Monday, November 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?
In remembrance of Ben Sheardown
Mr. Hardy: Mr. Speaker, I rise today to pay tribute to Benny Sheardown. He was a husband, a father, a teacher, a leader, a sportsman and a friend.
Thinking about it, I have known Benny for over 30 years in the Yukon and, over those 30 years, he has been my teacher and a leader. He was a young boy's hockey hero, watching him play, and most important he was a friend - a friend who developed and changed many times over those years.
But he was always a person I could go to and talk to, someone I could always see on the street and feel uplifted by his smile and the support that he offered, and I know he offered it to people throughout his life.
He touched and influenced thousands of people throughout the north. I was going to say the Yukon, but it actually goes beyond that, because many people I've talked to who have left the Yukon knew Benny in Alaska, or in the N.W.T. in his travels, his school and his competitions - all remember him with a tremendous amount of fondness.
He has touched many young people's lives, and did right up until his passing. It's very interesting for me to find myself now teaching young people whom Benny counselled and taught and, at his memorial, seeing them there and being very moved by their commitment and the leadership that he offered - the commitment to him and carrying on the tradition and the example that he set.
Though he passed away a few months ago, a week doesn't go by that I don't talk to somebody, or run into somebody, who doesn't bring up Benny in our conversation. It happened last week in the Legislature. I was talking to somebody who was down from Haines Junction, and we were talking about Benny again and the memories - we shared some memories of him.
I ask the Legislature to join in offering our condolences to Benny's family, Cathy and Sean and Penny Lou, and to close friends he had and his extended family that he had throughout Canada.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, I'm pleased to rise and join with other members of this House on behalf of the Yukon Liberal caucus to pay tribute to a much-loved Yukoner, Ben Sheardown.
Ben passed away on June 18 of this year, and a memorial service attended by many, many Yukoners was held, most fittingly, at one of the finest recreational centres in the Yukon. The memorial service to bid a fond farewell to Benny was warm and eloquent. Typical of Ben, it was filled with love, laughter, warm memories and tears, as we shared Cathy, Sean and Penny's loss and that of his extended family. Our hearts and our prayers are with them as we all fully begin to deal with that empty place where once was one of the Yukon community's finest coaches, athletes and friends, Ben Sheardown.
In reflecting upon memories of Benny, it was suggested that the new multiplex would be most appropriately named the Sheardown Centre, and I hope that this fitting tribute will be followed up by those in discussion. On behalf of our caucus, we extend our condolences to Ben's family and his extended family.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Phillips: On behalf of the Yukon Party caucus, I rise as well to pay tribute to a very special Yukoner and a dear friend of mine, who passed away in June after a long battle with cancer.
As a father, a husband, a teacher, an athlete and a coach, Benny touched the lives of many people over the course of his lifetime. While many of us were inspired by his athletic abilities, hundreds of others learned from him through coaching, others from his 26 years of teaching, and many of us from his very sincere friendship.
He is revered as one of Yukon's best athletes, earning numerous awards through his career, including that of winning a gold ulu in hockey in 1972. Benny called that his Stanley Cup.
While Benny's competitive nature led him to excel in almost every sport he tried, Benny will be long remembered for his years of coaching in the City of Whitehorse. It was behind the benches that Benny cherished the most. He had an integral part in the growth of basketball in the territory; he was one of the first coaches in the sport to take his players to a summer training camp and train with them more than 11 months of the year.
I can remember personally, Mr. Speaker, looking at Benny as a role model, because he was a few years ahead of me in school. As you know, Benny and I were somewhat vertically challenged, and I probably always will be. I used to respect the fact that Benny played so well, and did so well, and never let his height hinder him at all in basketball. He gave a lot of kids like myself, and others - friends of his - a lot of motivation to be involved.
Win or lose, Benny's kindness and understanding brought the best out in people and, more times than not, led to his teams' success.
To commemorate his contribution to Yukon sports as an athlete and coach, Benny was inducted into the Hall of Fame last year. Though he almost refused to accept the award - being Benny - thinking it was done out of pity, he soon came to realize from his family and friends that the award was as much a tribute to those who helped him accomplish great things in his life as it was to him.
He was incredibly supportive of our community and yet seldom took any credit for the untold hours of helping others and realizing his goals. A true indication of support and the number of lives Benny touched over the years were the number of people who paid tribute to Benny when he passed on. While more than a thousand people attended Benny's memorial service in June, many others from as far away as Mexico City chose to write letters to the editor crediting Benny with shaping their lives and, in some cases, saving them.
A team player with a heart of gold, Benny will be remembered as a talented athlete, a dedicated coach, a great friend of many and a great family man. He'll be missed by his family and, indeed, be remembered fondly by all of us.
I know many of us will never forget Benny's cheerful greetings as he'd pass you on his bike followed by his trusty dog, Tecumseh. As a long-time Yukoner, and a very special man, it's appropriate that we pay tribute to our friend Benny here today.
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I'm pleased to welcome Elizabeth Welsh from Petrolia, Ontario to the gallery. Elizabeth is here for the Circumpolar Women's Conference and is helping her mother, Sheila Rose, on that conference. Like her mother, Elizabeth is a volunteer in her home community where she chairs the Petrolia Heritage Committee. Ms. Welsh is here with Floyd McCormick, a noted political commentator in the Yukon, and I'd like to welcome them both to the gallery.
Speaker: Are there any returns or documents for tabling?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Mr. Speaker, I have a legislative return for tabling.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Speaker, I have two publications. One is Options, Choices, Changes, which is a booklet designed to help women who are victims of abuse; and, as well, the annual report of the Yukon Advisory Council on Women's Issues for 1998-99.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Mr. Speaker, I have the airline restructuring report and the Yukon Heritage Resources Board 1998-99 annual report for tabling.
Petition No. 10 - received
Clerk: Mr. Speaker and hon. members of the Assembly: I have had the honour to review a petition, being Petition No. 10 of the First Session of the Twenty-ninth Legislative Assembly, as presented by the Member for Riverdale North on November 10, 1999. This petition meets the requirements as to form of the Standing Orders of the Yukon Legislative Assembly.
Speaker: Petition No. 10 is, accordingly, deemed to be read and received.
Are there any bills to be introduced?
Are there any notices of motion?
NOTICES OF MOTION
Ms. Buckway: Mr. Speaker, I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that
(1) the disrespectful manner that the current government has used to negotiate contracts with its professional workforce, and the two-percent rollback imposed by the previous government, have damaged the relationship between the Government of Yukon and public sector workers;
(2) the poor relationship between the Government Yukon and its employees has resulted in economic uncertainty and low employee morale;
(3) collective bargaining should satisfy the mutual interests of both the employer and employees and recognize that Government of Yukon employees and educators are the government's most important resource; and
(4) interest-based bargaining has proven an effective method of reaching agreement at the negotiating table; and
THAT this House urges the Government of Yukon to investigate the implementation of an interest-based bargaining process with the Yukon Government Employees Union and the Yukon Teachers Association.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that expenditures outside the Yukon by individuals, businesses, government and other agencies, weaken the Yukon economy; and
THAT this House urges the Government of Yukon to work with the private sector to:
(1) identify and quantify the prime sources of leakage from the economy of individual communities and the Yukon as a whole, and
(2) develop strategies that both the public and private sectors can employ to reduce this leakage.
Speaker: Are there any statements by ministers?
"Made in Yukon" products
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Mr. Speaker, I rise today to advise the House of a new policy to increase our government's use of products that are not just sold in the Yukon but are manufactured in the territory.
Our government recognizes the importance of helping Yukon manufacturers expand their capacity to develop and market new products, both within the territory and abroad. To further this goal, Government Services has undertaken two new initiatives involving the financing, research and development costs and maintaining an inventory of resulting products.
The first of these initiatives relates to our commitment to use Yukon-manufactured materials in government-funded construction projects. Designers and architects select construction materials so that the whole design will fit together. However, they may not always be aware of what materials are produced in the Yukon and whether those materials meet current building standards. To address this problem, Government Services is sending a dedicated purchasing officer and building project manager to rural Yukon communities to visit businesses and to identify Yukon manufacturers of construction materials and other products.
When the research is complete, we will publish a catalogue of Yukon manufacturers and products for use by designers and architects. This catalogue will include product and certification information, photographs and specifications. Yukon designers and architects will be able to review the catalogue before it is published to ensure that it meets their needs. The catalogue will be available through the Internet at the government's Web site and will be updated regularly as new products become available. Once designers become accustomed to using the catalogue, they can incorporate Yukon-made products in building designs for their private sector clients as well. The support of Yukon people for their own entrepreneurs is a vital component of a strong, diversified economy.
The second major initiative involves government purchase of Yukon-manufactured furniture. We are extending our policy of buying Yukon-manufactured furniture, as we have been doing with desks, bookshelves and other furnishings for the new schools in Old Crow and Ross River.
Government Services has engaged a Whitehorse design firm, Northern Cadworks, to work with the furniture-manufacturing industry to develop specifications for modular office furniture suitable for both public and private sector use.
During the winter months, Yukon manufacturers will be constructing prototypes of the furniture based on the specifications developed and incorporating their own artistic designs. Next spring, standing offer agreements will be put into effect with manufacturers of the successful designs.
Government Services will maintain a modest inventory of furniture for resale to departments. This will largely eliminate the waiting time that has, in the past, been a constraint to purchasing Yukon-made products.
To encourage private sector purchase of Yukon-made products, the manufacturers themselves will be able to buy back items needed on short notice to fill an order from the private sector.
Using the government's purchasing power in a proactive way provides an economic stimulus for the Yukon's furniture-manufacturing industry, and also helps local manufacturers create quality products for both Yukon consumers and export markets.
Ms. Buckway: Mr. Speaker, I'm pleased that the government has finally realized it should be buying locally. Most of us have been aware of this since Yukoners started to manufacture products. I'm wondering what has caused this sudden shift in government policy. This is, after all, the minister who has given us several stellar examples of "buy elsewhere."
There was the Old Crow school. The entire project was made from outside materials. The government imported everything from the roof trusses to the floor joists from Alberta, to the tune of $200,000. One of the members on the government side of the House admitted it was a mistake to bring materials in from Alberta. Even the fuel wasn't purchased locally; it came from Alaska.
Then there was the $1-million-worth of work that went to NovaLIS, a Nova Scotia company, for a computer system. And there's the new Health and Social Services building - $1 million to an architectural company from B.C.
After awhile, Mr. Speaker, it looks like the government believes there are no competent people or no competent firms in the Yukon.
I'm pleased that the minister has had a change of heart and is now ready to make use of Yukon talent and Yukon materials. I am, however, wondering why it took so long.
At this point, the government should not be doing research. It should already have done it. Others have already done a great deal of it, talked to the Yukon Chamber of Commerce, the Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce, talked to his own department. The information is readily available.
The Yukon's population is not huge, Mr. Speaker. It's even smaller recently, thanks to the government's inability to deal with the economy. Who is manufacturing what, or who's capable of manufacturing what, is not a big secret.
What will the government be doing to ensure that Yukon-produced materials for government-funded construction projects meet current building standards? Will they be working with the manufacturers? Will they perhaps be providing some training? How long does the minister expect it will take to complete the research? What's the expected cost? How long does the minister expect it will take to prepare the catalogue? Again, what's the expected cost?
I'm pleased that the government is extending its policy of purchasing locally manufactured furniture. We have fine craftspeople here producing innovative local furniture, and we should have been taking advantage of it for years now.
What will be the effect of this new initiative on the cost of furniture for the government? I would suggest it might well go down, if the government is making a commitment to local manufacturers, who can then plan accordingly and produce in greater quantity.
The Yukon Liberal caucus applauds these initiatives by government to purchase locally. Now, if the government would start to look locally to fill government jobs, we'd really be getting somewhere.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Jenkins: On behalf of the Yukon Party caucus, I'm pleased to take this opportunity to respond to the minister's statement regarding made-in-Yukon products.
We on this side of the House fully support the concept of local manufacturing. Local manufacturing must be price competitive, and we would expect that the demand be created not solely by government, but by industry across the Yukon.
While local products are often easier to service and repair, as is our ability to tailor products to meet special operational requirements, we must not overlook the importance of costs. The minister stated that a set of specifications for modular office furniture suitable for both public and private sector use has been developed for the furniture manufacturing industry by the Whitehorse design firm, Northern Cadworks. I would like to ask the minister if he would provide a copy of the specifications and if he could advise as to whether these specs will apply to the standing offer agreements that were struck last year to meet the future furniture needs of Yukon schools. As the minister will recall, these agreements were awarded to two local companies for a period of three years. With two years left in these agreements, does the minister anticipate making any changes to the existing agreements in view of the new specifications that will be adopted?
The minister also stated the standing offer agreements will be put into place with manufacturers of the successful design. What criteria will the government be using to determine what designs will be selected? Will costs be considered, or is the government solely looking at design initiatives as the influencing factor for making a decision as to which design it will be selecting? How long will the standing offer agreements be in place? Why is it that these agreements will only be offered to those with a winning design, and not to all of the local Yukon manufacturers? Will these agreements apply to all government departments and agencies, and how much money does the government anticipate spending in the replacement of government furniture and meeting its future needs under the auspices of these agreements?
The minister also stated that Government Services is sending a dedicated purchasing officer and building project manager into rural communities to visit businesses and identify Yukon manufacturers. Well, that information is readily available and it wouldn't take very long to ascertain that information; it's pretty well-known throughout the Yukon. Are these existing positions that the government will be creating, or is another new department envisioned? It would almost appear that we are creating a whole new level of government to oversee the design, to purchase, to warehouse, to re-sell Yukon-made products.
In what other areas is this government planning to go into business?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I thank the members for their somewhat tepid response on what we consider to be a positive initiative.
Just, I think, by way of introduction, what I would say is that unless we begin to diversify, unless we begin to look at other options economically, we will not progress. That's what this government is committed to doing. We're committed to diversifying the economy. We're committed to providing opportunities for local businesses, and this particular statement today makes reference to that.
I was interested in the examples that the Member for Laberge chose. She chose the Old Crow school. Well, that was an example of local hire. Most of the labour on that school was local - not only Yukon residents, but Old Crow residents. So that had a real substantial impact on real people in a real community. I guess that doesn't count with the Liberal Party.
I guess the same thing with Ross River. I was up there not too long ago. It looked to me like a Yukon contractor working on that project. It looked to me like Ross River people working on that project. I guess they don't count, because they're probably not real, and it's not a real community to the Liberal members.
In Teslin we're building a new health centre. We've needed a new health centre there for a long time. Guess what, it's a Teslin company, and it's Teslin residents working on the project.
We've introduced an additional rebate through the BIP to encourage the hiring of youth on construction jobs, and that resulted in more youth getting jobs this summer. This is a group that has high unemployment, so maybe they don't count.
So, these are some ways that we have been using local hire to help local people, and we make no apologies for that whatsoever.
Just by way of interest, in purchasing and contracting, 86 percent of the dollar value of contracts went to local businesses in 1998-99 - 86 percent of the dollar values. Well, that to me seems to be progress. That seems to me to be substantial progress from what our previous situation was before.
The reference to the long-term care facility was interesting, because the design component of that was done as a cooperative venture between a number of local companies and an outside firm. We knew right from the start that because of the nature, the very specialized nature, of that project, most of the companies that would be bidding on it would have some partnership, and that's exactly what happened.
I can tell the member that there are local companies working on that project in engineering and other aspects. So I guess those people aren't real, but we'll continue to monitor that one.
With respect to the question of local furniture, we purchased last year a variety of furniture for both the Old Crow and Ross River schools, and that represented a $50,000 stimulus to the furniture-manufacturing industry in this territory.
And I just wanted to bring this in again, Mr. Speaker. This was the catalogue that we produced last year, so that schools do have an option to access local furniture. So, we're not apologizing for that. We're trying to stimulate the economy and stimulate some local businesses.
With reference to Northern Cadworks, the member perhaps missed my comment that we have engaged them, and we plan on developing those sorts of specifications. And, as far as the new hires, those are not new hires. Those are individuals who will be assigned from Government Services to travel around, meet with local manufacturers to develop ideas, to develop ways to increase the amount of local content in our construction projects.
So, Mr. Speaker, we're not apologizing for making an effort to diversify and turn this economy around. I believe it's projects like this that will.
Speaker: This then brings us to the Question Period.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Point of order
Speaker: Minister responsible for Yukon Housing Corporation, on a point of order.
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Speaker, after reviewing Hansard of Wednesday, November 10, I would like to clarify what I meant to say in responding to the Member for Klondike. In the middle of my response, I said that, obviously, if the member really supported the Yukon Housing Corporation, he himself would have made sure that he was in good standing with the corporation. What I meant to say, Mr. Speaker, was that he himself would have made sure that he had a good understanding of the corporation.
Question re: Protected areas strategy, Fishing Branch
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Renewable Resources and it concerns the protected areas strategy.
In December 1998, Yukoners all agreed that the protected areas strategy document would be the rules by which we would determine which areas are protected and which areas are to be developed.
The first protected area to be established under the new rules is Fishing Branch in north Yukon. Does the minister believe the government has followed the process laid out in the protected areas strategy in establishing Fishing Branch?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Speaker, we went out to the general public to put together the protected areas strategy. It is a "how to" book on how to go about having protected areas in ecoregions, and that's the approach we took. Fishing Branch, as the member knows, has been in the works for many, many years as part of a land claims agreement where they do have a land selection, and in there it states that we would be looking at ways to further protect around the core area that the Fishing Branch was negotiated on. So, that's the approach we took.
Mr. Speaker, the process we used was to follow the strategy as closelyas we could. We did speed up the process, talking to the First Nation and, in the interests of oil and gas, we did speed up that process.
So, Mr. Speaker, other planning teams that are being put in place for other ecoregions will use the process laid out in the protected areas strategy.
Ms. Duncan: Well, Mr. Speaker, in his response the minister referred to these documents as a "how to" book, as a process, and let there be no doubt that the Liberal caucus supports the protected areas strategy and we believe that Fishing Branch should be a protected area.
The government has not followed the process as agreed upon in the rules, as agreed upon by the Yukon community. The protected areas strategy says, "Step 2: a local planning team will be established. Step 3: the local planning team will identify a proposed study area." The local planning team for Fishing Branch was established in late April. One of the local planning team documents says, "Consensus was reached by the local planning team that the proposed study area boundaries, given Cabinet approval-in-principle in April, be recommended in the study area proposal."
Mr. Speaker, that says that the study area was approved by Cabinet, not the planning team, as outlined by the rules. Why were the rules, as agreed to by the Yukon community, not followed?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Speaker, I don't know where the member is coming from. What would she like us to do? Put Fishing Branch on hold? We've made tremendous progress with Fishing Branch. We're coming very close to finalizing the boundaries and having the planning team go out there and work on the management plan, which could take between one and two years to put together. I have said to the Members, we have talked with the First Nation. We've had interests in oil and gas in the Eagle Plains area and around Fishing Branch. We wanted to make sure that we did do a lot of the work on Fishing Branch, go ahead with that, and at the same time, having the interests with oil and gas come forward, too. With that understanding with the First Nation, we continue to move ahead and try to speed this project up. I've said that a second time, and I hope that the member realizes that there were a lot of importance and a lot of issues around this. We will be following the process in YPAS, I said to the members, and any other eco-regions that we put planning teams together for. We're very close to finalizing Fishing Branch, and that's where it's at right now.
Ms. Duncan: No one's asking that it be put on hold; I'm asking that the rules as agreed to by the Yukon community be followed. The protected areas strategy says, "Step 2: a local planning team will be established. Step 3: the planning team identifies a proposed study area. Step 4: the Yukon government will ask the federal government to withdraw the land from mineral staking." This isn't what happened with Fishing Branch. The local planning team was established in late April, yet as early as the first week in April, the minister's department wrote to the federal government and asked that the land be withdrawn. Mr. Speaker, the government did not follow the rules as agreed to by the Yukon community. Why were the rules not followed?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: I knew they would come back with the same question; they are recycling their questions. I have answered that twice already. What the member wants is for us to slow down on Fishing Branch. We're working with the community and the local planning team to make things happen, and we're very close. We have a very good process, and I know that the local planning team also agrees with that.
Question re: Protected areas strategy, Fishing Branch
Ms. Duncan: I have some further questions for the Minister of Renewable Resources on the protected areas strategy and the process to date for establishing the Fishing Branch protected area.
The rules, as agreed to by the Yukon community and ignored by the NDP government - the protected areas strategy sets out a process for the local planning team to identify the proposed study area. There can be different levels of protection in the study area - parts are goal 1, some parts are goal 2 of protection. It's the job of the local planning team to decide on the proper level of protection.
In an August 10 letter to the planning team, the government spelled out what levels of protection should go where. The government directed the planning team on what areas should receive goal 1 and what areas should receive goal 2. Why did the government not follow the rules agreed upon by the Yukon community and allow the local planning team to make these decisions?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Speaker, it's our duty to respond to local planning teams and have our input on what we think should be addressed with the local planning teams, and if there's an interest out there that has come forward through our department, then we shouldn't hold back in letting the local planning team know what that is. That's exactly the way we've worked on this. The process has been sped up a bit by our suggestions, and, Mr. Speaker, we're continuing to follow the process, as laid out in the protected areas strategy. I don't know where the member's coming from.
What would she like us to do now? Stop and take some steps back and hold off on Fishing Branch? We're moving ahead.
Ms. Duncan: Well, I'm asking, like every Yukoner who agreed to this process, that the government follow it. These are the rules agreed upon by the Yukon community for the protected areas strategy. Step 3 says that the local planning team is to conduct resource assessments to identify competing resource interests in the area of interest being considered.
An August 25 planning team report, page 8, says, "In the absence of comprehensive mineral assessments, it is impossible to know whether these claims are isolated features or part of a significant trend of mineralization."
The planning team has clearly not completed this part of the process. Why has the government not followed the rules, as agreed upon by the Yukon community, in planning for protected areas?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Speaker, the member is wrong. We have been following the process as laid out in the protected areas strategy. I know the member would like us to go back and do more work. You could do mineral assessments basically forever. And what is satisfactory to the member opposite, we don't know. We want to move ahead on protected areas. We want to move ahead on Fishing Branch. We want the boundaries to be finalized; that recommendation has been given to us, as of today, from the local planning team. They are recommendations to government. That is what the local planning teams are set up to do. We will be reviewing it and responding.
Ms. Duncan: The minister says I'm wrong. In letters between public servants, the comment is made, "cites the April 6 request to the feds as an example of how the process with respect to Fishing Branch is not consistent with what is described in the YPAS document."
In the local planning team document, under key public comments, it says, "Follow the YPAS process." The government has not taken this advice. Clearly, Mr. Speaker, there are a number of examples on how the government has not followed the process, the rules as agreed to by the Yukon community.
How does the minister intend to restore public faith in the Yukon protected areas strategy?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Well, Mr. Speaker, the member opposite doesn't have faith in this strategy.
After having some discussion on many of the issues raised in this House - motions and so on - we know the Liberal position on land use planning is to go ahead before things like protected areas can happen. What we said is that we will work with those First Nations that have final agreements, and that's where the protected areas strategy, the how-to book, would apply to those areas that do have First Nation final agreements. And that's what we're doing. We followed the strategy as closely as we possibly can. We sped it up because of oil and gas interests, and we've talked with the First Nation on it.
An agreement was made that we do go ahead with both and try to make things happen, and it is. Today, they've made a recommendation to us, and we will be responding to the local planning team. Lots of progress has been made, and to the members in Old Crow, this is what they would like to see. They would like to see Fishing Branch boundaries established and the work go on with putting together a proper management plan for the Fishing Branch.
Question re: Health care, physician recruitment
Mr. Jenkins: I have a question for the Minister of Health and Social Services. On October 1, 1998, I received a letter from the minister that said, in part, that he thanked me for forwarding a copy of the recruitment programs for health care professionals from the Northwest Territories.
The minister went on to say, "...that while I agree that we share some characteristics with our neighbour to the east, our shortage of physicians is not one of those." The minister went on to enclose information from the Canadian Institute for Health Information, which shows that Yukon had more family physicians in relation to the population than any other Canadian jurisdiction.
That was the minister's line a year ago but, today, we have the head of the Canadian Medical Association - Dr. Scully - saying the minister's figures are wrong, that Yukoners have fewer physicians per population than most other areas of Canada today. Further, those Yukoners who are searching for a family physician know full well that the minister is wrong, because they can't find a family physician. They're having a hard time finding one.
Will the minister now correct his previous misinformation, Mr. Speaker?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Mr. Speaker, those aren't my figures; those are the figures from the Canadian Institute for Health Information. Those figures are from 1998, and they were released in 1999 and, as a matter of fact, I can send over a copy for the member there, for his edification.
The fact is that we are generally well-resourced. The reference here is to the general practitioners in Canada. I believe when Dr. Scully was doing his numbers, he was counting - for example - very likely specialists, people working in teaching hospitals, and so on. We did not include those in our figures, because most of our references to specialists are done either by visiting specialists, or by specialists that people are referred out to.
So I can say, Mr. Speaker, I feel very confident that the numbers we received from the Canadian Institute for Health Information are accurate.
Mr. Jenkins: It sounds like the minister is saying, on the floor of the House, that we don't have a problem. We have enough doctors, and that the doctors we have are adequately servicing the needs of the Yukoners who are here today. That's simply not the case. For the last three years, I've been telling the minister time and time again that we have a problem and he just won't listen. The Yukon is having trouble attracting new doctors, and those doctors who are here and who wish to sell their practice and retire can't find any buyers. That says something for this area, Mr. Speaker.
I'd like the minister to explain how he is going to solve this doctor shortage when he won't even admit that there is one?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Mr. Speaker, I didn't say that there wasn't a shortage. As a matter of fact, in my meeting with the YMA I did acknowledge that there is a shortage. There is a national shortage in several key areas. Anaesthesiology is one. OBGY is another - particularly general surgeons. These were issues that were acknowledged at the Charlottetown meeting and, at that point, there were a number of jurisdictions that, along with federal government, wanted to do some cooperative action to look at that particular issue.
My reference is to GPs and, based on our figures for GPs, we are adequately sourced. That is not to say that we can rest on our laurels. There are people in specialty areas who will be retiring over the next number of years, and we've already met with the YMA. Interestingly enough, we met with the YMA just prior to this meeting and we offered to the YMA a number of our sources and our tools, particularly the stuff that we developed in regard to nurse practitioners, in terms of recruitment.
I think one of the most interesting changes that has been made is the fact that the PRPC has recently been revoked. Now that, the member may recall, was brought in by the Yukon Party and essentially curtailed the arrival of new doctors in the territory because that restricted them to 50 percent of the current fee. That has been revoked.
Now, it's interesting that the last of the big-time free traders here didn't acknowledge the fact that we actually lifted a restriction that we felt was perhaps inhibiting people's decisions to move to the territory.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, Mr. Speaker, you know, after the end of the day, the minister might be correct. We might end up with the highest ratio of doctors to Yukoners. We might end up in that situation, but only because of the dismal state of the economy, the exodus of Yukoners, the downturn in the population with the same level of doctors here.
The minister has blamed the problem, in addition to the areas he's addressed, on part-time doctors, but I understand that he's already apologized for that remark, after taking considerable heat from the doctors over the weekend. Will the minister table a contingency plan about how he's going to address the shortage of doctors and nurses in the territory?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I think I just went through the fact that we met with and discussed with, at the Joint Management Committee, and have offered our services to the physicians, in terms of assisting them with recruitment. The removal of the PRPC, that onerous piece of restrictive legislation passed by the previous government, should help.
In addition, I think - done by the Yukon Party, I might say.
I think the other thing we have committed to doing - as a matter of fact, we're doing it right now - is that we have begun recruitment actions, particularly for rural Yukon, and we have had a considerable amount of interest. As a matter of fact, toward the end of this month, we're going to be bringing up some physicians who have expressed an interest in a particular rural location. We're trying to address those concerns, at this point.
The member has indicated that we haven't done anything in terms of recruitment of nurses. Well, nothing could be further from the truth. We have had a very active, extremely proactive, recruitment action, and based on that, we felt that we could perhaps extend that out to assisting some of our local physicians in recruitment for their own practices.
Question re: Health care, physician recruitment
Mr. Jenkins: Once again, I have a question for the Minister of Health and Social Services. This minister has a dismal track record when it comes to meeting the health and social service needs of Yukoners. I'm sure at the end of his term he will be referred to as the minister responsible for shambles, because he has created shambles out of the alcohol and drug treatment service, family service, and now doctor and nursing recruitment and retention in the territory. Isn't anything happening there, despite what the minister said? This government has an $82-million surplus at its disposal, so the minister can't say that he doesn't have any money to address these problems. All he is lacking is the political will to do so, and I would like him to explain why. Why won't he address these needs? Why doesn't he do something to address the needs of health care for Yukoners, Mr. Speaker?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Mr. Speaker, that member is - I'm glad that we're working on the recruitment of a second psychiatrist.
I would like to say that we've bucked the national trend, and we've increased our spending on health care. We have added money -
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Speaker: Member for Riverdale North, on a point of order.
Mr. Phillips: That member just doesn't understand what unparliamentary is. That comment was unparliamentary, Mr. Speaker, and he should withdraw it.
Speaker: Minister of Health and Social Services, on the point of order.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Mr. Speaker, I'm merely referring to something I said at the YMA - that we are working actively with the hospital on the recruitment of a second psychiatrist. I thought he'd be grateful for that information.
Speaker: Order please. I would ask the Member to withdraw the word.
Withdrawal of remark
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Mr. Speaker, if it would make you feel better, I certainly will withdraw it.
Speaker: The member may continue.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Mr. Speaker, when we took office, we found a hospital that was underfunded, underfunded to the point that they couldn't make payroll. We restored the funding to that hospital, and we got it operational, and we got it working after the devastation that they brought in. We've made a significant contribution toward mammography. We have opened up the seven beds at the Thomson Centre that that particular group of people over there felt were better as offices.
They were sitting there, they were not taking care of the needs of extended care patients; we've opened them up. These are the people that have done nothing in terms of recruitment, in terms of nurse practitioner and health professionals. We have not only done that; we've also established a professional development fund to help individuals develop their skills. We've brought about the health summit. We're in the process of building the Teslin health centre. As far as the continuing care centre, this group did nothing, nothing on continuing care; we have made a commitment to long-term continuing care for individuals in this territory. They did nothing. We're doing things. I don't apologize for taking care of seniors -
Speaker: The minister's time has expired.
Mr. Jenkins: I guess we must keep our focus. The minister has been in his portfolio for three years, and every time we hear the minister responding to a question on the issue of health care, it's the federal Liberals, it's the previous Yukon Party government, it's everyone else to blame, other than this minister. And this minister has a tremendous surplus. He has all sorts of money. Solve the problems. It's his ballpark.
The minister stated at the Yukon Medical Association annual convention over the weekend about trying to avoid what he called "southern-style waiting lists". The minister doesn't appear to realize that he's created northern-style waiting lists right here in the Yukon.
Is the minister aware of these northern-style waiting lists that he has created, and what is he going to do about them?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Mr. Speaker, let me just mention something here: at the November 10 Joint Management Committee, Dr. Quong, at a meeting between us and the Yukon Medical Association, stated that in a recent survey of physicians at Whitehorse General Hospital, staff members were asked about the concerns they had for their patients in their practice having appropriate access to medical specialists. Dr. Quong reported that none of the physicians expressed concern about patients having adequate access to medical specialists at this time. It was acknowledged that waiting times for Yukoners are in general much shorter than they are in the south; I guess that's the northern waiting list.
So now let's see them squirm. Now let's see them squirm. Before the YMA was good for them, now the YMA isn't. Make up their mind.
Mr. Jenkins: So, they're horrible and they're terrible in the south, and we're not quite so bad. That's what the minister is saying in the House today. Gee, and he's happy, Mr. Speaker.
Well, talk to the patients who have to wait. It's my understanding that there's an eight-month waiting list for hearing testing; for the radiologist, it's two months; eyes, nose and throat, it's 12 to 18 months; orthopedic specialist, it's 12 to 18 months.
Can the minister confirm these statistics?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Mr. Speaker, I'm not making this up. This is the report from Dr. Quong at the Joint Management Committee. Now, I acknowledge that there are waiting lists, and there are waiting lists that have largely been driven by some of the restrictions in the south - orthopedics is one. British Columbia, for example, has invested a lot of money in trying to bring down some of these waiting lists, particularly for cardiology.
But I also have to suggest that we are subject to some of those vagaries in the south. One of the things that we have begun doing is investigating a working relationship with a southern hospital, where we could address some of these, but I have to say that, at the Joint Management Committee, Dr. Quong acknowledged that he had surveyed his members, and that they felt that this was not a major impediment at this point.
Question re: Wood-pellet industry study
Mr. Cable: I have some questions for the Minister of Economic Development on the Autumn Industries Limited contract. Last March, the government entered into a contract with Autumn Industries Limited to look at some district heating projects based on wood, and to look at the wood-pellet industry in the Yukon. I asked the minister in August for copies of the report, and he said they wouldn't be ready until September.
Last week in this House, I asked him if he would table the reports. So far, nothing.
Is the minister prepared to make these reports public? The taxpayers have a lot of dollars invested in these studies. What's the secret?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, Mr. Speaker, there is no secret, and we intend on making the information public. I said that last week in this House. We were engaged in meetings with Autumn and some Yukon companies that are interested in this particular initiative, and we've been talking to them and working with them. Autumn is still looking at some of the numbers that they've been putting together, and of course we intend to make their information public.
Mr. Cable: The question was when. Before the next election? Where do we sit on the wood pellet industry in the Yukon? The preamble of the contract states that, ultimately, the creation of a wood pellet industry is fundamental to Yukon's interest in moving forward with plants for district heating in the Yukon. Where do we sit? Do we have a viable wood pellet industry now, and would the projects that we're looking at be supported by a viable wood pellet industry?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, it's interesting - the Liberals' newfound concern about making information public before the next election, because that member's Liberal leader told the public of the Yukon he didn't have to make anything public, on the economy or anything else, until the next election - that's what political platforms are for. When we wanted to talk about the economy, the Liberals run out of the Legislature in a harrumph.
Mr. Speaker, I congratulate the member opposite on his unique and his very self-congratulatory way of looking at these particular issues.
Mr. Speaker, I want to say to the member opposite that we intend on making Autumn public, the information that we obtain. We hope to do it very shortly. I would have hoped to have done it this week, and may still be able to, but the member opposite ought not to worry. We're not going to adopt the Liberal way of doing things. We're going to tell the public something before the next election.
Mr. Cable: Just in case it has escaped the minister's attention, he's part of the government. The government signs contracts. We don't sign contracts over here. We're asking the minister what's going on. We've invested a couple of hundred thousand bucks in this contract and, so far, no information.
Where are we on the supply of machinery to the projects? I asked the minister last week whether Autumn Industries would have first crack at the supply of machinery, or whether the many other machinery suppliers in North America and Canada would be able to bid on the projects on a competitive basis. I wasn't any wiser after he had answered the question, so I will ask it again.
Will there be competitive bidding on the supply of machinery, or will Autumn Industries have first crack on the supply of machinery?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, Mr. Speaker, the member opposite has seen the contract around the public/private partnership that we struck, and that information is very public, so I don't understand why he continues to ask the question.
I told him that our view of this matter has been consistent since day one, and that's that we want to see local benefit for Yukoners in the arrangement that's struck.
I will tell the member opposite as well that the Liberal opposition does sign contracts. They have spin doctors and beagles down in their offices, supposedly doing research yet, when it comes to the economy, they're not prepared to stand up and tell the Yukon public what they're prepared to do - until the next general election.
We don't operate that way, Mr. Speaker. They use the tax dollars when it's convenient for them to justify their spins, but they're not prepared to put their ideas forward.
We, on the other hand, when we sign contracts, are telling people we'll put them forward for the public to scrutinize, and we also intend to ensure that, if anything goes ahead on this particular Autumn project, that there are local Yukoners involved. They are already actively engaged in forming some strategic alliances with Yukon companies - I don't want to mention their names in the Legislature right now, Mr. Speaker - but all that good information will come to pass in short order.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed. We will now proceed to Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Mr. Fentie: Mr. Speaker, I move that the Speaker do now leave the Chair, and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Government House Leader that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and 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. Do members wish to recess?
Some Hon. Members:Agreed.
Chair: Fifteen minutes.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. We will be discussing Bill No. 82, Elections Act.
Bill No. 82 - Elections Act - continued
Chair: Is there further general debate?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Yes, Mr. Chair, there is further general debate -
Some Hon. Member: Point of order, Mr. Chair.
Point of order
Chair: The hon. Member for Riverdale North, on a point of order.
Mr. Phillips: When we last left this issue the other night, in general debate, I was speaking, and I moved we report progress. And in a ruling you made previous to this, I believe the Minister of Justice was speaking, and when I went to speak the next day, you advised me that the Minister of Justice was the last person speaking and could continue on, and I expect I can continue on today, Mr. Chair.
Chair: Ms. Moorcroft, on a point of order.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Speaker, on the point of order, the Member for Riverdale North was speaking on the last sitting day and raised a number of questions and comments that indicated a profound misunderstanding of what we're doing with the Elections Act. I would like to clear the record and provide information to the House, in particular with regard to electoral boundaries review and to the financing of political campaigns. I seek your ruling.
Chair: Mr. Phillips, on the point of order.
Mr. Phillips: On the point of order, Mr. Chair, I don't have a problem with the minister replying to that, but, Mr. Chair, I hadn't finished. I only finished because we ran out of time, and I did have the floor. We are now back in the very same debate, and I would like to continue with the floor, Mr. Chair. That's all.
Chair: Order please. On the point of order, the Chair will recognize Mr. Phillips.
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Chair, when I left off the other day, I was discussing with members the concern I had primarily with respect to the electoral boundaries and electoral boundaries review. In reviewing the matter over the weekend and today, my concern has risen to an even higher level. When you look at what the minister is proposing in her bill with respect to electoral boundaries and a commission of electoral boundaries, it's after the next census, I believe, in 2001, so we're looking at probably 2002, maybe even 2003, before we would see anything happening. And as I said before, it has already been nine years since that happened. I think that, in light of the profound changes that have taken place in many of the ridings - and primarily in the City of Whitehorse - there needs to be some kind of an electoral boundaries review prior to the next election.
That has been our party's position, and, in fact, we voted against this bill in principle because one of the main principles of the bill is the democratic right of all constituents in the territory to have at least some semblance of an equal and fair vote with respect to casting a ballot in the next territorial election. As I said before, every member in this House knows that the numbers are already out of whack with respect to what the Supreme Court has ruled and what others have said in the past. So, we shouldn't be waiting, and it appears to be more of a political move to wait or postpone it than anything else.
I would point out, though, that I was concerned when we had the vote. It was a called vote, in second reading, and we did not support the Elections Act because we believe that there should be some changes made to the electoral districts of this territory so that people in Riverdale North and Whitehorse West and other areas of the territory have the same equal clout or equal weight to their vote when they elect members to the House, so that there aren't 2,000-plus people in Whitehorse West electing one member and only 1,000 or 1,200 in Riverdale North, and so that the people in Whitehorse West have a better and fairer say in the Legislative Assembly.
I was somewhat surprised when I listened to the debate the other day, and I heard the Liberal leader talk about how - the Liberal leader's concern, primarily, was that she was in support of the bill in principle. The Liberal Party voted for the bill in principle. In fact, they said that their problem with the bill was the timing and the timing issue. In fact, Ms. Duncan, the leader of the Liberal Party, said that the time frame could be shortened if one of these steps was amended.
So, the Liberal Party last Wednesday was of the opinion that the bill was fine and that electoral boundaries as the NDP proposed were fine, except the time frame was a little too long.
I accepted that; that's what they said on Wednesday. But I think what happened since Wednesday is that the Liberal Party had a chance to listen to the leader of the third party, and listen to me in the House, and maybe some of their constituents who were upset with the position they'd taken, and said basically, "You're denying us the democratic vote. We want to have more of a say."
So, what we had on Monday morning is a press release that comes roaring out of the Liberal office saying, "Liberals propose mandatory boundary review."
They all of a sudden changed their mind over the weekend. Wednesday they were fine with it happening in 2001 -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Phillips: Well, the member says, read Hansard. I'll read Hansard for the member. I'll read it into the record so the member knows what the Liberal leader said. The Liberal leader said: "Mr. Chair, that time frame could be shortened if one of these steps were amended. It's quite a convoluted process. The Chief Electoral Officer gets the report. Then he or she looks at it. He or she writes the report that says one of three things should happen - no electoral boundaries commission, electoral boundaries commission to look at just some of the ridings... She says, "So, the report is written. The report is delivered, and then there are six months until the member of the Executive Council delivers a response. And no response is required where there's a bill to establish an electoral district boundaries commission. No response from the government is required where a bill is put forward that would establish a commission. The bill is the response. Has the government any flexibility on the six-month time frame, in perhaps shortening that?"
So, the Liberals are not saying that the whole process is bad. The Liberals are saying that the process is fine, but we should shorten the time frame.
Then on Monday, the Liberals are saying - this is Monday. On Wednesday they said to shorten the time frame and we agree in principle. They voted yes with the NDP on this one. And then on Monday, Mr. Chair, the Liberals come in on a basic fundamental principle of the bill: the right of equal vote in a democracy. The Liberals come in, and on Monday, after listening to our speeches and talking to some of their constituents, they say there have been substantial changes in population since 1989. I wonder where they heard that.
They might have heard that from Mr. Ostashek's or my speech on Wednesday. Maybe that's where they heard that. Particularly in Whitehorse, ridings no longer meet the Supreme Court of Canada's test of effective representation, and the Liberals now say - Wednesday, Mr. Chair, the Liberals said, shorten the time frame from six months to a little shorter. On Monday, four days later, a review of the ridings for the next election, would he address the problem?
So, in three short days, boom, we've flip-flopped. We've switched again. The problem the Liberals have, Mr. Chair, is that they've never taken a position on things. So, when they do take positions, they're starting now to take several different positions on the same matter, and I think the Liberals have a problem.
Then I had an opportunity to look at the amendments that the Liberals are probably going to propose, and what we have with the amendments is, first of all, the NDP's proposal, which the Liberals didn't like but wanted to shorten by a couple of months on Wednesday, from 2002 to maybe 2003, with electoral boundaries. The Liberals' proposal, which they're going to probably table and want to talk about in the House, means that there's a good probability that we won't see an electoral boundaries review in the territory under the new Liberal proposal until 2006, and maybe 2008.
It's not what their press release says, but it is what their amendments say.
So what the Liberals are concerned about the Liberals didn't take into account that their amendments aren't retroactive, and it doesn't say anything about them being retroactive.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Phillips: The Liberal Member for Riverside says to fix them up if I'm embarrassed. I'm embarrassed for the Liberals. The idea is, when you come into the House, you bring amendments into the House that make sense. If timing is a problem, don't lengthen it - shorten it. And that's the concern I have, Mr. Chair, is that I find today that the New Democratic proposal of waiting until the next census is not something that the Yukon public will accept, and the new Liberal proposition - we'll wait until year 2006 -is not something the public will accept either.
I agree with the Liberals' press release; I don't agree with the Liberals' possible amendments that they're going to bring forward. But it's interesting that, after a few days of reflection and thought, that they've come around to the thinking that Yukoners want to see an electoral boundaries review before the next election. I think that's what Yukoners want. I think the government knows that, and I'd like to ask the minister responsible for this act if she would give strong consideration to amending her act so that we could get an electoral boundaries commission established immediately, and that we could have some recommendations in place by early in the spring - enough time so that, when the Government Leader wants to call an election, all Yukoners in Whitehorse West and Riverdale North and in Faro and in Old Crow and Dawson City, and every riding of the 17 ridings in the territory, can feel that they'll have fair and equal representation in this House, based on reports that have been done in the past, that indicate that ridings have to be seen to be - especially ridings with similar interests - have to have equal numbers of voters in the ridings for them to be democratic. Will the minister do that?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I'm not sure whether I should actually take the floor to speak, or whether I should allow the Liberal critic to get in. It seems to be a dispute between two members on the sides opposite here, in relation to electoral boundaries, rather than the dispute between the Yukon Party and the government.
Nonetheless, Mr. Speaker, I want to go back to the member's questions in relation to electoral boundaries. He starts out with a completely wrong premise in the first place. I'll start there.
Section 3 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms provides that every citizen of Canada has the right to vote in an election of members of the House of Commons or of the legislative assembly, and to be qualified for membership therein. The right to vote is recognized as a core value of the Canadian Constitution.
The Supreme Court of Canada has interpreted the Constitution to mean that every citizen has a right to effective representation. This does not mean absolute equality of voting power, but does require relative parity.
Now, Mr. Speaker, I'd like to quote just a few points from the Saskatchewan reference case of the Supreme Court of Canada, which is used to guide jurisdictions in this matter.
"Our system is rooted in the tradition of effective representation and not in a tradition of absolute, or near absolute, voter parity. Factors like geography, community history, community interests and minority representation may need to be taken into account to ensure that our legislative assemblies effectively represent the diversity of our social mosaic. These are just examples of considerations which may justify departure from absolute voter parity in the pursuit of more effective representation. The list is not closed."
The problems of representing vast, sparsely populated territories, for example, may dictate somewhat lower voter populations in these districts. To insist on voter parity might deprive citizens with distinct interests of an effective voice in the legislative process, as well as of effective assistance from their representatives in their ombudsman role.
This is only one of a number of factors that may necessitate deviation from the one-person, one-vote rule in the interests of effective representation.
Discrepancies between particular ridings appear to be justified on the basis of factors such as geography, community interest, and population growth patterns.
Mr. Chair, in northern regions of provinces there are greatly reduced numbers of population for members of the legislative assembly. In the Northwest Territories, there's also been a recent discussion of this with court rulings. Rural communities are entitled to representation and may have, within legislative assemblies, a lower ratio than in urban ridings.
This is in the public interest, Mr. Chair. Now, we believe we're making a good step forward in providing for a mandated review of the electoral boundaries every 10 years, following the completion of census data of the Canada census.
The Member for Riverside and the Government Leader have had exchanges in this House on this subject in the spring. The members of the opposition have been stating that they would like to see - and they put a motion forward on the Order Paper - that they would like to see an electoral boundaries review before the next election. Our Government Leader has expressed our position on the record and, in second reading, I expressed that as well.
We need to have the census data. We have put in place an electoral boundaries review process that provides regular review every 10 years. This is a practice that's followed by the Government of Canada and by seven of the provinces and territories, other than the Yukon. We need to ensure that the boundary review is legally sound, and that we're not spending large amounts of money for electoral boundaries review unless we need one. We agree that there should be one following the next election.
As the Government Leader stated in the spring, there is not time to conduct a boundary review before the next election.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, Mr. Chair, the opposition is heckling that we've been dragging our feet. We've been working on bringing forward amendments to the Elections Act. We've got a number of issues addressed in there that we think are significantly in the public interest, including having an electoral boundaries review process.
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Chair, the minister talked about the Supreme Court ruling and talked about effective representation. What the minister seemed to conveniently forget is that the ruling was plus or minus 25 percent, and even with the last election in the territory, we had four ridings and almost five ridings that fell within that category...
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Phillips: ...or fell outside the category - a quarter of our constituencies in the territory. And a lot has changed since then: it has become worse.
I just can't believe the side opposite, and especially the Justice minister, who knows how her own riding has changed dramatically in the past six or seven years - dramatically. Hundreds of more people are living in the minister's riding, and yet the minister is prepared to stand on her feet and deny those people an equal and fair say in this Legislature. I'm not prepared to go that route, and neither is our party, the Yukon Party. The Liberals are supporting the NDP, or at least they were on Wednesday, and maybe not today. We'll see what happens when we finally get a vote - whether they support or don't support - but it wouldn't surprise me if they flip-flop and vote against the bill in the end, especially after they bring in their amendments that I think will get defeated in this House when it actually takes the length of time and adds a couple or three more years on top of it. So we won't see an electoral boundaries review until 2006.
The Member for Riverside says, "Who makes up this crap?" That's exactly what I said when I read the amendments. I don't know who drafted it, but unless there's something - maybe, Mr. Chair, it's like some of the bills that we've been briefed on in the last few weeks, where we're not always seeing the final draft and things can change. In the ebb and flow of the debate, things change, so maybe that's what happened.
Last time, Mr. Chair, the member's own riding, Mount Lorne, was out of sync with the Supreme Court ruling. Whitehorse West was out of sync. Laberge was out of sync. Faro was out of sync. Old Crow was out of sync. These are all ridings that didn't conform with the Supreme Court ruling, and the minister's own ruling, from her own Justice people, said that there could be a constitutional challenge and we could stand a chance of losing. Well, why would we want to go there?
That's what I couldn't understand the other day when I was speaking on this issue. The minister knows there are changes, and if she doesn't know there are changes, the minister is just not doing her job. She just doesn't understand. Are the minister and the Member for Whitehorse West telling me that that riding hasn't changed in the last five years, that neither one of those ridings have changed? They've changed dramatically. Dramatically. If the Member for Whitehorse West would take some time and go up to his riding, he'd find out there are two or three other subdivisions there. And if the Member for Mount Lorne would walk around in her riding instead of just running ads in the paper saying that she is, the minister would realize that there are actual people living out there full-time.
The Member for Whitehorse West says he lives in his riding. That says more about him than it does about his Government Leader who doesn't live in his riding, or other members of the NDP caucus who are moving to Whitehorse.
So it says a lot about where members are living, you know.
Mr. Chair, the minister didn't answer the question. Why is she prepared to go another three or four years and deny the democratic equality, or at least the opportunity, as ruled on by the Supreme Court, to the four ridings, including her own riding? Why is she prepared to deny that to her own constituents, to have fair and equal representation, when she knows right now, according to the last election, according to the last census, that her own riding, which has grown since that time, is already disproportionate to other ridings in the Whitehorse area? Why is she prepared to do that?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: From comments the member made in this House on Wednesday evening, it may be that, as he stated, he moved out to the Mount Lorne riding to ensure that he had the best MLA to represent his interests here in this Assembly. Mr. Chair, I can say categorically that, in the ridings of Faro, Lake Laberge, Mount Lorne, Whitehorse West and Vuntut Gwich'in, the constituents are provided with effective representation in this House.
The member opposite has referred to the 25-percent guideline, but he is being very selective in his discussion here on the Saskatchewan reference case, because the Supreme Court of Canada approved the limited boundaries commission mandate to recommend changes within deviation limits of plus or minus 25 percent in the majority of the ridings, but plus or minus 50 percent in the two northern ridings.
It is not unknown, as I indicated previously in response to the same question that, in the northern territories - Northwest Territories and Yukon - in the northern regions of provinces, the 25-percent guideline is not found, that in order to provide effective representation to rural Yukon, in this case, to rural communities that are sparsely populated and geographically large, that there will be fewer electors. This does not mean that urban MLAs - who have a larger number of electors living in their ridings - are ineffective.
I would argue that that is not the case. I would also like to respond to the member's comment that our legal opinions stated that a challenge would be successful. That's not what it said. It said, in conclusion, that legal challenges were always possible with respect to existing electoral boundaries, and it went on to say it is most unlikely, however, that a court would simply strike down the boundaries, or strike down an election based on those boundaries, without giving the Legislature a reasonable opportunity to legislate new boundaries within constitutionally permitted guidelines, as interpreted by the courts.
Mr. Chair, in all of the cases that have been brought before the courts, there has never been an election struck down as a result of the population base in the electoral boundaries. The Legislature is legislating new boundaries. We are providing for what we believe is sound and reasonable, and fair to the electorate, to conduct an electoral boundaries review after the census data is received in a couple of years from now, in 2001, when the next census is done.
Mr. Phillips: I want to discuss this a little further with the minister. I used the examples of Whitehorse West, Laberge and Mount Lorne. Is the minister telling me that the Supreme Court would describe those as "isolated ridings", that they are not comparable or similar to existing ridings around the Whitehorse area? Is the minister trying to convince me that Whitehorse West is a northern riding, or an isolated riding, compared to Riverdale North, or Riverdale South, or Porter Creek North or South? Is that what the minister's trying to tell us?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: No, what I'm telling the member opposite is that there is a justifiable mix of urban and rural ridings, and that the result may be - and is in the Northwest Territories and the Yukon - that some of the urban ridings have a larger population, and the rural ridings have a smaller population base.
There's a need to maintain a balance of interests between rural communities and urban communities.
I'm also telling the member that we intend to have regular review of electoral boundaries that will be conducted every 10 years following the completion of census data. We also believe that it is possible to have an electoral boundaries commission make a report prior to an election in 2004.
Mr. Phillips: Well, Mr. Chair, the minister has had a report on her desk since December 1997 - almost two years now - and ignored it, ignored the report, and then comes into the House today and tries to make some really weak-kneed argument that there can be some discrepancy between some of the rural and urban ridings.
Let's get a little - maybe I have to focus the question a little more. Whitehorse West - is the minister telling this House that Whitehorse West is an exception to the rule as intended by the court judgments that we've heard? Is she telling me that Whitehorse West should be treated differently than Riverdale North or South, that constituents in Whitehorse West should only have about 50 percent of the voting power in this Legislature that Riverdale North and Riverdale South and Porter Creek North and South residents have? Is that what the minister's trying to tell the House? Because we already know the numbers there - we don't need a census to tell us - and we even know the numbers are probably even a little more skewed than they were before to the negative.
So is the minister telling the House that Whitehorse West voters are only entitled to 50 percent of the legislative power or legislative authority in this House that some other ridings have in this city?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: The member opposite is saying that they know the numbers. I don't think they know the numbers at all. They stand up in this House one day and they say that everybody's leaving the territory, that the Yukon is exiting en masse, that we're going to hell in a handbasket. And the next day, they stand up and say that people are moving in, there are lots of people moving in. They don't know when four is more than three. I mean, they don't know the numbers, Mr. Chair.
What I am attempting to tell the member opposite is that an electoral boundaries review should be done on a regular basis. We have not ignored the report of the Chief Electoral Officer. We have brought forward amendments to the Elections Act. We have involved all political parties in discussions as we went forward with this. The Chief Electoral Officer met with representatives from the Liberal Party, from the Yukon Party and from the New Democrats.
Mr. Chair, Whitehorse West is an urban seat, but it also includes rural areas along the highway, and it has a mix of industrial service areas, trailer courts, rural residential and urban density. What I have been standing here trying to explain to the member for a few minutes now is that the Supreme Court of Canada has found that absolute voter parity is not the single goal in guiding electoral boundaries commission reports.
We believe that we need to ensure effective representation for rural communities as well as for the City of Whitehorse. We agree that we need to have a rational electoral boundaries review where we consider, if there is a need, to change the electoral boundaries. We're saying that we should wait until after the next census to get reliable, current population information, and then set up a process to determine whether or not we should have a boundaries review. That is what we have done in this act. We believe it respects Yukon taxpayers and Yukon voters.
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Speaker, there was one thing the minister said that was accurate, when she said the Yukon's going to hell in a handbasket. That's what she said, and the minister's correct there. The minister has to take some responsibility for that - most of the responsibility.
The minister said we didn't know the numbers. Maybe I'll ask the minister to come back with some numbers for us in this debate before we get to these sections - of what the numbers were in Whitehorse West and the other ridings I mentioned back in 1993, and also 1996, and the most recent census that we have. If the minister could bring those numbers back into the House for us, it will do a couple of things. It will show the minister that there are numbers that demonstrate clearly that there's a discrepancy. There is a report that the minister sat on and did nothing with that demonstrates that there's a problem, that told the minister what ridings there was a discrepancy in already, and the minister's had the report for two years. They're not my numbers. I'm not making up numbers. The minister knows that even since the minister received that report there have been two or three subdivisions opened up in the Granger area. New people have moved in from other areas. They've come from other areas of the Yukon. They've come from other ridings in the Whitehorse area, and they've moved into Granger.
There have been some significant population changes in this territory. We know how significant they were back in the 1996 election. In the 1996 election, based on the facts and figures and the legal precedents, we already had a problem, and it's got worse since then. So I don't know why the minister is so reluctant to look at an electoral boundaries review other than feeling that they want to protect themselves.
I can tell you what I think is going to happen in the next election, Mr. Chair. It would probably be to the advantage of the Member for Whitehorse West to have his riding split up some, so that he doesn't get beaten so terribly badly in the next election. Because he's going to be. You know, as one of the doctors said here today, we've had lots of Health ministers, and they can't wait to see until this one goes. Well, he's going to get his wish within 12 months, I'm sure of that. So we'll see what happens.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Phillips: It looks like, Mr. Chair, I hit a little soft spot. I'd like to apologize to the Minister of Health, who has had a very unhealthy weekend. He should have had emergency services swoop in and help him after his debate with the doctors the other day. Unfortunately, he didn't, because the people who would provide the life support systems were the people who were wanting to pull the plug on the minister. The Minister of Health is, as they say in health terms, in serious condition. He's in serious condition and the prognosis is that there's no hope. There's no hope. He has a long-term diagnosis that says that he will be in some other profession in the near future, and I wish him well, because I think his days are numbered in the profession he's in now.
Mr. Chair, the people in the Member for Whitehorse West's own riding are concerned about the inequality in voting, and they want us to look at electoral boundaries.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Phillips: The Member for Whitehorse West says he was around yesterday and nobody mentioned it to him. Well, I think the constituents of Whitehorse West want to talk to somebody who will get something done for them and who will make effective changes.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Phillips: The Member for Whitehorse West is off base if he thinks that his constituents are not concerned about having fair and equal representation in this House - because they are. And it will become an election issue - there's no doubt about it. It will become an election issue to people at the door, about the discrepancies that are throughout the territory, and this government's inability to deal with it.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Chair: Mr. Cable, on a point of order.
Mr. Cable: I'm sitting here enthralled by the Member for Riverdale North, and I can't hear his comments because of the background white noise that's coming from the government benches.
Could you address that issue, please?
Chair: I would remind members to keep their volume to a minimum when another member has the floor.
Mr. Phillips: Thank you, Mr. Chair, and I'd like to thank the Member for Riverside for that comment, trying to calm the troops on the side opposite, who are obviously starting to chatter and nicker, when they feel they're in a little bit of trouble.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Phillips: Finally, it appears that we've silenced the Member for Whitehorse West.
Mr. Chair, I want to ask the minister if she will come back into this House - possibly after the break - and bring us the figures that I asked for. The minister doesn't seem to think that the numbers clearly represent that. There are several reports, and I wonder if the minister would come back and table those figures of the two elections, table the section of the report that talks about the differences, and maybe all members can sit down and have a close read of it. Then I'd like to maybe ask the minister some questions about whether or not she really thinks the numbers haven't changed in the area.
We may get into a discussion with the minister on how she feels about her own riding - which was one of those ridings that was mentioned as being of whack in the last election, let alone the next one. How much does the minister feel that her own riding has changed, and do those people in her riding deserve fair and equal representation in the House?
Will the minister bring that information back to the House?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, Mr. Chair, it seems that the member opposite is making this suggestion to disenfranchise rural Yukoners and to do away with rural seats. I have explained to the member repeatedly that we do believe it's important to have regular reviews of electoral boundaries, and the member has just said that there are significant population changes. Well, what we have said is that we should wait until after the next census to get reliable information on the population and to use that information to set up a boundaries review process.
Mr. Chair, the information that the member refers to has been tabled in this House. The Chief Electoral Officer's report has been provided to all members, and I can assure the member opposite that I have reviewed it and that I have reviewed it recently.
In addition, the population figures from the 1992 election and from the 1996 election are available to all members. There have been population changes since. We agree with that, and we agree with the need to respond to population changes. We have set out a regular process under this Elections Act to conduct electoral boundaries reviews every 10 years, which is consistent with the practice of the Government of Canada and eight of the provinces and other territories, and it's a good step forward. We will proceed with that. We'll look at the next census data. We'll get reliable population information and then can conduct a boundaries review.
Mr. Phillips: The minister's comments couldn't be further from the truth, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Chair, the minister said that I want to disenfranchise rural Yukoners. The fact of the matter is that the bill we have here before us is doing exactly that. It's disenfranchising rural and urban Yukoners the way it's written, and that's the point we're making to the minister. I am not the person who is going to decide what the boundaries look like when this is over. I am not the person who is going to decide how many ridings there are in the territory when this is over.
It will be the commission that comes forward with those recommendations, and that's where it will come from, not from me. I don't go out there and decide or draw the boundaries. I won't have anything to do with it. It will be Yukoners who will do that. And the problem I have now is that the minister knows there is a problem with two previous elections and a census that we've already got, and the minister knows, according to a legal opinion that she got, under the Supreme Court of Canada's ruling, that some Yukoners are disenfranchised already, based on the ruling, and yet the minister wants to set the date two or three years down the road before we do anything.
My argument is exactly the opposite of what the minister is saying. It's the minister herself and this government that's disenfranchising rural Yukoners and urban Yukoners by refusing to have an electoral boundaries commission established and boundaries set prior to the next election. There may be 17 ridings; there might be 18; there might be 19; there might be 20; there might be 15 - who knows. And I'm sure that the boundaries commission will recognize a fair urban and rural split, but will also recognize the gross discrepancies, even in the City of Whitehorse - with a Whitehorse West riding and some of the other ridings, and many of the other ridings. I mean, the minister said that Whitehorse West is different because it encompasses some more rural areas. Well, so does Porter Creek North and Porter Creek South. They have some fringe and boundary areas to them as well; we all know that; we're not kidding anybody here.
The problem I have with the minister is that it's just the world according to the minister, and the facts are in front of the minister in the documents she tabled. I asked the minister to table them again, only because the minister, in her comments, appeared to be not aware of what was in them. And so I wanted the minister to table them, with the hope that the minister might even happen to read them over before she tables them again to know that there are fairly widespread changes in these ridings.
And the Member for Whitehorse West - and the minister may think that her constituents don't care about this, but I can tell you that mine do, and so do other people in the minister's riding, and wonder what is the minister afraid of. Why doesn't the minister want her constituents to have the same kind of representation that the Member for Whitehorse West has, or that I have, or that other representatives in this House have? Or what the Supreme Court of Canada has ruled upon. Why is the minister denying that? That's all we're asking, but it's become a political exercise for this government, who are more worried about the Member for Faro's riding than they are about anything else. It's that government who is disenfranchising Yukoners - rural Yukoners and urban Yukoners - and Yukoners are concerned about that.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Phillips: The Member for Faro says, "Rioting in the streets." Well, the Member for Faro doesn't care much about anybody else's riding. Never has. Doesn't even care much about the economy, which he's done his best job of actually devastating. But, you know, Mr. Chair, I can't understand the reluctance of the minister, when the facts and figures are all on the table. The minister knows it, and this is just a bit of a scam in trying to put it off for one more election. In fact, it's such a convoluted process, as the Liberals said on Wednesday, that it's going to take probably two or three years for this thing to come to fruition. So we're probably looking at 2002 or 2003 before anything could even possibly happen around here.
I think that it's unfair to our constituents; it's unfair to Yukoners out there who want fair and equal representation. The legal opinion the government got may be right in the fact that an election wouldn't be overturned, but why would it take a favourable ruling for the people who say that it isn't fair? Why do people have to go to court to make the minister change her mind when the minister knows that the right thing to do is to have an electoral boundaries commission now and solve the matter, get the boundaries set up and have Yukoners accept it so that it's one that's fair and equal, or at least more fair and equal than what we have today?
And Yukoners will go to the polls with that. I don't know what the government is afraid of. They've got till next fall to call an election and will probably wait to the very end, considering their low standing in the polls at the present time.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Chair, do you want to get into the debate? I heard the Chair commenting. I didn't know whether -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Phillips: I'm sorry, Mr. Chair, do I still have the floor, or did you want to say something?
Deputy Chair: You still have the floor, Mr. Phillips.
Mr. Phillips: Thank you, Mr. Chair.
It's a concern I have, and I would like the minister and the government to give strong consideration to considering to put an electoral boundaries commission together prior to the next election. Will the minister do that?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, the member has stood here and accused me of practising the word according to the minister. In fact, what we are bringing forward in the Elections Act amendments is the word according to the Canada census that will be conducted in 2001, as it has been conducted in 1991 and 1981 and 1971, and so on backwards in time, as well as forwards over the next decades to come.
I have indicated to the member opposite that we believe our legislation on an electoral district boundaries review is sound. It follows a model that is used by the Government of Canada of using the census data and considering electoral boundaries review after the decennial census every 10 years.
The member himself has commented on significant population changes. We believe that it's a supportable position to have the accurate population data after the next census and to then hold an electoral boundaries review as needed.
Mr. Cable: I should say, for the record, two things: that it's my opinion that never before in the history of parliamentary democracy have I ever witnessed a member of one party being so incensed with somebody agreeing with him that he would think that the members of the Liberal Party would not think that, on some occasions - on some rare occasions - that members of the Yukon Party might have something to say.
We do, in fact, agree that Part 7 of the act leaves a lot to be desired, and that opinion was expressed on November 10, last Wednesday. It was clearly expressed by me when I had indicated that the option chosen under Part 7, with its indeterminateness, may not have been the best option. I also expressed reservations about putting a public servant in the position of having to do a screening test.
So I think it's clear, both from the comments that were put out last spring, when we in the Liberal caucus issued two press releases, that our view of Part 7 is very similar to that of the Yukon Party. So I'm really surprised that the Yukon Party would be surprised that we have some area of agreement.
Let's look at Part 7. I'd like to do this because I will be introducing an amendment to Part 7. I'd like to do this now so that I can get the amendments on the table, so that, by the time we get to them, there can be some considered reflection on the proposed amendments.
By way of background, I would indicate that our concern in the Liberal Party stems, firstly, from the rejection of the Chief Electoral Officer's main recommendations and that so far we have yet to hear any good reasons for the rejections.
There was an all-party committee that worked on the revisions to the Elections Act, and this work was reflected in the Chief Electoral Officer's report, tabled in 1997.
With respect to the electoral boundaries review, there were several key recommendations made by the Chief Electoral Officer after consultation with these members from the various parties. The first is that there be standing legislation relating to the establishment of an electoral district boundaries commission.
The second major recommendation was that there be regular reviews after two general elections, or a review following a third general election if two general elections have taken place in less than six years.
The next recommendation made by the Chief Electoral Officer was that the standing legislation set up the composition of the review commission and, lastly, that the terms of reference be set out in the standing legislation.
Unfortunately, none of these recommendations have been followed. With respect to standing legislation, there's legislation that requires further legislation to get the review off the ground. Secondly, there's no predictability on when a review will be done.
What we have instead is a screening test done by the Chief Electoral Officer, supposedly pre-judging the work of the commission. Instead of the commission deciding whether the boundaries should be reviewed, we have this first step, whereby the Chief Electoral Officer has to make an initial decision on the review.
We're putting a public servant in the position of making a highly charged political decision, and I'm not aware of any other jurisdiction taking this odd and unfair approach. If the minister has legislation from other jurisdictions that have, in fact, taken that approach, I think it would be useful for that to be tabled in the House. I think it would be useful, also, to hear from her whether that particular system has worked.
Now, what we have in this bill is, instead of standing legislation permitting the review process to commence by an administrative act without the need for further charging legislation, we have the need for another piece of legislation. This flies in the face of the recommendations of the Chief Electoral Officer for standing legislation.
We in the Liberal caucus spoke out against the long delay in reviewing boundaries in the spring, and we made known our reservations, and if the Member for Riverdale North has forgotten that, I have a file here that he can go through at his leisure.
The proposed legislation does not remove the reservations we had originally had. The Lysyk Inquiry of 1991, which gave rise to the boundaries used in the 1992 election, was based on the numbers that came out of the 1989 election, and these same boundaries and these same numbers were used in the 1996 election and, unless there's some miracle that takes place, will be used in the election next year, the year 2000.
At that time, the data will be 11 years stale.
Now we have set up in the proposed Elections Act, in Bill No. 82, a process that uses the census data, the decennial census data. My understanding is that the 2001 census data won't be available until early or mid-2002. We had previously asked the stats branch, the Canadian stats branch, about when the previous census data had been released and were advised that it was many, many months after the census itself had been taken. The census will be taken at some juncture in the year 2001, probably during the summer, and the data will be made available to the government and to the public sometime early or mid-2002.
And under Bill No. 82, as it's presented, a review won't likely be completed until well into 2003, at which time the boundaries will be based on data that is 14 years stale -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Cable: - 2003 from 1989; that's 14 years - the data is based on the 1989 election. That's where the numbers come from that Mr. Lysyk used. Now, reviewing the past four elections, we see that half of those past four elections, two out of four, have resulted in minority governments, so conceivably there could be two or possibly even three elections based on 1989 data, in the worst case scenario.
And we have the government's own legal opinion. Here's what the government's own legal opinion said: "With respect to the urban ridings, it is probable but by no means certain that a court would find Whitehorse West to be significantly under represented."
Let me tell the minister, that's about as close as she's going to get in a legal opinion telling the minister she's got a problem.
Clearly, what the writer of that opinion was telling the minister was that there was a legal problem. Clearly, some Whitehorse ridings could be challenged, particularly Whitehorse West. There is no particular geographic or demographic rationale attached to these Whitehorse ridings that could permit a deviation from the Supreme Court of Canada's general principles. So, what we are doing in effect is inviting litigation and all the costs that entails. We're also inviting confusion in the Legislature if the ridings are challenged after the next election.
One of the rationales we received from the Minister of Justice and from the Government Leader is, "Whoa. These reviews cost $250,000."
I should say that, looking through the Internet contract list, we found that there was $60,000 given to a Vancouver counsel to sit in on the hearings - a good part of the $250,000. What I would like to hear and what we, in the Liberal caucus, would like to hear from the minister is what were the costs of the previous revisions, the 1974 revision, the 1977 revision, and the 1984 revision, and why are we using this $250,000 figure to act as a smokescreen for not carrying out a review that is long overdue?
I'm going to table at this time, Mr. Chair, some proposed amendments that we will be making when we get to Part 7. These will require unanimous consent of the House, to be introduced at that time.
And I have to say to the Member for Riverdale North that if he's not clear on one of the sections, if he does not feel that the legislation will trigger a review immediately after the next election, then he's free to make an amendment to the amendment. I have no great pride in authorship. If he has been doing his backroom lawyering and he's unclear, let him stand up and make an amendment. The amendments that are proposed are based on sections in the Alberta and B.C. acts, which presumably received some legal and legislative scrutiny in the past.
So, I give the minister those proposed amendments, and, as was indicated by the Minister of Economic Development when he spoke - he indicated some flexibility in dealing with this act - I encourage the minister to indicate whether she does, in fact, have some flexibility, and I encourage her to answer the question as to whether she knows, or will know and can produce for the House, the costs of the previous reviews that took place in 1974, 1977 and 1984.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: First of all, I'm not surprised that the Yukon Party and the Liberal Party agree. I'm surprised that the Member for Riverside and the Member for Riverdale North are indignant about the fact that they agree. But, Mr. Chair, they vote together all the time. In this case, they didn't vote together. In this case, the Liberal caucus, on principle, supported the bill at second reading. Nonetheless, let me get on to the issue, again, of electoral boundaries reform.
The sum of $250,000 for an electoral boundaries review in 1991 is not a smokescreen. That is a fact. It is a relevant fact. And I do not have in a file on my desk at this moment the costs of reviews in 1974 or 1977 or 1984, but I would mention for the member that costs in 1974 and costs in 1991 would be considerably different.
Mr. Chair, the member is asking whether we have any room to move, and I would like to outline a couple of things for the member.
First of all, the member was sent a letter from the Government Leader encouraging him to participate when the Chief Electoral Officer met with all the political parties, prior to putting his review together. As I commented at second reading, all the political parties had officials who met with the Chief Electoral Officer and who provided their thoughts on a number of questions.
Nonetheless, as it was stated in the Chief Electoral Officer's report, it was understood that the committee would provide input on the items to be reviewed but that the process would not require consensus for each recommendation.
The Chief Electoral Officer made it very clear in his report that it was the sole responsibility of the Chief Electoral Officer and does not purport to present conclusions or recommendations that have been agreed to by members of the review committee.
Mr. Chair, there was not an agreement on electoral boundaries review by members of the review committee. What we have here is a disagreement between the members. We believe that conducting a census every 10 years provides accurate population data that can be useful in guiding an electoral district boundaries review. And, in point of fact, Mr. Chair, numerous other Canadian jurisdictions agree with that approach. The Government of Canada has an electoral district boundaries review after every decennial census. That is the model that we are proposing to move on.
The Liberal leader, in general debate last week, expressed some concern about the six-month time frame, and whether it would be possible to shorten that, and we're willing to look at suggestions to shorten that time frame, if possible.
Mr. Cable: Is the minister saying that the all-party committee did not come up with unanimous conclusions on the part of the act that's under Part 7?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Yes, Mr. Chair, that's what I am saying, and if I may quote from the Report of the Chief Electoral Officer of the Yukon on Elections of Members of the Legislative Assembly and Other Related Matters, it states on page 3, "This review does not purport to present conclusions or recommendations that have been agreed to by members of the Review Committee."
Mr. Cable: That wasn't the question. On the particular issue of electoral boundaries review, is the minister saying that her party took issue with the conclusions that came out of the Chief Electoral Officer's report?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, I am not certain whether the political parties, when they met with the Chief Electoral Officer, discussed the subject of electoral boundaries review at length. I do not believe that they came to a consensus on any recommendation on that subject.
Mr. Cable: There was a meeting last Friday, I think, or sometime in the recent past. Is the minister saying that members of her party raised the objection at that time to the Chief Electoral Officer's recommendations?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, we have been attempting to provide information to the members opposite and to the members of all political parties. On Friday of last week, we held a briefing for members of the political parties so that they could attend and direct questions, whether in relation to the amendments to the Controverted Elections Act that are found within the Elections Act or whether in relation to election financing or electoral district boundaries or other Elections Act issues that have been dealt with in this bill.
Mr. Cable: Well, what has not reached this floor yet is a reasonable explanation of why the Chief Electoral Officer's recommendations were rejected. He wasn't out on a lark on his own; the recommendations are based on common practice in other jurisdictions, yet we had this new, convoluted sort of procedure set up in the new act. What's the reason for rejecting the Chief Electoral Officer's recommendations?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, the Member for Riverside is heckling over at me. I would remind him that I have a right to engage in debate in this House. The member opposite has just tabled an amendment to legislation, and I'm interested in asking the member some questions about his amendment.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, it has been tabled, and the issue, if I may - if I may, I have a right in Committee of the Whole, as any member of this House, to raise questions and to speak to issues pertaining to legislation we're debating, which incidentally was voted for already in a standing count by the Liberals; and now we're in general debate.
There is no rule in this House that says that members cannot participate in this debate of their own free will and volition. So what I want to ask the Member for Riverside -
Some Hon. Member: Point of order, Mr. Chair.
Point of order
Chair: Mr. Cable, on a point of order.
Mr. Cable: I put a question to the minister - the minister that brought the bill forward - and she hasn't answered the question and now the Minister of Economic Development jumps up and wants to get into a round robin. What rule is he operating under?
Hon. Mr. Harding: On the point of order, the rules of Committee of the Whole are very clear, and they state that members are free to debate in Committee of the Whole - even the Speaker of this Legislature is free to speak in Committee of the Whole - and I am, because the member is incorrect. The Minister of Justice has responded on this point many times. We've debated this point in the House through motion debate; in second reading we debated this point. We have established many times on the record why we brought this legislation forward in the manner that it is. The member opposite has proposed an amendment and I'd like to ask him some questions about this amendment.
Chair: Mr. Ostashek, on the point of order.
Mr. Ostashek: On the point of order, I don't have any difficulty with the Member for Faro speaking during Committee debate on any issue that's in front of the House, but the fact remains that the Member for Riverside was in debate with the Minister of Justice, who is the sponsoring minister of this bill. And I think it would only be a courtesy on the Member for Faro's part to wait until that exchange is finished before he gets into the debate.
Chair: Order please. The Chair sees that it's not admissible to discuss the particular clauses until we get to them, the ones in the amendment. The amendment was tabled for information purposes only.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, let me repeat for the benefit of the Member for Riverside that the government has brought forward amendments to the Elections Act, which provide for an electoral district boundaries review to be conducted every ten years following a decennial census. The position of the government is clear, as I have stated repeatedly in this House and as has been stated by the Government Leader. We believe that we should have accurate, current population data, get that reliable information, and then conduct a boundaries review as needed.
Mr. Cable: That wasn't the question. There's no question about the commonality of positions here in the House that there should be reviews periodically. But what the government has brought forward is some convoluted process that sets up a review prior to a review. And the government has rejected the Chief Electoral Officer's recommendations, which are based generally on what is done in other jurisdictions. Why have we invented this new process?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, the government has brought forward amendments to the Elections Act that deal with the need to have periodic reviews of the Elections Act. We have indicated to members opposite - and I'll repeat for the member - that we believe it is appropriate to have sound, reliable information, and the current population data that will be provided after the 2001 census will give us a baseline of reliable information, following which we can have a boundaries review.
We have set up a two-step process where the Chief Electoral Officer will make a recommendation on whether the data supports a boundary review. The member has referred to a problem of having the Chief Electoral Officer make such a recommendation because he is a public servant, yet the members are standing here quoting from the Chief Electoral Officer's report. I have evidence to believe they have every confidence in the Chief Electoral Officer, as do I. I think it's entirely reasonable that he can look at the data and make a recommendation on whether a boundary commission review is required.
Mr. Cable: The census data is not the only source of data, and perhaps even not the best source of data. The election results are the best sort of data. We have the number of voters accumulated there, right in front of us, to look at, as Mr. Lysyk did when he did the 1991 review. He looked at the 1989 voters lists. He knew how many voters there were in each riding and in each area, and which ridings to change.
Why do we have to wait 10 years to do a review - every 10 years based on the census - when clearly that's not a unanimous position in other jurisdictions, and clearly the Chief Electoral Officer in his recommendations, which were based on some sort of conversations and input from the three parties, felt that a review should be done after two general elections? Why have we rejected that approach? I have yet to hear a clear, cogent reason from the minister. She has supported her 10-year census line, but she hasn't given us any reason why she rejected the Chief Electoral Officer's recommendations.
Hon. Mr. Harding: Mr. Chair, I think we are having some endless repetition in the questioning. I would say that the Minister of Justice has responded to the members opposite graciously. She has given cogent explanations, unlike the allegation of the Member for Riverside that was just made.
I'd like to compliment the minister on conducting electoral boundaries reviews in an appropriate, methodical, well-thought through approach that deals with hard numbers, such as the census. We've debated this motion; we debated it in second reading. We had an extensive debate. The Liberals voted for the motion. We have put forward, on behalf of the Minister of Justice, on behalf of the government, an entirely acceptable approach to an electoral boundaries review.
Now, let's be clear. I think what this is, by the Liberals and by the Yukon Party, is a thinly veiled attempt to try to foist something upon the electorate that there has been absolutely no public desire expressed in.
What we have, Mr. Chair, is a situation where we have a couple of parties in opposition - Liberals and Yukon Party - who are desperate to try to ensure that they can change the balance of authority and representation in this territory toward Whitehorse, at the expense of rural Yukon.
My constituents see this for what it is. It's a very clear attempt by the Liberals and by the Yukon Party to take another run at Faro, try to reduce its level of influence - sphere of influence - in this territory so that there would be a rush to judgment on the population numbers of that community. The legal opinion that we brought forward was very clear - that the history of the community of that riding is one of fluctuation, and it would be far to quick to judge. We accepted that reasoning, and that formed part of the basis - one small part - of the reason why we are basing our course of action here on the census - an appropriate manner for dealing with tough questions such as electoral boundaries reviews.
I think that this desperate attempt by the opposition - Liberals and Tories - to try and influence and create this argument that somehow, something is amiss in Gotham City, is ridiculous. Nobody mentioned Whitehorse West when the by-election took place in Whitehorse West when Tony Penikett left the government. Everybody knew there had been some changes in the riding in Whitehorse West. Nobody made the case from any of the three political parties that somehow it was under-represented. It was only when we found out who won the by-election in Whitehorse West, which was the NDP, that all of a sudden this became a horrendous point of privilege on behalf of the Liberals and the Yukon Party. Only then was it an outrage and a characterization that somehow somebody was not getting the representation that they deserved.
Now the same sort of argument has drifted into the riding of Faro. We believe that - and, to take the Minister of Justice's point, to take it even further - as she said, you hear from the opposition that everybody's leaving the territory, which, of course, is not the case, but it's their political line, and that actual population numbers are diminishing. I mean, every week it goes up another thousand people, if you listen to the Yukon Party. Yet somehow, we're supposed to be completely ensconced in this phony debate about under-representation and things being seriously out of whack. Well, Mr. Chair, we have proposed a remedy that will settle this, that's consistent with approaches that are taken elsewhere, that has a direct link - the census numbers - and that, I believe, establishes a process that will hold up.
And the members opposite say, "Well, it could be challenged in the courts." Well, everything could be challenged in the courts. That's how lawyers make their living. They challenge things in the courts. Everything can be challenged in the courts. If the members opposite want to challenge things, they can go right ahead.
They can go right ahead. They challenged the by-election in Vuntut Gwitchin. These things happen. They challenged the previous member's election by two votes in Whitehorse Centre. Challenges happen in elections in this territory, and we feel that the route we have taken is one that is legally not without precedent, that has merit, that will withstand challenges, and that has a remedy for the situation firmly suggested in law. When I indicated to the Member for Riverside that we were prepared to consider some of their suggestions, we are, we have. But to fundamentally change the methodology and the thinking behind the bill that they voted for now, I think, would go beyond the scope of what was being proposed and what was being considered.
We think our idea is good. There have been cogent reasons and basis for it put forward and, Mr. Chair, I just can't for the life of me understand why we have to continue to go over and over and over through serious repetition these questions about issues that have been debated through motion debate. They've been debated on the floor of this Legislature in second reading on this bill. The Liberals voted for it. The Yukon Party voted against it. We always knew because, when it comes to the Yukon Party, nothing about them is thinly veiled. They're out to change the balance of power in the Yukon. They want to make sure Whitehorse seats are modified at the expense of rural Yukon. They make no bones about their distaste for the community of Faro. The Liberals are doing it with a much more thinly veiled approach. They want to see it put into a riding with Mayo, Carmacks, Pelly or, conversely, into a riding with Teslin, Carcross, Ross River, and I just don't think that's in the best interests of this territory, given the legal opinion that was put forward at this point. I think what is in the best interests of this territory is a thoughtful, considerate approach that deals with the realities of changing numbers through the census approach.
And, you know, I want to say, just from the Lysyk report, that one thing that should be mentioned is that the community of Faro is a mining town, and it has got a population whose interests are quite separate and distinct from the people living in the surrounding communities. That's a direct quote from the Lysyk report, and a legal opinion that we got that recognized that fact. Although there are many efforts by folks to diversify that community economically - and a lot of people are staying in that community because it's home for them - to rush to judgment when it's a proven and known fact that the town fluctuates in population with the to-ing and fro-ing of the mine, as does this entire territory, for that matter of fact, would be, I think, not only improper but disrespectful to that community. So, we're not interested in that approach; we're interested in the methodical and thoughtful approach that has a good legal basis that's solid, and we have put forward our reasonings behind it umpteen times. Around and around we go.
You know, Mr. Chair, the members opposite want to go around this mulberry bush, and I guess we can do that. We'll be here until December 15, so we can continue on in this vein. But I think that the Member for Riverside asked for a cogent explanation, received one, has received it many times, and let's move on.
Mr. Cable:If the Member for Faro wants to apply for the Minister of Justice's executive assistant, he should do that in the right way rather than do it in a pitch on the floor of the House.
The question I was asking the Minister of Justice - and I'll ask it again - has not been answered. There were recommendations - fairly clear recommendations - made by the Chief Electoral Officer. Why were these rejected? On what basis?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, Mr. Chair, the member opposite referred to minority governments and the fact that we've had two minority governments in the last 15 years, which ended in less than four years of office for the government of the day.
The member opposite has also tabled amendments that call for an electoral boundaries review after every two elections. This could result with a commission even more frequently than every nine years, which is not a very practical scenario.
Now, Mr. Chair, we don't believe we need an electoral boundaries review after every second election. We believe that holding an electoral boundaries review after we have the census data, which is provided every 10 years, is responsible. The Member for Riverside is wrong to say that the all-party committee had recommendations about boundaries reviews. And I think the member opposite is wrong to ask the Yukon to do something more than what the federal Liberals do for Canada. The federal government holds an electoral boundaries commission review after every 10 years, after they have a census data.
We believe that this represents a significant step of having a mandated review following the census data, where the population numbers have varied to the extent that electoral boundaries reform is required. And that is what we have brought forward in the new Elections Act.
Mr. Cable: I just have a few questions, and then I'll sit down. Will the minister table those provisions in the other 12 jurisdictions with the federal government that relate to reviews, so that we can see where the general thrust of Canadian legislation is going?
Will she also table the cost of the previous electoral reviews? That's 1974, 1997, and 1984. And will she confirm that she has some flexibility in dealing with Part 7 of Bill No. 82?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, Mr. Chair, I offered that flexibility in meetings that I held with the leader of the Liberal Party and in meetings that I held with the leader of the Yukon Party. And last week the Liberal Party leader phoned my office to say that they would not be bringing forward amendments to the legislation, that they didn't have a body of legal people available to draft amendments, and that we would continue with holding discussions, with providing briefings and information for party members, and I indicated that we were prepared to consider potential amendments, or to respond to their comments and suggestions. Then, on Monday morning, I come in and there is an amendment that has been written by the Member for Riverside, which has now been provided to the House.
I am still willing to meet with either leader of either party, or their critics, if the Justice critics are the ones who are now working on the Elections Act, to consider potential changes that can accommodate the members' interests. I have made it clear what our position is. We believe that the boundaries reviews need to be done after the census data is provided and we have good information available on population changes. The Liberals have expressed a desire to see the time frame compressed so that the electoral boundaries commission review can be done expeditiously once the census data is in, and we've asked officials to work on that. We've asked them to look, for example, at whether six months would be required to respond to a recommendation for a review, or whether that could be shortened to three months. We might consider, as some jurisdictions have done, having that done by order-in-council rather than by legislation, so that you do not have to convene the House if the House is not sitting when the recommendation comes forward for an electoral boundaries review. We do have room for movement.
The member has also asked about the practice in other jurisdictions. I do not have copies of the legislation from other jurisdictions. I have a chart of information that gives the details on what the provisions are in other jurisdictions, and I'd be happy to get a clean copy of that and provide it to the members opposite.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order, Mr. Chair.
Point of order
Chair: Ms. Duncan, on a point of order.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I believe the record should accurately reflect the conversation between the Minister of Justice and me, as well as the conversations between other officials and me.
The minister indicated that I had stated to her, on Tuesday or Wednesday morning, that I was not prepared to draft amendments. What I also indicated to her in that conversation was that my understanding was that (a) her officials have the time to draft amendments, (b) that there was an additional meeting scheduled among the party officials who were originally asked to review this legislation. Following the party officials' meeting on Friday, I was advised that Part 6 was being left to the party officials to come back with amendments and that Part 7 would be left to debate in this House - Part 7 being electoral boundaries. It would be left to us. At that point, as a caucus, we began to deal with -
Chair: Order. Order please. The Chair does not see this as a point of order. Committee will continue with the Elections Act debate.
Mr. Ostashek: I want to enter into this debate and I want to say for the record that we did not support this bill in principle at second reading. I stated my reasons then, but I want to ask some questions of the minister. She's put forward a very valiant argument as to why they're doing things and why they're using a census in 2000 to base their facts on. I believe she'd have made a stronger argument in this Legislature, and it would have had more credibility if she had used the 1996 election and the 1996 census results - if they were really interested in doing the right thing, instead of making a political exercise out of this, which this government has done and as we just heard stated by the Member for Faro.
All the opposition parties asked for in a motion last spring that was put forward by myself in this House was the establishment of an electoral boundaries review.
We did not say Faro should not have a seat. We did not say Whitehorse West should have two seats. We did not say any of those things. We asked that an independent body make recommendations to this Legislature. So, for the government to stand up in this Legislature and accuse us of trying to gerrymander a system and politicize a system is wrong, because if there's anybody who's politicizing the system, it's the government of the day by putting their own interpretation on whether there should be an electoral boundaries review or not, and not listening to the Chief Electoral Officer's report, which clearly states that after every second election there ought to be an electoral boundaries review.
Mr. Chair, on top of that, that has been the practice in the Yukon since party politics came in. Never before, in the history of the Yukon, are we going to go this long without an electoral boundaries review.
So I think the minister's arguments would have been a lot more credible, and carried a lot more weight, and probably gained some support, if she used those same arguments, but used the 1996 census so that they could have followed the report of the Chief Electoral Officer, and had an electoral boundaries review after every second election.
Now it's going to be after the third election. It won't take effect until the fourth election, and I think that's just totally unacceptable, and that's why we voted against the bill in principle.
Another weakness in their argument is that they need a census report. A census is not going to tell the Legislature or the government or anyone else how many constituents reside in each riding. That's not what censuses are about.
They're still going to have to use the results of the next election, the voter list, as they could have used the voter list from 1996, as Mr. Lysyk did in 1991 when he used the voter list from 1989. A census isn't going to give those figures to the government or to the Legislature to base their decisions on. It doesn't hold any water. Absolutely none whatsoever.
Mr. Chair, the Member for Faro said there was no political desire for electoral boundaries review. I would suggest to the Member for Faro that he's not talking to Yukoners, because there isn't a constituency that I've been in, since the 1996 election, where the issue has not come up - there is not a community in the Yukon where it hasn't come up. All Yukoners, for several years now, have desired an electoral boundaries review, because they know it's out of sync, far worse than what it was in 1996. And 1996 pointed out the vagrancies and how far out of sync we were.
Mr. Chair, this is a government that prides itself on working for the small person, for giving people a say, yet one of the most fundamental areas of democracy, and one of the areas where Yukoners ought to have a say that's of equal importance to other Yukoners and their neighbours, this government is going to deny them that on a weak, feeble argument that they need a census in the year 2000 before they can act. Well, I've got greater respect for Yukoners than that, Mr. Chair. They'll see right through that, and they'll see this as a purely partisan, political exercise to save the seat for the Member for Faro. It has nothing to do with equality. That's the last thing it has anything to do with. Their arguments don't make any sense when it comes to giving equal representation to Yukoners. Neither do the minister's defences of it, saying that rural ridings can have fewer and the courts will accept it.
The fact is I'm not talking about rural ridings here. We're talking about her own riding; we're talking about my riding; we're talking about ridings in the Whitehorse area that are far out of synch, and I don't have any doubt that, if somebody took it to court today, they would win, and this government would be forced to do an electoral boundaries review before the next election.
The member's right and the government's right, and they're gambling on it - that the courts aren't going to overthrow an election. They're gambling on that, but does that make it right? I don't believe it makes it right at all.
Mr. Chair, I would like to know from the minister, in light of all the arguments she has made, and if she really believes in her heart that there's validity to that, why did they not use the 1996 census and the 1996 voters list, which showed that there were five ridings out of synch with the norm? And we're not saying that the government ought to make more ridings or fewer ridings, but they appointed an impartial body to make recommendations to this Legislature as to whether or not the ridings were in synch or not.
And for the government here, Mr. Chair, while I'm on my feet, to say it's a money issue is a slap in the face to Yukoners. They can spread money all over to try to buy the next election, but they're not prepared to pay any money to allow equality between voters in the Yukon. I don't think Yukoners will accept that, Mr. Chair.
I want to ask the minister if she'll answer: why did they not tie it to the 1996 census, which was after the second election - two elections - as has been done in the past in the Yukon? Why did they not tie it to that, if they're really sincere in their arguments?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: First of all, this is not about saving a seat; this is not about saving a seat for the Member for Faro, or about saving a seat for the Member for Vuntut Gwitchin or Mayo-Tatchun or Whitehorse West, or anywhere else.
We are saying that the decennial census data will provide us with accurate population information. We're not saying that we can only use the census data. We're not saying that, in considering an electoral district boundary review, that we would not also use the election enumeration lists, and that we would not also use other information that's relevant; of course, we would.
We believe it's responsible to take the time to do it right and to have accurate information, and all parties have been successful, or unsuccessful, with the current boundaries. The member takes some exception to the consideration of the expenditure of funds. Well, Mr. Chair, I think that that's a rational consideration. The last electoral boundaries review, which was conducted in 1991, less that 10 years ago, did cost approximately $250,000. We think that we should only be making that expenditure where it is legally defensible and where it's defensible according to the population data.
The members have said, "Well, but you need to have done a boundary commission before the next election." We do not have time to complete a boundaries commission before the next election. What we're bringing forward is some certainty for the Yukon public, for the Yukon electorate, that we will conduct an electoral boundaries review every 10 years following the completion of census data.
And, Mr. Chair, we're not alone in that. The Member for Riverside has asked me to table the relevant sections of all of the legislation in all of the Canadian jurisdictions, and I've explained to him that I do not have that. What I do have is the information that only Quebec, Alberta and British Columbia provide for electoral reviews after every second general election. Prince Edward Island has an electoral review after every third general election. Canada, Ontario and Saskatchewan are after every decennial census; similarly, Manitoba, Newfoundland, the Northwest Territories and the Nunavut reviews are held every 10 years.
We've brought forward Elections Act amendments, which provide for certainty, which provide for conducting electoral district boundary reviews as needed every 10 years following the completion of the Canada census data. I don't understand what the member's problem is with that.
Chair: Do members wish to recess? Ten minutes.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. The Committee is still dealing with Bill No. 82, Elections Act. Is there further general debate?
Mr. Ostashek: I asked the minister a specific question and she failed to answer it when she was on her feet, and I would like her to answer it. What are the reasons why they didn't take the 1996 census and the 1996 voters list and do the electoral boundaries review after every second election, as has been done in the past in the Yukon. Like I've said before, I believe her arguments would hold far more credibility if they would have done that.
I have a couple of other points I'd like to make while I'm on my feet. They want to take the time to do it right. Well, this report by the Chief Electoral Officer was tabled in this Legislature in December of 1997 - plenty of time to appoint a commission, plenty of time for them to report to the Legislature, plenty of time to do it right. And for her, for the minister, to be making the argument now that we don't have the time to do it is a pretty weak argument, because there was the time to do it. The government dragged their feet and didn't want to do it - that is why it has not been done.
And as far as the cost goes, let me speak to the cost of the last one. She says $250,000. It could well have been; I'm not going to argue that, but I will tell her that her former leader and I discussed this, and he was of the opinion, as I am, that we wouldn't hire a retired judge from outside to do it again, because it needs to be some Yukoners who have an understanding of the Yukon, and we don't get the silly boundaries that we had on the constituencies that we had from the Lysyk report, where one side of the street is in one riding and the other side's in another riding, or your neighbour is in another riding. It was ridiculous. Too much focus on trying to divide it down to the 888, I think, which was the magic number in the 1991 electoral boundaries review.
So the cost could be reduced. It doesn't need to cost $250,000 to do this exercise - nowhere near it. So that's not a good argument either. But I would like the minister to answer the question that I asked: why did we not use the 1996 census and the enumeration for the 1996 election? We had those figures readily available. It was already the second election after an electoral boundaries review. The time was right. We had the Chief Electoral Officer's report in December 1997, so we could have done it then. Why didn't we?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, Mr. Chair, the member opposite wants to revisit electoral boundaries reform, as he discussed with the Government Leader in Question Period of April of this year over and over again. And, Mr. Chair, this afternoon and last week in this House, I've been speaking to the member about what we're doing, and why we're doing it.
The government has come forward with amendments to the Elections Act. We are acting. We are providing for a regular review to be conducted after the census data, when the Canada census is compiled every 10 years. Mr. Chair, that's the standard that is used by other jurisdictions, and it makes sense.
Now, the member also said, "Why don't we use the 1996 census data and election results?" Mr. Chair, the member is aware that the population is changing, and that the population in 1998 is less than the population in 1996.
The member and I are disagreeing, and this is not surprising. The member disagreed with the Government Leader when he discussed this subject with him in the spring. We're saying we want to use the decennial census data, which will provide current and accurate population data, and we will do that.
Mr. Ostashek: That still doesn't answer my question, and it doesn't look like the minister will because she doesn't have a valid answer for the question. That's why she's not answering it.
The 10-year thing - why are we going to 10 years? You know, we're one of the few jurisdictions in Canada that has an election every four years, and it only makes sense that we have an electoral boundaries review after every second election, not every 10 years. If we had a five-year mandate in the Yukon, there might be some credibility for the government's argument about it, but there isn't. We have a four-year mandate.
So, I don't know why the government is hung up on 10 years when there are other provinces in Canada that do it after every second general election. What's the magic with the 10-year number?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, Mr. Chair, it's not a magic number. It's a reasonable accommodation of interests. It is a model that is used by a number of jurisdictions across the country.
I might make another point, since, although they argue contrary, the differential between rural and urban seats is something that I think is of concern to the members opposite.
The Supreme Court looked at southern ridings where there are large numbers of voters - tens of thousands in the case of Saskatchewan. It was a Saskatchewan reference. And for Canada the average is 65,000 voters per federal riding. So, 25 percent of that is 16,250 people. That's as many as several of the MLAs in this House combined. In the Yukon, 25 percent of one electoral district of 1,000 could be as few as 250 people. So, there is a real question, and the legal opinions reference this over and over again, about how hard and fast 25 percent should be. It's not taken as a hard and fast rule.
I think there's a case to be made, as well, that the 25-percent guideline may have less relevance here than in a large southern riding, whether the riding is urban or rural.
In Prince Edward Island, the riding averages are about 24,000 voters. In Ontario, it's about 69,000 voters; that's almost double the population of the Yukon. Similarly, in Quebec, it's 68,000. In Manitoba, it's 54,000. In the Yukon, the federal riding is 19,000, and in the Northwest Territories, it's 17,000. So, there's clearly a great variance when you look at the 25-percent variation. There's a great variety within the Parliament of Canada, and I think a court would look seriously at the unique circumstances of the Yukon when it came to the question of how rigidly one applies the plus or minus 25 percent.
So, as I said a couple of hours ago here when this first came up, the question is effective representation, and the Supreme Court has ruled on that. We do provide effective representation and have some differences between urban and rural seats. We also have a lot of differences in the Yukon to southern Canada.
Mr. Ostashek: Well, Mr. Chair, here we go again. Here we have the Minister of Justice getting up and making a political decision on what the boundaries should be. That's not what we asked. The question was to establish an electoral boundaries commission to make that judgment, not the government. That's all we asked - that they establish an electoral boundaries commission.
We don't know what they'll decide, but the government seems to think that they know best. This is big brother looking after the poor constituents of the Yukon. We know what's best for you.
Mr. Chair, the minister said that every 10 years was a reasonable length of time to hold an electoral boundaries review. Is the minister saying by that, that after every second election is not a reasonable length of time, as is done in some other provinces?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, Mr. Chair, first of all, let me state the obvious. I am nobody's big brother.
I agree absolutely that we need an electoral boundaries commission to make a decision on electoral boundaries reviews. That's what this legislation does. The Elections Act before us brings in a process where an electoral boundaries commission can be established and, conceivably, would be established every 10 years. The Chief Electoral Officer, after the census data comes, makes a recommendation.
The government, the opposition - none of the MLAs in this House want to decide where the electoral boundaries are. None of us want to take a crayon, and the map of the Yukon, and draw out the boundaries. What we do want to do - and what this government has committed to do - is to have a regular review that's linked to the census data that provides for the use of current, accurate population data.
Mr. Ostashek: Well, this is the world according to the Minister of Justice in the NDP government. They had all of that information. It could have been done before the next general election. It didn't have to wait. But we're not going to get her to admit anything else on that.
I have another question or two in general debate so that we don't get tied up in line-by-line. I understand that the parties are meeting on the financing, and that's yet to be worked out. I can see that the government's not moving very far on electoral boundaries review, even though they did have the Chief Electoral Officer's report, input from all three political parties, and had all of the tools necessary if they wanted to provide some equality to Yukon voters. They could have done it before the election in 2000, but for purely partisan, political reasons, they chose not to.
That be as it is, I have one other question, and that's on a tied vote in an election. In the government's Election Act they basically say that a tie will be broken by drawing of lots by a returning officer in front of a judge, the same as it has been in the past. Yet the recommendation, quite clearly from the Chief Electoral Officer, after consultation with all three political parties, said that there should be a Writ of Election for a new election to be held within 90 days of the date of the return of the writ, in the event of a tie. Can the minister tell us why they chose to ignore that recommendation?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: First of all let me tell the member again that the all-party committee did not discuss electoral boundaries in 1997 and there was no process by any party to approve or not approve of any of his recommendations, either before, during or after the report was published. As I've quoted from the report, the report is a document that was prepared by the Chief Electoral Officer and he takes sole responsibility for the recommendations in that.
The question of tie votes is one that we've spent a lot of time discussing and thinking about the best thing to do when there is a tie vote in a riding. One recommendation that came forward was that there be an automatic by-election in the case of a tie. The most frequently used solution for a tie vote, after comparing various Canadian jurisdictions, is for the returning officer to cast a ballot. That's the case in many jurisdictions. The Chief Electoral Officer and his officials advised us that that would be a real problem for the Yukon, because people in communities did not want to have to break a tie vote and then be the ones who were responsible for whichever member took the seat. They indicated that it would be difficult to recruit returning officers if we required them to cast a ballot.
When we considered, then, going to an automatic election on a tie vote, we were concerned that the voters are entitled to representation, and deciding the question elects a representative and ensures constituents have a representative to deal with their concerns, even if it is on an interim basis, and even if there is a controvert of that election. In the case of tie votes, there has been a controvert where a judge has overturned the results of the election, and then a by-election is held. Understandably, political parties scrutinize the electoral lists and the proceedings, and may have found an inadvertent error where someone who should not have been on the voters list was on the voters list, and then the election may be controverted, and there would be an election. Forcing an automatic by-election does not decide the question of whether the initial election could be controverted. So, an unsuccessful candidate may successfully controvert the initial election. If that occurs after a forced by-election occurs, the result could be a legal quandary that no one could easily resolve. There would be a real cloud of uncertainty over who was entitled to represent the constituency.
We decided not to force the returning officer to cast the vote for the reason that I mentioned - that it would threaten the nonpartisan status of the returning officer and it may be difficult to recruit people to take that position if they knew that they might have to cast a deciding ballot. The drawing of lots is not universally considered satisfactory, but it does provide a way to decide the question quickly, and there is a possibility of a controvert, which would result in a by-election then being held.
Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Chair, I want to respond first to the minister's preamble. While this is a report of the Chief Electoral Officer, the minister cannot deny that he had input from all three political parties. I'm not saying whether it was by unanimous decision or what. I'm saying he had input from all three political parties, and these recommendations are based on all the information that the Chief Electoral Officer had. So, she can't wiggle out of it by saying that this is just his report and nobody else had input into it, as they had input into this clause. I can appreciate that we don't want a returning officer in a small community, or even in a Whitehorse riding, casting a vote to break a tie. It seems to me that it would be far more palatable to let the voters decide who represents a riding, not through a draw done by a judge. And 90 days to a by-election with no representation - we've gone longer than that without the riding having representation here when a seat has been vacated - on many occasions. This way, at least the people would decide who their representative was.
As far as a controverted election, there's probably going to be less chance of it being challenged after a second run-off than it would be if it were drawn by a judge.
So, I believe the proper thing for the government to do in that case is to take the recommendation of the Chief Electoral Officer when he put that in his report, which would be a totally democratic way of deciding who the MLA would be. In the Yukon, where we have so few people in some of the ridings - even in some of the large ridings - look at Laberge in the 1996 election, three votes. Whitehorse Centre 1992, two votes. Those could quite easily have ended up in ties, and we're going to decide who the MLA should be by drawing a name out of a hat or out of a cup or whatever.
So, Mr. Chair, I can't agree with the minister's rationale that this is the best way of deciding a tie vote.
Ms. Duncan: There are a number of points I'd like to make. First of all, with respect to the Chief Electoral Officer's report, I'd just like to remind members that all members of this House, representing all parties, agreed that the review of elections legislation was an important project and it deserved early attention by our Legislative Assembly. All sides of this House agreed with that point.
The all-party committee has worked very hard on this, and the representatives of the parties have committed a great deal of volunteer time and effort, and all members who spoke to the tabling of the legislation thanked them for their efforts.
This group worked very hard over the summer months. The legislative drafts people worked very hard. Accordingly, we got a copy of embargoed legislation for us to look at, and we were offered briefings, and there were discussions between the Minister of Justice and me, and the minister has indicated she's had other conversations.
We went ahead with second reading debate. And, I would remind members for the record, in the discussion with respect to electoral boundaries, I pointed out at that time that the legislation proposed had a rather long, drawn-out process, and every 10 years was a very long time frame. I also said that this section of the bill would no doubt be discussed at some length in this House, as witness to this afternoon's discussion.
I had agreed, on behalf of our party, to work with the minister. I agreed publicly, and I agreed privately to work with the minister, and with the government, in terms of amendments and in terms of this legislation.
Again, I'd remind members that, in second reading speeches, everyone pointed out that this act is the rules of the game, so to speak. This is how we are elected, or not elected, to serve our constituents. They're fundamental to democracy, and they are very important.
There was, when we started on this process, some degree of cooperation and willingness to work to ensure that we had the best rules. That cooperation still exists at the party level. Party representatives met on Friday.
Our support for this bill at second reading recognized the government's willingness to that point - and their expression to that point - of some flexibility. There's no way - with that expression of flexibility - that we were prepared to slam the door and say, no, we're not going to support it; no, we're not going to go through with second reading. We were willing to work with that flexibility and support, in principle, was support and recognition of the hard work of those party people - support for things like the improvements they've made to proxy voting, like the improvements that have been made to financial disclosure. That's what the support was about. There was also an indication at that time that we wanted a full discussion of section 7.
We finished second reading and moved into clause-by-clause. On Friday afternoon there was a meeting between party representatives. At that time it was the understanding of our caucus that section 6 would be re-drafted by the party people, because they clearly understood - because they are the people issuing the receipts and handling the money and dealing with this - they understood that section 6 was very convoluted, and that it didn't set out what we clearly asked it to do. We, on the Liberal side of the House, and the New Democratic side of the House, had both recognized full financial disclosure in our campaign platforms, and section 6 was not written as well as it could be.
No offence to the drafts people, but it was convoluted. And the party representatives have said, "We want to work on this because we can see the problem with it." They are better versed than us. Great, let them do that. And we can do the same thing we did with the Municipal Act. We can deal with the rest of this legislation and bring it back. That was my understanding at the political level. Now unfortunately, it appears that someone had not briefed the Minister of Justice on that. I should correct for Hansard, my references to section 6 should be Part 6, the financial section. Unfortunately, I don't believe that that same discussion was conveyed to the Minister of Justice, because it appears to have caught her by surprise when it was mentioned in this House.
The second section that was discussed at some length - the second part that was discussed at some length in the meeting of the party leaders was the electoral boundaries, party officials. They discussed that section, and among their discussions was the sense that boundary commission action should be taken sooner rather than later. That appears to be the common thread in their discussions.
There was also discussion by the party representatives of whether or not section 7 should be dealt with in further discussions by them, or left to this floor and this Legislature and our discussions, whether they be in the members' lounge or on the floor of this House. The sense from our caucus was that Part 7, electoral boundaries, should be dealt with by us, the politicians at the political level. Accordingly, we don't have a battery of lawyers at our disposal, or legislative drafts people. We are blessed with the only legally trained individual in this House in our caucus, who, accordingly, worked very hard this weekend with our staff, whom some members disparagingly referred to earlier, I'm loathe to say. They worked very hard this weekend and redrafted some reasonable amendments up for discussion dealing with that.
Now, the government has previously expressed some flexibility and a desire to make this legislation the best it can be, because that means it's the best for everyone. So, if that's the case, then I would ask the minister, in the strongest possible terms, to give full and fair consideration - as we said we were going to embark on full and fair debate - to the amendments proposed by the Member for Riverside. They deal with the issues that have plagued this House and the debate for several hours this afternoon. I would like to believe that the willingness that was expressed last week is still present, that there is that genuine desire to write good legislation. And if that means working on amendments in some other forum, between party leaders, and presenting them back to our caucuses, so be it, we'll do that. If it means debating them at some length on the floor of this House, then so be it. Let's make this good legislation, and let's give consideration to the amendments proposed by the Member for Riverside.
Electoral boundaries are a key issue, and they are very important to all of us, and I deeply resent the Member for Faro stating that this is some attempt, or some personal attack. If the member is able to mind read, how come no one has discussed the possibility that maybe what this is about is adding more members to this House, because maybe that's what an independent commission would say.
No member has brought that up, and it's every bit a possibility as any other permutation of the boundaries.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Ms. Duncan: Exactly.
The desire to see good electoral boundaries is not a thinly veiled or a fully veiled or any kind of a veiled attempt or a disparaging comment about anyone. The point is that we need good legislation; we need boundaries that are drawn by an independent commission, and we need them sooner rather than later. And if members are listening not just to the public but to members and representatives of their party officials, they're going to hear the same comment, because that's what members are saying. That's what the public is saying, and that's what we've heard members of all parties say.
There are other questions within general debate with respect to the Elections Act before us and other questions that I have as to why specific recommendations were not accepted, that I would just like the minister to state on the record. Section 5(b) deals with a person who, by reason of being deprived of liberty of movement while awaiting appeal or sentencing - basically, that person is not allowed to vote. Now, what this deals with, Mr. Chair, is whether or not a prisoner is able to vote. It has been dealt with previously by Canadian courts, and 5(b) - by my reading and those I have spoken with - is still open to court action and leaves the government open to court challenge. Is that the minister's interpretation as well, and was the government's decision to allow that simply to be challenged in court, or was there some other recent information that that was based upon?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, Mr. Chair, first of all let me repeat for the member that I'm entirely willing to work with both opposition parties to consider potential changes to the Elections Act that may be in the best interests of the Yukon public.
The member is also asking a question about the right of prisoners to vote, and this is something that - I'd first of all like to explain what is in the act. The prisoners who are on remand are eligible to vote. Prisoners who have been sentenced to a period of incarceration upon the conviction of a crime are not eligible to vote. There have been a number of court cases on this question. One of them was as recently as October. We decided to maintain the status quo for the present when the bill was drafted. The October decision obviously had not been made at the time that the bill was drafted. This is something that we're entirely prepared to review in the future.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, was there any time frame set on that review? I ask that question because, in other pieces of legislation that have been before us, we have included in them requirements for a timely review. I have not seen that in this piece of legislation before us, and I did not hear the minister indicate whether, in the discussions, there was a commitment that government should review that particular section in five years or some time frame. Was there any commitment made at all?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, Mr. Chair, we did not put legislated time frames into the act. In relation to the recent decisions that have been made, we have to see if they will stand, and we could bring forward amendments after we've seen how the courts have ruled.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, it's interesting that the minister and I have embarked upon the discussion of time frame.
The timing, according to the recommendation of the Chief Electoral Officer - the timing question was dealt with in Part 3, in the introduction. It says, when either the Elections Act or the Electoral District Boundaries Act is amended, six months preparation time is to be allowed before an election can be conducted under the new law. That was in the Chief Electoral Officer's recommendations.
In the act, there was no change made to the legislation. We simply retained - section 300-something has become section 419, and it basically says that, if the writ is issued within six months, we'll use the old act, and if it's issued after six months, we'll use the new act.
Now, of course, the Minister of Justice can't answer for the Government Leader as to when the election's being called - and I'm not asking that question - but it does pose a difficulty, should the government decide to call an election in under the six months. Because the public has been so aware, and so interested in our work in this Elections Act, that that will be one of the questions that I'm sure will be the first, and I just highlight it for the minister. That is a timing question presented by changes to this act, and something that should be considered.
The other questions in the act - and the minister and I have had this discussion in a somewhat public forum, in the hallway - with respect to the Liquor Act changes. Section 346 - basically the recommendation was that the restriction on the sales of alcohol be ended; however, the government has chosen not to accept this recommendation, and for very, I would say, strong reasons, in that there are other opportunities for the purchase of alcoholic beverages other than on polling day.
I just would like to ask the minister if there have been any discussions with the business community on that particular section, and has the government communicated to the business community why they did not accept the Chief Electoral Officer's recommendation on that particular section, or do they simply intend to leave the legislation as is without discussions with the business community?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, the business community is well-aware of the existing provisions of the Elections Act, which provide for a ban on the serving of alcohol on polling day until the time that the poll closes. I am not aware of correspondence, but I will check and see for the member whether the decision to maintain that has been communicated directly to the business community.
Nunavut, Northwest Territories and Yukon are the only three jurisdictions that do not serve alcohol on polling day. In other jurisdictions, the change has been made so that alcohol can be served. Virtually every time I visit a rural community in the Yukon, the issue of alcohol abuse is raised, and we saw no reason to change the bill to provide for alcohol being served on polling day so we've left that provision as "no change".
Ms. Duncan: The issue of alcohol being raised with the minister has been raised with all members of this House, and it's certainly of major concern. The Liquor Act and liquor sales, and so on, is something that our caucus has raised on a number of occasions in this Legislature.
My question was related to the business community in that respect, and I understand the business community is fully aware of the current provisions. My concern was whether or not the minister had received representations for change from the business community. If she will get back to me in writing, that's fine.
Another question I had was with respect to section 347, which deals with the premature publication of results. I'm just curious as to whether there has been any information provided to the minister with respect to a political opinion being aired. That was raised during the recent Laberge by-election. The question was whether or not there had been an airing of a broadcast that purported to suggest what was going to happen that day. Has there been any judicial opinions or prosecution of this sort of section in other areas in Canada? Is there any research available on that question that the minister could provide?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I'm not aware of further information on this particular provision of the act. This is the old section 357 of the existing Elections Act, so it is not a new provision. It has simply been moved to Part 4 to conform with the recommendation of the Chief Electoral Officer that all the offences be consolidated in one part of the Elections Act. In response to the detailed question the member asked, I will ask my officials to see what might be available.
Ms. Duncan: I'd appreciate the information from the minister. A written response is fine; it doesn't have to be necessarily verbal, if that's more convenient.
The four consecutive hours is a section that also has remained the same, and I'm certain that all employees, as well as people who have worked in elections, appreciate the fact that that recommendation was not incorporated in the legislation - that it stays as it is, the four clear hours, although I am concerned that there will be confusion with the differences between the federal and territorial elections.
The other specific questions with regard to the bill, I had also expressed my concern to the minister with regard to the tie vote provisions that are currently contained in the act, and we've heard some arguments from both sides of the House as to why the old section had been retained and some arguments for some new sections. Is the minister prepared to look at an amendment to that section?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: In the previous discussion on the subject of a tie vote, I expressed the view that we have a concern that a riding not be represented until a second election is held. We also have a concern that if a second election is automatically launched immediately after that, there could be a legitimate controvert to the election that was held.
In addition, something that is not the case in any of the other jurisdictions is the fact that we have 17 ridings, and it is not impossible to speculate that there could be eight seats for one party, and eight seats for another party, and a tie vote in the remaining seat, which would mean, under the provisions that were suggested by the Chief Electoral Officer for an automatic election, that there would be no government until after the by-election or the re-election was held to see who would win a tie vote.
Now, if members opposite do have a suggestion for dealing with the issue of a tie vote that meets all of these concerns, I'd welcome hearing it. I think it is important that, when an election is held, there is a representative who is able to stand in this House and represent their constituents or become a member of either the government or the opposition of the day.
Mr. Cable: I'd like to go back to the electoral review. I was pleased to hear that the minister was going to show some flexibility. I'd like to put to her some food for thought. We had a population of about 33,000 a couple of years ago, and we've lost about 3,000, if I have the numbers correct, which would mean that we've had a population change of about nine or 10 percent.
Now, if you scale that up to the whole of Canada, that would be a population change of three million people, or, if you were looking at the Province of Ontario, that would be a population change of maybe a million people.
So, I'd like to suggest to the minister that when she is thinking about when these reviews should take place, she take note of the fact that, except for our First Nations people, the population in the Yukon is much more transient than in other Canadian jurisdictions. Secondly, that we have population changes that are much larger than in most other Canadian jurisdictions. Therefore, one should consider that it would be wiser to have our reviews more frequently than we would have, say, at the federal level, where we have minor percentage changes, or in many of the more stable provinces.
Does the minister accept that proposition, that our population changes are much larger than in most other Canadian jurisdictions?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, it's certainly interesting to hear the opposition using phrases like "if the numbers are accurate". That's exactly our point. We do need accurate numbers to provide the basis for consideration of an electoral district boundaries review.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: The labour force is growing, as my colleague, the Minister of Economic Development, is pointing out.
I have indicated in the House that I'm more than willing to consider the amendments that have been brought forward by the opposition, the questions that they have raised, the questions that have been raised by the political parties.
I understood after the briefing that was held on Friday that the political parties were to come back to the government officials to indicate whether they had particular sections or clauses or language for consideration and potential amendments to Part 6 on electoral financing. There seems to be some confusion between what officials heard and what MLAs are discussing on the floor of the Legislature. Perhaps we might speak over the break and see if we can resolve that. We are interested in hearing from the opposition parties in relation to Part 6 on electoral financing or to other parts of the bill, if they have concerns that haven't been adequately addressed or suggestions to consider for changes or additional clauses to the bill.
Chair: Order please. The time being near 5:30 p.m., Committee will recess until 7:30 p.m.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. Committee is dealing with Bill No. 82.
Is there further general debate?
On Clause 1
Chair: For the record, that's clause 1 of 425 clauses.
Do clauses 1 to 425 carry?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I'll just speak to clause 1, which is the interpretation, and it is essentially the same as the old section 1 of the existing act. There is a change of title from "administrator of elections" to "assistant chief electoral officer", and the remainder of the new act reflects that change. Any other changes in clause 1 are minor.
Clause 1 agreed to
On Clause 2
Chair: The Chair will be looking for acknowledgement from opposition parties on each of these clauses, so if someone could signal, I'll carry the clauses.
Clause 2 agreed to
On Clause 3
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On Clause 4
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On Clause 5
Ms. Duncan: Clause 5(b), this is the section that the minister and I discussed briefly in general debate. This is the section the government may or may not review at a later date, pending further outcomes in the courts. Is this the section?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: That's correct, Mr. Chair, and as I indicated to the member, we're waiting for an assessment of the recent decision on whether that will be challenged and what the outcome of that will be.
Clause 5 agreed to
On Clause 6
Ms. Duncan: Could the minister just go through this background to subsection 6(2)(d) - "where a person usually sleeps in one place" - the background on this clause?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, there are a few changes in the definition of "residence". The use of the new words "true and permanent home" are to give more clarity to the concept that you are not a resident where you happened to be staying, if you have a permanent home elsewhere. So if someone owns a cabin or keeps an apartment where their possessions are, and that is their permanent home, but they spend all non-vacation time at a work camp, where they live in, they are not a resident of the camp, except as provided in section 8.
Similarly, in clause 6(2)(d), this expands the concept that's in the current section 6(2)(e). For a single person, residence is more likely to be associated with where they sleep than where they eat and work. Again, an example might be someone in a camp.
This new wording is parallel to other Canadian jurisdictions, which could allow us to apply their jurisprudence, if needed.
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On Clause 12
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, this is a clause where the government did not accept the recommendation of the Chief Electoral Officer. Is that correct?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Yes, Mr. Chair. In this clause, there is no change. There haven't been any problems identified with the current process. If the member would like to make a representation that we should amend the wording, we could deal with that or set the clause aside and come back with it.
Ms. Duncan:No, Mr. Chair, just for the record, I was noting that that was one place where we had not followed the recommendation. That was my only point.
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On Clause 33
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, there's nothing in this section that requires that this be reviewed regularly, or that the remuneration be commensurate with either remuneration that's paid to members of boards and committees. There are really no guidelines contained in this section. Was that discussed at all?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, the language in this section is the same as the old section 35. The Public Service Act applies to the hiring of people by the Chief Electoral Officer, and there are various pay schedules that are within the public service that do change from time to time.
Clause 33 agreed to
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On Clause 85
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, there was some discussion earlier, and clause 66 also references two enumerators, and clause 85 spells out the procedure for enumerators. It's my understanding, for personal safety, that it's best that these individuals travel in pairs. Now, could I just have the minister's reassurance that - I understand that that's the practice - that is adequately reflected in this legislation?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: As the member has indicated, the practice is, under normal circumstances, to have two enumerators travel together, and I believe that that will continue to be the case.
I'm not aware of another section of this act, aside from this one, with the procedure for enumeration, which sets out further details on that. However, the Chief Electoral Officer has the responsibility to ensure that the process is done well and also that safety is taken into account.
The final section of this clause in 85(3) indicates the potential authorization of alternative methods for acquiring enumeration information rather than making house-to-house visits. An example of that could be phone calls or faxes.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I believe the common practice is articulated in clause 63, where it says, "...one or two persons in each polling division to enumerate the electors in it", so that policy is covered, and I should have noted it earlier.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Clause 85 agreed to
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On Clause 106
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I'd just like to note, in clauses 106, 107 and 108, the improvements that have been made by those discussing the act and the drafts people regarding the proxy voting. There is tremendous improvement in these sections, and I'd just like to express, on the record, my compliments for their improvement.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I thank the member for that. We went through the section so quickly that I didn't get on my feet. I wanted to note that in both the "special ballot" section and in the "proxy voting" section we have improved the procedures to ensure that voters who may have special needs, or who may be out of the Yukon attending school, or the spouse of a student away at school, will be able to vote, and it won't be as onerous for them to get either a special ballot or a proxy voting application.
Clause 106 agreed to
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On Clause 115
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, there has been an improvement in the nomination papers section as well, for clarity, and this is a substantial improvement and is, I would suggest, a positive addition to our election legislation.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, there are details on these sections about the changes that have been made by referring to the report of the Chief Electoral Officer. Many of the new sections here are based on his recommendations.
Clause 115 agreed to
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On Clause 165
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, this particular clause was of great concern to a constituent of mine, with respect to locating the polling station in the school. The minister may recall that I forwarded a letter to our Chief Electoral Officer, as well as to the Canadian Chief Electoral Officer. The concern was with respect to the security of the school and the security of students - for example, a non-custodial parent dispute, situations that, most unfortunately, do arise within our society. And, of course, the polling station is open to everyone.
Is there a Department of Education policy that requires specific security measures during this particular time, or is the minister contemplating such a policy?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: What I can assure the member is that, in the normal course of events, a parent would bring that kind of concern to the attention of the administrator, and it would not be a concern simply for polling day, but maybe a concern if there were family disputes on any number of areas.
The administrator would deal with an issue of security of the student at any time that it's brought to their attention and, in particular, on polling day. If a parent had a concern that their child might be more at risk because of the opening of the school to the general population for purposes of conducting an election, they can take that to the administrator and have them deal with it.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I recognize that if a parent has a concern, they can deal with the administrator, and that's certainly what the individual did in this case. And, fortunately, we have not had situations where we've been overly concerned. The Yukon is, in large respect, still a very small community.
We also know that child disappearances in other jurisdictions happen very, very, very quickly, and we're talking about a situation where a public building, yes, is open to a large adult population for 12 hours, often when school is in session. I just wondered if there was a particular policy, or if the Department of Education contemplated a policy where, for example, some schools have taken steps to locate the polling place in one particular area, such that any adult who is not expected in the rest of the school is easily viewed. Is that a procedure that has been put into policy, or is there any discussion of such a policy?
I'm not wanting to sound an alarmist or to take a negative view of the general populace. This is a concern that has been raised by not just one, but by more than one constituent of mine, and it's a legitimate concern. In our society where our children are our most precious resource, we need to take steps to ensure their safety.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, the schools in the Yukon have experienced this disruption, if you will, of having an election held on the school property every four years for a considerable amount of time, and I know that, as the member has alluded to, measures are taken to try and make it a satisfactory event for both the voters and the students and to ensure that the students' interests are protected.
I can look to see what further information I might be able to bring back to the member on that. I would say that it is something that our schools are used to dealing with and that we always do our best to ensure the safety of the students.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, our schools are used to it, and we have been very fortunate. We've had no difficulties, and I just would like to suggest to the minister that we ensure that these best safety practices of Yukon school administrators continue. If that necessitates a policy directive or simply a statement somewhere within the educators' handbook, or if it's covered off already by a statement, then that's fine, but I just would like to ensure that that is on the record.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I'll get back to the member on that.
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On Clause 300
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Chair, this is an area where we had a problem. The leader of the third party has made a recommendation to the minister, and I'm wondering if the minister would entertain an amendment here to consider settling a tie by way of a by-election as opposed to just a lot draw. Would the minister consider an amendment in that regard, or is the minister steadfast in where she's coming from with respect to a less democratic process where it's the luck of the draw, like a lottery game and the winner takes all, rather than the people in the riding deciding who they want to represent them?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, I do not agree with the member's assessment that it's strictly a luck of the draw. What I have indicated to the member in the discussions on tie vote is that we have a concern with holding an election and, in the event of a tie vote, having one MLA short and not having an MLA able to take their seat. It could happen, as I indicated in general debate, that there were eight members elected in one party and eight members elected for another party, and, depending on the outcome of the tie vote, that would form the government. We don't believe it serves the public interest to not have a member take their seat, even if there was later to be a controvert.
If the member has a suggestion to make that would accommodate that concern, that someone take the seat in the interim, then I'd be prepared to set this clause aside and discuss it with the members opposite and see if we can come up with something better.
We determined to stay with the status quo.
The practice in most jurisdictions in Canada is for a returning officer to cast a vote. In discussion of that, both people in the parties and the Chief Electoral Officer indicated that there would be difficulty recruiting a returning officer if they felt that they might have to cast the deciding vote for a tie rather than to determine who holds the seat by a coin toss.
A new, full election takes over a month, and the district would not be represented during the time of the by-election. There is also the issue that where there is a tie vote in an election, all parties look to see if there may have been some inadvertent error and a controvert may occur. The election result may be set aside.
So, there are a number of variables at play here, and I think that staying with the status quo is the best option at this time. The member might have another suggestion; I'm sure he will.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I just want to be on the record on this. Our party did not feel that the drawing or a coin toss is the best method for determining who should take the seat in the unfortunate circumstance of a tie vote. Now, that being said, there were a number of other options that we discussed informally as a party, including a run-off election, which is something that I haven't heard discussed in the House.
I wonder if, as the minister indicated at the beginning of her response to the Member for Riverdale North, that she would be prepared to set this clause aside and we could further discuss it. I wonder if she would consider doing that?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft:Yes, I'd be prepared to do that, as I just stated.
Mr. Phillips: We'd prefer that the minister set the clause aside. It's not an easy one to solve. I think everyone admits that. It's not a cut-and-dried thing to solve, but I don't buy the minister's argument that because we have 17 seats, the best way to do it is to pick a name out of a hat or flip a coin. If we had 30, 31 or 46 seats, or whatever, you could get the same situation, where there's a tie and one vote would make the difference. So, the "17" number doesn't really wash.
My concern here is that I don't think it's fair to either one of the candidates. I can't recall a time - I'd have to look, but usually when there is an election, it's rare that we come into the House within 30 days of an election. We may, in some cases, but if a by-election were called, it would only be a very short period of time that a riding may be without a representative if there had to be another by-election. And it would be the people who would decide. I know that the minister has made some arguments - or some have made the arguments - in the past that, well, people would know who the government was then, and they might want to get somebody elected on the government side. Well, some can make the argument that they may want a stronger opposition, too. And some may make the argument that the people themselves should make the choice, regardless.
I mean, it shouldn't be up to us. It should be up to the electorate. After all, we don't sit around and flip coins for 17 seats, so I don't think we should flip coins for one seat. I think it should be up to the constituents in the riding to democratically decide who their representative may be, and let the chips fall where they may, depending on who is the government. That's really irrelevant. I think what we have to do is look at what the most democratic process is for the electorate. That's the concern I have.
So, I would ask the minister to stand this aside, and we'll try and come up with some kind of an idea where the seat could be filled. We're looking at maybe 30 days, and we've gone lots of times in this House, including this particular time, a lot longer than 30 days without a riding being represented.
I think there could be certain things that one could do. I don't think you would find the riding would be misrepresented by not having someone for a short period of time until the electors themselves chose their candidate and not by some coin toss or a draw of straws or whatever way you want to do it. I think it would be more fair the other way. So if we stand this aside, that would be our preference at this time, and we would consider coming back with an amendment that might be acceptable to the minister.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: This is a subject that has been discussed probably as much or more then any section of the bill. A number of interesting methods for resolving a tie vote have been used in jurisdictions outside of Canada. While I believe that the statistical probability of another tie vote occurring in Yukon electoral history in the near future may be remote, I am certainly prepared to stand this aside and see if opposition members may come up with something to suggest that might be more effective than the status quo.
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Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I'd just like to note on the record that the consolidation of the offences section adds to the clarity of this legislation, and is another improvement to this act.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, I thank the member for acknowledging that. There have been a number of administrative changes, and changes to the organization of the bill that do make it a clearer piece of legislation.
We have also updated the Elections Act to provide that any document except a ballot paper can be faxed. I think that will result in the officials working on the elections to ensure that they're using the fastest and most efficient methods of communication that will serve the public interest of the voters.
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Mr. Phillips: Mr. Chair, Part 6 is an area where I know there were some concerns of all parties, and the minister has agreed to stand this area aside. I wonder if we can do that? I think Part 6 and Part 7 are both two areas of contention that there has to be more discussion on, and maybe it would expedite business if we stood both areas aside.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I did indicate in discussions with the opposition earlier that we were prepared to set aside Part 6 and Part 7. A briefing was held last week for the members of the opposition, and a briefing was also held on Friday for members of political parties.
I understand that some of the members of the political parties committed to coming back to us to indicate which particular sections of Part 6 they might want to see amended or see the language clarified. I have already provided to both opposition parties copies of amendments that we have drafted to Part 6 as a result of the discussions that have been held and the questions that have been raised by members opposite. I agree that we can proceed to set aside discussion of Part 6 and Part 7.
Mr. Phillips: The minister has said she has agreed to set aside the whole of Parts 6 and 7 for now. Okay, that's fine, Mr. Chair.
Ms. Duncan: I am agreed, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Chair, we've agreed to set aside Part 6 and Part 7. Perhaps we should just indicate at this time that members of the House would work toward bringing them back in an expeditious manner.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Yes, Mr. Chair, I would hope that we may be able to have meetings tomorrow and to bring them back as soon as possible. I understand that some of her officials have indicated that they may be available over the lunch hour tomorrow.
May we proceed to Part 8, which is Miscellaneous Items, Mr. Chair?
On Clauses 370 to 415
Chair: Do members agree to stand aside Part 6 and Part 7, which are clauses 370 to 415 inclusive?
Some Hon. Member: Agreed.
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On Clause 417
Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, the minister had indicated in discussion of clause 300 that it doesn't serve the interest of the people to have a member not take their seat. On clause 417, why then, if this is so urgent, does the government wish to continue to wait up to six months before calling a by-election?
I realize this isn't a change to the act, but six months does seem to me to be a long time for a riding to go unrepresented.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, this clause is the same language as the old clause, section 392. The provision sets out that a by-election must be called within 180 days, where there is a vacancy in a seat.
There is a difference between a general election and a by-election, which occurs when there is a vacancy in a seat. The common practice across Canada is that a six-month period is allowed before a by-election. A by-election may be called earlier than that, and often is.
Mr. Phillips: Well, Mr. Chair, that's fine. I buy that explanation. But it doesn't jibe with the minister's reasons earlier that members have to be represented in here as soon as possible. We suggested in a tie vote that there be a by-election within 30 days. The minister said that was too long for a riding to go unrepresented. So the issue is a riding being unrepresented in the House, so it doesn't make sense that 30 days is too long when it comes to a tie vote, but six months is just okay if it comes to somebody resigning or leaving the territory or passing on or whatever. I don't understand the difference.
The bottom line is that the riding won't have, for possibly up to six months, a representative. And that's contrary to the minister's argument half an hour ago or 20 minutes ago that said that there's no way we could hold a by-election in a tie vote, because this riding would be unrepresented.
How does the minister rationalize the two, because it doesn't make any sense? If there isn't someone here, and the minister thinks it's important to be here, then why did the minister say that the government could wait six months? I know that's the standard, but that's not consistent with the minister's arguments earlier.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, I would think that the member opposite could see that there is a fundamental difference between a general election, where all ridings in the Yukon are conducting elections to elect an MLA to represent them in the House, and a by-election, which is called where a vacancy occurs in the representation of an electoral district.
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Chair, if an election were held next month, and the members were duly elected, and then one member passed on shortly after being elected, how does the minister feel about that? Does she feel the election should be called within 30 days, or should it be called within six months? Because the government will have six months. I mean, you can't have a strong principle that ridings should all be represented in here in a very short period of time and that 30 days would be too long to wait in a general election in the case of a tie, but if someone happened to cease to become a MLA, even the day after they were elected government, then six months is now okay. It doesn't make sense. Either six months is okay when there's a vacancy, or six months is okay when there's a tie of a by-election. The minister can't have it both ways. Because the minister's argument is that the individual should be represented in the House. So, if that's the argument the government is going to make with respect to a tie, then maybe the government should be entertaining a change with respect to filling a vacancy, to make sure that, whatever riding becomes vacant, as quickly as we possibly can we can get a member in this House and be consistent with the minister's argument.
Is the minister prepared to entertain an amendment to change that particular section in light of her strong arguments that she made in the House here half-an-hour ago on solving a tie?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, Mr. Chair, as I've stated for the member opposite, it's an entirely different circumstance to be conducting a general election, where we're electing 17 members of the Legislative Assembly and conducting a by-election, where a vacancy has occurred. In most cases, where there is a vacancy, a by-election is held sooner than 180 days. This provision sets out that it must be called within 180 days.
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Chair, maybe I can make a suggestion to the minister that we stand this section aside, because I want to re-read what the minister said earlier tonight in her arguments about having a member fill the seat in the House. A by-election or tie wasn't the argument that the minister made then. It's the argument that the minister is making now. The argument the minister made then was that constituents had to have representatives in this House as quickly as possible. And it was the minister - not me - who used the argument that a by-election wouldn't work in the case of a tie because there would be too long a period where they wouldn't have a representative. So, I don't understand it. If 30 days is too long a period not to have a representative in the House, according to the minister's argument, then why is the minister giving the government the ability to wait six months before they decide to do it? If the principle of this NDP government is that 30 days is too long, then why doesn't this say 30 days? I mean, if they feel that it should be represented immediately, then a by-election should be called the second that the person resigns, dies, moves on or leaves the territory and doesn't tell anybody where they're going.
So I just think that you can't have it both ways. You can't make an argument on one hand that it is okay to wait six months. Now, the minister said that it is giving us 180 days that it could be called ahead of time and I know that. But it is the same minister who gave us the argument that you couldn't do it in the case of a tie. I just don't understand the logic, so I would ask the minister to stand this aside so that tomorrow we could read over what the minister said, and the minister can read it over as well. We could try and sort out what the minister's logic is on this, what the minister's logic is pertaining to the other item we stood aside and maybe try to figure out where the minister is coming from on this issue.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I would just like to suggest that the setting aside of this clause is a reasonable suggestion in that the Government Leader himself stated publicly, in the fortunate circumstance of the by-election that occurred in Laberge, that he felt the seat should be filled as soon as possible. I think most members would agree with that. I have forgotten how long it took the Yukon Party government to call the Whitehorse West by-election, off the top of my head, but it seems to me the practice has been to do this fairly quickly. I think there is probably a compromise situation here, and I wonder if the minister would consider standing this aside just for the time frame only. Perhaps we could look at reducing it from 180 days. I recognize that this is the old section of the act, and it has just been reprinted. In light of the current circumstances and past practices, if we could look at reducing that time frame, I think it would be beneficial to everyone.
Chair: Do the members wish to recess?
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Chair, we've got about six or seven more clauses in this bill to go. I think we could probably proceed to that. What it looks like we're going to do is take a break and then come back here for five minutes. I think we can expedite the rest of the bill. I'd like to hear what the minister has to say with respect to that one clause.
Mr. Fentie: Mr. Chair, it's been standard practice here that in the evening sittings, we take a break at 8:30, whether we have five clauses left or whatever is left. I think we should be consistent and stick to what our standard practice has been in the past, and a 8:30 recess is the norm.
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Chair, the member's right. It has been a standard practice, but I think it was last Wednesday night that we came into Committee of the Whole and we went right through the break, and it seemed okay then. I don't know what the problem is now. I mean, this isn't a real problem. We can take a break, but I'm just wondering why we would when we've gone through 40 pages of this bill in half an hour or 45 minutes. We've got less than a page left to go, and we've almost completed the bill, but if the ministers are tired and want to take a break - you know, the minister looks exhausted over there and maybe is pooped out and wants to take a break, so I don't know.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, if we're going to take a break, Mr. Chair, I would urge the minister to perhaps consult her colleague who is responsible for municipal elections and have a look at some of the advanced methods that have recently been adopted in that legislation. If a vacancy occurs within six months of a known election date, then there is no need to call a by-election under the municipal election rules. But if, in the event that a vacancy occurs and there is a longer period, then there is a need to call a by-election and the times are set forward in the new Municipal Act. But I'd certainly like to see a tightening up on the time frames currently in here and bring it down from six months to something in the order of half that period of time - to 90 days - which I'm sure, if the minister checks, past practice in the Yukon has been to call by-elections in that time frame.
Chair: Do members wish to recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: Agreed. Ten minutes.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order.
Committee is debating whether to set aside clause 417. Is there further debate?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, to respond to some of the comments raised by members opposite, let me repeat that there is a very large difference between a by-election and a general election when the entire Legislature and all the seats in the Legislature are changing - or potentially changing at one time. We think that six months is a reasonable time period for a by-election. A by-election may occur for a number of reasons. By-elections have occurred when a member has died. In a circumstance like that, I don't think a community would want to have a by-election within 30 days of the death of a sitting MLA. The section in the act that we're debating, number 417, is the old section 392. We are providing for a six-month period during which a Writ of Election must be issued to fill a vacancy that's causing a by-election. I believe the current practice is justifiable and that we should continue it.
Mr. Phillips: I, too, don't have a major problem with the six-month clause here, but the point I was making earlier is that it was the minister, not me, who made the argument that there shouldn't be any riding not immediately represented in this House. And it had nothing to do with the death of a member, and nothing to do with anything else. The minister's point was that the constituents deserve a right, no matter what, to have a representative in this House. I could also make the argument to the minister that if, in the case of a tie, and in forming a government - when there's a change in government or even in a general election - there's usually more than 30 days before we end up in the House, before people are sworn in, before people have taken their positions in the House.
In that first 30 days, most of the time is taken up organizing the government, the transition of the government, and the other things that happen when there is a general election. So, if you had another by-election to solve the problem, it wouldn't be a terrible detriment to the constituents in the area because, after all, they would get to choose who they wanted as an MLA - and the choice wouldn't be made by the flip of a coin, or the draw of a straw, or the pull of a lottery handle or whatever way you want to do it. So, it was the minister who made the point that people needed to have the representation in the House.
I was just making the point that the minister's arguments were inconsistent. And regardless a by-election or general election or anything else the minister's point was that they had to be in the House, they had to be represented, and so you can't have it both ways.
I'll support keeping this here, but I think the minister should be careful the next time, when she makes her comments about her reasons for not holding a by-election, because I don't think it holds water at all, in light of her comments here.
Mr. Fentie: Mr. Chair, in listening to this debate, I think there is a great deal of difference, and I think the minister's comments do hold water.
We're dealing with a general election. Now, upon a tie in a general election, what we promote here with this legislation is that, by the drawing of lots, that would determine who would be breaking the tie, who would become the elected member.
There's a distinct difference between that and a by-election where, sometime during a sitting, a seat becomes vacant, and under the legislation, which, albeit is the old legislation, for obvious reasons, there was no desire to amend change or anything else, but to keep it the same, a six-month time frame is the standard before a by-election must by held to fill a vacant seat.
Now, consider this for a moment. In a general election - and what the opposite side of the House is promoting is that we have another election. Well, it's probably already going to be determined who is government, so how fair is that to a number of candidates who may be running, or the two who are tied in another runoff election, if, for example, the government is already determined?
How fair is it to a community, such as Vuntut Gwitchin, in a tie where immediately they have to have another election. So, I think in this particular situation, what this side of the House is promoting is quite consistent, and the minister's argument holds water, and the difference between a by-election and a general election is clear. Therefore, Mr. Chair, I think what we have here, in terms of the legislation, is very acceptable.
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Chair, when the minister can't explain her arguments, then send the heavy hitters, I guess.
Mr. Chair, I don't buy the explanation or the rationale of the Member for Watson Lake. I mean, he says how fair is it to the constituents, Mr. Chair, that we hold another by-election when people already know who the government is, or it could determine who the government is - the by-election could determine who the government. I will ask the member the same question: how fair does he think it would be that the government could be determined on the flip of coin? That is not any more fair than what the minister is suggesting. A flip of a coin is even less democratic than a vote. So, my submission is that I am agreeing with the minister to leave section 417 in there. What I am disagreeing with the minister about is that the minister should not use weak-kneed, hollow arguments to support her case when it comes to a tie, vis-à-vis an election versus a flip of a coin. Because the minister got herself into this trouble. I agree that there should be six months in the case of a general by-election, but don't use the contrary argument to me somewhere else, and that's what the minister did today, and that's why we got into this discussion. So, you know, I'm prepared to move on in this one, and like I said earlier, I think there are arguments that can be made on both sides vis-à-vis how fair it would be to people whether it was a flip of a coin or a by-election, and I think it's half a dozen of one and six of another, but my particular viewpoint is that it is more democratic if the people get to vote as opposed to somebody's coin deciding who forms the government or who becomes the MLA. And I'm sure the Member for Vuntut Gwitchin felt pretty apprehensive when his whole future as an MLA rested on the flip of a coin.
I think that, had it turned out the other way, he wouldn't have felt too great about it, and we have to think of that as well.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, I'm pleased to hear the member expressing his agreement that the calling of a by-election within 180 days after the vacancy occurred, as is presently the case in our legislation, is a reasonable premise. We have put this section in because we believe it is reasonable. I've spent some time here discussing the difference between a by-election and a general election, and I would hope that the members understand what that is. If they don't, I'm certainly prepared to continue.
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Clause 418 agreed to
On Clause 419
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I already put my points with respect to clause 419 on the record. This is a recommendation from the Chief Electoral Officer with respect to timings of elections not following amendments to the Elections Act - I should say significant amendments to the Elections Act - has not been put into this legislation.
Was this discussed and rejected by the government, or was it simply not put in as a change and, rather, we adopted the old section?
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Ms. Duncan: Yes.
Mr. Chair, the minister's looking confused. There's no change to the existing 419. It was not changed. However, there was a recommendation, or there was a comment in the Chief Electoral Officer's report that did not make it into changes in legislation. This is one of those comments, and that's the point that I was making to the minister.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, perhaps the member could elaborate further on the changes that she is seeking to section 419. The application of amendments in this section are that no amendment to this act or to the Electoral District Boundaries Act applies in any election for which the writ is issued within six months from the coming into force of the amendment, unless, before the issue of the writ, the Chief Electoral Officer has published in the Yukon Gazette, a notice to the effect that the necessary preparations for the bringing into operation of the amendment have been made. I think it's entirely reasonable that there is a six-month period to allow for any changes that are necessary to be undertaken.
Clause 419 agreed to
On Clause 420
Clause 420 agreed to
On Clause 421
Clause 421 agreed to
On Clause 422
Clause 422 agreed to
On Clause 423
Clause 423 agreed to
On Clause 424
Clause 424 agreed to
On Clause 425
Clause 425 agreed to
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, I move that you report progress on Bill No. 82.
Motion agreed to
Mr. Fentie: Mr. Chair, I move that the Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Motion agreed to
Speaker resumes the Chair
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
May the House have a report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole?
Mr. McRobb: Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 82, Elections Act, and directed me to report progress on it.
Speaker: You have heard the report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: I declare the report carried.
Mr. Fentie: Mr. Speaker, I move that the House do now adjourn.
Speaker: It has been moved by the government House leader that the House do now adjourn.
Motion agreed to
Speaker: This House now stands adjourned until 1:30 p.m. tomorrow.
The House adjourned at 9:00 p.m.
The following Sessional Papers were tabled November 15, 1999:
Options, Choices, Changes: a Women's Directorate publication regarding violence against women (1999) (Moorcroft)
Yukon Advisory Council on Women's Issues 1998-99 Annual Report (Moorcroft)
Air carrier industry (Canada) restructuring process review: implications for the Yukon by RP Erickson & Associates, aviation consultants, Calgary (November 1999) (Keenan)
Yukon Heritage Resources Board 1998-99 Annual Report (Keenan)
The following Legislative Return was tabled November 15, 1999:
Airline services to the Yukon: correspondence dated September and November 1999 from the Government of Yukon to the Government of Canada regarding possible restructuring of Canada's airline industry (McDonald)
Oral, Hansard, p. 5444