Tuesday, November 24, 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
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Again, it gives me great pleasure to be able to introduce in the gallery the executive director of the Association of Yukon Communities, who I am sure is here for the second reading speech of Bill No. 69 today, so I'll ask everybody to join me in welcoming Mr. Bagnell.
Speaker: Are there any returns or documents for tabling?
Are there any reports of committees?
Are there any petitions?
Are there any bills to be introduced?
Are there any notices of motion?
Are there any statements by ministers?
Mineral strategy (Yukon)
Hon. Mr. Harding: Mr. Speaker, one of the major goals of our government is to strengthen and diversify the Yukon's base of economic activity to provide jobs and economic opportunities for Yukon people.
At the same time, we recognize the historic and continuing importance of mining to the Yukon's economy. In that regard, I'm pleased to announce a major new policy initiative that lies at the heart of our ongoing support for responsible mineral resource development.
Earlier today, I had the opportunity to advise delegates to the Geoscience Forum that our government has begun the process of developing a Yukon mineral strategy to guide the future development of the mining industry in our territory.
This initiative is being undertaken in response to a request by the Yukon Chamber of Mines. The chamber will play an active role in developing the mineral strategy. Policy development will take place in a climate of partnership, including discussions with the broader public.
Mr. Speaker, we recognize the importance of maintaining a climate of stability and certainty to attract mining investment. The development of a Yukon mineral strategy represents a long-term commitment by our government to the success of the mining industry.
The strategy will take a comprehensive approach to such issues as integrated land use planning, public education around mining issues, definition and promotion of high-potential resource areas, partnerships with First Nations and communities, mining environment research and ways to involve industry in the devolution of mineral resources to Yukon control.
Much of the strategy will highlight existing programs, such as the Yukon geology program and the Yukon mining incentive program. We will also examine options for additional practical incentives, including possible changes in our tax regime to encourage responsible mineral exploration investment.
As members are aware, the mining industry is hurting because of low world metal prices, the collapse of the Asian financial markets, and the impact of Bre-X on the ability of developers to raise investment capital throughout Canada and the world. The Yukon has not been immune to these disturbances.
At the same time, there are many bright lights on the horizon, such as the Kudz Ze Kayah and Minto properties, that we believe will kick-start the Yukon's production mining industry, once prices improve.
Excitement from the major Pogo deposit is spreading across our borders, which will help stimulate exploration.
Our government is taking many steps to provide a stable and attractive climate for mineral investment. These include settling land claims and taking a consistent position with the federal government who must improve its mine permitting process.
We've also pushed to ensure that industry concerns are fully considered in the public consultations on the development assessment process without compromising environmental standards.
Our confidence in the mining sector can also be seen in our aggressive efforts to market Yukon as a home for responsible mining by sponsoring investor familiarization tours and taking an active role at major annual mining conferences and meetings.
The development of the Yukon mineral strategy is another clear example of our government's commitment for furthering a positive cooperative relationship with industry to improve our mineral resources sector.
Mr. Speaker, the Yukon's mining industry has a bright future and will remain an important engine for creating jobs and economic opportunities for Yukon people. I look forward to updating members on the progress of the Yukon mineral strategy as it develops.
Mr. Ostashek: Well, Mr. Speaker, what the Yukon doesn't need is another strategy from this government. My understanding is that the birth of this mineral strategy was to appease the Chamber of Mines and to reluctantly get them to support the protected areas strategy.
I think one of the key statements in this statement that the minister has made is that much of the strategy will highlight existing programs that are already in place. Well, Mr. Speaker, what the Yukon doesn't need is another document for this government to pat itself on the back and tell Yukoners what a great job they're doing. What they need is a government to take some constructive actions and get our mining and our economic agenda back on track.
Mr. Speaker, it's no secret that when mining does well, the Yukon economy does well, and during the last two years, mining exploration and development in the territory has plummeted from $55 million in 1996 to $15 million this year under an NDP administration. Placer production has plummeted 30 percent from last year, and twice that amount from the year before.
Mr. Speaker, while this government continues to blame the demise of the mining industry on low world-metal prices and the Asian flu, they are not prepared to accept the responsibility that the major part of the problem is policies of this NDP government that are not conducive to attracting mining investment to the territory.
Low metal prices and the Asian flu have affected all jurisdictions throughout the world, Mr. Speaker, yet such places as Alaska, and our neighbours in the Northwest Territories, are doing much, much better than both the Yukon and British Columbia in attracting mining investment dollars to their area.
So I say again, the argument of low metal prices and the Asian flu being the main reason for mining not doing well just doesn't wash here in the Yukon. This government needs to take some responsibility for what they're doing.
I want to say, Mr. Speaker, in my discussions with mining and exploration companies over the years, the one thing that was relayed to me repeatedly was a need for government to set up clear regulatory processes that are streamlined, open, fair and timely, to create certainty and stability for an investment climate.
Mr. Speaker, the NDP election platform, A Better Way, states New Democrats support a healthy mining industry, and it goes on to say, and I quote, "We understand the challenges facing mining companies in trying to bring properties into production. First and foremost, mining needs certainty about rules, regulation, a straightforward approval process in order to move forward. Piers McDonald and the NDP are committed to establishing a clear, one-window process that will bring the industry the certainty it needs and cut the red tape that bogs it down. The perfect opportunity to do that is the implementation of the development assessment process, set out in the Yukon land claim agreement. A New Democratic government will make this a top priority and involve the mining industry in its development."
A very nice speech, but very disappointing. After two years, their one-window approach has so many panes and processes in it that nobody will be able to get through it. Mr. McDonald, in his election campaign, committed to simplifying the process. At a meeting I attended the other night, everybody says the process is far more complicated and will do nothing to attract investment to the Yukon. In fact, quite the contrary.
What they said is - and they stated it publicly; these are the mining people, the people who invest in the Yukon - if this process goes into place, if this legislation is adopted without major amendments, it will be the death of the mining industry in the Yukon.
I hope the Government Leader and his ministers are listening, because what they need are clear actions from this government and to get the DAP so it will work, not another strategy to pat themselves on the back with, Mr. Speaker.
Ms. Duncan: I am pleased to rise on behalf of the Liberal Party to offer comments on the Minister of Economic Development's statement today.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased that the Yukon government is thinking about developing a Yukon mineral strategy. I would be even more pleased, as would many others, if, after two years in office, the NDP had a Yukon mineral strategy in place. They do not, but it's not too late to start.
The minister mentioned that this initiative is being undertaken in response to a request from the Yukon Chamber of Mines. Mr. Speaker, that speaks volumes about our poor economy and the NDP attitude toward mining. The NDP government wouldn't undertake something like this on its own. Only after requests from the Chamber of Mines would something like this get off the ground. Similar to their NDP counterparts in B.C., the Yukon NDP has acquired a reputation for being not all that interested in mineral development.
Mr. Speaker, the minister's remarks say much of the strategy will highlight existing programs - well, read simply, "No new money." An article in the Whitehorse Star on this strategy began with this sentence, "No money has been earmarked to develop a Yukon mineral strategy." That was two weeks ago. The minister's statement today also left out that important fact. "We support mining but we don't seem to have any money to support it."
Can the minister tell the House how much money will be set aside on an annual basis to develop this strategy? Will there be a line item in next year's budget for a Yukon mineral strategy?
The minister's statement also talks about tax breaks. Does he have any idea what types of incentives are being examined? He says himself that this is the only new idea in the strategy.
The minister has made the point that the government is actively sponsoring investor familiarization tours and taking an active role at major annual mining conferences. These are initiatives we are very supportive of, Mr. Speaker. I would also, however, like to recommend to the minister that we actually sit down and talk to the geologists and the heads of the exploration camps who are out in the Yukon this summer. Unfortunately, there weren't very many of them. Let's get them in a room and ask them, "What do you need to make sure you come back next year?And not only that, but you and several of your counterparts come back."
Let's talk to the people who are out there picking rocks, because we want some more of them.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Hon. Mr. Harding: Mr. Speaker, that was quite an amazing response from the opposition - completely negative and unbelievable in its context. To be lectured by the Liberal Party in this House about the federal government - which is responsible for the mine permitting in this territory - is quite amazing.
The members opposite would have the mining industry believe that the Bre-X scandal, and the fact that zinc is at 43 cents and copper has hit 15-year lows, has absolutely nothing to do with mining investment. That is a preposterous notion - the reality is clear. That does have an impact.
As to the often-mentioned statements about Alaska and the Northwest Territories - Alaska has the Pogo deposit. And what I just said is, that's where the exploration play is in Alaska, and that's spreading across into the Yukon.
And I did talk to geologists, and I talk to junior mining companies every week and I was just at the Geoscience Forum yesterday and today, talking to lots of them. They're excited about the Pogo spreading into the Yukon geology, and exploration improving next year. As well, Mr. Speaker, they're also quite excited about some of the work that the government is doing in developing this Yukon mineral strategy.
I can't believe the leader of the official opposition criticizing the Chamber of Mines for wanting to get into something proactive with this government, to deal with some of the basic tenets of supporting the mining industry in this territory. I just find him so bitter - it's amazing, Mr. Speaker.
Then we have the Liberal critic stand up and say, "Well, Mr. Speaker, it's a shame we haven't had the mineral strategy for two years."
Mr. Speaker, this is a brand-new, major initiative - never before done by a Yukon government. And amazingly enough, the constituency group - the Yukon Chamber of Mines - asked for it, and the government actually listened and responded. How could that be negative?
Only in this Legislature, Mr. Speaker - not out there with general public, and certainly not out there with the mining community. I was just sitting at a table with the new executive and the president of the Chamber of Mines, who are very excited about the potential of this mineral strategy. The members opposite are so out of touch that it's not even funny, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Speaker, I also want to say something about the Yukon Party and the protected spaces campaign. I could table documents that show the signature of that government on the commitment of the Yukon government to enter into protected spaces in the first place for the Whitehorse mining initiative, the hon. Lyle M. Fisher. So, for them to stand up today and say that we shouldn't be participating would be wrong, because this government signed on to that commitment and we intend to follow through on it.
Mr. Speaker, every program in the government right now - the mining incentive program, the geoscience program, which we just increased expenditures in over the last two years by about a million bucks - are all tenants of this New Democratic Party government, even though we don't have fundamental control of the resource from the federal government, which we're fighting very hard to get because we believe that's one of the problems.
Now, the Liberal member of the Legislature lectured me yesterday, and I want to read a quote. This is from the CBC yesterday morning and it's the Chamber of Mines president, and the president says, "McIntyre lays the blame for that..." and that's the lower exploration "...on the federal permitting process. It's the process that's the problem, not the environmental standards. They can all be met. We have the technology. McIntyre says permits take too long to get now." But that's not an excuse. That's something that this government doesn't control. That's the problem with mining exploration. So, to lecture this government, Mr. Speaker, is wrong.
Secondly, Mr. Speaker, I want to table a letter that I just wrote to the federal minister. We sat with the entire mining industry at the Mt. McIntyre centre with the federal minister last year. We designed a process called "the blue book". That has been completely ignored by the federal minister. Meanwhile, New Millennium, Dublin Gulch, the Western Copper properties, Minto waiting eight months for a water licence, sitting there not going ahead. And that member should be lecturing their Liberal cousins in Ottawa, not this government.
Mr. Speaker, you can table so much information about the good things. You can read the Fraser Institute report which placed our jurisdiction, in terms of what policies this government has - if you can believe the Fraser Institute - as third in this country for investment. You can read the B.C./Yukon Chamber of Mines' comments about how good the impression of the Yukon government is, relative to other governments in this country. Or maybe I'll table the letter from the Chamber of Mines ...
Speaker: The minister has 30 seconds.
Hon. Mr. Harding: ... that says, "The Yukon protected area strategy can now be implemented without impeding the development of a healthy, sustainable economy for the Yukon, and we look forward to working with all stakeholders to ensure that happens." And then they focus on the positive developments in the Yukon mineral strategy.
Mr. Speaker, three mines shut down in the Northwest Territories last year. What was that? The booming going on in the Northwest Territories is diamonds. The booming going on in Alaska is Pogo. We'll have -
Speaker: The minister's time has expired.
This then brings us to the Question Period.
Question re: Watson Lake administration building
Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Speaker, my question's for the Government Leader in his capacity as Minister of Finance.
During the spring sitting of the Legislature, our caucus presented a motion urging the government to undertake some major capital projects in Watson Lake to create employment opportunities for the many unemployed.
As you will recall, Mr. Speaker, the motion was defeated by the government benches, including the Member for Watson Lake himself, who voted against it.
The town went ahead with their administration building without any financial support from the government and then embarked upon discussions of a multi-faceted recreation complex, which would house artificial ice, a community hall, racquetball courts and a bowling alley.
My question to the Government Leader: is he in support of this project - he and his government - and has his government committed any financial resources to this project?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, Mr. Speaker, quite properly the question should be put to one of the ministers, but I'm quite happy to answer.
First of all, government has been discussing the capital works requirements for the Town of Watson Lake as it has been with other communities. It has expressed some interest in the recreation centre complex in Watson Lake, and we will be making announcements in due course with the rest of the budget announcements in the spring.
Mr. Ostashek: Well, Mr. Speaker, the Government Leader's answer does cause me some concern because in the latest issue of the Town Crier, prepared by the Town of Watson Lake, which I believe came out last week, it was announced that the design and construction of the recreation complex would be proceeding. As stated in the newsletter, the decision is based upon the council's confidence that YTG funding will be forthcoming and support will be received in the amount of some estimated $5 million.
That's why I'm asking the Government Leader if he could expand on the financial arrangements. Have there been any arrangements that have been finalized or is the Town of Watson Lake jumping the gun on counting on territorial government funding to help get the complex off the ground?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The discussions with the Town of Watson Lake with respect to financial support for their recreation complex have proceeded to the stage of agreement in principle. The arrangements have not been finalized, but we have expressed support for the project and indicated that there will be some financial contribution toward it.
Mr. Ostashek: I just want to go back to that again in my final supplementary, because the design work has gone ahead on this project. A call for proposal has been issued for project management and demolition of the old complex, which would begin immediately after the curling and hockey season. It would appear that this rec centre is going ahead, and yet the government cannot say here today how much financial support is going to be coming from the territorial government. All of the documentation from the Town of Watson Lake, and public information that's available, says that there's $5 million coming.
Could the minister elaborate?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Mr. Speaker, I can indicate to the member that the Town of Watson Lake has achieved agreement in principle on the subject of financial support for the recreation complex. The approval is at the agreement in principle stage. As the member knows, my government stands by its word, so that we will not be backing out on agreements in principle.
The final details will be worked out over the course of the winter, and the member will see our financial contribution, in all its glory, in the spring.
Question re: Yukon Housing Corporation objectives
Mr. Jenkins: I have a question today for the minister responsible for the Yukon Housing Corporation. Under the previous Yukon Party government, the corporate objectives of the Yukon Housing Corporation remained constant, and focused on assisting the private sector to supply appropriate housing within the Yukon, providing programs enabling people to construct, purchase and repair their homes, providing social housing, ensuring community participation in housing programs, and providing accommodation for Yukon government employees in rural Yukon communities.
Now the corporate objectives have changed to such an extent that it appears to have become the marketing and export branch of the Department of Economic Development. Can the minister explain why the Yukon Housing Corporation's objectives were changed?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: I can tell the member that this is a major move on the part of our government to go out and try to diversify the economy in every which way we can, and all the departments are encouraged to look into what they can do to look at the trade and export initiatives that we have announced.
Yukon Housing Corporation has taken that. We've been lucky in a couple of places in having CMHC from Ottawa come in and have a person dealing strictly with trade and export, so we did have good insight and a good person to work with in this field.
Mr. Jenkins: I'd ask the minister to compare the corporate objectives stated in his two Yukon Housing Corporation budgets to the previous Yukon Party's listed corporate objectives. The Yukon Party's objectives clearly state "to assist the private sector." Now, that initiative went from being number one to being almost last, and in the latest budget that the minister presented, there is no reference whatsoever to assisting the private sector. In fact, the objective states, "Respond to the limitations of the housing market." The housing marketplace would direct programming.
Can the minister explain why all references to assisting the private sector were dropped or eliminated?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: I can say to the member that the private sector have been working quite well with the Yukon Housing Corporation. We have been involved in the Chile trip with them, and we had some success in that trip, Mr. Speaker, and we continue to work with the private sector. We have programs in place, like the joint venture program, which we can continue to build upon, and continue to build projects together with the private sector.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, it used to be the slogan of the navy - to join the navy and see the world. I guess today, it's join Yukon Housing Corporation and see the world, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Speaker, why has there been such a dramatic change in the Yukon Housing Corporation? Yukon Housing Corporation is now playing the lead role in the housing market. Why has there been such a dramatic change? What has driven this?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: I can tell the member that we have worked quite closely with the board of directors from the Yukon Housing Corporation, and it is in their mandate. It is written right into their mission statement to help the marketplace work better. So, Mr. Speaker, the Housing Corporation is not varying from their mandate; they're continuing to work with government, and working well on the trade initiative that our government has put forward.
introduction of visitors
Hon. Mr. Harding: Mr. Speaker, I'd like to draw the attention of the House to Judd Deuling, a teacher from Vanier and his class, who are here to witness the proceedings. Could the members join me in welcoming them?
QUESTION PERIOD - continued
Question re: Yukon teachers, negotiations
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the minister responsible for the Public Service Commission.
The NDP government returned to negotiations with teachers on November 13. Shortly into the meeting, the "labour-friendly" NDP government declared an impasse in the negotiations. The normal procedure after an impasse is declared is to immediately file a letter with the Yukon Teacher Staff Relations Board in Ottawa.
As of noon today, the letter still had not been filed. The government has refused to negotiate, and now they're stalling the process even further by refusing to file this letter.
Why hasn't this letter been filed?
Hon. Mr. Harding: The Liberal member's quite right. This is a very labour-friendly government, and I'm pleased she would acknowledge that. We were the government, after all, that reinstated collective bargaining in the recent negotiations with the Yukon Teachers Association. A wage settlement was reached through binding arbitration - of an increase of over two percent. We have not been invoking those massive layoffs as you've seen in Ontario, where they've been hacking and slashing education budgets. We've been fighting to maintain them and in many areas, increasing them, particularly as it pertains to training in this territory.
With regard to the talks themselves, there was what was thought to be a deal with the YTA going into the last round. Unfortunately, there was some more put on the table, and that forced the move to conciliation. But I'm still quite hopeful that through respectful negotiations, through the conciliation - which is part and parcel of the collective bargaining process, which we're very committed to - we can continue to make strides toward reaching a collective agreement.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, the Yukon Teachers Association is on the public record as wanting to negotiate a settlement with the Government of Yukon. The NDP government seems more interested in talking about strikes. Letters from constituents, letters to the editor - they're coming in daily.
Yukon teachers want a constructive, negotiated settlement. The Government of Yukon wants to maintain its zero-for-three negotiating record and its arrogant style of negotiations. Let's create a winter of uncertainty for teachers and students, just like we did with Government of Yukon employees all summer long.
Mr. Speaker, is it the intention of the government to return to negotiations, or will the letter declaring an impasse be filed immediately?
Hon. Mr. Harding: I don't know where the member comes off saying we're going to go zero for three. We're two for two. We reached agreements with the teachers, through binding arbitration, which was the method they chose. We reached agreement through conciliation with the Yukon Government Employees Union.
The member opposite should know that those are respected and hallowed parts of any collective bargaining process. You don't end a process just because you can't reach an agreement face to face at the table. Sometimes you need the assistance of conciliation and of binding arbitration. That's why those two elements are in the act - the Education Act, for example.
When the YTA decides to go to binding arbitration, they make that choice. If they decide to go to conciliation strike, that's their choice. That's the route that's set out in the legislation. We hope that we can conclude another agreement - make it three for three - through the process that I think they will choose - or they've indicated they're choosing - which is conciliation strike.
We have a fair offer on the table. It would involve more increases. There's the smallest class size in the country, and we think we've been quite respectful, and we want to continue to be.
Ms. Duncan: This minister loves to prattle on in this Legislature about negotiating in good faith - how they restored collective bargaining to the Yukon. Well, Mr. Speaker, actions speak louder than words. These delaying tactics on the part of the government speak volumes about how this government views its professional workforce.
Its record with negotiations so far is zero for three, Mr. Speaker. They've reneged on their promise to restore the two percent, no restoring the wage rollback, not one negotiated settlement.
It isn't just the teachers who are suffering from this minister's style. Students are at risk. If this minister continues to delay, Yukon students could be facing job action from the middle of their summer exams - their final exams. Is this a better way, Mr. Speaker? Will the minister think about the consequences of these delaying tactics and get the letter filed or return to the table?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well actually, Mr. Speaker, the member is wrong again. We're two for two in terms of negotiating collective bargaining agreements. The first act, in terms of action by this government, was restoring collective bargaining; something that we're extremely proud of.
In terms of the member's allegation regarding the two percent, we were very clear that our commitment was to restore collective bargaining. As it happens, the binding arbitration award that we committed to respecting was over two percent for the YTA and also, Mr. Speaker, the Yukon Government Employees Union to the conciliation process. So, we're very proud of what we've done.
Certainly if you stack our government up with governments across the country - including the federal Liberal government, the cousins of the members opposite who've laid off thousands of public employees - tens of thousands - and who've frozen wages for, I believe, six or seven years now, we stack up very well. Of course, there is the pay equity issue.
So, Mr. Speaker, you can be clear that our record - as you compare it to places like Ontario, Alberta, and many other jurisdictions, Manitoba - our respectful record of concluding agreements, of respecting the work of teachers, of trying to ensure that they're adequately compensated for the important work that they do...
Speaker: The minister's time has expired.
Question re: Teacher shortage in rural communities
Ms. Duncan: My question is for the Minister of Education.
Mr. Speaker, there have been many discussions in this House respecting rural Yukon nurses and the shortage of these skilled professionals. Yukon communities are facing the same problems with the shortage of skilled teachers.
Mr. Speaker, the math teacher for Robert Service School in Dawson arrived a week into the school year. That's a problem with recruitment. The Eliza VanBibber School in Pelly Crossing have no substitute teachers available to cover sick leave. That's a problem with recruitment.
Earlier this session, the minister announced the intention to offer more grades and courses at Chief Zzeh Gittlit School in Old Crow. We haven't even started the recruitment for those teachers.
Mr. Speaker, who's going to teach our rural students? What's the Minister of Education and her department doing to attract teachers to rural Yukon?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, Mr. Speaker, I'd like to thank the member for giving me the question and the opportunity to talk about what we're doing in rural Yukon because we're doing a lot.
First of all, let me say that we're very proud to have a youth strategy that recognizes the importance of young voices as the key to our future. In fact, the previous New Democratic government created the Yukon native teacher education program to increase the number of First Nations Yukon teachers in our Yukon school system.
In addition, Mr. Speaker, there are numerous applications for vacancies in the Yukon teaching force. The member opposite would be, I'm sure, the first one to compliment the department on having a hiring protocol with the Yukon Teachers Association and working to get teachers out into the communities.
Ms. Duncan: Well, Mr. Speaker, that's a typical, arrogant NDP answer. "We know what's best. We've got the best answer." This government knew it had a problem with nurses and refused to deal with them until it reached a crisis point. We're seeing the same thing in education.
Now, Mr. Speaker, I know the minister's going to stand up and call me an alarmist. She always does whenever she has no answers, but let's look at the facts.
Mr. Speaker, the normal number of teachers to retire a year in the Yukon is about five. That's the average. Last year, 18 teachers retired. This year, the Yukon is looking at at least 13 retirees, if not 50. That is just the teachers who retire. What about the teachers who leave because their partners can't find jobs in the flagging Yukon economy? What is the Government of Yukon going to do to recruit teachers to Yukon to deal with the shortage of qualified teachers?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, Mr. Speaker, I don't believe that the member is strictly accurate. We receive hundreds of applications from teachers who want to teach in the Yukon. We have a Yukon native teacher education program which produces graduates of First Nations students who can get a teaching degree here in the Yukon at Yukon College through a program that's recognized by the University of Regina and accredited through it. We have Yukon graduates who get a teaching degree elsewhere, when they go out to universities across the country, and who come back and who apply for work in the Yukon. We still are receiving hundreds of applications, Mr. Speaker.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, it's bad enough that the government's trying to get the teachers we do have to go on strike. Now the NDP are ignoring a teacher shortage that is just around the corner.
Mr. Speaker, the Ontario College of Teachers released a study last week warning of a teacher shortage in Ontario. They point to a large drop in enrollment in teachers college and the retirement of thousands and thousands of teachers as the main cause. The situation's been described as a serious crisis. We are going to be competing with places like Ontario for new graduates.
What is the government going to do to ensure we are competitive and that we can attract teachers to the Yukon?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, Mr. Speaker, one of the things that the Yukon can boast in attracting members to the teaching profession in the Yukon is that we have the highest level of pay and the lowest class size available.
We also have one of the most strongly supported special needs programs available for students in the Yukon system. We get hundreds of applications for the vacancies. Ontario has brought in a huge buy-out package for teachers. Ontario has been laying teachers off. The situation here is very different, Mr. Speaker, and the member should know that.
Question re: Aishihik buffalo hunt
Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Speaker, I have some questions for the Minister of Renewable Resources on the Aishihik buffalo hunt. In the advertisement in the paper last Friday, November 20, laying out some of the guidelines for how the hunt would be conducted, I noticed that the applications for the hunt on the native lands of the Champagne-Aishihik First Nation will only be available in person at the front desk of the Champagne-Aishihik First Nation Haines Junction office.
That means that someone from Whitehorse who wanted to apply for a permit to hunt on native lands would have to travel all the way to Haines Junction to pick up a permit in person, and this is when there was supposed to be fairness and equity in how the people get these permits, Mr. Speaker.
On the other hand, a person who wants to apply for a Yukon permit that's going to be administered by the Department of Renewable Resources can apply for it in any community in the Yukon without having to travel to Whitehorse or anywhere else.
Can the minister tell me why these inconsistencies are laid out in the distribution of permits?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: First of all, I have to thank the leader of the official opposition for the question. It is the very first question that Renewable Resources has taken at this sitting, so the official opposition wins the prize.
Mr. Speaker, the Champagne-Aishihik First Nation had requested that a certain number of permits be issued through their offices, and we did not see a problem with this, as long as they can be given out to all Yukoners. We tried to work out additional ways of trying to distribute these permits, but as it stands now, one would have to go to the Haines Junction office to get these permits.
Mr. Ostashek: I didn't know the Minister of Renewable Resources was feeling neglected over there. Well, let's see what we can do to construct some very, very good questions to see if we can test his knowledge of his department's workings.
But to get back to the issue at hand, Mr. Speaker, there's a real inequity here, because I would have thought the arrangements could have been made through Renewable Resources offices. They could have handled the applications on behalf of Champagne-Aishihik also.
The minister talks about fairness in allowing all people to apply for permits but, in fact, other Yukoners who want to hunt on Champagne-Aishihik lands are going to have to travel all the way to Haines Junction to apply for a permit. I have some difficulty with that.
I also want to ask the question on the fees that are going to be charged, because it appears that every application that goes into Champagne-Aishihik is going to have to have a $50 fee attached to it, and then an access permit will be issued to those who are successful.
I don't know how many people are going to find Champagne-Aishihik, but it says in here the fees will be used to support research into bison impacts.
My question to the minister: is the control of these funds going to be in the hands of Champagne-Aishihik, or are these funds going to be delivered to the Fish and Wildlife Management Board or Renewable Resources for use in bison impact studies, or are they solely for Champagne-Aishihik use?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Speaker, I have to say that there are many people in rural Yukon who have to travel to communities, to Whitehorse, at times just to pick up a licence, whether it's a driver's licence, or whatnot. So a lot of people do commute to get licences and so on.
In regard to the fees, it certainly is the prerogative of the First Nation to charge fees. These fees, they have said, would go to the study of bison impact on both First Nation land and YTG land. They can have the money shipped over to YTG if they felt that there wasn't a mechanism to handle those dollars but, as it stands now, the First Nation will be the one that administers these dollars, and can have a study take place within their own First Nation on the impact of bison.
Mr. Ostashek: So, what the minister is saying is that the Champagne-Aishihik will retain control over whatever funds they get from this project.
The minister talks about travelling to get a licence. I agree with him that people do have to travel to get licences, but this is just to apply to get a licence. This doesn't even mean they're going to get it, but they have to travel all the way to Haines Junction to do it.
I have one further question on this that isn't quite clear here and maybe the minister can explain it. One of the points in here is, "It is the decision of the director of lands and resources, Champagne-Aishihik First Nation, with respect to who - and it's got "in access"; I believe that might be a typo, "access permit will be issued, and for what time, is final."
My question to the minister is, then, if I read that correctly, that even if somebody was successful and had drawn a permit, or drawn a licence, they may be denied access to First Nations lands?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: No, that is not correct. Anyone who is successful in getting the permit has access to First Nation lands. They can, in turn, say where you shouldn't be going. They will be working with Renewable Resources to see where the larger population of the herd is, so that we can direct people, but we will not be following them or guiding them in a hunt or whatnot.
No, the agreement that is made with Yukon government is for access to First Nations lands.
Question re: Interpreters for persons hard of hearing
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, I have some questions for the Minister of Health and Social Services.
I wrote this summer to the minister on the issue of providing interpreters for people who are deaf or hard of hearing. The minister responded that, while he understands that there is a problem, he doesn't have any solutions.
Now, I wrote the letter because, also this summer, members of the Yukon Council on Disabilities were invited to participate in consultations on the in-unison white paper. Now, this is a federal, provincial and territorial discussion paper on disability issues.
People representing the deaf and hard-of-hearing community could not participate because of a lack of interpreters. Evidently, the Department of Health and Social Services said, "Sorry, but there is no one available."
Now, there's a definite need in the community that should be addressed, and this will continue to be the case unless steps are taken to remedy the situation.
Mr. Speaker, what concrete action has the minister taken to address the need?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I think I indicated in my letter - the member referenced a B.C. case there, and we provided the legal opinion on that.
We are actively looking for access to sign services. We will make - when required - services of that kind available. But I think I indicated to the member some of the limitations that we have here, just in terms of population.
I also indicated what the actual legal parameters of that case were in B.C. It was not quite as simplistic as what the member had indicated. It did require a jurisdiction to provide sign language interpretation at all points.
Mrs. Edelman: Now, Mr. Speaker, back to the Yukon. There are a number of areas where this type of service is needed. For example, at Workers' Compensation Board hearings, at Whitehorse General Hospital, in the courts, emergency medical situations, and at the RCMP.
Now, I understand that there's currently a one-month waiting list to bring in a specialized sign language interpreter from Vancouver when they are needed. That's not reassuring, particularly for emergency situations.
Are there any plans to address these areas of concern?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, Mr. Speaker, as I advised the member, we are attempting to improve that - but she also has to be aware of the fact that it is a small population, we have limited resources, we have limited access to individuals that have a capacity for sign language. So what we are trying to do is to make available interpretation services for individuals - on as ready a basis as we can. But there are limitations, given the size of our jurisdiction.
Mrs. Edelman: Regardless of the size of the jurisdiction, there is a need. Now a solution that has been proposed to me is similar to the announcement made yesterday about the nurses. That is to try to provide some incentive for a local person to take this type of training with a return-for-service commitment.
Now, I understand that Douglas College in New Westminster offers this type of program. In the long run, this would probably save us money, given the money we are now spending on flying people up from B.C.
Has the minister looked at this type of arrangement?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: At this point, we have not looked at that. The member has raised an issue that is worthwhile.
I do know from personal experience that we have at least two individuals from the Yukon who have gone out to take sign-language training. Both of these individuals were Yukon students who went out and took the training. However, likely because of job opportunities and likely because of the ability to work in this area on a full-time basis, they chose to remain in the lower mainland. As a matter of fact, both did attend Douglas College.
I'm not aware at this time that any emergency medical treatment was denied, and I'm just committing that we will try to respond whenever we can.
I should note that in the Eldridge, Warren, & Warren case, the declaration said that there were myriad options available to the government to rectify this current system, and they did not mandate that sign language interpreters were required in all situations. That's not to say that we don't believe that there are situations in which we should be providing, and that's what we will attempt to do.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed.
Notice of opposition private members' business
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 12.2(3), I would like to identify the items standing in the name of the official opposition to be called on Wednesday, November 25. They are Motion No. 144, standing in the name of the Member for Porter Creek North, and Motion No. 131, standing in the name of the Member for Porter Creek North.
Speaker: We will now proceed to Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Bill No. 69: Second Reading
Clerk: Second reading, Bill No. 69, standing in the name of the hon. Mr. Keenan.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I'd appreciate the indulgence of the House for five minutes, if I may.
I move that Bill No. 69, entitled The Municipal Act, be now read a second time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Minister of the Department of Community and Transportation Services that Bill No. 69, entitled Municipal Act, be now read a second time.
Speaker: Is there unanimous consent for a five-minute break?
All Hon. Members Agreed.
Speaker: Unanimous consent granted and the House will recess for five minutes.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: It gives me great pleasure, indeed, to be able to provide introductory remarks for Bill No. 69, the Municipal Act, today. This new act changes the general philosophical approach to local government in the Yukon. It creates a broad framework that empowers municipal governments, municipal voters, and rural Yukon people.
This is a true consensus document, which I expect all members will be able to support. I will be tabling four amendments that reflect my most recent discussions with the Association of Yukon Communities.
Mr. Speaker, this act establishes a new relationship between municipal and territorial governments. It recognizes that Yukon municipalities can govern themselves with a minimum of Yukon government involvement.
We believe we can accomplish more by acting as a partner than by acting as a senior government dealing with a number of junior governments.
The new act gives local governments more opportunity to enter into partnership with Yukon First Nations and other levels of government. It gives communities greater flexibility to deliver local services and to work with different levels of government to do so.
It also provides emerging communities with a range of options for taking on greater authority and responsibility, and it increases the role of communities in making important local decisions.
Mr. Speaker, this new act reflects our government's confidence in the capabilities of the Yukon's communities. It demonstrates our belief that municipalities have a very important role to play in the future of the Yukon Territory. It also demonstrates our belief that the citizens of a municipality are the ones who should determine municipal direction.
At this time, Mr. Speaker, I must apologize that the French version of the act is not available. I can assure the francophone community that the staff are working hard to finalize the translation, including the amendments that I mentioned earlier, and it will be here shortly.
Mr. Speaker, this act is a substantial body of work. It is a result of many, many hours, weeks and months, indeed years of work by people throughout the Yukon Territory.
The review of the old Municipal Act was initiated by the former administration in response to questions from the Association of Yukon Communities and individual municipalities. A Municipal Act Review Cmmittee, commonly known as MARC, was established to consider new municipal legislation. MARC included elected and administrative officials from all municipalities, as well as the executive director of the AYC. CNTS was represented by officials from both the policy and the community services branch.
Over a period of more than two years, MARC reviewed every aspect of local government. This process helped foster an understanding of the respective interests of both municipalities and government.
Provisions were made to keep municipal councils informed of MARC's deliberations on a monthly basis, and allow them to give regular input to the AYC board of directors. The AYC held two special general meetings to review the committee's progress and recommendations.
Representatives from the two hamlets also took part in committee deliberations on rural government structure.
Earlier this year, recommendations for a new Municipal Act were provided to the public and First Nations governments for comment. Several meetings were held to hear their suggestions. Again, AYC representatives were partners in the public consultation. As a matter of fact, Mr. Speaker, the AYC was a partner in the development of this act,from its concept right through to its tabling in this House today.
The positive relationship that evolved from this process is reflected in the bill before us. It includes a legislative commitment to consult with AYC on future changes.
Mr. Speaker, I'd like to extend my thanks to all those who helped develop the Municipal Act. This includes municipal and government representatives on MARC, the presidents of boards, members and executive director of the AYC, mayors and councils, both present and past, the Yukon Municipal Board, Yukon First Nations governments, and all Yukon people who took part in the public consultation.
We're very grateful for their contributions toward the establishment of progressive and democratic local government institutions that will serve the Yukon into the next millennium.
This act is a substantial departure from the existing legislation and I would like to take this time to address some of the fundamental changes.
First, all forms of government in our democratic society need to provide safeguards against abuse and misuse of authority. When the old Municipal Act was enacted, Yukon municipalities generally did not have well-developed administrative structures. That act enshrined a relatively tight system of checks and balances, based mostly on ministerial controls and approvals.
The basic structure of municipal legislation in Canada has remained the same for decades. The structure has served Yukon people and Yukon communities relatively well during that period. However, since the old Municipal Act was enacted, considerable progress has occurred. Municipalities incorporated in the early 1980s now have years of experience in governing.
Yukon municipalities now have well-developed administrative structures. They are governed by experienced councils with a substantial policy foundation and professional employees. They have also gained considerable knowledge and depth by participating in the Association of Yukon Communities and the Federation of Yukon Municipalities.
Mr. Speaker, Yukon municipalities have changed significantly, but the rigid system of ministerial control and approvals in the old Municipal Act have not. Bill No. 69 replaces many of these controls with a system that empowers voters to provide direction to municipal governments. The provisions for petitioning and public votes put the checks and balances into the hands of the electorate.
The new Municipal Act gives voters the power to oversee the affairs of the municipality and to provide binding direction to councils on important issues.
Public vote provisions allow the electorate to petition for a vote on matters within municipal jurisdictions. If a petition has enough support for a public vote, the council will be bound to seek input from the electorate, and may be bound by the results. This gives citizens a meaningful process to ensure that councils act on issues the voters consider important.
New provisions have also been made for inspection, supervision and public inquiries as alternate mechanisms for scrutinizing municipal activities. These will help ensure that councils act within their authority, and in the best interests of the municipality.
Yukon municipalities endorse these new checks and balances. They believe they should strive to deliver a high standard of local government, and they should be fully accountable for their actions.
The second major change I'd like to address is the provision of municipal authority through general areas of jurisdiction.
Previously, municipalities could only do things the act specifically allowed, and had to do them in a very specific way. Much has changed since the old Municipal Act came into force more than 15 years ago. It is no longer reasonable to think that we can anticipate all the future legislative needs of our municipalities. Local governments need more flexibility than the current act provides.
We must provide a legislative structure that allows local governments to work in a changing environment. The new act removes any impediments to action, and enables a municipality to govern in a way that meets its particular needs.
Municipalities will be able to respond in any reasonable manner they choose, within their areas of jurisdiction, to solve problems and to provide services - without being bound by a rigid set of rules and procedures laid down by the Yukon government.
This does not mean that municipalities can act without regard for due process, or the impacts of their decisions. They will be required to conduct their business in an open and accountable manner. They'll be required to publicly adopt bylaws that clearly state their policies, and they will still need to adhere to the bylaws and procedures they establish for themselves.
By providing general areas of jurisdiction instead of prescriptive grants of authority, we expect that this new act will not restrict municipalities in the future the way they feel that the current Municipal Act does.
The third aspect of this new act that I would like to address is the innovation and options for rural government structures. Under the old act, people in rural areas could either form a hamlet or be incorporated as a municipality. These limited options did not always suit their particular needs.
While two hamlets were formed in the Yukon, several other communities chose other forms of organization, such as less formal planning and advisory committees. Ross River and Carcross, for instance, preferred the advisory committee approach to the options available under the old Municipal Act.
The new act permits rural government structures ranging from a purely advisory role through to a status similar to municipalities, and everything in between. For example, a rural community may want responsibility for some local services, such as roads and recreation, but not for all local government services. A structure could be created to give the community jurisdiction over roads and recreation, but only an advisory role in other local services, such as zoning and solid waste management.
As the community gains experience in governing, it might take on more responsibilities. The new Municipal Act lets the community progress at a rate that it can successfully manage, instead of assuming all municipal responsibilities at once. The new act is designed to be flexible and empower people to take on the responsibilities that meet their particular needs, at the rate they choose.
This act also creates a framework for cooperation, understanding and partnership among the different levels of government. It enables intergovernmental agreements between neighbouring governments or with all governments throughout the Yukon. Yukon municipalities have long recognized the need to work with Yukon First Nations governments.
The desire for greater flexibility to do this was a major reason that the Municipal Act review was initiated in the first place.
The new act provides the ability to conduct joint planning initiatives with neighbouring jurisdictions. This will allow municipal and First Nation governments to coordinate planning efforts for their respective lands, while taking the overall planning needs of the entire area into consideration.
This act gives authority for a municipal government to provide services to a neighbouring government, if both governments believe that it is the best way to meet the needs of their citizens.
The development of First Nation governments in direct proximity to Yukon municipalities presents opportunities for joint initiatives to provide efficient and cost-effective service. For example, there may be an agreement with the municipality to provide a certain service to both municipal and First Nation citizens. The First Nation may be in a better position to provide a different service. It'll be up to the respective governments to work together for the best interests of all their constituents.
Most importantly, it'll be their decision to choose the best arrangement to meet their particular needs. The new act removes legislative barriers to partnership at the local level.
This act also recognizes that future governments may need to cooperate formally through regional government structures where this would serve residents better than separate governments delivering the same service to their respective constituents.
Mr. Speaker, it makes more sense to have a regional governing body provide services to an area that encompasses a municipality, a First Nation government and a large rural area. This concept is currently reflected in the language of the First Nation self-government agreements.
The provision for regional government provides an additional option that governments providing local services can choose. The choice will rest with the individual governing bodies that would make up the larger regional body.
Mr. Speaker, I've touched on some of the significant new directions in the bill before us. As members will realize, many other provisions are also noteworthy.
The act builds on what was good in the old Municipal Act. It borrows from progressive initiatives in other jurisdictions, and it provides uniquely Yukon solutions to uniquely Yukon issues.
I look forward to a constructive debate on this major legislative initiative. I am confident that, once we have all concluded our work as legislators on this bill, we will have an act that will serve the people of the Yukon well for many years to come.
Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, I'm very pleased, on behalf of the Yukon Party, to respond to this introduction of the new Municipal Act. I'm pleased to hear that the minister will be bringing forth four amendments to this act, and I would ask the minister if, in his closing remarks, he'd be kind enough to table the amendments so that we have a chance to see how they dovetail into the various municipalities and the Association of Yukon Communities, and see if we've met all of the objectives stated by these respective organizations.
Confidence is what we are building here, Mr. Speaker, and confidence is a two-way street, and I'm hoping this document will provide confidence, not only in municipal governments, but on the part of municipal governments, in the senior level of governments, to look after their areas of responsibility.
This is, indeed, a broad framework document. It's more of an enabling legislation than the previous Municipal Act. The previous Municipal Act, Mr. Speaker, came about some 15 years ago and, at that time, I had the opportunity to work quite extensively on its devolution. It was a tremendous task at that time to bring forward that type of enabling legislation, given the previous Municipal Act that municipal bodies were dealing with.
So, it's been quite a progression, an evolution that has been necessitated by the growth in municipal governments, by the growth in their area of responsibility and, in some cases, in the downloading of responsibility from the senior level of government, but in many other cases, just a willingness to take on the need to address the responsibilities that arise from the residents in their communities.
Municipal governments are the governments closest to the people and the elected officials are responding on a daily basis to the residents of their community. Their lives are intertwined in many, many cases, and decisions made at that level have almost an immediate impact on the respective individuals and the municipalities.
So, it's most important that those decisions be made in a manner that is conducive to ensuring the growth and safety and providing all of the infrastructure necessary and that we've come to expect in our respective communities, Mr. Speaker.
I'm pleased to see there are safeguards from abuse in the new Municipal Act, but it should be noted that the umbilical cord to the territorial government is still very much in place. We've taken a giant step forward with this type of legislation, given the many options we're looking at for government.
With respect to the regional governments that could grow under this new legislation, I think you'll find that the jury is still out as to how effective they are, especially in jurisdictions like British Columbia and Alberta, in some cases. It just gives one an overview as to just how much government is required, given the small population, but then taking into consideration the vastness of the territory that we live in - 206,000 square miles is indeed a vast area.
The major population centre being Whitehorse, and the second largest population base being Dawson City, one has to ask the question sooner or later: do we need all of the governments that we have? We now have a whole series of First Nations governments, municipal governments and hamlets, and then we get into all of the other areas and the territorial government and the resulting boards and committees. Mr. Speaker, we've almost run out of people in the Yukon to appoint to all of these boards and committees and various government entities.
This act, Mr. Speaker, has taken a considerable length of time to evolve - over three years from when the Municipal Act Review Committee was first struck - and I'd like to give special recognition to all of the municipal officials, be they elected or appointed, who sat on this committee. I'd also like to pay special recognition to the Association of Yukon Communities and to its executive director for his involvement. Of course, there are the policy people in Community and Transportation Services who did the bulk of the work and then fed that information up to the political masters that carved it up into what we have today, but I'm pleased to see that we're bringing back a number of the amendments that will right the wrongs.
So, I'll look forward, Mr. Speaker, to general line-by-line debate, but I can tell you that our party is in support of this act. Our party recognizes the tremendous amount of effort that has gone into this act by all of the officials, whether they be YTG, AYC or all of the respective communities, First Nations, hamlets and otherwise.
It's been a very, very time-consuming task but we have managed to achieve consensus on most of these issues. The test is going to be several years down the road, Mr. Speaker, to see how effectively this document works.
Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, long before we had territorial or provincial or even national governments in Canada, we had local government. In every town and village there was a group of citizens who took on the responsibility of providing for the necessities of life to their community, and these volunteers saw beyond their own doorways and wanted to provide for the future. They wanted to create a community in which they and their children could thrive and live safely.
Now, water, sewer, garbage and fire protection are maybe not the most glamorous subjects, but just try to do without them. And water, sewer, garbage and fire protection are still the cornerstones of what is dealt with at the municipal level.
Last but not least is the issue of land. Mr. Speaker, after serving on Whitehorse City Council for a number of years, I can tell you that there is nothing, absolutely nothing, that is more emotive to Yukoners than their land.
The protection of that land, the protection of the residents on the land, what is allowed to be built on the land, what businesses can operate on the land, what laws apply to the land, what services are entitled to be delivered to the land, and how that land is to be bought and sold are of paramount importance to the people of the Yukon. And all those land-based responsibilities are primarily local governments'.
Yukon First Nations may also, as time goes on, draw down some of those responsibilities.
And, Mr. Speaker, what local government does is far more important to Yukoners than about 99 percent of the discussions that we have here in this House. Local government determines exactly what goes in and out of Yukoners' houses. Local government affects Yukoners directly every day. And so it makes sense, Mr. Speaker, that the legislation that frames municipal governments should be up to date and developed with local governments as part of that legislative development process.
And, Mr. Speaker, until just before this act was tabled in this House, that was very much the case.
Mr. Speaker, the Municipal Act Review Committee, or MARC, in a consensus process, worked with the Department of Community and Transportation Services to building a new Municipal Act. It was a three-year process and thousands of volunteer hours were dedicated to the project.
And on behalf of the Yukon Liberal caucus, I would like to thank all the members of that committee for their unfailing hard work. I suppose that it came as a great surprise then, to the members of that committee, that the act that they thought they had agreed to had been changed in many different areas.
Mr. Speaker, I realize that there are a number of amendments to be tabled here today, but by and large there has been a less positive negotiating stance at the end of this legislative development process for Bill No. 69.
Municipal officials went into those MARC meetings in good faith. They thought that the document that they had worked so hard to complete - after three years of volunteer labour - would be the document that this government would table in the House to be discussed on the floor of the legislature.
That is why our caucus members - and members from the other caucuses - got letters from the City of Whitehorse and Carmacks, asking us to support the new and improved Municipal Act.
Well, Mr. Speaker, it was quite a surprise to everyone, including the writers of those letters, when the new, but somewhat changed, Municipal Act was tabled here last week. I have to say that trying to usher in those numerous changes - including some very significant changes to the Municipal Act - well, Mr. Speaker, I have to say it, that wasn't that respectful.
The president of the Association of Yukon Communities had bragged to other jurisdictions that this consensus-based process for the development of the new Municipal Act was the "cat's meow". This process became the envy of municipal governments right across this country. What a shame that this territorial government decided to change that very positive relationship at the very end.
This government should apologize to the members of that committee for the way they treated municipalities at the end of this process.
Earlier in the process, there were a number of guiding principles that were agreed to by both parties, and some of those principles were quite admirable: that there should be good government that is accountable to the people, that the new Municipal Act would respect due process and embody the concepts of natural justice; that the Municipal Act should be written in plain language - and that's something we should have thought about for the Estate Administration Act, too, I might point out here - and that there should be a transfer of programs from the territorial government to municipal governments where funding agreements are acceptable to both parties.
Mr. Speaker, that last principle never made it to the final version of the Municipal Act. Perhaps of all the principles supposedly agreed to by this government, that principle speaks most to the future survival of Yukon municipal governments.
Now it is my understanding, Mr. Speaker, that this government is possibly going to be developing a memorandum of understanding with Yukon municipalities that will protect them from the downloading of programs and responsibilities without the attached funding, but at the present time there is no such MOU.
Mr. Speaker, the Association of Yukon Communities would have likely been more comfortable with this principle enshrined in legislation. After all, in Ontario, municipalities have gone broke because they could not afford to deliver the programs that the provincial government had forced them to take on.
Mr. Speaker, municipalities need to be protected from this type of offloading of responsibilities. As dollars get tighter, there'll be more and more of a tendency to get the city or the village to take over the programs that the territorial government doesn't want to continue funding, and towns and cities in the Yukon do not have the funding to do that.
Block funding to Yukon communities has been frozen for over 13 years and costs have gone up. Yukon towns aren't doing more with less; they're doing miracles with virtually nothing.
Mr. Speaker, let's not forget that towns and cities deliver essential services to Yukoners. Towns cannot decide to cut back on sewer or water or garbage or fire protection. Towns can also not go into debt; they have to balance their books at the end of the year.
Mr. Speaker, Yukon municipalities are entitled to protection from downloading without the attached funding and I hope the minister will consider this very important point.
Mr. Speaker, though we have some reservations, our caucus will support the new Municipal Act.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: If the member now speaks, he will close debate. Does any other member wish to be heard?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Well, certainly, Mr. Speaker, I'd like to take this opportunity now to recognize one of the co-chairs of the Municipal Act Review Committee, if I may - the Mayor of Whitehorse, Mayor Kathy Watson. I'd like everybody to join in welcoming the mayor.
Well, let me address the negativity first, if I might. I guess the nature of politics is that we must be cruel to one another, although it's something that I don't try to adhere to, and we do have our opportunities and we must play our roles. It's terribly unfortunate, because this is a partnership. It was developed in terms of a partnership, and it will continue to be done in terms of a partnership. It is to be enabling legislation, as the Member for Klondike has said. Yes sir, finally, words of wisdom have come from the north instead of a chinook or hot air. We finally got something, because that's certainly what it is. It's based on partnership so that we might be able to go forth and do good things for the Yukon Territory.
Certainly, the Member for Riverdale South is absolutely correct. What is more dear to Yukon people than the land that we live on? Nothing is more dear than the land that we live on. Mother Nature could never be more dear than that. This is what this act portrays. It portrays working in partnership, trusting one another and going ahead, and this government did not, at the last minute, pull back. This government went through due process, worked through process, worked with people so that we might be able to have a better Yukon, and that's exactly what's portrayed in here.
The Member for Riverdale South said that some things aren't in here. Funding principles aren't in here. Well, certainly, we have a consensus document without funding principles having to be in here. I've assured the Association of Yukon Communities and individual mayors that if they have concerns with the funding principles, I would look at those funding principles.
I believe, that 13 was the number of years that you had said that have been frozen. There has not been one cutback in those 13 years, and I do believe, off the top of my head, in 1992, that there was an increase - a very short increase, and then it went back. But there hasn't been a cutback - in the face of this government receiving many cutbacks. We have maintained the funding. That is absolutely incredible from the Member for Klondike, I'm sure. Just absolutely incredible. It must boggle him because, certainly, would he have done it? Never. Keep it up, though, and he'll never have the chance.
Ontario went broke, and other people went broke. Well, we're not here. We're not a Tory government, as others represent those principles. This government does not represent those principles. This government represents principles of working together in partnership, looking to the future, not taxing the heck out of the tax base or the people who are there, as the previous administration had done. Not that at all. To work in partnership - yes, my friend, to work in partnership - which must be a completely foreign attitude for the Member for Klondike - absolutely foreign.
So we speak to principles of consultation, principles of working in partnership, working and allowing and enabling the Association of Yukon Communities to work with their neighbouring governments, the First Nations governments, so that they might be able to provide a more economical service to them, whatever it be within their jurisdiction.
So, this government is not afraid to move ahead. This government is absolutely willing to move ahead. I must say that there's a uniqueness among me and the two people who are my most favourite critics - I favour one a little more than the other, but we'll leave that for them to duke out. Certainly, my two favourite critics are here in this House, as I am here in this House, and what drove us to be here in this House? The Yukon - the land, the people who surround it - because we want to do things in a better way.
"A Better Way", what a beautiful sound that is, eh? But I will recognize that the Member for Klondike is a former mayor who did work for the betterment of his community. I'll also recognize that the Member for Riverdale South, a former Whitehorse city councillor, is into the field certainly for the betterment of her community, and I'll recognize myself as a former chief working with my community on the national, territorial and local level for the betterment of our community and the preservation of Yukon.
The member asks, "How much government is required? We're just going to have too doggone much government." Well, I don't think that's the case, Mr. Speaker. I think the case is that you work together in partnership; it's not a structure that we're looking to build here. It's principles that we're wishing to implement for the betterment of the Yukon Territory. I may not believe that is more government. It is more effective government. When you enable two local government organizations to come together, that's better government - much better government. A better way for doing government. God, I love that sound. Doesn't that sound good, Mr. Jenkins? I'm sure it does.
Yes, I will table the amendments so that the amendments will be provided to the members so that we might have good debate, because, certainly, I heard the Member for Riverside say before, of the previous piece of legislation, that we're not here to rubber-stamp. I'm certainly not asking anybody to rubber-stamp. I'm asking that they would consider the process as we go through and to ask the questions and let's allow ourselves to move forward with this wonderful piece of legislation, because, certainly, it is a wonderful piece of legislation. It enables people to work together. It enables people to work through the principles of community.
So, therefore, I thank the members for their conditional support that I heard within their opening statements. I thank them for that and I do look forward to clarifying any issues that might need to be clarified as we move through this act, and to give a better feeling of comfort to the Association of Yukon Communities and, indeed, the legislators in this building.
Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: Are you prepared for the question?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Some Hon. Member: Division.
Speaker: Division has been called.
The question before the House is the motion for second reading of Bill No. 69.
Mr. Clerk, would you poll the House.
Hon. Mr. Harding: Agree.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Agree.
Mr. McRobb: Agree.
Mr. Hardy: Agree.
Mr. Livingston: Agree.
Mr. Ostashek: Agree.
Mr. Jenkins: Agree.
Ms. Duncan: Agree.
Mr. Cable: Agree.
Mrs. Edelman: Agree.
Clerk: Mr. Speaker, the results are 10 yea, nil nay.
Speaker: The yeas have it.
Motion for second reading of Bill No. 69 agreed to
Hon. Mr. Harding: I move that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Speaker: It has been moved by the government House leader that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Motion agreed to
Speaker leaves the Chair
COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. Is it the members' wish to take a brief recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: We will take a 15-minute recess.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order.
Committee will be continuing with debate on Bill No. 66, Auxiliary Police Act.
Bill No. 66 - Auxiliary Police Act - continued
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I would just like clarification from the minister regarding the words in the preamble to the bill. I'm in particular referencing paragraph 2: "Recognizing that the Royal Canadian Mounted Police is working with the Department of Justice in promoting community policing." This paragraph doesn't seem to give any recognition that this has been going on for some time, and I was a little curious as to why those particular words were chosen as opposed to giving more recognition to the previous work. I was thinking: "Recognizing that the Royal Canadian Mounted Police have worked with the Yukon communities in promoting community policing and continue to do so." I was thinking of that sort of preamble.
Can the minister explain why those words were chosen?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: As the legislation is normally written in the present tense, it doesn't mean that we do not recognize that there has been work on community-based policing and that it is ongoing. But the Auxiliary Police Act is one way of demonstrating the close working relationship between the Department of Justice and the RCMP on community policing in the Yukon.
The auxiliary police officers, under this legislation, will be appointed jointly by the Minister of Justice and the RCMP, and because this preamble is specific to the Auxiliary Police Act, which is now creating the legislative framework for their appointments, it's written in the present tense.
On Clause 1
Clause 1 agreed to
On Clause 2
Ms. Duncan:Could I have some clarification from the minister - and in particular I'm looking at subsection (2) of this clause. The clause says, "Officers may, on the recommendation of the committee, be appointed as members ..." This is assuming, then, that the full protection afforded members of the RCMP, i.e., in terms of insurance, liability and so on, is also afforded to these auxiliary members.
Is my understanding correct - from the way that section is written?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Perhaps it might help if I were to explain that the auxiliary police members may be appointed both under the Auxiliary Police Act and under the RCMP act. This is consistent with the practice in other jurisdictions within Canada. The RCMP are interested in participating in the program, with Yukon Justice as a partner in the community policing.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, for the benefit of those of us who haven't recently read the RCMP act, when a member is appointed as a member of the force, they are, in accordance with carrying out their duties, afforded protection in terms of the protection of the act, in terms of liability, in terms of insurance, and there are certain measures in terms of the RCMP complaints commission.
Presumably, then, with this section, the protection afforded under the RCMP act is also being afforded to members of the auxiliary police by this subsection.
Is that understanding correct?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Yes, that is correct and we share responsibility, and the program will be jointly managed between the RCMP, the Yukon Department of Justice and the auxiliary members.
Ms. Duncan: Then in subsection (3) of this particular clause, the officers appointed under this subsection may be reappointed for further terms. How many further terms and why was it not specified?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: This section's been inserted because under the RCMP act, an auxiliary can only be appointed for one year. Also under the RCMP act, though, the auxiliary officers can be reappointed. This section ensures that they can be reappointed for further terms under our act, just as they can be reappointed for further terms under the RCMP act. The RCMP act states that an auxiliary can only be appointed for one year and then reappointed. This legislation reflects that fact.
Ms. Duncan: In light of what the minister has just said, why does subsection (1) say "... appoint auxiliary officers for a term not exceeding three years."? The minister's just said this act is consistent with the RCMP act, and that appoints them for one year. This says three years.
My question relating to subsection (3) was, "... may be reappointed for further terms." Well, I'm really pleased that they can be reappointed for further terms. How many?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: We can appoint auxiliary police officers for a three-year term under this act. The auxiliary police officers, in discussion in preparing that act, wanted to have the possibility of a three-year appointment, so we've put that in there so that we don't have to keep coming back and reappointing them.
The reappointment sections have been inserted in order to match with the RCMP act, which provides for the one-year term with reappointments.
Mr. Jenkins: Will there be any difference in the appointments made by the minister under clause 2(1) and by the RCMP under clause 2(2), other than the duration by the RCMP of being only one year initially?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: It's just the duration that is different. The appointment process will be the same.
Mr. Jenkins: Other than the appointment period, are there any differences whatsoever in appointments made by the minister or by the RCMP? Are they virtually identical?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: The RCMP, under their jurisdiction, will make an appointment under the RCMP act. The Yukon government will make appointments under the Auxiliary Police Act.
The Yukon government will make appointments under the Auxiliary Police Act for a term not exceeding three years. The RCMP, because of their own legislation, will have to reappoint on an annual basis. We would only be looking at reappointment after three years have expired, if a member is interested in serving for a further term.
Mr. Jenkins: Other than the terms of appointment - length of appointment - are there any differences between auxiliaries appointed by the minister or by the RCMP?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: No.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, could I just ask the minister to elaborate on "... reappointed for further terms"? I understand her to be saying that the RCMP legislation doesn't specify how many further terms, so the Yukon didn't specify how many further terms either. Was this discussed with the existing auxiliary members?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: The issue of their term of service was discussed with the auxiliary police force. They are pleased to see this legislation before us and we are happy to promote the program by having the Auxiliary Police Act before us.
My response to the member is that there is nothing in this bill that prohibits the Yukon Department of Justice from reappointing an auxiliary police member for an additional two or three or more three-year terms. If the auxiliary police member is present, living in the community, interested in performing their duties, and asking for reappointment, then this legislation does not prevent us from reappointing them. There isn't a cap on the number of times that they can be reappointed.
Clause 2 agreed to
On Clause 3
Clause 3 agreed to
On Clause 4
Clause 4 agreed to
On Clause 5
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I had a couple of notes regarding clause 5. I understand that subsections (a) through (h) spell out different programs that the auxiliary police force can be involved in - they "may" include, but I would assume they're not limited to. What isn't spelled out in this particular section is how the situation of an auxiliary police officer, who happens to also be a neighbour helping a neighbour, is covered. And I'm thinking of a specific example. Let me give the minister an example.
Say there was a snowmobile theft in the neighbourhood and John or Jane Doe who have lost their snowmobile happen to know that they have three or four members of the auxiliary police residing in their neighbourhood. Now, the auxiliary police, by virtue of the fact that they've done ride-alongs, have been very active and keen volunteers, know routes that have been used in the past for snowmobile thefts and have a sense of where the snowmobile might have gone.
These are immediate response situations. So, the auxiliary police officer then is in a situation of neighbours coming to them saying, "Look, can you help me relocate my snowmobile. It's just gone in the last hour. How do I track these people?" I have a sense of how they would deal with that situation, knowing some of them - how is their effort to be a neighbour helping a neighbour covered under (a) through (h)?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: That kind of scenario that the member describes is what would be addressed in the training of the auxiliary police. The auxiliary police who will be designated, both under the RCMP act and under our Yukon law, will be trained by the RCMP and they will work with the RCMP. There will be a component of public education as well.
I think, if I may, I should set out that the areas of activities in this section of auxiliary police officers are primarily in the areas of community crime prevention and community policing, rather than in law enforcement. That doesn't mean that an auxiliary police member who is a neighbour and who might be called when a snowmobile is stolen won't respond. In their training as an auxiliary police member they will know how best to respond - whether to bring the RCMP present to the scene or to make a call rather than to engage in immediate law enforcement activities.
Ms. Duncan: What the minister is saying, then, is that having been to a degree trained as a member of the RCMP, they're going to respond to that same degree, and that nothing in (a) to (h) in this subsection limits that auxiliary police officer from responding in that way. Nothing limits them from that response in what's spelled out in (a) to (h).
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: No, the limit to the program will be in the nature of being an auxiliary constable, and that will be something that will be part of the training for the auxiliary police members.
Clause 5 agreed to
On Clause 6
Mr. Jenkins: I was just wondering what the members would be paid - under what committee fee schedule?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I understand that the members of the committee will be volunteers and that their expenses would be covered.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I have two questions in this area - in this section.
The first is to do with the auxiliary police advisory committee. Unlike a school council, there is no representation spelled out for any First Nations governments with an existing police force.
And in (2) and (3), my understanding is that the members of the committee are only remunerated for their expenses as per the Government of Yukon schedule, it's said earlier in the act. This must make this one of the only advisory committees that receives no per diem. For example, Health and Social Services advisory committees and school councils all receive a per diem. It may be nominal, but they do receive a per diem.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: There are other examples of committees that do their work on a volunteer basis, and one example would be the Crime Prevention and Victim Services Trust Board, which was recently established. It is in a similar area, in crime prevention and victim services, where the payments are for expenses according to the schedule that's used for members of the Yukon public service.
The committee includes members of the public who are nominated by the minister, and also nominated by the auxiliary police. Certainly, if First Nations are interested in participating in an auxiliary police program, and are present in the program or active in the community, they may be appointed, either by the minister or by the auxiliary police.
Mr. Cable: Well, the drafting is a little curious. I think that's what is raising the questions. We talk about reasonable remuneration, which generally isn't classified as an expense but, in the next breath, we say "and other expenses", so the clause seems to contradict itself.
Is there a suggestion that there will be remuneration in the conventional sense - that's like money paid for other than expenses?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: There is no intention, or an expectation, for remuneration to the members of the committee. The clause is fairly standard, in that it is permissive. We will be, as part of the public education on the availability of the auxiliary police program, talking to the public about policing priorities and goals for either auxiliary police or other policing models. There may be recommendations coming forward at a later time recommending remuneration for the advisory committee but, at the present time, we intend to conform to the level of expenses that are given to the public service, and not to provide other expenses.
That takes into account that this is a volunteer auxiliary police force, a volunteer advisory committee, that are interested in working on crime prevention and community policing as a volunteer activity.
Clause 6 agreed to
On Clause 7
Clause 7 agreed to
On Clause 8
Clause 8 agreed to
On Clause 9
Clause 9 agreed to
On Clause 10
Mr. Cable: I have a few questions on this section. Subsection (2) says, "Even though an officer referred to in subsection (1) is found not liable for a tort..." and it goes on to say "...the minister may pay the amount the minister considers necessary to settle a claim..." Why would the minister settle a claim where the officer is found not liable?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: The decision of whether to pay the costs incurred by an officer in a criminal matter is left to the discretion of the minister, with advice from the advisory committee. It would depend if the actions for which the officer had been charged arose out of the officer's performance of their duties. In that case, serious consideration would be given to providing assistance. If the actions were not related to the officer's duties, then it is very unlikely that consideration would be given to providing assistance or liability payments.
Mr. Cable: No, that's not the question I'm asking. If I could just walk through that subsection (2): "Even though an officer referred to in subsection (1) is found not liable for a tort..." - that suggests that there has been a court hearing and a judgment. And then, a little later on, it says, "The minister may pay the amount the minister considers necessary to (a) settle a claim..." Why would we be settling a claim after there has been a finding that the officer is not liable?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, I understand that this is the normal legal language that is used. There may be a situation where an officer was found not liable but where there was some portion of legitimacy to the claim. So it's permissive to allow the minister to settle a claim for reimbursement if there is an argument made.
Mr. Cable: Why would we be wasting the taxpayers' money after somebody was taken to court and found not liable? Is the minister suggesting that the minister could then turn around and, in effect, have a second hearing on the matter?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, the advisory committee, which includes the RCMP representatives from the public appointed by the Minister of Justice and the auxiliary police, may make a recommendation in such cases. There may be a recommendation, and the phrase does allow it for the government where the minister or the government may be found liable for payment of damages.
Mr. Cable: We're just not connecting on this. The clause refers to the situation where the officer is found not liable for a tort - I assume that's what the draftsmen intended - and then in subclause (a) it suggests that the minister could then turn around and settle a claim that has already been litigated. Why would the minister have that sort of authority to waste the taxpayers' money after a court has ruled that the officer is not liable?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, perhaps what I will suggest for the member is to set this clause aside and ask my legal advisors to provide further information on that for the member.
Mr. Cable: I also have another question relating to subsection (1). The minister may be anticipating this, but we have this - what I was told a couple of weeks ago - archaic phrase, "jointly and severally" used. Can the minister tell us what that means?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I guess what it means is that the minister had better pay close attention to detail, and indeed the language, "jointly and separately", could have been consistently used in the auxiliary police legislation.
Chair: Does clause 10 stand aside?
Mr. Jenkins: Just a further point of clarification, Mr. Chair, on that section. It is my understanding that if an auxiliary police officer gets into some legal entanglement, his costs for his solicitor and everything are to be borne by that auxiliary member and then reimbursed after, or are we backstopping the individuals if something occurs in the performance of their duties? And I'm only referring to something that occurs in the performance of their duties because in 10(2)(b) it looks like you'll be reimbursing an auxiliary member after the fact.
Wouldn't the minister agree that that could place an undue hardship on the auxiliary member?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: The following clause, clause 11, states that the minister may pay the costs not recovered by the officer, in the case that the officer is charged with an offence. I should inform the member that the payment of those costs may also be covered under the RCMP act. The auxiliary police will be appointed under the RCMP act and so, in many circumstances, would not be the responsibility of the Minister of Justice for costs.
The minister may pay the costs incurred by the officer in some situations, because that may vary.
Mr. Jenkins: What I'm looking for is more or less an ironclad assurance that an auxiliary member is going to be backstopped financially by either the RCMP or the Government of Yukon if an infraction arises out of the performance of their responsibilities. I don't see where it should be the responsibility of a volunteer to undertake any defence.
Now if it's an out-and-out blatant infraction, where it doesn't even have to go to court to be proven - or it does go to court, and it's an open-and-shut case - that could provide quite a lot of financial burden to an auxiliary member, if it's not handled correctly, Mr. Chair.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: This is a joint program and, as I've indicated, the RCMP would, in many circumstances, cover the payment of the costs, where charges may have been laid against an auxiliary member, relating to the performance of their duties.
Section 10(3) and section 11 provide the assurance that the member is seeking: the consolidated revenue fund will pay out any monies to the auxiliary that's felt to be necessary to settle a claim, or reimburse the officer for the cost of defending a claim.
Ms. Duncan: Well, Mr. Chair, anyone going through this legislation - such as an Auditor General or someone - is going to say, "Well, there's a liability on the books", in that we may pay out at any given point in time. Now, presumably we would hope that we would never have to. But at some point we run the risk that we might have to pay out of Yukon taxpayer funds for situations described by the minister.
Do we have any sense of an assessment of what that amount might be? Or have we started to set aside funds to deal with this situation, so that in an unexpected year because we had to pay out in a fiscal year a certain amount of money we're not then setting aside other commitments on the part of the Government of Yukon.
There must be some plan in place to deal with what is in effect a financial commitment. What is that plan?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, Mr. Chair, as I've indicated previously, there may be costs covered under the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Act, as the auxiliary police members will be appointed as well under the RCMP act. In addition, I can assure the member that we will comply with any requirements that are established by the Auditor General.
As well, Mr. Chair, I would draw the member's attention to the fact that we have agreed to set aside clause 10, and if further information is available, I will provide that when we return to it.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I appreciate that the minister has set aside clause 10, and if she could get back to us with more information. However, section 11 also deals with this whole issue of financial liability. I'm concerned that in discussing this we should be fully aware of what we are agreeing to.
Now, I realize that it's a very difficult task to say, "Well, we might in any given year be liable for x dollars," but other jurisdictions have gone through this.
Do we have any sense of what is set aside in another jurisdiction to cover any sort of eventualities under their RCMP or auxiliary acts? We're not the only people in Canada to do this.
So, I'd like some sort of a sense from the minister what other jurisdictions do, what dollar figure we're dealing with, and how the government intends to deal with that. Are we going to set up some kind of a trust fund or some kind of a fund to deal with these eventualities so that we're not caught with a large amount in any given year?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, Mr. Chair, I thank the member for the question. The circumstances in the Yukon are somewhat different than in other jurisdictions, a major difference being that our population base is only 32,000. The Northwest Territories have a community policing program but not an auxiliary police model the same, and that's where we might look for the closest similarities.
Mr. Chair, while situations may arise where it is appropriate to pay costs, as the member herself indicated, we don't foresee a lot of action under section 10(3) or 11, but we are working to ensure that the program meets the requirements of the Auditor General.
I think it's very important to emphasize that the RCMP are fully involved and fully supportive of this program and that, under the RCMP act, they do designate and, to a certain extent, indemnify the auxiliary police members. Complaints about the auxiliary police officers can be referred to the RCMP public complaints commission, so we are not going to be leaving the auxiliary police or the Yukon public high and dry on this.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I would like to remind the minister that the sole purpose of these questions is to try to ensure that Yukon taxpayers are being well served. I fully understand and appreciate that the RCMP are supportive of this program. I've said countless times in this House that our caucus is more than supportive of this program.
We are, however, discussing a financial liability to the Government of Yukon, however small it may be in any given year. It is incumbent upon us to know what we're talking about in dollar figures. Now, if the RCMP figure that that's a premium, a self-insurance premium of $100 per member and likewise for an auxiliary, so be it.
All I'm asking for is the background information in order to do my job correctly. I'll thank the minister to focus on that answer as opposed to giving me the lecture that the RCMP are fully supportive. I understand that point, as does our caucus. I'm trying to determine what the financial liability is.
If there is research being done in complying with any requirements from the Auditor General, then all I'm asking for is that research. I'd like to know that it's being done, and I'd like to know that we're covered in the future. I don't want to be sitting in this House with a debate with a multimillion-dollar lawsuit in the government's books. Certainly, no one would hope that would happen, but for heaven's sake, let's know what we're dealing with.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, as I have indicated previously, I will be happy to come back with the information for the members after the break. May I request that we have a brief recess?
Chair: Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: Ten minutes.
Chair: I now call Committee of the Whole to order. Committee is dealing with Bill No. 66, Auxiliary Police Act. We're on clause 10. Is there further debate?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I have a couple of points of information for the record. The Financial Administration Act requires the Yukon government to indemnify any person against any possible costs or damages and it requires a legislative basis. The clauses that we're discussing, both in 10 and 11, do that.
In addition, the risk management maintains a fund which indemnifies all government employees, including volunteers, against any possible claims.
No payments can be made unless they're authorized, which is why this section is in the act, and the risk management fund will cover the Auxiliary Police Act in the same way that they indemnify other government employees and other volunteers for the Government of Yukon.
Ms. Duncan: I appreciate that response from the minister. Is there, then, an additional contribution made to that fund, in light of the fact that we're covering additional volunteers, perhaps as many as another 20 people, as a result of this fairly high-risk occupation? Is there an additional contribution anticipated in this budget year?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: No. I understand that the amount of the contribution is small and that it can be covered within the risk management fund.
Mr. Cable: I don't think the minister answered the question that I posed to her on the settling of claims that had already been litigated and assumedly where the officer was found not guilty.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, perhaps I wasn't as clear as I should have been in giving the member the information.
In clause 2(a), where the payment may be made to settle a claim against an officer for a tort allegedly committed by an officer in the performance of their duties, the Financial Administration Act requires that there be a legislative basis for settling a claim against an officer. There may be circumstances, whether an officer was found guilty or whether a charge was laid, and there were discussions and a settlement reached out of court. In either of those circumstances, whether there was a guilty plea or whether there was an agreement to settle out of court, this clause is necessary, because of the Financial Administration Act, to ensure that we can make the payments to settle any claim.
Mr. Cable: That's not what the preface to that subclause says, though. The preface says, "Even though an officer referred to in subsection (1) is found not liable for a tort..." And the minister just went through the two other circumstances where a charge had not been laid, I guess, and where a charge had been laid - the one that was deemed desirable not to go to court - the minister could then supply the funds to settle the claim, and that's perfectly valid. If the minister says that's what's required under the Financial Administration Act, so be it. But I can't see why the minister would be authorized to pay out where there had been a court hearing and the officer had been found not liable. I don't understand that.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, they may be found not liable in that the charges may not proceed to court. There may be an allegation, for example, of rough treatment, and it may not proceed to court, and so there may be a settlement of the claim where the officer has not been found liable, because it has not proceeded to court.
Mr. Cable: I don't think we're getting anywhere here. This section says, "Where the officer is found not liable." That means a court has ruled on it. That doesn't mean the minister has sat down at her desk and flipped through a file and found the officer not liable; that means somebody else has found the officer not liable.
So there seems to be a contradiction in this section. Now, if the minister wants to have the staff give me a letter on that, that will satisfy my needs, but there seems to be a contradiction in that section. I'd like to be assured that the minister is not going to be settling claims in tort, where an officer has gone to court, there's been a hearing, and the officer has been found not liable.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, Mr. Chair, I can assure the member that it is not the intent here to establish the minister as the arbiter of liability here. I appreciate the member's suggestion, and I will be happy to have the department prepare a response for him that can clarify his question.
Clause 10 agreed to
On Clause 11
Mr. Cable: There seems to be a tense change in this clause. It says, "If an officer has been charged"; then, at that end, it says the minister may "pay the costs incurred and not recovered", which suggests that there's been a judgment under some offence provision in either the legislation of Canada, Yukon or a municipality.
What's intended by this section? Will the officers receive before-the-fact assistance in criminal proceedings, or is it after-the-fact assistance; cost recovery or cost reimbursement?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: The answer for the member is that it may depend on the circumstances of the case. In some cases, the RCMP may provide legal assistance for the officer and may provide that assistance as the case proceeds through the court system. Based on recommendations of the advisory committee, the government, as well, may pay the costs that have not been recovered by the officer - by the RCMP - during the course of the proceedings.
Mr. Cable: Okay. What I think I heard the minister say is that the RCMP may pay costs up front to permit the officer to have the best defence, but I didn't hear the minister say that this government would also be authorized to pay the costs up front, and not after they're incurred and not recovered, but before the fact. Is that what I heard her say?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, if assistance were to be given, it would probably be afforded from the time of the charge or fine through the sentencing and disposition. I will be seeking advice and direction from the advisory committee on matters related to the payment of costs and legal proceedings.
Mr. Cable: I think this clause is very useful. Of course, officers get into problems where there are fights and whatnot and assault charges laid and that sort of thing. Where would the officer be reimbursed for a charge under a municipal bylaw? Are we talking about reimbursing them for parking tickets and speeding tickets and that sort of thing?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: It is a permissive clause that may, as the member observes, occur with an offence against an act of Yukon or Canada or a municipality. I suppose it is possible that there may be parking tickets in conjunction with the performance of their duties. It may also be the case that a municipality would provide a parking permit for members of the auxiliary to use when they are performing their duties and so they would not receive parking tickets.
Clause 11 agreed to
On Clause 12
Clause 12 agreed to
On Clause 13
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, do we have a date when it's anticipated that this act will come into force, and is there a public relations campaign plan to announce its passage?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, we have not finalized a date as of yet for bringing the Auxiliary Police Act into force. We do want to link the proclamation of the Auxiliary Police Act with a kickoff event that involves the present auxiliary police members, and to have a recruitment and public education campaign associated with the proclamation of the bill.
Mr. Chair, we anticipate that the act may be proclaimed within the next year.
Clause 13 agreed to
Preamble agreed to
Title agreed to
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, I move that Bill No. 66 be reported out of Committee without amendment.
Motion agreed to
Chair: Committee will proceed with Bill No. 69, Municipal Act.
Bill No. 69 - Municipal Act
Chair: Is there any general debate?
On Clause 1
Clause 1 agreed to
On Clause 2
Clause 2 agreed to
Mrs. Edelman: Could the Chair please go a little bit slower? Are we now on the table of contents?
Chair: The table of contents isn't part of the bill and is not up for debate. I understood that Committee cleared the first two clauses. I see agreement from the official opposition.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, we went through them so quickly. I'm still not clear if we have tabled the amendments. Have they gone through? Because one of these amendments is for prior to clause 1 - in the preamble.
Chair: The Chair is informed that we don't deal with the preamble until the end, just like in the previous bill.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, are we going to be tabling the amendments? When are we going to be tabling the amendments? We're in line by line.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, Mr. Chair, I checked with the Clerk and, as I had said this afternoon to the Member for Klondike, I would provide the amendments as soon as possible, and I have provided them, and now when it comes to the amendment portions, I am to stand at that time and say them. So, I'm just trying to share information ahead of time as much as I could, and I, too, was confused as to the preamble part, because I was ready to do the preamble first, and they said that it was to be done last. I do hope the Member for Riverdale South will indulge us.
Mrs. Edelman: Prior to talking about clause 1, though we're not talking about the table of contents, one of the things that's missing from this act, that I understood was supposed to be included, was an index on the back of the act, which would make this act considerably more user friendly.
Now, I'd like to know what's happening with the development of that index, and when it's going to happen.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I've been informed that, yes, the index is going to be developed. It was going to be developed, I guess, after the fact, but it is going to be a portion of this, and they're looking to do it sometime in December or January, I've been told.
Mrs. Edelman: Can I take it as a commitment from the minister, then, that there will be an index provided to the owners of the act or to the people who've been distributed the act by the end of January 1999?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, Mr. Chair, we will ensure that the index is provided to the Association of Yukon Communities for distribution, and we will provide a copy of the index to both the respective critics.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, I certainly haven't passed clause 1. I'd like to do further discussion on clause 1.
On Clause 1 - revisited
Mrs. Edelman: Clause 1, under "financial year" - this is in the definitions section of the act - there's been discussion, off and on, over the years, over many, many years, about changing municipal financial years to the same fiscal year that the territorial government has. And the reason for that was that it just makes it easier for funding.
Currently, municipalities are going on a January to December financial year, and I'm just wondering what was the update on what happened with that discussion, and whether this was the original position of the Association of Yukon Communities.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, Mr. Chair, I've been informed that that is the municipalities' wish. I asked why, and they said they wished that so that they could stay ahead of the government fiscal year. It works better for their planning purposes.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, for the reason of clarity, the Association of Yukon Communities is made up of many, many different communities. When they came together on the MARC group, certainly the relationship that they had with the territorial government was one of consensus, but each municipality, of course, has a different point of view. I'll have heard different municipalities, and their point of view, so occasionally I'm going to have questions that may not have been the absolute position that was put forward by the Association of Yukon Communities at MARC.
Also in the definition section, "municipal utilities" - I see that that's not in one of the amendments that we were talking about earlier. Initially, there was a discussion around having "irrigation, drainage, fuel and electrical power" as one of the definitions under "municipal utilities". What happened to that?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Mr. Chair, it's not in here by virtue of it not being in here. The only reference is, of course, the one that I had tabled to the utilities and where the "public utilities" is described is within the Public Utilities Act.
Mrs. Edelman: I suppose that I'm not clear. This would be the section under the definition that says, "municipal utilities" on page 19. We talk about "water, sewage treatment disposal, public transportation, heat, waste heat, and waste management; and a service or product that is provided for public consumption, benefit, convenience, or use;".
In the earlier draft, one of the systems that they referred to was irrigation - which I'm not too sure why that's of vital interest - drainage, which is of interest, fuel and electrical power, and that's no longer here in the definition of municipal utility. That's why I'm wondering what happened to it.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, Mr. Chair, as the member has read, the public municipal utilities is correct. There is no reference to public utilities for electrical generation or whatnot because it is not certainly needed in this act.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, further on we're going to get to an amendment about utilities, and at that point, we talk about the Public Utilities Act. In the Public Utilities Act, electrical power is one of the utilities. Now, if we're making an amendment to one section, we should have it agreeing with the rest of it, so that that should be in the definitions under "municipal utilities" as a possibility.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Mr. Chair, the proposed amendment to the bill is referring to a public utility as defined within the Public Utilities Act, therefore there is not a necessary need to be described within here.
Mr. Jenkins: Just a point of clarification, Mr. Chair: just because a definition doesn't appear in the first section of the Municipal Act, could the minister confirm that it doesn't preclude the municipal government from getting involved in that area?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, I can and I will do that when we get to the proposed amendment to the bill, which will necessarily speak to it itself.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, what I'm looking for is a general provision that, just because a definition does not appear in the act itself, that does not preclude the municipalities from dealing with that area or that subject matter.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Mr. Chair, if the proposed amendment to the bill is successful, which I'm sure it will be, it will therein look after itself and it will not, by absence of a definition, override the proposed amendment. So I hope the member will take comfort in that.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, though it's not included, by not having it here it doesn't agree with the proposed amendment. What we're trying to do is make this clearer, make it simpler, and it makes sense for this to agree with the proposed amendment, just to make it a little bit more clear for those who are looking through this act. I'm not too sure I see a problem with adding it into the definition section as well.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: No, Mr. Chair. Again, I confirm that, if the proposed amendment is successful, which I think it will be, it will not preclude a municipality from owning or operating as long as they go by virtue of this. I've also had the lawyers look at this and the lawyers say that it will not preclude again. So, it will not hamper the process, I guess, is what I'm saying at this time.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, I'm not interested in hampering the process. What I'm interested in is making the process that much simpler and that much clearer, and I'm not too sure that I understand why there is the reluctance to put that into the definition section. It was there. There is an amendment made to talk about it later in the act. It makes sense for the two of them to agree. I'm not too sure I see any reason why not to do it.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Mr. Chair, I will attempt to explain it in another fashion that has been brought to me here. If it's a municipal utility, it is not a public utility and is reflected in bylaw, and my expert here tells me that we have two different processes, and one, again, will not hamper the other.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, just for general clarification, Mr. Chair, what I'm looking at is any function or any other area. This act is enabling legislation. If it's not spelled out in the definition, does it preclude a municipal government from getting involved in that area? Like, we have a clause there that says "any service or product that is provided for public consumption." That's a pretty broad, sweeping statement in regard to a municipal utility. I'm not referring specifically to utilities, but if something, or a function, doesn't appear in this definition, I would like the minister to confirm that the municipality is precluded from getting involved in that area, and that definition must appear for the municipality to get involved in it. Which is the case?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, I will confirm to the Member for Klondike what I've already said, that it will not preclude it. If they follow the process, it will not preclude.
Clause 1 agreed to
On Clause 2 - revisited
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, under subparagraph (b), it says "to provide local governments with the powers, duties, and functions necessary for fulfilling their purposes," and this is talking about the purposes of the act. Does this include franchising and sales tax, the ability to hold franchises and sales taxes to help financially support towns? We know that block funding has been frozen for 13 years.
I'll read to you from a letter that was sent to the minister from the president of the Association of Yukon Communities in September of 1998. It says, "Over and above added responsibilities municipalities have undertaken, there is also more expense to comply with and deliver new regulations that YTG has passed without compensating the municipalities. As well, some municipalities have been transferred roads without any transfer of funds for ongoing O&M costs."
Now, Mr. Chair, there is nothing in this act to protect municipalities from downloading. Allowing them a different type of revenue generation, like sales taxes or franchising, would go a long way to helping them offset the continued costs of downloading responsibilities without the attached funding.
Now, does this include franchising and the ability to levy sales tax?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Regarding the franchising of public utilities, certainly, Mr. Chair, we've spoken about that and there is a process whereby we can do it.
Yes, Mr. Chair, there is absolutely nowhere in here where it says that there's the ability to have a sales tax.
Mr. Chair, I won't take offence to the thought that has come from across the floor there regarding downloading, but this is the Municipal Act and it won't result in offloading the responsibilities. It just doesn't do it. So, I'm kind of amazed, I guess.
What this act does is that it increases the powers a municipality can have.
It gives them much more flexibility, but no, it does not speak to financial considerations to the aspect that the member opposite is thinking.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, I need to clarify then. First of all, the comments about downloading of responsibilities about funding came from the Association of Yukon Communities. Their president sent a letter to the minister talking about that very issue.
And I need to clarify with the minister, just once again, that the issue of franchising and sales taxes - whatever type of sales tax, if, at some point in the future, municipalities decide to do that - is included within the powers, duties and functions necessary for fulfilling the purposes of a municipality under the purposes of this act.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Well, Mr. Chair, we've spoken to the franchising aspects of the debate. I've said that there was not a provision for a sales tax within here. Certainly, I know that some municipalities - not all municipalities - are desirous of a sales tax. There's not a consensus among the local governments, the municipal governments, the public, or the industry, and certainly I'm very reluctant - I'm actually loath - to do something like that without the concurrence of the industry. Because I would simply not want to say that, "We are empowering municipalities" on the right-hand side, and then on the left-hand side, turn around and put a damper on the tourism industry or anything like as such.
So no, you won't find anything reflective of sales tax in there, but certainly, we can always achieve a consensus on this. This is not the first time that this has been out and about, and it won't be the last time, but certainly that is the position of the government at the present time.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, I'm still not clear. This is enabling legislation. It's not saying that municipalities are going to go out and do it tomorrow; they may never do it. What I need to know from the minister, then - with all the issues of the tourism industry aside, because it's not really relevant at this point - is the government saying in the act that if municipalities - and some will and some won't - at some point in the future, want to levy a sales tax, will they be able to do that under this act?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Not as written, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Jenkins: Could the minister confirm that, in order for municipalities to have the right to a sales tax of any sort, other legislation would have to be amended to allow that window for the municipal governments, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Well, Mr. Chair, yes, we could. I believe that the other would have to be, but I will certainly have to do a thorough check to ensure that that is the case.
Clause 2 agreed to
On Clause 3
Clause 3 agreed to
On Clause 4
Clause 4 agreed to
On Clause 5
Mr. Jenkins: This is a very interesting section. Could the minister give us a little bit of background on it - this component section 5?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Well, the Government of Yukon, we do agree to follow the municipal bylaws. We consciously provided the municipalities with the jurisdictions and the powers that they need. So, Mr. Chair, certainly the territorial government does have other mandates and jurisdictions within municipalities.
Certainly we will agree to follow municipal bylaws. Maybe, at some point in time, there has to be the two governments come together to clearly define a problem, but at this point in time we do say that we'll agree, too, but certainly there might be a situation that I don't know about or others don't know about at this time that might arise.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, we do have a number of situations that do come to mind with respect to this section. I was just wanting to have the minister assure the House that the commissioner or the minister could exempt the Government of the Yukon by regulation, that it would be a uniform exemption for all municipalities for the purpose intended and not just a spot, or a one-window or one-instance approach in this regard, Mr. Chair.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I've been told that rarely are there two circumstances that are exactly the same. If there were a circumstance that would blanket the municipalities, we'd certainly look at that process, but, predominantly, it would be on a spot basis.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, the situation that comes to mind is in Dawson City, Mr. Chair - and it probably doesn't come as a surprise to the minister - and deals with the portable classrooms for which the Minister of Education is currently refusing to sign any kind of an agreement on. Despite the agreement having been run through the school council, the City of Dawson, the minister is very, very reluctant. She has ignored it and sent it back in a different format, I believe, on one or two occasions, Mr. Chair, and it's a situation that has to be resolved.
Now, there are a couple of ways in which it can be resolved, and it can be resolved by the minister doing the honourable thing and signing the agreement - as it was previously stated, it gives timelines to how long those portables will remain there - or we can take the dishonourable road with the minister granting an exemption under this clause 5.
Is that anticipated by the minister, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, Mr. Chair, this government has a very wide mandate, and we feel, as does the Municipal Act Review Committee, that this is a fair clause. Certainly, we do need the exemption, but we will always be willing to work with the communities.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, I will specifically ask the minister: is the minister or his department officials anticipating an exemption for the Department of Education for these portable classrooms in Dawson City under this clause 5 of the act? Yes or no.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Mr. Chair, if the Member for Klondike is saying that we wrote the Municipal Act to appease one issue, the member is totally wrong.
Mr. Jenkins: The minister still hasn't answered the question.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: The answer, Mr. Chair, is absolutely not.
Mr. Jenkins: I appreciate the minister clearing the air on that issue.
Clause 5 agreed to
On Clause 6
Clause 6 agreed to
On Clause 7
Clause 7 agreed to
On Clause 8
Clause 8 agreed to
On Clause 9
Clause 9 agreed to
On Clause 10
Clause 10 agreed to
On Clause 11
Clause 11 agreed to
On Clause 12
Clause 12 agreed to
On Clause 13
Clause 13 agreed to
On Clause 14
Clause 14 agreed to
On Clause 15
Mrs. Edelman: So, to go into this section, we're talking about the naming of municipalities here. I just want to be clear. There aren't going to be any more villages under the municipal framework?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: That's correct, but they can still retain the ability to call themselves a village, if they so choose.
Clause 15 agreed to
On Clause 16
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, we're talking about the class of municipality and we're talking about the class of municipality established as follows: "(a) city, for estimated populations of over 2,500," and a "(b) town, for estimated populations of 300 or more." How do we arrive at those figures? Was that something that we used from another jurisdiction or was it something that came up at MARC?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Mr. Chair, in the old act, a city would have an estimated population of over 2,500 and a village would have an estimated population of 300 to 1,000, so it follows right in line with the old act, which is our standard for the Yukon.
Mrs. Edelman: So, you're talking about towns, then, with 300 or more, but not villages, right?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, Mr. Chair. They were quoted from the old act. In the old act the numbers are the same, but in the new act it becomes a town.
Mr. Jenkins: When the new status of municipalities is plugged into the municipal block funding, is there any change in the way the formula works? No one loses their status? Is it still the same, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, Mr. Chair, it is still the same.
Clause 16 agreed to
On Clause 17
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, once again it's a question of numbers and where the numbers come from. It says, "A proposal to form, dissolve, or alter the boundaries of a municipality may be initiated by..." and then it talks about the minister and the council, and then apparently "30 percent of the persons who would be or who are electors of the municipality of the area proposed to be formed, dissolved, or altered."
Now, we use 30 percent from this point on quite often. Where did we get the figure of 30 percent? Is that common for petitions? Where did it come from?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Mr. Chair, I've been assured that it is a standard, but certainly I can get back to the member opposite, and find out. But it was done on research, and based on research.
Mrs. Edelman: I would appreciate that detail. This is a big act, and any information that we get in written form would be useful.
I would assume that the "30 percent" - that was research done on the rest of Canada in other jurisdictions. The minister has indicated "yes".
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Clause 17 agreed to
On Clause 18
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, this is "Notice of proposals", and it talks about, "The Yukon Municipal Board shall publish a copy of the notice of the proposal to form, dissolve, or alter the boundaries of any municipality in a local newspaper once for two successive weeks or by any other method appropriate in the particular community..." and I'm wondering - who decides this?
Recently, there have been some real problems with consultation in rural areas, particularly in the areas of Marsh Lake, Tagish, and Destruction Bay. My concern is that the method that the Municipal Board uses to disseminate information is the method that the department is currently using. I'm wondering where they go for advice about how best to get information to the people that this will be affecting?
A perfect example of this would be out in the Marsh Lake area, where we talked about how the federal government did some supposed consultation on a federal rezoning, and nobody knew anything about it, because they were talking about an area that nobody knew anything about. But it was quite a well-known area, had they known it by the name that was given on the maps.
All I'm wondering about is who are we going to talk about consulting with, particularly in the very, very rural communities - or soon-to-be-rural communities?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: It's the Yukon Municipal Board that does it, and it would be those folks who would say if there were enough or not enough consultation. It would be their decision.
Mrs. Edelman: I guess I haven't been making myself that clear. It's not so much how much consultation has happened. It's the method of consultation. Like, in some areas it's very effective. For example, out in the Judas Creek area, if you put a notice up at Len's Variety Store, it's a tremendously effective way of reaching the people in that area.
Other ways that people have tried to consult in that area are by nailing things to trees in the affected area and, of course, nobody ever saw them.
So what I'm wondering about is how the consultation is to be conducted and who decides how the consultation is to be conducted.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Well, certainly we'd always be willing to provide advice to the Yukon Municipal Board, but maintaining that the Yukon Municipal Board does have rural and urban members on it. The example used for Judas Creek, at Len's store, is certainly a good example, and those folks do have the authority and the discretion to do that.
Mrs. Edelman: The only reason I'm really concerned about this is the fact that there has been really poor consultation done by the department in the past, and particularly in the recent past. It would concern me if there was, say, a hearing and nobody showed up. It would worry me because, would the Municipal Board then decide that nobody was interested? Or maybe it was the way that the consultation was undertaken. I suppose that's my concern about the Municipal Board and the method that they're deciding about what's appropriate in a particular community.
There aren't representatives from every single rural community in the Yukon on the Municipal Board.
I have a real concern in this area, and I'd like to have it noted by the minister. I think that maybe we need to start looking at guidelines for the department about what is good consultation in some communities, and what hasn't worked in the past. It makes sense for us to start reviewing that now so that we can be most effective in getting the message out about the new Municipal Act, for example, in some of these rural areas.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Well, certainly, Mr. Chair, consultation is something that's very near and dear to this government's heart, and will always be so. This government definitely believes in making decisions with people's input. Sometimes things do not necessarily happen in that manner? Yes, I can say that sometimes things do not happen, but when it came to my attention - and, to give credit to the departmental directors and the staff themselves, when they feel that somebody hasn't showed up and that there hasn't been adequate notice, they don't show up. In the case of Tagish, the department even went, and lo and behold, we broke into a meeting.
So, certainly, I know that the Member for Riverdale South is not beating relentlessly on this, but I must say that I can take mild offence to the tone, because we do do our best. Everybody is only human, but certainly, we'll go back and go back and go back, and since I have been the minister, we have done that on a couple of occasions so that we can get the people's input.
The rest of the member's statement is something that I'll very seriously take a look at and talk to the department about to see how we can make it better, because I'm also a great believer that you can always make it better.
Mrs. Edelman: If the minister is taking offence, then I apologize. That was not the intent. I am trying to give constructive criticism, because I have heard constant complaints, and not only since I was elected as a MLA, but previously when I was a councillor. I am also one of the part-time residents out in one of the rural areas, and something that is very much of a fact of life is that rural consultation in particular is sometimes not done as well as it could be.
I'm glad to hear that the minister is interested in making that process better.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Clause 18 agreed to
On Clause 19
Clause 19 agreed to
On Clause 20
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, these are recommendations that passed the Yukon Municipal Board. Under section 20(c), it talks about investigating, analyzing, and making findings of the fact about the potential effect of a proposal on each nearby municipality, First Nation, nearby residents, the residents of the affected area.
When we're talking residents of the affected area, how great a distance are we talking about and what sort of guidelines are we looking at? For example, in the City of Whitehorse, it's within so many yards of the proposal that you have to announce to people that something is happening. Now, here, are we talking about within two miles, or are we talking about within 10 miles, because it's pretty valid in some of the rural areas that you have to have much larger distances to talk to people about what's affecting them. What sort of guidelines are we going to be using?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Mr. Chair, I'd love to stand here and say that it is as the crow flies for two hours in a southeasterly direction, and you stop at that spruce tree, and that's the limit of our consultation, but certainly, Mr. Chair, we live in the country, and we're going to allow common sense to prevail here.
There isn't really a specific measurement in terms of miles or how far the crow flies or anything like as such. It's done on a case-by-case basis, but certainly the users of the community know, like, where I live - and I live 22 miles from my home town - and I'm included, as are other people who live further away from it than I do. So certainly, it's driven by that.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, am I to understand from the minister's comments, then, that they were interested in developing some sort of guideline about what would be an affected area within each different municipality? Because, the minister has noted, each municipality is extremely different, and I know that the people who work in Community and Transportation Services have knowledge of each one of the different communities. If guidelines are going to be set up for a policy, that would be useful, I think, to the municipal board when they're trying to decide about what affects people and what wouldn't be affecting someone.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, Mr. Chair, we are due to have a discussion with the board very soon actually - tomorrow I believe - and we will continue to have me or others within the department meet with the folks, and I certainly pledge that we will allow any departmental expertise to work with them so that they might be able to fulfill their portion of the act.
Mrs. Edelman: So, Mr. Chair, am I to understand that we're interested in developing a policy on how far away things should be before you start notifying people? Is there an interest in developing a policy on that at all, or is there a policy already in Community and Transportation Services?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: No, there is not a policy at this point in time and there's not really an interest in the policy, but I will be speaking to the board and will pledge assistance to the board in any manner that we may be able to have within our mandate to assist them. Well, it's certainly within our mandate, pardon me.
So we'll certainly meet with them and discuss these issues. Certainly, Mr. Chair, I will honour the folks of the board, and just see what they think and how they say.
But, again, I would like to reiterate that it is going to be done on a commonsense, case-by-case, type of basis.
Clause 20 agreed to
On Clause 21
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, in the report to the minister, and this is also still under the Municipal Board, subclause (2) says the Municipal Board shall send a copy of the report prepared under the previous subsection to the proponent, each nearby municipality, First Nation, AYC and other persons. It doesn't say within what time frame. Is that within the same 90-day time frame?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, Mr. Chair, I've been assured that it is.
Clause 21 agreed to
On Clause 22
Mr. Jenkins: This is an area that has not got timelines on it, and I was wondering what the minister's thoughts are on providing timelines for the minister to act on the direction that the municipal board provides?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, Mr. Chair, the member is correct. There is not a time frame in there, although we will certainly give it our best efforts to get it done in a quick fashion.
The reason why I say that, Mr. Chair, is that it's on a case-by-case basis and some issues are certainly more complex than other issues. But, certainly, Mr. Chair, it's not to be holding up the process but to expedite it and follow through with a good, thoughtful, considerate process, so we will very much make best efforts and it would be difficult to say that you'd be doing it within 10 days or 20 days because certainly, again, I reiterate that on a case-by-case basis the complexities vary.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, I know this area is quite politically sensitive, but some of the decisions - we're not talking days, we're talking over years, before a decision has been rendered, by all parties. There's not a politically motivated reason to move, so we just sit on the report of the Municipal Board.
What I'm considering, or what I was asking the minister to consider, is a timeline of 12 months - or a year.
Hon. Mr. Harding: I move that you report progress on the Municipal Act.
Chair: Are you agreed?
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. McRobb: Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 66, Auxiliary Police Act, and directed me to report it without amendment. Further, Committee has considered Bill No. 69, Municipal Act, and directed me to report progress on it.
Speaker: You have heard the report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: I declare the report carried.
Hon. Mr. Harding: I move that the House do now adjourn.
Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. government House leader that the House do now adjourn.
Motion agreed to
Speaker: This House now stands adjourned until 1:30 p.m. tomorrow.
The House adjourned at 5:29 p.m.
The following Documents were filed November 24, 1998:
Environmental assessment (administration of permitting process): letter dated November 18, 1998, to Hon. Jane Stewart, Minister of DIAND, from Hon. Trevor Harding, Minister of Economic Development (Harding)
Yukon protected areas strategy (draft) document "Wild Spaces - Protected Places": letter dated October 30, 1998, to Hon. Piers McDonald, Government Leader, from Rob McIntyre, President, Yukon Chamber of Mines (Harding)