. Harding: A wood bison cow and her young calf were found dead on the Alaska Highway close to Champagne. This was reported yesterday on CHON/FM at 12:30 p.m. I would like to ask the Minister of Renewable Resources whether or not the report is true and if he could tell me what the disease was that killed these bison.
The news line also made mention that the animals had been treated earlier in the week with antibiotics. Can the Minister tell what disease the bison were treated for?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: The bison were not found on the highway; they were found in the holding pen, and it died trying to give birth to a calf. It has been treated the day before, but the bison died after it gave birth to a calf.
Mr. Harding: Could the Minister confirm that the massive infection referred to in the news story was as a result of complications from the calving and that the animal poses no threat to other bison and wildlife in the area?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: As I said, we had a veterinarian there and they are now performing an autopsy to determine the cause of death, but we are quite sure that it was caused as a result of the cow trying to give birth.
Mr. Harding: If I can sort out the Ministers answers thus far, it is thought that the calf died from birth defects, but there is action being taken to confirm whether or not that is true. Could the Minister tell me what action is being taken as a precaution to ensure that this disease, or potential disease, does not affect any other bison or wildlife in the area?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: They have all been in the pen for six months, so if it was a disease, I imagine that they would all have it by now.
Question re: Employment equity policies
Ms. Moorcroft: I have a question for the acting Government Leader about a legislative return tabled yesterday on the issue of employment equity.
This return engages in a lot of rhetoric and hyperbole about open, accountable and responsible government, but it does not answer my question.
Perhaps the acting Government Leader could tell the House what he thinks the departments he is responsible for should do to implement employment equity.
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I will take that question under advisement.
Ms. Moorcroft: I find it absolutely incredible that the Minister cannot even come up with a simple answer to that. It is an issue that has been discussed in this House for weeks now. I recently discovered how inaccessible these Chambers are when I toured the area with the new Human Rights Commissioner, Jon Breen, who uses a wheelchair. The difficulty of having a balanced representation in the Yukon government workplace is a widespread problem. Would the acting Government Leader be prepared to tell us which departments of the government have prepared updated employment equity plans for the current year?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: The Public Service Commission is preparing one. I believe we have had that question asked about 10 times in Committee of the Whole.
Ms. Moorcroft: There may have been 10 questions, but I do not think that I have heard a single answer. Could the acting Government Leader be any more specific about what making significant progress by the year 2000", and providing sound economic leadership" means for women, First Nations and people with disabilities in the workplace, specifically the areas that come under his jurisdiction?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I feel that, during the short time that I have been around here, there are an awful lot of women in very high positions and they are very smart and very efficient.
Question re: Joint Management Committee
Mrs. Firth: I have a question for the Minister responsible for Health and Social Services. The joint committee of territorial officials and the Yukon Medical Association is presently examining ways to trim increasing health care costs. The Minister has made reference to this committee on several occasions. I would like to ask the Minister exactly who the individuals are who are on this important committee?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Our chronic disease program is overburdened, but we might consider adding the Member to the list for some throat lozenges at least. There are two representatives from the Yukon Medical Association - that is two of three. It is likewise for the department; they have equal representation. There are three people named from that organization and our Department of Heath. They are the deputy minister, the assistant deputy minister and one alternate. They meet at least once a month.
Mrs. Firth: I was interested in the names of the individuals of the people on the committee. I think I know who the people are. Two of the individuals have nursing backgrounds, but are now administrators within the health care system. I would like to ask the Minister, since nurses are the primary care givers, would he put a representative on that committee from the Yukon Registered Nurses Association, so that he can get input from the primary care givers?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: As she has already said, at least two of the three are nurses with a strong background in nursing. This Joint Management Committee has been set up. We intend to consult with the other professionals in the field of health. The committee itself will remain as it is presently structured.
Mrs. Firth: The Minister has made reference to consulting on several occasions. Could he perhaps tell us what the consulting process with the other medical professions and with the public will be?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Yes. First I hope to make a ministerial statement on the health program review a week Thursday. It is intended that those issues on which we would like to consult throughout the territory will be handled at the same time, during the same Yukon tour of meetings as the alcohol and drug strategy. There will be officials from the Department of Health and Social Services solely looking at the recommendations for the health program, and also certain recommendations on the changes to social assistance that may have substantial impact on the clients.
Question re: Joint Management Committee
Mrs. Firth: I want to follow up with the Minister on some of the specifics of the tour. The Minister has said that, after the ministerial statement next week, they will be going on a tour. Can the Minister tell us specifically who will be going on that tour and what they will be presenting to the public?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: The actual Yukon-wide tour will not start until mid-September, simply because it is difficult to get attendance at public meetings during the summer. Prior to that, there will be consultations held with groups such as the Yukon Registered Nurses Association and others.
There will be officials from the department on the tour. They will be dealing with three areas. There will be people from Health, people associated with alcohol and drug treatment in the department and people from the social assistance side, as well. I would anticipate that I, as Minister, will attend some of those meetings, as well.
Mrs. Firth: Could the Minister tell us what information people are going to be given prior to this tour?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Yes. We will be releasing some material on Thursday of this week, when I give a ministerial statement on the social assistance interdepartmental review, and where we are at with that. That will be sent to the stakeholders. There will be information containing recommendations from the Joint Management Committee mailed out to stakeholders and given to the public. As well, the alcohol and drug strategy, which was tabled in this House a week ago, is being mailed out and will be made available to members of the public.
Mrs. Firth: The Minister makes reference to stakeholders. Could he tell us who the stakeholders are, how he is going to get this information out to the public - I am assuming general public - and what the whole process is going to cost?
Speaker: As briefly as possible.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: There are a lot of questions tied up with that. Generally speaking, there will be information packages sent to the usual public organizations. I do not have an inclusive list with me, but certainly all the First Nations, the municipal governments and, in some cases, the community centres - hamlets et cetera - will receive them. As to the packages going out to the stakeholders in each of the programs, there is a fairly comprehensive list for each, but I do not have it with me.
For the alcohol and drug strategy, I believe we did table a press release at that time that did mention most of the stakeholders for that information, and those people who also undoubtedly get the other information. As to the cost for the tour, I would have to get back to the Member, once we have a better idea as to the scheduling, and so on.
Question re: Municipal capital block funding
Mr. Cable: I have a question for the Minister of Community and Transportation Services concerning the block funding for the municipalities.
Last week, during Question Period, the Minister stated that he would not consider restoring capital block funding to the 1992-93 levels. He stated, and I quote, We are involved in some very heavy infrastructure projects with the municipalities. We have to look at reducing their capital block funding. My question for the Minister is: were the present cuts in funding made after consultation with those communities that were involved with the very heavy infrastructure projects?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: No, we knew about the Whitehorse sewage system prior to the move to cut the block funding, and we knew about the Dawson City project before we knew that we were in trouble financially.
Mr. Cable: Since it would appear that the government is overriding the formula that was worked out with the Association of Yukon Communities by entering into separate arrangements with some communities, can the Minister tell this House if it is his intention to override the formula entirely?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: No, that is not our intention.
Mr. Cable: It is my understanding that the minimal levels of capital block funding are struck under legislation that fixes them at the 1991-92 levels. Does the Minister have any plan to amend the legislation to remove this guaranteed minimum?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: No, I do not.
Question re: Extended care facility, maintenance costs while closed
Ms. Moorcroft: I have a question for the Minister of Health and Social Services.
We know that the extended care facility will continue to sit idle over the summer months, because the Minister is not going to open it until September 1, 1993.
I would like to know the cost to heat, clean and keep the building secure from April 1 to September 1?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I will take that question under advisement and get back to the Member.
Ms. Moorcroft: I would also like to ask the Minister if there has been any damage to the buildings since it has been fully completed and is left unoccupied.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Not to my knowledge, but I will take that under advisement.
Ms. Moorcroft: The Minister may have to take this question under advisement, but I will ask it anyway. What is the monthly cost of keeping clients at Macaulay Lodge who are in need of the more sophisticated level of care that the new continuing care facility will provide when it opens?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: The Member was quite correct. I will also take that under advisement.
Question re: Faro child care centre
Mr. Harding: I have a question for the same Minister.
The child care centre in Faro is presently closed. It certainly is a facility that is badly needed, because it frees family members for training opportunities. It is also very amenable to helping to reduce stress levels for families in these tough times in the community, if they can put their children in a child care centre and deal with other things for periods of time.
Has the government given any consideration, after representations made by people in the community and myself, to reopening the facility?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I know the issue was raised one time in the House by the Member opposite. I have not received any other representations, though, from the Town of Faro.
Mr. Harding: The Minister just said that it was raised by the Member for Faro - the representative elected by the people in that community - and I am making it on behalf of the people of Faro. I would like to ask the Minister again: since he has admitted he knows there has been a request and representation made, has he considered reopening the facility?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Government does not run day care centres in the Yukon.
Mr. Harding: The situation in my community is extremely unusual. We have hundreds of people thrown out of work for months and months at a time, and I believe that government has to be a little bit adaptable and a little bit flexible to deal with a situation that is as unusual as that.
I ask the Minister again: will he take into account the unusual nature of the situation here? We have a whole community of people thrown out of work, their whole entire lives thrown into turmoil. Will he look at considering a plan to reopen the facility and help to subsidize it? I am sure there would be some volunteers to help with staff, but there are going to be other costs involved.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: The position of the department has been that, should the day care centre decide they wish to open, the department would make sure that they received the appropriate direct operating grant and the subsidies that people in Faro would be entitled to under our general policies.
Question re: Infrastructure funding from federal government
Mr. McDonald: I have a question for the acting Government Leader. The government announced on February 23 that the Yukon would gain $10 million from the federal government for new infrastructure development. While there is still no definitive word on whether the funding is going to arrive, we have heard one Minister say that he will believe it when he sees it, and another Minister say, for at least the last three months, that the federal funding would arrive at any moment.
Can the acting Government Leader tell us when we can expect to receive this funding?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I believe it is in the process. We should know within a short time.
Mr. McDonald: I have not heard a short time. I have heard just around the corner, but that is a new response that I can study.
Whenever the government responds to questions about failing to spend money on the Campbell Highway, Top of the World Highway, the Casino Trail or the RTAP, the Ministers point to this one-time $10 million as the preferred method to fund them. How many times has the government committed the $10 million?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I did not get the last part of that question.
Speaker: I will allow the Member to reiterate that question.
Mr. McDonald: The question is: how many times has the government committed the one-time $10 million worth of funding?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I am not sure it has committed it completely. It has looked at a number of projects all over. When the final decision is made, they will put it where they think it will be best used.
Mr. McDonald: I am still trying to figure out what the best place is, in the Ministers opinion.
I would like to ask the Minister whether or not any of the funding will be used to develop new power projects in the Yukon?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: That is one of the projects they are looking at, but to my knowledge they have not committed to any as yet.
Question re: Infrastructure funding from federal government
Mr. McDonald: This is for the same Minister on the same subject matter.
The federal government apparently agreed to fund power projects out of the $10 million - at least that is what the February 23, 1993, press release said. Yet, we have heard recently that the federal government has no intention of supporting power projects with the $10 million. Now, the Minister has indicated that there is still active consideration being given to power projects.
Can the Minister indicate precisely what the situation is with respect to the Yukon governments intentions to fund power projects through the $10 million and what proportion of that funding will be assigned to that purpose and what proportion to the transportation projects that we have heard so much about?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I hope this is not a representation from the Member opposite, but surely he would not be too pleased to see this government getting into new power projects when we have an oversupply due to the current shutdown at Faro.
Mr. McDonald: If I am making a representation, it is only that I want a consistent response from all the Ministers on the same subject. I will ask this Minister.
Given that the press release, dated February 23, indicated that this funding would be used to develop transportation and power systems, what is the governments intention with respect to funding power systems? What did they have in mind, and what are they still considering, based on the fact that we now understand that the government is considering power projects?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Given the current situation, as of today, it is very unlikely that any of the $10 million will be used this year to fund new power generation. Surely, the Member opposite will understand that. February was a long time ago. We sat in this House a long time ago. We have been here a long time, and things change. The government has to have some flexibility with respect to how it is going to spend money, so it will spend it in a way that is best for all the taxpayers in the Yukon.
Mr. McDonald: February 23 was only a few months ago. The question to the acting Government Leader was only about two minutes ago. The question was whether or not there were power projects still under consideration that would be funded from the $10 million.
I will ask the Minister responsible for the Yukon Energy Corporation what power projects the acting Government Leader was referring to, and what proportion of the funding does the government consider to be necessary to fund power projects as a proportion of the full $10 million?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Clearly, at this time, with an oversupply of power, power is not a top priority of the government. Clearly, that has to be the situation, and I am sure it would be the same were the other side still in power. We would like some discretionary power to use some of this money for investigating such things as thermal generation by coal, thermal generation by methane gas produced from coal beds, and things like that. However, the nature of the agreement right now between the two levels of government probably may not give us that kind of discretionary authority. We just do not know yet.
Question re: Infrastructure funding from federal government
Mr. McDonald: We have heard that this funding, promised on the 23rd, for which there was a great deal of fanfare, would be coming any time. We have also heard, quite honestly, some skepticism by Ministers that they will believe it when they see it. We have also heard Ministers from a number of different ministries say that the $10 million will be expended on projects that they have not budgeted for in their own departmental budgets. We have the Minister talking about transportation, and now the Minister responsible for the Yukon Energy Corporation is talking about power projects. Can I ask the acting Government Leader whether or not he can provide a definitive list of the priorities that the Yukon government has made for funding under the $10 million one-time infrastructure grant?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I will take that under advisement. I think we can, but I must also point out that we are still looking at projects, and we will continue to do so until we finally make a decision on which ones we want to do.
Mr. McDonald: There is a major problem here. Some Ministers are saying that the Campbell Highway is going to be reconstructed, the Top of the World Highway is going to be reconstructed, and the Casino Trail will be built. One Minister talked about a replacement for the resource transportation access program, and that it will be funded under this funding. We now have one Minister saying that there are going to be power projects, or investigative studies, being funded under this program. A lot of people are expecting a lot of things to happen.
The Ministers have indicated before that they are going to provide us with a list. When can they provide us with such a list, so that we will be able to ascertain precisely what the governments priorities are with respect to funding under this program?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: We cannot provide a definite one yet, because Cabinet has not made up its mind as to which projects are going to go on.
Mr. McDonald: Can I ask the acting Government Leader whether or not he would be prepared to tell the other Ministers to stop committing this fund until such time as, number one, they have the money and, number two, until the time that they have priorities listed, so that we do not lead the Yukon public into believing that this $10 million is going to fund $100 million worth of projects?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I will take it back to Cabinet.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed.
Notice of business: Government private Members
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I would like to inform the House that the government private Members do not wish to identify any items standing under the heading, Government Private Members Business, to be called on Wednesday, May 19, 1993. The House will, therefore, proceed directly to government-designated business when Orders of the Day is called on Wednesday, May 19, where the House will resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed. We will now proceed to Orders of the Day and Government Bills.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Bill No. 24: Second Reading
Clerk: Second reading, Bill No. 24, standing in the name of the Hon. Mr. Fisher.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I move that Bill No. 24, entitled An Act to Amend the Municipal Act, be now read a second time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Minister of Community and Transportation Services that Bill No. 24, entitled An Act to Amend the Municipal Act, be now read a second time.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Two amendments to the Municipal Act have been introduced for the consideration of this Assembly.
The first amendment will provide authority to municipalities to acquire, distribute and sell waste heat within their communities. This amendment was requested by the Town of Watson Lake to enable a heat-recovery project to proceed in that community.
The second amendment will provide a legal base for increasing the duties and responsibilities that may be assigned to the Yukon Municipal Board. This amendment is being proposed by the government to better utilize the skills and contributions that the board can make to the Yukon.
Section 262 of the Municipal Act currently provides the authority for municipalities to generate and sell heat generated from the disposal and incineration of municipal waste and garbage. The proposed addition of section 262.1 is consistent with the philosophy embodied in the existing provisions of the legislation.
The new provision differs from the existing provisions in that it will authorize municipalities to acquire waste heat from other sources and sell whatever waste heat is surplus to meet its requirements.
Municipalities will be authorized to proceed with the acquisition of waste heat for municipal purposes without the requirement of Yukon government approval. The approval of the Executive Council Member will be required for the distribution and sale of waste heat surplus to a municipalitys needs.
The Executive Council Members principal concern, when reviewing such proposals, will be the extent to which the proposal will subject the municipality to acceptable financial risks.
The Yukon government is very supportive of the requested amendment, as it is an environmentally and economically responsible initiative. Municipalities may realize savings through reduced heating costs over the long term and the heating previously provided by fossil fuels will be provided by a more environmentally friendly heat source.
The Town of Watson Lake should be commended for the waste-heat initiative that they are currently considering.
The second amendment provides greater latitude for the government to assign additional responsibilities to the Yukon Municipal Board. The board currently carries out a number of advisory and quasi-judicial functions under the authority of the Municipal Act. It has demonstrated a keen awareness for equity and fair play and has an excellent track record of providing good, sound advice to the Minister of Community and Transportation Services.
I am of the opinion that the Yukon Municipal Board has well served the government and the people of the Yukon. Over the years, the board has developed considerable skills and procedures that could be applied to other areas of responsibility. Although we have not yet determined the additional responsibility to be considered by the Yukon Municipal Board, this amendment will set the stage for such additional assignments to occur.
The additional assignments will be established in close consultation with the board. The assignment of additional duties to the Yukon Municipal Board will also act to curb the proliferation of boards and committees by using an existing structure, which is already functioning at a high level of competency.
This amendment is, in many ways, a vote of confidence in the integrity and skill of the existing Municipal Board and its members. I am asking the Members of this Assembly to support these amendments to the Municipal Act. Although the amendments may appear to be minor in nature, I believe they will result in positive contributions to the Yukon and its people.
Mr. McDonald: We in the Official Opposition support the main intent of the bill as we understand it. It appears as though the primary clause in the bill is designed, as the Minister pointed out, to cover the needs of the Watson Lake town council and their proposed waste-heat recovery project.
As long as we are addressing situations like the Watson Lake case, we support the bill and feel it does encourage energy management innovation at the local level.
There are elements of the bill that we have questions about, particularly the reasons for the latter provision that the Minister mentioned, allowing the Cabinet to delegate any power whatsoever to the Municipal Board. This is a very broad provision and, depending upon the Ministers answers, we may be seeking amendments to this particular provision.
Normally a boards makeup and its responsibilities are thoroughly debated in the Legislature. There is every attempt to ensure that a board, in its makeup and its responsibilities, matches what the public expects to see in a particular field.
As far fetched as it may sound, this provision would allow the Municipal Board to take over responsibilities and education in other fields, other things that are permitted in other acts. While the Municipal Board may be very competent in handling municipal issues, it may be an inappropriate vehicle through which to discuss issues; for example, in the health field, the education field or any other matter the Ministers may have in mind. So, I will be asking some questions about this to determine whether or not this is, in fact, an appropriate action to take at this time and, as I say, depending on the Ministers answers, we will make the decision at that point as to whether or not we will support that provision.
Mrs. Firth: I, too, share some of the concerns the previous speaker has raised, and I will be looking forward to the Ministers explanation.
I have another issue I would like to raise with the Minister. I would like to ask him how they are going to be able to prevent the municipalities from making long-term commitments and then perhaps getting into financial difficulty because the senior level of government will end up having to pick up the tab for the initiative. I am quite concerned about that.
When it comes to the smaller municipalities having this ability, I do not think it is as critical as it would be for Whitehorse, but I have a greater concern for the City of Whitehorse getting into the public utilities business and becoming a public utility. Perhaps the Minister can indicate to us why we had to have this amendment brought forward. In my reviewing of the Municipal Act, I do not see anything that prevents the municipalities from doing what they are doing now, and I understand from some preliminary discussion that the government has been advised that it is illegal to allow the municipalities to do this. I do not know if that is a good enough explanation, because I cannot really assess why it is illegal. Perhaps the Minister could tell us why it is considered illegal for the municipalities to do what they are doing, particularly Dawson City.
The Minister mentioned something about environmentally and economically responsible. I would like to hear him elaborate on that somewhat further because I do not see how this particular initiative is going to do that. I have some concern for the person who always ends up paying the bills. What is happening here is that the municipalities want to buy waste heat and turn around and sell it back. I do not get the feeling that the heat is going to be any cheaper and, in the long run, it is going to be you, Mr. Speaker, and I and all the other taxpayers who will end up paying for it. Perhaps the Minister can give us some indication of some of the economics of this particular initiative and why the government chose to move in this particular direction.
It seems to be a government circle, where the Crown corporation sells to the municipality, which turns around and sells it to YTG, which owns the Crown corporation. Perhaps the Minister could explain the rationale for this, what exactly the objective is and what the government hopes to achieve by allowing this. More specifically, I would like to know what projects the communities have in mind and what they hope to achieve.
My voice gets better the longer I talk. Perhaps I should talk all afternoon.
Mr. Cable: If, in fact, the Minister intends the Municipal Board to be a master board, I think it would be useful to have that cleared up before we go into Committee. Is the Minister in a position to provide some sort of legislative return, spelling out exactly what he sees this board being charged with? Is it to have some overlapping jurisdiction in the environmental area, for example? How would it mesh with the boards that are set up and described under other pieces of legislation?
Motion for the second reading of Bill No. 24 agreed to
Bill No. 92: Second Reading
Clerk: Second reading, Bill No. 92, standing in the name of the Hon. Mr. Fisher.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I move that Bill No. 92, entitled An Act to Amend the Assessment and Taxation Act, be now read a second time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Hon. Minister of Community and Transportation Services that Bill No. 92, entitled An Act to Amend the Assessment and Taxation Act, be now read a second time.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I am pleased to introduce several amendments to the Assessment and Taxation Act today. Most of them are what we would call housekeeping amendments, resulting from the experience gained within the department over the last decade.
The present Assessment and Taxation Act has not been substantially amended since 1979. Several sections date back to the mid-1970s. The act is in need of a review and update to accommodate the changing times and situations.
The most significant change we are proposing involves the best means of determining the local improvement tax payable for the construction or improvement of roads.
The reason for this amendment is that the previous government created a rural subdivision at Mendenhall along the North Alaska Highway. The access roads were not felt to be all that important and they left the property owners to struggle in mud and ruts that were no better than bush roads.
Later, after being pressured by property owners and the Opposition MLA who is now sitting here as the Minister of Renewable Resources, the government entered into an agreement whereby the road would be improved by government, subject to a $1000 fee per lot to be paid up front or through a local improvement charge over a 10-year period.
Unfortunately, the existing provisions of the act do not permit this type of flat-rate charge for road construction or improvement. According to the existing provisions of the act, road improvements must be charged in proportion to assessed property value, or on a frontage basis.
As a result, when we took over the government in October we were left with an agreement that was negotiated with property owners, but with no existing legal way to implement the agreement.
Nevertheless, we feel that the agreement is fair and that we should now provide the means to implement the agreement. Also, increasing the options available to levy a local improvement tax will ultimately provide for the fairest and most equitable means of taxation to meet specific situations such as subdivision roads and improvements.
I might add that this is really not a new concept, since the act does allow this flexibility to levy the local improvement tax for electrical and telecommunication utility services. Accordingly, we are proposing amendments in this area to include a more equitable way to tax for roads and road improvements.
I am also proposing an amendment to clarify the authority of the government and give greater flexibility to provide and charge for local improvements in outlying areas, particularly to single, isolated parcels of land.
Presently, in order to apply the rural electrification and telephone program to an isolated lot, we must be able to demonstrate a regional benefit over and above the need, necessity or benefit to the isolated property owner.
Once again, in order to be fair and equitable, we should be able to provide the same local improvements to those who choose an isolated lifestyle.
Similarly, an amendment will be introduced to authorize the local improvement tax to be levied for an improvement constructed upon a property. Presently, a local improvement tax can only be levied for electric and telephone utility service up to the property line and not for any work actually done on the property in its connection.
I also propose to improve the administrative efficiency and delivery of the annual assessment roll by establishing an effective valuation date of July 31 of each year to set base construction costs and base land values for the next assessment roll, rather than trying to determine these values up to and including the date of delivery of the annual assessment roll on November 15 of each year.
Complaints that may arise have until now been referred to the Assessment Review Board, or the Assessment Appeal Board, for adjudication or appeal. I have introduced an amendment, which would allow ratepayers an assessment authority to correct, or reconcile, obvious factual or clerical value errors. This will permit ratepayers the option of dealing initially directly with the assessor to arrive at a mutual agreement without having to go through the formal complaint process. This will reduce the workload of the review board, yet still allow either the ratepayer, or the taxing authority, the option of returning to the board if unsatisfied with any aspect of an earlier decision or agreement.
As I indicated at the outset, these amendments are largely housekeeping that will provide for a more equitable taxation regime in rural areas, and improve the efficiency of preparing assessment rolls.
Motion for second reading of Bill No. 92 agreed to
Bill No. 71: Second Reading
Clerk: Second reading, Bill No. 71, standing in the name of the Hon. Mr. Phelps.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I move that Bill No. 71, entitled An Act to Amend the Jury Act, be now read a second time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Minister of Justice that Bill No. 71, entitled An Act to Amend the Jury Act, be now read a second time.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I will be fairly brief in my comments about the proposed amendments. The first issue has to do with the problem that has been experienced by the sheriff and his officers in ensuring that people called out for jury duty are representative of the area in which the alleged crime took place. We have had complaints from First Nations particularly, and some legal counsel, that the use of some of the lists by the sheriff, as set out in the old act, for various reasons, presented a biased population makeup, particularly since use of the assessment rolls would lead to many First Nations people not being on the list from which a representative sample of the population would be selected.
The intention with respect to the modest amendment in this regard is to use lists that would accurately reflect the gender and racial makeup in the area from which the jury ought to be selected under the act. That is the reason for clause 2 of the bill.
The other changes have to do with allowing the jurors to be served by certified mail, and it allows the sheriff rather than the judge to excuse jurors for cause, with, of course, an appeal to the judge. It is felt this would be a more efficient way of dealing with those issues, and it is felt that this would reduce the costs involved in calling jurors for a trial by jury.
Ms. Joe: I am not entirely sure about the change to the Jury Act that the Minister has proposed. I understand that there has been some concern from First Nations groups and lawyers about the lack of aboriginal people on juries, and I think the idea of allowing them to use the voters list is a good one, and also to use other public documents that would give them a longer list of individuals in that area. I am not entirely sure whether or not this system is going to ensure that aboriginal people will be able to fill a jury. I understand, at least from my knowledge of the courts, that the people are picked at random; how are we to know whether or not the change in this act will ensure what people are asking for? For instance, if an aboriginal person is the person being tried, I am not sure whether or not we would be able to fulfill a commitment of, say, 75 percent of the jury being aboriginal people.
I remember, years ago, when I was an observer at a large inquest in B.C., where they had two barrels. One barrel had aboriginal peoples names and the other had other names. They chose a certain number from each. In the end, they did have at least the required number of people sitting on the jury that they thought would be fair. I would like to have some assurances from the Minister, if he can give them, that that will occur.
I also have a question with regard to the consultation he had with the First Nations groups about this. We on this side agree that it is a good idea, if it works. I wonder if he was able to give some of those people some assurances that it will work, and that juries will be made up of the required number of aboriginal people. He could answer that either during his last speech on this motion or in Committee of the Whole; I would be quite happy with that.
There is a section permitting the sheriff to excuse people - this person will be taking over that responsibility, as I understand it, from the judge. I understand that there has been agreement from all parties involved on this matter. I would like to know if the same rules will apply as they did when before to a person who was asking to be excused approached the judge? Are the rules still the same?
The other question I have to ask, also, is with regard to racial and gender balance on the juries. How do we ensure that women, as well as aboriginal people, will be chosen? How will we be able to do this with these changes? If we cannot, is there some other way that we can?
Mr. Cable: I assume that this act came forward in response to a recent spate of child molestation cases that, unfortunately, were primarily perpetrated against First Nation persons. I think the Minister is to be congratulated for bringing the act forward rapidly to deal with that situation so that there is a perception of fairness on the choosing of the juries.
I should note, though, that the act has not markedly amended the old act, and that the sheriff still has considerable discretion as to whom he or she chooses to select for the jury. It would be useful to hear, at the time the Minister responds, or in Committee, how he intends to ensure that the sheriff selects for the jury pool jurors adequately representative of both genders and of the various racial makeups in the territory.
It would also be useful to hear from the Minister - and perhaps he could table whatever legal opinion he has - about whether the Charter of Rights would permit any guaranteed representation by racial or gender qualifications.
Speaker: Order please. If the Minister of Justice now speaks, he will close debate. Does any other Member wish to be heard?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I thank the Members for their comments. Dealing with the issue of racial and gender balance actually serving on a jury is a very interesting issue and a fairly complex one. The intention here is to allow us to take steps to direct the sheriff and the officials to try to come up with potential jurors on the panel to be chosen who will be reflective in gender and racial makeup of the area in which the alleged crime was committed.
The issue of having a certain percentage of women or of men - or ethnic makeup - is a different issue, in my view. My experience with other lawyers in selecting jurors in that regard is that I, personally, feel that it is a civil rights issue with respect to the accused and his representative - his lawyer.
Various people and lawyers will have different theories about what type of juror or person would best suit his client in the circumstances of the charges, which are to be tried.
In my experience, I never met two lawyers who agreed on whether it was best to have women on a certain type of case, or men, people of a certain professional background, or an unemployed person; you will find as many different theories about jury makeup as you will find experienced criminal lawyers, in my view.
It was not our intention in making this change to deal with the issue of quotas on the jury or that sort of thing.
I know that some of the First Nations people with whom I have spoken would like to see that take place. In my conversations with them, I have explained that I think that it is oversimplifying to talk about a certain racial or gender makeup as being in the best interest of the accused, and I continue to believe that.
This is a very modest change; it arose because there were hardly any First Nations people on the panels that were selected in the renowned sexual abuse cases that the Member for Riverside and the Member for Whitehorse Centre spoke of.
It also came about due to complaints that we heard from Dawson City. They had a judge and jury trial in the City of Dawson and, of 40 people who were served and required to appear for potential jury duty, only four of those from the City of Dawson were First Nations people.
We want to try and ensure that the sheriff will serve jury notices, in an unbiased way, to a proportionate sample that will be more reflective of the makeup of the area.
We would not want the sheriff to be substituting much in terms of his own personal judgment in that regard; we would want to find a random way of picking people from lists that are generally representative of the area.
In my view, the best lists are the electoral lists that are drawn up from time to time in the Yukon.
We really are not pretending to try and achieve a makeup of juries that some of the spokespeople, on behalf of First Nations, said that they would like to see.
I think this is an issue that would require a lot of debate and agonizing, whereas the issue of trying to ensure that the group of people from which the jury is picked is representative is a fairly simple thing to accomplish without getting into these civil rights and Charter rights issues.
With respect to the rights of a person to apply and be excused from serving as a juror, those grounds are generally the same, and there is an appeal through an informal application to the judge provided for. It was felt that the way it was done in the past was rather cumbersome and time consuming to some of the potential jurors who had good reason not to be called.
Motion for second reading of Bill No. 71 agreed to
Bill No. 76: Second Reading
Clerk: Second reading, Bill No. 76, standing in the name of the Hon. Mr. Phelps.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I move that Bill No. 76, entitled An Act to Amend the Judicature Act, be now read a second time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Minister of Justice that Bill No. 76, entitled An Act to Amend the Judicature Act, be now read a second time.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: This is a fairly technical amendment that deals with the ability of a party to an action to collect prejudgment interest, which is interest that would accrue prior to judgment being handed down by the court. That interest could, under the provisions of these amendments, be collected from the date the cause of action arose to the date of judgment. It also allows a party who has obtained a judgment against another party to collect interest on the unpaid judgment at the same interest rate for payment of money as the prejudgment interest rate.
In doing this, it replaces certain provisions of the Interest Act of Canada; Canada has been on record for some time indicating that it will no longer apply to the Yukon once we get this legislation in place.
The department and I have had some representations from the Canadian Bar Association members in the Yukon who have asked for these particular amendments. My understanding is that they follow very closely the law with respect to interest rates on judgments and prejudgment interest that currently exists in the Province of British Columbia; it was reviewed by several senior members of the civil bar in town.
While the wording is not the easiest to follow, it does satisfy the members of the Canadian Bar Association, Yukon branch, so I would commend them to this House.
Mr. Cable: I just have some brief comments. The bill addresses the concern of members of the bar that persons not be in a position where they can drag out payment on judgments or drag out court proceedings without penalty. The act does ensure that litigation moves more quickly and that payments are made on judgments more quickly. I will be supporting the amendment.
Motion for second reading of Bill No. 76 agreed to
Bill No. 62: Second Reading
Clerk: Second reading, Bill No. 62, standing in the name of the Hon. Mr. Phelps.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I move that Bill No. 62, entitled An Act to Amend the Yukon Development Corporation Act, be now read a second time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Minister responsible for the Yukon Development Corporation that Bill No. 62, entitled An Act to Amend the Yukon Development Corporation Act, be now read a second time.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I intend to be fairly brief in my remarks. This particular bill has been contemplated and spoken about for some time in these Chambers. Some of the suggested changes were debated at some length in years gone by when we were in Opposition.
The primary purpose of the amendments is to give the Yukon Development Corporation an energy-specific mandate to better enable it to achieve government objectives in the energy sector. With the amendments in place, the corporation will be in a position to work as a non-regulated partner to its regulated subsidiary, the Yukon Energy Corporation. It is intended that the Yukon Development Corporation will be active in energy sectors, and that will not be limited to hydro and wind. It has been, by Cabinet directive, extended to the area of coal-fired thermal electrical generation.
As well, there are a number of administrative amendments, which are designed to bring the act in line with other Crown corporation legislation.
It is our view that the Yukon Development Corporation can serve as a very useful economic tool for all Yukoners by carrying on with the narrower mandate as contemplated in this act. It is important that the corporation continue to be the shareholder of the Yukon Energy Corporation. This allows the corporations to be placed in a position to offer cheaper power to Yukoners through such mechanisms as maintaining an appropriate debt-equity ratio, which, if done properly, can mean some savings in terms of interest paid, as opposed to profits paid, to the Energy Corporation by ratepayers. It is intended as well that the Yukon Development Corporation would continue to look after those non-energy businesses that were entered into by the Yukon Development Corporation in years gone by in order to wind down those investments in a manner that would be most efficient for Yukon ratepayers.
There are, contained in the bill, some modest changes to the board and also a change to the fiscal year of the corporation, which is intended to bring its fiscal year in line with the fiscal year of the Yukon Energy Corporation and thus save money on professional fees for bookkeeping and that sort of thing.
Possible future projects for the Yukon Development Corporation under its new mandate could include such things as service extensions to residential or commercial electrical consumers, continued development of the Yukon Energy Corporation wind program, partial support of the wind turbine project in 1993 and ongoing wind monitoring throughout the Yukon in addition to existing stations in Dawson, Tagish, Haines Junction and Whitehorse; possible subsidization of portions of energy management programs such as the demand-side management, which might not be allowed into the rate base by the Yukon Public Utilities Board.
There is a whole host of areas that can be examined by the Yukon Development Corporation. Again, its mandate would be wider than the scope allowed the Yukon Energy Corporation under the fairly conservative, watchful eyes of the Yukon Utilities Board. Yet, we feel that it is very important that this corporation perform various tasks. Included in these tasks would be the preparation of an exhaustive inventory of energy potentials in Yukon, as they are recognized today.
These amendments, in my view, are relatively modest. I feel that perhaps the most controversial might be the narrowing of the mandate of the Yukon Development Corporation from the broad mandate it has enjoyed until now.
I can say, however, that these are all changes that are consistent with the views we have taken, and others in this House have taken, as well. I commend them to this House.
Mr. McDonald: I will be relatively brief this afternoon in this second reading debate, largely because many of the comments we would like to make we are prepared to make at the Committee stage, when there is perhaps a bit more of a better opportunity for an information exchange than there is in a debate about principles.
I suppose that the fact that this bill will effectively prevent the government from funding projects like the railroad to Carmacks should be of some comfort to us on this side. We do believe that is probably a good thing. However, we do have some concerns that I will address briefly now and perhaps elaborate on a little more later on this afternoon when we get into Committee.
The first reason the Minister alluded to respecting the narrowing of the mandate of the Yukon Energy Corporation, I suppose, we will have to agree to disagree about. We are well aware of the Ministers views respecting the mandate of the Yukon Development Corporation and the fact that he has opposed the broader mandate that has existed in the past for reasons he has stated in the Legislature in the past.
This bill obviously limits the ability of the government to undertake certain kinds of activities that a non-corporate body, like a government department, can do effectively. While this has been debated at length, with fewer vehicles at the governments disposal in the area of general economic development, we will still have high expectations of the new government, in terms of regional economic development and the general development of the territory, and we will expect to see results in jobs and business starts in the coming years - for however long the government is a government.
On the other points, we have some concerns about the new governments energy program, policy and strategy. In the past, they have appeared to support supply-side management - that is to resolve power requirements by building more electrical generating capacity. They have even proposed, in the past at least, to support the construction of extra generating capacity, in the event that some mining activity, or other industrial activity, will require power. That was what we understood to be the case in the past. We are told today, in Question Period, that Ministers have no intention of building surplus capacity, as they feel the economics are not there.
This puzzles us, not only based on the statements that they have made in the past, but also on the basis of documents the government has produced, even as recently as the middle of April; for example, the document entitled Becoming Self-Sufficient Through Infrastructure-Driven Investment in the Yukon: A Yukon Resource Infrastructure Initiative, which effectively calls for the construction of extra generating capacity, beyond that which is required, in order to anticipate various industrial projects that may come along in the future.
We have heard, in even the last hour, various different positions taken on the same subject. To give the government - what the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes has referred to in the past - carte blanche to decide the future of large energy projects, without the scrutiny of the Legislature, may be somewhat problematic, because we simply do not know where the government is going.
In the past, the Minister has made a particular point of objecting to the ability of the Yukon Development Corporation, no matter what its mandate is, of undertaking large projects without the scrutiny of the Legislature.
The Minister has made a point in this particular bill to point out that the Yukon Energy Corporation will be scrutinized by the Yukon Public Utilities Board, but this corporation will not; one wonders what the Ministers true position is on this subject.
We had heard - and I still have memories of the Ministers remarks - that the Minister appears to want to debate all large projects that are sponsored by the Yukon Development Corporation.
I even told my own caucus members that, if we were to expect amendments to the Yukon Development Corporation, one thing that we should expect, based on what we knew of the Members position in the past, is that there would be amendments that would call for some scrutiny by the Legislature of large expenditures by the Yukon Development Corporation, whether they are for power or for any other particular project.
To say the least, my credibility with my caucus on this question has taken a nose dive, because what I told them to expect in this bill has not transpired. Obviously, we will have some questions for the Minister respecting that point.
I do have some questions respecting the issue that the proposal has been made by some to have the Yukon Public Utilities Board review all power projects, irrespective of whether or not they will be rolled in to the rate base, if only to help, or have someone determine, the cost effectiveness and the economic viability of the projects, particularly if those projects are not going to be announced in the Legislature.
We have a series of questions about the governments intentions with respect to power projects and their energy strategy. Irrespective of whether or not the government has developed such a strategy to give them what the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes has referred to in the past as carte blanche to decide the questions, we will be expecting some fairly specific answers as to their intentions.
The other issue I would like to address briefly here is the issue about consultation with the Council for Yukon Indians. I did not detect much in the Ministers second reading remarks about what sort of consultation had been undertaken by the Minister with CYI about the future of the Development Corporation. The Minister, I well know, is aware that the umbrella final agreement we passed in this Legislature as law, with full intentions to submit to this law, has cited the Yukon Development Corporation as a vehicle in which the Yukon First Nations would be active participants. When the umbrella final agreement was negotiated and signed, the mandate of the corporation under the Yukon Development Corporation Act was clearly established. Any change to that mandate clearly would require some consultation and, just to be certain, the First Nations had ensured in the UFA that the words consult and consultation would be clearly defined.
I will just bring to the Members attention what the definition is, because it is not very long: consultation means to provide to the party to be consulted notice of a matter to be decided in sufficient form and detail to allow that party to prepare its view on the matter. It means to provide a reasonable period of time in which the party to be consulted may prepare its view on the matter and an opportunity to present such views to the party obliged to consult, and it means to provide a full and fair consideration by the party obliged to consult of any view presented.
We were led to believe, up until now, that not only was the Minister aware of his obligations under the UFA to consult with the Council for Yukon Indians, but we were also led to believe that the Minister had consulted and that the Council for Yukon Indians was on side, in the words of the House Leader. We were told yesterday by the Minister, in a fairly careful answer, that the CYI had no trouble in tabling the document, meaning the bill.
At this point, we have not been able to detect a spokesperson for the Council for Yukon Indians who is prepared to say that they feel that they have been properly consulted on this bill. My understanding is that - at least up until recently - they have not even seen a copy of the bill. If that is not the case, perhaps the Minister could tell us what the case is and who has seen a copy of the bill.
I realize that the Minister does not have an obligation beyond the rules of this House to present the Members of the Legislature with a great deal of notice. We received the bill yesterday, we are debating it today, we will be in Committee this afternoon, and then it will all be over - within 24 hours perhaps.
There is a much stronger obligation under the umbrella final agreement to consult, and to consult thoroughly. Unless the Minister can give us some more information, it seems fairly obvious that they have not lived up to that test, and that is a very serious matter because it says more about the governments feeling about the umbrella final agreement and about the deals that it makes with First Nation governments than it says about the contents of this bill.
I am afraid that if there is not more information and we are not satisfied, that ought to be a fatal flaw in the government strategy in delivering this bill to the Legislature at this time.
I would just like to conclude with that comment, and give notice to the Minister that in a few minutes, when we get into Committee, we will have a better chance of exchanging information, so that we will know better as to not only what the governments intentions are, but whether or not the bill should be supported.
I would also like to point out that we do have a number of concerns about the bills specifics. I know the Minister is aware of some of those concerns and is prepared to support a couple of amendments. We would also like to discuss those briefly. We will make our position made known more clearly later, the moment we know the Ministers position more clearly.
Mr. Cable: I, too, share the previous speakers desire to ensure that the umbrella final agreement does not get off the tracks due to an amendment to what is not a minor bill, but it certainly is not as important as the legislation relating to the settlement of the land claims. It will be necessary for me, at any rate, to be assured that the Council for Yukon Indians and the First Nations, generally, are supportive of the amendments, prior to voting in favour.
Subject to that assurance being received, I should indicate that the restriction of the mandate is certainly acceptable. There are private venture capital organizations available in the territory to provide the capital necessary for private organizations to get into new businesses. There is also the Department of Economic Development, which plays a role in promoting new business. There are an adequate number of other organizations and institutions to deal with what I think the Yukon Development Corporation was originally incorporated for.
It is a wise move, and I am happy to see that the corporation will have a clear goal in life. The reduction of the previously unlimited scope of the organization is desirable to ensure that there are no economic adventures that are not subjected to ready review by the House.
Getting the government out of business is probably consistent with the move in the 1990s to leave business to business and government to government.
I believe that there is general agreement of all Members in the House that the corporation should act at arms length from government. It would be useful, for the record, to have that confirmed when we get into debate in Committee. If, in fact, that is the wish of the Minister - and, of course, the government has the option to do either - that the corporation should act at arms length, it would be my suggestion - and I will be making an appropriate motion to amend the act, as I know other Members also will - that the act should clearly signal to everyone that the government is, in fact, at arms length from the corporation. Policy to be carried out by the corporation should come in the form of directives that are readily visible to the Members of the House and to the general public.
There should be clear reporting lines of the staff to the board. It is my understanding that a Member of this House will be making amendments to ensure that takes place, that the board recommends the appointment of the president, and that the president does not automatically sit, ex officio, on the board.
It would also be my suggestion that the board not include members of the public service. It puts members of the public service in a position of conflict to be sitting in on board decisions and then running back to the Minister to discuss those decisions. That is not a wise course of events, and I would hope the government would not proceed in that direction.
Mrs. Firth: I support the principle of the bill, specifically with respect to narrowing the mandate of the corporation. I have some questions for the Minister. Perhaps he could answer them when he gives his final summary this afternoon.
The Yukon Development Corporation Act creates the Yukon Development Corporation, sets out its purpose and legislates some of its procedures; however, the Yukon Energy Corporation is only created through regulations passed under the Financial Administration Act, an act for which the Yukon Development Corporation is now exempt.
The role, purpose, procedures, et cetera, of the Yukon Energy Corporation should be clearly defined and established by legislation, by an act of the Legislature, rather than by regulations. It raises the question as to whether or not it is necessary to keep the two corporations active - the Yukon Development Corporation and the Yukon Energy Corporation.
In the past, when the Yukon Development Corporation was a holding company with interests in many areas, it made sense for its energy-related assets to be held in this subsidiary company, the Yukon Energy Corporation. If the total role now of the Yukon Development Corporation is going to be energy, it seems that two companies are no longer necessary. I would look forward to the Ministers explanation as to why they chose this avenue for amendments.
As all the purposes of the Yukon Development Corporation, as proposed in Bill No. 62, are energy related, a second energy corporation is being created.
The explanatory note attached to the amended act indicates that the corporation will be in a position to work as a non regulated partner to its regulated subsidiary. If all of the reasons for the remodeled Yukon Development Corporation are energy-related, then I would have to ask why two energy corporations are necessary. I do not have to go into detail about the duplication of costs, both administrative and board costs, to run the two corporations.
I have some concerns about section 3(3) of the proposed amendment, which states that the corporation may hold shares of the Yukon Energy Corporation. If the Yukon Energy Corporation is to be a subsidiary of the Yukon Development Corporation, why does it not say shall hold shares?
I would like to know if the Minister has any intention, or if there are any plans, to amend the Yukon Development Corporation regulations, as well as the act? If so, are the amendments available, and would the Minister be able to present them to us this afternoon, so that we can see exactly what direction the government is moving in?
With respect to the Financial Administration Act, section 16 of the Yukon Development Corporation Act makes the Yukon Development Corporation subject to the Financial Administration Act, but the Order-in-Council 1990-135 exempts both the Yukon Development Corporation and the Yukon Energy Corporation from the Financial Administration Act.
Section 16 of the act should be amended to reflect this exemption or, preferably, the order-in-council should be canceled, making the Yukon Development Corporation subject to the Financial Administration Act, including contract regulations, and so on.
When I was last discussing contract regulations and procedures with the Yukon Development Corporation, they were in the process of establishing new regulations for letting contracts. I would like to know if the Minister can update us on the status of that initiative, and whether or not, under this new amended version of the Yukon Development Corporation and the Yukon Energy Corporation, there are going to be separate contract regulations for the corporations to follow.
I have two amendments that I am going to be proposing, which I have discussed with Members of the Opposition and with the Minister, regarding the board and the board members powers with respect to recommending who the president should be. Also, the president of the corporation has been specifically designated as the vice chair, and I am going to be coming forward with an amendment to say that the board of directors shall select the vice chair.
I am going to reserve my final judgment regarding this proposed initiative until we have the debate in Committee and I can get some answers to the specific issues I have raised with the Minister.
I share the concern the Member for the Official Opposition raised regarding the legislative scrutiny. I also have a concern about the Yukon Development Corporation not being scrutinized by the Yukon Public Utilities Board. Perhaps the Minister can also address that in his final comments.
The last Yukon Development Corporation structure was abused by the government, and I would like the Minister to give us some very clear and concise reassurances that the amendments he is making will not allow the government to continue to abuse the Yukon Development Corporation with financial ventures that are not in the best interests of Yukoners in general. The concern is that it not be used as some kind of private fund at the governments disposal to support particular projects of the government.
With regard to the purposes of the corporation, specifically in the preamble, where they are indicating the political intent of the amendment, that the corporation is to formulate and carry out energy policies and to carry out energy or energy-related policy directives issued to it by the Commissioner in Executive Council, I have some concern about these political policy-making roles, wondering whether they would not be more appropriately addressed through the Department of Economic Development, as opposed to through the Yukon Development Corporation which, as other Members have said, is to have a more arms-length relationship with the government.
I would like the Minister to clarify what the intention of the government is, through the Yukon Development Corporation, to ensure a continuing and an adequate supply of energy in the Yukon. They also make reference to the fact that it is the intention of the corporation to restrict its mandate to the supply of electrical energy. If that is the case why is it not specific in the legislation? If not, what other energy supplies does the corporation intend to become involved with? The Minister has indicated, in response to some questions this afternoon, some areas where they may be getting involved.
I would like to know also if the corporation plans to become involved in the production, development, distribution and/or sale of gasoline, diesel fuel, propane or other energy supplies required by the transportation sector.
One of the objectives of the Yukon Development Corporation is to alleviate the effects of an energy shortage that may occur in the Yukon. I would like to ask the Minister if he could elaborate on how this is to be achieved and whether the Yukon Development Corporation would be willing to expose itself to the risk of developing additional electrical energy supplies prior to the sale of those supplies.
I look forward to the exchange in Committee and perhaps the Minister could answer some of the questions that I have posed this afternoon.
Speaker: If the Minister now speaks he will close debate. Does any other Member wish to be heard?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I just have a few closing remarks about some of the issues that were raised by Members opposite. I think the first point that needs to be spoken to is that we intend to maintain a truly arms-length relationship with the Yukon Development Corporation and the Yukon Energy Corporation, subject to broad policy directives from the government.
Many of these amendments that have been brought forward are consistent with directives given shortly after we assumed office, which stated that the Yukon Development Corporation was not to be investing in non-energy-related enterprises, pending the passage of some legislation to clarify its role.
The Member who last spoke asked about the reasons for keeping the Yukon Development Corporation active at all. It is our intention that the Yukon Energy Corporation, which is a creature of statute by the general laws of application of the Companies Act, will run as purely a utility company. It will be run in a manner that is very strictly regulated by the Yukon Public Utilities Board.
There is a need, under the current way in which utilities operate, to have a parent company. One reason is that, by paying dividends to the parent company and lending the money back at current interest rates, there is a net saving to the ratepayer, because the money earned on equity allowed by the board, at this point in time, is some three or four percent more than the interest rate government gets on the money and the rates at which money would be lent to the Yukon Energy Corporation. That is why we maintain the percentage ratio between the debt and equity in the corporation. It is simply to assist in achieving lower rates for ratepayers in the Yukon.
There is also a need for the corporation to exist to wind down the existing business of the Yukon Development Corporation. There are still lawsuits that have not been totally resolved with respect to the sawmill in Watson Lake. There are other non-energy-related investments that were made that have to be maintained and looked after. It is our view that this is the most efficient way of, over time, winding some of those investments down.
There is also, in our view, an important role for the Yukon Development Corporation to play with respect to studying and doing feasibility work on potential hydro sites, thermal coal and that sort of thing that, from time to time, may be beyond the kinds of expenditures the Public Utilities Board would allow into the rate base of the Yukon Energy Corporation. Yet, all of these things are things that would be more properly done by a parent company. What we are looking at is the possibility of some feasibility studies on some hydro projects. There is the possibility of looking at coal and expanding the work we are doing with regard to wind generation.
There is also the issue of putting together a complete, up-to-date inventory of all known potential energy resources in the Yukon. It seems to government that this kind of data base is very important to the future of the Yukon.
The reason why we have extended the mandate slightly beyond electrical energy is because we would like to know - and have the public know - that there are such things as the potential gas fields that one hears about - Eagle Plains and the Kotaneelee and whatever else is around. It is likewise with the coal deposits. I think it is very important that we have an up-to-date study on the coal deposits, so that we know what kind of energy potential exists there. Again, we think this is something that would be appropriately carried out by the Yukon Development Corporation under its narrowed mandate.
There is no intention to put the Yukon Development Corporation into the electrical energy generation game.
We see that work being done by the Energy Corporation as a pure utility and having the costs rolled into the base in the appropriate manner in hearings before the Yukon Public Utilities Board.
It is very important that if this is the system that Yukoners want - and that is what they have indicated over the years - that it be strictly adhered to and that that arms-length relationship continue into the future.
With respect to the one question, the corporation may hold the shares of the Yukon Energy Corporation, and my understanding is of legal drafting is that you use the word may rather than shall. It means that it will hold the shares of the energy corporation.
Of course, I look forward to looking at the suggested changes that two members have indicated that they will be bringing forward. I have had some discussions with them about those proposed changes and I commend this bill to all Members in the House.
Motion for second reading of Bill No. 62 agreed to
Motion No. 43
Clerk: Item No. 5, standing in the name of the Hon. Mr. Phelps.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Minister of Justice
THAT the Yukon Legislative Assembly, pursuant to section 16 of the Human Rights Act, appoint Ms. Debra Lynn Fendrick and Mr. Jon Breen to be members of the Yukon Human Rights Commission.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I will be very brief in speaking in support of this motion.
As most Members will know, Ms. Debra Lynn Fendrick is the chairperson of the Human Rights Commission. Ms. Fendrick would like to continue in that role until someone else has enough experience to take on that role in her place.
In our view, she has done a very admirable job in her role as chair of the commission. Mr. Jon Breen was the name recommended to us by members of the Human Rights Commission. I have been very pleased to have worked with Mr. Breen, who is on the Health and Social Services Advisory Committee to the Minister and is the executive person running Challenge in Whitehorse. Mr. Breen has a lot of insight to bring to a role as a member of the Human Rights Commission and I commend both these appointments to all Members.
Ms. Joe: I would like to say that I am pleased that Debra Fendrick will be reappointed for another three years. The work she has done in the last few years has been of great value to the Yukon. The other person is also an excellent choice.
I do have one concern; that is with regard to consultation. Appointments to this board, as most of us in this House know, has been traditionally done by way of consultation with Members in the Opposition, specifically the critic for Justice. That information should have been brought back to caucus to find out whether there was mutual agreement as regards these appointments. In the past, that task had been carried out.
I would just like to say right now that I certainly would have appreciated being contacted prior to the announcement in the House to find out whether or not we were in support of such an appointment. Fortunately, we are, but it was a courtesy that was extended in the past and I hope the Minister will take that into consideration if further appointments are made down the road.
Mr. Cable: I would like to go on the record in support of Ms. Debra Fendrick as the new chair.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Cable: I was going to bring up the topic of conflict.
This is primarily for Hansard, because I want to send a copy to Debra, but I would also like to support the appointment of Jon Breen, with whom I have worked in an organization in town. I know that both of these appointments are just top notch.
Motion for second reading of Bill No. 43 agreed to
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I move that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Government House Leader that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Motion No. 43 agreed to
Speaker leaves the Chair
COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. Is it the wish of the Members to take a brief recess?
Mr. Penikett: Just as a point of order - it is quite spurious but quite necessary - I am curious to know, prior to us getting to the Economic Development mains, whether or not we will get any of the answers to the questions that we asked in the supplementary estimates?
Hon. Mr. Devries: Yes, my plans were to give the answers during the mains debate.
Chair: We will take a brief recess.
Chair: I will call Committee of the Whole to order.
Bill No. 62 - An Act to Amend the Yukon Development Corporation Act
Chair: We are discussing Bill No. 62, entitled An Act to Amend the Yukon Development Corporation Act.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I do not have too much to add to what I had to say in second reading debate, but I would be pleased to try and answer questions put forward by the Members opposite.
Mr. McDonald: Unfortunately, the Minister failed to answer, during second reading, questions asked by the Member for Riverside and by me regarding consultation with the Council for Yukon Indians.
As I mentioned in my second reading speech, one of the elements that we should be dealing with right off the bat is the issue of the umbrella final agreement and consultation with the Council for Yukon Indians, largely because the Yukon Development Corporation Act and board are referenced in the umbrella final agreement.
Clearly, before we get into the detail and the intent of the bill, we should feel comfortable all around that the requirements to consult with the Council for Yukon Indians have been met.
I asked the question of the Minister in second reading and the Minister responded to many of the issues, but he did not respond to that one.
I would like to ask the Minister this: what was the nature of the consultation with the Council for Yukon Indians and whether he believes them to be knowledgeable and supportive of the measure? We could then move on to other issues.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I answered that in Question Period some time ago. I arranged a meeting on Thursday morning last week. I had had some conversations, leading up to this, with some people, but we arranged a meeting to go over the actual proposed clauses of the bill before us here today. They were examined carefully by Mr. Albert James. We had a discussion, and he had no difficulty whatsoever with us going ahead with these amendments at that time.
In addition, I have had conversations with the individual First Nations relating to the visit by Mr. Siddon, some time ago, with the meeting that was convened by the Yukon/Northwest Territories Chamber of Mines. It dealt with the infrastructure of mining generally. There was some discussion there about our intention to look at thermal coal in the future, particularly with regard to the possible requirements north of Carmacks and our willingness to enter into agreements and arrangements in partnership with First Nations, where appropriate, to provide energy to some of those kinds of projects. We discussed, at that time, in a general and off-the-record kind of way, about where we saw the Yukon Development Corporation going in that regard.
There has been no indication whatsoever that there is any difficulty with what we are doing.
Mr. McDonald: Did Mr. James indicate to the Minister at any time that the discussions they had constituted a briefing of CYI with respect to the principles and provisions of the bill, or did he indicate that this was consultation as anticipated under the UFA and was as full and thorough as expected by that piece of legislation?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I told them I wanted to consult with them with respect to what we were doing with the Yukon Development Corporation. I am amazed that the Member is taking it upon himself to speak to an issue where there is no evidence, that I am aware of, that there is any problem. Has he suddenly become the lawyer for the CYI?
We had a general conversation. He read each and every clause, and had no difficulty with it whatsoever. He was there on behalf of CYI; we tried to get Judy Gingell as well, but she had left already to go to Ottawa. There was no indication of any kind of problem with these proposals.
Mr. McDonald: I would like to ask the Minister, if he does not mind, not to get defensive about the questions I am putting to him. I may not be a lawyer, but I do act as an advocate for interests that are of a territorial nature as well as those of my own constituency; I am also the critic for this particular bill, so I take an interest in the issues that may be raised as a result of the tabling of this bill in the Legislature.
I do take an interest in the matter. I will try not to act like a lawyer, because I think we probably have too many lawyers already in the Legislature. All I want to ask him is whether or not the CYI supported the provisions. I am not asking whether or not they expressed a negative reaction, but I am asking whether or not they are supportive, because I do have some evidence to suggest that they are not happy right now.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I do not have any such evidence, none whatsoever. It is news to me. There was certainly nothing indicated at our meeting. The meeting was open and cordial. There was no indication whatsoever from Mr. James that there was any difficulty with these proposed amendments.
Mr. McDonald: My experience with Mr. James is that his meetings are generally open and cordial. Whether or not he agrees with the position is another matter. I do not expect him to act like a raving lunatic just to demonstrate that he has an objection to the position that is being promoted by the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes.
The umbrella final agreement does speak to the issue of consultation. It does define precisely what consultation means. Does the Minister feel that his obligations under the UFA have been satisfied by his actions? Can he demonstrate to all of us, to whom he is putting this measure and seeking approval, that he has met his obligations and that we should now consider the contents of the bill on their merits?
Just for his information, I have knowledge of the discussions with CYI today, and they have expressed some very serious concerns about what the Ministers intentions are. They are prepared to put those concerns in the form of a letter today to the Minister, indicating that there are some substantial problems with the Ministers actions at this point, particularly with respect to consultation.
So I put the question to the Minister in all seriousness, and I wonder if he could provide us with some information that might help us along?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I am completely amazed by what the Member is trying to do. It seems to be an issue that is being generated from the other side. There was absolutely no indication that CYI was unhappy with the form of consultation that was taken. What the Member is attempting is rather interesting to me. I would certainly be interested in hearing from CYI, if that is their position.
Mr. McDonald: I have behaved, so far with respect to this measure, in a passive way. I have received the bill. We have asked and received the position of the Council for Yukon Indians. I am not trying to do anything, other than to ask the Minister, who has presented this bill to the Legislature, about the nature of the consultation. It is not as though the Minister would not expect questions about consultations on this matter, given that questions were raised in the House before the bill was tabled.
The issue of consultation has been raised in this House for as long as I have been in this House on every legislative initiative that has been brought forward. In fact, the demands for consultation have been more rigorous than ever, thanks to not only the previous governments actions but the urgings from the previous Opposition, of which the Member was a leader for a period of time. If the Minister is sensitive or defensive about this particular subject, it only makes me concerned that perhaps there is an attempt here, by the Minister, to bolt his way through the Legislature and ignore the fundamental principle of consulting with affected parties.
In the normal course of events there is a practice that there should be consultation. For items like this, it is the law that there should be consultation, and it is clearly specified what should take place.
The fact that I am raising the issue is perfectly legitimate. I am not creating or generating anything. I am simply asking the Minister for his position. He has told the House that he feels that everything is fine.
I have also been told by Members opposite that the CYI is on side. So, through the most mild of initiatives - a phone call to CYI - just to double-check and be sure, we find that the sentiment is not shared by CYI, and that there are some serious concerns respecting consultation. My understanding is that they are resisting the move by the Minister to proceed, until they have been fully consulted and have had the opportunity to think about the provisions the Minister is submitting to the Legislature and to consider them at some length.
Their demands to be consulted are more significant than ours. We have to deal with this all in the space of a couple of days. We get to see it; we debate it in principle. We got the bill yesterday, we are debating it in principle today, we are in Committee for the detail right now and, presumably before long, perhaps even tomorrow, we will be dealing with it at third reading.
That may be something the Minister thinks is legitimate in the Legislature, but it is not legitimate outside the Legislature. When a Minister brings forward a proposition, there is the expectation that there be full consultation, and the obvious group with which there ought to be consultation is the Council for Yukon Indians.
Therefore, I ask the Minister to detail the consultation. I can tell the Minister, and I am trying to be helpful, that he ought to be fairly careful with how he responds because this could be an issue. I am only reporting back what I have heard as early as this afternoon.
I would ask the Minister to let us know what his opinion is about whether or not he has lived up to what the UFA says about consultation. If he has, we can get on to other matters in this bill this afternoon, and get on to other bills and the estimates.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I have answered the questions; I have told the Member of the steps that were taken, and I have not heard anything to the contrary since the meeting a number of days ago. I would have to look it up in my diary to tell him exactly what morning it was, but there has been absolutely no indication of any problem whatsoever with this legislation.
Mr. McDonald: Allow me to point something out to the Minister. The approach taken by Ministers opposite to simply sit there and say, We said all there is to say; stop filibustering is not going to work.
The umbrella final agreement - I read it out loud in second reading and I will do it again - states, Consultation means to provide to the party being consulted [i.e. Council for Yukon Indians], notice of a matter to be decided in sufficient form and detail to allow that party to prepare its view on the matter. My understanding was that there was not sufficient notice and there was not sufficient detail.
Secondly, it states, There should be a reasonable period of time in which the party to be consulted may prepare its view on the matter and an opportunity to present such views to the party obliged to consult.
I do not know what the Minister regards as being a reasonable time, but to present the issue at a meeting and then walk away feeling that everyone is satisfied, does not constitute a reasonable time in my view. A week, two weeks or three weeks would be acceptable, particularly given that the Minister has had this issue on the front burner for a long period of time now, and we have raised the issue of the Council for Yukon Indians responsibility in this area, months ago. One would expect that the Minister would have done that homework.
Consultation also means, to provide full and fair consideration by the party obliged to consult of any views presented. Once the Council for Yukon Indians has been given a full and detailed explanation of what the government wants to do, the government is obligated to give the Council for Yukon Indians some time to consider it and decide whether they want to agree to this particular measure. Once they have presented their views, the government will provide full and fair consideration of that response.
It is fairly specific. I do not think there is any case law on this yet, but certainly, based on what the Minister has suggested, there seems to be some discrepancy between what was anticipated in the umbrella final agreement and what the Minister has done.
The Minister indicated that he had a meeting and that there were no objections raised by the person with whom he was dealing and that person is known for being nothing but cordial and friendly.
If the Minister feels that he has satisfied those conditions, I would like him to say so now.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I have known Albert James for some time now. I grew up with him. I know him well enough to know if he is expressing any concern with something like this. He expressed support. He had no problem with it and that was fine. In fact, he liked the idea of limiting the mandate of the Yukon Development Corporation.
There is absolutely nothing to indicate any problem. I have no communication that would indicate that there has been any change by CYI. I have no difficulty, if they want to talk about it, in saying that we will hold up third reading or even passage through Committee of the Whole, if they have concerns they want to come and see me about. There is no problem at all. I have no problem consulting with CYI. I do it all the time. We do it all the time. Cabinet goes and meets with them - something that was unheard of when they were in government. There is absolutely no problem at all.
We talked about it. We tried to set up a meeting. The time constraint, such as it is, was simply getting something through Cabinet and having to table it because we were told, as late as Friday and again yesterday, that the side opposite was dead serious about pushing everything through and getting out of here by a certain date. We tabled the document and we are prepared to go with it today.
They are trying to create some kind of suggestion of mistrust. I am not in any hurry to get this through. I am quite prepared to go through Committee of the Whole. There is an issue that one of the Members wants to raise as to how the president is appointed; I cannot deal with that so it is proposed that that will be stood aside. If there is a problem with CYI, I will be happy to hear them out. There has never been a problem. I do not understand what the position is.
For the Member to suggest that, somehow, we are rushing things through, the fact is that, once Cabinet approved the principles of the bill, we met as quickly as we could. There was absolutely nothing to suggest that the consultation was inadequate. If that is the position, I will happily meet with them again.
Mr. McDonald: I think I will have to set the record straight on a couple of points. First of all, to suggest that NDP Cabinet Ministers did not meet with CYI is rubbish. I probably had 50 or 60 meetings myself with CYI, which is something the Ministers are going to have to stay in government for a very long time to be able to match - and full Cabinet meetings as well.
The Minister suggests, firstly, that they were rushed into presenting this bill because somehow the NDP Opposition was bound and determined, come hell or high water, to get out of the Legislature as soon as possible. I do not know what the House Leader has been telling the Members opposite, but that is not the way the NDP caucus considers the question at all. We have been responding for a very long time to whining by the Members opposite about getting on and getting out so that they can do other things. That is what we have been responding to.
If there is any hint or suggestion whatsoever by the Members opposite that we should be dealing at greater length with the bills in the Legislature, or with the main estimates, we are happy to do our duty. There is no problem here. We will be here as long as the Members want. We are here to serve.
The fact is that this is a bill that was high on this Ministers agenda and high on the governments agenda. It was announced as something the government had every intention of doing back in December and that the bill is - how many pages is it; it is a little bill; it cannot be more than a half-dozen clauses - not the stuff that takes months and months of time. If the Members opposite are rushing it through now, they have nobody to blame but themselves. This bill has nine clauses. The CYI was consulted at our one meeting last week, after months and months of being in government and making this one of their top priorities, if not their top priority. We were lectured by the Minister in December that they were going to do this thing whether we liked it or not.
This is May. If it was such a high priority, then the consultation with CYI would have happened some considerable time ago. It is not as though everybody at CYI has been on vacation. There has been lots and lots of opportunity.
We spent a long time negotiating the UFA. We went through all the fanfare of passing the UFA in this Legislature a couple of months ago. The UFA talks about the Yukon Development Corporation and talks about the definition of consultation. Now, the Minister gets upset that we raised those two issues. It just does not make any sense to me. I am not generating a darned thing. I am not generating an issue at all.
The Minister feels that he has responded and that he has answered the question with respect to consultation. He said that he had a meeting last week. I asked him whether that meets the definition under the UFA. I would like to know whether or not he believes that. Will he tell us whether or not he believes that he has met the definition of consultation under the UFA?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Could the Member tell us exactly how the UFA comes in to play?
Mr. McDonald: First of all, I have indicated why I believe that the UFA comes into play. The reason, essentially, is this: the Yukon Development Corporation is cited as a body in the UFA to which First Nations persons will be appointed. Not all the objectives of the Yukon Development Corporation are listed in the UFA, but they are listed in an act of this Legislature. When the UFA was negotiated, one would presume that there was an understanding as to what the Development Corporation would be all about - what it would do, what its responsibilities were - and presumably that is one of the reasons why First Nations wanted some representation on it. When the UFAs mandate changes, one would expect that one was materially changing the intent of the IUFA. One would expect that First Nations would expect to be consulted with respect to a material change such as this.
The Minister, in answers to the questions in the past, suggested that they should be consulted. We also believe that they should be consulted. Now we are only talking about how the consultation took place and whether or not there is an acceptance by CYI. If consultation did take place, as anticipated by the UFA, and if CYI accepts, then so be it. Who are we to speak for them?
The only point that I am making is that, in the preliminary look that we made with respect to the statements that the Minister made yesterday - that everything was fine and the support from CYI was in the bag - we got no such signal from CYI.
Consequently, we are puzzled; that is the point we are making; it is a simple one. If the Minister hears from the Council for Yukon Indians in the next day, I will take him at his word that he will do the consultation as anticipated. If the CYI accepts the scope of the change in the Yukon Energy Corporations mandate, then we can get on to other things.
I think the Minister and I agree on that point. I am not trying to create an issue. I am simply asking the first obvious question that one would ask under the circumstances.
Mr. Penikett: Without prolonging debate, I wonder if I could give the Minister the benefit of my view on the subject. He may not care, but I would like to give it anyway.
The source of the concern is twofold. First of all, there is the fact that this House recently passed the legislation to give effect to the land claim and self-government agreements, which were many years in negotiation. One of the provisions of the UFA is that the First Nations are guaranteed representation on the board of two bodies, the Yukon Development Corporation and Yukon Energy Corporation. In other words, they now have an interest in these matters.
The UFA also creates the requirements for governments to consult when First Nation interests are affected. The UFA also establishes definitions of what constitutes consultation, or the minimum requirements to meet that consultation. We already have a huge concern because the UFA also creates the requirement for annual meetings of the Council on the Economy and the Environment and the annual reviews of the economic strategy and the government has already violated those obligations and those commitments. We are quite concerned about the government living up to its legal obligations, especially when it is bragging about having passed the legislation. We want to make sure that the consultation has been done properly.
The source of the second concern is, while we may disagree about policy in respect to the Yukon Development Corporation and the Yukon Energy Corporation, the new government has a perfect right to implement their policy - which right is, I think, somewhat limited by their failure to live up to election promises or commitments on this score.
I remember, back in November, at the swearing-in ceremony, there was a commitment by the Government Leader to abolish the Yukon Development Corporation. When we were debating the land claims legislation, back in the first week of this session, in March, the Government Leader indicated, in response to my questions, that the Council for Yukon Indians did have an interest in this question, given the reference in the UFA, and that they would be consulted about a change. In any case, the government is not now talking about abolishing the Yukon Development Corporation, but restraining or curtailing its operations in some way.
Whether I agree with the intentions of the government on that does not matter. We had a commitment uttered in March by the Government Leader.
I have not looked at the Hansard, so I cannot establish this for a certain fact, but I believe I invited the government, at that time, to obtain a legal opinion as to the propriety of doing two things: one, changing the nature of the Yukon Development Corporation, and changing the character of a body referenced in the UFA, because the representation on that body was, as the Member for McIntyre-Takhini says, given at a time when the body had a different legislative role than is now contemplated by the Minister; and, two, my curiosity about whether the government was obtaining advice as to the form or manner of consultation about matters like this. I am not making a legal argument here; I am not equipped to do that. I know that the land claims legislation has not passed the House of Commons yet, and land claims has not been implemented, but I do believe that all of us here want to live by the spirit of the legislation.
That leads me inevitably to simply put one very precise question to the Minister of Justice, in his capacity as Minister of Justice rather than as Minister of YDC/YEC: has he obtained a legal opinion about whether the change to the nature of the Development Corporation is proper, given the references to the Yukon Development Corporation in the UFA? The second question is whether or not the meetings he has had with Mr. James so far are sufficient to qualify as consultation under the terms of the definition of consultation provided under the same legislation giving effect to the UFA.
I am really not asking the Minister to give an opinion. I accept his undertaking that, if CYI has concerns, he will consult with them. I simply want to know if he has obtained legal opinions on those two points.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Not precisely on those points, but the position I would take is that CYI has been given everything prior to it coming to the House. If they have any concerns, they know that I am quite happy to meet with them again.
Up until now, there is no indication that there are any concerns. I am quite prepared to undertake that we will not bring this back - after we finish going through the clause by clause and standing one clause aside - until they have the opportunity to make representations to me. I must say that I am a little surprised that I have not heard from them directly, but that is not a big problem. I am quite happy to hear from them subsequently.
Mr. Penikett: I hesitate to ask what may appear, on the face of it, to be a hypothetical question, but I will ask the Ministers indulgence in responding to me, because it has some bearing on the passage of this legislation before Committee.
Should the Minister become aware in the next 24 hours that CYI has sent a communication to the effect that they believe this legislation is inconsistent with the obligations of the territorial government under the UFA - I am not asking the Minister to comment on the legality of that because he may at that point be forced to obtain some legal advice and I do not know if CYI has - but let us assume for a second that there is a fundamental disagreement between the CYI and the Government of Yukon on this question, could the Minister indicate in that situation what his intentions with respect to this legislation would be?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: In my opinion, the Member captured it quite nicely when he said it was a hypothetical situation.
I will move that you report progress on Bill No. 62.
Motion agreed to
Bill No. 24 - An Act to Amend the Municipal Act
Chair: Is there any general debate?
Mr. McDonald: Mr. Chairman, would it be possible to take a two-minute recess? The Minister of Economic Development is going to ensure that we are all ready to deal with this bill, including the Minister of Community and Transportation Services.
Speaker: I will now call Committee of the Whole to Order and declare a brief recess.
Chairr: I will now call Committee of the Whole to Order. We are discussing Bill No. 24, An Act to Amend the Municipal Act.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: There were several questions during second reading. I did not get all of the questions written down, but I will try to give an overview of the act and see if I cannot hit upon those questions.
There are two sections to the Municipal Act amendments. Section 1 deals with the waste heat recovery provision. We are dealing mainly with the Town of Watson Lake and, to some extent, with the City of Dawson. There may be other municipalities in the future that would also want to take advantage of the waste heat. Some of the questions revolve around the cost savings, and that sort of thing.
One of the main reasons for the town to want to get involved in waste heat is that there would be no cost to the town, other than operation costs, once it was installed. There would be no fuel needed to operate the facilities that had the heat in them. For instance, in Watson Lake, the heat that could be recovered from the Yukon Electrical generators in the town would be sufficient to heat the high school, the community centre, the arena, the swimming pool and the Watson Lake Hotel.
The estimated initial capital cost is $930,000. The annual operating cost for maintenance and repairs is estimated at about $24,000. However, the yearly fossil-fuel savings would be about $112,000.
The question that has to be asked in Watson Lake is: is there a payback quick enough to warrant making that extraordinarily large capital expenditure? It probably would be about a 10-year payback but it would depend on the interest charges and the inflation factor. You would have to do a full cost analysis on whether it was worthwhile or not.
Besides the possible and probable savings over, say, a 20-year period - there would definitely be some savings for the community - it would be environmentally friendly, because you would be cutting the carbon dioxide emissions from the heating equipment in all these buildings I have just mentioned.
The water would be piped. There would be a heat exchanger at the power house that would heat water. The water would then be piped to the various buildings in some sort of a loop, then back to the heat exchanger. The technology is quite common and has been used. It is quite interesting, because Dawson City has used that type of a system for over 12 years. Dawson takes heat from what used to be the NCPC generator and heats its swimming pool, a couple of houses and one other building - I cannot remember exactly what building it is. They have been doing that for quite a number of years.
The environmental savings is quite significant, because you are cutting out over $100,000 worth of diesel fuel per year.
Instead of the heat simply escaping to the atmosphere, and contributing to the overall global warming, it would be captured and utilized. This revision will permit the town to use all the heat that it needs for its own municipal purposes on its own authority. Before the heat can be distributed to private or non-municipal users, the approval of the executive council member will be required. This will help to ensure that the taxpayers of Watson Lake and private individuals and enterprises will all benefit from the innovative municipal project.
In the Municipal Act, it provides that the town can use waste heat for its own purposes. Subject to the Public Health Act, council may, by bylaw, allow the community to collect waste heat from burning garbage, and that sort of thing. The new act provides that the town can purchase waste heat from other people, and then distribute it and sell it. It can only sell it with the approval of the executive council members. It does need ministerial approval before it can sell the heat.
The other section of the act, which deals with the Municipal Board, is section 362. In section 364, in addition to the powers in relation to appeals and approvals given to it under other provisions of this act, the Yukon Municipal Board may preform such duties as the Commissioner in Executive Council delegates to it.
The Municipal Board has asked the Yukon government for the ability to be appointed as a quasi-judicial board and take on other duties. The Justice people have informed us that, under this section that I just read, we did not have that ability to provide that authority to them for duties that were not mentioned in the Municipal Act.
There are some other responsibilities that could be assumed by the Yukon Municipal Board and I have a couple of examples. We are not intending to go ahead quickly and appoint the Yukon Municipal Board to these, but the Land Decision Review Board is one that could be considered. It would review decisions made by the lands branch on land dispositions to provide an independent, arms-length advice to the Minister at the request of the land application.
Another one could be the Zoning Appeal Board, which could act as a board of variance for lands outside municipal boundaries, and that would be under the Area Development Act.
A possible third one would be the Assessment Appeal Board to act as a final appeal of property assessments under the Assessment and Taxation Act. However, in order for the board to take on duties that are not provided for in the Municipal Act, the other legislation, such as the Lands Act, the Area Development Act and the Assessment and Taxation Act, would have to be amended to allow for the Yukon Municipal Board to act as the agency on those particular boards.
The Yukon Municipal Board has been a very responsible board over the last number of years. The members meet as required to rule on matters brought before the board on municipalities, individuals and the government. Pursuant to the Municipal Act, those matters generally deal with municipal official community plans, boundary expansions, and with various appeals relating to municipal zoning bylaws. The act currently permits the assignment of additional Municipal Act duties to the board, but it is not clear on whether it also permits the addition of duties related to other acts of this Legislature. As an example, the amendment would permit the Yukon Municipal Board to accept duties assigned under the Lands Act or the Area Development Act, should those acts require an appeal or a review board.
Currently, we do not have any new duties for the Yukon Municipal Board. We simply want to leave the ability to assign additional duties when the need does arise.
Mr. McDonald: First of all, I would like to ask a simple, preliminary question as to whether or not the Association of Yukon Communities knows about this act, agrees with the act and agrees with all of the provisions in the act?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I am not sure if they do or not. I know that individual members of the Association of Yukon Communities know about it, but I am not exactly sure whether it has been discussed at the AYC meetings.
Mr. McDonald: I do not want to dwell on this at any great length, but I would just like to point out that the expectation in the past has been that matters affecting municipalities be discussed at least with the Association of Yukon Communities executive and perhaps, in the future, we will see something formal take place there.
I would like to reiterate something that I said in second reading, and that is that I believe the first provision in this act is a good one. I believe that it does encourage innovation in the communities to encourage them to use opportunities that seem obvious to them to provide for more energy efficient management within their boundaries.
There are times when the economics of a particular project do necessitate that they serve more than themselves. In Mayo, for example, the Minister will know that they have a geo-therm project that uses the warm water from their well to heat a number of buildings, and some of those buildings are not municipal. That was an example of an innovation that they could see and identify. Rather than trying to prescribe everything from the centre, or from the corporate offices of the Yukon Development Corporation or the Yukon Electrical Corporation, we should permit municipalities and other levels of government to take advantage of opportunities that they identify. If the economic opportunities are available, they should be encouraged to pursue those opportunities.
There is an outstanding question that has been raised by other Members. I will let them ask the question, but I will point out that there has been some concern about long-term obligations and whether or not the Minister will be reviewing the projects on a case-by-case basis to ensure that they are economic. I will let him answer that question and deal with the other Members on that point.
I would like to ask the Member a question on the first section of the bill, whether or not a deal in principle has been struck with the various users of the system, including the Department of Education. I do know that I had provided some encouragement, as a Minister, to the Town of Watson Lake to investigate this possibility and whether or not it would mean a cost savings to other users of the system.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The Member opposite asked if the amendments had been to the Association of Yukon Communities. I am not sure about section 2. Section 1 actually did come out as a resolution of that association.
On the second question about the cost savings to the private users, my understanding of the situation in Watson Lake is that there would be a cost savings for users other than the municipality, but it would be very minimal. The town would provide the piped hot water to the school and the Watson Lake Hotel. The reason it is minimal is because the town did run into some problems with the suppliers of fuel. The people who were supplying fuel to the Watson Lake Hotel and other businesses were somewhat upset.
It just happens that the Watson Lake Hotel is in good proximity to other buildings that the community wants to heat.
It would be somewhat of an unfair advantage to the Watson Lake Hotel if they were able to buy heat from the town at a very minimal cost. In fact, the savings will not be very much for the Watson Lake Hotel. The other question was in regard to the long-term obligations. That really is the question that is bothering the town right now. They need to have some assurance that they will be able to use this waste heat for a certain number of years. If they put in nearly $1 million in capital costs, they have to be able to recover that before they could actually start showing dollar savings. They can show savings in carbon dioxide emissions and so on, but in actual dollar savings it will take five to 10 years, at least, to start making an actual payback on it. That is bothering the town.
I think that we would insist that any municipality, before it got into this type of situation, get an actual cost-benefit analysis done prior to putting the system into place.
Mr. McDonald: The Department of Education has then made a formal contractual commitment to purchase the waste heat from Watson Lake, and they will see some minimal savings themselves - is that the case?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: My understanding is that the municipality has talked to people from the Department of Education, which has expressed interest. They definitely want to go ahead with it, but there have been no contracts established with either the Department of Education or the Watson Lake Hotel, mainly because they do not have the ability to do it yet. They have talked to those two groups, and both groups have indicated a willingness to take part in the project.
Mr. McDonald: Before we move on to the second principle of the bill, perhaps if other Members have questions about this particular one, they could raise them so that I do not break up the flow of the debate on this particular subject by talking about the Municipal Board.
Mr. McDonald: The second part of the bill refers to the ability of the Cabinet to delegate other duties pursuant to other acts to the Yukon Municipal Board, and the Minister has indicated that the Yukon Municipal Board has acted in nothing but a responsible way over the last few years and has proven its abilities to act judiciously and carefully. I have every reason to believe that the Ministers assessment is true. I certainly have some foundation and have no objection to the Yukon Municipal Board being referred to as a responsible agent.
The Minister will know, from previous debates in the Legislature over a number of years, that a lot of time is spent trying to match the makeup of a board and how it is selected with the duties and responsibilities that are provided to that board under law. When we debate a bill that contains a board, particularly one that has, as the Minister mentioned, quasi-judicial powers or significant decision-making powers, there is usually a fair amount of time spent determining how the board is selected, from what constituencies, meaning what groups of people the board will draw its membership from, how many rural people there are, et cetera.
Consequently, having gone through a number of those debates over the last 12 years, I feel a little nervous about simply allowing the Yukon Municipal Board to assume whatever duties the Cabinet may want to delegate to it pursuant not to the Municipal Act, and I think that is fair enough, but to any other act. Any other act means, for example, if there were some concerns about the Wildlife Act, the government could delegate powers under the Wildlife Act to the Yukon Municipal Board. There are a number of other boards, of course, to which this could apply.
If the Minister has indicated that the board should perform such duties as the Commissioner in Executive Council delegates to it, pursuant to this act or the Lands Act, the Area Development Act and the Assessment and Taxation Act, given the examples the Minister has cited, I would personally not have a great deal of problem with that, because they are all lands and land use-related pieces of legislation, or municipal legislation, and the subject matter is generally the same.
I think the Minister could then make a very persuasive case that the Yukon Municipal Board would be well suited to manage the affairs of those acts.
I wonder if the Minister could tell us why it is so broad here that any other act is up for discussion, and why not only the three acts that the Minister cited or other lands and land use acts that are on the books right now.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I completely agree that the Yukon Municipal Board may not necessarily be the quasi-judicial authority under the Health Act or the Wildlife Act, but I think there is some protection in here because the wording states, perform such duties as the Commissioner in Executive Council delegates to it, pursuant to this or any other act.
The Department of Justice has advised us that if another act, such as the Health Act, has provisions for a board and the health people wanted to appoint the Yukon Municipal Board, they would have to actually put that into the act. In order for the board that would be established under the Health Act to appoint the Yukon Municipal Board it would have to read, The Yukon Municipal Board can perform the duties of the Health Advisory Board.
It would have to go into that particular piece of legislation. The Yukon Municipal Board could act as an advisory board under some other piece of legislation. It could act as a, perhaps, school advisory board - I do not believe so, though; I do not think that the Education Act would allow that - or, if an advisory board needed to be set up, possibly the Yukon Municipal Board could take on that particular function.
That certainly is not the intention. The intention is for the Yukon Municipal Board to take on duties of a similar nature to what they are already doing. The three examples I used - the land Decision Review Board, the Zoning Appeal Board or the Assessment Appeal Board - are boards that make decisions not too dissimilar to decisions that the Yukon Municipal Board is already making
I do believe that by the way it is worded in this amendment there is protection from having the Yukon Municipal Board doing all sorts of functions that it probably is not all that well equipped to do.
Mr. McDonald: I think we have come some distance here in terms of our acquiring an understanding that we both agree with each other on the basic principle. We are, at this point, trying to decide how that should be accomplished. The Minister suggests that the Municipal Board cannot usurp the authority of other boards that are already designated in law in other acts.
I think, to a large extent, that is true, except where there are some boards where there are not clear selection guidelines in the host act that would prevent the Municipal Board from being the operating board. Clearly, if the Assessment Appeal Board, for example, as the Minister has mentioned, had some provision that stated that there had to be a certain number of rural people on the board, or that sort of thing, then it would be very difficult to force-fit the Municipal Board into that situation.
There is probably some moderate protection, but it is not entirely so, because there are other boards in the government that do not have a restricted membership like that and can easily host the Yukon Municipal Board, if that is the Cabinets wish. There may be a problem there.
The bigger problem is in the area where the Commissioner in Executive Council has a responsibility under an act, and where they choose to delegate that responsibility to someone else. Under normal circumstances, one assumes that the Commissioner in Executive Council and the Ministers delegate responsibilities to public servants. Here, however, it is a fairly wide open clause. It suggests that Cabinet can delegate any of its authority, pursuant to any act, to the Yukon Municipal Board, which opens up all kinds of exciting possibilities - and perhaps potentially frightening possibilities - about what the Yukon Municipal Board might be asked to do.
The only reason I make this point is because we have, historically, cared very deeply, in this Legislature, about matching boards and board makeups with their responsibilities. I think we may have a bit of a problem here. As I understand it, we both agree that the Yukon Municipal Board is not appropriate to do virtually anything that is currently in the Cabinets domain under law.
Mr. Penikett: May I raise a tangential question to the Minister? It is about the Ministers policy in respect to the term of appointments to the Municipal Board. The Minister has the advantage of having been in the department for eons and is well acquainted with its workings. Some time ago, it was drawn to my attention that it is, in at least one persons view, unclear as to the intention of the act in respect to the appointments to the Municipal Board - whether it is intended that they serve at pleasure, or whether it was intended that they have a fixed term. I am interested in knowing whether the Minister has ever had reason to have an inquiry on that subject put to him, and whether he had contemplated the occasion of this piece of legislation as an opportunity to address the issue?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Actually, the Member is opposite is quite correct. The Municipal Board is appointed at pleasure. There have been two, or possibly even three, members who have been on there for probably three to four years.
Actually, I have never had it expressed to me as a concern that there was not a revolving term. In fact, because of the nature of the duties the Yukon Municipal Board takes on, like zoning appeals and so on, I would like to see people on the board - not necessarily all of them, but at least two or three members - who do have some time and some experience behind them, because it can get into a very difficult decision-making process.
Mr. Penikett: I can tell the Minister one thing that, in my experience, is a difficult decision-making process, which is trying to retire a board member who has unlimited appointments to a board and, once or twice in Yukon history, there have been board members who, in my opinion anyway, have outlived their usefulness.
At the moment, I think one has to basically quit or be fired, and I do not think anyone has been fired from this board. There has been a member pass away in recent years. I wondered if the Minister had considered the wisdom of appointing people to fixed terms, with the possibility of reappointment.
I invite the Ministers comment on that, because it seems to me that there is nothing about that to inhibit continuity, or the prospect of continuity, because people can be reappointed. It just provides a little bit of certainty about the appointments because, if changes in the character of the board were contemplated, my guess is that a prudent Minister would want to think very carefully about who the people are who are on that board.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: It is sort of an interesting argument. I could go the other way a little bit by saying that, if a board is appointed at pleasure, it becomes very difficult, if there is a change in this government, to all of a sudden remove these people from the board and put people in who are perhaps more like your political philosophy - that is the other side of the argument.
What I will do for the Member opposite is discuss this with the Association of Yukon Communities.
We are going to be doing some amendments to the Municipal Act, and there is a group set up by the Association of Yukon Communities to work with the government on these amendments to the Municipal Act. I will certainly throw that one in for the associations consideration. As I mentioned before, it has not been brought to me as a concern from anyone except the Member opposite.
Mr. Penikett: As a former municipal politician, I have taken some interest in the Municipal Act in the past.
I do not want to stray from the subject now before us, but I would indicate to the Minister that there are a few of us - I guess only one or two of us now - who were in the House when that act was passed. I had some strong reservations about the wisdom of some principles in that act.
Even today, I think that some of the problems we have in municipal administration are derived from the contradictory roles that are assigned, for example, to mayors in a municipality, who are required to be a neutral presiding officer, publicly take a position on a bill and, then, express the views of the majority of the council on a bill after it is passed, even though they may not have been the views of the mayor.
I think it is a strange mix of the mayor/manager and council/manager system, and the only thing that I would say is that I would hope that, if the Minister is going to be opening up that act in a big way, he will consult with municipal officials - that is prudent - but there may others among the citizenry - and some of us who are not longer municipal officials, but who once were - who have some thoughts on the subject and who would like to have some input on that question before the drafting is done. I say that in passing, because I am entirely out of order in straying from the question when I make those comments.
Mr. Cable: Perhaps some of the apprehension, with respect to paragraph (2), relates to the blank cheque nature of the delegation.
Is it anticipated that the delegation will be solely under the provisions of a statute, or could the Minister make recommendations that the delegation could take place under regulations enacted under some statute?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I am not sure if I fully follow the Members question, but my own personal feeling is that it should be under the legislation. It is an interesting concept that those delegations could perhaps be put under regulation.
I believe that you are referring to other acts, where the Yukon Municipal Board could be acting as an advisory board, a quasi-judicial board or something because, under the Municipal Act, it is under the act, not under a regulation.
Mr. Cable: Many statutes have regulation-creating powers in the Commissioner. Some of them have catch-all phrases at the end, where one could pop in a delegation to the Yukon Municipal Board. I was just wondering if that is the Ministers intention. He spoke earlier about various acts having the delegation powers spelled out in them.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: No, that is not the intention at all. The Municipal Act itself states that the Commissioner in Executive Council, the Cabinet, can make such regulations and prescribe such forms as he deems necessary. Most of the legislation has that. It is not the intention to appoint the Municipal Board as various boards under regulation. We would sooner see it in the actual legislation.
Mr. Cable: It might very usefully be a point to clear up because that would remove one of the larger potential areas for a blank cheque to be given to the Commissioner in council. Just let me ask this question: as I understand the Ministers introductory remarks, one of the main reasons for this paragraph, if not the main reason, is the economy inherent in using one board to do a number of functions - is this correct?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Yes.
Mr. Cable: Has the Minister discussed this provision with the members or the chairperson of the Yukon Municipal Board?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Yes, we have.
Mr. Cable: What were those discussions?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The Municipal Board was very much in favour of this legislation.
Mr. Cable: Just so we can clear our heads here, Mr. Minister, I gather from what you are saying that it is contemplated that this board will have matters delegated to it that relate to municipal government or impinge on municipal government, or relate to land or impinge on land matters, and nothing else. Is that right?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: That is what we envision right now. There may be further things that come up in the future that I do not know about now, but our intent right now is to have the Yukon Municipal Board take on similar duties to those they take on under the Municipal Act right now.
Mr. McDonald: I am trying to be a little helpful here. I do not know if what I am about to do is in order and I will wait for a high-sign from someone at the table - someone who is reading my scrawling.
I think there is a sense of nervousness about what possibly could happen with the use of this provision in terms of delegating to the board any powers that the Cabinet has under any act. I think we all agree that the delegation of powers respecting municipal and land issues could conceivably be delegated to the Municipal Board, based on our knowledge of those laws.
To give the government a broader mandate than that, at this time, would seem to be a little more than awkward. I think that if there is a case to be made for the Municipal Board to get into other fields and to exercise responsibilities further afield than land and municipal issues, I think it would be wise for the Minister to come back to the Legislature to ask for some provision that allows the Cabinet to do that, particularly if they are talking about issues in wildlife, education, social affairs or any other range of issues.
The Minister mentioned there are three acts in particular for which they feel that, to save money, they may want to delegate certain Cabinet responsibilities to the Yukon Municipal Board. The acts he cited were the Lands Act, the Area Development Act and the Assessment and Taxation Act, as well as the Municipal Act.
Chair: Order please. The time being 5:30, I will rise and report. Where is the Government House Leader?
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: The Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 62, entitled An Act to Amend the Yukon Development Corporation Act, and Bill No. 24, entitled An Act to Amend the Municipal Act, and I now report progress on them.
Speaker: You have heard the report of the Chair of Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: I declare the report carried.
Mr. Harding: I move that the House do now adjourn.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Member for Faro that the House do now adjourn.
Motion agreed to
Speaker: This House stands adjourned until 1:30 p.m. tomorrow afternoon.
The House adjourned at 5:31 p.m.
The following Sessional Paper was tabled May 18, 1993:
Campgrounds to be opened gradually (Brewster)
The following Legislative Return was tabled May 18, 1993:
LEcole Emile Tremblay: no funding in 1993-94 budget for capital improvements; funds available to help alleviate air quality concerns (Phillips)
Oral, Hansard, P. 951