Wednesday, February 28, 1996 - 1:30 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
We will proceed at this time with silent prayers.
Speaker: We will proceed at this time with the Order Paper.
Introduction of visitors.
Are there any returns or documents for tabling?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I have the Yukon State of the Environment Report for tabling.
Speaker: Are there any reports of committees?
Are there any bills to be introduced?
INTRODUCTION OF BILLS
Bill No. 46: Introduction and First Reading
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I move that Bill No. 46, entitled An Act to Amend the Elections Act, be now introduced and read for the first time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Hon. Government Leader that Bill No. 46, entitled An Act to Amend the Elections Act, be now introduced and read for the first time.
Motion for introduction and first reading of Bill No. 46 agreed to
Bill No. 66: Introduction and First Reading
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I move that Bill No. 66, entitled An Act to Amend the Controverted Elections Act, be now introduced and read for the first time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Hon. Government Leader that Bill No. 66, entitled An Act to Amend the Controverted Elections Act, be now introduced and read for the first time.
Motion for introduction and first reading of Bill No. 66 agreed to
Speaker: Are there any notices of motion?
Are there any statements by Ministers?
Metafina Chemical Spill in Faro - Progress Report on Removal
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I wish to inform the Legislature about the progress regarding the removal of chemicals at the Metafina chemical plant in Faro.
CEDA Reactors Ltd. has been on site since early this week with a team of hazardous materials specialists experienced in dealing with identification and removal of chemicals in circumstances such as this. Since their arrival, they have begun the process of identification of the chemicals that were stored at the plant site and are making plans for their removal and disposal.
Mr. Speaker, activity has been intense and workers from the Town of Faro, Environment Canada and the Department of Community and Transportation Services have been working hard to provide the logistical support and direction required to deal with this situation. The stress has taken its toll but the result is that the chemical leak has been stopped. The immediate threat to the residents of the Town of Faro, as a result of the spill that occurred, has been significantly diminished.
During investigations of the site, other substances have been found in other containers that were not leaking. Samples have been taken of all these chemicals and arrangements have been made for chemical analyses so that the appropriate disposal techniques can be determined.
The Anvil Range mine has been very cooperative in working with the clean-up crew to assist, where possible, in this process.
In conclusion, the site is secure. The immediate threat posed by the chemical spill has been removed and the steps required to effect the removal of the stored chemicals at the site are well underway.
Before I sit down, I would like to compliment the Member for Faro on the way he handled the situation, which was a very serious matter to him and his constituents. Instead of bringing it into the Legislature and making a big row, he had the decency to come and talk to me. I appreciate that very much. It is rather surprising, coming from that Member, but there must be some good there - I did always think there was because of the twinkle in his eye.
I would like to say to him that I may be away for two or three days next week, so I will be asking my deputy minister to answer any questions he may have to keep him informed.
Mr. Harding: I do not know quite what to say.
I am pleased that the Minister has brought forward this statement. It is the second one from the government, and I appreciate the attempts to keep the citizens in my riding informed and that the Yukon government is well aware of what is happening and is working in a coordinated fashion with the people in the community to deliver an adequate response to this situation.
I hope that any concerns identified in this morning's media have had a positive resolution. My understanding is that that is the case. I have spoken to many people involved in the effort and local citizens of the community who appear to be working well together and have the situation well in hand. I would like to thank the many organizations and people in Faro who have worked on the situation, including municipal politicians, the RCMP, Anvil Range, our fire department and emergency measures organization, and all the other people who have been responding.
I would like to ask the Minister to ensure that when we do find out exactly what chemicals are involved and their ramifications, there is a public awareness campaign carried out so that citizens in Faro are assured that all appropriate actions have been taken and the risk has been removed.
Hon. Mr. Brewster: We certainly will do that. As I understand it, some of the chemicals may be flown out today to be tested immediately.
Yukon State of the Environment Report (1995)
Hon. Mr. Fisher: It is indeed a pleasure to have tabled today the 1995 Yukon State of the Environment Report, a significant joint project by the governments of Canada and the Yukon.
This work is a significant turning point in the Yukon's environmental history and will be the reference work for years to come.
This report captures the environmental conditions and trends for a wide range of resources, including air, water, land, plants and animals. It also describes the general state of the Yukon environment on a region-by-region basis, as it was in 1995.
The purpose of this first ever Yukon State of the Environment Report is to provide Yukoners with information that will help them make decisions about building a sustainable economy and a healthy environment.
The Yukon State of the Environment Report provides information that governments, including the First Nations, communities, industry, environmental groups and the public, can use to make decisions regarding the environment.
These decisions could be individual choices about products we use, or corporate and government decisions regarding major influences on the environment.
The report provides baseline data that will help us to measure our progress in caring for the environment.
There is no single author and the work is a very wide representation of Yukon interests and expertise ranging from industry to government to First Nations and environmental organizations.
It provides the first overall snapshot of the Yukon's environment and represents contributions by close to 150 different people, from various walks of life, who were involved in the writing, reviewing, editing, design and eventual printing over a two-year period.
The production was coordinated by officials with Environment Canada and Renewable Resources.
The Yukon State of the Environment Report is unique in its attempt to incorporate traditional knowledge. The perspective of the First Nation elders provides us with a long-term view of our changing environment.
State of the environment reports have been produced in other jurisdictions and the requirement is actually spelled out in the Yukon Environment Act.
Preparation for the Yukon report began in 1993 with the signing of a joint funding agreement with the federal government to allow for this document to be produced.
Current plans and legislation simply call for annual updates for any year in which a complete state of the environment report is not produced.
Mr. Harding: I am extremely pleased to see this report come forward, because it will raise the profile of environmental issues. The report comes from a requirement in the NDP government-initiated and created Environment Act and it should become an excellent benchmark in resource work. The environment demands more attention than it has received from the Yukon Party government. Their record is a major concern to many Yukoners. Over the last three years, we have seen the government attempt to weaken the Environment Act because they stated it was too leading edge and too progressive, which suggests that that is not a tough benchmark to match when comparing something to the Yukon Party government. We have seen a failure to proclaim, in over three years, 1992 Wildlife Act amendments for habitat protection enforceable provisions. We have seen failure to justify a smaller Tombstone Park. We have seen no progress on the Endangered Spaces 2000 commitment, which the government signed on to. The government is participatory to that agreement yet there has been no progress. We have seen no progress on the Whitehorse mining initiative or the development assessment process. These were processes proposed by First Nations, the NDP government and industry to bring smooth resolution, in a timely fashion, to tough economic and environment issues surrounding development decisions. Instead, we are stuck with the old ways.
We have seen the government support mining exploration at Killermun Lake at the same time as it was conducting an aerial wolf kill.
We have seen precious little advancement of forestry policy work, which was of concern to many Yukoners.
We have seen the problem of hazardous waste storage continue. No resolutions have been proposed or suggested by the Yukon Party government while it has been in power, and it is almost at the end of its mandate.
We have seen commitments in the Yukon Conservation Strategy and the Environment Act that have not been lived up to by the Yukon Party government.
It is my sincere hope that this report raises the profile of these issues. It shows how we can do better in the future, how Yukoners can forward the advancement of the protection of the environment, and it is my hope that our wildlife, our hunters, and our outdoor business and recreation users will be better off as a result of the findings of this report on how we can better serve our environment in the future.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I am very disappointed with the Member's response to a very positive initiative by this government.
Many of the statements made by that Member are absolutely not true, but we do not have time and this is not the right forum in which to debate each one of the issues he brought forward. I will certainly be taking the opportunity during our budget debate to refute many of the assertions that the Member has made.
Speaker: This then brings us to the Question Period.
Question re: Yukon Utilities Board, resignation of member
Mrs. Firth: My question is about the forced resignation of Mr. Laking, and I would like to direct my question to the Government Leader.
Mr. Laking's appointment to the Yukon Utilities Board was due to expire on March 10, 1996. Unlike Mr. Duncan, he did not receive a letter re-appointing him.
The government could have let Mr. Laking get his new job at the Yukon Liquor Corporation and then, in less than a month from that time, his appointment would have expired and the government did not have to renew his appointment for whatever reason they wanted to give.
I would like to know why Cabinet chose to force Mr. Laking to resign less than a month before his appointment expired.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: One of the reasons why the appointments were being made at this time was because the hearings would have started and we wanted to make sure that both individuals were appointed and on board, and that there would be no disruption to the hearings.
I would point out to the Member that, as I said yesterday, the timing of the job that Mr. Laking took was purely coincidental to the hearings and had nothing to do with the hearings. The individuals were appointed, and one individual was appointed pending a concern about conflict of interest. The Yukon Liquor Corporation informed Mr. Laking of the conflict of interest. Mr. Laking chose to accept the Liquor Corporation job and resign from the Yukon Utilities Board.
Mrs. Firth: Yesterday, the Minister of Justice tried very hard to leave the impression that there was no involvement by Cabinet in this and that it was purely an administrative matter. Yet the deputy minister responsible for the Executive Council Office, Mr. Lawson, has said that he made a call at Cabinet's behest to the president of the Liquor Corporation to discuss Mr. Laking's application for employment with the Yukon Liquor Corporation and his appointment on the Yukon Utilities Board.
I would like to ask the Government Leader what direction Cabinet gave to Mr. Lawson with respect to this issue?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: Cabinet's concern was of the possible conflict of interest. It informed the Yukon Liquor Corporation of the possible conflict of interest. The Yukon Liquor Corporation would pass that on to the Public Service Commission, who confirmed that there was a conflict of interest. This is the Member who has accused all kinds of people of conflict of interest, and I think she would be championing the decision made by the government. In fact, a former member of the board, Mr. Peter Percival, received a government job and resigned. I understand that in his resignation he claimed to have resigned because he figured that there could be a perceived conflict of interest with his new job and the Yukon Utilities Board. I think that this same standard of ethics applies here.
Mrs. Firth: Does this not raise a lot of interesting questions?
I think there are tons of interesting questions. Why was Mr. Lawson - the deputy minister responsible for the Executive Council Office, which is the political arm of government - even involved, since the Minister of Justice told us yesterday that it was the Public Service Commission and the Yukon Liquor Commission that were talking about it and said that it was just an administrative matter? Why did the Minister not tell us about the involvement of the Deputy Minister of the Executive Council Office, particularly when Members were asking questions about political involvement? Why did the Minister of Justice not tell us about this yesterday?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: There was a Cabinet meeting. At the Cabinet meeting, there were appointments made. When the appointment was made, there was one decision to appoint Mr. Duncan; the other decision was to appoint Mr. Laking, depending on the concerns about conflict of interest. That was passed on by the executive member of Cabinet - Mr. Lawson - to the Yukon Liquor Corporation, saying that this is happening and is coincidental. The Yukon Liquor Corporation checked it out with the Public Service Commission - the Member is smiling, but it is proper process to check out if there is a conflict of interest. They checked it out. Based on the information that it got from the Public Service Commission, the Yukon Liquor Corporation advised Mr. Laking of the possible conflict of interest. Mr. Laking made the decision of whether or not to take the job. If Mr. Laking had not taken the job with the Yukon Liquor Corporation, he would still be sitting on that board today.
Question re: Yukon Utilities Board, resignation of member
Mr. McDonald: I am very upset that my question to the Minister yesterday was not answered in a straightforward manner. I asked directly whether or not there was any political pressure on the Liquor Corporation and on Mr. Laking to resign from the Yukon Utilities Board. The Minister gave us to believe that only the Liquor Corporation, the Public Service Commission and Mr. Laking were involved, and everything had been decided by them alone.
Why did the Minister refuse to answer the direct question about direct political involvement - he seemed to suggest today it was initiated by Cabinet - in ensuring Mr. Laking was not on the Public Utilities Board?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: There was no direct political involvement. Cabinet appointed Mr. Laking pending the resolution of a conflict-of-interest question. That went over to the Liquor Corporation, conveyed by Mr. Lawson. The Liquor Corporation checked with the Public Service Commission, and it was determined that there was the possibility of a conflict of interest. Mr. Laking was informed of that and chose to take the Liquor Corporation job, as opposed to staying on as a board member.
Mr. McDonald: The government indicated yesterday it believed this was simply an administrative matter and had nothing to do with Cabinet or the political arm of government. What has happened is that the Cabinet Secretary has communicated directly with the Liquor Corporation to determine if Mr. Laking, of his own free will, would give up a job with the government in order to remain an effective member of the Yukon Utilities Board.
What caused the government to want to single out this particular person - the most experienced member on the Utilities Board - ensuring he cannot sit and provide an effective role in the regulation of the utility?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: The chair of the Utilities Board feels there can still be an effective hearing, and he stated that.
Let us put the shoe on the other foot for a second. If we were appointing a new person to that board today, and we selected a civil servant from within this government for that appointment, the side opposite would be screaming there could be some influence by the government, and they would say there was a conflict in appointing someone to the board.
Mr. Laking was appointed, at the time, as a member of the public. He is now an employee of the Government of the Yukon. Mr. Laking's term did not expire until March 10. The message was conveyed to the Liquor Corporation that he would be appointed pending the resolution of the conflict-of-interest issue.
The Yukon Liquor Corporation checked out the conflict of interest - I have said this about four times - and told Mr. Laking of the conflict. Mr. Laking chose, first of all, to seek the job; second, to accept the offer; and, third, when he understood the terms of employment and the conflict-of-interest concern, accepted the job and resigned from the Yukon Utilities Board.
Mr. McDonald: Did the Cabinet determine that for Mr. Laking to assume a role in the public service was going to constitute a conflict of interest? Did the Cabinet Secretary communicate that to the Yukon Liquor Corporation?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: It could have been pointed out that it could have been a conflict of interest. To anyone in their right mind who looks at the situation, it could be perceived as a conflict of interest. We have conflict-of-interest guidelines to control these kinds of things. Surely to goodness, the Opposition can see that this could be a perceived conflict of interest.
Question re: Environment Act amendments
Mr. Cable: I have some questions for the Minister of Renewable Resources regarding the Environment Act. Last session, there were several questions put to the Minister and the Government Leader on amendments to the Environment Act, and there were documents provided to this side of the House on the anticipated amendments.
What is the status of these proposed amendments? Are they going to see the light of day again? Are they going to be brought forward and, if so, when?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: It is unlikely that it will be during this session. There could be some amendments in the next session of the Legislature.
Mr. Cable: The amendments were given to the Yukon Council on the Economy and the Environment. The council was asked to comment. The council came back to the government with a report that ended with the following sentence: "The Yukon Council on the Economy and the Environment recommends that the Yukon government should consider a broader review of the act and gain more input from the stakeholders in such a review." This was canvassed briefly during the last session.
What is the present view of the government about whether or not it intends to put the amendments out to the public for the broader review that the council talks about?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I believe that the Member probably has the information that there are some housekeeping amendments that could be dealt with relatively easily, but there are other major amendments that would have to go out for public review.
I cannot give the Member a definitive answer about when we will be proceeding with those particular amendments.
Mr. Cable: This act has been sitting on the books for four or five years. When does the government anticipate the amendments being discussed, agreed upon and incorporated into the legislation so that the act, as amended, can be proclaimed?
Could the Minister give us his rough estimate about what the time line is for proclaiming this legislation?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Again, there needs to be a full public process to review the amendments. I do not feel that I could give the Member a definite time frame for bringing those amendments to the House; therefore, I cannot say when all of the acts will be proclaimed.
Question re: Yukon Utilities Board, resignation of member
Mr. McDonald: After believing the Minister's response yesterday - something that I now regret entirely today - about the subject of Mr. Laking's dismissal from the Yukon Utilities Board, I took the opportunity to read the conflict-of-interest policy that the Minister quoted and I also referred to the Public Utilities Act and the conflict provisions contained in that act.
From my reading of this act, there seems to be nothing that refers to a public servant discharging separate public duties. The conflict-of-interest regulations in both documents relate only to the discharge of public duties when they are in conflict with private interest.
Precisely what was the perceived conflict of interest emanating from the conflict-of-interest policy that the Minister referred to?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: If Mr. Laking were allowed to continue on the board, while at the same time being employed by the Government of Yukon, the perception would be that the government, as an employer, may exert undue influence upon him as an employee in making any decisions concerning that arm's-length.
Let us turn this situation around. If the utility companies had made a strong argument to have Mr. Laking remain on the board and the government allowed Mr. Laking to remain on the board and offered him a job at the same time, we would have the Members on the side opposite screaming that there was a real conflict of interest, because he was sitting on a public board and working for the government.
Mr. Laking was appointed as a member of the public and not as an employee of the Government of Yukon.
He is now an employee of the Government of the Yukon. When we appoint a new member to that board, he or she will not be an employee of the Government of the Yukon. It will be somebody from the public, as Mr. Laking was before. It is unfortunate. I would still prefer it if Mr. Laking was on this board but I had nothing to do with the timing of the Yukon Utilities Board meetings or anything to do with the timing of the job. Surely to goodness we cannot make single-issue policy for an individual because one group or another thinks that this individual will do a good job at a certain time. We have to have a policy -
Speaker: Order. Would the Member please conclude his answer.
Mr. McDonald: I am trying to determine whether or not there is a policy at all with respect to this matter and the Minister has not answered the question.
The Minister indicated yesterday that this was a purely administrative matter and that the government was simply following policy, but there is nothing in the policy that would cover the conflict situation the Minister just cited - that somehow a person who is a public employee would be perceived to benefit the employer. That is not in the conflict-of-interest policy and it is not in the Public Utilities Act, so to what policy is the Minister referring? These policies only refer to a conflict between public and private interests.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I do not know. I guess it is just an argument of convenience.
The Leader of the Official Opposition is just putting blinders on here. I know he wants me to interfere politically because that is what he did when they were in government. I think they fired the whole Yukon Utilities Board at one time when they were in government.
In this particular case, there could be a perception of bias if Mr. Laking were allowed to continue and at the same time be an employee of the Government of the Yukon. If someone down the road was not happy with a decision that the board made and Mr. Laking was sitting on it, they would make the accusation that Mr. Laking could have been or may have been bought off by the Government of the Yukon or influenced in some way by the Government of the Yukon.
The right thing to do here was what Mr. Laking did, which was to resign his position as a member of the public on that board so that we could appoint someone to the board who was not perceived to have any bias whatsoever and would do a good job and give fair treatment to all intervenors and to all people making presentations to the Yukon Utilities Board.
Mr. McDonald: That would be a believable argument if the employee's acting to the benefit of the employer concerned the intervenors, but clearly all the other intervenors, unanimously, who would have some concern about the employer's interest being overly enhanced by the public servant being on the board, have indicated that they want Mr. Laking to stay on, so the Minister's argument is nonsense.
I am going to get back to the issue of the policy. The Minister said it is in policy. It is not in policy. Where is the policy that the Minister is referring to - the written policy; the rules that the Minister does not want us to bend or break - written, stating that this is a conflict of interest?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I read the policy into the record yesterday. Surely the Leader of the Official Opposition can see there could be the perception of a conflict of interest here by some of the parties. We cannot make a decision based on the fact that one group likes the individual and one group does not. We have to have a policy that people can understand so there is no perception of a bias. That is what we have here now; there is a perception of a bias.
This decision was not a pleasant one for me to have to deal with, because I think Mr. Laking has done an outstanding job. Unfortunately, it is one of timing, and I had no choice. I had nothing at all to do with the timing. This all happened coincidentally.
We are now dealing with a situation. We are trying to make the hearings as fair as we possibly can. The chair of the board feels the hearings can still go ahead and be fair, and there should be no accusation of bias from any of the board members.
Question re: Yukon Utilities Board, resignation of member
Mr. McDonald: Things are becoming more and more coincidental. There certainly appears to be Cabinet involvement, which we did not know about yesterday. There appears to be direct Cabinet involvement, which it appears the Minister tried to hide, because he did not answer the direct questions.
Yesterday the Minister quoted documents and conflict-of-interest rules that he has completely abandoned today, because these rules do not refer to the kind of conflict rule he is now referring to. They refer only to the conflict between public and private interest.
What policy is the Minister referring to? Is there any written policy the Minister is referring to that would prevent this public servant from sitting on any board?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I guess we are going to give the same answer time and time again. Is the Member absolutely blind?
Look at the situation. The individual applies for a government job. If he accepts the government job and is on a board such as this, there could be an accusation made by one of the other individuals, or by any of the intervenors, that there may be a conflict. That is not really difficult to understand. Someone might do that. Perhaps the Utilities Board would be concerned. Based on the decisions that come out of this, some of the intervenors may be concerned.
Surely the Member is not so blind he cannot see that that might be a perceived conflict of interest, and that if we had done anything different from this, we would have been criticized by the side opposite.
If I go out tomorrow and appoint a senior civil servant of this government to the Utilities Board, the side opposite would be jumping up in their seats and accusing us of trying to manipulate the board.
Speaker: Order please. Would the Member please conclude his answer.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: They are just playing politics with this thing and do not want to deal with the real issue, which is to make sure the Yukon Utilities Board deals with the hearings in a fair and just manner for all involved, and that there is no perception of bias by any of the members on the board. That is all we tried to do here.
Mr. McDonald: I am not blind to the need for the government to be giving straight answers to direct questions. I am not blind to the need for honesty and truth in giving answers about matters of public policy. I am not blind to the policies of the government. I understand precisely what is going on, and I am very concerned that this Minister has failed to be direct with us when it came to answering questions about direct Cabinet political manipulation in this process. There is no public policy on the record that prevents this particular person from sitting on the Yukon Utilities Board. There is no policy. The Minister has not identified one single policy that would justify the actions that the government has taken. I am not blind to any of that.
I want to ask the Minister if he can demonstrate if there is any written policy. Can he then tell us what the conflict is when all the intervenors, unanimously, request that this person be retained? The intervenors would be concerned only that the public servant on the board might benefit the employer. If there was any concern of conflict, the conflict would be about this person benefiting the employer and, consequently, the utilities. However, every single intervenor has asked that this person be retained for the purposes of continuity - a principle the Minister pretends to defend.
Why can the government not allow this person to continue for the balance of the rate application?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I have told the Member why. The only information I have about the intervenors is an unsigned letter that was dropped on my doorstep. It was not signed by anyone. There were two letters, both dropped at my doorstep. One was addressed to me and one to Mr. Brewster. Neither one was signed by anyone. I do not think that the Member would want the government to act on those kinds of initiatives.
I have not heard from the chair of the Yukon Utilities Board, other than that the chair feels that he can carry out these hearings fairly and justly with the number of members remaining.
Mr. McDonald: Is the Minister saying that the letters that were received are, because they are not signed, not legitimate and not worth checking out - because it is a very serious proposition to the government - to determine whether or not it should be taking the advice of what appears to be all the intervenors?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I am not saying that at all. I am just telling the Member that the only document that I have received is an unsigned letter. I am sure that the Member opposite, when he was the Minister, would not have acted on unsigned letters as the gospel truth. Usually, when somebody writes a letter and means what they say in it, they take the time to sign it. The letter is public. If people want, I can table the letter in the House. I do not have it here. However, if you see the way that the letter is written, it says, "Sincerely" and below that are about five different names of groups of intervenors, but none of them have signed it.
I do not know if they were c.c., or signatories, or even contacted before the letter was sent. When I got the letter, I looked at it. I am having it checked out. I have no idea if that letter is the one that all those people - who are supposedly saying that they are signatories - were prepared to sign.
Question re: Yukon Utilities Board, resignation of member
Mr. McDonald: In the event that the government is satisfied that this letter represents the interests of everyone who is named in the letter, would they regard it as a serious representation, and would they respect that representation by allowing Mr. Laking to continue as a representative on the Yukon Utilities Board?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: The point here is the principle of the matter. The principle of the matter is that it is a perceived conflict of interest.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Phillips: The Member from Faro says that we wanted to get rid of him. If we wanted to get rid of Mr. Laking, we would not have sent him out last year for more training, as we did for both Mr. Laking and Mr. Duncan. We would not have given approval of his re-appointment pending resolution of the conflict-of-interest issue. Mr. Laking is a very competent individual. I would prefer that the hearings were still going on with Mr. Laking there. However, I did not make the decision to apply for that job. I did not make the decision to accept the job. The role I had was to make sure that the members of the Yukon Utilities Board have no perceived bias when they sit on that board. That is what I am trying to do here.
Mr. McDonald: The Minister just indicated that the letter could not be taken as a serious representation because it was not signed. The impression I received was that he could not take it as a serious representation and could not respect its direction, because it was not signed. Now it appears that the Minister does not care whether it was signed or not; he still will not respect the advice given by all the other intervenors.
What is the conflict if all the intervenors, apart from the government's representative at the utility hearings - the Energy Corporation itself - agree that this person should remain on the board?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: The intervenors are not the only parties to the hearings. There are others who are also party to the hearings, as well as the general public. Our job is to make sure that the public's perception is that the hearings are fair, that there is no bias in any way, that there can be no influence exerted on any members of the board and that we appoint people to the board who are independent. Mr. Laking was appointed on that basis. He has now accepted a role in the Government of the Yukon as an employee. There could be, as I said before, a perception of bias. That is all I was concerned about here. I do not know what more I can tell the Member other than the fact that there is a concern that there could be a perceived bias and I think we should do our utmost to make sure that the perception does not exist.
If we were appointing someone today, we would not be appointing an employee of the Government of the Yukon to that board. It would be a qualified person from the public rather than a person from the government, because the side opposite would be the first to criticize us for doing that.
Mr. McDonald: In reality, cutting through all the BS, is it not the case here that the government simply wants to respect the Ernewein advice, remove consumer-friendly representatives on the Yukon Utilities Board - they have done that consistently at every opportunity - and when an opportunity came along - this incredibly coincidental opportunity with the most fragile, the most threadbare justification, comes along - to remove the most experienced remaining member on the board, the government took the opportunity to do so. That is the case, is it not?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: The accusation made by the Leader of the Opposition is absolute rubbish; it is just rubbish. The Leader of the Opposition is the guy who tells his former employees that the end supports the means. This is the guy who lives by that rule.
I had nothing to do with the resignation of the previous individual who held the job; I had nothing to do with hiring that individual; I did not have any knowledge that he was applying for the job; I was not at the job interview; I did not short-list the individual; and, I did not offer him the job.
I did not have any knowledge that this individual was applying for the job until the appointment to the board was going to be made.
Speaker: Order. Would the Member please conclude his answer. Order. Please allow the Member to conclude his answer.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: It is interesting that the side opposite will take sides on conflict-of-interest issues to suit their own purposes. I was just passed -
Speaker: Order. I believe that the Minister has answered the question.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: Mr. Speaker, the Member asked me about the policy number.
Speaker: Order. Order. Order.
If the Members wish to hear the answer, I will allow it.
Some Hon. Member: We do not want to hear it.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed. We will now proceed to Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
OPPOSITION PRIVATE MEMBERS' BUSINESS
MOTIONS OTHER THAN GOVERNMENT MOTIONS
Clerk: Motion No. 96, standing in the name of Mr. Sloan.
Motion No. 96
Speaker: It is moved by the Member for Whitehorse West
THAT, in the best interests of the Yukon people and employee morale within the public service, it is the opinion of this House that the Government of Yukon should immediately disclose the full details of an RCMP investigation launched in February 1995, into the public disclosure of a letter from a Yukon Energy Corporation official to a Minister; and
THAT this disclosure should specifically indicate the purpose and nature of this investigation, how and by whom it was authorized, what RCMP members were involved, and any actions that resulted.
Mr. Sloan: The words for today are "coincidence" and "perception". That leads very nicely into what I would like to say with regard to this motion.
My interest in raising this motion was because I believe there are a couple of issues we must address in this House, and the government has to address these issues. These have to do with the question of the accountability of government, the integrity of government and confidence in government.
Before I get into those components, I would like to recap for the House what this whole inquiry and debate has been about. It basically involves the investigation, at the government's request, by the RCMP, of a leaked document. I will not bandy words about with Mr. Ernewein as to whether or not it was stolen or purloined. The fact is that a letter went missing and subsequently showed up with a consumers group, which felt it was in the best interest of the Yukon public to release it.
It now appears there is a second letter involved, this one from Mr. Byers, the president of the Yukon Energy Corporation, to the Government Leader. That was an earlier letter.
To quickly go through the chronology, on July 5, 1994, a letter from the chair of the Yukon Energy Corporation, Mr. Ernewein, went to the Minister of the corporation - at that time, Mr. Phelps. That letter's substance questioned the neutrality of some of the board members, as we heard a reference to today, the neutrality of the council and the secretary, and it called for replacements for those members.
This letter was released by the Utilities Consumers Group in February 1995. Shortly before that, on September 13, 1994, the Yukon Energy Corporation president, Mr. Byers, wrote to the Government Leader. This letter dealt with the whole question of rate and rate relief.
On October 31, 1994, that letter was released by the Utilities Consumers Group. On February 16, that letter was quoted again in a newspaper article about rate relief.
What we have here are two documents, both released at about the same time and, subsequent to that, an investigation was launched.
According to the information that I have been able to glean in this House, the investigation was initiated by the Deputy Minister of the Executive Council Office and involved the then-chief superintendent for the RCMP, Ed Henderson. That is what we know of the whole investigation or the genesis of it.
Since then, it has taken approximately one year, and now we understand that there is a report due to be released, or is in the process of being released, to the Deputy Minister of Justice on the progress of this investigation. We do not know much, except that the RCMP has told us that there are no criminal charges pending and that the report itself would deal largely with matters of security.
My concern with this entire investigation really boils down to a couple of key points. First of all, let us take a look at the question of accountability in government. For one thing, there appears to be no legal basis for this police investigation because there was no criminal activity, at least according to the police. They confirmed, on February 23, that no charges would be laid.
Second, much of the discussion in this House has hinged on a fundamental question of what constitutes a protected document. There are a couple of points worth noting. The Access to Information Act clearly identifies that particular Cabinet documents are covered by law; however, ministerial correspondence is not covered by the Access to Information Act, but, rather, by the public servant's oath of confidentiality. Much as we may deplore the release of confidential documents or ministerial correspondence, the fact is that it is an internal personnel matter, and not a criminal activity. There is a difference.
In terms of accountability, I think a very serious question arises on the whole matter of accountability because it appears that it was the deputy minister who initiated an investigation into a very serious matter. If the Byers letter has formed part of that investigation, I would say that the seriousness of that investigation is multiplied.
We have a case of a deputy minister undertaking an initiative to bring in the RCMP to launch a full-scale investigation. That brings up the entire question of whether or not the Minister responsible, in this case the Government Leader, has the duty to be informed and certainly to be a participant in those kinds of decisions. I would say that is a really serious accountability issue.
A second question has emerged from this, having to do with the whole issue of integrity. Is it not an odd coincidence that this investigation suddenly emerges at the time shortly after, I believe one day after, the release of the Byers letter. So all of a sudden, there is this flurry to track down the origin of the leak, ostensibly, of the Ernewein letter. However, the Government Leader, in this House on February 19, said he was not aware that the Byers letter had been in the public domain. But the letter was addressed to him; it dealt with very serious questions of rate relief and it had been released twice to the press and had been in the public domain for a year. In my opinion, that is a question of a matter of integrity, so we have that particular issue.
We also have the larger issue - and I am glad the Justice Minister brought this forward - concerning the perception surrounding this kind of investigation. I would suggest that the perception is not a very positive one. Here we have the case of the RCMP being pulled in on what we have been told is essentially an internal matter that involves a public advocacy group - a group that, while we may have some differences with their methods, does have a legitimate role in bringing issues of public importance forward.
There is also the question of public servants, who must now feel a measure of intimidation that this kind of force is being used against them. I am sure we will hear the story of the great typewriter-ribbon caper, but we will get to that later.
What we are also looking at is the question of overkill. Was the use of the RCMP warranted? I would suggest, given the nature of the investigation and the fact that no criminal charges were brought forward, that I would have serious questions about whether or not a full-scale RCMP investigation was warranted.
I also have serious questions about whether or not the authority for that kind of an investigation should originate with a deputy minister. My feeling is it is the Minister himself who would have to take responsibility for launching that type of an investigation.
Once again, there is the whole question of what the difference is between confidential and protected documents. Those are some issues that need to emerge from this.
The Justice Minister talked a great deal about perception. He asked how the public would perceive this. I would ask this larger question: how does the public perceive the use of the RCMP for what was essentially an internal investigation?
There is also the question - in some ways we have danced around this, but we have not directly addressed it - of bringing forward a senior RCMP officer into this type of an investigation who, coincidentally, later emerged as a Yukon Party hopeful. There is a real question of perception right there. I would say that that is a very serious perception.
That is one of the issues. It is not the only issue.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Sloan: It is more than an issue of politics. It is not an issue of cheap politics, despite what the Government Leader says.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
We have a serious problem of perception. We have the problem of bringing a heavy-handed force to bear to intimidate people. We have an issue of whether or not public advocacy groups have the right to be free from threat. We also have the issue of the whole question of the integrity of government. I think that is a very serious question.
There is a whole question of confidence: can people have confidence in a government that essentially takes very heavy-handed methods and approaches not only to their employees, but also to public groups and the public in general.
I would suggest that if, indeed, I were a government employee who was in a sensitive situation, as a result of this I would be very cautious about who I associated with and whether or not I was a participant of a group that might hold opinions different than that of the government. I would think very long and hard about that in view of this kind of rather heavy-handed method by the government.
My purpose today in bringing forth this motion was not, as the Minister suggested, a partisan one. I think there is something larger here that goes to the heart of whether or not people trust the government or have any faith or confidence in the integrity of the government. We hear often that politicians cannot be trusted. We hear that people are suspicious of government. We hear that people are suspicious of governments' motives.
In this territory, electrical rates are an issue of grave concern to people. They are concerned about rate relief and about whether or not rates will go up. What we have here is a situation where a group that is opposed to rate increases has brought forward some concerns. One of those concerns has to do with the membership of the Yukon Utilities Board and who continues on it. I do not think that is a partisan issue. I think it is a very real, legitimate issue that we have to address.
I believe that, in this case, if there is nothing to hide, why is the government so reluctant to bring forward at least some kind of report indicating the chronology, rationale and legal basis for such an investigation? It is not huge or insurmountable. There are no charges pending. What is the issue? If the government wishes to retain certain measures in terms of security that they would prefer to keep confidential or certain recommendations that they want to keep to themselves, I am certain that the Members on this side would have some consideration for that.
It is in the public interest, and hinges on the need of the public to have faith and confidence in the accountability and integrity of government, that this particular report be brought forward to the House.
I have asked the Government Leader, by my count, on four occasions now for either some form of report or at least a list of the individuals involved. Yesterday I made the suggestion that perhaps, if he did not feel comfortable with a full report, perhaps some kind of summary of the findings might be in order.
I am still waiting. If the Government Leader wishes to restore confidence on this matter to this House he could easily do so by tabling such a report.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I will say one more time, for the record, that this motion is cheap politics. It has nothing to do with employee morale. This is a sort of hypocritical position for the Opposition to be taking -
Speaker: Order. "Hypocritical" is unparliamentary.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I did not call anybody a hypocrite. I said "hypocritical" position.
Speaker: Order. If it imputes a motive of the Opposition, "hypocritical" is unparliamentary.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I will accept the Speaker's ruling but it certainly does impute motive, there is no doubt about that.
Let me say that the Opposition ought to get it straight whether they want to come down on one side or the other, and not be like the Liberals and sit on the fence, because that is exactly what they are doing. We have a Leader of the Official Opposition who was just condemned in a court case for being heavy-handed and bringing in a hit man, if one wants to talk about intimidation of government employees, and then he is being quoted as having the audacity to say that the end justifies the means.
That is what I call intimidation of public servants. The evidence in that case also points to how low the morale was under the previous NDP administration, and there were many, many examples of it.
The government has been fully above board on this issue. The issue here, in the Opposition's mind, is not about whether some employees were mistreated. They are trying to take cheap political shots at a member of the RCMP who, after he resigned his duties, decided to seek nomination for the Yukon Party. That is what it is all about. They are worried about the strength of that candidate and they are going to do everything they can to discredit him no matter what kind of cheap political shots they have to take to do it. That is what this is all about.
Let us just get the record straight so we know what we are dealing with here. If they want to be fair and above board about that, they will admit to that, because that is all it is about.
What the government has done about this is on the public record. It has been in the newspapers. I will put it on the record once more this afternoon for the Members opposite.
They so conveniently try to - Mr. Speaker may rule me out of order for saying this - mislead the public, which is exactly what they do, by using half-truths. It is their intention to mislead the public so they do not have a clear picture, because they are not interested in having the truth of the matter on the public record. That is exactly the problem with the Leader of the Official Opposition.
I will tell the Legislature once -
Point of order
Mr. McDonald: Point of order, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: Order. The Hon. Leader of the Official Opposition on a point of order.
Mr. McDonald: I am sorry. I did not want to do this, but the Minister first of all said we misled the House. I do not think that is a serious issue, even though I disagree with him. He then went on to say that we intentionally misled the House. He then said that was precisely what I was doing, that I was intentionally misleading the House.
Together, those items are clearly unparliamentary, and I ask the Minister to withdraw.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I said no such thing that the Leader of the Official Opposition was misleading the House. I said no such thing.
Speaker: Order. I am not sure how I heard it.
My understanding is that I believe the Government Leader said "mislead the public", but that is unparliamentary and I would ask that Members do their best to refrain from using terms like "half-truths", "untruth", "misleading the public". It may limit debate, but be creative.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I hope the Member opposite will also remember that, because he is notorious for that.
Let us get on with the case at hand rather than formalities, because I think it is more important.
I am quite happy to debate this motion today, because in principle we have no difficulty with the motion. We have already given the public all of the information that we have and I will put it on the record once more.
The wording in the motion is, "That, in the best interests of the Yukon public and employee morale within the public service, it is the opinion of this House that the Government of Yukon should immediately disclose the full details of an RCMP investigation launched in February, 1995." We have already done that, but I will disclose this information once more for the public record, in case the Members opposite have difficulty hearing.
As far as the RCMP investigation is concerned, I will touch briefly on why this government does not feel it is proper for us to comment about the RCMP investigation, because we do not really know what they investigated. We will get a report back from them, but I do not believe that Members opposite would want the name of the individuals publicized if they were not involved in any criminal or illegal activities.
I do not believe the Members opposite want to publicize those names. The RCMP was called in, the RCMP conducted its investigation and it will publish a report. I certainly have no difficulty putting the government's involvement on the record one more time. But,
I will discuss the full involvement of this government, not half of the involvement, as was alluded to by the Member for Whitehorse West, who does not go back to the start of the problem; he picked it up in the middle when the letter becomes public.
What makes it difficult to provide the public with a clear picture of the situation is when Members opposite start halfway through the problem and do not provide any additional background information of which they are fully aware.
I would like to start by first answering some of the questions posed by the Member opposite and addressing some of the comments that have been made about where I believe he is wrong.
One of the comments that he made was that there were no criminal charges laid, so it is quite all right to air this in public.
If the RCMP had not thought that there could have been some illegal activity, it would not have investigated the case. It was not this government's decision whether or not the RCMP make an investigation, it was the decision of the deputy minister and the people involved to call the RCMP to see if in fact there were grounds for a criminal investigation.
That is what transpired here. I will lay it out in chronological order. They were called in, because they advise government all the time on security measures. There is nothing new or clandestine in that. The Member says there is no legal basis for this investigation, but that is a decision that was made by the RCMP, not by officials.
If a deputy minister sees that a government car is missing from the parking lot, does he need to get Cabinet approval to call the RCMP? We are talking about documents that could have been stolen. What is the big difference? They were confidential documents. Our employees who handle confidential documents swear an oath of confidentiality.
When we talk about employee morale, let me interject right now that I have had many civil servants call me since this issue has been aired on the floor of this Legislature, supporting the government's actions, because their credibility is under attack when documents get out to the public without anyone knowing where they come from.
We have some very professional people working within our civil service, and they do not like their credibility being attacked. When there is a leaked confidential document in the public domain, and no one knows how it got there, aspersions are cast on all civil servants who handle confidential documents. I do not think we want that for our civil service. I think we have a duty to find out how those documents came to be in the public domain.
The Member went on to speak of the second letter that ended up in the public domain. I said I did not know if there was a police investigation into that incident or not, and I do not know to this day. I do know that the president advised the RCMP there was another document in the public domain. I do not know if the police investigated it. Again, that was advice to a Minister, which makes the document confidential. It is no different from a Cabinet document. The Access to Information Act says that advice to Ministers is confidential.
That is what the Access to Information Act says: correspondence "between, to or from" Cabinet Ministers is confidential and cannot even be obtained through the Access to Information Act. We do not need to split hairs here about whether it is just Cabinet documents that have the protection, or advice to Ministers, as well.
The deputy minister was well within his rights to pursue the investigation of this. It is part of his job and I will lay that out when I go through the procedure that was followed. I spoke already about intimidation and about how I do not believe that the fact that we are investigating a leaked document should intimidate anyone. In fact, I have not heard the Members opposite even make the statement that any employees have raised concerns with them. They have not gone that far; this is strictly on their own. It is not about a leaked document, it is about the man who may have investigated it, because he is a potential Yukon Party candidate in the next election. That is what this whole debate is about.
When the Yukon Housing Corporation employees met with me the other day, they said that they fully supported us in investigating this leaked document. They handle confidential documents all the time. Their credibility is being attacked when confidential documents are floating around in the public.
The other letter that was made public was a very docile letter, in my opinion. It was about the extension of rate relief, which was extended. I do not see anything terribly dramatic about it. The only issue here is the principle. It is advice to a Cabinet Minister. It ought not be in the public domain.
If the Member for Whitehorse West ever has the opportunity to serve in government, I think his views would change quite dramatically. I know that the Leader of the Official Opposition's views are quite different now that he is sitting in the Opposition benches from what they were when he was a Cabinet Minister.
The public perception is very important. It is important that the public has confidence that if they write a letter to a Cabinet Minister with a big, stamped word "confidential" on it, it will not end up in the public domain. I believe that the public has the right to have that level of comfort. That is why we swear some of our employees to confidentiality when they are dealing with those types of documents.
It is for the protection, not only of the government, but of the public in general, so that they know that they can talk to a Cabinet Minister or to an MLA or write them a letter, give him or her a phone call, and it will not end up in the public domain if they wish it not to be in the public domain. That is what credibility is all about.
No advocacy group was investigated in this matter, and there was no direction by this government to investigate any advocacy group. The only reason the advocacy group even knew that this letter was public - and this is something the Members opposite have not brought up; maybe they are not even aware of it - to my understanding, was not because the police contacted them; my understanding is that it was brought up by the president of the corporation at a Utilities Consumers Group hearing that there was an investigation going on into these documents, and that was the first the Utilities Consumers Group knew about it. That is what I understand. I do not even know if the police approached the Utilities Consumers Group, and the group has not publicly said that it was investigated by the RCMP or contacted by the RCMP.
My understanding is that that is how this got to be public information. The president said it, thinking nothing of it. Nobody was hiding anything. There was an investigation underway into a leaked confidential document. It was a matter of procedure.
I spoke about being heavy handed. The Member for Whitehorse West thinks it is very heavy handed to call the police in to investigate a confidential document leak. I think it is far more heavy handed when one has the government, like the previous administration, bringing in a hit man and the matter comes up in a court of law some years later, and some not very complimentary evidence is given about a previous Minister of Education. I would call that being very heavy handed.
Let us just go through what really happened in this matter. It is on the public record. It was laid out in a letter to the editor by the deputy minister.
One of the principles in there is that the chair of the corporation says that the letter was stolen.
Let us look at how the government handled this. Let us see if there is anything that can really be perceived as heavy-handed or intimidating to our employees. I fail to see that anywhere in here. I have yet to see the Opposition point out any heavy-handed behaviour in the handling of this situation.
The issue started in January 1994, not in July 1994 as the Member for Whitehorse West said in his comments. The Minister of Justice at the time - Willard Phelps - wrote to the Yukon Utilities Board, the Yukon Energy Corporation and Alberta Power - who owns the Yukon Electrical Company - expressing his concern with the yet unresolved matter of the 1993-94 power rate approvals. He asked the parties to take action to address the outstanding matters in the most efficient and expeditious manner possible. That is where all of this all started.
In April 1994, he wrote again to the parties to advise that the Department of Justice would be initiating preliminary work to review the utility regulatory process. He invited them to send him any suggestions that they might have to improve the process and indicated that if they wished to submit their suggestions in confidence, their wish would be respected. Again, it would be advice to a government Minister.
In July 1994, the chair of Yukon Energy Corporation responded to that letter. His letter was stamped "confidential." In the body of the letter, he also noted his appreciation for the offer of confidentiality. The letter was addressed to the then-Minister of the Yukon Energy Corporation and the Yukon Development Corporation - the Hon. Mr. Phelps.
I want to re-emphasize that I think that it is incumbent upon government that when they give their word to the public, to advisory groups, to corporations or to anyone else, to maintain requests for advice in confidence, they would keep it in confidence. That is what was breached in this case.
It is important that government takes action to find out why it was breached, how it was breached, and take corrective measures so that it does not happen in the future, and so the public at large - who deal with the government day to day - have the confidence that they can deal with government in a confidential manner if they must.
The Leader of the Official Opposition was a Cabinet Member for many years. He knows, as well as I, that if the trust is not held by the private sector to talk to government in confidence, it will be very hard for government to operate. That is what this investigation was all about.
On February 21, 1995, Mr. Ernewein's letter was released to the press by the Utilities Consumers Group. On February 23, 1995, the Deputy Minister of the Executive Council Office and the ADM of Justice met with representatives of the RCMP to discuss possible ways to deal with the leak of confidential documents.
I believe the deputy minister, at the time of his writing his letter to the editor and when he was making public statements, freely admitted that Mr. Henderson and Mr. Cameron were the people who came over at the request of Justice. There is nothing sinister in that. When an ADM or a deputy minister calls, this is the level of officials from the RCMP who come. There is nothing sinister about that. It has nothing to do with the fact that the member has now retired and is running for the Yukon Party. That has absolutely nothing to do with it. That is ridiculous. It is childish of the Members of the Opposition to make those sorts of allegations.
The RCMP advised that it could do an investigation into the leaked letter and could, if appropriate, make recommendations of ways to improve the handling of sensitive documents.
It also advised on the difficulty of tracking down a document that was a year old. They did not hold out much hope for it. It was agreed that the Department of Justice would be contacted and would receive the report.
The letter dated July 1994 was addressed to Mr. Phelps, who was the Minister responsible for the Department of Justice at that time; he was also responsible for the development of the Yukon Energy Corporation. There was a change of Cabinet positions after that time, and Mr. Phillips was the Minister of Justice at the time the department met with the RCMP in February 1995. The ADM of Justice did not advise the Minister of Justice in advance of the planned meeting with the RCMP or of the possibility of an RCMP investigation into the leaked Ernewein letter.
That is all public knowledge and has been since day one. Yet Members opposite seem to think that they are on to a great big investigation that no one knows anything about.
The assistant deputy minister has no recollection of any discussions with the Minister of Justice about the results of the February 23 meeting with the RCMP. The investigation was being done, as has been reported in the public before, as a result of the initiative of the Deputy Minister of the Executive Council Office, who was concerned about the unauthorized release of confidential correspondence addressed to a Cabinet Minister. The deputy minister has every right to do that.
Laws and procedures were breached, and confidential information was in the public domain, and that concern is the deputy minister's job. As of today, I cannot tell the Members what is in the report, or even if I will tell them what is in the report, because I have not seen a copy of it, and the Department of Justice has not seen a copy of the report yet, either.
It is my understanding that the officer who conducted the investigation and is writing the report has been called to carry out other duties and has not been able to finalize the report and deliver it to the Department of Justice. At this point, I am not certain when we can expect it, but I do know there was a phone call with the results of the report to the Department of Justice.
Once again, the focus of the concern and the reason for the investigation was because private and confidential information directed to government had either been obtained or released improperly without authorization. That was the basis of the investigation. There is nothing clandestine or sinister; it is just a matter of procedure. Confidential documents are in the public domain and I am quite sure that if the Leader of the Official Opposition was on this side of the House, the same thing would have occurred when confidential documents were released into the public domain.
The reason for my saying this is because we know that they went much further than this to track down documents when they were in government.
I do not know about all this talk of intimidation. The RCMP was asked to investigate the circumstances under which these documents ended up in the public domain. The conduct of the investigation is left solely to the RCMP - it is the expert in this field. The investigation is not done under my direction or under the direction of the Cabinet Minister. That is the RCMP's expertise and is why it was called. The RCMP was called because it does give advice to government on security measures. Again, the focus of the investigation, as I have said many times before on the floor of this House, is the source of the leak, not the recipient of the leaked information.
Mr. Phillips was not advised that the RCMP was going to be asked to investigate the unauthorized release of confidential documents.
When the report is received, it will be assessed to determine what, if any, action should be taken. Until we get the report, we cannot do that.
If the Members opposite would like me to put that in a legislative return, I would be happy to do it. It was in the public domain long before this Legislature was recalled. I would be quite happy to bring it back.
As it seems to be an issue here, let us look at under what circumstances, policy or criteria the RCMP would be called in. It is a big question. I believe that I have answered it in very clear terms. There was a breach of confidentiality surrounding this document. It may or may not have been stolen. It was important that we found out how it got into the public domain. I believe that if one is a person in authority, one has to weigh the circumstances of any particular incident. I do not think there is a clear-cut policy for which one can set out a series of incidences under which the RCMP would be called in if this or that happens. I know that Opposition Members like to have written policies so that they can pick at them and check that the "t" is crossed and the "i" dotted.
It is only people like the Member for Riverdale South who need written policies, because she does not have the common sense to act in a manner that is proper and in the best interest of the public.
The specifics of this incident and the investigation will not be disclosed publicly. We will not disclose it. It is not in the best interest of anyone. Factors to be generally taken into consideration would include the seriousness of potential damage arising from the release of the material. I think I have addressed that quite adequately. There is serious damage when confidential documents are in the public.
The appearance of any pattern or repetition of circumstances may be another reason one would be looking at this. Possible intent, motivation or benefit gained by the release is another factor, as are the implications for general government security. Those are the kinds of things that were taken into consideration before calling for a criminal investigation.
Another question that keeps arising, and which we have answered time and time again - we will do it once more for the record - is: what authority exists for deputy ministers to ask for an investigation? The Public Service Act establishes deputy heads as senior members of the public service with responsibilities to supervise and direct employees of his or her department or branch, and for the general supervision of the business of his or her department. Management of information and records services and the security of operations are administrative matters considered by this government to be the proper authority of deputy ministers. I do not believe that has changed from when the previous administration was in place, under the NDP.
In addition, the Deputy Minister of the Executive Council Office has an overriding coordinating role relating to matters affecting the entire public service, and the Deputy Minister of Justice has specific responsibilities relating to the administration of justice and liaison with the RCMP.
No specific authority exists or is required to contact the RCMP when an offence is suspected or known to have occurred. Any citizen has the right to contact the RCMP and file a complaint. Whether or not the RCMP investigates is a judgment call that it makes, not the bureaucrat who called them. All the RCMP investigates is the grounds for an investigation. Again, we go back to the question of whether or not there is any difference in the level of protection afforded a Cabinet document and the correspondence from Mr. Ernewein. In my opinion, there is not, and Members opposite voted for access to information. The clause is included in the access to information, and I will read it - not the actual clause, but under the current Access to Information Act, no difference exists between those two documents. They are treated the same way.
I see the Member for Whitehorse West frowning. Perhaps he ought to review sections 7(h) and 7(d) of the Access to Information Act. The correspondence in question was provided to a Minister with a request for confidentiality and related specifically to pending government policy considerations and decisions. That makes it a confidential document, even if it was not stamped "confidential".
The Access to Information Act clearly lays that out, and I disagree with the Leader of the Official Opposition that Cabinet documents have a greater protection than this document had.
Under what circumstances does the RCMP agree to pursue an investigation? The RCMP, after hearing a complaint or an allegation, will decide if there is a reasonable basis to believe that a crime may have been committed and that an investigation is warranted. As I said earlier, the RCMP does not act solely because somebody asks it to do so. The RCMP has a process it follows before it proceeds with an investigation.
I asked again what offence was committed. The Member for Whitehorse West said that if no criminal charges are going to be laid, the whole thing should be aired in public. I wholeheartedly disagree.
I do not think that we will know the details of what the RCMP did. We will get a report back saying what it found and what its recommendations are. We will not receive the details about how the RCMP conducted its investigation, because that is none of our business, no more than it is the business of the Opposition.
What offence or offences may have been committed in this incident? Again, I have already answered that question. If the release or the obtaining of information was deliberate, that may have been a breach of conduct by a public officer, subject to administrative action or discipline in certain or limited circumstances. The taking or acquiring of such information may be theft under section 32, or breach of trust under section 122 of the Criminal Code of Canada.
Does the RCMP have any other role or responsibility to the territorial government? It most certainly does.
The RCMP has the specialized expertise in information systems and security. It will, upon request, as it does for other provincial and federal governments, perform security reviews and advise on deficiencies in the government systems or operations and make recommendations for the correction thereof. That function was part of the request and the investigation into this matter.
This was a simple investigation into a leaked document that I believe is a very serious matter. I have stated that time and time again, and there is no need to state it once more. This whole affair, in my opinion, was handled in a very professional manner. As I said, Members opposite have not come forward with the names of anybody who felt intimidated by this investigation except to cast aspersions on the government that we acted in a heavy-handed manner and intimidated employees.
Many employees have phoned me to say they are not intimidated by this investigation and that they welcome it, because they have a profession they believe in, and they frown on members of their profession who may have taken the liberty of leaking confidential documents. They want to know where the leak came from to protect their credibility and integrity.
I believe that the facts of this case are known as well as they can be known. I have certainly laid out the government's involvement in it. I do have some problems with the wording of the motion, but I believe that the actions that we have taken have basically complied with the motion. I have stated my reasons why we would not be revealing the details of the police investigation. The basic reason is that we will never have the details of the police investigation. RCMP officers are not going to tell us whom they questioned. That is not their role. It is none of our business. They are going to come back to us, I suspect, with some findings. If, in fact, they saw some weaknesses in our security systems, they are going to make some recommendations about how we can tighten up that security. I believe that is all we are going to get out of the police report. I do not know, therefore, how the Members opposite could ask us to make anything more public.
Mr. McDonald: I have just a few minutes to speak to the motion, thanks to the new rules. I will therefore crystallize the situation down to the basic issues that I think are important, certainly to me and to most of us.
First of all, what policies are there in place to determine when the RCMP will be called to investigate a matter such as this? The second issue - an issue that has received some attention in the Legislature - is the Minister's attempts to avoid responsibility on any matter related to this situation.
First of all, we have indicated on numerous occasions, time after time, that there will be documents that the government has in its possession that are considered confidential, and should be kept confidential even when they are not Cabinet documents. There is no doubt about that, and the government has a responsibility to ensure that the documents that are legitimately confidential should be retained as confidential. The government has a legal obligation to ensure that some documents are held as confidential and retained as confidential, including and especially Cabinet documents.
The Government Leader and I disagree on the notion that there is a difference between what is counted as a Cabinet document and what is counted as simple correspondence between a Minister and a member of the public. When a member of the public writes a Minister about a case or about something that is personal, whether they stamp that letter as confidential or not, the minister is obligated. There is an implicit intention to keep that correspondence confidential, and I do not dispute that for one second. The Minister and the department have an obligation to ensure that there are procedures in place to keep the information confidential.
When it comes to Cabinet documents, I think there is an even higher test given to the government to ensure that they keep those documents even more confidential. There should be more procedures and more security measures in place to ensure that there is confidentiality around those documents. That is a distinction that I do think is important, but it is not necessarily relevant to the subject at hand.
In the past, governments have taken action, have asked the RCMP to investigate when Cabinet documents have gone missing. I do not dispute that. I do not dispute that that is anything other than an appropriate move.
To say that any document, which is normally held confidential and is made public, is consequently a candidate for possible police investigation, is, I believe, nonsense.
One issue that the Minister who has just spoken has not addressed - and it is a critical and important issue - is why this document at this moment?
We have a letter from a chair of a board to a Minister about the makeup of the Utilities Board. That letter was made public and it caused the government to request a police investigation.
We have another letter from a deputy minister to a deputy minister, which was made public and there was no police investigation.
From time to time we have letters that are leaked and brown-bagged to Opposition Members, and in my experience this has always happened. These letters are made public in the Legislature or through some other means. The natural response, the appropriate response, the measured response is not to call in the police. Rather, it may be to review procedures about how information is kept confidential, but it is not necessary to call the police force in and ask them to investigate.
We have a related matter. The Minister indicated to us that he did not believe that anyone felt intimidated by the police being called in. I beg to differ. The matter was raised by the Utilities Consumers Group, a non-governmental organization of people who are volunteers and have set up their own organization to protect the interests of electrical consumers. They made the matter public and expressed real concern and anxiety about this matter, because they felt that they were being targeted.
The appropriate response by Opposition and government ought to be to determine under what conditions might the government be requesting the RCMP to involve non-governmental organizations in police investigations so no one individual feels they are being picked on for political reasons.
The policy question is this: why are the police not involved every time there are leaked documents? There is a potential for theft. Presumably, there is a potential that the Criminal Code is broken in every instance. Why do we not have the police open up a special office, and maybe have an outlet right here in the building to investigate all of these leaked documents that are made public from time to time?
So, what is the policy? What triggers the police investigations? I do not take issue at all with the need to keep certain information confidential. I think that the government has an obligation to do it, but how do they respond when the confidentiality is broken? Are they heavy handed? No. Government Ministers do not necessarily feel that an action like calling in the police is heavy handed. I am sure that the senior officials in government do not believe that it is particularly heavy handed, because they do not feel particularly targeted. They deal with the senior members of the RCMP on a regular basis. Ministers in the government deal with community leaders on a regular basis. People show them deference every day. I entreat the Ministers to understand the situation from the perspective of the average citizen, who is not a decision maker or in the centre of policy making or of power, but is just a citizen on the street. This citizen is somebody who is, for example, a member of the Utilities Consumers Group and who may have had a letter come into their possession and consequently made that public. What would the reaction be to that person, who does not know the Commissioner of the RCMP and does not know the procedures and does not have a regular relationship with anybody of any authority? What would their reaction be? Their reaction is to be anxious. Presumably, there should be policy or, if not a written policy, a sense that clearly delineates in the Cabinet's mind when police should or should not be called in.
The second issue is about responsibility. Who takes responsibility? Ministers in this Legislature have consistently indicated that this is an administrative matter. However, when the police were called in to investigate not only their own employees, but sometimes the investigations involved some of the public, they do not necessarily take any responsibility for that matter at all. I do not agree.
If there was an investigation of procedures within the public service not involving outside forces like the police, then it is an administrative matter and deputies do have responsibility under the law and in policy to ensure that people follow the rules and ensure that the rules are consistently applied. This is not one of those instances. This is an instance of bringing in outside forces and it involves the investigation, potentially, of people who are not public servants at all. So I would argue that the Cabinet does have a direct interest in establishing policy in this area.
From time to time, in the Government Leader's address, he made mention of the NDP government's record. As an aside, I heard the Minister of Justice regularly quote from cases before the courts, which was something that I thought was unethical. Now I hear it from the Government Leader, so he joins that exalted group. I certainly do not want to hear, from those two Ministers at least, that they can no longer speak about cases before the courts that are currently in progress, because those Ministers have set the precedent that it is perfectly legitimate.
I would say this, though, about cases and about quotes and that sort of thing that are covered in the media, in one particular instance I am quoted, but I have not yet had a chance to challenge the quote, so the end is not yet here when it comes to court cases.
Let me say this: in instances like this, it is important for Ministers to understand that they do have some responsibility when it comes to matters such as this. They cannot pass it off as simply an administrative affair when it involves the RCMP and when it involves the public. They do have an obligation at least to ensure that there is a policy that delineates the difference between why the RCMP might be called in in one instance and not in another.
The Government Leader has indicated on a couple of occasions that deputy ministers had every right to initiate the investigation. From time to time, he claimed ignorance of anything that was going on and then in fact portrayed a fair degree of knowledge about what was happening. The Government Leader indicated that he did not know anything about the leak of the Byers letter. He identified it and knew what he was talking about, but said he had not heard about the letter, even though the fact that it had been made public was over a year old.
The Government Leader says that he does not know anything about what is going on and then tables media clips and claims that these are the authoritative determination of the events that took place. He claims ignorance and he claims knowledge - when it is convenient. It sounds a whole lot like Question Period today, where a particular Minister's memory of events about matters supposedly before the administration is convenient at best and seriously flawed at worst.
I would argue that there are a number of issues here, but there are two essential ones. One is, when was the RCMP called in, why is it not called in every time, and why was it only called in on this instance? This is not an issue about whether or not there is confidential information, because there is confidential information.
The second issue is ministerial responsibility for policy. I am not suggesting that Ministers should have been performing the acts themselves, but they should take responsibility for policy. When the policy involves the public and forces outside of the government, in particular the RCMP, then the government should put its mind toward establishing what the rules will be for the administration's conduct of business.
I would argue that this motion is quite timely and quite legitimate. It addresses the need to disclose matters pertaining specifically to those two issues and, as the Member for Whitehorse West has indicated, if those issues and the other central items that the Member has identified can be disclosed in a report, there is no need to go through the process of determining precisely who was canvassed by the RCMP or any of that kind of information. Those are not the essential points that need to be explored, but there are important policy matters that do need to be explored
I would argue that this motion is timely and appropriate and should be supported by all Members.
Hon. Mr. Nordling: My interest in this motion relates to the general principle of disclosure. I am not going to get into the debate with respect to the details of this particular letter or investigation, how it was done, who should have done it or who should have said what at which time. My interest is in getting the motion passed. I think it deals with the general principle of disclosure of government action.
I will propose an amendment that I hope will ensure passage of the motion. It is a friendly amendment, and I will explain that. The Member for Whitehorse West is asking that the Government of Yukon should immediately disclose the full details of an RCMP investigation. I am not absolutely convinced that we have the right to do that. That would give me some concern. When I read the news release of the NDP caucus, the heading was "Motion to probe government role in RCMP investigations". I believe what the Member for Whitehorse West is getting at is full disclosure of the government's role in the RCMP investigation. That is what my amendment does. I will read my amendment, Mr. Speaker, and pass it on to you.
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I move
THAT Motion No. 96 be amended by adding the words "the government's role in" after the words "details of".
The motion would then read, from the middle, "...that the Government of Yukon should immediately disclose the full details of the government's role in an RCMP investigation launched in February 1995". The rest of the motion would remain unchanged.
I have also made copies of my amendment for other Members.
Deputy Speaker: It has been moved by the Minister of Government Services
THAT Motion No. 96 be amended by adding the words "the government's role in" after the words "details of".
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I have briefly explained why I have asked for the amendment. I think that is what the Member for Whitehorse West intended. With the amendment, I will support the motion. The way it is written, it speaks of the best interests of the Yukon people, it speaks about employee morale. Yes, I believe the morale of the employees is important. Not only investigations and details of those should be disclosed so people know what is happening and are not intimidated by them, but also to reassure them the government is interested in the confidentiality of the documents and will protect the confidentiality of government documents.
The purpose and nature of the investigation, and the government's full role, should be disclosed as soon as possible. I have nothing but words of support for the Member for Whitehorse West in what I expect will be the passage of his first motion in the House.
Mr. Sloan: I would like to thank the Member for that. I find that amendment acceptable.
Amendment agreed to
Ms. Moorcroft: I am pleased to stand and enter into this debate on the motion as amended. I believe it is in the best interests of the Yukon people and employee morale within the public service that the Government of Yukon disclose the details of its role in an RCMP investigation launched in February 1995.
The RCMP investigation is an issue about government accountability. There was no legal basis for a police investigation as the leaked letter did not constitute a criminal activity. In fact, the RCMP has confirmed that no charges will be laid. It is important to note that there is a difference between ministerial correspondence and a Cabinet document; in fact, the protection of Cabinet documents is laid out in the Access to Information Act. We believe that ministerial conference should be protected and in fact it is protected by a public servant's oath of confidentiality. Leaking letters is unacceptable. However, it constitutes an internal personnel matter. It is not a matter for a criminal inquiry.
This RCMP investigation raises serious questions about the integrity of the government. It is not believable that a deputy minister would unilaterally order an RCMP investigation without the knowledge of the Government Leader. This decision would have to have involved the Government Leader, as the minister responsible for the Yukon Energy Corporation. It is certainly more than a coincidence that a day after being heavily questioned in this Legislature about the leaked Ernewein letter a police investigation was launched on February 23, 1995.
We heard yesterday, in this House, the Minister of Justice denying that Cabinet had had anything to do with the resignation of Mr. Laking from the Yukon Utilities Board. Today we heard the Minister of Justice stand up and admit that it was at Cabinet's behest that there be a condition attached to the employment offer: resign from the Yukon Utilities Board or do not go to work for the Dawson liquor store. Cabinet asked this very same deputy minister to make sure that that condition of employment was put in the job offer.
This raises serious questions about intimidation and bullying by the Yukon Party government. I want to know if this is the first time an employee has been told that they must not participate in community affairs. Have people been told that they cannot belong to a non-profit society and work for the Yukon government? Have people been told that they cannot be part of a march on the government protesting the poorly founded decision to close Kaushee's Place, and keep their jobs in government?
I think the Government Leader not only has to take responsibility for the actions of his government, but has to take responsibility for the fear that the government is creating by its behaviour.
The government has created a question in the public's mind as to whether or not the RCMP is being used as a political tool. This casts a chilling effect on all public interest groups in the Yukon. Intimidating public interest groups by police action is completely unacceptable. I cannot believe that Members of the Cabinet sat there and not one of them would raise the question about legitimate, political dissent and the message they are sending when the RCMP is called in to launch an investigation and go after a consumer advocacy group.
The use of the RCMP by the Yukon Party government emphasizes a serious need for a policy about leaked correspondence that is not a Cabinet document. Requesting a police investigation should never be taken lightly.
The authority for such a decision is clearly undefined if a deputy minister can order an RCMP investigation without ministerial approval or knowledge. We need to have clear answers about this situation.
I would also like to argue that the government should table the police report. I think the public has the right to know. There are far too many unanswered questions. What methods were used by the RCMP? How far did the investigation proceed? Were warrants obtained during this investigation and if so, on what grounds? Have any other public interest groups in the Yukon been investigated by the RCMP? I would like to have the answer as to whether or not the Government Leader and his Cabinet had any involvement or knowledge about this investigation. I would also like to see any recommendations for better security that come out of the police report.
I will close by looking forward to a successful vote on this motion and to having the information brought forward so that the we and the public can know what went on here.
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I guess the longer I sit in here the more I realize what an old goat I am, because my way of thinking in this world is completely different from that expressed in this House on a continual basis. I am also called an old goat by own colleagues once in a while.
I think that it is absolutely unbelievable that an RCMP officer who served his time on the force, retired and decided he would like to go into politics, can be dragged through the mud here. I see the Member is going to get up, and scream and holler now. I did not bring his name up here. I think that it is disgraceful that it had to be brought up here at all.
What I have said may be politically incorrect, but it is what I believe in and I will stand by it.
Demanding the names of people and the things that the police have done is getting right at the root of our democracy. The RCMP is what keeps this country going, as much as this Legislature here or anywhere else. They are professional people. I think it is a crime to demand to know everything they did so that the next person who wants to do something can look at it and say, "They did it this way, so we will do it that way." Is this what the world has become? I do not imagine that any of the Members would have gotten excited had they realized that, for two years, my house was under guard because of the Friends of the Wolves. That would be all right, because that is one of their committees. However, if it had been anything else, they would have roared about it. These matters do not seem to matter to them.
I am glad that the Leader of the Official Opposition - he does not like it when he gets a little bit back - agrees with me that letters written by private people to me - as an MLA - should be confidential. I would not want anyone leaking any of them out of my office. There is something wrong when anything is taken from a person's office, regardless of what it is.
The Member says that the police investigated and there were no charges laid. Fine. How would the police know that there should be no charges laid if they did not investigate? Perhaps I am a little bit prejudiced on this. I have a son-in-law who is in the RCMP, and I had a brother-in-law who was a detective in the RCMP; he retired because of interference such as we are getting here. He could not take it after 25 years. He gave up on it. My son-in-law has put in 21 years, and he is almost in the same boat in that he is waiting to get out because of politicians and other people who are always interfering with what the RCMP is trying to do.
I have had my say on that point. I did not really want to talk on that point; I really wanted to talk on the bottom half of the thing - the morale of employees.
When one talks about morale, one can look at it in two or three ways. Employees may be unhappy because of their jobs, or because of problems at home, or because they are under stress - these are things that we all go through all the time. I have a great deal of respect for probably 99 percent of the employees in this building and in the civil service. Most of them are professionals, and they work with people. I came in as a new Minister - having never been here before - and they changed their ways, worked and talked with me; they supported and backed me. We went through a lot of things - Friends of the Wolves, the highway down here where I tried to save the taxpayers' money, but got kicked around for that one. They stuck by me all the way. I appreciate that and respect it very much. I told them that I would like ideas generated from them that we can bring up into the system.
There are a lot of good ideas out there. They are now bringing them out, because they are going to be listened to. We will try them. They do not all work, but a lot of them do. I appreciate the fact that these people are so interested in their jobs that they would try to improve them.
I visited almost every garage in the Yukon. I visited almost every establishment in all of the Department of Community and Transportation Services locations. I have always found them to be very friendly people. They spoke to us and told us what they thought. They certainly are interested in their jobs and in improving things in any way they can.
They have gone through a lot of tough situations since I have been Minister, such as the Shakwak project last year, when it rained for three weeks and a big part of it was mud. They went up there and did everything they could to work on it. They accepted the blame and did not fight back.
I see that this kind of talk upsets some people on the other side of the House. If Members want to bring these kinds of motions in, we will talk this way.
I would like to get it on record that I appreciate all the support I have received from employees here. I think the morale is quite good. They get a bit frustrated when people are always trying to drag them up and say they did this or they did that.
Mr. Harding: The previous speaker missed the point of the motion entirely.
The integrity of the RCMP and the integrity of government is precisely the reason why we brought this motion forward. It is precisely the reason we feel so strongly that accountability of the government stops with the Government Leader. It is precisely the reason we want to ensure that there are clear guidelines about when the government should be calling in the RCMP - an external organization of great integrity that must be seen as independent of the government and not as the Yukon Party's watchdog.
We are very cognizant of the role of the RCMP. We are very cognizant of its great reputation. We are also disturbed when, for a matter such as this, the incredibly rare and, some would say, incredibly excessive action of calling it in for an investigation was undertaken. No one thinks that leaked documents are not a problem and not wrong. Leaked documents should not happen and they should not get out of the civil service, but they do. They did when the NDP was in government and they do now that the Yukon Party is in government.
There are two ways to deal with this type of issue. One way is an internal investigation - a personnel matter. Another way is perceiving it as a criminal matter and calling in the RCMP. The latter method was undertaken in this example. There has to be some kind of policy example set. Obviously, in this case, some new twist has been brought in, and that is that this document, although confidential in the sense that it was from a private citizen engaging in a public function to a Minister, was not a Cabinet document.
It was not a filed, secret Cabinet document. There is a distinction between a letter from a private citizen, performing some public business, to a Cabinet minister and a filed Cabinet document. Clearly, if one looks at what we have managed to find in the Criminal Code, the case can be made that the leaking of a filed Cabinet document is, indeed, an act that could be considered criminal. In this case, we do not have that. It is wrong, but does the action taken by the government suit the matter that was undertaken - the leaked document.
Much is known of the differences between the Utilities Consumers Group and this particular government. I have wondered just what was said at that Cabinet table about that letter getting out. We all remember the press conferences and the frantic Question Period where the Ministers were scrambling here when they were being questioned about the so-called Ernewein letter. We drifted off thinking about the discussions that might have taken place between the Minister and Mr. Ernewein, and whether the two of them and the Cabinet shared these views. Of course the Cabinet says it did not, but recent developments show that, one by one, the people identified in this letter have been dropped from the Utilities Board, and today in Question Period we found out that another person identified has been dropped from the Utilities Board. Yesterday in Question Period, the government told us that it was not involved; today we found out it was involved directly. It was direct Cabinet action that was the conduit through which this person was removed from the Utilities Board.
One has to wonder just what the government's role was in this particular investigation. We have been told by the Government Leader that Cabinet only knew four days later, but after Question Period today it really shakes my confidence in this government, and it tells me that we may not be getting the whole story. That is why it is important to undertake a full report of the details surrounding this situation.
I have another concern. The superintendent of the RCMP, before he retired, had told me that he was going to become a candidate for the Yukon Party in the next election. In a democratic process, that is something I applaud - people getting into the political process - but one has to wonder about the perception, at the very least, of a closer relationship between the superintendent, who, according to press reports, was summoned by the government to look into this matter, and that of the Yukon Party.
That perception is a concern, and it has never been cleared up. This action was taken in such a manner that, I believe, it went far beyond the normal process for investigating what would otherwise have been an internal personnel investigation in order to protect the integrity of the RCMP, in order to get to the bottom of the government's role in sicking the RCMP on a public watchdog group they do not agree with.
Let us be frank. When the grade reorganization announcements came out, and we saw the visceral attack of the Minister of Education against school council members, who were just voicing their democratic opinions, we knew that this government had a soft underbelly for criticism from groups of citizens who objected to their policies and way of doing things.
For those reasons, we want to know the details. We want to know what the involvement of this government was, why it did this, and we want to know if the RCMP was used in a fair manner in this case. We want to know what the government policy is for calling in the RCMP.
We need the answers. We do not have them yet; we have been stonewalled consistently since Question Period, and we intend to continue to ensure that there is accountability.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I wanted to state, for the record, that I will be supporting the motion as amended. I do have a bit of a problem with what several Members of the Opposition have indicated: that it is okay to break the law if you do not break it very badly. What do they mean by that?
As the Government Leader pointed out, the Access to Information Act does not allow the disclosure of confidential information. That being the case, is it okay if it is confidential information, but the Opposition does not feel that it is important to reveal?
Several members of the civil service would certainly disagree with the Opposition in that a piece of confidential information is exactly that - it is confidential and should be treated as such. If it is not treated as confidential, then the person who did not treat it confidentially should have to be accountable for it.
Having said that, I want to reiterate that I support the motion as amended and I look forward to the vote.
Ms. Commodore: I am really a bit surprised by some of the comments that have been made about the motion that is before us.
I have just listened to the Member for Kluane talking about the RCMP and what a great bunch of guys they are. That is probably a fact, but we are not talking about the RCMP and the kind of job that they do; The main issue we are discussing is government accountability.
One has to wonder about the actions this government took with regard to this one letter that was leaked. The government knows and we know that letters fall into the hands of others all of the time, including confidential letters that are addressed to Ministers or letters that are written by deputy ministers. The Members opposite know from being in the Opposition that they used to receive many of those letters.
I do not agree with that concept. If a letter is confidential, it should be kept confidential. There is no question about that. I would think that people who write a letter in confidence should have an assurance that it will stay that way. That does not always happen. There are a lot of things that happen within this government that we do not agree with.
I have a question with regard to this specific letter. Of all the other confidential letters that have been tabled in this House - letters that have been in the hands of the people opposite and us on this side of the House - why did the government choose to have an investigation done for this specific letter. I do not know why that was more important. Why was this letter more confidential than another letter that was leaked?
The gambling report was a confidential document. It ended up outside of the government offices and I did not see an investigation into that.
We are not here to criticize the RCMP. We are asking today to receive information on a report that was prepared at the request of individuals on that side of the House. I have a very difficult time understanding how they would decide that this was just an administrative matter. When one calls in the RCMP, it is not something one would do at the drop of a hat. I cannot understand why the Cabinet Ministers did not know about it until days after the investigation had started. I find that hard to believe. I find it hard to believe that they would let their bureaucrats get so out of control that they are running the government, because that is exactly the impression the public has right now: that the government Members did not know anything about it and had no reaction when a deputy minister took such a big step, such as doing an investigation on the basis of only one letter.
As a former Cabinet Minister, I cannot understand how they would let their bureaucrats get so out of hand. That is what appears to be happening here.
There is a question about the morale of the employees. The Members opposite would like us to think that everything is hunky-dory - perhaps it is in the Yukon Housing Corporation, and I am glad to hear that they all love their president. As far as I can see, he seems to be an okay guy, but then I do not work for him, so I do not know.
I am having a bit of a problem trying to understand the difference between an administrative matter and a matter dealing with ministerial authority. We have a lot of problems on this side of the House trying to seek information. Government Ministers stand on their feet and talk about the bureaucrats looking after so-called administrative matters. When we try to get information that should be administrative, everything we do has to go through the Minister's office. Even if we want information on boards or committees or information on some policy in some branch of the government, everything has to go through the Minister's office. I am talking specifically about Health and Social Services, because I have a copy of a computer printout letting them know that the Opposition should not be allowed to get information directly from the department, but that they have to go through the executive assistant in the Minister of Social Services' office. I find that that makes it very hard for us to do our job. What is administrative and what is not? I do not think they have even made a determination about that.
I would also like to find out from whoever might know the answer why nothing was done on the leak of the Byers letter, the one that was written in September 1994. It appears here that they pick and choose, and decide which letter is more important than the other. Was it more important because the Minister responsible had a little fit in Cabinet or whatever, I do not know, and demanded that they find out who the culprit was who leaked the document? I suspect that that is probably what happened because his support for that party certainly depends on his being part of the team, and I suspect that what might have happened is that they reacted to his anger at a lot of this information getting out.
There is a problem, and we would certainly like to know the actions of this government - what it can do and what it cannot do. A lot of other people would also like to know this.
I have received information that one of the boards is under question because the information is that this board leaked public information. They all received a letter, and it scared the wits out of all the board members. They now fear that, because of what happened to the leaked confidential letter, one of them will be charged for giving out public information. This has only happened in the last week or so, because of questions that were asked in this House.
If one is talking about morale in the government, one must also be talking about the morale and trust of those people whom they appoint to some of their boards and committees. We hear every single day about how members of boards and committees are being intimidated by some of the actions of this government.
In the future, we would like to know when this government intends to take this kind of action. We do not know what the criteria is for conducting this kind of investigation, and they do not seem to have any authority as Ministers to make these kinds of decisions. If one day a deputy minister says he is going to do an investigation because he heard about a leaked document, but does not tell his Minister, then somebody is out of control. I think it is the bureaucrats and that the Ministers have no control over what they are doing. It certainly appears to be what has happened in this case.
I feel very sorry for anybody who has to take the heat for something like that. I cannot understand how it could have happened, but I do think we have a problem.
Today the Minister of Justice talked about the reasons why the government revoked the position of one of the board members, citing it as a perception of conflict of interest, or the perception that the individual could be biased, and that was why the government chose not to renew his appointment on that committee.
There are all sorts of perceptions. One has to wonder at what point perception requires the government to make a serious decision about different people.
I heard him say in one of his speeches today that although he had nothing to do with it, it was one of the hardest decisions he had to make. The public does have a concern about what this government is doing. The employees also have a concern. The morale is low in a lot of departments and in different branches in those departments. I cite again the board on which the members are all fearful because they are accused of giving out public information and could be charged as well if they bring in the RCMP. They would probably not do it in a case like this, but this is what is happening across the board with employees and committee and board members alike. I would like the government to disclose the full details of the investigation. I would like to know why it happened, specifically with respect to this one letter. I would like to know if they have any intention of doing it again. Where does the importance lie? What leaked document is more important than the other?
Is it from the Minister who speaks the loudest or from the Minister whose support they need to hold up this government? Just when do they do it? The general public would like to know. They have lost confidence in this government, and every day we hear something different about something they have done that does not quite seem appropriate to the general public.
I look forward to the government disclosing this information. It will answer a lot of questions, not only for this side of the House but also for the people who work for the government and fear for their jobs, and for the general public who have also lost confidence in the Yukon Party government.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I can certainly support the motion as amended that is before us here today. I would like to just touch briefly on a few points. I will not go over in detail the points the Government Leader went over regarding the purpose and nature of the investigation, and how and by whom it was authorized. That has already been disclosed. It was disclosed in the media by the deputy minister by way of a letter, and I believe the Government Leader also laid out here today in his speech how the chain of events occurred in this particular case.
With respect to the identity of the RCMP members involved in the investigation, that information is not usually released as a matter of course. The RCMP carries out its investigations independently and impartially. The government does not get involved in the day-to-day operations of police investigations, and we certainly do not select the officers who carry out the investigations; that is done through the RCMP's process and we do not get involved in it at all.
As for the actions that have resulted from the investigation, at the present time, as far as I am aware, none have actually been taken. I do not believe the report has been provided to the Department of Justice, contrary to Opposition and media reports. I do not believe that report is with the Department of Justice and we have not received a copy of the investigation yet, so it is a little premature for me to make any comments on it.
Once the report has been reviewed by the department, subject to the advice of Justice officials - yesterday, I think the Member for Whitehorse West talked about getting a synopsis of the investigation - I do not see that being a problem.
Because part of the RCMP's role is to provide the government with security advice, there may be some suggestions in the the report as to what the government can do better to help us prevent this kind of thing from happening again. Even if the RCMP cannot find out what happened to these particular letters, it may be able to look at our system and advise us about how we can improve our system. I think that information should be kept as security information so that it does not happen again.
I listened to some of the other Members who spoke today and I have to clarify a couple of things that have been said.
There is a lot of fearmongering going on and a lot of inaccurate information being disseminiated. One comment I heard today from a couple of the Members of the Opposition was that the government ordered an investigation into the consumers group. I think the Member for Mount Lorne made that statement. That simply is not the truth and it is unfair to stand in this House, as an hon. Member, and state that fact when the Member knows that that is not what was ordered. It was an investigation into the documents that were turning up in the public domain that had been marked "confidential". The investigation was not directed at any particular group, rather it was directed at finding out how the documents came to be in the public domain. Were they accidentally leaked? Were they deliberately leaked? Did an individual do it, or was it just sloppiness? We were trying to find out what caused the leak.
For the Member to stand in this House and say that the government ordered an investigation of the consumer group is simply untrue. I think the Members should be careful when they make statements like this, because it is not the case. The Government Leader has stated that and there is no basis for these kinds of accusations, which I think are unfair.
As well, I have to take exception to the comments made by the Member for Faro when he tried to make the point that there is a real distinction between secret Cabinet documents and a constituent's letter.
The government's position is that any letter that an MLA receives or any letter that is marked "confidential" - and if a constituent asks that the letter be confidential - then that letter should be confidential.
They deal a lot with some people's individual problems. They hear complaints. They may want us to deal with an individual problem, and they do not want it floating around. I take exception to the Member for Faro's remarks. He apparently sees no confidential value in the letters he receives from his constituents. I think that is a bad approach, and that his constituents will be somewhat reluctant in the future to send a letter to that Member, knowing that he will not keep that information confidential. That is what he said here today.
If someone writes an MLA a letter - I get it all the time and I am sure the Member for Whitehorse West will, too - laying out a problem, they are often told to lay it out in a letter so that he or she can work on it. It might involve a health and social services problem or a justice problem or something that someone really does not want to make public. They may express a concern in a letter but they do not want the contents floating around in the public domain. The Member for Faro seems to think that that is not important. I put just as much importance on a confidential letter from one of my constituents as I do on a Cabinet document. There is no difference whatsoever in my mind between the two documents - none.
The Member for Whitehorse Centre actually supported my argument when she said that letters from individuals should be confidential and anything marked "confidential" should stay confidential. I would suggest that the Member for Faro should sit down with the Member for Whitehorse Centre and have a discussion about this, because they seem to be opposed on that issue. I certainly support the Member for Whitehorse Centre's approach - letters we receive from our constituents should be confidential. In fact, I treat letters from my constituents as confidential whether or not they are marked "confidential". I do not want them leaked anywhere in the public or passed around in the public, unless I have previous consent from the sender.
The Member for Faro is a relatively new Member - he has been here for three years or so - but he should go back to a school of ethics and look at what his role as an MLA is, and perhaps he would take a different approach to those kinds of issues.
A couple of Members have mentioned today the issue of the appointment of Mr. Laking to the Yukon Utilities Board. I hate to return to it, but people are making accusations about what went on. I want to make what happened clear on the record. Again, I will point out to the Members that Mr. Laking was going to be appointed again, as was Mr. Duncan, to the Yukon Utilities Board for a three-year period.
It was going to be effective March 10. It was approved pending the clarification regarding a potential conflict with his employment. I am taking the liberty of stating this now, because I think that three or four of the previous speakers have raised it as an issue. I know that the Member for Riverdale South may not have been listening or may not have been here.
It is interesting that in almost every vote in the last three years, the Member for Riverdale South, who has turned into a socialist and has lost contact with her constituents, has voted consistently with the New Democrat Party. The carpet has worn down from the doorway of her office to the left, where she trucks back and forth every day. There are rumours floating around the office of creating a sort of archway between the two in order to save a few miles and wear and tear of the carpet. The Member does spend a lot of time in there crafting her questions and working with the socialists, who, at one time, she told everyone she hated. However, she works very closely with them now; they are a team. They are a close team.
Today, when her New Democrat partners stand up in the House and raise the Laking appointment, that Member is mum. She says nothing. She sits back and smiles with her friends. When I raise it, however, she starts to say, "This is not on the topic, is it? It is off the topic." I think that the true colours are showing. Her constituents are in a state of shock. Many of them have come up to me, and one of them last night - a very long-time constituent of hers - said that they just cannot believe what is going on. They are very sad about the situation. I assured them that we will do our best to represent the views of the constituents of Riverdale South, who used to have an MLA.
I would like to dwell for a bit on the issue of morale in the public service. This government believes strongly in the integrity and professionalism of the public service. We get condemned for that by the Members on the other side, especially the Member for Riverdale South, who does not have much faith in the public service. In support of its employees, the government has articulated service and human resource management principles, which expressly value the professionalism and ethical treatment of government employees, and the encouragement of the public service to know the standards expected of them in the performance of their duties and to be answerable to the public that they serve.
In particular, I will raise four principles that have been enunciated. All employees have received a copy of these principles. The first one is ethical treatment. It says that no employee in the course of their duty shall be expected to act deceitfully or dishonestly. Professional standards of conduct, technical knowledge or competence should not be compromised by the employment relationship. Mutual responsibility exists. We will provide the same standard of treatment to employees that we expect them to provide to others and to the public.
With respect to professionalism, this government believes in a high quality of service to the public and that this requires employees to be conscientious and to apply skill, expertise and diligence in the performance of their jobs.
Innovation is both prized and necessary. Integrity and ethical behaviour ensure that advice is both sound and balanced, and that errors are acknowledged and improvements are made. They have to be answerable, and we should be prepared to provide our reasons for making those decisions.
Public servants should be permitted and encouraged to make decisions, and the government will support those decisions as long as they are made in good faith with the proper authority. When mistakes are made, we will be able to acknowledge them.
Under the last heading of ensuring that expectations are known, the public service can be improved and performance fairly evaluated only if employees know and understand the results of the standards required of them. We are entitled to have high expectations of conduct and service by all members of the public and our responsibility is to ensure that expectations are communicated and can be reasonably met.
When general statements are made that impugn the entire public service, this has a greater negative effect on employee morale than does any investigation of a specific allegation or wrongdoing.
Employees expect their employer to deal with the allegations of wrongdoing, abuse of privileges and breach of confidentiality, because these behaviours impact on the professionalism and the integrity of the public service. In fact, the Government Leader stated today that he has had telephone calls from many people in the public service about this particular issue. Callers are saying that they want these kinds of things investigated because the whole public service gets blamed and, for the most part, the public service has a high degree of integrity and honesty. I have a lot of faith in its work.
The great majority of the employees recognize and support the obligation to carry out their duties in a manner that gives assurance to the public of their commitment to ethical and fair behaviour.
In particular, there is a further and even greater effect on employee morale when matters are raised here on the floor of the Legislature that deal not with policy matters, but with situations that pertain to individual employees. Sometimes these employees are identified by position or name, which violates the parliamentary conventions that individuals are not singled out for criticism or subjected to allegations that they are powerless to answer.
The public service has long-established avenues for appeal, redress or address of issues arising from their employment. When allegations are raised by Opposition Members in the Legislature against individual employees, employee rights, by that fact alone, can be prejudiced when discussed prematurely.
All governments have traditionally refused to become politically embroiled in employee matters and personnel matters, since to answer any allegations can, in itself, jeopardize or discredit the impartial processes established to investigate internal employee matters.
When allegations are raised in the Legislature, they are most often made before all the facts are gathered for final review or before the appropriate processes have run their course. Conclusions are immediately drawn and advanced by members in this Legislature, and then reported through the media purporting to ascribe to the employees of one department or to the whole public service facts that may or may not pertain to one employee's individual situation.
Before the next issue of the newspaper comes out, the alleged facts have been stated, conclusions drawn, perpetrators hanged and corpses put out for public view. The kinds of accusations that are being made in this House are not good for morale, and I would agree with the Member who made the motion that these are the kinds of allegations that call into question the respect and reputation of the public service. I feel we should be much more careful when we deal with those matters in this House.
There are three or four that come to mind that happened just recently. This government has come to the defence of its employees with respect to the Housing Corporation issue that happened just recently. There have been some accusations about the Department of Tourism concerning what its needs are and are not, and some jokes have been made about that in this House. I think they are unfair.
There were some issues a few weeks ago or a month ago, or so, about things that were happening in land claims, with some concerns about employees being harassed in the land claims branch, and the government came to the defence of those employees - unlike the Liberal Party, which was going to evaluate them all. It was pretty devastating to the employees to hear those kinds of comments, because the employees were doing a good job. If the Leader of the Liberal Party had known all the facts, he might have sung a different tune at the time.
The remark was unfortunate, but it shows that the government has come to the defence of its employees. We have to be extremely careful in this House when we make accusations about certain employees without possessing all of the facts, and I would encourage all Members to keep that in mind in the future.
I certainly will be supporting the motion that is before us, as amended.
Speaker: Order please. The Member has three minutes to conclude his remarks.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I believe that the public has a right to know this information. I am concerned that it will not be possible to release all the information. I am sure the Member for Whitehorse West understands that; there may be parts of this information that will relate to the security of documents in the government.
I do not take lightly the disappearance of any document, whether it be a Cabinet document or my own personal documents out of my files. I think we should treat them all as a serious matter. I think that the public does have to know that if letters are internal, within the government, and are confidential documents, they will stay confidential documents. I trust in the civil service to maintain that high standard and high code of ethics.
Mrs. Firth: I had intended to give a light speech - a quiet little speech - but the Member for Riverdale North, who just spoke before me, has a way of entertaining me and encouraging me to speak a bit longer, and perhaps express a few more opinions that I had intended to express.
There is this constant line that we get from the Minister of Justice - the Member for Riverdale North - about socialism. I suppose that if I were called a socialist by some people, it might affect me a bit. I would say that it would hurt me - well, it might hurt me, I do not know.
First, I guess the speaker who is calling me that should know the difference. They have to have some political ideology themselves. They have to stand for something themselves. They have to have some principles and ethics themselves. That Member just does not have any. I am sorry, but he just does not hurt me when he calls me a socialist.
It is almost sad enough to make a person weep, but the really interesting thing is that this is the same guy who had lots of high principles, morals and ethics when he was a Member of the Opposition.
The Member was talking about RCMP investigations, potential court cases, the injustices done to people in the communities and to public servants. This was the guy who was going to fight and conquer the world and save everyone.
I do not know what has happened to him since he has become a Member of the government. After three years of all these people nodding, bowing and going "yes, sir", "no, sir", "you are right, sir", "yes, Mr. Minister", "you are wonderful, Mr. Minister", and opening the door, that person has lost his perspective completely; he has absolutely and completely lost touch.
I remember the Leader of the Official Opposition making a comment here once about the Members running up to their offices to get their bureaucratic backrubs - running back up to the bureaucratic massage parlour. I am sorry, but I do not buy the Minister's comments about knowing anything about anything, when I know that the only people he talks to any more are people who are giving him the bureaucratic backrubs in the bureaucratic massage parlour.
It is great to sit in one's office in the ivory tower all day, and have people say how great one is. I will tell the Minister something: he is not great.
If the Minister wants to get into some of the details of socialist principles and policies, I think an issue with respect to this RCMP investigation - one of the issues that is extremely important - is that of policy.
Every time we have asked this government what its policy is on an issue, it either does not have one, or the pat, standard answer is that it has the same one as the previous government, so there should be no complaints.
I am complaining because the previous government was an NDP government, and I expected these guys, who are not socialists, to change some of those policies, perhaps to toughen them up a bit or make them a little more Conservative oriented. They have not.
Then that Minister accuses me of being a socialist? Give me a break. Who raised the minimum wage? The Yukon Party, whatever they stand for. Who is building new offices for government employees? The Yukon Party, whatever they are: somewhere between the socialist and the middle-of-the-road. They are certainly nowhere near the right spectrum of political philosophy. As I said, the Minister who just spoke does not stand for anything, and he does not know what he believes in any more, anyway, which is not surprising.
With respect to giving out grants and employment standards, the Minister supported this when he was a Member of the Opposition, with strong reservations. When he became the Minister, he passed it.
People in glass houses should not throw stones when it comes to political philosophies and ideologies, particularly when one does not have any to brag about.
After that response, I would like to get down to some of the details of the motion that has been presented by one of my Opposition colleagues - I believe we are all colleagues in this Legislature, of one sort or another.
I can appreciate that there is confidential information within government. My personal feeling is that the government puts too much emphasis on too much information being confidential. A lot of information within government is public information - probably most of the information - and that there is very little confidential information. I agree with what other speakers have said. It is our responsibility as MLAs to keep the information contained in letters we get from our constituents confidential. I think all Members of the House would agree with that.
With respect to leaking confidential information, if the government does not have any clear policies or guidelines in place when a situation like this has occurred or is perceived to have occurred, these kinds of situations are going to happen, where the RCMP is going to be called in. I personally think this was overkill. I do not understand why the department could not make an assessment and do some internal checking to see what had happened before they called in the RCMP.
I have had no evidence that that occurred - none whatsoever. For the Government Leader to say we do not need written policies and that they are not going to have written policies because we might just pick them apart is just absolute nonsense. Some very dangerous things can happen if there are no policies in place and if we have a government that is run solely by the bureaucrats with no checks or balances by the politicians. That is what we have here.
I still find it very difficult to believe that the Cabinet Members did not know that the RCMP investigation had been called. They are all backing away from it. The Minister of Justice did not know anything about it and the Minister of Health did not know anything about it. Nobody knew anything about it, and then we finally found out that the Government Leader found out something about it four or five days later.
I find it a very dangerous precedent, and obviously this government supports it. The Government Leader stood up this afternoon and said that his deputy ministers have the ability, the authority and the responsibility to call for RCMP investigations. I do not agree with that position and I bet the majority of Yukoners out there do not agree with it either.
I am almost positive of that.
What should be investigated by the RCMP and what should not? What are the implications of having an RCMP investigation and what happens if we have no policies in place? Well, if we have no policies in place, I can give you two examples of what happens: first,
a deputy minister goes off on his own and calls in the RCMP to investigate a confidential letter that has gone missing.
As soon as that happens, everyone who is associated with that letter has a feeling of uneasiness. It is fine for the government to say, "Well, we did not target the Utilities Consumers Group specifically", but when one hears the term "RCMP investigation", one thinks about their homes being watched, their phones being tapped and inquiries being made about their whereabouts, their associations, their friends and their connections. Why would the Utilities Consumers Group not be concerned about that? Of course they are concerned. They are very concerned.
If an RCMP investigation is going to be taking place, they are not going to keep it in the office. If someone in the public has received information, they are going to try and find out how the person got the information. That may require involving that person in some way or another. An RCMP investigation is a very serious matter. The RCMP officers do not just come in and take a look at things, they get down to business and they do their job. It could cross over many paths, including our offices, which received copies of this letter.
For the government to kind of say, "Oh, well, you know, it is just a little RCMP investigation" just demonstrates absolute naiveté on the government's part.
Everyone was concerned about the investigation. The thing is, I do not think that there was anyone as paranoid about it as was the government.
Another thing that can happen when there are no clear policies in place is something similar to what happened at the Yukon Housing Corporation.
Questions were asked in this House and assumptions were made that Members in this House had information that they did not have in their possession. Accusations, whether direct or not, left impressions with some individuals who felt that they had been accused of providing this information. Again, a deputy head, because there are no policies, rules or guidelines in place, went ahead and ordered an investigation with the Public Service Commission.
There were comments made about fingerprints on documents. That is just as intimidating and scary to people as an RCMP investigation. Why do people make those comments if it is not the intention to wake them up, to frighten or intimidate them, or to perhaps make them come forward with information.
It may not have been the intention to do that, but that was the effect. I think it was a very bad effect. Do you know what the worst part of the whole situation is? It is that the information requested is not even confidential. Look at how far it went. It went to the point of a Public Service Commission investigation being followed through on. I do not know if there is a report yet, but the last time I asked, nobody, including the Minister, seemed to know anything about it.
That is what happens when there are no policies, rules, guidelines or criteria in place. I think that is very, very bad. If that could happen with information that is not even confidential - for example, overtime of employees, whether a deputy minister has taken his holidays or getting paid out, the credit card use of a department and seeing the credit card statements - there is a very dangerous thing going on within this government. It is on the verge of being sick. These are the guys who stand up and say that they love their government employees and treat them well, and then they turn around and investigate them. You cannot have it both ways. I guess treating them well is building them new offices with palm trees in them, and whatever else.
There has to be some policy in place with respect to two issues. There has to be a policy in place about when an RCMP investigation is called, when a Public Service Commission investigation should be launched, and who authorizes it - I think that the Cabinet should authorize it, and absolutely not some deputy minister. I do not think the investigation should ever take place without the knowledge of the Cabinet or the Minister - absolutely not. I think that the deputy minister should be able to justify why it is being done.
The second area that absolutely needs some looking at and needs some policy definition is what is considered to be confidential information.
I ask the government for information all the time. Nobody seems to have a clear understanding about whether or not they can give me the information. Nine times out of 10 - probably 10 times out of 10 - the information I ask for is not confidential. I do not phone up and ask for confidential information. However, in many instances I cannot have the information because the employees do not know if it is confidential, and they do not know if they will get into political trouble for giving it to me.
There is a huge gap in the government's policies. I do not care if the previous government had a policy about this. These are the guys who called the RCMP in, and I want to know what their policies are.
I object to the Government Leader saying they will not have written policies, because all that will do is provide the Opposition with something to pick holes in. That is absolutely irresponsible.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mrs. Firth: Well, it is stupid, but I cannot use that word because it is unparliamentary.
It is absolutely irresponsible for the government to do that.
I had hoped to receive some assurance or indication from the Government Leader that he would take this motion seriously and perhaps work on, in the next -
Speaker: Order please. The Member has three minutes in which to conclude her speech.
Mrs. Firth: I had hoped the Government Leader would make some effort to work on some policies during his last six or seven months in office, before he either becomes an Opposition Member, or the Leader of the Official Opposition or a private citizen. I had hoped he would tell us that he would take this matter seriously and that the government would look at developing some policies immediately, particularly with respect to when an RCMP investigation should be asked for.
I will let other Members speak. Again, I just want to restate that I have no dispute with a serious leak being investigated, but people should know what constitutes a serious leak and what constitutes an investigation. That should be defined in policy.
Mr. Cable: I have listened to the debate that has gone on over this so-called Ernewein letter for over a year and I must admit that I am having some trouble getting my head around it. I am going to support the motion as amended, by the way, but I would like to get some things on the record.
The Ernewein letter deals with a number of things. It appears to be the response to a solicitation from the Minister responsible for the Yukon Energy Corporation. I do not have the original solicitation, so I am going to have to read between the lines, which is always very dangerous, of course.
It appears that the original letter from the Minister responsible for the Yukon Energy Corporation was requesting the chair - not the president, but the chair - of the Yukon Energy Corporation to comment on the regulatory process and on the board that was regulating his corporation. All kinds of little red flags come up on that, if one thinks it through. Was the Minister really appropriately asking the chair of the arm's-length corporation to pass along observations about the board that is regulating the arm's-length corporation?
Various subject matter is discussed in this so-called Ernewein letter of July 5, 1994, that causes me some concern. First is the independence of the board and a comment about board members.
There is certainly some suggestion that the writer of the letter got fairly far off the rails when commenting about certain board members who had businesses and that, by virtue of the fact they had businesses and were consuming electricity, they were not acceptable to sit on the board. The reasoning is a little far-fetched. One wonders if that sort of far-fetched comment should have been brought to the public's attention, because one would like to know what the thinking of the board is and whether or not they are carrying out communications that are in the best interests of the corporation, the ratepayer and the taxpayers.
Then there is conflict of board staff and present board members, together with a number of recommendations in this letter that really make one wonder what was going on. W
e had some dissatisfaction displayed and verbalized publicly by a number of people in the energy business and a number of people representing consumer groups about the way the regulatory process was going on.
The question that came to my mind was whether or not it was appropriate for this chair - not the staff - to be passing comment on it? Was it appropriate for the chair to be expressing comments about rate of return and equity or intervenor cost awards?
I suppose one has to ask whether or not there was an alternate venue or forum for the board to express its thoughts? Were these so-called confidential and supposedly secret conversations going on between the Minister and the chair of the board the appropriate way to get the information out into the public?
I am sure that the board had some thoughts on the regulatory process. Could they not have better expressed those thoughts to the board itself during the intervention proceeding?
What this is all leading up to is this: should this letter have been confidential in the first place? Does the stamp "confidential" trigger confidentiality? I have to say that it does not. Anyone can buy a rubber stamp. Anyone can buy a typewriter. Anyone can buy a word processor and put "confidential" at the top of their letters.
In my view, the fact that the letter has the word "confidential" on it is completely irrelevant. The question is this: should it have been confidential?
I do not want to reduce the argument to the absurd. There is the old Latin phrase, reductio ad absurdum, which lawyers sometimes use when they are running out of arguments.
Let us extend the argument for a moment and think about the facts situation. Let us say the Minister wrote a letter to the chair, marked "confidential", and in the letter it said, "Look, some of my friends in the corporate sector need a rate break. What do you think, Mr. Chair? Should we get a rate break?" Then the chair writes back, and it is also marked "confidential", and says, "I think you are right. That corporate sector should get a rate break."
Should that incoming and outgoing correspondence be protected simply because it says "confidential" on it?
Let us make another analogy.
Let us have the Minister responsible for the Yukon Energy Corporation write a letter to the chair of the board. He sends it over after the sun goes down, by messenger who slips it in the back door. The letter says, "This xyz charity needs a donation, and I like this xyz charity. What do you think? Do you think the old Yukon Energy Corporation can spring a few bucks loose to give the xyz charity some money?" The letter from the Minister is marked "confidential", and t
he letter that comes back, saying yes, that will be passed by the board to see what it thinks, is also marked "confidential". Should that exchange of correspondence be marked confidential?
Let us go one step further. Let us say there is a libelous statement made about someone by the chair of the Yukon Energy Corporation - something like "Bea Firth is a socialist" - a completely libelous statement - the letter is marked "confidential" and ends up in the public domain. The writer would think the statement should bear some protection. I simply raise those fact situations not to ridicule the rubber stamp with the "confidential" mark on it but, rather, to indicate that there are limits to confidentiality, and that somebody's assumption that a letter has to be confidential does not make it confidential.
Much has been made by the speakers across the floor about the fact that the public has to be protected. If the public cannot assume that they can write confidential letters or have confidential communications - if they cannot assume that those letters or communications will be kept confidential - then the gates will close and we will have people refusing to talk to their Ministers. That would be bad, because the Ministers need public input.
Is Mr. Ernewein a member of the public in the conventional sense, and did he voluntarily come in the door? I think not, on both counts. Mr. Ernewein is not just Joe Blow who has some gripe with the government, a constituent who wants help, or one who wants the Minister to know something or one who wants to pass along an opinion. This is a deputy minister, taking a solicitation from a Minister and writing back. The basic argument that the process whereby constituents and people can come into legislators' offices will be shut down if there is no confidentiality does hold water, but the fact that the Ernewein letter has been let out to the public does not destroy that freedom of going into a Minister's office.
I cannot imagine anybody thinking that this letter of July 5, 1994, from the Yukon Energy Corporation wandering into somebody's file basket is going to destroy the relationship between constituents and legislators. I do not expect anybody is going to refuse to go to see the Member for Riverdale South. Nobody whatsoever. They know that she will listen to them.
The basic question in my mind perhaps is not whether this police investigation should have been started or not, although that is a very significant question and we are attempting to answer it, but should the communication in the first place have been deemed to be confidential. Should we have gyrated around in this House for many, many months, spent all this time in front of the bar here, arguing about whether or not there should have been a police investigation. Maybe we should have been addressing the basic question: should the letter in fact have been treated as confidential?
More importantly, should there have been an outgoing letter from the Minister in the first place soliciting that sort of information? We have an arm's-length board - and there were great gyrations about four or five years ago about whether or not this was an arm's-length board, and whether it should have been - and the chair of the board receiving a confidential communication from the Minister. We have the arm's-length board having information solicited from it on whether or not the regulatory process under which it operates is working properly, and if they think the board is properly constituted. My concern - and it is also the concern of the Member for Riverdale South - is that there does not seem to be a policy about what should be confidential. I think that we could probably productively spend some time on a motion some day - not today - on determining what we think should be held to be confidential. When we do that - and I do hope that we do that before this House rises - we should include a discussion of what is called "whistle-blower protection" legislation. Some jurisdictions in the United States - I have not had a chance to look at this, although I have cracked open one piece of paper on it - will protect employees who brown-envelope correspondence or information that they think should be in the public domain.
The sort of things that come to mind, for example, are the big corporations dumping chemicals in a river. I worked for one that did that once. The whistle got blown on it - I am not sure who did it. It was interesting. The people who did it, of course, had no whistle-blower protection legislation to protect them.
Eventually, however, we should be looking at that sort of protection for public servants who see things that are not right. I am not saying whether or not I think this is right or wrong, but after we have some definition of what is right or wrong, and what should be confidential, we should deal with the corollary - the corollary being that when things are in fact wrong there should then be protection - not accusation - for the public servant. The police should not be riding around - clippety-clop, clippety-clop - checking out the public servants.
How far do we go?
Those are my thoughts, and I hope at some juncture that we will get to discuss the broader issues and that we do not get bogged down about whether or not this letter was confidential. What we should do is discuss what we see as desirable terms of reference for confidentiality and get a policy worked up, something with some teeth in it and some real definition. Then we can talk about protecting our public servants, not harassing them.
As I mentioned, I am going to vote in favour of this motion.
Speaker: If the Hon. Member for Whitehorse West now speaks, he will close debate. Does any other Member wish to be heard?
Mr. Sloan: Well, I can tell you that I am beside myself at the prospect that my first motion may actually pass. I am not sure whether or not this a matter of courtesy or tradition.
My intent today in bringing forth this motion was quite simply to address an issue that I had been seeking clarification about for the past week and one-half.
As I mentioned earlier, I asked the Government Leader on four occasions to bring forward some form of report on this incident. I made the requests on February 20. Again, on February 21, I asked for a list of those involved. On February 21, I asked for a chronology and the rationale for the investigation, and yesterday I requested a summary of the report and its findings.
There are several issues that today's debate has raised, and I would like to address some them now.
The first issue is the public's right to know, and this is not a right that we should treat lightly at all. In the public's perception, government has often been seen as secretive. Of course there needs to be reasonable limits on this right. Cabinet secrecy needs to be preserved, and information that might give someone a financial advantage, such as on budgets, would fall into this definition.
However, when we look at the documents in question, do they meet that criteria? Do they discuss finance or personnel? No, primarily the documents contain correspondence from an individual with regard to changes in the structure of public boards and question the motives of certain individuals. Incidentally, I might add that if this letter had not come forward, those individuals may have had little opportunity to respond to the charges raised in the letter.
I feel that confidentiality has to be used with a measure of discretion; otherwise, the government can use the tool of confidentiality to further restrict the public's right to know, which I feel is a very dangerous precedent.
We now know there are no criminal charges. The deputy minister in question even referred to it by saying it was not the crime of the century. I agree. This is not the Los Alamos project; it was not national security.
If that is the case, I would suggest that the proper course might have been some type of internal investigation and, if warranted, a request to the RCMP. The Government Leader said in the House that he had no direct hand in initiating or directing the investigation. I would suggest that that does raise another concern, since it essentially gives deputy ministers the ability to pursue actions without the control of elected officials.
The Government Leader told this House, in effect, that he surrendered the authority in an investigation that dealt with some issues and involved public advocacy groups. I am concerned about an apparent abrogation in this case.
This government came to power talking about open government and treating public servants fairly. This investigation, and other actions of the government, seem to belay those claims. We have such things as the investigation by the so-called welfare cops, investigations of Workers' Compensation Board claimants, and now this RCMP investigation.
They serve only to put the public and the public service in the situation where they are not quite sure what their status is. I was surprised not to hear the typewriter ribbon case brought forward again.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Sloan: Was it? I must have been deceived.
I suggest that we have the situation of a government having used - perhaps inadvertently, I will perhaps concede that to them - the not inconsequential moral and legal power of a national police force pursuing a purloined letter.
I hope that the Minister of Renewable Resources does not believe that we are negating the importance of the RCMP. The RCMP has a long tradition of political independence in this country and an enviable reputation for law enforcement around the world. I would suggest that the motto, "maintien le droit", or, "maintain the right", is not a political slogan; it is, in fact, a legitimate motto of the RCMP.
I would suggest that we must be very careful about how we use these powers. It leaves out, for example, associations, which are now suspect. If, for example, an employee was to belong to a group who had some environmental concerns that might be at odds with the government, would they feel under the gun or under pressure. I believe that these powers should be used with discretion.
Finally, there is an element in this case that I do find particularly troubling. The Hon. Minister of Justice referred to it earlier when he mentioned the word "perception". The perception in this territory - I have been here long enough to realize this - can often be a very important thing. This whole idea of perceived interference is important. I suggest that justice does not merely have to be done, but it must be seen to be done.
I would suggest that the calling in of a senior officer in the RCMP, when that person might be associated with a particular political party, was a lapse of judgment. We now know that the RCMP investigation was done in February 1995, and continued through the balance of the year. I believe that Mr. Henderson was the chief superintendent at that time.
My principal reason in bringing forth this motion was to indicate to the public that we have to send a message. We have to indicate to the people of the territory that the independence of the police and the right of all Yukon people to know would be maintained. I believe that passing this motion is the fair and honourable thing for the government to do in this case. I am pleased with the level of support it has received.
Motion No. 96 agreed to as amended
Clerk: Motion No. 60, standing in the name of Mr. Cable.
Motion No. 60
Speaker: It is moved by the Hon. Member for Riverside
THAT the government does not have the confidence of this House and the people of the Yukon.
Mr. Cable: I am not going to get much chance to talk about this motion today, unless we want to discuss this tonight. I think it could be spellbinding, actually.
Over the last year or so, there has been a bevy of newsletters that have gone out by my friends on my left, to my right, attacking the Liberal Party for supporting the government, a crime beyond comprehension.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Cable: There is the Member for Faro speaking. I am going to take his newsletter out and discuss it in particular.
Similar newsletters have been sent out by various Members of the NDP, but here is the one that caused me great distress. It is the one from the Member for Faro, dated Winter 1995.
It states, "Yukon Liberals Support Yukon Party". Underneath the headline, it reads, "As the Yukon Party government rolled into the third year of its mandate, it received a surprising endorsement from Yukon Liberals" That caused me a lot of distress. It also caused me to go over my voting record.
I issued a friendly newsletter. It went over who voted for the budgets, the Public Sector Compensation Restraint Act, the good government bill and the employment standards amending act. I had reached the conclusion that, in the 1994-95 budget, all parties had supported the budget after amendment.
I have been told by the Member for Faro that that is grossly inaccurate. I would like to clear the record, unequivocally, but before I do that, I would like to say why I reached that conclusion. I would like to preface this by saying that I do not have a photographic memory.
In that debate, there was a lengthy debate on the $4.5 million amendment - when we wanted the Grey Mountain School built, and the government was refusing to do so. We were going to take money from the roads budget and build a school instead.
There was then an amendment made to the budget, and all Opposition Members - me, the Member for Riverdale South, and all the NDP Members - voted for the amendment. That caused the government to go for the amendment. The government conceded that it would accede to it. There was no confidence called, as I believe the verbiage is.
We then went to third reading. I was just going through Hansard. There was no division called, and there was no suggestion on third reading - although there had been previously - that some hon. Members did not agree.
It struck me as strange that if some hon. Members did disagree with the budget they would have gone through the motion on the amendment and then not called for division. That was my thinking.
Now I hear that I am wrong. Of course, if the Members on my left say they voted against the budget, then I accept their word unqualifiedly. They have voted consistently against the government's budgets throughout.
They have been consistent, but that leads me to the point of this exercise. The point of the exercise, firstly, is to talk about what should and what should not constitute confidence. These newsletters have triggered my curiosity, and I have to thank the Members of the NDP for doing that, because they have caused me to do some reading on the issue of confidence and they have caused me to consider what I should consider to be confidence.
If we go back through the various budget debates, all the Members of the Opposition voted against the 1993-94 budget. That was a tax increase budget, and we all unanimously voted against it. In 1994-95, I am told that the NDP voted against that budget also, and I accept that. My recollection is that, after the amendment, I voted for it, but that is not recorded. In the 1995-96 budget, the NDP voted against it; I voted for it and brought down a virtual hailstorm of retribution. My goodness gracious - I had not thought politics would be that rough when I first got into this job.
I voted for two budgets -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Speaker: Order. Please allow the Member to carry on with his speech.
Mr. Cable: In a message from the Government Leader, he asked me if I wanted the phonebook. No, not today.
Getting on a serious tone for a moment, I should say for the record that I think it is recognized that most bills pass this House unopposed. The vast majority of bills that come through this House are not opposed by anyone. That is either because they are good bills to start with, or there is some work done on them. There are, however, some bills that are very distinctive from a policy standpoint, and some financial bills that draw a lot of fire.
If I could just go back through a few of them. The Employment Standards Act, for example, was a very contentious bill, and the amending bill - the amending, amending bill, if I can call it that - and was brought forward at least a couple of times by the government. That was supported in the final analysis and after amendment by all Members of the Opposition, except for the Member for Riverdale South. It appears that the original Public Sector Compensation Restraint Act - designated by the Clerk as Public Sector Restraint Act No. 1 - was supported by all Opposition Members after amendments. I could be corrected on that. The second Public Sector Compensation Restraint Act, which dealt with the unionized members of our public service, drew a lot of fire. I voted against that, as did all Opposition Members.
There were a number of other bills that came forward and had some contentiousness to them. With respect to the good government bills, as they first came down the line, there was a lot of contention that surrounded the Public Government Act that the NDP brought in in 1991 or 1992. There was some suggestion that it should simply have been proclaimed rather than having all these subsequent gyrations.
In any event, after a fair amount of negotiation, the three bills, which are very significant bills to the operation of this Legislature - the Access to Information Act, the Ombudsman Act and the Conflict of Interest Act - were all eventually passed. Those are bills that all Members of this Legislature, I believe - certainly the NDP and I - supported.
I think that simply voting for government bills cannot, by itself, be judged to be an exercise in confidence.
What I have is a number of papers here. I am sure I will get into these in greater detail two Wednesdays from now.
Some Members may have heard of this chap, Eugene Forsey. He is sort of a political rinkrat or a curmudgeon whom I very much like. I think that at one time he was the research director for the Canadian Labour Congress.
He was eventually appointed to the Senate. He would always be on the television when there was some kefuffle going on in the House of Commons, passing witty comments and opinions.
He made a presentation to the Special Committee on Reform of the House of Commons in 1985. It was entitled, "The Confidence Convention". There are a number of excerpts I would like to go into in detail. I also have some other papers I would like to talk about with respect to confidence motions generally. I do not expect I will get to all of them this afternoon.
The paper by Mr. Forsey was in the context of free votes and what constituted confidence, and when Members of Parliament would be entitled to vote against the wishes of their party. It is something that has been talked about by a number of the major parties.
In this paper, Mr. Forsey went over what he thought were confidence motions. It was in the context of a larger context. I am referring to page 137 of the presentation. It says, "A ministry can choose not to regard adverse votes as matters of confidence, and the Governor General should respect the ministry's choice, subject to the following exceptions:
"(a) If an amendment to the address in reply is carried against the government;
(b) If a formal motion that the House has no confidence in the ministry is carried;
"(c) If a formal vote of censure of the ministry is carried;
(d) If the budgetary policy of the government, or some other element of its policy, acknowledged by the government as central to its program, is explicitly condemned by a vote in the House.
"(e) If supply is refused by the House, or an appropriation bill is defeated or amended, either substantively or symbolically, in a way which clearly indicates an intention to demonstrate the House's lack of confidence in the ministry;
"(f) If a vote which the government has clearly indicated it regards as a test of confidence is lost."
Mr. Forsey enlarges upon this a couple of pages later, on page 144 of his presentation, and I would like to read these at the risk of speaking at length. I know how we hate these lengthy Wednesday afternoon presentations, and I have sat through a few of them, but here is what Mr. Forsey has to say. There are some comments here I will have to deal with - I cannot talk and deal with the comments at the same time.
"1. A government defeated on any motion, even a motion to adjourn, can choose to take that defeat as decisive; that is, as a vote of want of confidence entailing either the resignation of the government [making way for a new government in the existing parliament] or a request to the Governor General for a dissolution of parliament by the existing government [which remains in office for the period of the election and of course, until he resigns after defeat at the polls or the new House of Commons].
"2. A government defeated on an explicit motion of want of confidence [this is similar to the motion that I have presented here today] must either resign or ask for dissolution of Parliament." They quote a typical motion of that ilk, which is, "That this House no confidence in your Excellency's advisors." Very flowery language - Mr. Forsey wrote and spoke very well.
"3. Similarly a government that cannot carry the Address in Reply without passage of an amendment must either resign or ask for a dissolution of Parliament.
"4. A government defeated on a motion of censure [e.g., "That the actions of the Government have been wholly unjustifiable and utterly indefensible", - there is room for some amendment to my motion - or "That this House condemns the policy of the Government"] must either resign or ask for a dissolution of Parliament. The failure of the Government to carry unamended the general budgetary motion provided for in Standing Orders ["That this House approves in general the budgetary policy of the Government"] must be regarded as an act of censure by the House."
The fifth is, "A government defeated on any vote which it has informed the House it regards as a test of its confidence must either resign or ask for a dissolution."
I do not intend to go on any further. There are many many paragraphs. It is an interesting paper, if anybody is interested in reading it or any of these other excerpts that I have. I would be happy to make copies.
There was a report of the Special Committee on Reform of the House of Commons, dated June 1993. I have an excerpt of that. Chapter 2 is entitled, "Confidence Convention Re-examined." It opens with an interesting quote from Benno Friesen - I believe that he is a Reform Member from Surrey-White Rock-North Delta - no, this is June 1993; that would not be a Reform Member, it would probably be a Tory Member. His quote is, "Experience has been that the longer a government is in office, the more every vote is maybe not a vote of confidence, but a vote of reputation, which is close to confidence, and therefore you have to have uniformity."
Perhaps that is why the Tories lost - with that sort of verbiage.
In the body of the report, they go on to talk about the non-confidence motion, and the report says, "Opposition parties should remain free to introduce non-confidence motions." They go on to say, "In conclusion" [of this particular paper] "we offer several observations. Although they can have no legal effect on our system of government, they should serve as an indication of the direction in which this Committee believes the House of Commons should develop."
There are several bullets here, which I will read out. The first one is, "A government should be careful before it declares or designates a vote as one of confidence. It should confine such declarations to measures central to its administration."
The second one is, "While a defeat on supply is a serious matter, elimination or reduction of an estimate can be accepted" - which, of course, is what happened here a couple of years ago.
The third is, "If the government wishes, it can designate a succeeding vote as a test of confidence, or move a direct vote of confidence" - and of course that was not done after the $4.5 million amendment.
The next bullet is, "Defeats on matters not essential to the government's program - "
Speaker: Order please. Supper time. The House will recess until 7:30 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I move that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Motion agreed to
Speaker leaves the Chair
COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order.
Bill No. 9 - Third Appropriation Act, 1995-96 - continued
Community and Transportation Services - continued
On Bridges - Numbered Highways - continued
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I have answers to some of the questions that were asked previously. I have been asked for my book, but my office has advised me that they provided a book to each party leader. We do not have any more available. I am referring to the Dawson bridge study. The ferry study will be made available tomorrow.
I also have answers to quite a few of the questions asked. I will send these over. There is one copy for everybody. They are all in sheets. May I proceed now?
For the bridges - numbered highways line item there is a reduction of $375,000 for a Yukon bridge at Dawson as the detailed bridge design is not expected to proceed in this fiscal year.
The $145,000 reduction in major build and repainting is due to the scope of work planned for the Lewes River bridge in order to provide funds for the Teslin bridge strengthening design. There is $20,000 in bridge assessments due to a reduction in the scope of work in order to provide funds for the Teslin bridge strengthening design.
Mr. Cable: The Minister, in holding up that book, reminds me that I must have filed it somewhere else, because I was frantically looking for it in my file.
He has previously provided the ferry study, as well, and I have a couple of questions on it. Have we figured out whether or not there was any payback from using the bridge instead of the ferries and, if so, what was the payback period? Has it been calculated?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I am not sure, but it is in the study. We will be getting that to Members tomorrow. There is a breakdown of the ferries and their costs.
Mr. Cable: Is there a payback using the bridge as opposed to the ferry system over a period of time?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: We have analyzed putting in new ferries and the bridge. It is all analyzed in the ferry study. When the Member gets that book, the Member will be able to break it out.
I do not know whether that will be in the study or not - private industry building the bridge and putting a toll gate on it does not look feasible either. The toll would be so high that it would be unreasonable.
Mr. Cable: This may become evident in the document the Minister is talking about, but the question I want to hone in on is this: if the bridge does in fact replace the ferries, will that result in any savings over the long term?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: One would save in O&M over a long period, yes. If one put a toll gate on it, that would probably bring it in a little faster.
Mr. Cable: This is for the benefit of the Member for Dawson - I am rooting for him here. Is there the possibility of that bridge actually supplanting the ferries and yielding a return to the government over the long term - is that what we are saying?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I do not know whether he took Mr. Chair out to dinner tonight or not, but the analysis shows that the ferry would still be the cheapest route to go.
Bridges - Numbered Highways in the amount of $145,000 agreed to
On Other Roads
Hon. Mr. Brewster: There is an increase of $181,000 required for upgrading 20 kilometres of the public access portion of the mine access road from Faro to the Anvil Range mine site gates. There is an increase of $24,000 required to complete an environmental assessment and to do some geotechnical investigation for the Alsek Pass road. An increase of $66,000 is required for the Freegold Road design work, which is nonrecoverable. There is a reduction of $50,000 due to lower demand on miscellaneous construction and reconstruction anticipated for rural roads.
Mr. Harding: Can the Minister elaborate on the Faro mine road work?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: We entered into an agreement with Anvil Range. The mine will pay for the crushing and we will put the crushing and calcium chloride on the road. There were six or seven culverts to be put in. They agreed to supply the machine for the digging and provide the labour, and we would supervise it. They will clean the road during the winter, because we do not have the equipment there, and we will take it over in the summer so the road is not destroyed like it was before - t
hey had not been putting a crown on the road, and it was getting wider and wider and going down into the ditch; we brought it back up.
Mr. Harding: I am pleased to see that some of the upgrading work has been done. With regard to the maintenance of the new, upgraded changes, what is the term of the agreement? Is seven months allocated to the Yukon government and five months allocated to Anvil Range Mining Corporation? What is the monthly breakdown for maintenance responsibilities?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: We did not agree to maintenance based on a number of months, rather it was based on the amount of snow. When the snow starts to melt, the government will commence maintenance rather than having them grade the surface off the road. However, I would suspect that will work out to a seven-to-five month ratio.
Mr. Harding: With regard to the issue of road maintenance, who will be undertaking this on behalf of the Yukon government? Will the maintenance trucks come from Ross River or the Drury Creek camp? Could the Minister tell us about the plan?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: At this time, we are not sure whether or not the maintenance will be based out of Ross River or Little Salmon, but it will be a government crew.
Mr. Harding: Some of the people from Ross River have raised concerns with us about the maintenance, because they were looking for an opportunity to have some road maintenance work. They had tried this previously, when the steelworkers had a contract at the mine and there was some opposition to that, because there were Faro workers doing the mine maintenance. The government of the day, the Yukon Party, was pushing hard to have the Ross River people remove the union workers from those jobs and take them over.
The chief in Ross River said that when the mine shut down and there was no certification in place, it would have been a good opportunity for the government, if it had been committed to putting people to work on the road maintenance, to have awarded a contract to Ross River, rather than taking over the mine work for the summer months.
Why did the government change its position and take over the summer maintenance? I think the Ross River Dena were a bit concerned.
Hon. Mr. Brewster: We took it over mainly because we can do it from one of the camps, and it is not going to cost us nearly as much as contracting it out. If you recall, nobody would ever do anything for that road at all. The only reason we did it is because he had a talk with me and asked how our RCMP and such things could police the road when we did not own it. We have been policing it for years and disowned the road, so we decided that it does not make sense and is not fair. We therefore took it over, and it is part of our road system now.
Mr. Harding: I lobbied for increased road work there, and am glad that increased road work is being done.
The question comes down to the following: if the Yukon Party government was committed to having the Ross River Dena Council do that road maintenance work when there was a union there, why did it choose not to take that same position when there was no union there?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: It has not been in my time that we have committed to anything like that.
Mr. Harding: When there were all of the issues surrounding the loan guarantee of $29 million to Curragh Inc., one of the conditions of that loan was that the Ross River Dena Council was to get the road maintenance contract. There was opposition to that provision because there were existing people employed on road maintenance from the mine site. My understanding from the Ross River Dena Council was that when the mine went down and there was essentially nobody working at the mine, they viewed the opportunity to do the road maintenance again with no opposition as a very plausible economic opportunity. I am confused about why the government would take one position when the union was in, but when there was no union and no opposition, it would then take over the road maintenance itself, as opposed to asking for the same commitment that it asked for when there was an amount incurred by Curragh Inc.
Hon. Mr. Brewster: This is one of the things that was not in my budget. It came up all of a sudden, and we had to find the money. We have done it the most reasonable and cheapest way that we could. We did not have any money in the budget. We had to scramble to get that, and Curragh Inc. paid us back some money on the question of the gravel matte. This was not thought about when our budget was made up. It popped up all of a sudden, and we realized that we should be doing it to help them, and we did it. We did it in the cheapest and best way we could.
Mr. Harding: I am supportive of increased road maintenance work, as I said, and I have no problem with the road being in better condition. It is good for the mine, it is good for the constituents and it is good for people doing business at the mine site.
The question comes down to the issue of why the government changed its position. At one time, it was very adamant that the Ross River Dena Development Corporation should be doing the road maintenance, especially when there was a union and a full complement of employees at the mine site. Now the direction seems to have changed and it is quite prepared to not give the opportunity to the Ross River Dena economic development wing. That is a change in position.
My bottom line is getting the work done, but it was a concern to me that this change in position had taken place and that we had a situation where one thing was said at one point, building the expectations of the Ross River Dena, and at this point those expectations have been essentially dashed. They were cognizant of the fact that the opportunity was ripe, with no one working at the mine site, to start afresh with no conflict in the taking over of the road maintenance contract.
I do not know the details about the proposal - if there was a proposal - from the Ross River Dena. Things had to happen quickly and they had to take over the situation quickly and never gave much thought to it. Have they engaged in any discussions since then? Now that the quick response has occurred, has there been any discussion about the Ross River Dena taking over the maintenance contract? What is the Minister doing on that front?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: We are not doing anything. As I said, if we feel a grader from one of our stations can do it when it passes through, then that will be satisfactory. That is the plan.
The Member mentioned the deal made when there was no mine there. My arrangements with Anvil Range were well after they got started. It was just before they started to haul. That is the first time, to my knowledge, that anyone accepted the fact that that was our road. Before that, we thought it was an Anvil Range road.
Mr. Harding: Perhaps I used the wrong choice of words then. There were no existing employees working on the road maintenance, not "no mine there" - I am sorry, I have to correct that. The Ross River Dena felt that because there were no existing employees doing the mine maintenance contract, and at that time there was no union, they felt that the loss-of-jobs opposition they had to an early plan might be acceptable. The representatives of the Dena Council expressed frustration to us that the Yukon Party government had not seen that opening and tried to work with them to see if they could perhaps perform that road maintenance contract.
Does the Minister anticipate any discussions with the Ross River Dena about this issue, or is it "case closed"? I know the Leader of the Official Opposition has written the Minister regarding this issue.
Hon. Mr. Brewster: No. As long as it is working successfully and Anvil is taking over their share of the time, of course we are not going to change it. If we are satisfied with it and so is Anvil, it is a lot cheaper for us when they take it over for five or six months and we do it for the rest of the time. We would not want to change that at all.
Mr. Harding: I appreciate the increased road maintenance. I am not advocating that the road maintenance suffer. I actually was a big proponent of improving the road maintenance. My question relates to who will be doing the road maintenance work and earlier issues that we have discussed in this Legislature.
Will the Minister engage in any conversations about this with the Ross River Dena Council or is he convinced that they are not able to do the road maintenance work in the summer months?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I did not say they were not able. I just said that the deal we have is satisfactory to us. We are maintaining one of our own roads up to our standards and, in the winter when they cannot actually hurt the road, Anvil takes over and does the work.
Mr. Harding: Is the Minister satisfied that that is satisfactory to the Ross River Dena Council?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I have no problem talking with anyone, but I also have a budget. We have cut a lot out of our budget by being able to make savings like this, by working with different companies, such as the mining companies. We have done this in a couple of cases. I will continue to do that because of the slim budget I have.
Mr. Harding: I will just say that this slim budget of tens of millions of dollars is a bigger budget than we have ever had in Community and Transportation Services; if not, it is probably the second biggest. I understand there are limitations within that figure.
I am not opposed to the road maintenance sharing arrangement with Anvil Range. I think it is good. My question was not with the winter maintenance schedule, but with the summer maintenance, and who would do it.
I will leave it at that.
Chair: Does the line item clear?
Other Roads in the amount of $221,000 agreed to
On Municipal and Community Affairs Division
On Public Safety
On Office Furniture, Equipment and Systems
Hon. Mr. Brewster: There is $10,000 for the purchase of a photocopier to replace a liquid toner photocopier. The increase includes a revote of $6,000. There is a reduction of $4,000 for the reallocation from computing equipment and systems to office equipment and furniture for the replacement of a photocopier.
Ms. Moorcroft: The Minister was just referring to the slim budget he has in this department. While this is only a $6,000 supplementary for office furniture in this particular division, overall there is $137,000 in supplementary budgets for additional office furniture. In the case of one branch, the office furniture budget more than doubled.
Has the Minister satisfied himself that all the additional funding going to office furniture, equipment and systems is warranted?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: We were told by the Department of Health and Welfare people that the liquid toner photocopiers all had to be replaced. If one notices, all through the budget they are being replaced in just about every office, because of the health concern.
Ms. Moorcroft: I am sure that the $137,000 increase has not simply been for replacing liquid toner photocopiers. I note that there has been a $32,000 cut to the Kaushee's Place budget. It really seems to me that the Minister should be making sure that all of the additional furniture and equipment being purchased is needed.
Hon. Mr. Brewster: Kaushee's Place is not in my budget to start with.
Through communications with the department, we moved the transportation branch into one building. They had to furnish those offices, but it is bringing that department closer together all the time. This is a time saver for the people working there, and I think the equipment they received is justified.
Office Furniture, Equipment and Systems in the amount of $6,000 agreed to
On Fire Protection
Hon. Mr. Brewster: There has been an increase of a $25,000 revote for the Burwash firehall construction to complete geotechnical and design work; $22,000 revote to install radio towers for the Beaver Creek communication system; $22,000 for installation of radio towers for the Burwash communication system; $45,000 in funding for the Tagish firehall communication system has been moved from community facilities improvement in order to track project costs under fire protection activities.
Ms. Moorcroft: What is the status of the funding for the Burwash firehall?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: If we could leave that question for a moment while we find the answer, I would be happy to answer another question.
Fire Protection in the amount of $114,000 stood over
On Recreation Facilities
On Office Furniture, Equipment and Systems
Hon. Mr. Brewster: The $4,000 increase is required for the replacement of a personal computer and software that was inadequate and inefficient. The old computer was unable to run software and provide communications services required by the program area.
Office Furniture, Equipment and Systems in the amount of $4,000 agreed to
On Recreation Facilities
Hon. Mr. Brewster: An increase of $10,000 revote is necessary to carry out a feasibility study for the construction of a new curling rink at Beaver Creek. There is a reduction of $4,000 in various recreational community centres, as less work is required to be carried out. There is a $10,000 reduction for the Ross River Community Centre roof, as the insulating contract bids were lower than estimated.
Recreation Facilities in the amount of an underexpenditure of $4,000 agreed to
On Community Services
On Office Furniture, Equipment and Systems
Hon. Mr. Brewster: There is $11,000 required to purchase two personal computers and software to replace older ones that are unable to run, and for updated and required software.
Office Furniture, Equipment and Systems in the amount of $11,000 agreed to
On Community Planning
Hon. Mr. Brewster: There is a $60,000 revote to start planning the process for the Hamlet of Ibex Valley and to finish the north White River zoning projects. There is a reduction of $25,000 required for the Carcross area plan, as no decision has been made to proceed with phase 2.
Ms. Moorcroft: The Minister referred to the Carcross area plan phase 2 being set aside. Has there been a report prepared for the completion of phase 1?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: There is no actual report on it but they have been working with the Carcross Advisory Committee on the plan. Would the Member like the minutes of those meetings?
Community Planning in the amount of $35,000 agreed to
On Canada/Yukon Infrastructure Program
Hon. Mr. Brewster: This $593,000 is a revote for work projects carried forward from 1994-95 in order to complete them and to maximize the full infrastructure funds as per our agreement with the federal government.
Ms. Moorcroft: Have all of the Canada/Yukon infrastructure programs now been completed?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: Not all the projects are completely finished, but the money has all been allocated to them, yes.
Ms. Moorcroft: Can the Minister advise if he has received any response from the federal government to his representations asking for a continuation of the Canada/Yukon infrastructure program?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I was at a meeting with the Hon. Mr. Eggleton and he agreed with us on it; he is going to have an audit done on some of the projects to see if they are worthwhile and if they were he would extend it. However, he was removed from that portfolio. Another minister has taken over but I have had no contact with him.
Ms. Moorcroft: I gather then that the Minister would agree that the program has been a success in the Yukon. Does he plan to write and ask the new minister for that program to continue?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: We have already written - not on that, but we have written on the grant-in-lieu of taxes for the communities at the same time. I have no problem writing another letter. He has only been in that position for two or three months. I understand there is a meeting of the municipality ministers again some time this fall, and that will definitely be brought up by other ministers even if I am not around, because all the ministers across Canada want it to carry on.
Ms. Moorcroft: I am sure that the Minister is aware that the projects funded under the program have been quite popular in a number of municipalities and communities around the Yukon. I would like to request that he correspond with the Minister who presently has that portfolio and see if maybe the lobbying from the Yukon Minister added to his colleagues across the country might tip the balance there.
Hon. Mr. Brewster: There is one Minister - Glen Cummings from Manitoba - who writes for all of us and sends us copies. However, I certainly have no problem with writing a letter. We usually write to say that we back up what he is saying. I will write another one on my own. I have no problem with that.
Mr. Cable: In the Canada-Yukon infrastructure agreement, is there any requirement in the contract itself?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: Yes, there is to see if the work is worthwhile or what work has been done on it.
Mr. Cable: The questions that were asked a few moments ago seem to suggest that there was some kind of optional audit that was perhaps being done. It was my understanding that there is a formal evaluation requirement.
Hon. Mr. Brewster: In the audit, the federal government is talking about the overall situation in Canada, and whether or not the projects are worthwhile. From talking with the different people down there, I would suspect that the Yukon has one of the better records because some of them have not had very much success, and even the Ministers were quite disappointed. I felt that ours had gone through quite well.
Mr. Cable: When does the Minister anticipate that the evaluation under the agreement will be done? Or has it been done?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: It has not been done yet. I expect that it will be started in this next budget year.
Mr. Cable: I am just comparing the recoveries with the expenditure columns, and the revised vote for expenditures is $3,171,000. Revised recoveries are $1,586,000. I thought the arrangement was one-third/one-third/one-third among communities, territorial government and federal government. Am I misinterpreting these numbers?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: One-third would not show on our books, because it was not our money; it was their money.
Canada/Yukon Infrastructure Program in the amount of $593,000 agreed to
On Public Health/Roads and Streets
On Office Furniture, Equipment and Systems
Hon. Mr. Brewster: There is $9,000 to purchase two new personal computers required to eliminate the need to rent computers and provide permanent access to workstations for users.
Ms. Moorcroft: Can the Minister tell us how many computers were rented?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: Two by that branch.
Does the Member want the overall for the whole department?
I would have to bring that back.
Office Furniture, Equipment and Systems in the amount of $9,000 agreed to
On Planning and Pre-Engineering
Hon. Mr. Brewster: There is no additional emergency planning assessment work for the water and sewer project identified at this time.
Planning and Pre-Engineering in the amount of an underexpenditure $20,000 agreed to
On Water and Sewer Mains
Hon. Mr. Brewster: The general fund for miscellaneous water and sewer improvements has been transferred to cover additional requirements for the sewage disposal study for Marsh Lake.
Water and Sewer Mains in the amount of an underexpenditure of $5,000 agreed to
On Sewage Treatment and Disposal
Hon. Mr. Brewster: There is an increase of a $106,000 revote for sewage treatment and disposal at Carcross for a water licence application that was delayed due to land tenure discussions and to do work design. There is an increase of $62,000 to carry out a needed assessment study for the Marsh Lake sewage disposal, a revote of $57,000, and $5,000 to cover additional community consultation. There is an increase of a $25,000 revote to carry out a geotechnical investigation and related work for site feasibility on the Pelly Crossing sewage pit and relocation, which was delayed in 1994-95, when its land use permit was denied. There is a reduction of $230,000, as the Ross River wetlands sewage treatment project is being reviewed because environmental health preference is for private in-ground sewage disposal versus storage tanks and trucking to a lagoon.
Ms. Moorcroft: Could the Minister tell us when the government anticipates being able to complete the work in Pelly Crossing?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: Just as soon as we can get the land. The deputy minister and I made a trip to Pelly and we talked with Dan Van Bibber, who showed us a place that had been marked out where we could construct it. It looked good to us, but then Health and Welfare said that we could not build it there. We are still waiting for someone to find a place where it can be built.
Ms. Moorcroft: Is it the responsibility of the Yukon government or the federal government to look at an alternate site that would be acceptable?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: We have an existing site, which we do not think is suitable; it is between us and the First Nation. As I said, we went out with Mr. Van Bibber, who is very knowledgeable about the area. He thought he had a good area. It looked good to us and it was a distance away from the other one. There would be no run-off into the stream where the geese gather. We sent our people out to investigate further, but Health and Welfare would not accept it as a site.
We are going to require the assistance of the First Nations to provide us with some more suggestions, because they are the people most familiar with the area.
We had to go through this at Carcross and it took a long time for our government and the federal government to agree on one site, but we are working on it, which is all we can do.
Mr. Joe: I do not think it will be a problem to find another site, because I just talked with the chief before I came into Whitehorse. They are going to find another site and they do not expect that there will be much of a problem finding one. They should be getting back to the Minister soon.
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I thank the Member for that information. As soon as they contact us we will see what we can do to get this project underway, because the other site certainly is not acceptable. It was quite a mess when I visited there last time.
Ms. Moorcroft: I gather from what the Minister was just saying that the first site that was looked at was unacceptable because it would be draining into the creek. Has the federal government provided some sort of guidelines for what to use in order to go out and find something that is going to work, so that one is not having these lengthy delays because the sites are unacceptable?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: No. They just look at it. If you think it is a good site, they just go and look at it and pick it all apart and say, "No, you cannot put it there." We go around and around on this.
Ms. Moorcroft: I am sure that the Minister can understand the frustration that people have about this, as it is not just a concern in Pelly Crossing. It is a concern that has been raised by some of my constituents and in other places.
How is the government working with the federal government to make sure that their standards can be met without these long delays.
Hon. Mr. Brewster: In all fairness to the federal government, they can be in a situation where there is a land claim, and the First Nation does not want them on it, or an environmental study says it cannot go there or the town or community do not want it there. One has to work around all these objections and still find a place that will not run off into a creek or lake or be subject to ground seepage and cause problems. It takes time. It is frustrating. I have lost a lot of hair since I have been in this place over things like this.
Sewage Treatment and Disposal in the amount of an underexpenditure of $37,000 agreed to
On Solid Waste
Hon. Mr. Brewster: There is an increase of $107,000 revote required for a Carcross dump pit relocation. Their site selection was delayed because the location could not be agreed upon. Work required to be done is an environmental and community review design and construction of a new trench and reincarnation of the old site. There is $60,000 for a solid waste disposal. Mount Lorne welding contract was hired out for $40,000 and $20,000 was required for earth work, gravel hauling and fencing.
Ms. Moorcroft: Is the new Carcross pit now in use, and the old site completely cleaned up?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: No. It is almost ready for use, but not quite. The old site will be cleaned up.
Solid Waste in the amount of $127,000 agreed to
On Community Facilities Improvements
Hon. Mr. Brewster: A reduction of $45,000 has been moved to fire protection for the Tagish firehall communication system in order to attract the project costs there instead of as a community facility improvement project.
Community Facilities Improvements in the amount of an underexpenditure of $45,000 agreed to
On Pre-Engineering Roads and Streets
Hon. Mr. Brewster: There is a reduction to project planning assessment as there has been minimal requirements for emergency work.
Pre-Engineering Roads and Streets in the amount of an underexpenditure of $26,000 agreed to
On Road/Streets Upgrade
Hon. Mr. Brewster: There is a $297,000 increase for road upgrading. Ross River has more road construction being undertaken than originally planned. There is $44,000 for Beaver Creek street upgrading. A $25,000 revote is required to complete the detailed design and tender package. An additional $19,000 is required for an increased scope of work. A revote of $8,000 is required for Yukon placer existing access design work. There is a reduction of $60,000 on roads and street improvement territory-wide since no specific project has been identified as requiring improvements.
Road/Streets Upgrade in the amount of $289,000 agreed to
On Quarry Development
Hon. Mr. Brewster: A reduction of $60,000 is because the quarry site analysis and development has been moved from non-recoverable under public health roads and streets to recoverable under land development.
Ms. Moorcroft: Does this line item then cover the Whitehorse area study on a future quarry development?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: No. I do not think so. That was a special study to see how much gravel there was for just the Whitehorse area, which was separate. I will check it and get back to the Member in case I am not correct about that.
Quarry Development in the amount of an underexpenditure of $60,000 agreed to
On Land Development
Hon. Mr. Brewster: This is comprised of $199,000 increase for Dawson Callison stage 3, which was delayed in order to complete a placer squatter issue. A revote of $49,000 in addition to the $150,000 is required for a planning concept and construction, which will accelerate it to completion; $145,000 is due to the delay of the Faro industrial feasibility study and legal survey by further community consultation. A revote of $45,000 and an additional $100,000 is required for acceleration of concept design and construction of five lots. The $100,000 is for the Ross River industrial project, which has been accelerated at the request of the community. The funds are required to do planning concept, design and construction of four to six lots. There is $10,000 for Watson Lake industrial; a revote of $50,000 for a community deferred feasibility study and site identification. The 1995-96 funding is reduced by $40,000, being that relocation of the sewage lagoon has delayed the project. We have a reduction of $30,000 for the Teslin industrial project as it was deferred at the request of the community.
Ms. Moorcroft: The Minister started that list with $199,000 for Dawson Callison development. Was that not anticipated? Why is it in the supplementaries? Why was it not anticipated in the mains?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: During the summer, we had a big rush on because Loki Mine wanted property. We tried to look at getting some land there but were having trouble with the placer squatters in there, as well as a few other things, and we had to work on the Klondike placer thing, so that was held back to see if we could make a deal with some of the squatters so that we will have more land to develop in that area. There are six lots in there now; three are going on sale shortly and three will be going on sale later. Until we get through with the Klondike placer squatters thing, that is about all the land we have in there.
Ms. Moorcroft: I can see the Chair shaking his head over this particular line of questioning. Can the Minister tell me when they anticipate the Klondike placer squatters, as he referred to them, issue being resolved?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: They just began accepting applications a while ago and that is another frustrating thing. I remember saying that I would have this done by the spring and, truthfully, it should have been last spring, but it will make it by next spring. They have 60 days to fill out the applications.
Quite frankly, I do not believe it is going to move that fast. I think the people in lands would agree with me, because we almost have to go on a person-by-person basis. I have been very firm that each one should get a piece of land to live on when they release the rest of the land. It may be taken on a case-by-case basis. I believe there are 80 in the Dawson area, so it may take a while.
Ms. Moorcroft: Will all of the property owners be required to convert to residential status?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: We released a whole paper. I am not sure if it was residential or urban. I will get back to the Member on that and provide some written information.
Ms. Moorcroft: I hear other Members saying that they would also be interested in receiving some further information about this and a copy of the written information.
What is the tax status on those placer claims?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: The taxes are paid on improvements only. They do not pay for any buildings.
Ms. Moorcroft: So when they convert to residential status, will they be taxed on a normal residential basis or will they be taxed on an industrial tax rate?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I do not think that the tax rate will change, but if they make any improvements to the buildings their assessment will increase, resulting in a larger tax payment. The actual rate will not increase.
Industrial in the amount of $424,000 agreed to
Hon. Mr. Brewster: There is $190,000 for the Teslin Fox Drive, a revote of $160,000 to complete the insulation of the sanitary sewer system to eight lots, and an additional $30,000 is required to service five additional lots, as requested by the community. There is $75,000 for Carmacks to complete the construction of six lots for lease in 1995.
Ms. Moorcroft: Does the department recover any of the funds expended on the commercial properties?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: Yes, we will recover our costs when they are sold.
Commercial in the amount of $265,000 agreed to
Hon. Mr. Brewster: Recreational lot construction will not be undertaken as the projects are still in the planning stage.
Ms. Moorcroft: Are they planning to release these lots in the coming year? Where are they located?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: There is still a lot of work to do on the design. The lots are in a number of different places. They are recreational lots people have asked for close to a lake, for example.
Recreational in the amount of an underexpenditure of $200,000 agreed to
Hon. Mr. Brewster: There is a reduction of $150,000 for agricultural land development still in the planning stage with Renewable Resources. There is a reduction of $189,000 for the Mount Lorne agricultural development that has been delayed due to further consultation requirements with the hamlet and Renewable Resources on areas to be developed.
Ms. Moorcroft: Is the Department of Renewable Resources or the Department of Community and Transportation Services taking the lead role in the planning for agricultural development?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: It is the Department of Renewable Resources.
Ms. Moorcroft: Does the Minister know when the government might be planning to release further agricultural land?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: We cannot release the land until the agriculture branch tests it and approves it as agricultural land. The Member will have to ask the Minister of Renewable Resources about that.
Ms. Moorcroft: I note that some of the reduction here is because of ongoing consultation with the Hamlet of Mount Lorne with regard to the agricultural lots in that area. I know the Minister has received correspondence from the hamlet council. Is the department planning to adopt the recommendation of the hamlet council to hold that development until the land use plan regulations are in effect and the other questions have been answered?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I will turned that over to the Minister of Renewable Resources. He looks after agriculture and he now has the suggestions from the hamlet.
Mr. Cable: Either in the budget briefing or in the House in the last few days, there was a request put forward for an inventory of subdivision lots. Is the Minister in a position to provide the House with an inventory of agricultural land?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: We do not have an inventory for agricultural land. If the Member wants to know how many agricultural lots there are in the Yukon, I suppose we could find that out between my department and the Department of Renewable Resources. It will take a little while, but it can be done.
Mr. Cable: In his response to the questions from the Member for Mount Lorne, the Minister indicated that there was land to be tested. Is there a collection of acreages that has been accumulated by either this Minister or his counterpart in Renewable Resources that would give us some idea of what inventory or potential inventory we have of agricultural land?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: We are back in Renewable Resources area now. That department looks after the agricultural acreages - actually, they are hectares.
Agricultural in the amount of an underexpenditure of $339,000 agreed to
Hon. Mr. Brewster: Beaver Creek residential area, to complete the design and construction of roads and installation of power and telephone to nine lots, at a revote of $94,000; Carcross Watson River subdivision, $228,000; completion of a legal survey and engineering design, at a revote of $89,000; detailed redesign to account for ground conditions and utility transmission, $139,000; Carmacks residential in-fill lots for legal survey and construction of water lines for three lots, $100,000; Carmacks country residential to complete construction commenced in 1994-95, as the development is more extensive than originally planned, and a re-survey of future lots, $350,000; Dawson country subdivision, to do a planning, feasibility and concept design at the request of the community, $50,000; Haines Junction, Block 22 and 23, to complete underground water and sewer, hydro and roads for phase 1, at a revote of $93,000; Ross River subdivision for planning concept design and construction of six lots at the request of the community, $100,000; Teslin Airport lots, $331,000; roads and sanitary services for 18 lots at a revote of $211,000; repairs to phase 1 water and sewer servicing for phase 2, $120,000; Watson Lake country subdivision stage 2, construction of eight lots has been accelerated at the request of the community, $40,000; Hot Springs Road rural residential to complete pre-design and public consultation, at a revote of $90,000; Alaska Highway country west site feasibility study and the mapping of the McIntrye-West area, an increase of $53,000 revote; Stevens subdivision to cover commitment for engineering design of the country residential subdivision that is on hold pending the outcome of gravel resource inventory, $75,000; Cowley Creek residential, phase 1 to complete street lights and BST at a revote of $261,000; Logan subdivision to complete electrical services at a revote of $192,000; Area D, Copper Ridge, to complete water and sewer lines and electrical service and a legal survey that was delayed by the city's late approval of the design, at a revote of $1,648,000; Area D infrastructure, $931,000; completion of water, reservoir and pumphouse, supply line and access road that were delayed by the city's late approval of design, at a revote of $631,000; construction of chlorine facility to upgrade area electricity supply and for design of the Marwell trunk main, at an additional $300,000; delay of the Carmacks residential until 1996-97, as the geotechnical work showed the site as unsuitable and a new site has to be identified, at a reduction of $275,000; Teslin airport project has been deferred at the request of the community and the First Nations, at a reduction of $120,000, as the First Nations wish to conduct develop residential development on their land first.
There is $350,000 due to the postponement of the Hot Springs Road rural residential construction until further consultation can be undertaken. The $1,498,000 for area D of Copper Ridge phase 5 underground work has been deferred to 1996-97.
Ms. Moorcroft: That was quite a list, and I have a couple of questions on it. The Minister referred to $89,000 for a legal survey and $139,000 for a redesign. What areas are those for?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: They are for the Carcross Watson River subdivision area.
Ms. Moorcroft: There was $331,000 for the Teslin airport, and later there was a reduction of $100,000 because the First Nations and the municipality had requested a delay. Why is the Teslin airport under residential? Are there residential lots in the area of the Teslin airport?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: Yes, those are residential lots that were put there when the airport was built.
Ms. Moorcroft: I did not get the figures, but there was both an expenditure and a reduction for residential development in the Hot Springs area. Can the Minister clarify for us where that stands at the moment?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: There is a reduction of $390,000 because we are not going to do any more until we have talked with the residents there and have them agree with what we are trying to do.
Ms. Moorcroft: Did the government initially have a plan about how many lots it wanted to put out there?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I am not quite sure what the number was, but we had quite a number in the Pilot Mountain area. Down on the other side of the road, we had agricultural lots. The resistance out there to building that was quite strong, so we held that off until we can see if we can get together on it again.
Ms. Moorcroft: I can recall attending a couple of meetings out at the Hidden Valley School to deal with zoning in the Takhini Hot Springs and Mayo Road area.
Why did the government proceed with the plans to develop lots in that area when there was zoning underway?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: The zoning was for those lots that we were putting in, and a complete zoning for the Takhini Hot Springs area that was done. It is like a lot of things that we do. People say that they want lots; we start developing them, and all of a sudden there is resistance, because they do not want them there any more. All we did was the planning. You are right that at the meetings out there they did not want them, and we pulled back.
Ms. Moorcroft: I am sure that will be a relief to some of the citizens who have been voicing their objections.
The Minister also referred to agricultural development, and that there were some agricultural lots that are not going to be released now. I know that the First Nation, in particular, has some serious concerns about the large agricultural parcels being handed out while their land claim is not completed.
Are the agricultural and residential lots going to be held back until there is a resolution of the land claim in the area?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I think that the Member for Mount Lorne is actually in the wrong place. The agricultural lots are not in that area. They are lots that are already developed. I would again leave that with the Minister of Renewable Resources. The lots are already surveyed. The residential part is still delayed until we can consult with the people.
Ms. Moorcroft: Perhaps I will ask the Minister then if he can just answer this question in relation to the residential lots. Are they going to delay them until after they have completed the consultation with the neighbours and until after a land claims settlement has been reached with the First Nation?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: Every time the department has gone out, they have consulted with the First Nations or have written them letters inviting them to meetings. Sometimes they do not show up, but we have done everything we can to get them to come to meetings and express their opinions. We will continue to do that.
Ms. Moorcroft: I am not sure if I am being clear with my question, or does the Minister just not want to answer it? Are they going to delay releasing further residential lots until after the land claim settlement has been achieved with the First Nation?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: The first thing we do when we even look at a piece of land is find out if it is under land claims. If it is not, we notify them that we are going to look at putting a subdivision there, and they can then tell us whether or not it is acceptable to them.
Ms. Moorcroft: Is the Minister saying that if it is not acceptable to the First Nation they would not proceed with it?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: It is going to depend on how they say it is not acceptable. They are not claiming all the land. There is some land they are not claiming. There are people asking for rural residential lots and we are still trying to find them. We do not have a surplus of rural residential lots. If we can find an area where we can get everybody working with us, then we will try to develop it if it is suitable for rural residential.
Ms. Moorcroft: I would just point out to the Minister that there is also not a surplus of Yukon First Nations who have achieved a land claims final agreement; that is also still a long-standing problem that needs to be resolved before further residential development can go ahead. They are not only getting themselves into trouble with area residents, but they are also certainly getting themselves into trouble with the First Nations.
Chair: Is it the wish of the Members to take a brief recess at this time?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
We will take a brief recess.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order.
Mr. Cable: This is a follow-up question about the Pilot Mountain subdivision. The Minister indicated that there were to be some consultations with the neighbours. When does he think they will be finished?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: The last one was last fall. We will not be going back until we can get back on schedule with some of the other areas where we are consulting and trying to get zoning established. Right now, it is not a high priority.
Mr. Cable: There were a couple of survey exercises carried out, one on the Hot Springs Road and one at Mile 10 on the Mayo Road. Does the Minister anticipate any surveys to be taken as part of this consultation process?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I would suspect there will be some at some point. First we want to have some meetings to get a feeling about what the people think. It is rather surprising how, after a year, some people start to change their minds. Perhaps they have thought about it or someone has persuaded them to change it.
Residential in the amount of $2,393,000 agreed to
Hon. Mr. Brewster: Before we go on to that, the Member for Mount Lorne asked me how many computers the department had rented. The answer is only those two. She also wanted information on the Burwash -
Chair: Order please. What line item are you on?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I am answering questions that were asked. Am I not supposed to do that now?
Chair: I am just a little confused about where you are.
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I am trying to be helpful.
The Member for Mount Lorne asked how many computers there were. I said that I would get an answer. I have the answer to that question, which was asked quite a while back.
If you rule me out of order, I will sit down.
Chair: No. Please answer the question. I was just trying to see if you were going back to the line that was set aside.
Hon. Mr. Brewster: No. That is another one.
Do you want me to go ahead?
Chair: If it is the wish of the House to go back to the line item of fire protection, we will.
Hon. Mr. Brewster: Later.
On Quarry Development
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I am sorry that I disrupted your system. I did not mean to.
Of the increase of $190,000 for quarry site analysis and developments, $60,000 is non-recoverable under public health roads and streets to recoverable under land development. The amount of $130,000 revote is required to complete a comprehensive granular resource inventory for the Whitehorse area.
Quarry Development in the amount of $190,000 agreed to
On Land Central Services
On Office Furniture, Equipment, Systems and Space
Mrs. Firth: I wanted to ask a general question about land development.
Chair: Order please. I think the general practice is to go through the line items, and questions should be asked before we clear the total.
Mrs. Firth: I thought this is what we were clearing; it is a general question about all of the different areas...
Chair: We are not quite there yet, Mrs. Firth. We still have two more line items to clear and then we will get to the total.
Mrs. Firth: Okay, then I will go back to land development before the total clears.
Hon. Mr. Brewster: There is an increase of $10,000 for office equipment and furniture and for the purchase of a photocopier to replace a liquid toner photocopier; $6,000 in funds were reallocated from computer equipment and systems to cover a portion of the costs of replacement of the photocopier.
Office Furniture, Equipment, Systems and Space in the amount of $4,000 agreed to
On Rural Electrification and Telephone
Hon. Mr. Brewster: There is an increased revote of $19,000 to complete three projects that were unable to be completed in 1994-95 due to the onset of winter weather conditions and the utility company workplan.
Rural Electrification and Telephone in the amount of $19,000 agreed to
On Fire Protection - previously stood over
Hon. Mr. Brewster: The Burwash firehall will be built much the same as the Mount Lorne and the Ibex ones were. They will use volunteers in that area, and the people will do a lot of the work. The capital funding will be for $225,000.
So far, the well has been drilled, at a cost of $5,000. We have to do the surveying and registration of the new lot and also the registration of the old lot to transfer it.
Ms. Moorcroft: Does this line item include the costs of the survey and the acquisition of the property?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: There was no money involved in the land at all. It was just traded straight across. One lot was traded back to the owners. The Burwash Lodge was given more land on the road, where it was central to both the lodge and the people who live on the First Nations land. The lodge sits right on the corner.
Mr. Harding: Some representatives of the Burwash First Nation were quite upset with this arrangement. I had some correspondence with the Minister and some officials in his department raising some of their concerns. The concern centered around their lack of involvement in the land swap and their view that the land that was obtained was of some considerable value. There was a lack of consultation in the decision and a lack of regard on the part of the government for what they felt was a comprehensive community planning exercise, which they engaged in for a substantial amount of time. What is the Minister's response to those concerns, which were outlined by the Burwash First Nations representatives whom I spoke to?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: The department met with the First Nation on four separate occasions and asked them to form a consulting group at different meetings. They never did that, and that lasted for period of about two years. They have never been willing to attend the meetings at all, and I do not know what else one can do. People cannot be made to come to meetings if they do not want to come.
Also, they had looked at the place they recommended, which was at the far end of the village. A firehall location should be in the centre and the best road should go straight out in all directions, without corners.
Mr. Harding: The Minister just said that the department met four separate times with the First Nation but that the First Nation would not meet. My understanding was that there was a comprehensive community plan. What meetings is the Minister referring to on these four separate occasions when contact was attempted, and when were these four separate times?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: They met four times and asked them to form a committee to do it, but nothing happened in the two years. They looked at the site the band had recommended, but the fire marshall felt it was not feasible to have it located there when there was a better location where the firehall would be closer to the community and the buildings, and where there would be a straight run to both the First Nations and almost a straight run down into where the lodge and those buildings are, as well as a straight run out to the people up on the highway.
Mr. Harding: In what two-year period were these four separate meetings held and a request for the formation of a committee that, according to the Minister, the First Nations did not comply with?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I am sorry but I do not have those dates. I will get them for the Member.
Mr. Harding: I will look forward to receiving that information. My understanding was that, aside from the knowledge I have just been made aware of - that there were four separate meetings with government officials where attempts were made to strike a committee to discuss this - there was a comprehensive community plan drawn up. Am I incorrect that there is a comprehensive community plan and that it was before these four separate requests for a committee to be struck with the First Nations?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: A community planning exercise was carried out in 1990, but it did not address where the firehall should be.
Mr. Harding: The Minister just said that that issue was addressed, but in his estimation was not addressed well enough because he felt the fire hall was not in an adequate location. I am confused about whether or not the firehall was part of that discussion.
Hon. Mr. Brewster: The Member is trying to put words in my mouth. What I said was that when the First Nation did not form a consulting committee to help locate the firehall, and they suggested the one place, the fire marshall in the fire department looked at it and did not feel that it was reasonable to put it there. They therefore chose the other area.
Mr. Harding: I will put the question this way: in the community plan that was drawn up, was there discussion of the placement of the firehall?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: My information is that it did not address the firehall in any way at all.
Mr. Harding: I will move on to the next area that I would like to explore.
My understanding from information provided by the Minister is that the land swap involved an area that was essentially adjacent to the lake, where the firehall will be located, near the Burwash resort hotel and restaurant. The other area is an old garage site. Is that correct?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: That is not correct. There is private property all around the site of the present firehall. When the fire engine would leave the hall, it had to run over private property, which happened to belong to the fire chief, so it was all right. They moved it now up to the highway. It is just as close to the First Nation's community club and the community band office as it is to the Burwash Lodge; the church is directly across from it. If you have been there, you know where the museum is; it is right behind the museum on that flat piece of land.
Mr. Harding: The department sent me a map that made reference to a waterfront lot. What did the department send me?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: That is where the firehall was, in an old log garage down by the lake. It was situated on a piece of land that was too close to the lake and completely surrounded by private property. I do not know how that happened, but it happened when Mr. Jacquot was there and that was long before I was in the territory.
They traded that land to Mr. Wirth of the Burwash Cafe and Lodge and he gave them more land on top, which was a better location for a firehall.
Mr. Harding: Is that right behind the Burwash museum?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: Yes.
Fire Protection in the amount of $114,000 agreed to
Mrs. Firth: I have a general policy question that I wanted to ask the Minister concerning land, land development and land inventories. I wanted to know if the Minister's department has ever had any discussions with the Yukon Housing Corporation with respect to them assuming some responsibilities for land, land inventory and the distribution of lots and land. If so, could the Minister tell me the nature of the discussions?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: Yes, we have had some discussions that way. Also, we will now take over the money part and collect the money for the lots. We will transfer all of that over to them, as they are in a better position to collect it than we are. They are the ones who provide the various types of loans available from the Yukon Housing Corporation.
Mrs. Firth: Can the Minister tell me when that policy change took place? Can he give me the details of the policy and exactly how it works?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I will have to bring that information back for the Member.
Mrs. Firth: When the Minister says that they will take over collecting the money for the lots, exactly what money and what lots is he talking about?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: They make up the agreement for sale and the money is paid, over time, back to them. We then get our costs out of that.
Mrs. Firth: Was that decision made between Community and Transportation Services and the Yukon Housing Corporation, or was it a Management Board or Cabinet decision? It is quite a departure from what has happened in the past, and I would like to know who made the decision?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: It is just part of the streamlining we are trying to do to cut down duplications in government, but I will get back with all the facts for the Member.
Mrs. Firth: I would appreciate that, and the more detailed the information, the better.
My next question is: is the Department of Community and Transportation Services planning to devolve any more responsibility for lands or land development or the management of land inventories to the Yukon Housing Corporation?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: Not at the present time. We just got this other system working and should see how well it works. It is just a matter sometimes of duplication between these things, and we would like to cut some of that out of government, because it makes a big saving when it happens.
Mrs. Firth: I am not convinced yet that there have been any savings. I have a concern about the growth of the Yukon Housing Corporation, and I will certainly be taking that up with the Minister responsible. I can appreciate the Department of Community and Transportation Services perhaps trying to devolve some of its responsibilities, because it is a huge and onerous department, but I do have some concerns about how the Crown corporations are growing and taking on more responsibilities. I would like to get some idea from this department first with respect to how the decision was made and if this is a general policy direction of the whole government. I want to know if Cabinet made the decision or if it was made just between the departments.
Perhaps the Minister could provide me with a listing of the lots where it has been its responsibility for collecting the money and agreements for sale and so on - an inventory of the lots that have been devolved to the responsibility of the Yukon Housing Corporation.
I would not mind having that information prior to getting into the supplementaries on the Yukon Housing Corporation.
Hon. Mr. Brewster: We will do our best to get them to the Member.
Capital Expenditures for Community and Transportation Services in the amount of $9,967,000 agreed to
Community and Transportation Services agreed to
Department of Economic Development
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I am pleased to introduce the 1995 supplementary budget for the Department of Economic Development. The operation and maintenance budget remains the same at $3,755,000, with some internal readjustment within the budget. There is a significant reduction in the capital budget from $15,176,000 to $9,140,000. The centennial anniversaries program of $5 million has rescheduled $4.5 million to future years, as major expenditures on projects will not start this fiscal year. Total program funds will be maintained, and this spending will occur in 1996-97 and future years.
The economic development agreements have seen major reductions from the federal government, and the budget has been reduced by $1,341,000. The Loki Gold Old Ditch Road project will not spend all the $1,240,000 budgeted this year, and some funds have been budgeted in the 1996-97 main estimates to complete that project.
The amount of $72,000 is being provided to institute a new parks mineral assessment program. The Department of Renewable Resources is also contributing $100,000 to this program. The comprehensive assessment of the potential for mineral resource development will be conducted prior to the withdrawal of areas for territorial parks.
Finally, there is some revote funding to finish off projects initiated last year in the community development fund and for the surplus electricity utilization projects.
Mr. Harding: This morning I had an opportunity to attend a technical briefing of the department. At that time I indicated some of the areas of concern that I had. I will reserve all my general policy questions for the main budget debate. I will have some questions for the Minister during line-by-line debate. As I indicated in my response to the budget, I am particularly focused on several areas. I will also have some questions about the strategic plan, and I expect the Minister to have some knowledge about this much touted business plan, so I will be testing the Minister's sense of direction about where he wants his department to go. I believe that it is important that there is some ministerial direction given in that regard.
I am prepared to go into line-by-line debate.
Mrs. Firth: I have some general questions for the Minister regarding his department. My first question is with respect to an outstanding request for information. It is something that I ask for annually; something the Minister knows I will ask for every year. It is something that he has never had the courtesy to provide to us, as Members of the House, prior to the House sitting. I am asking for a list of the loans, grants and programs that have been given out.
I wrote the Minister a letter in December asking for it - in November actually - and I got a reply one month later telling me, "Thank you for your request for the updated activity report. We will be tabling it in the House in the upcoming session. If there is any other information you need, let us know." I understand that this information was requested at the briefing today, and again, we were told that we could not have it until the House sits.
Can the Minister tell me what the problem is in giving us this information? He knows that it will be asked of him. Why can he not just table it the first day of the sitting of the Legislature, if he cannot give it to us on a regular basis, instead of our having to go through this silly exercise every time we sit, and every time we request this information?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: My understanding is that this is normally tabled during budget debate in the regular budget session each year. I do not really see any reason why we should not continue doing it that way.
Mrs. Firth: I would like the Minister to think about this. I write to him asking him for the information and he tells me I will get it when the House sits. He waits and waits until we get into budget debate. What would be wrong with him giving it to us when the House begins, so that we can review it and be prepared for some better debate when we get to his budget? Has the Minister or his department prepared this form? Is this all prepared and ready to be tabled? Could he bring it in and give it to us tomorrow, or have they not even done it yet?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I understand that the department has it essentially ready and that I would be able to table it within the next day or so. Perhaps we could speed things up a bit by tabling it earlier in the session - as the Member says, perhaps a day or two after the House first sits. The department may have a problem compiling the figures, I am not exactly sure, but unless there is a problem within the department that I am not aware of at this time I do not see why we could not table it within a couple of days of when we first start sitting, rather than waiting until my budget comes up for debate.
Mrs. Firth: I rest my case. Here we are in his department debating it, but we do not have the information. This is the supplementaries; this is the money that has been spent on grants and loans and so on. If we want to carry on an effective debate on the supplementaries in Economic Development, we should have the information now.
Frankly, I do not see what the problem could be. I do not see what the problem could be in the department, with the Minister or whomever. The request was made on the November 30. That was almost three months ago. Surely, the information must be ready by now and ready to be tabled. If it is not ready, I would like to know why.
Could the Minister provide us with the information tomorrow so we can go through the supplementary estimates?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I am not sure if I can provide that information tomorrow. I will have to check with the department. In the past it has been more or less the tradition that it be tabled when the budget is debated.
Mr. Chair, I move that you report progress on Bill No. 9.
Motion agreed to
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I move that the Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Motion agreed to
Speaker resumes the Chair
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
May the House have a report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole?
Mr. Millar: Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 9, Third Appropriation Act, 1995-96, and directed me to report progress on it.
Speaker: You have heard the report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: I declare the report carried.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I move that the House do now adjourn.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Hon. Government House Leader that the House do now adjourn.
Motion agreed to
Speaker: This House now stands adjourned until 1:30 p.m. tomorrow.
The House adjourned at 9:29 p.m.
The following Sessional Paper was tabled February 28, 1996:
Yukon State of the Environment Report 1995 (Fisher)