Wednesday, April 15, 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.
Recognition of Rotary Music Festival
Mrs. Edelman: Well, Mr. Speaker, it's the best show in town and it's the cheapest. I'm not talking about the Legislature. I'm talking about the Rotary Music Festival.
Mr. Speaker, this year is the 30th anniversary of the Rotary Music Festival in the Yukon. There are over 1,000 performers this year, many of them competing in more than one category. This year, there's representation not only from Whitehorse but from the Robert Service School in Dawson, the Johnson Elementary School in Watson Lake and the Alaska Youth Choir from Juneau.
This week-long festival of music is supported by many businesses and individuals, as well as over 40 volunteers. The music featured is everything from classical to jazz. There are private music students, school bands, choirs and adult musicians. The festival is an opportunity to learn. Through constructive criticism, performers hone their skills and explore their love of music. By competing and watching other performers, children, youth and adults are inspired to practice harder, compose their own music and trust their musical instincts.
It is my hope that more educators will take the opportunity to bring their students up to the festival in the future and take advantage of a wonderful learning resource in our community. Music is a part of our culture. It motivates us, it entertains us and it speaks to our hearts. The $2 entrance fee to the Rotary Music Festival is money well-spent. I would encourage members of this House, as well as the public and their families, to go up to the Arts Centre and feast on food for the soul. The final concert is at 6:00 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. this Saturday, but all sessions are open to the public this week. Our family has already been to the music festival twice this week and we're going again tomorrow. It's the best deal in town.
Much thanks to Margaret Ball, Del Doerksen, Henry Klassen and Joe Dendorfer, who were the original committee to establish the music festival here in the Yukon.
Thank you to Joanne Lewis, Kent Stewart, Henry Klassen, Sue Ryan, Donna Swales, Don Hutton, Elaine Smart and Grant Simpson, who sit on the Rotary Club Committee for the music festival. Also much thanks to Isabel Lewis, who travels to the Yukon every year to volunteer her services.
The Rotary Club supports the music festival with the rose sales, beer festivals and ticket sales throughout the year.
Rotary music festivals have been around for some time.
My mother as a child competed in a Rotary music festival in Toronto.
Many thanks to the Rotary Club, which enriches our lives with the continuing gift of music.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: The government is always pleased to support the Rotary Music Festival, and this year is no exception. Certainly, many of the hard-working volunteers that the member opposite just mentioned are employed in various government departments as well as the many other community volunteers.
I hope that all MLAs and their families will enjoy some of the music festival events, including the final concert this Saturday at the Arts Centre.
Speaker: Introduction of visitors.
Are there any returns or documents for tabling?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Mr. McRobb: I have for tabling two more discussion papers for the energy commission's public consultation. They are Energy Efficiency for the Yukon and The Electric Risk in the Yukon - more product for the public and for the opposition, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: Are there any reports of committees?
Are there any petitions?
Are there any bills to be introduced?
Are there any notices of motion?
Are there any statements by ministers?
Capital projects: increased capital spending in 1998-99
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I rise to inform the House of a major initiative that our government is taking to address the current economic challenges in the Yukon.
As members are aware, the shutdown of the Anvil Range mine in Faro has brought a significant increase in the number of Yukon people who are out of work. Last month, the unemployment rate reached its highest level since 1993 in the wake of a previous Faro mine closure. The recent decision by Minto Explorations not to proceed at this time with its mine near Pelly Crossing has added to the economic uncertainty facing Yukon families and businesses.
On the positive side, it was gratifying to learn that a Yukon company, Golden Hill Ventures, has been chosen as the successful bidder on an $8-million federal contract for highway upgrading in the Iron Creek area just south of Watson Lake. This project will provide a definite boost this year for Yukon workers, contractors and suppliers.
Thanks to concerted lobbying efforts by the Minister of Community and Transportation Services and his officials, there are also strong signals from Washington, D.C. that major U.S. funding for the Shakwak Highway reconstruction will be available in time for next year's road construction season. Indeed, some of that funding may even begin to flow later this year.
Against this backdrop, I'm pleased to announce that our government has identified a number of capital projects that we are able to move forward from the planning stages to actual construction this year. By doing this, we are providing much-needed jobs for Yukon people, as well as smoothing out the pattern of capital expenditure to minimize a spending bubble when the Shakwak funding comes into play.
We will be seeking authority from the House to increase capital spending in the current fiscal year by $4.3 million. The projects we are advancing will have a positive impact throughout the territory. For example, the Department of Renewable Resources will spend $410,000 on major upgrades to eight campgrounds. They are Drury Creek, Johnson Lake, Frenchman Lake, Lake Laberge, Squanga Lake, Wolf Creek, Takhini River and Rock River. This upgrading work is over and above the $200,000 for capital works on the territorial campgrounds and day use facilities in this year's main estimates.
This investment in infrastructure complements our government's considerable investment in Yukon communities through the community development fund as well as the special $500,000 allocation for rural roads already announced in the 1998-99 main estimates. Not only will it provide a number of jobs for Yukon people, it will also improve facilities for both residents and visitors to the territory.
The second project that will have far-reaching benefits for the territorial economy is the extension of the Whitehorse airport runway to accommodate larger aircraft used by both regularly scheduled and charter carriers.
As members are aware, this year's main estimates set aside $70,000 for preparatory work on this project. I'm pleased to announce that we will begin construction this year, with an additional $2.2 million set aside for 1998-98 and $3.5 million earmarked for phase 2 in 1999-2000.
The Department of Community and Transportation Services will be seeking approvals from both Transport Canada and the City of Whitehorse to begin this work as soon as possible.
Another project we are advancing is the realignment of the access road to Yukon College. Both the college and the City of Whitehorse have been requesting this improvement for years. The $650,000 being allocated to the Department of Education to complete the realignment this year will result in a safer and better traffic flow on this well-travelled artery.
At a time when we are celebrating the territory's rich history, it is appropriate that one component of the additional capital works we are proposing is a package of upgrades to heritage properties owned by the people of the Yukon.
This year, the Department of Government Services will spend a total of $810,000 on upgrading and landscaping work on a number of historic buildings on the Whitehorse waterfront. This will include structural work on the White Pass train depot and the old firehall building next door. We will be working closely with the City of Whitehorse on the firehall project.
The two small buildings in front of the Tourism Visitor Reception Centre will also be upgraded for future occupancy. Funding is also provided for the landscaping in this area.
Finally, $250,000 is being set aside to address safety and building code issues at the Taylor House on Main Street, so that it can be fully occupied in the future.
Together, these heritage upgrades will improve the appearance and usefulness of several notable buildings that are a source of pride for capital city residents and a subject of great interest to visitors.
In all of the projects we are advancing, the departments have been specifically asked to identify work opportunities for young Yukoners.
Mr. Speaker, the additional capital spending we are proposing will have the temporary effect of drawing down the accumulated surplus from the $15 million published target level our government believes is appropriate.
Now that we know the approximate level of lapsed funding from the 1997-98 fiscal year, we have a better reading of our cash position for this year and the available resources for next year. Even with the increased capital spending now, I'm confident that we will be able to manage and maintain the target level of accumulated surpluses in the future.
In the meantime, the expenditures we're announcing today are a signal of our commitment to Yukon people and a measure of our confidence in the territory's economic future.
Mr. Ostashek: Let me start out by saying how pleased we in the official opposition are to see that the Government Leader and his government are finally starting to listen to industry in opposition and realize how serious the situation is with unemployed Yukoners out there. So, we are very pleased to see that they have advanced some projects to put some Yukoners to work.
But, I do have some concerns. Although, in principle, we wholeheartedly support the ministerial statement, I am concerned that the bulk of the spending appears to be in Whitehorse and very little in rural Yukon. We look at a community like Watson Lake, which has gone through one of the worst economic winters in their history; we believe the government should have done something for that community.
I see that they do highlight the fact that the federal government is spending money south of Watson Lake, but I believe that this government has a responsibility to the community of Watson Lake, as well, so we would have liked to have seen more money.
Mr. Speaker, the Government Leader went on about the Shakwak project and talked about money beginning to flow even this year. I caution the Government Leader in those statements and suggest that he keep his eye on the ball, because from the information we get, it could be as late as the fall of 1999 before the money starts to flow for the Shakwak project.
Mr. Speaker, when the Government Leader is on his feet in his wrap-up, perhaps he could inform the House as to how he intends to deal with this revised capital spending. It is his intention to amend the capital budget or will he be bringing in a supplementary budget so that we can debate the projects in this session of the Legislature - or just how exactly does he intend to handle it?
I know that's the mechanics of the issue. The main part is that some more money is being spent and we're pleased to see that, but once again we would like to see a little fairer distribution.
Ms. Duncan: I rise on behalf of the Yukon Liberal Party caucus to express our support for this government initiative. The community has spoken and today we have an opportunity to review the government's response to that very clear message from the community. We are all very aware of a 15.7 percent unemployment rate. It's too close to home for many of us. It has to be the number-one priority of this government: job creation and meeting that clear community need.
All of the money outlined by the Government Leader today will go toward creating real jobs. If the Government Leader, in his response, could outline what sort of a job-creation initiative this is in terms of numbers, what sort of bang for a buck are we getting? How many jobs will be created? Is there an estimate and could he provide that information?
Mr. Speaker, I note that the spending of the money, as the Government Leader has indicated, will bring the Yukon's accumulated surplus down below the $15 million. The Government Leader has said he's confident that despite this increase in spending that the government can maintain the target for an accumulated surplus and this commitment is made based on lapsed funding. Perhaps the minister could provide additional details for us in his response.
My final point, Mr. Speaker, following up on the one made by the leader of the official opposition with respect to the mechanics of approval for this additional $4.3 million in spending, was how and when will the Legislature be asked to approve this?
Finally, Mr. Speaker, I would like to reiterate our caucus support for the government's response to the unemployment rate in the Yukon today.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, Mr. Speaker, I'd like to begin by thanking the members in the opposition, the Liberal member for her full support and the Yukon Party member for his somewhat qualified support for the initiatives being announced today. Certainly, they are a significant contribution to employment in this territory as well as to meeting the infrastructure needs of the tourism industry particularly, as they have expressed a desire for them for some time.
There is no doubt in my mind, Mr. Speaker, that the projects we've identified today have substantial community support, and I'm certain that the community will respond very favourably to these initiatives.
I'd like to point out to the leader of the official opposition that the government is not finally listening at all, as he puts it, to the opposition concerns. The government has always been listening to not only the concerns expressed by the members of the Legislature but, prior to that even, the concerns expressed by the public about the economic fortunes of the territory. It is clear that, when the Faro mine ceases operations, there are tremendous impacts on the territorial economy.
What we indicated we would be able to do is to respond in some targeted ways in the short term and the long term to provide work and hope for the people of this territory, and certainly the main estimates and the budget plan of the government, I think, go a significant distance toward meeting that objective.
What we were not able to do is spend large amounts of money to simply spend our way out of the problems that the territory is facing.
Certainly the Yukon Party has had a good history of being able to take advantage of large capital spending projects that the NDP negotiated during the previous NDP government, but we were unable to take advantage of such similar large projects, and have had to spend smarter, even though we've been having to spend smaller. Now that we know, of course, the availability of lapsed funds from last year and the amount of money that we would be targeting for spending next year, we are able to advance some funds toward much-needed capital works.
Now, with respect to the distribution of funds around the territory, it is very much on our minds, Mr. Speaker, that there is a very good possibility that the Shakwak project will, in some part, be advanced into this year - or will start this year. And I would point out to the leader of the official opposition that we will not let our eye off this ball. We've had to pick up the ball when we took office, and we are very much focused on trying to see a re-start of the Shakwak project. So, I can reassure him that that is very much the case, but that would inject into the rural Yukon an expenditure of perhaps in the neighbourhood of $10 million to $15 million.
The Iron Creek project is certainly a project that is funded by the federal government, but, nevertheless, it will have an impact on the territorial economy, an impact that we are happy to absorb. And that, along with the campground work around the territory, could bring additional capital spending within rural Yukon up by $25 million.
That would be an important supplement to the expenditures already outlined in the main estimates budget that have already very heavily targeted rural Yukon through the community development fund, the rural roads program and the heavy emphasis that we've placed on municipal projects.
I would point out, Mr. Speaker, just briefly and in closing, that I intend to bring forward this funding in the form of a supplementary budget for members' consideration, and to the extent that we can provide details prior to the budget being tabled, I'd be happy to provide those details to members opposite, and we will certainly have a full opportunity to debate the matter in the House.
Speaker: This then brings us to the Question Period.
Question re: Year 2000 computer problem
Mr. Ostashek: My question's for the Government Leader, and it's on a very serious issue that's facing not only Yukoners, but all Canadians and all North Americans, and that's the Y2K millennium bug problem that all governments and institutions are facing.
Mr. Speaker, I was somewhat surprised that we didn't see this issue identified in the budget this year. We have not seen money identified within the departments this year for this problem and, from all of my research on this, it's going to be a very expensive undertaking.
The Auditor General says the cost is going to be some $12 billion for all Canadians for this very real problem that's facing Yukoners.
My question to the Government Leader: what is this government doing, and at what stage of preparation are we at for the Y2K problem that we're facing in 20 short months?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: This is an issue that we are well-aware of, and certainly the problem associated with large computing systems and their reported inability to accommodate the year 2000 numbering, in terms of establishing dates, is an issue that we are addressing in the budget. There is a substantial amount of money in the Government Services budget for that particular purpose, and I'd be happy to encourage the Minister of Government Services to explain precisely what they are proposing to do, at some length.
The member will look to the budget itself, and will be able to see that there is an allocation for financial reporting systems. Inside that budget is incorporated some funding to address the year 2000 issue. Certainly, it is an issue that we are concerned about, we are aware of, and we are planning to accommodate in this coming year.
Mr. Ostashek: I thank the Government Leader for that. The reason I ask the Government Leader this is because this crosses all government departments, including his Finance department, which is one of the major departments - Health and Social Services, and all departments.
I am concerned. The Government Leader has said that there's money in the budget, yet at a briefing this morning the critic was told that there's less than $1 million to deal with this issue. The Province of Alberta believes it's going to cost them an entire year's health budget to deal with this problem in their computer systems. Now, I know we're not as big as Alberta.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
The Member for Faro is laughing. He may laugh if he wants, but this is a very serious issue that's facing all Canadians.
I would like to ask the Government Leader, since he says that they are preparing for it, what is the estimated total cost of bringing our budgets up to speed, so that they can accommodate the changeover to the year 2000?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, it's not a question of bringing our budgets up to speed, because I believe that our budgets are up to speed in terms of attempting to address the issue.
The computing systems that are affected are largely, as I understand it, computing systems that date back to a period earlier than the early 1980s, when, I guess, all the futurist thinkers who were developing fantasy computing systems hadn't quite figured out the issue of the turn of the millennium and hadn't thought forward enough to accommodate that in the systems themselves.
But, for those older systems, we are targeting funds - funds that were requested by the systems branch of the Department of Government Services - for all computing systems within the government. We are targeting that specific issue.
I believe we allocated some funds last year and we spent some funds last year. We are targeting more funds this year to address that issue to ensure that we do not have a collapse of the older computing systems that would be affected by this problem.
Mr. Ostashek: Well, Mr. Speaker, the Government Leader hasn't given me the total cost, so I'd like to ask the Government Leader if there's a document or a report on the problems that are facing Yukon and what the total cost of that will be, because, while the Government Leader is right to a certain extent that it's older computer systems, from all of the understanding that I have of the research that I've done on this problem, it's only the programs that have come out in the last three or four years that can accommodate the changeover to the year 2000. Any programs previous to that need to be updated, at a very great expense in most instances.
So, I would like to ask the Government Leader if there is a report and if he would be prepared to table that report, along with a total cost. Also, can the Government Leader advise this House today if, in fact, the Government of the Yukon will have their computers updated in time for the changeover to the year 2000?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Mr. Speaker, I believe we will have our computers updated for the year 2000. The total cost for the corporate infrastructure work in the Department of Government Services for 1997-98, meaning the year just passed, was $977,000, largely focused on the year 2000 problem. The initial estimate for this year, and it's in the budget estimates before us, is $376,000. So, the total that we would be investing in trying to resolve this problem would be approximately $1.3 million.
Question re: Dawson City, seniors' needs
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Health and Social Services. It's regarding the seniors complex in Dawson City and the need to address the health care needs of Dawson's senior population.
As the minister is aware, Dawson City has grown to a population of some 2,200 individuals and it continues to grow as more and more Canadians choose to make Dawson their home. Facilities such as our seniors complex were constructed in the 1960s, at a time when the population of Dawson was a quarter of what it currently is today. While this facility has served our seniors well over the years, there's a dire need to expand the level of health care services to meet the needs of Dawson's aging population.
I'd like to ask the minister when the residents of Dawson can expect to have a multi-level health care facility that will serve the long-term requirements of many of our seniors and elders.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: As the member is aware, we have currently been working during the past year with Health Canada and doing a review of Health and Social Services facility needs in Dawson City and this is a working group made up of people from the medical clinic, the Father Judge nursing station, McDonald Lodge, Tr'ondek Hwech'in First Nation, the City of Dawson and Health and Social Services. Basically we've done a health facilities need assessment and the second part of that is a facilities option. The working group is about ready to embark on the second phase in collaboration with Government Services.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, when all else fails, study the problem again and then study the problem again and study the problem once again. The last report done on this same issue, the Kellog report, is there and I'm sure the minister has a copy. And I'm sure the results will not be that much dissimilar from those reported in that report.
Mr. Speaker, seniors play an integral role in all of our lives. They provide care and support to family. They act as advisors and offer us a sense of continuity. They also make a significant contribution to our economies when they choose to reside here. For these very reasons, there is an increasing emphasis on keeping seniors in the community. What is a proven fact is that the majority of the seniors live active, healthy and productive lives. There are some seniors who are not as fortunate and require extended care which is not available in rural Yukon. As it stands, those who require extended care in rural communities, such as Watson Lake, have no choice but to leave their homes, leave their communities, their families and their friends and move to Whitehorse to receive the appropriate level of care they need.
This government portrays itself to be sensitive and caring to the needs of Yukoners and particularly responsive to the needs of rural Yukon, yet it is not prepared to do anything to address these needs but study them. When will this government begin to listen to Yukoners and, more importantly, when will this government begin to act upon what is being said by Yukoners?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, thank you, Mr. Speaker. Now this may come as a surprise to the member for Dawson City, but there are other communities - strange as it seems, there are other communities - and one of our goals has been, if the member would like to peruse the Health budget, is to take a look at the amount of money that we've put in home care. Much of those funds have been directed toward seniors' needs, and it's our goal to try to direct some of that home care money out to a couple of other rural communities that are not as well served as Dawson City - as the member has noted with McDonald Lodge, or as Watson Lake has with its home care program, delivered largely through our contributions with the Signpost Seniors. We are looking at a couple of other communities that do have a seniors population and do need some services there, and we're focusing in on that.
I can tell the member that we haven't forgotten, nor are we neglecting, our seniors in rural Yukon. As a matter of fact, when we forward our seniors strategy, that's going to be one of our concerns.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, as the minister is very much aware, there are two Yukons - there's Whitehorse and there's TROY - that's all the rest of us, whether it be Whitehorse getting the bulk of the majority, like in the minister's statement from the Government Leader today - $410,000 goes to the rest of the Yukon, millions of dollars go into Whitehorse. It's the same with all of the programs that this minister operates.
The minister is well-aware that the request for a multi-level care facility in Dawson has been relayed to this government by the City of Dawson, members of the Tr'ondek Hwech'in First Nation, the Yukon Order of Pioneers, the IODE, not to mention quite a number of Dawson City residents at large.
Rather than acting upon those concerns, the minister has chosen to conduct yet another study, similar to previous studies, and surveys similar to other surveys that have been occurring in the past. The same treatment is afforded Dawson as Watson Lake. They're both in the same boat. Both of them have a crying need.
When is this minister going to react? When is he going to address the concerns of both these communities and do something to help the seniors?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Mr. Speaker, the member is engaging in trying to pit rural Yukon against urban Yukon. I really think that that's very counterproductive.
As I have indicated to that member, we are also cognizant of the fact that there are other people in this territory outside Dawson City. It is a fact that he's going to have to cope with.
I know he has a rather tunnel vision, but there are, for example, seniors in Mayo, Haines Junction - a variety of other communities - and one of the things we are going to be doing with our -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Speaker: Order please.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
One of the things we are going to be doing with our home care increases this year is try to deliver some further home care service for some of our seniors in the outlying communities, who, I think, also need a measure of attention, and that's something we are going to be doing.
But as I indicated earlier, we're looking at an overall senior strategy. We are trying to address many of the problems that are going to be facing us with an increasing seniors population in the next few years.
Question re: Transient shelter
Mrs. Edelman: Well, Mr. Speaker, my question is also for the Minister of Health and Social Services. There are concerns about the ongoing delay in the startup of the new transient shelter. This project has been postponed a number of times in the last 18 months. We finally have a building. We had to kick out Crossroads Society to get it, but we do have a building.
Mr. Speaker, we are only about a month away from the so-called peak demand for shelter services. Will the shelter be open to meet the needs demand?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Yes, Mr. Speaker, it will be. We are anticipating that at this time we will have at least the men's component of the residents up by the 17th. There are a number of physical changes that we've had to do to get it ready, and some of those yet have to be done.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, another concern raised in a recent news article was that there has not been any work done to evaluate outside shelters or Maryhouse to transfer some of their knowledge to our own shelter. Can the minister tell the House why other people in the shelter field were not asked for their advice?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I'm afraid that's not the case. We actually did do some investigation of some different options. However, we had consultations, for example, with Maryhouse as to what they saw as the need. I, myself, met with Maryhouse and tried to get a sense of what we were looking at - what kinds of demands. We are quite prepared to deliver that service. We have some physical issues. I can go through the details. I can see the member is shaking her head. She doesn't want the details.
We are trying to accommodate this as fast as possible. We expect that this will be fully functioning in all aspects by May.
Mrs. Edelman: Well, I hope we can get that detail by letter or by legislative return. Please don't give it to us now.
Mr. Speaker, speaking with city officials today, I have determined that the minister has yet to even apply for an occupancy licence from the City of Whitehorse for the operation of the homeless shelter. Can the minister tell this House if he plans to open this house without a licence or is he planning to follow the rules, like the rest of us do.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: We are following all the necessary rules; however, I think we're not looking at anything substantially different in terms of the kind of utilization of this building. Government Services is handling the question of necessary occupancy permits and things of that nature.
We will be playing by all the rules.
Question re: Alcohol and drug treatment centre
Mrs. Edelman: My question is, again, for the Minister of Health and Social Services.
Mr. Speaker, I have some questions about the government's new alcohol and drug treatment centre. The minister has told the House that this program was well-researched and would be ready to go on April 1. A recent report in the local media raises concerns about whether this is, in fact, the case. It appears that things are not ready to go. The situation in the new treatment program has been described as chaotic and totally, totally disorganized.
If this program is ready to go and not rushed through, as I suspect it was, can the minister explain why this type of comment is being made?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, I'm not sure who the comment was received from. I noticed that it was an unattributed source and I'm always somewhat suspicious of that. However, I can tell the member that we've already done one treatment round. We've also completed a post-treatment. We're going into a third sort of treatment round. We've had individuals join us from Kwanlin Dun to see how that program could be delivered. So, from our point of view, we are delivering the program and I can only suspect that the person who is venturing this probably has some kind of dispute with how things have changed.
Mrs. Edelman: Well, Mr. Speaker, that's interesting, because the rush to implement this program has had other negative impacts. One of those has been to create serious morale problems for staff at the new facility. This has been caused, again, by a lack of planning.
The minister's haste has gotten us into this problem. What's he going to do to address the issue?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Yes, Mr. Speaker. I'm not exactly sure what the member means as a "morale problem." Perhaps if she's got some information there she could pass it on. Certainly, that isn't the message that I have heard. I've talked with our director of ADS. I've talked with folks in the department and they are quite satisfied that things are proceeding as they should.
So, we're feeling positive about the program. We're very hopeful that the program is going to deliver the kinds of services we need.
Mrs. Edelman: Well, Mr. Speaker, I'm glad that the universe is unfolding as it should - according to the minister.
Now, can the minister tell the House what the uptake on the new program has been? There have been, I understand, two programs started in the last few weeks. Have they been full? What sort of numbers are we looking at for residential treatment, and is there a strong demand for this type of service? I'd be quite willing to get some of this information in written format.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I can provide that for the member in written format.
Question re: Pioneer utility grant
Mr. Jenkins: Once again, my question is for the Minister of Health and Social Services.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Speaker: Order please.
Mr. Jenkins: With the closure of the Faro mine, Yukoners can expect to receive yet another increase in their power bills, of which people with fixed incomes, such as our seniors, will be especially hard hit. As the minister is aware, the pioneer utility grant was first introduced in 1978 to help seniors with their heating costs. While this grant has served many seniors very well over the years, it has not been increased since 1985.
In view of the cancellation of the electrical rate relief program, and yet another hike in Yukoners' power bill, I'd like to ask the minister if he will agree to review the pioneer utility grant and give serious consideration to increasing the grant as a means to help Yukon seniors with their heating and electrical costs?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, as the member ...
Speaker: Minister of Health and Social Services.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I apologize for leaping up like that.
As the member is aware, the pioneer utility grant does provide assistance to our seniors. However, as the member's also aware, this department is under continuing pressure from SA costs and, at this point, we are not looking at an increase in the pioneer utility grant.
Mr. Jenkins: But just look at the track record. One of the reasons for not increasing the pioneer utility grant pertains to the fact that, when the previous Yukon Party government took office, it was faced with a huge debt and a deficit, thanks to the former NDP government. The financial mess that was inherited, coupled with the significant cuts in transfer payments from the federal government, did not leave the previous government with much at all.
Even so, I'd like to add that programs such as home care, Handy Bus and continuing care programs were expanded significantly, once the Yukon Party government was able to get its financial house in order.
While I'm pleased to hear that the government is reviewing the pioneer utility grant, I'm disappointed that he's not considering any increase in that grant. What other options is the minister exploring to compensate for this lack of increase in the pioneer utility grant, Mr. Speaker?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, we take a look at all of our programs, particularly our programs for seniors, and try to ensure that they meet the necessary needs.
I can tell the member there that he is indulging in a bit of revisionist history. After all, it was the previous Yukon Party government that decided to do a bit of a slice and dice on social assistance programs. What we've attempted to do is to maintain the seniors income supplements and seniors pioneer utility grants.
Yes, we would always like to be able to add more to these, but at this point, having added a substantial amount into the Health and Social Services budget last year and increasing it again this year, it is not within our means.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, since this NDP government took office over a year and a half ago, Yukoners have witnessed massive electrical rate increases again and again, contrary to its election commitment to provide affordable power and stabilized power rates for all Yukoners. This is reflected in an increased cost primarily for those who can't afford it, those on fixed incomes.
Now, our seniors need some added benefits from this government. Why is all the emphasis on social assistance cost and why can't the minister direct some of his funds within his department to increasing the pioneer utility grant? Why will the minister not give that avenue some consideration for Yukoners?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Since the brunt of the question -
Speaker: Order please.
Hon. Mr. Harding: - was made up of some very incorrect statements on electrical rates, as the minister responsible for the Yukon Energy Corporation, I have to stand up and-
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Harding:
I can hear some heckling from the member who is too afraid to ask a question ...
Speaker: Order please. I would ask the members to stop their heckling, please.
Hon. Mr. Harding: - the heave-ho from the Legislature.
Mr. Speaker, I'd like to say - over the heckling of the Member from Riverdale North, who has joined us today - to the member opposite that the Yukon Party was the party that in response to our budget said, "O&M bad, capital good."
That was all he had to say. Now they stand up today and try to pretend that they are somehow proponents of increases in Health and Social Services programs which are part of O&M. Well, I want to tell the members opposite -
Speaker: Order please. Order. I would ask the members to stop their heckling.
Hon. Mr. Harding: - and social services spending than any other government in this country at a time when all other governments are cutting back their budgets in that area, and we're very proud of that.
With regard to the statements that were made, they were so incorrect on the issue of power rates. In fact, since our government has come to office, a 20-percent power rate decrease and a 5.5-percent power rate decrease. In another couple of months, there will be a 3.3-percent decrease. But, Mr. Speaker, let me also say that the energy commission has brought forward a principle for rate stabilization, something that Yukoners have asked for for a long time. We're listening to Yukoners. We're trying to settle out the roller-coaster rides of electrical rates in this territory as they are influenced by major industrial customers. That's what Yukoners told us to do -
Speaker: I'll ask the member to conclude please.
Hon. Mr. Harding: That's what the energy commission is doing, and we're proud of it.
Question re: Aishihik Lake compensation claims
Mr. Cable: Now that we have the minister warmed up, I've got some questions for the minister with his energy minister hat on in relation to the Aishihik Lake compensation claims. Last year, the Energy Corporation announced a compensation plan for people affected by the operations of the Aishihik Lake dam, and the utility said last October that they had received 75 claims and were going through the claims to see if there were any duplicate claims made by members of the same family.
Would the minister tell the House if the number of claims has been sorted out yet, and, if so, what the number is?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, I'm disappointed today. I haven't received a question on the Unity Foundation from the Member for Riverdale North. But having not received one, I'm pleased to answer the Member for Riverside's question on Aishihik Lake.
I don't know whether the member is asking me to interfere in the workings of the corporation, or rather if he's seeking some information about something that the corporation is doing.
Given last week or two weeks ago he was accusing me of interfering when, in fact, that wasn't the case, and he felt that all direction to the utility should only be through Cabinet order, I'm a little confused as to why he would put this question to me now. However, I will try and get some more detailed responses from the Energy Corporation. I might even phone them up directly and ask them to provide that information.
Mr. Cable: Well, I certainly didn't want to say anything negative about the minister. But, when he's whispering in the ear of the corporation president, could he also ask him what is the total amount of compensation being claimed? Have they defined that amount yet? Just approximately - is it $100,000 or $10 million or $100 million? What is the exposure to the taxpayers?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, now that the opposition says that I'm allowed to talk to the Energy Corporation administration and board again, I will be happy to get that information for the member.
Mr. Cable: While he's on this mission, the Energy Corporation said that the reason it was inviting the claims for compensation was to clear the decks of this issue before the hearings - before the renewal of the Energy Corporation's water licence. When is this re-licensing hearing scheduled? Is it this fall or next spring? Just what is the approximate date and when do these claims have to be cleared off the deck, so that the hearing can go forward?
Hon. Mr. Harding: My understanding from my discussions with the board of the Energy Corporation, the president and the administration is that they are proceeding in the re-licensing process. There's a lot of work that has to be done, or so they've told me. They're working through the various scientific issues as they pertain to the effect on the lake. They're working through the issues of the economics of the lake and the environmental issues surrounding the lake. They're also dealing with long-standing concerns by the First Nation in the area as to the compensation questions that they firmly believe are the responsibility of the federal government.
All of these issues are being worked on. I don't believe that there's a finalization yet of any plan to go before the Yukon Utilities Board for re-licencing. However, I will, given the member's question, proceed to trying to get some more detailed information with regard to the re-licencing process, and hopefully we'll be in a position to respond to the member opposite. Hopefully, I can do that without a very bureaucratic, complicated process of only communicating through a Cabinet order-in-council.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed. We will proceed to Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
GOVERNMENT PRIVATE MEMBERS' BUSINESS
MOTIONS OTHER THAN GOVERNMENT MOTIONS
Clerk: Motion No. 117, standing in the name of Mr. Fentie.
Motion No. 117
Speaker: It is moved by the Member for Watson Lake
THAT it is the opinion of this House that
(a) the interests of Yukon people are not represented by an appointed and unaccountable Senate;
(b) an unelected Senate is neither useful nor suitable to the needs of a modern parliamentary democracy; and
(c) neither the present Government of Canada nor any of its predecessors has demonstrated the necessary political will to abolish this undemocratic institution; and
THAT this House urges the Prime Minister of Canada to leave any present or future vacancies in the Red Chamber unfilled until such time as the Constitution Act can be amended to abolish the Senate of Canada.
Mr. Cable: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker.
Point of order
Speaker: On a point of order. The Member for Riverside.
Mr. Cable: I'd like to draw the Speaker's attention to the calling of the motion yesterday, and I'll read the comments of the government House leader, found at page 2859 of the Blues, and this is the Member for Faro speaking:
"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.
Then, in the next paragraph:
"Mr. Speaker, I misspoke myself. Motion No. 116 is actually the first motion we'll be debating."
So, the motion called first is Motion No. 116 and the second motion is No. 105. Now, 116 is our motion, the Liberal caucus motion, so that can't be called.
Now, I listened to the tape and what was on the tape was a whisper after the word "116", the word "abolition". So I assume what the government House leader was attempting to do was introduce some motion on slavery or alcohol, and he misspoke himself.
The rules are fairly clear, in my view, Mr. Speaker, and I'll refer you to rule 72(3). It says that the Clerk shall provide for the editing of the transcript in accordance with the following: (a) and then (b) - which is the relevant one - "no material alterations nor any amendments that would, in any way, tend to change the sense of what has been spoken shall be made."
Now, this is no criticism of the Clerk, and I want that clear for the record. He was trying to divine what was in the government House leader's mind, and I'm sure his trying to divine what is in any of our minds is a difficult task.
So it's my proposition to you, Mr. Speaker, that Motion No. 116, in its reincarnation on the Order Paper as 117, falls off the Order Paper, and 105 moves up to the top of the Order Paper.
The government House leader has clearly, in his final position, called Motion No. 116, and this does not revive his previous comment, where he attempted to call 117. Of course, if 105 passes, as I expect it will fairly easily, then we can get on with the budget.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Speaker: Government House leader, on the point of order.
Hon. Mr. Harding: Mr. Speaker, we, in calling the motions yesterday, were very clear about our position on calling 117. There were some members in the House who made a mistake about the actual number of the motion and, subsequently hearing that, I raised the issue of 116. I thought I had made it perfectly clear to the House. I haven't had the benefit of listening to the tape. The member didn't do the courtesy of giving us any indication that he was going to raise this point of order, which I would say is somewhat disturbing on his part.
However, I submit that, in looking to the Clerk, and also in discussion with the Clerk today, we did, as the servant of the House, raise the issue, and it's our understanding it was very clear from the people who were in this Legislature that 117 was to be called, and will be called for debate today.
I would say that this is a picayune point the member opposite is making, and therefore we should proceed, as we should duly proceed, with the called Motion No. 117 for debate today.
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Speaker, on the point of order.
Speaker: Member for Riverdale North on the point of order.
Mr. Phillips: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. We, in the official opposition, unfortunately, have to disagree with the government House leader and agree with our Liberal colleague. The government House leader said that the Liberal member who raised this - by raising it, it was somewhat disturbing. I think what is somewhat disturbing is the approach that the government House leader takes to his job, in not doing his job in a thorough manner. Obviously, it's clear by the record and the record, Mr. Speaker, is Hansard ...
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Speaker: Order please.
Mr. Phillips: ... that we have in front of us. Our staff follow Hansard. The media follows Hansard. There are rules, as the member has quoted already, with respect to calling notices of motion. It's clear by Hansard that the member wanted to debate Motion No. 116.
We believe, in this case, that the government House leader has fallen down on his job again and that he's made a mistake, and it's at the expense, unfortunately, of the Member for Watson Lake. But we have rules in the House and we have to abide by the rules in the House.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: Order please.
The Chair appreciates the point of order raised by the Member for Riverside. He correctly stated that the content of the Blues for April 14, 1998, indicates that the government House leader said that he meant to call Motion No. 116 for debate today. He also notes that the Order Paper lists Motion No. 117 as the first motion for debate. Motion No. 117 had been identified as the first motion by the government House leader when he first rose to give notice of government private members' business.
The central point that the Chair would make and that was noted by the Member for Riverside is that the government House leader cannot call Motion No. 116 for debate. That motion is standing in the name of the leader of the third party. The government House leader, pursuant to Standing Order 14.2(7), can only call motions standing in the name of the government private members.
Also, the Clerk informs the Chair that he had heard further words from the government House leader, which do not appear in the Blues, but which led him to understand that the intention was to have Motion No. 117 called first today.
It, of course, would make matters clearer for the Chair and all the members if that had been stated by the government House leader and if it had appeared on the record in the Blues.
It is unfortunate that this misunderstanding has taken place. The Chair, however, feels that the House should now proceed with Motion No. 117 because it does appear on the Order Paper, that it was not raised with the Speaker prior to it being called and the government House leader could not have called Motion No. 116 in any event.
I will now recognize the Member for Watson Lake.
Mr. Fentie: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Let me assure the members opposite that this won't be that painful. I'm sure we can get through this this afternoon.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Speaker: Order please.
Mr. Fentie: Mr. Speaker, it is indeed a pleasure to speak to the motion before us today. The motion speaks to some distinct problems with the Senate and it also speaks to a solution.
Now, Mr. Speaker, there are two main issues when it comes to the Senate, and that is the democratic issue and also the fiscal issue.
Let me speak for a moment on the democratic issue. The Senate usually has 104 members. It breaks down in this manner: 24 from the Maritime provinces, 24 from Quebec, 24 from Ontario, 24 from the western provinces, 6 from Newfoundland and one each from the Yukon Territory and the Northwest Territories.
There's also provision for four or eight extra senators to be appointed, and these are from the Maritime Provinces, Quebec, Ontario and the west.
So, on the democratic side - representation - unelected, unaccountable bodies pose obvious problems. And today we're going to speak to the motion and the solution within our motion that is about abolition through attrition.
Senators are appointed by the Governor General on the recommendation of the Prime Minister. They hold office until the age of 75. If they miss two consecutive sessions of Parliament, they would then, from my understanding, be dismissed. Senators must be at least 30 years old, must have real estate worth $4,000 net - and I'm not sure what that has to do with a democratic body - and total net assets of at least $4,000. Again, it seems irrelevant. And they must reside in the province or territory from which they are appointed.
Now, the Senate can initiate any bills except bills providing for the expenditure of public funds or bills that impose taxation. And the Senate can also amend or reject any bill whatsoever. It can also reject any bill as often as it sees fit and, in fact, Mr. Speaker, no bill can become law until the Senate has passed it.
But the truth of the matter is, Mr. Speaker, these powers are indeed formidable; however, over the past 40 years, the Senate has never rejected a bill passed by the House of Commons.
It has very rarely insisted on an amendment that the House of Commons has rejected. Then we get to 1988, and it refused to pass the free trade agreement until it had been submitted to the people in a general election. There was also an issue with the GST. Here's where some of the major problems arise with the democratic issue of this unelected body.
The government of the day, the Conservatives under Brian Mulroney, simply stacked the Senate to make sure that these bills passed. Now, any northerner knows full well that the GST penalizes those of us who live in the north because of the fact we already pay more for our goods and services, and to tack on another seven percent is obviously an unfair taxation to those of us who live in the north. Our own senator disagreed with the GST. However, with the government of the day stacking the Senate, the bills went through with no problem, and today we deal with the impacts of the free trade agreement and GST.
It seems obvious, Mr. Speaker, when we look at some of the facts, that the Senate, the Upper Chamber, is merely a vehicle with which to repay political favours, and I don't think that's what the body was intended to be, and I believe that is a very clear reason why we should abolish it.
The interests of Yukon people are not being represented. In the past, Mr. Speaker, senators were appointed based on their specialized knowledge, long years of experience in legal, business or administrative matters.
Their ranks included ex-ministers, ex-premiers of provinces, ex-mayors, and so on. And it seems today, Mr. Speaker, the only prerequisite to being named to the Senate is that their political stripe is the same as the current Prime Minister.
Let's talk about that for a moment. The Prime Minister of the day has made a record 23 straight unelected Liberal appointments to the Senate. This is the longest unbroken string of partisan appointments to the Senate in Canadian history. It even beats Mulroney's record, who, to make sure that the GST and free trade went through, stacked the Senate.
Mr. Speaker, our own Senator, in November 1997, stated publicly, "I think the Senate should be elected, and if it isn't elected they probably should abolish it." This is from our own Liberal senator from the Yukon. Well, I agree in part with the senator from the Yukon, Mr. Speaker, and I believe the Senate should be abolished. We should abolish it through attrition.
Now, let's look at some of the fiscal realities and take into account the fact that the cost of the Senate is extremely important to the Canadian taxpayer, and recent history shows us that attendance is very questionable in the Upper Chamber, even though the costs remain the same. The projected cost this year is $44.6 million.
Factor in $44 million for the next 10 years, for example., and we are looking at $440-plus million dollars, Mr. Speaker. That is the entire budget of the Yukon Territory.
Last year, Mr. Speaker, a total of 28 senators - over one-quarter of the senators hand-picked by our Prime Ministers - have been absent at least 40 percent of the time. Now, that's pretty disconcerting, considering the fact that the Canadian taxpayer foots the bill for the Upper Chamber - the Chamber, I might add, that puts through legislation in a manner that smacks of partisan politics.
Mr. Speaker, it also became evident with the recent absenteeism of certain senators that they were trying to message this, and when it comes to their spotty attendance, the message that they were trying to deliver to the Canadian public was that the taxpayers are getting good value for the money that we spend on the Senate, and that, we all know, is not the case.
So, I beg to differ with that. I think there are many other ways the $44-plus million could be spent in a much more efficient manner. We just recently heard the debate in Question Period over our seniors, and I would submit that a $44-million expenditure toward seniors' health needs could go a long way to solve some of the problems.
I would like to see this House today give this serious consideration, Mr. Speaker, because I believe, when you think about this, abolishing the Senate is not a bad thing at all. In fact, it would much improve our parliamentary system.
Mr. Speaker, the $44.6 million spent on the Senate this fiscal year does not reflect other costs relating to this Chamber. One of the issues that is with us at present is the fact that both the House of Commons and the Upper Chamber are slated to be refurbished, and I would suggest that hundreds of millions more taxpayers' dollars will go toward these projects.
If we abolish the Senate, another possibility would be for the House of Commons to use that Chamber while the renovations and refurbishings took place in the House of Commons.
In short, this is another way of saving taxpayers' money.
I want to spend a little time, Mr. Speaker, on what the Senate does in the context of what it costs us.
On April 1 of this year - yes, the Member for Porter Creek North is right - on April 1 of this year, the Senate met for only 20 minutes. Further, Mr. Speaker, on April 2, they met for two hours, and the truth of the matter is the Senate sits for three days a week and in 1997 the Senate sat for a total of 66 days, at a cost of $44.6 million.
I'm sure we could all come up with many, many options on how to spend that money more effectively and give the Canadian taxpayer a bigger bang for their buck.
Now, in attempting to solve their image problem, senators are now saying that they haven't got enough work to do. I find that interesting, because in the 40 years that I've researched, they never really did anything anyway. The legislation went through the Senate without a problem. When two specific issues arose, the Prime Minister of the day simply stacked the Upper Chamber with senators of his political leaning to make sure those bills went through.
I, today, urge the Prime Minister to show and exercise leadership. I urge the Prime Minister of the day to address this issue. Though reform for the Senate is not a new issue - Senate reform has been talked about in many regions and many jurisdictions and many ideas have come forward - I urge the Prime Minister to abolish the Senate through attrition. I urge the Prime Minister not to fill vacant seats today until such a time as the Constitution can be amended, so that we can abolish this unelected, unaccountable body from our Parliamentary system.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Speaker, I heard the Member for Watson Lake, in his opening comments, saying that this wouldn't be very painful at all. I hope he feels the same way after I'm done giving my presentation.
Mr. Speaker, I looked at the motion presented by the Member for Watson Lake, saying that we basically abolish the Senate. I have some difficulty with the motion - not a great lot. Some of the things the Member for Watson Lake says are true, and some I take exception to. I believe that, with a little work, the motion could be made to be palatable for all members of this House.
But I do find it somewhat ironic, Mr. Speaker, that this motion to abolish the Senate is presented by the Member for Watson Lake when it's a known fact that this same member drove around for several years with a "Reform" sticker on his bumper and the Reform Party position is for an elected Senate. I think it's very nice of his left-wing colleagues to be so liberal in welcoming a Reformer into their ranks.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Ostashek: A reformed Reformer - well, they say if you're going to move, don't go halfway, go all the way. Go from the extreme right to the extreme left.
Mr. Speaker, the member went on about the Red Chamber being a useless Chamber, and I couldn't agree with him more. The way it's operating now, it is a useless Chamber.
But that doesn't mean we should abolish it. It is only somebody who's on the extreme left who doesn't have a chance of a snowball in you-know-where of forming a federal government who would take the position to abolish the Senate, because they're never going to have to deal with it. They don't have any hope of ever being elected to the federal level.
They do fool the odd territorial citizenry, and the odd provincial citizenry, from time to time, and get elected at a provincial or territorial level for a short period of time, but it's going to be very, very difficult for them to ever hope to be elected on the federal scene. They know it, so they can make all kinds of rash and irrational statements, Mr. Speaker.
The member went on at some length about the 23 Liberal appointments made by our prime minister, and that he even outdid the previous Conservative prime minister in appointments. Well, Mr. Speaker, I shudder when I think what the Senate would look like if we'd ever elected a socialist government in Ottawa. I'm sure that they would have non-partisan appointments; they would appoint all kinds of Conservatives and Liberals, Mr. Speaker.
The fact remains that the way our Senate is operated today, it is a political pork barrel - no doubt about it. But does that really mean that Canadians want the Senate abolished? I don't think so.
We know that the socialists want it abolished.
Mr. Speaker, from my understanding of the political evolution of Canada, the Senate was established for a very specific reason, and that was to give regional representation on a more equal footing to all parts of Canada. Quite clearly that isn't what's happening today.
It is a place where Prime Ministers put their friends of whatever political stripe they are, and I don't believe it would be any different if there were an NDP government in there and an NDP Prime Minister. So, for the NDP to take this holier-than-thou attitude that they would be much fairer is just wrong. It's totally wrong, Mr. Chair, but they're noted for that. They're noted for taking that attitude of don't do as we do; do as we say.
Mr. Chair, I don't believe that abolishing the Senate would improve on our parliamentary system at all. What we would be left with is a democratic dictatorship, such as they have in other jurisdictions where you go to the polls once every four or five years and you elect a government, especially a majority government. And we can see a perfect example of it in the Yukon today, where we have a government that is very, very arrogant because they have a large majority. They don't care what the opposition says. They don't care what Yukoners say. They're going to do it because they've got a large majority, and that comes out day after day after day.
Our parliamentary system, the British parliamentary system, was built with checks and balances and most checks and balances ought to be restored. So, I don't believe that we ought to throw out the Senate; we ought to fix it. We ought to fix it so it is a useful body and does provide the regional representation that this country so dearly needs and desires, and so regions of Canada would not feel alienated because they're not in the mainstream of the population of Ontario.
We would do far better if we had a body that had some legislative powers, had some teeth in it and gave some equal representation to all Canadians, Mr. Speaker. And I believe that was the position of the Member for Watson Lake when he belonged to the Reform Party; that we have an elected and equal and effective Senate.
Now, he wants to abolish it. Well, I guess that "half a loaf is better than no loaf," is what he's saying. "If we can't have it elected, now that I'm with the NDP, I will move to have it abolished." Well, I can't support that, Mr. Speaker. I can't support that at all, because I believe that the Senate could be a very effective body and could be very cost-effective for Canadians by providing the checks and balances that are so dearly required in our parliamentary system.
Mr. Speaker, I don't believe that the member has really thought out what he is proposing here in this motion today - just simply abolishing the Senate and just living under the elected House of Commons. Now, as I said earlier, I know that that's probably a good feeling now, because the Senate isn't very effective, but I would urge him to consider the other side of the coin. By reforming the Senate, we, in jurisdictions such as the Yukon, could have a say in what's happening in our country. I don't think that that would be so bad.
Right now, we're represented by one MP, and for the past 10 or 15 years or so - 10 years, I guess - it's been represented by a party that doesn't even have a hope of ever being in power. So, we have been totally muzzled in the House of Commons. We have an absentee senator, who doesn't live in the Yukon, so we're not getting any support there - a Liberal senator, by the way. So, there are some things wrong with our system, and things could be improved quite easily if we could only get the attention of all Canadians.
Mr. Speaker, people in Ontario really don't care, because they elect - they get 100 or in excess of 100 seats in the House of Commons. They have a tremendous influence in what happens in this country.
We don't enjoy that status in Canada when we have one MP. Even if we had an MP from the governing party, really how much benefit would we get out of that?
Now, if we had a Senate that had equal representation from all of the regions of Canada, regardless of the population, I believe that we would have probably a lot more power in that body than we have in the House of Commons. I think that's what we should be striving for as legislators in the territory, not just to espouse the political rhetoric of the federal NDP and abolish the Senate, because it's good for Canadians. I don't believe that. I don't believe that for one minute. But,
I do believe that we could reform our Senate and have a body that would be more representative of the people of Canada.
Mr. Speaker, I'm not going to speak to this motion forever, but I am going to propose an amendment to it, because I cannot support the motion about abolishing the Senate completely. I think that would be, as the saying goes, throwing the baby out with the bath water, because I do believe that an elected Senate would give us much more say on the federal scene than what we have now, and I've stated my reasons for that.
Mr. Ostashek: I move
THAT Motion No. 117 be amended by deleting the words "abolish the Senate of Canada" and substituting for them the following: "create a triple-E Senate, a Senate that is fully elected, is effective, and is equal in representing the diverse regions of Canada."
Speaker: It has been moved by the leader of the official opposition that Motion No. 117 be amended by deleting the words "abolish the Senate of Canada" and substituting for them the following:
"create a triple-E Senate, a Senate that is fully elected, is effective, and is equal in representing the diverse regions of Canada."
Mr. Ostashek: With the amendment, it would give the motion a wording that we in the Yukon Party caucus could wholeheartedly support, and I don't believe it takes away from the motion that was put forward by the Member for Watson Lake.
I believe that the intent of his motion was to abolish the Senate because it's a useless body, a useless institution, and I agree with him on that, that it is. But I don't believe we need to abolish it.
Mr. Speaker, that's why we have not tinkered with the first part of the member's motion:
"THAT it is the opinion of this House that:
"(a) the interests of Yukon people are not represented by an appointed and unaccountable Senate".
We totally agree with that, but we believe that, by having an elected Senate, senators would be accountable to the Yukon people and would be effective.
Sentence (b) of that motion says, "an unelected Senate is neither useful nor suitable to the needs of a modern parliamentary democracy". Well, I'd suggest to the Member for Watson Lake that neither is just having a House of Commons in a country that is made up like Canada is, with a great disparity of populations in different regions of the country.
If the Member for Watson Lake feels so adamantly that a House of Commons is the only vehicle that we need for representation, then his motion ought to have addressed that, Mr. Speaker, by changing how we elect members to the House of Commons and not just have it strictly based on population alone - to have some sort of regional representation. So, if we are going to abolish the Senate completely, rather than taking it back and restructuring the way it was restructured in the first place, to give regional representation to Canadians, then we ought to consider that we restructure our House of Commons and how we elect our MPs, and that we don't just do it on a popular-vote basis - the one who comes in first is the MP for the region, regardless of the vote. There needs to be some sort of regional representation built into that.
But I believe that we could continue to have a House of Commons that's elected in the manner we have today, where we know full well that, as a region of Canada with a small population, we will never have a strong voice in the House of Commons, but we would have an equal voice in a triple-E Senate, where there is the same number of senators from each region of Canada, however it be divided. At least, we would be on equal footing with other Canadians. And Yukoners - and western Canadians, especially - would not feel so alienated from our parliamentary and democratic system in this country.
Mr. Speaker, in section (c) of the motion it says, "neither the present Government of Canada nor any of its predecessors have demonstrated the necessary political will to abolish this undemocratic institution".
Now, I believe that we do require a Senate, but I don't believe - and I agree wholeheartedly with the Member for Watson Lake - that we require a Senate in its present form. So if Canadians across this country were to put pressure on their political leaders for a reformed Senate, I believe it would happen. Then I think we would have a system of democracy in Canada that we could all be proud of, that we could all participate in, that would give us some accountability, and we don't need to wait for glaring misuses of public trust, as we've seen senators use, to bring this issue to a head.
The idea of a triple-E Senate isn't new. It's been around for many, many years. In fact, it was agreed to, at one point - at least partway, not totally - and in the Meech Lake Accord, I believe it was agreed to a certain extent that there would be elected senators.
I believe that we could get back to that position in Canada today without too much effort on the parts of Canadians if they really want it.
Mr. Speaker, I proposed this motion because I believe wholeheartedly that we need a second institution to have checks and balances on a House of Commons that's elected by population and population alone, and that we are badly under-represented in the House of Commons. With a repair and a rejuvenation of the Senate, we would feel that we had some representation at the federal level and would probably make all Yukoners a lot prouder to be Canadians, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Fentie: Well, Mr. Speaker, it's always very interesting to hear the leader of the official opposition when he makes reference to the fact that I somehow am a Reformer and in looking at the amendment to the motion, I would question who is the Reformer because a triple-E Senate is very much the Reform Party of this country's position on our Senate. So, I can't support the amendment whatsoever, Mr. Speaker. The motion is clear. The motion spells out that the Senate is not working and the solution is to abolish through attrition.
I want to point something else out to the Member for Porter Creek North when he makes reference to me being right-wing. When we look at this side of the House, we have teachers, we have women, we have First Nations, we have people from the brother- and sisterhood, the labour movement, we have people with a great deal of experience, we have people from the mining industry and from rural communities. I would challenge the Member for Porter Creek North to offer Yukoners a better option than this. This is balanced, Mr. Speaker.
Now, the member makes reference, with his amendment, to the House of Commons and the relationship of the Senate and the need to have a body that basically is a check and balance to the House of Commons. My issue with that is, I don't think we need a $44.6 million check and balance, when every four years we have the Canadian public passing judgment on the government.
So, is this an effective, efficient expenditure? Not at all, Mr. Speaker, and it's clear that there can only be one solution, and that is to abolish the Senate through attrition by not filling vacancies and by moving on with improving government in this country.
So, Mr. Speaker, I do not support the amendment before us, and I believe that the way we must proceed in this legislation today is the motion before us, and that is the abolition of the Senate through attrition.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise and enter into this debate this afternoon. It was my intention to stand in support of the motion of my colleague from Watson Lake. We now have an amendment before us from the Yukon Party, and I cannot support that amendment.
Mr. Speaker, the Canadian Senate costs Canadian taxpayers approximately $60 million a year - $60 million to run the Senate each year, which, in the opinion of many, is $60 million too much.
There are fundamental problems associated with that institution. The Senate sits for three days a week. It sat 66 days in 1997 and has sat between 60 and 70 days since 1990 - not many more days than we sit in the Yukon in our Legislative Assembly for a population of less than 35,000 people.
The Hill Times, an Ottawa-based newspaper that focuses on activities on Parliament Hill, recently published articles that focused on the poor attendance record of senators.
Over a quarter of the Senate, a total of 28 senators, have been absent at least 40 percent of the time last year. Over an entire year, with 66 sitting days, 28 senators were absent at least 40 percent of the time. The response from the Senate has been to ask for more work to do, which the federal government does not support.
Now, the Member for Porter Creek North spoke about NDP governments being elected where they had been able to fool the people in provinces and territories. Mr. Speaker, we did not fool the people. We won the support of the Yukon public by talking to the electorate. We presented our platform to the public and we are delivering on our agenda.
The leader of the official opposition accused the government of having a holier-than-thou attitude about making Senate appointments: Oh, my goddess, Mr. Speaker, let me tell the member this. When an NDP government is elected in Canada, you will not see an NDP government make partisan appointments. A federal NDP government would make no appointments to the Senate. Our party's federal policy supports the abolition of the Senate, like many Canadians, and for good reasons.
Unlike federal Liberals, who campaign as New Democrats and champion social programs when they're out stumping for votes and then govern like Conservatives and slash social service spending, make cuts to health care and education funding, New Democrats govern according to their principles, before and after elections.
To repeat: a federal New Democrat government will not make appointments to the Senate. We would abolish it.
Let me give another good reason - a prudent, fiscal argument, Mr. Speaker, for the abolition of the Senate. Hundreds of millions of dollars have been budgeted for renovations and refurbishment for the Senate and the House of Commons. A major expense in this budget results from the cost of moving the House of Commons into a temporary Chamber in the west block cafeteria and back, and then doing the same for the Senate. But, if the Senate was abolished, MPs could just then move down the hall. Millions of taxpayer dollars would be saved. And, in the roughly $40 million that it costs each year to run the Senate, those savings would continue to get larger.
Mr. Speaker, I think that when Canadians look at the $65,000 salary and the $50,000 expense allowance that senators receive for their 66 days of service in a year, they do not see a good bargain for their money.
Another reason to support the abolition of the Senate is the patronage appointments that are made. As the Member for Watson Lake pointed out, in just four years Prime Minister Chrétien has made a record 23 straight unelected Liberal appointments to the Senate. This is the longest unbroken string of partisan appointments to the Senate in Canadian history, a record that even surpasses Brian Mulroney's eight years in office, a record that is even worse than making a larger Senate so that you can appoint more partisan supporters for the government party in order to win votes in the Senate.
We in the government do not support the Yukon Party triple-E Senate amendment to merely reform the Senate by making it elected. Mr. Speaker, as the Member for Watson Lake made clear in his motion before the House, which I'm happy to support, we support a double-A Senate - abolish by attrition.
I believe that the support of the Canadian public is very strong in starting with mandatory attendance requirements and start by having the 28 senators who attended less than 40 percent of the business days of the Senate last year resign from their positions.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Ms. Duncan: I'm pleased to rise today to address the amendment put forward by the leader of the official opposition and to speak on the motion as well on behalf of our party and our caucus.
One has to begin the whole discussion of the amendment by examining the initial reaction of constituents - of Yukoners - to the notion that the Yukon Legislative Assembly is going to spend several hours at what the Member for Faro refers to as $1,000 an hour, discussing what best to do with Canada's Red Chamber.
Mr. Speaker, there's a 15.7-percent rate of unemployment in this territory. There's a Yukon budget of $442 million - $70 million in capital - a good deal of which remains undebated in this public forum. There's a forestry policy the Yukon Legislature is waiting and waiting and waiting for. A decision on the Yukon hire commission recommendations is forthcoming to this Legislature, we hope. My caucus colleagues are looking for answers on key issues of seniors housing, and looking forward to constructive debate on the allocation of health care dollars.
So many topics are very, very important in the daily lives of Yukoners. These topics, I noted, are about the unemployed heavy equipment operator, who lives not just in Porter Creek North, but in Porter Creek South, in Faro, in Mayo, in Watson Lake and in Dawson. These topics are about the long-term health of Yukon forests and forest industries. These topics are about Yukoners, about members' constituents. However, we're not spending our time and our taxpayers' dollars talking about these issues - we're going to talk about the Senate.
Members can rest assured that I'm not going to suggest that we not discuss this issue. Those who word-weave and who clip Hansard, to wave it around in election campaigns, can relax. I am fully prepared to discuss any issue of Canadian politics, anytime, anywhere. If I didn't have the utmost of respect for the political process and for Canadian politics and Canadian institutions, I wouldn't enjoy this job - which I do.
My point is that on the list of items that have a direct, immediate impact on the lives of Yukoners and matters which we, as members, can influence, the form and functioning of the Senate isn't the highest. However, I won't belabour the point.
We have entered into a debate today on the Senate, as one of our Canadian institutions. The Member for Watson Lake, in introducing this motion, has gone on and on about the cost. The Member for Mount Lorne has gone on and on about the cost, lack of productivity, and which government has appointed more members. There is a whole lot of focus in comments contained from the other side about the cost of the Senate. Mr. Speaker, can you imagine your constituents saying that the $3 million spent on the Yukon Legislative Assembly could be better spent on something else? No - the cost of democratic institutions is a fact of life.
And that is not to say it is not incumbent upon us to be mindful on these costs and to hold these costs in check. That is a subject for another day. The point is that the difference - if the Member for Whitehorse West would quit carping and let me finish my sentence - between discussing our Legislature and the Senate is the term "elected".
Members have quoted the Yukon senator in this debate quite extensively and I would ask to be given an opportunity to quote this individual who has represented the Yukon since 1975. Allow me to quote him correctly. In his address to the Senate just late last month, March 24, 1998, Senator Lucier said, "I have a copy of the report of the Special Joint Committee on Senate Reform tabled in both Houses of Parliament in January of 1984. Although most of the committee hearings were held in 1983, 15 years ago, the committee travelled across Canada from sea to sea to sea and listened to Canadians from all walks of life. There was even a public meeting held in Whitehorse."
The first line of that committee's report reads, "We have concluded that the Canadian Senate should be elected directly by the people of Canada." Senator Lucier went on to say, "I do not try to claim credit for many things in this Chamber, but I fought not only for those words to be included, but that they be the first words of the report. Fifteen years later, I feel exactly the same way and I have never wavered."
The Senator went on in his address to the Chamber to make a reference to the choice that the Fathers of Confederation made in an appointed Senate. They chose an elected House, an appointed Senate and a Governor General to form the Parliament of Canada. What was likely the only acceptable solution at the time, in the senator's view - and a view I share - should be revisited.
Senate reform has been everyone's favourite goal since shortly after Confederation. The senator goes on to say, "Let us get on with a truly elected Senate."
Now, the Member for Mount Lorne indicated that Canadians don't support an elected Senate and seemed to put forward the view that everyone is of the mind that the only choice is abolition, when, in fact, the amendment has put forward another alternative, as the Charlottetown Accord put forward another alternative. And I'd just like to remind members of what the Charlottetown Accord recommended - and I have an excerpt - in the reference to institutions: a) the Senate; point number 7, an elected Senate; point number 8, an equal Senate; point number 9, aboriginal people's representation in the Senate. It even spelled out the relationship to the House of Commons, categories of legislation, revenue and expenditure bills, legislation material affecting French language and French culture, bills involving fundamental tax policy changes directly related to natural resources, ordinary legislation, and on and on.
I would also like to remind members that the Charlottetown Accord made reference to fair and responsive institutions, and there has been some suggestion that there be leadership demonstrated. Well, leadership is about making sure that our institutions are fair and responsive and that we, in making decisions and remarks, be fair and responsive.
It's interesting to note that the Charlottetown Accord, with all of these points about the Senate - the point that it be an elected Senate, an equal Senate - I would like to remind members that on March 29, the NDP leader at the time, Mr. Pennikett, is quoted in Hansard as saying, "We had the Charlottetown Accord, which I supported."
Interestingly enough, there was an exchange a short time ago between my colleague, the Member for Riverside, and the Government Leader. My colleague pointed out that, "It seemed to me - and maybe the Government Leader, who was there and could tell us - that the Charlottetown Accord had a triple-E Senate in it." And the now Government Leader responded that the Yukon government supported the Charlottetown Accord. Now, the Charlottetown Accord method of dealing with the Red Chamber, the Senate, is to suggest that it be elected and equal and effective. And that is the substance of the amendment put forward by the leader of the official opposition.
The point I feel needs to be uppermost in members' minds in this discussion is thoughtful consideration of our democratic institutions. Another member today has noted, "throwing the baby out with the bath water", and it seems to me that that's what the abolition of the Senate does. It simply says, "that's not working, throw it out," without true and careful consideration of what the institution has done.
Now, there's been some suggestion that the Senate does little, that members there are simply patronage appointments with no abilities or prerequisites for being able to give thoughtful consideration to debates.
It's interesting that one of the members of the Senate, Senator Ernest Manning, spent years in the Alberta Legislature, served as premier of that province and was then subsequently appointed to the Senate. Did anyone say "No, that individual's not qualified" or, "That individual's not capable of voting on issues of concern"?
The Senate has, in some people's minds - perhaps not the members' opposite, but in some Canadians' minds - made improvements to legislation. They have been able to provide another method of representing people in their region. They have produced some work of merit and they have indeed proven themselves to be a chamber of sober second thought.
To simply suggest that because one is not of the same political stripe as members present, as members of another house, or to suggest that they are incapable somehow of making decisions on behalf of Canadians so we should simply do away with the institution, doesn't give any real merit to the discussion held by those who designed and chose our form of government.
Perhaps with the benefit of hindsight, they would have chosen a method such as what was proposed in the Charlottetown Accord and what is proposed in the amendment today.
The Senate of Canada should be elected, effective and equal in representing all Canadians.
I believe the amendment put forward is appropriate for this discussion, and I would indicate that I'm prepared to support the amendment. I feel it is a more appropriate solution than simply abolishing the Senate, which was created for good reason, in the minds of some, as a Chamber of sober second thought, and that one should not be too quick to dismiss the actions of others without giving them some serious consideration and thought.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I am happy and pleased to be providing a few thoughts today on the subject before us and indicating where I would like to see things go, if I was in a position to wave the wand and influence the creation of a political order that would respond well to the interests of the public at large, from coast to coast to coast.
I can tell you that the amendment before me today, speaking to the triple-E Senate proposal, is a bit of a puzzle, and I'll explain why. I'll also further explain why I can support the main motion and not the amendment.
First of all, we have heard from the leader of the official opposition, who has fancied himself as the free thinker and doesn't want to be bound by the ideology of the federal NDP, and then gets us all locked into the dogma of the Reform Party on the same subject. He has indicated that he feels that, while he can gracefully accept the notion that the appointed Senate is flawed, there must be another body - a body other than the Parliament of Canada - to ensure appropriate balance and to respond to regional concerns. I'll explain briefly why I think that's a flawed concept - a non sequitur.
The Liberal leader has started off by suggesting that we were wasting our time in the Legislature by even addressing the issue, and went on to say, essentially making the same argument, that perhaps the only way to handle regional difficulties is to have another Legislature that, perhaps, has better regional representation. Again, I will explain why I think there are other alternatives, and I would argue that perhaps even our own little Legislature here in the Yukon is such an alternative.
Mr. Speaker, I would point out that your riding has a couple of hundred electors; my riding has a couple thousand electors. We don't object to the fact that so few residents in Old Crow have a voice such as yours in the Legislature, Mr. Speaker, because we are essentially accommodating the notion of regional representation through the design of the electoral boundaries here. It's a tradition that we hold dear in our territory, and, I say, in Canada as well.
One might also argue of course, Mr. Speaker, that the 30,000 people who live in the Yukon have substantial representation in Canadian Parliament, given the disparities between the size of the ridings in Yukon and, say, a riding in metro Toronto.
But what I found fascinating, Mr. Speaker, was that the speakers on the opposite benches, from time to time have this tendency to want to justify this existing institution, and protest that the people in the institution are qualified and that they are interested and concerned citizens who work hard for the people of the country and who represent their regions well.
I want to say, Mr. Speaker, this motion debate is not about attacking the abilities of the individuals who have been appointed to the Senate. It's not about even the attendance records of those individuals. It's not even about the issues that the Senate raises from time to time, whether it be issues that are of some significance to Canadians generally, or not.
In effect, Mr. Speaker, it's not about any of the concerns raised in the past about the dysfunction of this legislative Chamber. This debate is about whether this legislative Chamber should even exist in the first place, and if it should not exist, how it should be eliminated or reformed.
Mr. Speaker, I find it fascinating that we can have the debate in this Legislature - being elected people ourselves - and from time to time allow that some patronage appointments from on high can have substantial political power in this country. This body, this Senate, holds power and it's unelected. We, as democrats, should oppose that on face value. It should be case closed. We have a Parliament already, and it's elected.
Now, Mr. Speaker, the Liberal leader suggests that there are very qualified people in the Senate and that we should respect them for being very qualified and very, very respected individuals. Well, I respectfully say that that is not the point. Whether the people are working hard, whether or not they're working on important subjects, is not the point. The point is that they're not elected.
One of the major and significant reasons for establishing this second Chamber, this so-called Chamber of sober second thought was because the founders of the country, coming out of the nineteenth century, feared the unwashed public. They feared people power. They feared the common citizen - in those days, the male citizen. They feared that that person would be able to inflict their will on institutions of privilege that had been built up over hundreds and hundreds of years, and so they established what they call the "chamber of sober second thought." And this was an anti-democrat spin to justify an undemocratic institution, and so whether the people in the Chamber are respected individuals, or whether or not they have had a respected and laudable parliamentary career in the House of Commons is irrelevant. The fact that they are no longer accountable is entirely relevant. The fact that, as the Liberal leader points out, they may have improved legislation is not the point. In any case, by whose standards have they improved legislation?
The Liberal leader says that they represent their regions well. Who says? Well, who says is the senators themselves and the Cabinet that appointed them, but not necessarily the region from which they come, and that's the point.
Now, there is a lot to say for regular elections. I know it has been promoted in this territory by some people who equally share concerns about the utility of the Canadian Senate - it has been suggested that this Legislature or this government should promote the elections for the next senator, on the assumption that the Prime Minister will respect the election.
Mr. Speaker, let me just say that I find that to be tactically inappropriate. I believe that, to have one elected Senator, or even a handful of elected Senators, would only give some legitimacy, or an air of legitimacy, to this institution, which it clearly does not deserve.
I also believe that if the elected person does not serve for a specific short term, then the notion of accountability and regular accountability back to the electorate will be lost.
For any legislative institution, there ought to be elections and also there should be follow-up elections. The person in political office should feel that they have to once again, or continuously, respond to the will of the electorate when they're making decisions.
Now, with respect to the notion that we must have another institution in order to ensure that there are checks and balances, I believe that is nonsense, and there are many governments in this world that do not have such so-called secondary institutions. I believe that it would be an expensive proposition and I believe it would be unnecessary.
This Legislature does not have a chamber of sober second thought, and no government, including and especially the Yukon Party government, has ever advocated it.
Mr. Speaker, the notion of regional representation can be managed through the existing institutions. The Parliament of Ontario, the Parliament of Nova Scotia, the Parliament of Saskatchewan, British Columbia, Alberta, Manitoba, whether they have a Liberal or a Conservative or a New Democrat government, have all operated without secondary chambers. And the people can still feel perfectly well served, in terms of the regional representation, or in terms of the level of representation, to ensure their issues are raised and duly heard.
So, the notion that there must be a chamber of sober second thought, I can only guess, comes from the Liberals and Conservatives, particularly, who have this longing, built up over many, many years - this longing for the good old days or for some institution that is chock-a-block full of good old boys and girls.
After all, Mr. Speaker, the Senate of Canada has been the lottery for a lot of Liberal and Conservative workers over the years - whether they win or lose elections, they can still win the lottery and be set for life. I can see how there might be a certain substantial nostalgia for that notion. But it is not appropriate, Mr. Speaker, in my view, in any case, to establish an institution, or to continue, live with, support, or show any favour for an institution that is not accountable to the public and that is, by its very design, filled with hard-core, partisan supporters who clearly take a hard-core partisan line on virtually every subject and who do nothing but swallow up millions and millions of dollars of taxpayers' money.
So, Mr. Speaker, from my comments I guess members can gather that I am very cool to the notion of the creation of the triple-E Senate and very supportive of the notion of a single Parliament. However, the Liberal leader suggests that this is a reversal of position and that, at one time, in supporting the Charlottetown Accord, I supported the triple-E Senate.
Well, Mr. Speaker, I have to say that the Charlottetown Accord had some good things in it. It also had some good things, particularly for the Yukon, and particularly for the Yukon Legislature's long-term aspirations, but it was very much a brokered deal, Mr. Speaker and, if the opportunity arises, I think the public of the territory and the Government of the Yukon ought to, once again, be targeting not Senate reform, but Senate abolition, along with promoting the long-term, legitimate, constitutional interests of this Legislature.
I would point out to the member, because she mentioned at some length how the Charlottetown Accord dealt with the Senate by suggesting it should be triple-E, that the people's method of dealing with the Charlottetown Accord was to consign it to the trash bin of history. So to suggest that, somehow, the Charlottetown Accord was a reflection of the popular will of the people of Canada can hardly be justified.
Nevertheless, Mr. Speaker, there will be opportunities for our Legislature, for the people of Canada, to once again consider the future of the Senate of Canada. I do not think it is useful to personalize the debate, to criticize individual members, because the problem that we have - the problem that I have - is with the institution itself.
Certainly, there are issues that people find irritating when they hear about what goes on in the Senate, but the concern that I have had - have always had - is that this institution is not legitimate. I'd point out to the members that, even when the Senate of Canada held up the creation of the GST, something that, on the face of it, I felt somewhat supportive of, I did not agree that the Senate of Canada should have been in that position, because it frustrated the popular will of the people of the House of Commons and the elected people of this country.
So, I would only point out to members that it is useful to think about the institution, not its members. It's important to think about the institution, not what issues it addresses and we should be thinking about an alternative, which is not only cost-effective, but which is responsive to the people of this country. I believe that the House of Commons can be just that alternative.
So, I support the motion, but I can't support the amendment. I don't think the amendment is appropriate, but I do fully understand and support many of the concerns of the member who raised the amendment about the legitimacy of the Senate. On that, we have common ground.
Mr. Cable: We've been speaking about non sequiturs this afternoon. The Government Leader spoke about non sequiturs and we've been speaking about straw-man arguments. The argument, as I understand it, is that there are patronage appointments to the Senate and that the Senate is unelected, therefore we should abolish the Senate. Now, that's a straw-man argument if I ever heard one.
I don't think there are any Canadians today who would suggest that the Senate, as presently constituted, should be continued, that the Senate should be unelected and that there should be patronage appointments. So, that's an argument that we'd be wasting our breath on if we were to pursue it. It's already decided, in my view. I've never met a Canadian on the street who thinks the present situation is satisfactory, but that does not take us to the abolishment of the Senate. There is no necessary logical connection between the criticism of the Senate as presently constituted and the theory that it should be abolished.
Canada is a country 4,000 miles wide and many hundreds of miles deep. There are linguistic divisions between the francophone and non-francophone parts of the country. There are linguistic divisions even in the north.
There are economic divisions between the Maritimes and the west, for example, and the Maritimes and Ontario. And, there are population divisions between our provinces, if we compare Ontario with its 10.5 million and Prince Edward Island with its 130,000 people.
This country is always coming apart at the edges, and checks and balances are needed. I think it's a particular piece of arrogance to suggest that the House of Commons is the sole repository of knowledge in this country. It's arrogant to think that this has been a fact; it's arrogant to think that it is the fact and it's arrogant to think that it would be the fact in the future. A sober second thought is necessary in this country. And a sober first thought would also be helpful, as it would give us two bodies that could initiate legislation.
We're not the first country or the last country, I am sure, to recognize the need for two houses and the checks and balances that that affords. We just have to look to the country to the south, the United States, and many of the countries in Europe - some of the advanced democracies.
Now, the mover of the motion, the Member for Watson Lake, has said that elections of every four years provides a check and balance. I would just remind him of the gun control bill and the national energy plan. Four years is a long time to introduce a check and balance after the fact.
Now, the Americans in the 1700s understood the oppression of power, even, assumedly, well-motivated power, and they built a complex web of checks and balances among the executive branch, the two houses of the Congress, and the judiciary. While it undoubtedly has its cliquey moments, it has served them well. The Americans understood power and the misuse of power, as did many of the European democracies.
A second house was not a protector of power or a protector of the privileged, as has been suggested by the Government Leader. The second house in the United States was and is a protector of the people, not a protector of vested power.
In Canada, there's a strong feeling of regional alienation, that the bigger provinces bully the smaller provinces, that the more populous east bullies the west, and this has given rise to the movement toward empowering the Senate as a protector of the weaker members of the Confederation, and one of the manifestations of this has been the triple-E Senate proposal.
The Charlottetown Accord was one expression of that movement toward empowering, not abolishing, the Senate. The Charlottetown Accord set out the type of relationship that the House of Commons would have with the Senate. It set out categories of legislation and the powers of the Senate in relation to that legislation. It set out the ratification of appointments, and the one appointment specifically mentioned was that the Senate should ratify the appointment of the Governor of the Bank of Canada.
Of course, I'm sure many of the proponents of the triple-E Senate would see the Senate having a role in choosing the Supreme Court justices and many of the other people that form the power blocks in our country.
The Charlottetown Accord was recognized as having value by the NDP government of the day. As a matter of fact, I think the NDP government leader had some role in its negotiations, if we can accept the press releases.
So, I think we have to say that, at some juncture, there beats in the hearts of many of the local NDPs a desire to keep the Senate but reform that Senate.
There was even a motion brought forward in this House by the Member for Vuntut Gwitchin, asking the Senate to shut down the GST. And, of course, many Yukoners were looking to the Senate to hold up the gun control legislation that we witnessed a couple of years ago.
So, I think it's safe to say that the abolishment of the Senate is not foremost in the minds of most people. What they would like to see is some reform of the Senate, and I think the amendment to the motion as presented, while it does not do away with the innuendo suggested in the preamble, it goes sufficiently far in providing a forum for this House to say that the Senate should be changed but not abolished. And as such, I will be supporting the amendment to the motion.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Phillips: I rise in support of the amendment today as put forward by the Member for Porter Creek North. I've had some personal experience with the Senate over the years, primarily as a former Justice minister in the Yukon, with respect to the debate regarding Bill C-68, the firearms legislation.
I have to say, Mr. Speaker, I do have a real problem with the Senate as it's constituted today, and I think most members have admitted that the Senate is certainly not functioning the way Canadians envisioned it. In fact, we've just had some recent examples where a senator had missed most of the Senate days that they sat, even though they sit very few, and even our own senator has been absent from the Senate a significant amount of time.
I think what's important, Mr. Speaker, is that the Senate provides a useful function in Ottawa, and I think there is a role for the Senate as a Chamber of sober second thought. The concern I have at the present time is that there doesn't seem to be much second thought, and there are many questions about how sober the Senate is, from time to time.
The Government Leader spoke here today about his position, and he said he doesn't support the amendment and he doesn't support the creation of a triple-E Senate, but he also went on to say - and other members have said - that the Government Leader, at one time, did support the triple-E Senate.
I find it very interesting that there probably aren't too many people who can do this in politics, but the Government Leader is one who at least tries - of totally flip-flopping on a position, then blaming somebody else and saying that the debate, at the time, was over the Charlottetown Accord. There were some good things and bad things in the Charlottetown Accord, so he sort of had to go with the package, so to speak. There was some give and take.
What's interesting, Mr. Speaker, is that Yukoners weren't aware of what the Government Leader thought was bad in the Charlottetown Accord. In fact, he was, like others, promoting and selling the Charlottetown Accord. So, I'm wondering what other provisions in the Charlottetown Accord the Government Leader supported but opposed.
It's interesting that the Government Leader can do a major flip-flop again, but we've seen that quite a bit with this government, on many, many issues.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Phillips: We can look at A Better Way, and I'll probably be going through that later on tonight on some issues that they've changed their mind on and flip-flopped on. We've already talked about Grey Mountain Primary School. We'll have more discussions about that, as well. We've talked about the wolf kill. We've talked about rate relief. We've talked about all kinds of issues that they took a position on in the spring of 1996 and, upon getting elected, changed their mind and flip-flopped. So, this is just another one of those examples, I guess, where the Government Leader said, "Although I might have given you and other Yukoners the appearance, Mr. Speaker, that I was behind the Charlottetown Accord, I really wasn't."
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Phillips: "I didn't really mean it," as the opposition leader says.
So, I think it's interesting politics, to say the least, when people get called up on the carpet, so to speak, for positions they took and are asked why they've switched 180 degrees. They try to squirm out of it by blaming someone or blaming the overall document, or at least doing their best to get rid of it, and I think that is unfortunate.
I had a problem with the original motion that was put forward by the Member for Watson Lake, and the problem I had is that it talks about abolishing the Senate altogether. The problem I have with that, Mr. Speaker, is that if we do that, the Yukon will have little or no representation in Ottawa.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
We have a Member of Parliament. The member says we have a Member of Parliament. I agree, but when there are important things being discussed, such as the budget, our Member of Parliament thought it wasn't important enough to make a three-day trip to Ottawa and that it was more important to stay home.
So, although the Member of Parliament is not a senator, she was certainly adopting the senators' approach to her job and her role. I certainly had some problems with that. My worry would be if we didn't have this second Chamber, we might not have anybody there in Ottawa.
Maybe the only person we might have in Ottawa, Mr. Speaker, from time to time might be the Member for Whitehorse Centre who might be making the odd trip down there to pay somebody a visit, representing us and not representing us, depending on who one wants to believe.
So, Mr. Speaker, that's one of the concerns I have - that we should be amending this motion and also to require the members, both from not only the Senate but also from the House of Commons, and maybe even this Legislature, to at least be in the Legislature when we're sitting. That would be a good idea. That would be a good idea to make sure that members have to stay here when they're actually sitting and they actually try and represent the constituents who voted them in.
It would be nice if they would do that. So, that might be an interesting amendment to tack onto this - to make it a requirement that to get paid, you had to show up.
So, Mr. Speaker, I have a problem with the main motion. I think that the main motion might leave us with very little or no representation in Ottawa at all, and I still support the idea of a Senate that is useful. I stress that, because I think the one we have now is not very useful and is not providing the role that it's supposed to provide in being a Chamber of sober second thought.
I will tell the members, you know, just for the record, that when I was working hard on Yukoners' behalf to lobby for changes to Bill C-68, there were some senators in Ottawa that were very, very useful. One of them was our Senator Lucier, who helped me get into a bunch of doors, introduced me to several senators and gave me the opportunity to at least present the Yukon's point of view to some of his Liberal colleagues.
The unfortunate thing is that there were some of them who weren't prepared to listen. I do respect Senator Lucier for the position he took on C-68 on behalf of Yukoners. I have a problem, as most Yukoners do, with his record in the Senate overall, but generally speaking, when I have ever had to call Senator Lucier to act on our behalf or to raise an issue on our behalf, I've had a fairly good response, and so I want to thank Senator Lucier for that.
Senator Ron Ghitter, a Conservative senator, was another senator who was very, very helpful with respect to Bill C-68, and also took me around the Senate and got me into the offices of senators that I wouldn't have had the opportunity to meet otherwise, and to present the Yukon's point of view. Also, Senator Ghitter and Senator Lucier were also good in advising me on what position various senators were taking so that when I spoke to them, I knew which areas to address.
I think that at least we had an opportunity to say our piece. We didn't get what we wanted out of it. It didn't work out the way we wanted, but I think the important thing is that there was another level that we could appeal to. There was another opportunity to express to the Canadian people, as Justice ministers from all across this country did in unison, that we felt that Bill C-68 was bad legislation.
Unfortunately, we ended up between a rock and a hard place, as you know - pardon the pun, Mr. Speaker - but Mr. Rock refused to move on Bill C-68. Unfortunately, we are burdened with legislation that I think we will come to regret for many years to come. I believe that it will do very little in the future to reduce violent crime in this country.
I have to say that I have found the Senate somewhat useful in some ways. My problem is that I think that the Senate, as it's constituted today, has outlived its usefulness to Canadians. It has to be revamped. It has to be one that is elected and not one that's appointed.
I can remember that, prior to the last election, there was a great deal of criticism from the Liberal government about the Conservative appointments and how terribly patronizing those appointments were; that there were many Conservatives getting appointed. Lo and behold, Mr. Speaker, shortly after the Liberals took power and vacancies came open in the Senate, the patronage reached a new level and, even as we speak today, it's reaching a new level - everyone forgets about what they said before and just goes out and make patronage appointments to the Senate. It's come back to haunt the Senate and it's going to come back and haunt the members of the House of Commons who have said one thing and done another.
And I think all parties have been guilty of that in the past.
The position by the New Democratic Party, Mr. Speaker, is a position that's easy to take when you won't ever have the ability to make any change. Obviously, that's the case with the New Democratic Party nationally. They never will convince Canadians that their type of politics is the way to go in this country, so it's easy to take these kinds of positions, knowing that you'll never have to be responsible for them and you'll never ever have to follow through with the commitment.
In fact, we've even seen that with this government here, which made a bunch of promises prior to the last election and has broken a lot of them already, because it probably didn't anticipate that it might be lucky enough to form the government. Yukoners are already looking at the Yukon New Democratic Party and are already quite dismayed about the major flip-flops they've made, the promises they made - from the two percent to the employees; they made a commitment; they said it was not necessary, but they didn't give it back. The tax increases - they weren't necessary. In fact, they called them obscene, but they didn't give them back.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Phillips: The Member for Laberge said "not true". Well, when he gets a chance to speak this afternoon, maybe he can tell us, Mr. Speaker, how they gave back the tax increases. It would be interesting to see if -
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Speaker: The Member for Laberge, on a point of order.
Mr. Livingston: I would just ask that the speaker return to the motion debate for this afternoon, please.
Speaker: Would the member continue, please.
Mr. Phillips: There is no point of order. Mr. Speaker, unfortunately the Member for Laberge might be as confused as his government House leader and didn't know what motion we were going to be debating here today. For the information of the Member for Laberge, it's Motion No. 117.
It is about abolishing the Senate - it is about promises the Senates have made and others have made - and so I was talking about the motion. I asked the Member for Laberge to work it out with his government House leader when they figure out where they're at, and maybe, when he rises on points of order in the future, he can maybe be more to the point and realize that we were talking about the motion.
Mr. Speaker, I will be supporting the amendment that's before us here today. I think that there is a need in this country for a house - a body - of sober second thought. I think it should be elected, it should be effective and it should be equal.
As I said before, the Yukon has one lone voice in Ottawa, when she's there, and I think it would be important to hopefully have maybe one or two more voices in Ottawa. I would hope that, if we did go to an elected Senate, that one of the commitments that would be made by the people running for the Senate seat is that they would show up when the House was actually sitting, and that they would do good work on behalf of the people of the Yukon.
So, Mr. Speaker, I will be supporting the amendment that's before us, and urge all members to support it as well.
Mr. Livingston: Mr. Speaker, it's pretty clear that the previous speaker - the Member for Riverdale North - didn't have a whole lot to say. He had to use a lot of filler and a lot of blather, and we were subjected again to that today.
There's a story I heard the other day that reportedly was from a senator. It went something like this: "A funny thing happened to me on the way to the Senate. The plane took a turn south, and I ended up in Mexico. But you know the great thing? They still send me my cheque every month - $65,000 a year, $50,000 in expense allowances. That includes a plane ticket a week to anywhere in Canada, and a staff."
And yet, over a quarter of the senators have been away from the Senate for more than 40 percent of the time. How long do they sit? About three days a week. I note that on April 1, they were sitting for 20 minutes. That's how long the Senate sat on that day. On April 2, it was for a couple of hours.
The members opposite are suggesting that somehow this is about New Democrats or that the government in the Yukon is suggesting that members are incapable, are not worth anything. That's not the point, at all, Mr. Speaker. This point has been made by both Liberal members and Yukon Party members. The simple point is that we have an unelected, unaccountable and unrepresentative body. It costs us lots and lots of dollars a year. The Liberal leader suggests that the Senate does little. Well, I would suggest - in fact, I would say that they do damn little. They do very, very little. They do virtually nothing. The expression "thankless task" doesn't quite fit. It's rather a "taskless thanks". There's not much task. It's taskless because there's not much task there, there's not much work to do, but yet they get a thanks at the end of the day; they do get a cheque. What a deal. It's expensive, Mr. Speaker. Where we need to go is to simply abolish the Senate.
The Government Leader gave us a little bit of a history lesson, and we've heard some revisionist history from those on the other side, as well. Our patriarchs, that is, the Fathers of Confederation - there weren't any mothers there - sat down about 140 or so years ago and looked at what kind of a government to establish in Canada. Of course, they drew from two main experiences: they drew from the British experience, and they drew from the experience of the Americans to the south.
The British experience, of course, is fundamentally aristocratic. It's basically taking those of so-called high birth, in a very class-based society, who supposedly know more, or know something that the rest of us don't. The Government Leader was absolutely right. This was an anti-democratic notion.
This motion was to somehow put an appointed group of property owners in charge of and overseeing the government of the day. Now, there were those who said, "but we can draw a couple of ideas from the Americans," and sure enough, they did. They said, "we can make this a little bit geographically representative," and so we have this notion of regions.
Well, I can tell you what the regions look like, Mr. Speaker. It's not two senators for each state as it is in the United States, but rather 24 for Ontario and one for the Yukon. And I have not seen any proposal, such as the leader of the official opposition suggests, that would bring anything close to equal representation from the Yukon for any other province. Or even if we went on a regional basis - and the Yukon and British Columbia, for example, we were linked together - that somehow we would get an equal number of senators to British Columbia. Mr. Speaker, the official opposition leader is simply dreaming in technicolour on that one.
The experience in the United States hasn't been entirely successful. Indeed, we often see the House of Representatives and the Senate deadlocked. There is often a deadlock that exists between the two Houses in the American Congress. Indeed, we went and visited the Alaskans, and a couple of members from the opposition were there with us when we visited them in February of this year. I heard with my own ears, Mr. Speaker, members of the Alaskan Legislature talking about the ridiculousness of having two houses. Basically, they have one senator for each two members of the House of Representatives. They come from the same areas. They said, what's the point of this extra cost; it just doesn't make a great deal of sense.
Mr. Speaker, what would we be looking at if we simply elected our Senate? We'd be simply putting another elected body in to produce deadlock. The notion that somehow this is going to lead the Yukon toward provincehood or somehow help us to be more represented in the federal halls of power is simply bunk.
The fact is, Mr. Speaker, that we do not have two houses in the Canadian parliamentary system; in fact, we have 14. We have 14 houses. The Yukon has a Legislature; British Columbia has a Legislature; Saskatchewan has a Legislature. And, yes, we do have two federal Houses of Parliament.
The fact is, though, that that's how the Fathers of Confederation saw representation or good government occurring in the various regions of the country. It was, in fact, that we'd have a division of powers between the federal and, of course, provincial legislatures.
Section 91 and 92 of the British North America Act and now the Canadian Constitution basically delineate that, and we see movement in the last 10 years or so to devolution of more programs and responsibilities from the federal government to the provincial and, of course, the territorial governments as we move toward responsible government in the territories.
Mr. Speaker, the problem with the Senate is that it is simply unrepresentative. It's fundamentally anti-democratic. If we look at 1993 - we had an interesting situation happen in 1993. We had a majority of Conservatives in the federal Senate, and, of course, we had an election that reduced the Conservative Party to two seats in the House of Commons, and yet - figure this one out - they still held a majority in the Senate. We had a group that did not represent Canadians in any sense of the imagination, and yet they still held the majority in the Senate. It just does not make sense.
The Reform Party, among others, is calling for an elected Senate. Well, Mr. Speaker, what are we going to have? Two elected bodies with deadlock, more patronage, more cost? This is a body without a task. It's an expensive body. It's one that we simply do not need.
Chrétien has more reasons - he's made a record 23 straight unelected Liberal appointments to the Senate. That's 23 more reasons to abolish the Senate.
We have a number of vacancies and yet what Prime Minister Chrétien should be doing is refusing to make further appointments. That would be a good start: abolition by attrition.
You know, this is a costly House to run. It's $45 million or thereabouts a year, and in addition we're looking at hundreds of millions of dollars over the next couple of years because of the significant renovations that are occurring in the Parliament buildings themselves. Abolishing the Senate now would save this government - save the federal government - hundreds of millions of dollars. And this is at a time when the federal government has cut the northern resident deduction, the northern travel deduction, or is looking at those things. They've cut the Yukon weather centre and navigation services.
The federal government claims it can't afford to maintain a presence in the north.
Well, I've got a suggestion for them. Cut the Senate and abolish the Senate and let's support all parts of Canada, including the north.
Mr. Speaker, the Senate is unelected. It's unaccountable. It's unrepresentative. It's without a task. It's expensive. Let's abolish it. It's aristocratic and fundamentally anti-democratic. We've got to abolish the Senate. Let's get on with it.
Mrs. Edelman: Well, Mr. Speaker, here we are again, discussing federal issues in private members' day, when there are so many territorial issues that deserve our attention.
While I appreciate that this day is an opportunity for backbenchers to get a chance to generate Hansard to send to their constituents, the members of their caucus have raised this issue on more than one occasion. Mr. Speaker, it would be far more productive if we generated our Hansard while having our debating skills honed by discussing, say, Motion No. 16, about the Workers' Compensation Board, or Motion No. 50, about the Porcupine caribou herd, or Motion No. 63, about flooding across the Yukon. All these are Yukon subjects that deserve our attention.
We are a territorial Legislature, and we have local issues of some 30,000 Yukoners to deal with first before we spend our time on federal issues that, although important, are not our first duty to address as Yukon legislators. That is what the taxpayers of the Yukon expect us to do: our job.
Our caucus supports the amendment put forward by the Member for Porter Creek North, just as the Government Leader did when he restated his support of the Charlottetown Accord earlier this year, remembering that the Charlottetown Accord supported a triple-E Senate - elected, equal and effective. But, once again, there seems to be split in the NDP caucus on this issue.
Last week, one NDP minister, the Member for Faro, said he supported the notion to examine public-private partnerships, while the Member for Watson Lake, in the last sentence of his comments on the subject, said that he did not support the motion on the floor for debate - the motion that the Minister of Economic Development had just said he supported.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mrs. Edelman: Read it.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mrs. Edelman: Someone over there should get their act together and at least get the party lines straight.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mrs. Edelman: There is no question that, in this day and age, we should support a reformed Senate. It's time to update the way we delegate representatives to the Red Chamber, the senior house of sober thought. Members of the Senate should be elected. The Senate should be effective. There is no sense supporting a body that merely rubber-stamps legislation, while spending endless hours and endless tax dollars debating bills that are very often stalled, certainly, but are never killed.
The notion of sober second thought is more than the Senate; it is part of our culture. In most of our world's nations, we look to our elders to vet ideas and teach us by their examples. They teach us how to negotiate with the world. The way the Senate is set up now, we cannot look to this body to set an example, because it is a poor one. If the Senate were elected, effective and equal in representation, then I think we could appreciate better the wisdom of those more seasoned and more experienced in the ways of our diverse peoples.
The Senate should better represent that diversity. Through regional representation and electing those senators, we will be better able to recognize and respect a unique nature of a Canadian. It is time to change. Nothing survives unless it changes.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, Mr. Speaker, this motion and amendment before us is certainly an amendment that I can support. Like a lot of my fellow Canadians, I am not impressed with the way the Senate has been operating for the past number of years. I am not impressed with the patronage appointments and I am not impressed with the work that is being accomplished by the Senate. There are exceptions though. There are notable exceptions where the Senate - that Chamber of sober second thought - has come to the rescue of legislation and that legislation has been subsequently amended to the betterment of Canadians.
Abolishing the Senate would, in my opinion, not be beneficial for Canadians.
When we look at models in other countries - yes, there are countries that operate with one Parliament without a second layer. But I like to look to the south, to the U.S. system, the republic system where they have the House of Representatives and the Senate. The numbers in the House of Representatives are based on the population and they change as the population grows and shrinks, whereas the Senate is equal representation from all of the states of the union. Yes, there are deadlocks. Yes, there are difficulties with this system, but the United States of America has grown to be one of the most dominant economies in the world, one of the most productive and it's also one of the most sought-after countries to immigrate to in the world.
Canada also has a lot to take credit for as far as a country to live in, Mr. Speaker. I'm not suggesting that ... It's very interesting, Mr. Speaker, the ...
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Speaker: Order please.
Mr. Jenkins: ... lack of knowledge that's possessed by the government of the day and their ability to sing the Star Spangled Banner, and probably when they get to , Mr. Speaker, they'll make a mistake.
When we look at the U.S. model, Mr. Speaker, the Senate is there to use their power to protect the people. Not to protect the power of the House of Representatives, but to protect the people, and it does just that. It offers a second review of every bit of legislation.
There are difficulties with our Senate and, as I said earlier, Mr. Speaker, we have difficulties with attendance, and the news media always pick up on those areas that sell newspapers and that make headlines, and the absenteeism of a senator is just one of those occasions. It's something that catches the fancy of all of us and we shake our heads and say, "Well, that just shows us that the Senate isn't working", when in fact that senator doesn't have a commitment.
Well, he's gone. There's another vacancy in the Senate and another opportunity today for the Prime Minister of Canada to appoint another senator to that Chamber - the Upper Chamber - and look at other options that are being advanced by other jurisdictions in Canada of electing senators.
It's an option that I'd very much like the federal government to explore. Those Liberals that are in power right now could certainly advance the cause of an elected Senate by allowing those areas of Canada that wish to elect senators to do so.
We could change the system to the benefit of all Canadians, and it's time we did so.
When I hear the rhetoric from the government here, Mr. Speaker, it is quite interesting to note that the NDP are advocating abolishment of the Senate. It's something that will never be considered because the NDP will never form the federal Government of Canada.
Despite the information that the Member for Lake Laberge advanced, that the Progressive Conservative Party was decimated in one election down to two members - that's true - you have to consider it's the only political party in Canada that provided gender equality in the House of Commons. But the Progressive Conservative Party will rise again.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Jenkins: The Member for Watson Lake is suggesting it's called Reform. I'm sure he will recall having driven around for quite some period of time with a bumper sticker advancing the cause of the Reform Party.
It's interesting to note that 60 percent of Yukoners did not vote NDP in the last election. That should indicate where loyalties lie. When you get the breakdown of the various elections, have a look at it and see where the vote lies. Yes, elections aren't won on the popular vote. They're won by the individual who receives the most votes. But when you analyze where the voting goes, you get a much different picture of where people's loyalties are and what parties they support, Mr. Speaker.
So, the issue being advanced by this NDP government that we abolish the Senate is not one that really deserves debate in this House. I'm quite curious as to why so many of the motions that are advanced in this House by the government backbenchers are federal issues when we have so many territorial issues facing us that we can be addressing with our very limited time here.
When we look at the business of this House, Mr. Speaker, we look at the Member for Faro constantly berating us because we have so many days: "Get on with the business." And yet, when we look at technical briefings and their timing of them, when we look at where we'll be on Thursday of this week, we're going to be in the same position this Thursday as we were last week.
Mr. Fentie: Point of order, Mr. Speaker.
Point of order
Speaker: Mr. Fentie, on a point of order.
Mr. Fentie: Mr. Speaker, I'll ask the Member for Klondike to get on with the motion instead of what happened last week.
Speaker: Would the member please speak to the motion.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, there is no point of order. I am speaking to the amendment to the motion, not the motion.
Mr. Speaker, we are going to be in the same place this Thursday as we were last Thursday with the Minister of Health and the Minister of Government Services absent and no briefings in any other departments. It's going to be interesting how we proceed, and yet we're yelling and screaming about senators being absent from their respective roles and not attending to their responsibilities. We have the same problem in this House, Mr. Speaker.
So, why we're debating a federal issue, a federal motion, when we have very little input into it, is that we can make our thoughts known. And I would encourage the members to give careful consideration to having an elected Senate or an elected Chamber of sober second thoughts and not one of abolishing that Chamber.
The other example that we can use - as advice from our elders - is presented to us, Mr. Speaker, by First Nations. The elders in the First Nations provide a lot of influence and guidance to the council, to junior members. Now, what's really the difference between the First Nations' situation, where they have elders advising a council, and Senate that is appointed from our senior statesmen and senior citizens to provide input to our House of Representatives?
These senior statesmen have a wealth of experience and background at their disposal that is very similar to First Nation elders who have a wealth of background and knowledge at their disposal.
These are situations that parallel one another, Mr. Speaker. So, I would encourage this House to give careful consideration to the amendment to the motion and to support the amendment.
Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: Are you prepared for the question?
Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Member: Division.
Speaker: Division has been called. Mr. Clerk, would you poll the House.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Disagree.
Mr. Hardy: Disagree.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Disagree.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Disagree.
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Disagree.
Mr. McRobb: Disagree.
Mr. Fentie: Disagree.
Mr. Hardy: Disagree.
Mr. Livingston: Disagree.
Mr. Ostashek: Agree.
Mr. Phillips: Agree.
Mr. Jenkins: Agree.
Ms. Duncan: Agree.
Mr. Cable: Agree.
Mrs. Edelman: Agree.
Clerk: Mr. Speaker, the results are six yea, nine nay.
Speaker: I think the nays have it. I declare the amendment defeated.
Is there any further debate on the main motion?
Hon. Mr. Harding: I'm pleased to be able to rise today. I didn't get a chance to speak to the amendment, but I wanted to make a few brief comments.
The proposition today is that the Senate of Canada has outlived its usefulness and that, for many years, Canadians have debated and discussed the issue of whether or not it does have a useful purpose in the form that it presently exists in or in some other form.
The proposition from the Member for Riverside South in the Liberal caucus was that there is no connection between the Senate as it is presently constituted and some new forum. I say that there absolutely is a connection. I think that the argument can be made that the Senate as it is presently constituted is ineffective. It is an unjustified expenditure of taxpayers' money and I think that the argument could be made, based on the provinces and the territories and the experiences that they have had in terms of provincial and territorial government, that there is no need for a second Chamber and there is no need to revise the formula for the Senate. It is an ineffective body.
I believe it would be ineffective as it is presently constituted, and I believe the evidence bears that. But I also believe that even to modify it would provide some semblance of effectiveness, but not enough to justify, in my mind, anything other than its abolishment, and some action by the Prime Minister to reflect the comments he has made in the past and that other so-called "good Liberals" have made about their views on the Senate as to whether or not it should continue in its present form or some new form.
This debate is not about whether the people who are now caught up in the cobwebs of the Senate were good public legislators or good public citizens. That is not the issue. The issue is not even so much about the pork-barrelling nature of the Senate, as it has been by the Conservative and Liberal parties of this territory or this country.
It's interesting to note that the old PC party - now reincarnated as the Yukon Party - and the Liberal Party would continue to support the dinosaur notion of the Senate and, while they try to pretend now that after all of the public criticism and after they've reaped so much money on behalf of the positions that they've handed out to the patronage appointments in the Senate they now somehow want to change it.
But what is the real impetus behind their words? How much political energy has been put into actually making good on some reform? I say certainly not enough to justify the Prime Minister continuing to fill the vacancies and to justify the continuation of the Senate.
Now, the members opposite have attributed what they like to say is a change of position by the New Democrats - absolutely not. We advocated completely - I believe it was Mike Harcourt, during the Charlottetown negotiations, as the Premier of British Columbia, who advocated for a triple-A Senate - abolish, abolish, abolish. Eventually, they came up with a formula for triple-E out of a negotiated settlement, and it came as a package - the inherent right to self-government, the numbers of the Senate and the regional representation. But there was also the issue of the Senate and how that would be conducted triple-E. As a package, it was supportable.
I supported the Charlottetown Accord as well, as a package, because it was negotiated. It was impossible to break out your views on inherent self-government by aboriginal people. It was impossible to break out your views on the package of the Charlottetown Accord, on the sharing of powers among the different jurisdictions, as it was impossible to separate out your position as it pertained to the abolishment of the Senate, which I certainly supported.
As a negotiated package, we supported the Charlottetown Accord on the three elements of its presentation to the Canadian people. That is something that often takes place in negotiation.
Now, the Charlottetown Accord failed, and it was interesting to note in talking to people after it failed that some people said things to me like, "Well, I supported the inherent right to self-government, but I didn't support the Senate, as it was structured" or, "I supported the inherent notion of self-government and the Senate, but I didn't support the power sharing." The problem with that is that they all came through a negotiated process. There were trade-offs involved in every element of the discussions.
The aboriginal people did not get all that they wanted. Many British Columbians were upset about the arrangement that was negotiated by the government on power sharing and raised that as a strong negative. But, there was no overall look at what the package was.
It did come as a deal presented to Canadians that was very strongly rejected. In actual fact, I think that the community that I represent rejected it the strongest out of all the communities in the Yukon. I think it was 75-percent rejection.
The reason for that is that, in many cases, they didn't view it as a package. There were one or two particular elements that they objected to. I, on the other hand, as a member of the New Democrats, was prepared to support the settlement.
Now, the Liberals have also put forward this notion that somehow the two-bodies concept - they keep bringing up the idea of the United States. I would say that the United States, and their desire to move us more toward that type of a system, is fraught with elements that would suggest to any responsible citizen of the Yukon that that is not the direction we want to go as a country.
One only has to see the constant bickering and gridlock. Note two years ago, or a year and one-half ago, just prior to the last presidential election, how Congress and the administration gridlocked on moving budget bills through, and the entire government shut down. It was a disgraceful situation and it was based on the partisanship in a pre-election year of Republicans and Democrats. That is not a system I want to promote.
One of the results of their system, also, with the executive controlling the justice branch, is the creation of the independent counsel position, Mr. Ken Starr. One only has to watch the disgusting nature of those politics as you continue to watch the Republican, Mr. Starr, trot out his tabloid assault on the President of the United States. Now, I'm all for getting to the bottom of real issues but I cannot see our country falling into that kind of a trap. I think it would be terribly wrong for the country.
The members opposite say I'm defending the President. I'm not defending the President or any particular president. I'm talking about a system here. I'm talking about a system in the United States that I think is sick. It's incredible that you would see the president, generically, subjected to this kind of a rant by an obvious partisan put in in a so-called check and balance in their two-bodied system with the Congress and the Senate. And all the while you have the Congress representatives and you have the situation in the Senate of the United States where the Republicans are fanning the flames as the independent counsel does his dirty work and gets the gossip on the front pages. I think it's sickening and I don't think any politician should be subjected to such a constant barrage of innuendo. If there's fact there, then I think that's fine, but there is so much debate going on in the United States right now about the whole situation as it pertains to the two-bodied system and the independent counsel that I'm sure it's going to lead eventually to some real change.
I think that that is a positive thing because, while there is room for close scrutiny because the executive controls the justice department in the United States, surely there have to be some parameters about how far the independent counsel can go, and what they can release to the public, and how based in merit and fact and proof it has to be. Otherwise, all that happens is a scourge of innuendo.
Think of the Whitewater debate. The president, prior to the last election, was immersed in this murky debate about Whitewater that nobody to this day, I'm sure, in this Chamber could tell you if there was anything done wrong or not. But you sure could have thought in the media that there was a demonic person at the helm of the presidency of the United States. When it all came to pass, after many congressional hearings where the Republicans attacked, and attacked based on the independent counsel's work, nothing came of it.
I would simply state that that two-party system and that two-bodied system is fundamentally flawed on the basis of gridlock and deadlock, and on the basis of the nature of the checks and balances. I don't think we need them in Canada, and I don't think we want them in Canada. I would hate to see our Prime Minister, whether a Liberal or a Conservative or a New Democrat or a Reform Party member subjected to the kind of low level of scrutiny that I see happen to the office of the President of the United States. I just think it's wrong.
To me, it's indicative of that type of system. I think that the experience justifies, in Canada, that the Senate is not needed. As far as I'm concerned, it is not the Parliament that is the know-all, be-all. It is not the Parliament that is the ultimate check and balance in our system - and we never suggested that, contrary to the view put forward on our behalf, or the interpretation of our view - by the Member for Riverside.
The people are the knowledge base. The people are the checks and balances in our system. The parliament is a reflection of the people and the people's will, and the people have many vehicles to exert incredible public pressures on government. One only has to be in government in the territory to feel the numerous ways that public pressures can be inflicted, voices can be heard, criticisms can be made. This all has an impact on government.
Technically, the Yukon government generically in this territory could do anything it wanted for the time it was in office. There's no recall legislation. There's nothing that could compel them to do anything. But what does compel direction is accountability - accountability in this House for all of the less-than-factual information thrown at us from the other side of the House. It does have a purpose in our legislative process.
We do not need a Senate, Mr. Speaker, I submit, because I believe that there is inherent accountability in this system. When the media sits in the public gallery and is very challenging of government, that also has a purpose in our system. That is to be in a position of holding the government accountable, of providing sober, second thought, if you will - or not so sober second thought sometimes, or not so pragmatic, or not so real second thought. But the point is that the public, at the end of the day, will sift through all of the incorrect allegations by the opposition - in particular the Yukon Party - and they will decide whether or not the positions that have been put forward by government do hold up to appropriate scrutiny. You can debate for hours what is appropriate scrutiny by the media. You can debate what is appropriate scrutiny by the opposition, but I do not believe we would need in this territory or in any province another Chamber to view the decisions of duly-elected people, because I believe the people play that role.
An argument that I find particularly galling from the Liberal Party is that, somehow, my right as a legislator and as a Canadian should somehow be subverted because they don't think we should be debating issues as they pertain to Canada in this House. I find that fundamentally wrong. It makes me very upset as a member of this House, because I know that my constituents care about these issues, and they want to know that they are debated and they are debated thoroughly in this House, and that we have a good sense of a position as legislators to put before the people of Canada when we participate in the discussions.
For them to somehow suggest that we should not be discussing these types of issues is wrong. Just on the cost of the Senate alone, we could put a lot of money into health care in this country and the members opposite, Lord knows, are always asking us to spend more money we don't have, even though we're spending more on health care than anybody else in the country at the same time that the Liberals have hacked and slashed it, and they're still asking us to spend more. And we propose something today that would free up some money for health care or education in this country and they say that we shouldn't even be debating it. I find that argument nonsensical.
I think that, instead, the Liberals should be directing the knife not at the health care system but at the Senate. Let me also say that I find the argument from the Liberals doubly puzzling, knowing that the Member for Riverside used to put forward national unity motions about federal issues on the floor of this Legislature. He used to read from the phone book the names of Canadians, he was so entrenched by these national federal issues.
And you know, Mr. Speaker, we never said at the time in opposition that we opposed his debate of these important national issues. We opposed his method of debate. We found it extremely tedious, but certainly we respected his right as a Canadian to put forward positions on important national and federal issues because we, as a Legislature, would be expected to be players.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Harding: Yes, perhaps the Member for Riverside was practising for his senatorial role and he's desperate to keep the second Chamber alive, hoping he can make it in just before the axe falls in the next constitutional round of negotiations and that somehow he'll be grandfathered, so to speak, and allowed to stay on until he retires. Perhaps that's his modus operandi here. I don't know whether I can figure him out or not, but I do think he's got his eyes on that prize.
Now, the argument from the leader of the official opposition was quite a hilarious one. He said that we don't just like the Senate, we want to abolish it because we're never going to get into federal power.
This is coming from the Yukon Party, which is a territorial party and doesn't have any hope of getting into federal power either, but he doesn't like the Senate either. So, on one hand he says that, in his view, we don't like the Senate because we're not going to get into federal power, and he is the leader of the Yukon Party. He says he doesn't like the Senate, but it's for a much better reason, obviously.
I don't really follow how he could make the conclusions that he did when, in his view, at least, we sit in entirely the same boat and we don't like the Senate. Maybe the Yukon Party intends to take over the Reform Party, and the leader of the official opposition intends to go toe-to-toe with Mr. Manning and unite the right. I suggest that the way he united the right in the Yukon was to create a stronger Liberal Party.
The leader of the Liberal Party was going to run for the Yukon Party, but didn't get the offer she liked, so she headed for the Liberals. It happened in B.C. that way, as well, with Gordon Campbell.
We've seen the right not united in the Yukon, but splintered and fractioned, which is just the way we like it. So, I urge the leader of the official opposition to continue on in his policies. I believe that the Yukon Party is right on track, for us.
With regard to the issues around the Charlottetown Accord that were raised by the members opposite, I would just say, again, that the Charlottetown Accord was a negotiated settlement and, on that basis, I supported it. I think that is certainly an issue that must be brought to bear in terms of discussions.
One thing I will say is that the Liberals - shame on them in British Columbia in particular; close cousins of the Yukon Liberals - were very adamant in their opposition to the Charlottetown Accord. I believe the leader at that time was Gordon Wilson. I know that the leader of the Liberal Party now and the leader of the Liberal Party in B.C. are very close now. She probably was close to -
Some Hon. Member:
Mr. Speaker, a point of order.
Point of order
Speaker: The Member for Porter Creek South, on a point of order.
Ms. Duncan: On the point of order, that is the second time in his speech this afternoon that the Member for Faro has made comments and cast aspersions upon me. I would ask that he withdraw those remarks.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Ms. Duncan: Yes. Casting aspersions.
Speaker: Would the member please withdraw his remark?
Hon. Mr. Harding: On the point of order.
Speaker: The Hon. Minister of Economic Development, on the point of order.
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, Mr. Speaker, could I please make my argument and then I would ask you to make a ruling?
The member, in my humble opinion, has not raised a point of order. I have made statements that are in no way demeaning the person. They are simply stating positions as they pertain to the members of political leanings, and I think that that is free for debate.
If I used unparliamentary language, I would certainly withdraw it, but I would humbly ask the Speaker to confer or to seek some advice on this ruling or to ponder it, because I certainly cast no aspersions or no ill-meaning on the member opposite. She may have interpreted it that way, but certainly I didn't mean it that way.
Speaker: There is no point of order.
Hon. Mr. Harding: Mr. Speaker, I would say that, given the relationship was not as strong in the Charlottetown Accord between the Liberal leader in B.C. at the time, Mr. Wilson, and what it is now with Mr. Campbell -
Speaker: The member has two minutes to conclude his remarks.
Hon. Mr. Harding: I know the close bonds on the anti-land claims agenda are shared, or seem to be strengthening, between the Liberals in the Yukon and the Liberals in B.C., but I would say that the Charlottetown Accord, as it pertains to this debate in the Senate, because it's been raised by the members opposite, it has to be pointed out that it was the Liberal Party, in particular Mr. Wilson of B.C., that took very strong runs at the whole process, and in particular, for the sake of political gain, at the then government who reached the compromise resulting in the Charlottetown Accord in British Columbia.
I would submit that that was harmful to the country, because I supported the Charlottetown Accord on the basis that it was the best deal for Canada that could be reached, given all -
Speaker: The member's time has elapsed.
Hon. Mr. Harding: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I thought I would get at least an opportunity to say a few words.
It always bothers me when history goes through a revisionist process. I've heard a great deal here today about history, particularly with regard to the various merits in the American system. I think it's important to realize that bicameral legislatures are not necessarily a thing that is found universally around the world, and certainly not within the Commonwealth. There are many, many countries that have unicameral legislatures, and they don't seem to be ill-affected.
The American concept of a bicameral legislature is an interesting one. Despite the assertions that it was somehow designed to give states a voice, it actually wasn't. I would refer the members to, for example, the federalist papers of Madison, Adams and some others. It was largely a struggle within the first initial years of the American republic to design a system that would balance out the powers of the people versus the powers of the landed interests.
Certainly, if we look back at how the United States evolved, the United States did not spring fully formed from the heads of people like Franklin, Jefferson, and others. It was, in fact, a very, very loose confederation that existed for the first number of years of its existence under an arrangement called the Articles of Confederation.
The Constitution evolved later, and much of what went on in designing the Constitution was really because of issues such as that struggle between the landed interests, the large rural interests - particularly the slave-owning and southern interests - and the interests of the smaller areas, such as Massachusetts which, while they were agrarian, were much smaller in terms of individual land owners. If we later get into further discussion, we see that the same kind of a struggle re-emerges in some of the discussions around Jacksonian democracy. But I digress.
The point behind the idea of a bicameral legislature, or a division of powers, as our American friends like to refer to it, was essentially because the Americans themselves did not trust and never did trust the idea of the centralization of powers. Perhaps it was a reaction to the concept of being a colonial power, or being a colonial state under the power of the Crown.
Canada, however, because of our evolution as a colony, and because of being peopled largely, in many ways, by people fleeing the United States and fleeing the Republican experiment in the United States, felt that they needed to go in a different direction.
To a large degree, they felt they needed to go in the direction of, if you will, a modelling of the British system. And the British system, despite what we think, was a system that had, in a sense, a legislature that was based not only on the division of political power, but on the division of economic and social power - for example, the Commons, which evolved over the centuries.
The Commons was not something that suddenly came into being. The Commons evolved very much from ... we like to think of, for example, the Magna Carta being some kind of basic document of the people's power. In reality, the Magna Carta evolved as an aristocratic reaction to the unbridled power of King John. Our system evolved along from there.
If we really want to talk about when the Commons came into its own, we're really talking about the first modern prime minister, being Sir Horace Walpole, and the development of the Commons as truly a representative institution.
The Lords in Britain became less and less important as the power of the people, particularly the power of urban centres, namely London and the mercantile interest, involved. So, when we begin to talk about the diminution of aristocratic powers, what we're really talking about is that period when mercantile interests and business interests began developing under the Whigs in Britain, and from there, that was transported over to Canada.
What I think Sir John A and the Fathers of Confederation were doing was trying to duplicate that aristocratic nature. They were trying to bring in what's now euphemistically called the Chamber of sober second thought and was actually - I believe, and I believe Sir John A's words would bear this out - an attempt to control the power of the people.
My argument on this case is why do we need this aristocratic appendage. To me, it's a vestige of the past.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Thank you very much. The abolition of the Senate, to me, is the logical development of democratic power in Canada.
Other countries have gone other ways. Other countries have developed their own systems. Some, like Australia, have developed a system, but I have to remind members that Australia developed in a very different way constitutionally from Canada. Some Commonwealth countries have abolished or have not even begun any sort of second Chamber, and they are existing quite well. The French National Assembly is a unicameral Legislature, and they exist quite well. There are other nations in the world that exist quite well without a so-called Chamber of sober second thought.
My argument on this would be that we no longer need the Senate. The Senate no longer fulfills a function. If, for example, there was some kind of guarantee that a Senate could have done something to redress the obvious imbalance in terms of population and political power in this country from its start, I would have said that perhaps there might be some reason for it. But it hasn't. I don't believe it will. I believe that any Senate that would be elected under any kind of future constitutional framework would not be equal. I do not believe that it would provide for individuals any greater representation than what the Commons already does.
Mr. Speaker, what I'd like to suggest is that perhaps a variation on the triple-E Senate, and here's my suggestion, modest as it is: I think what we need is a kind of triple-E Senate. And here's what I'm suggesting that Senate consist of - and I'm basing it on math theory. There's been a lot of talk about math, and what I'd like to do is to refer back to the whole kind of concept of set theory in math, which came out in the 1960s. In this set of math, what we'd do is we would have an empty set, and the empty set would be good because it has no members.
So, my proposal would be that the Senate be (a) empty. Now, that would be the equivalent to abolishing it, because it would have the advantage of not having all of those people sitting around, drawing a salary for doing nothing. So, if we make the first E of it "empty," and since the set - or in this case the Senate - would be empty, it would be eminently equal. We would no longer have to worry about Quebec having more senators than Ontario, or Ontario over Alberta, because it would be empty. Therefore, it would be equivalent. Right?
Everybody would have the exact, same amount - zero. And I would suggest, Mr. Speaker, very modestly, that the empty
, equal Senate would be at least as effective as our current Senate, being as we already have a Senate where people don't feel obliged to attend most of the time. So, the effectiveness would, at least, be the same.
Now, I would really like to remind members that this type of triple-E Senate would have a lot of advantages. For one thing, each of the members of the empty Senate would be bilingual, so it would save money there in language training. Each of the members of the empty Senate would draw no salary, so therefore it would cost us nothing.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Very efficient. That brings me to my third point. Because it would be so equal, because it would cost us nothing, it would be extremely efficient.
Mr. Speaker, I'd put this option out for the consideration of all the members of this House because I've always believed that this Senate was a job that really did put quite a strain on the existing members.
For one thing, right now, they're compelled to sometimes get up in the morning and sometimes leave their warm environs of La Paz, in Baha, or perhaps downtown Vancouver, and take that onerous task of getting on a plane - at taxpayers' expense, of course - and flying to frosty Ottawa.
I'm really thinking about some of these people who have dedicated so much of their time to raising funds for the major political parties in this country and thinking, we should treat them better. Why are we asking these people to spend their twilight years drawing large salaries with major privileges and being asked occasionally to show up. I don't think it's fair and so, what I'm proposing as my example of the triple-E Senate I think would be very fair to those folks.
I think, Mr. Speaker, Canadians, as a group, would be far better served. I mean, no longer would we have that spectacle of senators sleeping in the Chamber. No longer would we have to go and make long-distance calls to Mexico to get them to come back. There would be lack of accountability because we wouldn't have to say where the heck are they and we'd finally get rid of this Canadian dilemma of arguing over who gets what in this country.
Everybody would get zero senators; therefore, everyone would be equal.
So, Mr. Speaker, I'm suggesting that this form of triple-E Senate would actually be the perfect solution to Canada, and I would humbly suggest that perhaps this is the kind of triple-E Senate that we should be looking at in the future.
Ms. Duncan: I'd be delighted to speak to this motion in the balance of the time that we have remaining. It's been a fascinating debate this afternoon. There have been a number of points raised. I do appreciate the history lesson from the Member for Whitehorse West. It has been most enlightening. I don't appreciate the history lesson or interpretation of events from the Member for Faro. It was a colourful interpretation of those events.
There has been much discussion about my point that our time in this Legislature this afternoon could be spent more usefully on behalf of the members' constituents that we serve and of Yukoners. Interestingly enough, I took the opportunity at one point this afternoon to observe my e-mail, at which point I had several messages from Yukoners who had indicated that, indeed, they recognized and supported my point that perhaps, instead of giving those departments - such as Renewable Resources, Yukon Liquor Corporation and the Yukon Housing Corporation - the cursory examination that they tend to receive -
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Speaker: A point of order has been called. Member for Lake Laberge on the point of order.
Mr. Livingston: Mr. Speaker, I don't see what the relevance of these comments about Committee of the Whole debate, which is indeed what we'll be moving into this evening, has to do with the abolition of the Senate of Canada.
Speaker: Order please. The time being 5:30, the Speaker will now leave the Chair until 7:30 p.m. tonight.
Debate on Motion No. 117 accordingly adjourned
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
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
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order.
Bill No. 9 - First Appropriation Act, 1998-99 - continued
Department of Justice - continued
Chair: Is there any further general debate?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I have a couple of statements to make in response to questions from members opposite before we get into further questioning on the Justice budget.
First of all, Mr. Chair, members were requesting further information regarding the director of community and corrections services position, and the qualifications for the position, and how many people had been short listed.
A total of 38 applications were received from across Canada. Four Yukoners applied for the position. The statement of qualifications for the position required that applicants have a post-secondary degree in social sciences, criminology, public administration, or related fields, coursework in management or administration theory, coursework in correctional theory, and a demonstrated ability to operate effectively as a member of a senior management team, manage human, financial and material resources, develop and implement programs, policies and procedures related to correctional and other related services such as victims services and/or family violence.
Of the 38 applicants, five were interviewed. None of the local applicants met this criteria and therefore none were interviewed. The successful candidate is due to start work on May 4, 1998.
As well, members were requesting further information on the proposed RCMP building and I would like to provide an update for the members.
Treasury Board has given approval, in principle only. The figure of $6.5 million has been suggested as a ball-park figure, subject to Public Works. The RCMP are putting a business case together now. Their figure is $5.4 million, but they have not made the business case yet, or proceeded to architectural drawings yet. There will be full consultation between the RCMP and the Yukon government as the project moves along. We are very mindful of possible additional costs, and we need to balance those with new capital projects and furthering other local Yukon interests, such as better service.
I believe the members have also been provided with written information in response to some of their questions at the technical briefing, so I will welcome any questions now.
Mr. Phillips: I don't think I have any questions in general debate.
I was just kidding; I do have a few questions in general debate.
Mr. Chair, I'd like to start out with the RCMP. I understand the chief superintendent, Mr. Egglestone, is leaving us, or if he hasn't left he's leaving very shortly, and we're now in the process of recruitment. What kind of input are we having with respect to recruitment of a new commanding officer for the RCMP here in the Yukon?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, what I can tell the member is that the RCMP are working with the office of the Minister of Justice in the replacement of the chief superintendent. The present incumbent is not leaving until the end of May. I have already written to the commissioner and have been assured that they will be in touch with us. I had a phone conversation scheduled with the commissioner on the subject of a replacement for the superintendent.
We're presently, within government, developing a profile of the kind of person that we believe would best meet the needs of a new chief superintendent in the Yukon.
Mr. Phillips: Can the minister tell us how far along the process is? I believe that the same kind of thing was happening when I was the Minister of Justice. Each time we were asked for our input, when we went to the next stage, we found out that they were one step ahead of us. When we were sort of told that we would be involved in some of the selection process and we asked the question the next time around, they had already short listed people. Then when we wanted to see the short list, they had already selected somebody from the short list. We were kind of one step behind them, but, all the time, we were given assurances that we were going to have input. We had input, but it seemed to be always after the fact.
I wonder what assurances the minister has received from the commissioner of the RCMP that we're going to have meaningful input in the selection this time.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I believe that, to some extent, we have benefited from the experience that that member had when he was in this position and made his concerns well known to the RCMP.
The commissioner has indicated to me that we will be involved in the process in advance of a selection being made. The RCMP deputy is meeting next week with our deputy to sit down and discuss the replacement and the filling of the position.
I have been assured that we will be consulted before the fact, and not after the fact.
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Chair, I'm not raising this to slight in any way the individual who was chosen before: Chief Superintendent Egglestone. I think he has done an admirable job. I'm sorry to see him go. We had a good relationship in working with him, and I wish him well in his new position.
But that being said, one of the concerns that the sort of quick departure of Superintendent Egglestone brings to light is the fact that he was only here, I think, just over two years - or just a couple of years. So I'm wondering if part of the criteria for the next chief superintendent will be that there is a five-year commitment, or something of that nature, so at least there can be some tenure.
It's a little different policing here than it is in southern Canada, and there's a lot to learn, a lot to understand, and it sometimes takes more than one or two years to implement one's new programs when an individual comes in, and I'd hate to see us become a training ground for RCMP individuals who would move on to other positions in the future, where they come in and work here for a couple of years and move on to a promotion, and the Yukon would be faced with the ever-changing priorities of the individual who was the commanding officer.
So, that's the concern I have: tenure. Is the minister going to be asking for a longer term for the next individual who comes to the territory?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, first of all, Mr. Chair, let me say that we are all grateful for the fine work the chief superintendent has done in the two years that he has been here. As the member indicated, it has been a good working relationship between the government and the RCMP, and the shared vision leadership statement is only one example of that, along with the commitment to community policing and the increase in community policing that we've seen.
The term of the new appointment is one of the issues that we will be addressing and discussing with the commissioner and his office.
Mr. Phillips: Yes, Mr. Chair, that's a concern I have, because there's a lot of good work that Chief Superintendent Egglestone has started and I'd hate to see someone come in with a different vision and start all over again from ground up.
Can the minister provide me with any correspondence that's taken place so far between herself, her officials in the department and the commissioner of the RCMP respecting the appointment of a new commissioner for the Yukon?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Yes, Mr. Chair, I can have copies of the correspondence that has been exchanged on that in recent weeks made available.
Mr. Phillips: I did have a question about the new RCMP facilities that they've been discussing, but I think the minister answered it today. Last night, the minister said that there was no figure mentioned, but I can recall that the $6.5 million figure the minister gave us today was given to us at that technical briefing. So, there have been figures bandied about.
Maybe the minister can tell us if this idea of expansion was an idea of the RCMP or did it come about as a result of a request from the minister to expand the building and have larger facilities?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, I believe the member opposite already knows the answer to the question, since I understand he was taking a keen interest in the proceedings in the House yesterday and heard the same subject being debated.
Mr. Chair, as was stated yesterday, the request for additional office space in Whitehorse was made by the RCMP.
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Chair, the minister didn't explain yesterday, nor did she explain today, how close our role will be with respect to planning this building. We're going to have to pick up the O&M costs of this building. Are we going to be insisting that the federal government pick up those extra costs in transferring dollars to us, or how is it going to work? When you build a new building of the size that they're talking about, there is going to be some significant O&M costs attached to it. How is that going to be dealt with, within the department?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: As I indicated to members in the House yesterday, those are exactly the kinds of questions that will be subject to discussion between the RCMP and the Department of Justice. As I also indicated yesterday, at the recent briefing I had with officials from the RCMP, there was mutual agreement that it was in both of our interests to continue working together on this potential project. There will be a significant federal component to the capital costs and some federal component to other costs. We will maintain our close involvement with the RCMP on this project through the department officials, who regularly liaise with the RCMP.
Mr. Phillips: What is the position of the federal government with respect to the project proceeding? If the minister looks at all of the pros and cons of the facility and decides that it's not in our best interest to accept what the federal government is giving us, and says no, will the RCMP still go ahead, regardless of what the minister says? Do they plan to go ahead one way or the other, or do they need the approval of the minister before they proceed?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, what I can advise the member is that the federal government has asked that the Yukon government be involved with the decision making on this project and be provided with information. I do not know if the federal government would proceed without support from the Yukon government. They have not made that clear. The indications that we have are that the federal government has demonstrated an interest and a willingness to work cooperatively with the Yukon government, and we hope that will continue - and expect it to.
Mr. Phillips: I noticed in the comments the minister made yesterday that she talked about the existing building not being earthquake-proof and that's one of the reasons why they're building on to this new building and are building this new building. I would suppose if we acted on that premise, probably three-quarters of the buildings in this town would have to be rebuilt immediately. But one of the concerns I've heard is that they may be moving the public offices part of the building to the new building in behind. Is that one of the plans or the discussions of the plans that they're looking at doing - that the public will no longer access the front of the building and that it may go around behind into a new building in behind?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: As I explained to members yesterday afternoon, Mr. Chair, the drawings have not been done at this time and I do not have an answer for the specific question that the member is asking. The present status of the project is that agreement in principle has been reached with the Treasury Board and the plans will be drawn up over the next few months.
Mr. Phillips: Can the minister maybe explain to us then what the time-line process will be for this building? Are we looking at it being fast-tracked and possibly the final drawings and all of that going back to the Treasury Board before freeze-up this year? Are we looking at it as a project for next year? What's the time line for the facility?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: As I understand it, Mr. Chair - and the RCMP provided updated information this morning that we're just looking for here - the drawings will be drawn up over the summer and a decision would be made in the early fall. The decision could be either to proceed immediately or to proceed in the spring.
Mr. Phillips: The minister said that the drawings will be drawn up this summer. Who's going to do the drawings? Is this the federal Department of Justice, the RCMP or the Solicitor-General's department? Who is going to do the drawings?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: As I indicated yesterday, Mr. Chair, Public Works Canada will be taking the lead on that project, together with the RCMP, for the drawings.
Mr. Phillips: Is the minister encouraging the federal government to make sure that they tender it locally, so that we can get some local firms bidding on the project to do the drawings? Is that possible? Would the RCMP entertain that as a suggestion?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Yes, Mr. Chair, I discussed that issue with the RCMP and they are completely in agreement that local hire would be one of their goals in this project.
Mr. Phillips: Just for the minister's information, Mr. Chair, when she's talking to the RCMP, she can advise them that we can supply local trusses in the Yukon and we have insulators, as well, that supply blown-in foam insulation here. They didn't get much work out of the Old Crow school, but they are still in town and I think they're still surviving. So, when she's passing it on to the RCMP and others, she could just let them know that these people are in need of work and that there should be a possibility of specifying those types of products in their building.
We didn't do it in ours, but maybe we could ask the federal government to consider doing it in theirs. It would be a good idea.
I want to move on to maintenance enforcement.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Phillips: The Member for Laberge said we did that yesterday, but if the Member for Laberge reads Hansard from yesterday, he will understand very quickly that there are very few answers about maintenance enforcement in the comments made by the minister and that there are a lot more important things and questions to be asked in maintenance enforcement that should be asked by members of this House.
Perhaps the Member for Laberge, if he is so interested in it, might have asked some of those questions himself yesterday.
But I'm going to be asking them today whether he likes it or not, Mr. Chair.
So, Mr. Chair, on the maintenance enforcement side, the member talked about improving electronic links with other jurisdictions to speed up the maintenance enforcement. Can the minister give us an idea what the time lines are now? One of the concerns I have had - and I've expressed it to the minister - is that I have some constituents who have come to me. They have gone through maintenance enforcement, and one of the problems that has arisen is where an individual departs the territory - someone who has to pay maintenance enforcement leaves the territory - and one of the concerns that I have heard is that once it leaves our jurisdiction, then we have to rely entirely upon the other jurisdiction. In one particular case that we were talking about, it was Saskatchewan, and in another case, it was Ontario. And the other jurisdictions, when they received the file, which was already delinquent, they put it on their list of delinquent files, and the individual found out that it might be months before their file was even discussed.
My concern is that unless we speed up the links, unless we do something fairly dramatic here, one way that one can avoid paying maintenance enforcement to these people is to go to another jurisdiction, because you get put to the bottom of the pile, and they have to work their way up in priority. I'm concerned that this may not only be happening for us, but might also be happening to other jurisdictions when someone moves here.
Can the minister tell me what we're doing to try to solve that problem? I think it's a fairly serious problem. I think the minister herself has had several people come into her office or come into the maintenance enforcement office and complain about the long delays after a file is transferred.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: The member indicates that there is a concern on the part of parents who do not receive their maintenance enforcement payments, and that is a concern that I share. We have made a number of policy changes and legislative changes in order to improve the effectiveness of the maintenance enforcement program and the ways of ensuring compliance with it.
The maintenance enforcement program in the Yukon, as I noted yesterday, is the most successful in Canada, with over 80 percent effectiveness.
We still would like to achieve 100 percent, Mr. Chair, and we're still working hard toward that goal.
Revised criteria for the application of administrative sanctions against debtors who have not paid child support payments were put in place in April 1997 and have resulted in the imposition of sanctions against eight debtors. A computer driver registration link has located one debtor who moved to Alberta, so we are using improved computer systems to locate not only debtors in the Yukon but debtors across Canada.
As I believe the member is aware, and as we've discussed in previous debate on this subject, the Yukon has reciprocal enforcement agreements with most other jurisdictions in Canada. I believe that maintenance enforcement is a subject that all governments have a serious commitment to. I know that there are other jurisdictions aside from the Yukon who regularly look at ways to improve their maintenance enforcement programs. Many jurisdictions have brought in legislation, as we have, to have the ability to withhold drivers' licences and motor vehicle registrations from people who do not pay their maintenance enforcement. This has been found to be a very effective measure.
So, we're continuing to work to improve the program. The maintenance enforcement staff work with their colleagues across the country. Some of those improvements are made through computer technology.
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Chair, I thank the minister for that answer.
Mr. Chair, I just want to refresh the minister's memory. Today she said here, and she said it yesterday as well, that the Yukon has the best record in Canada of recovering maintenance enforcement, and I just want to remind the minister that we also had the best record of recovery in Canada four years ago as well. We were doing better than any other jurisdiction. So this isn't anything really new.
But what I'm wondering about is, one of the things that I used to stand up and talk about when I was the Minister of Justice is that we had an 80-percent recovery, and the now Minister of Justice used to criticize me, saying it's not good enough. I just wonder why it hasn't gone up from the 80 percent that it was before, if the Minister of Justice is doing these new things. Why hasn't it improved, as she claimed it would?
She claimed that 80 percent was too low before, and now that she's there, she's made some changes. What is not working that it hasn't been brought up? Why hasn't it gone higher?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, Mr. Chair, I believe that we have seen improvements in the numbers of files that are successful in enforcing the maintenance orders. Many of the administrative sanctions have not yet come full circle. Driver's licences are issued every three years. The renewal of a driver's licence may be six months or eight months away from when the application not to renew the driver's licence is put forward. So, I believe that when the time period is up and renewal of drivers' licences or motor vehicle registrations come due, it is expected that there are other debtors who currently reside in the Yukon who will come in to discuss payment with the maintenance enforcement program when they are unable to renew their licences.
We are also working on getting the federal government to respond by being more involved in chasing people who do not make their maintenance payments.
Mr. Phillips: That's good. I guess we're all going to have to wait and see whether or not, in the next year or so, the 80 percent figure increases. I hope it does. I hope what the minister says is accurate: that a lot of them aren't in the system yet. But I guess we'll just have to wait and see until this time next year whether or not we're seeing an increase in that recovery.
Mr. Chair, I do want to take a little bit of time to thank the minister's deputy for talking to an individual who I sent to the minister to discuss a specific problem. I spoke to the individual the other day and they were very satisfied with their meeting. I think I've conveyed that to the minister, as well. I'm just hoping that something comes out of it, and we'll wait and see what happens there.
That leads me to what the minister is planning to do about it. I think that many of the things that were discussed by this constituent were in relation to the overlap between Justice, maintenance enforcement and Health and Social Services. In fact, the rather slow-moving way in which Health and Social Services moved on some of the issues was putting a very heavy undue financial burden on the individual. The individual was already facing someone who was delinquent in their payments. People are forced to possibly go on social assistance. Then, when they had some difficulties, they had to jump through all the hoops in social assistance. It really forces some hardships on them.
The minister has obviously had a briefing from her deputy on the issue. Has she met with the Minister of Health and Social Services? What kind of approach is the government going to take with respect to dealing with the concerns and complaints that the deputy heard and that, I am sure, were passed on to the minister?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: First of all, I thank the member for his support of the fine work that the department is doing. Yes, there have been and are regular meetings between clients and staff of the maintenance enforcement program and other branches within the department.
We need federal and provincial cooperation, across jurisdictions, to try and improve the situation for clients who come in and are having difficulty getting maintenance enforcement payments from someone who has fled to another jurisdiction. We are continuing to work with federal and other provincial jurisdictions to improve the ability of custodial parents to receive their maintenance enforcement payments.
As well, we're working to improve the way the Yukon government, overall, responds. Officials from my department will be meeting with Health and Social Services to address some of the specific concerns that have been identified by different clients. In addition, I do discuss the subject with my colleague, the Minister of Health and Social Services.
Mr. Phillips: Well, Mr. Chair, maybe I could make a suggestion to the minister. Maybe the minister could consider appointing an individual in the Department of Justice, and maybe someone from maintenance enforcement, who would be seen to be a coordinator between various departments so that somebody in the Department of Health would know that this person had some authority and at least could make sure that there aren't these delays that these individuals are facing, because it's forcing some single mothers into some very difficult situations because there seems to be hundreds of hoops to jump through to receive the monies.
The mother is already stressed-out if her former spouse is delinquent when she has children to feed and to clothe. In some cases, some people have virtually had to quit their job. Then they're forced onto social assistance and then they can't get out of it. I understand there has to be some coordination between jurisdictions, but we have some fairly significant problems right here in the Yukon between our own departments.
What I'm suggesting to the minister is that there be someone, even if they are in Health or Justice, but someone who knows the issues with respect to single mothers or single parents who are facing these problems who can sort of steer the individual through the process, because the individual just gets told by maintenance enforcement to go talk to someone in Health or go speak to the people in social assistance and they go over there.
The people in social assistance are not aware or are not up to speed in all of the maintenance enforcement problems that are associated with it. There just seems to be a gap.
What I'm suggesting to the minister is that there be someone who is up to speed on maintenance enforcement, up to speed on the issues that might crop up with someone who's in a position like this, and would deal with it quickly. That's what I'm asking the minister to do. Would she consider doing something like that?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Yes, Mr. Chair, let me tell the member what it is that we have already done. Shortly after taking office, my colleague, the Minister of Health and Social Services, and I sat down with the senior officials from the social policy departments of government. We believe that it's absolutely essential that Justice, Health and Social Services, Education, the Women's Directorate - that all departments of government and branches of government - are familiar with each other's activities and the work that they do.
There is a lot of overlap between the work that is done in different departments. We have assigned the responsibility for the work that the member is referring to in his question to an interdepartmental working group that we established - the Fostering Healthy Communities Committee - to do problem solving when clients and members of the public are finding that one branch of government is making it difficult for them to use the services of another branch of government.
I thank the member for bringing his question forward and for encouraging clients to solve their problems by bringing their questions to the appropriate departmental officials or to the political level, as the case may be. And we are working on trying to solve exactly those problems.
Mr. Phillips: Well, I applaud that effort. I was always of the mind when we were in government - and I would suggest to people in government and the various departments to just open up their jackets and you'll see they all have the same sweater on. We're all serving the same client. We're all on the same team, and we should be working toward that.
But having said that, the minister said that this group has been together shortly after they became elected, but I'm hearing things today - in fact, the deputy met a couple of weeks ago with an individual who is still experiencing the same kind of problems. And so my point is that there may be some progress being made, but my concern is that it has got to go faster because we still have some problems out there with individuals.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, we're certainly aware that there are still problems that we need to resolve. As the member has indicated, the client that he refers to met with the deputy minister and brought forward some new concerns that we're working on right now.
Mr. Phillips: Well, I'd be interested in seeing what kind of report comes out of these kinds of complaints - if there is an actual document down the road that says, "Here's our approach or our line of attack or how we deal with it." Mr. Chair, whatever we do, we should keep in mind that what's most important here is the client, is the individual, and there may be an interdepartmental working group, but let's not leave the client out of it so they don't have a clue what's going on, because that's what's happening in many cases. The client doesn't know what's going on and, out of frustration, may phone us or phone other members and say, "What do I do; where do I turn? I went to one person in an office and they didn't know anything about it."
There has to be maybe a kind of chart that can steer people through some of these problems or something, so that's what I'm suggesting to the minister: that not only the interdepartmental group works hard at solving these problems but, when we get some kind of a flow that we've established, we plug the client in so the client isn't left out of the equation.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: The purpose behind building better coordination within government is in aid of better service to the public. In addition, Mr. Chair, the deputy minister committed to respond in writing to the client in question with what government actions were being taken to resolve her complaints, and I understand that the written follow-up that the member spoke to me about on the phone yesterday was received in our offices today and will be responded to expeditiously.
Mr. Phillips: Well, I hope that a year from now or next fall when we come back in here and talk about these issues again, the minister can tell me that things are speeding along and that many of these problems are behind us. We'll look forward to that.
Mr. Chair, yesterday the minister said something about litigation - providing us with a list of litigation. I didn't get a copy of the list. Was there something tabled yesterday with respect to the litigation? At one point, I asked the member and she said she'd get it, and then I know in the debate she said, "Do you want me to give you the litigation list now?" and I didn't see it. So if there is a copy of it, I'd appreciate receiving it, if I could.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, I had understood that copies were sent down to the opposition members' offices today. What I can do is have the page make a copy for the member. I believe the Member for Riverside has received it. Unless he has two copies there will be a copy provided to the Member for Riverdale North.
I understood he had already received it. Sorry about that.
Mr. Phillips: Maybe it was absconded by the Clerk or somebody, who didn't think I should get anything yesterday. I don't know what happened. We'll check it out and see what happened. I'm sure it's around somewhere.
The Kwanlin Dun agreement that was talked about last night - I have a couple of questions about the agreement that I've looked over. I didn't see the new agreement. I saw the old agreement for 1997-98. Is there a new agreement that was tabled yesterday, as well? Maybe the Clerk has got that, as well.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: The Kwanlin Dun agreement for 1998-99 has been prepared but has not been signed yet. Kwanlin Dun has requested additional monies over and above what the federal contribution and the territorial equivalent contribution amounts would be.
The chief has agreed to sit down with the federal and Yukon governments regarding this additional amount that they have requested, and just to be clear for the record, since I'm repeating a lot of the things that we debated yesterday, the amount the federal government is contributing is $115,000. The Yukon government is also contributing $115,000 in cash and cash equivalents.
Mr. Phillips: Well, Mr. Chair, I read the debate from yesterday, so the minister doesn't have to repeat everything that was in yesterday's debate. I will be asking some questions surrounding some of the issues that were raised and some questions that I think were still unanswered.
Mr. Chair, how much more is the Kwanlin Dun asking for? What are they going to use the money for? Is there a new program they want to establish? What is the reason for the request for more money?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, I understand that the Kwanlin Dun request is for an additional $55,000 to fund the youth component of the program. As I indicated yesterday, at present, the Department of Justice has agreed to contribute $60,000 for the Kwanlin Dun community justice project in the 1998-99 budget that we are debating at present. The Department of Health and Social Services has advised that they are prepared to second a youth probation worker to Kwanlin Dun with an equivalent value of $70,000 to fulfill the commitment to match the approved federal funding. That is, as the member will be aware, because the Department of Health and Social Services is responsible for youth justice programs and, hence, for the youth component of projects that are jointly funded between the federal and territorial governments.
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Chair, a few moments ago, I asked about the agreement and when it was signed. I'm not one to accuse anyone of not stating the facts in this House, but yesterday in the House, the minister said there's also been an agreement signed for the 1998-99 fiscal year. That is not what the minister just told me a few minutes ago. She told me a few minutes ago that the agreement will be signed shortly. Did the minister misspeak herself yesterday, when she told us it was already signed? And if she thought it was already signed, who signed it?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, let me see if I can avoid any confusion on the subject for the member, and let's not stray dangerously close to points of order or, indeed, spurious points of order, which seem to be increasing at an alarming rate during this session, I have noted.
The agreement for 1997-98 was signed at the beginning of the 1998 fiscal year.
The 1998-99 agreement was prepared. I thought it had been signed. It has not been signed, as I indicated to the member. Kwanlin Dun have submitted a request for further amounts of money, which they are now sitting down to discuss with the federal and territorial governments. We had agreement with the officials to go ahead with the signing of the 1998-99 agreement.
Mr. Phillips: I guess, Mr. Chair, my concern is that it was the minister who signed the last agreement and I would have thought it would have been the minister who would have signed the new agreement. I just wonder why the change. Why did we decide that officials could sign an agreement of this nature? Is that what's going to happen from now on, that officials are going to sign all these justice agreements with the First Nation bands rather than the minister?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: No, Mr. Chair, the procedure is that the officials negotiate an agreement and recommend to their political leaders that the agreements be signed. The officials had negotiated an agreement and I had been advised that officials had reached agreement, that the agreement was ready for signature by the elected officials.
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Chair, I guess it just is a bit confusing in Hansard, because in this agreement that was tabled, it's the final agreement. It says it's signed. The minister said yesterday that everything was done and that it was signed again and I just assumed that it would be the minister who would sign both agreements.
But the minister has been telling us here today that they reached an agreement, but it wasn't signed. It was just an agreement reached by the officials. So, I guess we'll leave it at that.
When does the minister expect to come to some resolution with the Chief of the Kwanlin Dun with respect to the $55,000 over and above the agreement? What is the position the minister is taking on the youth program that the Kwanlin Dun chief wants to embark upon?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, since these will be tripartite negotiations between Kwanlin Dun officials as well as Yukon government and federal government officials, the federal officials will be here in a couple of weeks to sit down and attempt to reach resolution on the amount of the funding for the Kwanlin Dun First Nation community justice project.
Mr. Phillips: Well, we'll leave that one for now. I suspect that if it doesn't work out, we'll hear from the chief of the Kwanlin Dun. He will probably be speaking out on his concerns with respect to the issue, so we'll wait and see.
I have a couple of other questions for the minister. Can the minister table any correspondence with respect to compensation for the victims of crime program? Is the minister planning anything with respect to compensation for victims of crime?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: As the member opposite is aware from the debate that took place in this Legislature during the fall session, we enacted the Crime Prevention and Victim Services Trust Act. Our decision was to move money into crime prevention and victim services programs of a general nature rather than to support individual compensation. There are, as the member is aware and as we have debated in this Legislature previously, outstanding cases on compensation for victims of crime. The legal services branch is reviewing the department's obligations with respect to the 10 outstanding claims, pursuant to the federal act to repeal the Compensation for Victims of Crime Act.
Mr. Phillips: Do you want to turn around, so you look like you're serving all of us?
Chair: I'm serving just fine.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Chair, if the Chair wants respect, the Chair should show respect for others in the House, as well.
Chair: I would like to remind all the members to wait until they're introduced before they speak.
Mr. Phillips: Thank you, Mr. Chair. I'd like to remind the Chair that, when he's chairing the House, he should show impartiality to all members of the House, and he shouldn't sit with his back to members who are addressing the House.
I'd appreciate -
Chair: The Chair would like to inform this particular member that my back is not to him, I am impartial and I am treating him and other members with respect. Maybe he should return the respect.
Mr. Phillips: Thank you, Mr. Chair. Mr. Chair, respect is earned and you're not earning it.
Mr. Chair, my question's for the Minister of Justice again. The minister -
Chair: Emery, we have another job for you to do.
Mr. Phillips: Are we having cat-calls from the Chair, Mr. Chair? Is that what's happening now? This is the impartial Chair?
Maybe the Chair should go back and read his book and learn what the role of a Chair is.
I would like to ask the minister about restoring the funding for compensation for victims of crime. Has the minister communicated with the federal government to restore the funding for the compensation for victims of crime and could the minister table any letters or correspondence regarding that?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: This was a subject of discussion at a round table at the first ministers of Justice meeting that I attended.
The federal government made it very clear at that time that there would be no restoration of the Compensation for Victims of Crime Act and that they were not prepared to reconstitute or reinstate that federal legislation that was repealed.
Mr. Phillips: Has the minister given up with the federal government with respect to restoring the funding for the compensation for the victims of crime? Is it a fait accompli, that they're not going to do it?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, the new federal minister has indicated that responding to the needs of victims of crime is a priority for her, and she is inviting discussion with other jurisdictions on how that could be accomplished. I can add, Mr. Chair, that since the Compensation for Victims of Crime Act was repealed in 1993, the federal government has made it clear, repeatedly, including at the Justice ministers meeting I attended in 1996, that they were not prepared to reinstate the Compensation for Victims of Crime Act. That simply was not a model that they were interested in supporting in future, even though, particularly in the period immediately following the 1993 repeal, several jurisdictions requested the feds to reconsider that decision.
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Chair, has the minister any plans to start a public process to explore options, such as the Yukon police commission?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Yes, Mr. Chair, as I indicated to the Member for Riverside in response to the same question in debate in this House during this session, we do plan to follow up with public consultations on policing in the territory, that we intend to proceed with release of documents sometime later this spring and aim toward possible legislation in the fall.
Chair: Is it the members' wish to take a brief 10-minute recess?
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order.
Is there further general debate?
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Chair, I want to go back a bit to some questions on the Kwanlin Dun agreement just for some clarification. Last night, in answer to a question that the Member for Riverside asked, the member asked about the 1997-98 document, which is this agreement made on March 31, 1998. The minister told us last night that it was signed on April 7. Is that information correct? Was the 1997-98 document signed on April 7, 1998?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, the copies that I had of the agreement I provided to the official opposition and to the critic for the third party, and I don't have a copy in front of me. The member can look at his copy of the document to confirm the date.
Mr. Phillips: Thank you, Mr. Chair -
Chair: Order please. Would members please wait to be introduced before starting speaking?
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Chair, the date on the document is 4/7/98. So, I take it that would mean that it wasn't signed until April 7, 1998. Is that correct?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: That's correct.
Mr. Phillips: Can the minister tell me when the funds flowed? I believe there was $77,000 in that fiscal year. Did it flow prior to the fiscal year, or did it flow after the fiscal year, after the signing?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, that question was asked in Question Period last week and I believe I provided a date at the time. The cheque was cut the same week that the agreement was signed. The member could review the Blues to confirm the date. I believe it was on April 9 but, again, that information was previously provided in the House.
Mr. Phillips: Well, Mr. Chair, I'm confused with this. I just want to get the record straight. Is the cheque that the minister gave them on April 9 for the '97-98 year or is it for the '98-99 year? And how did they operate for a full year without any funds?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, as I explained in general debate in the Department of Justice yesterday, the '97-98 agreement was for a partial year and not for a 12-month period. In addition, as I believe I have indicated previously, the funding of $37,000 that was provided to Kwanlin Dun last week was for 1997-98 expenditures.
Kwanlin Dun First Nation, under the terms of their agreement, are also required to provide financial accounting to the federal and Yukon governments. The contribution amounts are made available, and the cheques are disbursed in accordance with the contribution agreements. It is often the case that sums of money will be provided toward the end of a fiscal year or, indeed, shortly after the fiscal year-end.
Kwanlin Dun would have had federal money prior to receiving the Yukon government contribution, and I expect that is how they were able to operate.
Mr. Phillips: Have we advanced them any money for the 1998-99 year as yet?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: No, Mr. Chair, we have not. We have not advanced any funds prior to reaching a signed agreement.
Mr. Phillips: How long can they operate the existing programs without any more funds? Have they got enough money to run, if we don't reach an agreement for a month or two months, or whatever? If we can't reach an agreement, how long will it be before they will be saying they have to shut the program down again?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: As I'm sure the member has heard during Question Period and debate in this House, the Kwanlin Dun First Nation has laid off all their employees in the community justice program. We have indicated that we're prepared to advance some funds at such time as an agreement is signed between the federal Yukon and First Nation governments. That is one of the reasons that the officials from the three levels of government are meeting within the next couple of weeks - to finalize an agreement.
Mr. Phillips: Could the minister provide the opposition and the House with a copy of the agreement that the officials initialled, I guess?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, Mr. Chair, at present we have an agreement that is unsigned. Is that what the member would like a copy of? Yes? Fine.
Mr. Cable: I have a couple of questions following along that debate. I think part of the confusion arises from the fact that the document that was given to us yesterday was dated at the end of the term of the agreement, which was March 31, 1998. The term is set up as April 1, 1997 to March 31, 1998. Then, of course, it wasn't signed until after the agreement expired. I gather the funds under that agreement were not advanced until after the term. What comes to my mind is, is that the reason that there was this public dust-up between the department and the Chief of the Kwanlin Dun?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: No, Mr. Chair, as I've indicated to this member previously, Kwanlin Dun was informed that the Department of Justice would make a financial contribution toward their 1997-98 community justice project. The Kwanlin Dun First Nation was not satisfied that the amount was adequate. That may have been the reason for their public concerns.
Mr. Cable: It seems odd that the First Nation would be laying off its employees. When was the confirmation of $37,000 made to the Kwanlin Dun First Nation?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, the Kwanlin Dun First Nation had been advised by the department that the funds for 1997-98 to support their project would be made available for a matter of months. The deputy minister met with Kwanlin Dun in early March and again in the second week of March and indicated to them at both of those meetings that the funding for 1997-98 was available. There was a phone call made to confirm that that funding was available three weeks prior to the publicly announced decision of Kwanlin Dun to lay off their community justice workers.
Mr. Cable: Okay, I don't want to beat this thing to death. I want to get to the end of the problem. It seems strange that the chief would lay off his workers if, in fact, he was comfortable with the commitment.
It appears that the financial assistance is supposed to flow upon the Yukon government being satisfied as to certain conditions set out in paragraph 3 of the agreement. Does the minister have the agreement in front of her?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Yes.
Mr. Cable: When were those conditions met - the conditions that were set out in paragraph 3?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, first of all, let me say that it was a complete surprise to us, as I've indicated in this House before, that Kwanlin Dun laid off their justice workers. In our view, there was no requirement to do that. We had made it very clear that the funding was available and would be provided to them.
The member is referring to paragraphs 3.2.1, 3.2.2 and 3.2.3 and asking when those particular obligations have been met. I do not have an answer for him at this moment with me in the House as to when Canada provided the financial assistance as set out in 3.2.2. I will be happy to follow up in response to his request for that information.
It is the normal practice, Mr. Chair, that only after an agreement is signed can money flow to the party who will be receiving funds under the agreement.
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Chair, I want to go back to the information the minister gave us with respect to litigation. What I've received isn't exactly what I asked for in the technical briefing. This is a list of all of the litigation, but I wanted it broken down to litigation prior to November 1996, and then any new litigation.
I'm trying to get an idea of the new litigation from November of 1996 until now, and the liabilities that are outstanding as a result of that, whether it's insured or not insured. I know that's sometimes hard to determine. But the other page that we received, Mr. Chair, is the report on "civil litigation actions concluded, dismissed, settled or otherwise resolved", and again it's not broken down as of November 1996, and there are no amounts there. The other one might be more difficult, especially since it's pending, to put a liability amount on because you don't want to divulge that to the other party in some cases; but the ones that are settled, from November 1996 on - I want to get an idea of how active we've been in settling these and at what cost. So I wonder if the minister could provide that information for us as well? I understand the minister won't have it on her feet, but maybe the minister could provide it to us in the next few days?
Chair: Is there any further general debate?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, I would refer the member's attention to one-third of the way down page 2 of the report on civil litigation actions. It does indicate actions commenced since May of 1997, and so there is a breakdown by dates in that portion as requested.
Mr. Chair, the information that the member opposite is now requesting would require a hand search of each individual file. I can undertake to see what we may be able to provide. I would caution the member that we may not be able, at this stage, to provide all of the information that he is requesting. Certainly, in cases that are before the courts, I am unable to make comment. I can assure the member that we are working actively to conclude all civil litigation actions on a regular basis. We actively pursue alternative dispute resolution mechanisms.
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Chair, I understand what the minister is saying with respect to some of the outstanding lawsuits, but I'm not asking the minister to comment specifically on the lawsuits. I know the minister can't comment on them on the day they're before the court, but she can comment on them otherwise. For the ones that are outstanding, those that we haven't settled, I don't think the government should have to divulge its liability. The ones that we have settled, though, I would like to know what the liability is of those.
This says "actions commenced since May of 1997". Does that mean there were no actions commenced from November of 1996 to May of 1997? Is that what the minister is telling us? I thought I asked from the time the New Democratic Party took office, which was November of 1997, until today. I know when the minister was on this side of the House and spoke about these issues, the minister used to urge us to settle all these things quickly, not go to court on every case, and that kind of thing. So, I'm just wondering what the minister's track record is on this matter?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, Mr. Chair, I believe that there was some misunderstanding during the technical briefing as to exactly what the member was requesting. The legal services branch understood that the member wanted to know about actions commencing during the past year, so looked at actions commenced since May of 1997. I will provide for the member, and asked to have prepared for the member's information, a listing of cases, if any, between November of 1996 and May of 1997 that have not already been reported.
In addition, Mr. Chair, the member has asked for the amounts of settlements, and I can provide that information to him. I should remind the member, as I believe he was previously aware, when he served as minister, that we do not budget within the Department of Justice for damages and judgments. Line departments are responsible for judgments. Some civil cases may be in Community and Transportation Services, the Public Service Commission, or any number of departments. In some instances, it may be the Department of Justice; however, we do not budget for damages and judgments, since it's very difficult to predict what that amount may be in a given year.
Mr. Phillips: There's one of them that kind of jumps out at me here, and that is our famous, notorious Yukon taxpayer, Mr. Bemis. It says here, "Bemis versus YTG: action for costs of legal suit," and it says, "Report on civil litigation, actions concluded, dismissed, settled or otherwise resolved." Can the minister tell us what happened? I know that there were some legal costs incurred by the government. What happened in this case? Was Mr. Bemis suing us or were we suing him for the costs? What did we conclude from this one? Can the minister give that information to us now?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: We can provide a short synopsis for the member on that case.
Mr. Phillips: Thank you, I would appreciate that. If the minister could do that on all those cases that were concluded, dismissed, settled or otherwise resolved, I would like to have the information on those from November 1996 on. For the others, I think we've had that information prior, so there's no need for the department to do that.
I apologize if there was a misunderstanding. I thought I said November. Maybe I did say the last year. If the minister would attempt to do that, I would appreciate it.
On legal aid, the minister spoke a bit about it last night. She indicated that the demand is up in legal aid. The concern that I have is a concern that I have expressed to the minister both privately and also publicly, and that is the recent changes to the Legal Aid Board with respect to who qualifies for legal aid. The cases I'm talking about are the cases of a single parent who goes back to court to look at a variance change or any variance in child support.
I've had some constituents come to me who are rather upset that their partner or spouse is in court with a lawyer and they have been denied legal aid by the Legal Aid Board. I know the minister is very concerned about maintenance enforcement and the plight of single mothers who are trying to receive adequate payments to raise their children. I'm just wondering if the minister is aware of this problem and what she is doing to try and solve it, because it appears that these single mothers - or single fathers, as the case might be - are falling through the cracks - especially in light of the new federal changes. With the new federal changes to child support, many people are asking for variances with respect to the Income Tax Act and so many people are having to go back to court. So, this is going to affect a lot more people in the future and it really puts someone who doesn't have the wherewithal to hire a lawyer at a distinct disadvantage.
I just wonder if the minister has considered that problem and what the minister is doing about it.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I should put a few comments on the public record in response to those statements from the member opposite. I believe the member opposite received a breakdown of the legal aid budgets spent on criminal versus civil matters and if he has not, I'm going to put them into the record now.
During the 1996-97 fiscal year, which is the last year that we have statistics available for, 56 percent of legal aid expenditures went to criminal matters, 24 percent of those expenditures went to civil matters and 20 percent of expenditures went to young offender matters.
In relation to the member's comments about single parents and about family law matters, we have offered mediation service as part of preparing for the new regime under the new federal child support guidelines. We also find that administrative sanctions, such as withdrawing drivers' licences and vehicle registration, withholding other licences and federal garnishees on income tax and other payments to parents who are not making their maintenance payments are most effective.
The programs that we do have available are advertised widely. I have had one meeting with the Legal Aid Board to discuss issues with them.
Certainly, some people know how to use the system to their own advantage, and to the detriment of a single custodial parent, in some cases. We're working with the Legal Aid Board and within our government department, as well as with other jurisdictions, to look for ways to solve those problems, since they are not unique to the Yukon but are common across the country.
Mr. Phillips: Well, Mr. Chair, after I raised the issue, I think it was the chair of the Legal Aid Board that said that what it really boils down to in that case was money, and that if there was more money dedicated to that area, the board could consider it.
My concern is that the minister didn't really answer my question here today. The question is that the board changed the criteria with respect to single mothers, and although it's nice to offer mediation, if the father is in Calgary or Toronto and applies to the court to do a variance of the order, in one case that I know of, the single mother, who didn't have the wherewithal, had to appear herself in the courtroom to defend the arguments of a lawyer hired by her husband who wanted to make a variance. In the past - up until last November, I believe - she would have been entitled to legal aid, but because of money, as per the statements made by the chair of the board, they can no longer receive legal aid.
So, I'm wondering if the minister is prepared to kick in a few dollars, Mr. Chair, to hopefully assist some of these people. I don't think there is a large number of them right now, but I think it is an issue, and it puts an onerous burden on a single mother or a single father if the other spouse has the wherewithal to hire a lawyer and they don't, and they have to go into a courtroom and argue the issue, especially when they are already struggling to maintain the children who they usually have custody of.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: As the member opposite has just said, often these questions do boil down to the money. If there was unlimited money available, the legal aid program, like many other programs, is a very worthy program for increased funding. I can tell the member, as I believe he is aware, that the funding for legal aid is broken down between criminal and civil matters. The Legal Aid Board recently revised their criteria. I recall that was debated in the House and that copies of the new criteria were supplied to the opposition parties. We have not heard from the Legal Aid Board of any further changes since that time.
Because of the inability of some families to receive legal aid support, we have offered mediation services so that parents can apply to have the matter mediated.
I don't have funds available to increase that budget, as sympathetic as I am to the needs of single parents, and others who request legal aid assistance.
Nevertheless, we will continue to work with the Legal Aid Board and to look at the problems as they arise and see how we can help alleviate the situation for people who require assistance.
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Chair, I don't think that answer is good enough. I'll volunteer to help the minister find the money in her budget, when we go through the budget, and if the minister wants, I'll even provide an amendment to the budget to move some money into that area. Because I know, when the minister was on this side, it was a very high priority with that minister - a very high priority - and my concern now is that, when the minister has the ability to do something about a serious issue for some single mothers, it is about money, but it's also about the minister's priority and money.
The minister can't stand up in the House and brag about all the good things she's doing for the single mums out there when there are single mums in the territory that are suffering and it wouldn't take a lot of money to solve the problem. Some of the jaunts that her colleagues are going on - for example, the one to the Arctic Winter Games - could have gone to the legal aid for single mums. I'll give the minister all kinds of examples where we can find money that's better spent. There are all kinds of places where we could find money.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Phillips: The Member for Whitehorse Centre should realize that there's no free lunch in politics. Or maybe there is.
I'm willing to help the minister look through her budget, and I'll do that over the next couple of days. We'll find some money that we can put in there. I don't think we're talking about a lot of money. Does the minister have any idea how much money it would take to deal with this issue of variances, specifically for maintenance enforcement - one of the highest priorities that this minister says she has? How much money does the minister think it would take to deal with this issue?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, as the member opposite knows, it is the government that has the responsibility of developing budgets that meet the priorities of the Yukon public and meet our commitments to provide services to members of the public, including services to single parents.
Mr. Chair, the member has been standing here raising a concern. I have told him that we will do our best to respond to those concerns. We do our best to meet with organizations, such as the Legal Aid Board, who have the responsibility for administering that particular budget, as well as with individual citizens and clients.
I have to tell the member that I have not received complaints from single parents who have gone to legal aid and not received assistance.
I am not aware as to what funding level the member may be speculating about.
Mr. Phillips: Well, I don't understand that statement from the minister, Mr. Chair, because a constituent I dealt with I sent to the minister's office to talk to her people. I don't know how she can say she hasn't had anybody come to her, because I know somebody who did. I guess it might be safe to say, then, that this issue isn't as high a priority to the Minister of Justice as other issues in justice are. Is that accurate to say?
Although she has claimed that maintenance enforcement is important, these changes that have been made by the Legal Aid Board - and the chair of the Legal Aid Board said it's all about money; that's why they made the change - it's not high enough a priority to the minister to allocate even $10,000 or $15,000 to this issue to deal with the single mums who might approach the minister and ask for some support because someone's asking to vary the amount of payments to their children.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, the client that the member opposite claims he sent to my office, who is a citizen our office had previously been working with and continues to work with to try to resolve her problems, did not have difficulty with legal aid. Members of my department do bring to my attention any issues or inquiries that need to be brought there, whether it's to do with legal aid funding or maintenance enforcement orders or other complaints.
The member did not have a question there. He was making a statement. The member alleges I do not take the needs of single parents seriously. I can assure him that I do.
Mr. Phillips: Okay, Mr. Chair, then is it safe to say that the minister feels that there isn't a problem here at all, that the changes that are made by the Legal Aid Board haven't created any problems for anybody and that it's just fine the way it is? Is that what the minister is saying?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, I'm only saying to the member opposite that as complaints or requests for help are brought to my attention, I deal with them. In addition, we work to ensure that the budget funds are expended in a way that provides adequate levels of service to all members of society. The member opposite is making political statements, not asking questions.
Mr. Phillips: Well, I remind the minister, Mr. Chair, that it was she who made all the political statements when she was on this side of the House, and even when she went over to that side of the House, this was one of her highest priorities and it was one issue that she was not going to let slip through her hands, and she has. That's unfortunate, but we know that if the minister was really sincere about her convictions she would have done something about it. That's unfortunate.
Mr. Chair, Crown devolution was talked about a little bit yesterday, but I would like to know what is the main stumbling block to the devolution of the Crown? I thought the main stumbling block had been moved to a new portfolio in the federal government. What's the main stumbling block now to the devolution?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, first of all, Mr. Chair, before we get on to the new subject of the devolution of the Crown attorney function that the member opposite raised, I have to respond that his allegations are false. I do act on my commitments and -
Mr. Phillips: On a point of order, Mr. Chair.
Point of order
Chair: Mr. Phillips, on a point of order.
Mr. Phillips: Is the minister saying that I'm not telling the truth, saying that the allegations are false? Mr. Chair, I think that's unparliamentary.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, on the point of order.
Chair: Ms. Moorcroft, on the point of order.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Thank you, Mr. Chair. I think if the member opposite were to listen carefully and to perhaps review Hansard, he would note that what I stated is that his allegations were false. I do not believe that is an unparlimentary remark, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Phillips: On the point of order, Mr. Chair.
Chair: Mr. Phillips, on the point of order.
Mr. Phillips: Under "member called to order during debate", section 19(1)(i) says: charges another member with uttering a deliberate falsehood. Mr. Chair, that's just what she's done. She said my allegations were false. Ask her to withdraw it.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: On the point of order.
Chair: Ms. Moorcroft, on the point of order.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, I believe that the member was obviously misinformed, and I think that that must be why his allegations were inaccurate. I do not believe that I have deliberately misled the House.
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Chair, I think the member explained her actions but she didn't withdraw her comment. I think she has to withdraw her comment.
Chair: The Chair sees there is no point of order. There is a difference between saying a statement is false and accusing members of lying.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Well, Mr. Chair, again this evening, as has repeatedly been the case, I find myself reviewing Hansard from yesterday to come back to subjects that have been discussed and to make sure that, if the members have misunderstood what I stated yesterday, I'm able to clarify the record for the member.
The member requested what was the main stumbling block to the transfer of the Crown attorney function from the federal government to the Yukon government. That is, in fact, a very good question, Mr. Chair. It seems to me that the federal government has retained the Crown attorney function for some considerable time and may be subject to an institutional reaction of protecting its interests.
That may be the case. I can tell the member, as I indicated yesterday, that the present federal minister has indicated that she is supportive of the transfer of the Crown attorney function. Some progress has been made on drafting a new discussion paper to be released, following up on the Stein Lal report that the member opposite was quite familiar with that was completed in 1995.
Mr. Phillips: Is there any time line from the minister on reaching some kind of an agreement with respect to devolution? I know in the Stein Lal report, I think it talked about the year 2000, and I know that that was unacceptable to us at the time, primarily because there could be a possibility of the drawing down of some justice powers by First Nations prior to that, and we wanted to ensure that before that discussion took place we had the devolution in place.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, I have discussed precisely that issue with the federal minister. She has indicated that they recognize that the year 2000 date, which was discussed in the Stein Lal report, is a good time frame to aim for, since that is the period at which the first four First Nations that signed umbrella final agreements will have the ability to draw down the administration of justice if they choose.
It has not been formally communicated to me in a letter signed by the federal minister that the transfer of the Crown attorney function will be accomplished by the year 2000. She did agree that that was a target date and also agreed that the federal government should begin its consultations shortly, and we were able to speed up some of the work that they were engaged in - in completing the federal government's own discussion paper on the transfer of the Crown attorney function.
Mr. Phillips: I wonder if, tomorrow, the minister could bring back to the House the status of the drawing down of Justice powers by First Nations. I know that the Teslin First Nation was eager to get at it a few years ago - maybe just a status report on where we're at with that, and whether or not the government agrees that Justice powers can be drawn down prior to the devolution of the Crown attorney function. How is that going to work? How are we going to work in conjunction with the draw-down of the Crown devolution?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: The umbrella final agreement governs the draw-down of the administration of Justice. The First Nations do have the ability to draw down the administration of Justice in the year 2000.
Mr. Phillips: That didn't really answer my question. I know that. But what bands are asking to draw down powers? What powers are they asking to draw down? Do we anticipate anything happening, prior to the devolution of the Crown? How will the drawing down of the powers affect the Crown? I don't expect an answer on those today, Mr. Chair.
If you want, Mr. Chair, I can report progress on Bill No. 9.
Motion agreed to
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, I move the Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Motion agreed to
Speaker resumes the Chair
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
May the House have a report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole?
Mr. McRobb: The Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 9, First Appropriation Act, 1998-99, and has directed me to report progress on it.
Speaker: You have heard the report of the Chair of the Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: I declare the report carried.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I move that the House do now adjourn.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Minister of Justice that the House do now adjourn.
Motion agreed to
Speaker: This House stands adjourned until 1:30 p.m. tomorrow.
The House adjourned at 9:29 p.m.
The following Sessional Papers were tabled April 15, 1998:
Electricity risk in the Yukon (dated April 1998): Cabinet Commission on Energy (McRobb)
Energy efficiency for the Yukon (dated April 1998): Cabinet Commission on Energy (McRobb)