Tuesday, December 13, 1994 - 1:30 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order. At this time, we will proceed with
Recognition of Anniversary of title "Yukon Legislative Assembly"
Speaker: Before proceeding to the Order Paper the Chair wishes to draw the
attention of Members and all Yukoners to an anniversary of sorts. It was 20 years ago
today that this House adopted the title of Yukon Legislative Assembly. On December 13,
1974, Don Taylor, the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly, took his place as the private
Member for Watson Lake and moved a motion that concluded with the following words,
"That this House be known and styled as the Yukon Legislative Assembly and that the
Members of this House chosen for executive office be known and styled as Ministers with
all of the duties, powers and privileges thereto appertaining."
The passage of this motion signified the beginning of a number of important constitutional advances for the Yukon, concluding with the attainment of responsible government in 1979. Those of us who sit in this, the Twenty-eighth Legislative Assembly, would be remiss if we did not pay tribute to the Members of that Twenty-third Legislative Assembly for the work they did to bring the territory to the level of self-governance that we have today.
To honour those Members and their contributions to the Yukon, I will state their names for the record in today's deliberations. They were: Fred Berger, Bob Fleming, Jack Hibberd, Dan Lang, Stu McCall, Gordon McIntyre, Ken McKinnon, Eleanor Millard, Willard Phelps, Don Taylor, Hilda Watson and Flo Whyard. As a matter of interest, Willard Phelps, who is currently the sitting Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes, was in the chair as Deputy Speaker on December 13, 1974, when the motion was passed to adopt the title of Yukon Legislative Assembly.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I rise to thank you, Mr. Speaker, for recognizing this anniversary and for mentioning my modest role in the event. Adopting the title of Yukon Legislative Assembly was an important step in our struggle for responsible government. It was a struggle. The federal government of the day vigorously resisted any progress at the time. In fact, the federal government refused to see us as a distinct government and refused for some considerable time to recognize our duly elected Ministers as Ministers or our MLAs as Members of the Legislative Assembly.
It is interesting to note that the CBC followed suit and refused to refer to our duly elected Members as MLAs or Ministers as Ministers, saying that they were acting upon a legal opinion.
I think it is noteworthy that all Members at that time pulled together in this struggle
and put their political differences aside. Their efforts culminated in our right to
responsible government in the Yukon being recognized, finally, by the Minister of the
Department of Indian and Northern Development of the day, the Hon. Jake Epp, in his
historic letter of 1979.
Mr. Penikett: I am pleased to take a moment to join Mr. Speaker and the Member opposite in this observance. It is noteworthy, as the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes has said, that in 1974, when this Assembly decided, as was its right, to restyle itself, the politicians were, in the main, supportive; the media was less so; and the federal government, I think, was unenthusiastic. The former Government Leader on the other side has noted that, as a result of the Epp letter in 1979, we had responsible government. In 1989, however, the federal government foisted Meech Lake on us, which was also designed to denigrate or reduce our position in the constitutional framework. At that time, we decided to fully implement the Epp letter and use the term "Premier". On that occasion, it is worth noting that the media were actually quite open-minded, the federal government was not even resistant, but there were some MLAs who were quite negative, and even witless, in their responses. Some things never change; others do.
Speaker: We will proceed at this time with the Order Paper.
Are there any Introductions of Visitors?
Are there any Returns or Documents for tabling?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I have a letter for tabling.
Speaker: Are there any Reports of Committees?
Are there any Petitions?
Are there any Bills to be introduced?
Are there any Notices of Motion for the Production of Papers?
Are there any Notices of Motion?
NOTICES OF MOTION
Mr. Cable: I have a couple of motions. The first one relates to the Council on the Economy and the Environment. It reads:
THAT this House urge the government to introduce legislation amending section 42 of the Environment Act, which refers to reports of the Council on the Economy and the Environment, to read:
"(1) All reports of the council shall be made public, and in those instances where the council shall provide its advice, under Section 41(3)(d) of this act, such advice shall be made public at the time it is provided to the Commissioner in the Executive Council;
(2) the council shall table a report to the Legislative Assembly at least once per year detailing its activities and expenditures."
The second motion reads:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that the government continue with the initiative of the previous administration and draft a comprehensive and detailed energy policy in a timely manner which shall include:
1) the role of energy conservation;
2) the use of carbon-based fuels;
3) the use and/or promotion of alternate energy sources,;
4) the role of independent power producers and grid hookup policies relating to those producers; and
5) financial risk absorption relating to large new customers,and relating to the
capital cost of large new generating or transmission facilities.
Mr. McDonald: I would like to give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that the Yukon Party government has misled the
mining community and the Yukon public about possessing a clear and consistent industrial
support policy, and should immediately disclose the nature and detail of its negotiations
with the mining companies for infrastructure support.
Speaker: Are there any further Notices of Motion?
Are there any Statements by Ministers?
This then brings us to the Question Period.
Question re: Gambling
Ms. Commodore: My question is for the Government Leader in regard to the gambling casino.
The chair of CYI has said that the Government Leader has made no effort to speak to her about a waterfront casino, but in Question Period the Government Leader told us that his government has been in consultation with First Nations for some time about the casino. In order to set the record straight, will the Government Leader tell us which First Nations groups or individuals he consulted with prior to making the announcement in the throne speech?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: Some of my officials and I talked with David Joe, who I believe is involved with the Council oforYukon Indians. Further to that, I understand that there has been a meeting requested by the chair to meet with me on Friday to discuss this same issue.
Ms. Commodore: So he spoke to one person prior to the announcement.
The Kwanlin Dun, in a news release, said that the waterfront does not belong to Ostashek, that it is not his to give away. Since the Government Leader announced the gambling casino in his throne speech, does he intend to go ahead with this construction despite the objection from Kwanlin Dun?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I thought we made it very, very clear that we would be going out for proposals some time in the new year. We did not say, or even indicate, whether a new structure would be built, or if one was going to be built, whether it would be located on the waterfront.
Ms. Commodore: By announcing the gambling casino in his throne speech, the Government Leader has once again created land claims problems with Kwanlin Dun First Nations. Can the Government Leader tell us whether he intends to respond to the concerns raised by them in their press release in order for negotiations to get back on track?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I would think that if the Kwanlin Dun have real concerns, they would just contact us directly, rather than just issue a press release.
First of all, this issue is being misunderstood, due to the press release. This has nothing to do with the waterfront at this time.
Question re: Gambling casino, loan to TIA
Ms. Commodore: My questions are, again, for the Government Leader. In a news item of April of this year, it was reported that the Tourism Industry Association of the Yukon proposed to build a seasonal casino on the city's waterfront, and that it would need a government loan guarantee to take on that project. Can he tell us if he has made a commitment to TIA to approve a loan for this project?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I can say once more, for the record, that we have not made any commitments to anyone. As the Member opposite is aware, at that time there was, in my understanding, a proposal from TIA, the Lake Laberge Lions Club and, I believe, from a private casino firm, but we were not entertaining proposals at that time.
Ms. Commodore: There is much opposition to a gambling casino in downtown Whitehorse, especially from residents in my riding, who include seniors who live near the waterfront. Can the Government Leader tell us whether or not residents in the downtown area were consulted prior to the government's decision to announce the project in the throne speech? The Minister laughs, but I am serious.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: Again, the Member opposite is assuming - based on information I am perhaps not privy to - that a gambling casino will be located in downtown Whitehorse. I do not know that.
Ms. Commodore: He mentioned it in the throne speech and wonders why people are getting excited.
The Klondike Visitors Association has stated its opposition to a gambling casino in Whitehorse and intends to ask its MLA to take that message to the government. Can the Government Leader tell us and the KVA if he has been approached by the Member for Klondike regarding the KVA's opposition to the gambling casino in Whitehorse?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: In a simple word, no, I have not. Let me also put on the record that there seems to be some inconsistency in the position of the Klondike Visitors Association. At one time, I believe they did not feel a casino in Whitehorse would have an effect on theirs.
Question re: Beringia Interpretive Centre
Mr. Cable: I have some further questions for the Minister of Tourism on his Beringia Interpretive Centre. I am following up on questions from the other day.
The Yukon museums policy sets out a major policy and a policy guideline. The policy reads as follows: "The Yukon government is committed to the integrity of strong, independent community museums, operated by local non-profit volunteer boards." Part of the policy guidelines reads as follows: "The Yukon government will work cooperatively with Yukon community museums, and will facilitate museums taking collective and individual initiatives to achieve the purpose of this policy."
Does the Minister of Tourism agree with that policy and with that policy guideline?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: Yes, I do.
Mr. Cable: The other day, I think we established that the Minister of Tourism had some conversations with a couple of American tour operators before the decision was made to locate the Beringia Interpretive Centre up the hill. Other than those two American tour operators, who did the Minister consult with prior to locating that facility up the hill?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: The issue with the MacBride Museum is not so much consulting as the concern over the location of the Beringia Interpretive Centre. I do not believe that the MacBride Museum is a suitable location for the Beringia Interpretive Centre. We could do the inside displays, but we could not do the outside displays, as there would be no room for them. There is no room for parking in that area and there is no room for expansion, if one wanted to expand the Beringia Centre in the future. Putting the Beringia Centre in a downtown location, on a fixed lot, creates a logistical problem, where there would be no room for any expansion of the centre in the future to improve it, if we wished to do so. The MacBride Museum -
Speaker: Order. Would the Member please conclude his answer.
Mr. Cable: I think that is the answer to the question. No one was consulted, other than the American tour operators.
I am told that the location up the hill for the Beringia Interpretive Centre will act to the detriment of the MacBride Museum, as well as to the anchoring of the waterfront. Is the Minister prepared to have his officials look at the case being put forward by the MacBride Museum before beginning construction on the Beringia Centre up the hill?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: Again, it is a difference of opinion between me and the MacBride Museum. I believe that a major world class attraction, such as the Berengia Centre, and the relocation of the visitor reception centre downtown will bring more people into the downtown Whitehorse area. Some 26,000 people went through the visitor reception last year and if we can get those 26,000 people within three blocks of the MacBride Museum, I think everyone will benefit - downtown merchants as well as the MacBride Museum.
Question re: Land claims, government priority
Mr. Penikett: For all the years that I have been a Member of this Legislature it has been the policy of a succession of governments that land claims negotiations were the number one priority, with devolution being a second-ranked priority.
On December 5, 1994, the Government Leader seemed to indicate a new policy when he told this House, "that it was very important that both devolution and land claims proceed parallel to each other and that one not get ahead of the other." We also note that land claims has become number four on the government's priority list in the throne speech, a position that is seriously at odds with the position of the Council for Yukon Indians, who believe that land claims should precede devolution.
Since the Government Leader's statements indicate a new policy, could he elaborate exactly where devolution and land claims now fit on the priority list, what other issues precede them and tell us the relative positions of those issues.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: First of all, I would say to the Member opposite that it is wrong to assume that land claims is a number four priority. I did not see in the throne speech anything being listed by preference. The throne speech outlined six main objectives. There was no priority given to those objectives.
Land claims is a priority with this government and so is devolution. As First Nations obtain the rights to their lands, I believe that it is important for Yukoners to obtain the rights to the other lands that are not under land claims.
Mr. Penikett: As someone observed a long time ago, if you have six priorities, you have no priorities. The Government Leader has confirmed our worst fears by stating that land claims and devolution are "a" priority, rather than "the" priority.
The Council for Yukon Indians has issued a very strong statement attacking the Yukon government's devolution policies. I quote, "There shall be no devolution or transfers whatsoever from Canada to the Yukon Territory of legislative authority or administrative control over any lands or resources within the Yukon and the NWT portion of the Yukon First Nation homeland until such time as the Yukon First Nation agreements have been concluded and the affected Yukon First Nations have consented, in writing, to such devolution." Has the Government Leader formally responded to that statement from the Council for Yukon Indians? If he has, would he be willing to table that statement in the House?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I am not sure if the Member is quoting from a recent statement or if this is one that dates months or years back. If it is a new statement, I have not seen it yet. It has not been brought to my attention by the land claims negotiators.
Mr. Penikett: Let me deal with a very simple situation. The fact is that, since this government came to office two years ago, no progress has been made in terms of concluding final agreements for First Nations and very little progress has been made on devolution. The Government Leader has recently appointed one person, a senior public official, to be responsible for land claims negotiations, devolution and land claims implementation. Each one of those positions might require a senior person to do a full-time job. Is the Government Leader not at all concerned that having one person carry out each of these major duties on a part-time basis may be part of the reason there has been so little progress on either the devolution or the land claims front?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I would say that that statement is simply not a statement of fact because when the Member opposite was in government, he was fully aware that it took him two years after the umbrella final agreement to come to the first of the four band final agreements. We are at about the same time line and are dealing with a band that is situated in the largest municipality in the Yukon. There are some real difficulties to overcome.
I made a move the other day, for which I thought the Leader of the Official Opposition gave me credit, when I said that I was appointing a full-time land claims negotiator. Now he is criticizing it.
Question re: Land claims, government priority
Mr. Penikett: If the government had indeed appointed a full-time person to coordinate land claims negotiations and move expeditiously toward final agreements with the 10 First Nations that are waiting, we would have applauded him. But subsequent statements by the Government Leader seem to indicate that this one person also has to coordinate devolution and also has to coordinate the implementation of land claims - two very large jobs, and probably enough for three people. So, I want to ask the Government Leader this simple question: does he think that the way he has assigned these duties is consistent with the notion that there is a full-time land claims coordinator or a full-time chief negotiator for land claims?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: Certainly, I believe it is. For the record, let me make it quite clear that we have negotiated and have proceeded with land claims at the speed that the First Nations at the table wanted to proceed. They have not been held up because of the Yukon territorial government. Devolution is very important to all Yukoners. It cannot be dealt with in isolation. It has to be dealt with in conjunction with land claims.
Mr. Penikett: We on this side of the House continue to hear complaints and have heard continuing complaints for the last many months about this government's slowness in responding to positions put at the table and long delays of this government in developing policy positions to respond to concerns of First Nations, such as Kwanlin Dun. Let me ask the Government Leader a direct question: given the urgency and the importance of the Kwanlin Dun settlement, and given that negotiations have been going on a long time and many, many frustrations have been expressed publicly by that First Nation, how many times has the Government Leader met with the Kwanlin Dun council to discuss land claims matters, land conflicts or devolution issues?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I have not met with Kwanlin Dun for quite awhile, but let me say to the Member opposite that a land package has been in front of the Kwanlin Dun for many, many months now, to which they have not responded.
Mr. Penikett: That sums up the problem perfectly. Rather than the Kwanlin Dun First Nation tabling land selections, to which the government would respond, I understand it was the unbelievably exotic position of the Government Leader opposite, who decided that he was going to do selections for them, and that they should respond to his land claims selections. Does the Government Leader not understand that that is seriously at variance with all the traditions in the land claims negotiations?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: The Leader of the Official Opposition is misconstruing the
facts. Land negotiations have been going on with the Kwanlin Dun for a long time. They
have come to the point where only one or two packages are left outstanding. The land
claims negotiators, along with the Kwanlin Dun, had come to a stalemate, so we put a
position forward, which was approved by us. We said that this is the position we would
like to take on this. We are waiting for a response to that. We have not received that
Question re: Airport safety
Ms. Moorcroft: I have a question for the Minister of Community and Transportation Services regarding devolution and airport safety. Canadian Airlines has stopped using Watson Lake as a backup airport because the automatic weather stations are unreliable. The Northern Air Transport Association has publicly stated its objection to the use of automatic weather stations in remote airports without backup observers. The Minister may also be aware that the Town of Watson Lake is unhappy about the Transport Canada loss of eight jobs because of the cuts to airport services with the automatic weather station.
What is the Minister's position on automatic weather stations and the accompanying cuts to service and personnel?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: We have also written to the Minister and objected violently. We have given support to the Canadian Airlines letters, and we have backed everything. We asked the federal government to leave things the way they were until after the airports were devolved to us.
Ms. Moorcroft: We heard this morning that the federal Department of Transport is going to shut the automated weather systems at Montreal's Dorval Airport and at Edmonton's Municipal Airport, where, last month, a 737 jet with 120 passengers landed under hazardous conditions because the automatic weather system gave the pilot inaccurate weather information. If it is unsafe for Edmonton, it is unsafe for Watson Lake and other small airports.
Will the Minister, in the devolution process that he just spoke of, accept nothing less than what will meet public safety needs, and that is a fully staffed airport.
Hon. Mr. Brewster: No, we will not.
Ms. Moorcroft: The Government Leader is on record saying that the devolution process may produce financial gains and I would like to quote the Government Leader. "And when we take it over from them, it will be downscaled and that is why I have been pushing, saying that we have to devolve this stuff now while there is still some fat in the programs and we can make some real savings for Yukoners and have the money to deliver better programs.''
Can the Minister tell the Yukon public how their need for travelling safety will be met
following the devolution of rural airports?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: We are not even to that position yet. We are still negotiating to see what we can get from them, and we certainly can make improvements. On any program that has ever devolved to the territorial government, we can probably make 75 cents out of a dollar work, where the federal government cannot make 50 cents work.
Question re: Marsh Lake blockade
Ms. Moorcroft: I do not think I am alone in having concerns about this government and its negotiating ability.
Yesterday, when I was asking some questions about the Federal/Territorial Land Advisory Committee and the Marsh Lake blockade over the forestry permit that was issued, the Minister indicated, as I understand it, that there is a complete miscommunication among all three levels. I would like to ask - and if the Minister cannot answer this question, perhaps the Government Leader may be able to - who is at the root of the miscommunication?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: Well, I think the Member opposite does not have all the information regarding her questions yesterday. The Federal/Territorial Land Advisory Committee does not come into play until after such time as a permit has been issued by DIAND for the harvesting of trees. The land use permit is not part of the process of negotiating a permit for harvesting.
Ms. Moorcroft: If I was relying on the answers that I get from those Ministers over there for my information, I would never be able to get an answer to a question.
I believe that the land use permit that was issued was issued after the First Nation and the Federal/Territorial Land Advisory Committee were provided with up to 42 days to review the application. Perhaps the Minister or the Government Leader can tell us whether they know who the Department of Community and Transportation Services and YTG representatives are on that committee, what political direction they are given and what involvement they had with the process.
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I will bring the names back to the Member.
Ms. Moorcroft: I would like to ask the Minister if he can tell my constituents in Marsh Lake and the Kwanlin Dun members who are very interested to know what is happening here why the government did not participate, and why it does not know what happened?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: We made it very plain that most of the stages go through an environmental assessment. Those are done by the federal government, and the committee does not have any say in it. It only gets into it after the permit is issued. The Federal/Territorial Land Use Advisory Committee not only goes through the proper procedures, it also notifies the First Nations bands ahead of time so that they can object if they want to.
Question re: Health survey
Mrs. Firth: I have a question for the Minister responsible for Health and Social Services. I have had constituents and other Yukoners approach me, complaining about a very aggressive health survey that is being done. I believe it just found that it is intrusive and invasive, with 30 to 45 minutes of very detailed questions about the most intimate details of people's medical history, including questions about surgery, operations, drugs, medications, mental health and self-esteem. Apparently, over 2,000 people have been surveyed. This is at least the third major health survey that we have had here in the Yukon in the last three years.
I would like to ask the Minister why they are doing this health survey.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: We have had a couple of baseline surveys done in the area of alcohol and drug addiction and use, and in the general area of a health survey for Yukon. In order for us to maximize the potential value of these surveys, it is important to perform such surveys from time to time, so that we can see what changes are occurring in Yukon's population. This leads to very important data for the people who do the planning and policy work in the health field.
For example, when we performed the health survey baseline work a couple of years ago, it was very apparent that changes had occurred since the alcohol and drug survey was carried out. These trends are very important.
Speaker: Order please. Would the Minister please conclude his answer.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: They were very important in assisting us in determining how we get into such areas and define such areas as health promotion.
Mrs. Firth: I can understand about the collection of data, but that is all it is. This health survey is asking for intimate details about people's medical information. They are asking Yukoners to give permission to whoever is doing this survey in this process to access their personal medical records. I think that is inappropriate. I do not think it has anything to do with data.
My question to the Minister is this: how is this kind of survey and these kinds of questions going to improve health care for Yukoners?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: These surveys are paid for by the Government of Canada. They
are being conducted in other jurisdictions, and are seen by professionals as an important
tool in the delivery of health programs to people across Canada. I am a firm believer in
keeping up to speed with other jurisdictions and attempting to ensure that our programs
are every bit as good as other programs being delivered in other parts of the country.
Mrs. Firth: We all agree with keeping up. I am interested in continuing to provide the high quality of health care that Yukoners have the privilege of enjoying, but I cannot see how this survey is going to promote that.
The last question on the survey was extremely offensive, because it asked people to provide to the questioner the names of two friends, so that respondents could be tracked in two years in case of losing track of the respondents when the survey is followed up. They wanted to carry on with the survey in two years and wanted the names of two close friends so that if they could not track down the respondents directly, they could find them through their friends. I fail to see how those kinds of questions are going to promote quality health care in the Yukon.
I would like to ask the Minister why he agreed to this kind of intrusive, invasive survey that really smacks of Big Brother.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: The survey is one that was developed in cooperation among officials from the Bureau of Statistics, officials from the federal government and officials from our department. The questions are very similar to those being asked across Canada in similar questionnaires. I understand the Member's concern. I am quite prepared to arrange to have her briefed by my officials about the specifics in the questionnaire, if that is what she wishes. It is important that we continue to do these surveys so that we can understand what the trends are, and how successful our programs are into the future. I think -
Speaker: Order. Would the Member please conclude his answer.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I think that this questionnaire and this survey are highly defensible.
Question re: Health survey
Mrs. Firth: I was going to ask another question, originally, but I have to follow up with the Minister regarding this health survey.
I do not need a briefing, because I am very familiar with the questions that were asked. They were very personal health care questions. They include such questions as what kind of house do you live in; do you have a toilet; have you received help from the health care system; do you smoke; do you drink; what is your physical activity; do you ever have pain; do you have discomfort; are you incapacitated; what is your mental health like - this is the self-esteem question; do you go to church, and how many times - I do not know how that is relevant to an individual's health - do you get advice on personal decisions from your friends; how many times have you used the health care system; can they track your medical activity.
Speaker: Order. Would the Member please ask the question.
Mrs. Firth: Because the Minister supports this initiative, I would like to ask him how these kinds of intrusive questions are going to help deliver better quality health care to Yukoners.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: If we want to get a picture of the health status of Yukon citizens at a given point in time, we are going to have to ask questions about their health and about their health care. By definition, such questions are going to be highly personal. They are going to be inquiring about highly private matters. People do not have to answer the questions.
Mrs. Firth: The Minister says that people do not have to answer these questions. That was another complaint from individuals who were called. When you are called, you have two options. You can say, "Phone me back another time when I have time to answer the questions." And that is if they extend you the courtesy of telling you how long the questioning will take. The other threat is, "If you do not participate in the survey, we will have the supervisor call you". The supervisor then calls and says, "Why are you not prepared to participate in this survey?" I fail to see how any of this is going to increase and promote the quality.-
Speaker: Order. Would the Member please ask the question.
Mrs. Firth: I want the Minister to explain that. He has not yet been able to do that today.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I explained it, but at least one Member opposite did not understand the rationale behind the health survey. I know it was highly supported by the NDP caucus and the critic for Health. In fact, he quoted, at some length, from the results of the major survey and analysis that was done a couple of years ago.
The issue of great concern to all Canadians is that we continue to provide the best possible health programs to the citizens of the country. One way of doing this is by getting a fix on the health of people in each region of Canada, the kind of health facilities and programs they need, the kind of health promotion that makes sense, and what the results are, over time.
Mrs. Firth: I can understand related questions about drugs and alcohol to try to get some idea for designing programs, but we have been through all of that. This is a whole new ball game, where they ask you how many times you went to church, if they could have the names of your friends and direct access to your medical files. Just the fact that you have medical files here gives the Department of Health and Social Services some information with which to work.
Will the Minister at least stand up today and say that, perhaps, some of these questions were inappropriate, that he shares the concerns of some Yukoners and will look into it, and not have this kind of intrusive survey conducted in the Yukon again?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I am just a country boy, so let me try to get this straight. The Member is saying that, on the one hand, in her view, it is okay for people to phone others in the Yukon and ask if they use alcohol or drugs, how often and how much, and whether they are addicted to those chemicals but, on the other hand, it is unacceptable if people are asked about other aspects of their health. Is that what the Member is asking me?
Question re: Greenhouse gases
Mr. Cable: I have some questions for the Minister of Renewable Resources, with his environment Minister hat on. I have gone over the press releases issued by the Canadian Council of the Ministers of the Environment on meetings the ministers have had over the last couple of years - both the present Minister of Renewable Resources and his predecessor. It appears that the control of greenhouse gases, and the international protocols relating to these gases, have been recurring themes at these meetings as subjects dealt with by these ministers.
Will the Minister of Renewable Resources, as the new chair of the Canadian Council of
Ministers of the Environment, be putting the subject of greenhouse gases on the agenda for
the next meeting in Haines Junction in May?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: There is a committee of deputy ministers and other staff members who are reviewing the whole area of CO2. I expect that we will be putting that on the agenda for the Haines Junction meeting.
Mr. Cable: One of the communiqués put out by the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment related to the meeting in June of this year and referred to issues concerning air. The communiqué stated, "The council of Ministers reaffirmed its commitment to stabilize greenhouse gas emissions by the year 2000 and to develop sustainable options to achieve further progress in the reduction of emissions by the year 2005." I believe that commitment relates to an international protocol signed by a representative of the federal government.
Has the Minister asked his staff to review the proposed Division Mountain coal generating station, with a view to determine whether or not the construction and operation of this station would breach the spirit of the international convention?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Yes, I have.
Mr. Cable: Well, do not hold us in suspense, what did the Minister's officials tell him?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The whole question about CO2 for the thermal use of coal for hydro production is dependent upon the type of coal. My understanding, from the preliminary information we have received, is that the Division Mountain coal generating station has very low sulphur levels, and hydro generation from that station would be less than diesel fuel.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Fisher: In addition, if the emissions-
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Thank you.
Question re: Watson Lake transition home
Ms. Commodore: My question is for the Minister responsible for Health and Social Services in regard to the Watson Lake transition home.
The Minister announced last week that his officials were travelling to Watson Lake to meet with stakeholders of the transition home and, according to an announcement on CBC radio this morning, those meetings will now take place after the new year.
Could the Minister tell us with whom his officials will be meeting - other than the
Help and Hope for Families Society? Are his officials going to be meeting with Liard First
Nations and other groups in the area who are concerned about the fate of the transition
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I hope there will be a meeting with as many stakeholders as possible while they are down there.
Ms. Commodore: There is some suggestion by the people in Watson Lake that the Minister is proposing to downgrade services for battered women in that area. According to CHON-FM, that appears to be what the Minister is saying. Can I ask the Minister if that is the message that his officials are taking to the stakeholders? Are they going to be proposing that they use a former group home and that all of those arrangements can be met prior to them running out of funding?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I do not know how I can say it any more clearly, or simply, than I have. We are committed to providing a service for battered women in Watson Lake. It has to be effective and it has to be efficient. We are looking at options to see how that service will be delivered.
Ms. Commodore: We listen to the Minister responsible for tourism talking about millions of dollars going into tourism, without a thought or any consultation, and here we are going through all of this nonsense for $15,000. The Minister has put a price on the heads of battered women in Watson Lake, and I would like to ask him what he and his officials are proposing as a reasonable per diem for the battered women who are seeking help in that shelter.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I really do not know where the Member opposite is coming from.
I guess it is just a topic she does not want to let lie until discussions have been held
among the stakeholders and my department officials. My understanding, for example, is that
the Department of Indian Affairs is funding the O&M in the Carmacks shelter and they
will not pay more than $120 per day per person using the facility.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed.
Notice of Government Private Members' Business
Hon. Mr. Phillips: Pursuant to Standing Order 14.2(7), I would like to identify the items standing in the name of the government private Members to be called on Wednesday, December 14, 1994. They are Motion No. 24, standing in the name of the Member for Vuntut Gwitchin, and Motion No. 23, standing in the name of the Member for Vuntut Gwitchin.
Speaker: We will now proceed with Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I move that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Government House Leader that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Motion agreed to
Speaker leaves the Chair
COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. Is it the wish of the Committee to take a brief recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: We will take a brief recess.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. We are dealing with Bill
No. 83, An Act to Amend the Business Corporations Act. Is there further general
Bill No. 83 - An Act to Amend the Business Corporations Act
Hon. Mr. Phillips: Some of the Members asked specific questions about this bill, and I would like to go through some of the questions that were asked, and, I hope, the answers will be adequate.
Mrs. Firth asked how long it would take to eliminate the 200 files. I am told it is going to take about 120 days, about a month of preparation time, a month of closing-of-file time, and it will save about four feet of filing space in the government building. As well, money-wise, processing of the corporations to be dissolved is a five-month process, and processing the 200 files is in addition to the normal processing for other corporations. The total time-saving may be two weeks per year for the corporate clerk. How much money will we save if we do that? Notice by certified mail is sent out to the corporations' directors annually. If each corporation is assumed to have two directors, this means three mailings per file per year. Certified mail costs $3.20 per letter, for a total of $9.60 per corporate file per year, and the total cost saving is approximately $2,000 per year.
I hope that answers some of the questions for the Members opposite.
Chair: Is there any general debate?
On Clause 1
Clause 1 agreed to
On Clause 2
Clause 2 agreed to
On Clause 3
Clause 3 agreed to
On Clause 4
Clause 4 agreed to
On Cause 5
Clause 5 agreed to
Title agreed to
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I move that you report Bill No. 83 without amendment.
Motion agreed to
Bill No. 43: - Electronic Registration (Department of Justice Statutes) Act
Chair: Is there any general debate?
Ms. Moorcroft: In his opening remarks, the Minister stated that the intent of this act was to permit electronic filing under various acts that are administered by Justice. Could the Minister provide us with a list of the various acts, so we would know to which acts electronic registration would apply.
Also in his opening remarks, the Minister mentioned regulations under this act. Will the act be proclaimed before or after regulations are drawn up? Considering some of the remarks some Ministers have made about computers, it is surprising that we are entering the electronic age.
However, we would like to know what policies the government has developed regarding the transmission of electronic information. The registering of business corporations is only a beginning. Has the government established policies about what is and is not appropriate information for transmission over the electronic highway?
I would also like to raise the issue of training. If the format of filing information with the Department of Justice will be implemented upon the passage of this bill, are all pertinent staff being trained to ensure they can use this system immediately?
There are some important concerns about the security of electronic information. Hackers can alter data in business computer systems. We would like to know how security can be ensured when there is public access to this information. How foolproof will the authorization system be with regard to those who may file or alter data? What backup systems are being proposed for this information?
I would also like to raise the issue of the authenticity of information being filed. They have covered how the electronic systems recognize certified documents. What guidelines will be used to determine an original document? How will alterations to information be recorded and monitored, particularly when documents are filed directly online? How long will information be kept, and how will the information be stored for archival purposes if there is no paper copy? Those are the general questions we had. There were some specific questions on some of the clauses contained in the bill. I will go through those now so that the Minister can have some time to respond to those questions, in the event he does not already have them.
In clause 4, it reads that information filed with the Department of Justice, or with an agency, board or commission of the department may be in such electronic format as may be prescribed by regulations under a designated act. What are the various types of information filed by the Department of Justice in its agencies, boards and commissions? That is a far-reaching statement and it implies that it is possible that any kind of information that is filed by Justice may be stored in an electronic format.
There is a lot of sensitive and confidential information gathered through the Department of Justice.
In his second reading speech, the Minister said that information kept in the electronic data base format will be available to the public - to clients. How will confidential matters be kept secured?
Clauses 2, 3 and 4 refer to filing the information by means of some electronic format such as a computer disc. The Minister stated in his second reading speech that a person can come in off the street with the pertinent information on their personal disc, drop it off with the registrar and the data will be loaded into the database. There is a concern about how the government's computer system will then be protected from viruses.
Current government policy is that nothing but government discs should be used. The Government Services' publication, Tips for Computer Users, page 61, states that one should not use discs or PCs if there is any suspicion of it possibly having a virus infection. I would like to know how that is being dealt with.
Clause 5(1), (2) and (3) refer to filing by electronic transmission. One problem that
has been mentioned to me is that our power sources in the territory can fluctuate and
cause blips in electronic transmissions. How can accurate transmission of data be assured?
Since this is legal information, we must ensure accuracy. I would like the Minister to
respond to those concerns. I believe some of them have been raised by other Members.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: Several of those questions were technical in nature. I believe there is an official here, whom I am going to ask to come down, if the House permits, to assist with some of the technical advice. I do have the answers to some questions from other Members that, I think, relate to what the Member has just asked.
It would have been better if the Member had given me notice of the technical questions. I could have had this type of written response for her at this time. It may take a little more time to get some of those responses.
Mrs. Firth wanted to know how this system was going to be different from other systems, other than the technical change. The answer is that there will be no difference in the registration or filing system as a result of this act. For example, if the Societies Act is designated as appropriate for electronic filing, the information to be filed will remain as set out in the Societies Act, but it will be filed by electronic means.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Phillips: The Societies Act. For example, it means that rather than someone having to come over with a paper, or mail something over on paper, they can come over with a disc and use a disc to file the information.
Mrs. Firth also wanted to know if there was going to be any change in the kind of information or if there would be any further information gathered on individuals. No, there will be no change as a result of the act. It only affects the filing and storage of the information. The kind and amount of information gathered pursuant to any act would be governed by the act in question. In the example I used above, the amendment to the Societies Act would be needed before any additional information is gathered.
If we use the corporate affairs branch as an example, all information filed under the various acts they administer is public information. That will not change. It may be available more quickly and easily, but it will be the same information.
Mrs. Firth also asked about some definitions in the act: electronic format, electronic database, electronic data storage information filing system and direct electronic transmission. These are all New Age computer terms, and the Electronic Registration (Department of Justice Statutes) Act is enabling legislation to permit electronic filing under a designated act. Electronic filing under a designated act will detail the regulations of that act; therefore, definitions are not required under the Electronic Registration (Department of Justice Statutes) Filing Act and will be detailed in the regulations in the designated act.
For the Members' information, electronic format means the information on a medium, usually a disc, which is written by a computer and can be read by a computer. Electronic database means information selected from electronic data storage. For example, we now keep lists of active incorporations that we retrieve from our paper data storage system. In the future, we may use the electronic system to generate these lists. Electronic data storage means an electronic method of storing information. The corporate affairs registry that we are developing will be an electronic data storage system and will be a means of storing and retrieving information electronically. We now use a paper data storage system. Information filing system is a broad term that encompasses the entire system. Direct electronic transmission means direct communication between two computers through a dial-up modem using the telephone lines through a direct hookup.
This does not mean a fax - faxes are paper.
Another question that was asked about the Personal Property Security Act was about the definition of an electronic transmission system database. The phrase used is, "by electronic transmission to the registration systems database". This means it is done by direct communication from a computer from, for example, a bank, to a computer at the corporate registry.
The Member also wanted to know if the forms would have to be filled out electronically on a disc, or if someone would have to fill them out in electronic format - would information be provided this way or would they be given a template; how is the whole procedure going to work? The answer to that is that the corporate registry system is still in development, so we are not able to tell the Member at this time exactly what the process will be. However, before an act is designated, regulations will be developed outlining the specific process for the act. Whatever the process, it is in the best interests of the department to ensure that the process is user-friendly.
Mrs. Firth was asking about if information that is filed in electronic format may be used only by the person who is a member of a class of persons authorized to do so. She wanted to know what class of people have the authorization, and if they require new classifications and training in order to do this. The persons who are allowed to do this are clients of the department. There are clients at this time who do this job. If we were to use the corporate affairs branch as an example, the authorized persons would be employees of the bank or the law firms. They are likely to be the same people who do the paper filing. The reason for this is that they would be specified to maintain the integrity of the database. They would probably be issued an electronic signature. That will answer an earlier question asked by the Memeber. They are given a code to get into the computer, and they are the only ones who can access that program. This does not pertain to employees in the corporate affairs branch.
The Member for Mount Lorne asked a number of other questions. As I recall, one of them was about training. There will be a small training program to familiarize every one with the system and how it works. We will work with the bank, the law firms and the people in the department to make sure that everyone is up to speed about how the system works before it is initiated. I will have to speak to the officials about some of the other questions and get back to the Member with the information.
The Member was wondering about power fluctuations, and how accurate the system would be. I would guess that people will be checking all of this. The law firm or the bank can call up the file on their own and look at it to check the file for accuracy. In cases where documents have to be provided, they will be provided along with electronic registry.
Regarding the issue of confidentiality, any matter that is deemed to be kept confidential will be. We have to follow the rules set out in the individual acts. For example, if it says in the Societies Act that this is as much information as we can release, that is all that will be released. Everything that is public information will be public, and everything that is private information will be kept private.
Ms. Moorcroft: The Minister spoke about law firms and banks. He also used the corporate affairs registry and the Societies Act as an example of what this act will apply to. Since his official is present, I wondering if the Minister can answer the question about whether any acts other than the Societies Act would be affected by the Electronic Registration (Department of Justice Statutes) Act.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: Other acts that are being considered are the Business Corporations Act, the Partnership Act, the Personal Property Act, the Securities Act and the Cooperative Associations Act. I should tell the Member that, in British Columbia, I believe, all the acts that we are talking about are done by remote electronic registration.
In many cases, I believe that the banks, lawyers and people who do all this work are already geared up to do it. We are behind the times. We are trying to make it a bit more efficient for them - and us - to do the work. That is the purpose of bringing this act forward.
Ms. Moorcroft: I never thought I would hear the Minister acknowledge that he felt that they were behind the times over there.
The Minister referred to law firms and banks as being the users who would have an electronic signature, which would provide them access to the registry, and that that was the security measure they will use.
There are many small businesses that have moved into the computer age. They may very likely wish to register by electronic filing. It is also possible that they may inadvertently have a disc with viruses on it. Could the Minister respond to the question I posed about how the government computer system would be protected from viruses when there would be people coming in with their own disc, containing information to be filed in the Justice computer system? I do not think that an electronic signature would meet all the requirements for virus protection.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: It will only include the people who now file by way of paper. Those are the only ones who would be able to file electronically. As well, the consultants who will design the system will build in security against viruses that may show up in this kind of system.
Again, we are not breaking new ground. The types of systems we are talking about are quite common. The idea is to bring in someone who has built these systems in the past to look at what has and has not worked. They will implement a system that will prevent those kinds of things the Member is concerned about. We are concerned that viruses do not gain entry into the system as well. The consultants will build into the program the safeguards that will protect the system from that.
Ms. Moorcroft: There should be some consistency among departments, as well. As I
mentioned, there is a Department of Government Services publication on tips for computer
users that warns people not to use discs or personal computers that may have a virus.
Outside discs may contain a virus. I am wondering if the virus protection that they are
talking about instituting means that the caution about not using outside discs can be
disregarded. I am also wondering if the booklet of tips for computer users can be revised
to reflect the changes that would take place when this act is passed.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: We certainly will be working with Government Services in the implementation of this program and any guidelines that they have set out. The consultant will be working with Government Services and ourselves to design the program to prevent this kind of thing. I think viruses in computer programs are something that people are becoming very expert at, so I am sure we will be getting the kind of advice that will, I hope, protect us from them in the future.
Mrs. Firth: Could the Minister tell us what the total cost of implementing this system is going to be, both in equipment and whatever?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: The total cost, to my understanding, is $250,000.
Mrs. Firth: Is this coming from the Department of Justice budget? Is it considered a capital expenditure?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: It is in last year's budget. I could get back to the Member on that. I would think it would be a capital expenditure.
Mrs. Firth: I have just a couple of questions about personnel - not person years, I guess, but full-time equivalents. Is it going to require any additional personnel in the department, and is it going to require any additional consultants to train the individuals to participate in the program?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: There will be one consultant, who will design the program. I think the training can be done by our own people. It is fairly straightforward training. To my understanding, there may be one PY reduction by September of next year.
Mrs. Firth: Is the consultant's fee included in the $250,000?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: Yes.
Mrs. Firth: Perhaps we could either have that contract, or the name of the business or company that is doing it, and what the contract price is.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: It is Sorrento Systems, a local company, and I can bring the cost of the contract back for the Member.
Chair: Is there any further general debate?
Ms. Moorcroft: I would like to follow up on the unanswered questions. Could the Minister come back with an answer to what backup systems are being proposed for the electronic registrations, as well as with the policies being developed on what is appropriate information on confidential matters, and how they will be kept secure?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: It will be similar to other computer programs. At the end of
the day, there is a backup run, which is saved. Then, if there is a problem, the backup
system can be used.
Mrs. Firth: Is there a standard across-the-Yukon-government word processing program? Is that in place?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I do not know the answer to that question. That might be a question to direct to Government Services. I know that WordPerfect is the word processing program most government departments use. If there was a standard one, that might be it. There are a lot of changes happening in the computer world, so everyone is changing with the new programs that are coming out.
Mrs. Firth: I am inclined to think there is not. The next question is, is there a standard within Justice?
The concern is that the documents that provide the necessary information are not necessarily on the prescribed form. Will that be acceptable? If the government requires an appropriate form be filled in, will they be available on the computer? This will all require extra work, time and money.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: If businesses or organizations do not have the computer program, they can still file a paper form. This will not prevent them from doing that. This just allows them to file it electronically, if they wish. At the present time, almost every law firm and bank in town has the ability to do that, if we had the ability to accept it.
Mrs. Firth: I do not want to be picayune, but I think some people on the Opposition benches may question the wisdom of a $250,000 expenditure to accommodate the lawyers and banks, especially when you look at the debates we have been having here in the Legislature lately.
I always make these representations on behalf of the people I represent, and my concern is whether we are getting value for our money, whether this is a worthwhile project, and whether it is a wise expenditure of taxpayers' money.
When you start asking technical questions, it starts to sound a bit more complicated, which probably means it will end up costing more money.
I would like to have some of the questions about the finer details and technical
information answered. Does the Minister anticipate that $250,000 will completely pay for
the system? Do they anticipate having ongoing costs attached to this particular project?
If so, what are those costs going to be?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I am sure there will be ongoing costs, as there are with any program in the government. I think the Member has to realize that we are not talking about providing only a service to the lawyers and the banks. The lawyers and the banks are providing a service to the clients, to the people who are buying the houses, the people in the corporations, and individuals. This will speed up the whole process of filing and keeping track of information and the files will be readily available. It will save the lawyers, the banks and the government an enormous amount of filing and storage space if information is stored in this manner. Everyone else in the world is moving into to adopt technology.
It will also allow us to eventually include other acts, as I have mentioned. We are not talking about just about one or two acts. We are talking about several other acts in the Government of the Yukon and this will make it more efficient and effective for businesses and others to file various data.
Many other businesses are moving from the huge filing and storage bins and getting into computers now. If they have parent companies outside of the Yukon, or other companies with which they transmit data, they are using this method. They are no longer using the mail system for business correspondence and waiting a week or 10 days to get replies, it is there tomorrow. It is like the fax. The fax, for the Member opposite, has revolutionized that Member's ability to get press releases to the media by a touch of a button. It is the same type of thing that makes it easier for the various businesses and organizations and individuals to just do business.
Mrs. Firth: I appreciate all that information. I understand it is going to save lawyers - and whoever else uses the system - money. I suppose my concern is how that is going to translate into savings for Yukoners in general. I understand the Minister's comments about this being more efficient and effective but I have to make sure that it is worth my constituents' tax dollars.
Short of all the pros and cons, what are the ongoing costs going to be? What is the government projecting?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: System maintenance will be about $10,000 a year, but if we do not go ahead with something like this, it does create a bit of a problem because it means that many of these other businesses that have the technology to do it now are going to have to use old technology and file by way of paper. That creates additional work and storage for them.
Mrs. Firth: I recognize all the philosophical arguments. I am simply interested in the cost - the expenditure of money. It is going to have an ongoing maintenance cost of approximately $10,000 a year. How do we know that this is the most cost-efficient system? Did the government look at different systems? Did they put the whole program out to tender so that different consultants could bid on different systems? How do we know that we are getting the most cost-effective system?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: It is my understanding that there were some preliminary studies done to determine whether this system could be useful in the Yukon and whether or not it would work. The request for the studies was tendered and completed.
Mrs. Firth: After the department studied this, how did it decide which system to install and who would be installing it?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: It is my understanding this was put out for tender through the Department of Justice and Department of Government Services. These departments evaluated the bids received and chose a proponent to conduct the study.
Mrs. Firth: The Minister keeps referring to the study. I am talking about the contract. There was a study conducted about whether or not the government should move in this direction. How did the government decide which consultant was going to be the person to conduct this study? Was the request for a study put out for tender? How many people bid on the contract? Was this the lowest bid received? Was it ranked as the highest point bid? How was the final decision made?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I can bring the information back for the Member. I am informed that it went out for tender and that four proposals were received. However, I will get the information for the Member.
Chair: Is there further general debate? If not, we will proceed with clause-by-clause reading of the bill.
On Clause 1
Clause 1 agreed to
On Clause 2
Clause 2 agreed to
On Clause 3
Clause 3 agreed to
On Clause 4
Clause 4 agreed to
On Clause 5
Clause 5 agreed to
On Clause 6
Mrs. Firth: When will the regulations be ready?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: We hope to have the system up and running before March 31. Regulations will have to be completed before the system kicks in.
Mrs. Firth: Have they started working on the regulations yet? How detailed are the regulations going to be? Are there going to be a lot of regulations? Will they be one-page regulations? What is the plan?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: That is a difficult question to answer at the present time. I do not think there will be an awful lot of regulations, but that has to be determined by the consultant who will be working with the department in getting the system up and running.
Mrs. Firth: Are the department and the consultant going to be doing any consulting with the people who will be using the system about whether there are some appropriate moves that they should be making while they are establishing the system?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: My understanding is that there have already been some
consultations with the clients of the system and that they have been kept up to date, from
time to time, as to its progress. I have been involved all along, and they are encouraging
us to move with the system. The answer is yes, we have been discussing it all along with
Clause 6 agreed to
On Clause 7
Clause 7 agreed to
On Clause 8
Clause 8 agreed to
On Clause 9
Clause 9 agreed to
On Clause 10
Clause 10 agreed to
On Clause 11
Clause 11 agreed to
On Clause 12
Clause 12 agreed to
On Clause 13
Clause 13 agreed to
On Clause 14
Clause 14 agreed to
On Clause 15
Clause 15 agreed to
On Clause 16
Clause 16 agreed to
On Clause 17
Clause 17 agreed to
On Clause 18
Clause 18 agreed to
On Clause 19
Clause 19 agreed to
Title agreed to
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I move that you report Bill No. 43 out of Committee without amendment.
Motion agreed to
Chair: We are now dealing with Bill No. 61, An Act to Amend the Legal
Services Society Act.
Bill No. 61 - An Act to Amend the Legal Services Society Act
Chair: Is there any general debate?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: If I might, I would like to take a few minutes to go through some of the questions Members raised the other day. I hope to provide adequate answers.
Ms. Commodore was concerned about the flexibility in appointing members to the Legal Services Board and was concerned about the Minister making those appointments. Circumstances have changed, resulting in a number of vacancies on the existing board. The Attorney General of Canada is in the process of reviewing his approach in making such appointments. They have indicated their unwillingness, at this time, to appoint someone to the Legal Services Society until a common federal policy on the issue is established across Canada. That is not likely to be resolved in the immediate future. The Law Society is choosing, at this time, not to exercise its power to appoint members to the board, although they are not opposing individual lawyers who wish to sit on the board. They have a disagreement in principle with a new model that is being used to deliver legal aid and wanted to maintain the status quo.
In the interest of ensuring that the board is fully functional, we are proposing that more flexibility be built into the appointment process. I still plan to seek advice on appointments to the board from the Law Society and the Attorney General. To expand this consultation process, the act also identifies that I can consult with the Canadian Bar Association and the Council for Yukon Indians, as well as other appropriate organizations. Identifying these organizations in the act is a strong indication of the government's intention to consult as fully as possible and to ensure that the board is representative and fully functional.
Ultimately, if others do not want to sit on the board, it is the responsibility of the government to ensure a full complement of board members. So, if the Law Society itself does not want to sit on the board, we have to have some flexibility to be able to appoint others with legal backgrounds to the board.
The Member asked the question about what a non-performing board is. A non-performing board would be one that failed to manage the work of the society in accordance with the act. That would be determined by the act and whether they conform to the act.
Mr. Penikett asked the question about the use of the words "may" or "shall". One jurisdiction, British Columbia, has used the expression "must" as a substitution for "shall". This House has not expressed the need to change that at this time, but that is just for the Member's information.
Mrs. Firth asked what the cost savings would be and how it would be more efficient. The cost savings arise from using the delivery model, which relies on staff lawyers and lawyers hired on a contract basis. In the last fiscal year, the actual expenditures for legal aid were $1,240,000. This year, the society is on budget and expects to spend no more than $926,000. The new model we are using was agreed to by the board of the Legal Services Society, which has exclusive authority over the delivery of legal aid. This is a unique model developed in the Yukon by Yukoners to meet our needs and to respond to the cutbacks by the federal government. The society was given over one year's notice of pending cuts to the board. Most provinces are following a mixed-model approach to delivering legal aid.
Under the new model, all the legal aid work was put out to tender to the private bar through six contracts, and maximum amounts that could be charged were identified. Since only a few firms chose to accept these contracts, staff lawyers were hired to fill the gap. If there is a potential conflict of interest for the lawyers delivering legal aid, special contracts are let to deal with this.
Most outstanding work from the prior fiscal year is being dealt with in the 1994-95 fiscal year. This is expected to result in an even lower budget for next year.
The Member for Riverdale South asked about the relationship between the Law Society and legal aid. She asked what the Minister had done to make these relations more harmonious. The Law Society disagrees with the new model, and has withdrawn from participating on the board; however, the society is allowing its members to decide, on an individual basis, if they want to participate in the delivery of legal aid.
The Law Society is aware of the proposed amendments, and understands the government's reasons for moving to ensure that the board has a full membership. They have raised no objections to this act.
The Member for Riverdale South also asked if we would give her some indication of the cost of legal aid - whether or not it is going up or down, and whether or not changing the makeup of the board is going to have any bearing on the general costs of legal aid. The cost of delivering legal aid, as I mentioned, is going down. In order to meet the federal budget reductions and, even before the new model of delivery was put into place in April 1994, the Legal Services Board decided to implement a gradual narrowing and focusing of the legal aid services being provided.
There are two criteria for receiving legal aid: a person's financial means and the type of charge he or she faces. In November 1993, a change was made to cancel legal aid for summary or minor convictions and hybrid offenses, where the Crown had elected to proceed summarily, but there is no reasonable likelihood of jail. Also included were second or third impaired driving charges, where the Crown is proceeding summarily, even though a jail term is mandatory.
The Member for Riverdale South also asked questions about staggering the board members. Currently, the board members are staggered, as not all members are appointed at the same time. This ensures continuity, and the amendments will not change this.
Those are my preliminary comments. I would be more than happy to take a few comments
from the floor. I would like to ask one of my officials to come down to the House, with
Members' permission, to answer questions of a more technical nature.
Ms. Commodore: The Minister has given us a lot of information regarding the difficulties he and his department are facing with respect to the manner in which legal aid is being administered. I can understand the problems of cost they are facing, as I was very aware of them when I was the Minister. I still have some concerns with regard to the manner in which the Minister will be appointing these people. There appears to be a lot of dissension among people who are not pleased with what is happening. I do not know if there is a better way to deliver legal aid. That remains to be seen. If you are going to talk about cutting back because expenses are too high, you have to look at the way in which you are going to deliver those services.
The Minister talked about the Law Society and the Attorney General of Canada not wanting to participate on this board, and he gave the reasons for that. In this act, the Minister indicated that he may solicit recommendations for appointments to the board. However, once these people are appointed, and if they represent an organization, they are asked not to participate in any discussions involving those organizations or make representations on behalf of those organizations. To me, that sounds pretty weak. It says that we want a board, but we do not want members to give any advice with regard to the problems or concerns individual board members may have, or may have been given to them by the people in the organizations they represent.
In section 2(3), it mentions that any person appointed to the board by the Minister, as the result of consultation with, or recommendations from, an organization listed in (2) shall act solely in the best interests of the society and not in any way as a representative of the organization. That says we want the organization involved, but we do not want to hear about the concerns they have, which does not make a lot of sense to me.
If the Minister is going to be seeking seven board members, and does not have any representation from the Law Society or the Attorney General, where else is he going to seek applications? I would not want to sit on a board where I was, supposedly, representing someone, yet not able to speak on behalf of the group I represent.
The Minister is shaking his head, and he is probably getting advice from his aide.
Could the Minister tell me what that section is actually saying? That is what it appears
to be saying.
Those are just a couple of questions I have.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: Having an individual sit on the board because of their personal legal background does not mean that the individual cannot express the views of the Law Society, or of anyone else. The idea is that the individuals who sit on the board will work in the best interests of the board and not bring a specific agenda to the table. They will work in the best interests of the board to provide legal aid to Yukoners. That is the purpose of it. I do not think that it is a problem. It is not a problem that has been identified by the Law Society as something to be concerned about. They have said that lawyers should feel free to sit on the board if they wish to do so. Knowing many of the lawyers in this town as I do, I feel that they will not hesitate to bring forward issues that concern them and the Law Society. What we would like to do is have them approach the society with its bests interests at heart. That is all we are asking. I do not think that it is a big deal or that it is really complicated. I do not think we will have a problem putting some lawyers on the board, and I think they will be free to express whatever they want. What we are trying to say here is that they will act in the best interests of the society.
Ms. Commodore: I have no argument with individuals sitting on the board and acting in the best interests of the board. I cannot see any problem with that at all. However, if these groups refuse to be represented on that committee, he will have to look elsewhere. If he is looking at the Council for Yukon Indians or the Status of Women Council, he will see that these people may have concerns about the manner in which service is being delivered. They have some questions regarding that.
They should be able to bring those concerns to the Minister on behalf of the groups they represent. However, according to this document, they would not act as a representative of the organization. If that is what they are asking, why does it say here that they would seek recommendations from, or consult with, those groups, if they are not allowed to bring any concerns that they might have to the board? This does not make much sense to me. If the Minister has to seek recommendations from other organizations not listed here, he is going to have to explain the terms of reference to them. He will have to say, "Yes, you can sit on the board, but you cannot represent any organization." That is exactly what is said in this section.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I do not want to get into repeating myself. What we are trying to prevent is people coming to the board strictly as advocates for an organization. We want them to come to the board to work in the best interests of the association. When we ask the organizations for names, they may or may not submit them. We already know that there are individuals out there - lawyers - who would be willing to sit on such a board and participate, because of their concern about legal aid and the fair and reasonable delivery of legal aid in the territory. This is just to ensure that they do not come to the board strictly as an advocate of an organization. They must come with the best interests of the society and the best interests of the people of the Yukon in order to deliver an adequate legal aid system. That is all that we are asking them to do. I do not think this is a big problem.
Ms. Commodore: I really think it is a big problem. The Minister is saying, we want you to participate on this board, but we do not want you to criticize us. That is easy, if it works that way.
For instance, if I were not an MLA, and someone from CYI asked me to be their representative on this board, but not to have any criticisms about the manner in which services are being delivered, it would not make any sense to me.
It sounds to me like the Minister is asking for token representation on this board. I do not think this is what Yukoners want. I know of many situations where Ministers are looking to place people whom they can trust on boards and with whom they do not have any problems. If you have people you can trust on boards, that is good. However, the government wants "yes" people on boards, and they want token representation, which is exactly what it looks like.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: It is not token representation at all. The individuals involved can come to the board with criticisms and issues that are of concern to their group. We only ask that they bring their concerns to the board in the best interests of the society and the Yukon, to provide better legal aid for people. We do not want people to come with a predetermined agenda, but to deliver fair and equitable legal aid to Yukoners as a member of a legal society or group. That is all we are asking. We are not limiting representatives in any way, shape or form. They can bring any criticism to the table. We are only asking that they bring those criticisms to the table with the best interests of the society at heart - to improve legal aid.
Ms. Commodore: Unfortunately, this is the direction the government is taking in regard to many of the boards that are being formed. The government is asking for direction from groups regarding participation on boards, but they object to people who are being recommended for boards of this government. They are not going to get away with it.
I really think this Minister had better take a closer look at what it is he is doing here. There are other people who care about the same things that he does, and who care about this program. If he wants "yes" men, he can get them from his own backyard. However, there are also people who deeply care about the services, and who can offer some advice on program improvement.
This government is taking off in another direction with regard to the appointment of board members. I am very disturbed about this, and so is the public.
I hope that the Minister will be more forthright in his dealings with these people. For instance, if I were from the Skookum Jim Friendship Centre, and the Minister approached me to sit on a board, I would have to ask the Minister what he expected of me. The Minister would say he wants me to act in the best interests of this society, which is fine, but he would also say to me that he would not want me to bring any criticisms along.
That is exactly what he is doing. He and his official can sit there and smirk all they want, but that is exactly what I see he is doing with this board, as well as with other government boards. We are hearing opposition from people regarding the manner in which they are operating. If he wants "yes" people, and token people, then that is exactly what he is going to get on this board.
Ms. Moorcroft: I am really dismayed by what I am hearing this afternoon. The record will show that the Minister said this government is taking steps to prevent people from being advocates on the Legal Services Society Board.
I would like to tell the Minister that, often, the best interests of society are served by having advocates on boards, and by having representatives from advocacy groups on boards such as the Legal Services Society Board.
The government would like to repeal the clause allowing the society to have a board of directors, with three people nominated by the Law Society, one person nominated by the Attorney General of Canada, and four people nominated by the Minister, at least three of whom shall not be lawyers. The Minister and this government would like to replace that with a seven-member board to be appointed by the Minister. The Minister may consult with, and solicit recommendations from, the Law Society, the Attorney General of Canada, the Canadian Bar Association and the Council for Yukon Indians, but it does not say that, when the Minister does consult, he has to listen to what is said. Many people are approaching us with serious concerns about the fact that this government may consult, but do not.
The Minister fails to recognize that it would be beneficial to the work of the Legal Services Society Board to have representatives from advocacy organizations, such as the Yukon Indian Women's Association, such as the Yukon Status of Women Council, and many other advocacy organizations. We are very disturbed by this amendment, which gives the Minister a lot more discretionary power. We are also very concerned with this Minister's statements about wanting to make sure that no advocates are serving on the Legal Services Society Board.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I guess there is just a difference in philosophy here. I think, on a board such as this, it would be better if we were not trying to pit advocacy group against advocacy group, and if they came to the board with no predisposed agenda and with the best interests of the Legal Services Society and of Yukoners in mind. I will tell the Member opposite that there will not be a bunch of "yes" men on the board, as Ms. Commodore has said. There will be qualified men and women on that board, making their own decisions and, we hope, representing the best interests of all Yukoners and, specifically, the board.
It is just a difference of opinion. They feel it should be advocacy group against
advocacy group. I think it should be made up of qualified Yukoners who will serve in the
best interests of the Yukon as a whole, not necessarily from their groups. They can bring
all the criticisms from their groups to the board table as they want. All we are
suggesting here is that they bring them to the board table in the best interests of the
society, and work out their concerns and issues at the table, as members of the society
working together. That is all we are suggesting.
Ms. Moorcroft: This Minister is just getting worse and worse with what he is saying. He is talking about a predisposed agenda of advocacy groups. Well, you are damned right that there is a predisposed agenda for advocacy groups, and there is a predisposed agenda toward equality for women among several advocacy groups. This is the Minister who fails to recognize that violence against women is a political issue.
I think that maybe this Minister should become a little more familiar with what happens in courtrooms in the Yukon and courtrooms in Canada every day. I think the Minister should sit in maintenance enforcement court for an afternoon, as I have done. I think the Minister should sit in a court of law and listen to what happens when people are charged with sexual assault and listen to what victims have to deal with when they are put on trial again in the legal system.
I believe there should be members of advocacy groups on the Legal Services Society Board. I think that this amendment, which says, "Any person appointed to the board by the Minister shall act solely in the best interests of the society and not in any way as a representative of the organization" that recommended they be put there, is just despicable. I do not think, no matter what we say, that the Minister will get it, but I think it is important to recognize that, within the legal system - and I had somebody tell me last month in Ross River that the problem in the Yukon is that we do not have a justice system, we have a legal system -
that this Minister is coming at this completely backwards.
Here he is, bringing forward an amendment to have the Minister make the appointments, and making the Minister no longer obliged to consult. He may consult with and ignore, or he may choose not to consult with various groups that should have representation on this board. Is the Minister prepared to put forth some solid reasons for not having advocates on the Legal Services Society Board? Is the Minister prepared to stand here and explain to the House and to the Yukon public what offence he sees in a predisposed agenda? That is what he said - the predisposed agenda of advocacy groups. What is the problem is he talking about?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: First of all, as I said before, it is just a difference of opinion between the Member opposite and this side of the House. I think that there should be qualified people, both men and women, sitting on this board. Those people do not necessarily have to represent their particular group at the board table. I think they should sit there as individuals in the best interests of the society. The other issue is that, if we had to take individuals strictly from those groups, some of those groups have refused to nominate anyone to sit on the board, specifically the Law Society. Does that mean that there can be no one else appointed to the board if the Law Society refuses?
I think that what we are talking about here is a better approach. What we are talking about are the same individuals, in many cases, individuals who want to make a contribution to improve the legal aid system in the territory and work in the best interests of the society. I think that the way the bill is written is adequate and I am going to stand by that.
Ms. Moorcroft: I asked the Minister to explain himself and I do not believe that he has. The Minister said he does not believe that the government should support advocates on the Legal Services Society Board. When the Minister said that the government is taking steps to prevent people from being advocates on the Legal Services Society Board because he feels that it is not in the best interest of society to have people with a predisposed agenda on the Legal Services Society Board, what did he mean? What kind of predisposed agenda is a problem for him? What advocacy groups is he going to prevent being on the Legal Services Society Board?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: As I said earlier, we are not preventing anyone from sitting on the Legal Services Society Board.
Ms. Moorcroft: Why do I not try asking the Minister the question this way. Which advocates are against the public interests?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: What we would like are individuals with a broad perspective sitting on the board and their number-one interest being the best interest of the Legal Services Society and legal aid service in the territory. That is why we would like them to sit on the board. There will be lawyers on the board. There will possibly be representatives from the Status of Women Council, First Nations people, and others as well. They will be doing it in the best interests of the people of the Yukon and the Legal Services Society.
Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, the record will show that the Minister has refused to answer the question. He has stated that the government has taken steps to prevent people from being advocates on the Legal Services Society Board. He has refused to answer which advocates are against the public interest. I think the public will draw their own conclusions from the actions of this government.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: Let me give an example of what could create a problem for an advocacy group. Right now, the Law Society does not approve of the new model. The Law Society is not happy with the new model. Their members could come with their agenda to the board. Their member on the board could change the model or change the way legal services are now delivered. What we are saying is that we would like people to come to the board and look at the new model, be objective, and bring their criticism to the board in order to improve the system. We want them to come in the best interests of the board. That is what we are asking them to do.
Ms. Commodore: The Minister really is a big disappointment in this. He tells this House, through these amendments, that he wants a board he can control. He is not seeking any input from them even though they may be there on behalf of an organization. I think whom he will appoint remains to be seen. We will be looking at this very carefully.
He says the same thing that the Government Leader does in that we will not be seriously
looking at any kind of representation. He wants qualified people. Of course he wants
qualified people and I would agree with that. Our problem is in regard to how they
determine who is qualified and who is not. I think those qualifications may be determined
by their political stripe.
If he has a problem with the Law Society of the Yukon and the Attorney General's department, then I think that he has a bigger problem on his hands in trying to deal with the matter in which this service is being delivered, and he should put some kind of effort into meeting with them.
They do not like what he is doing, but there is a problem and it should be resolved.
I imagine that time will tell. I hope that the people who agree to sit on this board know that they are there as token representatives and as "yes" people. The Minister can stand behind this weak piece of legislation and the amendment that allows him to control whatever happens on that board. He is not seeking advocacy groups or representation from organizations. This is just a "yes" board.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: There is no intent on my part to control the board. They will not be token people. They will be men and women who should not be termed "token people" by the side opposite, who criticize others for using those words. They are people who have the background or knowledge in law and are concerned about law in the territory. They will be working in the best interests of all Yukoners.
The board will also be - as it should be - independent and have exclusive jurisdiction over legal aid in the territory. I will not be controlling the board.
As a former Minister of Justice, the Member knows how the previous board operated. I am sure that she did not interfere in the day-to-day business of the board. That is not what is going to happen in this situation, either. It is not at all the intent.
The Member spoke about the problems with the Law Society and the Attorney General. The problem with the Law Society is that they do not accept this model. However, individual lawyers are willing to sit on the new board. Individual lawyers do support the new model. The Attorney General's office, as I told the Member earlier, is looking at what is happening across the country - that is why it is not sitting on the board.
I resent the Member's statement about token people on boards. I do not think that
anyone we appoint to boards in the territory, or anyone who accepts a nomination to a
board, should be described as a token individual.
Mr. Cable: I have listened with some interest to the debate. I wonder if the Minister could indicate what he means by that clause. Is he purporting to restrict the members of the board from bringing forward a corporate agenda - for example, the lawyer is making a pitch for higher fees - or whether he is trying to prevent a philosophical agenda that is shared by the members of the group? Is it simply the former, or is it both, that he is purporting to stop?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: They can bring any agenda they wish to the board table. As I pointed out before, there would be a problem appointing someone from the Law Society because they would not accept us. If they do not want to be part of the model, they would not give us names to start with, but if they did, they could come to the table with an agenda of dismantling the model. That is not what we want. We want people to come to the table with an agenda to improve the model and deliver adequate legal aid service to Yukoners. We want them to come with concern for the Law Society and deal with how the model is working, and not come to dismantle the whole process, but to make it work better. I do not think it is a major constraint for them to ask them to sit as lawyers and represent the best interests of society.
Mr. Cable: Just to be clear, I assume, from what the Minister just said, that he would not have any problem with lawyers advancing the case of the British jurisprudence system, or women sitting on the board, who are members of the Status of Women, advancing some female-equity cause. Is that accurate, or is he saying that they are not to sit on this board and advance a corporate agenda, an organizational agenda, as opposed to these philosophical agendas of which I have just spoken?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: People can share any philosophical views they want with the board. Again, we are only concerned about the corporate agenda; however, they can bring forward philosophical views and participate fully as board members.
Chair: Is there further general debate? If not, we will proceed with clause-by-clause reading of the bill.
On Clause 1
Clause 1 agreed to
On Clause 2
Clause 2 agreed to
On Clause 3
Clause 3 agreed to
On Clause 4
Clause 4 agreed to
On Clause 5
Clause 5 agreed to
On Clause 6
Clause 6 agreed to
Title agreed to
Hon. Mr. Phillips: Mr. Chair, I move that you report Bill No. 61 without amendment.
Motion agreed to
Chair: Is it the wish of the Members to take a brief recess at this time?
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order.
We are dealing with Bill No. 35, entitled An Act to Amend the Agricultural Products Act. Is there any general debate?
Bill No. 35 - An Act to Amend the Agricultural Products Act
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I would like to thank the Member for Faro for providing me with the information last night. Over the course of the evening, I had the opportunity to get some information together. I will try to respond to the specific issues that were raised by the Member for Faro as we go along. I do not have the answers in the exact order he asked the questions, but I think I have covered most of the issues.
I thought I would begin by addressing game farming, which we ended up discussing more than the Agricultural Products Act.
Game farming has existed in the Yukon since the late 1960s. With minor exceptions, it has developed and operated without a formal policy or enforceable regulations. It is a credit to Yukon game farmers that, under self-regulation, there have been no major incidents involving escape or disease transmission to wildlife populations. It is a further credit to the industry that they initiated the process of developing regulations as a means of protecting the public interest and to allay concerns about the impact of game farming on public lands and wildlife resources.
In 1991, the industry was referenced in the Yukon conservation strategy: "The wise development of game farming and fur farming in the Yukon supports the principles of the Yukon conservation strategy. Game farming can, for example, enhance depleted wildlife stocks and create employment. To encourage the wise development of these industries, the government will ..." - and this was their commitment - "... in the 1990s, develop new regulations for fur and game farming, ensure measures are in place to guard against disease and genetic contamination of wildlife, establish guidelines for fencing land to protect wildlife, regulate the location of game farms to reduce the negative impact on indigenous species in the area."
In 1987, a policy report was released for public comment, and this led to the development of an interim game-farming policy in 1989.
A discussion paper, entitled "Regulating the Yukon's Game Farming Industry," was provided to the Fish and Wildlife Management Board for its March 1992 meeting, and no comments were received from members at that time. The discussion paper was released to the public and distributed to First Nations communities on April 15, 1992, and was again given to the Yukon Fish and Wildlife Management Board. In addition, there was radio and print advertising to announce the availability of the paper and to advise the public about where they could obtain copies. On April 16, 1992, the board provided copies of its preliminary game farming subcommittee report in a letter to the former Minister, with recommendations. On July 8, department officials met with the Yukon Fish and Wildlife Management Board co-chairperson, Lorrina Mitchell, to discuss the public consultation process and to clarify the board's request for an independent review and additional consultation with First Nations. As a result, a facilitator was contracted, and expert witnesses were brought in for the July 29, 1992, workshop. All First Nations were invited by letter and telephone to attend the July 29 workshop. The Council for Yukon Indians was represented by Albert James, and the Yukon Indian Development Corporation was represented by Paul Goldsmith.
Additional comments were provided by YIDC chair, Mark Wedge, by telephone. All participants received summaries of that workshop.
A follow-up workshop was held on December 15 to conclude the discussions of game farming regulation issues. The Fish and Wildlife Management Board, as well as YIDC were in attendance.
The revised policy and regulation proposal were released on April 1, 1993, for review. The April 30 deadline was extended to May 31, and extensive advertising and distribution was done. Of the 23 respondents, six were opposed to game farming.
In the spring of 1993, all First Nations were contacted for comment. Meetings were held with the Kluane Tribal Council on April 26, the CYI on April 28 and the Mayo Renewable Resource Council on May 4, and there was a meeting in Faro on May 13.
The primary concern of CYI at that time was the definition of the Whitehorse licensing area. The remaining concerns raised by the Fish and Wildlife Management Board were incorporated into the policy and regulations proposal prior to consideration by Cabinet. Cabinet approved the policy in March 1994, and authorized the department to seek further public input.
The Game Growers Association of the Yukon presented the Minister of the day, Mr. Webster, with a petition on November 14, 1991, containing over 400 names supporting the game farming regulations. Essentially, there was a very broad public consultation on the regulations, which then led to the amendments to the Agricultural Products Act.
One of the issues that the Member for Faro raised was Section 2(d), which makes
reference to any other animal named in the game farm regulations made under the Wildlife
This would essentially mean that, under the regulations, if the regulations were changed to add mule deer as game farm animals, this act would cover the selling of meat from those animals. As I indicated last night, I would have preferred to see a lot of animals named under the Agriculture Products Act, because it gives the department a better opportunity to regulate those animals than we currently have.
In the development of these amendments and of the game farming regulations, there has been a lot of discussion about the number of animals. The number has been as high as, I believe, six. Six were on the list and that number was reduced to a couple, and it went back up. It eventually ended up with musk ox, Rocky Mountain elk and wood bison, and then for the purposes of this act, any other species named in the game farm regulations.
The Member should realize that if one were to add another species - thin-horned sheep, mule deer or some other species to the game farming regulations - the Wildlife Act and the regulations requires a full public consultation - a 60-day review and the whole consultation process. If there were another species added then and it were passed and put into the game farming regulations, then it would mean that you would have to make another amendment to this act, which I would think would be an administrative, onerous task.
One of the other questions the Member had was regarding private occasional sales. The intention of including private occasional sales was because none of the game farmers currently want, or are interested in running, a wild game, or game farm animal, meat market. It was difficult to define how they could sell an animal to a friend of theirs, so the Justice people came up with the terminology, "private occasional sales".
The note I was just handed says, "When dealing with the sale of produce products at the farm gate, the wording "occasional sale" is most often used. This is because the sale takes place on an irregular basis, or at infrequent intervals". That was the reasoning behind the inclusion of that terminology.
I would like to make a couple of comments on the Fish and Wildlife Management Board's role in this. As the Member heard just a few minutes ago, the Fish and Wildlife Management Board has certainly been involved for a couple of years. I have a note that says, "In responding to the second reading speech, the Member for Faro raised the issue of the status of the Fish and Wildlife Management Board when they provided a response to the department regarding the proposed game farming regulations. More specifically, the Member for Faro referenced comments to the effect that the Fish and Wildlife Management Board was defunct, as of September 16, 1994, but that the government is relying on a letter dated October 12, 1994, as providing the board's position."
To summarize that, a co-chair of the board was identified, prior to the board becoming non-operational, for the purpose of providing feedback and continuity regarding the final stages of the game farming process. The co-chair wrote, on behalf of the board, on October 12, to provide some comments, based on their understanding of the position of the board, with respect to the regulation package.
We have a testimonial from a Mr. Woebeser, from the University of Saskatchewan, and I will quote from part of it here: "I believe the Yukon is in an enviable position in having a population of game farm animals that has been tested several times, over a number of years, and found to be free of serious disease. This is a highly desirable status and the regulations proposed appear to be adequate to maintain it. While the proposed regulations may slow the growth of the game farming industry somewhat, by controlling importation of breeding stock, I believe that it is much better to have an industry that grows somewhat slowly but remains disease free, than to risk the type of setbacks suffered by the industry in southern Canada through importation of diseased stock." In view of that information, I would welcome comments from the Members.
Mr. Harding: I have a lot of issues I want to discuss with the Minister in Committee on this bill. Given the introductory remarks by the Minister, it is difficult to know where to start. I suppose I should go right to the beginning.
It is important that we discuss the reason for this bill now, in the context of the game farming industry. As a person who has watched this policy develop in the Legislature, I found it frustrating to see the lack of involvement of the Legislature. If an order-in-council is adopted to expand the list of game farm animals, there is no requirement for that to come before the Legislature. We would be back into the same debate if 2(d) was not in the proposal. However, 2(d) is part of the proposal for this bill. Therefore, the requirement to debate the increased range of species in the regulations would be gone, as would be the requirement for the government to bring in amendments to the Agricultural Products Act.
I understand the comments from the Minister on the administrative concern he has. However, from a legislator's point of view, I find it very difficult to deal with the lack of legislative time given to the game farming policy. I do not often enjoy Question Period as a forum for discussing issues as complicated as the game farming industry. It becomes an are-you-for-it-or-against-it situation, and the issues are not that clear. There is a lot of talk in this industry by people who are outside the industry, and oppose it, and from people in the industry who are supporting their own private interests and saying they are doing a good job. I agree that some of them are. They work hard to take care of their animals, and it must be frustrating for them to have people question that.
They have to understand that this is a policy issue, and realize why the public has a
concern about the use of public wildlife - a public resource - in areas that affect the
While they may be doing a good job, there are significant policy issues that are important to consider in the context of the industry as a whole.
To wrap up the first part, I do not see another opportunity to discuss an expansion of the game farming list, other than the opportunity that we have right now. Once 2(d) is included, no bill will be required to expand the list and bring it before the legislature, because game farm regulations will then be done by order-in-council. That is my reason for discussing the broader issues at this time.
The first thing I want to do is get right into the specifics of the bill. I heard the Minister's consultation breakdown, and I will be responding to that shortly. There is no question in my mind that the point has been missed regarding the concerns being raised by a significant number of people out in the general population of the Yukon. I thank the Minister for his initial answers to these questions. However, in his explanation concerning the question I raised last night about what constitutes an occasional sale of meat, he said that it would be defined as something that is infrequent or irregular. In talking to people who are proponents of the game farming industry, I am given to understand that they are very interested in promoting a meat market for game farm animals. In fact, part of the reason for the abattoir was to enhance the industry's ability to market that game farm meat.
Some members of the game farming industry take great offence when you say that they are only in the breeding stock business. They take offence when the point is made that some people who get into the breeding stock business on the ground floor will make money, but if the market for meat is never enhanced, there will be no reason for other people to get involved in the industry, because the market will not expand. People cannot just sell breed stock to each other. Eventually, something has to happen to those animals. The issues surrounding meat are important, and it is important to know that those issues are being adequately dealt with by the government.
Can the Minister provide me with a better explanation of what he means by an occasional sale of game farm meat?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I agree with the Member opposite that, at some point in time, it is likely that there will be a meat industry for game farm animals. However, I do not see that happening right away, nor do the current operators. The reason for this is due to the fact that the animals are worth more as breeding stock than as meat.
As the Member knows, my property was part of the Yukon Game Farm. No animal on that farm has been killed for meat for over 20 years. There is no question that certain bulls from the game farming industry will have to be disposed of, in order to avoid inbreeding. So far, those bulls have been sold to other parts of the country.
I believe one game farmer in the Yukon does periodically kill an animal for his own consumption, and there is the possibility that a game farmer may want to sell an animal to a friend of theirs, or someone else. That is the reason we put this particular section in the act. There is no question, if this grows into a meat industry, that this section would have to be changed to include inspections and an abattoir.
Mr. Harding: At this point, then, the government is not allowing anything more than an occasional sale of game farm meat - is this correct?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: That is correct.
Could the Minister explain to me his reasoning for that policy?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: As I said, I believe that there is at least one game farmer who does use game farm animals himself, periodically, for his own family. There may well be an occasion when he, or some other game farmer, would want to sell an animal or some meat to someone else. The policy allows for them to do so, if they so choose.
Mr. Harding: If the government is indeed opposed to a policy of wide-scale game
farm animal meat sales, how would it be enforced - if this is the proper word - the idea
that only occasional sales should take place? What are the limits to these occasional
Hon. Mr. Fisher: There are a couple of things. To start with, there is the keeping track of animals. Perhaps the Member is getting at the possibility of selling a wild animal as a game-farm animal. First, the game-farming regulations require that very stringent records be kept of the births and deaths of all animals on the game farm. For instance, the Member for Riverside is a friend of one of the game farmers. If he were to buy an animal from that game farmer, the sale would be registered with the department. The Member for Riverside may very well buy elk number 87 or 32, and that would be recorded with the Renewable Resources department. I was only made aware of this a few minutes ago, but one of the members of the agricultural branch acts as an inspector and must be present when the slaughter takes place.
Mr. Harding: That was one of the concerns I had: how the government is going to ensure that only game farm animals are providing the occasional sale of game meat, and I thank the Minister for that answer. That is a concern that has been raised with me.
It does not really answer my question. The heart of the question is, what is an occasional sale? How infrequent, how irregularly, to use the Minister's words, is it? Is it once a week, revolving weeks? If it were once a day, would that be more than an occasional sale? If it were once a year? There is no definition. I have searched for definitions in the Agricultural Products Act and I find nothing to define what that occasional sale is. Can he answer that and can he also confirm for me again, that, at this point, the government is opposed to more than an occasional sale of game meat?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: When the department was putting the regulations together, it was not that the government was opposed to the idea of having more than occasional sales, but the industry was not ready for anything more than that at the time. To define an occasional sale, I think I am in the same boat as the Member opposite, in that I cannot actually define an occasional sale. In my own experience with the game farming industry, there would probably be no more than two animals a year from any one game farm. That is not saying that five, seven, nine, 12, or some number of years down the road, when there is not the market for breeding stock that there is today, there would not be something more than an occasional sale. In that case, I think we may have to revisit the Agricultural Products Act. I think it is very, very important, as we were discussing a few minutes ago, that there is no possibility within the regulations that a wild animal could be sold as a game farm animal. I think that is the heart of the matter.
Mr. Harding: At this point, though, the question surrounding what is an occasional sale, I believe, is the issue, because we are putting together a bill that speaks in terms of an occasional sale. There are some policies that I am not quite clear about regarding the government's position on anything more than just that. The Minister seemed to contradict himself since we started talking about what the government's view was of anything more than an occasional sale. At the beginning of the discussion we had today, I thought I heard him say that the government had a policy of no sale of game farm meat, other than an occasional sale. Then he stood up a few minutes ago and seemed to say that they were not really opposed to that, but someone else was. I am unclear on the issue.
The second thing I would like to ask for, beyond an explanation for that contradiction, or what I perceive to be a contradiction, is this question: would the government be prepared at this time, in the context of an occasional sale within the Agricultural Products Act, to include in the act a definition that would give us some clear guidelines of what an occasional sale is?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I would not see a lot of problem with defining "occasional sale". For instance, what is an occasional sale - six animals a year, two or 12? I do not know, but I do not believe there is any need to have this defined at this point in time, because there are very few animals sold as meat animals in the territory. In fact, I do not know if there are any animals sold. There may be some consumed, but I do not know of any being sold.
If the Member opposite insists upon a change to add some sort of definition for "occasional sale", we could probably accommodate him. However, I would like some direction, or suggestions, as to what that number should be.
Mr. Harding: The Minister has brought forth a bill that speaks to the occasional sale of game farm meat. When I say to the Minister we should have a definition for that, he says that he does not see any need for a definition, at this point, and, only if I insist on having a definition, will the Minister consider one. I do not see this as a consistent, logical approach. We are dealing with a particular issue the Minister thought was so important that he brought a bill before this Legislature to deal with that issue: the occasional sale of game farm meat.
When I say that we should have some wording to clarify this definition, the Minister says he would only do so if I insist upon it and, furthermore, I would have to tell the Minister what that definition should be.
I am not in a position to tell him what the number should be. I could put forth some suggestions, but the department, and the Minister who sponsored this bill, would doubtless have a better sense of what they feel an occasional sale of game farm meat might be. I can only draw an interpretation from the little information that I have available from this bill. Could the Minister comment on what I have just said?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The Agricultural Products Act not only regulates game farm animals, but also cows, hogs and other animals. I will read the definition, which is under "Sale of Regulated Products": "19(1) No person shall sell a regulated product or offer a regulated product for sale to any person unless the product has been approved by an inspector in accordance with regulations applying to that product." Subsection 19(2) states, "Subsection (1) does not prohibit a person from making an occasional private sale of a live animal raised by the person, whether or not he or she assists the purchaser with the slaughter or butchering of the animal."
Other farmers raise pigs, sheep and beef, and they are also considered to be occasionally selling animals. I have a real problem with trying to define what an occasional private sale is.
Mr. Harding: I can see that this debate is going to get somewhat confusing because section 19(2) that the Minister read from - I do not have it right here - is the old version. This bill that he has brought forward contains an amendment to that - actually two amendments. It proposes to change subsection 2 and it also adds a further, third subsection. I have some questions about that. Last night I raised them in debate, because I have another entire issue, in the context of section 19(1), that I will bring up with the Minister in a moment.
Just to bring this to fruition, if possible, my understanding of the motivation for this bill is that it is an attempt to allow for the occasional sale of game farm meat, period. Is this a correct assertion regarding what sections 19(2) and 19(3) are intended to do?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I was kind of listening to two people at once, so I will try to answer the Member's question.
I think that we have tightened it up by disallowing the sale of a live animal. Essentially, what we are talking about is game farm meat.
Mr. Joe: It is a very interesting debate. I am getting confused here. At the beginning, I thought I understood what the Minister was talking about. Anyway, I may get there some time. The question I have is this: can the Minister tell me how many game farms there are in the Yukon, and where they are located?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: There are currently three game farms in the Yukon, and they are all in the Whitehorse area. There is the bison farm out by Stony Creek, on the road to Haines Junction, Cliff Laprairie's farm - I am not sure of the name of his particular farm. There is the Yukon Game Farm, out by the Hot Springs, and another game farm just across the road from the Yukon Game Farm.
Mr. Joe: My other question is that, while travelling in the Yukon, I have noticed that there is hardly any sign of lynx. I want to know how many lynx farms there are in the Yukon now.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I should point out to the Member that lynx would not be classed as a game farm animal under the Agricultural Products Act. As far as I am aware, there is only one lynx farm in the territory, at this time. However, I could be wrong about that.
Mr. Harding: While my colleagues have asked a couple of questions, I have had a chance to regroup with regard to the questioning I have for the Minister. The concern that I am still left with is with regard to an accurate definition of the term "occasional sale". I realize that giving a very firm definition of an occasional sale would be difficult.
In his introductory comments, the Minister did say that it was defined as an infrequent or irregular matter. I believe that that is not a moot point. I do believe that it is important that when a bill is brought in, all of the necessary measures are put in place to make it clear, so that the people who are trying to understand what Bill No. 35 means to them are clear, and will know what they can do. This particular bill, although it does make a distinction for game farme animals in an Agricultural Products Act that previously was not there, does not really deal with the issue of the definition of the term "occasional sale". I realize that it did not before, either, and there was no previous definition. I think that is an perhaps an inadequacy of the act, and also an inadequacy of the bill that we have before us.
I could not tell from the last statement the Minister made surrounding the reason why he would be reluctant to put in a definition of some sort for occasional sale. Is he telling me he is definitively against such an amendment to the bill, or that he thinks that, in principle, he can agree with what I am saying?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I am not totally opposed to defining the term "occasional private sale", but I am a little concerned about what the ramifications of a definition may be. We do have farmers, other than game farmers, who sell meat and meat products in the territory. We have Pelly Farms and the sheep farm, and various people have raised hogs at different times over the years. I would hate to put in something that would limit these people from making a living. If we define the term "occasional private sale", I am not sure if that would not limit these people in some way. If it was defined broadly enough to allow the current beef raisers, hog raisers, and so on, that may exceed what we had intended for game farm animals. I am in a bit of a dilemma as to how we would go about defining it.
Mr. Harding: I am reading the substituted section for subsection 19(2) of the Agricultural Products Act. It says, "Subsection (1) does not prohibit a person from making an occasional private sale of a live animal raised other than a game animal by the person, whether or not he or she assists the purchaser with the slaughter or butchering the animal."
I do not see how the definition would have any impact whatsoever, given the amendments proposed by the Minister to the legislation.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I believe the Member is probably correct. I have no problem with a definition being there but, again, I have a problem in coming up with that definition for "occasional". There have been no problems with this. If game farmers got into a situation where they wanted to sell large numbers of game animals to a meat market, or something like that, we would have to revisit this act. I see no problem with that, because I think it is a few years down the road.
I hate to try to define something that has, so far, worked quite well without
definition, and which may limit, or exceed, what we hope to achieve.
Mr. Cable: I have a couple of questions, one of which does not really require a response. Perhaps the Minister could take it up with his draftsperson. The French version appears to repeal that subsection 19(2), whereas the English version simply amends it. The Minister may want to concord those two versions. I think that he is purporting to repeal the old subsection rather than amend it. I notice that there is a difference in the verbiage between subsection 2 and subsection 3, in that the version talks about "an occasional private sale" in subsection 2, and simply "an occasional sale" in subsection 3. Was that intentional, and, if so, what does the Minister see as the difference between the two meanings?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Subsection 2 deals with a live animal. That would be in the case of beef or hogs, and so on. Subsection 3 refers to the sale of meat from a game animal.
Mr. Cable: I am sorry I have not made the point well enough. Subsection 19(2) talks about an occasional private sale, which, I think, is a sale from John Doe to Susie Smith, whereas subsection 19(3) simply talks about an occasional sale. Does the Minister contemplate that that would be a sale to a restaurant, for example?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: No, we did not contemplate selling to a restaurant or selling
commercially. I do not see a reason why we could not add the word "private" to
have continuity with the previous section.
Mr. Joe: The Minister defends wildlife farming and he did not mention our farms. The problem we have is that our farms are where we keep our beef - Pelly Crossing, Carmacks, Mayo. The problem we are having right now is the ploughing of the road. The farmers are having problems getting out. I would appreciate if you could plough the snow at least twice a winter, or so.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: If I remember correctly, when I was Minister of Community and Transportation Services, I believe I had representation from that Member about the plowing of snow on the road to the Pelly Farm. I will discuss this matter with my colleague, the Minister of Community and Transportation Services, to see if he will provide an answer for you.
Mr. Harding: So far, if I am correct, it looks as if we have two considerations,: either a further proposed amendment to section 19(3) to include the word "private", and we are still discussing whether or not there should be a definition of "occasional". The Minister has indicated he is not totally opposed to defining "occasional", but he is concerned about including a definition at this point.
Is the Minister going to need some time to provide me with a clearer response and to do some homework on whether or not introducing that definition would be necessary, and if it is necessary, what kind of definition could be developed?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: In order to continue the forward movement of the bill, I would ask the department to try to come up with a definition of "occasional private sale". It is not that I am opposed to it, but I do have some difficulty, first, in understanding why we need it, and second, I am concerned that we not limit people who want to sell the animals. I also do not want it set up so that it can be exceeded to this intent without actually revisiting the act, if there were a case where someone was raising game animals for commercial sale. We will attempt to come up with a definition. We are not going to finish the debate tonight, that is for sure. The next time we debate this, I will have that definition. I want to say again that I am not fully convinced it needs to be there.
Mr. Harding: For the record, I should say that I am not fully convinced that it needs to be there, either. I am asking questions, with Bill No. 35 in front of me. I am not interested in putting forward a definition that perhaps is not needed in order to further burden people who otherwise might not have to be burdened with that definition. However, I do think that when the bill deliberately includes the option of occasional sale, I just felt that the bill needed to be reviewed a bit more closely. I needed a clearer idea with regard to what an occasional private sale was.
I am certainly not going to be pounding away in Question Period on this particular issue. I just think it is a point should be considered further by the Minister. Possibly, there should be further discussion. I take it from the Minister that he will undertake to do that, and I accept that.
I think the purpose of this particular amendment - or series of amendments - is simply to correct something in their Agricultural Products Act that perhaps did not pertain to game farming in the first place, such as the sale of products. It refers to live animals and not meat, but does not make any distinction between game farm animals. Is the game farm animal, alive or dead, a product as referred to in the act?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The Agricultural Products Act refers to an agricultural product and a clear definition is given in the act. The definition does not include "live animal".
Mr. Chair, I move that you report progress on Bill No. 35.
Motion agreed to
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I move that the Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Chair: It has been moved by Mr. Phillips that the Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Motion agreed to
Speaker resumes the Chair
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
May the House have a report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole?
Mr. Abel: The Committee of the Whole had considered Bill No. 83, An Act to Amend the Business Corporations Act, Bill No. 43, Electronic Registration (Department of Justice Statutes) Act, and Bill No. 61, An Act to Amend the Legal Services Society Act, and directed me to report them without amendment. Further, Committee has considered Bill No. 35, An Act to Amend the Agricultural Products Act, and directed me to report progress on it.
Speaker: You have heard the report of the Chair of Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: I declare the report carried.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I move that the House do now adjourn.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Hon. Government House Leader that the House do now adjourn.
Motion agreed to
Speaker: This House now stands adjourned until 1:30 p.m. tomorrow.
The House adjourned at 5:26 p.m.
The following Sessional Paper was tabled December 13, 1994:
Canada China Business Council Annual General Meeting in Beijing, China, on November
7-9, 1994: letter of thanks for participating in the meeting, dated November 21, 1994, to
Hon. Mr. Ostashek, Government Leader, from the Chair and the President of the Council