Tuesday, April 23, 1996 - 1:30 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
We will proceed at this time with silent prayers.
Speaker: At this time we will proceed with the Order Paper.
Introduction of visitors.
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I would like to introduce two grade 5 classes from Jack Hulland Elementary School in Porter Creek, together with their teachers, Vern Peters and Wilf Somers, and a few parents.
The students are studying Canadian government and are here to see their own Yukon government in action. I have promised some of the parents that we would be on our best behaviour for the students today.
The Member for Whitehorse West cautioned me not to promise what I may not be able to deliver, but we will make our best effort.
Speaker: Are there any returns or documents for tabling?
Are there any reports of committees?
Are there any petitions?
Are there any bills to be introduced?
Are there any notices of motion?
Are there any ministerial statements?
This then brings us to Question Period.
Question re: Yukon News, boycott
Mr. McDonald: I have a question for the Government Leader.
There appeared to be a veritable feeding frenzy at the Yukon Party convention this past weekend. Partisan supporters, including a Cabinet Minister, lined up to not only criticize the Yukon News but also to threaten to boycott it. Apparently the Yukon News is not spreading the Yukon Party gospel as it was written by the politicians.
One report stated that convention-goers had suggested that the government departments should withhold or reduce their advertising business from this particular media outlet. I would like to ask the Government Leader whether or not he can give us assurances that the Government of Yukon will do no such thing.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: The government has not even considered such a thing, nor will we be doing so.
Mr. McDonald: I am happy to hear that. The Deputy Government Leader had apparently joined the feeding frenzy. Did the Government Leader state at the time of the convention that withholding public funds to punish the newspaper for partisan reasons was unethical?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I did not enter the debate at all.
Mr. McDonald: The suggestion was that perhaps he should have.
This is a small community. All businesses depend on the support of people from all political affiliations. Can the Government Leader tell us whether or not he is prepared to condemn any practice of boycotting any business simply because the owners or workers at that business have expressed their political beliefs?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I am not about to make a commitment for any business in the Yukon. That is entirely up to the business as to whether or not they want to support any newspaper or outlet of any sort. I am not about to make any commitments on their behalf.
Question re: Yukon News, boycott
Mrs. Firth: I would like to follow up with the Government Leader on the same subject matter. This is not the first time this party and this government have been accused of meddling with the media. The person who advocated that businesses boycott the Yukon News is a constituency president, one who would be perceived to be fairly influential within the Yukon Party. He clearly advocated that the government departments should look at other avenues for advertising if the Yukon News did not shape up.
I would like to ask the Government Leader, since he is the Leader of the Yukon Party - and this is quite an unethical practice for a party to condone - why he did not stand up on the convention floor and explain to the membership that he would not condone this kind of practice?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: The Opposition in the House today is insulted that the democratic process is perhaps not being acted upon in a manner it sees fit. Everyone should have the right to freedom of speech, including the Yukon News. The same goes for the members of the Yukon Party. We have the right to freedom of speech.
Mrs. Firth: The Government Leader, the leader of a political party, has some responsibility to indicate to his membership if activities that are advocated are ethical or not. That is his responsibility as a leader. He did not take responsibility for that.
I have no axe to grind with the person making the comment. He has his right to make his comments, but the Leader of the Government of the Yukon Territory has a responsibility to correct people when they suggest unethical practices. Why did the Government Leader not stand up and address the issue right then on the floor of the convention?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I think that probably a lot of people in the Yukon Party now are glad that the Member for Riverdale South never got to be their leader, so that she could run it in the dictatorial fashion that she is proclaiming today.
Mrs. Firth: Here is a man talking about dictators, who says we are going to be finished sitting in this House tomorrow, or else. This is the biggest bunch of bullies we have had.
Speaker: Order. "Bullies" is unparliamentary.
Mrs. Firth: Mr. Speaker, I retract the word "bully", but here is the biggest dictator we have had in the government. I want to ask the Government Leader this: will he stand up today and condemn this kind of activity so that Yukoners know, and particularly all the media knows, that it is not this government's position or policy to intimidate and to use the threat of boycott of business to the local media if they do not "shape up", as his constituency president is saying.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I already answered that question for the Leader of the Official Opposition.
Question re: Energy conservation
Mr. Cable: I have some questions for the Minister of Government Services on energy retrofits. As I am sure he will recollect, last Wednesday night some questions were put to him about the pay-back periods for the re-lighting of some government buildings. I think the Minister agreed that it made sense to re-light the buildings. He had previously forwarded to me information indicating a very short pay-back period for that sort of operation.
He then went on to talk about one of the considerations that had to be taken into account when deciding whether or not to re-light the buildings. One of the considerations was the profits of the utilities - the Yukon Energy Corporation, in particular. I wonder if the Minister could tell us that it is not so - that the profits of the utilities are not driving the government's energy conservation programs.
Hon. Mr. Nordling: No, in fact, it is just the opposite. I was expressing concern that we, as a government, through the Department of Government Services, pay close to 150 percent of the cost of the production of energy. We think that the government should not be paying at that level for the service. As Minister of Government Services, I am certainly not interested at all in lining the pockets of the Yukon Energy Corporation.
Mr. Cable: That was not the impression I and one of the other Members of the Opposition received when the Minister made the comments. We thought he was standing up for the utilities to ensure that they are making profits and that was the reason the re-lighting of the buildings was not taking place. I am very pleased to hear that.
Could the Minister indicate to the House, in view of the short pay-back period, why this government seems to be sitting back in a very relaxed mode and why it is not moving immediately to re-light all the government buildings with energy efficient lighting?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I am not sure of the schedule. I will check on it for the Member, but I do know that there is an expense involved. The pay-back period is good, and I know it is being looked at and worked on now. The system we have of turning off every second light does not seem to be the way to go about it.
Mr. Cable: This government has never struck the public as being terribly interested in energy conservation. What is going on among the various departments? Is there an interdepartmental approach to energy conservation, with the Department of Government Services a part of it?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: Yes, there is. It is through Government Services and it is throughout government. We are working with the Department of Education and on our own buildings. We are working on energy conservation, and the Member must know that this government is interested in it by the fact that, when he goes into the cafeteria, for example, every second light is turned off to conserve energy.
Question re: Venture loan guarantee program
Mr. Harding: Speaking of the lights being out, I have a question for the Minister of Economic Development on the venture partnership program, which I simply call corporate welfare for banks.
Banks lend money every day. Banks take on marginal customers every day, and they make bad loans. All this new venture loan program does is to give them a fat pot of $3 million of taxpayers' money to offset loan losses they probably would have already had.
I would like to ask the Minister why this government would be subsidizing ordinary banks' bad-loan losses with this program?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: That is neither the intent nor the purpose of the venture loan partnership program at all. Consultation did indicate that there was a need to be filled in the venture loan areas, and that is what the government has done.
Mr. Harding: That might not be the intent of the program, but it is certainly going to be the effect. The program ensures that banks charge the highest rate of interest possible. Since the borrowers are supposed to be going to a lender of last resort, because taxpayers are backing them, how is competition on interest rates encouraged when the borrowers have no bargaining power?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: This is a venture loan program and I believe the Member has read the criteria for it. The program is not a profit-making venture for the banks; rather, it is to share the risk. There are people and corporations that need some assistance beyond what the banks can offer. This government is willing to help some of those people out. The payback will come in the way of economic development for the territory. There will be losses. We are not saying there will not be any losses, but we believe this will be offset by the economic development that is created for the Yukon.
Mr. Harding: The Minister just stated that the banks are not participating in this program as a profit-making venture, but these are the same major banks that produced billions of dollars in profits during the last fiscal year.
I think the banks are in the program for profit and the way the program has been structured by the government allows the banks to charge the highest interest rate possible, because they set the rates. They are allowed to lend as much as possible of the $3 million of the taxpayers' money and are permitted to take as little risk as possible, as a result of the program. The fox is in charge of the hen house and I would like to ask why the government put the banks in charge?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: There were a couple of statements there that were just not correct at all. The banks will share the risk with government. If a loan is called, the banks stand to lose 35 percent. It is not a giveaway program. All the banks are involved. The borrower can still shop around; if he does not like the interest rate he gets from one financial institution, he can go to another one.
Question re: Venture loan guarantee program
Mr. Harding: The Minister just said that borrowers can shop around. These people are borrowers of last resort. The banks and the government are supposed to be lenders of last resort in this case for this particular program, and he is still saying that people can shop around. If they have no bargaining power and they are coming to this government program, which puts taxpayers' money on the line, how will they have this bargaining power to shop around? The banks set the interest from prime plus three to prime plus 10.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: They can certainly shop around. They can go to the different chartered banks, the Business Development Bank or Dana Naye Ventures. All of those institutions will be using our loan guarantee partnership program.
Mr. Harding: I fail to see how this is going to happen when these people are borrowers of last resort.
According to this program, the banks do all the approving. It states right in the program that the program delivered by the financial institutions, which receive the applications and evaluate the projects, approve or reject and provide and collect the loans. All the department does is hand out the money to the bank if there is a default.
The Minister has turned the Department of Economic Development into a moneymart for the banks. I am asking the Minister how that will better serve the small business community and the taxpayers of the Yukon.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The Department of Economic Development will be reviewing - as I believe I said yesterday - the loans. It is not a case where they have free access to the program. The approvals have to come through the department.
Mr. Harding: The Minister is making that up as he goes along. I am reading the document that he tabled in this Legislature that determines the guidelines for this program. Under the heading, "Department responsibilities", it simply says that all the government determines is the eligibility, based on the criteria, and then hands out the money if loans are called. It says the financial institution approves or rejects the loans.
What is the process that the Minister has just made up today as he goes along? How is the department going to approve or reject loans according to the new way in which we are conducting this program?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The Member answered his own question when he read the word "eligibility". The banks will come to the Department of Economic Development with the loan application. They will do all of the administrative work. The department will either approve or reject it.
Question re: Venture loan guarantee program
Mr. Harding: This Minister is mixing up eligibility with approval and rejection. According to the criteria, eligibility of a program is whether it meets the parameters of the financial amounts that are being considered. According to the plan outlined in the documents that the Minister gave us, approval and rejection refers to whether or not there is going to be acceptance of the borrower's proposal. I would like to ask the Minister if he can tell me how, according to this criteria, this is going to better serve the small business community or the taxpayers of the Yukon.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The program puts the government and the banks in a partnership as lenders of last resort. It is going to serve the taxpayer of the Yukon by creating jobs and economic development.
Mr. Harding: The Minister has offered these great claims about creating jobs and economic activity but has provided no substantial evidence of those claims. He cannot stand up today and describe one part of the program that will benefit the small business community or the taxpayers of the Yukon. With this program, economic development officers in the communities are being recentralized and their role is shrinking. I would like to ask this Minister the following question: given this situation, what is the government going to do for the small businesses in the rural communities when the role of the economic development officers is being shrunk by this program?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The banks are available in the communities, and the banks will be doing the initial review of the applications.
Mr. Harding: We have received communications from small businesses. In Mayo, for example, the economic development officer is being recentralized to Whitehorse, and there are no plans whatsoever for the government to fulfill the role this person has held in Mayo.
I would like to ask the Minister this: given the changes that have been made to this program by the government, what is the government going to do for small business in the rural communities?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The program is intended for all of the Yukon. We feel that it will be mainly utilized in the rural Yukon.
Question re: Industrial support policy
Mr. Harding: I want to move on to a different subject with the Minister of Economic Development - the industrial support policy. We have been hearing reports from Dawson that there is not as much local hire at the Loki Gold mine as was expected. Recent media reports seem to confirm this. I would like to ask the Minister this: given that the Yukon Party government gave Loki Gold a grant of $2.5 million to help with the mine road, why is the government not ensuring that more local people are hired?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Loki Gold is hiring in the Yukon. I know several people who are working there. I do not know what the actual numbers of locally hired people are, but it is the company's intention to hire locally and that is what it is doing. Loki Gold is using a local contractor from Dawson City, and several Whitehorse and Dawson City people are working for that contractor and for the mine.
Mr. Harding: The Minister just said that he does not know what the numbers are for local hire, but the Minister stood up on May 2, 1995, and said that there were conditions to that financial assistance from YTG, including local postings in Dawson, as well as preferential hiring of Yukon residents. Why does the Minister not know what the numbers are if that was a condition of the financial assistance from the Yukon government?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: If the Member had given me some notice, I would have had those numbers for him. I do not have them here, that is correct. Loki Gold has advertised locally and has lived up to the terms of its agreement.
Mr. Harding: I would have thought that all the notice that the Minister of Economic Development needed was an article in the Yukon News on Friday, where there was a big headline that read, "Local jobs not plentiful for Dawson residents". I would have thought that if the Minister was concerned about jobs in the rural communities, he would have done a little bit of homework. I would like to ask him this: given some of the concerns that have been raised in Dawson, and given that the grant that the government gave to Loki Gold for $2.5 million was tied to local employment, will he ensure and will he take action to ensure that local hiring is occurring to the satisfaction of that community?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: We already have.
Question re: Otter Falls
Mr. Sloan: My question today is for the Minister of Tourism. In preparing for the Tourism debate, I came across some interesting information. A few years ago, the Minister, while in Opposition, brought forward concerns about Otter Falls. At that time, he believed that Otter Falls was a significant attraction and criticized the then-Minister for failing to make a presentation at the Yukon Water Board, emphasizing the importance of the waterfall, as he described it, as a tourist attraction. Considering the Minister's comments about Otter Falls at that time, why did the Minister not make a representation at the recent rate hearings?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I do not know if there is a problem at Otter Falls. I know that the highways branch was doing some work on the road, which improved the road to Otter Falls so that tourists could access that area, but I did not realize that there was a problem at the present time with water flow over the falls.
Mr. Sloan: Just along those lines, for the Minister's information, I have a letter here from Yukon Electrical Company Ltd., which states that it does not have any statistics available on visitations to Otter Falls because in the recent study of that area, the focus was on the campground at Aishihik and there were no questions asked regarding Otter Falls.
When the Minister expressed his concerns about Otter Falls in the House, he pressured the then-Minister to restore the significant site. If the Minister considered Otter Falls such a significant attraction then, what has changed to force his government to fail to restore the falls at this time?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: Nothing has changed. I think that if the Member goes back in the Department of Tourism debate of that time, there were literally hundreds of issues that I brought up with the previous government about tourism and it did not address any of them. In fact, we made a lot of changes in the tourism area and the numbers are showing it. Tourists are coming now like they have never come before, and at least now there is a government in power that does care about tourism, unlike the previous NDP government.
Mr. Sloan: One of the great joys of modern technology is the CD-ROM and it is amazing what one can find of past debates in the CD-ROM of Hansard. For example, and this one is germane to the justice issue, when in Opposition the Minister accused the then-Minister of Economic Development of reducing the water flow at Otter Falls and stated, "We could throw the Minister in jail for what he is doing." Considering the environmental damage that is still occurring at Otter Falls, has the Minister softened his stand any on this rather Draconian measure?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: No, I have not softened my stand.
Question re: Campbell Highway upgrading
Mr. Harding: I have a question for the Minister of Community and Transportation Services concerning the Campbell Highway.
For four years, we have been ignored in the budgets for capital upgrading on the highway. First, the government said there was no money because the mine was down, and we were to wait. Now the mine has been in production since November 1994 and there is still no money in the budget for capital upgrading on the highway, even though we have lots of heavy ore traffic and lots more traffic because of the increased population.
I would like to ask the Minister why this government refuses to do any upgrading on the highway for my constituents?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: We certainly have not refused at all. We said in the budget debate that we have more money in the operation and maintenance budget and we also warned you that, with the extra heavy traffic, the BST would not stand up in some places and we would have to go back to a gravel road. The reason we cannot put money there is because we do not know where the other mines are going and it will cost us probably $100 million to get a road out of there.
Speaker: Would the Minister of Transportation Services please refer to the Member as the Member for Faro, instead of "you".
Mr. Harding: The Minister does not know what he is talking about. For the last four years there has been no money in the capital budget for capital upgrading of the Faro to Carmacks portion of the Campbell Highway.
The BST the NDP put down, $10 million worth in the last three years of their mandate, was very successful on that highway and very much appreciated by both the mining company and the citizens of the community. I would like to ask the Minister why he continues to refuse to put capital upgrading money in the budget for the Campbell Highway, given the increased traffic.
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I would say to the Member of Faro that if that much money was put into the program one would think that they would have ensured that a proper roadbed was put in, so it would have been a good road.
Mr. Harding: Again, the Minister does not know what he is talking about. The capital upgrading work that was completed was fine work, and I think my constituents deserve more of this type of road work.
Presently, the population of Faro is 2,000 people who deserve taxpayers' investment, because the residents of Faro are certainly contributing to the economy.
The government put another $33 million into the Alaska Highway this year, $8 million of which is discretionary capital that the Yukon government has direct control over. Why is the Minister refusing to take some of that money and to give the communities of Faro and Ross River their just desserts in terms of capital upgrading for that highway?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: The government has allocated capital expenditures to the areas of highway with the heaviest amount of traffic. There is no doubt that the road between Watson Lake and Whitehorse has the heaviest amount of traffic.
Question re: Yukon Party election platform
Mr. Cable: I have some questions for the Government Leader about the Yukon Party convention this past weekend.
The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation reported - it was not the Yukon News, so perhaps the Government Leader will accept this report as accurate - that the Yukon Party added a few planks to its election platform over the weekend. It stated that the party passed resolutions aimed at protecting the White Pass railway for possible use in the future. Does that party resolution now represent government policy?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I know that the Yukon Party is very active and I usually get things done very diligently, but we are not so quick that we could have implemented the policy passed last Saturday.
Mr. Cable: I was not asking whether or not there was any action taken; I was asking if the resolution was now government policy and part of the election platform as reported by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.
The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation went on to say that another resolution was passed to put pressure on the federal government on behalf of a private company that wants to open a sawmill in Watson Lake. Has the Government Leader and the Yukon Party reached the conclusion that this project, which I believe was put forward by Liard Pulp and Paper, is viable?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: Please allow me the liberty to answer some of the questions raised in the Member's preamble.
I want to assure the Member for Riverside that the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation did take some editorial liberty by saying this was another plank in our election platform, because I do not recall any discussion on the floor of the Legislature.
The right-of-way is a very important issue to this government, as is any economic activity. We have not taken a position about whether or not the proposal for the sawmill in Watson Lake is viable or doable, but the Yukon Party is very concerned that the federal government give it a fair hearing.
Mr. Cable: What is the government prepared to do in relation to the proposal put forward by the lumber mill proponents, other than criticize the federal government?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: If the federal government would start living up to some of its promises in the red book and devolve the resource to the territory, we could do something about it.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed. We will proceed to Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Notice of Government Private Members' Business
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Pursuant to Standing Order 14.2(7), I would like to inform the House that the government private Members do not wish to identify any items to be called on Wednesday, April 24, 1996, under the heading Government Private Members' Business.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I move that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Hon. Government House Leader that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Motion agreed to
Speaker leaves the Chair
COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. We will take a brief recess at this time.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order.
Bill No. 10 - First Appropriation Act, 1996-97 - continued
Department of Justice - continued
Chair: We are on Bill No. 10, Department of Justice, general debate.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: When I finished last night, I was starting to give the branch breakdown and I will continue with that.
The branch of management services combines staff functions, such as finance and administration, systems, human resources and policy into one unit, with a budget this year of $1,246,000, which represents a very small increase of $5,000. The change is the result of the addition of one full-time equivalent in systems administration, which is almost fully offset by decreases in contract services, communications and supplies.
On the capital side, management services accounts for the majority of the $440,000 capital budget. Most notable is $250,000 for systems development projects that we use to continue the work on the client case management system. The project will establish an innovative data warehouse to link information systems and court services, adult probation and the Whitehorse Correctional Centre. This will improve coordination in the way offenders are managed, and will also fix problems with the outdated court registry information system.
Court services, which operates the Yukon court system, will have a budget of $3,319,000. Court services oversees the maintenance enforcement program and the law library. The budget amount is down some $32,000, just under one percent.
Legal services provides a full range of legal services to the government, including prosecuting territorial offences, drafting legislation, litigating civil matters and providing legal advice. The branch also administers the legal aid and native courtworker programs. This branch has been budgeted at $3,123,000, a reduction of $415,000, which is down 13 percent from 1995-96. The change is the result of the new approach in which the branch will be utilizing outside counsel, as I mentioned earlier.
Consumer and commercial services contains a number of units dedicated to regulating the marketplace. These include corporate affairs, consumer services, labour services and the land titles office. It is also home to the coroner's office and the public administrator. The branch budget for 1996-97 will be $2,641,000, which is a decrease of $4,000, less than one percent over 1995-96.
While there is an overall decrease, there will be budget increases for some units in 1996-97. The budget of the coroner's office has increased by $34,000. There are also new costs of $54,000 for the Yukon Utilities Board.
The Yukon Utilities Board's costs are associated with the establishment of an independent office, as recommended by the utilities regulation review, and an increase in the budgeted amount in the ongoing application hearing. As mentioned earlier, such hearing costs will now be a recoverable expense. As a result, an innovation such as new procedure rules will mean that hearings will be quicker, less costly and less adversarial as was perhaps the case in the past.
The community and correctional services branch provides custodial and probation services for adult offenders. It offers them support and integration with the community.
As part of the service, the branch operates the Teslin and Whitehorse correctional facilities. The branch also includes the victims services and family violence protection unit and the territorial firearms office.
The branch will be budgeted $8,288,000, an increase of $227,000, or three percent. This is the only branch that will see an increase of any substance. However, the primary reason for the increase is the transfer costs from Government Services due to the establishment of special operating agencies. Substantial amounts will be transferred to pay for fleet vehicles and building maintenance costs for the two correctional facilities. The remainder of the increase can be attributed for the most part to merit increases mandated by the collective agreement for branch personnel. Increases have been offset to some extent by miscellaneous expense reductions of both the Teslin and Whitehorse correctional facilities.
Community development and policing is responsible for managing the policing service contract to the RCMP, which comprises over 98 percent of the $10,713,000 budget for the branch. The branch director is also responsible for negotiating community justice contracts and for overseeing crime prevention.
The budget has decreased slightly by $18,000, due to miscellaneous cost reductions. As stated earlier, by significant restructuring, we have been able to realize savings sufficient to ensure another badly needed RCMP member in Faro as well as secretarial support for community detachments.
Finally, the department funds the independent Human Rights Commission. The budget for that is $252,000, down by $1,000.
Before I conclude, I would like to briefly respond to some specific Justice questions that have been raised by Opposition Members over the course of the last few weeks.
When I introduced our offender management paper to the House on March 20, Mr. Sloan asked about the level of expertise among members of our proposed notification advisory committee. This committee will make recommendations on notifying the public about the existence of dangerous sex offenders in the community. The committee will be made up of representatives of agencies in the justice system that deal with sex offenders, all of whom will have suitable expertise to make recommendations on public notification.
Mr. Sloan also asked about what kind of information will be disseminated about sex offenders in the community and to whom. These decisions will be made on a case-by-case basis by the members of the advisory committee, with the circumstances of each case being taken into account. We do not intend to restrict the decisions of the committee by trying to anticipate a range of options - it should be open to the committee under every possible scenario.
It is expected that cases involving full-blown community disclosure would be quite rare, but notifications to schools might be routine and a reasonable step.
Finally, Mr. Sloan asked about training in the corrections system. In response, I can say that the Department of Justice is committed to providing the appropriate training to staff members of the community and correctional services branch, so that staff can actively implement the initiatives identified in the offender management strategy. Some of the training has already occurred, and additional training will occur over the coming weeks and months for selected staff, in relation to specific correctional programs that address the needs of the offenders.
Mr. Cable also asked some questions related to offender management. Mr. Cable wanted to know how the department intends to monitor our rigorous confinement policy to determine if it is successful in reducing the rate of recidivism. The success of the policy will be monitored through various key indicators to reflect changes in the behaviour of offenders, the participation in program activities that address the risk and need levels, and the impact of the overall incarceration rates. It must be recognized that the success of the policy will not be immediately apparent. Rather, it will be measured over the course of the coming years, through the collection and analysis of data that will be available from the various branches within the Department of Justice.
We can take some comfort in the fact that the literature seems to support this approach.
The Member for Riverside also wanted to know what the department had planned with regard to developing innovative alternatives to incarceration for low-risk offenders. The Member asked whether or not a paper on diversion for adults was intended and how these efforts could be integrated with federal efforts.
As the Member opposite may know, there is a federal initiative on the sentencing reform, Bill C-31, which is to be proclaimed on September 19, 1996. Under this legislation, the provinces and territories are empowered to establish alternative measure programs for adults if they wish to take such action. The Department of Justice is participating in ongoing consultations with all jurisdictions in this matter.
In addition, the department is involved in consultations with the Crown prosecutor's office, the RCMP and the Department of Health and Social Services to develop a Yukon alternative measures program for adults. These consultations are also focusing on ways to strengthen the alternative measures program for youth. It is anticipated that policy and procedures will be developed as a result of this collaboration and that there will be consultation with key stakeholders in the Yukon as part of the process.
The Member for Mount Lorne asked several questions about the maintenance enforcement program and administrative sanctions. The Member asked if any drivers' licences had been suspended due to non-payment of child support.
Ms. Moorcroft directed the question to the Minister of Community and Transportation Services but it more properly falls within the purview of the Department of Justice. The answer to the question is that no driver's licence suspensions have yet been carried out. Licence suspensions are considered as a last-resort measure to be applied to debtors in the never-pay category.
The working with dads program, a federally funded pilot project initiated last fall, was intended to offer assistance to never-pay dads, such as financial planning, mediation, and employment assessments. If this fails to produce results, licence suspension can be used.
Since the working with dads program began, six out of 32 never-pay files handled by maintenance enforcement have begun to show payments.
I have some other information that I will provide to that Member. Since the program started, 457 files have been opened. Of that total, 40 never-pay files were referred to the working with dads program. Three men have two files each. The working with dads coordinator has attempted to contact each person, and was able to make contact with eight fathers. They have made arrangements to follow through on their commitments.
He was not successful in setting up appointments with the remaining 32 fathers. He has recommended that the remaining files be reviewed, and we are looking at motor vehicle sanctions. I might add that, of the 32 never-pays being recommended for motor vehicle sanctions, only five of them have vehicles. So it is not as easy as the Member opposite might like to make it out to be. Some of these people have done everything they possibly can to avoid paying anybody. Some of them live in the bush and hitch-hike to town, and do cash jobs. We have tried to put federal garnishments in place. Bank garnishments were attempted on all the files. Employment garnishments were attempted when the employer was known. Default hearings have been held for 12 of the fathers, and the results varied from bench warrants being issued for failure to appear to findings by the judge that the individual had no ability to pay.
When you look at the overall numbers of the program, they show that the program has been a success and is doing its job. Publishing the names of individuals who may live in the bush will not solve the problem. In fact, in some cases, you might find that the woman and the children related to the individual whose name has been published may receive more negative publicity than the individual himself who, up until now, just does not care.
The total court-ordered amount of maintenance to be collected so far is $140,000. The total amount received by the court so far is $111,000, representing an 80-percent collection rate. I think that is fairly significant for the program.
There is also an assessment of this pilot project and a prognosis for the remaining 26 participants that should be ready next month. This report will be used to determine if it is time to apply the last-resort measure of driver's licence revocation. As I said, we are now narrowing it down to those individuals who have a driver's licence and/or a vehicle, because this particular measure will not do anything to those individuals who do not have a vehicle.
The Member for Mount Lorne asked if the Yukon has a reciprocal agreement with other jurisdictions to use administrative sanctions for enforcing maintenance payments. The answer is "yes". So far, in Canada, Ontario and Alberta are the only other jurisdictions applying similar maintenance enforcement administrative sanctions. Anyone from those jurisdictions who applies for a driver's licence in the Yukon will have his or her record checked by the motor vehicles branch. If a person has his or her driving privileges revoked by Ontario or Alberta for failure to pay child support, that person will not be able to obtain a Yukon driver's licence. This would also apply to a Yukon driver applying for a driver's licence in Ontario or Alberta. Other jurisdictions are exploring the use of this enforcement mechanism and we hope to see the network of reciprocal agreements grow.
The Member for Mount Lorne asked if I would support publishing the names of parents who are in default of child support payments. I think this might be a sensitive issue with some people.
I would like to carefully examine this option before taking such action, because a major consideration is the new privacy legislation. The Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act will be proclaimed very soon. The government cannot automatically assume it can publish the names of individuals, in light of the fact that the new act has some very specific provisions about protecting privacy rights.
This is one aspect, among others, that the department is looking into. I anticipate receiving some preliminary analysis on this proposal, which I will share with the Member.
On a few occasions, Ms. Moorcroft asked about the status of the integration of computer systems in Justice and Community and Transportation Services. This is necessary for implementing administrative sanctions. I believe that her questions have been answered; however, I will reiterate that there is indeed a compatibility problem between the database and the computer systems in court services and motor vehicles branch. This has meant that the motor vehicles branch cannot yet actively identify the true owner of a motor vehicle in order to allow it to refuse to renew motor vehicle registrations for someone who has unpaid fines. Community and Transportation Services has identified the work that needs to be done, and Members have heard from my colleagues about when we expect the work will be completed.
Also on April 1, Ms. Moorcroft asked when the department's involvement in the Creating Safe Communities crime prevention strategy will be consulting with the communities about the feasibility of establishing the wilderness leadership pilot project. As indicated by my colleague, the Minister of Community and Transportation Services, the working group examining the feasibility of establishing the wilderness leadership project has had contact with officials in Manitoba about a similar program that is run there. The Yukon working group will meet shortly to review this information and to develop some options that could be explored. The working group will be preparing a consultative plan to identify the follow-up that could take place with key stakeholders who might be interested in participating in such a project.
Mrs. Firth also had a question on April 15, 1996. She asked about the estimated revenue received through the Territorial Court fines and indicated that she expected to see an increase in the revenue from these fines due to the implementation of the administrative sanctions program motor vehicle-related fines.
In responding to this question, it is useful to note that there are many variables affecting the revenues received from Territorial Court fines. In recognition of this, the department makes a conservative estimate of the estimated revenue for this line item. Consequently, there has been no change in this estimate between the 1995-96 and 1996-97 forecasts. It is too soon to tell what the long-term results of the administrative sanctions program will be, since the implementation only began in October 1995. An evaluation of the overall effectiveness of the program will be done after the program has been in operation for a year.
On April 18, Ms. Commodore asked for an update on the government's creating safer communities initiative, which I want to take the opportunity to respond to at this time. My colleagues may wish to add more details in their responses to Members' questions. With regard to the youth crime paper, Ms. Commodore asked about the work being done by the task force to promote safer schools. The task force has been meeting regularly since January 18, 1996. The task force was to report by the end of March. The task force asked for a one-month extension to complete the report. The report is to be forwarded to the Deputy Minister of Education by the end of April 1996.
A status update on several youth crime initiatives has already been provided by the Minister of Health and Social Services. With respect to the remaining initiative identified in the Creating Safer Communities youth crime paper, preliminary work has been done on the administrative sanctions for the youth initiative. Officials in the Department of Health and Social Services have met to prepare a proposed action plan to guide the development of administrative sanctions for youth. This proposal has been forwarded to the Ministers for their approval. In addition, as I mentioned earlier, when addressing the question raised by Mr. Cable about sentencing reform, consultations are already underway to develop alternative measures for adults and these consultations are also focusing on ways to strengthen alternative measures for youth.
As well, for the right-to-sue-parents initiative, officials in the Department of Health and Social Services and Justice have met to prepare a proposed action plan to guide the development of this initiative. This proposal will be forwarded to the Ministers soon for their approval. It is too soon to provide the Members opposite with details about these two initiatives as more consultation and research into the options available to government are required.
Ms. Commodore also asked several questions regarding the Keeping Kids Safe initiative. She asked if it is still the case that the sex-offender treatment for adults will not be introduced. It continues to be the intent of the Keeping Kids Safe initiative to have convicted sex offenders primarily dealt with through the risk management teams. It is now standard practice that adult sex offenders receive a psychological assessment at the time of sentencing and the intent of the assessment is to identify sexual offending risk offenders who need to be controlled to minimize the risk of the offender sexually re-offending.
The territorial Department of Justice has dedicated one person to the risk management coordinator, whose job it is to convene, train and coordinate these teams. The Department of Justice and the Council of Yukon First Nations have also supported the training of four people, two of whom are First Nations, to run the psycho-educational groups for sex offenders.
The groups, which will be run both in the institution and in the community, complement the work of the individual risk management teams. Currently, there are 13 offenders from five Yukon communities, including Whitehorse, being monitored by the risk management teams. If more information about risk management teams or the group program is required, I can arrange a technical briefing for the Members.
Some people would and do consider what we are doing as being treatment. However, to the Keeping Kids Safe working committee, treatment means something quite specific and specialized that is exclusively intended to change the offender's internal ability to control his sexual offending behaviour. The Keeping Kids Safe initiative continues to advocate that.
On the scale of things, the introduction of specialized sex offender treatment is a potentially ineffective use of resources.
Ms. Commodore asked how sex offenders released from custody are being monitored on a daily basis. The intent of the risk management teams is to help supervise sex offenders in the community so that more people come into contact with the individual, thereby increasing the number of people who are aware of the risk presented by the offender and how to manage those risks.
Risk management teams consist of both professionals and people who are part of the offender's life, such as a spouse, an employee, minister, et cetera. The teams meet approximately every two weeks. By involving people who are a part of the offender's daily life, it is hoped that the ability to manage the risks the offender presents is expanded and enhanced. However, it is not the intention or the responsibility of risk management teams to formally monitor the sex offender on a daily basis.
Ms. Commodore also noted that we can say all we want about keeping kids safe and monitoring convicted sexual offenders, but there are individuals who have never been convicted and who are doing a lot of damage to young kids. This is exactly correct and is the reason why the Keeping Kids Safe program committee felt it was so important to shift the focus and develop a strategy that would address both known and unknown sex offenders. In addressing the unknown sex offender, the strategy advocates that the best protection for the children comes from the adults all sharing in the responsibility for keeping children safe, especially those of us who live and work with kids. This will help to create safe environments for children and help them recognize those situations that are unsafe for them.
In the scenario described by Ms. Commodore of young teenagers attending a party at a known sex-offender's house, it would be helpful if people who are aware of this happening alert people such as the police, who have the authority to investigate and/or intervene in such a situation. However, as parents, we also bear a responsibility to know what our children are doing and to anticipate potentially unsafe and high-risk situations, and to help children develop emergency safety plans in the event that they find themselves in an unsafe situation.
Certainly not all of us know how to do this, and that is why the Keeping Kids Safe initiative is developing and offering public education workshops that can help parents with this. For information about this, I would suggest that Members contact the child abuse treatment services.
Ms. Commodore also requested an update of the implementation of the Keeping Kids Safe program and requested information about public notification protocol and how it would work. With regard to Ms. Commodore's interest in receiving an update on the Keeping Kids Safe initiative, I would be happy to ask my officials from the department to arrange this for her. With regard to her other request, I have asked an official from the Department of Justice - Jonathan Parker - to provide Ms. Commodore with a briefing on the protocol once it has been completed.
To conclude, the budget we have tabled for the Department of Justice balances two major themes, and the first is the move to fiscal restraint. We have addressed this by holding the line on Justice spending and putting forward a budget that actually represents a one-percent decrease from last year. This has been done despite increasing demands on the justice system for new and innovative approaches, additional programs and services and more community involvement.
The second major theme is crime prevention. Yukoners have repeatedly expressed to me their anxiety about increasing crime. We have responded by making crime prevention, through our creating safer communities initiative, a number-one priority of the Department of Justice. In recognizing our fiscal situation, funding for our new initiatives will come from within.
The message we will be emphasizing as we promote our crime prevention theme is that to create safer communities, we must all work together in partnership to ensure that local social conditions and requirements are addressed.
Governments, communities and individuals must all adopt a new view about personal responsibility. This point of view is one that provides a focal point for action, allowing us to build on our past successes. The Yukon Department of Justice is willing to work with all communities to establish tailor-made approaches to crime prevention and to facilitate the work of many committed individuals who care about what happens in the communities.
This concludes my opening remarks on the Department of Justice. I will entertain any questions from the Members opposite.
Mr. Sloan: I would like to thank the Minister for that very detailed presentation.
We have attended the technical briefings and I have some notes in my book about them. I will be addressing a few points, trying to keep detailed questions to a minimum. While many questions were answered at the technical briefing, we would like clarification in some areas.
In terms of the general approach to justice, I am pleased to see that we are looking at the whole issue of justice, rather than merely a crime issue. Unfortunately, in Canada, and probably elsewhere in the world, there is a tendency to look only at crime. I am not sure if the Minister is familiar with it or not, but there was a very interesting article in yesterday's Globe and Mail, entitled "Time to Re-Think Crime". The article had some interesting views about how Canadians view the whole question of crime.
For example, traditionally, Canadians over-report violent crime by 200 percent, which I thought was a very interesting statistic. When I went though some of the details in such things as the talking about crime program and looking at the uniform crime report, there seems to be a fairly level rate of crime. We are not experiencing a huge increase in crime, which I think is reassuring.
It is interesting to note that in Canada this whole focus on crime has pushed the federal budgets in that area up by astonishing proportions. The area of corrections represents some $10 billion in expenditures.
Interestingly enough, while crime has increased over the last six years in Canada by about 12 percent, the actual resources committed to it have risen by 34 percent. I think we have to recognize that we have to approach this whole debate very rationally, with some thought, and not in a hysterical way.
I was gratified to see that we have not succumbed to the guru from Alberta, Mr. Evans, who has some interesting observations about Alberta. He has called for such things as chain gangs. I am appreciative of the fact that we have not gotten into that in the territory.
Regarding the whole crime prevention aspect, I have had an opportunity to attend a few of the crime prevention sessions. The most recent one - I do not know if the Minister was here when I made reference to it last Tuesday - was held at the Law Centre. There were some very interesting presentations. One of the most interesting was by Judge Lilles on the whole question of young offenders. This is a paper by Judge Lilles, dated February 1995, which, I think, has some very interesting data on what does and does not work with young offenders. There are some very interesting things there about such things as family conferencing, which is an innovation that is being practiced in the antipodes - Australia and New Zealand. So, I am pleased to see that.
As well, I would like to bring to the Minister's attention a fairly innovative program that is going on in Abbotsford. Perhaps I could have one of the Pages take this over to the Minister. It might be worthwhile for him to pass it on to some of his counterparts in Justice. The program involves the use of inmates working with young people - not in the traditional sort of scared-straight program - where inmates are trained in peer counselling and tutoring. It has proved to be quite successful with children at risk. I would suggest that it might be something the Minister may want to pass on to his counterparts.
I think we have to be very cognizant of the fact that we do need to focus on prevention. Retribution and punitive actions may appear to in many ways be a quick response to the whole issue of crime. I think, as the experience of our American neighbours has demonstrated, that more prisons and harsher penalties do not necessarily reduce crime. If that was indeed the case, the United States, with its huge prison population, would probably be the most crime-free country in the world and it is not. My concern is that we, in Canada, might move toward that kind of direction, since we do tend to incarcerate more people than other areas in the western world.
I still have a major concern - and I was hoping that perhaps some place within the thrust on crime prevention this might be addressed, and I am still hopeful that perhaps it will be something that is addressed - and that is the whole question of our First Nations peoples and their situation within the justice system. We still have some very severe anomalies in this territory.
My recent visit to the Whitehorse Correctional Centre drove that point home. The problems that exist for our First Nations people within the justice system really do need to be addressed, and to some degree, it is hoped, the facility in Teslin will be a step in that direction.
In terms of statistical data, aboriginal people tend to be represented in prison 3.3 times their representation in the general population, so, in other words, about 70 percent of the inmate population tends to be made up of First Nations people. That suggests to me that we have some real problems in addressing the needs of our First Nations citizens and particularly the problem of recidivism. Aboriginal persons in the Yukon are seven times as likely to find themselves in jail as non-First Nations persons.
I think that is a rather frightening sort of statistic. One of the most frequent reasons for which people end up back in jail tends to be fine default. For probably a variety of socio-economic factors, aboriginal people are 10 times more likely to find themselves back in jail.
We have to take a look at this real dimension of our justice system. I would hope that it will be a thrust in future crime prevention papers. I know that we have done some work in that area, and I would urge the department to continue to move in that direction. As one of the ways to prevent crime, we need to address the underlying social and emotional factors that lead people to a life of crime. Just to reiterate and sum up, I think we need to keep our eye on the goal of crime prevention.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I thank the Member for his comments. I think that they may be somewhat of a vote of confidence in the creating safer communities program that we developed. I think that it does encompass many of the points that the Member mentioned. I do agree with the Member that the issue of justice and crime with First Nations in the territory is extremely important.
There are some things that we are doing. He mentioned the Teslin facility. Some of the other initiatives that have proven to be initially very successful include the setting up of a satellite RCMP station in the Kwanlin Dun village. I do not say that from a reactive point of view; I say it more from a crime-prevention point of view. The officers are right in the village. They can operate programs there and discuss with the leaders of the community the initiatives that they want to implement.
Furthermore, we are talking to several First Nations in the communities right now about community justice initiatives - community justice plans for the community. They can be virtually moulded by the community to what suits the community. I think we have five in place right now. I do not think that any two of them are exactly the same. They are all varied to suit the community. The focus is on crime prevention up front. The theory is to spend a few dollars up front and get to these kids when they are young. That is what we heard in the community crime consultations that went around the territory. We were told that if we can get to these kids even when they are seven, eight, nine and 10 years old, we might be able to do something to prevent them from getting into the system when they are older.
I thank the Member for his comments and I can assure him that that is the direction in which I asked the department to work. I am very proud and pleased and would like to thank all the members of the many departments who did such a great job on the Creating Safer Communities papers. Those initiatives themselves are an excellent foundation. The proof will be in the pudding as to how we work out the programs and when we implement them. Two or three years from now we hope to start seeing some really positive benefits from those programs. There is a lot of enthusiasm out in the communities right now because they are driving some of the initiatives, and that is the way it should be. At least, that is what we heard in the community consultations, so we will have to see whether or not that comes to be.
Mr. Sloan: I would like to bring up a couple of points with regard to such things as community justice.
The community justice committees in Haines Junction and Carmacks are working toward developing some programs in local offender management, victim advocacy, diversion, et cetera. I wonder if the Minister can tell us just what the progress is on those particular committees, and if the programs have been completed?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I have a briefing note here on that. It is rather old. I can give the Member what I have here now, but what I would be prepared to do, if the Member is interested, is offer the Member, or any Members, a briefing on all the community justice initiatives that are ongoing and a status report on them. I can either do this by way of a briefing or by way of an information note to the Members. It would probably take a week or two to get that to the Members, but I can give them the assurance that I will do it.
In Carmacks, there has not been a lot accomplished, but this is a November briefing note, so perhaps it is not fair to give that to the Member. They are looking at changes to probation services and community justice. There is not a lot on that, but I can give the Member an update on Carmacks.
In Haines Junction, they are working on improving circle sentencing. They want to develop some specific crime prevention initiatives and examine methods to improve victim services to deal with youth crime. They are also researching the Champagne-Aishihik clan leader system of justice.
Again, this is a November briefing note. I do not have anything at hand that is right up to date, but I will get it for the Member as soon as possible and either bring it to the House or mail it to the Member.
Mr. Sloan: That would be acceptable and conducive to expediting the discussion and debate.
I would like to follow up a bit on circle sentencing. The Yukon Court of Appeal had some concerns about circle sentencing operating without more stringent guidelines. Have there been any initiatives in this regard to develop appropriate guidelines for circle sentencing?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I do not know where the department is with the guidelines. I know that Judge Stuart was doing a project for the federal government to set up some guidelines for a process of circle sentencing.
The first draft of the report has been submitted to Ottawa and will be reviewed by the federal officials shortly. It is a two-part contract with Mr. Stuart. The first part is the preparation of materials describing the establishment and operation of community circle sentencing. The second is for the development of materials for courses related to community sentencing, so that there are some guidelines for carrying out circle sentencing.
The first part has just gone to Ottawa. I can get an update for the Member about the second part.
Mr. Sloan: I will move on to a couple of other areas. As I mentioned, I attended the crime prevention workshop. I see in the budget that this non-profit group is receiving funding. Could the Minister give us a sense of what other initiatives Crime Prevention Yukon will be pursuing in the next little while? I am presuming that its mandate is not completed with the release of the different reports. Will Crime Prevention Yukon be continuing in the future?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: Yes, I believe it will. I believe there is a conference being held this summer called the National Crime Prevention Conference. I believe some of the people from Crime Prevention Yukon are going to be attending that conference on behalf of the Yukon, where people from all across the country are going to share ideas about various crime prevention initiatives. They will probably be taking down some of our literature such as Creating Safer Communities. I am not sure, but I think one of the individuals, it may be Linda Biensch, will be giving a presentation at that conference. I may stand to be corrected on that, but I recall somebody mentioning that to me the other day.
As far as I know this program is going to continue. Crime Prevention Yukon has been extremely helpful as an independent organization delivering some of the programs. I attended one meeting a couple of weeks ago when they brought up two people from British Columbia to talk about the Citizens On Patrol program that is in place in British Columbia. Crime Prevention Yukon sponsored this and held a seminar. I know that some people from Crime Prevention Yukon are doing some work for us about initiating a COP pilot project in Yukon.
Mr. Sloan: Those comments lead me into the next stage, which involves some of those action initiatives, such as neighbourhood watch, home security, the COP program, auxiliary police services and a wilderness leadership camp.
I do not expect vast amounts of detail, but could the Minister give us a quick sense of the progress that is being made with these initiatives? For instance, where are they and how will the initiatives be delivered? Is there an approximate time line for some of the initiatives that have not already begun?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: There are already about 60 initiatives. Perhaps I can highlight some of them and then provide the Member, in a written form, an update of where each paper is and what action has been taken on it.
For instance, I know there have been some discussions about the citizens on patrol program. There have been several meetings held in Whitehorse. There were not great turn-outs at those meetings, I understand, but I believe that there was enough of a turn-out - and some really dedicated people did turn out - that they got some interesting ideas.
One of the things that I learned from the British Columbia people was that I initially thought that 40 people were needed to start a program such as this in the City of Whitehorse. They indicated that if there are four people it can be started because that is how some of the programs were started in other communities, and they built from there. If there are people who are concerned, it is not necessary to start really big in the beginning, and sometimes it is better not to start that way. I know that program is ongoing.
The Minister told us the other day that the task force to promote safer schools has been worked on by the Department of Education and the department has a meeting about once a week on that issue. Various departments are involved in it.
I touched on the administrative sanctions and other sanctions. They are being worked on now by the Department of Health and Social Services and the Department of Justice. I think they are at the point now that they are getting a paper put together and I should see it shortly. Then, we will be going out for some more public consultation to make sure that we are on track with that one.
The Yukon-wide youth conference initiative for the conference is now set for October 1996. The youth empowerment of success organization receives some funding from the youth investment fund and other sources to hire a part-time coordinator to organize the fall conference to bring youth together to get their ideas on these kinds of things.
In expanding the neighbourhood watch program, the implementation has begun in Whitehorse. The Whitehorse auxiliary police are undertaking visits to neighbourhoods in the Whitehorse area to encourage residents to improve assistance to them to initiate the neighbourhood watch program.
For the home security initiative, the Whitehorse auxiliary police have completed a home-security manual, which is going to be made available to local residents. It deals with ways to prevent crime through the environmental design of homes and buildings for the future.
I talked about citizens on patrol.
On the auxiliary police in rural communities, there have been some discussions with communities outside Whitehorse about establishing them, but nothing concrete has come about to date. There have just been some preliminary discussions; for example, negotiations with the RCMP and satellite detachments and the Kwanlin Dun.
The wilderness leadership camp pilot project working group has been established to follow up on this initiative and a video conference call with the organizers of a similar program in Manitoba has been held. The working group has developed a proposed plan of action to determine how such a program could be delivered in the Yukon.
Discussions are ongoing with communities on community-based justice initiatives. A public meeting on community justice was held in Dawson City on April 16, just a week ago, and a team of officials from the Departments of Justice, Health and Social Services, and Education, the courts and the RCMP participated in the meeting. I understand from people I have talked to in Dawson that it was a very productive meeting and some good things to start with came out of the meeting. They are talking about establishing a community justice committee and developing a community plan on justice. Everyone is involved in it, from the average citizen to the First Nation. There was quite a group of people. I think about 40 or 50 people turned out to the meeting in Dawson - a fairly good turn-out.
A family violence paper was released on February 8. Since then there has been a public education awareness activities initiative. Safe teen workshops have been delivered in Whitehorse and Dawson City, and one is slated to be delivered again in Dawson in May.
On the family violence information and training initiative, the implementation is still ongoing and I have nothing more to report on it.
On the training and domestic violence initiative, the staff of the family violence prevention unit are planning a trip to Dawson at the end of May to follow up on this, and a visit to Old Crow was undertaken during the week of April 15. Basically, it saves us a lot of money in this area if we train people in those fields rather than having to fly individuals from here up to Old Crow to counsel and deal with people up there. I understand that that program is going very well.
On the offender services in community initiatives, the staff of the family violence prevention unit are planning a trip to Dawson City at the end of May and, again, another visit to Old Crow.
On victim services, the staff of the family violence prevention unit are going to train volunteers interested in developing victim services for their communities. A meeting was held last October and another one was held in March with expanded victim services. They were general meetings and I believe the meetings were held in Whitehorse.
The process of devolution of the Crown function is still going on but the Liberals in Ottawa just cannot be made to move on some of these things.
We are working hard on that one.
There were discussions about changes to the Criminal Code to create options of lifetime supervision for high-risk offenders. We are discussing this with other jurisdictions and I understand that it will probably be a topic of discussion at an upcoming Ministers of Justice meeting that will be held in May. The target date
for the Public Advisory Committee for the Whitehorse Correctional Centre is still the fall of 1996.
Regarding the rigorous confinement policy of the Correctional Centre, there have already been several procedural changes implemented for inmates who are refusing to participate in approved program and work assignments. We have eliminated some free movement within the institution and, much to the chagrin of the Liberal Member, we have banned the video rentals within the institution. We are restricting television viewing time during business hours and refusing permission for temporary absences.
I understand that there are a lot of changes happening at the Correctional Centre and that the new director is doing a very good job. In fact, he is getting a lot of cooperation from, as I understand it, everyone involved - the inmates as well as the staff, who are quite excited about the changes. I think it will be for the better for the inmates and for the people working there when many of these programs are put in place.
As to the implementation standards comprehensive risk- needs assessment process for all offenders, initial training has been provided to all case managers, justice workers and probation officers for the use of the standardized risk-needs assessment tool. The judiciary, court services and the head of the criminal prosecutions group have been briefed on the assessment tool that will be used and the process of assessing offenders has been started.
With regard to implemented integrated programming standards for offenders, a programming strategy has been adopted. Four programs will be offered that have been identified and training of staff will be done over the coming year.
Staff have been trained first to deliver the cognitive skills and substance abuse programs, including the impaired driving program, and this was done in March 1996.
This encapsulates most of the things that were there.
Mr. Sloan: The Minister has given us quite a mouthful there. I would just like to go back to a few points in some of the comments that he has made, if I could.
First of all, with reference to some of the programs, such as the citizens on patrol program, I did attend a similar session as the Minister. One of the most interesting things that came out of it was the whole question of how crime could be reduced by environmental sorts of changes, such as the design of buildings and lighting - that sort of thing.
I am just wondering, since there is a good deal of literature to suggest that crime prevention is the key and since this has proven to be successful in some European jurisdictions, would it be something that the Department of Justice might consider running for the Chamber of Commerce, for example, or other business-related groups? It is something that has some real merit. Can the Minister suggest that as something the department might do?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: Yes, I believe that was something that the British Columbia individuals suggested. The department could put together a program - there is a lot of literature already prepared, so the department does not have to reinvent the wheel, because British Columbia has done a lot of work in this area - and someone like the auxiliary officers could deliver the program and make it available to groups like the Chamber of Commerce or businesspeople who want to construct or design buildings in the future. The auxiliary officer could offer this kind of advice to individuals so that when the building is constructed it is built in such a way that entrances are secure and safety factors are addressed.
I believe the Member saw the same presentation that I did where a security advisor went into a building that had already been constructed and suggested that they remove a few things from the front entrance. By doing this, the crime rate dropped substantially, by 60 or 70 percent. I forget the exact number, but quite a few crimes had happened in that area, I believe it was around 12 and all of the sudden it dropped to two or three incidents. The reason for the decline was due to better security, and better access to the front entrance.
I agree with the Member; that is something that we could prepare and offer to the business community.
Mr. Sloan: One of the areas that has emerged as a concern is the whole question of victim services. According to the manger of victim services, the need for counselling has increased by over 50 percent during the last year and a half, but I note that the budget has decreased marginally this year, although statistics show there is a greater need.
As well, I have had a couple of representations from people who have been victims of crime. One unfortunate individual suggested that because of the impact of the crime on their life, the person suffered some real disruptions in terms of the ability to work and the ability to access certain services.
Has the Minister ever considered the idea of bringing in something like a victim's advocate or a victim's worker? This person would work specifically with people who have gone through the trauma of crime and who need someone to act as an advocate on their behalf.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I think that is the role that victim services is supposed to provide. The Member is right about their budget not having been increased. However, as I mentioned in my opening remarks, we have gone into some of the communities and offered training to individuals there to deal with the issues in their own communities. We cannot have everybody come to Whitehorse; the idea is to deliver some of those programs to various communities.
With that particular program, we are working much more closely now with the RCMP and the RCMP victim assistance volunteer program. We are bringing more volunteers rather than paid people into the system. There are people in the communities who want to do this kind of work. We have offered training to 138 resource people, including 53 community people, on how to support victims of domestic violence and that type of thing. We are sort of moving in that direction. We are also developing and circulating a pamphlet distributed by the RCMP informing the victim of the services available.
We think that some of the increase is not necessarily due to an increase in that kind of activity; rather, it is because there has been an increased awareness of the services that are out there. We think that it is not necessarily a huge increase in violence but more of a huge increase in the people's awareness that they can get treatment, assistance or advice on how to deal with a situation.
I agree with the Member that it is a very sensitive issue to the individuals who have been victims. I am keeping a very close eye on it and have asked my deputy minister to watch that particular department. I was as concerned as the Member opposite when I saw the numbers. I asked, "What are we doing about this?" I was informed that we are doing an awful lot of training of other individuals, and I felt somewhat comforted. However, I will note the Member's question and keep a close eye on it.
Mr. Sloan: The reason that I made the suggestion was that, in this particular case, the individual - I am sure I do not have to express this to the Minister - had said that people who are victims of, for example, property crime or a violent crime of a lesser nature, often have difficulties in knowing who to go to and what to do. They do not know how to go about filing a claim and what kind of information is needed, et cetera. As well, sometimes people who are victims of violence have specific health needs. They may require assistance with such things as, for example, unemployment insurance, if they are off work for any length of time. I would suggest that it might be something that we could look at.
Moving on a little bit, the Minister has indicated - in terms of family violence strategies - that there will not be any increases in funds, and that the funds will be found in different departments. Can the Minister give us a sense of what kinds of reallocations will be going on to fund them?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: We will be using a fund that was set up under the Victim Services Act in 1992. The victim services fund currently holds about $210,000. Money from the fund was committed last year for the victim services component of several community justice contracts. In 1994-95, it amounted to $15,000. In an attempt to raise awareness of the fund and promote its use, the department has developed a draft application form and guidelines modeled after procedures put in place for the youth investment fund. It will help to improve public access to the fund. It is expected that the fund will begin to expand over the next year.
Mr. Sloan: I would like to move into the area of offender management. I appreciate that the Minister has given us some useful information in this handout. I would like to ask about a couple of things. On the idea of the integrated correctional programming strategy for offenders, which complements the risk-needs assessment program, it says that some programs that will be delivered involve such things as cognitive skills, anger and emotional management and living without violence. Who will be delivering those types of programs, in what kind of setting will they be delivered, and what kind of initiatives will be developed with repeat offenders?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: Basically, we will be using the resources we now have at the Correctional Centre. I would imagine that most of these programs would be run out of the Whitehorse Correctional Centre or out of the Teslin facility. We currently utilize the services of the religious community. There are some volunteer counsellors who come in and there are some experts, probation officers and others, who get involved, and they will be putting together plans for each individual offender and discussing the needs of each individual with them.
I can get samples of how we would do this and bring them back for the Member. I could probably get that for him in a few days. As I say, the process of assessing offenders has just started, so I do not have with me the criteria of assessment and who does the assessments, but I can bring that back to the Member.
Mr. Sloan: Moving on a little bit, to the whole question of the Whitehorse Correctional Centre and the question of the rigorous confinement policy, the Minister made reference in his speech that there seemed to be some suggestion in literature that rigorous confinement policies tended to be somewhat efficacious. Is there a body of research that suggests that such things are effective?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I can bring that back for the Member. I do not want to give the impression that we are threatening offenders - saying that they have to participate or else. We are doing our best to encourage them to take part in the rehabilitation programs. I can bring back for the Member any literature or thoughts that led to that kind of a decision.
It is just common sense to realize that if an offender just gets to sit in his or her cell all day long and watch television and relax, without ever having to do anything, there will not be much done to help that person get back on the straight and narrow when they get out. What we are doing is trying to offer them the opportunity to get out of there and be useful, by carrying out some community work, in some cases, and, in other cases, to take some rehabilitation programs.
I do not think that is an onerous thing to be asking. In fact, I would be surprised that one would want to sit there all day and do nothing. We are not asking them to do anything out of the ordinary or unusual. We are just asking them to do something that could, we hope, improve their lives when they get out. Perhaps then we would not see them back again.
Mr. Sloan: The Minister made reference to the rehabilitative aspect of this rigorous confinement policy. Can he give us a sense of what kind of progress has been made in the development of alternative rehabilitative programs?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: The programs have just started. It is a bit early to provide an analysis about how anything is doing. I think that they are just now talking to the individuals who deliver some of the programs. They are discussing how the programs will be implemented. We are just starting now to assess the offenders, in order to know what kind of programs we will be delivering. We will have individual programs or at least know which way to direct an individual - to one area or another - which is better than the way it was before, where it was kind of voluntary. An offender just walked in to take part in anything they wanted to do, for the sake of doing it, without it necessarily doing any good. This way, each individual offender is assessed in terms of their needs and what they might want to do when they get out and other things that might be a bit more focused. This might bring us better results.
Mr. Sloan: Continuing with the Correctional Centre. Last year both the Correctional Centre and the young offenders facility were designated to having hospital status, because the hospital did not have the facilities to assist mentally ill persons facing criminal charges. There were some concerns brought forward to us that the facilities did not have the resources or the staff to carry out treatment or for the management of mentally ill persons.
What kinds of services would the Whitehorse Correctional Centre or the young offenders facility be able to offer a person who is in those institutions for mental illness reasons?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I cannot speak for the young offenders facility. That would be a question better directed at the Minister responsible for the Department of Health and Social Services. I can tell the Member that this is a concern that I have heard, and it is a concern that we are going to have to deal with. In the past, these individuals may not have been identified as having mental illness problems. In some cases individuals were admitted to the hospital and we never heard about them. Now that these individuals are starting to come to these facilities, it is becoming a serious situation.
Although we do not have an answer to the problem yet, it is something that has recently arisen from the decision that was made by the hospital to not allow these individuals to be admitted to the hospital. The department is trying to arrive at some solution, because it certainly is not appropriate to place individuals in these institutions, and the buildings were not designed to address these individuals' needs. The department is looking at ways to accommodate these needs, but that decision has not been made yet.
Mr. Sloan: I would like to turn to the RCMP and its situation about the territory. There was an announcement at noon today about the reorganization of the RCMP. I believe the Minister made reference to the RCMP changing to a zone rather than a division.
Could the Minister provide us with a sense of what this will mean for the territory in terms of particular policies that the government may want to pursue in regard to more stringent action on impaired driving.
Does the Minister foresee that the move to a zone status, rather than a division status, will impact on the territory?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I had a discussion with Superintendent Egglestone the other day about this change. Although I have not seen all the details in writing yet, my understanding of the situation from the superintendent is that this is not going to make a lot of difference to us. We will still direct policy from here and work with the RCMP under the same contract. In fact, what I am told is that this regionalization will, in fact, probably be a plus rather than a minus to us in the territory because right now we have M Division, which used to have the whole gamut of administrative services. Because it is a division, it has a lot of senior officers.
We have been heading in the direction that the federal government has now been moving in for some time. We started a year and a half ago or two years ago to reduce the administrative level and maintain the level of police delivery on the street, and to use the savings we achieved through that.
In fact, we just made an announcement here, I think, in February about some more reductions - going from an inspector, sergeant or staff sergeant level down to a lower rank, in some cases has saved us quite a few thousand dollars. Most of it was done through retirements and attrition and that kind of thing. A lot of senior people were leaving and that saved us quite a bit of money. We rolled that back into an extra officer in Faro and clerical support in the communities.
My understanding is that this is going to do a similar thing, but not in such a big way, because we have already downsized the administrative level a fair amount. I think what it will allow us to do is to hold the line on our front-line police services and, if anything, it will allow us to take any of the savings that we do achieve through it and put them into crime prevention initiatives and some of the other initiatives we have.
That is the way it was explained to me and this division head, who will be in Vancouver, will work with Superintendent Egglestone. Mr. Egglestone will remain here and so will most of the staff. If there are any changes at all, it may be at the very high level. We will see the savings. The federal government will some of them, but we will see about 70 percent of any changes because 70/30 is the cost-sharing split.
So it should be of benefit to us and it was something that was bound to come because of today's technology with faxes, phones, and video conference calls. A lot of the top level administrative stuff can be done by a central agency and delivered to the small satellite divisions or departments out there, and we can see a benefit in savings from that.
Mr. Sloan: I am relieved to know that Mr. Egglestone will remain. He is a very pleasant neighbour.
One of the things we received recently, and perhaps this is related, is a letter from Herb Gray, the Solicitor General, saying that the federal government has stated that they want to "review the costs incurred by Canada" in the RCMP funding agreement between the federal and territorial governments. Considering the federal Liberal government's position on debt and deficit reductions, what would be the territory's position in these discussions?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I can tell the Member that that will be a hot topic of discussion at the Ministers of Justice conference in May. This weekend, I will have the opportunity to speak to Mr. Evans from Alberta, and I know he shares our concern about the federal government downloading. We are very concerned about the direction in which we are going with this.
We were hit with a couple of other unexpected things that cost us money in the past. One was the re-arming of the RCMP and this was the policy decision they made that I believe ended up costing us well over $100,000 for the changing of the firearms regulations. Some other policies have also been made with respect to overtime or standby time that officers are on; these are policy decisions being made in Ottawa but no extra money is being forwarded to us. This impacts on our budgets, but this issue with respect to the RCMP agreement is one that will be a fairly serious topic of discussion.
Our position from the Yukon is that there be virtually no more cuts with respect to the RCMP. We are being asked almost every day to deliver more and it gets very difficult. The RCMP's plate in the Yukon is already full when one considers the delivery of these services in the communities.
Mr. Sloan: I am glad that the only thing that we are sharing with Mr. Evans from Alberta are his views on downloading. I hope that we do not share his views on chain gangs.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Sloan: The Member did say chain gangs.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Sloan: That will be the real rigorous confinement policy there.
The costs have gone up over the last three years. The Minister gave us some reasons for this. Have they been largely initiated by policy changes in Ottawa?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: No. The actual costs have not gone up all that much. In the past three years, we have been forced to absorb some of the costs. However, to the credit of the RCMP reorganization, the RCMP has been able to absorb some of the costs, as well. These are costs that no one could really have anticipated a few years ago.
Some of the costs that we had to absorb include those associated with the housing changes. The RCMP used to provide housing for its members, and now it does not. There were changes in the way the RCMP did that. These were costs associated with the reorganization and downsizing of the administrative level, so that we would be able to absorb and still maintain the same number of officers on the streets. I think it is a credit to Superintendent Egglestone and the people at the RCMP station who have worked hard with our Department of Justice officials to make sure that we maintain the services despite the federal Liberal cuts.
Mr. Sloan: I hope that the Liberal Member does not get too sensitive.
The Minister alluded to the Kwanlin Dun pilot project earlier. I personally think that it is one of the most positive things that I have heard in the last while. I think that the Kwanlin Dun First Nation is to be congratulated for having taken that kind of initiative.
Can the Minister tell us if this policing project is in place now?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: The briefing note I have is a little old. I can get back to the Member about that. I know there were discussions. The last I heard was that they were preparing the office space and getting ready to go. I do not know where it is at now. It is a program that has received a lot of community support, and they are full steam ahead to get it started. I will get back to the Member about exactly where it is at.
Mr. Sloan: One of the things that we discussed earlier in some of our questions earlier in the session was the whole concept of the idea of a police commission. The Minister did express his interest in pursuing that concept. Has the feasibility of such a concept been conveyed to the Department of Justice?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: No, we have not gone that much further with it. In fairness to the department - although I did mention that - our priority over the past 10 months or so has been the creating safer communities work, the community crime consultations and crime prevention. That is where most of the energy and efforts have gone - in getting those ready for this year. Actually, we had wanted them to be ready a little earlier, but these things take time and there is an awful lot of interdepartmental consultation that has to go on. No, we have not gone much further on that right now.
Mr. Sloan: I have just a few things, and then I think there are a few points that I will be looking at when we go through line by line. In terms of civil litigation, earlier I got a list of civil litigation inventory from the department. It indicated that 34 cases were currently pending against the government. I think I received the list in February. Has there been any change in that inventory in the last while?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: As the Member knows, these things move rather slowly. I could not answer that question on my feet, but I can check for the Member and get back to him. We may be able to have a brief status update later on today regarding any changes.
Mr. Sloan: Of course, the big ticket item in civil litigation is the Taga Ku project. Despite the optimistic views of the government, just on the off-chance that we should lose, has any provision been made for compensation with regard to the Taga Ku development project?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: No, there has not, partly because it is hypothetical. We would not be appealing it if we did not think we could win. There is no provision for that.
If the Member's worst case scenario happened, I suppose we would have to go to Management Board for extra money.
Mr. Sloan: I know that every lawyer that convinces his or her client to take up a case probably goes in with an expectation of winning or at least tries to convince the client that he or she can win.
Can the Minister give us a sense of whether or not there have been any other approaches taken by the government, other than the traditional adversarial court damages, in terms of working out a settlement, or perhaps undertaking a joint venture project with Champagne-Aishihik as an alternative to punitive damages?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I can tell the Member that in almost every case of civil litigation there is an attempt to resolve the matter before going to court. It is a normal procedure in most civil cases that negotiations take place. They are not an admission of liability at all; rather, they are an acknowledgment of the risks and costs of litigation.
As the Government Leader has said before in the House, yes, there have been some discussions with the proponents. However, because the matter is before the courts and because there have been discussions with the proponents, who have agreed to not discuss it publicly, I would prefer to honour that.
Mr. Sloan: I have a couple of other questions about administrative law. One of the things that has come to my attention is the idea of direct investments, the Balsam Investment Club. The Minister responded to members of the club about being able to make direct investment rather than going through a broker. This is a fairly common practice in other jurisdictions in Canada and the Minister's response was that there would have to be some legislative changes. Could the Minister tell us if this has been pursued?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I just received a list the other day about the issues the department is working on. I can follow that up for the Member, but I do not recall seeing that item on the list. I thank the Member for reminding me about it; I will follow it up.
Mr. Sloan: If the Minister wishes, I could probably get a copy of the original letter and the Member's response to the Balsam Investment Club.
I have some further questions on a couple of other things relating to administrative law. This has been brought up in the House before, but there are some issues in the Landlord and Tenant Act, such as the obligation of landlords in terms of maintaining property or common property in mobile home courts. Has any progress been made in this area? When can we expect some amendments to the Landlord and Tenant Act?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: The Member for McIntyre-Takhini asked questions of the Minister of the Yukon Housing Corporation about the degree to which the conditions of the mobile-home parks are governed by the act. The note that I have states that the Landlord and Tenant Act only deals with the rental arrangements that a mobile-home owner has with the owner of the pad upon which the mobile home is located. There are provisions in the act that are specific to mobile homes, due to the unique aspect of this rental situation.
As for the conditions of the mobile-home parks, the Landlord and Tenant Act does not apply; however, the City of Whitehorse does have Bylaw 397, which deals with various matters in mobile-home parks and sets out requirements for playgrounds and the standards for speed limits, street lighting, snow removal and various other things.
The Member for McIntyre-Takhini indicated that he had corresponded with the city about the matter; however, it does appear that the city does in fact have the authority to deal with his concerns.
Mr. Sloan: In other words, the Minister is convinced that this falls under the bailiwick of the city and that it should be more correctly addressed by bylaws. Is that the Minister's position?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: Yes. When we asked the Department of Justice the efficacy question, that was its interpretation of the act.
Mr. Sloan: One of the real problems up here - a very severe problem and I alluded to it earlier - is the whole question of impaired driving. Once again, according to that fine Tory paper, the Globe and Mail, which I like to quote so often, the Yukon has the highest drinking and driving rate in the country. This is another one of the initiatives in the document, Talking About Crime. Can the Minister give us a sense of when that report will be completed and perhaps give us a sense of some of the initiatives that are coming out of it, if he has those available?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: The draft paper arrived on my desk just the other day. I want to review it with the other responsible Ministers and their departments, because it is an interdepartmental subject. It has to go to Cabinet and then it will be released. I would expect it to come out within a maximum of three weeks.
The basis of the paper is to come down a little harsher on impaired drivers and treat the matter a little more seriously. We have previously discussed in public the matters of seizure of motor vehicles and other sanctions that can be taken for people who have second and third offences - roadside suspensions and those kinds of things. These will all be dealt with in the paper but I need to go through the final draft, which, as I said, I have only just received in order to prepare for this, but it will be released very shortly.
Mr. Sloan: With regard to this paper, does the Minister anticipate that it will be an interdepartmental initiative similar to the other ones? I would think there would be serious ramifications in terms of health and alcohol and drug services - things of that nature. Is that how it is intended to be implemented?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: Yes, it is very much part of the overall creating safer communities project, where all the departments are involved. This one, for the most part, involves Community and Transportation Services, Justice and Health and Social Services. All three of the Ministers will have the chance to review the paper. We will be discussing it before the paper comes to its final form.
Mr. Sloan: I have just a couple more questions, and then I will turn it over to my colleague and the Member for Riverside.
I hope that we are coming to the end of this session. I emphasize the word "hope". I would like to bring a little bit of closure to one of the issues that came up very early in the session: the Utilities Consumers Group and the RCMP investigation. There was an undertaking that came out of a motion that I presented in this House concerning a report on that. I am wondering if the Minister can give us a sense of when that report will be tabled. I do not know if he is privy to any of the recommendations or conclusions at this point.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I have not seen the report as of yet. I will check on it for the Member. I understand that it was coming shortly, but I have not had an opportunity to look at any reports yet. I can get back to the Member on that.
Mr. Sloan: I will come back to the central issue that arose from this. One of the concerns is the question of the arrangement or method by which we would launch investigations and under what circumstances. The question concerns the sense of ministerial correspondence and Cabinet documents.
When the report is delivered, does the Minister expect that there will be a recommendation on this subject coming out of that report?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I do not know. I cannot speculate on what might be in the report. I would have to wait until I had a chance to look at it. I have no idea if it will be a one-page or 20-page report, how it will be delivered and what it will recommend. I could not give the Member any assurances right now.
Ms. Moorcroft: I would like to thank the Minister for the information he gave in his introductory remarks in response to some of the questions that I had asked about the maintenance enforcement program and about the amendments that we had passed in the Legislature in the last session.
In December 1994, when he introduced the bill with the penalties for people who failed to pay their parking tickets, the Minister said, "There is no reason in the world why these people should not be required to pay. What we are saying is that this is a way to make them pay."
I would like to follow up with the Minister on exactly what is happening with the maintenance enforcement program because, as we have discussed, there have been no cases in maintenance enforcement where the penalty of failing to renew one's driver's licence has been used, although it has been used in over 700 cases for people who have not paid parking tickets.
What the Department of Community and Transportation Services brought back was some information saying, "In an effort to demonstrate that the government means business, it was agreed that suspensions of drivers' licences would become effective at the commencement of the program based on the lengthy public awareness program. A certified letter is sent within 10 days as advance notice of suspension."
I would like to know if the public awareness program in any way extended to the fact that the failure to offer service at the motor vehicles branch could be extended for failing to pay child support.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I presented the information that the Member wants in my opening remarks. The bottom line in this case is not for the government to try to recover fine money; the bottom line is to try to get the individual to pay support money to his wife or children. The approach that we have taken is to try to do everything we possibly can to convince the people to pay the money. In some cases, just suspending the drivers' licences immediately would perhaps have had the opposite effect. What we chose to do is to try to make contact with each one of the 32 individuals. In doing so, we made contact with eight fathers. All eight of those people, without any sanctions, have agreed to make payment and they have done so.
We are looking at motor vehicle sanctions for the other 32 files, but I think, as I said earlier,
of these 32 individuals, only five of them have vehicles. One of the individuals who we have dealt with lives in the bush, hitch-hikes to town once in a while, does a job under the table, takes his money and scoots out of town again. This is an individual who has avoided federal and bank garnishments and default hearings. He has failed to appear in court. We are after some of these people, and I think an awful lot of effort has gone into the process.
I agree with the Member. That is a step we are taking and we will be taking it now with some of the individuals, but I would not be surprised if even this does not work or make some of them pay. These people are the type of people who try to do everything they can to avoid these things.
They may just continue to drive an old car without a licence, if they even have a car. Taking their driver's licence away may not even help them decide whether or not they want to pay spousal or family support. They do not give a hoot; they do not want to do it. These types of people who do this are pretty disgusting, in my view. We are talking about pretty low types of individuals, who do not care about their families or children. We will never recover any money from some of them. We know that, but we are certainly making every effort we can by offering counselling and support to some of them to get their affairs straightened away so that they can make the payments. The bottom line is that the children who are supposed to receive money actually do get it.
Ms. Moorcroft: The Minister is being very defensive. I would like to just caution him to try and respond to the questions in a reasonable manner.
The Minister said that a lot of effort has gone into the process and that the department is taking the approach of doing everything it can to encourage people to pay child support. We certainly agree that we need to do everything possible to encourage people to pay child support; that is one of the reasons why the law was passed. When people do not pay their child support, there is a penalty that can be applied to remove drivers' licences.
I would like to ask the Minister again: has the department made this law known? Has it done any work to make sure that the public is aware that the maintenance enforcement program can cause people to not be able to renew their vehicle registration and driver's licence if they fail to pay their child support?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: As I said earlier, we have tried to contact each and every person. In fact, we have made at least three attempts to contact each and every person of these 32 individuals. We contacted eight of them, and these people came in and paid. Some of these others have no fixed addresses; they live in the bush and are difficult to contact. They move around from place to place and are difficult people to get hold of.
We have also, I believe, run some ads when the program first came into effect. There was a lot of publicity about this program. As far as running an expensive ad campaign for these individuals, who may or may not read a newspaper or listen to a radio,, I doubt it would have much effect. However, I will take the Member's representation and look at it. In 1995, we did advertising on the radio and produced information pamphlets such as Three Sides to Every Story, which was designed to call attention to the child's view of support payments. We did a "Thanks Dad" radio advertisement and a kids first program. At the beginning of school, we run our ad programs in the back-to-school issues. We believe that people are thinking of their kids at that time.
We have made an effort to get the message out to those individuals, but the Member has to realize that these are pretty tough characters to reach, and they are not interested in listening to anything we have to say anyway.
The next step, of course, for any of those individuals who may have a driver's licence, is to put a sanction on it and refuse a renewal. If one has been renewed in the last year or so - I think it is a three-year renewal - an effect would not be seen for two or three years. In the meantime, we are trying everything we can.
Ms. Moorcroft: The Minister said earlier that there were 457 active files in the maintenance enforcement program. I noticed that the statistics in the Department of Justice indicated that 120 files were opened last year. Perhaps the Minister could clarify something for me. Is he saying that of the 457 active files, there are only 40 files where there are delinquent payments?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: My understanding is that there are 40 files classified as the "never pays". There are 457 files in total. Many of them are simply registered and are no problem at all. Some of them are intermittent payers, and they have to be reminded from time to time. That is handled through maintenance enforcement. When we find out that a payment has not been made, the individual is reminded of it. The never-pays get referred to the working with dads program. Generally, most of them do pay; some of them are intermittent. However, the intermittent ones usually get brought up to date once they are reminded. We hope they will not end up in the never-pay category so that we have to use a heavier influence on them to make them reconsider.
Ms. Moorcroft: Does the Minister take the position that the program for administrative sanctions is in effect? Is that program in effect for the clients he identified as being intermittent payers?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: Yes, I believe the program is in effect and appears to be working well. There are 457 clients registered and only 40 that are never paying, so I think it is pretty effective.
Ms. Moorcroft: The Minister seems to have misunderstood my question. I am aware that the maintenance enforcement program is in effect. I am asking the Minister if the program to apply administrative sanctions is in effect. Has the government set up procedures to refuse the motor vehicle registrations of the 32 individuals who are not paying their child support?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: Yes, the department has a process. First of all, we try and contact the individual at least three times. If we are not successful in setting up appointments we recommend that the remaining file should be reviewed for further maintenance enforcement program actions such as the motor vehicle sanctions, which is the next stage. That is where the 32 individuals are now.
Again, I am not sure how many of those 32 individuals have a driver's licence, because only five of them have vehicles. The remaining 20 never-pay fathers will receive summons to attend default hearings. The department is proceeding against most of these individuals now.
Ms. Moorcroft: There have been some technical difficulties in implementing the program to suspend drivers' licences because of incompatible computer programs and other reasons. This is why I am asking the Minister if the procedures are in place to apply penalties to parents who are not paying their child support. It is a concern to us that a law was passed and there have not been any cases where it has been used. I do not know if the department can tell us whether or not there are any bugs in the system when they have not used it. Does the department know if it can implement the penalties and if the computer systems are going to be compatible?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: The Minister responsible for motor vehicles mentioned that earlier in his debate. Yes, there are some problems with the computer system. They are basically technical computer problems and the department is trying to work them out.
I can assure the Member that, when we look at the number of files we have and the number of people who are paying on a regular basis, and even the number of never-pays - people who had never paid but who have now changed - we have eight families who are now receiving money. I would like to see all 32 of them receiving money in the future and we are working toward that. Hopefully, we will have the computer glitches cleared up fairly quickly so that we can proceed with the rest of the program.
Ms. Moorcroft: The Minister referred to 20 cases where the department is going to be setting up default hearings. Is it planning to send over a memo to the motor vehicles branch to refuse to issue or renew drivers' licences, vehicle registrations and various permits for those 20 people?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: We will do whatever we have to do to make sure that the motor vehicles branch keeps aware of the situation. That is the key component in this and the registration problem is one of the things that started out to be a glitch right in the beginning with respect to the parking tickets. The last thing we want to do is to be wrongly restricting the licence or registration of an individual if we picked up the wrong individual. It would be unfair to the wronged individual and possibly quite embarrassing to others, so we will do whatever we have to do. There are only between 20 and 32 different files involved, so if we have not got a computer working we can figure out a way to do it manually.
Ms. Moorcroft: I will take that as a confirmation that they are not simply scheduling default hearings but that they are activating the motor vehicles sanctions as well. Can the Minister tell me how many of the case files are referred to as intermittent pays?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I would have to bring that information back to the Member.
Ms. Moorcroft: We had a legislative return brought back with the total amount of arrears from 1987, when the program was established, until 1994. Does the Minister have an update on the amount of arrears?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: The only note that I have with me now is about collections achieved during the month of March 1996. The total court-ordered amount to be collected was approximately $140,000. The total amount received is approximately $111,000, representing an 80 percent collection rate. However, I can get a more comprehensive number for the Member and bring that back.
Ms. Moorcroft: When we passed this law in the House, the Minister made the statement that he thought it was one of the more important bills dealt with in the last session. We are left wondering why he is changing his mind, since there were no cases in which this particular law was used. When did the Minister decide that the government was not going to use the law?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: The Member is way off base. The law is being used. The law is being effective. We have been working with dads. I explained the program last year. The Member seemed to have been supportive of the program at that time.
We have been working with 32 individuals. Eight of them have agreed to pay. The other 32 are going to the next process. The law is working. It is forcing some of them who have never paid in their lives to pay. It is working. It is doing exactly what we wanted it to do. I think that the Member's concern, and my concern as well, is that not all 32 are paying right now. I would like to see them pay, too, and that is what we are working toward.
Ms. Moorcroft: I would certainly like to see the Minister demonstrate some action on working toward that. We know that these sanctions are working for motor vehicles. We have seen $170,000 collected and a number of drivers' licences suspended, and in fact there have not been any suspensions because of failure to pay child support. It leaves people wondering who the Minister is protecting and why he is protecting them.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I really resent the Member accusing me of protecting these types of individuals. The Member knows better. We are working with those people to try to get them to come up with the money, exactly the way the program was designed to work. The working with dads program is a program whereby people who never pay are contacted and we try to get them to come forward - not just to slap a sanction on them immediately, but to try to work something out.
Some of the people do not have the wherewithal or the ability to arrange their finances so they can make any payments. If we had slapped motor vehicles sanctions against the first eight individuals, we may have found that several of them would not have been able to pay, but the department has worked with them, made arrangements, given them some counselling, helped them through the problems they may have had and set up a budgeting system for some of these individuals so they can include payments to their spouses and their children in their budget. That is what the program is all about - not just to slap a motor vehicles sanction on them and then everyone loses.
I resent the Member saying that I am protecting these individuals. It is a false accusation.
Ms. Moorcroft: I am trying to find out why the Minister has not brought this law into effect and that is the fact. The Minister does not have his facts straight. There are, as we have been talking about, policies in place that have never been used.
One of the reasons that people come to our offices and talk to us about maintenance enforcement programs and not using them is that they hear of cases where it does not work and so they are not sure why they should bother.
When this law was changed, there was another penalty implemented to encourage people to pay child support. We all want to see the hundreds of thousands of dollars in outstanding child support paid to those families that need it.
The Minister said he is going to come back with the information about the parents who pay intermittently. I would think that the parents who pay intermittently may very well be people who want to be able to keep their driver's licence. I think these would be people who would decide that they could pay regular support every month, rather than making intermittent payments, if they knew they were going to lose their driver's licence or not be able to renew their vehicle registration when they do not put their support cheque in the mail on a regular basis.
From the facts that we have about how much money has been collected and how many drivers' licences have been suspended, it seems to be more important to the Yukon Party to collect the parking fees than the child support payments.
When is the government going to go forward with the cases of the 20 individuals who are not making payments, even though they have been talked to and have gone through different programs? When is the Minister going to invoke the last resort and use the law that we passed in this House?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: We will be moving toward that shortly, but the Member has to realize that in some of these cases you cannot get blood from a stone. Some of these people will never pay and we try to do everything we can to get money from them, but they will never pay.
These are individuals who do not care about their families. If the Member has a problem, she should have a problem with these kinds of individuals who are, in my view, useless individuals who abuse the system. These people have no willingness to pay and it does not matter what the government does.
The department does advise all of the clients, even intermittent clients, about all of the processes involved in the maintenance enforcement program, so even intermittent clients are aware of possible motor vehicle sanctions. Sometimes people will miss payments for one reason or another. Some people are more regular in making payments than other people. I am sure the Member has missed an odd payment, because there was no money at a certain time. It is the job of the maintenance enforcement staff to remind people to come in and pay and to get their payments current.
However, there are some lowly individuals to whom it does not matter what we do as a government, they are not all going to pay. I do not ever expect all 32 of these people to pay. Some of these people do not have the money to pay. They do not have a nickel.
A fellow that I was told about today lives in the bush and does not have a cent to his name. He has no assets to seize, he does not have a driver's licence, he does not have a car and he hitch-hikes wherever he goes. What can we do with a person like this? He will always be one of the 32.
It does not matter how much the Member opposite says I should be implementing the law, this law does not cover this kind of low individual who does not give a hoot, does not care and plans to never pay. I cannot do much about that. It would not do any good either to grab him and put him in jail, because it would just cost us more money.
Believe me, I brought this legislation into the House because I care very much about what we are doing here and it has gone a long way to ensuring that women and children receive the monies due to them in their maintenance payments. There are a lot of thankful women and children out there for this program - 457 of them, minus 32, are on the program and receiving money. Many of them come from dads or individuals who have always paid but have just registered in the program because they think it is a good one, and one that gives security to their spouse and children.
As I said before, there are some folks who do not give a damn and will not pay, no matter what we do. It does not matter how much the Member across the floor insists that I do something to them, that type of individual will find a way to get around or abuse the system.
Ms. Moorcroft: Has the Minister received any complaints about the new penalties from any of the dads who have not paid?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: Yes, I received a rather scary complaint from an individual who was upset about the program. It was just one complaint, from an individual who was very upset about having to pay.
Ms. Moorcroft: I do not know if that was an acquaintance or a constituent of the Minister's, but I would like to ask him how he responded to the complaint.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: The complaint was in the nature that most of these are, I suppose. The individual felt that the person awarded the money did not deserve it, because it was not being spent on the children, as should it be. My advice to the individual was that if he felt that way, then he should go back to court and have the order changed, but that I could not - and would not - do anything about it. The individual was not happy that we had brought this bill in. By the way, the individual was not a constituent. I do not know which riding the individual lives in. I did not know him that well. The individual was a person who, I guess, was sent a letter or notice and told that they had to make some payments. The individual was pretty angry about it, and came trotting down to tell me that he was mad. I gave him the same advice, I guess, that maintenance enforcement gives them - if one is not happy with the arrangement that was set out in the original order, and feels that things have changed since that time, then one has the opportunity to go back to court, make a presentation and have the judge change the order. I do not know whether or not the individual did that.
Ms. Moorcroft: I am just concerned about the Minister giving a consistent message to all parties and to the public. The program to refrain from providing motor vehicle service has certainly been implemented for people who have bylaw fines totalling more than $100 in parking tickets, and motor vehicle infractions of less than $100 as well as over that amount.
When talking about young offenders and cracking down on crime, the Minister was quoted recently as saying, "Young offenders have to realize that there are real consequences for their actions and that they are responsible for them and that they had better straighten out or society will deny some of their privileges." The Minister was talking particularly about drivers' licences, and he said that young offenders should not be able to obtain the things that responsible citizens get, which could be a driver's licence if they are going to be violating the law. I think that violating court-ordered payments for family support is something that the Minister should take a strong position on as well.
I would like to ask the Minister about the government's policy on whose names are published and how the government decides to publish names. This is something I asked him questions about in the House yesterday and I would like to follow them up.
I certainly appreciate that women and children may want to protect their privacy. If they do, and do not want names of those in arrears of child support payments published, that wish should be respected. The family should have the ability to say that.
Nonetheless, we know that the government publishes names of property owners who have not paid their taxes. We know that the government puts out news releases on occasion when someone has been convicted of breaking the law, so I would like to ask the Minister to tell us how the government decides whose names it is going to publish.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I thank the Member for that suggestion. I will raise it with the maintenance enforcement people. Maybe it is a question we can ask individuals when they get involved with the program. If they do not have a problem with us publishing the name of the delinquent dads, maybe we should put a little space in the local papers, containing the names and the amounts. I do not know what effect that would have, but maybe it is another tool we can use to publicly embarrass these deadbeats who refuse to pay. Unfortunately, as I said, there is nothing we can do to some of these people to make them change their minds.
I will take the Member's representation and we will have a look at doing something like that.
Ms. Moorcroft: There are certainly some people who cannot afford to pay, however there are also names on the rolls of people who should be paying their child support and there is really no reason that they are not. Publishing their names might be an effective deterrent, just as withholding motor vehicles services might be.
How does the government decide though - just to go back to the policy issue - when it is going to issue a press release on convictions? Arguably, a parent who has not paid their court-ordered child support is in violation of the law. The Minister of Health put out a press release last week about some convictions in the court and decided to draw a little extra attention than the regular court reporting. What is the government's policy on publishing the names of people who have convictions?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I do not know if there is firm policy as such that would say that we publish certain offences and do not publish others. I believe - and this is just my guess - in the case of Health and Social Services, it hired a fraud investigator. The department made it public to everyone in the Yukon that there would be a fraud investigator.
All kinds of people came in to Health and Social Services and provided more information that changed the payments they were getting before because they did not want to be investigated by the fraud investigator. The other thing that happened was that the fraud investigator investigated a couple of cases and the people were convicted. I suppose that Health and Social Services decided that one way to make everyone abusing the system aware that that would not be tolerated by our society is to publish the names of the individual.
I certainly support that. There is nothing I abhor more than an individual abusing the social system. It is disgraceful and those people should be prosecuted. I would probably go even further and never give them social assistance again, if I had any say in it. The kind of person who abuses the system should not be tolerated because the rest of us suffer as a result.
The message the Department of Health and Social Services sent out was loud and clear: if anyone abuses the system, the rest of the general public will know about it. I have no problem with that at all. There are probably a lot of people out there who might have abused the system in the past or may be abusing the system or might be considering abusing the system in the future but who might have second thoughts after reading those stories because they certainly would not want to see their name in the paper.
Deputy Chair: The Committee of the Whole 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, entitled First Appropriation Act, 1996-97, Department of Justice. Is there any general debate?
Mr. Joe: Can the Minister explain how community justice will tie in with the land claims? Will a small community have more say in the policy?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: The community justice initiatives, as I understand them, are usually molded to a community. We go into the community, as we did with Dawson City last week, or as we did in Haines Junction or Carmacks, and sit down with the leaders of the community. We look at the resources that are available there and those that we need, and discuss with each community the types of programs they need. As a result of those discussions, the department comes up with sort of a made-in-the-community model - one that would be most suitable for the individual community.
That is the process. It is community driven. That is what we were hearing in the talking about crime consultations. It is hoped that when we get into discussions with various communities on these initiatives, they will be driven by the community.
We have a standard model that we use, however, when we go into the community. It is a basic model that we begin with. Then we look at the different needs in each community.
Mr. Joe: The reason I ask the question is that there is no mention of how tribal justice and the government will work together at some point in the future.
Yesterday, the Minister, right off the bat, said that he wanted to comment on government's greatest program, the community crime prevention strategy. This strategy sets out the priorities for key issues by the Department of Justice, Health and Social Services, Education, Community and Transportation Services, the Women's Directorate and the RCMP. I would agree if there was mention of First Nations, but there was no mention of them.
In the past, we talked about how we would like to see the Yukon work together. I do not see that happening. In order for people to work together, we have to look at making changes. There are so many bad things going on in the small communities, even in the City of Whitehorse - drugs, alcohol, child abuse, you name it.
There are young girls who have been abused and there is family violence. If we cannot get these people to work together, who will do it for us? Some people suffer very much, and that is why we have problems.
The police are now having problems working with the First Nation communities. I do not know how that change is going to take place, but if we do not look toward the future, we are going to have the same problems.
I am sure that there will be a lot of talking, because pretty soon it will be time for an election. It seems that the only time we talk about these things is during an election and I do not think people will listen to what we have to say because they are getting so used to hearing it.
It is time for action. We have problems and things need to be changed. I have attended too many funerals on account of alcohol and drugs, but I do not know how we can fix the problem. If we do not work together, we are going to face more situations like this and I do not think we want to live with a problem like this.
We are working for the people of the Yukon and we should want to see a better life for Yukoners. That is our job.
We have to look at the future. Sometimes we disagree and we take the whole afternoon to discuss one subject. Sometimes, I get frustrated, too.
I am sitting here in my chair, whether I like it or not, and listening to what is being discussed. It is really important to look ahead for the young generation to come. That is what is most important. That is why I cannot stop working.
When I was the chief, I thought about the young people. Sometimes I felt like quitting, but I always had the young people in my mind. I do not know what kind of future they are going to have in the next five or 10 years. Where is the country going now? A lot of bad things are going on. We have a lot of work ahead of us.
We must be getting close to seeing this old world getting old. My uncle used to be a preacher and used to tell that story when I was a little fellow. It is going on today, so it must be true.
You are going to see and hear many more problems like the ones we have discussed today. That is what we hear today.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I can sympathize with the frustration felt by the Member for Mayo-Tatchun concerning the problems in his community. However, I think that his interpretation of the community justice program is not totally accurate. I think that the Member is looking at only the government departments' involvement. Probably the most important part of the community justice program is the community involvement; it is the community itself.
There are five models of community justice agreements in place. One is a community justice committee, which is made up of First Nations and non-First Nations people who establish a committee within their community. These people can develop programs to manage the offender and work toward developing victim advocacy programs, diversion programs, and prevention and policing strategies. The community gets involved in all of that. It is a program that the community develops. It seems to be working fairly well in some of the communities where we have initiated the program, but it is not working so well in others. In some communities, it depends a lot on the individuals driving it and on their determination.
There is also the organization in a community that can act as a carrier agency within the community. An organization such as the village council, First Nation or private agency can be a carrier of an offender management program or victim program in the community. That is another way that we can do it.
Another way we can do it is through direct contact. In this case, the department initiates a contract with a member of the community, and there are accountability measures built in to ensure the community is involved in establishing the justice objectives. They have regular meetings with the First Nations and consultative groups.
The community is really involved in designing the programs. As I said, they are different in each community depending on the community's needs.
Another method is the status quo, which we have now, with probation officer visits. In this case, the probation officer visits the community on a regular basis to work with offenders. I think that everyone is searching for a better way than that, although it is still better than nothing.
The last method is the First Nation administration, and this approach is specifically to address the issue of self-government and it involves First Nations, Canada and the Yukon as partners in the program. The justice guidelines approaches are developing rather slowly in this area, but we have just signed the first of four final agreements a few years ago.
I know some bands are looking at administering more of the justice programs in the future, but we are not there yet. The first model, the Community Justice Committee, is functioning in Haines Junction and Carmacks. If one looks at the organization that acts as a carrier, the Vuntut Gwitchin Tribal Council and the Member's Selkirk First Nation are working on that model.
Dawson City has a contract worker. There are probation officers in Watson Lake, Mayo, Ross River, Faro and Teslin. We are working now with the First Nation administration of the Kwanlin Dun Band. Those are some examples of community justice models. I think what is important in this program is that it is community driven; it looks at specific problems within the community and works with the resources it has in the community and develops a community justice plan that, it is hoped, will see some results.
Again, I understand the frustration. The Member has risen several times - since he has been a Member, and particularly in the last few weeks - in frustration over the problems in his community and not seeing them addressed. I would be more than willing to ask my Justice officials to meet with the Chief and Council of the Selkirk First Nation to see if there is something we could do with respect to community justice programs in his communities to try to address the problems he has laid out for us.
Mr. Joe: I would like to thank the Minister. Right now I want to deal with one complaint from the RCMP. Last year, some time ago, I sat down with the RCMP and they told me a lot of things about the community, such as bootlegging. They charged one bootlegger. I guess the Minister is aware of that already. The prosecutor's case did not go very far. The case was thrown out. That bootlegger just walked away and was free.
The Minister can ask everyone in Pelly Crossing. They will tell the Minister how long the the one family has been bootlegging. Finally the police caught them and charged them with bootlegging. It did not go to court. During the winter, it went to a prosecutor, who threw it out. I disagree with the situation. It should not be that way.
The police could not do anything, so what use is it having them in the community? They are trying to do their job and someone else steps in and would not let them do anything.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I think that the Member has hit the nail right on the head. It is a problem the previous government had to deal with and one that we are also having to deal with: the responsibility of the Crown prosecutors. The devolution of that responsibility is something that we have been trying to work out with the Liberal government in Ottawa for several years now, so that we can clearly lay out to the Crown prosecutor's office the priorities of Yukon people. Some of those priorities have to do with the alcohol and drug abuse that takes place. They should be treated as serious crimes, and we should be dealing with them in a more serious manner.
We end up with a revolving door in the Crown prosecutor's office where there are prosecutors coming in and out of the territory, not staying for long. They are not here long enough to understand the Yukon conditions or concerns.
With the federal Liberal Minister of Justice, we are trying to give our input into the hiring of a supervisor for the Crown prosecutor's office here. Although the Minister gave me the assurances that we would have it, we are certainly not having the input I was expecting into the hiring of this new individual. We want to make sure that if someone is coming up here and the Crown will be devolved to us, it will be clear to the individual who is hired what Yukon priorities and concerns are.
We are not getting any assurances from the federal Liberal government in Ottawa that that is the case. I will be speaking to Mr. Rock in Ottawa on May 7 or 8, at the federal-provincial Ministers of Justice conference, and I will certainly again be conveying our extreme concern about the slowness of the devolution process.
The Crown's office is an integral part of the justice system in the territory and, although we have assured them that we are not going to give them direct political direction or influence in the process, there should be some concern within that office about the priorities of Yukon people. Right now, that office is totally independent and is not answerable to many people. They are answerable to Mr. Rock, but he is a long way away and I have been forwarding all the concerns and problems that I have been receiving lately to Mr. Rock for his response. It is a concern we have and is one that has to be addressed fairly quickly. It will help deal with the concern the Member has raised.
Mr. Sloan: The Member for Tatchun had a way of bringing us back to the central issues 18 years ago and I am glad to see that he has not lost his touch. We often get carried away with our own decisions and sometimes forget about the central issue, which is the people, and I thank him for bringing some of those things forward.
He opened up something that I would like to follow up on with the Minister just for a moment or two, and that is the question of community justice contracts. He mentioned that there are several contracts for justice workers, probation officers, carrier agents and so on. My question is this: would these projects grow out of community sentencing or circle sentencing? Am I on the right track there?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: That would certainly be part of it. It is not the main part but when one discusses the community justice initiative in a community, it may be the route they want to go - the circle sentencing route or a combination of both - but it is certainly part of it.
Mr. Sloan: We have had circle sentencing for a while now, particularly in Whitehorse. Has the government done any evaluation on how effective it is in terms of the recidivism rate or anything of that nature? Is there any information about that?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I have heard some concerns about the effectiveness of circle sentencing from individuals in the communities and in Whitehorse. I have asked the department to have a look at it. It is a little early to determine if it will affect recidivism. It has only been going for a year or two.
In 1994-95, about 125 charges involving 49 accused persons were dealt with in circle sentencing in the Yukon. From April 1, 1995, to January 31, 1996, there were 54 charges involving 30 accused persons dealt with by way of circle sentencing. The types of cases dealt with are impaired driving, assault, theft, mischief, break and enter, uttering threats and breach of probation. We are presently collecting data on circle sentencing and working with the statistics bureau to create a methodology by which we can evaluate the data we get.
It is a little early yet, because it has been in place for just a year or two, to draw any conclusions.
Mr. Sloan: I was looking at some of the costs of incarceration. The figure estimated for 1995-96 is about $165 per day per inmate, then drops to $151 for 1996-97. That is a fair amount of money. If we are meeting with some success with such things as community justice initiatives like circle sentencing, would it be a direction we would prefer to provide more support to in order to reduce costs? It is a fair amount of money. Is the government committed to putting more money into these types of things if they do demonstrate effectiveness?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I would be more than happy to divert money into any program that would see a reduction in the number of people incarcerated and a reduction in crime.
I hope that by putting money into the government community crime initiatives, such as the Creating Safer Communities papers, we will see some results, but it is going to take a year or two for this to happen, because it does not happen overnight.
As with many other jurisdictions, we have to realize that there is a core of individuals out there who are consistently in the system, and even the programs we are trying to initiate today will not make a difference to some of those people. I hope that by getting to some other individuals earlier through school programs and Health and Social Services programs, such as fetal alcohol syndrome and fetal alcohol effects, we will not see those people end up in the system when they reach the teenage years.
That is the plan. It looks good on paper and it sounds good when we talk about it, but I guess it is going to be something everyone works toward. There seems to be a lot of excitement in the community about moving in that direction, and we certainly heard that in our consultations when we travelled throughout the Yukon for the talking about crime consultations. Everyone said to deal with the problems in the schools with younger students and develop community-driven initiatives. This is the direction we have taken, so we will have to wait and see what happens.
Mr. Sloan: I would like to thank the Minister for that. I do know that in my particular riding, frequent circle sentencing meetings are held at the school. From talking to people within Kwanlin Dun, there is a fair degree of enthusiasm for these types of community initiatives.
Some of these people are somewhat frustrated that they cannot move on with some of the other things they would like to do. Is the Minister planning to meet with some of the community people in the next little while to discuss how effective they feel the initiatives have been and where they want to go with their community directions?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: That is happening on an ongoing basis. Justice officials were in Dawson two week ago and met with the community. Some 40 individuals turned out for the meeting and spoke about what we are doing right, what we are doing wrong and what we can do. I know that department officials meet on an ongoing basis in tripartite meetings with the federal government, Kwanlin Dun and the territorial government to discuss police issues up there. We are willing to meet with them to discuss these types of initiatives. That is what these papers are all about - for us to sit down with them and discuss it.
We went to Carcross a couple of weeks ago. Unfortunately, only one person showed up for the meeting, so we are going to have to reschedule a meeting in Carcross. We will see how that works out. We received some criticism from Carcross about community justice. We scheduled a meeting with the individual who was concerned. We went all the way to Carcross, and the individual who raised the concern did not show up at the meeting. Two officials - the deputy minister and one of the directors, I believe - went to Carcross. We are going to have to find another time to go there and have a meeting.
Mr. Sloan: I have one final question for general debate - I promise. I want the Minister to understand that this comes not because of me, but from his colleague, the Minister of Government Services who, in response to a very innocent query that I had on sole sourcing, had some harsh words for the Justice department and the sole sourcing of legal services. At that time, he entertained the hope that the Minister of Justice was listening.
My concern is how legal services are handled currently under sole sourcing. Apparently, the Department of Justice convinced the Cabinet - and I am taking the Government Services Minister's own words - "that it should be exempt from the basis so that it would come up with some other method of acquiring legal services, other than simply calling up people whom the department knows." The Minister of Government Services then expressed a little bit of frustration when he said that it had been a year since the commitment was made and he had not seen anything yet. He noticed the Department of Justice was spending a lot of money on sole-sourced legal services with no guidelines.
I was just wondering if anything had been done in response to the Minister of Government Service's concerns.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I was in my office that evening when I heard the comments made by the Minister of Government Services. When I picked myself up off the floor, I waited until the break and hid in the corner. When he came around the corner, I confronted the Member with what he had said. I guess that he was not aware of what we were doing in the Department of Justice.
We have done several things. One of the things we did was a client survey of legal services. We went to all of the departments of the government and did a comprehensive survey. We said, "How do we respond to your needs? Do we respond in a timely manner?" We wanted to find out how things were actually working when various departments asked us for legal advice.
Another thing that was done when our director of legal services left the government was to hire a new director of legal services, Howard L. Kushner. He is formerly director of legal services, civil law branch, in the Alberta Department of Justice. He came very highly recommended. He is very up to date on areas of constitutional law. He started his job on April 15, 1996.
As is seen in the line item of the budget, we have reduced our outside legal costs by approximately $400,000. The plan is to use the largest law firm in the Yukon Territory - the Government of Yukon - to deal with the issues that we have in front of us. We hope that with the client survey to determine what the needs of our clients are, with the new director of legal services, and with a new focus in the department, we will be utilizing the expertise of the lawyers we have in the department to deal with many of the cases. We hope that very few sole-sourced contracts will be seen in the future, and only used then when absolutely necessary.
Mr. Harding: I have some questions for the Minister on behalf of a constituent.
I wrote to the Minister of the Department of Community and Transportation Services and the Minister of Justice about the issue of people who work on the Shakwak project and the fair wage schedule. A concern was raised with me about the level of funding that is paid to workers from Alaska who are working on that specific project versus the wages paid to Yukon workers. That letter was sent some time ago, on January 22, 1996, and I did not receive a response from the Minister of Justice. On February 2, 1996, I received a response from the Minister of the Department of Community and Transportation Services.
In that response, the Minister said that the United States Government does not specify the wage rates to be paid to road construction workers. The letter went on to say that the federal Department of Public Works and Government Services Canada have agreed that the highway reconstruction should be according to contract, policies and regulations of the Yukon government except where special requirements of the Shakwak agreement between the United States and Canada take precedent.
How does the payment of the Yukon construction workers and workers in Alaska work, when the project is largely funded by the United States?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: First of all, I apologize to the Member for not responding to his letter. Although I have had people raise the issue of the fair wage schedule with me, I do not recall seeing the letter, but I will have my officials check to find out if it is somewhere in the works - but I do not recall seeing the letter. The Member knows that when I receive his letters, I respond to them. I would have responded to the letter.
I would have to go back to look at the Shakwak agreement and our labour standards laws with respect to the Shakwak project. I could not tell you right now what the problem is, but I will make a commitment to the Member that I will take his questions as representation and get back to him.
Mr. Harding: I thank the Minister for that and I look forward to the response on behalf of my constituent. Also, I should tell the Minister the response to the issue that I received from the Minister of Community and Transportation Services on February 2, 1996, shows that it was also copied to the Minister himself. Somewhere it must have become lost in the department, or something like that. I look forward to receiving the response.
The second issue that I want to ask about is in regard to the fair wage schedule. There have been very few, if any, increases in the fair wage schedules since 1990. In fact, a couple of positions have been downgraded in the fair wage schedule. I wonder if the Minister truly believes that it reflects the cost-of-living increases in the Yukon since 1990 and if the Minister has any plans right now in the works to make changes to increase the fair wage schedule.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I will answer the last question first. There are not any plans in the works at the present time to increase the schedule. I think it is perhaps time that it is looked at. It has been six years, as the Member says, since something was looked at, but I will take that representation back as well.
Mr. Harding: Going back to the previous question I asked, could the Minister provide me with some information about precisely what is happening with the Alaskan workers, comparatively? It would help me understand what is happening there.
I would like to see the Minister look at the fair wage schedule. If the fair wage schedule was increased, given the length of time that has passed since there was an increase, that would certainly go a long way toward relieving my constituent's concern.
The last issue I want to ask the Minister about is with regard to occupational health and safety in the budget. There is a contribution in the budget to occupational health and safety, but I am not precisely sure how it works. Could the Minister explain what the terms of reference are for that contribution?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: That program was transferred from Justice to the Workers' Compensation Board back in 1993, and that is the amount to cover our costs of the program. It is in the Workers' Compensation Board budget.
Mr. Harding: Does the Minister have any knowledge about whether or not the occupational health and safety regulations being contemplated by the review committee have gone to Cabinet yet? It was my understanding that there were some draft regulations put together that went out for public comment. There are people in the workforce who are looking to see some changes to occupational health and safety, and I am wondering if the regulations have come to Cabinet yet?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I hope the Minister responsible for the Workers' Compensation Board is listening in his office, because the occupational health and safety regulations are that Minister's responsibility, so I will defer that question to him.
Mr. Harding: Given that the Minister's department makes the contribution to the occupational health and safety branch -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Harding: Oh, it is just a transfer. Given that the Minister's department makes a transfer to occupational health and safety, would the Minister agree to take up this issue with the Minister responsible for the Workers' Compensation Board and determine when these regulations are going to go before Cabinet and come back with that information for me?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I will certainly let the Minister of Government Services know that the Member for Faro will be looking for him when he comes to his budget item on that particular issue.
Mr. Cable: Last night, the Minister spoke about the devolution of the Crown prosecutor's office. He spoke briefly this afternoon in response to questions put to him by the Member for Mayo-Tatchun.
From the Minister's comments last night, I gather that he feels there are now some liaison problems between his department and the Crown prosecutor's office. Could he be a little more specific about what he sees as being the problems? He has hinted darkly about there being some problems with the way prosecutions are handled.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I am surprised at the question from the Liberal Member. All one has to do is to pick up the newspapers, as I have for the past six months to one year, and see all the concerns that are expressed by people and the problems that have occurred with various cases.
Aside from that, we have just been notified that four of our Crown prosecutors are leaving - three are going into private practice and one is leaving the territory. There will be a 50-percent change, I understand, in the staffing of the Crown prosecutor's office. Our concern is shared by the Government of the Northwest Territories with respect to their Crown prosecutor responsibilities as well. We want to see this devolved to the Government of the Yukon. The federal government did a study that said it would be devolved, it would take four years and be devolved piecemeal. We cannot, for the life of us, understand why, if the agreement is to devolve it, we cannot get on with it and devolve it.
Maybe we can solve some of these problems I keep sending to Mr. Allan Rock.
Every two or three weeks, I receive another call from an individual, who may be a victim or may be in the system, who is frustrated with what is going on. They write me letters and I send them off to Mr. Rock. We correspond regularly.
The last time I talked to Mr. Rock, he even made the suggestion that because there are so many problems up here, maybe I would not want the Crown attorney's office. Why would I want all these problems? I said that if we had the devolution of the Crown, there might not be quite so many problems. Perhaps it would be handled in a different manner. Possibly, because the Crown attorney's office is such an integral part of the whole justice system, it would work out a little better.
Chair: Order please. The time being 5:30 p.m., we will recess until 6:30 p.m.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. We are dealing with Bill No. 10, Department of Justice, general debate.
Mr. Cable: When we rose at 5:30 p.m., I was asking the Minister questions about the Crown attorney's office and the problems in that office. He indicated that I should have just referred to the newspaper to find out what the problems are, which left me with a rather uneasy feeling. If in fact that justice function is turned over to this government in the near future, we will find the administration of justice guided, at least in part, by the newspapers. As I am sure we established in Question Period that the newspapers are a very trustworthy and thoughtful source of information.
I would like to ask the Minister if he would be more specific about the problems between his department and the Crown attorney's office. Are they problems that relate to the administration of files? How fast they are being processed? Or, are they problems relating to sentencing options that are being sought by the prosecutors? What are the problems?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: One of the problems that we experience concern over is the constant change of Crown attorneys who come to the Yukon. There is not a lot of stability to the office. People do come and go.
Some of the other concerns that we have include what the Member just mentioned. One problem concerns direction on the priorities of Yukon residents - for example, not tolerating alcohol and drug abuse, firearms-related offences and these kinds of things that are of concern to Yukoners. Another problem is being up to speed on Yukon issues in Yukon communities.
What we are finding now is that when we want to ask questions of the Crown attorney's office about a specific issue, the response is not very adequate. Basically, the response is that the office is independent and should remain independent. I do not believe the Crown prosecutors are talking about crime initiatives, nor are they involved in other initiatives we have. They are very much a part of the criminal justice system.
I think it is simply closing the loop. It does work in all of the provinces; the provinces control the Crown prosecutors. In fact, the Northwest Territories is making exactly the same arguments that we are, that it should be devolved to us. I am somewhat puzzled - maybe the Liberal Member can inform us - about why the Yukon Liberal Party is against the devolution of the Crown prosecutor's office to the people of the Yukon.
Mr. Cable: My response to that is that we are not; that is the simple answer. However, we would like to know what the problems are before we start gyrating off the walls. There is obviously some problem between the Department of Justice and the Crown attorney's office that could be solved, assumedly, if people are acting sensibly on a short-term basis, if the Crown's office is not immediately devolved.
Has the Minister outlined these concerns in correspondence to the federal Justice Minister? If so, could he share that correspondence with us?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I have had maybe half a dozen conversations with Allan Rock with respect to the devolution of the Crown attorney's office. I have sent him several letters over a period of several years in that regard and I have no problem sharing the letters with the Member.
The Member asked the question earlier about why the Yukon wishes to pursue this. If we want to pursue a particular policy approach in relation to the conduct of prosecutions - for example, community justice - based on the reality of local circumstances, right now the Yukon must consult with and seek the advice and request the cooperation of the federal officials. At the present time, we do not feel that we are getting that cooperation and we have no recourse other than to speak to Mr. Rock and plead that we be consulted a little more on these issues and be involved.
I spoke with Mr. Rock about a month or two months ago when we heard that the person at the head of the Crown attorney's office here was leaving. I said that if they were hiring a new person and they were devolving the office to us, would it be possible to be involved in the interviews. We felt we should be involved because the person who would be coming in would more than likely be working for the Yukon government somewhere down the road. I was given assurances that we would be so involved but since that time we have been somewhat excluded and the invitation has not been there. We do not really know what is going on with the process insofar as our being involved in the hiring process.
I thought from my conversations with Allan Rock that we would allow possibly our deputy minister or somebody from Justice or the Public Service Commission to sit in on the interviews, at least, and be involved in that practice. I do not think that is a huge demand from a government that has to deal with the results of the Crown prosecutor's office and the actions of that office in the future, but that has not been forthcoming from the federal government so it has been a bit frustrating for us.
Again, I will meet with Allan Rock in a couple of weeks and ask him why he is not following through with the commitment he made to me on the phone some weeks ago.
Mr. Cable: There is always the apprehension about turning over the justice function, involving people's freedom, to a small jurisdiction. I am sure the Minister would realize that, and I am sure the Minister would also realize that the comfort level would have to be there that the administration of justice would be conducted in an arm's-length fashion.
Has there been any devolution plan set up between the two departments?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: Yes. The Stein Lal report made the following recommendations: that the Minister of Justice agree, in principle, to devolve the prosecution function; that a memorandum of understanding to work cooperatively be developed and that a process for devolution be developed within the following time frames: acceptance of principles by December of 1995 with a memorandum of understanding outlining the work and appropriate legislative amendments by July 31, 1996, and relevant issues to be included by July 31, 1997; the joint appointment of a director of public prosecutions by July 31, 1998; and appropriate policies and guidelines as legislative amendments by July 31, 2000.
The report was prepared for both the Yukon and the Northwest Territories. Neither the Yukon nor the Northwest Territories have accepted the proposed time frames. The position of both the Yukon and the Northwest Territories is that the federal government agrees with the position of the territories with respect to devolving justice to us, so why does it have to take four years to devolve the responsibility?
The problem the Yukon is facing now is that in 1999 some of the First Nations want the government to devolve the responsibility for justice to the First Nations. It will be difficult for the Yukon government to discuss the devolution of justice to First Nations when it does not know what it will have to devolve. That is a concern that we have and it is a concern I have expressed to Mr. Rock.
Mr. Cable: Has the costing of devolution been determined? If so, has it been agreed to by this government?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: No. That would be part of the discussions before we reach the final agreement.
Mr. Cable: Is the Minister in a position to table that Stein Lal report?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I do not see a problem. I would have to check with the Northwest Territories and the federal government before I do so. It was an internal document among the three governments, so I would have to check with them first.
Mr. Cable: I hope the Minister can do that before the House adjourns; otherwise, perhaps he could provide it later on, if that is acceptable to the other jurisdictions.
On another topic, the issue of mediation of disputes that would otherwise go to court was something that the department was looking at last year. It is a form of alternative dispute resolution. Where do we sit on that issue? I believe it was up in the air when we adjourned last year.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I will have to get back to the Member on the status of that issue. I will do so in writing.
Mr. Cable: Another aspect - and it can be dealt with in the letter; it does not have to be dealt with now - is that I would like to find out from the Minister's officials how many of these many court cases that the government is involved in could lend themselves to mediation if, in fact, their thinking on mediation has advanced that far?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I will try to get that information for the Member as well.
Mr. Cable: On the issue of circle sentencing - and this has been dealt with a little earlier - it was my understanding in the last session that the report of Judge Stuart was going to be available. Has his first report reached the Minister's office yet? I believe the Minister said that it had earlier on.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I am informed that Judge Stuart's draft report was sent today to David Arnett, head of the federal aboriginal Justice directorate early in March. Mr. Arnett suggested some minor wording changes and Mr. Stuart is currently working on them. A copy of the final report is going to be provided to the Yukon Department of Justice once Mr. Arnett is satisfied that the report is final. It is expected to happen some time in mid-May.
Mr. Cable: Has the Minister or the Minister's department seen the draft?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I have not seen the draft. I would have to check to see whether or not the department has.
Mr. Cable: I asked the Minister some questions about community work service during Question Period. He also referred to it in his speech today. What involvement of the community is the Minister's department seeking in re-invigorating the work service program?
On page 17 of his speech, he said that consultations were already underway to develop an alternative measures program for adults.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I am not sure what the Member is actually getting at. Bill C-41 passed this last summer. I believe it comes into effect this fall. It will allow alternative sentencing measures. A day-long workshop was held in March with representatives of the Department of Justice, Health and Social Services, the RCMP and the Crown prosecutor's office. They were all invited to participate in the workshop. I do not have an update on how many people attended and what came out of it, but I imagine it was to bring them up to speed on Bill C-41 and look at the alternative-measures option when it came into play in October.
Mr. Cable: I was wondering in particular what the Minister's department was doing with respect to recruiting segments of the community to make the community work service program work. When it was started many years ago, it involved the Chamber of Commerce, employers and people who would contribute their time to assist in having community input into rehabilitation.
What is the Minister's thinking on that particular aspect of the issue?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: Certainly, I would think that if we were going to do some of the community service work it would be carried out in a similar way it has been in the past, such as consultation with the town councils. In Teslin there would be consultation with the Teslin town council, the First Nation in Teslin, and those kinds of things. I think the intent of the program is that there would certainly be consultation with the various groups that would be affected in looking at the types of programs these individuals could work on.
Mr. Cable: It is my feeling that, in order for the programs to work, the organizations are going to have to be involved or there is going to have to be considerably greater people power assigned to the supervision of the community work service. Has the Minister sought the opinion or assistance of any of the organizations about whether or not they are prepared to commit to making a community work service program work?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I will have to bring the information back to the Member. The meeting only took place in March. I will have to get a report to find out where they are and how the program is going to be implemented. I will certainly bring that back to the Member, by way of a letter.
Mr. Cable: I will look forward to that.
On the crime report that was given to the Minister last year, does the Minister anticipate a formal response, in the fashion that the Department of Education formally responded to the Education Review Committee report - recommendations, action, timing, and that sort of thing?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: If one looks at the Talking About Crime report - I guess it is just a matter of process or how one responds to it - and the actions in the Creating Safer Communities papers, every single issue and recommendation probably has some action, either started or well underway. I do not think it really matters if it is in the same form as the Education report - recommendation, action and results. I think the bottom line really is the results. The Creating Safer Communities papers really do respond to almost all of the initiatives.
I am not really hung up on the way it is put on a piece of paper. I am more hung up on whether or not, for example, recommendation 19 gets implemented in the same manner that people thought it should be. I think, for the most part, the people who took part in the Talking About Crime report are very pleased with the way we are dealing with creating safer communities and the way various aspects of the report are being implemented. In fact, I have heard from some of the people that we are going a little further than was recommended in some areas. The biggest recommendation in that whole report was for interdepartmental cooperation.
That is happening in spades when it comes to creating safer communities. All the departments are working much more closely together than they ever did before.
Mr. Cable: I brought it up because I found the format for the education review response from the government very useful in tabulating what was going on, rather than having to collect a whole file of initiatives and try to correlate them.
On another issue regarding drunk drivers, which was touched on this afternoon, there was a newspaper article last year that included a quote from a representative from Mothers Against Drunk Drivers. Elisa Waywell said that the biggest problem was recidivism, and that 60 percent of offenders are repeat offenders. Is that the experience we have had in the Yukon with regard to drunk driving?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I would not be safe if I said yes. I do not know the exact figure, but, like the Member, I hear stories on the news about these people being charged with drunk driving and I read the newspaper stories about people being charged for the second, third and fourth time. It seems to be more common than not. I suspect that we would be similar to other jurisdictions.
We plan to bring in recommendations in our drunk-driving paper, which will address that very issue. There will be much stricter penalties for those individuals who are repeat offenders.
Mr. Cable: I would like to deal with the recidivism and the recidivism statistics a bit later. I know that the Swedes have tackled this problem with vigour, particularly with repeat offenders.
What sort of initiatives does the Minister anticipate? I know that he does not have the administration of the Crown attorney's office or the Criminal Code, but how does he see making life more difficult for these repeat offenders? If these statistics are correct, they are a serious problem.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: One of the things we can do is suspend their licences through the motor vehicles branch. Those kinds of things are within our jurisdiction. We can seize and sell the motor vehicles in the case of repeat offenders and they can pay the consequences with that.
Like I said, the paper arrived on my desk on Friday. I have not had a chance to go through the final draft. I would prefer to do that before I start commenting reading the paper in its entirety. It deals with roadside suspensions, repeat offenders and people driving under suspension - things like that.
Mr. Cable: I will read a quote from the end of this article: "The Yukon government has been examining the possibility of adopting of a graduated licensing system while reviewing its Motor Vehicles Act." Was that part of what the Minister just referred to on licensing and restrictions?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I think that our way of dealing with impaired driving will require us to make some changes to the Motor Vehicles Act. There will have to be some changes if it is accepted.
Mr. Cable: Last year, the Minister provided us with a number of policy and program initiatives. This afternoon, I think that he referred to a list of issues that his department is working on. Is he in a position to provide us with that list? I think he referred to a departmental list of issues that his department is working on at the present time. If I remember correctly from this afternoon, he was referring to having to look at that list.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I read out so much stuff this afternoon that I am not sure what the Member is talking about. If the Member wants to point it out to me in Hansard tomorrow, I will certainly make the material he requests available to him. I do not know what list he is talking about. He will have to give me more information about it.
Mr. Cable: The quote that I had - correctly or incorrectly - is the following: "There was a list of issues that the department was working on." Perhaps the official would know what was referred to.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I did give an update on the Creating Safer Communities papers. There were approximately 30 items that I listed, one after the other. I stated what the actions were and whether or not we were working on them. Perhaps that is what the Member is talking about. If it is, I can probably provide a copy of that update to the Member.
Mr. Cable: I assume it is similar to the one he provided to us last year, which was entitled "Department of Justice Policy/Program Initiatives". There was a whole page of initiatives, such as federal firearms legislation - one of the Minister's favourites - and court reform, review of electrical rate regulation and those sorts of issues.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I did not provide a list like that today, but if the Member wants a list like that of the various issues we are working on, I can get it to the Member. And, yes, we are still working on one of my pet projects, the federal Liberal firearms issue.
Mr. Cable: Remind me not to give the Minister a straight line again.
On last year's list, there were a number of issues, one of which was, as I just mentioned a moment ago, court reform and I believe that is in the context of the unified court. Where do we sit on that issue?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I will have to get back to the Member on where we are with the unified court question.
Mr. Cable: Another item was the development of a corrections strategy. This is a document dated April 4, 1995, by the way. How is it integrated with the offender management program the Minister spoke about earlier this session?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: We now have a new superintendent of corrections at the Whitehorse Correctional Centre and he will be working with that document. He was also one of the people involved in drafting the rigorous confinement policy and the other offender management policies at the Correctional Centre and he will dovetail the two.
Mr. Cable: One of the other documents the Minister gave us last year was a letter dated October 17, 1994, that he had sent to his then-deputy minister, Mr. Lawson.
I think this happened shortly after the Minister took over the portfolio where he outlined the ministerial priorities. Has the Minister issued a subsequent letter to his authorities?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I certainly gave the department direction with respect to the Creating Safer Communities paper and the initiatives contained in them, but I can get back to the Member regarding correspondence on the changes that might have taken place over the last year. I will provide that correspondence to the Member.
Mr. Cable: I want to make sure we are on the same wavelength. I am asking for a letter that will deal with the Minister's priorities. I see the Minister acknowledging that he understands what I am asking for.
We have talked about recidivism in the context of the offender management program and in relation to the drunk driving issue a few moments ago. The Minister was good enough to provide a briefing to me prepared by some of his officials. Subsequently, they provided me with a report from the federal corrections services, entitled The Impact of Cognitive Skills Training on Post-Release Recidivism Among Canadian Federal Offenders. I am not going to let the Minister think I have read the whole report, but I do have a briefing note about it, which shows there is a striking reduction in recidivism because of this cognitive skills training on post-release offenders.
What is the government doing to track recidivism? The reason that I am asking about it is because it is probably one of the best forms of crime prevention to keep repeat offenders from reoffending.
In crime prevention, we seem to focus on society in general, and people who have not offended. If our recidivism rate is very high, which I suspect it is, then dealing with repeat offenders must be very important in reducing crime generally.
What sort of statistics on recidivism are being gathered?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I would have to get back to the Member with the kinds of statistics that we gather, how we gather them and the process by which we do. I can probably find out by tomorrow what the process is.
Mr. Cable: The point I am making is that any program of crime prevention must have as one of its main hallmarks the tracking of the success of the various programs. If we do not know if the rehabilitation efforts are working, then we are sort of tilting at windmills.
Let me encourage the Minister, from my standpoint on this side of the Legislature, to think about again enforcing the collection of data on recidivism. That certainly would be one of the conclusions that one would derive from the report I just referred to a few moments ago, I think.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I accept the Member's representation, but in the Creating Safer Communities: Offender Management paper that we issued, one of the things that we are going to be doing is an assessment of all offenders. From the assessment of the offenders we will determine what programs are necessary to get offenders back on the straight and narrow, so to speak. It is hoped that, as a result of the assessment, we will be able to develop programs in the future that will get these folks out working or get them out doing something different, so that they do not end up back in the system again.
That is a new approach whereby a lot more effort is going to be spent on the assessment of each offender and programs are going to be developed specifically for the offenders, rather than just the broad-brush approach that we have used in the past. It has worked on some, but it does not work on all; perhaps this will work a little better when it is a little more focused, as it is going to be with this new program.
Mr. Cable: The Minister has indicated he is going to reply on a number of issues. It would be useful for the Minister's officials to confirm - and this may have been brought up in this briefing meeting, I have to say - if the Minister's officials agree with the conclusions in the report that I just referred to. Just for the record, I will refer to it, "The impact of cognitive skills training on post-released recidivism among Canadian federal offenders." It is dated August 1995. Would the Minister indicate to me if his officials agree with the findings of that report?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I would have to ask the officials about that, but I can get back to the Member with the answer.
Mr. Cable: I thank the Minister for that.
On the issue of maintenance, could the Minister indicate if his enforcement officials seek the committal of people who do not follow court orders?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I had a briefing note on what we are doing with those individuals. I will have to get back to the Member on it; I cannot find the note.
Warrants are being issued for people who fail to appear, but I will have to get back to the Member on how we are following up on the concern the Member just mentioned.
Mr. Cable: The Minister indicated this afternoon that there are some hard-core defaulters. I would agree with him that there are probably people who will never pay, whether or not they are put in jail.
The information provided to me by the Minister's deputy after the budget briefing - a briefing note prepared March 7, 1996 - indicated that there were 439 active files: 379 where the respondent consistently paid maintenance; 28 where the respondent inconsistently paid maintenance; and 32 where the respondent never pays maintenance.
The cumulative arrears for the latter two categories is $1,054,800. To put this in perspective, the total amounts collected for the applicants in 1993 was $1,057,000; in 1994 it was $1,111,000; in 1995, it was $1,185,000. So the cumulative arrears are roughly one year's collection.
While I do share the Minister's frustration of having to deal with these hard-core types, is he prepared to take committal proceedings against people who do not pay maintenance?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: If we cannot get anything from them, and they have nothing, that might be an option. I would certainly not rule it out. I will look into it.
The maintenance enforcement issue is a rather sensitive issue. What might seem to be a simple solution on the surface affects the whole family. I would want to talk to the maintenance enforcement people, who are the experts in this field, to see what their thoughts are on the Member's suggestion.
Mr. Cable: On the other side of the coin, I know there are people who are frustrated by the orders. There are orders that should, in fact, be varied because the circumstances have changed. All of the machinery in government, of course, is focused on the collection of the arrears. There is no machinery focused on the person who has to pay the child support. In some cases, it may be that it requires a variation, but there is no money available for lawyers. What does the Minister's department do about people who are trying to seek a variation? Is any assistance provided to them?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: We have an information process, whereby the maintenance enforcement people help them through making that decision. There is a brochure - copies are available - about what a person has to do to vary the order, how it would be varied and who they would have to see. That is a common complaint. When they get a letter from maintenance enforcement they say that a lot of things have changed and that the order is no longer fair. So, we provide them with this brochure that basically lays out how one would go about varying the order.
Mr. Cable: I suspect that if an order is unfair, that would very much determine the animosity and the anger that surrounds the order and whether or not people are prepared to pay. Is the Minister's department prepared to offer assistance in preparing court documents - for example, affidavits that are required to support a variation application?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I would have to check with maintenance enforcement on how far we go now with assisting these individuals. We may do part of that now, but I would like to check it first.
Mr. Cable: The federal government put out a package, dated March 6, 1996, called The New Child Support Package. One of the chapters is entitled "The More Effective Enforcement of Child Support", and part of the chapter is "Dealing with Chronic Default". It talks about a number of initiatives.
Is the Minister's department working with the federal government? The booklet outlines a new federal licence suspension initiative, extending tracing of defaulters and expanding powers to use federal pensions to satisfy support arrears. Is this government working with the federal government on the latter's initiatives?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: Yes. In fact, we were urging the federal government ourselves, as well as virtually all the other provinces, to provide better access to their computer system. It is very hard, when someone moves, to track them from province to province. The federal government, of course, with the federal income tax, sometimes does that.
We have been asking for access to those files, only with respect to finding out the location of the individual, so that we can track them down and issue a maintenance enforcement order in that area.
Mr. Cable: Has the Minister's department received a response as to whether or not there would be assistance in tracing defaulters? I think that the Minister just said that he had tried to set that up, if I remember his words correctly.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I believe that the federal government is leaning in that direction. I do not think we have worked out yet how it will be done, but I think the federal government is getting pressure from a lot of provinces to do that as more and more of us get involved with maintenance enforcement. It is something that is coming to be. I think that three provinces now have it in place - virtually all Conservative provinces, I might add. There are two or three others - some Liberal - provinces that are looking at putting it in, as well. There is even an NDP province - British Columbia - that is looking at implementing it. I think that covers them all; there are no Independent governments in the country.
I think there is a move afoot for other provinces to get into the program. I did not get a chance to mention it to the Member for Mount Lorne earlier, so I will mention it now: we are very proud of our record in the Yukon. Some may think that it is not very good, but it is the best in the country. We have the highest success rate in the country for getting this money for the women and children who are owed maintenance. It is by far the highest. Some of the other provinces are in the 50- to 60-percent range. We are up in the 80- to 90-percent range of success. It is something to be proud of.
Mr. Cable: I think that the Minister's department - and the Minister too, of course - deserves a lot of credit.
I have one last question that I raised during the budget briefing. We have been beating on deadbeat dads today, who cost the system a lot of money in lawyers, judges and anxiety on behalf of people who want the money. There was a reluctance expressed to me in the budget briefing about going after them for costs. Why is that? Why should we not be looking to collect costs from people who have to be pursued periodically to pay their maintenance?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I do not know why they would be reluctant to. I guess the only thing is that sometimes you cannot get blood out of a stone. If we cannot get anything out of some of these individuals, we would probably not have any opportunity to get any court costs out of them, either. I do not really have a problem with that concept. However, there may be another reason for not doing that, which I have not been made aware of. It seems to me that it should not be the taxpayer who has to pay for this. If the individual has the money, is supposed to be making the payments, does not make them, and we have to go to court to recover the payments, then maybe the individual should pay the court costs as well. That might be a little more of an incentive for him to just make the maintenance payments and not be bothered with the rest.
Mr. Cable: I think that was generally the response that the officials gave me. They told me that it was very difficult to get court costs out of the defaulters. The people who have to be yanked into court periodically to pay maintenance pay it inconsistently and generally under duress.
May I suggest to the Minister that his department seriously consider tacking on a little extra penalty so that we do not have to waste the taxpayers' money and the court's time.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I think it is a good suggestion to put an administrative fee on to the cost. It would at least cover the services that we are required to do to get the individual back in there. We would probably only have to do that once or twice, and the individual would be pretty forthcoming with their payments in the future.
Chair: Is there any further general debate?
We will go line by line at this time.
On Operation and Maintenance Expenditures
On Management Services
Management Services in the amount of $1,246,000 agreed to
On Court Services
On Court Administration
Court Administration in the amount of $614,000 agreed to
On Court Operations
Court Operations in the amount of $1,998,000 agreed to
Sheriff in the amount of $248,000 agreed to
On Maintenance Enforcement
Ms. Moorcroft: Does the Minister have a breakdown for this line item?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: This is a nine-percent decrease of $22,000 over 1995-96. There is a merit increase for branch personnel of $1,000 and Other operation expenses is a five-year federal initiative for maintenance enforcement program enhancements that will require less funding in 1995-96. Funding provided during 1995-96 was $48,000 and $25,000 is budgeted for 1996-97.
Ms. Moorcroft: Could the Minister describe what the federal program money is covering?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I need a minute to find that, but we have released information in previous years of the whole five-year program and what will be involved. Year one, 1992, was computer upgrades. Year two, 1993, was client survey and program review. Year three, 1994, was response to the client survey - a three-year action plan was designed and initiated and this plan included such projects as public awareness, campaign featuring messages of "Kids First," rural outreach and stakeholders workshop. Year four, 1995, was a continuation of the implementation of the three-year action plan, including the new working with dads program, a mediation pilot project. Year five, 1996, was finalization of the three-year action plan.
That is what is happening in the five-year plan.
Ms. Moorcroft: I have heard the Minister describe the working with dads program. Can he tell us how much of the money in this line item is for that program? Could he also describe the mediation pilot project?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: The working with dads program is for non-paying debtors who are encouraged to make court-ordered payments on a voluntary basis. I do not have a breakdown for the actual amount of that program with me, but I can get that information for the Member. I will also bring back a copy of the mediation plan for the Member.
Maintenance Enforcement in the amount of $210,000 agreed to
On Witness Administration
Witness Administration in the amount of $152,000 agreed to
On Yukon Review Board
Yukon Review Board in the amount of $65,000 agreed to
Chair: Before we clear the total for Court Services, are there any questions about the information contained in the statistical pages?
Court Services in the amount of $3,287,000 agreed to
On Legal Services
Chair: Is there any general debate? We will proceed with line-by-line debate.
On Program Director
Program Director in the amount of $184,000 agreed to
On Solicitors Branch
Solicitors Branch in the amount of $833,000 agreed to
On Legislative Counsel
Legislative Counsel in the amount of $318,000 agreed to
On Litigation Costs/Judgments
Mr. Cable: Does the $40,000 include an allowance for every court case that the Minister's department thinks will be tried in this fiscal year?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: This budget item is used to cover transcript costs, witness travel and expenses such as court fees, document fees and a small publication brochure purchase. The budget is reduced this year to match the historical expense of other years.
Mr. Cable: What is the significance of the oblique stroke between litigation costs and judgments in that line item?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: In the past, we paid small judgments out of this budget with respect to human rights cases and that sort of thing. Any of the big-ticket items are found in other departments' budgets, if they are found libelous, or whatever.
Litigation Costs/Judgments in the amount of $40,000 agreed to
On Outside Counsel
Outside Counsel in the amount of $200,000 agreed to
On Community Legal Support
Community Legal Support in the amount of $1,133,000 agreed to
Legal Services in the amount of $2,708,000 agreed to
On Consumer and Commercial Services
Chair: Is there any general debate?
We will go line by line.
On Program Director
Program Director in the amount of $223,000 agreed to
On Consumer Services
Consumer Services in the amount of $472,000 agreed to
On Corporate Affairs
Corporate Affairs in the amount of $289,000 agreed to
On Labour Services
Labour Services in the amount of $410,000 agreed to
On Occupational Health and Safety
Occupational Health and Safety in the amount of $329,000 agreed to
On Public Administrator
Public Administrator in the amount of $149,000 agreed to
On Land Titles
Land Titles in the amount of $303,000 agreed to
On Chief Coroner
Mr. Sloan: I have a couple of questions about this line item. As I read it, the role of the chief coroner is to investigate unexpected and unnatural deaths and to focus attention on preventable deaths and the public's health and safety.
In light of some of the recent tragedies we have had, what kind of mechanism is in place for the coroner's findings? Are they included in some report? Are they used to make recommendations for the various departments?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I understand that if there were an inquest, the jury would make recommendations to the coroner and he would put together a report. That report would be forwarded to the various agencies to implement. I do not believe that it would be binding in most cases, as it is not in other jurisdictions, but it would be a report, and most people would be expected to follow the recommendations.
Chief Coroner in the amount of $293,000 agreed to
On Yukon Utilities Board
Does that $173,000 include the costs of the anticipated board hearing in the 1996-97 fiscal year?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: Yes, it does.
Yukon Utilities Board in the amount of $173,000 agreed to
Consumer and Commercial Services in the amount of $2,641,000 agreed to
On Community and Correctional Services
Chair: Is there any general debate?
We will go line by line at this time.
On Program Director
Program Director in the amount of $698,000 agreed to
On Community Corrections
Mr. Cable: A couple of years ago, the Minister's predecessor gave me a return on the amount of overtime costs incurred at the Whitehorse Correctional Centre. Could the Minister provide me with a return on that?
Community Corrections in the amount of $742,000 agreed to
On Institutional Facilities
Hon. Mr. Phillips: Yes, I will bring something back for the Member in a similar form that was given to him the last time.
The budget for the Whitehorse Correctional Centre is $4,140,000; Teslin Community Correctional Facility, $1,469,000; Yukon work camps $483,000; for a total of $6,093,000. It is an increase of two percent or $146,000 over the 1995-96 forecasts.
Ms. Moorcroft: Where will the work camps be operating in the coming summer?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I imagine they will be getting underway as soon as the snow is gone and they will be operating in various communities. There is not one particular community in which they will be operating. I think they do work in many of the communities, but I can get a breakdown when they have a schedule set up. I will get a breakdown of what communities they are planning to go to this summer if they have that set up as yet. When they do get one, I will provide it to the Member.
Institutional Facilities in the amount of $6,093,000 agreed to
On Community Residential Centre
Mr. Sloan: I wonder if the Minister could clarify it. Is this the halfway house?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: It is the adult residential centre.
Mr. Sloan: We do this on a fee-for-service basis with the Salvation Army - is that correct?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: That is correct.
Community Residential Centre in the amount of $176,000 agreed to
On Victim Services and Family Violence Prevention Unit
Ms. Moorcroft: Can the Minister explain why there is a decrease this year, and could he also give us a breakdown of the line item?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: The family violence prevention unit is $412,000 and victim services is $166,000, for a total of $579,000. There is a one-percent decrease of $3,000 over 1995-96 in miscellaneous reductions and operations expenses in the area of travel, communications and supplies.
Ms. Moorcroft: Can the Minister tell us if there has been an increase in activities outside of Whitehorse and how much work is done in the communities, as opposed to how much work is being done in Whitehorse?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: Yes, there has been an increase in the workload but, as I said earlier today, the family violence prevention unit has trained a lot of individuals from the communities, and some of the work is being done in the communities as well as in Whitehorse. So, we are using some of the people we have in communities to do some of the counselling work that needs to be done.
Ms. Moorcroft: When the resource people go to the communities to train community members to do some work in the area of violence prevention, does that mean that the activities in Whitehorse are put on hold for that period of time?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: Not necessarily. If we use key people, of course they cannot be counselling at the time they are training. There is an overall net benefit. We have had a couple of conferences in Whitehorse. I think the last one was March 28 and 29, 1996. There were some workshops to expand programs into the communities. Delegates from Dawson City, Watson Lake, Haines Junction, Faro and Ross River attended. There were also a number of volunteers and professionals from Whitehorse in attendance.
I think a bit of the counselling time is lost when the workshops are being held. On the other hand, an awful lot is gained by having so many more people in the field to do counselling. I think the net benefit far exceeds the time - a short weekend - the individuals are in remote communities conducting training seminars.
Victim Services and Family Violence Prevention Unit in the amount of $579,000 agreed to
Chair: Are there any questions on the statistics pages?
Community and Correctional Services in the amount of $8,288,000 agreed to
On Community Development and Policing
Chair: There being no general debate, we will go to line by line at this time.
On Program Director
Program Director in the amount of $205,000 agreed to
On Police Services
Police Services in the amount of $10,508,000 agreed to
Chair: Are there any questions on the statistics pages?
Mr. Cable: Looking at the statistics for 1994, we have a population here of about 30,000 and there were 6,000 Criminal Code offences. Where do we sit in relation to the rest of the country? Is that rate higher than the national average?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I would have to do a comparative analysis of that and bring it back for the Member. What I have been hearing all across the country is that our numbers have been holding their own or actually going down in some cases, but the awareness of crime is going up so there is a real public perception out there right now that crime has increased significantly, but the numbers do not bear that out. One of the things we have to do with respect to crime is get the message out to people about crime prevention, crime prevention initiatives and that kind of thing. We should see some results from that in the near future.
Community Development and Policing in the amount of $10,713,000 agreed to
On Human Rights
Chair: If there is no general debate, we will go to line by line at this time.
On Human Rights Commission Grant
Human Rights Commission Grant in the amount of $243,000 agreed to
On Human Rights Adjudication Board
Mr. Sloan: Would I be correct in presuming that that simply reflects the number of cases that have come to this board and that the number is down? Is it a decrease?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I believe that the cost of adjudication last year was around $6,000, but I am not sure, so this $9,000 might reflect a more accurate figure this year. It is a hard one to know because the cases arrive at the door, sometimes unexpectedly.
Human Rights Adjudication Board in the amount of $9,000 agreed to
Human Rights in the amount of $252,000 agreed to
Operation and Maintenance Expenditures for the Department of Justice in the amount of $29,135,000 agreed to
On Capital Expenditures
On Management Services
Chair: Is there any general debate on this program?
Are we prepared to go line by line at this time? We will go line by line.
On Business Infrastructure
Ms. Moorcroft: Could the Minister describe the program?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: This line includes the following: assistant development projects for $250,000; workstation replacements for $13,000; office automation project for $20,000; telecommunications equipment for $3,000; network infrastructure for $15,000; printers for $6,000; photocopiers for $7,000; furniture and equipment for $16,000; and capital building maintenance for $56,000.
The capital building maintenance this year will include: minor renovations to the Law Centre; carpet replacement in the court registry; the installation of an air-exchange unit in the resource centre at the Whitehorse Correctional Centre; renovations to leased accommodations; and a one-way window installation at the family violence prevention unit.
On Management Services
Chair: Is there any general debate before we proceed to line by line?
Ms. Moorcroft: To follow up, the line item is for $386,000 for business infrastructure. The Minister mainly referred to system development. I still do not understand the kinds of infrastructure being provided to program branches. Could he explain it to me?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I believe this completes the changeover from the old court registry system to provide a link-up between the courts, probation officers and the Correctional Centre with respect to people who are involved in the system.
On Business Infrastructure
Business Infrastructure in the amount of $386,00 agreed to
Management Services in the amount of $386,000 ageed to
On Court Services
Chair: Is there any general debate on this program before we proceed with line-by-line debate?
On Community JP/Court Support Offices
Community JP/Court Support Offices in the amount of $15,000 agreed to
Court Services in the amount of $15,000 agreed to
On Consumer and Commercial Services
Chair: Is there any general debate? We will proceed line by line at this time.
On General Program Equipment
General Program Equipment in the amount of $6,000 agreed to
Consumer and Commercial Services in the amount of $6,000 agreed to
On Community and Correctional Services
Chair: Is there any general debate? We will proceed with line-by-line at this time.
On Replacement Equipment
Replacement Equipment in the amount of $19,000 agreed to
On New Equipment
New Equipment in the amount of $14,000 agreed to
Community and Correctional Services in the amount of $33,000 agreed to
Capital Expenditures in the amount of $440,000 agreed to
Department of Justice agreed to
Public Service Commission
Chair: Is there any general debate?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: The Public Service Commission is responsible for the management of human resources in the Yukon government. Its functions include a broad range of human resources services to government departments and employees, including pension and benefits, administration, staff relations, staffing classification training, staff development, compensation, employment equity policy and research activities. The department is also responsible for providing corporate personnel advice and services to Management Board and Cabinet on matters respecting human resources across the government.
The Public Service Commission's authority is contained in the Public Service Act, and its mandate flows from the act, the Public Service Staff Relations Act and the labour relations section of the Education Act.
The 1996-97 staff complement for the Public Service Commission is 51 full-time positions and one part-time position. Of the full-time positions, six and a half are solely dedicated to the employment equity, Native Training Corps and persons with disabilities.
The operation and maintenance budget for 1996-97 is $9,266,000. This represents an approximately one-percent increase from last year's forecast, attributable mostly to increases in salary dollars due to merit increases, cash gratuities paid to long-service award recipients and funding for continuing the feasibility studies for the patriation of the Yukon's pensions and benefits plans project.
Control over the terms of our own pension plan would allow Yukon public servants flexibility in plan administration, as well as the ability to tailor pension plan provisions to such desired programs as early retirement - one of the few recommendations of the Yukon Education Review Committee.
The detailed budget estimates will be further discussed during the line-by-line debate. The human resource information system project is underway to help the government address the problems identified in the Auditor General's report. The dollars for this project are reflected in Government Services' corporate services budget, with the exception of dollars in the Public Service Commission capital budget for hardware to enable the Public Service Commission to access the system.
The Auditor General's report identified two major problems with the Yukon government's current resource information system. Currently, available information is no longer adequate to support effective people management, either corporately or in the departments. Current stand-alone systems create costly duplication of effort and are unable to support the information needs for effective human resource management.
The Public Service Commission continues to support initiatives in the devolution of federal programs to the Yukon government.
Ms. Commodore: I do have a couple of questions in regard to this budget. The Minister gave a very short explanation compared to the opening remarks he had for Justice. There has been a lot of discussion in this House in the last little while in regard to the restoration of collective bargaining with government employees and teachers. The former Minister responsible for the Public Service Commission came in and was given a government portfolio. He ended up introducing legislation to the wage restraint legislation and reduced the salary of public employees by two percent.
The Minister is aware that we have received a small increase in salary, but at the time that the government had announced that it was going to reduce wages and introduce legislation, he said that what he was doing was leading by example, so to speak, and that Cabinet Ministers were going to have their salaries reduced by five percent. He thought that rolling back wages of other employees by two percent was not going to be such a hardship because we were setting an example.
What is happening now is that MLAs have received an increase of 1.2 percent and the Public Service expects that things will now be reversed, and that, since we led by example at that time by reducing our salaries by five percent, the government is now prepared to look at possibly rescinding the wage restraint legislation and restoring collective bargaining. I know that it is a big issue with the government; it is a big issue with the people who are involved.
I would like to ask the Minister exactly where he, as the Minister responsible for the wage restraint legislation, is coming from? What are we to expect? His Government Leader has said that the government would not be introducing legislation before the election and I think that is quite straightforward, but I would like to know if he can tell me what is happening. Has he had any discussions with his Government Leader in regard to this issue?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I think it is important to get the facts of the matter on the record. Initially, we, as MLAs, took a five-percent cut. Not only did we take a five-percent cut in our wages, we also held the line on the cost-of-living increases that we normally get each year for our indemnities and expenses, which are not really supposed to have anything to do with our wages. These are what we receive for indemnities and expenses. What has happened now is that we are seeing that portion of the monies we receive as MLAs going up by 1.5 percent, but our wages are not going up. It is the indemnities and expenses that are going up. I think that should be clear.
When the Member asked me the question the other day, I said that, although we were not talking about wages for MLAs - because we are not, and the Member knows that - if the 1.5 percent was a problem, I did not have a problem giving it up. We have led by example before by taking five percent; the managers took three percent and the other employees took two percent. I can pass on the Member's concerns to the Government Leader, but I think that giving all other government employees a 1.5-percent increase would be one that would have to be a Cabinet decision, and that decision has not been made.
Ms. Commodore: The Minister thinks he is being very funny when he stands up and says that the increase can always be rescinded - and so be it. If that is what the Minister wants to do, so be it - if that is the game he wants to play. It appears that he is into playing games right now. The fact is that our cheques show an increase and the public service does not care where that increase is coming from. All they know is that it shows up on our paycheques.
According to CBC news, the Government Leader had said that - I know the boys across the room are not really happy with the news releases that have been coming out recently - it is fair for cutbacks to begin at the top. That is what he said, and the Minister indicated where the cutbacks were, what was decreased, and how it went. He further said, "We are showing that we are prepared to accept some cuts. We are prepared to tighten our belts, and we are looking at other areas of government to cut."
Everyone knew that he was going to be introducing wage restraint legislation and he did. At the same time that the Minister introduced the legislation in this House, he announced a $20-million surplus. The whole process did not make a whole lot of sense to anyone, with the exception of the Government Leader and his caucus colleagues.
Rather than the Minister saying, "Well, if you do not like the increase, I can always take it back", let us hear something sensible from the Minister. What is the Minister prepared to do? What is the plan for the future? What are we going to tell the public servants and the teachers, other than threatening to take back the 1.2-percent increase, because that is pretty goofy.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I think the plan is laid out in the Public Sector Compensation Restraint Act, 1994, which was tabled and debated in the House.
I was not trying to be funny at all. I expressed my feelings about it. I think it is important. It would be misleading if I said to people that the one and a half percent is an increase in my wages, because it is not my wages. These expenditures are indemnities and expenses and the Member knows that.
I pointed out that this is not an increase in our wages. I do not know what else I can tell the Member. I am sorry if the Member is offended, but I cannot say much more about it.
Ms. Commodore: It is not me he is offending at all. He can say anything he wants but he will never offend me. What he is doing, though, is offending those people who work for this government. He is offending the teachers, the educators in our schools.
He can call that raise whatever he wants. I know what it is and he knows what it is, but the public servants do not know what it is. All they know is that it shows up on their paycheques.
When we get copies of letters from the two unions regarding an understanding that they have, based on a meeting they had with the Government Leader, we have to ask questions in this House. They want to know certain things. They want to know if the Government Leader told them he was in favour of restoring the right to collective bargaining. They say, "I wish to confirm the union's ever-present willingness to resume free and unconditional collective bargaining", so they are looking for answers. They sit down and have a lunch or dinner, or whatever, with these people; they have discussions with regard to what is going to happen, and then they write a letter to the Government Leader - and I am sure the Minister has seen these letters - asking him to confirm that collective bargaining will be restored, and asking if the government will be rescinding the wage restraint legislation.
I am sure the Minister, because he sits beside his leader and has Cabinet committee meetings with him, can enlighten us and tell us exactly what is happening. They would like to know. We would like to know. There is a letter here written to them dated April 15 regarding meetings they had on March 11 and March 14.
The Minister must have more information than he is willing to give us today.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I do not know what to tell the Member. The Government Leader has sort of responded to questions about those letters and their meaning. I was not privy to the meeting, and so I cannot give the Member any more information. I would recommend that the Member take up the issue with the Government Leader. He can respond more fully to the Member's concerns.
Ms. Commodore: The former Minister responsible for the Public Service Commission had all the answers. He stood up in the Legislature and told us what he was going to do and what the plan was. He was well-informed.
We are now trying to do something else. We are trying to restore collective bargaining. There must have been some knowledge of the possibility that the wage restraint legislation would be repealed. The Government Leader has indicated otherwise. He has said in this House that he may amend the legislation to restore collective bargaining, but he would not repeal the whole act. We get different messages on this side of the House.
If the Minister is not aware of what is happening in his own department on this issue, I do not know what we can tell the public servants or the teachers. Of course, they want to know what is happening. They would like to have some kind of an answer from the Government Leader or from the Minister responsible for the Public Service Commission.
We know that there is an election coming up. They would like to know exactly what is happening with that. Is the government going to be doing anything prior to calling an election? It is not that far away. If the government does not know what it is doing, then it should call an election tomorrow. I would like to know from the Minister if he can enlighten me, the public servants and the teachers any more than he has.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: The Government Leader said in this House - I know it is on the record, because I heard him say it - that the meetings were purely exploratory meetings; there were some discussions, but there was no commitment made by anyone. As far as I know this has gone no further than that.
For me to make something up about what may or may not be going on would be inappropriate. The Government Leader had a meeting; it was an exploratory meeting where he discussed it with the union. I do not know if anything else has come out of it. I do not know if there have been meetings since that time or not. I do not know if there are other meetings planned, or if further action is going to take place between the Government Leader and the union representatives.
Ms. Commodore: The Government Leader had a meeting with the two groups, and the Minister has just indicated that the government wants to explore things. What was it exploring? What did the Government Leader expect to get out of this meeting? The Minister can stand here and pretend that he does not know anything, but he is still the Minister and he has to answer to the general public about his department.
If the Government Leader was out exploring possibilities with the two groups, surely the Minister should know what those possibilities are.
If he does not, then he is not living up to his responsibilities as Minister responsible for the Public Service Commission. Can the Minister please tell us once again whether or not he knows?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I think I already answered the question. I do not know what more I can tell the Member. The meetings were exploratory. The Government Leader has told the Member on the floor of the House that the meetings were exploratory. There were questions asked. If the Member has more questions about the meeting and about actions outside of the meeting, perhaps she should explore those with the Government Leader when we are back in the House.
Ms. Commodore: Exactly. I am standing on my feet in the Yukon Legislature and I am asking the Minister responsible for the Public Service Commission some questions in regard to what happened at that meeting. The Minister has stood up and said it was an exploratory meeting. What on earth were they exploring? One does not meet with two important people such as these just for the heck of it.
Chair: Order please. We will take a brief recess.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. We are dealing with Bill No. 10, Public Service Commission, general debate.
Ms. Commodore: Just before we recessed, I had made some comments to the Minister about his responsibilities as the Minister responsible for the Public Service Commission. He was being very coy and trying not to answer me.
I think that as the Minister responsible for the Public Service Commission he has to be a little more responsible to the people he represents. I know that in the past, this government has not shown any respect for workers, whether or not they are unionized. I can understand why they feel that way, because, of course, unionized workers have some rights and power. That goes against the grain of the philosophy of the Members on the side opposite.
But the Minister does have a responsibility. I know that he has just had some discussions with the former Minister about the legislation. They may think it is a big joke that they put it to the public servants, but they were very aware of what they were doing at that time.
It was very aware of what it was doing at that time. The government knew every single thing that it was doing. The government was telling the general public that it was going to cut wages, introduce legislation and do all of these things to get to people, because we are in a very bad financial situation.
Then, as everyone knows, the day the government introduced the legislation the then-Minister - the Government Leader - was bragging to the general public that it had all of this extra money. The government's reasons for doing it did not make sense then and do not make sense now.
Will the Minister take some kind of responsibility and let us know exactly what he was doing? The Government Leader thought it was important enough to sit down with those two groups to talk with them and explore options. I would like to know if the Minister could tell me what they were exploring. Surely, as the Minister responsible, he is serious enough about his job to try and find this out.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: As I said earlier, I do not know how I can give the Member any different answer. I was not at the lunch. It was not recorded - as some lunches seem to get recorded in this town - and I do not know what the members of the union said. I really do not know.
The Government Leader explained in the House that it was an exploratory meeting to discuss the union's concerns and that was the extent of it. The Member should take this matter up with the Government Leader who was at the lunch. I am not going to relate second-hand information from any of the parties to the Member opposite. I do not think that is right.
Ms. Commodore: I think that the Minister is very good at giving out second-hand information. We heard his speeches and comments in this House about the Beringia Centre. He seemed to have all kinds of information about that - so and so said this and so and so said that. It was going to be the smartest thing we ever did and it would pay for itself in a matter of years. Now, for something else that he is responsible for, he is completely ignoring the issue.
Perhaps the Minister has not seen this letter, but surely to goodness he should have. I will read it in case he has not seen it. It is addressed to the Government Leader. It is from the president of the Yukon Employees Union. He talks about the meeting that the YEU had to discuss the government's offer. He says, "Your government's offer to restore to government employees the right to collective bargaining..." He goes on to say, "I wish to confirm the union's ever-present willingness to resume free, unconditional collective bargaining. The opportune time to repeal Bill No. 94, Public Sector Compensation Restraint Act is now, during this legislative session. We look forward to an immediate resumption of collective bargaining. Without this demonstration of good faith, we will assume that your offer was motivated by the upcoming election call, rather than any commitment to the restoration of the freedom to negotiate a collective agreement. We look forward to an immediate written response on this beneficial and worthwhile issue."
If he is not taking his job as the Minister for the Public Service Commission seriously, then he should not even be there. I would like him to tell me a little bit more about this letter. After all, he is the Minister - I say that over and over again, because he is. He must have had a discussion with the Government Leader about it. It is one of the most important issues facing government employees.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I am failing to understand the rationale behind the Member's question. I was not at the meeting and the letter was not addressed to me. It was addressed to someone else. Because she was in Cabinet, the Member knows that any decision to start collective bargaining, or do anything with respect to collective bargaining, is a Cabinet decision. I can tell the Member that Cabinet has not made a decision to resume collective bargaining. I cannot give the Member much more information than that.
If she wants to seek out the thoughts of the government, or of the individual who attended the meeting, then she should direct the questions to the Government Leader, who could perhaps provide her with more information. I cannot do that at this time. The Member continues to ask the same question, but I do not know what else I can tell her, other than to say that I was not at the meeting, the letters were not sent to me and Cabinet has not made a decision yet with respect to the resumption of collective bargaining.
Ms. Commodore: Is the Minister saying that he is just sitting back and letting someone else go about his business and do his work for him?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: No, I am not saying that.
Ms. Commodore: That is the impression I am getting.
If there was a discussion at that meeting and the union had said that he demonstrated good faith, we will assume that the offer was motivated. Somehow or other he made an offer to the government that the government would restore collective bargaining. Would the Government Leader not talk to the Minister responsible for that, if some kind of offer were made to the group? Surely to goodness that would have taken place before the meeting, if there had been some kind of decision to at least look at the options and explore the possibility of making an offer of some kind to these people - an offer to either look at the legislation and maybe bring it back to the House to amend it, repeal it, or look at the possibility of restoring collective bargaining. Would the Government Leader not have talked to the Minister responsible before that, or would he be so irresponsible as to ignore the Minister?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: If the Government Leader had made an offer, he would probably have discussed it with me. Perhaps the Member should call up her friends in the union - the individuals involved - and ask them what the Government Leader said, if she does not want to ask the Government Leader. I was not party to the conversation at the lunch. The Government Leader was and the union people were; I was not. Therefore, I do not know the exact words spoken at the meeting. I do not know why the Member persists in asking me. I was not there.
The Government Leader did not approach me with a suggestion of an offer we would or would not make with respect to the meeting. The Government Leader met with them for exploratory talks only, to see where they were coming from and to see if any options were open. Other than that, I have nothing else to add. I guess the Government Leader could, but the Member seems to want to ask me these questions. I cannot give her an answer I do not have, so I cannot give her much more information than I already have this evening, four or five times.
Ms. Commodore: The budget book is before me, and on page 10-1, it says Vote 10, Public Service Commission, Minister Hon. D. Phillips. It says he is the Minister responsible for this department.
He then tells me to call up some of my friends in the union to ask them what was said at the meeting. It does not say that Dave Hobbis is responsible for this department. It says the Hon. D. Phillips is, which is exactly why I am asking him these questions. He is the Minister. If he cannot answer that question, what is he doing there? Why is he the Minister? Is he not taking his responsibility of that ministry seriously? Is that the case?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: No, I take my responsibility as the Minister of the Public Service Commission very seriously. I ask the Member who is asking the question to cast her mind back to the few years when she was the Minister sitting on this side of the House and we asked hundreds and hundreds of questions of that Member but did not get answers. We could pull Hansard out time and time again to show we did not get answers.
I do not have an answer to the question she has asked because I was not at the meeting. I do not know how much clearer I can be to the Member. We have not discussed starting collective bargaining with the Government Leader. We have not made a Cabinet decision to do that.
The Government Leader met on an exploratory basis with the union and that is it. The Member will have to ask the Government Leader where it goes from here. I am not the person who had the lunch and I am not the person who had the discussion.
Ms. Commodore: The thing that happens to individuals on the other side of the House is that, when they are not able to respond to questions from this side of the House, they attack. The Minister has just indicated that he had asked me hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of questions but he never got an answer. I remember very clearly giving hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of answers. I remember that very clearly. As a matter of fact, because I was the critic for Justice, I would go back into Hansard and look at the questions and answers during debate at that time. I can assure that Minister that if he looked in Hansard he will find out that he is absolutely wrong.
It is no excuse for him not being able to answer right now. That is absolutely ridiculous and I would just like to say that he may not care enough to ask the Government Leader what his plans are, and that is very obvious to the many civil servants and teachers we have and their families. I think they care; I think they care a great deal. For this Minister to completely ignore the issue right now, with an election coming up this year, is something that the government people in his riding are going to be thinking about when they cast their votes. He should have an answer at that time.
I would like to ask him if he intends to speak to the Government Leader long before the election to find out exactly what the government is going to do with regard to this issue. Is he going to be sitting down with the union people to talk to them about restoring collective bargaining? Is he going to be talking to them about the poorly thought out legislation that was introduced in the House to put it to the public servants? Or is he just going to ignore it and hope it will go away?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: Mr. Ostashek said he is looking at the issue and he is looking at all the options. He has made no decision. There may or may not be discussions in the future about doing something to resume collective bargaining, but I cannot predict what will happen in the future. I probably will have some kind of discussions in the future with the Government Leader on this matter, but I cannot comment on what the discussions might be at this time.
Ms. Commodore: It just gets better and better as the evening goes on. The Minister just said "we may or may not have discussions." What kind of a government is this? That is what they said: "We may or may not have discussions about this". What does that tell all of the people who want some answers from this government about this issue. He has no intention of dealing with this issue because he does not want to, and he does not know if he is going to sit down with the Government Leader to talk about it. He said he might talk to him about it before the election.
I do not think that we are going to get any answers from this Minister. We have not received any yet. He does not know what is happening. He told me he did not know why I was not asking the Government Leader. I did ask the Government Leader, and he was not any wiser about the issue than the Minister responsible.
Can I just ask him to get up and say that he will at least think about it, and maybe he will talk to the Government Leader? I do not think that we are going to get a commitment, but I am sure that the two unions are waiting for some kind of an answer from this Minister, so can he just tell me once more what he is going to do?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I think I just answered the question with my last response. There may be discussions, but I do not know that. The Government Leader was having exploratory talks, but I do not know what more I can add; I really do not.
The Member is laughing, but I really do not know what more I can add to what I have said tonight. We have gone around and around this mulberry bush about six times now and I have given the same answer each time. I do not know what more I can add.
Ms. Commodore: The only thing that we can say is that the Minister does not know what he is doing. He does not know anything about what is happening. The public servants and teachers can expect nothing from this government. Any future dinners, lunches or meetings that the government may have with these two groups mean nothing and are a waste of time. I will let that go for now, at least.
I would like to ask the Minister a couple of other questions. I do not have a whole lot of questions in this area, because we are all hoping that we can get out of this House possibly by tomorrow or maybe some time next week.
I had asked the Minister questions about the Native Training Corps. I am not exactly sure if I brought that up during the supplementary debates. I do not hear a lot about that now. I do not know how active the program is or if anyone is actively being trained at this time. I would just like to ask the Minister if he will update me on that situation.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I will bring the Member up to date on what is happening with the Native Training Corps. There are four right now who are on assignment. Three new assignments are being considered at the present time, which would bring the total to seven. There are 35 trainees who have successfully completed the training, and 27 were offered positions with host training departments with respect to these programs.
If the Member wants, I guess that I could provide her a list of the various assignments that are ongoing. I have the list with me, but I do not think that the Member wants me to read them out, because it is fairly long.
Ms. Commodore: I would really like that information, but I would also like to know what period the statistics are for. Were the statistics compiled at the beginning of this year or last year?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: These seven are complete as of December 1996. Some of the statistics are for 15 months, some are for 21 months, some are for 18 months and some are for 12 months. They expire in December 1996, March 1996, March 1996 and the last one is March 1997.
The other three that I talked about - four assignments in place and three under development - is a carpenter apprentice in Government Services, a conservation officer at Renewable Resources and a co-facilitator for victim programs in Justice that are being discussed at the present time.
Ms. Commodore: The Minister gave me a figure of 35 people who have completed the program. I wanted to find out when the first of these 35 people began their training.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I will have to get back to the Member to give the Member the numbers, but I believe the total is 35 since 1986, when the program started, which is a duration of 10 years.
Ms. Commodore: Could the Minister tell me if the program is as active now as it has been in the past? I mean 35 people, by anyone's standard, is quite low, and I include the time that we were in government as well, because we had always hoped there would be more First Nations people training for these positions. Could the Minister tell me if there is some interest being shown by individuals? Is the government actively promoting this program? Are there brochures available that First Nations people or employees can use to find out a little bit more about the program?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: There is certainly information available; I do not know if there is a brochure. I will check on the activity, but certainly with four happening right now and three being considered, that would be seven for this year, for a total of 42. Seven out of 42 is quite a lot of activity for one year. I will get back to the Member about the activity for the previous years.
Ms. Commodore: I previously asked the Minister about the percentage of women employed in the government. I believe the Minister provided me with information about the number of women and the number of men employed by the government. The information indicated that the percentage of women working in government is increasing.
What I wanted to know at the time and what I did not get was the number of women in upper management, because I know that when we were in government we were promoting that. As a matter of fact, the statistics showed that the increase of women in management had risen quite drastically while the NDP was in government.
In my questions, I was trying to find out if those numbers were still the same or were better or lower. I did not get that answer. I simply received a letter saying there were so many women and so many men, which did not answer my question. We would like to believe that women are playing a big role in upper management. I know there are a lot of qualified women there, but is the trend still on the increase?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I will get back to the Member and give her a breakdown of the upper management. I do not think we have that handy, but we will try to get it as soon as we can.
Ms. Commodore: According to the statistics in this budget, there were 117 grievances filed in 1994-95, which represented an increase of 38 cases over the previous year. Does there appear to be a problem in certain areas in this government? I know the government was very hard on us in regard to that area. We were severely criticized about things that were happening.
Can the Minister tell me a bit about this? Why is there an increase of 38 cases? There appears to be 161 active grievances at various stages right now. Can the Minister give me an idea of what they are and what appears to be the problem?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: Perhaps the Member can clarify what she wants. My understanding is that grievances vary all over the board, from concerns about the collective agreement, performance evaluations and others. I do not think there is any one particular trend. We could look for that, but it is not unlike other years, where they vary in different areas.
Ms. Commodore: I was curious about the increase from the previous year. There were 117 grievances filed in 1994-95, and that was up by 38 cases from the previous year, according to information I have. I do not know how accurate that information is. I was curious to know if the Minister could tell me why he thought that was the case. Why did there appear to be this drastic increase?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I do not have a real explanation. I guess that people file grievances for one reason or another, but I understand that we have one employee who must be rather unhappy, because he has filed over 30 grievances. That can change the number quite quickly and give quite a distorted picture. Other than that, I do not know. It is an area that I believe is being dealt with, but that alone can change the figures significantly.
Ms. Commodore: I asked the Minister before about local hiring in rural areas. The Minister had indicated to me that, yes, in some cases people from other communities were getting jobs in a community in which they did not live. We have received complaints over the years. In one community specifically, jobs have been going to people who do not live there.
I know it has happened in the past and will probably happen in the future, but I would like to ask the Minister what he has in place to ensure that local people from Carmacks or Old Crow, for instance, are given first choice for these jobs, rather than a job becoming vacant and being filled without the community's knowledge by someone who is hired in Whitehorse or Mayo - wherever. I think the Minister is aware of the problem. We hear about it all the time. There has been more than one complaint from a specific community. Can the Minister tell me if his department is looking at the problem and, if so, what it is going to do about it?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: Yes, the Member is right. I am aware of the problem and I have discussed it with the Member. It is a problem that has existed for a number of years, but it raises a lot of concerns, especially in remote and small communities.
I have asked the department to look at options and ways in which we could ensure that local people in local communities get the jobs. Different departments do it for different reasons. Some departments view it as a stepping stone to higher jobs in the civil service, as well as teachers in their profession. It has been used for different reasons over the years. We are trying to develop a program or policy to ensure that there is some preference given to the people in the communities. It seems kind of silly if someone in Carcross is qualified for a grader station job in Carcross, but cannot get that job because someone was moved in from the Dempster Highway grader station to take the Carcross job - perhaps due to seniority.
We are discussing those kinds of questions with the union and the departments to try and find a solution to it.
As simple as it sounds, it does involve a bit of discussion with different people to try and reach a solution that will please everyone - or at least some of the people.
Ms. Commodore: Last year, the government hired a private investigator to spy on a Renewable Resources employee. I want to ask the Minister if that was something that his department was involved in. Somehow or other, it would have to have been. When such drastic measures are taken, such as hiring someone to spy on another employee, how involved does the Public Service Commission get? It seems to be a pretty goofy way of trying to find out information about someone - to spend that extra money to find out if someone is doing a good job or not.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: That particular case is in adjudication right now, I believe - almost as we speak. I am a little reluctant to make too many comments about it. Some serious concerns were raised about an issue, and the decision was made to approach it this way. I do not have much more to say about it at this time.
Ms. Commodore: I would like to ask the Minister if it is a practice the government is going to continue.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I think it is the first time it has happened but, no, it is not a common practice.
Ms. Moorcroft: I, too, was interested to know if the hiring of the private investigator was a new trend in the public service. I would like to know if there have been any other instances of the government going outside the public service to investigate potential wrongdoing on the part of employees.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: Yes, there have been instances. I am told that they are instances of theft and we brought in the RCMP to carry out investigations. Other than that, I am not aware of any.
Ms. Moorcroft: Is the Minister saying that there was only one case where a private investigator was brought in?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: That is correct.
Ms. Moorcroft: The Minister has also just referred to bringing in the RCMP to investigate theft. Can he tell us what was stolen and why the RCMP were brought in?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: In this case, it was a request by a third party - a case where an employee was taking things from another employee. We requested that the RCMP come in and look at it.
Ms. Moorcroft: I want to turn to another matter. I have many constituents who are affected by this government's wage restraint legislation, just as they are affected by the tax increases that generated $40 million for this government. As the Minister knows, the International Labour Organization was asked to rule on whether or not the government had engaged in unfair labour practices through its wage restraint legislation. The International Labour Organization found that it is always unfortunate when governments choose not to bargain with their employees and that it seemed unnecessary in this case. The ILO further made a recommendation that the government should resume collective bargaining as soon as possible.
I would like to ask the Minister if the government is willing to enter into negotiations and to bargain with its employees for a new collective agreement.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I think I answered that question earlier in response to a question from Ms. Commodore when I said that there had not been a Cabinet decision as yet to amend the Public Sector Compensation Restraint Act, 1994, and so there has been no decision made on that as yet.
Ms. Moorcroft: Is the Minister going to be making a recommendation to Cabinet that the government should resume collective bargaining as the International Labour Organization has recommended, as well as many citizens of the Yukon?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: The Member keeps quoting the International Labour Organization decision. This decision was in response to the total of 20 complaints received against various governments all across Canada, and directly of the country as a whole, representing all jurisdictions internationally, as well as the federal government, to deal with unions in a fair manner. If it comes up for discussion, I will be discussing it with the Government Leader, but at this time there has been no decision made, as I said earlier with respect to changing the Public Sector Compensation Restraint Act, 1994.
Ms. Moorcroft: The Minister can stand there and trivialize the ruling that the International Labour Organization made, but the fact is the internationally respected labour organization has harshly criticized the government for its actions, and it is not the only body that has levelled harsh criticism at the government for its action.
We said all along that we were opposed to the wage restraint legislation and that we thought there was no reason the government could not bargain with its employees. One of the recommendations in the report of the International Labour Organization was that the government could take advantage of an offer for the International Labour Organization to sit down and try to work out a resolution.
The Minister has indicated that he is not prepared to go to the Cabinet table and recommend the resumption of collective bargaining. Is he prepared to consider the possibility of asking a committee of the International Labour Organization to come in and work with the government and the Yukon Teachers Association and the Yukon Employees Union to see collective bargaining restored with the government's employees?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: That same recommendation was made to all the governments to which the International Labour Organization directed its concerns. We are not prepared to ask it to come and do that at the present time. If we decide to resume collective bargaining or discussions with the union, that can be a Cabinet decision. We could do that without the services of the International Labour Organization.
Ms. Moorcroft: The Minister is right that it can be a Cabinet decision, but it will not be a Cabinet decision if the Minister is not willing to argue the case that the Cabinet should consider resuming collective bargaining with its employees.
I just want it to be clear for the record that we think the government should be negotiating. We think that the government should recognize that free collective bargaining is a fundamental right in a democratic society. I think the Minister should be taking that position to the Cabinet table and encouraging the Yukon Party to resume collective bargaining as a democratic right.
Mr. Harding: I have to interject tonight. I am extremely disturbed by the response of the Minister responsible for the Public Service Commission to the comments made by the critic for the Official Opposition.
It is obvious to me that this government does not even know what it did with this legislation. Here we had a government in the Yukon taking unprecedented action in this country. It had a surplus position, was in very good financial shape, had no accumulated deficit, but it decided to unilaterally abrogate collective bargaining rights. The government had many reasons at the time, but one of them was that other jurisdictions had done it.
The case could perhaps be made that other jurisdictions with huge deficits - for example, the $500-billion deficit of the Government of Canada, or major deficits like the deficit left to the Premier Roy Romanow by the Grant Devine administration - could perhaps engage in some restriction to collective bargaining rights. However, it is a very drastic action.
In this jurisdiction, we had the Yukon Party government come in and unilaterally decide that, even though it had a surplus position and no accumulated deficit, it was not going to engage in collective bargaining. We fought that. We have asked questions in the last legislative session about it. We have asked questions in this legislative session about it, and we have no answers.
The next thing we know, there are letters among the Government Leader, the Yukon Teachers Association and the Yukon Employees Union. They decide they are going to have lunch to - as the Government Leader put it in Question Period - explore options.
I do not know what those options are. You either engage in collective bargaining or you do not. Tonight, when we ask questions during the Public Service Commission estimates about the future of collective bargaining in this territory, the Minister very coyly refuses to tell us what the position of the government is. Not only that, the Minister admits that he has not talked to the Government Leader about the issue and the discussions that took place at that lunch.
What discussions took place at that lunch and what options were being explored? Could the Minister give us his impression of what the options are that the government continues to refer to?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: There are two things. It does not matter how many times the Member for Faro tries to say there was not a deficit in 1992 when our government took over. The Member will not change the mind of the Auditor General of Canada, who said there was a deficit. I have a tendency to believe the Auditor General of Canada because he makes much more accurate statements than the Member for Faro ever does.
If the Member for Faro wants to know what took place at the lunch and the details of the conversation, the Member might want to ask the people who were at the lunch.
Mr. Harding: I am getting tired of the Minister's ignorance on this topic. If the Minister cannot answer the questions as the Minister responsible for the Public Service Commission, could he send a note up asking the Government Leader to come down here to answer the questions? When are we going to ask the Government Leader about this and collective bargaining if we do not ask him tonight?
Will the Minister ask the Government Leader to come down here so the Government Leader can answer the questions?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: If the Government Leader wants to answer the questions, he is free to do so. The questions have been asked in the House and the answers have been given in the House. It is the same old story: the Opposition is not happy with the answers so they are going to continue to ask question after question.
I cannot answer the question about what happened at the lunch, because I was not there. It is like my asking the Member for Faro to tell me what happened at a lunch with an NDP president and someone else. The Member was not there and he cannot tell me what took place at the lunch. Would the Member please ask the people who were at the lunch?
Mr. Harding: I must be confused, because I thought this was the Minister responsible for the Public Service Commission. When the wage restraint legislation was brought in, it was Mr. Nordling, the Minister responsible for the Public Service Commission, who sponsored the legislation.
The Minister responsible for the Public Service Commission says that it is not his affair; it is not important enough for him - let the Government Leader have it. He is not even prepared to tell us today what options were explored. Just a minute ago, I asked the Minister if he would go and get the Government Leader, so that he can answer questions in general debate on the Public Service Commission because, according to the Minister, the Government Leader is the one with the answers.
Chair: Is there any further general debate?
Mr. Harding: Yes, there is. Let the record show that the Minister refused to answer that question. I will ask it again: will the Minister ask the Government Leader to come down and respond to questions on the Public Service Commission regarding options explored for collective bargaining that he discussed with the Yukon Teachers Association and the Yukon Employees Union? Will he do that? Because once we leave this department, that is the end of it for this debate, and I am not prepared to move on beyond this debate without getting some answers from someone on that side of the House who knows what the heck is going on with the government's position on collective bargaining.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: The Member for Faro should read Hansard. The very questions he is asking me in the House today were asked of the Government Leader in Question Period, and the Government Leader answered them. Read Hansard. I will get copies of Hansard for that date sent in to me, and I will pass them on to the Member. Maybe the Member was not here, or was not listening when the Government Leader answered the questions - or maybe he just did not like the answers. I do not know. One never knows with that Member, because he just makes things up. If he does not know, he makes it up. That is his tactic. That is his style - he fabricates it. I will pass on Hansard to the Member and, if he gets an opportunity, he can ask the Government Leader about it. There are still more Question Periods before the sitting ends. The Member can ask him then.
Chair: Order please. I would like to bring the Members' attention to the Standing Orders, Rule 19(1)(j): "Using abusive or insulting language of a nature likely to create disorder" is disallowed. I think we are all on the verge of doing that right now, and I would like to ask the Members to please try and carry on in an orderly fashion.
Mr. Harding: Will do.
We asked the Government Leader some questions in Question Period, but we did not get the detail and the answers that we wanted. Question Period is a very quick and dirty formula for getting information. The best way to get information is usually in Committee of the Whole, from the Minister responsible for the department. However, there has been a change in how that happens. Today the Minister says that he is not going to answer questions about the options being explored with respect to collective bargaining. So I ask the Minister if he will go and get the Government Leader, so that we can clear this general debate and get some more detailed answers about what options are being explored for collective bargaining. The Minister does not answer that question - in my mind - appropriately. Now, will the Minister go and get the Government Leader, so that we can get some detail on the options the government is exploring?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: The Member for Faro makes it sound as if there has not been an opportunity to question the Government Leader on this in Committee of the Whole, but that is not true. The Government Leader was in this House debating his Finance budget and answering questions from the Members on the side opposite. The Members had every right at that time to discuss with the Government Leader those questions respecting finances of the Government of the Yukon. The rescinding of the wage restraint legislation would have had an effect on that budget and it would have been allowed in debate. The Opposition could have asked questions about it, but they did not ask any questions. It was not important then, and that was after the meeting.
This is the Public Service Commission debate and now the Members want me to answer questions about a luncheon the Government Leader had with some union leaders when I was not privy to the luncheon.
Chair: Order please. I would like at this time to also remind Members of Beauchesne's parliamentary rules and forms, 481(c), and ask them not to refer to the presence or absence of specific Members in the House.
Mr. Harding: The Minister said just now that we should have asked the Government Leader in Finance about the Public Service Commission collective bargaining options that are being explored. We were under the mistaken impression, the very mistaken impression obviously, that the Minister responsible for the Public Service Commission would have the answers to our questions when we reached the Public Service Commission debate in the main budget estimates.
The equation has changed. He is not answering the questions. He is not providing us with the information we thought we were going to get. Had we known this, we probably would have asked the Government Leader in Finance debate about collective bargaining options.
So I ask the Minister this: will he request that the Government Leader answer questions about Public Service Commission exploration of options for collective bargaining?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I think I have answered the question. The Government Leader was here and he could have been asked those questions at the time. The questions the Members have been asking me today are details about discussions at the lunch. I was not at the lunch. I do not know details of the discussions. Questions were asked of Mr. Ostashek in the House, and I will make the Hansard and the answers to those questions in Hansard available to the Members if they are not aware of them. Other than that, I do not know what more I can do for the Members.
Mr. Harding: I do not need to read the Hansard that the Minister has. I read it prior to coming into this debate tonight so I was ready to ask the Minister questions about an area for which he is primarily responsible - about an area that the previous Public Service Commission Minister who actually introduced the wage restraint legislation was responsible for.
Now he is refusing to answer questions tonight about the options that are being explored.
We were not going to ask the Government Leader in general debate on Finance about the Public Service Commission collective bargaining options because we were going to ask the Minister responsible. We are asking him tonight and I want to ask him if, rather than giving me Hansard, he will request the Government Leader to answer questions in general debate on the options that are being explored with regard to collective bargaining.
Let the record show that the Minister refused once again to answer that very important question. The Minister is saying that he answered the question; he did not.
The Minister answered the question by saying that he does not know anything about a lunch. Obviously, they were taught about tea and crumpets. He did not even think that it was important to ask the Government Leader what options were being explored when he got back from lunch. I never heard of such a ridiculous thing.
The Minister has a responsibility to be on top of these things. He should not just be saying that he did not think it was important, so he did not want to ask the Government Leader about it, particularly when bringing his estimates into the main budget debate. It is inexcusable.
I have seen some things from the other side of the House, but this pretty well tops everything.
We have listened to this government, at the time it introduced this bill, tell Yukoners a whole slew of reasons about why it wanted to bring in this legislation. We heard the Minister responsible for the Public Service Commission say at that time, "Well, the reality is that there is a $500 billion deficit. We have to help Canadians fight this deficit and that is the reality of the equation we are talking about."
I read the interview last night that he did on CBC at the time he introduced this legislation. Now, the reality for the Minister who sponsored this is that there is a $580 billion deficit. That same Minister is now saying that there is a great big pie out there, and it is just a matter of how we want to slice it up and what the priorities are. The only difference is that the federal deficit is bigger now.
Many people express their concern to me about how the government is not being straight with Yukoners with regard to this legislation. People are asking what the government's policy is going to be and what options it is exploring with respect to collective bargaining. The Minister seems unaware or unable to answer basic questions about these options. I really think that is outrageous.
For him to suggest that we missed the boat because we did not ask about collective bargaining in Finance is ridiculous. It is inexcusable for this Minister to say, while he is telling us to talk to the Government Leader, that he will not provide the Government Leader to talk to us about these important issues.
I read the Hansard issue that the Minister is referring to and the response in Question Period. The Minister knows full well that Question Period is not always the appropriate forum to get the details that we need on these questions, but he still refuses to answer these basic, fundamental questions.
With regard to the Minister's flippant comment about the Auditor General and the other comments he made about me, the Minister knows full well the extent of the write-offs and the extent to which this government went to make the situation look as bleak as possible when that party took over in the last five months of the fiscal year of 1992-93. The government does not like to tell people it had the reins for the last five months of that year. It does not like to tell people about the illegal write-offs the Auditor General called it on.
The fact is that this government was in the best financial position of any government in this country. It abrogated collective bargaining rights. It said it had a $13-million deficit, which was pure folly. The same day it tabled the bill in the Legislature, it announced it had a $20-million surplus. It did not know where it came from, but it sure knew it was due to good fiscal management - it did not know how, but it knew it was.
This party is not credible on this question, nor is it believable, and it is time for the Minister to pay the piper. I want to know what options the government is considering for collective bargaining. If the Minister cannot give me an answer, can he get a Minister who can?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I think the Government Leader explained to the House in answer to questions when he was asked this the other day. At the present time, he is not looking at any changes to the Public Sector Compensation Restraint Act, 1994. He met with the union to explore various options. I do not know if Mr. Ostashek and the union have come to any conclusions or if any of the options are acceptable.
It was an exploratory discussion with the unions. I cannot add much more than that. We have been discussing this matter now for more than an hour, and I cannot give the Member more information than that. If the issue comes to Cabinet, I will be part of those discussions. We will discuss the issue as a Cabinet and make a decision as a Cabinet about whether or not to do anything about the Public Sector Compensation Restraint Act, 1994.
I am telling the Member it has not come to Cabinet yet, nor have there been discussions with respect to it.
Mr. Harding: I am prepared to stand over general debate on the Public Service Commission until we can get a Minister who can answer the question in more detail about the options that are being explored. That is no problem. If the Minister does not want to answer the question tonight and wants to move on, I am quite prepared to stand over general debate on the Public Service Commission.
Perhaps the Minister could answer this question for me. Did the Minister of Finance, the Government Leader, tell this Minister what he was wanting to talk about with the Yukon Employees Union and the YTA before the meeting took place?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: The Government Leader indicated to me that he was going to sit down with the union leaders and have an exploratory meeting to see if there was any possibility of any further discussions. That is what he told me.
Mr. Harding: Did the Minister ask the Government Leader what they were going to explore?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I think it was quite obvious what they were going to explore; they were going to explore the options of the Public Sector Compensation Restraint Act, 1994.
Mr. Harding: If it is so obvious, can the Minister tell me what they are?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I was not part of the conversation; I was not at the table. We must remember that. I am assuming that the Government Leader wanted to see if there was any possibility of discussions with the union and maybe what the unions would be asking for. I do not know. The Government Leader was asked questions in the House about this issue weeks ago, or shortly after it happened. There has been opportunity in debate in Committee of the Whole since then, and in the Finance estimates to explore this in a more detailed way with the Member, and he did not take the opportunity to do that. Now he wants me, in the Public Service Commission debate, to discuss what the Government Leader discussed then. I cannot discuss that conversation because I was not there.
Mr. Harding: We asked in the Education debate about collective bargaining and we were told by the government to ask in the Public Service Commission debate. Normally, we pose questions about collective bargaining to the Minister responsible for the Public Service Commission. This Minister feels he wants to depart from that norm.
I have only been in here for over three and a half years, but in every budget session that I have attended, we have asked questions in the Public Service Commission debate about the Public Service Commission and about collective bargaining. Today the Minister, who says he talked to the Government Leader before he went to the meeting of the Yukon Employees Union and the YTA, stands up also and tells us that the Government Leader did not tell him about what went on at that meeting.
I would like to ask the Minister if he feels he has the confidence of the Government Leader, if the Government Leader himself refuses to give him information or does not give him information that is as important as this about his own department?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: The fact is that there has been no decision made to repeal the Public Sector Compensation Restraint Act, 1994. The Government Leader sat down with these individuals to discuss options and to see what their demands might be. The questions that are being asked should be directed to the person who sat down and discussed the options with the individuals. I cannot help the Member on that issue. As Minister responsible for the Public Service Commission, I can tell the Member that this time, the status quo - the Public Sector Compensation Restraint Act, 1994 - is in place and will remain in place until Cabinet sits down and makes a decision otherwise.
Mr. Harding: The Minister says that I should direct the question to the Government Leader; however, the government fails to provide for me the Government Leader in this debate in which we should be discussing the collective bargaining issue and these so-called options for exploration.
I do not know how the Minister expects me to direct the questions to the Government Leader when he is not in the Legislature so that I can ask those questions. If he was in this House, I would take the Minister's advice. How do we bridge that gap?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I do not know what the real value of it will be. The situation right now is that the Public Sector Compensation Restraint Act, 1994 is in place, and there has been no decision made to change that. The Government Leader has been asked the very same questions that are being asked today - what took place, what were the options - and he gave the answers. They are in the Hansard. I do not know what more I can tell the Member. In Question Period tomorrow, Thursday, next week or whenever, the Member can perhaps ask the Government Leader more questions about that. The Government Leader will be required to answer them. I think that the Government Leader has answered several questions on that matter, which were worded exactly the same way as those asked today. If the Member does not like the answers, and the Government Leader is not prepared to change the answers he gave before, I do not know how much longer it can go on with the same questions and the same answers.
Mr. Harding: The Minister says that he does not know what the real value would be if I was to ask the Government Leader these questions; however, he also told us earlier that he was not at the lunch and does not know what went on. He does not know whether or not there would be value, based on his own statements in the Legislature this evening. He is speculating. He is now speculating when he is backtracking. However, earlier when we asked him questions, he said that he would not respond, because he did not want to speculate about what went on at the lunch.
I am telling the Minister that this is very important to us. We are in the last legislative session before a general election. The Minister knows that. It is very important for us, as the Official Opposition, to clearly know what this government's position is on this important issue. When we get to this point in general debate about the Public Service Commission, and the Minister cannot answer these basic questions about what options are being explored, I find it very, very disturbing, as do other Members on this side of the House who have asked the Minister questions about this issue tonight.
Considering that, as a matter of policy, the government is considering options, and one of those options may be - although the Minister does not know this - to restore collective bargaining, does the Minister agree that the government would have to have a legislative sitting in order to collectively bargain and repeal the legislation prior to engaging in collective bargaining, or could the government bargain with the legislation in place?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: It is my understanding that we would have to have a legislative sitting to repeal the legislation.
Mr. Harding: Does the Minister anticipate that it is conceivable - given the timing of the end of the government's mandate - there could be a normal fall legislative session prior to an election?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: The Member has asked a hypothetical question, and we do not have to answer hypothetical questions. I do not know.
Mr. Harding: Normally, when is the fall sitting of the Legislature?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: If we were to honour the agreement we signed, it would have to be completed by December 15, 1996. The session would be 25 days in length. The session could be called any time in the fall, but it has to be completed by December 15.
I do not believe there was any agreement for an official start time, so it could start at any time, but it would have to end before December 15.
Mr. Harding: What we have now is a situation where the Minister said today that the government has to repeal the legislation, through a sitting of the Legislature, in order to engage in collective bargaining.
It is highly unlikely there will be a legislative sitting prior to the next election. As the Opposition, we are left wondering precisely what this government is planning to do. The government, during this legislative session, has said it is looking at the legislation, discussing it, having lunch and exploring options. Yet, we do not see any conclusion to the thinking process the Yukon Party government has underway, and we have received no answers from the Minister tonight.
Given the financial situation the territory is in, which is fairly healthy, does the Minister feel that the right of public servants to collective bargain should no longer be abrogated?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I thank the Member for Faro for commending the Government of the Yukon on its fine fiscal management and for getting us out of debt and into a surplus position. I appreciate his support on that.
We are in a better position than we were in 1992. However, as I said earlier, there has been no decision made to make changes to the Public Sector Compensation Restraint Act, 1994, other than that the Government Leader held exploratory meetings with the two union officials.
Mr. Harding: The Yukon Party government was only in debt by its own choice, through its write-offs and manipulative accounting. The Auditor General accepted those write-offs because the government had the power to do it. It has the power to do a lot of things - the power to conduct smear campaigns against the Leader of the Official Opposition, for example. It had the power to write off these loans and create this deficit in the last five months of that fiscal year.
The Yukon government has always been in a healthy financial position. The Yukon Party government was given one of the best financial situations in the country. The New Democratic Party was seven years in government, with seven years of balanced budgets, no debt and very proud of it. There were also no tax increases. The Members opposite have topped everybody with their $40 million in tax-increase revenues over the past four years.
Is this Minister prepared to extend to the Yukon Employees Union and to the Yukon Teachers Association an invitation to bargain collectively? Does he believe it is no longer appropriate to have the abrogation of collective bargaining rights?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: The Government Leader has had some exploratory discussions with the two unions. I have no further comment on that.
Ms. Moorcroft: I have a couple of questions for the Minister. I believe the Minister knows that one of the most controversial pieces of legislation that the Yukon Party is leaving behind as part of its record is the Public Sector Compensation Restraint Act, 1994, which imposed a two-percent wage cut on teachers and public servants.
The International Labour Organization was asked to rule on the wisdom of the government's actions and did so. I asked the previous Minister of Education, in the supplementary estimates debate on Education, about the International Labour Organization's decision and about resuming collective bargaining in other labour relations matters. That Minister referred me to the Minister responsible for the Public Service Commission. The present Minister of Education, in the same vein, said he could not answer questions about resuming collective bargaining with teachers and that I would have to ask the Minister responsible for the Public Service Commission. He did not say to ask the Government Leader or to deal with that in the Department of Finance.
I was told that this was a matter to be dealt with in the Public Service Commission general debate. The Minister has only to look at the budget book and the program objectives for the department to know that collective bargaining is his responsibility. I find it very disturbing that the responsible Minister is not accountable for his department's activities and that he is refusing to answer our questions.
I would like to know if the Government Leader spoke to the Minister responsible for the Public Service Commission before the Government Leader invited the leaders of the Yukon Teachers Association and the Yukon Employees Union to have lunch with him.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I think I have answered that two or three times already tonight.
Ms. Moorcroft: I gather the Minister is saying that he did not know what the Government Leader was doing and that there is no coordination between them. If the Minister thinks that the Government Leader has made it clear what the options are that the government is considering, why does he not just stand up and end this by telling us what the options are? If the Minister thinks he knows what the options are that the Government Leader has been talking to the union leaders about, why does he not put them on the record?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: If the Member was not satisfied with the answers to the questions she received in Question Period from the Government Leader, why did the Member not clarify it with the Government Leader during the Finance budget? I cannot comment on the Government Leader's discussions that I was not privy to.
Ms. Moorcroft: Why can the Minister, who is ostensibly responsible for the Public Service Commission, not comment on collective bargaining within the government? The government is the employer. The Minister is responsible for supporting the government's objectives as an employer through the collective bargaining process. I think the Minister should be able to respond to the questions that we are asking him.
Does the Minister not believe that the government should resume collective bargaining?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I have answered this question about eight or nine times tonight. I am losing track.
At the present time, there is no change in the status with respect to making changes to the Public Sector Compensation Restraint Act, 1994. There is no change at the present time. It has not been an item that we have brought up in Cabinet and discussed with the idea of making any changes. If we do, I will let the Member know. Right now, it is status quo. The Public Sector Compensation Restraint Act, 1994 will stay in place until it expires.
Chair: Order please. 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, entitled First Appropriation Act, 1996-97. We are discussing the Public Service Commission. We are in general debate.
Ms. Moorcroft: I have to say that I am still puzzled as to why it was the Government Leader who met with the president of the Yukon Teachers Association and the president of the Yukon Employees Union.
Why did the Minister responsible for the Public Service Commission not attend the lunch with the Government Leader and the union leaders on these two separate lunch dates?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: The Government Leader did not invite me.
Mr. Sloan: I have a couple of questions about the issue of wage restraint. Was the wage restraint consistent across the government service? For instance, we know that the wage restraint applied to the Yukon Employees Union and the Yukon Teachers Association. Was the wage restraint applied to the employees at the managerial level?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: Overall, the managers took a three-percent rollback in their wages.
Mr. Sloan: Is that rollback still in place or have the wages been restored by virtue of such things as normal increments, merit increases and that kind of thing?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: Everyone is entitled to merit increases but the rollback of the three percent is still in place for everybody.
Mr. Sloan: If we understand it correctly, then, there have not been any increases whatsoever in managerial-level wages over the last period of time?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: That is correct, with the exception of merit increases, which employees receive as well.
Mr. Sloan: Could the Minister give us a sense of how much that merit pay would have added up to over the last three years?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: It will take a bit of time, but I will provide the Member with details of what the merit increases have been for the union employees, teachers and Public Service Commission employees, as well as managers.
Ms. Commodore: I only have a few more questions, and then I will be finished with general debate.
When I asked the Government Leader the question about whether or not he was going to repeal the wage restraint legislation before the session ends, he said in Question Period that he would not be bringing in that legislation during this session. He talked about introducing it in the fall and getting back to collective bargaining at an earlier date. I do not know what he meant by that. However, we all know that in Question Period one says as little as one can without making any type of commitments.
The Member for Faro mentioned the possibility of standing aside the line that this is included in. I would think that it would come under staff relations, so the line for staff relations is the line we will request be stood aside.
I have a question regarding the political rights of public employees. I asked the Minister questions about that in the House. There was a suggestion that the rights be extended to public employees. When I asked the Minister that question, he said that he believed that everyone should have equal rights. I think that was what he meant by saying that not only should teachers have rights and that their jobs should be protected, but that everyone in the Yukon should have that protection, as well, if they choose to run for office. Then, I asked him if he was going to be dealing with that issue before calling an election.
The question was, "Will the Minister commit to resolving this issue before an election is called, so that all government employees will have the opportunity to participate in the election, which is going to be called some time soon?" The Minister replied that he would try to meet that deadline. I think it is obvious that he is not going to.
He also said that he is going to expand it to other special, political rights that were awarded to government employees. I think he was talking about expanding those rights to the general public. I know that the Government Leader sent a questionnaire to everyone in the Yukon and asked the question about whether or not jobs for teachers should be protected.
Can the Minister tell me what his plan is? Is he working toward trying to create equal rights for everyone because he does not believe that only teachers' jobs should be protected; he believes everyone else's should, as well, and he wants to deal with that issue?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: The Member is somewhat confused. In fact, I said exactly the opposite to what the Member is saying. What I said - and I still believe it - is that when I sought political office, I was in the private sector. I made a choice to put my name forward to serve the public through politics. I have no protection, no guarantee or anything to fall back on when I am finished with this job - whether I or the electorate make the choice. I did not have it in my first, second, third or any term. There was no guarantee at all.
I know that the side opposite - the New Democrats - are extremely concerned about the equal and fair treatment of all people. That is the fundamental policy in their philosophy, so I was a bit surprised when the NDP brought in legislation a few years ago that afforded special privileges to government employees - privileges that others could not enjoy - in terms of the protection of holding their job for at least one term.
I am of the belief that a public service commitment in politics is a very serious one in our democracy today, and one that one should make with the belief one can make a difference. It should be a personal choice, not one where one is asking one's boss or employer to protect one's job in case things do not work out.
That is unfair. One puts one's name forward and takes one's chances. One does the best one can and, if one does a good job, one is re-elected. If one does a good job and serves the public well, one does not need a guaranteed job. One can be re-elected if one does one's job well.
My concern is that we should treat everyone the same. There are a lot of private-sector people who would love to be able to give up their businesses for three or four years, come into the government as an MLA and, when it is all over, pick up exactly where they left off, but it does not work that way.
So it is a bit unfair when it comes to people making choices about whether or not they want to seek public office. Some people do have the security that, if all else fails, they can go back to their old job.
If all else works out, then everything is fine. I think the Member has misinterpreted what I said. What I really said is that everyone should be treated fairly. There should be a level playing field for everyone who enters politics. I think that the public sector should be treated the same as the private sector.
Ms. Commodore: The Minister all of a sudden has all kinds of opinions on one issue and has spoken at great lengths about it. It is unfortunate that he did not have the same kind of knowledge in regard to the issue that we were talking about previously.
What I was asking the Minister at the time was if he was going to try to resolve that issue about political rights for government employees prior to calling an election so that those individuals could participate. The Minister said, "I will certainly try to meet that deadline. As I said, I plan to expand it, as well, to the other special political rights that were awarded to government employees." Then he said, "If we could have that whole question addressed before the next election - both of those questions - I will endeavour to do so. I thank the Members opposite for the support for that." What did he mean by that?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I interpret it to mean that the Member opposite felt that everyone should be treated as equals so I thought they were suggesting that we should change the legislation back to where everyone is treated equally. I have talked to a lot of civil servants about the provision that the New Democrats put in place. A lot of them think that it is unfair as well. I think it was called the Stockdale Amendment - or maybe it was the Sloan Amendment - and it was being put in at that time for a couple of individuals who were planning to seek office and wanted protection.
Quite a few of the civil servants I have talked to have mentioned to me that they feel that if they make the commitment to seek political office, all credit to them. The Minister of Renewable Resources, Mr. Fisher, sought not to take the option of the guaranteed job. He showed integrity and said, "I will run for office and I will do it the way anybody else out there has to run for office." He quit his job and offered up his job, saying, "If I decide not to run in four years, if the electorate changes its mind and does not want me, I will take my chances at getting another job or getting my job back, but I will do it the way everyone else does." That is only fair.
Ms. Commodore: I think the Member was probably going a little bit too far in his responses. As I said, if we had received those kinds of responses in regard to collective bargaining, which is so very important to all the civil servants he has been talking to who say they do not like this section of the act, we would have been far better off and would not still be in general debate.
Is the Minister now saying he opposes the section of the act that protects the jobs for teachers? Is he saying that? Is the Minister proposing that this section be changed?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: What I am saying to the Member - I thought I was clear - is that I think all Yukoners should be treated equally when it comes to seeking political office. That is all I am saying. No one gets more of a privilege when they seek office than another person. That is all I am saying.
Ms. Commodore: So if the Minister's party wins the next election and the Minister is responsible for changing legislation, will he be proposing that section of the act be rescinded? Is the Minister saying that teachers should not have those rights and that the teachers' jobs should not be protected? Is that what he is saying? The Minister says that everyone should be treated equally, so I would like him to stand up and say that teachers and government employees should not have their jobs protected if they run for office. Will the Minister stand up and say that?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I thought I just said what I meant. I think all people should be treated equally. Are the Members opposite saying that they do not think all Yukoners should have an equal opportunity to seek office and, when their term in office is over, an equal opportunity to carry on with what they were doing before they held office? I think everyone should be treated equally. I thought that this would be an NDP philosophy. As I said before, I was surprised by the amendments brought in by the New Democrats, giving protection to some Yukoners over others. All I am saying is that I think we should all be treated equally when it comes to seeking political office and serving the public.
Ms. Commodore: We can just assume that the Member is proposing that his government amend that legislation so those jobs will no longer be protected. We can only assume that is what he is saying.
A long time ago, when we were trying to introduce legislation that would protect the ordinary worker under the Employment Standards Act, that Minister was not so worried about equality. He was opposing it in every way that he could. That is on record, and all those workers know it. When he talks about equality, I think he is a little bit confused. He says that I am confused. The only assumption I make is that he wants to change the legislation so that government employees and teachers are no longer protected if they seek political office. That is the assumption I make.
Mrs. Firth: I just have one question for the Minister about this particular issue. If he and his government feel so strongly about it - and I hear them talk about it all the time in every election campaign and every time they talk about employees - why did the government not change it? The government has been in for three and a half years. It could have amended the legislation and taken out that particular protection for teachers and public servants. I would have supported that initiative, so why did the government not do it?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: It has been a topic of discussion for some months, but, as we know, the spring sitting is a budget session and the fall session is a legislative session.
The Member for Whitehorse South Centre asks if I am for or against it. The Member just has to go back and read the budget debates when this particular piece of legislation was there. We spoke against it. We have not changed our minds. We are concerned.
I can tell the Member that this is not a slight against the government employees or the teachers. All I say is that someone in the City of Whitehorse or in Dawson City that is a private sector employee should have the same rights and privileges as a government worker and should be able to enjoy the same rights and privileges as a government worker who runs for public office.
I do not know anywhere else where government jobs are protected for someone when they seek office. It is a concern we expressed then and we have not changed our minds about it now.
Mrs. Firth: I ask the Minister this again: why did they not change it? They have been in office for three and a half years. This is an issue that was felt very strongly about. It was debated hot and heavy in this Legislature. If the Minister feels that strongly about it, why has his government not changed it? The government has had three and a half years to change it.
I think the record should show that the Minister is refusing to stand up to tell us why he did not do it, which leads one to the conclusion that the government likes to talk tough about all of these things, but it does not want to do anything about them.
It is great to give political speeches about how terrible this is. During the Whitehorse West election campaign, it was great for the Yukon Party candidate to go on and on about how unfair it is and have the Minister stand here for 20 minutes tonight and go on and on about fair treatment, but the government has done nothing about it. So, it blows all of the Ministers' patronizing comments out of the water. It would have been a very quick amendment to deal with this issue. If the government is not prepared to have put its money where its mouth is and have done something about it, then the Ministers should stop standing up and talking about it.
Mr. Sloan: I had not planned on entering into this portion of the debate, but I am curious about a couple of things. The Minister seemed to imply that the act was brought in as a special privilege for either myself or Mr. Stockdale. Was that his suggestion?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: There was some concern expressed at the time the legislation was brought in that it was specifically because a couple of individuals who had indicated they would run for the New Democratic Party wanted to make sure they had a job to go back to. That was an accusation made by some.
As I said, some nicknamed it the Stockdale amendment. A couple of comments were made in the House.
Mr. Sloan: This is the first time I have heard my name being attached to this. I suggest this was brought in long before I contemplated entering public life, and I personally take a measure of exception to the suggestion. Is it the Minister's considered opinion that this bill was brought in to provide an advantage to certain people?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I am not going to give my personal opinion on this. I have told the Member where I am coming from. I just feel that this is a concern that I have with respect to all Yukoners being treated equal. That is all. I think it should be a level playing field for everyone.
Mr. Sloan: I am considering the fact that he is quite fast and loose with some of the facts. I wonder if he would consider withdrawing that particular statement with regard to Mr. Stockdale and myself.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: Well, if the Member really feels offended, I will withdraw the remark. I think the remark about the Stockdale amendment was said in this House many times in the past.
Mr. Sloan: I will certainly go back to the Hansard tomorrow and see if I can find that particular comment, because this is the first time I have heard it.
The Minister also made a suggestion that a person, like myself, who enters public life as I have done, out of the YTA collective agreement, lacks integrity. Is that his opinion of public servants who enter politics?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: No. I spoke about respecting the integrity of an individual who gave up his job and said he wanted to be treated like every other Yukoner. That is the comment I made. I did not say anything about the integrity of anyone else. I said I respected the integrity of Mr. Fisher.
Mr. Sloan: By inference, then, I would assume that anyone who does not give up his or her position, at least for this particular term, has no integrity. I am somewhat distressed that the Minister would have that opinion of people in this House and of people who might seek public office.
Mr. Cable: The report on the study, Human Resource Management in the Yukon territorial government, prepared by the Auditor General of Canada, dated 1993, made a recommendation that the Public Service Act be re-written. What is the Minister's position on that? Is it underway or is it scheduled for some time in the future?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: No, there is no work going on with that at the present time.
Mr. Cable: As I pointed out, this was a recommendation of the Auditor General. Is it the government's position that the Public Service Act does not need rewriting?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: There were a number of things recommended in that report the Auditor General said we could do without re-writing the act, and those are the areas we have been focusing on.
Mr. Cable: There was a clear recommendation, and it is found at page 34 of the report. It states "We believe that there is a need to revise the Public Service Act", and then there are a number of bullets. Is the Minister saying that those things contained in that particular recommendation can be done without a revision of the Public Service Act?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: We believe that we can make changes to the strategic plan. We have refocused the mission statement to enable our clients to achieve their objectives by promoting integrated human resource management services. The human resource policies are being reviewed. We can do all of that without making changes to the act at the present time, and that is the approach the government has taken.
Mr. Cable: The Minister announced the implementation of the performance management system during the budget debate last year. This system was to identify the corporate department and work unit goals. Does the new performance management system that was implemented for the management employees apply to deputy ministers?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I understand that the deputy minister evaluation has been changed somewhat to reflect that. There are certain management principles that all deputy ministers are being measured by.
Mr. Cable: As I mentioned, I understand that the system does identify corporate department and work unit goals. Can the Minister share those goals with us? Could he provide a return on that?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: We could send the Member a copy of the managers performance evaluation forms and the deputy ministers performance evaluation forms, if the Member so wishes.
Mr. Cable: That is not what I was talking about. I understand the performance management system sets out the corporate department and working goals. Firstly, am I mistaken on that assumption? If I am not, could I receive a copy of the goals?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I understand that task would be a very onerous one. We would have to provide 170 different performance evaluations because they are done for each individual employee.
Mr. Cable: Perhaps we are not communicating. I thought we were talking about corporate department goals - not individual appraisals. Does the Minister understand what I am saying?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: Because this sounds like a rather technical question, maybe I could ask the Member if we could get together when the budget is complete to discuss this with the Public Service Commission and provide the Member with the information he wants after we are a little clearer about exactly what it is.
Mr. Cable: I will send the Minister a note on that and hope to get a response in the near future.
Last year, the Minister indicated that the department was in the process of conducting a review of the recruitment process and that this review was being conducted in conjunction with various departments in the government, and initiated on the suggestion of the Auditor General's report. Could the Minister indicate if the departments that participated in the recruitment review are satisfied with the process that is in place to date?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I understand that the Public Service Commission has just received the report and is in the process of analyzing it at the present time.
Mr. Cable: Were the unions - the Yukon Teachers Association and the Yukon Employees Union - participants in the review?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: The YEU was invited to participate and chose not to, but it only involves them. The Yukon Teachers Association is not involved in the staffing process.
Mr. Cable: This question was touched on earlier. While there have been no wage increases, there has been a general increase in wages due to merit and reclassification.
Do the current Public Service Commission statistics indicate that the number of reclassification requests are on the increase?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: Yes, they are on the increase.
Mr. Cable: Given the fiscal restraint of the government, why would the departments submit what I gather are something like 800 positions for reclassification? If the government is so bent on fiscal restraint, why has it not dealt with the issue of reclassification?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: There are all kinds of reasons for requests for reclassification. They can come from employees themselves when their duties have changed. They also come with the advent of devolution. In taking over a federal job, reclassification work has to be done, which increases the number at the same time. There are various reasons that drive that.
Mr. Cable: I am not suggesting that there is no merit to the reclassification request. I am wondering if the public sector restraint legislation is forcing people into other means of obtaining pay increases.
What will the cost be for the 800 reclassification requests? Are these costs included in the budget?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: That would be a difficult figure to come up with because some of the positions may result in no increase to the budget whatsoever and some may. It is a tough figure to try to calculate.
Mr. Cable: I was talking about the costs of processing the reclassification requests. Are those costs calculated in the budget
Hon. Mr. Phillips: Yes, it is included.
Mr. McDonald: I have a question for the Minister about the Bob Laking situation that was addressed in the Legislature during Question Period. It was addressed as an issue of why Mr. Laking was not appointed to the Yukon Utilities Board, but it quickly became an issue as to whether or not it was a conflict of interest because he wanted to be both a liquor store manager and serve the public by being chair of the Yukon Utilities Board.
I did not receive any information back from the Minister. I just read through the last question in Question Period in Hansard, and it was left with an appeal going on and a promise to come back with some information about what constitutes a conflict of interest and what the policy is. So, I am asking for an update.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: Mr. Laking's appeal has been heard. A decision has been rendered and passed on to the Yukon Liquor Corporation and Mr. Laking.
Mr. McDonald: What happened?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: We are not sure if we can provide a copy of the decision to the Member. If I can, I will. I will take that question under advisement and possibly provide a copy of the decision to the Member.
Mr. McDonald: I can do that. I suspect that we will still be in the lines tomorrow afternoon as we start the day. I will be more than happy to see it.
I do have questions about the policy implications of this matter and what would conceivably happen to other public servants who sit on boards. I can think of at least one board in particular, which is a decision-making board and binds the governments to its decisions. Whether or not the Public Service Commission has considered those matters, I do not know. If the Minister can answer that question, or if he has more information to offer, I would love to hear it.
I will wait to pursue the matter when I see the report.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: Since the Member has a couple of questions about that, perhaps tomorrow, when we lead off on the debate, I can make a statement about the issue and then respond as well to the question about whether or not we can release the recommendations.
Chair: Is there any further general debate?
Mr. Sloan: I have just a couple of questions. I have had some representations from a couple of people with regard to job descriptions. Are job descriptions generally an in-house activity of the Public Service Commission or are they contracted out?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I believe we do both. We contract some out and some are done in house.
Mr. Sloan: Would it be a safe assumption to make that, being value-driven contracts, there would be a certain amount of sole sourcing with regard to contracting out?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: It is my understanding that there are a very limited number of people who actually provide this kind of service in the territory. I understand it is a specialized field.
Mr. Sloan: I will probably take a look into this, but it was brought to my attention that there were a number of job descriptions that recently went out on a sole-source contract. I would like to follow up on that.
About how many job descriptions would normally be done over the course of a year?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: These are done by departments, and I will try and find that information for the Member. It varies from year to year according to staffing requirements in the departments. I will try to find out for the Member, because I do not have the answer right now.
Mr. Sloan: Would it be possible to find out the value of the sole-source contracts with regard to job descriptions?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: We could, but I think they would probably be in the list of contracts that the Member already has. We could go through that as well, but if the Member already has it, it would save a lot of work for the staff upstairs. I am sure the Member has it.
Chair: Are we prepared to go line by line at this time?
On Finance and Administration
Hon. Mr. Phillips: Administration has a $24,000 overall decrease resulting from a $19,000 reduction in salary for a temporary assignment in administration no longer required, a reduction of $5,000 in maintenance fees for departmental photocopier, and the elimination of funding for furniture and equipment acquisitions.
Administration in the amount of $371,000 agreed to
On Corporate Human Resources Services
Chair: Is there any general debate on Corporate Human Resource Services?
Mr. Cable: I have some questions on the employment equity statistics. They show that in 1994-95 the estimates for counselling services were significantly higher than the actual figures reflect and I was wondering if there was some reason for it? I draw the Minister's attention to the 1994-95 actuals, compared to the estimates.
They are not on the statistics page. Last year, the estimate for the aboriginal sector was 131, and it turned out to be 54; for females, it was 167, and it turned out to be 51; for the disabled, it was 45, and turned out to be 6. Is there some reason for the marked difference between what was estimated and what actually happened?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: The numbers are estimates, and we can only deal with the number of people who actually come in. If people do not come in, that is reflected in lower numbers.
Mr. Cable: Of course, it is an observation. I was just wondering if there was a reason that the Minister could come up with for why the estimates were so markedly higher than the actuals.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I do not know. I could look into that and try to get an answer for the Member in the morning. I jokingly suggested that we moved the office and forgot to tell anyone, but that is not really the case. We will find out the real reason in the morning.
Mr. Chair, I move that you report progress on Bill No. 10.
Motion agreed to
Ms. Moorcroft: I move that the Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Motion agreed to
Speaker resumes the Chair
Speaker: I will now call the House to order. May the House have a report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole?
Mr. Millar: The 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 of the Chair of Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Member: Agreed.
Speaker: I declare the report carried.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I move that the House do now adjourn.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Hon. Government House Leader that the House do now adjourn.
Motion agreed to
Speaker: This House now stands adjourned until 1:30 p.m. tomorrow.
The House adjourned at 10:27 p.m.