Thursday, April 15, 1999 - 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?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I would like the House to make note of the fact that today is Law Day across Canada.
The Canadian Bar Association has sponsored this national event since 1983 to commemorate the anniversary of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The national theme of Law Day is "Access to Justice", and this year it is dedicated to the United Nations' Year of the Older Person.
The designated charity for the Law Day charity fun run is the Hospice Yukon Society.
Observing Law Day gives us the opportunity to renew our commitment to justice, and help educate the general public about their legal rights and responsibilities, and about the various organizations that make up the legal system.
This year, the Yukon branch of the Canadian Bar Association has planned school visits, a mock trial, based on the story of Goldilocks, and the ninth annual Law Day charity fun run on April 16, a CHON-FM radio show on legal myths, and a panel discussion on the proposed Youth Criminal Justice Act.
I want to pay tribute to the organizers of these Law Day events, and encourage all members of the public to participate in them.
Mr. Phillips: On behalf of the Yukon Party caucus, and the office of the official opposition, I rise to acknowledge Law Day, a day when the general public learns how the legal system works. The theme - as the minister has said - of this national event is "Access to Justice".
Each year, Law Day provides governments, bar associations and legal groups an opportunity to reach out to people, and to raise awareness about our legal rights and responsibilities as citizens and to recognize the role of justice in our legal system.
Since Confederation, our laws, our courts, our Constitution and the way that justice is delivered have all been changed. Throughout the years, however, one thing that has remained constant is that of the people's expectations of a legal system that defends a basic sense of decency and fairness in ensuring rights and freedoms of Canadians are protected and maintained.
Unfortunately, as recent court decisions have clearly shown, our innate sense of what is right and what is wrong is not always upheld.
Whereas laws are supposed to settle disputes, provide justice and generate order, Yukoners and Canadians at large have come to learn the hard way that the legal system is not working well.
While Law Day represents an opportunity to expand public awareness in our laws, I believe it's also an opportunity for the public to educate the defenders of our legal system, that we will not condone justice that upholds the rights of murderers and criminals to the utmost and that we will not condone the persecution of victims who are more often revictimized in the system and by the system.
Mr. Speaker, I was somewhat pleased today with the announcement that was made by the federal Justice minister to introduce a victim rights bill. I think that's a step in the right direction.
Like the laws of our country that have undergone numerous changes over the years, our legal system, like legal systems in every other jurisdiction in this country, is in need of change today.
I hope that the recent moves by the federal government and some of the innovative approaches that we're trying in the Yukon with justice issues will give hope to Yukoners to place more confidence in the future in our justice system.
Mr. Cable: On behalf of the Liberal caucus, I rise to pay tribute to Law Day, 1999. Law Day is sponsored by the Canadian Bar Association and is one of the tools that the legal profession uses to reach out to Canadians. It is a recognition by the profession that the legal system will only work well if Canadians are aware of how it works, they feel they are a part of the system, and they have confidence in it.
I had a good friend of mine tell me quite a few years ago that the reason that the legal profession was disliked was that it was a secret society. Law Day is an effort to overcome the feelings that gave rise to that remark, and I pay tribute to the local members of the profession for the efforts they are making to open up their profession and the legal system to scrutiny.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: Introduction of visitors.
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS
Mr. Livingston: Mr. Speaker, it gives me a great deal of pleasure today to rise and introduce and welcome the grade 11 students and their teacher, Mr. Wes Sullivan, from Porter Creek Secondary School. These students reside in the ridings of a number of members of this House, and who sit on both sides of this House, I might add. So, welcome, grade 11 students.
Speaker: Are there any returns or documents for tabling?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I have for tabling a booklet called Control Your Financial Future, which was published by the Women's Directorate and was released during gender equity awareness week.
Speaker: Are there any reports of committees?
Are there any petitions?
Are there any bills to be introduced?
INTRODUCTION OF BILLS
Bill No. 18: Introduction and First Reading
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Mr. Speaker, I move that Bill No. 18, entitled Second Appropriation Act, 1999-2000, be now introduced and read a first time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. Government Leader that Bill No. 18, entitled Second Appropriation Act, 1999-2000, be now introduced and read a first time.
Motion for introduction and first reading of Bill No. 18 agreed to
Bill No. 75: Introduction and First Reading
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I move that Bill No. 75, entitled An Act to Amend the Income Tax Act, be now introduced and read a first time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. Government Leader that Bill No. 75, entitled An Act to Amend the Income Tax Act, be now introduced and read a first time.
Motion for introduction and first reading of Bill No. 75 agreed to
Bill No. 76: Introduction and First Reading
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I move that Bill No. 76, entitled An Act to Amend the Legislative Assembly Retirement Allowances Act, 1991, be now introduced and read a first time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. Government Leader that Bill No. 76, entitled An Act to Amend the Legislative Assembly Retirement Allowances Act, 1991, be now introduced and read a first time.
Motion for introduction and first reading of Bill No. 76 agreed to
Speaker: Are there any further bills to be introduced?
Are there any notices of motion?
Are there any statements by ministers?
This then brings us to the Question Period.
Question re: Yukon business, agents qualifying
Mr. Jenkins: I have a question for the Minister of Government Services. The unemployment rate last month was 16.7 percent here in the Yukon, and one would think that this NDP government would be doing everything in its power to help Yukon businesses to keep operating and to employ Yukoners, but such is not the case, Mr. Speaker.
On March 10, 1999, the minister told the House that the Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce felt agents should be excluded from the definition of Yukon business, and that the chamber didn't want the definition amended so that agents would qualify.
Mr. Speaker, the Whitehorse Chamber made no such statement. They recently qualified that in a letter to the minister, which was copied to the opposition parties. So I'd like to ask the minister to rise and correct the record. Will the minister do that?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: We received the letter from the Chamber of Commerce. They have essentially suggested that they have remained neutral on it, although I can tell the member that when we discussed this, the whole question did come up and it was felt that their focus at that time was on the question of what is the definition of a Yukon business.
We've since communicated with one of the companies involved there, and we've passed on what has been suggested.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, some of the agents that this government has excluded by its definition of Yukon business have resided and have continued to do business here in the Yukon for over 40 years. Would the minister be prepared to reconsider this definition to include agents now that he knows that the Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce has not taken a position against those types of classifications of business being included?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: It is certainly something I can raise with the Chamber of Commerce if they feel that there needs to be greater clarification. I know that they have had some discussions with some of the companies involved as well, so perhaps they would like to express something in that regard. We have worked with the Chamber of Commerce in trying to refine the definition to meet their needs, but if they wish to discuss it to a further degree, we're certainly open to that.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, their letter was very, very clear in that regard, but further to that, how does this government hope to reduce business red tape when it has accepted all of the 40 recommendations of the Yukon hire commission report? Recently, the minister's picture was taken beside a red tape thermometer. Given this government's growth of red tape, if the minister's picture was now taken, he'd have to be on the top of an extension ladder to get his photo in the picture.
Could the minister actually outline what his government has accomplished with respect to red-tape reduction?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Mr. Speaker, I'm very happy to. We brought in the regulatory code, which was a first. The previous government felt that the red tape was fine the way it was, and we felt that it wasn't. We brought in the regulatory code; we've begun a process of reviewing with the Chamber of Commerce a whole variety of regulations. We've undergone the process of sending out questionnaires to ascertain from the business community. I met just recently with the person who's coordinating that. We've got some ideas in.
We're also conducting review of superfluous - or perhaps unused - regulations with the aim of bringing those in for elimination. We're working very concertedly in this regard; we're attaching some senior staff to this project; we want to accelerate it.
Now, the member is suggesting we haven't done anything. I can tell him right now, one of the major things that happens in this government is that now, each piece of legislation, or regulation change, that comes forward to Cabinet is reviewed to see if it imposes a burden and looked at for alternative ways -
Speaker: The minister's time has expired.
Question re: Beringia Interpretive Centre, consultation
Mr. Phillips: My question is for the Minister of Tourism, on the issue of consultation on the Beringia Centre.
Mr. Speaker, yesterday the minister accused the previous Yukon Party government of not consulting when they built the Beringia Centre, which, as the minister knows, is not true. In fact, we consulted with the Tourism Industry Association, First Nations and others.
But I want to examine the minister's track record concerning consulting with respect to the recent moves he's made with the Beringia Centre. Yesterday, when I phoned the president of the Tourism Industry Association about the proposed changes at Beringia Centre, he knew nothing about them. That's consultation, I guess, in the minister's mind.
When I talked to the union representative about the employees at the centre who will be affected by a change such as this, the employees' representative knew nothing about them.
Mr. Speaker, when I talked to the private sector operator who runs the gift shop at the Beringia Centre, and asked him if he'd been consulted by the minister on any proposed changes, he knew nothing about them.
Mr. Speaker, I'd like to ask the minister, other than the MacBride Museum, who has the minister consulted -
Speaker: The member's time has expired.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I know that the Member for Riverdale North was too bent on bootlegging everything he could into his question and never got a chance to ask the question, but certainly I know, after the last few days - and certainly with the track record of the member and his consultation process - what the question would be.
First of all, I'd like to say why we're doing this. We're doing this because the minister of the day - the very unrealistic minister of the day - decided that it would be a good business. He just went out and went ahead and did 'er. He did 'er all himself. He even put together projections that said that they would pay, not only the O&M but the capital costs over a three-year period. It was very much a pipe dream, if I might say so.
Yes, we're in the very preliminary stages and have been speaking with people at the MacBride Museum and the Yukon Historical and Museums Association.
Mr. Phillips: Well, Mr. Speaker, the minister prides himself on consultation. I'd like to ask a question of the minister. If he prides himself on consultation and he was making such significant changes to the operation of the Beringia Centre, why hasn't he contacted the Tourism Industry Association, the Employees Union and the business that operates in the Beringia Centre? All these people, Mr. Speaker, are individuals who are concerned about the future of the Beringia Centre.
I'd like to ask the minister - who says he consults with everybody - why he consulted with no one except MacBride Museum?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Mr. Speaker, I'd like to again point out that this is at the very preliminary start of the process here. The member has alluded to, I guess I could say, the partners that we have to be speaking to and will be speaking to.
Certainly there is opportunity and there will be opportunity to hear the community's viewpoints. Again, I think that the member is just playing silly games here when he goes out because, certainly, we are looking to make it a meaningful part of the community and we're looking to do that through the community development system with community-based management.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Phillips: Community-based management, Mr. Speaker: consult with only those you want to consult with; don't consult with the general public.
Mr. Speaker, I'd like to ask the minister: if he thought this was so import to consult on, why didn't the minister call a meeting with all of the interested groups from the heritage community, from the tourism community, from the union representing the employees and from the individuals running the little gift store up there? Why didn't he call a joint meeting with all those individuals rather than just select one, the MacBride Museum, and start to work a deal with them? Why didn't he call a meeting with all those individuals and ask them what they felt should be done with the Beringia Centre and what the future should be for the centre?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Once more, Mr. Speaker, I'm right in the preliminary process. This government, after two and a half years, has desperately tried to make the centre work. We've put a lot of money into making the centre work. We have not abandoned it and we will not abandon it, but what we're looking for is just simply a better community-based management model.
Of course, the process has just started, Mr. Speaker, so, absolutely, we'll be speaking to TIA, we'll be speaking to the union, we'll be speaking to all of the proponents with that in our mind.
So, thank you very much, Mr. Speaker, for the opportunity to answer the question.
Question re: Beringia Interpretive Centre, access road
Ms. Duncan: I have some questions for the Minister of Tourism on the same subject regarding the Beringia Centre.
The minister announced yesterday that the NDP government was going to complete the new access road to the Beringia Centre. As of two days ago, the NDP had planned to leave an unfinished road in front of this tourist attraction. We're pleased to see that they've seen the light.
There's nothing quite like Question Period, Mr. Speaker.
The minister is in discussions with the Yukon Historical and Museums Association and the MacBride Museum Society about turning the museum over to them.
Mr. Speaker, one of the key pieces of information any volunteer board will want before they look at managing the facility is a complete financial accounting of the Beringia Centre. Will the minister make this full accounting available to the Legislature so that we can see how much money has been generated and how much has been spent?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Thank you very much again, Mr. Speaker, for the opportunity to talk about tourism and all the wonderful things that are happening in tourism.
Mr. Speaker, as you know and as the members of the House know, we've posted a 12-percent increase this year. It has been the first time since records have been started. That is due in part to the good work that this government has done, based on consultation models and based on direct action that comes from those consultation models.
Thank God for Question Period - yes, Mr. Speaker, thank God for Question Period, because it certainly gives us a chance to clean up the issues that surround us. The leader of the Liberal Party, Mr. Speaker, certainly does live in the Liberal la-la land. She knows that the money for the access road last year was put into a supplementary budget, which, of course, was not quite completed last year, because you cannot push frozen dirt around. You might be able to push a lot of other things around, but you can't push frozen dirt around to make a good road.
So certainly, Mr. Speaker, as I explained yesterday, we will be continuing on with the good work that we put in place last year on the access road, and we will do it. And yes, I will definitely keep the Legislature informed as to the process and to the accountability -
Speaker: The minister's time has expired.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, I thought that was a fairly reasonable question, and certainly any volunteer board member who is contemplating taking over the community-based management of this facility, this heritage attraction, will want that same information. It's a key piece of information - the complete financial accounting of the Beringia Centre.
Will the Minister of Tourism make this full accounting available to the Legislature so that we can see how much money has been generated and how much money has been spent at the Beringia Centre? Will he make this accounting available to this Legislature prior to the Tourism debate? And will he make that accounting available to the volunteer boards who are considering taking over this facility?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I can absolutely get appalled at some of these questions, because they're asking a question that I've already answered, Mr. Speaker, and they're assuming that a volunteer board would accept something from government without having a process in place.
I'm very pleased to say that we're going to be open; we're going to be accountable to the people of the Yukon, and mostly in part, as we go through - not mostly in part - we're going to be very accountable and upfront with the volunteer boards with the financial statements - absolutely; yes, we will; yes indeed. It's absolutely ludicrous to think that we wouldn't, and to insinuate that we wouldn't, again, is ludicrous, because it's only a part of good business that we'll continue to do this. Yes, Mr. Speaker, I will make it available.
Ms. Duncan: There are a number of issues associated with this move, and clearly, especially by that answer, the NDP's flying by the seat of their pants. If the minister has committed to providing that information to the board, is he also prepared to commit to provide that information to this Legislature prior to the Tourism debate, so that we can all see it?
Is the minister prepared to provide that information?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Well, Mr. Speaker, maybe I can say absolutely, most assuredly, yep, uh huh, yeppers. Maybe I could even say yes, for the third time in this debate.
Question re: Devolution
Ms. Duncan: My question is for the Government Leader on the deal of the century, the devolution deal.
The Government Leader has said that there are a number of issues that had to be resolved prior to the completion of the deal - issues around money to fight fires, and who pays for environmental cleanup of mines - and these appear to have been resolved, judging by the public statements.
One of the issues I've raised from the beginning - and it's an issue that the government has said very little about - is the future of the staff currently employed by the federal government.
Have the issues around the transfer of staff been resolved? Has the transfer of staff to the Yukon government been fully negotiated?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, of course, Mr. Speaker, it's not true that the government has said very little with respect to the transfer of staff. Quite the contrary. The government has taken the position that the transfer of staff must be done very carefully, must be done thoughtfully, must be done in consultation with the representatives of the workers who work in the federal government, whose positions will be transferred to the Yukon government. That work will be done before the transfer agreement is negotiated.
So we do care very deeply about the human resource issues. Those will be done competently, and carefully, in time for the transfer agreements to be signed.
Ms. Duncan: Well, Mr. Speaker, what I heard the minister say is that the work will be done competently and carefully. Can the minister tell us how this is proceeding? Has the transfer been fully negotiated? Is it partway there? Can he give any further details to the House?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, as I've indicated to the members of the House already, the transfer agreement - the monetary terms associated with the transfer - have been determined. The negotiators have signed off on the basic terms associated with the devolution of the Northern Affairs program to Yukon. The specifics of the transfer arrangement in the agreement itself - the detailed agreement itself, which will be taken to federal Cabinet, and approved by the Yukon Cabinet, and ultimately signed off by the federal minister - the detailed work on that part of the package is being done now, and will be done in time for, hopefully, signing in June of this year.
Ms. Duncan: Well, Mr. Speaker, one of the specifics is an estimate from the Government Leader that around 200 federal employees would be transferred to the Yukon government.
Can the minister confirm that number? Are we looking at transferring this number of employees to the Yukon government?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Yes, job offers for a number of employees in that neighbourhood are approximately that number. Options to transfer to the Yukon government and assume the equivalent work at the Yukon government is part of the devolution offer that the federal government has made and the Yukon government has accepted. The details of how that will be accomplished will be worked out and will be part of the final transfer agreement, as I say, to be signed by the federal minister in a couple of months.
Question re: Whitehorse Airport runway extension contract
Mr. Jenkins: I have a question for the Minister of Government Services on the issue of statutory declarations. When I asked the minister on Tuesday, April 13, about the statutory declaration concerning the Whitehorse Airport expansion contract, the minister stated, and I quote, "On this particular statutory declaration, the RCMP were contacted, and we have not yet heard back from them whether or not they intend to press forward with this issue."
Well, yesterday, Mr. Speaker, in a media report, it was revealed that the matter was only referred to the RCMP on the very day that I asked the question in the House, despite this government knowing full well that there were irregularities with this statutory declaration back last October. Were the RCMP contacted before Question Period or after Question Period, Mr. Speaker?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Inspector Clouseau is on the case. The fact is that the RCMP were contacted, and they were given the documentation for this particular case. The fact is that what the member wants us to do - I think this is kind of interesting - is that he wants us to check every case to verify that the statutory declaration is in fact valid. I can tell the member that that would slow down the process incredibly and, as a matter of fact, I don't think the Contractors Association would be particularly supportive of that.
A statutory declaration is just that. It's a legal document saying that this is in fact true. If we find out it is not true, then we follow up on it.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, Mr. Speaker, the government knew last October, when the subcontractors on this contract knew and advised the government that they weren't being paid. The government knew there were irregularities with this contractor. Why did this government wait until Tuesday of this week, after the issue was raised in Question Period, to bring this matter to the RCMP?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: The member thinks that he's really the judge and jury on this one. I can tell him that what we did do is when we became aware, we followed the procedure that is normal and the procedure is to contact the bonding agent in this case.
Now, I have here a legal opinion on the whole question of statutory declarations that we obtained on this from our lawyer, and with respect to this it says, "Contract administration should rely on a statutory declaration for the purpose of making progress payments to the contractor." That's what we've done.
It goes on to suggest that the proper procedure is for us to go to the bonding agency, which we've done in this case. That's what we did. We followed up. We ensured that the bonding company, Zurich, was aware of the problem. They, in turn, have followed up with Lindsey Morden, who is the company -
Speaker: The minister's time has expired.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, was this situation under investigation by the RCMP when the minister advised the House that it was? Is that a real position that the government took, or was it only under investigation after the issue was raised in the House here, Mr. Speaker?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Mr. Speaker, this member here seems to feel that he has to go out charging off on everything. Yesterday, he brought up a case of a company that had some problems obtaining payment over a year ago. We hadn't even been made aware of it until just a few days ago - after the extended period of time.
Now, in this case, what he's suggesting is that nothing was done. We followed the procedure. We were made aware that the subcontractors were not being paid, and we contacted the company. As a matter of fact, I advised the member that the RCMP had been contacted, and they were.
Question re: Yukon Energy Corporation, grid extension
Mr. Cable: I have some questions for the minister responsible for the Yukon Energy Corporation.
When the Yukon Energy Corporation officials appeared before the House last November, the president told us they were looking at the feasibility of expanding the grid from Mayo to Dawson, so the surplus power capacity at Mayo could be used.
Where does this issue sit? Is the minister aware of whether a decision has been made, and if not, what is the timeline that he is aware of on the decision?
Hon. Mr. Harding: The record clearly shows that the chair of the board did state that the utility was looking at, under the direction of the board, a number of prospective options for expansion of the grid, perhaps a system to try and accommodate ratepayers to a better manner in the territory, given they've lost 40 percent of their customer base with the loss of the Faro mine.
The board, as I understand from my last briefing with the chair, is still considering these particular initiatives. They're having an extensive amount of due diligence done. They're having other utilities check out the feasibility to make sure the numbers are crunched very, very well and to ensure that it is feasible. They hope to have a decision made in the next few months.
Mr. Cable: The energy commissioner, when he provided his recommendations, gave a recommendation on grid extensions and inter-ties and he said they should only be pursued if such projects would keep electrical rates affordable for Yukon electricity consumers.
The response of the government was a pretty heavy-duty line of bafflegab. It started off with, "Include the costs and benefits of electrical transmission as a crucial element of energy investment planning," and it went downhill from there.
What is the government's position? Is it the government's position that an inter-tie should not be considered if it has any negative influence on rates?
Hon. Mr. Harding: I have to dispute what the member says about our response to the commission report being baffle-gabbing. I'm surprised at his confrontational approach. Coming from the Liberal benches, it's becoming to be the norm, rather than the exception, even though they promised the Yukon public they wouldn't be confrontational - they'd be the alternative to that.
Mr. Speaker, we have indicated to the board that we do not want to see ratepayers negatively influenced by any decision that they might make with regard to any grid movement or extension. We'd like to see it done on a cost-feasible basis, so that it actually has a benefit to the ratepayer over the long haul. I believe that that's an important element of what we've been saying. We don't want to see ratepayers negatively affected, and neither do they, and the chair said that to the member opposite.
Mr. Cable: The Energy Corporation officials also told us that a grid extension from Carmacks to Mayo was being looked at. Where does that proposal sit? Has there been any preliminary analysis to determine whether it's financially viable?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, my understanding from the board here and the officials of the YEC is that that particular extension would be considerably more costly. They have done some work on it. There was some work done under the time of the previous administration on it as well. That's still available to them.
They have crunched the numbers somewhat more. They found that it is considerably more expensive, and they haven't been able to get a feasible economic report on it that they can consider recommending that makes sense to the ratepayers and the people of the territory.
But I do know that they have been looking at it, analyzing it, and seeing precisely what particular measure they may undertake, but it's going to be based on business decisions and the ability to not negatively influence ratepayers, as well as a desire to expand the system to build necessary infrastructure for future development in the territory.
Question re: Contract procedures, statutory declarations
Mr. Jenkins: I'd like to go back to the Minister of Government Services once again, on the issue of statutory declarations.
Now, the minister stated, and once again I quote, "On this particular statutory declaration, the RCMP were contacted, and we have not yet heard back from them whether or not the intent is to press forward with this issue." Was the matter under investigation by the RCMP when the minister rose in the House and made this statement?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I was advised by my department that they had contacted the RCMP; that was the information I gave the member.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, Mr. Speaker, the RCMP, in their conversations with the press, indicated that they'd only received the complaint from the Government of the Yukon that very day. Now, was the information conveyed to the RCMP that morning or that afternoon? When was it conveyed to the RCMP, Mr. Speaker?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Mr. Speaker, I'm not aware of the precise moment, but I can tell the member that when I came into this House and I advised them of the information, that was the information that was given to me by my department.
Mr. Jenkins: So the minister is relying totally on information provided by the department. He's not exactly 100 percent sure that the information is correct. Because the information that was -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Speaker: Order please. Order.
Mr. Jenkins: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. The information the minister provided the House earlier on this issue was very, very misleading, in that it conveyed to the House that it was already under investigation -
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Speaker: The Member for Faro, on a point of order.
Hon. Mr. Harding: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite just stated the information the minister provided this House was "very, very misleading". That is clearly unparliamentary, and I would ask that you ask him to withdraw it.
Speaker: The Member for Porter Creek North, on the point of order.
Mr. Ostashek: On the point of order, Mr. Speaker, the Member for Klondike is trying to get clarification as to when the RCMP were notified, because there's a real inconsistency here between what the minister is saying and what the RCMP are saying - when the investigation took place, or if it has taken place yet.
Speaker: Order please. Misleading is unparliamentary. I would ask the member to withdraw that word.
Withdrawal of remark
Mr. Jenkins: I withdraw the word with respect to "misleading".
But the information is not accurate that the minister is providing the House. It is not accurate, and it hasn't been accurate. In fact, the minister conveyed to the House that the police investigation was underway and had been underway for quite some time, when such was not the case. That is a true statement, Mr. Speaker. What is the procedure that is to be followed with respect to a statutory declaration that's known to be false?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Mr. Speaker, I did not give the impression that this had been underway for some time. I checked with my department as to what was being done. They conveyed to me that they had passed that information on to the RCMP. That's what I told the member.
Now, the member here seems to be trying to distinguish whether this happened at 10:21 a.m. or 10:25 a.m. He's merely just floating out in the air trying to chase down phantoms. This member here is out on some kind of vendetta against one particular company, I feel.
What we did was follow the procedures that we have. We have a bonding company. We went after the bonding company to inform them of what was done here. The bonding company subsequently has contacted the adjuster. The adjuster has arranged for payments to the company. Now, the member seems to want his pound of flesh. We became aware of the nature of the statutory declaration. We've informed the police there. We also sought legal advice from our own lawyers in this regard as to what steps we should be taking, and we're also advised that, if a particular individual has a case against -
Speaker: The minister's time has expired.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed. We will proceed to Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Bill No. 17: Third Reading
Clerk: Third reading, Bill No. 17, standing in the name of the hon. Mr. McDonald.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Mr. Speaker, I move that Bill No. 17, entitled Interim Supply Appropriation Act, 1999-2000 (No. 2), be now read a third time and pass.
Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. Government Leader that Bill No. 17, entitled Interim Supply Appropriation Act, 1999-2000 (No. 2), be now read a third time and do pass.
Motion for third reading of Bill No. 17 agreed to
Speaker: I declare that Bill No. 17 has passed this House.
We are now prepared to receive the Commissioner, in her capacity as Lieutenant Governor, to give assent to the bill which has passed this House.
Commissioner enters the Chamber, announced by the Sergeant-at-Arms
assent to bill
Commissioner: Please by seated.
Speaker: Madam Commissioner, the Assembly has, at its present session, passed certain bills to which, in the name and on behalf of the Assembly, I respectfully request your assent.
Clerk: Interim Supply Appropriation Act, 1999-2000 (No. 2).
Commissioner: I hereby assent to the bill as enumerated by the Clerk.
Commissioner leaves the Chamber
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
Mr. Fentie: Mr. Speaker, I move that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Speaker: It has been moved by the government House leader that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Motion agreed to
Speaker leaves the Chair
COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. Is it the members' wish to recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: Fifteen minutes.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. Committee is dealing with the Department of Justice. Is there any further general debate?
Bill No. 14 - First Appropriation Act, 1999-2000 - continued
Department of Justice - continued
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, when we recessed last evening there were a number of outstanding questions. I would like to start my reply by noting some of the observations made by the 1997 Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples. They stated: "The legitimate claims of aboriginal peoples challenge Canada's sense of justice and its capacity to accommodate both multinational citizenship and universal respect for human rights.
"Historically, the door has not been open for the just participation of aboriginal peoples and their representatives in Canada. The participation of aboriginal people as individuals, generally on the margins of society, has not met the standards of justice that the commissioners believe Canadians would wish to uphold. History also shows how ancient societies in this part of North America were dispossessed of their homelands, and made wards of state that sought to obliterate their cultural and political institutions.
"History shows that too many attempts to explain away this dispossession by legally ignoring aboriginal peoples - in effect, declaring the land terra nullius, empty of people who mattered. This is not a history of which most Canadians are aware. It is not a history of democratic participation, nor is it a history that reflects well on Canada or its sense of justice. It is essential to recognize and respect the common humanity of all people, to recognize and respect aboriginal people as people who do matter and whose history matters, not only to them but to all Canadians."
The Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples concluded that a "fundamental prerequisite of government policy-making in relation to aboriginal peoples is the participation of aboriginal peoples themselves. Without their participation, there can be no legitimacy and no justice.
"Opening the door to aboriginal peoples' participation is also a means of promoting social harmony. It is vital for Canada to be seen as legitimate by all of its inhabitants. The strength of a country like Canada, which is geographically vast and culturally diverse, rests on a commitment and mutual respect of its peoples."
The point of these excerpts from the RCAP report is not that we need to express these sentiments of reconciliation and participation but to demonstrate them in action.
The death of a young man during an arrest is a terrible thing. When it is a young aboriginal man, the tragedy is compounded by a century of dispossession and suspicion. Only by a full and open airing of the events in a manner calculated to inspire confidence by all of the members of our community will we start toward what the RCAP called a new relationship.
How can members of the aboriginal community meaningfully participate in this inquiry? Like the students in the APEC inquiry, they are, in large part, without means. All of the other players at the coroner's inquest will have legal counsel. The Solicitor-General, the officer involved, our government, the coroner's office - all will be represented by legal counsel.
The Council of Yukon First Nations has told us, and we accept it, that they cannot afford to fund, on their own, meaningful participation for themselves or the family of the deceased. That is why we have agreed to help.
As a government, we have a responsibility in the public interest to have a full, fair and open hearing with all the parties represented fairly. CYFN is an important voice that needs to be heard in this matter. Our government believes in a Yukon that is open to all of its citizens to participate in the vital questions that concern them.
This inquest is literally about life and death, but it is also about more. It is about the opportunity for a renewed relationship for all of us: governments, police, First Nations, communities.
I want to speak about the principles of having that renewed relationship. We must have mutual recognition, sharing and mutual responsibility. These were identified by the commissioners in the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples.
On the basis of these principles, it is both good sense and good public policy to work with our First Nation fellow citizens. We don't want to be cast in the role of a reluctant status quo government, disinterested in the improvement of standards in civilized life.
Look at the APEC inquiry or the inquiry on the Tsuu T'ina Reserve with the shooting death of Connie and Ty Jacobs where governments contributed to aboriginal participation only after judges recommended or ordered it.
We have a clear idea of what is the right thing to do, Mr. Chair, and we're doing it.
I want to quote from Manitoba's aboriginal justice inquiry as well. Lonnie Hebert, who is a First Nations person, said, quote, "I believe the present justice system is not fair to native people. Police and some courts are harder on native people. They think that we are big alcoholics and should be killed. As a result, police brutalize Indians when they are drunk or sober. Police verbally abuse natives. They call us down, and say that we are good for nothing, worthless bums."
From what I hear, I think we're light years away from that. Our RCMP officers in Yukon are respectful of First Nations peoples. Our RCMP officers are committed to restorative justice. They participate in circles; they work with communities; they care.
There was an issue raised last night regarding the release of the budget proposed by CYFN. After consulting with the Grand Chief, I have decided not to release their proposed budget at this time. Neither the Grand Chief nor I oppose the release of that information in due course. In fact, we will release the information after the inquest. It seems only sensible to allow the inquest to proceed first.
To do so now potentially compromises strategic decisions that the parties may wish to take in advance of the inquest. The inquest will be heard in the fall; the fall session will follow shortly thereafter. There will be plenty of opportunity to review the expenditures carefully at that time.
But doubts linger, as does the heritage of a troubled past in the case of our relationships between First Nations, our police, and mainstream society. This inquiry is an opportunity to re-examine this important issue and re-examine ourselves. We cannot put a price on that. This inquiry is not, and cannot be, about money. This inquiry is about having a full and fair hearing of the facts with all parties represented fairly at the inquest.
I must say that I'm very disturbed at the way in which both opposition parties have attempted to scandalize this issue and to introduce division and rancor to the matter before a single witness has been called. This is not likely to contribute to good relations between Yukon peoples.
The opposition have been stoking the fires of mistrust and suspicion and unnecessary alarm. They've done more in an hour of debate last night to create division than all of our efforts over the past several months to ensure a fair and open hearing in which all of the players could participate.
Mr. Chair, since the members began this line of questioning, we have had calls where the fuels of distrust and suspicion that the members were beginning last night have indeed been demonstrated. We do not want to divide this community along racial lines. What the members are doing is exactly that, and it is profoundly disturbing.
Mr. Chair, the members also asked about the review of circle sentencing. I want to speak for a moment or two about our restorative justice initiative that is underway.
Over the month of May, as the members know, I will be visiting Yukon communities to speak about restorative justice. We have released newsletters and public education documents about the restorative justice activities. We think that new approaches are required, which respect the rights of victims and which take a healing approach involving community members and repairing the harm that's caused both to the offender and to the victim, and to the communities, by criminal action.
The community justice committees presently in effect have indeed begun a further review of circle sentencing. In a recent newsletter, they requested input from the community about circle sentencing and about other alternative measures that are restorative justice initiatives. We have family group conferencing in effect. We have both pre-charge and post-charge diversion occurring in many communities and with the RCMP.
After the consultation with the public in the month of May, I also will be meeting with the new Chief Judge of the Territorial Court, who has indicated an interest and willingness in participating in a review of circle sentencing. That work will continue after we assess what we've heard and after we've had those meetings with the judiciary.
The Member for Riverdale North asked, as well, for a copy of the letter that I wrote to the Chief Judge on March 12 and the response I received on March 29 about sitting days and about the workload of the members of the bench.
I will provide a copy of those letters to the opposition critics. There is a package of information attached to that, which I will just go through.
The member had questions about Bill C-68. I have checked again with my office. We have not received any complaints relating to the administration of the firearms program. The department has checked with the personnel in the local federal firearms office, who have not received any complaints.
If we do receive any, we will forward them to the federal government, which is administering the new firearms legislation. Again, as I stated last night, we will urge the federal government to administer the program as fairly as possible.
The Member for Riverdale North, the Yukon Party critic, also had a question about whether there had been an increase in the number of mortgage foreclosures. The Supreme Court files show that there were 11 foreclosures during the 1998 fiscal year. We were unable to provide foreclosure statistics for the period prior to April 1, 1998, and will provide further information to the member if he has further questions on it.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I'd just like to -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I'd just like to take just a few moments, if I might, to comment on what I think was a very unfortunate -
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Chair: Member for Riverdale North, on a point of order.
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Chair. The normal way we conduct this debate is, we go back and forth, to the opposition members and the government members, not to go down the row in the government members and allow them all to give some speech.
Chair: Mr. Fentie, on the point of order.
Mr. Fentie: When we're in Committee, Mr. Chair, I think it has been the practise in this Legislature that all members can speak in general debate. There is no point of order here.
Chair: It is common practise for discussion to go back and forth. However, in this case, the Member for Whitehorse West stood and was recognized by the Chair.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I don't want to dwell overly long on this, but I do think that -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Sloan: We appear to have a Mexican standoff of sorts, Mr. Chair. Perhaps both the Member for Riverdale North and I can sit down while you make your ruling again.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Chair: Order please. Order please. The rules are that no member speaks until recognized. The last person recognized was Mr. Sloan.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Thank you, Mr. Chair, and I'll just speak while we have recognition.
On this particular case, I would just like to sort of express my dismay with some of the tenor of the debate that proceeded last night. I had a meeting of the Yukon Foundation last night and I was obliged to leave it because I had monitored some of the debate going on in this Legislature and I thought we were skirting with some very, very unfortunate, and, I feel, very divisive comments in this Legislature, and I feel that those comments had a tenor that I found very disturbing because this is a territory where we have enjoyed positive, and I believe constructive, relations with our aboriginal citizens for many, many years.
So much of what we do here is trying to build trust and trying to build relationships. I felt personally very dismayed when I heard some of the things that were going on, and I felt obliged at the time, in monitoring the debate, that I could not let some of that go unrecognized and that's why I chose to return to the Legislature from the meeting that I was at.
I think it reflects badly on all of us when we take a debate and take an important issue such as this and try to take it into a realm that I feel tries to divide people in this territory.
What the Minister of Justice has done is recognize some of the inherent issues facing aboriginal people, and aboriginal people coping with our Canadian justice system, and I think she's done it in a way that is, quite frankly, fairly courageous. She hasn't been obliged to do this by the courts, but she has met with some of the principals who are involved in this, primarily CYFN, and she has recognized that the justice resources available to some of our aboriginal citizens are not the same as those perhaps available to the rest of us.
Some Hon. Members: (Inaudible)
Chair: Order please. I would ask the members of the opposition to avoid casting insults across the floor of this Legislature.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Yesterday afternoon, I met for a period of time over at CYFN with some of the leadership, and some of the leadership began discussing some of the issues that they face in a social sense - issues of inequity, talking about such things as housing, health and so on.
And one of the things that was referred to in one manner was the whole question of justice, and people in the aboriginal community are very cognizant of the fact that they don't have access to the same kind of justice supports that perhaps other people do. My feeling was that I think we have to be respectful of that, and I feel that the tenor of last night's comments did not acknowledge some of those basic realities. I would hope that people, in pursuing this issue, particularly around the Timmers inquiry, would be respectful of the fact that this is an issue of tremendous import, not only to the aboriginal community here but, as we've seen by the willingness of Chief Fontaine to join us, this is going to be an issue that is going to put the justice system of this territory under the microscope, and I think we have to do what we can to make sure that that is a fair and equitable process.
I would really hope that in this Legislature and in this Chamber, we do not turn this particular issue into a political football. I was disturbed by the tenor of, as I said, what I heard last night, and I felt that I needed to at least verbalize that in this Legislature, because this is an issue that's going to be very, very emotional. It's going to be emotionally charged. I think we have to proceed with this inquiry in a way that's not only fair but that is also seen to be fair, and I would urge us not to try to polarize the Yukon community.
Mr. Phillips: What a disgraceful demonstration of a defence of an issue. Mr. Chair, here's the government - every time it gets into trouble on issues like this, it's the government itself that plays the race card. That's what this government has done. When it can't answer the questions, that's where it turns to, Mr. Chair.
The rules of debate now in this House, Mr. Chair -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Point of order
Chair: Member for Watson Lake, on a point of order.
Mr. Fentie: I would ask the Member for Porter Creek North to withdraw that remark. It's definitely a disparaging remark - no need for that in this Legislature, and you weren't up on -
Chair: Order please. There is no point of order. Mr. Phillips.
Mr. Phillips: Thank you, Mr. Chair, just another rude interruption by the Member for Watson Lake.
It's unfortunate that the government chooses this route. You've made a ruling here today on the rules of debate in this House now, Mr. Chair, that changes the whole way we do business in here. The rule now, Mr. Chair, is the first person who jumps up gets to speak. It's doesn't matter where we're going in debate, the first person who jumps up, stands up, gets to be recognized by you, Mr. Chair.
Do you know what that's going to do, Mr. Chair? That's going to totally disrupt the flow of debate in this House in the future in Committee of the Whole.
Now, that's the precedent you set here today. You've moved away from what we've done for years, Mr. Chair, where the minister stands up in debate in Committee of the Whole, makes some statements on questions that were asked last night by myself, and then you've made the ruling, Mr. Chair, that I can't stand up and respond to them, that they get to go down on the government benches in a disgraceful defence of their minister's actions.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Chair: Order please.
I would ask the member to stick to the Justice debate, and not challenge a ruling of the Chair.
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Chair, I am sticking to the Justice debate - if you had given me a chance to speak, when I was entitled to speak, Mr. Chair.
That's the issue, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Chair, this issue is an important one and it's one that a lot of Yukoners are very concerned about - First Nation Yukoners and others. It's an extremely sensitive one.
When this particular issue came out in the media, a lot of questions had to be asked and our job in this Legislature is to ask questions, specifically, Mr. Chair, when we're debating the budget, and the budget is before us here today. The money we're going to spend on this is before us here today.
We have a right - in fact an obligation - on behalf of our constituents to ask questions about matters in these budgets and the government has an obligation to answer them. That's why we're going through this exercise in the budget book.
Mr. Chair, the Member for Whitehorse West says we're polarizing. The calls I got from the general public were that the government polarized it by their actions and they wanted to know what exactly was happening. So, I asked some questions last night on what was happening.
Now, I don't have a problem with the government making a contribution to this particular issue. I think it's important that we do. It's important that we do the right thing here. It's important that the Timmers family get their fair day and get good representation. It's important that the Council of Yukon First Nations get to speak their mind, and it's important the RCMP get to defend their actions.
Mr. Chair, that's all important. My point is that, when the minister told us it was $150,000, it seemed rather excessive. I've had calls from members of the Yukon bar today, in my office, who are outraged at this expense for this particular procedure and are concerned about where the government's going and the precedents it's setting for the future for any other individual who may find themselves in a similar position.
Now I said in this House, and I'll say again publicly, that I think the Timmers family should be fairly represented and the government should possibly contribute to that. But the other point that I've made is, secondly, that this seems excessive, and is excessive, in my view and in the view of almost everybody I've talked to. And thirdly, who is applying for this legal assistance? It's the Council of Yukon First Nations - another level of government. A government, in fact, that we've been told in many cases is going to have as much, or more, power than the Government of the Yukon has - and has genuine concerns in this case, legitimately so.
Governments, in my view, should all be involved in this particular case. The federal government, the territorial government, and the First Nations governments - but on a shared basis. Mr. Chair, that's all I'm suggesting - on a shared basis. And at a reasonable figure - this figure seems quite excessive to me. I mean, we'll have to see where this goes. It may not just be two weeks, it might end up being two months or longer, or wherever. I hope, Mr. Chair, that it isn't that long. I hope it gets settled.
But the role of governments, especially when they care about an issue - an issue as significant as this - is to contribute. I mean, with C-68, Mr. Chair, the Government of the Yukon sent people down - myself and others - to speak to the senators. First Nations spent some of their money in making representation on their behalf on that issue, and many other issues in the past.
That's all I'm asking. These are the things that governments do. And I know this is extremely important to the Yukon First Nations. But they're governments as well, and they're well-funded governments. And they can contribute to something like this, as well as everyone else. This is important to them; I'm sure it is.
It's important enough to our government to contribute to make sure that there's harmony, and the minister said today that the First Nations want to contribute to harmony to solve this issue and air it so that everyone understands exactly what happened. They have a responsibility, as we have a responsibility, as the federal government has a responsibility, but I don't see that reflected in the figures that the minister gave us last night, and now the minister told us that we're not going to see the budget until after the fact, that we're going to have to vote on it first, but we're not going to see it until after the fact, and the budget amount can divulge the strategy is what I think she was commenting on. No one here has talked about the case.
The Government of the Yukon has set a $150,000 ceiling. Mr. Chair, the minister didn't divulge her strategy by that, other than the fact that they were prepared to pay a lot of money for this. I mean, I was told today by people in the legal fraternity that the average lawyer in a firm might gross $150,000 a year, not $150,000 for two weeks. I mean, the minister must think this is rather excessive, or did they just say, "Yes"?
And maybe the minister can tell us - she had an opportunity last night to look at the budget - what the contribution is from the First Nations. I mean, if it's $150,000 as well, then I guess the question is, where is all this going for an inquest that large? But it seems to me that the taxpayers of the Yukon have a right to know what's going on. We're not interfering in the case. I'm not interested in prejudging what may happen in the case - none whatsoever. I'm here to question the expenditures in this budget by this minister.
Every time I raise a question, Mr. Chair, that has something to do with a First Nations project or a First Nations and they don't like it, they play the race card. I'm tired of that. Yukoners are tired of that.
Mr. Chair, we want some answers. That's all we're asking for is some answers. The people have a right to know what the government's doing. The people have a right to know why it's costing $150,000 and why the Yukon government is paying the lion's share when there are others there who are funded equally as well or significantly well and could contribute. That's all we're asking. That's not a race question.
I know the First Nations care; I know the federal government cares and I know that the Yukon government cares, so let's see everybody be into this thing together.
Mr. Chair, the government has told us time and time again that this government is open and accountable and then today we asked for the budget on this particular issue and the government said they're not going to release the budget, that it's none of our business and they'll tell us after it's all over. Mr. Chair, that's too late to question whether it was a wise expenditure or not or whether we paid some lawyers an exorbitant fee.
I mean, doesn't the Yukon public have a right to know that the government is spending its money wisely on something like this? Doesn't the Yukon public have a right to know that all three governments - governments - are contributing to this in a fair and equal manner? That's all we're asking in this House and yet, the minister stands up here today and gives us both a lecture, the Liberal member and me, for drawing this into the racial realm.
Her party abuses the procedures in this House by not allowing the opposition members to stand up and respond - I guess because the cameras were on the Member for Whitehorse West, and he wanted to get his little dibs in there. He couldn't get into it last night, and he wanted to get into it today, to do his holier-than-thou speech. But that doesn't work. That's not going to work.
We're here to ask questions about the budget, and the minister is here to answer questions about the budget. We believe strongly that this hearing should be full and complete and everyone should be treated fairly, including the Yukon taxpayer, and those who care and those who can should contribute to getting to the bottom of this particular issue.
Mr. Chair, maybe the minister can tell us, when she rises to her feet, what percentage of the estimated cost in the budget that the Yukon government, the Council for First Nations, and anyone else, happens to be paying. Maybe the minister could give us that information.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, first of all, I'd have to tell the member that I'm very well aware that the opposition is not supporting the budget, and to stand here and pretend that they are supporting the budget is a silly fiction.
The member is questioning whether this is a wise expenditure right now. The Yukon Party critic is questioning whether the Yukon government, providing funding in the form of a contribution agreement to the Council of Yukon First Nations so that they can represent the interests of the family of the deceased, of the Kwanlin Dun First Nation, and of First Nations in the Yukon, is a wise expenditure. He says it's not. I say it is. That is the point of debate.
Accountability means the duty to provide an account. We intend to do that. I have advised the opposition of the total amount that we're exposed to and will provide an accounting after the funds have been spent. It is important. It may be less money that is spent. We have to acknowledge there's been no money spent as of yet. There's been no contribution agreement signed.
I have responded and answered all of the questions that the members have raised. The answer is that we haven't spent funds as of yet. We've indicated that we're prepared to financially support the Council of Yukon First Nations so that they can have legal representation at the coroner's inquest, as do all of the other parties - the RCMP, the individual constable, the coroner's office and the government.
Mr. Cable: Just let me say that what the minister did before the cameras was one of the most disgraceful performances I've ever seen in this House - playing the race card. She showed a profound lack of understanding of her job to account to this House for public expenditures. Now, accusing the opposition of playing a race card and looking into the cameras did just that. It played the race card, and that is disgraceful.
There was no suggestion in my questions last night that the funding should not take place. If she'll look at the Hansard, she will see that the amount of the expenditure was being questioned. What she is saying today is, "Trust me. I'll tell you all about it after it's been spent, but before it's spent, it's none of your business." And that is not appropriate.
That's exactly what the minister is saying. If she's saying something different, let her stand and tell the House.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, the tone of the debate from questions from members opposite last night has already motivated some very disturbing, racially divisive inquiries from the public. That's true. It's happened. The tone of the questions has played the race card.
The members are asking whether this is a wise expenditure of funds, to support the Council of Yukon First Nations. They have said that they cannot afford to fund, on their own, meaningful participation for themselves or for the family of the deceased. That is why we have agreed to help.
I have indicated to the members the maximum financial contribution on the part of the Yukon government. I have told the members opposite what the funding is for. We do not yet have final details available. We don't know the exact cost. The inquest hasn't taken place. We don't know if it will be completed in one week, or two weeks, or four weeks.
There will be a full and complete accounting. The information will be presented, and will have full scrutiny of the members opposite.
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Chair, I want the minister to rise and correct the record as well. She stated here today that both the Liberal Party and the Yukon Party were not in favour of this. Clearly, I said here today, I said last night - the member can read Hansard. Clearly, our point here is we think there should be a fair sharing of the burden of this cost, first of all, and the other issue is the overall cost seems excessive. It seems excessive.
And the Member for Riverside is correct - the minister wants us to know after the fact, and that's not good enough. When the member was in opposition, sitting on this side of the House, she would never accept that as an answer. Never. And neither would any of her colleagues.
In fact, we were here for 74 days one time with her colleagues raising those very issues, wanting to know every minute detail - now, when we are here, not six months later after the event has taken place.
The minister knows the position of the Yukon Party and the position of the Liberal Party on this particular issue, and she knows that everyone in this House, I believe, wants to see parties represented fairly at these hearings, and that all parties get an opportunity to have their say.
But to dismiss the issue as if we don't have a right to even ask a question about it in this House because it's a sensitive issue is wrong. It's wrong.
Mr. Chair, lots of people are asking a lot of questions about this. What precedent are we setting? Who else will receive benefits from the Government of the Yukon in the future in any way, shape or form with respect to the justice system? People are asking questions.
We're here pass on concerns like that to the minister and ask the minister if this is a precedent or how the arrangement was made or how it came about. That's why we're here.
The minister didn't give us very many answers last night, and she obviously hasn't given us very many answers today. Maybe if the minister had tabled the budget last night and had some justification for the high cost that the Government of the Yukon has put on this inquest - $150,000 - and had some figures showing where there were contributions from others involved in it, maybe it wouldn't have infuriated so many people out there. Maybe if the minister was prepared we would have had some answers last night.
This is an extremely hot issue out there right now, Mr. Chair, and Yukoners are very concerned about what this government is doing and how it's handling this issue.
People deserve some answers, and they shouldn't have to wait to get the answers after the fact.
I would urge the minister again to reconsider tabling the budget so that we can see, in this House, what exactly is transpiring with this contribution agreement, and what is the criteria for the agreement, and what it involves.
Will the minister do that?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: What's very clear here is that the Yukon Party critic is infuriated. Mr. Chair, last night the Yukon Party critic asked me: why is the Yukon government paying, when CYFN has lots of money? That's what he asked.
The member asked what kind of program I was setting up and where we would be able to draw the line on special cases in the future. He was concerned about what might happen in the case of another individual.
The shooting of Harley Timmers was a serious and tragic and unique event. It is a special case. The Council of Yukon First Nations deserves legal representation. They deserve to have a full voice at the hearing. All of the other parties will have legal counsel - the Solicitor-General, the officer involved, our government, the coroner's office.
Our government believes that the right thing to do is to support the Council of Yukon First Nations financially, so that they may have legal representation at the coroner's inquest. We have agreed to do that.
We do not yet have a contribution agreement signed and in place. As I indicated to the member last night, there have been ongoing discussions between the Yukon government and the Council of Yukon First Nations. I will be happy to make the documents available when they are signed, and provide the information to the member.
At the present time, I have indicated precisely what the maximum financial exposure of the Yukon government is. The member's questions have been answered.
Mr. Phillips: Well, Mr. Chair, if anybody reads Hansard, they'll know my questions haven't been answered - and the questions that I asked last night weren't answered and the questions I asked again today weren't answered. The smokescreen that the minister threw up today as she was being televised is just that - just a smokescreen and a shameful one at that.
Mr. Chair, I'm going to move into another area now. I've had some people contact me with concerns about drug testing for commercial drivers: people who are driving commercial vehicles like buses, taxi cabs, the road workers who are on the highway and those kinds of things. The question that the person wanted me to put to the minister is, is the government considering any kind of drug testing?
I know some major trucking companies throughout Canada and the United States now do that for road safety. I know White Pass does it in the Yukon, and particularly for its employees in Skagway and in Whitehorse. I just wonder if the Government of Yukon has had representation made to it on that and what its position is on mandatory drug testing with respect to people who are operating vehicles such as taxicabs or passenger vehicles, so there is an assurance that the individual transporting the passengers is free from alcohol and drugs.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, I'm not aware of any representations that have been made to the Yukon government or of any plans on the part of the government to implement a drug-testing regime.
Mr. Phillips: What's the government's position on a drug-testing regime? Does it have a position at all on drug testing?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, as I just indicated, we haven't considered the issue.
Mr. Phillips: I was discussing some matters with my colleague when the minister was going over some of the circle sentencing things so we may have to go over some of that again.
I know the minister is shortly going to go on a tour around the territory to talk to people. My concern was primarily that we were going to do a thorough review of the circle sentencing, a thorough analysis, and I just wonder if the minister could recap for me how thorough this review is going to be. I was hoping we would be looking at recidivism, we'd be looking at kind of a lengthy report after it's done, or at least a report that can recommend what's good, what's bad, what we want to change and who should make the changes, similar to the type of report we did with respect to the talking about crime program and others, where we actually heard from individuals within the justice system, from people who had been through circle sentencing themselves as people who were accused, from the victims, from the judges who were involved in it, and some of the people who were very much part of the circle. I'm just wondering if that's the kind of thing we're going to be looking at - a report that is specific to circle sentencing so that one can analyze it clearly when the investigation is over.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Yes, Mr. Chair. I'm sorry the member didn't hear all my remarks when I discussed this initially. What I've indicated is that some examples of restorative justice include community justice committees, circle sentencing, diversion programs and family group conferencing. The discussions with the public about restorative justice will cover that and other major areas such as crime prevention, victims' services, policing and correctional reform.
They're all integrated. What I will be doing in the month of May, as I speak with communities, is engaging the public in a conversation about those issues. I will also be meeting with the Chief Judge, who has expressed an interest both in our restorative justice work and in a review of circle sentencing. We'll then put together any further review that may be done. It will be thorough. It will canvass the issues of recidivism, among others.
Mr. Phillips: Will it be in the form of a final report, similar to Talking about Crime, or some of the other initiatives the government's doing now, where we have comments that are made by individuals, and then possibly some recommendations - a list of recommendations - on whether it's working, or how to make it work better?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I'll be able to report to the House next fall what the outcome of the restorative justice discussions have been. We have not determined whether there will be a final report published, or whether it will be a final version of restorative justice strategy for the Yukon government. I have indications that different communities are interested in different activities. There will be a report of some kind, and I will be happy to bring it back for the member.
Mr. Phillips: The comments from the minister cause me some concern, because it sounds like we're going to get a much watered down analysis of circle sentencing. I was hoping, and that was the intent of my motion, Mr. Chair - the amendment to my motion that I introduced - is that we'd actually have the same kind of analysis done that's done to the territorial court system now, where we look at recidivism, where we look at other issues, and the same kind of analysis be done to the circle sentencing, so that we could compare it and see how successful it has been.
I mean, one of the issues that we heard all the time in this House from the member, when she was in opposition, and from critics on this side now is, when we look at the recidivism rate, we talk about the rehabilitation and the programs that are involved in it, whether they're working, whether they're not working, and we use those recidivism numbers many times - and the minister did that herself when she was in opposition - to determine whether or not the system was being successful in rehabilitating some of the individuals.
And so I was hoping that we'd have something more concrete like that to get our hands on. Is the minister saying that it's not going to happen, that we're not going to have those kinds of figures, and that we're just going to possibly get a strategy paper out of the government with no final figures or final analysis that we can actually look at as opposition members, like we did with the Talking About Crime recommendations, and see whether the government is making progress on some of these things, that there are benchmarks where we can actually see the recommendation No. 5 was such and such and was acted upon? Why aren't we doing it that way? Because I think that's the only way that we're really going to know whether or not it's working, and if the minister wraps it all into her discussions on restorative justice, it will be something that would be very hard to get a handle on. And I'm sure, even for the professionals in the department when they are trying to even make policy, unless there are some clear numbers and clear understanding of how well it's working or not working, it's going to be hard to fix if there's a problem with it.
So, I would ask the minister if she could be a little more clear on the type of report she sees. Will she be standing up in the House and tabling a document, like we table here every day in the House, one that is entitled "restorative justice" and will there be recommendations and have that kind of thing in it and an action plan? What's she going to do with it?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, Mr. Chair, I'm sure that the member opposite isn't trying to suggest that I prejudge what the results of the public consultation will be. Specifically on the review of circle sentencing, of course we will get what data we can. We also will be hearing what people in the communities see as the most useful way to create safe, healthy communities. We also expect to hear what kinds of different or increased restorative justice projects communities may want to take on.
I'll be happy to bring back the information after we have spoken with the communities and heard from them.
Mr. Phillips: Well, Mr. Chair, I'll be watching very closely, because I had really thought, when we put our amendment forward and it was supported unanimously in this House, I laid out what I thought in the amendment to the motion was the intent of the amendment, and I had a unanimous vote from every member in this House to support that amendment.
So I'll follow closely the words and intent of that amendment and see in the fall, when the minister comes forward with her strategy, whether or not the intent of the motion is satisfied.
Mr. Chair, another area that I'd like to move to is the Whitehorse Correctional Institute. Mr. Chair, I know that in the debate that we had here in the House about restorative justice there were several members of the New Democrat Party on the other side who stated that anyone who ever goes to jail is always a criminal. That was stated by one of the members in the House. They made the statement that once you're convicted and you go to jail, that's it. It's a never-ending cycle; you're always a criminal.
They also said that no one gets rehabilitated in jail. And that was said in here by members of the government side - no one gets rehabilitated.
Does the member believe that that's an accurate statement by members on her side, that once you're a criminal, you're always a criminal, and once you go to jail, you'll never get rehabilitated, that no one is rehabilitated in our correctional institute?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, Mr. Chair, one thing that I can state categorically that I do know is that I can't rely on the member opposite to report accurately on what members on this side of the House have said.
The member is famous for taking things out of context and not presenting accurate reflections of what members have said. I will be happy to speak about the issue of rehabilitation.
I think you can develop. and we have a responsibility to develop, effective rehabilitation programs for inmates, for people who have been convicted of criminal offences and who have been sentenced to a period of incarceration in a correctional facility.
I believe if we offer literacy, job training, social skills and other programs that benefit inmates, that we can, in fact, help people who are in jail come out of jail and be able to become productive members of society.
The work of restorative justice is a way to consider how we can reform our correctional system, both within secure custody facilities and in providing alternatives to them and in providing support to offenders in communities, instead of jail, or after they come out of jail.
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Chair, I'm glad to hear that the minister's views differ from her colleagues, and I'll be asking our staff in our office to pull out the direct quotes from the members opposite, because clearly that's what they said. In fact, I responded to it in my speech in the House. I was quite shocked that the members on the side opposite said that, once you got into jail, there was no hope of rehabilitation. In fact, I thought it was a bit of a slap in the face to all the individuals who work so hard up there in the rehabilitation programs, from the religious community to the social workers, to the justice workers and other individuals, who give so much of their time - much of it free time, sometimes - to work with some of these individuals to ensure that they don't end up afoul of the law a second time.
So, I'll get my staff to pull that out and, if the minister doesn't believe me, I'll refresh the member's memory with it when I receive it.
I would hope that, once the member reads it and once the member reviews Hansard and sees what she has said today - that rehabilitation does work in our correctional facility - she will meet with her colleagues who have said that they aren't successful and will give them a little lesson in Justice 101, and maybe take them up to the jail, give them a little tour and show them that it does work and that some people are rehabilitated. Maybe they can even get some names of people who have been rehabilitated - introduce her colleagues to that, so that they can clear up their thoughts on that and know that, in future, although it doesn't work all the time, it does work some of the time and there are a lot of dedicated people in our correctional facility who do their very best to try and help out those people who end up in the facility.
Mr. Chair, the government has put some money in this budget for possible plans for relocating the new correctional facility - or building a new correctional facility - and I wonder if the minister can tell us if the government is fixed on the idea that the facility has to be built where it's at now or is the government flexible to believe that the facility could be built in a rural community?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, the money that's in the budget - I believe the line item reads "correctional reform facility planning" is for just that. It's for doing the planning for a future replacement of the Whitehorse Correctional Centre. The correctional reform component is key to that. That's why we're doing consultation in communities on restorative justice. We want to identify and support ways to reduce the use of prisons. We have not made a predetermined decision on what kind of facility will be built to replace the Whitehorse Correctional Centre.
If there is an ability on the part of communities to help offenders with alternative sentencing models in communities, we may be looking at a different kind of facility. We may very well be looking at a different size of facility. We do not have a predetermined result of that consultation.
Mr. Phillips: One of the issues that has come up in the past is that the Whitehorse Correctional Centre is used as a remand facility. Some of the discussions that have taken place in the past are that if you constructed a new facility, and it wasn't within the City of Whitehorse - if it was in one of the rural communities - that you would still have to have some kind of a remand-type facility for the types of initial incarceration that you have to carry out in remand, and you would have to be relatively close to the courts to do that.
Is that still the position of the government, that whatever we build as far as a new correctional facility, wherever we build it, we will have to ensure that the remand centre will be closer to Whitehorse, so that quick access to the courts - as we need for remand - can be maintained?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: As I've indicated in response to earlier questions, all possibilities are open to us, including partnerships with the federal government, which I believe I advised the member of last year and, indeed, I believe he, himself, had some discussions with federal officials prior to the 1996 election and change in government.
Mr. Phillips: Has it gone any further than that? I think, at the time, the federal government was encouraging us to look at - I think we're two years less a day, and they were looking at us going four or five years. Part of the deal was that, if we went that route, then the federal government would kick in with a significant amount of dollars, because the facility would have to be a little more secure than the one we have now.
So, that would aid and assist us in using it to partner and maybe get a better facility for our dollar - like, we'd cost share a new facility with the federal government. Are there any discussions - or have there been any discussions taking place in the last two years with the federal government respecting that?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, as is often the case in discussions with the federal government, while the officials have conversations and, at the political level, the ministers may speak about the possibilities, we have not received any written response as to what the federal government's position is on that.
Mr. Phillips: Have we corresponded with the government in the last two years with respect to that? Are there any letters on file and, if there are, could the minister provide a copy of any correspondence that we've sent to or received from the federal government with respect to that issue?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, I'm not certain what letters may be available. As I've indicated, the discussions are ongoing. I will take that question under advisement at the present time.
Mr. Cable: I have some questions on the Territorial Court Act. The act was assented to on December 7, 1998, and when I checked last week, it had not as yet been proclaimed. What are the minister's intentions on proclamation?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, we've struck an implementation committee with the Chief Judge, and there is a letter being sent out to the local bar, which the department and the Chief Judge are working on.
Mr. Cable: The act contemplates that it could be proclaimed in parts as we go along. Is that possibility on the agenda? Is that one of the options that the minister's thinking about?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Yes, Mr. Chair, the reason that we put that provision in the act was so that we could, in fact, proclaim the act in parts.
Mr. Cable: I've been thinking about, specifically, the part relating to the Judicial Council. Is the minister in a position to proclaim that particular part?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Yes, Mr. Chair, we would like to proclaim that as soon as we can. I would like to see that part of the legislation in effect. We are discussing that with the Territorial Court now, and when I am able to provide the member with an effective date, I will be happy to do so.
Mr. Cable: The minister indicated she was discussing that with the Territorial Court. Is she discussing that with the Judicial Council?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, we're discussing that with the Chief Judge, who has just taken over his duties as the new Chief Judge within the last week, at this stage.
Mr. Cable: The reason I'm asking the question is that, as the minister will recollect, there was considerable discussion during the debate on the act about opening up the Judicial Council to greater lay membership. And there were a couple of amendments that were put through.
Now, my count says that the new act contemplates eight members. Those include the two members nominated under section 31(1)(a) - nominated directly by the minister. And of course there was an amendment that said one would have to be a layperson.
And then there are now two to be nominated by the Yukon First Nations.
One of those, at least, should be a layperson. So, there is a possibility of at least three laypersons, and what we have on the board now are three members - I'm not sure whether they are members of the bar or not - whose positions expire in the year 2000.
What is the minister's intention on the new appointments - to replace those members whose positions expire next year? What is she going to do on the rollover? There is a synchronization that is necessary between the present act and the new act when it's proclaimed. Is the minister following me? This is a rather convoluted question, but she is going to have to do some homework on replacing the existing lay members with new lay members.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, I think I follow what the member is trying to determine there. We want to implement the new Territorial Court Act as soon as we can. We're in discussions with the new Chief Judge. We want to set up an implementation committee. We've been in correspondence with the local bar and we understand that there will need to be an orderly transition from the present Judicial Council to the new Judicial Council when the new legislation is proclaimed.
Mr. Cable: Okay, we've got lots of time so we can get to the bottom of this. What is the minister's intention with respect to the new appointments that she's going to be making under section 31(1)(a), I believe it is? Is she going to be approaching the opposition for recommendations? How is she going to solicit the names that'll be used for the appointments?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, as I believe I indicated during debate on the act in the fall legislative session, I would be pleased to entertain suggestions from the opposition about members who may be appointed to the Judicial Council.
Mr. Cable: That would be useful but, of course, we would have to know what the timing is. We're not going to be just writing letters out into the ether.
When does the minister feel that that part of the new Territorial Court Act will be proclaimed, so we have some sort of timeline on it?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, as I've indicated, we are working with the court and with the bar. We hope to be able to have the act come into effect in the fall. When we have a clearer indication of the date, I will be pleased to provide the member with notice of it, when we have that date available.
Mr. Cable: What are the problems that the minister is working on with respect to proclamation? What's the holdup?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, it's essentially having the implementation committee up and running. There has been, as I've just indicated to the member, a change in the Chief Judge. So, issues that had been discussed with the previous Chief Judge are now being discussed with the present Chief Judge.
We do anticipate that we can see some movement here and have the act proclaimed, aiming for the fall.
Mr. Cable: Could the minister advise the House as to what issues are being discussed? Is there something of any major importance, or are they just workshop sort of problems?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, there have just been some general discussions about the nature of the implementation committee, which, I believe, should be more broadly based than strictly the bench and the bar. There are no major obstacles, however, and we anticipate that this work should proceed.
Mr. Cable: Let me get onto an issue that I asked the minister about in Question Period, and that's the chief justice of the peace position. Where do we sit on that? What is the minister's present position?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I'm not clear on exactly what issue the member is asking me to respond to. I believe that when he raised the subject of the senior justice of the peace in Question Period, he was inquiring about increases in the level of pay and benefits. The order-in-council, which is in effect, does provide for regular increases to the pay and benefits of the senior justice of the peace, as it applies to employees of the Yukon government as well.
Mr. Cable: Well, more particularly, the job was set up originally under the regulation, I gather, under a contemplated term of two years, and then it was further contemplated that there would be some sort of evaluation. Now, I gather from the submission that I've seen from the department that we haven't as yet been able to work out an evaluation procedure. There has been some problem between the judicial arm and the executive arm. Just what is the problem?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, the evaluation is not an issue at this time. When we engaged Mr. Hughes to conduct an inquiry into the justice system here in the Yukon, he looked at the issue of the senior justice of the peace. The judges took the position that it would be unconstitutional to end the position, even though it was created on a two-year basis.
The recommendation from Mr. Hughes was that the senior justice of the peace position remain as a feature of the court in the Yukon, as long as the present incumbent was in the position. The government has accepted that position, and the senior justice of the peace position remains.
Mr. Cable: Well, the present incumbent, of course, is a relatively young man. He could be on the bench for many, many years. Is that this government's present intention, to maintain the position, insofar as the present incumbent wants to remain on the bench?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: That's right. We have accepted the recommendation of Mr. Hughes, and the present incumbent remains on the bench as a JP.
Mr. Cable: He has what I would think many years to reach retirement age, and he has virtually no benefits attached to his position. Why don't we regularize the job and make him a full-time public servant, which has all the benefits and all the protection that a public servant would have and, in particular, the pension benefits that I think he's properly entitled to?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, in the Territorial Court Act, that is a transitional position. In the year 2003 it will be subject to a Judicial Compensation Commission, which is the next time a Judicial Compensation Commission will be struck.
In the interim, I believe there are benefits associated with the position, and I can provide details in writing and bring a response back for the member.
Mr. Cable: Well, I think there are benefits, but not much in the way of benefits. And if I have my information correct, I don't think there are any pension benefits, which I think is very unfair to the incumbent. If he is to sit on the bench for another couple of decades without pension rights, where does that leave him?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, the court agreed to the arrangement by which the incumbent's position would come under a Judicial Compensation Commission in the year 2003. I've indicated that I would provide further details in writing to the member. I don't have those details with me in the House at this moment; I will bring them back.
Mr. Cable: Okay, just so we're on the same wave-length this time, is she saying that in the year 2003 not only will this compensation be looked at but his status as a full-time employee and his rights with respect to pensions will also be examined?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, as the member knows, the Judicial Compensation Commission looks at compensation, and that includes benefits and pensions.
Mr. Cable: Just out of curiosity, why wasn't this issue put to the first Judicial Compensation Commission that looked at the judges' salaries? Why weren't both issues tidied up at the same time? It appears the minister had made her mind up to accept Mr. Hughes' recommendation. It would've seemed like a golden opportunity to attend to this gentleman's problems at the same time.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, the Judicial Compensation Commission looked at the compensation package for members of the bench, pursuant to the decision of the Supreme Court of Canada in the P.E.I. reference. There were both considerable discussions and agreement between the government and the court that justices of the peace would be examined by a Judicial Compensation Commission in the future in the year 2003.
Mr. Cable: When the Judicial Compensation Commission was taking evidence, the government provided some statistics. One of the facts that the commission based its pay raise on was the difference between the cost of living in Whitehorse and Alberta, which I thought was somewhat inappropriate because all the judges, of course, live here in Whitehorse, where in Alberta most of them would live in big cities, such as Edmonton and Calgary, where the cost of living would be higher than the average throughout the province. I think that one can accept that the cost of living in the rural areas would be less than what it would be in the big cities.
I know there was a gasp from the public when the commission's recommendations came down, and I appreciate also that the minister's discretion is somewhat limited in the area, but why was that sort of evidence presented to the commission? Why weren't figures comparing Whitehorse with the big cities in Alberta presented, rather than evidence relating to the comparison between Whitehorse and the whole of the Province of Alberta?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, the Judicial Compensation Commission, like the judiciary, was a process independent of government. We did not really have control over what the Judicial Compensation Commission findings were. The Public Service Commission and the Department of Finance worked on the government presentation to the Judicial Compensation Commission. The Yukon government responded, then, to the JCC report.
Mr. Cable: Okay. On another issue, what do the minister and her department have on her legislative list right now? What is the department working on in the way of new legislation? I know we've talked in this House about adult guardianship and we've talked in the House - the Minister responsible for the Workers' Compensation Health and Safety Board has talked - about amendments to the Workers' Compensation Act. Could she tell us just what she's doing in the way of legislative initiatives?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, Mr. Chair, as we take various legislative initiatives out for public discussion, both the public and the opposition become aware of them. As the member knows, the Yukon Workers' Compensation Act is being reviewed, and we've tabled in this House the questions on the public information sheet on that. I do not have available to provide for the member opposite a list of our fall legislative calendar. It will be open to the member as we conduct consultation on various bills and when we come forward for the fall legislative session.
Mr. Cable: Well, I assume so. When she tables a bill, we'll know about it. But I'm curious as to what she's working on. It's quite evident that she's working on the Workers' Compensation Act amendments. Is she working on amendments to the adult guardianship law? There is a hiatus in the law with people who have FAS, for example, and I know that the people who are interested in that area have requested that the government move forward on that so that when people who reach the age of majority -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Cable: What do you want? A break?
So when people reach the age of majority, they can then be protected, much the same as they were before the age of majority.
Where do we sit on that adult guardianship law?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Thank you, Mr. Chair. We have not taken a look at that. The Department of Health is the lead, and that's all the information I have available for the member.
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Chair, I had a few moments to review the correspondence that the minister gave us today - the letter that she sent to the Chief Judge regarding the workload of the Territorial Court, and the response that they received from the Territorial Court. I guess the comment I have is I find both letters rather interesting.
I think I was a little more specific in the information I asked in the debate. Did the minister not feel it was appropriate to pass on the more specific information that we were asking for? I mean, I think I asked for more detail with respect to the numbers of days that each judge sat. I mean, the question the minister asked is basically, "The technical briefing requested information on the workload, and can you kindly assist me with any advice or information to help me provide that answer?" It's sort of a - I mean, I know the minister has to pedal kind of softly when she's writing letters to the judges, but that's kind of inviting almost any kind of response whatsoever, and in some cases no response.
I look at the response that we see from the judges and it doesn't tell you very much at all, other than that the total number of cases was 6,275.
I think we need more information and more cooperation from the judges.
Why do we have to get this information from the judges? They appear in our court, we know which judges are on the Territorial Court section, which judges are on the docket; we know how many days they sit. Why can't we just compile that information ourselves, and have some idea of the workload of the judges? Is there a problem with that?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: As the member opposite is aware from his own experience, we must respect the right of the judiciary to know about what is occurring and to cooperate with it. I will be pleased to have discussions with the Chief Judge about some of the specifics the member has expanded on in this debate, about what information he would like, and to see what we can do to compile it.
Mr. Phillips: I haven't been in the habit lately of writing letters to the judges, but maybe the minister could convey a message to the judges for me.
I'm not interested in specific details of cases. That's not what I'm after. What I would like to know from the judges is how active each judge is. I just want to know, as a legislator, that we're getting value for our money, and to give me assurances that our judges are sitting an appropriate amount of time on the bench, like other judges do in other jurisdictions. We have some other jurisdictions to do comparisons with.
That's all I'm looking for: an assurance. We just established a commission, which went out and set the criteria and the wages for our Territorial Court judges and boosted them up enormously, to the shock of a lot of Yukoners when they heard about it. So my view is that, now that we're paying them equivalent to judges in the south, we should be at least getting the same level of energy out of them with respect to being on the bench.
I just want to ensure that the judges are paid for a full year and that they spend a good part of that year doing what they're supposed to be doing as a judge, and that's being in the judge's chamber or working on decisions or working in the courtroom or in their judge's chambers, working on decisions. That's all I want to ensure - that we're getting value for our dollar and that the judges are performing.
So, if the minister could bring that information back and pass it on, that would be helpful.
I'm not headhunting here at all. I just really want to know what is the workload. Is it comparable to that of judges in the south? Is it more or less? Nobody knows right now and the response we got from the judges just says that they have 2,092 cases per judge and in B.C. they have an average of 1,225 cases per judge. There's a whole bunch of things there that don't tell me anything.
I hope the minister understands where I'm coming from. I think this is a nice letter and some nice figures, but it's statistics and damned statistics again that, without any background information on them, no one really knows how much time was spent in sitting on these 2,092 cases. I just think there is so much more information we need and we don't have it, and I hope we will receive cooperation from them, Mr. Chair. I think it's in the best interest of providing a good and efficient legal system, so I would hope that the minister could provide that information for me.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Yes, Mr. Chair. As I've said, I look forward to having discussions with the Chief Judge and trying to collect that information and provide good information for the benefit of all members of the House.
Ms. Duncan: I'd like to pick up on something the minister said in her opening remarks last night.
In her remarks, the minister said that the total budget for court services had seen an increase of $99,000, and that this increase represents additional costs to develop a case management system in the maintenance enforcement branch.
Family maintenance orders enforcement is an issue that has come before me from constituents repeatedly in recent months, Mr. Chair. I've written to the minister on it. I've received a response. I've also attended a workshop on this issue and, quite frankly, Mr. Chair, I still need some clear answers for my constituents.
How am I to answer, for example, the constituent who phones me or stops me and says, "The court has ordered that my former partner is to pay X amount of dollars on the first of the month. How come when I go to family maintenance orders enforcement they tell me that they bought into his or her excuses? Why is it that the family maintenance orders enforcement, in this day of debit cards and a cashless society, insists upon holding on to cheques for two weeks?"
These are questions, Mr. Chair, that I've asked the minister and attempted to have answered - and I have seen that, yes, there is some good work being done in this area. I understand that there has been some progress made. What I'm attempting to outline for the minister is that there are still some concerns from individuals out there.
The worst part of all of this, Mr. Chair, is that it's the children who are suffering in all of this. It's the children who are being told, "Sorry, no dance lessons; I didn't get the payment on time." I thought that's what this was supposed to prevent. I thought this was what family maintenance orders enforcement was supposed to improve.
I don't believe that it's a problem necessarily with the way that legislation is set up or the way that individual staff members handle the situation. I'm certainly not criticizing them. I think there's a problem in either the offices being under-resourced or we need to listen to the staff on the ground who have ways and suggestions for streamlining this. There has to be a way to improve it and there has to be a way to respond to these constituents, and I'd like some information from the minister on this budget line item and I'd like her to perhaps make another attempt today to help me help these constituents who have raised these issues.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, as I recall, in the correspondence between the member and myself, I believe that I indicated that only in cases where the debtor is writing a cheque, which is not a certified cheque, and has not provided a guarantee with a debit card or by other means, is the cheque held for 10 days or two weeks - I don't have the exact number of days - before it's released to the custodial parent.
The $99,000 is a separate question. That is to cover the costs of a computer system. It has been ongoing work with the maintenance enforcement department. The intent is to streamline the enforcement process and to be able to process claims for clients more expeditiously. What I would like to offer for the member is that, if she can either speak with me or my officials about the specific case that the member is having difficulty with, we can see if there is anything more that we can do there.
In general, the staff at the maintenance enforcement program offers a high level of service. They are very committed to ensuring that parents get the funds to support their children, and if the member has suggestions for improvement, we'd be happy to hear them and see how we might be able to act on them.
Ms. Duncan: Well, Mr. Chair, I appreciate that the minister is prepared to look at specific cases and to provide information or to assist individuals, and I also appreciate and agree, and I stated it myself, that I believe that the staff involved offers a high level of service. I also hear, although it's not spoken by the minister, a sense that she also hears these issues from custodial parents and that there are still, in spite of everyone's best efforts, situations where there are slow payments by the debtor.
The people who are most affected are not the custodial parents - it's the children themselves. I will take the minister's offer seriously, and I will ask for the specific suggestions from these constituents, and others, and I would also encourage her and her officials to perhaps invite a focus group situation, invite a situation where officials in the department could meet with two or three parents who go through this system on a monthly basis and who work with it.
I also would like to commend the officials, as I understand they also take into account situations where it's not necessary a cheque that's provided, it's a cord of wood, or a moose, or filling the freezer, and I appreciate that staff do look at this in a unique Yukon situation, do take that into account.
I would, however, like the minister to take that specific suggestion away - inviting two or three clients who use the system to sit down with the officials who operate the system and officials who work with these people on a day-to-day basis and say, okay, how could we improve our service. I would invite the minister to follow up on that suggestion, and I will follow up on her suggestion to me to invite these individuals who've expressed concern to speak with her.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I'll be happy to do that.
Mr. Cable: I have some questions on the use of auxiliaries up at the Whitehorse Correctional Centre. The report done for the department, the Future Ground report, indicated - and I'm reading from page 14, for the minister's benefit - "Employees have major concerns with both the number of positions staffed on an auxiliary basis and the process used to select people for special assignments and promotion."
With respect to the comment on auxiliaries, has the minister had any discussions with the union as to whether the number of auxiliaries should be reduced and converted to full-time positions?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, the deputy spoke to the president of the union local at Whitehorse Correctional Centre this week. We are reviewing that issue right now, and I don't have anything to report to the member, but the union has presented concerns. The Future Ground report also addressed the issue, and we're looking at it.
Mr. Cable: The minister gave me a legislative return, which I unfortunately don't have in front of me -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Cable: Well, perhaps I have the same problem.
My recollection is that the average for the auxiliaries is something of the order of $60,000, which would suggest to me that there are a number of positions that should be converted to full-time positions, to give those people who are called on an irregular basis the security that's afforded full-time indeterminate employees. You know, together with the benefits.
Why is that condition - which I think has existed for a long time - why has it gone on for so long?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: We are looking at that question. We're giving the subject of conversion of employees to various status serious consideration. As the member would likely appreciate, a large part of the difficulties we face is the uncertainty over what size and nature of a new facility will be constructed to replace Whitehorse Correctional Centre. It's not wise to make long-term staffing decisions when we are, at the present time, placing money in the budget for planning and consultation for correctional reform, for new facility planning, and don't know what the details of that new facility will be.
Mr. Cable: I think, though, we established in Question Period, if I recollect it correctly - or perhaps it was in the general debate on the budget - that the minister is in fact going to be building a new correctional centre at some juncture and that's why we have this multi-year capital expenditure. So, there will be a correctional centre. Is that her present position? Did I hear her correctly before?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Yes, Mr. Chair. I was very pleased, when we introduced the budget in the House at the beginning of this session, to be able to state that this government has made a multi-year commitment to the replacement of the Whitehorse Correctional Centre. We know that the facility needs to be replaced. We are beginning the work on planning and looking at correctional reform this year, and we have identified funds in future years for design and replacement to continue and to be put in place.
Mr. Cable: So, the minister is saying, then, that one of the reasons - perhaps she has other reasons, but one of the reasons - that she's not converting people earning an average of $60,000 into full-time positions is that she doesn't know how many positions will be required down the road. Is that her main proposition?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Yes, that is essentially the issue. As I have also indicated to the member, though, we have been in discussions with the union. We're looking at the issue of auxiliary employees and giving serious consideration to how we might best accommodate the interests of employees and the government.
Mr. Cable: Okay. Let's leave the auxiliaries for the moment. I think we can safely assume that whatever facility we have will have a director, yet the minister has hired the present director on a one-year term, which I find rather odd. What's the rationale for that? I've asked her this in Question Period but I'm not sure we connected on it.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I believe there was a legislative return on this subject as well. It was an internal hire. This is a personnel matter. What I would like to commit to doing is to discuss it with the minister responsible for the Public Service Commission as well and to bring back a legislative return in writing.
Mr. Cable: Well, I appreciate the offer, and I'll take the minister up on that, but I would like to know the reason. I mean, that's a fairly straightforward issue. I don't think we need the Public Service Commission brought in on that, do we? The director, who one would hope would be here for awhile, was hired on a one-year term. That sounds rather odd.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, it has to do with personnel reasons and, as I have indicated, I wish to seek advice from the Public Service Commission.
Mr. Cable: All right, I'll look forward to the return then. Obviously the minister is not prepared to advise as to the reason at the present time.
On another issue, the minister is probably aware of the court case that took place in Ontario on probate fees - and we discussed that in this House sometime before - where the Ontario government was using probate fees as a form of taxation and the Supreme Court of Canada threw that out, saying the government cannot indirectly tax through the mechanism of fees.
Has there been any review of the fees that are charged by the minister's department, or by any other department for that matter? I would assume the Justice department would do that review to see whether they comply with the thinking of the Supreme Court of Canada.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: There are a couple of points on that. The court has imposed a fixed fee for probate that is constitutional and that complies with the recent ruling. The Department of Justice has been asked to complete, and is completing, a review of other fees that may be affected by this decision. The government will have the subject under consideration when the final report is available to us and will make a decision on how to proceed, pending the receipt of that.
Mr. Cable: Yes, I'm aware that the court has set fees for probate, but I'm not quite sure what else the minister said. When is the review of the fees charged by the government going to be completed?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I believe it's virtually complete now, in that some of the last items that will be included in that report are being compiled now, so it should be available soon.
Mr. Cable: I look forward to receipt of that. Now, last year and earlier this year, I had written some questions to some of the ministries on the enforcement of the fair wage schedule. Complaints were brought to me by one of the contractors in town, who said that there were outside firms that were - in his view anyway - obviously underbidding projects, and he had suspicions that the fair wage schedule was not being enforced, and that's why they were able to undercut his bidding.
And I notice there's another FTE set up in labour services to assumedly enforce the fair wage schedule. What is the minister's position at the present time? With this extra FTE in the budget, will there be adequate staff to ensure that people who drift in from outside this jurisdiction and bid on contracts are adhering to the fair wage schedule?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: The Yukon hire report recommended that the government increase its resources to ensure that the fair wage schedule applies on all Yukon government projects and that the fair wage schedule applies both to the general contractor and to any subcontractors. A copy of the fair wage schedule is included in all Yukon government construction tenders, as well.
The government agrees that it is in the best interests of both the business community and the labour community that the fair wage schedule be applied consistently. The additional staffing resources that are contained in this budget for the labour services branch will be to hire an additional person, whose work will be to monitor the use of the fair wage schedule by contractors who are working on Yukon government contracts.
Mr. Cable: On another topic - and this is a topic, I believe, that was raised at the briefing - where do we sit on the Crown attorney devolution? Could the minister, for the record, update the negotiations?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, that is ongoing. There was a round table held on January 18, which was an opportunity for many different perspectives to be presented, which is what, in fact, occurred. Discussions between parties in the Yukon and, as well, with the federal government, are ongoing.
Deputy Chair: Is it the members' wish to take a recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Deputy Chair: Okay, 10 minutes please.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. Committee is dealing with the Department of Justice. Is there further general debate?
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Chair, when we talked a few minutes ago, the minister was talking about the fair wage schedule, and we talked about hiring an individual who is going to be monitoring that on a more rigorous basis. When do we expect the individual to be hired? Has the position gone out now, and are we in the process of filling that position?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, I don't have the details of the time frame for the job posting. I'll provide that for the member after I look into it and get some further information from the department.
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Chair, I would have thought that that would have been a pretty high priority, because there are jobs that are ongoing right now, contracts that are going out almost every day. I'm just wondering how long the minister expects that it's going to take before we have the individual on the job in light of the comments that were made regarding the absolute need to have them in place. If it takes the regular process of hiring and the individual is not on the job for six months, then most of the construction season is over with for this year, and so I wonder why it wasn't something that was ready to go at the get-go when the budget was tabled.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, Mr. Chair, the hiring does not normally take six months. I think the member is exaggerating somewhat in his speculation about the time frame. I believe that the job description is being prepared for the position and that we'll be advertising shortly, and I've indicated that I'll bring back specific dates and reply to the member possibly as early as tomorrow.
Mr. Phillips: That'll be fine, Mr. Chair. I can probably even wait until Monday, unless the minister wanted to meet me in here tomorrow at a special time or something. I could wait till Monday and we could probably review the document then. If the minister wishes, Mr. Chair, she could send the information down to my office tomorrow and I could check it out there.
Mr. Chair, one last question that I have goes back to our initial discussion today regarding the contribution to the Council of Yukon First Nations with respect to the Harley Timmers inquest. Is the minister prepared to table or provide for us a copy of the contribution agreement?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Yes, Mr. Chair, the contribution agreement has not been completed and signed, but when the contribution agreement has been finalized I will be pleased to provide it to the members - either by tabling it in the House or, if the House is not in session, providing it to them in writing.
Mr. Phillips: Thank you, Mr. Chair, I'd appreciate receiving that as soon as the agreement is signed.
As well, Mr. Chair, could the minister provide for us - if the minister doesn't want to provide the total amounts, percentages that each government is going to be contributing to this particular issue, so that we can get a better picture of the involvement of all three parties: the federal government, the First Nation government and the Yukon government.
As well, could she provide for us information with respect to how the Council of Yukon First Nations intends to spend the funds. Is it an open agreement where the funds can be spent on anything they see, from investigative to legal? The impression that I got from the minister all along is that this contribution agreement is strictly for legal fees. So I would like to know from the minister what the breakdown is, if it's so much to CYI, so much to the Timmers family, so much to any other party - just kind of a breakdown, percentage-wise, of which way the funds are being distributed.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, what I've indicated to the member earlier, and I stand by my commitment, is that I will provide full financial accounting of all of the monies that are expended by all of the parties, as the costs are known. The costs are not completely known at this stage, in large part because the inquest has not yet taken place. I will provide a full breakdown for the member when it's available.
The contribution for the Council of Yukon First Nations will cover legal fees and other professional activities and, as I've indicated, we will be providing a complete breakdown of those costs. In advance of the inquest, we cannot determine exactly what they'll be.
Mr. Phillips: What does the minister mean by "other professional activities"?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: The main one is forensic scientists.
Mr. Phillips: This would be, then, for bringing up an expert - a forensic scientist - who'd look at the information and testify, I suppose, in the case.
Are any of the funds being allocated for investigative work itself - like a private investigator, or anything, who's doing any other work - other than the forensic scientist? I'm sure there will be those types of people from all sides making presentations.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, I believe that some of those costs have already been covered off by CYFN and that others may be incurred. Those kinds of details will be contained in the contribution agreement which, when it's finalized, we'll provide for the member.
Mr. Phillips: So, we're going to receive that sooner rather than later? We're not going to have to wait until after the inquest to receive the contribution agreement? We're going to get it prior - or as soon as it's signed, we're going to get a copy of the contribution agreement?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Yes, Mr. Chair. I have stated that I will provide a copy of the contribution agreement to the members opposite when it has been finalized and signed by the parties.
Mr. Cable: Just one point of clarification on that issue. Does the contribution agreement relate to future expenditures, or are there already-made expenditures that are lumped into the $150,000?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, I can include that information with the response that I bring back for the member.
Mr. Cable: Surely the minister knows that, and I'm sure the deputy would know that. Can the minister inform the House as to whether there is a recapture of past expenditures that's proposed?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, CYFN is looking to present the entire picture of their costs, including the costs of their participation. Some of their costs will be covered by a contribution agreement between the Yukon government and the Council of Yukon First Nations. Other costs will be covered internally within the CYFN budget. I've indicated that I'll be bringing that information back for the member.
Mr. Cable: Just to be clear then, information that's brought back will set out whether the costs being covered are already-incurred expenditures or are expenditures to be incurred. Is that what the minister is saying?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Yes.
Mr. Cable: On another topic - and one that we started to get into before the break - the Crown attorney devolution: I was disappointed that the minister took advice from her advocate, the Member for Riverdale North, and told me that negotiations were ongoing. Can we have a little more information? Just what is ongoing?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, Mr. Chair, I preceded the word "ongoing" with a lengthy description of the process since we last discussed it in this House in the last sitting. I can recap for the member. There was a round table held on the subject of Crown devolution in January 1999. There will be further discussions between the parties at the one-day information session on the future of the Yukon's criminal prosecution function. There was a facilitator who was going to be preparing a report, and that's where it stands at the moment.
Mr. Cable: I recollect the member saying that before the break, but nothing is going to happen, of course, until the federal minister is on side. What have her conversations with the federal minister been?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, on the only occasion that I have discussed this with the present Justice minister, what she indicated is that she has authorized her officials to continue the discussions in the Yukon. Federal officials were present at the round table, and discussions with federal officials are continuing.
Mr. Cable: Okay, on another issue that involves the cooperation of the federal government, I know this minister has been very interested in the issue of provocation, which of course got notoriety in the Yukon with the Klassen case. Where do the minister's discussions - if, in fact, there are discussions going on - lie with the federal minister on the law of provocation?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, I discussed the subject of amending the Criminal Code and the defence of provocation with the previous Justice minister in the winter of 1996-97 and I have also discussed it with the present Justice minister.
There was, as the member, I believe, is aware, following this issue being brought forward by me at a federal/provincial/territorial Justice ministers conference, a discussion paper that went around to all jurisdictions and that was certainly debated with keen interest in the Yukon.
The federal Justice department, at the present time, is considering the responses that they have received to the discussion paper about amendments to the Criminal Code. As the member is aware, amendments to the Criminal Code normally take some time to work their way through the federal system - it is federal law - but as I understand it, it is actively under consideration by the federal Department of Justice. I hope to have an opportunity to again follow up on that at the next meeting of federal, provincial and territorial Ministers of Justice.
Mr. Cable: What's the minister's sense, though, of what's going on with the other Justice ministers, including the federal minister? Are they on side with her position?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: There seems to be strong opposition from the Ontario bar. Some ministers have indicated support. When I spoke to the federal minister at the last FPT meeting, they had only just concluded the consultations, following their release of the discussion paper. They did not yet have a report from the federal Justice department on whether there had been a consensus achieved across the country and if there was a majority opinion in support of the amendments to the Criminal Code on the defence of provocation or not.
Mr. Cable: What's the minister's sense of where we're going, though? Are we looking at elimination of the law of provocation or some amendments to the Criminal Code to circumscribe the defence - if I could call it that?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, Mr. Chair, what I have advocated is that the defence of provocation be eliminated from the Criminal Code and that self-defence could cover the interests that are normally looked at, where the provocation defence is used.
As I've just stated, there has not yet been a report prepared and released by the federal Justice department on what the public has said in various jurisdictions, and whether in fact there is strong support across the country for the elimination of the defence of provocation in the Criminal Code.
We know that there have been numerous petitions tabled in the House of Commons, with thousands of Canadians across the country supporting the elimination of the defence of provocation.
I don't have a clear sense from the federal minister, at this time, whether she will support that. I believe it'll depend on the report that comes out of the federal consultation on provocation and self-defence. Both of those subjects were canvassed in the same discussion paper.
Mr. Cable: Just another question on the Judicial Council. The minister has the right, both under the present act and the new one when it's proclaimed, to seek advice from the Judicial Council. Has she sought advice on any particular matter, on any issue?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, that is something that we have set up in the new act and, when the new Territorial Court Act is proclaimed, we will have that ability; however, it is not part of the present legislative structure.
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Chair, I'm just going over the briefing we had from the department with respect to the Human Rights Commission, and one of the reasons for their increase was a $9,000 rent increase because of the move. Was that all an increase in rent or was it part of the move and the cost of the move? Nine thousand dollars was the note that I've got here - "increase because of move" for the Human Rights Commission.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Yes. I wasn't sure whether the member meant because of the actual costs of moving or whether he meant because of the move into the new office space. The increase is due to the rental costs in the new space.
Mr. Phillips: That's a significant increase. What are we paying per square foot for that space? I guess, before, we owned the building, but there must have been some kind of cost built into even the building they owned.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, I'm not aware of that detail, and I'll have to get the information and bring it back for the member.
Chair: Is there further general debate?
On Operation and Maintenance Expenditures
On Management Services
Chair: Is there general debate?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, on management services, as in all branches, I have details in the line items. However, in my second reading speech, I generally outlined the increases and the basic budget amounts associated with each branch.
Management Services in the amount of $1,844,000 agreed to
On Court Services
Chair: Is there general debate?
Mr. Cable: Just the old chestnut that I think we have to ask from time to time. Is there any examination of setting up a court devoted specifically to family law?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, the bench is very small in the Yukon, and we do not really see the volume of courtwork to support a separate family court.
Mr. Cable: Another issue relating to the courts - the Small Claims Court Act, as I recollect, has a limit of $5,000. Are we anticipating reviewing that sometime in the near future?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I believe that was increased fairly recently, from a ceiling of two to five, and we're not looking at another increase at this time.
Mr. Cable: I think that particular limit is fairly low in relation to other jurisdictions. I know it's not efficient to use a lawyer much below $10,000, so that, in my view anyway, the citizens are being deprived of a right to litigate their own cases cheaply.
Could the minister have a look at what's going on in the other jurisdictions, and give us a legislative return on the limits in the other jurisdictions?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Yes, Mr. Chair, I'd be pleased to do that.
On Court Administration
Mr. Phillips: Just a general question on court proceedings, recordings. Where is that at now, and who has the contract? I think it was recently, wasn't it, that a new contract was awarded?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I do have an updated briefing note. Total Reporting Service Limited is nearing the end of the first year of a three-year court reporting contract, which is in effect from 1998 to 2001.
Mr. Phillips: I understand that there was a change in technology from the previous court reporter to this one, and that was one of the issues that was raised at the time. We've been operating for a year now. Has it worked out fine? Have we found that it has been an efficient way of doing it?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, I'll have to review that question and bring a written response back for the member.
Mr. Phillips: It would probably be handy, because I think that was one of the issues that arose in the debate at the time about who should get the contract, and so I would suspect that the department would be monitoring it fairly closely to ensure that what was going to be delivered was delivered and that the system was efficient.
I believe the new system was more advanced, technically, than the old one and actually used fewer people to do much of the recording. I think there was also some dispute, at the time, about local hire. There were some people who were working here locally before and some of the other work wasn't being done.
So, maybe the minister could bring back for us whether or not the company that is doing the court reporting now is local, doing most of the work here, and that the system itself is up and functioning fine.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, Total Reporting Service Ltd. is a local company. The issue that the member is referring is on the subject of digital technology. I just don't have the specific details of that circumstance before me and I will bring back a written response.
Mr. Cable: On the same topic, and by way of information to the minister, I had a chap in the office the other day who had an appeal - I think it was a criminal appeal. He had the transcripts of the proceedings and they were virtually unusable - I didn't see them, but this is what he related to me - saying there were large portions that were classified with the word "inaudible". I wonder if the minister could look into that and see whether that is a problem with the local bar and with the courts.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Yes, we can do that, Mr. Chair.
Court Administration in the amount of $618,000 agreed to
On Court Operations
Court Operations in the amount of $2,323,000 agreed to
Mr. Phillips: This is one, Mr. Chair, that shows a decrease and I know that, when times are tough, the sheriff's workload usually increases. I'm just wondering why they anticipated a five-percent decrease here. Was there something last year, maybe more related to the court cases that were held last year. Is that why they bumped it up? Maybe the minister could fill us in on that?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, the reduction is shown because of a projected decrease in honoraria paid to jury members due to the ongoing decline in the number of trials actually held.
Mr. Phillips: So, is the minister saying that, with fewer trials in the future, we may need fewer judges? Is that the direction we're heading?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: No.
Mr. Phillips: The minister said no. I'm just wondering, if restorative justice works and the judges are not as involved as they were before, and there is more community involvement, I would think, as the workload decreases - once we get a handle on the workload, which I'm sure will be provided for us - then we could probably look at the need. I mean, we increase because there's a need and I'm sure we could decrease if the need also decreased. I would assume that that would be a normal way of doing business. So, I would hope that that would be the approach the government would take. It wouldn't be necessary to have as many judges as we have now if all the restorative justice issues the minister is working with follow through and there are fewer people to go through the court system. I would hope that we would consider reducing the number we have in our judiciary as we would consider increasing it if the court cases increased.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, we'll keep a watching brief on that.
Sheriff in the amount of $248,000 agreed to
On Maintenance Enforcement
Maintenance Enforcement in the amount of $375,000 agreed to
On Witness Administration
Witness Administration in the amount of $112,000 agreed to
On Yukon Review Board
Yukon Review Board in the amount of $70,000 agreed to
Chair: Are there any questions on the statistics?
Court Services in the amount of $3,746,000 agreed to
On Legal Services
Chair: Is there general debate?
Mr. Cable: I've asked the minister and her staff from time to time about the use of outside counsel. There appears to be some genuine efforts to use local counsel, but I had solicited from the minister a number of contracts that had gone to Swinton & Company, one of which, to my recollection, dealt with construction law, and another one that related to, I think, some work of the Energy Corporation.
Now, I know there are local solicitors that can do construction law work as well as anybody in Vancouver, and I wonder if the minister and the minister's officials would review those contracts that were provided to me and advise me as to why they could not have gone to local solicitors.
I have sought the advice of one of the local solicitors, and it was his opinion, anyway, that at least the contract relating to construction law matters could easily have been done in this jurisdiction.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, the instructions that I've given are to use local counsel wherever possible, and that is the intention of the department. I will look at the contracts that the member refers to and provide a response for him.
On Program Director
Program Director in the amount of $193,000 agreed to
On Solicitors Branch
Mr. Phillips: Do we have a full complement now of solicitors? I know we had one retire here recently. Have we filled that position, and when do we expect to fill it? And maybe the minister could give us an idea of how large the largest law firm in the territory is at the present time.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, we're recruiting for that vacancy at the present time, and I can bring a response for the member on the details that he's asked for.
Solicitors Branch in the amount of $883,000 agreed to
On Legislative Counsel
Legislative Counsel in the amount of $463,000 agreed to
On Litigation Costs/Judgments
Litigation Costs/Judgments in the amount of $10,000 agreed to
On Outside Counsel
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Chair, I asked the member about Bill C-68 and the appeal. Will we incur any more legal costs if the Supreme Court decides to hear it in this fiscal year? I guess we'll be interveners, or involved with Alberta, and I just wonder if we'll use solicitors from our own department, or will we hire - I hate to use this term - a hired gun from somewhere else to represent us in the C-68 debate?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: We have the expertise available to us within the department and will not be required to hire legal counsel from outside the territory.
Outside Counsel in the amount of $200,000 agreed to
On Community Legal Support
Community Legal Support in the amount of $1,359,000 agreed to
Legal Services in the amount of $3,108,000 agreed to
On Consumer and Commercial Services
Chair: Is there general debate?
On Program Director
Program Director in the amount of $9,000 agreed to
On Consumer Services
Consumer Services in the amount of $426,000 agreed to
On Corporate Affairs
Corporate Affairs in the amount of $357,000 agreed to
On Labour Services
Labour Services in the amount of $476,000 agreed to
On Occupational Health and Safety
Occupational Health and Safety in the amount of $329,000 agreed to
On Public Administrator
Public Administrator in the amount of $160,000 agreed to
On Land Titles
Mr. Phillips: We have a new system in place in that department now. Maybe the minister could bring us up to speed on how efficient and effective this new system is. Is it working well? Are we happy with it? Have there been any more glitches with the system?
I understand from some people I've talked to that they're pleased with the system, but I just want to hear if there are any more problems with it.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I'm not aware of any problems with it.
Land Titles in the amount of $325,000 agreed to
On Chief Coroner
Chief Coroner in the amount of $296,000 agreed to
On Yukon Utilities Board
Yukon Utilities Board in the amount of $156,000 agreed to
Chair: Are there any questions on the statistics?
Consumer and Commercial Services in the amount of $2,534,000 agreed to
On Community and Correctional Services
Chair: Is there general debate?
On Program Director
Program Director in the amount of $280,000 agreed to
On Community Corrections
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Chair, where are we at with the Teslin correctional facility? I believe that the manager of the facility has left the employment of the Yukon government. Have we filled that position now? Do we have someone in that position?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Yes, Bonnie Ross is acting in that position.
Community Corrections in the amount of $862,000 agreed to
On Institutional Facilities
Institutional Facilities in the amount of $6,415,000 agreed to
Community Residential Centre
Community Residential Centre in the amount of $176,000 agreed to
On Victim Services and Family Violence Prevention Unit
Victim Services and Family Violence Prevention Unit in the amount of $850,000 agreed to
Chair: Are there any questions on the statistics?
Mr. Phillips: I know the announcement was just made today by the federal minister with respect to victims rights. Has the minister or the department had an opportunity to review the announcement made today by the federal minister - I imagine we've been in discussions with the federal minister - and will it have any implications on our budget vis-à-vis more resources for victim services in the future to help the victims provide victim-impact statements and that kind of thing?
I imagine, with this new legislation, there will be better opportunities for people to provide those kinds of things and they may need some assistance and help. I wonder if the department knows whether or not it will affect us at all and whether or not we can actually benefit from it with respect to this department and the assistance they can provide to victims?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, we have not had an opportunity to review the announcement that was made today. The bill would clarify the Criminal Code to make it clear that victim impact statements can be used. There may be a requirement for the family violence prevention unit or for our victim witness program to help victims with preparing victim impact statements. I really haven't had a moment to look at this announcement - other than a quick cursory glance - so I can provide further information for the member.
While I am on my feet, I would also like to respond to a question that the member asked earlier. We have nine lawyers in the Department of Justice, as well as four legislative counsel and one articling student.
Community and Correctional Services in the amount of $8,583,000 agreed to
On Crime Prevention and Policing
Chair: Is there general debate?
On Program Director
Program Director in the amount of $314,000 agreed to
On Police Services
Mr. Cable: There is a minor reduction in the line item. Has the establishment of the police been changed, or what's the reason for the minor reduction?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: There has not been a change to the reference level of the RCMP. There is a decrease in the police services contract to match expected actual costs for the year.
Police Services in the amount of $10,612,000 agreed to
Chair: Any questions on the stats?
Crime Prevention and Policing in the amount of $10,926,000 agreed to
On Human Rights
Chair: Is there general debate?
On Human Rights Commission Grant
Human Rights Commission Grant in the amount of $254,000 agreed to
On Human Rights Adjudication Board
Mr. Cable: A question I asked in the briefing, and just for the record for Hansard, what is the daily rate paid to the adjudicator?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I brought that information down with me to the House. I'll see if I can find it here and, if I can't, I'll read it into the record. I know my financial officials are listening and can bring it down here if I don't have it in front of me.
I cannot find it right at the moment, but I'll get it for the member.
Mr. Phillips: Just reading from a letter from the minister, it said, "Regarding the Human Rights Commission, adjudicators are paid $400 a day, or part thereof."
Mr. Chair, I move you report progress.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Human Rights Adjudication Board in the amount of $9,000 agreed to
Chair: Any questions on the recoveries and revenue?
Human Rights in the amount of $263,000 agreed to
Operations and Maintenance Expenditures for the Department of Justice in the amount of $31,004,000 agreed to
Chair: When we proceed on Monday, we will start capital.
Mr. Fentie: Mr. Chair, I move that you report progress.
Motion agreed to
Mr. Fentie: 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 the report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole?
Mr. McRobb: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 14, First Appropriation Act, 1999-2000, and has directed me to report progress on it.
Speaker: You have heard the report of the Chair of Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: I declare the report carried.
Mr. Fentie: I move that the House do now adjourn.
Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. government House leader that the House do now adjourn.
Motion agreed to
Speaker: This House now stands adjourned until 1:30 p.m. Monday.
The House adjourned at 5:27 p.m.
The following Sessional Paper was tabled April 15, 1999:
"Control your financial future": pamphlets on money management for women and where to obtain further information (Moorcroft)