Tuesday, November 10, 1998 - 1:30 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order. We will proceed with prayers at this time.
Speaker: We will proceed at this time with the Order Paper.
Are there any tributes?
Tribute to CBC Radio's 40th anniversary
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, today Yukoners are celebrating the 40th anniversary of CBC North, and in February of next year, radio station CFWH will be celebrating 55 years of service to the Whitehorse community.
Mr. Speaker, the first radio transmitter went on the air in Dawson City on October 20, 1923, initially sending messages in Morse code between Dawson and Mayo.
Through the 1930s, Yukoners purchased radio broadcast receivers and hooked up aerials tuned into radio stations in Alaska, B.C. and Alberta.
In the late 1940s, arrangements were made with the northwest highway system to get feeds of the regular Saturday night NHL hockey radio broadcasts, which CFWH carried live. By the late 1980s, all CBC Yukon programs were distributed by satellite, enabling CBC Radio to get into previously unserved areas like Old Crow, Pelly Crossing and Stewart Crossing. CBC Radio is available to these communities through transmitters owned and operated by the Government of Yukon.
Mr. Speaker, CBC's efforts for the past 40 years of operation in the north and CFWH's 55 years of service to this community is the result of over 500 Yukoners' volunteer and paid efforts, over the years: Yukoners like Terry Delaney and Wee Willy Anderson and many, many others.
On behalf of the Yukon Legislative Assembly, we in the Liberal caucus would like to pay tribute today to their efforts and wish those who are following in their footsteps of service to Yukoners, much success.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Hon. Mr. Harding: We rise as the New Democrat caucus to pay tribute the CBC's 40 years. The CBC is a tremendous institution that has been a great service to this country and to this territory. The people of the Yukon rely very heavily on its service.
One way that Yukoners can really truly contribute to the Yukon is to put pressure on the federal Liberal government to stop the terrible cuts that they've inflicted on the CBC. Mr. Speaker, we've seen job cuts, we've seen reduced service, and all the while local Liberals have stood by, just like with Bill C-68.
I believe that, without a doubt, that broken promise must be held accountable by the people of the territory. The CBC is a very important institution. They do a lot of good work in rural Yukon. Now, with cut budgets, it is more difficult for them to get out and cover events. I think that has to stop.
Mr. Phillips: On behalf of the Yukon Party caucus, I would like to wish a happy birthday to CBC Radio. I think all of us - many of us who have been here for years - have listened to them for most of our lives in the territory.
I was going to do something a little different, Mr. Speaker. I was going to suggest that I would ask all members of the House to rise at this time, and then we could break into happy birthday to CBC, but, on second thought, it might be in violation of the radio licence that we have.
Mr. Speaker, I'd just like to wish another 40 years plus to CBC in the Yukon, and thank all the many people who have come here from other parts in the past and worked for CBC. Many have since retired and made their homes here. So, CBC has been a real part of the north for years, and always will be.
Speaker: Are there any introductions of visitors?
Are there any returns or documents for tabling?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I have for tabling the French editions of the Little Salmon-Carmacks and Selkirk First Nations final agreement.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I have for tabling the Yukon Utilities Board 1998 annual report.
Speaker: Are there any reports of committees?
Are there any petitions?
Are there any bills to be introduced?
Bill No. 51: Introduction and First Reading
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Speaker, I move
THAT Bill No. 51, entitled Wilderness Tourism Licensing Act, be introduced and read a first time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Minister of Renewable Resources that Bill No. 51, entitled Wilderness Tourism Licensing Act, be now introduced and read a first time.
Motion for the introduction and first reading of Bill No. 51 agreed to
Speaker: Are there any further bills to be introduced?
Bill No. 57: Introduction and First Reading
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I move that Bill No. 57, entitled Estate Administration Act, be now introduced and read a first time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Minister of Justice that Bill No. 57, entitled Estate Administration Act, be now introduced and read a first time.
Motion for the introduction and first reading of Bill No. 57 agreed to
Bill No. 67: Introduction and First Reading
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I move that Bill No. 67, entitled An Act to Amend the Private Investigators and Security Guards Act, be now introduced and read a first time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Minister of Justice that Bill No. 67, entitled An Act to Amend the Private Investigators and Security Guards Act, be now introduced and read a first time.
Motion for the introduction and first reading of Bill No. 67 agreed to
Speaker: Are there any further bills to be introduced?
Are there any notices of motion?
Are there any statements by ministers?
Bituminous surface treatment technology transfer
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I'm pleased to inform the House of a new development in our government's policy of sharing Yukon-developed technology with other jurisdictions.
The technology I am referring to is a road-surfacing method known as bituminous surface treatment, or BST, and most of us just call it "chip-sealing."
This technology has been used for over 40 years in all types of geography and climate conditions. Here in the Yukon, we have used it for two decades, and we now have over 1,800 kilometres of BST-surfaced roads. It's a highly cost-effective alternative to hot-mix asphalt, and is particularly suited to rural and remote areas.
Over the years, Community and Transportation Services has developed a BST-management program that has begun to attract attention around the world. We've been happy to share our Yukon expertise with other jurisdictions, such as Alaska.
For example, during a recent New Exporters to Border States trade commission to Alaska, the Mayor of Juneau officially thanked the Yukon government for making this road-surfacing technology available. Through our membership with the Northern Forum and other international contacts, countries as far away as China, Russia and Poland are expressing interest in using the Yukon experience.
Today, I'm pleased to announce a new form of partnership with the private sector that will help make this technology more widely available in other parts of the world. Like the Yukon Housing Corporation, my department has been working closely with trade and investment officials at Economic Development to help the Yukon attract this market for BST technology abroad.
One result has been the brochure highlighting the Yukon's BST experience, which I will take the opportunity to table at this time. This brochure was developed through a partnership with Economic Development and Ketza Construction, and is available for other Yukon companies to use as a marketing tool.
There is even a Russian-language version of this in print.
I am very pleased to advise members that Ketza representatives will be heading south of the equator in January to talk to officials in Bolivia about using BST for that country's road surfacing program.
Mr. Speaker, we believe that government can play an important role as a facilitator, helping Yukon business people meet their own economic objectives. We also believe that one of the best ways to create jobs and strengthen the Yukon's economy is to diversify our economic activities.
The kind of partnership I've just announced is a good example of cooperation between the public and private sectors. The transfer of Yukon technology and Yukon expertise to other parts of the world is a key part of our trade and investment strategy, and I believe it holds a lot of promise for Yukon workers and Yukon business people as we head into the next millennium.
Mr. Jenkins: On behalf of the Yukon Party caucus and office of the official opposition, I'm pleased to take this opportunity to respond to the minister's statement regarding the BST technology transfer.
As the minister mentioned in his statement, the Yukon has been using BST technology over the past 20 years as a highly cost-effective alternative to asphalt. In fact, I believe that Yukon is the largest user of BST in Canada. Yukon contractors, such as Skookum Asphalt, Lobe Construction, as well as the YTG chipper crew, are all very familiar with BST technology and have all had a capable hand in the surfacing of much of Yukon's highway systems.
Referring to the minister's comments about the recent trade mission to Alaska and the initiative to make this road surfacing technology available to the state, I'm somewhat surprised, as Alaska has been known to be using BST surfacing on their highway systems for quite some time, although they use a system with a higher asphalt component. BST application machinery is all manufactured in the U.S. and this process is used extensively in the Lower 48. As the minister may be aware, the Yukon uses high floats, which is an emulsion-based BST process, but it has proven to work well in Yukon because of our semi-arid climatic conditions.
This product cannot be applied effectively in wet conditions and is not proven to stand up on the wet coastal areas of Alaska.
Perhaps the minister, in his rebuttal, could advise the House if there are any formal agreements or arrangements with the State of Alaska regarding BST technology transfers and, if so, what these entail.
Without having had an opportunity to review the brochure highlighting Yukon's BST experience, I'd like to know the cost of producing this brochure and if any of these costs were shared by Ketza Construction. I'd also like to know if the government will be providing any funds to Ketza Construction for travel costs with respect to their trip to Bolivia in January. If so, has the government also asked other Yukon companies to join them in their trip to Bolivia?
Mr. Speaker, over the years I've been familiar with Ketza Construction as a general contractor specializing in commercial and industrial buildings as well as mine development, but I've not been aware of its work with respect to road surfacing. Perhaps the minister could provide members with information outlining the expertise of Ketza Construction in road building and provide examples of some of their recently completed BST applications. Could the minister also advise as to whether or not other Yukon companies were afforded similar opportunities?
While we on this side of the House support trade and export initiatives, we remain very concerned about the depressed state of the Yukon economy and the large number of Yukoners who have chosen to leave the territory to find work elsewhere because of this government's failure to create an economic climate that will attract investment in the Yukon and create jobs for Yukoners. Similar to the Yukon Housing Corporation's initiative to build houses in Chile and the government's missions to Moscow, this initiative will do little, if anything at all, to help boost our already depressed economy and to help put Yukoners back to work in the Yukon.
Like our counterparts in B.C., our Government of Yukon has become known for its ambivalence toward economic development. This is some initiative. This government has managed to not only transfer technology out of the Yukon, but also a great deal of our workforce.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the Yukon Liberal caucus, I'd like to respond to the ministerial statement on BST technology transfer.
Essentially, Mr. Speaker, this is a ministerial statement about the development of a couple of brochures - very good brochures, I'm sure. However, what I'm wondering about is whether these brochures have at least been produced in Spanish? If they are to be going down to Bolivia, have they been produced in Spanish? I understand that they've been produced in some dialect of Russian, but has there been an effort made to produce these in Spanish, which is the language of the country that they're headed toward?
Ministerial statements, of course, are generally short, factual statements of government policy, but this ministerial statement about the brochures talks about development of a brochure as an economic windfall for us here in the Yukon. I'm just wondering what sort of a windfall is this development of the brochure? Are we perhaps counting our chickens just a tad before they're hatched? How is the connection from the brochure attached to putting Yukoners to work here in the Yukon? I guess I'm still not clear on that, except for the exportation of jobs to other areas.
If this is, in fact, a ministerial statement, then are we to expect that the next ministerial statement will be about the Minister of Economic Development making a phone call, because this would have very, very similar effects as the development of this brochure?
To be absolutely clear, BST is the best for our climate, and we do that very, very well. Developing a brochure about BST is a good idea, but I still need a little bit more detail from the minister as to how that connects with economic development here in the Yukon.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Mr. Speaker, I should be in no way surprised by the negative tone from across the floor. Let me just say, though, that - well, a new mill in Watson Lake, oil and gas - we still retain a bigger workforce than we had in the previous shutdown of the Faro mine. We've had record visitation. We've got increased air-access service. We've created marketing funds. All of this is for the betterment of the Yukon Territory - one job at a time, one step at a time, and that's exactly what this government will continue to do.
On the cost of the brochure: no, that wasn't included within funds to Ketza; and no, we're going to be working with Ketza, as I've said. Other Yukon companies - yes, other Yukon companies are most entitled to work with us.
The Member for Klondike feels that the BST here in the Yukon Territory will not be applicable or will not take to the Juneau coastline. I would suggest that maybe the Member for Klondike could give a call to the mayor of the town and then he will certainly be able to find out first hand about the request.
So, certainly, I think it's good news. I think when we can export technology, as we have within the Yukon Housing Corporation, and we take our northern initiatives and we export them elsewhere, it can only mean goodness for the Yukon Territory in the short term and in the long term.
Propane merger: submission to competition bureau
Hon. Mr. Harding: I rise today to outline the policy of our government with respect to the proposed merger of the two companies that supply propane in the Yukon.
Earlier this year, Superior Propane announced a $200-million bid to acquire the assets of ICG Propane, which is a subsidiary of Petro-Canada. One result of this proposed merger would be that Yukon consumers would have access to only one source of propane.
Yukon people and municipalities have been raising concerns about the proposed merger and the potential impact on their budgets if propane costs rise. This is an important issue in this territory, since we already pay higher energy prices than many other Canadians.
As members are aware, our government has taken bold measures to help offset energy prices. Last week, I announced that we were setting aside $10 million for a rate stabilization fund to keep electricity costs stable and affordable for Yukon people for at least the next four years.
A second cause for concern about the proposed merger is that consumers in the north have fewer heating sources available to them than other Canadians. This also contributes to higher prices. The Yukon's relatively small industrial base also means that individual consumers account for a higher percentage of the territory's total energy use. As a result, price increases tend to have a larger impact on residential users than in other areas of Canada.
Mr. Speaker, since the introduction of competition to the territory's propane market in the 1980s, propane use has increased significantly. We believe that returning to a monopoly situation could be a step backward and would not be in the best interest of Yukon people.
If the proposed merger took place, the result would be a single company controlling approximately 70 percent of the Canadian propane supply. That would make it very difficult for any other propane supplier to enter a mature Yukon market. Not only would the loss of competition likely result in higher prices, it could mean a loss of up to 10 jobs. Yukon workers already face difficulties because of the shutdown of the Faro mine with the loss of approximately 1,000 jobs, and 20 percent of the territory's gross domestic product is traditionally represented.
For those reasons, our government is asking the federal government, through its competition bureau, to rule in favour of keeping the Yukon's propane market competitive.
I encourage members to read our submission to the bureau and to join us in helping ensure that Yukon consumers will continue to have the advantages of competition in propane supply, and I will now table the submission we're making.
Mr. Ostashek: I rise to respond to this ministerial statement, which could be summed up in a few words, "Too little, too late." I don't know where this minister has been. The merger was announced in July. The minister's over there laughing. Well, he ought to be ashamed of himself, because there was an article in the Globe and Mail on November 3 stating that it's a done deal, and now he's responding and going to the competition bureau. This is much like their bank merger consultation with Yukoners - wait until after the horse has left the barn, and then we're going to stamp our feet and put on a big show, and say we're sticking up for the rights of Yukoners.
Mr. Speaker, we believe that this is a serious problem, and the minister should have been on the ball and had a submission in a long time ago, if he was going to fight on behalf of the Yukoners. Any time that we have a monopoly in any sector of society, it causes concerns for consumers, and I say that the minister should maybe take note of that. Instead of trying to break his arm patting himself on the back about energy prices, maybe he ought to introduce some competition in providing electricity, and consumers would be getting a fair deal.
I'm really disappointed that this minister didn't get a submission in earlier. This article from the Globe and Mail says, "There's been no official decision, but industry sources say a positive ruling is essentially a done deal." So, once again, too little, too late, in trying to take credit for something that they didn't do.
Mr. Cable: We in the Liberal caucus share reservations about the upcoming monopoly that we're going to be looking at, possibly, in the propane market. We share the view that these concerns should have been expressed to the competition watchdog, the competition bureau, some time ago. To parody the Minister of Economic Development, or perhaps paraphrase him, competition is good, and monopolies are bad, and the creation of a monopoly here can't help but have a negative impact on prices and service.
I notice that the minister, in his ministerial statement, said he encourages members to read our submission to the bureau. Let me encourage the minister, when he provides the opposition with a ministerial statement, to provide all the documents, so that when we arrive in this House, and speak to his ministerial statement, we have all the facts, and we can comment, not only on his ministerial statement, but on his submission.
This has happened many times in the past, with press releases and ministerial statements. They're put out to the public, and the opposition is left trying to figure out what's going on, with the whole story and all the documents.
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, Mr. Speaker, I will begin with the latter comment. I would have provided the information but you see, Mr. Speaker, the leader of the official opposition already had his mind made up. He was feeling that it was too little, too late, based on a Globe and Mail article, the Bible for the right-wing of this country and this territory - the Liberal and the Tory parties. Because an insider said it, doesn't make it true and the submissions, for a fact, are still being received to a deadline period by the competition bureau, and our formal position follows other correspondence that we have had with the competition bureau on this particular subject.
I want to say that the Yukon Party's response to higher energy prices in this territory was to raise gasoline taxes. That was their contribution.
With regard to his statement about doing more to encourage competition in producing energy, Mr. Speaker, the members opposite were the granddaddies of diesel production of energy in this territory. They never added one megawatt or one any-watt of power to the Yukon's electrical grid in four years of government. They just burned more and more diesel power. They had big talk about coal generation, but of course that went nowhere.
Of course, we have recently announced, by contrast, a wind-generation project. We have invested heavily in energy-efficiency initiatives and developed the green power initiative that has received a lot of support from the community and a lot of interest from people.
I just want to say that, in terms of the member's comment, which was also negative, about the strong position that this government took - not only on this merger, but early on last year, in the development of the bank merger - that we're very proud that we were among the first governments in this country to raise the flags about the bank merger issue, and stood up very strongly for Yukoners about our concerns for potential job losses and impacts on service, particularly in rural Yukon, that might be affected by these potential bank mergers. Of course, Yukoners will also know now that it was the Yukon Liberal caucus who only took a position after the federal Liberal caucus came out with their report just last week on bank mergers. Once again, they were waiting for the federal wind to blow their way before taking a position.
Mr. Speaker, the puppet masters in Ottawa are giving them the direction. This government doesn't need that. We've been among the first governments in this country to speak out on this particular merger and the bank mergers. We believe that it is not in the best interests of Yukoners and, therefore, we've made our case in advance, as well as in this formal representation to the competition bureau.
Speaker: This then brings us to Question Period.
Question re: Oil and gas development, Porcupine caribou herd
Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Government Leader on the mixed messages that are coming from him and his government in regard to resource development in the Yukon. In the Government Leader's address to the Canadian-American Business Council in Washington, D.C., the Government Leader stated, "Our government-to-government relationship with the Yukon First Nations has resulted in oil and gas legislation with broad political support. This ensures a politically stable environment for the industry, making land tenure and access issues easier to resolve."
Mr. Speaker, while the Liard First Nation has given him support for this position, the Vuntut Gwitchin are on record saying that they are against oil and gas development. So, I'd like to ask the Government Leader this question: did he tell them in Washington that he's prepared to go ahead with oil and gas development in the wintering range of the Porcupine caribou herd? Is that what the Government Leader said?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, the short answer to the question is yes. First of all, Mr. Speaker, the Government of Yukon's position has historically been that we are opposed to development in the core calving area of the Porcupine caribou herd. We are opposed to this development both on the American side of the border and on the Canadian side of the border. We have not ever said that we are opposed to development in the winter range of this caribou herd or any other caribou herd largely because the winter ranges of caribou herds cover the entire Yukon and we're not anti-development. We are, in fact, working with the oil and gas industry to promote more activity. We are working with the mining industry to promote more responsible mining activity so that the position we have taken is wholly consistent with the position that we've always taken. We feel that it is justifiable on environmental grounds and it does meet the needs of the territory in the long term with respect to job creation.
Mr. Ostashek: The Government Leader may think it's consistent and acceptable, but environmental groups don't think that and neither do business and industry.
Mr. Speaker, you yourself in a recent constituency newsletter expressed concern about the 23 million acres of the North Slope of Alaska that is being opened up to oil exploration this summer, not in ANWR but on the North Slope. At the same time, the Government Leader was in Washington proclaiming that the northern Yukon was now open for oil and gas development. At the same time, he is meeting with environmentalists and politicians and stating that the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska should be protected from oil developers. What the Government Leader appears to be saying is, "Oil development in Alaska is bad; oil development in the Yukon is good."
I ask the Government Leader this: is that the message he's trying to convey?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: First of all, the environmental community in Washington did not oppose the position we took and we are taking. I don't know who in business and industry he's referring to, but they're not opposed to the position we're taking. The member asked me whether or not we support development in winter ranges of a caribou herd, and I said yes, responsible development in the winter ranges of caribou herds.
The member asked me whether or not we oppose development in the core calving area in Alaska and Canada, and I said yes. How much more clear does the member want the answer? There's nothing inconsistent about that. It is quite contrary to the member's position. It is, in fact, in agreement with the Washington-based lobby efforts to keep the calving grounds protected, and it is supported by the development community in this territory and outside the territory.
So I don't know who the member's talking to, but it is not being opposed by people I've been speaking to.
Mr. Ostashek: Okay, let me get this clear from the government leader then. His position is he's opposed to development in ANWR, but he's not opposed to the 23 million acres that are being opened up on the North Slope now. Is that the government's position?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I need a map to show the member that there's a core calving area for the Porcupine caribou herd that straddles the Yukon-Alaska border, on both the Canadian and the American side. In the Yukon, in Canada, the core calving area is protected by national parks - two of them. On the American side, the core calving area is protected by the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. We think that the national parks in Yukon and the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge should be out of bounds for development, because they constitute the protection for the core calving area of the Porcupine caribou herd. It's a critical habitat area. It should be protected on both sides of the border.
We're not saying that the winter range of the caribou herd in Alaska or in the Yukon should be out of bounds to development. I haven't said that. I didn't say that in Washington; I haven't said that in the Yukon. Our position is supported in Washington by the environmental lobby, and it's supported by the business community and the development community here in the Yukon. I don't know what the member's issue is.
Question re: Oil and gas development, Porcupine caribou herd
Mr. Ostashek: Well, my issue is quite simple. If the Government Leader would listen, he would understand what I'm saying.
The 23-million acres that are proposed for development now in the North Slope are not in ANWAR. The Vuntut Gwitchin have taken a position opposing that development. I'm asking the Government Leader what his position is. Is he opposed to that 23-million acres being opened up on the North Slope, which is not within ANWAR or the key calving area of the Porcupine caribou herd?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Mr. Speaker, I can't be more clear than I have been. I can't be more clear.
Critical habitat, the core calving area of the Porcupine caribou herd, should be protected on the American side of the border and on the Canadian side of the border. In fact, key critical habitat for any caribou herd should be protected anywhere, north and south. But winter ranges of caribou herds are not considered critical habitat areas, and some responsible development should be allowed in those areas if there are no other conflicts. That's the position we have taken.
So, I don't know what problem the member sees. Is he generating an issue? Because I have not seen the concern or the criticism that he says exists out there. I have not experienced it. I have made myself available to people throughout the north, nationally and internationally, and this is the first time that I've heard of any confusion about our position - from the member opposite, only from him.
Mr. Ostashek: Well, Mr. Speaker, the Government Leader is so well-versed in this issue. Surely, he's seen the media that's put out by the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, of which his good friend Juri Peepre is the head of, who said he believed this was a change of position of the NDP in the Yukon.
Mr. Speaker, further to my position on oil and gas development - my supplementary - the Vuntut Gwitchin are proceeding to the Supreme Court of Canada to block Northern Cross' application to reopen three oil wells in Eagle Plains, and the Yukon government has failed to intervene in this case or to even state a position.
I would like to ask the Government Leader to clear the record, not only for us but for business as well. Does he support the Vuntut Gwitchin court challenge or does he support Northern Cross' application?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: First of all, the member has a very short memory. When it comes to the issue of the Northern Cross, the member opposite, when he was government leader - and his government - took no position on Northern Cross for all the period of time that the application was being made in the first place. That is true.
Secondly, this government has taken a position with respect to Northern Cross and we've stated it publicly: that development that passes environmental tests should be permitted - permitted and permitted. In fact, that is the position the government has taken and that's completely consistent with the position I've outlined with respect to development in the winter habitat of the Porcupine caribou herd.
Mr. Ostashek: My final supplementary to the Government Leader: we have the oil and gas legislation in place. If this government is proceeding with land sales, is it the government's intention to proceed with oil exploration leases in the Eagle Plains area in northern Yukon in the near future?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, in the spring there is a very good chance that the Eagle Plains area would be considered for land sales, as will the Whitehorse area, perhaps, and the southeast Yukon, perhaps. When we go forward with land sales, we will be making it public. The final determination of where the sales should be has not come to Cabinet but certainly any area that is considered open for some development activity, for which there is a clear opportunity for oil and gas, is considered to be a candidate for land sales.
Question re: Bank mergers
Mr. Cable: I have some questions for the Government Leader on the bank mergers.
The Government Leader has one of his consultation road shows going on around the territory, asking people about the banking issues, including the bank mergers. One of his officials doing the tour was quoted yesterday as saying, "I want to hear what people have to say about bank mergers and what they think it's going to do for Canadians in general. Then we're going to put a paper together and Piers McDonald will review the contents to make sure it's in line with what he thinks."
Is that an accurate view of what is going on with this consultation process - the Government Leader is going to make sure that the consultation process agrees with him before he sends his message to Mr. Martin and the federal government?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I already sent our position to the federal Finance minister last spring. I expressed concerns about the bank mergers, and the concerns about the lack of competition, or the reduction in competition, from the fact that the banks would go from five to three. I expressed that concern at the Finance ministers meeting, and I made that concern public to the media last spring.
Now, I haven't had much support from the members of the Liberal caucus. I'm thankful that the federal Liberal caucus finally took a position, which allowed the member opposite to take a position. We have taken a position, as a government.
With respect to the matter in terms of the public consultation, people have also expressed their concerns to me about bank mergers, and they have a variety of views, too, that they would like to see expressed to the federal government as well. In the context of a general discussion on banking - which needs to happen, in any case - we're affording them an opportunity to make their positions known, and their positions will be communicated to the federal minister, unvarnished.
Mr. Cable: Well, if we can work through the canned retorts from the NDP spin doctor, I notice the Economic Development minister had the same one written on his cuff. One of the Government Leader's colleagues brought a motion forward to this House last February, relating to banking services. He talked about the mergers, and he said that mergers always mean mass layoffs, reduced competition and a higher cost to Canadians, and usually reduced services. I expressed reservations at that time about banking oligopolies and what would happen with service fees if the banks merged.
But, from the Government Leader at that time - that's last February, a month and a half after the mergers were announced - there was not even a snip of a conversation about the bank mergers. Why was that? That was a golden opportunity for the leader of the government to express his and his government's opinion on the bank mergers.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Mr. Speaker, what's going on today? The leader of the official opposition asks the question over and over again; I give him the first answer to the very first question.
The Liberal member today essentially asked me a question, "Are you in favour or are you opposed to bank mergers?" I've already indicated that I gave an expression of concern - opposition - to bank mergers last spring. I expressed that concern about mergers directly to the Finance minister, in person, and I don't know what the mystery is.
There is a concern about bank mergers. Less competition will produce, in all likelihood, poorer on-street services, primarily in Whitehorse. It's, of course, less of an issue in rural Yukon, because they don't have choice at all, right now.
So, our concerns are twofold.
We want to improve banking services in rural Yukon, through this community consultation, by using our tender for good government banking services, to try to lever some improvement in the service in rural Yukon.
We're also affording people an opportunity, if they want to also express concerns about mergers, or express some support for mergers, to make their comments known, and those comments will be transferred to the federal minister.
The federal Finance minister, by the way, indicated - at least to me, maybe he's given a different story to the member opposite - that he was in no rush to make this decision, and he wouldn't be making it likely until late in the spring of 1999.
Mr. Cable: The Government Leader spoke about a mystery. Here's the mystery: he's telling the House that he expressed his opinion on the bank mergers to Mr. Martin some time ago. Now, he's got this road show going around the territory, and he's saying, "Well, if people say things, he'll write it all down and send it to Mr. Martin."
What is he going to say to Mr. Martin about the government's position, if the people take an opposite tack? Is he going to change his mind? Why is he going through this consultation road show?
It appears on the surface to be a farce.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, I urge the member to look below the surface. I know that is something that will be a new engagement for him, but the member opposite has to know that in the time that I've been around the territory, on many occasions people have come to me over and over again expressing concern about bank mergers. That shouldn't be a surprise. They have various versions of their concern, and they want their concerns to be transmitted to the federal minister.
I would be vastly surprised if there was an overwhelming groundswell of support for bank mergers coming from Yukon people. I feel very comfortable speaking not only for the government but for the Yukon people generally in expressing some opposition, and I didn't wait for the federal Liberal caucus to tell me so, or even the federal NDP caucus.
Now, Mr. Speaker, people have said - I know that the members opposite, with the exception of the Member for...
Speaker: The member has 30 seconds.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: ... who is the only one who actually attends community meetings - to me that they want to also be able to say something about bank mergers to the federal minister and that they are looking for a vehicle to say that, to make their concerns known in the context of the general banking discussions that we are sponsoring for good purpose and for good reason in this territory.
Question re: Rural nurses, job classifications
Ms. Duncan: I have some further questions for the minister responsible for the Public Service Commission on the issue of job classification for rural nurses.
The minister spent a great deal of time in Question Period last Thursday running down a Yukon business. In a letter I received from this company, they've pointed out that the minister made a number of errors when he responded to questions from me last week on this issue.
The minister stated last week that this local company was involved in defending Public Service Commission positions and classification disputes sometimes. The company wrote back to me, and I'll quote: "This statement suggests that the company would not conduct its work in a professional or neutral manner. Since the minister obviously knows very little about our company, this statement is irresponsible."
Speaker: The member has 30 seconds.
Ms. Duncan: Is the minister prepared to apologize for calling into question this company's ability to do this work in a professional manner?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, Mr. Speaker, I'm really pleased the member asked me this question because I wanted today to inform the House of the staggering increase in business that has been conducted by this government with Yukon businesses since the local hire commission report came out. The numbers are truly incredible. From 1995 to 1996, under the Yukon Party administration, the total value for the percentage of contracts awarded to Yukon businesses have gone from numbers of 65, 74 and 54 percent for sole sourced and invitational public tender to 86 and 90 percent. These are staggering increases, Mr. Speaker. I want to table that for the members opposite.
Mr. Speaker, in the case of this particular issue, the members opposite spent most of the day yesterday telling us ...
Speaker: The minister has 30 seconds.
Hon. Mr. Harding: ... about the crisis in rural Yukon with regard to nurse practitioners. We have been working extremely hard to resolve that. In this case, we hired the outfit that designed the classification in the first place. It has been called back to the Yukon from time to time to trouble-shoot very serious issues, particularly like this when they involved life and death and health care. In this case, the decision was made to go with the company that designed the system in the first place so that we could get this classification issue resolved right away.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, the minister trotted out a number of trumped up reasons to give this work to a Washington company last week and he's trumped up some more today. One of the reasons was that the Washington company would be able to provide the quickest response.
Mr. Speaker, again I'd like to quote from this company's letter, "The comment that contracting with the Yukon firm would result in further delays has no basis in fact. We have included a copy of our current fee schedule that specifically provides for the delivery of our services within five working days. We doubt the Washington company could possibly have the results to the commission faster than we could have produced them."
The minister's colleague, the Minister of Health, indicated yesterday that the target of five days given the Washington company will not -
Speaker: The member has 30 seconds.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, would the minister tell this House, tell Yukoners the real reason why this government has snubbed Yukoners and gave this work to a Washington company?
Hon. Mr. Harding: The member opposite is nit-picking away. I want to tell the member opposite that the numbers that we released today, that I gave to the members opposite on the numbers of Yukon businesses, as a percentage, that are getting the benefit of procurement of services and contract arrangements with this government, have had staggering increases. The company in question does business on an ongoing basis with the Public Service Commission, through contracts and what not.
Mr. Speaker, we have gone miles to improve the situation with regard to local hire, and the numbers bear that out. There will always be situations, like this one, which is life and death in the communities. Yesterday, it was billed as a crisis by the members opposite. What we're trying to do with issues of health care like this is get the classification people, who designed the system initially, who have been called in -
Speaker: The member has 30 seconds.
Hon. Mr. Harding: - from time to time to deal with the situations when there are areas that need troubleshooting from within the system. That has happened consistently since they initially designed it - every couple of years, on very tough classification issues, which are complex like this one. And, Mr. Speaker, it was done because we wanted to respond, as quickly as we possibly could, to the situation of reclassification.
There are other complexities of the nurse-recruiting issue, but we're happy to say that we're making progress in those areas, as well.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, the minister has just stated once again that the company in question has contracts with the Public Service Commission. This company told me on Friday - and I'm sure they would stand by their remarks again today - that they, in fact, have never had a contract with the Public Service Commission.
Mr. Speaker, the minister indicated last week that the company in question has been the benefactor of this government's new local hire policy. Wrong again. The letter that the company wrote back said, "This particular statement is completely false. The new policies of the Yukon Hire Commission have never been a factor."
The minister has not apologized to this company for these errors that have been made on the floor of this House. The minister has not given one good reason -
Speaker: The member has 30 seconds.
Ms. Duncan: - why Yukoners and Yukon companies - not just this one - were not invited to bid on this contract. Will the minister at least provide us with the amount going to this Washington company? Tell us how much it's costing Yukoners to give Washington one job at a time.
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, Mr. Speaker, that's completely ridiculous. The member asks for one good reason. The reason is that this is the company that designed the classification system, and has been called in periodically since they designed it to deal with issues of a very serious nature to try and get the job done as soon as possible in classification and reclassification issues. This one is an issue of health care. It was described to us by the opposition just yesterday as a crisis. That's a good reason.
Mr. Speaker, the member opposite is nit-picking away. The numbers I tabled today show that the local hire policies of this government have substantially increased the percentage of Yukon businesses getting contracts with the Yukon government. The company in question has done work on classifications with the union and with the Public Service Commission. They've been involved in the process in the past. They've done job descriptions for Health.
Speaker: The member has 30 seconds.
Hon. Mr. Harding: There was never any intent to offend the particular party in question, Mr. Speaker. But, let me tell the member opposite that, when you're dealing with issues of reclassification as it pertains to nurse practitioners in rural Yukon, we wanted to make sure that the people at the Public Service Commission had the advice and the ear of the people who originally designed the system, because I don't want, if at all possible, to see a report come out that is not going to respond to the needs of recruitment and retention in those rural communities. This is so that those nurses and people working so hard out there in the communities get the necessary breaks they need. I think it's important that we consider those aspects. There will always be the odd contract, Mr. Speaker, that, for serious -
Speaker: The member's time has elapsed.
Hon. Mr. Harding: - reasons have to be awarded elsewhere.
Question re: Whitehorse Airport runway extension
Mr. Jenkins: I have a question for the Minister of Community and Transportation Services. The minister stated previously, in relation to the airport extension construction project, that he couldn't see the power poles for the trees. What I'm interested in today, Mr. Speaker, is did the minister have the proper permits to cut down all those trees? With a construction project of this size, there would have had to have been an environmental assessment and proper permitting.
Can the minister advise the House if this proper permitting is in place for the airport extension project? I have heard reports that this project, in fact, was fast-tracked prior to the proper permitting being put in place. Is this true?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, Mr. Speaker, it gives me pleasure indeed to be able to stand up and speak about the wonderful things that this government is doing to encourage tourism within the Yukon, of which this project is only one.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, rebuilding the economy, Mr. Speaker.
Certainly, Mr. Speaker, the question that was asked is within the federal jurisdiction - the clearing of the trees - and I would assume and assure people that we would follow a process, and if it was fast-tracked, well, certainly, it is good to be able to work within federal partnerships to proceed to do good things for the Yukon economy.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, Mr. Speaker, one would think that with all the concerns about environmental protection and the public consultation going on in relation to the protected areas strategy and the development assessment process, this government itself would ensure its project respected the environment by obtaining all of the proper permitting.
Can the minister explain why the Yukon Housing Corporation, acting as the agent for Community and Transportation Services, didn't obtain the proper permitting before it bulldozed down all of the trees in the Range Road mobile home park? The area now looks like Vimy Ridge during the First World War after a heavy bombardment. Now, did the minister obtain the proper permitting for that area?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: The member is bouncing all around with this question, directing it to one minister and knowing that this is in my department. That question has been asked of me by the official opposition. I told him that I would be getting back to him. We did check into it, and all the permitting was in place prior to construction, so there wasn't any problem in that area at all.
Mr. Jenkins: What we have, Mr. Speaker, are two projects. We have the Range Road mobile home project, and we have the Whitehorse airport runway extension project, both of which were fast-tracked, both that didn't have all of the permits in place until after the fact.
Now, this is from a government that is purporting to respect the environment. Now we're evicting people from one of these areas because of environmental concerns. Would the minister please table the LARC review for both the above airport runway extension project and the Range Road mobile home park? Would the minister please table both of these reviews?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: The member is bouncing all around again. He is trying to find an issue with these developments. He knows that this government has been working with Yukoners and we have projects out there, and some of them are moving quite quickly, and we're going to continue, Mr. Speaker, to work for the people of the Yukon.
In regard to the mobile home strategy and initiative that we put forward, all permitting was in place. If the member would like, I can table a letter from the City of Whitehorse, which approved the construction of the mobile home park.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed. We'll proceed to Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Hon. Mr. Harding: I move that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Speaker: It has been moved by the government House leader that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Motion agreed to
Speaker leaves the Chair
COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. Is it the members' wish to take a brief recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: Fifteen minutes.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. Committee is dealing with Bill No. 65, An Act to Amend the Motor Vehicles Act.
Bill No. 65 - An Act to Amend the Motor Vehicles Act - continued
Chair: We are dealing with clause 6, on page 3. Is there any further debate?
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, it was the understanding in the opposition parties that we were going to deal with the outstanding sections from Bill No. 58 first in Committee of the Whole.
Mr. Ostashek:Mr. Chair, it really doesn't matter to me, but we can clear it up very quickly, I believe, because I'm satisfied with the information I got from the minister.
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: I guess I did pass some information out. If the members want, we can clear up this issue that we brought forward yesterday and then get back to the other bill.
Chair: Is it the desire of the Committee to deal with Bill No. 58, An Act to Amend the Wildlife Act?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Bill No. 58 - An Act to Amend the Wildlife Act - continued
Chair: The parts stood over, if I recall, were a definition and a subclause.
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: I did give the members opposite some information that I've got back from the department. They did not have with them the section of the Wildlife Act and the portion of section 12 of the Inuvialuit agreement, and I just want to clear up what was said and the fact that some felt that there was some overlap between the two.
First of all, subsection 195(2) deals strictly with exchange and barter. It has nothing to do with sales. We can have that understanding and move to the definition clause.
I had mentioned to the member that the wording that we had in there was subject to section 27 of our Wildlife Act. The reason why we used this section is because we're dealing with the Wildlife Act and not the Inuvialuit final agreement, but section 12 in the Inuvialuit final agreement has this type of wording in regard to subsistence usage. Also, it does say, in section 12, that it's subject to laws of general application. If we flipped over to section 27 on the second page that I gave the members, it says, "No person shall buy or sell, or offer to buy or sell, or keep for the purpose of sale, any wildlife or any part of the carcass of any wildlife." This means that a person has to acquire a permit to be able to sell or have a permit to be able to buy.
Now, in regard to abuse of this - in regard to gall bladders and so on - we would not be authorizing anybody to do anything illegal. In regard to gall bladders themselves, there are no sales outside of Canada, so there are safeguards there.
Members also had some concerns in regard to the reporting process. Presently, there is an evaluation of the process that is happening with the Inuvialuit, and we're part of it. It's still underway. I guess it is one that will help us better identify how many animals are being taken, similar to the way we deal with our licences here in the Yukon. We do have annual reports, and so on, but once this evaluation of the process is completed, I can bring that forward to the members.
Mr. Ostashek: I want to thank the minister for the information he sent over last night, and while it gives me a better understanding of what they're trying to accomplish, it still is a very complex way to interpret legislation, and always will be, when we're trying to blend the Inuvialuit final agreement with the Wildlife Act. That being said, I'm satisfied with the explanation from the minister, mainly because all of the amendments we've talked about, I do not believe, and I agree with the minister confirming that, that this will not impact on non-aboriginal users, or non-beneficiaries of the Inuvialuit final agreement, that all the amendments we passed are pertaining only to those beneficiaries.
So I can live with that, and I thank the minister for expanding on the explanation, as he did today. It did give me some comfort, but I'm still concerned about an annual reporting period for people who have the ability to harvest 12 months of the year. I hope that, when they're doing the evaluation of the reporting procedures, that that's taken into consideration, and maybe we can come up with something that'll give us a little better understanding of what's being harvested, rather than just once a year.
So, with that explanation, I am prepared to give my support for the passage of the two outstanding clauses.
Mr. Chair, I would like to express my thanks to the minister for making the extra effort to ensure that this issue was cleared up to the best of his ability.
The discussion yesterday and the re-reading, re-reading and re-reading of the documents provided by the minister, I think, served to prove the point that we are trying to write good, clear legislation.
The blending of the Inuvialuit final agreement and the Wildlife Act obviously, with the questions that have arisen and the time it has taken, has shown that it is a difficult thing to do with these two pieces of legislation. I respect the fact that what the minister, in essence, is telling us is that officials and those involved have done their best to ensure that this is a clear as it can be.
The concern that I had that we write legislation and work with legislation that is clear to the public hasn't totally been answered in terms of the public; however, it has been answered to the best of our ability here, and I appreciate that. The concerns that I have in terms - and concerns expressed by my colleague, the Member for Riverside - of the interpretation of different terms, again, I think it's the best we can do, based upon the wording of the Inuvialuit final agreement.
I think it also serves to point out and has us all applaud, once again, the efforts of all Yukon First Nations, who have made sure that their agreements are perfectly clear, so that we can understand them and work with them. It points out a bit of a difference between a process that happens today versus a process that happened 14 years ago. We've learned a lot and we're doing the job better, in terms of spelling out these agreements.
Based on the fact that the minister, the officials and everyone involved has done their best to give us a clear piece of legislation and that this is the best it can get, I am also prepared to offer the Liberal caucus' support to this particular section, Mr. Chair.
Chair: We will proceed now to section 195(2). Is there further debate?
On Clause 13 - previously stood over
Clause 13 agreed to
Preamble agreed to
Title agreed to
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: I appreciate the support for this bill. I think that it has been a long time in the process, and I'm sure it will make the Inuvialuit people quite happy that we have reflected the changes in our Wildlife Act to bring, I guess, more clarity to their agreements. I know that this is a lot of housekeeping stuff, but at times, government finds it difficult to try to bring in amendments to an act that is very focused on certain sections.
The members also had some concerns regarding when the Wildlife Act will go through extensive review, and I did mention that we would like to have the First Nation final agreements and possibly devolution in place, and be able to really focus our efforts in a very detailed evaluation and review of the Wildlife Act.
I thank the members. At this time I move that you report Bill No. 58 out of Committee without amendment.
Motion agreed to
Bill No. 65 - An Act to Amend the Motor Vehicles Act - continued
Chair: Committee will now proceed to Bill No. 65, An Act to Amend the Motor Vehicles Act. We are dealing with clause 6 on page 3. Is there any further debate?
On Clause 6 - continued
Mr. Jenkins: When we left debate yesterday, Mr. Chair, we were exploring some of the concerns surrounding the number of expired drivers' licences in the Yukon. The minister indicated that some 20 percent of all the licensed drivers in the Yukon are currently driving with an expired driver's licence. Mr. Chair, I was asking if the minister would reconsider his thoughts on extending the period of time for a driver with an expired driver's licence to renew it without going through all of the hoops again. It's being extended from six months to 24 months. Now, our caucus has no concern with going to a five-year driver's licence. In fact, we would see that as beneficial to most Yukoners, but given the number of expired licences, I was hoping that the government could take upon itself a number of initiatives. The first one would be to not amend this act from six months to 24 months; keep it at six months, which I believe is more than reasonable. Secondly, currently the motor vehicles branch sends out a notification that your licence will expire on a certain date and ask you to renew it. I would ask that they entertain another initiative, Mr. Chair, and that being to send out a notification that your driver's licence has expired and you're no longer permitted to operate a motor vehicle in your current format.
Would the minister consider an initiative in this direction, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, Mr. Chair, I did consider the member's question - or desire - also both members from both opposition parties. We feel that 24 months is justifiable. We've not only done it on the basis of what I suggested yesterday, but we've also looked at what other jurisdictions have to offer.
But, in fact, most jurisdictions have longer periods for this, and those jurisdictions also have five-year licences, as we propose. So, certainly in British Columbia, with a class 5, they have up to five years; Alberta, through policy, up to three years; Saskatchewan, again up to five years; Manitoba, up to four years; Quebec up to three years; and it goes on.
So I think that this is certainly well within the realm of credibility, and I would still support the 24-month issue. Again I reiterate that it will still be an offence, during that time period, but certainly it will enable people to opt back into the system, and that's exactly what we want, Mr. Chair.
Again, I reiterate that it does cut down on red tape and the burden of red tape.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, time and time again, Mr. Chair, we're hearing the initiative "cut down on red tape". Yet, in the preamble to the introduction to this act and the corresponding subsequent amendments, we're told this act is being promoted on the basis of making our highways safer. Safety was the main initiative. That was the thrust, that was the direction we were heading.
Does the minister honestly feel that by extending the period of time from six months to 24 months that you can renew your licence after it's expired is going to make our highways safer, given the vast number of Yukoners - the 20 percent of Yukoners - who are currently driving with an expired driver's licence? Does the minister honestly believe that that's going to make our highways safer?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Let me clarify that. About 20 percent of all Yukon drivers apply to renew their driver's licence six months or more after it actually expires. That is kind of standard. Certainly, I don't see where it makes it any less safe. Folks do not generally tend to forget their driving skills. It's simply an oversight, as I explained yesterday, whether it's by administrative error, or error on their own part, if they're not notifying us of their box changes or where they might live, et cetera - so, certainly, I don't see where it makes it any less safe. It certainly reduces a burden on government and people, and it certainly gives the people an opportunity to abide by the law, once more. Not that they are intentionally disobeying the law; they never were. It's simply, in some cases, an oversight. I certainly suggest that this is not unusual, and it's not a compromise of safety, either, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Jenkins: That's a very, very mixed message that this government would be sending out to the public. A given is that ignorance of the law is not an excuse as to why you broke the law.
When you drive with an invalid, or an expired driver's licence, you are breaking the law. Now, couple that with the other part of the equation, that if you're driving a commercial vehicle, the insurers usually require an abstract on the driver; they require that it be continued every year; they require that the driver's licence be valid for the insurance policy to remain in effect on that commercial vehicle.
So, we can be suffering a double whammy - not only would an expired licence lead you to break one law, but, coupled with the fact that your insurance wouldn't be valid, you'd be in a position where you'd be breaking not only one law, but two laws - driving without a valid insurance policy.
Heaven help an individual who has a motor vehicle accident, for which they are found to be liable, without insurance.
Now, we could have a real serious problem, and I urge the minister to reconsider his position in the interests of safety and in the interests of safety alone. Will the minister undertake that?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Well, certainly we're not getting anywhere here. I do feel that safety will not be compromised in this issue, Mr. Chair. Safety would definitely be considered the issue here. Again, it is on the premise that they will not forget the rules of the road and their vehicle operation. This certainly will not do that. Again, I reiterate that it would not change the fact that a person may be penalized.
I don't see where the member opposite's suggestion is going to help. I reiterate the comments that I put out earlier regarding the different jurisdictions with the same time frames that we have for five-year licensing. Certainly, in British Columbia, it is up to five years. It does not seem to pose a problem in other jurisdictions and I don't expect it to in this jurisdiction.
Ms. Duncan: I would like to note, Mr. Chair, that this particular subsection has other implications. My understanding is that this subsection changes my driver's licence renewal. The government kindly mails me a renewal form every three years and I go down and get a new driver's licence. That would change from three to five years. Is that correct?
The minister has said yes. When I renew my driver's licence, at the moment, and it's due for renewal this year, the minister may correct me, but I believe I pay about $9. That is $3 a year for the privilege of driving on how many thousands of kilometres of excellent roads and so many kilometres of BST?
We're changing that from three to five years. Now, the Auditor General has previously recommended that the Government of Yukon examine every one of the fees charged to Yukoners. Does the minister anticipate that, with an increase in the time length, we will also see an increase in driver's licence fees for Yukoners?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: No, Mr. Chair, certainly it will be pro-rated and the fee for the new time frame will certainly reflect the old time frame.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, could the minister provide me with information as to how much it costs to renew licences, in terms of the government shuffling the paperwork, mailing the renewal notice, printing the glossy little plastic card, and several people's time because they try to eliminate lineups? How much does it cost to administer that, and what's the revenue we get from driver's licence fees?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, Mr. Chair, that is by regulation, and I can certainly get the costs and what we generate in dollars or revenue for the member opposite, but I would not expect that that fact would hold up this act.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I'm certainly not trying to hold up this bill. I am trying to get a sense of where the minister is going in regulations. If the minister and the NDP government are changing the time frame, it's not unreasonable to expect that they would also change driver's licence fees, and I'm trying to ascertain whether or not that's going to happen. The minister has indicated that no, it will not.
Is my understanding of the minister correct, that the government is changing time frame only and is not even considering changing the fees?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, Mr. Chair, you're absolutely correct. We're not considering increasing the fee at all. It would be on a pro-rated basis and, right now, the three-year licence costs $9, and we expect that the five-year licence would cost $15, so it's not a generation of revenue, or anything like as such.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, it's certainly not a revenue generator for the Yukon, and the Auditor General has noted that as well.
There's going to be some kind of a lag, however, when we change from three to five years, in collection of these fees. At some point, we're going to show a bit of a dip in the revenue.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Ms. Duncan: The minister is saying that I'm suggesting he's somewhat unparliamentary. I wouldn't dream of going there. The Member for Klondike is saying that no, my mathematical reasoning is wrong. I would like the minister to provide me, by way of information, please, what the revenue is from driver's licence fees, and could I also see a comparison of those fees between the Yukon and other jurisdictions? Would the minister commit to just providing me with that information?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, Mr. Chair, I understand where the member opposite is coming from, and I realize that the member's not attempting to delay or hold up the act. And, certainly, I will provide the information to the member opposite.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, let's go back to the safety aspect. For the minister's information, given the number of licensed drivers, if that remains constant, the revenue you take in would be constant, the cashflow would be different, given the years of renewal, that's all. And the Polaroid system that they're presently using in the private sector costs about $7 per ID, so I would suggest that the government has a better deal than $7 per ID, so their cost would be below that per driver's licence.
The issue before us is one of safety, Mr. Chair, and I would be very hopeful that the minister could see his way clear to find a way around this issue.
Is the minister prepared to have his department send out notifications similar to the notifications saying, "Your licence is set to expire at this date and this is a notice to renew"? Could the minister entertain having his department send out a notice that your driver's licence is expired?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: You know, an additional notice would add to the administrative burden and certainly I know the member is going to stand up and say, "Well, if safety is the issue here, certainly cutting red tape is an issue where administrative burden is certainly an issue also." It could also create confusion for the licence holder, especially if the renewal of the licence occurs in or near the time of the date that the expiry notice is sent.
I don't think that is going to compromise safety. As a matter of fact, with all the other jurisdictions and the benefit of their experience with this, certainly they have not and certainly I don't anticipate that it will here, Mr. Chair. I will reiterate one last time that it's premised on the understanding that we won't forget the rules of the road, and vehicle operation - folks won't in so short a period of time. So certainly, Mr. Chair, I do not see that it's going to compromise safety and it will not compromise safety. Again, if folks are caught breaking the law, they could be penalized.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, I believe the minister is clearly demonstrating a stubborn, pig-headed approach to this issue. The issue of safety is of paramount importance and that is being compromised, being compromised completely, Mr. Chair. I would ask the minister to reconsider the issue.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Point of order, Mr. Chair.
Point of order
Chair: On a point of order, Mr. Sloan.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I really don't think that a term like "pig-headed" really adds to the decorum of this Chamber and I think it's rather unparliamentary. I would suggest perhaps the member would choose perhaps another expression, perhaps less offensive to this Chamber.
Chair: The Chair would like to remind all members to refrain from personal attacks.
Is there further debate?
Mr. Jenkins: Now, could the minister, for the benefit of the House, clearly enunciate why he's adamant that this is not going to address the issue of safety. Anyone with any iota of common sense, looking at this situation, would conclude that not having a valid driver's licence, coupled with the potential of not having an insurance policy that is enforced as a consequence of not having a valid driver's licence, is a safety factor and is certainly a liability on our highways.
So, is the minister going to allow this liability to occur or is he going to assist it and try to reduce it to its lowest common denominator? The minister has to admit that this is a potential liability and risk.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, Mr. Chair, the situation that has been portrayed by the Member for Klondike is the same situation that would be portrayed within the six-month time frame.
This is the last time I'm going to stand on this issue. I say that right now, Mr. Chair, because I do not think that we're getting anywhere with this issue and I do not think that there's been a presentable argument presented here. I will say that it is premised that folks will not understand, that it will cut red tape. In fact, it will help citizens from the Member for Klondike's constituency.
Certainly, it is not compromising safety - not at all. It will still be illegal. Certainly, it will lighten up the burden of territorial agents and cut down on administrative problems. Thank you.
Mr. Jenkins: The minister, Mr. Chair, failed to add, "and add to the liability on our highways, caused by these individuals driving with expired licences." I guess we're not going to get anywhere with the minister on that section. As a consequence, I will have to vote against this act when it comes up, but let's move on.
Clause 6 agreed to
On Clause 7
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, it's my understanding that this section talks about repeal - well, it used to be, that if you were a driver examiner you could go out and test somebody - and you still can, actually, until this act is passed - say, if you were testing a class 1, and you only had a class 3, you could still do it because you were actually the examiner of drivers. Particularly out in the rural areas, this was a useful clause to have.
This repeals that clause, so that if you are a driver examiner testing class 1 with air, you also have to have a class 1 with air, and that makes an awful lot of sense.
One of the things this doesn't talk about, however, is experience. I think it's discouraging, and probably not best serving those who are being examined if we send somebody out to examine somebody with a class 1 with air if they've had all of a week or so experience and they're trying to test someone, because they don't get the opportunity, then, to share the experience of years and years of travelling on our roads.
In Alberta, I think they require 10 years of experience for a class 1 examiner. I'm just wondering this: is the government looking at adding this as one of the criteria? I know it's very, very difficult in the rural areas, but is it something that the department is looking at, particularly for Whitehorse?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Well, Mr. Chair, certainly the folks in Whitehorse, I have been assured, have plenty of experience, and as a general rule, the folks in the communities would also. It is not anticipated at this time that we would make it into law that they would have to have a minimum of two years, or whatever the minimum might be, of experience at this time, but we would like to make it into law that they would definitely have the equivalent. We certainly expect drivers to be model drivers.
Clause 7 agreed to
On Clause 8(1)
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, under clause 8(1)(e.2), we have the issue about the frequency and length of hours of rest, and it's my understanding - and I'd like the minister to clarify this - that we're going to be going to the federal regulations, which talk about using 50 hours a week as the criteria. Is that what the minister is saying? Or are we going to be adopting the Alberta guidelines, which state 70 hours?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: No, Mr. Chair, we want to do it in consultation with the commercial transportation business and talk to folks around here, because certainly it's unique. If you're having a terrible storm and you're just coming from Fort Nelson, or something like as such, and you've had to wait at some point in time and you get to Teslin and you're only two hours away from Whitehorse or something, those types of situations will be addressed through the consultation with the applicable people.
Mrs. Edelman: So, I gather then that this is going to come about in regulation, and if it is going to come out in regulation, when are those regulations expected to come into force? When is the consultation process going to be complete?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, Mr. Chair, over the course of the winter we will be talking with the commercial transportation business people and others, and we will be looking to put it into effect as soon as the consultation is done, and, of course, it goes through the process of Cabinet, et cetera.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, using my powers of deductive reasoning, can I assume then that we're going to be looking at regulations by June of next year?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, Mr. Chair, we'll certainly make best efforts to get toward that. It could be sooner, it could be a little later, but certainly once consultation is in place and is done, it will be into the system. We'd like to get it done soonest, because certainly these codes do bring safety to the highways.
Mrs. Edelman: As the minister is completely aware, that is our busy season and truckers are going up and down the highway, particularly at that time of year. It would be useful for us to get an idea of where we're going by that time. Also, at that time, we would also have the ability to talk to drivers who don't normally come up to the Yukon, except for that time of year, particularly the ones who go up into the Dawson area and the far north.
Can we say then, using the powers of deductive reasoning, that there would probably be regulations by the end of August of next year, then?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, Mr. Chair, we're going to ensure - well, we're certainly going to work, and that can be definitely one of the targets, and I think that's a very reasonable date, but certainly we want to talk to folks and get it done, but that certainly sounds reasonable.
Mr. Jenkins: On the same subject, Mr. Chair, given that the majority of the line drivers are usually from a jurisdiction where the national code is in place, how much of a reduction in accidents do we anticipate are going to occur as a consequence of us adopting this National Transportation Safety Code here in the Yukon? We have adapted it, but we haven't fully implemented it. How much of a reduction in accidents are going to occur?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: There are certainly no really hard and fast numbers, but I can reiterate what I mentioned yesterday about the road check. What we would like to see it get rid of is, out of the 110 trucks that were inspected, there were 16 placed out of service and detained. We would surely like to bring those numbers down. Of the 93 trailers that were inspected, nine were placed out of service and detained. Certainly, those are hard numbers that we would like to see reduced.
Mr. Jenkins: The minister is citing regulations that are currently in effect. The problem that we have here in the Yukon is that we don't have enough of the people to carry out these inspections on a regular basis. To continue with the program of inspections of all commercial vehicles and to issue the proper sticker - that isn't continuing at the same pace. That, initially, was aggressively pursued and has fallen off to fewer and fewer inspections these past few years.
Truck stops and inspections are one issue. This section that is being contemplated here deals with the driver - licensing drivers and placing restrictions on the number of hours he can spend behind the wheel and things of concern in that area.
As a consequence of adopting these regulations here, I'm asking the minister what kind of a reduction in accidents we can anticipate.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Well, there are a couple of questions involved in there, Mr. Chair, and certainly we'll be letting the industry know what we're up to and how it's going, so I anticipate that there should be a reaction soon. I would suggest that the numbers I read out earlier on the trucks and the trailers are certainly numbers that we'd like to see come down. I do believe that time will tell. We will be working in cooperation with the industry and letting them know, and certainly that should, in itself, help to bring down some of the accidents, or potential accidents, if I could say, Mr. Chair.
As to the other part of the question, yes, the department does have the ability to increase the frequency and the randomness of inspections within the Yukon communities.
Mr. Jenkins: Once again, the minister has missed the point completely. This section that we're dealing with, that we have before us, doesn't deal with the actual vehicle. It deals with the operator of that vehicle, and it deals with imposing regulations over things like the number of hours he can remain behind the wheel of a vehicle, operating that vehicle. It has nothing to do with the inspection of that vehicle.
Now, as a consequence of fully implementing what is anticipated in this section of this act that we have before us, how much of a reduction in accidents are we going to see here in the Yukon?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Well, certainly, we do not have a hard number, but we certainly realize that it is working throughout the other jurisdictions that have adopted the code at this point in time. And, as I've said, all western provinces have adopted the code. We certainly anticipate that, through an education program and working with drivers, that it will start to bring it down. We want folks to know that it is for their safety and, certainly, it will be for Yukon highway safety.
In regard to the actual number, we anticipate and are hopeful that it will come down, and we know that it will come down, Mr. Chair. So, certainly, Mr. Chair, I think that answers the question.
Mr. Jenkins: And yet we're omitting licensing one of the largest groups of vehicles - slow-moving vehicle equipment - that operates on our highway. They're not licensed. A lot of time they are insured, but not for operation on a highway, and they don't conform to any of this.
Now, how does the minister explain that? I'm referring to pieces of equipment like motor graders, rubber-tired loaders. How does the minister explain this?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, Mr. Chair, I'll go from memory here and we will find it. But, certainly, the operators must be licensed if it's required to be there, then it should be there and will have to be there.
Mr. Jenkins: In this case, I'm talking about the piece of equipment itself. These aren't licensed. They are in British Columbia. They are in other jurisdictions, and the minister and his officials have completely ignored that whole issue. Why?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, Mr. Chair, there is an issue that could be looked at at some time in the future.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, the whole thrust of this act, Mr. Chair, is safety, safety on our highways, and yet we don't even know what's operating on our highways for a great period of time, given the number of pieces of heavy equipment that operate on them that are unlicensed. Well, why has the minister's department omitted this area completely? It is not even recognized anywhere. Why?
I'm not looking to look at it down the road, but I thought this act was a full review of existing legislation, and it appears to be awash in areas that are omitted for one reason or another. I'd like to know why, Mr. Chair.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, Mr. Chair, the member is alluding to a point that I think he shouldn't be alluding to. He's suggesting that this is running rampant on the Yukon highways and that is certainly not the case. Certainly, in certain situations, such as on the Takhini Hot Springs Road maybe where a fellow has a joint piece of property on either side and he's got to come across, he certainly will. It was considered. We did talk about it within caucus and we felt that, at this point in time, it would put very much of a burden on folks who were just getting started, say, in the agricultural business, et cetera, and we did not wish to impose that. Like I said, the member is alluding to the fact that people are running rampant, the Agricultural Association or whoever drives a tractor, and that is simply not the case at this point in time, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, I suggest the minister spend some more time out on the highways and try and get a handle on it because it is an issue and it is an issue in rural Yukon. I'm not picking on farmers because they're probably the least of our additional traffic on the highways. All I'm looking at is a standard set of rules so that slow-moving vehicles are all properly placarded and lit, but that's not the case, Mr. Chair, and there are no sections in here unless it's a licensed motor vehicle. If it's unlicensed, it doesn't have to conform, which is most interesting.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Jenkins: Conform to the Motor Vehicles Act. So, I'd ask the minister to consider that section and the section dealing with the regulations for licensed drivers to conform to the national safety rules and regulations. It is interesting that virtually all the line-haul drivers now have to conform to it in either Alberta, British Columbia or in Alaska, especially when they're running interjurisdictionally. They have to maintain their log books; they have to have certain hours off after so many hours of work and that's been in place for quite some time in all of Canada, except for the Yukon.
So, I'm pleased to see that we're getting into it, but I am very interested in what savings we're going to realize. We're not going to realize any savings, Mr. Chair, as far as I'm concerned. We're going to increase the red tape that the minister is so concerned about getting rid of.
I'm sure he'll stand on his feet and say that this is going to add red tape; it's not going to decrease it. I'm sure the minister will agree with that statement. Can he not agree with that statement? Will the minister agree with that statement that it will add a considerable burden of red tape to the existing regulations?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, in any safety initiative - or any initiative - there is paperwork that has to be done. I do not believe that it will put an unnecessary burden on anybody.
Clause 8(1) agreed to
On Clause 8(2)
Clause 8(2) agreed to
Clause 8 agreed to
On Clause 9
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, can the minister give a précis of what this particular section is doing?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly. This section removes the 30-day restriction affecting the rented and leased vehicles. It will allow the owner of a vehicle or a lessee to choose who should register the vehicle and will therefore provide flexibility to enter into a business arrangement that best suits their own particular needs. So, if you are an owner-operator who has leased a truck to a transportation company, either you or the company you work for may register the truck. In some situations, the registrar may request that a copy of the lease agreement be filed at Motor Vehicles.
Mr. Jenkins: Could the minister explain the rationale for having a break at a certain weight, at 9,100 kilograms? Right now, there are two different sections as to how you lease vehicles and how you register them. But why at that weight category is there a change? Even after that if, let's say, the tractor is leased from GMAC, it would say GMAC leased to Mr. Keenan's favourite uncle, who's his driver instructor, or whomever - Uncle Harry. On the same format, why not use the same consistently through the whole regulations, so that if you or I go and lease a vehicle from GMAC, it would say GMAC leased to whomever, or if it's a tractor-trailer unit, the same thing. If it's required that you file a copy of the lease for over a certain GVW, then fine, so be it; that could be filed also.
As I understand it, it's to eliminate the category of rental vehicles and leased vehicles in that 30-day period. Rental vehicles are only for a 30-day period, whereas leased vehicles are anything beyond that. But most of the vehicles could start off - like if you want to take a major car rental agency, it's usually GMAC, or lease to national Tilden, and it's subsequently rented to the minister, as long as he has a valid driver's licence that's not expired.
But why the double standard?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Mr. Chair, the provisions are brought forth from the old act, that are currently within the old act there, and the provisions contained are within the old act. Now certainly as we move into the new act, it just certainly provides continuity, and it will continue to do so.
Mr. Jenkins: The minister has failed to answer the question, Mr. Chair. Why is there a distinction - that 9,100 kilogram amount? Why do vehicles, at 9,100, get the opportunity to be registered either way, and below that, one way? What is the continuity we're providing, and what is the continuity we're providing for?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, Mr. Chair, I can endeavour to get a statistical answer to the member opposite, although I will reiterate that it is certainly brought forth from the old act. It would ensure a smooth transition, I guess, for folks affected here.
But certainly, we can get back to the member.
Chair: Does clause 9 carry?
Does Committee agree to set aside clause 9?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Mr. Chair, I don't believe that we have to set aside the clause. I certainly feel that we can move forward. I do hope that the member opposite would accept my word that I will get all pertinent information brought forth to the member for his perusal.
Mr. Jenkins: Thank you very much. If the minister was able to provide an explanation, I'd agree with him. But Mr. Chair, it might be more prudent to have one way of registering all vehicles, and only require that over a certain GVW that a copy of the lease be attached to the registration documents in the motor vehicle branch.
Now, I can see something like that, but as to the requirement to have two different ways of registering leased vehicles, I can't see the merit. I can see the merit of distinguishing, or getting out of rental vehicles and leased vehicles, and having one way to register them. But to go further, Mr. Chair, can we just stand this clause aside, until we have further clarification? It might be prudent to have only one way to register, ultimately.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, perhaps it would be prudent if we'd just stand it aside until after the break, and then we can come back to it and the minister can have a thorough briefing by his officials.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, the amendments have been given full consideration, Mr. Chair, and we do believe that they are prudent. I've made an offer to the Member for Klondike to get information back to the Member for Klondike. The Member for Klondike wants information, and we'll certainly get the information to the member as to why.
Now, certainly, it comes from the old act. It's currently at 9,100 kilograms, and it will be at 9,100 kilograms. The smaller vehicles - certainly, the distinction between rented and leased vehicles will be changed.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, if we want to continue the debate on this area, I'm quite prepared to do so, but I think there might be some valid explanation that the minister is overlooking or missing from his officials.
All I'm looking at is streamlining the red tape that we're so concerned with, and why don't we have one way to register all vehicles and then have the requirement that the lease be provided with the registration when a vehicle over so many kilograms is registered.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, Mr. Chair, if we're talking about clause 9 here, as I've said, I think we're mixing 9 and 10 up at this point in time.
Chair: Committee is dealing with clause 9.
Mr. Jenkins: But, Mr. Chair, they both flow together, 9 and 10. One is we're repealing a couple of classes, and 10 is how we're going to implement the registration of leased vehicles. So they're one and the same. It's a hand and glove, sections 9 and 10. We can look at section 9 and say, fine. We can stand aside section 10 until the minister comes forward with an explanation after the break.
Clause 9 agreed to
On Clause 10
Mr. Jenkins: This is the section I'd like to stand aside until after the break, until the minister's had a chance to be briefed. Could we go on to section 11?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, Mr. Chair, I'd be prepared to stand this aside until after the break at 4:30, and then it'll give the departments a chance to do just a bit of research, and then we could move on. So, after the break at 4:30, I'd be prepared.
Chair: Committee will set aside clause 10 until after the break.
Clause 10 stood over
On Clause 11
Mr. Jenkins: Could it be added to the following subsection and referred to as the Dave Keenan amendment, Mr. Chair?
Chair: Is there further debate on clause 11?
Clause 11 agreed to
On Clause 12
On Clause 12(1)
Clause 12(1) agreed to
On Clause 12(2)
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, are we talking here about using the handicap placards? Is that what this is for?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, and the firefighters placard.
Mrs. Edelman: The firefighters placard - or whatever it is we're going to be introducing - is a new initiative then?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, it is.
Mrs. Edelman: Currently the handicap placards are distributed by municipalities. How are we going to be distributing the firefighter ones?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, Mr. Chair, we'll be making arrangements with the fire departments, volunteer or otherwise.
Clause 12(2) agreed to
Clause 12 agreed to
On Clause 13
Mrs. Edelman: It brings back to the question: if you've got volunteer fire departments and volunteer groups basically issuing these placards, who is controlling them? I go back to the perfect example actually, of Neighbourhood Watch. I know when Neighbourhood Watch went down in the City of Whitehorse, they had a tremendous problem trying to get hold of the signs that used to go in the windows and this is what happens with volunteer groups. People move, people lose track of where things go and I think it's really important that we keep very, very close track of, particularly, the firefighters placards. I'm just wondering what the department's doing in order to help control that distribution of those placards.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, under 12(1), it will be created and will be an offence to use any licence plate or permit the use of any licence plate in contravention of this act.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, it's not so much, you know, people going around being criminals about this.
I think what I'm talking about is an administrative issue. It is very difficult to get volunteer groups to be responsible for very powerful, if you will, licence plates in the Yukon, and I think that perhaps it might be worthwhile for the department to draw up a set of guidelines on how these are to be distributed and how they are to be taken back. I don't think that is unreasonable.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: No, certainly, Mr. Chair, that is not unreasonable, and it's a useful suggestion, and we can do that in conjunction with the fire departments.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, a question about the handicap placards - now, when the handicap placards are distributed by the City of Whitehorse, for example, there is a very strong set of policies about who gets them and who doesn't. Those policies have been developed over a number of years and in a number of different cases.
Now, in unincorporated communities, what's the policy on the distribution and the retraction of those placards?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, Mr. Chair, it'll be done in the unincorporated communities in the same way that it is being done at this point in time. In some cases, we do now, as we know, have territorial agents in some of the communities.
Mrs. Edelman: Can I infer from the minister's comments that we're going to be coming up with a set of guidelines that are, say, similar to those that we use within the City of Whitehorse? I know that there are even differences between the City of Whitehorse and the City of Dawson, for example, on who gets these placards for persons who are disabled. I'm just wondering what we're going to use as a guideline or whether there will be a guideline for the territorial agents.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, I wouldn't want to reinvent the wheel twice. We want it to be smooth and easy to read. We can and will use the existing guidelines and see that they're incorporated into a meaningful structure.
Mrs. Edelman: I do believe that the City of Whitehorse may be the only municipality that actually has developed guidelines. Am I to understand then that the minister will be using the guidelines that the City of Whitehorse uses?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Well, no, I'm not going to adopt them carte blanche right here, but certainly they will be a useful tool in putting it together, I'm sure.
Mrs. Edelman: Am I to assume then that a year from now we'll have guidelines for people within all communities that are more or less consistent on who gets placards for disabled persons and who doesn't?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, Mr. Chair. That is a reasonable time frame.
Clause 13 agreed to
On Clause 14
Clause 14 agreed to
On Clause 15
Mr. Jenkins: I'm interested, Mr. Chair, in knowing how we're going to identify those vehicles that are written off that don't have insurance in place. There are some relatively new vehicles that will be written off. How will they be identified? One doesn't always carry collision insurance. If it's a single-vehicle accident - I know with our vehicles, once they get about four or five years old, we are self-insured for collision - and the vehicle is written off, how would the motor vehicle branch track that vehicle as having been written off? All of this is predicated on the insurance adjuster reporting it, but there is another whole section of vehicles. Once you start getting into tractor-trailers and larger vehicles, as soon as they get to be 10 or 15 years old, if they are involved in a single-vehicle accident, how is the government proposing to track these vehicles that are written off?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, Mr. Chair, the member brings up an interesting point. I guess it's with difficulty. We don't anticipate it to be a problem, because we don't suspect that this is a problem at this point in time with older vehicles, as the member has portrayed with a vehicle that has served its usefulness at that point in time. But it's certainly for more modern vehicles, I guess if we could say. The practice is generally to cut down on the number of stolen vehicles.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, I can see where we're heading in initiating this section of the act, Mr. Chair, but the thrust is to identify vehicles that are written off, so that their VIN numbers can't be used on a stolen vehicle from another jurisdiction. While that would cover off a small area of vehicles that are written off, it certainly wouldn't cover off a lot of the other areas that are open.
All an individual has to do, and it's done on a regular basis - it's done continually in western Canada - is go buy up a number of wrecked vehicles and pick the VIN numbers up. A corresponding vehicle is stolen in Ontario or Quebec, trucked out west, the VIN number is applied to it, and it's re-registered in that jurisdiction. Sometimes it's a considerable period of time before that's even picked up in the system.
This is ongoing, and it could happen here in the Yukon with any number of vehicles being moved into this area, wholesaled into this area - used vehicles, one or two or three years old wholesaled into this area - and sold. The dealer feels everything is right straight up, and the purchaser goes to the bank and arranges financing, and the next thing, he's got the RCMP on his doorstep seizing that vehicle because it's been stolen in another jurisdiction.
That's what I want to see avoided. There has to be another way of ensuring this happens, especially in the case of motor vehicle accidents, when the RCMP have to attend, and anything over a certain dollar value has to be reported. They have to attend when there's an injury, and if the damages are over a certain value, it must be reported.
Perhaps there's a way there, Mr. Chair, that that can flow through the RCMP to the motor vehicle branch, and the information that the vehicle is written off can come through that area. That's a whole area that hasn't been explored.
As I said, the whole issue of this act is to promote safety and security, and safety and security of vehicles that are being sold into the Yukon was of paramount importance, also. We want to ensure that they weren't stolen somewhere else.
While we're on that thrust, Mr. Chair, I would ask if the minister could entertain some way for that reporting from the RCMP to flow right through to the motor vehicle branch, and whether it's a write-off or not would be decided virtually at that juncture, and it would be entered on our records as being a write-off.
Perhaps it would be more advantageous to go that way than through the insurance adjuster exclusively. Does the minister have any thoughts on that overview?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, Mr. Chair, we can approach the RCMP with the suggestion and get comments on it, and try and find a way to involve them in the process.
Mr. Jenkins: While we're on the issue of the VIN of motor vehicles, Mr. Chair, I would ask the minister to consider a further amendment, which would allow someone purchasing a motor vehicle to go to the motor vehicle branch, and search the entire history of that motor vehicle - not just in this jurisdiction, but from wherever its original selling point was - so you could be able to track back.
It's quite a convoluted process now if the vehicle was originally sold in Ontario, then the owner moved to British Columbia, and then someone from the Yukon went down to B.C. and purchased it and moved it up here.
So, to track the entire history of a vehicle on the VIN number would be of tremendous value to Yukoners in researching the background of a vehicle to ensure that it had a history that was legitimate, and it hadn't been written off at some juncture and resold after it was rebuilt.
I think that's where we should be heading so that we have a national pool of this information, Mr. Chair. The technology exists, and we're cross-referencing operators' licences on a regular basis. Licences and VIN numbers are another area that we're going to have to explore very quickly, and that would serve a considerable benefit to those of us in the Yukon.
Would the minister entertain that?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, Mr. Chair, that is one of the initial thrusts of the act - that we would like to go in that manner. Now, certainly, it might be awhile to get there, but it is something that I can instruct the department to do, because it takes up many jurisdictions, and certainly, I can get them to have a look at the system.
Mr. Jenkins: So, I take it that it's a commitment from the minister to explore this avenue of having the entire history of a vehicle registered in Canada available to a potential purchaser of that vehicle. I'm sure he'd have to have the proper identification, and the current owner and the potential purchaser attend at the motor vehicles branch and pay a fee for such a search, but I think it can be done in the same manner that you pay a fee for a driver's abstract, Mr. Chair. That's what I'm envisioning.
Can the minister provide his assurance for that kind of an opportunity for Yukoners, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, Mr. Chair, as I had said earlier, it is the many jurisdictions involved, but certainly I'll explore the issue.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, it sounds like a very expensive process to develop vehicle abstracts. Although, just as a thought for the minister to consider, vehicle thefts across Canada add to the cost of our insurance, so ultimately that will bring the cost of insurance down for the rest of us or at least maintain it at the unbelievably high rate that it already is. I'm wondering if - along with the RCMP, probably, that we would partner with for the development for these abstracts - we would be considering working with the insurance industry as well?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Well, it's an interesting point, certainly. The Member for Klondike was asking us to explore multi-jurisdictionally, or in a national sense, being committed to do that on a government jurisdictional basis, and certainly we will. The Member for Riverdale South is asking us to explore the different options with different insurance companies. So, I'll have to talk to the department about that just to see how we would go about doing that, but I certainly will do that.
Clause 15 agreed to
On Clause 16
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, can the minister refresh my memory? Is this talking about not defacing licence plates in case we ever get photo radar here? This is the sort of thing that they've done outside?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Well, certainly, it's not for the pre-implementation of photo radar. You can take my word on that. It simply removes the authority to arrest a person for that offence.
Mrs. Edelman: So now people don't get arrested for defacing their licence plates; they only get ticketed. The minister is indicating, yes.
Is there any idea of how much a person will get ticketed for?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I've been assured that it's in the act. We don't have it with us, but I will certainly get the information to the member.
Mrs. Edelman: So, if we're talking about defacing a licence plate, if an individual goes to the trouble of putting a goldpanner on their licence plate, for example, is that considered defacing?
Hon. Mr. Keenan:I don't want to get into any talk about removing or defacing the goldpanner on a licence plate. That is certainly not the intent here. We've been through that experience before, as I quite well remember.
Just as the member opposite has stated, that is exactly what it's for. It is to remove the power to arrest. We will get the information as to the amount of the ticket. It is not for the advent of photo radar or anything like as such, but to keep licence plates as they are.
Mrs. Edelman: So I'm to understand from the minister that it's okay to add a goldpanner to a licence plate, and this isn't defacing it?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Well, I'm not advocating that we add anything to the licence plates. I'm saying that the licence plates are there to be used by others and ourselves for identification, et cetera, and we'd like them to stay as such.
Clause 16 agreed to
On Clause 17
Chair: Is it the members' wish to go part by part?
Mr. Jenkins: This is the sections that parallel the National Transportation Safety Regulations and requirements, and they're pretty well consistent with other jurisdictions. I have no quarrel with them, per se, in my review of what they are in other areas. They're pretty well in line.
But I would like to just make a comment. There's nothing to ensure that there's an adequate staffing level to fulfill this mandate and to ensure that it is carried out, and that has historically been the difficulty with the National Transportation Safety Code and its subsequent regulations. The staffing levels have been adequate by this government, and the level of funding provided has been inadequate.
So I'd be most happy to see some sort of clause on the end that would ensure we maintain an adequate level of funding to ensure that these duties can be performed, but I don't think or feel that that's going to be forthcoming, Mr. Chair.
Clause 17 agreed to
On Clause 18
Mrs. Edelman: I wonder, can the minister give more detail on section 18 again?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Most certainly, Mr. Chair. The purpose is simply to require the companies to maintain and supply safety records regarding their carrier operations. Simply, inspectors can, if there is a need, check them.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, can the minister give an indication to the House how long people are expected to keep their safety records?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Records relating to the driver qualifications and convictions and accidents, medical reports relating to driver's licence qualifications and inspection reports, maintenance records, defect notices and manufacturers are to be maintained for the current calendar year, and four calendar years thereafter. Daily trip inspection reports only need to be preserved for three months.
Mr. Jenkins: The only concern I have in this area, Mr. Chair, is that we are consistent with another jurisdiction in Canada, or the majority of jurisdictions in Canada. I would hope that we're not following, verbatim, what the good friends of this government in British Columbia have in place. I would hope that we're consistent with the majority of the rest of Canada.
Can I have that assurance from the minister, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, Mr. Chair, it is in the National Safety Code, and the member has my assurance.
Mr. Jenkins: There is a National Safety Code, yes. But with respect to section 113 as amended by repealing paragraph (a) and adding to it - but if you look down the regulations that flow - (b), (c), (d), (e), (f), (g), (h), (i), (j), (k), (l), (m), (n) - in that same component, I would be very hopeful that when we look at developing these and amending what we already have in place, we are consistent with the majority of other jurisdictions in Canada, not British Columbia alone.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, I've been assured that we are consistent with other jurisdictions.
Clause 18 agreed to
On Clause 19
Clause 19 agreed to
On Clause 20(1)
Mr. Jenkins: Well, again, what we're talking about, Mr. Chair, is the PMVI certificate that's issued, and again, the problem is a lack of funding on the government level to be consistent in the annual review of these vehicles. Unless the department provides adequate funding for these continued inspections, they're not going to be carried out in a consistent manner. The only time that the operator is going to require it, especially in the outlying areas, is when they're running extra-territorially and require it to operate in British Columbia or in Alaska. Perhaps the N.W.T. are not nearly as strict, but British Columbia and Alaska are very strict about you having that PMVI sticker on your vehicle.
It's all a case of funding of the people that do this service. It's being inadequately funded at the present time. So, I don't know where we're going from here. We can enact all the legislation we want, but if it doesn't flow with the proper and correct amount of funds for the individuals to oversee it and implement it, we're not going anywhere very fast, Mr. Chair.
The minister nodded in agreement and concurs with my thoughts on that topic and will ensure an adequate supply of funds are made available for his officials to undertake their tasks.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Mr. Chair, I certainly hear the member opposite's concerns and his endorsement for the O&M budget.
Clause 20(1) agreed to
On Clause 20(2)
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, the registrar of motor vehicles can revoke the licence of a motor vehicle that has not had this testing on a continuing basis, but there has to be an initiative from both parties, and the government has to make that testing available - and I'm not referring to the testing facilities that exist in and around the Yukon Territory, of which there are quite a number at the present time. I'm referring to the government coming around and again issuing that PMVI. Again, why does the government not look at all motor vehicles over so many years old being required to have a mechanical inspection? The insurance companies require an inspection of a vehicle if you just purchase it and it's over 10 years of age; the government does not. Can we not have something that's consistent throughout the industry, Mr. Chair, in this regard?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Well certainly, Mr. Chair, as the member opposite has explained, it is within the policy of the insurance companies and we felt that would suffice.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, I qualify that. If you just purchase a vehicle that's over 10 years of age, your insurance company requires you to take it to a service garage and have a certificate inspection completed on it, but if you've owned that vehicle continuously since it was new or just a couple of years old, there's no such requirement.
Now, I would think, at some juncture, a testing of that vehicle should be, and could be, made mandatory by the government. That's pretty similar to other jurisdictions in Canada. Is the minister prepared to entertain such a suggestion?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, it seems to be working here within the Yukon now, with the insurance companies doing it, but certainly I hear the member opposite and I am listening. At this point in time, no, it will not be entertained, but certainly we'll put a notation on the record and entertain it again.
Mr. Jenkins: Again, this is an issue of safety, which this act is purported to be all about. Again, I believe, Mr. Chair, we're missing the boat by not recognizing areas where we can enhance the safety on our highways at very little cost to Yukoners. I'm sorry the minister is just going to put it somewhere in one of his little piles and deal with it at a later date.
Clause 20(2) agreed to
On Clause 21
Mrs. Edelman: Can I get clarification from the minister about what an officer is? Is this a bylaw officer or someone designated by the registrar? Is it an RCMP? Can I get more clarification?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: "Officer" means a member of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police or a person appointed pursuant to section 2 to administer and enforce all portions of the act.
I can go on to add that that includes those persons employed in connection with the operation of the weigh scale establishment, pursuant to the Highways Act.
Mrs. Edelman: For clarification's sake, does that also mean a bylaw officer?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Not at this point in time, Mr. Chair.
Mrs. Edelman: Also, for clarification's sake, are we talking about any class of vehicle?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes.
Mrs. Edelman: This was brought up by the Member for Klondike in the briefing, and he talked about towing vehicles from remote locations. In many cases, you just can't do it. Is there anything else in the act that enables this kind of process, or are we talking about towing zones within 100 clicks of Whitehorse or five clicks of Whitehorse or 50 clicks from Whitehorse?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: No, Mr. Chair, in answer to the member's question, there are no towing zones.
Mrs. Edelman: Actually, there is a towing zone of practicality. There are only certain tow trucks that can tow certain types of vehicles, and most of them are either up in Dawson City or in Whitehorse or in Watson Lake, and it's only reasonable that you can tow within a certain area from a centre where there is towing available. Otherwise, you end up charging somebody prohibitive amounts to get their vehicle towed.
It's just common sense, and it's respectful of people in looking at reality that you're not going to be towing somebody in from a mine-haul road, and then charging them big bucks for it just because you can.
This act says that you can do that, and I think we have to look at common sense here. I know you can't legislate against stupidity, unfortunately, but it would be useful if there were some sort of guidelines developed along with this section.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly the member opposite is absolutely correct; some things you can't legislate, but it raises a valid point. We can raise this with the RCMP, and talk to them to make sure that we do not create undue burden on folks.
Mr. Jenkins: I'd like to echo the Member for Riverdale South, and her overview of this section. It does give broad, sweeping powers to the officer in question.
If you start looking, Mr. Chair, at the practical application of this section, it'll work very well in Whitehorse, and 50 or 60 miles outside of Whitehorse. If you get beyond that area, I'm afraid, Mr. Chair, it is not going to work. The example used by the minister's department to explain why this was necessary was a vehicle going down the highway at night and its headlights are burnt out.
You're stopped by the RCMP, and, "Oh, yes, yes, thank you very much," and the RCMP makes a U-turn and heads back the other way, and a few minutes later, bingo. That vehicle takes off again, and it goes down the highway. Well, yes, that's quite serious, but there are no provisions to do anything but take that vehicle off the road and leave it there for towing.
Now, I don't know how many of you have an opportunity to travel the highways on a regular basis. Let's use the example of from here to Dawson City. If my headlights happen to burn out in Pelly Crossing and I'm stopped by the RCMP, just what are my options there, especially at night? Very, very few, Mr. Chair.
You know, common sense can't be legislated, but to give those kinds of sweeping powers to the police officer - I'd like to know from the minister and the minister's officials what precipitated this requirement. Why this change at this time? Because if you start looking at the practicalities of it, especially in rural Yukon, especially at night, especially at 40 or 50 degrees below zero - whether you want it Celsius or Fahrenheit, they're both cold, Mr. Chair. You know, we have a problem on our hands here.
Now, why is this a requirement? What precipitated this change at this juncture?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Well, we cannot legislate common sense, but let's not underestimate the RCMP. I realize that the RCMP are not trained mechanics, but certainly there are course that the RCMP take to improve their station in life or their position within the RCMP and then to offer their service to the general public. So, certainly, Mr. Chair, we can give them the benefit of the doubt and I will, as I have said, instruct the department to talk with the officials and get a good understanding that it is there.
So in the case that was portrayed by the Member for Klondike - without a headlight in Pelly Crossing at whatever time in the morning - if it's only one headlight, then certainly the member is going to be able to make a judgment call himself and the RCMP, I'm sure, will endorse that in a very responsible manner. Now, if it was the same situation and both headlights were out at that point in time, I would suggest that the Member for Klondike would not be driving either until it was a safe call. So, what precipitated it was simply the fact that we wanted to make our highways safer.
Chair: Is it the members' wish to have a short recess?
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Chair: Ten minutes.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order.
Is there further debate on clause 21?
Mr. Jenkins: I would like to know more about what situation or series of situations or events precipitated this proposed change in the act.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Well, certainly, it was a target for consultation. People brought forth their views on it. Also, Mr. Chair, it was thought out for the issue of safety, of course, as that is how we would all like to have our roads.
Mr. Jenkins: Can we just stand this line aside until the minister comes back with the explanation on it, please, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Well, Mr. Chair, I don't believe there's a need to stand the line aside. I think that we've explained it, and it was based on the consultation fact, and that has come about.
Mr. Jenkins: The question of the minister was, what event, or series of events, precipitated or gave rise to this amendment or change? Now, there had to be some court decision somewhere along the line, or something of that nature that gave rise to this change.
Now, what I'm seeking is that information. And, you know, the minister can have supper hour, or dinner hour, a little bit of wait to review that, and bring it back - he's got a whole day off tomorrow, which he can spend reviewing it, Mr. Chair, and bring it back on Thursday, along with some of the explanations for the other areas that haven't been as comprehensive or thorough as they should be.
Can the minister entertain that, please?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Well, certainly, Mr. Chair, I know of no court case, if that's what the member is asking for. This was done in consultation with the Yukon people. These are representative of Yukon people's thoughts. Certainly, it goes a long way to making our highways safer, and that is the ultimate intent, and that is what folks wish to have: safer highways.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, we have just as many examples of situations in this change in this act that will probably render our highways less safe, and I cite for the minister the fact that 20 percent of Yukoners are now driving around with expired licences, and that is the minister's own statistic.
What we're doing is expanding on that and expanding on the period of time. About the only time that it will come to pass when you know your driver's licence has expired is when you go to rent a car. I think it's a fair request of the minister that we find out what the background is as to what occurred and what transpired that precipitated the change in this section.
Ah, it would appear that the deputy minister has finally found the appropriate section for the minister to read into the record. We'll look forward to it, Mr. Chair.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I'm sure that that tone cannot be reflected into the Hansard, but I would like to say that the tone is very ambivalent, and just an awful tone, but certainly an expected tone. Certainly, I've come to expect it, as other members probably across the territory have come to expect it.
As I have said - and thank you to the staff that I have working with me for the good work that they have done - it was through consultation, and the member opposite does have the information. Seventy-four percent of the respondents, which equals 1,391 respondents, supported it. They said that mechanically unfit vehicles will be towed and stored at the owners' expense to a garage of the vehicle owner's choice or to the owner's residence, for repair.
Now, I did say that we would talk to the RCMP, so that the Royal Canadian Mounted Police would be able to do this job as professionals, and not to make a personal judgment call, but an informed decision. We will talk with the RCMP about this, as I've said, but the people have spoken.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, of the 1,031 respondents who indicated they wished this change, I guess it gives rise to the question of how many were from rural Yukon, from, let's say more 100 miles outside of Whitehorse? I don't have a quarrel with this section in Whitehorse and surrounding areas within a 100-mile radius of Whitehorse. It'll work here, but in rural Yukon, for most of the year it will not. It will place undue hardship and costs on the owners of vehicles and to the greatest extent possible, it probably won't enhance safety our highways one iota.
So, you know, we've got 1,031 respondents. How many of those 1,031 individuals were from rural Yukon?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Mr. Chair, there were 1,391 respondents and 74 percent supported the proposal. These were sent to all areas of the Yukon Territory, including all of rural Yukon. So, certainly people have spoken. I reiterate that I will again talk with the RCMP and direct the department to get in contact with them and to ensure - and I know that it won't be a problem because they are professionals - that this is not to impede or to hassle or to harass people; this is to ensure safer highways. The people have spoken; 74 percent of the people who responded agreed. It's a very high response rate so, certainly, I do believe it is a reasonable proposal.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, what gave rise to that question even being posed in this questionnaire? There had to be an event or a series of events that occurred that gave rise to that question even appearing in that survey that was conducted throughout the Yukon.
There has to be something that drives these initiatives, Mr. Chair. That is what I'm getting at. For the question to even be on the questionnaire, something had to have driven it. What is the issue or series of issues that drove that initiative?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: What gave rise to it is the initiative that we wanted safer highways. As I said, the proposed changes - the 74 percent that I quoted - came from consultation that was done in 1996. The previous government, in their wisdom, in 1994 and 1995, had the department go out to different communities within the Yukon. All communities were canvassed. Certainly, this was one of the issues that was brought up.
Clause 21 agreed to
On Clause 22(1)
Mrs. Edelman: If I can clarify for the record again, this clause talks about radar detectors that must be disabled in the Yukon. If you use them in the Yukon, this gives the power to seize those radar detectors, which I understand that an awful lot of our tourists use.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Mr. Chair, it creates a process that allows radar detectors to be seized only if they can be operated or are being used and it establishes a reasonable process for their return or their disposal.
So, certainly, Mr. Chair, we have a surplus, I think, of radar detectors that are sticking around now, with no way to return them, and we certainly wish to have that. So, upon a first offence, they would be returned and, upon a second offence, they would not.
Mrs. Edelman: So, this changes from the way things are now. Right now, we just seize the radar detectors and we have an unusually large amount of them. The change is going to be that we don't seize them until the second time we catch them doing it. Is that true?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, that is correct.
Mr. Jenkins: Does this allow some discretion on the part of the officer that stops a motor vehicle that is equipped? And it's usually visitors to our territory driving through. Radar detectors are virtually legal in all the states in the Union, Mr. Chair.
Does this allow them to tell them initially that the operation is not permitted and to either remove it or turn it off? Is there a section in there that would allow this to happen or, on the first offence, bingo, they're gone? That happens a great number of times currently, Mr. Chair, when visitors drive through our territory. They just have them perched right up on their window, and they're grabbed right away.
Now, I want to give the visitors to our area the best possible light, and just a kind warning that the operation of these is illegal in this territory would suffice in probably 99.9 percent of the cases.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, Mr. Chair, the officer has that discretion.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, could the minister shed some light as to why there is such a diverse opinion as to the use and operation of radar detectors across Canada? In B.C. they're permitted, in Alberta they're permitted, you get into Ontario, my gosh, they're the most forbidden thing on the face of the earth. Alaska they're permitted, Washington State they're permitted, most of the states that I drive in. The Yukon, they're not permitted, I'm not aware of the NWT. But why is the Yukon so vehemently opposed to radar detectors?
Radar detectors today, in the major centres, have more use than detecting police radar. They're used to watch a number of the emergency bands for oncoming traffic of an emergency nature. They emit a signal now; ambulances, police, fire - all your emergency classification of vehicles - emit a signal that is picked up by these detectors. So, there are other benefits to having one of these units than the obvious one that comes to mind of detecting a police radar unit.
Given the new type of radar that the police have, they're virtually useless in most cases, so are we putting in place something that is redundant, in most jurisdictions - it's a redundant section in most jurisdictions?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Well, certainly, Mr. Chair, in British Columbia you can possess and use one; in Alberta you can possess and use one. Saskatchewan does not have legislation in place to control the possession or the use.
From there on, it's illegal to possess or use - in Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland, the Northwest Territories, and the Yukon. Certainly, we'll be monitoring the number of detectors that are seized under this amendment; it's certainly at the officer's discretion.
It's to recognize, also, that visitors to the Yukon may pass, and it allows for the return of a detector on the first basis. But certainly, research shows, Mr. Chair, that drivers with radar detectors consistently represent the fastest speeders.
So, certainly we do wish to make the highways safer, and therein is the reason.
Mr. Jenkins: Just for the record, how many radar detectors have we seized in the last, say, two fiscal periods or calendar years?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I've been informed that we have approximately 200 radar detectors in here with absolutely no mechanism to be able to give them back to folks. We're not in the business of collecting radar detectors, or anything like as such. We'd like the opportunity to give them back, and these will be given back.
Specific to the member's question, no, we don't, I do believe, have that information for the last two fiscal years.
Clause 22(1) agreed to
Clause 22 agreed to
On Clause 23
Mrs. Edelman: To go back to the last one, we cleared subsection (2), but we didn't do (3), (4), (5) or (6).
Chair: Those are all part of subsection (2).
Mrs. Edelman: Then on to section 23. Can the minister give another explanation of this particular section?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: This amendment will maintain the current highway speeds on the major highways outside of municipalities, but it will certainly lower the speed limits on lower standard rural roads from 90 kilometres per hour to 50 kilometres per hour, unless they are otherwise posted.
The whole provision here is to be able to maintain a safer highway. Now, I recognize that Yukoners will generally drive within the conditions. This certainly helps encourage that.
Mrs. Edelman: Specifically, the amendment goes from primary highway to highway. Under the old act, I think there were higher speed limits on one than the other. Why are we not using that delineation in the new amendments?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: It is to ensure that it goes from primary highways to all highways to ensure that the act is applicable to all highways.
Mr. Jenkins: So what we're doing, Mr. Chair, is putting a reverse onus now. Previously, on all Yukon highways, the speed limit was 90 kilometres per hour, unless otherwise posted. Now, what we're saying is that it's reduced to 50 kilometres per hour, unless posted otherwise.
Again, I pose this question to the minister: what has given rise to this initiative? We've gotten along extremely well for decades upon decades with speed limits that were actually higher than the 90 kilometres per hour. It was 60 miles per hour for long, long periods of time.
Now we're moving it downwards, and initially the thrust to move it down to 55 miles per hour was for fuel economy. That has been abandoned because now vehicles are just as fuel efficient at 55 miles per hour. We've gone through the whole process.
Now, there has to be some issue of liability somewhere that has occurred, some court case or something of that nature, because the potential is always there for the government to be sued. When someone has an accident on the highways - and there have been a number of highway accidents that I'm aware of, especially on the Dempster with visitors from foreign countries who have been injured and their insurance companies have taken the shotgun approach and sued the vehicle rental company, sued the people who owned the car rental company and sued the Government of the Yukon and sued the Government of the Northwest Territories. So, what has driven this change, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: The change is driven in the interest of public safety and liability.
Mr. Jenkins: That's a very generic answer, Mr. Chair. What incidents have arisen that have given rise to this change? What incident or series of incidents has occurred?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Mr. Chair, the member opposite -
Chair: Order please. Let the member speak.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Thank you very much, Mr. Chair. Certainly, this government, in its planning endeavours, looks at issues involving people and the safety of people, no matter where you might be, and certainly this side of the House does portray the rural Yukon; certainly we do. We like to think of ourselves as a proactive government. We don't wait for a court case and we don't wait for the courts to tell us what to do. We go and listen to people, and we do. In this case, it has been driven by the interest of public safety and liability. Now, Mr. Chair, is it going to make highways safer? Well, we certainly hope so.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, there had to be some initiative somewhere that drove this change, and that's what I'm seeking from the minister, Mr. Chair - what event or series of events? Now, if you were to walk out of this Legislature, Mr. Chair, and poll 200 Yukoners that operate around the Yukon Territory, I would suggest to you that, with very few exceptions, most would say that the speed limits could be raised on our highways. We could look at increasing the speed limits, as long as we recognize that we drive for road conditions. I'm sure even the minister himself would agree with that statement, as would some of the members from outlying ridings - that speed limits on our principal highways could be increased without compromising the safety of those who are driving on them.
What I'm seeking, Mr. Chair, from the minister is the event or series of events that occurred that precipitated this change. Could the minister advise the House what event, or series of events, necessitated this change?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Well, certainly, Mr. Chair, the member opposite is alluding to the point that it has to be driven by something. I say that this government likes to be proactive.
Mr. Chair, many of the roads now throughout the Yukon are posted. Many of the roads are posted, and most are posted at 50 kilometres per hour.
Now, you could probably go out and canvas 200 people on different issues or whatever. That's not what I'm here to do. We're here to ensure, in the interests of public safety and liability, that we might have a safer highway, byway or a tote road or whatever it might be. That's what drives it. That in itself is what drives it.
Can I add more to that? Let me see. No, I think that the member is insinuating that folks are out there, and if they are driving, they are driving around erratically. Well, Mr. Chair, that is certainly not the case here, but we're putting it under the premise of public safety and liability, and that is the only reason we are doing it.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, it certainly sounds like the minister's chipping crew is out working very well. If they drop the "T" off the product they put on the highway, he'd be right in line with what I hear.
The minister is just leading us down the garden path here today with what he's coming out with, Mr. Chair, and I urge the minister to bring back some information, some reviews, somewhere, or some event - one event or a series of events - that precipitated this change.
Can the minister undertake to bring back the event or series of events that precipitated this change?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: No, there isn't a series of events, Mr. Chair. The Member for Klondike, at some point in time, is very zealous at his job, and he certainly is in this certain case, as he chooses to be.
I've explained that, in the interest of public safety and liability that, on unposted roads, they're going to go down to 50 kilometres per hour. We're doing that, Mr. Chair, to ensure that there is public safety. You know, where a group of users on an unposted road feel that a speed limit of something other than 50 kilometres is appropriate, we'll do a technical evaluation.
So, Mr. Chair, this is not to ramrod or to force regulation down anybody's throat. It is actually the contrary. It's to ensure that we have public safety, in the interest of public safety and liability, so that we might have safer byways for our people here.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, let's go a different route. How many accidents occurred on these roads, let's say, in the last two or three years that resulted in injury, which were caused by driving in excess of the current regulations? How many accidents are in that category?
Now, this would be because of driving in excess of what the road conditions would allow, but how many accidents occur that cause injury to people on those roads that are currently allowed to drive to 90 kilometres in the Yukon? What number of accidents are we looking at, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Well, certainly the Mount Nansen road from BYG Resources does come to mind. There are many, many accidents on that road.
Mr. Jenkins: Can the minister provide statistics to substantiate what he is saying as to the number of accidents that occur on these types of roads that precipitated this? Now, we seem to be heading in the right direction. There seem to be some roads that need to be posted. As I recall, the Mount Nansen road is already currently posted at a speed limit. It is not wide open and it's not 90 kilometres. Is that not the case?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: No, I'm not going to provide statistics or anything like it. It's very simple. I thank the members opposite for their thoughts, but, simply said, speed does kill. Speed does kill. I've experienced it in my family and I'm sure that others in this room have experienced it also.
We, as a government, would like to be proactive. I've said it here before. It's in the interest of public safety and in the interest of liability. There are processes that people can use and we will do technical evaluations on it for folks.
Simply said, that's what it is for. It's unfortunate that the member opposite has to look at it in such a derogatory way, Mr. Chair, because, certainly, I'm thinking that folks, on an unposted road such as the BYG or Mount Nansen road, if it were not posted are not going to be going out and doing it anyway. What we're simply doing is conforming the speed limits to the roads. If there's another need for an evaluation, we will do that. I've said that right now.
So, for the love of whomever, I don't know where the member opposite is coming from. Certainly, we can go back and forth, and we will likely continue to go back and forth. On the issue of public safety and liability, I do believe personally and professionally that that is a good move.
And Mr. Chair, if I might add, I am a person that uses those roads. I am not simply speaking of driving back and forth on the main highways to wherever it might be. I do use the other roads, and I certainly understand where we're going with this.
Mr. Jenkins: Now, Mr. Chair, will the minister entertain postponing the implementation of this section until all the roads in the Yukon are so posted?
I'm told there are not very many left that haven't been posted. Now, can the minister ascertain how many roads we're looking at that haven't been posted, and post the balance?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Oh, I'm absolutely astonished at the member opposite, who thinks that we should be building bigger government, when his leader is going out and saying that we're doing too much, and my Government Leader correctly states what we are doing. Now, this Member from Klondike is coming and saying we should be doing more.
Mr. Chair, I do believe that the issue of lowering from 90 kilometres to 50 kilometres is a very good process. It's there to make it safer and to cut down on liability.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, common sense doesn't seem to be a commodity that prevails, so we'll explore with the minister another avenue.
Why was 50 kilometres selected? Why not 40 or 60? What is the rationale for selecting 50 kilometres? We've gone from 90 to 50. Why 50? Why not 40, why not 60 and why not 70?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, Mr. Chair, a survey of the communities revealed that, of the eight incorporated municipalities, five do have the bylaws, and they're all at 50 kilometres, so we thought it would certainly be good to have something generic in that sense.
Mr. Jenkins: So, the minister's response was that we thought this would be a logical place because the municipalities are all posted at 50. Could the minister consider 60?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Well, Mr. Chair, I do believe that 50 is well thought out. It's done in consultation with folks. This isn't an auction. This isn't Traders, or anything like as such. This is certainly here for the benefit of the public for safety and liability issues. The member opposite is absolutely quite correct that many of the roads are posted within the Yukon Territory and, over time, I'm sure that all will be posted within the Yukon Territory, but certainly it is much easier - well, certainly for myself - to remember, and I think I might represent the average Yukon driver. So, it is said to be down to 50, and that is exactly what we'd like to see. Of course, there are processes I have already stated for people's input into the changing of these.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, I understand the rationale for 50 within an organized community. I have no quarrel with that, Mr. Chair, but outside organized communities on rural roads, to drop the speed limit from 90 to 50 kilometres an hour, there has to be some background information available somewhere to support this direction. What information does the minister have that supports this tremendous change?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I'm going to tell the member opposite that this is going to be the last time that I am going to rise to this question, because I think I have broached the question quite often, and I think that I have explained the situation to the member opposite.
Now, obviously, the member opposite does not believe in government of sorts, but certainly, Mr. Chair, let me say that there is absolutely no court case. This government here is represented by the people behind me and beside me - well, the political people, pardon me - in the interests of public safety and liability, and we have gone through with this.
Now, certainly, Mr. Chair, I do believe, in our wisdom, that that is the absolutely correct way to go, and I do believe that that is the route that we should take.
So, I hope that the member opposite would listen and would understand that it's done for public safety. It's done for liability issues. It is not done in the essence of big government but to keep our families safe on our roads, whether it's mom and dad and their children out on a Sunday drive, or whether it's for hunters out and about exercising their prerogatives.
Hon. Mr. Harding: I move you report progress.
Motion agreed to
Hon. Mr. Harding: I move the Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Motion agreed to
Speaker resumes the Chair
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
May the House have the report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole?
Mr. McRobb: Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 58, An Act to Amend the Wildlife Act, and directed me to report it without amendment.
Further, Committee has considered Bill No. 65, An Act to Amend the Motor Vehicles 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.
Hon. Mr. Harding: I move the House do now adjourn.
Speaker: It has been moved by the government House leader that the House do now adjourn.
Motion agreed to
Speaker: This House now stands adjourned until 1:30 p.m. Thursday, November 12, 1998.
The House adjourned at 5:28 p.m.
The following Sessional Papers were tabled November 10, 1998:
Selkirk First Nation self-government agreement and final agreement (French text) (McDonald)
Little Salmon-Carmacks First Nation self-government agreement and final agreement (French text) (McDonald)
Yukon Utilities Board 1997-98 Annual Report (Moorcroft)
The following Documents were filed November 10, 1998:
BST: The Yukon Experience (Keenan)
Merger (proposed) of Superior Propane and ICG Propane: letter dated November 9, 1998, to Hon. John Manley, federal Minister of Industry, from Hon. Trevor Harding, Minister of Economic Development; submission to the Competition Bureau on the proposed acquisition of ICG Propane (Harding)
Construction approval on Range Road prior to passage of development agreement bylaw: letter dated June 25, 1998, to the Yukon Housing Corporation from the manager of planning services, City of Whitehorse (Fairclough)