Tuesday, November 4, 1997 - 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 at this time with the Order Paper.
Tribute to United Way volunteers
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I rise today to acknowledge the women and men who are fundraising for the Yukon's 1997 United Way campaign.
The United Way is a relatively new organization in the territory, but it has been very successful in other areas of the country for many years. In the short time that it has been operating in the Yukon, its success has grown, and it has been able to fund a number of agencies and organizations to provide social services in the territory.
These agencies and organizations include Yukon Learn, the Child Development Centre, the Dawson Women's Shelter, Teegatha'a Oh Zheh, the Yukon Association for Community Living, Challenge, Yukon Family Services Association and the Learning Disabilities Association of the Yukon, just to name a few.
Over the past year, the Department of Health and Social Services has supported the United Way in a number of ways, and this year we made a $10,000 contribution to their campaign. United Way raises money to help organizations that provide preventive activities and projects aimed at helping children, youth and families, with particular emphasis on youth at risk and those living in conditions of poverty. Given that this government is concerned about children and youth at risk, it is fitting that I am here today before you to indicate the government's support of the United Way and its appreciation of the people who are currently canvassing.
Mr. Speaker, we recognize that costs are rising everywhere and the government's purse, like any individual's, can only offer so much. That's why we need organizations such as the United Way to take on part of the funding role. United Way has supported this government. It has supported many individuals and businesses around town. All funds raised by the United Way not only stay in the Yukon but are used for local support services and programs for people at need.
Mr. Speaker, this year's United Way campaign runs another 10 days and I would encourage everyone to make as generous a contribution as possible to this worthwhile organization.
Mr. Phillips: We, too, would like to join with the minister in paying tribute to the United Way. I'm not sure whether a ministerial statement is the proper way to do it; tributes might have been more appropriate, but that's fine. It is an opportunity for us to speak.
The United Way campaign has been very successful in the Yukon in a very few short years. I would like to congratulate some other people who I think the minister did not mention that played a major role. One of them, I think, is Larry Bagnell. Mr. Bagnell was in charge of the campaign for a couple of years and worked very hard with the United Way people. He is a very dedicated volunteer in the City of Whitehorse for many projects, and has done a great job with that.
I would also like to mention the government department - one government department in particular - the Department of Justice. I know that the Department of Health and Social Services contributed, but the Department of Justice, for the last three years now, I think, has had a breakfast and done an outstanding job of volunteering their time and services to provide a service to United Way.
I would also like to thank, locally, the cafeteria staff - Erica and all the other people - who worked in the cafeteria and put in extra efforts on that one day to make the breakfast a success. I would be remiss if I didn't also thank Janet Patterson, Peter Novak and the producers of CBC.
They, in fact, have gone out of their way to give the message that United Way is in the territory and broadcast from the location of the annual breakfast to make people more aware of the good things United Way does with the interviews with various people they have all morning.
As well, I would like to thank the dignitaries - not just the politicians on the other side. It was good for me, at least, to see the NDP working over there that morning. It was an interesting thing to watch - in town who came forward and put their names forward and involved themselves in helping out in a very worthwhile cause.
Last but not least, I would like to thank the employees of this building and the people of the Yukon who have so generously given to United Way to help make the Yukon a better place to live.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mrs. Edelman: I rise today to join the Minister of Health and Social Services in giving tribute to the many people who are actively canvassing for the United Way. These individuals are making time in their lives to raise money that will support a number of very worthy organizations.
Fundraising is a year-round activity and so, I would also like to acknowledge the behind-the-scenes work that is never noticed. I am speaking about the brave soul who goes out into the dead of winter to put up signs and posters. I am speaking about the volunteer who organizes meetings and arranges for coffee.
And, Mr. Speaker, I'm talking about the members of the work bee that put together the 14-piece canvasser kits, and all those that worked toward the good cause of supporting the United Way. No matter in what capacity, the Yukon Liberal caucus commends those people today.
Tribute to Daisy Joe and Willie Joe
Mr. McRobb: I rise today to pay tribute to two constituents: Daisy Joe, who passed away on October 19th, 1997, and her brother Willie Joe, who passed away on October 27th. Daisy and Willie were sister and brother, and both were taken from this earth within eight days of one another. They were born at Hutshi and spent the early years of their lives there in the winter and at Champagne in the summer.
Daisy spent her younger life hunting, fishing, setting snares, picking berries and sewing. She married Louis John and made their first home in Champagne and later in Whitehorse. They raised seven children of their own and also helped to raise her younger brothers and sisters.
Hunting was Daisy's passion, and she raised her family on wild meat. She was talented in sewing and beading using furs caught to adorn the many slippers she made over the years. Daisy was good natured and had a great sense of humour and a positive outlook on life. She always gave loving advice and showed deep love and concern for all of her loved ones. She will be sadly missed by her family and many friends.
Willie left for residential school at the tender age of eight. Following residential school, Willie was one of the first graduates of the Yukon Vocational School in the automotive mechanics program.
Willie began his long political career when he became president of the Yukon Native Brotherhood. He was one of the founders of the Council for Yukon Indians and worked hard to establish the chiefs as the board of directors for CYI. Willie successfully ran as vice chief for CYI and took on the portfolio of economic development, working tenaciously on tourism and business development. Willie also served as a member of the Yukon Council on the Economy and the Environment. He followed his own dreams, promoting culture and tradition. He was an innovator and a creative thinker and had visions of greatness for his people.
Willie was a caring man, always helping others, especially his family members who often resided with him during times of hardship. Willie was constantly offering words of encouragement and he was the voice for all of his family, emanating his desire for togetherness, respect, love, inspiration and strength.
My thoughts are with the family of Daisy and Willie Joe, who have endured such tragic loss. Daisy and Willie will be sadly missed by family and many friends, First Nations and all people of the Yukon.
Mr. Phillips: Our caucus would like to join with the New Democrats in expressing our condolences to the Joe family. Although I didn't have the opportunity to know Daisy, I knew Willie fairly well. I went to school with him for many years and I know that the hard work he has done in the past for the Council of Yukon First Nations and his own people will be sadly missed, and we send our condolences to the Joe family and friends.
Speaker: Are there any introduction of visitors?
Are there any returns or documents for tabling?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Hon. Mr. Harding: I have for tabling the Yukon Economic Review, 1996.
Speaker: Are there any reports of committees?
Are there any bills to be introduced?
Notices of motion.
NOTICES OF MOTION
Mrs. Edelman: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that the current social assistance system is not set up to serve people with profound, long-term disabilities; and
THAT the Yukon government should establish a guaranteed annual income for people with profound, long-term disabilities.
Speaker: Are there any statements by ministers?
Trade and investment diversification strategy
Hon. Mr. Harding: Mr. Speaker, I rise today to provide the House with an update on the export component of this government's trade investment diversification strategy. As members may be aware, it is a central policy of this government to encourage the creation of jobs and economic opportunities for Yukon people.
Our trade investment diversification initiative represents a fundamental expansion of the Yukon government's economic planning and priorities.
It seeks to create new employment opportunities and diversify the economy through the increased export and promotion of Yukon products and services.
We know that many of our entrepreneurs can compete abroad, but may not have had considered the possibility. Our role as a government is to help entrepreneurs identify new markets, help with the marketing of Yukon products and services and work to overcome barriers that prevent Yukon businesspeople from reaching these markets.
In short, Mr. Speaker, we are the promoter, the information provider and the door-opener.
I am pleased to announce that significant progress has been achieved in development of the export component of the trade investment diversification strategy.
In September, our government signed a cooperation agreement with the Yukon Chamber of Commerce, Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce, Tourism Industry Association and the Council of Yukon First Nations. The diversity of our partners demonstrates the strength and vitality of our export trade efforts. The partners meet on a regular basis and are playing a key role in guiding the development of our government's export initiative. We are currently looking at ways to expand the input into planning our strategic directions.
We hosted a successful export conference at Yukon College with over 125 delegates in attendance from around the territory. This forum provided valuable information for potential exporters in many areas, from developing an export product to identifying new markets and preparing to trade abroad. Yukon businesspeople who are currently exporting spoke of their experiences, while representatives from the International Trade Centre, the Canadian Consulate General's office in Seattle, the Export Development Corporation and the Commercial Corporation of Canada were on hand to share their expertise. There were also presentations from local consultants, Canada Customs, the Business Development Bank and Public Works and Government Services Canada.
Our government joined the Pacific Northwest Economic Region, an organization dedicated to advancing and promoting trade in the Pacific Northwest and around the world. Members include British Columbia, Alberta, Alaska, Washington, Oregon, Montana and Idaho. These jurisdictions combined have the tenth largest gross domestic product in the world. For a small jurisdiction such as the Yukon, the Pacific Northwest Economic Region provides an invaluable opportunity to use the resources of other partners for trade promotion.
We have received assurances from governments in western Canada and the State of Alaska that their trade resources and offices will cooperate in the development of our export initiatives.
As minister, I have been able to forge good relations with Alaskan trade officials and convey our intention of cooperating on trade matters with them. For example, during my trip to Siberia recently to represent the Yukon government at the Northern Forum, I travelled with the Commerce Commissioner of Alaska, and later had the opportunity to accompany Yukon businesspeople to the Alaska State Chamber of Commerce meetings in Ketchikan.
Our government is in the process of planning for the Team Canada trade mission to Latin America in January. This trade mission presents an excellent opportunity for Yukon business people to meet with some of Canada's leading exporters and will help reinforce the potential of export to create new employment and economic opportunities.
Many Yukon companies have expressed serious interest in accompanying the Yukon government on this trade mission. Our government believes in fair trade, Mr. Speaker. We also believe that in the pursuit of trade opportunities we should be promoting to other jurisdictions practices that respect their workers, their youth and their environment.
In the next month, we'll be hosting an access to capital forum to examine ways to assist entrepreneurs and ensure that successful exporters are able to expand to meet the demand for their product and services.
As members can appreciate, Mr. Speaker, securing financing is a difficult task for many Yukon businesses, particularly in the rural areas, since the major banks consider them a high risk. We are also currently discussing investment promotion and marketing activities with local business organizations for future initiatives.
Mr. Speaker, I'm excited about the potential of the export component of our government's trade and investment diversification strategy to create new economic and employment opportunities for Yukon people. Success will not be immediate. However, in the face of decreasing government expenditures, government must be aggressive in seeking new economic opportunities that will help diversify our economy and create new opportunities for Yukon people.
Mr. Ostashek: I find it somewhat ironic to hear this minister of an NDP government stand up and promote trade opportunities abroad when in fact it was his party that was fundamentally opposed to free trade. We have a minister here standing and promoting the benefits of trade of goods and services abroad and saying that our entrepreneurs can compete abroad - well, we know that.
They've already proven that, but I'm very concerned with the mixed messages that this government is sending to Yukoners and to the world. On one hand, they are saying they are promoting the export of goods and services; on the other hand, they have a Yukon Hire Commission that's closing the door to the import of goods and services and saying, "If you're not a Yukoner, stay home. We don't want you." Yet they want to go out and have our people go out and export our goods and services to other jurisdictions.
I just say to this minister that he ought to remember that the Yukon government signed an agreement with other provinces for the removal of interprovincial trade barriers, for the free movement of goods and services in all jurisdictions in Canada, and while the promotion of trade and services and the export of goods and services abroad is laudable - and we commend the government for that - we really think that they should reconsider their Yukon-hire policy, which is going to shut the door on the same reciprocal kind of agreements for other people coming in.
Mr. Cable: I have to say, Mr. Speaker, that this ministerial statement is the latest in a series of press releases in statements turned out by the government's communications factory relating to diversification and other things - much to do about next to nothing.
Now, starting with the trade and investment diversification strategy itself, I note from last week's press release on the northwestern ministers economic conference that the minister was energized in Prince George, and today we find out that the minister is excited about his non-existent or whatever trade and investment diversification strategy. With Yukoners' unemployment rate and with Anvil Range lurching around, he must be in a minority of one in feeling good.
During the last election, the government was beating the local hire and purchase drum, as was pointed out by the leader of the official opposition, and they were saying that they would go to the courts, if necessary, to protect those local hire and local purchase policies. Then they appointed this local hire commission to go around the territory and develop local hire policies. Now we have another arm of government promoting trade - presumably freeing up trade - and I would have to say to the minister that he and his colleagues are going to have to jump through a few hoops to reconcile those initiatives.
I would also ask the minister, and hopefully he'll reply. He was instrumental in setting up a cooperative agreement on export trade and diversification with the chambers of commerce and the tourism industry and with the Council of First Nations. In the preliminary operational plan that was attached to that agreement, there were a number of performance indicators: jobs related to exports, dollar value of exports, the annual aggregate value of goods and services exported from Yukon and the number of active exporters, and a number of other performance indicators. Yet I don't think, and the minister can correct me when he stands up, that those sort of statistics are being collected. What stats do we have now on export trade and what statistics are going to be collected, so that we will know, come the next election, and Yukoners will know come the next election, whether all this effort here has been useful or whether it's been a waste of the taxpayers' money?
Hon. Mr. Harding: I'm very, very pleased to respond to the comments from the opposition. I'll begin with responding to the Yukon Party.
Mr. Speaker, we have been on the record opposing the free trade agreement, the NAFTA, as it was proposed. We always felt that environmental and worker standards were not promoted effectively by our federal government, nor by the American government in negotiations with Mexico. We remain connected and we remain in support of the comments we had earlier made with regard to the free trade agreement, the NAFTA agreement.
With regard to this economy and the local hire commission, Mr. Speaker, we are a small developing regional economy and we believe that it is entirely appropriate for government, with its scarce resources and even scarcer resources every year in this territory, to try to use our bucks as wisely as possible and to get the best bang for our buck.
The member should know, the leader of the official opposition, there are provisions in the internal trade agreement for regional economy development and we think we qualify for that. We have a market of some 30,000 people here competing with jurisdictions like Alaska, with 600,000, and British Columbia with millions, Alberta with millions, the Pacific Rim. It is not unreasonable to think that it should be encumbent upon government to try and find ways to get the best bang for our dollar for the Yukon people and Yukon workers.
But we are smoking out the official opposition on the issue of local hire, aren't we, Mr. Speaker? Because we are now really finding out where they stand on that issue. That, Mr. Speaker, is precisely why we put that forward to the Yukon public to fundamentally change in this territory the way government does business.
We are going to be doing that when the local hire recommendations come forward and we look forward to seeing just where the opposition stands on those recommendations, given the foofaraw they've been raising about the issue. It will be interesting to nail them down on that particular subject.
With regard to the Liberal Party, I was once again astonished at their negativity - the party that promised not to be confrontational has become quite the naysayers in this territory. I urge the Liberal Party to get out of their offices and to start actually talking to people. If they would have attended the export conference, I can assure the member it was not the much ado about nothing, as he said. I talked to person after person - businessperson after businessperson - who said nothing but positive things about the initiative. Many of them were not affiliated with our party. The cooperation agreement we've signed with the organizations that are working with us, I think, clearly indicates that there's a lot of enthusiasm for the initiative.
I certainly don't hear much ado about nothing from them. I hear good things like, "It's about time we started focusing on this." Mr. Speaker, we are very energized and excited about the reaction we've received. I can tell the Member for Riverside that I will continue to put a lot of energy and enthusiasm into making this initiative a reality.
With regard to local hire, the chapter has not yet been finally written on exactly what will happen with the recommendations. I know that the Liberal Party, in the election campaign, was opposed to local hire and any challenging in the courts, but it remains to be seen how that issue will be handled once the local hire commission finally makes its report to the Cabinet and ultimately the recommendations are adopted and they are debated on the floor of the Legislature and in the public.
I am very glad to see that we are also smoking out the Liberals on their position on local hire. It will be interesting to see how they react to the recommendations of the local hire commission when we actually implement them. We have resisted a knee-jerk reaction on a case-by-case basis to break the regulations as they now exist, so we're quite enthused about seeing how they respond.
I will close by saying that we are very excited and very enthused about the reaction of Yukoners to the export component of our trade and investment diversification strategy. We feel good about getting out there and trying to create opportunities for Yukon people. We will continue to do that, and we are very proud of it.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Cabinet Commission on the development assessment process: status report
Mr. Livingston: Mr. Speaker, I rise today to advise the House of progress that's been made in one of the key areas of policy concern for this government; namely, the identification of policy matters to be established in legislation for the Yukon's development assessment process.
The mandate of the Cabinet Commission on the Development Assessment Process is to represent the Yukon government in discussions being held with the federal government and the Council of Yukon First Nations to resolve policy issues and to draft a federal development assessment process legislation.
Work now being done by the commission is part of the three-government process and includes final design aspects and drafting of the new federal legislation within the context of the umbrella final agreement chapter on the development assessment process, as well as on its implementation plan.
An important part of designing the DAP, Mr. Speaker, is seeking the advice of Yukoners on just what DAP should be within the outline provided by the UFA. Yukoners have had many opportunities to get involved with the development of the DAP legislation. An initial tour of communities by a tripartite team gave First Nations, municipal councils, renewable resource councils and community members an opportunity to review and discuss the DAP chapter of the UFA.
More recently, we have held workshops to discuss the design of DAP.
The commission has also established a non-governmental working group to provide advice to the Yukon government. The group includes the Yukon Chamber of Mines, the Klondike Placer Miners Association, the Yukon Chamber of Commerce, the Association of Yukon Communities, the Yukon Conservation Society and the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society.
Their advice has helped the Yukon government formulate its interests at the federal DAP legislation drafting discussions. The commission, together with federal and CYFN representatives, has also met with the UFA boards and committees, including the Yukon Land Use Planning Council, the Yukon Heritage Board, the Yukon Fish and Wildlife Management Board, the Yukon Surface Rights Board, the Teslin and Alsek Renewable Resource Councils, and the Kluane Park Management Board.
As part of my responsibilities as DAP commissioner, I have travelled to Yukon communities to discuss DAP with community leaders. I've also met with non-government organizations to discuss particular aspects of DAP.
The commission has made, and will continue to make, recommendations to Cabinet and the government caucus respecting government policies related to DAP.
Mr. Speaker, substantial progress has been made on the draft legislation. As might be anticipated with the three-party process, a few complications and delays have arisen. Extra meetings have been scheduled to ensure that all substantive policy matters will be finalized by December 19th. We now expect that the draft legislation will be available for consultation with Yukon people early in the new year.
Discussions are ongoing on the DAP regulations, the relationship between the development assessment process and the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, and how a DAP decision body is determined for a particular project.
The tripartite, or three-government, legislative drafting discussions are working toward solutions to these outstanding issues in a cooperative, collegial manner. The Yukon government wants to ensure that the development assessment process is both effective and efficient. I am sure that the Government and Canada and the Council of Yukon First Nations share that goal.
The Yukon government's implementation of the federal legislation will depend on what is in the final legislation passed by Parliament and on the amount of federal funding provided to implement the DAP.
How the Yukon government fulfills its commitments to implement the new DAP legislation will be set out in the Yukon government's DAP implementation strategy. The DAP commission has already begun work on this strategy, which will be completed before the end of the fiscal year.
Mr. Speaker, it is important to ensure that adequate public information is available about the new DAP legislation. My commission has begun work with the other two parties on the next phase of the communication strategy.
Part of the ongoing communication strategy will be the three-party presentation of the draft federal DAP legislation to Yukoners for consultation in their communities.
To summarize, Mr. Speaker, the Yukon DAP commission has made substantial progress toward completing its mandate. The commission, along with the federal government and Council of Yukon First Nations, is proceeding toward completion of the initial draft of the federal DAP legislation that will provide and efficient, effective assessment process for the Yukon, based in a significant measure on advice received during consultation with Yukoners.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: Before proceeding to Question Period, the Chair would like to make a statement regarding oral Question Period. Yesterday, i
t was noticed not only by the Chair, but also by the members on both sides of the House that questions and answers in many cases were too long. The Chair would remind members of two of the guidelines for oral Question Period.
Guideline 7 states in part that "A brief preamble will be allowed in the case of the main question and a one-sentence preamble will be allowed in the case of each supplementary question. "
Guideline 9 states that "A reply to a question should be as brief as possible, relevant to the question asked, and should not provoke debate."
It is clearly the will of the House that members should pay strict attention to the guidelines for oral Question Period which the House itself adopted. The Chair would ask all members to help the Chair and the House by respecting and obeying those guidelines. The Chair, understanding the wishes of the members, will be stepping in more often if the questions or answers are too long.
This then brings us to the Question Period.
Question re: Yukon Energy Corporation, interim rate increase
Mr. Ostashek: I can assure you I will try to abide by your ruling.
Mr. Speaker, my question today is for the minister responsible for the Yukon Energy Corporation.
All Yukoners have come to learn the hard way that the operations of the Faro mine have a dramatic impact on their power bills. On September 1, the interim rate increase resulting from the Faro mine's closure last year was eliminated because the Faro mine came back on the grid. We all are aware of the great financial problems that the company is facing and there is no certainty that the mine will be coming back into production at this point.
My question to the minister: if the mine were to go off the grid again, will the Yukon Energy Corporation have to make another application to the Yukon Utilities Board to increase rates?
Hon. Mr. Harding: This government has been very concerned about the impact of losing the Faro mine from the grid and the subsequent ruling by the Utilities Board to allow a 20-percent rate increase or rate rider that we took action to mitigate was of grave concern to this government. That is why we took the action to revive the rate relief program, and we took the action that we did to try and get the stripping program and get Anvil Range back on the grid to get power bills back down for Yukoners.
We also brought in a half-million dollar energy conservation program that is unprecedented in this territory.
We are proud of those things, but the answer to the member's question is that he as former minister knows full well that there would more than likely be an impact as a result of the loss of the Faro mine on the grid, as there always has been.
Mr. Ostashek: The minister failed to answer my question. I asked if another application would have to be made. That was my question.
My supplementary question, Mr. Speaker, is that we understand that the Faro mine was allowed to come back on with some $2.5 million outstanding in power bills. They have been back on stream for two months, September and October. I would like to ask the minister if he could tell this House: how much money does Anvil Range owe for power to the Energy Corporation at this point?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Mr. Speaker, the number of 2.5 I believe is high. Anvil Range got back on the grid for the simple reason that, had they not got back on the grid, there would have been a massive power rate increase to Yukon power consumers. So we felt it necessary, as a government, to take responsible and thoughtful action to try and initiate their return to the grid.
With regard to outstanding monies to the government as a result of the payment to YEC of a portion of the arrears, there's a repayment period that kicks in in the first three months of production. Anvil Range will pay to the Energy Corporation the remaining $1 million. Subsequent to those payments, then, within the first year, the remaining balance of the loan to the Energy Corporation will be paid out once Anvil achieves production.
Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Speaker, again the minister has failed to answer the question. I asked how much money was owing, have they paid any money on their bills since they've been back in operation? The minister has refused to answer that.
Mr. Speaker, this is a very serious situation because the minister is aware, as all Yukoners are, if the bills are not paid, they will have a negative impact on the rates that Yukoners pay.
So, my final supplementary to the minister is: what is the limit a commercial customer is allowed to be in arrears and who sets that limit?
Hon. Mr. Harding: The policy is the same as under the previous government's administration when he was the minister responsible for the Energy Corporation. It hasn't changed. I would say to him, Mr. Speaker, with regard to the issue of arrears, I have indicated the arrears. The power bills, as the stripping program has gone on, have been paid. I indicated what the arrears were and how they'll be paid off - within the first three months of production to the Energy Corporation, and the remaining balance to be paid out regarding the loan that was made by the Yukon government to the Energy Corporation, and it will be paid back by Anvil Range.
So, Mr. Speaker, the policy with regard to cut off to commercial customers is very much the same as it is to residential. That's the case and it has been that way for a considerable amount of time in this territory. There is some discussion, through the Department of Economic Development, which I'm also the minister of, in terms of rate stabilization and the setting up of some contingency funds when you're dealing with massive industrial customers who have a tremendous impact on the grid. Those kinds of policies can be put forward in many different ways, whether it's to the Utilities Board or in terms of policy direction by government or for use by the energy commission. So, Mr. Speaker, we have some ideas in that respect; however, it is difficult when 40 percent of the power generation in this territory is being bought by one customer.
Question re: Oil wells in Eagle Plains, reopening of
Mr. Ostashek: Well, thank you, Mr. Speaker. We weren't very successful in getting any answers to any of those questions, so we'll try another approach to another issue.
My question is now to the Minister of Economic Development. The minister tabled the Yukon Oil and Gas Act in this Legislature which, when passed, should encourage investment by oil and gas companies and development of our oil and gas resources.
At the same time, however, Mr. Speaker, the oil and gas industry is getting mixed signals from this government about this government's position on Northern Cross' application to reopen the old wells in the Eagle Plains area north of Yukon.
Can the minister advise this House whether or not it supports Northern Cross' plan to reopen these wells?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, thank you, Mr. Speaker. The member's wrong. We've been entirely consistent. This is a federal process, controlled by the federal government, the Liberal minister in Ottawa. We have sent two letters, both of which the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation have received with regard to this issue, and we support due process of environmental permitting. We believe very much that due process has to be served. We also support, Mr. Speaker, the right of the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation to challenge in the courts anything that they feel is unfair or unjust. That's their democratic right as well.
Mr. Ostashek: Well, Mr. Speaker, we have to read between the lines, but I guess what the minister's saying is that they support Northern Cross in the plan to reopen their wells in the Eagle Plains area.
Mr. Speaker, my supplementary: the Vuntut Gwitchin have made it clear that they are opposed to the development within the northern Yukon because of potential impact on the Porcupine caribou herd, and they have consistently stated that position.
On the other hand, the Yukon government has been sending mixed messages, first through the Government Leader saying he supported the process of Northern Cross' development permit, but now his Minister of Government Services is refusing to work with Northern Cross in the development of a winter road.
I would really like a clear and unequivocal position. Perhaps we could get it from the Government Leader this time.
Hon. Mr. Harding: Once again, the member is wrong. And speaking of wells, that member is pumping a dry one on this road issue.
Mr. Speaker, there are two separate issues with the road. With regard to our position on Northern Cross, we said very clearly and unequivocally from the start that we support due process, Mr. Speaker. We haven't moved from that position. We've communicated our position in that respect to the federal government, the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation government, and Mr. Speaker, we stand by that. It's clear and unequivocal.
Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Speaker, we'll see who's pumping the dry wells. That is yet to be seen.
With the passage of the Oil and Gas Act, this is a very serious situation. More and more oil companies are going to be interested in oil and gas resources in the northern Yukon and some within the traditional territory of the Vuntut Gwitchin.
What position is this minister and this government going to take in relation to further development of resources, in the face of opposition from the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Mr. Speaker, we believe that the terms of the land claims agreement set the stage for the future development in the territory, and distinguishment between how we operate in settlement lands and in the traditional territory, and how we plan, together with other governments, on a government-to-government basis for economic planning and economic activity is very important.
We think it's going to have to be fundamentally clear to developers as to what will be the rules they operate under in the various categories of land. That's why, Mr. Speaker, in our new oil and gas bill, one of the most important changes we've made for certainty, that is an improvement over the leader of the official opposition's bill when he was in government, is we've established a common regime.
As the member learns more about that bill, he will see the benefits of how common regime is going to apply to the different categories of land in this territory. We know that some First Nations are more amenable to oil and gas development than others. Some governments are very aggressive about it. We look forward to working through those issues as we develop the industry in the long term.
Question re: NovaLIS contract
Ms. Duncan: My question is for the Minister of Government Services.
On Thursday last, the minister indicated in this House that the total contracts sole-sourced to NovaLIS, the Nova Scotia company, would be $898,000. The Nova Scotia government experience with NovaLIS is that their similar project has now cost $6 million. Sources in eastern Canada, and even the NovaLIS website, say that their system is still not up and running.
Was the minister aware of these problems and what guarantees are put into our contracts with this company so that, at the end of the day, we would have a workable system?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: With regard to the first aspect, the current contracts with NovaLIS are within the dollar amounts contained in the original accepted proposal.
Any contract has points at which various parties can step out of a contract, if there's a failure to perform or failure to complete the contract, but I would say that, currently, we are on schedule with this contract. The notes that I have indicated that it's running basically within budget and scope.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, I'm pleased to learn that the minister has determined that there is an opportunity within the existing contracts to step out of them.
The New Brunswick government also looked into using NoveLIS for a similar project. Upon completion of a pilot project that was sole sourced to NoveLIS, the New Brunswick government put out a request for proposal. NoveLIS did not submit on that request for proposal. The New Brunswick government's request for proposal was tendered in three parts, exactly what the local hire commission has heard from the consulting industry in the Yukon - that our large contracts should be tendered into parts that allow for completion of phase 1 prior to being awarded phases 2 and 3.
Before the minister or his department enters into any more contracts with NoveLIS that do not have specific performance and criteria and do not generate local work, will the minister commit to having the balance of the work properly tendered through a request for proposal?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I'm getting some mixed messages here.
I had an interesting meeting today with some of the contracting individuals - as a matter of fact, in GIS technology - and we discussed some of these very things. As I indicated before, there are a series of contracts that we are doing with NoveLIS. The indication that we have is that we are proceeding through these contracts. Those contracts will come to an end. I have given assurances to the parties that we are interested in their participation and some of their suggestions in further development of this project - further development in terms of the entire GIS technology. They have given me some of their long-term concerns as well as some of their short-term concerns, and I think that I am certainly willing to entertain them.
However, I have to emphasize that this contract is within the parameters of our existing contract regulations. Those are the law. Those are what we have to operate with. These were passed in 1995, and I'm sorry that I can't break the law for a particular firm that the member is suggesting, but we will operate within the law.
My colleague, the commissioner for local hire, participated in those discussions. We heard some useful comments, and we'll be trying to incorporate those in future developments.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, no one on this side of the House - certainly in the Liberal caucus - is speaking for any particular firm. We're speaking for local industry, and we have asked the minister to do the honourable thing, the right thing, by the taxpayers of the Yukon and properly put this contract, this work, out to request for proposal.
I, and I'm certain, my colleagues are absolutely confident that Yukoners could do this work. In fact, Mr. Speaker, I did my homework on this issue. I've got the request for proposal from New Brunswick. I asked three local firms if they could do the work. They admitted that yes, they could do the exact same work.
Will the minister commit that yes indeed - on the floor of this House and publicly - the remainder of this work will be properly tendered in a request for proposal?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I'm not sure exactly what is meant by the "remainder of the work". I do know there is $400,000 that we are anticipating in terms of applications to this project, so I can give the member some assurances that we're going to try and make those as available to the local companies as possible, of course within our guidelines. What I did undertake was to sit down with some of these companies and hear what some of their concerns were. I guess some of my concerns, and these are some that I was very frank in communicating, are why some companies felt inhibited, initially, in putting in request proposals. I think that pointed out some areas that we could be working with in terms of local hire and trying to secure a better flow of information, a better exchange of information on projects like this.
Question re: Northern Network of Services/Gibbs Group Home
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Health and Social Services.
Yesterday I asked about the takeover of the operations of the Northern Network of Services Youth Group Home, a youth group service by the Gibbs Group Home. I got the impression that the minister was saying that the government can enter into a contribution agreement with a non-profit society and that it was up to that society, if it wanted to, to turn the contract over to a profit-making company. The minister is saying that I could go out, sign a contribution agreement with the government and then turn around, if I felt like it, and give the contribution agreement to a friend's business and the government couldn't say anything about it and there would be no public scrutiny of this transaction. That was my impression of what the minister said yesterday. Is that his position today?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: First of all, I think there's a misunderstanding actually on what a contribution agreement is. A contribution agreement is between ourselves and a non-governmental organization for the delivery of a particular service. In this case, the group in question, Northern Network of Services - who incidentally deliver services to a very specialized clientele of young people, a group that I happen to be familiar with and I'm also familiar with NNS due to my previous incarnation as a teacher - this group went through some difficulty with the loss of their executive director and then some further staffing difficulties. They approached the department and also approached Gibbs Group Homes about taking over, for the balance of this agreement, the delivery of service. There was nothing untoward in this. As a matter of fact, the contribution agreement, I believe it's section 12, permits subcontracting of certain services. Our department, our director of children's services, consulted with Justice as to the appropriateness of this, if it was indeed permitted, and the legal opinion that we have indicates that it not only is permitted, it's not required to come back to the House in such agreements and, in fact, it is suggested that, within this particular section 12, those kinds of scenarios are anticipated.
For example, we could contract with an NGO to deliver psychological services and if, for example, that organization could not deliver the services with their existing staff, they could then subcontract with a private psychologist to deliver those services.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, when the government enters into these agreements as a partner with a non-government group, there is an underlying trust built into this type of agreement. If the NGO, or non-governmental organization, can unilaterally change their mind, or their end of the bargain, then there is an area of concern.
What if the new provider of the service is unacceptable to the government for some reason? One way of safeguarding the public purse and the clients receiving the services is to have the government issue a request for proposals. In the case of Northern Network of Services, this was not done.
My question for the minister: what safeguards are built into this type of system to protect the taxpayer, the client and the government?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I thought I made it clear. Perhaps I wasn't clear. Before an organization could invoke a subcontracting method, they would have to check with the contracting department. This we did, or this NNS did, or ... NNS checked with us about subcontracting to Gibbs. That permission was given, after legal consultation that it was permitted, and they did so.
I guess I'm a little bit bewildered by the member's comments. Is she suggesting that there was some kind of impropriety in this case and, if so, I would suggest that perhaps I would be certainly interested in hearing if there was any suggestion of impropriety.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, I understand that there was a substantial amount of money, several hundreds of thousands of dollars, left under the contract with the Gibbs Group Home, a for-profit company that took over the operation of Northern Network of Services. How did the minister know, without issuing a call for proposals, if there were any other groups who might provide this service?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Mr. Speaker, we have several providers of service. Some provide wilderness camps. One provider provides a receiving home. Ms. Gibbs and her staff provide in several other group homes. This is a very specialized clientele. This is not the kind of thing that you can suddenly put a halt to. You can say, okay, well, we're going to shut this one down until we put out a request for tender. This was not our contract. This was a contribution agreement with an NGO who did have the right to subcontract services as they needed. We do not, for example, dictate to an NGO whom we fund the type of computer that they use, the type of car that they purchase. These we leave within their own parameters.
In this case, NNS was faced with a very sudden, very short term, need. They were given the permission to seek out another supplier. In this case, they chose Gibbs Group Home. It was made very clear that this would only be for the duration of this contract and, at the completion of it, or the completion of this agreement, there would be a subsequent -
Speaker: Next question.
Question re: Old Crow, winter road
Mr. Jenkins: My question today is for the Minister of Government Services and it concerns the construction of the winter road to Old Crow and I would appreciate a short, concise response.
Yesterday in the House, the minister changed his story about why the Yukon government would not work with Northern Cross to build one winter road into Old Crow. First, he said he would not work with the company because the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation is opposed to the company's plans to reopen wells in the area, but then he changed his tune. He said he would not work with Northern Cross because of the need for different staging areas and terrain difficulties.
Does the minister have a new position today and will he agree to work with Northern Cross to construct one winter road into this sensitive area in the interest of protecting the environment?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I am a bit at a loss. This is the Northern Cross road. This is the road that we are proposing. Now, if I am not mistaken, there seems to be kind of a gap between the proposed Northern Cross road to Old Crow, as the member is suggesting.
Yesterday I said that there were several factors. One was terrain, one was the need for a controlled staging area and not the least of which is the fact that we need to get this project done and we cannot afford any more delays.
Mr. Jenkins: There is only one place where I see a gap and it is in the minister's coaching area and his understanding of the terrain he is looking at.
The argument about the Yukon government requiring a different staging area from Northern Cross simply does not hold water because both will be using Eagle Plains. So, I would ask the minister if he is acting from personal first-hand knowledge of the region or from information that he has gathered from way up and above in an aerial survey?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I have not had the pleasure of perhaps mushing my way into this area as the Member for Klondike has; however, I can tell the member that this was not a route that was arrived at randomly; this was arrived at by a study of our engineers from C&TS. This was also a study where several routes were submitted to DIAND for its approval and this was suggested to be the best route.
As far as the staging area goes, the situation at Eagle Plains was felt to be an advantage because of availability of fuel, availability of places for crews to stay and things of that nature.
There is no variance. One does not make a decision based on one factor; there are several factors.
Mr. Jenkins: But the construction of the winter road into Old Crow is not something new. It is something that has occurred before. There is an existing area where this road was built previously. I know the minister is not concerned about the Yukon taxpayer, because he won't cost share that portion of the construction of the road with Northern Cross that they can both utilize, in the same direction and for the same purpose. Will he act instead in the interest of protecting the environment and let his common sense prevail by seeing to it that only one winter road is constructed in the area where only one is needed?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: First of all, Northern Cross has not even approached us.
It has been some time since I taught geometry, but I noticed that, in the member's statement, he talks about a parallel road. I always thought that the concept of parallel was two lines that did not intersect, but ran along beside each other. Now, I just draw the member's attention to this: this is the Northern Cross road, this is the Old Crow road. We seem to be at a bit of a variance there. Perhaps the member needs some basic instruction in geometry.
We haven't received any approach from Northern Cross, so I'm really not sure where this member is going.
Question re: Yukon Energy Corporation, interim rate increase
Mr. Cable: I have some further questions for the minister responsible for the Yukon Energy Corporation, following up on some questions that were asked earlier.
When Anvil Range shut down earlier this year, the utilities applied to the Yukon Utilities Board for rate increases to make up for the cash shortfall. The Utilities Board ordered a 20-percent interim, refundable general rate increase. I understand that the utilities have been given until December 1 to finalize 1997 rates and determine whether we customers will get a refund or if we are looking at another rate increase to make up for any shortfall in the 1997 rates.
Does the minister know now what the Yukon Energy Corporation will be doing on December 1 or any such later date that it will be making an application? Will it be asking to refund money to the customers or will it be asking for further cash in relation to the 1997 rates?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Mr. Speaker, as I said in response to an earlier question, I was very concerned about the 20-percent increase granted by the Utilities Board to the Yukon Energy Corporation and the impact on Yukoners. That is why we took the action that we did - to see that increase removed, the mine back up and the power rates down.
Mr. Speaker, with regard to the issue surrounding what the Energy Corporation may or may not do for an application before the Utilities Board, I do not know at this point what they would be taking before that board for approval.
There are obviously other things in the mix right now - the fire that took place last Thursday has obviously taken quite a bit of the time of a few people that work over at the Energy Corporation. As well, the uncertainty surrounding the Anvil Range decision has an impact on 1997 cost-of-service final rates. They had previously told the Energy Corporation they thought they'd be back in operation about two weeks ago and that hasn't materialized. However, they are now running the mill and that will produce further revenues for the utility. If they continue on that basis, then obviously recouping the 100 percent ...
Hon. Mr. Harding: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Cable: It was originally anticipated by the utilities that they would be making application in October to establish the 1998 and 1999 rates. As a matter of fact, they even went so far as to ask the Utilities Board to make an order to that effect. Now, that didn't take place. There was no application in October.
Could the minister tell us when the utilities anticipate making the next general rate application, for the 1998 and 1999 rates?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Mr. Speaker, with regard to the member's preamble and the application for October that was originally presented, obviously the fact that the purchaser of 40 percent of the power that the Energy Corporation produces themselves, the Faro mine's instability and its situation, impacted on that.
With regard to the GRA, I'm not entirely sure that the Energy Corporation has yet made a decision in that regard. I will tell the member, though, that I welcome him having a meeting, as I understand from talking to the chair of the board, with the chair of the Energy Corporation board, as is the leader of the official opposition some time this week, and I certainly would also make the president available for discussion of those particular issues.
Mr. Cable: During the run-up to the last election and during the last election, the NDP said that it would stabilize rates. I wonder if the minister would tell us when, during this mandate or when during the next mandate, that commitment will click into gear?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. That's a nifty little question from the Liberal Member for Riverside. However, in what's becoming more and more readily apparent in their approach to issues, there's nothing but nifty questions. There's no substance, there are no suggestions in it.
Mr. Speaker, I will say that, with regard to stabilizing energy rates, we're very proud of the action we've taken to get the rates back down, to remove the 20-percent increase with the loss of the Faro mine on Yukoners. We've brought rate relief back to life after the Yukon Party was ready to kill it before the last election. We brought in a $500,000 energy conservation program on demand side management, unprecedented in this territory, and we'll be taking further rate stabilization initiatives, hopefully, before the Utilities Board when they reconvene to suggest new ways of approaching those types of issues because we believe it is important to Yukoners. We've been keeping our commitments in that respect in difficult situations, given the loss of the Faro mine.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed.
Notice of government private members' business
Hon. Mr. Harding: Pursuant to Standing Order 14.2 (7), we'd like to identify the items standing in the name of the government private members to be called on Wednesday, November 5th. They are: Motion No. 72, standing in the name of the Member for Lake Laberge and Motion No. 73, standing in the name of the Member for Whitehorse Centre.
Speaker: We will now proceed with Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Bill No. 34: Second Reading
Clerk: Second reading, Bill No. 34, standing in the name of the hon. Ms. Moorcroft.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Speaker, I move that Bill No. 34, entitled Continuing Consolidation of Yukon Statutes Act, be now read a second time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Minister of Justice that Bill No. 34, entitled Continuing Consolidation of Yukon Statutes Act, be now read a second time.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Speaker, we live in and by the law. It affects our lives from before birth until after our deaths. It makes us what we are - citizens and employees and partners and tenants or homeowners. It is sword, shield and threat. We insist on our wage. We refuse to pay our rent or are forced to forfeit penalties or are closed up in jail, all in the name of what the law has decreed. We are subjects of the law. We are bound to adhere to what parliaments and legislative assemblies write down as the common rules we agree to live by, and we argue about what it is the law has decreed even when the books that are supposed to record its commands and directions are silent or unclear.
What sense does this make? How can the law command when the law books are silent or unclear or ambiguous? How can the law command when it is not accessible?
By establishing for a Yukon consolidation of all its laws, continuously updated, the average citizen will be able to find the law, and his or her duty or right by it, very simply. The process of consolidating will permit the reduction of our laws to plainer language and gender inclusive text. Better products, easier to use, will be the result.
Yesterday, I rose in the House to tell you of the actions my government will take to make the justice system more responsive and effective. Today, I want to demonstrate to you one of the actions we have taken to make our justice system more responsive and user friendly and to make government better.
We are tabling a bill that will create a continuing consolidation of Yukon statutes in two formats: an electronic format, which will be uploaded on the access to justice network, a public access site on the World Wide Web, and in a loose-leaf format, which is easily updated. We will be using new technology and making Yukon laws available on CD-ROM.
This act is another important part of my initiative to make the justice system in the Yukon accessible to Yukoners and responsive to their needs.
The primary function of the justice system is to serve people. I want to be sure that the public understands the justice system. We need to understand what justice can and cannot do. This is an important way in which the public's confidence in justice can be maintained.
This act will change the way we publish the statutes of the Yukon and will make current legislation immediately and easily accessible.
Mr. Speaker, as you are aware, the current practice is to consolidate the statutes about once every 10 years. This system means that, between consolidations, a citizen, or people in the justice system, would have to search through the intervening session volumes to be sure that the legislation that they are referring to or quoting from is current and has not been amended. This is time consuming, confusing and often difficult.
Why do I say that this continuing consolidation will make the government more responsive? It will provide the public with access to the law in a form that allows them to find and understand the law. If you have ever tried, Mr. Speaker, to read the statutes from a jurisdiction that has not consolidated its statutes, you know how difficult and confusing the multiple volumes are to the public.
Keeping up to date on the latest Yukon law in its present form creates considerable confusion, because there are so many volumes and amendments. This government wishes to promote confidence in our justice system and respect for the rule of law. In order to promote respect, we must have a transparent justice system, one that the public understands.
I said yesterday that I would communicate information about the justice system and the law. This continuing consolidation of the Yukon's statutes is one very effective means of letting the public know about the law.
And why does the public need to understand the law of the territory? Every person needs an understanding of the law and the justice system in order to function in our complex world. As well, each person needs to know the law in order to carry out his or her responsibilities in relation to the law and the justice system, and to exercise their rights.
Unknown rights are not rights at all; they are a snare and delusion. Better government means, among other things, that all the people of the Yukon understand the rights they have that are found in the statutes of the Yukon.
This government has said as well that we will have full and open consultation with the public on all legislation and policies that we propose. The people of the Yukon need access to the statutes of the Yukon so that they can discuss legislation with us and provide us with informed opinions.
The legal process and the justice system itself requires informed and engaged citizens if it is to function democratically and in the way citizens wish it to.
The public sometimes is intimidated by the law and the justice system. I think it is fair to say, Mr. Speaker, that there is a certain cynicism about law and justice. Particularly people with lower literacy levels have great trouble deciphering the intricacies of the law. Cynicism can be fueled by asking people to obey laws that they do not have access to. We demand that the public refrain from certain actions or do certain things, even though they cannot find the law or understand it when they do.
In the federal Criminal Code of Canada, one section says that ignorance of the law by a person who commits an offence is not an excuse for committing that offence. So it is in much of our legislation. "But I didn't know I was supposed to" will not provide an excuse if an employer does not treat an employee correctly, if motor vehicle provisions are breached, or if an animal is unwittingly harmed by an owner.
That is why, Mr. Speaker, we have a responsibility to communicate clearly about what is in our laws. The continuing consolidation of the Yukon statutes will provide complete and current access to the laws of the territory. The continuing consolidation makes it possible for the government to consult with informed citizens. It has the potential to allow the public to protect itself from mistakes in their daily lives and to make it easier for citizens to exercise their rights under the laws of the territory.
We are also responsive to the economy of the territory in the continuing consolidation of the statutes. For the legal profession in the Yukon, this consolidation will make researching the law for a client much less cumbersome and therefore less costly. Business will be able to find answers to questions about the law using the new consolidation, adding to their efficiency and benefiting the customer.
Although we are mindful of the economic needs for consolidated statutes, I need to add that this government also sees promoting access to the law as an essential aspect of government. It is why we are here. The law is not an exclusive commodity to be sold at the price that the market can bear.
It is the tool of good government. We are consolidating the statutes to provide an accessible, responsible, legal tool for the people of the territory to use.
There was a pressing need to educate ourselves about the justice system and to reach out and inform our youth. Education about law and justice can have a preventive effect on youth crime.
The people affected by the legislation and the people administering it must better understand both the legislation and the public and its diverse needs.
If we are to have a responsive justice system, justice must go outside its narrow circle of partners and look for new ways of responding from other disciplines - education, social services, technology.
Making the justice system accessible and responsible requires understanding of the unique needs and environment of youth, or First Nations, of people in need. All Yukoners must be responsible for justice, and I believe that all Yukoners have an interest in a respectful and fair system of justice.
There must be informed debate with the public about new legislation and programs. New legislation must be explained in a variety of ways to the public. Education about the law and the justice system must be part of the education of Yukon youth, including education about the negative consequences of criminal acts.
This act sets out the powers the chief legislative council will have when revising Yukon statutes or regulations, when revisions come into force and the effect of the revisions. It also ensures that a statute or regulation published under this regime can be received into evidence. The revisions do not operate as new law, but shall be interpreted as a consolidation.
This act also ensures that there shall be public input into the process by putting in the act a requirement that there be an advisory committee that includes representatives of the general public, the legal community, legal researchers, the judiciary and the government.
The act also contains consequential amendments to the Evidence Act.
I am satisfied that our government goes a long way to making justice more accessible by the implementation of this bill and, in doing so, we are keeping our commitment to provide good government to all of the Yukon public.
Our continuing consolidation of statutes will improve access to some of the most important information a government holds: the customs and laws that govern our behaviour.
I am pleased, Mr. Speaker, that this new consolidation means that the laws will be recorded in plain language and in gender-inclusive language. I am pleased to make this service available to the public, improving government accountability.
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Speaker, the Yukon Party supports this bill in principle. Anything, I think, that would make the justice system more accessible and understood by the general public is a useful exercise and, as well, will keep us up to date on Yukon laws. Even for people like ourselves and people from within the system who have to research law in particular cases or particular instances, spend hours and hours and hours trying to find the most current law and making sure that there isn't a conflicting law out there. So, I think that this particular consolidation will aid in that.
When we get into Committee, Mr. Speaker, I will be asking the minister to give us some examples on how this particular law will work and how she sees it working and how people will access it, other than just on the Internet - how they'll access it at the territorial government building, whether they'll buy a CD-ROM, or whatever is available. Maybe the minister can give us more details of that in Committee.
I would like to know the cost of the project and when the minister feels the project will be in place, so that it can be used. I know that this kind of thing could take quite some time. There's a lot of work to be done. I would like to know from the minister the total cost of it and when it's going to be completed.
I think it's probably one of these things that, when you look at the expense and time now, it's sort of hard to justify in times of careful management of money and government but, on the other hand, if you look at the cost benefit down the road to not only government people who have to research this but other lawyers and public citizens who have to look at it, the benefits probably exceed the cost of doing it.
So, we support this in principle, and we look forward to further examples from the minister when we get into Committee of the Whole.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Cable: I'd like to commend the minister on a very worthy initiative. The continuing consolidation is very useful. It's useful to the casual user of the statute system and is useful to the continuing stakeholders in the justice system.
When you look at the last revised statutes of 1986, as they're sitting there on the Clerk's table, and the many volumes of subsequent amendments - I believe there are eight or nine volumes - even those people involved daily with the system may make mistakes and may have to spend considerable time in determining the present state of an act.
This is particularly true in relation to those acts, such as the Motor Vehicles Act, that are amended continuously. Much needless time is spent in determining the state of law, and it's especially nerve-racking to the law professionals, of course, who have some exposure if they make a mistake in determining just what the present law is and what amendments have taken place.
With respect to the lay person trying to wind their way through an act with many amendments and trying to understand the indexing system is indeed a formidable task, and I think this is a very useful initiative.
The questions posed by the official opposition Justice critic are questions that I too have - questions of access and questions of cost.
Speaker: If the member now speaks, she will close debate. Does any other member wish to be heard?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I just wanted to respond to a couple of the points that the members opposite had raised. I thank them for their support, and I will be pleased to bring in further detail in the Committee work on this bill.
I can inform the members that the cost of the six bound volumes that we presently have for a consolidation and then the annual publication of the laws that are passed in each of those years that is added to the consolidation exceeds the cost of having a continuing consolidation in a loose-leaf format within binders.
I can also say that the continuing consolidation of Yukon statutes, while it will take between two and three years to complete, is something that would be available in all of the public places where it is now available. Libraries in Whitehorse and the communities will continue to maintain a copy of the current statutes of the Yukon. People will also be able to purchase them directly. I know that most lawyers and legal firms keep libraries with the statutes in them, and that will certainly be available, both in the paper form, as we presently have, and on CD-ROM.
The Member for Riverside was indicating how useful the continuing consolidation of statutes would be to the legal community, and that's important. So is the fact that the continuing consolidation will make the law much more accessible to members of the general public who want to read a particular law. For instance, if they're having a dispute with a landlord and they want to know what's in the Landlord and Tenant Act, they can go to a continuing consolidation and know that they will have any amendments that have been made within the previous six-month period. So, it will be a far more ready access to the details of the current laws that are in place in the Yukon.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Motion for second reading of Bill No. 34 agreed to
Bill No. 35: Second Reading (Not proceeded with)
Clerk: Second reading, Bill No. 35, standing in the name of the hon. Mr. McDonald.
Hon. Mr. Harding: My apologies. At the house leaders meeting, we had a need expressed for further briefings before we brought that to second reading.
I move that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Speaker: It has been moved by the government House leader that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Motion agreed to
Speaker leaves the Chair
COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. Is it the wish of members to take a brief recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: Committee will recess for 15 minutes. Recess
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order.
Bill No. 23 - Crime Prevention and Victim Services Trust Act
Chair: We are dealing with Bill No. 23. Is there any general debate?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: This act establishes a trust for funding crime prevention and victim services projects. The act goes on to establish a board of trustees, their powers and their accountability to the Legislature. The act also makes it clear that money held in the victim services fund will flow into the new trust. Yesterday, I provided members with details of the amounts of money held in various funds that would be moved into the crime prevention and victim services trust.
I am happy to entertain any other questions that members may have.
Mr. Phillips: Yesterday, I mentioned to the minister that I wanted to bring in a friendly amendment for this bill, and as we get a little further down in the bill, I guess, into the area of the board of trustees, I will be introducing that amendment. Basically, the amendment would add two people from the general public to that committee who will look at the various programs.
They would be people from the general public who would be recommended by the Minister of Justice, and hopefully the amendment recommends that the people have some understanding of the justice system and be involved in the justice system in some way. I hope the minister would find that acceptable.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I must respond to my friend opposite that a friendly amendment would be one that I would be aware of in advance. The representation on the board of trustees was determined after taking into consideration suggestions that were received from a number of people and groups in the consultative process. As the board of trustees is presently constituted, there is approximately 25-percent First Nations representation, and changing the numbers of people on the trust is not necessarily a simple amendment. I am not rejecting out of hand the member's suggestion, but I would like to have some time to consider it.
Mr. Phillips: Being in the friendly mood that I was in yesterday, I did raise it yesterday and I said I would be bringing an amendment forward to put more people on it. I apologize profusely to the minister if she did not catch what I said yesterday, but I did say that I was intending to bring an amendment forward. I can understand the minister's problem with the 25-percent representation, but the way I look at it, Mr. Chair, I see a problem with the way the committee has developed. I see 75 percent of the general public not on this committee. So, we can look at it from both sides that way. I think that everyone who is on there comes from a special interest group.
The other individuals from the general public - there's nothing saying that one of them can't be a First Nations person. It could be anybody. I'm just saying a member from the general public.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Phillips: I hope not. I hope that the minister doesn't get me wrong. I'm not specifying that they have to be white, Anglo-Saxon men or whatever. I'm saying "general public," and I think when we talk about "general public," we talk about the First Nations people, and we talk about other Yukoners. I'm just concerned that there are two members of the general public on there who have had some input in the past to the justice system in the territory, who are concerned about crime prevention, and who are not on a particular group or organization that may have a particular point of view - just someone who might be talking on an ongoing basis to people in the general public and may come to the meetings and express those views.
So, that's kind of what I'm suggesting to the minister, and I would hope that when we get to section 5 of the bill, we won't have a problem with that.
As soon as I get the copies of my amendment, I will send one over to the minister, but basically it is not earth shattering. It just says that "two people recommended by the Minister of Justice from the general public." I think that's all I'm hoping to accomplish here, that we have members of the general public represented who aren't there to represent a particular group or organization.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, I do have a little difficulty with the member's assertion that representatives from the First Nations community and from women's equality-seeking groups in the territory are special interest groups. I believe that they're members of the general public, in that they're part of the general public.
The board of trustees, as presently constituted, would have seven members, and the expenses related to the functioning of the board of trustees is linked to the fact that they will be having some expenses paid in the event that a representative is from a community, and the travel costs associated with those would be picked up in the functioning of the trustees' work.
Seven is a manageable number. A trustee board of nine is certainly larger. I will have to, as I said, take some time to consider the member's suggestion. We went through the Blues yesterday and underlined comments that the member had said and, while he did indicate that he would have liked to have seen two or three people recommended from the general public, I didn't see an indication that he would be bringing forward an amendment to that effect.
Mr. Phillips: I just want to go back for a minute to what the minister said when she stood up a few minutes ago. She said that she wouldn't call the people representing women's equity issues and the First Nations special interest groups. Maybe it was not the proper choice of words on my behalf, but I didn't identify people from specific groups in this bill. The minister did when the minister tabled the bill. It was the minister who said there would be three people from government, one person recommended from the RCMP and two from First Nations. The minister identified them from specific groups - not the general public but from specific groups.
All I am suggesting to the minister is that we also put on to this committee two people from the general public and I think it would be wise for the minister to do that. The reason I say that is I attended a public meeting held in the basement of the United Church about three or four weeks ago with respect to crime in our community and there were some 200 people at that meeting. I think the Member for Whitehorse Centre was there and others. They were members from the general public who were concerned and that's the kind of people that I think should be brought into this loop and should be put on this kind of a committee, so that they are made to feel like they're having some impact and it won't be from a group who was looking at a specific area - for instance, women's equity issues.
They may deal with that and may agree with that, but that won't be their primary concern. It appears, from the way the minister has put this together, that the person that will be nominated by the minister for that position will be primarily concerned with that area.
The First Nations will be primarily concerned about justice issues around First Nations. There are other justice issues out there. What I am trying to point out when I look at this bill is that there are no provisions in this bill for members of the general public. There are a bunch of government people on it, but I think they're going to be taking some of their direction from the department and the minister - ministers, I guess, because there are actually two departments here, Justice and Health and Social Services. The RCMP have a particular interest themselves.
So, you see, everyone who is on here has a particular interest. I want someone on this committee with a general interest. That is all I am asking the minister to consider.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I appreciate the member's representation. I will consider it. Perhaps after the break, if we have a break scheduled at 4:30 p.m., I can let the member know if we have agreement on that.
I would also like to add that government employees are members of the public and represent the public interest. This is a board that will be managing a significant amount of public funds. We intend for the trust fund to reach a $2 million balance over the next six years as various revenues are allotted to it and the interest would mean that there would be approximately $200,000 per year available for crime prevention and victim services programming needs within the communities.
I appreciate the member's suggestion and I will caucus with my colleagues and let him know what the result is.
Mr. Phillips: I am not going to let this go.
I maybe believe different from the minister. I do believe that members of the general public are concerned about public expenditures of money and will sit on that committee in a very reasonable manner and will make judgment calls as well as anybody from the government.
Now, the minister said the government employees are members from the general public, and I don't disagree with that, but they're there with the government agenda. They're there with the government rules and regulations. I'm just saying that there should be people outside of government that could be on there, that are involved in the community. I thought it was a useful suggestion, in light of the 200-odd people that turned out at a public meeting to express their views about crime in the territory, that the minister might have said, "Well, we're going to deal with crime prevention, and we're going to put some people like this on a panel who will deal with matters such as this."
Mr. Chair, I don't know if the minister gave us this information the other day, but the total cost of the committee and of implementing this act, the administration costs, I guess, of this - I wonder if the minister could give us that information.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: The administrative expenses for the trustees will include travel, accommodation and meals incurred by trustees when attending things. It is expected that the board of trustees will need to meet perhaps four times per year. Administrative expenses would also include advertising to inform potential applicants of the deadlines for the receipt of applications and to promote the existence of the trust.
As well, there will be publishing of information pamphlets and application forms and guidelines. These costs should not exceed $10,000 per year.
Mr. Phillips: Is it intended that this board of trustees will meet primarily in Whitehorse, or are they going to be sort of a travelling board that's going to travel to the communities as well? Would that be the kind of thing they would do, or would they just meet here in Whitehorse and look at the list of projects, I suppose, that would come forward, and then make the decisions here?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I expect that most of the board's meetings will be held in Whitehorse. There will be an attempt to ensure that there is representation from the rural communities on the board. However, most of the meetings will be held in Whitehorse. That's a measure of saving the cost of the meetings for the board of trustees so that funds can be awarded to the actual projects for crime prevention and victim services, whether those are in rural communities or in Whitehorse.
Mr. Ostashek: I have a couple of questions I'd like to ask the minister in relation to this bill. As the minister's aware, the Yukon Party caucus supports this bill in principle. We don't have any difficulty with the principle of the bill.
I am going to raise some concerns that I do have and ask the minister to respond to them.
I received a copy of a letter yesterday, I believe, that was mailed to the Government Leader on October 30 from the Kwanlin Dun First Nation. The letter seems to lay out that it does not believe that there has been an effective consultative process put in place on the merits of this bill and they go on to ask what I believe are a valid list of questions that need to be replied to.
Now, this NDP government that is in power today - we hear some chirping from the back benches there, but I think the chirping is wrong. There are a lot of people who do not think it is very good at all. Nevertheless, let us get back to the issue of this bill that is in front of us.
When the NDP were not in power, they were very critical of the Yukon Party government and lack of public consultation. Yet, Mr. Chair, this is not the first time in the last year that we have had complaints from the general public about the lack of meaningful consultation by this NDP government that prides itself on public consultation. When I look at the list of organizations that met -
In a letter that was written to the minister on October 24, asking for further public consultation and raising some very valid questions - the way I interpret this letter is that it is not only from Kwanlin Dun, it is written by Kwanlin Dun on behalf of a group of organizations that do not believe that there has been meaningful consultation on a bill that they feel is very important - and we believe is very important to victims of crime in the Yukon.
I would like to ask the minister, has she closed the door completely on further public consultation before this bill goes through this House? I would have thought that she would have considered possibly going to a public consultation process after her second reading speech and before the bill came to Committee.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, I believe that the letters that the member is quoting from are in relation to the victims of family violence act, which has not been introduced in this Legislature yet, since we are responding to the letters of concern from Kwanlin Dun First Nation and other organizations and do have ongoing consultative work underway with Kwanlin Dun.
With regard to the Crime Prevention and Victim Services Trust Act, we did receive a response from Kwanlin Dun First Nation indicating that they supported the legislation.
Mr. Ostashek: I thank the minister for that, and it was my mistake, Mr. Chair. I just happened to get the letter at the same time as this bill came up for debate, but I do have some other questions here on the fund itself.
We are going to be establishing a $2 million trust fund, and the legislation goes on to say that until such time as the fund reaches the $2 million, the board will be entrusted with spending not only the interest on this fund but up to a maximum of 10 percent of the fund.
Mr. Chair, I just say to the minister that even when the fund reaches $2 million, at the interest rates that we have today, that's not a lot of money to carry out a mandate that this bill is going to be giving to the government and the board of trustees to carry out. I believe their funding is going to be very, very limited. I mean at three percent interest on $2 million, well, we're not going very far.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
So, it's not going to go very far, so I guess I would just like to ask the minister for her thoughts on that, and what does she feel will be accomplished with the limited amount of money that the fund is going to have, and how long does the minister think it's going to take the fund to reach $2 million? From my understanding of the legislation, after it reaches $2 million, the board will only be entitled to spend the interest on the money?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: The allowable expenditure of 10 percent in the first year would mean that there would be approximately $108,000 available for disbursements in the first year of operation in the trust. That number will increase to $136,000 in 1999, $162,000 in 2000, and so forth until year 7, the year 2004, the balance would be in excess of $2 million, allowing an average annual expenditure of approximately $248,000.
The trust will earn a small amount of interest. However, there will also continue to be the court trust account interest revenue generated on an annual basis as is the victim surcharge revenue and the Criminal Code fines revenue.
The member is right. This is not a substantial fund that allows for a lot of work to be done but it is not meant to replace the entire justice system. This fund is a demonstration that we support community initiatives in crime prevention and in victim services and so, while it may not be more than $200,000 on an annual basis, I think we've seen over and over demonstrated in the Yukon that even a small expenditure of money can have a very good effect in the community.
The youth leadership recreation program that we offered in Ross River and Upper Liard over the past summer had a very positive effect for the youth in those communities, and the total costs were approximately $50,000, I think, for the entire project for the two communities.
Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Chair, I believe the minister is being overly optimistic on the amount of money that the fund's going to have at its disposal. It would be interesting to see. She's on the public record now and we'll see what happens in a couple of years, but I believe she's being overly optimistic as to the amount of money they have. At interest rates today there's not going to be much interest so she must be counting on a tremendous amount of this money coming in from the fines and surcharges on fines and from other sources.
So I am on the record as saying that I question whether the amount of money that they have will be adequate to do the job. I fully appreciate that this is not replacing the whole justice system but we and the NDP government have both made a commitment to put together a trust that would be of some benefit to Yukoners and I would hope that we don't just go through the motions of putting this act in place and then stopping the act from acting and doing some good in the community because we don't have the funds to do it.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: At the present time, monies in trust funds that the Yukon government holds generate between six and seven percent interest rates, and interest rates are at a low point right now. I appreciate the member's concern. I can just say that I'm using the trust revenue and potential expenditure projections that have been developed by the department, and I trust that they are indeed a conservative estimate, as they have indicated.
Mr. Phillips: Yesterday in second reading, I asked the Minister to come back with figures with respect to the amounts and the Minister did that. Some of the amounts are not in the general revenue fund, but one is the slot machine revenue of $190,000 a year.
I'm going to leave the question of the KVA and the slot machine revenue to the Member for Dawson. I know he has some questions about that.
My question is that it sounds like, from what the minister said yesterday, that $190,000 is going to come out of the Justice budget, because that revenue goes into general revenues. I know that Justice spends that every year. What programs in Justice are going to be reduced as a result of the $190,000?
I know that, when I was Minister of Justice, there wasn't $190,000 just lying around in drawers as spare change. They were spending, I was told, every penny they had, and wisely. What I am worried about now is that one cannot take $190,000 out of that system without affecting something. Maybe the minister can enlighten us about what they are not going to be doing with the $190,000 that they were doing last year. In fact, I would guess that it might make quite a difference, because I would suspect that this next year, because it is the Klondike Gold Rush Centennial, the expectations from Justice would have been that they would get much more than $190,000 of tax revenue because there will be that many more people up here hopefully spending their loose change in Gertie's. We will be getting all the revenue from that.
I would like to ask the minister what we are losing? What is being cut out of the Department of Justice when we cut back $190,000?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I believe that the member's question is a little bit mischievous, but I could be mistaken on that.
I am sure that the member is very well aware that funds that go into general revenue go into general revenue for the entire government. They are not allotted to particular departmental budgets. When Cabinet agreed to support the Crime Prevention and Victim Services Trust Act, because they saw it as an important initiative to make some funds available to community groups for new projects, there was an agreement to divert the funds from the Klondike Visitors Association agreement - the revenues that are the government's portion of the lotteries income - and divert that into the trust fund until such a time as the trust reaches the amount of $2 million.
I will, in fact, have an amendment in section 2(b) to make it clear in the legislation itself that the Klondike Visitors Association revenue will be going into the trust fund until the trust reaches the ceiling of $2 million.
Mr. Jenkins: I, too, share the concerns of my colleagues with the financial aspects of this act. If this act and the programs that are going to be driven by it are as beneficial to the Yukon as we are led to believe, then it is contingent upon this Legislature to ensure that funding is in place - and continuing funding is in place - that will allow these programs to be implemented and to flow as the board deems them.
I have concerns about the amount of funds that are going to flow from the various sources that have been identified by the minister. I know that the funds flowing from the Klondike Visitors Association for this forthcoming year will actually decrease, even though there has been an increase in the gross amount. As a consequence of the implementation of the collective bargaining agreement and the terms of that collective bargaining agreement, there has been over a 12-percent increase in the costs of the labour component alone, which nets out less money to the Government of Yukon. Unless there is an increase in the gross, overall, these wages are continuing to escalate for the duration of the collective bargaining period and what would flow to the Government of Yukon will decrease.
In my opinion - and I would like to see many, many aspects of this program implemented - I believe it is an area that we should address by ensuring that the funds are in place and continue to be in place and not let this board have to concern itself with the investments side and with the continuance of the funding.
We have had many, many programs, Mr. Chair, that have had their funding removed. We have heard of the YES program - very, very beneficial to the Yukon - that has had its funding removed. We can ensure that the funds are there by just funding it out of general revenues and continue to fund it out of general revenues until that nest egg is there, and we will ensure the continuance of many of these programs for the benefit of all Yukoners.
So, from where I sit, Mr. Chair, I would highly recommend to the minister that she address the issue - and the very important issue - of the necessity to have a financial nest egg there that's going to ensure a continuance of the programs.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, first of all, I want to make it very clear that we will continue to fund departmental crime prevention programs from general revenue. This trust is over and beyond the Department of Justice and its administration.
The member was speaking about the various sources of revenue to be paid into the trust fund. The intent of the trust is to use sources of revenues that are generated by the Department of Justice but which, to date, the department has not had the authority to spend.
Funding the trust will not require an appropriation from the Legislature and it will not be necessary to draw on the budget of the Department of Justice.
The victim services fund, which is one component of the trust, has been created by the collection of a 15-percent surcharge on all fines. That surcharge revenue on territorial fines has been accumulating since 1992 and now sits at $294,362.70. The slot machine revenue is subject to an agreement between the Klondike Visitors Association and the Government of Yukon. Under the agreement that authorizes the KVA to operate slot machines, the government receives a 25-percent share of slot machine revenue. It was in 1996 dollars that the government received $191,269 from this agreement and the government has agreed that, instead of going into general revenue, this money will go into the trust.
The member was speaking about responsible financial practices and about ensuring that there was some money available for crime prevention and victim services projects. What I can say to the member is that the opening balance will be approximately $1,086,000, that that new balance each year will continue to grow as the revenues are provided to it, and that we anticipate it will take six or seven years to reach the $2 million ceiling.
Mr. Cable: I'd just like to pursue that issue a bit further.
The five revenue streams are all variable, and I think the minister has indicated that it's her preference that the funding for this initiative not affect her department's budget, if I heard her correctly. Just why was an approach taken that the funding would be basically variable as opposed to a line item, other than the fact that the Justice budget itself may be affected? Was there some principle that was at stake in funding this through these variable revenue streams as opposed to a fixed amount that would come before the Legislature each year?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, Mr. Chair, one of the principles involved here is that the crime prevention and victim services trust fund be available for community groups to apply for projects that they think will work in their communities to reduce crime or to provide services to victims. The principle is that we think locally based solutions are often good solutions, and this is one more avenue to offer local groups the ability to fund projects in their communities.
The amount of revenue is variable because the victim surcharge revenue and the Criminal Code fines revenue are not exactly the same in every year. However, we are applying all of the revenue that comes from those sources to the trust fund, which is why how much it will grow exactly in a given year will vary.
Mr. Cable: Well, that's acknowledged. That's why I'm asking the question. Why was a variable funding regime chosen rather than an annual allotment sort of regime from the Legislature?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Sorry, what was the question?
Mr. Cable: I'll ask the question again.
I acknowledge what the minister just said. She made the point I was making, that the revenue streams are variable every year, and the question I put to her was, why did she choose a variable funding regime rather than a regime that would be fixed every year by the Legislature?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: We are just using the sources of revenue that are there. We thought it was appropriate to take money that has been held in the courts' trust account, the victim surcharge revenue and the Criminal Code fines revenue and put it into a crime prevention and victim services trust fund.
I believe this will be a net benefit to everyone, and it is not a cost to government, in that these monies are generated through the justice system and through the payment of fines and surcharges awarded by the courts.
Mr. Cable: I don't think the member has actually answered my question. I was asking on the "why," not the description of what was taking place. Let me leave that for a moment; perhaps I can discuss that with her some other time.
The minister has previously talked about guidelines. I haven't seen guidelines. Has the minister a set of guidelines that she will be giving to the trust?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: The guidelines that are contained in the act are the trust management principles and the purposes of the trust that are set out in section 4 of the act. It is intended that the trust be used for the promotion and provision of services intended to reduce the incidence of crime, for the promotion and provision of services intended to prevent violence against women and children, to address the root causes of criminal behaviour.
It also will fund provision and publication of information about how crime can be prevented and how people can protect themselves from being victimized by crime, about the needs of victims of offences and about services offered for victims of offences, and also promotion and provision of services for the victims of offences. Those are the general guidelines that are set up by the legislation, which identifies the purposes of the trust.
The powers of the board of trustees are to make bylaws for the administration of its affairs and proscribing the procedure for applications and for considering proposals for funding, and the terms and conditions for funding.
So, the board of trustees has the power to enable the board to properly manage the trust as it sees fit.
Mr. Cable: I misunderstood then what the minister was doing. So she's saying that the trust will have unfettered discretion within the terms of reference of section 4 of the act, to set up what programs the trustees deem appropriate then? Or is she anticipating that there will be periodic input from the Department of Justice?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, Mr. Chair, I wouldn't call the powers "unfettered". The section on the powers of the board does give broad power to the board of trustees to establish procedures for funding applications and for the method it considers and approves the funding applications. The Department of Justice and the Department of Health and Social Services do have representation on that board. The trustees are accountable for decisions on expending trust monies. Decisions on spending trust monies for administrative purposes will have to be approved by the Minister of Justice. As well, the board of trustees will provide copies of their bylaws to the Minister of Justice and will be providing an annual report that can be tabled in the Legislature.
This is the nature of a trust. Trustees have a final decision on how a trust is arranged.
Mr. Cable: Okay, then it appears that, while there's not unfettered discretion, that the discretion is to be exercised within section 4. Well, let me ask this question: how does the minister intend to integrate the Justice department initiatives and the initiatives of all these other organizations in the community, including the Crime Prevention Council, with the initiatives of the trust? Does she anticipate setting up some formal mechanism?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: That's why there are representatives from the Department of Justice and Health and Social Services on the board of trustees. Including public servants on the board will provide strong communication links between the board of trustees and existing government crime prevention and victim services programs. This will reduce the possibility of duplication and will promote an inter-agency approach to victim services and crime prevention.
Mr. Cable: I wonder if the minister could help me walk through the Financial Administration Act on this, and the minister can come back. I should indicate that, having read both the Financial Administration Act and this act, I'm not any the wiser on who actually controls this money. Who actually is going to take in the money and write the cheques and invest the money? Is that the Deputy Minister of Finance or is it the trustees?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: The money will be held in the consolidated revenue fund in a separate account, and I can come back to the member with further details on his questions.
Mr. Cable: Okay. One of the further details I would like is, what are the investment rules? And I would refer the minister to section 39.2 of the Financial Administration Act that says, "Subject to any other act, where money in a trust fund is not immediately required for payments, it may be invested in accordance with the act" - that's the Financial Administration Act - "or the trust, instrument or other authority by which the money is held in trust, in any investment permitted by the Trustee Act." It's not immediately apparent from the minister's act as to what the instrument or other authority is for the making of the investment.
I'd like to know whether the trustees can actually turn around and invest this money and whether the Trustee Act is the governing act for the rules on the investments. Could the minister get back to me on that?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Thank you, Mr. Deputy Chair. The money for the crime prevention and victim services trust fund will be held in one government trust fund, which houses all trusts that are held by government. So, the trustees of this particular fund will not have investment powers for the money.
Chair: If there's no further general debate, we'll go clause by clause.
On Clause 1
Clause 1 agreed to
On Clause 2
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, this section sets out the various sources of revenue that will be paid into this trust fund, and the intent is to use sources of revenue generated by the Department of Justice but which, to date, the department has not had the authority to spend.
The member opposite was asking why we were setting up the trust fund in this manner, rather than having a line item in the departmental budget. I would respond that we're setting up this precisely to make use of the sources of revenue generated by the victim services fund, the court trusts account and fine revenues because that money is available and it seems a good purpose to be using it for crime prevention and victim services programs. As well, there is not additional money available to add a line item to the Department of Justice's budget over and above what they presently do for crime prevention initiatives.
Mr. Phillips: I guess that answer the minister gave applies to the areas where the money was already set aside. To go back to the Klondike Visitors Association tax revenue, that's obviously money that's generated annually that has been going into general revenues and now will be lost to general revenues because it will be going into this crime prevention fund, at least for a period of time until we've reached $2 million.
So, my question to the minister is this: is she aware of any other plans within the department - of any of the revenue-generating abilities of the Department of Justice - that they're going to be earmarking that money for this fund or any other fund in the future? The concern I think that was raised by some other members who spoke on this bill is that it can become very difficult down the road if we start earmarking funds that are generated by specific sectors and allocating them to specific sectors.
In the past, the Government of the Yukon would generate revenue by various means and it would all go into general revenue. The ministers would all sit down annually and divide up the pot, so to speak. Now, this is $190,000 going out of that pot into something specific, something new. I just wonder if the minister is aware of any program in her department, or in any other department, where they plan on specifying certain government revenues that have normally gone into general revenues and are now going into other specific programs?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I think that this would be a good time for me to bring forward an amendment that I'll be having to the act, which is adding a paragraph for some additional funds to be placed into the Crime Prevention and Victim Services Trust Act. The proceeds of crime memorandum of understanding sets out an arrangement whereby Canada will share with the Yukon a portion of the monies seized by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police as a result of criminal investigations.
No money has yet been received under the MOU, and the amounts expected in future will be minimal. However, the MOU was signed so that, in the event that an unusually large seizure is made, the Yukon would benefit from the proceeds of crime. If this does happen, we feel it would be appropriate to put this money in the trust, so the only other source of revenue that I'm aware of that I'm telling the member about now - and I'll be introducing that amendment later at section 2(f) - is to add money received by Yukon from Canada in accordance with this memorandum of understanding on sharing the proceeds of the disposition of forfeited property.
Mr. Phillips: Did I hear the minister earlier say she was also going to bring another amendment in to 2(b) with respect to the Klondike Visitors Association and bringing a time line to it?
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Phillips: Okay, the minister is nodding her head in the affirmative. Okay, Mr. Chair, I'm prepared to go through it.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I move
THAT Bill No. 23, entitled Crime Prevention and Victim Services Trust Act, be amended in section 2(b) on page 1 by adding the following expression immediately after the expression "Government of the Yukon" in line 7:
"until such time as the trust reaches the amount of $2,000,000."
Chair: It has been moved by Ms. Moorcroft
THAT Bill No. 23, entitled Crime Prevention and Victim Services Trust Act, be amended in section 2(b) on page 1 by adding the following expression immediately after the expression "Government of the Yukon" in line 7:
"until such time as the trust reaches the amount of $2,000,000."
Mr. Phillips: I have just a couple of questions in this area before we leave it.
The revenue from gambling, I suppose, is going into this program, the crime prevention program, because gambling is considered, by some, a vice. So that is why it is going into that particular program, but as I mentioned the other day, the revenue that has been generated has been generated as a result of efforts on behalf of the Klondike Visitors Association and other people in the tourism industry attracting visitors to the territory.
My question to the minister: was the KVA consulted on any of this, and what was their response? Was the Tourism Industry Association of the Yukon consulted on it, and what was their response? Are they pleased seeing tourism-generated revenues being dedicated to crime prevention?
I mean, everyone wants to prevent crime, but I know that in the tourism industry, many people are urging us to direct as many dollars as we can toward tourism marketing and tourism infrastructure to improve the product and get the message out, so I just wonder if there were any comments made by those two organizations with respect to this particular pot of money being used for this particular reason.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, under the agreement that authorizes the Klondike Visitors Association to operate slot machines, the government receives a 25 percent share of that slot machine revenue. I am aware that other groups have looked to KVA monies as a source of potential funding, but this government feels that Yukoners would be better served if it were spent on crime prevention and victim services.
I don't believe that either the past administration or this administration spoke with KVA regarding how the monies they provide to the government as a result of their agreement are spent. I have, however, asked that the KVA be made aware of this initiative and that the money that they provide according to their agreement would be diverted into the Crime Prevention Victim Services Trust Act for five or six years, until such a time as the trust fund reaches $2 million.
Mr. Phillips: I know from being the minister at the time that we had not reached a stage where the bill had come before the House, but I know that this work had been done and this was one of the suggestions that was made by the department.
But I do know that the Klondike Visitors Association, from time to time, has made representations to the Government of Yukon about where it thinks it should spend that money. I would have hoped that, prior to it getting to this House, they would have been made aware that this is what we're doing with that money, because I know they've made representations from time to time that it should be - in fact, I think that in many cases they felt that they could improve their product by just keeping the money and using it in Dawson, rather than sending it to Whitehorse.
I would just suggest to the minister that she might want to communicate that to the KVA and also to the Tourism Industry Association, because I know they would be interested. They are constantly lobbying the minister - and all ministers - to give tourism a high priority when it comes to budget allocations. Because they haven't been consulted - and I think that's what the minister told us; that they hadn't consulted the tourism industry - some may see this as revenue that's generated by the industry going in another direction.
I don't think anyone begrudges the idea of it being used for crime prevention. We all want to prevent crime. It is just so hard to come by any new tourism dollars for any new programs, some might feel that they at least should have been consulted or at least asked for their opinion before the decision was made to do it.
That's all I suggest to the minister. She should get a hold of them and get their opinion. Unfortunately, in the minister's case, she probably won't get a great reception, because she's going to be telling them, "This is what we would like to do and, by the way, we've already done it." It's the kind of consultation you are not too happy about sometimes, but at least they should be informed that you've done it.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, when I made an announcement in this House in December of last year that this fund would be created, and also announced that it was our intention to use the revenues from the agreement with the Klondike Visitors Association, to use the government share of the slot machine revenues for this fund, and that ministerial statement was provided to the Klondike Visitors Association. I can tell the member as well that I recently spoke with a number of people from the Tourism Industry Association when they were presenting an award to the Yukon government for the work it had done in support of the Tourism Industry Association.
Chair: There being no further discussion, does the amendment carry?
Amendment agreed to
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I move
THAT Bill No. 23, entitled Crime Prevention and Victim Services Trust Act, be amended in section 2 on page 2 by adding the following paragraph after paragraph (f):
"(f.1) any money received by Yukon from Canada in accordance with the Memorandum of Understanding respecting the Sharing of the Proceeds of the Disposition of Forfeited Property and other matters entered into by Yukon and Canada on March 28th 1996."
Chair: It has been moved that Bill No. 23, entitled Crime Prevention and Victim Services Trust Act, be amended in section 2 on page 2 by adding the following paragraph after paragraph (f):
"(f.1) any money received by Yukon from Canada in accordance with the Memorandum of Understanding respecting the Sharing of the Proceeds of the Disposition of Forfeited Property and other matters entered into by Yukon and Canada on March 28th 1996."
Amendment agreed to
Mr. Phillips: Subsection (g) is sort of like an open-ended one where at first this particular program was going to be just using the funds prescribed above it, the ones we just passed.
I guess this means that the government can come in at any time that it wants to the Legislature and bring in a budget and allocate the money to that fund. Am I reading that right? The minister would have to come to this House in the regular course of budget and present to the House and make arguments for reasons why an extra amount of money should go into the fund.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Yes. This section of the bill, like the section (e) that precedes it, just makes an allowance in the event that, under section (e), someone may want to make a donation into the trust, or under section (g), appropriate money by the Legislature.
We have no intention of appropriating money to the trust at this time. The trust is meant to be funded to the point of self-sufficiency through other revenue sources.
This subsection allows us the option of providing additional funds to the trust, if that is desired, to meet policy objectives in the future.
Clause 2 agreed to, as amended
On Clause 3
Clause 3 agreed to
On Clause 4
Mr. Phillips: I want some clarification from the minister on subsection (e). There was a program put in place by the previous NDP government with respect to victims of crime, and it was a compensation for victims of crime. I want to make it clear that we had real difficulties with the way that program operated. In fact, there was one incident where two young fellows got into a fight in a bar, and the program bought them new leather jackets after the fight, and I don't think that was ever the intent of a program for victims of crime.
This talks about promotion and provision of services. Is the minister ruling out any kind of compensation program for victims of crime within this particular trust fund?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Yes, Mr. Chair, I am. I would draw the member's attention to section 4 (2), which is the next section of the act, which specifically states that the trusts shall not be used to pay compensation to victims of offences. Compensation for victims of crime will not be available from the trust.
As the member himself has said, compensating victims for pain and suffering or for loss or damage to property is problematic for a number of reasons. Victim compensation is very expensive. Such programs have been difficult to administer and the previous fund was largely funded by the federal government and was ended when the Government of Canada unilaterally withdrew all of its funding.
Chair: I see no further debate.
Clause 4 agreed to
Chair: Is it the wish of the members to take a break? Ten minutes, please.
Chair: I will call Committee of the Whole to order. We're on clause 5, section 1.
On Clause 5
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Over the course of the break, I had an opportunity to speak with my colleagues, and I would like to advise the official opposition critic that we will be supporting his amendment of 7(f) as a friendly amendment to add two members to the board of trustees from the general public who have expressed an interest in justice issues.
Mr. Phillips: Well, Mr. Chair, I'm pleased that the minister is in such a cooperative mood. I do have a half a dozen more amendments that I would like to... No, I'm just kidding. I don't want the minister to have a heart attack over there.
I think it's a positive move. I would also suggest to the minister though, to go a little bit further, that we've had some discussions in the past among the Yukon Party, the New Democratic Party and the Liberal Party with respect to nominating people for boards and committees.
This might be one - because justice affects all of us and all our constituencies - that the minister consults with the other two parties in suggesting at least the members of the public that are going to be appointed to this committee. Again, in a friendly, cooperative manner, because I know that the minister's in that kind of mood right now, I present that suggestion in that manner. I would hope that the minister would realize or accept the fact that all of us in this House are supportive in general of the legislation and are supportive of crime prevention measures and would be more than willing - I'm sure I'm speaking for the Yukon Party, but I'm sure that our Liberal colleagues would be more than willing, as well - to put names forward and suggest names of individuals who may have had something to do with crime prevention in the territory in the past and may want to sit on such a board or committee.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Certainly, as with any board or committee, the members opposite may put forward nominations on behalf of their party. I would say that it is a goal and a commitment of our government to ensure that boards and committees are representative of the public.
Most Yukoners do not belong to any political party. Many Yukoners who are active in a number of community groups, whether they are dealing with justice issues or not, are interested and able to serve on public boards.
There have been appointments made to boards and committees of people who belong to all political parties that are represented in the Yukon, and most appointees have been people who do not have affiliations with political parties, but certainly I accept the member's recommendation that we be open to nominations from the Liberal Party and from the Yukon Party.
Ms. Duncan: I just would like to speak and respond to this issue that has been raised about establishing yet another Yukon board and how appointments are made to that board. I'd like to amend, for the record, the thought that nominations put forward by any political party are simply put forward for political reasons. I am a very strong believer that, given that we have a relatively small population in the Yukon, we, all members on all sides of this House, should be seeking to appoint the best Yukoner to fill particular tasks. We're establishing, with this section, yet another very important board to Yukoners.
The Member for Riverdale North has quite rightly noted that most Yukoners seem to have quite an interest in justice. This is a very important board, because it will also be dispensing funds, and I feel very strongly that this is another board for which the appointments should be the subject of an all-party committee. Although there are some fine thoughts mouthed, I have yet to see any reason put forward by any politician from any party as to why an all-party committee process would not work in important boards and committees. There are nine that have been named in two motions before this House.
I would put forward to the minister that I feel that this is the tenth board that should be nominated and final appointment, or final suggestion, should be the matter of an all-party committee.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, I know the member is aware, since she is herself participating on behalf of the Liberal caucus in all-party discussions on that, we're not going to be establishing an amendment to the act in order to deal with that, if that's what she's suggesting.
Ms. Duncan: I am not suggesting an amendment; I am simply stating for the record, as I will continue to state, that I believe there should be and could be an effective all-party committee process for making appointments. I would just correct, for the record for the minister, that that is not currently in place.
Chair: Does section 1 carry with the change from seven to nine trustees appointed by the Commissioner's in Executive Council?
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Chair, I would like to amend clause 5(1), amend the bill to accommodate the friendly amendment that the minister has agreed to. I apologize to the minister for the scribblings on the amendment, but we did have to make some quick changes to it. It is consistent with what we have been talking about. It just adds on to this committee two persons who are from the general public.
Mr. Phillips: I will read the amendment into the bill, Mr. Chair.
THAT Bill No. 23, entitled Crime Prevention and Victim Services Trust Act, be amended in clause 5 at page 3, by: deleting the number "7" where it appears in 5.(1) and substituting for it the number "9" and by adding the following subclause:
(f) two persons recommended by the Minister of Justice from among persons in the general public who have expressed an interest in justice issues.
Chair: It has been moved by Doug Phillips, MLA for Riverdale North,
THAT Bill No. 23, entitled Crime Prevention and Victim Services Trust Act, be amended in clause 5 at page 3 by deleting the number "7" where it appears in 5(1) and substituting for it the number "9" and by adding the following subclause:
"(f) two persons recommended by the Minister of Justice from among persons in the general public who have expressed an interest in justice issues."
Amendment agreed to
Mr. Phillips: Before we leave this clause, maybe I can ask the minister a question. Obviously the minister has had some consultations with the First Nations. Am I to understand that by this subsection (d), the 14 First Nations have agreed to nominate two people themselves? Because, you know, before the land claims were settled, we'd deal with the Council of Yukon First Nations - one agency - and now there will eventually be 14 individual bands.
So I'm just wondering if it creates any problems with the selecting of these individuals when you're going to be selecting - I guess we have four agreements signed presently and a fifth one in the works. They may all want to appoint somebody or may all want someone to be there. Do they have to agree amongst themselves and then they present the names to the minister? Is that how that's going to work?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: In consultation with First Nations, they presented a recommendation that individual First Nations submit nominations directly. As the member knows, some First Nations are affiliated with the Council of Yukon First Nations and others are not. As well, there are a number of First Nation organizations with an interest in justice issues, including some community justice committees in First Nation communities. Those will all have the ability to put forward names for nomination to the board of trustees.
Mr. Phillips: I know in some boards and committees, when we appoint people, we appointed them in a staggered basis. Is there any intent to do that with this, or are you going to appoint everybody as soon as you can, with everybody's term expiring at the same time kind of thing. I know that for continuity of boards in the past they've done some one-, two- and three-year terms so that there was some continuity if there were changes in the board.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: The member raises a good point. The intention of the bill was to set out the terms of the board members and to appoint board members for a three-year term. Some board members may be reappointed for additional terms and that would ensure some continuity on the board.
Clause 5 agreed to as amended
On Clause 6
Mr. Phillips: On subsection (f), could the minister make available to us, as soon as they're drafted, the bylaws and criteria that come out of this section? I would imagine that much of this would have to be public anyway for people to apply for funding. As soon as this group establishes these particular initiatives, could she make those available to us?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Yes, as soon as the bylaws are available, I will provide them to the member.
Clause 6 agreed to
On Clause 7
Clause 7 agreed to
On Clause 8
Clause 8 agreed to
On Clause 9
Clause 9 agreed to
On Clause 10
Clause 10 agreed to
On Clause 11
Clause 11 agreed to
On Clause 12
Clause 12 agreed to
On Clause 13
Clause 13 agreed to
On Clause 14
Clause 14 agreed to
On Clause 15
Mr. Cable: I think the Deputy Chair is having a bad day. What's the minister's intention with respect to proclamation?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: This section is self-explanatory in that the proclamation date can be set for a future date to allow time for the appointment of the board and for the board of trustees to develop their bylaws. The act will be proclaimed after the board of trustees and the bylaws are in place.
Mr. Cable: I think it is self-evident. I was just wondering, does the minister have a date that she thinks this will all be done and when this act will be in force?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, we want to allow time for any implementation issues to be resolved. We will endeavour to have the trust in place by March 31.
Mr. Phillips: Before we clear the bill, Mr. Chair, I want to take the opportunity to thank the minister for bringing this bill before the House. I think that we'll see, I guess, how well it works with the trust money, how well it's used.
I want to thank the people in the Justice department who did most of the drafting and most of the work on this bill under a Yukon Party government, and I want to thank the Minister of Justice for seeing good merit, when she had the opportunity to review the work that was done by the Yukon Party government, in bringing forth this Yukon Party legislation and putting it in place to help prevent crime in the territory.
So, in the vein of cooperation and friendliness, you know, the minister has seen fit to take it off our agenda and has seen merit in it and has used it here, and I think that's good politics for the territory, Mr. Chair, so I want to thank the Minister of Justice for tabling this Yukon Party legislation and guiding it through the process.
Clause 15 agreed to
Title agreed to
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I move that Bill No. 23 be reported with amendments.
Motion agreed to
Chair: We'll be moving to Bill No. 33.
Bill No. 33 - The Intercountry Adoption (Hague Convention) Act
Chair: Is there any general debate?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: This topic and this bill was discussed in some detail yesterday, so I will not go on too long on it, but I would like to respond to some queries that were brought up by my friend from Riverdale South.
Basically, this bill implements the convention on the protection of children and cooperation in respect to intercountry adoption in the Yukon and amends the Children's Act to facilitate implementation of the convention.
The Intercountry Adoption (Hague Convention) Act sets up a process whereby the Yukon may participate in the process outlined in the convention. The schedule, which is the convention itself, must be accepted as it is and may not be amended. The convention was initiated by the Hague Conference on Private International Law, an intergovernmental organization whose purpose is to work toward the progressive unification of the rules of private international law. The member states meet to negotiate and prepare multilateral treaties and conventions in different fields.
The subject of intercountry adoptions was proposed for the following reasons: dramatic increase in the international adoptions occurring since the 1960s, a series of complex problems stemming from this increase, and insufficient existing domestic and international instruments, resulting in the need for a multilateral approach.
Yesterday, the Member for Riverdale South raised some questions, and I will just go through these one by one.
First of all, with regard to the question of intercountry adoption and its effect upon our relationship with Alaska, given that the United States has not yet ratified the convention. Just following up on that, we did some research. The last adoption involving Alaska was over 20 years ago. Our most common contact with Alaska tends to be about child protection matters and runaways. We also consult them with regard to programs and policies as we are developing our own.
Despite the fact that the United States has not ratified the convention, the social service system in states such as Alaska is comparable to ours. Adoption practices are very similar in the United States to adoption practices in Canada.
The convention process would be followed despite the lack of U.S. ratification. If we were to encounter an adoption between Yukon and Alaska, the laws of Alaska and the Yukon would apply, and the department indicates that they feel comfortable given the relationship with Alaska on this.
In situations involving countries other than the United States that have now ratified the convention, we would still continue to rely on the national adoption desk to help us sort out a process that respects the laws of the Yukon and the foreign country in question, and we would try to follow as much as possible the process laid out in the convention to the extent of where that is possible.
I am now prepared to go clause by clause on this bill.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, Mr. Chair, our party stated earlier our support for the Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption. We do have some points we'd like to raise when we go through clause by clause, specifically section 5, so, if we can move on.
Mrs. Edelman: I'm very thankful for the clarification from the minister on that issue. My concern about Alaska is that there are First Nations that extend from the Yukon to Alaska, and they're still the same First Nation, and that was what my concern was.
What I would like to know about is how exactly is this process going to be streamlined? This has been brought up over and over again in the preamble and in the minister's remarks, and I wanted to know the exact nature of the streamlining in the process.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I suppose the most common or the biggest effect of this will be, I suppose, less of a streamlining aspect and more on expediting. We have a number of cases of Canadians who have gone overseas for adoptions. There have been horror stories about adoptions gone wrong, and so on and so forth, and we've seen, for example, Canadians going to countries such as Peru and Columbia, where they have been led to believe by some kind of agent that an adoption could take place, and they arrive there and find out that the child cannot be released because of a variety of concerns.
What the Hague Convention really aims to do is to reduce some of those impediments for people and also to give security to the countries that are the home countries of the adoptees, that certain safeguards will be met in terms of the needs of those children, and that they will be safe in the countries to which they are being adopted.
For example, I raised the issue of some children who have been adopted sometimes for purposes of labour, as domestic servants, or perhaps even some more, well, some very despicable occupations, such as prostitution, child pornography, and things of that nature.
I think it's more to give, I suppose, less of a streamlining and more of an expediting and more of a surety of the process itself.
Chair: Seeing no further general debate, we will go to clause 1.
On Clause 1
Clause 1 agreed to
On Clause 2
Clause 2 agreed to
On Clause 3
Clause 3 agreed to
On Clause 4
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, wouldn't it be prudent to insert the "director of family and children's services or designate?" Usually in all other areas, there is a position that that person can second to.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I will take that up with the department as to whether that's a requirement or whether that can be done expeditiously.
Clause 4 agreed to
On Clause 5
Mr. Jenkins: It appears that clause 5, sections (1) and (2), both grant the minister whatever authority the minister so chooses. Wouldn't it be prudent to tighten up this area so that there is more of a flow than whoever the minister wishes he can authorize to function as a central authority? Dealing with this, you have to refer to sections 15 to 21 of the Hague Convention act.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: In this case, the only person authorized to do this would be the director of family and children's services. That would be our central authority in this case. Just further on that, our Children's Act does allow for some delegation of powers and responsibilities for recruitment and approval of adoptive homes. So I think that would be fairly well covered with our existing legislation.
Mr. Jenkins: I believe it would be prudent, until that is confirmed, that we stand down sections 4 and 5 until the minister can definitely confirm that position.
Chair: Does it carry?
Some Hon. Member: Yes.
Chair: Does the Committee wish to rescind that and set aside sections 4 and 5?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Clauses 4 and 5 stood over
On Clause 6
Clause 6 agreed to
On Clause 7
Clause 7 agreed to
On Clause 8
Clause 8 agreed to
On Clause 9
Clause 9 agreed to
On Clause 10
Mrs. Edelman: To what extent does subsection (2) apply to private adoptions?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I would have to seek further clarification on that. I don't think there would be a major impact on private adoptions. I would presume that anyone moving - all adoptions generally go through a central agency. What this would do would be that the individuals who are planning on adopting from Hague Convention countries would be aware that there are certain requirements of them and they would have to agree with those principles during the course of private adoption, but I can't find greater detail on that one.
Mr. Jenkins: Further to that, does the minister anticipate making any regulations with respect to this act different or in addition to what is already in the Yukon Children's Act?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: No, we wouldn't be proposing anything further. We would be a signatory to this intercountry adoption act and that would be the only change in our adoptions, particularly for international, which would have to subscribe to this act.
In going through this, I did come across a typo in the actual wording of the bill itself - not the wording, but the numbering. It takes place on page 4. If one looks at the top, it is listed in bold type "9. The following section is added immediately after 84:" In reality, that should read, "10(4)". I have a proposed amendment to this bill.
Chair: Is subsection (2) set aside?
Mrs. Edelman: Actually, I feel comfortable with the minister getting back to me on that.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: With regard to the amendment, I move
THAT Bill No. 33, entitled The Intercountry Adoption (Hague Convention) Act, be amended at page 4 by renumbering clause 9, in both the English and the French versions, as clause 10(4).
Chair: It has been moved by the hon. Dave Sloan
THAT Bill No. 33, entitled The Intercountry Adoption (Hague Convention) Act, be amended at page 4 by renumbering clause 9, in both the English and the French versions, as clause 10(4).
Amendment agreed to
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Mr. Chair, I move that we report progress on Bill No. 33.
Motion agreed to
Bill No. 26 - An Act to Amend the Animal Protection Act
Chair: Is there any general debate?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: I guess at this time I would like to take the opportunity to address some of the questions that were asked on this bill, if it's okay with the House.
The question was this: why has government proposed only some amendments and not re-written the whole act? The act had a flaw which this amendment corrects. The act itself is quite workable and does not need to be completely rewritten. It's like a vehicle with a bad motor. It's easier and cheaper and more expedient overall to put in a good engine than to replace the whole car.
We believe that the amendments propose improvements to the enforcement arrangements between the various agencies. Through greater public awareness, we can have a fairly effective animal protection regime.
We have done the first step with these amendments and will continue to work with the Humane Society and the enforcement agencies to improve the enforcement arrangements where necessary.
Comparisons are often made with the Alberta Animal Protection Act. Currently, it is a good act, but if one goes through the checklist of items that should be covered off by the Animal Protection Act, ours would get a good grade as well. For example, with the passage of these amendments, our act will include the following desirable components: prohibition against distress and abuse; identifies enforcement officers; provides the authority to seize and take custody; provides the authority to destroy; provides the authority to recognize humane societies for the purpose of this act; provides the cost recovery for expenses related to care; and fines and penalties for contravening the act.
Certainly the wording may be different from the Alberta act, but the required elements are definitely all there, and we must be careful not to change the act just for the sake of change. We have to look at the cause of the problem. For example, if people are abusing animals because they don't know any better - that is, they don't understand what constitutes proper care - that's an educational issue and not a weakness in the act.
The amendments to the Animal Protection Act is only the first step in our efforts to improve the situation for animals. We feel that, with these amendments, we now have the legislation we need, but the job does not end there. This is why we're following up with an animal protection action plan, through which we will be taking a look at some of the issues raised. For example, we will be looking at the enforcement procedures and arrangements with our agencies to see where they can be improved. We will be looking at the idea of approaching the humane societies about being appointed as official animal keepers.
We will be looking at regulations under the various acts and seeing if any amendments are required. For example, we may want to pass regulations under the Animal Protection Act to spell out the qualifications of special officers.
Another question was: has there ever been a complete costing of draft omnibus animal protection legislation, and what was the cost? With that, we don't know whether there was ever one drafted, and whether there was a cost ever put to that.
How do all the various acts - Pounds Act, Highways Act and the Dog Act - blend together so that there is no overlap and so that there is clear direction to enforcement officers as to what they can and cannot do.
The answer to that that we have here is that these other acts, each of which has a very specific purpose, do not conflict with the Animal Protection Act. These acts are not affected by the amendments.
The Highways Act, for example, has nothing to do with animal abuse. The Highways Act has provisions to effectively deal with the hazards of animals on highways. Section 29 of the Highways Act essentially says that animals within 30 metres of the highway must be under the control of the person responsible for them, and if they aren't, then the animal can be taken into custody and delivered to the poundskeeper. In practice, this taking into custody is done by the livestock control officer under the service contract of the agriculture branch.
The Pounds Act has provisions for bringing unlawfully strayed animals into confinement for the protection of the travelling public and to prevent property damage. It provides for the establishment of a pounds district and the appointment of a poundskeeper.
Poundskeepers are appointed by OIC and work under service contracts to the agricultur branch. The Pounds Act does not apply within municipalities. The Dog Act is primarily meant to control dogs so that they do not pose a threat to harm people. The act also makes it an offence to abuse a dog. It overlaps with the Animal Protection Act amendments but the overlap is not a problem. A person could be charged for illegal treatment of a dog under either act and no legal problem would arise.
Another question was: how is the act going to work once it is passed and who will enforce the act? Enforcement of the Animal Protection Act is carried out by the peace officer. This includes the RCMP, municipal bylaw officers or special officers appointed for the purpose of this act. The act allows for the appointment of members of the humane society to be special officers. Their duties are spelled out in the act. For example, there is a section regarding the entry of premises.
Official animal keepers are the people or societies that take abused animals into their custody.
The amendment doesn't change the party's responsibility for enforcement.
The amendment does allow the front-line officer - the RCMP - the option of charging the person with violating the Criminal Code animal cruelty section or the Yukon Animal Protection Act. The same option has existed in Alberta for 10 years and has not caused any problems that we are aware of. Certainly, there have been no jurisdictional problems with laying charges under the Alberta Animal Protection Act instead of the Criminal Code.
One clear enforcement advantage to this amendment, in our opinion, is that government does not need to prove that a person intended to cause harm or abuse to an animal; government only has to prove the fact that the person caused or permitted the animal to be in distress to have a successful prosecution.
Another question that was asked is: does the minister intend to enter some kind of agreement with an NGO with respect to enforcement? We will be looking at the option of appointing humane societies to official animal keepers through the animal protection plan.
Another question was: what amendments to regulations will be done, and how will this act interact with regulations? The need for amendments to any of the regulations will be reviewed after the act has passed and before it's proclaimed. As one of the items in the animal protection action plan, for example, one issue we might want to look at will be the minimum qualifications to be designated as an official officer.
We cannot say exactly which, if any, regulations need to be amended, because we want to be able to work with the Humane Societies on that. The only regulations under the Animal Protection Act are those that date from 1978. These are to do with administration of the humane societies.
There could be a different interpretation of the term "humane" and "generally accepted practices."
Part of the question: is this required? This requires some clarification. The same legal wording, "generally accepted practices," has been in Alberta's animal protection act for about 10 years, and it is my understanding that these words have not prevented charges from being laid there and that there's no reason to think that the judiciary has been unable to decide the nature of what is acceptable and unacceptable practice on behalf of society.
The same reasoning applies to the word "humane". "Generally accepted" means just that. For example, there are generally accepted practices for animal husbandry, animal slaughter and dog mushing. If it ever came to a discussion in court about what is reasonable or generally accepted practice, this is something the court may have to decide on and, perhaps, based on advice from experts in the field, considering the broader views of the community.
Another question was: how will the public education be dealt with? We acknowledge that public information is important, as with most of the acts and bills that are amended. There are many processes available to us to inform the public about the amendments. These could include point-of-contact brochures, something that you can basically pick up at the vet's office; advertisements in newspapers; articles, newsletters or direct mailouts to organizations that are known to be interested in animal welfare; and possibly mail-outs to humane societies' membership lists.
Another question that was asked is: what can all of the various officers do? This refers to the peace officers defined in the act.
Hon. Mr. Harding: Mr. Chair, I move that you report progress on Bill No. 26.
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 the Committee of the Whole?
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Speaker, Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 23, Crime Prevention and Victim Services Trust Act, and directed me to report it with amendment.
Further, Committee considered Bill No. 33, the Intercountry Adoption (Hague Convention) Act, and further, Bill No. 26, An Act to Amend the Animal Protection Act, and directed me to report progress on them.
Speaker: You have heard the report from the Chair of the Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: I declare the motion 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. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: I declare the motion carried.
This House now stands adjourned until 1:30 p.m. tomorrow.
The House adjourned at 5:29 p.m.
The following Sessional Paper was tabled November 4, 1997:
Yukon Economic Review 1996 (dated August 1997) (Harding)