Thursday, January 19, 1995 - 1:30 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order. We will proceed at this time with
Recognition of birthday of G.I. Cameron
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: It is my pleasure to rise today to extend birthday greetings to a very well known Yukoner, Mr. G.I. Cameron, who will celebrate his 95th birthday on Sunday, January 22.
Birthdays are a time for reflection, and I expect that Mr. Cameron and his family will spend at least part of this very special day looking back over his many years in the Yukon. Our society is enriched by the presence of our older citizens, such as Mr. Cameron, who have a wealth of knowledge and experience to share with Yukoners.
Mr. Cameron is well known for sharing his experiences about life in Fort Selkirk in the 1930s and 1940s.
Mr. Cameron has made a significant contribution to the Yukon through his many years of service with the RCMP and, as many of you know and will remember, he was the Sergeant-at-Arms in this Legislative Assembly.
I am sure that all Members of the Legislature will want to join with me in wishing Mr.
Cameron continued good health and a very happy birthday.
Speaker: We will proceed with the Order Paper.
Introduction of Visitors.
Are there any Returns or Documents for tabling?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I have some documents for tabling.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I have a document for tabling.
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?
Are there any Statements by Ministers?
This then brings us to the Question Period.
Question re: Yukon Energy Corporation, audit of contract with Yukon Electrical
Mr. Penikett: Yesterday in the House, the Government Leader stated that the audit on the Yukon Energy Corporation contract with Yukon Electrical was something that was done by the board of the Yukon Development Corporation, something that is not the case. Can the Government Leader explain why the audit, which was originally initiated by the government Ministers and Cabinet, not the Yukon Development Corporation board, took at least four years to get started?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I do not know why it took four years. We have been here for
two of those years and I am not certain what the delays were in getting started.
Mr. Penikett: This is an operations audit. The purpose of the audit, as I recall, is to review the costs and benefits of the Yukon Energy Corporation/Yukon Electrical Company relationship. Can the Government Leader tell me why the management contract with Yukon Electrical was renewed before the audit was complete?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: No, I cannot, and I am not even sure of the date it was renewed. I may have that somewhere and will look for it.
Mr. Penikett: In a letter to the Utilities Consumers Group, dated March 29, 1994, regarding the privatization of Yukon Energy Corporation assets, the former Minister responsible for energy indicated that it was government policy that the access-to-information legislation does not apply to the Yukon Energy Corporation because "YEC is a private company". Can the Government Leader explain to me why, during a time when sensitive and politically controversial discussions about privatization were going on, a Minister of this government indicated that the Yukon Energy Corporation, a publicly owned utility, was already a private company?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: No. I do not have with me a copy of the letter to which the Member refers. There must have been some reason why that Minister wrote such a letter, and I will check into it for the Member opposite.
Question re: Yukon Energy Corporation, audit of contract with Yukon Electrical
Mr. Penikett: I will be quite happy to table the letter and I will quote from it as follows: "YEC is a private company incorporated under the Business Corporations Act and exempt from the provisions of that legislation." The corporation does, as a matter of practice, adhere to the provisions of the act, nonetheless a citizens group was denied information about what was going on in the privatization talks. Can the Government Leader - either as Government Leader or as Minister responsible for energy - why citizens should be denied reasonable information about the activities of a publicly owned corporation? I am looking for an answer from the Minister responsible, not from a Minister who is not responsible and cannot account for former activities - that is not proper under our rules. Only the current Minister can speak for the department and for the agency. Would the Government Leader do that, please?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: It gives me great pleasure to have the opportunity to answer a question with regard to policy during my tenure as Minister responsible for the Yukon Development Corporation. I draw the Member's attention to the fact that, while I was Leader of the Official Opposition, I attempted to get all kinds of information from the Yukon Energy Corporation. The NDP were in power then, and they forced me to go to court under the Access to Information Act, and denied us access to the information.
Mr. Penikett: As I remember it, the Minister did not like the information we gave him. When he went to court, the court rejected his application. The response of the government of the day was to improve the legislation, which the Members opposite refused to proclaim.
I would like to table this letter and, again, ask the Minister responsible - not the former Minister, who cannot, under parliamentary tradition, respond to former responsibilities.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Penikett: I am being heckled by the other Independent in the back about parliamentarians.
Can the Government Leader explain why he is proceeding with access-to-information legislation and, in his consultation document, raising questions about what should be in the act. They are issues that were settled more than 10 years ago, in the old access-to-information legislation, and which were improved in the legislation passed only two years ago in this House. Why does he want to go one step backwards by more than a decade with this legislation?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: In court, there is what is known as the best-evidence rule. Since the Member opposite keeps referring to a letter of which I was the author, while I was the Minister responsible for the Yukon Development Corporation, I think it is appropriate that I come forward directly with the rationale for writing that letter at that time.
We, of course, support changes to the current access-to-information legislation. We were greatly disturbed when the former administration passed new legislation, but neglected to walk two blocks to the Commissioner's office to have it proclaimed.
We will be bringing back access-to-information legislation and...
Speaker: Order please. Would the Member please conclude his answer.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: ...note that there are two instances of hypocrisy involved in the question. One is that -
Speaker: Order please. Would the Member please conclude his answer.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: There are two instances. I would be happy to elaborate.
Mr. Penikett: I congratulate the Member for Carcross-Tagish Lake on once again assuming the office of Leader of the Yukon Party and Government Leader. It is too bad we did not have a ministerial statement announcing this change, and I commiserate with the Government Leader for having so soon lost his post to his old rival.
Can I ask the Minister technically responsible for the Executive Council Office why he has circulated a discussion paper on access to information, which does not ask leading-edge questions about the legislation, and does not even propose changes that were approved in this House two years ago but raises issues that were already settled in this House more than a decade ago? Why is he proposing to take a huge step backwards with that legislation, just like he did with the conflict-of-interest legislation?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek:
I do not know from where the Member opposite is getting the idea that we are going backwards. The Yukon Development Corporation does not have any particular objection to being included under the Access to Information Act. The Yukon Energy Corporation is not a Crown corporation, and it is already subject to two regulatory bodies as it is. That is the argument the Yukon Development Corporation board is making. When the access-to-information legislation comes forward, it will be on the floor of this House for debate and we can have a good and intense debate about what is in the legislation and what is not.
Question re: Non-government organizations, funding for
Mr. Cable: Well, we are warming up - it should be a good afternoon.
I have some questions for the Minister of Economic Development on core funding of non-government organizations. As the Minister will recollect, I wrote him a letter some time ago asking him for his recapitulation of money given to non-government organizations. It was a similar letter to the one I sent all the other Ministers, and I received replies from the Ministers of Education, Health and Social Services, Government Services, Community and Transportation Services, but from the Minister of Economic Development all I got was a bureaucratic reply. I am going to file it some time later in the session.
Could the Minister indicate why that information cannot be made public now? Is there
somebody in the department who is tired, or has the Minister or one of his staff come to
the view that it is secret?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I do not believe that my department officials are tired. When I was talking to one of them this morning, they certainly did not appear tired.
We are currently developing a policy on core funding. Rather than provide a definition of core funding for each department, we want to develop a policy and define core funding versus fee-for-service funding for all departments. When it is available - it should be fairly shortly - we will table the actual definition.
Mr. Cable: I did not think that that was the question I asked. The question I asked was what core funding had been given to various non-government organizations, or something to that effect. But I think the Minister brings up a good point.
He indicated in the exchange that we had on January 11 that he was going to file, within the next day or so, a definition of core funding and what is classified as fee for service. Is the Minister saying that we cannot wait for this revelation until the whole policy is tabled?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I thought that we had supplied the Member opposite with the names of organizations to which we do provide core funding. If we have not provided that, we certainly will. There are about four organizations. I would not want to try to tell the Member what they are at this point in time, because I may miss one or two, but we will certainly provide that information to the Member right away.
Mr. Cable: I hope that we will connect on this question. There is a perception that this government has taken a different posture toward core funding versus fee-for-service funding. In the Minister's view, is that correct?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Again, whether we have taken a different view from the previous government, I am not sure, because I do not know what the previous government's view was. The idea of defining a policy is so that all departments will look at it in the same light - that this will be core funding and the other will be fee for service.
Question re: Beringia Interpretive Centre
Mr. McDonald: I want to direct a couple of questions to the Minister of Tourism to, perhaps, get a clearer picture of the Yukon government's plans for the Beringia Centre. The Minister said that he had no idea what the operation costs would be, but did suggest that 30,000 to 40,000 visitors would see it and pay between $3 and $8 for admission. That averages out to about $200,000 in receipts. Is the Minister saying that because the ticket sales would cover the operating costs of the facility in time, that those costs would be approximately $200,000?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: At the present time, the plans are very preliminary. When one looks at the visitor reception centre at its present location, which is open from late May to September, and looks at the cost of operating that facility, I think it works out to be in the neighbourhood of roughly $200,000 to $280,000. I suspect that, because there will be interpretive staff there and that sort of thing, there will not be a huge difference in the cost. However, as I said, it is still in the preliminary stage, so these are not final figures.
Mr. McDonald: I know we will get into this and probably, in the Minister's opinion, in excruciating detail in Committee stage. I would just like to ask a few questions to prepare us for that. Can the Minister tell us how many exhibits the government has slated for the facility? So far, I believe I am aware of five. The Minister said he would be bringing back a list today. Did he table the list today?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: The exhibits have not been developed yet because it is all in the preliminary stage. There will be exhibits developed. The Member is really asking what kind of things could be in the Beringia exhibit. Well, it could include the interaction of placer miners with all the ice-age mammals. I have a list of the ice-age mammals that I will table for the Members opposite. There are all kinds of options. We will be talking with several of the leading people in North America with respect to acquiring knowledge of Beringia and about exhibits and displays. As I said, this is the preliminary planning. We have not done it all because we have not asked for any money from this House to do the planning yet. We will be asking for that, and that will come forward -
Speaker: Order please. Would the Member please conclude his answer.
Mr. McDonald: The discussion in Committee will most certainly be excruciating for the Minister, I can tell him that.
The Tyrrell Museum could occupy people for approximately a day and is certainly worth the admission price, I will say that. The MacBride Museum, which receives about $23,000 a year from the government toward its operations can occupy people for a couple of hours, perhaps even half a day. That is obviously good value for public expenditure.
Does the Minister believe the list of attractions he is providing today will occupy people for a half or full day if they go through it?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I certainly think the Beringia Interpretive Centre will occupy people's time for a couple of hours or so. Some people may be more interested than others and spend more time there.
Again, what we are looking at is having different types of attractions in the City of Whitehorse. If people can go to the Beringia Centre, the Transportation Museum, the MacBride Museum, the SS Klondike, the fish ladder and Canyon City, they will consider staying in Whitehorse another day. If we can convince 30,000 or 40,000 people to stay in the City of Whitehorse for one more day, the Yukon and the city will see enormous benefits, which is part of the overall plan.
Question re: Beringia Interpretive Centre
Mr. McDonald: We have to determine whether or not the public expenditure we provide for yet another attraction is worth the money. I would argue that $23,000 for the MacBride Museum is certainly worth the money, given what it offers. The outstanding question is whether the Beringia Centre, at a minimum cost of $3 million plus its operating costs, is going to also be worth the money for an extra couple of hours.
Before the Tyrrell Museum was built, for many decades there was an active research community exploring and doing advanced archaeological work in the area, and a lot of commitment had been made to explore the territory, which is rich in dinosaur remains. It involved more than accidental discoveries by road builders.
What specific field research work will be feeding the Beringia Centre?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: There are several prominent people who have been working in the Yukon for many years - Dr. Richard Harrington is one, from the Canadian Museum of Nature; he is extremely excited about this project and willing to work with us on the exhibits. We have also talked with Dr. Richard Moorland and Dr. Donald Clark of the Canadian Museum of Civilization, Dr. Charles E. Swagger of the University of Alberta, Scott Smith from Agriculture Canada in Whitehorse, Stephen Morrison from DIAND Mineral Resources, Dr. J.D. Matthews of the Geological Survey of Canada, and Monty Reid from the Tyrrell Museum. All these individuals are academics who are really quite excited about the project and have offered their expertise and assistance to develop the museum and work with us in the future to develop the Beringia Interpretive Centre.
We are pleased to have that kind of blue-ribbon committee, which will be working with us in developing our future exhibits.
Mr. McDonald: They are absolutely full of superlatives. We know that people are extremely excited, that there are enormous profits, and now we have a blue-ribbon committee of people that has apparently been established to support this project. Can the Minister tell us more about this blue-ribbon committee that he has just announced? He makes it clear that he has listed the support of these people and that they are, in his words, extremely excited, a fact we will of course check. Can he tell us why the existing museums community - the one that is funding the museums downtown and around the territory - was given no information about this, prior to the announcement? Can he tell us why it was not consulted at all?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: There will be consultations with the museums community about the exhibits that are placed in the Beringia Centre. We have had representations made to us by many tour groups and others that the Yukon needs other attractions, particularly in Whitehorse. Our Beringia era is extremely rich and it is unique in the world. We are lucky to have a lot of history from the Beringia era here. We feel that there is a real opportunity to capitalize on that. I can tell the Members opposite there seems to be widespread general support for this, with the exception of the side opposite. The City of Whitehorse, the Chamber of Commerce, the tourism industry and others, have all indicated strong support for this project.
Mr. McDonald: The Minister has demonstrated no proof that there is widespread general support. He has demonstrated that no consultation was done prior to the announcement. He has done no homework; he has no credible vision. Every time there is any criticism of this project by people who are doing a reality check, he accuses them of not caring about Beringia.
Tell us more about this committee. When was this committed struck, given that there are people from the museums community who would have loved to be on this committee? There are people in this territory right now who do this kind of thing for a living. Who is on this committee? Can the Minister give us the mandate for this committee? Can he tell us when they have met, what they are doing, and what the plan is for this blue-ribbon committee - or is this just another nonsense superlative that the Minister is throwing out to defend this project?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: Obviously the side opposite is dead-set against this and will try to find every avenue under the sun to try and kill the project.
We think this is a worthwhile project. We have had preliminary discussions with the individuals I mentioned, who are more than willing to offer their advice and expertise on the project. They are quite excited about the project. I would suggest that the side opposite pick up the phone tomorrow and call any of these individuals to ask them if they like the project and if they think that it is a useful project for the territory. I think they will find that these individuals have talked to our officials in the Department of Tourism and in the heritage branch and feel that this is a very exciting project that will be very worthwhile for the territory. It is just unfortunate that this project, which is in its conceptual stage - the preliminary planning stage - is being killed by the side opposite. That is very unfortunate, because the Yukon and the City of Whitehorse will benefit as a result of this project.
Question re: Beringia Interpretive Centre
Ms. Commodore: I have a question for the Minister responsible for Tourism in regard to the Beringia Centre. During Question Period this week, the Minister was asked if he had consulted with the First Nations people in regard to the Beringia Centre, and he said that he had talked with some people in Old Crow. He later described those talks as brief discussions. I would like to ask him if he could tell us how he intends to consult with First Nations people in the future? Will he do it in a proper and official manner, other than brief discussions, because that is all we are hearing right now. There has been nothing that has been done officially. For the record, we are not against the Beringia Centre; we are looking for information.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: It is finally on the record; that has got to be a surprise to everyone. We will be consulting with First Nations as we develop the project. As I have said before, it is a conceptual plan and there are some conceptual drawings. We have talked about the idea. We have talked about the benefits to the Yukon and to Whitehorse.
The Chamber of Commerce, the City of Whitehorse and the Tourism Industry Association have all publicly indicated support for this particular project. I think it is a good project for the City of Whitehorse and for the Yukon. It is a project with a vision that could grow into something very important for the Yukon in the future.
Ms. Commodore: I think the question is the manner in which he is going about it and his lack of knowledge. I would like to ask him about another thing that he announced. He told CHON/FM that the Beringia Centre would allow the government the opportunity to bring in First Nations people on training programs, to teach them the art of protecting and preserving artifacts. I would like to ask the Minister if he has had any discussions with CYI in regard to this training program, which he has already announced, and its education officials?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: We already do that. We did it this past summer in Canyon City, where First Nations people were involved in the archeology work there. We have done it at Fish Lake. I believe we have done it for the Carcross Band, where the archeologists go out there and work with them, and teach them how to handle and recover the artifacts. Once we get the historic resources centre built, there will be a lab there. That will provide another opportunity to bring First Nations into the lab to show them the next step in preserving and protecting those materials forever. That is why I think it will be a useful facility.
Speaker: Order please. I would again like to remind the Members of the rules. The questions should be short and crisp, and the supplementaries even shorter. Everyone is getting long-winded again. I would like to try and get things moving along here.
Ms. Commodore: I could have sworn that I asked a very short supplementary; I guess I did not.
The Minister is aware of artifacts that have been destroyed in the past, probably due to carelessness or lack of knowledge, by road builders and other earth-moving crews. The Minister has already announced his intention to train First Nations people in the art of preserving and protecting artifacts. Does he also intend to extend that training to construction workers and miners, so that they will have the same knowledge that he wants to give to the First Nations?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: Yes, that is already happening. In the last construction job, right after the find on the Alaska Highway, I believe that an archaeologist was hired through the highways branch. The archaeologist worked on the project, making sure that if they identified something, it would be protected and preserved. In fact, I know that there were some meetings with the owners of the construction companies, where the process by which they should notify and involve us if they come across an important find was discussed.
Question re: Beringia Interpretive Centre
Ms. Moorcroft: I have a question for the Minister of Tourism, who does not do his homework nor consult before he makes decisions.
When I talked to the mayor and council, they said that they were not consulted before the Minister announced the Beringia Centre and visitor reception centre. Why does the Minister say that the City of Whitehorse has indicated public support and is very excited about the visitor reception centre?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I have a letter from the Mayor of Whitehorse indicating support for the visitor reception centre being located downtown and the Beringia Centre being located up the hill.
As a result of the comments made by the Opposition Leader last night about the city not supporting it, I contacted the city again this morning. Mayor Watson reconfirmed her support for both projects and both locations.
Ms. Moorcroft: The mayor and city council have said publicly, repeatedly and very clearly, that they want a waterfront development scheme in place that is acceptable to all interests before any major developments occur. Why does the Minister announce new developments before he consults with legitimate interests?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: The Member opposite has not done her homework; she is wrong again.
The City of Whitehorse is quite pleased with the location of the new visitor reception
centre, which is the Taylor Chev Olds lot. For the information of the Member opposite, the
waterfront property is not the Taylor Chev Olds lot, it is the next block over, across the
road and runs all the way along the riverfront.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Speaker: Order. The Member for Mount Lorne has the floor.
Ms. Moorcroft: Thank you. I think the Minister is confused, and he is not the only confused Minister over there either. I have heard the Mayor of Whitehorse state repeatedly that cooperative waterfront development is essential and that the Taylor Chev property is part of the overall waterfront development area. Council members have said that parking problems should be solved before there is a visitor reception centre developed downtown. Why does the Minister keep misleading the House by saying that he is consulting when he is not?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I do not know who the Member opposite is speaking for. The council of the City of Whitehorse is quite excited and quite pleased about the visitor reception centre being built on the Taylor Chev Olds property. I would like the Member opposite to tell me where she thinks it should go, if it should not go on the Taylor Chev Olds property.
Question re: Nordenskiold bridge
Mr. Joe: I have a very brief question for the Minister of Community and Transportation Services. Last night I went to the Carmacks Village Council meeting. The Minister knows about the old, one-lane Nordenskiold bridge. I want to know when the government will build a new bridge for the residents of Carmacks.
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I believe the Member is asking me if we are going to build a new bridge. That will depend on where we put the road and, yes, there will have to be a new bridge wherever we put the new road.
Mr. Joe: I do not want to see the government blackmailing the village council. Why did the government tell the village that they may have to pay for their own bridge?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I am unaware that I have blackmailed anybody in my 70-some
years of life, and I am not going to start now. We have never told any municipality that
it has to build its own bridge.
Mr. Joe: The government will built bridges everywhere else in the Yukon. Now it is talking about building a $30 million bridge in Dawson City. Why do they not build a new bridge in Carmacks? What is the problem?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: We have not said that we are building a bridge in Dawson. We are looking at what the cost would be. We are not saying that we are not going to put a bridge into Carmacks. We are not backing out on anybody on it. We will be out there on the January 26 to talk to the people about it. It is a matter of whether the mine will be in and whether it requires a new bridge and a new road or whether we can fix what is there. There will definitely have to be a new bridge if the mine is hauling.
Question re: Beringia Interpretive Centre
Mrs. Firth: I would like to ask the Minister of Tourism some questions. I am curious about this committee he has announced today, so I have some short, crisp questions for the Minister.
Question number one: what is the name of this committee?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: This is not an official committee; it is a group of individuals who we have consulted about Beringia and whether or not they would be supportive and work with us on future exhibits. These are all individuals who have said they would be more than willing to help us out if we need it.
Mrs. Firth: Question number two: with respect to this committee that is not an official committee but just a group of individuals who are advising government, how long has this group of individuals been in existence and advising the government?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: The questions are getting sillier and sillier. When we were working on the conceptual drawings of this particular project, we contacted several well-known people in this area. These people indicated to us that they would be willing to help us out if we needed some help in the future in designing exhibits. Some of them are very well known for that, and it would be a real asset to us in the future, and at a very low cost, if we were to use some of the knowledge that these people have. They have offered to work with us and give us suggestions in that area.
Mrs. Firth: Here is question number three: this is not a committee, it is just a group of official people who have been chosen to advise the Minister - can the Minister tell us who chose this group of people to advise the Minister?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: This is not an official committee. When we drew up the conceptual plans, we called people who would be interested in assisting the Yukon government with ideas about the Beringia Centre. These people have offered their services. I do not know what the big deal is. Obviously the Member for Riverdale South is working with the NDP to kill the project. They seem to be the only ones in the territory who are on the wrong side of the fence on this issue.
Question re: Beringia Interpretive Centre
Mrs. Firth: I will tell the Minister of Tourism what the big deal is. The big deal is that we cannot believe anything he says in this House, because he changes his story every time he stands up to answer a question.
He was the one who stood up and said this was a blue-ribbon committee of experts, the best around, advising him, as the Minister. We want some answers about the committee. This is the Minister's creation, his vision and his fiction.
Number four question -
Speaker: I believe the Member already asked a question.
Mrs. Firth: No, I did not.
Speaker: Not about the blue-ribbon committee?
Mrs. Firth: No, it was not a question.
This is my question: number four: what is the mandate of this committee that is not a committee?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: This is answer number four(a) to the Member opposite. This is a group of individuals we have contacted in the last few weeks since the Beringia Centre was talked about. People in the department have talked about this for the last five or six months. These people have indicated they feel it is a great idea and that it would be of benefit to the Yukon Territory. They feel it would be unique in the world to have this kind of display, and they are willing to assist us, if need be, on a future, fully organized committee, however the Member wants it. This is a group of people who are experts in this field, and who have said that, if we need some help, they are prepared to give us some advice or work with us in any way they can.
Mrs. Firth: So, this committee that is not a committee and is simply a damage-control group now - to whom does it report?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: The questions from the side opposite are getting pathetic. If we were going ahead with this project and the great academic on the side opposite, the Leader of the Opposition, asked whom we consulted with in the world who knows anything about this, and if I replied that we did not talk to anybody, he would say, "Well, that is what is wrong with your project - you did not talk to anybody." Well, they cannot have it both ways. We have talked to the real experts, though we have not consulted the so-called experts that the side opposite has - the armchair experts.
Speaker: Order. Order. Would the Member please answer the question.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: The answer four(b) is that this group of individuals has offered their expertise in any way they can to help us out to provide a very top quality facility in the Yukon. We would be -
Speaker: Would the Member please conclude his answer.
Mrs. Firth: The reason the Minister cannot answer the question is because he made up the original answer in the first place - the whole spectre of there being a committee.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Speaker: Order. Please allow the Member to ask her question.
Mrs. Firth: Can the Minister tell us how often this damage-control group, that is not an official committee, meets and discusses this?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: It is not a committee that sits and meets. I thought I had
explained that to the Member, but she is not listening and does not want to listen. The
Member wants to play games. This is a group of individuals whom we have consulted, on an
individual basis, and asked if they would be willing to offer and provide us with advice
on the future development of this project, and they have offered that advice. Obviously,
the side opposite and the Member for Riverdale South are dead against the project and are
looking for any way, shape or form to discredit the project. They are the only ones, that
I know of, that are on the wrong side of the fence.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has elapsed.
We will proceed to Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I move that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Speaker: It has been moved by the 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
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order.
Bill No. 3 - Third Appropriation Act, 1994-95 - continued
Executive Council Office
Chair: We were dealing with Bill No. 3. Is there further general debate on Executive Council Office?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: When we adjourned last night, we were into debate on the mid-term report, which flowed over into Cabinet caucus staffing and what people can and cannot do. I believe I have to correct some of the statements made last night by Members opposite. I want to continue this debate because it is an issue that needs to be resolved, and some corrections need to be made about what was said in the debate last night.
Before starting that, I have some documents that were requested in Committee. I would like to table them now so that they can be distributed.
I would like to start with the Cabinet and Caucus Employees Act, which was
assented to on May 18, 1988 and appears in the Statutes of Yukon, 1988, which I
believe was during the leadership of the Leader of the Official Opposition.
The preamble of the act states quite clearly, "The purpose of this act is to authorize the Government Leader and the Leader in the Legislature of each of the Opposition parties to employ persons at the expense of the Government of the Yukon to assist Members of the Executive Council and the caucus of the government party and of each Opposition party in attainment of their objectives." I think that states the purpose quite clearly.
I want to move on and approach this from the position of how caucus funding is divided. I will get into what I believe was the rationale for this method of distribution once I have laid out the method of distribution for the Legislature. First of all, Cabinet Ministers are not eligible for caucus funding. My understanding of that is that it was felt, by the Members of the Legislature who put it together, that Cabinet Members had enough political staff to do their work, and that they did not require caucus funding. The fact that an MLA may be a Cabinet Minister does not mean he or she does not have any responsibilities as an MLA. Therefore, I would say to the Members opposite that if they are going to make the case that Cabinet Ministers' staff cannot do any constituency work for their Ministers, then I would suggest that we have to go back and look at the allocations of caucus funding. I would suggest that we have to divide it 17 ways, and not 11 ways. Cabinet Ministers should not be penalized for doing their MLA duties because they are also Cabinet Ministers. I believe that is what the act is trying to cover, and I believe that is the rationale for the funding distribution. If that is not acceptable to the Members opposite, I am quite prepared to go back to the Members' Services Board and look at reallocating caucus funding into 17 different pools instead of into 11. Cabinet Ministers still have to have funds to do their constituency work.
To make the problem worse, my Independent Cabinet Ministers do not have access to any caucus funds. They do not get any caucus funding because they are Ministers. They cannot draw on the resources of our backbenchers because they do not belong to the Yukon Party. In my opinion, that is not an equitable situation.
The basis for distributing the money was decided in what was to be a fair and equitable manner. I do not have any difficulty with the way it was distributed, but I do have great difficulty when the Members opposite say that Cabinet Ministers' political staff cannot do any constituency work. I just cannot believe that. They should have the right to do constituency work, just the same as Opposition Members or backbenchers.
I believe that the previous government used its political staff in the same fashion as we are using ours. I do not believe there is a difference. I will wait to hear the Members' comments on how we are going to go about this. If it is not done in an acceptable manner, then we should look at reallocating caucus funding.
I want to move on now. There was a question last night from the Member for Riverdale South about how political staff are hired. All of the political staff are hired under the Cabinet and Caucus Employees Act. That includes our staff and the staff of the Opposition Members. They are hired by me for my caucus and my Cabinet, and by the other caucus for their people. I have the right to delegate that hiring process to the Principal Secretary. I signed it off, no doubt. The ultimate responsibility is mine, but that does not mean that I cannot delegate that to the Principal Secretary. He can do that. The Member opposite asked me if we advertised the positions. It is not necessary. I do not believe that the Member for Riverdale South advertised for her executive assistant when she was in cabinet. I just want to clear up that point for the record.
I want to talk a little bit now about what I feel was unfair criticism - and it did not
do anything for any of us in this House yesterday - regarding the two-year report. I think
the Members opposite are stretching points on it. The mid-term report was a caucus
First of all I want to address some of the issues and concerns raised by the Member for Riverdale South as to the date on the invoice for the printing. On checking, the verification of the available funds and the commitment to proceed and all the necessary purchases were obtained from the Clerk's Office prior to the work going to the printer. That is a standard procedure.
The work went to the printers on approximately October 25. The actual purchase order was issued on November 7. That is not inconsistent with the way things have been done in the past. You get the authority, go ahead and get the printing done, and you get the actual purchase order issued as soon as possible. The printer proceeded with some of the work prior to receiving the purchase order; there is no doubt about that. If there was any risk in doing so, it was entirely the printer's and not the government's. They work on standing-offer agreements that are updated on a regular basis, so there was nothing unusual about that.
The report was distributed at the Yukon Party convention, but it was not vetted by those in attendance. In fact, it was already printed. I believe 100 copies were taken over and distributed at the convention.
If there are any more questions on that issue, I would be prepared to try and answer them for the Member opposite. On checking the records, we believe it was done in a manner consistent with what has been done in the past.
I want to talk a little bit now about the use of a logo, with partisan identification, on a newsletter. I said in this House last night that it has been done in the past. The precedent has been set. No one ever raised any concerns about it.
On January 18 - yeasterday - the Member for Whitehorse West stated that there had never been a newsletter issued under the authority of the Legislative Assembly vote with a party logo on it. That is incorrect. I do not care whose it is; I see the Member opposite has a party logo, and it was never questioned by the Legislature.
Therefore, without an update of the guidelines, we work by precedent.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: What other way would we do this? The Member opposite is making faces.
This was never questioned in the past. What is the Clerk going to do? These are all run by the Clerk and he makes comments on them if he feels there is something inappropriate. He does not authorize them or not authorize them.
Therefore, that is a red herring and is not an issue.
Another statement made by the Member for Whitehorse West last night was, "Nowhere in my report can one see an NDP logo. One will not even find the words "New Democratic Party" in my constituency report, unlike the mid-term report."
When we reviewed the record, that was not the case. I have one here, entitled "Keeping in Touch, Tony Penikett, Leader, Yukon New Democratic Caucus". The words "New Democrat" are used, and they have been on several occasions.
There is another report, dated June 1986, by the then Member for Klondike. This refers to someone criticizing us for using the phrase "Yukon Party government". In a newsletter put out by this Member, in reply to the Speech from the Throne, it says "The New Democratic government reported ...". The last page talks about mining, and it says "The Yukon New Democrats have introduced the following...".
Therefore, it is not precedent setting for us to do it.
Another one is an update by the New Democratic caucus, April 1993, the "New Democratic Report". So, for the Member opposite to say that he never uses the words "New Democrat" is incorrect. Those words have been used in the past.
I believe that it is necessary to clear the record on that issue. I believe that we have behaved in a consistent manner. I would be happy to hear what the Members opposite have to say.
Mr. Penikett: I thank the Government Leader for providing us copies of newsletters that have had his party's logo on them previously. I note that I think he is right in saying that only one was rejected, due to the content. I also appreciate him correcting my statement that the words, "New Democratic Party", did not appear in our newsletters. I stand corrected on that.
We obviously have some disagreements. I cannot say for certain that the New Democratic update that he recently referred to was published as a constituency newsletter, at all. I believe that, in fact, it was a different publication.
The Government Leader has told us this afternoon that he has used the allocation of caucus funding and the rationale for it as a defence for muddying the distinction between Cabinet and caucus, and between the executive and legislative branches of government. We still have a big disagreement on that. The issue is not whether or not there should be an appropriate allocation for Ministers to do constituency work. I do not think that any of us on this side who have been in Cabinet would take issue with that - there are four of us on this side of the House who have been in Cabinet. We understand perfectly well when there is a necessity for Ministers to do constituency work, which I understand to be, in the main, constituency casework and the writing of letters and the receiving of telephone calls in our capacity as MLAs.
A different issue is that of the activities of Cabinet officers, whether they are called OIC employees, whether they are people hired under the Cabinet and Caucus Employees Act or whether they are that different category of people, such as the Cabinet communications officer fits into, who are involved in what I would more properly describe as party work and constituency work.
The Government Leader read out the job description of the Cabinet communications officer.
I note the title - it is Cabinet communications officer - and I note the job description that was read into the record by the Government Leader. Nowhere in the job description does it say that the Cabinet communications officer's job is to communicate for the caucus of the government party - the private Members, who are, by definition, not Members of the government, in the British parliamentary sense of the word. The Members of the government are the Cabinet Ministers.
I cannot remember if it was Mr. Phelps or Mr. Pearson who stopped that practice, but somewhere along the line we had some discussion and agreed that it was probably inappropriate for that person to continue, given the nature of the work, to be a public servant, in the conventional sense of the word. I do not know whether one is going to argue that it began with Mr. Drown or occurred before, but, whatever happened before, I think there is an appropriate concern - a concern by reporters and Members of the Legislature - that, if the Cabinet communications officer, whose job it is, according to the job description read by the Government Leader, to communicate on behalf of the Cabinet when the Cabinet is acting in the public interest, on behalf of all of the people of the Yukon, to muddy his identity, or confuse people about his identity, if he starts then speaking on behalf of the Yukon Party.
He did not stand for election as a member of the Yukon Party, and he is not a political staffer, in the same sense as the executive assistant and Principal Secretary, and so forth, are. I just make this representation to the Government Leader: if for no other reason, I would think the Cabinet communications officer's credibility with the media, as the spokesperson for the Cabinet and as a person who may have to articulate and explain policy decisions of Cabinet, and who may have to explain to reporters why the Cabinet has done one thing or another in the public interest, becomes much more difficult if, in the next breath, that person is having to make statements such as the one that was read into the record last night by Mrs. Firth, which talks about the activities of the party, or what the party did at the convention, or what the party did in some report. There are a lot of other people, even among the Government Leader's staff, who could speak for the party, including MLAs, including Ministers, and including, I would argue, someone like the Principal Secretary, who is there, presumably, because he is partisan.
The Cabinet communications officer, I assume, is there because he is a communications professional. Without causing a rancorous debate, I would make my point as a representation to the Government Leader.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I will take that representation.
I just want to say, in defence of the statement that was made by the communications
advisor, that when the press called he was the only one available in the office, and we
are talking about the Yukon Party caucus. The general public out there does not
differentiate between the Yukon Party caucus and the Yukon government, and I think the
Members opposite are fully aware of that.
I do not want to get into a long debate about this; I will take the representation made by the Member opposite and we will discuss it further, but what I am saying is that the communications advisor was not speaking on behalf of the Yukon Party; he was speaking on behalf of the Yukon Party caucus in that media interview.
This morning he said his statements were not quoted properly and were taken out of context. The Member opposite says, "Oh, oh." That is fine. I am telling her what I have found out. So, I will take that representation, but I clearly believe that our political staff has to be able to do some work for us as MLAs. If they cannot, we are going to have to go back to the Members' Services Board and ask for caucus funding if, in fact, the Members opposite do not want them to do that.
Mrs. Firth: I have been making notes here as the Government Leader has been speaking and I would like to address all of the issues he has raised this afternoon. I want to begin by addressing the first one with respect to the logo and the comments made by the Cabinet communications advisor in defence of the mid-term report.
The only thing I have to say about the logo is that, if this government is going to
justify their putting a logo on a government document based on the precedent that was set
by the Member for Porter Creek West putting out a letter with his picture on it and the
crest of the Legislative Assembly and the Yukon Progressive Conservative Party on it -
which is a rather low standard as far as I am concerned - then that is up to them. They
can do that. They can do whatever they want.
I do not see that this explanation justifies why they did it. I think it is actually pretty poor; I would have been embarrassed to do that.
Let us get into the details of what was said by the Cabinet communications advisor with respect to the mid-term report, and whether or not it was a legitimate document. I heard that Government Leader stand up today and say very clearly that the Clerk does not authorize the publications of MLAs. If that is the case, why did Mr. Mitchell say to the media that the document in question was passed by the Clerk? If that does not mean the authorizing of it, or does not imply that it was authorized by the Clerk, then I do not know what it means. That is how any clear-thinking, logical individual would interpret that.
He said, and I will read the quotes from the article again, "Yes, the party's logo is displayed at the bottom of each page, but that is okay under the rules of the Legislature. We checked with the Clerk before it was published, and after. It was passed by the Clerk. After all, MLAs' business cards can show their party's logo; this is the same thing." Of course, last evening we established that business cards have never shown the party logo. The article continues, "It passed as a newsletter. I think the bottom line is that we checked to see if it was an appropriate use of funds. We checked again after it was back from the printers, and we were told it is appropriate."
If the Government Leader is maintaining that the Clerk does not authorize this, why did his Cabinet communications advisor try to justify it as a legitimate document by saying that the Clerk had passed it?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I believe the Member said, "...passed by the Clerk." I do not know whether that meant "...passed by the Clerk", or "...passed by him". He comments on them. We take them all down there. The Members opposite have said they do the same. My understanding is that the Clerk would point out anything that he feels is not appropriate. Basically, what we are saying is that it went through the process, the same as everything else did, and it was appropriate to use caucus funding for that publication.
Mrs. Firth: Last evening, I specifically asked the Government Leader if the Clerk saw the document in its entirety - the booklet with the logos on every page - and saw the finished product with the pictures and all the text, and whether that was what the Clerk passed, as the Cabinet communications coordinator told the media?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I have read into the record what transpired. I think that that is sufficient to follow all the guidelines that are in place. That is what I am saying today.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: The Member opposite can say "no"; I am telling her what happened.
Mrs. Firth: The Member is refusing to answer the question. I am asking a very specific and simple question. It has been said that the Clerk passed this document - passed it. I want to know what the Clerk passed. What did the Clerk review and pass?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: As the Member said, my understanding is that the Clerk had seen it prior to it going to publication and after it came back from publication. It was approved prior to going to publication. I do not remember any comments being made. I do remember the ECO photographer - I was told - who came running up to check the photographs in it to make sure that there were no government photographs included - and there were none.
Mrs. Firth: That is not the issue. The issue is the defence given by the Cabinet communications coordinator, which was to say that the Clerk passed this document, and that the Clerk authorized this document before and after it was printed. I want to know from the Government Leader if that is an accurate statement. When Mr. Mitchell told that to the media, was it an accurate statement?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: My understanding is that it was an accurate statement.
Mrs. Firth: I want to take issue with the statement that the Government Leader made this afternoon, about the public not being able to differentiate between Cabinet and caucus. Does the Government Leader mean by that statement that because the public does not know any better, that it can just do whatever it wants? It does not matter if there are some irregularities, or some questions raised with respect to the propriety of the actions?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: No, not at all. What I said is exactly what I meant: the public does not differentiate between the caucus and the Cabinet, therefore it is appropriate that a communications advisor check the document for accuracy, because the government could be blamed for the document, even though it was put out by the caucus. It is appropriate. That is what happened, under the management of the Principal Secretary; the document was checked for accuracy.
Mrs. Firth: I want to continue with questions about this mid-term report. I heard the Minister say today that prior to the work going to the printer, the government - meaning whoever was responsible for this publication - got the order in. Could I ask the Government Leader this question? The normal procedure, as I understand it, is that when Members of the Legislature, when government, when anyone else in this government, wants any printing done, they must go through the Queen's Printer. To do that, they must have a request for services from the Queen's Printer. The government did not do that with the mid-term report. This is what the requisition looks like for a request for services from the Queen's Printer. This requisition was not in this package of requisitions that was tabled here in the Legislature.
When the government does not go through the normal procedure, they need the signature of the deputy minister in order to make a request for purchase. Last night I was fairly positive that this document had been printed and distributed at the party convention prior to the work being requisitioned, and that is why I made the accusation. The only time the government would not go through the proper process and get the request for services from the Queen's Printer, and instead ask for a request for purchase, which had to be authorized by the deputy minister, which it is - it is signed by the deputy minister of the Legislative Assembly Office - is when the request is made after the fact.
It proves that, because of the procedure that was used, the request was made after the fact. Otherwise, there would have been a purchase for services from the Queen's Printer, not this other request for purchase signed by the deputy minister, the Clerk of the Assembly.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: That is not my understanding. My understanding is that they verified that the funds were available and the commitment to proceed with the necessary purchase request was obtained from the Clerk's Office prior to it going to the printer. That is the information I have. If the Member opposite wants me to come back with why the request to the Queen's Printer was not filled out, I will do that.
Mrs. Firth: We have to get this sorted out. Perhaps the Government Leader has been given wrong information. This is a fairly serious matter.
Who went down to the Legislative Assembly Office to verify whether or not there were funds available?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I have no idea. As I said, this was done under the direction of the Principal Secretary.
Mrs. Firth: I want to explain this to the Government Leader so he understands what the concern is. Whenever we want printing done - MLAs or government departments - it has to go through the Queen's Printer, because it provides the standing-offer agreements to the private-sector printing companies.
The normal procedure laid out in the Government Services manual is that one takes the requisition for services from the Queen's Printer.; that is filled out; it goes to the Queen's Printer; one sends or delivers the article to whichever printing company one wants to deal with, but the Queen's Printer has already made those arrangements.
If that does not happen, it is usually because one is coming in after the fact; the printing has been done and one is now trying to find a way to pay for it. That is when the request for purchase is used, and that is why it has to have the signature of the deputy minister, because it is an out-of-the-ordinary procedure and outside of the ordinary realm of rules.
That is what happened in this case. I see the Government Leader scrunching his face.
I am telling him the rules as I understand them. I have no reason to misinterpret them or to make this out to be something it is not. I am trying to find out the truth.
Last night, when I raised the issue to substantiate the argument, so I could make it clearer for the Government Leader to see, I indicated to him that the mid-term report had been distributed at his annual Yukon Party convention, the weekend of October 28, and he has substantiated that this afternoon.
The request for purchase did not come until November. Obviously the work had already been done. They came after the fact to get the deputy minister to sign the request for purchase to do the work.
I am not doing this to be obnoxious. I am trying to bring something to the Government Leader's attention. I know that it happened. Perhaps the Minister can stand up and say that he will look into it and ensure that it never happens again.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: The Member can stand there and tell me how she interprets how this should have been done. I do not have a problem with that. However, she is wrong in this case. She does not know if that happened in this case; I take exception to that.
I have no difficulty with her telling us how she believes it should be, which is in the form of a request to the Queen's Printer. I will get the information back to her as quickly as I can. I am not going to accept her version of events - that the request was made after the fact - when I have been told by my people that the request was made prior to it being sent to the printer. I will get the information the Member is seeking.
Mrs. Firth: The reason I feel confident in saying that is because we have already asked the Government Leader for the information. He is indicating that he has given us that information already, but he has not.
I asked for the invoices for the mid-term report a couple of weeks ago. The Government Leader tabled in this House a document containing eight pages of copies of invoices. Not one of them includes a request for service from the Queen's Printer. Either they forgot to put it in, or it does not exist. I am taking the Government Leader at his word that, when he tabled this, he tabled all the information. Obviously, then, it does not exist.
Who is the person who has been telling the Government Leader that everything is all right? Was it the Principal Secretary or the Cabinet communications advisor?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: Whether that document exists, I do not know, but what I said to the Member opposite this afternoon in debate, for the record, was that the process was checked today and the verification of the availability of funds and the commitment to proceed with the necessary purchase request was obtained from the Clerk's Office prior to the work going to the printer. I will get back to her after the break, if possible - they are probably listening to this upstairs - to find out why the document that she says should have been there was not there.
Mrs. Firth: I look forward to the Minister coming back with that information. Can he tell me just quickly who provided this written verification for him? Who did the groundwork and provided him with the briefing note?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: This morning, I asked the Principal Secretary to get this information for me before I came into the House.
Mrs. Firth: I just want to mention one more thing, the point about advertising for the job. I was not raising that as an issue or insisting that the government advertise that position; I was trying to establish how that position was hired, because the Government Leader was not clear whether it was an order-in-council appointment, or whatever. That was the reason I specifically asked that question.
I want to go on to another issue, concerning the boards and committees handbook. I have had a great deal of communication with the government about the boards and committees directory. The old boards and committees directory used to contain the names of the boards, their authorities, the department or agency, their function, their composition, the members of the board, and it included all the names of the members. It included whether they were the chair or just a member and it included their order-in-council number and it included the appointment and expiry dates. It included their term, the length of appointment, their decision authority, the remuneration and the contact department.
For two years I have been corresponding with the Government Leader asking about a new
directory being published, since the last one was published in March 1991. The government
has an individual on staff whose responsibility it is to publish the boards and committees
The Government Leader wrote to me, indicating that a new one was going to be published, but they were not going to include the names of the different chairs, nor the remuneration - well, he did not say anything about the remuneration in his letter. He just said that the names were not going to be put in it. The rationale that the department official is giving for not doing that is because it becomes outdated very quickly. I think this should be an annual publication, so the argument about the names becoming outdated does not hold any water if the government fully intends to publish this on an annual basis, and I think they should.
I also think they should use exactly the same format as the other manual. I know a lot of government agencies, departments, some members of the public and organizations that refer to this directory on a regular basis, checking memberships to boards and so on. I understand that the government is attaching addendums that we will get on a quarterly basis. The addendums will indicate the category of the board, so that we will know what their remuneration is. We will also receive a list of all of the names of the board members - this has been given to us today. At least, I hope it is a list of the names. Yes, it is a list of the board, the supporting department, the name, the start and the end dates, and the order-in-council.
I do not know what the Government Leader's argument will be today. I have heard the public servant's argument defending that in the paper. Maybe I should give the Government Leader a chance to present his argument and then maybe I can make my suggestions to him with respect to how I think they should proceed with this boards and committees directory.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I want to make a comment here: I think that this is why we have so many problems with the Member for Riverdale South. She makes inaccurate statements in the newspapers, like the one last week when she said that we tabled a book with no names in it. She was 50 percent right. However, on November 28, I forwarded to her a complete printout of the names of every person on every board in the Yukon. For her to say that she did not have them was not an accurate statement.
At the same time, I wrote her a letter that explained why we were doing it that way. We have printed this book with phone numbers, so that if they need the name of somebody on a specific committee they will have it. Sometimes the names change on a weekly basis, so it is out of date in a very short time. We believe that it would be better to have a book that lists all of the boards and committees, the numbers and scope of which do not change very often. I believe that we intend to update it every two or three years; that is what we talked about. At any rate, if there is a quarterly update of the list of the people on the boards and committees, there will be better information for everyone.
Mrs. Firth: I was hoping that I would not have to do this, but I guess I am going to have to take up the time of the House.
For the last two years, I have been writing to the Government Leader and asking questions about when we were going to get a boards and committees handbook. I keep getting the usual stalling, so I thought I would write to the Minister just before the House goes into session, because we are sometimes more effective in getting a response at that time. I wrote to the Minister, prior to the House going into session, again asking when we were going to have a new boards and committees directory. I received a letter from the Minister on November 28, along with a hastily drawn up, photocopied group of sheets of boards and committees members. I was the only person who received this document. None of the other Members of the Opposition received it. Nobody in the public received it. None of the organizations that use the book received it. It was not made available at the information desk at the government building.
I only received a copy as a response to my inquiries, because the Minister was hoping that I would not raise it as an issue in the Legislature. It was not a public document. It was something that was hastily drawn up to address a communication from me to the Government Leader.
In that communication, the Government Leader indicated to me that he was going to publish this handbook and that it would be different from the one in the past because the members' names would not be included. When we got the handbook, the media asked me about it and I said the names are not included. Now the Government Leader is standing up and telling me I was only 50-percent correct in my news release. Well, I did not put out a news release. The media asked, "What do you think of this handbook?" I said to the media, "It does not have any names in it." I defy anybody to look at this book and tell me that there are any names in it. I am not 50-percent correct; I am 100-percent correct. For the Minister to say that I gave out inaccurate information and that I was only 50-percent correct is absolutely wrong.
Yesterday, we were given this two-page document, the Boards and Committees Rate Categories. That was presented yesterday. This document, the Boards and Committees Honoraria and Expenses, came into the Legislature today. It has the names of the boards and committees in it. I fail to see - and I do not think any logical or commonsense person can see - where having this, and then this, and then this can be more practical or useful than having one document that contains everything at once.
I think everybody was prepared to live with the fact that they could read when the order-in-councils expired and when an individual was no longer a member of a particular board or committee. The boards and committees are appointed for terms of one to three years. I do not understand the Government Leader's claim that they are changing weekly. It just does not seem practical or logical. It does not seem to make any sense. Why would the Government Leader not consider having annual publications and go back to publishing the boards and committees handbook in one comprehensive, easy-to-read, easy-to-understand document so that people can take advantage of a useful document?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I believe we have made an improvement on the document by doing it this way. Everybody will have an updated list. The Member saying that they do not change weekly is wrong because we have people resigning from boards all the time. Expiration dates are staggered throughout the whole year. No matter when it is put out, even before it is printed the names change. Let us try this for a year to see how it works. If it is too cumbersome, then we can look at going back to the other system, but let us give it a try. I think that, in the long run, it will be a lot cheaper for the government, and I believe it will be more appropriate for the people who are trying to use it because they will have an up-to-date list of names.
Mrs. Firth: I do not know how it is going to be cheaper because it is going to involve more labour. That is the expensive part of putting the document together. It has now become a labour-intensive project. The person who gets these names has to do it three times a year instead of once. I do not understand the Minister's logic.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: That is not quite accurate. It is on the computer. It will probably be updated on a weekly basis, and it will be printed once every quarter. I think that is sufficient. That is what we have these computers for; that is why we spend the money on them. It is a way by which, no matter who is using the book, there will be an up-to-date list of names.
Mrs. Firth: I guess we will just have to wait and see. The representations I have had made to me are that people thought that this old format was a very good format and a very useful tool to assist them in their inquiries, if done on an annual basis. My recommendation to the government would be to look at going back to it.
I have two other questions about boards and committees: one about the cost and the other about the process of appointing people to them. I will deal with the cost first.
I can recall the Members, when they were first elected, indicating that the costs were extremely high, somewhere in excess of $1 million, for all the boards and committees - for operating expenses and per diems.
The Government Leader indicated that they were going to get the costs down. I asked the Government Leader a question about this in the House, and he came back to me with an answer, saying the costs are essentially the same as they had been. Why has the government not been successful in getting the costs of the boards and committees reduced, as was its original intention?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: We will recheck that to see where it was in 1992, when we came to office. I remember the letter; I believe they were comparing costs to last year's budget if they are saying that this year's costs are similar. I do not know how it compares to what it was before we took office. I will check into it and bring back an answer for the Member.
The difficulty we have - I think the Member opposite will appreciate this - is that the majority of these boards are legislated. It is very difficult to not have a board without changing the legislation. A lot of the boards, because of the land claims settlements, fall under the umbrella final agreement, which means that we are obligated to keep them.
After the settlement of land claims, some of them, such as the Fish and Wildlife Management Board, will now be funded through different sources, so it is no longer totally our responsibility. However, with that change came a substantial increase in its overall budget.
Some of the boards, such as one I am responsible for - the Council on the Economy and the Environment - have not spent the amount of money that previous boards have spent. I will try to get a figure for the Member so she can compare costs with those before we took over government.
Mrs. Firth: I would appreciate that. Can the Minister tell me this afternoon what the total cost is of the boards and committees?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: No, I cannot. They are scattered throughout the departments. It will take some work to get that information together, but we will do it as quickly as we can. Not just one department is responsible for all of the boards and committees.
Mrs. Firth: I am aware of that, but I thought maybe the Government Leader would have that figure at his fingertips. I know I asked previously in this sitting, and he said that it was the same. I do not know where he got that answer, or who gave him that answer, but I thought he would have had that figure.
I will wait to get it and I will move on to the second part of my question about boards and committees, and that is the process for appointing members to the boards and committees.
Two years ago we had a motion on the Order Paper, which is now gone, with respect to
appointments to boards and committees. I do not want to go back to two years ago and enter
into that debate again. I think it is fair to say that agreements could not be reached and
the motion was removed from the Order Paper. Boards and committees are presently being
appointed in the same way as they have always been, which is strictly by the Cabinet. It
was an election promise of the Yukon Party that they were going to have a more fair
process for appointing people to boards and committees, one that was more open, more
representative of the Yukon public and one that was going to involve more participation
from some of the other elected Members. Nothing has happened with respect to that. I would
like to ask the Government Leader if there are any plans to change the process for
appointing people to boards and committees?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: The Member is quite right. We proposed a motion that we thought would give some transparency to the appointment of board members and would give the Legislature the opportunity to vet what they felt they were political patronage appointments, and I would be prepared to meet with the Opposition to see if we can work something out in that respect.
As a government, we should have the right to present the names to the Legislature to be vetted. I could not live with the amendments that were made. I do not believe we should be interviewing people for boards or for chairs of boards in a public forum. We have seen what has happened in other jurisdictions with those kinds of processes, and I am prepared to entertain anything that still gives us the opportunity to suggest names that are then vetted by the Legislature. That in itself will create the transparency needed to overcome the appearance of pork-barrelling.
If the Members opposite want to entertain those kinds of discussions, I would be happy to listen to their representations.
Mrs. Firth: I would like to point out to the Government Leader that the process he has just enunciated is kind of what is happening now. The government has the ability to make the appointments. We get to discuss those appointments here in the Legislature. We do not see them beforehand and we have no input into them. So that is kind of what is happening now. The only time we have an opportunity to raise questions about the appointments is here in the Legislature, which is almost as bad as the process the Minister disagreed with, where they would be subjected to public scrutiny.
I would like to ask the Government Leader if he is prepared to consider some other
approach, like an all-party committee or some process by which all Members, or a majority
of a representation of Members of the Legislature, have an opportunity to make
recommendations and help the government in its choices. I know the Government Leader
thinks that the Cabinet should have the right to make the appointments, but right now no
one else has any input into those appointments.
Is he considering an approach that will give other Members or other parties some input into the appointments to boards and committees?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: If I remember the motion correctly, that is exactly what we were proposing. We would not appoint them and then bring them to the committee. Instead, we would say that we are proposing these people, and the committee would then review them before they were appointed. That gives the process transparency and avoids political patronage appointments. I just did not want to be putting on a big side show and doing it in a public forum. I felt that the discussions should be done in camera, but still allow for input from the rest of the Members of the Legislature. I do not think anyone on this side of the House has difficulty with that. However, I believe that, as the government of the day, we should have the right to put the names forward.
We got into a process where the names were going to be coming from all directions into the Legislature in a big, long, complicated process. We are attempting to maintain fairness and a balance on the boards, and to keep people on the boards who have experience in order that they can better contribute to the government. I am prepared to listen to ideas about what we can do to make the system more transparent and to avoid being accused of making political patronage appointments.
Mrs. Firth: I do not have a problem with lots of names coming forward. I think that the more names that come forward, the better choices we have to select board members. The point I am making is that, presently, we do not have a committee to even review the choices that the government is making with respect to boards and committees. We do not have an opportunity to have any input with respect to suggesting names for boards and committees. It is all done by the government.
If there is an opening on one of the boards, as Opposition Members, we are not consulted or asked if we have any names to submit. The government simply fills the position on its own. Some groups or organizations may be consulted - I do not know. Some Ministers may have their own method of doing that. I know that each Minister may do it differently because I have heard some people say that one Minister will call and ask a group to put forward some names, and another Minister will simply ask if a particular person is a good candidate for an appointment. There is obviously some flexibility within the government as to how each Minister operates, although I am aware that Cabinet endorses all of the appointments. Is the government considering having a committee to review the government's proposed names for appointment to boards?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: The process in place right now is that there is always a request out for names. At certain times, we advertise in the media for people to put their name forward to the central agency, where a list of names is kept. When we have an opening on a board, the first step we take is to go through the list of names to see who is available. If the Minister does not find people on the list whom he feels are appropriate, he asks other groups or people for suggestions, or he asks his Cabinet colleagues for help. That is the process that is in place now.
If the Legislature has an appetite to consider a legislative committee to vet the names we might propose and make its recommendations, while leaving the final choice to the government, I would have no problem with that. Ultimately, I think the final choice should be left to the government.
If there is criticism of a name put forward for a specific board - be it that they are not qualified, or that it would be perceived as political patronage - the government would be very foolhardy and naive to go ahead with that appointment, after being critiqued by a legislative committee.
Mrs. Firth: Can the Government Leader tell us how this is going to work? Is he going to initiate the process to develop the committee, or are we as Opposition Members supposed to do that?
If we leave this discussion, I know nothing will happen. I want to find out if the Government Leader is interested in changing that process and if he is going to initiate that change, or is it up to us? If it is up to us, I will move in that direction.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I will tell the Member what I will be prepared to do. I am prepared to have my staff draft a motion, which I will circulate to all parties before I table it in the House. I am not prepared to entertain another motion like we had in the first session, where a whole string of amendments were applied to it. That is not acceptable to anyone.
In that instance, we are still a minority government, and it is not one on which I would want to call a confidence motion. We will need the support of the Members opposite for it to pass.
If there is any appetite for that, I would be quite happy to have my staff draft a motion similar to the one put forward in the first session. We will see if we can make some improvements to take into consideration some of the comments made by Members opposite.
For the information of the Member opposite, the cost to print the directory is $1.92 per copy. The cost of the photocopy package with the update, on a quarterly basis, of the honorariums and names would be 42 cents per copy.
Mrs. Firth: I will review that. I still cannot see how it could be cheaper to do that, but I will review it and we will discuss it at a later time.
I will look forward to seeing the motion regarding the committee appointment process. It is definitely the government's call as to whether it is considered a confidence motion. I think that all Members of the Opposition would probably be interested in reviewing it, and we will wait until it is presented.
I would like to move on to a different area in the Executive Council Office, but I think some other Members may have questions with respect to boards and committees so I will leave the floor and let the other Members ask their questions before I move on.
Ms. Moorcroft: I heard the Government Leader's explanation that they did not want to include the lists of the names of the people on boards and committees because they wanted to try a system of updating that separately, quarterly. He stated that the people on the boards do change rapidly. The Government Leader also said that they wanted to have a more transparent system. Can the Government Leader tell us why they took the information about the per diem out of the directory?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: No, I cannot tell the Member at this time why it was taken out, but I will certainly check into it and get back to her.
Ms. Moorcroft: I will thank the Government Leader for getting back to me with
that information. It is certainly relevant information, and it would not take a lot of
space to include the remuneration in the shortened version of the directory. I concede his
point about the list of names, but I think that it would look like a more open government
and a more transparent system if they did include the rates of the per diems in the boards
and committees handbook.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I will accept that recommendation. I am not sure if it was included in the old boards and committees book, and if it was not, that is probably the reason it is not in the new one. I do not know if it was. We will take note of that recommendation and when the new one is printed, there would be no difficulty incorporating that.
Ms. Moorcroft: I would just point out that the old directory did include the remuneration.
Mrs. Firth: I want to move on then to another issue. It is a question I have asked the Government Leader in debate in this House before. It is with respect to the transfer of $60,000 to pay for the contract services of Mr. Terry Boylan from the Yukon Development Corporation and the Yukon Energy Corporation to the Executive Council Office .
I have outstanding questions that have yet to be answered. The first one is: why was this transaction made?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I thought I sent that information to the Member opposite and told her why the transaction was made. It was a policy decision made by Cabinet that the Yukon Development Corporation board would pay for it. It was done under of the Yukon Development Corporation Act.
Mrs. Firth: I understand that but that does not tell me why. Why could the Executive Council Office not pay it? We got into the harangue of whether the information that was being sought was legitimate information for the Yukon Development Corporation, the Yukon Energy Corporation or the Executive Council Office. The Government Leader said that the information was for the Cabinet and that I could not have access to that information. It was not considered to be public information, which it would have been if it belonged to the Yukon Development Corporation or Yukon Energy Corporation. I still do not understand why the Yukon Development Corporation and Yukon Energy Corporation would be required to pay for a contract providing information that was going to be sought for use in Cabinet deliberations and decision making.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: It is done from YDC and, as I said, I will find it here somewhere before the day is over, under the order-in-council. Pursuant to section 15 of the Business Corporations Act, it has the legal ability to make regulations transferring funds from the corporation to YTG, just the same, to my understanding, as transferring dividends from YDC to YEC general revenues. It was not transferred from the Yukon Energy Corporation; it was transferred from the Yukon Development Corporation.
Mrs. Firth: I do not know if there is a lot of difference between the
Development Corporation and the Energy Corporation - the Government Leader is nodding his
head in the affirmative that there is. The difficulty I have is that I do not see how it
would be logical or make any sense for the Development Corporation to be paying for a
contract that was looking at examining privatization or examining any kind of
restructuring of their own service. If this was specifically for information for Cabinet
to make decisions, then it should appropriately be paid for out of the Executive Council
Office, not by the Development Corporation.
The Minister has yet to give us a satisfactory reason why this was done. There must have been some reason, other than just referring to the government having the ability according to such and such clause, of such and such act, and such and such regulation. They must have wanted to do it for some reason and then referred to all those clauses to give them the ability to do it. All I want to know is why they did it.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: That is getting into Cabinet discussions, and I am not going to be discussing Cabinet discussions on the floor of the Legislature.
Mrs. Firth: What the Government Leader is saying is that the reason they did this is confidential; it was a Cabinet decision and he cannot tell us why they did it.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: What I am saying is that it was a legitimate transfer. I quoted to the Member opposite the clauses under which the transfer was made.
Mrs. Firth: I do not dispute the legitimacy or the legality of it. I know the government has the legal ability to do that. We are trying to determine the reason for doing it, and the Government Leader is saying he is not going to tell us the reason they did it because it was a decision of Cabinet. That does not make a lot of sense. The Cabinet makes all kinds of decisions and it usually wants to defend its decisions publicly. I do not understand why it would not want to defend this decision publicly. Surely the Government Leader can see that all it does is raise more questions about why the Government Leader will not tell us why they did this.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: That is fine, but those are Cabinet discussions and I do not want to get into Cabinet discussions on the floor of the Legislature.
Mr. Penikett: This is an interesting new version of the doctrine of Cabinet confidentiality. I understood that tradition and rule to protect the individual Ministers in the expression of their individual views during debate in Cabinet. The doctrine of Cabinet confidentiality is married to the doctrine of Cabinet solidarity. In other words, the discussions about a policy matter are confidential, so we may not know how furious the debate was between Minister A and Minister B and so on. However, in a democracy, once the Cabinet has made a decision, we are entitled to know what the decision is and why they made it. That cannot be covered by the theory of Cabinet confidentiality. One cannot say that the Cabinet has made decision X, but we are not going to say why. One cannot use the tradition of Cabinet confidentiality to do that.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I will take that under advisement. I cannot remember the reasons for that. It was over a year ago that the decision was made. I remember it being made, but I cannot remember the rationale behind it.
Mr. Penikett: Without being a pink meanie, I would like to reiterate my concern about this.
We know that this was during the period when there was active discussion about the privatization of all or part of the Yukon Energy Corporation which, according to the government, is a private corporation but which, according to everyone else, is a publicly owned entity, reporting to the government through its parent body - the Yukon Development Corporation.
The Government Leader can respond to this when he returns with an answer, but it bothers me. The Yukon Development Corporation and the Yukon Energy Corporation were set up to serve a purpose. They were set up as public utilities. They
do not, by themselves, have the right to sell off their assets. They do not have the right to dismantle themselves. They do not have the right to hire a lawyer from Vancouver to tell them how they can sell off public property. I do not think the government has the right to do that, either.
It may have a legal right, but it has no mandate or democratic right.
All that aside, it makes no sense to me. We know that this lawyer was hired by the Cabinet on the instructions of the Government Leader or Cabinet.
We know he was carrying out what was, essentially, a political task of investigating the possibility of selling a chunk of the corporation to either the First Nations or to Alberta Power or both. We clearly concede that Cabinet would have the right to spend money to hire someone to research or investigate that possibility, although it is clear that he was not just investigating it in the later stages; he may even have been negotiating.
What I do not understand is why the Yukon Energy Corporation should be stiffed with the bill for dismantling itself. It is not in its mandate to do that.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I will get what information I can for the Member opposite. However, the Yukon Energy Corporation would not have been stiffed with the bill because the Yukon Development Corporation would have the right to transfer dividends from the Yukon Development Corporation to the government. At the time, it may be that we did not have the funds available in the Executive Council Office to do it. I do not know. I will see what additional information I can get for the Members opposite. We do have the ability to transfer dividends from the Yukon Development Corporation to the government.
Mr. Penikett: I should point out to the Government Leader what a strange irony this is, because if the Government Leader says that this is an imputed dividend from the Energy Corporation/Development Corporation to the government, I would point out that it is the first one of its kind that has ever gone to the government. It is especially ironic, when I was accused the other night by the Government Leader of using the profits of the Watson Lake sawmill to do some very horrible things. The Watson Lake sawmill, to my knowledge - and Mr. Cable, as a director of the corporation then, may know different - did not have any profits, at least in the meaning of net profits.
Mr. Cable: There was discussion yesterday about the relationship between the government and the Energy Corporation and the Yukon Development Corporation. The Minister indicated that he had an arm's-length relationship with those corporations. It appears that there has been a certain amount of intimacy, if I can use that word, over the course of the last two years - and I think of the Division Mountain coal project and the privatization thrust, and two or three other things that have cropped up on the floor. Just what sort of communication does the Government Leader, as the Minister responsible for the corporation, have with either the president or the chair of the board?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: When the House is in session, the communication I have with
them is to gather information for the Members opposite. I do not meet with them on a
regular basis. If an issue arises on which I need information, I do meet with them, or if
there is some concern that it has - such as the readjustment hearing we and Justice just
went through, and those kinds of things - we meet with them. It is not that the president
comes into my office every morning, or anything.
Mr. Cable: As the Minister will recollect, we amended the Yukon Development Corporation Act to restrict the objects of the corporation and restrict its activities. In any event, the Yukon Development Corporation seems to be restricted, in either practical terms or legislative terms, to working on energy-related projects. I gather that one of those projects is the Division Mountain coal project, but that thrust seems to be driven by the government, so I am not quite sure who is actually driving that train. Is it the Minister and his Cabinet, or is it the Yukon Development Corporation?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: The Division Mountain coal project was one on which we received a briefing. I will start at square one - we did not change the Yukon Development Corporation Act, we changed the policy governing what the Yukon Energy Corporation should be doing and what the Yukon Development Corporation should be doing. The Division Mountain coal project was a fallout from that; we instructed the corporation to look at the viability of using coal for electrical generation. Cash Resources started its exploration project, and then briefed me, as Government Leader. They said that they were interested in pursing something, so I sent them over to the Yukon Energy Corporation. That was the extent of it.
They briefed the board, and I was not there when they did that. At this point, I have not had any further discussions with the company. They talked to the president on a couple of occasions, but I do not believe it has progressed any further than that. The Yukon Development Corporation, as you know, embarked on a coal study, which it is in the process of analyzing. That is about as far as that project has proceeded. I do not know if I can give the Member any more information.
Mr. Cable: What I am working up to is the Government Leader's view of what the communication should be and, in particular, of the operational audit that is being done. I would like the Government Leader to refer to section 17(4) of the Yukon Development Corporation Act. I will read it out. "The Auditor General from time to time may make to the corporation or the Executive Council Member such other reports as the Auditor General considers necessary or as the Executive Council Member may require." That would include an operational audit such as is being done. The act contemplates the government possibly having a role. It could be done by the Development Corporation or by the Executive Council Member.
Through two rounds of questioning, the Government Leader seemed to be quite antsy about
getting involved in it. It would seem, as a matter of public policy, that a request made
public to the Development Corporation, for the terms of reference of the audit and the
audit report, would not be unreasonable. I do not think, if made public, it would be seen
as interference with the corporation. Why is the Government Leader so reluctant to get
those terms of reference and table them?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I had the notes on that and I have misplaced them. What I would like to say to the Member is that I am not personally concerned about it. What I am concerned about is criticism of political interference, which the Member opposite was very critical about in the past. I think if one is going to work arm's length from the corporation, one should bide by the terms of reference about how to operate. If it is not, then we have the ability to change the policy, yes.
I am not sure of my legal position right now. I think when the exchange occurred, the Member asked me if I was prepared to instruct the board to release the audit. I do not know that I can do that without making a policy directive, because I do not think that I have that ability under the terms of reference of how the board operates.
Mr. Cable: The law can be cleared up. We have a battery of lawyers who can do those things. There are ways to solve that problem and solve it in compliance with the act.
Let me ask the Government Leader this: does he feel that both the terms of reference and the report itself should, as a matter of public policy, be made available to the public for review? That is the report on the management contract between Yukon Energy Corporation and the manager, the Yukon Electrical Company Limited.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I am going to beg off making a statement of yes or no on that, until I have a chance to get that information and review it again. I get barrages of information here and I had it around for awhile after the Member raised that question in the House, because I expected that he would come back with the question. With all the papers I have, I have misplaced it. I will get the information back and I will prepare to answer the Member at that time.
Mr. Cable: We are probably all on the learning curve on how to deal with Crown corporations. It seems to me that this is an obvious thing. The public should have the right to access the report when it comes down. We have a multi-million dollar corporation serving everyone under the management of another corporation. I cannot possibly conceive of what sort of confidentiality problems would arise. I cannot conceive of why this report should not be public. Is the Minister prepared, if he runs into a stone wall, to do whatever is necessary in a regulatory sense? I am sure the Minister can do this, either in a regulatory sense or by issuing a directive to make sure that the report is made public.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: No, I am not prepared to do that today. I want to again review the arguments that the corporation is making. It would be irresponsible of me to make that sort of a statement on my feet today, when I do not have all of the facts at my fingertips.
Mr. Cable: Okay, let us accept that, but the questions were asked some time ago. It was maybe two weeks ago. Is there some time line under which we can expect to receive the answer to this question?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I am sure that the corporation is listening to the exchange in the House today. I expect that I can have that information about what is happening for the Member opposite very quickly. I will give the Member all the information I can now and will tell him why the report will be made public, or why it will not be.
I just want to say that the Member opposite knows that the Yukon Energy Corporation is a very transparent operation. The Yukon Utilities Board asks for all kinds of information, and that is in the public forum. The Water Board asks for all kinds of information, and that is in the public forum. The Member opposite, being a former president of that corporation, knows that there are some confidentiality agreements between itself and Yukon Electrical. If I remember correctly, this was one of the concerns in the audit, because, in doing an audit, not only is the Yukon Energy Corporation being audited, so is the Yukon Electrical Company. Again, I do not have all the information here. I will get it for the Member as quickly as I can.
Mr. Cable: As a parting comment, it is my view, correctly or incorrectly, that
this information is accessible under the Access to Information Act, and I will make
that application, just as a stimulus to the thinking of the Yukon Energy Corporation.
Mrs. Firth: I want to follow up with the Minister with respect to the decision that was made to transfer the $60,000. I have some outstanding questions that the Government Leader has not answered.
I had asked the Government Leader what information the board had with respect to this transfer: if the board was aware of it, if the board had agreed to it and if it was involved in any way in the decision. The last time we discussed it in the House the Minister indicated that he assumed the board had been talked to because he talked to Mr. Byers. Mr. Byers was the only person to whom the Minister had talked, but he assumed that Mr. Byers had talked to the board.
Could the Minister give us a more accurate answer this afternoon with respect to the board's involvement in the transfer of that money?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I recall that the board approved the transfer. I have a note here, which is not exactly on that subject, but it says that the president of the corporation briefs the board on a regular basis. Regarding this initiative, which was to do with the Boylan contract, yes, the board was briefed by the president of the corporation.
Mrs. Firth: The board was briefed. Does that mean they were involved in the decision? Did they make the decision or did Mr. Byers just tell them that this was being done?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: The request is passed by order-in-council and goes to the Development Corporation. We set the policy and we have the right to do it under that act. That is what happened in that case. The board would have been fully involved in it.
Mrs. Firth: Just a minute. The Minister just told me that they signed the order-in-council and sent it over to the board. So, the board did not approve the transfer of money. The government had already made the order-in-council and told the board that was the way it was going to be. Obviously, if the order-in-council had been signed, the board had no opportunity to say it did not want the transfer of money made.
That was what I wanted to find out. The Minister has answered my question. The board was not involved in the decision to make the $60,000 transfer from the Yukon Development Corporation to government revenues.
My next question to the Government Leader is this: why was the board not involved in that expenditure decision?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I would ask the Member to go back and read the section of the act I gave her. It explains why the board was not involved in it. The government does it through an OIC, and that sets the policy and direction for the Yukon Development Corporation.
Mrs. Firth: Can the Government Leader tell us how often the Cabinet issues the Yukon Development Corporation board orders-in-council and policy instructions? I know the government has the ability to do it, but I want to know the purpose of the board, if the Cabinet is calling the shots, issuing orders-in-council to the board and giving them direction, particularly with respect to the expenditure of funds.
I could see if it was a policy matter and there was an order-in-council giving the board some policy directive on the direction the government was taking, but this is an expenditure of money, which I think is something for which the board has responsibility and it should be involved in that.
How many times does that happen?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I am not sure how many times it happens. I would have to check the records and get back to the Member on that.
I believe the fact that the request is put into an order-in-council and that is the policy decision that is given to the board, and I do not think, according to the act, that the board has the ability to say no to it. That is my understanding.
Mrs. Firth: That is correct, but surely the Minister can appreciate the problem, in light of the information we have with respect to this particular issue. First of all, it was a very controversial contract that was awarded. Secondly, the Government Leader said that he cannot tell us why they did it, because it was a decision in Cabinet. Anyway, he cannot really remember why they did it. Thirdly, the board had no input into it; they were simply told by the government, through an order-in-council, that this was going to happen. This was the policy directive issued to them. Those are three fairly heavy-hitting points surrounding this issue.
I am concerned about how often Cabinet is planning on doing this and whether it happens on a regular basis or only on a few occasions. I might then be questioning the Government Leader on the reasons for having a board if the government is going to make all the decisions.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I can tell the Member that it is not happening on a regular basis, by any means, but I cannot say if there was one, or two, or three occasions in the two years that we have been in government.
Mrs. Firth: I have one last question before I move off the subject. Could the Government Leader bring me all of the order-in-councils that have been issued to the Yukon Development Corporation to help me better understand the issue?
I know some of the other Members may have some questions about this particular issue, so I will let them ask their questions.
Mr. Penikett: I want to call the Government Leader's attention to an extremely
important issue that has been completely ignored by everyone in this House this afternoon.
I want to ask the Government Leader if he knows that Dave Robertson, the Hansard
editor, will be 59 years old tomorrow?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I have a PROFS from the president of the Yukon Energy Corporation, but I do not think that it will help the Member for Riverside that much. The president would not be prepared to release the terms of reference of the audit on his own, without the expressed consent of the board, and the board is not meeting for another few weeks. I believe they are going to meet in early February. He said that he would ask the chair for direction at that time.
Mrs. Firth: I want to follow up with some more questions with respect to the purpose of the contract that was issued to Mr. Boylan. The Government Leader announced that he had prematurely terminated this contract after more than 60 percent of the contract being paid out. The Government Leader announced to us that they would not be requiring any more services from this individual, and that they were going to be able to have the services done in house - or they would do any further work or the future work in house. Could I ask the Government Leader to fill us in, as Members of the Legislature, on what his plans are? Where is he going from here? How is he using the information that was provided by this consultant, and what are the government's plans in this particular area?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: There are no further plans with respect to diversifying any part of the corporation at this point, because the First Nations were unable to obtain funding.
When I took over as Minister responsible for the corporation, I said I was not going to get into another long drawn-out negotiation period similar to the land claims. Either this was going to go together, or it was not, and they had until the end of November to put it together. That did not happen.
I believe the Member is referring to a letter she saw from Mr. Boylan to CYI, saying that I may get other instructions. The "other instructions" he was referring to were that if the First Nations were not successful in making some arrangement with the federal government for taking over the notes, we had already warned the federal government that we would be looking to renegotiate that note, as we felt it was not appropriate to the times.
Whether or not we are successful, we will try to renegotiate it with the federal
government, but it will be done with people we have on staff, and we will probably utilize
Mr. McTiernan in his role as the deputy minister responsible for devolution.
Mrs. Firth: Is it fair to say that all discussions and prospective initiatives with respect to changing the makeup of the Yukon Energy Corporation are on hold, that the Association of Yukon Communities is no longer a factor, it is not going to look at any kind of partnerships or privatization or anything, but the only direction they are going to take is to renegotiate the note with the federal government.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: That is correct. We left the door open for the First Nations. If at some time in the future, they were able to obtain the funding, we would entertain proposals from them. That is the only thing out there.
Mrs. Firth: The government's official position with respect to the Association of Yukon Communities is that it is finished. That is what the Government Leader is indicating.
Could the Government Leader indicate to us when they are going to start the process to renegotiate this loan, what their goal is, and when they hope to have it started and finished?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: We have already made noises to the federal government that we are going to approach it. I have not talked to the corporation lately about what its schedule is on that.
I am sure it will be done in the near future. We had hoped to have it done before the Faro mine reopened. Our case is a lot weaker once the mine is open.
I do not know how successful we will be on this. It is going to be a hard fight, but it
is worth a try.
Mr. McDonald: I thank the Government Leader for presenting us with an update to the winter employment projects list. I appreciate that the first list was not checked by anyone who knew anything about winter employment, or even about the budgets. I think it was discovered that some of the items on the first list as supplementary budget items were budget items from the main estimates.
I presume the list that is dated January 18, 1995, is a corrected and thoroughly considered list of winter employment projects. I have a couple of policy questions about this list.
When the government proposed to promote winter employment programs, the Minister already indicated that the first criteria was that they be projects advanced from among those that would go ahead anyway in the coming year. The Minister also indicated that these projects would have some impact on employment.
On consideration of the first list, it is apparent that there were a number of expenditures being proposed that really had nothing to do with creating employment, but were simply normal budget items that had, I guess, their own justification. Certainly in analyzing the total list it was apparent that the government had made some determination as to what was an employment project and what was not, as it was clear that not all supplementary budget expenditures made it on to the list.
I have not done anything so nasty as to insist that a list of jobs be created as a result of the expenditures, and I will not ask for that now. I do not think that we need to go through another debate about whether or not the number of jobs associated with these projects is statistically correct. However, I have to ask the Government Leader about the latest, updated, corrected list because, to make a serious point, there are a number of people out there this winter who would like work. A number of people in the communities are always interested in work in the off-season. I remain puzzled by the list itself. I am puzzled as to why some projects made it on the list and others did not.
I would be particularly puzzled and somewhat upset if the government was announcing that its large winter employment program was creating a number of jobs, because clearly some of these projects are hard to sell when it comes to their job-creating abilities.
I will just give the Minister some examples of projects I think are somewhat dubious as winter employment projects.
In Community and Transportation Services, we see the department purchasing sundry equipment for $200,000. There may be a good reason for purchasing $200,000 worth of equipment for the transportation branch, but I doubt it would cost anyone in purchasing more than half a day to write out the purchase orders and purchase that equipment. The Minister knows as well as I do that there are projects - we have talked about brush clearing projects and other things for highway work - that could create a lot more jobs with $200,000 than would purchasing sundry equipment.
Again, I would just point out to the Minister, so he does not mistake what I am saying, that I am thinking about winter employment projects. I am not saying that $200,000 should not be expended on equipment, but I am taking issue with whether or not this should be on a winter employment projects list.
On page 3 of the list, there is something called "surplus electricity utilization", for $150,000. I would be interested in knowing how many jobs this is creating and who is getting the employment. It may well be a perfectly developed expenditure but, again, not necessarily something that should be on this list.
The supply services branch of Government Services is spending $60,000 on motor vehicles. It is not $280,000, as was on the first list, but I would nevertheless argue that the purchase of motor vehicles could not classically be considered a winter works project. One might take some exception to insurance planning on government buildings as a winter works project for $70,000, and I could certainly be persuaded that it might be winter work for some consultant.
In Justice, the government is going to be spending $88,000 on equipment and furniture. Again, perhaps it is a valid expenditure, but not necessarily one that is dedicated to winter employment, unless, of course, this expenditure is going to be put toward to purchasing local furniture and keeping local manufacturers busy.
I am asking these questions because I remain puzzled by the designation of winter employment that is attached to these expenditures. Perhaps the Minister could just fill me in as to what it is. We are dealing with the latest versions, dated January 18, so obviously it is the most recent, especially given that we have gone through debate once before, and I have made all these points once before. Obviously, the government has considered my arguments, dismissed them and resubmitted a new list with slightly different numbers. Can the Minister tell me why the government considers this to be winter employment?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: No, I cannot. The Member has put it on the record now, and I am sure that the Ministers responsible are listening. When we get to their departments, maybe they will be able to explain it for him, but I cannot at this point.
Mr. McDonald: I will take the Minister's advice and ask each Minister why their departments have approved these as winter employment projects.
I have another subject to address, and that is, once again, unfortunately, the subject of the waterfront residents. Perhaps, because it is 4:30 and the time when we would normally have a break, the Members would rather not get into it, but would like to take a brief recess, after which I would like to sum up my concerns about the waterfront residents.
Chair: Is it the wish of the Members to take a brief recess at this time?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: We will take a brief recess.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. Is there further general debate on Executive Council Office?
Mr. McDonald: I would like to once again raise the issue of the future of the waterfront residents. I will explain why I am doing that.
I have been the MLA for McIntyre-Takhini for a couple of years, and I have raised the issue of the future of those residents for two years. I have had discussions with Ministers and departments on this particular subject, both inside and outside of the Legislature. We are now in a situation where, in all likelihood, land selections, land claims and development pressures of land planning will all take place in the next calendar year. The residents of the area know full well that they are not a high priority with a lot of people who talk about waterfront development. They realize that they do not have a lot of power, and they realize that they do not carry much influence over public opinion or in the Legislature or city council.
They are depending on me to get them some answers about their future, and I am committed to not let them down. Because we are going to have one sitting, and because it appears that the Land Claims Secretariat is responsible for holding discussions with them and making recommendations to the decision makers about their future, I feel that this is the opportunity to do it. Since we cannot deal with this matter in Community and Transportation Services, it is now or never, essentially, to try to get some sense of what the options are.
First of all, I have to say that, as important as the work of the Land Claims Secretariat is, and as capable as those people are, I do not believe that they are equipped to handle this situation in all its complexities, particularly as it has been lands branch in the past that has had to deal with squatters and understands the policy implications of people in circumstances like those that are faced by the residents of Sleepy Hollow and the Shipyards in Whitehorse.
I am puzzled about why the Land Claims Secretariat is the lead agent in discussions with the residents about their future. When it comes to negotiating a land claim, and deciding who owns what land on the waterfront, obviously the Land Claims Secretariat plays a lead role. That I can appreciate. I would expect it to carry on the negotiations with the First Nations and the City of Whitehorse about who owns what land on that site.
Once that has been decided, there will be lands left under Yukon government control, and there is every likelihood - in fact, there is every probability - that the lands remaining will include residents.
It would only seem appropriate, under the circumstances, to be doing advanced planning work as to what might happen and what options would be available to those squatters, or to the residents of that area. I would point out that some of them do not consider themselves to be squatters, particularly the First Nations residents, because they are of the view that they have every natural right to the property and should not be called "squatters". There are others who accept the designation readily, but feel that they have some rights to continue living in a place where many have lived for decades, or should be compensated in some way if they are told that they must leave.
I have to pursue this now, because I do not believe that there will be another opportunity. The people who live there have expressed to me, on many occasions, that they are, almost without exception, low-income people, and do not have the financial flexibility to simply leave without compensation. Some of these people have been living there since the 1940s and 1950s and some are more recent. There are probably some who recent as to have only one month's tenure - who knows. It is, in part, a pretty flexible community.
Those who have lived there for some time feel that, since they do not have the financial flexibility to leave, there should be some sort of arrangement made to deal with their situation in a humane way. They are completely aware of the political agenda, expressed by many people, that this area of Whitehorse is valuable and should be developed in some way. For the most part, they acknowledge that the development may not include them, and may not allow them to continue living where they are. They know that, at some point, they will have to consider leaving.
There are others who believe, because they live in buildings that - at least in two cases that I know of - date back to the 1900 to 1905 period, that the planning should somehow accommodate the heritage value of the Shipyards and Sleep Hollow areas. They believe that there should be some thought given to allowing those buildings to remain where they are and, consequently, allowing the people to remain living in them.
Consequently, this would allow planning to occur around them, or include them, so tourists could see what life had been like on the waterfront around the turn of the century.
Could the Government Leader explain what the procedure will be for dealing with Whitehorse waterfront residents and what consultation the land claims secretariat is planning for their future? In the context of land selections, obviously the people there are going to be affected by land claims.
What policy options is the government considering for dealing with the residents' situation? I have pointed out in the Legislature in the past that when the government intends to expropriate, or move into, a particular area, it has agreed that people can be purchased out there can be a land swap, or there can be some compensation provided to allow the people to find themselves another place to live.
I point to at least two or three examples where this has happened in the past. What is now Rotary Peace Park was the site of a lot of human residential activity, and the government had to respond to the needs of many residents in the area. In my time in the Legislature, the government has also responded to those people who lived in the escarpment area. The government - and by government I mean generic government: federal government, YTG and the city - provided them with some compensation to encourage them to leave an area that the government felt was unsafe.
Most recently, I had another constituent on the Two Mile Hill who was not unlike many
of the residents of the Shipyard/Sleepy Hollow area. He did not technically hold title to
the property on which his house rested but was nevertheless given a land swap to permit
him to leave and set up life elsewhere.
I have to be persistent in my questioning, because the door to Community and Transportation Services seems to have shut before I even got there. This is the place, either here or in general debate of ECO in the mains.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I wish I had some answers for the Member opposite about how we are going to deal with this issue. I have not been fully briefed on it yet. I know it is being talked about at the land claims table, but I agree with the Member opposite that they are not equipped to handle it. They do, however, have to deal with it at the table. The City of Whitehorse also has to be involved, as some squatters are now living on land that the city has purchased. The federal government also must be involved.
My understanding is that there were offers made to the squatters in the past. They were refused. I am not certain about that; perhaps the Member can provide more information about that.
At the first opportunity - possibly within the next week or two - I am going to get a full briefing from the Land Claims Secretariat and Community and Transportation Services to see if they have explored all the available options.
I believe that the first thing that has to be settled before we can do anything with the squatters is the land tenure on the river. We have to know who is going to own the land; otherwise, it will be impossible to deal with the issue. Once that matter is resolved, then we can deal with the issue of the squatters and how that will be addressed.
Although the Member for McIntyre-Takhini feels that the Minister of Community and Transportation Services closed the door on this issue, the Minister did say in the Legislature that the squatters would be dealt with in a fair and equitable manner. It is reasonable that they be treated in a fair, equitable and compassionate manner. Whether they have a legal right to be there or not, by condoning their presence there for all these years gives them rights that I would certainly not try to refute by saying they had absolutely no rights.
I cannot tell the Member today how the issue will be resolved. I will give him my
assurance, however, that I will look into the matter and get a briefing from the lands
branch and the secretariat people on what has been discussed so far and whether they have
any ideas how to resolve it. Perhaps this should have been done already, but it has not.
It has not been discussed at the Cabinet level yet. I will look into it and, as soon as I
can, I will get more information to the Member, whether the House is sitting or not. I
will get what I can while the House is sitting and, whatever information comes through
during the summer, I will make the commitment to the Member that I will keep him fully
informed of what is transpiring.
Mr. McDonald: I am going to ask that, after the briefing has taken place, we discuss this further. We owe it to the people who reside there to have some general discussion about the options and what has happened to date. If there is an opportunity during the next couple of weeks, either during the Executive Council Office or Community and Transportation Services debate, I would like the opportunity to discuss it without being told that I have the wrong line item, or something.
The reason I want to do that is to talk on the record in public about what constitutes fair and equitable treatment. I agree with the general thrust the government says it is intending to pursue. It wants to deal with these people in a fair way, and I support that. I would like to explore some of the options, even in general terms, so that we know whether or not the door is closed on any particular one. I need to know what kind of position I should be mounting with my constituents before it is too late, or before solutions are decided in haste.
The Minister is correct that the residents of the area had been offered life-estate leases under the squatter policy that was passed in 1988 or 1989. Everyone who could be identified during that period was offered a life-estate lease on the grounds that the city, which had made an intervention at the time, did not want to give people tenure and did not want us to sell lands in this particular area, as they had other needs for the site.
The offer for a life estate lease was made. I suppose I signed the letter myself. The response from the residents who got together was that they would prefer to wait until they could decide their futures in the context of the land claims negotiations in the sense that some of the residents were land claims beneficiaries and they believed that it was probably more - not that they thought they were going to get a better deal - in the interests of the health of their little community. There is some community feeling. They hang in together and have their futures decided together.
If the Minister could give me the commitment that we can discuss this once he has been briefed, perhaps in Community and Transportation Services, if that is where we are when the time comes, then I would like to be able to do that. It would eliminate the need to pursue it now.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I do not have any problem giving the Member that commitment. By the time we get to Community and Transportation Services, I will try to be fully briefed on it. When we get into that debate, I would be happy to rise and put on the record what, if anything, we have planned, or how lacking we are in plans and what we plan to do about them. I want to put on the record here that I believe I would have to agree with the position that the Members took back in 1989 or 1990, or whenever it was that the Member said the offer was made, that they would prefer to wait until land claims are over.
I, for some reason, seem to feel that I do not think we would be able to do anything until that land tenure is settled. It is hoped, though, that that will happen shortly and we can all get on with our lives. I will make that commitment to the Member opposite; he will have the opportunity to debate that some time during the budget debate.
Mr. McDonald: I will leave that subject.
I would like to ask for information about the Bureau of Management Improvement. We had a long discussion in the past about what was labeled as a suggestion box. I do not want to pursue that element of the debate, as much as I would like to ask for some sense of how the bureau is working and what has happened as a result of its creation.
Can the Minister provide us with a list of suggestions that have come from the public
service or the private sector? I believe anyone can make a suggestion on how government
operations can be improved and the cost savings that can be achieved. Can he also tell us
what action has been taken as a result of those suggestions? Considering the suggestions
acted upon and for which there has been a cost saving, can he give us some sense of how
much has been saved as a result of this particular program?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I believe there were a couple of examples of suggestions given in the budget speech, which I do not have with me in the House today, such as digging up and reusing the old chipseal. That was a substantial savings of, I believe, something like $12,000 per kilometer. Perhaps the Minister responsible for highways has that information.
Regarding the bureau in general, the service improvement program is achieving its objectives, which are to involve the public and employees in making suggestions about service improvements and to complement activities related to improvements in services that are underway in departments. There have been 85 suggestions received and considered by the program. To date, 14 suggestions have either been implemented or approved, 29 suggestions were responded to or answered by departments, of which a number are already being acted upon within the departments, 20 suggestions, many of which have wide-ranging implications, are still under consideration, and 22 suggestions are not being acted on, either because they were not feasible or fell outside the scope of the program because they would have a direct impact on the collective agreement, for example. In addition to the suggestions made to the service improvement program, departments have instituted a range of service improvement initiatives. Costs associated with the program that extended beyond staff costs were disclosed during the last sitting of the Legislature, while $1,550 spent on advertising and printing costs are the only costs associated with the program to date.
The 14 suggestions that have been made to the program have either been approved or implemented by departments. An example of the suggestions is exploring mediation as a possible alternative to court proceedings. The Department of Justice is identifying suitable areas for this type of initiative. Another is establishing a project management approach to large program implementation projects. The Department of Government Services and the Public Service Commission are working in cooperation with other government departments to ensure successful project initiation and completion. Another example is the use of credit cards for the payment of government fees or expenses. The Department of Finance is working with the departments to identify opportunities for this type of service to be provided. Another is installing floor directories at all entrances within the main administration building to improve service to the public. Government Services has installed these directories.
As these examples indicate, suggestions that have a direct impact on services to the public, as well as issues within YTG, are being addressed.
Of the 29 suggestions that were proposed to the program that have been responded to or answered, these responses acknowledge departmental activities that are or will be in progress. An example of these types of suggestions is the provision of on-the-job training for social assistance recipients. The Department of Health and Social Services announced the Head Start program, which addresses the issues raised with this suggestion.
Regarding withdrawal from the federal government pension plan, the Department of Finance and the Public Service Commission are involved in exploring the feasibility of withdrawal from this plan; on making YTG telephone directories available to the general public, the Yukon Chamber of Commerce has produced a publication with YTG directory information; on assessing the cost of prescription drugs, the Department of Health and Social Services has pursued a drug formulary program to address the costs in this area.
As these examples indicate, suggestions that are being addressed in the program may already be in the process of being addressed by respective departments.
There are 20 suggestions currently under consideration in the program; in other words, they are either under review by the committee or under consideration by a department. In many instances, the time frame for response is determined by the nature of the suggestion.
Examples of some of the suggestions are as follows: permitting departments to carry over unexpended budgets into the next fiscal year - that should sit well with the Member opposite. This suggestion would have implications for our government budgeting process, and the Department of Finance is reviewing the implications of this suggestion. Another suggestion is to explore the purchase of bulk air miles. This suggestion would have implications for air carriers, which are not under YTG control. The Department of Government Services is currently reviewing this suggestion.
The simplification of the contract regulations is an issue that has been under review by Government Services, in conjunction with suppliers who are affected by amendments in this area. This issue will be addressed by the Cabinet.
Determining whether a review of the student transportation regulations is required, the Department of Education busing committee has requested further information pertaining to this suggestion and has it under advisement. As these examples indicate, a department's response to a suggestion depends upon the nature of the suggestion. In other instances a suggestion, by its very nature, may impact on various areas within government, requiring a joint effort by various departments.
Twenty-two suggestions have been submitted to programs, and have either been declined or do not fall within the program criteria. For example, three suggestions submitted to the program raised issues that had a direct impact on the collective bargaining agreement. Four suggestions were deemed to be personal grievances, and 15 suggestions did not show improvements to services provided or were not feasible for implementation.
Mr. McDonald: The Minister listed a few examples of the treatment that some of the suggestions received. I am not going to ask the Government Leader for a complete list of all of the suggestions, but I would like to get a list of the 14 that appear to have been implemented. I wonder if the Minister could also provide me with an assessment of what the cost savings have been for each suggestion - I would appreciate that.
I am somewhat intrigued by the investigation of the repatriation of the federal pension plan. That is deserving of some questions at some point. I recall that when the previous government announced that it was reviewing the repatriation of the pension plan, the Opposition of the day decided that it was not a particularly great idea.
This was largely because they did not believe that the Yukon government was large enough or responsible enough to be able to handle a fairly sizeable pension plan. The issues there include how much one can actually repatriate to the Yukon, given that this pension plan is not fully funded. The federal government would have to make an expenditure in order to provide the Yukon with whatever pension credits we have - something it obviously is not prepared to entertain willingly these days. Consequently, as much as one would want to get 100 percent of our pension credits, any negotiation would probably lead to some negotiated solution as to how much would be received here. Ultimately some liability would be transferred to the Yukon government as a result.
That is a question for another day, and I will either ask this Minister, during Finance debate, or the Minister responsible for the Public Service Commission questions about that later.
Can the Minister give us a list of the 14 that were implemented?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I cannot give it to the Member today, but I will get it for him for the next sitting day, if possible. It should not be any problem.
I would like to make a few comments on repatriation of the pension. The Member is absolutely right. It is an unfunded pension that the federal government has. From the information and investigations that we have made so far, we have a very strong case, especially if we are going to be devolving responsibilities from the federal government and working toward provincial status. There is absolutely no reason why we should continue to have a pension plan for our employees lodged with the federal government, which is unfunded and very precarious, in my opinion.
The Member is also right that we have to calculate it out. That is what the departments are going through now, so that we have a figure to be negotiating. We certainly would like to get it all but we know that it is not realistic. At some point there has to be a figure that we could be satisfied with and the federal government would have to, as he said, come up with the money to do it. Along with that, there are some liabilities, no doubt.
Where we are losing, and we are losing on a daily basis, is we have a government whose turnover rate is something like 10 percent, even today, I believe. A lot of those who are leaving the service and do not have their pension transferred to another area lose half that pension. We as the territorial government lose it because it goes into the federal pot.
We are losing that way. We do not get any benefit for the employees who quit. Their pensions are absorbed by the unfunded liability that the federal government has. We do not feel that that is appropriate.
The Workers' Compensation investment fund has done fairly well, with the appropriate legislation in place to prevent governments from being tempted to dip into it and end up in a situation like the federal government is in, where we have a pension fund that is unfunded. I believe we can handle it better than the federal government is handling it. As the Member said, that is a debate for another day, but I just wanted to bring Members up to date on my thoughts about it. The information I have received on it so far is that we have a strong case with the federal government in this instance.
Mr. McDonald: I think the Minister is right. We have a good case in the sense that we are only seeking funds that have been transferred from the Yukon government, as employer, and the employees' own contributions. We have a good case in the sense that we know we have paid the money, and we are only seeking that money back.
Unfortunately, good cases do not mean a whole lot when the federal government is marching to the tune of a different drummer right now. We could make a good case on the perversity factor in the formula financing agreement, but it does not seem to carry much weight with the federal government, which is prepared to accept any argument of convenience to get any money it can from any source it can.
We already see discussion about the Canada Pension Plan being eroded, even though most
of us have paid into the plan with the assumption that there will be some return when we
turn 65. We have always believed that the plan managers would have protected our
Unfortunately, as the Minister pointed out, the Canada Pension Plan and the public service pension plan have had their funds invested in everything, including our national debt, which is not a particularly secure investment. As I understand it, pensions for public servants are now being paid from annual appropriations and not from any fund. Consequently, anybody who is looking forward to this as some sort of a retirement nest egg should really start looking for alternatives in a hurry.
The Workers' Compensation Board fund is extremely well funded. I think the last actuarial evaluation showed that they were 125 percent funded, which should, for our purposes, make us feel fairly secure.
I would agree with the government's proposal to repatriate the public service pension plan, if they can. It would suggest that we have a better track record of protecting the funds over time than the federal government does.
I support this particular initiative. I think the debate will ultimately boil down to
what measure of unfunded liabilities we are prepared to accept, and which ultimately would
have the consequence of our having to make new appropriations to build up our pension
credits, which we thought had already been established.
It will ultimately be an expenditure that, I am sure, we will be hardpressed to make ourselves, given that we can expect our revenues to decline as well. I agree with the initiative, and I will be very interested in seeing how this issue plays out.
I have a question about ministerial travel. There was a written question on the Order Paper for, I believe, a list of travel. Is the Minister intending to provide that list of travel, prior to our leaving this line?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: Finance is compiling a list of all travel. If the Member wants a specific list of ministerial travel, we can table that. We cannot do it right now, but the department has it. Did the Member want a separate list for ministerial travel?
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: The Member wants a list of all government travel, including the ministerial travel. I do not know if we can provide that for Monday, but I will check with Finance.
Mr. Chair, in view of the time, I move that you report progress.
Motion agreed to
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I move that the Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Motion agreed to
Speaker resumes the Chair
Speaker: I will now call the House to order. May the House have a report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole?
Mr. Abel: The Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 3, entitled Third Appropriation Act, 1994-95, 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 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. Monday next.
The House adjourned at 5:27 p.m.
The following Sessional Papers were tabled January 19, 1995:
Energy-related matters: letter dated March 29, 1994, to Utilities Consumers' Group from
Mr. Phelps, Minister responsible for the Yukon Energy Corporation (Penikett)
Ice Age mammals (Phillips)
Boards and committees honoraria and expenses; list of board/committee members (dated
December 1994) (Ostashek)
Winter employment projects reflected in supplementary estimates No. 1, 1994-95 (revised
January 18, 1995) (Ostashek)
The following Legislative Returns were tabled January 19, 1995:
Internal trade agreement - Yukon exemption clauses (Ostashek)
Oral, Hansard, p. 395
Trade mission to Asia: detailed breakdown of the $7,801 cost to the Yukon government (Ostashek)
Oral, Hansard, p. 478
Firearm (gun) control: Yukon government's position on the federal government's gun control legislation (Phillips)
Oral, Hansard, p. 360 and 384