Monday, April 24, 1995 - 1:30 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order. At this time, we will proceed with silent Prayers.
Speaker: We will proceed with the Order Paper.
Introduction of Visitors.
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I would like to introduce Mary May-Simon, Canada's Ambassador for Circumpolar Affairs, who is with us in the gallery this afternoon.
This is the Ambassador's first official visit to the Yukon. Based on our meetings earlier today, I anticipate a very productive working relationship as the Ambassador embarks on the many important circumpolar initiatives.
I would ask all Members of the Legislature to join with me in welcoming the Ambassador. Applause
Mr. Penikett: If I may, I would like to add a personal note to the Government Leader's welcome.
Mary May-Simon is the former president of the Inuit Tapirisat and an unindicted co-conspirator in the Charlottetown Accord, together with me.
I would like to use this occasion to congratulate her on her appointment as Canada's first circumpolar ambassador.
Mr. Cable: I would like to introduce the Grade 5 class from Selkirk Elementary School, their teacher, Esther Austring and some of the parents.
Speaker: Are there any Returns or Documents for tabling?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I have some documents for tabling.
Speaker: Are there any Reports of Committees?
Are there any Petitions?
Are there any Bills to be introduced?
Are there any Notices of Motion for the Production of Papers?
Are there any Notices of Motion?
Are there any Statements by Ministers?
This then brings us to the Question Period.
Question re: Old Crow, tribal justice
Ms. Commodore: My question is for the Minister of Justice. The Old Crow First Nation people are concerned about justice problems in their community. They cite the inability of the justice system to enforce the drinking ban, which is one among many of those problems. They have prepared a proposal to develop their own tribal justice system and are asking for $83,000 for that purpose. I would like to ask the Minister if he has had a chance to review that proposal.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: No, I have not.
Ms. Commodore: The Old Crow First Nation says that it is very difficult to have a court worker who only goes to Old Crow when the court circuit is in town. They want a full-time court worker. Does the Minister have funding for that purpose in his community justice program?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: There are funds within the Department of Justice budget for a community court worker program, but that program is administered by the Council for Yukon Indians.
Ms. Commodore: That is interesting. The proposal has been in the Minister's department for awhile. I think Old Crow would appreciate it if he were to review it. Part of the proposal deals with crime prevention. They want to deal with things like the harassment of those individuals who support the alcohol ban and oppose individuals bringing alcohol into Old Crow. I would like to ask the Minister if he is aware of that problem, and if he has had any discussions with the Justice officials in that community to talk about that problem.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: Yes, I am aware of some of the problems associated with the drinking ban in Old Crow, and some of the crimes that occur in that community. I hope that, when the talking-about-crime community visits take place in Old Crow, we will hear more from the community there, and we will be developing a plan for that community to deal with the problem there, using existing resources within the community justice area.
Question re: Old Crow, municipal services
Ms. Commodore: My question is for the Government Leader regarding self-government. The chief and council of Old Crow are concerned that the government is abandoning the provision of municipal services on band lands, such as consolidating the public library and band archives without support from the Department of Education. I would like to ask the Government Leader if there is a lack of support for Old Crow in regard to the self-government issues that they are dealing with?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: No, there is no lack of support that I am aware of. I have not heard of any problems in that respect.
Ms. Commodore: From listening to individuals in Old Crow, there appear to be a number of problems that have been brought to our attention. The band is concerned that there is not the will or the cooperation to actually implement self-government in the time frame outlined in the land claims agreement. Will the government freeze program funding to ensure that programs survive intact?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: The Member opposite is aware that implementation funding for self-government has been negotiated with the federal government. We have always said that we will work with the First Nations and the federal government on the implementation of land claims and self-government at the pace at which the First Nations want to proceed, as long as we have the funding to do so. I have not heard of any problem, and that is why I am a bit surprised by the question.
Ms. Commodore: I know that the Government Leader was intending to go to Old Crow quite a few months ago, and that it did not happen. It appears that there are a number of problems that we, as the Opposition, have been told about. I would like to ask the Government Leader if he intends to go to Old Crow to talk with the people about some of the problems that they have identified to us.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I am surprised that the people from Old Crow would go to the Opposition first, without going to their MLA, who is part of this government. If they had some valid concerns and wanted us to address them, I would think they would be making us aware of them. We are aware of some issues, but I have not heard of anything as serious as the Member opposite is trying to raise.
I will be visiting all Yukon communities this year, including Old Crow.
Question re: Freegold Road, truck route through Carmacks
Mr. Cable: I have some questions for the Minister of Community and Transportation Services. Last Thursday night, the Minister was in Carmacks at a public meeting discussing the location of the Freegold truck route. It was made clear at the meeting that the government favoured a route through the village rather than a bypass route around the village. I was left with the impression that, even if the majority of the First Nation people adjacent to the village and the majority of the villagers favoured the route around the village, the public consultation would have limited effect and that the Minister would make the final call as to whether the route would go through the village or around it.
Is that the Minister's position, and is that the government's position?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I made it very plain that I would bring their remarks back to Cabinet. The Cabinet will make the decision. I did not say I would; I said the Cabinet would make the decision. There are a number of things that we have to consider. Since then, I have had a couple of letters asking a couple of questions. I am hoping, after a cooling-off period, that people will look at both situations and maybe we can come to terms on it.
Mr. Cable: I was at the meeting and there appeared to be not-too-subtle coercion, or perhaps inducement, going on. If the villagers opt for the bypass route around the town, and the government goes along with that route, is the government telling the village that it will not be responsible for the present Nordenskiold Bridge?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: That is correct.
Mr. Cable: It is my understanding that if the government insists on its preferred option - a route through the village - even if the villagers oppose it, then trucks carrying dangerous goods will be driving by residential areas. Am I correct in that assumption?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: That is possible. There will only be six trucks a day, at the most. I might also point out that dangerous goods have been hauled through the village for many years, ever since Anvil was opened.
Question re: Health care in the communities
Mr. Penikett: I have a question for the Minister of Health. The Vuntut Gwitchin chief and council have complained to our caucus about the failure of this government to consult on the issues of community health and on the health transfer itself. However, the government has insisted that actually nothing is happening on this front.
Recently, a physician visiting the community informed the First Nation that his services agreement - which had previously been signed by the federal government - was now signed by the territorial government, as of April 1 of this year. Could I ask the Minister of Health what precipitated this significant change in the arrangements for delivering health care to this community?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: It is news to me. I will look into the allegation and come back with an answer. This is the first I have heard of it.
Mr. Penikett: I know it is only Monday, but I hope the Minister is not going to characterize all questions as accusations.
The First Nation believes that there has been a change, and it concerns the First Nation because no one has consulted with it about the change. Could I ask the Minister if the First Nation has been involved - by him and by his department - in any planning toward new arrangements for the delivery of health care in that community? What discussions have taken place about community health services and the devolution of the programs to the territory, and what arrangements will be made between the First Nation and the territorial government for the delivery of those services?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: At this point in time, we are looking at entering into the phase 2 negotiations for the health transfer. The process was agreed upon by the parties at the time the phase 1 documents were signed, sealed and delivered.
The officials from my department and from the medical services branch will be meeting with the chiefs of the First Nations when they arrive in Whitehorse - I believe it is next week - for some preliminary discussions about the process itself and exactly what body it is anticipated, for example, might stand in the place of CYI, or whether they want some continuation of CYI, which I understand is laying off staff. Those preliminary discussions will be held with the chiefs of the First Nations when they arrive here, and we will take it from there.
There has been no specific special plan regarding the transfer of the programming from the medical services branch regarding Old Crow. The only thing that I am aware of is the addition of nursing staff due to the isolation of the post and the amount of work the one nurse was carrying out in providing care 24 hours a day. This was something that was done by the medical services branch in consultation with the residents of the community.
Mr. Penikett: The problem is that this House has previously heard concerns expressed about arrangements being made by this Minister and his department for the delivery of health services after the transfer from the federal government. The concern is that First Nations have not been fully involved in the making of these arrangements.
Could the Minister confirm that the chief and council have previously requested that when officials of the territorial government visit the community they, as a courtesy, give prior notice.? Can the Minister also confirm that this request has not been respected by the territorial government?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I am certainly unaware of this request having been made to any officials in this government. Certainly, I have pretty good communication with the people in Old Crow and with the MLA. We are working on several things with the community that will be of benefit to the community. We are corresponding with the chief and council, so I am unaware of any specific problems at all. In fact, I think that we enjoy a good two-way communication with the community.
This government has no secret agenda regarding phase 2 of the health transfer, which is just starting. The whole process has to be agreed to even though it was signed off during the administration of the Member opposite. I hope that will move ahead once the preliminary meetings are held with all of the chiefs of all the First Nations.
Question re: Education, children's eye testing
Mr. Penikett: I have another question for the Minister of Health on a different topic. I wonder if the Minister's attention has been drawn to a letter that appeared in a local newspaper last week from an eminent local physician about the question of eye tests for children in the school system. The doctor recommended in the letter that such test be carried out every year. The Minister is the Minister of Education and of Health, and therefore I would like to know the position of the department on that recommendation.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I thank the Member for his question. I received the original of that letter, which was copied to the media. I was a little perplexed that he had not communicated with me first, because in his letter he refers to the fact that three years ago he did not get a response from the administration of the day. We have only been in office for two and one half years. Upon receiving the communication, I met with both of the deputy ministers responsible - the DMs for Education and for Health - and they are currently working on eye testing as characterized in the letter. I fully support the recommendation.
Mr. Penikett: I am glad that the Minister supports the recommendation, because in his letter, the doctor indicates that new programs in Health and Education have had an impact on the scheduling of eye tests. I wonder what the deputy ministers had to tell him about that and the change in the eye testing program.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I would say, in the first place, that we are supportive of his recommendations for continuing the eye testing in a manner in which he indicates has been done. The two departments will be working in conjunction with each other on the issue of training volunteers, and they will work with the individual school councils to implement the program as it was described.
I am not aware of any particular conflict within either department that would prevent this from moving ahead. It is important for the two departments to work together. This morning, I received copies of correspondence between the two departments, and I expect this to move ahead quite quickly.
Mr. Penikett: The Minister mentioned training, as does the doctor in his letter, and the doctor indicated that he had volunteered his time to train parent volunteers to do extremely inexpensive eye tests within the school system.
From the Minister's previous answer, may I take it that that is a model that he enthusiastically supports?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Yes, we support the model of training parent volunteers to provide that service in the schools. I anticipate the departments getting together with the school councils and discussing with the doctor moving this program ahead. I believe it is a very laudable program.
Question re: Shallow Bay, minimum lot size
Ms. Moorcroft: Last week, the Minister responsible for Community and Transportation Services provided us with the survey results of the Shallow Bay area residents. We have also seen a petition tabled in the Legislature from residents who have stated they believe the minimum lot size should remain at six hectares in that zoning area.
Does the government intend to write the regulations to state that there will be a minimum six-hectare lot size in the Shallow Bay area?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: Yes, we consulted with the people, the people voted that way, and that is the way it will be.
Ms. Moorcroft: Residents have told me that this government seems to think more development is better and that it will make every possible opportunity available to subdivide. Can the Minister give his assurance that it will not be asking this question again and opening up this issue again in the near future?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: The Subdivision Act is now in force; I would not guarantee anything. I cannot even guarantee that I will be alive tomorrow morning. I am certainly not going to guarantee that there will not be a request for a subdivision in some area, and I would suspect that in 10 or 15 years people will be asking for it there.
Ms. Moorcroft: I was not inquiring after the Minister's health. I was inquiring about the actions of the government. I would hope that he could speak for the government.
Most pressure for land development is in the Whitehorse area, where there is the greatest demand. I would like to know if the government plans to negotiate respectfully with Kwanlin Dun, Ta'an Kwach'an and the Carcross-Tagish First Nations to settle those claims with the Whitehorse area First Nations as a priority before developing or subdividing any more land in the Whitehorse area? Will that be done?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I have consulted with all the First Nations. I continue to consult with them. It is unfortunate that in many, many cases they do not reply to my letters and they do not return phone calls.
Question re: Land development, consultation with First Nations
Ms. Moorcroft: I would like to go back to the same Minister, because he has not answered the question. I did not ask him whether the government plans to consult.
Perhaps I should ask the Government Leader this question: does the government plan to negotiate respectfully with Kwanlin Dun, Ta'an Kwach'an and the Carcross-Tagish First Nations and complete the claims of the Whitehorse area First Nations as a priority before developing any more land in the Whitehorse area?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I thought the Member was in the House last week when I answered that very question. I said that neither this government nor any previous government has put a stop to all development while waiting for land claims to be settled. There will be ongoing developments, and First Nations will be consulted, as they were in this case. We will continue to do that. I would hope that we would be able to finalize land claims in the near future with the two bands mentioned by the Member opposite so that all of us can get on with our lives.
Ms. Moorcroft: Maybe the Government Leader should open his ears. I referred to three bands. I referred to the Kwanlin Dun, the Ta'an Kwachan, and the Carcross-Tagish First Nations. This Minister stood up just now and said, yet again, that they are going to support ongoing developments before land claim negotiations are completed. Can the Minister not, as a priority, settle land claims first?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I would love to be able to do that first. However, that simply is not the case in a lot of areas. The Carcross-Tagish First Nation, especially, is not even at the table yet. I do not know at this time when they will be coming to the table. We are working very hard to settle the land claims. In the meantime, we are consulting with the various bands in the area when development does go ahead. We have been doing that for some time now.
Ms. Moorcroft: The government likes to complain about the amount of time that we have taken debating the budget. One of the reasons it took so long to clear the Department of Community and Transportation Services is that the Minister could not demonstrate that they had meaningfully consulted with the First Nations before they proceeded with land development in that area. Can the Government Leader demonstrate how they are working so hard to complete land claims?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: The reason we are taking so long to debate the budget is that half of the time the critics are not available when the departments come up. It is certainly not this side of the House that is holding up the budget debate - it is the Members opposite.
Question re: Tourism department office space
Mrs. Firth: I have a question for the Minister of Tourism. The Minister has announced that a new government building will be built on the old Taylor Chev property. The facility is going to be over 18,000 square feet, and is being sold by the Minister as a visitor reception centre for the tourists. The real configuration of the building is that two-thirds of it will be office space and the other one-third will be for the visitor reception centre.
The last thing I would expect this government to do would be to build a new office building for government employees in a time of tight fiscal restraint. I would like to ask the Minister of Tourism how he justifies spending millions of dollars for an office building for government employees in a time of restraint.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: One of the reasons we are building this particular office building is because tourism is an extremely important industry to the Yukon Territory. I spoke to TIA on the weekend - I wish the Member would have attended, but she has never attended any TIA meeting that I can recall, so she is not very familiar with what happens in the industry - and the people in the industry are very supportive of the visitor reception centre and the Department of Tourism receiving a much higher profile and a new business centre, which they can use for the information they need to operate their businesses.
Mrs. Firth: I think tourism is important, but I think children are more important. The employees in Tourism do a great job. Sure, they are a bit overcrowded, but the kids who attend Grey Mountain Primary School are going to school in trailers that are 32 years old, and which this government, in its election campaign, promised to replace two years ago. I want the Minister to tell us how he can justify saying "no" to the kids at Grey Mountain Primary School and saying "yes" to the government employees so they can have a new building, so they can be more comfortable. How does the Minister justify that?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: There goes the Member for Riverdale South, trying to sensationalize everything again, in order to capture a headline.
The Minister of Education has money in the line item in the budget to improve the facilities at Grey Mountain Primary School. The Member is fully aware of that. We have spent probably 100 hours debating this issue in the House. The school population in Riverdale is decreasing, and the Member knows that. Still, she continues to go on and does not want to look at the economics. The Member wants to call us to task on the economics of every other issue, but when it comes to her own paycheque, or Grey Mountain Primary School, she does not pay much attention.
Mrs. Firth: I sense the Minister is very weak on this issue. He cannot defend to the parents or children of Grey Mountain Primary School how, in a time when we have a shortage of money - they talk about the federal government cutting our transfer payments back; this government constantly whines and whimpers that we have no money - this government will build a comfortable office building for government employees instead of a new school for children. How does the Minister justify that? Can he stand up and defend how he justifies that?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: There is a need on both sides. The Minister has several hundreds of thousand dollars in the budget to improve the facilities at Grey Mountain Primary. There is no need for a new school at this time.
With respect to the Department of Tourism, there is a demonstrated need by the industry and others. It is a justifiable expense. The Member has not been supportive of one Tourism initiative of this government. No matter what she says in the House, she does not speak for the tourism industry, nor does she speak for people in that industry within her own riding. They tell me that.
I am quite confident that the new tourism business centre and visitor reception centre is needed, and the tourism industry is supportive of such a facility.
Question re: Tourism department office space
Mrs. Firth: My question is to the same Minister about the same matter. There is $200,000 budgeted to fix up 32-year old trailers for the children at Grey Mountain Primary School. Big deal. The building for Tourism employees will cost over $4 million, just so they can have bigger offices. The Minister said they are not comfortable; they are overcrowded. The kids at Grey Mountain Primary are not comfortable either.
The Minister wants me to get into the economics of it. Let us do that. I, too, have been talking to the business community, which rents the space to the government where these employees are presently housed. There is 11,000 square feet of space rented to the Department of Tourism.
Now Tourism will build its own building, and the business community will pay twice for it. It will pay to build the building, and it will lose the rental income.
If the Minister wants to talk economics, has he considered the negative economic impact on the business community caused by the loss of rental revenue? What is it? Did he consider that when he made his decision? What is the loss of revenue and economic potential to the business community?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: Yes, we surely have. By moving the visitor reception centre downtown and giving a higher profile to the Department of Tourism, and by making this department more accessible to business, tourism will be more successful; more businesses will come to Whitehorse; more businesses will set up, more businesses will rent space, and there will be a positive economic note to the business centre and the visitor reception centre with the move downtown.
The Member opposite does not agree with either of these moves. It does not matter what I say, I do not think I will be able to convince the Member otherwise.
Mrs. Firth: Let us talk hard facts here. The Minister stands up and says that businesses will come and businesses will need space. That is all hypothetical.
There is one fact and that is that the expectation of the business community was that the visitor reception centre would be this small facility with parking spaces for recreational vehicles and perhaps for buses. We asked the Minister how many parking stalls would be provided for recreational vehicles, and the Minister could not answer the question. The Minister did not know how many recreational vehicle parking spaces would be available.
How many applications has the Minister had from businesses that are going to come here when all this space becomes available? How many businesses is the government predicting to come to the Yukon to take up this 11,000 square feet of business space? Where are the hard facts to substantiate that comment?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: What a silly question from the Member for Riverdale South. That is a Member who has never supported the tourism industry in the territory. That Member knows full well - maybe she does not, obviously she does not - that all kinds of new businesses have started up in Whitehorse over the past few years with respect to tourism, and there will be more as our market share increases and as more people come to the Yukon. There will be more support service and more industry set up in the territory. That is what happens in business.
The Member says that the business community does not support the move downtown. Perhaps she has heard from the one individual who owns the building. Perhaps the Member should take a little bit of time out of her day and show up at a TIA convention, or even call some of the people involved in the tourism industry, and find out from them how they think this particular building will service them. The Member has not done that and she does not want to do that, because she knows she would get an absolutely opposite reaction from the people.
Mrs. Firth: Well, the only time that questions are silly is when the Minister cannot answer them, which is becoming more and more frequent.
Could the Minister, for one minute, stop attacking me as a person and just give us the facts to substantiate his decision. I want to know what factual information the Minister has that can substantiate the need for this new comfortable facility for Tourism officials and government employees to be built on that property? What does the Minister base that decision on? Where is one fact to show that there will be more business to fill the 11,000 square feet of office space that will become available? The Minister has not given us one fact yet during the whole Tourism budget debate nor in Question Period today.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I have given the Member all kinds of facts. The problem is that the Member does not want to listen. I have offered that Member briefing after briefing, and she continues to stand up and make accusations and wild allegations, while not knowing any of the facts.
We have carried out an extensive marketing plan over the last few years, which has improved the markets in several areas. The adventure travel market and the European market have improved dramatically. There are many new businesses in this town, whether the Member likes it or not, and some people who live in her own riding - her constituents -are benefiting from this marketing.
She sighs, but that is too bad. The Member would not know what is going on in her riding; she has not sent out a newsletter in two years and does not know who lives in her riding any more.
The Member is a little sensitive when one starts to talk about her history as an MLA, which is a very poor history. She does not do her job, and that is a fact. If she knew anything at all about the tourism industry, she would know that the industry is in support of a new facility and is in support of giving the Department of Tourism a higher profile and better offices to work out of. I think that it is a positive move and I am certainly in support of the initiatives.
Question re: Freegold Road, truck route through Carmacks
Mr. Cable: I have some further questions for the Minister of Community and Transportation Services about the Carmacks meeting. In the first round of questions, he indicated that it was all right for trucks with dangerous goods to drive through Carmacks on the way to Faro. In the Minister's handout of Thursday, he makes reference to safety concerns and safety considerations. In view of what he said in the first round, what does he mean by the terms "safety concerns" and "safety considerations"?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I did not say it was all right for dangerous goods to go through Carmacks. I pointed out that dangerous goods have been going through Carmacks for many years. One young lady pointed out at the meeting that children are also hurt and killed on the highway by traffic. The difference is that we could control the six trucks that go through there very easily. There would only be one or two trucks a month that would have dangerous goods on them, if that many.
Mr. Cable: It is one thing to drive trucks down a highway; it is another thing to drive trucks through a residential area. The Minister received a petition the other night signed by 154 people. I am sure he got the same impression that I did, that the majority of people did not want the road through Carmacks. They wanted it in the bypass area. Is that the impression that the Minister got - that the majority of people wanted the bypass route?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: There certainly were a number of people who did not want the route through the village and it was probably a majority. I did not count them. However, if the Member would also state the fact that during that meeting, one person got up and said that after speaking with us and seeing what we were attempting to do, he had changed his mind. I saw that same individual shaking hands and speaking with other people after. Perhaps if we do not hash this issue around in the Legislature, we can all sit down and come to a decent conclusion for everyone.
Some Hon. Members: (Inaudible)
Speaker: Order. The Member for Riverside has the floor.
Mr. Cable: Just before we get rid of the Legislature, could the Minister tell us if the bridge across the Nordenskiold River, in any position - the bypass position or the position through town - will be cost shared under the federal-Yukon arrangement that applies to the Freegold Road?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: Not to my knowledge, but I will check that.
Question re: Electrical rate application
Mr. Penikett: I have a question for the Government Leader, who has repeatedly refused to reveal when the next general rate application for Yukon Energy and the Yukon Electrical Company Limited will be, because he said he did not know what the Anvil Range load draw was. However, YECL staff has apparently confirmed that Anvil Range's load will be similar to Curragh's. I would ask the Government Leader this question: has he received, from Anvil Range, a load prediction forecast yet?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: No, I have not and do not believe the Energy Corporation has yet either. I believe it is still working on them.
Mr. Penikett: Three of the five Utilities Board members' terms are over in September. The Government Leader seems to be indicating that the rate hearing will not take place until after there are new board appointments.
Given that the last general rate application cost a lot of money, is the Government Leader holding the hearings off in order to appoint members to the board who might be more sympathetic to the government, and perhaps more sympathetic toward the utility's point of view? Is that his game plan?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: The Member opposite ought not to think that everyone operates in the manner in which he did when he was in government. There has been no consensus on what the load factor will be. There has been no proposed rate to take to the board. The Member opposite knows it takes some time, and there is always a trial period prior to a rate application being heard.
The Member is correct that I said the rate application would probably not be heard until late fall, or even as late as early next spring.
Mr. Penikett: If the Government Leader did what I did, he would probably appoint political opponents to chair the Public Utilities Board and to the board of the Yukon Energy Corporation, none of which he has done, of course. Some time ago, one of his proponents directly attacked the character and integrity of the members of the Public Utilities Board. At the time, the Government Leader took under advisement whether or not he would consider giving an apology to those citizens for the grievous insults they received at the hand of the Government Leader's appointee.
Can the Government Leader tell this House if he has decided to do the right thing now and issue a formal apology to those offended members of the Public Utilities Board?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I believe the person who owes the apology to the general public is the person who leaked the confidential document to him.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed. We will now proceed with Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I move that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Hon. Government House Leader that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Motion agreed to
Speaker leaves the Chair
COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. Is it the wish of the 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.
Bill No. 3 - Third Appropriation Act, 1994-95 - continued
Yukon Housing Corporation - continued
Chair: We are dealing with Bill No. 3 and the Yukon Housing Corporation. Is there further general debate?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I have a document to send over to the Member for Riverside, as a result of his asking last Thursday about the update of the housing conference. What I have for him is a report to the board of directors, prepared by the staff, on the conference.
Ms. Moorcroft: I would like to ask the Minister if the Yukon Housing Corporation has prepared anything in response to the questions I asked about inspections, and whether or not the Minister has information about who does inspections and how inspections carried out by Yukon Housing Corporation fit in with the inspections required by the public safety branch and the City of Whitehorse.
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I do not have anything to add to the discussions we had on Thursday. I will be talking to the Housing Corporation about the issue and we will respond to the Member in letter form.
I have received another letter from her about a specific case, and we will also respond to it. It deals with the whole issue of inspections and the owner's and the Housing Corporation's responsibilities.
Ms. Moorcroft: I would appreciate it if the Minister could get back to me as soon as possible. This is an issue we raised in Question Period; he knew that we wanted some accountability from him when we got to the department. When we come to the department more than a month later, he cannot answer the questions.
I have a copy of a memo saying that 29 employees have been paid in excess of $60,000 for overtime. I would have thought that that was a question that could have been brought back for our information.
Mrs. Firth: I wanted to know if the Minister ever got an answer to the question about the banking agreement?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: The board of directors of the corporation has provided authority to the staff to borrow up to $10 million, short term, against a line of credit. What the Yukon Housing Corporation has in place right now is a $6 million line of credit with the Toronto Dominion Bank and a $1.5 million line with the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce.
At the present time, I do not believe there is anything borrowed against the Toronto Dominion Bank line of credit. There is approximately $1.3 million currently owing under the Canadian Imperial Bank line of credit that was used to acquire 15 staff housing units.
Mrs. Firth: When were those staff housing units acquired? Would that have been under the old banking agreement with the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: That is correct.
Mrs. Firth: How does that work? Since the banking agreement has been changed to another bank, what happens to the $1.5 million outstanding with the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: It is my understanding that the banking agreement does not affect that situation. The authorization for the $10 million line of credit can be at any bank. The Yukon Housing Corporation is using the Toronto Dominion Bank, because that is the bank of choice for the Yukon government.
The Yukon Housing Corporation has discussed with the Yukon government Department of Finance leaving the $1.5 million line of credit with CIBC. My understanding is that there is no problem with it under the agreement and the Toronto Dominion Bank is also aware of it.
Mrs. Firth: I may have some more questions about that later, but I want to leave it and move on to another topic.
I would like to address the issue of overtime that is paid to Yukon Housing Corporation employees. The Minister tabled a memorandum stating that 29 employees were paid over $60,000 in overtime and that was an average of 69.4 hours per employee, amounting to an average of $2,069.93 per employee per year. How many employees in total are there at the Yukon Housing Corporation?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: Forty.
Mrs. Firth: Out of 40 employees, 30 of them are getting overtime. That is 75 percent. I find this figure quite astonishing. I also find it astonishing that there is so much overtime. That is more than one full-time person, depending on what the average salary is of the employees at the Yukon Housing Corporation. What is the reason for all of the overtime?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: It is $60,000. It is the equivalent of another person, but it is spread out over 29 employees. My understanding is that a considerable amount is used seasonally, for example, by the inspectors who travel around the territory and are on call to get the inspections done, so that owners can look for contractors and get their jobs started during the construction season. The issue of overtime is a concern to the Housing Corporation as well. The report of which the Member has a copy was ordered just to look at this problem and to try and cut down on the amount of overtime that is being paid by the Housing Corporation.
Mrs. Firth: Something does not sit comfortably with me here. I will explain it to the Minister. When I asked the question about the overtime report, I was told that the Housing Corporation is keeping monthly records on overtime, so it should know on a monthly basis how much overtime it is using and should be able to keep track of it. The report was done because there was an increase or something - it wanted to find out why the overtime was occurring. Can the Minister give us a copy of that report? I have difficulty accepting the explanation that the corporation needs this much overtime with 40 employees. I would like to see what the overtime is for - if it is just for inspections, or for other categories of work.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mrs. Firth: One of the other Members is saying that we have difficulty getting answers to questions about the inspectors.
By the hesitation in the Minister's voice, I detect that there may be some concerns on his part as well. I think we have to pursue the area of overtime a little more closely.
I would also like to ask the Minister who authorizes overtime. Is it all authorized by the president of the Housing Corporation, or are there other individuals who have the authority to authorize overtime?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: There is no hesitation. I agree, and the Housing Corporation agrees, that the overtime does seem to be quite high and that is why we are looking to see where and why it is and if it can be cut back. At the present time, the president is the only one who authorizes overtime.
Mrs. Firth: What observations have been made? What did the report conclude? We have been told that it is for inspectors. Is all the overtime just for inspectors?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: No, not at all. It is for 29 of the 40 employees, and not just for the five or six who work in inspections.
Mrs. Firth: Since there is one person authorizing overtime, have there not been any observations made with respect to the trend? One does not just sign it and say okay. Surely, there must be some analysis made of who is getting the overtime or where the overtime is required. There has to have been some observations made and I would like to hear them.
Hon. Mr. Nordling: The observation is that we would like to cut down the amount of overtime that is being paid by Housing Corporation.
Mrs. Firth: That is a good start, but this question begs to be asked: has the overtime gotten out of hand? Is the corporation not aware where the overtime is going? Can it be attributable to any particular projects or areas? There must have been some observations made other than that the corporation is using a lot of overtime.
Hon. Mr. Nordling: There is a considerable amount of overtime. We are looking for solutions. They may include working more efficiently or hiring another individual. As the Member mentioned, $60,000 amounts to a fairly highly paid full-time employee, and if one other employee could replace the need for overtime, then that is a possibility.
If the Member has some specific allegation to be made about a group or an individual in the Housing Corporation and will let me know, I will look into it specifically. The only explanation right now is that the inspectors are putting in a lot of overtime because of the amount of work and the seasonality of it. The potential to reduce that overtime is for the corporation to work differently and more efficiently, or to hire, for example, casual inspectors for just the construction season.
Mrs. Firth: Let us get one thing straight: I am not making any allegations. This is information I have been given. This department spent over $60,000 in overtime in one year. There is one person who authorizes overtime. It is given to 29 employees, not just inspectors. That is the information I have, yet the Yukon Housing Corporation has not presented one observation to me, other than that it thinks it is doing too much overtime and may have to replace it with a full-time person.
The last thing I want to see is another person hired. I want to know why there is so much overtime.
If I were running a business and signing overtime authorizations all the time, I would expect I would have a good idea why the overtime was required. That is all I am asking for. The Minister has employed staff. He knows how many overtime authorizations he has to give. If one has to give them, one knows the reason. If it starts to amount to $60,000 a year, one had better have a good idea why it is becoming so expensive.
Hon. Mr. Nordling: To set the record straight, the Member stood up and selectively read back what she knows, implying that the only solution to the overtime was to hire another staff member. That is not the solution at all. The solution the Yukon Housing Corporation is looking at is working more efficiently, seeing where the overtime is being paid and why, and trying to eliminate it without the necessity of hiring another staff member.
Mrs. Firth: I was not proposing that as a solution. That is what the Minister said the solution might be. I do not want the Yukon Housing Corporation to hire another person. I think 40 is probably more than adequate.
What I am having difficulty with is how there could be $60,000 spent in overtime, but no one over there can tell me where it was spent, or if there have been any trends, other than something to do with inspectors. Do I have to ask for a list of all 29 people who got overtime, what their function is and what they were doing during overtime hours? That is what it will come down to. There surely must have been some observations made, other than that they want people to work more efficiently and effectively.
I do not believe I am asking for anything other than information a manager would readily have at his fingertips.
Chair: Is there further general debate?
Mrs. Firth: I guess I am going to have to ask for a list of the 29 employees who were paid overtime and what function they were participating in that made it necessary for them to be working overtime. I would like to ask the Minister if he will bring back that information. If he does not want to put employees' names down, that is fine; he can use a number, or letter of the alphabet - until he runs out of letters, and he can then use numbers, or whatever. I want to know what the 29 cases were that constituted this $60,000 expenditure.
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I do not know if the Member is holding something back, or she has some target in mind, but it seems obvious, and I thought I had explained to the Member so that she knew that the bulk of the workload is during the summer - the construction season - and that there are nine regional boards, and two advisory groups. Often, these groups will meet on Saturdays and their staff is required to be at those meetings.
What I can do is to provide a more detailed breakdown of the areas of the Yukon Housing Corporation that the overtime was worked. However, as I have said, if the Member is concerned about a particular area, then I will look at that. As the Minister, I have the information, but I do not want to table information that reveals details of individual personnel matters. Again, I can provide a more detailed breakdown of the overtime.
Mrs. Firth: I do not want any detailed personnel matters. However, we are in a budget debate, and the Minister has tabled a document, which states that there was $60,000 worth of overtime for 29 employees. I want to know what kind of work was being done in that overtime.
I think that is a reasonable request, and I think the Minister should have that information. If he has it, why cannot we have it? The first question I would have asked is: what did these 29 people do for the $60,000? The business about staff meetings being held on weekends - are staff getting paid overtime for that? Is that not part of their job description, if they are on a particular board or committee, if they are representing the department? There are all kinds of things that the Minister should be looking at. I want to see what work is being done to justify the expenditure of the $60,000.
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I believe I said that I would provide that information. Perhaps the Member has lessened the workload by saying she wants to know what type of work the people doing overtime were performing, rather than wanting to know exactly who and where it was. I will get that information from the board.
Mrs. Firth: That is what I originally asked for. I said that I did not need names; rather, each of the 29 people could be identified with numbers or something; I wanted to know the specifics of what the overtime was for. That is all that I asked for. I will wait to get that information from the Minister.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mrs. Firth: That is the other question. If the Minister has that information there, why can we not have the Page take it and photocopy it and provide that information to us? Is there something there that we are not supposed to see, such as people's names?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: Yes, this information identifies each employee and indicates where they work within the Yukon Housing Corporation. This information would make it very easy to identify individuals and how much a person gets paid for overtime, which is not something that I want to debate in the Legislature. This is a corporate issue that the Yukon Housing Corporation is reviewing at the present time. When we come back in the fall or next spring, the Members can ask about overtime again and whether or not any solutions have been found.
In the meantime, I have told the Member that I would provide a breakdown of the overtime in the specific areas and provide a description of the work that was done.
Mrs. Firth: Really, why should we not know what area is accruing more overtime? I have some difficulty grasping the concept of us not knowing who is performing the overtime. I mean, who cares?
These 29 employees are being paid by the taxpayer. We do not know what each salary is, so what is the big deal about knowing who the 29 people were who received the overtime? Frankly, I have a bit of a problem understanding why that is such a big secret. I know the Yukon Housing Corporation likes to keep information pretty close to its chest and likes to feed information at its leisure. This is accountability time; this is budget time. I think all Members in the Legislature have a right to know what the overtime was for. I would expect the Minister to provide that detailed information for us as soon as he can. Will the Minister make a commitment to do that?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I think that I have done that. I have committed to bringing information back. This is not just a Housing Corporation matter; it is a Public Service Commission issue about what personnel get paid and what their salary ranges are. I think it was decided that those issues should not be discussed in public and on the floor of the Legislature.
I am just waiting for the Member to get her instructions from the Leader of the Official Opposition.
Mr. Penikett: I would never have the temerity to instruct the Member for Riverdale South, or the chutzpah, or any of the other words that could describe it.
What I was curious about - and this is supplementary to the concern of the Member for Riverdale South - is the question of publication of incomes. As I recall the position of the Minister, when he was in Opposition and when we debated the Public Government Act, I thought his view was, as the Public Government Act contemplated, that when we publish the annual report of all public expenditures, that would list the incomes of employees too. I thought, perhaps I am wrong, that it was the view of the present Minister - who is a former Opposition Member - that we should just publish that information, the same as everything else - that it is just part of the public record and there would be no negative consequences to it.
I admit that he is right, in that this is not a policy question simply for the Yukon Housing Corporation, and indeed he may be much more liberal than the rest of his Cabinet on this question. It may be a government-wide decision. I am curious only to learn if the Minister has changed his position or if it is a question that the government has not yet decided.
Hon. Mr. Nordling: No, I have not changed my position. In fact, I am for a lot more disclosure, but the government, as a whole, has not changed its position. I am not about to reveal information that the government, as a whole, has decided should not be released. I know that one of the concerns is that individual employees will be discussed, complimented and perhaps attacked in the Legislature and they are not in a position to defend themselves. From my experience, that may happen.
Mrs. Firth: I have a great deal of concern that this Minister has been hanging around with those guys too long.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mrs. Firth: Let us be serious here, because the brush is sweeping right across the benches over there and it is hitting the back benches too. I cannot resist this comment - that I was getting my instructions from the Leader of the Official Opposition? That is how those guys work. We do not work like that over here. We are independent spirits on this side of the House. We are not like that gang over there who all have to sing the same song and play the same fiddle.
The brush sweeps over there. Those are the guys who give instructions to each other about what to do and how to do it. That is public information - a perfect example. If the Minister thinks this information should be made public, why is he not telling us? He is the Minister responsible for the Housing Corporation. Why does he not stand up and give us the information the way he thinks that we should have it? It is because somebody else over there is saying, "You cannot do that. We do not want to give people too much information. That would not be right."
Perhaps the Minister can answer this question for me. Of the 29 employees who have overtime, how many of them are inspectors and how many are officers or managers of the corporation? What is the category breakdown?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I will give that to the Members in writing. I have lists here, but I will get it to the Members as soon as I can.
Mrs. Firth: We are not talking about 500 people here; there are 29. Can he not tell us how many of them are in the managerial category? How many of them are officers of the Housing Corporation and how many are inspectors? I will wait for him to do a quick count - one to five, or one to six, or one to 29.
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I do not have the list in front of me. Management does not get paid overtime; it gets whatever the Public Service Commission has agreed to throughout government - eight days in lieu, or whatever. They are not paid overtime.
Mrs. Firth: They can take the overtime in time off, so they still get overtime. Is that correct?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: No, that is not correct.
Mrs. Firth: What are the eight days in lieu then? Explain that principle to us.
Hon. Mr. Nordling: If I have it wrong, I will get the correction from the Public Service Commission, but my understanding is that the managers can take eight days off - three days that are the equivalent to travel status, and five additional days that are added to their holidays so they do not claim overtime. They are expected to do the job in whatever time it takes.
Mrs. Firth: Is that the restrictions on entitlement? Is it something to do with employees accruing vacation credits, provided they have received pay for at least 10 days? I am looking at the management-category vacation leave. There is nothing in here about the leave the Minister is referring to.
Perhaps the Minister should bring it back when he has cleared it with the Public Service Commission.
I will wait to see what information the Minister provides us with later today about overtime. We have all afternoon and all evening, so I hope the Minister will make an effort to bring us back some information so we can get out of this budget.
I want to move on to another area. I have a question about the Gateway Housing project. That was built for seniors only. Are the current residents seniors, or are there other types of residents in the building?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: As far as we know, they are all seniors.
Mrs. Firth: Is the facility full?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I am not sure, but it will not take long to check for the Member. Perhaps there is a staff member listening now who can get that information.
Mrs. Firth: I would like to have that as soon as possible.
I may have some more questions about that once I get the information. I anticipated that it would have been full. We were told at the time that it was needed to be built because there was a huge waiting list, that they had to have it and that it would be filled almost immediately.
Hon. Mr. Nordling: A private, non-profit group runs it. It does not have any obligation to report to us on an ongoing basis. We do have a few seniors on the waiting list waiting for social housing, which includes seniors, so I would be surprised if it was not full.
Mrs. Firth: I will wait for the Minister to bring back a more definitive answer.
I want to move to the issue of vacation time and the authorizing of vacation time. I asked the Minister some questions last week about approving holidays and who monitored the approval of holidays. I had asked specifically about who monitored the deputy minister's or the president's holidays. Does the Minister have anything more to report to me? He provided me with the policy for deputy ministers and management for holidays, with which I was already familiar. Does the Minister have anything more to report about who monitors and who authorizes holidays?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: Not much. I think that most of it is contained in the policy. The policy is that no deputy minister takes leave without prior approval of the Minister. That also applies to the president of the Housing Corporation.
Mrs. Firth: Has the Minister approved any leave for the president of the Housing Corporation?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: Yes, there was verbal approval in the fall for a hunting trip and verbal approval for holidays around the Christmas period.
Mrs. Firth: That is quite interesting, because last week when we were debating this, the Minister said, "I have not seen any requests for holidays from the president or senior management come across my desk." Is the Minister being tricky or did he just forget that he approved holidays verbally, and nothing had come across his desk? What is the story?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: What I was referring to is the president signing a form for leave. I know that I signed forms for the Public Service Commissioner when she took time off. So I recalled signing those leave forms, but I had not signed any forms for the president of the Yukon Housing Corporation.
My understanding of the policy is that prior approval from the Minister should be sought. It is better if the approval sought is in writing and I have asked the president, from this point forward, to put his requests in writing so that there is a record of the ministerial approval in the employee file.
Mrs. Firth: I did not think the deputy minister or the corporation president - whichever corporation it may be - could seek verbal authorization. I did not think that was acceptable. I thought when an employee requested holidays there had to be a holiday form signed, which was kept on file. Otherwise, what record is there of the holiday time being taken?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: That is the concern that is being dealt with. The current policy states that holiday time has to be authorized. It does not discuss completion of forms or receiving approval in writing. If it is put in writing there is a record on file and that written approval should exist, because Ministers, as well as deputy ministers, come and go and the records should be on the file, in writing.
Mrs. Firth: If deputy ministers or Yukon Housing Corporation presidents decide to cash in - that is the term that is used, but some people might say pay out - and take pay instead of holidays, is a written record of that kept? Has the Minister authorized that kind of transaction for the president or any of the managers of the Yukon Housing Corporation? The managers would be done by the deputy minister. Is that kind of transaction being kept in writing?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: My understanding is that those pay outs have to go through the Public Service Commission, which authorizes them and sends them on to the Department of Finance.
Mrs. Firth: That is correct. I am just reading the policy. So, the Minister is not aware of whether or not his employees are doing that? Has it ever been brought to his attention by the Public Service Commission? How are Ministers aware if their managers are cashing in their holiday time or actually taking their holidays?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I do not believe the Public Service Commission advises the Ministers. I think most Ministers know by talking to their deputy ministers what they are doing and when they are going on holidays. I expect it would be discussed between the Minister and the deputy minister, or the president of a corporation. I do not believe there is any requirement in the policy for the Minister to be informed about the application to the Public Service Commission and Finance for a cash-out.
Mrs. Firth: I may follow up with this particular issue with the Government Leader. I believe I will have some follow-up with respect to holidays.
The deputy minister authorizes the holidays of the management staff. Are holiday forms signed? Does the deputy minister, or president of the corporation, require a signature on a holiday form request?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I understand that the president signs holiday forms for those individuals who report directly to him. The ones lower down in the corporate structure have their holiday forms signed by their supervisor.
Mrs. Firth: There is no chart for the Yukon Housing Corporation.
I would not mind having an organization chart for the Yukon Housing Corporation so that I can see exactly who reports to the president. I am sure that all Members would be interested in having that information. I hear them saying yes. That way, we would know what the reporting levels are and who is reporting to whom.
Are all of the holiday requests kept in the individual employee's file?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: Yes. My understanding is that they are kept in the employee's personnel file. I will get an organization chart for the Members opposite. A lot of it is revealed in the internal telephone book. It can be seen there who is where and who reports to whom, but I will provide an organization chart.
Mrs. Firth: I do not want to get into a debate about the accuracy of the telephone book and whether or not we are using it to figure out how many employees or phones we have. The Member has been through that argument and it can get quite silly. I will wait to get the organization chart.
When the management category want to cash in their credits, it is approved by the Public Service Commissioner. Does that request have to be made through the deputy minister or president of the corporation first and then referred to the Public Service Commissioner?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: The request goes to the director of finance and administration in the Housing Corporation, and from there directly to the Public Service Commission.
Mrs. Firth: This is the point I wanted to raise with the Minister. I wanted to go back to the deputy minister policy. The Minister said that when the deputy minister cashes in, it goes via letter to the employee records and pensions branch of the Public Service Commission. It is not as specific in the deputy minister's policy as it is in the manager's policy. The manager's policy states very specifically, "subject to circumstances reviewed and approved by the Public Service Commissioner." In the deputy minister's policy, it just states, "deputy ministers may elect at any time to cash in credits via a letter to the employee records and pensions branch of the Public Service Commission." Is that the policy with respect to cashing in on holiday pay as well? I see this more as a clause for termination of employment. Perhaps the Minister could clarify it.
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I am not sure that I can. My understanding is that the cash-out that goes directly and is done as a matter of course happens when there is eight weeks in the bank, and the DM is cashing out holidays over and above the eight weeks. I believe managers and deputies can apply for cash-outs of holidays that are less than eight weeks and need special permission of the Public Service Commission to do that.
Mrs. Firth: I think I am going to follow up, probably with the Government Leader, on the issue. I am just asking the Minister how it works in the Yukon Housing Corporation. I already understand how it works in most of the other departments.
I think I have just about finished, so I will sit down. I know that some other Members want to ask some questions. That will give me a chance to go back to the fort. If I have any more questions, I will wait until other Members have a chance to ask some.
Mr. Cable: I have some organizational questions, following up from the previous Member's questions. Is a review of the Yukon Housing Corporation underway at the present time?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: Nothing is going on at the present time that would change the structure of the organization; however, the staff is working with the board of directors at the present time to develop standards of performance for each area within the Yukon Housing Corporation. A review of the performance of each area of the corporation is being done, but no restructuring of the areas is contemplated at this time.
Mr. Cable: How long has the organization chart the Member agreed to provide to the Member for Riverdale South been operative?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: The organization has been fairly static for the last six years, so there has not been much change, but some amendments will be made to that now. Perhaps, what I can do is give the Members the two organization charts, just to show where there have been some changes made, although it is not really revolutionary. We are delivering the same programming that we have for a number of years.
Mr. Cable: I am not sure what the Minister is saying. Did he say that the present organization chart has been static for the last six years? Or, have there been some amendments? Which is he saying?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: There are some amendments being done as of April 1 of this year. Prior to that, it was static for about six years. I will provide the organization chart that was in place and the changes to the one that will be in place this month.
Mr. Cable: What were the reasons for the change in the structure - whether earth shaking or otherwise - and, in particular, were there any changes at the upper level that took place as of April 1?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: As the Member points out, the changes are not earth shattering. They reflect more a recognition of the function of the Housing Corporation. The increased focus is on the lending aspects of the Housing Corporation, rather than on the construction aspect of the Housing Corporation. The two branches - operations and construction and maintenance - have been put together so that people dealing with the Housing Corporation are dealing with one group, rather than having to go to the different branches. It should show up on the two charts.
Mr. Cable: I am sure we will all look forward to getting both of the charts.
I was just going through the Housing Corporation Act, and I suppose I am not entitled to ask the Minister's legal opinions, but after having read the act, to whom does the president actually report? In the Minister's view, is it the board of directors or is it the Minister?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: It is the board of directors that the president reports to.
Mr. Cable: Who negotiates the president's contract? Is it the board of directors or the Minister?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: It comes under the Public Service Commission's jurisdiction, under the deputy minister category.
Mr. Cable: What the Minister is saying, then, is that the Government Leader, in fact, has negotiated the president's contract. Is my understanding of all the nuances of the bureaucracy correct?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: Yes, that pretty well summarizes it. At risk of confusing the issue, what happens is the president is getting a salary. Each year, an annual review is conducted by the board of the Yukon Housing Corporation, in conjunction with the Minister and Government Leader, to decide whether the president should receive an incremental increase within the salary range of a deputy minister.
Mr. Cable: What is the term of the president's contract? When did it begin and for what term does it run?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: The president started his term in January 1988. The term runs on a five-year renewal period, but the president really serves at pleasure, as does any other deputy minister.
Mr. Cable: So the present term would be in the renewal period and would run to 1988? Is that correct?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: The president was hired in 1988, so in 1993 he would have been renewed for another five years. To answer the Member's question, yes, the president's term would expire in 1998.
Mr. Cable: Yes, the Minister is correct. I inadvertently said 1988. Is the president a member of the board of directors of the Yukon Housing Corporation as an ex-officio member?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: No, the president does not attend meetings as a board member. The president attends meetings as an employee of the board to assist board members. The president attends every board meeting.
Mr. Cable: Could the Minister tell me if there is an audit committee appointed by the board of directors?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: Yes, the audit committee is comprised of three board members. The directions for the appointment of the audit committee are contained in the bylaws of the corporation.
Mr. Cable: According to the corporation bylaws, how often does the audit committee have to meet?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: There is no set number of meetings in the bylaw. The audit committee meets at the request of the chair of the audit committee. Apparently, right now the board has asked that the bylaw be looked at to give more specific instructions to the audit committee. One of the suggestions is that all financial reports of the corporation be given to the audit committee on a monthly basis and the audit committee will report to the board of directors at its meetings, which are generally every two months.
Mr. Cable: How often has the audit committee met in the last three years and, in particular, when did it last meet and report to the board of directors?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: Apparently, it met two weeks ago, but it has met very sporadically over the last few years, so we do not have the exact number of meetings. Suffice it to say that the meetings are not on a regular basis. This was one of the things that prompted a review of the bylaws, so that the audit committee had clearer terms of reference.
Mr. Cable: Can the terms of reference be tabled in the House at the present time - prior to whatever is being rewritten?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: No. Only the bylaw in place.
When there is a decision or the bylaw is rewritten to give clearer direction, I will make a note and provide it to the Member.
Mr. Cable: I assume the bylaws are public information. Can the Minister give me a copy of the present bylaw relating to the audit committee.
Hon. Mr. Nordling: Yes, I will do that.
Mr. Cable: Has there been an operational audit carried out - I do not mean a financial audit, but an operational audit, of the whole operations of the corporation? I do not mean the programs; I will get to those in a few moments. I am talking about an operational audit of the whole corporation.
Hon. Mr. Nordling: The corporation is subject to a couple of different audit procedures. The office of the Auditor General looks at the books of the Yukon Housing Corporation, but there is also an audit under the joint funding agreement between Canada Mortgage and Housing and the Yukon government and the Yukon Housing Corporation with respect to the cost-shared programs. There has just been an operational audit conducted pursuant to that agreement.
Mr. Cable: I would like to get to those in a moment. The Minister was good enough to provide me with a copy of the agreement between Canada Mortgage and Housing and the Yukon Housing Corporation.
To tidy the question up, has there been an operational audit on the corporation as a whole - not the program operation audit, but a corporation operation audit?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: The last operational audit done looked at all aspects of the corporation, rather than just being program specific, as some of the previous ones were. In a sense, one could say the operational audit did look at the corporation as a whole.
Mr. Cable: When was that operational audit carried out?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: It was completed last year. The corporation is now working on implementing recommendations that were made in that audit.
Mr. Cable: Is the Minister prepared to table that operational audit?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: Yes. I will provide both the Member and the Official Opposition with a copy of that audit.
Mr. Cable: Are there responses to the auditor's comments in the document?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: Yes, there are.
Mr. Cable: In case I missed it, who carried out the operational audit?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: It was a group consisting of Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation auditors - some from Vancouver and from Ottawa - as well as Yukon territorial government staff and Yukon Housing Corporation staff.
Mr. Cable: These people are all internal to the three organizations - YTG, the Housing Corporation and the CMHC. Is that correct?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: Yes.
Mr. Cable: The financial audit is done by the Auditor General, and is referred to in the Housing Corporation Act. I assume that it reports annually to the Minister. On some audits, there are comments made that invite responses - there is a word for it that escapes me. Have there been any comments made in the latest report from the Auditor General that require a response from the corporation?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: Yes, and they have been responded to. In the report, I believe no significant weaknesses came to the Auditor General's attention, but there were comments made on the use of corporate credit cards and a comment on the Yukon Housing Corporation's indebtedness to the Government of Yukon, both of which have been acted on by the Yukon Housing Corporation.
I know the Member will get up and ask, so I will just carry on and say that with respect to the credit cards, it was a concern over the use of credit cards for personal expenses, despite the fact that they were later reimbursed by the individuals using the credit cards. With respect to the indebtedness, they are working on sorting out a quicker determination of the Yukon Housing Corporation's indebtedness to the government at the fiscal year end. At the present time, they are working on sorting that out.
Mr. Cable: The Minister appears to be reading from the Auditor General's comments. What is the date on those comments?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: April 10, 1995.
Mr. Cable: That is fresh off the press. Would the Minister give us a copy of the Auditor General's report and the responses to the comments?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: Apparently this has not yet been sent to the board of directors, but immediately after it has been sent, I will send copies to the Member for Riverside and the Official Opposition.
Mr. Cable: I appreciate that. That is a little more cooperative than the Government Leader has been with respect to the anticipated audit of the Yukon Energy Corporation. When will this document be sent to the board of directors of the Yukon Housing Corporation?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: As soon as we are finished debate on the Housing Corporation.
Mr. Cable: That would seem to be tonight - so can we expect it to be tabled tomorrow?
The Minister is vigorously nodding his head.
Hon. Mr. Nordling: If we do get finished tonight, we will take it to the board tomorrow and provide copies to the Opposition.
Mr. Cable: It sounds like a little bit of coercion, but I assume that we will go along with it.
There was a chap who is a tenant in social housing in the office last week. He was telling me that his rent was raised twice in the last couple years, and it is being raised on the basis that money he has taken in in a business has been treated as income, rather than revenue.
I just started to glance through the operating agreement of July 22, 1986, between Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation and Yukon Housing Corporation.
Does the Minister have a copy of the agreement with him?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: Yes. If the Member identifies where he is, we can follow along.
Mr. Cable: Would the Minister please refer to the definition of "income" on page 5.
I have not had a chance to read the tenancy agreement, but it is the chap's opinion that even though he had been losing money on his business and that he has no real income, according to conventional accounting principles, the revenue of his business is being treated as income. That would appear to contradict the definition on page 5. Is this the corporation's position on the calculation of income for the subsequent determination of the amount of rent that is due?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I believe it is, and I think there may be some confusion about what is considered to be income. In this instance, if the Member has accurately described it, we should be considering income from the business, not revenue before expenses. I think the definition of "income", even in the Income Tax Act, which takes in almost any monies that come to a person, allows one to pay expenses of a business before calling it income. There may be something to the claim if the person who has come to the Member is accurate, but I am not sure what the other side of the story is.
Mr. Cable: Let me get some facts and then I am sure the Minister and I can get together to see if we can resolve the problem. There appears to be some immediacy to it, because the rental increases that he quoted to me were fairly astronomical, at 30 percent and 40 percent. If the Minister would commit to working with me on it, I will just leave it for the time being.
Hon. Mr. Nordling: Yes, I will do that.
Mr. Penikett: Le questionne politique des animaux dans les maisons publique est très interestant. Le ministre et moi pense qu'ils est une bonne idée pours les grandes et pour les soules parentes. Mais le president, M. Robert, le directeur, n'aime pas les chiens et les petites chats. C'est vrai encours, n'est pas?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: Moi, je suis d'accord avec le chef de l'opposition, mais le president de la corporation dit: "Non, ce n'est pas exactement vrai".
Mr. Penikett: C'est bon. The first debate in French in this House.
The Minister is correct. He and I seem to be of one mind, but the evil bureaucracy on the part of the Crown corporation of the Yukon Housing Corporation wants to deny the benefits of loving and nurturing that a pet can provide for lonely seniors or single-parent families. The Minister was kind enough, in response to a question I asked some time ago, to suggest that this matter might be referred to the board, or might be considered again by the board. I would like to know if further consideration has been given to the question and what is the result of the board's discussions?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: Yes, it has been submitted to the board. The board expressed some sympathy for our position and has asked the staff to prepare an options paper to be discussed with the Whitehorse Housing Authority, which is the local authority with the most stringent pet policy.
Mr. Penikett: I have two questions about that answer. What time frame has the Minister set for the preparation of this options paper? The second question is if the Minister could clarify the hierarchy - or the chain of command, if you like - between the Minister, the board and the Whitehorse Housing Authority on questions like this?
It has not occurred to me before, but are there occasions where the Yukon Housing Corporation board is hobbled or inhibited from overruling the Whitehorse Housing Authority? I presume that the Whitehorse Housing Authority is only allowed to operate within broad policy parameters, but if the corporation sets some policy on this question, is the Whitehorse Housing Authority bound by the policy parameters?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: There has been no time frame set for the preparation of the options paper. The staff is working on it right now and they are going to get the input of the two advisory boards and expect to have it back to the Yukon Housing Corporation board within the next month to two months.
With respect to the chain of command or authority, the Yukon Housing Corporation board can impose its will on the local authorities and those authorities are bound by those policies. The only caution would be that we would have mass resignations of the local boards, and those people do work very hard and provide a valuable service. I would prefer to see the board working closely with the local authorities and reaching an agreement, rather than imposing a direct order upon them.
Mr. Penikett: Me too. I do not want to suggest that I take lightly the concern about damages to public property that pets can cause. However, in my correspondence with the Minister, I have raised several ideas, among them that of a pet deposit, or pet points that might be earned by families. Are those ideas I have sent to the Minister under consideration as part of the background paper he is having prepared?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: Yes. Those were the issues I brought up when I attended part of the board meeting.
Mr. Penikett: Just to complete the issue, my constituents who are interested in this issue naturally would like to know if I could make any prediction of when something may come of these discussions. Would the Minister hazard a guess on that point?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: If I were to advise the Leader of the Official Opposition, the position I would take would be that we will have some decision in two months. We would then hope to have something in six weeks and come back earlier than we predicted. I would not want to say publicly that it would be in less than two months.
Ms. Moorcroft: I would like to follow up with the Minister on some questions I have been asking him on behalf of my constituents. I have written to the Minister about problems various people have had with work funded through the home repair program. I asked him what safeguards were in place to ensure home owners that the low bids are both reasonable and realistic. When I was asking the Minister about that on Thursday, he said, "Our inspectors are experienced in housing and repairs. If a bid comes in so low that the contractor cannot do it, the inspector would be aware of it and would deal with it... First of all, the lowest bid must be qualified..."
How would the inspector deal with this?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: It would be dealt with through the home owner. The home owner has the final say, in essence. I do not know what the hypothetical situation would be, because I have not run across it.
If the home owner absolutely insisted on some individual doing the job, the Yukon Housing Corporation might accede to those wishes, with a disclaimer that if the work was not done, the home owner would be forced to bring it up to the standard required and that there would be no recourse to the Yukon Housing Corporation. The owner would have to take the responsibility. I said Thursday that it is not the Yukon Housing Corporation's function to do everything in regard to repairing the home. The Yukon Housing Corporation is simply a lending agency that gives advice. It is done at the request of the home owners, who choose the contractors that will bid, who choose the final contractor and who, in the end, have to pay the bill.
Ms. Moorcroft: It is not a hypothetical question at all. The Minister knows that he has had mountains of correspondence from our office on cases where we are involved in helping people who have had a terrible time with this program.
The Minister made it quite clear on Thursday, when we were discussing this, that if the home owner does not want to accept the low bid, they have to pay the difference between the low bid and the next highest bid. When I asked him about some safeguards being in place, the Minister stood up and said that the lowest bidder must be qualified.
I am trying to find out what is in place to ensure that the lowest bidder must be qualified. How does the corporation assess that?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: Again, it is the home owner who asks contractors to do an assessment and estimate of the work required. The Housing Corporation expects that when the home owners do that - when they ask contractors to come in and do the assessment - that they would have some idea of the contractor's ability, whether through referrals or references that would be checked by the home owner before they had the work done, or whatever. There is some onus and responsibility on the home owner.
Despite the best efforts of the home owners and the Housing Corporation, some jobs get messed up, and the home owner and the Housing Corporation have difficulty straightening them out, because the contractor is difficult to contact or force to go back to finish the job in a workman-like fashion.
It is a joint effort and a joint responsibility between the Housing Corporation and the home owner, and the home owner plays the lead role.
Ms. Moorcroft: The Minister has just stated that, despite best efforts, the system has failed. That is why I am trying to get some answers here. I had thought that when the Minister said the lowest bidder must be qualified, he was saying something to indicate that if there is a bid where the work cannot be done acceptably for that amount of money, it would not be accepted. Can the Minister explain what he meant when he said that the lowest bid must be qualified?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: The people who do the inspections for the Housing Corporation do have some expertise. I spoke about it hypothetically, because I do not know of any cases where, for example, there were three estimates for repair of a house - two bids close to each other, and a third bid that was much lower. The situation would be like any other. The job would be discussed with that contractor to see if there was a fundamental misunderstanding of the work on his or her part, to see if the bid was accurate.
Again, it is hypothetical, because I do not know of a case. I know of several cases where there was confusion and a mess-up, and the contractor did not do a proper job. However, I do not think any of them were situations where the lowest bid was a tremendous amount lower than any other bid, and the home owner insisted on using that contractor, or the Housing Corporation insisted on only lending enough money to cover that extremely low bid. I expect it would be recognized as such by the Housing Corporation inspector, and by the other contractors that bid much higher.
Ms. Moorcroft: The Minister is talking about hypothetical situations. I know of several cases where home owners certainly wished that they had not been forced to take the lowest bid. What I am getting from what the Minister is telling me now is that there are no qualification or evaluating criteria in place and that when he said that the lowest bid must be qualified, it did not really mean anything.
What I would like to ask the Minister now is this: when can he come back with some of the information that we have requested?
I do not understand why he does not have that information now, nor did I understand why he did not have it with him on Thursday. I have been writing letters to him for months now and asking him questions in Question Period, but I still do not have any answers. Can the Minister tell me when he will come back with information about the inspections conducted by the Yukon Housing Corporation and, as well, how that relates to the home ownership program? I would like to know how the inspections conducted by the Yukon Housing Corporation, and its release of the money, fits in with the inspections done through the public safety branch and the City of Whitehorse.
I would have thought that was straightforward, factual information that - knowing the Opposition wanted the information - the Minister could have had in preparation for the budget debate. When will we receive that information?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: The Member will get it as soon as possible - and without the Yukon Housing Corporation racking up a lot of overtime.
Ms. Moorcroft: I do not know why the Minister wants to make the comment right now about coming back with the information as soon as possible and without racking up a lot of overtime. This is the Minister who provided us with the information that Yukon Housing Corporation has paid out $60,028 in overtime from April 1, 1994, to March 31, 1995. Perhaps some of that overtime was to answer these very questions I am asking him now. Can the Minister check to see if he already has that information?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: As we discussed on Thursday and in previous Question Periods, this is not something new that just popped up. There is no simple solution to it. Home owners have to be made aware and their responsibilities have to be made clear, and the responsibilities of the inspectors of the Housing Corporation have to be made clear. It is being worked on now. As a Minister, it is something that I am interested in clarifying. Some of my constituents have told me about problems with the home repair program, which have also been identified by letter by the Member for Mount Lorne. There is no simple fix to a job that has gone wrong. We want to avoid as many going wrong in the future as there has been in the past. I will get back to the Member with the work that the Housing Corporation is doing on that issue.
Ms. Moorcroft: I would just make the point that the Minister's concern does not do him much credit. He has told us that his own constituents have brought forward cases to him; I have brought forward cases to him. He said he is concerned, but he does not have any answers. It is no wonder there is a problem as the Minister cannot tell us what the responsibilities of the people employed in the corporation are, when we have been writing and asking the Minister these questions for months. I will just have to wait until the Minister comes back with the information. I know that my constituents will not be very happy about that. I am not particularly satisfied either.
Hon. Mr. Nordling: The simple solution is for the home owner to sue the contractor.
If the home owner has a contract with a contractor and if the contractor has not performed the work in a workmanlike manner, the simple solution is to take the contractor to court. The government does not want to do that. It is onerous to go to court and if the Yukon Housing Corporation can come up with a remedy, we would like to do that, rather than send the home owners off to exercise their legal remedy.
I do have the information for the Member for Riverdale South about the Gateway Housing project. There are 39 units with 37 of those units being occupied by seniors. There are two vacancies and applications are being reviewed to fill the vacancies. There are nine seniors on a waiting list.
Ms. Moorcroft: Just before the Member for Riverdale South follows up on the Gateway Housing project. I would say to the Minister while he might argue that the simple solution is to go to court, that is both expensive and time consuming. The simple solution is to avoid the problem.
I guess the reason for my frustration is that I have been looking at ways to avoid the problem and I have been asking the Minister questions that he has not been able to answer. That is why I am somewhat skeptical that the Minister is working as hard as he is able to solve the problems of my constituents.
Hon. Mr. Nordling: Mr. Chair, I move that you report progress on Bill No. 3.
Motion agreed to
Bill No. 4 - First Appropriation Act, 1995-96 - continued
Yukon Housing Corporation
Deputy Chair: Is there any general debate on Bill No. 4?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: Mr. Deputy Chair, I move that you report progress on Bill No. 4.
Motion agreed to
Bill No. 3 - Third Appropriation Act, 1994-95 - continued
Yukon Housing Corporation - continued
Deputy Chair: We will go into line-by-line debate, Bill No. 3, page 60.
On Operation and Maintenance
Hon. Mr. Nordling: The Member for Mount Lorne asked if I had breakdowns of the line items. The supplementary asks for an additional $40,000 in administration. Of that, $33,000 is for personnel for the impact of the new wage restraint legislation not going quite as far as the Yukon Housing Corporation had expected. It budgeted $33,000 less than needed. An additional $7,000 is needed for a new storage space for Yukon Housing Corporation records.
Administration in the amount of $40,000 agreed to
On Program Costs
Hon. Mr. Nordling: This decrease consists of a decrease of $355,000, due to interest on long-term debt being lower than anticipated, to a delay in financing 14 social housing units and a reduction in the interest costs on the line of credit. There is a reduction of $333,000, due to reduced subsidy payments on the Thomson Centre - there were 20 beds, rather than 30 beds - and there were a reduced number of months paid on the Gateway project due to a delay in the completion.
There was a reduction of $40,000 in maintenance costs, which were transferred to capital and social housing. That was offset by an increase of $100,000 in utilities costs. There was $31,000 in utilities cost increases and the rent supplement program.
Program Costs in the amount of an underexpenditure of $597,000 agreed to
Operation and Maintenance in the amount of an underexpenditure of $557,000 agreed to
On Home Repair
Hon. Mr. Nordling: The decrease is due to the demand in the program being slightly lower than anticipated, for a reduction of $340,000. The other reduction, of $160,000, is for a transfer of three capital full-time equivalents to operation and maintenance.
Mrs. Firth: The Minister was going to come back with delinquent loan repayments. He touched briefly on it last week, but he was going to bring more information back.
Hon. Mr. Nordling: We had that information. It has been taken out of the detailed information book. I believe we pulled it out to give to the Member, and if it has not reached her, we will recover it and get it for her over the break.
Home Repair in the amount of an underexpenditure of $500,000 agreed to
On Home Ownership
Hon. Mr. Nordling: This reduction is due to an expected lower demand for the program than projected. As we discussed, one reason for that was the lack of advertising for the program because of a review.
Home Ownership in the amount of an underexpenditure of $1,500,000 agreed to
On Rental Suites
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I think we discussed this in general debate too. The takeup of the program was lower than projected, mainly due to the market conditions. There are a lot more vacancies in Whitehorse than we had projected.
Mrs. Firth: I believe that the Minister was going to give me some information with respect to how much money had been spent - whether any of it was delinquent and being paid back in the loan program - the same as the home repair program. Is this the rental suite program through which owners can borrow money to fix up their rental suite?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: There are no arrears on this program, but we will provide the up-to-date information to the Member again, if we can get it during the break.
Rental Suites in the amount of an underexpenditure of $300,000 agreed to
On Joint Venture
Hon. Mr. Nordling: This program is driven by the private sector and take up was lower than projected, due, we believe, mainly to the market conditions.
Joint Venture in the amount of an underexpenditure $150,000 agreed to
On Non-Profit Housing
Hon. Mr. Nordling: This line item is for the construction and acquisition of Cyr Place. The project was started in 1993-94, but completed in 1994-95.
Construction/Acquisition in the amount of $550,000 agreed to
On Renovation and Rehabilitation Existing Stock
Hon. Mr. Nordling: The majority of this was for projects that were brought forward and for repairs to existing stock, mostly in the communities. An amount of $310,000 was for staff housing units and $559,000 was for social housing units.
Renovation and Rehabilitation Existing Stock in the amount of $869,000 agreed to
Capital in the amount of an underexpenditure of $1,031,000 agreed to
Yukon Housing Corporation in the amount of an underexpenditure of $1,588,000 agreed to
Hon. Mr. Nordling: Mr. Chair, I move that you report progress on Bill No. 3.
Motion agreed to
Bill No. 4 - First Appropriation Act, 1995-96 - continued
Yukon Housing Corporation - continued
Chair: Is there any general debate on Bill No. 4?
Is there any general debate on the program, operation and maintenance?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: Administration is virtually unchanged from last year - a one-percent increase.
Administration in the amount of $3,468,000 agreed to
On Program Costs
Hon. Mr. Nordling: Again, there is a slight increase - a three-percent increase. I could give the Members a breakdown of that, if they wish. The program costs break down to three subheadings: housing operations, interest on long-term debt and depreciation. Under the housing operations, $1 million is budgeted for utilities; $510,000 for property taxes; $528,000 for the rental of facilities; $350,000 for housing operation overheads; $900,000 for private, non-profit subsidies; $1,350,000 for maintenance costs; for a total of just over $4.5 million. Interest on long-term debt is $2.8 million and depreciation is $1 million, for a total of $8,477,000.
Program Costs in the amount of $8,477,000 agreed to
Operation and Maintenance in the amount of $11,945,000 agreed to
On Home Repair
Chair: Is there any general debate on the program?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: Home repair shows a 13-percent increase, from $4 million to $4.5 million over the 1994-95 forecast. The 1994-95 budget was $4.5 million. As discussed in the supplementaries, it was reduced by $500,000. We are expecting the uptake in the home repair program to be back to $4.5 million for 1995-96.
Ms. Commodore: Where is that money going?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: These are recoverable loans to home owners to fix their homes. I think that the Member is aware of the program. In short, home owners can get a loan of up to $35,000 to repair their homes. The recoveries are the same as the expenditures. If we do not spend the full $4.5 million, or if we do not approve applications in that total amount, the recoveries will not be that high. It balances off. We recover what we loan through the program.
Ms. Commodore: I brought this up last year and I am bringing it up again, because I still hear from people who have applied for loans and are rejected. The reasons they are telling me is because their houses are in such bad shape that it would probably cost more than the maximum amount of money that is allowed under the program to repair them. Is that a common thing? Do we have a lot of applications being rejected because of that?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: As the Housing Corporation is always quick to point out, the 1991 census identified the Yukon as having the worst housing stock in Canada. A lot of the housing that is in the worst shape is in rural areas. The Member is correct, that is a concern. It occupied considerable time in discussion at the last Housing Corporation board meeting. The program is being looked at to see what can be done about that very issue - the issue being that if $35,000 does not fix it up, then they cannot fix up even $5,000 worth that would at least improve some of the health and safety concerns. There is a proposal to allow it to go to $40,000 on the authority of the staff. If it is over $35,000, the applicant can come directly to the board for special permission to fix it up. What happens however, is that we end up with a situation where a house is really beyond economic repair - it just makes more sense to bulldoze it down and build a new one on the spot than to put the sort of money into it that does not increase the value or the life of the building for 15 years, which I think is the target of the repair program. It is a concern, and a bit of a flaw in a program that otherwise is quite helpful.
Ms. Moorcroft: Can the Minister tell me if there have been any cases where the Housing Corporation has helped people who may have been living in an inferior residence for more than the five years that is the qualification period for the home repair program, and that have started building a new home, but do not have the money to finish it? Can the home repair program be used to complete a residence that is not yet inhabitable if it is already under construction?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: No, but it is interesting that the concerns that the Member for Whitehorse Centre and the Member for Mount Lorne have brought up were discussed at the board meeting. The board instructed the staff to develop a program for home completion, as opposed to home repair, because there are a lot of homes - especially, in the rural areas - that need to be completed, but do not fit within the guidelines of the repair program.
I think the idea is that there would be a home-completion program, not under the home repair program, but through the home ownership program for home completion, rather than putting them under home repair.
Ms. Moorcroft: There are a number of people outside of city limits and in rural areas, as the Minister indicated, who do require the use of a home-completion program. Is it possible that the home completion project could be done this year? Could there be amendments made to existing programs whereby some of our constituents might qualify for that program in the present year?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: That is possible. When we come to the next line, the home ownership line, the Member will see that the government has budgeted for $4 million, which is an increase from the previous forecast of $2.5 million for 1994-95. The home ownership program has taken a dip and if we can piggyback home completion with home ownership, we should be able to do it within the 1995-96 budget estimate.
Home Repair in the amount of $4,500,000 agreed to
Mr. Joe: I just want to know who is inspecting the condemned houses before they are bulldozed and build one for $40,000. Nowadays, one cannot build a good house for $40,000. A person is only allowed $35,000 to get a house fixed.
Hon. Mr. Nordling: Yes, that is correct. As I conceded to the Member for Whitehorse Centre, it is a problem. A new house cannot be built for $35,000, but the guidelines for the program is that if we put $35,000 into a house, it should bring it up to code and make it last 15 years longer. Some houses are in such bad shape that if $35,000 was put into it, it would only increase the life of the home by perhaps five years and would not add anywhere near $35,000 to the value of it. To repair a house like this does not make sense. People are caught in between sometimes.
The Yukon Housing Corporation inspector goes out and evaluates the repairs. If they are over $35,000, it is either rejected or comes back to the Housing Corporation Board for consideration.
Home Repair in the amount of $4,500,000 agreed to
On Home Ownership
Hon. Mr. Nordling: We got a head start on this under the home repair program. I do not have much to add. We will carry on with this program for now, depending upon the advice of the two advisory boards and their reports. We will be looking toward adding a home completion aspect to this program.
Home Ownership in the amount of $4,000,000 agreed to
On Owner Build
Hon. Mr. Nordling: For 1995-96, we are estimating approximately the same as what was forecast for 1994-95. This program has its ups and downs, depending upon the market and if people believe it is cheaper to build their own house than to buy. At other times, homes seem cheaper to buy than build. Again, it is an estimate of the usage we expect.
Owner Build in the amount of $800,000 agreed to
On Rental Suites
Hon. Mr. Nordling: We will bring back the information on this line item that the Member for Riverdale South asked for with respect to the actual numbers. There are no delinquencies. I do not know if I read them into the record or not. I have some figures here for the 1994-95 fiscal year. The approvals were six for $110,000. In the 1993-94 year, for which the number is complete, there were 10 approvals for $200,000, and for 1992-93, there were 19 approvals for $382,000. We have budgeted $350,000, but again, it depends on the market and how much uptake there will be. At the present time, I think the vacancy rate is fairly high, so this may not be much greater than the amount in 1994-95.
Rental Suites in the amount of $350,000 agreed to
On Joint Venture
Hon. Mr. Nordling: As was discussed in general debate, this program is really market driven. The idea is to increase the supply of modestly priced housing by entering into partnership with private sector developers for housing and/or land development projects. With the vacancy rate, it is difficult to predict what the uptake will be.
Mr. Cable: Has the Minister or his staff received any comments from the private sector on whether or not this program should be continued, in their view?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: Apparently, there have been no complaints about the program, and it has been used. Private sector people have talked to us about entering into joint ventures. There are a couple of applications under consideration at the moment. Because of the program, several houses and apartment buildings have been built that would not have been built without the loans under this joint venture program.
Mr. Cable: The Minister agreed this afternoon to table a number of documents. Could he also table the terms of reference for this program?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I can do that. Just briefly, the criteria are that proposals must address and identify need in the community in which it will be constructed. Proposals must demonstrate how the corporation will recover its investment and outline the risk associated with the investment. Proposals generating economic spinoff to the local economy will receive priority. There are some standards that go with that. I will provide more detailed terms of reference for the Member.
Mr. Cable: How many years has the program been in place?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I believe it has been four years. The only figures we have in front of us are the same as the ones that the Member for Riverdale South has. The 1993-94 actual was $946,000; the forecast for 1994-95 is $600,000; the estimate for 1995-96 is $750,000, but it depends on the market.
Mr. Cable: Does the operational audit that the Minister spoke about earlier this afternoon cover a review of the joint venture program?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: No, it does not. I will give the Member a list of the projects that have been financed through this program, along with the criteria.
Mr. Cable: Has anybody reviewed the program to see if it is achieving its goals, either within the Housing Corporation or outside the Housing Corporation?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: No. There has been no specific review or analysis. However, as each project is completed, there is a very close examination of it. Because the Housing Corporation is the lender of last resort, its financing is discussed with the banks, the corporation and the private sector investors. Each project gets a fairly thorough going over. It finances projects that would not otherwise be done by the banks alone, and yet it is a project for which we expect the Housing Corporation will recover its investment.
Mr. Cable: The terms of reference, or the broader program objective, as the Minister may describe it, indicates that it is set up to increase the supply of modestly priced housing. What sort of feedback is received by the Housing Corporation to see if that is, in fact, what is happening - that there is an improvement in the modestly priced housing stock? Does the Minister or his departmental officials review the final price of the buildings to see if they fit within the terms of reference? Just how does the Housing Corporation review the program to see if it is working, other than looking at each contract to see if it has done what the contract says it was supposed to do?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: There is a very detailed review of the project, such as cost per unit - if it is an apartment building - to make sure it fits the program objectives.
As I have said, I will provide the Member with a list of projects that have been undertaken. The Member can then take a drive by these units and see what he thinks. I am sure if there are any questions, I will hear about them during Question Period.
Joint Venture in the amount of $750,000 agreed to
On Non-Profit Housing
Hon. Mr. Nordling: This is the very end of a six-year program that the federal government has now cancelled. We expect that the $108,000, which was provided by the federal government, will finish the renovation and rehabilitation of existing stock.
On Renovation and Rehabilitation Existing Stock
Renovation and Rehabilitation Existing Stock in the amount of $108,000 agreed to
Non-Profit Housing in the amount of $108,000 agreed to
On Staff Housing
Hon. Mr. Nordling: Despite the representations of the Member for Riverdale South about the government getting out of staff housing, the government has not made that decision yet. The government expects to spend approximately the same amount of money as last year on construction and acquisition of staff housing. This is essentially in the rural areas of Yukon.
On Construction /Acquisition
Construction/Acquisition in the amount of $260,000 agreed to
On Renovation and Rehabilitation Existing Stock
Renovation and Rehabilitation Existing Stock in the amount of $40,000 agreed to
Staff Housing in the amount of $300,000 agreed to
On Central Services
Chair: Is there any general debate?
Central Services in the amount of $130,000 agreed to
Capital in the amount of $10,938,000 agreed to
Yukon Housing Corporation in the amount of $22,883,000 agreed to
Hon. Mr. Nordling: Mr. Chair, I move that you report progress on Bill No. 4.
Motion agreed to
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.
Bill No. 4 - First Appropriation Act, 1995-96 - continued
Yukon Liquor Corporation
Chair: Is there any general debate on the Yukon Liquor Corporation?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: The Yukon Liquor Corporation, for the current year, is anticipating slightly lower dollar and volume sales than in the past year. A major challenge before the corporation will be how best to optimize the level of net income while facing a continual trend toward lower alcohol consumption. In spite of these downward trends, the corporation's net income will be higher compared to the past year, primarily attributed to limited, planned capital expenditure activities.
At this time, the budget includes only a modest capital budget amount of $190,000 for facilities, systems and equipment replacement and upgrades. The corporation will continue to refine its purchasing and inventory management practices in order to help offset various costs. These refinements include progressive marketing and merchandising techniques, which allow for reduction in the total, on-hand inventory required to meet consumer demands.
The current year will see the introduction of a credit and debit card payment option in both the liquor store and the territorial agent's office. This innovation, combined with ongoing interaction with the industry, further demonstrates the corporation's commitments to effective customer service.
Within the corporation's social responsibility budget, the corporation will continue with various initiatives, as well as undertake new ones. Some examples of the continuing initiatives are the public awareness radio programs focusing on various facets of responsible drinking. Additionally, the corporation will continue to support poster and brochure campaigns endorsed by such organizations as the Canada Safety Council, Canadian Power and Sail Squadrons, Brewers Association of Canada, Association of Canadian Distillers and the College of Family Physicians of Canada.
The bars' Be a Responsible Server program will be expanded to assist licensees and managers develop and implement policies and practices for responsible beverage service in licensed establishments.
This program continues to be delivered throughout the Yukon with the cooperation and the assistance of the B.C./Yukon Hotel Association and the RCMP and reaffirms the corporation's commitment to a proactive approach to licensing and enforcement.
Chair: Is there further general debate on Bill No. 4, Yukon Liquor Corporation?
Mr. Joe: I have said many times in this House that we really have a lot of problems in our community due to alcohol. I want to know why this government is making it easy for people to drink. I want to know why this government does not do something about the problem of alcohol in society. Several times during this session, I had to go home for a funeral. Many of our young people are killing themselves when they drink too much. They can buy alcohol at all the hours of the day. It is up to government to teach our young people to respect alcohol for what it is.
It is a killer of our people. Many of our babies are born with alcohol diseases.
The Minister of Health at one time said that he would put young pregnant women in jail so that they could not drink. They do not need to go to jail; they need help to be taught about alcohol, not punished.
It is the government that makes the profit from selling alcohol to young people. What is this government doing to help our young people learn about trouble and the costs associated with alcohol?
There are many problems because people drink too much. The bars are open too late. Why is this? Why do people have to sit down in the bars for so long? They spend too much money that is needed for other things.
They spend all of their money and they go home angry. They wake up in the morning and they are sick with hangovers. People can buy too much liquor at one time. They can buy a whole case if they want. Why is this?
Drinking causes a lot of problems within the family and within the community. The whole community suffers when people drink. We need this government to pass laws to fix these kinds of problems. These problems are killing our people. People in the community need to work with government to solve the drinking problem. Again, we need to work together to solve this problem.
I hope the Minister understands what I am trying to get across to him. This is everybody's problem. I am pretty sure that all the Members in this House have this problem in their constituencies, too.
I am not saying that we should prohibit all drinking, but we need something implemented that will help people slow down their drinking. Why do the bars have to be open from 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 a.m.? When I used to go to the bar, it closed at 12:00 midnight and it was not so bad.
If we do not do anything about this terrible problem, we are going to lose a lot more of the young people. They are going to drink themselves to death. If the government did a little studying out in the Yukon communities, it would find out about the size of the problem we are facing today. There is drugs and all kinds of stuff out there. I do not know how they get it, but they have it out there. We have a lot of work ahead of us. It is something that we are afraid to get into. We would rather sell more booze to people to kill them off. I disagree with this. I think that the Minister responsible for the Liquor Corporation had better do something about it before the next sitting of this House.
Hon. Mr. Brewster: First, let me say that I not only sympathize with the Member, but I also agree with him a great deal. We have a great problem. I also have to point out that the Minister of Health and Social Services is doing his best and we have come a long way. We have spent a lot of money and are spending more and more to try to educate people about liquor. I think it is a proven fact that our profits from sales have been dropping. I hope that we can take some of the credit in the public view that some of the drinking has been slowed down.
I personally have been around it my whole life; I certainly understand the problems. I do not have the answers. I am sure I can say to the Member of Mayo-Tatchun that any time he would like to talk to the Yukon Liquor Corporation, I will gladly meet with him and take him there. If he has any ideas about how we can do this, I would do it gladly.
I do not think prohibition is working in Old Crow. I do not think it has worked anywhere. The Member is correct when he states that we do not know where they get the liquor, but they do. I do not have the answer to it. All I know is that we have to work at it. I am not sure that we are making it any easier to get, but they still do.
I have been told by the Yukon Liquor Corporation and others that only 10 percent of the people are in this position. It is very pitiful, but we cannot close it right down. I certainly do not want to ever go back to the old system that used to be here, where if a person's name was on a list, the bartender had to eject the person. It goes against all my principles.
I had to live through this when I had a bar; it is not the answer. All it does is cause more problems, because someone buys the liquor and all their friends go out into the bush and drink five times as much, because there is no control.
I hope that no one is trying to bring back that system, because I would fight it violently. It was unfair to the bars and the people. People would come from Dawson City to a bar and the police would come in and throw them out. I cannot and will not live under a system like that. I had to for years, but we fought it.
I do not have the answers. The Member for Mayo-Tatchun is correct and I agree with 90 percent of what he says. He has not given me any answers and I do not have any myself. Perhaps if we get together and talk to the Yukon Liquor Corporation, we can come up with something. I know that Ross River is having a plebiscite, either tomorrow or the next day, to ban public drinking. I know that Pelly Crossing has that now, and there is no drinking permitted in public within five kilometres.
I do not know how the liquor gets there, as there is no liquor store. It must be brought in by people from other places.
If he thinks that someone is selling it illegally, he should let the Liquor Corporation know and, between the corporation and the RCMP, they will do their best to clean it up. Otherwise, all I can say is that I sympathize with the Member. If he has an answer, please let me know it, and I will gladly do it.
I will never accept people being put on a list and branded so they cannot go some place. This is a free country. It is a problem, and I do not have the answer to it.
Mr. Penikett: The Minister did not respond to this, but it seems to me that there was an implied suggestion in Mr. Joe's comments, namely that the Liquor Corporation might think of some reasonable limit on offsales per day per person. As I listened to Mr. Joe's remarks, he spoke of the ability of an individual to buy large quantities of alcohol. As the Minister well knows, if one is buying more than one can reasonably use for one's own consumption, or even for a party at one's house, there may be a reasonable suspicion that one is engaged in reselling it.
How does the corporation respond to that situation? Does it have a legal basis for responding? Is there any administrative ability of the corporation to exercise judgment in such matters?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: If someone comes in intoxicated, they are not to be served. It is an offence. I was on my way to Watson Lake on Friday, and three people were refused service in Teslin. There was quite a row going on, and they absolutely refused to sell them any liquor to go outside the building. The people were not intoxicated, so I presume that they know these people much better than I do, because I do not live in Teslin, and they refused to allow them to buy any liquor from offsales.
Mr. Penikett: I am sure we would all salute the wisdom of the vendor who did not sell alcohol to someone who was already intoxicated, or close to being intoxicated. I am asking about a different situation. I am asking about the situation suggested by Mr. Joe, which is where a person presents himself at an outlet and requests offsales far in excess of a reasonable amount for his own consumption or for his own consumption at a private house party, raising the possibility that he may be reselling it or intending to resell it to underage people or to people who may already be intoxicated. I am asking if the corporation, by policy or regulation, has any guidelines for a vendor in those situations to operate under, or any policy from the Liquor Corporation that governs their behaviour in such situations.
Hon. Mr. Brewster: If we find that they are drinking and selling it, we can lay complaints against the licensed premise and bring it in front of our board. If it is not a licensed premise, we would have the RCMP lay the charge.
I think that the Member realizes as much as I that we do not have people who can enforce this everywhere. I will be the first to admit that there are people doing this, including some licensees, but we also have to be sure that we have evidence before we can do anything. I think that everybody who is concerned is working at it. I will be the first to say that we are not completely successful. I do not have the answer. I have seen it all my life.
I feel that since I came here in 1950 it is not nearly as bad now as it was in those days. I knew people in those days who I did not think would be alive in five years. They are well and healthy to this day. There are more young people drinking now than there were then. I do not know the reason. I am not a psychologist; I do not have the answer. We have to help these people, but First Nations have to help us do some of this. They cannot put all of it on us. All parents have to start taking responsibility for their children and know where they are. They are not doing it. This is a fact with every bit of trouble that we are having.
We are working, as I have said, and we are available if anyone has any suggestions. If the Member would like to come with me, I would gladly take him down there, and I would not only sit there and listen with him, I would probably back him on some of these issues. If it is 10 percent of the population, one cannot close the whole Yukon down, and I do not think that would work anyway.
People can bring in alcohol from Alberta, the Northwest Territories, or anywhere else and they will. I have lived through this. I spent three years in the army and I saw what it did to people who could not handle liquor. That taught me a lesson. If we did that today, we would be put in jail for being inhuman, but they cured those people. They were literally thrown in jail, in a cell in the basement, and left there. They did not go back the second time, but we live in a world where we can no longer do those things any more. We have to use other methods and I do not know what they are. I do not have any ideas.
I know the Liquor Corporation works very hard to try to find out how it can do this. Any time a community asks for a plebiscite to disallow public drinking, we have done all we can to help. We have sent people out to encourage them, to show them what to do and help them get through the vote. There is a vote in Ross River very shortly.
Mr. Penikett: I am not talking about just the First Nations, nor am I talking about apprehending someone after the fact, who may have been bootlegging. I am talking about whether or not there is any discretion by the vendor if, for example, I came into an outlet operated by Mr. Brewster and said that I wanted to buy four cases of whiskey, which is clearly more than I could consume in a day, a week, or perhaps even in a month - in my case, certainly more than a year. I
s there any Yukon Liquor Corporation policy for the offsale operators that would give them the ability to refuse a request by someone who does not have a special occasion permit - they do not have a license for a community dance or such, but an individual coming in who says they want a very large quantity of alcohol, raising the possibility that they might be reselling it?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: Yes, they can refuse. I just pointed out that when I was in Teslin, I saw a woman flatly refuse to sell to someone. She absolutely would not let them have it. There was a ruckus. They came back three times while we were having lunch. She told them they could not have it. She knew he was not drinking, and the fellow admitted that he was not drinking, so she must have known that he was selling it or doing something. I do not know, but she would not give it to him. It went on for quite a time before he finally left and did not come back.
Mr. Penikett: I understand perfectly and support the refusal by a vendor to sell alcohol to someone who is intoxicated. I am not asking about that situation.
The Minister just talked about the interdict list and, believe it or not, I am old enough to remember that list and how people were booted out of bars and booted around because of it. I was in the territory then and I remember it. I agree with some of what the Minister said about that; however, the question I am asking is a very different one. It is a question arising from the situation described by the Member for Mayo-Tatchun.
The situation I am referring to is when someone who is not necessarily drunk presents themselves to a vendor and asks for eight cases of whiskey. The Minister has stated that the vendor can say no. I understand that the vendor can say no when the person making the request is impaired, because there is well-established policy in that area. In a case that the Minister used - he was talking about Teslin - one of the people had been drinking, but, if I heard him correctly, one of the other people who was not allowed to make a purchase had not. What is the basis in law, or in Yukon Liquor Corporation policy, for that decision? How does it work?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: The licensee has a right to refuse anybody on any basis. For example, in a case where they bought eight cases, I had been around long enough to know that they were going to bootleg it. Anybody would realize that. I would also concede that there are some licensees who would go along with it to make money; however, the average one would not. They could do a number of things. I know that if I had been there, I would not sell it. If it somehow got out, I would be the first one to phone the RCMP to find out what was going on.
Mr. Penikett: The Minister seems to be misunderstanding. I heard the Government Leader heckling, saying that he does not need any reason, but I think you do need a reason. We have something called the Human Rights Act in this territory, which says that one cannot refuse food, sustenance or service to someone on arbitrary grounds. One has to have reasonable grounds.
I believe - and I hope the Minister is listening to me - that if one has reasonable grounds for believing that someone is bootlegging, I think that is an acceptable reason to refuse to sell someone eight cases of whiskey. I want to know whether that is a matter of Liquor Corporation policy or just the judgment of the vendor.
The problem with the interdict list that the Minister talked about was that it was arbitrary. Somebody got on the list and they lost their rights. That is why we have a Human Rights Act; it is to try and prevent those kinds of things. Between the right to be able to go into a store and buy things one needs - whether it is a beer or bread, which is established in law in the Human Rights Act - and the Liquor Act, which gives the corporation the ability to license and regulate the sales, which is another kind of extreme, because it deals with the problems of alcohol abuse and excessive consumption, such as how one cannot sell alcohol to people who are impaired or people who are too young, I want to find out if there is any policy in the corporation that deals with the situation such as the one described by Mr. Joe, or the one we just talked about where somebody comes in and says, "I want to buy eight cases of whiskey."
The Minister made a statement that I think is correct. He said that some vendors might sell it. Others, knowing the person or believing them to be bootlegging, might refuse, because they thought it was bad for their community or they did not want to do something that was improper, dangerous or unhealthy. I agree with the Minister on that. I want to know if there is any Liquor Corporation policy on this point; that is the only question I am asking.
Hon. Mr. Brewster: There is no formal policy. It is up to the judgment of the vendor. I would like to point out that, in the 17th annual report, we sent letters warning vendors about exceeding maximum offsales. We are trying our best.
Mr. Penikett: Could the Minister refer me to a page?
As I look at page 15, there were seven letters of warning dealing with over-service, which could be selling too much in a bar; minors on premises, which would also be in a bar; exceeding maximum offsale prices, which is charging more than allowed; selling offsales after hours; overcrowding, an; serving after hours. Nowhere on that list does it say anything about selling excessive amounts.
Let me explain to the Minister what I think. I suspect there is no clear policy on this point. I am sorry I am taking so long, but I think Mr. Joe is suggesting that perhaps there ought to be a policy on that. To prevent carnage on the highway between Carmacks and Pelly Crossing, for example, perhaps there should be a limit on how much any one person from Mayo, Pelly or Stewart Crossing, for example, is allowed to purchase in Carmacks. This is not a person who is impaired, but a reasonable limit on what an individual can purchase on any one day. That is the question.
Right now, the Minister says it is up to the judgment of the vendor. Many vendors may have good judgment on that score. The Minister has also conceded that there may be some vendors who have not always shown good judgment.
I think the Member for Mayo-Tatchun is raising the issue of whether or not there should be some policy developed in this area.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I would like to get into this debate, because I do not follow where the Member is going with this line of questioning.
I believe the Member is saying that the government should limit offsales. If you are going to limit sales to one person you have to limit sales to the public. You cannot set discretionary limits, for example, stating that Mr. Penikett can only buy two cases of beer today. If the government is going to implement a policy like that it has to apply to every person in the territory, every liquor store and every offsales outlet in the territory. I do not think you could get that one past the Human Rights Commission.
Mr. Penikett: The Government Leader is partially right. I should be precise. I am not proposing a precise limit and I have not even suggested it. I concede that suggesting a limit on quantities and offsales logically implies a similar quantity limit in the regular outlets. I do not dispute that issue at all.
My reason for raising the question - I am not making a proposal, I am simply asking if the corporation has any policy - is because of the problem identified by Mr. Joe. If a community has experienced a problem - for example, let us say an individual regularly turns up in the community having purchased, without a special-occasion permit or any of the other required licences, a large quantity of liquor, and let us forget for a moment the question about whether or not the liquor has been resold - where large volume purchase is suddenly distributed in the community. The community then has to deal with the social and health problems and perhaps the violence and other problems that we have discussed.
I asked the question about whether or not there is any policy. I gather from the answers received that there is no policy. The Minister started off by responding to Mr. Joe's suggestion that the board may be interested in considering the action. What I am asking is if the Minister would be willing to raise the question - I am not proposing anything - about whether or not there might be some reasonable limits - obviously, not two cases of beer per day, because I know people who consume that much in their households - but, some reasonable limits set that apply to offsales or regular sale outlets.
Perhaps the Government Leader is right. Perhaps there is no way that one can - from a point of view of rights - cap it at any reasonable amount. Perhaps there are some people who live in heavy-drinking households who might go through a case of whiskey a day, although that would seem a lot to me.
On the other side of the scale, there is a different kind of problem with the rights of children, families, and women, who may be beaten, and other things, in small communities where a lot of alcohol comes in by this means.
I am really only asking the Minister this: if there is no policy, is this an issue he might invite the board to address?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I will let the Minister answer the question on the policy. I just want to say to the Member opposite that, from my perception of it, we would run into great difficulty. There may be a person who only goes to the liquor store once a year and buys a substantial amount of alcohol to stock his place. It does not mean that he is a problem to the community or anything else. I do not know how there can be one policy for one person and a different policy for another person.
With respect to the areas the Member opposite is concerned about, I believe there are avenues to deal with that, such as there are in Ross River, Old Crow, and other such areas where there are real problems.
As the Minister has said, if there is a suspicion of people reselling alcohol, it is stopped. I believe that policy has to apply to everyone. I do not believe it can only apply to certain people.
The vendor, I believe, does have the discretion to refuse anybody the right to buy his product. Let them take to the Human Rights Commission. I do not think any vendor would be concerned about that. I think they have that right. I have seen it exercised in many of the smaller communities, where they do know everyone. I would be very skeptical if a policy limiting sales to certain individuals would be constitutional.
Mr. Penikett: On the last point, I think the Government Leader is wrong about that. My commonsense understanding of the law is if there is an individual who had been convicted several times for bootlegging, the reasonable-grounds provisions in the Constitution and in the Human Rights Act would say that one could put limits on how much alcohol the government is obliged to sell that person and they would be perfectly reasonable limits. The problem is that, in all the things that the Government Leader is talking about in terms of Ross River or Old Crow, we are talking about a form of prohibition, something which the Minister of the Liquor Corporation believes does not work.
In Ross River, they are discussing a prohibition on public drinking. That may be the community's wishes, and I think that we should respect those wishes, but everyone knows that there will be violators. That does not invalidate the legitimacy of the community's concern.
In Old Crow, the community members decided not only to have a prohibition on public drinking, but the community voted to have a prohibition on the consumption of alcohol in the community, which I think is their right. There will be people who disagree with that and there will be people who will violate that rule, which has been true throughout history, but it does not invalidate the community's wish and the wish to have it legally expressed.
I want to again emphasize that I am not making a particular proposal; I am only asking if the Yukon Liquor Corporation has considered this beyond what the Minister said today in response to the Member for Mayo-Tatchun and whether or not this is a policy area the corporation may consider addressing. That is all.
Hon. Mr. Brewster: My invitation to the Member for Mayo-Tatchun is open any time for him to come and talk to me and we will go to the Liquor Corporation. I must also point out that, as rough as it is, it starts to violate people's rights if you say one person can do something and the next person cannot. I spent quite a while in the army saying everybody was free and equal. I will stay with that philosophy for the rest of my life.
I would like to comment on what the Member of the Official Opposition brought up. It is not just the small communities where women and children are beaten up; Whitehorse and all the big communities are included. Do not just pick on the small ones.
Mr. Joe: I have a bit of a problem with the time. I would like to talk about bootlegging. This is another issue that is causing a lot of problems in the communities.
We were just talking about offsales. I cannot see why we are running into a dispute between these two parties. I think we should talk about the real problem that has been going on for too long. I would like to protect my people out there from something that is killing them. I would like to put a stop to it.
I know the Ministers do not have an answer. I do not think we will find the answers today. We have to get them from somewhere else and start dealing with the grassroots people in our communities. That is where people are having problems.
If you want to talk about bootlegging, I have seen some being done in the past. I think we need to lower our heads. Their punishment, when they were charged, was $150. What the heck is $150 for bootlegging? The bootlegger will only laugh. I want to see a little more strength to the law. They should be charged $250 for the second offense - it should be something more. A third time, it should be even more. If they are fined $150 every time they are charged, they will laugh and walk away. They will pay fast enough. That is nothing. They only have to sell a couple of bottles of whiskey, or something. If you want to debate, let us get some truth right from the heart. Let us get it out now. Let us not close our eyes. Let us face the issue.
I am not worried about myself. The Minister said he had been in the army and he saw people live with it and die with it. I am old enough; I do not care which way I die when my time comes. I worry about my grandchildren. There are many more young generations to come. That is what I am concerned about. I do not know what kind of life they are going to have in the next five or 10 years. If we are going to continue like this, we are not going to have too many young people left. There are too many jobs being lost now. We hear the news from outside when we turn the TV on. There are lots of crazy things going on. We do not like that. We have this happening here already. We have some cases in the Yukon now like we have never had before. We do not like to see that happen. That is why we should get right down to it. If we do not do it, who is going to do it for us? I do not know how many times I have said this.
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I know we are going to take a recess now. I would like to pass some information I promised on the Yukon Housing Corporation to the Members opposite. I have the organization charts requested by the Member for Riverdale South, the statement of arrears on housing programs and the finance and audit committee bylaw. I will ask the Page to take them over.
I also have information on overtime I will read into the record for the Member for Riverdale South. If she wants more information, she can follow up on it. The breakdown of overtime paid by area is as follows: the housing managers, extra time paid was $17,570.
Chair: Order please. The time being 5:30 p.m., we will break until 7:30 p.m.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. Is there further general debate on the Yukon Liquor Corporation?
Mr. Cable: Does the government anticipate any change in legislation with respect to operations such as U-Brew Yukon, or is the present legislation going to remain in place?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: The Cabinet has given us permission to overhaul the Liquor Act and the regulations to bring them up to date. The last time this was done was in 1977.
Mr. Cable: Okay, but on the question that I asked, which was specifically about U-Brew operations, are there any amendments in the works and can the Minister tell us if he is happy with the present U-Brew regulations?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: That will probably be discussed. I do not know whether or not it will come into legislation.
Mr. Cable: In some jurisdictions you can have what are called brew-on-premises operations, and, most notably, there are some micro-breweries in some of the lounges and liquor outlets in British Columbia. Has the Minister any views about whether the brew-on-premises operations should be permitted in this jurisdiction?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I have no views on any of the legislation.
Mr. Cable: Wait a minute. Let us get this straight. I think that the Minister would be making the legislation; he would not be a passive actor.
Is there a meeting with the Hotel Association later this week? I gather that there is; there is no point in being coy about it. What issues will be discussed with the Hotel Association members?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: No one has given me an agenda. I was just invited for lunch.
Mr. Cable: What liquor issues does the Minister want to talk about with the Hotel Association?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: We are there to listen, and we are also interested in a public review, so I am not stating my opinion until the public has its say.
Mr. Cable: I gather that, at the meeting to be held later this week, there will be representatives of the distillery and brewery businesses present, as well as the Government Leader - is that the Minister's understanding?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I am not quite sure, but I believe they are going to be there. I received the invitation quite a long time ago. I am not sure if any distillers will be there, but I suspect that they might be.
Mr. Cable: I understand that U-Brew operations and legislation will be discussed. Is that the Minister's understanding, or is that what he wants to talk about or listen to?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I like to listen to things that are nice and that do not start quarrels, and that is very hard to do. As I said, I have no agenda, and I have not spoken to anyone, other than to accept the invitation that was extended to me. That is all I know about it.
Mr. Cable: It sounds kind of secretive. Is the Minister prepared to give the House a report when he has finished, either through the mechanics of Question Period, or perhaps even a ministerial statement on where he is going with respect to the liquor legislation?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I thought I just got through saying that I will not make any statements on the new liquor regulation or the legislation until it has gone out for public review.
Mr. Cable: Perhaps the Minister did say that. Is the legislation going to be drafted by his department and then circulated around to all the stakeholders? Is that his view of public consultation?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: We will put out some suggestions, as much as we did with the Motor Vehicles Act, and send it out for consultation to see what people want changed, if they want it changed or what they want added.
Mr. Cable: What does the Minister contemplate? Public meetings or something like his Motor Vehicles Act booklet? Just how does he contemplate the public input happening? Can he be a little more specific than what he had mentioned a moment ago?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: Actually, I have not made up my mind anyway. It is up to the Liquor Corporation to bring forward suggestions, and we will go from there. The Motor Vehicles Act review includes both - pamphlets were mailed out and public consultation will follow. I suspect that is a fair way to get to most people.
Mr. Harding: That is interesting. I was not aware that the Minister had a mandate from Cabinet to rewrite some of the Liquor Act regulations. It certainly piqued my curiosity. The issue that I would like to talk about specifically tonight, and about which I would like to find out more, is what the Minister is going to be proposing in the public review. I have had a number of constituents talk to me about opening up some kind of an establishment for the purveyance of alcoholic beverages.
My understanding of the liquor licence laws - I am not well-versed in all the regulations by any means - is that there must be a level of either food service or room service to obtain a liquor licence, especially for a cocktail lounge or bar, as opposed to a dining room. Am I correct in that understanding?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: That is right at the present time; however, that may be one of the things that may come up in the review. A number of people have brought that to my attention, as they have to the Member's.
Mr. Harding: I have the Liquor Act in front of me. I am looking at section 38(2). It reads, "It shall be a condition of every tavern and cocktail lounge licence that adequate facilities be provided for providing food to customers of the licensed premises when the premises are open for the sale of liquor." I had someone ask me specifically for the definition of "adequate facilities for providing food to customers".
Hon. Mr. Brewster: It has to be sandwiches or something that customers can eat or consume on the premises. People can talk to the staff at the Liquor Corporation to get any information they want.
Mr. Harding: I am in general debate and I am asking the Minister a question. The Government Leader is heckling me for asking questions on behalf of my constituents, but I will ignore that.
I would like to know if there is a definition of "adequate facilities". For instance, does there have to be a certain number of people at a sitting? Does a liquor or cocktail lounge have to be able to seat 35 people for food service? Does there have to be a minimum of 10 rooms? Is there a definitive way to ensure that the regulations are being met?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: Each establishment has a limit as to how many people it can seat. This limit is established by the liquor inspector at the time of an inspection. The establishment must be able to provide food for the maximum number of customers it is allowed.
Mr. Harding: Are the applications for licences looked at on an individual basis? If someone wanted to find out the minimum standards for obtaining a licence, whom would they ask? Just so that they do not put the cart before the horse, how would they go about making an application to find out?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: They would go to the Liquor Corporation to talk to the liquor inspector. They would also have to appear before a board to see if they are qualified to get a licence.
Ms. Moorcroft: At one time there was a motion in the House to dedicate all profits of the Yukon Liquor Corporation to alcohol and drug abuse prevention and to provide services to treat people who were suffering from alcoholism. I wonder if the Minister thinks that this is something they should do? How much money will be directed to alcohol and drug abuse prevention programs in this budget?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: The profits turned over to government go into general revenue funds and they are then split between the various departments.
Ms. Moorcroft: Can the Minister tell us how much money will be directed to alcohol and drug abuse prevention programs?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: Once it goes into the general revenue fund, it is a decision of the Finance people and of those who make up the budget, including Cabinet.
Mr. Penikett: The seventeenth annual report that the Minister mentioned earlier has, on page 10, an item about which I would like to inquire.
Under the line, "Financing Activities, net remittance, from or to the Government of the Yukon Territory", it says that $7,818,000 is sent to the Yukon Territory. Is that the profit the Minister mentioned earlier, and which the board had decided to remit to Yukon government, or is that a transaction that was ordered by Management Board or Cabinet? Where can we see it in the mains?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: The statement that the Member refers to is a statement that has not previously been included in the financial statement of the corporation. The amount remitted to the government from the Yukon Liquor Corporation represents the amount of cash transferred to the government by the corporation during the period of April 1 through March 31 of the following year.
The amount of $7,818,000 is particularly high for the period of April 1, 1993, through March 31, 1994, because that amount includes not only much of the net income of the corporation and liquor tax collected for the year 1993-94, but also includes much of the income and liquor tax earned in the preceding 1992-93 fiscal year. Because of the significant capital construction activity underway during the latter part of 1992-93, the corporation delayed its remittance to the government for that year to ensure that its commitments for its contracts were paid in a timely manner.
Mr. Penikett: I thank the Minister for the briefing note he just read, but I am not sure that I fully understand the answer. The final part of the note said that the two years' cash were remitted because the corporation was holding on to the cash to make sure that it could meet its capital commitments, which we have discussed before. I assume that includes the million-dollar store in Watson Lake, and so forth.
What I am interested in is this: $7.8 million is a lot of money; it is almost $8 million. Who makes the decision to transmit that money to the government? Is that a decision of the Yukon Liquor Corporation Board, is it Management Board that requests and authorizes the transfer, or what exactly is the sequence of events leading up to this very large sum being transferred to the government?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: It is required under the act.
Mr. Penikett: That raises another question. The Minister, as I take it, is saying that such transfers - the cash from the Liquor Corporation - are required to be made to the government under the act, but it was not done last year. I think he said earlier in the briefing note that he read out that it was unusual. This has not happened before. Is the Minister saying that we were not in compliance with the act in previous years?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: There was another statement before this that corrected that situation.
Mr. Penikett: Please forgive me, but I did not understand the answer.
Hon. Mr. Brewster: This is a new type of statement they had, which they had never used before, which started out in this statement.
Mr. Penikett: The Minister has not answered the question about whether or not we were in compliance with the law in previous years. He has not answered the question about where we see the revenue in this budget. The third question I have is, since this is an unusally large sum - the Minister conceded that - what is the normal amount we should expect to see in a typical year?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: The last few years it has averaged between $5 million and $5.5 million.
Mr. Penikett: Two of the questions that are unanswered are how was this reported in the past, since the Minister said this is a new way of accounting for it, and where do we find it in the O&M budget?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: One of the reasons we are having a little problem is that this is the first time in 14 years, since I have been in the Legislature, that the Liquor Corporation was ever torn apart like this. I wonder what the reasons are.
Most of the information is found on page 1 of the president's message.
Mr. Penikett: Forgive me. Earlier on today, the Minister said that he thought we might be better off without a Legislature. Now he is describing a couple of questions about the Liquor Corporation as tearing it apart. If I want to tear the corporation apart, the Minister would certainly know it. All I am asking are some perfectly reasonable questions about some very large sums of money.
The Minister said that page 1 explains what this is all about. The first paragraph talks about continuing to administer the Liquor Corporation, response to public concerns and the focus on public awareness campaigns. The third paragraph is about a teddy bear program. The fourth paragraph is about a year representing reasonable financial stability with a slight decrease of $1.2 million in sales. The net income for the year was $5.2 million with remittances to Yukon territorial government fund totalling $7.1 million. The corporation gratefully acknowledges the cooperation of the Mounties and dedication of the staff.
I take it that the Minister is referring to the single sentence on page 1, which says, "The net income for the year was $5.2 million, with remittances to the Yukon territorial government's general revenue fund totalling $7.1 million."
If I look at page 10, last year shows money not going to the government, but $679,000 going from the government.
Am I correct in assuming that that transfer is coming from YTG to pay for the Watson Lake liquor store? Question number two, and I am asking this question for the fourth time, is this: where do we find this money in the main budget book?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: The statement that you are looking at on page 10 is for 1992-93, and the liquor store was built in 1994.
Mr. Penikett: I do not want the Minister to think that I am tearing him apart; I am just asking questions here.
In 1994 it shows a transfer from the Liquor Corporation to the government of $7.8 million. In 1993 it shows a transfer from the government to the Liquor Corporation of $679,000. A few minutes ago, the Minister said the normal or average transfer we should expect is something like $5 million to $5.5 million from the corporation to the government. Why is there $679,000 from the government to the corporation in 1993?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: It is because the money from 1992-93 was not paid until the year 1993-94.
Mr. Penikett: That fits with the Minister's previous explanation. However, I still do not understand why the territory was transferring money from the government to the corporation.
Hon. Mr. Brewster: We will have to get an explanation for that one back to the Member.
Mr. Penikett: Could the Minister include in that explanation an answer to my question about how we were doing it previously. I understand he says that he is doing it in a new way, and that this $7.8 million transfer represents the first year in which we have done it the new way. He said that we expect an average of $5 million to $5.5 million in future years. I just want to be able to reconcile - I do not need it tonight or tomorrow - what we are doing now with what we were doing in the past.
This will be the second part of the question: I am also concerned about whether what we were doing in the past was incorrect in some way, because the Minister said earlier that we were doing this new way to comply with the act. Were previous Ministers and previous governments perhaps misreading the act in some way? I would like to know the answer to that question.
Hon. Mr. Brewster: We will get a written statement back to the Member.
Ms. Moorcroft: I was just listening to the Minister talk about rewriting the regulations and the Liquor Act. Is the Minister giving any consideration to privatizing liquor store outlets in the territory?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: It has been informally discussed, but no, there is no consideration at the present time.
Mrs. Firth: It is difficult to tell from the annual report, but has the Liquor Corporation made any specific observations about the consumption and sale of liquor in Watson Lake since the new liquor store was built? Have sales gone up or down, or have they kept level? Could the Minister give us a report on that?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: Just half a year was recorded, because it has to go to March of next year.
Mrs. Firth: It is difficult to tell from the report. I was looking at the community section, where it shows the sale of spirits and the hectolitres of liquor sold. In Watson Lake, from 1992-93 to 1993-94, it has gone down a considerable amount. Is the Minister saying that that only represents sales for half a year?
It is on page 6 of the report. If I am reading it correctly, it was 3,784 in 1992-93, and it was 3,330 in 1993-94. Could the Minister tell me if I am reading that correctly? I would draw the conclusion that it is going down, but I do not know if that is an accurate conclusion to draw.
Hon. Mr. Brewster: No, the Member is reading it correctly. As of now, the 1994-95 sales are similar to those of 1993-94. The volume in hectolitres is slightly down.
Mrs. Firth: I have a problem trying to get an accurate picture of the financial position of the Yukon Liquor Corporation. I know the Minister keeps talking about liquor sales going down and I know that seems to be the trend everywhere: people are buying and consuming less alcohol.
There has been no change in the liquor tax and that has remained the same in the operation and maintenance budget. On page S-10, there is a zero-percent change, yet the liquor profit is showing a 31-percent increase. The Minister has already explained that is because there are no capital projects.
I would like to get an accurate picture of how much less, revenue wise, that is being received by the government because of the decline in alcohol consumption. I find the number deceiving when it is mixed with the capital. Could the Minister provide me with that information? How much less money is the Yukon government receiving due to the decline in the purchase and consumption of alcoholic beverages in the territory?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: Included in all liquor product prices, there is a 12-percent liquor tax. In other words, for each dollar of liquor sales 12 cents is also collected in the form of a liquor tax. The amount of liquor tax collected for 1993-94 was $2,048,000. The updated forecast amount for 1994-95 is $2 million. For 1995-96 the estimated forecast is $2,028,000. This amount could be as low as $2 million, but could be as high as $2,030,000, should sales be significantly lower or higher than the forecasted $16,900,000. The House will be kept informed of these figures.
The other thing I might add is that the price of liquor from the corporation and the distillers increases. Quite often it varies every two or three months. The government continues to add 12 percent so that the government makes more money as the amount increases.
Mrs. Firth: That is the part I find difficult to understand, because although there has not been an increase in the liquor tax, people complain to me that the cost of liquor has increased - and quite considerably - on some bottles of scotch or whatever a person's favourite alcohol may be.
First of all, I would like to determine what the shortfall in anticipated revenue is. The government is talking about shortages of money and having less revenue, so I would like to get some idea of how much less revenue, on an annual basis, the corporation is anticipating due to the decline in the sale of alcoholic beverages.
If the price of certain alcohol is increasing, and the government collects more tax on that, why is that not reflected as an increase in the liquor tax in the budget?
Was the $2,028,000 that the Minister stated the 1994-95 forecast? And the 1995-96 estimate is the same as that, which is a zero-percent change.
That did not make sense to me: the increasing price and getting more money out of the 12-percent tax. I wonder if the Minister could explain that to us.
Hon. Mr. Brewster: The net revenue may be down in 1995-96 by approximately $150,000. Volumes went down, for example, by six percent in 1994-95, but dollars went down by only two percent.
Mrs. Firth: That would be two percent of what, the whole budget, of just the expenses part of the budget - is that correct?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: It would be down two percent of net sales.
Mrs. Firth: It would be down two percent of the net income for the year - is that correct? Two percent of what? In 1994-95 it was $5,189,000. Would it be two percent of that amount? Am I reading that correctly?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: It would be two percent of $2,028,000.
Mrs. Firth: The $2,028,000 is the estimated liquor tax, so there would be two percent less of that amount of money, approximately.
I guess what I would like to know is what the Liquor Corporation is doing to compensate for the decline in revenue? Is it looking at cost-saving initiatives? What does it anticipate it costs to maintain the Liquor Corporation, when just salaries and employee benefits are almost $3 million a year, plus the rental of vehicles, cartage, office supplies, travel and communication, professional services, et cetera? Is the Liquor Corporation making any plans in anticipation of declining revenue?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: We have tried to increase and improve sales in the Yukon Liquor Corporation by better placement of stock, as is done in supermarkets, and such things as that, and generally try to make it more efficient. In other words, we do not bring in as much stock, so we do not have as much money tied up because we can move it in faster now with the transportation we have, and just general things like that. We are generally tightening up the operations of the whole Liquor Corporation.
Mrs. Firth: Can the Minister give us any examples of how the corporation has tightened up?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I just told you the big one - we do not carry nearly as much stock as we used to. It is way, way down because we can move it in faster, and therefore we do not have as much money tied up in that. If anyone has gone into a liquor store anywhere lately, the floor display is completely changed around and there is a better display of liquor and different types of liquor. The corporation has just generally tried to tighten up all around on expenses.
Mrs. Firth: I would like to ask the Minister a general question. In developing the alcohol and drug strategy, was the Yukon Liquor Corporation consulted at all with respect to the initiatives of the Minister of Health and Social Services? Was there any discussion or coordination between the Yukon Liquor Corporation and the Department of Health and Social Services about planning, goal setting, revenue changes, or anything like that?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: The Yukon Liquor Corporation was consulted, although I am not sure exactly what they were consulted about.
Mrs. Firth: I would not mind knowing that if the Minister could bring me the information. It is kind of an interesting situation in which the Yukon Liquor Corporation needs the revenue and tries to promote and sell liquor. It has sales and posters, and then Health and Social Services is trying to stop the sale of alcohol and keep people from drinking, similar to the concerns the Member raised this afternoon. I would be interested in knowing what the consultative process was and what information the Department of Health and Social Services sought from the Yukon Liquor Corporation.
I would like to know if the Liquor Corporation has specific plans in the works with respect to the sale of alcohol in the territory. Are there any plans for change or any new direction toward privatization - has anything like that been discussed by the corporation?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: At the present time, there has been nothing like that.
As I pointed out when I made my speech on this, we have conducted radio programs and poster programs. We feel that this has helped to slow liquor sales somewhat.
The Member is right; it is a peculiar situation when one is trying to sell liquor and, yet, one's colleague is trying to control it. It is just one of those things.
I would like to point out that about 75 percent of people enjoy a drink now and then. I do not think they should be hampered or completely cut off from it.
Mrs. Firth: I am being a right-wing Independent when I say that I would not advocate cutting anyone off any of their rights. I would, however, be interested in knowing what the consultative process was if the Minister could make a commitment to bring that back to the Legislature. I think that all Members would be interested in it.
Hon. Mr. Brewster: Yes, we will do that.
Mr. Joe: I have another very brief question about another thing that has been done. I have had a drink or two myself - lots at one time. I thank God that I gave up drinking in 1970. At that time, I was drinking. Today, nobody is educated about what they are drinking, especially young people. They do not know what they are getting into. I have attended a lot of meetings about alcohol - meetings like this - and I have never had an answer to that question - why are young people not educated about how to drink? I want to know who makes all this vodka - what they call vodka. I got into it, too, at one time. It is very powerful liquor, and I have drank a lot of all kinds of liquor. That stuff will drive you nuts once you get into it too much. How can we educate the people that need help?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I am not sure if I heard everything the Member said, but I certainly sympathize with him. I suspect that when he is talking about rotgut that he means alcohol that is bootlegged. I must point out that it is a federal offence. If the Member knows it is being done and knows who is doing it, it should be immediately reported to the RCMP. Bootlegging is under the federal jurisdiction.
Mr. Joe: I have to talk about more than bootlegging. Whatever we do in the community, I am not complaining about bootlegging. The problem is to prove it. There are a number of elders in the communities who complain. Bootlegging still cannot be proved. I do not know why that is. I know that one time they even passed a petition against bootlegging. The judge said bootlegging has to be proved - one has to catch that person before he can be charged. The whole community knows who is bootlegging. The RCMP also know it. I have talked to them. We all know who the bootleggers are, but there is still no proof. Something really has to be done about this.
My last question is this: can the Minister report on the Be A Responsible Server program? Has it been a success? Does the Minister feel that lounge and bar operators are more aware of the legal and social requirements?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: Yes, I think they are. There is quite a difference from five years ago, at least in some I have been in. They are working at it.
I would like to say one other thing about bootlegging. My son-in-law is an RCMP member in the Northwest Territories. He has twice brought people up on bootlegging charges. The Member is quite correct. The court throws the case out, saying there is no proof, when he thought he had proof. He is in the business and still could not make it stick.
Chair: Is there any further general debate?
On Gross Advances
Gross Advances in the amount of $1.00 agreed to
On Less Internal Recovery
Less Internal Recovery in the amount of $1.00 agreed to
Operation and Maintenance in the amount of $1.00 agreed to
Yukon Liquor Corporation in the amount of $1.00 agreed to
Loan Capital and Loan Amortization
Chair: We will move on to Loan Capital and Loan Amortization.
Is there any general debate?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: The purpose of this vote is to appropriate monies to reloan largely to municipalities and to recover costs for servicing debts to third parties.
Based on a survey of municipalities by the communication services branch, it is possible those municipalities may wish to borrow up to $5 million in the coming year. This appears under the heading of loan capital.
We show an accompanying recovery of $5 million to indicate loans that we may make and these are shown as assets on our balance sheet and do not impact on the surplus or deficit of government.
Operation and maintenance expenditures are estimated at $1,474,000, which is the sum of principal and interest that the government must repay on loans that the Yukon government has taken out to reloan to municipalities. These loans are from the Canada Pension Plan fund, the Government of Canada and several of the market lenders.
The recovery of $2,444,000 is comprised of payments to the Yukon government from the municipalities for loans made from the government to those municipalities.
The recovery from municipalities is larger than the payments the Yukon government makes on its loans for several reasons. Many of the old loan schedules and rates for the Yukon government debt to the federal government do not match the schedules and the rates for the municipal debt owing to the Yukon government. We do not know why these differences exist.
The Yukon government has financed many loans to municipalities and did not seek outside financing.
I would be pleased to answer any questions that the Members have.
Chair: Is there further general debate?
On Loan Capital
On Loans to Third Parties
Mrs. Firth: What is the reason for the 11-percent change fluctuation? I see it is coming back up to the 1993-94 actual, but why did it decrease in the first place? Why is the estimate now increasing?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: My understanding is that we poll the municipalities on what they feel their requirements are for the coming year. The figure that we have is based on their assumptions on what they may be borrowing.
Mrs. Firth: Is it fair to say that the municipalities are hurting financially? I see that the Government Leader is shaking his head. One-half of a million dollars is a considerable increase. Does the Minister anticipate that that will really be required?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: Most of the money that they borrowed here is for capital infrastructure, which they will recover through tax rates and fees charged to their residents. I do not think one can assume, just because they have asked for more money this year, that they are hurting for funds. Some of the municipalities are quite well off.
Mrs. Firth: Can the Minister tell us which municipalities are well off?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I do not have that information in front of me. The Member may be able to get it from Community and Transportation Services. I do know that Haines Junction and Watson Lake are two communities that have substantial bank accounts. Dawson City is one of the municipalities that is not very well off, as are some of the others. For the most part, they do have substantial bank accounts. They are banking their funds because they are only allowed to spend half of their grant on O&M; the other half has to go into capital infrastructure, as I understand it.
Mrs. Firth: From a financial point of view, in relation to the Department of Finance and this particular loan capital and loan amortization department, I would like to know if I can get a commitment out of the Minister of Finance to provide me with the list of the communities - which ones are considered to have substantial bank accounts and which are poorer. I think that information would be of interest to us as Members of the Opposition.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I will try to get that to the Member.
Loans to Third Parties in the amount of $5,000,000 agreed to
Loan Capital in the amount of $5,000,000 agreed to
On Loan Amortization
Interest in the amount of $661,000 agreed to
Principal in the amount of $813,000 agreed to
Loan Amortization in the amount of $1,474,000 agreed to
Loan Capital and Loan Amortization in the amount of $6,474,000 agreed to
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I move that you report progress on Bill No. 4.
Motion agreed to
Bill No. 3 - Third Appropriation Act, 1994-95 - continued
Chair: We will move into the bills. Bill No. 3, entitled Third Appropriation Act, 1994-95.
On Schedule A
Schedule A agreed to
On Schedule B
Schedule B agreed to
On Schedule C
Schedule C agreed to
On Clause 1
Clause 1 agreed to
On Clause 2
Clause 2 agreed to
Title agreed to
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Chair, I move that you report progress on Bill No. 3, Third Appropriation Act, 1994-95, out of Committee without amendment.
Motion agreed to
Bill No. 4 - First Appropriation Act, 1995-96 - continued
Chair: On Bill No. 4, First Appropriation Act, 1995-96.
On Schedule A
Schedule A agreed to
On Schedule B
Schedule B agreed to
On Schedule C
Schedule C agreed to
On Clause 1
Clause 1 agreed to
On Clause 2
Clause 2 agreed to
On Clause 3
Clause 3 agreed to
Title agreed to
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Chair, I move that you report Bill No. 4, First Appropriation Act, 1995-96, out of Committee, with amendment.
Motion agreed to
Chair: Is it the wish of the Members to take a brief recess at this time?
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order.
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 the Committee of the Whole?
Mr. Abel: The Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 3, Third Appropriation Act, 1994-95, and directed me to report it without amendment.
Further, the Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 4, First Appropriation Act, 1995-96, and directed me to report it with amendment.
Speaker: You have heard the report of the Chair of the Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: I declare the report carried.
Bill No. 71: Second Reading
Clerk: Second reading, Bill No. 71, standing in the name of the Hon. Mr. Phillips.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I move that Bill No. 71, entitled Engineering Profession Act, be now read a second time.
Speaker: It is moved by the Hon. Minister of Justice that Bill No. 71, entitled Engineering Profession Act, be now read a second time.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: Mr. Speaker, Bill No. 71 that you have before you will replace the present Engineering Profession Act. The act has been in effect since 1955 and has had very few changes since that time. Over the past few years it has become clear to the engineers and to us that the old act no longer meets the association's needs.
The Association of Professional Engineers of the Yukon has worked very hard to develop legislation that will serve them in the future. We want to be able to ensure that the engineering profession in the Yukon operates professionally and in the public interest. The association and the department have consulted with a number of groups that are interested in this legislation in the Yukon. The Association of Yukon Communities has asked for a clarification of those portions of the act dealing with the requirement of plans and public buildings being built, signed and sealed by professional engineers. This has been done. A section was included to exclude persons building, planning, drawing or inspecting work, if that work is done in accordance with all building or other standards required by law.
The City of Whitehorse engineering department and the local lands surveyors were also consulted and both support these amendments. We believe that the act satisfies all the groups in the Yukon that might be affected by the legislation. This act has been modeled on the legislation in effect in most provincial jurisdictions, and in particular, in Alberta's legislation.
The national body representing the engineering profession is having ongoing discussions with the associations representing national scientists, such as biologists, physicists and mathematicians. This association feels that the definition of engineering has the potential to overlap and infringe on the practice of natural science. We have addressed the problem by exempting the natural scientists from the applications of this act.
Bill No. 71 continues the tradition of self-regulation by the engineers. They have been a self-regulating organization since 1955, when the old act was passed. The mandate of the Association of Professional Engineers, then and now, is to protect the public interest and the safety of the public. They do this by ensuring that all persons who practice engineering have the necessary professional qualifications before they are licensed under this act, and that they conduct themselves in a professional manner.
This new act improves the definition of the practice of engineering and limits the use of the term "professional engineer" to someone licensed under the act.
In addition to professional engineers, the act has been expanded to enable the association to issue limited licences to persons who may not be qualified as an engineer to allow them to practice engineering with a specific scope. For example, an architectural firm could apply for a limited licence, showing it to be the engineer of record for a particular project. Another example would be an employee in the transportation and engineering branch working at the level of a professional engineer but who is not a professional engineer. This person could receive a limited licence to enable them to work in specific areas, such as roads, sewers, water or building engineering where they had some special expertise.
This act will also now allow a corporation or partnership to be licensed as a permit holder. We have also included a section that requires persons who are employed by the Government of Yukon as professional engineers to be registered under this act.
Bill No. 71, however, still allows you and me to build a greenhouse in our backyard, but a professional engineer is required to approve and stamp our design if we want to build a bridge across the Yukon River.
Bill No. 71 contains provisions for the administration of the act by the association. It can develop regulations and bylaws dealing with a number of topics, such as a code of ethics, a standard of practice and fees to join the association. The discipline sections have been expanded and improved. The association will have the power to investigate complaints and take disciplinary action where necessary. It will continue to be responsible for all costs associated with administering the act, including the disciplinary procedures. Although the disciplinary procedures are expanded, care has been taken to ensure that the procedures include access to the appeal processes and the rules of natural justice.
There are exemptions from the act. Architects, Canada land surveyors, and, as I mentioned before, natural scientists, such as physicists, biologists and chemists, are exempted from any requirement to register under the act.
The Association of Professional Engineers is, at present, 400 members. They have worked very hard to develop the new legislation, and Bill No. 71 will meet their needs as an administrative body for the profession and the continuing need to protect the public safety in the Yukon.
Ms. Commodore: The Minister has indicated that Bill No. 71 replaces a current act that was proclaimed in 1955. That is a long time ago. It takes me back to what we were doing when we were in government, which was replacing the Fair Practices Ordinance. It was so outdated that we had to bring in a new Human Rights Act.
The Minister has indicated that there was much consultation done with regard to this act and I know that to be a fact. When we were in government, we had people who came to us and lobbied for changes, saying that this act was so outdated that it might have looked good in Yukon Archives.
I am pleased to stand here and support this bill, especially because of the consultation process. In the past we have had bills put before us that have been developed, tabled and put in place with little or no consultation. This is one of those bills that has met all of the consultation requirements. Many people have lobbied the Minister and us. The Minister was able to provide a briefing for us and we appreciate his efforts. I am sure that everyone will be pleased with this act once it is passed in this House. They will have an up-to-date act that will meet their needs. I will support this bill.
Mr. Cable: I, too, will be supporting the bill in principle. I know that the engineering association has worked many years to have this bill brought about. It has gone through many drafts and many meetings, and many presidents have looked at it.
When we get into Committee, I would just like to signal to the Minister that the making of rules with respect to discipline and fees and whatnot in his bill has a majority of the members approving any amendments. I would refer him to the Legal Profession Act, where similar rule changes required two-thirds of the active members present in a general meeting. It would be useful to hear his opinion about whether that would be an appropriate change in the bill. For his information, that is in section 12.(2). I know he has received communications similar to what I have from one person - the Minister is indicating it was from one person.
Mrs. Firth: I will have some questions for the Minister in Committee of the Whole debate. At second reading, I would like to signal to the Minister what the questions are going to be. First of all, I want to know if the Minister took the opportunity to meet with the association, as we did as Opposition Members, to be briefed, and if he had a chance to ask them about some of their concerns and discuss some of the proposals in the act. I am particularly interested in the submissions made to the Minister by a constituent of mine with respect to some of the weaknesses in the act. I would like the Minister to be prepared to answer the concerns that were raised by the constituent to the Minister in writing.
I would like to know if the regulations are going to be forthcoming. When we had the briefing, it was indicated to us that it was the Justice department that wanted the regulations done after the legislation.
It was tabled and I would like to get clarification from the Minister with respect to that. I understand that the association will be doing up its own bylaws, and I will follow up on that. I would like to know the relationship between the regulations and the bylaws.
I have some concerns about the limited licensing. I realize that will be determined in the regulations, that the criteria will be set in the regulations and that the procedures will be in the bylaws, but I would like to discuss that with the Minister to see if he can tell us how it is going to work.
I would like to know what the anticipated costs to the government will be. It has been indicated to us that there will be none, but I anticipate that there will be some costs to the Government of Yukon as a result of this legislation.
I do not have any difficulty in supporting this piece of legislation. The Association of Professional Engineers has definitely done a lot of homework on it and has indicated to us that they have held many meetings and provided a lot of opportunities for their membership to have input into the changes. I look forward to going through the clause-by-clause debate and getting answers to some of the questions I have flagged for the Minister.
Speaker: If the Member now speaks, he will close debate. Does any other Member wish to be heard?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I thank the Members who spoke in support of the bill and the questions they raised. I will try to get answers prior to the bill going into Committee.
Motion for second reading of Bill No. 71 agreed to
Bill No. 88: Second Reading
Clerk: Second reading, Bill No. 88, standing in the name of the Hon. Mr. Phillips.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I move that Bill No. 88, entitled Yukon Foundation Act, be now read a second time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Hon. Minister of Justice that Bill No. 88, entitled Yukon Foundation Act, be now read a second time.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: This act will enshrine in legislation the community organization that has been in existence since 1980, and which benefits our community in many ways. The objectives of the foundation are to promote educational advancement, promote scientific and medical research for the enhancement of human knowledge, to support and preserve the cultural heritage of the Yukon, and to provide support that may, at the discretion of the board, contribute to the mental, cultural and physical well-being of the residents of the Yukon.
The foundation receives bequests, donations and gifts of capital often through wills and insurance policies. The donor may allow the board of the Yukon Foundation to decide how the income should be used, or they may specify the purpose. These funds, or property, are then administered in accordance with the wishes of the donors and the objectives of the foundation.
Community foundations allow for the pooling of charitable gifts in the capital fund. The earnings from that fund can then be used to meet a wide range of local needs and interests. The funds range in size from the Vancouver Foundation, with assets of $300 million, to the Yukon Foundation, with assets of over $600,000.
In 1993, the foundation awarded $36,750 in grants to 38 applicants. The awards included scholarship grants to Yukon students, such as those through the Alex Berry Fund, projects that advance knowledge, such as the experimental work done in developing Arctic grass seed, and the community beautification project, such as the new "Welcome" sign on the Two Mile Hill.
The Yukon Foundation presently operates as a society incorporated under the Societies Act. It has asked that the legislation be enacted, creating the Yukon Foundation as a statutory body.
This legislation will provide the Yukon Foundation with the perpetuity right to protect the assets that have been bequeathed to it and to fulfill the wishes of the donors to the foundation. We are pleased to assist the foundation in that way.
The Yukon Foundation Act we have before us sets out the objectives of the organization, the composition of the board, the powers of the foundation, the administrative powers of the organization that will need to operate the requirement to publish part of its statements and the revisions on winding up, dissolution or revocation.
Ms. Moorcroft: The Yukon Foundation has been, since 1980, registered as a fairly worthy private institution that receives and disburses requests from private citizens for worthy causes, particularly in scholarships, among others.
The Minister, who presented this bill, is listed as a director of the Yukon Foundation. We in the Opposition have made the point that we believe this is a private institution that should be coming through the House as private business, as a private Member's bill.
The Minister has spoken in the past about over-regulation, the NDP passing too many laws and too much government, and is quoted as saying it does not believe a government should be measured by how many laws it passes. Since the law will not change the functions or activities of the organization in any way, I wonder why the Minister is bringing it forward as a public bill, rather than as a private bill.
We note that there has been no consultation with anyone on this bill. Nonetheless we are not objecting to it. I am just raising the point that it is private business rather than public business.
Mrs. Firth: In 1980, 16 long-time northerners set out to form the Yukon Foundation to provide a vehicle for Yukoners to invest in the future of the territory.
Over the years and since 1898, dollars earned in the Yukon have been leaving through donations or wills to find homes in other jurisdictions. Many older citizens were passing on with no wills. They did not have families and there was no local receiver. Some of these estates were considerable and they ended up in government coffers.
The Yukon Foundation provided the first place for Yukoners to invest in the future, keeping that investment in the Yukon.
Starting with one modest $40,000 fund, each year new funds were added, some large and some small, but they all provided dollars to help the fund grow. Documenting our history, preserving the past, developing research information for the future or helping our youth to obtain the education tools required to strengthen our workforce: grants and scholarships from the interest earned by these funds made it all possible.
With funds now numbering 35 and a capital of over $600,000, it is time to provide the legal certainty that cannot be given as a society. Present donors and future donors should have the certainty of knowing that their fund will always be there and that the loved one for whom the fund is established will be remembered.
Societies come and go.
While the Yukon Foundation has always had a strong board of directors, many of these founding members will not be on the board as the years go by. To protect current investors and encourage future donations, an act is required.
When reviewing other foundations across Canada, one finds that this is the path most take. The mentor of the Yukon Foundation, the Vancouver Foundation, is directed by an act, as is the Victoria Foundation, whose act has been used as a pattern for this legislation.
While the capital assets of the Yukon Foundation are not significant at this time, we see a steady yearly growth and these monies will, in future, form a strong investment pool for Yukoners.
I had an opportunity to attend the Yukon Foundation dinner the other evening. It was the first one that I had ever attended. In particular, I want to thank Flo Whyard for her assistance to me to help justify this legislation and for explaining to me why it is so important to the society to have this legislation. I will be supporting this legislation wholeheartedly.
Motion for second reading of Bill No. 88 agreed to
Bill No. 77: Second Reading
Clerk: Second reading, Bill No. 77, standing in the name of the Hon. Mr. Ostashek.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I move that Bill No. 77, entitled Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act, be now read a second time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Hon. Government Leader that Bill No. 77, entitled Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act, be now read a second time.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak today about the purposes and the principles of the proposed Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act. As stated in the introductory provisions, the main purpose of the bill is to make departments and agencies of government more accountable to the public and to protect personal privacy.
In order to achieve these purposes, this bill repeals the existing Access to Information Act and replaces it with provisions to create two distinct rights: the public's right of access to information held by departments and agencies of the Yukon government and the protection of the individual's right to privacy over their own information.
Several concerns have been identified with existing access to information legislation, both in this Legislature and by the public, during the consultations. They included views that the existing exemptions to the public right of access are too broad, and the burden of proof to demonstrate why information does not fall within an area of exemption is on the individual, rather than on the government.
There is no provision for an independent review process, short of the courts and the expense involved, and there is only limited protection for personal privacy.
I would just like to spend the next few minutes outlining how the provisions of this bill improve on the existing legislation, fulfill the stated purposes of the act, and strike a balance between the rights of access and privacy in order to allow for open, accountable governing in the public interest.
This bill gives people the right to access information held by government. This right is substantially strengthened from the current act, as the government can only refuse to give this access where information is exempted under specific and limited provisions in the proposed legislation. The exemptions are similar to those in other jurisdictions. They are therefore based on consensus across Canada on circumstances for access to information that may not be in the public interest.
In keeping with the most current legislation in the country, specific provision has been included in this bill to allow for access to records that exist only in electronic form. This provision recognizes the evolution of record keeping from paper to the electronic, and represents an important improvement over the older legislation across the country.
The provisions in the bill to protect the privacy of individuals are designed to ensure that the government follows fair information practices with respect to personal information it holds about individuals.
The provisions are in keeping with the guidelines developed by the organization for economic cooperation and development to ensure fair information practices. The provisions set out general principles for the collection, use, storage, and disposal of personal information to ensure that it is collected, used, and maintained in a responsible manner and in a manner that is sensitive to the need to protect individual privacy.
These principles are as follows. Information should be collected only if needed for defined, authorized purposes. Personal information should be used for the purpose for which it was collected or for consistent purposes. Personal information should be stored and disposed of in a manner that respects the need to protect the individual's privacy, and individuals should have the right of access to personal information about themselves.
Also included in this bill are provisions that not only give the public an explicit right of access to information about themselves, but also gives the public the right to request correction of inaccurate information. The government is obligated to either correct the information or at least annotate the file to the effect that the correction was requested. This is an important improvement, as people do not have the right to request corrections now.
In keeping with the most recent legislation in the country, the bill also requires that any other government department, agency or third party to whom the information was disclosed in the preceding year be notified of any correction or annotation, and requires that those departments and agencies make similar corrections and annotations.
Important protections for the right of access and the protection of privacy have been built into this act. When the government refuses to give out information, it must show why that information is being exempted under the proposed legislation. The burden of proof, in terms of withholding information, will be placed firmly upon the government and not upon the citizen.
In addition, the bill also includes provisions to place a burden of proof on the applicant in cases involving the personal information of a third party. In other words, it is up to the applicant to demonstrate why disclosure of the third party's personal information would not represent an unreasonable invasion of the third party's privacy.
This helps to strike a balance between the right of access and the right of privacy in cases involving third-party information. It is a provision that has been included in most recent legislation across the country.
Another feature of the act and an improvement on the current law is the provision for the independent review of decisions made under it. The ombudsman, in the capacity of information and privacy commissioner, can review decisions the government makes about both access to information and personal privacy. Under the current act, the only way an applicant can receive an independent appeal is to go through the effort and expense of going to court.
The act allows for the ombudsman to review various decisions government can make under the proposed legislation. More specifically, decisions that can be reviewed are the refusal to grant access to a record; the decision to separate or obliterate information from a record; failure or refusal to correct personal information or to give notice of an annotated record; complaints that the government has not complied with the act in collecting, using or disclosing personal information; and the decision to disclose personal information about a third party.
This provides the public with the ability to have government actions reviewed on a range of issues under the proposed act, not simply the refusal to provide access to information. In this respect, the bill follows the legislative model of British Columbia and Alberta, which also allow for a generally broader review of issues than was included in the older legislation.
The Supreme Court has retained the ability to order the release of information. The act is organized and structured in a logical and straightforward manner that allows for ease of use and clarity of interpretation. The purposes and principles of the proposed act are set out in the introductory provisions, and will be used as benchmarks for interpreting subsequent sections.
The sections dealing with access, privacy and review appeals each spell out the process, exemptions and protections with greater specificity than does the current act. This is largely due to a feeling shared by many administrators and experts in this field of law that the terseness of the current act has been proven to be a grave weakness.
As Members are aware, this government has committed, both in the four-year plan and the throne speech, to improve access to government information and to the protection of the privacy of individuals. I believe that the proposed legislation fulfills those commitments in a manner that is consistent with the best and most recent legislation of its kind.
In preparing this act, we have taken advantage of recent legislation developed in British Columbia, Nova Scotia and Alberta, and we have drawn on experiences in other jurisdictions such as Ontario, which has had similar regimes in place for several years.
I believe that this is good legislation that will effectively serve the public interest while ensuring that the government operates in an open and accountable way, and that is sensitive to the protection of individual privacy.
Mr. Penikett: It is quite a remarkable speech that we heard from the Government Leader. He manages to describe his Access to Information Act, which is essentially a retread of existing legislation passed unanimously in this House in 1992, and never mentions that legislation.
The problem with his act is that it is not an improvement on the 1992 legislation. In fact, in a number of ways I am going to outline, it is a step backward.
I do not know what base political motives caused the government opposite, two years after we had unanimously passed a law, to want to go through the entirely unnecessary step of completely revising an act that was the subject of wide public consultation, intense debate in this House and unanimous passage. In that respect, it is a waste of time and probably a waste of money - an entirely unnecessary step.
The Government Leader's bill covers much of the same ground but uses much more legalistic language than did the Public Government Act, which had the virtue of being a plain-English version of many of the same principles.
The new act replaces the information commissioner with the ombudsman, which is an interesting legislative trick, since we have not yet approved the creation of an ombudsman here. Unless we go by the Deputy Government Leader's word today, who does not like the Legislature and thinks that we may be better off without it, I doubt the government can be so confident about passing the Ombudsman Act, because it has no right to assume that until we have completed debate in the Committee stage.
The essentials of this bill - the request, the appeal, the inquiry, the burden of proof, the powers of the commission and its confidentiality, the review of the Supreme Court - for all intents and purposes are exactly the same as the Public Government Act passed by the Members in 1992. That is why it is quite incredible that the Government Leader could give a speech on this subject and not even mention that act. The Government Leader talks about this issue as if the Public Government Act passed in 1992 did not exist, as if the Legislature that passed it in 1992 did not exist, as if all the Members who contributed to that debate are absolute nobodies, as if all the citizens who contributed ideas to that legislation should just be treated like dirt, as if nothing they had to say or contribute mattered.
It is almost as if the Government Leader is suffering a severe form of cognitive dissidence. He does not like the Public Government Act because of the conflict-of-interest provisions, which were much tougher than the Members opposite wanted to live with. So, all parts of it - including, we now hear, the rights accorded to people who are going to run for public office - are going to be expunged by the Yukon Party.
Of course, the problem with that notion is that, in parliamentary government, the assumption is that governments change from time to time. If the Members opposite are going to operate under the presumption that everything done by a previous administration is garbage and should be dispensed with, we are going to waste a massive amount of time in decades to come with every succeeding government doing away with everything every previous government did.
In the history of parliaments, the point has usually been that it is archeologically like civilization: one layer goes on top of the other and over time one builds something of enduring value. One does not waste energy, time and money tearing down what previous legislators did. One does not do it for basically mean and base motives.
I asked the Government Leader during Question Period if he could name a single feature of his new legislation that improved on the Public Government Act. He could not. Not one. We asked the Minister for the reason for proceeding with this unnecessary legislation. The Minister could give us none.
I want to spend a couple of minutes talking about ways in which I think the Government Leader's handiwork is inferior to the legislation already passed in this House. I am not talking about the legislation introduced by the Member for Riverdale South in 1983, or even, I admit, an inferior piece of legislation introduced by me in 1982, but the bill passed in this House - passed - by a democratically elected body that should be respected, in 1992. That act was called the Public Government Act.
I do want to spend too much time on this - I will spend more time on it in Committee - but let me spend some time highlighting some of the differences between this piece of legislation and the Public Government Act.
I will go through this in the order of the sections, not in terms of order of importance. An earlier section, I think it is section 3 of the Government Leader's bill, provides a definition of law enforcement, which seems to me has been broadened by virtue of adding new subsections, and it appears that it is no longer necessary for a penalty or a sanction to be involved, but rather it reads "an order being made under the act" or "investigations for the purposes of acquiring or enforcing compliance with the law is enough".
If you think about this for a second, you recognize the danger here. I certainly hope the lawyers in the house may be able to advise us about this, but the advice I have received is that the new sections may give the police and authorities access to information that they could not otherwise obtain, except by way of a warrant. That is not an improvement in the legislation, as far as I am concerned.
An early section of the act - section 12 - permits the archivist to extend for "a reasonable period" the time for responding to a request. I would point out that this is a much broader power of extension for a government official than is allowed in section 45 of the Public Government Act. Effectively, what this section does is to put requests for information on hold - on the back burner - on some kind of never, never plan.
There is another problem, too, which affects not only access to information, but also the privacy provisions. I would have thought that if we were going to be amending the Public Government Act to improve it, then we would have been thinking very carefully about the role of the archivist. The archivists in this territory are very well trained, very capable people and have tried to do their duty under difficult circumstances under the existing decade-old legislation.
What this legislation is supposed to do is move us away from bureaucratic, secretive culture to one of openness and accessibility for citizens. What it is also supposed to do, as the mover of the motion mentioned, is to provide some guarantees of privacy for citizens. Privacy issues, everywhere in this country where there is legislation, involve access to health records, financial records and family information, which may be held by government parties and which the citizens reasonably wish to have accounted for and reasonably wish to control.
Under the act here, what happens is that a request for such information will be referred to an archivist. The archivist has got to review, study and examine that information, and then decide whether or not it should be released. The problem is that it seems to me that there is absolutely no basis or ethical or reasonable claim - if one thinks about it - for an archivist to have access to a Member opposite's health records, financial records or criminal history, for a Member opposite's financial records or for a Member opposite's criminal record.
The point is that there is no reason when one is dealing with such requests that it go through the archivist. The archivist probably does not have any need to know. If we were improving the legislation, we would take away that role from the archivist when dealing with private information, but we have not done that. We have broadened the power of the archivist to deny the information and to delay access to the information for the citizen. That is what the Government Leader's proposal does.
If one looks at section 16 of Bill No. 77, it no longer requires a disclosure of a final plan or a proposal to change a program or to establish a new program, unlike section 48 (2)(h) of the Public Government Act. More significantly, section 16(3) increases the time limit for non-disclosure to 15 years from the previous 10 years.
The Public Government Act, which tried to reduce the time in which information could be held in secret by a government, tried to reduce that time in line with all of the modern, progressive legislation in this country. The Government Leader referred to his act as resembling the British Columbia act. The Public Government Act is a hell of a lot closer to the British Columbia act than his legislation.
One can only imagine that the only people who would want this would be certain bureaucratic interests - not citizen or democratic interests - who want to extend the time for non-disclosure from 10 years to 15 years - another way in which his legislature is inferior to that that was passed in 1992.
I recently talked to one of the lawyers in this country who was one of the pre-eminent experts in this field. In one of his comments about this legislation, he said that if one looks at Bill No. 77, it is quite clear that the government lawyers have taken hold of the Public Government Act, and they are going to have a Public Government Act that was written for citizens made much more suitable for the government. The legal advice exemption contained in section 18 is significantly broader than section 53 of the Public Government Act - clause 53 or 55 - I cannot remember the exact clause. The point is that the exemption is broadened not for the citizen, but for the government.
The exemption in section 24 has been changed significantly. Now, there is no need for information to be supplied in confidence any more. Also, there is no need to prove any harm by the release of the information.
I would like to say a little more about that. It is quite significant that, in all of the good legislation in the country - all of the most progressive legislation in the country - there is a test for the disclosure of third-party information. There are three tests. This is information where the government may contain some commercial information, or the government may be involved, as it often is, with some business - some commercial interest - and the clauses are put in here to prevent an inappropriate access to commercial information from that third party by a citizen. The good legislation in the country - the best legislation in the country - British Columbia's, Alberta's and Ontario's Public Government Acts - have three tests. First, it talks about how it has to be shown that the financial, commercial, or technical information is somehow confidential. One has to show that it was supplied to the government in confidence, and one has to prove that the release of that information could do some harm.
What the Government Leader has done is take out the second part - the requirement that the information be supplied in confidence. What is the effect of that? The effect is that the government can now use this legislation not to give citizens more information, but to hide information about transactions it is engaged in - such as Alberta Power, Mr. Boylan - and hide it from the public so that the citizens will not know anything about the situation. This is contrary to the intent of this law.
In section 26 of this act, the addition of the words "...where practicable" raises the possibility that sensitive information may be released without knowledge to third parties. I think that is also a problem.
In section 28, while this public interest override applies to all provisions under the act, the test has been narrowed by this government to "... the existence of a serious environmental, health, or safety hazard" from that of "compelling public interest".
I note also that the Government Leader has put into law that the ombudsman is appointed as the information and privacy commissioner. There are two problems with that. One, it presumes that the Ombudsman Act is going to pass unchanged. It presumes that the person who is appointed as ombudsperson might also be suitable, by way of their training, background or character, to be also their privacy commissioner.
I do not discount the possibility that they can be the same person. I made it clear when we were dealing with the Public Government Act that they should be part-time jobs - both of them - that we should not have duplicate bureaucracy or administrative structures, if we could avoid them. It may well be that we could find a person of such repute and such character that they could easily do both jobs, but I submit that it is a mistake to put in law that they shall be the same person, because the roles are different. It is even possible, I think for the two roles to come in conflict, and that would be a very different situation to deal with if they are the same person - and if they are the same person in law.
The other thing that I would say is that about if there was any good reason for bringing in this act, it would be to improve the Public Government Act or that it was in line with the latest legislation in the country on this score, but it is not.
As the Government Leader cites, in places like British Columbia, the information commissioner has powers to make decisions and to order the release of documents. However, the Government Leader's commissioner will not be able to do that. All the Government Leader's commissioner will be able to do is make recommendations.
It is significant that in British Columbia - as the Government Leader likes to cite - 95 percent of the requests for government information are mediated. Why? There is a very simple reason: because the information commissioner has power to make a decision. He also has power to mediate and negotiate, and that power is used a lot. That is the most modern law in the country. If we were going to bring our law up to B.C. standards, we would give the commissioner power.
All the Government Leader wants him or her to do is to be able to make recommendations, which means that the person will not have the same clout as the B.C. information commissioner. Everybody in the country agrees that the federal legislation is a failure, and that is because the commission has no teeth. That is an extremely important point.
There are some small things that I would concede are improvements. Section 68, which deals with the establishment of fees, seems to be more flexible and that may be a good thing.
However, in section 7, there is a provision that causes me a lot of concern. The language in this section seems to suggest the possibility that the privacy-protection provisions may not be brought into force at the same time as the access-to-information provisions. Think about that for a second. Think about the consequences of bringing in one provision ahead of the other or of scheduling the proclamation separately. Consider also the problem identified with the archivist and the archivist's access to private information unnecessarily.
These are some of the problems I have identified under this bill. I do not want to make it sound as if I am totally negative about this legislation, because, as I said, in many of its key principles it is nothing more than a recycling of the Public Government Act. I do not know why we did not simply proclaim that section of the Public Government Act and deal with amendments to that act, if the Government Leader wanted to weaken the legislation. Be that as it may, we now have the bill before us.
If the government agrees to amendments that will bring this legislation into line with British Columbia, Alberta or Ontario legislation, it may be that the debate in Committee of the Whole will show us that this legislation before us can achieve the same high standard as has been achieved in those other jurisdictions.
I have my doubts on that score, because I am still troubled by the refusal of the Members opposite to deal with the legislation that we passed in 1992. I am even more troubled tonight to have a sponsor of a bill come here and even pretend that the debate we had in 1992 did not happen; that the legislation we passed in 1992 did not exist; that the discussions we had then did not matter; that the effort all of us who were involved in that debate made was meaningless. I think the issues here are important ones. The principles involved in the legislation concern many people - and so they should. We have had a rocky road to getting good access-to-information legislation in effect in this jurisdiction.
I think the first bill on this subject was introduced by me in 1982. Another bill, with some different language, but some good ideas, was passed in 1983. However, events have shown that the 1983 bill is now out of date. As the Government Leader mentioned, it showed that the broad principles were not enough. Decisions of the courts have shown that that legislation did not work and that two efforts to go to court under that legislation - one by Mr. Phelps and one by me - both proved fruitless because, in both cases, the court found in favour of the government because of the way the legislation was written.
In 1992, the Public Government Act was a serious attempt to move away from that. It was a serious attempt to empower citizens. Unfortunately, that bill was not proclaimed. It was not proclaimed because the regulations would have taken several months to write, as the Government Leader has conceded recently, notwithstanding the statements of his House Leader.
I want to see good legislation on the books in this area, but I also want the Government Leader to explain seriously - not with some phony political argument - why it is necessary for him to bring a whole new law that not only -
Speaker: Order please. The time being 9:30 p.m., we will now close debate. This House now stands adjourned until 1:30 p.m. tomorrow.
Debate on second reading of Bill No. 77 accordingly adjourned
The House adjourned at 9:30 p.m.
The following Legislative Returns were tabled April 24, 1995:
Circle court process: guidelines being developed; explanation of diversion process (Phillips)
Oral, Hansard, p. 1680
Whitehorse Correctional Centre: comparison of overtime versus regular time from 1992 to 1995 and estimate for 1995-96 (Phillips)
Oral, Hansard, p. 1736