Tuesday, December 10, 1996 - 1:30 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order. At this time, we will proceed with prayers.
Speaker: We will proceed with the Order Paper.
Are there any tributes?
Recognition of Interntional Human Rights Day
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I rise today to recognize International Human Rights Day. On this day in 1948, nations representing the majority of the world's population came together to proclaim the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. A common standard of human rights is that all human beings have a right to be treated with equality and dignity.
Since its proclamation, anti-discrimination legislation, such as the Yukon Human Rights Act, has been passed by the federal government and all provincial and territorial governments, except the Northwest Territories. These laws apply to public transactions. However, the achievement of human rights continues to be a daily struggle throughout the world.
Today we should take a moment to honour all of those working toward the advancement of human rights internationally, such as the recent recipients of the Nobel Peace Prize working toward freedom for East Timor.
I believe that, as elected Members of this Legislature and as privileged members of society, we have a special responsibility to speak out when there are human rights violations. We have a responsibility to acknowledge that, because of International Human Rights Day, when posters go up on bulletin boards in this building, such as the one entitled, "On the Art of Stealing Human Rights", some people will come along and write "bull" across the poster.
We must take the time to reflect on the status of human rights in Canada and the Yukon and remember that the struggle for human rights goes on here as well.
Many of the human rights issues we associate with far-off, Third World countries were, in quite recent Canadian history, pressing matters facing Canadian citizens on Canadian soil. People easily forget that until 1904, Chinese immigrants had to pay a $500 tax upon entry to Canada - an amount white immigrants did not have to pay. Women were not considered persons under the laws in Canada until 1929. Aboriginal people did not win the right to vote without penalty of losing their status until 1960. Even today, women earn, on average, approximately two-thirds of the income paid to men. The unemployment rate for employable persons with disabilities is estimated to be anywhere from 50 to 90 percent. The Yukon Order of Pioneers, inexplicably, does not allow female members. The Canadian record on human rights, while commendable by worldwide standards, is far from unsullied, is far from pure. So, the struggle for human rights goes on.
For our part, this government is committed to working against discrimination and abuse of all kinds and to ensuring that the hard-won gains of human rights advocates in the past are built on, rather than eroded. The banner that we can hold up in the Yukon is our effort to settle land claims and reach self-government agreements with First Nation peoples. In doing this, we will be recognizing and entrenching in law the fundamental right of aboriginal nations to self-determination and self-government - rights they have had since time immemorial. This is our government's highest priority and something all Yukoners can reflect upon with pride.
Rights and responsibilities exist to the extent that individuals know about them, value them, and exercise them. I therefore urge my fellow Members to reflect on and mark this day.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Phillips: December 10 provides an opportunity for all of us to pause again and reflect on the value, rights and freedoms that we often take for granted. As we speak in the House today, there are human rights atrocities taking place. As a territory, province or country, we must play our part in the world to try to reduce these types of atrocities in Canada. All Members of this Legislature should work toward that.
Mr. Cable: We live in a country where the rule of law generally prevails, and we tend sometimes to take our rights and protections for granted.
The United Nations, in 1948, recognized that all people may not be as lucky as those in the western democracies, where the checks and balances relating to the protections on human rights had developed, and enacted this universal declaration. The nations of the world, having just come through the Second World War and having witnessed the monstrous abuses of rights, enacted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Now many of the declaration's clauses have found their way into our human rights legislation and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. While we may pat ourselves on the back, we should remember that it is only in the last few decades that aboriginal people have voted without penalty and are no longer arbitrarily removed from some public places, or that Duplessis used his position to persecute the Jehovah's Witnesses until the Supreme Court brought him up short.
Elsewhere in the world, we have seen political thugs replaced by criminal thugs. We should remember that freedom and rights belong to the vigilant.
Speaker: Are there any introduction of visitors?
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I would like to welcome to the gallery today Richard D'Aeth, who is one of the human rights commissioners and two of the staff, who are here from the Yukon Human Rights Commission: Molly Riordan and Jean Nikon. I would like all Members to welcome them.
Speaker: Are there any returns or documents for tabling?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I have for tabling the following documents: the annual report of the Yukon Public Service Staff Relations Board, fiscal year ending March 31, 1996, as well as the Yukon Teacher-Staff Relations Board, for the same period.
Speaker: Are there any reports of committees?
Are there any bills to be introduced?
Are there any notices of motion?
NOTICES OF MOTION
Mr. Ostashek: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that the use of diesel generation is expensive, harmful to the environment and effectively exports jobs out of the Yukon; and
THAT this House urge the Government of Yukon to initiate the expansion of Yukon's electrical grids, commencing with the extension from Carmacks to Mayo, thereby reducing Yukon's current dependence on diesel.
I also give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that the Yukon has the right to own the territory's land and resources just as every other jurisdiction in Canada; and
THAT this House urges the Government of Canada to begin with the immediate transfer of the outright ownership of Yukon's lands, minerals, forests and water to the Yukon government and to ensure that adequate resources for the transfer be provided to enable the Government of Yukon to carry out its increased responsibilities.
I also give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that it is the responsibility of the Government of Yukon to provide a safe environment in our Yukon schools so that parents can send their children to school and be assured that they will be safe; and
THAT this House urges the Government of Yukon to take immediate action to deal with the serious acts of violence that have been occurring in our schools.
Ms. Duncan: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that the government work with the Yukon Liquor Corporation in consultation with the licensed liquor establishments to develop a program that will promote the sale of de-alcoholized wine and beer in licensed liquor establishments.
Mr. Jenkins: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT, in the opinion of this House, the opportunity to host the Canada Winter Games in the year 2007 will benefit all Yukoners by serving to develop the growth of athletes and coaches to their maximum potential, as well as develop and modernize our facilities for sports events; and
THAT this House urges the Government of Yukon to establish a "Canada Winter Games Trust Fund" in the next year to assist in the planning and facility development needed to host the Canada Winter Games in the year 2007.
I give notice of the following motion:
THAT this House urges the Government of Yukon to continue the planning and environmental work necessary to construct a bridge across the Yukon River at Dawson City and include this project in the five-year capital plan of the Yukon government's 1997-98 capital budget.
Mrs. Edelman: I give notice of the following motion:
WHEREAS there are twice as many Yukoners who are classified as heavy drinkers as compared to the rest of Canada; and
WHEREAS a large number of heavy drinkers means that there are significant health and social costs to Yukoners, such as the large number of FAS/FAE affected individuals in our population, domestic violence, chronic liver disease, impaired drivers and petty crime
THAT it is the opinion of this House, therefore, that Alcohol and Drugs Service programs here in the Yukon should be delivered in the most efficient manner possible; and
THAT it is also the opinion of this House that this government should develop an interagency committee where information, as well as resources, can be shared. The end result will hopefully be a better coordinated service in the territory.
Speaker: Are there any statements by Ministers?
Highway maintenance camp at Destruction Bay to remain open
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Today it gives me pleasure to rise to provide information that will be good news for the people of Destruction Bay, Burwash Landing, and the many people who travel the western portion of the Alaska Highway. The highway maintenance camp station in Destruction Bay was scheduled to be closed by the previous administration. I am proud at this time to say that our government will not be closing this facility. The people who live along the highway have raised concerns to me and the MLA for Kluane, and I know they will be relieved by this decision.
We believe that the road maintenance services provided by the staff of this facility are important to the safety and security of the many highway travellers, whether they are residents or visitors passing through the Yukon. This will also mean that highway staff who have made their homes in the area will be able to remain there and contribute to the local economy.
As the ongoing improvements of the Shakwak project advance toward Destruction Bay, we will continue to monitor the issues of highway safety, and base our decisions regarding the future of the Destruction Bay maintenance facility on these considerations, as well as on the social and economic factors involved.
Mr. Jenkins: I have a response to the Minister's statement with respect to the highway maintenance facility.
The previous Yukon government ran a fiscally responsible government and worked very, very hard to improve the Yukon highway system so that the number of highway maintenance facilities could be reduced in order to reduce the operation and maintenance costs. At the same time, it showed compassion to the highway maintenance crews by ensuring that these crews had work elsewhere.
Public safety was not in question with the closure of the Destruction Bay maintenance camp. The Minister will learn that being in government involves making decisions and some of them will be very tough decisions.
Years ago there were highway maintenance camps approximately every 50 miles throughout the highway system in the Yukon. As sections of the highways were improved these camps were closed and employees moved elsewhere.
The bottom line is, if a dollar is spent maintaining a stretch of road, that dollar cannot be spent on a school or some other worthy project.
The Minister has determined that this expenditure is the most appropriate use of government money and he will have to take responsibility for it.
Ministerial Council on Social Policy Renewal: report on
Hon. Mr. Sloan:
I rise today to brief my colleagues on a meeting I attended in late November, of the federal/provincial/territorial Ministerial Council on Social Policy Renewal, held in Toronto.
This council was formed as a result of the First Ministers' meeting and the 1996 Annual Premiers' Conference, to build upon the provincial/territorial Ministerial Council report on social policy reform and renewal that was developed by the provinces and territories and presented to the Prime Minister last June.
I think it is only fair to say that this meeting represents the beginning of a new era of federal, provincial and territorial cooperation through this new partnership to renew Canada's safety net.
The council was co-chaired by the Hon. Stockwell Day, Alberta's Minister of Family and Social Services, and the Hon. Pierre Pettigrew, Canada's Minister of Human Resources Development. The council also includes ministers representing nine provinces and two territories and, although Quebec has chosen not to join the council, the province is sending observers to all the meetings.
A spirit of trust, openness and mutual respect marked the discussions throughout this first meeting. It was a good beginning to a process that I am confident will renew our social programs in a way that will better meet the needs of all Canadians throughout the country. Yukoners, like all Canadians, value their social safety net, and I think they know that this net has been threatened.
With Yukon taking its place at the table as an equal partner with other provinces and territories and the federal government, we can begin to work together on some practical solutions that will protect and renew this safety net for all Canadians.
The mandate of this council will focus on coordinating an approach to overlapping social issues of national importance and coordinate the work of sectoral ministers such as health, social services, labour market, status of women, education, housing, finance and aboriginal affairs. At this first meeting, we reviewed two of the First Ministers highest priorities: the development of a national child care benefit and the integration of income support for persons with disabilities.
Improving the lives and futures of Canadian children is a top priority among all governments. My colleagues should know that within the near future, I, along with my counterparts across the country, will be reviewing a detailed program and delivery options integrating and enhancing child benefits. This concept fits very well with this government's commitment to address the social deficit through early intervention with children at an early age.
I support the notion of a new children's benefit. I look forward to sharing details on this new benefit with this Legislature when decisions are made.
At this meeting, the council also heard status reports on the issues relating to health, financial arrangements, labour market matters, and options for intergovernmental mechanisms or processes to develop and promote adherence to national principles and standards.
This new council represents a commitment to cooperatively redefine the fundamental relationship between the federal and provincial/territorial governments in social policy. I believe that this effort can renew the system and the faith in the system for the benefit of all Canadians. Each partner at the table brings a unique perspective and experience, and we have much to learn from each other.
As the Yukon government representative at the council, I am committed to making the process work and to representing the Yukon's interests at the table. I will endeavour to keep you informed of future developments as they emerge.
Mrs. Edelman: I was most pleased to hear the report from the Minister of Health and Social Services on the meeting he had attended at the federal/provincial/territorial Ministerial Council on Social Policy Renewal in Toronto. If the Minister would be so kind, I would appreciate copies of the status reports on issues related to health that he has or will receive from the conference.
I was also most pleased that the Minister is representing the Yukon's desire to keep a single-tier universal health care system, with equal access for all Canadians. Canadians, many years ago, decided that there should be one universal health system. Practices for developing a two-tier system, where there is one health care option for the poor and a better health care option for the rich, are not acceptable.
This type of networking on the national level will help all Yukoners enjoy the high standards of health and social services that we have today and, it is hoped, that we will also enjoy in the future.
Speaker: This then brings us to Question Period.
Question re: Deputy ministers, replacement of
Mr. Ostashek: Yukoners are just starting to get a glimpse of the high costs of this government's politicizing of the bureaucracy. The Government Leader has been insisting that only two deputy ministers were let go and the other two left on their own accord. Yet, in yesterday's Whitehorse Star, the Government Leader said that he has set $193,000 aside in the supplementary budget of the Executive Council Office for severance packages for the former deputy minister of the Executive Council Office and for the chief land claims negotiator.
I would ask the Government Leader now if he would come clean and tell Yukoners that he has, in fact, fired four deputy ministers?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: No, that is not the case at all. Two, among many deputy ministers, were offered different assignments under this government. Those two deputy ministers chose not to assume those assignments and left the government. There were two other deputy ministers who were not offered deputy assignments by the government. Those were the deputy ministers who were, so called, let go.
The Member's basic question is why severance pay was paid out for persons who, essentially, left government after being offered another assignment with this government. I have to inform the Member that the reason why severance pay was allotted to those two individuals was because of a special side deal that the previous Government Leader had signed with those individuals, which allowed these individuals to choose the job that they wanted under this government.
Mr. Ostashek: This is going to be a painful process, but I think before this session is over, we will get it out.
The fact of the matter is that deputy minister severance package policy only applies to deputy ministers who are dismissed without cause. It does not apply to deputy ministers who leave of their own accord. Unless the Government Leader is going to stand up in this House and tell us that he has changed the severance package for deputy ministers then, in fact, he has dismissed four deputy ministers. I ask the Government Leader to come clean and tell Yukoners that he has, in fact, dismissed four deputy ministers. The fact is, if they were offered a job after they were dismissed, it is irrelevant.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: No, the Member does not have it correct. Letters of offer were provided to both of the deputy ministers who had previously been located within the Department of the Executive Council Office. The Member asked the question about whether or not the deputies were fired and then offered letters of offer. That is not the case. They were sent letters of offer for assignments, which they refused.
Does it pain me to have to provide severance pay to people who leave the government voluntarily after, in my view, having received a letter of offer? Yes, it does indeed. I do not like it one bit. But the fact remains that, of all the deputy ministers in this government, there were two deputy ministers who had a special side deal with the ex-Government Leader. Those side deals essentially allowed those deputy ministers to select whatever assignment they wished, should they be removed from the assignments they were currently holding. That, in and of itself, was considered by the officials in this government to be sufficient justification to force us to do something that I found quite distasteful.
Mr. Ostashek: That is absolutely not true, and the Government Leader knows it. The arrangement with those two particular deputy ministers was that they would be transferred to a position of a similar level. That was not what was offered by the new Government Leader. In fact, an article was in the paper last week, where one of the people in question, who is now quoted as getting a severance package, said quite clearly himself that he was fired by this Government Leader. He was not offered a transfer to an equal position.
I also have a question for the Government Leader about the figure of $193,000. I want to know where the rest of the money is going to come from for these severance packages. One does not have to be a mathematician to figure out the severance package for deputy ministers who are dismissed - fired without cause. There is a pay out for those two individuals of 15 months in salary alone, which would come to $125,000, plus the other benefits that go along with it. It is probably in excess of $150,000 for each one.
I see a total figure of over $300,000. Can the Minister confirm or argue with that figure?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I will not argue with the figure largely because the balance of the funds for the pay outs comes from the leave accrual fund and not from the appropriation in the Executive Council Office.
The Member suggests that the real offers were not offered to these two deputy ministers. I will undertake to do this: I will check with officials to determine whether or not it is possible for me to make those two letters of offer public. Not only that, I will endeavour to seek advice from the Public Service Commission about whether or not I can make the special side deals that the Member had with those two deputy ministers when he was Government Leader public as well.
He will notice that the deal with the deputy ministers was that they would be offered an assignment to their mutual satisfaction, which means that the new deputy ministers would have to agree.
Consequently, it is our view that those special side deals necessitated us to do something very distasteful. I would point out as well that those special side deals were not made public to this Legislature when the Yukon Party government was announcing its severance pay policy in this Legislature. That, too, must have been some kind of oversight.
Question re: Deputy ministers, replacement of
Mr. Ostashek: While the Government Leader is checking to see if he can make those letters public, I would ask him if he would also check to see if he could make public the letters that were sent to these two individuals. My understanding is that at least one of the letters contained a clause stating that pursuant to the advice of the October 21, 1996, letter to him, he would therefore be released without cause, and his without-pleasure appointment would be revoked forthwith. He will, however, be entitled to a severance package in accordance with the provisions of the severance policy for deputy heads. Would he make those letters public also?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I just indicated that I would do that and I will be checking on both letters of offer to demonstrate that, in reality, real offers were made to both individuals at the deputy head level.
I have also indicated that the special side contracts and deals that the previous Government Leader has signed with only these two deputy heads would also be made public so that everyone can understand why these two deputy heads, of all people, would be released - or be able to resign and still be given severance pay.
Mr. Ostashek: The Government Leader was right before he corrected himself when he said the two deputy ministers were "released". They were fired point blank and then offered positions that were not equal to a deputy minister position. Those are the true facts of the case.
I have another question for the Government Leader on the same issue of politicizing the civil service. Does the Government Leader feel it is appropriate for him to be politicizing the deputy ministers in this government?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I do not know what the Member is referring to.
First of all, the two deputy ministers who were offered jobs were not fired by this government. They were offered jobs - real, binding offers, offers that would have given these deputy ministers significant duties under this government at full deputy minister pay, which were offers that were declined. There were other deputy ministers who were also given offers, offers that they accepted. The two deputy ministers who did not accept these offers were the same deputy ministers, and the only deputy ministers that had a special side deal with the Yukon Party Government Leader, the same Member who is asking the question today.
The Member has asked me about the politicization of the public service and I do not know what the Member is referring to.
Was it politicization of the public service when the Member, after a couple of months in office a few years ago, released four deputy ministers from their duties in the public service? Was that politicization? I would think not; it certainly was not characterized as such.
We have endeavoured to find assignments for deputy ministers in the senior-most level of this government to ensure that not only can we meet our obligations to the public, but that the obligations can also be met with efficiency and effectiveness.
Mr. Ostashek: The Government Leader can twist and turn all he wants, but the fact remains, he fired four deputy ministers - canned them, and he hired five new ones.
Three of them - two deputy ministers and a deputy commissioner - were political patronage appointments. There was no competition. There were no proper procedures used, and yet the Government Leader is saying that he is not politicizing the civil service. Why was the proper procedure not used to hire these deputy ministers?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I would advocate that proper procedure was used to hire the deputy ministers. In fact, the procedure that was used is founded in tradition in this Legislature, as well.
I do not know if the Member remembers a deputy minister hired out of Vancouver by his predecessor, the Leader of the Yukon Party. He was hired out of Vancouver and had no public sector experience. The deputy minister was hired with no competition, and yet became Deputy Minister of Economic Development in 1985. Does the Member remember that particular episode and whether or not the Opposition criticized the Government Leader at the time for doing what was his right and duty to do under the Public Service Act? No, the Opposition did not criticize the government. It knew that the deputy heads were hired at the pleasure of Cabinet and released at the pleasure of Cabinet.
In that particular case, the government did, in fact, hire a Deputy Minister of Economic Development without competition out of Vancouver with no public sector experience.
Having said that, he turned out to be a very respectable deputy minister.
Question re: Deputy ministers, replacement of
Mr. Cable: I have some follow-up questions to the same Minister on the same subject. If the Minister will bear with me, I would like to be a bit more pedantic.
Four deputy ministers have left the government. They can leave one of three ways: they can be terminated with cause and, presumably, no severance is paid; they can leave or resign voluntarily and, presumably, no severance is paid, or they can be terminated without cause and the severance policy would apply. The first question I have - perhaps the Minister could clear the air for us - were any of the four deputy ministers who left the government terminated with cause?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I am not going to answer the question with respect to what the reasons were that the deputy ministers were offered particular assignments or were released. That is a personnel matter. It has never been done before in the Legislature and I am not going to initiate the practice now.
Mr. Cable: As the Government Leader will recollect, when a similar hassle took place about four years ago, a global statement was made by the then Government Leader on several aspects of the dismissals, and I do not think answering the question in a global sense in any way interferes with the confidentiality that is usually associated with personnel files.
Let me ask this question: have there been any claims advanced by any of those four deputy ministers for wrongful dismissal?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I would point out that if the Member is asking me whether or not the government felt there were good reasons for making the decisions that were made with respect to the deputy ministers in terms of their transfer to various appointments, et cetera, then the answer is yes. We do believe there were good reasons for the decisions we made.
As far as I am aware, no action has been filed in any court with respect to the matters the Member has raised.
Mr. Cable: All right. Let me go at the question just a little differently. Is it the Government Leader's understanding that all the deputy ministers have left amicably?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I would gather from at least one deputy minister who has spent some quality time with a local reporter that, in fact, that particular deputy minister would have preferred a different assignment from the one he was offered. We felt that the assignment that was being offered was a real offer, which involved real pay at the highest level of this government, doing real work for this government. The individual chose not to accept that offer. He chose to interpret the fact that he could not choose his own assignment as being fired. He was wrong.
Question re: Faro, aid in face of mine closure
Mrs. Edelman: My question is for the Minister of Community and Transportation Services.
Has there been discussion with the town council of Faro about the type of aid they hope will be forthcoming to the town?
Hon. Mr. Harding: I will respond to that as the Minister who has been assigned to head up the team dealing with the response to the people of Faro and with mitigating the effects and impact on that community. In our meetings, we have had representatives from the Department of Community and Transportation Services. We have had meetings in caucus and Cabinet with the Minister responsible. We have had many lengthy discussions about the types of resources that we are going to bring to bear to try to help as much as we can to deal with the effects of the shutdown, whether they be efforts to provide some college courses or conduct some recreational activities, or whether they be cost associated with increased social services. I had a meeting on Saturday morning with the mayor and a number of other groups from the community and we discussed at great length some of the things that the community feels that it needs to get through this period. Some of them involve Community and Transportation Services; many of them do not.
Mrs. Edelman: It is my understanding that the Town of Faro has two years left on a crushing debt to the Government of Yukon, of which an exorbitant 13.25 percent interest rate is being charged on the loan.
Has the Minister considered alleviating some of that burden by renegotiating the payments on this loan over a longer period of time or perhaps at a less outrageous rate of interest?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I will answer the question, because it falls within the Department of Finance to determine the fiscal relations between municipalities that have borrowed money from the Yukon government.
At the time that the Yukon government lent the money to the Town of Faro to provide for infrastructure, I believed that it was believed - certainly by my predecessors - that the interest rate was not outrageous but was, in fact, well within the interest rates charged at that time. I know that the Town of Faro and the City of Dawson have both requested that the loans be re-tooled between the Yukon government and those municipalities. It is a matter that we will be taking to the Association of Yukon Communities for its consideration.
There are consequences for doing this. Certainly, if it does not cost the Yukon government any extra money, I have no problem in principle dealing with it in that way. There are, however, other municipalities that are going to be affected because of the way that the loans are structured. We will certainly want to try to get an agreement on a global basis for the renegotiations of the loans before we proceed any further.
Mrs. Edelman: I think there will probably be very general agreement from all municipalities that they do not want high interest rates on loans from the government. I hope the government will be considering all municipalities, as the Minister said, including the City of Whitehorse, which also has a very large debenture at a very high rate of interest, as well.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Indeed, we will be doing that. The challenge for us is to ensure that the loans we are providing to municipalities do not end up costing the Yukon taxpayer as a result of the renegotiation. The problem we particularly face with the Town of Faro is that the loans that they contracted prior to 1989 were loans that were charged through the Yukon government, but were monies identified with the federal government. They are charged on a fixed interest rate basis; therefore, we would be required to go to the federal government to determine whether or not it would agree to renegotiate the interest payments on those loans.
With respect to other municipalities, it has come to my attention, at least, that some municipalities, which have no debt with the government, should feel that the Yukon government should not give an additional benefit to municipalities that are indebted, because those other municipalities were in a situation where they saved to provide for their infrastructure and did not borrow money to provide for it. So, I am aware of there being complications here. I can give the Member every assurance that the matter will be raised with the Association of Yukon Communities to determine whether or not we can get some global agreement.
Question re: Deputy ministers, replacement of
Mr. Phillips: My question is for the Government Leader. According to the Public Service Commission Act, a deputy head shall be selected from a list of one or more candidates certified by the Commissioner as being qualified for an appointment to a vacant position allocated to one of those classes listed in the regulations. The Government of Yukon was sworn in on a Saturday, and the Deputy Minister of Education was at his desk on the Monday morning. Can the Government Leader advise the House how many candidates were on the list when the new Deputy Minister of Education - a former NDP candidate - was hired, and whether or not all processes were followed in hiring that individual?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: One person was on the list and, yes, all processes were followed.
Mr. Phillips: This is like deja vu - one person was on the list; one person was interviewed, and one person got the job. Sounds like a lot of Yukoners did not get an opportunity for that one.
Since the new deputy commissioners are also deputy heads, or deputy ministers, can the Government Leader advise the House how many candidates were on the list when he hired the deputy commissioner of the local hire commission - an NDP candidate in the recent election?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: With respect to the deputy commissioners, I have already given the commitment to the Member in questions he asked previously that the hiring process would be explored. I can explore the hiring process in more detail, as is its due, in Committee. At that time, I can demonstrate to the Member that it is our intention that these deputy ministers and deputy commissioners are well-valued, well-respected, able, talented, educated and qualified to perform the tasks at hand.
Mr. Phillips: I do not know why the Government Leader does not have the answers at hand. He has told us that these positions are like deputy ministers. We have criteria set out for deputy ministers. Now he is telling us that there are difference processes for these people. Surely they are either deputy ministers or they are not. They cannot be half pregnant in this case. They are or they are not. What the Minister is telling us is that they are; he said that they were deputy ministers. Why can he not stand here today and tell us how many candidates were on the list when he hired the new Deputy Minister for Executive Council Office, who is an NDP activist from the infamous Clark government of B.C?
Were the processes as laid out under the Public Service Commission Act, which is that the job will be posted, an individual will be interviewed and the individual be certified? Were the processes followed in all three of cases that I have mentioned?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Yes, indeed. The Member asked the question and I told him that yes, they had been followed. With respect to the deputy commissioners, who are at the deputy level but are not deputy ministers, I have indicated to the Members opposite that, with respect to the details about who was interviewed - how many and who - I can certainly go through the process of identifying those numbers when we get into Committee.
It is very difficult for me to do it in Question Period. I have it in my books. If the Member wants to wait a minute, I can go through it. If Mr. Speaker would allow me the time, I can certainly go through the information for the Member.
Question re: Air carriers, negotiations with
Ms. Duncan: I would like to change the subject of this Question Period and ask about air travel.
My question is for the Minister of Government Services.
There are some 50 jobs in Whitehorse on the line with Canadian Airlines' service to the community. The Minister of Government Services indicated that negotiations are underway with both air carriers to Whitehorse. These types of negotiations have ramifications for the entire business community. Will the Minister clearly outline the form and detail of the negotiations? Is it a proposal call, a two-envelope system? What exactly does he mean by negotiations?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: The department is Government Services in this case.
Yes, I can elaborate a bit on the whole air travel situation. This is a situation we inherited. The previous arrangement was with Canadian Airlines International, based on the 1991 agreement, which stated that it would receive 85 percent of government travel business outside the territory in return for certain discounts, specifically 15 percent for medical travel and 30 percent in cases of stretcher travel.
Subsequent to that, with the advent of Northwest Territorial Air, the previous Minister of Tourism made an oral commitment to that airline to split the government travel business 50-50. Some time lapsed, and we have since felt an obligation to at least honour that commitment to a degree for a variety of reasons. We have a moral commitment based on successor rights. There are also concerns with respect to tourism and tourism viability. We felt we had an obligation in that respect.
We approached both airlines with the idea of seeing what kind of proposal they could come forward with in terms of similar amounts for discounts. We are certainly willing to share air travel, however, we are not willing to simply hand out air travel. We believe that the second carrier, in this case Northwest Territorial Air, needs to provide at least a similar arrangement as Canadian.
Ms. Duncan: We now have a situation with two jet air carriers. There are 436 available seats in and out of Whitehorse every day. This level of service is highly unlikely to continue, and we do not want to see a return to one jet a week or propeller air carrier service in Whitehorse.
Has the Minister of Government Services asked his Cabinet colleague, the Minister of Economic Development, to commission a feasibility study or market analysis on the provision of air service to Yukoners, in consultation with the industry and with the Department of Tourism?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Quite frankly, I agree with the Member for Porter Creek South in terms of the economics. Right now, both carriers are travelling at greatly reduced rates, and it is very difficult to see them sustaining that level for a long period of time. Canadian has expressed its concerns to me. Northwest Territorial Air has also indicated it is having trouble sustaining that level.
Last month, Canadian indicated to me it was flying at about a 22-percent capacity. That is not supportable by any business.
My concern is on what basis did Northwest Territorial Air make a business decision given the limitations of the winter market. I am not really sure whether or not they were clearly informed in that regard.
With respect to the economics of this, I have not discussed it with the Minister of Economic Development. My primary discussions have been with the Minister of Tourism, because I have felt that this is where the major impact will occur and impinge on the viability of tourism. To that end, I can assure the Member opposite that I have no interest whatsoever in trying to drive either carrier out or try to drive their prices down to where it is even less economic. That is not the aim.
Ms. Duncan: In relation to air travel, I would like to raise an issue with the Minister that is specifically and narrowly within his domain.
Changes in the travel industry right now have caused the local travel agents to pay airlines within 12 days of making bookings for tickets. Tickets paid for by the government can take up to 30 days to be paid, leaving the air travel agents in a tenuous situation of having accounts receivable with the government.
The travel agents have asked this government, as other governments do, to make use of a travel card. Could the Minister advise this House why this reasonable request by the industry has not been implemented?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: First of all, it is being considered. The travel agents had approached the previous Minister of Government Services and, to my understanding, had no response on it.
I have met with a representative of the travel industry. The proposal was put forward to me and I have submitted it to the department to see what the economics of the proposal are and what the possibilities are in terms of savings for ourselves. Clearly, the travel agents do have some concerns about the costs. They are very aware that government travel is a substantial portion of their business and they are interested in keeping that business.
The proposal has been forwarded to the department for its consideration and it will be reporting back to me as soon as it can.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed.
Notice of Opposition Private Members' Business
Mr. Phillips: Pursuant to Standing Order 14.2(3), I would like to identify the items standing in the name of the Official Opposition to be called on Wednesday, December 11: Motion No. 12, standing in the name of Mr. Ostashek, and Motion 13, standing in the name of Mr. Phillips.
Mr. Cable: Pursuant to Standing Order 14.2(3), I would like to identify the items standing in the name of the third party to be called on Wednesday, December 11, 1996: Motion No. 11, standing in the name of the Member for Porter Creek South.
Speaker: We will proceed with Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Bill No. 21: Second Reading
Clerk: Second reading, Bill No. 21, standing in the name of Hon. Mr. Harding.
Hon. Mr. Harding: I move that Bill No. 21, entitled An Act to Amend the Public Sector Compensation Restraint Act, 1994, be now read a second time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Hon. Minister responsible for the Public Service Commission that Bill No. 21, entitled An Act to Amend the Public Sector Compensation Restraint Act, 1994, be now read a second time.
Hon. Mr. Harding: It is with great pleasure and considerable pride that I am the Minister in this government who is honoured to rise today in the Legislature to restore to the employees of the Yukon government their right to participate in workplace democracy through the process of collective bargaining.
It was only a century ago that workers took their liberty - and often their lives - into their hands for the right to meet together to discuss how they should be treated in the workplace and to say to their employers that they would not work if a fair deal could not be reached.
A hundred years ago, when one worker discussed with another how their working conditions might be improved, they were fired for inciting civil conspiracy. A hundred years ago, when workers thought they might stand together against the injustices they suffered at the hands of unscrupulous employers, they were fired for intimidation. A hundred years ago, when workers said they would not work if the working conditions were not improved, they were fired for inducing breach of contract.
Three years ago, a piece of legislation was tabled and passed in this Chamber that suspended Yukon government employees' right to sit down with their employer to negotiate changes to their working lives and to resort to the withdrawal of their services if a mutually satisfactory arrangement could not be hammered out at the bargaining table.
At the time, I reminded Members of the government that the process of collective bargaining carries no guarantees; that part of the process involves fair and honest disagreement, possibly conciliation, or even resorting to economic power. But only in grave and unusual circumstances should the government, as an employer, cloaks itself in legislative authority to enact a collective agreement it could not get at the bargaining table.
I said then that I could agree that the right to bargain collectively is not absolute but it is certainly fundamental. Like all fundamental rights in our society, it is subject to the reasonable limitations as are required for the good of society to prevail. However, as I maintained then, as now, the justification to suspend that right did not exist at that time.
At that time, I appealed to the government of the day not to sign away so readily the hard-won rights that our parents and grandparents fought to secure for us and for which they strove to improve the quality of the lives we are all now benefiting from and living, and because of which our contributions to society and to our own children have more meaning.
It was an appeal shared by many who know the history behind the rights we often exercise so routinely without stopping to think how they came to be ours or how fragile our grasp upon them actually could be. Many good women and men lobbied strongly against the imposition of the Public Sector Compensation Restraint Act, 1994. Many good women and men fought to preserve the rights that have come to shape a nation, which have been entrusted to us. Many good women and men decried the arbitrary blow against the freedom to speak freely and chart a self-determined course, and many good women and men fought but failed that day to safeguard the process that has come to symbolize our Canadian heritage - a heritage that honours the resolution of discord through dialogue, that practises the politics of inclusion to respect for a diversity of views; a heritage that knits together the similarities and the differences among its many people into a fabric we can all be proud to call our own.
With the piece of legislation we have introduced, that appeal has finally been answered. In our platform, A Better Way, this government made a pledge to restore to government employees the rights by which their say in the matter of their own employment will once again find voice in the democratic process of collective bargaining.
With this repeal bill, our government fulfills a promise to its employees to return immediately to the bargaining table. This act ends the freeze imposed on the renewal of our collective agreements with our unions, the Yukon Teachers Association and the Public Service Alliance of Canada.
This bill gives back the freedom to the employer and its employees to shape a contract that reflects fairly and freely the changing demands of the evolving workplace.
The sole purpose of this short bill is to restore resolutely that which should never have been eliminated so swiftly: the right to a process of meaningful participation in determining the terms and conditions of one's own employment through collective bargaining.
This government stands firm upon its belief that, only when the parties come together in good faith and with respect for each other and each other's interests, can a bargain be struck with which everyone can live.
It is the best way, and I would submit that it is the only way.
We are repealing this legislation. We are going to make it clear that that is precisely what we are doing. Consistently, throughout the election campaign, we spoke of our commitment to restoring the process. Time and time again, we were asked whether we would repeal the bill, and we will make it clear that we are repealing that bill.
The Opposition has pointed out some administrivia with regard to the bill. I have checked the section 23 of the Interpretation Act, which makes no clear or strong distinction, in any way, between "amending" or "repealing" in terms of its effect on the bill. Just to be consistent, so that the Opposition does not get upset with some administrivia, we will change the title of the bill to include the word "repeal", which is the opposite of the prediction made by the Opposition.
We are very proud of this initiative. We will sit down with our employees in the Yukon Teachers Association and our employees in the Public Service Alliance of Canada to clearly bargain with them in good faith. As we are all aware, we have to exercise good, sound judgment and be mindful of the concerns of the people in Yukon who pay taxes. However, we must also be mindful that the people who worked for us had the right to free collective bargaining taken from them by the previous administration. We want to ensure that right is restored, as we committed to do in the election campaign, and that is part of the process we are undertaking today. I look forward to the Opposition's comments.
Mr. Phillips: Yesterday, in my reply to the Speech from the Throne, as you know, I spoke to this bill. Our party, in general, supports the principle of returning to collective bargaining. I believe we are now in a position where the government can return to collective bargaining. Our Government Leader announced that early this week. Had we been re-elected, we were prepared to bring in a bill similar to this, which would restore free collective bargaining to the employees of the Government of Yukon.
I want to go back to 1992 - I know we are going to dispute this forever and ever - to when the side opposite said we did not have a debt, and we said we did. The side opposite now believes the Auditor General's report that came out about three or four weeks ago. Well, it was the same Auditor General - I believe it was even the same person - who filed an Auditor General's report in 1992 that said we did have a debt. This time he said we had a surplus; that time we had a debt. One cannot just pick and choose which Auditor General's reports to take for political advantage.
If we take a look at where the Government of Yukon is today, it is probably one of the financially healthiest governments in this country. Our employees are some of the best paid employees in governments anywhere across this country. When they took a two percent cut, it was the smallest cut of any across the country. As MLAs, we took a five percent cut. Under the previous administration, government travel was reduced, as was year-end spending. Other programs were brought under control and there was a reduction in overall spending in government.
We took a debt into a surplus position. I do not have to apologize to anybody for that. I think that a lot of people contributed. The teachers contributed. Our employees contributed. We contributed as people ourselves. Our employees contributed not only personally, but they contributed at their desks by finding ways to save money so that the government could get into a better position.
It was treated at the time as a political opportunity by the NDP Opposition and by some of the unions. They made good use of that. In hindsight, there might have been better ways to do it; but on the other hand, if we had not done it, if we had not saved the $8 million to $10 million that we saved with the Public Sector Compensation Restraint Act, if we had not cut back in other areas, and if we had not reduced our overall spending in government, the site opposite would be sitting over there today in the same position that a lot of other governments in this country are in - in debt. Then they would have really tough decisions. They would have to be sitting down with their unions and the highway camps, such as Destruction Bay, and they would really have to be trying to decide whether or not they could afford to keep it open, because we would not have the money.
We were the only jurisdiction in the country that, after managing our resources, took a $25 million hit from Ottawa. Everyone else took a hit from Ottawa. Our $25 million came out of our surplus. This was the money we had built up. I am not apologizing for the $20 million that showed up in the budget. If it had not shown up in the budget, we would have been in big trouble. The Northwest Territories, our neighbours to the east, had a $50 million debt when the federal government cut everybody across the country. They ended up with a $100 million debt. They are cutting six percent and laying 200 or 300 people off all across the territory. There are all kinds of jobs being lost. There are all kinds of programs being cut. In the Yukon, we cut very little and laid off very few people. We took a two-percent cut. Two percent. When we saw the finances of the Government of the Yukon coming back into order and there was a surplus building, Mr. Ostashek made an announcement that we were prepared to end the three-year term a year earlier. This was fair as well. We took it when we needed it. We returned it when we were in a surplus position.
The Member for Faro mentions election year. In the world of politics, as he will find out, every year is election year. He will soon find out that it does not matter how well one plans to have things done tomorrow, sometimes they do not get done until a month or two or even a year later. The Member has a lot to learn. He will find that being an Opposition Member was an easy job. He will learn that. We will watch him as he goes. He has already made his first little mistake in the tabling of his bill. He claims that there is no difference in the act, and is now going to bring in an amendment to the act to repeal it.
Out of curiosity, I dug out Webster's Dictionary, and looked at the two words that the Member for Faro says mean the same thing. One is "amend," and its definition states that it is "to improve or correct an error in a legal document; make professed improvements in a measure before Parliament; make better." That is "amend." I hope that the Member for Faro is listening. The meaning of "repeal" is to "revoke; rescind; annul. Cancelling of the union of the 1801 demanded by O'Connell, etc." One is to change and the other is to get rid of it. They are not the same. On the front page of the act, it said it was "to amend". I accepted that. Then when one turns the page, it includes the word "repeal". It then says the word "repeal" again and goes on, after it has been repealed twice, to talk about using some of its provisions.
My concern - I mean this in a constructive way - is that our legislation should be written so that the general public can understand it. The general public should be able to sit down with this - for example, someone from the local union hall or wherever - and understand what we are doing here. I thought we were coming back to collective bargaining early. Yet, the way the Minister has tabled his very first piece of legislation is confusing. I would just like to point that out to the Minister.
When we get into the clause-by-clause debate, I intend to propose a couple of friendly amendments for the Minister that will clarify the bill. I do not mean to change the intent of the bill but, in fact, just clarify it so that the general public will be able to understand what we intend to do.
I will have some questions during Committee of the Whole. If the Member now intends to repeal - get rid of - the whole bill, then I have some questions about that. There are some immediate cost implications in getting rid of the whole bill. For the sake of the House, I would like the Minister to tell us what the cost implications are. We are estimating it could be as high as $10 million, with the changes of the travel bonuses and other things in the other sections of the bill.
Perhaps the Minister could give us an explanation regarding what extra costs would be initiated by rescinding the whole bill. When we talked about doing this, it was only to amend it, because some sections do not necessarily pertain with the dates for returning to collective bargaining.
Having said that, I will take my seat and listen to other Members. We support this bill in principle, depending upon the cost implications of this last section with the repeal. I am still having difficulty understanding how one can repeal a whole bill but retain sections of it. It seems to me that, if the bill is repealed, then it is gone, as per the definition.
Perhaps the Minister could explain how one can repeal something but still have it there. In this House, we have repealed dozens of acts. From my understanding and the legal interpretation I have always been given, once the act is repealed, it is gone - it is no longer there. If the Member is going to repeal this act and not replace it with anything, I would be interested to know exactly what he will do.
Mr. Cable: This is an opportunity for me to clarify some problems that arose during the election campaign - some disappointing problems.
During the election campaign there was a rather clever campaign to misrepresent the Liberals and my position on the rollback legislation. There was a suggestion - or a spin from the spin doctors - that voting for a budget following the passing of the rollback legislation was a validation of that legislation.
Even for election hyperbole, this was quite a stretch. Just for the record, I would like to put on the record my views of what took place over the last three years.
There were two public sector compensation restraint acts. The first rolled back managerial staff wages, deputy minister wages, caucus staff wages and the wages of ourselves. My check of the speeches made in relation to the first bill is that all Members supported it. It was the heady days of deficit cutting back in 1993.
With respect to the second bill, sort of Rambo II I guess we can call it, the Public Sector Compensation Restraint Act, 1994, all Opposition Members voted against the bill - the NDP, the Liberals and the Independent, Mrs. Firth. It was clear from the debates in this House for anyone who was present, and I have to question from what took place during the election campaign whether everyone was present, that I voted against the bill and I voted against it because the rationale advanced - the financial crisis - did not pass muster and there was no reason to remove the collective bargaining rights that our organized employees had.
With respect to the bill before us, we will be supporting it in second reading, in principle. We support, as we said during the election campaign and for a long time prior to the election, that the restoration of collective bargaining for our organized employees was a must.
There have been questions raised by the Official Opposition about the drafting of the bill. We will ask for assurances, or we will want to hear assurances in the course of debate, that will put the issues to rest in our minds. We have an obligation to speak clearly without creating legislation that invites litigation. It is not our job to provide pension plans to lawyers.
I do not propose to pass opinions on the drafting. We have competent people in the public service who have the necessary skills and read law books and they can provide or pass along the appropriate assurances and, it is hoped, during the course of the debate, the issues raised by the Official Opposition will be met by the government or the appropriate amendments will be made. Assuming that that takes place, we will support the bill in the third reading.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I of course rise with some pleasure to speak in favour of this particular bill at second reading. A couple of years back, something happened in this Legislature that I do not want to see happen again. A couple of years back, a government that was tired of the notion that it might want to have a dialogue with its employees and wanted to avoid any controversy with its own workers, decided that rather than simply present to them a financial equation, which would necessitate a reduction in the public servants' wages as a contributor to reducing a debt or bringing down the expenditure levels, the government, through a simple act of this Legislature, denied people their fundamental right to bargain with their employer.
The Member for Riverdale North stands in the Legislature today and says that they had to face severe financial circumstances back in 1994, severe financial circumstances that necessitated the government taking, in its view, decisive action. The Liberal Member who just spoke has pointed out so ably that those financial circumstances - those severe dire financial circumstances - did not exist in reality. In fact, Members will all remember that when the poor character who had recently been appointed the Public Service Commission Minister under the Yukon Party government was announcing the Yukon Party's intention to inflict wage restraint and deny collective bargaining rights to their employees, his new colleague, the Minister of Finance, was announcing that the government had just discovered a $20 million surplus that it had not anticipated.
It would have been expected then, if it is believable that the government did not know it was going to get $20 million at the end of the year, that the government would have reassessed its financial situation. It would have been expected that it would have delayed passing this Draconian measure in this Legislature to deny people collective bargaining rights.
That did not happen, because the real agenda had nothing to do with finances, but had everything to do with persecuting their own employees.
Even if the Yukon Party government of the day had decided that it was facing dire financial circumstances and had the actual facts to prove it, why would the government not open dialogue with its own employees to explain the financial circumstances to them, and call upon them to participate in reducing the government's expenditure load? Rather than doing that, they stood up in the Legislature - as they were denying people their rights, as they were cutting people's wages - and, in the same breath, called on those same employees to cooperate with the government.
A stranger situation could not have been divined by anyone. This is the second time in this Legislature that I have heard the Member for Riverdale North talk about how it is tough to be in government and how you have to make tough decisions.
I have been in government for seven years and I know how lackadaisical and flippant Opposition Members were, including that particular Member, while he was in Opposition for that seven-year period.
From day one, when the Yukon Party took office, they were whining about their workload. They whined about the long hours and tough decisions that they would have to make.
We on this side are well aware of the difficult decisions that we have to make, but we are also well aware that there are basic certain principles that we would like to respect. One of those principles is the need for employers, in this particular case the Yukon government as an employer, to carry on an open dialogue with its employees about collective bargaining issues and workplace issues. This is a fundamental principle that we embrace.
What happened to change all of that in the Yukon Party's mind? The Whitehorse West by-election changed all of that and was a very clear indicator that the Yukon Party government could no longer sustain this phony argument that they were facing dire financial circumstances and that they had to deny people their basic fundamental rights.
If Whitehorse West told the Yukon Party anything, it was that this was a significant issue, not just for public servants, but for anyone who believed in the right of free collective bargaining.
What happened this summer? We had a death-bed conversion on the part of the Yukon Party. It decided it did not need to do it after all, and that circumstances had somehow magically changed and the government would repeal or amend - or do something - this legislation.
During the election, the government body politic died. The death-bed conversion did not produce the results the Yukon Party wanted. It is no use now coming to us, or to anyone, and saying with a straight face that the Yukon Party had some intention to restore collective bargaining rights to the public servants. All it learned was a harsh lesson of democratic politics: when one does unpopular things and offends people's basic rights, one suffers the consequences.
I support this bill. It will bring us back to collective bargaining. It will necessitate negotiators for both the employees and the employer coming together to talk about issues they have in common. There is no doubt at all that some of those issues will be difficult to resolve. There is no doubt that the government has to restrain its expenditures. There is no doubt that employees want to be fairly paid.
I am counting on good collective bargaining practice to make sure a collective agreement is reached, as it has been time after time in this territory, without the need to revert to Draconian measures such as a public sector wage restraint act .
I am happy to once again be in the Legislature to see this particular issue come full circle. I am happy to be able to sit in a Legislature where I suspect everyone will vote for the restoration of collective bargaining, perhaps for different reasons - perhaps half-heartedly for some people - but this measure will pass and the public will, once again, be reassured that people's basic and fundamental rights will be respected by the elected leadership of this territory.
I have one last point to make: it is important for all of us to live by certain principles, irrespective of what the costs are.
I believe that the need to live by the principle of free, collective bargaining is one such right that we should maintain at all costs, and that only in the most severe and difficult circumstances would there ever be a thought entertained to challenge that right or, in any way, vary that right.
Mr. Ostashek: I know that I was on the Speaker's list, but I was debating whether or not I should rise and speak on this bill, because I thought that my colleague for Riverdale North pretty well summed up everything that needed to be summed up in this Legislature.
After listening to the political rhetoric of the Government Leader, I have no alternative but to get up and refute some of the things that he has put on the public record.
The fact remains that when my government took power, we took over from a government that was both morally and financially bankrupt. It had left the taxpayers of the Yukon with a $64 million deficit. The Government Leader today does not have the political courage to own up to the fact that there was a $64 million deficit. He still says today that there was not a $64 million deficit, yet that is the same person whose signature is on the Public Accounts Committee that verified the $64 million deficit. The fact of the matter is that they had left a sorry financial mess for an incoming government that needed to take some tough actions. We took those actions knowing that there may be a political price to pay for them. However, we were not politicians of opportunity. We were not doing what would keep us elected; we were doing what was right for the people of the Yukon.
We did it, and we know that part of the reason for which we are in Opposition today is because of that action. Nevertheless, that was not the only problem left by that sorry administration that was turfed out in 1992. It had a Faro mine shut down, and the government's political actions in the spring of the year, rather than face the music, shoved another $5 million of the taxpayers' money in to get by an election.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Ostashek: No, I did not vote for it, because I was not in this House. This is an argument that they have used time and time again. Let me tell you that we will be doing exactly as they have for the last four years: standing up and calling division on every issue on which we do not agree, because, in a final vote, if my colleagues do not call division, they will say that we supported everything they did. That is a farce.
I really take exception to the Government Leader standing up there with a moral attitude and talking about offending people's basic rights, especially in light of the actions he has carried out as Government Leader in the last two and one-half months. He has offended quite a few people's moral rights and basic fundamental principles. Look at what he has done for the Land Claims Secretariat. Look at what he has done by politicizing the civil service in this government.
I did not have the greatest admiration for the previous leader of the NDP, but at least I can say that he acted with integrity when it came to hiring deputy ministers. He would not have ever carried out an episode like this Government Leader has demonstrated - never. He would never have done that. This is the same Government Leader who said the end justifies the means. Those are the basic rights he believes in - whatever suits him.
We do know that it is a very drastic move to curtail public sector bargaining. The reality of it was that we were faced with the situation of the Faro mine shutting down because of the inability of the previous government to handle it. They were wasting taxpayers' money, rather than investing it to diversify the economy of the Yukon. We were faced with a situation where we had to try and control our costs and get our fiscal house in order with a bankrupt government. We could not take the other route that was available to us - as has been done by a lot of companies when they are trying to meet the financial demands put on them - and lay off more government employees, thereby adding to the economic devastation that was happening in the Yukon at the time.
It may have cost us the election, but I believe that we did do the right thing and history will prove that we did the right thing.
We tried to spread the pain evenly, and we did not come back this summer and say we were going back to collective bargaining for partisan political reasons. We were going back to collective bargaining because we had done an excellent job of putting the territory's financial house in order, so that we were in a position where we could go back to collective bargaining one year earlier.
I dare say that if the government that was sworn in during October of this year has half the financial track record that this government had, it will be doing a good job. This government does not have the political courage to make the tough decisions that have to be made. We heard the ministerial statement from the Minister of Community and Transportation Services today. This government does not have the political courage to close down a maintenance camp that is no longer required. The government Ministers would sooner dole out the taxpayers' money, whether it is being well-spent or not, and say, "Oh, well, we have two employees there who should not be moved. They should be allowed to live there forever." As my colleague from Dawson said, at one time there were maintenance camps every 50 miles along the Alaska Highway, and they were needed. Then they moved to every 100 miles. Now, they are moving to every 200 miles - or they will, if there is a responsible government in place.
We will support this bill. There is no doubt about it, because we intended to bring in a similar bill. My colleague has pointed out to the Members opposite some of the concerns we have with how the bill is drafted. In our opinion, it is a very quickly and shabbily drafted bill. It is trying to satisfy all of the promises made by the different Members over there, and that is the dilemma the Government Leader is in. Some of his Members said that the bill was going to be repealed, and others said the bill would be amended. They are trying to be all things to all people.
I urge the Minister, who is the sponsor of this bill, to listen to what my colleague from Riverdale North had to say. It is incumbent on those of us in this House to draft legislation that is simple and easy for the common man to understand.
If the Members opposite want to repeal the bill and bring in a new bill, I do not have any difficulty with that. If they want to amend the bill and clauses within it, I do not have any difficulty with that, either. However, let us be clear about what we are doing.
The Member for Riverdale North pointed out the very fundamental difference in Webster's Dictionary between "repeal" and "rescind".
I urge the Minister to take that representation seriously. The end result is the same: we are going back to collective bargaining. I think that is what all of us in this Legislature want. Let us quit playing games and get this bill amended so that it is in a proper format that accomplishes the job that the Members opposite and Members on this side want it to. We are certainly going to be supporting the principles of the bill. In order to facilitate the passing of the bill through Committee without a whole lot of debate, rhetoric and back and forth, I urge the Member seriously to consider getting the bill so that it flows smoothly. Either repeal the Public Sector Compensation Restraint Act, 1994 and bring in a new bill with the clauses that he wants to be able to keep, or to just quite simply put the bill in as it is on the title page: An Act to Amend the Public Sector Compensation Restraint Act, 1994.
We heard the Member for Riverdale South say that we ought to be passing legislation in this Legislature that can withstand the scrutiny of the public and the legal challenge that may be put forward when we do such a shabby job of drafting. I have great difficulty accepting that this is a legal way of stating this bill. I have great difficulty with the Member opposite now saying he is going to change the title page when in fact it is in the Order Paper as An Act to Amend the Public Sector Compensation Restraint Act, 1994.
If he is going to change that title page, I suggest to him that he has to pull this bill off the Order Paper and come back with a new bill.
I look forward to debate. I will be supporting this bill in principle in second reading, but let us try to get some common understanding on this so that we can clarify the situation and get on with the job that has been delegated to us by the citizens of the Yukon.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I rise to support the bill before us. I would like to say that I find it very disappointing that the Members opposite are still rationalizing the Public Sector Compensation Restraint Act that they forced upon Yukoners. They forced this bill on teachers and on public servants. They had no respect for the principle of free collective bargaining. That is why we have brought in an act to repeal the Public Sector Compensation Restraint Act.
To speak directly to the Member who has just concluded his remarks, our government is not bringing this bill forward for partisan political reasons. Our government is bringing this bill forward because we believe in, and will uphold, the principle of free collective bargaining. That is why we have brought this bill forward.
I would like to state very clearly that we look forward to the support from the Members for the act before us. This is something that the other parties indicated during the election campaign they would support. We should have a short but productive debate, and I look forward to concluding it.
Ms. Duncan: I rise to speak to this bill as the Liberal critic for the Public Service Commission. I want to speak in support of my caucus colleague's remarks on this legislation. I am very pleased he had an opportunity to establish correctly the facts with respect to events in this House, which were somewhat misconstrued during the election campaign.
I would also like to add to the record. Our leader stated, and stated early, that the Yukon Liberal Party would restore collective bargaining and would negotiate in good faith. Some people think in pictures, and I am one of them. I tend to think of the previous legislation in terms of a quickie divorce. It very quickly and legally ended a relationship.
The relationship between employer and employee is a very important one. It was brought home very clearly to me by my constituents during the campaign. For any marriage or relationship to survive, there must be honest communication, give and take, compromise and a will to survive in a challenging environment. I believe this bill seeks to restore the partnership between employer and employee. It seeks to remarry, to restore that relationship.
However, I do believe that there are some reservations in expressing our support, in that my colleague has indicated that the legislation is not clear and that we do have a very dedicated responsibility to be clear, not simply to our public and to our constituents, but we have a responsibility to be clear to the employees to whom we are speaking. We also have a responsibility to be clear so that years from now this House can deal with this legislation, should it be required. I believe that we should not simply have a political opinion about the clarity of this legislation but a legal opinion.
That being said, and with those reservations, I do express the support of the Liberal caucus for this legislation and look forward to dealing with it.
Mr. Hardy: I will tell you a little story.
I was 16 going on 17 years of age and I went to work up on the Dempster Highway, which I talked about yesterday.
I went to work for a company from Calgary, Alberta, called Majestic-Wylie or Wylie-Majestic - I can never remember which name goes first. It is one of those companies that has expanded and contracted and changed its name so many times it is hard to keep up with it.
I went to work as a labourer picking up sticks along side of the road and worked with many other people from the Yukon and other people from around Canada. I was there for about three months and one night I got a knock on my door. It was the bull cook and he asked if I wished to join a union; it was the Teamsters Union.
I did not know anything about unions - I did not have a clue - so the bull cook sat down and explained a few things to me. He told me about what unions fight for and what they were trying to do on the job site. We were working under pretty dangerous conditions. I believe there had already been one person killed and another person, who was a friend of mine, was severely injured when he fell off one of the sheds that we were erecting. He had collapsed his arches and was in the hospital at the time.
Many of the accidents occurred due to carelessness and no attention to detail for the safety of the workers.
Wages were not an issue. As I said yesterday, we were making $4.42, and I thought I was in heaven after coming out of school. It was a big issue, and the treatment we were receiving from some of the bosses was pretty crude and the equipment was in pretty bad shape. So I signed the card and joined the union. I believe it took a week for that whole site, almost 300 workers, to be signed up. It took one day for the company to fire every single one of us for daring to belong to a union. In Canada, it is our right to associate, but we were fired for it.
So my feelings about wage restraint and the treatment of workers is grounded in the treatment I had as a young man. I never forgot that. It was my first impression.
The arguments I have heard from the other side are quite interesting. Why did it happen? The fact is that it did happen. The fact is that the public did not believe why, when money was obviously available. The argument was that there was a $64 million deficit, as has been waved around and spoken about for years.
Obviously, the public did not believe it. The people in the unions did not believe it, but it is still being waved around and still being talked about. However, that is not the big issue here today. The big issue is: are we going to honour collective agreements? Are we going to show respect and trust the people, trust our employees, to bargain in good faith? Or should we ask them to treat us the way the former government treated them. Maybe they will not want to bargain in good faith now. Maybe they will set it up so that there will be a strike situation and maybe we will deserve it because we did not sit down with them.
I have heard from a lot of people that a two-percent wage rollback is not the issue and never was the issue. Our employees understand finances. They understand the difficulties of balancing books. Most of them are home owners. Most of them have families. They understand that, and if we would have come to the table with honour and dignity and shown them the situation, if there was a problem, I am sure they would have respected that and bargained in good faith with us. We did not give them a chance.
What destroyed their faith in the previous government was the fact that they did not have the chance to bargain. They were told that they could not be trusted to bargain in good faith. They were told that the government did not want to bargain with them and that it would lay down the law because it did not trust them.
What are unions? Unions are people. They are not a big organization, but people - the ones you bump into every day. They are the ones who shop in our stores, the ones at the hockey game or taking their kids to gymnastics, attending the music festivals or out skiing, hunting and fishing. They are not all socialists, nor are they all conservatives or liberals. They are a mix, but they do believe in their rights. They believe in the right to negotiate. They believe in a collective agreement. That is where they do unite, and that is what was taken away from them.
Perhaps the Yukon Party took a chapter from the federal Liberals, who have not negotiated for many years with some of their employees. They have also refused to negotiate. Perhaps the Yukon Party thought that if they can get away with it federally, perhaps it could try it here. The Liberals were still elected; perhaps there will be no outcome.
That did not happen. It did not work.
I stand behind this; I stand behind giving the voice back to my brothers and sisters out there. I have been a negotiator for seven and one-half years. We have always negotiated in good faith. The history of unions in the Yukon is a good one. There have been very few strikes. The strike situation throughout Canada, statistically, is that over 95 percent are settled. We have a 95-percent opportunity to have a settlement. That is not a bad record with which to go into negotiations.
I would like to close with a salute to my brothers and sisters in the union movement and to inform them that I stand behind them in their right to negotiate, and I know this government does, too.
Hon. Mr. Harding: I thought that the Yukon Party would lick their wounds and realize and admit to the people of the Yukon that they made a mistake in trying to pull the wool over their eyes about some kind of a phony financial crisis that never existed. They spent a lot of effort and a lot of media time and over $100,000 in paid consultants, such as Merv Miller, to come in and try to create a crisis. They wrote off extended care facility loans. They later got back everything under the sun, but tried to make out as though all was lost.
However, if one looks at the 1991-92 year-end accounts that came out just before the government was sworn in in November, a $51 million surplus was shown. With their work on the current year after they took over - only halfway through, I might add - just as we did this year, they pretty much had it whipped up into a deficit. They brought all the power of government to bear. We saw them do that with the Hughes inquiry. They were prepared to do that, in order to conduct a smear campaign on an individual Member, and they conducted a smear campaign on the outgoing government, the New Democrats.
The Auditor General, of course, accepted the write-offs because they were a legitimate accounting practice. It is just not something governments usually do to the extent the Yukon Party did. Nonetheless, they did manage to convince some people that things were poor. The reality is, though, that for seven years the New Democrats balanced their budgets. I might add that they never raised taxes. They actually cut taxes. It was the Members opposite - the Yukon Party - who brought in the most massive tax increases in Yukon history.
We balanced our books. We had good financial practices. We also negotiated in good faith with our employees.
The real jam is the fact that this bill - the wage restraint act that was brought in by the Yukon Party - ever came into being in the first place. The day that the former government tabled the bill in this House, the Government Leader said that it had a surprise $20 million. The real rationale for the bill was - and the Members know it and should just stand up and say it - that they believe that there is too much disparity between the private and public sectors. If that is their belief, there is nothing wrong with that. They should just say that and should not have tried to create a phony financial crisis that did not exist. We would have seen a lot more respect and understanding from those employees if the government had just tried to put forward its philosophy instead of pulling the wool over people's eyes.
Today, the Yukon Party still misses the point. The $64 million, $13 million or $35 million current-year debt, such as what we just inherited is not the point. The point is that the employees have a fundamental right to collective bargaining. Only in the absolutely most severe cases should anybody tamper in any way with that right.
I would submit to this Legislature that what the Yukon Party did was unprecedented since those rates were established. Here was a jurisdiction with no debt and in the best financial situation in the country. What did it do a couple of years later? It came in and removed the right to free, collective bargaining, because it was in vogue in the rest of the country. What the Yukon Party did was unprecedented. We said that at the time and we say it now.
The Opposition and the Liberals have brought up concerns that the bill was not clear. Some of them have referred to Webster's Dictionary. We have a Yukon Interpretation Act. Instead of getting a dictionary, get that. That is what it is for. The Speaker probably has a copy in his office. The Members probably have a copy in their offices and they could read it. They could read section 23 to see the effect of the words "repeal" or "amend". They have no effect on this bill at all. The title page of the bill is not even part of the bill.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Harding: The Member says I should swallow some humble pie. The ones who should be swallowing humble pie are the Members opposite who brought in the wage restraint bill in the first place.
It makes absolutely no difference to the effect. If the Members opposite talk about clarity, the sections in the act - sections 2, 3 and 4 - are precisely there for clarity and to explain what the repealing effect does. That is what they do. They are there to show the differences of the ending of the periods of restraint. It is there to show the different effects of the expiry of the collective agreements and all the other effects that collective bargaining will have. If you repeal the bill, it does not just wipe out everything that the Yukon Party did.
We consistently said throughout the campaign that we would go to the table and collectively bargain. We are making a clear and consistent statement. I have opinions from Justice, from the people who draft bills, that repealing it or amending it makes no difference. The bottom line is that we are going back to the table. Sections 2, 3 and 4 are consistent with the commitments we made. They clearly spell out in the bill what the effect of the repeal is. That is what they are there for.
I would ask the Members to read the Yukon Interpretation Act. I do not want to read it to them here, but in section 23 the Members will clearly see that what sections 2, 3 and 4 do is to explain the impact of the repeal.
I have a couple of other comments I would like to make in terms of responding to Members. The difference between the election promise made by the Yukon Party and the one we made during the campaign is that, first of all, we meant our's. I do not know if Members opposite did. Secondly, it is that, without question, we would sit down and collectively bargain with our employees at the first available opportunity.
Another difference is that, instead of waiting with the Public Service Alliance of Canada until March 31, as the commitment of the previous government did, we said that we did not want the employees to live under the artificial umbrella of this wage restraint act any longer than possible. We did not agree that it was necessary to begin with, and we will make it retroactive to the date of proclamation, and the Yukon Teachers Association will be retroactive back to June 30, 1996, which was consistent with the promise put forward by the previous government.
The former Government Leader talked about a $5 million loan to Curragh, and went on some rant about that. I would just point out that he should talk to his colleague on the right, who is on the record as voting for that loan, which was debated in this Legislature. Perhaps he will get a reality check on that.
To finish up by talking about the former Government Leader's comments about a bankrupt government, the Yukon Party took over in 1992 the best financial situation in this country. It went through an exercise of manipulation that most of the public, as my colleague from Whitehorse Centre said, did not buy.
The former Government Leader also said they spread the pain equally. Well, I cannot agree more. They assailed their workers by removing collective bargaining rights, and then brought $40 million worth of tax increases to the people of the Yukon.
They did spread the pain equally.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Harding: The Members opposite say, "Give it back."
Hon. Mr. Harding: We would like to give it back, but the Members opposite, while they were removing collective bargaining and raising taxes, kept spending. Spending kept going up and up. They spent it all. They spent every penny. They had the largest budgets in Yukon history. That money is gone and that is unfortunate, but they had the biggest spending and the biggest taxing records in government in Yukon history.
With the criticisms that they have raised, I will be anxious to see whether or not they support the bill. We will call for a standing vote. If they do not like the bill and if they do not want to get back to the table, then they should vote against it.
I am proud that my colleagues have brought forward this bill, because we made a commitment in our election campaign to do it at the first available opportunity. I am proud to go back to the table with our employees and bargain in good faith through all of the issues that have been sitting dormant for the last few years because the previous administration removed their rights to collective bargaining.
Some Hon. Members: Division.
Speaker: Division has been called. Mr. Clerk, will you kindly poll the House.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Harding: Agree.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Agree.
Mr. McRobb: Agree.
Mr. Fentie: Agree.
Mr. Hardy: Agree.
Mr. Livingston: Agree.
Mr. Ostashek: Agree.
Mr. Phillips: Agree.
Mr. Jenkins: Agree.
Mr. Cable: Agree.
Ms. Duncan: Agree.
Mrs. Edelman: Agree.
Clerk: Mr. Speaker, the results are 16 yea, nil nay.
Speaker: I declare the motion carried.
Motion for second reading of Bill No. 21 agreed to
Hon. Mr. Harding: Based on an agreement with the House Leaders, I request the unanimous consent of the House to waive Standing Order 27(1) with respect to notice in order to deal with Motion No. 19.
Motion agreed to
Speaker: Government motions.
Clerk: Motion No. 19, standing in the name of the Hon. Mr. Keenan.
Motion No. 19
Speaker: It is moved by the Minister of Community and Transportation Services
THAT it is the opinion of this House:
(1) That the radio and television programming of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation plays a unifying role in Canada,
(2) That Yukon and other northern Canadian people rely more on the CBC for basic communication services than southern Canadians, and
(3) That federal cutbacks to the CBC northern service will mean a significant reduction in basic communication services to Yukon people; and
THAT this House urges the federal government to reverse its decision to cut CBC funding with the view to preserving communication services for all Canadians and northern people in particular.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: It gives me great pleasure to be here to elaborate on this motion. I would just like to speak about the role of the CBC and its programming in the north as we all know it. It is a unique and vitally important service to all of us. Other commercial services are not available nor will they be available in the near future because of the cost of northern radio and television programming and its small audience.
I would just like to speak now of the special and fond memories that the CBC Radio had for me as I was growing up in Teslin, Yukon. I can remember running home at lunch hour, at 12:25 p.m. to be precise, so that I might get home to listen to one of my heroes, Tommy Hunter.
Of course, Hockey Night in Canada has been a very special thing for all of us in Canada. Especially important was the role of CBC in delivering it.
Many of my colleagues have also talked to me about the concerns of their constituents about the cutbacks to CBC. The Yukon's Member of Parliament, Audrey McLaughlin, has also been fighting against these cutbacks. If I could, I would like to read from the House of Commons Hansard, where Audrey McLaughlin speaks to this, and I quote; "As we know, in the north in particular, the CBC provides a national, international and local window for northerners and events as they occur. It also provides a voice for northerners that is obviously seen to be very much threatened at this point in time."
The MP has personally received over 150 letters from Yukoners protesting the cuts. I have also sent letters to Sheila Copps, the Minister of Canadian Heritage. In the letter I say, "The Yukon and the Northwest Territories, but also the northern portion of the larger provinces, are characterized by sparse settlement patterns and remote communities. People in this area do not have a great choice in services. With respect to radio, the service available is limited to CBC."
I have also sent a letter to Mr. Perrin Beatty, President of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. In it I say, "The existing program and services provided by CBC cannot be replaced by other services provided in the north. This reinforces our belief that CBC service has a greater importance in the Yukon and the Northwest Territories and the northern region of the provinces than is the case of many southern Canadians and Canadian communities."
I urge and ask all Members of this House to support this motion.
Mr. Cable: The Minister has spoken well on the northern issues. I would like to address another one.
It is my understanding that the CBC was brought into being, at least in part, to promote Canadianism and the Canadian fact. If that rationale was there at the beginning, it is also very much with us today, both in the north and in the rest of Canada.
With the country's seams becoming unravelled, it is not the time to tear the fabric apart further by emasculating the CBC.
As importantly, the CBC is very much a part of the Canadian citizen's information bank. We have on the horizon the globalization of information and communications and the concentration of the ability to mold public opinion into fewer and fewer hands - generally, private hands. In Canada, we have a growing control of our news media in the hands of a man and wife who invite themselves on to the pages of their newspapers to save Canada from what they consider to be a political Armageddon. The CBC is part of our checks and balances. It is a necessary institution with a majority of Canadians, and a substantial reduction of the CBC service does not serve Canada's interest.
Mr. Jenkins: I rise in support of the government motion. The Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes spoke very, very well on the topic. In my opinion, only two commodities have been delivered by government - one by the Government of Yukon, and one by the Government of Canada - consistently and fairly in our area: one is CBC North and the other, delivered by the Government of Yukon at a consistent price, is the price of a bottle of whiskey, which we really do not need.
The federal government has announced cutbacks for CBC. They are going to have a tremendous effect on us living in the northern provinces and north of 60, most specifically in rural Yukon. The one radio and TV medium that is constant is CBC. The service is received free of charge in virtually all areas, is funded through the tax base, can be received via the Anik satellite and through a multitude of repeaters throughout Yukon and rural Yukon. Those of us in rural Yukon rely more on CBC than those in Whitehorse and the principal communities. There are more options available in Whitehorse and the southern parts of Canada. In fact, CBC's AM radio is referred to as a lifeline to those who live outside of organized communities. Local radio programming is sometimes the only means of communication and getting messages back and forth to individuals whose lifestyles and/or occupations allow them to reside in the bush.
I urge everyone to get on board and get the Government of Canada to restore funding for the CBC, specifically CBC North.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I would like to thank all three parties. I would like to thank all Members of this House for the unanimous support for this motion. I would like to say that it is very important that we do collectively pull together to be able to preserve all the unique characteristics of the CBC, both the radio and the television network. The CBC certainly does support a lot of local authors and actors by using their scripts and it is very informative and entertaining. It would be very sad to lose that window, if I could put it that way.
I think that if we collectively pull together, we can preserve the upbeat tones of the Morningside show right through to the very informative news show, Northbeat in the evenings. I give my heartfelt thanks to all people within the House and hope that we may be able to do this. I will be forwarding a copy of the Hansard to the federal Minister and to the President of the CBC and I will make a point of personally calling them about this. Thank you very much for this motion's passage.
Motion No. 19 agreed to
Hon. Mr. Harding: I move that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Speaker: I has been moved by the Government House Leader that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Motion agreed to
Speaker leaves the Chair
COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. At this time the Committee will take a short recess.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order.
Bill No. 21 - An Act to Amend the Public Sector Compensation Restraint Act, 1994
Chair: We will now proceed to Bill No. 21, An Act to Amend the Public Sector Compensation Restraint Act, 1994. Is there any general debate?
Mr. Phillips: I had an opportunity during the break to look at sections 22 and 23, which the Member talked about. I believe those are the sections he talked about. I read the sections and will read them into the record in a few moments. Then we are going to have a quiz to see if there is a soul in this place who can understand what it might mean. Believe me, it is a pretty convoluted way of making a law. There just must be a simpler way of putting this together and accomplishing the same thing.
The Member said that "repeal" and "amend" mean the same thing.
Let me, for the other Members, read into the record some of the statements of what this means. I am not quite sure if I am even on the right point, only because it is very legal. I ask all Members to please bear with me and to please stay awake. This is the section that our lawyers in Justice said is the section that make the two words the same.
"22. An amending enactment shall, as far as consistent with the tenor thereof, be construed as part of the enactment that it amends.
"Effect of repeal
"23.(1) Where an enactment is repealed in whole or in part, the repeal or revocation does not
"(a) revive an enactment or thing not in force or existing at the time when the repeal takes place,
"(b) affect the previous operation of the enactment so repealed or anything duly done or suffered thereunder,
"(c) affect a right, privilege, obligation or liability acquired, accrued, accruing or incurred under the enactment so repealed,
"(d) affect an offence committed against or a violation of the provisions of the enactment so repealed, or any penalty, forfeiture or punishment incurred in respect thereof, or
"(e) affect an investigation, legal proceeding or remedy in respect of any such right, privilege, obligation, liability, penalty, forfeiture or punishment,
"and an investigation, legal proceeding or remedy of the kind described in paragraph (e) may be instituted, continued or enforced and the penalty, forfeiture or punishment imposed as if the enactment had not been repealed or revoked.
"(2) Where an enactment is repealed in whole or in part and other provisions are substituted therefor,
"(a) every person acting under the enactment so repealed shall continue to act as if appointed under the provisions so substituted until another is appointed in his stead,".
This goes on and on like this. The point I am trying to make is that there has to be a better way to do this. These bills are supposed to be written so the general public can understand them. What are we trying to achieve here? I believe it is to get back to collective bargaining as soon as possible.
So, unless the Minister can explain to me how the general public could ever possibly understand the fact that he says, by advice of his lawyers, that "amend" means the same as "repeal," then maybe we should just take a little bit of time, like tonight, and send the lawyers back to the drawing-board. What do we really want to do here? Do we want to repeal certain sections of this act and then bring in new sections to cover when groups go back to the bargaining table? Well, let us do that. It is simple to do, instead of all this other gibberish that no one can really understand.
I am not trying to be difficult. I am just trying to inject some common sense into this equation whereby possibly we could actually pass the thing, and quickly, because we all want to do that, but do it in a way that makes sense. In my view, somebody obviously made a bit of a mistake in the drafting of the bill. We all make mistakes. Let us admit there was a mistake in drafting the bill and just send it back to the drafters, scold them, and tell them to come back here tomorrow at noon, or work on amendments tonight, and bring it back. I can give the Member assurances that, if it is in understandable language and does what everybody in this House who stood up today said it would do, it will get quick passage from our side.
That is all I am asking. I am not trying to impose something different on the Member, but I think the Member has to get a grip on himself to try and throw at me the repeal and amendment act and three or four pages of legal gibberish that the average person would not understand. This stuff is the greatest cure for insomnia.
Maybe I will ask the Minister, if he will not do that, if he will rise to his feet and explain in detail how "amendment" and "repeal" are one and the same when the Webster's dictionary says - and the Interpretation Act, by the way - that "repeal" is "revoke, rescind, annul" and "amend" is "improve health, correct an error and, legal, make professional improvements and measures before parliament, make better". I just do not understand the hang-up here. Whether it is pride or whatever, I do not care. I just want a piece of legislation that does what we all want it to do but one that the average person can pick up and read and know what it means, and is not confused by the way this particular piece of legislation was drafted.
As a suggestion, the first clause is, "The Public Sector Compensation Restraint Act, 1994 is repealed." Maybe you can repeal certain sections of the act that you do not like - for example, the times that they were supposed to come back - and then leave the next category, number two, where it lays out the dates on which they were going to come back in, and the other parts of the act are fine. Maybe it is one small, minor amendment. That makes more sense to me than to read an "Act to Amend the Public Sector Compensation Restraint Act, 1994", and then on the next page, "An Act to Repeal the Public Sector Compensation Restraint Act, 1994". In my view - and in the view of, I think, most Yukoners - if you repeal something, it is toast; it is gone. We do this in act after act after act. For the 11 years that I have been in this House, it is one of the last clauses in an act in which you are changing something. In the former Government Leader's act, the Education Act - I think the last clause was, "The previous act is repealed." That does not mean that it is still hanging around out there, as parts of this are. It is repealed. It is gone.
That is all that I am asking the Minister. Let us maybe move on to the supplementaries for a while and put some legal people to work. I am willing to sit down with the Minister. I am sure that the Member from the Liberal Party will. We can come up with a reasonable solution to correct the cumbersome drafting of this particular bill, and we can get on with it and pass it. The public sector will feel much more comfortable with an act that they can understand and read.
Hon. Mr. Harding: What the Member is trying to do is obvious. He is trying to create a little delay and rag the puck a bit. That is fine. The Member just voted for the bill in second reading. I told him that when we get to line-by-line debate in second reading, with regard to changing the title of the bill, just to be consistent, we will change the title of the bill to read An Act to Repeal the Public Sector Compensation Restraint Act, 1994. The Interpretation Act is very clear that repealing the bill does not nullify what occurred under its authority while it was in effect, nor does it reinstate that which was in effect before the act came into play. Rollbacks stay rolled back and the Yukon bonus stays as the act amended it.
It is clear that with this legislation we have clarity. Sections 2, 3 and 4 explain the expiry of the agreements, the impact of the legislation and the impact of the repealing of the legislation. I am prepared to bring forward an amendment. The Member wanted an amendment and just voted for the bill at second reading. It is a friendly amendment and changes the title to read, "An Act to Repeal . . ." He obviously has big concerns about this, so we will make it consistent with what the bill actually says. I have no problem doing that, if that will make it clear for everyone. It makes no difference to the effect or nature of the bill if the wording is "amend" or "repeal". That is what I have said and that is the truth of the matter. If the Member wants an amendment, we will do it. The new title will become An Act to Repeal the Public Compensation Restraint Act, 1994. We will make that the new title and make the changes in the pages that the Member refers to as containing those sections.
Mr. Phillips: I appreciate the Minister moving a small way in our direction, but he has not solved my dilemma. He has changed the front page title of the act, but the very next clause in the act, when one turns the page, states that "The Public Sector Compensation Restraint Act, 1994 is repealed." It is not partially repealed - it is repealed. It is gone. In the public's eye, it is gone. Why do we not say, "In the Public Sector Compensation Restraint Act, 1994, certain sections are repealed"? Then one can add in the new sections and we can get on with it. It is not complicated. All I am saying is that we should make the language as clear as possible for people to understand.
A former Minister of Justice under the New Democratic government used to rant and rave about creating legislation that people could read and understand.
It just seems to me that, once we repeal the act in the first clause, there is no point in reading any more of the clauses because the act is gone. I am just asking why do we not, in the first clause, repeal the sections that you do not like and, in the second clause, include the sections that you want to insert and that should solve our problem.
Rather than waste a whole bunch of time on this, I would suggest, as I have before, that if the legal drafters come down to the building, sit down with the Minister over the dinner hour or before we sit down tomorrow at 7:00 and come up with a couple of options that will deal with that, then I am sure this act will get speedy passage in Committee and within a few short minutes it will be ready to be signed by the Commissioner.
Let us not start with the first bill of a new government being one where the drafting is so convoluted that the average person cannot be quite sure what it says or what it does. We can say what it says or what it does, but we are not always going to be here to interpret for somebody. Somebody will pick it up one day and want to read it. Someone might want to challenge it legally one day.
I am not asking a lot from the Minister. I am not trying to be difficult; I am just saying these people can do this very quickly. We did it when we were in government. When the Members opposite made suggestions about some legal drafting, someone would insert a clause or two that would make everyone happy, and we would get on with it. Would the Minister consider doing that?
We have other business we can do right now. It is not going to hold up the House. We can go into the supplementaries and deal with those. When we come back here tomorrow, we can deal with this bill and we can have some discussions, either at House Leader's meetings or afterwards, tomorrow morning, to come to some conclusion on it and hopefully we will reach an agreement and it will go through without any problems.
Hon. Mr. Harding: I will amend the title page for the Member so that it is consistent. I have told him I will do that. The Member opposite just voted for the bill, so I am not going to delay anything.
Mr. Phillips: I voted for the principle of the bill, but I pointed out I had some concerns with the bill. The Minister does not have to get stubborn about it. All I want to do is work with the Minister in finding a solution. If we do not let the legal people sit down and do it, I can assure the Minister that we are going to be here for awhile going over each and every clause of the repeal and amendment act. I am going to have to be satisfied in my mind - and I am sure other Members will have to be satisfied as well - that we are not messing up with this act.
I am not a legal person so it might take a lot of explanation. All I am saying is that, to me, it seems like there is a much simpler way to solve this problem - bring in the legal drafters. We know what we want them to do - take out some sections of the act and leave some in.
Do not repeal the whole act and then leave some paragraphs in, and leave everyone guessing as to whether or not we have an act. This is not a complicated problem, and I do not know why the Minister is being so obstinate about it.
Hon. Mr. Harding: I am not trying to be obstinate. I am here to help the Member. He has asked me to do an amendment, and I am more than happy to change the title page. That was his concern - consistently expressed - and I am more than pleased to accommodate him and make the title page consistent with the content of the bill. I told him whether it is called "An Act to Amend" or "An Act to Repeal," it does not change the effective nature of the bill.
Mr. Phillips: The Minister is talking about the first problem with the bill; the title page. I am talking about the first clause now. It is the clause that says, "The Public Sector Compensation Restraint Act, 1994 is repealed." Something has to be clarified in that clause, as well as some other clauses of the bill. I mean, the bill is either repealed or not repealed. I think that would be important to point out to the general public. If it is repealed, then we should see in front of us a new bill laying out what it is we want to do. If it is simply amended, then we can accomplish exactly the same thing we want to do and that the public service unions want us to do, by making a couple of simple amendments, which I am prepared to present to the Minister in the course of the debate. It is not only the first page, do not get me wrong, that I am concerned with. I am concerned with everywhere in the bill that it says "repealed", when clauses of the bill are still contained in the bill. It does not make any sense.
Hon. Mr. Harding: I have told the Member that I will amend the title page to make it consistent. I also say that the explanations in sections 2, 3 and 4, I believe, are necessary when special provisions of this character arise where a law is abrogated or changed. It is simply very clear on the ending of the period of restraint, the expiry of the agreements and the effect of the repeal.
Mr. Ostashek: I am sorry. I would just like to interject in the debate at this time. We want to be a constructive Opposition. We want to see good legislation in this House, and we are not trying to be difficult about this. I would say to the Member opposite that a good job done has not been done in drafting this bill. I suggest to the Member opposite that if we had brought forward a piece of legislation such as this, all hell would have broken loose on this side of the House. We would have taken it back and amended it, which we did with lots of legislation. I looked at a lot of the acts we brought in and sat down in Committee with the Leader of the Official Opposition of the day and the Leader of the Liberal Party and, on occasion, with the independent Member of this House and added amendments. In fact, I remember the Members opposite, when they were in Opposition, saying once that they had a tremendous session because they got 23 amendments through.
That is what government is all about - trying to reach a consensus. I hear so much from that side of the House about reaching a consensus. Yet, when we point out that we have a very poorly drafted bill, the Member is being very difficult.
I will give the Member some options, and I hope he takes them seriously. I personally have no difficulty with the Member either amending the Public Sector Compensation Restraint Act, 1994 or repealing it. However, what we ought to do with this or any legislation that comes into this House is be consistent.
The Member opposite said he would agree to change the title page. First of all, that would give me some difficulty because this bill was introduced into this Legislature as An Act to amend the Public Sector Compensation Restraint Act, 1994. We went through second reading of this bill today, An Act to Amend the Public Sector Compensation Restraint Act, 1994, and approved it in principle. We also pointed out to Members opposite that we had some difficulty with the drafting of this bill.
I am not even sure of the legalities of our debating a bill to amend the Public Sector Compensation Restraint Act, 1994, then changing the title page, when it was never on the Order Paper, and saying that we agreed at second reading. I think we are talking about a different title for the act, and I may need clarification from the Chair on that.
Let me go further, to try to expedite the debate on this. Then we get to the title on page 2, which is An Act to Repeal the Public Sector Compensation Restraint Act, 1994. Okay. Fine. If the Member's desire is to repeal this act, and we agree to change the title page to An Act to Repeal the Public Sector Compensation Restraint Act, 1994, and it is a legal process under the rules of this Legislature - which I will need some direction on - that is fine. Then we will have two clauses out of the way.
Then, as my colleague pointed out, we come to clause 1 of the act, which says, "The Public Sector Compensation Restraint Act, 1994 is repealed." We then go on to talk about ending the period of restraint. We do not say anything about what will happen, but we talk about amending.
If we want to clean this act up, and if the Members are hung up on the word "repeal", I have no difficulty with that. However, I believe that clause 1 should then say that sections 2, 3, 4 and 5 of this act are repealed, and inserted with the following sections. Perhaps they do not even need to be inserted, because that ends the freeze on collective bargaining. Perhaps if we just repealed those sections, one could automatically go back to collective bargaining without inserting anything.
If we turn to section 4, 4(1) says "Words and expressions in this Act have the same meaning as they have in the Public Sector Compensation Restraint Act, 1994", but clause 1 says there is no such act any more; it has been repealed. So what are we talking about?
Then it goes on, in section 4(2), "The provisions of sections 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 and 11 of the Public Sector Compensation Restraint Act, 1994 shall be continued ..." Again, we are continuing clauses in an act that has been repealed.
If the Member is hung up on the word "repeal", then I ask him to consider going back to his legal drafting people and repeal the sections of the act that he wants repealed and then insert the new sections in that act. I will not have any difficulty with that. Or if in fact we are going to amend the act, then let us amend it. We are going to have the same results in the end. If the Members opposite are hung up on the wording, I personally do not have any difficulty with it, but I just ask that we be consistent in what we are doing through the act.
Hon. Mr. Harding: This is obviously payback time and the Members are exacting some chuckles as they decide they are going to put this rookie Minister through some paces. I will just say that I will be consistent. I have said I will put an amendment forward to change the title page to "An Act to Repeal . . ." which has no effect on the bill, the Public Sector Compensation Restraint Act, 1994, so that it is consistent. I have indicated a legal basis for that and I do not know what more I can do. It is obvious what this is all about, and that is fine.
Mr. Cable: I think we all know what we want to do. We want to get rid of the legislation and we want to put the $10 million or whatever it is on the bargaining table. We may also want to put pension rights on the bargaining table. We should be able to quite easily come to some sort of solution to the problem. If, in fact, there is some considerable doubt in the minds of people who have read the bill as to what it means, I do not see why we cannot deal with it.
I ask the Minister: is he prepared to consider adding at the end of clause 1 the verbiage, "except as is set out herein"? That seems to be a fairly useful addition that will clarify, for the Members who are raising the points, that the repeal is partial.
I do not see any loss of face for anybody by actually moving to address the concerns that have been raised.
Hon. Mr. Harding: I am doing that. The Member has pointed out some concerns, and I have said that I will change the title page so that it is consistent. The proposal from the Member would not change the issue in any way. I do not think it is necessary. I thought the amendment we proposed was reasonable. The effective date of the retroactivity for the public sector is dependent upon the Opposition's willingness to pass this bill. However long they may want to rag the puck is up to them. I will amend the title page so that it is clear and consistent.
Mr. Cable: It does not respond to the suggestion. Is there any possible objection to that clarification - I asked the Minister that - other than the fact that we all want to be mutually obstinate on this issue?
Hon. Mr. Harding: The Member's suggestion would imply that the bill is not repealed. It is repealed. Therefore, that suggestion is not something that should be undertaken, because the bill is being repealed and not "except" anywhere. Sections 2, 3 and 4 set out the effect of the repeal, just to give it clarity. The Member's suggestion - although I will thank him for it - is not consistent with the bill, which is the repealing of the bill. That is why it would not work. What would work, however, is to amend the title page. Yesterday the Yukon Party Opposition said that it thought we would change the title to "An Act to Amend". However, I am saying "no"; we are going to change it to "An Act to Repeal". That is what we are going to do. I think that we should get back to the bargaining table, get on with this debate and proclaim this legislation.
Mr. Cable: That is what we all want to do.
Is the Minister saying that he has received advice that the concerns that have been raised by the Official Opposition have no merit? Is he prepared to share that advice with us? Is he prepared to go on the record that at some juncture in the future, if a smart, young lawyer representing some civil servants should tackle the act, it is bullet-proof?
Hon. Mr. Harding: As much as I would like to table a legal opinion, I have not done it because it is not something that is done here, even though I also probably asked for a legal opinion several times when I was in Opposition. I am keeping the practice alive that was conducted by previous governments - conservative, NDP, or whatever.
I did give the basis for the argument of Justice, which is the Yukon Interpretation Act, and I have received subsequent confirmation of that. The difference between the title page saying "amending" or "repealing" gives no effective change to the bill.
All that I can say is that, on my honour, this is what I have been told. That is the section I have been given. To give the Member the precise opinion would be setting a precedent that I do not really want to set. That is the reason. I am, without a doubt, very clear in my mind that our suggestion to simply change the title page is consistent with the provisions of the bill. That would clear up any inconsistency pointed out by the Opposition.
I suspect that this is less about inconsistencies than giving a hard time to the Minister that kept the Members on the floor probably longer than they would have liked when I was in Opposition.
Mr. Phillips: Let me assure the Minister that, despite his whining, I am not trying to keep him on the floor for the sake of keeping him on the floor.
We are all trying to accomplish the same thing. We are all making suggestions. We sometimes become our own worst enemies in this business. It all boils down to one word, that being "repeal". We could amend this thing and accomplish exactly what the Minister said he would do for unions and the groups out there that want us to go back to the bargaining table. We could do exactly that. It would not change a thing.
Somebody said publicly that they would repeal it; the Government Leader said publicly - at F.H. Collins school - that he would amend it. By the sound of it, we are not going to get too far on this thing. We are going to be here for a while discussing it, because I am still not totally satisfied with the explanation that the Minister is giving me. It is a very simple bill. Why can we not just ask our legal people to go back and look at some other options.
The Member for Riverside had an option that might work. I have suggested a couple of other options. We could come back to this House tomorrow and deal with the bill. I am sure that we can come up with an agreement that we can all live with, keeping in mind that these laws are not necessarily for the lawyers of the world, but for the public. It is so that the public can read them, understand them and know what they mean.
I would like to see us come back with a simple solution to this problem. We all know where we want to go. I think that there is enough legal expertise in the Department of Justice that it can crank this thing out and have it here by tomorrow. Then we can get on with it.
Hon. Mr. Harding: I have told the Member I will amend the title page to deal with any inconsistencies pointed out. I would like to move this through. The Members have just voted for the bill, and I would like to get it into third reading and get through the business we have to get through, so we can get back to the bargaining table.
The Liberal Member asked if I would table a legal opinion. I will table page 2 and some speaking notes from Justice, which might give him some clarification. It is not a precise legal opinion, but it is an explanation from Justice. I will be glad to table that for the Member, as it might give some clarity to some of the concerns raised by the Official Opposition.
I am willing to work cooperatively with the Opposition. By proposing the amendment to the title page of the bill in line-by-line debate, any concerns can quickly be resolved.
Mr. Phillips: Just so I am clear, is the Minister proposing changes in more than one area of the bill, or is it just the title page? What changes is the Minister contemplating?
Hon. Mr. Harding: I have said consistently to the Member that we will propose to amend the title page of the bill to read An Act to Repeal the Public Sector Compensation Restraint Act, 1994, so it is entirely consistent with the bill.
I will just read the speaking notes on page 2 into the record.
"Sections 2, 3 and 4 are not dependent upon the Public Sector Compensation Restraint Act, 1994, for their existence. They stand alone as part of the repeal. They state the consequences of the repeal.
"The first, section 2, staggers the ending of the period of restraint for the three classes of employees on which the restraint was being imposed by the act being repealed, but does not amend the act being repealed. The second, section 3, parallels section 2 in staggering the end of collective agreements, but again does not amend the act. The third, section 4, provides that words in the repealing bill will have the same meaning as they did in the one being repealed. It also provides that certain provisions of the repealed act will continue until replaced by provisions of collective agreements or government policy decisions", as would be the case with Cabinet employees, the class-three employees.
"In his Composition of Legislation, (Ottawa, Department of Justice, 1976), Professor Elmer Driedger, the dean of Canadian legislative drafting, notes at page 180 that "The necessity for special provisions of this character arises where a law is abrogated or changed." The repeal of the act without these transitional provisions may cause some uncertainty.
"If there is a transitional provision included in this bill which could be thought of amending the act that is being repealed, it would be section 4(2). However, it simply states in the same manner as the act now does what is to happen at the end of the periods of restraint and does not amend the act. Instead, it merely provides for an orderly transition."
I think that is a reasonable way of doing things, so we will amend the title page so that it is consistent, just to clear up any inconsistencies that might be of concern to the Opposition.
Mr. Jenkins: Like a lot of Members in this House, I am relatively new. I do have a little background in municipal regulations and drafting municipal bylaws, and I have spent a good deal of time reading the existing acts of this government.
Good government is based on good legislation. It has to flow smoothly. It has to be logical and it has to remove any uncertainty in its interpretation. We are all in agreement as to the intent and purpose of this bill, but this flip-flop back and forth between "amend" and "repeal" raises that uncertainty. It raises that uncertainty to the point where it is cause for concern, not just for myself but for anyone to whom I have given this proposed act to read and interpret. Just give it to a lay person and say, "Read this and tell me what you feel it says," and one will get something clearly different relayed back from what is being proposed. Yes, we have a legal opinion or some speaking notes, and it would appear, as the Hon. Member for Riverside stated earlier, we are probably going to end up creating a pension plan for lawyers if we continue drafting this type of legislation.
The last clause in any act that is put forward is a clause repealing the previous legislation. Why can we not do it in a consistent way, in the way all other acts are drafted.
I can only see one answer: we are just fulfilling a political promise. I think we have to look beyond that. We have to get the job done. The job we have to address, as MLAs, is bringing forward logical, easy to understand and easy to interpret legislation. The ball is in Mr. Harding's court. I know the Minister can do it. He might need some advice from the legal people, but it is there to be had. I am prepared to support it, as long as it flows smoothly, accomplishes what is intended, is easy to understand, read and interpret and will not come back to haunt us all one or two years down the road.
Hon. Mr. Harding: I thank the Member for his comments, but I would indicate to him that he already has supported the bill; he just voted for it.
With regard to the flip-flop that he spoke about, I have said that I would make it consistent. The Members have raised a good point. The title page should include the word "repeal". It does not make any difference to the nature or effect of the bill, but I agree that, in order for the lay person to understand it, we will change the title page. The ball is actually in the court of the Opposition. I have said that the government would be prepared to do that, based on the comments the Members opposite have made. I am ready. I would like to get it through, go to third reading, get the bill proclaimed and get back to the collective bargaining table.
The Members are going to exact a bit of political fun at the expense of this Minister and those people who have had their bargaining rights denied for some time. I cannot stop that.
Ms. Duncan: I am another rookie in the Legislature. I understood that my job was to come here and represent the views and questions of my constituents. This was raised consistently throughout the election campaign.
I wonder if the Minister could help me out with a question that I know my constituents will ask. One of the side effects of the previous Public Sector Compensation Restraint Act was the effect on pensions, and this individual's pension in particular. After reading this legislation, I am not clear if the base for his pension rights is on the table for collective bargaining or not?
Hon. Mr. Harding: I thank the Member for her question. I am happy to tell her that the position we are taking now is the same as the one we consistently took throughout the election campaign. We stated it dozens of times. All issues pertaining to the rollbacks, pensions and Yukon bonuses are free to be put on the table by the bargaining agents who represent the YTA and the Public Service Alliance of Canada.
It comes down to the negotiating mandate and bargaining in good faith. I am sure that the bargaining agents will put forth the priorities of their respective memberships on the table, and the issues that are of great concern to them will come forth at the negotiations. There will be collective bargaining and they will be bargaining in good faith. I hope the parties will come together with the result that a collective agreement is passed by a democratic vote of the respective memberships, and then we can put this sorry chapter behind us.
Ms. Duncan: I want to be absolutely crystal clear; the way this legislation is written seems to indicate that the $10 million is back on the table.
Hon. Mr. Harding: To be absolutely crystal clear with the Member, that is up to the bargaining agents, not the government. The legislation does not speak to the provisions of the rollback legislation other than to say that we are now going to go back to collective bargaining. What the legislation does is re-establish the process.
There were people who phoned in all the time on radio phone-in shows saying, "Will you reinstate the two percent?" or "Will you get the Yukon bonus back?"
We have always said we would not discuss the individual items. When we decided what we were going to do and we were talking about the legislation, I met with the Yukon Teachers Association and the Public Service Alliance of Canada representatives, and there were questions put to me on the Yukon bonus and restoring the rollbacks. I said those were matters for discussion at the bargaining table, that there would be a mandate for each side in the negotiations. They will come together and bargain. Priorities will move to the forefront. Things that are perhaps important, but cannot be accommodated with respect to the taxpayer, may move to the back - not that government employees are not taxpayers as well, but we have to be cognizant that we have to consider everyone's needs in this equation.
To be crystal clear with the Member, all of those issues - the issues of pensions, rollback reinstatement, the Yukon bonus - are free for the unions, if they wish - YTA and PSAC - to be put on the table to negotiate. Anything could be part of a settlement, any reinstatement of benefits, or whatever.
Ms. Duncan: We voted, and everyone in this House spoke about restoring collective bargaining. What I heard the Minister say is that the way this legislation is written, he is not just restoring collective bargaining and saying, "Yes, we will talk about everything"; he is turning the clock back and saying that everything the previous administration took away is back on the table. That is what I am hearing him say, because of the way this legislation is written.
Hon. Mr. Harding: No, that is not the case. What this legislation does is to repeal the Public Sector Compensation Restraint Act, 1994. It sets out the dates, the period of restraint, and it talks about the terms of the legislation. When the Member uses the reference "on the table", that is an expression I have used to the unions for whatever they want to do. I am not going to impose anything on them. If they want to propose a 50-percent wage hike, that is on the table - they are going to put it on the table, not the government. That is collective bargaining. They come with a list of proposals; they put them on the table. I am not going to say to them before we even sit down, "Well, you can put this on the table, but you cannot put that on the table." They are free. It is free, collective bargaining. They can propose whatever they want. We are not pre-judging what they want to do. That is all I am saying.
Mr. Jenkins: The story is gradually evolving and unfolding. Why does Mr. Harding not put on the table what he is trying to say? I know what I voted for. I voted to restore collective bargaining. That is what I want to see occurring. I have no quarrel with that. Let us get back to it, and as soon as possible.
However, what I have just heard now is that all of the issues are back on the table, right from when the wage restraint legislation was brought in, and this is all subject to re-negotiation - the Yukon bonus, the pension, the two-percent wage rollback.
Has the Minister given careful consideration to the cost this could ultimately incur? As nearly as I have been advised, we are looking at about a $10 million bill if everything were put in place retroactively. On top of that, add whatever increases are negotiated - even a cost-of-living allowance clause will add to it significantly.
We are here to manage the affairs of Yukon. We are here to manage the affairs in a prudent and diligent manner.
We have to keep an eye on expenditures as well as revenues, and revenues are not increasing. I just do not know where the Minister is leading us and a lot of this confusion here this afternoon has to deal with the fact that we have two words in there, and those two words, "amend" and "repeal", both mean different things. Both are going to be interpreted differently by the lay person who reads this act. The expectations of everyone out there who reads this act, if it is put forward in the manner that the Minister is advancing, are going to be beyond reason. It is going to cost this government a great deal of money. It is not a bottomless pit.
Trevor can sit there and laugh and joke about it.
Chair: Order please. The Member shall -
Mr. Jenkins: My apologies, Mr. Chairman. They can make jokes about this but it is foolish to be making jokes. We are here to provide good government and good government is based on good legislation, but that is not the case with this piece of legislation the Minister has brought forward.
I would like to see him take it back, sit down with his legal beagles, and bring back this legislation in a format that can be understood very, very easily and is quite succinctly explained to all of us.
Hon. Mr. Harding: The reason I chuckled is because I am surprised at how quickly the new Member is willing to join in with his colleagues to rag the puck. There is nothing confusing coming from this side of the House. I proposed an amendment. The Member just said that the words "amend" and "repeal" are in the act. I suggested changing the title page so that the word "amend" would not be in it any more. That should satisfy the Members' concern but obviously the concern is not being expressed in a legitimate fashion. As to his points about restoring the action of the Yukon Party in the wage restraint act have been cleared up. I have told him that this bill does not do that in any way, shape or form. That is what sections 2, 3 and 4 explain clearly to the Member, if he would care to read them. We know $10 million was taken away from government employees. We know it has all been spent. So we were very clear and concise in the drafting of this bill and also in the election campaign to ensure that we said we would bargain in good faith with our employees and we would restore a process. That is what the Members voted for and that is what this bill does.
Mr. Phillips: I just want to follow up with some of the other Member's questions about the starting point of this bill.
We are all agreed that we should go back to collective bargaining. My question is a fairly simple one: are we going back to collective bargaining as of December 1996? Is that where everyone is going to start from with their pensions, wages, travel bonuses and everything else? Or, are we going back to collective bargaining as of 1993, so that instead of what they would normally look at as probably a two- or three-year agreement, we would possibly be looking at a five- or six-year agreement that would include the retroactive three years. Is the government considering a retroactive agreement with respect to the two percent and the changes that were in the wage restraint legislation?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Section 2 of the bill says that for category 1 employees - that is the Public Service Alliance of Canada - the period of restraint ends the day this act comes into force. Once they get that notice, they can serve notice to collectively bargain and can start the process of bargaining. If they make any gains, it is retroactive to the date this act comes into force. It is something I would like to bring into force as quickly as possible, but it appears that I am going to get a bit of a ride from the Members opposite. That is fine.
The Member heckles, "Quit your snivelling." I am not snivelling. I love the Legislature. I am so happy to be back here that I could scream. Nonetheless, I would like to see the Members accept the fact that I am going to remove any inconsistencies on the title page, remove the word "amend" from this debate, and get the bill through so that, as section 2(1) says, get this act proclaimed and in force so the parties can serve notice to get back to the table. For category 2 employees, section 2(2) says, ". . . the period of restraint shall be deemed to have ended as of the end of June 30, 1996." That is consistent with what the Yukon Party election promise was as well. Category 3 employees are not governed by a collective agreement, but they are governed by an order-in-council. That period of restraint will have been deemed to have ended as of March 31, 1996, or some other time as there is an order-in-council to change their pay scale.
Mr. Cable: One thing I find curious is the reticence we have to seek legal opinions. They are clearly out of bounds in Question Period in certain areas, but when we are talking about a bill, one would think that the opinions of the drafters of it would be useful for the Members to look at in terms of finding out exactly what the verbiage means. I will not get into a long, involved argument about it, because it would involve me reading Beauchesne and a bunch of other learned tomes. However, we need some assurance that the Minister has taken some advice in a number of critical areas.
My conversations with those Members who are raising the concerns would lead me to believe that they are not just bouncing them off the Minister because he was so aggressive over the last four years. They have some genuine concerns - absolutely. We are going to need some assurances that he has taken some legal advice and that the $10 million cannot come home to roost on the taxpayers whom the Minister represents.
I would like to hear, before this debate is over - it is obviously not going to finish this afternoon - his assurances that he has spoken to the Department of Justice lawyers who drafted the bill, and anyone else down there who wants to give an opinion, that there will be no chance of any success for anyone to come along two years from now and claiming retroactive pay. The retroactivity of the bill is an issue that has to be considered. We would not be doing our job if we did not satisfy ourselves as to that issue.
If it is the government's intention to pay back the $10 million, it should be known. It is just one of the many issues that may arise and about which we need to be satisfied.
I do not think we are harassing the Minister or making his life difficult. We are trying to get a bill that we all understand.
Hon. Mr. Harding: It is not my life that is being made miserable. I am really happy to be back in the House. The right of the Public Sector Alliance of Canada, to go back to the table depends on when this bill passes the House. If Members want to hold it up for administrivia, that is fine.
I have already said - I am being heckled by the non-confrontational Opposition and I am trying to speak - that it was checked out by the Legislative Review Committee. There were lawyers there. I asked all the questions about the rollbacks, the positions and commitments we made in the election campaign and whether or not the legislation was consistent to ensure that our commitment to re-establish a process was there. Absolutely and totally, this is a bill that repeals, as we stated, the Public Sector Compensation Restraint Act, 1994. When I said to them that I wanted to be sure, as I had said in the election campaign that we would not be prejudging the outcome of the negotiations or committing to reinstating rollbacks, they said it honoured that as well.
They said that it indeed did that. So, I have sought legal advice from the Legislative Review Committee - the drafters and lawyers. All of those questions were asked and answered. That is my advice from the lawyers.
Mr. Cable: Other than rather synthesized questions on my feet, let us put to the Minister some written questions, either in letter form or in written question form. We are not going to finish the debate today. After we have had an opportunity to fully articulate the questions, and if the Minister says he has taken advice and the repealing statute does not in fact cause the concerns that were raised, then I do not see any problem with supporting the bill.
Hon. Mr. Harding: I stand ready to move an amendment for the title page. If the Member wants to bring forward some written questions, I will be happy to have them answered by the department - no problem. Let us just get back to the bargaining table.
Mr. Ostashek: It appears that the Minister has his hackles up and feels he is going to be embarrassed if he should have to make amendments to this bill. That is unfortunate, because none of us has all of the answers. We accepted a lot of amendments from the Opposition if, in fact, we thought it would clarify or strengthen a bill without compromising its integrity.
I say to the Member opposite, in an effort to try and work together, that we are not compromising the integrity of his bill with the amendments we are requesting. What we are trying to do is to get a bill that is in simple language and that Yukoners can understand.
When he was on his feet for the question before last, I think the Member - whether by design or inadvertently - gave us the key to what the problem is behind this. He said the question was put to the drafters about whether or not this bill would meet all of the NDP election commitments. It seems to me that that was the priority in the Minister's mind, and not whether or not the bill was properly drafted for this Legislature.
The speaker notes they give us here are lawyer talk. It is not a legal opinion that the bill will stand up or anything else. It is just a bunch of gobbledegook that lawyers get paid big money to put out.
While we put out a press release yesterday saying that the bill was poorly drafted, we sincerely believe that. In fairness, the Minister is a very new minister, and I am sure that the legislation will get better - at least, I hope it does - but let me ask the Minister a question. He has agreed to amend the title page. Is he prepared to amend clause 1 of the act where it says, "The Public Sector Compensation Restraint Act, 1994 is repealed." Is he prepared to amend that to say what sections of the act are being repealed, and that the ones he does not mention will automatically remain in effect? Is he prepared to do that, before I go on?
Hon. Mr. Harding: The commitment has been made to change the title page. Sections 2, 3 and 4 clearly explain the effect of the repeal. I do not think page 2, which I gave to the Members, is legal gobbledegook. It is pretty clear to me, anyway, and I will not comment further on the Member thinking it is too confusing. Let me just say that I am prepared to propose an amendment to the bill to change the title page, and I think that will clear up any discrepancy between the words "amend" and "repeal". We said we would repeal it. We said that consistently, and I have said that in all my discussions with the people of the Yukon, and we have said it in all discussions within the department.
It is clear that we will amend the title page, so let us get this bill through and let us get back to the table.
Mr. Ostashek: That is unfortunate. We are not asking the Member opposite to accept our amendments. We are asking him to go back and draft his own amendments, but we need some clarification on this bill.
I want to point out to the Member opposite that, by the very short 40 minutes or so of debate that we have had on this bill already, it is pretty clear to the Member that there are some confusing aspects to this bill that even the people in this Legislature do not understand.
There are people in this Legislature who have had some chance to deal with legislation during their tenure. The Member for Riverdale ... I am sorry. Dawson. Heaven forbid - Riverdale ... The Member from Dawson has had experience at the municipal level and the Hon. Member for Porter Creek South has worked in political offices before and has dealt with a lot of legislation. This bill is very unclear. We have a lawyer in this House, my colleague to my left. None of us on this side of the House are clear about what this legislation really means.
All we are asking the Minister to do is not stand there and say, "I am satisfied that it does that", and "I am satisfied that it does this." It does not do this or that because he has not been clear on that. If, in fact, the other sections of the act remain in place, section 4(2) for example: "The provisions of sections 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 and 11 of the Public Sector Compensation Restraint Act, 1994 ..." which he has repealed with clause 1, he is talking about sections of an act that no longer exist. Can he please tell me how clear that is?
I just want to make my point. It "shall be continued or altered, by whatever process is in effect for the continuation or alteration of the collective agreement, or other contract, or policy governing employment by the government."
I think that clause is causing some concern for me and for Members opposite as to what that clause really means. One interpretation I could put on that clause is that what the Minister is asking for is a blank cheque from this Legislature saying that those clauses will remain in effect, but he is going to have the ability to bargain those clauses away at the bargaining table and then come back for an after-the-fact amendment to the Legislature. Is that in fact what the Member opposite means by that clause?
Hon. Mr. Harding: The title page is administrivia. The change is not consistent with the actual naming of the bill with the word "repeal". With regard to the effect on this bill, there is none. I have been crystal clear about what this bill does. It re-establishes a process. There is no commitment on behalf of our government as to the restoration of rollbacks. The legislation says that. I cannot be any more clear. I would be willing to implement an amendment to change the title page to read, An Act to Repeal the Public Sector Compensation Restraint Act, 1994 instead of "amend". I am just trying to get this bill through. It will do exactly what we want it to do. It is going to do exactly what I hope the Members opposite want it to do - that is, allow the Public Sector Alliance of Canada and the Yukon Teachers Association to return to the table. It is crystal clear, but if Members opposite want to continue to do this, then they may.
Mr. Ostashek: The Minister is not being crystal clear. Everyone in this House has agreed. We voted in principle at second reading to go back to collective bargaining.
The Minister just went through another tirade about changing the title page, but he did not answer the question: what is the meaning of clause 4(2)? What is its intent? I need clarification on that, and there is no way I am going to support this bill until I get clarification on that clause.
Hon. Mr. Harding: I just sent over a letter from Justice explaining exactly what section 4 does. The third section 4 provides that words in the repealing bill will have the same meaning as they did in the one being repealed. It also provides that certain provisions of the repeal act will continue until replaced by provisions of collective agreements or government policy decisions.
They even went so far as to quote some precedent for the Member that says, "The necessity for special provisions of this character arise where a law is abrogated or changed. The repeal of the act without these transitional provisions may cause some uncertainty."
There is even a further explanation. The Member has his answer.
Mr. Ostashek: I thank the Member for that, and that is exactly what is bothering Members over here. If one looks at the last clause of the explanation given by the drafters, if there is a transitional provision included in the bill, which could be thoughts of amending the act that is being repealed, it would be section 4(2). It is a transitional provision that these people have instilled in this bill. However, it simply states, in the same manner as the act now does, what is to happen at the end of the period of restraint. It does not amend the act. Instead, it merely provides for an orderly transition.
Unless I am given legal advice that is different, I believe that means that the Minister is asking for the ability to take a piece of legislation that was voted on in this House, which has clauses 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 and 11, which would still be in effect after we pass the repeal or amendment to the restraint act, and give him the ability to go to the bargaining table and bargain away those clauses without the authority of this Legislature. Am I not correct?
Hon. Mr. Harding: That is quite silly.
There is going to be an attempt to go to the bargaining table and freely negotiate and bargain in good faith. It is hoped that there will be a negotiated settlement. That is the intent of this legislation - nothing more.
Mr. Ostashek: That is exactly what we agree with. We do not have any difficulty with that. However, we need it to be clear in this legislation.
Sections 6, 7, 8, 9 10 and 11 deal with the Yukon bonus. If we are going back to the table to negotiate a new Yukon bonus, then we will be negotiating outside of the confines of this act, or we have, by this clause, subtly changed this clause to a transitional clause until such time as they are bargained away. That is the way I read clause 4(2) of this act.
I do not know if I am prepared to give the government that sort of a blank cheque when I do not know if it is going to come back here after the fact and say, "Well, we have bargained those away, because that is what this says, and now those clauses will be changed." It certainly does. I want to point out to the Minister - and I see the Government Leader frowning over there - if we had brought in a piece of legislation like this when they were in Opposition, we would have never heard the end of it.
All we are asking for is some clarity in this legislation. We all want to get back to collective bargaining.
It is free collective bargaining, but if the Minister wants to negotiate the Yukon bonus again, then rescind that clause. Go ahead and put in a clause. The Minister can do it without subjecting himself to the $10 million. Repeal those clauses and put new clauses in, stating that it cannot be retroactive. If the Minister wants to negotiate a new collective agreement, let us be up-front with the people. That is all we are asking. Also, let us be very simple and very clear to the Members of this Legislature who, I believe, have raised some very valid points today. We are not trying to be obstructionists. We are trying to get a piece of legislation - I know the new Minister has got his hackles up because he is thinking we are trying to belittle him, and he is not prepared to bend. He is going to be as obstinate as a Minister as he was in Opposition. Well, that is unfortunate, because he has a lot more responsibility as a Minister of this government. I believe that he should be a little more agreeable. We are not asking to change the intent or the integrity of his piece of legislation. What we do want is clarification and simplification. Can the Minister reply to that, please?
Hon. Mr. Harding: My hackles are not up, and I am not being obstinate. I have told the Members that I am going to propose an amendment to change the title page so that it says "An Act to Repeal the Public Sector Compensation Restraint Act, 1994".
As to what may or may not be negotiated, I refuse to prejudge what the outcome of the negotiations will be. Perhaps the Member does not understand free collective bargaining and perhaps that is the reason they brought in the wage restraint legislation in 1994 in the first place. Free collective bargaining means just that. There is no prejudgment. If the parties want to put some changes to the Yukon bonus on the table, it will be negotiated, and it will be negotiated in good faith. I do not know what the outcome will be, but it will be negotiated in good faith. I can promise that.
Mr. Phillips: I wonder if the Minister could consider this. We are almost at the end of our day here today and we are obviously going to still be on this tomorrow. A couple of suggestions have been made - one by the Liberal leader about changing clause 1 and making a couple of minor changes. The Government Leader suggested a similar change to clause 1. That does not change the intent of the act. It gets us back to collective bargaining right away. It just gives some comfort to the people that we are not repealing the whole act, but are just repealing the sections that we want to repeal, and it is just more consistent.
Perhaps the Member could come back tomorrow with his amendment on that clause, which would not change the intent of the act, but I am sure the Justice people or the Public Service Commission people could look at the suggestions made by the Government Leader here today and the Leader of the Opposition and come back with something. Perhaps the parties concerned can meet a little earlier tomorrow and sort this thing out, and then come in here and have a quick vote on it, and everybody will be happy, and they can get on with the negotiations.
I think that is a reasonable solution. Nobody is trying to pick on this Minister.
One should be aware that when one takes on the responsibility of a Minister of this government and sponsors bills in the House, Members will ask questions. Sometimes there are simple answers to the questions and sometimes the answers are more complicated. This is one that is a little more complicated, along with the mistake that was made on the cover page. We all know that. We have heard it from the Minister about 15 times now, so we do not need to hear it again. What we are talking about is making the bill more readable for the general public. If the Member could take that constructive suggestion back to his people and return tomorrow, maybe we can deal with it.
Another question I would like the Minister to answer for me tomorrow, as well, has to do with the format of this bill, as opposed to the format of other bills brought into the House. In most cases, in the bills that come into the House - especially in the case of a bill being repealed - the clause talking about the bill being repealed is about the last clause on the last page. It says, "Bill such and such is repealed." I just wonder what the reason was for wandering from the standard format, so to speak, that the New Democratic Party used for years when it was in government and that the Yukon Party used for years when it was in government. When a bill was repealed, all of the new clauses were laid out, and some of them included some of the clauses from the old bill. Then it was stated, "The bill is repealed." I do not know why this was not done that way.
That might have made it a lot simpler for all of us. It would not have been any thicker than this, and we would probably have been out of here an hour and one-half ago.
If the Member could come back tomorrow with answers to those questions, I would appreciate it. I would plead with the Member to swallow his pride, meet with some legal people and see if any of the suggestions made here today could make the bill a little easier to understand for people but accomplish the same thing we all want to accomplish, which is to get back to the bargaining table.
Hon. Mr. Harding: I want to tell the Member this has nothing to do with pride. The bill that is before them, with a minor change to the administrivia - the title page - makes it consistent with what we said we would do, makes it consistent with the concerns that have been raised by the Members opposite, and makes it consistent with our election commitments to negotiate in good faith with our employees. The Members opposite just voted for this. That is the bizarre thing about this debate. We just had a standing vote, where they all stood up and said they agreed with this bill.
I proposed a friendly amendment to the bill. The Members opposite were not satisfied with that, so I gave them a written response from Justice to deal with those issues. They were not satisfied with that. Unfortunately, the provisions of this bill do not come into effect until it has passed through this House. If the Members want to delay the passing, it is up to them. In particular, the Yukon Party has delayed the passage of the entrance back into collective bargaining for far too long.
It now appears that they want to invoke clauses into the collective bargaining process and once again abrogate the right to free, collective bargaining, and prejudge it. That is not what we want to do. We are going to maintain the commitment that we made to the people.
Mr. Ostashek: This is really unfortunate. We were hoping for a more cooperative Legislature.
I would agree to leave the clauses of the bill as is when the Minister can explain them. However, he has not done a very good job of explaining the clauses today. There is a lot of doubt on this side of the House as to what this bill does. Until we have some satisfaction, he has certainly not moved even an inch in explaining what section 4(2) means. It is a clause that has concerned me from day one. Besides the poor drafting and formatting of the bill, I think it could have been done a lot better.
I would urge the Minister to seriously reflect on his actions in the Legislature today and to seriously consider getting legal advice.
When we get back into Committee on this bill tomorrow night or the next day, he should have some legal advice here with him because he is not explaining anything to us. If he is going to give us the explanations on his own without legal advice, I can see that we are going to be here for a long time.
For the Member to get up and say that we voted for this bill on second reading is partly correct, but every one of us that spoke to the bill said we had difficulty with the formatting of the bill. We said we had difficulty with understanding its clauses. We said we would be talking about amendments when we got into Committee.
We said we agreed to the bill in principle and we do agree in principle. We want to get back to collective bargaining. We just want to understand what we are going to be bargaining for. That is all we want. We need clarification of that and Yukoners need clarification of that because the financial ramifications could be quite extensive. We need to be satisfied that everything is clear.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
The Government Leader says that it is not what it is about. What it is all about is the government being quite clear and up-front about what it wants to do; that is what it is about. If that is its priority, so be it. The people will judge him on that. Let us be up-front about what we are doing.
That is all we are asking - just for some simple legislation here, some simple clauses that are understandable by the person on the street. As my colleague said, a Minister in one of the previous governments was a stickler for that. We tried to carry forward with that trend to have clear and understandable legislation.
Mr. Chair, now being the time, I move you report progress on Bill No. 21.
Motion agreed to
Hon. Mr. Harding: 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. McRobb: The Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 21, An Act to Amend the Public Sector Compensation Restraint Act, 1994, and directed me to report progress on it.
Speaker: You have heard the report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: I declare the report carried.
Hon. Mr. Harding: 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 5:30 p.m.
The following Sessional Papers were tabled December 10, 1996:
Yukon Public Service Staff Relations Board 26th Annual Report, 1995-96 (McDonald)
Yukon Teachers' Staff Relations Board 22nd Annual Report, 1995-96 (McDonald)