Monday, November 10, 1997 - 1:30 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order. At this time, we will proceed with prayers.
Speaker: Are there any tributes?
Introduction of visitors.
Are there any returns or documents for tabling?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Speaker: I have for tabling the report of the Auditor General of Canada of the Public Accounts of the Government of Yukon for the year ending March 31, 1997.
Mr. Fentie: I have for tabling a number of reports related to work in progress on the Yukon forest strategy.
Speaker: Are there any reports of committees?
Introduction of bills.
INTRODUCTION OF BILLS
Bill No. 39: Introduction and First Reading
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I move that Bill No. 39, entitled An Act to Amend the Motor Vehicles Act, be now introduced and read a first time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. Minister of Community and Transportation Services that Bill No. 39, An Act to Amend the Motor Vehicle Act, be now introduced and read a first time.
Motion for introduction and first reading of Bill No. 39 agreed to
Bill No. 38: Introduction and First Reading
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I move that Bill No. 38, entitled An Act to Amend the Consumer Protection Act, be now introduced and read a first time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. Minister of Justice that Bill No. 38, entitled An Act to Amend the Consumer Protection Act, be now introduced and read a first time.
Motion for introduction and first reading of Bill No. 38 agreed to
Bill No. 32: Introduction and First Reading
Hon. Mr. Harding: I move that Bill No. 32, entitled An Act to Amend the Workers' Compensation Act, be now introduced and read a first time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. minister responsible for Yukon Workers' Compensation Health and Safety Board that Bill No. 32, entitled An Act to Amend the Workers' Compensation Act, be now introduced and read a first time.
Motion for introduction and first reading of Bill No. 32 agreed to
Are there any notices of motion?
Are there any statements by ministers?
Global climate change: Government of Yukon perspective
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Speaker, I rise to inform the House of the position our government will take to the joint meeting of environment and energy ministers on global climate change in Regina on Wednesday.
The main purpose of the meeting is to develop a Canadian position prior to a global summit on climate change to be held in Kyoto, Japan, next month. Canada will not be able to meet its earlier commitments to stabilize emissions at the 1990 levels by the year 2000, and increased efforts are needed.
It is important that the Yukon's voice be heard at this meeting. If no steps are taken to deal with the global warming trend, there is strong evidence that the north will feel the negative impacts of climate change - proportionately more than southern jurisdictions. If climate change continues at current rates, wildlife could be affected by heavier snowfalls and larger insect populations. More forest fires involving larger areas could also affect wildlife as well as firefighting costs and the potential for future jobs in Yukon forests. Higher temperatures could create costly problems for highways and towns that are built on permafrost.
For these important reasons, our government believes that the Yukon perspective must be considered when the Canadian position is developed before next month's summit. Our position on climate change must be sensitive to the need to work toward legitimate economic, social and environmental goals. The Yukon's economy will continue to grow as our government works hard to develop new employment and economic opportunities.
As new technology becomes necessary, we want to ensure both a smooth transition for industries and training opportunities for Yukon people.
In discussing measures to address the challenge of climate change, we will stress the principle of equitable burden sharing, the idea that jurisdictions with higher per capita emission rates should reduce more than others.
We will also advocate the principle of emitter responsibility. This means that end users of carbon-producing resources must take ownership of the greenhouse gases they produce.
These are two critical elements among the nine principles in the National Action Plan on Climate Change that will guide Canadian implementation of an international agreement.
The Yukon will contribute positively to the development of a realistic Canadian position that will help build an agreement at the international level. An international agreement is just as important to the the Yukon's environment and people as it is to other countries.
Our government believes that people in the territory who want to do all they reasonably can to help will recognize that less than one-tenth of one percent of Canada's greenhouse gases are generated within the territory. The Yukon government has done much to improve energy efficiency and reduce emissions.
The Yukon conservation strategy committed governments to encourage energy efficiency and to explore alternate energy sources. Measures already in place include initiatives to improve energy efficiency in residential and commercial buildings, and continuing research into alternate energy sources, such as wind.
The Yukon is also the first jurisdiction in Canada to adopt a Canadian home energy efficiency rating program.
In addition, Mr. Speaker, my department will be consulting with Yukon people on the territory's first air emission regulations.
The work of the Cabinet Commission on Energy to develop a comprehensive energy policy will guide further Yukon government efforts to reduce negative environmental impacts on energy production and use.
One possible area for additional action is transportation. More than half the greenhouse gases produced in the Yukon are generated by fossil fuels burned in cars and trucks. The decision we make as individuals can contribute to solutions. For example, even here in the Yukon, we can choose more energy-efficient vehicles, use public transit where it is available or use car pools for driving to and from work.
The Yukon, along with other jurisdictions, will press the federal government to show more support to other levels of government and promote technological innovations to develop incentives to encourage industry to adopt practices that reduce emissions.
Mr. Speaker, we have much at stake on this issue, and we will ensure that Yukon's voice is heard loudly and clearly.
Mr. Ostashek: This ministerial statement, I believe, stretches the limits of what ministerial statements are supposed to be used for, and that is to announce new policy initiatives to this Legislature. In fact, the ministerial statement given by the minister today basically parrots the press release that he put out on December 18, prior to going to Toronto. There is absolutely nothing new in the ministerial statement he has given here today.
As for the content, he says it is important for Yukon's voice to be heard at this meeting. I say to you and to him and to all Yukoners that this government lacks any credibility whatsoever when it comes to speaking of environmental issues in the Yukon, based on the actions they've taken in their one year in office.
Mr. Speaker, this is the government that took the position that they would politically interfere with a water licence at Aishihik Lake and shut off the hydro power while pumping millions and millions of tonnes of excess CO2 emissions into the air. Now this is the minister that's going to go down and lecture other Canadians about CO2 emissions.
Mr. Speaker, when the minister says that jurisdictions of high per capita emissions should reduce more than others, well, I believe an audit would prove that the Yukon is probably notoriously high in CO2 emissions based on a per capita basis. For the minister to say that his government has done much to improve energy efficiency and reduce emissions, I question the validity of that statement, and in fact I believe that an audit of the one year that this government has been in power would show that they have in fact increased CO2 emissions and not decreased them.
We have their energy commission, which has set back development of local energy sources by several years while they try to reinvent the wheel.
Mr. Speaker, I don't believe this government has any credibility at all when it comes to speaking on environmental issues in the one year that they have been in power.
Mr. Cable: The ministerial statement is fairly descriptive of the climate change problem, and it gives some general goals, but it does raise some questions about precisely where the government stands on some key issues.
The first is the issue of voluntary versus mandatory restraints on greenhouse gas generation, and I understand that Canada's efforts to date have foundered, at least in part because of differences of opinion between the federal government and some of the provinces in this area and the differences between some of the provinces themselves in this area.
The last time that we had a round of discussion on this issue, I gather British Columbia was more inclined to mandatory restraints whereas Alberta was more inclined to voluntary restraints. So, it'll be useful to hear from this government whether it is prepared to support mandatory restraints on greenhouse gas production.
Now, in the statement, the minister makes what I think is an interesting comment, which requires some further explanation. Toward the end of the first page, he says, "We will also advocate the principle of emitter responsibility. This means that any users of carbon-producing resources must take ownership of the greenhouse gases they produce."
It would be useful to hear just exactly what that means. What are the mechanics for doing that? Presumably, that's through some fossil-fuel pricing regime and presumably, this means carbon taxation, whether directly or indirectly. So, I would ask the minister to explain that particular comment.
I should draw his attention to the fact that - those of you who like reading these Yukon monthly statistical reviews, if you refer back to the September 1997 copy, you will see that on page 9, where it goes over electricity generated, we see for the months of January, February and March of this year, 1997, the internal combustion, the fossil-fuel generation of electricity outstripped the hydro generation by 69,000 megawatt hours to 61,000 megawatt hours.
I would say that there are many, many thousands of tonnes - not dozens of tonnes, but thousands of tonnes - of carbon dioxide associated with that generation. So, it would be useful to hear how the end users will take ownership of that problem, to quote the words in that ministerial statement.
I think it's also useful - and I have to say it's useful for both sides of this House - to come to grips with the issue of coal generation. I think we're all sort of dancing around the whole issue: whether it's coal if necessary, but not necessarily coal. It reminds me of one of our old prime ministers.
I would conclude by saying that, in one of the recent issues of the Whitehorse Star, there was a national news release that reiterated that automobile owners are the single largest group responsible for carbon dioxide emissions in Canada. The minister, in his statement, has identified this problem - the transportation issue - but he's not quite clear as to what we should do about it and what, if anything, the government should do about it - is is it going to encourage public transportation, or just what is he going to do to reduce the transportation use of fossil fuels?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Well, I expected the Yukon Party to react in that way.
We do have a very serious situation that could emerge from global warning. If the Yukon doesn't speak out, then who will ever hear us? Those are the important steps we need to take with us when we go down to Regina and voice ourselves. We need to let people know that the Yukon - in particular Yukon, Alaska and part of the NWT - will be affected by climate change.
To say that this is nothing new - we knew that the commitments that Canada had taken before were not reached. They were unrealistic targets and we believe that, in order to do something, we can't be held to numbers that we can't reach.
So, Mr. Speaker, our government is going to voice ourselves and, unlike previous governments, they had not put Yukon on the map as far as being affected by global climate changes. This has been in the works for many, many years, and nothing has been done toward that. We want to make sure the position of Yukon is heard loud and clear.
In regard to the emitters' responsibility, I said that one of the things that could happen is that, if there was an export, for example, of fossil fuels out of the Yukon, it is the responsibility of those that are using it to be accountable, as far as air emissions. It's not we who are responsible, even though those resources go out of the territory, or vice versa for any part of Canada. It's a Canadian position, also, because we also like to be credited for the things that we do do. For example, on the export of natural gas and propane, it's a commitment, I guess, in regard to cleaner air.
We feel that the position that we take in Regina needs to be one that has realistic targets in reducing greenhouse gases based on the two principles that we had laid out, and I think those two principles speak a lot to what Yukon is looking for, and that basically is the emitter responsibilities and the equitable burden sharing.
This is a much debated issue in the House of Commons. It's very much talked about all across Canada and in many countries. It's going to be a very hot topic, and one that we need to balance out here in the Yukon, in both looking at the economics of it and looking at the environmental side.
So in taking a position, those are what we will be taking down to Regina.
Energy management plan for government buildings
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I rise today to make a government policy statement about a "good government" initiative to improve the operating efficiency of government buildings. Government Services has completed an energy management plan for government owned and operated buildings.
The objectives of this plan are to reduce and control energy costs in government buildings; to reduce long-term operating costs using surplus hydroelectricity where available and local fuels wherever feasible; to control discharges of polluting substances into the air, water and land; and to reduce water use.
The energy management plan for buildings supports the national action program for climate change. The program was implemented as a result of earlier international commitments by the federal government to reduce greenhouse gases.
It is fitting, Mr. Speaker, that I am able to announce this initiative during Energy Awareness Month here in the Yukon and immediately following the interesting statement by my colleague, the Minister for Renewable Resources, on the important subject of global climate change.
In conjunction with other departments and Crown corporations, Government Services has identified buildings that have the highest energy consumption and will establish priorities for projects to reduce energy costs. The highest priority is being given to those projects which have the shortest payback.
Simple measures implemented in six Yukon schools produced savings of more than $120,000 in the last two years. These savings were achieved by removing fluorescent tubes where lighting levels could be lowered; turning off lights when they are not needed; turning down thermostats on nights and on weekends and reducing water consumption.
Incidentally, Mr. Speaker, the savings in those schools were directly returned to the schools for programs.
Mr. Speaker, consistent with the statement I made in the House just a few days ago on design standards for government buildings, I should stress that ensuring new buildings and retrofits are designed to incorporate energy efficiency will result in significant energy and cost savings.
In cooperation with the Department of Finance and other government departments, Government Services is currently reviewing innovative ways to finance projects that will reduce energy costs in government buildings and improve the environment. For example, operational costs saved through energy efficiency could be used to fund future energy conservation projects and other government programs.
The successful implementation of this energy management plan will result in reduced operating costs for energy; water conservation; more money being freed up for other government programs; improved comfort, resulting from fewer temperature and humidity fluctuations; improved air quality inside buildings due to correct ventilation air levels, and outside buildings, due to reduced air pollution from heating fuel and diesel fuel used in energy generation; improved and more consistent lighting levels; reduced maintenance costs; increased opportunities for training and employment of Yukon people in the field of energy conservation; and improvements to the Yukon's environment.
Mr. Speaker, as this plan is implemented I look forward to reporting progress in reducing energy consumption and operating costs in government buildings.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, once again, the minister is scratching for information on which he can issue a ministerial statement. This statement is certainly nothing new. This is the third time this statement has been issued in various forms - once by the previous Yukon Party, and now twice by this party. You know, how far can we stretch this ability?
His statements of November 5 on government building design standards were very, very similar, but it does give me great pleasure to once again commend this NDP government for continuing the work of the previous Yukon Party government. In fact, it was the previous Minister of Education who handed out awards for successfully complying and saving government funds in regard.
But there is a lot of double-speak in this statement. On one hand, we have a government dedicated to preserving Aishihik Lake. They do that by pumping millions of tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere from power generators. That great big hole in the ozone - I guess we'll have to re-name that in appreciation of the efforts of one of the members from Kluane for his fitting role in that regard.
The other area that we've failed to recognize, Mr. Speaker, is that the government is one of the largest users of refrigerant gas - no. 12, specifically. This is destroying the atmosphere, and yet no mention is made whatsoever, other than in general terms. The only new initiative appears to be using secondary power for perhaps heating, and that is not new, but it has come to the surface once again.
Unless this government has some new thoughts and some new direction to take us upon in this Better Way program, I guess we're going to have to be dealing continuously with the same policies that have been in place for quite a number of years and that are working very, very successfully. Thank you.
Mr. Cable: I would like to congratulate both the government and its predecessor on all these initiatives. You can fight over who's actually responsible.
It's an example where the government leads the community and private sector by example. I think that's a very useful initiative.
Besides the environmental advantages - and as pointed out in the ministerial statement - there is, in fact, a payback. There is a cost savings. There is a payback over a short period of time in many areas.
The minister has indicated, in his last paragraph, that he's going to, in the future, issue a progress report. May I suggest to him that it would be useful to hear just how much, in total, can be achieved in terms of dollars saved and energy saved in the public sector. It will be useful, also, to hear if he's done any estimates or guesstimates on what sort of energy savings can be made in the private sector, both in terms of dollars and in terms of energy, so we can see what the magnitude of the potential savings are, particularly for energy.
There is a school of thought that says that the cheapest source of new generation is the generation saved. If the minister, at some juncture in the future, could tell us what numbers he's working toward, that would be helpful.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, I can tell you that, following the comments of the Member for Klondike, the ozone hole has probably expanded a little bit more.
I can enlighten the member. What we're trying to do here is put together an overall governmental strategy in terms of energy conservation for buildings. There have been a number of initiatives undertaken, primarily in Education in the past, and what we're trying to do is to apply some of the lessons learned from our educational experience to the larger governmental picture. We've done some things in terms of trying to reduce energy consumption at the Justice building, and so on and so forth. So, we are aspiring to try and pull together a coherent policy across government for all government buildings.
With reference to the comments by the Member for Riverside, I think those are useful, and I will pass them on to the department for consideration. Thank you.
Yukon forest strategy: progress report
Mr. Fentie: Mr. Speaker, I rise today to advise the House of progress on one of this government's major policy initiatives: the development of a made-in-Yukon forest strategy.
Our government is committed to moving forward in an open and consultative way to improve the management of Yukon's forests. One key problem with forest management in the past was a lack of public support and involvement in decisions that affect Yukon people.
We have embarked on a public process to develop a Yukon forest strategy to guide the future management of our forests. We have designed a strategy process with our federal and First Nation government partners and the Yukon Forest Advisory Committee. We are building the strategy around the five major tasks: develop an overall, shared, long-term vision for forest management; identify ecosystem management approaches that ensure the protection of our forests; design a sustainable forest economy that will produce stability for industry and communities, and provide maximum benefits for Yukon people; define processes for forest management planning; and, identify forest practices that are sustainable in the northern boreal forest.
The documents I tabled a few moments ago indicate that we are now seeing results from the work that has been done in these five areas.
The report of the ecosystem management workshop last March outlines a number of key principles and approaches toward ecosystem management and forest practices. The report of the sustainable forest economy workshop in September makes a number of key statements on how we can develop our forest economy.
In addition to this, last week I tabled the draft statement of vision and principles for managing the Yukon forests, developed by the Yukon Forest Advisory Committee over the past year through a number of meetings with key forest stakeholders. I would like to publicly commend YFAC for producing this draft and I look forward to hearing people's views on it.
The work we have done on community-based forest management planning and on forest management planning will provide useful points to consider when developing our final strategy.
The decisions we make and the actions we take through the forest strategy will be implemented at the regional level, recognizing traditional territories, ecoregions and communities throughout the Yukon.
To some degree, every community in the Yukon is dependent upon the forest around it. One of the strongest messages we have heard so far in every community in the Yukon is that decision making in forest management must be based in the communities themselves.
Our government is continuing to consult Yukon people on forest management issues. I am encouraged by the invitation we have received from First Nation communities and renewable resource councils to sponsor open houses in their communities.
At the request of these community groups, Mr. Speaker, open houses are being coordinated with the protected area strategy so that communities can consider two government priorities at the same time.
At the open houses, we will display our work, ask Yukon communities what they think and receive their ideas on what direction they would like forest management in the Yukon to take.
Early in the new year, a draft of the Yukon forest strategy will go out for public review. We will build this draft based on feedback received to date and what we hear at the upcoming open houses.
In light of the public comments we receive on the draft strategy, we will revise the strategy for adoption in the spring.
This government was elected with a mandate to listen to Yukon people in the belief that, by working together, a sensible approach to forest management can be developed. We have a wonderful opportunity to help build a new approach to forest management in the Yukon that is in keeping with the diversity of interests and values of Yukon forest lands while, at the same time, providing environmental, economic, social and cultural benefits for present and future generations.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Ms. Duncan: I rise today on behalf of the Yukon Liberal Party to respond to the commissioner's statements respecting the Yukon forest strategy. I appreciate that the commissioner has provided a meaningful briefing today on the results to date on the consultation processes surrounding this issue. The commissioner and the Government of Canada, and their staff, officials and industry, have briefed me in a variety of sessions over the last few months on this issue, and I'd like to publicly thank them for that briefing and those informative sessions.
I have also attended some of the workshops on forestry, and I recognize that one almost needs a program to keep the players sorted out, and the commissioner's remarks are helpful to the House and answer some of the questions regarding process on this issue.
There are a number of points I'd like to make in response to the commissioner's statement today - some questions and some food for thought. The commissioner has just tabled the results of the workshop in September, and I look forward to reviewing them in detail. However, I would like to ask the commissioner to state clearly for the record that he and his team have heard the very clear recommendation that participants have given to me, that they do not want large, single operators dominating the forest industry in Yukon communities. All facets of the people involved in the industry, and those concerned with the environment, that I spoke with after the workshop, have said very clearly that they do not want their communities dominated by one operator, that they would want to see several small viable operations, and I would like the commissioner to state that he has also received this message from industry.
Another concern that has been raised with me is in regard to a number of programs - forestry in particular - is the issue of implementation.
There has been some reservation expressed about the Government of Yukon's ability to carry out, as the commissioner said in his remarks today, the decisions and actions through the Yukon forest strategy. I understand that one could say, "Well, we can't carry it out until the devolution process has been completed." However, those who I have discussed this with concur with the suggestion, in informal discussions - and I've put it forward for serious suggestion for the commissioner today - that the commission staff give consideration to designating a transition team. This is not uncommon when governments change hands, or when there's an anticipation that governments are going to change hands, that a transition team is put in place in order that individuals can ensure that once a change is made, everything is in place for Yukoners to operate in this field effectively once devolution occurs.
It may be that the forest commission will become the transition team once they have reported and, if so, perhaps the commissioner could state this for the record.
I would like to commend the forestry commission and the protected areas strategy, and the commissioner and the minister, for their response to the community suggestion that workshops be held in communities jointly. It's a good idea and I hope it works well. It must be understood, of course, that this is one of the more important consultations that will take place over this winter, and individuals and communities must be sure to attend.
I'm certain many individuals will attend, as there's a genuine desire to see this matter, forestry in particular, move forward, as the unfortunate reality is that, while consultation and development of decisions are taking place, there aren't many people working. It's a difficult reality, and it's one that I'm sure the commissioner and his staff deal with daily.
My final comment for the forestry commissioner and his commission staff is with respect to continuing consultations. I am trusting that somewhere, in the long list of consultations, there's the opportunity being provided for individual front-line staff in governments to speak privately and candidly with the commissioner. I would hope that, rather than wait for this to occur, indeed the commissioner and his staff are seeking out these front-line views. Often, it's the senior manager in attendance at the workshop providing a larger perspective, and it's the front-line staff who need the opportunity to say, without any fear of reprisal, what is a wonderful idea, what works and what won't work.
I hope the forestry commissioner makes a point of hearing from these individuals.
Mr. Speaker, I'd like to thank the forestry commissioner for this update and trust that he will in turn take these constructive suggestions in the spirit in which they are offered.
Mr. Fentie: I would like to thank the Member for Porter Creek South for her comments. They are very positive ones, and that's exactly what's needed here.
As far as the Yukon Party's non-comment, they're remaining true to form. When they had the responsibility of representing Yukoners' interests in forestry, they maintained the position that there is nothing we can do, it's a federal problem, and that, Mr. Speaker, is most certainly not this government's position. We maintain that there is much we can do, and that is why we've created a commission, and that's why we are developing a made-in-Yukon forest strategy to better represent Yukoners' interests in forestry.
The comments from the Member for Porter Creek South regarding small scale and the message at the forest economy workshop were very clear, and we've heard it, but there is something that needs to be said here. Small scale, in terms of what it means in the southeast Yukon relative to the rest of the regions in the Yukon, has to be defined, and we look forward to the process that we've developed to define that.
Her comments on implementing and how we do that, given the fact that we do not have jurisdiction - the federal government still has jurisdiction - it's my belief that in working in partnership with other governments and agencies and Yukon people, we will be better able to implement the actions that we want to take.
As far as working people, over the course of the last year this government has been very active in helping to facilitate measures on the ground here in forestry today that are helping to get Yukon people back to work. I can say that we've done a lot of work in that area, much more than the former government did when they were faced with the same problem. Again I repeat that they maintained that there was nothing we can do, it's a federal government problem, and that's not the case at all. So we have done much in that area to help get people back into the bush and get people back to work.
As far as dealing with other members, front-line people and so on, all I can say to the member is that my door is always open, and I'm willing to listen to all Yukoners on this very, very important matter to the Yukon Territory for now and into the future. Thank you.
Speaker: This then brings us to Question Period.
Question re: Hospital services, financing
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Health and Social Services.
The Yukon has one of the finest, newest and most modern hospitals in Canada, yet there is considerable public confusion about bed closures and other services that the hospital provides. Some doctors are complaining about the lack of financial commitment from this government and have stated the hospital is at the end of its financial rope. The hospital administration is saying, "All is well."
Mr. Speaker, this is very similar to what we're hearing reported on the news from southern jurisdictions.
Can the minister assure this House that, if there is a financial shortfall, the government will step in to provide additional resources to ensure Yukoners continue to receive the high standard of hospital care that they are entitled to?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I am surprised that the Member for Klondike can actually ask a question like that with a straight face, considering that we have been trying to remedy some of the difficulties that have arisen with regard to the hospital over the past period of time, particularly under the stewardship of the previous government.
We did intervene earlier this year regarding the financial situation at the Whitehorse hospital when the transition team that we brought in indicated that there was going to be a shortfall. We have worked actively with the Hospital Corporation.
I might indicate that the previous levels of financial support for that hospital were established by the previous government, I think at unrealistically low levels, so we did intervene. I have given assurances to the Hospital Corporation that we will review their budget on an "as needs" basis.
With regard to some of the fear-mongering that the Member for Klondike would like to engage in, I should point out that, following the questions I had at the YMA, I did check with the hospital and have discovered that the hospital will be maintaining staffing of in-patient units throughout December and that no bed closures are planned. So perhaps his facts need to be checked a little bit.
Mr. Jenkins: We are checking right with the minister to make sure that everything is reported accurately and fairly.
Mr. Speaker, because of the actions of the previous Yukon Party government, this government, as of March 31st, had a $48 million surplus at its disposal. Will the minister commit to using a portion of this surplus, if need be, to ensure the number of beds and the other health services are maintained at the Whitehorse General Hospital?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: First of all, Mr. Speaker, with regard to the financial picture, or situation, I think that's probably better addressed by the Minister of Finance. But just with regard to maintaining the level of services, I think it's important to recognize that the average use throughout the spring, throughout the summer, and into the early fall, of beds at the hospital, runs about 60 percent to 65 percent, so there's not currently a shortage of beds.
With regard to some of the queries that were raised with regard to operating theatres, I think it's important to recognize that this is no different from the past three years. People don't tend to seek elective surgery during the holiday period. In the past three years, just as an operational matter, the hospital has operated with one theatre and they have the ability to respond to any urgent need, so this is nothing particularly new.
Mr. Jenkins: As I understand it, doctors practise medicine and politicians practise politics, but when you hear the medical community - the doctors in the medical community - making comments that alarm me, it is my role to bring that to the attention of the minister. It's not an alarmist situation. It's a situation that has to be carefully considered and addressed.
The NDP, in its election platform, promised that health services would not decline, and this government certainly has the financial resources to ensure that they do not decline. In addition to the $48 million surplus, this government is receiving an additional $7 million for health services over the next five years from the federal government. Will the minister make a commitment here today to meet the government's financial obligation to the hospital in order that it can adequately serve the health care needs of Yukoners?
We'd like to find out what you've spent to date but, of course, the government is late in tabling the supps. They've been promised all along. We won't see them until after the holiday, Mr. Speaker, so we don't know where we're at in that regard.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: First of all, with regard to the fictional $48 million, as I said, I think that's better addressed with the supps. With regard to this $7 million, which appears to have been spent several times over, I assume that the member is referring to the Canada health and social services transfer, where the federal government has indicated that they're not going to be dropping the floor of the Canada health and social services transfer quite as low as what they indicated.
Now to me, that's sort of akin to being mugged and then having the robber give you back a few bucks to catch a cab home, because we've been hit by this over a number of years.
Certainly, we have committed close to $1 million in additional funding for the hospital. I presume that if we are to try to maintain the hospital at an operational rate, future commitments in that regard may be necessary, and certainly one of the areas that we would have to consider would be these funds from the Canada health and social transfer. So, I could probably argue very cogently that we may have to be committing these in the future.
Question re: Education, mathematics grades
Mr. Phillips: Thank you, Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Education.
As the minister is aware, over the past couple of years or so, marks in math for grades 11 and 12 students have improved dramatically through the efforts of the math teachers, the students, the parents and the tutors. There appears now, though, to be a crisis brewing in our education system concerning math marks in grades 8, 9 and 10.
I would like to ask the minister if the minister is aware that over 100 students out of around 170 failed in their first term, and I would like the minister to tell us today if she is prepared to launch an immediate investigation to deal with this crisis in the lower grades. Will the minister give us that commitment?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, I'd have to be given direction for an immediate investigation into the alarmist approach of this particular member, if I were to take that on.
I am not aware of what the first term marks are that the member is referring to, but I can certainly get back to him in regard to that.
Mr. Phillips: Well, Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Education of the Yukon Territory should have been aware of the crisis.
Over 100 students out of 170 - over 60 percent - failed their marks in the first term. That's a crisis, in my view, and a crisis for the parents.
We all know that this is an issue that has been brewing for quite some time and we've been pushing this minister to take some action.
Will the minister take immediate corrective action and, as well, agree to make public the results of term 2, grade 9 and 10 marks so that the parents will be aware that it is a widespread problem in our education system instead of just dealing with each individual parent?
I think it is incumbent upon the government to tell the public out there that it isn't just their child who has a problem; there are over 60 percent of the students who have failed and there is a problem in the system that should be addressed.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I'll certainly have the facts presented to me in relation to what the marks were that the member is referring to. If there is a crisis, we will be dealing with it.
Mr. Phillips: Well, when 100 out of 170 students fail in their first term, there is a crisis. That crisis situation must be addressed now. Yukon high school teachers are going to be burned out trying to teach grades 9 and 10 math students what these students should have known before they could advance the higher grades.
Will the minister - if the minister finds out that, in fact, it is accurate - announce an independent investigation into why these students scored so low and take action to improve the math results of the students in the future? Will the minister act on that? I believe that 60 percent or more students failing the first term is a bit of a crisis and is something that the minister should be addressing.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I think that if there is a crisis, as the member is alleging in his remarks, I doubt if that crisis is a result of what has happened in only the last two months of the school term. If there were a crisis - and I put emphasis on the word "if" - then I think we would need to look not just at what has been happening in the last two months, but that the direction that the previous government took over the previous few years, and see what corrective actions, if any, need to be taken.
Question re: Salvation Army shelter for the homeless
Mrs. Edelman: My question is for the Minister of Health and Social Services.
Mr. Speaker, during the last election, the Member for Whitehorse West and the Minister of Health and Social Services made a promise to build a shelter for the homeless. On February 27, the Minister of Health and Social Services said he hoped to have a new shelter open by the end of March. On July 29, the minister said the shelter would be operating by the fall.
When will the promises end and the commitment be fulfilled?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, as you know, we have been operating in a variety of ways to address this problem. We have been using, for example, local hotels and local facilities in that regard.
The indications were that the uptake was not as great as we thought it would be. However, we have been actively searching - and we've been involved with Government Services; property management branch has been actively searching - for spaces that we could look at renovating and we could look at developing.
I should emphasize that there is a real problem with finding space in the downtown area. We had identified, very early on, that that was our preference because of the clientele.
We had been operating under a one-operational mode, I suppose, and that has since changed. We are looking at a variety of things. I plan on making an announcement as to our aims by December.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, I understand the government was looking into a partnership with the Salvation Army. A memo of understanding was signed that would have seen the Salvation Army provide staff and programming and a new shelter for the homeless. A contract between the two groups was drafted but not signed; it fell apart. It fell apart, Mr. Speaker, because the government failed to come up with the money. The government has made a promise to the poor and the homeless but now they're backing out of it.
Can the minister explain why?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I'm afraid that the member is somewhat mistaken. We haven't backed out. One of the problems we have is a useable space, and that still remains a major impediment for us. We need a space that we can adapt. We have looked at one space. Some of the modification costs on it were very substantial but that was not the only reason why that space was not found acceptable. We are still pursuing space. We are still pursuing options, and we hope to have a resolution for this by December.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, this situation is becoming increasingly serious as the cold weather is now upon us. Yesterday, we served 55 people at the soup kitchen. Demand for these types of services is going up and commitment from this government is going down. When will the government live up to its promise and begin to work on a new shelter for the city's homeless?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I have tried to emphasize to the member that we are working on an option; we are working on various procedures that we can go ahead with. I should emphasize that, with regard to this, we have not found the demand outstripping the present arrangements that we have made. People have not gone, I suppose, shelterless because of a lack of options. We have been working successfully with a couple of the local hotels in this regard, but certainly that is not a permanent option, and we are working on it actively and I hope to bring forward our decision in December.
Question re: Salvation Army shelter for the homeless
Mrs. Edelman: The government has handled this project poorly from the start. They have raised expectations time and time again with promised startup dates and they have failed to materialize.
Another possibility I've heard mentioned, Mr. Speaker, concerns the Crossroads facility. Can the minister confirm that the government has explored the possibility of remodelling the Crossroads facility to include a shelter for our homeless?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: That is one of the options that we have actively looked at. Specifically, we would probably be looking at perhaps modifications of some of the facility currently housing Detox as being a little more viable, but there are some options in that regard.
As I tried to express to the member before, we do have some difficulties in finding appropriate space. We've looked at office buildings. We've looked at space that is, I suppose, quasi retail. One of the difficulties that we have is just finding adequate useable space.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, this government is spending over $450 million this year, and they began this budget year with a $48 million surplus. If building a shelter is really a priority for this government, they would have met their commitment. The fact remains that they haven't.
Will the minister admit that the government made a promise that they couldn't keep and have now put the project to build a shelter on hold?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: No, the member is mistaken in that. We haven't put the project on hold. We're actively pursuing it. I don't know what I need to say. We have been pursuing this actively not only with our department but also with regard to property management. The realty services have been searching very actively. We have looked, at different points, at spaces outside of the downtown core, but the indications are that this is the area that is most preferable and is most applicable for the clientele. So that's what our challenge has been, and we have not put it on hold. We're still actively pursuing it.
Mrs. Edelman: Well, Mr. Speaker, the homeless shelter is part of the antipoverty strategy, and in this year's budget address, the government refers to the anti-poverty strategy. On October 24 of this year, the Yukon board member of the national anti-poverty organization described the Yukon government's progress on an anti-poverty strategy this way: "As far as I can see, nothing has come of it."
Can the minister explain why no work has been done on the shelter, and why nothing has been done on the anti-poverty strategy to date?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: First of all, Mr. Speaker, I think that's somewhat false. I can provide, if the member wishes, an inventory of all the areas that we have actively searched and all of the options that we have looked at, if that would be of use.
I can tell the member that this is something that we've looked into. We've looked into renovation costs. We've looked into modifications of various and sundry buildings, and we're still trying to pursue all of the options available to us.
Question re: Tourism, support from government
Mr. Phillips: My question is for the Government Leader.
I've been approached by several individuals in the tourism industry who are concerned about the importance that this government attaches to this industry. Tourism is currently Yukon's number two industry and Yukon's largest private sector employer, and I'd like the Government Leader to hopefully set some rumours to rest.
The Tourism department at the present time is a stand-alone department, and there are rumours out there, Mr. Speaker, that the government plans on amalgamating this department. Can the Government Leader assure this House and all Yukoners that are involved in the industry that he has no plans whatsoever to combine the Department of Tourism with any other government department and diminish the role of the current Department of Tourism in the Yukon's economy?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: There are a number of ways that one can show respect for the industry other than simply ensuring that the Department of Tourism remains as a stand-alone department and, by the way, there are no plans to amalgamate the Department of Tourism and the Department of Economic Development.
There are other ways that the government can, and has, been showing respect for the tourism industry. I can think of most recently the Air Transat deal that the Minister of Tourism signed with carriers to ensure that there will be a flight a week from Germany next summer. I was at the Tourism Industry Association offices a couple of months back, when they were giving appropriate credit to department officials who had a significant hand in signing that deal, and they made it very clear that they felt that the Government of Yukon and the Department of Tourism were showing a lot of respect for the tourism industry and, in fact, were doing some very, very good work to ensure that the tourism industry remains vital.
Mr. Phillips: Oh, Mr. Speaker, how times have changed. We see the Government Leader, who used to mock our marketing efforts in Europe, standing up in the House and patting himself on the back for encouraging more Europeans to fly to the Yukon. It's interesting how times have changed.
What I'd like the minister to do, if he would, then, is to set the rumours to rest once and for all and, in a very clear letter to the Tourism Industry Association of the Yukon Territory, would he spell out clearly that he has no plans whatsoever to change the status of the Department of Tourism with respect to amalgamation with any other department of the Government of the Yukon - that as long as he is the Government Leader, the Department of Tourism will remain, as it should remain, as a stand-alone department in the Government of Yukon?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, Mr. Speaker, the difference between what the previous Minister of Tourism used to do as he pranced about in the Legislature, talking about his trips to Europe, and what the current Minister of Tourism is doing, is in fact to sign deals to ensure that there is regular traffic between Europe and the Yukon. I'm more than happy to see that development take place. I'm not sure why the member asked the same question again, other than perhaps he wanted to bootleg in a criticism of the current government.
My answer remains.
Mr. Phillips: Well, Mr. Speaker, what I'm asking the minister is to send a letter to the Tourism Industry Association and clearly spell out the intentions of this Government Leader - that he has no intention whatsoever to amalgamate the Department of Tourism.
I'll ask the minister again. Will he write the Tourism Industry Association a letter saying that the Department of Tourism will be a stand-alone department and, as long as he is the Government Leader, won't be amalgamated with any other department and we won't see a diminished role for that department? It will be a stand-alone Department of Tourism, as it is today.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, Mr. Speaker, if the Tourism Industry Association asks - and they only have to pick up the phone - or if they do not feel that they are satisfied with the statement that I have already made in the Legislature to the same effect, then I will certainly provide them with a restatement of our commitment to ensure that the Tourism department continues to do its good work as a department.
With respect to his requests that I gratuitously send him a letter saying that there is no crisis, I won't do that.
Question re: Circle sentencing, victim involvement
Mr. Cable: I have some questions for the Minister of Justice.
There has been some recent public discussion on arguments and communications that have taken place between Justice ministers and judges and these arguments led to a court case and then a public inquiry, which hopefully will lead to some guidelines on communications between Justice ministers and judges.
Now, I don't want to get into the communications. They are the subject of an inquiry. But I do want to ask the minister some questions on the underlying issues.
The minister's predecessor expressed some concern over victim involvement in relation to circle sentencing. Does this minister, the present minister, share her predecessor's concerns about the lack of guidelines in relation to circle sentencing and if so, is she prepared to approach the federal Justice minister to set up legislative guidelines in those similar to the family support guidelines that are given to the courts in relation to family support?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: The subject of providing good service to victims of crime is something that I think all parties agree that there is need to work on improvement of. The subject of how to ensure that victims play a suitable role in the justice system is one that has been discussed at the federal-provincial-territorial ministers of Justice meetings in the past and I expect it'll continue to be discussed by ministers across the country.
Mr. Cable: The question I was asking was in specific reference to the circle sentencing procedure, but let me leave that for a moment.
The present minister was quoted in the press on January 24 as saying, "I will take steps to ensure the judiciary is more representative of society, women and First Nations on the bench. This is a goal that our caucus supports."
Will the minister commit that these steps - as the minister refers to them - that she's talking about will take the form of legislative changes, rather than simply the exercise of personal discretion in the appointment process?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Speaker, I'm a little troubled by the tone of the preamble in that question, so I do have to inform the member that at all stages any of the actions that I have taken have been with due regard for the independence of the judiciary and have been in keeping with our existing legislative regime. I certainly intend to do what I can to enhance the public's confidence in the justice system, and I think that that means working toward a more representative judiciary and justice system by looking at ways that we can amend the legislation.
That is precisely what we have put forward as the subject of an inquiry, along with other matters.
Mr. Cable: I take it that the answer to the question is yes.
On another, allied question, the appointments to the Judicial Council, will the minister commit to making changes in the legislation governing appointments to the Judicial Council to ensure that the Judicial Council is, as she was quoted as saying in the context of appointments to the bench, more representative of society, women and First Nations on the bench?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Speaker, in setting up the terms of reference for the Hughes inquiry to deal with the recent Supreme Court of Canada decision on judicial compensation, we've also asked for an inquiry to deal with a number of broader issues that are of concern to the public.
The member's question is part of what Mr. Hughes has already been in discussion about with the Yukon Law Society, the legal community, the judiciary, the government and the public. I can assure the member that that is one subject that we want to have investigated and to look at the report that comes back to see what people have had to say and what their recommendations are.
Question re: Centennial anniversaries program
Mr. Phillips: My question is directed today at the Minister of Tourism.
Last week, I asked some questions about the Whitehorse CAP proposal. The Minister of Economic Development told us about the details of that proposal. Today, I would like to address the tourism component of that proposal and the role that the Minister of Tourism plays in the joint committee.
Is the Minister of Tourism aware of a letter written by the Tourism Industry Association, which has very strong reservations about the tourism component of the Whitehorse CAP proposal?
Hon. Mr. Harding: I'd be happy to respond on behalf of the government and as the minister responsible for the program, the Whitehorse centennial anniversaries project, as it was proposed.
With regard to a number of the criteria, obviously concerns have been raised, as I alluded to last week in the Legislature. We have communicated that to the sponsors, or proponents, of the project. One of the elements obviously - and there are a number of which we would like to see further work on once a federal funding commitment is obtained - is in the tourism component.
Mr. Phillips: Well, Mr. Speaker, it appears now the minister has changed his story a little bit because, before, we were just waiting for the federal funding and now he's telling us that the proposal lacks a tourism component.
Mr. Speaker, I'd like to ask the question to the real Minister of Tourism, not the pretend Minister of Tourism. I'd like to ask the real Minister of Tourism if his officials in the Department of Tourism felt that the CAP proposal, as sitting on the table in front of the ministers today, met the criteria and guidelines that were set out in the CAP criteria that all other communities had to meet.
Hon. Mr. Harding: I will respond on behalf of this government on a project that has not come to fruition. It is in the developmental stages, as it has been for some time. If the project were to become a reality, then the member opposite could freely ask and probably get responses on that singular aspect of this project. However, as I said last week to the member, if he reviews Hansard, there were problems with a number of the criteria, and the tourism component, as I said to the member opposite, is one, but the Unity Foundation is reluctant to put a lot more volunteer time into developing that particular aspect of the criteria until they know that the Liberal government comes through with the dollars they've indicated to a lot of Yukoners they were going to give but, so far, have not put in any budget, contrary to the position that we've taken, whereby we've put the funding in our budget.
Mr. Phillips: Well, Mr. Speaker, I can only assume that the reason that I'm not getting answers from the real Minister of Tourism on this particular issue is he doesn't know anything about it, because he's being awful quiet on it. He should be standing up for the Tourism Industry Association and other industry members in the territory ...
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Speaker: Order. Order please.
Mr. Phillips: ... other members of the territory, Mr. Speaker, who are extremely concerned, in the tourism industry, about this particular application being allowed to go around the guidelines. All other communities in this territory had to abide by those guidelines, and this government is making a political decision. The Minister of Tourism, who's supposed to represent the industry, is silent, and that's shameful.
I'd like to ask the Minister of Tourism, Mr. Speaker, if he'd rise on his feet today and tell the tourism industry and people of this territory that he will ensure that that particular project meets the strongest of the guidelines of that particular CAP proposal, and that is that it has a strong tourism component, before he gives his approval.
Hon. Mr. Harding: The member opposite is obviously burned by the criticism that was put toward him about the lack of product that he achieved in terms of air transportation arrangements, and he's obviously quite concerned by the fact that our Minister of Tourism was able to conclude an Air Transat deal, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Phillips: Point of order.
Point of order
Speaker: Point of order. The Member for Riverdale North.
Mr. Phillips: I'm not burned about that at all. Mr. Speaker, what I'm burned about is when you ask a Minister of Tourism a question about tourism and he doesn't stand up and answer it, Mr. Speaker. That's what I'm burned about.
I ask the Minister of Tourism to take his responsibilities seriously and stand up and answer the question.
Speaker: The Minister of Economic Development, on the point of order.
Hon. Mr. Harding: On the point of order, I think the member is somewhat irate and he's lost control of himself. Mr. Speaker, I would say that he has no point of order.
Speaker: There is no point of order. Continue please.
Hon. Mr. Harding: Mr. Speaker, I'm responding on the basis of a question about the Whitehorse CAP project, of which I'm the funding minister responsible, with regard to the criteria for that project. We have gone to great extents in communities, such as Ross River, Teslin, and with the Unity Foundation proposal to try and ensure that we went as far as we could go to help these people who've done a lot of good work to try and accommodate and deliver on good projects.
The tourism aspect of the criteria is one that we have indicated some concern on, but they have also said to us that they are quite concerned, without a federal commitment of funding, to put more volunteer time and effort and, possibly, their own dollars into the project.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Opposition Private Members' Business
Mr. Phillips: Pursuant to Standing Order 14.2(3), I'd like to identify the items standing in the name of the official opposition to be called on Wednesday, November the 12th, 1997. They are Motion No. 68, standing in the name of Mr. Ostashek, the leader of the official opposition; and Motion No. 70, standing in the name of the Member for Klondike.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 14.2(3), I would like to identify the item standing in the name of the third party to be called on Wednesday, November 12th, 1997. It is Motion No. 83, standing in the name of the Member for Riverdale South.
Speaker: Government bills?
Mr. Harding: I move that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Speaker: It has been moved by the 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 members' wish to take a brief recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: We will take a brief recess.
Chair: We will now call Committee of the Whole to order. We are dealing with Bill No. 22, Oil and Gas Act.
Bill No. 22 - Oil and Gas Act
Chair: Is there general debate?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Mr. Speaker, we had a pretty substantive debate on the issue of this bill on Thursday, and it was a good debate, and I appreciate the support of the members at second reading of the bill, and I appreciate the comments of the members as they pertain to clarity. My officials have gone over the debate and confirmed that the questions that the members have had are indeed answered within the bill. There is consultation that was undertaken by the previous government on the bill - in part, the technical aspects. There has been consultation leading up to this bill, and there is consultation presently underway with industry, and we have received very positive and favourable responses, and probably the overriding view is, "Let's get on with this, and let's make a land sale happen and get some permits issued."
We really feel encouraged by the excitement in the industry, and I think the general acceptance of the bill in the Yukon public. We have some work to do. There's a media briefing on the bill. There's going to be some educational work done with Yukoners as the former minister will know.
There is quite a lack of understanding of what potential the industry may have for the territory in the minds of the general public, simply because it's been on the back burner for so long and it has not been aggressively promoted or pursued. Certainly, there have been issues that have arisen that haven't helped that situation.
However, we feel we can overcome those disadvantages that we have and turn them into positive ones, and essentially convince people that the Yukon is, if I may use the word, untapped, in terms of its ability to provide fossil fuels for the rest of the country and for this territory, obviously.
So, we're quite buoyed by the reception we've received, and the common regime is certainly a very important element, and our referral system as well, is also very well-received. So, we're quite happy with that.
I feel that we'll be - once we engage in a marketing campaign upon what I hope will be a quick resolution to this bill - well on our way in the near future. So, those are my opening comments. I know there'll be some questions as we go through this and I welcome the debate and the comments on Thursday from the members opposite.
Mr. Ostashek: I thank the minister for his opening comments, and I have a few comments that I would like to add at this time.
I was pleased with the minister's response in his closing statements on the bill and his open and frank way of addressing the concerns I had with vetoes on non-settlement lands rather than traditional lands - to talk about the terms of the land claims in terms of settlement lands and non-settlement lands. I think it's very important to the industry that they understand that. The minister is on record with that statement and I thank him for that, because the one thing we do need is clarity. Without clarity, all of our best intentions will be for naught. I know that that is probably going to cause some difficulties for this government and other governments in the future in dealing with First Nations, but it's one of those issues that we have to resolve and get behind us.
There are a couple of other things that I think are going to be incumbent on this government and governments in the future to do - probably this government more than other governments, seeing as this act will be proclaimed under them and we will be starting on the road to developing an oil and gas industry in the Yukon.
The minister touched lightly on selling the bill to the general public and making the public aware, because there are not very many people in the Yukon that I have talked to that really understand the potential jobs that there are in the oil and gas industry, right from day one - from the day you issue the licences, the exploration and the number of bodies that go to work in seismic, the number of bodies that go to work in drilling. Prior to there ever being a field discovered, there is a tremendous economic benefit to the territory.
I also think it's going to be encumbent upon this government to try to convince those First Nations that are reluctant to get involved in oil and gas development to help them see the potential there is for their First Nations for revenues, for jobs for their people, for opportunities for the people that want to go into business. It's all there in this act, and that is a challenge that's going to be facing not only the government, and the government will have to play a lead role in it, but all of us in this Legislature.
There's a tremendous potential here to help Yukon to really diversify our economy and there are certainly a lot more jobs than there are in the mining industry. As much as I am a supporter of the mining industry, there are a lot more jobs in the oil and gas industry than there are in the mining industry.
If and when we get to a field - and I know we will when we start development - we're going to see service industries setting up in Whitehorse, because it's too far to Fort Nelson. It's too far to Fort St. John. It's too far to the supply centres. So we're going to see oil field service industries setting up in the Yukon and that is going to provide the spinoffs for all Yukoners and all governments in the Yukon - First Nation governments as well as the territorial government.
Mr. Chair, I don't believe I will have a lot of questions as we go through this bill, because I've had the opportunity to go through the first draft of this bill when I was in government, being briefed extensively on it, asking all of the questions I felt were pertinent at the time. Having been briefed by the minister's people the other morning, I was assured that the principles of the bill are intact. The common regime that the minister talks about I fully support. One of the reasons that the bill was tabled last spring in this Legislature - in the spring of 1996 - was to go to public consultation with Yukoners and First Nation governments. We knew that there would be changes to the bill, that it would have to come back in to make the bill acceptable to all people. Those have happened now.
It's been a long process. I guess it's been a really long process, since we started to negotiate the Northern Oil and Gas Accord, and it's been a long time since we signed that accord off in the spring of 1993, to get to where we are today.
I know we can't hold him right to his dates on this, but I really would like the minister's view. Once this bill is through this Legislature and the federal legislation is in place - I think we're shooting for an April 1st takeover of this, are we not? - my question will be to the minister, if we take over on April 1st, how soon does he believe his department will be in a position to issue oil and gas leases, and exploration leases?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, Mr. Chair, there are essentially two answers to that question and I want to confirm that with my officials. In most of the Yukon, where there is a land claims agreement in place or where there is consent of a First Nation we can immediately proceed to discussing with industry how we would implement the bill and issue the permits for exploration that the member is talking about.
We do have some concerns that are with regard to Kaska trans-boundary in the southeast that essentially prevent us from moving on that agenda until January 1999. So, it's not that long a period. We've agreed that we would try our best to settle those issues for that particular area on a priority basis up until January 1999. Failing that, failing an agreement there, then we'll be free to issue licenses and permits there as well.
With regard to Eagle Plains - and that's one of the other very high potential areas now - we can move very quickly.
Mr. Ostashek: I appreciate what the minister is saying. I'd like him to be a little more specific though. Let me put it in the form of a question. I understand the situation where First Nations have not finalized their land claims agreements - that's a given; it was a given under our government; it's a given under his government - that there would be no leases issued prior to the finalization of land claims.
Let me put it to the minister this way: in areas where there is no conflict with outstanding land claims settlement, does the minister believe that his government would be in a position to issue exploration leases by this time next year?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, the department is obviously a little bit leery to lock themselves in, and I can understand that they're thin, as the former minister will know, but I think one of the benefits of this actually being concluded in Ottawa and here is that there's going to be, I think, some impetus put forward to increase the budgetary allotments to allow them to do their job in a quicker way. They've certainly been doing a good job. I think they need some resources increased.
They say to me that an estimate could be a year.
Mr. Ostashek: Is that a year from when this act was passed, or is it a year from the first of April when the official transfer takes place?
Hon. Mr. Harding: No, I think we can begin to move once the act is proclaimed, because that's really what we've been waiting for and what industry has been talking to us about. We're at a stage where we're through second reading committee in Ottawa, so we feel very good about that. We're credible now when we talk to industry about actually getting the resource devolved. They actually believe that it's really going to happen, so that has changed things quite dramatically, but they're still saying, "Get on with it. Get on with it. Just come talk to us when you're serious", sort of thing.
Mr. Ostashek: I appreciate that it is very hard for the department to say yes, we're going to have it by such and such a date. I'm just looking at the target date they're working toward. The reason I'm doing that is not just a matter of curiosity.
My understanding of the oil patch, having worked in it many years ago, is that most of the exploration work takes place in the wintertime - basic ground exploration. They might do some geophysical work in the summertime, but to get in on the ground, especially in an area like the Yukon where we have a lot of soft ground, I see, probably, a winter exploration program. So, the reason I asked the question is because, if we're not ready by the fall of 1998, then we're probably looking at the fall of 1999 before there's going to be any amount of interest in it.
If that happens, that's fine, but I know there's a lot of people in the industry and maybe local businesses who are thinking of catering to these industries that are going to be looking as to what date they can start gearing up for it.
I would like to ask the minister - he spoke of conflicts with the Kaska First Nation and the cross-boundary claims, and he alluded to a January 1999 date. Can the minister bring me up to speed about what that date entails? What's behind that date of January 1999?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Just going back to the previous question, and then I'll respond to the other one, it is conceivable that we'll have some activity next winter - certainly seismic. We're going to be working through this year with industry and with local businesses to start. We're going to conduct a campaign to make them aware of potential business opportunities, so that they're seizing them right up front. The local issues will be less impacting here.
The member will know that, regardless of what internal trade agreement is signed in this country, the politics of providing opportunities for Yukoners is very, very strong. People feel that when our resources are being utilized, there should be some reciprocal benefit for Yukoners and that, actually, Yukoners should receive some sort of advance knowledge. Some people feel there should also be a preference for local people. We've built that in, anyway, into our agreement in the benefits package, so we feel very strongly about that.
With regard to the Kaska issue on trans-boundary, that was part of the MOU we signed back in January and, in areas that are identified as traditional territory by trans-boundary Kaska claimants, we have said we will mirror the position of Canada, the Canadian government, in that we will not proceed with permits or licensing developments up until January of 1999. Failing the ability to conclude an agreement, we will have to pursue, in the interests of all Yukoners and economic development, our own agenda in terms of development. So there is a tight time line put on them being able to address their issues. As the former land claims minister will know, there's a considerable difference of opinion in the southeast with the Liard First Nation and the Kaska with regard to traditional territories and how they will proceed in terms of the claim.
So, there are difficult issues down there to deal with and we've allotted some time to deal with them. It is a finite time line. We felt that that was a way we could acknowledge that we intend to make resolution of these issues a priority and it's of great concern to us but it cannot go on forever. We've got to have certainty, and that is a good potential area for development for Yukoners.
Mr. Ostashek: I thank the minister for that and I appreciate there's a benefits package built into this oil and gas agreement, but it's one thing that I really feel is necessary: that the oil and gas people hire all the local people they can find. They usually can't find enough of them and they bend over backwards to hire local contractors, local labourers, and trained people. One of my first jobs was carrying the old jugs on the seismic lines in Alberta when I was just getting out of school. So I know the industry fairly well and I know that they want to put local people to work.
So, I'm looking forward to the industry being established in the Yukon and helping to diversify our economy so that we're not so dependent only on mines. There's a lot of unskilled work in the oil patch that they train themselves, in seismic and in drilling. There are a lot of jobs for a lot of Yukoners there, like slashing crews. The minister is absolutely right: there's just a multitude of jobs that Yukoners that we have here now could fill quite easily.
I don't have anything further in general debate.
Mr. Cable: During second reading, I asked the minister some questions which he got into in his response on the consultations that had taken place. I wonder if the minister would go over what consultations took place in the preparation of the bill, both when the previous government was preparing the first draft, which was tabled a year ago and, also, in relation to the present bill. In particular, what sort of consultation took place with the oil and gas industry?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, there's a pretty extensive list. I'll speak to a bit of it that I'm fully aware of, then my officials, if I omit things that are significant, can fill me in.
Bill No. 87 that was tabled by the previous government had with it a package of consultation, and it went to all of the communities. I believe they had some travelling consultations. As well, it certainly was the subject of discussion, for example, at the municipal council government in Faro. I remember being at a meeting where they went over the bill to some degree. There were also Yukon interest groups who were communicated with on what was entailed in the bill.
There's been an ongoing... One of the concerns that I had with my department is I wanted, first of all, initially to find out what the consultations were with First Nation governments and, secondly, I wanted to know what the consultation was with industry.
Mr. Chair, it became readily apparent that there were oodles and oodles of attempts to converse and consult with First Nation governments that were not very positively responded to. The member will remember some of the debates in the Legislature about that in previous years.
My view was that, given the federal government's position on not transferring the resource until there was some satisfaction of positive consultation and feedback, this bill was going nowhere. I really believe that the federal government felt it was too hot to handle, in frank political terms. So I felt we had to achieve some accommodation with other Yukoners, namely First Nation Yukoners, to proceed.
So we sat down and started discussing with them, as Yukoners, and consulting with them, and they were quite favourable to that, but on a government-to-government basis they had some historic grievances with devolution as it related to program services transfer agreements, and a whole myriad of issues. Some were related, in my opinion, and some were not, but nonetheless they did all come to the same table.
So, we sat down and consulted extensively with First Nations. There was not a lot of negative reaction to the initial consultations from non-First Nation Yukoners. Most people see the oil and gas industry in the Yukon - it has been my experience - as somewhat nebulous because of all the time it has taken, the fact that progress has been slow and it has been federally controlled. So, nobody really takes a strong interest.
I remember, just as an example, there was one town councillor on the Faro town council from Alberta who worked on the rigs for years - who lost several of his fingers doing it. He was trying to get the other council members interested in the consultation and he had a bit of a tough time doing that because, again, they felt that it was somewhat nebulous and didn't affect them too closely.
So, there were other non-First Nation interest groups, besides the municipal councils, that were consulted extensively as well as First Nations. They included the Conservation Society, and the normal groups that would want to consult on economic and environmental issues were all spoken with.
We redrafted the bill jointly with the Council of Yukon First Nations, with Liard First Nation, with the Kwanlin Dun First Nation and the Kaska Dena Council. The issues that we discussed included the attempt we made to consult with Yukon First Nations. There were a lot of discussions with industry, and that was the second part of what I asked as minister: "When we bring this bill forward, given our unique made-in-the-Yukon solution to this, what will industry say?" For the most part, I would say that the vast majority of industry consultation and feedback we received has been very positive. So, we're happy about that.
I did not want to bring a bill forward that was slammed, essentially, by industry as unworkable. Certainly the fact that the technical nuts and bolts come out of Alberta, which has long been a part of the oil and gas industry, helps in that respect.
The issues surrounding First Nations and land claims issues and traditional territory were also of great interest to them, but they felt that, with the common regime, we were approaching them in a fairly progressive manner and they would rather those issues were resolved going in than have a clear bill go forward that appears to be clear and then they come up here and start to work and get hammered on all sides by the political fallout, which doesn't create any certainty. We can think of examples of those experiences.
So, I think that they felt fairly good about it. There are officials underway. The director of the branch, actually, has been down for the last few days meeting with industry on the bill and, as I said a couple of times, the preliminary response has been very good.
I will be meeting with the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers on Wednesday evening to talk further with David Manning, who is their president, about the bill, and he's had some preemptive discussions with Brian Love, our director, on the subject and the contents of the bill.
There's an information tour of Yukon communities starting next week on the bill, and media briefings. Of course, there was immense scrutiny, as the member will know, of our memorandum of understanding with Yukon First Nations back in January, which contains the elements of the bill that have changed the bill from what it initially was. And, of course, we've been consulting with the federal government as a party to this throughout. So, that's the list.
Mr. Cable: Yes, I think the consultation with the CYI and the First Nations that were mentioned, of course, were very important - and the community.
What I was wondering about primarily was the consultations relating to the mechanics of the bill. The minister has indicated that there have been some consultations with industry groups, and he has indicated that he's going to meet with the president of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, which I assume is some kind of an umbrella organization.
Has there been any formal response that the minister could table in the House, so that we can see if there are any objections or recommendations on changes to the mechanics of the bill that come out of either a petroleum umbrella organization, a chamber of commerce or whatever?
Hon. Mr. Harding: We'll look into what we can table. There's some correspondence that would be acceptable to table in the sense that there is some consultant' work that has been done, and there's some industry viewpoints on the bill throughout. There should be something that we can provide for the member.
As well, we have a bit of a time frame here before we pass third reading and as we consult with industry. If there are recommendations that come forward that are acceptable - and we have to remember that there are three parties to this whole arrangement. The federal government is somewhat ancillary, because this is a made-in-Yukon process, but if there were things that were sent back, it would have to involve going back to discussions with the First Nations governments to see if the changes could be accommodated.
We tried very hard to do an upfront discussion so that that would not be the case, and it appears we'll be successful in that regard. I'll try and provide the member with more concrete evidence to establish that clearly in his mind, as well.
Mr. Cable: I'm sure the minister appreciates that it's a fairly complex bill and, for people not familiar with the oil and gas industry, quite complex.
Could the minister commit to providing that sort of information that we were just talking about prior to third reading of the bill to see if there are any time bombs ticking away that we should be aware of?
Hon. Mr. Harding: We will table the technical reports that we've received from various industry consultants for the member so that he can look at them.
Mr. Cable: I assume that will be before third reading. Is that what we're agreeing on here?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Correct.
Mr. Cable: Now, in the initial consultations, has there been any feedback on this benefits agreement regime that's being set up? I think the minister the other day indicated that this was generated from within his department, and if I remember it correctly, it was as a result of reviewing some other arrangements, presumably in the Northwest Territories. Have there been any initial responses as to whether the benefits agreement - the regime - is going to pose any problems for the oil industry?
Hon. Mr. Harding: The benefits agreement provisions are made in the Yukon. It's new - it's new and improved.
The rationale behind it, as I have explained several times before - I think the industry has indicated to us that they want to take a wait-and-see approach. We haven't had a negative reaction to it. They do feel, given the settlement B provisions with arbitration, with limitations on time lines, given the fact that there are no vetoes, that it will be workable. It has been communicated, also, throughout the industry that we realize that if the fight over the resource use is too strong, the companies won't be here to fight over it. If that principle isn't clearly established, nothing will succeed, regardless of what we put in legislation.
Mr. Cable: The leader of the official opposition alluded to the fact that this industry could be larger some time in the future - I don't know what his words were exactly - but perhaps even exceeding the mining industry.
Has the department done any forecasting or any projections in the future on the potential size of this industry? When the licensing provisions come open and everybody's on side, including the First Nations and the oil industry, are we looking at a boom in oil and gas exploration or is it sort of a repetition of the last 10 years?
Hon. Mr. Harding: It's very difficult to say at this point because we are largely under explored. We will be presented as somewhat of an elephant to industry; we don't want to be a white elephant, we want to be an elephant in terms of our potential. So, my officials hesitate to speculate on that.
What I will commit to doing is to provide the member opposite with whatever information we can provide based on known reserves that will give the member some scope of the potential. I hope that would satisfy him. I know no more than that myself and I don't think too many people do with much security.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I would like to first of all ask the minister if, in future debate in Committee of the Whole, the references made to officials and their presence with the minister it would be possible, for the sake of members present and Hansard, to identify and introduce those officials in future, so that those who are reading Hansard are aware of their attendance and are also completely introduced.
I'd like to thank the minister for his commitment to clarity and his remarks on clarity in the discussion of the legislation. It is complex legislation and I appreciate best efforts in this regard.
I had a discussion recently with several members of the mining industry regarding the timeliness of legislation. Specific references were made to two pieces of federal legislation, namely the Navigable Waters Act and the Quartz Mining Act, and how these particular pieces of legislation don't necessarily stand the test of time. I note, even in our own Dog Act, reviewing it, it notes that it's against the law to mush dogs on sidewalks, and I'm just wondering if the minister could indicate if officials have had discussions about whether this legislation stands the test of time. Have they looked at the legislation, projected themselves 10 years, and said, "Will this stand the test of time, stand the implementation of the UFA?" Will it hold up, so to speak?
Hon. Mr. Harding: The answer to that question is yes, I think that the bill has been well thought out. We have a lot of learning to do in this territory about what the land claims actually mean. We have a lot of maturity as a people - I speak of that generically as all Yukoners - on the land claims. The leader of the official opposition talked about breaking the back of the issue with regard to settlement lands and traditional territory, and I agree.
One can look at an example in the courts right now in the Yukon, where that issue is paramount, and it has got to be resolved. It comes down to the issues that have very strong opinions - issues of extinguishment, and so on. But in order to really maximize and to achieve the promise of the claim, we're going to have to get resolution of those issues. Otherwise it doesn't provide the certainty under which Yukon people were sold on the bill in the first place.
There's nothing wrong with achieving that goal and working toward it. Now, the UFA is supposed to provide that. I think over time, I'm really confident we will. There'll be some scares along the way and some turbulence, but with this bill, we've built in time lines in terms of how long we're going to concentrate, with limitations, on issues such as Kaska transboundary. We've built in time lines surrounding our priority as land claims settlement first. We feel that, for example, with impact benefits agreements and dispute resolution mechanisms on settlement B lands, we have built time lines in so that there is some sense of clear goal posts for industry, because time is money, and as these companies continue to spend money here and explore, and put themselves forward, make investments that will benefit Yukoners, you don't want to unnecessarily impede them with delays.
We have to come to grips with that. I've said it three or four times, but if we don't, we won't have to worry about any industry being up here to regulate.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I think the minister wandered all over the Yukon with that answer. What I was driving at and attempting to receive from him was some kind of a sense that best efforts had been made to draft the legislation to stand the test of time. I have that sense from the beginning part of his answer.
I wonder if, however, he or his officials could outline what sort of time line for review has been built into the legislation. Have I missed it? Is there a sunset clause?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, I apologize to the member if I wandered. I did answer by saying the short answer to the question was yes. However, I do like to have a full discussion. It's not always easy to give brief answers when you're dealing with complex issues that arise out this bill and out of the land claims agreement.
In terms of time lines for reopening, there is none built into the bill. That's the democratic process. It will be incumbent on a particular political party or a politician to say at some point that they feel that the act needs changes or there will be lobbies made by Yukoners or otherwise to try to bring the bill forward for change.
The whole intent and the whole driving impetus behind the bill as it is now is to provide certainty and we want to provide certainty. If there is some feeling that the bill is always going to be changing, then the goal posts are going to be shifting for industry and for Yukoners and I'm not sure that's a good thing.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I appreciate the minister's answer and it makes sense, too, in response to the question. I also appreciate the fact that he's noted that it's very complex in trying to explain these issues and how they'll work with the umbrella final agreement.
I wonder if I could just ask him to elaborate more on dispute resolution through the entire context of this complex bill. I noted and read thoroughly the dispute resolution mechanisms with respect to category B lands, but I wonder if I could just ask the minister to elaborate on what other dispute resolutions mechanisms are built into the legislation.
Hon. Mr. Harding: There is some leverage for dispute resolution other than as it pertains to settlement B lands impact benefits. The other case that comes to mind is as it pertains to regulation. If there is an impact on an owner, for example, where he has been asked to flare gas as opposed to putting it back in the ground, there is some provision for a resolution board to be created to resolve that. That would be the extent of our dispute resolution mechanisms.
Ms. Duncan: That would be done through regulation development - is that correct?
Hon. Mr. Harding: There is a section in the act that does speak to this, but it would be further governed by regulation.
Mr. Cable: Just one question, and the minister can deal with this in the section-by-section debate if he wishes, but in the handout that was given to us the other day by the minister's department, under paragraph 11, talking about the land surface access and acquisition, there is a bullet at the end of that paragraph that says, "The act is not intended to expand the jurisdiction of the Yukon Surface Rights Board to cover a range of pipeline matters that are more appropriately subject to the expropriation regime." Just what expropriation regime are we talking about?
Hon. Mr. Harding: It's a fairly complicated issue. It pertains to access rights and the provisions of the UFA. The UFA does make mention of an expropriation regime, and so what this bullet is actually saying is that this act should not be interpreted to expand the mandate of the Yukon Surface Rights Board as it's mandated in the UFA; rather, if there are unresolved issues regarding pipelines, they would be handled under the auspices of the expropriation regime that's outlined in the UFA.
Mr. Cable: The minister, I think, is saying that the expropriation regime will be dealt with in another forum. Is he confident that should there be a major strike it can go forward to the production stage through a pipeline without a lot of hassle, I guess would be the appropriate phrase?
Hon. Mr. Harding: I certainly hope so. That's the way the act is designed with certainty, but the member will know that there are issues that arrive when you are looking at trans-boundary pipelines that aren't entirely in our control. There are other environmental assessment processes that the feds always try to "muckle" in under, and I also believe the trans-boundary pipelines are examined by the National Energy Board.
Mr. Cable: No, I was thinking about the internal Yukon law. Is the law all in place, in the minister's view, to permit a producer to go into production and pipe the gas, at least up to the border?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Yes, we have a pipeline regulation well underway.
Mr. Ostashek: A couple more questions for the minister: he's spoken extensively in replying to my colleagues in the Liberal Party on time lines and certainty for the industry, and nobody could agree more with certainty than I.
Given that, from what I understand from my talks with oil companies when I was in the capacity of the Minister of Economic Development, and in talking with people like Brian Love in the department, most oil companies are reluctant to spend huge sums of money on exploration that are more, than say, 100 miles from a pipeline. That seems to be the method of exploration nowadays, that they explore where they know they have the ability to ship their product to market if they're successful.
In my opinion, our greatest potential for oil and gas discoveries and expansion are in the southeast Yukon in the traditional territory of the Kaska at this time. The minister has spoken to the January 1999 deadline of resolving land claims and resolving issues with the Kaska First Nation. I believe that one of the reasons we've been over 25 years settling land claims in the Yukon is that very few people in political positions have had the fortitude to stick to deadlines that they themselves put in place, and these deadlines were always expanded, not only by the Yukon government - by the federal government and by First Nations. All three parties at the land claims table have been guilty of that.
Now the minister has said the industry's going to be looking for certainty and assurances. What assurances can the minister give this House today that the deadline with the Kaska will not, in fact, be extended for another two years come January of 1999?
Hon. Mr. Harding: I can assure the member that it was with some consternation and with some fortitude, I think, that we made this decision to enter into this arrangement, knowing it would receive some criticism. We believe in this deadline and the member is dead on.
I should point out that not always are deadlines moved back for nefarious reasons. Sometimes there are good reasons. However, it seems to be an occurrence that does take place quite often. I don't want to rehash old debates about land claims deadline extensions or other deadline extensions, but I want to say that I feel very steadfast that we have to respect this deadline. We have gone the extra mile to allow some time to deal with trans-boundary issues in recognition of the federal government's position that they were not prepared to devolve until we gave some comfort in that respect, and I think it has to be respected. I want to create jobs in this territory for Yukoners. That's a large part of our agenda and, when we have a good piece of legislation, which I believe this is, I want to put it to work and I want to see Yukoners go to work. So this deadline has to be respected.
The Kaska, as the member knows also, not just in terms of the trans-boundary claim but also the same negotiator, is part of the Ross River Dena Council negotiations and certainly keeps close ties on both sides of the equation. So we hope to get land claims agreements in both areas. The deadline is a commitment that we made but it is a deadline and we're serious about it, and the member, I'm sure, will hold us accountable if we're not.
Mr. Ostashek: It's one thing for me to hold the members opposite accountable but it's the damage that it would do to the industry that is counting on the certainty of an oil and gas act in the Yukon for exploration.
We heard the Government Leader stand in this House last fall and say that his time line for settling all outstanding claims in the Yukon was two years, and that would make it the fall of 1998. One year has gone by and we haven't seen a lot of land claims being settled.
I guess my biggest concern - and that's why I'm asking for clarity from the minister - is that, given that the southeast Yukon holds the greatest potential for exploration licences in the near term, I am certain that there are going to be oil companies, once this act comes into force, that will be looking very seriously at that January 1999 deadline and wanting to move ahead.
We've already seen, in fact before the NDP come to power, where there were inquiries by Anderson Exploration for their ability to explore further. We know that approaches have been made to the Kaska in that regard. So I'm just pointing out to the minister that this is going to be a concern. If we are saying, as the minister is in the House today, that that deadline is January 1999 for the settlement of all outstanding issues in that area, I'm sure the oil companies aren't going to walk away if we come along in January 1999 and there's a couple more months' work to do, but if we have to extend it another year, or another two, I can see oil companies going to other jurisdictions that are more favourable to spending their money.
So I just caution the minister that if we're going to set deadlines I believe it's important that we stick to those deadlines, unless there's some very, very valid reasons for extending them.
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well I agree. It's a moratorium on development in that area while we deal with the trans-boundary issues and the claims. I agree wholeheartedly with the member opposite that unless there's an incredibly impelling reason for any deadline extension, there won't be one, and I don't foresee any at this time. I'm anxious to make things happen here in this territory, and I intend to work hard to do that.
I should say to the member that we're looking at about a 13-and-a-half-month period here, and that's not that long. In terms of the Government Leader's commitment about settling land claims, well the member will see that there's been a lot of progress made there. We just don't announce it on a piecemeal basis.
So we feel confident that we'll come to terms with these issues, as we came to terms with this bill, and we feel good about where we've gotten it thus far. I can give him my assurances that I'll be working hard to make some things happen, come to fruition, as a result of this bill. A lot of people have worked on it, including the member opposite, to see Yukoners get benefits out of it.
It's a deadline, and I hope we can stick to it. We should, unless there's an incredibly impelling reason, which there isn't right now; it should be adhered to.
Chair: Not hearing any further general debate, we will go to clause 1. Is it the members' wish to go through the definitions one by one?
Mr. Ostashek: I think maybe for this new section that the minister has added, he may want to just give a brief overview of it, not, in my opinion, the entire bill. My colleagues haven't had the benefit of all of the briefings and all of the involvement that I've had with this legislation and they may want it. So, I leave it to them.
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Chair: We will go to clause 2.
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Chair: I'm waiting to hear an indication from the opposition on this. Does it carry?
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On Clause 28 - revisited
Mr. Cable: We're zipping through this with the speed of light. Just let me go back to section 28, if I might, Mr. Chair.
There are some powers for the minister, and previously there were some delegation powers. Let me see if I can put my finger on them. Is it anticipated that these are the sort of powers that the minister can delegate - accepting the surrender or disposition of part of a location and being intimately involved with the grants and whatnot? Is that the sort of powers that the minister is anticipating delegating down to his public servants?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Yes.
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On Clause 33
Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Chair, just a question that probably doesn't pertain directly to the clause, but while I'm here: one of the concerns that was raised by oil companies was the length of time the exploration permit would be valid for. They felt that they needed a longer period of time in the north than what they would in the south. Has consideration been given to that?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Yes, there has been. We have extended it up to 10 years. In the south it would be up to nine. There are three different ways they do it down there, but there is some provision for that in our bill.
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On Clause 40
Mr. Cable: I guess we're enthusiastically endorsing this bill but just let me ask one question here, and this follows up on some previous conversations that took place. Where do we sit on these regulations? Are they partly drafted and ready to go?
Hon. Mr. Harding: The regulations are all drafted. There are some set for consultation in January as they pertain to land tenure and royalties. There is also continuous consultation underway on the regs with the MOU working group.
Mr. Cable: Who's in that MOU working group that the minister just spoke about?
Hon. Mr. Harding: The Yukon government, the CYFN, the LFN, KD and Kaska Dena First Nation.
Mr. Cable: Is it anticipated that the industry will have membership in that, or how is it anticipated that the industry will actually have input? Are you going to put the draft regulations to them in January? Is that what the minister was proposing?
Hon. Mr. Harding: There are consultants on both sides as the regs are drafted from industry, including First Nations, who have some of the best industry people available in terms of providing advice. Once the regulations are drafted, they will go out to organizations such as the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, who are the largest umbrella organization, or lobby, interest group, for this industry in Canada, and many others.
Mr. Cable: Is the government itself taking advice from members of the industry? Are the consultants on the payroll?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Absolutely. We've been right up front in saying that we have to have knowledge as to what's going to be acceptable or not. Otherwise we won't be able to develop the industry at all, because there are lots of targets out there in the world, and we want to be one with some credibility.
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On Clause 41
Mr. Ostashek: I would just like a further explanation of the federal oil and gas disposition in the Yukon. How many leases are out there now? Is the minister saying by this clause, the way I read it in this, that nothing that we put in this act will diminish the rights they have under the federal legislation? Does that include, until such time as they relinquish leases - I know some of the leases have been around for many, many years - are you saying that they are grandfathered in there, that they wouldn't have to abide by the environmental regulations that are in effect today? That they would abide by the environmental regulations that were in effect at the time that they picked up the licences? Could the minister just give us a little more elaborate explanation on that issue, because I can see some areas where there may be some conflict there.
Hon. Mr. Harding: The leases and the policies surrounding leases are both grandfathered. There is roughly, and this could be wrong - I could get a second check on this information for him - my official estimates that there are approximately 14, but we'll check on that for the member. We'll provide that for the leader of the official opposition.
With regard to what would happen once there is exploration of those rights, there would have to be some negotiation as to how it fits under our regime. So, they're grandfathered until they expire. If there would be a renewal, we would have to have some negotiation of the terms of that.
Mr. Ostashek: When the minister comes back with that, I would appreciate it if he comes back with the number of leases that are outstanding, those that are out there under federal disposition, and the number of acres involved, and if he could, just a general geographic location of the leases.
Hon. Mr. Harding: I can do that.
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Mr. Cable: Could the minister indicate why these series of clauses are necessary. Is the general garnishment law not available to the government?
Hon. Mr. Harding: This is a standard provision. I guess it's based on Alberta legislation and it's to protect the Crown's royalties and to ensure that the Crown will be successful in getting the royalties it is entitled to without much question.
Mr. Cable: Well, I suppose the purpose is obvious. I'm just wondering whether the general garnishment law that's available to Joe Blow or Susie Q in the street isn't good enough for the Yukon government.
Hon. Mr. Harding: It's for greater clarity.
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Clause 69 agreed to
On Clause 70
Clause 70 agreed to
On Clause 71
Clause 71 agreed to
On Clause 72
Clause 72 agreed to
On Clause 73
Clause 73 agreed to
On Clause 74
Clause 74 agreed to
On Clause 75
Clause 75 agreed to
On Clause 76
Clause 76 agreed to
On Clause 77
Clause 77 agreed to
On Clause 78
Clause 78 agreed to
On Clause 79
Clause 79 agreed to
On Clause 80
Clause 80 agreed to
On Clause 81
Clause 81 agreed to
On Clause 82
Clause 82 agreed to
On Clause 83
Clause 83 agreed to
On Clause 84
Clause 84 agreed to
On Clause 85
Clause 85 agreed to
On Clause 86
Clause 86 agreed to
On Clause 87
Clause 87 agreed to
On Clause 88
Clause 88 agreed to
On Clause 89
Clause 89 agreed to
On Clause 90
Clause 90 agreed to
On Clause 91
Clause 91 agreed to
On Clause 92
Clause 92 agreed to
On Clause 93
Clause 93 agreed to
On Clause 94
Clause 94 agreed to
On Clause 95
Clause 95 agreed to
On Clause 96
Clause 96 agreed to
On Clause 97
Clause 97 agreed to
On Clause 98
Clause 98 agreed to
On Clause 99
Clause 99 agreed to
On Clause 100
Clause 100 agreed to
On Clause 101
Clause 101 agreed to
On Clause 102
Clause 102 agreed to
On Clause 103
Clause 103 agreed to
On Clause 104
Clause 104 agreed to
On Clause 105
Clause 105 agreed to
On Clause 106
Clause 106 agreed to
On Clause 107
Clause 107 agreed to
On Clause 108
Clause 108 agreed to
On Clause 109
Clause 109 agreed to
On Clause 110
Mr. Cable: Where does the limitation period come from? Why was two years chosen? I know some summary conviction offences have to be prosecuted within six months.
Hon. Mr. Harding: It appears to be standard, straight out of similar legislation in the Alberta bill. However, we can give the member some greater explanation as to the basis for it.
Clause 110 agreed to
On Clause 111
Clause 111 agreed to
On Clause 112
Clause 112 agreed to
On Clause 113
Clause 113 agreed to
On Clause 114
Clause 114 agreed to
On Clause 115
Clause 115 agreed to
On Clause 116
Clause 116 agreed to
Title agreed to
Hon. Mr. Harding: Mr. Chair, I move that you report Bill No. 22 out of Committee without amendment.
Motion agreed to
Chair: Is it the members' wish to take a break?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order.
We will go back to Bill No. 27.
Bill No. 27 - Animal Health Act - continued
Chair: Is there any further general debate?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: We just started general debate, and I did try to attempt to answer some of the questions that were raised earlier. I'd like to get on with it.
Mr. Ostashek: I'm going to have a few questions as we go clause by clause, but I don't have any more questions for general debate at this time.
Ms. Duncan: I have a couple of questions with regard to general debate on this bill, and I wonder if the minister and his official could respond to them. We had discussed briefly the issue of veterinarians and the definitions. I wonder if the minister could clarify, in terms of definitions, if the section, "is licensed to practice veterinary medicine" implies a current licence holder or if it's necessary to stipulate, and if it's necessary to stipulate, is the minister prepared to accept a friendly amendment, so that the section would read, "currently licensed?"
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Yes, in the definitions it does say that. Are you asking whether they're presently practising?
If it's included, then yes, the simple answer to that is yes.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, what I was seeking was the clarity of the legislation. The way it's written now, it simply says, "is licensed," and this definition of veterinarian is different from the definition in the Animal Protection Act. I understand we're talking about two different pieces of legislation, but I wonder if there's an effort to bring them into sync so that they're all similar throughout.
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Yes, that was a concern that was flagged earlier. What we're hoping to do is to have a definition of veterinarian that is more current to reflect this bill. I understand where you are coming from in regard to animal protection. We could have made an amendment to that to reflect that, but I think that, according to this bill, what we have here is those who are licensed to practice are currently practising.
Ms. Duncan: I would just like to further discuss in general terms the Animal Health Act. I understand that it's an effort, primarily in response to the agriculture industry, to ensure that animals travelling within the Yukon and animals brought into the Yukon are disease free. I understand that that's the intent.
Could the minister outline for me how this will apply in two situations; one is the pet shops and the second is instances where dog breeders - dog breeders specifically, I'm thinking because they don't immediately come to mind in terms of horse breeding; it's a more active area - how this act might apply to them.
I'm thinking of a specific instance where we've noted in Alaska that there has been a tremendous increase in rabies outbreaks and we've been advised as dog owners to have our dogs vaccinated. How would this act apply to people bringing in dogs for breeding purposes?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: One thing I kept mentioning in regard to this bill is that we don't believe it would be a bill that is used a lot. It will be in response to those that we have reasons to believe that there is a disease present.
We could require that the pet shop produce a health certificate for imports of any animals that we think could be diseased. It's just in regard to that. We could be sending out notices or whatnot for pet shops to produce a health certificate. If there's a refusal, then, you know, they could be violating the orders that we give them, but they could produce and get a veterinarian to produce a health certificate at that point. They don't have to get a health certificate to bring them in. It could be right here in the Yukon that they get it. It doesn't have to be one place or another.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, is the minister advising me, then, that in fact this piece of legislation does apply to those bringing in dogs for dog breeding and/or the pet shop owners? Because the bill's focus largely to date has been agricultural, has there been thought given to how this act is going to apply? It seems to me that, when you examine all the ramifications of the bill, we've all of a sudden placed a huge burden on staff to look at this, not simply from the agricultural aspect but from the aspect of animals, period, coming into the Yukon.
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: This is only if there are diseases that are suspected or if we have reason to believe exist. In the meantime, once this bill is proclaimed, it's "business as usual" and it's back to the basics of the bill in that it's there to prevent entry and spread of diseases. In regard to pet owners and pet shops, this bill could apply to those who are bringing in pets for themselves and it could be just one pet. It doesn't have to be like a business. It could be individuals that could be required to produce a health certificate.
Ms. Duncan: And that's my point, Mr. Chair. With the passage of this bill, although it simply applies, as the minister has stated, to the control of animal health and diseases in the Yukon, it does now place more of an onus, and it is one more piece of legislation requirement that individuals will have to fulfill. I'm thinking of those who are a by-product, if you will. I doubt that there has been consultation with the Kennel Club, with the pet shop owners, and what I want from the minister is assurances that, if there hasn't been, will there be and is there commitment to work with this particular group that I don't think the minister has anticipated will be covered by this bill?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: In the creation of this bill, there are many that were involved in having input into this. They were one of the people that have been consulted on this. Like I said, it's in their best interests, too, not to have one bad business come in and have their animals affected in that way. It's the same with those that are in the business of bringing animals across borders. It's in their best interest to say that the animals that they're bringing in are in good health and have a health certificate to prove it.
Ms. Duncan: I appreciate what the minister states, that it's in people's best interests. However, people don't always act in their best interests. Is there some kind of format, some kind of a method envisioned by officials as to how this will be implemented?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: I'm not quite sure of where your question is leading. The department will be continuing to monitor what takes place outside of Yukon and what outbreaks there are, and alert those that are bringing in animals to produce health certificates, if we feel that those diseases could be with the animals that they're bringing over.
I'm not sure if you're asking that, or procedure on how this is carried out.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, just for clarity, what I'm trying to understand is how the process will work. I understand that there will be a person within the agriculture branch who will monitor disease outbreaks, and is that same individual entrusted with the responsibility of knowing what animals cross the border, what the pet shops are bringing in, what various farmers throughout the Yukon are doing? It seems to me that, although the industry is small at this point, it is growing, and it seems like this is a fair amount for one individual to be entrusted with to assume.
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Well, as it is right now, the industry in the Yukon is fairly small, and we know that it's going to grow, and at that point in time, if the industry does grow to be quite a bit bigger than what it is, then I would see a person coming on to do that, or a person who is more focused on having that job done. But at this point, the only reason that we would ask for a health certificate is in suspecting an animal to be diseased.
Now it's not that we're keeping track of the animals coming across the border on an everyday basis. It's not that at all, but it's not too hard to work with other industries in the other provinces to let us know where animals are going. There's a network of information that could be set up between provinces and territories.
Mr. Ostashek: I have one question in general debate. This still causes me to have a lot of concern, and that's the health certificate. Now, I appreciate the minister saying that this is an act that is being put in place so that they would have some legislative authority to act in the case of a known outbreak of disease and some areas that may require a health certificate to make sure that we're not importing it into the Yukon. Now, I appreciate that and I understand that. I understand the minister saying that they don't intend this act to be used very often.
My concern is that I want to know what kind of criteria is going to be set out for the inspector before he can demand somebody to produce a health certificate, because I can see the case of an overzealous inspector causing a lot of problems.
Now, the minister may dismiss that out of hand, but we've seen it with other people having enforcement authority who sometimes get a little overzealous. I want to know what's there to protect the public.
Are there going to be some terms of reference that the minister must follow - or the inspector, through the minister, follow - before he can just unilaterally demand that somebody produce a health certificate because he doesn't like the way he looked at him or something?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: First of all, again, the inspectors and veterinarians must have a reason to believe that there is a diseased animal. They cannot be going around asking and harassing people to produce a health certificate, but, should they be asked, they must comply with the order.
Some of the things that may be on a health certificate are diseases animals are most likely to carry. There are guidelines, and all that, and the veterinarians also should be fully aware, because of their experience, I guess, and their education in that field, what diseases animals can carry, what laboratory tests or examinations were done on the animal, what the results of the lab tests were - these should be indicated on the certificate - the state of the animal's health, the state of the health of the herd which the animals originated from, the statement from the vet serving the herd, a disclaimer by the vet indicating that he or she has no personal interest or economic gain or benefit by giving out this certificate - this was an important one that Yukon vets, particularly, wanted involved in this - the usual information, regarding address location, general dates, comments, and whatever else is deemed necessary as required at that time.
Just to finish up on the question that you had, one of the things we also have written in the bill is that we also expect that people would report cases of disease. Otherwise, you know, they're found in violation of this bill.
Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Chair, that still doesn't give me any comfort. What's in a health certificate is not what my concern is here. My concern here is that the Yukon is a very small place and an inspector and somebody who's importing animals on a regular basis may have some other issues that they're in conflict about. I want some assurances that there are some criteria, not just that the inspector has "reason to believe". I mean, that's very broad, very open. He has reason to believe that there's an infected animal in the vehicle being transported into the Yukon.
I would like to see some criteria as to what he bases that "reason to believe" on. Now, if he knows an animal is coming from an area where there is an outbreak of disease, fine. But I'm still very, very concerned and I'm not comfortable with the minister's answer that he has to have reason to believe that there's an infected animal before he asks for a health certificate. I know of too many cases where enforcement officers have got overzealous and acted not always in the best interests of everybody involved, and I would feel a lot more comfortable if there were some terms of reference as to what guidelines an inspector would have to follow under the clause that says that he suspects an animal is diseased.
I just think that's a very broad term. I understand what the department's trying to do but the fact remains, Mr. Chair, this is not going to stop diseased animals from coming into the Yukon, because there is no reporting procedure. This is giving the department the ability to act if they know of an animal coming from a diseased area. I'm just concerned with the powers that are being handed to the inspector here.
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: It is not just acting for no reason. We need to have that confirmation coming back from someone that they have reason to believe that an animal is diseased. It's not that the people who are in change and are doing the investigation are incompetent. There are veterinarians who are fully qualified to act and make assessments of whether or not the animal is indeed diseased. They should be able to tell, on the spot, many things, whether the animal is diseased. If not, they can order tests to be done. Again, it's in the best interest of those people bringing animals over.
Mr. Ostashek: I appreciate that it's in the best interest of everyone concerned, but the fact remains that this authority can be delegated. It doesn't say that it is a veterinarian in here who is going to do the inspection. The way I read the act is that that authority can be delegated. I'm just concerned about the broad latitudes. I know it's used in other acts; that doesn't mean it's right just because it's used in other acts.
Again, I see this and I truly believe also that the bill won't be used very often, but I'm just asking questions that need to be asked here as to what are going to be the guidelines. Let's take a case where somebody stopped a vehicle and they had a cat in it with a runny nose. Is that enough to demand a health certificate?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: No, vehicles would not be stopped unless there was a report of a possibly diseased animal and at that point in time, a veterinarian should be able to tell whether they're diseased or not. If they're still unsure, they could, at that point, have them quarantined. If it's the person who's delegated to do the inspection, they could ask for a temporary quarantine until a veterinarian can be available to do a test. Or, if it's in a remote place in the Yukon and there is not enough time to bring someone in, they could quarantine these animals until a veterinarian is available.
Mr. Ostashek: I'm not going to belabour the point. I'm on the public record saying I've got concerns about this section of this act. I'm not going to belabour it at this point, but I'm still not satisfied with the answers I have received from the minister with that aspect of it - the powers that are being given to somebody, that all they need is to suspect that an animal is diseased and it gives them the right to demand a health certificate. I'm going to leave it at that for now, Mr. Chair.
Ms. Duncan: Could I just ask the minister if we could revisit this issue of the definition of veterinarian. Clause 1(a) says a veterinarian means a person who is licensed. What in that clause means that the licence is current? The point I'm getting at: is the minister prepared to accept the friendly amendment that would say "(a) is currently," and insert the word "currently," for clarity of the legislation?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: The way this is worded in here is "practising veterinarian medicine in the Yukon." We felt that that was taken care of, but we can take your suggestions under advisement.
Ms. Duncan: Some members and I are having a vigorous sidebar discussion about the whole issue of veterinarians. I wonder if the minister could indicate if there's some intention for clarity at some point by this government to bring in a professional act dealing with veterinarians. For example, we have an act that regulates accountants. Is there some thought to an act, at some point, to regulate the practice of veterinary medicine in the Yukon?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: The agriculture branch for a while now has been looking at other jurisdictions on this very issue. We are giving some thought to that at this point.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, could I ask the minister to be a bit more specific - "some thought," a Cabinet suggestion in the next year, who knows, maybe - a little more definitive than "some thought"?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: We will be continuing to work with the agriculture branch. They did not make any suggestions to us about what they would like to see or when they would like to see an act done for veterinarians. We will continue to work with them. They do have a lot of contacts in the provinces and so on, and we will continue with this process. I can't say to the member that there would be a date when we would bring one in, but we're looking at this with interest to see how - like you said, there are different definitions within the different acts that we have here - one could be generic to all, and possibly make changes to the rest of them. With this, I guess, it would fall under the Department of Justice to make those reflections.
Chair: We will now go to Clause 1.
On Clause 1
Chair: Do the members prefer to go through the definitions one by one?
Some Hon. Members: (Inaudible)
Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Chair, I just have one question on the definition of "owner," which includes a person "having permanent or temporary charge of an animal." Does the minister believe that that will stand up if a person has had custody of an animal for two hours? He could be declared as the owner of the animal, could be treated the same the owner of the animal. Does the minister believe that will stand up in a court of law?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: I believe that at that point of time, I guess, depending on what the circumstances are, the courts would have to take everything into consideration, but with what we have back from our legal people, yes, it would in fact stand up in a court of law.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I just have a question before we clear these definitions. The minister indicated that for the definition of "veterinarian" in 1(a), they would take my suggestion that an amendment be put forward to add the word "currently."
I have a procedural question. Am I to propose that amendment at this time or wait to hear from the minister?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: What I said is that I would take it under advisement and, I guess, go back and review and see whether or not what you're suggesting is not covered in this and, if it's not, then we can make a friendly amendment at that time. But I don't know exactly what the procedure is with this, to come back later.
Ms. Duncan: I understand we set clause 1 aside then. Is that correct?
Clause 1 - stood over
On Clause 2
Clause 2 agreed to
On Clause 3
Clause 3 agreed to
On Clause 4
Clause 4 agreed to
On Clause 5
Clause 5 agreed to
On Clause 6
Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Chair, could the minister clarify this? Clause 6(1) says, "The Minister may order an animal owner to destroy, humanely kill or dispose of any animal or thing carrying a disease." What is a "thing"?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: This definition of "thing" is used broadly because we wanted to involve all things that are in contact with the animals. It could be straw, it could be blankets, and anything that may come in contact with the animal that could possibly carry the disease.
Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Chair, if you're going to carry that to that extreme, then you're saying a person that was in contact would be considered a thing and could be disposed of. It seems like very poor drafting to me.
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: No, that's not the intention at all. "Thing," in our definition, does not mean people.
Mr. Ostashek: In the bill, I don't see any definition of "thing". In definitions, there's nothing there that says what a "thing" is, and I think that needs to be clarified.
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: I don't believe that people in the world today are considered a " thing", so with that, this has gone through Justice, and so on. We cannot go and define "thing". There could be many things, I guess, that are listed in that, but people are not things. That's clear, and you know, there's nothing that came back as a concern from Justice in drafting this.
Mr. Ostashek: I was using the term "people" as a very extreme situation, but nevertheless, it's gone through Justice. It wouldn't be the first time a bill has come to this Legislature that has gone through Justice that went back to Justice for clarification. I truly believe, and I'm fairly firm on this, that I would like to see "thing" addressed in the definitions section of this bill.
Is the minister prepared to do that?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: In the way this is written up, we don't believe that it's necessary to have it defined in that way. There could be many things that we leave out of the definitions that would, again, mean an amendment to the definitions. In keeping it broad like this, it would be the discretion of the inspector to call the shots.
Clause 6 agreed to
On Clause 7
Clause 7 agreed to
On Clause 8
Clause 8 agreed to
On Clause 9
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, could I just ask the minister to clarify to whom she or he might anticipate delegating these duties? Is it anticipated, for example, that the minister would delegate such duties to conservation officers?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Our intention at the beginning was to delegate these to the two people in the agriculture branch, but it can be delegated to a CO if he has a veterinarian's certificate or has that which is equivalent to a veterinarian's certificate.
Clause 9 agreed to
On Clause 10
Clause 10 agreed to
On Clause 11
Ms. Duncan: In discussion, there was some concern expressed by a variety of members in this House about what constitutes "emergency". Can the minister elaborate on section 11, please?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: The only emergencies are if there is a belief that there could be a loss of human life.
Ms. Duncan: Should the minister then give consideration to a definition in this act in the definition section, given that we've set it aside?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Is the member referring to section 11?
Ms. Duncan: My specific question was of the minister. I was just wondering, for the sake of clarity in legislation, should "emergency" be included in the definitions section of this act? That was my question. Section 11 is the first case where we've used the word "emergency". I'm just asking the minister if there was thought given to including it in the act. My definition of what constitutes an emergency might be totally different from the minister's and totally different from an inspector's.
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: I think, in drafting this act, that they had considered this and felt that it would be fairly restricting to have a definition put on to this. I think it would be on the call of the inspector to see whether or not an emergency actually exists. It could be, like I said, if we went back to section 11, the only reasons that a person would go into a residence is to do with the possible loss of human life.
Clause 11 agreed to
On Clause 12
Clause 12 agreed to
On Clause 13
Ms. Duncan: Would the minister restate for the record the responsibility for costs for tests?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: For any tests that government orders at this point, we feel that government would pay for the tests.
Clause 13 agreed to
On Clause 14
Ms. Duncan: The same comment would apply for the transportation. That would be covered by government should it be ordered by government?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Yes, that's correct.
Clause 14 agreed to
On Clause 15
Clause 15 agreed to
On Clause 16
Clause 16 agreed to
On Clause 17
Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Chair, again I've got some difficulty with the wording. Clause 17(3) says, "Where a place is ordered to be under quarantine, no person shall remove from or bring into the quarantined place" and then it lists: live animal; animal carcass or any part of an animal; any animal product; the waste from animals; or hay, straw, litter, or other things commonly used for or about animals.
What this says to me is that if you've got a horse in quarantine you can't feed him.
Again, it's a very poorly drafted bill and I think it needs clarification. That says "into or out of" a quarantined area, so if you're going to follow this bill and accept this as the law, then if you had an animal that ate hay, you wouldn't be able to feed him.
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: This will be dealt with under the enforcement and compliance policy, but it does say here "unless you have written permission to do so." So, if it's a place that's isolated, it may take time to do it, but in places around Whitehorse this can be done fairly quickly.
Mr. Ostashek: Again, I just want to put on the public record that I think this is a poorly drafted bill, and it doesn't do a good job of explaining what the bill does. It could have been drafted in a much better manner that would make it quite clear that we're talking about bedding and not about feed for animals.
Clause 17 agreed to
On Clause 18
Clause 18 agreed to
On Clause 19
Clause 19 agreed to
On Clause 20
Clause 20 agreed to
On Clause 21
Clause 21 agreed to
On Clause 22
Clause 22 agreed to
On Clause 23
Clause 23 agreed to
On Clause 24
Clause 24 agreed to
On Clause 25
Ms. Duncan: Would the minister elaborate on what instances clause 25 might be invoked?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: It's a power to be used to change an inspector's orders if the minister decided, for example, that that course of action about a diseased animal, based on a second veterinarian's opinion, was preferable to the course of action resulting from the first veterinarian's opinion.
Ms. Duncan: The way I review section 25, it seems to me then that if, as an individual, I disagreed with an inspector or veterinarian's opinion, my direct route is reaching the minister; a direct political route. Is this sort of section, the way it's worded, consistent with other pieces of legislation?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Any person who is in disagreement with the first opinion of the veterinarian may appeal this and then that'll force a second opinion. That's where we can override the inspector's first opinion or go with the second one.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, it seems to me to be very loosely written into this piece of legislation. In other pieces of legislation, for example, in the Oil and Gas Act we dealt with earlier - granted it's a far more complex piece of legislation - but the appeal provisions are very clearly laid out: who sits on the appeal board, how appeals are conducted and so on and so forth. The way this is worded and the way you read the legislation, it seems that if I happened to disagree with X veterinarian's opinion, I simply have to get Y's opinion and phone the minister's office, and it seems a bit open to political abuse.
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: This is an attempt for the person to have, I guess, a bit more say if they disagree with the first opinion, and if they do appeal it, then the minister can order another opinion to be done.
Ms. Duncan: Further compounding this problem, there's no time frame listed in here. A person could disagree with the opinion they've been given and wait two weeks, and in the meantime, there are all sorts of actions that should have or could have taken place. It seems to me to be poorly executed. The route of appeal is poorly written in this piece of legislation.
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: In order for a second opinion to be made, it needs to be done right away and not have any length of time lapse between them. This is consistent with other legislation in government.
Ms. Duncan: Let me give the minister a "for example". What happens if I'm trying to bring an animal across the border at the Top of the World border crossing and the agriculture branch is aware of it, says you've got a problem, and the second vet isn't available for some time? Does it not place difficulty upon the industry, too?
I maintain that section 25 is poorly written and should be revisited to clarify this for the public and for the minister. There should be clearly stated routes of appeal, time frame for appeal and other avenues, if a second veterinarian isn't available to give an opinion.
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: We felt that the way it was drafted and with the powers of the minister to satisfy, I guess somewhat, the owner of the animals, that it was okay but, if necessary, we can look again under the enforcement and compliance policy.
Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Chair, I think the Member for Porter Creek South is making a very valid observation of section 25 and there ought to be time lines put in so that it's quite clear to the public as to what they have. And I don't think it would be that much of an amendment for the minister to come back with some time lines on that. Would the minister consider that?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: We feel that this could be dealt with in the enforcement and compliance policy that is being done up with this act. Right now, it's just in draft form and, if people feel that strongly about this, then it could be addressed in there and not in the act itself.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I would recommend to the minister that this section be set aside and be redrafted. The minister has repeatedly stated that a second opinion would cause the minister to countermand a first order. It doesn't say even that a second opinion is required. There are a lot of assumptions required by the department in terms of this section, and I would recommend to the minister that we set it aside and the department come back with a section 25 that is more clearly drafted.
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: In drafting this bill, many jurisdictions were taken into consideration, and made consistent with others across the country, so that we could address this issue in the enforcement and compliance policy.
Mr. Ostashek: You know, the minister goes as far, in other sections of the act, to identify hay, straw and litter, yet, in this section of the act, he won't clarify for the purposes of the act. It's fine for the minister to say it's a policy, but it's not in the act, and I think the member has a very valid point there. I would ask the minister to stand it aside and, if he can't do it, at least come back with a better explanation than he has today.
Chair: Order please. The time being 5:30, the Committee will recess until 7:30 p.m.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. We are dealing with Bill No. 27, Animal Health Act.
On Clause 1 - previously stood over
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: If we can just go back to the definitions on what licensing really means and whether or not we should put "currently" in there. I did get word back from Justice that if a person basically is licensed, that should mean that it is current. If one is expired, then they're not licensed to practice, and I feel that it's redundant to say "currently" as an amendment.
Secondly, in regard to the definition of "thing," in the dictionary itself, it does not say that a person is a thing. It says "inanimate, material object," meaning one that does not move, so a person is not part of that, and we don't feel that "thing" should be defined in this bill.
Clause 1 agreed to
Clause 25 - continued
Chair: We will now go back to Clause 25.
Ms. Duncan: I believe the minister was considering the suggestion from this side of the House that clause 25 required clearer drafting and, prior to the break, the minister had indicated that this issue could be resolved through regulation. This side of the House was suggesting that clearer definition in the act would be more appropriate. I understood that the minister was going to consider that. What position has the minister arrived at, please?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: In regard to this, we would like to know whether the concern is that there should be less time to react or more time for a second opinion. Maybe we could clear some things up if we knew exactly where that was coming from.
Ms. Duncan: My concern - and the Member for Porter Creek North has a concern about this, as well, I believe - is that this is an all-encompassing section that would allow for political interference.
Section 25 simply says, "The Minister may countermand a decision or order of an inspector or veterinarian designated under this act or its regulations." There's nothing that says the minister may countermand a decision or order based upon a second opinion, what time frame, why a minister would consider countermanding that decision. It seems to be an all-encompassing, "Well, if I decide to change to my mind today, if I don't like that decision, I'll change it." There are no guidelines attached with this and I'm concerned that it's too wide open a section.
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: I think that it would be in both the minister's and the public's interest to have a quick delivery of the second opinion rather than have a time lapse where, if there is a diseased animal or one that's very contagious, to have that time to spread. I'm just wondering where you come from on this?
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the minister keeps referring to "second opinion" but it isn't covered in this section. The only place where we get the second opinion is if it's going to appear in regulations. It simply says, "The Minister may countermand a decision or order." It doesn't say that the minister may countermand upon receipt of a second opinion. It doesn't even say the minister has to get a second opinion.
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: We're just trying to explain why it was worded in that way and I said that the animal owner may appeal, and upon appeal, on the second opinion, that's where the minister may countermand a decision.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I stand by my point that I don't believe section 25 is drafted clearly enough. The minister has a clear understanding when he discusses it as to why section 25 would be invoked. My point is that a lay person reading it, or 10 years from now - I don't believe section 25 will stand up. I think it should be drafted more clearly.
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: I still feel that the wording in this section is clear enough and the concerns raised by the member we feel can be dealt with in the enforcement and compliance policy.
Clause 25 agreed to
On Clause 26
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I believe section 26 - I understand why it's there. The difficulty I have is with what happens if the inspector is ultimately proven wrong. What happens? One of my colleagues suggested to me that in the instance of a very expensive piece of livestock, if it were destroyed for one reason or another and the inspector turned out to be wrong, and there's no right of compensation, what happens then?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: In regard to having the opinion proven wrong, I would say that, at that point, the government can be at fault. Even with that, the owner of the animal always has the right to go to court for compensation from other animal owners whose animals have infected his with disease.
Ms. Duncan: It's clearly stated in black and white in section 26 that you do not have the right to take the government to court if they're wrong. If an inspector shoots my $35,000 prize llama - prize chicken, frozen or not - I don't have the right to sue the government. That is clearly what section 26 says.
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: The wording does not prevent the government from acknowledging its responsibility if there's a clear case of the inspector being at fault and causing damages through irresponsible actions.
Ms. Duncan: Could I ask the minister to repeat that? I didn't understand it.
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: The wording does not prevent government from acknowledging its responsibilities if there's a clear case of an inspector being at fault or causing damages through irresponsible actions.
Ms. Duncan: Would the minister clarify then what "no right of compensation" means? Does it mean that an inspector might say, "Oops, I made a mistake - sorry, too bad."
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: The government doesn't feel that we are insurers of other people's animals, and it just comes down to that. We won't be insuring either those who have lost animals because they've brought animals over with disease or those that were affected by the animals that were brought over. We don't have a blanket insurance on all animals - farm animals or pets.
Mr. Cable: I guess the question we're asking is reinforced by the fact - I think, the leader of the official opposition is taking a different read on it - that it appears to preclude animal owners suing the government for some mistake. Is that the intent, so that if somebody 10 years from now wants to sue the government, they can't? Or is the intent that this in no way precludes people from suing the government?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: It is the responsibility of the animal owner to make sure that their animals are disease free, not the responsibility of government to make sure they are.
But, this bill deals with the prevention of entry and spread of animal disease. These wordings are consistent with game farm regulations that are out right now.
Mr. Cable: I don't think we're connecting on this one. One interpretation that's put on this, I think, perhaps by the leader of the official opposition, is that there's no compensation program that you can turn around and collect under. The way I read it is that you can't sue for damages in a court, either.
What is the intention of the government if one of the government officers is negligent or makes a mistake in a diagnosis? For example, if they diagnose an animal as having tuberculosis and it doesn't and it's then destroyed, are we saying that the owner of the animal has absolutely no right, even though the animal was mistakenly destroyed?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: The alternative, I guess, in that case is for the animal owner to take the government to court. That's always an option, but government is not automatically held liable for this. I don't know what more I can say to that. We would acknowledge our responsibilities at that point.
Mr. Ostashek: I'm getting into the debate because we're sort of talking across here and I want to get this clear in my mind. My interpretation of clause 26 is that it says there is no right of compensation.
But is the minister saying - and that's what the opposition wants to know and that's what I assume, but maybe I'm wrong after listening to the minister - that in the event of a mistake, does this clause preclude somebody from suing the government? That's what we're trying to find out. Is he trying to abrogate all financial responsibility even if your inspector made a mistake or is he saying this clause says that there is no compensation program per se for animals being destroyed? If the government makes a mistake, this clause won't preclude someone from suing the government for the recovery of the cost of that animal. That is what we need clarified.
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: We did not say that the animal owner could not take the government to court; they can always do that and that is the option they have should they prove the veterinarian was at fault on this.
Clause 26 agreed to
On Clause 27
Clause 27 agreed to
On Clause 28
Clause 28 agreed to
On Clause 29
Clause 29 agreed to
On Clause 30
Clause 30 agreed to
On Clause 31
Clause 31 agreed to
On Clause 32
Clause 32 agreed to
On Clause 33
Clause 33 agreed to
On Clause 34
Clause 34 agreed to
On Clause 35
Clause 35 agreed to
On Clause 36
Clause 36 agreed to
On Clause 37
Clause 37 agreed to
Title agreed to
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Chair, I move that you report Bill No. 27 out of Committee without amendment.
Motion agreed to
Hon. Mr. Harding: I move that the Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Motion agreed to
Speaker resumes the Chair
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
May the House have a report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole?
Mr. McRobb: Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 22, Oil and Gas Act, and Bill No. 27, Animal Health Act, and directed me to report them without amendment.
Speaker: You have heard the report of the Chair of Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: I declare the report carried.
GOVERNMENT BILLS - CONTINUED
Bill No. 41: Second Reading
Clerk: Second reading, Bill No. 41, standing in the name of the hon. Mr. Harding.
Hon. Mr. Harding: I move that Bill No. 41, entitled An Act to Amend the Public Service Act and the Public Service Staff Relations Act, be now read a second time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. minister responsible for the Public Service Commission that Bill No. 41, entitled An Act to Amend the Public Service Act and the Public Service Staff Relations Act, be now read a second time.
Hon. Mr. Harding: Mr. Speaker, we're all eager tonight, I think, but I'm certainly pleased to speak to the amendments we've introduced to the Public Service Act and the Public Service Staff Relations Act. These amendments follow through on the commitment our government made toward implementing full political rights for public employees, rights that are consistent with the freedoms enshrined in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and consistent with recent court decisions to that effect.
The amendments to the Public Service Act, which we are proposing, continue the tradition of the freedom of political expression and association, which government employees have come to enjoy. The amendments will remove the legislative restriction currently preventing the freedom to participate in territorial and federal elections through the raising of funds to support political candidates or political parties of the employees' choice.
At the same time, the balance of political neutrality, which the public has a right to expect in the delivery of public services, will be preserved. We are proposing amendments to the Yukon Public Service Staff Relations Act, which will remove restrictions on the legal bargaining agent of government employees, the Public Service Alliance of Canada, to use their members' dues to support political activities of the union.
Mr. Speaker, the restrictions prohibiting unions to use their members' union dues for political purposes are no longer deemed consistent with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The Supreme Court of Canada and the seminal Lavigne case in 1991 reinforced the important role unions play outside the collective bargaining context. The courts have long recognized the importance that unions have the financial support of their membership and have that support in participating in the broader political, economic and social debates in society.
Mr. Speaker, we see that role of unions unfolding daily across our country and I see it as quite analogous to the situation in this country where we see major businesses, big business in this country, increasingly more successful in terms of lobbying on the right of the political perspective in this country - the Canadian Council on Business Issues, big businesses on behalf of shareholders donating to political parties and exercising what they see is their right to engage in the political debate in this country.
If we look here in the Yukon we can see that businesses with widely held shareholdings also participate in the political debate in this country. So, I think it is important that unions, as democratic organizations, are also free to exercise their ability to participate freely in the political debate and to participate with monetary action if they so choose.
Mr. Speaker, on the issue of the courts, they have also sent direction to the legislatures across the country to update their old laws and to do so in a thoughtful and purposeful way to ensure that the legal framework governing the political activities of employees and their unions are responsive to the principles set out in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
I am pleased to be able to accomplish this with these amendments and, in doing so, to recognize formally the important role the unions play in Yukon's political debate.
So, with those brief comments, I look forward to the comments of the opposition with regard to the unions of this territory, particularly public service unions who've had what I believe are not appropriate restrictions placed on them being removed. I think it will be good for this territory in the sense that they will be free to exercise, monetarily, and in the raising of funds for political parties, their democratic rights, which I believe are very, very important.
This obviously does bring some risk for all governments of all political stripes, having been subjected to certain comments and criticisms that are part of the political process. I still feel that it is important to have that right and for the unions to be able to exercise that right in our political spectrum.
So, I am pleased with this bill. I think it's consistent with what the courts have said. It's consistent with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and I believe it's also something that's acceptable to the bargaining agent for the employees of the government who have long wanted, as a symbolic issue and one of greater depth, to have the rights reinstated that have previously been withheld from them while they've watched other jurisdictions in the country move forward in that respect.
I thank you for that and look forward to the opposition's and my colleagues' comments.
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Speaker, we won't be voting against this bill that's before the House, as we realize that it is a bill that helps the Yukon conform with the recent decisions made by the courts to allow more political rights under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
I will have some questions, though, so the minister can give us possibly some examples of how this will work, as we go through it.
My concern, I guess, is primarily that there has been some concern voiced to me by employees of the Government of Yukon about being lobbied by either members of their union or other members of the public service to contribute to a political party or not, and I would like the minister to explain to us how he sees this bill protecting those individuals and how he sees the bill working.
We in the Yukon Party will look forward with great anticipation to the first cheque arriving from the local unions to support us in re-election in the future. Seeing how the NDP appear to have been getting one for years, we'll look forward to the same kind of treatment down the road.
We support the bill generally in principle. Like I said, I will have some questions through the debate just asking the minister how he sees it working, and maybe the minister could give us some examples of how he could see this particular bill in action.
Mr. Hardy: It's always nice to see a bill like this come forward, especially when it's recognized across Canada, and yet it's true what the previous speaker said about conforming with a movement across Canada to recognize the rights of unions to raise money and support the parties of their choice. I suspect that the Yukon Party will receive a cheque from the unions the day that the NDP receives a cheque from the banks, but I'm not going to hold my breath at all.
There's a balance here, and I think what's happened for many, many years is that many of the businesses and large multi-national corporations have been able to contribute to the party of their choice using shareholders' monies, and in this case, it's similar in that regard. Unions now will have the freedom to be able to support interests that they feel are beneficial to their members and to their causes.
Part of this is freedom of speech and this is what democracy is based upon, especially in western society. Once again, we are taking steps toward a greater freedom in our speech and ensuring that it's going to be there. The foundation of this government, the foundation of the Canadian government, is based on freedom of speech and there is now fear among many people, especially those in our society who don't have large amounts of money, or major corporations behind them, that their voice has not been heard lately and it's dwindling.
I think this bill goes a little way to ensure there's a balance out there so all people get to hear all sides and they're all supported. Then when they go to the polls, they can make an informed decision based upon what they hear and what they believe in. I believe everybody in this House respects that right and wants that to happen. No one wants to pull a fast one over on the public because, of course, it will come back to haunt you. What you really want, and I think what everybody really wants, is informed decisions. If that's made, then the government will respond and work in that manner.
If you look at history, it wasn't too long ago when women didn't have the vote. They challenged it in the courts - just as this was challenged at one time by the unions - and they won the right to have a vote. They won the right to be recognized as people.
In 1961, First Nations won the right to have a vote.
Now, we're very proud of our democracy, but before 1961 there wasn't that right there. So, our democracy is very young and this bill is really old in some of the other countries around the world. This bill supports the right of unions to raise money and support the party of their choice. But here in Canada, we're very young. We're young in giving the right to vote to women, giving the right to vote to First Nations people and now we're moving farther ahead in recognizing what a true democracy is.
In regard to the comments that were made by the Member for Riverdale South. North - pardon me. Just as the Speaker got us mixed up here, I get mixed up over there; I can't tell the difference sometimes, south or north - about some members in the union and how they are going to be protected.
Well, first off, I don't think we have the right to go into a union and tell a union, which is what a democratic process is. If you've ever been a member of a union, you'll know that they vote. They have election of officers; they have open meetings. They discuss the issues that affect their union openly and anybody who is a member can attend them. They vote for their leadership and the leadership can be from any walk of life as long as they are a member of the union. They can be from any political affiliation.
Just as we don't have the right to go into a boardroom, into a corporation and say, "We want to see how you vote and we're going to tell you how you vote and we're going to protect the shareholders here," we don't have a right to go into a union and demand that this money goes there and this money goes there. That's up to the members to make that decision and if they don't like what the elected officers of their union do, they have an election as well. Just as we go through an election, they also have that election.
They can throw those people out. They can put themselves in and they can make their decisions. It is their right, not ours, to interfere with what happens inside an organization or association. It is their right. We have no right to be in the boardrooms of a union or a corporation. There is no difference in this regard.
I would hate to think that it is being suggested that we go and lay conditions that can be challenged and would be challenged very quickly, under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, telling them how they can spend their own money, because one or two or five or 100 people want it that way. Those people can lobby. Those people can go down and vote. Those people can go and speak in an open process and make the changes that they feel will represent the majority of the people. If they don't get it, they can still speak and still lobby, just as we do in here.
It is a democratic process. That, I believe, is the fundamental idea of this bill - democracy: democracy for the unions; democracy for business; democracy for the people in the Yukon. We shouldn't be interfering with their decision under their own elected format.
So, I stand in support of Bill No. 41. I am very pleased to have the Member for Faro bring it forward. I think it's about time. It should have been brought in three or four years ago, if not 10 or 15 years ago. I hope everyone in this House stands and speaks on it and supports it.
Ms. Duncan: We, on this section of the House, understand the reasoning behind Bill No. 41 coming before us - the Act to Amend the Public Service Act and the Public Service Staff Relations Act. We understand the reasoning for it and bringing the Yukon legislation into cohesion, so to speak, with the rest of the country. That being said, we also look forward to, as the minister himself referenced with regard to the Supreme Court decisions - the phrase he used was "thoughtful and purposeful". We, in the Liberal Party, look forward to thoughtful and purposeful debate, as we have serious reservations with respect to section 29(2). It is the section, of course, that says that a bargaining agent or bargaining unit shall not be certified if "that requires as a condition of membership therein the payment by any of its members of any money, other than dues, for activities carried on by or on behalf of any political party."
I listened very carefully to the comments from the Member for Whitehorse Centre and I think there's a matter of some debate linking how a business' or how any organization's dues money is spent - and there are different types of organizations other than unions. I know in other organizations, where I've sat on the national executive, there has been very serious discussion as to how dues and the membership fees, so to speak, are spent. It's incumbent upon every member of an organization to carefully scrutinize financial statements and to examine how that organization spends its money.
One of the reasons that we're giving serious consideration to this section is the same reason we always stand up and say that the Yukon itself is different. The Yukon is a small jurisdiction. It has its pluses and its minuses. Yukon, being a small jurisdiction and the number of members being relatively small - particularly the number of active members, those who do bother, as the Member for Whitehorse Centre said - who attend meetings, participate in discussions and, as I have noted, examine the financial statements. That number of members can be quite small and perhaps one of the by-products of this section will be an increased level of participation by the membership in determining how the union conducts its business, in this case.
Another concern, and one that I believe my colleague would like to discuss further in second reading of this particular piece of legislation, is how this particular section relates to election financing in the Yukon, how our rules govern the election financing and how the two will interact with one another. It's incumbent upon us as legislators not to simply see a particular section of legislation in front of us but to also examine the larger picture - the future as well as how what we are debating relates with other pieces of legislation.
In short, Mr. Speaker, we, in the Liberal Party caucus, are looking forward to, as I mentioned, thoughtful and purposeful debate on this particular act and giving serious consideration to all points raised by all members of the House.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Speaker, I'm very happy to rise in support of the amendments to the Public Service Act and Public Service Staff Relations Act.
It's terribly important that all members of a union have full political rights, whether they are members of a public sector union or a private sector union. These amendments are making sure that territorial legislation that governs the public service is consistent with the freedoms that are enshrined in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
While I would agree with the previous speaker that the Yukon has a special character, I must state categorically that democratic principles and principles of rights and freedoms are just as important in the Yukon as they are everywhere else in Canada. I'm very pleased that we are bringing forward these amendments that the previous government did not bring forward, that will give public servants the ability to participate in federal and territorial elections, including through raising funds to support political candidates or political parties of the employee's choice.
The Yukon Party critic asked a question about how he expected to see this act working. Well, Mr. Speaker, first of all, it will be working outside of working hours. There is no intent and no support whatsoever for political work to be conducted by public servants when they are at work to do their jobs. They will, however, now have the ability to raise funds for political candidates outside of working hours.
The member, I was pleased to note, has retained his sense of humour and was saying he was looking forward to a cheque from the Public Service Alliance of Canada. Mr. Speaker, I think that if the member were interested in getting a cheque from the public sector union, they would not have introduced and passed in this House legislation to impose wage restraint on the public sector unions in the territory and to destroy and set aside the principle of free collective bargaining that is fundamental to our democracy.
The previous speaker also asked questions about how this legislation will interact with the electoral rules in the Yukon. We continue to have electoral rules that include disclosure of financial contributions, and those rules will remain in force.
Mr. Speaker, the courts in Canada, and the public at large, have recognized that unions deserve support to participate in the broad political economic and social debates in society. There have been recommendations that the restrictions prohibiting unions from using their members' dues for political purposes should be set aside, as they are not consistent with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
So, Mr. Speaker, it's very important that we have this legislation before us today. I hope that what we will achieve during the debate is not only to formally recognize the important roles that unions play in political debate in the Yukon, as elsewhere in the country, but that we will also achieve all-party support for these amendments, which I'm happy to see before us in the House today.
Mr. Cable: As the Member for Porter Creek South indicated, we'll be supporting the bill. I assume it accords with the court decisions and is necessary. For that reason, and also for the fact that we believe that public servants should have the right to participate in the election process and in politics, we will be supporting it.
There are some reservations, of course, relating to the use of organizational contributions to political parties. Now, the minister has drawn a spectre of large corporations, business organizations, banks, and all those other bogeymen - if I can call them that - contributing to some parties and suggesting that this is a, sort of, restoration of equilibrium. I guess with business organizations contributing, there is always the creation of expectations that there may be something flowing back in return. And, of course, with the public service union - as an organization, not as members - contributing to parties, there may be a perception - not a reality, of course - but a perception of the creation of expectations.
So, I would hope that, during this mandate of the government, we will have the opportunity to discuss not only the rights of organizations to contribute and the rights of individuals to contribute to the political process, but limitations. I don't think disclosure is good enough on contributions to political parties. I think there should be limitations so there is no perception whatsoever that anybody or any organization is getting any special benefit from any government in power, simply because they're making political contributions. So, I'd like to get that on the record. We are going to support the bill, but I express what I think is a common concern among many people: that organizational contributions need to be limited.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I rise to express support for this particular bill. I notice that the Yukon Party wasn't stating in their opening remarks that we were simply carrying on their good works once again in presenting this particular measure before the House, but I leave it for the Member for Klondike to take ownership of this particular measure.
Mr. Speaker, this is a commonsense bill. It's a bill that recognizes the rights of public sector unions to reflect those that already exist within the private sector unions. It does simply state that public sector unions' members have the ability to raise funds off company time, so to speak, for political candidates. That is a long-held right in the private sector and should be transferred as well to the public sector. This of course is in conformance with the rulings of the Supreme Court, which have already spoken on this issue in Canada to this date.
The Member for Riverside raises an argument that I've never heard him raise before, about the need to limit, or discuss some sort of motion of limitations for political donations to political parties. Even though the Liberal Party and the Yukon Party have, for years, received more than adequate attention from corporations, mining companies and the banks, I've never heard them raise the issue of limitations before, but presumably "no time like the present," and particularly now in the context of this bill. But I'm certain that the member might want to explain himself more thoroughly when he gets a chance and explain why reality isn't quite so transparently a kick at public sector unions and, instead, is merely his desire to be simply fair-minded. There's nothing like 1997 to start discussing the whole notion of being fair-minded when it comes to financial contributions.
I do support the bill. I'm interested in members expressing themselves freely on the subject. The more freely they discuss the subject, the more freely everyone will understand precisely everyone's motivations.
Mr. Livingston: This is an amendment to an act that helps to bring our Public Service Act in line with, in fact, how the Charter of Rights and Freedoms tells us how we should be dealing with the individuals who are employees and with all union members who reside in the Yukon and wish for their unions to make contributions to political parties.
So I'm pleased to see us basically falling in line with what are basically democratic rights - the democratic right of an organization to make a decision about how their resources will be used.
So I was pleased to hear one of the members opposite, the Member for Porter Creek South, talk about how organizations and individuals in those organizations examine with some diligence how those resources will be spent, and so they should, and that's where that decision resides: with those organizations - not with government telling them how they should be spending their dollars.
Certainly my experience with the unions - I've been a union member of two different unions over my working life, a number of two associations that have engaged in collective bargaining, and in at least a couple of cases, those unions did make contributions, and I had the right as one of the members of those unions to participate in the debate about whether or not there would be dues going to political purposes.
I guess it's not surprising that the Yukon Party, the party that denied collective bargaining in this territory in the last four years, would take kind of an ambivalent stand - "We understand that there's been a court ruling on this, but we're not just sure about this democratic right going to labour organizations in this territory." It's rather curious, because at least as a union member, a person has an opportunity - an opportunity to voice a concern, an opportunity to pass the vote. When the Bank of Montreal or any other of the large banks that earns more than a billion dollars a year of profits chooses to make a donation to a political party, I have no say in that. I don't get to go down and say, "I don't want that little portion of my bank fee going off to a political party."
I see in The House magazine that's just come out, in the top contributors to federal Cabinet, we've got Prime Minister Jean Chrétien who has received money from CanWest Global Communications and a variety of other corporations. Deputy Prime Minister Herb Gray... oh, CanWest Global Communications is down here again, and Nesbitt Burns and Seafarers International Union. Holy mackerel. Lloyd Axworthy receiving money from CanWest Global, Hudson Bay Mining, Atomic Transport. David Collinette, again from CanWest Global. CanWest Global is pouring a lot of dollars in there.
When I pay my fees, I don't get to make that choice. At least, Mr. Speaker, union members have a democratic opportunity, a democratic right, guaranteed under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, to determine where their union dues will go.
It is not up to the government to determine that. The Supreme Court has spoken very clearly about that and so I am pleased to be part of bringing in amendments to the Public Service Act.
Second reading of Bill No. 41 agreed to
Bill No. 35: Second Reading
Clerk: Second reading, Bill No. 35, standing in the name of the hon. Mr. McDonald.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I move that Bill No. 35, entitled An Act to Amend the Financial Administration Act, be now read a second time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. Government Leader that Bill No. 35, entitled An Act to Amend the Financial Administration Act, be now read a second time.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The amendments before us are fairly straightforward and accomplish four distinct purposes. In the first instance, the changes make it clear that the road equipment reserve fund also includes the airport equipment. This, of course, is achieved by adding the word "airport" in several places. The changes also make it clear that capital expenditures in the fund shall not exceed $5 million. This is the way it has always been interpreted, but we thought it wise to specifically mention the fact.
Thirdly, the changes increase the limit of the vehicle fleet revolving fund from $6 million to $12 million and the annual limit on capital expenditures from $1 million to $2 million. These changes are to account for the increased size of the fleet, which has resulted from the phase 2 health transfer and which will result from the devolution of the Northern Affairs program from the federal government.
Finally, the amendments establish a Queen's Printer revolving fund, which will permit that body to operate as a fully fledged special operating agency.
Mr. Speaker, I've asked the Department of Finance to give both the opposition member critics briefings on the measure, and I'm certain that they may have questions or some further comments on the bill.
The bill is largely administered, or the provisions of the bill are largely administered, out of departments other than the Department of Finance - in this case, the Department of Community and Transportation Services and the Department of Government Services. Those ministers will be in the best position to answer specific questions about the operations of those funds and so I will allow them to do that when we get into Committee.
Mr. Ostashek: I thank the minister for having his department give us a briefing on the amendments to the Financial Administration Act. Mr. Speaker, I'm going to go on the record now saying that I've got some difficulty with some of the amendments in the bill, and I will speak to them briefly in second reading and we will get into exchanges when we get into Committee on them.
The name changes that are being proposed for the highway fund don't cause any difficulty for us at all, but we do have some reservations about increasing the fleet vehicle revolving fund at this time from $6 million to $12 million. That seems to me to be overkill.
In the briefing we received, Mr. Speaker, from the Finance department, it says that the fund is now $6 million with, I believe, a $1 million annual limit on it. They want to increase it to $12 million and a $2 million annual limit. The reasons and rationale given for that request are that approximately $1.1 million is for vehicles to accompany phase 2 of the health transfer. Well, that we believe is legitimate. We still believe that the $6 million in the fund, with a $2 million limit, would be more than adequate to absorb those vehicles that came over in phase 2 of the health transfer.
The next reason given was that approximately $2.7 million is for vehicles that will accompany the devolution of the Northern Affairs program. Mr. Speaker, that does cause us some difficulty because we haven't transferred the Northern Affairs program yet. We know that there is a date set for it. We know that that date has been moved time and time again, and we don't see why the minister would be requesting this amendment at this time this far in advance of the Northern Affairs program.
And even with that $2.7 million addition with the Northern Affairs program for the transfer of vehicles that we will be responsible for then, Mr. Speaker, they want another $2.2 million for future growth in the fund - inflation slowly increases the cost of vehicles. Well, we know that.
But I think it is overkill to be asking for $12 million in the fund when, in fact, we can't rationalize why they need that much money. We believe that, for now, the $6 million, with an amendment to a $2 million annual expenditure, would be more than enough to cover any purchases that they need to make. I'm going to be looking for the minister, maybe in his rebuttal, to give us some rationale as to why we have to move so quickly on this amendment and why we have to double the fund.
There are people in the public who don't like these funds at all. While I know that I was in government for four years and stood and defended the highway revolving fund, it does cause a concern for people in the general public, as I'm sure the increase from a $6 million fund to $12 million in the anticipation of transfers is going to cause some concern in the general public. The concerns are that these vehicles are purchased on a rotating basis without any scrutiny by this Legislature that authorizes the money, especially in the highway fund, where there have been allegations of the department of highways getting more and more equipment that they used to lease from private operators and now own themselves, because they've had this pool of money that they've been able to draw on to not only replace their equipment, but also to buy additional equipment. I know that's always been an issue that we had to deal with on the government side, as I'm sure members opposite have to deal with them now; that is, how do you justify to the general public, when there are allegations of the government being in competition with the private sector in a small jurisdiction like the Yukon.
There's no request here to raise the $6 million in the highway fund, and that's fine, but I am very concerned about doubling the revolving fund for vehicles at this time, when we just don't believe it's necessary. I'm not satisfied that the explanations that have been given to me by the Department of Finance give me any level of comfort that it is required.
We'll be looking forward to the exchange in Committee, and see where we're going with this. In principle, I cannot support this bill with an increase of the fund from $6 million to $12 million for fleet vehicles.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Perhaps as I go through some of my comments, I can maybe allay some of the concerns of the member opposite and, if not, perhaps we can get into some of this in greater detail in Committee.
Basically, what I'd like to do, if I can, is perhaps recap the special operating agency model and what the relationship is between the central service agency and customer departments. From that, I think, perhaps it may make the concept of setting up some of these funds somewhat more understandable. Special operating agencies provide a new model for defining this relationship between the central service agency, be that property management, Queen's Printer or fleet vehicle, and the customer departments, that being the respective departments throughout the territorial government, be they Education, Health, Tourism or whatever. The concept is based on the idea of a customer service and accountability that is contained in both the charters of the agency and the business plans. I have here the Queen's Printer one, by way of example. The idea is that customer service is the prerequisite for delivering value to customers, and accountability is necessary to determine that the highest value has been delivered.
We believe that there will be increased accountability for the government as a whole, since the agencies are accountable to delivering value to customers, and that the bottom-line results, the unit cost for providing services, while customers are accountable for the volume of services that they use to deliver their programs. Historically, central service agencies have managed finite resources that had to be rationed out. Since the cost of the services are pooled centrally, there was no incentive to manage service requirements and an activity at the program department level, nor any guarantee that the best value would be delivered.
The SOA helped make the customer departments feel like customers by devolving the budget authority and by providing customer services at fair, published rates. So, in other words, with regard to the fleet vehicle, each department would have its own budget for, for example, travel, in terms of fleet vehicles, and they would know what their possible cost would be because they would have an idea of rates, and they would be able to base it on previous years' usage, et cetera, et cetera.
Negotiated customer service agreements detail the scope of services and costs and the respective responsibilities of the new relationship. The CSAs, as they're called, also minimize the transaction costs for the clients and the agencies by avoiding costly charge-back arrangements.
With regard to being public sector and competing with the private sector, public sector agencies do not exist to compete with private sector in readily available services. The primary role of the agency staff is to understand what the customer needs are and to translate them into effective action, which reflects customer needs, responsible management of assets and public policy, and the public policy environment in which taxpayers' dollars are being spent.
The agencies are tuned specifically for the public sector customers who are working with taxpayers' dollars and want relief from the necessity of using scarce management resources on non-program issues such as managing their transportation, their printing or their building facilities. In broad terms, the value added by the agencies is to take on defined responsibilities on behalf of their customers to free them to concentrate on the core business of the program delivery and to provide some savings through economies of scale.
Revolving funds are a means by which the Legislature provides for continuing authorization for service operations. They make it possible to operate a fee-for-service delivery, carry out multi-year budgeting and carry forward surpluses from one year to the next. The agencies will remain fully accountable to the Legislature and are subject to all the policies of the government. Accountability for the results is based on benchmarks - performance indicators, if you will - described in the business plans, and I'll refer to these later as I speak about the individual agencies.
Revolving funds provide start-up funds to recapitalize working assets and for the day-to-day service operations. The revolving funds also provide financial tools to provide asset management without artificial constraints of fiscal years and fluctuating capital budgets.
The Queen's Printer agency - to meet the publishing needs of its customers, the Queen's Printer agency provides the following service: in-house, black ink, print-on-demand production. The QPA had defined the niche that it will fill in meeting government-wide printing needs - namely, black ink, print on demand. Offset and colour production will be left to the private sector. The QPA is committed to working within a defined niche, leaving the private sector printing partners with as much certainty as possible as they pursue their business planning and investment strategies.
Effective print-on-demand services mean that the customer can order the exact number of copies they need at the moment without having to keep an inventory on hand for some future demand. Information does not become stale, because changes to the originals can be made quickly and easily when the next set of copies is required. There's less print room or paper waste than with off-set printing, and less waste because there are fewer unused copies to throw out.
The printing costs remain the same regardless of job size so customers do not order more than they really need simply to get a lower unit cost, and one of the things we've heard with regard to the Queen's Printer is a very high satisfaction rate with turnaround time, particularly from the educational community, in many of these regards.
Pre-press graphic design and layout consulting expertise and production: so, the QPA staff help customers design layouts for their documents, help customers improve their layout capabilities and help customers with private sector design studios. For example, one of the things that will be coming forward with regard to one of the health initiatives that the members will be seeing very soon is an example of how some local design, local press, can be utilized. And I think members will be very impressed by the quality of the design and the quality of the work. I talked with some people in the Queen's Printer and they were very excited about getting an opportunity to work in this kind of a realm.
Forms design and production: QPA helps customers develop the business forms they require to manage their programs. It provides in-house design production and manages private sector form design and printing contracts. The QPA will offer electronic form design and production services in the near future.
Publishing advice and publishing contract management: customers will seek advice from a wide range of publishing matters from the QPA account managers. As well, QPA keeps up-to-date on overall publishing trends and customers' emerging publishing needs on behalf of the government.
Reprographics planning: the QPA helps customers analyze their photocopying and printing equipment requirements and helps them select the most efficient printing solution for their needs.
Subscription services: QPA publishes legislative documents and government publications for regular subscribers and one-time buyers. High-profile publications include, of course, Hansard, Yukon Gazette, statutes and regulations.
Informatics: customers provide the content information they need to get published. QPA helps to provide the medium to publish the content and provides the customers process information. For example, data on the cost, schedules, job profiles, et cetera. This helps customers plan and implement their future needs.
Performance indicators for the QPA: as I indicated earlier, basically overall customer satisfaction is determined through point-of-service feedback surveys and focus group sessions.
Servicing cost at per 1,000 of print contract value for contracts over 1,000.
Excuse me. Image production cost per standard 100-page document for in-house print-on-demand services.
The Queen's Printer agency revolving fund is a new fund. Consistent with special operating agencies, the funding will come from the client departments who use Queen's Printer services and from revenues resulting from the sale of the equipment recorded as assets.
The fund limit has been set at $1 million, representing the estimated replacement cost for all existing and anticipated equipment needed for Queen's Printer operations.
The estimated impact resulting from DIAND devolution has been factored in. The annual expenditures in any given year will be limited to $350,000.
The leader of the official opposition was particularly interested in the fleet vehicle revolving fund. On April 1, 1996, the fleet vehicle agency revolving fund commenced operation. The purpose of the fleet vehicle is to help government departments and publicly funded agencies meet their objectives in procuring and managing efficient and affordable ground transportation.
Bill No. 32 established the fleet vehicle revolving fund, which provides the basis for the agency to operate. The role of the fleet vehicle agency is to procure and manage ground transportation services. It operates in four inter-related areas, which encompass the acquisition, allocation, operation and disposal of fleet vehicles.
In pursuit of its objective of matching customer needs at cost-effective prices, the fleet vehicle manages the acquisition of vehicles by striving for the appropriate mix of rent, lease and purchase vehicles in the fleet. We are not talking exclusively about vehicles which are purchased; we also enter into rental and lease agreements, where that is necessary.
Selecting cost-effective specifications, for example, vehicle type, target operational costs, et cetera, within the public policy objectives of the government, arranging vehicle operations in a way to maximize the purchasing power of the government and entering into acquisition arrangements that minimize the life cycle costs of the vehicles in the fleet. The performance indicator that is primarily used is the trends-per-unit acquisition costs in this area.
Allocation: the fleet vehicle agency manages vehicle acquisition utilization by recording vehicles to allow for the optimum utilization of each vehicle, setting the appropriate amortization schedules for vehicles in the fleet. The performance indicator is basically the kilometres driven per vehicle per each year. The long-range target is to increase the average vehicle utilization rate by 75 percent to 100 percent.
Operation: in pursuit of its objectives to minimize the operating costs of the vehicle fleet, the fleet vehicle agency manages operational costs by negotiating favourable maintenance, repair, fuel supply, insurance, et cetera, and cleaning services for the fleet, acquiring reliable, fuel-efficient vehicles and carrying out periodic, preventive maintenance to ensure optimum vehicle performance.
The rate structure has a fixed and variable component. The fixed component is the charge to cover fixed costs. The variable component is the per-kilometre charge for distance driven. All vehicles arising from the day-to-day operations of the vehicles are paid directly by the agency. The rates include an amount sufficient to provide for the replacement of the vehicles at the end of their service lives, thereby allowing the agency to recapitalize the fleet and bring it up to full service standards.
The customer department sets the ground transportation budgets according to the assigned vehicles they will use and the estimated total kilometres to be driven. Performance indicators in this area are fixed cost charged to customers and the per kilometre cost charge to customers.
Disposal: in the pursuit of its objective of maintaining the service and cost standard of the vehicle fleet, the fleet vehicle agency manages vehicle safety, cost and utilization profiles by disposing of vehicles when the condition of the vehicle does not meet the safety/licensing standards. The operating cost profiles indicates it would be more cost effective to replace the vehicle and/or it is clear that the customers transportation requirements no longer warrant keeping the vehicle in the fleet. For example, if that particular type of vehicle was no longer practical in terms of cost, or perhaps it wasn't utilized to its fullest degree, there must be some indicators. Performance indicators are the salvage value of the vehicles and the life-cycle operating cost of the vehicles.
The member made some comment regarding devolution and this does factor into why we have an interest in this. At the start of the fleet vehicle agency, the replacement value of the vehicle fleet was estimated to be $6 million and accordingly, the fund limit was set at this amount. However, the effect of devolution on the size of the government's vehicle fleet was not taken into consideration at that time.
In April 1997, as a result of the community health responsibilities devolving to the Yukon government, 34 vehicles were transferred to the fleet vehicle agency. The anticipated devolution of DIAND responsibilities to the Yukon government will add another 109 vehicles to that fleet. As might be expected, and has been our experience with the Health transfer, this 143 vehicles varied very much in age and condition. The total replacement cost is estimated to be $4.1 million. So, therefore it's estimated that the total value of all vehicles held by the fleet vehicle agency will be $10 million. The fund limit is currently $6 million.
The department's rationale to increase the fund limit to $12 million will allow for some future growth in assets, resulting from future devolution, the higher cost of new vehicles that we're continually experiencing - and I think anyone who has purchased a vehicle can realize this - and the program department's changing needs for a wide variety of vehicle types. For example, we're increasingly getting requests for vehicles with four-wheel drive capacity or vans, or things like this to accommodate a wider range of options for customers.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Sloan: No? Well, we are.
The annual expenditure limit is now $1 million. The Financial Administration Act limits the capital expenditure for new vehicles to $1 million in any fiscal year. Since the average life cycle for a vehicle is seven years, the agency must replace approximately one-seventh of the fleet each year. Given the increased size of the fleet, the present maximum of $1 million will be inadequate to meet this commitment. And, from time to time, for various reasons, the agency will not be able to replace fully depreciated vehicles in a given fiscal year. When this occurs, future purchase of new vehicles must reflect the replacement of the vehicles fully depreciated in that year and past years. Therefore, an increase in the fund's capital expenditure limit is required.
The vehicles in the health service transfer had an estimated net worth of $127,000, while the replacement cost will be over $1 million. It's apparent that many of these vehicles are at the end of their useful lives and must be replaced. The current $1 million threshold is insufficient to replace them and, at the same time, update the existing fleet.
It's anticipated that significant capital expenditures will also be replaced to require aged vehicles that will be received into the DIAND transfer, if our experience with regard to the health transfer is any indication. Amendments to the Financial Administration Act are needed to raise the fleet vehicles threshold to $12 million and annual capital expenditure to $2 million. Approval of this request will permit the transfer of vehicles to the fleet vehicles agency as devolution occurs, without exceeding the fund's limit. It will allow for the replacement of appreciated vehicles in a timely manner so that government vehicles are -
Speaker: Two minutes.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
The agency will be better able to meet the changing needs of program departments. No new capital funds will be required as a result of the change to the Financial Administration Act.
Something that was asked earlier regarded future developments on the SOA concept. I believe that came out last session. I just thought I'd address that, just momentarily.
There's been some discussion about supply services becoming an SOA. This has been very exploratory. It has not gone into developing anything, such as a charter or business model. We've been working to apply some of the principles, however, into supply services.
There was also a question asked last session about interest in the concept from other departments. To date, we haven't really received a tremendous amount of interest, but we would be available, based on the experience with the SOAs, to perhaps give some guidelines to other government departments that might be experimenting in that particular area. Thank you.
Mr. Cable: Just to get it on the record, the reservations that were spelled out by the Member for Porter Creek North are shared by the Liberal caucus and we are having some trouble buying into the argument that the funds should be expanded from $6 million to $12 million and that the annual capital replacement should be adjusted accordingly. So, we will like to be convinced in Committee. So far, we haven't been convinced. I should alert the government to our position.
Mr. Jenkins: Just to get on the record a further breakdown of the cost that we're asked to, I guess, swallow, if we look at the $1.1 million for vehicles accompanying phase 2 of the health care transfer, we're told that there are 30 vehicles. Given the majority of the vehicles are suburbans or motor vehicles of lesser value, just under $40,000 per vehicle, new purchase price, we can replace 30 or those 34 right at the onset for that $1.1 million. And if we look at the $2.7 million for the Northern Affairs program, which has not as yet been devolved, at just under $40,000 per vehicle you could acquire another 70 vehicles there. Now, given the seven-year life and as one gets larger, there has to be an economy of scale and there has to be a more general use of vehicles out of the SOA than what we have at present, and I refer to pool vehicles in the outlying areas of Whitehorse that can be utilized across a broader spectrum than presently - they're just used for Government of Yukon business and, with the takeover of some of these other departments, those pool vehicles can be utilized to a much greater extent than they are currently being utilized.
I'm also concerned that the government is looking at probably becoming the largest motor vehicle leasing agent in the Yukon, replacing Norcan, from which the government constantly or continuously leases the majority of their vehicles over the summer months. So there's a short season for the requirement of vehicles - pick-ups and the like - in the summer season, especially for the Department of Highways and their engineering services and their construction engineers.
When we look at the effective life of the majority of these vehicles being seven years, and the newer vehicles having a much greater life span than it was previously, the cost per year is actually going down in all of the vehicle fleets that I'm aware of, and I'm sure that is the case here. I refer to the cost per operating mile. Yes, the capital cost is rising somewhat per year, but, over all, the cost per kilometre for O&M costs is going down, and the effective life of a vehicle is longer than it has been in the past.
So, Mr. Speaker, I, like my colleagues, have yet to be convinced of the need for this doubling of the amount in this one area, and I don't believe the reserves are justified. I don't believe the government can hold true and justify this tremendous, tremendous increase.
I look forward to going through it in line-by-line and look forward to not having the minister for that department reinvent the wheel and run us through the whole scenario again.
Speaker: If the member speaks now, he will close debate. Does any other member wish to be heard?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, Mr. Speaker, I thank the Member for Klondike for giving us his eloquent if mistaken condemnation of Yukon Party policies.
I think the member will have to note that the three new funds that have been created in the Financial Administration Act are a direct consequence of the establishment of special operating agencies, and the principles under which those operating agencies function were designed by our predecessors. The assumptions upon which those revolving funds operate were established by our predecessors. While I would tend to agree with the member that perhaps the special operating agencies weren't absolutely essential for the good operation of government, we do have them now, and we're prepared to continue with them and give the good college try in trying to see that they work.
So, we're giving a good, college try to the Beringia Centre to try and see if it works, inasmuch as we can.
Mr. Speaker, I think I should be seeking a little more clarification from the members opposite, particularly the Yukon Party, if I understand them correctly, as to what it is that they're opposing in principle in this bill. If they're opposing the creation of the fund, and both members who spoke, spoke with considerable concerns about the funds, then I will dredge up the old speeches from a few years back about the creation of the funds and try and see how I can put across a credible argument for the creation of these funds and the principles on which they are based.
If the members are concerned about the principle - and it's not really a principle; it's simply a feature of the act - that the one fund is being doubled under this proposal, then I can tell the members now that I'm not wedded to this concept of doubling the fund. I think that the size of the increase emanates, in part, from our enthusiasm that the devolution project will proceed and, in part, from the fact that we didn't feel the need to open up the FAA every year. However, if there is a significant resistance to this part, I can put the members on notice that I don't have any problems making a change here.
I would indicate to members that I have not yet heard a compelling argument why the fund should remain at $6 million. Based on my understanding of how the funds operate, they essentially are equivalent to the total capital replacement costs of all equipment possessed by the special operating agency. If that principle is going to be maintained - and I understand that is a feature of the SOAs - that would be an argument in favour of increasing the vehicle fleet agency fund by a couple of million dollars or so.
I think the Member for Klondike doesn't understand how they operate, so I would encourage him to, in fact, listen to the Minister of Government Services once again. I think it is important if the criticism is going to be leveled. Of course, he could do it in off hours, as well.
If there's going to be criticism levelled, I think it ought to be, at least and at the minimum, informed criticism.
Mr. Speaker, the leader of the official opposition raised the long-standing criticisms of the highway equipment replacement fund and the kinds and types of vehicles that are being purchased from the fund. This is a criticism or a concern that has been around as long as I've been in the Legislature and it's not an illegitimate concern, in my view. There have been concerns about the Department of Community and Transportation Services - or the old Department of Highways and Transportation - purchasing vehicles that are routinely used by the department and are owned by small equipment operators in rural Yukon.
While I probably know both sides of that argument off the top of my head, I think it's always useful for new generations of politicians to run through them once again, so I would not be averse to the member and the Minister of Community and Transportation Services having another run at it. If, at some point, some original thinking can be injected into the debate and some solutions found, then we should not hesitate to wait for the opportunity.
With respect to the SOAs, as my friend and colleague has mentioned, the business plans which detail the kinds of purchases that are made must be approved by Management Board and there must be a report to the Legislature on an annual basis on those expenditures. So, if members are concerned about the kinds and types of expenditures made under those funds, then I would encourage the SOAs to report to the Legislature to ensure that members are satisfied that the kinds of expenditures made are appropriate.
In any case, I look forward to my colleagues discussing this measure in the House, and I'm certain we'll have a scintillating debate when we get to the various provisions.
Motion for second reading of Bill No. 35 agreed to
Bill No. 46: Second Reading
Clerk: Second reading, Bill No. 46, standing in the name of the hon. Ms. Moorcroft.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I move that Bill No. 46, entitled An Act to Amend the Partnership Act, now be read a second time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. Minister of Justice that Bill No. 46, entitled An Act to Amend the Partnership Act, be now read a second time.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: This bill does two things. It amends the Partnership Act to provide an updated, efficient and cost-effective registry of partnerships and business name. It also repeals the Business Licence Act. Both the Partnership Act and the Business Licence Act have been in effect since the 1960s. The purpose of the Partnership Act is to create a public registry of all businesses operating in the Yukon and to protect a registered trade name from being used by any other party.
Under the Partnership Act, general partnerships, trade names and limited partnerships must be registered. The Business Licence Act requires businesses operating outside of municipal boundaries to have a territorial business licence. This requirement affects businesses such as those in the road construction and highway lodge industries, or those businesses that exist in an unincorporated community.
The original intent of the Business Licence Act was to create a public record of businesses operating in the territory. However, the ever-increasing number of municipalities issuing business licences has effectively created several public records and has made it extremely difficult for anyone to perform a search of a business through business licencing records. The Partnership Act and Business Corporations Act registries have become the accepted public record of businesses operating in the territory.
The amendments we are proposing will tighten up the registration requirements under the Partnership Act, and will clarify the purpose of that act by changing the name to the Partnership and Business Names Act and will repeal the Business Licence Act.
Under the current legislation, when a partnership or trade name is registered, it provides for perpetual or indefinite registration. There are over 10,000 partnership registrations currently filed and approximately 700 to 800 are added each year. Because there are no means available to the registrar for removing registrations when a business becomes inactive or the partnership is dissolved, it is estimated that more than half of the current registry consists of inactive registrants.
Until now, the obligation to deregister or discontinue business or partnership names has rested with the public. This system has been ineffective. As a result, there are numerous outdated and inaccurate registrations still in the registry. This provides additional work for departmental staff and inconvenience for those using the system.
More importantly, the inability to release inactive or dissolved business and partnership names has limited the name choices available for new businesses.
Under the proposed amendments, any current and future registrations will be limited to a three-year term. If a registrant does not wish to maintain a registration and does not terminate the registration, then it will expire after three years. This will ensure that business registry information is up to date and will also release names that have been held indefinitely in the system up until now.
Mr. Speaker, these amendments will reduce additional burden and costs to businesses. They are in keeping with this government's commitment to making government better and will have a positive effect on the business community. I'm pleased to support this update of the Partnership Act and Business Licence Act.
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Speaker, we support in principle the bill that's before us. It was an initiative, I know, that was ongoing when we were in government. It had not surfaced as a bill as yet, but in general we are pleased with the bill that's before us. If it makes it easier and more understandable for people out there to understand what businesses are current and which are not, that would be better.
We do have some concerns about the requirement, I believe, that businesses are supposed to re-register every three years, and that is a concern. I'd like to know from the minister, possibly, the processes of notifying businesses and how that will take place. Businesses do move around, and some are more active than others in various years, so I would be interested to know how the minister is going to deal with that.
In general, Mr. Speaker, this is a piece of legislation that was all but done when I was working in the Justice department. I was listening to the minister's opening remarks about it and I can recall reading, I think, that very document, almost - the description of how it was going to improve efficiency and old businesses would be struck off, and how many thousands of businesses on there now are obsolete and no longer active. So I'm quite familiar with the points that the minister made, because they were made to me as a minister, and we had given direction to the department to work on coming forward with this kind of legislation.
So, we will be supporting it in principle, but I do want to know, as I said, a little more detail from the minister on how the bill is going to work.
Mr. Cable: We, too, will be supporting the bill in principle. There are no reservations relating to either the business licence initiative or the elimination of the registrations in a set time period. It would be useful to hear from the minister, though, what initiated the review of the act - at whose instigation it took place and what consultation has taken place after she prepared her final product and the positions that were taken by anyone who had a look at the act.
Speaker: If the Member now speaks, she will close debate. Does any other member wish to be heard?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, Mr. Speaker, I do have to make a comment in response to the statements by the members opposite. It seems that since we came into this House a few short weeks ago, whether major or minor, any initiative we find ourselves debating in the House, aside from the notable exception of the bill that we had second reading on this evening to increase the public servants' political rights and the ability of union members in the Yukon government to raise funds for political parties pursuant to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms -
the members opposite have been saying, "Well, that was our project. We were going to do that."
Now, I don't recall debating that member's bill. I was sitting in this Legislature, and I don't recall seeing those bills before this Legislature for debate.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Speaker: Order please.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Speaker, we have had consultation with the business community on this bill.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Since the members are getting a little excited over there, perhaps I'll just conclude by saying that we have taken into account the comments that we've heard from the business community and others on this bill, and I'll be very pleased to respond in detail to the members' questions in Committee debate.
Motion for second reading of Bill No. 46 agreed to
Hon. Mr. Harding: I move that the House do now adjourn.
Speaker: It has been moved by the government House leader that the House do now adjourn.
Motion agreed to
Speaker: This House now stands adjourned until 1:30 p.m., Wednesday, November 12th, 1997.
The House adjourned at 9:14 p.m.
The following Sessional Papers were tabled November 10, 1997:
Auditor General: Report on the audit of the accounts and financial statements of the Government of the Yukon Territory for the year ended March 31, 1997 (Speaker Bruce)
Yukon Forest Strategy: related documents (Fentie)