Thursday, March 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. Ostashek: I have some documents for tabling.
Speaker: Are there any reports of committees?
Are there any petitions?
Petition No. 9 - received
Clerk: I have had the honour to review a petition, being Petition No. 9 of the Second Session of the Twenty-Eighth Legislative Assembly, as presented by the Hon. Member for Mount Lorne on March 27, 1996. This petition meets the requirements as to form of the Standing Orders of the Yukon Legislative Assembly.
Speaker: Petition No. 9 accordingly is deemed to be read and received.
Speaker: Are there any bills to be introduced?
Are there any notices of motion?
Are there any statements by Ministers?
Report of the 1995 Social Policy Reform and Renewal
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I rise today to inform Members of this House that Mr. Brian Tobin, chair of the 1995 annual premiers conference, is today transmitting to the Prime Minister the Ministerial Council on Social Policy Reform and Renewal's annual report to the premiers.
The report is also being publicly released to the national media and I have therefore made copies available to Members in this House. There have been copies of the report distributed to each of the caucuses, and I just tabled one in the Legislature.
At the annual Premiers Conference of 1994-95, the provincial and territorial leaders reaffirmed their commitment to improve cooperation and to take on the leadership role with respect to national matters that affect areas of provincial and territorial jurisdiction, and speak with a common voice on the essential elements in a national debate on social policy reform.
At the conclusion of the 1995 conference, the premiers established the Ministerial Council on Social Policy Reform and Renewal and tasked it with the writing of a consensus document that would set out an agenda for positive change for Canada's social programs. Each jurisdiction appointed one member to the council. Yukon's representative was the then-chair of the Cabinet Committee on Social Issues, the Hon. Willard Phelps.
The council met twice and provided a report to the premiers in December, 1995. Since that time, each of the provincial and territorial leaders has written to Mr. Tobin endorsing the report and requesting that it be submitted to the Prime Minister as a basis for further provincial/territorial-federal discussions and negotiations.
I myself wrote to Mr. Tobin expressing the Yukon government's endorsement of this report in early February. The report documents a national consensus reached on a statement of principles to guide social policy reform and renewal in future, and provides a framework and an agenda for change and renewal across the country.
I believe that the principles in this framework will stretch far beyond the immediate social policy reform debate and will provide a basis for future and national cooperation and consensus on a number of important issues and discussions over the coming years.
I also believe that this report is a very important accomplishment, in that it brought together 11 provincial and territorial jurisdictions from coast to coast to coast, from governments of all political stripes, and reached a consensus on how to ensure that our national social programs are continuing into the 21st century.
This consensus is a great accomplishment. It shows that the provincial and territorial leaders in this country can work together for positive change across the nation, and that there is a commitment across the country to work to maintain social programs for all Canadians.
I am pleased to be able to provide the Members of this House with copies of the Ministerial Council's report to premiers. I believe that through national consensus-building exercises such as this we will be able to move forward on issues of national concern, such as clarifying federal, provincial and territorial roles and responsibilities in the social sector.
Ms. Commodore: We have had a chance to go over the report and would like to respond to it. It establishes guidelines for health and social programs reform and improves efficiency by eliminating overlap and improving communication between governments. It is a process that is, of course, long overdue. However, the absence of national standards in the new federal arrangement is a serious concern for future health and social program reform.
The implementation of the Canada Health and Social Transfer on April 1 does not contain the national standards that were included in the Canada assistance plan. The new change will only require that assistance be issued, but does not stipulate that provinces and territories provide these services at the same level as the Canada assistance plan.
Because of the attack on social programs in Canada in the past few years, we feel that there is a need to protect people's rights to the basic necessities. The federal Liberals have slashed funding for health, education and social programs, and we all know what the government has done to those very same programs in the Yukon. At the same time, the report - if one goes through it - indicates that 40 percent of all social assistance recipients are children, and that one in five Canadian children live in poor families.
The report seeks to establish comparable levels of health and social assistance across the country and lists a number of guidelines for future health and social reform, but it seems that provinces and territories are not bound to honour this agreement, as there are no means of enforcement contained in the report.
We hope that this government will avoid the Canadian trend to punish those who are poor when implementing health and social reform, and take the initiative and time to find fair solutions. This government, and all governments, have a very big job ahead of them.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: The Member opposite made quite a few points. I will try and respond to them. I am sure that there will be plenty of time for further response to them later.
The Member said that the report was lacking in national standards. I believe that this could be a concern. I want to draw the Member's attention to the fact that this was a consensus reached by governments of every political stripe, including the NDP governments in both Saskatchewan and British Columbia. We all felt that we needed a consensus with which to approach the federal government.
The Member opposite is right in saying that the federal government does not have a big stick any more, because they are not contributing to the pot. They have cut back in health, education and social services payments. However, I want to clear the record. The Member said that this government has also done that, which is not true. We have enhanced social and educational programs in the territory. We will continue to do so.
Without the federal government's financial contribution to the pot, there is no method of enforcement. All provinces across this country believe it is their role and responsibility to deliver health, education and social programs. We, in the territory, do not intend to punish the poor, and we have proven that by our actions. We have not punished the poor; we have enhanced the lives of social welfare recipients by helping them have more money, rather than less, as under the previous administration.
Speaker: This then brings us to the Question Period.
Question re: North American Free Trade Agreement, health care protection
Ms. Commodore: I have a question for the Minister of Health and Social Services with regard to the North American Free Trade Agreement and health care.
In the past few days, we have learned the government was scrambling to acquire added protection for Yukon's health and social services under the North American Free Trade Agreement. The deadline for listing a territory's social services and programs had been extended to March 31 from December 31. It appears the government department waited until the last hour before informing the federal government that the Yukon wanted this added protection.
Considering that the Yukon's health and social programs were at stake, why did the Minister wait so long before informing the Liberal government that the territory wanted that added protection?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I am not aware of the particular situation, but I will certainly be glad to provide a written response for the Member.
Ms. Commodore: It appears that the former Minister did not pass on this information to the new Minister.
This is a very important issue.
If the Minister cannot answer these questions, I hope I will get a response from him in the next little while.
The federal Liberal Minister was unaware that there was inadequate protection for Canada's health and social services under the North American Free Trade Agreement, until he was alerted to the situation by the Canada Health Council. After this was discovered, the territorial government was informed about the issue. I would like to ask the Minister if he can tell us if his officials were aware that we had a problem prior to the phone call of last Friday, March 23, advising this government to protect its health and social programs by listing them as exemptions under Annex I of the North American Free Trade Agreement?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I will include that information in the response that I will prepare for the Member.
Ms. Commodore: Although the territorial government has listed health and social services under the North American Free Trade Agreement, as late as two days ago, the information will remain confidential until April 1, and apparently it will remain confidential to the Minister. Until that time, we will have no idea whether or not the government has exempted all of the Yukon's health and social services. I would like to ask the Minister if he can assure this House that he is committed to a universal, publicly funded health care system, and if he will provide a list of the Yukon's health and social services that were given added protection under the North American Free Trade Agreement?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Again, I will bring that response back in a written form to the Member.
Question re: Health care, national standards
Ms. Commodore: Next week, as the Minister indicated in the past, he will be attending a Minister of Health and Social Services conference in Victoria and, by that time, the Canada Health and Social Transfer will be implemented, although it lacks the national standards of its predecessor, the Canada assistance plan, and the Government Leader has just indicated that that could be his concern.
I would like to ask the Minister if he will be submitting his government's position in regards to national standards for health care at that conference next week, because it is a very important issue.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The conference early next week involves the Council of Ministers where they will be looking at the roles and responsibilities of the federal and provincial-territorial governments with respect to health care. The Yukon government has provided input into the papers respecting that conference and they have already been provided to the council.
Ms. Commodore: Many people are concerned about the Canada health and social transfer, and we have had discussions about it in the past. It only requires that a province provide assistance, but it does not stipulate particular levels of care. I do not know whether or not the Minister has read that, because it was only tabled in the House today.
Could I ask the Minister what he will do to assure Yukoners that, in the absence of national standards, we will continue to have health care in the territory that is second to none in Canada?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The former Minister took that position; we have always taken that position, and will continue to do so.
Ms. Commodore: I am very glad to hear that, but time will tell.
Two weeks ago, the Minister of Community and Transportation Services stated that the airports were a cost centre and that he would be taking initiatives to correct this situation. Similarly, the hospital, as a provider of essential services, is also a cost centre. Will the Minister guarantee to all Yukoners that our hospital and health services will not be considered a cost centre and that medical premiums will not be introduced to recover expenditures.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: There is no move at this point in time to reinstitute health care premiums. The Yukon Party does not intend to include that in our initiatives.
Question re: Government employees, political fundraising
Mr. Cable: I have some questions for the Government Leader on the political rights of public servants.
Yesterday, the Yukon Employees Union wrote a lengthy letter to the Government Leader regarding the political rights of public servants, and particularly the right - or lack of right - of public servants to solicit funds for political contributions.
The union takes the position that this prohibition was lifted from teachers when the new Education Act came in and should now be lifted from the remainder of the public service. What is the Government Leader's position on this?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: The letter just arrived in our office today, and I do not believe the Government Leader has had a chance to look at it. I have seen a copy of the letter, and I am having my officials look at it now. It is a very lengthy letter; I just glanced at it a few moments ago and have not had a chance to go through it myself yet.
Mr. Cable: Just for the record, the teachers, under the Education Act, appear to be given more freedom than other government employees. Does this government agree, personally, that different groups of employees should not, in principle, have different political rights?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I hate to just comment on part of a letter that a Member is quoting. I would like to read the whole letter and take some time to do that. I would appreciate it if the Member would allow me to at least look at the letter before we make comments on any of the contents of the letter.
Mr. Cable: I am trying to establish where the government is coming from, in principle, and that does not require a lengthy observation of the letter. Yesterday, in Question Period, we learned how the government was ignoring a provision of the Wildlife Act that was thought to infringe upon the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Rather than go through this convoluted procedure where we ignore the Charter of Rights and go on forever having these rights hanging in the air, can we get a commitment from this government that, if the Charter has been infringed, it will immediately, and prior to the next election, act to amend the appropriate legislation?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: Yes, I can give the Member the commitment that we will certainly have a look at the questions that have been raised with the union in the letter.
Question re: Health care system, universal publicly funded
Mr. McDonald: I have a quick follow-up question for the Minister of Health and Social Services about the position the government intends to take at the next federal/provincial ministers conference next week in Victoria.
The Minister was asked whether or not the Yukon government believed in a publicly funded universal health care system and if he would be taking that position to the conference. The Minister did not answer the question: does the government believe in a publicly funded, universal health care system?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Yes, we do.
Mr. McDonald: That is reassuring. The second question is whether or not the government believes there should be a common standard across the country - whether or not the federal government is involved in designing the common standard or not - for the provision of similar health services. Is that the position that the Government of Yukon is going to be taking to the conference?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Yes. In fact, I believe that is the position put forward by the Council of Ministers.
Mr. McDonald: The final question is this: as the Member for Whitehorse Centre indicated, at least one Minister believes that there are certain cost centres in government that require full cost recovery. The Minister indicated it was not his position that there be a reinstitution of medicare premiums.
Is it his position that there not be increased user fees for the hospital, either?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: That is more or less a hypothetical question at this time. I doubt very much if there could ever be a total recovery of costs in health care. This party has not advocated full recovery of costs at any time.
Question re: Hunting licences, eligibility
Mr. Harding: I have a question for the same Minister on the residency requirements for Yukon hunting licences.
In response to questions over the last couple of days, the government has essentially stated that, even though Mr. Mayr-Melnhof lives mostly outside the territory, he is a Yukon resident because he owns businesses here.
Can the Minister confirm that Mr. Mayr-Melnhof is indeed a Yukon resident, according to this government?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I think I have responded to that question a number of times. Mr. Mayr-Melnhof has been a landed immigrant in Canada for 23 years and has made the Yukon his primary residence for approximately nine years. He has businesses in the Yukon; he owns property in Whitehorse; he pays taxes in the Yukon; he has a Yukon address, a Yukon driver's licence, a Yukon health care card, and he spends at least six months a year in the Yukon Territory.
Mr. Harding: It sounds as if the Minister is a little more prepared today to give us the information I have been asking for over the last two days.
The government has refused to produce the affidavit I asked for. It denied knowing the residency requirements were changed in this year's synopsis. It has refused to uphold the residency threshold for the Yukon, as it is spelled out in the Wildlife Act. It has also refused to give us the public investigation details on this residency until the few snippets he just gave us.
Instead of stonewalling, as it has until now, is the government prepared to give us the full details of the investigation, as well as the affidavit, instead of just a few snippets.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I have answered that - I think this will be the third day in a row. No, I will not provide the affidavit. It contains personal information. The file on the investigation is still open. It has not been closed, so I cannot provide that information to the Member.
Mr. Harding: Exactly. This government's actions are changing the entire spirit and intent of the law. The government is now saying that Mr. Mayr-Melnhof can own 100 percent of as many outfitting concessions in the Yukon as he can buy, even though he is only here a few months of the year, and I doubt he even pays Yukon personal income tax.
Is the Minister now saying that he believes Mr. Mayr-Melnhof can own 100 percent of as many outfitting concessions as he can buy in the Yukon as a resident as the government has defined him?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I believe he can only own 100 percent of one concession.
Question re: Fetal alcohol sydrome and fetal alcohol effects
Mrs. Firth: I have a question for the new Minister of Education. It is about an important issue that I have raised for quite a few years in the Legislature - the problems arising from fetal alcohol syndrome and fetal alcohol effects.
Parents have approached me with concerns about their children's education, particularly regarding disruptions in the classroom and a concern that it is interfering with their children's education. There is currently no system in place, particularly in the education system, to diagnose children with FAS/FAE.
I would like to know if this Minister is prepared to give this issue the high priority it should have, and look at doing something about diagnosing children with FAS/FAE?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: Yes, I am. In fact, in taking over Education - and I am glad the Member called me the "new" Minister; I do feel quite new and overwhelmed by all the issues in Education - FAS/FAE is one of the most important issues to me. I have heard the concerns. I have asked the department for information on it and have received some information back. It is not complete; I will get more. Rather than make a speech at this time, I will let the Member follow up with her questions. I certainly take her representation seriously and will ask the department about it. It is a medical diagnosis and they told me we have to get a medical doctor in to do it. They diagnose and treat them as children with general disorders and deal with them specially.
Mrs. Firth: What happens right now is that more learning assistants are hired, and requests are made for kids to be transferred to other schools because the parents do not want them going to a particular school. I have been told that children who have FAS/FAE are being separated from other children for a percentage of the instructional time. That is what gives me the concern; someone is making an uninformed diagnosis about which kids have FAS/FAE. I do not fault those individuals, but since there is no process in place for diagnosis, could he look at asking the department to get a diagnostic team to come here to the Yukon to do this kind of diagnosis?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: Yes, I will do that. I believe there are a couple who do come to the Yukon, who have done it in the past. She is right that the way they are dealt with now is simply as other special-needs children. Educational assistants are hired and there are alternate classes, but requests have been made to move some children and they have been moved. To me, that is not the solution. I put that to the department. One of their responses was that these children only spend 10 percent of the year in school. When they come to the education system they are in bad shape, and it will take a generation to correct this, not simply some measures that can be implemented while I am Minister of Education.
Mrs. Firth: Since I am on a roll there with such a cooperative Minister, I would like to get a further commitment from the Minister. The Department of Health and Social Services has hired the services of an individual to diagnose FAS/FAE for teens and young adults, probably because of the problems with young offenders. The diagnostic team I am referring to is a team of specialists that has a pediatrician and a neurologist. I do not think we have a team here, but I know where there are teams.
I guess I would like to get a further commitment out of the Minister, since he is so cooperative. Would he try and give a commitment today to do this and implement it before the end of this school year?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: Sure, I will give it a try. My department will be in this afternoon and we may be debating my budget.
I asked about the relationship between the Department of Education and the Department of Health and Social Services. Apparently, we have a protocol agreement with Health and Social Services and the Department of Justice that deals with fetal alcohol syndrome and fetal alcohol effects. I have asked for a copy of it. At this time, I do not know how we work in cooperation with the other two departments, but apparently, we are in contact. I will put this question to the department.
Question re: Fetal alcohol syndrome and fetal alcohol effects
Mr. Joe: I would like to follow up with the same question for the new Minister of Education.
In my riding there are many special needs children. Alcohol is the problem. Can the Minister tell me what has been done to help special needs kids in rural Yukon?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I cannot tell the Member what is being done specifically in the rural communities. As I have said, fetal alcohol syndrome and fetal alcohol effects is a serious problem. It is not simply a problem in the Department of Education; it is a societal problem, and it starts prior to birth. The education system is then presented with a very difficult situation that is not of its own making and difficult to solve.
I know that an information kit has been developed by departmental staff, in consultation with other agencies, to assist people in the communities. There are videos and reading materials exchanged among the different schools in the Yukon. I have been told that 13 schools to date have used this fetal alcohol syndrome and fetal alcohol effects information kit. A memo has been sent to the 29 schools in the territory saying that this information is available for use in schools.
Mr. Joe: I was very surprised by that statement. The Minister just told me that nothing had been done yet. This is something that we have been talking about for a long time. What are we waiting for?
We all need to do more - the school, parents, First Nations, and the Department of Education. When will the government help?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I did not say that nothing had been done. I said that I did not know the details of what has been done in the rural schools, but there has been information prepared that is available to schools.
As the Member has said, it is a serious problem; it is a societal problem. It is not just the Department of Education. Education is apparently - and I will find the details of that - working with Health and Social Services and Justice on this issue. We are hiring extra educational assistants, developing alternative programs and taking special needs children out of the regular classroom for part of the day to benefit both those children and other children.
I think that we are making slow progress. I think that when one looks at schools today, where there is a high incidence of fetal alcohol syndrome and fetal alcohol effects, they are better off than they were 20 years ago. This is not a problem that is going to be easily solved. It is going take, as I said, a generation, and it is going to have to be done before the children are born, and not solved in the schools. All that we can do now is do the best we can with what we have to educate them without disrupting the other children too much.
Mr. Joe: This is something that I have been hearing for a long time. I hear talk about prevention of FAS/FAE. We need help in the communities. I would like to ask the Minister this: what programs are there? What is the Minister talking about?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The prevention program is in the health and social services area. In the summer of 1995, a program was established to provide intensive support for women at risk of having FAE/FAS children. One additional family support worker has been hired by the department to implement the program. We are working with eight different community agencies in Whitehorse, which include Skookum Jim's, the Kwanlin Dun health centre and the Teen Parent Centre. There is a lot of work being done on the prevention side of FAE/FAS.
Question re: South Access Road
Ms. Moorcroft: The Minister of Community and Transportation Services recently announced that the government will give the City of Whitehorse $8.1 million to rebuild the South Access Road. Can the Minister tell us how much of that money is earmarked for traffic lights or other traffic control measures?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: No, I certainly cannot. The designs are just now being worked on. Although we started the designs, they will be turned over to the City of Whitehorse. We will be cooperating with the City of Whitehorse to do it. I certainly do not have any idea about how many street lights or stop lights will be needed.
Ms. Moorcroft: The Minister cannot shrug off any responsibility for safety on one of the major arteries into the capital city. The designs have been worked on for three years now. The Minister must understand that there is no possible way that visitors, in their huge motorhomes, can reach the new tourism business office from any direction, without having to turn left across at least one busy street.
Can the Minister tell us what increase in traffic volume on the South Access Road will result from the new tourism business office being located downtown?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: No, I cannot. Local people have asked for the South Access Road to be fixed many times because it is a dangerous road. We have agreed to fix it. The City of Whitehorse will take it over and fix it. We will cooperate with the city all the way. I certainly have no idea how much traffic will come down the South Access Road or use the Two Mile Hill. I have no idea in the world.
Ms. Moorcroft: Let me try another question for the Minister.
There is only one construction season left before the tourism business office opens up its sideline as a visitor reception centre. Can the Minister tell us how much construction on the South Access Road he expects the city to complete this year, and how long that road might be closed to both local and outside traffic?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: As I said, we turned it over to the city when we wanted to make plans and realized that there will be times when it would have to be closed for a while. We think we have it under control. We are also building the road to Transportation Association of Canada standards across Canada. I am sure that Members will be very proud of the road when it is finished.
Question re: M'Clintock Place, zoning
Ms. Moorcroft: I will try a question to the same Minister on a different subject.
Yesterday, I tabled a petition containing 206 signatures concerning land use at M'Clintock Place. I would like to ask the Minister of Community and Transportation Services if he is prepared to restore the intent of the caveats that his officials lifted last September without consulting or even informing the residents.
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I have been writing to the Member for Mount Lorne for almost one year about this. I have explained to her that the Justice department has explained to me that the caveat is illegal; therefore, it was removed. Clearly, there certainly was a mistake made by the department not notifying the residents. However, the argument was that the caveat was of no value. It felt that it was just as well to just take it off, as it had no legal or binding effect on anyone.
Ms. Moorcroft: Let me tell the Minister what does have value. The residents have made it quite clear that they want M'Clintock Place to remain primarily a single-family residential neighbourhood. Can the Minister give his assurance that those wishes will be respected and that commercial developments will not be permitted in the area, and can he say when he expects that the zoning regulations will be approved and implemented?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: Which one of those questions should I answer now? I will try one. The regulations in the subdivision were produced in 1978. I was not around at that time. The regulations, as I am told, are still legal and certain lots were made commercial at that time. Lot 60, as they say, is supposed to be a school ground. I have seen the design. It was never registered; therefore, it is not in any way our responsibility, as government, to make a playground there. It belongs to private citizens.
Ms. Moorcroft: The Minister does not seem to be listening particularly closely, because he is not responding to the questions.
The petitioners are not asking for a school ground. They are asking that Lot 60 continue to be reserved for a playground and to provide a public well for the residents.
I have asked the Minister if he will respect the residents' wishes. I will now ask him if he will make a commitment that Lot 60 will remain set aside for a playground and a public well, even if the government has to purchase it from its current owner.
Hon. Mr. Brewster: The Member knows I will not make that commitment. I have explained to the Member for Mount Lorne for over a year that I have no control over it. The owners can use it as they wish as long as we do not have zoning in place. I moved the zoning of M'Clintock Bay ahead of all the other zoning matters to fast-track it. We are doing our best to protect those people. However, the commercial property is there legally, with all the required permits, and I can do nothing to change it.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed. We will proceed to Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Bill No. 11: Third Reading
Clerk: Third reading, Bill No. 11, standing in the name of the Hon. Mr. Ostashek.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I move that Bill No. 11, entitled Interim Supply Appropriation Act, 1996-97, be read a third time and do pass.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Hon. Government Leader that Bill No. 11, entitled Interim Supply Appropriation Act, 1996-97, be now read a third time and do pass.
Motion for third reading of Bill No. 11 agreed to
Speaker: I declare that Bill No. 11 has passed this House.
Bill No. 8: Third Reading
Clerk: Third reading, Bill No. 8, standing in the name of the Hon. Mr. Ostashek.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I move that Bill No. 8, entitled Fourth Appropriation Act, 1994-95, be now read a third time and do pass.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Hon. Government Leader that Bill No. 8, entitled Fourth Appropriation Act, 1994-95, be now read a third time and do pass.
Motion for third reading of Bill No. 8 agreed to
Speaker: I declare that Bill No. 8 has passed this House.
Bill No. 9: Third Reading
Chair: Third reading, Bill No. 9, standing in the name of the Hon. Mr. Ostashek.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I move that Bill No. 9, entitled Third Appropriation Act, 1995-96, be now read for the third time and do pass.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Hon. Government Leader that Bill No. 9, entitled Third Appropriation Act, 1995-96, be now read a third time and do pass.
Motion for third reading of Bill No. 9 agreed to
Speaker: I declare that Bill No. 9 has passed this House.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I move that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Hon. Government House Leader 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. We will take a brief recess at this time.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. We are dealing with Bill No. 10, general debate on the Executive Council Office.
Bill No. 10 - First Appropriation Act, 1996-97 - continued
Executive Council Office - continued
Mr. McDonald: Last night the Minister was providing some responses prior to the break about territorial agents and the aboriginal language services. I would like to ask the Minister - perhaps not in the context of aboriginal language services, but as a general proposition - given that the territorial agent service is an important service in rural Yukon, will there be an attempt by the government to coordinate the provisions of such things as licences, payment of fees and other items through a single office in any given community?
All of the communities, in some respect, have some administrative support for some government office, meaning some permanent service in the community. In the past, the issue has been that many rural people do not want to go to many different offices in order to conduct normal business with the Government of Yukon. In part, that was to have been resolved by the combination of the territorial agent service and the aboriginal language services.
In the absence of the aboriginal language service providing the service, will government attempt to coordinate the service through some other mechanism in the rural communities?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I could not make that commitment right now. We will have to look at it, but I recall, from about a year ago, that the level of activity of territorial agents in the communities was almost nil. I will review it again. If there is any justification for it, we would certainly try to combine it into one office.
Mr. McDonald: After he has had an opportunity to work on it, I would not mind hearing the Minister's response to it, because the issue has been raised with me on a few occasions over the last 12 months. Obviously, someone is thinking about the provision of that service.
I would like to canvass a few other issues before we get into debate on the lines, beginning with the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge. A motion, proposed by the Member for Vuntut Gwitchin, was passed unanimously in the House, which addressed the habitat of the Porcupine caribou herd. Can the Minister tell us if the government's position is that there should be no drilling in the wildlife refuge?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I will read our government's position into the record again. We have stated it time and time again in this House.
The Yukon government is committed to the protection of the Porcupine caribou herd because of its importance to the Old Crow people.
We continue to finance the Porcupine Caribou Management Board. Our position is the same as Alaska's - that the integrity of the herd has to be protected. The Vuntut Gwitchin Nation must have the comfort that it is being protected. That is the position we have taken all the time. Nothing has changed.
Mr. McDonald: In interpreting the government's position, can we say that the government is opposed to drilling in the refuge area? To my knowledge, the Vuntut Gwitchin have taken that specific position. Is it the Yukon government's position?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: Our position is that we do not believe it is our right to interfere with the governance of the State of Alaska, no more than it is the State of Alaska's right to interfere with the governance of the Yukon Territory. Our concern is for the protection of the Porcupine caribou herd, and that is the mandate of the Porcupine Caribou Management Board, to which we contribute funding every year. We will continue to take the position that the people of Old Crow must be satisfied that the integrity of the herd is being protected. We support them wholeheartedly in that respect.
Mr. McDonald: The government does - I think for very good reasons - in essence interfere in Alaskan affairs by taking the position that the caribou habitat should be protected. That is a reasonable decision to advocate. However, there is this one little issue that I want to get clear in my mind. I have been asked to put this specific question to the Minister. The Minister does not have to read any long policy statements.
Does the government believe that there should be any oil exploration or drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge? If it does believe that there should be, does it believe that it could happen without compromising the habitat of the Porcupine caribou herd?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: We have been very clear in our position. It is the same position that the former Governor of Alaska had and I believe that the present governor now has. When we talked about whether or not there should be drilling, that question is secondary. The primary decision has to be based on the assurance that the habitat of the Porcupine caribou must be protected to the satisfaction of the Gwitchin people. That is the position that we have taken; it is the position we have continued to support.
Mr. McDonald: The Minister is not necessarily saying no to drilling in the wildlife refuge - is that correct?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I do not believe that we have the right to say that. We are saying that the habitat and integrity of the Porcupine caribou herd must be protected.
Mr. McDonald: Whether one accepts that the government has the right to speak about Alaskan affairs at all is not the point in debate. I think everyone agrees that when considering the Porcupine caribou herd and the fact that it crosses the boundaries from one jurisdiction to the next, we have a right and responsibility to speak about the habitat, whether it be in Alaska, the Northwest Territories or the Yukon, and we do comment about the habitat.
We consider the habitat to be a joint responsibility, so this could be a question the Minister could answer fairly simply. The Minister is saying he has answered it, but he is not answering the direct question.
I am asking him a very specific, direct question. I can tell him for the record that I am not going to spend a lot of time haranguing him in any way. I am just asking him a direct question.
Is the Government of Yukon prepared to say that there should be no drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I have stated our position quite clearly. I am not going to add to that position. The Member can stand there all day and ask the question if he likes. Our position is documented in many, many letters and in many documents.
I ask the Member opposite if he would consider an appeal from Alaska to close the Dempster Highway because it crosses the Porcupine caribou herd range?
Mr. McDonald: If the State of Alaska felt that keeping the Dempster Highway open legitimately damages the Porcupine caribou herd, I would respond to the State of Alaska, "You have the right to state that position because the caribou herd is a shared responsibility, but we disagree with you. The Dempster Highway does not infringe upon the health of the Porcupine caribou herd and we will keep it open."
Likewise, I am asking the Government Leader this once again: is he saying that there should be no drilling, or that he is not going to take a position on drilling, or that he has no position on drilling, or that there should be drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I do not mind answering that question at all. We have no position on drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
Mr. McDonald: He is saying that there is no position. I would point out to him that there is some confusion among the Vuntut Gwitchin about the government's support for the position the Vuntut Gwitchin have been taking with Alaska. Now I can say to people that the government takes no position - I think that is fair; it takes no position on drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
I am just canvassing a few issues here and I want to move to the RCMP investigation briefly. The Minister indicated that the details of the RCMP investigation, or what was agreed to by House resolution, would be available some time soon. It is not finished yet. Could he give us an indication when he will be able to provide that information to us and could he also tell us whether or not the government has established any parameters for determining when the RCMP will be asked to conduct an investigation?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I have no comment on the second part of that question. I cannot answer hypothetical questions as to when and if an investigation will take place. When the report is filed is when that will happen. All I can note at this time is - and my assistant has checked - that we have not received a report as of this date.
I just want to go back to the prior question from the Member opposite. When he states that we have no position on drilling, I wish he would add - I will ask him to add - that we have stated our position quite clearly: the integrity of the Porcupine caribou herd must be protected and that means protecting its habitat as well.
Mr. McDonald: I give the Minister my absolute commitment that I will state precisely as he asks me to state that the Government of Yukon has not taken a position on whether or not there should be drilling in ANWR, but that the government also feels that the integrity of the Porcupine caribou herd will be protected. I have no problem if that is the Minister's position, and if so then I will relate that position. He is nodding his head affirmatively. I think the Minister understands that that will disappoint some people, but nevertheless that is their position. It is clear and I understand it.
The Minister indicated that my question with respect to the parameters for when the RCMP would be called in to investigate is a hypothetical question, and that Minister cannot tell me when the RCMP will not be called in. I am not asking the question of when the RCMP will not be called in; I am asking when the RCMP will be called in to do an investigation of missing documents.
The point is, if the government is going to, as an ongoing proposition, devolve the responsibility for calling in the RCMP to the administration, then there ought to be some guidelines. We are advocating that there should be some guidelines to determine what parameters the administration will use when it decides to call in the RCMP.
We have a situation up until now where the RCMP was called in under circumstances that are not clearly defined. We know that the RCMP was called in to investigate the loss of one letter. We know that there were other letters, including ministerial correspondence, which also seemed to get into the public domain and for which there was not a corresponding police investigation.
The public wants to be reassured that the process for determining when the RCMP will be asked to assist in the search of documents, or to investigate the culprits who may have taken documents, is not a decision that is taken capriciously and that it be taken with some thought and some sense of limit.
So I am asking the Minister whether or not he has considered making a policy statement as to when he will allow public servants to call in the RCMP and when he will not?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: We have answered that question at least 100 times in here. The RCMP is not called in on an ongoing basis or at random. It was laid out quite clearly what happened in this case.
The Deputy Minister of the Executive Council Office approached the Department of Justice, who is the government's contact with the RCMP. The RCMP then determined whether or not there were grounds for an investigation. The RCMP was not asked to come in and investigate. It was asked if there were grounds for an investigation, because confidential documents were in the public domain. The RCMP felt that there were grounds for an investigation.
Mr. McDonald: With the greatest respect, the Minister is not catching the point that I and my colleagues on this side of the House have been making from word one.
The point that I am making is that when the civil service calls the RCMP to determine whether or not there are grounds for an investigation, I would think by "grounds for investiation" that they mean that there is some hint or suggestion that government property has been taken illegally and whether or not there has been criminal activity. This could apply to any number of different documents, including confidential documents of all classes and maybe even non-confidential documents. If something is taken - for instance, a case of blank paper - that would be grounds for an investigation if you think it has in fact been stolen.
I want to know what parameters the government has established for public servants to call the RCMP to ask for assistance. Has the government established any limits for determining when the RCMP will be asked to assist? We know, for example, that the Minister says it is when confidential documents are made public. In this particular case, a confidential document was made public. We also know that there have been other confidential documents that have been made public from time to time and tabled in this Legislature with no corresponding police investigation or request for police assistance, or requests to determine whether or not the police feel that there are grounds for an investigation.
I am asking for information. If the Minister is stepping back and saying that the politicians will not take responsibility for this particular kind of action, the public will see this as a pretty significant action. The Minister is chortling about that. If he does not think so, he should say so, and we could get a clear understanding of where the government is coming from.
If the government will devolve this responsibility to someone else, there ought to be guidelines for determining when this activity should take place. We obviously have a situation right now where there is apparently inconsistent response. One confidential document is investigated by the police; another one, including a document between the president of the Yukon Energy Corporation and the Minister, is released and there is no investigation.
Does the Minister feel everything is well in hand?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I certainly feel everything is well in hand. There are rules of common law that apply to investigations. Any time an investigation is taken, legal advice is sought, which is what will happen in the future. I do not believe one can define a policy for each specific case that may arise. There are rules of common law that apply in these instances.
Mrs. Firth: If I could just enter into the debate, the concern is that there does not seem to be any process in place, that the responsibility has been given to deputy ministers to make the determination of whether or not they should ask the RCMP to do an investigation. I personally think that is wrong. I do not think the deputy ministers should be doing that. I believe the political arm of government should know about it. They should not be doing it independently.
This is not something new I am saying. That has been my position.
Who makes the determination that a document is gone, how it went, if it was considered confidential, if the RCMP should be called in? Who makes those decisions, and on what basis? Are they just made up? Is there a guideline in place? Is it completely at the discretion of the deputy minister? How does the process work? What is the process?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: First of all, let us clear the record. The Member said the deputy minister called the RCMP to ask that an investigation be done. I stated time and time again that that is not what happened. The deputy minister consulted, through the Department of Justice, with the RCMP to determine whether or not there were grounds for an investigation. The RCMP does not investigate simply because someone calls and asks for an investigation to be done - that is not its role. The RCMP first looks to see whether or not there are grounds for an investigation: was a law broken? Was there the potential for a law to be broken? Those are the kinds of cases where, I would assume, the RCMP would do an investigation - when it feels that some laws have been broken.
In this case, quite clearly, there was the potential for a law to have been broken. We did not know if the document got into the public domain by accident, or if someone broke their confidentiality - someone who was sworn to confidentiality - and there are many people in our government who are sworn to confidentiality.
I have not had a big backlash from the public service or from the general public on this issue. Most comments I got from the public servants were that they were glad that we did this because their integrity was at stake - when they are sworn to confidentiality and handling confidential documents all the time, the public has to feel that those documents will be treated in a confidential manner. So, I have not felt the backlash that the Members opposite seem to think is out there.
Mr. McDonald: I am the first to admit that there is no mass uprising of people in the street complaining about abuse of authority by the Government Leader and the politicians. That is not the point. The point is that there is an important principle at stake in a democratic society - a democratic society that wants to curb arbitrary power.
In this particular case, the investigation seemed to single out a particular group. That group reacted, naturally enough, with some great anxiety. Consequently, we raised it in the Legislature and asked what limits the executive branch of government is putting on the public servants to ensure that there is some rationality to the process they go through before asking the RCMP to determine whether or not a law is broken and whether or not there are grounds for an investigation.
We know that there are confidential documents missing from time to time. We have had a number of them in the Legislature. We know of one case in which a confidential document resulted in a police investigation. We know that in another case a confidential document did not result in an investigation. The Minister is now saying that there is somehow some natural process - known only to lawyers - that will curb the behaviour of the public servants and the police, and that we have nothing to be worried about. A lot of people disagree. They are increasingly frustrated that the Minister refuses to understand or even respond to what could obviously be perceived as an issue.
I would ask the Minister to consider the implications carefully, not from his perspective of being top dog in the government, with everyone being deferential to him. I am asking for him to look at this from the average citizen's perspective - a person who does not have anything like the authority or power of the Government Leader, or even of the deputy ministers and civil servants or anyone else who has a role in determining whether or not the RCMP would be even asked to consider an investigation. Look at it from the perspective of the citizen who might be investigated. Would he do that?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: We are looking at it, from the perspective of everyone. First of all, nobody was singled out in this investigation; however, one group felt they were singled out, but they were the ones who released the document. I do not even know if the police investigated them, but they were the ones who released the document to the public - a confidential government document. A law could have been broken.
I am not looking at this from the position of Government Leader. I am looking at it from the way laws are administered in this territory. One seeks advice as to whether or not there should be an investigation. That was what was done in this case. I do not believe anybody abused their powers in this case.
I will discuss it with my colleagues, but I do not think we can come up with a policy that is going to cover every possible instance where one may want to ask, through the justice department, for the police to be contacted to see whether or not there are grounds for an investigation.
Mrs. Firth: I just want to add some information to the discussion here. When I listened to the Government Leader this afternoon, I got the impression that the whole story had changed. The Government Leader stood up this afternoon and said that the deputy minister called the Department of Justice, the RCMP was consulted and came in and decided whether or not there should be an investigation; but listen to the letter the deputy minister wrote when this issue had become public.
The Deputy Minister of the Executive Council wrote a letter, containing five points, which was made public to the media.
"(1) As Deputy Minister of the Executive Council Office, I requested the RCMP to undertake the investigation on February 23 of last year."
The deputy minister requested; the RCMP were not consulted. The RCMP was requested to make an investigation. That is different from what the Government Leader said this afternoon.
The next point:
"(2) The request was made without direction from any other source." He discussed the correspondence with the president of the Energy Corporation and with the acting Deputy Minister of Justice.
Then, point number 3 goes on to say, "The RCMP was asked to investigate the circumstances by which this may have occurred." The circumstance was the private and confidential correspondence that had become public.
When I read that letter, I felt that the impression was that the deputy minister requested the RCMP investigation - not that the RCMP was consulted, and said, "Yes, you have enough information here to do an investigation."
The deputy minister very clearly takes full responsibility for requesting the RCMP to undertake the investigation. That is an entirely different story from what the Government Leader told us this afternoon.
I want to know on what basis the deputy minister decides to call in the RCMP to undertake an investigation. There has to be some process in place; otherwise, it is left completely to the discretion of the individual who will decide to call the RCMP in to undertake an investigation. That is my concern, and I think it is a concern of the public.
As the previous questioner said, citizens out there do not feel comfortable to think that deputy ministers - the top bureaucrats within the government - have the sole discretion and authority to request the RCMP to undertake investigations.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: We are playing with words here. Is the Member opposite trying to tell this Legislature that because a deputy minister asked the RCMP to do an investigation, the RCMP would have conducted an investigation if there were no evidence to support it? I find that a ridiculous assumption.
The RCMP is a professional police force. It needs to have some grounds on which to conduct investigations. The deputy minister presented what he had, and apparently the RCMP felt that there were grounds for an investigation. Whether or not we asked or consulted, we are playing with words. The RCMP is a very professional force. The deputy minister felt that a law or laws could have been broken. Confidential documents were in the public domain - advice a Minister had asked to be given to him confidentially, which he would keep confidential. That was the basis on which the deputy minister decided to call in the RCMP, and he stated it quite clearly.
Mrs. Firth: It is not I who am playing with words. I have the facts in front of me. I have the letter. The Minister gave me one story; there is another story, according to this letter. Today the Minister told us a different story.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mrs. Firth: He is saying he did not, but he never once talked about consultations and the RCMP making the decision to investigate.
We had a debate about whether or not there should even have been an RCMP investigation, because of the content of the letter. I think the Liberal Member presented a very solid argument when he addressed the issue. The Liberal Member questioned whether or not an RCMP investigation should have been conducted.
Nobody is challenging the RCMP's professionalism or competence. I want an answer to this question, on behalf of the people that I represent: is it going to be this government's policy that deputy ministers can, on their own, without any guidelines in place, without any policy in place, without any direction from the elected Members of the Legislature, have the ability to launch RCMP investigations? The Minister, by way of his convoluted answers and by changing his answers and his story, is indicating to me that that is going to be the case. I do not agree with that and I think there are a lot of Yukoners who do not agree with it. In fact, Yukoners are quite frightened by that thought.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I do not believe there are people who are frightened by this, but if the Member wants to believe it, it is her prerogative to do so. There are rules of common law that apply before investigations are conducted. In this case, it was clear in the deputy minister's mind that there were grounds for investigation. In the mind of the RCMP, it was clear that there were grounds for an investigation, or it would not have been conducted.
For Members opposite to say that we should develop a policy about when a police investigation may or may not be undertaken is not, I think, doable.
When the Members opposite were in power, they ordered police investigations. They did not develop a policy that said A, B, C, D, E, F and G has to be adhered to before a police investigation is called. Every government has gone through this and it is not something that happens on a regular basis, but sometimes there are grounds for investigations.
Mr. McDonald: I guess I can only say that I am in profound disagreement with the Minister and I do not know what more I can say.
When the Minister made the point that the Utilities Consumers Group had released a confidential document and that it should feel singled out, I think I lost all confidence in the Minister's judgment on this question. The Minister did say that people should always seek advice from lawyers on questions like this and, no matter what I think of the legal profession, I think he is absolutely right. However, I do not think the advice is anything more than that, because the responsibility does rest with someone.
If this is simply going to be a judgment call on the part of a public servant, the ultimate question is who is responsible and who is accountable.
If the Ministers stand back and say that this is an administrative decision, not a political decision, and there is no political interference involved - but the person who actually makes the decision, and makes it just on the basis of information that may be unique in every circumstance, but it ends up being a judgment call - who takes responsibility if the decision is a wrong one? What do we do? What do we do in this Legislature? We cannot ask the Minister. The Minister says it is an administrative decision. He said that in Question Period on numerous occasions.
What happens if the deputy makes a judgment call that, in fact, unreasonably infringes upon people's rights? What if the deputy and the RCMP do the same thing? Even if there is no criminal charges, no court action following, people do not like being spied upon unnecessarily, and they should not be. Who do we respond to? Does the Minister take responsibility for it? He did not want to do it in Question Period and the deputy minister took the action to ensure that the public understood that he took this action by himself. I think that there is a problem that is probably going to remain, and I do not think we are going to be resolving it in the near future.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: Because I said the deputy minister did it, that does not absolve the Minister from responsibility. If he makes a mistake, it will come back to haunt the Minister. There is no doubt about that. No one is trying to absolve themselves of their responsibility. What was being questioned is whether or not the deputy minister had the right to do that without getting political authority to do so. That is what is being questioned in Question Period.
Let there be no doubt in the minds of the Opposition Members that I firmly believe that the buck stops here. We ultimately take responsibility for everything that happens in administration.
Mr. McDonald: I am not going to continue with this all afternoon. We will just have to indicate that there are a number of points of disagreement and go on to another subject.
The Minister very kindly sent over some information, but I have just one more point about the RCMP investigation. Is the Minister's report on the investigation going to provide us with costs associated with the investigation?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I do not know how the costs are handled or how the RCMP does that. It may be part of their job. I do not know if there are any direct costs. If there are, and we can make them available, we will.
Mrs. Firth: I have one follow-up question. Of course, it might lead to two or three, depending on the answer.
Are there currently any other documents, memos, letters or anything that the Government Leader's deputy feels should be investigated? Are there other documents that have gone missing that the government is currently checking out, with the RCMP or not?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: Nothing that I am aware of.
Mrs. Firth: The Government Leader may not necessarily be aware of it, would he, if the deputies are allowed to do that independently? It could be happening and the Government Leader know nothing about it. Is that not correct?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I find that to be very doubtful. I believe that we would be advised of something that serious.
Mrs. Firth: That contradicts the whole argument. I am sure that the Minister can see that what the Minister has just said contradicts the whole debate we had with respect to the RCMP investigation, what he said in Question Period and what is here.
I will let the Government Leader say more, because I have lots of time to ask more questions.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: We stated quite clearly that the responsibility ends here. If the deputy minister has done something wrong, I have to deal with it.
The Member asked if there are any investigations going on and I said none that I was aware of. If the Member wants a flat no, I will say it. I do not know. I do not know of any that are ongoing. Then the Member took editorial liberties and said that there could be, and I would not know. That is not the point. The point is that we ultimately take the responsibility for it. We are not trying to hide from that responsibility.
Mrs. Firth: It remains a fact that, if this authority has been delegated to someone else, it could be happening, and the Government Leader may not know about it. I think that is a fact, whether or not the government likes it.
So, I want to follow up with this question: will the Government Leader find out for us if there are currently any other missing documents, or documents that are perceived to have gotten into the wrong hands, or memos, or any kind of information that his deputy ministers are following up - either with an RCMP investigation or some other kind of investigation - and will he come back to the House with an answer - soon?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: Yes, I will. However, this is the Member who has stood in the Legislature, time and time again, and accused Ministers of political interference into departments. On the one hand, she wants Ministers to be fully involved in the operation of departments; on the other hand, she does not want any political interference. The Member has got to make up her mind about what she wants.
Mrs. Firth: I know what I want. It is the Government Leader that does not know what he wants. I have been very clear about what I want. I do not want the government sticking its nose where it does not belong - in corporations and the Workers' Compensation Board. When it comes to this kind of responsibility, however, I want the Ministers to have some involvement, or knowledge about, or to give some direction. I do not think that is inconsistent or unreasonable at all. I think I know exactly what I want.
I am glad the Government Leader is going to bring that information back to us, and I just cannot wait to see it.
Mr. Cable: Perhaps the corollary of what we have been talking about should be investigated. What does the Government Leader see as being the rules for Ministers laying complaints with the police? Should that be done through the deputy ministers, or should the Ministers themselves be permitted to phone the police investigating officer?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: The Members are asking me questions about hypothetical situations. The Member, who is a lawyer, knows they are dealt with on a case-by-case basis. I am certain that if a Minister had the occasion where he needed RCMP help, he would discuss it with his Cabinet colleagues before making a decision.
I do not know how it is possible to have a blanket policy that is going to apply to everything that may happen in government with respect to the potential for police investigations.
Mr. Cable: I think the Government Leader is correct - anyone can lay an information. That is no secret. I was wondering if the Government Leader is comfortable with the idea of his Ministers contacting the police directly, rather than going through their administrative staff.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: Again, that would depend on the issue. If it was an administrative issue, I am sure it would have to go through administration. If it is political, something for which the Minister is directly responsible, that is different. If we went into the civil service with matters relating to employees, the Members would be criticizing us severely. So, I am saying that I cannot stand here and say what may or may not happen. Each case has to be dealt with on an individual basis, and that is the best way I can state it.
Mr. McDonald: Let me move on to another subject. The Minister was kind enough to give me some information about the Delivering Good Government Committee. That was the organization that was part of the Bureau of Management Improvement, Internal Audit and Evaluation. The Minister may remember the service improvement program, which was at one time unkindly referred to as the "suggestion box program" - and the Minister is saying that it worked.
The Minister, in providing me with information, said that there were a number of suggestions from December 1993 to March 1996 that made life a little easier for government employees but, ironically, the suggestions actually cost more - at least as the suggestion list has been tabled. I am certain the suggestions make things more efficient and improve the service to the public, but there is actually an increase in cost.
My concern is not so much of whether or not there were cost savings, because, in any case, the costs and savings listed here are fairly small in nature. The larger issue is how this program is going, what it is doing now and whether or not it has any credibility within government. I have spoken to a number of employees in government who were initially intrigued by the idea that there would be a bottom-up process for determining that there be some efficiencies sought in government - that people on the shop floor or working in the grader stations or people who worked as social workers - everyone - would have a hand in helping to design the workplace and make it more efficient. No matter what they thought of the government at the time, they were intrigued by this general concept. I think, generally speaking, it was considered to be a fairly attractive concept in its general terms.
The concern, though, that has been expressed to me in the last year has been that the process has gone from a bottom-up process, involving employees, to a top-down process, where any suggestions have to go right to the top for deputy minister review to decide whether or not anything should be implemented, and then either something happens or not.
The committee itself, which involved average employees, is no longer in existence.
Can the Minister tell us what the thinking is behind this change in orientation?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: The service improvement program is only one vehicle for improving Government Services or implementing ideas. It goes up to the Deputy Ministers Policy Review Committee to see that there is no duplication, but there are other vehicles, such as internal meetings in departments, where employees can have input into how they can provide more efficient services within their department.
This service program is not a be-all and end-all for all service improvements in government.
Mr. McDonald: I think the Minister might have been able to glean from my remarks when the program was initiated that I agreed with what the Minister is saying today. However, I do accept, and not even grudgingly, the concept of having employees involved in making suggestions for the improvement of the workplace, and that it should not be exclusively a management responsibility. However, if any changes are to be effective, some of the ideas should come from the shop floor and should be implemented by the shop floor. It should not necessarily be sufficiently important to capture the interest of the top brass in the government - namely, the Deputy Ministers Review Committee - who obviously have a full agenda and have to talk about a lot of things.
The Minister says there are other mechanisms within government to provide for management improvement, but I was under the impression that this service improvement program was something that was a significant initiative and would continue to involve people from a variety of departments so there would be a cross-fertilization of ideas and people could make suggestions without fear of reprisal from a boss who may object.
Inasmuch as this is one mechanism to provide for improvement, why has the decision making been left to the top? Why abandon the committee?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I do not think anything has changed in the system. The suggestions always went up to the Deputy Ministers Review Committee before they were implemented. They were screened by this internal committee and then went to the Deputy Ministers Review Committee to see if they would be implemented. I do not know if recommendations were passed on with them. Some recommendations were passed on to the Deputy Ministers Review Committee with them.
The thing is that there are not many suggestions coming in now.
Mr. McDonald: Is the reason for the committee being essentially abandoned because there is not the material for it to chew on? There are no more good ideas coming through the system?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: That is right. Suggestions did drop off. When suggestions went back out, individual deputies would respond to them at the departmental level within internal meetings, as the Member opposite is talking about, where it should come off the shop floor and be implemented on the shop floor. That is basically the process in place.
The suggestions were sent up to the Deputy Ministers Review Committee to get another level of input and to see if it was something that would improve services to government and be cost effective.
Mr. McDonald: Were many suggestions sent up to the Deputy Ministers Review Committee that were recommended by the committee but rejected by the Deputy Ministers Review Committee?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: It always comes back to the individual deputies. The Deputy Ministers Review Committee sent them on to the individual deputies. I do not know if we have a list of how many were actually implemented and how many were not. There were not that many rejected by the Deputy Ministers Review Committee.
Mr. McDonald: The point that I am getting at is that people come forward with ideas on the shop floor; they give the ideas to the committee; the committee thinks they are good ideas and then they are stopped dead, because the brass in the department does not want to have anything happen. Were there many instances of this happening?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I believe we have provided updates from time to time as to how many suggestions came in, how many were acted upon and how many were dismissed. I think we have given the Members updates on that several times in this Legislature.
Mr. McDonald: The information that I am asking for was not contained in that format, but I guess the one concern that I heard, for the Minister's information, was that there was a fair amount of frustration at the committee level and that some good ideas did not go anywhere, because it was too inconvenient for senior people in the department to actually undertake to make the changes, and this upset the shop-floor people. That is not information that I have been able to obtain from the information that the Minister has provided so far, but it is a point that I will put on the record.
In terms of the program itself, is this program still going to be active in some way? How does the program work now? I do not think I understand it any more.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: The program is still in place. I will provide the Member with a written response for the Member's information. The program is still in place and, rather than reciting all of the details here, I will bring a written response back for the Members.
I have been provided a briefing note that says 98 suggestions were received and considered by the program. The number of suggestions has decreased in recent months, but it was anticipated that the program will continue. To date, 17 suggestions have either been implemented or approved. Thirty-five suggestions were responded to or answered by departments, of which a number were already being acted upon by the departments. There were 12 suggestions, many of which have wide-ranging implications, which are still under consideration. Thirty-four suggestions have not been acted upon, either because they are not feasible or because they fall outside the scope of the program.
For example, some of the suggestions that have been made could not be implemented because they had a direct impact on the collective bargaining agreement.
Mr. McDonald: Perhaps if no other Members have any further questions about this subject, I will go quickly on to the next subject.
We have all received the notice from the communications branch of the Department of Community and Transportation Services that it is going to be recentralizing to Whitehorse. We have heard on a number of occasions in the last three years that positions that had been decentralized to the rural communities have been recentralized.
For years in the Legislature, it appeared to be a common position on both sides of the House that there ought be some decentralizing taking place. When I was in government, the clarion call from the Opposition was always that the government had to get serious about this and simply could not just let it happen by itself because it would not happen. The government, on a couple of occasions, tried to do something, and even enlisted the support of Mr. Jim Smith, who did a study on the subject of decentralization. The government went on to a decentralization program of its own and went through the process of decentralizing some positions.
We received some criticism from the Yukon Party at the time, but we never really understood what the Yukon Party wanted us to do. The Yukon Party government has been in place for better than three years now. Can the Minister tell us what its vision for decentralization is, and what it is actually doing about real decentralization?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I do not have the total number of new positions that have been created in the rural communities with me. I will try to get it before this session of the Legislature is over.
We have created a substantial number of new positions in the communities, and I believe that there is probably a net increase - but I cannot be certain of it - even with those who were deployed back to Whitehorse. We believe that the jobs in the communities have to be jobs that are going to be in the community forever, are cost effective and productive. We had difficulty with some of the positions that were deployed to the communities because the people were spending most of their time in Whitehorse doing their jobs and living in hotels. That just did not make sense to us.
It made no sense at all, so they were deployed back to Whitehorse.
We do believe in helping the communities as much as we can, but we also believe that the jobs in the communities have to be productive jobs and not cost twice as much as if the job was in Whitehorse. We have repositioned some to Whitehorse, but there have been new jobs created in the communities, as well.
Mr. McDonald: The Minister may be aware that his colleagues, while in Opposition, were quite insistent that the notion of decentralization did not mean the creation of new positions. When the Government Leader of the time tried to make the case that a new service was being provided in rural Yukon and that there were new positions, the Opposition cried foul, because it was not decentralization going on but, rather, the creation of new jobs was taking place.
I am not suggesting that the Minister has to answer for everything that his colleagues once said, but I am making the point that decentralization means decentralization. It means taking jobs out of the centre, moving them to the environs and making sure that they have the tools available - fax machines and computer hook-ups - to enable them to communicate with their colleagues.
Is there anything specific, in terms of a decentralization program going on - taking positions from Whitehorse and moving them to the communities -- or anything like it consciously happening?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: We have relocated a couple of biologists from Whitehorse to the communities - one to Watson Lake and one to Haines Junction. They were positions that were moved. If and when we ever get the forestry transferred, a lot of positions will be deployed to the communities - Dawson City and Watson Lake will both be regional centres.
I am not in favour of decentralizing just to decentralize. I will use the example of Carcross, to which the previous administration had decentralized some positions. People were commuting from Carcross to Whitehorse to work. That was of no net benefit to the community, and it was costing more to provide the services. These were positions where the majority of the work was in Whitehorse. The employee was living in the community, commuting to Whitehorse, living in a hotel for five days of the week and returning home for the weekend. We do not believe those jobs have a real impact on the community and, in fact, are jobs that are costing the government far more than they should.
We believe in support for the rural communities, but they have to be jobs that are required in the community and will not require that the employees be commuting to Whitehorse in order to fulfill their duties.
Mr. McDonald: The impression of a lot of rural people - just so I can say I have done this - and I know it well, because I heard it for many years as a rural representative, is that it is natural for Whitehorse to get government jobs because that is where the action is. They have to talk to each other and, consequently, they need to be located close to each other. When that process is allowed to perpetuate itself over time, it creates a larger centre in Whitehorse and becomes harder and harder for there to be any further justification for people to be located in other communities in the territory. Many of the services that are provided in Whitehorse are, in fact, provided to public servants and their families. Consequently, it becomes easier and easier over time to provide more and more services and jobs to Whitehorse. Even though one could argue that Whitehorse is very much a civil service town in many respects, it is almost as if - from the rural perspective - Whitehorse has a right to continue to receive, not only the services, but the jobs and everything else. So, there is a measure of resentment built up in rural communities that I think is simply not felt nor appreciated by a lot of people, including a lot of the decision makers in the public service.
I understand completely why people in the public service will want to have as efficient an operation as possible. Quite often, that means they even object to the idea that a particular branch or department be housed in different buildings around the City of Whitehorse. Naturally, one wants to work together in the same unit because, for efficiency's sake alone, it makes sense. It does not always make sense from other people's perspectives, though, and I make that point.
Could the Minister provide us with a list of every position that has actually been decentralized to a rural community in the last three years? He has mentioned two. There are probably more. Could he have somebody provide us with that information?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: Yes. We will have to go department by department, and it will take some time but we will try to get it for the Member opposite. I appreciate that there are some frustrations in rural communities about the jobs going to Whitehorse. I appreciate that and I respect it.
Just look at the communications branch, which was decentralized to Carcross in 1992 and is moving back to Whitehorse now, as the Member said. Thirty percent of the directors' time was spent in Whitehorse. So the viability and feasibility of having the communications branch at Carcross just was not working. The same was true for Community and Transportation Services, which had municipal advisors in Dawson and, for a while, in Carcross. These people spent even more than 30 percent of their time in Whitehorse, at great expense to the taxpayer.
I believe there are some areas where the government can decentralize. Renewable Resources is one and we need to get more aggressive there. It means a restructuring of the department, though. I do not see a need for a whole building full of biologists in the City of Whitehorse. They could all be out in rural Yukon. That is where they do their work, but the concept needs to be changed to having regional biologists instead of biologists dedicated to one species of wildlife. It is a big move, and it is one that will need to be done in the near future.
Mr. McDonald: I cannot say I am of the view that every decentralization initiative ever taken by the Government of Yukon has worked, and I will not say that every recentralization of the government is justified either. I cannot comment about work environments that I do not know anything about. However, as the Minister has pointed out, it sometimes does require - in his words - a change in the concept of the work environment.
When it comes to biologists who may want the support of their colleagues and be able to talk to each other on a regular basis about issues that are of common concern, you have to balance that with the need to, in the rural communities, visit with and get to know the citizens. You have to get to know who they are and what knowledge they have. You balance their need for support from their colleagues against the need to be in the communities. Sometimes that changes - in the Government Leader's words - the concept of the work environment. Sometimes that requires some innovation and creativity. It is not easy and the point that I think some people in the rural communities make is that it is sometimes too easy to allow the centre to suck up all resources and, consequently, they see all too often public servants living out of hotels in their own communities. They are not actually participating in being with them and knowing them and using community knowledge to their best advantage. I cannot comment on any individual decentralization or recentralization initiative, but I have some feelings about some of them and whether or not some of them are justified.
It is my view that there should be some concentrated effort to reach out to all citizens in all communities to ensure that there is an attempt to not only share the wealth, but to also ensure that there is an opportunity for public servants to relate to the entire territory and not only the environment that is Whitehorse and the Whitehorse world.
I have a couple of brief questions about boards and committees. Could the Minister tell us whether or not there is still a service in the Executive Council Office to undertake a review of board and committee appointments? Is there still a person who reviews applicants to boards and makes recommendations to the government about people who might sit on boards and committees of the government?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: We have a person responsible for gathering names, not reviewing them.
Mr. McDonald: There is still a position that takes in the names and takes in the applications for appointments.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: That is not the only task that that one person does, but one person is delegated to gather the names and put them on lists so, when we need appointments for boards, we have a list to work from.
Mr. McDonald: In the last little while, people have suggested to me that some of the appointments in the last year to the various boards and committees have been for longer terms than average, that there is a conscious attempt by government to appoint people for longer terms. Is the Minister aware of any conscious attempt of that sort?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I am not aware that we have extended any of the terms for the places on boards that needed to be filled. Most boards had a term set out - one year, two years or three years. There has been no policy decision to change any terms that I am aware of.
Mr. McDonald: The argument someone made to me was there was the opportunity to appoint people to varying term lengths on different boards, depending upon the board; that instead of appointing people to a one-year term, the government is appointing people to longer term periods.
For example, the new appointments to the Workers' Compensation Board are for three-year terms. In the past, often new appointments to boards would be for one year, perhaps appointed for a longer term after that.
Now - at least in some people's minds - there appears to be an attempt by the government - consciously or otherwise - to appoint people to longer terms. The Minister is saying, to his knowledge, that that has not taken place.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I am not aware of that. There is no policy change or conscious attempt. If the Member will bring me some examples, or take them up with the Ministers when we get to the departments, perhaps they can shed more light on the rationale behind this.
It is certainly not something that is discussed when we are making appointments at the Cabinet level.
Mr. McDonald: There is one board I want to talk to the Minister about, and that is the Yukon Territorial Water Board. I gave notice to the Minister that I wanted to speak briefly about this board.
In the past, the practice was that the government nominated representatives from the Yukon to the board. In so doing, it would canvass the opinion of the Opposition, to the extent the government used to put a motion before the House with the names of the Water Board representatives.
In 1992-93, that process abruptly ended. The Yukon government nominated people to the Water Board without presenting a motion in the House, or even canvassing the Opposition.
Can the Minister tell us why?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: The act has been changed. I wish I could remember exactly what it is, but there is a reason for it. We only get, I believe, one or two appointments. One appointment to the board is made by the Council for Yukon First Nations and one is by the federal government.
It was when the act was changed that it no longer came through the Legislature. I do not have a briefing note on it, but perhaps I can get the answer for the Member right after the break. There is a rationale for it.
Mr. McDonald: I will wait until after the break, but I would like to put this information on the record. I got a list of the board membership in February 1996. It has nine people on it. There were three Yukon government representatives, three Council for Yukon First Nations representatives and, presumably, three federal representatives. It has always been the case, as far as I understood it, that the federal government would consult with the Yukon government about the selection of the chair for the board.
In the last three years, when the Yukon government's nominations were proposed, I do not remember a resolution in the Legislature, or even an attempt by the government to say to Oppositions Members, "We would like to nominate this or that person. Do you have any objections?" I do remember that when I was in government for seven and one-half years, whenever there was a nomination for the Water Board, there was always an attempt to get agreement from the Opposition before making the nomination so that there would not be concerns about whether or not the person received support from a broad cross-section of the Yukon public. If the Minister can give us more information about that, I would appreciate it.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: There were some who came to the House. It has not been three years since that time. I know Jean Gordon's reappointment was brought before the floor of this House. We no longer have a say who the chair of the board is. The chair is now picked by the people who are appointed to the board. They pick their own chair under the new format. I will try to get that information for the Member after the break.
Mr. McDonald: I have a few land claims-related questions to ask the Minister and will just begin by asking the Minister about the memorandum of understanding that I think he referred to in the House that was going to resolve some outstanding issues - an memorandum of understanding that he was going to sign with the Council for Yukon First Nations. Can the Minister give us a report as to what has transpired?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: We have not yet signed one. There are a couple of outstanding issues on devolution. I think we are pretty well in agreement on land claims and self-government, but there are a few outstanding issues on devolution that the chiefs were going to address at their meetings this week. I am waiting to hear from them.
Mr. McDonald: When is the memorandum of understanding expected to be signed? What is the basic purpose of the memorandum of understanding? The Minister mentioned devolution, land claims and inherent right to self-government. What is the memorandum of understanding about?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: It is not a memorandum of understanding; it is a protocol agreement that the First Nations want to sign with us. Once they get one signed with us, they want to sign another one with the federal government. It is about how we work on a government-to-government basis. That is what it is all about.
Mr. McDonald: So, the protocol agreement is essentially a process agreement for how issues will be settled - the Minister is nodding his head in the affirmative.
I asked the Minister in general debate on the supplementary estimates what the position of the government is with respect to the inherent right to self-government. Can he tell us in a sentence or two what that position is?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: We support them in their inherent right to self-government and have not had any difficulty with it.
Mr. McDonald: What is the government's position with respect to the retention of aboriginal title? Can he give us his position on that?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: We take the same position as is in the umbrella final agreement. We do not take a position different from that. The federal government is working on some agreement with the First Nations regarding aboriginal title. We will see what comes out of that, but we have the umbrella final agreement here, which quite clearly sets out what needs to transpire, and we are fully supportive of it.
Mr. McDonald: There has been a lot of talk about the outstanding taxation issues that are being discussed. Could the Minister give us some sense of understanding of the basic issue and what the Yukon government's position is on it?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: The position is that Canada and Yukon are satisfied that the technical concerns identified by some First Nations have been answered through an in-depth review of relevant provisions of the final and self-government agreements, as well as the federal Tax Act and guidelines, and that the need for changes to the umbrella final agreement or self-government agreements has not been demonstrated. The agreements provide the certainty all parties need. The First Nations have a range of tax-planning options. The existing self-government agreements already provide First Nations with access to future changes that Canada legislates respecting the taxation powers and the exemption of Indian governments or entities.
The fundamental position held by the Yukon and reflected in the umbrella final agreement is that there must be a level playing field for aboriginal and non-aboriginal people and businesses. Tax laws of general application should apply to all. First Nation enterprises, which, because of their particular situation, are able to take advantage of the tax regime, should be able to do so just as non-First Nation businesses.
Mr. McDonald: What is the government's position with respect to the stacking of taxation authority on settlement lands? I think the Minister is saying that First Nations should pay the same taxes as everybody else. I presume he is meaning that First Nations should be paying the same tax rates to the federal and territorial governments, whether or not they are on settlement lands. Is that correct?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: Some First Nation corporations on settlement lands receive special treatment. As the Member opposite is aware, under the umbrella final agreement there was a buy-out of the taxation in the amount of some $25 million.
Mr. McDonald: Yes, I am aware of that, but I am asking the Minister about what is sometimes referred to as "stacking of taxing authorities".
The First Nations have expressed some concern that if they do have the power to tax persons doing business on their land, that it is a tax on top of tax already extracted from those businesses by Yukon and federal governments.
Is that what the government understands to be the case?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: The First Nations have the power to implement taxation on their lands as a source of revenues. That is the same authority a municipal government has to charge property taxes. I am not sure if the issue is the stacking of taxes. I have not been too close to this situation because we see this as one that has to be fundamentally dealt with between the federal government and the First Nations.
Mr. McDonald: I am the first to admit that there are certainly some very complicated issues here. In some respects, I am simplifying them beyond recognition, in order to try to make it understandable to anyone reading Hansard. Perhaps I am trying to get some sense of general principle here, and maybe it is not the best time.
The concern that has been expressed to me has been that when one stacks Yukon, federal and First Nation government taxes, one on top of the other, it does not leave much tax room for First Nations to extract revenue and provide services that are uniquely their own. So, I asked the Minister the general question, to see if he has a general answer to it. I also ask the Minister the general question of whether or not he believes that First Nations should be paying taxes - as governments - either directly or through their corporate entities to the Yukon government.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: If they are performing governmental functions, they are not required to pay tax. If they are operating commercial businesses, that is when they would pay tax.
I do not follow the Member with respect to the stacking of taxes. Territorial taxes would apply unless the First Nation decided to perform a function. If they did, there would be no territorial taxes in that area of taxation. They would be First Nation taxes. We would have to vacate that area. Under the self-government agreement, they have to choose which powers they want to take responsibility for.
I could read the details of the tax position. It may answer some questions. This is a very complicated field and I for one do not even begin to portray myself as an expert on it - or even that knowledgeable about it - because this is one that has to be worked out with the federal taxation people. We try to understand it.
Concerns were raised by some First Nations about how various provisions would actually work in practice and about the possibility of beneficial changes in the federal policy. It was agreed that, due to the highly specialized and technical nature of taxation, First Nations would establish a common table with Canada and the Yukon. With the benefit of key officials from the federal Department of Finance and the original self-government legislative working group representatives for the Yukon and the Yukon First Nations, the various questions and concerns posed by First Nations were reviewed. Canada also provided some further guidance on approaches First Nations could take in working with their own tax advisors on how to structure their affairs and obtain clarity from Revenue Canada through an initial, non-binding consultation.
The common table worked through a number of issues relating to the operations and integration of federal tax legislation and the final and self-government agreements, including the treatment of First Nations performing governmental functions and situations involving risks of going off side, the tax status of financial compensation and section 87 buy-out, et cetera.
Mr. McDonald: There have been concerns expressed to me, and as the Minister has pointed out, that the First Nations governments do not pay tax directly to the Yukon government, but private sector corporations who are conducting business do pay tax.
The analogy that has been presented to me is that corporations such as the Development Corporation do not pay tax to other levels of government, because it is a government entity. Would it be fair to say that the corporations of First Nation governments are being treated differently from corporations of the Yukon government when it comes to the payment of taxes to other levels of government?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: That is something that is going to have to be worked out with the federal government. If corporations are not making money, they are not going to pay any taxes. It is the same as any other corporation.
It would depend on what the corporation is doing. If you have a First Nation corporation in the construction business competing with the private sector, I believe the government would want to see a level playing field. Taxation plays a major role in the price of what companies can bid for jobs.
For instance, if a corporation was deemed to be a Crown corporation - the federal tax regime will have to rule on that - then I imagine they would be treated accordingly. This is not something that I can answer for the Member.
Mr. McDonald: I will not press that further. Something that is much more simple in its concept is the issue of trans-boundary claims. The government knows there are claimant groups in the Yukon that have interest in land in British Columbia. There are also claimant groups in British Columbia that have land in the Yukon.
What is the government's basic position with respect to the ability of First Nations in British Columbia selecting lands in the Yukon?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: There is a chapter in the umbrella final agreement that deals with trans-boundary claims. We have taken the position that the umbrella final agreement and self-government agreements are the bibles we work by in the settlement of land claims in the Yukon.
Mr. McDonald: Does the government have any position in terms of land quantum for our trans-boundary claimants from B.C. into the Yukon?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I do not know. It will be a major concern when it happens. We do not know how it will play out. I believe this was the reason for a special debate in this Legislature with the trans-boundary allocation that was given to the Gwitchin people in McPherson.
There was an amendment made because of that trans-boundary negotiation under chapter 25(2) of the umbrella final agreement. The government and the Council for Yukon First Nations and Yukon First Nations whose traditional territories are affected by trans-boundary aboriginal claims shall work together and respect each trans-boundary aboriginal claim to negotiate a trans-boundary agreement.
The government and the Council for Yukon First Nations and the affected Yukon First Nations shall make the best efforts to settle the trans-boundary aboriginal claims of the Yukon Indian people in the Northwest Territories and British Columbia based upon reciprocal agreements for traditional use and occupancy.
Canada shall make adequate resources available for the Yukon First Nations to negotiate trans-boundary claims in accordance with the federal comprehensive claims funding policies.
Negotiations shall be based upon traditional use and occupancy.
Mr. McDonald: The Minister is quite correct that there was a debate in the Legislature about the Tetlit Gwitchin's trans-boundary claim, and the basic issue was whether or not the federal government, along with a claimant group, could unilaterally settle a land claim in the Yukon without the Yukon government's involvement. The umbrella final agreement changed all that.
The basic issue - and maybe the Minister cannot answer it right now; I invite him to if he can, but if he cannot that is all right - is what land quantum the government would consider to be appropriate to cover the issue of traditional use and occupancy. The definition of traditional use and occupancy is a mouthful and there are some pretty strong feelings in this territory, as I am sure the Minister is aware, about what that constitutes.
Obviously, the claimant groups in British Columbia have an interest in the Yukon, in that their traditional territories overlap, in some cases quite significantly, into the territory. They would obviously be interested in seeking a claim in the territory every bit as much as the Champagne-Aishihik First Nation, the Teslin Tlingit Council and Liard First Nations all have interests in British Columbia.
If the government can give us some perspective or scope as to what they would be prepared to consider in terms of land quantum, I would be more than happy to hear about it.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I will not even attempt it. Our priority is to settle the Yukon land claims first, before we even get into trans-boundary issues.
While I am on my feet, I would like to get back to the Water Board. There are nine members on the Water Board. Three are federal, three are Yukon government and three are Yukon Council for Yukon First Nations. The chair is now recommended to the federal Minister by the board. In other words, the chair comes from one of the nine members on the board. Our appointees to the board are Jean Gordon, Ron Johnson and Bruce Sova.
Under the old Northern Inland Waters Act, our members had to be nominated by the Legislature. This act has been repealed and replaced with the new Yukon Waters Act, and under this new act Cabinet puts forward the nominations, not the Legislature.
Mr. McDonald: Was that change in the Yukon Waters Act requested by the government or was it simply instituted?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I have no idea.
Mr. McDonald: Back to land claims, I think I have all I can get from the Minister with respect to trans-boundary claims, but I would ask the Minister this general policy question. The Kaska First Nation is interested in resolving its land claims involving all the First Nations, whether they are in the Yukon or British Columbia. As a matter of general policy, is the government prepared to entertain the prospect - even abiding by the umbrella final agreement - of resolving trans-boundary issues with claimant groups outside of the Yukon but in the context of the Yukon land claim?
In other words, the land claim would involve all parties to the claim, including those in British Columbia.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I know what the Member is saying, but the position that we are taking is that we will negotiate with the Liard First Nation and the Ross River First Nation under the auspices of the umbrella final agreement. If there are bilateral negotiations going on over the B.C. side of the line at the same time, that is fine. The land quantum for the Liard First Nation and the Ross River First Nation will be the same as was set out by the Council for Yukon First Nations.
Mr. McDonald: I have a couple of other brief questions. I cannot leave the subject of land claims without asking the Minister when he expects a settlement of any band final agreement between now and say, for example, next October or November.
In August 1995, the Minister said that he expected that three First Nations would probably have band final agreements within a couple of months. That was five or six months ago. When does the Minister think that he will realistically see action?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: This is in the protocol agreement that we are working out with the Council for Yukon First Nations, and I will speak to the chiefs' expectations, and that is that we would have, I believe, four completed by the end of June, which would be the Ta'an Kwach'an, Carmacks, Pelly and Dawson bands.
Mr. McDonald: The Minister is expecting those four self-government agreements. Will this memorandum of understanding address the issues of umbrella final agreement obligations, such as the development assessment process to ensure that those issues are settled on time?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: No, that process is going very well, and we believe that it will be in place probably before the February 14 deadline. There has been a lot of work done on the development assessment process, and it is starting to come together now.
First Nations have some time and have some people dedicated to working on it, and I think they are prepared to go to public consultation on it shortly. Very shortly it will be going out to public consultation.
Mr. Joe: I have two short questions. I want to talk about speeding up the land claims process. In order for us to do that there are some very important outstanding issues that must be addressed. It was my understanding that the chief and Government Leader talked about this before the House reconvened.
I know that my chief does not want these issues to become political and wants to talk with the Government Leader first. However, there are a few outstanding issues that need to be dealt with and from there I can see which way things are going to go.
There is a dispute between the federal government and First Nations. It is my understanding that the territorial government got control of all the fish in the lakes. What we are trying to negotiate is that we will actually get involved with the territorial government to control the fishing taking place in the lakes.
In the past, in our experience, we have found how the fish and lakes are polluted. I guess the Government Leader knows what I am talking about, because we can see this happening at all the good fishing lakes near Carmacks. There are no controls on fly-in fishing. These lakes are being affected now. I think the effects happen a lot faster than one would think. There are a number of lakes being affected by this type of fishing all the time.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: The Member is right. I have met with the chief of his First Nation and there are a couple of major issues that we are trying to resolve. I agree with him that, once we can resolve them, the claim should go fairly fast. We are looking at some options on how we can resolve things. I do not have an answer for him at this time, but we are seriously looking at ways in which we can resolve those major issues, I believe there are two, that are outstanding and need to be resolved.
Mr. Joe: One of the problems we keep running into is the federal third party. What about the third party? What are we going to do with the third party? We do not have too many problems, but those kinds of disputes have to be dealt with. There is too much wasted time.
We are getting involved with the Yukon government and control. Instead, people are coming into our lands without dealing with the Yukon government or the First Nation. They just go in and help themselves. There is lots of that kind of thing going on.
We will have to deal with that some time - control.
That is the only thing I have a problem with.
Mr. Cable: I have some questions about some of the boards and commissions set up under the umbrella final agreement. The first is the Yukon Land Use Planning Council. It is my understanding all the appointments have been made and that board is now in place. Is that correct?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: Yes. That is a federal board, and all the appointments are in place.
Mr. Cable: Referring to the implementation plan, does the Minister have the documents in front of him? The Minister is indicating yes.
At page 97, referring to activities this council was to carry out after the settlement legislation was proclaimed, there is a reference to holding an annual meeting with the chairpersons of all commissions to discuss land use planning in the Yukon. I do not think all the commissions are operational.
Have there been any meetings by this council with any of the people involved in planning in the Yukon?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I understand there has been an organizational workshop to get oriented and started.
Mr. Cable: Under the umbrella final agreement, in chapter 11 - it is referred to on page 95, if the Minister would flip that page over - there are a variety of things that the Land Use Planning Council was to do. At subparagraph 11(3)(iii), there is a variety of recommendations set out. Has the council proceeded to the point where it has started to make those recommendations?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: No. I think the Member has to appreciate that the council has just been set up and has only been in place for about three or four months. The members are still getting their feet on the ground.
Mr. Cable: That is useful information. The next board I would like some information about is the Surface Rights Board. That, I gather, is also up and running and holding meetings - is that correct?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: Yes, it is meeting and is just now issuing draft appeal guidelines and rules and procedures. Those are going out for public comment now.
Mr. Cable: That, in part, answers my next question. If the Minister will flip over to page 95 of the implementation plan, the last paragraph talks about the board prescribing rules and procedures to govern any negotiations and that it may establish a mediation process. Is that what the Government Leader was just talking about?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: Yes.
Mr. Cable: When is it anticipated that this board will be in a position to hear applications?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I do not have that answer. I do not know when it will be ready.
Mr. Cable: Perhaps the Government Leader could bring a return on that? The Government Leader is indicating that he will try.
I gather all the appointments to the Dispute Resolution Board have been made and that that board is in place. Is that correct?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: Yes, it is.
Mr. Cable: On page 112 of the implementation plan, there is a reference to the rules and procedures for this board. Are those rules and procedures in place?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: No. I understand that the federal Minister only approved the appointments to this board in the last month. It will take some time.
Mr. Cable: I have one last question. It will be useful to find out when it is anticipated that this board will be operational.
There is the Fish and Wildlife Management Board, including the salmon subcommittee and the Renewable Cesource Councils.
How many Renewable Resource Councils are in place at the present time?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: Four.
Mr. Cable: Those four relate to the four First Nations that have settled their land claims agreements? Is that correct? I see the Minister is nodding his head.
Mr. McDonald: The subject of the waterfront development has been raised during Question Period and perhaps there is some confusion about what has been suggested as a resolution for the waterfront situation. I was under the impression that there was a suggestion for joint management of the waterfront and that this was not acceptable to the Yukon government. What suggestions or resolutions does the government prefer to resolve outstanding land claims with regard to the waterfront?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I wish that I had the answer, because we may be moving ahead with development.
The government did not refuse the joint management plan for the waterfront; in fact, this government proposed it. It was almost two years ago - 18 months ago - that we made this proposal. This proposal was not taken up by the city or the Kwanlin Dun First Nation.
Mr. McDonald: What is the government's position with respect to land selections on the waterfront? The Government Leader has made it abundantly clear that land purchased by White Pass is land that should not be open for selection. Does the Government Leader feel that the First Nations should be permitted to select lands on the waterfront?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I made my position clear on that. I did not think they ought to be able to, but because of the manner in which the government is holding them, it is eligible for claims and we have to accept that. When the previous administration bought it, maybe they did not anticipate any claims, I do not know, but they did not take any actions to prevent claims being made on that property so, in fact, it is eligible for claims. We know that, and we are prepared to deal with that within the context of land selections in the City of Whitehorse.
Mr. McDonald: The residents on the waterfront are obviously interested in seeing their situation resolved. Typically, it is the case that the residents' situation is last to be resolved because it is considered the least significant from a public policy perspective. However, it appears that it would make sense that those residents' situation, particularly those who are not land claims claimants or part of land claims claimant groups, should be resolved in some way, and that the government should take some action or prepare for whatever action is going to be taken to deal with their situation.
What is the government's plan with respect to dealing with people on the waterfront?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: This is a very complicated issue. The Member opposite is aware that not all of them are situated on Crown land. Some are on private lands, some of them are on lands that now belong to the city, and that will have to be dealt with when we resolve the whole waterfront issue. We do not have a plan for it. I do not know what to do. Offers have been made, as the Member opposite knows. When he was in power, offers were made to them and a lot were refused. I do not know the answer.
Mr. McDonald: Can I suggest that, as a starting point, the government, the land claims negotiator - whomever they decide to designate for this purpose - speak to waterfront residents, perhaps in a group fashion, to get some clearer sense of what they think their options are and what they would like to see, so that at least the government is more clearly aware of what might be some possible resolution for the situation.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I hear the representation from the Member and I will take it up with my land claims people. I cannot give him an answer right now.
Mr. McDonald: The Minister may remember that, in every budget debate so far, I have raised the issue of waterfront residents and what is going to happen to them. Throughout the year, I have conversations with people who live in the waterfront area and they ask what is happening. I continue to say that I raised the matter in the Legislature. I am having obvious difficulty even getting the government to agree to meet with the citizens in the area, let alone suggest alternatives for them.
Can the Minister give me a commitment to respond to their request to meet with them or have someone meet with those residents prior to the discussion we will have on the subject of lands in Community and Transportation Services?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I wish I could, but our land claims negotiators are very busy in negotiations right now. I do understand, however, that all of the people there were canvassed by our land claims people within the last two years. I will bring that information back to the Member.
Mr. McDonald: I would appreciate whatever information the Minister has. If he is referring to the LeGresley report, then he does not have to give it to me. If he is referring to something else, then I would appreciate having that provided to me prior to the debate on the Department of Community and Transportation Services estimates.
Chair: Are we prepared to take a brief recess at this time?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: We will take a brief recess at this time.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. We will continue general debate on Bill No. 10, the Executive Council Office.
Mrs. Firth: I have some questions about one of the government's latest press releases dated March 25, 1996. It says that the Government Leader reports that land claims personnel has been increased.
The Minister makes reference to hiring a second principal negotiator, or appointing one, increasing the number of lead territorial negotiators, and two additional land and final agreement research positions staffed with experienced personnel. There is a lawyer contracted to assist with self-government negotiations, and management and senior policy resources are redeployed to enhance support to the negotiators. Could the Government Leader tell me the names of the people who have filled all these positions in the press release?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: No I cannot. I do not have the names of the people in front of me.
Mrs. Firth: Does the Minister know the name of the second principal negotiator who was recently appointed? Does anyone know that name?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek:
Someone in the Land Claims Secretariat will know. I do not ask for the names of the people who are appointed. I am sure they were advertised positions, and people have been selected for them.
Mrs. Firth: Could the Minister bring back the names of all the people who are in the Land Claims Secretariat, including the names of all the new people he mentioned in his press release of March 25?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I will see if I can get that for the Member.
Mrs. Firth: In his press release, the Minister said the Land Claims Secretariat personnel budget has been increased by 10 percent to cover the costs. Does that fully cover the costs of all the person years and positions announced in this press release?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: When we get to that line, we will talk about it. We have a 10-percent dollar increase for personnel in the Land Claims Secretariat.
Mrs. Firth: In the Land Claims Secretariat, there is a five-percent decrease in the overall budget, but a 10-percent increase in the personnel line, under allotments. I want to know if that covers all of the positions that the Minister has mentioned in this press release.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I would expect that it does, unless there are some contract positions. I see the third lawyer that is hired is a contract position.
Mrs. Firth: Would that have been contracted within the Executive Council Office?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: It was contracted through the Department of Justice.
Mrs. Firth: The Government Leader does not know who the lawyer is, but he will bring that information back to us later.
I find it rather curious that the Government Leader announced this before we even debated it in the budget. What was the reason for issuing the press release on March 25, before we had debated the Land Claims Secretariat in the Executive Council Office budget?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: The press release was put out to counteract misinformation that was given to the federal Minister, who held a press conference at the airport and said that we had cut back on our Land Claims Secretariat funding. As the Member said, while there is a five-percent drop, we want to point out that extra personnel has been hired in order to fast-track the claims. That is what came up at the meeting I had with the federal Minister on Sunday. So, we thought clarification was needed to refute the statements he had made.
Mrs. Firth: It does not sound like the Minister is getting along very well with the federal Minister responsible for our affairs.
I have been a Member for a fairly long time, and I can recall the odd disagreement with the federal Minister and the federal government, and the odd press release being issued showing disagreement, but is this not unusual? Does it not give the Minister a bit of an unsettling feeling to be carrying on this debate with the federal Minister through the media?
Is it not the purpose of press releases to keep people informed, and not to respond to comments made in the form of a debate with the federal Minister?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: It was not made in the form of a debate. I get along very well with the federal Minister of Indian and Northern Affairs. He was given misinformation by his officials. He voiced this information publicly. I corrected the public record, which was that we, in fact, had put more money into land claims personnel in order to fast-track the claims.
He did this in the context of trying to fast-track the claims, and felt it appeared that the territorial government had not put enough resources into it. That was the context within which the press release was issued.
Mrs. Firth: Did the Minister discuss this with the federal Minister?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: Yes, I did, on Sunday, before issuing the press release.
Mrs. Firth: Was he in complete agreement with it?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I did not ask him if he was in complete agreement with the press release. Why should I?
Mrs. Firth: I have a concern about the relationship between the federal Minister and the Government Leader. I am not going to get into a big debate about it this afternoon. We will just wait to see what happens as time passes, and we will see if we do get any devolution accomplished and see if we do settle any more land claims. The story will be told at the end of the term.
Mr. McDonald: A question I want to pose to the Minister at this point is one of devolution. Mr. Robert Wright, the federal Minister's emissary, has been to the territory and has discussed devolution with a variety of people. Can the Minister tell us what position was presented to Mr. Wright?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I am not sure that I understand the Member's question. Perhaps he can elaborate a little bit?
Mr. McDonald: As the Minister is aware, Mr. Wright is in the territory trying to resolve outstanding issues with respect to First Nation consultation, the devolution workplan and essentially the ability to undertake devolution while seeking progress at the land claims table.
As I understand it - at least as it was explained to me - Mr. Wright is going to be taking a proposed position to the federal Minister for his consideration and the federal Minister will respond in one way or another. What is the government's position on it with respect to devolution now and how is it going to resolve any outstanding concerns by others, including First Nations, about the role that they would play in the devolution process?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: That goes back to the protocol agreement that I spoke of earlier that we and the First Nations are trying to get signed. That takes into account devolution, as well as the finalization of land claims and self-government.
Mr. Wright's role is to put forward a position of DIAND's for the complete devolution of its powers to the Yukon government and to put forward a package as to what DIAND estimates would be the financial cost to deliver these programs to Yukoners. As well, he will set out what they are prepared to talk about in terms of transferring to the territorial government the responsibilities of land, minerals and water, which are the final responsibilities of DIAND in the Yukon.
Mr. Wright said that package would be delivered to us in late April or early May for review. It would be given to the First Nations at the same time, and at that time it was expected it would be made public what the package would look like.
We will have to wait to see what comes from this before we decide what position we will take on the package that is going to be put together.
Mr. McDonald: Obviously, it is hard to respond to a package that we have never seen. I am essentially asking the Minister what his government's position is with respect to First Nation involvement in the devolution process and the issue of proceeding with the various devolution projects, such as oil and gas, forestry, phase 2 of the health transfer - which I realize is not a Department of Indian and Northern Affairs development program. What is the government's position with respect to First Nation involvement?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: This government's position has not changed from what was said in the Legislature last year or the year before that. This government wants the First Nations fully involved in devolution. We do not believe that First Nations have a de facto veto by not participating. This government is encouraging First Nations to participate and that is what the federal government is now doing.
This government hopes that the protocol agreement will help us to move ahead together. The Oil and Gas Accord was signed by the previous administration in Ottawa. I had a commitment from this Minister to deal with the oil and gas legislation to put it through the House once the first four final agreements went through the federal House of Commons. It is my understanding that it is still the federal Minister's intention to put forward the oil and gas legislation to the federal House of Commons during this spring sitting.
We intend to table our legislation before the end of this session and leave it over the summer so that people can comment on it.
Mr. McDonald: When it comes to the question of the oil and gas transfer, or any of the transfers, is the government indicating that it is prepared to proceed with devolution only if there is a protocol agreement - the one to be signed with the Council for Yukon First Nations - in place before these can be carried further? Is that what the Minister is saying?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: No, it does not have to be in place, but we would hope that it would be in place.
Mrs. Firth: I have some questions about this package. I have heard some information about it. Can the Minister tell us what his understanding is with respect to the package? Will his government be given this package and, if so, is it a negotiable package or will the federal government be adopting a take-it-or-leave-it approach?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: This has been an ongoing debate between us and the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs, and that was why the forestry transfer fell through - the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs was trying to have claw-backs.
We are not certain yet but we seem to have finally got the message through to the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs that it ought not to be worried about the revenues that come from the resource. We will deal with federal Finance on that. It will be part of the formula financing arrangements, and it will be part of our base. We seem to have gotten that message through now.
The Department of Indian and Northern Affairs is supposed to calculate what it costs the department to deliver the service here and give us a figure in the neighbourhood of what it is prepared to devolve on the financial side for us to deliver that service. We are trying to stay away from that department dealing with the revenue side as it was on the forestry transfer. It said we could make X number of dollars from increased stumpage, and it wanted so much claw-back on that. We are trying to stay away from the claw-back scenario.
Mrs. Firth: Is the Minister confident that will happen? The comments I heard were that this package was going to be presented and it would be a take-it-or-leave-it, all-or-nothing deal. That gives me a bit of concern. My concern is that this government will say it does not want it. I am curious to know how much ability the Minister thinks he will have to negotiate it. Will he be able to break it up? Will it be one package, and he has to take the whole package? What is his understanding of how this process will take place?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: My understanding is that we will have some input into it as the federal government is developing it during the month of April, that we will be consulted on it. It will not be a one-package, take-it-or-leave-it deal; it will be an agreement in principle for the devolution of the rest of the responsibilities from the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs and setting out certain time frames.
It is not my understanding that it will be a take-it-or-leave-it deal.
Mrs. Firth: Can the Minister tell us who will be involved in the discussions with the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: Mr. McTiernan is the deputy minister responsible for devolution.
Mrs. Firth: It will just be that individual who will be responsible for discussing all the different areas of forestry, water, mining and land, or will the other departments be involved in it?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: No, we will involve all the departments in it, but Mr. McTiernan will play the lead role.
Chair: Is there any other general debate?
Mr. McDonald: I have a couple of brief questions. I had a chance to review the travel list of Ministers and aides that the Minister kindly tabled with us. I only have a couple of questions arising from it, and I will ask them now.
I asked the Minister some time ago whether or not his director of policy research in the Cabinet offices had attended a press conference by Mr. Henderson on his coming-out as a Yukon Party candidate. This press conference was held during the day.
Has the Minister had an opportunity to determine if Mr. Hallman was in attendance?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: Yes, it is my understanding that he was in attendance and had taken leave for that. He was not doing it on government time.
Mr. McDonald: Perhaps the Minister could explain once again, very briefly, what the role of the director of research is. I have seen him at the Faro trade show, staffing a Yukon Party booth, and we see that he attends press conferences of Yukon Party candidates. Obviously he is a very partisan, political appointee, and he seems to get around the territory quite aggressively. He attended the Dawson Gold Show, the Mayo community meeting, the Watson Lake forestry meeting, the Carmacks community tour, and the Faro community meeting, as well as the Government Leader's own executive assistant. Furthermore, Mr. Hallman went to Calgary to do research of some kind. Could the Minister, once again, explain this person's role? For all apparent purposes, he is a very partisan person, playing a great partisan role - at least, on his own time - but I am not sure what he does.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: First of all, I would clarify that the person was at the Faro trade show on his own time and not on government time.
He provides administrative assistance to all Ministers by prioritizing assignments; ensuring that initiatives are dealt with in an expedient fashion; reviewing issues and providing policy advice, as required; gathering, compiling and organizing material to be used in the preparation of letters, news columns, speeches; drafts letters, news columns, speeches and other public releases; monitors government and Opposition policies, positions and statements; gathering and compiling of documentation and information in response to various requests for information received by Ministers and follow-up through applicable government contact; questions, concerns and data required to assist Ministers in responding quickly and effectively to constituents' concerns; and has prompt responses to any requests for information.
Mr. McDonald: I have a quick question. I realize that we are waiting for one exalted person to join us. What would involve this fellow travelling around the territory so much? The Minister described someone who can perform his function behind a computer quite effectively. What causes this person to be a necessary participant in all those meetings around the territory and also to visit Calgary at public expense?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: As director of research, he must be familiar with the territory. As we travel around the territory, there was an opportunity to take him along to help him to be able to fulfill his role in a more expedient manner.
Mr. McDonald: What was he doing in Calgary again? Can the Minister recall?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: He was doing research on behalf of Cabinet. Cabinet is always working on different policies and issues. He was there doing research on Cabinet's behalf.
Mr. Chair, I move that you report progress at this time.
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?
Chair: Mr. Speaker, Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 10, entitled First Appropriation Act, 1996-97, and directed me to report progress on it.
Speaker: You have heard the report from the Chair of the Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: I declare the report carried.
Speaker: We are now prepared to receive the Commissioner, in her capacity as Lieutenant Governor, to grant assent to the bills that have passed this House.
Commissioner enters the Chamber, announced by the Sergeant-at-Arms
ASSENT TO BILLS
Commissioner: Please be seated.
Speaker: The Assembly has, at its present session, passed certain bills to which, in the name and on behalf of the Assembly, I respectfully request your assent.
Clerk: Interim Supply Appropriation Act, 1996-97; Fourth Appropriation Act, 1994-95; Third Appropriation Act, 1995-96.
Commissioner: I hereby assent to the bills as enumerated by the Clerk.
Commissioner leaves the Chamber
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I move that the House do now adjourn.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Government House Leader that the House do now adjourn.
Motion agreed to
Speaker: This House now stands adjourned until 1:30 p.m. Monday next.
The House adjourned at 5:18 p.m.
The following Sessional Papers were tabled March 28, 1996:
Letter dated March 25, 1996, to Hon. Mr. Ostashek, Government Leader, from Stephen Markey, vice-president, Canadian Airlines International Ltd., re continuation of youth standby fares (Ostashek)
Ministerial Council on Social Policy Reform and Renewal: A Report to Premiers (dated December 1995) (Ostashek)