Tuesday, December 1, 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?
In recognition of World AIDS Day
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Mr. Speaker, I rise to ask members to join me in paying tribute to World AIDS Day.
This is the day each year when we wear a red ribbon to commemorate the people who have died as a result of acquired immune deficiency syndrome, as well as those who are living with AIDS or the HIV infection, those who care for them and those who are engaged in research to combat this devastating illness.
There are 30 million people alive today with HIV infection or AIDS. At least one-third are young people aged 10 through 34. Worldwide, new infections in young people occur at the rate of five per minute.
This year, the world AIDS campaign, "Force for Change," is focusing its attention on young people. Young people are the force for change. They can learn more easily than adults to make their behaviour safe. With support from adults in their lives and from society at large, young people can change the course of this epidemic.
It is important to provide information and support to our youth to help protect them from HIV and AIDS. A review of the programs around the world show that life skills acquired for safe behaviour can be learned. It also shows that good-quality educational programs can help delay first sexual encounter and protect sexually active young people from HIV, STDs and pregnancy.
Mr. Speaker, young people and adults are working together to create a force for change to be called for in the world's AIDS campaign.
I would also like to invite members to attend a vigil this evening being held at the United Church at 7 p.m. to commemorate those who have passed away from this disease.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the Yukon Party caucus, and office of the official opposition, I rise today to pay tribute to World AIDS Day, to commemorate those who have lost their lives to AIDS, and to offer support to those who are suffering with HIV today.
The wearing of a red ribbon today indicates our support for this day of recognition. A new United Nations report says that about 33.4 million people around the world are infected with HIV. Two-thirds of those affected are in Africa.
Although powerful new drugs have sent AIDS deaths plunging in industrialized countries, the disease continues to kill millions in the impoverished countries of Africa and Asia. While fewer people are passing away from this epidemic in Canada, it is reported that the number of new HIV infections continues to rise.
Here in the Yukon, over 14,000 HIV tests have been taken since 1985. Two thousand of those were taken in 1998 alone. These numbers are somewhat alarming, and are cause for concern.
National AIDS Awareness Week and World AIDS Day present an opportunity for all of us to learn and understand more about HIV and AIDS. It is an opportunity to raise awareness about AIDS and the lifetime consequences of AIDS. It is an opportunity to also raise questions and to take an active role in its prevention. Again, we on this side of the House would like to offer our full support to these initiatives.
I'd like to take this opportunity to recognize AIDS Yukon Alliance for its hard work and effort over this past year in the areas of prevention, awareness and support. Throughout the territory, AIDS Yukon Alliance has been instrumental in the battle against AIDS through its needle exchange program, AIDS awareness workshops, preventive works in the communities and providing emotional support to those who are HIV positive.
Thanks must also go out to the dedicated individuals who have generously donated their time to AIDS Yukon Alliance over the past years. These volunteers play an integral role in the organization in its effort in preventing AIDS.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mrs. Edelman: I rise today on behalf of the Yukon Liberal caucus to pay tribute to World AIDS Day. Today is a day for remembering and it's a day for hoping and today is the eleventh World AIDS Day. Over the past decade, AIDS has affected most communities. Each day more people are infected with the human immune deficiency syndrome or HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.
The virus damages and kills white blood cells, the body's normal immune system. And as the system weakens, the carrier may develop the symptoms of AIDS but the virus can also remain dormant for many, many years, and when it is dormant it can still be transmitted.
Currently there is no cure for AIDS, nor is there a vaccine available for mass distribution.
Tonight in the Yukon there will be a candlelight vigil held at the Whitehorse United Church, and this has become a tradition here in the Yukon. It's in memory of those who have died and in support of those who live with AIDS.
Dr. Frank Timmermans will speak on the global perspective, Reverend Rob Oliphant will speak on the Canadian perspective, and Pat Mandl from the communicable disease unit will speak on the Yukon perspective. In addition to that, a Yukoner will give their story.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: Introduction of visitors.
Are there any returns or documents for tabling?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Hon. Mr. Harding: I have for tabling a news release by the Competition Bureau on the decision to fight the merger of propane companies. I guess it wasn't a "done deal", like the leader of the official opposition said.
Speaker: Are there any reports of committees?
Are there any petitions?
Are there any bills to be introduced?
INTRODUCTION OF BILLS
Bill No. 54: French text
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Under introduction of bills, I am tabling a bill that combines what I believe to be a true copy of the English text of Bill No. 54, entitled An Act to Amend the Maintenance and Custody Orders Enforcement Act, which was introduced and given first reading on November 2, 1998, with a true translation of that text into French.
Bill No. 67: French text
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Further, Mr. Speaker, I am tabling a bill that combines what I believe to be a true copy of the English text of Bill No. 67, entitled An Act to Amend the Private Investigators and Security Guards Act, which was introduced and given first reading on November 10, 1998, with a true translation of that text into French.
Bill No. 58: French text
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Further, Mr. Speaker, I am tabling a bill that combines what I believe to be a true copy of the English text of Bill No. 58, entitled An Act to Amend the Wildlife Act, which was introduced and given first reading on November 5, 1998, with a true translation of that text into French.
Speaker: Are there any notices of motion?
NOTICES OF MOTION
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Speaker, I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that
(1) the Liberal gun control law is a bad law that does not recognize or respect the importance of firearms to the northern lifestyle and to First Nations and other Yukon firearms users; and
(2) the millions of dollars spent implementing the new gun registry will do nothing to stop crime and would be better spent implementing crime prevention programs; and
THAT this House reaffirms its opposition to the onerous gun registry, which commences December 1, 1998.
Speaker: Are there any statements by ministers?
Tourism strategy consultations
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Mr. Speaker, our government has made a firm commitment to involve the Yukon people in decisions that affect them. I'm pleased to inform the House that early next year we'll begin asking people throughout the territory to help us develop a new tourism strategy for the Yukon.
Since the Yukon's first tourism strategy was created more than 10 years ago, we have witnessed a steady growth in the number of visitors from around the world who come to experience what the Yukon has to offer. Tourism has become the Yukon's second-largest industry, generating revenue of more than $125 million. It affects more than half of all businesses and accounts for more than 11 percent of all the jobs in the territory.
The Gold Rush Centennial highlighted a decade of anniversaries, and put us on target for the best visitation year on record. Our government has shown leadership by expanding marketing efforts around the world, improving facilities, and promoting Yukon tourism products.
Yukon society has also undergone considerable change since the first tourism strategy was created, particularly with the settlement of land claims and self-government agreements. With these changes, and the approach of the new millennium, it is time to examine what we are doing, how we do it, and where we want to go as a society, with respect to tourism.
We need a comprehensive strategy to guide tourism development, one that addresses a number of important issues, which include the need to preserve and enhance the special features that make the Yukon experience unique; the need to match the values and interests of all Yukon people with market demands; and, increased competition for tourism business worldwide.
Mr. Speaker, tourism affects everyone in the territory. That is why we want all Yukon people - no matter where they live, or what they do for a living - to have an opportunity to contribute to the development of a new tourism strategy.
Beginning in February, we will conduct targeted consultations with the tourism industry, as well as local and First Nations governments, business people, labour groups. At the same time, we will be holding broad public consultations throughout the territory.
Using this joint approach, by this time next year we expect to have a new, comprehensive Yukon Tourism Strategy to take us into the next millennium.
Mr. Speaker, the Yukon offers tremendous opportunities in wilderness and ecotourism, as well as other forms of hospitality. Our government's goal is to see the potential developed in a sensitive and sustainable way that reflects the needs and values of Yukon people and will provide jobs and other benefits for years to come.
Mr. Phillips: On behalf of the Yukon Party caucus and the office of the official opposition, I'm pleased to respond to the minister's statement about the new tourism strategy for the Yukon, and I'm pleased to offer our full support for this initiative.
As the minister mentioned, tourism has seen steady growth over the last few years. Visitation from our markets to the Yukon has outperformed all other Canadian jurisdictions, and I'm certain this year's statistics will show the largest number of visitors to the Yukon ever.
The promotion of the anniversary of the Alaska Highway, the RCMP and the Gold Rush Centennial created an international awareness of the Yukon as a destination. I'd like to take this opportunity, Mr. Speaker, to thank the people who worked so hard on the centennials, from the centennial organizations to the committees that were struck, which worked so hard to market the Yukon and put on events in the Yukon over the past few years.
The promotion of the Alaska Highway and the RCMP was a great success, and the Gold Rush Centennial has sort of capped it off. Our challenge now is to continue to build on this awareness that was created as a result of these promotions.
Having almost reached the end of a decade of centennial anniversaries, I believe the year ahead will be an opportune time to sit down with the tourism industry and Yukoners at large to discuss where it is that we wish to go from here.
The minister made reference to the issue of increased competition for tourism business worldwide, and the need to address this as a matter of our overall approach to develop tourism in the territory, and I think the minister can attest to this competition, as he's attended a couple of the world marketplaces, where you're actually quite overwhelmed by the competition that's out there. There are similar products to what we have - not quite as nice, but similar products to what we have to offer.
In what's become a global marketplace, Mr. Speaker, the Yukon needs to become front and centre as the destination of choice. In order to be able to actively promote the Yukon as a world-class destination, however, more money has to be directed toward marketing efforts and product development.
The anniversaries presented Yukon with an opportunity to get the world marketplace thinking about the Yukon as a destination. In a very highly competitive tourism marketing game, where the stakes are high, the Yukon must continue to build upon its strength of tourism and promotion.
The previous Yukon Party government recognized the importance of marketing the Yukon and increased its marketing budget. So while we, on this side of the House, are supportive of the government's initiative to develop a new tourism strategy for Yukon, we are also very supportive of new monies to enhance Yukon's marketing budget.
I would hope that the identification of a higher priority that the government is putting on tourism will be reflected in the spring budget that will be tabled early in 1999.
In today's highly competitive tourism marketplace, partnerships are also important and have proven to work well for Yukon. As the former Minister of Tourism, I know the Yukon's marketing branch partnered with local industry, national and international companies, as well as organizations such ashe Canadian Tourism Commission and the Tourism Alliance for Western and Northern Canada.
I can't stress enough the importance of these partnerships and the benefits accrued from participation in these forums. Over the years, partnerships have allowed Yukon to maintain its presence in the national and international tourism front and they have enhanced our ability to market the territory as a stand-alone destination.
Interestingly enough, as much as 50 percent of the total value of tourism marketing exposure was obtained through the development of cooperative partnerships. Again, they have proven to work well and I believe they are a golden opportunity for the Yukon to build upon.
Much of Yukon's success over the years can be attributed to the hard work of our officials in the Tourism department and to all of our tourism partners throughout the territory: TIA, Yukon First Nations Tourism Association, the Tourism Wilderness Association, the Klondike Visitors Association, Gateway Tourism Association and the Silver Trail Association, to name but a few.
They've all been doing a great job selling the Yukon and increased visitation statistics testify to this fact. I believe we can be proud of our achievements in promoting tourism and we have much to look forward to in the years ahead.
Before I close, though, I'd like to ask the minister: how much money will be directed toward this particular strategy, and is it new money? The minister also mentioned a few issues that will be addressed in the strategy, but did not elaborate at great length and I'd be interested in receiving the terms of reference of the strategy if possible.
Mr. Speaker, I believe this is a very positive initiative and I look forward to hearing more about the strategy and participating in it in the upcoming months.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Ms. Duncan: I am pleased to rise to respond, on behalf of the Yukon Liberal Party, to the minister's statement today.
Another version of the minister's announcement is to look at this as giving notice to Yukoners, especially those involved in the tourism industry, that there will be consultations in February. What the minister has done is give the industry two months' notice about a consultation process early next year. We're hoping that the minister is not taking lessons on consultation processes from the Minister of Education. So far, consultation with this government means, "Here you go, Yukoners. Here's your chance to agree with us."
It is definitely time we, as Yukoners, evaluated our direction in tourism. The decade of anniversaries went well. We did some things right. We could have improved on some others.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Ms. Duncan: As I said, Mr. Speaker, we could have improved on some others.
No matter who tries to take credit for them in this House, Yukoners deserve the credit for our success to date in tourism.
A discussion of the future direction is very important. How far does the minister intend to go with this discussion? We've got some very good information and direction out of the Lord study on Yukon museums. The study can take credit for such fine visitor attractions as the George Johnston Museum in the minister's own riding, Mr. Speaker.
Museums and anniversaries - now what? Where do community tourism plans fit in terms of developing this overall Yukon strategy. Where does the work of the volunteers who have contributed to these tourism plans fit in this overall direction?
I would recommend to the minister to look wide and to listen carefully. There is more to the Yukon than wilderness and ecological tourism. There is the modern history of our people and not simply our geological history. There's also our ability to host conventions, and there are unexplored opportunities for First Nations tourism.
If the goal is to see the Yukon's tourism potential developed and not to buy into some preconceived plan - we will give the minister the doubt and say that it is - then make certain you listen to what Yukoners have to say.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, Mr. Speaker, I accept on behalf of the department and others the kudos from the office of the official opposition. There are many partners that we have to thank for getting us to this position we are in. The great challenge lies ahead of us, but this government is certainly going to go and talk to the people. When it wants to find out what the people do, what does this government do? We go and we speak to the people, and when we speak to the people, we get ideas, and when we implement these ideas, it's just for the betterment of the Yukon.
What have we done? We've put $200,000 into marketing this year. We put $250,000 into a marketing fund. We've secured air access. We're now embarking on a tourism strategy for $50,000. We do have the Whitehorse Airport expansion happening. Things are happening in the Yukon Territory, because this government recognizes a challenge for the future. We believe in tourism, and we will continue to believe in tourism and act with partners and with all people of the Yukon Territory, because it's certainly not just the industry. It's the beautiful territory that we have and the people who live here. No matter where they live in the territory, we have to listen to them.
Yes, Mr. Speaker, the Tourism department is a hard-working department. I, too, would like to thank the people for working within tourism and also for having the energy and the jam, if I can, for looking ahead and working with the government so that we might be able to move ahead.
So, Mr. Speaker, I thank everybody for their positiveness. Certainly, challenges are there. Challenges are meant to rise above and to go through, and we will, as a government, do that in conjunction with the people.
Mr. Speaker, consultation, again, is how you find good government. You get direction from the people, and this government will continue to work in that format.
Speaker: This then brings us to Question Period.
Question re: Recreational facility, Kwanlin Dun land
Mr. Jenkins: I have a question today for the Government Leader.
In the past, during tough economic times, it has been a tradition of NDP governments to engage in building arenas and recreational complexes in communities. The $1-million Elsa curling club built in a ghost town in the Government Leader's previous riding comes readily to mind.
The Government Leader moved, but the curling rink didn't. In fact, it wasn't even used.
Then we have the famous big, blue arena built in Ross River. That was way over budget. Now, in addition to the $5-million recreational centre under promise to the community of Watson Lake, it's come to my attention that there have been discussions between the Yukon government and Kwanlin Dun to build an arena on Kwanlin Dun land in the Government Leader's own riding.
Can the Government Leader confirm this report?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, the Yukon government and the Yukon NDP governments have built many recreation facilities around the territory, including many of the recreation facilities that are enjoyed by Whitehorse residents today. As a matter of fact, I'm certain the member will be very supportive of the recreation centre being proposed by the City of Dawson. He certainly seemed to be at the public meeting a month ago, and that was stated to be a priority for the City of Dawson.
So I thank the member for his confidence in the NDP to respond to community needs.
With respect to the Kwanlin Dun arena proposal, it was a proposal put forward by the now past chief of the Kwanlin Dun to seek funding from the federal government to build an arena in the Kwanlin Dun precincts, and asked for our support, and I provided it.
Mr. Jenkins: That's quite interesting, Mr. Speaker. I'm sure the Government Leader must be extremely athletic, because all of these recreational facilities keep popping up in his ridings.
This recreational complex that is being proposed by the Kwanlin Dun - how much are the various levels of government contributing, and what effect will this arena in that location have on the City of Whitehorse's proposed multiplex?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, I thank the member for referring to me as athletic. I don't think many people would agree with him, but I do, and I will work to keep up his image of me as hard as I can.
Mr. Speaker, in answer to the member's specific question, the pitch has been made to the federal government to provide funding for this facility, if the federal government is willing. The City of Whitehorse plans for the multiplex are still in the hands of the City of Whitehorse and, as the member knows, we have provided a financial commitment to that multiplex, as well, because of course, there are a variety of needs that have to be met, not only in the City of Whitehorse, but around the territory, including the member's own riding.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, the athletic ability of the Government Leader that I was referring to was his ability to skate around the issues, skate around the questions, skate around the poor economy, and skate around addressing his responsibilities.
What we have here is an arena that potentially will be built in the Kwanlin Dun area, in the minister's own riding. How about the O&M costs? After these situations come to life, there has to be a commitment somewhere for ongoing O&M. Once this facility is built, can the Government Leader advise the House of any discussions that have taken place, with respect to providing O&M funding, as well as the basic funding to construct the project?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Mr. Speaker, the member is like a goalie who doesn't know a goal's just been scored. I want to point out to the member that the Kwanlin Dun has made the request for funding from the federal government. The Kwanlin Dun would be responsible for the maintenance of the facility. The people of Kwanlin Dun have expressed an interest in having some facilities in their area, which I take from the member's questions and the tone of the member's question that he does not support.
Well, Mr. Speaker, that's unfortunate. I'll be certain to pass on his felicitations to the people of Kwanlin Dun. But I've taken the opportunity to discuss the matter as well with the city council of Whitehorse, to determine what their reaction would be, and I received support.
Question re: Porcupine caribou herd, winter range
Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Government Leader on the mixed messages that he's sending to Yukoners.
One of the major disincentives facing potential resource investors interested in investing in the Yukon is the ambivalence of this NDP government in relation to development. Neither resource developers nor environmental groups know where this government stands.
Mr. Speaker, in opposition it was quite clear: the NDP stood for the No Development Party. And during the 1996 election, the Government Leader will recall him and his colleagues getting a grade A on their environmental report card from the CPAWS organization. One of those questions was, "Do you support prohibiting development in the calving grounds and the critical habitat of the Porcupine caribou herd?"
Mr. Speaker, on November 10 in this House, however, when I asked the Government Leader of his government's support for oil and gas development in the winter range of the Porcupine caribou herd, the Government Leader said, "Yes."
My question to the Government Leader: can he explain this contradiction in policy, other than saying that their no development policy was only when they were in opposition?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Mr. Speaker, I don't understand the member's question at all. First of all, the Government of Yukon does not send out mixed messages; they send out balanced messages. We have a number of things that we are trying to promote.
In the first instance, Mr. Speaker, we did say, and we have said, and we continue to say, and we will say, that responsible development in the winter range of caribou herds is permissible. As long as we're not talking about critical habitat, we are prepared to encourage development.
I want to point out that that was something that the member opposite was unable to do when asked under repeated questioning when he was the government leader. He was not willing to say anything about development in the winter range of the caribou herd in the Yukon. We have said very clearly what our position is.
Mr. Speaker, far from being a party that has believed in no development, the record of production activities and exploration activities for mineral development has taken place during the NDP administrations.
Mr. Ostashek: Well, Mr. Speaker, the traditional NDP response to this embarrassing question highlighting their classic flip-flops has usually been, "That was then; this is now." A colleague of the Government Leader's, the former NDP MLA for Vuntut Gwitchin, is well aware of this famous NDP flip-flop. In a media report on November 3, she stated, "On one hand, the government is proposing to support us as Gwitchin all the way in respect to protecting our way of life. Yet, we have our Government Leader going to Washington announcing that he's going to open the wintering grounds and I have real concerns about that. Other members of the Vuntut Gwitchin are angry and feel betrayed by this Government Leader."
Can the Government Leader advise the House today: what is he now saying to the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation about his government's change of position on development?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Mr. Speaker, first of all, there is no change of position, of course. Secondly, I don't share the member's recounting of events at all. That will not be a surprise, I'm sure.
Mr. Speaker, we have indicated on many occasions that we support the protection of the core calving area of the Porcupine caribou herd. We've said that in Washington; we've said that in Whitehorse; I've said that in Old Crow; we've said that to anyone who asks and we believe that that protection should be secured for all time, both on the Canadian side of the border and on the American side of the border, and we believe that that has been accomplished with the creation of national parks, pursuant to the land claim agreement.
Mr. Speaker, any concerns that people have had in the past with respect to development in the winter range have been the result of concerns that the American developers on the American side of the border might use the information to scare off the environmental community or to challenge the credibility of the environmental community from the Canadian side.
I went to Washington. I spoke to the environmental community in Washington. I explained our position just exactly as I've stated it here, and they did not oppose our position at all.
Mr. Ostashek: Well, Mr. Speaker, this Government Leader continues to say that their position hasn't changed, that they've been quite clear all along. I'd like to draw to the Government Leader's attention that on February 22, 1996, the MLA for Faro, who is now the Minister of Economic Development, gave notice of the following motion: "That this House is totally and unequivocally opposed to oil exploration and development in the calving grounds and habitat of the Porcupine caribou herd."
That was the position of the now NDP government when they were in opposition. Mr. Speaker, that's 180 degrees from what the Government Leader is now telling Yukoners. The position has changed quite dramatically from what it was prior to the election in 1996. Why is there the policy change? Can the Government Leader explain it?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Mr. Speaker, there has not been a policy change. I point out to the member that prior to 1992 and after 1985, the position was as I stated it now. The position in 1997 is as I have stated it now.
The interpretation that the member has made is that the habitat refers to all habitat. I say that it refers to critical habitat, and, Mr. Speaker, that is the position that I have been clear about from the very word "go", and that is something that the members opposite, the Member for Porter Creek North, never had had the courage to do once in the entire four years that he was the Government Leader.
Question re: Yukon Teachers Association, contract negotiations
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister responsible for the Public Service Commission.
Last summer, the NDP were daring teachers to go on strike. In their submission to the arbitrator, the government wrote, "The employer is of the view that the YTA enjoyed the legislative option to withdraw its services and strike their employer on outstanding issues."
Mr. Speaker, this year a new round of negotiations, more labour bashing. In a letter to the Yukon Teachers Staff Relations Board, which the minister tabled yesterday, it stated, "It is, in fact, the employer's view that the YTA's conduct of negotiations has completely eroded the trust necessary both to reach and to recommend a settlement from the bargaining table that can be relied upon." It goes on to say, "It is further the employer's view that assurances given by the YTA are neither productive nor themselves reliable."
Finally, Mr. Speaker, we get to see the true colours of this so-called labour-friendly NDP government.
For the record, does the minister agree with the comments made by his negotiating team that Yukon teachers are untrustworthy, unproductive and unreliable?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, Mr. Speaker, surprise, surprise - questions on bargaining today.
First of all, the NDP government did not dare teachers to go on strike. That's a false accusation. Mr. Speaker, we respectfully negotiated with the teachers union and concluded, through collective bargaining with the aid of binding arbitration, which both parties agreed to, a collective agreement that restored over two percent in wages, including the lost increment that was negotiated some time in 1993 or 1994, plus many other benefits.
Mr. Speaker, we are now at the bargaining table and the PSC bargaining team has put forward its position to the staff relations board as it concerns the position put forward by the YTA bargaining agent on behalf of the teachers, and the letter speaks for itself.
There will now be, as I understand it, a process of conciliation, and hopefully that will conclude the third collective agreement that this government has negotiated through respectful collective bargaining.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, these talks are about a better learning environment for children, about early retirement, about a chance to bring in new, innovative, young teachers to provide an orderly renewal of the Yukon teaching community.
Will the minister responsible for the public service get away from the bully-boy bargaining style that has become so popular with this NDP government and instruct the bargaining team to go into the conciliation talks with a more productive approach? Does calling the teachers untrustworthy, unproductive and unreliable really help reach a deal?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, first of all, I didn't do that, Mr. Speaker. That's the first obvious point. Secondly, we have not engaged in, as she would say, bully-boy bargaining. I think that's an inappropriate and irresponsible comment on her behalf, but you can chalk it up to many others.
These talks are about a number of issues. We have put a fair and reasonable offer on the table, millions of dollars have been spent in increases, there are tens of millions spent on education programming in this territory, and it's important we continue to invest heavily in those areas.
We're very proud of the fact that, unlike other jurisdictions, we have not cut into education budgets, Mr. Speaker, and so we're trying to balance the legitimate interests of the teachers - which are many - with the broader obligation we have on behalf of Yukon taxpayers and Yukon students to deal with programming and financial issues, to have balanced budgets and not to raise taxes in this territory.
Ms. Duncan: During the previous round of negotiations, the NDP goaded the teachers to strike. In a letter to the Staff Relations Board, the NDP have described teachers as unreliable, unproductive and untrustworthy. These are hardly the actions of partners in education, Mr. Speaker.
If this is the better way, then I think 700 teachers and the parents of 6,000 students, not to mention the unions in this territory, want a new way.
These unsavoury tactics are just another example of this minister and the NDP buying into the Government Leader's famous stated position that the ends justify the means.
Mr. Speaker, I'll ask the minister a third time: do these tactics really help reach a deal, and does the minister support them?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, Mr. Speaker, in the process of negotiations, there are often times when issues come before the public. There has been some hard bargaining, I would suggest, on behalf of the YTA bargaining team. In the local media as well, there have been some hard words about the bargaining process with the Public Service Commission, and yesterday, they simply put forward their position with the Staff Relations Board. They did not make media statements. They just made their position known to the Public Service Staff Relations Board.
The accusation that the NDP goaded the teachers to strike is completely false. We bargained a collective agreement with the aid of binding arbitration. We did not, like the Yukon Party, legislate a rollback and kill the right to free collective bargaining.
Contrary to that is what we did, Mr. Speaker. We reinstated the right to free collective bargaining.
The issues that the Public Service Commission referenced in their letter were with regard to the YTA bargaining team and the events that took place at the table. They were not with regard to the teachers overall.
Question re: Child Development Centre
Mrs. Edelman: Well, Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Health and Social Services, and it concerns the Child Development Centre.
Mr. Speaker, the Child Development Centre has been serving Yukon families for over 10 years. They specialize in early assessment and early intervention programs. They help to enable children who are handicapped, developmentally delayed or at risk to develop to their full potential.
Now, the Child Development Centre also provides preschool assessments of FAS or FAE for all Yukon children, including rural Yukon children. According to the 1998 newsletter, it says that they are trying to deal with an increasing workload in the face of static funding levels from the Health and Social Services department.
Just yesterday, Mr. Speaker, the minister was telling the House how much this government supports the Child Development Centre. The Child Development Centre is facing a shortfall this year of $90,000. Is the minister going to prove the NDP's support for the Child Development Centre by covering the shortfall?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, as a matter of fact, I've had a number of meetings over the past year or so with the Child Development Centre and we have discussed their financial situation at various times, as well as some options there.
I should point out that we fund the Child Development Centre to a considerable amount and we support the work that they do. We feel that the work is valuable. We think that there are some other areas that they could be addressing.
If the member wants me to step in and wipe out a deficit, I'm afraid that I don't have that capacity right now.
Mrs. Edelman: Well, Mr. Speaker, we do have to agree that the NDP have provided stable funding three years too low. Now, the Child Development Centre is facing a $90,000 shortfall this year. They will be $90,000 in the hole. They need another team.
Mr. Speaker, last year the Child Development Centre worked with almost 500 Yukon children and their families in Whitehorse and the rural communities. The work they do is limited, however, by the amount of funding they receive. The lack of funding means wait lists for speech and language services. There are currently 23 children on the waiting list for speech services. There is a wait list for physiotherapy, and there is a wait list for the preschool program and these wait lists exist because the NDP government, who promised to put health care on top of their list, won't put up the money.
Is the minister going to ...
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Speaker: Order please.
Mrs. Edelman: ... show support by talking here in the Legislature or by signing a cheque to support the centre?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Mr. Speaker, we have signed cheques and we have given, as the member has pointed out, stable funding, which is considerably better than the roller-coaster ride of previous administrations that reduced funding for various and sundry whims. What we've done is we've given this group a guarantee of security in terms of their income levels.
I'm above making references to our federal colleagues there, but I will say that certainly the impact of the federal cutbacks in Canada health and social transfers, as well as just the general malaise that we have coming from the federal restrictions on funding, have impacted on us negatively and we can't do everything for everyone. We wish that we could be more supportive, but we simply don't have the money to step in at every place along the way.
Mrs. Edelman: I knew it wouldn't take long for the minister to refer to the 1993 cutback in funding, and I knew it wouldn't take long for him not to mention the $8-million increase in the Canada health and social transfer for the next five years.
Mr. Speaker, the Child Development Centre is facing a $90,000 shortfall because of this government. The Outreach program is bearing the brunt of the shortage and, on June 4, the executive directors' report stated, "We are also concerned as we are no longer able to meet the condition of our contract that stipulates that a child is to be seen within six months of referral." It goes on to say, "The purpose of early intervention programs is to work with children and families at the earliest possible time in their lives to effect maximum change and optimal growth."
This purpose is defeated when children have to wait for a year or longer for the required service, Mr. Speaker. Why is funding this early intervention program not a priority for this government?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: First of all, Mr. Speaker, I'd like to correct the member's misapprehension there when she talks about the Canada health and social transfer. She's probably not aware of the fact that those dollars are failsafe. So, in other words, anything we gain in that regard, we lose in the general transfers.
With regard to the Child Development Centre, we have supported them and we have been working with them. I have some discussions coming up with them. We're going to look at the kinds of ways we can work together and, as a matter of fact, from what I understand, there are a couple of options in the works.
But at this point, if the member wants me to step in with $90,000 here, $100,000 there, I don't have that capability, nor do I expect that the member really sees that as a viable way to budget. Perhaps she does. That may be the Liberal way. You give it here and then you take it away later on, but we like to develop a stable funding pattern for organizations.
Question re: Fishing, catch and release
Mr. Phillips: My question is for the Minister of Renewable Resources and it's regarding the government's policy on catch and release.
The Fish and Wildlife Management Board did a study on the value of First Nations fishing in the territory, at a cost of about $16,000, and a study on fish mortality rates related to catch and release that amounted to around $5,000. The advisory board, Mr. Speaker, said at one of its last meetings that it was going to study the economic impacts of sport fishing in the Yukon.
Can the minister tell this House if his department and the advisory board are attaching the same priority to gathering this information as it has to the other two studies that I mentioned earlier?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Well, I have said to the member in the past that the Fish and Wildlife Management Board had brought this issue forward, and they wanted to go out and consult with people on the issue of catch and release, and they're doing that. Until we hear back from them on recommendations, that's where this issue sits.
Mr. Phillips: Well, Mr. Speaker, I would hope that the minister would have more interest in it than just letting it happen. Because as far as I'm aware, no one in the sports fishing community - either the Fish and Game Association or local sports stores - has been contacted with respect to the study of the economic value of sports fishing in the territory.
Where is the Fish and Wildlife Management Board getting its information from for the study, if it's not actually going out today and asking the individuals involved in the industry about the value of the industry?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: The Fish and Wildlife Management Board has said that they would go out and do public consultation on this; it is their issue, we haven't made any comments with regard to making changes to catch and release. And we're waiting for their recommendations.
Mr. Phillips: Well, Mr. Speaker, this isn't the Fish and Wildlife Management Board's issue; this is the minister's issue. This is the NDP government's issue. It was the minister who spoke about catch-and-release fishing, and said he didn't support it.
Mr. Speaker, what I'd like to ask the minister is this: would he make this a higher priority in his daily agenda, and ensure that the Fish and Wildlife Management Board is attaching a high priority to obtaining a current economic impact study of sports fishing in this territory? Would he make sure that's done? Would he give some direction to the wildlife advisory board to make sure that it's a high priority, so that we get current information?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: I can tell the member that we do have a lot of updates from the Fish and Wildlife Management Board. I have to say that over the past years - when the Yukon Party was in government - maybe they didn't have the respect for boards like this. But, Mr. Speaker, we do.
We feel that they are a very important board with regard to wildlife management. They work closely with the renewable resource councils, local people and industry. Their recommendations we take seriously. They would like to go out and seek public consultation on this issue, and they're carrying out those duties.
Mr. Speaker, we're waiting to hear their recommendations.
Question re: Legislation and regulation reviews
Mr. Cable: I have some questions for the Minister of Government Services on red tape. The minister recently announced plans to reduce the amount of red tape businesses are confronted with when dealing with government legislation and regulations. The minister launched the initiative, the code of regulatory conduct, on September 30, and he said at the time that work would begin at looking at the over 250 acts and 1,000 regulations already in place. He also said he was asking the business community, and other groups, for help in identifying priority areas.
Where does this exercise stand? How far has the minister gotten in identifying priority areas where business wants to slash red tape?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, what we did in Government Services was we developed the code of regulatory conduct in conjunction with a project steering committee, consisting of senior government officials and chamber of commerce representatives, to take a look at other jurisdictions' activities. We have developed the code and, basically, it goes on three bases: one is to consult those affected by the proposed legislation; two, to look for alternatives to regulation; and three, to identify and consider all potential impacts before new regulations are adopted.
The code applies to new regulations, but we recognize the fact that there are already a thousand regulations and some 250 statutes.
The second component of this is an initiative led by the Executive Council Office, which involves the larger task of reviewing the legislation, and an individual from the ECO is working with the business community to identify, on a priority basis, those statutes and regulations that complicate the life of business. They will be bringing forward, through a series of discussions with business and labour and other interested parties, priority areas for review.
Speaker: The minister's time has expired.
Mr. Cable: This initiative, Mr. Speaker, this code of regulatory conduct, was effective October 1, 1998, and the code states that the Yukon government departments and agencies will, among other things, and as mentioned by the minister, examine non-regulatory alternatives and, secondly, identify the potential costs and benefits to business in the public resulting from regulations.
Now, there have been a lot of regulations come out since October 1 - about a half an inch thick of regulations.
Have all of these regulations gone through the drill set out in the code of regulatory conduct?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Yes, I can tell the member that they have and, in fact, issues that come before us at Cabinet are now subject to a review by the regulatory code, in terms of are they meeting those kinds of objectives, and so on.
With regard to the larger sort of review, I guess what I didn't get a chance to suggest is that, given the volume of regulations and statutes, we don't anticipate that this process is going to be instantaneous, and it will take a fair degree of time. It will probably take several years because of the volume, but the attempt right now with the group that's looking at it is to look at the ones that are most burdensome for business.
Mr. Cable: If the minister has a slow day some day, could I recommend to him that he gets a ruler out, and he measures the books that the regulations are in. He's going to find that they are 30 inches wide, and there are many, many thousands of pages.
Is the minister of the view that the volunteer business organizations can wade through all of this paper without financial assistance, or is he prepared to advance some funding? I should note that the government has hired a red-tape consultant for $3,250. Will the same sort of financing be advanced to the private sector - the volunteer organizations - to assist them in working through the red tape?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, I'll answer the question, because the Economic Development department is the agent responsible for fee-for-service agreements with business organizations, as well as many others, as they contribute to economic initiatives.
We do have, in many cases - through the community development fund, through fee-for-service standing agreements - funding in place for consultation and for advice on policy, and that would apply to the Yukon Chamber of Commerce. The Chamber of Mines receives some funding. It just recently received CDF money as well.
The Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce is also a beneficiary of some of these monies in order to aid them in providing input and advice to government. Those monies that are provided would be of use for this very important initiative of the red tape cutting exercise that we're undertaking, because we believe it's going to be essential for business to enable them to continue to create jobs and economic activity in this territory.
So, we feel as a government that we made this a priority for the first time of any government in this territory to deal with this complex issue and we think that we will be working with them very closely and they will be able to use the resources we already provide. If there are some significant, unique opportunities, we're always willing to talk about how we may be able to better work together to accomplish this important task.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Notice of government private members' business
Hon. Mr. Harding: Pursuant to Standing Order 14.2(7), I would like to inform the House that government private members do not wish to identify any items to be called on Wednesday, December 2, 1998, under the heading, government private members' business. This is based on an agreement between the House leaders that in order to expedite the business before the House, no private members' business will be called on either December 2 or December 9. The opposition House leaders agreed that next Tuesday they, pursuant to the rules, will stand at this time and inform the House that no opposition private members' business should be called on Wednesday, December 9.
Bill No. 70: Second Reading
Clerk: Second reading, Bill No. 70, standing in the name of the hon. Ms. Moorcroft.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Speaker, I move that Bill No. 70, entitled An Act to Amend the Human Rights Act, be now read a second time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Minister of Justice that Bill No. 70, entitled An Act to Amend the Human Rights Act, be now read a second time.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Last spring, on April 29, members of this Legislature unanimously passed a motion to prohibit discrimination based on source of income when seeking housing, applying for work, using a public facility or receiving a public service.
The amendment before us this afternoon speaks to that motion, and puts each of us to the test of enshrining it in legislation. That's because today, on a day very close to the 50th anniversary of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, we also speak for the poor among us, those who are often marginalized in our society to the point of invisibility.
It's true that our Human Rights Act protects people from discriminatory practices, based on such grounds as ancestry, religion or creed, age, sex, sexual orientation, political belief, and family or marital status, but it doesn't protect people against discrimination based on source of income.
This means that Yukon people can't file human rights complaints if they believe they were denied rental accommodation or refused employment because they're dependent on social assistance, disability allowances, old age pensions, unemployment insurance benefits or low-income wages. It means that they can't file a complaint if, for the same reasons, they're required to pay a larger deposit for rent or utilities than someone with comparable income from other sources.
This is also true if they're denied credit or refused a mortgage, despite a reliable financial history.
When most of us meet someone for the first time, we quickly form impressions. It's a natural human tendency. When that person seems different from ourselves, we may incorporate that difference into reducing that person from a full and valuable human being to one who's somehow diminished in our esteem.
When people stigmatize those who are different from them, they lose the opportunity for positive human interaction. Poverty is characteristic of that difference between people. Everyone loses when people's financial value clouds our perspective of their human value.
How many times do we hear that people on public assistance are lazy and irresponsible, as if poverty arises out of the stereotype of moral bankruptcy and idleness? How many times do we hear that able-bodied people, looking for work, should take personal responsibility for being unemployed, as if hard times was simply an option to be avoided?
The truth is that poverty stigmatizes people and results in systemic discrimination. There are lots of examples. We talked about one in this Legislature last spring, when we debated the motion on source of income. Remember the parents of two young children, who owned a small home with a modest mortgage? They always made their payments on time, through thick and thin, but one day the husband lost his job. After weeks of searching for work, the family drained all its financial resources and was forced onto social assistance. It was enough to get by, since Social Services helped pay their housing costs. Soon it came time to renew the mortgage, but the bank refused, deciding that the family was no longer worth the risk, despite their solid credit history. The family had to sell its home and move into a small apartment in another part of the community. The rent was more than the mortgage payments would have been, and the equity in their home barely covered the selling costs.
The family lost all the benefits they had made in buying into their home, because of discrimination based on their source of income.
Whatever the example, the result is that people's lives are affected by these discriminatory policies and practices, forcing some into deeper poverty and despair. Not only do people have to contend with inadequate diets, substandard housing, increased illness, and systemic barriers to education and employment, they have to endure negative stereotypes and social stigmas in their dealings with financial institutions, retail businesses and staff, government officials, the legal community, neighbours, strangers, and the media.
It can be as overwhelming as it is unfair, and it happens every day. Mr. Speaker, the upcoming anniversary of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights marks our passage through a decade in which the United Nations has called on all of us to eliminate poverty. As the decade is drawing to a close, we have a lot of work still to do. In fighting the fiscal deficit, we've put the human rights of the poor on the back burner.
It's time to redress that. It's time to reflect on the marginalization of the poor, and their lack of influence in the political system. Our government is committed to promoting a society where barriers to full social and economic participation of all Yukon people are lowered. This government's anti-poverty strategy identifies the goals of meeting basic needs; providing universal access to health, education and social services; decreasing barriers to participation due to discrimination; supporting economic opportunities; providing education and labour force attachment; and, improving the health status of low-income families.
It's time to include source of income as a prohibited ground for discrimination. This amendment will meet one of the core strategies of our anti-poverty work, in decreasing a barrier to participation due to discrimination.
Some may argue that extending this type of human rights protection to the poor erodes the rights of other groups, but this confuses rights with privileges. The United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that everyone is entitled to protection from discrimination based on social origin, property, or other status. It also states that everyone has a right to an adequate standard of living. Including source of income as a prohibited ground of discrimination ensures that Yukon people living in property will have the same human rights protection as any other citizens living in this territory.
Mr. Speaker, in light of the 50th anniversary of the UN declaration, this is a good time for strengthening our own legislation and advancing social justice for everyone in society. It's what we promised to do in the spring, and it's what Yukon people have the right to expect.
In the course of public consultations, we received a number of letters supporting our plans to protect the poor against certain forms of economic discrimination, but people also urged us to consider other profound and extensive changes to the Human Rights Act.
The Yukon Human Rights Act is a living document and can be revisited. As an advocate for women's equality, I recognize the value of adding gender-based violence as a prohibited ground for discrimination to the Human Rights Act. Violence against women crosses all segments of society and affects the women and families who suffer the indignities of abuse, as well as those of us who believe that every human being has the right to live a life free from fear and injustice.
Freedom from violence is a basic human right, and I appreciate the involvement of many Yukon people in a forum on that subject last month in Whitehorse. Many groups and individuals have expressed their support for additional human rights amendments to include the special needs of women who experience and survive male violence.
In recognition of the 50th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights this December 10, our government will consider further amendments to the Yukon Human Rights Act for possible inclusion in the fall of 1999 legislative session.
I'm confident that once we've had a chance to consult publicly on a number of additional amendments, including violence against women as a prohibited ground of discrimination, the duty to accommodate and the harm caused by messages of hate, we can build consensus across the territory for these progressive changes.
There are complex legal issues that require public discussion so all Yukon people can clearly understand the reason for the proposed amendments.
In closing, Mr. Speaker, I urge all members of the Legislature to support the amendment on source of income. The Yukon Human Rights Act is infused with the values of human dignity and equality. This amendment is also an embodiment of those fundamental values. It gives voice to the poor by providing them with a remedy to fight systemic discrimination and, importantly, it gives people the chance to participate as full and valuable members in our collective life, no matter what their income or their source of income.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Speaker, I rise on behalf of the Yukon Party to support the amendment that's put forward by the Justice minister, but before I get into the amendment I do want to raise a couple of concerns that I have.
The first concern I have, Mr. Speaker, is that it is becoming a rather bad habit of this Justice minister to bring legislation to this House which is only partly developed. I have several letters from Kaushee's Place, the Yukon Council on Disabilities, the Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce and the Human Rights Commission. All of them are addressing issues with respect to the Human Rights Act that they wish to have brought up. Almost all of them point out as well that they had very little time to respond to the proposed amendments that were put forward by the minister.
Now, I know the minister will probably rise in the House and say that she told people about this a year ago or two years ago - or maybe even tabled a bill a couple of years ago, as she said in one case - but it is becoming all too common for this minister to come to this House with legislation that is only sort of cherry picked.
To the Member for Whitehorse Centre's credit, he raised a motion in the House wanting this to be changed, but there are an awful lot of people who care about human rights in this territory. Kaushee's Place, the Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce, the Council on Disabilities and the Human Rights Commission itself, have been crying out for quite some time for other changes.
My concern, Mr. Speaker, is, does this government only listen to its own people, its backbenchers? Why did it ignore the cries of all these other people who are involved with protecting people's basic human rights? There's no excuse for it. The minister had a whole year. In fact, I think it was over a year ago that the minister talked about coming to this House with amendments to the Human Rights Act and no one had an opportunity to see them until I think they were tabled here the other day.
I know that all these organizations were in a panic in the last two or three days trying to get letters to us to deal with issues that they thought were of the utmost importance and would have made a difference to the basic human rights of Yukoners.
The government says one thing and does another. We've seen act after act after act come into this House this session from this minister where individuals have complained about the speed at which the minister wants to rush the act through the House. They haven't seen the text of the act until it was almost tabled on the floor of the House. Consultation, in the minister's view, was far different from the view that the individuals had - and the general public - who were going to be affected by this. Members of the opposition have had to rise in our places in this Legislature because of the panic way in which legislation has been brought into the House by this minister who has had to table amendment after amendment after amendment.
And then, Mr. Speaker, the minister had the nerve to become stubborn, despite the fact that all the people out there that she's going to affect are raising issues. The minister would say, "I'm not making any changes," and they use their majority to push it to on through.
Well, Mr. Speaker, violence against women is an important issue in this territory. It happens every day, and women need to be protected from it.
Mr. Speaker, the Human Rights Commission wanted it changed, and I'm sure the minister, when she first got into power, heard about that. Why isn't it in this act?
I only wish that these various groups, Mr. Speaker, had got to the Member for Whitehorse Centre. He could have included it in his motion, and then we might be reading it today in this act. It's shameful that this government is operating in this way.
Consultation - balderdash. It's not listening.
Now the minister, to cover her backside, Mr. Speaker, tells us today that, "Violence against women is important, and we're going to come back here shortly with some more amendments." Well, why didn't the minister do her job in the first place?
Mr. Speaker, we are in support of the amendment that is before us - the single amendment. I know that other members of the opposition will be proposing some amendments to this bill to cover some of the shortcomings that have been left by the minister, and I would only hope that the minister would be a little bit more considerate than she has been in the past with respect to these amendments, because the people are getting tired.
The people who felt they had confidence in this minister, that the minister would do the right thing, are now quite surprised. Many of these letters that I have received are almost congratulating the minister on putting all these changes in the act. I mean, people were misled. Someone misled these people, because they believed that these changes were going to be in this act.
Mr. Speaker, we're going to be here at least until December 15, so I'm going to make a recommendation to the minister. She's got some pretty firm support from the Yukon Council on Disabilities, from Kaushee's Place, from the Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce, from the Human Rights Commission itself, with respect to proposed changes in this act. She's also got a large staff of lawyers.
I would recommend to the minister, Mr. Speaker, that the minister take this bill, now, after second reading, and go back to her staff, in consultation with these groups, and quickly draft amendments to the Human Rights Act that will include the concerns that they've been raising for months and months, which the minister chose to ignore in tabling this bill.
It's not the best way to make legislation, Mr. Speaker but, with this minister, we're not getting much choice, either. I was quite shocked the other day when I received the bill. I, quite frankly, had been led to believe by the minister, and by the letters I had been receiving, that the bill would include about three or four clauses that would make changes to the Human Rights Act. When we received the bill with one clause, and another clause that changes some lettering, or numbering, I was very surprised, and I suspect that many of these groups, including the Human Rights Commission itself, were quite surprised that the minister had left them out.
So, Mr. Speaker, we will be supporting this bill as it is, despite its shortcomings, despite the things that it has left out, because we believe that discrimination against someone, based on economic status, is a serious issue and affects women and single parents more than others - handicapped persons, welfare recipients, unemployed persons and the working poor.
Mr. Speaker, I think it's an important amendment. I applaud the minister for this amendment. I condemn the minister for ignoring what the general public had to say and only listening to her back bench.
So, Mr. Speaker, I would suggest to the minister that she quickly go back to the drawing board, that we don't rush into Committee of the Whole on this bill, as the government is planning to do later on today or tomorrow. We can set this aside and deal with it part way through next week when we're in budget discussions.
I think we've got to take some time here and, if we're going to amend this bill, then let's amend it in a proper fashion, mainly dealing with, and primarily dealing with, the support the minister has from the three or four different groups who have written letters urging the minister to make, in some cases, minor changes, but minor changes that will make a significant difference to women in the territory, the disabled in the territory, and the working poor.
So, I suggest that the minister do that, Mr. Speaker. Take the time and do it right this time.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Cable: I, too, am disappointed and the Liberal caucus is disappointed that the amendments don't go further, but having said that, the Liberal caucus will be supporting the bill as presented. We feel that the additional grounds against discrimination are well advised.
We have talked about hate literature in this House before, for several years, and the Human Rights Commission appeared before this House when the minister was in opposition and asked the government to deal with hate literature.
I can remember the minister standing up and talking in response to the suggestion by the commission. And it was my impression that the minister was fully supportive - this isn't a year ago, this is several years ago. So, I'm curious as to why we can proceed with one amendment and not the other. There has been no real public discussion or consultation on the amendment before us - though there was obviously a debate in the House, which I assume the minister is equating to consultation.
But the government has been in office for over two years - more than enough time to deal with a straightforward issue, and more than enough time to draft proposed amendments on hate literature, and have consultations. And I think I can safely say that virtually no one in this territory is against legislative control of hate literature.
I have to say the minister is behind on leadership on this issue, rather than ahead of the people. And this is disappointing. So the question I have for the minister is: who actually said, "No" to greater control of hate literature? Was it the minister?
Now, there's an organization in town that deals with disabilities, that has asked for some repair to the act. The minister, I'm sure, is aware that section 7(1) of the act deals with the making of reasonable provisions in connection with employment, accommodations and services for the special needs of others, where those special needs arise from physical disability. And that provision - despite many requests - does not include the term "mental disability", so that it would read, "physical or mental disability".
Now, I understand that there's a school of thought that says the "prohibited grounds" at section 6 include "physical or mental disability", so that would automatically translate itself into section 7, and that making allowances for mental disability would be read into the act.
I have to ask the minister this question: why don't we simply clarify it with a very simple amendment, so that it would be understood, not only by lawyers, by the minister's officials and by the minister, but people in the street - the man or woman in the street who want to use the Human Rights Act for protection in employment or accommodation settings? That is a very straightforward amendment, and I invite the minister - and I am sure she will get unanimous consent if she is prepared - to add into the bill the additional phraseology, "or mental" after the word "physical" at section 7(1) of the act.
The members on this side are not entitled to make that sort of amendment by the protocols that govern the debate here, but the minister can, if she receives unanimous consent, and I invite her to do that.
I invite her also to give her personal opinion on the many suggestions that were made by the women's groups in relation to the violence-against-women issues. Is she in favour of the proposed amendments? Is she personally in favour of the proposed amendments, as presented by the women's groups?
I know she wants to take further consultation on this, but what is her position on those amendments?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I'd like to speak to this Act to Amend the Human Rights Act, because I think this is something that we all agreed on last year, in April. We did agree that we would want to prohibit discrimination based on source of income in such things as accommodation, work, credit, et cetera. I think the minister has acted responsibly in that regard by bringing forward this amendment.
I realize that there are other issues that members would like to see brought forward, but I think, if we are talking about the central issue here - which is an issue of poverty, or source of income - it is something that we should move ahead on.
The member says that it's a case of cherry picking. It isn't a case of cherry picking. It's a case that we agreed on in this House, and we're moving ahead on it. The fact is that poverty is a burden that's shared by too many people in both Canada and the Yukon. I think we are taking some steps here, in terms of the anti-poverty strategy, to try to address some of these.
We're looking at how we can close gaps, how we can decrease duplication, how can we enhance some partnerships. For example, as a government, I think there are a number of programs that we do, everything from the pioneer utility grant, the Yukon seniors income supplement, Head Start, pathways program, pharmacare, extended health care benefits, chronic disease, children's dental, children's respite and youth achievement.
We also work with non-governmental agencies, be they Challenge or the women's transition shelters in Dawson and Watson Lake.
We've also brought in some new programs to help address some of the issues around poverty: the children's drug and optical program, the food for learning program, the youth achievement centre food service program, the emergency shelter, the outreach health clinic, the Outreach social worker, prenatal and newborn programs. These are all programs, Mr. Speaker, that are practical ways that we can address the issue of poverty, but the fact is that there are also systemic problems in our society that originate from individuals and their source of income or, in some cases, their lack of source of income.
People living in poverty struggle. They struggle to make ends meet. They struggle to provide some of the necessities to their children. They struggle to secure housing and just basically to survive from day to day. Part of the reason why we looked at such things as the children's optical program is because this was something that we heard time and time again, that families often are struggling at a particular level, that they may be one paycheque away from economic destitution, and sometimes things such as going out and buying a pair of glasses for your child that can run $200 plus can be quite an insurmountable burden for a family that's just trying to make it.
So, I think, when we take a look at this, we have to take a look at how such things as source of income impact on people's lives, and how it impacts on their accessibility to some of the things that we all take for granted, be it housing or be it some basic services. I think this amendment to the Human Rights Act will help protect people who are in poverty from discrimination based on where their money comes from.
How often have we heard about people being refused service because they may be on SA, running into difficulty renting an apartment, running into difficulty securing any kind of credit. I think sometimes this discrimination that people face, particularly in accommodations, is really a major problem, and I think this will help reduce that.
People who live on fixed incomes, such as pensions, I think, deserve the right to be able to access housing the same way that others do.
I think people who are living, for example, on disability allowances - they'll be able to fight unfair utility rates that are based solely on source of income. If you're on low wages, it will help such individuals get credit. If you live on EI, you won't have to pay a higher utility or rent deposit. I mean, these are some practical ways that this amendment will make people's lives better.
This amendment to the Human Rights Act, I think, will protect people from discrimination based on that particular point, the source of income.
I would like to support this effort to extend human rights protection to people who do live in poverty, and I think it is a very practical example, and I would like to commend the minister on following through on something that we all unanimously decided in this House.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, I would like to rise on behalf of the Yukon Liberal Party caucus and join with my colleague, the Member for Riverside, in our support for the inclusion of the source of income in this particular bill before us, this amendment.
I would just like to note the experience across the country with regard to this specific clause.
The Nova Scotia Human Rights Act specifically includes source of income as a prohibited ground for discrimination. The Human Rights Act in Alberta includes source of income. Saskatchewan notes that discrimination is prohibited in contracts against any person or persons in receipt of public assistance. The PEI Human Rights Act and its amendments note that discrimination means discrimination in relation to source of income.
New Brunswick does not include source of income as a ground for discrimination, neither does the British Columbia Human Rights Code nor the Ontario act.
That's a quick review across the country. I would again suggest to the minister - I would restate to the minister - that our caucus supports this particular amendment. I would also like to urge the minister to give careful consideration to my colleague's comments with respect to proposing amendments and reviewing the other comments that have been made in terms of presenting better legislation to this House.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Hardy: This motion calls for an amendment to the Yukon Human Rights Act. It's about poverty in Canada and in our territory and about recognition of poverty as a serious human rights issue.
Now, there's been a lot of comment from the other side for which I would say there can be some justification in requesting more changes within the act. I can recognize that, but coupled with that is some criticism that I don't think is really deserved and I would like to address that before I talk about the amendment.
The Member for Riverdale North calls this cherry picking. I don't believe it's cherry picking. I don't believe, when you bring forward one amendment to address a serious concern, especially within the Human Rights Act, you can call it cherry picking. That's much too callous.
This minister - who I'm very proud to call my colleague - is working with many people on many fronts to deal with the conditions of injustice in the territory, and she's also very involved, on a national level with her colleagues from across the provinces and the other territory to address the serious concerns of injustice. I'm very proud of what has been accomplished so far.
It's easy to criticize because she didn't fulfill everything that was requested. It's easy to criticize, but this is, again, one step. It's not cherry picking; it's a step in the right direction, and I believe that she's made a promise to be discussing more changes, more amendments with the various organizations that are concerned about human rights, as well as with the public, to be going out and doing this discussion and bringing forward the amendments after public discussion and consultation with these organizations. I applaud her for that move.
Now, I myself am at fault here in regard to source of income. I brought forward a motion that I felt was adequate and, upon further reflection and research, for myself I feel that it's not adequate in this category, but we are bringing this forward, and it's going to have, I believe, a good effect. I'm very glad to hear the opposition speaking in support of it.
Personally, I'm at fault, and I have failed in this regard. I should have brought forward something such as social conditions.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Hardy: The Member for Riverdale North wants me to resign. It's not often that - just from the two years of being in here, it's not often that an MLA will stand up and say that maybe they didn't go far enough. So what do I get? I get told to resign.
This is my apology to all the organizations and people out there that maybe expect more. I didn't go far enough - I didn't go far enough.
I plan to make amends for that, and I'm going to push forward on some of the recommendations that I've heard from across the floor and what we've heard as well - and we are working on.
I know the Member for Riverside mentioned hate literature, the addition of "mental" in disability, with the physical. The proposed amendments that have been brought forward by the women's groups are all very legitimate, and all amendments that have to be considered.
I believe, as I said earlier, that our minister has promised to do that. And I think it will be done, and it'll be done in this term. That's my feeling about it all.
When we talk about social condition and we look at our past record in addressing poverty, we have not done very well. Canada has been criticized by the UN for our lack of compliance with an international covenant of economic, social, and cultural rights. In the last two decades that have passed since Canada signed that covenant there has been no discernible progress on the elimination of poverty, nor even a developed recognition of poverty as an inherent source of inequality.
Canada's own domestic human rights law has never been amended to bring it into line with that covenant, so one of the most vulnerable, and regrettably one of the largest, disadvantaged groups still remain without protection under a federal act.
I'm not standing here to criticize federal policies or actions - there's been many federal governments. We have to look at ourselves as well.
But we have to work with them, and we have to encourage them - sometimes by leading by example - what we can do in the territory.
There has been so much cut from social spending that there have been effects throughout Canada, and it has really put a lot of pressure upon those without - the poor - and it has actually expanded the amount of poor within the country itself.
One of the biggest concerns of mine that I see is the poverty of children, and it has grown. I don't know why. I say that there have been cuts in the social spending, and I believe that that contributes to it, but it goes beyond that, in some cases: the inability to have meaningful employment any more, the changing workforce, how we deal with our neighbours - when I say "neighbours," I mean on an international level - how we deal with them on job creation, on offshore transfers of money, and the loss of factories, moving across the borders. I believe NAFTA has had an effect on that. I'm sure there have been many studies done on it, and just my own personal belief is that there's been an effect.
So, what we've seen is the growth of poverty in Canada, and some of the figures are quite staggering.
Going back to child poverty, 1.4 million Canadian children, or one in five, today lives in poverty. That's something to be quite ashamed of, and somehow all of us - every Canadian who has a means, has the ability to try to make a change - should be ashamed of it.
I'm not going to deal with the federal issue. I think a lot of people know that they're struggling in trying to deal with poverty, too. I do have some criticisms there, but we also have to look at home as well.
The concerns that have been raised about being poor have already been mentioned by my colleagues and the minister. Just being on social assistance, for instance, can affect your ability to get a job and can affect your ability to have a place to rent. Being on a disability benefit or an old-age pension also has an effect when you go to find accommodation. I can speak on this from when I was a business agent for the carpenters union. We had two places to rent, and many people went through those doors. A lot of them were very nervous when they would come to see if they could rent the place, because they were on social assistance or on some other type of assistance, and they were afraid that they were going to be prejudiced against, discriminated against. That's a fear that really exists out there, and I believe it's a fear that has some validity in our society.
There is also you being denied credit. Your application to renew a mortgage, if you are facing tough times, will be turned down, and you could lose your home because of that. There's not the flexibility to recognize hardship in people's lives to extend a mortgage, to stretch it out, to lower the cost to help the people get back on their feet. No matter what their credit rating was before, they will be discriminated against if their source of income drops, in most cases, in dealing with the banks. That's a travesty in this country that should never happen, because all we do is force people down farther and farther in the poverty levels and make it much more difficult for them to recover when, at that time, we should be finding ways to help them recover so they can be contributing to society once again.
I look forward to the acceptance of source of income as an amendment. I also look forward to the changes that will be brought forward in the future by our minister, and I believe they will be justified and worthy changes and probably supported by every person in this House when they are brought forward because there will be input from many organizations, associations and people who will contribute to the language of the rights in the amendment to make the Human Rights Act a much better one.
Let's never forget the battle there was to bring the Human Rights Act in - and it was a battle and it was ugly. There were many scenarios painted of the disaster this was going to create and it hasn't. What it has done is strengthen our community and made our society a much stronger place for all people.
Speaker: If the member now speaks, she will close debate. Does any other member wish to be heard?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: It's been an interesting debate this afternoon. I first want to make the point that the amendment to the Human Rights Act before us reflects the all-party consensus that was achieved on April 29 when we debated the motion to add "source of income" as a prohibitive ground of discrimination to the Yukon Human Rights Act.
Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased that the Member for Riverdale North has come out today as an advocate for protecting basic human rights. The Yukon Party was firmly opposed to the Yukon Human Rights Act when the NDP government brought forward that bill in 1987 and when the Yukon New Democratic government of the day brought forward human rights legislation that was at the forefront across Canada.
Mr. Speaker, the extreme and inflammatory rhetoric from ultra-conservative forces in this territory inspired a lot of people to speak out in support of human rights, inspired people to become politically active and, in fact, did not inspire people in the Yukon Party at the time to speak out, as they are today, in support of human rights legislation.
Mr. Speaker, we indicated last spring that we would consult on source of income as a prohibited grounds for discrimination within the community, and that is exactly what we have done.
There was a request that came forward on November 26 from the Human Rights Commission to consider a number of other amendments to the human rights legislation.
Mr. Speaker, I think it's very important to reach a public consensus on legislation, and the Member for Riverdale North is being extremely inconsistent here. He has requested that we quickly draft amendments to the Human Rights Act. At the same time, he has been consistently requesting in this House that we hold off debate here and that we defer debate there, and now he wants us to draft a bill quickly. The public at large deserves a period of time where we can build a consensus and conduct some public education.
Mr. Speaker, another member spoke about hate literature. Hate literature has been discussed in this House before and has been discussed with the public, and we found that, when we talked to the public recently, there were different views about hate literature.
Some people think that we should have a threshold for discriminatory conduct that relies on the Criminal Code of Canada. Some were content with the thresholds that are set by the Supreme Court for hatred or contempt, and others preferred to look at it in terms of how much harm could be inflicted on someone by behaviour that dehumanizes a person.
As a result, we decided to defer an amendment on hate literature and hold a more extensive consultation on the subject.
Human rights legislation is very significant. The courts have ruled that they have particular and public and special status. The public deserves an opportunity to understand the changes that have been proposed and the ability to comment on them.
I have stated clearly that I support the amendments that have been suggested to me in a letter from the Human Rights Commission on November 26. It is impossible, Mr. Speaker, to craft thoughtful legislation over a period of four days. Not everyone in the Yukon does support the advancement of human rights, as New Democrat governments have in the past, as I do personally, and as our government does today.
Mr. Speaker, in recognition of the 50th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, I look forward to having a broader discussion with the public, in order to build consensus and to provide some public education on the various amendments that have been proposed. However, Mr. Speaker, I believe we would be doing a grave disservice to proceed to draft legislation in a period of days.
So, Mr. Speaker, I look forward to support from the members opposite for this amendment. It does build on all-party support for recognizing source of income as a prohibited ground for discrimination. It does advance this government's agenda to reduce poverty in our society, and I commend the bill to the House.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: Are you prepared for the question?
Some Hon. Members: Division.
Speaker: Mr. Clerk, would you poll the House?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Harding: Agree.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Agree.
Mr. McRobb: Agree.
Mr. Fentie: Agree.
Mr. Hardy: Agree.
Mr. Livingston: Agree.
Mr. Ostashek: Agree.
Mr. Phillips: Agree.
Mr. Jenkins: Agree.
Ms. Duncan: Agree.
Mr. Cable: Agree.
Mrs. Edelman: Agree.
Clerk: Mr. Speaker, the results are 16 yea, nil nay.
Speaker: The yeas have it. I declare the motion carried.
Motion for second reading of Bill No. 70 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 the Committee of the Whole to order. Is it the members' wish to take a brief recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: Fifteen minutes.
Chair: I will now call the House to order.
Bill No. 53 - An Act to Amend the Employment Standards Act - continued
Chair: Committee is dealing with Bill No. 53, An Act to Amend the Employment Standards Act. Is there any further general debate?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: There were a couple of questions from last evening that I would like to begin by responding to.
Mr. Phillips asked questions covering aspects of employment, specifically dealing with CARS workers at all of the airports in the territory and generally dealing with the employment relationship in contracts and with contract workers.
With the CARS workers, the successful bidder on those contracts hire their own workforces to perform the duties that are required in the tender documents and is covered by the Canada Labour Code as the appropriate standard of legislation. The community aerodrome radio stations are under federal jurisdiction because the work they do is an integral part of a federal undertaking - aerodromes, aircraft or a line of air transportation.
The Yukon government has employees providing these services in Old Crow, but technically, these employees are covered under federal legislation.
In any event, the test for an employment contract that is in the Canada Labour Code is similar to the amendment before us in the Employment Standards Act and to the common-law tests for defining contract workers as people who have economic dependence and subordination to their employer.
Mr. Cable, as well, asked questions about administrative penalties and whether or not the two administrative penalties piggyback on each other. The imposition of the $500 levy for proper or inadequate employee records is separate and distinct from any penalty that is found owing for unpaid wages.
There may be cases where the wages are found owing, but the records are in order, so the $500 levy would not be assessed. Similarly, there may be cases where no wages are found owing, yet a record violation is apparent, and the $500 levy could be imposed.
If a certificate is issued to enforce the payment of the $500 levy, that amount will not be included in the calculation that determines the amount that would be added to the certificate, as the 10 percent, or $100 administrative penalty.
The member asked whether there was double jeopardy. There is not. If wages are found to be owing, and the employer refuses to voluntarily pay the outstanding wages, then a certificate of wages may be issued, and the 10 percent, or $100, will be added to the amount of unpaid wages. Again, because there may, in addition, be a $500 levy for failure to keep accurate records, that is not wages, and that cannot attract the 10 percent, or $100 administrative fee.
Double jeopardy would be if the government were to impose an administrative sanction, because of the provisions in this bill, where we can impose an administrative sanction, and also to bring forward a prosecution.
Mr. Cable asked whether the minister could tell the House what the usual fine is that comes out of the court for infringing those clauses. Fines imposed by the court for violations of section 60 range from $1.00 to $1,000. There have been no prosecutions for the other sections of the act that will attract a levy.
Mr. Phillips: I don't think I buy the minister's argument with respect to who is covered under the act and who isn't. Where I see the flaw, Mr. Chair, is that, what the minister just said is that the workers in Old Crow follow the federal rules, or the federal guidelines, and not our Employment Standards Act. Yet a private sector individual doesn't have that option. They have to be bound under the Yukon government's Employment Standards Act. There seems to be a double standard here. How can it possibly be that you can just choose, as the territorial government, to fall under the federal rules when you wish?
I mean, either we're all bound by it or we're not bound by it, and the government can't just opt in and opt out as it wants, so I'd like a little clearer explanation from the minister. You know, another area I think that comes to mind is Yukon Housing and the contract workers who do work for Yukon Housing. They don't work for anyone else; they basically work for Yukon Housing. What is the status of these workers? I mean, they derive almost 99 percent or 100 percent of their income from Yukon Housing. They're the electricians or the plumbers or whomever, and they have service orders that are issued by the Housing Corporation. They go out and work for them to repair and fix up the Yukon Housing units and do it on a year-round basis. It appears to me that, under this change to the act, they could be now classified as an employee of the Government of Yukon.
The minister has got to show me clearer evidence that can demonstrate that the government can just opt in and opt out of the Employment Standards Act as it sees fit. I don't see that. I don't how it could work.
And not all CARS stations have a manager who has the contract and hires other people. At some of the smaller ones, the people who have the contract do the work themselves. So, if they do work themselves - and I believe that the CARS issue has all been transferred over to YTG. It's not a federal program any more; it's ours; they contract directly with the aviation branch of Community and Transportation Services. Under the changes to this act, it would appear to me that they are employees. Now, if they're not, as the minister says they are not, then why is the government different than anyone else? I'm having trouble understanding that.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, Mr. Speaker, the member is very well aware of the differences between the Public Service Act and the Employment Standards Act and the Canada Labour Code, or at least I would hope that he would be, given that he has served in this function and defended that particular regime.
Under the Constitution of Canada, the federal government does remain responsible for federal undertakings in aerodromes, aircraft and lines of air transportation. That is still the case.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Chair: Please, let the member speak.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: The Canada Labour Code has definitions that cover dependent contractors. The Employment Standards Act will now have a definition of "contract worker." We are not exceeding the common-law tests of economic dependence and subordination.
The degree of independence is what is the test for determining if someone is an independent contractor or a contract worker. Regardless of the legislation, there is a common-law test for the standard of employment of a contract worker. That standard is used under the Canada Labour Code. Those standards apply to public service, and those standards will now apply under the amendments to the Employment Standards Act.
Chair: Is there further debate?
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Chair, I don't buy it. I don't think the minister's right. You know, today, the CARS employees are receiving a little yellow stub, like I am, and if they get a cheque, they'll receive a cheque with the Government Leader's signature on the bottom of it. They're employees under this act; they'll be employees of the Government of the Yukon, especially the ones in Old Crow.
The minister's wrong. The CARS program has been devolved to YTG. The NAV Canada program is different. The CARS program is our responsibility now. Maybe the minister can bring back -
I mean, the minister's not going to change her mind. Obviously we're at the same level we've always been at before with this minister. Maybe the minister can bring back for me the description of airports provided by C&TS with respect to the CARS people and their responsibility to them, their roles with respect to the work they do, and all of that information that would be pertinent to the issue that we're talking about here with respect to whether or not they're an employee.
I'd like to know on what grounds they were hired, what direction they're given. I want to see if they fit the mold, so to speak, of the definition of an employee. I think they do, and I think it's a bit unfair for the minister to expect everyone else out there to conform to this new regulation, if the Government of the Yukon finds some highly technical way to squiggle out of it.
I just think that one of the reasons, Mr. Chair, the minister is bringing this amendment forward is to try and plug the hole of the employers who used to squiggle out of it before, and I kind of think that, in plugging the hole, they maybe haven't thought it out as much as they should have with respect to their own employees or their own contract workers. Now they're asking everybody in government who has anything to do with this to back up the minister's rationale for doing it this way. I don't think she's right and I think that the minister, in this case, has a double standard.
Mr. Jenkins: With respect to the operation of the airports in Yukon, Mr. Chair, the transfer of operations of the Arctic A, B and C airports has taken place. The Government of Yukon now is in complete control of the operation of all of the airports in the Yukon.
Now, there are different levels of service. Those that are designated CARS are contracted operators to the Government of the Yukon. They bid on the contract to the aviation and marine branch of C&TS and they are awarded a contract through that branch. They are told the hours they have to report for duty and the hours they have to be open: Old Crow, Dawson, Mayo, Teslin, Watson Lake and Burwash. These people, if you use the test that the government is advancing right now, are contract employees, but if you use the new legislation, they are employees of the Government of the Yukon.
I've been through the exercise and I've looked at the contracts that are in place for Dawson, for Mayo, for Teslin and for Watson Lake.
The minister might want to take it up with the department and have a look at these contracts.
Furthermore, there are quite a number of individuals who contract solely to Yukon Housing Corporation, Mr. Chair. Under the existing legislation, they are contract employees, yet they derive virtually all of their income - and in some cases all of their income - from Yukon Housing Corporation. They're told what jobs they have to work on; they're virtually an employee of the Housing Corporation for all intents and purposes, as defined by this new act before us.
What I'd like to know is if the minister has taken the time to even review these areas, and what the additional costs that Yukon Housing and C&TS are going to accrue as a consequence of these individuals becoming employees rather than contract workers. Has that aspect of this government's operation been looked at?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: The Department of Community and Transportation Services does have a long-term contract with NAV Canada for the CARS workers. Technically, however, the CARS workers are still covered by the Canada Labour Code, which is federal legislation.
Both the Canada Labour Code and the Employment Standards Act - and indeed the Public Service Act - provide for protection for workers. The employer is required to keep records; the employer is required to pay the employees regularly, and to make appropriate deductions. The Yukon government does that, the federal government does that, and where there are employment contracts, or service contracts with agencies, that is a requirement of the law.
We're not creating different regimes. We're creating a protection for contract workers that, where a contract worker is in a position of economic dependence and subordination to their employer, employment standards protections are guaranteed.
Mr. Jenkins: So, if we buy the argument for the CARS workers, how does the minister explain the workers that are employed on a contract basis to Yukon Housing Corporation?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, could the member expand on how he thinks there will be a financial consequence for these amendments?
Mr. Jenkins: Well, obviously, the minister hasn't spent very much time in the business world and doesn't understand the issue of contract workers at all.
Most people work as contract workers because they enjoy their independence. There are quite a number of tax advantages to being a contract worker, and owning and operating your own business. Most of the workers that I refer to that are employed by Yukon Housing Corporation have their own vehicle. Their expenses, other than their standby charges for their personal use, are a tax deduction. They have the ability to write off a small component of their house where they have an office. This is all in the Income Tax Act. The cost of their telephone for business purposes and some of their meals, when it's involved with their business, are tax deductible. There is a whole series of costs that the contract worker incurs that are tax deductible, and you will take the incentive away from an individual. If they wanted to work on an hourly basis, they could go and get a job, I guess, Mr. Chair, but they have a level of skill and can sometimes take on jobs, take on responsibilities and do it quite a bit faster, and they have their independence.
Now, if the government wanted to do the same job through hourly paid workers, vis-à-vis contract workers, the government is going to incur quite an additional amount of cost, let alone the cost of supervision, payroll and everything else.
The timelines, usually, for doing that work increase. If somebody is paid by the hour, the incentive is not there to complete that job quickly or to put in the extra 15 minutes or hour or three hours at the end of the day to get that job done - it's just not there. This fact has been proven over and over and over again in a multitude of industries that I'm very familiar with and I'm sure many of my colleagues on this side of the House are also very familiar with.
To take the view that the minister has and look at this in isolation without analyzing a department like the Yukon Housing Corporation is very, very foolish, because there are going to be a lot of additional costs associated with these workers at the Yukon Housing Corporation who are on contract right now doing maintenance, doing retrofits, going from a contract worker to an hourly paid worker.
Does the minister not see this, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, an independent contractor remains an independent contractor. Where Revenue Canada audits and makes a finding that someone who has characterized their business as independent contracting when, in fact, there is an employer-employee relationship, Revenue Canada will disallow the deductions. That causes harm to the parties and that is an expense to the parties.
What we want to try and avoid is people not respecting the law. An independent contractor has the ability to remain as an independent contractor. Contract workers, in this amendment, will be defined as people who meet the definition of an employment relationship.
Mr. Jenkins: The minister just doesn't get it, Mr. Chair - just doesn't get it. Start looking at the economies that are thriving today in Canada. Start looking at Alberta. Start looking at how well that section is doing with respect to, let's take, the legal profession, where a lot of the individuals involved in that profession do a lot of that work at home. They contract their services and, prior to that, they used to have to get up and do the whole nine yards, and go down to the office. Today, more and more of these individuals are choosing to work in their home, as a home-based business. It's a growing field.
Start looking at the oil and gas industry. Virtually all those individuals - not all of them, but a good deal of the individuals - in the geological, in the analysis and the development end of it, are all working on contract. All the major oil companies, a number of years ago, laid off most of their workers in a downturn. Now they hire them back on contract, as contract workers, for six, eight, 10, 12 months, for long periods of time, sometimes, Mr. Chair, to fulfill that void.
We're trying to interest that industry in coming to the Yukon, so what kind of a mixed message are we sending out there? We've got the Minister of Economic Development going out, encouraging the oil industry to come up here, and now we have labour standards saying, "Well, these are the rules up here; they're different from Alberta." Why should they be? Why should they be different? It sounds like we're creating another double standard. This one standard is good for the government, and this one standard is good for private industry.
Why is the minister creating a double standard in the Yukon, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, we're not creating a double standard in the Yukon. The people who the Member for Klondike is describing would in fact meet the present common-law test as employees and be considered as employees. Alberta uses the common-law test of employees that is defined at length in the employment relationship booklet that I provided to the members opposite yesterday. Where there is economic dependency and subordination, the common-law test finds that they are employees.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I didn't hear another answer that I was looking for in the minister's response to the Member for Klondike. I was looking for the minister to respond and say that the Government of Yukon, on a department by department, Crown corporation by Crown corporation basis, had examined this legislation to ensure its own compliance, and I didn't hear the minister give that reassurance.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, I would refer the member to a couple of points. One is that the Crown corporations did participate in the Yukon hire commission discussions and in the implementation plan for Yukon hire. In addition, as I have been explaining to this House, the definition of contract worker, which provides for the common-law tests of economic dependence and subordination to come into effect, is one that is presently met.
Ms. Duncan: No one is disputing - certainly from this caucus. We already dealt with the issue of the definition of a contract worker in second reading. We had the reassurance from the minister that the definition doesn't go farther than the existing case law. The minister said over and over in response that the definition meets the common-law test. I understand that point.
I'm asking if the government has gone through the departments. Have they gone through the contract registry? Have they ensured that contractors in service to the Yukon Housing Corporation have met with this definition? Do they plan to do it later? Is there going to be another review?
All I'm asking is, does the Government of Yukon ensure its own compliance with this legislation? What will happen if we're not - the minister has stood and said there are penalties - is that the Government of Yukon will be required to pay a penalty. And I'm asking is if we have ensured that all activities in the name of the Government of Yukon comply with this legislation?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: The provisions of the Employment Standards Act that will come into effect for various contracts where contract workers are hired are that employers keep records, that they pay their employees on a regular basis, that minimum standards in employment are established, and that leave provisions are followed.
These standards are ones that departments are aware of, and they will ensure that contractors are aware of them, as well. We have held discussions with various business and labour organizations about amendments to the Employment Standards Act. We have provided information about the government implementation on this particular amendment as a result of the Yukon hire commission to the public at large, and to business and labour groups, as well as to government.
Ms. Duncan: Well, Mr. Chair, we're not getting anywhere on that question.
I would like to ask the minister - she has responded in her opening remarks to questions asked by the Member for Riverside and the Member for Riverdale North. I didn't hear any indication as to whether or not the material that I had asked for last evening would be provided, and in what time frame.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, the member indicated that she was looking for further background information on the Yukon hire commission report. I told her at the time that I would see what records were available. I understand that some records have gone up to the archives, and we will get back to her and see what is available.
Chair: I see no further debate.
On Clause 1
Clause 1 agreed to
On Clause 2
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I move
THAT Bill No. 53, entitled An Act to Amend the Employment Standards Act, be amended in clause 2 at page 2 by adding after the expression "is amended" the expression "by numbering the existing section 69 as subsection 69(3) and".
Chair: Is there any debate on the amendment?
Ms. Duncan: Oh, not on the amendment, on the section.
Amendment agreed to
Chair: Is there any further debate on clause 2?
Ms. Duncan: Yes, Mr. Chair. Could I ask for clarification from the minister? The section says that, "Any person may make a complaint that an employer has violated or is violating this act." In section 2, "A person who knowingly makes a false complaint commits an offence."
I'm just concerned that there is no safeguard against capricious or malicious complaints. A capricious complaint ties up a small business and it ties up the Employment Standards Board, the director of labour services, and it could be malicious. It may not be false or it may not be entirely untrue, but it could be malicious in its intent. I'm just concerned that there are no safeguards in that respect.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, clause 2 of this section, "A person who knowingly makes a false complaints commits an offence" does create an offence and provides a consequence to a third party for filing a vexatious complaint or for filing a complaint in bad faith. The director of employment standards can dismiss a complaint and the penalty for an offence is to a maximum of $10,000.
Chair: Does clause 2 carry as amended?
Clause 2 agreed to as amended
On Clause 3
Clause 3 agreed to
On Clause 4
Clause 4 agreed to
On Clause 5
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I have an amendment on clause 5. I move
THAT Bill No. 53, entitled An Act to Amend the Employment Standards Act, be amended in clause 5 on page 5 by deleting clause 5 and its heading and substituting for it the following heading and clause:
"Section 89 amended
"5. Subsections 89(3), (4) and (5) of the said act are repealed."
Mr. Phillips: Maybe the minister would explain what she's doing here. I mean, the minister brought the bill into the House. Did we do something earlier that caused the minister to change her mind on what she's doing in the bill, or was this just another one of those drafting errors, and we're dealing with it now on the floor of the House?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: This amendment requires unanimous consent. The board's authority to assess a 10-percent penalty against an employer will not be required because all certificates for wages will have an administrative fee attached upon issuance.
The amendment refers back to section 89(3). Sections 89(4) and 89(5) are also no longer necessary, as the Employment Standards Board will no longer assess penalties, and so 89(3), (4) and (5) may all be repealed.
Chair: Does the minister have unanimous consent to move this amendment?
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I'm confused, because in my quick reference to the Statutes of the Yukon, section 89 of the Employment Standards Act talks about the board.
I must have the old act, so could we have the act that we're repealing in front of us?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I have a copy of the Employment Standards Act, as it's amended, and I believe that the member is looking at an older version of the bill. There is a red flag notating sections 89(3), (4) and (5).
Sections 89(3), (4) and (5) deal with the assessment of penalties. That section is being repealed, as we are now creating an administrative sanction.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, can we have a moment to consider this before responding to the minister regarding unanimous consent?
Chair: Is it the members' wish to take a brief recess now?
Some Hon. Members: Yes.
Chair: Committee will recess for 10 minutes.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: The amendments before the House deal with section 89(3). Section 89(3) is being repealed in clause 5. The board's authority to assess a 10-percent penalty against an employer will not be required, because all certificates for wages will have an administrative fee attached to them when they're issued.
Sections 89(4) and 89(5) refer to section 89(3). I therefore have brought forward an amendment to remove both 89(4) and 89(5) from the bill, just to make them cleaner. This could have been removed in the continuing consolidation of statutes; however, I brought forward this amendment in order to clearly remove all the clauses that refer to section 89(3), which is being repealed.
Chair: Just to clarify, does the minister have unanimous consent to move this amendment?
All Hon. Members:Agreed.
Chair: Unanimous consent has been granted.
Mr. Phillips: We will be supporting the amendment brought forth by the minister, because, of course, all it does is tidy up the bill a bit.
I can't leave this issue, though, without making some comments. Mr. Chair, we have seen a litany of amendments like this come through the House in this session in the bills that we've had before us - one after the other after the other after the other - cleaning up the drafting in the bill.
Mr. Chair, I know how bills are put together. The people in the department, in the employment standards branch, would have had a look at this. They would have had a hand in drafting it. The lawyers in the Department of Justice in the drafting section would have looked at it. It would have gone to the Cabinet Committee on Legislation, which is comprised of the minister and several of the minister's aids and others who sit on that committee to look, clause by clause, at these bills, and then it is looked at by the minister in final approval when she signs it off, and then it comes to the House and is tabled by the minister.
I guess what I'm saying, Mr. Chair, is that we're wasting a lot of time of the House in cleaning up poor drafting. I hope that the minister gets a handle on it, because they can't expect us as members to be going through this bill with a fine-tooth comb, especially in light of the fact that many of the bills have been presented on one day and debated the next.
In many cases, where we're asking for people's opinions on some of the bills, and get them back at the last minute to try and deal with the bill, because we're rushing it through, it's unfair. It's unfair to those people having to look at the bills, and it's unfair to us as members of the Legislature. I guess the last comment I'd make is that it's kind of a sad note to all of this that the only amendments that the minister seems more than willing to accept in her bills coming before the House involve problems that have arisen in her own department, that they haven't caught, that have ended up on the floor of the House. When we bring an amendment forth from somebody in the community who's concerned about the bill, we're shot down, and the minister says she's not interested in changing anything.
But the record will show, and the members can go through it, that probably 95 percent of the amendments that have been accepted by this minister are amendments that the minister has brought forth herself, which are a result of poor drafting of the bills in the first place.
So I just leave that with the minister: the minister has got to do her job, the Cabinet Committee on Legislation has got to do its job, the drafters have got to do their job, and the originating department has got to do its job, before we get it into the House here, so we're not trying to go through this thing and sort it out, with breaks and everything else, to try and find out where we're going with this legislation.
I'd just ask the minister to spend a little more time on it in future.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, for the record, I'd just like to state that it is difficult to try to go through legislation on the floor of the House, and the time frame for legislation presented to opposition caucuses has been very short. These are complex pieces of legislation and I would just like to ask the minister and her Cabinet colleagues and caucus colleagues to take into consideration that they, too - some of them - have served on this side of the House and some of them will serve over here again, and consideration afforded to members over here would be appreciated.
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Chair, one last comment before the minister rises. Suggestions have been made by the Member for Riverside and myself as well that maybe the minister should look more seriously at a similar type of process as they have in the federal government, where there's a legislative committee that maybe meets less informally with the staff and the departments when the bill is in its drafting stage and we get to go through it, and everyone's more aware of it. Included in that might even be some of the user groups that might be affected by the various bills.
That way, it might sometimes take a little longer to get some of the bills into the House, but certainly, in most cases, we in the opposition would feel more comfortable in supporting the bill and would be part and parcel of helping to put some of the legislation together.
I think that's done in the federal process, and it works very well. We'd be willing, certainly from the official opposition side of the House, to partake in those kinds of exercises - more importantly in acts such as the Employment Standards Act or the property act that we dealt with and the estate act, some of those ones that are more technical in nature. I think it might be a useful process to go through.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: As the members might anticipate, I have a couple of comments to make in response to their suggestions and criticisms.
The Department of Justice and the Yukon government have accommodated comments and recommendations from the public during the development of legislation. As well, Mr. Chair, I have accommodated amendments from members opposite where they have made good arguments, and we have made amendments to bills.
The normal practice in all legislatures and indeed, the practice of Mr. Phillips when he was serving as the minister, is that legislation, when it is introduced and read in the House for a first time, becomes public for the first time.
I've also indicated, with rare exceptions, where there has been a complete discussion on, as an example, the Workers' Compensation Health and Safety Act.
Mr. Chair, the members have put forward, as well, a request for all-party discussion of bills in advance of coming to the House.
I recognize that there may be ways to improve the legislative process, both internally to government and at a political level. There haven't been changes made to that by the member opposite when he was in that position. Nonetheless I am prepared to sit down and discuss that with the opposition.
I might also add, Mr. Chair, that the member who has been making criticisms has also requested that we accommodate many insignificant changes to the Human Rights Act, which were received just last week, and that we bring those forward before the end of this session.
Mr. Chair, I think that would be a disservice to the thoughtful look that the legislation deserves.
Amendment agreed to
Clause 5 agreed to as amended
On Clause 6
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, could the minister just provide us with the background as to why "once every three years" was chosen? Was there a particular reason for three years? Was this the direct result of consultation during local hire? What's the reasoning behind the time frame?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Section 6 is because of a recommendation of the Yukon hire commission to ensure that the fair wage schedule receives regular review - and also a recommendation from the Employment Standards Board.
Clause 6 agreed to
On Clause 7
Clause 7 agreed to
Title agreed to
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I move that you report Bill No. 53 out of Committee with amendment.
Motion agreed to
Chair: Committee will now turn to Bill No. 52, Miscellaneous Statute Law Amendment Act (1998).
Bill No. 52 - Miscellaneous Statute Law Amendment Act (1998)
Chair: Is there any general debate?
For clarification, let's refer to these clauses by title.
On Consumer Protection Act
Consumer Protection Act agreed to
On Enduring Power of Attorney Act
Enduring Power of Attorney Act agreed to
On Historic Resources Act
Historic Resources Act agreed to
On Mechanics Lien Act
Mechanics Lien Act agreed to
On Nursing Assistants Registration Act
Nursing Assistants Registration Act agreed to
Title agreed to
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I move that Bill No. 52, entitled Miscellaneous Statute Law Amendment Act (1998), be reported out of Committee without amendment.
Motion agreed to
Bill No. 70 - An Act to Amend the Human Rights Act
Chair: Committee will now turn to Bill No. 70, An Act to Amend the Human Rights Act. Is there any general debate?
Mr. Cable: There were a number of issues raised in second reading and one of them was related to the contents of a letter from the Yukon Council on Disabilities, which the minister received this morning. I would have to get on the record as agreeing that I don't think there should be instant amendments to the act. I think that's very unwise. But it appears, from what this letter says, which I think the minister has received, that what is being asked for is a workshop amendment, if we could term it that.
The writer of the letter, Wendy Springford, the chair of the Yukon Council on Disabilities suggests that the duty under the act to provide accommodation, for example, to people with mental disabilities would be required under the act, given the Charter of Rights and various court decisions, and that the amendment they're asking for is simply a cleanup amendment.
Does the minister agree with that proposition?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, Mr. Chair, first of all, we believe that people with mental disabilities are already protected under our human rights legislation. Mental disability is a prohibited ground for discrimination in section 6, and it is also defined in section 34 of the Yukon Human Rights Act.
There have been Supreme Court of Canada cases dealing with the duty to provide for people with special needs, and a court may read in this protection.
That being said, it would be a significant amendment to the Human Rights Act, and it is not one that I can support as being done quickly. I think we need to ensure that all parties who may be affected by this amendment understand what it means and have an opportunity to comment on it.
Mr. Cable: The minister's giving a mixed message. She's saying in one breath that the courts would read in what is being requested by way of amendment and, in the next breath, is saying that it's something more than a simple workshop amendment, that it's a substantive amendment and requires consultation.
If, in fact, the courts would read in the inclusion of mental disability in section 7(1), by virtue of what's said in section 6, why don't we simply clarify it so that, when people pick the act up in their hands - you know, employees or tenants - and they have mental disability, they would know that they're covered. They wouldn't have to rely on reading Hansard, which many of them probably have never heard of.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I indicated that the courts may read in those provisions to the act. That does not mean that we can accommodate an overnight request to change the bill and to add a new section about protection and the nature of protection.
Mr. Cable: Okay, just for the record and for the future then, what the minister is saying is that the courts are not definitive on that provision. The courts may read in the verbiage "or mental" between "physical" and "disability" and that it should be at some juncture cleared up. Is that what she's saying or is she saying that the courts will, in fact, read in what I think she had said would arise by virtue of comparing section 6 to section 7?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, what I said is the courts may read in that protection. We do not know what a court may or will do. I think that it is important that the statute be amended and provide for opportunity for public education and public comment on the implications of that potential amendment.
Mr. Cable: Okay, are we getting a commitment from the minister, then, that the revision of section 7, for purposes of clarification at least, is on her docket of proposed amendments to the Human Rights Act that are going to be discussed at the time that hate literature and violence against women are discussed?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I indicated in my second reading speech and in letters to the Human Rights Commission and other groups that wrote to me about proposed amendments to the Human Rights Act that I was prepared to bring forward a public discussion on the additional amendments that have been requested. Those amendments include violence against women as a prohibitive ground for discrimination, the duty to accommodate, which is in section 7, as the member knows, and the harm caused by hate literature.
We need to build consensus across the territory for these progressive changes. I'm very encouraged today to hear both opposition parties supporting those proposed amendments. There are complex legal issues that require public discussion so that all Yukon people can clearly understand the reason for the proposed amendments.
Our government will consider the possibility for those amendments for possible inclusion in the fall of 1999 legislative session, after there has been public discussion on them over the course of the next year.
Mr. Cable: Just for the record, what public discussion, other than the debate in the House, took place in relation to the amendment that's in the act before us now?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, the amendment that's before us now, as we were discussing at second reading, adds the source of income as a prohibited ground for discrimination to the Human Rights Act. This amendment is a result of a motion that was debated in this House and which received unanimous consent from all political parties represented in this House.
We also held meetings with representatives of the Yukon Human Rights Commission, anti-poverty and social justice groups, women's organizations, chambers of commerce, labour groups and the Association of Yukon Communities.
Mr. Cable: On another issue, the hate literature issue - and this was brought up in second reading - the minister will recollect that the Human Rights Commission appeared before the House on March 20, 1995, when the minister was in opposition. It was shortly after that, I think, when somebody had written into the paper with very derogatory comments about a female City of Whitehorse councillor, and it described that councillor, to quote the minister's words at the time, as a "femi-Nazi, lesbian-backed carpetbagger who should pack up and go back where she came from." This is a quote from the letter that was in the paper.
The minister quoted that, and she was asking the question, "Would that be an example of what would be captured by the addition of hate literature as a prohibited ground of discrimination? The executive director at the time said, "Yes, that is precisely what would be addressed, similar to the amendment to the British Columbia Human Rights Code, that is considered hate literature, vis-à-vis publications."
The minister went on. "The commission referred to a number of examples that they had compiled in preparation of coming here this evening. How many of these kinds of publications do they normally encounter from people inquiring about them? There have been enough to compel us to ask for an amendment to be considered to the act." And the conversation went on for a few more lines.
Why, if the minister, at that time, seemed to be expressing - and rightfully so, in my view - a considerable umbrage about the type of comment that had been put in the paper - why hasn't she moved up the hate literature amendment to the act a lot quicker than what she has? Why hasn't she put this out for discussion? She's had two years to get at the hate literature amendment to the Human Rights Act?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: When we held discussions with the groups that I just listed for the member - and I won't repeat the list - about source of income as a prohibited ground of discrimination, we also talked to groups about a potential amendment to include hate literature.
What we learned from the public discussions is that people's views on that issue are very complex. Mr. Chair, I believe that we do need to include hate literature in an amendment to the Human Rights Act. However, we heard very contradictory messages from the public about the extent and the nature of a potential amendment on hate literature.
It's clear that some work is done to educate the public and to build a consensus on the potential amendment to the Human Rights Act on hate literature, and what that will look like. Our decision in government is to take the time to do that properly.
We started out with a unanimous consent to amend the Human Rights Act to include source of income. We consulted, as well, on hate literature, because that is something that has been discussed in this legislature before and brought to our attention by the Human Rights Commission.
Because we did not find a clear consensus in the community, we made the decision to take some time to discuss it further with the public and to bring forward amendments in the future.
Mr. Cable: Were these views that the minister received against hate literature in principle, or were they against the methodology for bringing it forward?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, the comments that we received had to do with the scope and the breadth of the provision on hate literature. Nobody made a case for justifying hate literature. People did talk about the scope of an amendment. Some were content with the threshold set by the Supreme Court of Canada for hatred or contempt. Others preferred to look at hate literature in terms of how much harm could be inflicted on someone by behaviour that dehumanizes or stigmatizes a person.
Mr. Cable: Just out of curiosity, when did these opposing views - if I could call them that; not opposing views, but views that give the minister some pause - first arise?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, Mr. Chair, there have been opposing views expressed since the Yukon Human Rights Act was first brought forward and debated in the Yukon in 1987.
There have also been different views expressed in 1995, when the Human Rights Commission was present in this Legislature and when there have been various comments made by the public and by groups and organizations in society. Specifically on the discussions in relation to the amendment before us and the potential for including hate literature at the present time, there have been comments received over the last three or four months.
Mr. Cable: If views have been expressed, expressing reservations on the scope of the hate literature legislation, or if they've been known for many years - I think that's what the minister said; she indicated there were some additional views received in the last three or four months - why wasn't this put out for public consultation many, many months ago to see if we could resolve these differences?
The minister spoke very forcefully in March of 1995 on this issue, and well if I can say that. Why hasn't it moved to the top of her agenda?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, as the member knows and as I believe some of the opposition parties have been commenting about, we have an ambitious agenda before us during this legislative session. We have a number of pieces of legislation that deal with family property and support, with maintenance enforcement, and we've held discussions on a number of subjects.
The decision of government to consult on the proposed amendment to the Human Rights Act was based on the debate that was held in this House in April of this year, and which saw unanimous support for source of income as a prohibited ground of discrimination.
I have indicated in the House that we are prepared now to take some time to do further public discussions about the broad range of amendments that have been suggested by various parties, and we do have time to do that left in the mandate of this government.
Mr. Cable: What is the position of the Human Rights Commission at the present time? The minister will be aware that in March of 1995, the commission wanted an amendment to cover hate literature. I think that had been the position also of the commission, if I recollect correctly, when they first appeared before the House during the last government's administration in December of 1993. Is there still a position, to the minister's knowledge, that they want hate literature covered and have they expressed any reservations?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, I believe that the member opposite is well aware of the position of the Yukon Human Rights Commission. I have a copy of the letter from the Yukon Human Rights Commission that was sent to me on November 26 about proposing amendments to the Yukon Human Rights Act. That letter was copied to the member opposite so I know that he has a copy of it and that letter also requested that we consider an amendment on hate literature.
Mr. Cable: Yes, it's my recollection that the Human Rights Commission has been fairly consistent over the years that this issue should be addressed in some fashion. Could the minister give us a legislative return telling us what groups were contacted with respect to hate literature - not the other grounds, but with respect to hate literature - and what their views were as expressed to the minister or her officials?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, I am happy to tell the member the groups that have been contacted with regard to the amendments. They include the Human Rights Commission, Kaushee's Place, the transition home, the Victoria Faulkner Women's Centre, the Yukon Status of Women's Council, the Yukon Aboriginal Women's Council, the Council for Yukon First Nations, the Yukon Federation of Labour, the Yukon Chamber of Commerce, the Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce, the Association of Yukon Communities, the Anti-Poverty Coalition, the Social Justice Committee, the Whitehorse Christian Ministerial Association, the Skookum Jim Friendship Centre, the Ecumenical Group for Social Justice and the Whitehorse Correctional Centre chaplain.
Mr. Chair, some of those groups have sent letters to me in support of various amendments and have provided copies of those to members opposite. I believe that if other groups want to express an opinion publicly about the potential human rights amendments, whether it's on hate literature or on any other subject, they can do so on their own behalf. I won't speak for them.
The member can also talk to those groups or other groups, as he wishes.
Mr. Phillips: As I said in second reading, we will certainly be supporting this amendment to the Human Rights Act.
The minister said earlier in her comments that she had sent a response to the various groups that have sent her letters recently - I believe the Human Rights Commission, the Victoria Faulkner Women's Centre, Kaushee's Place and others. I just wonder if the minister could provide us with copies. Am I correct? Did the minister say that she had sent a response to the requests that people had made? And could I get copies of those?
My understanding from what the minister has said here today is that this is it for the Human Rights Act this time, but the minister is prepared to look at some type of consultation over the next 12 months. Is the minister giving us some assurances that 12 months from now or 11 and one-half months from now, when we come back in here to deal with legislation, we will be dealing with amendments to the Human Rights Act? Is it one year we're talking about that we're putting this off, or does the minister see it going longer than that?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, what I am proposing is that we initiate public discussions and attempt to conduct those over the period of the next year for possible inclusion in the fall of the 1999 legislative session.
In addition, in response to the member's first question, the letters from the Human Rights Commission and from other groups were received late last week. Some letters came in on Wednesday, some on Thursday and some on Friday. This morning, I signed letters of response, and the letters that were copied to Mr. Phillips and Mr. Cable in my letter of response, I have copied my response to them. They will be receiving those responses.
Mr. Phillips: Well, Mr. Chair, I would appreciate receiving any letters that the minister is sending to any group that she's consulting with respect to the Human Rights Act, if it's possible to get copies of those letters. I don't think it's confidential stuff, that people are asking for possible changes to the act. It would be useful to have that information. So I'd ask the minister for that, as well.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: As I believe the member is aware, the letters seeking public comment on the amendments to the Employment Standards Act and, indeed, to many other acts that have been brought forward in this legislative session, have been provided to the members opposite, and we will continue to do so. We encourage their support and participation in legislative amendments.
On Clause 1
Clause 1 agreed to
On Clause 2
Clause 2 agreed to
Title agreed to
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, I move that you report Bill No. 70 out of Committee without amendment.
Motion agreed to
Chair: Committee will now proceed to Bill No. 68.
Bill No. 68 - Territorial Court Act
Chair: Committee will recess for two minutes.
Chair: I will now call Committee to order.
On Bill No. 68, is there any general debate?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: There were a number of questions raised in second reading, and I have some information available for the members on that.
Most of the questions were in relation to the new Judicial Council. The Judicial Council could potentially serve to educate the general public about its role in a number of ways, such as speaking at meetings. How it would do so would be up to the council. The council could also choose to provide general information about the court system in the Yukon and, again, this clause was placed in the bill to provide the council with the flexibility to serve in an educational capacity in a manner that it sees fit.
The way the bill is structured, it can serve in a variety of ways, as long as the principle of the independence of the court is not compromised.
Of the total number of members of the Judicial Council, government only appoints two members. The courts and the justices of the peace also make appointments, as do the Law Society and the Council of Yukon First Nations. An additional member may be appointed upon the council's recommendation. This was a recommendation that came out of the Hughes inquiry and represents an appropriate balance.
In my view, we have gone a long way toward making the Judicial Council a more representative organization. The bill proposes a total of eight members of the Judicial Council, with the possibility of appointing a ninth member.
There are limits on the number of government appointees. They can't all be lay people. A decision of Mr. -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: The Member for Riverdale North is asking why, and I believe the member is very well aware of the constitutional and the legal provisions that do set some parameters around this process.
A decision of Mr. Justice Vertes from the Northwest Territories limits the power of government to appoint members to the Judicial Council. The main thrust of that decision was that government cannot control the membership of the council, and must nominate less than half of the council.
There is also case authority, which indicates that the number of lay members cannot outnumber the judicial and legally trained members; otherwise it may be a back-door attempt by a government displeased with judicial decisions to undermine the court's independence.
In the Yukon, out of the full-time members of the Judicial Council proposed in this bill, at least four will be from the legal profession. There could be five, depending on the choice of Yukon First Nations.
The Judicial Council may also establish guidelines or recommendations in relation to training for the judiciary and for JPs.
Depending on the subject - for example, there may be training recommended on the dynamics of family violence - the cost could be minimal. They could be delivered by the family violence prevention unit within the Department of Justice.
There were also suggestions made by the Canadian Bar Association, and I have provided the members opposite with a copy of my response to the CBA. I want to thank the Yukon branch of the Canadian Bar Association for their prompt and thoughtful comments. I would also make the point that the Canadian Bar Association did submit a brief to Ted Hughes when he conducted his inquiry, and that a number of the comments that they have made in their brief to Hughes formed part of the recommendations to government and formed part of the bill before us, as the legislation was drafted.
There were a number of suggestions that I would characterize as style or presentation changes, some where we believe that the wording we have included in the bill actually accomplishes what the Canadian Bar Association is suggesting it should example.
There was also a suggestion that only legally trained persons should be appointed as presiding justices of the peace. We have followed Hughes' recommendation and significantly limited the authority that a presiding JP can exercise. We do not agree with the CBA's suggestion that only a legally trained person should be allowed to fulfill presiding functions. We want to encourage communities to establish community justice committees, and we believe that these will work most effectively if there are JPs living in the community who can sit with the committees.
The member also asked about the appointment of judges for a term. Although this was a suggestion made to the Hughes commission, further consideration of the matter revealed that it would be cost-prohibitive for pension purposes. The proposal was not addressed in Mr. Hughes' report. There is also no jurisdiction in Canada in which full-time judges are appointed for a specific length of time, unless it is a supernumerary appointment.
There was a question about sabbaticals for judges. I believe that I've already answered most of that question when I pointed out that it is expected that the sabbaticals will no longer be paid. However, that is a matter before the Judicial Compensation Commission. As members know, matters related to judicial benefits are properly before that commission.
I would like to provide some additional information about the cost of deputy judges. If we use a deputy judge who is currently serving as a judge in another jurisdiction, we only pay the expenses of that judge. When a judge comes to the Yukon for a year - for example, to sit as a deputy judge - the situation is somewhat different. We do pay the judge's salary and moving expenses, but we do not pay expenses. Under the regime proposed in the new Territorial Court Act, these costs will be covered by the salary of the judge who is absent without pay.
For the information of the members, the Yukon and the Northwest Territories are the only jurisdictions in Canada where judges have been entitled to paid sabbaticals. With the changes in this bill, Yukon judges will lose that entitlement but will continue to be entitled to sabbaticals without pay.
There are at least six other jurisdictions in Canada where judges are entitled to take sabbaticals without pay or by using a salary-deferred leave plan.
There was a question about the number of hours that a judge actually spends on the bench and whether we can do a study similar to the one done in Manitoba. The study in Manitoba was done with the cooperation of the judiciary.
I would be prepared to raise the question with the Chief Judge, using the new procedures for communicating with the court in this act. I would support proceeding with such a study, so that we can have some measure of our efforts to deal with matters in the communities.
The Yukon courts do not have a serious backlog. In Territorial Court, guilty pleas and sentencing can be handled very quickly. We have docket courts weekly.
A criminal trial in Territorial Court will normally take three or four months to the trial date but it may be sooner. Quite often, it is defence counsel who wish time to review particulars, interview clients and witnesses and speak to the prosecutor. This, in turn, depends on a number of factors, such as whether the accused has been detained in custody, the expected length of the trial and the availability of both counsel and witnesses.
The length of time for criminal matters to go to trial in Supreme Court is affected by those same factors, and the average time to trial is a little longer, about four months.
We have not done a detailed comparison of the times in other jurisdictions, but generally the responses we receive in the court registry is that, in the Yukon, we do very well.
Questions were asked about the current training of JPs. JPs are appointed by the Chief Judge, and they have a training program that is overseen by the Chief Judge. Under the new act, the supervising judge will be responsible for the supervision and the training of all JPs and have the authority to refer any concerns about training to the Judicial Council.
In addition, in the new act, the Judicial Council, after consulting with the minister and the Chief Judge, may consider and recommend such training as it considers appropriate.
The Member for Riverside also asked a question in relation to the Judicial Council being independent in the same manner as the ombudsman and the Human Rights Commission.
The Judicial Council plays an important role in the justice system, but it is not the body that holds an inquiry into a serious matter. That is referred to an independent adjudicative tribunal, known as the Judicial Conduct Tribunal, and this will be a deputy judge of the Supreme Court.
There was a suggestion that the wording in front of us does not ensure adequate female representation. I've given a good deal of thought to this suggestion. It is a matter that concerns me that our full-time bench presently is not representative.
However, on balance, I am satisfied that the gender-neutral term "demographic" is more inclusive. I want to ensure that the wording could include such groups as people with disabilities and of different races.
Another subsection of the act - in 9(c)(viii) - allows me to request in writing that the council take into account "any additional criteria that the Minister considers appropriate in the public interest". The act obliges the minister to advise the Judicial Council in writing of those additional criteria.
There is nothing that would prevent the Canadian Bar Association, members opposite or any other interest group or individual from suggesting that that section be used to deal with an issue they feel is important, such as gender balance on the bench. I would welcome such input.
We trust the courts and the legal communities to protect the fundamental rights and freedoms of people and to apply criminal sanctions, penalties and consequences. I think it would be reasonable to believe that, when members of our communities are sitting in their role as a member of a judicial council, and deciding whether they should exercise their authority to add an additional member to ensure the makeup of the council will reflect the demographics and diversity of the Yukon, that we should be able to trust their judgment.
Finally, members opposite asked for my response to the issue raised in the Law Society's letter of September 17. The primary issue raised by the Law Society in that letter related to limiting the authority of presiding or administrative justices of the peace.
The changes we have made in relation to JPs represent a significant change, while at the same time are responsive to the concerns of the Law Society.
We believe that much of the activity of the criminal justice system that currently takes the time and attention of police, courts and our correctional apparatus can be resolved in the communities. Our government believes that there is a strong need to provide communities with the necessary tools to deal with these problems in a way that experience has shown is more effective that our traditional approaches.
Simply establishing community justice committees is not enough. We need to have justices of the peace able to use a wide range of alternatives. This means JPs must receive the training that they need to do the work properly.
It is unlikely that we could achieve a goal of having legally trained officials sitting as justices of the peace in all Yukon communities.
Mr. Chair, I move that you report progress on Bill No. 68.
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Chair, just before you report progress, the minister mentioned in her comments that she's provided a copy of a response to CBA to the opposition members. Unless that was sent over in the last couple of minutes, I haven't received it and I don't believe our Liberal colleagues received it either.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I'll ensure that the members receive the letters.
Mr. Chair, I move that you report progress on Bill No. 68.
Motion agreed to
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: 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: Mr. Speaker, Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 53, An Act to Amend the Employment Standards Act, and directed me to report it with amendment.
Further, Committee has considered Bill No. 52, Miscellaneous Statute Law Amendment Act (1998), and Bill No. 70, An Act to Amend the Human Rights Act, and directed me to report them without amendment.
Further, Committee has considered Bill No. 68, Territorial Court 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.
Motion not to be placed on Order Paper
Speaker: Before adjourning the House today, the Chair wishes to inform the House that the motion which the Member for Riverdale North gave notice of today has been reviewed. It has been found to be very similar in intent and subject matter to Motion No. 13, which was debated and decided upon by the House during the current session on March 26, 1997. The motion that the Member for Riverdale North gave notice of today, therefore, will not be placed on the Notice Paper.
The time being 5:30, this House now stands adjourned until tomorrow at 1:30 p.m.
The House adjourned at 5:30 p.m.
The following Sessional Papers were tabled December 1, 1998:
An Act to Amend the Maintenance and Custody Orders Enforcement Act (Bill No. 54): French text (Moorcroft)
An Act to Amend the Private Investigators and Security Guards Act (Bill No. 67): French text (Moorcroft)
An Act to Amend the Wildlife Act (Bill No. 58): French text (Moorcroft)
The following Document was filed December 1, 1998:
Merger (proposed) of Superior Propane and ICG Propane: Competition Bureau to challenge (federal news released, dated December 1, 1998) (Harding)