Tuesday, April 14, 1998 - 1:30 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
We will proceed at this time with prayers.
Speaker: We will proceed at this time with the Order Paper.
Are there any tributes?
Tribute to Stephen Frost on his retirement
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Mr. Speaker, I'm very pleased to rise today to pay tribute to Stephen Frost on his retirement from the public service.
Since October 1961, Stephen has been a reliable and respected part of the Old Crow nursing station. Although his job changed over those years from hauling water and ice to repairing snowmobiles, he was always there to provide support and assistance whenever it was needed.
One of Stephen's duties was to greet the passengers arriving at the airport with a warm welcome.
I know that for me, personally, Mr. Speaker, it would be hard to get out of the plane in Old Crow and not experience his smiling face and friendly hand.
I understand that Stephen is not known just for his mechanical skills in keeping the nursing station going, but also for his occasional jig in the waiting room and his many jokes. The nurses in Old Crow will certainly miss his stalwart support.
Mr. Speaker, the community certainly benefited from Stephen's 37-plus years of service to the nursing station, but his contributions to Old Crow will continue. Stephen now plans to spend more time with the youth there to provide guidance and counsel.
There is certainly a new glow in his eye, and I ask members of the House to join me in wishing Stephen the very best in his retirement.
Mr. Phillips: I would like to join with the Government Leader in paying tribute to Stephen Frost, who is in the House with us today, with several members of his family. Stephen is not only very valuable to Old Crow, but he's also very valuable to me as a very good friend. I've spent a lot of days with Stephen and we've solved almost all the problems of the world. If we could only get people to listen to us, I think we would have it made.
Stephen was working for the nursing station for over 37 years in Old Crow. He will be sadly missed by the people at the nursing station.
He was helping the nurses who worked with Stephen over the years. Many nurses have come and gone from the nursing station, and Stephen worked very closely with the nurses. He was, as the Government Leader said, the welcoming committee, the taxi service. He helped the nurses get around from time to time on their rounds to the people of Old Crow when they were checking out and making sure that they were well.
He's also been responsible for repairing the nursing station Skidoo, and I recalled a story on Saturday night, Mr. Speaker. It was about 45 to 50 below - 55 below, I guess - in Old Crow last winter, and Stephen left early in the morning. I was staying at his house, and I went looking for him around eight o'clock in the morning, pitch black, and found him in front of the nursing station at 50 below with the hood of the Skidoo up and a Herman Nelson heater about six inches away from the Skidoo with a trouble light, trying to get the Skidoo going so the nurses could make their rounds. Stephen was an extremely dependable person for the nursing station staff.
Aside from his mechanical abilities, Stephen was also known as "Santa Claus", bearing gifts and cheer at the station's Christmas party each year, and he was always a bearer of good news. We hope that Stephen will continue to play a role with the nursing station and the people there and, hopefully, will show up every year at Christmas and again be Santa Claus for the people at the nursing station.
Mr. Speaker, the nurses also asked me to mention that they wanted Stephen to make sure that he comes back this summer and puts in the garden that he started last year, because they want him to continue doing that as well.
The one thing about Stephen Frost is, whether there was an emergency, or just a regular day on the job, you could always count on Stephen Frost being there. There was one story told where there was fear of a flood last year or the year before, and without anybody mentioning anything to Stephen, the nurses got up in the morning and looked out the window of the nursing station, and Stephen had already tied a canoe to the bottom of the steps of the nursing station, to ensure that, if the flood did come, the nurses would have an escape route, so to speak.
Although my friend Stephen is retired, he's going to continue to play an integral role in the community of Old Crow, providing advice and helping where he can.
Mr. Speaker, above and beyond the call of duty, Stephen's presence at Health Canada is going to be greatly missed. On behalf of our caucus, on behalf of the people of Old Crow, Mr. Speaker, in your riding, on behalf of Health Canada, I want to thank Stephen Frost for his 37 years and the great contribution he's made to his job and his role with the nursing station.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Ms. Duncan: On behalf of the Yukon Liberal Party caucus, we too would like to thank Stephen Frost for his long and faithful service to the community and to the nursing station, and we'd like to join with other members of the House in wishing him the very best in his retirement.
For the recovery of Cory Taylor and recognition of actions of John Mitchell
Mr. Jenkins: I rise today to ask members to join with me in expressing our thoughts and prayers for Cory Taylor, son of Kelly and Bruce Taylor, a long-time Dawson City family. Cory, who recently celebrated his 7th birthday, was flown by medevac from Dawson to Vancouver after being viciously attacked by dogs on Friday morning. Cory suffered major injuries to his entire body and had to undergo some 11 and a half hours of surgery. I am pleased to report that Cory is in stable condition at the intensive care unit of the Vancouver Children's Hospital. It is expected that he will remain in recovery there for the next month.
I'd like to also recognize the efforts of Mr. John Mitchell. Mitch was present at the time of the attack and was instrumental in saving Cory's life, and we would like to extend our thanks to Mitch for his actions.
Once again, Mr. Speaker, please join me in wishing Cory a speedy recovery so that he may return to Dawson, his home.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: On behalf of our caucus and particularly on behalf of the Department of Health and Social Services, I'd like to express our support and concern for the Taylor family. This was, I think, an occurrence which shocked many people and I had the department monitoring this young boy's condition and trying to keep me updated as to the prognosis. As the Member for Klondike has said, right now the young fellow is stable. We want to provide all the support we can to the family and our thoughts and prayers go with them.
Speaker: Are there any introductions of visitors?
Are there any returns or documents for tabling?
Are there any reports of committees?
Are there any petitions?
Are there any bills to be introduced?
Are there any notices of motion?
NOTICES OF MOTION
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that NavCanada should:
(1) recognize the unique nature of designated northern and remote services;
(2) utilize the spirit and intent of the Air Navigation System Act regarding designated northern and remote services in the application of its service charges for aircraft to ensure a more equitable distribution of air navigational costs to northern residents; and
(3) have user costs that are revenue-neutral north of 60 following the transition from government operations.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, I give notice of the following motion:
THAT this House urges the Government of Canada to ensure that small northern air carriers are not faced with increased additional costs as a result of the devolution of aviation and airport services from the federal government to NavCanada.
Speaker: Are there any statements by ministers?
This then brings us to Question Period.
Question re: Mast House
Mr. Phillips: My question is to the Minister of Tourism on the issue of this government's commitment to heritage preservation.
Mr. Speaker, it is somewhat ironic that, as the Yukon is celebrating its 100th birthday, a 99-year old home, the Mast House, built at the time of the gold rush, is about to face the wrecking shovel. This situation says a lot about heritage preservation in the Yukon. This government, on the other hand, took action to save the 60-year old Taylor House, primarily because the NDP leader, when he was in opposition, was on record saying that it should be saved.
The minister explained that government's intervention to save the Taylor House was because of the fact that the City of Whitehorse didn't have its heritage bylaw in place. Well, Mr. Speaker, the City of Whitehorse now has its heritage bylaw in place and the first time it was really tested, it appears to have failed.
Is the minister now prepared to take action or is he prepared to stand idly by and watch the destruction of the 100-year old Mast House, while Yukon celebrates the 100th anniversary of the gold rush.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, I can say again that the member opposite is wrong. I will not go further into it than that. The rumour-mongering and fear-mongering in the preambles are getting a little crazy, but that is certainly what I expect from them. This is a City of Whitehorse issue and it will remain so.
Mr. Phillips: Well, Mr. Speaker, it would be useful if the minister actually listened to the question before he stands up and makes a statement. The facts that I gave are the facts. The facts of the matter are that it looks like the Mast House is going to be destroyed. If the city fails to do anything about the Mast House, does the minister intend to do anything to save this 100 year old house?
They moved on saving a 60 year old house. Are they going to use the same precedent in saving this house that's 40 years older and part of our Yukon heritage?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Regardless if it's 60 years old or if it's 100 years old, certainly it is a significant part of the city and the makeup of the city.
Certainly I have to reiterate again that, when we went in and provided help to the Taylor House, it was within limbo at this point in time. At this point in time, the jurisdiction falls clearly within, and shall remain within, the city.
Mr. Phillips: I guess what the minister's telling us in this House here today, Mr. Speaker, is that if it has heritage value and is someone else's responsibility in this territory, the heritage minister will wash his hands of it - he'll let it be destroyed; he doesn't care about it; it only matters to the minister of heritage if it's under his responsibility. Otherwise it has no value to this government.
Mr. Speaker, the Whitehorse city councillors are asking the public for ideas to save the Mast House, which survived the 1905 fire that Whitehorse had. Is the minister at least prepared to sit down with the councillors and work out a game plan to try to save this valuable heritage home, or is he going to just let it succumb to the wrecking ball and use the excuse that it's the City of Whitehorse's responsibility?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, it certainly is unbelievable, Mr. Speaker, especially when the member opposite was in government, was the heritage minister and had opportunity to act on other issues, but simply did not - simply sit and wait for a bylaw.
This an action-oriented government, and this government is doing things, as we have demonstrated with the Taylor House, and will continue to do so within our jurisdiction. We will continue to do so.
Yes, we can have a chat - although that is departmental turf, and they will continue to liaise with the city, as requested.
Question re: Canyon City archaeological site
Mr. Phillips: My question is to the same minister responsible for heritage on this government's lack of commitment to heritage. Last Thursday in the House, we were treated to the spectacle of the minister breaching the NDP's commitment to build a historic resources centre, Mr. Speaker. The money is gone out of the budget. Now we have the failure to protect the Mast House. In this centennial year, the NDP government has cancelled yet another heritage project: the Canyon City archaeological dig and reconstruction. This was a very popular and informative project that had the full support of the Kwanlin Dun, but now it too has been thrown on the scrap heap of broken promises.
Mr. Speaker, I spoke today to the Chief of the Kwanlin Dun, and he was not even aware that this program, that they worked jointly with the Kwanlin Dun on, was cancelled. Can the minister tell me why he cancelled this valuable heritage project that would be unearthing artifacts during the gold rush centennial when this is the year that we're celebrating the centennial?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, Mr. Speaker, this project, as any other project, must follow the budgetary process, and that is the process that this project did follow.
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Speaker, it sounds like this department doesn't have a minister. This minister is supposed to protect heritage in the territory. That's his role. The minister should be ashamed of himself. He's supposed to be the minister responsible for protecting and promoting heritage. If he can't do the job, he should step down.
Can the minister advise the House if he's going to be proceeding with the archaeological dig and reconstruction of Canyon City after this centennial year - the year that it should be running, I might add. Is he going to continue with it or is this project dead forever?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Shame, shame, shame on the other side, Mr. Speaker, for their rumour-mongering once more. Yes, we have had initial discussions with the proponents of the dig and are looking at ways we might be able to preserve, in part, a portion of the digs.
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Speaker, I spoke to the Chief of Kwanlin Dun about an hour ago and he hadn't heard anything about Canyon City, whether it was on or whether it was off, or anything else. Are there some other proponents that the minister is speaking to, other than Kwanlin Dun, with respect to Canyon City? Maybe the minister can tell us whether or not the project is planned at all in the future, and if it is, who is he planning it with?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, Mr. Speaker, we are talking to proponents of the dig. Heritage is a very important part of the Yukon, as is certainly evident by a number of other projects.
Certainly, Mr. Speaker, we are talking to proponents of the dig and I will continue to do so, so that we might be able to find a way to accommodate them.
Question re: Old Crow school contract
Ms. Duncan: My question is for the Minister of Government Services.
Tomorrow, according to Hansard, is the day the long-awaited tender for the general contract for the Old Crow school is to be released.
The minister indicated, during the general debate on Education, that a meeting had been held a week or 10 days ago with 20 or so contractors.
Would the minister indicate if all of these contractors were Yukon companies, using the local hire definition of Yukon companies?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I'm not aware if all of them were Yukon contractors, but I presume that they were.
The purpose of the meeting was to inform interested contractors of what our goals were with regard to the Old Crow project in terms of chapter 22 requirements and maximizing benefits for the Vuntut Gwitchin people.
We have also indicated to the chief that we are hoping to hold a meeting with the Vuntut Gwitchin to meet with interested contractors to discuss what the expectations would be and what kinds of personnel and services Old Crow would have to offer to any prospective contractor who's interested in this project.
Ms. Duncan: The minister indicated previously, and sort of just now in his answer, that there was a fairly frank discussion about how the tendering would proceed. Would the minister indicate if there was a discussion regarding housing of the workers, those not hired from Old Crow, during the construction and later the finishing of the Old Crow school? Is this matter of housing the workers solely the responsibility of the contractor and thus impacting on the price of the school construction, or has the government made some arrangements or provisions with the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation in this regard?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: No, Mr. Speaker, the question of housing and, I suppose, feeding workers is the responsibility of the contractor, as well as, I suppose, the transportation there of workers to the site.
But one of the things that we would hope to do, by the utilization of Vuntut Gwitchin labour and Vuntut Gwitchin personnel, would be to minimize some of the costs for the contractor by providing local labour.
With regard to this, one of the things that the Vuntut Gwitchin have done, in anticipation of some of the economic opportunities while the winter road was open, is bring in three double-wide trailers, which, as I understand it, they are prepared to offer as a construction camp or housing for the workers and after which those double-wides would revert to the Vuntut Gwitchin stock for use in their own housing programs.
Ms. Duncan: The tender documents and the discussion with contractors will indicate what is actually in Old Crow in terms of supplies, and I understand that the government got everything that they wanted to in on the winter road. Does the minister know how much is left to get into Old Crow and is the transport of the balance of the material being contracted by the government or by the general contractor?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: With regard to additional materials, there will be some materials that we will have to bring in, primarily such things as mechanical systems, air handling - some things that could not be provided in the short time frame. As well, there will also be materials such as desks, furniture - things of that nature.
Depending on what is actually shipped and if it's part of the construction of the school or is one of the fixtures of the school, that will have to be discussed with the contractor in terms of if those costs will be rolled into the overall contract. Since we have ordered the materials ahead of time, I would imagine that those costs of shipping would be our costs.
Question re: Anvil Range restructuring plan
Mr. Cable: Thanks, Mr. Speaker. I have some questions for the Minister of Economic Development on the Anvil Range mining restructuring.
The minister was on the radio this morning indicating that the creditors, I think, were generally on side, or, to use his words, "the plan deserved some merit".
Now, there are a number of major stakeholders. There's the federal government, the territorial government, the union, the Ross River Dena Development Corporation, Cominco and the other secured creditors and there are the unsecured creditors. Is there, in the minister's view, anyone who's offside in the restructuring plan?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Yes, there are people who have major concerns about the plan that was put forward before the creditors in a very brief fashion on Wednesday.
Mr. Cable: I was hoping that they would be identified. Rather than waste a supplemental question - the minister is good - a couple of weeks ago, he indicated to us that there were a couple of things that had to be negotiated before he would be satisfied. One was that there be a long-term development plan on the ore body and that the new investor - the new white knight - had to be in place.
Now, in this morning's newscast, he indicated to the public that he wanted the management yanked. Is there any other major requirement that this government will want before being on side with a restructuring plan?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, I would say that the member isn't really stating my position the way that I stated it. I have always said that our bottom line is we want to see any proponent - whether it be a particular group of creditors, or Anvil - come forward with a plan that would put people back to work as soon as possible. With regard to a new investor, I wanted Anvil Range, specifically, to provide some evidence of some at least serious intent by the new investor and an analysis of the plan that they would put forward.
With regard to the issue of the future of the mine now, clearly, we want to see some further discussions this week. There was a conference call among the creditors this morning, as a matter of fact, as they try and finalize the position that's being put forward by Anvil Range. As that continues to be discussed among the creditors, I'm sure that there will be some fluidity to the process, as there has been since it got started.
With regard to the member's stated desire on my behalf that I wanted to see the management turfed, that is not indeed the case. That push came largely from the creditors, who wanted someone more objective and a more third-party oriented person in the position.
Mr. Cable: I understand that Anvil Range mining wants to be hooked back up to the grid so they can perform some of the environmental requirements. Now I know the minister in the past has said that he will, on occasion, give his views to the Energy Corporation. What is his view on whether the Anvil Range Mining Corporation should be hooked up prior to payment of all its outstanding bills?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, actually, the last time we discussed an issue such as reconnection to the grid, there was an instruction given, via Cabinet, to the Energy Corporation, formally communicated. It's one of the few formal communications I've had with the board. I'm surprised the members opposite don't think the minister who's asked to respond to every energy issue from rate increases to - I was almost accused of being an arsonist behind the fire at the Energy Corporation a few months ago by the members opposite, yet I'm not supposed to talk in any informal way to the Energy Corporation or the board of directors. I think that's a preposterous notion.
Secondly, with regard to this issue that the member addresses today, again I would say that the company has written to the Utilities Board. YEC will be making their view known. They've circulated Anvil Range's request to the interveners for some comment by April 17. They do see it as a potential opportunity for revenue.
They'd like to see money up front in terms of approval, which is probably possible, given the creditors' desire to protect the asset - meaning the Faro mine. So it's quite possible it can happen.
Question re: Unity Foundation (Yukon) project
Mr. Phillips: My question is for the Minister of Economic Development on the Yukon Unity Foundation project. I was pleased with the announcement on April 9 by the government that the Unity Foundation will no longer be considered under the centennial anniversaries program, as that was my major complaint about the project - that it didn't meet the CAP guidelines that other communities had to meet. And I do share some of the minister's view with the project itself - that I think it merits some consideration down the road, but certainly not under CAP.
I'd like to seek assurance from the minister, however, that the $1.5 million was still available under the CAP and will still be available as tourism infrastructure money, and that the $1.5 million simply isn't robbing - in this case, CAP - in order to pay Paul, the Yukon Unity Foundation, in the future.
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, it's amazing the turnaround in the Yukon Party, who has been largely the architect of most of the negative criticism about the Yukon Unity Foundation and their project. They've been trying to kill it stone-dead since we got into government, and they seem to now have said that they have at least some tacit approval of the plan that our government has conducted.
I would say to the member opposite that our government doesn't operate in a segregated, dog-eat-dog approach of the Yukon Party. We take the view that, overall, the Yukon people have numerous needs, and we have to work with them to prioritize what those needs are.
With regard to the $1.5 million, that will still be a commitment of this government. That's money that we would have to find for this project, and we still intend - and in my discussions with the Unity Foundation - to have a tourism component as part of that project. So, I don't expect that this government would single out monies for a particular department. We single money out for a particular need on behalf of Yukoners.
Mr. Phillips: Well, Mr. Speaker, I want to address the member's preamble first.
Mr. Speaker, I never was against the project overall. I was against the project as a CAP proposal. In fact, I'm on the record in this House several times as saying I supported the concept of the project. So the member should come into this House with accurate information. He's notorious for misrepresenting other members' views in this House.
Mr. Speaker, it appears then, just so we can get it clear on the record so the tourism industry knows, that the Minister of Economic Development has taken the $1.5 million that was dedicated to tourism infrastructure and it's gone back into general revenue now to be divided up how the government sees fit and that it is really gone out of tourism. The money is gone: the $1.5 million. Is that correct?
Hon. Mr. Harding: The member's wrong, absolutely wrong. And secondly, Mr. Speaker, the members opposite, the Yukon Party, were very clear about their position. They wanted to kill the Unity Foundation's project dead, and they can't split hairs on that question. They were pretty clear in public about stating that they did not want the project to proceed. They threw every roadblock they possibly could in the way of this, and I think that largely affected the ability of the foundation to get the federal funding. To some degree, they're in part responsible for the lack of a federal commitment to this particular project, and they should think about those things.
Mr. Phillips: Point of order, Mr. Speaker.
Point of order
Speaker: Point of order. The Member for Riverdale North.
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Speaker. The member is not telling the truth. He's not representing the facts. I said in this House that I supported the project. I didn't support it by CAP. I'm getting sick and tired, Mr. Speaker, of that member rising in the House and saying things that other members haven't said - making statements and attributing them to members on this side of the House that are absolutely not true.
Speaker: The Minister of Economic Development, on the point of order.
Hon. Mr. Harding: The member just accused me of not telling the truth. I would ask him to withdraw that on the grounds that that is clearly unparliamentary. And, secondly, I would submit there is no point of order. There is just a very thin skin on behalf of that member.
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Speaker, I'm not going to withdraw it. The member should read Hansard.
Speaker: The Member for Riverdale North on the point of order. Calling another member a liar in the House is unparliamentary, so I'd like you to withdraw that wording, please.
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Speaker, I didn't call him a liar. I said he wasn't telling the truth and, Mr. Speaker, he's not telling the truth when he rises in the House. He has an obligation to quote Hansard and our positions accurately. He twists it around to his way. I'm not withdrawing it.
Speaker: Any member telling another person that he is not telling the truth is unparliamentary. I would ask you to withdraw that wording, please. I would ask the member to withdraw the remark that he was using.
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Speaker, I'm not prepared to withdraw the remark. I've had enough from this member. Time and time again he stands up in the House and he misrepresents members. Mr. Speaker, I'm not going to withdraw the remark.
Speaker: I would ask the member to withdraw his remarks and unparliamentary language.
Speaker: Standing Order 23(1) states that if a member is called to order for an offence against any Standing Order and refuses to obey the rules, the Speaker shall name that member to the Assembly. The Chair would once again ask the Member for Riverdale North to withdraw the unparliamentary remarks he made.
Speaker's ruling - member named
Speaker: The Chair must name the Member for Riverdale North, Mr. Phillips, and pursuant to Standing Order 23(2), direct that he be suspended for the rest of this sitting day.
Member leaves the House
Hon. Mr. Harding: Before I was so rudely interrupted by the Member for Riverdale North, I was saying that it was very clear that the Yukon Party intended to kill it dead - the Yukon Unity Foundation project. They are obviously very embarrassed by that fact, but it is indeed the case. I think, Mr. Speaker, if there would have been more support from the opposition benches, it would have been easier for the Unity Foundation to access the money from Ottawa.
So, they've embarrassed themselves in this Legislature. I simply say that the City of Whitehorse has expressed some designs on the Whitehorse CAP money. With the Department of Tourism - the Member for Riverdale North is making a pitch for them - what we have said is that there's still a commitment for $1.5 million for this project. We still expect there to be a tourism component attached to the project. We would only wish that the Yukon Party would have been more supportive of the project, rather than trying to kill it since day one.
Question re: Seniors housing
Mrs. Edelman: I have some questions for the minister responsible for the Yukon Housing Corporation. Exactly one year ago today, the minister said that he would be addressing seniors housing needs in future land development. Since that time, the mobile home strategy has been developed, and it does not include any plans for seniors developments. When did seniors fall off the priority list for new land and housing development?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: This question was put to me previously. I did say to the member that there are a couple of departments that are working in regard to senior housing - the Department of Health and Social Services and Yukon Housing. That work continues to happen. We have not brought out a product. I said to the member that we will continue to be working with communities to get direction from them on what they would like to see as far as housing in general to all peoples - residential, seniors and, to some point, commercial.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, I'm sorry. I will continue to ask the question until I get an answer.
Now, Mr. Speaker, there's a huge gap between the family home - which is difficult to maintain - and an extended care facility for seniors. Currently that gap is partly filled by subsidized seniors housing. There is a special housing shortage in our territory for healthy, mature Yukoners who have specialized housing requirements.
Mr. Speaker, in almost two years this government has done nothing to fill that gap. Can the minister tell this House when he plans to implement some of the recommendations from his audit; namely, developing appropriate housing for seniors?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: In regard to the audit that we did do with houses that seniors occupy, most of those houses are social housing, and they are not really seniors housing. But we did put an action plan together for that, and we are presently working to do some upgrades to them to make it a bit easier for seniors to get around in the units - small things like handrails and proper lever taps, and that sort of thing. It does cost a bit, but we feel that, given the concerns the seniors have raised, we can accommodate them with those improvements to the units.
In regard to additional senior complexes in the Yukon, we do not have a plan in place this year to build any major senior complexes. We are continuing to work with Health and Social Services to come up with a plan for the future.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, not every senior in the Yukon qualifies for or wants to be in subsidized housing, and that's all that's available right now in that gap. One of the ways that the government could fill this gap is by working with the private sector. The minister himself said one year ago, and I'll quote again: "We would like to be a little more friendly in using the private sector."
Mr. Speaker, besides endless meetings with the private sector and a couple of proposals that don't appear in any budgets, what has this more friendly relationship with the private sector accomplished for Yukon seniors?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Well, Mr. Speaker, in our home repair program this year, we've made the program a bit more flexible for people in need of repair for their homes to access funding to do repairs that they feel necessary, and not to go with the old route of having to repair everything that's needed to bring the house up to standards. If they, for example, need or want to upgrade their furnace system, they can do that without repairing the roof that would eventually need to have repairs done.
We do have the joint venture program put in place, and we're hoping that the private sector does look at this program a bit more seriously. We are hopeful that the private sector would be more involved when it comes to solving problems such as the mobile home situation we have in Whitehorse.
There are a number of people that are interested. They have not come up with something solid to date.
Question re: Anvil Range environmental liability
Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Speaker, my question's to the Minister of Renewable Resources in his responsibility for the environment, and it's on the issue of contaminated wastewater at the Faro mine.
Mr. Speaker, the manager of the mine has written the Utilities Board requesting the mine be put back on the power grid in order to pump raw water through the treatment facility. It's also my understanding that the pumps need to be started up beginning in May to dewater the pit.
My question to the minister responsible for the environment: should Anvil Range's latest reconstruction plan fail and the company be forced into receivership, can the minister advise this House who will be responsible for ensuring that the pumps are kept on?
Hon. Mr. Harding: I'll answer this as I've been the minister responsible for dealing with DIAND on all issues pertaining to the restructuring and the environmental issues surrounding the mine and how that liaises with the creditors who are actually, up until now, paying for the bills of such work. There have been assurances from the creditors, and monies have been approved to deal with environmental liabilities and, as in the past, when that failed, the federal government stepped in to deal with those environmental liabilities.
Mr. Ostashek: Well, Mr. Speaker, as the minister is fully aware, the Yukon public is totally fed up with having to foot the bill for the Faro mine and are not happy with the latest nine-percent increase to their power bills.
Can the minister assure Yukoners that they will not have to continue to pay Anvil Range's power bill to keep the pumps on in order to protect the environment? Can he give them that assurance?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, I don't know what the member's talking about in terms of footing the bill. The latest increase that was announced was as a result of a revenue shortfall. There's a mortgage still to pay, whether the mine is running or down. The bills will be amortized against excess monies or profits that were made by the Energy Corporation in the past - the Yukon Development Corporation. The policy that was utilized by this government was precisely the same policy utilized by the member opposite when he was minister.
I'll answer the question for the second time today because it was asked by the Member for Riverside. The Energy Corporation has asked that any monies for any pumping work to be done be paid up front by Anvil, or essentially the creditors for Anvil, because Anvil is no longer generating any revenues.
Mr. Ostashek: Well, Mr. Speaker, what's very clear to Yukoners is that they've had nothing but a continuous increase in power bills since the NDP government came into office, when they were promised stable power rates.
Mr. Speaker, the United Keno Hill Mine didn't pay its power bill and the Yukon Energy Corporation wasn't concerned about cutting the power off their pumps, irrespective of the environmental consequences. What I'm seeking today is the assurance from the minister that the same will not be repeated by the Energy Corporation if, in fact, they do hook Anvil Range up to power, and that it'll be some other authority other than the Yukon ratepayer that has to pay the bill to deal with the environmental problem that's ongoing at the Faro mine. Has the minister had discussions with the federal Minister of the Environment in this regard?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well if I wanted to engage in disrespectful shenanigans, like the Member for Riverdale North, I could've jumped up on a point of order and said the member opposite wasn't doing something appropriately. I won't say it because that would be unparliamentary, but to say there's been a continuous and nothing but a continuous increase in power costs is patently ridiculous. There was a reduction of five and a half percent on the appeal rider. There was a 20-percent reduction the last time the Faro mine went back on the grid. The diesel rider, 3.3 percent, will be coming off in another couple of months. So, that statement is not indeed the case.
We've just announced a major rate stabilization fund in an attempt to end the roller-coaster ride of rates for Yukoners, and we've had very great support from the Yukon public. I think people wanted their government to attack this problem for a long time.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Harding:
The member opposite, who is now sitting on the other side of the House from this side of the House where he used to be, wants us to take a poll.
Mr. Speaker, with regard to the issues surrounding Elsa, the situation was when they were in substantial arrears and there was no payment for about eight months, the Energy Corporation gave certain notice to the company. They were told that the power would not be provided, but if DIAND wanted to request that the power be hooked up, they would do so and the federal government would assume that environmental liability.
With regard to Faro, we are taking every precaution we can to ensure that environmental concerns are addressed and are handled up front, and there will be some action taken on the pumping within the next week, by April 21.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed.
Notice of government private members' business
Hon. Mr. Harding: Pursuant to Standing Order 14.2(7), I'd like to identify the items standing in the name of the government private members to be called on Wednesday, April 15, 1998. They are Motion No. 117, standing in the name of the Member for Watson Lake, and Motion No. 105, standing in the name of the Member for Whitehorse Centre.
Mr. Speaker, I misspoke myself. Motion No. 116 is actually the first motion we'll be debating.
Speaker: We will now proceed to Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Hon. Mr. Harding:
I move that the Speaker do now leave the Chair, and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
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
Deputy Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. Is it the wish of the members to take a brief recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Deputy Chair: Fifteen minutes.
Deputy Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order.
We are dealing with the main estimates.
Bill No. 9 - First Appropriation Act, 1998-99 - continued
Deputy Chair: Committee will now go to the Department of Justice.
Department of Justice
Deputy Chair: Is there any general debate?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Yes, Mr. Deputy Chair, there is general debate, and I am pleased to present the Justice department main estimates for the 1998-99 fiscal year.
Our operation and maintenance budget for 1998-99 will total $29,781,000, representing an increase of $356,000, which is less than one percent, from the 1997-98 forecast.
While this year's overall budget is higher than last year, I know that the increase is very small.
Mr. Chair, I'm proud to state that the Department of Justice, through responsible fiscal management, has been able to maintain its ongoing high level of service, while increasing funding for crime prevention initiatives.
Specifically, I would like to mention that the resources of the crime prevention and policing branch have been increased to include a full-time crime prevention coordinator. Working closely with the RCMP, this person will coordinate and participate in the development and marketing of crime prevention programs at the territorial and community levels.
It will help communities develop and implement community crime prevention strategies that will support effective and efficient implementation of projects.
In addition to this new position, the branch's overall budget has increased by $80,000 by reallocating salary monies. These new resources will help to meet this government's commitment of fostering healthy communities.
Other increases to this year's main estimates relate to the policing budget, primarily to cover the costs of anticipated salary increases for which we are responsible under the contract with the RCMP.
Seventy-five thousand dollars has also been added to the 1998-99 budget to begin the work relating to the continuing consolidation of Yukon statutes, assented to during the last session of this Legislature. This will be cost shared with the federal government and result in more accessible laws for citizens of our territory.
The budget for implementation of the child support guidelines has increased by $20,000 over last year and is 100-percent recoverable from the federal government. This initiative first came into place in the last fiscal year and response in the Yukon has been on par with the rest of Canada.
Yukon continues to support this important initiative and is currently pursuing the possibility of a pilot project to encourage mediation of child support issues prior to court.
On the enforcement side, the branch is looking to improve its electronic links with other jurisdictions to speed up collection of maintenance payments and to better able it to respond to reciprocal enforcement requests, both incoming and outgoing, with other Canadian jurisdictions.
As Minister of Justice, I have just signed a new access-to-justice agreement that streamlines three funding agreements with the Government of Canada into one. Specifically, these three agreements are legal aid, the native courtworkers program and YPLEA. Although the total budget remains the same, this new arrangement will provide the Department of Justice with more flexibility in respect to the funding of these programs.
With regard to the department's capital budget for the upcoming fiscal year, it is estimated at $599,000. These monies will primarily be used for systems upgrading and renovations to the Whitehorse Correctional Centre. These are necessary as we continue to formulate a long-range corrections policy and how an institution will be configured within it.
As stated earlier, the 1998-99 O&M budget is $29,781,000, of which $13,397,000, or 45 percent, will be spent on salaries and related costs. Any merit increases for this year will be absorbed within existing budgets.
The total estimate for police services in the Yukon is $9,111,000 - 31 percent of the overall budget. Of the remaining $7,273,000, $2,251,000 will be spent through transfer payments to groups or individuals to deliver programs on behalf of the department. The balance of the O&M budget of just over $14 million will be used for program costs.
Mr. Chair, I have details of the branch divisions that I can provide in general debate as we proceed through the budget. I've already spoken about the more significant changes and look forward to questions from members opposite.
Mr. Cable: In the Justice briefing the other day, there were a few requests that were made and the minister has replied to some of them. Two are outstanding, though.
The first is the list of litigation cases that are outstanding and some idea of what the actions are about. Could we get a commitment from the minister to produce that in the near future?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I did speak with the member opposite in relation to his request for information. A number of them were provided to him just over the lunch hour and just on the break prior to us coming into the House.
The legal services branch is working right now on updating the list of outstanding litigation. They did have a list in the previous session. We will have an update later this week and as soon as possible.
Mr. Cable: There seems to be some confusion. I have a letter from the minister dated today, which deals with gambling revenues and deals with the breakdown of the Whitehorse Correctional Centre capital project, and the list of pre-charged diversion projects. Is there something more that's wandered over to my desk? I haven't seen anything at this juncture, anyway.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: No, Mr. Chair, I confirmed for the member that the list of outstanding litigation is being prepared at the present time and will be available for him, possibly as early as tomorrow, perhaps not until later in the week.
Mr. Cable: Okay. Could the minister tell us what the major cases are that are outstanding involving the Yukon government? I know there is gun control legislation. Is there any other major case that the government is involved with?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: On the major cases that the government is involved with at present - and as the member and I were discussing earlier today - I won't be going into detail in the House on cases that are before the courts. However, I can certainly advise him, as I believe he is aware, that we are participating in court cases to do with Curragh Resources and with Anvil Range Mining Corporation, as well as the gun challenge, which the appeals court has not yet provided a ruling on.
Mr. Cable: Are there any wrongful dismissal cases involving senior public servants?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: There is one that is still ongoing. I can tell the member as well that we budget $10,000 for the costs of litigation; however, we do not budget for damages and judgments. I believe that's what the member was asking about when we spoke earlier today. Judgments are paid in the department concerned. We do not budget within the Department of Justice for potential exposure that may revert to a line department, such as Community and Transportation Services or the Public Service Commission.
Mr. Cable: Could the minister tell us who the plaintiff is in the wrongful dismissal case? I think it's a matter of public record, so I'm not asking the minister to provide her opinion on anything.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I believe it's John Lawson.
Mr. Cable: Okay, I'll look forward to that list of litigation.
There was one other request that was made and that's a copy of the Kwanlin Dun aboriginal justice contract. I believe that was going to be provided to me on Thursday, but I haven't as yet received it. Just so we can move this debate ahead, I wonder if the minister could pass a note off to the staff upstairs and have one sent down to the House.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Yes, Mr. Chair. I know that the staff are listening and I believe that there is a copy of the aboriginal justice contribution agreement with the Kwanlin Dun First Nation available for the member. I'll have it sent down to the House and provided to him.
Mr. Cable: Yes, if that could be done expeditiously, then we can deal with it in general debate.
On another topic - the Human Rights Act - I asked the minister some questions last week on proposed amendments. I drew the member's attention to the fact that the Human Rights Commission had appeared before us about three years ago, and they had made three recommendations. One was that the gaps in the hate-literature processing be filled by an amendment to the act, because the Criminal Code had some gaps in it; the other one was source of income as a grounds for discrimination - I believe that the Member for Whitehorse Centre has put a motion forward on the table to encourage the government to do just that - and the other was an amendment relating to mental disabilities, as well as physical disabilities.
Could the minister fill us in as to where she sits on all those proposed amendments?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: As the member is aware, this afternoon we called the motion that was introduced by yourself, Mr. Deputy Chair, for debate in the House tomorrow afternoon on amendments to the Yukon Human Rights Act on source of income as a prohibited ground of discrimination. We will be in support of the motion and of the proposed amendment.
I would also like to advise the member that I have not only met with the Yukon Human Rights Commission but with their new director, and we have not discussed these other particular amendments on the subject of mental disabilities and hate literature as something for immediate amendment to the Yukon human rights statute.
I'm certainly willing to talk to the Human Rights Commission about that and listen to any representations that they may have about the timing of such amendments. However, we have not scheduled them at this time.
Mr. Cable: Let me read to the minister some of her words that night when the Human Rights Commission appeared before us. There had been a rather disturbing letter to the editor and one of the Whitehorse councillors, a female, and the minister said that there was a publication distributed in Whitehorse earlier this winter that referred to one of the newly elected municipal councillors in Whitehorse as a "femi-Nazi, lesbian-backed carpetbagger who should pack up and go back where she came from." This is the minister: "I certainly view this as hateful, as did many of the people who brought it to my attention." And I think we can safely say the vast majority of Yukoners shared her view.
Now, that's three years ago, and this government's been in power now for about a year and one-half. There appears, I think, to be a gap in the enforcement of the law relating to hate literature. Is that view shared by the minister?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I would just like to ask the page to make two photocopies of the aboriginal justice contribution agreement for the official opposition critic, for the Liberal member, and for the Chair's table.
The member was referring to the example of hate literature that was prominent three years ago. Whenever we hear of this kind of hate literature, I think most legislators and most members of the public find it reprehensible. Fortunately, I can say that I have not had any instances of similar action brought to my attention since then. That doesn't mean that there is no such activity taking place, but I think it does indicate that the public attention to that kind of unacceptable hate-mongering may have reduced the incidence of it.
As I stated to the member in response to his previous question, I am entirely prepared to meet with the Human Rights Commission, to consider amendments to the act. However, I do not make a commitment, on my feet in the Legislature, to make changes to legislation without consultation with the public and without working with my colleagues and having approval in Cabinet for legislative amendments.
As I've said previously, I will continue to respond to requests from the Human Rights Commission and from others who have a concern about criminal activity in the public arena.
Mr. Cable: At the time that the Human Rights Commission appeared before us, the executive director had provided the members with a wad of material, which included cartoons and some written material that I think would come under the heading of "hate literature". Has the minister received any comment - not her own personal comment from people walking in and off the street - but has she received any comment from the Human Rights Commission as to whether there is still some hate literature prevalent in the Yukon?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: No, Mr. Chair, they have not raised that subject with me in the discussions that I have had with them. However, what I can assure the member is that I will certainly be in touch with the Human Rights Commission and ask them to provide for me some updated information on any incidents of hate literature that they may be aware of that have been brought to their attention since the time the member is referring to when the commission was in the Legislature over three years ago.
Mr. Cable: I believe the minister just indicated a few moments ago that she was going to support the motion tomorrow, adding "source of income" as a grounds for discrimination. In that she has already reached the conclusion that that should be in the act, is she prepared to make a commitment that that'll be brought forward this fall - adding "source of income" as a prohibitive grounds of discrimination?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, we'll do our best to work with the Human Rights Commission and to look at the legislative calendar and see if we can accommodate those changes in the fall. I am not sure right now whether we will be able to bring that in for the fall legislative session, but we'll try to do that.
Mr. Cable: Okay, just to be clear, though, the minister and her government do support that amendment, whenever it's brought forward: that position that the Human Rights Act should be amended, adding "source of income" as grounds for discrimination.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Yes, Mr. Chair, I think that I have made it clear to the member opposite that the government caucus supports the principle as articulated in the motion brought forward by the Member for Whitehorse Centre to consider a source of income as a prohibitive grounds of discrimination.
Mr. Cable: I thank the minister for that. On another topic, the RCMP building. Now, it's my information that the building has received federal Treasury Board approval. Is that information correct, to the minister's knowledge?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, the status of that submission on the part of the RCMP to the federal government is as follows: Public Works Canada has a planning process in place. The RCMP have received approval from Public Works for finding the funds to look at some improvements to their facility in Whitehorse.
Formal Treasury Board approval has not been received as of yet. I spoke with the RCMP on this matter about a month ago, and at that time they had not received formal Treasury Board approval of funds to construct additional facilities in their Whitehorse compound.
Mr. Cable: My understanding of the RCMP's original proposition to the government was that there would be an addition to the present building but that there have been some recent changes of thought so that there would be a stand-alone building. I had thought that there had been Treasury Board approval to the original addition proposition, but from what the minister says, that's not her understanding then?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I believe that the source of the confusion is that in the Public Works planning process funds were allocated to support the project. However, final Treasury Board approval had not been received.
The existing facility does not have handicap access and is not earthquake-proof, so when the RCMP, together with Public Works, looked at planning, they were considering an addition; but with the fact that the handicap and earthquake renovations would not have been as cost-effective as a separate building, they then started some plans for a separate building in the same compound. We're still waiting to hear what the Treasury Board's final decision may be on that.
Mr. Cable: Has the minister or her staff made any pitch to the RCMP as to what they want to see or what they would like to see in the addition?
For example, is the minister of the view that there should be a remand centre in this new building?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, the department will be working with the RCMP on this project, if and when it moves past the conceptual stage, if and when it receives Treasury Board approval for those funds to be allocated. The department and the RCMP do have a good working relationship. We have had discussions about the possibility of remand cells in the RCMP station. Most police stations do have some form of cells available but they're usually designed for short-term confinement.
We're looking at the experiences in other jurisdictions and we're working with the RCMP on meeting the needs and providing for fair service for people who may have to be incarcerated.
Mr. Cable: Okay, just to be clear, do the concept drawings, if such exist, have a remand centre shown in the new building?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: There are no drawings at present. They haven't drawn up drawings. As I've been explaining to the member, the approval is at the conceptual stage. The Treasury Board has not approved expenditures and certainly, in the meeting that I had with the RCMP, there was no talk of drawings or final details on what construction may occur in future.
Mr. Cable: No, I'm not talking about final drawings. I accept the minister's proposition.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Cable: Well, the minister is saying that there are no preliminary drawings, but there would have to be something. The RCMP superintendent doesn't call up the Solicitor General and say, "Send us up $1.5 million." There has to be some outline of what's proposed. Was there any proposition or any detail given to the minister?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: We've been told by the RCMP that there is nothing at present beyond a conceptual request for some funding to support a facility. Drawings have not been made up because the Treasury Board approval has not been received.
Mr. Cable: Were there any discussions whatsoever - I believe the minister has tilled this ground to some extent - on the need for a remand centre downtown? Did the minister put the proposition forward: "Look, we would like, as part of the policing contract, to find that there's a remand centre downtown, so we don't have to take the prisoners up the hill?"
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: The debate around effective corrections policy and looking at rehabilitation of offenders is one that our department is engaging in internally and also working with the community on.
I did not make a specific request of the RCMP to include a remand centre in a new building that they may or may not construct. It is still a hypothetical question. The correctional staff - a more effective model of policy is to have corrections staff providing for the supervision or care of inmates. The experience in Canada has often found that police-based corrections - incarceration - may not be as effective and may not meet the needs of offenders as well as corrections-based supervision.
So, I'm not giving the member a definitive answer and I see him shaking his head there, but it is, at present, an extremely hypothetical question as to what, if any, construction may take place in Whitehorse to improve the RCMP headquarters. Treasury Board approval of the funds has not come forward. Design and planning have not proceeded beyond an initial conceptual framework.
Mr. Cable: Okay, let me feed back what I think the member has told me and that is that there has been no position put forward that there should be a remand centre downtown. And secondly what she said is that any remand centre should be staffed by corrections-based supervisors. Is that basically her proposition?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Basically, yes that's what I stated. It is important that the RCMP and the Department of Justice and its officials can continue to have constructive dialogue about the needs in Yukon communities, including Whitehorse, and how to meet them, and that is taking place.
Mr. Cable: Okay, so that if eventually there is a move for a remand centre downtown in the new building, it's the minister's proposition that it should be staffed by corrections staff. Is that her proposition?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Yes.
Mr. Cable: Okay, I've got some questions on the Whitehorse Correctional Centre, and I believe the leader of the official opposition does also. Well, the leader of the official opposition has just indicated that he has some questions on the RCMP building, so he can go ahead.
Mr. Ostashek: I'm happy to be entered into this debate as the fill-in critic for Justice today. I won't be too hard on the minister, but I do have some questions, and some of the answers she's given here today raise more questions, Mr. Chair.
I'm somewhat concerned that the minister is saying that the building that the RCMP is proposing to put up is still at the hypothetical stage. They've progressed far enough that they've gone to the federal government to ask for some dollars. They had to have some sort of a plan in order to get Public Works Canada to give them the go-ahead on what they were going to do.
Can the minister tell me how many million dollars is involved in this project?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, Mr. Chair, what I can tell the member is that when I met with the commanding officer from the RCMP, he was not able to provide any dollar amounts for this proposal. The commanding officer indicated to me, as I have just stated in the House in response to questions from the Member for Riverside, that Public Works Canada had been involved with the RCMP and the federal Solicitor-General's office on supporting the proposal at the conceptual stage. However, they had not received final Treasury Board approval. I don't have a copy of the information that the RCMP provided to me at that briefing. However, to the best of my recollection and that of my deputy minister, who is here in the House with me and was at the briefing with the RCMP, there was no dollar amount associated with this.
Mr. Ostashek: I'm somewhat surprised by that, Mr. Chair, because if the minister will recall, prior to her meeting with the CO, a question was asked in this House by our Justice critic in regard to this very building. The word on the street was that it was a new building at the back of a lot to the tune of $5 million. That's the message that was being put out on the street, and, in fact, the message that we got was that it was going to be announced within days.
I find it somewhat difficult, Mr. Chair, to be able to comprehend how we get Public Works' approval that's open-ended with no dollars attached to it. I'm having some difficulty with that, but if the minister says that she hasn't been given any figure, I'll accept that. If she should check her notes and find that she has been given a figure, I would appreciate it if she would share those notes with us as to what transpired in those discussions, because I'm very concerned about this.
One of the reasons I'm concerned, Mr. Chair, is this building is a relatively new building. It is not that old a building in the town of Whitehorse. And I have other major concerns, such as the cost that's going to be funnelled back to the Yukon taxpayers through the RCMP contract. While the federal government may be paying for it, Yukoners are going to pay for it one way or another, and that's going to cause me some concern.
Let me try to piece this out a little bit and first of all get from the minister, if she in favour of a major expansion to the RCMP facilities in downtown Whitehorse?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I think the first thing that I need to mention in response to the member opposite is that, as someone who's been in government and in this Legislature, he's very well-aware that numbers are kicked around on the street and that there are rumours of construction projects, whether they're federal government construction projects or Yukon government construction projects, that bear no relation to reality.
I will go back to the RCMP and try to get a financial estimate for what they are considering in their proposal and in their initial planning with the Department of Public Works. I can also tell the member that it is precisely because of the O&M implications of increased space in the RCMP administration buildings that we requested an update and a meeting with the RCMP to get some facts.
The RCMP have promised to work with us in their future planning, and I have given the member the information that I had made available to me already in this House this afternoon, which is that the RCMP worked with Public Works Canada, they've done some initial conceptual work and do not have final Treasury Board approval. But in the Public Works planning process, there was some support.
Mr. Ostashek: Well, I thank the member for that information, and I agree with her. Having been in government, I know how rumours go around the community, but I also know that there's a basis to those rumours. They don't just come out of the blue sky when there's no foundation for them, and these rumours were coming from some very reliable sources and people who ought to have had at least some knowledge of what was going on. So it is a concern of ours.
What the minister hasn't answered, Mr. Chair, is this: does she believe that we need more office space and more facilities at the RCMP headquarters in Whitehorse? That's the question I asked her.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: That will depend on the case that the RCMP makes when they bring forward further details on what facilities they would like to put into their new building. I have not made any commitment of support at this time because I have not had the details provided to me by the RCMP.
Mr. Ostashek: I thank the minister for that. There's no doubt that this project, if the RCMP want it and they get all the federal approvals, is going to go ahead, whether the minister wants it to go ahead or not, but, as my colleague has said, I believe that the minister and this government could have a lot of input into this facility. Since the House won't be sitting much longer and this planning process will probably go on all summer, let me just put some of my thoughts on record for the minister to consider when she's in meetings with the RCMP.
If, in fact, we are going to get saddled with another building over there, with improved facilities, then we ought to get some of the things in there that I believe are going to be required in the near future in the Yukon. As the minister is aware, we have a jail that has been condemned, and we're going to have to build a new one at some point shortly, whether this administration does it or the next administration does it.
Now, my own personal belief is that that jail ought not to be located in Whitehorse; that it ought to be located in some rural community. It could be a good basis for a payroll of a rural community.
One of the major costs that that would incur is having to bring people who are being held in remand in the jail in here for court appearances, and I follow up on what my colleague has said. If in fact we're going to have a new building here, let's make certain that we have a remand centre in it so that if we do decide when we're putting up a new jail that we want to put it in a rural community, we can do it without adding any extra cost to the administration of justice in the territory.
It's just something to plan for in the future, because we know that at some point we're going to have to replace that facility. We can't continue to improve it and do the upgrading on it to keep it safe for the inmates and the staff that's working there. As the minister's aware, there are all kinds of problems with that facility. My colleague will have some more questions on that. I want to speak specifically about the building.
So, while I have great concerns about expanding into more office space in downtown Whitehorse for the RCMP, if we're going to do it, I would like to see some things put in there that would leave the government of the day some flexibility when they go to plan a new jail to house inmates. I would just like the minister's thoughts on that.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, I would like to thank the member for his representations. I have no doubt that the debate on any future replacement of the correctional facility will be quite broad throughout the Yukon and that we'll hear both the position that the member has taken, as well as other suggestions and contrary opinions.
The member spoke quite accurately about the fact that we would have very high costs of transportation if a correctional centre was located outside of Whitehorse when, for the most part, the courts are located in Whitehorse, and the majority of offenders, since the capital city contains 75 percent of the population base of the territory, are also in Whitehorse.
I can tell him that we will consider all possibilities and that we will not be making any hasty decisions, since there are a lot of ramifications to any such a project.
Mr. Cable: I have some questions on the Whitehorse Correctional Centre. The deputy has offered to go over the fire marshall's report with me and discuss what, in his view, are security-related concerns and what are not security-related concerns. I'm going to take him up on that offer.
Just so we have everything on the record, I understand that there was a fire marshall's report done at the time of the Barr Ryder report and then there was a second fire marshall's report done very recently and given to the ministry within the last two or three months. Is my understanding correct?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I'll endeavour to provide the member with an update. There was a fire marshall's report prepared - I'm just looking for the exact date here so that I can be accurate for the member - in March 1995. The report called for a number of facility upgrades to occur over a three-year period, by March 1998. Most of those requests, if not all of them, have been responded to, and we've spent considerable time in this House providing the members with written updates on that.
The fire marshall's office has been meeting with Department of Justice officials in the last week in relation to the occupancy rates for the facility. The department and the fire marshall are continuing to discuss the current situation and what further activities will be required at WCC.
The second report is not actually a report but is a letter to say that we've met the demands of the fire marshall's office that were laid out in the March 1995 report.
Mr. Cable: Okay then, my staff and I are under a misunderstanding. We thought - it was our recollection - that, at the briefing put on in January by Mr. Head, the previous superintendent, he had indicated there was a fire marshall's report update. So, that's factually incorrect, is it?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, I think the difficulty is simply over terminology. The fact is that the Department of Justice and the Whitehorse Correctional Centre staff have had an ongoing good and close working relationship with the fire marshall's office to ensure that all of the series of recommendations that were made in March 1995 were complied with. There have been a number of letters and correspondence back and forth between those two agencies on the subject of the series of recommendations that were made in 1995, how those recommendations were implemented and the present state of the facility.
Mr. Cable: Okay, what the deputy and myself were opposed to was that we would look at these documents, which may have some security concerns - and which I assume the ministry would like to keep secret - and then determine what was not secret. Then, if we got into a disagreement, we would put it to the access to information commissioner to resolve the issue.
Is the minister prepared then - in view of the fact that I've misunderstood; that I appreciated that there was a second report and that's obviously not the case - to release these exchanges of correspondence, so I can see what concerns have been raised?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, I'm going to give the member an answer that has worked for us in the past and that I hope will work for the member again today.
The member and the official opposition critic, as well, both attended a technical briefing on the Whitehorse Correctional Centre, where fine details were provided on each of the recommendations in the fire marshall's report: the present status of the facility and the work that was being done to upgrade it. We also made it clear to the member that, since it is a correctional facility, there are a number of security concerns that cannot be made public information.
I will be happy to make my officials available again for the member, to provide him with information he is seeking, as long as the previous agreement of respecting the confidentiality of information related to security is respected.
Mr. Cable: And that would include the exchange of correspondence, then, that the minister's been talking about?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Yes. The officials will make available to the member the information that they have in relation to Whitehorse Correctional Centre so that he can review it completely and have any unanswered questions responded to.
Mr. Cable: Okay. When all the smoke has cleared and the Barr Ryder fire marshall's report is looked at and we examine all the changes that have taken place to the Correctional Centre, and we review this correspondence, are we then in a position to say that there are no health or safety issues that are not addressed by this budget?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: The fire marshall is writing a letter that indicates how we have met the demands of the fire marshall's office and he can review that correspondence to ensure that, yes, the health and safety needs have been met.
Mr. Cable: Can that letter then be released prior to the briefing? It sounds like it doesn't have security concerns in it.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I'll check to confirm that, Mr. Chair, but we will continue to make information available to the member.
Mr. Cable: Okay. I have a number of questions on the Total Reporting court reporting contract. Would the minister prefer to do that in the lines or would the minister like to do that in general debate?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Go ahead.
Mr. Cable: It's my understanding that this outfit, Total Reporting, had received the first contract with the government about three years ago but had then had the contract lifted because there were some problems with the services offered. Is my understanding correct?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: The court reporting contract is normally for a three-year period. The current court reporting contract expired March 31, 1998. A tender for a three-year contract for court reporting and recording services for the period commencing April 1, 1998, to March 31, 2001, was issued in the fall of 1997. Six tender packages were picked up by Yukon companies, and bids were received from two companies.
The 1998 to 2001 court reporting contract has been awarded to Total Reporting Service Limited. The cost for 1997-98 is expected to be $330,000. The contract bid amount for 1998-99 is $284,000.
Would the member like me, at this time, to also provide a status report on the lawsuits?
Mr. Cable: That would be useful. What I'd like to find out is the reason why the contract was lifted from Total Reporting some three years ago and other people were brought in, and whether those problems that gave rise to the contract being terminated have been solved.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, Mr. Chair - and again, the member's going back three years, which is prior to my tenure in the position as minister - but I've been advised by the official who was there at the time that Total Reporting, essentially, withdrew their bid, in that they were unable to provide the service at the contract amount that they submitted in their bid.
Mr. Cable: Were there any concerns with the quality? I understand that they had actually started and then withdrew. Is my understanding correct?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: The update that I have is that court services has been unable to settle the lawsuit against Total Reporting and will be proceeding to examination for discovery in the near future.
Mr. Cable: Okay. Let's go around this slowly. I understand that there were some concerns. The fact that there was litigation started by the government would verify that. What, in fact, were those concerns with the Total Reporting contract?
The minister has stated that the contractor withdrew, but if the government is suing the contractor, then assumedly there is some reason.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: As I understand the events of 1995, Total Reporting was not willing to sign the contract documents. The contract documents were drawn up after Total Reporting submitted a lower bid during the 1995 tender process. As low bidder, Total Reporting received the contract and then refused to sign the contract documents, resulting in a legal case, which is ongoing.
Mr. Cable: Okay. So, the government has problems with the contractor, they sue the contractor and then they give him a three-year contract. That's what strikes me as a little odd.
Had the Total Reporting outfit actually started on the ground? Were they here on the ground? Did they start in on the contract?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, the reason for the lawsuit was Total Reporting's failure to sign the contract for the provision of the 1995 through to 1998 court reporting and court recording services. The lawsuit is to sue for specific performance of the contract - or damages. The 1995 to 1998 period of court reporting has now been completed. I can offer to the member, if he wants to follow this up further, to have some officials sit down and provide him with more technical information, but I believe I have given him the gist of it.
Mr. Cable: I simply wanted to express the fact that it struck me as strange that we'd be litigating one day and then contracting the next day.
Now, it's my understanding that the Supreme Court has requested, and the government has agreed, that there will be bodies in the court transcribing, but that in the lower courts - at least in relation to summary condition offences - we will simply be using tapes rather than bodies to transcribe the proceedings. Is that correct?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I don't believe that that has been initiated as of yet. I will have to check on the details of the contract and come back with the information for the member.
I can tell the member that the reporting contract for the 1998-2001 court reporting has been awarded based on the contract regulations, and that we did canvas for interest and saw a number of Yukon companies pick up the tender packages. However, we only received bids from two companies, and the successful contractor was selected based on the contracting regulations and based on their bids.
Mr. Cable: What's the government's proposition? Does it find that using tapes in the lower courts is acceptable, particularly in relation to criminal cases?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: As I said to the member, I'll have to look at the details of the 1998-2001 court reporting contract. I've certainly been advised that the use of tapes in provincial courts across Canada has been successful. The capital cost of installation is high and, as I've said to the member, I'm not aware that we have initiated any move toward taping as opposed to transcribing, but I will, as I said, have the officials provide the details of the contracting documents and get back to him.
Mr. Cable: I have one other detail I would like, and this is in relation to the local hire provisions. If, in fact, there are tapes being used in the lower courts, is there, or will there be, any term in the next year's contract insisting that those tapes be transcribed in the Yukon by Yukon residents? Or can this work flow outside to people in Vancouver?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, Mr. Chair, the information that I have asked the department to provide for me is a cost comparison of using tapes as compared with the cost of using personal transcribers.
I can also tell the member that the Minister of Government Services will be providing for the House later this month the government response to the recommendations of the Yukon hire commission. The Department of Justice, like all departments of government, is working to ensure that we're creating jobs for Yukon residents as much as possible.
Mr. Cable: Just let me feed back what I think I heard the minister say. She has said that, in the upcoming year, there'll be a decision made as to whether tapes are used or as to whether bodies will be used in the lower courts. Assumedly then, there'll be some price adjustment. She didn't say that, but perhaps she could confirm that.
So I take it then that there is not, in the initial term of the contract, permission for the contractor to use tapes, that there must be bodies in the courts. Have I heard her right?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I'm not sure what the member's saying. I think I just heard him asking me to confirm something that I didn't say. No, I can't confirm something that I didn't say. Could he try repeating that question and see if we can be more clear?
Mr. Cable: Well, I certainly wouldn't want the minister to confirm something she didn't say.
When does the use of tapes start, or has it already? Is it in the first year of the contract, or is it in the second year of the contract, which I think I heard the minister say?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: The contractor has the ability to determine how they produce the transcripts. The taping of proceedings in court by electronic measures, such as the Hansard reporter that we have here in the Legislature today, has not been initiated, to date, in Yukon court rooms.
As I've said, departmental officials are listening to the member's questions, and we will go back over the record and ensure that, if there's any further information available, that we provide it to the member.
Mr. Cable: Okay. Part of the information I would like is whether in the second year of the contract, in the third year, the contractor has the right to choose the method of transcription, whether it's tapes and then transcription off the tapes, or whether it's live transcription.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Yes, Mr. Chair, the contractor does have the ability to determine how they provide the transcripts of court proceedings as long as it meets the price that was quoted in the tendering documents and that was awarded to the successful contractor.
Mr. Cable: Okay, we're three-quarters of the way home here. The other two points I'd like to find out is whether there will be any local hire provisions, whether the transcription has to be done here in the Yukon; and whether in the contract there will be any turnaround provisions. Will these tapes disappear off the airplane and then come back in transcript form at some indefinite period of time in the future?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, I've been advised that there are turnaround provisions within the contract documents and I'll provide the member with that detail. I did not intend to ignore the member's question in relation to Yukon hire. What I said to the member - and let me just confirm it for him - is that the Minister of Government Services will be providing a statement to this House on the government's response to the recommendations from the Yukon hire commission. I can also assure the member that the Department of Justice, as well as all other government departments, is looking at improving the hiring of Yukon residents where they are available and able to do any jobs that we're canvassing for, whether those are contracts or public sector employment.
Mr. Cable: Okay, just one other point and I assume the minister will have to get back to me on this one. I gather in the proposals that local hire would permit a 10 percent increase in the bid because that bid could be, but not necessarily would be, classified as a superior bid. Was there in fact a 10-percent differential permitted for local organizations?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, Mr. Chair, we'll have to get back to him on confirming that. The member is correct that under the Government Services' contracting regulations there is a differential possible. However, I also need to remind the member that, as I've indicated, all of the bids that were received for the court reporting contracts were from local contractors. So, it was only local companies that bid on this particular project.
Mr. Cable: Is the minister saying that Total Reporting is a Yukon company?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Yes.
Mr. Cable: Okay. Well, weren't they sued in the British Columbia courts, or were they sued in the Yukon courts, and why, if they were a local company?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, Mr. Chair, I'll have to get back to the member with an answer on that. As I indicated to him at the beginning of this line of questioning, that particular contract bid and the resulting lawsuit requesting performance of the contract was initiated after the 1995-1998 contract, so I'll have to get some updated information for the member.
Mr. Cable: Okay. That information would be useful for both of us. There may be some misunderstandings that need to be cleared up.
Would the minister also check into my understanding of what took place with the proposals? There was a daily sitting rate, which was weighted on the basis of 80 percent, and there were transcripts - originals and copies - which led up to a 20-percent weighting. I gather that the losing contractor thinks - and I think raised this point at the bid challenge - that the weighting factor was only applied to the daily sitting rate, and if in fact the weighting factor had applied to all of the factors - the 80 percent for the daily sitting rate and the 20 percent for the transcripts - that that particular contractor - the losing contractor - would then have come within the 10-percent superior bid rules. Could the minister check that out?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Yes, Mr. Chair, I will ask the departmental officials to provide complete answers to the member about the daily sitting rate and other details of the unsuccessful 1995-1998 contracting bid from Total Reporting.
Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Chair, I've got a couple of questions of the minister in general debate.
My first one is in regard to impaired driving. My understanding of our laws in the Yukon is that, under a first offence of impaired driving, there's an automatic licence suspension, with no ifs, buts or maybes. Is my interpretation of that correct?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Yes, Mr. Chair, those provisions are contained in the amendments to the Motor Vehicles Act that we brought into the Legislature during the previous fall session.
Mr. Ostashek: Okay. In the event of someone being convicted of impaired driving and then applying for circle sentencing and being sentenced under circle sentencing, the driving suspension would still remain in effect?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Yes, Mr. Chair, I believe that to be the case. If there has been a conviction, then the mandatory penalty of a licence suspension is a mandatory penalty.
Mr. Ostashek: Okay. I thank the minister for that. I had a concern raised to me and I can get back to the constituent with that. There may have been some misunderstanding as to what transpired, but it is now on the public record that, once convicted, the driving suspension is mandatory regardless of whether he's sentenced in a territorial court or goes through the circle sentencing. That's fine.
Mr. Chair, I have another issue I'd like to raise with the minister. It's a concern that's been raised to me in regard to taxi operations in the Yukon. Is the minister aware of the concern that I'm talking about?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Not without further details, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Ostashek: Okay, that's fine. I just wanted to know if the minister had had any understanding. It's my understanding that there's been a petition presented to the director of labour standards by not only the taxi operators, but also drivers. I have a copy of two companies here, and I understand other companies have also submitted these to the chair persons of the Employment Standards Board, asking them to review OIC 88/063, number 5. I will - because I know the minister doesn't have that with her in the House - put it on the public record to get the minister's views on it.
The drivers and the operators feel that they're being unfairly dealt with under this section covering the minimum wage under the Employment Standards Act. Just for the minister's information, section 4.1, the minimum wage for an employee who works on a piece work basis, or who is paid in whole or in part by commission, shall be determined by multiplying the number of standard hours worked by the employee in a pay period by the minimum hourly rate, which would basically mean 40 hours a week plus the minimum hourly rate - be it the minimum wage, which is now up to $7-something an hour, I believe.
If you go on, though, in the OIC and go to section 5.1, where they specifically take out taxi drivers, notwithstanding section 4, the minimum wage for an employee who works as a taxi driver shall be determined by multiplying the number of standard hours worked in the pay period by a minimum hourly rate and the number of overtime hours worked in the pay period by a minimum overtime hourly rate.
The concern has been raised that this is unfair to taxi drivers, because the norm for the business in the Yukon has been, for years, from what I can understand, a 12-hour shift.
Most, or all, taxi drivers, for the most part, are paid a 50-percent commission. When that 50 percent doesn't calculate up to cover the 12 hours - eight hours at regular time and four hours at time and a half - then the operator has to make up the difference.
Now, the operators that have talked to me say that what is happening is that they've cut their drivers back, because they can't afford to pay that on standby. On some days, they don't make much money. Other days, they make a lot of money, but the days that they make a lot of money can't go against the days that they don't make much money, so they still have to pay that time-and-a-half rate.
They have approached the chair of the Employment Standards Board, basically asking for a review of that section of the OIC, the reason being that they want to present sufficient cause and a desire to amend the minimum wage for taxi drivers, because they say that the act, as it exists now, does not reflect the drivers' best interests, and the act, as it exists, puts an untenable financial burden on the companies so the drivers are allowed to work the time that they want and need.
So, what is happening is that there have been a couple of cases of audits. Some taxi companies - one at least - has been assessed with a tremendous bill. I understand that that's under appeal right now. But, when I look at the OIC itself, it appears that we have it covered under paragraph 4, for piecework and contract work, where it's multiplied by the number of hours. But, the taxi drivers are singled out because of the 12-hour shift, and they have to be paid at time and a half for the other four hours.
The operators feel that that's unfair. The drivers feel that it's unfair, because they're being cut back on the number of hours they're allowed to work now. As a result, they're not making a good weekly salary.
I guess what I want to know from the minister is if she would be prepared to review that and see if there's some way that there could be an amendment to the OIC? The representation that was made to me was that this goes back to 1988, when the OIC was put into effect. At that time, the minimum wage in 1988 was $5.39 an hour, and nobody was too concerned about it.
We now have, as of April 1, $7.06 an hour, and as of October 1, it will be $7.20 an hour. So, what is happening here - while I believe the OIC was put forward in the best interest of the taxi drivers - it is now a detriment to them in being able to make a living driving cabs. We also have the other scenario out there that one company has gone to owner-operated cabs, which the Labour Standards Board doesn't have any control over at all. They can sit there 24 hours a day if they want because they're owner-operated cabs. So, there are some inequities in the system now. Would the minister be prepared to look at it?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Yes, Mr. Chair, to give the member a short answer, when the member started with his representation, the officials who are here indicated that they're aware that Labour Services is, at present, conducting an investigation into these concerns as well as the fact that the concerns have been brought forward to the Employment Standards Board. An investigation is presently underway and when it's completed, I'll have a look at it and see what kinds of future actions we may need, based on the investigation.
Mr. Ostashek: Well, I thank the minister for that and the minister ought not to be surprised if there's a petition tabled in the Legislature before this session is over, j
ust to draw the political attention to the issue as well, because while they're appealing to the director - and they may get satisfaction there; I'm not going to prejudge that - and in the event that they don't get satisfaction, then they may want to appeal the political route as well. I would suspect that there would be a petition that will be tabled in the Legislature prior to us adjourning for the summer.
But I'm pleased to hear that the minister will take a look at this because, of the two companies that I have heard from, the indication that I got is that it's been signed by all of their drivers. It's not just the owners who are concerned about this, but it is the drivers themselves, because they are unable to make an adequate salary by being curtailed to eight hours a day because the operators can't afford to pay the time and a half for the other four hours during which they would like the drivers to be on call.
So, with that, I don't have anything further on it at this time, and I thank the minister for her cooperation on that matter.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, just a brief note. The minister and I have been corresponding over the last year about the issue of getting some sort of a legend outside the courtrooms and also beside the court docket down at the Justice building. It's my understanding - and actually, I saw it - I saw the legend beside the court docket, so it makes it a little bit easier to understand where you are, and of course it's very, very useful for people who are victims in crimes to have an understanding of where they are supposed to be and who is up next and for what, and that's been very, very useful. And I just wanted to thank the minister for working with our caucus on this particular issue and the positive result of that.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Thank you.
Deputy Chair: Is there any more general debate?
Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Chair, I just have a couple of more questions in general debate. When will Mr. Hughes be done with his work on the independence of the judiciary? When do we expect a report on that?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: The date on the order-in-council appointing Mr. Hughes to carry out his inquiry has been extended to June 30, 1998.
Mr. Ostashek: So, I take it that the report is due on June 30? Okay, we'll have to wait for that.
Also, could the minister tell me: on the issue of legal aid, is the demand up or down from her understanding and her official's understanding of where we're at today?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I believe that the demand for civil legal aid is up. We have not received a formal request for increases. However, I think that the member is quite well-aware that often the demands exceed the available funding on many of the programs that government offices offer, including programs supported by the Justice department.
Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Chair, as the member knows and what was highlighted by a recent court case in Whitehorse here, a lot of the public have lost confidence in the justice system. A lot of the people in the public feel you get more for a traffic violation than you do for murder, and one of the concerns that's been raised is that, if we had better control over the Crown, we may be able to do more here and not be so frustrated at having to deal with the federal government.
Can the minister tell the House today what is the status of the devolution of the Crown attorney's responsibilities, and when can we hope to take over that from the federal government?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I'm not surprised by the member's question since I know that, when his party was in government, they worked with the federal government to try and see the transfer of the Crown attorney function from the federal government to the Yukon government. As has been the case for the last 20 or 30 years, slow progress is being made.
Let me give the member a few details on that. The prosecutor going to Old Crow next week will be the Yukon government prosecutor who will cover both federal charges and territorial charges. There have been ongoing discussions between my officials in the Department of Justice and the federal ministry to build a closer working relationship between the federal Crown office and the territorial legal services branch. This has now reached a stage where Yukon prosecutors will be doing some criminal prosecutions.
I continue to meet with both federal ministers to try and advance the devolution of the Crown attorney function to the Yukon.
Mr. Ostashek: Well, I thank the minister for that, and she's right, that when we were on that side of the House, we were as frustrated as previous administrations were over the slowness of this process. The fact that we're working closer with them is maybe a small step in the right direction, but it still doesn't give us responsibility for it and total authority over it, which we do require.
One of the reasons that was always forwarded by the federal government is that we don't have a crown in our own right, and that's why they wouldn't transfer it to us. Is that still the basis of the argument that they're using?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: The federal minister and her officials have now agreed to transfer the office. However, how and when remain under discussion. The federal government has been working on a discussion paper. Now, I'm not able to say for the member whether that's the same discussion paper that they were working on when he was on this side of the House. It may have some amendments to it now. I've been informed it is a new discussion paper, following up on the Stein Lal report that was done in 1995.
I agree with the member that community decision making and Yukon government responsibility for the Crown attorney function is a goal that we should need to continue to work for. There are also a number of other programs that I think are effective in looking at crime prevention, and that's social development, such as the youth activities in school programs that we have, parenting skills offered in communities, and healing circles and literacy programs. The member is aware of a number of community actions, such as Citizens on Patrol and Neighbourhood Watch. The police actions include community policing initiatives.
So, in the absence of the federal Crown responsibility, we are attempting, on a number of other fronts, to respond to community needs in the Yukon.
Mr. Ostashek: Well, I thank the minister for that and all of those things that she is doing - the same as governments in the past have been doing - are all laudable programs to pursue. They still do little to rebuild confidence in the justice system, when we see some of the rulings that are being made by judges.
The judges' hands are tied to some extent, when some very serious charges are being plea-bargained down. I think it's one of the biggest problems that we're faced with in our justice system.
When the minister talks about some of the programs in the schools - citizens control and all that - when we look at the stats that have been provided to us of the crimes and types of crimes in the Yukon, we see that break-and-enters are climbing steadily, even though we have these other programs in place. We see that sexual assaults are climbing steadily in number. The number of sexual assaults are up the past year from the previous year. Break and enters are climbing, fraud is way up and the drug problem - marijuana use and all that - has dropped dramatically. Does the minister have any explanation for this?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, that's a very large question that the member is posing. I think what lies beneath it is how can we best improve the public's confidence in our justice system. There is not one simple, easy answer. There never is. We can provide the public with an avenue to participate in community activities that help deal with crime and that help to prevent crime.
The member also asked about the crime statistics comparison. As he has noted, some crimes are up, some crimes are down. The numbers they were provided with were charges and not convictions, so they do need to be aware that that does not reflect diversion programs or the acquittal rate. The grand total of actual crimes committed is slightly lower in 1997 than it was in 1996 or indeed in 1995 or 1994, so we're actually seeing a decrease over the three-year period.
Mr. Ostashek: I'd have to disagree with the minister on that because, if you look at the serious crimes, they're up, and they're up dramatically. I realize that these are charges, not convictions, but that's comparing apples to apples. The crime stats have always been the same. What we have is a dramatic drop in the number of marijuana cases, the number of charges, but the other ones seem to be up across the board - the more serious crimes - and that is what is a concern to me and that's what's a concern to the general public.
The minister's absolutely right, and I agree with her, that we need to have good education programs in our schools and in public, and community discussions on how we prevent crime, b
ut I think the fundamental principle and the concern of the citizens of the Yukon today is what happens to the criminal when he's apprehended on some very serious offences and gets his wrist slapped, in their opinion, and I think they have a legitimate concern there. So, we have to be able to restore confidence there somehow as well. It's not just a matter of educating our future generations so they don't commit crime - that's an ongoing program that we need to continue, and I'm fully supportive of that - b
ut my concern is with the public perception of what happens to the criminal when they're apprehended on some very serious charges, and they're perceived by the public to just get their hand slapped and not dealt with in a serious manner.
Does the minister have any explanation why the charges are down on marijuana? I mean, we hear time and time again in the papers that we have a very serious drug problem in the Yukon. We had information that was brought up here in Question Period by our health critic on the problem with drugs in the Yukon. I don't believe there's been a drop in the use of marijuana. Is it that the police are no longer enforcing this section of the Criminal Code? Is that what the problem is?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, Mr. Chair, as far as I am aware, the RCMP continue to actively enforce alcohol and drug offences as well as theft and violent crimes.
I think it's important, since we are getting into some of the details of the crime statistic comparison, to talk about the actual numbers that are involved. That's one of the reasons Statistics Canada gives us for being unwilling to canvas the Yukon when they are doing statistics for all of Canada. With a population base of less than 35,000, the statistical inaccuracies are great when most statistics are based on a population of 100,000. That's often what they look at.
So, the member wants to know if I know why possession-of-marijuana charges were 163 in 1996 and were only 62 in 1997. I'm not aware of what that may be due to.
The marijuana trafficking charges were 20 in 1996; they are 19 in 1997. And for cocaine possession and cocaine trafficking, there were 28 charges in 1996; there are 25 charges in 1997. I think that that shows that the RCMP continue to investigate and charge criminal activity relating to drug trafficking. I can't give him further information than that.
Mr. Ostashek: I thank the minister for that, but the minister can quite clearly see by the figures that she read out from the report that, while the charges for trafficking have not gone down, the charges for possession of marijuana dropped dramatically in one year, because in the three previous years, the charges were all up fairly high. Something has happened.
Can the minister tell me then, has the level of enforcement overall in the Yukon dropped? Are we paying less money for RCMP now than what we have in the past? There has to be some reason why possession of marijuana has dropped by almost 100 cases in one year.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, Mr. Chair, as I've been saying to the member, the RCMP continue to actively investigate and to make charges on drug offences. I think what it more likely shows is that, by laying charges against traffickers, the availability of the drug is reduced.
Mr. Ostashek: Well, I'll accept that from the minister. The fact is there hasn't been any change in a number of charges that are being laid against traffickers. The number hasn't changed significantly at all, yet possession has dropped dramatically. So the drug is still out there.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Ostashek: The member says we keep busting the traffickers. I agree with her, 100 percent, but there has to be some reason for that variance in possession, and I don't know what it is, and I'm sure the minister doesn't here, but I draw it to her attention, when she's having discussions with the RCMP - when we pay a substantial dollar to for enforcement.
I just have one further question in general debate. My understanding is that we were in the process of hiring a new supervisor for corrections. Do we have that person hired now?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: No, we do not, Mr. Chair. As the member may be aware, the position of the director of correction services also became vacant about the same time that the director of the correctional centre position became vacant. We are filling the director's position, who will be the supervisor of the new senior manager at the correctional centre itself, first.
Mr. Ostashek: Is it being filled internally or is there somebody new being hired? Were they local or were they hired from outside?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: The position of director of community and correctional services has been subject to competition. The department, along with the Public Service Commission, screened the applicants and conducted interviews. The successful candidate should be on the job by the end of April or early May. The person who was hired is from British Columbia.
Mr. Ostashek: So much for your local hire, Mr. Chair. I just had to get that one in. I understand we're looking for qualified people.
The other position - has it been advertised and when do they expect to have it filled?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, Mr. Chair, it is my responsibility to answer that charge from the member opposite. All positions in the public service are staffed based on occupational requirements. The director of community and correctional service requires specialized knowledge. Any local candidates who meet the requirements and are interviewed can become successful in those competitions.
The member also asked about the superintendent of the Whitehorse Correctional Centre. As I indicated to him, after the director of community and correctional services comes onstream in May, the second position will be filled.
Mr. Cable: I would like to follow up on the questions on the Crown attorney devolution.
When the minister met with the federal counterpart, did she express to the minister any reservations about the turnover of the Crown attorney function?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, that's an interesting question from the member. I've had discussions with the previous Justice minister, Allan Rock and with the new Justice minister, Anne McLellan on the subject of the Crown attorney function and the responsibility for that moving to the Yukon. What I have discussed with those ministers is the implications of that change and what model may be in place for it. We also are concerned with respect to the level of funding that will be available for the continued function of the Crown attorney's office.
Mr. Cable: Were there any reservations expressed by the federal minister on the turnover of the Crown?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, aside from the question of what model the Crown attorney's office may operate under, and the fact that the federal public service is putting together a discussion paper on the subject of it, no, there weren't any particular reservations expressed. Certainly, the federal deputy, in meetings with officials on the subject of the discussion paper, has talked about different models that may be used.
Mr. Cable: I'm sure the minister and her officials have looked at the Director of Public Prosecutions model that was brought into Nova Scotia after the Royal Commission on the Donald Marshall prosecution, when it was decided that the relationship between politicians and Crown attorneys and police was fairly unhealthy, at least in relation to Mr. Marshall's prosecution.
The recommendations that came out of that commission were twofold: one, that the Director of Public Prosecutions, that's the chief Crown attorney, could only be fired by the House, by the Legislature; two, any correspondence or any directions given to the chief Crown attorney or the director of public prosecutions would have to be given in writing, and that's in relation to specific cases or general guidelines. Does this minister share enthusiasm for that particular model?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, Mr. Chair, the most important concern that has to be met is to ensure the independence of the prosecutor's decision. That is the goal of all prosecution models in all provinces and territories in Canada, including the federal government. The particular model and whether it may be based on Nova Scotia will be the subject of discussion as we continue to move at a snail's pace, as the leader of the official opposition indicated, toward a transfer of the Crown attorney function.
I can tell the member that I have a very strong commitment to ensuring the independence of the prosecutor, as do my counterparts across the country. We will continue to look at all the models that are in place.
Mr. Cable: I'm sure the minister appreciates, though, that in a jurisdiction with 30,000 people, where the minister is apt to run across the chief Crown attorney in the supermarket, there could be perceptions that you wouldn't find in Ontario with 10.5 million people.
Could I encourage her to look at the director of public prosecutions model, from the standpoint of perceptions, if not reality? I think that would be the most comfortable model that we could use in this territory.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Yes. We'll certainly look at that.
Deputy Chair: As it is now 4:30 p.m., do members wish to have a brief recess?
Some Hon. Member: Agreed.
Deputy Chair: We'll take 10 minutes.
Deputy Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order.
We are in general debate in Justice.
Mr. Cable: I was asking the minister about this director of public prosecutions model, and I'll tell you what my sense of it is. This minister and the federal minister are doing this after-you-Alphonse act and I'm just wondering whether or not it's desirable for this minister to clarify her thinking on what model she wants to see before the conversations get too far down the road. When does she expect that she will choose a model for the Crown attorney function?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, let me assure the member, for the record, that I'm working on that very subject, of being clear about taking on the responsibility for the Crown attorney function and doing it in a way that is respectful of the independence of the prosecution office. The British Columbia model is one that we have looked at that has been in place and that has been relatively successful in that jurisdiction. I've had meetings with the Attorney General for B.C. and looked at some of the policy documents that informed their previous decision making in how to make the Attorney General function one that respects the independence of the prosecution while at the same time providing for accountability.
Mr. Cable: When does the minister think that she and her officials will reach a conclusion about the desirable model?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, as I've explained to the member, the discussions between the federal office and their officials and my officials in the Yukon government department have been on the very subject of what requirements the federal government will have in place and how we can meet those in the Yukon. I've also made a commitment in this House that there will be consultations with the community, and I would invite the member to continue his questions.
Mr. Cable: Yes, I think the minister actually put out a questionnaire at one juncture and, I assume, got some responses. But, one can't negotiate unless one has a position. Is the minister saying that the federal minister is more or less going to dictate the model that is in place or is this minister going to put forward a desirable model?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: The member doesn't seem to be hearing my responses. Let me try this again.
I would point out for the member and for the record that the federal government has not gone to a director of public prosecutions model. I would also make the point that arguments about the potential of conflict, or interference, can and, indeed, have been made, regardless of the size of the jurisdiction. The responsibility of the person in this position, and the responsibility of the public at large, is to ensure that responsible, law-abiding citizens are elected to hold public office, and to provide accountability. That's the core of our democratic institutions.
I have also told the member quite clearly that the model that we would like to have in place for the Crown attorney function is to increase local decision making. We would like to have a model in place where the Yukon government is responsible for the Crown attorney function. We are not negotiating without a position. I have made our position clear to two subsequent federal Cabinet ministers, and previous governments have made the Yukon government position clear to many successive previous federal Ministers of Justice, of both the Liberal and the Progressive Conservative persuasion.
I have strong hopes that we can succeed in transferring the Crown attorney function to the Yukon government. The two federal ministers that I have met with in the year and one-half that I've been in this position have been open to the idea of transferring the Crown attorney function. It will be done respecting the independence of the prosecutions office. It will be done respecting the ability of the Yukon to have some say in the policy guidance that the Crown attorney's office functions under.
The federal government, in its role as the Crown attorney's office, have in place charging policies; they have in place policies to do with crimes of violence against women and children; they have in place policies to do with crimes of theft and fraud.
What I am saying and what the Yukon government continues to say - and this crosses party lines, although I would appreciate hearing if the Liberal member is supportive - is that the Yukon should have responsibility for the Crown attorney function here in the territory. We have gone a long way toward responsible government in this territory since June 13 of 1898 when the Yukon Act created the Yukon Territory as a legal entity, and I hope and intend that we will continue to make progress on the constitutional development of the Yukon.
Mr. Cable: Well, I think it's axiomatic that if the Crown attorney function is turned over, there will be more local control; there's no argument on that. I can't conceive of why there would be an argument. The issue is, what kind of control?
Now, in the Nova Scotia model, the director of public prosecution's model, there are two key elements. One is that the Legislative Assembly only can fire the director of public prosecutions. The other one is that all instructions, whether they're guidelines or policies or directions on a particular case, have to be made public and the directions on a particular case, I believe, have to be gazetted.
In that latter sort of communication issue, that's dealt with in B.C. under their Crown Council Act. If there are any directions written by the Attorney General to the Crown prosecutor, they have to be gazetted. That's the way I read their act.
So, it would be useful to hear from this minister. And I'll tell her that I support the devolution of the Crown attorney function and I think that our party's position has been made public. It's just a question of what it's going to look like when it gets here and whether the people in the Yukon are protected from political interference. So, we would like to hear what sort of model this minister prefers.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I thank the member opposite for clarifying his position. The member opposite has also stood up and indicated the elements of accountability that are built into the British Columbia model. I am in agreement that direction from the political level in relation to prosecutions should be in writing.
The British Columbia model does it by gazetting. The Nova Scotia model does it differently, by having a director of public prosecutors. In any event, I have made, and continue to make, the commitment that the independence of the prosecutions office and sound decisions being made based on the facts of the case and based on the charging policies in place is paramount.
Mr. Cable: Okay, I think we're on the same wavelength, so let's move on.
The minister met with the federal minister on the law of provocation. Could the minister tell us what her position is? Does she want to eliminate the law of provocation with respect simply to spousal homicides, or does she want to eliminate it totally from the law?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I believe I've made my position on this clear in this House before. I'm certainly happy to do so again. I believe I've also been fairly clear publicly. The presentation that I gave to my colleagues - the ministers of Justice from across the country, including the federal minister - was that, in my view, the defence of provocation should be eliminated from the Criminal Code. I took that position after reviewing a number of documents that were prepared for status of women ministers across the country, after looking at the Ratushny report and after talking to women's organizations and people in the legal community - not just members of the Yukon community, but people across the country.
The defence of provocation has been used to rationalize anger. Essentially what it does is allow for people to use a defence that they were provoked in the heat of passion to commit the crime of murder. The defence of provocation is used in sentencing in cases where murder has been reduced to manslaughter.
I think the principle of requiring offenders to take responsibility for their actions is of fundamental importance. I think that eliminating the defence of provocation would increase the accountability of offenders.
Mr. Cable: I appreciate that the minister has in fact made public statements, at least with respect to spousal homicides, and she's cleared up that she wants to eliminate the doctrine completely. There's another similar doctrine, which, I suppose to those of us who don't practice criminal law, anyway, smells very similar to provocation, and that's battered women's syndrome, where people have diminished responsibility, not because of anger, but because of mistreatment over a long period of time.
Does the minister believe that that particular principle should remain in the law?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, first of all, Mr. Chair, I don't accept the member's preamble. I think that the defence of provocation is fundamentally different from the battered women's syndrome. The principle that is used in the battered women's syndrome is that physical and sexual abuse over the years creates a self-defence for a woman who has been battered throughout her history in a relationship with an abusive male or female.
Mr. Cable: Well, I'm not trying to trap the minister at all. From my standpoint of the great unwashed here, in the criminal area, it appears that we may take down some very valuable doctrines if we expand our thinking too far on the law of provocation.
Just let me ask the minister some other points on her contacts with the federal minister on the Young Offenders Act. Has there been a formal submission made by this government on the Young Offenders Act and the desired amendments?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: No, Mr. Chair, there have not. I should also remind the member, as I know he is aware, that in the Yukon, young offenders are under the responsibility of the Department of Health and Social Services. Potential amendments to the Young Offenders Act have been an item of discussion at Justice ministers conferences. We have not, however, received any clear indication from the federal government as to what amendments they may be contemplating in the near future.
Mr. Cable: Is the minister saying that this ball is being carried by the Health and Social Services minister?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Yes, to a large extent, Mr. Chair, it is the responsibility of the Health and Social Services minister. However, we'll stay on Department of Justice debate if the members don't mind and continue with Justice questions.
Mr. Cable: I don't mind at all.
Maintenance enforcement - we brought in the amendments to the Motor Vehicles Act a couple of years ago, and there was an act that permitted maintenance enforcement by virtue of the right to refuse motor vehicle licences. I think last year I asked the minister for some stats on how many licences had been refused, I believe it was, and she indicated to me, I think, it was just one or two. Is there an update on the stats? Can we determine at this juncture how successful this piece of legislation has been in enforcing maintenance payments?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Yes, Mr. Chair, I can update the member that this particular program has been very successful. The information that I have is that there are only six bad debtors of the 542 active files in the maintenance enforcement program. The Yukon maintenance enforcement program continues to be the most successful one in Canada, with a collection rate of approximately 80 percent. Nevertheless, we are working on trying to increase that number, because we believe that all custodial parents who are entitled to receive support payments for their children should receive those monies. The kinds of actions and sanctions that we have been putting in place are effective.
Mr. Cable: Okay. I think what the minister said was that there are 542 active files, and only six are in arrears. What I was wondering, though, is what's the effectiveness of the Motor Vehicles Act amendments? Have they triggered any of those 542, or 536, active files - the people involved in those files? Have they triggered their payment of maintenance by refusal of giving a motor vehicle licence?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: What we have found is that simply the threat of losing your driver's licence has been an effective means of ensuring compliance prior to having to go to the stages of actually taking away the driver's licence.
Mr. Cable: Has there been any driver's licence actually removed because of the non-payment of maintenance? I believe the last time around, when we asked this question, the answer was one or two.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: The latest update that I have was on February 21, 1998. At that time, in only six cases were motor vehicle sanctions applied for. I'll get an answer for the member on whether, in fact, driver's licences have been suspended for any of those.
Mr. Cable: I thank the minister for that. One of the questions I asked in the technical briefing was a split out of the revenues that are derived from gambling and the minister has provided a letter which indicates there is about $230,000 that is put into the government coffers from gambling. That includes the KVA slot machine, 12 casino licences, 128 raffle licences and 56 bingo licences. What's this government's posture on gambling expansion? Is this government prepared to expand casino gambling? Is it prepared to permit the use of VLTs?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, Mr. Chair, we've had long and detailed discussions on the subject of increased gambling in the territory and I've made it clear to the member that we're not in support of increasing gambling or video lottery terminals.
Mr. Cable: Okay. There's an organization in the territory called GRAY, which is Grandparents' Rights Association of the Yukon, if I've got the acronym right. There have been some questions asked in the House on whether the Children's Act should be amended to spell out the rights of grandparents with respect to access and custody of their grandchildren. Is the minister handling this issue or is that being done by the Health and Social Services department?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: The Health and Social Services department, as the member knows, is responsible for the Children's Act and is taking a lead role on these representations.
Mr. Cable: Is the minister's department involved in any discussions on amendments?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Yes, we have been asked for advice on amendments.
Mr. Cable: When is it proposed that the amendments will be brought forward for public review?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, we don't have a date for that, Mr. Chair. As I think I indicated to the member previously, the Minister of Health and Social Services is the lead on that. There is no legislative timetable as of yet for any potential amendments.
Mr. Ostashek: I just have a couple of other questions that I'd like to ask the minister in general debate. I listened with great interest to the minister's position on the defence of provocation in the case of spousal abuse, and I agree wholeheartedly with the minister's position that people should be accountable for their actions and not use such a defence to plea bargain down some very serious offences. But in view of the minister's position and her lobbying to remove that, what is her position on the defence of intoxication as being used to plea bargain down some very serious charges as well? And I believe it was used very recently here in a case in the court.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, what I can say to the member is that I have not looked at taking to my colleagues a recommendation to abolish the defence of intoxication. It's also not a subject that I've studied in great detail.
I'm aware that the defence of intoxication is used in certain cases for reducing charges. I maintain the position that people need to be accountable for their actions. People who become intoxicated have the ability to stop drinking if they know that after a certain point they are likely to lose control and commit violent acts.
Mr. Ostashek: Well, I don't have any difficulty in agreeing with the minister. I'm just looking for consistency with the minister. I know she's made lobbies for her colleagues on the defence of provocation. I believe that the minister ought to seriously look at the defence of intoxication, because I feel that's just as serious and is abused just as badly as the defence of provocation, where some very serious charges have been reduced because a person has claimed that they were intoxicated to such a state that they didn't have the ability to form a judgment, and the judges and lawyers have accepted it.
I'm not going to get into a big debate with the minister on this. I just believe that it's another area of our Criminal Code that we ought to be looking at very seriously.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I agree with the member and thank him for his comments on that. I believe the member may be aware that the defence of intoxication became a rallying point for people who were offended by some Supreme Court decisions where intoxication was used successfully as a defence in cases of some very heinous crimes.
Last year, amendments to the Criminal Code were made, which reduced the defence of intoxication, based on the outcry following that superior court decision. The Yukon supported those amendments to the Criminal Code which reduced the defence of intoxication.
Mr. Ostashek: Yes, I'm aware it's been reduced but it's still there and it's still being used. In fact, as I say, I believe it was used as one of the reasons in a case here that was just before the courts, not that long ago - that the person was drunk at the time and couldn't really form an opinion, didn't really know what they were doing.
I'm not going to pursue that with the minister. I just wanted to get her on the public record on that.
I just have one further question. We were talking about the director of community and correctional services, I believe, being filled by a person from British Columbia. Could the minister just tell me how many people were short listed for the interviews and how many were Yukoners?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I don't believe that I have that information in my briefing book - in my note about those vacancies. What I can tell the member, as I said in response to the earlier questions, is that the Department of Justice and the Public Service Commission were involved in the recruitment process and that all candidates who met the necessary requirements for the position were certified by the Public Service Commission.
Mr. Ostashek: I understand that. I just wanted to know. If the minister is going to get back to me with the information about how many were short listed and how many were Yukoners, I would also like to know if there were any special qualifications that were being asked for.
I'm not sure if there were even any Yukoners interviewed for this position, to be truthful. I would just like to know if there were any special qualifications that were being looked for in this, so that people who applied locally did not have the qualifications to be short listed for that position.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: As I indicated in response to previous questions, there were a number of specialized knowledge requirements for the position of director of community and correctional services for the Yukon Department of Justice. It is a senior management position with a lot of responsibilities. I will be happy to bring back for the member the details on those specific requirements and the candidates who were interviewed.
Mr. Cable: The minister, I think, has received funding from Ottawa for the maintenance enforcement guidelines. I've lost track of that issue. Where do we sit at the present time? Is the money that was provided by Ottawa or is being provided by Ottawa sufficient to do the job?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, the federal government provided some funding for the new federal child support guidelines. The money was spent on an information campaign and included a mail-out to maintenance enforcement program clients. I believe we discussed this in detail in previous debate.
Mr. Cable: With respect to the gun control funding, I gather from the briefing I received the other day that the federal government has in fact provided the funding necessary to put the gun control act into operation. Could the minister just confirm that?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Yes.
Mr. Cable: So, there is no argument, then, on the level of funding that is required to enforce the gun control regulations.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: That remains a federal responsibility, Mr. Chair, and the member is accurate.
Mr. Cable: It's my understanding, isn't it, that the gun control regulations are enforced, at least in part, by the ministry's officials?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: All the costs, Mr. Chair, as the member asked, are borne by the federal government. That's the answer I intended to give him. If I was unclear, I want to clarify that.
Mr. Cable: Yes, I thought what I heard was that the government didn't have a role.
Now, with respect to the issue that the minister brought up in her introductory speech, the mediation of child support, what is going on generally in the area of mediation? I know the previous government had looked at mediation generally. I think that was one of the policy issues that they were dealing with. I think eventually the small debts courts had brought in compulsory mediation at one juncture.
What has this government done?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, we remain supportive of mediation as an alternative to the court system. Mediation has been found to be effective, as the member indicated, in small claims court, as well, as has been discussed in this House. We've made mediation services available under the implementation of the new child support guidelines and initiatives to offer free mediation services for parents who may want to try to mediate their child support changes.
Mr. Cable: I believe the minister said that in her opening speech, but what I was wondering was, how far down the road has the government gone on the support of mediation generally - this is mediation in civil cases, mediation in matrimonial cases, mediation of disputes between people, and public issue mediation, as well?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: We continue to investigate and support alternative dispute resolution methods. The member will be aware that that was the focus of Law Day last year. One of the considerations that has been brought to my attention on the subject of mediation is that, while it's important to provide it and to have it available as an alternative to the court system, in some family relationships, particularly where family relationships are breaking up, there may be a power imbalance where a mediation would not necessarily serve the interest of all family members, and so I'm conscious of that.
Mr. Cable: What specifically is the government doing, either by way of funding or policy development, in the area of mediation? The minister just talked about alternate dispute resolution, and, of course, it's a major factor. It's a major element of the land claim agreements, and, of course, to carry out alternate dispute resolution, you need alternate dispute resolvers. Could the minister be a little more specific on what they're doing in the area of mediation?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, we're looking at policy options. As the member is aware, the Mediation Yukon Association and Yukon College periodically offer mediation training for Yukon residents. We are also, as I indicated previously, supporting mediation in child support amendments that families are looking at in response to the new federal child support guidelines.
Mr. Cable: What takes place in other jurisdictions? Is there any statutory framework around mediators? Are they licensed and, if so, is this government looking at the regulation of the profession?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Some jurisdictions have looked at the regulation of mediators. There is a national association, and the questions of training are ones that are part of the work that is being done in looking at policy options.
Mr. Cable: On the Kwanlin Dun aboriginal justice strategy contribution agreement, which the minister provided earlier this afternoon, is the document that was provided to us the final agreement between the parties, or is this some sort of an interim agreement?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, the agreement that the member has is the agreement for 1997-98, as it says on the title page, and it is a final agreement.
Mr. Cable: I'm not sure what we're dealing with here. The 1997-98 fiscal period, of course, just expired. What's the term of this agreement? Oh, the term expires on March 31, 1998. I had thought, from the newspaper clips and from what was said in this House, that there's an agreement that has been negotiated for the next fiscal year. Am I mistaken on that?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: There's also been an agreement signed for the 1998-99 fiscal year.
Mr. Cable: Okay. Well, that's the agreement that I was looking for, and I assumed the Yukon Party Justice critic was looking for.
What was the cause of the public friction that took place, then? If in fact there were agreements in place, where was the misunderstanding?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, Mr. Chair, I think the member's asking the wrong person that question. The Department of Justice has always been clear with the Kwanlin Dun First Nation that they would be supported for the 1997-98 fiscal year. They were also given the financial figures. The Kwanlin Dun First Nation was also informed that we would support them in the 1998-99 fiscal year, for them to continue the community-based restorative justice project.
I continue to be supportive of these types of projects, and we do have an agreement in place.
Mr. Cable: Okay. This agreement - the document that the minister provided today - is dated as of March 31, 1998, and is signed on April 7. Could the minister provide us for tomorrow, for when we get to the lines, the agreement for the present fiscal year?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Yes.
Mr. Ostashek: Just to continue on with the agreement, could the minister tell us if there have been any changes to the new agreement? Is there a new agreement that's been signed for 1998-99 and has there been any substantive changes to it?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: As I indicated to the previous questioner, I will provide for the members the 1998-99 agreement that has been signed. I'm not aware of significant changes, other than that they are receiving considerably more funding this year than they received last year.
Mr. Ostashek: Could the minister tell me what she calls "considerably more"?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: The agreement for this year is that the Yukon government will contribute $115,000 in direct funding and equivalent services, and the federal government provides $115,000 for the Kwanlin Dun community-based restorative justice project.
Mr. Ostashek: If I look at the expenditures in this agreement, it seems like it was a total expenditure of $72,791, and the contribution of the Yukon was limited to the lesser of $37,000 for the expenses incurred, plus monies received from other sources than those listed above.
Could the minister just give me an explanation of that? I don't understand it. It seems fairly convoluted to me as to exactly what we are giving them. The figure that the minister has quoted for this year is substantially higher. Is the Kwanlin Dun going to be providing more services for the territorial government under the new agreement? Why the substantial increase?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: First of all, Mr. Chair, last year was a partial year, and so the contribution agreement was not for a full 12-month period.
I believe that members were provided, in their technical briefing, with information about the community-based restorative justice project at Kwanlin Dun. I certainly can respond to their questions and give further information on it.
Mr. Ostashek: Thank you. Well, maybe the Yukon Party's Justice critic is aware of it. I didn't have that information and that's fine. If he has it, I don't expect the minister to give to us twice.
On one other question on the agreement itself, I know that with some agreements with First Nation governments there is a 15 percent administration fee charge by the First Nation government. Is there an administration fee allowed for in this agreement?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Not to our knowledge.
Mr. Ostashek: Okay, we'll wait for the new agreement.
I just want to get back to the gun control legislation because I'm a little concerned. The territorial government has joined with other governments in western Canada to challenge the gun legislation. At the same time, we have the territorial Justice department gearing up to administer the legislation. This seems to be an ambiguous situation to be in. On one hand, we're challenging the legislation, and on the other hand, we are preparing to administer it on behalf of the federal government.
Now, the minister has said that it's all cost-recoverable. Well, there are a lot of things with the federal government that are supposed to be cost-recoverable, and I need only point to her colleague at the end of the bench with native health billings to see how successful we are in recovering costs from the federal government. It's always an ongoing battle.
The government had the choice. They didn't have to administer this on behalf of the federal government, and my understanding is that some provinces that the minister is participating with in the court challenge have refused to administer it on behalf of the federal government. Am I not correct in that?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Yes, Mr. Chair, and I see that the member opposite is now moving into a line of questioning that I have spent considerable time with the official opposition critic debating. Nevertheless, I'll look forward to continuing that debate with the critic for the official opposition tomorrow. I'd like to congratulate the members opposite for talking out the clock this afternoon on general debate.
Mr. Chair, as I have stated previously, the position that the Yukon government has taken is that we want to keep our options open and our ability to influence the program before us until the courts have made a final ruling on the case before them.
What I've indicated in response to the very same question from the critic from the very same member's party is that that is what we would do, and that we are still waiting for a decision from the Alberta Court of Appeal.
Mr. Deputy Chair, I move that you report progress on Bill No. 9.
Motion agreed to
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I move that the Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Motion agreed to
Speaker resumes the Chair
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
May the House have a report from the Deputy Chair of Committee of the Whole?
Mr. Hardy: Mr. Speaker, the Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 9, First Appropriation Act, 1998-99, and directed me to report progress on it.
Speaker: You have heard the report from the Deputy Chair of Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: I declare the report carried.
Speaker: The time being 5:30 p.m., this House stands adjourned until tomorrow at 1:30 p.m.
The House adjourned at 5:30 p.m.