Monday, December 16, 1996 - 1:30 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
We will proceed at this time with prayers.
Speaker: We will proceed with the Order Paper.
Introduction of visitors.
Are there any returns or documents for tabling?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Hon. Mr. Keenan: In this case, it is the Minister of Community and Transportation Services, and it gives me pleasure to be able to table the annual report of the Yukon Lottery Commission, 1995-96.
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: I have for tabling the annual report for the Yukon Liquor Corporation, 1995-96.
Petition No. 1 - received
Clerk: Mr. Speaker and hon. Members of the Assembly, I have had the honour to review a petition, being Petition No. 1 of the first session of the Twenty-Ninth Legislative Assembly, as presented by the Hon. Member for Kluane. This petition meets the requirements as to form of the Standing Orders of the Yukon Legislative Assembly.
Speaker: Petition No. 1, accordingly, is deemed to be read and received.
Speaker: Are there any petitions to be presented?
Are there any bills to be introduced?
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 Land Claims Secretariat staff are to be commended for all of their hard work, professionalism and dedication to duty in helping to settle seven of the 14 Yukon First Nation claims over the course of the last four years; and
THAT this House urges the Government of Yukon to recognize in an appropriate fashion that the Land Claims Secretariat staff performed their jobs in an exemplary fashion above and beyond the call of duty in these very challenging negotiations.
Speaker: Are there any statements by Ministers?
Caribou recovery program in Aishihik/Kluane
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: On Friday, the Yukon Fish and Wildlife Management Board and the Alsek Renewable Resources Council released their recommendations on the Aishihik/Kluane caribou recovery program.
The recommendations call for the recovery program to continue as originally planned, including the evaluation that is scheduled to begin in the winter of 1997 at the end of the fifth year of the program.
The board and council also requested that the Department of Renewable Resources fully implement the wolf conservation and management plan of 1992. They identified three priorities that they wanted the government to address. First, they want the government to bring in legislation to protect wildlife habitat. Second, they want greater emphasis placed on non-consumptive wildlife programs. Third, they wanted the government to implement respectful regulations on the hunting of wolves.
Chapter 16 of the Yukon First Nations umbrella final agreement recognizes the Yukon Fish and Wildlife Management Board and local renewable resource councils as primary instruments of fish and wildlife management. The agreement also spells out the obligations of the territorial and First Nations governments as well as the board to maintain wildlife populations at levels sufficient to meet the basic needs level of First Nations harvesters and others.
During the election campaign this fall, this government made a commitment to place a moratorium on this program, to review it, and we have now reviewed the program and sought comments from First Nations and interested parties.
Following a public meeting in Haines Junction on November 25, we sought the specific advice of the Alsek Renewable Resource Council and the Fish and Wildlife Management Board.
I would like to assure this Assembly that the decision of whether or not to continue this program was a very difficult one for me and my colleagues. However, recognizing our legal obligations under the umbrella final agreement, I am announcing today that I am prepared to lift the moratorium and complete the Aishihik caribou recovery program, including the removal and sterilization of a limited number of wolves.
In doing so, I would like to stress that the reduction and sterilization portion of this program will not continue beyond this winter, and the scheduled five-year evaluation will begin this winter and will conclude in the fall of 1998.
In addition, following the five-year evaluation, this government will work with First Nations and interested parties to identify an independent scientific expert to conduct an impartial technical review of this program.
This government also intends to move to implement neglected aspects of the 1992 wolf conservation management plan. Pre-eminent among these is recommendation 7.1, which states: "Future management of caribou, moose and sheep and their habitat in the Yukon must have the objective that populations are not allowed to reach levels where wolf reduction might be considered necessary."
We also respect the three particular elements of the plan that the board and Alsek Renewable Resource Council have identified as priorities and will take steps to implement effective habitat protection in consultation with affected interests; enhance and emphasize non-consumptive wildlife programs, such as wildlife viewing; treat wolves with the same respect as that afforded other big game animals.
It is my intention as Minister of Renewable Resources to work very closely with First Nations, local renewable resources councils and the Yukon Fish and Wildlife Management Board to develop precautionary approaches to manage wildlife. This will involve ongoing consultation and effective planning throughout the territory.
With this approach I am confident that we can deliver programs that will the ensure long-term well-being of Yukon wildlife.
Mr. Ostashek: I would like to commend the Minister for continuing with this very important program, which needs to be completed in the Yukon.
It is unfortunate that politics becomes involved in programs such as this, and it is also unfortunate that the Minister has to jump through hoops to cover the butt of one of his colleagues who made a statement during the last election - without consultation with anybody I might add - that he was going to bring an end to this program - a moratorium; not a two-week moratorium and a review - and then come back to this Legislature with a program that is identical to what has been going on for the past four years.
What the Minister found out was that he was told by the groups to keep his nose out of this, let it run its course and let the review follow as was told to the government four years ago: five years, and then do a review. It is a very important program and I do commend the Minister for having the good sense to continue with it until it is finished.
I want to add that there is absolutely nothing new in the Minister's program. When he talks about having an impartial, independent technical expert review conducted, that review was conducted on the program before it was ever put into place.
That is only a natural follow-through. Many experts looked at the program in an unbiased fashion before it was implemented and passed judgment on it before the previous government went ahead with it. The only thing I have to add to that is that all three political parties in the 1992 election campaign made a commitment to go through with such a program.
Ms. Duncan: I would like to respond to the Minister's announcement with respect to the Aishihik/Kluane caribou recovery program.
The Minister noted that the party now in government pledged, if elected, to place an immediate moratorium on the wolf kill program. In fact, some of the descriptions of the program by Members opposite noted that the economic, social and moral costs of the program were too high and referred to the program as "distasteful".
The immediate moratorium that the government instituted did not fulfill the other part of its election commitment: to consult or to respect the land claim agreement, in particular section 16 recognizing the Yukon Fish and Wildlife Management Board and renewable resource councils as having primary responsibility for wildlife policy.
I would invite the Minister, given that he has noted the term "legal obligations", to indicate whether, in fact, a moratorium was appropriate, given the provisions of the umbrella final agreement.
I would also like to say that I am pleased that the government is prepared to accept the advice recommended by the Yukon Fish and Wildlife Management Board and the Alsek Renewable Resource Council.
The full implementation of the wolf conservation and management plan is important. My review of the plan tells me there are many aspects of it upon which the government could improve the work done to date.
It is also important that the board identified priorities for the Minister. The recommendations to implement effective habitat protection have implications in many areas, and the enhancement to the wildlife viewing program has budget and priority implications for the Department of Renewable Resources. I note that the wildlife viewing program is responsible for such innovations as Swan Haven and I would advise the Minister that we will be watching very, very carefully his progress and direction to the department in this respect.
The government has chosen the best way by recognizing and following the recommendations of the Yukon Fish and Wildlife Management Board and the Alsek Renewable Resources Council. We believe that the recommendations are sound and commend the government for acting upon them.
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: As I said earlier, this decision was a very hard one for us to make. We had a lot of people calling for us to have a close look at what this program was all about, where it was going and where it could go after four years.
The meeting we had in Haines Junction was very successful. People did comment on the fact that we brought many groups together for the first time in four years, sharing ideas and looking at where all the organizations stand in relation to each other. Through it all, we made a decision that was against a lot of our feelings. We put into this decision a way of managing wildlife for the future that is different from the one we are using right now. We have taken into consideration the wolf management plan that was put in place in 1992 and we are looking at implementing the whole program with some reviews built in and also implementing parts of it immediately, which will affect the way the rest of the Aishihik program continues.
With the comments that were made to us, the independent review will be done after the program's completion. After it has been evaluated, an unbiased opinion will be brought in, so that people can have a look at it. With the wolf management program and management of other big game, we must stress that we have proper habitat protection in the Yukon, so that we do not get into the same situation and end up in another wolf control situation like the one we are now doing.
Recreation Act regulations: amendments to
Hon. Mr. Keenan: It gives me pleasure to announce that the Yukon government has approved an order-in-council amending the Recreation Act regulations to first, recognize the emerging communities of Mount Lorne and Upper Liard as local recreation authorities under the Recreation Act, and to allocate appropriate funding to both communities; and second, to revise the recreation funding formula for existing local recreation authorities as outlined in the Towards 2000 report and the branch's 1996-97 operation and maintenance budget.
These amendments address important issues and concerns that were raised as part of an extensive and ongoing sport and recreation program review initiated in the early 1990s.
The sport and recreation branch's Towards 2000 program review, completed in March 1996, has resulted in comprehensive recommendations for improvements to the way in which the branch funds local recreation authorities within unincorporated communities.
The proposed revisions address the unique differences between Yukon unincorporated communities and provide specific recommendations to help balance the existing community recreation funding budget in a more fair and equitable way.
It is important to address the emergence of new unincorporated communities that meet the necessary requirements for funding under the Recreation Act. The communities of Mount Lorne and Upper Liard are advanced in terms of being ready to operate as local authorities for recreation.
These communities are substantially larger than several of the communities presently recognized under the Recreation Act regulations, yet they do not receive any recreation funding.
Because both the communities of Mount Lorne and Upper Liard are near Whitehorse and Watson Lake respectively, their residents benefit from some of the programs and services offered within these larger communities. The Towards 2000 report therefore recommends that the community recreation funding provided to these two emerging communities be less than the funding provided to more isolated local authorities.
Therefore, the government has agreed that Mount Lorne would be eligible for a phased-in maximum funding of $5,310 this year, increasing to $10,620 in 1997-98 and future years. Upper Liard would be eligible for $3,608 this year, increasing to $7,215 in 1997-98 and future years.
These above amounts have already been absorbed within the branch's 1996-97 operations and maintenance budget.
The Towards 2000 sport and recreation program review has also resulted in comprehensive recommendations for improvements to the way in which the sport and recreation branch currently funds local recreation authorities.
The existing funding formula has not been amended in over nine years. Over this period of time, the needs of the unincorporated communities have changed. The current funding formula tends to treat all communities the same, regardless of population, size, and existing recreation infrastructure, programs and services. The smaller communities may receive a disproportionately higher amount of funding per capita than communities with more population, facilities and services.
The proposed revisions to the funding formula to unincorporated communities in the Towards 2000 report address these differences among communities. These revisions help balance the existing community recreation funding budget in a more fair and equitable way among all Yukon unincorporated communities.
Most existing local recreation authorities will have their funding increased. However, funding to Burwash Landing and Destruction Bay will decrease. These decreases will be offset by the discretionary community recreation funding available through the Yukon Lottery Commission. However, to ensure that there is no negative impact on these communities, the decrease in Government of Yukon funding will be phased in 50 percent in 1997-98 and the remainder in the next year.
Further additional amendments to the Recreation Act regulations will be considered in the near future to amend the Yukon Recreation Advisory Committee funding criteria for Yukon sport and recreation groups in accordance with the Sport and Recreation - Towards 2000 report. In addition, the branch will be working closely with the Department of Tourism's arts branch to review changes to the Recreation Act itself, resulting from the separation of the arts branch in April 1992.
As Minister responsible for sport and recreation, I am committed to the growth of Yukon people and communities through the promotion and development of recreation and sport in the Yukon. These amendments to the Recreation Act regulations are an important step in achieving that goal.
Mr. Jenkins: We welcome these additional funds that will be flowing into rural Yukon but, in the scope of things, we are just taking the pie and carving it into smaller slices so the amount of funds flowing through to the respective communities will eventually be reduced. I think the Minister has missed the point. The area that requires attention is the formula that dictates how these monies and funds will be distributed.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I certainly appreciate the comments made by the Member opposite. I am not so sure that it will be a smaller slice of the pie. If it is, it will be done in full consultation with the communities, as will everything we will be doing.
Speaker: This then brings us to the Question Period.
Question re: Alberta Power, management contract
Mr. Ostashek: My question is for the Minister responsible for the Yukon Energy Corporation. As the Minister and most Yukoners are aware, we have a management contract with Alberta Power and the government must give notice by December 31 of this year as to whether the contract is going to be extended, amended or cancelled. I would like to ask the Minister if he could tell this House today what decision has been made by his government on the management contract.
Hon. Mr. Harding: The Member points to a very important decision with regard to how the utility is managed. I know from previous discussions with him , as the former Minister, that he had some concerns about the existing contract. His comments, as the former Minister, are being taken into consideration, as are the comments regarding the consultations that were undertaken this summer, as well as other information we have received from the public and from our own experience with regard to the relationship. A decision has not been finalized yet. The former Minister points out that there are some time lines that have to be respected regarding this contract and the extension or the declaration of annulment. Also, the previous Minister was one who was involved in the extension for another year of the particular contract. We hope to be making a decision very quickly and giving Yukon Electrical the proper indication as to what our intentions are.
Mr. Ostashek: I thank the Minister for that, and I appreciate how difficult a decision this is. The Member is right. I did have some concerns about the present management contract. If we had not had concerns about it, we would not have gone to public consultation to see what the public had to say about it.
I do believe that the Minister has a substantial amount of information on the management contract and should be in a position to make the decision. Do I understand the Minister correctly that a decision will be made prior to December 31, and that there will not be a further extension of the date?
Hon. Mr. Harding: I believe that, to extend the date, would be a decision, just as it was when the previous government made a decision to extend the contract for another year. The Member is quite right. We will be in a position fairly shortly to make the decision. We do have some time lines to respect.
Mr. Ostashek: I thank the Member but he is not being very clear. Are negotiations in fact going on with Alberta Power to extend the date for when the decision has to be made on the new management agreement? Yes or no?
Hon. Mr. Harding: I thank the Member for the question once again. We are exploring options within the confines of government. We are reviewing the consultations undertaken by the previous Minister and, as of right now, we do not have negotiations underway with YECL to negotiate an extension of the current contract. So I guess the answer is no.
Question re: Alberta Power, management contract
Mr. Ostashek: I am very, very concerned. This is a very important piece of business that this new government has to deal with. The decision on this was extended because of an election coming up, and we did come to an agreement with our managers that December 31 would be an adequate date to make this decision so that everybody would know where we were going. December 31 is 15 days away, and I believe Yukoners have a right to know what this government intends to do. Could the Minister tell us, please?
Hon. Mr. Harding: I thank the Member for the question again. Quite a bit has been going on since October 19. There are a lot of things on all of our plates, as Ministers and as policymakers within the commissions, and we have been working in all those areas. I give the Member our assurances that we are also working to come up with some good positioning with regard to the management contract with YECL.
I would also point out that there are other time-line considerations for March 31. The Member ought not worry. There is a December 31 time line for giving some indication as to what our intentions may be for the contract, but all is not lost. We are certainly more than prepared to develop a position and give it to YECL by December 31.
Mr. Ostashek: I am very disappointed in this Minister. It is a major priority for Yukoners. I appreciate that he has a lot on his plate and that there are a lot of decisions that will be ongoing. He will continue to have a lot on his plate. I do not think that is a good enough answer. This should have been a priority item with the Minister and he should be fully aware of what has transpired and what position the government will be taking going into this - whether it is going to renew the contract, cancel it or if it will be looking for amendments for the contract. I am very disappointed that the Minister has not given this a higher priority. Can he tell me why?
Hon. Mr. Harding: I want to point out to the Member - the former Minister - that he took one year to make this decision and did not make it. He has given us roughly six weeks to make this decision and now he is acting like it would be imprudent for us to take our time in terms of deliberating about the matter. I do not think that is fair, but I have been given to expect that from the former Minister.
It is a priority for us to address some of the concerns within the management arrangement. Some of them have been indicated to us by the former Minister himself. We will be making a decision. It is a priority for us. We do want to address some of the concerns with regard to it.
Mr. Ostashek: I find the Minister's comments very interesting. I can just hear the uproar from the Members opposite if we had made such a major decision prior to an election. What we did was do the public consultation so that the incoming government could deal with the issue in a timely manner.
The Minister knows full well that, based on that consultation, on which numerous people commented - not so much in the public meetings, but there were a couple of hundred written responses, I believe - the consensus seemed to be that the people of the Yukon were not so much concerned with who owned or managed the utility as long as energy was reasonably priced. It ought not to be a difficult decision for the Minister to make. It is a political decision that has to be made. I urge the Minister to make that decision and not extend that deadline once again.
Can we have a commitment from the Minister that there will be a decision made before December 31?
Hon. Mr. Harding: The Member stands up and says that it ought not to be a difficult decision. Yet, given the choice, he extended the contract for a year because he said he did not want to make a decision in an election year, even though the decision was initiated some eight months before the election.
We do want to make a decision about this and we do not think that we are going to defer the decision like the former Minister did, but that is an option. I want to say that we are giving this matter priority and we are going to be looking at the consultation that was provided to us.
With regard to the contract, we are going to be taking the former Minister's concerns into consideration during our deliberations. We will be making a decision on that as soon as possible.
Question re: Land tax, mill rates
Mrs. Edelman: My question is for the Minister of Community and Transportation Services.
In A Better Way, it says that the
NDP government, led by Piers McDonald, promised that it would freeze territorial taxes.
There are a lot of frightened people in the Yukon who are worried that the taxes on their land will be going up considerably in this coming year. Is the Minister prepared to honour the promise made during the election campaign?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: We certainly are willing to honour all promises made during the election campaign.
Mrs. Edelman: I am really pleased to hear the Minister say that.
Under the previous government, the lands branch started to reassess the value of land in the Yukon. Apparently, this reassessment is bringing the value of Yukon land closer to market value.
While assessing land closer to its market value is good for people who need to borrow money against their property, it is not good for people on fixed incomes who have no intention of selling their land. For these people, bringing the value of their property up to market value means that they have to pay taxes on the land far beyond what they are able to absorb.
This reassessment means that taxes will be increasing dramatically during the next year. Is the Minister prepared to drop the mill rate in order to reduce the taxes payable next year?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I thank the Member for the question as to whether or not this government is prepared to drop the mill rate. That is a question that is peripheral to this matter. We will be looking at this matter and analyzing the tax rate. As the Member knows, this must be done by April 15.
This government is very interested in having people express their concerns so that, by way of the review process, we might be able to consider those concerns by April 15, and then we can set what the mill rate or tax rate will be at that point in time.
We are going to take all of the information that we can possibly get, including - I encourage people who are affected by these assessments to come to the meetings that we have set up - the government has set up two information meetings. The government is very willing, on a consultative basis, to sit down and listen to the concerns so that when we do go to set the tax rate those concerns will be brought forward and incorporated into it.
Mrs. Edelman: I am really pleased to hear that as well.
The cost of proceedings before the Assessment Appeal Board, which is where people lay their complaints, may be borne by the persons affected by the appeal.
If a significant number of complaints are received in any one area of the Yukon, will the Minister consider bearing the cost of the proceedings, including the possible cost of reassessment of land value?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: We are certainly open to ensuring that people are able to come forth with their ideas.
I am not so sure that I can answer the question about funding them and bearing the costs at this point. I will certainly take it into consideration and try to work out a process that is good for government and is also good for all people. I do not want our government to be perceived as the grinch who stole Christmas, but it is certainly unfortunate that this has to come up at Christmastime. It is a matter of ongoing government business, and I would just like to show that this government is a people's government, elected by the people, and we will be listening and working with the people in all these major decisions.
Thank you very much for your question - my first question in the Legislature.
Question re: Yukon excellence awards
Ms. Duncan: My question is for the Minister of Education.
The Yukon Teachers Association asked all of the parties prior to the election call to respond to a series of questions. It printed the responses to these questions in their newsletter. The NDP response to a question on the Yukon excellence awards was that there is nothing fair nor sensible about this special award of money. That was a position put forward by the now Government Leader on behalf of the NDP.
Is this still the position of the government?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: The position of the government is to stand by the commitments that the Government Leader and the candidates made during the election campaign. On the question of the Yukon excellence awards, the Department of Education is providing information on those awards as on all funding to students across the Yukon for our consideration.
Ms. Duncan: I thank the Minister for that answer. It sounds to me as though there is an analysis being done of this program.
Is the Minister prepared to table the results in order for us to be able to effectively assess the program and look at it when we are debating the budget?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I would like to point out to the Member that the candidate for the Liberal Party in Porter Creek North took virtually the same position as we took with regard to the Yukon excellence awards.
There is not a specific review of those awards that is different from any other. It is simply a fact that I am looking at all of the things that the ministry does, and I will review them. Certainly, if there are going to be any changes, the public will be informed. It will not be something dropped without notice.
Ms. Duncan: The Liberal Party platform is not at issue here. We were not elected to government yet.
The Minister still has not stated whether or not she is prepared to end this program and indeed, what she has stated is that she sees that there is nothing fair or sensible in it. I would think that she would have already done the review. Is the Minister prepared to end the program?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: The program creates some inequities, which is a matter of concern to us. We have not made a decision on either ending or continuing the program and so, the Member will have to stand by the answers that she has been given. We will certainly look at it and we will make our decisions known to the people in advance.
Question re: Physicians, rural communities
Mr. Jenkins: My question today is for the Minister responsible for Health and Social Services.
One of the most formidable tasks faced by rural Yukon is the attraction and retention of medical physicians to our respective communities. The recruitment, relocation, the benefit packages, doctors' privileges and medical facilities are all costs being borne by some communities, unlike Whitehorse, which does not have to address these costs.
Can the Minister advise the House if his government would be adopting a policy to recruit and relocate rural physicians and compensate them reasonably with a wage and benefit package that encourages them to remain for a period of time in rural Yukon?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: As the Member opposite is aware, we have taken some steps in recruitment of physicians for certain communities. With regard to a benefit package, I am not prepared to stand up in this chamber and negotiate with physicians, when that is the proper role of the Yukon Medical Association and the department. Certainly, we are interested in providing incentives for physicians to remain in rural communities and in many cases we do. We provide a variety of incentives; I cannot get into the specifics right now.
Mr. Jenkins: I am not asking the Minister to advise us about negotiations. We are asking him for his policy on this matter. Could he please advise the House how this program relates to the position he outlined for the recruitment of a salaried doctor in Faro versus a fee-for-service doctor arrangement? How is that working?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: We are presently at the point of doing another evaluation of the two respective methodologies.
I have had discussions with rural physicians on some issues that they see as being important. There are some questions involved in the Faro situation. We are trying to make sure that we provide as equitable an arrangement as possible. As well, we are also trying to address the need and desire of the community to have two physicians.
Mr. Jenkins: The fee-for-service arrangement for the payment of doctors is the principal way in which doctors are compensated. Can the Minister advise the House what direction his government has taken in order to address fee-for-service compensation for rural doctors who spend weekends and holidays on call and do not see a patient? How will his government be paying for standby time for these physicians?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: It looks like rural physicians have a negotiator in the House here. As I said before, this is an issue that is going to be dealt with by the YMA and the Department of Health and Social Services. We have heard several options brought forward by the rural physicians. They have put forward one option. We are looking for the best delivery of service and that we will be discussing with the YMA when we get into negotiations.
Question re: Young Offenders Act
Mr. Cable: I have some questions for the Minister of Health and Social Services about the Young Offenders Act and on young offenders.
As the Minister is aware, there has been some considerable public discussion in Canada and here, in the Yukon, on the Young Offenders Act and its operations, such as the movement of children to adult court, the publication of names and parental involvement in the process. This led to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Justice and Legal Affairs travelling the country to take submissions.
A few weeks back, the Minister met with that committee and, I believe, put forward his government's position on the various issues.
Will this Minister commit to tabling his government's position on the various issues that were raised in relation to the Young Offenders Act?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I can provide for the Member opposite some of our reaction to the standing committee. In terms of the committee itself, we met with it basically to hear some of its concerns and see if some of the issues that we had heard with regard to the Young Offenders Act in the territory were consistent or congruent with what it was hearing in its travels around the country. In fact, it was. In many cases, there was general consensus. There were a couple of particular issues. For example, the idea of not publishing names of young offenders seemed to be held in common both by ourselves and by the standing committee.
I should note, however, that within the standing committee - as probably the Member is aware - there was considerable discord among themselves that has apparently just broken out to semi-open warfare.
Mr. Cable: After the standing committee arrived here in town, the Minister was quoted as saying that he did not want to talk about crime crack-downs, but rather he wanted to focus on other issues. He said his department would be taking a new approach in dealing with young offenders. He had talked about early intervention and diversions earlier in the quote. Would the Minister describe what the new approach is that he is proposing to bring to the Yukon?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: In general, I can tell the Member that we are still looking at the idea of young offenders being contained within the Health and Social Services portfolio, and that we see it as a restorative, rather than a punitive, kind of program. As I mentioned last week in my ministerial statement, we want to focus on the idea of doing early intervention, the use of family group conferencing in order to prevent some of these young people from getting involved in the justice system - initiatives along those lines.
Mr. Cable: I share the Minister's view with respect to diversion and many of the recommendations that he just talked about. When does the Minister expect to have a comprehensive package in place that deals with young offenders?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: We will be reviewing a number of the options throughout the winter and hope to be able to present something for review by Yukoners in the spring. I am not anticipating that there will be major revisions. We are also hoping to get some feedback from the standing committee, for example, which will be making its own recommendations on such matters as age of adult court, and things of that nature. There are a variety of things that it will probably be bringing forward.
Question re: Gambling
Mr. Ostashek: My question is for the Minister of Justice. This morning there was a radio report of a very ambitious economic development program that was coming forward in Carcross. One of the elements of that program was legalized gambling. The Minister was part of the Opposition in the previous Legislature that was very vocal and outspoken against expansion of gambling in the Yukon. Can the Minister tell the House today what the government's position is on this very important issue to all Yukoners?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I thank the Member for the question. I have not yet seen the proposal that was discussed on the radio this morning. Before commenting on it, I would like to take the time to read and review it, and discuss it with my colleagues.
Mr. Ostashek: I was not asking the Member to comment on the proposal. I was asking her to comment on her government's position on further legalized gambling in the Yukon. I wonder if she could put that position on the record.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I do not think that it will be much of a surprise to the Member to hear me say that we will not be coming forward and promoting an increase of legalized gambling in the Yukon.
Mr. Ostashek: It is certainly obvious how that party's position changes once it is on the government side of the House. I did not ask the Member if the party would be promoting legalized gambling; I asked her what the government's position was on it. It seems now that the party likes to sit on the fence.
There is one proposal for a gas station that was going to sell tax-free gasoline. Does the Minister of Justice support that?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: The Member is popping up there and throwing his questions fast and furious. I am going to let him know that I am going to give serious consideration to any ideas of that nature, whether it is to increase legalized gambling or sell tax-free gas. I am not going to stand here and say "Yea" or "Nay" to him based on a question without full information.
Question re: Porter Creek High School, expansion project
Ms. Duncan: My question is for the Minister of Government Services regarding a specific project at Porter Creek High School.
Would the Minister of Government Services advise us if the construction, in light of the late start given to the school, is on time?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Yes. The Member has some interesting points. Apparently, the contractor does have some concerns about meeting the deadline, primarily with regards to the space designated for the gym. Right now, they are anticipating that they will be able to meet the goal with regards to the classrooms. However, the gym may be somewhat delayed, similar to the French first-language school. It was available for occupancy after the classrooms were completed.
Ms. Duncan: I would ask the Minister of Government Services to be more definitive as to what sort of a delay he anticipates for this project.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: At the last meeting I had with Government Services on this, I gathered that the contractor involved had had some problems with the fabricated steel beams. They are delayed or somehow late arriving, and this may, in turn, delay completion of the gym.
Ms. Duncan: The Minister still has not stated just how long the delay is going to be. It has a huge impact on the start of the school year and on grade reorganization. In light of an non-answer about the specific amount of delay, is the Minister prepared to delay grade reorganization in view of the fact that the school may not be open in time?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: It is a relatively hypothetical question in many ways because, right now, the completion date for the entire project is left at August 15, but it may go as late as November 15. As to a delay in grade reorganization, I certainly could not answer a question on grade reorganization. That is a matter for the Minister of Education. However, we are trying to work with the contractor to get these problems resolved.
Our goal will be to get the classrooms completed first, and the gym can follow.
Question re: Yukon Energy Corporation, rate relief
Mr. Jenkins: I have a question for the Minister responsible for the Yukon Energy Corporation. In his ministerial statement on rate relief last Thursday, the Minister mentioned small business consumers. The Minister's exact words were, "With regards to the concerns about the commercial rates, we have only made some fairly minor changes to the program and they are all indicated in the statement." The Minister's commitment was to extend rate relief for consumers from 1,000 kilowatt hours to 1,500 kilowatt hours. In view of the fact that small business consumers, through the Yukon Utilities Board, already receive a break on the first 2,000 kilowatt hours, can the Minister advise the House if Cabinet intends to direct the Yukon Utilities Board by order-in-council to reduce this threshold amount for small business consumers from 2,000 kilowatt hours to 1,500 kilowatt hours?
Hon. Mr. Harding: As I said in my response to the ministerial statement and the comments of the Opposition last week, the changes that we undertook were outlined in the ministerial statement. With regard to the commercial rates, they were set by the Yukon Utilities Board at a time when the previous government was in power.
Mr. Jenkins: Can the Minister advise the House, in relation to residential consumers, how he is going to promote energy conservation by raising the rate relief threshold from 1,000 to 1,500 kilowatt hours of subsidized energy?
Hon. Mr. Harding: As I indicated last week, there are two ways. Firstly, there was virtually no upper end on residential consumers of electricity with regard to rate relief on the WAF grid. With regard to the other aspect of our response to conservation, we are looking at ways where we can perhaps build in some small incentives with regard to the 650 to 1,000 kilowatt hour range consumers.
Mr. Jenkins: Why was the Minister not made aware of the fact that the rate relief program of the previous government was the same for all communities for the first 1,000 kilowatt hours of residential consumed energy, whether the community was on the grid or on diesel? Why was the Minister not aware of that?
Hon. Mr. Harding: The Minister was not aware of it, because it is not the case. It is quite clear that there were inequities within the rate relief program between the diesel-serviced communities and those served by the Whitehorse-Aishihik-Faro power grid. What we have done with the new rate relief program is make some minor changes that are directed at conservation and at restoring the inequity within the rate relief program.
We fully intend, within the next year, to have the energy commission look at the entire program to see if there are ways to target it more to low-income families, senior citizens and people who most need help from our publicly owned utility. We will incorporate all of those concerns and those of the Member opposite in that full review, with regard to the rate relief issue and its possible reincarnation in another year.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed. We will proceed to Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Hon. Mr. Harding: I move 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, we will take a break.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order.
Bill No. 3 - Second Appropriation Act, 1996-97 - continued
Executive Council Office - continued
Speaker: We are on Bill No. 3, Executive Council Office. Is there any further general debate?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I have some comments from last week and I also have some information that I would like to provide to Members, and I will pass that information out in due course.
It was requested that I provide an organization chart for the Land Claims Secretariat and I have that information here. It is the same organization as that which existed with the previous government and nothing has changed, but there will be changes in the next little while and I can explain our thinking on that point.
I was asked for Cabinet commission mandates. I have the generic mandate to hand out to Members. I also have a specific mandate for the development assessment process commission.
The amount identified in the budget is not an increase in operation and maintenance spending in the sense that it does not reflect change in the surplus/deficit situation. Can the Member explain what he is referring to so that I can answer the question better?
Mr. Ostashek: We will explain as we go along, because that is exactly what we are talking about. The Minister has taken a position that this is not going to cost taxpayers any more money and we wholeheartedly disagree with that and we expect to point out why we believe that in Committee debate today. We are also going to have some questions - and we will start on those shortly - as to why the Minister chose the vehicles that he chose to carry on with consultation and development policy. Before I get into that, the Minister was going to check with officials to see if he could table certain documents relating to the dismissal of some deputy ministers. Could I ask the Minister if he has sought clarification of that and is he prepared to table those documents?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I am puzzled as to the Member's thinking on this point because about 95 percent of this budget is directly the responsibility of the Yukon Party. The quote on CBC's special report in the morning indicated that the NDP has increased the spending on the operation and maintenance of government quite substantially for the next three months that they are going to be in power. What does he mean that the NDP has increased the spending? Is he saying that five percent of this supplementary - just the supplementary, they are not responsible for any of the main estimates, of course - is that the growth in O&M spending that he is referring to and that the 95 percent of the $30 million supplementary is not a concern to him? The only concern to him is the five percent of expenditures for the community projects initiative and a few other items. Those are the things that are of concern to him in terms of growth, but none of the other $30 million or so is of concern to him. If he could clarify that, I would appreciate it.
These I will hand out.
That gives us some idea of what the specific mandates look like.
When we last left this line item, the Leader of the Official Opposition and I were discussing a few matters that appeared to be mildly significant to the debate. I am trying to get some clarity, though, on some of the issues the Member raised.
Last week, on Thursday, he indicated that the stage had been set for the future of the Yukon and that the amount of spending this supplementary budget represents is a concern. Prior to that, on December 10, he indicated that the NDP has increased spending on the O&M of government quite substantially for the next three months. I am not certain I understand the Member's critique. As I have indicated, this supplementary mainly covers decisions made by the previous government, with Management Board minutes, et cetera, attached. Is there some element of this spending that he does not particularly like? Can he clarify for us what portion of the budget is involved? He indicated that the spending had increased substantially, yet I have only been able to detect probably three or four percent of the supplementary budget that is the responsibility of the new government.
As I indicated before, on the subject of deputy ministers and the cost of commissions, my position is this: because I understand there are communications between these people's lawyers and this government, if the Member can get an authorization from the affected personnel for me to release this information, I will release all the information.
Mr. Ostashek: I would draw the Member's attention to the fact that it is not my responsibility. It is the responsibility of that Member who stood in this House and said he was going to do this, that he was going to table these documents.
I just want to know if he is going to carry through and, if he is not, that is fine because we will get to the bottom of it anyhow. It was he who stated quite clearly that there was some special arrangement made by me with two deputy ministers over which he had no control and that he had to pay them out because of that arrangement. I just say that that is false. There was no such arrangement made where the Government Leader was forced to pay out anybody. That is all I want to clarify, and that it was he who was going to table the documents. But if he does not want to table them, that is fine. We will get to it.
As far as spending goes, I said that I believe that the O&M is going to be increased dramatically, by at least $1 million in the new year for the commissions, not by the amount of money that is being spent on them now. I do not care if it comes from existing budgets or not.
It is a taxpayers' expense. If it was not spent on the commissions, it could be put to something more useful, I believe. That is what we are going to point out in this Legislature. The next main estimates that the Member tables in this Legislature will tell whether the overall operations and maintenance cost of government has gone up. We already see several new hirings in the civil service. Other jurisdictions all over Canada are curtailing the increase in the civil service, and in fact, are trying to amalgamate departments. We have a new government that comes in and starts the process of setting up four commissions that we believe will be very, very expensive to the taxpayers. We believe that there are other vehicles that the Government Leader could have used to accomplish the same thing.
These are some of the areas that we are going to question the Government Leader on today to see what his rationale was and why he did not feel those other vehicles, which have proven to be cost effective in the past, were not used. He has gone to this new method, for which we do not even have any legislative authority that I am aware of. He now wants to change the rules of the Legislature to give recognition to these commissions in the Legislature. I have some reluctance to go along with that. Unless I can get some satisfaction during Committee debate, I am going to have difficulty supporting that.
That is what I was getting at when I was saying "more spending by this government". Let me tell the Government Leader that it is not only me who is saying it. Many Yukoners have been raising this concern with us in the last two months.
We will have more on that, but I want to get back to these so-called contracts that the Government Leader says I had with two deputy ministers and which basically, he says, forced him to pay out a severance package that he did not like to pay out. In my opinion, the letters of comfort that were given to those two deputy ministers were very similar to what has transpired in the process of government here over the years. I will draw to the attention of the Member opposite exactly what transpired. I think he is fully aware of it and is just playing politics with this.
Because of the positions and the tasks these two deputy ministers were asked to assume on behalf of this government, they were given letters of comfort stating that, once that task was completed, they would be transferred by mutual consent to another deputy minister position. The issue here is that the positions being offered by the Government Leader were not - in the minds of those deputy ministers - deputy minister positions. That is where the debate is and yet I understand those severance packages are going to be paid out. In fact, they are in the supplementary budget. At least one of those letters contained a clause that said that the deputy minister was dismissed without cause and that the deputy minister severance package would kick in.
I ask the Member opposite: what is the difference between those two letters of comfort and what was done with Judge Barry Stuart when he was taken off the bench, assigned a job of heading up the land claims on behalf of the previous government, promised a year's sabbatical and then a return to the bench? That is a simple agreement, and I think it is a valid agreement. The agreement that I had with these two deputy ministers was no different. What is the difference between the agreement - the letters of comfort - I had with these two deputy ministers, and the judge who was removed to do the fuel price inquiry on behalf of the previous administration? Once it was completed, he went back to his job in Justice. There is nothing wrong with that. I do not see anything wrong with it, and I do not think it is a special deal.
As the Member opposite pointed out, it is no different from some deputy ministers being given educational leave under the previous NDP administration and then come back as a deputy minister. That was the agreement that was made and I do not think those were special deals at all.
Those are considerations that are given to certain deputy ministers because they are doing a job on behalf of the government. I do not want to leave the impression in the public's mind that I believe the Government Leader tried to leave - or did leave with some people - the impression that he did not have any choice in the matter, because it was those individuals' choice as to what position they took and if they did not take it, then the Government Leader's hands were tied. That is simply not the truth and that is not what was contained in the letters, and that is why I would like to see those letters tabled in this Legislature.
There are three examples of what I see as very similar to what was happening with these two deputy ministers, and had they been offered jobs that were at a deputy minister level, I do not think the Government Leader would have had any difficulty with them accepting the positions.
As to me making the arrangements, well, Heaven forbid, here is a 21-year employee of the Yukon government who served as a Cabinet secretary to both administrations and who served both administrations well over the years. Never did I imagine, in my wildest dreams, that any new administration would dismiss, or want to dismiss this deputy minister. Re-assign, yes, there is nothing wrong with that, but in dismissing this person I think we have lost a very talented deputy minister who was very dedicated to the Yukon and certainly was not political by any means.
The same goes for the chief land claims negotiator who, as the Minister knows, after a period of time in that job, is starting to face burnout. He was given a similar letter that stated that, once a few more of the land claims were finalized and we were in a position to begin winding down the Land Claims Secretariat, he would be offered another deputy minister position. Why would these people take these jobs, such as the position of Deputy Minister of Executive Council Office, which is seen by some to be very political - it is not seen by me to be that political, but is by some - and jeopardize their public service for a short period of time if there was no satisfaction on the other side that they would be rewarded for the tasks they were doing on behalf of the government? I believe it is unfair criticism on the part of the Government Leader.
One agreement that was made by the previous administration, which I think was unfair, was made with a deputy minister who had served this government for a period of about six years. This person was able to convince the government of the day to make a very lucrative severance agreement with him three months prior to the 1992 election. I think that was an unfair agreement, if the Member opposite wants to know.
I would like to ask the Member opposite how he feels the agreement that I made with these deputy ministers differs from the three examples I have given.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: We are going to have trouble this afternoon. We have bounced around from issue to issue. I believe that we have covered about eight or 10 issues. If we ever want to bring closure to any of these, we might just want to stick to one issue and follow it through to completion. Otherwise, this will seem like a very rag-tag discussion here. I have responses to everything the Member has stated, but I will have to backtrack years and then bring it forward to the present. I will follow my notes here, as I scribbled down the Member's allegations, comments and suggestions.
I would like to point out to the Member, in the spirit of Christmas, that I do not think that everything that the Member has ever said has no value or merit. As a matter of fact, there are a number of things on which we agree and some on which we do not. I will express some opinions on both.
First of all, the Member indicated that the government should be doing what other governments have done, which is to downsize and reduce the public service. I suppose that moving from 2,700 employees to 3,023 employees last year, between the years 1992 and 1995, is the Yukon Party's example of downsizing.
I would not say that the assignment of personnel for the commissions is a reflection of either increasing or downsizing.
Most of the staff of the commissions are going to be seconded from various departments. The only positions that we have identified as being different are the deputy commissioners. I will talk a little bit more about that in a minute.
On the subject of the documents on the deputy ministers, I did indicate that I would check with the Public Service Commission. I checked with the Public Service Commission, and it indicated that there are discussions going on between the lawyers to finalize arrangements. I am being appropriately cautious. However, I am more than happy to table all of that information if the employees themselves say, "Table it." Out of respect to them, it will be tabled. Everything will be tabled. Every piece of correspondence will be tabled.
I am not trying to play politics with these arrangements that the former Government Leader has identified respecting those two deputy ministers and his administration. In fact, I was not trying to play politics with any of this. I am responding to the political charges and accusations made by others. I have seriously avoided trying to mention names of people in the House. I have studiously tried to de-politicize the whole affair, but without much success. If any other Member of the House suggests that I should do my best to not play politics with this, I could certainly understand it. However, from the primary accuser and person who makes the most severe political accusations, I find the criticism to be a little hard to take.
The Member himself identified this arrangement last week in Hansard. I suppose that part of it is on the record. He indicated that two deputy ministers had the special arrangement that they would be offered other deputy minister positions by mutual agreement. Certainly, I believe that he would be prepared to stand by that commitment as long as he is Government Leader. It so happens that those are the only two deputy ministers having such an agreement. No other deputy minister was made such an offer. However, I can assure the Member that the two people he has cited were indeed offered assignments at the deputy minister level by this government. The agreements are real. They were considered by the Public Service Commission and Department of Justice to be binding. They were considered to be real and binding by me.
I point out that they were not managing any department.
Not all deputy ministers did manage departments. The Government Leader will remember that he had three deputy ministers in Executive Council Office all at once. Only one was managing the department; the other two were presumably doing something else of value and importance to the government. I had offered the two deputy ministers, whom he cites, real, valuable work for our government at the deputy minister level - not managing departments, but significant work at the deputy minister level. They chose not to accept that work.
I have not indicated that I am opposed to such arrangements; I have only indicated that they existed. Yes, indeed they were special - special only because they were not given to anyone else. Being special does not necessarily mean that it is wrong; it means that it is special. What I have indicated was that because those arrangements were struck and because there was some motion that there had to be new assignments by mutual consent and because they did not accept the two assignments that were provided to them, as other deputy ministers had done, those deputy ministers were not only offered assignments, but were offered transferred assignments and they took them. These two individuals chose not to, but they could not be offered an assignment that they wanted.
In my view, they chose to resign, but, technically, because of their arrangement with the previous Government Leader and because of the mutual-consent clause, we felt that we would have to pay out severance. I felt, and do feel, that they were offered a very real and important assignment by our government. In one case, the assignment is being undertaken by a person at the deputy minister level and, in another case, there is recruitment going on. They are real jobs; there is no doubt about that. They were real jobs and there was a real offer.
The Member and I are going to have to agree to disagree on this point, because I certainly do not believe that the people in question were fired - quite the contrary.
He indicates that he wants to express himself more clearly on the subject of the commissions. He asks rhetorically what the legislative authority is for the commissions. Presumably he means that, if there is no legislative authority, they have no right to exist.
I do not agree with that at all. Is the Member aware that most departments of the government do not have legislative authority? Is he aware that most departments get their authority to operate through budget estimates?
First of all, these commissions are not departments and do not require legislative authority. These commissions are interdepartmental policy working groups. Such creatures, in various incarnations, have existed for years. There is an innovation here, and that is that the team leader reports to a private Member, whom we call a commissioner, to clarify and distinguish them from private Members and from Ministers.
The Member says he does not think these expenditures for the commissions is a good idea or a valuable expenditure, and he wants to prove it. All right. If he thinks the priorities ought to be different, that is for him to say, and he can say so. I would point out to him that, unlike most of the expenditures in the supplementary, the funding for the commissions is not changing the surplus/deficit situation of our government. We are spending more in certain areas and less in others. So it is a reflection of our priorities that we believe this is good policy work and needs to be done.
I say that knowing that, in some cases, we will actually be spending less than the previous government did in certain specific policy areas, and I will point to two. In forestry, as I mentioned last week, the government had almost three full-time people working for the last two years on forest policy. The Department of Economic Development was going to hire a fourth. On top of that, the government was prepared to hire an American mediator to do some mediation work around policy development. On top of that, the government was going to give operating subsidies to loggers. I think it capped at a million dollars, or something like that. Perhaps the Member could clarify it for me.
What we have indicated we want to do is that, instead of taking those four positions, working in different departments on forest policy, we would like to take three positions in a commission, report to the Member for Watson Lake, and do the policy in a more coordinated way. I say that that is cost effective. Not only does it spend less in this area than the previous government did, but also it identifies a way in which the issue can get more care and attention. We believe this is an appropriate way of responding and expressing ourselves in this particular area. We believe it makes good use of the time of the Member for Watson Lake. We believe it allows for better coordination among the interdepartmental working group, and we believe that we will be able to respond more adeptly to changing circumstances and also keep our eye on the long term.
As I pointed out, the commissioners themselves, the private Members, are receiving no additional remuneration for this work. They are going to be doing this on top of their normal MLA duties, and that is a tremendous commitment on their part.
As the Members will know, the one-time costs for furniture and equipment for the commissioners is, indeed, $93,000. I will only point out that the Executive Council Office this year alone is spending over $100,000 in office furniture and equipment, and the government itself is spending something like $6,500,000 on office furniture and equipment. So I think this is a very reasonable expenditure for this particular purpose. We are taking four significant policy areas, focusing our attention, adding the care and attention of four capable elected Members of our group, and putting them to work.
The Member may not like that innovation, but I think it is a good innovation. This is an idea whose time has come. We should be encouraging private Members to do something.
Last week, the Member indicated that we had downplayed these issues by giving them to a private Member. Whatever that Member thinks of his own private Members, I have a lot of respect for my colleagues who are private Members, and I think they are capable of doing these tasks that they have chosen to undertake and have been assigned by our caucus. They are capable people and I have faith in them.
Any one of these people could easily have sat in any Cabinet that I have ever seen in this Legislature in the last 15 years. So, to say that they are incapable of guiding policy work and doing political work on behalf of this Legislature, simply because they are private Members, I cannot accept. I do think that these four areas are extremely important. I think forestry, the development assessment process, energy policy and local hire are key areas of concern for the public. I believe that this is a cost-effective way of doing things. The Member opposite will say, "Okay, what if you add in the development assessment process and the amount of money that has been spent on that?" Well, the Member may know that $100,000 was set aside by his government each year, for the last two years, to do work on the development assessment process, including public consultation which has not yet been started. On top of that, the same government had budgeted work in Renewable Resources and, on top of that, had budgeted work in Economic Development.
What we have done is essentially roll up the full-time, dedicated work that everyone is doing in the departments into the work done by the commission itself. They will, of course, be liaising through a Cabinet subcommittee with their colleagues and will be phoning other members of the public service for advice, as everyone does in their daily routine. However, the focus of the work - the dedication, time and energy - will be done by the commission staff - a few people. I would argue that we are not spending any more on this subject than the previous government did, but we are spending it better, I think. The Member says that we would be spending more, presumably in, say, local hire, for example - nobody was doing work in that area before and, consequently, anything we do now is increased expenditure in this area. Well, of course, the Member would be right. It is an increased expenditure in this area. It is not an increased expenditure overall to government. We are not changing the surplus/deficit situation, and we are not asking for more money, like so much of the supplementary here. It is a reallocation. But we are spending more money in this area because there simply has not been any work of significance done in this area, and we have to reallocate in order to do work in this area. Once again, I would argue that this is valuable work. This is important work. This is work that has some social utility to it and that ought to be done.
Would the Member have taken exception to it if we had said that we were going to hire a couple of policy analysts, or reorient a couple of policy analysts in a couple of the departments to work on this full time? Well, maybe he would have, if he thought that would have been a more legitimate way of spending money. The only innovation here is that they are coming to work and reporting to a private Member of the Legislature. Why these four areas? Because these are areas that are considered to be critical and important to the public, and we feel that these matters can best be handled in this manner.
Is there an opportunity for us to consider other commissions and other commission work in the future? Yes, there certainly is. Why not? If we want to coordinate our activities in such a way and it proves effective, we should do so, but we should not be locked into the old way of doing things simply because this is new.
I still have not received much information that can help me with the overall spending of this government. The Member mentioned that the spending pattern - the amount of spending in the supplementary budget - is a concern and the trend that is being set here is somehow of significant concern.
The Member stated that the New Democrats have come in and spent five percent of the supplementary budget, and that is something that the critic for the Department of Finance suggests is a significant concern, yet 95 percent of the supplementary is something that he thinks is no problem.
I have a hard time accepting that notion and I hope the Member can see the inherent contradictions of that particular situation. Certainly, they have crossed my mind.
I have a lot more that I could talk about from last week, but I will let the Member decide where we go from here.
Mr. Ostashek: I thank the Member for that information and we will certainly get into that as we go along, but as the Member said, if we are going to get through this we have to bring closure to these items, one issue at a time.
I want to talk about the deputy ministers and try to get a clear understanding of what transpired and what is going to transpire in the future.
The Minister says that these individuals were offered other jobs, but the fact remains that one person has stated publicly that he was dismissed from his position and then offered a job.
The Minister says they were offered legitimate work at what he believes to be the deputy minister level. I would say to the Member that if he was confident that these positions were at the deputy minister level, then there would have been absolutely no reason for the severance package to kick in.
The reason this severance package would kick in is because they were not at a deputy minister's level. Even if the Government Leader thought they were, I am sure that his Department of Justice people would have told him that he would probably end up in court if he maintained that position. That is why they were dismissed without cause. That is exactly what one clause in one of the letters said - they were dismissed without cause, and a severance package would apply.
I want to ask the Government Leader a question for the record today. My understanding was that one deputy minister was offered a position in Ottawa that is non-existent. What is the Government Leader planning to do in the Ottawa office? What new position is he creating there?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I would point out that the offers of assignments were made in the same way - in a format that I understood is standard - to all deputy ministers: a position, or transfer, is offered. If the person chooses not to accept it, and there is no other position available, then the person is released. I have to say "without cause", because I have not been evaluating these particular employees in the technical sense. I did indeed offer positions at the deputy minister level, in writing, to both individuals. I did the same with many other deputy ministers, all of whom are working.
With respect to the Ottawa office, there is a position in the Ottawa office because - the Member probably does not know this, based on the substance of his question - the person currently staffing that office has chosen to take a full-time position with Finance in the Ottawa office. This person will replace Raghu Raghunathan, who is slowly departing into a kind of retirement. He will be spending most of his time doing useful work as a Sanskrit scholar, but he will be spending a little bit of time in the Ottawa office. In any case his position is now being assumed by Mr. Grant, who is moving over as we speak into that position and leaving the Ottawa office position vacant.
Mr. Ostashek: I guess that is exactly my point; there has never been a deputy minister position in Ottawa. It was a director position. It was not at the deputy minister level. I guess this Government Leader is going to increase the deputy minister level. The question that I must ask is: why?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: First of all, there are a number of positions in the Executive Council Office, as I have mentioned before, which were filled by people who were deputy ministers. That is not a new occurrence - not even with his government - but certainly there was the case that three deputy ministers were in his department when we assumed office. Only one of those positions was actually managing the department. One was in the Land Claims Secretariat and the other was doing special project work. All were deputy ministers. That is not a new occurrence. I do know that there has been a case of a deputy minister who went from Justice into the Executive Council Office and then back into a department. That has happened, too. The position of this government is that one does not necessarily have to be managing a department in order to be a deputy minister.
With respect to the Ottawa office, I do have some plans for the Ottawa office that are important. I want to have better communication with the federal government than we have had. I want to reorganize the office and ensure that we do more work making direct contact with the senior levels of the public service on key issues facing our government. Certainly it is very, very important work for us. It is something that we do want to ensure is handled properly. It is something that is going to require some good talent; there is no doubt about that. It is certainly a very important job with our government. I would think that most people who are public servants would enjoy that kind of work. Obviously, the one person who was offered the assignment - unbeknownst to me, because the person had done the job and had worked out of the Ottawa office in the past - decided he did not like the job and said so publicly.
That is his choice. It was a serious offer. It is a serious job. It will be doing important work, and anybody who likes that kind of project work, I would think, would be happy to have that kind of job. It is an important job.
Mr. Ostashek: First of all, again it is a matter of increased costs. We are going to increase the salary range from a director to a deputy minister in the Ottawa office. The Member opposite says it was a legitimate offer to the gentleman in question, but he is also fully aware that the gentleman's wife is employed with the Government of Yukon here and it would have been impossible for him to go down there and for her to have to leave her job here, so it seems to me that it was not a very legitimate offer. It was a case for constructive dismissal - and an after-the-fact case.
I want to talk about the chief land claim negotiator now, who was offered a job of a deputy commissioner and who also felt that that was not a deputy minister level job or I believe he would have accepted it. Nevertheless, he has left and, to my understanding, is going to be paid out as well under the deputy ministers' severance package for dismissal without cause.
I do not care how the Government Leader wants to cut it. He is paying out four deputy ministers on the transition of government. He is not paying out just two, with two leaving of their own volition. Whether he says they left of their own volition or not, he is going to be paying out four deputy ministers' severance packages, and, as we said earlier, that amounts to somewhere in the neighbourhood of three-quarters of a million dollars for the four of them.
I want to ask what is going to happen to the position of chief land claims negotiator because there have been so many mixed messages from the Government Leader and his deputy over the past month as to what is happening at the Land Claims Secretariat. Now I get an organization chart that has not changed one iota from when we were in government - not one bit - and tremendous havoc has been caused over there by different statements that have been made by the Government Leader and by his previous deputy minister or interim deputy minister of the Executive Council Office.
Can the Government Leader tell us what is happening with the chief land claim negotiator position at the Land Claims Secretariat?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Once again I am going to have to take exception to the Member's comments and indicate to him that I disagree with him absolutely and completely. With all my heart I disagree with the Member. I think that he is completely wrong. It is a territory I think he knows quite well.
With respect to the issue of spouses and whether or not spouses should be offered jobs, it is not a policy of which I am aware. Perhaps the Member could help me on that. I am not aware of a policy where, when a person is either transferred to a job in the Yukon or transferred out of the Yukon, that we must consider the job prospects for the spouse. If the person is working for the government, presumably the Member is suggesting that we must find work in Ottawa for the spouse. If the person was working in the private sector - or working at all - presumably we would be obligated to find employment for the spouse. Otherwise, it would be considered constructive dismissal.
I cannot agree with the Member. I have never heard of such a policy. I would not endorse such a policy. It has not been a consideration, to my knowledge, ever. Certainly if some accommodation can be made within the rules, perhaps they can, but people are not given jobs simply because they happen to be the spouse of a person transferred from one job to another.
I know that with transfers made within the Yukon, that was very definitely not a consideration when the government recentralized a number of positions over the course of the last three or four years. What the spouse was doing was hardly a consideration at all - that was patently obvious.
I thank the Member for his opinion on what should be policy. I will keep it in mind.
I will again take issue and disagree - I will not admit to any such thing - with the idea that the government fired four deputy ministers, as he did when he came to office. I will not admit to that, because it did not happen. Two deputy ministers were not offered assignments at the deputy minister level; two deputy ministers were offered assignments at the deputy minister level - assignments they chose not to take. I have already explained the reason for the severance. It is not something one would normally do, but there were special deals that necessitated this expenditure in the mind of the government.
With respect to the Land Claims Secretariat, we do intend to recruit a chief land claims negotiator. That is very much the case. No decision has been made with respect to that, to my knowledge.
As I have already indicated to the Member, with respect to the organization chart as I have given it to Members, he is quite right that it contains no changes, because it is the existing organization chart. I have indicated to Members already in this Legislature that we will be adding another principal negotiator by moving vacancies around, so we can have a situation where principal negotiators have a manageable number of files to handle at any given time.
We know that the First Nations are all coming ready to negotiate. We cannot negotiate with all of them simultaneously on the same day, but we can negotiate with them simultaneously in the coming year. In order for us to do that, we will have to add another principal negotiator position as a priority. We will transfer vacancies - and the vacancies are identified there - in order to accomplish this task in the near term.
I have already indicated to Members that I have every intention of coming back to the Legislature in the spring, in the context of the main estimates, to seek some additional resources. However, for the time being, the reorganization, in the short term, will help us to meet our short-term objectives without additional expenditure. The supplementary of this budget does not require money as a result of any changes we have made, as a government. The additional resources are as a result of requests our predecessors - the Member himself - previously identified to handle this particular organization. The extra $60,000 or so being requested is not from us - it is from that Member. Perhaps he can identify what the additional money is for, or he can tell me what his thinking was at the time.
Our plans for the future are that we intend to staff the position of chief land claims negotiator, and to add a principal negotiator in the short term. In all probability, we will be requesting some additional resources in the main estimates when we get to that point.
Mr. Ostashek: The Government Leader can skate all he wants to on the deputy minister issue, but the fact remains that I have heard that Member stand up and condemn the Yukon Party government for how it treated people. I think the Yukon Party government is head and shoulders above this Government Leader in the way it treated people. When the Government Leader offers a person a position that he knows the person cannot possibly accept because of his spouse, I do not think that is a legitimate offer.
I want to go into more details on the Land Claims Secretariat, but before I do that, I want to stay with the deputy minister position, because I am very concerned about that. There is no doubt that, over the course of the last four years, the deputy minister, the assistant deputy minister, the chief land claims negotiator and associate chief negotiator had some very head-to-head confrontations with a good friend and colleague of the Government Leader. I just want to ask the Government Leader for the record: did his good friend and colleague demand that these people be removed from their positions?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: No.
I must say that I find the Member's assessment of the situation with respect to the deputy ministers incorrect. I certainly believe that we made legitimate offers to professional public servants based on what we believed their qualifications, abilities and match-up with departments were. We made that assessment, and it is an assessment that is made upon every government coming to office.
The difference in our particular case is that, having been in the Legislature for 15 years, knowing my colleagues and talking to them, I made the assessment very, very quickly - with the advice of my colleagues. However, the Member himself, new to government in 1992, perhaps quite appropriately - given that he had never been in the Legislature before - took two months before he fired four deputy ministers. I do not remember him making any comments about whether or not their spouses had jobs or anything else, or what that might do to the familial status of people. I do not recall that, but it might be worth checking out. Maybe it is - maybe it is not. I cannot trace every single inconsistency that this Member raises in this Legislature. I would be working full time just tracking his comments.
The situation, as I understand it, with respect to the Land Claims Secretariat, is that the chief land claims negotiator was offered a position with this government that we care about, and he chose not to accept it.
The Member identified two other positions. In one particular case, the person volunteered - requested - to leave, for reasons that I am not able to disclose.
The second position was a matter between this person and the person's supervisor, which had nothing to do with me at all.
I worked with both of those people in the past, one in particular, for many, many years. I have nothing but respect for all of the people who work in the Land Claims Secretariat, including the chief land claims negotiator to whom I did offer a real job at the deputy minister level.
In terms of creating havoc, I would argue that the Member opposite has done a masterful job in doing so and in putting forth people's names in this Legislature and creating the impression that the world has gone to hell in a handbasket. The Member has been a master at that, and he has been a lot better at that than he was at governing this territory.
This does not change the fact that negotiations are proceeding and that the Yukon government does have representation at the land claims table. To my knowledge, there have been no meetings cancelled as a result of anything this government has done with respect to any organization, or future organization relating to the Land Claims Secretariat. That is the situation as I see it.
Mr. Ostashek: The Member can stand and defend his actions all he wants, but the reality of it is, the Yukon public is not buying it.
There are many, many concerns about what is happening with land claims and who is protecting the Yukon's interest. Let me tell the Government Leader that he can make all the speeches he wants, but no one is buying it and it is time that the government came clean with the public and let us know what is going on.
First of all, the Government Leader blames this on his deputy minister - an interim deputy minister - who is making major changes and then leaving the position. I think the deputy minister left the position today and that does not wash with the general public.
There is no doubt that these decisions were made in the Government Leader's office and carried out by the deputy minister. Both of these people whom the Government Leader has identified as associate deputy minister and assistant chief land claim negotiator have been told they were going to be moved. One, he says by their own accord. I think that was after they were told they were not doing a good job there any more, so they offered to leave and get out of his road. I understand that the other person was offered the Ottawa job. Again, this is the job that the Government Leader now thinks is such a great job that everybody should be scrambling to take.
The Government Leader is on record in this Legislature as saying that these people are only in their jobs until the replacements come. I will pull it out of Hansard if he wants. He said several times in Question Period that they were in their positions for now, but one had offered to leave, and the other was going to be moved to another position in government. That is what he said.
I ask the Government Leader this question: who is taking their positions? When are the positions going to be advertised? When does he hope to have them filled?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The Member tries to come across as a great interpreter of the general public's will, but I would argue that his interpretation has faltered somewhat in the last number of months; otherwise, the Member would have been on the government side of the House. He is, frankly, very lucky to be on the Opposition side of the House, for that matter.
With respect to protecting the Yukon's interests, we do have negotiators who are protecting them. We have very good negotiators protecting the Yukon's interests. We have very good negotiators who are trying to get reasonable land claims settlements. We have very good negotiators, including the people whom the Member has been identifying, who are staffing every table and meeting that comes up. It is true that the people whom he has identified will be in their positions until they either voluntarily leave, transfer or something else happens. That will be the case, because we care about these positions, and we want to see this work get done.
With respect to when it will happen, I do not know. I have not asked the department in the last week or so to give me an update on recruitment or on the request for transfer. Presumably, there has to be a place to transfer to if somebody voluntarily requests a transfer.
Presumably, that has to be acceptable, so we have to work that out. I do not have any more information on that particular subject but, yes, indeed, those people will be doing their useful work for the time being.
Mr. Ostashek: I have one more question for now, and then I will let my colleagues get in for a while.
This is mind-boggling to me and it is mind-boggling to the general public. Here is a Government Leader who raised havoc in the Land Claims Secretariat, caused all kinds of commotion and concern, demoralized the department, and now says nothing is changing.
What has happened is that the Government Leader has been caught with his pants down and is now trying to cover his butt. He is trying to work these people back into the system. He is on public record as saying that they are going to be moved - one voluntarily and one by being transferred elsewhere in government. Now he is saying they are going to be there for the foreseeable future. It is no wonder that these people are demoralized. It is no wonder that they cannot accomplish anything - and nothing is being accomplished.
The Government Leader should come clean. Things have come to a complete standstill at the Land Claims Secretariat, because there has been no clear direction given by that government.
I understand also that the Land Claims Secretariat was told that new direction would be coming. Could the Government Leader tell us what that new policy is going to be, and when is it going to be delivered to the Land Claims Secretariat?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I do not believe there is any need for the Member to lose his self-control or to be crude. There is no need to be crude. We are having a discussion about public policy in the Yukon Legislature here, and the Member has already lost control. I would urge him to regain his self-control, please.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The Member says, "Go back to Thursday." Yes, again, that is another example of where the Member loses control very easily. I would appeal to him to please try to regain it.
With respect to the situation at the Land Claims Secretariat, the Member makes the allegation that nothing is happening and that everything has come to a standstill. I am certain that that will be news to the negotiators in Dawson, who are negotiating this morning and have been negotiating for the last couple of days, and it will be news to the people who were negotiating a couple of weeks ago in White River. I will pass on to them that the impression being left by the Leader of the Official Opposition is that they are not doing anything; that they have come to a standstill and are not accomplishing anything.
Given that the Member has taken it upon himself to try to raise the concerns with the public through the media, and is, in large part, responsible for the sense of havoc - if there is such a sense out there - I will take it upon myself to transmit directly to the Land Claims Secretariat the notion that they are not doing anything, they are now completely at a standstill. I will assure them, as I continue negotiating the Dawson agreement, that I do have faith in the negotiator and they will be given my full support, as per usual.
Mr. Cable: I have some questions about an exchange between the Government Leader and the Leader of the Yukon Liberal Party late last year, in November 1995. At one time the Liberal Party issued an eight-point plan in relation to First Nations that it would put into place if elected to government. The first point was that a Yukon Liberal Party government would conduct an immediate review of the performance of all YTG officials who deal with First Nations on a regular basis. This would include final agreement negotiators as well as those responsible for the various activities relating to implementation of the UFA and four final agreements.
I am told by the Government Leader that if that had to be redone, that it certainly would not be the wording. It was unfortunate that that position was put forth, and he was not happy with what came out of it. What it brought forth was a broadside from the Government Leader. There was a press release issued, which I think was noted for a fair quantity of umbrage on behalf of public servants.
I am going to quote from it and I am going to ask the Government Leader if he still subscribes to the quotes that are in the press release. This is a press release issued by the then office of the Official Opposition and dated November 10, 1995.
The Government Leader is quoted as saying, "Apparently Mr. Taylor does not understand some of the basic principles of our parliamentary system. One of those principles is that elected officials take the flack when something goes wrong, not government employees." Later on, in concluding the press release, the Government Leader went on to say, "In any case, publicly attacking government employees who cannot defend themselves always places a politician on dangerous ground."
I assume that that is still the Government Leader's position. Could he simply confirm that that is in fact his position?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Yes, it is.
Mr. Cable: There was an unfortunate article in the Yukon News a couple of weeks ago where one got the impression, either through the Government Leader's mouth or through the mouth of the interim deputy minister in the Executive Council Office, that the land claims people who were moved aside had gone stale or had run out of energy.
Is that, in fact, an accurate assessment? Is that innuendo correct?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I was not trying to provide an innuendo. I cannot say anything about that. I do happen to know the personal reasons that are underlying this situation, at least in one case, but I cannot relate them in the Legislature in public.
Mr. Cable: There appeared to be a clear innuendo from that article that these people had, in fact, run out of steam. I was rather surprised to hear that sort of comment.
It was not clear in the way I read that article whether or not the Government Leader had actually made that comment, or if it was through the mouth of the deputy minister or was some creation of the reporter. Could the Minister clarify that? Did it come out of either the Government Leader's mouth or that of his deputy?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I do not believe that it came out of anyone's mouth. Certainly I did not say anything of that sort. Further to that, I would not say anything of that sort, even if I knew it to be true.
There is a fair amount of information that comes to us about the circumstances of individuals working for this government. It is not our place to be relating that information in public. As much as I want to respond to the speculations that are being made by my opponents, I feel somewhat hamstrung. I cannot respond in kind. I must simply explain the situation as I have, to the best of my knowledge, and that is what I have done.
Mr. Cable: All right. Let us both scour that article and see exactly who said what.
The impression I got from the news clips, when the Yukon Liberal Party Leader indicated that the performance of the Land Claims Secretariat negotiators was going to be reviewed, was that the Government Leader felt that was improper. He felt that it was the mandate that should be reviewed. Was that his feeling at the time?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Yes, it was and is.
Mr. Cable: Prior to the lateral movement of these two people in the Land Claims Secretariat, was the mandate, in fact, reviewed with them?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Some elements of the mandate were reviewed with them. Before, during and after, I was aware of some intentions on the part of some of the people to transfer.
Mr. Cable: Did these people seek a wider review of the mandate? Did they in any way indicate to the Government Leader that, if there were any problems - I assume the Government Leader did raise some problems, otherwise what happened would not have happened - the mandate should be clarified, enlarged, reviewed or discussed with them in greater detail?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The Member is making an assumption I do not think is fair. He is perhaps trying to tie the fact of the mandate review to the departure of the individuals. I did not say that at all. I answered the questions precisely as the Member put them. Yes, indeed, the mandates have been reviewed, are being reviewed and will be reviewed as we go. The Member asked the technical question of whether or not mandates were reviewed even prior to my knowledge of the possible departure of these two individuals from the Land Claims Secretariat. The answer is that, I believe, yes, some parts of the mandate were reviewed. They have since been reviewed and continue to be reviewed, including with these individuals, because negotiations are ongoing today.
Mr. Cable: Perhaps I do not fully understand what the Government Leader is saying. Is the Government Leader saying it was not a question of mandate that caused the movement of two people in the Land Claims Secretariat, but something else, something other than the clarification of the mandate?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I am not saying anything. The Member is trying to find out why the individuals left, or are leaving, or why anyone might be planning to leave. I am not commenting on that, one way or another, with anyone, either for the individuals involved - who have been cited in the Legislature - or for anyone else in the future.
If the Member wants an answer to that specific question, I think the only way he will get the information, if they want to provide it, is for him to call them.
Mr. Cable: All right. Let us go at it a wee bit differently. Has the mandate been fully reviewed by the Government Leader? Perhaps he could clarify that. He went through it a few moments ago, but I am not sure what he said exactly. Prior to the hiring of new people, has he set down and set up a review, or a redone mandate? Apparently, at one juncture, he indicated the mandate was not satisfactory in the past, over the last four years. That is my sense of where he was coming from at some junctures in the past.
Has he sat down and reviewed the mandate and completed it?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Yes and no. I have sat down, and I have been reviewing the mandate, but I have not completed it.
Mr. Cable: I am sure my colleagues will have some further comment, but there is another issue that came up in the House a couple of weeks ago about the movement of the presidents of the two Crown corporations.
There was the president who wears the double hat of the presidency of the Yukon Development Corporation and the presidency of Yukon Energy Corporation, and then there was the president of the Yukon Housing Corporation.
As I read the respective acts, the appointment of the president with two hats - the president of Yukon Development Corporation and Yukon Energy Corporation - is made by the recommendation of the board of those corporations. The president of the Yukon Housing Corporation is actually appointed by the Yukon Housing Corporation itself. If I read those acts correctly, that would indicate that the Government Leader did not go through all of the hoops that he should have done.
Now, when we get a chance to fully delineate all of the steps that the Minister took - because I think we got hived off about some argument on legal opinions and what not - did the Government Leader seek the opinion of the board of the Yukon Development Corporation before he shuffled the previous president out and put in the new president?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The reason we got hived off on the subject of legal opinions is because the Member asked me if I received a legal opinion and I was only trying to be helpful. I tried to respond to the question of legal opinions.
During Question Period, I believe I already answered the question about notice to the Yukon Housing Corporation Board and the Yukon Development Corporation Board that, no, we had not done that; we had not gone to the board prior to making the announcements; no, we had not.
As a matter of practice, the appointments to the boards have always been done by an order-in-council. The government was in possession of a legal opinion that concluded that it had the right to appoint, dismiss or transfer the positions. However, I would freely acknowledge that there is a confusing sense of overlapping jurisdiction that should properly be clarified at some point, but our legal opinion suggests that, yes indeed, we had the right to do what we did.
Mr. Cable: Could I suggest that we get an independent legal opinion from the private bar?
It would appear that the Housing Corporation Act is quite clear, unless I have missed something. There may be some qualifying provision stuck away in another act. The clear language in the Housing Corporation Act is that the board makes the appointment. I think that both of these boards are set up sort of as arm's-length boards.
Does the Government Leader not think that moving in on these two Crown corporations, which are ostensibly arm's-length corporations, yanking out the presidents and putting in new presidents, violates, if not the law, then certainly the spirit of the law?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The only thing that I will grant the Member is that there seems to be overlapping jurisdictions - that is coming from a non-lawyer.
The Member asks if we would get an opinion from the private bar. I believe that the Yukon Housing Corporation did seek an opinion from the private bar. It concluded that we had the right to make the appointment, presumably based on some legal principles of perhaps hierarchy of laws or something else. I do not know what the legal rationale was. However, the Yukon Housing Corporation Board certainly went through the same process as the one that the Member has mentioned. There is corroboration on that particular point.
I would concede to the Member, because, as I look back on the Housing Corporation Act now, there are many concerns that one could have of the Yukon Housing Corporation Act and its seeming inconsistency with other legislation and current practice. It would be worthwhile to remove those inconsistencies.
As far as I am aware, we were acting within the law. As far as I am aware, both boards have endorsed both appointments. In practical terms, I do not believe that there is any concern. When we do get around to updating the Housing Corporation Act, this ought to be addressed as a seeming inconsistency.
Mr. Cable: I think another inconsistency, of course, is with the Yukon Energy Corporation. They cannot actually make a recommendation unless they are aware that their president is going to be yanked and they have gone out to the public and sought some input as to who wants the job.
Is the Minister saying that the Yukon Energy Corporation board has actually validated the appointment after the fact?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I understand that it is accepting the appointment. I do not know how that has been constituted. I do not have information with respect to that matter. I understand it to be the case.
With respect to the law, as I have indicated, the government was in possession of a legal opinion. We do believe that we acted within the law. Not being a lawyer, I cannot challenge it, but I can tell him that that is in fact the case.
Mr. Cable: Would the Government Leader not agree that it would be extremely difficult for the Yukon Development Corporation/Energy Corporation to make a recommendation to the Government Leader on the appointment of a president if, in fact, they were not aware that the president was going to move?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The Member is asking me for an opinion of the provisions of the Yukon Development Corporation Act, presumably, and how it relates to the Public Service Commission Act. I am not in a position to be able to answer that question. If the Member wants to write out specific legal questions, for which he wants a legal opinion, please do, and I will try to answer them as best I can, once I get the people who are qualified to answer the questions, to answer the questions.
Mr. Cable: No, I am not looking for a legal opinion. I am looking for a commonsense opinion. Section 10 of the Yukon Development Corporation Act, as it has been amended, reads: "On the recommendation of the members of the board, and subject to the certification by the Public Service Commission, the Commissioner in Executive Council shall appoint a president..." Now, if the Government Leader moves in and yanks the president, would it not be reasonable to assume that the board has not made a recommendation? Let me clarify this - and excuse me for being repetitious. One would suppose that there would be a recommendation from the board before the presidency would be filled from that section. Did the Government Leader, in fact, go to the board and say, "Look, what is your recommendation on this appointment? We want to move the president out of the job and move someone new into the job." Did the Government Leader actually talk to the board before the fact?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I think I have answered the question on a number of occasions. Is the answer not clear? I said no. I said no in Question Period, and I have said no a couple of times today. No is the answer. The Member is asking if that is seemingly inconsistent with the Yukon Development Corporation Act - quite possibly. I am not certain if that is the case. I will have to get a lawyer to provide that response. The Member protests that he is looking for a commonsense opinion. I am afraid that he is actually asking for a legal opinion, and I am not capable of providing that opinion with respect to how the laws relate to each other and what the hierarchy of laws is. I do not know that answer, so I will have to request it.
Mr. Cable: During the previous session, there was some considerable comment on the relationship of the then government Minister with the Workers' Compensation Board, which is supposed to be at arm's length, I gather. It is clear that these corporations are supposed to be at arm's length and it is clear from the commonsense standpoint. I am not really seeking a legal opinion. The Yukon Development Corporation Act clearly suggests that there be a recommendation from the board before these moves take place, and any reasonable interpretation of the Housing Corporation Act would suggest that there is some input to be had from the board - whether or not there is some conflicting statute around. There is a clear section that says the board shall appoint the president.
In view of the fact that the Minister has received this advice that there is some confusion around or he is of the opinion there is some confusion around, is he prepared to clarify these statutes so that we know exactly what the relationship is between the government and the arm's length corporations?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I have already indicated that, yes indeed, there is some confusion around this, because I had taken the trouble to go to the government and ask for more information about what transpired specifically around these appointments. From my perspective, there does seem to be confusion about the intents of the two acts. I would say that the Workers' Compensation Act is a much clearer act because it does make reference to the Public Service Commission Act - very specifically, I believe. So I would say that, in that particular case, it is very clear. With respect to these two, and as I have indicated already, we were in possession of a legal opinion that said we could do what we did, that we had the right to appoint or dismiss the positions. There does seem to be some inconsistency from a lay perspective, not being a lawyer, and I am more than happy to try and clarify that so that there is no inconsistency. That is as much information as I have and can provide to the Member.
Mr. Phillips: I would like to go back to the Land Claims Secretariat for a moment. The previous NDP administration, in the seven years it was in power, was negotiating land claims and it almost completed the first four final agreements in that seven years, but it had not quite completed them. In the four years when the Yukon Party was in power, I believe the first four were finalized and then three others.
The Minister has said that he had trouble with the mandate, and I am just wondering if it was the speed of the mandate, or was it something in the mandate that gave him trouble. I know a lot of Yukoners who were pleased that, in four years, seven of them got settled. I know there are other deadlines to meet but I just wonder whether or not the moves that the Minister has made have sent a message to the general public as to whether or not we are actually going to see the others completed in a timely fashion.
What the public is telling me is that they see the removal of the top three people in the Land Claims Secretariat and they see the Minister wanting to expand it to seven tables and to change the mandate. They do not see a new mandate or a public policy or a new policy on the table at all. The federal government has announced that it is not aware of a change to seven tables. The federal Minister has said that he is not aware that there is going to be an acceleration of the land claims to seven tables. I guess there is some confusion felt by the general public. It is getting a mixed message. When the top three people are removed from a department in the manner in which they were removed, it makes it rather difficult to understand.
I know that he is going to come back and say that two of them are still there. In fact, he has, in a way, made them lame-duck negotiators. They are good people; they are talented, but he has told everyone on the other side that they are only there temporarily until they get someone to replace them. It does not give much confidence to the individuals who are there, at least from the Minister's standpoint. We had confidence in them in the time they served us.
I wonder what message the Minister is trying to send and if he is going to adopt a new mandate or a new policy in land claims. Is he prepared to make public what the new policy is and what the difference is between the old policy and the new policy so that the people can understand why he cleaned out the three top people in the Land Claim Secretariat and why we are going in a new direction?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I would like to answer that question with a few questions, which will certainly make my point. Is the Member aware that when the Yukon Party government assumed office in 1992 it made no changes to the first four negotiated settlements? Is he aware of that?
Is he aware that his government made no changes to the umbrella final agreement? Is he aware of that?
When he says that, he is trying to take credit, I presume, for somehow negotiating the first four under the umbrella final agreement. Is he aware that his government made absolutely no changes? In fact, not only did it make no changes to the first four negotiated agreements, not only did it not make any changes to the umbrella final agreement, but it did not even make changes to the law that it brought in, the law that our government had introduced in the spring of that year. It did not make changes to that law either. It changed absolutely nothing; negotiated nothing and changed nothing.
Is the Member aware that the Ta'an Kwach'an agreement is only a partial agreement? It is dependent upon some significant sharing accords being developed with Kwanlin Dun. Is he aware it is not actually a final agreement? Is he aware that the negotiators and the land claims staff have been working to do all the mop-up work and to finalize the Selkirk agreement and the Carmacks-Little Salmon agreement? Is he aware that that is the case?
Things have been happening since the election to ensure that the agreements are in fact signed and delivered.
The ex-Government Leader asks what has been happening. The negotiators got a negotiated agreement, but they did not get a legal agreement, so all of the detail work has had to be done during the last couple of months, which has been consuming a lot of time.
The Member is asking what kind of message we want to send. Our land claims policy is the umbrella final agreement. If the Member wants an overall policy, that is what our policy is.
The Member talks about seven tables. That has nothing to do with this government's policy; it has everything to do with the approaching February 14 deadline, after which time penalties will have to be paid.
No wonder all of the remaining seven First Nations want to come to the table, because they are going to suffer penalties. It is our duty and obligation to try and do whatever we can and negotiate in good faith, so that they will not have to suffer much penalty. We are going to do everything we can to avoid penalties.
Let us do the math here - there are now two principal negotiators. One negotiator would have three files and the other would have four files.
We are proposing the addition of a principal negotiator so that two negotiators can have two files and one can have three files. What is so wrong or difficult about that?
The Member is saying that people are being removed. They are not being removed, and the Member is quite right when he says that is my comeback. Somehow the people who are leaving - for whatever reasons - are going to be lame-duck negotiators. Is the Member aware that the people who are leaving, or who might leave, or whatever the situation is, are in fact not negotiators? Is that a detail that makes any difference to the Member? The people who are the principal negotiators on the right-hand side of the sheet are the negotiators.
The Member has put on the record four or five pieces of wrong information and has asked me to respond to some scenario.
Mr. Phillips: The Minister has created his own dilemma here; that is the problem. He has taken over government and gone in willy-nilly and told some people that he does not need them any more, because someone else has told him to get rid of them, and the Minister knows that. The Minister has given us no reason whatsoever why these individuals are leaving.
The Minister tells us that they are negotiating under the umbrella final agreement; so were we - what is the difference? The Minister cannot tell us the difference.
The Minister cannot tell us the difference. Perhaps the three principal people are not exactly at the negotiating table, but they are the three key people who give direction to the department and the other negotiators; they worked through them. Surely, they were not just sitting there doing nothing.
It is because of the very poor action by the Minister responsible and some of the people working for him in the way that they handle people. The New Democrats are supposed to be the caring people, and then they go in and do this to some of their people who have worked very hard for years. It is quite disgusting. Actually, it turned out to be quite embarrassing for the government and for the Government Leader.
For the Government Leader to stand up and say that nothing has happened in land claims for four years is outrageous. He criticized the Leader of the Official Opposition for saying that there is nothing going on right now. It was just a few days ago that he stood up and said that nothing had happened for four years. How does he think those people feel, the 20 or so people on the list who have been working hard, putting in extra hours and working weekends to finalize agreements? The Government Leader just chooses his words to suit himself.
Perhaps the Government Leader can tell us when they are going to put out the job descriptions for the new positions in the Land Claims Secretariat. Is the government going to advertise for the new positions - the new deputy minister and the other positions that people are going to eventually leave? Are they going to be filled in a matter of time? Who will be giving direction to the department in the meantime?
There are a lot of Yukoners who are concerned about what is happening at the land claims table - or what is not happening - and what the problem is.
The Minister was quite sensitive about the first four agreements. He said that I said that his previous government did not do anything. I did not say that at all. In fact, if one looks at Hansard, I said that a lot of work had been done. The Minister should listen.
The new government came in and finalized it and did a lot of the clean-up work that he might be talking about now. It was not all completed. He did not just show up at the table the day after and sign it. There was still some work to be done.
The problem is that the new Government Leader is just too sensitive. We all know these kinds of things take time and that there is overlap in every government.
I would like to hear from the Government Leader, if he did not like what was going on in land claims over the last four years and is not happy with the settlements, if he plans to go back to the negotiating table with any of the seven First Nations and change anything in the existing agreements? Does he plan to go back and have discussions about the existing agreements and make changes to those initialed agreements?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: To answer the last question first, I do not see any reason to, other than the fact that the last three - the Ta'an, the Selkirk First Nation and the Carmacks-Little Salmon agreements - are not complete. In the Ta'an agreement's case, there is some major work to be done in the sharing accord. Consequently, there is a fair amount of work.
If the Member is asking me if there is any consequential changes that have to be undertaken with the first seven as a result of what is being negotiated right now, the answer is that I do not believe so.
With respect to the Member's comments about a lot of the work having been done, if I sound a little sensitive, I do not mean to. The first four agreements were clearly negotiated by the New Democrats, and I know that was the case. I was perhaps responding to election campaign rhetoric, which said the Yukon Party had something to do with the first four agreements and the umbrella final agreement, when all it did was take the legislation into the Legislature - legislation and agreements they did not change. Consequently, that is probably what I was responding to, if nothing else.
Am I concerned that no agreements were struck in the first three years? Yes, I am very concerned about that. I am not saying for a second it was the fault of any individual in the public service.
The umbrella final agreement contained some deadlines to complete the remaining First Nation final agreements, and the assumption was made that those negotiations would be happening over the course of the first three years of the Yukon Party's mandate. However, the agreements were not being concluded. Now, I am expected - on behalf of our government - to try to negotiate seven final agreements in two months. If I do not, then some Yukoners will be paying penalties. We are really going to be under the gun.
The negotiators who have always been at the table over the course of the last couple of years are continuing to go to the table. They are the ones who are in Dawson right now. With respect to some changes in the mandate, certainly, depending on the community and the issues, there may be a review of the mandate. There might be a review of the mandate with respect to Tombstone Park. There might be a review of the mandate with respect to some other items in the final agreement, all consistent with the umbrella final agreement. Certainly, our orientation is to get fair land claims settlements for the remaining - really, it is eight, First Nation agreements, including Ta'an Kwach'an's. That is what we want to do.
Again, with respect to the people the Members have identified as possibly leaving the Land Claims Secretariat, yes indeed. When the arrangements were struck, if they leave voluntarily, or if they quit, or if they take another job some place else, or anything else, their jobs will be filled because I have asked the department to make sure that critical jobs for the Land Claims Secretariat are filled as soon as possible, particularly when they have notice. I have indicated that we are going to be recruiting a chief land claims negotiator - yes indeed. That is an important job, and we will be recruiting for it. We will be meeting as much of our mandate as we possibly can within the very severe time lines that we face. That is our challenge.
Chair: Order please. Do the Members wish to have a short break?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. We are dealing with Bill No. 3, Executive Council Office.
Mr. Phillips: I would like to go back in to the Land Claims Secretariat and try to get some commitments from the Government Leader on the new staffing for the Land Claims Secretariat.
The government has made a lot of to-do about local hire. It even got a local hire commissioner and spent several hundred thousands of dollars on a new initiative there to get that up and running. I think that if they are going to staff the Land Claims Secretariat this would be a good indication to the people of the Yukon that if there are jobs available for Yukoners, and there are Yukoners qualified, then the Yukoners will get first choice of these jobs.
I just wonder if the Government Leader can give us the following assurances: firstly, these new jobs in the Land Claims Secretariat will go out to competition, and secondly, that they will give priority to hiring Yukon residents - not people who have left the territory for a couple of years, but people who are actually here - not all of the people who got laid off from the British Columbia NDP government and have come flocking back here in droves to take up the new jobs. We are already starting to see an influx of some of them.
However, I think there are Yukoners here who are looking for work. Our unemployment rate, as the Minister of Economic Development said, is far too high. We would like to see that reduced. If we have jobs available, can the Minister give us a guarantee that, first of all, they will go out to public competition and, secondly, that Yukon hire would be a number one priority as far as staffing these new positions?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, that was an interesting presentation. When Yukon people express concern about the number of people working on publicly funded construction projects who came from outside and did not even set up residence here in the Yukon, what was our response? Our response was to say that we need to do what we can to get Yukoners on the construction jobs. We also said that it was wrong to screen out Yukon construction firms because it lessened the chance of Yukon construction workers finding work here in the territory. We did not declare independence. We did not say that never again will a public servant be hired from outside the territory, that never again could government hire a Mr. Miller or a Mr. Drown or a Mr. Hallman or a Mr. Mitchell. We did not say that. We said that we needed Yukon construction workers on new publicly funded jobs, and that was our commitment.
If the Member insists that everybody whom this government hires will be from the territory - everybody, no matter what; no matter what the job - that is a commitment that we did not make. We certainly would like to hire as many people as possible from the territory, but I am not going to give the Member a commitment that we are going to only hire people from the Yukon for all positions. We are going to hire qualified people, and hopefully we will get as many people as we can from the Yukon. That is the commitment that I am making and have made.
Mr. Phillips: There he goes again. The Minister is trying to put words in my mouth. I said that the people had to be qualified. If they are qualified and meet the Public Service Commission screening, will they hire Yukoners for these land claim jobs as a priority and make sure these jobs go to Yukoners?
The party on that side is the one that campaigned on this. It does not matter if it is a construction job, a land claims negotiator's job, a health care worker's job or any job - it is a job.
If there are jobs to offer to Yukoners in the Public Service Commission of the Government of Yukon - if this is local hire priority government and if local people are qualified - the Yukoners should have priority. Will the Minister give the commitment that if there are qualified Yukoners they will get the job over someone from British Columbia or another province in Canada?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I certainly recognize that people in Alberta thought that they had a fast-track with the Yukon Party government. I am not saying that those people cannot be considered for work.
If the Member wants to expand the NDP's campaign commitment to include all public service hiring, he is not going to be successful; we will not do it, because it is not reasonable.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The Member for Klondike says just people on the hospital. We said publicly funded construction projects, and that includes people on the hospital project.
One thing that this government will not do is screen out Yukon construction firms from bidding on those projects. That is the nature of our commitment. If a Member wants to indicate to us that there will be no further outside hiring in the Yukon public service from any place else in the country, then I cannot give him that commitment, and I will not give him that commitment. During the election campaign, people asked me if that was the commitment I was making. I said, "No, it is not." I said I was very precise with the commitment we were making, and it was a very important commitment. But if the Member is asking me to make that commitment, I will not because I did not make it before, during or since the campaign.
Mr. Phillips: I guess we might end up getting into an interesting discussion about what the difference is between a Yukon construction worker and a Yukoner who is qualified to be a land claims negotiator but cannot get a job with the Government of Yukon because it is hiring British Columbia residents. What is the difference? I do not see a difference. If someone is qualified, is a Yukoner, and understands the First Nation issues - they are qualified and have the background - why can the Government Leader not make a commitment? This is the local-hire Government Leader, who now says, "Hey, listen. Look what I said." The Government Leader is becoming like Jean Chretien, in that one has to look to see exactly what it says in the red book - "I said 'construction workers', okay? So, if you are a construction worker, you are qualified. However, if you are in some other field, you can search elsewhere; we do not need you. We will hire from some other province or territory." I think the Government Leader is splitting hairs here. I mean, either there is a local hire policy for Yukoners or there is not, and it does not matter if it is a construction worker or a clerical position. Perhaps we can get the government directory and go through every position in the Government of Yukon and ask the Minister whether or not priority will be given to a Yukon hire in each one of the positions in the Government of Yukon.
The Member for Faro says I am clever, but it is the Member for Faro who said, "They have got to be Yukoners to get the jobs." You know, the Member for Faro has a whole bunch of constituents in his riding who are going to be out of work in the next few months and might be qualified to be a land claims negotiator, but the Government Leader will not even give a commitment that he would even consider them.
You know, I cannot understand why not - local hire commission, hundreds of thousands of dollars. Perhaps that could be the first recommendation of the commission. Where is the local hire commissioner? Sitting in the back. Hopefully he will write a letter to the Government Leader saying, "Government Leader, here is your opportunity." I know there are Yukoners who are qualified for these jobs, and who want to work. The Government Leader knows there are Yukoners who are qualified, and they should darn well get the jobs. There is no excuse whatsoever to hire someone from outside for these Yukon jobs - someone who has a background and knowledge of First Nations, someone who understands the differences and similarities in our communities: a Yukoner. Can this Government Leader not give a commitment that the priority will be for a Yukoner?
I guess this is another one of the campaign commitments. We heard one earlier today that was broken: the wolf kill thing and the caribou recovery program - a commitment made by the Minister of Renewable Resources who shot from the hip during the election campaign. He had to swallow his pride today. The Member who brought his first bill into the House that was so flawed that it was a disaster. Now we have another campaign commitment with respect to local hire that only means construction workers. If one has a hammer and saw, and only want to work on the hospital, that is the only thing the government meant, nothing else. That is pretty shallow.
Can the Minister give us the commitment that, if the people are qualified - which is the number one point - they will be given the priority in these jobs?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I think that question was kind of a rhetorical one. Was there no one in the Yukon Party's caucus who could do what Dale Drown did? The Member is telling me to sit down already. Is there no one who could do what Merv Miller did? Is there no one who could do what Alan Hallman or Arthur Mitchell did?
We are just in the Cabinet offices at this point. We have not even branched out yet to all the public service hires for people outside of the territory that the Yukon Party was responsible for. Was there not a single person who could have filled some of those positions?
This Member who now stands up and proclaims for the rights of Yukoners and says that a commitment to hire Yukon construction workers on construction projects, which is easier to do than under the Constitution than absolute commitment on public service hire - when he is saying that it should now be expanded to all public service positions, what was the Member thinking of when they did all the recruitment out of the territory? What was the Member thinking of when they were filling political office positions? Obviously, whatever enthusiasm the Member has now newly found for this particular position is not something that was ever supported by the Yukon Party itself while in government, including the Member himself when he was the Minister responsible for the Public Service Commission.
There was no breaking of any promise on the wolf control program moratorium. Does the Member know what a moratorium means? Moratorium means that it is put on hold to study it. It was put on hold and it was studied. It is too darn bad that the Members have decided to make convenient arguments at this point.
If there are Yukon people who are qualified, certainly they will be considered. The Member is saying that they will not be considered; of course they will be.
We will try and do everything we can to get qualified Yukon people into all jobs with the government, as we have in the past.
With respect to the commitment to local hire, before we actually change the policy of the government to try to improve things, there well may be a construction worker hired from Alberta. There is a good pipeline there now. We will do everything we can to try to change policy and, it is hoped, change things enough by the coming construction season to try to improve the situation dramatically. We will do it in order to encourage local people on all publicly funded construction projects.
Mr. Phillips: It is interesting when someone seems to have some kind of hidden agenda.
When the Government Leader made an announcement about the local hire policy, he said that he was prepared to push the Charter. All of a sudden, today, he says in his reply to my question that it would be more difficult with public servants, due to the Constitution, than it would be with construction workers. The law does not work that way. I think the Government Leader is grasping for answers in an effort to dig himself out of the hole he has dug for himself.
All I am asking is that qualified Yukoners get a priority on an important job such as this. I know that there are probably qualified Yukoners who are residents, have been here for several years, understand the problems and have the abilities to do the job. All I am asking is that the Minister give us the commitment that he will publicly advertise the jobs in the territory. The job description should already be written, because the government knew several weeks ago that it was going to make changes. The work should have been done and the job description ready. Will the Minister get them in the paper as soon as possible, because I know that there is some urgency to this, and if there are Yukoners who are qualified, they should be given a priority.
Why the Government Leader has chosen to split hairs and say that a construction worker is more important than a land claims negotiator is beyond me, but I do not believe that to be so.
The Government Leader talked about my record. Let us talk about his record. He is the one who said that local hire is the priority. He is the one who set up a commission of local hire.
So let us hire locally. I am just asking the Minister to put his money where his mouth is.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I am sorry, but the credibility of the examiner is at issue. It is very much at issue. The credibility of the people who are making the charges and standing up ostensibly defending the rights of Yukoners is very much an issue here, too. There is no doubt about that. When a person stands up and says, "Please give some work to some laid-off workers in Faro," did he consider even one of those workers to staff the positions in the Cabinet office where there does not even need to be a public competition - no. Did we staff all the positions in our Cabinet offices in the Yukon. Yes, we did. Every single one.
Certainly the credibility of the Yukon Party is very much at issue here. When I am trying to understand what they mean by standing up for Yukoners, I am trying to compare what they are saying with their actions, and I see a lot of public servants hired from outside the territory. I see Cabinet office staff hired from outside the territory.
I am trying to accept that that is their standard; that is what they are trying to encourage me to do; that is their standard for performance, and we are responding to their standard. Already we have improved on their standard even though we have not made any changes to policy yet. We have not made any changes to policy because we have not done the policy work yet. We have not built any public consensus yet. We have not talked to the public about contract regulations yet, but I would argue that we still have improved on our predecessor's record by hiring all the Cabinet office staff from the Yukon.
Certainly, the Member's credibility on this point is critically important.
The Member says that, during the election campaign, I said I was prepared to push the Charter. I did not say break the Charter. I said "move to the limits of the law". When we have the policies constructed, we will do things that are important here in every case that we can think of, certainly, with respect to the campaign commitment about construction projects - and we will.
Public discussion is going to have to be held. The Member might think that he has a "gotcha" every time a construction company maybe hires somebody from British Columbia next spring before we have made any changes to policy. I can tell him that we are going to have to work on the policy. The policies are going to have to be changed. That is the reason we have a commission.
We made a commitment with respect to a certain level of local hire. We will do everything in our power. If there are qualified Yukoners, in an open public competition, the job will certainly go to the Yukoner. This is most definite. I will tell you another thing. When we were in government, we did do precisely that to the point that we were recruiting 99 percent out of the Yukon. I can tell the Member this: we will not copy - and we have not copied - the sorry record of the Yukon Party Cabinet and caucus staff. That was a sorry, pathetic record. We will not be copying that. We have not copied that.
I know the Member is trying to get a commitment to do things that we are not ready to do; however, I am not going to fall into that. We are going to do things deliberately and thoughtfully. When we are ready with local hire policies and have built consensus, we will announce them publicly.
Mr. Phillips: I have one last little question.
The Minister did not say whether or not the jobs would be publicly advertised in the Yukon. Is he going to advertise in the Yukon prior to advertising outside the territory if he cannot fill the position locally? Would he give the commitment that he would advertise only in the Yukon first, and then advertise nationally if it is not filled by the applicants from the Yukon?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Let me get this clear now so that I can understand where this particular Member wants us to go now. Does he not want us to do what the Yukon Party did? Do not do what the Yukon Party did. That is what he is saying now. Do not do what the Yukon Party did and recruit outside the territory at the same time as recruiting inside the territory. For example, whenever there are a number of deputy ministers recruited outside the territory, do not do what the Yukon Party did, which is to simultaneously recruit inside and outside. Is that the point he is making? Do not follow the Yukon Party's record. Do something new. Do something different, and only recruit firstly inside the territory. Can the Member clarify that for me?
Mr. Phillips: I am asking the Member if, on these particular jobs, he will advertise within the Yukon first. If he cannot fill them within the Yukon, will he then advertise them outside the Yukon? That is what I am asking the Member. He is in government now. He is the Member with the local hire policy. All I am asking the Member is to follow the commitment to Yukoners, which he made in the election campaign, that his government would make sure that it is Yukoners first.
That is all that I am asking the Minister to do; this is not a big deal. Will the Minister give a commitment to the House that the job will be publicly advertised and that it will be advertised in the Yukon first and then advertised outside of the Yukon if no qualified applicant is found?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Okay, I want to clarify this then, because the Member is being too cute by half here.
The Member has said that we have a local hire policy, which, of course, we do not yet, in terms of the actual consensus in the community, which we said we were going to undertake. Apart from that, which is a detail the Member wants to ignore, because it does not suit his political objective here - do not do what the Yukon Party did and consider any recruitment or any advertising outside, only do it locally first and then go outside. I will tell the Member that I will consider that, but I will not make any commitments, because I have to consider all of the ramifications of what he is suggesting.
Mr. Phillips: The Member is going back into the old Yukon Party history. We could do the same thing and go back into the NDP history for the past seven years when dozens and dozens of people came to the territory from down south and got jobs in the Yukon. I am not talking about that; I am talking about what happened in the last election campaign.
The Government Leader stood strong and firm in saying that there are too many Yukoners out of work, that there has to be more Yukoners hired for jobs, so damn it, hire Yukoners. That is what I am asking the Minister to do.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Phillips: We are getting a few little catcalls and comments from the Member for Faro; he has not changed a bit. The Member does not realize he is in government now; he still thinks he can chirp away in the corner.
I am just asking the Minister to give us a simple commitment and advertise the position publicly, so Yukoners have a chance to respond and have a fair chance for the job through this government, which is pro-Yukon hire. That is all that I am asking.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: As Members all know, we are actually dealing with the Yukon Party's time in government, because this supplementary we are debating is all about the Yukon Party and everything it was doing. What is germane to this subject is precisely Yukon Party record.
The Member seems to suggest that he can champion the rights of Yukoners, yet blithely ignore the fact that he, himself, was party to decisions that provided Yukoners no opportunity in their own offices. How does the Member get off doing that?
The Member asks what the Yukon Party said it would do? It said it would develop local hire policies. What is the purpose of having a local hire commission if the policy is already done?
The policy is not done. We also do not have a forestry policy. The forestry policy is not just done. We will not develop these policies behind closed doors. We will develop these policies with the public.
The Member is being extraordinarily hypocritical here, based on his own operational record in the year under review, which is what we are actually debating here. This budget here is his record. That is what we are debating.
It is certainly the case that the Member can ask me what my policy is. I have already indicated what we are doing to develop policy. However, the Member cannot escape his policy. It is perfectly legitimate for me to try to understand where the Member wants us to come from by comparing what that Member was doing only a couple of months ago, in practice, when he had the opportunity to actually put things into practice.
The reality is that the Yukon Party did not have a great record on this front. We will be developing policies to promote local hire. If the Member finds a construction worker from outside in the next six months, he may well find him working on a Yukon-funded project. Until we get the policies in place to change the situation, it will operate under existing policies.
With respect to the land claims staff and the principal negotiator we will hire, we will advertise it, and if there is a qualified Yukoner who comes up the best in the ranking, they will get the job. Absolutely. That has always been the procedure, as far as I am aware, and it should be continued.
Chair: Before we continue, I would like to remind all Members to refrain from using unparliamentary language.
Mr. Phillips: The Government Leader does not get it. He still does not get it. I understand that this budget is primarily a Yukon Party supplementary, but there is money in this budget to pay for staff people in the Land Claims Secretariat to the end of the year.
The new Minister has announced that he is going to make some changes and hire some new people for that secretariat. That is the same Minister who ran on a strong platform of local hire and then got elected on that platform of local hire. It does not matter what any government - regardless of its stripe - did in the last 10 years. We are talking about what this Minister said he would do if he got re-elected.
This is not a construction job where there might be a bid. I understand that the odd bid will come in before the local hire policy is in place, and that a company from outside the Yukon might be awarded it. That might very well happen, and it might even happen after the policy is in place. What I am saying to the Minister is that this is his opportunity. This is not a bid out there somewhere for a job that he has no control over. This is the Minister's portfolio and his policy of local hire.
The Minister is under attack, and he is trying to attack me personally and deflect every reason in the world to change the subject or not to give a proper answer, because he knows he is in trouble on this one.
The Government Leader has an opportunity here to hire Yukoners or give Yukoners preference. We said something a few moments ago and, if one missed it, it would mean a great deal. He said that he would give preference to qualified Yukoners if they were the best.
I am saying to the Government Leader that, in this case, if he is supporting a Yukon hire policy, he would consider a Yukoner first if he or she was not necessarily first but was qualified to do that job. A Yukoner should get it because of the Government Leader's commitment to hiring Yukoners before he would hire someone from British Columbia who just got laid off from the NDP government or some other jurisdiction in Canada. It should be a Yukoner who gets the job if there is a Yukoner who is qualified.
There may be some people in Faro who are qualified for these jobs, but it sounds to me that unless they come first - unless they are the best - the Government Leader has someone else in mind already. I think that is unfair. He made the policy; he made the commitment that there would be a local hire preference in this territory, even if he had to challenge the Charter. Here is his chance. Advertise the job locally. Hire locally, and if he gets challenged, he should stick up for Yukoners, just like he said he was going to do in the election. I challenge the Minister to do that.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: It is interesting. I guess we try to understand where the Member is coming from, and basing our judgments on his record will do us no good. Obviously, that is the case, because the Member is saying, "Do as I say now and not do as I do."
The Member is now trying to interpret our commitments, and in some cases he has interpreted them incorrectly. On top of that, he has tried to hold us to commitments that he has designed. The answer, generally speaking, is no, I will not do that.
With respect to the land claims personnel, certainly there will be a public recruitment. I did say, if they are the best, and certainly I meant if they are qualified. We will try to pursue local recruitment, as we always have, and I believe we can in this particular case too.
If the Member is saying that if the recruitment is completed and a Yukoner is not hired that somehow that is a failure of either a campaign commitment or a policy or anything else, then he will be wrong. That is the point I am trying to make.
Yes, there will be recruitment, as there generally is for public service jobs. It will be advertised locally. I do not guarantee that it will be advertised only locally, because if we do not believe that we might be able to find someone, we do not want to go through the process again. We have deadlines to follow. I do not guarantee that it will be done simultaneously, but it certainly will be done locally. If there are qualified Yukoners who could meet the test then, yes, they will be the ones hired. That was a long-standing policy of the NDP government in the past. I am prepared to stand by it too. It did not mean that only Yukoners were hired for every job, I would stress to point out. Absolutely, that is the way it has always been, as far as I am aware.
Mr. Ostashek: I am going to tell the Government Leader right now that I find some of his statements very, very alarming - very alarming. Yukoners have a right to be concerned.
I want to clarify a couple of statements that he had tried to put on the record about our government, which just are not true and have no basis of fact whatsoever.
There is a policy for hiring in government today that was implemented by us when we were in power, and that is to advertise locally first for two weeks. If the department was not satisfied with the response received then they advertised outside the Yukon. He is shaking his head over there, but that is a reality. He should check with the Public Service Commission. Then he would find out that that is a fact. For senior management in government, that is the way we went about it.
The Government Leader made a big issue that we hired so much senior management from outside the territory in our four years. Well, I beg to differ with him. I only know of two deputy ministers that I can think of - and the Minister can correct me if I am wrong - who were hired from outside in the four years that we were here, and one of them I could say was very similar to the gentleman they hired - John Walsh - when he said he was "coming home". I could say that about the Minister of Economic Development whom we hired; he was coming home. He had worked in the Yukon before. The Deputy Minister of Justice is the only person I can recall, while on my feet, who was hired from outside. I may be wrong about that, but for the Member opposite to get up and leave the impression that all of the senior management we hired in the four years we were here were from outside is just wrong. It is not correct at all and I say to the Government Leader: they are the ones who got elected.
They are the people to be watching to see if there is any meat in all the political rhetoric in the campaign, or if this is just smoke and mirrors, because that is what it sounds like to me.
I am going to tell the Government Leader something right now that he may want to seriously consider if he goes into this recruitment process for the land claims personnel. We understand there will be three people recruited. The Government Leader knows how stories go around this building and around the Yukon, and what a small community it is. I would tell the Government Leader that we knew several weeks before he hired John Walsh that he was going to hire him. I am telling the Government Leader now that there is a real concern in the public and in the civil service, because the message is that there are three land claim negotiators coming from British Columbia after this session of the Legislature is over.
I am on the public record, and we will see what the Government Leader does with this. That is the concern of Yukoners. For him to stand there and say local hire is solely in construction jobs and does not apply to government is very silly, to say the least.
I want to get back to land claims to clarify some things with the Government Leader that he has on the public record. I refer to an interview he did on December 3. He is quoted in an article done by the Whitehorse Star.
The Government Leader, Piers McDonald, said that neither employee had been fired - he is referring to Karyn Armour and Duncan Sinclair - nor are they leaving government: "They have either been reassigned or they have volunteered to leave the secretariat," he said in the interview. Is the Government Leader prepared to stand up and say that statement is accurate or inaccurate?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: First of all, the Yukon Party hired three deputy ministers, two of which came from outside of the territory - two-thirds of the deputy ministers came from outside of the territory. The Deputy Minister of the day for Economic Development and the Deputy Minister of Justice. Am I right? The deputy minister who was hired locally was the Deputy Minister of Government Services. Is that right? Okay.
I am aware that there are lots of rumours floating around this territory about one person or another being hired into various jobs. I am aware that most of those rumours are wrong. The Member asked me a question about the two individuals. I said, "As far as I know, they are either being transferred or leaving the secretariat voluntarily at some point in the future. That is my understanding."
Mr. Ostashek: I have to say to the Minister that there is little wonder that there is so much confusion, because he continues to change his story. He did not say in his quote that it would be some time in the future. He said that was his understanding of what had transpired. His deputy minister said that there had been no one moved prior to that time.
It is little wonder that there is so much misunderstanding as to what really happened. The Minister went on to say that the Land Claims Secretariat was being reorganized - he said this on December 3, more than two weeks ago. He also went on to say that he has every confidence in the staff, including the people who are leaving to go to another job in government. He did not say "some time in the future". He said this on December 3.
How can the Minister think there is anything else but confusion in the public's mind when he makes statements like that? Ever since that time he has been backpedalling and saying that people are in their positions, which I understand they are, but that is certainly not what he told the Yukon public on December 3. In fact, he disagreed with his deputy minister at the time.
My question to the Minister is, if he has all of the confidence in the world in these people - I think he should have, because they are very talented people and they work very hard on behalf of the territorial government - did he not feel that they were professional enough and talented enough to carry out the policies of his administration, so that he did not have to go to this extent and have them removed from their jobs? How can these people have any confidence in this administration?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I am not backpedalling at all. I have indicated many times that I have confidence in the staff of the Land Claims Secretariat. The Members opposite are the ones who have suggested otherwise. When they asked questions, I did not volunteer information. When asked direct questions about these personnel matters, I was trying to be circumspect, as people generally are when they are asked questions about individuals, their aspirations and their own personal situations. I try to be circumspect about that. I think I have taken it as far as I can go in terms of betraying the information I have about the personal circumstances in these people's lives. I intend to go no further.
I was asked a question about whether or not I understood that those people were going to be leaving the Land Claims Secretariat. I understood the answer to be yes. When asked the question of whether or not the people are in the secretariat, the answer is yes. Will they be there until they are replaced? The answer is yes.
What is inconsistent about any of those statements?
I have been very, very consistent about the situation from the beginning, and I have also been consistent in saying that I did not have these people removed, as the Member alleges. He is wrong again, for the umpteenth time in this short sitting. He has made the statements publicly. He has made the statements in press releases and in the Legislature, and he is wrong every time he makes them. Every single time, he is dead wrong.
I do have confidence in the staff of the Land Claims Secretariat to carry out the functions of that particular body. In fact, the people with whom we discuss the negotiations that are currently underway are people who were there before. The same people who were actually negotiating the agreements are there today and they are actually negotiating the agreements. They are people with whom I have contact every day - through my staff and directly.
That is the reality. No matter what construction the Members across the floor want to build to create the image of real trouble or some conniving backroom deal to hire either somebody in the Yukon they personally do not like or somebody from outside the territory, none of it is going to fit.
I am going to resist their interpretation of what happens in this government and what this government's actions are because the Members are not telling the truth.
Point of order
Chair: Mr. Phillips, on a point of order.
Mr. Phillips: I would ask the Member to withdraw that comment. It is unparliamentary.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: On the point of order, I did not say they were intentionally not telling the truth, I said they were not telling the truth, and there is a difference between intentionally and not intentionally telling the truth. There is a difference.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I am sorry, there is a difference.
Chair: The time being 5:30 p.m., I will now declare a recess until 7:30.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order.
Chair: Just before the recess at 5:30 p.m., the Member for Riverdale North raised a point of order regarding a phrase used by the Government Leader. The Chair asked that the Hansard staff provide the Blues for review prior to 7:30 p.m.
In reviewing the Blues, the Chair found that the Government Leader said the following, "I am going to resist their interpretation of what happens in this government and what this government's actions are because the Members are not telling the truth."
Our Standing Order 19(1)(i) states that "A Member will be called to order . . . if that Member charges another Member with uttering a deliberate falsehood."
To the Chair, the phrase "the Members are not telling the truth" implies that they are uttering a deliberate falsehood.
Citation 494 of Beauchesne's Sixth Edition states, and I quote, "It has been formally ruled by Speakers that statements by Members respecting themselves and particularly within their own knowledge must be accepted. It is not unparliamentary temperately to criticize statements made by Members as being contrary to the facts; but no imputation of intentional falsehood is permissible."
The Chair would not like to hear any Member allege that another Member of the House is not telling the truth.
I therefore rule that there is a point of order and I would ask the Government Leader to withdraw the phrase "because the Members are not telling the truth."
Withdrawal of remark
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Mr. Chair, I abide by your ruling, of course. I withdraw the phrase, "the Members are not telling the truth."
While I am on my feet, I will indicate to Members, as I indicated this afternoon, that we will be recruiting staff for the Land Claims Secretariat in the way that has been time-honoured, particularly respecting the principal lands negotiator positions that we said we were going to recruit.
I would point out to the Members opposite that the Yukon Party government attempted a recruitment all last year for a principal negotiator and land negotiator, beginning last January, but did not fill the position because they did not find suitable candidates in the Yukon.
That probably suggests that there may be an argument for a simultaneous recruitment ad, both within and outside the territory. One Member asked for a commitment that we have recruitment ads only in the Yukon; I cannot give that assurance and I will not.
Mr. Ostashek: I thank the Member for that reply. I have some more questions about land claims yet and my colleagues have some questions also, but I just want to continue on the approach I was on prior to the break. I want to clarify for the record one thing that the Government Leader said. An impression I do not want to leave with the public is that we only hired three deputy ministers and two-thirds of them were from outside the Yukon. In fact, we hired more than three deputy ministers. We appointed deputy ministers from within the service. In my opinion, we hired one from outside the Yukon - Mr. Oppen - who was a long-time Yukoner and worked for the government for quite a few years before. I think we can make the same argument as the Government Leader did in his press release that Mr. Walsh was coming back home. On that issue, he did not consider him an outsider.
At any rate, I just wanted to clarify that for the record. Again, I want to point out to the Government Leader that there seems to be a controversy in the public as to what was said and what was not said. The Government Leader has not been consistent in what he has been saying.
In an interview with the Yukon News on Wednesday, December 4, the reporter said that Mr. McDonald admitted that his government's position on land claims is going to change.
He went on to say that the transfer of Sinclair and Armour reflected the government's need to do something radically different. Now, that is not what he has been saying in this Legislature ever since. My question to the Government Leader is this: are they going to do something radically different and, if so, what is that something radically different that they are going to do?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: First of all, what I was referring to in terms of recruitment was not appointments within the public service at all. I was talking about recruitments from outside the public service. I think the Yukon Party's record speaks for itself in that respect. I am not saying, by any stretch of the imagination, that I do not have faith in the two external hires that the Government Leader chose when he did his recruitment outside the territory. In fact, they are working for this government and doing a good job, so I do not have a problem with that at all.
With respect to land claims, one element of the land claims activity that is going to change is that I am going to take a much more activist role in trying to encourage the land claims negotiations to proceed. I am going to be very, very interested in ensuring that negotiations take place, that the parties at the table are well-prepared and if there is anything I can do to facilitate the beginning of negotiations, I will. We do want good land claims agreements. In terms of attitude, that is the most dramatic.
In terms of the additional resources, I have only given signals that we will be requesting additional resources, and I have said that consistently over and over again. I have not said that we are requesting additional resources in the supplementary budget we are debating now. I am saying that we are going to be.
I have not said that I have got it or the land claims negotiating team has it all mapped out. I have indicated that in the short term there will be a new principal negotiator; another one that we will reallocate within the unit. I have said that there will be some support for that position reallocated from within the unit in order to meet emerging negotiating needs. Ultimately, in the spring, when the arrangements are struck we will be asking for additional resources in order to meet our ongoing obligations.
One other thing that we are planning to do is to be able to respond more quickly to changes in negotiating positions at the land claims table, particularly in lands negotiations. Currently, we have a situation where three sides to the negotiations come to the lands selection table and present their positions. As those positions evolve, it is incumbent upon the Yukon government, particularly, to check the impact of the changed position with the various public servants in government to identify third-party issues that need to be addressed at the table. That is a very time-consuming process. Another change that we are thinking of doing is to speed up that response time so that there is a more attentive response from various line departments to provide input to the table.
With respect to community issues, we will consider those issues when they arise. The basic mandate is found within the umbrella final agreement. If the Member wants to know what kind of land claims agreements we typically negotiate, the first four agreements are an example of the kinds of agreements we negotiate. Certainly I am going to be putting a lot more time and attention into it. I am going to be asking for more resources to do this. I am going to speed up the response time. Those are the kind of things, off the top of my head, that I can identify as being changes.
Mr. Ostashek: The fact is he is doing absolutely nothing different because that is exactly what was being done by our administration. As far as response time goes, we had a chief land claims negotiator who was in touch with me constantly while negotiations were going on and the response time was very, very quick. What this is is smoke and mirrors - that is all it is - by the Government Leader to make it look as if he is really going to get something accomplished.
He did not respond to the second part of my question, which relates to the transfer of Sinclair and Armour to reflect the government's need to do something radically different. Could he respond to that, please?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I did not catch what the Member said at the very end. Does he want to repeat it as soon as I make a comment? Or perhaps he could repeat it now.
Mr. Ostashek: I said that the Government Leader did not respond to the statement that the transfer of Sinclair and Armour were to reflect the government's need to do something radically different.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I did not say that. I know that Members opposite have said that.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, perhaps the media is repeating what the Members opposite have said because it has never been issued from my lips. If they did say that I said that, then I would say that they are at variance with the facts.
I would say that the good and respectful relations that we have struck with First Nations on a government-to-government basis are riding results. In the time that we have had an opportunity to develop relations with First Nations I would say that they are very professional, very good, and I would say that there is all of the evidence in the world to support that.
If the Member wants to take a difference in attitude as being nothing new, then I disagree. I think that there is a difference in attitude between our administration and the previous government, and I believe that is going to produce better results.
We certainly have not gone off in the media and attacked First Nation governments or the Grand Chief or belittled anyone, or anything else. In my view, we have had nothing but respectful relations, good communications and good, effective political work so far. I hope to be able to keep that up and I think it will produce results.
We have only been in office for six weeks to a couple of months trying to put together the transition and build this good relationship, and seeing the kind of relationship that we have already, I think that we have been doing good work and I hope that it will prove to be one of the factors that would help us get the land claim agreements that we need to get.
Mr. Ostashek: I wish the Government Leader luck. We all want to see land claims settled, but I think he is using a lot of political rhetoric and there is not much in action or dramatic change. In fact, nothing has changed - unless he is going to be negotiating land claims in the Cabinet room, that would be the only change that I could see.
I do want to get back to another point. I feel the Government Leader has been very unfair to the Land Claims Secretariat. He has been very unfair to my government, but I really do not care about that, because we never agreed on anything anyway, but I think he has been very unfair to the Land Claims Secretariat when he said that precious little was done in four years. That is simply not true.
I am going to go back over the record of some of the things that have been accomplished over the last four years and ask the Government Leader if he agrees with me. The Government Leader has attacked the Land Claims Secretariat as being unproductive in four years in terms of how they have not gotten anything done. I think that is very unfortunate.
The fact is that there were three sets of land claims and self-government agreements negotiated. They were the Carmacks, Selkirk and Ta'an. We know that there is outstanding stuff for Ta'an, but not in the negotiations. There is a separation between the Kwanlin Dun and the Ta'an. The land selections are completed and self-government agreements are completed. All the things that the territorial government needs to be involved in are basically completed. The only thing that is stopping it from taking effect is the separation from the Kwanlin Dun.
Along with that, there have been 15 implementation plans finalized in the last four years. The umbrella final agreement and self-government agreement plans with seven First Nations have been completed and have received parliamentary approval. As the Government Leader says, some of ours are only initialled by negotiators. Let me draw to the Government Leader's attention that the first four claims that they had finalized - he is right that the negotiations were completed - but it was from 1992 to February 1994 before they had any effect. There was a tremendous amount of work that still had to be done. It was work that was done by my administration and Land Claims Secretariat that he has been so quick to criticize.
There were funding agreements with Canada for the final agreement and the self-government implementation plans. That is another area of negotiations that was completed.
There was an agreement between the Ta'an and the City of Whitehorse for the release of lands for the sewage treatment project. That was another major project completed by the land claims people.
In legislation, the two Yukon government acts were the first order of business when we took over government at about this time four years ago.
We also went out and did public consultations with a committee of the Legislature that winter, and we brought the agreements back in March for final approval.
We were actively involved in drafting three federal acts, final agreements, self-government agreements and the Surface Rights Act. As I said, there was the legislative committee going around the Yukon on the bills.
We also made appearances before the parliamentary committee.
We completed the first round of community consultation on the development assessment process. That is another area where the Government Leader tries to maintain that precious little has been done.
It is no wonder that people within the bureaucracy are being demoralized, because there has been a lot of work done. If the Government Leader wants to speed it up, that is fine - more power to him; however, there is no factual basis for him to say that there has been precious little done.
We also have a First Nations relation policy that is now part of the Yukon government policy manual. That is another piece of work completed by our people.
We also completed negotiation protocol for conduct in respectful negotiations between parties. That was another piece of negotiations that was completed.
There was the active involvement in the federal inherent rights policy work.
There was a lot of stuff done by the land claims people over a period of four years.
The Management Board approved a process led by the Deputy Ministers Policy Review Committee defining implementation priorities and allocations of implementation funds.
There was an ongoing three-party implementation process set up with First Nations.
There was departmental implementation work underway on issues such as joint renewable resource work and administration of justice.
There was work started with boards and committees.
First Nations issues were part of the training calendar. His interim deputy minister taught that course on behalf of the Yukon Party government.
There was work started on automated geographic information systems to compile all of the relevant land-related information in one place to support implementation. As well, there were regular meetings with Council of Yukon First Nations officials as a matter of good business.
That was all conducted under the previous administration. I take real exception when the Government Leader stands up in this Legislature in public and says that precious little was done in the last four years on land claims. Could more have been done? I would have liked to have seen more done. Yukoners would have liked to have seen them all finalized. However, there has been a lot of work done. There is no doubt about it. If they can be completed quickly, so much the better.
If we look back at the record of land claims in the Yukon, the NDP government was in power from 1985 to 1992 and they negotiated the umbrella final agreement, the model self-government agreement and four land claims agreements. None of those agreements had parliamentary approval when we took office in 1992, and there was a lot of work left to be done - just like now, the Government Leader is saying we have negotiated three agreements, but they are not final. Certainly, there is a lot of tying up of ends to do and a lot of interdepartment work to do once an agreement has been negotiated. I would just say to the Government Leader that, along with this, he has another land claims agreement that has only one outstanding issue - that is the Dawson First Nation with the Tombstone Park matter - and then it will be completed. There is very little work left to be done on that. Eighty-five percent of the Kwanlin Dun land negotiations are completed and self-government issues are pretty well completed. There is some outstanding work to be done in both of those areas, but those are areas in which a lot of work has already been done. For the Government Leader to stand up in public and say that nothing has been done on land claims in four years and now he is faced with this deadline of February 14 - which I always believed was the deadline, too, but now the federal Minister is saying, "What deadline?" - I am not so certain that there is even a deadline. Nevertheless, everyone in the Yukon would like to see land claims completed. I wish the Government Leader every success in finalizing them before February 14, if at all possible.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The first point that the Member made some time ago respecting the claim that nothing has changed in terms of our strategy and tactics - I guess we will just disagree on that point.
The second point that I would like to make is with respect to the minor point I would like to make regarding the Dawson First Nation agreements and the claim that there is only one outstanding issue at the table - as the Member may not know - is not, in fact, correct at all. There were a number of outstanding issues at the table and those items are being negotiated this week. Self-government negotiations in Dawson have not even begun yet. There is a fair amount of work to be done. I hope the Member does not minimize that work when it is finally completed.
With respect to the claim that I had attacked the Land Claims Secretariat for doing nothing, that is not true. I have not attacked the Land Claim Secretariat for doing anything at all. With respect to the Yukon Party's record in terms of negotiating First Nation final agreements, I had been very critical of that and I have said so. I do know that the Land Claims Secretariat has done a lot of work, including implementation work over the last few years. I am very happy that they have worked so hard in so many critical areas.
The issue that I have raised and the context in which I have been discussing this matter is the negotiating of First Nations final agreements, and I have always said so in the context of meeting a deadline. I do believe that the deadline is going to be real in a sense that I do believe First Nations are going to pay penalties. I do believe that is going to put a lot of pressure on us to get the negotiations underway and to be able to respond quickly and to be able to do a number of things at once, including a lot of the good, sound technical work that the Land Claims Secretariat has been labouring at over many years.
I have not ever said that the previous Yukon Party government was good for nothing and did not have one redeeming feature. I have not said that. Maybe that is what the Member remembers me doing - only criticizing him. I have never said that the Yukon Party government did not do anything, nor that the Land Claims Secretariat under its administration did nothing. What I have said is that there are outstanding First Nations final agreements. We have seven. There is a deadline of February 14. There are going to be penalties paid afterward. It is unfortunate that we are not in a situation where we are further along with the First Nation final agreement negotiations; otherwise, we would not have to pay the penalties.
That puts a certain pressure on a new government to perform at a very, very high level and it is extremely pressing and difficult to be able to respond to those deadlines. I still think that we can do some good work.
I am happy to see the Opposition Leader wishing us well because I can tell him that I am going to be doing everything that I can to keep relations with First Nation governments good and to work on the relationship to make sure that we cover any difficult moments that may arise from time to time, or that will almost certainly will arise from time to time.
Mr. Jenkins: I would like to explore with the Government Leader his explanation as to how the presidents of Yukon Housing Corporation, Yukon Development Corporation and Yukon Energy Corporation were replaced.
I take the Government Leader back to debate in the House on November 20, 1989, pertaining to Miscellaneous Statute Law Amendment Act, 1989. I take you back to Mr. McDonald's discussion on that subject and to quote Mr. McDonald he says, "What is obvious in the Liquor Act, Workers Compensation Act and the Yukon Development Corporation Act is that they are taking the words either executive director or manager, whatever the legislation had called those positions, and changing them to president. The Member is quite right about that.
"With respect to the Housing Corporation, even though the legislation has not been changed, the practice has been perfectly consistent with respect to the appointment of an executive director position for Housing Corporation, or chief executive officer for the Housing Corporation, for a significant period of time, which is allowed for under this act.
"The Member has already read out that the board of the corporation shall appoint its employees. This is not say that this employee will be appointed by the government. It does not say that this employee will be elected. It does not say that this employee will be anything other than appointed by the board of the Housing Corporation."
The Government Leader has already admitted to the House that he has not conformed to the act of these organizations and that he has appointed a president for both of them. In fact, he has broken the law governing the appointment of a president for those corporations and he has an opinion that another act grants him that authority.
Would the Government Leader please provide us with the legislation and legal opinion that allows him to act contrary to the position of those acts and allows him to overrule or override them and appoint a president to these respective agencies.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: We will keep on tilling the same turf, I suppose. First of all, as I already indicated once, the government has been in possession of a legal opinion that concluded that it had the right to appoint and dismiss the positions. The Yukon Housing Corporation sought an opinion that confirmed that point. We have conducted our activities in a manner that is consistent with past practice.
If the Member is asking for a legal opinion, I will not provide the legal opinion. If the Member wants to ask the Yukon Housing Corporation for their legal opinion, he can do so, but it confirms what I have indicated. I have already acknowledged that there are inconsistencies among acts that should be rectified at some point. That is all I can offer the Member at this point.
Mr. Jenkins: The Government Leader has openly admitted that he is not conforming to the act of these corporations. In fact, he has broken the law governing those two corporations on the understanding that he has the legal authority granted to him through another act. Could the Government Leader please provide the act that allows him that authority?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Yes. It is the Public Service Act.
Mr. Jenkins: Which clause and section of the Public Service Act allows him the authority to overrule and appoint these presidents?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I will give the Member a legislative return. I am not competent to provide a legal opinion. I will give the Member a legislative return later.
Mr. Jenkins: I would like to explore a bit further with the Government Leader the situation with respect to land claims. It has been on the table for discussion for the last while. The talk on the street, which has proven to be very reliable to date, indicates that the government has already sought out and has three people coming to the Yukon from British Columbia to fill the vacancies that will be created - or, the government will cause to be created - in that department. Is the Government Leader just paying lip service to Yukon hire? These jobs are already promised elsewhere.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I would like to help the Member confirm or deny street talk. He claims it is very reliable. I have heard a lot more rumours than just three about people being hired or not into the Land Claims Secretariat or deputy minister positions, or anything, and if the Member wants to focus it down and identify some people, perhaps he can send me a note. If, unlike his colleagues, he is at all nervous about naming citizens in the Legislature, he can send me a note and I can confirm or deny rumours. However, I can tell him that no offers have been made to anybody for any positions in the Land Claims Secretariat, of which I am aware.
With respect to the recruitment process, the information I discovered only this evening is that in fact a recruitment has been underway for a year for a principal negotiator and for a lands negotiator for the Land Claims Secretariat. Yukoners did apply but none were considered qualified, I presume, because nobody was hired. Consequently, I would say it is going to be hard to find them. If the Yukon Party does not think anybody is qualified to perform this task, it may be difficult for us to recruit somebody, but we are going to give it our best effort as well. We will certainly do our best but if the Member wants to trade rumours perhaps he can just let me know who it is he is referring to, and I will be able to tell him that, no, that person, whoever they are, was not given a guarantee of a job in the Land Claims Secretariat or anything else.
Mr. Ostashek: I just have a couple more questions on land claims, and then we will move on to another topic. I would like to get the Government Leader on record about his position on negotiating with the Ross River Dena Council and the Liard First Nation. As the Government Leader is aware, both of those First Nations signed the umbrella final agreement and the model self-government agreement and, up to the time we left office, were not prepared to negotiate under the auspices of the umbrella final agreement or the model self-government agreement. What is the Government Leader's position on that?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I understand that they will be coming forward to negotiate First Nation final agreements. We have indicated that the umbrella final agreement will be our model, and they are still coming. So, I am expecting the negotiations to get underway.
Mr. Ostashek: I thank the Member for that.
I want to turn to another issue. In the Legislature on Thursday, the Government Leader said that the staffing for his Cabinet support staff was the same ratio as that of the Yukon Party government. I do not know how the Government Leader came up with that because when I looked at it, with the 23 employees that the NDP has hired for Cabinet and caucus support staff, it works out to 2.09 per elected Member, whereas the Yukon Party was 1.88. I draw to the Minister's attention that the Yukon Party had a caucus of nine Members that we were providing staff for. We were doing that with 16.5 people. The NDP government has a caucus of 11, which is two more people in their caucus, yet they have 5.5 more employees. Does the Government Leader agree with me?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: No, I do not.
I am looking for an opportunity to agree with him. I want to stress that point.
The Yukon Party Cabinet had 16.5 positions hired through the Executive Council Office, and one and a half positions hired through the Legislative Assembly Office.
The Yukon NDP has 19 positions hired through the Executive Council Office, and 3.5 from the caucus budget. There is one communications position to fill.
Those are the positions that we are identifying. The total is 18 for the Yukon Party. Nine Members means two per Member. There are 22.5 full-time equivalents for the New Democrats, and 11 Members. It is just barely over two per caucus Member. I regard that as being an accomplishment, particularly given the fact that the budget is the same as the Yukon Party's budget. We have hired more people, but we are using the same budget. I think of that as a good accomplishment and a reflection of good, responsible management of this particular area. I am happy to say that we were able to do it and hire Yukoners, too.
Mr. Ostashek: I will check on the numbers during the break. I do not believe the Government Leader is right. I think we had a total of 16.5 staff.
As far as him operating with the same budget, I certainly do not agree with that, because the numbers that we have for the last complete year, 1995-96, show that our actual costs were $864,486. The Government Leader is saying that he is working within the projected budget for 1996-97. That does not necessarily mean that the Yukon Party was going to spend that entire budget. We lapsed funds every year for Cabinet support staff and many line items in the Executive Council Office. We will see when the Government Leader has had the opportunity to have a full year under his belt and does not have the mix of part of a year for the Yukon Party government and part of the year for himself. I, for one, do not believe that his numbers will come in within the same parameters as what our salaries were for Cabinet and management support.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I would like to point out to the Member that we are trying to work within the budget the Yukon Party said it required to manage the Cabinet offices, even though we have more Members to serve than did the previous government.
When the Government Leader indicates to us that they might not have spent the entire budget, I would point out to him that at least, insofar as some of the caucus positions were supported with the Legislative Assembly Office's budget, it is clear that they overspent the caucus allocation to the Legislative Assembly Office. That was the reason why we had the supplementary, as the Member will remember, in the Legislative Assembly Office vote. It was largely a result of the heightened expenditures in the run-up to the election. I recall all the weekly inserts in the papers, one a week, for a number of months, all of which cost a fair amount of money. That is the reason why we had to vote the extra money in the Legislative Assembly Office; otherwise, Opposition caucus offices would be cut short.
Far from a claim that the Yukon Party government may not have spent it all, it may well be the case that they may have been overspending, and certainly, if the Legislative Assembly Office is anything to judge by, I would say there is a cause for concern that perhaps the Yukon Party may have been in the process of overspending in the Cabinet office vote.
We want to work within the vote that the previous government allocated for itself in managing our affairs. We do have more people to serve. We have two more caucus members and we have also asked the private Members to perform important functions for the government. Even though they are doing those important functions, we are not asking for a larger budget in order to accommodate those functions out of the Cabinet office budget.
So I believe that we are trying to be very careful. We took pains to try to fit our needs, as an expanded caucus, into existing budgets, and I think we have done well on that point.
Mr. Cable: I just want to back up a moment to the land claims. Earlier this year, the Council of Yukon First Nations presented to the various political parties a proposed protocol on land claims and devolution. It asked if the parties were prepared to sign that document. Does the Government Leader recollect that document and protocol?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Is the Member asking if I recollect the document? Yes, I do.
Mr. Cable: What position was taken by the Government Leader at the time when he was Leader of the Official Opposition?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I think the position of the time was that, in substance, we did not disagree with the request of us that we have a closer, more respectful relationship and that we should involve First Nations in devolution discussions. There were a number of issues addressed. We certainly agreed in principle with the main body of the document as I understood it was evolving. We have not been presented with the same document since the election, but we have taken the trouble to address many of the issues that the First Nations and we had identified that were of common concern to both of us.
Mr. Cable: Is there a formal protocol being worked out with respect to devolution?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Yes, there is. Discussions are underway among the Yukon government, the CFYN, the Kaska and the Kwanlin Dun First Nation to develop a protocol or a memorandum of understanding on how we believe devolution discussions should proceed.
This move has been signaled to the federal Minister, who appears to think that this is a reasonable approach and is expecting a response from us, jointly, in January.
Mr. Cable: Once the arrangement is worked out, is it anticipated that it will be made public?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Yes, indeed.
Mr. Cable: Has the government developed a position yet on whether the various First Nations should be signatories to the devolution agreements?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: How the First Nations participate and how they will express agreement with the agreements is a detail that is being discussed right now.
Mr. Ostashek: That leads me to a few questions on devolution also. The Government Leader spoke to the Chamber of Commerce here shortly after he was elected and in his statement, as reported, he said to the chamber that if the First Nations did not agree with devolution it just would not go ahead. He basically said that the First Nations would have a veto over devolution, yet that is not what is stated in the throne speech. The throne speech uses softer language and says that the First Nations will participate in developing positions on devolution, which I fully agree with. Could the Government Leader clarify it for the Yukon public? Will, in fact, the First Nations have a veto at devolution talks?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: No one is going to have a veto on anyone doing anything. What we have indicated is that all orders of government should be discussing matters that affect each other and should be involved in those discussions. We believe that the First Nations should be involved in the devolution discussions, particularly because it does affect their ability to manage their resources on their land. Certainly they bring some wisdom to the discussions that I would not want to cut out. Nobody has a veto.
Mr. Ostashek: I thank the Member for that. I have one other question I could ask the Minister of Economic Development but since it is a devolution issue also, and the Government Leader stood up and answered the question in the Legislature today, I feel it is appropriate to ask him.
What has happened with the oil and gas legislation and when does the Government Leader see it coming forward to this Legislature? What discussions has he had with the federal government about the legislation that they have on the Order Paper in Ottawa now that should be passed before spring for our legislation to be able to take effect?
My concern is that a lot of people and companies have been waiting for the oil and gas to be devolved to the Yukon. They have expressed a very sincere interest in coming to the Yukon and they could help to create some jobs in our economy. I would like the Minister to qualify for us what he sees for time lines for that legislation coming to our Legislature and when we can expect that we will have full authority for oil and gas in the Yukon.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: First of all, the session of the Legislature will probably involve a budget and not other legislation. Certainly, in the coming year, I would not be surprised if we came forward with oil and gas legislation to give effect to agreements struck between all governments. With respect to the role the federal government is playing, it is waiting for us to conclude some discussions we have underway with CYFN and the Kaska Tribal Council, who are belatedly involved in some discussions around the oil and gas management regime. They are having some concerns about the federal oil and gas legislation proceeding and compromising land claims negotiations underway. We believe those concerns can be resolved, and we are taking the trouble in the Yukon to try to resolve some of those issues so that the initiative to transfer oil and gas responsibilities to the Yukon can occur.
Mr. Ostashek: I thank the Member for that, but let me assure him that there is nothing that will stop the Member from bringing that legislation forward in the spring, if he so desires, because he would certainly have agreement from this side of the House. That is what the agreement we were working on said - that it was mainly a budgetary session, but if there was important legislation, by mutual agreement, it could be proceeded with. I think this is very, very important legislation to the Yukon and to the economic development of the Yukon. So, if the Government Leader is in a position to bring it in to the House in the spring, I would not want him to be held up by saying that he can only bring forward a budget in the spring.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I thank the Member for that statement, and we will certainly take that into consideration.
Mr. Cable: I am told that in the Northwest Territories, prior to the devolution of the oil and gas - whether or not that has already taken place, I am not sure - the government and industry worked with the First Nations and got the development off the ground, thereby creating jobs. Is the Government Leader prepared to ask his Minister of Economic Development to try a similar approach in this jurisdiction - getting the First Nations on side as one of the partners to advance the oil and gas exploration and development prior to the formal devolution?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: We do believe that devolution is possibly pending here and that the priority right now is to work with the First Nations to resolve their concerns, and those discussions are going on as we speak. They may even be going on this evening.
We do want to see the residual concerns that First Nations have had - and I cannot be precise about those concerns because I do not understand all of them as not all of them have been communicated to me - addressed if we can and we are putting some energy into working out the problems now.
If those problems can be worked out, we can communicate our position to the federal Minister and if changes are necessary and if changes can be made, we can proceed, and all of this can happen within a couple of months.
Ms. Duncan: I would like to ask the Government Leader a question. Tonight we have heard different discussions about conflicting legislation. Is there any thought or any plans by this government for a regulatory review and overhaul to see where our acts are in conflict?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: We have committed to a regulatory review as it affects business. We have not committed to an overhaul of all of the legislation where there are conflicts, because there certainly are many. Certainly in my time I know that there have been some attempts to address some of the pieces of legislation that we have identified this evening.
I would hope that in the coming years we can address some of those concerns and deal with some of the conflicts that do appear to exist.
Ms. Duncan: The Government Leader mentioned a review of regulations with respect to business. I would also like to ask the Government Leader if he or the government intends to conduct a review of the boards and commissions that are in existence. Some of them are required by law and some of them may be duplicating services or work being done by another board. Does the Government Leader intend to review the various boards and commissions in place?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: We have not made any large commitments to look at wrapping it up or to redefining boards and committees throughout government. Certainly, if anybody would like to make some recommendations on how our boards and committees structure can be made more efficient, I am hoping that those recommendations will come forward. If the House can, in the spring perhaps, find a mechanism to set up a committee or to refer appointments to boards and committees to a particular - not that I want to create a new board of the Legislature but to a committee of the Legislature, then certainly it would be worthwhile for the committee to perhaps make some recommendations on how we might want to make our boards structure more efficient. I like to encourage citizen involvement but I do not like to encourage duplication. I do not think any one of us would wish to do that. So, if there are such recommendations, put them on the table and we will all chew on them for a while.
Ms. Duncan: While we wait for the all-party committee to be struck, or whichever suggestion we end up following with respect to appointments to major boards and committees, there are appointments taking place because they are needed in a timely manner and there are people wanting to nominate people to boards. Is the government prepared to open up the nomination process to make it public, and if so, how and when does government intend to do that?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: We are going to be going through the process as we have in the past, I understand, to put advertisements in papers - not the Yukon Party Update, but in the public media - to announce that anybody wishing to sit on boards and committees should submit their resume to somebody in the Cabinet office, for those appointments that are the purview of Cabinet.
We have done that in the past when we were in government before. We encouraged people to submit names if they had a particular interest in a particular area.
That is one way of building a database of people who are interested in providing a service to the public.
What about the revision of statutes that happens every 10 years? We are about due for that process right now. Are we looking at doing that within the next year?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I have been here for 15 years. We have never done a full revision of all statutes in the Legislature. I believe that all of the statutes are on that centre table in the blue books.
We have taken some laws and reformed them when they involve a particular priority of the government. However, to my knowledge, we have not ever done a full review of all of the laws and determined where they conflict and where they do not. Some of that can be cleared up from time to time when the problems are identified to the Department of Justice and taken care of through miscellaneous statutes amendments.
If the Member is referring to a large project in which all of the laws are comprehensively analyzed, I do not recall that ever having been done.
Mr. Ostashek: I want to turn now to what I and many Yukoners perceive as a very serious problem that the Members of the new government starting out have on their hands: the politicization of senior management in government.
When the Members opposite were in Opposition, they were very vocal about anybody in my office being at all involved in the hiring of a deputy minister. I have pages and pages of Hansard showing that they went on and on about the politicization of senior management in the Government of Yukon, and how the current Government Leader's former Government Leader of the day said that it was totally unacceptable and that there was no place in the civil service for politicization.
As the Member opposite knows, his former leader went even further by dismissing a couple of deputy ministers in 1985 when they took over government for, as he said, "wearing silly hats at a political convention."
I am concerned that there has been a trend by this Government Leader to politicize senior management in government. I think that is very disturbing.
It certainly begs some questions. So,
I guess my first question for the Government Leader is about deputy ministers being selected from a list of qualified people who have been qualified by the Public Service Commission. I am not arguing the Government Leader's right to appoint or reject any deputy ministers, but the Public Service Act states that deputy ministers are to be screened by the Public Service Commission for their qualifications prior to their appointment.
In the hiring of the Deputy Minister of Education, can the Government Leader tell this House tonight if, in fact, that procedure was followed?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I answered the question in Question Period. The question was asked about whether or not we followed the law and I said that yes, indeed, we had. I was studious enough to check with the Public Service Commission about the precise issue and yes, indeed, we had followed the law.
With respect to the candidates, there was one candidate. The Public Service Act says "one or more candidates." We presented one candidate. It was believed that, in the case of the Deputy Minister of Education, the person was and is a credible public servant and a long-time public servant. We believe that, in this particular case, the person is well-acquainted with the Education Act and well-oriented to the notion of partnership in education. The person has been with the Department of Education for many, many years and is also a long-time chair of the principals and vice-principals association. We believe that the person is a very credible candidate for this position.
We wanted to make a strong statement to the education community that we do believe in partnership and that not only do we understand what the Education Act says, but also that we are going to implement it. Consequently, we presented this person. The person was recruited by the Public Service Commission in accordance with the law.
Chair: At this time, we will take a short break.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order.
We are on Bill No. 3, Executive Council Office. Is there any further general debate?
Mr. Ostashek: Before the break, I was talking about the concern that I and many Yukoners have about the politicization of senior management in government. As I said, there was a lot of criticism by the Members opposite when they were in Opposition about our method of hiring deputy ministers. Even though the deputy ministers all went through an interview process, the Members opposite were concerned about the political people even short listing them.
The former Member for Whitehorse West went on and made a lot of points and said that there was absolutely no place in the public service for political involvement, that these people were professional people and, in order to be able to give unbiased advice and to be the go-between between the departments and the political people, they could not be perceived to have a political bias. Does the Government Leader agree with that assessment?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I agree that deputy ministers of the government should not be actively involved in politics. I agree that they should not be members of any political party. Do I agree that they should have absolutely no bias? I do not think that is possible.
I think that everyone has some bias. In the case of the Deputy Minister of Education that the Member mentioned, I believe that his bias is in favour of partners in education and I believe that he is a very credible person in the education community. I believe that he has a lot to offer as a long-time public servant of this territory and that he is well qualified to provide leadership within the Department of Education, having served in that department for at least two decades. I believe that this person is capable of undertaking the tasks as we define them and understands the whole emotional partnership.
I do feel that the person is well qualified. The person is not a member of the NDP, but has been in the past, certainly, but is not now. He will not be actively involved in politics and will not participate in any partisan political activity while he is performing his role as a deputy minister in this government.
That is one restriction that is inflicted upon all deputy ministers, unlike all public servants, who can, of course, engage in partisan activity. Deputy ministers are not expected to engage in these activities and that is what I expect as well.
Mr. Ostashek: I thank the Member for that. It certainly seems as if there are two standards here, one for the Government Leader and his New Democratic Party and one for the rest of the political parties in the Yukon. The reality of it is - and for the record let me be very clear and specific - I have nothing against Wolf Riedl as a person and I am sure that he is an upstanding citizen in the community and a man of integrity. I have no difficulty with that. I have no difficulty with the candidate who ran against me, as a person. I have nothing personal against him. I am talking about politicizing the civil service. We have not one, but two, at the deputy minister level who are former candidates of the NDP, and in the very recent past ran in this election. In the case of Mr. Riedl, he ran in the previous election and was announced as a candidate in this election, although that announcement was later withdrawn.
It was reported in the paper that he was going to be the candidate in Kluane before the Member for Kluane who is here now. That was retracted by Mr. Riedl. Maybe it was printed in error but the fact remains that he is a very known and close associate of the NDP in the Yukon. I do not know how the Government Leader can believe that a deputy minister who is this close to the party in such a recent period can have the confidence of the department and not be concerned about department people first thinking about what his political persuasion is rather than his task as a senior manager in government. That causes the dilemma that concerns a lot of Yukoners, and myself included, that this person, while he may be fully qualified to be a deputy minister - and I am not questioning that at all - was hired without a competition. He did not go through an interview process with other people for this position but, as the leader of the NDP said, one was approached, one was interviewed and one was hired.
I think there is a trend that is going to make it very uncomfortable for other senior management personnel in government. Here we have four deputy ministers who were dismissed and we have two deputy ministers being hired without competition who are known NDP supporters.
Is the Government Leader not concerned about that?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: First of all, the four deputy ministers were not dismissed. We were unable to find appointments for two deputy ministers at the deputy minister level. Two deputy ministers were offered deputy minister level jobs.
With respect to the recruitment of the Deputy Minister of Education, this person had had a long association with the Department of Education. He was a much-respected education leader in the territory. It was a judgment call that this person should be considered as a deputy minister for this particular position because the person is credible.
I would argue that, given the response from the public, particularly from the education community, has been so positive is testimony to the fact that the public does believe this person is credible, able and capable of leading the Department of Education. This person is a long-time public servant. This is a situation where the person is clearly well-versed with the organ of government and has been a long-time public servant under many different regimes and an education leader in his own right. Because the education community is so supportive suggests that this was a good appointment.
There was no doubt in anyone's mind, to my knowledge, that this person is capable and qualified. Anytime anyone makes an appointment of a deputy minister, whether they go through a recruitment process or not, a judgment will be made as to whether or not the person is capable or qualified or appropriate for the position. The fact that the reaction has been positive in this particular case, is testimony to the fact that a lot of people in this territory agree with this selection.
I have not heard any detractors except for perhaps - well, not even the Member opposite. A lot of people in this territory believe that he is a good choice because of his background, because of his association with the Department of Education, because he is an educator and because people wanted to restore the notions of partners in education and because he was familiar with this and because he was a long-time chair of the principals and vice-principals association. Those are all good reasons.
Now the Member asks if a person was a candidate, does that disqualify him to be a deputy minister? Not necessarily. No. If a person has been partisan, does that disqualify him from senior positions in government? I would argue no. I do know of people who are now deputy ministers in government who have been partisan in the past, and who are working with this government. There are senior people in this government who are working and doing good work in this government who, I know, are senior players in the Yukon Party. It does not bother me one bit. It never has bothered me one bit. I have made that very clear on the record. If the Member wants to use the Hansard index, he will see that I have never objected to people being partisan as long as they can separate partisanship outside of the office from their work during the day. In the case of the deputy minister, I believe that the person should not be an active partisan and should not hold a party card. That is the scripture.
The concerns that the Member has raised have been noted. I understand what the Member is saying. He has made his position very clear.
Mr. Ostashek: I want to say to the Member opposite that the person was a teacher, not a public servant in terms of a public servant within the public service. He was a school teacher for many, many years and probably a very good school teacher and principal in the schools. However, the fact remains that I believe the Government Leader has compromised this person and his ability to operate because he was hired without going through the normal competition and without going through an interview process in which he competed with other candidates. This is the part that is disturbing to a lot of Yukoners. If the Government Leader thinks that everybody is very supportive of his appointment, then he better broaden his circle of contacts. There are a lot of people who are not very happy about it. Some of them are school teachers. I will let the Government Leader know that.
I believe that people who are put in these positions are compromised. People who are reporting to them are compromised, because their first thought is, "What does he want to hear?" These people are supposed to give advice to the Government Leader and politicians. They are not supposed to just come along and say, "Yes, this is the way you should do it. That is the best idea." If the Government Leader is not going to have advice from people other than what he wants to believe himself, I think that it will not be long before the Government Leader finds that his government is in very serious difficulty.
I believe that the civil service should remain professional. I do not have any difficulty with directors or anybody lower than that being involved in politics. I never have; however, when we get to the deputy minister level, I think that we are really stretching it, and it is not a proper procedure to be used. Had these people gone through a competitive process, been short listed, gone through an interview process and were selected by an interview panel, I would not have any difficulty at all with their appointments at the deputy level.
They truly believe that they could keep from being politically involved after taking that position, but I do not believe that this is the proper method as these are seen as blatant political patronage appointments. That is very unfortunate.
I do not know how the Government Leader, after making these political patronage appointments - this is the way they are seen by the general public, whether he wants to believe it or not - can stand up and say it is not true, which is his prerogative, and we will agree to disagree on that. I do not know how he could think that people within the civil service would want to be advanced to the deputy minister level if it is going to be politicized.
I am not one who agrees that the entire civil service management - all the deputy ministers - should change because the government changes. I think it is unfortunate. I would hope that any future hiring that the Government Leader undertakes follows the proper process and will not just be appointments because it appears that the party owes someone something. That seems to be the case for the candidate for Riverside. He ran in the election forum and now it is time to give him a job. That is fine, there are lots of jobs in government without it being a deputy minister's job.
The Government Leader is on the public record as saying that the deputy commissioners are, in fact, deputy ministers, so they are deputy minister positions. I think it is totally unfortunate that the Government Leader resorted to those actions in hiring these people into the civil service.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Some things we will agree to disagree about. I do believe that teachers are public servants. I do believe that people who administer schools have administrative experience.
I take it that the Member has turned over a new leaf when he says that deputy ministers should not expect to be dismissed when a new government takes office. I was actually on the phone this evening with one of the deputy ministers who was dismissed by the Yukon Party after it was in office two months. He was one of the four. The woman lives outside the territory, still subscribes to the Yukon News and was beside herself with concern at the comments made by the Member in the media about claims that the Yukon Party would never do such a thing. Of course, she protested that the fact was that they had, in spades.
I understand what the Member is saying. In this particular case, I believe the person who was hired as the Deputy Minister of Education is a very credible person among teachers and parents across this territory.
The Yukon Teachers Association expressed its support for the appointment. I will concede that there may be confidants of the Member opposite who are not pleased with the appointment, and perhaps who are not even supportive of this person's perspective when it comes to education. I have not come across those people yet, but everyone I have spoken to, and from comments that have been made in the media so far, appear to be very supportive, because people will acknowledge that this gentleman is a person of some ability and one who has been around the education system for a very long time, has a lot of good experience, was a co-drafter of the Education Act and knows where the government wants to go with respect to education. That is the reason the person was asked and, ultimately, with the person's agreement, that is the reason the person was offered an opportunity to lead the Department of Education.
With respect to the deputy commissioner for local hire, I pointed out in the past that this person is very familiar with the whole field that we are pursuing. First of all, I have expressed the belief that this person is academically capable and is a long time policy director in this government who is certainly capable of directing policy work.
That is the reason the person was selected: ability. If they were not able to perform the job, they would not be hired to do any work. If the Member wants to characterize this as payback, I would have to disagree. We owe a debt of gratitude to many, many people who are not working for the Yukon government and most of them probably will not be - probably 99 percent of them.
We do feel that the person, in this particular case, is a credible person when it comes to this particular subject matter. It is a subject that comes up in the college classes that he teaches regularly. Consequently, we believe he is capable of heading up a policy team - not being a deputy minister of any department, but heading up a policy team at the deputy level. This is what the person has done while in the public service and including while they were in the public service working for the previous government.
Mr. Ostashek: The fact that he was a candidate in the recent election has absolutely nothing to do with it? I do not know how many Yukoners will believe that line.
I can just say to the Member opposite that, had a Yukon Party government tried something like this, we would have been in this House for weeks on end, answering questions about it from the Members opposite. We are going to be watching this government very, very closely. They have hired quite a slug of deputy ministers now, and there has been no competition for any of the positions. I think that is very unfortunate. Are these deputy ministers and deputy commissioners who are being hired going to be hired under the terms of the deputy minister severance policy that is in place now, and will they be required - as they were under my administration - to sign a letter accepting that severance policy? Are they all being treated equally?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Yes, they are, as far as I am aware. There is one deputy minister, to my knowledge, who has never signed the policy. I explained the situation with respect to the severance arrangements for deputy commissioners already, but I can repeat it if the Member wishes. The only deputy who is being treated like a permanent deputy among the deputy commissioners is, of course, the deputy commissioner responsible for the energy commission.
Mr. Ostashek: Is the Minister saying, then, that the other three deputy commissioners are not being treated as deputies for the purposes of severance policy?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: That is correct, because they are hired for a term. As I explained the other day, one deputy commissioner has no severance entitlement of any sort, at his request. One deputy commissioner, should they leave the job, is entitled to return to their job in the public service from whence they came, and one deputy commissioner gets no severance when the term expires, but if the deputy commissioner is requested to leave the employ of government prior to the work being completed, prior to the end of the term, then they are entitled to three months' severance. That is the sum total of severance requirements for deputy commissioners.
Mr. Ostashek: I will have more questions on the deputy commissioners and the commissions in just a moment, but I have one other question I would like to explore with the Member first, and then move on to the commissions.
It is my understanding that, shortly after the new government took office, three people were sent to Ottawa at the expense of this government - air fare, hotel rooms, use of the Ottawa office. Can the Government Leader confirm whether that is accurate?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: There were offers to provide for the air fares of three people, as I recall, to go to Ottawa to lobby the federal Minister on forest policy and on forest regulations. That is my understanding, yes indeed.
Mr. Ostashek: Was the offer taken up?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Yes. I do not know if all three people submitted claims, but I think some did.
Mr. Ostashek: That leads me to my next question. The NDP's policy is against raw-log exports. It is stated in its campaign literature. These three people are going to Ottawa for raw-log exports. They were going to Ottawa to lobby for Class 2 wood. How does the Government Leader reconcile that?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The Member is not correct, so consequently I do not know what I can say to assist him. I do not believe that that was what the people went to Ottawa to lobby for at all.
Mr. Ostashek: I could tell the Government Leader that one of those people was dealing with my government prior to the election and was going to Ottawa to lobby for a reduction in stumpage fees so that they could export logs from the Yukon. That is what they were going to Ottawa for. I just do not know how the Government Leader can reconcile that when his party is dead against raw-log exports.
Point of order
Chair: Mr. Ostashek, on a point of order.
Mr. Ostashek: On a point of order, I would like the Government Leader to answer this. There is no status in this Legislature for the Member for Watson Lake to answer that question.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: On the point of order.
Chair: Mr. McDonald, on the point of order.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Anyone in this Legislature can stand up during Committee and speak for themselves at any time.
The Members have done everything they can do to avoid having private Members or commissioners speak for anything while the Speaker is in the Chair. Now, for a Member of the Opposition to say that a Member of the government cannot even speak during Committee hearings is a recipe for not allowing him to speak at all, ever. I object to that completely and totally. Show me a rule that says that private Members cannot speak in this Legislature. Show me that rule.
Mr. Phillips: On the point of order.
Chair: Mr. Phillips, on the point of order.
Mr. Phillips: On the point of order, the Leader of the Official Opposition asked the Government Leader a question. All he wanted was the Government Leader to answer the question. The Member for Watson Lake is free to enter into the debate, but the question was asked of the Government Leader. He should reply to the question. He should not get other Members to answer his questions for him. He is responsible for the department.
Chair: Mr. McDonald, on the point of order.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: On the point of order, now the Opposition parties have two positions on this question. First of all, one says that they might have status at some point, only after the Opposition gets its way and gets whomever it wants to answer a question in just the way it wants the question answered. The other person says that the government private Members have no status at all.
I would argue that the Opposition Members do not know what they are talking about. I would argue in favour of democracy and in favour of allowing elected people in this Legislature to speak.
Chair: On the point of order, I refer Members to Motion No. 9, which I understand will be debated tomorrow, that deals with the ability of private Members to speak in the Legislature. However, it is also my understanding that private Members can comment on issues but cannot answer questions. So, Mr. Fentie, if you wish to comment on an issue I believe you have the right to do so.
Mr. Fentie: Just to confirm what the Member opposite is asking, the people in question did not go to Ottawa to have stumpage fees reduced so that they could export logs. They went to Ottawa with a fairly comprehensive package in regard to the regulations. That package consisted of market-driven stumpage, which was skewed totally to local manufacture. A compromise was reached in Ottawa that saw the stumpage fees being dropped for both local manufacture and the component of export logs, and also a pay-as-you-go scheme instead of having to pay up front.
So they most definitely did not go to Ottawa to get stumpage fees lowered so that they could export logs out of this territory.
Mr. Ostashek: My comment to the Government Leader is that I know that they went there with a comprehensive package. However, one of the main criteria in there was that they could not go back to work, because the amount of stumpage that they were paying for logs that they had to export from the territory was too high to make it economical for them to go to work. I am wondering how the Government Leader - and I asked him that before - can reconcile that he campaigned on the policy of no raw-log exports, and yet he can support these people going to Ottawa.
How far will he fund them to go?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I think the Member for Watson Lake has commented on the situation. I do not believe that there is any need to comment further on the matter. If the Member wants any other information about the lobbying trip to Ottawa, which was much appreciated by the forest industry, I would be more than happy to get whatever information I can.
Mr. Ostashek: I would like to talk about the commissions, because there are a lot of questions to be answered.
The Government Leader has come up with these commissions and he has tried hard to justify why they are a good forum in which to gather the information he needs. I want to ask a few general questions first, before we get into the details.
If the Government Leader wanted to create some work for Members of this Legislature, mainly his backbenchers, why did he not just appoint a special committee of the Legislature, rather than form these elaborate commissions?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The formation of the commissions is not to say that committees of the Legislature cannot also be explored.
I would say that a committee of the Legislature is a very elaborate mechanism that requires a lot of time and negotiations. If the Member has some areas that he would like to pursue through a committee of the Legislature process, he is welcome to express his views on the matter and I would be more than happy to put all people to work to perform full-time services on behalf of the public - name the subject, name an issue and the way the Member would like to see it managed. If Members opposite would like to work, I can think of some ideas, if accepted, that would have them working full time and many people in the territory would probably be thankful for the additional interest in significant issues that are of importance to the public.
I would say, just in the last five minutes, we have demonstrated that there is a need and a desirability to have all people in this Legislature speak on issues about which they know something.
I would argue that the commissions are a good idea. It is a way to not only encourage interdepartmental activity, which is what people in the public service acknowledge as being a more effective way of getting project work done, but it also ensures that there is political attention provided to ensure that consensus building and legitimate political work can be done to support these policy groups. So, I would argue that it is new and is an interesting innovation. I believe it will be an efficient way of doing things and I am willing to give it a good shot.
Mr. Ostashek: That is quite a speech, but the Government Leader did not answer the question. I asked him why he would not use parliamentary committees rather than commissions - not on top of commissions. These commissions are very elaborate and very expensive. How long has the Government Leader hired the deputy commissioners for? What are the terms of the contracts for the three term positions that he says he has?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I would argue, as I did this afternoon, that the commissions are not an overly expensive way of doing this work. Take the forestry commission, for example. That is just an example. The Members, once again, said that this is an expensive way of doing the public's business. I have already explained to the Member twice now in this Legislature that the previous government, the Member's own administration, had almost three full-time people working on forest policy for two solid years and the Department of Economic Development was going to hire a fourth. On top of that, there was an offer on the table for a mediator to mediate other disputes in the forest industry.
There was a commitment to have four people do, presumably, serious forest policy work throughout government. What we are saying is that we would like to have three people working through the forestry commission, as an interdepartmental working group - working with the Member for Watson Lake in this particular case - to do comprehensive forest policy development work. I believe that is an effective way of doing things. The Member says it is expensive. Well, it is less expensive than the approach taken by the Yukon Party government. The Yukon Party government was prepared to spend more.
When the Members opposite say this is an expensive waste of time, which they seem to declare it is, I just simply cannot agree.
I simply cannot agree at all. The people who are going to be seconded to the commission from departments - this is not backfill - and the commissions are going to be led by a senior policy director of the government who was a senior policy director under the Yukon Party government, too.
We will have the equivalent of three full-time positions working in forest policy - not four, three. They will be working with a Member of the Legislature. What is wrong with that other than the fact that Members do not like the innovations that they probably should have done themselves. Unfortunately, the Member seems to think that private Members, because they are not in Cabinet, are somehow lesser Members of the Legislature. Again, I disagree.
We believe that the people who are elected to this Legislature have an obligation to support the policy work of the government and the Legislature. We believe, and I believe personally, that people who sit as private Members in our caucus are perfectly capable of being commissioners and Ministers.
The Member for Klondike says that the next thing that we will be doing is paying them as though they were Ministers. No. That is another claim that the Yukon Party has made on a number of occasions. They are not being paid as Ministers; they are being paid as private Members.
They are going to be doing more work than the Members who have been in similar situations in the past and I would argue that we are providing these areas more significant attention than the previous government did. Just the simple claim that because the private Members are responsible for these particular areas in this Legislature is downgrading them, as the Opposition Leader has claimed, is simply not true.
I am saying that we are focusing attention in those areas and if we do get the opportunity - with the grace of this Legislature, over the objections of the Members in the Yukon Party - to allow these Members to speak at formal occasions, when the Speaker is in the Chair, and to not raise objections when we are in Committee and we are supposed to be allowing all Members to speak and express themselves on a variety of issues, then we are likely to get some things done.
Why would the Member opposite be arguing for a committee in the Legislature so that Members can speak and do good work, when he does not even want the private Members in the government to speak during Committee of the Whole on even one single issue? That is totally inconsistent.
I would argue - and we will argue - that the private Members who speak for the commissions and are doing good work in consensus building on behalf of the commissions should respond directly to the Legislature and answer Members' questions. They will want to work with the Members opposite to try to get their response and to take responsibility for what the government is doing in those particular areas.
I think it is an interesting innovation. I support it wholeheartedly.
I will let the Member have the last word.
Mr. Ostashek: I want to thank the Member for the 30 seconds he allowed me, but I think we are going to find out that these are nothing but a farce and a very expensive farce - hiring four deputy ministers at a salary of over $500,000 a year makes this a very expensive process. There are other vehicles in place in this government already to gather the information that the Member opposite wants to gather and could have been done far more cost effectively and far cheaper, and we will explore those tomorrow. I want to know why the Member is not using those vehicles that were creations of an NDP government, not creations of a Yukon Party government.
This is a smoke-and-mirrors government that has absolutely nothing, does not know where it is going and is trying to fool the public and pull the wool over the public's eyes. That is what we have here, and we will point it out to the Minister tomorrow. He did not answer the question when I asked him how long the term positions were for the deputy ministers. He avoided answering the questions like he does on a consistent basis in this Legislature. He avoids answering questions, but they will come home to roost, Mr Speaker. I can assure you of that.
I move that you report progress on Bill No. 3.
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: Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 3, Second Appropriation Act, 1996-97, 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 Government House Leader that the House do now adjourn.
Motion agreed to
Speaker: This House now stands adjourned until 1:30 p.m. tomorrow.
The House adjourned at 9:29 p.m.
The following Sessional Papers were tabled December 16, 1996:
Yukon Lottery Commission Annual Report, 1995-96 (Keenan)
Yukon Liquor Corporation Annual Report, 1995-96 (Fairclough)