Monday, November 2, 1998 - 1:30 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order. We will proceed at this time with prayers.
Speaker: It gives me great pleasure to announce that the following students will be serving the House in the Legislative Assembly for the fall sitting. They are Joy Feliciano, Amy Macdonald, Sarah Mowat, Shawn Sederberg and Josh Shepherd from Vanier Catholic Secondary School, and Jacqueline Frechette, Stephen Mansell, Mescal Nesgaard and Nikki Swerhun from F.H. Collins Secondary School.
Today with us we see Missy Nesgaard and Nikki Swerhun. I would ask members to welcome them to this House at this time.
Speaker: We will proceed at this time with the Order Paper.
Are there any tributes?
In remembrance of Sarah Abel
Speaker: I would like to pay tribute to Sarah Abel, who passed away in September at the age of 102. She was well respected in the community of Old Crow and in the Northwest Territories. She was well known, she was well respected, and she gave lots of knowledge to the community of Old Crow. I still carry that knowledge.
Are there any tributes?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I would like to join you in paying tribute to Sarah Abel, a much-respected elder in Old Crow. She was a woman of great strength and resourcefulness.
She was born on the Chandalar River near Fort Yukon, Alaska, over 102 years ago, and she has lived throughout the Vuntut Gwitchin traditional territory, following the Porcupine caribou herd for clothing and food. She married Abel Ch'itzee in 1913 and, when he died in 1944, Sarah took it upon herself to raise her 17 children by trapping, hunting and fishing.
She was well known for her support of and involvement in the community; she was the leader of the Women's Auxiliary of St. Luke's Anglican Church in Old Crow and she was the first woman councillor of the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation Council.
For all her strength in community involvement, Sarah will be missed most of all for her wise counsel. She readily imparted guidance and advice to all those who sought her direction. Her life experience gave her a balanced and an insightful perspective of the many challenges people face day to day. Through her counsel, Sarah's presence will endure in Old Crow, Mr. Speaker, for a very long time.
She was known to say, "Don't stop; move forward." And these are wise words for this Legislature as well.
Mr. Ostashek: On behalf of the Yukon Party caucus and the office of the official opposition, I would also like to take this opportunity in joining with you and the Government Leader in paying tribute to a life-long Yukoner and a well-respected elder, Sarah Abel.
Sarah was liked and respected by everyone who knew her and her loss will be felt not only by the people of Old Crow, but throughout the Yukon.
Many knew Sarah for her long association with the church and women's associations, as well as her commitment to helping her community, for which many are grateful.
Although soft-spoken, she was always able to draw attention of others to her words of wisdom and commonsense approach to the issues at heart.
Not only was she able to see value in helping others, she did her best to preserve Yukon's traditional past. As a role model and an inspiration to her people for continuing and carrying on the traditional ways of the Vuntut Gwitchin people, she will be sorely missed. Her contributions to the people of Old Crow will be remembered, as well as her wisdom, gentle humour, and determination to help others help themselves.
Ms. Duncan: I rise to join with you and other members of this House in paying tribute to the late Sarah Abel. I had the good fortune to meet Sarah very briefly a number of years ago. Her life and contribution to the people of Old Crow, Mr. Speaker, have been well documented by those who have spoken before me.
I would like to simply remember Sarah Abel as a woman of great strengths, a woman whose wise counsel gave much to her family and to her many, many friends and to her people.
We give thanks to knowing her and offer our deepest respects to her family, her friends and the people of Old Crow.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
In remembrance of William Drury (Bill) Taylor
Mr. Phillips: I would like to pay tribute today to William Drury (Bill )Taylor. Many of us knew him as Bill. On behalf of our caucus, Mr. Speaker, I would like to take this opportunity to pay tribute to this life-long Yukoner and a good friend of mine. He passed away on October 4 in Whitehorse at the age of 89.
Bill was the eldest son of the merchant Isaac Taylor, the co-founder of the Taylor and Drury stores during the gold rush. Bill spent his childhood years here in the Yukon. Having developed an interest in the family business, Bill earned a degree at the University of Victoria, and later returned to the Yukon as an accountant to help out.
In his many years working throughout the Yukon at Taylor and Drury posts, Bill became acquainted with the people and communities in virtually every corner of the territory. One could say that he became perhaps the world's finest mushing accountant.
They also built one of the first cabins at Marsh Lake and played an integral role in developing the road that now forms the major access to the cabins that are out there. It was there that Bill and Aline became avid boaters and enjoyed numerous trips throughout the waterways of the southern Yukon with their children and grandchildren.
Behind the scenes, Bill did a tremendous amount of work building our community. Besides serving on the city council, he helped organize the construction of the old Jim Light Arena and was a founding or early member of a wide array of Yukon organizations, including the Yukon Order of Pioneers.
Bill's stories of days past in the Yukon are never ending and will be remembered for years to come by family and friends at large.
His contributions to the Yukon will be missed as well as his sense of humour, love of life and his dedication to his family.
I'd like to ask all members to join with me in expressing sympathy to his wife, Aline, his children Marilyn and Vincent, grandchildren and many great grandchildren.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Mr. Speaker, I, too, rise with my colleagues across the floor to pay tribute to the memory of Bill Drury Taylor.
Mr. Taylor was a very well-known Yukoner and he did pass away on October 4. He was a man who was devoted to his family and he worked tirelessly over the years for his community and his family. As well, he recently celebrated his 63rd anniversary to Aline.
During the 1950s, Bill's efforts were redirected to automobiles, and building this side of the business, which was Taylor Chev Olds. We can remember that it was situated where the new Visitor Reception Centre is now.
Bill was a devoted northerner, who was noted for his dedication to his family. He and his lifelong companion for over 60 years, Aline Arbour Cyr, built the historic Taylor House at Fifth and Main, which was then the edge of town.
Bill worked in the family business of Taylor & Drury and had the opportunity to travel throughout the Yukon. I took a few moments to chat with my mother about Bill, and I asked Ma if she had any memories of Bill, and whatnot, that she could share. Immediately a smile came to her face, and she said, "Yes, son," she said. "Please," she said, "I can always remember Bill as he would travel with his father and with his uncles, and they'd travel on the company boat - I guess it was either the Loon or the Yukon Rose."
And Ma used to say they'd look forward to it, because not only were they bringing goods, but they were bringing news. They were bringing people from another community - a true Yukoner from another community - and share the good news.
So Ma's key word there, I think, when she spoke of Bill, was that he was a friend of everybody. He was a friend of the Yukon, and definitely a friend of everybody within the Yukon.
As has been said, Bill's community work will be remembered by many people here in the Yukon Territory. He was involved, as was said, in the creation of the Jim Light Arena and in many volunteer organizations, including the Kiwanis Club and the Masonic Lodge.
Bill will be missed by many Yukoners, and I ask my colleagues here again today to send our condolences to his wife and to his children, Marilyn and Vincent, and to his many, many grandchildren.
Speaker: Are there any more tributes?
Tribute to Jim Robb
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Mr. Speaker, it's a pleasure for me today to pay tribute to a person who has probably been one of the individuals that's helped define some of the character of our territory, and I'm referring, of course, to Jim Robb, the well-known Yukon artist.
A couple of weeks ago, I had the pleasure of attending a birthday celebration for Jim, and that celebration, I think, was merely an opportunity for a number of Jim's friends throughout the territory to have the opportunity to pay tribute to a person who has really defined, in his own way, the colourful five percent.
Jim was born in Quebec City and raised in Montreal. He finished his education there, and after a two-year stint at the Valentine Commercial School of Art, Jim left and went to work in small towns in northern Ontario and Quebec, on fire crews during the summer and logging crews during the winter. While up north, he discovered Robert Service. He would read the poems, and from that grew a desire to visit the Yukon. In 1956 at the tender age of 21, he travelled by train to Edmonton, then on a C.P.A. DC-3, he made it to Whitehorse. Once in Whitehorse, Jim worked at various jobs for the Canadian National Telegraph and Yukon Electrical as a labourer, including once working on a survey crew on the Teslin River.
More than a little fed up with this kind of work, Jim, one day while pouring cement, decided that he had had enough and made up his mind to pursue his artwork even if it paid him no more than $1.50 a day. Now, that was in 1958, and Jim had made his first sale to the Taku Hotel on Main Street.
In the 1950s and 1960s, Jim did a lot of drawing on moose hide. Harry and Annie Silverfox, along with their son Billy, would stretch the hide into different shapes on willow poles.
The foursome were the first ones to stretch moose hide instead of snowshoe frames, and then Jim would then do his pencil and charcoal drawings. They proved so popular that they couldn't keep up with the orders. As Jim likes to observe, all this enterprise was without the help of government.
In 1961, Jim made his first trip to Dawson City and, at that time, most of the buildings were leaning from permafrost - I believe a few still are. Jim drew many of the buildings and developed his own unique style, which I think is recognizable throughout the territory.
In 1971, Jim started a column for the Whitehorse Star. What he did was he would write about all the interesting personalities living in the Yukon. This was the start of the famous colourful five percent. From there he went on to write, and has published, three books on the colourful five percent - the most recent this past month.
Jim is a unique individual who has chronicled a unique lifestyle and the unique people of this territory. He is in the gallery today with a number of his friends. I would ask members to join me in welcoming Jim Robb.
Mr. Phillips: We, too, would like to join with the government in recognizing Mr. Robb and his presence here today.
Mr. Speaker, I was just going to make one brief comment, because I think the minister covered the history of Mr. Robb, other than the name of his first dog.
What I would like to do is give a special invitation to Jim to come into this place more often. I'm sure that he could fill a whole book of colourful five percent with the people that come through this Legislature and the interesting things that they say and do.
On behalf of our caucus, I would like to congratulate Jim on his birthday and wish him another 60 years of health and enjoyment. Keep up the good work, Jim. You certainly are a bonus to the Yukon Territory.
Ms. Duncan: On behalf of the Yukon Liberal Party caucus, we would also like to extend our best wishes to Jim Robb.
One of the points that the Minister of Health and Social Services did not make about Jim Robb is that "photographer" also describes Jim Robb accurately.
Jim Robb has an interest in making sure that Yukon material is preserved and most importantly that it remains in the Yukon. On behalf of many Yukoners, I'd like to thank Jim Robb for taking on this responsibility of helping us to recognize and celebrate the people - the colourful five percent - who make the Yukon a very special place. It's his way of making an important contribution to the life of the Yukon in making sure that the vanishing Yukon lives on.
On behalf of our caucus, thank you and happy birthday.
Speaker: Introduction of visitors.
Are there any returns or documents for tabling?
tabling returns and documents
Speaker: Under tabling returns and documents, I have for tabling the following documents:
Mr. McRobb: I have for tabling the final report of the Cabinet Commission on Energy toward a comprehensive energy policy for the Yukon.
Mr. Fentie: I have today, for tabling, a vision for Yukon forests, the Yukon Forest Strategy.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I have for tabling the public accounts for the year 1997-98.
Speaker: Are there any further returns or documents for tabling?
Are there any reports of committees?
Are there any petitions?
Are there any bills to be introduced?
INTRODUCTION OF BILLS
Bill No. 64: Introduction and First Reading
Hon. Mr. Harding: I move that Bill No. 64, entitled Oil and Gas Act Confirmation Act, be now introduced and read a first time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Minister for Economic Development that Bill No. 64, entitled Oil and Gas Act Confirmation Act, be now introduced and read for a first time.
Motion for the introduction and first reading of Bill No. 64 agreed to
Bill No. 55: Introduction and First Reading
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I move that Bill No. 55, entitled the Canadian Blood Agency/Canadian Blood Services Indemnification Act, be now introduced and read at first time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Minister of Health and Social Services that Bill No. 55, entitled Canadian Blood Agency/Canadian Blood Services Indemnification Act, be now introduced and read a first time.
Motion for introduction and first reading of Bill No. 55 agreed to
Bill No. 62: Introduction and First Reading
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I move that Bill No. 62, entitled An Act to Amend the Child Care Act, be now introduced and read a first time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Minister of Health and Social Services that Bill No. 62, entitled An Act to Amend the Child Care Act, be now introduced and read a first time.
Motion for introduction and first reading of Bill No. 62 agreed to
Bill No. 49: Introduction and First Reading
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I move that Bill No. 49, entitled An Act to Amend the Securities Act, be now introduced and read a first time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Minister of Justice that Bill No. 49, entitled An Act to Amend the Securities Act, be now introduced and read a first time.
Motion for introduction and first reading of Bill No. 49 agreed to
Bill No. 63: Introduction and First Reading
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I move that Bill No. 63, An Act to Amend the Dental Profession Act, be now introduced and read a first time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Minister of Justice that Bill No. 63, entitled An Act to Amend the Dental Profession Act, be now introduced and read a first time.
Motion for introduction and first reading of Bill No. 63 agreed to
Bill No. 61: Introduction and First Reading
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I move that Bill No. 61, entitled An Act to Amend the Optometrists Act, be now introduced and read a first time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Minister of Justice that Bill No. 61, entitled An Act to Amend the Optometrists Act, be now introduced and read a first time.
Motion for introduction and first reading of Bill No. 61 agreed to
Bill No. 54: Introduction and First Reading
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I move that Bill No. 54, entitled An Act to Amend the Maintenance and Custody Orders Enforcement Act, be now introduced and read a first time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Minister of Justice that Bill No. 54, entitled An Act to Amend the Maintenance and Custody Orders Enforcement Act, be now introduced and read a first time.
Motion for introduction and first reading of Bill No. 54 agreed to
Bill No. 60: Introduction and First Reading
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I move that Bill No. 60, entitled An Act to Amend the Family Property and Support Act, be now introduced and read a first time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Minister of Justice that Bill No. 60, entitled An Act to Amend the Family Property and Support Act, be now introduced and read a first time.
Motion for introduction and first reading of Bill No. 60 agreed to
Bill No. 56: Introduction and First Reading
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I move that Bill No. 56, entitled Spousal Tort Immunity Abolition Act, be now introduced and read a first time.
Speaker: It is moved by the Minister of Justice that Bill No. 56, entitled Spousal Tort Immunity Abolition Act, be now introduced and read a first time.
Motion for introduction and first reading of Bill No. 56 agreed to
Bill No. 48: Introduction and First Reading
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I move that Bill No. 48, entitled An Act to Amend the Fuel Oil Tax Act, be now introduced and read a first time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Government Leader that Bill No. 48, entitled An Act to Amend the Fuel Oil Tax Act, be now introduced and read a first time.
Motion for introduction and first reading of Bill No. 48 agreed to
Bill No. 13: Introduction and First Reading
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I move that Bill No. 13, entitled Third Appropriation Act, 1998-99, be now introduced and read a first time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Government Leader that Bill No. 13, entitled Third Appropriation Act, 1998-99, be now introduced and read a first time.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Speaker: Member for Porter Creek North, on a point of order.
Mr. Ostashek: On a point of order, I take exception to the Government Leader and Finance minister releasing the budget document to the press prior to it being entered in this House. We have a copy of a press release that we received in our office at 1:35 p.m. stating that the budget reflects economic leadership. This press release indicates to me a lack of judgment by this Government Leader and this Finance minister.
Budgetary documents are shrouded in secrecy until entered in this Legislature or any other legislature. Many Finance ministers have had to resign for smaller leaks than this.
Mr. Speaker, I suggest that the Finance minister consider resigning over this issue.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, Mr. Speaker, day one.
Mr. Speaker, the tradition for secrecy and budget lockups is a tradition around the tabling of the main estimates budget every year. The supplementary budgets are treated much differently, as the member knows full well, so the claim that this is to put out press releases to talk about what is in the budget - to actually communicate with the Yukon public - and the member's resistance to this, is not well-founded. It is a cute attempt, though, to get a headline, but unfortunately it has no grounding, no basis in past practice, and there is no point of order, of course.
Speaker: On the point of order, the issue of the timing of the release of the budget is not a point of order.
Bill No. 102 : Introduction and First Reading
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, I move that a bill entitled An Act to Amend the Children's Act be now introduced and read a first time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Member for Riverdale South that a bill entitled An Act to Amend the Children's Act be now introduced and read a first time.
Motion for introduction and first reading of Bill No. 102 agreed to
Speaker: Are there any notices of motion?
Notices of Motion
Mr. Fentie: I rise today to give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that:
(1) the mandatory universal registration of firearms under Bill C-68 will not reduce crime;
(2) universal registration does not meet the needs of Yukon people or recognize the traditional values and self-government rights of Yukon First Nations; and
(3) the money spent to implement Bill C-68 would better be spent on programs that prevent crime by addressing the root causes of crime; and
THAT this House urges the federal government not to proceed with implementing Bill C-68 until such time as the Supreme Court of Canada has ruled on the challenge currently before it, that was initiated by the Government of Alberta and is fully supported by the Yukon government.
Hon. Mr. Hardy: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that:
(1) peaceful political protest is a fundamental right and, at times, the responsibility of citizens in a democratic society;
(2) suppression by the state of legitimate dissent is contrary to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and attacks the very fabric of democratic society;
(3) students who conducted peaceful protests in support of human rights at last year's APEC leaders' meeting were exercising a fundamental right guaranteed to all Canadians;
(4) it is in the interests of all freedom-loving Canadians that the actions of civil authorities against the student protesters be fully and fairly scrutinized through appropriate investigative and judicial proceedings; and
THAT this House calls on the Government of Canada to ensure that those who exercised a legitimate right to dissent during the APEC leaders' meeting have access to the financial, legal and evidenciary support they need to pursue their legal claims arising from the actions taken against them by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.
Mr. Livingston: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that:
(1) tourism visitation has shown solid growth; and
(2) the Yukon government has demonstrated strong support for the tourism sector by securing air access to the Yukon through agreements with airline companies; and
THAT this House commends the Yukon government's successful efforts to foster growth in the tourism industry.
Mr. McRobb: I'm pleased to give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that the Energy Commission's final report, Towards a Comprehensive Energy Policy for the Yukon, produced by involving the public and listening to them:
(1) provides a framework for a comprehensive energy policy that will guide informed energy decisions that contribute to environmental, social and economic goals;
(2) contains measures to provide stable and affordable electricity costs for all Yukon people;
(3) promotes energy conservation while creating local employment opportunities;
(4) encourages the development of alternative energy sources or Green Power; and
(5) will lead to the implementation of numerous energy-related activities that will benefit all Yukon people.
Mr. Ostashek: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that the federal Liberal government in Ottawa should recognize that the Yukon has had a wholly elected Legislature since 1909 and has been empowered under the Yukon Act to enact its own laws.
Ms. Duncan: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT the Government of the Yukon does not have the confidence of this House and of the people of the Yukon in its management of the economy.
Mrs. Edelman: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that:
(1) there are no accurate or approximate numbers of Yukoners who suffer from fetal alcohol syndrome or fetal alcohol effects;
(2) fetal alcohol syndrome and fetal alcohol effects are completely preventable if parents do not drink during pregnancy;
(3) there are few if any supports for families and for those who suffer from fetal alcohol syndrome and fetal alcohol effects once they have left the education system - and this is particularly true in rural Yukon;
(4) there is little or no communication between the many non-governmental organizations, volunteer groups and governments about the issues around fetal alcohol syndrome and fetal alcohol effects in the Yukon;
(5) services like those provided by the Child Development Centre, which provides outreach programs to most Yukon communities to help assess and develop workable programs for children suffering from fetal alcohol syndrome and fetal alcohol effects and their families, are under funded;
(6) this government should deal with FAS and FAE in the Yukon communities by first getting numbers of those who suffer from FAS and FAE, and by then providing support for early intervention and prenatal programs that help prevent FAS and FAE, as well as allow children who have been affected lead happy, productive lives in our society by being properly prepared for school and by giving their families ways to support these special children, then by examining the gaps in the service to youth and adults who suffer from FAS and FAE who no longer have the support of the Yukon education system and finally by using our resources wisely by coordinating services to persons with fetal alcohol syndrome and fetal alcohol effects, and their families.
Mr. Cable: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that:
(1) the proposed mergers of Canada's four largest banks and the subsequent reduction in competition that would result are not in the interests of Yukon bank customers, small businesses, bank employees, or other Yukoners; and
(2) the Government of Yukon should make a formal presentation to the House of Commons Finance Committee, reflecting the view of this House.
Speaker: Are there any statements by ministers?
New Action on the Yukon Economy
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Mr. Speaker, I rise to inform the House of recent activities regarding the budget and the Yukon economy, and to outline the four major policy pillars on which our government is building a new economic agenda for the territory.
First, I would like to report that my pre-budget tour of Yukon communities was very positive and productive. People across the territory offered constructive suggestions about how government financing and the budget-setting process can contribute to the strength of our society. Our government takes those suggestions seriously.
Yukon people recognize the stresses that the shutdown of the Faro mine creates in our economy. Just as importantly, they expressed confidence over and over again that we can rise above the current challenges if we roll up our sleeves and work together.
Our government shares that confidence. We will not adopt the gloomy and pessimistic outlook of those who doubt the resourcefulness, the drive and the determination of Yukon people. We don't agree with those who would insist that government is the only generator of economic success.
The new Yukon has what it takes to be successful. We recognize that we have little or no control over the boom-and-bust cycles of mining. However, we know we can weather the periodic difficulties that come as a result of changing world conditions.
The people I've spoken to, at home, and outside the territory, are very receptive to the message of a Yukon that is determined to shape its own destiny. It is a Yukon whose small population gives it the flexibility to adapt quickly, and whose entrepreneurial spirit allows it to meet change with creativity.
Having said this, Mr. Speaker, I would like to outline the four major policy components of the economic agenda that we believe will take the Yukon through the current period of transition, into a strong and dynamic future.
The first is maintaining basic services through responsible use of public funds. Our government has adopted stable and predictable spending patterns that meet our commitments to health care, education and social services without raising taxes or imposing medicare premiums.
We are reinforcing this foundation with long-term capital and budget planning that reflects the views of Yukon people. Involving people directly in major areas, such as energy policy development, adds to that foundation. Similarly, through such vehicles as the community development fund, and the rural roads program, we're providing services that will address the priority needs of Yukon people.
The second pillar of our economic agenda is building on our recognized strengths. For over a century, mining has been the major private sector industrial activity in the territory. Our government believes in responsible development of our mineral resources, and will continue to support this important segment of our economy.
The steady growth in tourism, particularly this year, demonstrates exciting potential. This is especially true for First Nations and wilderness tourism. We will continue our efforts to bring the Yukon to the attention of the world tourism markets. We will also encourage the development of new tourism products through such initiatives as the tourism marketing fund.
Our third policy pillar is identifying new areas of growth to broaden and diversify our economic base. As members are aware, there's been a great deal of activity lately in the area of trade and investment, particularly with very successful trade missions to Alaska and South America.
The new Yukon is looking outward as never before, and actively seeking new opportunities. Our government is supporting these efforts through our trade missions and familiarization tours. We recently established a trade and investment fund to help Yukon entrepreneurs expand their horizons.
Yukon control over our oil and gas resources will offer even more opportunities for economic growth. So, too, does the development of a made-in-Yukon forest policy that will encourage a diverse use of Yukon forest lands, including secondary processing and manufacturing of local wood products. Our government will also actively support new knowledge-based industries, including significant local research and development in communications technology.
The fourth pillar of our new economic agenda is redefining government as a partner and facilitator in economic activity. The Yukon is rich in resources, not least of which is the entrepreneurial spirit of Yukon people. Government has an important role to play in developing that human resource, and the Yukon government is working harder than ever to do so.
We are doing this by settling land claims, to provide more certainty and predictability. We are doing it by working with the community to explore more job-creating business opportunities here and abroad. We are also doing it by improving the regulatory climate to reduce the burden of red tape and changing our contract regulations to encourage local hire and local purchase.
We are providing training opportunities for Yukon workers and looking at ways to reform our tax system to stimulate economic activities that create jobs. We are also looking at ways to improve the banking services available throughout the territory, as well as ways to encourage Yukon people to invest in their own communities.
Our efforts are already paying off and will continue to do so. Other economic initiatives will be announced in the near future. They will demonstrate even further our government's belief in the ability of Yukon people to build a strong, vibrant economy by working together to meet current challenges and take advantage of current and future opportunities. By taking an active, outward-looking approach, Yukon people are choosing to maintain and strengthen their quality of life. As we move toward 2000 and into the next millennium, we can foresee a bright future. We are not minimizing the challenges, but demonstrating confidence in our capacity to meet those challenges.
By working together, we will make this special part of the world even better.
Mr. Ostashek: I believe what the Government Leader has done in his ministerial statement here is bootleg in a throne speech. In my opinion, Mr. Speaker, it is as void of any new initiatives as the throne speech generally is.
This government of the day, led by the hon. Government Leader, was very critical of our administration for not coming in with a throne speech after our first budget, let alone halfway through the mandate. Nevertheless, I will critique this ministerial statement, although I wish my colleagues would have had the ability to do it if it had been put in the form of a throne speech.
Mr. Speaker, we do not doubt the resourcefulness of Yukoners, nor the drive and determination of Yukon people. What we doubt is this government's ability to bring forward a climate that's conducive to investment and development of the Yukon through sound policies that will attract that type of investment. That's what we're critical of.
This government, through this ministerial statement, seems to be very apologetic by saying that we recognize that they have little or no control over boom-and-bust cycles. Well, let me draw your attention, Mr. Speaker: the mining community in Alaska and the Northwest Territories is booming while our's is in the doldrums. I think that says something further than low metal prices. That has something to do with the policies of this government.
Let's look at some of the four principles in this agreement. One of the statements made by the Government Leader is maintaining basic services through responsible use of public funds. Well, I think many Yukoners will question that statement, and question it quite thoroughly, when they look at the amount of money that was wasted on four Cabinet commissions, whose reports can't even stand on their own, when we have the Member for Kluane bringing in a motion and patting himself on the back for the great job he did with the commission report that he filed on the very same day.
I think that his government needs to be held accountable as to how they've misspent public funds and gotten very little for it.
Mr. Speaker, the second pillar he talks about is building on their recognized strengths. Well, Mr. Speaker, I want to point out to this Legislature that this government took over an economy in 1996 that was the strongest it's ever been in the history of the Yukon. Unemployment was at an all-time low. Mining and exploration development dollars were at an excess of $100 million - and they squandered it all away. Now they're going back to square one and have to regain some confidence from the investment community in order to try to get this economy back on track. Too little, too late, is what I say.
The government says it believes in responsible development of our mineral resources. Well, they're going to have to show us what they mean by that, and we'll have many questions on that as we move along.
They pat themselves on the back for the good job they've done in tourism, and while tourism numbers are good this year, we're going to be looking to see if there's any new money being put into advertising dollars to continue increasing our tourism to the Yukon.
Mr. Speaker, they talk about their forestry policy. Well, I've yet to see it. We have a document that makes a motherhood statement after two years and hundreds of thousands of dollars of taxpayers' money.
Their fourth pillar is redefining government as a partner and a facilitator, and saying that the Yukon is rich in resources and in human resources. Well, Mr. Speaker, those human resources will not wait around while this government is dillying and dallying around and trying to figure out what to do to get the economy back on track. They are leaving the Yukon in great numbers, and that is sad, because when we do get this economy turned around - with a change in government, Mr. Speaker - we will have to bring all of these trades people back from outside, and that will be the challenge that will be facing the new government.
So, Mr. Speaker, I would have much preferred if the minister had brought in a throne speech, rather than this extensive ministerial statement. It really doesn't say a lot. It makes a lot of excuses why they can't do a better job.
Ms. Duncan: I am pleased to respond to this statement on behalf of the Yukon Liberal caucus. We, too, believe in the economic potential of this great territory. We also believe, however, that that potential is not being realized under the NDP government.
Despite the minister's claims that his government is doing what it can to improve our economy, we would have to disagree. There are a number of things that the NDP are doing or are not doing that are stifling our economy.
Let's start with the inability to move the land claims agenda forward. Over halfway through their mandate, we are making painfully slow or no progress on land claims.
On forestry policy, the forest commission has just released its final report. Again, this report is not endorsed by Yukon First Nations. Does the minister really think that this industry is going to move forward without First Nations?
On devolution, there is missed deadline after missed deadline. When - or if - this is going to happen is contributing to our economic uncertainty.
On relations with labour, the potential for a strike hung over Yukoners for months this summer like a black cloud. The NDP attempted to wrestle with their promise to return the two percent to Yukon government employees. Again, Mr. Speaker, it is uncertainty brought about by the NDP government.
On local hire, the government has endorsed the idea of a mandatory hiring hall for government construction projects. Does this help our economy? Is this a responsible use of taxpayers' money? Is the hodgepodge way in which the recommendations are being implemented making things easier for the business community? A few here, a few there. The Minister of Government Services said that the recommendations would be implemented immediately. It hasn't happened. It's another example of how this government doesn't understand business. It doesn't understand how this sort of uncertainty impacts on business projects.
The Mayo school is a perfect example. Government turned the idea down flat.
Six months ago, the Liberal caucus asked the government to look at the idea of investment tax credits. The government's response? Six months later, the government set up a tax round table. Again, more talk instead of doing.
Mr. Speaker, there are a few other points I would like to make. First, this government has raised taxes. Approximately $80,000 in new taxes were introduced this year on juice containers.
On tetrapacks, for the minister to say they've kept their promise not to raise taxes is incorrect.
Mr. Speaker, the minister mentioned reducing red tape. The much ballyhooed code of regulatory conduct that took two years to complete is no different from the draft that was tabled a year ago. It has zero - no enforcement provisions. Whether this will reduce red tape remains to be seen.
Finally, I'd like to restate my main point: not only is the NDP not capable of providing leadership on economic issues, they're throwing up road blocks to Yukon's economy at the same time.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The negativity that emanates from the opposition benches is absolutely mind numbing. The sneering attitude that they've had to the agreements that we have struck with the private sector and with others to improve our economic fortunes does not do justice to the work that the people of this territory have put into improving the situation.
Mr. Speaker, the opposition members' theme is that the atmosphere that the government is creating to promote economic activity is counterproductive. They're saying that the partnership that we struck with the business community, particularly, and with labour and others, to promote trade and investment, is counterproductive. They're saying that the opportunity that we've given to the private sector, and to the people of this territory, to talk about reducing taxes, or to incorporate good ideas to expand the economy, is counterproductive. Whenever members of the Yukon Party have had anything to say about taxation, it's always about increasing taxes. We're talking about reducing taxes to encourage economic activity.
The members in the opposition benches, particularly the Yukon Party, have claimed that the government's approach to supporting mining has been counterproductive, and they point to the world downturn in the mining industry as a reflection of that reality.
They claim that the situation in Alaska and the situation in the Northwest Territories is so much better. Well, Mr. Speaker, in Alaska, most of the mining industry is attributed to one mine - a giant mine - which has an umbilical cord right into the state treasury. In the Northwest Territories, apart from diamond mining, three major producers of base metals have closed in the last year.
Now, we're supposed to singlehandedly - this little Legislature and this hard-working little government - turn around that entire situation. This is completely unrealistic. Of course this is unrealistic.
What the government is clearly doing, of course, is improving the situation, not only as much as we can for the mining industry, but also clearly doing so for oil and gas, clearly doing it on the trade and investment side and clearly doing it on tourism through a plethora of initiatives that are interconnected and focused to improve and expand our economy.
Mr. Speaker, the members opposite claim that the work on the commissions is not time well spent. We have just had a commission report that's been well received by the community - with the exception of some members of the opposition. But, that's a theme that I think we can probably pick up on - whenever we hear criticism, it's only from the members in the opposition.
The energy commission report has been tabled and is, in our view, a good report and well received by most of the Yukon public. In fact, we're going to be acting on those recommendations today.
The forest commission's report - a report that was provided to members opposite last week - is a policy document that has received the support of many First Nations and the federal government. First Nation people were involved in the development of that policy framework themselves.
I would like to point out something to the members opposite. The leader of the official opposition spent four years talking about how he was going to produce a policy statement to provide for industrial support for the big businesses and the megaprojects which were, essentially, his only economic strategy.
I would like to point out to the member that that was a one- or two-page document. When he calls the comprehensive work that the forest commissioner has done by comparison - "thin soup", he's treading on very thin ice himself.
Now, Mr. Speaker, good work has been done on local hire. The work has been so good on local hire that the members opposite have criticized it. They have disliked virtually every single thing we've done respecting trying to encourage use of local labour and local materials in construction projects in this territory. Virtually every single action, they have criticized.
Speaker: The member has 30 seconds.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Mr. Speaker, this government is working very hard to not only work with the community to improve our economic fortunes, but is doing so in a comprehensive way that moves us from tax reform to banking reform to new initiatives promoting tourism investment, new initiatives promoting trade. We're going to build this economy one job at a time. We're going to build sustainable jobs, and we're going to abandon the old Yukon theories practised by members in the opposite corner, because that Yukon didn't work.
Cabinet Commission on Energy: Government Response to Final Report
Hon. Mr. Harding: Mr. Speaker, it gives me great pleasure to advise the House of our government's policy response to some of the key recommendations in the final report of the Cabinet Commission on Energy.
The report's 56 recommendations resulted from extensive public consultation. They cover a wide range of energy issues and provide the basis for a comprehensive energy policy for the Yukon.
I want to congratulate the commissioner and his staff on a job well done, and to thank the many Yukon people who contributed their time and expertise to this process. Their efforts have led to the major policy announcement that I am making today.
I want to focus on four key areas where we are taking immediate action. These must be taken in the context of the budget estimates the Minister of Finance tabled a few moments ago.
We have said for some time that the Yukon was in line for a one-time payment adjustment from the federal government as a result of the 1996 Canada census. We recently learned the amount of this "census spike."
The one-time payment allows us to make a major economic investment for the long-term benefit of all Yukon people. Through a direct investment of $16 million in energy initiatives, we will cut costs to electricity consumers, stabilize electricity bills for the next four years and beyond, promote energy conservation, and reduce our reliance on diesel fuel to generate electricity.
Mr. Speaker, Yukon people are tired of the roller-coaster ride of electricity costs, caused by the Faro mine going on and off the electrical grid. They remember only too well that the Yukon Utilities Board was asked to approve a 58 percent rate hike in 1993, after Curragh Resources shut down. They also remember the short-lived 20 percent rate rider in 1997, when Anvil Range shut down.
Our government promised to end that roller-coaster ride and to make electricity costs stable and affordable, and today, Mr. Speaker, we're delivering on that promise. In line with this, with one of the energy commission's core recommendations, $10 million of the one-time census adjustment will go to establish a rate stabilization fund.
The immediate impact will be lower electricity costs for residential consumers, beginning with the December billing period. For example, a residential consumer who now pays $115 for 1,000 kilowatts per hour of electricity will pay $105, starting next month.
Through the rate stabilization fund, we are putting more money back into the hands of individuals and families and businesses, right across this territory. Commercial and municipal ratepayer classes will also realize savings next spring, once the diesel contingency fund is depleted. Furthermore, the rate stabilization fund will keep the impact of electricity rates stable for at least four years, to the year 2002.
Mr. Speaker, I'm pleased to announce that we are also responding to the energy commission's recommendation of a seasonal component in the RSF to encourage energy conservation. During the cold months of winter, full bill relief will apply to everyone. In the warmer months, bill relief will be reduced for high-end consumers, to meet energy conservation objectives.
Our commitment to energy conservation can be seen even further in the $1 million set aside for the Yukon Development Corporation to build on existing energy efficiency programs. This is consistent with the energy commission recommendation that programs be introduced to help Yukon people take individual action to save both energy and costs.
Many people in the Yukon and around the world want the electricity they use to come from more environmentally friendly sources, wherever possible. Our government believes consumers should have such a choice, especially in light of the Kyoto agreements to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
We are responding to another key recommendation of the commission by earmarking $3 million to establish a major green power initiative. This will be used, for example, to encourage independent power producers to develop alternative sources of energy. Details on how this will be structured and administered will be worked out in consultation with energy stakeholders.
As further evidence of our commitment to alternative energy, the Yukon Development Corporation will receive $2 million for a major investment in wind generation. This practical extension of research and development work on Haeckel Hill will result in a significant input of wind-generated electricity into the Yukon's power grid.
Mr. Speaker, these initiatives represent a $16-million investment in the Yukon's future. That's good news for residential ratepayers; it's good news for business people and for municipalities, and it's good news for our environment. We're demonstrating leadership on energy issues by lowering power costs, by stabilizing rates, supporting energy conservation and promoting green power.
Mr. Speaker, the initiatives I have just announced are just the first part of our response to the Cabinet Commission on Energy. They show that this is a government that listens to people, that lives up to its election commitments, and is taking decisive and concrete steps to make the Yukon's future even better.
Mr. Ostashek: Well, Mr. Speaker, it sounds like the NDP government of the day is going to have an early election call, because this ministerial statement today takes me back to an NDP government of the late 1980s, of which the Government Leader was a part, where they spent all of the ratepayers' money on such ill-founded investments as the Watson Lake sawmill, raised the power rates, and then, lo and behold, just prior to an election, they reduced them. Sounds like déjà vu, doesn't it?
Well, Mr. Speaker, I don't think that Yukoners are going to be fooled that easily this time around. This government has picked the pockets of the ratepayers for two years, cancelled the rate stabilization policy that was working very well - into which a Yukon Party government, in 1996, put $3.5 million. Now, they are going to be the good people and give it back to the ratepayers. Well, it's good to see that the ratepayers are getting a little bit back.
The minister said that this money is coming from a one-time spike in the census. We knew there was money coming from that, but my understanding of the general accounting principles - and the beliefs of this Government Leader, from the questions that I asked in this House, were similar to mine - is that all monies go into general revenues and are not directed to one specific place.
So, in his rebuttal I would the minister to explain to this House and Yukoners how this direct investment is going to be made. Is it going to be an investment in the Energy Corporation that is going to be capitalized and on which they're going to get a rate of return? How is it going to be accounted for without compromising the Government Leader and Finance minister's belief that all revenues should go into general revenues and then fund programs out of there?
On the rate stabilization fund, as I said in my opening statements, we had a rate relief program that was working very, very well and then this government came along and took it away from the ratepayers at a very crucial time. Now, they are going to give them some back.
The minister makes the statement that commercial and municipal rate classes will also realize savings next spring, once the diesel contingency fund is depleted. Further, the RSF will keep the impact of electricity rates stable for at least four years, to the year 2002. I would like the minister to explain how commercial and municipal ratepayer classes are going to benefit from that once the diesel contingency fund has dried up.
Mr. Speaker, the government makes much about alternate energy and about committing another $2 million to wind generation. Well, that's all well and good, but I would like to ask the minister: at what cost?
The last figures I had from the Energy Corporation were that it was very, very expensive to produce energy by wind and that it wasn't acceptable for base loads; it was only good for topping power.
So, Mr. Speaker, when this government came into power there was a rate relief program that was returning $3.5 million a year to the people. There was $10 million set up in a fund to YEC for further investment into power infrastructure to get off of diesel fuel, and then this government came along and blew most of that money on the Aishihik decision and bought high-priced diesel fuel. They have not addressed the issue of what we're going to do with power in the future.
We heard the president of the Energy Corporation on the radio last Friday saying that they're going to have to burn diesel this winter to supply power. Now we've got the Government Leader standing up with an economic statement of all the great things they're doing for businesses in the Yukon and what they're doing for investment. What are they going to do to supply them with power at a reasonable cost? There's nothing in this statement that says anything about getting off the burning of expensive diesel fuel, other than some energy conservation, which should be practised and has been practised on an ongoing basis by the corporation and the suppliers of power.
So, Mr. Speaker, once again we have an NDP government that is trying to look like the savior of the people when in fact they were the cause of the problem.
Mr. Cable: The ministerial statement is noteworthy, more for what it doesn't say than what it does. I don't think there is going to be a lot of argument out there for the introduction of green power initiatives or attempts to stabilize the rates or the bringing of independent power producers into the electricity generating picture.
The energy commissioner laboured mightily for two years putting his report together and the public has been led to believe that there would be some comprehensive response to the 56 recommendations.
I ask the minister: when is this going to be completed? When are all the recommendations going to be responded to? In particular, there were a number of recommendation that the energy commissioner called short-term recommendations that are not dealt with in the ministerial statement. There is protecting the Yukon taxpayers from the financial risk arising from supplying electricity to large industrial customers. I don't think we have to reinvent that wheel forever and forever. I think it's time for a decision.
There's the issue of the clarification of the relationship between the government and the utility. All the facts are on the table; we can make that decision. There's the streamlining of the regulatory process. That's identified as a short-term recommendation. When is that going to happen? And there's the issue of the reintroduction of the Power Smart program. Is that going to be part of the green power initiative that the minister's talking about?
I think we need to hear more about what's going to take place in the future.
Hon. Mr. Harding: It's getting to be quite something - a major policy announcement responding to key critical issues for Yukoners. And, Mr. Speaker, Mr. Doom and Ms. Gloom can't come up with one positive thing to say. A $16-million initiative in stabilizing and keeping rates affordable in this territory, investing in alternative energy sources, issues that Yukoners have wanted dealt with for years.
Mr. Speaker, let me refresh the memory of the member of the Yukon Party. The comment that he made in his speech was that the problem with the rate fluctuations was our fault, and therefore he shouldn't say anything positive about it. These are newspaper articles from when he was the government leader. "Massive electrical increases are on the way." That was 1993. "Power utilities want 41-percent increase in rates" - 1993. "Electricity rates way up; power hikes tough on local industry." On and on I could go, Mr. Speaker, all during a time when the member opposite was government leader.
I don't want to focus on the past, but the member forces me to remind the Yukon Party of their record, which they often try and run away from. Mr. Speaker, what we've done is not just focus on the past and their record, which makes us look pretty good, but we've put new money, new initiatives, new effort, into areas that are going to actually deal with the problems that Yukoners have put to us.
The members opposite in the Liberal and the Yukon Party caucuses are completely stuck in a time warp. They cannot come to this Legislature and say one thing positive about new initiatives that the government has put forward.
On the economic front, the Government Leader listed a whole myriad of new economic initiatives: a new economy, a new vision. The members opposite cannot find it within themselves to give any compliment or any support to any of those new initiatives and factors that are within our control, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Speaker, with regard to the issues of the money - the member opposite is speaking of time warps and again brings up the Watson Lake sawmill - it would be easier for me, if I wanted to get into that, to bring up the Taga Ku $8 million that the members opposite blew trying to keep First Nations out of legitimate business interests in this territory. But I would rather talk about the important issues that we brought to bear to try to improve the economy of the Yukon and to try to bring forward energy stability, energy efficiency, green power initiatives, rate stabilization. These are all areas that Yukoners have asked for action in, and we are delivering.
Mr. Speaker, with regard to the Liberals, who campaigned on a promise of being the alternative to the politics of confrontation, I must say that I am completely disappointed today. While they didn't ask for a resignation before we even got to the business of the day, like the Yukon Party, they weren't far behind. It's really disappointing to see that the Liberals have joined the game and teamed up with their good friends in the Yukon Party to take this approach.
Mr. Speaker, we are putting more money back in the hands of Yukon ratepayers. This money isn't coming from the ratepayers. This is coming from the supplementary, which we are going to be debating in this legislative session.
Mr. Speaker, we are going to come forward with a comprehensive response to the energy commission's report. That work is well underway, but we wanted to show Yukoners that we were very serious about the short-term recommendations that came forward to deal with the most immediate problems Yukoners face, and that is putting more money in their pockets this winter so that their rates are not going to go up, and so that they can have some assurances into the future to plan ahead so that they know what their bills are going to be, and this move will see a major reduction for them.
So, Mr. Speaker, I don't want to go into too much more detail. I have many more things. I have anticipated most of the critique of the members opposite. We will get into Question Period shortly, but it is going to be very, very easy to point out that there is a difference in this territory. There is the gloom and doom of the members opposite, no vision, stuck in a time-warp approach. Then there is a view on this side of the House that we've got to work on factors that we can control, that we've got to deal with the immediate issues that Yukoners are putting before us, but also keep an eye on the future, work with Yukoners, partner with Yukoners to build a new economy, deal with their energy problems, move the energy system ahead and move this territory into the next century, and that's what we are going to be doing.
Point of clarification re Bill No. 13
Speaker: For clarity, the Chair wishes to state that the motion for first reading of Bill No. 13 was carried.
Motion for introduction and first reading of Bill No. 13 agreed to
Speaker: This then brings us to Question Period.
Question re: Land claims settlement, political stability
Mr. Ostashek: The Economic Development minister wouldn't have to be so worried about rebuilding the economy if he wouldn't have blown the one that was given to him in 1996.
Mr. Speaker, on October 27 of this year, in an address to the Washington D.C.-based Canadian/American Business Council, the Government Leader, finally, after two years in office, went on record as saying that the Yukon is ready to do business. Most Yukoners would say, "Well, it's about time". I would like to ask the Government Leader if he can explain the statement in his address that states that "Yukon offers legal and political stability" and that "resource developers have certainty of title and access to land and resources" when clearly they do not. We still have many outstanding land claims - land claims that this Government Leader said, upon election, would be completed by December 1998. We will get into that later.
So, I would like to ask the Government Leader how he can make such a statement: that there is legal and political stability in the Yukon, with all the outstanding claims that are still to be settled.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, Mr. Speaker, 80 percent full, 20 percent empty. How does the member want to characterize the situation today?
I would like to point out to the member that, firstly, I didn't need to go to Washington to state that the Yukon was active and prepared and willing to do business with the rest of the world. We've been doing that work, in conjunction with people in this territory, for well over a year. This is not new.
So, it's important to point out to the member that the statements made in Washington and elsewhere across Canada and in Alaska are statements about a new Yukon, a new way of doing business, a more proactive way of doing business and a desire to not just sit back and hope that something happens, but to go out and search for opportunity.
With respect to the land claims agreements, in large part, the land claims agreements in most of the territory are, in fact, completed.
And we should be stating that in comparison with the neighbouring jurisdictions, as a competitive advantage - not shying away from it, not hiding from it, not skirting around it, but acknowledging the fact that we are well advanced in the negotiating process, and we have completed a large number of claims.
Mr. Ostashek: Well, I'm glad to see the Government Leader has finally realized he needs to do something about the economy. We'll see in this session whether he has anything of substance to add to what we've heard so far.
Further in the address the Government Leader gave, while recognizing that mining has long been the backbone of the Yukon's private sector economy, he stated his government was looking beyond this historical reliance on mining as the engine of our economic growth by successfully exporting our mining technologies and our knowledge to other markets. That's a statement he made in Washington. Unfortunately, Mr. Speaker, this statement is all too true, but I would like to ask the Government Leader if he could explain to this House how exporting our miners to South America and elsewhere is creating jobs here in the Yukon.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, firstly, I have to point out to the member that we would have had to do something about the state of the Yukon economy, whether the mining industry was buoyant or not, because the situation that we face today, that was bequeathed to us, in part, by the members opposite, but in part by previous governments before that- governments that I was involved with, too - was a total reliance on the resource sector, and particularly the mining sector, which has historically gone through a roller-coaster, boom-bust cycle, for a hundred years. The need to diversify the economy is something that is a challenge, and ought to have been a challenge for governments all along.
My government is going to do something about this. In part it's born of necessity; in part it's because it's good business for this territory.
Mr. Speaker, we're not going to be pursuing the megaproject mentality of my predecessor, the member opposite, who spoke only about mines and permitting, spoke only about the megaprojects, and had no other vision for the territory than that.
We have a much broader, comprehensive view - vision - for this territory, and we're going to pursue that in partnership with the people of this territory.
The member says we haven't done anything. Everything that I spoke of earlier on today were all new initiatives, initiatives that have not been tried by any government before.
Members did try some tax reform back in 1993, but unfortunately they got it wrong. They raised taxes, they didn't lower them.
With respect to the mining industry, Mr. Speaker, the government is interested in pursuing an atmosphere that does encourage mining activity. But we cannot do anything about soft metal prices; this is a worldwide event.
The members opposite use the examples of the Cominco mine in Alaska and the diamond mine in the Northwest Territories, to demonstrate that all is well with the mining industry around the world. That's simply not true. If we had the kind of resources that the State of Alaska have, to just pump in public cash into that mining operation, we might have been able to support other uneconomic mining enterprises. But the reality is, right now, that we're not in a position to do that, and we do not want to bail out mining companies that are not able to operate themselves.
We will improve the situation for the mining community. We will talk to them about tax incentives, we'll talk to them about the regulatory framework, we'll talk to them about new geological work, but we are not going to be bailing out uneconomic enterprises.
Mr. Ostashek: What is patently obvious is that Alaska and the Northwest Territories both have substantial exploration dollars flowing to them, and the Yukon does not. Everyone, Mr. Speaker, with possibly the exception of the Government Leader, is aware that the Yukon is currently suffering from an exodus of skilled trades people in mining, construction and building industries. Once we lose this skilled work force, it will be awfully hard to get them to come back.
I want to ask the Government Leader: is he prepared to use some of the $50-million surplus to create jobs in the short- and medium-term to try to retain some of the skilled labour force until the economy can get back on its feet? It is no use going out and spending money on trade and investment way on into the future, when we aren't going to have anyone here to take the jobs.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, Mr. Speaker, the big challenge, the big, titanic struggle, between the members opposite and this government, is going to be between the old Yukon and the new Yukon. The old Yukon, which promotes a big-spending vision of government, and an old Yukon that talks about big megaprojects so we can all tug our forelocks and see if we can get a little trickle-down benefit from those big megaprojects, versus a new Yukon, which involves businesses throughout this territory learning to do new things in new ways and making a living for this territory through sustainable job creation, through expanding the businesses that exist in this territory to do new things in new ways. That is a big difference in the vision between the members opposite and this government.
Mr. Speaker, the member made some points about exploration in the State of Alaska. I point out that if the Pogo and the Fort Knox deposits were available in the Yukon, we would have interests, too. In fact, we do have interests because some of those geological structures are in fact on the Yukon side of the border, too. But if the members are hanging their hats on mining activity in Alaska and the Northwest Territories and comparing that to the Yukon, there are two entirely different things happening. In the State of Alaska, the state is heavily investing public funds into the Cominco Red Dog project. In the Northwest Territories, there is a diamond mine, albeit a gigantic diamond mine, which is skewing the reality in that jurisdiction, which is simply that base-metal mines have, in fact, been closing in the last year, not opening. So, the members opposite are not providing reliable...
Speaker: The member has 20 seconds.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: ... information to this Legislature.
Question re: Government Leader speech in Washington, D.C.
Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Speaker, the Government Leader has finally said something true: there is a big philosophical difference between the NDP and the Yukon Party.
The NDP believes in big government. He talks about spending money. Let's look at the operation and maintenance budgets of this government compared to the Yukon Party government's and you don't need to look much further to see the reality of where this government's money is going: it is in creating bigger government. That is the philosophical belief of the NDP.
Mr. Speaker, my question is again to the Government Leader on jobs and the economy. In the same address in Washington, D.C. I was surprised to hear our Government Leader quoting 1996 figures of $550 million for exports. The Government Leader and the NDP government appear to be caught in a time warp because they are using the figures from the Yukon Party government in 1996, as is their Economic Development department on their Web site.
This now, Mr. Speaker, for the Government Leader's information is 1998 and his government put out an economic review of August of this year. Why is he not using those figures? Is he ashamed of them?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Mr. Speaker, I'm not at all ashamed of anything this government is doing on its economic front. In fact, I'm proud that the government is finally taking in hand, providing some leadership, a vision that will help lead this territory from the boom-bust cycles that have characterized our past supported by the vision of the Yukon Party - trying to move us away from the boom-bust cycles which have rocked this territory for generations.
Mr. Speaker, what is fascinating to me is that even during the time that the member opposite was in government, he was presiding over a period in the Yukon's history when we all remember that the Bre-X mine was the mine to look for; it was the comer.
We all remember that the base metal prices were very high. We remember the Asian tiger as a healthy being, not with flu.
Even during that period when the measure of success was always the mine and the permitting stage - how many mines they had in the permitting stage - the reality was that very little, during that whole process, was actually accomplished.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order, Mr. Speaker.
Point of order
Speaker: The Member for Riverdale North, on a point of order.
Mr. Phillips: On a point of order, I think the question was this: why did the Government Leader use the 1996 figures when they were two years old? We haven't heard him even address that. I think he has to address the question.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: On the point of order. Of course there is no point of order. There is a point of rude interruption on the member opposite's part because they are nervous and terrified that somebody is putting a little bit of truth on the table here. Clearly, there is not a point of order.
Speaker: There is no point of order. Carry on, please.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: You have 30 seconds.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Mr. Speaker, 30 seconds or 30 minutes. Thirty seconds will be enough.
We are proud of what we are doing with respect to providing support to our overall economy, and we will use accurate statistics. We will use reliable statistics and we will explain where we're going to anybody anywhere - all comers - and even in the face of opposition from the opposition.
Mr. Ostashek: Well, this Government Leader and his government have certainly gotten away from a boom-and-bust economy. They'll just keep it bust. Then there won't be any surprises for anybody. They'll just keep it flat.
Mr. Speaker, before you can deal with a problem, you have to recognize first that you have one. That is exactly what I'm pointing out here and attempting to bring to the Government Leader's attention.
In looking beyond mining as the engine of economic growth, does the Government Leader really believe that exporting houses to Chile, log homes to Alaska and road construction technologies to South America can replace mining as the Yukon's major private sector job creator? While trade and export initiatives are very good and every government should be doing it - and every government has in the past; they haven't highlighted them like this government and done nothing about the present - we should be paying more attention to creating a positive investment climate in the territory and getting Yukoners back to work, because mining does create high-paying jobs, and lots of them, very quickly. Does not the Government Leader agree that we need to focus more attention on this than on experts in the future?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The two initiatives to promote mining and to promote trade and investment diversification are not mutually exclusive. You don't have to do only one and not the other. We are providing support to the mining industry, but to the extent that we can control our future, we're trying to provide more support to trade and diversification. It does not do service to the debate in this Legislature for the member opposite to sneer at the efforts of Yukon business people who are trying to make a living by doing new things in new ways. They're not engaged in the mining industry.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Speaker: On a point of order.
Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Speaker, I'm not sneering at the investment community. I'm talking about the actions of this government.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Mr. Speaker, the Yukon government did not sign a housing deal in Chile. Private business did.
Speaker: There is no point of order. Continue.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Mr. Speaker, what we're trying to do is encourage a broad range of activities so that we can broaden our economic base. I appeal to the member to understand that you can promote mining activity and promote new trading activities with Alaska, whether it be log homes or bottled water or housing in Chile. There are many things that we can do in this world to help make a living, and we should be contributing to many of those things.
But, Mr. Speaker, we can't be deterred by things over which we have marginal control, such as metal prices, which people around the world are acknowledging as the main reason why the mining industry everywhere is in the doldrums.
Mr. Ostashek: Well, Mr. Speaker, and this is from the leader of the NDP, who opposed free trade. Now he wants to trade with everybody.
Well, Mr. Speaker, the Government Leader has failed to answer my first question and my second question, and maybe he will answer my third question. The Government Leader is on record as thinking small, creating one job at a time, while our neighbouring jurisdictions - Alaska, Northwest Territories and Alberta - are doing much, much better than we are in the same economic climate that's in the world today. They are not suffering like the Yukon is. They are having great success in attracting resource investments to their jurisdictions.
Can the Government Leader tell me this: why are Canadian resource investors shying away from the Yukon, shying away from British Columbia, yet they are prepared to invest their dollars in other parts of Canada?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, this is simply not true. It's simply not true, Mr. Speaker. I have had meetings with four or five people interested in investing in the Yukon in the last three weeks. It's simply not true. The member is not telling the truth. I mean, it's not happening. It's just not true, so how can he say that we're not doing it. It's just not true.
Mr. Speaker, we are looking to improve the situation in this territory in partnership with the existing business community, in which obviously the member has no faith. It is a existing business community in which I have tremendous faith - and in their entrepreneurial spirit - to actually make changes that we can control. But we cannot return to the period that the member opposite was talking about, the period when he was government leader, which was this passive, supine position where we simply waited for somebody to come by and bless us, hoping that tourists will spend an extra day...
Speaker: The member has 30 seconds.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: ... hoping that some mine would come in and provide a little trickle-down benefit. Those days, Mr. Speaker, are not days we are trying to imitate. We are much more aggressive in pursuing opportunities than ever before, and you know who is leading the charge? It's the private sector in the territory. That's who is leading the charge.
Question re: Economic climate in Yukon
Ms. Duncan: My question is for the Minister of Economic Development. Mr. Speaker, there's no doubt about it; any way you cut it, the economic situation in this territory is becoming scary. Mine shutdowns, record unemployment, higher taxes, higher power rates, and higher phone bills.
Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Economic Development: what is the NDP government doing to actually inspire optimism in the Yukon economy?
Hon. Mr. Harding: The member opposite said that there have been higher taxes. Well, that's not the case, Mr. Speaker. In actual fact, we've had a tax-rate freeze, after the Yukon Party's massive increases when they were in government. With regard to higher power rates, again, Mr. Speaker, that's not the case. Today we announced a major initiative to lower power rates. With regard to record unemployment, the unemployment rate last month was 8.9 percent, albeit I'd like to see it lower, but it is not record unemployment in this territory, and more people left the territory in the 1993-94 Faro mine closure then have left in this particular Faro mine closure.
So, Mr. Speaker, with regard to specific initiatives that this government has underway, there's a complete long list of them, and I'll mention a few of the highlights.
The tax reform package that the Government Leader, Minister of Finance, is putting together was very well received by the business community - not the opposition - very well received by the people of the Yukon, as well, which is the most important thing.
Secondly, Mr. Speaker, are the successful trade missions that we've led, with Yukon businesses, to Team Canada, to South America; the ones we've led to Alaska. I was so impressed with the entrepreneurial spirit of Yukon businesses and their desire to try and find new ways of doing things. I'm surprised at the opposition and the Liberals.
Speaker: The member has 30 seconds.
Hon. Mr. Harding: Mr. Speaker, how about the regulatory code of conduct and the red-tape cutting exercise that the government has underway with Yukon businesses? How about the new development of an immigrant investment fund for the first time in this territory, to try and deal with some of the access to capital problems?
How about the record tourism year, the runway extension, the new tourism strategy that's underway? How about protected areas, which is going to provide new ecotourism opportunities for Yukon businesses?
Mr. Speaker, how about a new forest strategy, that's going to set the framework so that ultimately we can take over that resource?
Speaker: The member's time has expired.
Ms. Duncan: The minister really didn't need to be quite so condescending. Those were his exact words on May 10, 1993 - his exact words in this House.
The answer that the member, who is now Minister of Economic Development, got when he was in opposition wasn't a very good answer. The answer I got today wasn't a very good answer; it was just a whole lot longer.
The minister knows the question because he's asked it before. Let me try again for an answer. With some concrete results, what has the government done to inspire the confidence of Yukoners in their economy?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, Mr. Speaker, I think Yukoners are getting tired of the hollow and shallow criticism from the members opposite. Instead of trying to drag the Yukon economy down for base, partisan, political reasons they cannot find it within themselves to stand up and say, "Yes, those are good initiatives the government has underway."
On one hand, they stand up and they say they're good initiatives. Then they turn around and ask these questions as if there are no good initiatives underway. I've listed a whole number of them in terms of bright lights. Once again, I see all kinds of bright lights in the economy. I see the export deals that were signed in Alaska on our trade mission and Chile as new bright lights in the economy. I see the development of an immigrant investment fund as a bright light for access to capital. I see the work in the Minto mine development that's underway as a bright light for the Yukon economy.
Last week we had 250 people at the oil and gas workshop in Watson Lake, Yukon. Seventy investors came up because they're interested in the Yukon as a place to do business.
Mr. Speaker, how about the Shakwak funding, which is putting all kinds of people to work up on the north highway? We have done more to inspire confidence in this economy than the federal Liberals ever did.
Speaker: The member has 30 seconds.
Ms. Duncan: When all else fails, pick on the Liberals.
Mr. Speaker, the minister has responded with a great deal of rhetoric, as he always does. It's obvious, however, that the people of the Yukon aren't buying what the NDP government is selling. In the last year, we've seen a reversal of a five-year trend of population growth. Two thousand people have left the Yukon. They are voting with their feet, because they've lost confidence in the NDP's ability to manage the economy.
The minister's favourite topic - one of the ones he reeled off in that list of rhetoric - was the trade and investment diversification strategy. Well, let's talk about it. It's been over a year. The NDP government has spent over a million dollars on this project. Is the minister prepared to provide a concrete assessment of that one strategy? Can the minister provide a report card on the trade and investment diversification strategy?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, Mr. Speaker, I will be most happy to do that. I will be pleased to provide the press comments from the people who accompanied me, who are looking at a $40-million investment in the Watson Lake area - the proponents of a new mill. I would be happy to get some interviews with the companies who were talking about the deals they signed in Alaska. All she would have to do is just read the media articles and the quotes from the businesses who accompanied us. Then, all the member would have to do for the next step is look at the partnership agreements, where we have all kinds of players in the Yukon economy wanting to get on our trade investment diversification strategy partnership list. That is because they are good initiatives.
The member opposite talked about the mining industry on both sides. I just want to read a couple of comments from Bruce McKnight. He is the executive director of the B.C. and Yukon Chamber of Mines. He said that the Yukon is much more inviting than many provinces - much more positive than B.C. - and that the territory is much further ahead in their land claim agreements. He talks on and on about the good quality and good climate for investment in the Yukon.
Let me also say to the member opposite that I believe that we've done a lot of good work in the area of economic activity. I've listed off initiative after initiative. The members opposite continue to focus in with hollow criticism. They want to dwell on the past.
They dwell on world metal markets that we cannot control. Mr. Speaker, when the member opposite was in government ...
Speaker: The member has 30 seconds.
Hon. Mr. Harding: ... people were buying Bre-X shares. When the member opposite was in government, Mr. Speaker, the Asian tiger was not the Asian flu. Mr. Speaker, a lot has changed, and the members opposite better realize that Yukoners want us to think about this territory a little bit differently to try and prepare it for the next generation, working in partnership with the communities, with the business community, with labour, to try and present a more stable, diversified Yukon that has the resource sector and more.
Question re: Economic climate in Yukon
Mr. Cable: I have some questions for the minister responsible for Economic Development, the minister that says he's not responsible for the economy. The minister was telling the world a couple of weeks ago that, when the Legislature opened, he was going to talk about all the good things his government was doing on the economy to create jobs, like tax reform, like red tape cutting, like the work being done to develop the immigrant investment fund.
Could the minister tell this House, and the Yukon public, what this government has done - not what it is doing, but what it has done - by way of programs, and not what they're doing by way of gabfests or road shows around the world, or agreements with the Sakha Republic? Could he tell us in 100 words or less what this government has done to stimulate the economy?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well again, Mr. Speaker, we get the alternative to politics of confrontation from the Liberals.
First of all, we are responsible for this economy. Unfortunately, the federal Liberal government, his good friends, still have control over mining and forestry. That's a problem. We're working to get control of that. They've resisted us on the oil and gas transfer. We're still trying to get that, Mr. Speaker, but when we do, I believe local people and local Yukoners will make excellent decisions in terms of the stewardship of those key resources to the future development of this territory.
I have listed off concrete initiatives that this government has underway. I've listed off the bright lights on the economic front. All we hear is gloom and doom from the tag team opposite.
They're one and the same - the Yukon Party and the Liberals. They represent an old vision of the economy. They want higher taxes, bigger government. They want the government to put everybody to work in this territory, Mr. Speaker. We have a different vision. It involves partnership with Yukon people. It involves a new economy. It involves the resource sector and more, and it involves a more diversified, stable approach.
If the member opposite wants to call them programs - things like the immigrant investment fund or tax reform or changes in that system - that's fine with me. What they really are responses to Yukon people who have asked us to develop a new economy in this territory, and we're working with them to do that in spite of the opposition.
Mr. Cable: I was asking the minister when we are going to see some product. When does the talk stop and the product begin?
Let me ask this question. There was an article back in one of the newspapers in September of 1993. It shows a picture of the Government Leader, and he says, "Happy face is a put-on," and there is a quote: "The economic system is close to collapse. We have to talk hard and think innovatively about solutions, and the Government Leader" - that's the then-government leader - "is putting on a happy face. It's kind of reprehensible." Does the minister think that it is not reprehensible to be putting on a happy face when the economy is in the tank, and people are leaving, and new construction is down, and apartment vacancies are up, and everything is going down the tube?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, Mr. Speaker, the members opposite want to propagate the Armageddon theory. I don't subscribe to that, nor do most Yukoners. As I said, the unemployment rate is 8.9 percent. The members opposite in the Liberal Party were negative on oil and gas. They were negative on the new airline charter flights. They are negative on the major energy initiatives today.
Mr. Speaker, where are they coming from? They told Yukoners that they were going to be the constructive opposition. We announce concrete action steps, and they pooh-pooh them on a daily basis. They are no different than the Yukon Party. They are getting worse on a daily basis.
Mr. Speaker, I want to say to the members opposite that our concrete steps are being well received by Yukoners. We'll never convince the naysayers, the partisans. But the average Yukoner who wants their government to look at this economy in a new way and to work with them to find new solutions, new innovations, and not to be stuck in the old ways of the Yukon Party are with us, and we are going to continue to work with them and all Yukoners to make this economy stronger and more diversified, in spite of the Liberals and Tories.
Mr. Cable: I think what the minister has failed to appreciate is that the people of the Yukon want to see concrete steps. They want to see less talk and more action.
Now, the Government Leader said that the government was going to create one job at a time. Does this government have a tally on these one-job-at-a-time that it is creating? Will the minister provide this House with some description of the government program or activity that created the jobs and a list of these jobs - these one-job-at-a-time that they're creating?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, Mr. Speaker, it's interesting to listen to the members opposite cackle at a new approach and new innovations to the economy. It shows just how desperate they are in terms of their attempts to critique with the hollow-sounding speeches that they give. There are no ideas and no suggestions, just hollow, empty criticism. That's what I'm hearing from Yukoners and people are getting tired of it. They are seeing through it. When we announce initiative after initiative of new ideas, and nothing comes back from the opposition, people see it. They won't be confused and they know what the score is.
Let me just say to the members opposite that if they could do something for me with this economy to help us out, they could talk to their friends in Ottawa. We've had, for example, if we want to get back to the mining industry, some mines in permitting purgatory for four years now. They've been trying to get through the process. They need to get through the process. I could think of a couple of properties right now, like Dublin Gulch or Western Copper, that could have been mines, probably not in this climate, but they can again when the price comes back.
So, if the members opposite want to help out for a change, they could talk about the permitting process. The federal minister was up in the spring. We committed to a new revision of the permitting process called the blue book. That's gone off somewhere into purgatory.
Mr. Speaker, they could help us. They could help us by talking to the federal Liberals about not trying to block the transfer of oil and gas.
Speaker: The member has 30 seconds.
Hon. Mr. Harding: They could also help us in terms of the forest industry and the control the federal government has of the forest industry and try to deal with tough issues around operational tenure and about ensuring that new mills, like the $10 million or $12 million investment in Watson Lake, have a secure supply of timber or that the miller in Haines Junction, who has got a major capital investment, has a secure access to timber. These are the ways that the members opposite -
Speaker: The member's time has elapsed.
The time for Question Period has now elapsed. We will proceed to Orders of the Day.
Orders of the Day
Unanimous consent re further readings of bills
Hon. Mr. Harding: Mr. Speaker, the House leaders have agreed that the House should proceed with Bill No. 64, entitled Oil and Gas Act Confirmation Act, at this time. This includes second reading, consideration of Committee of the Whole and third reading.
Further, the House leaders have agreed that Bill No. 63, Bill No. 61, Bill No. 55 and Bill No. 62 may be called for second reading. Therefore, pursuant to Standing Order 55(2), I would request unanimous consent from the rest of the House to proceed at this time with second reading of Bill No. 64, Bill No. 63, Bill No. 61, Bill No. 55 and Bill No. 62 and, following the report from Committee of the Whole, third reading of Bill No. 64.
Speaker: Is there unanimous consent?
All Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: Unanimous consent has been granted.
Bill No. 64: Second Reading
Clerk: Second reading, Bill No. 64, standing in the name of the hon. Mr. Harding.
Hon. Mr. Harding: I move that Bill No. 64, entitled Oil and Gas Act Confirmation Act, be now read a second time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Minister of Economic Development that Bill No. 64, entitled Oil and Gas Act Confirmation Act, be now read a second time.
Hon. Mr. Harding: They say it's supposed to be like riding a bike, Mr. Speaker, but we're all having problems today with the parliamentary procedures.
Mr. Speaker, this is a very important bill coming forward. It is one that I find I have to bring forward with much disdain. I feel that the most important and fundamental issue that has to be addressed with the re-enactment of the Oil and Gas Act is the issue of the autonomy of this Legislature, the will of this Legislature, which unanimously passed the first bill.
I have taken the position with the federal government, first and foremost, that the will of this Legislature and of Yukoners who unanimously passed this bill should be paramount and that we have the ability to pass those laws irrespective of the timing of legislation that they may pass.
Mr. Speaker, that has been dismissed and I was extremely disappointed by the Liberal Party here locally who - acting for their puppet master in Ottawa - stood up and tried to present a case that, even though they unanimously passed this bill in this Legislature, the will of this House - the will of Yukon people - should be ignored. That is a clear statement to me and to Yukoners that they are more interested in defence of their Liberal cousins than they are in the interests of Yukoners.
Mr. Speaker, we have seen that in health care cuts and in issues like gun control. They stand up, time and time again, in defence of Ottawa before Yukoners. This is a concern that I think is becoming more and more apparent to Yukoners and it is one that I have a very strong opinion on.
Mr. Speaker, I was very upset that the federal government did not raise the issue of the timing of the legislation with us. Having said that, even if they wouldn't have done so, I would have said that the will of this Legislature and of Yukon people is paramount to the timing of their legislation. Only after the fact did they come in and say that they felt that the legislation should somehow be put in some sequential order - I believe a technical, bureaucratic administrative response to derail the will of this Legislature. It is very, very disturbing to me as a Yukoner who believes that we have responsible government. Regardless of which political party is in in the Yukon, I believe that local decision making is best for Yukoners and that our own political process and our own responsible government will sort out issues as they pertain to political equations in this territory and the debate that will surround any initiative that a government undertakes. I believe that local decisions and the autonomy of this Legislature are paramount.
Now, Mr. Speaker, we talked to the deputy prime minister about this, we talked to the Minister of Northern Affairs, the government House Leader of the Liberal caucus, we talked to the Minister of Natural Resources. "No," we were told at every turn. We had to be put through the wringer, we had to bring this bill back before this legislature to have it blessed again because they wanted to go first.
Now, Mr. Speaker, you can imagine what an affront that is to the people of this territory. We took their argument and we said, "Okay, we don't agree with you," but nonetheless, we got an outside firm, Lang Michener, to deal with it, and we provided a legal opinion to the federal minister, stating that indeed our legislature had the authority to do what we did.
We also pointed out that Section 6.1 of the Northern Accord said that within 18 months of the signing of the Northern Accord, which was in May of 1993, the federal government was supposed to have their legislation in place. That means by the end of 1994 that was supposed to be done, by the Northern Accord. They sat back and did not move on that.
Mr. Speaker, those are sideshows, as far as I'm concerned. The real issue here is the will of this Legislature and the fact that every member of this House unanimously voted for that bill. That was the will of elected representatives of Yukon people.
Time and time again we see the difficulty in gaining control of our resources: land, mining, forestry. Mr. Speaker, the political accountability rests in this territory for those tough issues, and the decision making, generically, and I don't care, the results of any election in the future should be made by the people elected here. We must get control of those resources, and the federal government must be more willing to play ball, in terms of giving a fair deal to the Yukon, in terms of their own resources.
Mr. Speaker, I understand that the official opposition in the briefing raised issues about the timing of the legislation, and stated that when they introduced the bill for the first time - a vastly different bill- but when they introduced a Yukon oil and gas act, they mentioned the timing issue.
I would say that, if that's the case, and they have a real problem with that, they should be careful, because the member opposite was the former government leader; the member opposite was a key minister in that cabinet. He would have had to have known about this issue. If they felt it was important at all, and more important than the will of this Legislature, they would have raised it in the debate before voting on our Yukon Oil and Gas Act. They knew full well the situation. I would suggest to them that they should not engage in what the Liberals did, which is to stand up on behalf of people in Ottawa over Yukoners, but rather stand up for the will of the elected people in this territory, and for their own votes, which they cast in this Legislature.
Mr. Speaker, we have to get this done. I think it's an important step for this territory. I don't want to belabour it, but I cannot underscore just how offensive I found that action by Ottawa. The Government Leader raised it with the deputy prime minister. The deputy prime minister acknowledged that there had been some error, Mr. Speaker, and that they fully expected that we would be upset about the course they were taking, but we have no choice, given the cards that Ottawa holds, but to bring this bill forward, once again, for re-enactment. We will do that today, but I must say, once again, that the will of this Legislature, I believe, is paramount, and it supercedes any technicality and any legislation about the timing.
Mr. Speaker, the federal government had a commitment under section 6.1 to do this work before 1994. That was not done, and that is a sideshow to the real issue here, which is the will of this House.
So I'm looking forward to seeing this bill come forward and be passed, and I hope - I really hope - that I won't hear about this again, other than to say the deal's been done from Ottawa.
Mr. Ostashek: I want to go on the record right from the start that I don't condone for one minute what the federal Liberals in Ottawa have done, but I also don't believe that this Economic Development minister can get himself off the hook by blaming the federal Liberals. It was his dereliction of duty that has caused this bill to have to come back in front of the Legislature. This minister has never been prepared when he brought legislation to this House, and he showed that when he brought in the repeal of the wage restraint legislation, where he had to make amendments to it at the last minute to satisfy election promises.
The fact remains that the federal government ought not to have any right to dictate to this House how we pass legislation when we have the legal right to do it.
The minister is trying to cop out of his responsibilities by blaming us for tabling the bill in first reading and knowing something about it. I want to draw to his attention something he knows full well, because he was a member of this House, and we said many times before we tabled the bill that we would be tabling the bill before the end of the session so that we could take it out for public consultation. There is only one reason that we tabled it when we did.
Mr. Speaker, this minister could have avoided this embarrassment, even though I don't condone what the federal government has done and the position it's taken, and I'll give you some reasons why. But, he did not have to seek assent to the bill until he was sure that the federal government would accept it and he wouldn't have been embarrassed by having to bring this bill back in front of the Legislature again.
This act that we're debating today is an affront to this Legislature. I agree with the minister in that respect. But I believe he should have fought harder with Ottawa about having to bring this bill back in. As I said, my first criticism is of him in his role and capacity as the Minister of Economic Development who is responsible for shepherding this bill through the House. He had the responsibility to ensure that everything was in order before giving final assent to the bill.
Mr. Speaker, when I signed the Northern Accord on behalf of the Yukon people, that was one provision. There was no problem at the time, because the federal legislation, as the Economic Development minister said, was to be passed in 18 months. That didn't happen. Some of the reasons that didn't happen are the responsibility of the now Minister of Economic Development and the role he played while in opposition to the Northern Accord. He didn't agree with it. He didn't agree with it at all, and as a result, it dragged on and on. As I said, we tabled the legislation for public review.
As I said earlier, had this minister done his job in the proper manner, we wouldn't have been faced with this embarrassment of having to debate another bill confirming the Yukon Oil and Gas Act. Nevertheless, we are supporting this because we want to see this act in place, and we hope that this will be another step in the process of putting Yukoners to work in the oil and gas industry. I'm sure that the federal government will throw other roadblocks up in front of this government and not give them the ability to conduct their own land sales. Be that as it is, we'll have this bill behind us.
I do want to draw a few things to the minister's attention, and the fact that the federal government in Canada - the federal Liberal government especially - has never had any respect for the north. They've always had that big-brother attitude that they know what's best for us. It was only under the Conservative government that we ever got a legislature in the Yukon that was fully responsible. It was not under a Liberal government, and our territorial Liberal colleagues have been putting out arguments in favour of why it was quite all right for the federal government to act this way. Well, I disagree with the position that they put forward.
Mr. Speaker, perhaps the minister ought to have used the argument in Ottawa, and the Liberals too, my colleagues to the left here. Could the federal government explain to me and this Legislature and all Yukoners why they had to enact their legislation first on oil and gas before we could enact ours, when in fact we passed land claims legislation in this Legislature prior to the federal government passing its legislation. I, in fact, as government leader at the time, took the leader of the official opposition, the NDP, and the lone Liberal in the House at that time, to Ottawa to argue on behalf of the legislation that we passed in this House.
The Liberal government of the day - was it a Liberal government; yes, it was - didn't say that they had to pass their legislation first and make us come back to the House. They didn't do that at all. They accepted our arguments in the face of stormy opposition by the Reform Party members on the committee and went ahead and passed their legislation after ours had been passed.
So what's good in one instance ought to be good in another, and as the Economic Development minister has said, by law - and I wholeheartedly agree - we have every right to do that, and I think there ought to be a strong letter from this Legislature go to the Government of Canada, stating quite clearly that we have the right to pass laws under the Yukon Act.
I think we should ask the federal government, at this time: are land claims now invalid? Because that's what they're saying - that we have to again pass our land claims. If we have to again pass oil and gas legislation, why don't we have to again pass land claims? I think they have a really weak argument, and that, Mr. Speaker, is why I tabled the motion that I did today, because I believe we have every legitimate right to pass legislation in this Legislature that affects Yukoners, and the federal government ought to accept it without question.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Ostashek: I hear the Liberals still being defensive and defenders of the big brother in Ottawa. This isn't federal legislation. I'm talking about legislation in this Legislature that deals with legitimate issues for Yukoners, not federal legislation.
As I said, the federal Liberals do not believe that Yukoners should ever be able to own and control their own lands and resources, and they still are of that opinion today. They're dragging their feet on devolution. They want to keep us on as caretakers, and even after devolution we're still not going to have full control of our lands and resources.
We're only going to be administering it on behalf of the federal government. Well, that is totally ridiculous. I fought against it when I was in government and I'll fight against it when I'm in opposition.
Mr. Speaker, we believe that we ought to be allowed to manage our own resources, but we never will be allowed to own them under a federal Liberal regime. The only way that we'll ever get to own our resources is if there's a change of government in Ottawa.
I don't understand why Yukoners should be treated as second-class citizens or caretakers in our own land. What right do the federal Liberals have to put limitations on the hopes and aspirations of Yukoners? In my opinion, they have no such right. The laws we pass in this Legislature are valid, despite what the Liberals and their bureaucrats back in Ottawa might think.
I'm voting for this legislation only because I don't want any further delays in proceeding with the implementation of the Oil and Gas Act. If this was some other act that wasn't so pertinent to the Yukon and the economy that we have today, I would say that we ought to fight this issue further, but we can't do it with this act, because hopefully we can put some Yukoners to work.
Ms. Duncan: I'm pleased to rise to speak to this bill at second reading.
Mr. Speaker, the Yukon Liberal caucus supported the passage of the Yukon Oil and Gas Act last year, and we will be doing the same this year. That being said, there are a few comments I would like to have on the record during this debate. Let's start with why we're passing this act again.
This July, the Yukon government was reminded by federal government lawyers that the Yukon Legislature did not have the legislative jurisdiction to pass the Yukon Oil and Gas Act. We would only gain that jurisdiction if the federal government had passed an act transferring us the authority. That didn't happen. We passed our act first, before the feds passed theirs.
We got it backwards. We all got it backwards.
During the sitting last fall, all of us - every one of us in this Legislature - were guilty of missing a very important point: that we didn't have the proper authority to pass the bill. The minister knew we didn't have the proper authority and he decided to proceed anyway. The one reason I can think why is because the NDP didn't have a centrepiece for their first legislative sitting. Without the Oil and Gas Act, we would have spent last fall debating bills about dogs and cats, which are important, but we would have had little else.
I would like to thank the minister and his staff for the briefing that was arranged the other day for the update on this legislation. Our caucus was told at the briefing that no one on either side of this issue - the feds or the Yukon government - said anything last fall when we passed the bill. I find that hard to believe, but it happened.
Mr. Speaker, there are very, very high stakes involved here. I don't think it matters when the mistake was realized. If there was any doubt - any hint of trouble - we should do what we can to avoid it, even if it meant passing our legislation again. The minister couldn't do it. He couldn't stand up and say to the Yukon public, "I made a mistake. There's a problem with our oil and gas legislation and we will have to pass it again." He chose to sit on it over the summer and not to tell Yukoners - so much for the open and accountable NDP government.
The minister had to find someone to blame for his mistake. Let's not fix it and try and do what's right for the Yukon. Let's just blame somebody else. Our economy's not performing very well. It's not the minister's fault or responsibility. It's low metal prices. Exploration is low in the Yukon - lower than Alaska and the NWT. It's Bre-X. Two thousand people have left the territory in the last year. It's all related to Faro. It's all the federal government's fault for letting the dollar slide. It's never the minister or the NDP government who is responsible. It's always somebody else's fault.
It's always the blame game with the minister. Mr. Speaker, this isn't the first time the minister has fumbled a bill through the Legislature. The very first bill the member brought forward had to be rewritten to deal with the errors in the title. Remember that endless debate and those comments about ragging the puck? Then we have the fiasco this spring. The minister, as House leader, dropped the ball, failed to bring in a temporary budget, and the government ended up without proper spending authority.
Now we're at strike three. Perhaps it's time for the Government Leader to consider a new House leader, since this one manages to mess up every piece of legislation that he's brought forward.
Mr. Speaker, I'm puzzled, and perhaps the minister could answer this question when he closes debate. The Northern Accord was absolutely clear. Introducing a Yukon oil and gas act would be a violation of section 6.4 of the accord. The previous administration was even given a legal opinion, plainly stating that introducing the Yukon Oil and Gas Act and passing it would be a violation of section 6.4 of the Northern Accord.
That's why the Yukon Party didn't proceed past the first reading. That, and they couldn't come to any sort of agreement with First Nations.
Mr. Speaker, the minister sat in the House when that bill was introduced. If he didn't remember that 18 months later when he introduced his bill, that's fine. He could just admit he made a mistake. Instead, he has to turn it into a big event and call the federal government paternalistic and overbearing - simply trying to deflect attention from a mistake that he made.
Let's think about that. What is paternalistic about wanting to ensure that legislation is passed properly? If there was any doubt expressed - and I understand from the briefing that there was - why not simply agree to again pass the legislation? Would the minister have preferred to have a land sale challenged? Would that have been a way to start off the oil and gas industry in the Yukon?
I can just hear the executives in Calgary talking now, Mr. Speaker, "There is a big court case in the Yukon. They haven't really figured out who is in charge yet. There was some mixup when they got responsibility from the federal government. It'll be a couple of years before we go near that jurisdiction."
Mr. Speaker, the minister has made the argument that the Northern Accord is invalid because the federal government missed the 18-month deadline for passing their legislation. The minister just went ahead anyway. Well, the minister is wrong on that account. Legal advice given to the government indicated that, very simply put, our Legislative Assembly does not have the jurisdiction to do this. Members are trying to ride that great white horse for the will of the Yukon people. The Yukon Legislative Assembly doesn't have the jurisdiction. If we did, we'd be passing the forestry legislation, wouldn't we? Ignoring legal advice, ignoring that strong opinion is simply failing to admit that there are people who can provide us with good advice.
The minister using the 18-month deadline as an excuse doesn't fly either. The minister stated that the federal Liberals dropped the ball - the blame game again. He knows that's not the case, and he just won't admit it. Maybe, just maybe, he should have been a little bit more on the ball, and we wouldn't be passing this piece of legislation today. How this was missed last year, I don't know. Why the minister can't admit that he made a mistake, I don't know. Why the minister has to turn this into another federal Liberal-bashing exercise, I don't know.
Mr. Speaker, I am puzzled as to why getting this bill passed without a big to-do wasn't a big priority of the minister. When the issue was raised, the minister could simply have said to the Yukon people, "Look, there was an error made," and left it at that.
He could have had the class to admit he made a mistake, but he couldn't. Instead, he thought it was productive to fill the local papers and airwaves with all this controversy. Did he have to add to the controversy? Getting the bill passed and getting things off on the right foot don't really seem to be at the top of his agenda. Attacking the federal government for saying, "Hey, we have a problem here", was far more important than trying to get the bill passed.
Mr. Speaker, the most important issue in this entire debate is that we get the responsibility for oil and gas resources transferred to us. I think we're losing that point. The Yukon Liberal caucus wants this to happen and wants it to happen quickly. There have been a number of dates that it was suppose to happen by - April 1, 1998 and then later, July 1, 1998. I'm trusting that it will happen in the few weeks, as we have been told.
The oil and gas industry will bring jobs to Watson Lake and to other Yukon communities. My colleagues and I are looking forward to this development in our territory.
Speaker: If the member now speaks, he will close debate. Does any other member wish to be heard?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, Mr. Speaker, I'll tell the Liberal member opposite why I'm upset about this particular act that's been foisted upon us by the federal government. It is for one simple reason: I believe that the will of this Legislature is paramount over technicalities of a bureaucratic and administrative nature in any accord. Now, that smacks to me of colonialism by the federal government and of paternalism by the federal government. It sticks in my craw. I will not stand here and say that I made an error and nor will this government. Nor did the members opposite when they voted for this bill last fall, because they have every right, as representatives of Yukoners, to represent their constituents and vote on this legislation and have it treated as valid by Ottawa.
That's the issue at hand here. Mr. Speaker, I will not aplogize for trying to create economic activity in this territory and for respecting the will of this Legislature - absolutely not, never.
The Yukon Party, in their critique, was quite predictable. They said that they agreed with me in entirety, but yet they wanted to give me a little bit of a slap, you know, to call us incompetent and say we just fumbled the ball here. So on one hand, Mr. Speaker, they say that we're absolutely right in our position, and that the bill that they voted for as well should have been respected. But, on the other hand, I fumbled the ball. Well, Mr. Speaker, that's just a hollow attempt, very ineffective, to try and spread a little of the blame between the Liberals and the New Democrats on this side of the House.
The issue here is very important, and I urge the members opposite to think this through before they speak. I couldn't agree more with the leader of the official opposition when he said, and I quote, "The laws we pass in this Legislature are valid. That is the fundamental and paramount issue at stake."
The leader of the Yukon Party stated that we had opposition to the Northern Accord. Well, Mr. Speaker, that is indeed not the case. It was actually the NDP government who negotiated the Northern Accord. It was signed in 1993 by the Yukon Party, and we were fully in support of the Northern Accord. What was void and what was missing from the Yukon Party approach was any sense of agreement on how the regime would be developed - the common regime - on settlement versus non-settlement land, in dealing with the question of impact, benefits agreements, dealing with well abandonment, in dealing with revenue sharing. Those were the key advancements in our bill that we brought forward.
Mr. Speaker, the leader of the Liberal Party lectures me, like a school teacher, about legal opinions. I want to say to her that we also provided a legal opinion to deal with the federal government's sideshow of issues - section 6.4 versus section 6.1 - that said that we, in effect, had that ability. I'll provide that legal opinion to the members opposite, if they wish. It's been sent to the federal minister, so I'm sure the members opposite already have it, because everything that goes to Ottawa comes right back in a big boomerang loop to the Liberal caucus office.
But anyway, Mr. Speaker, I'll provide that to show that if they want to get sucked into that sideshow, they can deal with that on a legal basis, too. I also want to say that even with what has been done to this Legislature and to Yukoners by this act of the federal government, we are still okay in terms of the advancement of this oil and gas development in the territory.
There was no intention of a land sale until the first quarter of next year, and had we waited for this little merry-go-round with the federal government, as to who goes first, we would have been just bringing the bill forward right now, in this legislative session, for the very first time. As it stands, the fact that it was passed last fall, even as galling as it is to me that we have to bring back this re-enactment, we've had a chance to get that act out to the industry. They know what's going on; they're used to having the federal government do this to them as well. That was the comment I got from industry in Watson Lake, "Hey, don't worry about it; this happens all the time with the federal government. We're used to dealing with that, we're used to seeing that from them."
Mr. Speaker, the comments from the Yukon Chamber of Commerce, which the local media reported, were that that was not the feeling as represented by the Liberal Party leader, that there was some big to-do down in Watson Lake. The only reason it was broken was because their Liberal plant in Dawson, the Mayor of Dawson, broke the story on their behalf, to try and put up a little bit of a defence mechanism, knowing that this issue was going to be re-enacted. It wasn't me at all, who raised the issue publicly. We tried to work on a government-to-government basis, with the deputy prime minister, the House leader, the Natural Resources minister, the Minister of Northern Affairs. That was the approach that we took; I never made a big to-do about it until the Liberal plant in Dawson called for my resignation. That was a good set-up by the Liberal Party, and they rose to the defence of their friends in Ottawa. But, Mr. Speaker, I just want to say to them that I don't think their attempt worked.
What Yukoners said to me, particularly in Watson Lake was, "Why are they doing that to Yukoners?" Because they saw, not only the affront to the Legislature as something wrong and the fact that the will of this House was denied, but they also said, "Here we have these people coming up here, and the Liberals choose that time to try and launch an attack on this Legislature, on a bill that they voted for." People were very confused by the Liberal approach.
Mr. Speaker, in the real world, which was the world I was dealing with, with about 200 Yukoners and 70 or 80 representatives from the oil and gas industry, mention of that was made to me, and that was the feeling. I talked to probably at least 100 people this last weekend about this issue, the Oil and Gas Act, and where we're going with this industry, and I heard not one negative.
So, Mr. Speaker, that's the real world. There's the looney-tuney world of this Legislature, and the iterations the members opposite go through to try and protect their friends in Ottawa, but the fact remains, Mr. Speaker, when you carve everything else off, when you chisel it all away, and you get down to what's most important to me, to our government, to Yukoners and to the people of this territory, it is the fact that we have to have our laws recognized as valid and we have to have control over these resources. We cannot be deterred by technical, administrative, bureaucratic reasons, and the will of this House must be respected.
Now, I, as the leader of the official opposition, raised quite a fight internally. I didn't raise it externally until the members opposite had their Mayor of Dawson put out their initial salvo, but I just want to say that we felt very strongly about this, but we also know that we need to move this bill forward, and the federal government holds all the cards. They're dictating to us that this must be done, in the fact of our position on the Northern Accord, section 6.1, that they should have moved it in 18 months, the fact that the Lang Michener opinion we provided for them backs up and supports our position, and the most critical element is, all that aside, the will of this Legislature unanimously passed that bill.
Let me just say, Mr. Speaker, that we hope that this is the end of a chapter in dealing with the federal government. There's been a lot of strained feelings as a result of this - over this issue. We hope that this puts this whole issue to bed today, and that we move on, we get the transfer done, we have devolution of that resource, and we move on with its development over the next couple of years and into the future.
Motion for second reading of Bill No. 64 agreed to
Bill No. 63: Second Reading
Chair: Second reading, Bill No. 63, standing in the name of the Hon. Ms. Moorcroft.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I move that Bill No. 63, entitled An Act to Amend the Dental Profession Act, be now read a second time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. Minister of Justice that Bill No. 63, entitled An Act to Amend the Dental Profession Act, be now read a second time.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: The Dental Profession Act became law in 1958. Since that time, there have been only minor changes. The act no longer reflects the changes that have occurred within the profession over the years. These amendments, Mr. Speaker, will provide greater public protection, improve administrative efficiency and will also increase penalties for contravention of the act.
Currently, the act indicates that the member in Executive Council is responsible for keeping a dental register and includes administrative activities such as issuing and renewing licences, refusing to issue a licence, or acting on recommendations from a board of inquiry.
Mr. Speaker, we have improved this cumbersome process by substituting a registrar for the Executive Council member. This will provide for a more efficient means of administering the act.
At one time, dental services in rural communities were provided by people working under special permits. Today, these services are being provided by licensed members of the Yukon dental profession.
As there is no longer a need for special permits, this section has been repealed. Similarly, Mr. Speaker, the section referring to exemptions for federally employed dentists has been removed. This provision is redundant as we no longer have dentists employed by the federal government.
To improve administrative efficiency and to reduce costs, we have now expanded the investigative procedures to allow the registrar to complete preliminary investigations of any complaint. This provision is absent under the current legislation, and consequently, all complaints had to be referred to a board of inquiry. This was inefficient, time-consuming and costly.
Other professional statutes provide for the recovery of the costs of hearings from people who are found guilty by a board of inquiry. The current act has no such provision. An amendment will permit the registrar to recover inquiry costs from individuals found to be guilty of an offence. Fine levels under the current act are very low and do not serve as a deterrent. We have established a fine system that will more accurately reflect the seriousness of an offence.
Mr. Speaker, we are also increasing the level of health care protection for Yukon residents by expanding the qualifications for licensing to require that dentists now provide confirmation of good standing. This will provide the registrar with proof that the person has not been the subject of a disciplinary finding.
In conclusion, these amendments will contribute to this government's commitment to more efficient administration and additional health care protection for Yukon residents. These amendments are also supported by the members of the dental profession.
Mr. Phillips: In general terms, we support An Act to Amend the Dental Profession Act. I know that it's been some time in coming. We do have some questions, though, that I would like answered by the minister.
The minister said in her last closing comments that this was supported by members - plural - of the dental profession in Whitehorse. So, maybe the minister could outline for us, either now or in Committee, which dentists? Did we consult them all individually or did we consult them as an association? Who did we talk to locally with respect to this act to ensure that we covered all the concerns they may have?
The other area that I notice in this amendment is somewhat different than the Optometrists Act is that in the Optometrists Act, there is a clause about continuing education and keeping up to date on current trends in optometry, new discoveries and new initiatives. I didn't see any of that in the Dental Profession Act. I was just wondering why there is an inconsistency. Is it common throughout the country in these types of professional acts to include a continuing education clause? If so, for what reason did we not include it in our act? Maybe the minister could enlighten us on that.
In general, though, we are in support of the act. We have spoken to some dentists with respect to this, but I just wonder who the government consulted with in putting together this legislation.
Mrs. Edelman: It's interesting that the minister was speaking about the fact that this is a very old act, and here's an opportunity to open it up and update it. Part of that updating process should have been recognizing all of the dental professions, and that's not done in this act. The Dental Association of Canada has not recognized denturists as part of the dental profession.
Now, we do have a Denture Technicians Act, and that does not cover denturists any more. Denturists are a profession beyond a dental technician. A dental technician, or a dental mechanic, in that act, refers to someone who works within a dentist's office under the direct supervision of the dentist and, in the Yukon case, sends their work to a laboratory outside. Now, denturists - and, once again, I do note that, in September of 1998, it was very clear that the Canadian Dental Association, when they met with the Denturists Association of Canada, do recognize them as a dental profession - really don't have any legislation to protect them or to regulate them here in the Yukon.
I think that by not using this opportunity to update our legislation on what is such an obvious point that needs to be dealt with, is a missed boat.
There are a number of other issues that aren't dealt with in this act. Now, like the Member for Riverdale North, we too spoke with a number of different dentists, and to some other jurisdictions as well. In two other jurisdictions in Canada, there is a need, and it's written into the acts, for continuing education. It's in the optometry act, and I would imagine that we need to add that to this act as well.
It's not clear, from the act, what the actual protection of the public is by having a registrar. I know that the fees are up, but it's still not clear, from enforcement, what the actual protection is to the public. It's also not clear about other dental professions - hygienists, for example. It's not clear in the larger act, not the amendment, whether or not they can work alone in the Yukon.
In short, what I'm saying is that these are good amendments, and they do update to a certain extent, but they're such a small piece of the pie that I think we're losing an opportunity to look at much bigger issues here in the Yukon. Two of the reasons, actually, that I think we need to take a look at the denturists as dental professionals here in the Yukon is, number one, they're recognized as that by the professional associations and, number two, because they work in conjunction with dentists in a referral mechanism, and they do have billing numbers, or provider numbers, from DIAND and Veterans Affairs and from Pharmacare here in the Yukon.
So, certainly there is recognition, on a financial basis, that these are professionals that need to be recognized and need to have some sort of regulation.
Now, the two professions interact quite commonly. One of the areas where there's a problem, for example, which we could have looked at when we were looking at this act, is - you'll have to excuse me, I'm not totally up to date on this, and I've never had this problem myself. Perhaps there are others in the House that are more informed - the instance where there is a partial plate, and whether dentures can be placed over implants. And this, believe it or not, is quite a large issue within this dental community and with denturists and dentists. That sort of thing should have at least been covered when we looked at this act.
Speaker: If the member now speaks, she will close debate. Does any other member wish to be heard?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: In response to the comments from the opposition about the consultation with the profession, I would like to indicate that the changes in the Dental Profession Act have been examined by the dentists of the Yukon and by their representation, the president of the Yukon Dental Association. These changes have been considered acceptable and consistent with other jurisdictions, and I have a letter to that effect from the president of the Yukon Dental Association.
I have also taken note of the member's detailed questions, and will be happy to respond to those in Committee.
Motion for second reading of Bill No. 63 agreed to
Bill No. 61: Second Reading
Clerk: Second reading, Bill No. 61, standing in the name of the hon. Ms. Moorcroft.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I move that Bill No. 61, entitled An Act to Amend the Optometrists Act, be now read a second time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Hon. Minister of Justice that Bill No. 61, entitled An Act to Amend the Optometrists Act, be now read a second time.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: The Optometrists Act has remained unchanged since its enactment in 1958. These changes reflect nearly four decades of advancements in the profession of optometry. The amendments include provisions to modernize the scope of practice. This will allow qualified doctors of optometry to prescribe and use therapeutic pharmaceutical agents, which I will refer to as TPAs, in the diagnosis and treatment of eye disease. The amendments will also provide for greater protection to Yukon residents by strengthening qualifications for licensing optometrists.
The provinces of Saskatchewan, Alberta and New Brunswick have already expanded the scope of practice of optometrists to include TPAs. The move toward optometric use of medications is supported by the national and provincial associations of optometry and by local optometrists. The medical community has also lent its support, applauding the efforts of the Territorial Optometrist Association to have these amendments passed.
Expanding the scope of practice will allow optometrists to provide a better service to Yukon residents. Certain conditions detected during an eye examination can now be treated directly by an optometrist. Under the current legislation, the optometrist must refer the patient to a medical doctor to obtain this prescription, causing a delay in treatment to the patient.
Mr. Speaker, these amendments will allow for registration of both TPA-certified or non-certified optometrists so that we are not closing the door to those optometrists who do not have their TPA certification.
In addition, Mr. Speaker, we have also added a provision that will protect the level of health services to Yukon patients by establishing a minimum of 12 hours of continuing education to qualify for renewal of an annual practice licence.
Regulations are being developed that will also establish a drug list identifying the types of drugs that optometrists may prescribe or use, qualifications that optometrists must have in order to prescribe or use these drugs, practice guidelines for TPA-certified optometrists to follow in their prescription or use of TPAs.
In conclusion, Mr. Speaker, the amendments to the Optometrists Act will allow Yukon people to benefit from expanded services available from their local optometrists. It will eliminate the need for patients to visit both their optometrist and a physician for a vision problem that an optometrist is competent to diagnose and treat. The amendments will complement services provided by the visiting ophthalmologist, who will be better able to concentrate on the specialized field of eye disease.
Thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker.
Mr. Phillips: We generally support this initiative. I know there have been some discussions ongoing for several years now with the local optometrists, and that this is basically streamlining and making it quite a bit more efficient for the general public as well to see an optometrist and be treated by an optometrist. It's something, I also understand, that many other jurisdictions do already, and so, more than anything else, we're just moving into line with others.
I do have some questions when we get into Committee of the Whole. Mainly, the minister can tell me why, in clause 2(a), where it says "graduated from a recognized school of optometry in Canada or passed the prescribed exam", my understanding is that there is a specific exam now that is listed, and I just wonder why we say "the prescribed exam" if there is only one exam that is prescribed. Why don't we just list the exam that they have to pass to qualify?
The minister may have a valid reason for that and I'll wait until the minister responds and we can deal with that in Committee of the Whole.
Mr. Deputy Speaker, we certainly support this legislation which will improve the Optometrists Act.
Mrs. Edelman: Well, Mr. Deputy Speaker, on behalf of a constituent and then on behalf of the profession, I have been writing to the Minister of Health and Social Services on this issue almost from the day I was elected, and I'm glad to see that this is coming through. I think that where I found it most appalling that didn't have this type of legislation was when we were talking about optometrists travelling out to the rural communities. Indeed I had related to me the case of one gentleman who had a degenerative eye disease who could have had it easily remedied with a particular medication. What had to happen was that the optometrist who went out to the community had to go to a doctor in Whitehorse, get the prescription filled - and, truly, the doctor, although very knowledgeable, did not have the expertise in this particular area - and then send it out to the rural community. By that time there had been even more damage done to the eye. To me, that was an absolute shame and could have been easily remedied by having up-to-date legislation.
Once again, like the Dental Profession Act, we've been asking questions about all of the professional acts in the medical community; the Nursing Assistants Registration Act, the Medical Profession Act, the Dental Profession Act, the Optometrists Act, the Pharmacists Act. I'm glad to see that this one is coming forward.
I do have concerns about when we are going to be bringing in the regulations. There isn't much use having the act on the table unless we've got the regulations and a timetable for when those regulations are going to happen. I wonder when the minister next speaks to this during Committee of the Whole if she could sort of give us an update or a timetable for when those regulations are going to be ready.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I do have responses for the member's questions and will be happy to discuss it with him further in Committee of the Whole
Motion for second reading of Bill No. 61 agreed to
Bill No. 55: Second Reading
Clerk: Second reading, Bill No. 55, standing in the name of the hon. Mr. Sloan.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I move that Bill No. 55, entitled Canadian Blood Agency/Canadian Blood Services Indemnification Act, be now read a second time.
Deputy Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. Minister of Health and Social Services, entitled Canadian Blood Agency/Canadian Blood Services Indemnification Act, be now read a second time.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Mr. Deputy Speaker, this short piece of legislation will allow the Yukon to join the other provinces and territories in indemnifying the people who run Canada's blood supply system, in the event that all other sources of coverage are exhausted.
I would like to take a moment to explain the mandates of the Canadian Blood Agency and the Canadian Blood Services.
Before September 28 of this year, there were two non-profit organizations that managed and operated the blood supply system in Canada. One was the Canadian Blood Agency, which I will refer to as the CBA, which worked on behalf of the provinces and territories to manage the funding of blood and blood products. The other organization was the Canadian Red Cross Society, which managed blood donations and the supply of blood to hospitals across the country.
On September 28, 1998, a new non-profit organization called the Canadian Blood Services, which I will refer to as the CBS, took over and integrated all the former blood-related functions of the Red Cross and the CBA. The new CBS is now responsible for the blood supply system in all of the provinces and territories except Quebec, and Quebec has established its own blood supply organization, named Hema-Quebec, which provides comparable services there.
The CBS are ensuring that Canadians continue to get blood for free when they need it, as part of the Canadian medicare system. In doing so the CBS, and CBA before it, saves or otherwise benefits the lives of thousands of Canadians every year.
However, as has become more apparent over the past number of years, the blood business is becoming more and more subject to lawsuits and legal actions. The public health field, which includes the management of blood-borne diseases, is one where many decisions have to get made about what to do, and what not to do, in the midst of a great deal of uncertainty.
Hindsight may challenge the decisions that were made, and this is leading to an increasing number of legal challenges of public health decisions. Even if the cases were dropped, the costs to the individuals named in a legal action can be very high. This increasingly litigious backdrop makes the very people who have done so much to offer the direction and management of our national blood supply system fearful of becoming involved, unless there is ironclad assurance that they will not be left hung out to dry personally, if they act with good faith and good intent.
To indemnify someone means to secure them against personal hurt, loss or damage. To indemnify the people of the CBA and the CBS, once all other avenues for coverage have been exhausted, is reasonable for governments to do, given that these people are providing an essential non-profit service that is an integral part of the Canadian medicare system.
As a bit of background, the CBA sought commercial insurance during its years of operation, but there were periods of time where no commercial insurance was available, or when the insurance that was available and in place was inadequate. This meant that the directors, officers, and advisory committees of the CBA were operating with a great deal of legal exposure, a problem that led to the CBA indemnification agreement, which the Yukon has yet to sign.
The CBS is in a somewhat different situation. Through the establishment of a captive insurance fund, it will have much better insurance coverage than did the CBA. However, even with that insurance fund in place, the new board has wanted governments to show their good faith by agreeing to provide indemnification should the captive insurance fund prove to be inadequate at some time.
The CBA and CBS provide valuable and crucial non-profit services for Canadians. No one else provides that service in Canada. The provinces and territories set the mandate for the CBA when it was operating on behalf of the governments, and governments now fully support the CBS as the new integrated operator of the blood supply system. It is therefore reasonable for governments to back these people up, in the event of legal actions against them for things that they did in good faith through their work for the CBA or CBS.
Similar to the Northwest Territories, the Yukon's Financial Administration Act prohibits the Yukon government from indemnifying anyone outside of the government unless specific authority to do so is provided in legislation. The act before you now provides the specific authority required.
Once this authority is in place, I, as Minister of Health and Social Services, will be able to add my signature to those of provincial and territorial ministers of health on the various indemnification agreements.
The benefits to the Yukon from taking part in these agreements are several. One, we will demonstrate our support for the people running the blood supply system on behalf of all Canadians. Two, the Yukon will be seen as a full partner, alongside the other provinces and territories, in support of the blood supply organizations we helped to establish and fund. Three, the Yukon will gain greater certainty about the proportion of costs that will fall to our jurisdiction, should legal costs end up falling to the provinces and territories. This proportion is based on the proportion of blood usage, a fact that benefits the Yukon, because blood usage in the Yukon tends to be lower than the national average.
The Yukon cannot dodge financial risk by not signing indemnification agreements. In fact, if we do not sign the agreements, we leave the Yukon open for having the portion of costs assigned to us by the courts as a separately named party in a lawsuit, and that portion could be substantially higher than the known portion - .05 percent - assigned to the Yukon through the two indemnification agreements.
Of the two agreements awaiting Yukon signature, the Yukon is the only jurisdiction that has not yet signed the indemnification agreement for the CBA. At this date, apart from Quebec - which is not a member of the CBS - only the Yukon and the Northwest Territories have not signed the CBS indemnification agreement, since both the Northwest Territories and the Yukon need specific authorizing legislation.
There is no immediate or currently identifiable cost to the Yukon as a result of the Yukon taking part in these indemnification agreements. Costs would only arise if a legal action is taken against the CBA or the CBS, and there is inadequate insurance or similar protection in place to cover the resulting costs. There is no way to predict at this time what those costs would be in the future.
I encourage you to join me in underlining the importance of the commitment made by these people who run one of the best blood systems in the world by supporting this piece of legislation.
Mr. Jenkins: We have recognized the importance of the blood agency, be it the Red Cross or its successor, the Canadian Blood Agency, and its need to supply a safe and adequate supply of blood products to the residents of the various parts of Canada. What we have before us is basically cover-your-butt legislation - a cover-your-rear-end piece of legislation - being proposed by this government.
When we start looking at it in depth and look and see what governments of the day are doing, officers and directors of various companies are more and more often being required to shoulder the responsibility associated with the operations that they are connected with. In fact, government is making many changes to various pieces of legislation to ensure that if a company defaults or errs, that that responsibility will ultimately be shouldered by the officers and directors of that corporation.
Liability insurance, in a lot of cases, is unavailable to officials within that corporation. If it is at all available, it is at great cost. You can see cases today where environmental liability is virtually no longer available in terms of insurance coverage for that eventuality or mishap.
Reviewing this Canadian Blood Agency and the subsequent legislation that flows from the various jurisdictions, it's interesting to note that Quebec has opted out. I'd like to know further why Quebec has opted out. They have done so in a number of initiatives and, initially, there was great fanfare that they were going to be missing the boat - the Province of Quebec, that is - and that they would fall behind.
I can recall, in great detail, the debate surrounding the Canada Pension Plan initiative versus the Quebec Pension Plan, which is a separate initiative, and the shortfalls that were going to be incurred by that province. Yet Quebec today, with its Quebec Pension Plan, has done very, very well, and it has managed to invest most of that money in that province, to the economic well-being of that province, whereas funds from the Canada Pension Plan that are paid by Yukoners flow directly to Ottawa into general revenues and, heck, we don't even know where they are. The Liberals managed to fire the last fellow that was in charge of the actuarial study to show us where our money was going.
Be that as it may, there has to be some reason why Quebec has opted out of this program, and I would like to know further details about that.
When we look at officers and directors, and their subsequent liability being legislated upon them by various governments across Canada, one wonders where we're all headed. Industry bad, government agencies good, and in many more respects than ever before, we're seeing the officers and directors of government agencies and Crown corporations being indemnified and saved harmless by this type of legislation.
So, I recognize the importance of a Canadian blood agency. I recognize the importance of Yukon in this whole scenario, and I recognize that Yukon is but a small, small player in the overall scheme of things.
But it does raise the question as to why, if these individuals in this agency act in good faith and to the best of their ability, they should not be treated under the same set of rules as anyone else in a private industry. Blood can be obtained from private industry. Indeed, in Canada, on quite a number of occasions, we import blood plasma primarily from the U.S. So, it does occur and it continues to occur. In a large part, the U.S. is supplied by private agencies. I'm not suggesting that that is good or bad. I'm just saying that it's being done. I'm just standing back, wondering why we need all this indemnification for the officers and officials of an agency that has the full protection and have the backing of the government at this juncture.
So, reluctantly, we'll give our support to this bill, but it does raise an awful number of questions, which we would like to pursue the answers to in general debate on this piece of legislation.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, there is no question that one would have to support this act but, like the Member for Klondike, we really feel torn. On the one hand, we want to make sure that you will get people who will serve the Canadian Blood Agency and the Canadian Blood Services, but, on the other hand, you wonder why some people get indemnified and other people don't.
I became really aware of this issue when I chaired the Whitehorse Housing Authority. At that point, I kept asking about how much I was liable for the decisions that were made by the authority. I was answered over and over again, "Oh, don't worry about it." Now, today, the minister stands in the House and says that because we were not part of the government, we would have, in fact, been totally liable for any of the decisions that we made or any of the things that may have happened on the property that that board was responsible for.
I find that really alarming. I can certainly understand why the Yukon would want to be part of this indemnification process, because we certainly can't afford to stand on our own, not by any stretch of the imagination. When we look at the hep C issue alone, you're talking only six people here in the Yukon that have been identified for the time that you're expecting to get a package, but you know, there may be more. I know that the government is now going back with a look-back program, and I note that it's a look-back program from Whitehorse General, and I wonder whether that includes the look-back program that goes right through to where most of us get our blood - when we go outside, when there's an accident.
But I wonder, actually, if the minister could speak about that when he speaks to it in Committee.
I do wish that the minister would talk a little bit more about what the government can indemnify and what they can't. I have served on non-governmental organization boards and committees for as long as I've been an adult in the Yukon, and I think that if people are coming forward and they're serving on boards and committees for this government, they should know whether they have any protection or if they have, at least, protection similar to those of us who will be serving on the Canadian Blood Services.
I suppose that what I'm asking for is why certain groups get it, and other groups don't. For example, the Yukon Hospital Corporation doesn't have to worry about it. They have an indemnification as part of the Yukon Hospital Act, and certainly the Yukon College has the same out, if you might put it that way. My concern is that, number one, we're protected here in the Yukon; number two, that that's a fair way to deal with people who come forward to sit on our various boards and committees, not just this one; and number three, that this is just the beginning of a process that we're going to be going through for other boards and other committees, and what it takes - what's the line? - where we suddenly indemnify people. At what point? Is it at $1-million liability, or is it at $3-million liability, or is it one person being affected? What's the line? I suppose that that's not clear to me.
If the minister could talk about that when we come back in Committee, it would be greatly appreciated.
Speaker: If the member now speaks, she will close debate. Does any other member wish to be heard?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Some of these I can respond to in Committee, but I want to speak just about a couple of points that have been raised, and in particular about the Member for Dawson's rather colourful characterization of cover-your-butt or cover-your-rear and the question as to why are governments not prepared to cover directors of corporations. Well, the difference between CBA and CBS is that these are non-profit corporations and this makes them somewhat different from for-profit businesses where the directors and officers are overseeing a business that shares private interest.
With regard to Quebec, I suppose that's the million-dollar question in this federation: why does Quebec do things so differently? The decision to establish Hema-Quebec - we're not quite sure why Quebec took that posture. At the time many of the decisions that were being driven seem to largely be driven by a political agenda, and the fascinating thing about Quebec's political agenda is that that can change. So, from having someone like M. Landry as the point person on some of these issues where basically everything that is raised, Quebec opts out. Now, with perhaps a political equation within Quebec to sort of prove that they can work with other provinces, but the federation doesn't work, we get sometimes a rather surprising reversal, where Quebec ministers are very, very eager to work with us all, but I think underlying that is another text. You want to prove that you can work with other parts of Canada, but you want to prove that the big stumbling block is the federal government and therefore enhance your own issues.
With regard to some of the blood and blood-plasma products, it is true that many of them do come from the United States. It's also true that some of our problems that have originated with the contamination of the blood supply have originated also in the United States, where there were practices of buying blood often from prisons, and the prison population there is somewhat more subject to contamination.
With regard to other boards and the status of other boards, I am afraid that I can't elaborate at this point on why, perhaps, say a housing board might not be indemnified and a hospital board is. I'll have to get some further information on that. That's not my area of expertise, but I can bring back some information.
With regard to the level of indemnification on this particular bill, I think it's very, very hard to pin down the exposure. Essentially what we would be doing is that we would be - say there was a decision that was outside of the insurance limits of the CBS. That portion would then be pro-rated throughout the entire membership of the CBS. In our case, our exposure would be somewhere around .05 percent, because it's based on the amount of blood products that we use in the territory, and we are one of the lower users, and I think that simply reflects the fact that so much of the surgery that would require blood products is actually performed for us outside.
I can bring back some further information on this when we get into Committee with regard to the question of indemnification.
Motion for second reading of Bill No. 55 agreed to
Bill No. 62: Second Reading
Clerk: Second reading, Bill No. 62, standing in the name of the hon. Mr. Sloan.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I move that Bill No. 62, entitled An Act to Amend the Child Care Act, now be read a second time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Minister of Health and Social Services that Bill No. 62, entitled An Act to Amend the Child Care Act, be now read a second time.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: The Child Care Act amendment that we bring forward here has to do with the fact that the Child Care Act says an inspector may enter a childcare centre, or family day home, with the consent of the occupant in charge of the place and may "at reasonable time enter any place to which the public is ordinarily admitted."
Child care inspectors conduct unannounced spot inspections routinely as a way of ensuring that child care centres and family day homes are complying with the provisions of the Child Care Act and regulations in the interest of children's safety and well-being. All owners and operators of child care facilities are familiar with this routine prior to being licensed under the act.
In one experience, the child care staff became aware that it was necessary to clarify the intent of the act. On a regular spot check, inspectors entered a family day home while the owner-operator was absent and it was in the charge of another adult. The owner/operator subsequently complained to the ombudsman that inspectors had entered her home without her consent.
The ombudsman reported that, while there was "neither malice nor intent on the part of those peoples involved in the spot inspection" in this instance, there is sufficient evidence to find that the full administrative and legislative authorities were not in place when that inspection took place.
The ombudsman recommended that section 20 of the Child Care Act be amended to allow for the protection of children receiving child care, and avoid any confusion as to whether spot inspections are allowed. The ombudsman also noted that spot inspections of licensed family day homes are appropriate and, in fact, necessary for the protection of children in the care of a licensed day home. He noted that full, legal administrative authorities must be in place. The amendment being proposed is to make it clear that inspectors designated under the act are authorized to conduct inspections of child care facilities without prior notice of the owner/operator of the facility, and without the consent of the owner/operator.
This is being done by repealing the clause in the Child Care Act which states, "that an inspector may, at any reasonable time, enter any place to which the public is ordinarily admitted", and replacing it with a clause that says, "that an inspector may enter any place where a child care centre program, or family day home program, is being offered, at any time when the program is being offered, regardless of whether or not the person in charge of the place at the time has given consent."
We are pleased to bring this amendment to the House. We believe that it is a small but very important change that will better serve the children of the child care facilities in the Yukon.
Mr. Jenkins: Our party gives full support to this amendment to the Child Care Act. We're quite conversant with the background that led to this amendment being brought forward. We are ultimately responsible for the protection of children in care situations, and we have no reservations whatsoever in offering our full support.
Mrs. Edelman: Well, Mr. Speaker, of course we support this particular amendment, and indeed I have spoken to a number of day home operators in particular about this, and they have no problem with being open to people coming in and taking a look at the service that they offer. They are quite proud of the service they offer and are quite pleased to open their doors to have that verified.
Once again, this is an act that we are opening up and not looking at some of the other issues - the day-to-day issues that face day home operators who take care of our children every day.
What's happening with the direct operating grant? What's happening with the day care subsidy? One of the biggest issues right now that the day home operators association is dealing with concerns issues around playgrounds.
In the act, we talked about going by the established guidelines, which in this case is the Canadian Safety Guidelines. Now, the Canadian safety guidelines are not at all realistic for day homes. Actually, two personal friends of mine who are day home operators talked about having to fill their entire backyard with six to eight inches of sand in order to meet the regulations, and that just doesn't make sense, because these are homes as well.
In addition to that, sand is not a very good material to have out there now for environmental health. If you have a sandbox, for example, for your children to use, you have to cover it every night to make sure the cats don't get in there. If you fill your entire backyard with sand, what are you supposed to do? Roll it over with some sort of carpet at night so the cats can't get to it? There are some really funny little things that need to be dealt with.
But these are very big issues for people who operate businesses taking care of Yukon children, and they are problems that are from all across the Yukon, too. I have spoken to a couple of rural day home operators, and they have an equal problem with this. For example, this whole idea about putting down sand and chopping down trees - now, if you are in a rural day home, in particular, one of the reasons that you live outside of Whitehorse and in the forest is so that you can enjoy the forest. To chop it down and to fill the whole area with sand just doesn't seem to make an awful lot of sense, because that's not what the children want, and that's not what the parents want, and that's not what the day home operator wants.
Perhaps it's people who have gone a little overboard with these particular regulations. That's quite likely, but I think that there are other issues around day homes and very practical issues that could have been dealt with, rather than this one area where the bureaucrats were having problems dealing with one issue. I think that when we open up acts, we should give Yukoners credit. It makes sense for us to want to update our legislation and they have a lot of good things to say about updating that legislation. I think we need to listen to them about that and maybe build in annual reviews - pardon me, not annual, perhaps every-decade reviews - of the legislation when we bring it back. Why don't we talk about that when we're talking about some of this legislation? It makes sense. The Education Act, every 10 years, has to be reviewed.
Child care is changing just as quickly as education. I think that makes a lot of sense.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mrs. Edelman: Let's get back to issues that are pertinent to this Legislature. It's important that when we open our legislation, we do the best service to Yukoners that we can.
Speaker: Order please.
Mrs. Edelman: Part of that is to look at not just little tiny bits of an act, but perhaps the whole act. We should talk about consultation with Yukoners and do a little review. It may cost some money, but it will bring us better legislation in the long run. That is what we're here for - to represent our constituents and to bring forward good legislation for Yukoners that makes sense to us today.
If the minister can, when he is talking about child care in Committee, bring back some of the issues - perhaps there are initiatives that the department is going through right now - and look at updating the Child Care Act on a greater basis. Maybe that's already in the process. I certainly hope it is. It has been asked for by the Child Care Association, as well as by the day home operators on a number of occasions, and, in particular, that practical issue around the playgrounds. If the minister could bring back information on that, it would be greatly appreciated.
Mr. Cable: I just have one question for the minister, and he can deal with it in Committee. This amendment appears to give the inspector a blank cheque. There's no entry with reasonable cause. There's no prescription. It could possibly give some person who wishes to harass a day home operator unlimited powers.
I'm wondering whether the minister would think about whether he wants to give a public servant, or an inspector, that sort of unrestrained power.
Speaker: If the member now speaks, he will close debate. Does any other member wish to be heard?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: The intent of this bill was not to harass anyone, or put anyone in a difficult situation. What we're doing is we're reacting to a recommendation by the ombudsman. The ombudsman stated that his recommendation to this should be looked at as a proactive approach to improve the process of inspections and subsequent compliance with report summaries. We've also done changes with regard to the administrative processes. Inspectors are now formally designated, so not just any public servant can go in. Under section 20(1) of the act, "and have been provided with in-service training of the legal issues relating to inspections and entry into child care facilities."
Inspections are now summarized on a checklist that indicates what requires compliance, what only needs improvement, and what is the best practice guide, as well as the positive comments that are in compliance.
This, I think, will also give our employees some legal assurances that they're operating in the correct way and allow that the proper legal and administrative authorities are in place to conduct these inspections.
With respect to issues having to do with some other child care aspects, I will bring forward the question that the member has raised of the problems of backyards, et cetera, et cetera, with family day homes. I'll bring that to the department and see if they've got any positive suggestions in that regard.
With regard to some things, such as the direct operating grant and the child care subsidy, these are some things that I've been discussing with the Child Care Association and looking at some ways that they could be adjusted, possibly with issues around training and levels of training, et cetera. So, it is something that we are pursuing and we're taking looking at actively.
Motion for second reading of Bill No. 62 agreed to
Hon. Mr. Harding: I move that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Speaker: It has been moved by the government House leader that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Motion agreed to
Speaker leaves the Chair
committee of the whole
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. Committee will be considering Bill No. 64, the Oil and Gas Act Confirmation Act. Is there any general debate? Do some members wish to have a brief recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: We will take a 12-minute break.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order.
Committee will be considering Bill No. 64, entitled Oil and Gas Act Confirmation Act.
Bill No. 64 - Oil and Gas Act Confirmation Act
Chair: Is there any general debate?
Mr. Cable: During the earlier debate on second reading, the minister indicated that he was going to produce the legal opinion given to this government by solicitors retained on their behalf after the passage of the original oil and gas bill. Now, the minister indicated he would produce that. I would ask the minister if he is prepared to produce that before we continue further debate, so that we can see what the merits of his position are?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, Mr. Chair, I'm not going to get into a legal debate with the Liberal defender of the puppet masters in Ottawa. I told him I would give him a copy of the debate. I didn't say right now, presto, I would produce it for him.
If the Liberals want to continue to hold up this bill, I ask them to do so. I'm getting a check for the legal opinion now. If they want to continue to impede this, as they've done in the past, they can go ahead and do it. It's only Yukoners who suffer.
I'm not going to get into a legal argument with the lawyer opposite. It's just not going to happen. If the member opposite is in such a rush for a legal opinion, the Liberal leader referenced some statements that obviously she got from the Liberal offices in Ottawa when she referenced that the federal government had made us aware of these changes back in July. That could only have come from their friends in Ottawa. I give the permission to the people in Ottawa to fax it on down if the Liberal lawyer opposite needs that legal opinion right here on the floor of this Legislature.
Mr. Cable: You know, Mr. Chair, that's bordering on the silly. We have the Yukon Oil and Gas Act in front of us for debate, and the minister has made the position publicly that he was just catering to the federal government. His position was that if we pass a bill in this House, that's it. The federal government had better acknowledge it. I'd like to find out where the minister is going with this proposition.
Is the minister taking the position that if, in fact, this Legislature passes a bill on the Member for Watson Lake's forestry legislation, that it's good, no matter what the federal government says? Is that the proposition we're dealing with?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Again, Mr. Chair, if the member opposite wants to defend the puppet masters, that's fine. I'm not going to get into a legal debate with him here. I'll produce the legal opinion when I can come up with it. If he doesn't want to pass this bill, and he wants to hold it up and play Perry Mason, he can go ahead and do that.
Mr. Cable: We're not playing Perry Mason, and we can't hold the bill up. If the minister wants to pass the bill, get right at it. We're not going to hold up the oil and gas industry, but he's gone to the public and made certain statements that the federal government's patronizing him. Our proposition is that the minister goofed and he's not prepared to admit it. If he gets up and says, "Well, gee, I goofed, oops, maybe I should have done it a different way," then that's the end of the issue, and that might be supported by the legal opinion that he got after he passed the bill, not the one he had in his pocket before the bill was passed; that told him there was no jurisdiction and that the Northern Accord set out a certain sequence of passage.
I find it really surprising that the minister, who has been pooh-poohing the Liberal government's position assiduously for the last week or so - the last 10 days - now wants to sit on this legal opinion until after the debate is finished.
Can't he just whistle upstairs to his executive assistant and say, "Look, Mr. Executive Assistant, go to the top of this file, because that's where the legal opinion is, and shoot it down to us"? Can't he just do that? What's the problem?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, first of all, it's normally out of order to ask for legal opinions on the floor of the Legislature.
As a courtesy to the members opposite, even though this is all a fake debate because, really, all they have to do is phone their friends in Ottawa and get it faxed down - that's where the Liberal leader got all the information today about supposedly them informing us of this issue in July. So, Mr. Chair, I'm prepared to entertain this false debate, as long as the Liberals want to impede the passage of the Oil and Gas Act in the Yukon.
I made that statement, Mr. Chair, that we produced the legal opinion, presented by Lang Michener, to the effect that it supported our position. That was communicated to the federal minister. That correspondence was provided, as well, to Mr. Herb Gray. That was referenced in the letter from the Government Leader to them. I refuse to debate the merits of the legal opinion in this Legislature. Even if I provided it to the members opposite, they are somehow saying that that would corroborate my argument if they received this. To do that is engaging in a legal debate about the merits of the opinion, which I don't intend to do.
Mr. Cable: Let me ask the minister this. I'm not going to get into an argument about a legal opinion that's not before us. Obviously, he feels a little embarrassed about tabling it in a timely fashion. So let's move beyond that.
Would the minister accept the proposition that the federal government had some argument, maybe not a winning argument, but some argument, on the validity of the bill?
Hon. Mr. Harding: I would say what I said in second reading. The will of this Legislature that unanimously passed that bill, the Yukon Oil and Gas Act, is paramount. The lawyers and the bureaucrats in Ottawa can make an argument to support almost any position.
Mr. Cable: The will of this legislature is paramount in the area where it has jurisdiction. That's the argument, and the minister just can't say, well, if we passed a bill on the Criminal Code, they'd better pay attention to it. He knows that's foolish. If there's jurisdiction, we can pass the bill. If there is no jurisdiction, we can't pass the bill.
Is the minister prepared to admit that the federal government had some sort of an argument on the validity of the bill that was passed a year ago?
Hon. Mr. Harding: The federal government can make some sort of an argument any day they want, on any issue. They're free to do that; this is a democracy. However, in this case, they hold all the cards in terms of whether they're going to okay this transfer or not. They forced us to do something that I believe we had full, fundamental jurisdiction to do. That's what they did, and, Mr. Chair, that's the reason that we're bringing this bill today before this legislature, to once again vote on something that was unanimously passed last fall.
Mr. Cable: Let me just make this proposition to the minister, because he doesn't seem to appreciate it. If, in fact, there were licences issued to someone to explore for gas and oil up by Lake Laberge, and they discovered the counterpart of the mother lode, can the minister not see that the holders of those grants would be open to attack, that there would be a whole circle of legal sharks circling the find, and that any possible claim on validity would affect the validity of the grants? Can he not see that that's a problem?
Hon. Mr. Harding: No.
Mr. Cable: Well, that explains why we are here today. He should have appreciated the problem earlier, and instead of trying to get up with a lot of bombast against the federal government, simply acknowledge that there was an argument. The high-priced legal help under the federal Department of Justice isn't simply beating on the minister to annoy him. They are making an issue out of something that they see is a problem. I'm disappointed that the minister didn't see the problem to begin with and move quickly to solve the problem.
Hon. Mr. Harding: What I see as a problem with the federal government is forcing the territory to eat this after it was passed by the will of this House. What I see as a problem with the federal government is the way they are asking Yukoners to eat gun control, the way they are asking Yukoners to eat health care cuts, the way they've taken $20 billion of workers' money in the EI fund and are saying none of that should go back to people. That's what I find offensive. I find the fact that they're holding on to lands, mining and forestry - powers that the Yukon government should have - offensive.
Those are the issues, Mr. Chair. This bill was unanimously passed in this House, and I don't intend to get into a legal debate about a legal opinion. I've told the member opposite that the government leader wrote the federal minister, sent her a copy of the Lang Michener opinion confirming our position on what I believe is a technicality. What I believe is most important is the will of this House.
Mr. Ostashek: Well, Mr. Chair, I don't want to prolong this debate, but I have some comments that I ought to make here in response to the minister's responses to my colleague on my left in regard to a hypothetical discovery under our legislation.
I think the member knows that we couldn't issue oil and gas leases just because we passed our legislation until such time as the federal government rescinded theirs.
My concern is the fact that, in the land claims legislation, we did exactly the same thing. We passed it in this House prior to the federal government rescinding their legislation, and they accepted it. They are being inconsistent.
I would ask the minister if he is prepared to do it, and if he could do it before we pass this bill this afternoon, I would certainly appreciate it. I don't want him to table a legal opinion, because that is precedent setting. We never would table legal opinions. But, I would ask him if he could at least agree to - and his staff are listening upstairs - give us a copy of the letter that the Government Leader wrote to the minister, saying, without the legal opinion attached, that they had legal information that we were in the right. I would certainly appreciate it if the minister could do that and maybe end this debate.
Hon. Mr. Harding: Done.
Mr. Cable: Just to clarify the record, the minister has indicated that he will provide the legal opinion. Cabinet confidences, of course, can be released by Cabinet. The minister has indicated that he is prepared to do that. We would like to see the legal opinion. Is he going to follow through on that?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Mr. Chair, I have said to the member opposite that I would not table a legal opinion in here, but I would provide him with a copy of the letter and I will provide for him a copy of the opinion on a without-prejudice basis.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I would like to take a short opportunity just to simply correct the record. The Minister of Economic Development has informed this House that I have somehow received some kind of information. In fact, I was informed in the briefing that the Yukon government was told in July about the bill. I was not informed by anyone else. I was informed by the Government of Yukon staff in the briefing. I would like that correction to be properly reflected in the Hansard of this House.
Hon. Mr. Harding: Mr. Chair, if the member opposite is trying to tell this House that they don't communicate on a consistent basis with the political staff in the federal minister's office, they are asking us to swallow something that I just don't consider to be a reality. That happens all the time.
Mr. Chair, I think that it's obvious that, in this case, there has been some extensive communication on a political level among the local Liberals and the federal Liberals.
Now, I have gone out of my way because I believe this is such an important issue for Yukoners. The members opposite can talk about me dropping the ball or trying to spread some blame all they want. I believe that what the federal government did here was a very important issue to Yukoners. That's why I'm prepared on a without-prejudice basis to give him a copy of the letter to the federal minister from the Government Leader as well as the opinion, because they should see that what has been done here was wrong. I think the Yukon Party's got it. Unfortunately, the defenders of the faith over there in the Liberal caucus don't really seem to understand that.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the only person not understanding something in this House is the Minister of Economic Development refusing to admit that he, too, was part of the problem in dealing with this act. Now, if the minister is suggesting that I failed to communicate with anyone, whatever their political stripe or whatever office they hold, he's wrong. Of course I communicate with people. I'd be foolish if I didn't. Just as the minister communicates with the NDP caucus in Ottawa and we get their motions every Wednesday.
The issue at hand, Mr. Chair, is the Yukon Oil and Gas Act. The issue that is at hand right now is what's important for Yukoners. That's what this is about; not the Minister of Economic Development's ego. The issue is what's right for Yukoners.
I am fully prepared, as is our caucus, to support this act. The minister has indicated he is fully prepared to supply information that we have asked for repeatedly in the House on a without-prejudice basis. We accept that. Now let's suggest to the minister that we lower the testosterone level in this Legislature and move on to what's important to Yukoners.
Hon. Mr. Harding: Absolutely. And, Mr. Chair, thank you for the lecture from the Liberal leader opposite, but let me tell the Liberal member opposite that what is important for Yukoners - I couldn't agree with her more on that question - is that the federal government respects the will of this Legislature in accordance with the unanimous vote of this Legislature on a bill we had every right to pass in this House. That's what's important to Yukoners.
How could the member be so out of touch with the issue here?
Now with regard to the legal opinion, I'm told it's 300 pages long, so it's going to take some time to do some photocopying.
Chair: Is there further general debate?
On Clause 1
Clause 1 agreed to
On Clause 2
Clause 2 agreed to
On Clause 3
Clause 3 agreed to
Title agreed to
Hon. Mr. Harding: I move you report Bill No. 64 without amendment.
Motion agreed to
Hon. Mr. Harding: I move that the Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Motion agreed to
Speaker resumes the Chair
Speaker: I will call the House to order.
May the House have the report from the Chair of the Committee of the Whole?
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Speaker, the Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 64, entitled Oil and Gas Act Confirmation Act, and directed me to report it without amendment.
Speaker: You have heard the report of the Chair of Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: I declare the report carried.
Bill No. 64: Third Reading
Clerk: Third reading, Bill No. 64, standing in the name of the hon. Mr. Harding.
Hon. Mr. Harding: I move that Bill No. 64, entitled Oil and Gas Confirmation Act, be now read a third time and do pass.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Minister of Economic Development that Bill No. 64, entitled Oil and Gas Confirmation Act, be now read a third time and do pass.
Some Hon. Member: Division.
Speaker: Division has been called. Mr. Clerk, would you poll the House.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Harding: Agree.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Agree.
Mr. McRobb: Agree.
Mr. Fentie: Agree.
Mr. Hardy: Agree.
Mr. Livingston: Agree.
Mr. Ostashek: Agree.
Mr. Phillips: Same as the last time, Mr. Speaker: agree.
Mr. Jenkins: Agree.
Ms. Duncan: Agree.
Mr. Cable: Agree.
Mrs. Edelman: Agree.
Clerk: Mr. Speaker, the results are 16 yea, nil nay.
Speaker: The yeas have it. I declare that Bill No. 64 has passed this House.
Bill No. 64 agreed to
Speaker: We are now prepared to receive the Commissioner, in her capacity as Lieutenant Governor, to give assent to the bill which has passed this House.
Commissioner enters the Chamber, announced by the Sergeant-at-Arms
Commissioner: Please be seated.
Speaker: Madam Commissioner, the Assembly has, at this present session, passed a certain bill to which, in the name and on behalf of the Assembly, I respectfully request your assent.
Clerk: Oil and Gas Act Confirmation Act.
Commissioner: I hereby assent to the bill as enumerated by the Clerk.
Commissioner leaves the Chamber
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
Hon. Mr. Harding: I move that the Speaker do now leave the Chair, and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Government House Leader that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Motion agreed to
Speaker leaves the Chair
Committee of the Whole
Chair: I will now call Committee to order. The time being close to 5:30 p.m., we will recess until 7:30 p.m.
Chair: I will call Committee to order.
Committee will be dealing with Bill No. 63, An Act to Amend the Dental Profession Act.
Bill No. 63 - An Act to Amend the Dental Profession Act
Chair: Is there any general debate?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I'd like to respond to the points that were raised by the opposition members in second reading.
An Act to Amend the Dental Profession Act was intended simply to produce more efficient administration and to update or remove redundant sections of the act. There was no provision for continuing education. The dental professions, when we consulted with them, did not request that. The optometrists had specifically requested the measure. Not all legislation governing professions does require continuing education.
There was also a question about why denturists weren't covered. In Canada, denturists are also known as "denture mechanics" and "denture technicians." The only denturist in the Yukon is regulated under the Denture Technicians Act.
Many jurisdictions have changed the name of their legislation to reflect the more common title of "denturist", and given the confusion that the member opposite raised, this is something I may consider doing here in the Yukon, as well; however, it is not part of the Dental Profession Act.
The final question was in relation to the registrar and how the amendments improve public protection. Quite simply, the act is amended to provide a section where the requirement to have a certificate of professional standing, confirming both their experience and their disciplinary record, must be submitted to the registrar. The section also allows the registrar to refuse licensing unless the person presents confirmation of their professional status.
Mr. Jenkins: Could we just look into the professional standings? Is the minister prepared to define that more specifically than what is outlined here?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: The professional standing is the requirement that the dentists prove their registration and prove their legitimacy to practice, according to meeting the requirements in the act.
Mr. Jenkins: If we could just explore with the minister the area of education, it seems when we look at the Dental Profession Act and the Optometrists Act, just because one group of professionals requests it and another does not, wouldn't it be in order to provide some consistency and have a uniform approach to the issue of ongoing education for the various professions?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, there is the requirement for the dental profession to meet the national exam. There has not been any indication of any difficulty. There haven't been a large number of complaints filed or investigations of dentists who have had complaints about their practice in the profession. I can simply say to the member that there are differences among the various professions with the exams that they have to pass, but they're all licensed according to meeting a standard of care that means that they have passed the national exam.
Mr. Jenkins: Recognizing that we're dealing at this time with two very similar types of legislation, one for the Dental Profession Act and one for the optometrists, would it not be prudent to apply a consistent approach for the issue of ongoing education to both of these acts? The only rationale that we are presented with here, Mr. Chair, is that the optometrists have requested it.
Given that there are only a very few optometrists in the Yukon, there appears to be some request by their profession to have ongoing education, specifically applied in their act, yet the dental profession has not requested it, nor is it included. Now, I'm of the opinion we should be consistent in our approach to both of these acts that we have before us and apply a uniform standard. Why are we not doing so?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: The amendments to the Optometrists Act have come about after some lobbying for the past number of years by the local members of the profession. The amendments to the Optometrists Act are to deal with the use of pharmaceuticals in the diagnosis and treatment of eye conditions, which is a relatively new standard and new examination. I believe that's why they had asked for additional training to be part of their profession's act.
I certainly can look further into the question about whether there may be need for a regular professional development component to the Dental Profession Act, and, if so, to deal with that.
Mr. Jenkins: In my investigation of what is going on in other jurisdictions, I refer specifically to the Dental Profession Act, and to British Columbia, where there is a provision in their act to require ongoing education for members of the dental profession. I inquired as to why, and it would appear that a number of years ago a number of dentists retired in other parts of Canada and chose to relocate to the Okanagan and to the Lower Mainland, and members of the dental profession there were flooded with quite a number of new dentists, and in order to block dentists coming in to any further extent, this provision was added to the act.
It was more of a blocking technique than it was to provide for ongoing education for anyone, or for any aims. That was the intent of that section on education. I'm curious as to whether - and we can deal with that in the Optometrists Act, - that was the thought given to that area, because both of these fields are rapidly evolving and rapidly changing. There are new technologies developed on an ongoing basis, so that the concept of continuing education for members of both of these professions is a valid concern, Mr. Chair.
I was wondering what the minister's thoughts were in that regard.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, the issue that the member has raised has not been brought to our attention here in the Yukon. Certainly, as I have indicated, I can talk further to the professionals and to my officials to see whether there is a requirement for an additional amendment to the Dental Profession Act.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, more to the point, I am looking for an approach that's consistent across both of these acts. We either have education in or education out. Is the minister prepared to obtain that if it's justifiable?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, I take the member's point. He has raised some questions that he said he would be pleased to discuss during Committee on the Optometrists Act, because they were related to the optometrists.
In relation to the Dental Profession Act, I have indicated to him that I will investigate and see whether there may be a need to add further amendments to the Dental Profession Act.
Mr. Jenkins: So is the minister suggesting that we stand this bill aside and then deal with the other issues until we have a response, or can we get a response at the break, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, I am not suggesting that we stand the bill aside. I would like to proceed with the questions on the clauses in the portions of the bill that are before us. Certainly, I can come back to him after a break regarding training for the dental profession.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, I have to echo a lot of what the Member for Klondike has to say. Now, there are very few dentists in Whitehorse. There are three optometrists, so it was pretty easy to do a survey with them, and there are actually very few dentists in Whitehorse. The dentists that I spoke to universally said that there was a need for more update in education for two reasons.
Number one, you talk about people's health here, and always we can get out of date very quickly in that area, and especially when new medical advances are made. So it makes sense, if we're thinking about better dental health of Yukoners, that we want to keep people up to date.
The second reason is that there are vast changes of technology. The Dental Association just recently, in the last two months, sent out a memo to all Canadian dentists saying that they need to update on prosthetics and dentures, for example. You know, if the Canadian Dental Association is saying that, then we need to be mindful of the fact that these changes are happening quickly.
We're talking about people's lives. It's not just the way people look or the way they chew their food, but all the various diseases that happen from the mouth. I think that it's important that we go back to the dentists here in Whitehorse - and there are very few in number - and talk to them about what they think is reasonable for continuing education in this field.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: The member has just made the same point that the Member for Klondike was asking about, and I will provide the same answer, which is that, as I've said, I will talk to the profession and see whether there may be a need to add additional amendments in relation to continuing education.
Mrs. Edelman: I suppose that I haven't made my point well, because the minister talks about going back and speaking, obviously, to the same person that they've been talking to all along. My point was that there are very few dentists in Whitehorse and it is very easy to go and do a complete survey of all the dentists in Whitehorse in a very short period of time on this one issue. That would be my point to the minister.
I don't see a terrible rush for us to get this through in the next three days. I don't believe it will make a great deal of difference and I think it's very easy to do that.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: As I indicated in the discussion at second reading, the changes in the Dental Profession Act have been examined by the dentists in the Yukon and their representative, the president of the Yukon Dental Association, Dr. R.E. Pearson. I do have a letter of support on file from Dr. Pearson, who represents the Yukon Dental Association. I've indicated that I can go back and confirm whether there is a need for continuing education and bring that forward if there is. However, I don't believe that that diminishes the need to proceed with the amendments that are before us and have been proposed to ease the administration of the act and remove some outdated sections.
Mrs. Edelman: I suppose the joy of living in a place with very little population is that you can do things that you can't do elsewhere in Canada.
Certainly, going back and speaking to the same person that the minister's department has been speaking to over and over again about the same issue is one way of approaching it. The other way of approaching it is to go back and speak to all the dentists in Whitehorse and see what their point of view is. To me, you know, it's really easy to do, and we are lucky that we can do that. It seems to me that, in view of the fact that it's a health issue, it's the very least we can do in this case.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, Mr. Chair, I'm not sure if the member opposite is suggesting that she doesn't have confidence in the president of the Yukon Dental Association. Let me repeat for her that the changes in the Dental Profession Act have been examined by the dentists - plural - of the Yukon, and that we have in fact consulted with local representatives of the dental industry. I am entirely prepared to confirm that these amendments are broadly supported by the dental profession, but I have no reason to doubt that the Yukon Dental Association, when it speaks in support of the legislation, does not have the support of its membership.
Mr. Phillips: The minister indicated that she had a letter from the president of the dental association. Maybe she could table that letter so we could see exactly what the president has said about the legislation, and if the letter in fact says everything that the minister says it says, I don't see any problem, from our perspective, with going through the bill as we have it in front of us. But when we get to the end of the bill, we should stand it aside in Committee, or at least the section where we might add a continuing education component, because the minister has given us an indication that she wants to get back to the dentists and ask whether they want that in.
What I'd hate to see happen is for us to pass this bill here and then have to wait another year for the bill to stack up with whatever other legislation there might be to find its place back in this Legislature. So, it's here now. As the Member for Riverdale South has said, it's a very small community. I'm sure that within a day or two we can get an answer from all the other dentists about whether they want to see a continuing education component, and we can insert it in the bill and do a better job of amending the Dental Profession Act.
So, I don't think it's an unreasonable request. If the minister could provide us with that letter, as well as assurances that we can stand aside the bill when we get to the section where we might add continuing education, and return to that in a day, or two, or three, or four - this is day one of 25, so we've got lots of time - to finish the bill off in a more comprehensive way.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, I have already agreed with the members opposite that that is what I would be prepared to do. I can't see the Dental Association having any objection to copies of their letter being released. However, since we're going to be coming back to this after we've gone through the present clauses, I would like to make a phone call and just confirm that there is no objection to the release of the letter.
Chair: Is there any further debate? Not hearing any, we will go clause by clause.
On Clause 1
Clause 1 agreed to
On Clause 2
Clause 2 agreed to
On Clause 3
Clause 3 agreed to
On Clause 4
Clause 4 agreed to
On Clause 5
Mrs. Edelman: I wonder if the minister could tell us what an "infamous conduct" is the profession of dentistry.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: As an example of infamous conduct, Black's Law Dictionary defines "infamous" as shameful or disgraceful, possessing notorious reputation, famous or well known in a derogatory sense. A board of inquiry would determine if infamous conduct fit the complaint that was before it.
Clause 5 agreed to
On Clause 6
Clause 6 agreed to
On Clause 7
Clause 7 agreed to
On Clause 8
Clause 8 agreed to
On Clause 9
Clause 9 agreed to
On Clause 10
Clause 10 agreed to
Title agreed to
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, I move that you report progress on Bill No. 63.
Motion agreed to
Chair: Committee will now go to Bill No. 61, entitled An Act to Amend the Optometrists Act.
Bill No. 61 - An Act to Amend the Optometrists Act
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: On the Optometrists Act, there was a question about the regulations that are required under several of the new sections. The intent is to have the regulations completed by the end of the year. We need to determine which therapeutic pharmaceutical agents will be allowed, what special procedures need to be followed in administering them and what qualifications an optometrist will need for certification.
There was also a question in relation to the subsection referring to passing the prescribed examination and why the prescribed examination had not been named. The reason why we have identified that by regulation is to make any further changes that may be required in the future.
The Canadian examiners in optometry may cease to exist, and the Canadian Association of Optometry or some other organization may decide to develop an assessment examination. Both the name of the examination and the name of the association that represents the professionals have changed from time to time. As an example, the name of the exam changed in 1994. So, rather than open up the act for legislative amendments every time there's a change in name, we have put that in regulations.
Mrs. Edelman: I need a little bit more clarification from the minister. She was talking about updates on the TPA list. Now, the TPA list is going to change from time to time. Is this going to be in regulations? What is the process for updating the TPA list?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Yes, the sections governing the TPAs will be in regulation. We will bring forward the regulations fairly shortly, but will be able to amend them as needed from time to time.
Mrs. Edelman: And clarification again on the timetable for the regulations - are we talking about bringing them forward by the end of this calendar year or this fiscal year? I can see that the minister is indicating that it will be the end of the calendar year.
Mr. Jenkins: Again, Mr. Chair, I raise the issue of ongoing or continuing education for members of this profession. It would appear that in the Yukon we have three optometrists that were consulted, and it would be interesting to know what is transpiring in other jurisdictions with respect to ongoing education for this profession in the same form as the issue of ongoing education for dentists. Would the minister be prepared to undertake such a review and advise us accordingly?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Yes, Mr. Chair, I thought that I had reviewed that information previously, but I don't see it here, so I will get back to the member on that.
Chair: Is there any further debate? I see none.
On Clause 1
Clause 1 agreed to
On Clause 2
Clause 2 agreed to
On Clause 4
Clause 4 agreed to
On Clause 5
Clause 5 agreed to
On Clause 6
Clause 6 agreed to
On Clause 7
Clause 7 agreed to
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I move that Bill No. 61, entitled An Act to Amend the Optometrists Act, be amended by changing the title on the title page to An Act to Amend the Optometrists Act.
Amendment agreed to
Title agreed to as amended
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, I move that you report Bill No. 61 out of Committee with amendment.
Motion agreed to
Bill No. 55 - Canadian Blood Agency/Canadian Blood Services Indemnification Act
Chair: Committee is now dealing with Bill No. 55, Canadian Blood Agency/Canadian Blood Services Indemnification Act. Is there general debate?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Prior to debating this bill, I would like to pass out a proposed amendment to the bill. It appears that in the copy that members were given, a line was left off the second page. It was the top line in the French version and the top line in the English version. I would like to pass that on.
Chair: Is there any general debate?
Mrs. Edelman: I had hoped that the minister was going to get back to us on a few of the issues that we brought up during second reading, and I wonder if he's able to do that now.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: On the question of indemnification, I haven't had a chance to check the nature of indemnification for other boards, but I can tell the member that this is standard throughout the country, in terms of indemnifying the members of the Canadian Blood Agency and Canadian Blood Services. It has been accepted by all other jurisdictions, with the exception of Quebec, as I referred to earlier and, as well, the Northwest Territories is in the same process.
Mrs. Edelman: One of the big reasons this is happening is because of the hep C issue and, of course, there are a number of different problems around blood throughout the world - contaminations, et cetera, et cetera. But I wonder if the minister, because he's recently back from a meeting with other health ministers, can give us an update on their hep C package and the way things look right now.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, at the most recent meeting in Regina on hepatitis C, there was considerable anticipation, I suppose one would say, around seeing what Mr. Rock would bring forward in terms of an expanded package. As the member is aware, earlier this year, there was a commitment to a compensation package for victims of tainted blood - specifically hepatitis C - in the window of 1986 to 1990.
Subsequent to that, because of the advocacy of some of the victims' groups, there was discussion among jurisdictions about the idea of expanding the pre-1986 and post-1990 window. Prior to the meeting in Regina, there was a meeting in June in Ottawa where that was a very major issue, and the groups made some representations to the ministers there.
The federal government has since come back, offering a package that does not give any direct compensation, as in monetary compensation, to people outside of 1986 to 1990 window, but, instead, has offered some funds beyond the window to jurisdictions for enhanced medical services for people who have been injured by blood.
We have yet to respond. We've been asked to consider it. Officials are discussing right now what that would mean. For us, it would be spread over a period of 20 years. It does not mean a great deal as it stands right now. We are going back to try and get a somewhat better deal.
What it would really do, however, is provide some services, particularly therapies, that are currently in use in some jurisdictions like ours - for example, the interferon types of treatments, which are not offered in some other jurisdictions.
We do offer interferon here, and the so-called combination therapies of interferon and ribavirin, and so we're still waiting to see what it will actually mean. I should say that, in general all the provincial jurisdictions, with the exception of Ontario, seem fairly amenable to Mr. Rock's package. Ontario has indicated that it will go alone. It's very difficult to see how they can do it. If, for example, we were to accept the kind of parameters that the hepatitis C Association of Canada has put forward. They want an initial $30,000 payment plus up to $30,000 per annum and, given the varying estimates of up to 40,000 people or more who may fall into that period outside of 1986-90, that would be an absolutely staggering amount and I, quite frankly, fail to see how Ontario is going to do that with the $200 million that they've allocated for that purpose.
Mrs. Edelman: I've written to the minister about this issue on behalf of a constituent of mine a couple of times and I need to have my memory refreshed. The latest offer was something like $20,000 over five years. Was that right? I wonder if the minister could give us an update on that?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, the original package, I think, offered up to - actually I think it was - about $30,000 a year, but it was based on severity of illness, and that essentially said that, depending on whether you were asymptomatic or what the impact was on your life - for example, if you had to leave work and you had loss of income and career possibilities because of your illness - your compensation would be higher; whereas if you were asymptomatic and had perhaps no physical impact on your life or your career, your compensation would be less. Essentially what will happen, or how it's being visualized, is that the funds that provinces and territories as well the federal government are bringing forward, which total about $1.1 billion - about $800 million from the federal government and about $300 million from the provinces and territories - would be put into a fund.
What's being proposed is to use probably a private company, that has experience in assessing claims and so on, say, for example, Blue Cross, or one of the companies that's currently in that field, to set up the program and set up the screening mechanism. Individuals would be required to provide medical data, and then an assessment would be made of the severity of the case, and recommendations for payments would follow, based on that.
But, once again, I think that entire process that was in place has largely been held up by the ongoing question of would Canada, and would the provincial jurisdictions, compensate people outside 1986 to 1990. At the Regina meeting in September, when it became clear that the federal government was not going down that path, the provinces backed away very quickly, because they realized what the financial impact would be.
Mrs. Edelman: Once again, for clarification, is it likely, in the minister's opinion, that there would be some sort of compensation for victims of hep C, within the window of 1986 to 1990? Would that be occurring sometime within the next two or three years? Are we talking about two years from now, three years from now? What sort of time line are we looking at?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I would venture that if all the issues around this can be resolved - and the appropriate structure could be put in place, and now we're over that hurdle of the extended compensation - I could see this taking place within the next year, at least the mechanism being set up. I may be optimistic, but I think it could take place once we've broken the back of the issue of compensation being extended, because that was the big question. How much is it? How many people? What kind of levels of compensation? How, for example, could you determine the reason for exposure to hepatitis?
There's been some question around why 1986 to 1990. 1986 to 1990 was the period in which the Krever Inquiry identified that there could have been testing, so-called surrogate testing, in place in Canada, but it was not done.
Therefore, the 1986 to 1990 was seen as the window of liability. I think now that the federal government has determined that they don't want to go outside that 1986 to 1990 window - it's very evident that provincial jurisdictions can't go outside that window, just because we don't have the resources - I think we can move ahead on the compensation package fairly quickly.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, the bill that we're discussing now talks about indemnification for people who serve on the recently created Canadian Blood Services. I believe it was created in September of 1998. The hepatitis C issue speaks about one type of disease that people can get from blood, and there are many that go through the blood system. I guess the only way to really stop that is by irradiating every pint of blood that we put into somebody, and irradiating blood is extremely expensive and is only done with really severe cancer patients.
What are we talking about? Are there other issues out there that we're looking at having to indemnify against? Is there another group out there talking about another type of disease? How are we going to be dealing with this in the future as Yukoners? Maybe the minister has an idea of where the country is going in this area.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, I think the member is probably familiar with the recent discussions on the question of Creutzfeldt-Jacob disease, which is sometimes called "mad cow disease." There has been some suggestion that individuals who are exposed to that not give blood. There was some discussion as to whether individuals from Britain, for example, who might have been exposed to Creutzfeldt-Jacob disease because of the entire tainted meat problem in Britain, should be discouraged from giving blood. Subsequent to that, I guess the decision has been made that there isn't evidence that this is transmittable through blood.
One of the issues that was discussed at some length at a number of the meetings on this whole question of blood - and I have to say that blood has dominated virtually every meeting for the past year, and I think part of the reason why we want to move this along is so we can actually get on to some other things - was to expand the compensation package.
Then we were cautioned by some of the individuals from the scientific community that we could be exposing the blood system to a very substantial liability, because we really don't know what other kinds of blood-borne diseases are out there. For example, hepatitis C is a disease where, even though people were aware of it, there were no effective tests for it prior to the 1980s. Hepatitis C was first noticed in the blood system back, I suppose, as far as the Korean war, when some soldiers began getting diseases similar to hepatitis, but they weren't quite hepatitis A or B.
Really, until there was the ALT test - the surrogate test - in 1986, there was no way of identifying hepatitis C. Are there other blood-borne diseases out there? The suspicion is that probably there are. I think that what has happened, though, out of the Krever Inquiry, and certainly out of the establishment of the Canadian Blood Services, there will be tremendous scrutiny of the blood system.
One of the problems that the Canadian Blood Services is going to have to wrestle with is the entire information system that follows a pint of blood from vein to vein. That was one of the problems with the Red Cross and that's something that CBS is going to have to wrestle with to get their own system in place.
There are liabilities out there. There are possibly diseases out there. I think the only thing we can really do is exercise the kind of discretion and scrutiny that the Canadian Blood Services is proposing to bring forward on this.
Mrs. Edelman: Throughout this act we talk about people being reasonable in the performance of their duties and that we would indemnify them if they do their duties to the best of their abilities. I suppose that's what I'm wondering about with this act. It's sort of a band-aid approach. You go back and indemnify the directors in the Canadian Blood Services and the Canadian Blood Agency prior to that for 10 years, but you don't really deal with the issue of how do we deal with people who get some sort of disease from the blood system. Is there a way that we will be dealing with people in the future when they inevitably will get something from the blood system? I'm wondering if that's part of the discussion. Is there a way that we'll deal with this in the future or are we just going to react with a big political brouhaha and not really help an awful lot of people, like we have not on the hepatitis C issue?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, I think, in general, probably what has happened is that out of the Krever Inquiry, and particularly initially the HIV question and then, of course, the hepatitis C subsequent to that, I think people have become considerably more aware of what their legal remedies are. I made reference to the people who are not covered under the hepatitis C package. Very likely, the Government of Canada, and I suspect the Red Cross and others, are going to be subject to legal action from this group who are claiming that they were also infected by blood. We'll just have to see where that entire question goes.
One of the things that was very present in the minds of the individuals when they were discussing the idea of whether they should expand out the package was that, while there was an understanding of liability in 1986 to 1990 because of the Krever Inquiry, when you get into compensating people for which there isn't a direct liability, but you're doing it on an ex gratia sort of basis, you then move into some very slippery ground. For example, it had been discussed at some meetings that we have the 1986 to 1990 package, which we've established, quite clearly, on liability. If you then came on and said, okay, the folks who are pre-1986 and post-1990 don't fall into that liability question, but because of compassion, because of concern, you're going to make an ex gratia payment, and quite obviously, because this group would be larger, you would have to work in some kind of differentiation of the package, we were advised that for us to do that would actually be unconstitutional because you cannot differ between, I guess, different levels of victims. So, in other words, if we tried to differentiate the package 1986 to 1990, and even offering an ex gratia payment of the pre-1986 and post-1990 - the same group - it would have to be on the exact same basis. We, being the provinces, territories and federal government, would have been okay to offer the 1986 to 1990 package to that group alone because it was clear liability. If we tried to expand it, it would have to be identical or we would be exposed to some Charter questions.
I think what will happen is that people will be increasingly litigious in their approach to the health system, and that was also another concern. I mean, if you compensate for hepatitis C, are you then obligated to compensate for a decision that was made by the medical system that later proved to be improper? Or the practice, perhaps, of vaccinations where there was a vaccine that perhaps went wrong, or even a medical practice that at one time seemed quite positive and later proved to be not as positive, would you then have to compensate people for every wrong of the medical system? That was certainly paramount in Mr. Rock's mind in making the decision not to expand out the compensation package, because I think he clearly understood where this could go. You could find yourself on a very, very slippery slope, and I think he said it well when he said that this could, in effect, bankrupt the medical system.
Mrs. Edelman: To go back then again, Mr. Chair - the Minister of Health here in the Yukon has agreed with the package. That was my understanding in one of the press releases. It was clear that the minister had agreed. I am wondering about that, because I do know that our federal member voted against the package. I just wanted the minister to reiterate his position that he did indeed agree with the package on hepatitis C.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: We did agree with the package on hepatitis C - the original package. We were prepared to increase our contribution, if there had been - and this is the big "if" - a commensurate amount from the federal government. So, in other words, if we had gone to Regina and Allan Rock had come forward and had said, "I have another $800 million that we are willing to put into compensation for people outside the 1986 to 1990 window. Are you prepared to sort of pony up your share of this on the same basis as the 1986 to 1990?" we said, "Yes, we would be."
When it became very clear that that wasn't going to happen, we realized that we simply couldn't. It would be beyond our means. I think that was the very clear stance of all the provinces, with the exception, of course, of Ontario. Quebec had an interesting stance, as Quebec always does. They said that they were willing to put $100 million toward an expanded compensation package for people outside of 1986-1990, but the federal government had to give them the $100 million that they could then give to the victims. Then the federal government could give money. It was one of those peculiar Quebec kinds of solutions to a federal-provincial issue.
The only people who, I think, dissented with it, was the Ontario minister, who was Witmer. She did this very publicly, but I think that, in a sense, they've sort of boxed themselves in, because they've committed to an expanded package, which is huge.
Mr. Jenkins: I'm interested in exploring with the minister if he's found out the reasons why Quebec is opting out of this program. There has to be some rationale as to why they don't want into it. I was wondering if the minister could enlighten us.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: As I indicated earlier, Quebec stated very clearly early on that they were not prepared to take part. I think the rationale at that time was that they saw themselves as not wanting to be part of a national system per se. They also felt that, for their own political purposes, to be seen to be cooperating on a national system with the federal government would perhaps have undermined their own political agenda.
It is very interesting, because it's one of those Quebec-in/Quebec-out sort of things. At various times, they make the suggestions that they don't want to be part of the system, but then, as the Canadian Blood Services came into effect, noises were being made that, while they would continue to have links with the Canadian Blood Services, they wouldn't be part of it. They would continue to have links with it and continue to probably adopt the same kinds of standards, but they wouldn't be part of it.
If we were buying fractionated products from the United States, they wouldn't be part of the Canadian Blood Services but they probably would use the Canadian Blood Services as a way to access some of those fractionated products. So, I think part of it is just how Quebec sees itself on many national issues. For example, the most recent statement that came out in the In Unison document on Canadians for disabilities specified that in all Canadian jurisdictions the federal government saw this as the national approach, the national vision and then there was a little disclaimer: Quebec does not see itself as part of the In Unison document; however, it subscribes to the same basic principles.
I think it's primarily political posturing and, as I said, depending on the minister of the day and depending on the temper of the time in Quebec, they can be either extraordinarily cooperative or they can stand outside.
As I said, M. Landry at every meeting, particularly on meetings around social union, would basically go there and recite the traditional Quebec position on all issues, which sort of ran like this: We don't want to be part of it, but give us the tax money or the tax points.
Most recently, with M. Landry's departure from the scene and the advent of the new Quebec minister - and I believe his name is M. Joseph Facal - we have seen an extraordinary change: participating, taking a lead on issues, first province to assent to points. It's quite extraordinary and I think it does signal within Quebec the idea that they want to demonstrate that they can be part of an agreement, but not part of a federation.
Mr. Jenkins: Could I just back up with the minister to the Canadian Red Cross and my recollection of the events leading up to its demise? A number of the tests that were available at the time, to ensure a reasonably safe blood supply, were too expensive, and the Canadian Red Cross could not entertain using them because of the additional expense. The additional cost would have had to have been passed on to the system. If we just think back to that time, Mr. Chair, and we look ahead now, what we have is now the demise of the Canadian Red Cross and the advent of the Canadian Blood Agency, which is the supplier of our blood products today. We're asked to indemnify and save harmless all their officials for carrying out their responsibilities.
When we look at the blood supply today, we know there's a test for hepatitis C. There is the possibility out there that mad cow disease might exist in the blood supply, and we also have the possibility that hepatitis X, Y and Z might exist in the blood supply that we are not familiar with or don't know anything about at this point. Yet, we put the blood through a process to ensure that it's safe, and that's to irradiate it. We're told that that can't be done at this juncture because of the high cost of this process. How would the minister look upon this process, in light of the scenario that I'm advancing - that we do have a process we can run the blood through to ensure that it is almost 100 percent safe? We don't know - it could be 100 percent safe, but way safer than the tests we're running on it, and yet we're not doing it. We're putting a band-aid on the process once again. I'm sure the parallels are there between the time that the Canadian Red Cross ran the blood supply and today. Now, why isn't that process being utilized? The answer is the cost.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Perhaps there are issues around cost, but I also think that, certainly from the presentations that we've had from the Canadian Blood Services, they're also looking at other issues. I would be less than candid in not saying that one of the major concerns that the Canadian Blood Services has is that donations have dropped off very substantially. For example, this past summer, particularly in larger jurisdictions such as Ontario and British Columbia, specifically the Lower Mainland area, there was a real shortage of whole blood products.
Coming out of the whole question of the safety of blood are the issues around testing and the issues around scrutiny. The Canadian Blood Services will be considerably more transparent than perhaps the Red Cross was, but there's increasing interest in the whole question of artificial products that are coming on stream. Increasingly, there is a tendency toward - not quite blood-less - surgical techniques that require less volume of transfusion, and hopefully by that, there's less chance of contamination.
We've seen here, for example, and in other jurisdictions, the autologous blood system, where people actually store up their own blood as a hedge for surgery. In other words, if you knew you were going into to have your gallstones removed or something, you could actually bank blood toward that. I was going to say a nose job or something like that, but I realized that I don't know how much blood would go into a nose job.
I think the whole question of how people are reacting to the blood shortage and the lack of whole blood products is certainly being manifested in a whole variety of ways. We do have a serious problem here. Part of it, I think, has resulted in the whole issue around blood - the whole HIV and hepatitis C - that somehow people in Canada have become less willing to give blood because it is almost as if, by giving blood, they could be somehow contaminated. It's very difficult to understand that, but at the same time I think it's probably a reaction to so much that's gone on.
I think the Canadian Blood Services will be considerably more responsive. It will be, in a sense, owned by the governments, so I think there will be a greater degree of accountability, and I think that, given the past history, they will be a lot more open to examining alternatives for blood safety.
Chair: Is it the members' wish to take a brief recess? Ten minutes.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. Is there any further debate on Bill No. 55?
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, just before the break, I was asking the minister about the parallels that existed a few years ago in the blood collection arm of the Canadian Red Cross that led to the demise of the Canadian Red Cross as an agency for the blood collection, and where we could be in five or 10 years' time with this Canadian blood agency. Given that there is a process to purify blood today, it's not being used because of its high cost. Thinking back to the Canadian Red Cross: the reason that they offered was that the tests for these impurities that might, or could have been, in the blood system, were too expensive to entertain on an ongoing basis. Why aren't we considering irradiating all blood being used today? The answer is the cost. But that's the reason given all along by the Canadian Red Cross as to why they didn't perform these tests. Now, we're strangely paralleling coincidences. Why don't we just go ahead with that process, to ensure that the blood supply is as safe as it possibly can be? Why don't we do that at this juncture?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, I'm not sure if cost was the exclusive reason. I think when one looks back - and I suppose hindsight is 20/20 - so much about blood has been so misunderstood over the centuries. Back in the early years, diseases were attributed to humours in the blood. It really wasn't until the eighteenth century, when William Harvey discovered the principle of the circulation of blood, that we really understood its role in human physiology. Even back in the period of the 1960s and 1970s when the AIDS and HIV epidemic was getting going, there was considerable dispute as to whether HIV was even a blood-borne disease.
As I said earlier, the whole question of hepatitis C as a separate disease was not clearly understood even into the 1980s. There were suggestions that some tests were being done in Europe as early as 1980. The ALT test was being used in the United States, but even that test did not show hepatitis C as a distinct difficulty. What it showed was evidence of liver damage.
So, I think there were a number of things. Certainly, probably cost was one, but there was also the question of scientific basis and scientific evidence that probably wasn't as clear as it should have been.
All I can suggest is that, no doubt, if irradiation of blood proves to be the answer to this, it will likely be part of the Canadian blood system. But I'm not as versed in hematology as I perhaps should be, to give a definitive answer one way or another as to whether irradiation of blood is indeed the answer, and if indeed the major impediment is that of cost. I suspect that it's probably a combination of several factors - cost being one, but I would also suggest that there's some scientific basis which would not clear up all of the problems possibly present in blood.
Mr. Jenkins: The other area where I didn't receive an answer from the minister is concerning the trend today for government to ensure that the officers and directors of corporations are becoming more and more responsible for the affairs of that corporation. There is a downloading and the removal of a lot of the protection that corporations previously held, or had, for their officers and directors. Now, those individuals are virtually responsible for income tax, employee withholding tax and any subsequent tax. The environmental issue for which no liability insurance can be obtained is also downloaded on to the shoulders of officers and directors. That's the trend on the industry side, and government is ensuring that that happens. Then we have the trend on the government side for all their employees, all their agencies, and all their corporations to indemnify and save harmless virtually of these individuals in that pool. The reason that's offered is that we want to ensure we have a capable group of individuals in that system to oversee it, and we want to ensure that we have the best available personnel, and we want to make sure that they're protected. Why is the trend in industry and commerce going in one direction and government and government agencies going the opposite direction? Why is this that way, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: There's one essential difference between something like the Canadian Blood Services and, perhaps, a company like Monsanto, or a company of that nature. Monsanto is a private corporation that's devoted to profit. It makes profits for its shareholders. It makes decisions that impact on individuals' lives. It may make decisions and actions that impact on the environment.
The Canadian Blood Services is a non-profit agency. Basically, what it's devoted to doing is making sure that there's a blood supply in Canada, and that it's free of personal costs - so, in other words, we don't have to buy units of blood - and there is no profit or personal gain flowing back to the people who run this non-profit agency. They may be compensated for their time, travel et cetera, but I would suggest there's a considerable difference between an officer of a company, who is perhaps pulling down several million dollars in compensation, and an individual who's serving in a non-profit agency, such as the Canadian Blood Services. That's what makes them distinctly different.
If we want people to serve in these capacities, we have to be willing to indemnify them for any liability that they might find. I would suggest that the Canadian Blood Services will be having its own insurance system; however, what we'd be guarding those individuals against would be anything in excess of insurance coverage. As well, I would seriously doubt whether this would extend to some of the liability that might flow out of such things as, perhaps, withholding. This would indemnify people against an action because of decisions they made running the Canadian Blood Services that would impact on people's health.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, the minister's explanation does hold water for a corporation that is in the public sector earning an income and its motive is profit, but what would the explanation be for non-profit organizations that a number of us here serve on the board of directors of? We're still liable. We're not indemnified. We don't have any indemnification or save-harmless clause. We're responsible for the actions of that non-profit group that we sit on the board of directors of, represent and volunteer our time for. We're not even compensated for travel or anything else, and certainly no wages are paid or honorariums are paid. Now, what's the justification there, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Mr. Chair, I can't comment on that particular organization. I do know that I have served on non-profit agencies before that did have indemnification, and I suppose it would really depend on the nature of the organization.
For example, the Member for Riverdale South referred to the hospital board. Naturally, as an agency where there would be probably an element of medical risk, it would be more necessary to indemnify a person as, say, a person belonging to a non-profit agency where the obvious risk would be considerably less. I suppose a person, say, could get hit in the eye with a spinning roulette ball, or whatever, but I think it really comes down to the nature of risk of the particular organization that the member may be referring to.
Mr. Jenkins: But the minister has to concur with the premise that there is a double standard being created here - one for government, one for everyone else - with respect to indemnifying with a save-harmless clause. The minister must concur with that statement.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I would suggest that, once again, it would largely depend on the nature of the non-profit agency.
In this case, we're asking people to serve on an agency that is dealing with a product that has been the subject of considerable litigation and considerable interest - considerable legal actions and claims. Therefore, there would be a heightened reluctance - and certainly on my part - to serve on a board of that kind unless I had some assurance that by serving on it I wouldn't open myself up to major exposure for liability. I could understand that very much.
I suppose that if I belonged to a non-profit agency where the probability of being sued for the actions of that agency - well, I don't know, suppose you belonged to the board that selected the Governor General's book prize, you probably wouldn't likely be sued. You'd probably be the object of some hard feelings, but I don't think you'd be sued.
So, I really think it has to do with the nature of the liability that one is incurring, and given what we're asking the Canadian Blood Services to do, I think that it's completely understandable that we would have to indemnify people to this degree.
Chair: Is there further general debate? I see none.
On Clause 1
Clause 1 agreed to
On Clause 2
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I would like to bring forward the proposed amendments to this bill that I earlier mentioned - the two lines that were missed on the second page: in the English version, adding after the word "Canadian," the following: "Blood Agency or Canadian Blood Services"; and on page 2 of the French version, deleting the expression "insuffisante à cet égard" and substituting for it the following: "genre contre la responsibilité personnelle ou la insufficiant à cet égard."
Chair: Do the amendments carry?
Amendments to Bill No. 55 agreed to
Clause 2 agreed to as amended
On Clause 3
Clause 3 agreed to
On Clause 3
Clause 3 agreed to
On Clause 4
Clause 4 agreed to
Title agreed to
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I move that you report Bill No. 55 out of Committee with amendment.
Motion agreed to
Chair: Committee will now proceed with Bill No. 62, An Act to Amend the Child Care Act.
Bill No. 62 - An Act to Amend the Child Care Act
Chair: Is there any general debate?
Mrs. Edelman: We were discussing this in second reading. My colleague had a concern about possible harassment by Health and Social Services staff doing, say, repeat inspections. What is the appeal process in the department? How would someone bring a complaint forward if that was, in fact, happening to them?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I can tell the member that, in this case, what really originated this issue was the fact that the two inspectors came to the premises, and the person who was the operator of the day home was not present at the time. There was another individual in place. They informed the person of their reason, went in and did the inspection. Subsequent to that, the owner/operator objected for the fact that she wasn't there, et cetera, et cetera.
The complaint was lodged with the department, and the department basically responded that they felt that they were in the right. The individual chose then to go to the ombudsman, and a complaint was filed in January 1997. Subsequent to that, the individual was dissatisfied with the action that the ombudsman gave, and commenced a legal action against the department and individual employees.
Part of the basis for that legal work was the challenge of section 20, based on the recommendations of the ombudsman. The ombudsman agreed with us on the principle of spot inspections, but they felt that there were some administrative and legal questions in there that needed to be clarified.
Based on that, we have followed through on the recommendations of the ombudsman. This was their recommendation - that we clear it up - so, subsequent to that, we have done so.
Mrs. Edelman: Our caucus is quite aware of the issues that led up to the amendment that's before us today. I suppose that I still don't have much of an answer.
Let's say that someone who owns a day home is being repeatedly - basically - harassed by Health and Social Services staff who do a number of inspections, shall we say. Now, I don't think that there's a day home in the Yukon that wouldn't be proud to open their doors to an inspection. I don't think that that's the issue at all.
The problem I have with this particular amendment is the fact that there doesn't seem to be any recourse for people who have problems with the staff of Health and Social Services fulfilling their duties. A prime example of that would be the people that brought to the department their complaints about the group homes that the Department of Health and Social Services are responsible for.
People brought those complaints to the department and those complaints were minimized and ridiculed. They eventually disappeared into the system. Plainly, there was no recourse for those people. There was nothing that they could do. These were Health and Social Services staff who were responsible and it's Health and Social Services staff that would be doing these inspections.
All I'm saying is that you're giving people an awful lot of ability to abuse their position. Not that I think that Health and Social Services staff would do that, but it's always a possibility. What recourse and what protection does somebody have operating this type of business to protect them from some type of harassment?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I'm glad the member hasn't raised the spectre of the day care Gestapo - somewhat a frightening thought.
I can tell the member that this has been discussed in some considerable detail with the Child Care Board. They are very much in support of the concept of spot inspections.
We are also cognizant of the fact that not only are we giving people this legislative power - and I have no reason to believe that they would ever abuse this - we've also provided those individuals with inservice training. As to the legal issues that are arising, and their roles and responsibilities, we've formalized the kinds of things that have to be checked off. It's not sufficient to go in and say this, that, or the other thing needs improving. There has to be a checklist, where it has to be formalized. So, in a sense, you're identifying those things that need compliance, and would probably result in a further check to make sure they had been in compliance - those things where there's areas for improvement needed - and leaving some guidance for the best practices.
There are also places on that checklist for positive comments, where we feel that the day home or the day care has been in substantial compliance and, perhaps, exceeding that. We think that this is going to help the staff that carry out the inspection of facilities. It will also help the child care operators who will be affected, because they will have, probably, a better yardstick to be measured against. They'll know what they need to do better.
Failing that, there can be complaints brought to the Child Care Board on improper actions or harassment. I've met with the child care board and they've brought issues to me. I raised this particular aspect with them. They were the most supportive of this as being a necessary element in child care. They felt that to abandon the idea of spot checks would pose some tremendous difficulties for maintaining standards in both day cares and family day homes.
Mrs. Edelman: I'm not disputing the fact that there are some real benefits to doing spot checks. Certainly when my children were in day cares, and day homes, I would often drop by just to see how things were going, and was always welcome. The people who ran those day homes and day cares were very proud of the fact that they were open to that.
What my concern is, and it still hasn't been answered, is that if someone is having a problem with the people who are doing the inspections, what do they do? Am I to understand from the minister that they are to go to the Child Care Board, which has no ability to enforce and has no jurisdiction in this area whatsoever? What does a person do?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: No, I wasn't suggesting that they go directly to the Child Care Board. What I'm suggesting is that if they're unhappy with the results of complaints that they take to the department, they do have another avenue and that is the Child Care Board.
So if, for example, we had a case of an issue such as perhaps a family day home being subjected to what they felt were onerous inspections, the complaint was brought to the department, the department said no, we feel that these are warranted under section 20 of the Child Care Act, what I'm suggesting is that there is yet another avenue outside of the government, being the Child Care Board, where they can bring this to the attention of the board and the board in turn can inform the minister of the day as to a problem that they see occurring.
In effect, this is what happened with this particular issue. The Child Care Board was very, very prompt in responding to me and saying that they felt that spot inspections were warranted and that they were supportive of it, and they felt that anything we could do to clarify that would be positive. So, that's what we did.
Mrs. Edelman: Well, Mr. Chair, I wonder if the minister could clarify: is there somewhere in the regulations and somewhere in the act that outlines an appeal process for a complaint process so that if someone who operates a day home or a day care does have a problem - and you know, this is just on the wild chance that something like this might ever happen; it probably won't - what do they do?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: A colleague made a facetious suggestion.
I don't have the full act here, but I could certainly take a look at it and find the appropriate section in there.
However, this has not arisen as an issue before. It has arisen as an issue in this one case and it has arisen as an issue with one particular operation, but I think overall we haven't had any problems with compliance with spot inspections. There haven't been any issues on this. I mean, there are obviously issues brought to my attention on a variety of other things having to do with child care, but certainly this hasn't been one except for this one circumstance.
I don't have the full act here, so I can't comment on all the appeal procedures, but there would clearly be a method by which people could bring it to the attention of the relevant authorities, and the necessary appeal procedures could be instituted.
Mr. Cable: I don't think there is any problem with the minister's proposition that spot inspections should be authorized. I think the Yukon Party and the Liberal Party both support the government in what the minister is attempting to do, but there are some reservations about what these words actually say. If I can read to the minister what somebody can reasonably read into this new subsection, it could say that an inspector may enter any place inclusive of a building that is also a private dwelling at any time when a program is being offered, any number of times, without a warrant, and without grounds for doing so being spelled out to the building owner. One could read that into the words.
I'm wondering whether the minister really wants to give that wide an interpretation, or whether he could come up with some better wording that would meet the goal of authorizing spot inspections.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: We posed the problem, based on the recommendations of the ombudsman, and this was the recommendation that we go with.
I don't find this, I suppose, particularly onerous, because it basically restricts the entry into a child care centre program or a family day home program to any time when the program is being offered. So, in other words, we're not saying that this is an open licence to come into a house at any time. I think what it really does is that it restricts it to the hours of operation and to the facility itself. So, in other words, say a person is using a portion of their home for this program, it would imply to me that the inspection would be restricted to that area and presumably to an area that the children would be using.
For example, if there was a portion of the yard that the children would play in, that would be the area that would be subject to inspection. If the program was being offered in, say, a wing of the house, a basement, or however the day home operator chooses to structure it, that would be the area that would be subject to inspection. And, of course, the wording suggests here that that would only be done when the program is in place and not after-hours or in areas that would normally be an individual's private quarters in that day home. So, I think the safeguards are there.
I suppose when one does seek a licence for a day home or a day care facility, there is a suggestion that one does surrender - as in any licensing - a certain amount of freedom in return for the things that flow from that licence. So, for example, if one is in a licensed establishment, there would probably be some expectation that you would be subject to, for example, liquor licence inspections, fire marshall inspections, and those kinds of things. I don't see this as being particularly different.
The individual in question is a licensed facility. Presumably, being a licensed day care or licensed day home facility, you would also be subject to having some of the children there subsidized to one degree or another. You may, in fact, if you're one of those centres that happens to have qualified at a particular time be receiving a direct operating grant or some of the other financial support that flows.
So, I think there is an expectation that in doing that - in other words, to be licensed - an individual does surrender a certain amount of, perhaps, their normal protections that they would ordinarily enjoy.
Mr. Cable: I don't disagree with the minister, except to say that I don't think they surrender all of their protections.
Now, if the minister will remember the debate on Bill C-68, there was a great brouhaha about the right of peace officers to enter buildings where they thought there was an offence being committed - you know, perhaps an unlicensed gun - and then there was another section that talked about the necessity of warrants for entry into dwelling houses, and here we have a section where there is absolutely no restriction whatsoever on the inspector. The purpose of the inspection isn't even spelled out, and the number of times that the inspection could take place isn't spelled out. And the area - I think the minister indicated that if there was an area in the building that was used as a dwelling house, then probably they wouldn't go into that area. But it doesn't say that. The inspector is given a complete blank cheque, and I wonder if the minister really intends to do that.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I suppose the image of toddlers with firearms is a little daunting, but I can't see the comparison actually, because it says "enter any place where a child care centre program or a family day program is being offered at any time when the program is being offered." So, in other words, what's being suggested is entering any place where the child care centre program or family day home program is being offered. That to me would suggest that you can enter the place where the program is being offered but not areas that would not be associated with it. So, for example, if we have a day care that, just by way of illustration, would be in a small plaza, that would indicate that the child care inspectors could go in there, but the other premises of that plaza would not be subject to an inspection by our inspectors. At the same time, it would restrict those people from doing the inspection to only during the period of time when the program is being offered, so in other words, at whatever time it starts - for example, at 7:00 a.m. and perhaps ending at 5:00 p.m. So, I think the safeguards are clear in the locale and the time.
With regard to the frequency of inspections, I think the nature of child care would suggest that if a person see perhaps an unguarded piece of machinery in one area, that would suggest that there needs to be something done with either the removal or the guarding of that material.
The individual would be identified as needing to put that in compliance. The inspectors would leave, they would come back, presumably to see if those guidelines had been followed, in the same manner that perhaps a public health officer might come in to see if certain health standards are being followed, and if they're not - let's say, for example, if there are problems with hygiene of bathrooms - they would come back until those things are brought into compliance. So, I don't see that as being particularly onerous. I see that as being just a matter of responsibility.
Mr. Cable: Well, I'm not talking about what probably will happen in the vast majority of cases; what I'm talking about is what could happen. Good legislation would protect the child care centre or the family day home operator as well as permit the government to enter for spot inspections - as well as to meet the minister's goals.
So, there's no protection here with respect to the reason for the entry. It's not spelled out. It just suggests that there is an inspection to be going on, but it doesn't spell out that it's a spot inspection. It doesn't spell out that there is a limitation on the number of times - that people can just go back and bang on the door every 10 minutes. Surely we can come up with something a little better than what we've got here to balance the rights of both parties.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, I suppose a person could insert the word, say, for example, "reasonable", but then that becomes what is then seen as "reasonable". If we put on a qualifier such as "reasonable", I can tell you that we would probably be back here within another year because someone would contend that having been visited twice in a period of four months is not reasonable, even though there may be good reason.
I can just assure the member that when I've discussed it with the Child Care Association, they were very clear that this is something that they wanted to maintain. They felt it was necessary for the integrity of the system and they felt that this was one way to ensure the quality of a day care. If, for example, you've got children in a day care or a licensed family day home, are they exceeding the limitations in terms of space, in terms of fire safety, et cetera, et cetera?
Are the standards of hygiene being met? Are the standards of programming being met? I think that for all of those things, the Child Care Association has made it very clear that they see inspections as being a necessary safeguard for the welfare of the children. I would suggest that, with the one exception that we've had, this has not been an issue for child care centres or family day homes.
Mr. Cable: I don't think we're having an argument here on the desirability of authorizing spot inspections. I thought he prefaced that quite awhile ago. So, we're not arguing about that. We're arguing about whether the words give the inspector a much larger stretch than was intended by the minister when he issued his instructions.
I wonder if he could ask his staff, or whoever gives legal advice, whether the interpretation I put on it originally could validly be brought forward by somebody who wanted to challenge the legislation? It says, I think, "that any inspector may enter any place, inclusive of a building that is also a private dwelling, at any time when a program is being offered, any number of times, without a warrant and without grounds for doing so being spelled out to the building owner". The latter, I suggest, is inherent in the verbiage that the minister has brought forward because there's no grounds spelled out. The spot inspection rationale is not inherent in the words in the section he's brought forward.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, I think the nature of the spot inspection is basically just to follow that things are being met. I think if we were to take a look at the whole question of what the - I suppose an analogous situation might be when we get a driver's licence. We do surrender some certain rights that we have, in terms of freedom from the normal process of a search and entry, and things of that nature.
When we are licensed to drive a car, it is assumed that we relinquish that. I would suggest that, in other ways, when we are licensed, we also surrender certain aspects of our liberty in return for being licensed. This does not appear to me to be an overly demanding piece of legislation. I have sent it on to the department to see if there is, indeed, any question as to whether the word "reasonable", or whatever, has to be inserted. I have yet to get an answer back on that. I've asked them to run it by Justice.
As we have taken this through Justice and it has been reviewed by Justice, I would assume that those very fine legal minds that we have have pondered this and have certainly probably pondered it in relation to Charter questions as well. So, I would have to assume that they have taken a look at this and have found it reasonable.
Mr. Cable: Liquor inspectors, I think, need reasonable grounds for entering a building.
Some Hon. Member: (inaudible)
Mr. Cable: I've just had some new legal advice here - 300 pages of it.
I wonder if the minister could do this. It's getting late at night and I'm sure we're going to pass his bill. Could he actually just satisfy us tomorrow that this verbiage that he's brought forward does not give rise to the interpretation that I've put forward to him?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I will certainly take that to the department first thing in the morning. I'm sure they'll get a Justice opinion, because I don't want to find myself in a couple of years in front of the Supreme Court of Canada with one of my inspectors being charged with an illegal entry into the Happy Bunny Family Day Home. It would be very embarrassing to be there in front of all the Justices, defending the fact that we went in to check on the snacks.
I will take this to the department tomorrow morning, and I will get the member as much assurance as I can that we are operating within the law and we are not violating anyone.
Mr. Chair, I move that you report progress on Bill No. 62.
Motion agreed to
Chair: Mr. Harding.
Hon. Mr. Harding: I move that the Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Motion agreed to
Speaker resumes the Chair
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
May the House have a report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole?
Mr. McRobb: Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 63, An Act to Amend the Dental Profession Act, and directed me to report progress on it.
Further, Committee has considered Bill No. 61, An Act to Amend the Optometrists Act, and Bill No. 55, Canadian Blood Agency/Canadian Blood Services Indemnification Act, and directed me to report them with amendment.
Further, Committee has considered Bill No. 62, An Act to Amend the Child Care Act, and directed me to report progress on it.
Speaker: You have heard the report of the Chair of Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: I declare the report carried.
Hon. Mr. Harding: I move that the House do now adjourn.
Speaker: It has been moved by the government House leader that the House do now adjourn.
Motion agreed to
Speaker: This House now stands adjourned until 1:30 p.m. tomorrow.
The House adjourned at 9:28 p.m.
The following Sessional Papers were tabled November 2, 1998:
Conflict of Interest Commission Annual Report (July 1997 to June 1998) (Speaker Bruce)
Auditor General: Report on the Consolidated Financial Statements of the Government of the Yukon Territory for the year ended March 31, 1998 (Speaker Bruce)
Deductions from the indemnities of members of the Legislative Assembly made pursuant to subsection 39(6) of the Legislative Assembly Act: Report of the Clerk of the Yukon Legislative Assembly (dated November 2, 1998) (Speaker Bruce)
Cabinet Commission on Energy Final Report (September 1998): Toward a comprehensive energy policy for the Yukon (McRobb)
Yukon forest strategy: A vision for Yukon's forests (October 1998) (Fentie)
Public Accounts of the Government of the Yukon Territory for the year ended March 31, 1998 (McDonald)