Wednesday, April 29, 1998 - 1:30 p.m.
Clerk: It is my duty, pursuant to the provisions of section 24 of the Legislative Assembly Act, to inform the Legislative Assembly of the absence of the Speaker. In his absence, the Deputy Speaker shall take the Chair.
Deputy Speaker: I will now call the House to order. We will proceed at this time with prayers.
Deputy Speaker: We will proceed at this time with the Order Paper.
Are there any tributes?
Introduction of visitors.
Are there any returns or documents for tabling?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Deputy Speaker: Under tabling returns and documents, I have for tabling the annual report of the Yukon ombudsman information and privacy commissioner for the period from January 1, 1997 to December 31, 1997.
Are there any further returns or documents for tabling?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: I have for tabling the independent auditor's report on a contribution agreement between the Department of Renewable Resources and the Carcross-Tagish First Nation, which did not find evidence to support the allegations of misappropriation of funds. Attached to the package are the terms of reference for the audit and the department's response to the auditor's recommendation.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Today I have for tabling the Municipal Act review.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I have for tabling the mobile home handbook.
Deputy 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?
Mobile home strategy: Range Road East development project
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Speaker, I rise to update the House on a major development under our government's mobile home strategy. This is part of our government's policy of assuring Yukon families access to affordable housing.
All members will recall from my ministerial statement last May that the mobile home strategy identified four problem areas that face owners and residents of more than 1,200 mobile homes in the Yukon: land, financing, regulation, and public information.
On the topic of land, I'm pleased to announce that on Monday of this week the City of Whitehorse council gave final reading on a zoning bylaw amendment that established appropriate zoning for the future site of Yukon Housing Corporation's Range Road East mobile home development.
This project was announced in the budget speech at the beginning of this sitting and will produce 69 mobile home lots to be sold as strata-titled lots.
The lots have been developed using alternative design standards. This includes the clustered layout that allows for several cluster groups of 11 to 15 lots each. This design concept has significant advantages. Besides providing more open space and privacy between clusters, it allows for lower development costs for water, sewer and roads.
We will also help reduce maintenance costs by putting water and sewer services under parking lots and driveways. These savings will be passed on to the mobile home lot owners.
While we are confident that these lots will be more affordable than the conventional lots, we are not prepared to establish unrealistic expectation by announcing a price at this time. Price information will be available at a public information meeting at the Mt. McIntyre Centre on Wednesday, May 27, at 7:30 p.m.
Using the condominium structure for the Range Road development provides options to improve the quality of life for mobile home owners. The design allows for maximum protection of adjacent green spaces with small tot parks included within each cluster unit and two powered parking spots per lot.
A series of walkways and trails will run between the parking lots and mobile home lots. In addition, well-vegetated and scenic trails will link up with the long-established trails network along the bank and down to the Yukon River. A compound is also provided to secure storage for recreational vehicles.
Finally, this project provides a workable option for owners of older mobile homes who find themselves in a non-secure rental situation because of a municipal bylaw restricting the relocation of older mobile homes. As a strata title development, this project is exempt from that bylaw. This will allow owners of older units to retrieve their equity and move it to a new lot.
The Yukon Housing Corporation has developed a set of architectural standards to identify necessary upgrades to older units. Besides establishing a safe and healthy building standard within the development, it will help protect property value. These standards will be available to the general public at the upcoming open house for mobile home owners.
The corporation will continue to deliver the program that will help owners meet those standards to relocate their units. Financing to help people take this step toward the ownership is available through the existing Yukon Housing Corporation programs.
Having achieved an important milestone with the rezoning, we will be proceeding with the subdivision and development of the property. Construction is scheduled to begin in early June with lots available for sale by this fall.
I would also like to take this opportunity to bring members' attention to the information handbook of mobile home owners, which my colleague, the Minister of Justice, tabled just a few moments ago. This booklet provides information on the Landlord and Tenant Act and will assist home owners in the event of a dispute. This government believes strongly that individuals should have access and knowledge of the laws that govern them. This user-friendly handbook will help mobile home owners understand their rights better.
Mr. Speaker, the Range Road East development recognizes the value of home ownership and moves us one big step closer to meeting the goal of ensuring Yukon people have access to affordable housing.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Jenkins: On behalf of the Yukon Party caucus and the office of the official opposition, I rise to respond to the minister's statement regarding the Range Road East development project, and I am pleased to offer our conditional support to this project.
Before I go on, I would like to raise some concerns about the time in which these ministerial statements are being delivered to the offices of the official opposition and the third party. As government members are fully aware, there is in place an agreement to present members opposite with copies of ministerial statements by a specific time.
In the course of this sitting, statements have been arriving later and later, making it difficult for members to review the contents and make a fair assessment of what is being said. As I have stated in the past, we on this side of the House would appreciate receiving ministerial statements on time, as agreed to by all parties.
Mr. Deputy Speaker, as members are fully aware, mobile home owners have been faced with many challenges over the years. The biggest challenge for many mobile home owners has been that of finding themselves living in substandard housing units that they cannot afford to repair and giving them no other alternative for relocating or improving their homes.
The condominium concept for mobile home parks, where mobile home owners can own their own land and common facilities and infrastructure, was an initiative that was first proposed by the Yukon Party. While we, on this side of the House, are pleased to see the government proceed with this initiative, we do have a few concerns that perhaps the minister could address in his rebuttal.
Although the minister was not able to announce prices of lots at this time, he did say that he was confident that they will be more affordable than conventional lots. If the minister was truly confident, I believe he would have no hesitation in making the price known. As the minister is unwilling to relay this information, perhaps he could shed some light as to the cost of fees that would be charged each month for maintenance of this area - $30, $50 or $100? In what range are the proposed condominium fees or strata fees going to be?
The minister did not mention how large the lots will be. Present lots in the Copper Ridge and the Arkell subdivisions are between 560 and 600 square metres. It is my understanding that the lots being proposed for this development would be between 80 and 100 square metres smaller than the ones that exist presently in Copper Ridge and Arkell.
If this is the case, there may be a concern that the size is not adequate to hold all of the family belongings. The minister did mention that there will be a compound for storage of recreational vehicles. Many families do not have RVs. Could the compound be used for the personal storage of other goods or personal belongings?
How much space would be made available for each household in the compound? There are 69 lots. I would assume that the compound would have to be a rather large space if we're envisioning holding RVs.
Of large concern are the costs associated with the requirements to have a mobile home upgraded to meet the architectural standards that have been identified by the Yukon Housing Corporation in order to relocate to one of the lots in Range Road East. That is a very large concern indeed.
Perhaps more detail could be provided regarding such standards and if consultations were held with mobile home owners prior to the standards being adopted, as well as the anticipated cost of having these upgrades done.
At the same time, there have been some concerns raised about the possibility of depressing property values with having older mobile homes moving in. Do part of the architectural standards address exterior renovations to improve the looks of those mobile homes that may require a face lift?
As well as having to pay for renovations, which can run into many thousands of dollars, there's also the cost of having to move mobile homes from one site to this new site. Many homes have porches and/or rooms that could become uprooted when moving. Has any consideration been given to providing assistance to home owners for relocation costs?
There is also the concern of mobile home owners, such as those in Takhini Trailer Park, who will encounter difficulties in moving their homes out of the park and into the new subdivision, as a result of having narrow spaces. As the plans call for clusters of 11 to 15 lots each, I would also imagine there's need for some dynamic planning in place so as to avoid any confusion or mishap occurring. What plans are there in place to address these potential shortfalls?
Deputy Speaker: Order please. The member has 10 seconds.
Mr. Jenkins: In a recent report that surveyed mobile home owners and park owners, the findings reveal that more than 50 percent of Yukon homes are 18 years or older.
Deputy Speaker: Order please. The member's time has expired.
Mrs. Edelman: I rise today on behalf of the Yukon Liberal caucus to respond to the ministerial statement on the new mobile home strata development on Range Road.
Mr. Speaker, this initiative seems to be close to completion with the finalizing of the zoning bylaw from the City of Whitehorse. The construction schedule, starting in early June, however, seems a little optimistic, as there is still the development agreement process to complete with public hearings at the municipal level. That will have to take place in only one month and, in government time, that's almost lightning speed; t
herefore, it is unlikely that it's going to be finished in that time.
Now, fortunately, it is possible to move these mobile homes into the subdivision right through the winter months. That's certainly what happened when the Arkell subdivision opened up in Whitehorse. This is a good partnership that has produced a workable solution to a long-term problem in Whitehorse and ultimately will benefit the owners of older mobile homes.
Thank you for the update on the initiative.
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Speaker, I thank the members for their comments to the ministerial statement and the support for this initiative by this government. We have had a lot of consultation with the mobile home owners and it's come to government to do something with the health and safety issue that is within these mobile home parks.
We know that the June construction and having lots available in the fall is a very tight time frame and we feel that we, the Housing Corporation, can do this within this time line. We know it's tight, but working out the schedule and, everything being on schedule so far, we feel quite confident that we can meet these time lines.
The member knows, with the mobile home strategy, there are a number of things that we have proposed in regard to moving mobile homes. We talked about the relocation costs. That's part of the mobile home strategy. The member had talked about the compound and what size it would be. We have 69 lots, which was a bit of an improvement over the numbers we had thought might go in there. There should be sufficient room for each of the lots to have an area where they can store either recreational vehicles or other types of assets they might want to store there, possibly additional sheds that they might keep there, but these would all be in a locked and secured area.
They also talked about the architectural standards that the department has completed. They talked about older mobile homes being moved on to these lots and these standards would address this to make sure that all the units are up to standard in regard to their looks, basically giving them a facelift so that we would not be faced with a situation where we have older mobile homes on a strata title like this, basically putting them in a different position where older mobile homes would not be accepted.
As the member knows, strata title gives all of the mobile home owners a say in what development takes place and how they would like to see development happen within the strata title park. The Yukon Housing Corporation will be basically the owners until approximately 66 percent of the lots are sold and then they can have the association take over and become the strata title owners and they can give direction as to how they would like to see future development, and so on, and what they would like to see within these parks.
Mr. Speaker, I thank the members for their comments. I believe that we have moved a long way on our commitments on this issue and we believe we can meet them and start moving people onto these lots.
I know the member was concerned about the prices of the lots and we have final numbers to work out before the May 27 meeting, and at that point, members will be up to speed as to what the prices of the lots are.
I thank the members for their comments.
Municipal Act review
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Mr. Deputy Speaker, before I start with my ministerial statement, I would like for all members of the House to recognize the president of the Association of Yukon Communities, Ms. Barb Harris, in the audience. I would also like to recognize the executive director of the Association of Yukon Communities, Larry Bagnell, and I would also like to thank all members of the Municipal Act review committee for the fine work that they have done. So, thank you very much for being here.
Hon. Mr. Keenan:
Mr. Deputy Speaker, I rise today to inform the House of an important initiative that provides another example of our government's policy of involving Yukon people directly in the decisions that affect them.
For some time now, we have been working in partnership with municipalities to complete a comprehensive review of the Municipal Act. The Municipal Act review committee, which is made up of municipal and Yukon government officials, has developed a number of proposals for a new Municipal Act.
We are now asking for public views and comments on the proposals for this new act.
The Municipal Act is the statute that governs Yukon municipalities. In effect, it is their constitution. It establishes the framework for all facets of municipal government operations.
The proposals for a new act are about municipal powers and Yukon government controls over municipal activities. Yukon municipalities should have more flexibility to deal with the challenges they are facing now and will face in the future.
At present, municipalities can only carry out activities that are specifically authorized by the act, and can do so only in the way the act allows. This limits the ability of municipalities to address problems.
Before a new act can be created, however, it is important that the opinions of the Yukon community as a whole are heard and incorporated through a full consultation process.
Yukon residents will be informed of the proposed changes at community meetings throughout the Yukon Territory in May and in June. They will then have a period to make their comments and concerns known to the government.
Among the changes being proposed are provisions that would transfer some of the control the government has over municipalities directly to the public. The proposals also contain provisions for creating a variety of rural government structures and implementing changes to municipal financial systems.
A new system of checks and balances is being proposed to give residents greater ability to ensure that municipal governments conduct their affairs appropriately.
Mr. Deputy Speaker, I would like to thank the municipal officials who have participated in the review, as well as representatives of the Association of Yukon Communities, who sat on the review committee. The strong partnership they helped form was instrumental in the creation of proposals for a new act.
Through government-to-government partnerships and consultations with Yukon people, our government continues to advance its policy of fostering healthy communities.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Deputy Speaker, what the minister is announcing today is a stretch for a ministerial statement. A ministerial statement is supposed to announce a new policy or initiative of the government. The Yukon Municipal Act review has been underway for over two years. I'm sure that the municipal officials and the Association of Yukon Communities are most pleased to learn that the process is continuing.
I'm also sure that this ministerial statement is timed to add a good political spin for the Minister of Community and Transportation Services' and the Government Leader's attendance at the annual general meeting of the Association of Yukon Communities in Dawson City next weekend.
For years, the Association of Yukon Communities and municipalities have been involved in the review lobbying for changes to the formula regarding municipal block funding. I'm sure most municipalities and community leaders would be more pleased to hear of an increase in block funding, which has remained static for quite a number of years.
We presume that the input of the municipalities and AYC are being well-received by this government, but now is the time to include the views of the ordinary citizens. We hope that, for a change, this government will actually listen to and act upon what is being said by the communities and by our residents at large.
Will a review be completed by this fall, and will legislation be coming forward in the fall sitting of this House? Perhaps in the minister's rebuttal, if he could respond to that question, I'd appreciate it. I look forward to the tabling of such a bill that will accurately reflect the concerns and needs of Yukoners and Yukon communities.
Thank you very much.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, I rise today on behalf of the Yukon Liberal caucus to respond to this ministerial statement on the Municipal Act review. The Yukon Liberal caucus strongly supports this review process.
All Yukon legislation should be reviewed on a regular basis. This makes for living legislation that better serves Yukoners living in a constantly changing world.
It is my understanding that the consultation schedule for the Municipal Act has been agreed to by the members of the Association of Yukon Communities. The changes to this act are quite extensive and have taken a considerable amount of time to draft with officials from Yukon towns and cities. It is my hope that Yukoners will have sufficient time to respond to these changes. I'm also hoping that the information meeting that will be held in May and June of this year will be held prior to the closing of Yukon schools. Consultations held in the summer are not the best way to get a true indication of the views of Yukoners.
While municipal councils sit all summer, most other Yukoners have other things to do, and it's not clear from the statement what the deadline is for the finalizing of local consultation. I hope that that deadline is not until well into September.
Could the minister tell this House what consultation has gone on with Yukon First Nations? First Nations, under self-government agreements, have the ability to contract for, or deliver, municipal services, and therefore have a legitimate interest in this legislation. Has consultation occurred with CYFN or each individual First Nation?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, Mr. Speaker, I could absolutely accept that the Member for Klondike would attempt to put a negative political spin on this, but let me just say that the difference between this administration and the last one is that, when we start something, we finish it. And why do we do it? Because we do it for the betterment of the communities.
Now, I can sit here and name many initiatives that that government started and did not complete because they did not choose to complete them or because they lost the power or the respect of the Yukon people. Both the same. Both the same. This government is delivering and will continue to deliver.
Thank you very much.
As to the schedule, yes, we certainly will. We're out consulting with people. We're going to have this on the legislative agenda for this fall. We do realize the importance of taking it to all sectors of the community and will continue to do so. We will consult with all First Nations. We will ask for their input. We will consult with the tribal councils, we will consult with the Council for Yukon First Nations, and we will legislate in conjunction with our partners in the community.
So, I thank the members very much for their positiveness. I'd like to also say that this is not a stretch of a ministerial statement - maybe for the others because they never went out, but this government goes out, consults with people, and therein that is new for people in the Yukon, certainly not in the past few years but in a previous four.
Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.
Deputy Speaker: This then brings us to the Question Period.
Question re: Alcohol and drug abuse in Yukon
Mr. Jenkins: My question is for the Minister of Health and Social Services on alcohol and drug treatment in Yukon.
The minister's track record in dealing with Yukon's number one social problem, alcohol and drug abuse, is dismal. The judiciary has recently criticized this government for not tackling the territory's serious teen drinking problem. The minister has earned everlasting notoriety for cancelling the 26-year-old Crossroads treatment centre program because he deemed it not culturally sensitive to First Nations clients.
In the minister's response to the Crossroads petition - which he ignored - the minister stated, "This new system also allows to us empower Yukon First Nations in their own healing programs. Some of the money will be available for per diems for treatment centres in communities, and I have to say that I'm pleased to say that the Aishihik treatment centre is now in operation and we have begun to develop a relationship with the centre."
Now we hear from the Aishihik -
Deputy Speaker: Order please. Would the member please get to the question.
Mr. Jenkins: Thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker.
Now we hear from the Aishihik treatment centre that this government is listening to neither of them. What is going on? Why did this organization have to go public before the minister would respond?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, thank you, Mr. Speaker, for that stirring speech by the Member for Klondike. I have to tell the member that he is wrong. We have been meeting with Aishihik. My officials met with them a couple of weeks ago. We looked at the program. We had some questions. We had some further discussions. We conveyed to them - as a matter of fact we are conveying today - that we are interested in working with them in terms of financing and we've made it clear all along that we're committed to supporting provision of more treatment options. I suppose, in this case, I'm a bit surprised. We spoke as late as yesterday and let them know that there was an imminent decision so perhaps it was just a communication problem, but we have been working on a very steady basis with Aishihik.
Mr. Jenkins: Here we have a government that prides itself in communicating with the people and the minister has just stood on his feet and he says he's interested in working with them. Well, the minister has taken some $450,000 away from Crossroads, but despite all the fine words about empowering Yukon First Nations in their own healing programs, here we now have a First Nation representative saying the government is just paying lip service, has a hard time remembering the promises that were made even though they were made just a short time ago. What has the minister done with all the Crossroads money?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Yes, that's right. We didn't use it to build roads.
I can tell the member that if perhaps he would even cast his mind back just a couple of days to the Health and Social Services budget, he will see that we did commit money for alcohol and drug treatment. We have also, within that budget, allocated $100,000 that we were prepared to direct toward support for community healing programs, and, in this case, I can only speculate that perhaps some of the individuals weren't aware of the progress that we were making.
As I said, I have met on at least two occasions with this group. We have been in ongoing contact. We have met with them. We have reviewed their program. I took a look at it. My officials took a look at it. We have some questions. We had some issues around wanting to get some further clarification. There was a trip planned today, I believe, with our director of ADS out to Aishihik, but due to some difficulties with transportation, he was not able to go with the individuals.
I can merely say that we've always committed to working with this group, and we have made a formal offer today.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, apparently the Aishihik alcohol treatment centre is still about $54,000 short of covering the costs for the 18 clients enrolled in its 40-day adult program. Can the minister advise the House what agreement he has with this treatment centre, and will the Yukon government be making up this $54,000 shortfall?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: As we are in communication with the Aishihik treatment centre, I think our communications are probably more appropriately directed toward them and not the Member for Klondike. But I can tell the member that we've made a very substantial -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Sloan: The leader of the official opposition says, "open and accountable." I would suggest that yes, open and accountable, but also open and courteous. We don't go behind people's backs.
What we've done is commit to a very sizeable proportion of the amount that they were seeking.
Question re: Alcohol and drug abuse in Yukon
Mr. Jenkins: Again, no answers from the minister. Once again, I have a question for the Minister of Health and Social Services about Yukon's number one social problem: alcohol and drug abuse. I didn't think it was possible, but the minister has managed to make everyone very upset with him. I guess it's because of his incompetence in dealing with this most serious problem.
The judiciary is mad at him for his callous disregard for teen alcoholism. Non-native Yukoners are mad at him for cancelling a 26-year old program that has at least worked for some of them. Now the Yukon First Nations feel betrayed, because they have discovered the minister is full of fancy words and promises, but he's very short on delivery.
In view of the minister's cancellation of the $450,000 contract with the Crossroads treatment centre, can the minister advise the House here today how many Yukon First Nations community healing camps is the minister prepared to fund with the Crossroads money, or is he just going to keep the money in his pocket?
Something has to be done. What is the minister doing in this area?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: It's always difficult, Mr. Speaker, to understand when the Member for Klondike has finished his reading for the day. He has a marked inability to think on his feet, so he's continually scripted there. Maybe we should ask their research assistant to make the questions shorter and in big print.
What I can suggest is that perhaps the member didn't hear me. I had suggested we were prepared to make a sizeable contribution to Aishihik. At this point, Aishihik has come forward. We've had some discussions with other community treatment centres. Some are at different stages. Some are looking at different kinds of programs.
What we'll do is we'll work with the individual First Nation and see what their program is, what they're suggesting, if indeed it meets our needs, if indeed there are components we can use. The member's asking me to make a blanket statement, and I can't do that.
Mr. Jenkins: Perhaps the minister should get some scripting, so that we can get some answers. The Aishihik alcohol treatment centre currently has 18 clients. It's supposed to begin its treatment program this Sunday.
When I asked the question on April 7 in this House about the per diem rates the Yukon government was prepared to pay and how many beds the Yukon government was prepared to fund, the minister said that everything was very, very preliminary and that he wouldn't give a commitment. Now, he indicates in the House that they're prepared to offer substantial funding - no amounts though.
Did the minister respond today to keep the Aishihik First Nations' treatment centre officials quiet until this House rises? Is that the reason why a response was made today?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: No. We communicated, as late as yesterday, that a decision on that was imminent. I had asked my officials, last week, to give us some options on ways that we could be working with the Aishihik treatment centre. I had arranged to meet with them this morning to take a look at the kinds of presentations that they were prepared to make, and to choose the options that we felt were most meaningful for us. That was already done.
Perhaps the member has missed this point. We have been working with this group. We met with them a couple of weeks ago. They presented their options. We have been discussing with them. I might need to repeat it over and over again, because it's not in his big book, but we have been working with this group.
Now, would he like to read his next question?
Mr. Jenkins: Per diem costs, or total contract amounts for healing centres, other than the two youth wilderness camps in Mayo and Old Crow, have combined costs that are over $350,000 for 25 clients. This is a substantial amount. Even using the minister's socialist calculator, one can readily see that Crossroad's $450,000 funding could be utilized in one First Nations healing camp alone.
How is the minister going to meet his commitment to fund First Nations healing camps throughout the Yukon Territory? I'd also like to hear what he intends to do to combat teen alcoholism and drug abuse as well as to help the numerous alcohol and drug addicts who do not fit into a First Nations healing camp.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Mr. Speaker, I think if there's ever a gallery of wooden statues, that member should be in it, because I've never heard such wooden, scripted questions in my life.
The member has suggested we would be funding all First Nations camps to a full extent. I have never made that suggestion. I have never suggested we would fund all First Nations healing camps fully. I have never suggested that we had that capability. Quite frankly, we don't have that capability.
And I think it also needs to be recognized that First Nation healing camps are, by their very nature, a function as well of the non-insured programs of the Department of Indian Affairs and Health Canada. What we have said is that we are willing to partner with our First Nation citizens in trying to assist in this regard. I have given out an amount that we have available in this regard. That's the amount that I've spoken about, that's the amount that I've repeated. Now, the member may be trying to box us in with that deft -
Deputy Speaker: Order please. Would the member please conclude?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: - but I have to tell him that we have never suggested this at all.
Question re: Workers' Compensation Board, witnesses appear before the House
Mr. Cable: I have some questions for the minister responsible for the Workers' Compensation, Health and Safety Board.
Now, the minister has been asked repeatedly to have the representatives of the Workers' Compensation Board appear as witnesses before the Legislature. Each time, he said, "No, the opposition has to reaffirm its commitment to a 35-day session first."
Now, he said, in effect, that he's going to hold up to ransom the injured workers' right to have their elected representatives question the board on issues of interest to them.
We in the opposition have gone halfway. We have said we are prepared to sit Tuesday or Thursday nights to accommodate the government so we don't affect the schedule. Could the minister tell the House why he's being so obstinate? Why is he holding up injured workers to ransom?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Such high rhetoric in such a confrontational approach from the Liberal caucus: that's not what they promised Yukoners in the last election. I'm shocked and appalled.
First of all, Mr. Deputy Speaker, let me just say that high rhetoric of holding injured workers for ransom is completely not the case. It's high rhetoric that's really unworthy of paying it much respect, but I must say that I've constantly offered briefings to the opposition colleagues by members of the board, by the administration of the board, so that they can ask the board all the questions that they might wish to ask them about the administration and the delivery of services to injured workers and the delivery of programs for the Workers' Compensation Board.
Mr. Speaker, I also went so far as to say to the opposition that if there is time left over on Thursday, in the 35-day sitting, that I'd be prepared to ask the boards to come forward. However, the opposition has not been budgeting their time well. They've spent countless hours - days, actually - asking how many bags of larvicide it takes to kill a mosquito and how many grader blades there are in Old Crow, and all kinds of questions like that - what colour the Jello should be - and all of these kinds of incredible policy questions.
I have gone the distance to try and accommodate...
Deputy Speaker: Order please. Could the member please conclude.
Hon. Mr. Harding: And if the members want to conclude tonight, I'll try and get the board in tomorrow.
Mr. Cable: Well, this is a friendly, non-confrontational question.
During the last election, the NDP put out a document called, You Be the Judge. Under the heading, No Accountability, it says, "Guess who refused to bring Crown corporations up for questioning at budget time?"
Could the minister tell us whether the answer to the question is the NDP and whether the point that he and his buddies were making - that Crown corporations should appear before the House - extends to the Workers' Compensation Board?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, the point that the member makes is fundamentally flawed. I said that if the opposition can finish the budget by tonight, then we'll bring the board in tomorrow. Now, their challenge is to budget their time in the 35-day budget session. I've also made a public commitment to briefings for the opposition members with the Workers' Compensation Board. I've also made a commitment that we would do everything in our power to bring the boards forward in the fall session.
So, I really don't know if the member has a concrete point to make. It's fundamentally flawed on the basis that I even said that in session, if there's extra time left over, we'd be more than prepared to ask the board to come forward.
Mr. Cable: The fundamental point I'm making is that there is no linkage, in case it's escaped the minister's attention.
Now, in view of how the NDP was making an issue out of appearances by the government bodies before this Legislature during the last election campaign, and just to avoid having someone on this side - some churl on this side - accuse the government of flip-flopping again, could the minister give this House his commitment to have both the Workers' Compensation Board and the Yukon Energy Corporation appear before this House during the next session?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, the member has been taking lessons on reading questions from the Member for Klondike, because I just answered that question.
Mr. Speaker, I already said that the members can talk to these boards tomorrow if I can arrange it. I told the member opposite that if they finish their budget in the legislative session, in this House tomorrow, on the 35th day and if there was time left over, I said, "By all means, we can do it this session." If not, I will try my best to get the boards to concur to come before the House to answer questions publicly.
In the last legislative session, I brought the Yukon Energy Corporation forward. I've offered countless briefings that the members opposite have had. All those issues that were raised in those briefings come up sometime on the floor of this Legislature in a publicly accountable manner.
So, I don't know what the member's point is. I have made every effort possible on behalf of this government to bring them forward; however, the opposition has not budgeted their time appropriately. They've wasted far too much in this legislative session.
Question re: Air Transat
Ms. Duncan: My question's for the Minister of Tourism regarding the Air Transat charter flights to Whitehorse this summer. The minister had hand delivered to me yesterday afternoon a letter with some information regarding the Air Transat flight and some of the questions I had asked, and I thank him and his officials for providing that information.
The minister's letter does not state that, for the first five Air Transat flights, a special fare is being offered, where passengers get off the plane in Vancouver, rent a Rocky Mountain RV, drive through B.C. to the Yukon, and fly home. I have confirmation that the fare exists. Is the minister aware of this special Rocky Mountain fare?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: No, I am not aware of the fare.
Ms. Duncan: Partnerships within the tourism industry work well, and we all prosper when Bill operates the taxi service, Bob owns the store and Barney operates the tour company, as the minister is well aware. I'm not opposed to the Air Transat flights and industry partnerships. However, I am interested in a level playing field and ensuring Yukoners and Yukon businesses are given fair opportunity.
Can the minister tell this House if Air Transat worked with any Yukon RV companies in offering special fares to bring these RVs to the Yukon?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: No, Mr. Speaker, I cannot say that, because certainly the department's obligation, and certainly what the department has done, was to procure a charter airline to bring tourists from overseas to the Yukon Territory. Therein lies the obligation that we have brought forth and we've quite successfully brought to the Yukon.
That is the length of my obligation.
Ms. Duncan: Well, as the minister has just pointed out, the Air Transat flights have been highlighted as a benefit to Yukon and to Yukon's tourism industry and Yukoners. The way the deal has been structured, we're doing all the work, spending all the money, and B.C. is going to be reaping the benefits.
Can the minister tell this House how visitors driving a rented RV through B.C. to arrive in the Yukon in time to fly home is going to benefit Yukon's tourism industry?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Well, I will just repeat once more, Mr. Deputy Chair, that the obligation of the Yukon Tourism department is to bring folks or to market folks in conjunction, in partnerships with people within to bring folks here. That is exactly what we have done. We have brought and fostered an arena to bring people to the Yukon Territory.
Question re: Dawson City dental services
Mr. Jenkins: I have a question once again for the Minister of Health and Social Services on one of our long-standing issues in Dawson with his department, that of the provision of dental services.
Dawson City, over the years, have been fortunate in having a full-time resident dentist. That is, until this government stepped in.
This NDP government cancelled the arrangement whereby the dentist utilized office space and equipment in the nursing station and relocated the dentist's office to the government's administration building on Front Street. The net result was that the local resident dentist, Dr. Helmut Schoener, withdrew his services - retired.
In stages, this government retrofitted the office, provided it with dental equipment and concluded a contract with Yukon dental services to provide dentists in Dawson on a rotational basis six times a year for two weeks at a time. When Dr. Schoener returned -
Deputy Speaker: Order please. Would the member please get to the question.
Mr. Jenkins: When Dr. Schoener offered to provide a regular service, using this office, which would result in a much higher level of service at a saving and costs of some $30,000 -
Deputy Speaker: Order please. The member has not got to the question, as requested by the Chair. I would now ask the member to take his seat and we will go on to a new question.
Question re: School busing, kindergarten
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Deputy Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Education, and it concerns the suggestion that noon-hour busing for kindergarten be cut next year.
The NDP were going ahead with this decision until they were told by school councils, members of the busing committee and in this Legislature that people didn't want this service cut. At a meeting last Friday, the department received the message loud and clear that school councils wanted this decision deferred for at least a year to allow for community input.
The minister, in a letter to me on Friday, said, "I will keep the Legislative Assembly apprised of the final decision made."
Will the minister, today, confirm that she has reversed her earlier decision and that noon-hour busing for kindergarten students will be in place for the coming school year?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Speaker, first of all I have to say to the member that her preamble is entirely wrong. As the member knows, we sent out a letter to principals and school chairs seeking their input on the subject of kindergarten busing. It's important to us to listen carefully to the people we consult, and that is what we have done. We have agreed to provide additional time for the consultation process for kindergarten busing.
Ms. Duncan: Well, Mr. Deputy Speaker, the minister has said that my preamble was somehow incorrect. Well, there's the fact that there was a meeting last Friday. The fact is that the message from school council chairs, school council members, members of the busing committee, was loud and clear. It was the advice from those around the table to defer such a decision for at least a year in order to allow more community input. The minister has said she'll allow that time. She hasn't said whether or not the busing service will be in place for next year.
Parents are getting ready to register their kids for the coming year. Will noon-hour busing be available or not?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Speaker, the member was incorrect in her preamble and, since she doesn't know what was incorrect, I'll repeat it for her so that she understands.
The member opposite stood there and made the allegation that we had made a decision, when we had not made a decision in advance. This government invited the input from the principals and school council chairs. People like the dialogue that is occurring and we will continue to seek input from school council chairs and principals and others on making the decisions that we do.
Now, I have already told the member that we are postponing any decision on the kindergarten busing, and the kindergarten busing will remain in place.
Ms. Duncan: Well, Mr. Deputy Speaker, the message that was delivered at last Friday's meeting of the school council chairs and busing representatives was very clear. If the department is to save money, it should not be at the expense of children and classroom programming. The minister has relented and has allowed busing to stay in place for this year. What about next year? Is the minister prepared to find other options for saving this money?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Deputy Speaker, as I've said to the member, it is important to us to listen carefully to the people we consult. That is what we have done and that is what we will continue to do. People understand and school council chairs understand that we have to live within our means. The public accepts that this government will deliver on its pay-as-you-go commitment. We need to make decisions on where to spend our education dollars most effectively and we will continue to invite the input from school councils on how to make those decisions. The formal school education system is our primary responsibility and we will continue to listen to the input from the education community as we make decisions.
Question re: Dawson City dental services
Mr. Jenkins: I have a question for the Minister of Health and Social Services on the provision of dental services in Dawson City. Dawson has been fortunate in having a full-time resident dentist; that is, until this NDP government stepped in and cancelled the arrangement whereby the dentist utilized office space and equipment in the nursing station, relocated the office to the Front Street administration building and contracted out this service to the Yukon dental service on a rotational basis that now cost the government some $30,000 a year, plus we do not have a full-time resident dentist in Dawson because he has quit. He's offered to return. He'd like the same facilities.
What is the reason for this foolishness by the minister? He's now looking at relocating all the equipment there to Old Crow.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I think we covered this fairly adequately within the Health and Social Services debate. We required the space at the clinic. Dr. Schoener had been there for some 18 years. We felt that we could offer him a space in one of the downtown buildings. We undertook to renovate that space. He chose instead to depart.
We entered into a contract to provide dental services to the community of Dawson. However, it is now apparent that Dr. Schoener is returning, as I understand, with all his equipment except one piece. The equipment that we had in Dawson was on loan from our children's dental program. We are moving that on to Old Crow, and that's part of our circulating stock.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, for 18 years Dr. Schoener provided dental services in Dawson, and he resigned because this government changed the terms and conditions significantly under which he was operating. They withdrew a lot of the facilities and a lot of the support services. The practice couldn't support it the way the government envisioned it, yet they went on to pay for somebody else to come to Dawson.
Now we're looking at all the equipment being moved to Old Crow. Why is the government paying $30,000 for an inferior dental service when it can have a full-time service?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, for such a champion of free enterprise, I'm surprised that the Member for Klondike wants such preferential treatment for a friend of his. We have two other dentists in rural Yukon who seem to be operating without any sort of special or preferential treatment.
Our discussions with the Mayor of Dawson have suggested that that is consistent. What we have been asked for is the provision of a piece of equipment, and we're looking at what kinds of options we have there on some kind of a loan or lease basis.
But I would say that Dr. Schoener has been treated extraordinarily well. We've provided him an office rent-free.
Mr. Jenkins: The same office is provided rent-free to the rotating dentist, and their accommodation and their travel costs are paid by this government as well. By providing the office space to Dr. Schoener, we could have the full-time resident dentist providing a better service and saving this government some $30,000 a year. Dawson City is fed up with this situation, Mr. Deputy Speaker.
The city is prepared to provide all of the equipment and space, and to remove the Department of Health and Social Services from facilities presently owned by that city that were used in exchange. All the city is looking for and the dentist is looking for is an x-ray machine.
Now, will the minister agree to provide an x-ray machine?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: We're not in the position to provide free equipment for either physicians or dentists. That's not part of our provision, but we have provided equipment there, in an agreement with the Yukon Dental Association, for itinerant dentists, people that travel. Quite obviously, they can't take all of their equipment. In a similar vein, we have equipment that travels with our children's dental program.
We have been made aware that the dentist there requires a piece of equipment. We are looking into that to see if there is some kind of lease or loan provision that we could provide there, but I would say that Dr. Schoener has been treated eminently well by the department, and I would suggest that we have gone a substantial distance to try to accommodate the community of Dawson. From what I understand, it was a fairly amicable relationship until just very recently, and this appears to be over one piece of equipment and the member's inclination to give his friends a special deal.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed. We will now proceed to Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
GOVERNMENT PRIVATE MEMBERS' BUSINESS
MOTIONS OTHER THAN GOVERNMENT MOTIONS
Clerk: Motion No. 105, standing in the name of Mr. Hardy.
Motion No. 105
Deputy Speaker: It is moved by the Member for Whitehorse Centre
THAT it is the opinion of this House that
(1) people in the Yukon may be subject to discrimination based on source of income when seeking accommodation, applying for work, using a public facility or receiving or requesting a public service; and
(2) denial of equal treatment based on source of income should be considered a violation of basic human rights;
THAT this House recognizes that, at present, source of income is not included as a prohibited ground of discrimination within the Yukon Human Rights Act; and
THAT this House urges the Government of Yukon to introduce legislation which would amend the Yukon Human Rights Act to provide protection from discrimination based on source of income.
Mr. Hardy: I can't wait to speak to the crowds in the Legislature about this issue. It's a very, very serious issue, though.
Before I start, I'd like to tell a couple of stories here, just to illustrate what this motion's about - a couple of scenarios here. What I'd like to point out is how it crosses ideological lines, and I think it's important that we recognize this.
It's about source of income and truly it is a motion that is for the poor and people that are genuinely in poverty. It also goes beyond that, as well, and can apply to all types of people being acted against because of their source of income.
But first, the story is in Tibet. It's a story that Palden Gyatso tells in his book, Fire Under the Snow. He talks about his family. First off, Gyatso is a monk, but he talks about his family, where he came from. They were considered more wealthy in the village. He talks about where their wealth came from, how they worked, how they interacted with the village and the people and how he grew up. Things changed. And, because of where the family's wealth came from, they lost everything because of their position in society. They lost their home and they lost their livelihood. They lost their livestock and the lands they farmed. They were reduced to begging, in most cases. If any jobs came along, they were generally at the bottom of the list to get them, because they were from what would be considered the privileged class. They would always be marked that way, because of where their money came from.
I have two other stories to tell. Both of them come from, I believe, this book that was handed out, which I received. I believe it was also given to the opposition members from the Yukon Human Rights Commission. Heather MacFadgen made it available, I am sure, to all - to opposition as well as this side of the House and me. There are some stories in here and the two stories I would like to add to this one - which is in the opposite direction - is by a senator, the hon. Erminie J. Cohen. I'm going to read it.
"Cathy is a young, stay-at-home mother of two.
"She and her husband owned a small home and paid a modest mortgage. One day her husband lost his job. After weeks of searching to no avail and after draining all other resources, this family was forced onto social assistance. The social worker determined that their monthly mortgage was far less than what they would pay in the private market for an apartment.
"There was also a two-year waiting list for public housing. She determined that the most efficient practical solution was to allow this family to continue with their mortgage. Several weeks later, the father found a part-time job. While he was looking for full-time work, the family received a top-up benefit from social services and their mortgage continued to be paid.
"Several months passed and the time came to renew their mortgage. Much to their astonishment, the application for renewal was denied. The reason: they were social assistant recipients. No consideration was given to the fact that, through thick and thin, they, without fail, had managed to meet their monthly mortgage payments."
No consideration was given to their excellent credit rating. No consideration was given to the fact that social services were prepared to help pay housing costs for as long as it took to get this family back on its feet. In fact, no consideration was given to their personal circumstances at all. They were quite simply denied on one criteria: they received social assistance.
Consequently, the family was required to sell its home and move into a two-bedroom apartment. This apartment cost them a couple of hundred dollars more per month than their previous mortgage. The children lost their bedrooms and their backyard. The equity they had built up in their house just covered the selling cost. They had to move to an urban centre to find accommodation, so the children had to change schools. The father spent almost all that he made commuting to work - the work that he was able to find.
There is another system that basically denied a family through the whole spectrum as they struggled to try to get back on their feet. Once the father lost his job then, consequently, their place in society, they were forced down, down, down.
Another example, say, for instance, a family who lives in a major urban centre and cannot find housing because landlords do not want to rent to welfare recipients.
This is common; it's not uncommon. For a time, a homeless family can take refuge in a shelter while looking for a permanent home, but there is a limit on the time that they can stay there. If they have not found a place by the end of that time, they are forced to take a hotel room at a much higher monthly cost than an apartment. The entire welfare cheque is used to cover housing costs, and the family's forced to line up every day at soup kitchens and food banks.
While families are suffering this kind of misery, it is impossible for the parents to have the time and resources necessary to look for full employment. Then, on top of that, in this other system, you add the research that's recently been done by anti-poverty groups, which shows that the poor are increasingly discriminated against in utility companies' policies. Phone, gas, hydro and oil companies have now developed two streams of service policy. Customers who score well on income and credit tests are supplied immediate and courteous services.
For those without employment income, the situation is much different. People in these categories are considered high risk, even if they have good payment histories, and must either pay for services in advance, submit to enormous deposits or, as a result of these barriers, forego services altogether.
So there is the other system.
What are they? Well, the first one most people would recognize as the Chinese communist ideology. They attacked the wealthy, they went after the human rights of people in Tibet, and many people know the atrocities that were committed there, and are still being committed.
On the other side, we have the capitalist ideologue, and they attack the poor. They belittle, reduce and destroy any hope that the poor may have.
This motion, since we do live in a capitalist structure - semi-capitalist, some people think; other people want to call it all kinds of other names, but most people recognize it's a capitalist structure - this motion really is directed toward that. Because in this country, it is the people who are poor and who live in poverty who are most affected by source of income when they go to get services and places to live.
Our act in the Yukon offers no protection against discrimination based on source of income or social condition or poverty, and this motion calls for an amendment to the Yukon Human Rights Act. It's about poverty in Canada and in our territory, and about recognition of poverty as a serious human rights issue.
Now, I know that many people grew up in a climate which perpetuates the myth that the poor are solely responsible for their condition, and some sort of moral deficit or deficiency on their part is to blame. This leads to fear and resentment among some Canadians, fear that an inherently unworthy and potentially troublesome group of people will be granted special protection and privilege, which they will undoubtedly abuse and resentment of this will somehow be done at the expense of hard working, respectable people, whose own rights will be somehow compromised in this process. These attitudes become more prevalent during difficult economic times, which, in many cases, we are facing and have been facing over the last few years.
We've witnessed this growth of social division, poor-bashing, and stigmatizing of the disadvantaged in recent times. Sentiment against the poor has increased as the federal government and right-wing provincial governments have sought to pay down their debts and deficits on the backs of the poor, slashing or eliminating health and social programs as though social spending was the cause of our economic woes.
If we turn opinion against the poor, if we blame them for their circumstances, we don't have to look at that grim structural cause of unemployment to confront the increasing phenomenon of downsizing and jobless recoveries or to address the low-wage corporate agenda, which many governments have adopted, an agenda that demands a high level of joblessness to bring down the labour costs. There is workfare, which is being implemented in Ontario and possibly in other provinces, but I do know of the one in Ontario and the tremendous impact that it's having there.
The abandonment of social housing, the emerging two-tier health system, which is being pushed more and more through what I consider a very devious method and not one in which the public is able to see what's happening and debate it - these are very disturbing developments. We can tolerate or overlook them. We're often led to believe that individuals, despite the hand that has been held out to them or the hand that's even been dealt to them, are usually the ultimate author of their fate.
Thinking about the change that this country has undergone, we have to look at the countries of England and the United States and the former president there, President Reagan, who once said, "There will always be people who prefer to sleep over hot air grates." So poverty and homelessness are just another lifestyle, another expression of people's free will. People would actually choose to sleep over hot air grates.
Part of that is we have to look at how we view poverty and how we approach it in dealing with the issues, and how we view the people who are caught in that cycle.
Not only have we failed to really address the challenge of poverty reduction in this country, but we have allowed the plight of the poor to grow much worse, and that is proven. One in five children now live in poverty.
For example, and it's been discussed before, with the elimination of CAP, which had established national standards for the provision of social assistance, the federal government allowed provinces to abdicate their responsibility to the poor. They are no longer required to provide assistance based on need. There are no longer any requirements at all, and we see the increase in misery that this change has created for people across Canada.
And that's not necessarily to criticize the federal government, totally. Even though there've been major cuts - cuts that we disagree with and don't believe in - we still also have to take responsibility for our own actions within our provinces and territories. We've seen many provinces use the excuses of the cuts to slash programs way farther than the cuts would force them to.
So they've used that to make fundamental changes within their programs. Then, of course, they can point their finger at the feds as being the architect of it all. Possibly the federal government is the architect, whether it was the Conservatives before, followed by the Liberals. But they're not wholly responsible, because we still do have some choices, and we have seen Alberta and Ontario make some very drastic choices toward people in need.
We've been criticized by the UN for our lack of compliance with the international covenant on economic, social and cultural rights. In the two decades that have passed since Canada signed that covenant, there has been no discernible progress on the elimination of poverty, nor even a developed recognition of poverty as an inherent source of inequality. Canada's own domestic human rights laws have never been amended to bring them into line with that covenant, so one of the most vulnerable, and regrettably one of the largest disadvantaged groups, still remain without protection under the federal act.
It's by virtue of the fact that the poor are so marginalized in our society, so stigmatized and so lacking in political power, that this situation has been allowed to persist. But change is coming - change that can be pointed to by the quotes that I read from the senator, as she brings forward in the second reading of Bill S-11, to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act. People are starting to speak out.
There was a young man from the Bloc Québecois, I think it was last week, who took his chair out of the House of Commons and created quite a media scene, but he did it for a reason, and a good reason, and that was to make people aware and to make the government listen to the cries of the poor. He did it for them.
It's sad that you have to grandstand at times to be heard but that's what he did and he did get the coverage and the media finally did wake up that some members of the Bloc Québecois, as well as the NDP, were fighting for the people who live in poverty.
So, people are standing up and starting to fight back, and in this year in particular, the 50th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, there is a move to improve human rights protection on the federal, provincial and territorial levels, and especially protection for the poor. It is also pertinent that we find ourselves in the second year of the decade for the elimination of poverty.
The chief commissioner of the Canadian Human Rights Commission has called for an amendment to add social condition to the prohibitive grounds of discrimination in the federal act. Seven provinces already have sort of protection in their human rights acts addressing this problem of discrimination against the poor.
Some provide better protection than others. The wording of the relevant sections varies from the broadest kind of protection in the Québec act, which speaks of social condition, which is being asked for federally, to more restrictive legislation which applies to people in receipt of public assistance.
Two provinces use the expression, "source of income," and one, "social origin."
The significant point here is that recognition of poverty as a human rights issue is growing in Canada, and I believe it's growing in the Yukon. Certain stereotypes of the poor are out there, and I've heard some outrageous ones from people worried about these proposed amendments, and it's convinced me even more that such an amendment is needed.
Through the work of the Human Rights Commission and groups like the Anti-Poverty Coalition and NAPO, these stereotypes are being challenged and people are learning more about the underlying social and economic causes of poverty. We're learning to put a human face to the issue and to recognize the devastating impacts of poverty on people's lives - and that's people who live in poverty throughout our whole system. It doesn't matter where, it has an impact. And we can't just put up fences and lock out parts of our society and only drive through it in protected cars.
Call this a country, or call this a society. That is something I have seen in parts of the United States: gated communities that only allow people who meet a certain income in. For some reason, they feel that they'll be able to survive that way and that the pressures building outside that gated community are not going to have an impact on their lives, their children's lives and their grandchildren's lives. By putting up the gate, they figure that they've dealt with the problem. By taking more for themselves and giving less back, they felt they'd dealt with the problem. Well, history has shown repeatedly that it doesn't go away. We have to deal with it. You can't put up a gate, because it's not going to go away. We have to all work toward it.
These are all reasons that I've brought this motion forward. I wanted to provide an opportunity to raise it in discussion and debate, and to contribute to the dialogue to heighten people's awareness of the needs of those who live in poverty and outside the mainstream of Canadian society.
Another reason is because I believe that the Yukon Human Rights Commission and the numerous social, justice, and anti-poverty groups across Canada are right that, by extending human rights protection to the poor, we can make a significant improvement in people's lives.
Senator Cohen, in a senate debate, is fighting for human rights. She spoke about the proposed amendment to the federal Human Rights Act as a powerful anti-poverty tool, because it not only addresses unfair practices but has the potential of stimulating discussion and educating the public. Through human rights legislation, then, we can both change discriminatory practices that contribute to the suffering of the disadvantaged, and we can influence attitudes in the long term.
Unfortunately, though, passage of the human rights protection for the poor will not result in the elimination of poverty in Canada nor in our territory.
It can't compel our respective governments to ensure a reasonable standard of living for all its citizens, at least not in the foreseeable future. It may help to focus attention, though, on a problem that our nation has ignored for far too long, even while committing to the eradication of poverty through various international covenants and declarations.
It's time to stop the growing distance between the rich and poor. It's time that we make commitments for all citizens. It's time that we look at our dismal performance on the home front and address it. But, adequate human rights protection is a place to start, and it's something we can look, strive and work toward.
Now, I want to talk a bit about the discrimination that low-income people can be subjected to, and there are different types. Some vulnerable groups in our society are protected under the federal and territorial Human Rights Act, and some are not. Almost everyday, low-income people experience discrimination in housing, employment, education, provision of public services, and so on. But despite the fact that they suffer discrimination very similar to that of protected groups, they have no remedy available when they are treated unfairly, and that's because it's not in the act.
Some people think, quite erroneously, that the extension of human rights protection to various groups implies the erosion of human rights for other groups, and I've heard that, as well. That's a misapprehension on many people's part. Rights are rights; they're not privileges. The protection of the rights of vulnerable groups is provided to ensure that barriers to equality are eliminated or reduced. Mr. Speaker, they don't confer a special advantage on anyone; they remove it.
When someone is denied rental accommodation because they are a social assistance recipient or because they depend on a disability pension or are on an old age pension or they have a low-income job, and for no other reason, then that is discrimination.
When someone is required to pay a large deposit for rent or for utilities or for some other service because they are poor, and high-income people are not required to pay, that is discrimination.
If someone is denied credit or has an application to renew their mortgage turned down simply because they receive public assistance of some type, and for no other reason, then that is discrimination - and that goes back to the story I told earlier.
People's lives are hurt by these policies and practices. People are forced into deeper poverty and despair because of this discrimination, and we need to ensure, at the very least, that protections are put into place.
Almost anyone is subject to circumstances which can drastically reduce their standard of living. Executives, civil servants, factory workers, miners: all could be laid off with little or no notice after years of conscientious work.
Illness and disability can strike anyone at any time. Yet, still, there's a tendency for most people to distance themselves from the poor and to blame the disadvantaged for their difficulties. Maybe it is more comforting not to have to address the fact that it's often a very thin line that separates a middle-class Canadian from someone who is struggling to survive.
Over the last - well, it could be the last eight years - many executives, many middle management, many civil servants, miners - and we don't have to go very far to think of miners that have lost their jobs and the families there - factory workers - and Ontario is a perfect example - people who may have been working 10, 15, 20 years of their lives lose their jobs. And what happens is you often base your lifestyle on your income.
You have mortgages that match your income. You have luxuries, if you can call them luxuries, based upon your income, whether it's one car or two cars. You have debts based upon your income. Then you get served a lay-off notice, or the mine closes. The company downsizes, which is something that has been ongoing for quite a few years now. Tens of thousands of workers - in some cases 20,000, 30,000 or 40,000 workers - gone in three or four months out of companies, through no fault of their own.
All of a sudden, they are in that area that they've never thought about before. They are among the poor. All of a sudden, they are confronted with discrimination, through no fault of their own. Every day, they are out there trying to find work, for sometimes way less than what they'd based their lifestyle on. Slowly but surely, they spiral down. Slowly but surely, they become very aware of what it's like to be caught at the bottom of the barrel and of all the layers that are stacked against you and how hard it is to push up through it.
Then there's the youth who are now - for quite a few years now and I don't see much change - carrying a tremendous debt for the education they seek in the universities, to give them a good job or pursue an interest that they have that will contribute to our society. It's a debt that they can't deal with, and bankruptcy that often many of them are faced with and have to resort to. That's being changed by the federal government, as well. They're not going to allow them to declare bankruptcy the way they used to, as if the youth want to be saddled, at a very young age, with that against their credit rating.
So, they're starting out their lives, many of them starting off in a situation of extreme debt, without very many options, and often living in very poor conditions, and they're facing the same kind of restrictions - source of income. How do you get a place to stay? If they want to know where you get your money from, and they make a judgment on that, even though you may have an excellent credit rating, you may have excellent references, even though you may have a record of always paying your previous landlords, how do you break out of that?
This amendment is a very small step to try to enable people not to be judged on their source of income. This doesn't speak to bad credit ratings. If somebody has a bad credit rating, of course a landlord can do a credit check. Of course people can ask for a deposit. But what it speaks to is, just be fair, give people a chance, especially if they don't carry a bad credit rating. Don't judge them on their source of income. There's no law against poverty. It's perfectly legal to be poor, but we, as a government - federal, provincial and territorial - do have responsibilities to ensure that we look after all people in our country because, if we don't, it comes back on us. It's not just the fact that it's morally right; it actually comes back on us, and our country will suffer as a whole.
I have a poster framed in my office, which I look at every day, and its title is "Those Who Wait". It's about human rights. It's about mothers waiting to hear what has happened to their children and their husbands, and they don't get any answers. It's another violation of human rights.
Most of those people live in poverty. But those people never give up. They keep coming back and asking, and asking for change.
In this as well we have growing poverty, growing difficulties in our society, and even though I heard on the radio today that - or I heard one of the Liberal MPs from Montréal speak about boom times, jobs everywhere, lowest unemployment, poverty is growing.
It hasn't changed. So, if it's such a boom time, what's happened? Does that mean that only so much wealth is going to a certain segment? What kind of jobs are being supplied? Do we have a situation where the jobs are so poorly paid that people have to go to social assistance just to make ends meet when they have a family? I believe that's happening as well.
In 1987, I believe the Yukon changed - a phenomenal change. The Yukon Human Rights Act was introduced in 1987 by a previous NDP government. Up until that time, we never had a human rights act, and when that was brought in by the previous NDP government I know I, for one, was extremely proud. And I would have been proud of any party that would have brought in a human rights act, because the act is needed.
It's a time when you put aside your ideology or your party positions, and you talk about the issues. In this case, human rights is an issue that crosses all parties and is supported, I believe, by almost all parties and all people within them.
This motion is just another step in developing the Human Rights Act, and maybe the social condition would be better to have it, instead of source of income. Maybe that's something that has to be looked at down the road, but until it's done, source of income is an improvement over what we have and will enable people to have more protection within the territory.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Speaker, for four years in a row, Canada has been ranked by the United Nations as the best country in the world to live in. While this is certainly an accomplishment to be very proud of, there does remain some serious concerns about the level of poverty in Canada and the need to address poverty.
I just want to bring to your attention some of the grim statistics about poverty in this country. Between 1984 and 1994, the average poor family was six percent worse off. In 1995, 17.8 percent of Canadians lived below the statistical poverty line. Poverty is a problem, Mr. Speaker, that often leads to poor health, poor academic performance, unhealthy relationships and fewer job opportunities. These factors in turn present low-income families and individuals with a disadvantage to those with higher incomes.
As often is the case, those having to rely on social assistance to live are often stigmatized as not having much worth, and are in turn offered low-paying wages.
We, on this side of the House, believe that social assistance should be made available to those in need and believe that every opportunity should be made available for them to get ahead and to find a job and to buy a home. Those wishing to reintegrate into the workforce should be encouraged to do so and should not be penalized.
Mr. Speaker, I support the motion that's before us today, but I have some words of advice or caution to the member who introduced the motion. Mr. Speaker, I mentioned a moment ago that we seem to stigmatize those who are poor as not having much worth and not being as equal as others, and that that is why we have this motion before us.
What I caution the Member for Whitehorse Centre about is, that I have heard that member many times in this House in the last year and a half making comments about corporations, about people who have money, about small business. I would mention to the Member for Whitehorse Centre that there are a lot of small business people and large business individuals and corporations who contribute greatly to those who have less throughout this country. It's not fair to stigmatize them and say they're all bad, as the member has a tendency to do from time to time.
I recall sitting in the House here the other day and hearing the member tell us that small businesses do not create jobs in this territory. Well, Mr. Speaker, my experience tells me otherwise. My experience tells me that small business creates all kinds of jobs in the territory. It creates all kinds of training, all kinds of opportunities for those who are in poverty to get out, and we see it almost every day.
Many small businesses, many larger corporations in our community and in the Yukon, contribute, on an annual basis, to very worthwhile projects to help people who are in need.
So, my caution to the Member for Whitehorse Centre is that, as he is telling us not to stigmatize those who are poor, he should be careful not to stigmatize those who are a little better off than the poor.
Mr. Speaker, the motion before the House today is requesting protection against discrimination on the basis of a person's lawful source of income, and I believe that it's a laudable action and one to which I'm pleased to offer our support. Such protection would apply to those with no source of income and those who are homeless and those who are working in very low-wage jobs.
As was mentioned, poverty is alive and well within Canada, and Yukon certainly is no exception. As Canadians and individuals, it's incumbent upon us to do whatever we can to help the less fortunate and provide them with opportunities necessary to leave the poverty trap.
For example, Mr. Speaker, we're all familiar with those on social assistance and the difficulty of getting off social assistance and back into the workforce once you're there, without having incentives in place such as employment opportunities and training. It seems that costs of living are going up but not enough is being done to help the people get back on their feet and back into the workforce.
One of the central roles of welfare reform is to move recipients off the welfare rolls and into the labour force. The success of such reform is, in part, predicated on the ability of providing opportunities and incentives to work.
Currently in the Yukon, low-income individuals may be subject to discrimination based on their source of income. This discrimination may occur when applying for work, seeking living arrangements, using public facilities and requesting services that are available to the public.
Denying an individual any of the above-mentioned services is the denial of a person's fundamental rights and basic amenities.
Article 2 of the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights states that everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set out in the declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, social origin, property or other status. The declaration also says, Mr. Speaker, that everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for his or her health and well-being, including food, housing, necessary social services, et cetera. In simple terms, individuals, regardless of their income and their source of income, are and should be entitled to these basic rights and freedoms.
We have all experienced, at one time or another in our lives, financial difficulties. In light of the tough economic times being experienced by Yukoners, there are more people losing their jobs and more people seeking work in order to be able to raise their families and keep their heads above water.
In one of the readings that was enclosed in the information presented by the Human Rights Commission, reference was made to a story that involved the young family - a stay-at-home mother of two and a husband who lost his job. I know that the member who introduced the motion talked briefly about that. After not being able to find work, Mr. Speaker, the family of this individual was forced to go on social assistance, and the family continued to reside in their home as the mortgage was reasonable, and there was a two-year waiting list for public housing. The individual in question continued to pay his mortgage payment on time. Later on, the father was able to find some work - part-time work - and when it came time to renew the mortgage, as the Member for Whitehorse Centre has said, the family was denied, for the reason that they were on social assistance. That decision was made despite their ability to keep up their payments and despite the great credit rating they had had over the years. In turn, the family had to sell their house and move into a two-bedroom apartment.
The kids lost their rooms, the family lost its backyard, and the kids had to change schools, and the father spends almost all of what he makes now, commuting back and forth to work to his new job - all because of discrimination.
Is this fair? I don't think so, Mr. Speaker.
Poverty still remains one of Canada's greatest barriers to equality. To help resolve this problem, the rights of the less fortunate should be given clear protection under our laws.
The Yukon Party will be supporting the changes to the Human Rights Act.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Cable: I'd like to thank the Member for Whitehorse Centre for bringing the motion forward.
The Human Rights Commission appeared before this House on March 20, 1995. The commission representatives went over a few areas of business, and then the commission representatives dealt with proposed amendments to the Human Rights Act.
One of the proposed amendments dealt with the issue before this House - the discrimination against persons and denial of equal treatment based on source of income. One of the most common forums of this discrimination is the denial of availability of rental accommodation to people on social assistance.
I think we can say that we all disagree with this type of stigmatization of the poor, and that this is not acceptable.
We in the Liberal caucus support the motion, and we will support amending the Human Rights Act to give effect to the principles in the motion.
I expect that the government members also will support the motion.
I would like to draw to the members' attention, though, that there were two other amendments proposed by the Human Rights Commission representatives when they appeared before this House on March 20, 1995.
Those representatives, at that time, had asked that the act also be amended to add mental disability as a grounds for discrimination under section 7 of the act. This section deals with obligations to make reasonable provisions in connection with employment, accommodation and services for the special needs of persons with physical disabilities. The commission wanted the section enlarged so that it assisted all disabled persons, whether the disability was physical or mental.
The last amendment the commission wanted dealt with the issue of hate literature and hate activities. The Criminal Code has some levers to deal with these activities but in the view of the commission - and I think in the view of many other people - there is a legal gap and the commission wanted that gap closed.
I would like to read to the mover of the motion the comments that were made to that particular amendment that was sought. I'm quoting from page 1466 of Hansard, dated March 20, 1995.
"The second amendment to the act that we put forward for consideration deals with the issue of hate literature and hate activities. Currently, the Yukon Human Rights Act does not address discriminatory publication. However, over the years we have received inquiries pertinent to hate literature in particular. Copies of the hate material, predominately of a racial and sexist nature, currently in our files, can be provided to any of the members if they so desire."
Now, it's my recollection that the then director of the Human Rights Commission, Margaret McCullough, provided us with a fair amount of this hate literature.
She brought it to our attention. The commission at the time, in March, also brought to our attention that British Columbia had amended its Human Rights Act to attempt to close the legal gap, and I think it's interesting to note the present arguments going on between the British Columbia Attorney General and the federal government relating to the prosecution of providers of Internet hate literature.
It is our position in the Liberal caucus that all three amendments are worth looking at by the government and by this Legislature. I don't think it is a secret that racial tensions are bubbling just below the surface in both the country and in Yukon, and those charged with dealing with hate literature should be given a full arsenal of legal weapons.
The government appears to have readily accepted the recommendation in this motion. I hope that the government, when it sees fit to bring forward legislation amending the act to deal with discrimination based on source of income, will choose also to deal with the remaining issues at the same time. And I hope it will deal with those issues as a single package in the same expeditious manner.
Discrimination based on hate-mongering is every bit as biting and destructive as discrimination based on poverty.
As I said, we, in the Liberal caucus, will be supporting the motion and we will not be proposing an amendment, but we would like to hear from the mover of the motion in reply that he considers the other issues need to be dealt with and that he will attempt to persuade his colleagues to bring in an amending package.
Deputy Speaker: If the member now speaks, he will close debate. Does any other member wish to be heard?
Mr. Hardy: To address the concerns that were brought forward by the Member for Riverside and the Liberal caucus, I definitely do support additional amendments to the Human Rights Act, and I do support the ones he mentioned - the mental disability amendment and the hate literature and activities around it. It feels good to know that I believe that all members of this House would welcome those changes, and I will be looking forward to seeing those amendments looked at and brought forward in this House. I will work on that behalf.
I also am pleased that the members of the Yukon Party support this amendment. But, I was given a word of caution that, I suppose, I always paint business as bad. That's not true. I'm a former businessman myself, just for their information. My Yukon hire report, which has 28 recommendations, points toward being concerned and respectful of business, as well as the access to capital motion that was supported in here.
When I spoke earlier on the source of income, I started off with an example that pointed toward people who were in a privileged position. That happened to be in Tibet. So, source of income, just because you're poor isn't just where your income comes from, but it could be broader. And, still, it is discrimination. We have to keep that in mind; it is still discrimination and something I would hope we would all be opposed to.
We also have to be judged by our actions and how we work in our communities, how we support each other, how we give to the charities that exist and the organizations and groups, such as anti-poverty groups like NAPO, the support we offer them and how we involve ourselves.
I know, for instance, the Member for Riverdale South attends the anti-poverty group and is quite an active member, and it's always a pleasure to see her there working on behalf of that.
In closing, I can see a source of income even being modified to social condition, but I believe that there are amendments that have to come forward to the Yukon Human Rights Act, but many of them have to come forward from the Yukon Human Rights Commission itself. I do know that they are doing a tremendous amount of work over there, and I'd like to acknowledge them. I believe that everybody here supports the work that they're doing.
When we bring amendments forward, often one amendment points to a situation, that there be more work that needs to be done in that area. In human rights, I don't believe that it will ever end. I believe that we should always strive to make this a better place.
Just before I close - I started with a couple of stories, and I'll end with a story. I think it was last week that we were going to debate the human rights motion when it wasn't necessarily expected to be debated, and I had not necessarily prepared to debate it. I was sitting there thinking, "Oh gee, I don't have this. I don't have that. I haven't covered my material well enough. I haven't talked to enough people." After a couple of minutes, I realized that I should always be ready to defend human rights. We should never only pick our times when it's appropriate to defend human rights and, for me, it was a good lesson. I should always be able to stand up and defend human rights and always be prepared to defend human rights throughout this world.
So, in closing, I'd like to thank the members from the Yukon Party and the members from the Liberal Party for supporting this motion, and hopefully, we can move on to more improvement in the future.
Deputy Speaker: Are you prepared for the question?
Motion No. 105 agreed to
Unanimous consent requested
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Deputy Speaker, yesterday, pursuant to Standing Order 14.2(7), Motion No. 102 was identified as an item of business to be called today. Having consulted with and obtained the agreement of the Member for Watson Lake, in whose name Motion No. 102 stands, I would request the unanimous consent of the House that Motion No. 102 not be called.
Deputy Speaker: Is there unanimous consent?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Deputy Speaker: Unanimous consent has been granted.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I move that the Deputy Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Deputy Speaker: It has been moved by Minister of Education that the Deputy Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?
Motion agreed to
Deputy Speaker leaves the Chair
COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
Deputy Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. Is it the members' wish to take a brief recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Deputy Chair: Okay, 15 minutes.
Deputy Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. Committee is dealing with the main estimates.
Bill No. 9 - First Appropriation Act, 1998-99 - continued
Deputy Chair: We are on the Department of Renewable Resources. Is there any further debate?
Department of Renewable Resources - continued
Mr. Ostashek: When we left the debate yesterday, we had asked the minister for some more information that the wildlife branch would have on the makeup of the Finlayson caribou herd. Does the minister have that information available for us now, that we asked for yesterday?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Yes, I have a couple. I will give it to the member at this point, instead of doing legislative returns, so that information is across right away. The member can have a quick look at it and see if this is what he is looking for.
Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Chair, it will take us a little time to go through this information and I don't want to hold up debate while we're doing it, so I'll just continue with the debate and I'll get a chance to look at this sometime before we get out of general debate and come back to it if need be or ask the minister for further information.
But before we go much further today, I would just like to clear some things with the minister so that we don't get into a large debate here that gets away from the issue at hand. I'd just like to inform the minister, Mr. Chair, that I'm looking for him to provide me with some biological evidence so that I can support his decision to go with a permit hunt. That is what I'm trying to get from the minister - some biological evidence so that I can feel comfortable in supporting the position that the department is taking with respect to the Finlayson caribou herd.
We have walked all around the issue in the last several days in this House and, from various comments made on both sides, I don't think this adds anything to the debate or the issue at hand.
The minister is aware by now that there's a perception of unfairness by the general public in the decision that's being made. What I'm trying to find out from the minister is if there is some other evidence that has not been put out in public that would give some comfort to the resident hunters who have been very vocal in their opposition to the recommendation that is out for review.
That is what I'm trying to establish here, and nothing further. I would just like to be able to have some evidence presented by the minister that would allow me to support his recommendations, even if it is limited support. I haven't been able to establish that. Possibly with legislative returns he has tabled here now, I will be able to. I will get to them as we go along.
I just have one question of a general nature now, along the same issue. I would like to move off this permit hunt shortly, because there are many other areas in this department that I need to explore before I can clear the department.
Can the minister tell this House - we've had a lot of debate on the size of the herd and whether it's the minister's thoughts and his department's thoughts that the herd is decreasing in size - it's something that was to be expected after the predator control program had ceased operation a couple of years ago - but we did talk to a great extent back and forth without really getting down on the numbers. What is the optimum level that the minister is trying to establish for the population of this herd? What is the optimum level that the minister is looking for?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Well, Mr. Chair, we don't have a number that we're trying to establish here. We know from past numbers that approximately three percent was the allowable harvest within the Finlayson herd.
That's approximately 120 animals, and we know that there have been harvests over and above that. We know that there is a low calf/cow ratio, and we know that the numbers are going down, and we need to take precautionary measures because of that.
I've told the member in the past - and I know that it's going to be very difficult for him to understand this, but we're taking the recommendations from the Fish and Wildlife Management Board in which they tied a number of things to it - trapper training, assistance from us for Ross River people, looking at habitat protection and so on - and will come up with a solution.
We asked the Fish and Wildlife Management Board to look at the possibility of a registration or permit hunt. In their process, they had made the recommendation that we sit down with the Ross River people and work things out with them. In doing that, they asked that we provide trapper training assistance to them. They asked that we look at habitat protection and provide a game guardian for this hunting season. Those are all part of the recommendations that came from the Fish and Wildlife Management Board.
We're carrying that through. We have a lot of discussions to take place with them. No final decisions have come at all. There have been people who have come forth with interest in the Finlayson caribou herd and have expressed themselves and made recommendations to us. Those will certainly not be put aside. They'll be part of the discussions when we take another trip up to Ross River to have discussions with them on how to best approach this situation.
Mr. Ostashek: I understand that and those are laudable goals for the minister to be aiming for. I don't have any difficulty with any of what he said.
What we have here though is a problem of the perception of unfairness. That's what we're dealing with. I'm looking for biological information from the minister that will refute that perception of unfairness.
I think the minister misunderstood the question. I wasn't looking at the allowable harvest; I was looking at what the optimum level of the total population of the herd was that his department was aiming for. The herd, as the minister knows, started at 1,500 animals, prior to the wolf control back in the early 1980s. It grew to 6,000 animals. It has now dropped back to about 4,000. What is the optimum level of population that the department is looking to maintain that herd at. That's my question.
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Well, I told the member that we don't know what that number is. If the herd continues to fall and we find that through the census that we do as of next fall, even though the census is not spread out far enough to do real comparisons, we would have, I guess, a lot better numbers to work with in trying to determine what numbers out there can really be sustained in that area - providing for hunters, both aboriginal and non-aboriginal people, and providing for predators.
We know that, wherever we go, there are going to be predators out there taking animals down, and we don't know that number. The department wants to continue to monitor this closely. They feel, at this point, because the numbers are dropping and continue to drop, even with the rut count and so on, there's a good possibility that we need to be taking stronger action in the future.
So, we would like to work with the Ross River people - and they recognize this, too - in their own hunting experience. Seeing that there possibly aren't as many animals as there were during the wolf control, things are definitely different and a bit tougher for them, too, and they're taking action. And I think we should be taking action, too.
Mr. Ostashek: Well, Mr. Chair, I, for one, don't have any difficulty with the minister taking action. I'm sure the resident hunters don't mind him taking any action if there's some biological evidence for it.
Now, the minister says we don't have an optimum herd population but we're concerned that the numbers are continuing to drop. I suggest to the minister that his wildlife managers must have an optimum population figure that they want to maintain that herd at; otherwise, they would not be taking any actions at this point. They must have made some projections when they ceased the predator control program as to what level the herd would drop back to with the increase in predation.
Now, I know the managers within his department. I know a lot of them on a personal basis. I know that they are very good in their job and I know that they wouldn't be making decisions based on not having an optimum herd population that they want to stabilize this herd at. And I would like the minister to try to get that for me before we get out of this debate. If we are going to be taking actions to restrict the harvesting of the herd, we have to know what we hope to accomplish by it.
We have to know: do they want to stabilize the herd where it is now; do they want stabilize it at 4,500 animals; do they want to stabilize it at 5,000 animals? What is the target that we're shooting for? This is the kind of information that we need to get out to these people who are not happy with the restrictions that are being placed upon them. That's all I'm asking the minister for: some biological evidence.
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Well, first of all, there are no restrictions put on people at this point. There are recommendations that came from the Fish and Wildlife Management Board and we're following through with things that they asked us to do. No final decisions have been made, and I've relayed this message many times to the member.
When the wolf- control program was initiated, the population of the herd was approximately 2,000. It grew to 6,000. We expected the numbers to drop and the number of wolves in the area to increase.
Now, from the department, we feel that the number of wolves have stabilized in the area and we're not sure exactly what the number of the herd is at this point. In using numbers back to 1996, we know that there are 4,000 animals; it could be lower. Is it the number 3,000 or 3,500 that would stabilize in that area and support that number in that herd? I'm not sure. I know the department is working at that.
What we don't want to do is to be in a position of taking drastic action because the numbers are so low. It's the same concern that the Ross River people have and that's why we're taking precautionary measures. We know right now that the numbers are declining and only common sense would tell us that - from the cow/calf ratio, and so on.
It only makes sense to do this. Now, what could happen in the end, as part of discussions with Ross River, is that everybody could be looking at a voluntary compliance through this. That's what could possibly result. We don't know that. Talks are too early at this stage, although it is an important issue to them, and we will continue to work with them.
Mr. Ostashek: Well, Mr. Chair, I think if the minister would have made that statement three days ago when I asked him in this House, we could have alleviated a lot of this debate. The minister said he was implementing a permit hunt. It didn't matter what came out. He was going to implement a permit hunt. That was his statement on April 20. I read it back to him time and time again, and I have it here in the Legislature today. I asked him if he was going to follow the recommendations of the Fish and Wildlife Management Board and meet with the Ross River Dena Council prior to setting the number of permits that would be available for the hunt. The minister got up and said, "Yes, we are going to be implementing the recommendations that came from the Fish and Wildlife Management Board in regard to permits." Nothing could have been clearer in his statement than that. There was no indication of any kind that this could change to be a voluntary compliance situation. That is what the Fish and Game Association has asked for, and it would be quite happy with that, and it could have alleviated a lot of frustration for the minister.
That's why I asked the question in the House, Mr. Chair - so I could go back to him and say, "The fact that you're going on permits this year is not for certain. There's still a possibility that there could be some other sort of restriction brought in that would satisfy the department and would satisfy the resident hunters, such as voluntary compliance."
Now, if the minister is saying today that the resident hunters can rest assured that there may be a possibility it'll be permit, but there is a possibility that it'll be voluntary compliance, that's different from what the Fish and Wildlife Management Board recommended; that's different from what the minister said in this House on April 20.
Would the minister care to clarify that?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: I don't know how many times this question has been asked of me. Every time I answer, he refers back to one portion of a discussion we had days ago. Mr. Chair, I said that we would be taking the recommendations from the Fish and Wildlife Management Board and working with them.
What the member fails to do in regard to this recommendation - he looks at one portion of the recommendation, and that is registration permit hunt. The recommendations from the Fish and Wildlife Management Board have others with it to address the issue of the Finlayson caribou herd, and that's trapper training, assistance from the department to the Ross River Dena Council, game guardian - to, again, have a game guardian present during hunting season - and look at habitat protection. These are all part of it. The main part to that was to make sure that we are not implementing a position without talking to the Ross River people.
We had one discussion in the last couple of weeks with them - very briefly on it - in regard to wildlife management in the area in general, and they would like to follow up with meetings with us. We would very much like to do that, and we have committed the department to go and meet with them in the very near future.
I haven't gone off what I said in the beginning. Those recommendations - we will continue to take them and work with them.
I don't know where the member is coming from. We've never thrown out the ideas or suggestions from Ross River people or any other organization. There are many people who have been part of this planning process in the past. It could be, in the end, that we have no choice but to go with a permit hunt. We don't know that yet. Discussions are too early. It is too close to the beginning stages to really come down with finalized numbers.
Even though the Ross River Dena Council has been working with this department now for several years, they're looking at a management plan that's much bigger than the Finlayson herd. We would like to focus, at least the beginning part of this plan, on the Finlayson herd, because, just with the evidence in front of us, we could be making major decisions on this very soon.
Mr. Ostashek: I know that there were further recommendations from the Fish and Wildlife Management Board, other than the permit hunt. I know that. I have no difficulty with the minister consulting with the Ross River Dena Council on all the issues. Nothing has ever been said about voluntary compliance, and I didn't see anything in the recommendations from the Fish and Wildlife Management Board that even suggested voluntary compliance.
Is the minister saying to me today that I missed something there - that the Fish and Wildlife Management Board asked the minister to look at voluntary compliance as well?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: No, the member hasn't missed that. That wasn't a suggestion that came from them. What they were emphasizing a lot in their recommendations was that we go out and talk to local people and that could, in itself, steer this process a lot. We're carrying that through.
The Fish and Game Association did request a meeting with the Ross River people, but that has not happened yet, to make presentations and what not.
We don't know what final discussions are going to come out of the Ross River Dena Council and local people, so there are a lot of open areas out there. There's a lot of area for suggestions to steer this process, and I think that's the important part of this recommendation of the Fish and Wildlife Management Board - to make sure that we meet with local people on this.
It's quite an easy thing for us to do. We've been having meetings over the past years with them and they're anxious to have a finalization of a management plan. But we would like them to also focus their first efforts on the Finlayson herd.
Mr. Ostashek: Well, Mr. Chair, I'm pleased to see that the minister is not as hard in his position as he was when this debate started on April 20 in the House - in saying that, yes, we're going to have permits - and that there's a possibility that there may be voluntary compliance. I'm pleased to hear the minister say that. I think that's all that the Fish and Game Association was asking for.
They also are looking for some biological information and evidence to support the minister's argument. When I look at the leg. return that the minister has given me today on the number of bulls in a herd, I think the minister should pay close attention to that legislative return and realize why he has a problem with the resident hunters, because there's nothing in this legislative return that provides any evidence that curtailing the number of bulls killed in the herd is going to increase the size of the herd. What this says is that in 1997 - that's last year, Mr. Chair - there were 52 bulls per 100 cows. So, the ratio of bulls to cows has not changed from 1992 to 1997.
Now, there are 1,500 adult bulls in the herd, in this legislative return, and I accept those numbers as being fairly accurate, based on the population of 4,000 animals.
The resident hunters took 57 bulls from that herd. I listened to a biologist make a presentation to the Fish and Wildlife Management Board who said reducing the number of bulls taken to 20 - I think is the figure he used that night - would have absolutely no impact on the number of calves that were being born each spring. His own professionals - and he has stated it in this legislative return - say that 30 bulls per 100 cows is adequate to breed all the cows that are available to be bred. So, we have a surplus of 27 bulls for every 100 cows. There is a surplus of 27 bulls. So, I would just point out to the minister that this is the reason that there are so many upset resident hunters. They are not impacting and are taking bulls below the optimal ratio that his fish and game managers believe is necessary to impregnate the cows in the herd and to maintain the herd.
Yes, the population of the herd is dropping but even with a surplus of 22 bulls per 100 cows, resident hunters are not even harvesting anywhere near that surplus at this point. I mean, that's a tremendous amount of surplus bulls in the herd and that is why resident hunters are upset.
Now, the minister is going to have to do a better job of communicating with them as to why he needs to curtail their harvest and what it's going to do to impact upon the herd. Nevertheless, I will leave that at this point since the minister has said the permit hunt is not carved in stone for this year and that there is some room to believe that it'll only be a permit hunt if that's the only way they can control the hunt. I suggest to the minister, when he's communicating with the Fish and Game Association and the Outfitters Association, that represents hunters, that he's going to have to produce some better biological evidence than this.
Another concern, Mr. Chair, is exactly what the minister has just said.
The reason that, I believe, resident hunters have dug their heels in and are fighting this issue so hard is that the minister said this was only the first step in an overall management plan that they want to see for the area. I think all hunters agree with that, Mr. Chair, but they want to see a management plan that's based on biological information.
Now, if the minister, in the first instance, is going to come out with restrictions that are not based on hard biological evidence, then it's going to be very, very hard to get this same group of hunters to accept an overall management plan for the area pertaining to sheep, to moose and to other species that are hunted in the area. That is the issue that is facing the minister and the issue that he is going to have to deal with to convince resident hunters that permit hunts are required.
Mr. Chair, along with that, another thing that's hampering the minister in this decision now that's facing him - and I know it's a tough decision; it's not easy to try to keep all factions happy - is that the Porcupine Caribou Management Board came out today with recommendations for new restrictions on harvesting the barren ground caribou, but the restrictions that they are recommending apply to all users of the resource. I think that the minister wouldn't have any difficulty selling something like that at all, if all users of the resource felt they were being treated in the same manner.
Another issue to wind this up, without going on to debate it all night, is a perception by resident hunters that they are not being fairly represented on the Fish and Wildlife Management Board. Now, the chapter in the umbrella final agreement pertaining to the Fish and Wildlife Management Board, chapter 16.7, says: "The board shall be comprised of six nominees of the Yukon First Nations and six nominees of the government" - basically the minister of the day.
There's a perception by resident hunters that, of the six government nominees, they are not representative of the total non-aboriginal population. There's a perception that the board is skewed toward the conservation side and, as a result of that, they have very little confidence in the decisions that are being handed down by the Fish and Wildlife Management Board.
Now, the minister has the ability to try to rectify that - if he agrees at all with what they're saying. I'm not certain of all of the people who are appointed to the board now, but I know that's a perception that's been around for a long time, and it seems to have gotten worse, instead of better.
We know there were some growing pains when the Fish and Wildlife Management Board got off the ground, but I believe that if we are going to all cooperate in the Yukon - and I think we all want to cooperate; we all want to have a healthy wildlife population; we all want to be able to utilize those populations, whether we're a hunter or a non-hunter, or an aboriginal or a non-aboriginal; we all love the Yukon and the things that it has to offer Yukoners - no one wants to see them carry an unfair proportion of the burden for any restrictions that come into place.
One of the ways that we were supposed to alleviate that was through the Fish and Wildlife Management Board, and this was to be representative of the population of the Yukon. There's a perception, as I said to the minister, out there now that it's not. I would just like to hear the minister's views on it - if his feelings are that the board is representative of major users of the resource or not - and if he agrees, is he going to take any corrective action?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: In regard to the question and statements the minister has made about the Finlayson caribou herd, again, we haven't changed our position. Over the last few days of discussions, I have said the same thing over and over and over to the member. We haven't changed our position at all.
In regard to taking precautionary measures - and the member has information that we gave him, as requested - we know that there's an overharvest of that herd. Three percent represents approximately 120 animals, and last year's harvest was approximately 157 animals. So, that's higher than what should be taken out at this point.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: The member says, "It's not bulls." But, it sure made an impression to people that aboriginal people are just taking cows and calves. But, it doesn't show a decline in numbers here. It is interesting, anyway, for people out there listening.
So, we'll continue to carry out the recommendations that the Fish and Wildlife Management Board have provided to us and start working with the Ross River Dena Council on resolving this issue.
The member had asked about the Fish and Wildlife Management Board and whether or not there's equal representation to all people in the Yukon. Well, the appointments from the Yukon First Nations and those from YTG are there on the board to represent all Yukon people.
They've made those commitments by being on the board and we feel that they have been doing a good job. Now, if the member is concerned about this in regard to past recommendations that the board has given government, is the member saying that the board has not made good recommendations and equal representation to all Yukoners in the past and that that recommendation is not a good one? Is that what the member is saying?
Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Chair, what I'm saying is quite clearly what Yukoners are telling me. That's what I'm saying to the minister. There is a perception that they don't feel they're being adequately represented. It's not me. Let's leave personalities out of this. It's not me at all. I'm speaking on behalf of Yukoners. It's my job, as opposition, to raise these issues with the minister. That is what I'm doing. He doesn't need to just listen to me. He only needs to read today's paper and yesterday's paper to see that those same comments are being made in the papers. Not by me. They're being made by the president of the Fish and Game Association.
So, there is a perception out there that the minister has to deal with and I'm raising it for him.
The minister stated that there is an overharvest in the Finlayson caribou herd. I'm asking the minister, in light of the legislative return that he tabled regarding the 52 bulls per 100 cows, does he believe that there's an overharvest of bulls in the herd?
Now, I'm not saying that aboriginal people don't harvest bulls. I'm not saying that at all. I'm just asking the minister, does he believe, based on the numbers that he presented in this House, that there are 52 bulls per 100 cows, that there's been an overharvest of bulls from the Finlayson herd?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: While the overharvest is the overharvest in the total numbers and it doesn't matter whether they are bulls or cows, Mr. Chair. At this point, there is an overharvest of 37 animals and whether you're taking out all bulls or all cows, the number in that herd is down. Even though the numbers show that the proportionate number of bulls to cows is enough to keep on a good breed every year, there are 37 animals over and above what normally would be taken out each year. If you continue to not focus on that and focus on one side of this - the member is only focusing on one side of this - and fail to look at the big picture and fail to look at the management of the herd itself, we won't get anywhere if he continues to do that.
Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Chair, it's not me who's focusing on one side; it's the minister. He's talking about raising the population of the herd. His own biologists say reducing the bull harvest is not going to raise the population of the herd. I heard him say it. I was at the meeting.
A restriction that would raise the population of the herd would be a bull-only harvest for all users of the herd. That would make sense if you're looking to raise the population of the herd. So, his own biologists have said in the legislative return, it only takes 30 bulls per 100 cows. Forty bulls would raise the population of the herd. We've got 52 bulls per 100 cows.
So, it's not that we're focusing on one side; we want to know that what we're doing is in the best interest of the herd and the biological evidence to point out that it's there, but it doesn't seem to be there.
I raised briefly in general debate at the start of the session the other night the contribution of $35,000 that's been given to the Conservation Society to advise the minister and his department on policy. Has the minister been approached by the Fish and Game Association for funding to also advise the government on policy?
I'll let him answer that first.
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: In regard to the Finlayson caribou, Mr. Chair, it's just a matter of simple mathematics, and the member cannot grasp that yet - but maybe one day he will - one day he will.
The Yukon Conservation Society participates on a wide range of things and makes recommendations to government and advises the government on a wide range of things, and has been doing this for a long time, whether it's in regard to development or conservation, or what not.
Those recommendations come from them to us. They attend a lot of meetings and workshops. They participate in working groups and advisory committees. They prepare written submissions and responses. They make oral presentations. They undertake research necessary for preparing the society's positions.
They collect and share information with government, First Nations, stakeholders and the public. I'll read a number of things to the member and to the membership of the society. This work is done in response to the following government initiatives.
I listed some yesterday, and I'll list them again: Yukon forest legislation and policy development through the forest commission; the review of the development assessment process, which is long overdue and should have been in place a couple of years ago, and there is a lot of work that needs to be done there in regard to regulation and consequential amendments to related acts; energy supply development; agricultural policy review; and development of proposals from mining and forestry; and other natural resource management responsibility. They also play a part in the review of the Aishihik caribou recovery program, the development of endangered species legislation and policies. They continue to develop the implementation of the protected areas strategy. They are involved with the wildlife management planning activities and policy development, the development of the amendment of the Environment Act regulations, and so on.
Mr. Chair, what we have been doing with the Fish and Game Association is dealing with them on a project-by-project basis, and there hasn't been , to my knowledge, a formal request for long-term funding, as was done with the Conservation Society.
Mr. Ostashek: Okay. If the request came forward, would the minister's department consider it?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: We are looking at projects that can be funded through the Fish and Game Association; the $61,000 that goes toward the Fish and Game Association is for the Whitehorse fish hatchery operation expenses and that can go on from year to year.
Mr. Ostashek: Well, Mr. Chair, that's a project-specific thing. I'll get back to the Conservation Society in a minute.
I want to just go back a minute to a comment the minister made on the Finlayson herd, and I would suggest to the minister that he sit down with his wildlife managers and get a better understanding of what they're doing and how the dynamics of herd populations work. The minister may think he's versed in it, but I have many, many years of experience of working with those biologists and, having made my livelihood in that business for many, many years, know how the dynamics work, and the minister certainly doesn't have a grasp of it in this debate in this Legislature that has taken place the last few days.
Back on the Conservation Society, the funding for the Conservation Society is new. It's a new initiative by this government that they have taken on for policy development. I would just like to ask the minister what expertise does the Conservation Society have that can provide all of this vast range of information that the minister just read off to me - all these things that they're doing and all this advice and all these meetings they're attending. I'm sure the Fish and Game Association could do that as well if they were getting the level of funding that the Conservation Society gets.
But is there some specific expertise that the Conservation Society has that this government is prepared to give them $35,000 this year and $40,000 next year?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Well, the Conservation Society has a wide range of expertise that they use. They have good contact people and the people who are involved have a long-standing interest in conservation and have been dealing with them for a number of years.
The member had raised an issue with regard to the Finlayson caribou herd and that I sit down and have them brief me. Well, I don't believe that the member has an understanding of this issue either, and I would offer to him that our wildlife managers sit down with him and explain this issue to him. Maybe after that, he will come back with better questions than he has in the past.
Mr. Ostashek: Well, it is unfortunate that the minister doesn't think enough of his job to do his homework before he comes into this House. He hasn't answered one question in four days. The fact is that I've sat down with his managers a lot. I would be happy to sit down with them again, because I know what I'm talking about. I know what I'm talking about when I read the legislative returns that the minister puts in here, saying that there are 52 bulls for 100 cows and his own managers say that 30 bulls is sufficient to keep the cows impregnated and stabilize the herd. They have said publicly, too, that something is happening to calf recruitment. It's not a bull problem; it's a calf problem.
So, the minister ought to get in tune with his managers.
Mr. Chair, the Fish and Game Association does a lot of good things, too, and they have a lot of expertise, and they do give the government a lot of advice. The Conservation Society used to do it before, too. The only difference now is that the Conservation Society is being paid to do it, and the Fish and Game Association isn't. That's just another inequity that this government has created, Mr. Chair.
I do want to move on to something else, but it's very close to break time, so I'll wait until after the break.
Deputy Chair: Is it the wish of the members to break?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Deputy Chair: Okay. Ten minutes.
Deputy Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. We'll continue with general debate.
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: The member had referred again to the Finlayson caribou herd in regard to the bulls and what number of bulls can be taken out. Mr. Chair, the problem we have with this herd is an overall population problem. I know the member refuses to want to believe that, but that's just the way it is.
The member has asked about the Fish and Wildlife Management Board. I know that when he was in government he appointed members from the outfitters and the game farmers to this board, but he did not appoint a member from the Fish and Game Association to this board. It doesn't matter who's on there, they have to be representing all Yukoners' best interests in making decisions.
We had discussions about NGOs and the Conservation Society receiving $35,000 - a long-term commitment by this government. The Fish and Game Association receives $61,000 in regard to the Whitehorse fish hatchery and they have not requested long-term funding from us. They're working on a project-by-project basis. We have long-term funded NGOs under other departments. For example, the Chamber of Mines gets money from the government to give policy recommendations. I don't know where the member is coming from or wanting to go with this, but all of these NGOs do receive a fee for service for work that they do on policy development and so on.
Mr. Ostashek: It's not where I'm coming from on that issue or where I'm going, Mr. Chair. Again, this is new funding for an NGO that wasn't in place previously and that his department is now paying to the Conservation Society.
The ongoing funding for other NGOs has been there for a long time over various governments. This is a new incentive. I just wanted to know if this opportunity is available to an NGO such as the Fish and Game Association, and the minister need not get defensive about it.
On the issue of the population of the Finlayson herd, I do accept that the population is going down. What I don't accept is that reducing the harvest of bulls is going to increase the population, and neither do the minister's biologists. That's all I said on that issue. There has to be more done than just to curtail the harvest of bulls.
Mr. Chair, I think we've exhausted the Finlayson caribou herd for this session. I will tell the minister that we're going to be watching very, very closely how he handles this issue, because, as I said earlier, the concern of the resident hunter is that if decisions are going to be made but not backed up with biological information, how are they going to accept overall wildlife management plans for the entire area on other species? As the minister said, this is only the first step, and if it's not based on sound, biological information, then we're going to have more of this type of debate in this Legislature and in the Yukon public.
I do want to move to another of my favourite pastimes, and that's fishing. I need some answers on this, because I'm very, very concerned with some of the statements that the minister made in the Legislature yesterday with regard to catch-and-release fishing.
One statement, when I reviewed the Blues from yesterday, was what they don't like - and I think he's referring to native people here - is, "because they have seen it, is the large numbers being released to a point where they are all dying off. That's a concern of aboriginal people."
Mr. Chair, let me say to the minister, that would be a concern of mine also, but I want to know from the minister what studies he has that have been done by his department that can back up the statement that he made in the Legislature yesterday. Are there any studies that have been conducted by his department that point to a large die-off of fish because of catch-and-release practices?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: In regard to the Finlayson herd, and in regard to wildlife management, we have processes in place that we will continue to use. Through land claims, we have the development of renewable resource councils, and I probably will be referring back to this again, and again, in this debate.
The renewable resource council is made up of representatives that are appointed by YTG and First Nations. In decision making, they will continue to use scientific knowledge and local knowledge and traditional knowledge in making the decisions that they do.
So, there's a lot more than just looking at the scientific basis of this. I know we'll probably hit this issue again, no doubt.
With regard to fishing, there are a number of things that show that fish do die with catch-and-release. If we use, for example, barbless hooks, the fish that are caught with barbless hooks would have a much better chance of survival than using hooks with barbs, and the survival rate with the information we have on barbless hooks is around 90 to 95 percent.
With catch-and-release, what people need to know out there is the proper way to do it. If people are just ripping the hooks out of the mouths of fish, then obviously those are not going to have a high survival rate.
Now, if you use a hook with bait on it and it goes deep into the fish, and you try to remove that, obviously that's going to be damaging to the fish. With the type of information that we do have, there have been recommendations that come from the Fish and Wildlife Management Board to designate lakes as high-quality management lakes and, in those lakes, for barbless hooks to be used.
Concerns aboriginal people have in regard to catch-and-release or overfishing of lakes: they have seen and experienced in the past that when they've gone to their favourite fishing holes it's just not the same, whether it's an increase in the number of people in that lake fishing or whether it's the catch-and-release policy that's out there today. The concern is very much with them with regard to the preservation of the stock in these lakes.
The member asks whether or not we're using information gathered in regard to different types of methods being used for catch-and-release fishing. I can go back to the department and ask them to look at what they have been using as a basis for their information. We don't have any of that type of information with us here.
Mr. Ostashek: Well, Mr. Chair, what I'm concerned about is the minister making a very strong statement in this Legislature yesterday. Now he says he doesn't have any information to base that statement on. He made a statement that large numbers are being released to the point that they are dying off. I want to know what evidence he has that that is happening in the Yukon.
He is a minister of the Crown and he has to make responsible statements; he can't just make off-the-cuff statements like that, not based on any evidence. I want to see the copy of the report that substantiates his statement in this Legislature that there are a large number of fish that are being released to the point of where they're dying off. Will the minister present that study?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Well, I guess we're doing things a lot differently than the previous government did, and that's going out and talking to people and listening to people. They haven't done that.
If aboriginal people voice a concern, what do they do? Push it aside?
I said the aboriginal people have been coming forward and voicing their concerns in regard to this issue. He can try to mix it up as much as he wants out there to the general public. I know where he's coming from. He's trying to draw a line between people and it doesn't work with us. Far from it.
I said aboriginal people have a concern in regard to catch-and-release fishing. They have a concern in regard to stock in the lakes being lower than normal to the point where they're not catching the numbers that they normally used to. Concern is that it could be that it is over fishing in a particular lake. They know there is a policy out there of catch-and-release fishing and they have seen fish floating in lakes, and those concerns have been voiced to us.
We haven't gone out there and done a big report on this. I know the member may have done it when he was there but it would really surprise me if he ever went to any aboriginal community to ask for any type of advice.
Mr. Ostashek: I really resent this minister accusing us of racism when he can't answer a question. Mr. Chair, he is not doing his job. He is making statements in this House that he has no information to back up, and saying that they are fact. When I ask him to come forward with the reports, he doesn't know if they even have one. It is not us who is bringing this issue of trying to divide people; it is he, himself, when he's incompetent in answering the question.
Mr. Chair, we hear the critic there from Faro talking. I've got a lot of comments by him in this House on catch-and-release that I'm going to read into the record shortly.
Catch-and-release is practised all over the world. As the minister said, it's got a 90-to-95 percent success rate with barbless hooks and fish released in a proper manner. There is not a heavy mortality, and I want the minister to come forward with a study, if he has one, to back up his statement.
I have seen fish floating in lakes where there hasn't even been a fisherman. Now, is the minister going to accuse some catch-and-release fisherman of doing that? I don't know where the minister's heading with this, what he wants to accomplish by it, when in fact, throughout the world, there are many streams and lakes that are totally catch-and-release. You can't even keep a fish. Catch-and-release is using barbless hooks. Catch-and-release is a responsible use of the resource so it isn't impacting on the resource.
I have concerns when a minister makes statements like that in this House and has no evidence to back them up.
Mr. Chair, when we were in government, the Member for Faro was in opposition, and we saw his promotion of catch-and-release. Catch-and-release, the greatest thing since sliced bread. Now he seems to have a change of heart, when he's on the government side. They want to close the lakes off.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Chair, we're not playing any race card here. It's the members opposite when they can't defend the positions that they put forward that play that card.
Mr. Chair, the Yukon is noted for some of the best catch-and-release regulations. The slot limits on lakes have worked very, very well to increase the population of fish in the lakes. There is not a problem there. There is not a problem with catch-and-release.
The department may be wanting to put their emphasis on better education of fishermen so that they release the fish unharmed. They may want to impose barbless hooks on more lakes. That would be something beneficial to fish stocks, but to say that we're going to limit the number of people that are going to fish in a lake using catch-and-release methods, I think is taking a huge club to a problem that doesn't really exist.
Catch-and-release fishing has been proven. I think in Scotland all of the trout streams are nothing but catch-and-release. There are streams in eastern Canada that never had fish in them before that now have fish, because it's all catch-and-release. They're not allowed to keep any of the catch from there.
So, Mr. Chair, that concern has been raised by the public, and we're wondering where the minister is heading with it if they're going to now limit the number of people that can be on a lake practising catch-and-release. I don't know what the minister thinks that's going to do to conserve stocks in Yukon lakes.
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Well, I hope the member opposite would sit and listen to some of the answers that I've been giving; it would shorten this debate, I think, if he would stop and try to understand some of the things that we've been saying.
We have a process in place through the Fish and Wildlife Management Board. We have renewable resource councils, and I told the member at the beginning here that the Fish and Wildlife Management Board was going out there and doing a public consultation on this issue.
That's what they would like to do, and I don't see why we would not involve the public in this kind of debate. I know the member would like to draw lines as quickly as possible, maybe to satisfy himself on some of these things. Mr. Chair, the member said he, himself, had seen fish floating in lakes. I wish that he had informed the department of which lakes he had seen fish floating in so that we could possibly check what the problem is in those lakes. If he's truly concerned about fish, he would have done that.
Mr. Ostashek: I think what the minister could do is have some information, some evidence when he makes statements. I don't have any problem with the process taking place. I have a problem with the minister circumventing the process by making ridiculous statements like he made in this House without any information to back him up. That's what I have a difficulty with - circumventing the process before it's ever begun.
Mr. Chair, catch-and-release came into the Yukon almost 20 years ago, I believe, on certain high-quality lakes and it's worked very, very well. It's worked in the salmon fishery. It has worked very well there to where it has really enhanced the productivity of some streams. It hasn't been a detriment to the fish and it's allowed people to use the resource in a responsible manner. And I think that's what we're all striving for - that we can have as many people enjoy the outdoors as possible, as many people who want to fish be allowed to fish, as long as we're not depleting the resource.
Kathleen River, I think, is a perfect example of one that was on the verge of having no fish in it at all, and the catch-and-release program has brought it back to where it's a very productive stream and it's entertaining for a lot of Yukoners.
I just want to see that type of entertainment be allowed for Yukoners who want to do those things.
I would suggest to the minister that they may want to concentrate more on educating people on catch-and-release, like this fishing booklet. I've had comments on this from people around the world, about how it's one of the best and about their slot program, which has worked very, very effectively in the Yukon.
When we talk about catch-and-release, we're talking about barbless hooks. You don't practise catch-and-release with barbed hooks. If you do, you're not doing it properly and there may need to be some education there.
But, what we ought to be striving for is to utilize the resource more.
Mr. Chair, I just want to put on the record for our great kibitzer, the Member for Faro, some of his comments when he was in opposition on this very topic of catch-and-release. I think it's important that we refresh his memory about what he said to the minister of the day. This was May 6, 1993: "I'm a huge supporter of the catch-and-release program. I believe that the best way to enjoy fishing is to make sure that the next generation has the same opportunities that we do." Catch-and-release. "I would like to know what the minister's feelings are about catch-and-release fishing and what, specifically, the department will be doing to encourage that." That was one comment that he made.
Another comment he made was on June 3, 1993. Heaven forbid, we were in the Legislature in the middle of the summer. "I got some legislative returns from the minister and I'm glad that they're supporting and developing catch-and-release. I think it's a good proposal. We need to do more of it. I'm glad about the high-quality management waters, because we really have to protect our fish resource in the Yukon." I agree wholeheartedly. But, what we don't want to do is limit the people who are using that resource, Mr. Chair.
There's another statement, May 25, 1994, "I would like to begin today by asking about high-quality management waters." A lot of people have talked to him about it, he says. "There is some divisiveness over the issues," he says. "I think everyone, in principle, supports the promotion of catch-and-release fishing and the preservation of stocks for future years."
So, we're doing it, and I think we can continue to do it without coming to a situation where we have to limit the number of people who can practice catch-and-release.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Ostashek: Well, that's a proposal that's in front of the Fish and Wildlife Management Board.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Ostashek: That's the proposal, Mr. Chair. So, we truly believe in catch-and-release. I think it's been proven. It's nothing new. We're not experimenting with this. This has been proven throughout the world. I don't know of any place else, except maybe some national parks, where they limit the number of people who can practice it, saying that I think the implications of what is being discussed by the board is, should we not consider putting a limit on how many fish a person can catch-and-release. I believe that's the crux of the matter that's being debated in public.
Suppose we did put that sort of a proposal in place. How would the minister's department police it? How would they police how many fish are caught and released by any one boat on a lake? Can the minister tell me what method of policing would be used in this situation?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: The member still refuses to listen. We have given him answers time and time again, and I guess we need to repeat it about 100 or 200 times before the member is going to absorb it.
Mr. Chair, we have said that we support catch-and-release but we don't support catch-and-release in large numbers. We told the member that but he'll keep bringing that up over and over again. All of a sudden now the member is saying maybe he's the one who doesn't support catch-and-release. If I were to enter into the debate with the same frame of mind as the member, I would say that the member doesn't support catch-and-release and maybe he can take that back to his supporters that he does not support it.
What recommendations are coming from the Fish and Wildlife Management Board? They would like to do a public consultation on catch-and-release. It's not a direction that is coming from this department; they're doing it on their own. So, what part of that does the member not understand? He thinks we don't support catch-and-release. We told him over and over again that we support catch-and-release but we would not like to see this done in large numbers. How is that being monitored? I don't know yet. We support catch-and-release. The board is the one that's going out there and doing public consultation. So, the member is going to come back and try to say that we don't support it. I don't know, maybe he's trying to have lines of his own so that he could send them out to his supporters. I don't know where he's coming from on this but he supports it. He says he supports it. We do.
The Fish and Wildlife Management Board says they would like comments and discussions from the public on this issue. Obviously there is a concern raised with them for them to go to this extent to do this. Why not allow the Fish and Wildlife Management Board go out there and do their job? We're not going to be holding them back in any way. We support this. They have an issue they'd like to raise with the public and get some direction back from the general public in their public consultation.
The member might get up again and say that we don't support catch-and-release. We support catch-and-release. We've said it over and over. We said it yesterday. I don't know how many days you want to spend on this. That's fine. We'll give you the same answers back.
Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Chair, what I want is the minister to explain his statement that "we don't want to see catch-and-release in large numbers." I would like the minister to explain that statement. That's what I'm asking him; not whether he supports catch-and-release.
He made the statement. He's got to have an explanation for it. What does he mean by, "We don't support catch-and-release in large numbers"?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: It's just common sense, Mr. Chair, that if there are people out there steadily, out there on the lakes fishing, and they're catching and releasing and they're doing this all day, chances are they can catch a large number and have a percentage of these fish die off. Doesn't it make sense to you?
There are people out there who do spend a lot of time on the lakes and if, through education, we can relay this message back to anglers, then we would feel a lot more comfort that people are committing not to catch and release large numbers.
Mr. Ostashek: Well, Mr. Chair, I don't know where the minister's coming from on this. First of all, let me be quite clear. I do a lot of fishing, but it's very seldom that I can catch large numbers on any Yukon lake. I don't know what the minister calls "large numbers". I mean, does he call large numbers five fish, 10 fish, 20 fish, 100 fish? What does the minister call large numbers?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Well, obviously the member's not very good at fishing. Maybe that's the problem.
If you're spending day after day out there, and that's all you're doing, don't you think the numbers are higher than they would normally be for any normal person?
I would think that if people are out there and truly like fishing and they like to eat fish too, and they are out there to catch food for dinner, or what not, and if people had a lot more education as to exactly what is out there in the lakes, then I think that would go a long way.
The Fish and Wildlife Management Board made recommendations that we designate some lakes as high-quality management lakes to keep a closer eye on the type of fishing that's happening on those lakes, and I think they have made good recommendations and they should not just be excused.
The member thinks that three fish or two fish or five fish is a large number. I think that if he has spent a lot of time on lakes fishing, the numbers are a lot higher than he's used to catching.
Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Chair, I'm not asking the minister to stop the Fish and Wildlife Management Board from doing their job. I'm asking the minister - he's the one that made the statement that he doesn't want fishermen going out and catching large numbers of fish and releasing them. I want to know what's in his mind. What does he consider a large number of fish?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: How many times do I have to answer this - again? We are going to answer it over and over again. If you're spending a lot of time on a lake, and you're fishing all day, and you're spending day after day there, and all you're doing is catching and releasing, you can bet that there is going to be a high number out there.
The member always wants to be tied to numbers - "Am I going to be limited to 10 fish? Am I going to be limited to seven fish?"
Now, Mr. Chair, I don't know exactly where he's trying to go. I guess he might feel that he's in trouble when he goes out to a lake and he catches his daily limit of two fish and feels that it's too many. Well, I don't think two fish is too many, as far as catch-and-release goes.
The member is going to come back to the question of how many is too many. We don't know what that number is.
The member's going to come back with the same question, and we know that some lakes don't have the numbers of others. I think that everybody who is out there, if they go through and pick up a piece of paper and look at what the lakes are designated as, first of all, in regard to high quality or not - and they should know that anyway - and use some common sense in this, and look at the issues that are out there. If the general public says that catch-and-release is a concern, then I think that anybody with common sense out there would say that they're not going to spend all day catching and releasing fish, catching and releasing fish, because what you end up doing is killing fish for no reason.
If the member wants to work on trying to draw a number out of me, well that's not going to happen. You could sit there for three, four, five, 10 days, you're not going to get a number out of me. You're just not going to. I know the member has problems with simple mathematics. We all know that in this House. When we talk about caribou, he has a problem with simple mathematics.
Mr. Phillips: I want to enter this debate. This is an extremely important issue. The minister has just said today that he wants to limit catch-and-release for those people who catch large numbers.
He doesn't think, by his comments here in the House today, that people should spend all day on a Yukon lake fishing because the chances are they might catch this imaginary large number the minister's talking about.
I'm afraid the comments the minister has made here today are going to send some shock-waves through the sporting goods stores in this community who are trying to survive. It's going to send some shock-waves, Mr. Chair, through the tourism community and several of the lodge operators who, for the past 10 to 20 years, have been operating catch-and-release operations, and they have been promoting their catch-and-release operations on the fact that they catch large numbers of fish and they catch and release them to practise good conservation.
He's harming those businesses today by his comments here. Those businesses are going to find it harder to sell their product and, in fact, eventually sell their business after this minister has finished with them.
Mr. Chair, the Fish and Game Association members are going to be very upset with what the minister has said here today. I'll tell you, Mr. Chair, what angered me when I listened to that minister sitting here today, making this stuff up on his feet because he doesn't know a thing about his department.
My father - bless his soul, he's passed away - at 80 years old used to take his boat and go out on Marsh Lake and spend all day on that lake, before catch-and-release, and catch fish and bring home his limit for our family and turn all the rest loose. And he taught us kids how to do catch-and-release. He taught us about that, Mr. Chair. That's the kind of thing that this minister wants to limit.
It's outrageous, outrageous that this minister is moving in this direction that no other jurisdiction in this country is even thinking about.
This government stands up here and talks about protected spaces and it talks about the fact that protected spaces will be better for Yukoners because it'll encourage the tourism development and wise use of our environment. And so, what are we going to do, Mr. Chair? We're going to take a catch-and-release program, which is a wise use of our environment, and because of some figment of the minister's imagination, he's going to limit the people who catch large numbers.
He doesn't even know what the number is and he hasn't got the gumption to stand on his feet and give us a number, because he doesn't know. He doesn't know what the number is. He doesn't even know we've got a problem. He doesn't even know if fish die when they're caught and released.
He asked the member opposite. The opposition leader said he saw fish on a lake that were dead and he said, "Well, you should have reported it." I'll ask that minister, Mr. Chair, to come to the House tomorrow or tonight and bring us the evidence. Bring us the evidence of the stuff that he said people said about fish floating in the lakes.
So, he must have the evidence then. He must have the evidence in black and white and in writing from people. Bring it into this House and prove it to us. Prove it to us that these people are finding dead fish floating in the lakes.
Mr. Chair, it simply isn't accurate.
The minister's been in this House for three days in this debate, and there isn't a single question that members on this side have asked where that minister hasn't had to lean over to his assistant to get an answer. The simplest questions; policy questions. He doesn't know his department.
If anything's floundering and drowning in the lakes, it's the minister, Mr. Chair.
This is a serious issue to a lot of people in the tourism industry and in the sport and recreation industry, and this minister's making off-the-hand remarks with no background whatsoever to back them up. Nothing. No evidence. Zip. Zero.
It's going to affect people in the riding of Watson Lake that rely on the tourism industry. The Member for Watson Lake can laugh, but his constituents won't be laughing when they find out this minister's going to bring in more restrictions on catch-and-release in his own riding.
Mr. Chair, the minister has to be responsible for what he says in this House. He's made a half a dozen statements in this House and he hasn't backed one of them up - not one of them - at any time at all.
The unfortunate thing is that the minister is beating around the bush. He hasn't given us a number. Why hasn't he given us a number?
He said that people are telling him that large numbers of fish are dying after they have been released. He can't give us a number on that. He doesn't have it.
But I'm assuming that because he has these reports, Mr. Chair, that he does have the evidence in the Renewable Resources office, and it will be down here this evening so we can see it. And if it isn't here this evening, he can bring it tomorrow so we can see it.
I'm sure he's got it, because he said the Member for Porter Creek North should have it, and the minister said that there are reports, so he must have them. So, bring them in. Let us see them. Let us see how many reports.
I'll bet you, Mr. Chair, that there aren't any. I'll bet you that this minister doesn't have an ounce of evidence to back up his statements in this House - not an ounce. He's shooting from the cuff.
Mr. Chair, it's really unfortunate that the minister has decided to come to the House and make statements like this that are going to have a profound effect on Yukoners and how they enjoy their outdoor recreation.
Take a look around this town, Mr. Chair, on a Friday night, when everybody vacates the City of Whitehorse and other communities and goes out fishing. Most of those people are practising catch-and-release fishing. Most of those people are spending all day on the lakes, buying gas, buying food, buying supplies, buying fishing gear, practising catch-and-release, and putting money back into the economy.
But these guys wouldn't want that, Mr. Chair. A few weeks ago, the Fish and Game Association had a fishing derby out at Fox Lake. I suppose the minister will be ruling that out next. That was a fishing derby for kids. That was a catch-and-release fishing derby. Guess what? That's not very good in the minister's eyes. He doesn't like to see that kind of stuff.
What about parents? What about the mothers and fathers who want to take their kids fishing, want to take them out and teach them fair conservation practices? I see the Minister of Tourism doing a joke and passing it up to the minister. That's really funny. Yukoners are really going to be laughing, Mr. Chair, at the actions of this government. They're really going to be laughing at the actions of this government.
I want to thank that minister for the statements he's made here in the House today, because he got the Yukon Party a lot more votes by what he just said here today.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Phillips: There's a little chirping in the background from a little fellow that I think we'll just ignore, because I don't think he has much impact on anything around here. He doesn't have much impact on anything that we say anyway, because we know where he's coming from, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Chair, I am really concerned about a minister coming into this House and making all the statements he has today about fish dying off and about limiting large numbers of fish. Is the minister aware that the Northwest Territories has had catch-and-release in for 15 years and is still practising it? Is he aware that other provinces are increasing their catch-and-release awareness? And, is he aware that there are no other provinces, at least to my understanding, that put limits on catch-and-release?
I mean, it's almost bizarre. Think about it. Think about it, Mr. Chair. How's the minister going to limit catch-and-release on Yukon lakes? Is he going to put a conservation officer in every boat with everybody and send them out, so he sits beside you and as soon as you catch your number of fish you can't fish any more?
Is that how he's going to control it? Or is he going to be a little more onerous than that and actually just shut down the fishing on the lakes or maybe only allow so many boats on the lakes? Or maybe, from what the minister says here today, he doesn't like people that go out on the lake and fish all day, so maybe he's going to say you've got a four-hour limit? You get out on that lake, you're there four hours and that's it, get your boat off the lake, because this minister thinks you're overfishing.
He hasn't backed up what he said with one shred of evidence or one idea of how he thinks it's going to work. Not a thing, Mr. Chair. Not a darn thing. He just stood up in the House and made some statements that have no basis in fact, no evidence to back them up, no biological evidence, nothing. Not a shred of evidence to back up a thing he said, and he's saying we're not listening.
The reason I'm not listening to the minister is because the minister is speaking gobbledegook. He doesn't make any sense.
You know, the minister can't just fly around the country and do his job. He's actually got to go up to Renewable Resources once in a while, sit in on a few briefings, talk to the biologists, and understand what his job is all about. Maybe then, the simplest questions, he'd be able to answer them - the simplest questions, not the difficult ones. I'm sure if I asked the question, how long have we been in this debate, he'd have to turn around to his assistant and ask him how long have we been here.
The minister just doesn't get it. He doesn't understand his department; he's winging it, and it's obvious by his contradictory statements, time and time again in this debate.
He's changed his mind right from the beginning with the caribou management thing to the fisheries thing. He's changed his mind every time he's stood up.
It's really quite sad, Mr. Chair, that a minister could stand up and, not having any background or idea of what he's talking about, do as much damage as this minister has done today to the tourism industry, the sports fishing industry and the recreational fishing industry, and the people who are concerned about fishing in this territory.
What the minister has done is, with respect to the Finlayson caribou herd, he gave direction of what he wanted right from the beginning, and that's what the Fish and Wildlife Management Board came out with in the recommendation, and through lobbying of the Fish and Game Association and other Yukoners and us in this House, the minister is now waffling on that one.
Well, now what he's done with the catch-and-release, is he's made the same statement. The minister has imposed his views, his values. This consultative government that doesn't talk to anybody and wants to just ram their ideas down your throat - and that's what the minister is trying to do - has rose in the House and made some statements with no basis in fact, no background information, nothing.
Deputy Chair: Order please. Order please. The time being 5:30, we'll now recess until 7:30.
Deputy Deputy Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order.
Is there further general debate?
Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Chair, we want to move off this issue on catch-and-release. I think we've made our case very clear to the minister - that there's going to be great concern out there if residents are going to be limited to the amount of time that they can spend on a lake.
I would like to move off it very quickly. I just have a couple of clarifications that I'd like the minister to elaborate on, and one of them is that he said something about this being implemented, if it is implemented, on high-quality lakes.
Could the minister just tell us what lakes are being considered for this type of an implementation, if in fact it is to be approved? I'm not saying it is going to be approved. I'm just saying that if, in fact, it is approved, which high-quality lakes are we looking at for this implementation?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: I guess I need a bit of clarification as to what implementation the member is asking about.
Mr. Ostashek: I'm sorry, I didn't hear the minister. Could he repeat, please?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: You were asking whether or not we would be implementing on which high-quality lakes? I was just wondering what the member is asking that we're going to be implementing?
Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Chair, what we've been led to believe by the statements that have been made here by the minister is that - this is the minister from yesterday's Hansard. "Mr. Chair, we have looked, along with our department, along with the Fish and Wildlife Management Board at some lakes and declared some lakes as high management lakes, and have looked at things like barbless hooks to be used in these lakes. We know there is a large number of people that are using these lakes, and we would not like to have the fish stock decline to where it's in trouble. There's a lot of concern in regard to what catch-and-release really means. We don't like to see a large number, as I said earlier, of people catching and releasing fish. This is a concern by the aboriginal people, also because they see fish stocks in lakes that they're used to going to declining in numbers." So, I just wanted to know from the minister - it appears that what the minister said here is that he believes, anyhow, from this statement, that too many fishermen practising catch-and-release are catching too many fish and are releasing too many. As a result, at least in the minister's mind, there is a possibility that a lot of these fish won't survive.
So, what I'm asking the minister is what lakes did he have in mind that would relate to these comments where he believes there are too many people practising catch-and-release and he would like to see the numbers reduced?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Chair, I did not say that we were opposed to catch-and-release. I said that the Fish and Wildlife Management Board had come forward and said they would like public consultation on catch-and-release. I said we support catch-and-release. Fish and Wildlife Management Board is looking at several lakes - I believe four lakes - as high-quality management lakes: lakes that are being used a lot by anglers and on these lakes they ask that barbless hooks be used.
I can just list a number of lakes that Fish and Wildlife Management Board has recommended. The lakes they have listed are Braeburn Lake, Tagish Lake, Blind Lake, Jim Cook Lake, Grayling Lake, Tay Lake and Poison Lake.
Mr. Ostashek: I'll send this Hansard over to the minister if he would like to refresh his memory on what he said yesterday in the House.
He didn't say "Management Board". He said, "We don't like to see a large number" - he didn't say "the Management Board" - "like I said earlier, of people catching and releasing. And, this is a concern to aboriginal people, because they see fish stocks in the lakes that they're used to going to declining in numbers." Now, he said "we" - he didn't say "the Management Board". So, that's why I asked him what lakes he thought this would pertain to.
Mr. Chair, I would like to move on. We have to move the budget debate along. We're on the public record as having asked the minister the one question about whether he had any reports. He said he was going to check with his department. I don't expect that he has it now, but if he has any reports I will look forward to receiving them over the summer sometime, so that I can peruse them and see if there's any basis for the statement that the minister made - that fish are dying because of catch-and-release.
My colleague has one question on tagged fish and then we're going to move on.
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Chair, I also want to call to the minister's attention that his own department, the fisheries branch in the Department of Renewable Resources, has been doing studies for some years and tagging fish on lakes where there are catch-and-release programs. My understanding is that some of the fish that are tagged are being caught three and four times and, many times, one year after the other and sometimes in the same summer. These fish aren't being killed.
Mr. Chair, the minister also tried, a moment ago, to shift the responsibility over to the Fish and Wildlife Management Board as if it were their suggestion. Well, I could accept that if that's all it was, except the minister not only said in the House what the leader of the official opposition has just quoted in Hansard but he also said this afternoon - and this is Mr. Fairclough - "How many times do I have to answer this again? We are going to answer it over and over again. If you're spending a lot of time on the lake and you're fishing all day and you're spending day after day there and all you're doing is catching and releasing, you can bet there's going to be a high number out there - that's a high number of dead fish from releasing them."
My concern, Mr. Chair, is that those are the minister's words. Those aren't the Fish and Wildlife Management Board's words; those are the minister's words. There are a lot of Yukoners who want to spend all day out there fishing and catching and releasing fish. It's a recreational activity we've enjoyed for many, many years and it's one we want to continue to enjoy.
And it appears from the statements that the minister made in the House this afternoon that he's against that, and he said that clearly. He wants to limit the numbers of fish that you can catch and release. How he's going to do it is absolutely beyond me, because I can't see how he can possibly do it unless he limits the time that you're out on the lake. My concern is that the minister has clearly stated, "We are supporting this initiative, and we are concerned about the number of fish the people are catching and releasing out there." The minister said that. That isn't the Fish and Wildlife Management Board that said that. That's the minister.
So, it's the minister that has to take responsibility for this, and he can't pass it off to the Fish and Wildlife Management Board. If he didn't like the idea, he would have maybe told the Fish and Wildlife Management Board that he didn't like it right at the beginning and stood up in the House at the beginning and said that he opposes it, he supports catch-and-release, and what we'll do is maybe a public education program to encourage people to do more of it for the protection and preservation of the resource so that our resources are protected. But he didn't do that. He did exactly the opposite, and that's my concern.
There is all kinds of evidence now in Hansard with respect to the position that the minister has taken, not the position of the Fish and Wildlife Management Board has taken. So, the minister has to be responsible for what he says in the House.
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Well, it's amazing what a couple of hours can do. The member actually got something right. He actually got something right. It's just amazing.
I said that the Fish and Wildlife Management Board is going out and getting public consultation on this issue. I said that we support catch-and-release. The member finally has it now. And we said that we do not support catch-and-release if it's in large numbers.
The department has gone out and tagged fish. They have caught them and released them several times. They're quite experienced at it, and they know how to do things properly. There are a lot of people out there who don't know how to do things properly.
Even if you see it on TV on the fishing programs, they do it wrong. People have been charged because they have not handled the fish properly on these TV programs. It's a matter of education. We believe that.
The Fish and Wildlife Management Board obviously received a lot of concerns from the general public, and they would like public consultation on it. Now, you can't throw that process out the window.
If the Fish and Wildlife Management Board has concerns with that, why not get public opinion and direction on it? They would have a lot clearer understanding from the general public as to what concerns people have in regard to catch-and-release. We support the board going out and looking at this issue.
At this point, our government supports catch-and-release. What does catch and release mean in large numbers? Well, if you caught 100 fish - if you look at the numbers we have in here - and there's a 90- to 95-percent chance of those fish surviving, then five to 10 fish would die.
If you were good at going out and catching fish, how many fish do you think you can catch in a day if you sat on a lake day after day? There are a lot of people who go out there, go fishing, catch their limit and go home. They spend the day on the lake, but they actually go out to catch fish to eat.
A lot of people like the sport and we're not throwing that out. We're saying that we support catch-and-release, and we've said it over and over again, and we'll say it again. What we don't know is these high numbers that we have talked about. We don't support that. If people are out there, sport fishing, and they catch a fish and they release it, well, what's wrong with that if they know how to do it properly? We support that. We've told the members that. I've said it over and over again. It's not our position to go out and look at this issue and do public consultation. This comes from the Fish and Wildlife Management Board. They are an organization, I think, that we just can't dismiss. They bring a lot of good direction and recommendations to governments. They deal a lot more on a local level with renewable resource councils and many times have made good recommendations to us.
So, I don't know where the member is coming from but maybe in the next break he's going to hear what we had to say.
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Chair, I don't have a problem with the public process. I know full well that, when this particular issue is brought in front of the Fish and Wildlife Management Board, the public will be there loud and clear. My one concern I do have is will the Fish and Wildlife Management Board be listening, because they weren't with the Finlayson caribou herd issue. They didn't listen to the public then, and they were driven in that decision by the minister's own opinion.
Again, today, the minister has expressed an opinion, thinking that catching too many fish and releasing them is bad. I don't think it is bad. It's recreation. It's an activity that Yukoners love to do. I catch fish and eat them, but I also catch fish and release them - lots of fish.
Suppose the minister says I'm killing fish. Well, guess what? Some of the other people who catch fish, whichever way, by net or anything else, and the fish happen to get away, some of those fish die, too. Probably 95 percent of those survive.
Some of those fish are caught, Mr. Chair, with hooks with barbs on them and it rips out of their mouths and gills, and those fish swim away. Some of those fish die, too. But, that's fishing. What we're talking about here is many Yukoners enjoying a lifestyle.
The minister is clear on the record. The minister is on the record, as clear as a bell. The minister has a problem with Yukoners who like to go out fishing all day in their boat and catch lots of fish and release them. The minister has a problem with these people. He figures that they're bad people. They're harming the resource.
That's the position the minister took in this House today. That's what he told us. There are going to be a lot of people out there who fish and catch and release, because they feel that it's a way of conserving the resource and still enjoying the resource. It's a sustainable harvest.
They're going to be awfully upset at the comments that the minister made in this House today - not comments by the Fish and Wildlife Management Board - and those same people will have their kick at the cat when the Fish and Wildlife Management Board brings this information in front of them. Believe me, they'll be there in droves and the minister will hear it loud and clear.
The minister will probably get a lot of letters on this, as well, because I'm going to make sure that all the fishermen in the territory get a copy of Hansard, and they know where this minister is coming from, and that he doesn't support recreational fishermen and the right they have to go out and sit in a boat for a day and catch and release fish, doing it in a proper manner.
I agree with the minister and I agree with the opposition leader. Put on a strong education program on catch-and-release to teach people how to do it better. It would do more to preserve the resource than bringing in some goofy plan that couldn't be managed or enforced in any way, shape or form to limit the catch-and-release.
We haven't heard from the minister yet how he would even hope to manage a program like that, other than limiting the number of boats on the lake or limiting the number of hours you can fish on the lake or putting a conservation officer in every boat with everybody that goes out.
It is ill-conceived and ill-thought-out, but it is the minister's opinion and it's in black and white.
That's what we know about this government.
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Well, the fish inspector is at it again. On one hand, when we're talking about the Finlayson caribou herd, he talks about licensed hunters being able to volunteer to not hunt caribou in the Finlayson caribou herd, but he doesn't think that the fishermen can do it. He doesn't think that if information is out there in regard to catch-and-release, they won't do it. I can't understand where the member is coming from.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Your words are clear enough for the general public out there to understand where you're coming from.
And he thinks that we have a position out there that's scaring off the sports fishermen, but maybe when he does take a break and comes back, and he reads through Hansard, he'll understand that we do say that we do support catch-and-release and we support the Fish and Wildlife Management Board going out and doing public consultation. Obviously, there are concerns out there, and what's wrong with that? What's wrong with the board seeking public consultation?
The member speaks out of both sides of his mouth at times.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: That's right.
Deputy Deputy Chair: Order. I'd ask the minister to withdraw the words "speaking out of both sides of his mouth." It's unparliamentary.
Withdrawal of remark
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: I will withdraw that, Mr. Chair. We all know from years of experience how the Yukon Party deals with Yukoners. Many times they don't go out and look for public opinion, and they make decisions on their own and seem to support a certain core of people. Now they're flip-flopping around and trying to suggest that this government is doing the same, but what they can't handle is the fact that we are going out and talking to people. The fact is that the Fish and Wildlife Management Board does take advice from renewable resource councils, which are local organizations dealing with wildlife management.
He can't handle the fact that we said that we support catch-and-release. He had to try and twist it around and somehow say that our government doesn't support it but, as a matter of fact, we said over and over again that we support catch-and-release. What we don't support is catch-and-release in higher numbers.
Mr. Chair, I don't know how much more we can go on about this, but if the member wants to bring this up again, I will repeat again and again the things that I've said all night long for as long as the member wants.
Mr. Ostashek: Well, Mr. Chair, I think the minister's colleagues ought to take that shovel away from him before he digs himself a hole so deep that he'll never get out of it. He's a long way down there now.
We're on the record with our thoughts on that issue and I think it's time to get on with this debate. Time is moving on.
I want to move into another area right now, Mr. Chair, not to say that I may not come back to this in further debate, depending on the comments by the minister. We'll let it go for the time being.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Ostashek: The Member for Faro says we have 35 days. That's right; we have 35 days, Mr. Chair, and we can do what we want. He is the authority on everything that happens here because he's got 11 members and we only have six over here, and he will use his bullying tactics.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Oh, we've only three - and three who would like to be with the other three.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Deputy Deputy Chair: Order please.
Mr. Ostashek: Thank you, Mr. Chair.
I want to move on to the protected areas strategy now and the book that was handed out at the briefing by the Department of Renewable Resources. I thank the minister's department for putting the book together. It's been very useful and hopefully it'll keep us a little more focused on the debate than what it has been so far.
I only wish they would have included the Finlayson and the catch-and-release in the book. We may have been able to focus in on the issue a little clearer.
I am a little concerned about a statement that's being made in this on the protected areas strategy. On page 4, if the minister is trying to follow me, it says, "Get on with the job is the clear message we have consistently received in the past year."
I find that statement somewhat concerning, when I have seen press releases and heard statements made by both the Chamber of Mines and the Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce and, I believe, the Yukon Chamber of Commerce - I'm not certain about that one - the message I heard them say was to slow down, please, and use caution. It was not get on with the job and full steam ahead.
Nevertheless, the minister is moving ahead with the protected areas strategy and wants to have it completed shortly, I presume.
I guess my first question in this area is this: when does the minister believe the strategy will be completed, when does the he believe he will have a draft document to go to the public with, and what length of time is the minister going to allow for further public consultation on the draft document?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: From the comments that we have gotten over the past years in the public campaign, people wanted to see something done with protected areas. We're moving forward on it.
It's not as if industry out there cannot participate when it comes to management plans. Part of the key to this protected areas strategy is involving people, and involving local people, into the management planning when a protected area is proposed and where they should be proposed.
We expect to have a draft strategy in place at the beginning of June for public consultation.
We would do a 60-day public review consultation on that strategy and at that point in time get the feedback and make the necessary changes, if need be.
We know that we have fallen behind schedule a little bit on this. We've done a lot of work. The department has done a lot of work on research and working with other organizations on protected areas, and with the advisory committee that has steered this strategy a long way, and with public input. We're falling behind in time but we feel that this should be up and running in the summer. If not the summer, then late summer we should have a strategy in place.
Mr. Ostashek: Okay, I thank the minister for that.
Can the minister tell me what percentage of the Yukon will be receiving protection under the protected areas strategy that his government is going to be implementing? What percentage of the Yukon is going to be protected?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: We don't have a percentage tied to this at all. We wanted to look at the 23 ecoregions and have a representation of those ecoregions protected, in one way or another.
We have, to date, six of these ecoregions with adequate protection. We cannot count out the parks that we have right now. Those are all included.
The special management areas that are in the land claims agreements are all part of this and we feel they're protected areas. We do need to come up with management plans for these special management areas.
Once the strategy is in place, we have a big task in front of us in putting management plans in place for those First Nations with final agreements that have special management areas. We are already behind time with the First Nations that have agreements, and we will be concentrating on those four First Nations first and looking at putting management plans, we're hoping, in place for all of these special management areas.
All of the First Nations, of course, would have a big part of this. We're hoping that, with those, we would have several protected areas, other than the special management areas, within a year.
Mr. Ostashek: The minister surely must have some idea of the percentage of the Yukon that's going to be protected when the protected areas strategy is in place. He says he's going to the public with a draft plan in June. That's only 30 days from now. They have to have some idea.
Canada committed to 12 percent in the protected areas strategy. What is the target? What is it shaping up to be? I know the minister said he wants to protect the ecoregions - and I understand that, but what percentage are we looking at? Are we looking at 12 percent, five percent or 25 percent? Yukoners would like to know.
Some people on the economic side are very concerned about how much of the Yukon may be withdrawn from development. I think it's incumbent upon the minister, and it's his responsibility to let Yukoners know how much of the Yukon, in a ballpark figure, is going to be encompassed in the protected areas strategy. We're not going to hold him down to a one or two or three percent difference from what the actual figure will be, but I would like to know the ballpark. Are we still targeting 12 percent? Are we looking at something greater? If so, how much greater?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Well, the protected areas strategy will not spell out a number or a percentage in the strategy itself. We don't know, at this point, what the percentage is going to be. We're not putting a figure in place to reach that percentage. We are going with ecoregions, and we want to get a representation of these ecoregions. We're not putting any percentages in the strategy itself.
The advisory committee has been suggesting that no percentages be put in there either. I think we should not be trying to reach a certain percentage in Yukon but, rather, look at these ecoregions and have a representation of each of those ecoregions. If we had two ecoregions that were not covered and we had a percentage there, where do we go from there? Do we start over and ask the public if we can continue with the protected areas?
I think that what we need to do is to sit down with local people.
The nice thing about the protected areas strategy is that these areas are going to be discussed at a local level with renewable resource councils and industries to identify the areas that need to be protected. At that point, all people will be involved in putting together the management plans. So, to look at protected areas as a percentage, I think, is not right. The general public out there, along with the advisory committee, recognizes that. We'd rather like to focus again on these ecoregions and make sure that they have adequate protection for habitat and wildlife and water and so on.
Mr. Ostashek: Well, Mr. Chair, I'm sorry, but the minister's answer is not satisfactory. There is a lot of concern in the Yukon public and in the investment community and in the mining community and in other industries as to what this is going to encompass, and there is a direct correlation between the climate for investment activity and protected spaces. British Columbia has proved it and proved it in spades, where they've had a real downturn in their economy, and one of the biggest contributing factors is all of the protected areas that they've set aside. That's a big contributing factor for that downturn in the economy.
We have an economy that's very, very weak here right now, and I think the minister can clear the air by saying how much of the Yukon is going to be set aside. I'm not concerned about the management plans at this point. We will debate the management plans at a different time.
I want to know from the minister what percentage of the Yukon is going to be withdrawn from economic activity or where there is going to be limited economic activity in it. There has to be some correlation between the protected spaces strategy and how much we're going to set aside if we want to develop the Yukon at all. What are we going to do? Does the minister believe that we should turn the whole Yukon into a park and not have any development at all? Is that a position that his government has taken? I hear the Minister of Economic Development going all over the world trying to sell investment here, and one of the biggest concerns for exploration companies is protected areas. They want to know how much of the Yukon is going to be protected.
I know that the minister has to have a better understanding of it than just to stand on his feet in this House and say that this is wide open; there is no number. If I wanted to be an alarmist, I could go away from this House and say, well the minister hasn't got a number on it; we could conceivably see 50 percent of the Yukon receiving protection.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Ostashek: Well, we'll get around to debating that when we get into Yukon Energy. Right now we're on Renewable Resources and we've got a long way to go yet before we get to Yukon Energy. Mr. Chair, what are we shooting for? We've heard the one conservation group say it should be 25 percent that's set aside. Are we going to be closer to 12 percent or are we going to be closer to 25 percent when this strategy is complete?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: I told the member that we don't know that. We don't know how much land out there needs to be protected. We know that there is going to be a greater amount of land that's not protected than protected; we know that. Protected areas are not going to eliminate the mining industry from the Yukon. We feel that there is a lot of economic opportunity through protected areas, and if the member looked at some of the First Nations' land selections, for example, a lot of those land selections were made specifically for economic development - a lot of those lands. Those are not taken out or blanketed for protected areas. They want economic opportunity, too.
They also selected SMAs for protection against a certain amount of development. Protected areas, depending on what kind, does not mean that there would not be any development happening. It all comes right down to the management plan. But at this point in time, the feedback that we got from the general public and from the advisory committee and workshops shows that there are no percentages tied to the protected areas strategy. This strategy is being developed by the general public; it's not being developed by the department.
We've had a lot of good feedback. Of course, we're in the final stages of putting this strategy together but it also has, for the biggest part of it, direction from the advisory committee and the workshops that have been held and all the public consultation that took place throughout the Yukon in every community and direction from RRCs. All of those did not attach any percentages of land to the strategy at all.
Mr. Ostashek: Well, Mr. Chair, I'm sure that people who are concerned with this issue are going to be very, very alarmed when they read Hansard tomorrow - that the minister has got a wide open agenda here and has no thought in mind of how much of the Yukon's going to be protected or, if he has, he's not prepared to share it with the public today. The fact remains that there has to be some finite number somewhere, or are we going to go on and protect the whole Yukon?
The minister says there's going to be more Yukon left than what's protected. That's a very broad statement. I guess we're talking 51/49 and he would be right - we'd have more area that's open to development than is protected. That's not very satisfactory, Mr. Chair.
Let me approach it from another way, then, to maybe get some clear understanding of where the government's going with this.
The minister said that the protected area strategy does not mean no economic activity. Is the minister saying that they are using the philosophy of a multi-use approach to the protected area strategy - that some of the area would be totally protected yet mining and logging and other activities would be available in other parts of the protected area of the ecosystem, maybe under stricter guidelines and stricter regulations than on Crown lands? Is that the approach that the minister is taking to this?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: I told the member that the protected area strategy does not mean that there would be no economic development opportunities. When it comes to parks, there could be significant economic opportunities in the Yukon. We could have everything from recreation within parks for local people and attractions for much tourism within the Yukon.
Just to look at what we have here in Yukon, we could have, as a protected area, habitat protection, wetlands, and so on. It doesn't mean that we are eliminating industry or development from happening.
If you took, for example - what we have so far is the Tombstone Park. The study area that's been proposed - just the way it was laid out - was eliminating a lot of potential mining opportunities. So, when the final boundaries are proposed, it's going to take into consideration, I would think, all aspects, including industry, including mining, forestry, and so on.
I'm not saying that protected areas are going to be eliminating, at all, economic development or opportunities for that.
I know the member wants to get into mining, and so on, within parks, but what I've been focusing on are opportunities related to parks and attractions of tourism, and so on, into Yukon.
Mr. Ostashek: We know that. I don't need the minister to stand there and tell me that. Those are activities that take place in parks. I asked the minister, quite clearly: under his directions that have been put out, will mining or logging - let's just use those two examples - be allowed within the protected areas spaces? A simple yes or no.
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: To answer the member's question, no, not in natural parks in the ecoregions, but possibly in areas of habitat protection, heritage rivers, and so on.
Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Chair, then how much is set aside is a major concern. Now, I know the minister has said that they have taken care to eliminate potential mining opportunities in the Tombstone area, and I'll accept that. But the minister is aware that you can eliminate the known mining opportunities that are there now. But with new technologies that are coming on every year, any area has the potential for development in the future.
Once it's made into a park and we stop even doing exploration work on it, then it has no potential for any economic opportunities in relation to mining, forestry or the use of non-renewable resources - or even renewable resources in some instances.
What the minister is talking about is tourism and areas like that, which, in some places, will work and, in other places, it isn't going to do one bit of good to put Yukoners to work. The minister ought to be aware of that. If he's not, he just needs to go to British Columbia and see what's happened with all of the land that they have set aside and how much damage they've done to resource industries in that province. There are whole communities literally disappearing because of a far too aggressive campaign by the NDP government down there to protect far too much of the province.
So, my concern is that these areas are eliminated. The minister's on the record as saying, no, there won't be any mining or logging in those areas, maybe in habitat protection, and that is why I'm trying to get from the minister what the percentage is going to be. It makes a tremendous amount of difference to investors in the Yukon.
The other question that I need answered by the minister - I think the minister said, in an earlier comment, that special management areas would be considered as part of the protected spaces strategy. Well, I'll ask the minister this, will special management areas and territorial parks be part of the overall package of protected areas, as put together by this minister and his government? I still want to know what percentage we're aiming at.
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: We don't have a number. I told the member that. There will be no numbers floating around at this point. The SMAs that are out there with First Nations final agreements and territorial parks, if they're protected areas, then, yes, they're considered a protected area within the strategy.
Mr. Ostashek: A frustration I have is that the minister is not saying how much of the Yukon they intend to protect. That's what Yukoners want to know.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Ostashek: The Member for Faro is kibitzing that we didn't have a figure. We did. Our minister stood in this House and said that we were aiming for 12 percent. The Canadian agreement was for 12 percent of the Yukon to be protected.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Ostashek: There we go, so now we can go out and tell the public that this NDP government wants to protect about 30 percent of the Yukon, because that's what I'm hearing from the members opposite. We signed on to 12 percent, Mr. Chair, and this government has changed that position.
Are the national parks included in this, and will our future national parks be included? Are our protected spaces going to be over and above the national parks?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: If it's considered a protected area, they would be included within the protected areas strategy. The strategy itself is not going to be producing a percentage of land to be protected for the Yukon.
Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Chair, the minister can stand there all night and say that it's not going to be produced in a percentage. The day that that hits the public, the first thing that people will do is calculate the percentage of the Yukon that has been set aside from economic opportunities by this government; that's the first thing they will do. They'll look at what's been cut out from exploration, look at what's been cut out from logging and look at what's been cut out from other resource industries; that's what they're going to do, and then the figure will be public.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Ostashek: I do support tourism. I do support tourism, but we also need more than tourism to create a society in the Yukon that's going to enjoy the type of living that we've enjoyed in the past.
Mr. Chair, for this socialist government to sit there and espouse this sort of dogma, when we've got a territory that was founded on mining - there wouldn't be a Yukon if wasn't for the gold rush. I think it's a sorry day in the Yukon when we have a minister stand up who isn't prepared to commit how much of the Yukon he wants to protect - totally protect - from development and limit the opportunities for our citizens in the Yukon.
Mr. Chair, this is indeed not very satisfactory, in my opinion, for a minister to stand in this House and say we have moved the goal posts. The Yukon Party had a 12-percent strategy in place and we've taken that off, but we're not going to tell the public how much we intend to protect.
We're going to look at all of the ecoregions and, yes, I guess if we wanted to look at every ecoregion, we could end up protecting the whole Yukon, because they all have unique features, and a great percentage of the Yukon - as the Member for Faro was kibitzing in the background - is already protected. Over 16 percent of it enjoys some level of protection now. Over 16 percent of the Yukon enjoys some level of protection that is not open to all activities. And now we have a protected area strategy that's going to add to that yet, Mr. Chair.
I wish the minister would be a little more clear but I guess we'll have to wait until such time as his strategy becomes public. Then we can all see how much consideration they've given and whether there's any meat on the rhetoric that the Economic Development Minister is out pumping around the world - "Come to the Yukon. You're welcome. You'll be surrounded by national parks but you're welcome anyhow. You won't be able to explore, but you're welcome anyhow."
Mr. Chair, I've got to ask the minister one more time: can he give us at least some ballpark figure? What does he believe will end up under protection after the protected spaces strategy is out in the public?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: I don't know what that number is going to be. We don't know. It's a publicly driven process at this point, and it's going to be the public who is going to be determining what the final boundaries of protected areas are.
Mr. Chair, the member made a comment about mining in the Yukon and the fact that the Yukon would not be here if it wasn't for mining. I just want to remind the member that there were people here before mining. There were Yukoners here before mining, and those people are still here and always will be here.
Mr. Ostashek: The minister is absolutely right, and I would never argue that with him, but there was no Yukon Territory before mining came north and the gold rush came. That's when the territory was formed.
Mr. Chair, let me then ask the minister this: if he doesn't have any idea of how much is going to be protected, did he just hand a blank cheque to the management committee of the protected spaces committee? Did he just give them a blank cheque and say, "Here you are. Go out and come back and tell me how much of the Yukon you want to protect"?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: The general public directed this government to go out and put together a protected areas strategy, with their involvement. We have held workshops. We've put together an advisory committee with industry and all interest groups on it, including First Nations.
We've given direction to that, to what they feel the strategy should be. There are no numbers, like I said, that have been brought out by the advisory committee. We didn't expect that there would be a number. What they have focused on is to make sure that these ecoregions are represented with protected areas through the strategy. So, that is the approach and the direction that has been given to us by the advisory committee.
Protected areas is not something new to the Yukon. It should not be putting fear into the minds of developers out there that this is a new concept. This is not a new concept. Special management areas have been talked about in land claims negotiations for the last 25 years. There is now success with the land claims in the Yukon and developers are looking forward to conclusions of land claims agreements. It gives everybody certainty as to what lands are out there and available for development and what lands they need to be approaching First Nations about in regard to development and what lands out there are protected and need special attention.
In the past, First Nations people, as stewards of this land and managers of wildlife and so on of this land, have exercised their aboriginal right to harvest what they want when they want. It always remained that wildlife was still here in the Yukon, so they must have been doing something right.
They also had areas they felt were sacred and needed protection and, to this day, through claims, they still feel that, and it's reflected in the claims. Again, there are no percentages attached to this strategy.
Mr. Ostashek: Nobody's arguing with the fact that some land has to be protected. We said that when we were in government - 12 percent is what we were aiming for. This government has removed that limit of 12 percent. They are going far beyond and above that. For the minister to say that industry ought not to be worried, he better be listening to what industry is saying. Industry has said and mining has said that two of the biggest obstacles to investing in the Yukon today are the completion of land claims and the protected areas strategy. It's been said at several conventions and meetings across Canada in the last 12 months. The minister ought to be listening to those things and his government ought to be listening to them. Those are two of the major obstacles to investment in the Yukon today.
The amount that's set aside will have a significant impact on the level of investment in this territory. It will have a significant impact on the amount of oil and gas exploration that's done in the Yukon. All of those things are part of building a society that can sustain itself here and not have to live for the next 100 years on handouts from Ottawa.
And I think the goal of all Yukoners is to be self-sufficient. But if we're going to tie our hands so we can't, it's going to be very, very difficult, Mr. Chair.
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: I don't know what the member would like me to comment on. I told the member that there's no percentage tied to this strategy and I don't believe there's going to be one in the end. There's a focus on having these ecoregions properly represented and I can't understand why the member would not even want to support that at all.
The member is trying to get a percentage out of this government. We said that a strategy is going to be developed by the advisory committee with the general public's feedback, and it shouldn't be very soon before we receive another draft strategy and before it goes out to the general public, and at that point in time, I don't believe that there's going to be a number attached to it. I think that they are going to be focusing on making sure the ecoregions that we have in the Yukon are properly represented.
The member well knows that there are a lot of organizations out there that support this, including the Whitehorse mining initiative, which strongly supports protected areas.
The mining industry would like to make sure that, if there is habitat out there and there is an area that needs to be protected, they know about it and they can work around it and work with it.
I know the member is bringing some fear out from the mining industry, but we're not getting all of that from them. We understand that there could be some concern in regard to protected areas, but there is also a lot of support out there to make sure that what's out there right now is protected and that when development does happen, whether it is logging or oil and gas development or mining within an area, we make sure that we protect this ecoregion. So, there is support out there from the mining industry to do just that.
Deputy Deputy Chair: Order. The time being 8:30 p.m., is it the members' wish to take a short recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Deputy Deputy Chair: Ten minutes.
Deputy Deputy Chair: I call Committee of the Whole to order. Is there any further general debate in Renewable Resources?
Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Chair, I just want to make a couple more comments on the protected areas strategy and then move on to another area so that we can expedite debate in this department.
The minister, when he was on his feet last time, said that he thought we supported the protected areas strategy and I want to tell him that we did but we didn't support a blank cheque. We were supporting a position of 12 percent for the Yukon. The Whitehorse mining initiative gave qualified support to 12 percent in the Yukon - not a blank cheque. They're going to be very, very concerned when they realize that there is going to be probably far more that this government is going to protect. The minister cannot hide behind some board and say it's a public process and the public has spoken because the public hasn't really spoken on this. There have been no polls done by this government, or even my government, as to the feelings regarding how much of the Yukon should be protected. There have been no surveys done. So, for the minister to say that the general public supports a blank cheque, I think, is a stretch at best. All Yukoners support a protected areas strategy of some sort, but I would suggest to the minister that there would be very few Yukoners who would support protecting areas to the extent of damaging economic opportunities in the Yukon.
I guess the Yukon public can take some consolation. The minister said tonight that there would be less protected, and it would be open for development. Well, we know that the best they can do, then, on protected spaces is 49 percent, if that's the case. I don't expect it will be that high, but I really expect it's going to be a lot higher than the 12 percent that Yukoners have been expecting.
The minister can say that he doesn't believe that there's going to be a percentage on the next report that comes out, or when it goes to the public in June. I can assure the minister that it won't be in the public forum very long before a percentage will be put on it. People can calculate very quickly how much of the area is being protected, and that's one of the first exercises that will happen. Let me tell the minister that it will have an impact. The percentage of Yukon that is protected will have an impact on investment in the Yukon. So, I will leave that at that juncture for now. I'm sure that we'll have many more questions on it this fall when we come back.
I want to move on, and I want to let my colleagues get into this debate. But, before I do that, I want to get from the minister what his plans are for the Whitehorse dump this year. I don't want to see a situation where we have another 12 bears destroyed because they're coming into the community. Can the minister relate to me, on his feet, what his plans are for problem bears at the dump this year? In that statement, I would like him to tell me specifically what they're going to do. Are they just going to allow the bears to wander down into the community again? Are any precautionary measures being taken to try to divert the bears from the dump when they come to the dump? They're still going to come there. They're attracted by the smell, and the electric fence will keep them from getting into the dump, but it certainly won't keep them from picking up the smell and coming in.
We had some very serious situations last year with bears wandering around in residential areas, and we are very fortunate that there wasn't a serious incident. Twelve bears is a lot of bears to be in residential areas in one year.
How many bears does the minister's department think will be coming down this year, what plans have they made to deal with them, and what plans are being made to make the community aware of the potential problem?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: In regard to the fence that was put up around the Whitehorse landfill, the department had recognized that there are areas of improvement that they could make. One of them was in regard to communications. They felt that they could start public awareness a lot earlier and continue to work in the schools close to the areas and with the general public to inform them that there are possibilities of bears wandering in the area.
We feel that most of the bears, if not all, have been already dealt with and we're hoping that we will have zero bear problems this year. We understand that Whitehorse, being the size that it is, like every other community, will continue to have bears wandering into the community.
I think that the general public out there have learned a lot from the process last year. They're more bear aware than I think they have been in the past. People have been more alert to dealing with things like garbage in and around their homes. That type of information and message needs to be continued and needs to be provided to the general public. We will continue to use the FM radio service that we used last year to keep people up to date about what's in the area.
At this point in time, we didn't expand the plan at all. We haven't included anything else other than what we have done in the past year; that is, having the outside of the fenced areas raked, so that we could keep track of bears coming to the fence. Once there are tracks identified, then we know that there's a bear in the area. That was one way of detecting that. We had the department set up snares and bear traps and that will continue.
We cannot say for sure to the people of Porter Creek that there will be no bears coming into the community. We just can't say that. There always will be, I believe, bears coming through the area and walking through town.
That's a forever thing. Every community faces that. The community of Carmacks, where I'm from, faces it in the spring and faces it in the fall. Bears walk through town and walk through your yard. People are aware of it and take precautions.
I think the City of Whitehorse, having a larger number of people, sometimes doesn't tend to think about the fact that wild animals could be coming into the community. It's up to our department and others to inform us whether or not there are bears in the area, and we would try harder to improve those communications.
Mr. Ostashek: Well, Mr. Chair, there is no doubt that there always will be bears in the area. There is also no doubt that there never was a problem until the dump was fenced. It was the odd time that there was a bear in a residential area. This year we had 12 that had to be destroyed. It's a very valuable resource that's being destroyed.
Is the minister saying that there is going to be an effort made this year to snare the bears or trap them at the dump prior to them getting into the residential areas? Is there going to be an effort made in that respect? I think that what my constituents are telling me is that they don't want to see 12 bears destroyed again this year.
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: If the department sees evidence of bears in the area, they will attempt to trap them. If there is a continued presence of bears in the area, then we would take more precautions to try to see if we could get them before they are diverted into the community.
Mr. Ostashek: Okay, well I thank the minister for that. I will still be in general debate tomorrow and I'll have more questions. I'm going to allow my colleague to get into the debate for awhile here this evening.
Ms. Duncan: I would like to actually begin by following up on the issue with regard to bears in the Porter Creek area.
During the briefing session with the Department of Renewable Resources, I had strongly recommended that the key area I felt that had not been handled well by the department is the communications and by that I recommended to the minister that there be a key contact point established and that that individual or individuals be instructed to meet with school councils in the area. There are three schools in the area, two of which are elementary schools, and one of those schools, Jack Hulland, has a very extensive outdoor program in the fall and again in the spring.
I felt strongly that what we were seeing happen was one individual on the school council would contact the department and speak with one person and somebody else would speak with somebody else, and pretty soon the story or the message was not clear. I felt, and strongly recommended to the department, that the overall communications plan, particularly that element of contact with the schools, be improved.
That was a recommendation that I made and I would just like clarification from the minister that that recommendation has been heard and will be acted upon.
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Yes, the department did take those recommendations and we feel we can do them. It was in our plan to do improved communications. We would like to work with the schools, especially as a result of the incidents that took place last year. There could have been problems but we were fortunate enough, I guess, to catch them before they happened.
It came very close, I think, in a number of cases. There could've possibly been some people hurt.
We would take her recommendations seriously and consider them and I do believe from discussions that I've had here with my deputy minister that they've already committed to doing that.
I just wanted to make one mention - it's too bad the leader of the official opposition isn't here - there is a lot more than just going out and removing bears from dumps. It's not about killing bears; it's all about saving bears.
If he looked at it really carefully and closely, he would have known that these bears were eating garbage and passing it through their system and it was not a good scene. And if you really care for bears, he, himself, would have done that and not put a value on its head like that. It's about saving bears.
Ms. Duncan: Well, Mr. Chair, I want to reassure the minister that I am fully aware of that, having, as he is also fully aware, first-hand eye witness encounters with these bears in my front yard. It also, I must advise the minister, has encouraged in my daughter an incredibly healthy respect for these animals, and I don't particularly want to see a situation this summer of not encouraging her to be in the playground because we're on bear alert. However, if it's for the future of these animals and our coexistence with them, then I understand why the dump has been fenced in and why the department has taken this step. Hopefully, we can communicate better and manage this spring and fall better.
I'd like to move on to a number of other issues. First of all, I'd like to begin by thanking the department. Of the five or six departments that I am the critic for, this one, the Department of Renewable Resources, has consistently provided the very best briefing. It's very thorough and it's much appreciated. They've been very helpful in answering a number of questions.
I don't want to re-plough old ground. However, I'd like to clarify for the record the situation regarding the Finlayson caribou herd. As I have listened to the debate between members and listened to members of various organizations, I'd just like to clarify how I understand the picture and ask the minister one question on it.
As I understand it, if he'll bear with me during this short summary, we have the wolf conservation and management plan and, for lack of a better term, I believe good science contained in this document and a good plan in the sense that it indicates that, where certain conditions exist, certain steps will be followed.
The situations recommended for action in this plan, the minister has said do not exist at this time; however, there is a concern - we've seen that in other documents - of the cow/calf ratio - and I will not get into a long discussion about bulls at this point.
The Fish and Wildlife Management Board has come out with recommendations and among them is a permit hunt. The Ross River Dena Council has discussed a number of suggestions, including a discussion of trapping, as well as the corridor discussion. I note that there is a successful snaring of wolves program in place with the Champagne Aishihik First Nation.
The department has indicated that it is committed to an ecosystem-based approach, and that type of approach, as I understand it, doesn't take any one element or any one species out of context. It tries to manage it as a whole. There will be a count this fall.
Now, my concern is that in the debate I haven't heard anybody talk about a time frame. I haven't heard anyone say that between all of the various players in this scenario, we will endeavour to reach a consensus and agreement before this year's hunting season. I haven't heard anyone give any indication of a time frame.
I wonder if the minister could indicate what the time frame is on this particular issue.
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Well, in regard to time frames, we said that - I guess we don't need to go over a lot of the details we have in the past - the concerns we have with the cow/calf ratio, we need to take precautionary measures, and the Ross River Dena Council would like to do the same.
We are going to be meeting with the Fish and Game Association in the next couple of days, and we're going to be meeting with the Ross River Dena Council to start working on a plan for this year. We're hoping that in the next two to three weeks we could come up with, I guess, an interim solution or direction, at this point.
We wanted to be able to do the rut count this fall and we wanted to be able to do the full census.
I know that the official opposition were asking us to do this census this year, but in order to make comparisons to previous years, we need to have those wider range of years between them. Next year, even, is cutting it close to come to real numbers, so we're hoping that, with those numbers, we could start working on a stronger plan for the following year. But, it's this coming season that we're concerned about at this point.
Ms. Duncan: Well, Mr. Chair, I would still like to believe that the ultimate goal of all the groups that I've mentioned and talked about tonight is an ecosystem-type based approach in the preservation and harvesting of the resource.
The minister's indicated that he intends to meet with the Fish and Game Association and with the Ross River Dena Council. At some point, will the minister have all the interested bodies in the same room for a discussion of this and, hopefully, a consensus approach?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Yes. We've had a number of discussions on this. We're hoping that we could have all the people in the same room having a discussion about this. When we have a discussion with one and then the other, it seems to be sometimes going in different directions. At the same time, everybody has a concern and understands that we need to do something.
We like to take an ecosystem management approach and take a holistic view of this and so does the First Nation. They're pushing us hard to look at wildlife management in the big area. We want to be able to deal with this issue first. I think they're looking at this in that manner. There's a big issue that we constantly need to deal with, and that's aboriginal rights. It is part of this holistic view that we must consider when looking at this ecosystem management approach.
I think they're quite into it. As a matter of fact, they have continually come to the department and brought up this issue with us, in regard to having to do something about the herd now.
So, we would like to continue that work with them. They have been working with the department for a couple of years, but there has been little resolution to the Finlayson caribou herd issue. But I'm confident that we would come up with something over the next little while.
The way it sounded from them, they are very interested in doing this as quickly as possible, and they know a hunting season is coming up.
The problem right now is that we don't know the numbers overall, and it plays a big part of what kind of direction you want to take. They know that the cow/calf ratio is down. If possible, they would like to see no hunting in the area, but you can't do that. You must give notice to people. There are licensed outfitters and so on in the area, and we need to take all of those people into consideration when making decisions. But I can tell you that we would be giving notice next year, should this herd be in trouble, that we could be taking more drastic measures for next season.
Ms. Duncan: Well, Mr. Chair, I appreciate the minister's answer, and I appreciate the fact that people are trying to work on a consultative approach, but I still didn't hear the minister indicate that he was going to have the interested parties in the same room at the same time. Is that going to happen, and is it going to happen soon?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: I did mention that it was our hope to do that, and we're trying to coordinate this. There is interest to do it right now. It's very difficult to even get people together, and that's part of it.
As I have said to the members, the management plan that we've been working on has a number of different people that have been involved in it since the beginning, and even the Fish and Game Association and the Yukon Conservation Society could not participate because of timing. So, it is at times very difficult to get people together. I know I don't need to go on and on about that, but we're going to make an attempt to have everybody in a room to hammer this issue out.
Ms. Duncan: I thank the minister. That was the answer that I had hoped to get.
I'd like to talk about the issue of fishing and fish inspections and fish inspection activity. I raised this during the briefing. This is particularly in relation to fish as a food resource and its sale. We don't have an ability to do, as I understand it, fish inspections. Our COs are not trained in this particular area. I raised this as a concern and wondered if there was going to be training provided and if there would be a briefing note provided or a legislative return, as it was raised in the briefing, or if the minister could indicate what the department's plans are in this particular area. I understand the Department of Fisheries and Oceans federally is perhaps not as able to do inspection as they may have been or we don't have that ability, and certainly our COs - I'm wondering what training they have in this area?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Just for clarification from the member, you mentioned fishing for food. Are you talking about inspections for commercial fishing?
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, yes. In particular, I was thinking along the lines of sale. For example, you can buy smoked salmon commercially at this point. What ability do we have to inspect that? And if, heaven forbid, anyone should ever become sick from eating locally smoked or locally canned salmon sold at something, where does the liability lie? Who has the ability to do the inspections of this product?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: I believe it is Fisheries and Oceans that does these at this point. The member had raised that issue. We have our conservation officers who are designated as inspectors to help out with this job. I don't know if the member is going a bit deeper than that. If there is anything new on this, I can get back. I'm not too familiar with that, but I can get back to the member if there is anything new on this.
Ms. Duncan: I was interested in the crossover training as well, and I believe it was answered at the briefing as to whether or not we could have the DFO staff and our COs in the same room at the same time during training sessions for COs to discuss fish issues in the Yukon, such as fish inspection. There were some other issues that had been raised at different meetings I have been at. I was wondering if they have the COs and the DFO staff in the same room at the same time and is there some training going on around the various responsibilities and issues between the two jurisdictions and responsibilities?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Yes, we have, together, worked and attempted to do joint patrols and training in regard to inspection, and this is a lot to do with avoiding duplication of work. I'll just read a note here, I guess. At the present time, an informal agreement with DFO is in progress and appears to be close to completion. Further monthly meetings with officers have been conducted and a more coordinated approach now appears possible.
So, I guess with this note, it appears that there are more attempts to do this crossover training and to be working to avoid duplication of work and so on. I guess this will be ongoing and continuing.
Ms. Duncan: I would like to express my support for efforts to eliminate duplication and to have the two levels of government work together.
I wonder if the minister could address for a moment another issue of levels of government working together in the training of Renewable Resources officers and conservation officers working with Yukon First Nations. There were some issues. Some First Nations, as I understand, have COs and Renewable Resources officers working with their First Nations government. Are we coordinating training in this respect and what is the working relationship with First Nations?
How are we doing in, in essence, implementing First Nations agreements in terms of licencing and so on? There was an issue, as I mentioned, in Teslin last year around fishing. The minister indicated, when we were in the endless discussion on the Finlayson caribou herd, that, should he wish to hunt in that area, he had to buy a licence, as it was out of his area - his traditional territory. Could I just have an outline as to how well we're working together with First Nations governments on these renewable resource issues?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: The department has been working with First Nations with regard to training conservation officers. The only First Nation that does have a conservation officer at this point is Teslin. The Champagne-Aishihik First Nation is very close to completion of their training. We're hoping that we can continue to advance this on to other First Nations - Mayo, for example, and Old Crow.
From what I know of what's happening in the Teslin area, they have been trying to implement with their members their agreements to draw attention to exactly what is in the agreements. I know that even members are showing concern and interest in the agreements.
It's going to be to a point, though, in the very near future, where all agreements are in place, and we need to recognize First Nation traditional territories and what First Nations are putting forth for bylaws, and so on, in regard to wildlife. This is going to become more and more in our faces, and we're going to have to deal with it. I'm glad that some First Nations are making advances in this area, and am hoping that very soon Champagne Aishihik will have conservation officers of their own.
It was actually good to see when I looked at the program that was done on changes to Yukon First Nation hunting. It was done by NEDAA, and it would be a good video for you to watch because it really focuses on First Nation hunting and what changes take place. But they do have their own uniforms - Teslin does, and it looks very good on them.
Ms. Duncan: I thank the minister for that point of information. I was also interested in how the Department of Renewable Resources COs work with First Nation COs. Now the minister is telling me that there's only one in place in Teslin. Is there a crossover in terms of training? For example, is that conservation officer in attendance at the meetings we discussed a moment ago with DFO?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: As we advance and have the First Nation final agreements, we work at the speed of the First Nation and where they would like to start taking more responsibility. Teslin was a little easier, I guess, for us to work with because the conservation officer that is now with the Teslin Tlingit Council used to be a conservation officer with our department.
So, she's fully aware of how our department works. Of course, it was quite easy for her to be part of this.
In regard to the discussions that took place about inspections and so on, I can get back with more information for the member on that.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, my specific question is this: as these First Nations officers come on stream and are in place, are they, as a matter of routine, going to be invited to these training sessions held within the department, and then when the department holds them with other agencies, like DFO? As a matter of routine, are we going to make sure that they are invited to attend?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: It is our hope that they do. It's going to be that these conservation officers are going to be questioned as to the government's policies and so on on hunting and what regulations are taking place, and also it would be to our benefit to have conservation officers from First Nations bringing forward their knowledge and the changes that they make. I am hoping that First Nations would join in in the training that we put forward.
Ms. Duncan: The catch-and-release debate that took place late this afternoon and early this evening - as I recall, and I can't name the specific brochure that I read, there was quite a lengthy discussion - and it may even have been a federal brochure - there was a page devoted to catch-and-release and a discussion of how some First Nations view this program as a lack of respect for the resource and that there were some issues around it. And, as the minister mentioned, not everyone knows the correct methods, and there seemed to be quite an effort to outline this in line of the public education program that's been mentioned by other individuals in the House.
The minister mentioned that the Fish and Wildlife Management Board would be undertaking public discussions on this issue. Could the minister provide a framework for those discussions? Is there a time frame set now? Is there some kind of indication as to - the minister mentioned four lakes. Are the four lakes outlined by the Fish and Wildlife Management Board? And what is the framework for the discussion?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: We don't have the framework that the Fish and Wildlife Management Board is working from. We have just been told that this is the direction in which they would like to proceed in order to have good public consultation on this.
The member is right. There are concerns coming from all sectors on this issue, not just First Nations, but all sectors. When you start watching programs and watching how fish are being handled and being pushed away into the water and a lot of these First Nation people, I think, were a bit upset to see that and knowing that this is taking place within their own backyards. But, it was not only First Nation people who looked at this issue.
So, the Fish and Wildlife Management Board, because of the number of concerns that are out there - both in favour of catch-and-release and the fact that there are possibly concerns out there - wanted to take it back to the general public and do their public consultation like they've always done and make sure that they involve community people, and hold public meetings to get more input into this. I think it's a very good issue for them to take forward to the public.
Ms. Duncan: Well, before the humming fax machine sending out Hansard attempts to misconstrue anything I've said, the Liberal caucus is fully supportive of the catch-and-release program.
I have a number of other issues I would like to raise in general debate.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Ms. Duncan: There's a noise from the Member for Faro, saying, "Let me guess." Some of those, like the biodiversity forum, I would like to leave to general debate, which no doubt will continue tomorrow.
Mr. Chair, I would move that you report progress.
Motion agreed to
Hon. Mr. Harding: Mr. Chair, I move that the Deputy Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Motion agreed to
Deputy Speaker resumes the Chair
Deputy Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
May the House have a report from the Deputy Chair of Committee of the Whole?
Mr. Hardy: Mr. Deputy Speaker, the Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 9, First Appropriation Act, 1998-99, and directed me to report progress on it.
Deputy Speaker: You have heard the report of the Chair of Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Deputy Speaker: I declare the report carried.
Hon. Mr. Harding: I move that the House do now adjourn.
Deputy Speaker: It has been moved by the government House leader that the House do now adjourn.
Motion agreed to
Speaker: This House now stands adjourned until 1:30 p.m. tomorrow.
The House adjourned at 9:28 p.m.
The following Sessional Papers were tabled April 29, 1998:
Ombudsman and Information and Privacy Commissioner 1997 Annual Report (January 1, 1997, to December 31, 1997) (Deputy Speaker McRobb)
Carcross-Tagish First Nation: Auditor's report on the schedule of revenues and expenditures under the contribution agreement with YTG for the period from November 1, 1996, to March 31, 1997 (Fairclough)
Municipal Act (a summary of proposals for a new act): recommendations of the Municipal Act Review Committee (dated April 1998) (Keenan)
Mobile home landlord and tenant handbook (Moorcroft)
The following Legislative Returns were tabled April 29, 1998:
Safety in schools: explanation of three program initiatives (Moorcroft)
Oral, Hansard, p. 2503
Violence between young women: programs to reduce violence (Moorcroft)
Oral, Hansard, p. 2516
Reading recovery program (Moorcroft)
Oral, Hansard, p. 2517
Association for Community Youth Initiatives (ACYI) and Health Investment Fund (HIF): funding and general information (Moorcroft)
Oral, Hansard, p. 2816
Gender equity focus groups (Moorcroft)
Oral, Hansard, p. 2819