Thursday, November 19, 1998 - 1:30 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
We will proceed at this time with prayers.
Speaker: We will proceed at this time with the Order Paper.
Are there any tributes?
Introduction of visitors.
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, it's my pleasure to introduce Robert Munroe. This gentleman has graced us with his presence virtually every day since we were first elected in the Legislature. He is a constituent from Riverdale South.
Speaker: Are there any reports or documents for tabling?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I have a legislative return.
Speaker: Are there any reports of committees?
Are there any petitions?
Are there any bills to be introduced?
INTRODUCTION OF BILLS
Bill No. 68: Introduction and First Reading
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Speaker, I move that Bill No. 68, entitled Territorial Court Act, be now introduced and read a first time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Minister of Justice that Bill No. 68, entitled Territorial Court Act, be now introduced and read a first time.
Motion for introduction and first reading of Bill No. 68 agreed to
Speaker: Are there any further bills to be introduced?
Are there any notices of motion?
NOTICES OF MOTION
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, I give notice of the following motion:
THAT this House urges the Government of Yukon to take such action as is necessary to ensure that an appropriate coniferous-free firebreak is provided around any new subdivision being developed in the Yukon by the territorial government.
Speaker: Are there any statements by ministers?
Oil and gas: authority for transferred to Yukon
Hon. Mr. Harding: Mr. Speaker, as part of our government's central policy of creating jobs and new economic opportunities for Yukon people, I rise to inform members about the steps we are taking to further the responsible development of Yukon's common oil and gas regime.
I'm pleased to announce that we have reached a new milestone in our development as a territory. Earlier today the Governor General of Canada signed the federal order-in-council, formally transferring authority for oil and gas resources to the Yukon.
This significant moment in Yukon's history is the result of many years of negotiations. In May of 1993 the federal government signed the Canada/Yukon Oil and Gas Accord, which initiated the transfer of legislative and administrative authority for onshore oil and gas resources to Yukon control.
The implementation legislation - the federal Canada-Yukon Oil and Gas Accord Implementation Act, (Bill C8), and the Yukon Oil and Gas Act, flowed from this agreement.
After the memorandum of agreement was signed in January of 1997, the Yukon Oil and Gas Act and its common regime were developed in partnership with Yukon First Nations and supported by all parties in this legislature last fall.
To resolve a dispute over legal interpretation, this House unanimously passed the Oil and Gas Confirmation Act earlier this month.
The Yukon shares the same sedimentary basins as its oil-and gas-rich neighbours in Alberta and Alaska, and holds very good oil and gas potential. To develop these resources responsibly, our legislation establishes clear guidelines for providing economic benefits to Yukon people and protecting our environment.
The common regime with First Nation governments is a competitive advantage because of the certainty it provides on settlement and Crown land. The requirement for impact benefit agreements will ensure that Yukon people benefit from oil and gas development, and the inclusion of provisions, such as up-front well abandonment plans provide environmental safeguards.
I am very pleased to report that the Yukon's oil and gas regulations, which are being developed in consultation with First Nations and industry, should be fully completed by June. Draft regulations covering geoscience exploration, drilling, production and disposition are being revised, based on input from public consultation.
Regulations on pipeline, licence administration and royalty issues are under development. The royalty regulations should be completed by the end of this year. The territory's first oil and act leases will be issued in the new year, after many years, Mr. Speaker.
I am pleased to inform members that we are creating an oil and gas strategy. This will guide the development of our oil and gas industry over the next 10 years. This strategy will seek to promote oil and gas investment, maximize the benefit for Yukon people, reduce energy costs and work to achieve energy self-sufficiency, and promote the development of required infrastructure.
Mr. Speaker, we have been busy introducing the benefits of the Yukon to the oil and gas industry. We have now entered a new phase where we can introduce the benefits of oil and gas development to Yukon people. This development will take place in a manner that is economically viable, environmentally sustainable and socially acceptable. We are ready to do business to strengthen and diversify our economy and to create jobs for Yukon people.
Mr. Ostashek: It gives me great pleasure to rise today to comment on the statement made by the minister on this very important day. It was in May of 1993 that I, on behalf of the territorial government, and Mr. Siddon, on behalf of the federal government, signed the oil and gas accord in Dawson City, Yukon, which led to the development of the Oil and Gas Act that was first tabled in this Legislature by the Yukon Party government in the spring of 1996.
We are very, very pleased that the NDP government, which followed us, continued with that act, with some revisions, and brought it forward - very small revisions, I might say, Mr. Speaker, but nevertheless they did proceed with it basically untouched, and we have an Oil and Gas Act that has been accepted by industry as workable.
I would like to extend my sincere thanks to Brian Love and the people in the Economic Development department who have worked for many, many, many years, and were sometimes wondering if they were ever going to get to this stage where we are now on the threshold of holding our first land sale for oil and gas leases.
I would like to ask the minister this though: he states in his summation that the regulations should not be fully completed till June, yet he goes on to say that the first land sale be held early in the new year. I'm just wondering if he could reconcile that for the Legislature so that we'd have a better understanding of what's happening.
Mr. Cable: I, too, would like to congratulate the oil and gas people in the minister's department, and in particular Mr. Love. The issue raised by the previous member needs some explanation if, in fact, the leases are going to be issued early in the new year, which I think is the case and the minister could confirm that. Perhaps he could also confirm just how many people have shown some interest. How many are lined up to take these leases?
The minister also talks about his oil and gas strategy, and perhaps in reply he could flesh that out a little bit. Who's involved as stakeholders in the development of the strategy, and when are we going to see it?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, I thank the members opposite for what I consider to be some lukewarm support. The Yukon Party is guilty of a little bit of revisionist history here, which I have to correct.
Mr. Speaker, the Northern Accord negotiations started in 1991 under an NDP government. The culmination of the signature in May of 1993 was just after the election. The work was done under the Yukon New Democrat government.
Mr. Speaker, the reality is that there was a hiatus of four years in the development of oil and gas resources in this territory, and that was when the Yukon Party took over government, and it got into such a combative confrontational relationship with First Nations that we left what they tabled for an oil and gas act flat on its back on the floor of this House, and it never advanced at all.
Mr. Speaker, the member opposite in the Yukon Party said that we made some minor touch-ups to the Oil and Gas Act. That is patently ridiculous. We fundamentally gutted the bill that they put on the floor of this Legislature. We put impact benefit agreements in the bill. We put upfront well abandonment in the bill. We came up with a new royalty-sharing arrangement with the Yukon First Nations, and we developed the common regime, which is the most significant, competitive advantage in the bill.
All four of those key building blocks were completely non-existent in the Yukon Party's bill, which I suggest would have never seen this devolution occur today, because it never would have been allowed by the federal government, because it was inadequate.
Mr. Speaker, I too want to thank the staff of the oil and gas branch who have done so much extensive good work. They've been a can-do bunch. Whenever there are problems, they work to try and find solutions. I'm very, very proud of them and the work that they did in negotiating throughout their Christmas holidays two years ago to come together with Yukon First Nations. All 14 of them signed on - a remarkable achievement - to develop this bill, and they did that because they were committed to seeing this resource developed.
Mr. Speaker, the interest in the Yukon in many different areas of the sedimentary base is significant. That's why we had over 270 people in Watson Lake recently for a workshop on oil and gas development, and that's why over 70 of the representatives were from the oil and gas industry.
They were here because they're serious about investment in the territory. It's my desire, as a minister, to develop this resource at a pace that Yukoners can feel comfortable with, and we've always said, even when we passed the act, legitimately and unanimously in this House, even last fall, Mr. Speaker, that we didn't expect to see any land sales until the first quarter of next year, and we still see that as a responsible timeline. We have to put out expressions of interest. We have to determine the areas where there could be some resource devolved through a land sale for use by the industry. That will take place in a number of potential areas. Eagle Plains has been mentioned, the Whitehorse Trough, as well as the southeast Yukon. All of those are subject to the provisions of the agreement that we struck with Yukon First Nations, so we have to work very closely.
We have an ongoing working group with First Nations and a table that deals with issues as they come up, so that we stay in constant contact with each other. We have to have further discussions on our oil and gas strategy with the people we've developed a common regime with. We'll continue to do that. We've been consulting extensively, and I've heard nothing but positive comments from industry on the development of our royalty and regulation system. We know that, because we are a community that is further away from some of the existing infrastructure, that we are going to have to be very competitive in order to attract investment, and we intend to be competitive, Mr. Speaker. I made that commitment to industry.
So, Mr. Speaker, I believe that our government has done a monumental thing in coming together and coming to grips with very difficult issues around improving the bill that was tabled by the Yukon Party government in this House. We think in four key significant areas, we broke the back of those tough issues, and we're looking forward to dealing with the positive development of this industry. There will be hiccups. It's going to have to be well managed, and we're going to have to continue to work closely with Yukoners to see it happen.
So, with that, Mr. Speaker, I commend this statement on this act, the devolution of this resource, to this House.
Community nurse reclassification
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Mr. Speaker, one of the key policy goals of this government has been to foster safe and healthy communities. The community nurses who serve in rural Yukon play an extremely important role in meeting that commitment.
As members are aware, there is a serious shortage of nurse practitioners in Canada, especially in rural and remote parts of the north. This is a national problem that is one result of the major cutbacks in health care funding by the federal government.
My department is taking decisive steps to address the impact of this shortage on rural Yukon. We have launched an aggressive national recruitment drive to attract nurse practitioners to our communities.
At the same time, Mr. Speaker, we are examining practical ways to address the concerns of existing nursing staff so that they can continue to provide the excellent health care services that people in rural Yukon deserve.
I am pleased today to advise the House of a significant development in that respect.
With the transfer of community health care to Yukon control in April of last year, a number of nurse practitioners transferred from the federal government. At that time, their federal job descriptions were classified according to the Yukon government's classification system.
Because these nurses expressed concern that their federal job descriptions did not accurately reflect their duties, the Yukon government undertook to review their job classifications.
Recently, the Public Service Commission asked the person who originally designed the Yukon government's employee classification system to study the situation and to make recommendations.
Yesterday, I was advised that the process is now complete, and the Public Service Commission has decided to reclassify three nursing positions: the community health nurse, the nurse in charge and the community nursing manager.
The impact of these adjustments on classifications is being considered in accordance with the applicable sections of the Public Service Act and collective agreements. Individual salary treatment is being considered, and the employees affected will be advised personally.
Mr. Speaker, this is a very positive step in recognizing the contributions that our community health nurses make to life in rural Yukon.
I realize that other concerns and issues need to be addressed, and my department will continue to work with our health partners to pursue both short-term and long-term solutions, and I look forward to advising this House of further good news in the weeks to come.
Mr. Jenkins: On behalf of the Yukon Party and office of the official opposition, I wish to respond to the ministerial statement on community nurse reclassification.
One of the largest challenges faced by rural Yukon is that of the attraction and retention of medical professionals to our respective communities. A recent study, A Statistical Picture of the Past, Present and Future of Registered Nursing in Canada, has given clear evidence that without some intervention there will be a serious shortage of nurses within the next decade.
There's a similar prediction of an undersupply of Canadian trained physicians by the year 2010 as a result of changes to medical school enrollment policies. The fact that more health care professionals are choosing to practice in larger centres and are pursuing specialties rather than moving to rural areas is also a major concern.
These trends have serious implications for the Yukon, particularly when the territory is already experiencing shortages. Currently, Yukon communities are facing a critical loss of both physicians and nurses as a result of heavy workloads and being continuously on call, with the resulting burnout, and also inadequate pay. Since the health transfer in April of 1997, nurses in rural Yukon are actually being paid less than they were under the federal government as a result of this government's failure to reclassify nursing positions. That is, until recently, Mr. Speaker.
We on this side of the House are very pleased to hear about the completion of reclassification of the three mentioned nursing positions. The individuals holding these positions will also be pleased to hear the good news. In everyone's best interest, I am hoping fair consideration will be given to those individuals in the treatment of individual salaries and benefits.
For clarification, I'd like to ask the minister if nurse practitioners, such as those in Pelly Crossing and once, a while ago, in Ross River, are among those nurse positions that have been reclassified. As the minister is well aware, nurse practitioners, who represent five percent of all nurses in Canada, are in high demand right across our country. These professionals often practice in communities where there are no physicians and perform medical services almost to a level similar to that of our doctors. In rural Yukon, they are invaluable and are very much in need.
With a 25-percent shortage of nurse practitioners in Canada, I believe it is incumbent upon this government to do everything in its power to attract and retain these professionals to the Yukon.
As is currently the case in Ross River, residents are having to make do without their own permanent nurse. Perhaps the minister can provide us with an update as to how our efforts to attract a nurse practitioner to Ross River are going.
In light of the health transfer that took place last April, I have strong reservations as to the length of time that it has taken this government to get on with its job of providing appropriate compensation to our nurses. Perhaps the minister could tell me why, in fact, it's taken almost two years to get to where we are today. Why was it that the government only recently asked the person who originally designed the Yukon government's employee classification system to study the situation and make recommendations? Again, why wasn't this government acting on the situation two years ago?
Before I close, I'd like to also draw to the minister's attention the long-standing concern about the shortage of physicians in rural Yukon and problems associated with practising in outlying communities. For years, doctors in rural Yukon have been calling upon the government to negotiate on-call availability fees to provide after-hour emergency coverage, similar to what is being offered in other jurisdictions in Canada. As is currently the case in many of our communities, there are times when no physicians are on call, resulting in a reduced level of health care and ultimately an increased cost to our taxpayers. This is simply unacceptable. Losing 43 percent of our doctors in rural Yukon over the last two years is also unacceptable.
Despite these widespread concerns, this government has failed once again to act. There are two sets of rules: one for Whitehorse, one for rural Yukon, Mr. Speaker.
Contrary to the minister's opinion that the Yukon is well-served by both physicians and dentists, I would urge the minister to sit down and talk to physicians in our outlying communities, listen to their concerns and work closely to resolve those concerns.
For the past two years, I have been urging this government to give consideration to developing a policy to attract, recruit and retain health care professionals to the Yukon, yet that has been to no avail. Until such times as these matters are resolved and incentives are made available to health care professionals to practise in rural Yukon communities, we will end up being underserved, or unserviced altogether, as is currently the case in Ross River.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mrs. Edelman: I stand today on behalf of the Yukon Liberal caucus to respond to the ministerial statement on community nurse reclassification.
Mr. Speaker, it's about time.
I recall having discussions with community nurses prior to the phase 2 health transfer and, at that time, the nurses were very leery about the transfer and, in particular, about the loss of their benefits and their pay. Sure enough, Mr. Speaker, almost two years later, under the territorial government, community nurse practitioners have been underpaid for almost two years. They have had no guaranteed relief. Their housing allowances have been cut back. Their nursing conference had to be cancelled; their holidays are cancelled until at least January of this year.
Everything that the nurses said in the pre-transfer consultation would happen, has happened. Why wasn't anybody listening?
Mr. Speaker, community nurses warned this government prior to the health transfer that there was going to be a shortage of nurse practitioners. Why wasn't anyone listening to them?
Mr. Speaker, it's about time that this reclassification happened, but what are we going to do about developing better incentives to keep nurses here in the Yukon and to attract new nurses?
When a nurse practitioner looks at whether she wants to work in, say, Victoria, where the weather's good, there's lots of medical support, there's good pay and very good benefits, and she compares that to working in an isolated community, having to live over a nursing station for a lot of money, being on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week, with no guaranteed relief and no extra benefits, what do you think he or she is going to choose?
Mr. Speaker, we lost a lot of nurses in the phase 2 health transfer. We've lost even more since then, and we're going to continue to lose nurses until this government puts together some good incentive programs for nurse practitioners. But most of all, Mr. Speaker, this government has to give some recognition and respect for the expanded roles of community health nurses in the Yukon.
In the April 1997 issue of Canadian Nurse, there was an article on the phase 2 health transfer, and it said, "Thirty-two community health nurses affected by the phase 2 health transfer are upset by the lack of recognition for their expanded roles."
Mr. Speaker, that was almost two years ago and, after a lot of political pressure and a crisis in Ross River, this government finally did the reclassification that the nurses were begging for for almost two years.
It's time for this government to get off its collective duff and start to put together a package that recognizes, in money and in benefits, the expanded role of nurse practitioners and the critical part they play in the health of our northern communities.
Mr. Speaker, I'll sit down now so that the Minister of Health can get up and blame absolutely everyone else for this problem. I'm sure he'll blame the federal government, the Asian economy, and maybe even my dog, but this government knew this was a problem two years ago, before the phase 2 health transfer. This government knew, because the nurses told them. Why wasn't anyone listening?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I should remind the member that, unlike previous Liberal politicians, I don't communicate with dogs, both present or deceased. I'll leave that for Mackenzie King.
However, thank you for the somewhat tepid reception to what we consider to be some fairly good news. There has just been a tremendous amount of verbiage, particularly from my colleague from Klondike, but that's to be expected - I'm trying to be positive.
We are pleased about the reclassification of nurse practitioners. The primary responsibility that we have, and primary concern, is for the health care of all Yukoners.
We do appreciate our nurse practitioners. I have visited every community. I've spoken with nurse practitioners. I've talked to them about their problems, not only the problems of reclassification but the problems of operating, problems of isolation, problems of being tied to the job, problems of housing, et cetera, and what I've indicated is that we're hoping to bring forward a number of initiatives to, sort of, improve the lot of our nursing practitioners to assist us in retaining them and to assist us in recruitment.
I can tell the members that our ADM of Health is in Newfoundland right now, speaking with a number of nurse practitioners and classes. He's going on to Edmonton to the U of A nursing school. We're getting some positive reception. We're getting some positive indications from the kind of work that we've been doing.
We are very appreciative of their role. We know what they do, we know the long hours they work, we know the long periods they work. They deliver essential health to rural people. I appreciate them, our department appreciates them, this government appreciates them.
We've been working very hard since April 1, 1997, to resolve this question of reclassification. We have increased spending on hospital and physician costs in the Yukon by 7.7 percent, despite - dare I say it - massive cutbacks in health care budgets from the federal government.
There is a severe shortage of nurse practitioners in Canada. That also is a reality. This change that we have done will help us retain our nurses.
So what are we doing to try to recruit nurse practitioners? Well, we've got one person in the Department of Health that does nothing else but follow up on leads, contact people, try to bring people into the territory. We have been attending recruitment fairs, we have been doing aggressive advertising - not only in newspapers but in professional journals. We have established connections on websites with the nurse practitioners of Ontario, we have faxed out all of our positions to nursing stations throughout Canada, we have been establishing - As I said before, we established and monitored an Internet site. We have produced and distributed a video production - as a matter of fact, a copy of it was out in the foyer, along with another copy of the display that we've been trotting around, and I hope people had a chance to view it.
And, as I said, we've been at Dalhousie, we've been throughout the east, we've been in Ontario at hiring fairs, we're currently - today - in Newfoundland, we're going on to Edmonton. So there's very, very aggressive recruitment.
The role of nurse practitioner is not a common one. They provide emergency response, they provide public health service, they support visiting doctors, they provide on-call. We recognize that they have a tremendous amount of responsibility, and that they often work in isolation.
Unlike, perhaps the role of the nurse in an acute-care facility, they don't have the kinds of supports, both in the collegial fashion and practical supports, that nurses in an acute-care setting might have.
Ross River, yes, was without a nurse practitioner for a period at the end of October, but we now have a nurse practitioner in that community for most of November. We have emergency medical technicians 24 hours a day, every day. Dr. Fast continues to visit. Public health nurses have been coming in from Faro. I would urge my friends across the floor, if they know of any nurse practitioners who wish to work up here, you know, give us the names; we'll certainly try to recruit them.
Now, the interesting thing is the guru of numbers there, the wizard of financial figures, quotes this 43 percent of rural practitioners gone.
Speaker: The member has two minutes.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. That figure is somewhat misleading because -
Speaker: The member's time has elapsed.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Really?
Speaker: This then brings us to Question Period.
Question re: Highway maintenance, grader operator layoffs
Mr. Jenkins: I have a question for the Minister of Community and Transportation Services on highway maintenance.
Mr. Speaker, it's come to my attention that three long-time operators have been laid off from the Whitehorse grader station. At the same time, there are two operators who were given layoff notices on the Dempster Highway and a third position, an individual who left his position on the Dempster Highway, hasn't been filled yet.
Can the minister explain why grader operators are being laid off at this time of the year with the many months of winter coming on? Does the all-seeing minister know something about the weather that he isn't telling Yukoners, that there isn't going to be much snow this winter and little need for road maintenance?
Mr. Speaker, what has changed in government policy that has precipitated these layoffs?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Mr. Speaker, it does indeed give me pleasure to be able to stand here and predict the weather.
If some things do go wrong with the weather, well certainly we'll all know who's to blame because I'm to blame for everything.
Certainly, Mr. Speaker, what we speak of is a personnel issue. There are no layoffs to be had, but certainly it is a personnel issue, and we will continue to work with the problem that the member has brought up. I don't consider it a problem. It's certainly a matter of personnel, and we'll continue to leave it there.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, the minister once again has confirmed my understanding of it. He hasn't a clue about what's happening in his department. It's not an issue of personnel. It is a policy change.
Now, what has changed to precipitate all of these layoffs?
Could the minister confirm that discussions are going on with the Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in First Nation about taking over road maintenance from the Government of the Yukon on the Dempster Highway?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Mr. Speaker, it is not a policy change. It's a personnel matter, although I do appreciate the Member for Klondike bringing the matter of maintenance of the highways of the Yukon Territory here. They are at a very high standard and will continue to be maintained to that standard.
So certainly, Mr. Speaker, I have no idea where the member is coming from on the devolution or the transfer of the maintenance of the Dempster Highway, or whatever the member if speaking of. But certainly, I will endeavour to check it out, but again, I think it's just information that is not there.
Mr. Jenkins: I know that these discussions are in fact going on between the Government of the Yukon and the Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in. Can the minister advise the House if similar discussions are going on with other First Nations regarding road maintenance within their respective traditional territories, and does the government have the support of the Yukon Government Employees Union for possible transferring of road maintenance in the territory to First Nation governments?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Mr. Speaker, the member's information is wrong. The member has brought information to the floor of this House on a number of occasions that is wrong. He's making an allegation today that the Government of the Yukon is seeking to contract out road maintenance to First Nations. That is not true. I challenge the member to put the information that he has on the table. I know that he's not giving accurate information. It is similar to the many times that he has brought inaccurate information to the floor of this House in the short time that this House has been sitting. But I ask him to bring the information forward and put it on the table, because I know that it's not true. We have -
Speaker: Order please. I would ask the member to refrain from using "not true", as it is unparliamentary.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Inaccurate. If somebody walked up to me on the street, Mr. Speaker - not the member opposite, but if somebody walked up to me on the street - and made that allegation, I would suggest it's not even not accurate; it's not true.
Question re: Whitehorse airport runway extension
Mr. Jenkins: Well, the information is true, Mr. Speaker, and it is accurate, and I'd ask the minister to get an understanding of his department.
Let's go back to the minister of the Department of Community and Transportation Services on my second question, on what he did do and didn't do this summer.
We know that the minister's government car was parked in the ministerial parking lot for some 10 days. The car was there, but the minister wasn't. I guess he was absent from his duties and his responsibilities here.
Let's look at the Whitehorse Airport extension.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Speaker: Point of order.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Mr. Speaker, as I understand it, a supplementary question is supposed to follow -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Is it? Is this his first one?
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Speaker: Order please.
Speaker: There is no point of order. Please continue.
Mr. Jenkins: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Before I was so rudely interrupted by this minister from his lack of ability to count to three, I'll proceed with the new question to the Minister of Department of Community and Transportation Services, on what he did and didn't do this summer.
Let's look at the Whitehorse Airport extension. Can the minister explain why his department awarded a $263,000 contract to move the airport runway lights for the extension, then they had to go back and reinstall the original lights on this runway?
Now, we were told it was a two-year project and was never intended to be used this year. Why were the lights put in in the first place, Mr. Speaker?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I appreciate the camaraderie from this side, but please, Mr. Speaker, the member is absolutely wrong. We oft do accept that. I mean, they are the official opposition - or the awful opposition, I'm not sure how you'd categorize it, Mr. Speaker - but the member is absolutely wrong again. Just one more litany of wrongness for the Member for Klondike, and he will continue to have this litany, as it will follow him for the next two years.
So, we will get used to it, Mr. Speaker.
Certainly, Mr. Speaker, the airport is on schedule; it's on budget, and it will remain so.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, the minister is absolutely incorrect. All he had to do was spend some time around the airport this summer, Mr. Speaker, and he'd find that the original runway lights were removed in anticipation of using the extension to the runway. Then the contractor was hired again to go back and reinstall the original runway lighting, because the government doesn't know what they're doing. And the government is represented by the minister and the buck stops with the minister. It's now clear to everyone in the territory, except the minister and his NDP colleagues, that this minister wasn't around this summer attending to the government business he should have been addressing. The minister didn't know about the powerline obstruction preventing the full use of the extension until he cut down the trees, without the proper permits, I might add. Let me see if I can cut down a few more trees for the minister to improve his view.
Can the minister advise the House if there are further obstructions near the airport preventing the full use of the runway extension?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Oh, he's a tricky fellow; he's a tricky fellow. After we get through all that craziness and litany, he comes with a slider. Well, let me tell you, Mr. Speaker, we will finish this project. Why we're doing this project is so that we will bring more tourists to this territory, which will later benefit the member and his business in Klondike. He certainly loves that.
Mr. Speaker, this is a wonderful project for the future of the Yukon Territory. It's going to bring wide-bodies here; it's going to diversify the economy. That's exactly what we need and we will have that job done as we said we would.
And, Mr. Speaker, there are no other obstacles. We will be working through a process of zoning and regulation with the federal government, but certainly this is all part of the system.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, our party supported the runway extension because of the benefits that could accrue to Yukon. Now, what we have is the minister botching the job, wasting taxpayers' money, because he doesn't know what's going on. The runway lights moved back in, obstructions in the flight path - what does the public expect from this minister? He just doesn't have a clue as to what's going on with respect to the airport runway.
Are there any other obstructions in the flight path on the runway extension on 13 Right or 31 Left that come into focus that might have to be dealt with?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Well, Mr. Speaker, certainly I can say to the member opposite, the member opposite certainly has a different style. The member opposite absolutely probably had the opportunity to go to debating clubs and join rowing clubs. Well, while that was happening, I was listening to oral history. I was learning culture and history from both of my parents. I did not join a rowing club, and God bless the people who did at universities, but I rowed around Teslin Lake.
So certainly, the awfulness which the member is attacking me for is representative of the Yukon Territory; that is exactly what it is representative of. I've been used to getting beat up for the way I look, for the way I dress, for the way I talk, for the way I park my car, but doggone it, Mr. Speaker, what are we doing? Well, we're putting $50,000 in the film industry, we're doing tourism marketing, we've got air access coming here, we've got a new tourism strategy, we're expanding the airport, and how and why are we doing that? For the betterment of the Yukon Territory, and we will continue to do so.
So, thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.
Question re: Jails, report on
Mr. Cable: I have some questions for the Minister of Justice on Yukon jails. A couple of weeks ago, I asked the minister about Future Ground, the recent report on the operation of Yukon jails.
This report is a very disturbing indictment of the operations of both the Whitehorse and Teslin jails, and the minister has had this report since the beginning of August, supposedly dealing with personnel and privacy issues.
This government has preached about being open and accountable. So, I ask this minister: what's the secret? Why does the minister refuse to bring the public into the problem?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Speaker, as I have said to the member in the past, the Future Ground report was one that was done by management consultants to do with management issues and personnel issues at the correctional facilities.
At the present time, officials in the department have been reviewing the recommendations, preparing responses to them and ensuring that there will be no privacy issues that are compromised by release of the report. When that is done, the report may be released.
Mr. Cable: Oh, come on. This report has been around for three and a half months. It doesn't take that long to deal with privacy issues. The report says, "Neither centre is working well. The problems identified include lack of effective leadership and direction. The system of accountabilities is not functioning well, and the decision-making process is flawed. Staff morale and motivation is extremely low. Productivity is low. Many employees are bored. Work performance issues are not well managed, and there is a pervasive sense of unfairness among staff."
These comments are disturbing, to say the least, but surely not new. The government has been in office for two years. Why haven't these concerns been addressed?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Speaker, the fact of the matter is that the concerns that the member is talking about are being dealt with by the management at the Correctional Centre and in the Department of Justice. This particular report had 40 recommendations, and work is underway to respond to them. Some changes have already been undertaken. There is a management regime in place where the union is involved, as well as the senior management of the facilities and of the department. The work is underway.
Mr. Cable: I think the people of the Yukon, and particularly the staff at the jail and the inmates, would like to have some further assurances.
Now, I have some further questions on this "open and accountable" government.
Another issue that is highlighted in the report is a lack of First Nation programming, at both Whitehorse and Teslin, and I quote, "In both centres, the lack of First Nation programming and activities is remarkable."
Now, the NDP has been in office for two years. Why has improving relations with First Nations in our correctional centres not been a priority?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Speaker, the member is wrong in his allegation that we are not working with First Nations and that we are not working with staff in our correctional facilities, as well as in other departments across government.
The staff is involved in Whitehorse Correctional Centre. We are also adopting a correctional reform framework, where we're working on increasing the partnerships with First Nations, increasing community involvement and working on improved programming.
Question re: Jails, report on
Mr. Cable: The report goes on to say that the level of inmate activities is abysmally low. Surely the minister must recognize that idle inmates are prime candidates for increasing repeat-offender rates. The lack of inmate programs is not a new issue in this jurisdiction. Why hasn't this issue been dealt with before and dealt with prior to the report?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, Mr. Speaker, I think finally the member has asked a question where I can agree with him; it is important to have good programs, and we recognize that it's important to have good programs. The management at Whitehorse Correctional Centre works with the union representatives there. They are working on the kinds of programs that we offer in improving them. I've also met with groups that have a strong interest such as the Yukon Health and Social Services Council and the ministerial association on ways to improve the programming. We want to increase community-based alternatives. We want to ensure that our correctional services and standards improve, and that is a priority for the department.
Mr. Cable: Mr. Speaker, in the report, recommendation number 35 calls for the creation of a community advisory board. The members would be drawn from business, religious organizations, community groups and First Nations. This is something that the community groups have been calling for for some time.
What is the minister's position on this advisory group?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, Mr. Speaker, it seems that I will not need to release a copy of the report to the member since it seems that he is quoting from the report and citing numbers of recommendations and what they are.
Mr. Speaker, I agree that it makes sense to have a community advisory board with representatives from various groups, and we'll look at how we may be able to implement that recommendation. At the present time, the Department of Justice is working on correctional reform and will be thinking about when or how a citizens advisory committee could be established.
Mr. Cable: One of the other recommendations, Mr. Speaker - and I draw the minister's attention to the fact that we've been sitting on this for three and one-half months - relates to the use of the Teslin facility. The report says, "The government should develop a long-term strategy to convert the Teslin facility to other uses. As long as the Teslin jail tries to operate like a typical minimum-security facility, it will continue to be costly and ineffective. Unless the centre turns around and begins to provide a truly rehabilitative experience for inmates, the building should be considered for alternative purposes."
What are the government's plans for the Teslin facility?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: We must discuss the role and the function of the Teslin Community Correctional Centre with the chief and council of the Teslin Tlingit First Nation before any planning involving this facility can be undertaken.
Question re: Tourism, direct air flights
Mr. Phillips: My question is for the Minister of Tourism. In recent months, Mr. Speaker, we've heard that three airlines are planning to market Yukon as a destination for next summer from Europe. Canada 3000 will be selling direct flights to Yukon through Vancouver. Canadian Airlines has announced new through-fares to Yukon from Europe through their British Airways partner, and Condor Air has announced that it's putting on a direct Germany-to-Whitehorse flight that goes on to Anchorage. All of these airlines are out in the marketplace today currently marketing this winter for the next summer's tourism season and they're all hoping to fill their aircraft.
In light of this increase in carriers, Mr. Speaker, I'd like to ask the minister: have we done anything to increase our marketing budget in Europe with these new partners this winter, or are we just cutting the pie that we had over there into three pieces?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Thank you very much for the recognition of the department. Certainly, the department has worked very hard and has created an atmosphere of world-class destination for the Yukon Territory, Mr. Speaker, and that's exactly what it is.
As the member opposite is well aware, Mr. Speaker, the AirTransat deal was a special one. Certainly, with Canada 3000 it is certainly different. Yes, Mr. Speaker, what we have done, though, for Europe - also into the United Kingdom - is put a representative who would work much like the representative that we have within Germany.
Mr. Phillips: Well, Mr. Speaker, I think it's a good move to put a representative in Germany, but what I asked the minister is, we have a certain amount of money in this budget that was allotted to European marketing. The Government of the Yukon just received $48 million from the federal government, and other sources, of which they spent $47 million in a supplementary budget. I can't see anywhere in this budget, Mr. Speaker, that any of that $47 million - other than the $250,000 marketing for individual businesses in the Yukon, which I think is a good move - will be put into marketing these new initiatives.
What I'm suggesting to the minister, and asking the minister, is why, when we have three new carriers in the marketplace, we didn't consider putting more money into that marketplace? We're just cutting the pie into smaller pieces, and we could be partnering with these airlines and doing a better job of marketing the Yukon for next summer.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: That's exactly what we're doing. We've created such an awareness here in the Yukon, Mr. Speaker, that more folks are coming. We're working in partnership with those folks. We've created marketing funds. I'm absolutely astonished that the member would think that they'd only benefit the folks here in the Yukon Territory. It benefits the world by delivering and marketing our product. That's partnering. That is absolutely partnering. We're doing it.
I do believe that the member opposite is just a little frustrated that we are absolutely doing it, and we will continue to do it, Mr. Speaker, because we believe in tourism.
Mr. Phillips: I wish this minister understood his department.
Mr. Speaker, when the Yukon Party government was marketing in Europe - I'm going to explain it to the minister - we partnered with Canadian Airlines, with several hundred thousand dollars in marketing. Last year, his government partnered with Air Transat with marketing. This year, Mr. Speaker, they have three airlines - not one - three. What I ask the minister, why don't they do what they did in previous years and increase the marketing budget with the three separate airlines, so that we can make sure we fill the seats on all three airlines? That's all I'm asking the minister.
He's got new carriers coming. Is he doing anything new to help those new carriers fill their airplanes?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Absolutely, Mr. Speaker. Absolutely. We're working with them in partnership.
Does the member opposite absolutely think that they just drop out of the sky on an unexpected day? Well, absolutely not. That's not the way it works. The way it works is that we go out and we partner with folks, and we do it with folks, and we'll continue to do it. So, I'd like to thank the member opposite for recognizing that the department does do good work.
The member opposite absolutely knows that we've used leverage to get money, sometimes up to 13 to 1, and we'll continue to do that. I myself personally have met with Canadian Airlines and others so that we might be able to show them that this government is serious, Mr. Speaker. I do believe that it's just a matter of professional jealousy, pettiness.
Question re: FAS/FAE
Mrs. Edelman: My question is for the Minister of Health and Social Services.
Now, a couple of weeks ago, myself and the minister attended a two-day conference that dealt with fetal alcohol syndrome. There were over 100 people at this meeting from all over the Yukon. The comment I heard most often was that there continues to be a lack of coordination of services. This is not a new problem. It has been brought to the minister's attention on a number of occasions.
This spring, I asked the minister if he would adopt a recommendation to establish a coordinator who would focus on FAS. The minister wouldn't answer the question in the spring. He's had six months and another conference where people cried out for more coordination of services.
Is he prepared to act now?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Mr. Speaker, we have gone on at some length on what we have been doing with regard to the alcohol-related birth defects and the planning model. We are directly involved in a whole variety of initiatives related to this problem, and I've outlined some of the things that we're looking at doing in the future.
At this time, we're focusing in on such things as developing resource kits. We're developing FAS/FAE referral protocol. We're doing a considerable amount in terms of the healthy family initiative to try and do some early identification of risk factors, and referral procedures to deal with those.
As far as a coordinator goes, at this point that's not part of our plan. We are looking at a whole variety of things. If this proves to be an initiative that's needed, it certainly may be something that we could look at in the future. However, at this point, we're more interested in delivering programs on the ground rather than creating another position.
Mrs. Edelman: You know, Mr. Speaker, it seems to me that we're wasting a lot of resources - there's a lot of duplication going on - and we have very limited resources to deal with a very, very, very big, complicated problem. It makes sense to look at a coordinator.
Now, Mr. Speaker, another issue I raised this spring was establishing an FAS/FAE resource centre. This has been recommended by a number of groups over the years, including the 1996 working group on FAS. These groups have noted that there is a need for an FAS/FAE resource centre, and a coordinator for that centre.
Is the government supportive of developing a resource centre, similar to the ones in B.C. and Manitoba, and hiring a coordinator to deal with the services, or the lack of coordinated services, for persons with FAS/FAE in the Yukon?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Mr. Speaker, the member seems to be somewhat hung up on the idea of creating more government positions, and I suppose if we expanded it, we'd be getting slammed for yet more government expansion.
As I told the member, we are interested in focusing in on programs - programs that assist people, programs that can assist families. That's what we've been doing. We've been working very aggressively on a whole variety of fronts in this regard. We do have ADS representatives sitting with the FAS/FAE working group, we've been focusing on primary prevention, we've been focusing on such things as tracking families at risk, increasing support for high-risk pregnancies, training professionals about FAS and providing increased support for caregivers.
We're also supporting the Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Society of the Yukon. It's my understanding that this group has just received a fairly substantial contribution from, I believe it is, a federal government program that may assist them in that regard.
We've also been the driving force behind the -
Speaker:The minister's time has elapsed.
Mrs. Edelman: Okay, I'm going to do it again, because I never seem to get an answer. Now, Mr. Speaker, there are at least 10 different groups and departments that deal with FAS in the Yukon. Every one of them is underfunded, and a lack of coordination often means duplication and wasting of precious resources.
Mr. Speaker, this NDP government and this minister seem content with his attempts to combat FAS. Can the minister tell the House how much the instance of FAS cases is down since this government came to power? How many fewer babies with FAS are being born as a result of the efforts of this government?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Mr. Speaker, the member seems to be bucking for a job. It seems to me that she wants a department of FAS and I can tell her that that isn't in the cards. That isn't in the cards right now.
We're working on a number of fronts, both in terms of health, education and otherwise. With regard to figures, the member is fully aware of the fact that - well, maybe she isn't fully aware of the fact that we don't just stamp people on the head and then count numbers - FAS is a highly complex problem.
I have alluded to that in some of the discussions that we've had around the whole question of doing surveys, looking at research tools, identification tools. We're certainly interested in working in all regards, but the idea of creating yet another department and yet another position, I don't think is really on.
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 that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Speaker: It has been moved by the government House leader that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Motion agreed to
Speaker leaves the Chair
COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
Deputy Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order.
Is it the members' wish to have a brief recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Deputy Chair: Fifteen minutes, please.
Deputy Chair: I'll now call Committee of the Whole to order.
Bill No. 51 - Wilderness Tourism Licensing Act - continued
Deputy Chair: We're dealing with Bill No. 51, Wilderness Tourism Licensing Act. Under suspensions and cancellations, clause 7(1), is there any further debate?
On Clause 7 - continued
Ms. Duncan: Yes, Mr. Chair. Oh, sorry. My apologies.
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: In our discussions, we left off here with questions from the members across the way as to whether or not there would be some reason and rationale behind licence suspensions, and so on. I said that we would take this back and have discussions with our officials and see where we would go with this.
We felt that it was reflected somewhat, I guess, in the regs, but what we want to do is continue to work on proper wording on this and look at it, and we propose that we do set this section aside and continue on with the sections coming up and come back to it at the end - either, if we're closer and if it's ready, at the end of the day and have another discussion or bring this back another day so that we could continue having discussions on section 7.
Mr. Ostashek: I'm pleased to see that the minister has listened to some of the comments we made on this side of the House. I just want to add to that for his information, because I have received a letter from one of the major operators in the Yukon with his comments, and who, I may say, in the context of his letter, is very disappointed in this government for going ahead with this act in the manner in which they have.
I think it's important that the minister listen to the opening comment of this operator, which says that the concept of having some guidelines for wilderness tourism operators is correct, but this piece of legislation goes far beyond the planned concept. This was from one of the people that was in on the first planning of the concept. The other concerns go along to the section that we're talking about now on suspensions and cancellations. He wrote that it is this company's opinion that the suspension and cancellations are too wide open and too unclear, and that no licence should be suspended until a fair and impartial hearing has been granted. This person has the same opinion that we in the Yukon Party have, which is that you are not guilty just because some bureaucrat says you have done something wrong.
You have to be able to have your day in court before such a severe penalty, such as a suspension of a licence, is even considered or enacted upon. So, I'm pleased that the minister will stand this aside, and I hope that they can come back with some wording for the clause that will put some clarification on that and give some comfort to the operators who will be operating under the auspices of this Wilderness Tourism Licensing Act.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Ms. Duncan: If I may, my colleague, with the assistance of others, in light of his understanding of the rules of natural justice, has drafted an amendment for section 7.
The amendment is that Bill No. 51, entitled Wilderness Tourism Licensing Act be amended in clause 7 at page 5 by: adding the following new subsection: "7(3) A decision of the registrar under this section shall be in writing and shall set forth the reasons for the decision."
This deals with the discussions we were having when we adjourned this debate that it is important to understand - if a licence has been suspended for some reason - the reason for that decision. And I might add, Mr. Chair, that we have no objection to setting this section aside, if for consideration, we could also, when we're thinking about it, give thought to this amendment as proposed by my colleague, the Member for Riverside.
May I add, Mr. Chair, that in the break we've had since we've been discussing this, I've had several calls from individuals who've been on the steering committee and who have followed this legislation from start to finish, and I raised this possible amendment with them and they had no difficulty with it.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Deputy Chair: We'll have that included with setting this aside.
Now, just for clarification on my part, we're setting aside "suspensions and cancellations", clause 7, (1) and (2)? Okay.
And with the inclusion of the amendment that has been brought forward from the Member from Riverside.
Mr. Ostashek:Mr. Chair, I don't want to be obstinate here, but if we're going to set aside section 7(1) and (2), why don't we set the whole section 7 aside, because the appeal process is something that follows after, and we'll see what the minister comes back with, because unless we can capture it - as I said earlier, in my general debate - when we get to the appeals section, I'm concerned about there not being any time limit on the appeal. I would prefer if the minister would set the whole clause 7 aside, and then come back with his amendment, and we'll clear the whole works all at once, rather then take the last two paragraphs of it now, when we haven't seen what's really going to be in front of it.
Deputy Chair: Well, we are setting aside clause 7, and what you're asking for is having clause 8 set aside as well.
Mr. Ostashek: No, Mr. Chair, I'm asking for section 7 and all the subsections pertaining to section 7 - is that what we're doing?
Deputy Chair: Yes, that's only two with the amendment that's been brought forward. Following that is "Appeals" and "Appeals" is -
Mr. Ostashek: Oh, okay I see what you're - okay. Yes, I'm concerned about the appeals section, because when we're talking about suspensions and cancellations - unless the minister has some more information on my comments last week, or when we last debated this bill - on the time limits of the appeals. If he has, then I'd be prepared to go in and discuss them now, but I think we could do a far more rational job of discussing the appeal periods once we know exactly what's going to pertain to suspensions.
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: As I've said before - I mean, if we're dealing with section 8 now, and I know that - I don't see the need to include that. What I have said to the member is that the board's procedural rules are being developed and will be developed over the next few months.
Mr. Ostashek: No, I understand that. I understood what the minister said, but I want to point out to the minister again that once we get through this bill and this bill passes the Legislature, this bill, along with the regulations, will be law. We do not have any input into the regulations.
The minister is assuring us that it'll be taken into consideration, and I'm not sure that gives me a big enough level of comfort when I don't know what's going to come in under clause 7 for suspensions. If there's something in clause 7 that comes in, that says there'll be no suspensions until such time as a licence holder has his day in court, then I don't have any difficulty with the appeal period.
That's my concern, that I don't know what the minister's going to come back with in an amendment to section 7.
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: When we left off our discussion, we were dealing with section 7 and, in section 7, I did say that, along with the comments made from the opposition - both the Yukon Party and the Liberals - that we would be looking at the wording for this.
I would like to move on to the other sections. I feel that, with the appeals and so on, this could be developed with the industry.
Mr. Ostashek: Just so that it's in proper chronological order in Hansard, in case anybody's looking for it, I just want to again, on the record, state my concerns that in this section there is no mandatory time limit for an appeal to be heard, and that concerns me.
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: I understand where the members are coming from. This hasn't been developed yet and will be developed in regulations.
Mr. Phillips: So, the minister is talking about putting a time limit in the regulations as opposed to in the bill - is that what he is saying?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: What I said is that the procedures which relate to the rules and so on could involve a number of different things to be developed in regs.
I didn't say that it will be in there. It's through public consultation that we develop these regs. They're the ones who have input in directing the development of these regs.
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Chair, my view of this issue is that, once the registrar makes a decision or the inspector makes a decision to suspend somebody's licence, then the reasons should be given immediately. I mean, you don't suspend a licence without a reason, so you have to have the reason. And, to give the operator an opportunity to either defend themselves or deal with the problem, they've got to know immediately what the problem is.
So why wouldn't it be appropriate, then, to put in there that once a decision has been made, the individual would receive a notice immediately of what the reasons were for the suspension?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Speaker, we're back on clause 7. I did say that we would go back and look at wording on this.
In regard to being served notice, I think clause 1 is quite clear. In regard to the procedural rules, they are still being developed.
Clause 7 stood over
On Clause 8
Mr. Cable: I have an amendment that would fit in at the end of section 8. It relates to some of what I would say are rules of natural justice on the setting forth of reasons and the making of the appeal decision in writing.
Does the Chair wish to deal with this now in the preamble of section 8, or would you like to deal with it later?
Deputy Chair: This is just for some clarification here. Do you want to distribute your amendment now, and then do it when we get to that section and deal with it then?
Mr. Cable: I can do that, Mr. Chair. I can read it into the record, too. It relates to the carrying on of the appeal board, and it would be a new subclause 6, which would read as follows: "A decision of an appeal board shall be in writing, set forth the reasons, and be delivered or sent to the appellant forthwith after the day of the decision."
I'll file that with the Chair at the present time, and I can speak to the reasons at the end of clause 8 if that's convenient for the Chair.
Ms. Duncan: Subsection 8(4) says, "The Commissioner in Executive Council shall prescribe the procedural rules to be followed in respect of appeals under this section." Presumably, then, is the minister reassuring the House that those procedural rules will be developed in regulation? Is my understanding correct?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Yes, that's correct.
Ms. Duncan: Well, Mr. Chair, I have some concerns about that. There have been concerns expressed in the House that this House never sees the regulations until after the fact. While we've had an opportunity in this particular instance to look at draft regulations, and the minister has reassured us that they have been drafted with industry, I have been told by members of the industry that one key element of those draft regulations has been changed between the time of the consultation and their delivery to us, and that is that the amount of the fee has gone from $100 to $150.
I have been told that by - the minister is shaking his head. I've been told that by people involved in the committee that their agreement was $100, and it's changed to $150. And I'm concerned that procedural rules - have they been agreed upon by industry? Are we assured that these are satisfactory to them?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: I can tell the member that it was more like the other way around. I know that $150 was talked about, but it's still at $100.
Deputy Chair: Does subsection (5) clear?
Ms. Duncan: Sorry, Mr. Chair, my only concern with subsection (5) is the timing isn't in there and it's not mentioned in my colleague's amendment - the time frame upon hearing an appeal. Well, if they don't hear that appeal in a timely fashion, there is no point in having the appeal.
Hon. Mr. Fairclough:Mr. Chair, as I said earlier, these procedural rules haven't been developed yet and would have to go through industry and go through proper consultation so that there are comments back on this to really reinforce this section.
Mr. Cable: Mr. Chair, I disagree with the minister. I don't think those sorts of rules relating to the giving of reasons, the timing of appeals, the timing of hearings and the timing of giving decisions are merely procedural in nature. I think they go to people's fundamental rights.
People who are affected by public servants' decisions or an appeal board's decisions need to know with some precision how they can operate and that's the role of the legislators, to make sure that these people are protected.
I don't think it's the matter of cranking out some order-in-council somewhere down the road. I think it's up to us to ensure that people are protected. So, I would have to seriously disagree with the minister that these sorts of things which affect natural justice should be left up in the air, and I think the minister, if he'll flip through some of the statutes, and, I think, the decisions of the municipal board, for example, the timelines and the giving of reasons - in some statutes anyway - is put right in the statute so that people are not affected by administrative actions that are out of their control.
Mr. Phillips: Well, Mr. Chair, I can certainly support the amendment put forward by the Member for Riverside. My concern with this bill overall has been the fact that it - I can agree with the principles in the bill but there's so much in this bill that's left up to the regulations that it's almost a blank cheque. I mean, I know the minister says they are going to consult with the industry, but I have some real concerns here, especially when it comes to these types of issues.
One of the most important parts of this bill, and the minister has recognized it, is the appeal of the decision. My concern is that the appeal process giving reasons for the decision in a timely manner is just as important as the decision itself, to the operator. The operator may not be able to wait a week or two or three weeks or four weeks for the government to make a decision or the inspector to make a decision or to render an appeal board.
So, I just think that we're not asking a lot here. I think the Member for Riverside is right. There are several acts in the Government of the Yukon that have this very clause, almost in this very wording, in them, because of that very reason, that it's important to treat people fairly. I can't for the life of me think - if you went out to regulations, how - I mean, I think people would want it written in stone. They'd want it pretty straightforward that this is the way it is. Once the ruling has come down, then the individual would be notified immediately. This is not an earth-shattering amendment, but it certainly is a very important amendment to include in the bill.
So, I'm asking the minister to give it due consideration. It's not going to change his bill one way or the other other than give some protection to the proponent so that they know what's going on in a timely fashion - and we don't have to rely on it being done in regulations. It's one of the most important parts of the bill, when you talk about the appeals of these decisions, and the people have the right to know right away. So let's put it in there.
Deputy Chair: Could I have Mr. Cable read the amendment? We're still dealing with 8(5).
Has it been cleared? I don't think it has been cleared.
Let's clear section 8(5) - everybody's talking about the amendment right now.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I don't feel comfortable clearing section 8(5) until we've put a timing provision in there. "Upon hearing an appeal, an appeal board shall confirm, vary, or reverse the decision." Well, that's no good if the appeal board's two years later.
It has to be done in a timely manner, and it cannot be left up to regulations. The reason it can't be left to regulations is because there's already confusion in these regulations. The minister reassured me, not less than five minutes ago, that the amount of the licence fee was $100, per consultation with the industry.
Well, the copy of the regulations I have and that industry has - that they phoned me about Monday night - says $150. That is exactly the reason why you spell things out in legislation: so there's no confusion.
There has to be a time provision set in section 8(5); otherwise, an operator could lose a season. That's their business. That's their livelihood. "An appeal board shall be convened forthwith" or "within a certain time period after a decision is rendered" is only fair to the people involved, Mr. Chair.
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: I said that the procedural rules will be developed. In order for any suspensions to take place, these need to be developed, and we haven't gone to the full consultation on this. I think that we would have to involve a lot of different players in here - industry, of course, and First Nations, and so on.
This should be developed with their consultation, and I'm sure there's a lot of other things that are attached to it that could be included in the regs for those procedural rules.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, that argument doesn't hold water. It doesn't take a huge consultation process to establish rules of procedure or the timing of an appeal. It's already in umpteen dozen pieces of Yukon legislation. Let's look up chapter 100 in the Law Society act. I'm sure it spelled out what the appeal board should consist of and the timing of an appeal for discipline action, and that's the same thing. It's talking about a person's livelihood.
The minister may stand in this House and reassure us all he wants that no suspensions will take place, that nothing will be done without the consultation of industry. The bottom line is that these regulations are approved by Cabinet behind closed doors. They don't come back to this House for discussion, and this is a fundamental point, when it comes to licensing in industry - the revoking of that licence, the hearing of appeal, supplying reasons for decisions. This can be done, Mr. Chair, very simply. Let's borrow some from another piece of legislation and put in a timing provision.
Mr. Ostashek: Well, Mr. Chair, I have spoken on this clause since general debate and given the minister plenty of notice that we were very unhappy with that and the unfairness to the operators.
The minister can say that everything will be okay and it will be developed in regulations, but I say to the minister that this legislation is for time immemorial until some amendments are brought back to it. The minister may or may not be around for a long time. We don't know who the next minister or next administrator is going to be. We don't know who the appeal board is going to be. All we're looking for are some assurances for the general public that they will not be dealt with in bureaucratic manner, and I think it's a very simple request that we're asking for - that there be some time limits put on this.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Ostashek: Here we have the Member for Faro who is being obstinate again in this House. He doesn't remember that we had many, many bills when the Yukon Party was in government that were negotiated with the opposition. They were negotiated with the opposition, and we only had two criteria on our legislation: that the integrity of the bill wasn't compromised, and that it didn't make the bill weaker.
We accepted many, many amendments from the opposition, but here we have the Member for Faro, Mr. Know-it-all. The opposition doesn't count in this House, and it doesn't matter what the opposition says, because they're few in numbers. So he gets up and keeps telling the Minister of Renewable Resources, "Don't accept any amendments. We're not accepting any amendments."
Mr. Chair, this is a totally wrong-headed position for the government to be taking, when we are not trying to weaken their bill, we're not trying to compromise the integrity of the bill. We're trying to make the bill better, and that's our job as legislators.
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: I hoped that the members opposite would put more faith in industry. We've worked extensively with them on creating this bill and creating the draft set of regulations. A lot of the wording that's in this bill and the draft regulations has come directly from industry.
I know that they had some problems with putting the time limits in this. It was felt that it was best put into the board's procedural rules and that, down the road, if changes are required, that we do go through due process in regard to consultation and have industry and the affected people input the changes into the regs.
Mr. Ostashek: I have lots of faith in the industry. I don't have the same faith in the bureaucracy, and we're giving the bureaucracy a lot of powers here. People in the bureaucracy change from time to time, and there needs to be some accountability. That's all we're asking, and for the minister to stand up and say we don't have any faith in the industry, well, some of the components of the industry don't have faith in this legislation. As one letter I got says, "If, in fact, anyone was listening to the operators over the last two years, we wouldn't have had legislation of this magnitude in front of us today."
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Deputy Chair: The hon. government House leader, on a point of order.
Hon. Mr. Harding: The member is quoting from a letter. I believe, by the Standing Orders, he should table that letter. I am requesting that he table it.
Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Chair, I wasn't reading the letter. I just pointed out a clause that was in the letter.
Deputy Chair: In general terms, section 495(2) states, "It has been admitted that a document which has been cited ought to be laid upon the Table of the House, if it can be done without injury to the public interest. The same rule, however, cannot be held to apply to private letters or memoranda."
If this had been cited from a document, then the point of order stands. If it has been cited from a document, then it has to be tabled. If it has been cited from anything other than a document, then it won't be or can't be.
Hon. Mr. Harding: Just on the point of order: I will accept your ruling, Mr. Chair, but if you could, perhaps, further consider this issue, I would appreciate it.
The member has read from a letter that I believe, if it were truly a private letter, would not be read from, or even paraphrased, on the floor of this Legislature. I think that should be considered because it's a very dangerous precedent for a person to be reading, selectively, from correspondence to make a point, but not be prepared to table that whole correspondence. That's the whole thought and thrust behind those previous rulings. I would also ask you to check further a previous ruling in this House on a similar issue, and I'll accept your ruling for future.
Deputy Chair: I would just ask that the members not cite from public or private letters and other such written forms unless it's a document which can be tabled.
Any further debate?
Mr. Ostashek: I believe when the Member for Faro called a point of order, I was just pointing out that while the minister says that he consulted with industry, not all industry agrees with the legislation that is in front of us today. That's the point I'm trying to make and those are the people that we're speaking for - who are concerned about the legislation and want to see some more safeguards put into it. That's what we're trying to accomplish here.
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: I can't say that we have been in consultation with industry in the Yukon. In regard to regulations on the timeliness of appeal, those appeals need to reflect the different types of operators and activities and I can say that some operators do not want an appeal or hearing in the middle of their operating season. We have said that we would go and look at what similar boards have in place as models, but as we do draft regulations along with industry, I can say that if the members are concerned with this that they certainly make their views known and we on this side can be providing to the members draft regulations for your viewing and for your input.
Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Chair, I'm going to quote from a document, but I think you already have a copy of it on your desk, so I don't think you'll request me to table it, and that's the Motor Vehicles Act, which says, "A board shall not suspend or restrict the operating licence of a person without giving him at least 10 days notice in writing" - this is in the act, Mr. Chair, not in the regulations - "and giving him the opportunity to be heard in person or by council or agent." It goes on to say, "Appeal of the decision of the registrar ...". This is exactly what we're talking about here today, Mr. Chair.
Section 25(2) states, "A person who wishes to appeal a decision of the registrar under this section shall, within 30 days of the date that person was served with the notification that he was refused the licence or that his licence was cancelled or suspended serve the Driver Control Board with a notice of appeal.
"25(3) Upon being served with a notice of appeal under subsection (2), the Driver Control Board shall, within 30 days of being served with the notice of appeal, hear the appeal."
Those are the time limits that we're looking for. That is in legislation and other acts in the territory. What we're asking is not unreasonable. It is in the Motor Vehicles Act for motor licences. My colleague is out right now, but I understand the same clauses are in the Liquor Act. We want legislation across the board to be consistent, and what we're asking for is not an unreasonable request.
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: What the member read out to us was dealing with a regulation. I have said, in my last remarks, that regulations of timelines and of appeals need to reflect the different types of operators and activities. So we do have many different regulations. I feel that we should continue involving industry in coming up with rules, procedural rules, and so on.
Mr. Ostashek: The clause I just read to the minister is out of the act, not out of regulations - Chapter 118, Motor Vehicles Act. It's not in regulations. It says in the act what has to be done. Whether what's being done is in regulations, the act clearly states and sets out what the timelines are and says that it can't be held up forever at the bureaucratic level, and that's not an unreasonable request. It's something that would give some safeguard to people who run into this, that their appeal will be heard in a timely manner. That's all that we're asking for. That's all that the amendment, put forward by the Member for Riverside, has stated.
Mr. Chair, I can't understand why the government is digging in their heels on such a minor issue, when it's not going to compromise the principles in their bill. It's not going to compromise the integrity of their bill, and will in fact give comfort to a lot of people.
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Again, I have to say to the members that the timelines and appeals need to reflect the different types of operations, operators and activities. I think that's quite clear.
The industry had a lot of discussion on this, and I just want to remind the members again that the act basically is the authority and the regs basically tell you how things are happening and how to do them.
Ms. Duncan: Well, Mr. Chair, let me try and explain to the minister what the concern is. I understand that this act was some two years plus in the making - that there are extremely diverse viewpoints among the operators in the Yukon - and that one of the reasons this legislation is as clear as it is, is because they were able to come to some points of agreement. I understand that; everyone understands the point about consultation with the industry. That's not under dispute here.
The reason that members in this House are bringing forward the concern about the timing of hearing an appeal is that it's one of the fundamental rights: to be heard in a timely manner. The people who have been discussing this bill for two years are people who are wilderness tourism operators. That's their specialty.
Supposedly it's our job and our specialty to make good law for Yukoners - and I appreciate that this has been done with consultation. The point that needs to be put in this section - and it's 8(5) - all we're suggesting is that there needs to be a requirement that the appeal be heard in a timely manner.
One of the minister's arguments is that there are different industries. It doesn't matter what industry you are in. If your licence is suspended, you want that appeal heard fairly quickly so you can get back to work. If you're running a dog-mushing wilderness adventure and your licence is suspended, you sure want that appeal of a suspension heard forthwith, not in the middle of the summer.
I cannot understand the minister's obstinacy in simply re-looking at subsection (5) to add a clause that the appeal will be heard in a timely manner. It's not difficult to add: "An appeal will be heard in a timely manner. Upon hearing an appeal, an appeal board shall confirm, vary or reverse." A timely manner doesn't have to mean 30 days. It can mean 15. It can mean 20. There is case law that defines "timely".
All we're talking about is a safeguard for the industry. It's not an unreasonable request, and it's not outside the bounds of consultation to suggest this. It's not going against any consultation process. It's not suggesting that any consultation with industry was bad or negative or that we are against industry.
The minister is under some form of a misapprehension that there is not support for this bill or for the industry. There absolutely is support for this bill. Go back and reread my comments in general debate at second reading. I gave support to this. I've talked with industry. I've spent many hours in the last couple of days talking with industry about it and asking them that very question - why wasn't it included?
The people I've spoken with thought it was a good idea, Mr. Chair. I don't understand why the minister won't.
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: I have said, over and over again, to the members opposite that the appeals need to reflect the different types of operators and activities. I don't know why she doesn't have faith in the drafting of regs. These are a lot to deal with the industry, and there's a lot of discussion that did take place with this. That could be reflected in the regs.
I did tell the member that I could hand over to them, and share with them, the draft regulations as they're being developed, and they can look and have their input and talk with industry and make sure it's done there.
Ms. Duncan: The minister has offered to have us look at the draft regulations. The minister doesn't appreciate the fact that the timeliness of hearing appeals is a fundamental point that must be included in the legislation. My colleague explained that it's not something that's left to regulation.
The minister has said, well, he'll cheerfully provide us with a copy of the draft regulations. Well, the minister did that, and I've already pointed out a difficulty that a member of the industry had with them, and a dispute with the minister, and I've had no answer and no recourse to it.
There are always lots of issues. The Member for Faro is exactly right. The issue of timing on the hearing of an appeal is a fundamental right, as is having the reasons for the decision. The minister started out this discussion very amenably today, very amenably, understanding the point that the opposition was trying to put forward. He was understanding and willing to look at the amendments until the Member for Faro showed up.
Mr. Ostashek: As I was pointing out earlier, the clause in the Motor Vehicles Act pertaining -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Ostashek: No, I quoted earlier from the Motor Vehicles Act - is in legislation, as it is in the Liquor Act.
It says that an appeal must be held forthwith. There is no latitude given to the bureaucracy to wait to hold the appeal.
All of these things are safeguards, in the public interest, and while I appreciate the minister's gesture of sharing the regulations with us, and we hear the minister constantly saying that this legislation was developed in conjunction with input from industry, maybe I could ask the minister this: was there any advice he received from industry that was against putting a time limit on the appeal process in the legislation?
That seems to be the hangup. The minister says that this was done in conjunction with industry. I would like the minister, if he would, to stand in this House and tell us if anybody in industry told him they didn't want a time limit on the appeals.
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Chair, industry wanted to be able to develop the procedural rules which would address many of the concerns the members opposite have. Some people did not want to go through appeals and hearings and that in the middle of their operations. There's still a lot of discussion that needs to take place on it. It's not unusual to have this type of thing reflected in regulations.
I don't know what the members are fearful of, but you wonder why we get stuck on a clause like this. I know that the overall goal on the other side of the House is to drag this on to the end of today.
What comes next is the bill that we were discussing yesterday. I know that the members want to get a lot more input on it. This is pretty straightforward, and if the members can't accept it, well, I don't know where we go from here.
Mr. Ostashek: That is a very ridiculous charge to be made, Mr. Chair. The minister's argument is very weak. He says that industry doesn't want to have appeals during the summer. That's got nothing to do with what we're talking about. We're talking about during the season. We're not talking about that at all. We're talking about how long the bureaucracy has to hear the appeal once a request has been made for the appeal. That's what we're asking about: how long a time has the bureaucracy got to act on it? Once an operator, who has found himself in trouble and his licence suspended, doesn't like the decision and wants an appeal, how long does the bureaucracy have to deal with it?
It's spelled out in the legislation of the Liquor Act. It's spelled out in the legislation of the Motor Vehicles Act, and many, many other acts in this territory. Why can it not be spelled out in this act?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: I'd just remind the members, again, that these procedural rules will be in place upon the enforcement of this act, on the date that we had set earlier, on April 1, and those procedural rules need to be in place before any type of suspension can take place.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the minister earlier said that the objectives on this side of the House were to delay legislation. If that were correct, why in my discussions with industry would I have said, "Please make sure you're here on Wednesday night and on Thursday, because that's when we'll be discussing the bill in Committee, and I fully expect to be done on Monday next, at the very latest." That is not the objective.
Mr. Chair, I walked in here this afternoon, prepared to fully finish the Wilderness Tourism Licensing Act. I'm more than prepared to do that. I'm concerned that what we're doing in subsection (5), if we do not put in a timing clause, is violating one of the fundamental rules of natural justice, and to wait until regulations, the act may come into force without regulations.
You can't have an open-ended act without having some provisions in it. I was prepared to give on clause 4, in the spirit of cooperation, on the procedural rules in terms of who hears those appeals and how and when their meetings might be conducted and whether they are open to the public - those sorts of procedural rules, fine. There is supposed to be give and take in this Legislature with the ultimate goal being that we get the best we can for Yukoners, and all that I'm suggesting and asking for is that we put in a requirement in clause 8(5) that an appeal will be heard in a timely manner.
I'm not saying 30 days. I'm not tying the minister's hands. If he has some difficulty or some worry that industry will object to that, then fine. Blame it on us for insisting that it be put in there. But why is it so unreasonable that an appeal will be heard in a timely manner.
It seems that both sides of this House are totally intractable on this issue. Mr. Chair, both sides have dug in their obstinate heels on this issue, and this discussion is going nowhere.
Can we stand clause 8(5) aside and deal with the amendment in clause 8(6)? Will the minister look at that?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: No, Mr. Speaker, I will not stand this aside.
I'd like to proceed with the act. I told the member that - and they know full well - this is an umbrella legislation that has a lot of regulations that would be developed over the next many years in regard specifically to an activity. We've got a general set of regulations that are in draft form now. If the member chooses, under one of the regulations that is being drafted, we could have that wording attached to that.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, two acts have a tremendous amount of regulations attached to them - the Motor Vehicles Act and the Yukon Liquor Act - and yet they safeguard the fundamental rights of our citizens by ensuring that they can have a hearing forthwith.
Now, that doesn't matter if your liquor licence is suspended, your driver's licence is suspended, for any reason. You have the right to due process, according to these acts. Now, it would appear the minister has got all his oars on one side of the boat, and he's going around in a great big circle. He's not even ensuring and safeguarding Yukoners.
Now, why do you not want to ensure the safeguarding of the rights of Yukoners - Yukoners that are engaged in a viable industry? It's up to us, as legislators, to ensure that this act is put forward in a manner that's going to be workable.
The trend today by this government is to put more and more into regulations. I mean - the minister could have saved a heck of a lot of time if we just put everything in regulations - just start by, "We're going to pass the Yukon Wilderness Tourism Licensing Act and everything will be done by regulations." You've almost accomplished that at this juncture.
Could the minister consider either standing aside this section, or ensuring the safeguarding of Yukoners by putting in a provision that, should an appeal be necessary, the board will hear it forthwith? Can the minister give that his consideration?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: I'm surprised that the members, after giving it general support, would not have any faith again in industry developing this. What I had said to the members in the past was that, along with industry, along with the departments and affected people, this legislation was drafted in that fashion: to have regulations coming in later, because there could be activities that we haven't even identified yet in the Yukon, and a draft set of regulations needs to apply. The people felt they wanted to enhance tourism in the Yukon by making sure that what we offer here is appealing to visitors, in having our guides have first aid, for example, and also being concerned with the environment in having low-impact camping and the reporting to come in.
So, Mr. Chair, I will not be standing aside subsection (5). Those concerns the members have can be reflected in regulations. This legislation is an umbrella legislation that has a number of different regulations that are being drafted under it. We have an obligation to do consultation under the Wildlife Act, and so on. We're going to involve people, like we have in the drafting of this act, and we'll continue to do that. I can't see why the members are having such difficulty with involving Yukoners with this.
Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Chair, I take exception to the minister saying he's surprised that we have questions now when we gave general support for the bill. We were quite clear in general debate that, while we supported the principles of the bill, we had many questions, and the minister ought not to be surprised if he reviewed Hansard or was listening to the debate, because we raised these issues in general debate.
We said that we would have more questions to him as we got into by clause-by-clause debate on this bill. The minister says there are many other activities that have to be covered by regulation. The assurances that we're looking for in this clause don't compromise the minister in having those other activities come under regulations. That's not a defence for not putting it in.
I haven't heard any good reasons from the minister why it ought not to be included in this act. Maybe the minister could tell me this: why is it included in other Yukon legislation and the minister is adamant it's not going to be included in the Wilderness Tourism Licensing Act?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: I appreciate questions coming from the members opposite on this bill. I would like to move ahead with it, and members are hung up on one area that I thought - and I think and so does industry - there were ways of dealing with this issue. I did tell the member over and over again that the timelines for appeals have to reflect the different types of operators and activities.
Industry had some difficulty with this and what came out of that was that the board's procedural rules would be developed over the next few months. I'm sure that the members are not going to let this go by and will have full involvement in that, and there is the an avenue to deal with this.
Mr. Ostashek: If the minister is sincere in wanting to move on with this act, we do too. All we ask - and it was asked by the Member for Porter Creek South - is stand this clause aside. The department's been listening to the debate that's been going on in here for the last 45 minutes over this clause. We have to come back to clause 7 anyhow at the end of the bill. In the meantime, the department can be thinking about what was said by opposition and we will clear the rest of the bill. We will go through the other clauses and get our concerns registered if we have any on those other clauses.
So, if the minister is sincere that he wants to move on with this bill, there's his opportunity.
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: I don't intend to stand this section 8(5) aside. I can suggest that we visit this again in the draft regs and try to reflect some of the wording and concerns that members have. I want to move on with this. I don't want to be held up on this. We've gone on to the very first clause after one that I said we could revisit, and we haven't even proceeded at all today through this bill. So, if we flip to section 9, do we get all hung up and ask for changes again on this? Where are the members coming from? Why is the delay there?
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I can give the member assurances that our side of the House has no difficulty with further sections in the bill. The problem that we've been talking about under sections 7 and 8, and the reasons we came in with amendments, is because - let me use an example. The minister gets a parking ticket. On that parking ticket, it tells what you were fined for, what the fine is, and what your route of appeal is, and how long you have to appeal it. Those are sort of fundamental rules when it comes to being charged, or licences revoked, or anything. It's a fundamental point.
All I'm looking for, and our caucus is looking for, in section 8(5), is to have, "upon hearing an appeal in a timely manner" - something along those lines. I would be more than happy to stand aside section (5) and move on to 9, 10, clear the rest of the bill - more than happy to do that.
The remainder of the act does not have areas that pose difficulties for us. The penalties, the insurance, the first aid certification, the agreements - I don't have problems with those sections.
The timing section arises. The reason that we have difficulty with that is because it is part of one of those basic principles. It's like the right to vote. It's like a human right. It's a basic rule of justice, and it's not something that is difficult to be inserted. Our caucus is not asking for anything difficult. We're trying to cooperate on this bill.
We'll be more than happy to clear through the rest of it. I have a few questions. I support this act. I've worked. I've made notes. I've met with industry over the summer and discussed this bill with them, talked with them about it as recently again as Monday night. I didn't hear the problems from them when I asked about this issue that I'm hearing from the minister.
Would he please reconsider, stand aside clause 8(5) and let us deal with the rest of the bill. We'll come back to it?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: I don't know how many times I'm going to have to say this to the members. The industry has had some difficulty with this section. The regulations on timelines of appeals have to reflect the different type of operators and activities. Industry expressed a need for flexibility for the timing of appeals to reflect the different activities. I think that we can reflect the member's concerns in the regulations when we get to them.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the word "timing" is flexible, and the minister will recall that a few days ago we debated another piece of legislation, the amendments to the Wildlife Act as a result of the Inuvialuit act. We asked the minister a number of questions. Parts of the legislation weren't clear. The minister agreed to stand them aside, came back and gave the leader of the official opposition, the Member for Porter Creek North, and me written reasons. We came in this House, agreed and cleared that clause in a matter of seconds, Mr. Chair, because we had the written reasons.
If the minister won't consider inserting the words "upon hearing an appeal in a timely manner" and absolutely will not consider that for some reason because of industry, and if the minister would provide me and others in this House with those written reasons, fair enough. The minister says, "Well, because different seasonal operations are different." So be it. The seasonal operator is not going to be able to finish his season without a licence.
He or she is going to want that appeal in a timely manner, and that's all we're asking for - "upon hearing an appeal in a timely manner." That time period can be specified out in regulations as they're developed with industry. It's just inserting the requirement that the appeal be heard in a timely fashion, and not five years after the offence, that we're looking for.
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Chair, I understand where the members are coming from. I have expressed the concerns that the industry had with this. I want to be flexible with this. I can tell the member that we'll proceed with the drafting of the regs, reflect it in there, have the industry deal with this carefully, and if, at that point, there's a lot of concern coming from industry, we still can make amendments to the act and that's common. I mean, if that's really important and we have to revisit this, then we can.
But, Mr. Chair, the timelines have to reflect the different types of operation activities. They have to be flexible, and I want to keep it within the regulations and have industry continue to deal with this. It's obviously an issue that they have dealt with and have had a lot of discussion on already but haven't reflected in here, and I want to continue to keep it in that process.
Mr. Ostashek: Well, Mr. Chair, we haven't even got the act passed and the minister's already talking about amendments to it. This is mind-boggling.
The minister has made a statement that the industry has some problems with this section, with flexibility of time limits on appeal, that an appeal must be heard forthwith. What concerns did the industry have about that? This is not about what's happening in the process leading up to the appeal. It's upon hearing the appeal. The appeal has to be heard in a timely manner. That's at the request of the person who is in trouble.
What concerns could the industry have? The minister's saying, "They had concerns." I'd like to hear those concerns; maybe I'd get a better understanding of what's going on.
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Chair, this discussion is going nowhere. I'd expressed concerns about the industry, and the flexibility of this - how it should reflect the different types of activities.
I suggest we move on. I did say that we reflect this simple wording within the draft regulations, and proceed in that manner.
Mr. Ostashek: Sure, I would be quite happy to move on when the minister gives us a satisfactory explanation why the appeal process is outlined in legislation - in at least two other acts that we've cited here today, and there are probably more - and why he is so adamant that it will not be reflected in the legislation on the wilderness tourism act.
We're quite prepared to move on. Give us a rational explanation why - to say that you need flexibility, and the industry is concerned about it - tell me the concerns of the industry, because I don't see them.
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Chair, I did give the member some very broad reasons. The main reason is that the appeals need to reflect the different operations and activities. They need to be flexible. They have had concerns with this; they would like to proceed in developing these procedural rules over the next few months.
Mr. Ostashek: It really doesn't matter what kind of different operations there are. This is when an appeal is to be heard. It has nothing to do with the different types of operations that this act is covering - none whatsoever.
This is about when a request is made by a citizen who has run into trouble under this act, that his or her appeal will be heard in a timely manner. It has absolutely nothing to do with the different types of operations that there are in the Yukon. It will not have a negative impact on the different types of operations in the Yukon. It will not have an impact on whether the operation is in the summertime, or the wintertime - or whenever it is.
This is about justice. This is about fundamental rights, and people not being held up by a bureaucracy, and it needs to be protected by legislation - unless the minister can give me some valid reasons why it should not be in this act, when it's in legislation in almost every other act in the territory.
Maybe the Minister of Justice could help him out, if he doesn't know the answer.
Mr. Cable: I think, Mr. Chair, the fact that we're not connecting on this reinforces our apprehensions.
Let me tell the minister that we did approve this bill in principle but, by the same token, we're not here to rubber-stamp any piece of legislative drafting that comes down the mill. We're here to look at the legislation and make sure it's good legislation. So let there be no doubt in the minister's mind that he does not have a blank cheque simply because we have approved the bill in principle.
Let me say to the minister that regulations can be changed without seeing the light of day. They never see this Legislature, and people's fundamental rights can be changed if we have their rights with respect to hearings and decisions and reasons stuck away in regulations.
Now, what's good one day for this minister may not be seen to be good the next day for the next minister. Regulations can be changed on a whim, but if we in this Legislature protect people - which is our job, to make sure that their rights are protected, that there's natural justice given to people on the revocation of a licence - in a statute, that statute can't be changed without legislative action - there's action in this Legislature - and that means the whole thing sees the light of day. It's not a matter of ministerial whim.
So I think what the minister is basically telling us is, "Trust me", and we do. We trust this minister, but who's the next minister? Or the one after that? Let's get something in the statute that sets out that people have to be dealt with expeditiously, and they have to have reasons given to them if their livelihood is stopped dead in its tracks.
The registrar can do virtually anything under this statute with respect to people's businesses, and I don't think that's a matter of saying, "Trust me, trust our government, trust our public servants." It's a matter of setting out the rules.
Deputy Chair: I'd like to draw the members' attention to the wonderful sound of a train that's happening outside. It's very tempting to go out and watch it.
Mr. Ostashek: I want to thank the Chair for drawing our attention to that.
Mr. Chair, I think we've made this argument over and over again. I really would like to move on in this act, and I don't have any doubt that we could've earlier. We could possibly clear the rest of the clauses by 4:30 if this one were stood aside.
I have some questions under the indemnification section, but I'm not going to be holding up the act over it or anything else. This clause that we're on now is very important because it's fundamental justice, and it's allowing a citizen who doesn't have the powers of the bureaucracy at his or her disposal to have their day in court. That's what our job as legislators is: to see that our citizens are protected.
This is not a monumental change to the minister's bill. It does nothing to take away from the integrity of the bill. It does nothing to compromise the principles of the bill. It does nothing to remove his desire to have flexibility in building regulations for various aspects of the wilderness tourism industry. What this is about is fundamental justice, and I don't know why the government is being so obstinate in not allowing citizens to have their day in court, and saying, "Trust me, put it in regulations."
When we put it in this act, some other future minister - we're not talking about this minister, we're not even talking about this administration now, whoever, whatever party's in power - has to come back to the Legislature if they don't want to give a Yukon citizen his fundamental right of justice in a timely manner. That is the kind of protection we're looking for, and that is not the kind of protection we can get in regulations, no matter how much good faith this minister exhibits on the floor of this Legislature, and it's not an unreasonable request, Mr. Chair.
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Chair, I have said over and over the concerns that industry had with this. I think they've played a big part in the drafting of this legislation. They've worked on it for a long time to have it structured to their liking. I don't want to be held up through here. If the member says that we can proceed and get on with this bill, then I'll say that we'll stand it aside, and we can try to reflect that wording and move on in cooperation, I guess, with the members opposite to make this bill move.
Mr. Ostashek: I would just like to thank the minister for that, and we will move on with the bill.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, just two seconds. I would also like to express my thanks to the minister for hearing us out on that issue, and I'm pleased we're moving forward.
Deputy Chair: Is it agreeable that we hear the amendment when come back to the clause 8(5)?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Deputy Chair: Okay, we will do that at that time.
Mr. Cable: The amendment deals basically with the proposition that we've just been discussing - timelines. Could we stand them both aside? That might be more efficient to debate them both at the same time?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Deputy Chair: Agreed.
On Clause 9
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I'm assuming that "produce proof of identity" would mean Canadian citizenship and the right to work in Canada. Is it necessary to put it in, or is that assumed under clause 9(a)?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: I think that is covered under other legislation. We just want the basics of who they are and who they're working for, so that we can keep track of where the different guides are going, and so on.
Clause 8 stood over
Clause 9 agreed to
On Clause 10
Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Chair, this is another area that the minister will recall where I raised in general debate the qualifications of the inspectors who are able to carry out vehicle inspections. Can the minister relate to this House what kind of training these inspectors are going to have to be able to do this? I think asking someone to do a vehicle inspection during the course of a trip is a monumental task. Can the minister tell me how he perceives this working?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: These are more or less basic inspections. They're not inspecting vehicles that carry you out to the activity site, but those vehicles that are used in the activity. It could be a dog sled or a snow machine and so on. They're not checking out the mechanics of it, but what is reflected under the regulations, whether it calls for a snow machine to be carrying a first-aid kit or flares or whatnot, to make sure that they do pack those types of things, along with basic safety in regard to that, to make sure that the proper stuff, whether it's equipment or whatnot, is being carried on the trip.
Mr. Ostashek: Well, that's fine, Mr. Chair. But the wording of the act gives very broad powers, because that's not what it says here, and that's the part that concerns me. It says, "Carry out vehicle and equipment inspections." That's motor vehicles, that's boats, that's dog sleds, that's everything. If it's just checking to have the things that are outlined under the regulations - I'm not going to hold it up - it would have been better to state that, in the act.
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: It is vehicles under this act.
Clause 10 agreed to
On Clause 11
Ms. Duncan: The enforcing of guiding skills certifications - industry indicated to me that they understood they were providing some of the training, in this area, to the inspectors and registrar and so on. They were to provide some of the training to these people.
Is that understanding going to be reflected in regulations dealing with (b)?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Yes - I think a good example of looking at the skills that certify you to be a guide would be something like whitewater rafting, and so on, where you need different types of skills - survival skills, and so on.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, section 11(8) relates to directors' liability of a company as well. Could I have the minister's reassurance that this is consistent with other Canadian law in terms of directors' liability? I know when you're serving as a director on a large corporation or a large non-profit organization, many people serve without realizing that they're liable. I'm just concerned that someone who agrees to be a director of a company understands that this is consistent with other Canadian law?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Yes, to explain this, if there is an officer or employee who has authorized a particular action that is in turn making the operator not abide by the rules set out in the regulations and under the licences, this means that both the operator and the person are convicted.
Clause 11 agreed to
On Clause 12
Clause 12 agreed to
On Clause 13
Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Chair, this clause concerns me very much. We have a bill in front of us that, just in section 12 of the bill, says that somebody who is in violation of this act can have a fine of not more than $10,000 and imprisonment for a term of not more than 12 months. Those are very onerous penalties for operators to be faced with. Yet a minister, the registrar, or any of his officials can screw up, and they are indemnified against any court actions. I don't believe that that is fair.
These people are out there doing a job. They ought to be able to do that job in a responsible manner, and if they don't, they should be just as accountable as the person who breaks the law. I don't know why we would indemnify them when we have such severe penalties for people who are operating in the industry. If they are to contravene the law, they are faced with severe penalties. I don't see the fairness or the balance in that section.
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: The officials are only covered if they are administering the act. I can say that an operator could sue the government and may be entitled to damages. This section itself is quite a standard clause, and it's reflected in most legislation of this type.
Mr. Ostashek: What the minister is telling me then is that this clause is put in there to discourage somebody who feels that they have been unjustly treated from suing, but the fact remains that if the official contravened his or her authority they can still be sued - is that correct?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: That's correct.
Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Chair, I'm glad to hear that, because the minister may think that the act is going through without any resistance, but it isn't. Since this is the only clause about officials and inspections in which I'll even be able to mention this, we have a letter from the people who operate the Yukon Queen, as does the Minister of Tourism, who has a copy of the letter. They're very, very concerned about the duplication and unnecessary paperwork and the additions to this regime, and they're concerned about those things. They even go so far as to say that they hope that they will not be set in a position where they have to challenge the government.
While I'm at it, I'm just going to slip this in, Mr. Chair. I'm not going to debate it or anything else. There is room for exemptions to this act, and I think the minister should seriously consider exemptions for an operation like the Yukon Queen and the MV Schwatka.
Mr. Cable: Just to be clear - and I think the minister said this, but I just want to make sure - this section, in mentioning the minister, is not put in to preclude action against the government. Am I right in what the minister said?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Yes, that's correct.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the Member for Porter Creek North has just raised the point about the Yukon Queen and the MV Schwatka and the Navigable Waters Protection Act.
Just at this point, on the record, I would like to say that my understanding from the marine safety branch of the federal government is that the proposed wilderness act does not appear to be in conflict with federal regulations. I asked in the briefing if the Wilderness Tourism Licensing Act was outside of the jurisdiction of the Yukon or how it worked with Canada's legislation, the Navigable Waters Protection Act, and I was assured by officials that they were not in conflict.
I've had a second reassurance in writing from another official. However, if there is a legal opinion available, is the department assessing the legality of those two pieces of legislation, could I ask the minister to send it over to us?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: I'll have to check to see if there is a legal opinion and, if there is one, I can forward it to the member.
Clause 13 agreed to
On Clause 14
Mr. Ostashek: I just have one quick question for the minister on subsection 14(a). There has been concern about there being an overburden of paperwork, and it was raised by the minister, and we raised it in our briefings, we raised it in our speeches. I would just like the minister to assure us that, while we understand the need for information, there will be an allowable time for the operator to report and that it's not going to compromise or interfere with the integrity of their business while they're doing it. Some of them don't have big office staffs to do the reporting. Can the minister tell us what he perceives in regulation as reporting periods?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Reporting will not be required for every trip that the operator does. We ask that at the end of the summer season, October 31 - we threw a date out there - that for those activities taking place during that time a report could be done; or during the winter season, as of May 31. These are dates that are just thrown out there right now. That is the time that industry feels is sufficient to do a report after the winter season.
Mr. Ostashek: Yes, I just have one other question on reporting that I'd like to get on the public record. For operations such as the Yukon Queen, which has to maintain a mandatory manifest with passengers names on it, is that going to be sufficient for the reporting to the department or is there going to be another level of reporting that these operations are going to have to conduct?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: If, during the review, they felt that there was sufficient information on it, I believe that they can accept a copy of the report rather than a separate report under this act.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the last copy of a draft trip reporting form I have seen has got a May date on it. If there's something more current, could I just ask the minister's office to send it over?
Mr. Chair, I'm assuming that clause 14(1) just spelled out what they could regulate and 14(2) is the absolute requirement in law. There's consultation with the industry, and I'm pleased to see that it's there.
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Yes, this just ensures that government consults on new regulations.
Mr. Cable: During second reading, I posed some questions to the minister, and they revolved in part around his view of what he meant by substantive regulations. I wonder if he could give us his view so we know where he's coming from on that particular terminology?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: This deals with fees and penalties and so on, but also that these regulations, what this section would basically be dealing with is making sure that we consult on all new regulations, but not those that are ... if there's a regulation that is done up already, for example standard first aid regulations, I guess, put into the bigger regulations of an activity, then you don't need to go back and consult over what is in there, or a more advanced type of first aid. If one is already done, I don't think we need to be re-looking at it again. But the bigger ones, as we develop regulations, some could be very, very new activities that we see, but all new regulations are under this.
Mr. Phillips: Subsection (2) says that you have to consult with the industry and subsection (3), as I see it, says that the government can make regulations without consulting with the industry for emergency purposes. Can the minister give a couple of examples of what "emergency purposes" might be?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: One that I think of now is that we may have to do a regulation up for, for example, heli-skiing where an extreme avalanche area is identified.
Clause 14 agreed to
On Clause 15
Clause 15 agreed to
On Clause 16
Mr. Cable: What is the minister's intention with respect to the proclamation date? Does he have a tentative date?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: What we've looked at so far is April 1, 1999.
Ms. Duncan: And the regulations will be done by then as well?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: The generic set of regulations will be done then.
Clause 16 agreed to
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Chair, I move that you report progress on Bill No. 51.
Motion agreed to
Deputy Chair: Is it the wish of the members to take a break?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Deputy Chair: Okay, 10 minutes.
Deputy Chair: I'll call Committee of the Whole to order.
Hon. Mr. Harding: I'd like to state that the Committee, even though we've moved the Wilderness Tourism Licensing Act out of Committee with progress, will now consider some other amendments as a result of the debate this afternoon.
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: To take into consideration the comments that came from the members opposite on both clause 7 and clause 8, we have worked on some wording for clause 7 and I can read it into the record and maybe copies could be made for members to see. This particular one has the French translation; the other two do not. We have three amendments.
First, adding section 7(3), which would read, "Under paragraph (1) and (2), the registrar shall give the operator written reasons why (a) the licence is being altered, suspended or cancelled, (b) the licence is not being reinstated.
This is a bit different from the wording that was forwarded from the Liberal Party.
In clause 8, we feel that we can adopt the Liberal member's wording and put in a new subsection (6), which was written saying that a decision of an appeal board shall be in writing, set forth the reasons, and be delivered or sent to the appellant forthwith after the day of the decision. There are no changes from what the member had given us.
Just to back up, on clause 8(3), under there right at the end of the wording where it says "wilderness tourism sector," we will add "(b) the board shall hear the appeal in a timely manner." This was what the members were asking us to do. This is just so that we can go through this bill and not have to come back to it. I hope that copies could be made and forwarded to the members, and I think that takes care of a lot of the issues that were brought forward.
Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Chair, I want to thank the minister for going back and reviewing those clauses that the opposition had concern over. I'd like to thank the representatives of the industry that met with us during the break and discussed these changes with us.
We are certain, Mr. Chair, that this will strengthen the bill, in the form that it was presented, and should serve the industry well in years to come. We in the Yukon Party are fully supportive of the amendments.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, on behalf of the Liberal Party, I'd like to express our thanks to the members of the association who have watched this debate from the very beginning. We appreciate your attendance here and your support. I would like to extend our particular thanks to the minister. His hearing of our concerns and discussing them with industry and his officials, I believe, has helped to make a better piece of legislation.
This is an act that has been lengthy in the time coming to this House, and I'm pleased we were able to deal with it and to make some slight improvements upon it.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: In taking members' concerns forward and making these changes, I'm sure that the industry would be quite grateful having an act like this passed through this Legislature and be able to deal with the many wilderness activities that will be out there over the past summer and winter.
I think that this industry is going to expand, and we need to have some type of guidance as we develop the industry and as more and more people come forward as a wilderness tourism business.
I, too, would like to thank the many people who have spent a lot of time on this bill over the last few years - the industry itself and the Wilderness Tourism Association, which were key to the development of this legislation. And, now, we have before us what I think is a good, working act. We can now develop regulations to each specific activity that comes forward, and I thank the members for supporting this particular legislation.
Mr. Phillips: Just a few final words with respect to this. I had the pleasure, Mr. Chair, of meeting with the industry a few years ago when they requested such an act, and I know officials in the Department of Tourism were very much involved in the initial discussions and in organizing the meetings and doing a lot of the work. I know there are some people over there today in Tourism and Renewable Resources who have spent a lot of time in the drafting of the act, a lot of time in meetings, and a lot of time in discussions in coming to this point in time. I just want to thank the officials who were involved in this, as well as the Wilderness Tourism Association and its members. I'm grateful to them for the very hard work they put in, and many of them, Mr. Chair, put in the work when some of them had a fairly busy time, as well. I know they took a lot of time out of their own schedules to make sure that the act was in place.
I think it's important to realize this act was driven by the industry itself, which wanted to put something in place that would protect the Yukon's environment and, at the same time, lend more credibility to the industry and help us in our marketing initiatives by the initiatives they've taken in this act.
I wish them well in the deliberations on the regulations. I'll certainly be more than interested to follow up with the regulations and take the minister up on his offer to let us have a look at them as they go along. I appreciate that.
I, too, want to thank the minister and his officials for expediting the changes to this bill that I think will make the bill a better bill overall. Again, thanks to everyone who was involved in making this bill reach this point in the House.
Mr. Jenkins: I, too, would like to thank all those from the various organizations that had input into this act for their tremendous efforts and for the department officials. I support the bill and I am hoping this act, when the regulations flow from it, will address the other outstanding issue of the MV Schwatka and the Yukon Queen - as to how they fit into the scope of things - and the requirements and additional burdens placed on these operations. They're already regulated by so many different areas that to impose another area of regulation on top of existing ones, I believe, is going a little bit too far in this area.
So, I'd ask the minister, when he's drafting the regulations, to give serious consideration to exempting these types of operations that are already well governed by so much other, indeed federal, legislation in many respects.
On Clause 7 - previously stood over
Deputy Chair: Okay, we'll go back to clause 7 and, Mr. Cable, could you move your amendment?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Clause 7 was wording that we put forward.
Deputy Chair: That's what I thought. Okay. I need to get clarification before we go ahead with this. Clause 7 would be adding the following subsection: under paragraphs (1) and (2), the registrar shall give to the operator written reasons why.
Is it this one you're talking about? This is the one you are moving?
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Deputy Chair: Okay, could you read that into the record, Mr. Fairclough?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: I move
THAT Bill No. 51, entitled Wilderness Tourism Licensing Act, be amended in section 7 on page 5 by adding the following subclause:
"(3) paragraphs (1) and (2), the registrar shall give the operator written reasons why
"(a) the licence is being altered, suspended or cancelled, or
"(b) the licence is not being reinstated."
Amendment agreed to
Clause 7 agreed to as amended
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: I move
THAT Bill No. 51, Wilderness Tourism Licensing Act, be amended in 8 on page 6 by adding the following expression to paragraph 8(3): after the expression 'Wilderness tourism sector', adding: "and the appeal board shall hear the appeal in a timely manner."
Deputy Chair: Okay, there's been a slight change to make this more procedurally correct, and I will read it into the record. It doesn't change the intent at all, or the wording actually.
THAT Bill No. 51, entitled the Wilderness Tourism Licensing Act, be amended in section 8, on page 6, by adding the following expression to paragraph 8(3), after the expression "wilderness tourism sector":
"and the appeal board shall hear the appeal in a timely manner."
Amendment agreed to
Mr. Cable: Thanks, Mr. Chair - my day in the sun here. I move
THAT Bill No. 51, entitled Wilderness Tourism Licensing Act be amended in clause 8 at page 6 by adding the following new subsection 8(6):
"A decision of an appeal board shall be in writing, set forth the reasons, and be delivered or sent to the appellant forthwith after the day of the decision."
Deputy Chair: Is there any debate?
Amendment agreed to
Clause 8 agreed to as amended
Preamble agreed to
Title agreed to
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Chair, I move that Bill No. 51 be moved out of Committee with amendment.
Motion agreed to
Hon. Mr. Harding: I move that the Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Motion agreed to
Speaker resumes the Chair
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
May the House have a report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole?
Mr. Hardy: Mr. Speaker, Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 51, Wilderness Tourism Licensing Act, and directed me to report it with amendment.
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.
Bill No. 53: Second Reading - continued
Deputy Clerk: Second reading, Bill No. 53, standing in the name of the hon. Ms. Moorcroft, adjourned debate, Mr. Jenkins.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, when we left this act last night, we were concerned that we had not had proper opportunity to consult with industry. We are in the process of that consultation as we speak, and it is still ongoing, but it would appear that the Yukon hire commission made very little mention whatsoever that their consultation process was going to drive amendments to the Employment Standards Act. And I still, to this time, have not found anyone who I have spoken with on this Employment Standards Act amendment who had any inkling that that's what we were dealing with.
Speaker: The member has two minutes.
Mr. Jenkins: The concern being raised by a number of individuals is the all-encompassing one of a contract worker. Again, the net has been cast very, very wide, Mr. Speaker, to include virtually everyone out there who presently works as a contract worker.
Many of these individuals prefer to work in that manner, have worked very well in that manner and have a business set up that affords them a number of tax deductions that wouldn't be otherwise available to them.
Now, I'd be quite content if the minister could give this House her assurance that the term "contract worker", as defined in the Employment Standards Act here, does not supersede the definition and the test required by Revenue Canada under the Income Tax Act.
Revenue Canada is very specific as to the arm's-length arrangements that contract workers must have with the firm that hires them or the individual who hires them - as to their role. But, Mr. Speaker, I believe this act goes farther than the Income Tax Act in defining -
Speaker: The member's time has expired.
If the member now speaks, she will close debate. Does any other member wish to be heard?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, Mr. Speaker, I hardly know where to start in responding to what some of the members opposite have said, but let me begin by saying that the amendments to the Employment Standards Act that are before the House today are not imposing an unreasonable burden on employers. In fact, Mr. Speaker, there is no additional burden. This merely clarifies the true, legal nature of the employment relationship and the liabilities that already exist under the Employment Standards Act.
The bill does create new consequences for those who are unwilling to observe the minimum standards found in the act, in order to encourage compliance, and I'll be speaking more about that later.
Mr. Speaker, it's clear from listening to the members opposite that the Yukon Party was looking for an excuse to vote against these amendments to the Employment Standards Act, and that's consistent with their position in the past. It's really the provisions of the bill that the leader of the official opposition spoke against. These are simple and straightforward amendments, which were very specific recommendations of the Yukon hire commission.
The Yukon hire commission's research found that both workers and contractors consider labour contracts a problem. Rather than hiring workers directly and putting them on payroll and subject to the fair wage schedule, workers' compensation and tax deductions, contractors hire a worker as a subcontractor. However, when the worker is under the primary direction and control of the contractor, they are not a legitimate subcontractor.
Often people who work on a labour contract are paid at a rate lower than the fair wage schedule. The recommendation of the Yukon hire commission was to amend the definition of "employee" in the Employment Standards Act so as not to include a contract worker who is subordinate to and economically dependent on the person whom they work for.
This report was provided to both business and labour, and other groups, Mr. Speaker. This government announced publicly last spring that we would implement the recommendations of the Yukon hire commission, and that is what we're doing with these specific amendments.
I might add, Mr. Speaker, that the opposition has steadfastly not accepted the Yukon hire commission report. Legitimate, bona fide, independent contractors will not be affected one iota by this bill. Contract workers are not independent contractors. They are employees who are in a position of economic dependency and subordination to an employer.
This definition of contract worker does not go farther than existing case law. The definition focuses on two elements that are always present in an employment relationship. Those are where a worker has economic dependency and subordination to their employer.
There are tests, Mr. Speaker, that are in place for determining when a contract worker is, in fact, a worker who is subordinate to the employer. These tests are not a problem for the legal community. They're not a problem for regulators, such as Labour Services, Revenue Canada and the Workers' Compensation Board.
Mr. Speaker, business has told us that people who operate outside the law compete unfairly in the marketplace. We are bringing in new administrative penalties for violating the law in order to deal with that problem. The Employment Standards Board told the government - and previous governments - that an administrative penalty will reduce the number of cases where an employer appeals a case to the board when they know the law will, in the end, say that the wages are legitimately due.
Mr. Speaker, I expect that before we reach Committee on this bill that that will not be before we have had additional briefings with business and labour. And I have to wonder why not one member on the side opposite ever mentions consultations with working people. Why is that, Mr. Speaker? The members opposite said that they feared we had not consulted with business when, in fact, we have. We have sent the Yukon hire report and the government's response to it to over 14 individual businesses and business organizations, to numerous labour organizations, as well as other groups and organizations in society that have an interest in that.
So, Mr. Speaker, I believe that these amendments are straightforward; they are according to law. The tests that will be used to define a contract worker have been defined, and I would encourage all members to support the amendments to the Employment Standards Act that are before us.
Why is it necessary to have contract workers employed? Because at present they have often been classified as independent contractors when they are not. To hire someone on contract most often results in not receiving the full benefits of employment standard provisions, such as overtime, general holiday pay, and vacation pay. In addition, the employee may have difficulty in collecting what's left of employment insurance benefits - after that program suffered enormous cuts from the federal government.
They may also use tax deductions available to business only to find out - if they are audited by Revenue Canada - that the deductions used are not available to them.
Such a finding by Revenue Canada can result in significant unexpected tax liabilities.
There are negative consequences for an employer who hires a person as an independent contractor and then is later served notice that the worker in question is an employee. There may be additional payments due to employers as well as to Employment Insurance and Canada Pension Plan. There may be Workers Compensation Board assessments charged to them. If the employer was not making source deductions for income tax and Revenue Canada cannot collect from the employee, then the employer will be held liable.
These unexpected liabilities can amount to thousands of dollars and, for a marginal business, the additional cost could be fatal.
Mr. Speaker, I don't believe that the members opposite are saying that they want to support an underground economy, but when they start to make those arguments, that's what it sounds like.
The status of an employer's relationship, if there is an employer-employee relationship, does not matter if an owner-contractor and an employee have signed a notarized contract that their relationship is not one of employment.
The status of the employer-employee relationship can't be established on possession of a business licence, corporate registration, a GST number or Workers' Compensation Board coverage. Whether or not a worker is an employee or an independent contractor is always a question of fact. Labour services uses a number of common law tests to help make a finding on the true nature of the relationship between parties: the employer's right to control the methods used to perform the work, the employer's obligation to pay wages, the employer's right of selecting who they have to do the job and the employer's right to discipline or discharge the worker.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: No, you're wrong there, Peter, as you often are.
Mr. Speaker, to simplify, for the layperson, a definition of a contract worker, you need to find whether there is economic dependency and subordination. Now, the Member for Klondike put forward a scenario of a welder and I'd like to explain the difference between where a contractor would be an employee or where they would be an independent contractor.
Mr. Speaker, we can go into the details for the member in general debate on clause by clause, but I can assure him that we look forward to the debate, and we hope that the members opposite will decide to support the bill.
Speaker: Are you prepared for the question?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Some Hon. Members: Division.
Speaker: Division has been called.
Madam Deputy Clerk, would you poll the House.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Harding: Agree.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Agree.
Mr. Fentie: Agree.
Mr. Hardy: Agree.
Mr. Livingston: Agree.
Mr. Ostashek: Disagree.
Mr. Phillips: Disagree.
Mr. Jenkins: Disagree.
Ms. Duncan: Agree.
Mr. Cable: Agree.
Mrs. Edelman: Agree.
Deputy Clerk: Mr. Speaker, the results are 12 yea, 3 nay.
Speaker: The yeas have it.
Motion for second reading of Bill No. 53 agreed to
Speaker: The time being past 5:30, this House now stands adjourned until 1:30 p.m. Monday.
The House adjourned at 5:36 p.m.
The following Legislative Return was tabled November 19, 1998:
Whitehorse Airport runway extension: information pertaining to (Keenan)
Oral, Hansard, p. 3357