Thursday, November 5, 1998 - 1:30 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order. We will proceed at this time with prayers.
Speaker: We will proceed with the Order Paper.
Are there any tributes?
In remembrance of Richard Field
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the Yukon Party caucus and office of the official opposition, I would like to take this opportunity to pay tribute to a long-time Yukoner and Dawsonite - and a friend of mine - Mr. Richard Field.
Dick Field was born at Toot Lake, Northwest Territories. His parents, Poole Field and Marie Adele Lafferty, also originated from the Metis area and were pioneers at heart. Having been raised in a number of remote northern areas, Dick became familiar with the languages of the Cree, Slavey and Inuit, among others, and learned the art of trading, hunting, trapping and prospecting with the help of his father.
Dick came from a family of pioneers. During the Klondike Gold Rush, Dick's father, along with Tom Hebert, brought police dogs in overland from Winnipeg. During World War II, the Field family worked for the U.S. Navy in the Arctic and, after that, in the mining field. Shortly after that, Dick went to work for the reindeer station where he became an expert in the skinning and cutting of meat.
When his father passed away, Dick and his mother ventured west to the Yukon and moved to Dawson to work for St. Mary's Hospital. Dick then went on to work for the Yukon Consolidated Gold Corporation and then went on to work for the Government of Yukon as the Dawson ferry captain.
From that time on, Dick remained working on the ferry during the summer months and operating equipment for the Government of Yukon during the winter.
Dick was a devoted northerner who was known for his dedication to his family and for carrying on the traditions of his people. Though he never had the opportunity to go to school, Dick's determination enabled him to read and write through self-learning and from what his mother had taught him.
After Dick's initial bout with cancer, the doctors told him he had only a short time to live. Having had a strong faith in the traditional ways of his people over the course of his life, Dick went through a traditional healing program. The help Dick received through the healing program, coupled with his strong determination, enabled him to deal with his long illness for a number of years. Remarkably, he recovered in such a way that he was able to return to his family while also being able to enjoy the long days of the Yukon summer, fishing.
A man of true dedication, with a heart of gold, Dick Field will be missed by his wife Rita, his children, his grandchildren and family at large.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
In remembrance of John Hopkins
Mr. Cable: I rise to pay tribute to John Hopkins, who passed away in Whitehorse on May 9 in his 75th year. John was born in Zambia and educated in England and Switzerland.
He joined the British Army in the infantry and served in the Royal Sussex and South Lancashire regiments, in northern Europe. He came to Canada in 1951, and married in 1958 in Montreal.
John and his wife Jo raised their family in Aylmer, Quebec, where he founded the Aylmer Soccer Club. He was a lifetime jogger.
The Hopkins moved to the Yukon in 1983, where John's great love of dogs led him to become very active in the dog mushing community. He was also a proud member of the Whitehorse branch of the Royal Canadian Legion.
I came to know John shortly after he came to the Yukon, when he was an adjuster with the Underwriters Adjustment Bureau. Though we would generally be on the opposite sides, I was struck by his fair, but firm, approach to settling disputes.
John was buried in Tagish Cemetery, and is survived by his wife, Jo, and children Mark, William, Edward, and Katie; and grandchildren Owen, Christopher, Benjamin, Sophie and Jack.
Speaker: Introduction of visitors?
Are there any returns or documents for tabling?
Tabling returns and documents
Ms. Duncan: Yesterday, on a point of order, I responded to statements by the Minister of Economic Development that, somehow, the Yukon Liberal caucus was not in favour of either the Nisga'a treaty or the Yukon umbrella final agreement.
Mr. Speaker, the public record, in order to be of service to Yukoners, must accurately reflect our position. I have -
Hon. Mr. Harding: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order.
Point of order
Speaker: On a point of order.
Hon. Mr. Harding: Mr. Speaker, this is the tabling of documents. This is not a speech opportunity for the leader of the Liberal Party to try and put some farcical argument forward that denies their close connection to the B.C. Liberal Party.
Ms. Duncan: On a point of order.
Speaker: On the point of order.
Ms. Duncan: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I was about to say that I was about to table a document, which is the section of the Order Paper that we are in.
Speaker: On the point of order, there is no point of order. Would the member please table the document?
Ms. Duncan: I have for tabling a document, a letter I wrote July 31, 1998, to B.C. Liberal leader Gordon Campbell, outlining our unequivocal support for both the Yukon umbrella final agreement and the Nisga'a treaty. I have it for tabling today.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I have a legislative return for tabling.
Speaker: Are there any reports of committees?
Are there any petitions?
Are there any bills to be introduced?
Introduction of bills
Bill No. 58: Introduction and First Reading
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: I move that Bill No. 58, entitled An Act to Amend the Wildlife Act, be now introduced and read a first time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. Minister of Renewable Resources that Bill No. 58, entitled An Act to Amend the Wildlife Act, be now introduced and read a first time.
Motion for introduction and first reading of Bill No. 58 agreed to
Speaker: Are there any notices of motion?
Notices of motion
Ms. Duncan: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT this House recognizes that
(1) the effects of tropical storm "Mitch" have ravaged Central America to the degree that countries in that region are faced with critical survival and recovery situations; and
(2) there exist within the Yukon connections on several levels to Central America, and;
THAT this House commends the relief efforts of Canadian agencies already mobilized in aid of Central America and calls on the Government of Yukon to lend whatever support they are able to the relief effort.
Speaker: Are there any statements by ministers?
Film industry location incentive
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I'm very pleased to inform the House of a new policy of the Tourism department. This new policy will help create jobs and stimulate local business activity within the Yukon.
As members are aware, the Yukon has been very successful in attracting film and commercial activity to the territory since the office of the film commission was established in 1991. Over the past four years, film production by Canadian and American production companies has put between $2 million and $3 million a year into the Yukon's economy. In fact, for every $1.00 that we spend to encourage this industry, the return to our economy has been nearly $30.
One expert describes the film industry as "knowledge-based, high growth, labour-intensive, export oriented, culturally significant and environmentally friendly". That makes it a good fit for the Yukon, when we are working to strengthen and diversify our economy.
Today I'm pleased to announce that we are increasing our efforts to attract film production. The supplementary budget tabled this week sets aside $50,000 as a Yukon film location incentive fund for the balance of this year.
Mr. Speaker, this is the first time that any Yukon government has offered a direct incentive of this kind to encourage producers of feature films, movies of the week and commercials to come here to the Yukon. This fund will provide a flexible deal maker by helping to offset transportation costs and providing incentives to use Yukon labour and film shoots. It will help level the playing field between the territory and southern locations.
For example, the fund would offer a rebate of up to 35 percent in eligible Yukon labour costs for targeted productions, such as future films, movies of the week and would also allow for rebates on travel and transportation from Vancouver of up to 50 percent for eligible commercials.
The most important feature of this fund would be its flexibility. It can be used in various ways to help clinch a deal that will bring production dollars to the Yukon.
Mr. Speaker, film activity provides direct employment and training opportunities for Yukon people. It brings new business to local hotels, restaurants, rental and aviation companies, to name just a few. It also supports our effort to attract tourism by showing Yukon images to audiences around the world.
Film-makers come here for our scenic wilderness. They also come because we can offer snowscapes earlier in the fall and later in the spring than many other Canadian jurisdictions.
In fact, I'm pleased to note that some ads designed by our own Queen's Printer's office that featured this "snow advantage" recently won two awards sponsored by the prestigious Hollywood Reporter magazine.
Film producers also come here because we have a growing number of well-qualified craftspeople that they can use, and they come because the Yukon offers competitive costs for local transportation and accommodation.
Mr. Speaker, this location incentive fund will be an ongoing part of our effort to make the Yukon even more attractive to the film industry. By introducing it, we're helping to provide jobs and business opportunities for Yukon people.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Phillips: On behalf of our caucus in the office of the official pposition, I am pleased to take the opportunity to respond to the statement made by the minister.
We on this side of the House, Mr. Speaker, are very pleased that this initiative has come forward and would like to offer our full support. In short, I believe that these efforts to attract film production in the Yukon will go a long way to help create some much needed Yukon jobs and will reinforce our efforts in making the Yukon a destination of choice for the film industry.
Most other jurisdictions in Canada, Mr. Speaker, are now offering these types of tax incentives to production companies as a means to entice them into their area, so we're now getting on board. I am pleased to see the Yukon is moving in this direction as well, because it will give us a better ability to compete with the rest of Canada on a level playing field.
I think the strength of the announcement today, Mr. Speaker, is the fact that the fund will be flexible and we will be able to do what we have to do to attract film site locations to the Yukon.
Competition is great for the film companies, and it is greater for the Yukon, as they can leave millions of dollars in each of our locations, as we've already seen with some of the companies that have chosen to do business here.
During the spring sitting, I asked the minister, Mr. Speaker, if he would give consideration to this type of provision - tax incentives and other initiatives that would help companies come to the Yukon - and I'm pleased to see that these ideas were explored and happy to see that the initiatives are before us today.
I'd also like to take this opportunity, Mr. Speaker, while I'm on my feet, to recognize the work and effort of our former film commissioner, Ms. Patti Howlett, who in fact made some of these suggestions when she departed, and our current commissioner, Mark Hill, who is doing a great job in continuing Patti's work.
As the member will recall, Mr. Speaker, Ms. Howlett was a major player in putting the Yukon on the film site production map with many production companies from the south. Having dealt with production companies firsthand, Ms. Howlett often spoke freely about the successes in the future of attracting more companies to the north and the need to offer these kinds of incentives, similar to what's been made available in other parts of the country.
I'd like to thank her and Mark, once again, for their great work and would like to extend thanks as well to other officials in the department for their excellent work in bringing this initiative to fruition.
The only other thing I have to add, Mr. Speaker, for the minister is to ask if he could provide us with assurances that any photos or films used to promote the Yukon as a destination are photos and footage from the Yukon and not from Alaska or any other jurisdiction.
Ms. Duncan: On behalf of the Liberal Party caucus, I would like to offer our support for this initiative and for the Yukon film location incentive fund. I'd also like to offer our congratulations to the Queen's Printer office, whose staff have been noted by, as the minister said, the prestigious Hollywood Reporter magazine. I'd like to offer our congratulations to those staff members and to the staff members involved with the Yukon film commission.
When the minister responds, I would ask, Mr. Speaker, that he address a couple of questions. First of all, in his remarks the minister noted that this was the first time, in effect qualifying this particular incentive fund as a pilot project. Would the minister outline what the long-term plans are for this initiative?
The minister has identified, in the supplementary budget, $50,000 for this particular incentive fund. Is there a time frame during which companies will be applying for this? Or are there several projects that have been waiting for the announcement of this fund? What is the time frame for applications?
Most importantly, perhaps the minister could indicate how we would measure the success of this particular Yukon location incentive fund? There's no doubt that it will be taken up. How will we measure the success in order to determine where incentives might be put in the future? There are a number of avenues for companies to apply now. The minister has noted that the fund will be flexible. Is it the government's intention that we continue with this flexibility, or is it the intention that, after measuring the success of this particular fund, we'll target one particular area with an incentive fund?
Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I'd appreciate the minister addressing those questions.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Indeed, it is very much a welcome change when we can work so positively together. Not only is this just one issue of $50,000, I'd like to explain to the member opposite that it is for the remainder of this year only. We'll have it ready to go this year, and we're certainly looking at it for future years. So it is certainly something this government recognizes will continue to add incentive to the Yukon Territory.
Now, together with the work that we're doing with the tourism marketing fund, to assist our tourism operators, to help them market and promote their products: secure an air access with Condor Air - and an additional flight by Canada 3000.
Couple that with the tourism strategy for the post-anniversaries and you look at the undertaking of the major expansion. I would say that tourism is certainly going to go a very long ways here and will continue. We certainly will pass your congratulations on to the folks within the Queen's Printer. It is very much respected indeed, and thank you very much for your thoughts.
Yes, we will also take time here to thank Patti and Mark also, because they were very much - and are - ambassadors for the Yukon Territory. Thank you very much for your comments. I do believe I have answered all the questions.
Speaker: This then brings us to Question Period.
Question re: Retirement gratuity for government employees
Mr. Phillips: My question is for the minister responsible for the Public Service Commission. It is concerning the $24,000 retirement gratuity owed to the estate of the very well-respected Yukon teacher, Flo Kitz.
The clause permitting payment of the gratuity when an employee dies on the job was omitted from the 16-year-old collective agreement with our teachers, but is included in the Yukon Employees Union collective agreement. Its absence was inadvertently missed in the 1996 review of the agreement, and now the Kitz family is needlessly paying the price for the omission, when they shouldn't have to if both the government and the union would agree to interpret the collective agreement in a fair and compassionate way.
I would like to ask the minister if he, personally, would intervene and give instructions to the Public Service Commission to pay the $24,000 owed -
Speaker: The member has 30 seconds.
Mr. Phillips: - the estate of this most respected teacher. I hope I don't hear from the minister that this is a personnel issue. This is a moral issue and a very important issue to a lot of Yukoners.
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, Mr. Speaker, it's disturbing, but not surprising, that the members opposite would choose to politicize this matter, because it is, indeed, a personnel matter.
The same policy in effect here applies to managers currently with the government. There is a contract in place, and disputes about a contract are best handled either through the grievance procedure or through collective bargaining and that process. In this case, the contract requirements were paid out for life insurance, superannuation and death benefits.
I might also say that it is a very dangerous precedent for a minister to start to pick and choose what elements of a collective agreement will or will not be respected. Out of respect for the collective bargaining process, which resulted in this contract -
Speaker: The member has 30 seconds.
Hon. Mr. Harding: - that is the only position that we can take.
Mr. Phillips: This $24,000 should be paid out of respect for Flo Kitz and the work she did for this government. Mr. Speaker, the minister has the authority and the ability to do it. In a letter sent to the union from the Government of the Yukon, they talked about a financial crunch. That was one of their reasons. In fact, the government has a $52-million surplus.
This isn't a matter of luck or a matter of breaking the government treasury. It's a matter of fairness and integrity, and I'm appealing to the minister to do the right thing by ensuring that this gratuity is paid. Will the minister do that?
Hon. Mr. Harding: The member opposite is being ever the political opportunist, and that is a very consistent approach for this opposition, Mr. Speaker. This is a difficult position but, as I said in my first answer, out of respect for the collective bargaining process, there is no other position that can be taken. There was a contract in place. That contract was honoured. Disputes about a contract, or elements of a contract that are not in a contract when it is the desire of another party to have them placed in, should be best dealt with through either the grievance procedure or the collective bargaining process.
There are many people out there who do good work for the government. That does not change the fact that a contract is in place.
Now, our respect for the collective bargaining process runs deep and, therefore, that is the only position -
Speaker: The member has 30 seconds.
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Speaker, there's a right and there's a wrong, and I'm asking the minister to do the right thing with the Kitz family by accepting his ministerial responsibility.
Will he instruct his negotiating officials to sit down with the union officials to come to some agreement to give to the Kitz family what rightfully should have been their's in the first place, because of an oversight?
Mr. Speaker, they can interpret the agreement in a liberal fashion, in this particular case. It doesn't set a dangerous precedent. This individual gave her heart and her soul to the children of this territory and, Mr. Speaker, it's something that that family is due. It should have never had to come up in this Legislature, but it's unfortunate that the government has taken a technical approach to it.
Speaker: The member has 30 seconds.
Mr. Phillips: I'd like to ask the minister - to appeal to the minister - in a personal and a compassionate way, to do the right thing and treat the Kitz family fairly.
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, Mr. Speaker, I will say again that this was not an oversight; this was a contract that was a result of the collective bargaining process. This was not an oversight. As I stated earlier, the managers of this government still are under the same policy. Collective bargaining resulted in the terms that paid out life insurance, death benefits, and superannuation in this case. That was the collective agreement that was in place. It is a very dangerous precedent for a minister to start deciding what elements of a collective agreement will be respected and what elements of a collective agreement will not. This is a good opportunity, I would suppose, for the opposition politicians to do a little politicking, but I find it somewhat disturbing.
Speaker: The member has 30 seconds.
Hon. Mr. Harding: This is a situation whereby our respect for the collective bargaining process that resulted in this rule must be paramount. There is a grievance procedure for settling disputes about collective bargaining as well as a collective bargaining process that's underway right now with the YTA to deal with outstanding issues that they may choose to change - or the other party to those negotiations.
Question re: Government vehicle use
Mr. Jenkins: I have a question today for the Minister of Community and Transportation Services that's concerning Management Board Directive 13-84, entitled "Government Travel".
It has been alleged that a public officer of the Department of Community and Transportation Services had the personal use of a government-owned vehicle for a period of approximately six weeks. This is an extraordinarily long time for a public officer to be on travel status within the Yukon and raises a question of whether, in fact, the individual was on legitimate government business. Is the minister aware of this situation?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: No, I am not aware of the situation.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, the public officer in question is, in fact, the minister himself and I'd like to know if the minister's alleged use of a government vehicle this summer for this approximately six-week period was, in fact, on government business especially in light of the fact that he took most of the summer off on holidays?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I won't use such a strong word but certainly, Mr. Speaker, it is very wrong. I guess that I do have a different style from the members opposite - obviously all of the members of the official opposition. I'm not a micro-manager, Mr. Speaker. I don't lurk in parking lots or, heaven forbid, sit by lakes, whether it's building a log home or counting swans. That is not my style. I go out and I do my job.
This past summer since the Legislature broke, I've been practically all over my riding. I spent much time with folks, and I'm really disappointed that people would bring in, not only for political purposes, but hurtful purpose, to question the integrity of anybody who works here for the betterment of the Yukon.
So, in reality, Mr. Speaker, I don't think that I have any disappointment in anybody but myself for thinking that folks opposite would never stoop that low because, obviously, they're under the rug.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, could the minister advise the House if his use of the government vehicle was authorized by the Government Leader, and will he, the minister, table a list of the government business he attended to on each of the days of the approximately six-week period he claimed to be on travel status?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I can certainly let the members know that I've done very much hard work this summer. Yes, I had the use of a government vehicle. I've been to Ross River many times. I worked with the folks in Ross and all over the territory - not the territory, but definitely the riding, Mr. Speaker, and will continue to do so, because that is actually what I was elected for, and I will continue to do my parliamentary duties.
Question re: Nurses in rural communities
Mrs. Edelman: My question is for the Minister of Health and Social Services, and it concerns the classification of our nurses in our rural communities. Mr. Speaker, I will read to the minister from the April 1997 issue of Canadian Nurse magazine. It's an article about the phase 2 health transfer, and it says, "Thirty-two community health nurses affected by the phase 2 transfer are upset by lack of recognition for their expanded roles." It goes on to describe that there is a new job classification, and the new job classification is an obvious mistake.
Mr. Speaker, that was 18 months ago. The minister knew this was a problem 18 months ago. He also knows that there's a national shortage of nurse practitioners. Why hasn't the minister, who prides himself on building health care ...
Speaker: The member has 30 seconds.
Mrs. Edelman: ... lobbied his colleague, the Minister of the Public Service Commission, to fix this problem, instead of leaving rural nurses twisting in the wind for 18 months?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: What a degree of sanctimony.
Mr. Speaker, the member has taken a rather lecturing and hectoring tone. The fact is that we've been aware of the shortage. When the classification came over under the Health Canada transfer, we were perfectly aware that that was a difficulty. We began the process and we have supported the nurses in the reclassification.
The member needs to be aware that we are talking about nurse practitioners here, and that's part of a group that represents less than five percent of nurses across Canada. In other words, there are about 1,100 to 1,300 individuals. We are not alone in this. The Northwest Territories has a 50-percent shortage. Northern Manitoba has a 25-percent shortage. Northern Alberta has a 27-percent shortage.
What we're trying to do is cope with this with very active recruitment.
Speaker: The member has 30 seconds.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: But at the same time, we're also pursuing the reclassification effort very actively. My colleague, the minister responsible for the Public Service Commission, can add more to that if he wishes.
Mrs. Edelman: Well, Mr. Speaker, the minister said last week that a couple of rural communities are close to the point where they will not have nurses. Ross River, in fact, has already reached that point.
Nurse practitioners are in high demand across the country, as the minister has indicated, because they have specialized skills. To attract them to the Yukon and to our rural communities, we have to be competitive with other jurisdictions. This NDP government has already put us behind other jurisdictions by not paying these nurses the salaries that they deserve. The minister is going to have to look at new incentives.
What incentives, beyond the two-little, too-late housing allowances, is the minister looking at, not only to entice new nurses to come and work in the Yukon -
Speaker: The member has 30 seconds.
Mrs. Edelman: - but also to keep the long-suffering nurse practitioners that we are fortunate enough to have still working in Yukon community health stations?
Hon. Mr. Harding: As the minister responsible for the Public Service Commission, let me just say that the confrontational tone of the member opposite does no justice to the complex issue and problem here, right across this country, of finding nurse practitioners.
The problem is twofold. One is retention and the other is recruitment. Mr. Speaker, we have just signed a new collective bargaining agreement - there has been a new collective bargaining agreement signed - that has the option of taking comp time in lieu of standby premiums, increases in standby pay, the ability to pay standby to auxiliary-on-calls, increases to on-call premiums, red circled nurses' eligibility for a lump-sum payment equivalent to negotiated economic increases, and changes in the definition of part-time work, which enables more flexible work assignments for nurses.
In addition to that, there are options of supplements being considered. There's been extensive work put into the -
Speaker: The member has 30 seconds.
Hon. Mr. Harding: - classification. Now, we've brought the people who originally designed the system to try and find a way to improve that classification. Again, Mr. Speaker, that's an issue that the Public Service Commission has to decide. We, as politicians, want to ensure that we give that classification process, in a non-political fashion, every chance it can to work for the people of the Yukon.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, I have spoken to a number of Yukon doctors about the conditions that rural nurses work under. An issue that comes up time and time again with both doctors and nurses is the burnout factor in these rural communities. Now, a possible solution is to introduce guaranteed relief for these nurses or guaranteed holidays. Most YTG employees, after all, expect this as a given in the workplace.
When is the minister going to examine this proposal? I hope he can give the answer in a less condescending tone, Mr. Speaker.
Hon. Mr. Harding: Mr. Speaker, the question was condescending. The questioner is being condescending. The questioner is not giving proper notice and proper due to the complexity of the problem.
Mr. Speaker, the issue of guaranteed relief is an important one, and nobody has to tell me how hard nurses in the rural communities work. In my riding and in places like Ross River, they do tremendous work, but that doesn't make it easier to deal with the countrywide problem with the shortage of these nurse practitioners.
The work that we are doing is extensive to try to ensure that we can recruit new nurses so we can give some relief and guaranteed holidays and the things that are important to these people who work in these communities and perform that important level of service. Those are not going to be solved until we can actually...
Speaker: The member has 30 seconds.
Hon. Mr. Harding: ... resolve the problems of recruitment, and that is compounded by the retention issue, which is because some of these nurses who are doing these long hours get this burnout factor. So you have to have a two-fold solution that deals one with retention and one with recruitment.
Some of the changes that we announced deal with the retention factors. We now have the challenge - and we have been challenging - the issues of recruitment, and the Minister of Health and Social Services has been doing an excellent job of trying to break down those barriers and recruit more nurses so that we can make sure people get the proper breaks they need.
Question re: Yukon hire
Ms. Duncan: My question is for the minister responsible for the Public Service Commission.
On Monday morning this week, the Public Service Commissioner announced that a Washington company had been hired to conduct an independent review of job classifications for all Yukon nurses.
The minister has gone on and on and on and on this week in the Legislature about building the Yukon economy one job at a time. Will the minister explain why Yukon companies capable of this work were not even asked to submit a proposal?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Yes, if I can, Mr. Speaker. This is the company that originally designed the classification system. Because this issue is of such urgency and importance to this government - the issue of nurse-practitioners - we did not feel that it would be appropriate to bring in people into the process who are not familiar, or intricately involved, with the design of the system, as it may cause further delays. We want this classification issue dealt with tout de suite, and we felt that the original designers of the system, way back in the 1980s, provide a very good opportunity to deal with this, in the quickest possible fashion - so that we can deal with this issue that has been raised by the nurses and that people are asking for prompt action on.
With regard to the companies locally that -
Speaker: The member has 30 seconds.
Hon. Mr. Harding: With regard to the companies locally that do this work, one in particular that I know of is involved with defending public commission positions and classification disputes sometimes. We felt that this would provide a proper barrier from the close proximity they have to disputes right now to deal with this very important classification issue.
Ms. Duncan: That answer from the minister was absolutely incredible. He's talking about a company that did a job classification some 15 years ago; he's making references to Yukon companies and their abilities without even asking them.
Mr. Speaker, one Yukon company capable of this work wrote to the minister. They said, and I quote: "We could understand if we had advised that we were unable to carry out the work described, due to time constraints or lack of expertise. Not only is that untrue in this case, we were not even contacted or given any consideration with regard to this contract."
Speaker: The member has 30 seconds.
Ms. Duncan: This work would have generated one Yukon job. Is this an example of the new Yukon the minister is promoting? Is creating jobs in Washington State what the new Yukon is all about?
Hon. Mr. Harding: What a silly, silly question by the member opposite, Mr. Speaker. First of all, I want to say to the member opposite that there is a serious issue of concern about health care in this territory, in the rural communities.
We've just been lectured by her colleague to her left that this has to be dealt with quickly. This is the outside group that designed this system in the first place. They would, in the most quick manner, be able to determine whether there is a classification change to be done in this particular situation. The company the member refers to is involved right now in contracts on classification issues with the Public Service Commission and, Mr. Speaker, they are involved many times in the defence of the Public Service Commission's denials of reclassifications. We felt that this outside company would be able, in this case, to provide the quickest -
Speaker: The member has 30 seconds.
Hon. Mr. Harding: - most responsible answer. As well, they would be somewhat removed from the day-to-day reclassification issues, of which hundreds go on, for which they would provide a very neutral, outside perspective that would be helpful because this is a serious health issue in the community and we want to resolve it promptly.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, I can agree with one point the minister made: this is a very serious issue - a very serious issue. I can tell Yukoners why the public service commissioner has gone back to the American company that did this job 15 years ago. There are two reasons. It's because the company did the original reclassification for the Government of Yukon and because this government wants the same old answer.
This government doesn't value the Yukon companies that could do the reclassification of the nurses and this government does not really want to know exactly what these community nurses are worth.
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, Mr. Speaker, I take great offence at the member's allegations, as usual. The so-called Liberal alternative, the politics of confrontation, is non-existent. What we have is political grandstanding by the members opposite in response to a very complex and difficult issue that concerns the health of rural Yukoners.
We're taking a responsible approach to resolving this. The company the member opposite mentioned was involved in the classification process a lot sooner than 15 years ago. They've been involved, at times, -
Speaker: Order please. Order.
Hon. Mr. Harding: - in very difficult situations because they were the designers of the situation from the time that they designed that situation sometime ago. This is one of those situations where we have a very serious issue with nurse practitioners in the rural communities where there are problems of retention and recruitment. We need, if there is any way we can do it, to get that classification changed as quickly as possible.
Speaker: The member has 30 seconds.
Hon. Mr. Harding: Mr. Speaker, that's what this is all about. The company in question that the member refers to, I would add, has been the benefactor of this government's new local hire policies, which have increased dramatically the content of local hire purchasing from this government and the use of local contracts. Those numbers were completely read into the record yesterday and extensive improvement has been made in the number of local businesses that have benefited from government procurement and from government contracts. In this case we felt that this is a serious issue we wanted -
Speaker: The hon. minister's time has expired.
Question re: Justice, circle sentencing
Mr. Phillips: My question is to the Minister of Justice. Recently the Minister of Justice attended meetings in Regina, where it was reported that our minister led a discussion on the public loss of confidence in our justice system. It's ironic that this minister is leading that discussion when, in the Yukon, there is very little public confidence left in that system at all. With recent events, it's even being eroded further.
I'm increasingly concerned, Mr. Speaker, about the use of circle sentencing for violent offences. Does the minister agree that circle sentencing should only be used for non-violent offences?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: As the member opposite knows, the various alternative measures of sentencing are only one component of the justice system. There are guidelines in place in relation to circle sentencing, and I think it's very important to work with communities and to look at every measure available to ensure that an offender is responsible for their actions and, at the same time, works toward rehabilitation.
Mr. Phillips: Years ago, when some of our current judiciary were making their arguments for the use of circle sentencing, they told us a couple of things. One, it would not be used for violent offences, and that the circle considers the involvement of the victim as extremely important and paramount to the system.
The same people, Mr. Speaker, who gave us that assurance a few years ago are now using circle sentencing for violent crimes and ignoring the concerns of the victim. Does that concern the minister? What is she going to do about it, if it does?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: We are doing a lot to ensure both that the justice system is responsive to the needs of the public and to increase public confidence in the justice system. We have to ensure that the needs of offenders are balanced with public safety. We're also working to promote community involvement in offender management and crime prevention. Just this month, we've proclaimed the Crime Prevention and Victim Services Trust Act, which can work toward addressing the needs of victims and reducing crime in our communities.
Mr. Phillips: The minister seems to be trying to avoid the question.
Mr. Speaker, what I hear from the minister every time the minister rises is that she has more concern about the people who committed the crimes than she does about the victims of the crimes, and I'm getting more and more concerned about that.
Would the minister give this House some assurances that she would consult with the judiciary and ask them to establish stronger guidelines that will put limitations on the use of circle sentencing for violent crimes and help restore some public faith in our justice system, before we lose all faith whatsoever in circle sentencing? It's eroding the confidence in the circle-sentencing process by what's going on today. It's a sham, and people in the general public are upset about it, Mr. Speaker.
I'm hearing it on the street. The minister must be hearing it on the street. What is she going to do about it, other than give us long, detailed speeches about things that she thinks she may be doing?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, Mr. Speaker, the member seems to be ignoring the fact that I've been telling him about things that we are doing and are continuing to do. In this session, I will be bringing forth and introducing changes to the Territorial Court Act, which addressed the very issue of relationships between the government and the judiciary, as well as opening up the justice system for public input.
We are also working, as I have told the member, on crime prevention and victim services measures. We take the needs of victims very much into account in our justice system.
Question re: Whitehorse Correctional Centre, report on
Mr. Cable: I have some questions for the Minister of Justice on the Whitehorse Correctional Centre.
Earlier this year, the minister's department hired a consultant to do a report on the Whitehorse Correctional Centre, and the report was delivered a few months ago. Quite a few copies were put into circulation - to the jail staff and to the union.
Now, I've asked the minister for a copy of the report, and she said, "Nope, you can't have it," and she said in the media that there are some privacy and third-party issues that have to be sorted out first. This is despite the fact that it's already received fairly wide circulation, despite the fact that she's had the report at least since August - adequate time to deal with the privacy issues ...
Speaker: The member has 30 seconds.
Mr. Cable: ... and despite the fact that the minister must have known it would be asked for.
When is she going to release the report? Can she commit to releasing the report during this session?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I'm very pleased that the member opposite is giving me the opportunity to respond to him publicly, as I've already responded to him privately on this issue.
Yes, it is true that the Department of Justice, together with the union, selected a group of consultants to conduct an internal review of management issues at Whitehorse Correctional Centre. Normally, those kinds of management reviews are internal. My officials are presently reviewing that report to ensure that there are no personnel or third-party interests that need to be protected.
In the interest of public disclosure, I will be making the report available when it has been reviewed to ensure that there are no personnel -
Speaker: The member has 30 seconds.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: - or privacy issues that need to be protected.
Mr. Cable: I asked the minister if she was prepared to commit to providing the report to the House while this session was still in progress.
Now, she has indicated to the media that the review of the privacy and third-party interests was nearly done. Is she prepared to commit to provide that report to this House before this session rises?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Speaker, I have already committed both to the member and commented in response to questions from the media that I am prepared to release the report once all privacy concerns are satisfied. I do anticipate that that will be before this session of the Legislature is finished.
Mr. Cable: Okay, just to clarify a few things that she has indicated to the media, is she going to be releasing the original report? Does this report deal not only with personnel, as she has indicated to the media, but also with the building's condition and programs?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: The report deals with internal management issues at the Whitehorse Correctional Centre. It is a long report with several recommendations. As I have indicated, a response is being prepared to the recommendations in the report, and a review of what should be protected for privacy because of personnel is being done. When that is all completed, the report will be made available and the member will be able to satisfy himself on the full extent of what it contains.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed. We will now proceed to Orders of the Day.
Orders of the day
Speaker: Government bills.
Bill No. 50: Second Reading
Clerk: Second reading, Bill No. 50, standing in the name of the hon. Ms. Moorcroft.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I move that Bill No. 50, entitled An Act to Amend the Jury Act, be now read a second time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Minister of Justice that Bill No. 50, entitled An Act to Amend the Jury Act, be now read a second time.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Under the present Jury Act, there are a number of exemptions to people who serve for jury duty, including an exemption for leaders of government, like members of the Legislative Assembly, members of the House of Commons, and the Senate.
Mr. Speaker, this government wishes to recognize the status of First Nation chiefs as leaders of governments. Therefore, we are amending the Jury Act so that Yukon First Nation chiefs, like other government leaders, will also be exempted from jury duty.
Moreover, this exemption will apply to all First Nation chiefs, and not just to those who have self-government agreements in place.
Currently, the Jury Act does not allow a person to serve on a jury if he/she has been convicted and sentenced to a term of imprisonment exceeding 12 months, but it does not address the issue of alternate forms of sentencing. Although courts take reasonable precautions to ensure it does not happen, situations have occurred where a person sat on a jury who has been convicted, but not incarcerated. We want to ensure that persons contravened an act of Parliament, for which they could have been imprisoned for more than 12 months, also cannot be empanelled as jurors.
Finally, Mr. Speaker, we want to protect workers called for jury duty. The current act does not require employers to provide a leave of absence to employees who are called to serve on a jury. Unfortunately, there are some employees who may be threatened with termination by their employers if they are absent from work for jury duty.
This can leave a person in the position of having to choose between being held in contempt of court for failing to appear for jury duty, and the threatened loss of their livelihood.
Mr. Speaker, because we believe that jury duty is an important responsibility of Yukon citizens, these amendments include a provision that expressly state that employers must provide a leave of absence to their employees, to serve on a jury. This can be a paid, or unpaid, leave of absence.
Furthermore, any employer who threatens, or imposes, any penalty on an employee for being a juror, will now be liable to a summary conviction, and a fine of up to $2,500. The employer is also liable to the employee for any loss of wages, and the employee can pursue a claim under the Employment Standards Act, to recover lost wages.
In conclusion, these amendments to the Jury Act, when taken together, will improve the operation of the courts, increase public confidence in the justice system, recognize the unique character of First Nations government leaders, and protect prospective jurors from discrimination, by their employers.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Phillips: We'll be reserving our comments until we get into Committee of the Whole, in discussing this bill further.
Mr. Cable: The Liberal caucus hasn't yet had a briefing on this. It appears fairly straightforward, though, and my initial impression is that we could quite quickly support it.
I'm particularly pleased that jurors will be authorized to attend without penalty, and I think that's a very useful addition to our system. Participation in the justice system by everybody without penalty is one of the things that will make the justice system work better.
Subject to having some further consideration and possibly a briefing on the act, we will be supporting it.
Motion for second reading of Bill No. 50 agreed to
Bill No. 59: Second Reading
Clerk: Second reading, Bill No. 59, standing in the name of the hon. Ms. Moorcroft.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I move that Bill No. 59, entitled An Act to Amend the Limitation of Actions Act, be now read a second time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Minister of Justice that Bill No. 59, entitled An Act to Amend the Limitation of Actions Act, be now read a second time.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: If you talk to anyone who has suffered from sexual abuse, you'll find that the survivor has an overwhelming need to be heard. While the abuse may be long past, the battle within continues.
When survivors decide to seek justice, they can pursue the matter in a criminal or civil court. The criminal choice is about punishment, and survivors may want their abusers imprisoned. But that's a difficult result to obtain. It depends on a number of factors, including the strength of the case and the disclosure of highly personal information.
The other option is to seek a civil remedy. A lawsuit may be more appealing, with a different standard of proof. In civil cases, the standard of proof is a balance of probabilities. In criminal cases, proof is needed of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
In most sexual assaults, there is no witness and a court decision is based on the word of the accused against the word of the victim. In civil cases, the victim has far more control over the conduct of the case. The victim has their own lawyer and is not simply one witness, as in a case brought forward by the Crown.
The decision to sue one's abuser may be difficult. Lawsuits can be expensive. Survivors may worry about being re-victimized by the trauma of confronting their abusers in court. If they make the decision and move forward in the knowledge that civil litigation is about taking back power - about forcing abusers to sit and listen to their victims - it's still possible that they'll be denied their day in court.
In their attempts to identify the abuse, re-establish the balance of power, assign blame, seek damages, and ultimately stop the abuser, they may run headlong into limitation periods. This means that they may be barred by law from ever starting an action.
Limitation law sets out the time limits that apply to civil proceedings. Once the stated period of time runs out, the person who wants to bring a claim against another person is simply stopped. At that point, the other person can never be sued, regardless of how strong the case may have been if it had been brought within the limitation period.
The reasons why childhood survivors of sexual assault and sexual misconduct may fail to bring timely actions against their abusers are complicated. It depends in large part on the dynamics of sexual abuse. There is the harm arising from the abuse itself, such as anxiety, remorse, shame, feelings of inferiority and negative self-esteem. There is also the harm arising after the fact and lasting well into adulthood, including depression, exaggerated mistrust, anger, hostility, intense guilt and self-destructive behaviour, such as addictions or even suicide.
This picture shows why victims of childhood sexual abuse have difficulty in bringing actions against their abusers within the prescribed limitation periods. Memories can become blocked. Victims may have little or only subconscious knowledge of the abuse, or may recall it but cannot confront it. Memories may be suppressed. Victims may recall the event but avoid doing so until it's less dangerous to recognize the abuse. Whatever the defensive mechanism adopted, each is a survival strategy likely to result in a gradually diminishing or indefinitely delayed stress reaction.
The picture is not significantly different for survivors who suffered sexual assault as adults.
There are many factors that may conspire to place victims outside a limitation period, such as not believing that the abuser has done anything wrong, living in fear of the abuser, or being psychologically incapable of confronting the reality of the assault in a given amount of time.
It is not uncommon for survivors of sexual assault to experience symptoms of the abuse many years later. They may fail to make solid connections between the abuse and its impact, or they may choose not to take action against the abuser because of the pain, suffering, and often well-grounded fear.
This knowledge makes it very important that we, as legislators, do our best to endorse society's revulsion for sexual abuse, and that we do everything possible to help the victims, particularly the child victims.
At present, the basic limitation period for personal injuries, including assault, is two years. In the case of minors, the limitation period begins when they reach the age of majority. This two-year time frame, however, is subject to what is called the discoverability doctrine. In other words, the two-year limitation period begins when the victim discovered, or ought to have discovered, the wrong they have suffered.
This creates problems. It is possible for victims to get caught up in procedural arguments that may put the date of discovery in doubt. This may also put their lawsuit outside the limitations period. If that happens, their case will never be heard in court, no matter how much importance victims place on the need to confront their abusers in an open forum.
Sexual abuse is too horrific to risk that doubt. We believe that it's better to let survivors have their day in court, where they can properly argue the merits of their cases. We believe that it's better to give survivors an opportunity to face their abusers, and to hold them publicly accountable for their actions.
Mr. Speaker, this bill recognizes the plight of survivors and their intense need for healing by removing the time restrictions in matters of sexual abuse, so that survivors can take action at any time. The amendments also apply to minors who suffered sexual assault, or sexual misconduct, in childhood.
Moreover, the amendments will allow victims, who could not previously bring their claims before the court, to bring them forward now.
Mr. Speaker, we must take this step. We must make clear that sexual abuse will not be tolerated and we must show that its victims will be heard. The reality of survivors is that almost all of them are unable to comply with the current limitation period. It may take years to recognize and appreciate the critical relationship between the abuse they experienced and the profound effect it's had on their lives.
While courts are becoming more receptive to arguments that address the plight of these victims, it's important that we don't leave barriers in place, barriers that have the effect of denying victims their day in court. The simple fact is that limitation periods were not drafted with victims of sexual abuse in mind. It's time to revisit that omission and to help in the healing process.
Mr. Speaker, I urge every member of this Legislative Assembly to support this bill by making it absolutely clear that Yukon legislators of all political persuasions are united in the fight to stop sexual abuse and in their efforts, to help its survivors.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Speaker, there is not a lot I can add to the words of the minister. I think she expressed very well the concerns that we and others in society have over the plight of victims of sexual abuse. I can tell the House that I had no idea in my life how close to home this issue was until a few years ago within my own family, and it is an extremely serious issue. It's something that many of us in the family never knew existed, never thought ever would happen to anyone in our family or extended family and, in fact, we now know that that's not true. So, it is an issue that strikes home with me.
I also have known in the past in my life other people in different walks of life who have been affected by sexual abuse sometime in their life and have kept it to themselves for years and years and years, partly because of the points that the minister made about it being so painful for people to discuss it until they feel they are ready. So, I have no problem at all, and we in the Yukon Party have no problem at all, in giving our full support for the initiatives that the minister has brought before us here today.
Mr. Cable: On behalf of the Liberal caucus, I think this act will send a signal to many people, but in particular to people who are in a power relationship with the victim and who victimize the vulnerable, that you can run but you can't hide - ever. We will be supporting that act because it will give that signal and, hopefully, will reduce the misuse of relationships.
Now, when we talked about this, I think last spring, I asked the minister what her intentions were, and she seemed quite favourable, and obviously she has reached a conclusion that it's a useful piece of legislation.
She did talk, though, about the suppressed-memory syndrome, I think it's called. At the time, it was being questioned by certain members of the mental health community, and it would be useful to hear her thoughts in Committee as to whether the mental health community has reached some consensus that it is in fact an acceptable syndrome.
Motion for second reading of Bill No. 59 agreed to
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: 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 Minister of Justice that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Motion agreed to
Speaker leaves the Chair
COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order.
Is it the members' wish to take a brief recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: Fifteen minutes.
Bill No. 54 - An Act to Amend the Maintenance and Custody Orders Enforcement Act - continued
On Section 10.1(2) - continued
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. The Committee is dealing with Bill No. 54, An Act to Amend the Maintenance and Custody Orders Enforcement Act. We are on clause 10.1(2). Is there further debate?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: This afternoon, at the tabling of the returns and documents, I tabled a legislative return on the subject of the garnishment procedure. I wonder if there are further questions on clause 10.1(2), or whether the questions might be on other clauses of this particular section.
Mr. Phillips: I may have some more questions, but I don't think the minister said that's what she tabled earlier today, when she did table it, so I just got it and I haven't had a chance to read it. So, it's hard to ask questions about it immediately, when we've just received it. So it might take a few moments, if the minister could bear with us.
Mr. Cable: Just going through this, just to confirm it again - I had the impression toward the end of the day yesterday that the minister was changing her position on what the respondent could do on the garnishment. She seemed to be saying the respondent, under section 10.4(1) - that's at page 16 of the bill - could actually dispute the garnishment as well as the income source. I assume that that means that - as we'd originally thought, that they had to go back to the original maintenance order - they don't have to? They can dispute the garnishment?
Did I hear the minister correctly yesterday?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Yes, I'm sure that the member heard me correctly yesterday, and I hope that he hears me correctly again today.
Mr. Cable: All right. So the original proposition that got us going here some time ago - that we have to go back to the original maintenance order - that's not correct then; that there is a way of disputing a garnishment for the respondent - just for the record, so that we're not wound up in this again.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, for clarity, both are available. A respondent may go back to the original order. A respondent may also dispute the arrears and seek resolution on the issue of garnishment.
Mr. Cable: The Member for Klondike has posed a question then - would that apply in the case of an order that has come in from another jurisdiction?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Yes, as is found in the legislative return that was provided to the members at the break, the matter will go before a court in the Yukon, even if the order originated in another jurisdiction. A child support order from Ontario or British Columbia, or any other province in Canada, that has an accrued debt can have the arrears reviewed by the Yukon courts.
Mr. Cable: In the return that the minister gave us that was filed today, the minister says that section 14 of the existing act allows for the matter of the amount of the respondent's arrears to be examined by the courts. This process provides ample opportunity for the respondent to dispute or prove the amount of arrears.
How does the respondent get into the court? Is that his or her own initiative, or does the director assist that process?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: The director assists the process.
Mr. Cable: So, in essence, the director is providing legal assistance, drafting of documents and that sort of thing?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: No, the director will help with setting the court date.
Mr. Cable: So then it's up to the respondent himself or herself to tackle these administrative orders if they don't agree with them and to pay for their own lawyer to get into court. Is that what I hear the minister saying?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Yes, Mr. Chair; however, I want to once again make the point so that the member is clear that if the respondent disputes the arrears, they can attempt to resolve the matter by speaking to the director. The director works with the parties to see if there is agreement on the amount of arrears. If the agreement still cannot be reached, the director will refer the matter to the courts to determine the arrears.
Mr. Cable: I guess where I'm coming from - and I think where other members of the opposition are coming from - is that this legislation is basically deadbeat-dad legislation. That's what most of it is directed toward, but it also has a wider net. It has a net that captures people who are not what we call deadbeats: people who do in fact pay their debts. They could be women and they could be men, and men and women have arguments sometimes on arrears. Just for example - and I quoted this example to the minister the other day - there may be some arrears outstanding or there may be some monthly payments being made, and people in good faith who like to pay their bills and pay their debts could say, "Well, I'll give you the car or I'll give you the television set. I'm broke right now, but I'll give you some asset, and that's the payment for the next month". Or they could be arguing about whether payments were made for March and April, as opposed to February and March - some very legitimate arguments."
What this act does, I think, is disadvantage the party who is being garnisheed for. It puts that person - who may have a very legitimate argument - into a position where they have to run into court, simply because somebody is claiming that there are some monies owing. So the weight of the state is all on one side, and that makes me a little uncomfortable, particularly when I hear that the only help that the state gives the respondent is the setting of a court date.
Could I encourage the minister to talk to her staff to provide something a little more than that? Could they provide them with documents or some assistance in the provision of the legislation, or direct them to legal aid, where they can possibly - I don't know if they can do that today - but possibly get some assistance, because it seems to be a one-sided affair for people who are acting in good faith.
I don't think there's any concern for people who are legitimately what we call deadbeats - you know, the deadbeat-dad legislation - but there is concern for people who are acting in good faith.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, I'm at a loss to understand some of the member's concerns. Others of the member's concerns I do understand, and I'll respond to those secondly.
But, at the present time, under the existing maintenance enforcement legislation, it is possible for the director of maintenance enforcement to put a continuing garnishment, where someone has been failing to make the child support payments.
Now that member opposite, who just spoke, has, in Question Period, asked about improving the maintenance enforcement program, asked about toughening up the legislation. That is what we're doing, and for good reason.
The member said that there might be a dispute, where a respondent could not afford to make the child support payment, and so they wanted to provide a TV. Well, Mr. Chair, I don't believe that the claimant should have to accept a television in payment of child support. You can't pay rent with a TV; you can't buy groceries with a TV.
I think if the respondent is unable to make the payment, and they have assets that they can sell and get money for, that that's what they should do, and then provide the money to the claimant. And the claimant should be able to seek help from the maintenance enforcement program, to get the money to support the child.
Now, the member has also asked about having additional measures in place for ensuring that this regime is fair to the respondent. Setting a court date is not the only help that the maintenance enforcement staff provide to a respondent. They work fairly with all parties. They attempt to help resolve disputes, so that payments can be made. Our fundamental objective is to see that the child support payments are made.
I can tell the member that, as we have discussed previously, there will be regulations developed in conjunction with this act. I will give direction to my staff to fully consider the member's representation about procedures being in place to be fair to both the claimant and the respondent.
I want to be fair to all parties and we want the administration of the maintenance enforcement to be fair to all parties.
Mr. Cable: Just for the record, I have, in fact, asked the minister about maintenance enforcement. The principle behind the bill is not in question. But, I don't think I've made the point with the minister that men and women, when they break up, sometimes make deals, particularly when they're distraught. Sometimes they don't remember deals and sometimes they shade deals. There are legitimate arguments that people have, and I think that those legitimate arguments have to be recognized.
I don't think that Jane Doe is going to tell John Doe, "No, I'm not going to take the television. You go down and sell it first and I'll get the cash." They're going to make some arrangement. So, I would like the member to recognize the everyday realities of life. That's all I'm asking: if there is, in fact, some legitimate dispute, that the state not come down solidly on one side with boots on without giving some redress to the other party.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I agree with the member that people have legitimate arguments. As I believe I've been saying for the last few days in the House on this particular bill, the claimants and the respondents can make their case before the director of maintenance enforcement. The director of maintenance enforcement does work with the parties.
We sometimes have calls to our office from parents who are complaining that the director of maintenance enforcement was giving too much weight to the argument from the respondent, as well as from the claimant.
If the director and their staff are not able to reach resolution, then they can make a case before the courts.
The member has also spoken about mothers and fathers, and that it is not always, quote "deadbeat dads". I want to assure him that I recognize that. In the Yukon, there are half a dozen cases of mothers who have child support payments to make and there are hundreds of cases of fathers. It's about 99-percent fathers.
Chair: Is there further debate on subsection 2?
Section 10.1(2) agreed to
On Section 10.2
Section 10.2 agreed to
On Section 10.3
Section 10.3 agreed to
On Section 10.4(1)
Section 10.4(1) agreed to
On Section 10.4(2)
Section 10.4(2) agreed to
On Section 10.5(1)
Section 10.5(1) agreed to
On Section 10.5(2)
Section 10.5(2) agreed to
On Section 10.5(3)
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Chair, can the minister explain how that particular clause will work and give an example?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: The amount owed by the respondent under the maintenance order is automatically considered to be subject to garnishment unless the joint owner applies to the court for a declaration as to what portion of the money belongs to them. This ensures that the respondent pays some money into court rather than claiming it as jointly held money that can't be touched. The onus is on the joint owner to apply to the court for such an order.
Mr. Cable: Is there authority over the banks to make this work? Will they recognize this legislation?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Yes, one of the set of amendments to this legislation is to provide for disclosure to banks and loan companies.
Section 10.5(3) agreed to
On Section 10.5(4)
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: On (4), the holdback provision gives the joint owner time to apply to the court if they dispute the garnishment.
Section 10.5(4) agreed to
On Section 10.6
Section 10.6 agreed to
On Section 10.7
Section 10.7 agreed to
On Section 10.8(1)
Mr. Cable: Just out of curiosity, why don't we have the dollar amount in the act? Why are we putting it in regulations?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: In this legislation, we're following the motto that is in place in Nova Scotia. The amount will be difficult to put in the act, since the amounts of judgments will vary, depending on the number of children, and other factors.
Section 10.8(1) agreed to
On Section 10.8(2)
Section 10.8(2) agreed to
On Section 11.1(1)
Section 11.1(1) agreed to
On Section 11.1(2)
Section 11.1(2) agreed to
On Section 11.1(3)
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Chair, before we actually clear that section, I raised an issue with the minister over a particular case awhile ago with respect to a land titles search. Is this in there to make this portion a little more efficient or a little more effective? And what have we done with respect to the employees in maintenance enforcement in making sure that searches are extremely thorough?
I know that the last time we did one there was a minor problem. I understand that the minister and the department have taken some corrective action. I would like, for the record, for the minister to outline what they've done.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: There are a few things that we have done in response to various calls from constituents. The Leaske Report that was done in 1995, when the previous government was in office, recommended that the B.C. legislation be used as a model to improve the priority of maintenance arrears against that of other creditors.
In the new section 12, which is the next section of amendments here, it provides for registration of maintenance arrears against personal property. In addition, the maintenance enforcement staff has had training on land titles searches and is able to help with that. They will be able to use the new sections of the act to better ensure that if there are arrears or payments not being made, a lien is created against a respondent's personal property in an attempt to recover payment as quickly as possible.
Section 11.1(3) agreed to
On Section 12.1(1)
Section 12.1(1) agreed to
On Section 12.1(2)
Section 12.1(2) agreed to
On Section 12.1(3)
Section 12.1(3) agreed to
On Section 12.1(4)
Section 12.1(4) agreed to
On Section 12.1(5)
Section 12.1(5) agreed to
On Section 12.1(6)
Section 12.1(6) agreed to
On Section 12.1(7)
Section 12.1(7) agreed to
On Section 12.1(8)
Section 12.1(8) agreed to
On Section 13.(1)
Section 13(1) agreed to
On Section 13(2)
Section 13(2) agreed to
On Section 14
Section 14 agreed to
On Section 15
Section 15 agreed to
On Section 16.1
Section 16.1 agreed to
On Section 16.2
Section 16.2 agreed to
On Section 17
Mr. Cable: The present act gives a right of appeal from an order of the Territorial Court under this act to the Supreme Court. How does that mesh in with the director's order, which is deemed to be a maintenance order under a domestic contract? Do you appeal directly to the Supreme Court from one of those orders?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Yes, Mr. Chair, you can, or perhaps it won't be the member who can, but a respondent can.
Section 17 agreed to
On Section 18
Section 18 agreed to
On Section 19
Section 19 agreed to
On Section 20
Section 20 agreed to
Chair: We'll return to clause 6, which was stood over.
On Section 6 - previously stood over
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I do have some comments on clause 6, which members had questions on. The Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act governs what type of information can be obtained or disclosed under territorial legislation, unless there is express wording in another statute stating that its provisions will apply.
Section 6(1) is just such a provision. It means that the director can obtain certain information for the purpose of enforcing an order under this act, or for the purposes of helping a director in another jurisdiction. It goes on to describe the type of information the director may require from any person, including the Government of Yukon. It sets out time limits for providing the information to the director. It allows the director to get a court order if a person does not supply information within the time limit.
Section 6(5) of the act states that the director is required to follow the access to information and protection of privacy provisions in all but limited cases.
If a person wants access to the information obtained by the director, they are governed by section 6(5) of this act. A person cannot use ATIPP to disclose information to the director. There are strict limits on what information the director can get. The intent here is that the director is able to get information that will help them to enforce the maintenance enforcement provisions. Indeed, the maintenance enforcement act applies access to information principles and access to information codes. It creates its own code but uses ATIPP principles. The reason for (d) is to leave no doubt that the maintenance enforcement staff can disclose information to the RCMP that the seek in connection with an investigation to a criminal offence, such as the Family Violence Prevention Act. The rationale is that the administration of justice through the criminal law is important enough to justify the disclosure.
Although the paramountcy of access to information and protection of privacy is now subject to the Maintenance Enforcement Act, the director continues to be subject to very onerous information disclosure provisions. Section 6 of the act sets out the rules that the director follows in gathering and disclosing information.
Mr. Phillips: What are the limits that the director uses for information that the director can gather? I didn't see it spelled out clearly in the act. Do they have a form of information that they can ask for and that's all they can ask for? Perhaps the minister could provide that for me.
Ms. Moorcroft: The kinds of information that the director can get are set out in another section of the act. It includes the address and place of employment.
Mr. Phillips: What section? It would help a bit if the minister could point out the section number.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: That is section 6(1) of the act. The director can obtain information about wages and salary, source of income, assets or liabilities, financial status, copies of income tax returns, social insurance number, changes in circumstances that may affect the amount of maintenance to be paid under the order, the location, address and place of employment, the location, address and place of residence and telephone number.
Section 6 agreed to
On Section 1
Section 1 agreed to
Title agreed to
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, I move that you report Bill No. 54, An Act to Amend the Maintenance and Custody Orders Enforcement Act, out of Committee without amendment.
Motion agreed to
Chair: Committee will now respond to Bill No. 60, An Act to Amend the Family Property and Support Act.
Bill No. 60 - An Act to Amend the Family Property and Support Act
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: As we were debating during the second reading of An Act to Amend the Family Property and Support Act, this is a bill to ensure that we're meeting the best interests of the child who is part of a family that is no longer living together. The amendments to the Family Property and Support Act will cover both married and common-law relationships, and it will cover both separated and divorced relationships.
The main focus of these amendments is to bring into effect the federal child support guidelines, which were introduced two years ago now, and which have been adopted by most jurisdictions in Canada. The primary focus of the amendments is a child-centred approach to child support that emphasizes the child's right to support.
In bringing forward this amendment - and as members are aware, this legislation was introduced last fall. At that time, we received correspondence from members of the legal community requesting that we withdraw the legislation to allow for a further period of consultation. We have done that, Mr. Chair. We've sent out hundreds of letters and information packages and have received a number of responses back.
We know that there are concerns about the new sets of rules. It's fair to say that there are concerns about the federal child support guidelines across the country and it will take some time to sort everything out. However, we cannot delay our efforts to ensure that child support awards are adequate, consistent and predictable to meet the needs of children.
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Chair, in the briefing that we had, I believe the officials were asked if they could provide us with a letter of support from the local bar. And I believe they indicated that there was such a document or a letter. I wonder if the minister would be prepared to table the letter so we can see how supportive or what recommendations or concerns the local family law practitioners may have.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, I will have to get back to the member on that, about what correspondence there is that may be available.
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Chair, the minister, in her opening comments today, pointed out that there was some support from the local bar, but I haven't seen anything that backs that up, other than the minister's comments. In fact, it's quite the contrary. I have received a couple of letters that, I believe, were sent to the minister and to my colleague, the Member for Riverside, from local family lawyers who are very concerned about the haste at which we were proceeding with this particular act - not so much with the guidelines, but more so with the other amendments that are being put forward in the act.
The proposition that had been put forth to me by some of these individuals is that we're only fixing part of the problems that are wrong with the act, and it takes a long time to get an act back into this House to deal with some fairly severe and current problems that are involved in it. It's quite an old act.
I believe, from what I've heard from some family lawyers, that they are very concerned that even some of the changes that we are making may make the act worse, and yet we're not dealing with some of the other ones they feel we should deal with.
Is the minister aware of the many concerns that some of the local family lawyers have with respect to the act? Is the minister prepared to give this some time - a couple of weeks - to maybe stand this act aside and do a quick gathering of information or a quick consultation with the family lawyers? We've got a small community here. I'm sure it could be done very quickly.
Many of them know what the legislation is all about, but I know for a fact that some of them just received the tabled copy just a few days ago. We're quite concerned that it's going through very quickly with some of the concerns they had not being expressed in the act. So, in the spirit of producing good legislation, which will make it easier in these particular types of cases in the future, if we're going to update it, let's update it to 1998, to today, and let's get out there quickly. I'm sure we could bring this act back.
The intention of our party would be that we would deal with it this session, and I think there could be a quick consultation done - maybe some minor tinkering with what we have in front of us - and we could feel more comfortable with an act that was in front of us that had a letter of support from many of the local family lawyers. They may not all support it but, right now, I haven't got any information that any of them support it. I have information to the contrary which says that at least two don't and are concerned about it. They support some aspects of it, but feel there's more work to be done.
Would the minister consider standing this aside and doing a quick gathering, or a quick consultation, with the local family law bar, so that we can come back here with a better piece of legislation?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, I certainly find that a very interesting suggestion from the member opposite. As the member knows, this morning I received a letter from Mr. Shayne Fairman, a member of the local legal community, marked private and confidential, that was copied to the Member for Riverside and the Member for Riverdale North, expressing some concerns about the legislation.
Mr. Chair, Bill No. 36, An Act to Amend the Family Property and Support Act, was tabled during the first session of the 29th Legislature in 1997. That was over a year ago, Mr. Chair.
To allow for further consultation, at the request of Mr. Fairman and Mr. Laluk, the bill was withdrawn from the legislative agenda. That bill was then available from the fall of 1997 on. In the spring, in addition, numerous letters were sent out to members of the Canadian Bar Association, to First Nations and to many other groups in the community.
In May 1988, at the annual maintenance enforcement program information session, the proposed new amendments were introduced to the participants. A discussion was held concerning the amendments, the next step in the consultations. A commitment was made to the family law bar that the draft legislation would go to a family law subcommittee. Letters were sent to the bar, to maintenance enforcement clients, First Nations, women's groups and other interested parties, including the opposition, asking for a response on the proposed amendments to the Family Property and Support Act.
Enclosed with the letter was an outline of the proposed amendments. There were responses received from Shayne Fairman and John Laluk. After Cabinet approved the process and the proposed amendments, the draft amendments were provided to them for review and comment, with an undertaking that the actual content of the amendments would remain confidential. A number of recommendations came back with a suggestion that the proposed amendments be postponed or delayed.
The purpose of the amendments is to provide an equitable regime for support to children of parents who are either separating or divorcing. Further, the rationale for the amendments is to enable the regulations - the child support guidelines - to come into force and to make sure that the child support sections of our legislation are consistent with the federal child support guidelines that are in effect now across Canada.
The purpose of the amendments was not to revise the entire act. This may be done at a later date when we can review the legislation in other jurisdictions and the evaluation of the guidelines is complete.
I understand that the members opposite did meet with Mr. Fairman last night and were provided with a copy of his correspondence. I have responses which I am quite prepared to deal with in talking about the purpose of the amendments and how these amendments differ from what was introduced last fall. I look forward to the debate, but, Mr. Chair, I do not believe that withdrawing this bill for two weeks, when there has been a consultation period of a year, would serve any useful purpose at this stage.
The members may have questions and I can explain to them what's in the act and why it's in the act. I can talk further about why we are not undertaking, at this stage, a complete review of the Family Property and Support Act as has been suggested to us. We are considering undertaking such a review; however, we would prefer to wait until this jurisdiction and other jurisdictions have worked with the child support guidelines and have had a chance to review and evaluate them before doing a major revision of our act. Furthermore, the federal Justice department will be evaluating the guidelines and their implementation across Canada. What we will learn from this evaluation will contribute to any major revision we may do of our legislation.
There are also a number of details that must be worked out before the amendments can be proclaimed. This will help ensure that there is consistency in how child support orders are requested and ordered. The forms for use in court must be completed. This delay will provide another opportunity for me to seek input into the wording of the regulations.
We also anticipate that a public information and education program will be delivered in the territory, along with training for lawyers, whose clients will be affected by the guidelines.
There are some changes from the amendments that were introduced last fall, as a result of consultation. We have included in these amendments some changes that will allow the calculation of family assets more easily - for example, the amendments dealing with the valuation date and the inclusion of pension plans as family assets.
We have also deleted the three-month limitation period, during which a common-law spouse had to bring an application for support, because we feel that the emotional distress caused by the separation may cause the spouse to miss that limitation period.
We have further explained the class of persons who may make an application for support. However, the primary focus of the amendments remains a child-centred approach to child support that emphasizes the child's right to support.
There have been suggestions that we include same-sex couples in the categories of parents. As members know, this government is supportive of same-sex relationships. The Yukon Human Rights Act prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. The collective agreement that the government of Yukon as an employer has with its bargaining unit members - both the Public Service Alliance of Canada and the Yukon Teachers Association - includes benefits for same-sex spouse.
I am willing to bring forward an amendment to the definition of parents to provide legal status for same-sex relationships. The maintenance enforcement provisions have recognized same-sex relationships, and that is something that I will bring forward to include in the Family Property and Support Act.
There was a comment that dealt with the child support guidelines that will become regulations under the legislation as well. Lawyers stated that they could not comment on the implementation of the guidelines unless they were given them to review.
Mr. Chair, the child support guidelines were provided to the local bar in 1997 at the maintenance enforcement program annual information session. Further, the child support guidelines are a federal document, and they were brought into effect after a period of some years of discussion with the family law committee, which has representatives from both federal, provincial and territorial governments.
Currently, the plan is to have a regulation that adopts the federal guidelines so as to have the same treatment of cases where there is a divorce and cases where there is not a divorce. The members of the bar have had copies of the federal child support guidelines for over a year, and they have in fact been discussed at the maintenance enforcement program information sessions.
Section 15 of the act is being amended to provide that only the earliest dates in which marriage breakdown is deemed to have occurred will be the date of which assets are valued. There was a comment that there should be some discretion for the courts in terms of an appropriate valuation date, and this is in fact the case. The amendment fixes a rule to avoid the inequity caused by uncertainty and negotiating on quicksand where there is only relative power of the parties and no rule of law to establish a fair starting point.
Without certainty of the date on which the assets are valued, one party could take advantage of the other party by taking, or threatening to take, the issue to court for a judicial decision, or by using other leverage in their bargaining position.
The parties can choose the date they want and attribute whatever value they want, and their choice will be binding on them if they agree to it, and if there is no duress or oppression of one party by the other. The point of the clear rule is to enable a party to indicate that they will stand fast and not bend to pressure from the other party.
Mr. Chair, I have other comments to make about the Family Property and Support Act. The Member for Riverside was asking a question about family assets and about property issues. The scope of this project is to deal mainly with child support. The recommendations dealing with property issues are largely outside the scope of this project. Serious consideration will be given to reviewing the remainder of this act in future, particularly when the guidelines have been evaluated and other jurisdictions that have revised their family property and support act have also had some experience with the new legislation, and where there is a body of case law that will guide a major revision of the Family Property and Support Act.
So, Mr. Chair, I am ready to proceed in debate on the Family Property and Support Act at this time.
Mr. Phillips: Well, I'm still waiting, though, for the minister to provide me with some information about support from the local family lawyers - from the bar. The minister hasn't really done that; other than just say she has some support.
I don't pretend to be an expert in this field, because it's a very complicated field. So, we've had to rely on advice from some family law experts - some of the local lawyers.
The problem I have is that the only information I have in front of me, other than the minister's, is two of the family law lawyers, who are saying there are some concerns with this particular act.
The minister herself, Mr. Chair, said that this has been out there for over a year. So, there has been ample time, I suppose, if the minister really wanted to, to do a full review of this act. I think some of the advice or some of the suggestions that she has been given from some of the bar is that the review should be more extensive than the minister allows.
The other problem I have is that it appears that the act was sold to us basically as an act to bring us in line with the family support guidelines, and that I support. What bothers me is that it appears, as well, that the minister and the government have done a pick and choose on other areas of the act that they want to improve or think they want to change. It also appears that, even in some of those areas where it has changed, there isn't support for the change - that it will, in fact, make things worse.
Like I said, I'm not an expert. So, when I talked to some of the local family law lawyers they tell me that this is going to make it very difficult for some people who have to go through this issue.
All I'm asking of the minister - this is not a big, onerous thing; I'm not asking the minister to put it off for another year - is to put it off for a couple of weeks, so I can feel more comfortable. If we're going to change a law, let's do it right. We've waited a year; we can wait two weeks more to consult some of these lawyers, so that we, on this side, can get a couple more opinions.
This isn't a political issue - a "what you want and what I want". What we want - all of us: the minister, myself and my colleague from Riverside - is to make a good law.
The people who have to deal with this law - the ones who I have spoken to, the ones who I have heard from - have told me that this thing needs to be fine-tuned, and that's all I'm asking for. I'm not criticizing the minister in a strong, negative way for what she's put forward in front of us. Like I said before, I support the adoption of the federal guidelines. There are some problems with them, granted, but I support, in general, the principle and I support, in general principle, some of the changes she's made in the act.
I have some questions about some of the changes because some of the lawyers we've spoken to have pointed out some failings in these changes and have said, "We need some more time."
So, in fairness to providing good legislation, I don't think it's a onerous request; I think it's a reasonable request. We've got a lot of legislation in front of us we can deal with over the next couple of weeks, including budgets, and I just feel more comfortable with this.
You know, Mr. Chair, I have been in the unfortunate position of having to go through these kinds of things - too many times, I might add. My problem is that it has created problems for me, it's created problems for my ex-spouse and if we're going to clean this up, let's clean it up.
I think there are some useful suggestions out there and some people willing to sit down very quickly and work on it. I don't think that's an unreasonable request, and so I appeal to the minister, if she wants to do the right thing for couples who are involved in this kind of dispute, this kind of a problem, then let's do the right thing. Let's not rush through.
I know the minister will say it isn't rushed because the act's been out there for awhile, but the point of the matter is that yesterday or today we received these letters that say there are still problems with what we have in front of us.
I suggest to the minister that we as legislators - and many of us are not lawyers - have to rely on the people who deal with these issues from day to day to day and that are going to have to deal with them tomorrow. So that's why I'm appealing to the minister to consider standing this aside for as long as it takes. If the family bar can come back in five days or four days or three days, then I would agree to deal with it as soon as I feel that there is general support for this particular act and changes to this act.
So, I'll leave it with the minister. Maybe my colleague from Riverside has a few comments, or some other members may, but I think I have made my point with respect to not feeling comfortable with the amendments that are before us today. In a way, I'm almost feeling like I might, in some ways, be helping out and, in some other ways, creating some untold grief for some couples out there who are trying to solve what can sometimes be a very difficult problem.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, Mr. Chair, I do have some difficulty with the member's request. The amendments to this bill were first tabled in this Legislature last year, at the request of Shayne Fairman and John Laluk, and I'd like the member to respond as to whether those were the lawyers that he has spoken to about this bill. At the request of those two members of the bar, the legislation was drawn to allow for a period of further consultation. At that time, the amendments that were introduced last year were available. We sent out letters. We talked about the bill at the information session on the maintenance enforcement program in the spring.
We requested responses for August 31, 1998. The response that we received was October 7, 1998. We have made it clear - and I have made it clear in this House, both in second reading and in Committee debate today - that our focus in amending the Family Property and Support Act was to provide for an equitable regime for child support, and to bring into effect the new federal child support guidelines. I have already indicated that we are prepared to take on the larger scope of a full review of this act in the future, after we've had some experience with the new federal child support guidelines, but I have some trouble with politicizing legislation that was brought forward for one purpose, and that is to help children to receive support, to work toward reducing poverty in families.
The member opposite is seeking a further delay. We have voluntarily allowed an additional year for consultation. We've been working with the community. We've brought forward amendments that we believe are sound, and we are ready to respond to the members' questions on additional subjects.
Mr. Phillips: I thought we sort of went over this yesterday with the minister. She has a tendency, when she feels like somebody's actually questioning what she's doing, to say that the parties on this side of the House don't care about kids.
Mr. Chair, I want to see us move forward on the guidelines as well, and if the minister had brought a bill in, and that's all it did, we might be going through this a little quicker, but the minister decided, in her wisdom, to pick and choose, and put into the bill some things that some people wanted, but not all things that some people wanted.
That's the issue here. It takes a long time to get changes made to legislation. The minister sounds like we're here on this side of the House trying to kill her bill. What I said to the minister is, "We'll deal with it in this session, before December 15." I mean, we're a couple of years behind every other jurisdiction, to start with, in bringing it in, and we're asking for three more weeks, and the minister's threatening us.
Maybe, Mr. Chair, when the minister runs this bill through, as it appears she's going to, that when we get calls from distraught parents - mothers and fathers, who are having all kinds of troubles because of this bill - we'll just tell the local family bar to send them to the minister's office. She's the one who refused to look at the changes to prevent the problem that were actually suggested by the local bar, and the minister can deal with it at her doorstep, the way some of these lawyers have been having to do for quite some time.
I want to make a good law, and I told the minister that. I realize this has been out here for a bit of consultation, but we're not asking the minister to put this thing off for another year. We're asking the minister to hang tough for a couple of weeks, maybe, possibly at the most. I'm prepared to deal with this bill, one way or the other, before the end of the session, and I'll give the minister that commitment. Whether the new changes are in it or out of it, I'll deal with it. Whether I agree with it, or support it, may be another question, but let's give us a chance to make some changes.
I mean, if the car isn't running right, you just don't fill it up with gas so it runs another few hours. You take it in and get the engine overhauled - fix it.
I'll let other members speak on it. I think the minister knows where I'm coming from. It appears that we're going to agree to disagree. This government's going to say that what's most important here is the family support guidelines, which is somewhat accurate; it is very important. But I think what also is important here is the plight of the men and women who get involved in this kind of an issue and need some clear direction, by way of legislation, and it appears that this government is not prepared to look at that.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, Mr. Chair, the member's theory is not, in fact, true. The Yukon Family Property and Support Act determines child support awards for parents who are separating or who are separated. The child support guidelines, which are regulations to the federal Divorce Act, set the amount of child support for divorcing parents. The amendments to the Family Property and Support Act are part of the process to incorporate the federal child support guidelines as regulations to our Family Property and Support Act. It will create a fair standard of child support for all children and their parents in the Yukon. The federal child support guidelines only apply to the federal Divorce Act until we, in the Yukon, pass legislation to have them apply here to families that are married, or common law, and separated, as well as divorced.
So, the purpose of the proposed amendments is to encourage fair and consistent decisions for children of married or common-law parents who are divorcing or separating, by ensuring that the courts use the child support guidelines to make or change an order for child support.
The purpose of the amendments is also to put the best interests of the child first in child support decisions.
Thirdly, the purpose of the amendments is to change the sections of the Family Property and Support Act that deal with family assets. The three aspects of the proposed amendments are to support the child, to make sure the process is fair and to clarify the property section of the Family Property and Support Act.
The amendments to support the child include incorporating the child support guidelines, an amendment to change the definition of the word "child" and expand the child support obligation of parents. Parents must support a child under the age of 19 who is still in their care, and they must also provide support for children older than 19 when the children cannot support themselves because they are ill, disabled or for other reasons.
There's an amendment that requires the court, when it considers an application for child support and for spousal support, to give priority to the child support application if the paying parent cannot support both the child and the spouse.
There's an amendment that allows the court to disregard a provision in a domestic contract if that provision is not in the best interests of the child, and an amendment to expand the class of persons who may bring an order for support or an order to vary a support order.
To make sure that the process is fair, there is an amendment to eliminate the three-month period for common-law spouses to apply for spousal support. There will be no limitation period for common-law spouses, except at the discretion of the court.
There is an amendment to permit the parent who is receiving support to request financial information annually to verify the income of the payer, which is also in keeping with the child support guidelines. We are bringing in amendments to clarify the property section of the Family Property and Support Act. There's an amendment to make it clear that pension plans, business investments and property can be considered divisible family assets.
There's an amendment to establish a valuation date when family assets will be valued.
So, Mr. Chair, when we brought forward the proposed amendments - in fact, when we brought forward the first version of the amendments a year ago - we made it very clear that our intent was to amend the legislation to support the child, to make sure that the process is fair, and to clarify the property section of the Family Property and Support Act. That's the focus of the legislation that we're bringing forward.
There have been requests for a broader review of the act. Our position is that we want to have some experience with the new child support guidelines. We want to allow for some time for both this jurisdiction and others that have amended their Family Property and Support Act to have some experience of working with that, and then to consider a broader review of the entire act.
Mr. Cable: I think perhaps the minister is misappreciating where we're coming from. I think she would agree that she's not an expert on family law, and I think she would also agree that we are not experts in family law on this side of the House, and I think she would agree that she has the staff to brief her. She has all the history on this bill. She has all the files on the matter, and we don't have any of that.
We don't have any access to expert advice in our caucus. We have to go outside our caucuses. Hopefully, she would agree that we are not here to do dumb things. There is not even a hint that we're trying to politicize this bill. That would be stupid. Why would we do that? We're not here to oppose progressive moves, and I think finally she would have to agree that every piece of legislation that has been presented to this House has not been perfect.
So, therefore, I wonder if we can stand aside the suggestion that we're trying to make life difficult for the minister. That's the farthest from the case. It's the farthest from the case. We're here to support the child support guidelines, and we've told the minister that.
I wonder if she could just rise and let us know whether she has appreciated the fact that we have told her we're here to support the child support guidelines, just so we have some comfort going here.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, whether or not it makes the member comfortable or not, I hasten to assure them that I am absolutely delighted to hear that the members opposite are in support of bringing forward amendments to adopt the child support guidelines and to support children in Yukon families.
We're bringing forward amendments to both the Family Property and Support Act and the maintenance enforcement program to help address poverty in families where spousal relationships are no longer intact.
Mr. Cable: Okay, we've worked through that. We're over that hurdle. We're up to the first plateau. We're not here to make the minister's life difficult. Just take our word for it. We can swear on that, if the minister would like that.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Cable: On this particular bill. On other occasions, perhaps not.
But the minister has to realize that we have had conversations with one of the members of the local bar who practises family law, and has for some considerable time, and we have received a letter from another lawyer who practises family law. Now, they have raised red flags with us, and we would like to explore those red flags.
Now, here's what I was told last night by one of those lawyers. There are various sections that have nothing to do with the guidelines. They are other amendments, designed to solve other problems.
There are the sections 3, 4, 9, 11 and 12. Now in the conversations - and I'm not saying that these people are right or wrong, I'm saying they've raised red flags. In their opinion, there are some issues that they think should be discussed.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Cable: What do you mean, the last minute? The Minister of Health and Social Services is gyrating around. The bill was just tabled. This particular bill, Bill No. 60, was just tabled.
Section 3 talks about divesting of pensions. There was an argument raised that maybe we could divvy up pensions that haven't been vested. I don't know what the merit of the argument is; maybe it has absolutely no merit whatsoever. But it was raised by somebody whose intelligence I respect.
There was an argument raised on section 4 of the bill, on the valuation date. There are arguments as to whether you should be fixing the date, because values change. Maybe that red flag has absolutely no merit, but maybe it does have merit. I don't know that.
There was an argument raised on section 9. Is the government, in one of the subsections, an applicant on its own behalf or on behalf of the parties? Some technical problem.
There was an argument raised on section 11, relating to common-law spousal support, and there was an argument raised on section 12, on the assignment of the order for support.
Now, I don't know if any of these arguments have any merit at all, but they have nothing to do with the enrichment of lawyers' pocketbooks, they have something to do with making the bill better, in their opinion, and their opinion, in my view, has to have some respect. They have practiced family law for some time, and I don't see any advantage to them in trying to hijack this bill out of this session, because they know it's going to go through this session.
I think the Member for Riverdale North has asserted that, and I'll assert that, on behalf of this caucus.
So, what we would like is some time to hear these people out, to see whether their arguments have any merit. I'm just curious as to why the minister thinks that this is an unusual move. What's the problem with setting the bill over for some time? She's asserted that it has sat around for a year. What's another couple of weeks? Is there something happening that's going to be changing markedly in the next couple of weeks?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, Mr. Chair, I think that maybe we're starting to get at the truth here. The member has just stood up and indicated that he has met with one lawyer who has concerns about the bill. By coincidence, that lawyer is a former president of the Liberal Party. By coincidence, that lawyer asked me to withdraw the bill last year, which I did, to allow for further consultation, which I did.
Mr. Chair, we did not sit around for a year. The bill was tabled. The proposed amendments were available to every member of the public who had an interest in them. A consultation document was written and distributed to that lawyer, to other lawyers, to First Nations, to women's groups, to the community at large and to the official opposition.
Now, after the bill is introduced, the member says, "You must withdraw the bill and give it further consideration." Where were the member's concerns earlier? Where were the member's concerns during the last year? What does that member think will be gained at this time by, a second time, withdrawing the bill after it has been tabled in this House?
What's to say that, if it were to come back in two weeks, the member wouldn't say, "Well, we need another week", or "We need another month", or "Well, it had better wait until the spring."
What I have done is introduce amendments to the Family Property and Support Act, which are entirely consistent with the intent that I've expressed to the members opposite.
We want, as legislators, to bring forward amendments to provide for a fair standard of support for children who may live in poverty after families separate. We want to do what virtually every other jurisdiction in Canada has already done and adopt child support guidelines that, at present, only apply to parents who are divorced. We want that to apply to parents who are separated or who are in common-law relationships and have broken up.
Too many children are left in difficult financial circumstances that aren't of their own making, and so we want to bring forward these amendments to address the needs of children who are living in poverty. We're putting children's needs first. We're dealing with three issues. That's been the focus of the legislation. I can explain on a clause-by-clause basis what has been done and why and how it fits into what our focus is in bringing forward these amendments.
I'm pleased that the members want to support adopting the federal child support guidelines. I'm pleased that they support the principles that we are arguing for and bringing forward in legislation, and I don't believe that the member has presented a case with a rationale for withdrawing this bill yet again to undertake further consultation.
We requested a response by August 31. We received responses in October. We have responded to that, and I have indicated both in the House today and earlier that this is not a complete review of the Family Property and Support Act, and that this is a review of measures to deal with children and put their interests forward to support the child, to make sure that the process is fair, and to clarify the property section of the Family Property and Support Act.
Those are the amendments that are before the House, Mr. Chair, and I will stand here to defend them and to discuss with members opposite any other changes that they would like to bring forward, or any other concerns that they have. I'm quite happy to respond to that, but we intend to proceed with the bill. We've had public consultation for a year now and are looking forward to making some changes to improve the situation for children who need support.
Mr. Cable: You know, it's so difficult to make a point with this minister, because she becomes instantly defensive. We've had a discussion with a member of our party. He's not an idiot, and he's raised some points that I think have some merit, and the minister has received a letter from Mr. Laluk, who I think was the chair of the family law subsection.
Now, I have to tell the minister that Mr. Laluk, to my knowledge, is not and never has been a member of our party and perhaps not even of the Yukon Party, so can we get off that tack? So, there's no political plot going on here. We're not trying to embarrass the minister. We're not asking her to withdraw her bill. We're simply asking her to move it down the Order Paper a little bit so we can explore these problems that have been raised.
Maybe there is absolutely no merit to the problems, but perhaps there is some merit. For the life of me, I can't understand why the minister is resistant to that. We've got another 20 some-odd days. What's the problem?
Chair: Is it the members' wish to take a brief break?
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order.
Mr. Phillips: Before the break, the minister made some comments regarding a Liberal Party member and tried to politicize this issue.
I want to tell the member something about that meeting that took place last night. I was called by Mr. Fairman and asked if I could meet with him, as a family law lawyer in Whitehorse, because he had some concerns about an act that was before the House. He felt that it was important to discuss the issue with me and with anyone else who was interested, because he felt that there was a need to make the law better before we passed it.
He didn't call me and say, "I want to strike a conspiracy against the minister". The only conspiracy that happened last night might have been a conspiracy to try to make the act better. I met with Mr. Fairman - who I've never met before on any other occasion, other than on the street when people were campaigning - to ask him about the act.
So, I think it's really unfair for the minister, just because we met with an individual in a town as small as our town who happens to be dealing with the topic that we have in front of us here today, to try and politicize the comments by Mr. Fairman or politicize the meeting that took place between the Member for Riverside, myself and Mr. Fairman.
The whole meeting took place to gain more information and insight into the changes that were happening in the act, from a person who spends most of his life dealing with this legislation. So, Mr. Chair, I want the minister to know that, and understand that, and let's get back to the act - whether or not we're going to produce a good act in this legislature, or whether the minister intends to push it through.
I'm prepared to spend a great deal of time on this act, so I can consult some more family law lawyers in this town, whatever political stripe they might be, to get some more information with respect to whether this act is good or bad or indifferent. I, too, as I have already in this House, want to give the minister assurances that I want this act to go through in this session.
We're not being unreasonable. What we're asking for is a little more time, based on what information I have received so far. I mean, the act was tabled here this week, the lawyers have contacted the minister in the last two or three days. We asked the minister's officials, almost a week ago now, to provide us with documentation of support by the family law subsection of the bar - a letter of confirmation that they support the act.
We haven't got that, so it makes me wonder whether there is such a letter because it seems to be so hard to pry it out of the minister's hands. If the minister has it, maybe the minister could table it and then maybe we can deal with the matter based on what the letter says - whether they agree or disagree with what's in the act.
It almost makes you wonder, Mr. Chair. If the letter was supportive, the minister could jump to her feet immediately and table the letter and we would be off and running, but if the letter raises some strong concerns with respect to the act from the very association that this act is supposed to work for or the group that is supposed to work with the act, then maybe there's something in that letter that's telling us that the act that the minister has brought before us is not that good.
I'm not one to be able to judge that because, like I said, it's a very technical act and it's a very complicated issue, and I don't think anyone here is being unreasonable; I think everyone here is, quite frankly, being more than reasonable.
The minister made a comment about us wanting to kill the bill or defer the bill. We're not asking that at all. There's a really simple process in this House, as every member knows, and that's just to report progress on this bill - as we do with many other bills that we have before us - and come back to it in a few days' time after these matters have been addressed. That's not asking the minister to throw the bill out and start all over. It's asking the minister to do the right thing.
Mr. Chair, let me ask this question to the minister and her colleagues on the other side of the House. I wonder if any one of the colleagues on the other side of the House who have constituents that will be affected by this law called a local family lawyer and asked them if they feel that these changes are going to be good for them.
Has anyone done that? I'll bet you that not one member of that side of the House has done that. But I'll bet you, Mr. Chair, that they have constituents in their riding whom this law is going to affect, and they should be concerned about that.
The Member for Whitehorse Centre says that's why they're bringing it forward. That's right, and there are some good points about this bill - the guidelines - but there are also some bad points about the existing legislation. If the minister had just brought a bill through dealing with the guidelines, that would be fine, but the minister chose to bring a bill through to change some things in the existing legislation. Our argument is that if we're going to change some things in the existing legislation, there are some things that the local family lawyers know now that are broken, and they want fixed. So let's fix them. Let's get the proper advice, let's take the time to do it, and let's do it right, because if we don't fix them, my constituents, and the Member for Whitehorse South's constituents, who go to court in a few weeks or a few months, are going to be affected by the changes that should have been made in this particular piece of legislation. I don't think the Member for Whitehorse Centre wants that, and I don't want that.
We have it in front of us here now. We have an opportunity to deal with it. We can set it aside, stand it aside, report progress on it, for a few days, and come back with a letter from the family law subsection of the bar, saying, here are four or five recommendations and, if these are adopted, we can live with it.
It's important to us, too, to move into the area that other jurisdictions are with the guidelines.
I agree with the Member for Riverside. The minister has waited a year. We're asking the minister to wait two more weeks. They'll fly by in this House. When you're having fun, time flies by fast. They may not fly by so well for the government side, but they will fly by for us. Twenty-five days is almost too short.
We've given a commitment that we will deal with this particular act in this session, regardless of whether or not we have heard from these lawyers. But, surely to goodness, if we have two letters from two practitioners who deal with this on an everyday basis and say they have problems, we should be listening to that.
I don't know how the minister can rise to her feet with her knowledge, such as it is, with respect to this issue - I don't suspect that it's much better than mine - and feel confident that everything's just fine, when the people who deal with it every single day and have to stand up in front of a judge and make the arguments for one side or the other are telling her that it needs to be fixed.
They're not being political. They don't want to beat up on the minister. They just want to make sure that when they go to court the legislation is clear. Then they can express the wishes of their clients and know the legislation will back them up. And right now there are shortcomings to this legislation.
I can't understand - you know, it baffles the mind sometimes, Mr. Chair - how politicians, and in particular the side opposite, can be so stubborn. You know, we had the Minister of Government Services when we wanted contracts, and he went on and on and on and on about it. We have a Minister of Justice - the minute you sort of get underneath her skin, she starts to flash back and criticize you politically and all the other nasty things. It's almost like the Minister of Justice would prefer it if we weren't here and would prefer that we just leave her alone because her legislation is absolutely perfect and there's nothing wrong with it at all - "I'll just bring it into the House, and those folks over there should just rubber stamp it." Well, guess what, Mr. Chair? When the member was on this side of the House, she didn't expect that, and she's not going to get that from this side now.
We have an obligation on behalf of our constituents who deal with these kinds of laws day in and day out to stand up and ask questions, and when we deal with professional acts and legislation that deals with professional people like this, when we don't have the expertise ourselves, we have to rely on those people to give us advice.
I mean, I received a copy of these letters today, and I hadn't heard much about this act, other than the minister's arguments and her staff's pitch for going ahead with this particular piece of legislation - until we heard back from a couple of family lawyers. So I really think we need some more time.
I mean, I don't know how any member of this House could feel comfortable with charging ahead. We've got a ton of work ahead of us as far as other legislation we could do. It's sitting on the Order Paper. We don't have to deal with this today or tomorrow or Monday or Tuesday. We've got lots of work on the Order Paper. We have a budget there that's going to take a few days to deal with as well. So, it's not as if we're running out of time to deal with this and we won't have anything to do if we don't deal with it.
What appears to me, Mr. Chair, is that the minister, first of all, doesn't want to produce the letters saying that the bar supports this legislation. So, maybe there isn't such a letter. Then I get suspicious of why the minister wants to ram it through despite the concerns that are raised by some people who have to deal with it on a day-to-day basis, especially when both opposition parties are giving a commitment that we're prepared to deal with it this session - in the next 20 days or so.
I would hope we can get an answer back in a week. If we can get an answer in a week, I'm willing to sit down and deal with this thing in a week, two days, three days, whatever it takes. But I want to feel more comfortable with it. That's all I'm asking the minister. I just don't feel comfortable dealing with it right now and as quickly as we are when I've got a couple of family lawyers in this town expressing strong concerns over the legislation we have before us.
So, again I'll appeal to the minister. It might fall on deaf ears and I don't want to make the minister mad. I don't think it's lousy legislation; I just don't think it's as comprehensive as it could be. There are some really good aspects of it but there are also some strong concerns about it. So, I'm going to appeal to the minister to give it strong consideration. We're almost at the end of the first week. We need a little more time. We've got lots of work on the Order Paper we can do next week starting next week.
Meet with the bar and come back next week and tell us how long it'll take for them to come up with some kind of a suggestion or suggested changes if there needs to be any suggested changes or a letter of support for what we have in front of us.
If the minister comes back with that letter, one way or the other, and maybe a more firm commitment down the road to review the whole act in the very near future - not just in the future, but give me a date - I might be prepared to move forward on this more quickly. But I'm somewhat reluctant, when I don't have any of that information from the minister. All she tells me now, Mr. Chair, is that she has support from the bar, and I don't know who, and there's no evidence, other than the minister's word, which I honour, to know whether or not there's one, or two, or three, or four, or five. I mean, I wouldn't even have an idea of how many lawyers in this town specialize in family law. I'm sure there's not a huge number that we couldn't get together with - and fairly quickly - in their committee and go through this bill.
So, I'll leave that with the minister, and see what comments she might have.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, Mr. Chair, first of all, let me say that I do not, in any way, expect the opposition members to rubber stamp legislation that is brought forward. Secondly, I believe that we should have, and will have, a full and frank debate.
The amendments to the Family Property and Support Act are about children. Our reason for bringing this bill forward is to improve the lives of children. I had hoped - and I got the impression from some of the statements that the members made - that we should have common ground on wanting social justice for all members of society and for everyone in our community - for children, their parents, their grandparents and their neighbours.
Now, the member has indicated that he has letters from two lawyers - from Mr. Laluk and from Mr. Fairman. We received in October, in the Department of Justice, one letter from the two of them jointly, and I completely respect their input and their right to bring forward their suggestions.
We asked for their suggestions. I respected their request to withdraw the bill last fall and allow for a further year of consultation. I would like to say to the member that what we can do for him is to have my officials sit down with the members of the opposition, review the letter that has been received from Mr. Laluk and Mr. Fairman, and review our responses to the various positions in that letter.
Their position, when they wrote to us, was that there should be a complete review of the act, and there should be no amendments introduced in the fall of 1998.
Mr. Chair, our reason for bringing this bill forward is to help children. There are other interests, I recognize that there are other interests, and that they are legitimate, but they will have to wait for another time. We're not conducting a comprehensive review of the bill at this time. We're bringing forward amendments to deal with children, to deal with family support.
Mr. Phillips: That's a nice offer from the minister, and I'd be willing to take the minister up on it. The difficulty I have is I haven't spoken to Mr. Laluk, and all I see in his letter is a general comment about the bill. So, I would have to meet with that individual, and I would also like to meet with some other family law lawyers, not just these two individuals. I'm sure there are some other family law lawyers out there that would be willing to have input. So, that's why I'm asking for a delay. There's no possible way, with our schedule and their schedule, that I could meet with them all in the next 24 hours.
So it's going to take some time to meet with these lawyers, so maybe the minister would consider giving us a few days, and we'll try and contact some other family law lawyers ourselves and run the act by them and see how the bar feels towards this in general. I still haven't heard the comment from the minister with respect to the letter that her officials said they had. Whether they have a letter or whether they haven't got a letter or whether it's a letter of support or a letter of rejection, we're not sure. It was sort of given to us in the terms that it was a letter of support - at least that was my interpretation of it at the briefing - so I would appreciate receiving that letter as soon as possible. I would imagine that we've talked about it enough that the letter is either available immediately or has been shredded. I don't know which, but it's got to be around somewhere if there is such a letter. I'd like to get a copy of it as soon as we can, and maybe that might help the debate somewhat, and then I would like some time to meet with some other family law practitioners to deal with this issue.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, Mr. Chair, I spoke with my officials over the break about the briefing. I understand that the member was told in the briefing that there were letters of support for the maintenance enforcement program. I have indicated that we would provide the letter from Mr. Laluk and Mr. Fairman on the Family Property and Support Act. I can't imagine that they would have any objection to us providing it to them since they called and requested a meeting with the members opposite last night.
The member wants a few more days. Monday is three days away. We will provide additional information to the members tomorrow on the proposed amendments and on the representations from Mr. Fairman and Mr. Laluk and our response to them.
Mr. Cable: I think the minister's willingness is to accommodate us, and I thank her for that. We've indicated earlier, though, that we're not experts in family law. Is she prepared to have her officials sit down with the Justice critic from the Yukon Party and myself and with the two lawyers who have written the letters to the minister, so we can hear both sides of what's going on?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I've already indicated to the member opposite that I was quite prepared to make my officials available to sit down with the two critics to go over the bill. I'm not sure whether Mr. Laluk and/or Mr. Fairman would want to attend and participate in that meeting. We can extend the invitation to them.
Mr. Phillips: When we're setting up a meeting, I'd also like to possibly - I want to check around, but I may want to invite one other, possibly a second, individual along as well, because I want to get as much information on this particular issue as I possibly can from the expert side, so to speak. So I would appreciate if we could do that as well, if we set up a meeting.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I thought we had just agreed to set up a meeting. I do want to say that members have had a year to review this legislation, to contact members of the local bar, if they had an interest in discussing it with them and being fully informed about the bill before we brought it into the House. The members of the opposition received copies of the discussion paper and the request to participate in a public consultation.
Child support is the key issue that is currently being dealt with in these amendments. We have received requests for changes to the entire bill, and to look at property division. I recognize that there are other interests. As I have said, those will have to wait for another time. We are not, at this time, undertaking a comprehensive review of the entire act, and I don't believe that anyone's best interests would be served, after providing for a year now to look at the act, to say between now and three days from now or one week or two weeks or three weeks from now we're going to look at the full scope of the act and bring in further amendments.
So, I'm not prepared to do that. I am prepared to bring forward amendments that deal with the best interests of the child, which cover child support and we will not be undertaking a complete review of the act at this time. I am aware, as I believe the members opposite are, of the position taken by the family lawyers who have written requesting a complete review. They've had the draft act for a year; they've participated in some information sessions on maintenance enforcement and child support; they've presented their request and the government has presented its response. We're going to sit down tomorrow and go over that with the members.
Mr. Phillips: When is the minister prepared to entertain a full review of the act then, if the minister is not prepared to open it up any further at this time?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, Mr. Chair, as I've indicated in response to that question earlier today, we prefer to wait until we've had some experience with the child support guidelines in the courts. We prefer to wait until other jurisdictions in Canada, which have already adopted the child support guidelines, have had some experience with it. We're conducting reviews as we're implementing this. The federal government is also evaluating the child support guidelines.
I'm prepared to consider a review after we've had some experience in the act and after some other jurisdictions have also looked at their experience with the act. They will have been dealing with the amendments for a longer period of time and we can look at the experience that they've had with it and make some revisions to legislation.
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Chair, the minister is still being somewhat vague. What, in the minister's view, is "some period of time"? I mean, we've got some jurisdictions that have been working with these guidelines for awhile. What are we looking at? Does the minister feel that it would take six months, six years, 16 years? What is the amount of time the minister considers reasonable before the minister wants to change the act? The reason I ask that question is that, from the information I've received so far with respect to it, there are some fairly serious issues in the act that need to be addressed.
It's an older act, and I can't remember the exact date, but it was sometime in the 1950s when the act was brought in, but I know the act is fairly old, and not much has been done with it for quite a while. So, I just want to know from the minister how long she is prepared to wait before we fix some of the other things - not necessarily related to the guidelines, but related more to the old act?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Let me remind the member that the Yukon has no experience with the child support guidelines. The Yukon has no experience with amendments to the Family Property and Support Act.
The reason for it is that, at the request of Mr. Laluk and Mr. Fairman, the amendments that we tabled last fall were withdrawn, in order to provide for an additional year of consultation. We will wait until we've had a chance to review and evaluate the Yukon legislation, which has not yet been passed in this House, and learn from both that evaluation and the evaluation that the federal Justice department will be conducting on the guidelines and their implementation across Canada.
It will take some time to test the new elements of our legislation, and that of other jurisdictions, to see how they're working. The national review of the guidelines and caselaw will take some time. All I can tell the member is that we'll consider a more complete review sometime in the future; not in the immediate future.
Mr. Phillips: The minister said the federal government is going to be reviewing the guidelines. Have they set some kind of target date for review of the guidelines in the future, and if so, what's that target date?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, I'm not certain if the federal target date for reviewing the guidelines has, in fact, been identified. There are a couple of jurisdictions like the Yukon that have not yet implemented the guidelines. Most of them have.
I think, though, the member would agree with me, that it is only fair to allow complete involvement of the public if the whole act were opened. What we have indicated, both to the local bar and to the community at large, is the scope of the present amendments.
The primary focus of the amendments remains a child-centred approach to child support, which emphasizes the child's right to support. It would certainly not be fair to open up the entire act without allowing an opportunity for full discussion with the public and with the bar.
Mr. Phillips: The minister has said that, I think, three or four times now. I think we've got it.
What I want to ask the minister - and the minister is still not clear on it - not the near future or the distant future. Can't we give a little more certainty to the local family law practitioners? Do you want to give it a year? Do you want to give it two years? Three years? Four years? What kind of a timeline are you looking at for a review? If this act passes in this House, it will be implemented probably by the spring, by the time things are ready to go. What are we looking at after that? A trial period? Has the minister not even thought about that, or is it just something that the minister has said in the House, that we'll deal with in the future, hoping that it will go away?
I don't think the lawyers want it to go away. I think they want it dealt with. They had kind of hoped that more of it would be dealt with now. I just want to know a better target date of when the government might consider dealing with this matter. Just as important as the guidelines are to some people, so are the changes to this act important - the necessary changes - from what I've heard from some of the family law lawyers. There are some fairly significant issues around this act that should be addressed, and that are causing great grief to a few people. So, that's what I'm interested in. When is the minister prepared to address the other important issues around this act?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, the member made the statement that I had responded and given that answer three or four times and that he has it now. I'm glad he has it now. I responded three or four times because the member has asked the question three or four times. Any time that he wants to quit asking the same question, I will quit answering the same question.
As I have indicated to the members, we have brought forward amendments to the Family Property and Support Act to support the child, to make sure that the process of child support is fair and to clarify some sections of the Family Property and Support Act.
I have told him that I am not aware of when the federal Justice department will complete its evaluation of the guidelines, which have been around for over a year now. I do not know when we might conduct a full review of the act.
What I know and what I have been trying to get through to the member is that we are bringing forward amendments to provide an equitable regime for supporting children of parents who are either separating or divorcing. We are bringing forward amendments to ensure that children have the support that they need when a family's relationships break down.
Mr. Cable: Just to iterate where we've been this afternoon so the minister understands exactly what's taking place, the Liberal caucus and, I believe, the Yukon Party caucus support the guidelines. We wanted to see them pass this session. We are under no illusion that the bill will be withdrawn, and we're not making that pitch. We don't think it should be withdrawn. We certainly think the guidelines should be passed.
We're hoping, for the benefit of the stakeholders, that the minister will make some sort of commitment on a review of the act - some public commitment. We want to work with the minister and, finally - this is the most important - we want to work with the minister to improve the bill, if in fact there are some legitimate changes that are necessary, and bills are changed in this Legislature from time to time. We'd like to take advice and offer those suggestions to the minister for changes.
Now, are we all on the same wavelength here?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, I believe the member has summarized what we spent the last little while in the House discussing. I'm pleased that the members want to work with me on supporting these amendments to bring about the child support guidelines. I find it somewhat difficult to understand that the member seems to be suggesting that they will be bringing forward potential amendments on substantial review on some very comprehensive subjects beyond the scope of the existing act.
If, in fact, they want to bring forward the same amendments that have been addressed to the Department of Justice and to myself about property matters, those are matters that many members of the public who have experience in relationships that have failed would want to be able to speak on.
I think it's only fair for the members to be aware that I am not supportive of a broad revision of the act and expanding the scope to include a new property regime, which is a recommendation of the lawyers in question.
However, I am pleased that the members will sit down with officials tomorrow and review these subjects more fully, and I look forward to discussing it again on Monday.
Mr. Cable: Have we reached conclusion - the briefing is tomorrow?
One of the people who has been giving us advice is out of town. He just left on the plane this afternoon. Is there some urgency that it has to be done tomorrow?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, let me say to the member that there are children and families out there whose lives will benefit from the amendments we're bringing forward to the Family Property and Support Act.
Mr. Chair, the member has said that he's unable to speak to one of the lawyers who is providing him advice on this subject because he's left town. At the request of those lawyers, we withdrew the bill last year. There has been a year for the member to sit down and meet with Mr. Fairman or Mr. Laluk to discuss their concerns. I will have my officials provide an additional briefing on the Family Property and Support Act amendments tomorrow and we'll be bringing the bill forward again on Monday.
Mr. Chair, I move that you report progress on Bill No. 54.
Mr. Cable: We just can't grab lawyers, and say, "Shut your court docket down and come over here, because we want to talk to you." We have to phone them and find out if they're available. Now, if the minister figures there's some urgency, we'll need at least a little while to make some phone calls to see if some people are available. If Mr. Fairman's out of town, and there appears to be some urgency in the briefing, then we'll get somebody else. But, certainly, we would like Mr. Laluk, and I gather the Member for Riverdale North wants some time to line somebody up.
You can't expect that we're just going to get on the phone and order them over here to meet the minister's schedule. They have their own schedule.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, I don't understand what the member's difficulty is with proceeding with Family Property and Support Act amendments to address the concern for children.
Mr. Cable: These are litigation lawyers. They had court dockets. You just can't jump up.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Point of order.
Point of order
Chair: On a point of order, Ms. Moorcroft.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, on a point of order, I sat down because I could not hear because there was a lot of heckling going on in the House. I believe I still have the floor. Mr. Chair, I move that you report progress on Bill No. 60.
Chair: The Chair recognized Mr. Cable. Please proceed.
Mr. Cable: I was trying to tell the minister that, like her, these people have dockets to work to. They have timetables. They have schedules. They have meetings. We just can't phone them up and say, "Look, you get yourself over here. The Minister of Justice has set up a meeting, and you had better be here." The judges that run the courts that they appear in may have a different view of the world, so there has to be some sort of understanding of what's going on. We have to accommodate at least some of these lawyers so we can get some proper advice.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, the member opposite has had a year to receive proper advice from these lawyers. The member opposite has received both the consultation document in the spring and a briefing on the Family Property and Support Act amendments that are before us. The member opposite has heard me explain what we are doing and why we are bringing these amendments forward.
I do not understand why the member now finds it imperative to have additional time to consider the bill when he has had ample opportunity to look at the scope of the amendments and to consult with whatever members of the legal community or other members of the public he may wish to talk to about this bill.
Mr. Chair, I am willing to accommodate the members by providing them with a copy of the complete, full and lengthy correspondence from Mr. Fairman and Mr. Laluk, if they haven't already received all of those letters. I am willing to be accommodating, and I don't understand why the members opposite aren't.
Mr. Chair, I move that you report progress on Bill No. 60.
Chair: Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agree.
Some Hon. Members: Disagree.
Chair: I think the yeas have it.
Some Hon. Member: Division.
Chair: Division has been called.
Division bells ring
Chair: Order, please.
The question before the Committee is whether progress should be reported. Would those in favour please rise?
Chair: Would those opposed please rise?
Motion to report progress on Bill No. 60 agreed to
Hon. Mr. Harding: I move that the Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Motion agreed to
Speaker resumes the Chair
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
Speaker: May the House have the report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole?
Mr. McRobb: Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 54, An Act to Amend the Maintenance and Custody Orders Enforcement Act, and directed me to report it without amendment. Further, Committee has considered Bill No. 60, An Act to Amend the Family Property and Support Act, and directed me to report progress on it.
Speaker: You have heard the report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: I declare the report carried.
The time being past 5:30 p.m., this House now stands adjourned until 1:30 p.m. next Monday.
The House adjourned at 5:38 p.m.
The following Sessional Paper was tabled November 5, 1998:
Nisga'a treaty in British Columbia: letter dated July 31, 1998, to Gordon Campbell, Leader, B.C. Liberal Party, from Pat Duncan, leader of the third party (Duncan)
The following Legislative Return was tabled November 5, 1998:
Garnishment process as a result of maintenance arrears: explanation (Moorcroft)
Oral, Hansard, p. 3410