Thursday, June 29, 2000 - 1:30 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order. At this time, we will proceed with prayers.
Speaker: We will proceed at this time with the Order Paper.
Tribute to Canada Day
Hon. Ms. Duncan: I rise today to offer a special birthday tribute. On Monday, this wonderful country we call Canada will be 133 years old. This country is a model to the world. That's not to say that there aren't problems. We are taking steps to right some of the past wrongs through our commitment to the settlement of First Nation land claims.
Mr. Speaker, for the past seven years, the United Nations has ranked Canada as the best place in the world in which to live. Just this week, the United Nations reconfirmed this ranking; however, the United Nations says that there is a problem. Canada is not the best place in the world to live if you are a woman. On that scale, Canada ranks only eighth in the world. Among the factors the UN considered is the number of women who are working in Parliament, government, professional and technical jobs, compared with men.
It gives me great pleasure to point out that on this side of the House, we have four women representing Yukon voters, and three of them are in Cabinet. This Liberal government is the only gender-balanced government in all of Canada.
I might also point out that Judy Gingell, our Commissioner, is a woman. Our senator, Ione Christensen, is a woman. Our Member of Parliament, Louise Hardy, is a woman, and the mayor of our largest city in the Yukon is also a woman.
If the United Nations says Canada is the best country in the world to live, in my calculations, the Yukon must be the best of the best. On behalf of our government and on behalf of all Yukoners, I wish all Canadians a very happy birthday on Monday.
Tribute to Erika Popyk, Lynda Ellerton and YTG cafeteria staff
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: On behalf of the Government of the Yukon and its employees, we would like to pay tribute to Erika Popyk, Lynda Ellerton and the staff of the YTG cafeteria for 23 years of dedicated service. The excellent food, the friendship and the humour have been appreciated by one and all.
You're always enthusiastic participants of every known holiday, plus a few you creatively came up with on your own. The costumes and decorations were also great.
Erika, enjoy your retirement; it's well-deserved. And to Lynda and the crew, we wish you well on your future endeavours. It's hard to say good-bye. We'll miss you all. Thanks for the memories.
Speaker: Are there any further tributes?
Introduction of visitors.
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS
Mr. Fairclough: I ask all the members in this House to welcome the former Chief of Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in, Steve Taylor, sitting in the gallery with us today.
Speaker: Are there any returns or documents for tabling?
Are there any reports of committees?
Are there any petitions?
Are there any bills to be introduced?
Are there any notices of motion?
NOTICES OF MOTION
Mr. Fentie: I give notice to the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that
the Yukon Liberal Party made a clear commitment in the recent election campaign to support the trade and export initiatives of local businesses and, in spite of many references by the Premier about the importance of infrastructure, the Liberal Party's election platform failed to identify the acquisition of long-term access to tidewater ports in Alaska as an essential part of the Yukon's infrastructure and guaranteed access to tidewater, specifically, to the port of Haines, Alaska, would give Yukon exporters such as Dakwakada Forest Products a competitive advantage in shipping Yukon-made forest products to overseas markets; and
THAT this House urges the Yukon Liberal government to table a supplementary budget without delay to provide the necessary resources for the Yukon government to exercise its option to purchase port facilities in Haines, Alaska for the long-term benefit of Yukon businesses.
Speaker: If there are no further notices of motion, before calling ministerial statements today, the Chair will provide a ruling on the point of order raised by the official opposition House leader on June 28, 2000. The official opposition House leader raised the point of order while the Minister of Health and Social Services was replying to the comments made by opposition members to his ministerial statement on the process for reviewing alcohol and drug services.
The official opposition House leader stated that the minister was not addressing the subject matter of the ministerial statement. The Member for Whitehorse Centre, on the point of order, stated that he felt the minister was making a "general rebuttal" to the comments that were made by the opposition members.
In reviewing the matter, the Chair has returned to a ruling given by Speaker Bruce on November 24, 1999, and which was extensively quoted in a ruling given by this Chair on June 19, 2000. Members will recall that Speaker Bruce gave consideration to the practices of the Yukon Legislative Assembly and other Canadian legislatures and outlined five guidelines to be applied to ministerial statements.
One of those guidelines was that ministerial statements and the responses to them should be brief, factual and specific. The Chair notes the direction that the statements and the responses should be specific, meaning that the member speaking should adhere to the subject matter of the statement.
The Chair has reviewed the comments made by the Minister of Health and Social Services and found that the minister was speaking to diverse issues including mining incentives, oil and gas development, pipelines, student grants, youth leadership, tourism, an "older worker" pilot project and a government Web site. These cannot be viewed as being specific to the subject matter of the ministerial statement, which was on the process of reviewing alcohol and drug services.
The Chair took note of the comment by the Member for Whitehorse Centre that the minister was rebutting remarks made by other members. A review of the remarks of the opposition members reveals that the subjects outside the ministerial statement raised by the minister were not mentioned.
The Chair, therefore, finds that the point of order was well-founded and that the Minister of Health and Social Services had made remarks that were not specific to the subject matter of the ministerial statement on the review of alcohol and drug services.
In the future, the Chair will place greater emphasis on enforcing the guidelines found by Speaker Bruce to be applicable to this House. In particular, the Chair will be watchful to ensure that statements and responses are specific to the subject matter at hand and that they do not contain partisan debate or argument.
I thank the members for their attention.
Are there any statements by ministers?
This then brings us to Question Period.
Question re: Old Crow community bus
Mr. Harding: Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the Premier on the -
Speaker: Order please. I would like to have the opportunity to recognize you.
Mr. Harding: I am just so eager, Mr. Speaker. I apologize.
Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the Premier on the budget and spending commitments. In debate in this House on June 12, the Premier made a firm pledge to Yukoners that all commitments in the budget were going to be honoured. I quote her from June 12, she said, "...we said we wouldn't pull the rug out from anybody." So, if there's a planned expenditure and a commitment made to Yukoners in this budget, they intended to follow through with it.
Is she still committed to honouring this pledge?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, we indicated to Yukoners throughout the election campaign that we would live up to the existing commitments, that we would be mindful that there were expectations based upon the budget, and we also committed to Yukoners that we would be sound, prudent fiscal managers. After all, this is taxpayers' money, these are their dollars that we have been elected to manage, and that is exactly what we intend to do.
Mr. Harding: Well, that's excellent, Mr. Speaker, because perhaps she can solve something for us. Yesterday, the C&TS minister told the House that she knew best for the people of Old Crow and that a clear community priority, identified on record by the chief and council, will be chopped, and the chief confirmed this on the CHON-FM newscast this past noon. This runs contrary to what the Premier promised Yukoners.
I'd like to ask the Premier: will the Premier stand by her minister, or by her word and fund the community bus that is already in the budget?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, most importantly, I will stand behind the people of the Yukon, including the people of Old Crow, and the community bus was certainly raised as an issue with me during the election campaign as not something desired by the community. There are mixed messages as to whether or not that bus was the desire of the community.
There is also the issue that that bus - and I believe my colleague, the Minister of Community and Transportation Services outlined it yesterday - was put in the budget not at the request of the people of Old Crow but at the request of the then NDP government.
Mr. Harding: Well, Mr. Speaker, yesterday we showed written evidence that the request came from the chief and council - the duly elected chief and council of the community. She has heard from the duly elected MLA of the community, and she's showing extreme disrespect for the people of the community sitting here in Whitehorse dictating what community priorities are for rural Yukon.
Let me ask her again, because I didn't get a clear answer yet as to whether she is going to fund this bus or not. Will the Premier stand by her word as of June 12 in this House about specific commitments and funding those that were committed to in the budget, or will she stand by this minister with regard to this community bus?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, I would be showing extreme disrespect, and I would be acting as the former government had done if I did not listen to the concerns that were raised to me prior to the election campaign, during the election campaign and since we took office on May 6. There are some very real issues that need to be dealt with, and the Minister of Community and Transportation Services has outlined some of those.
Now the issue is if will we, as a government, be what we promised to be, which is sound, prudent fiscal managers, and live up to the commitments that were outlined in the budget. We agreed to do that. We also committed that we would listen to what people have to tell us, and I'm telling the member opposite - explaining to the member opposite - that there have been other concerns raised about that particular commitment. We are examining those concerns.
Question re: Old Crow community bus
Mr. Harding: Mr. Speaker, she may be the Premier, but she's not the Chief of the Vuntut Gwitchin, who was on the radio, again at noon, stating that this is indeed a community priority.
Mr. Speaker, she said - I'm going to read the quote again so that everybody listening can hear - on June 12, "We said we wouldn't pull the rug out from anybody." So if there is a planned expenditure and a commitment made to Yukoners in this budget, we intend to follow through with it. Mr. Speaker, that's what this community bus is; it's a very symbolic issue for rural Yukon.
Mr. Speaker, I want to ask the Premier, will she take the advice of the people of Vuntut Gwitchin, who put this forward to the government in this budget as a priority, and fund it as they committed to do in this House?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: What I am advising the member, as in my discussions with the Chief of the Vuntut Gwitchin on Tuesday at the general assembly - the Chief of the Vuntut Gwitchin asked me the same question. He said, "What are these questions about the bus?" That was his exact comment, and I said there have been issues and concerns that have been raised. We have heard some of those, and the Minister of Community and Transportation Services is looking into it. The Chief of the Vuntut Gwitchin at that time said to me, "I recognize that you have heard some concerns. Let's talk about them. Let's review this."
I said to the member opposite, as I said to all Yukoners, that, first and foremost, we would not pull the rug out from under people and that we'd live up to our commitments. I also said that we would be sound, prudent fiscal managers, and we're going to ensure that the expenditures that are made do what they are supposed to do. If there were a problem, it would be very imprudent of us not to at least examine what the problem is and try to address it.
Mr. Harding: The Liberal government is patronizing the communities while they sit here in Whitehorse deciding what's best for them. The C&TS minister said that, in her view, the community bus in the budget was - and I quote - inappropriate and ill-conceived. I want to ask the Premier how many commitments in the budget, which they said that they would honour to create certainty, do they plan to chop because they consider them ill-conceived?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: The only patronizing is coming from the member opposite. We are listening to what people are expressing to us. There have been concerns that have been expressed about that particular expenditure. The member opposite indicates that there is correspondence that has been made available to us from the chief indicating that this was the chosen expenditure. What was the originating correspondence? Who put this line in the budget in the first place? Was it the NDP government saying, "This is what you want, now send us a letter saying yes you do"? Or was it the NDP government? Were they listening? Were they really listening to what people in Old Crow had to say? What I heard during the election was that they were not, and that's what we intend to do.
Mr. Harding: Mr. Speaker, that is so patently ridiculous, that the government would foist upon a community a community bus that they asked for. She should review the transcript of what the chief said on the news on CHON-FM.
Now, a pattern is quickly emerging with this Liberal government. Seniors and elders in Watson Lake have seen them pull back on the extended care; that has been chopped. People in Mayo have had their CDF funding chopped, in Faro people have had a promise for more ownership funding reneged upon, and now, in Old Crow, the Liberals say the community bus is history. Now, when the Premier said to me on June 12 that all commitments made will be followed, why was she not being honest with me or, more importantly, why was she not being honest with the people of Old Crow?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: The member is attempting to accuse me of being dishonest. I would suggest that he may wish to withdraw that. My absolute honest comment, if the member wants to follow me around with a tape recorder - he seems to follow me around everywhere else.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Ms. Duncan: In Old Crow, the issue that was raised with me, prior to and during the election campaign, was the creek running through the dump, and the erosion at the dump site, which the government - and the previous government - had eight years to deal with it and had not. They refused to even examine it. That was raised at many doorsteps in Old Crow. What was also raised at doorsteps in Old Crow, before the election and after, was the issue of whether or not they wanted this bus. There were some safety concerns that were expressed by members of the community.
The Minister of Community and Transportation Services is quite rightly examining those concerns. That's what we were elected to do, and that's what we're doing. We're listening to the people of the Yukon, including the people of Old Crow.
Question re: Excellence awards
Mr. Jenkins: I have a question today for the Minister of Education. Mr. Speaker, I refer to the Yukon Liberal platform document and its heading, "Excellence in education". Ironically, it appears that the Yukon Liberal Party doesn't support excellence in education, as it opposed the Yukon excellence awards created by the previous Yukon Party government, under which Yukon students who achieved excellence could earn up to $9,200, over and above the student grant, to devote to their post-secondary education.
In a survey of parents and students in 1997, 84 percent of the parents and 62 percent of the students indicated they were supporting the awards. Yet both the Liberals and the NDP remain opposed. In fact, the NDP government cut them by approximately 50 percent.
My question for the Minister of Education, Mr. Speaker: could he advise the House if the Liberal government will reverse its position in view of the overwhelming public support for this initiative - these awards - and reinstate the excellence awards to their full value? Or is he just going to carry through with the NDP government's plan to eliminate the awards altogether? Which course of action is the minister going to take?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Speaker, we have planned, of course, on assisting students by grants to further their education outside and inside the territory and, as the member opposite knows, we are already exercising the program that he's talking about.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, let's just look at what the Liberals are proposing. The Liberal plan is to increase the student grant by 20 percent but not support the excellence awards program.
Does the minister not realize that, under the Liberal Party plan, students who are entitled to receive the full value of awards will actually be losing some $6,500 of funding for their post-secondary education? Will the minister give his head a shake and correct this unfair situation? That's the difference.
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Speaker, what we're trying to do within this government is create equity for all students, so we felt it would be better to provide all students with the student grant whereby they can receive monies for post-secondary schooling within the territory and to assist them in going out.
The previous program did not allow an opportunity for all students, and we feel that it is our responsibility to be addressing the concerns and needs of all students.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, then you would think that this government would treat everyone fairly in all fields. Contrast that to the Minister of Community and Transportation Services' announcement on June 20 of up to $4,200 for a gold medal in the Yukon high performance assistance program for sports, but we do not support achieving excellence in education. How do the Yukon Liberals support this double standard? There is a potential reduction of over $6,500 for students for their post-secondary financial assistance but, on the other hand, we reward people in sports. Why not the same for education, which is equally if not more important, Mr. Speaker?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite is trying to imply that we have cut the excellence awards program when in fact we haven't. I informed the House during debate on Education that that program is still in place. We felt that we should provide greater emphasis for all Yukon students, providing opportunity for all Yukon students.
Just a footnote: the public at large should be aware of the fact that, in the supplementary we initiated, the member opposite voted against supplying grant monies to all students pursuing post-secondary education outside and in Yukon.
Question re: Student financial assistance
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Premier. On Tuesday of this week, at the CYFN General Assembly, I listened with interest to the Premier responding to a question from a Kwanlin Dun youth. The Premier assured this young man that the 20-percent increase to student financial assistance that the Liberal Party campaigned on will apply to all Yukoners. Does the Premier include First Nations students in her category of "all Yukoners".
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, I'll respond to that question about post-secondary funding. I first of all appreciate the number of youth present at the CYFN general assembly. It's certainly a model that I think all legislatures can learn from.
The question from the young gentleman that the Member for Mayo-Tatchun has repeated today is something I also addressed afterwards in conversation with him. And there was some confusion with respect to what First Nation post-secondary funding is and how that links with Government of Yukon funding, and I undertook to respond more fully to the young man and to have the Minister of Education and officials work with CYFN in responding to this issue - and Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development - and that's what we will do.
Mr. Fairclough: We haven't had the opportunity to debate the Liberal government supplementary budget, which includes funding for an increase in student financial assistance.
Can the Premier, who made the commitment at the CYFN general assembly in Burwash this week, advise the House if the supplementary budget that they tabled covers the commitment to First Nations youth by increasing their student funding by 20 percent?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: The funding commitment in the supplementary budget is a 20-percent increase across the board to the Yukon's post-secondary education funding. That is a 20-percent increase to students who are attending post-secondary institutions within or outside of the territory, as the Minister of Education has just noted.
How that works in conjunction with Indian Affairs and Northern Development programming for post-secondary and specific First Nations programming and CYFN programming for post-secondary education funding is something that I undertook to examine in conjunction with my colleagues to determine how we could ensure that we were providing the maximum benefit. I undertook to provide that response to the young man in question, and I will certainly make a copy of that response for the member opposite as well.
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Speaker, the Premier said at the general assembly that this 20-percent increase was for all Yukoners. Perhaps the Premier was not aware that the First Nations students receive their financial assistance through the Department of Indian and Northern Development. When she made that commitment this week in Burwash, she said that all Yukoners were eligible for the 20-percent increase. Perhaps the Premier has used her special relationship with Ottawa to get DIAND to top up this financial assistance for First Nation students.
Is the Premier prepared to table any correspondence she has had with the federal minister indicating that DIAND is willing to increase its financial assistance to First Nation students by 20 percent?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, I was fully aware that there are different programs that are made available to different Yukon students who are pursuing their post-secondary education. There are also a number of scholarships available.
What I undertook with the young man when I spoke with him afterwards was - because he was also not clear, as I was not clear - as to which programs fit in where and how those programs work with one another, to ensure that students receive the post-secondary funding, which they so clearly need.
As the member opposite knows full well, tuition increases have skyrocketed, with 112-percent increases at some post-secondary institutions. The objective is to ensure that we provide as many Yukon students as we can with an opportunity to further their education. That's the objective. That's what we're trying to do, and I'm sure the member opposite agrees with that.
The question is how do we do it and how do these programs work with one another. I undertook to get back to the young man who asked me the question, and speak about it also with the Grand Chief, and I will provide the member opposite with any correspondence and information in that regard.
Question re: Student financial assistance
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Speaker, the Premier told Yukoners - she told people at the general assembly - that all students were eligible for the 20-percent increase. She made a commitment to Yukon First Nation students, but this matter has yet to be resolved government to government.
If DIAND refuses to increase the funding, will the Yukon government provide the funding and show this increase in another supplementary budget?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: We are committed to equitable treatment for Yukoners. We are also committed to students and we are committed to ensuring that young Yukoners, who want to travel either outside of this territory or within this territory, can further their education so that those skills can then be used here in Yukon. We have committed to them and expressed our commitment clearly, that we support post-secondary education and that we are interested in assisting students.
I furthered that commitment by stating to the young man that I would look at these programs and see where some programs ended and where Yukon kicked in, where Yukon programs ended and where there were other opportunities available. I said I would review this and that I would get back to the young man opposite, and I have indicated to the member opposite that I would provide him with that information as well. Clearly, this is an issue that needs to be addressed and we will do that.
Mr. Fairclough: The Premier said that all Yukoners were eligible for this 20-percent increase. The Member for Whitehorse Centre attended grads around the Yukon telling students that they will be eligible for a 20-percent increase. First Nation students, this summer, will be expecting to receive a 20-percent increase in financial assistance for this September, as the Premier said at the general assembly in Burwash this week. The Premier doesn't seem to have an agreement with DIAND. Her special relationship with the federal Liberals is not working. Instead of getting more money from the federal government, we are going to have to give them a contribution agreement. Can the minister assure this House that the increase funding will be made available before school commences this September?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: What the Yukon Liberal government committed to and stated in the election campaign and what we tabled in the budget is a 20-percent increase to the Yukon post-secondary grant. That's what we committed to; that's what we have done. This is the first time this grant has been increased since 1983. The members opposite, and the one member, had an opportunity, through their previous terms in office, to even examine this, and they didn't do it. We did it within the first two months of taking office. The other point and the point the member is making is how we intend to impact on how other agencies provide post-secondary financing. We will address that situation with those agencies and will address it in the best interest of Yukoners, as we have done on other issues.
Mr. Fairclough: The Premier made a commitment to Yukoners that all Yukoners were eligible for this 20-percent increase, and now she's backtracking. She says one thing one day and does another the next - a typical Liberal government move in the Yukon, Mr. Speaker.
She's bringing uncertainty to Yukoners. She told First Nation students at the general assembly that they were eligible for this increase, and now she's backtracking. I'll ask the minister: will she do what she said she was going to do and provide this 20-percent increase for funding for all Yukon students?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: The 20-percent increase in the post-secondary grant is available to all students who are accepted by a post-secondary education institution. It's available to all Yukon students who choose to use it. First Nations can choose either the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development funding or the Yukon grant.
What I said at the CYFN General Assembly, and what I have said to all Yukoners, and what the Member for Whitehorse Centre has said is that we would increase the Yukon post-secondary grant, which is available to all Yukon students, by 20 percent. The answer, quite correctly, is yes.
Question re: Land claims, unresolved issues
Mr. Harding: More and more we're seeing a busload of commitments heading south in this Liberal government. You almost have to, sadly enough, follow them around with a video camera just to hold them accountable for what they say at one meeting and then say to another group of Yukoners.
Mr. Speaker, at the GA that I attended, I talked to a number of chiefs, and the issues of section 87 - taxation and loan repayment - were on many of their minds. In questions to the Premier, she stated that she was lobbying the federal Finance minister, Paul Martin, on section 87, giving them the clear impression that she was supporting First Nation chiefs, as they were around this table and she was being questioned. So I'd like to ask her today, because she hasn't told Yukoners yet: does she support Yukon First Nation chiefs in what they were proposing, or does she support Robert Nault and the federal Liberals who are saying no to these changes?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: The member opposite would love to suggest that this is an either/or situation and invite me to choose sides. The member opposite should re-examine his preamble to the question. The member opposite asked what we have done to support First Nations in presenting their position on section 87 to the federal government. I'd be delighted to provide the member opposite with that information.
Mr. Harding: Well, Mr. Speaker, she said she was lobbying the federal minister but has yet to put forward any clear position to Yukoners as to what she's saying when she's doing the lobbying.
Let me ask her. She said also that she had had a discussion with Paul Martin about this issue. I'd like to ask her how many times has she spoken with - aside from the election call that the Finance minister made to congratulate her on election night - the federal Finance minister to discuss section 87, and when can we expect him in the Yukon as she promised a week before the election?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: The member opposite knows that the references made to the federal Minister of Finance by the Liberal Party and by me during the election campaign were that, with respect to section 87, we understood the issues and that we would work on presenting the case to the federal Finance minister - the case being the argument.
The member opposite knows that I made the point in the CHON-FM debate, which took place mid-campaign, that we would request a meeting with Minister Martin to advance this situation and to provide the minister with the information.
Since then, I have highlighted that commitment for Minister Martin, and I have followed up in discussions with both the Grand Chief and several of the First Nation chiefs, and we have concurred that we will follow up on that request by presenting, in writing, the information to Minister Martin. Once that letter has been signed off, I will provide it to the member opposite and to the House.
Mr. Harding: Mr. Speaker, what a difference. On April 10, she told Yukoners that the section 87 issue was, and I quote, not a difficult resolution. And, at that time, she told Yukoners that she was going to get Paul Martin to the gold show, back in May, to resolve this issue, because it was so easy in her view at that time to resolve. But the reality is starting to set in. We now know, based on her last answer, that she hasn't talked to the Finance minister, except for the congratulatory call he made to her on election night. And we also know - and First Nations in the Yukon know - that she has yet to take a public position on section 87 here in this territory or in this Legislature, so when she's saying she is lobbying for them and creating the impression that she's on their side, she has yet to tell anyone in the Yukon what her position is.
I want to ask her one more time, Mr. Speaker: is she in agreement with Yukon First Nations on the issue of section 87, or the position of the federal Liberals and Bob Nault, which says no changes?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite is presuming to speak both for First Nations and for Minister Nault. Section 87 is an issue that we have spoken about with Minister Martin. The issue is that we have also worked with the Grand Chief of the Council of Yukon First Nations in assisting in ensuring that the views of Yukon First Nations were put forward, not simply to Minister Martin but also to senior officials in the Department of Finance. This was with the knowledge of Minister Nault, as well, that this was going to be done - that we were putting forward our view of section 87.
We have begun our work on section 87 with the federal government. We have presented the case. We are continuing to do that. We will continue to do that until there is some resolution of this matter.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed. We will now proceed to Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Ms. Tucker: 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 that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Motion agreed to
Speaker leaves the Chair
COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
Chair: I now call Committee of the Whole to order. Do members wish to take a brief recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: We will recess for 15 minutes.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order.
Bill No. 2 - First Appropriation Act, 2000-01 - continued
Chair: Committee is dealing with Public Service Commission general debate. Is there any further general debate?
Public Service Commission - continued
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, just to recap general debate last night - what occurred was some very interesting issues that came out of the debate. The minister responsible for the Public Service Commission revealed some very interesting but rather disturbing information with respect to the hiring procedures in the Yukon government. What I did discover in Committee debate was that the new Liberal government had recently implemented a hiring freeze on senior positions in government below the deputy minister level. Now it comes to the forefront that eight positions in the assistant deputy minister/director level have been frozen for the time being. Now, of the eight positions in that category that were frozen, the government has gone through proper procedures to fill three positions. We currently have five positions left vacant.
The minister referred to the hiring freeze as a "staff watch" and justified the so-called watch as being the only appropriate thing to do until the government of the day gets its house in order. Very interesting.
Well, Mr. Chair, as common sense should prevail, the political arm of government is not supposed to interfere with the hiring of public servants below the deputy minister level. So, this unprecedented action begs the question: what is this Liberal government keeping a close watch on?
When I asked the minister what the reason was for not filling these five positions, the minister stated that his government was simply implementing a freeze, like the previous Yukon Party government had done when it first took office in 1992. What the minister failed to say, however, was that, unlike the Liberal government today, when the Yukon Party came to power, it was saddled with a $64-million deficit, which was inherited from the previous NDP government. But this Liberal government is in a very, very fortunate position - an extremely fortunate position. They inherited, from the previous NDP government, a $56.2-million surplus as of March 31, 2000.
Back in the days when the Yukon Party took office, our government had no other choice but to take immediate steps to control the cost of government. A hiring freeze was implemented.
Now, the minister did offer another excuse for implementing a hiring freeze, and that was to get a handle on government. One has to just kind of speculate as to what exactly the minister meant by that. Does the minister mean that by keeping a watchful eye on those doing the hiring, the government will ensure the right choices will be made? Is that what the minister is saying by telling the House that they have to get a handle on government?
Now, this government has only been in office for a few short months, and already we have witnessed some pure partisan bunk, Mr. Chair. Whatever happened to open and accountable government? So much for promises, so much for the Liberal platform - It's All About the Future. It's all about our future under the careful control and watchful eye of the Liberals.
In spite of what the minister claims, a hiring freeze on the day-to-day operations of government is playing politics, and politics at its best.
As I stated yesterday, the exercise of a minister is not to micromanage government, but to set policy and give direction. The minister's job description does not include the hiring of public servants below the deputy minister level. As the minister knows full well, that responsibility lies within the purview of the Public Service Commission. So far the minister has given the excuse, the reason, for implementing a hiring freeze is to get a handle on government. It just does not wash, Mr. Chair.
As we know, this new Liberal government chose to adopt the budget of the previous NDP government. This would lead one to conclude that we are looking at the same staffing levels, that there should be no anticipated change in the immediate future; yet, all of a sudden this government has decided to implement an immediate freeze on hiring - just in a select category where political appointments can be suggested to the new deputy ministers that they appear to be hiring for the various portfolios. As far as I can see, there is no reason whatsoever for the minister, who has referred to this staff watch. It is just to fill these positions with Liberal Party supporters.
Now, what we have is a government that is politicizing the public service. Deputy ministers serve at the pleasure of the government of the day. The Yukon Liberal lawyers, who currently run the Government of the Yukon, have made some changes - the Deputy Minister of Justice, and not because the individual there wasn't doing a very good and capable job, but because they didn't like the job he was doing. It didn't conform to the way they wanted the Yukon to head.
We are going to see more and more of this, Mr. Chair. What I want to know from this minister is why this Liberal government is politicizing the public service here in the Yukon. Why are they taking this unprecedented step?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Chair, with all due respect to the interpretation placed on the actions of this government by the member opposite, I don't really believe that it is an accurate assessment of the whole situation.
Yukoners saw fit to vote in a Liberal government because of the conduct of the previous governments in the territory.
I believe that Yukoners are also allowing a period of adjustment because it's the first time that the Yukon Liberal Party has held power in the territory. Yukoners understand, just as with any new job, there's a period of learning and a period of adjustment, a period where we're required to become fully aware of our responsibilities and our duties. We are becoming aware of the details of our respective assignments by the Premier, as mine are with the Public Service Commission, Education and Renewable Resources. They're rather substantive responsibilities. I take the job very seriously and, as implied by the member opposite, I do not micromanage.
I believe that, when this government took over, the transition team asked the departments to put the staffing of vacant senior positions on hold. I believe that this was a very responsible move, to enable new, incoming ministers to become totally familiar with their departments and for deputies to determine whether restructuring is required under our new mandate. What that means is we are assessing the ongoing programs that we inherited from the previous government.
We are looking at the applicability of them to our mandate.
I think Yukoners understand that you just can't throw everything out the door and totally start from scratch. There's a requirement, there's a transition period, and so in order for us to establish our fingerprint on government - and with all due respect to the deputy ministers, they have the responsibility to keep their departments going, and to keep the department's direction going, in anticipation of what the new government is going to mandate that department to do.
So, the ministers have no involvement at all with the competitive process, nor with positions that are occupied by employees now. We simply put a temporary hold on some competitions for vacant senior government positions, and it is duly up to the deputy ministers to micromanage their department. That is their responsibility, and over time, as our policies evolve into the Liberal philosophy as outlined in our platform, these will be instilled in the departments. And I think Yukoners understand that fully and are willing to give this government the opportunity to do that responsibly, accountably, and we are doing it openly, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Jenkins: I'd like to thank the minister for his response. Some of the areas that he covered off, he did so very, very well. The minister stated that "establish our fingerprint on government." Well, may I suggest to the minister, Mr. Chair, that how he is achieving this is by imposing a staff watch on the government. It is a staff-watch that would not fill a number of senior positions, appoint deputy ministers right under the Premier of the Yukon, provide the Liberal Party supporters who need to in-fill those jobs with instructions. The minister is absolutely correct when he says there's a learning curve at the beginning of a new mandate or after an election. It's called "the honeymoon period" and this is going to be a very short honeymoon period indeed, given the direction that they're taking the Yukon.
Of paramount importance is that the whole group of government under the deputy minister level should not be politicized. All those positions are under the purview of the Public Service Commission, and it is political interference when these positions are filled with the faithful Liberal Party supporters, of which the numbers just happen to correspond to the number of vacant positions at the senior levels. So, I don't expect it to happen in the next day or two while this Legislature is still sitting, but I am sure as soon as we rise, all these appointments will come more into focus. The issue I wish to make, and I'm very, very uncomfortable with this minister even allowing the government to move into that area, is politicizing the public service.
That is the issue that we have on the floor of the House.
The minister went on in his rebuttal just a few minutes ago to say that they're restructuring. It's interesting to note yesterday in general debate, when the minister was asked about restructuring, there wasn't any. Everything is maintained the same; but now we're restructuring. The minister might want to review Hansard from yesterday to see what he said before he contradicts his yesterday's statement, today, Mr. Chair.
So, I am at a loss. The only logical explanation for what is occurring with this staff watch is that this new Liberal government is politicizing the public sector of this government. That is very much the case.
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: I suppose that there is no way we are going to reach agreement on this. I have attempted every which way to be very forthright with the Member for Klondike, to be open, to be accountable with the Member for Klondike, and he is insisting and unaccepting of the rationale that I have provided.
We have not, at this time, given any direction to deputies on whom to hire. The deputies are working closely with the ministers in getting a sense of providing the ministers with information on what is currently occurring within the departments, relative to programs. We are formulating instruction back to the departments, through the deputy ministers, of how we would like to see their departments move with respect to implementing programs. That will speed up over the summer as we become more and more familiar with the responsibilities of the department, and at no time have any of the ministers indicated any lack of accountability on their part to do that with respect to their departments.
So, the inference the member is trying to pass on to the Yukon public is that we're just sitting in our offices planning how to usurp the authorities and responsibilities of deputy ministers. The member is casting aspersions on the Public Service Commission, which is totally uncalled for.
I'm sure he realized that the Public Service Commission works under its own act, and that there is clear division between what politically can be inferred to the Public Service Commission, and therefore we don't go there. We respect that boundary. We also respect the capabilities of the deputy ministers to fill those positions as they see fit, and that is dependent on the direction we provide for program delivery.
I cannot agree with the member opposite in his interpretation of how he sees this government going. I am sure that we could go on at length with discussions back and forth across the floor. I respect his opinion. I will make every effort to work with the Public Service Commission to understand fully its responsibility. I believe that I have indicated a number of times the value we have in our public servants. I have talked to numerous public servants, getting a feeling for how they feel the departments for which I am responsible are.
So, we want to increase the free flow of information - up, down, sideways. The front-line workers do an incredible job facing the public at large, as they come in. They want to provide a service to Yukoners. Therefore, it's incumbent on the ministers to listen to those concerns, provide direction to the department through the deputy minister, and the deputy minister, in turn, manages his department accordingly.
Mr. Jenkins: It sounds an awful lot like bafflegab, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Chair, before we go on, I want to make one thing abundantly clear to the minister. Casting aspersions upon anyone's character in this House is not allowed and, had I been doing so, I could be called to order by any member of this Legislature as well as by the Chair himself, and such has not been the case. What I will cast aspersions on are the unwritten Liberal policies that are coming more and more into focus in this government.
We won't see it immediately, Mr. Chair, but the Member for Faro yesterday read into the record the names of all of the loyal Liberals who will probably be receiving posts within government in the very, very near future. Many of those positions will be under the purview of the Public Service Commission.
So, how you accomplish that, Mr. Chair, I don't know, but on the surface it looks like blatant, political patronage and blatant, political interference in the public service.
What this minister is doing, Mr. Chair, is politicizing the public service, and that's what I certainly take exception to.
Let's just cover another area where the minister contradicted himself, Mr. Chair. Yesterday, there was no restructuring. Today, we're restructuring. What is it?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Chair, I do respect the opinion of the member opposite and he did agree with me somewhat in that, yes, we do have a learning curve, and yes, he's casting aspersions on unwritten policy. Well, that's the point. The policy hasn't been fully developed and I think that's a responsibility that we have. We have to look carefully at what's there now, to modify, to create new policy as it reflects the direction that this government wants to go, and then the respective departments will organize themselves as they best see fit to accommodate the policy as it evolves.
I mean, I'm sure it's like any business plan where you don't proceed down the road with a sketch plan. You want to develop a plan and involve the deputy ministers in that planning. So that is really where we are right now, and I believe that's being responsible and then being accountable for your actions, which I think that we have continually stressed in this House that we are going to be.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, the minister referred to a sketch plan, or a game plan or a business plan - I'd like to point out to the minister that he has none of the above. There is probably a road map, and that road map is contained in the minds of some of our famous Yukon Liberal lawyers that currently run this government and provide a tremendous amount of advice to the government of the day.
The major concern, Mr. Chair, is the politicizing of the public service. That is the issue. There is no reason whatsoever, within the public service, for this staff watch. There is no logical explanation whatsoever, within the Public Service Commission, for a staff watch. That staff watch is a political decision, Mr. Chair. Now that political decision was made for what reason?
Now, we're starting to get into another area. Yesterday, we weren't restructuring; today, it's being used as a reason for this staff watch. Now why was yesterday the minister saying there was no restructuring and today there is restructuring? Which way is it? Are you restructuring, or are you not restructuring?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Chair, maybe restructuring wasn't the proper word. As I indicated yesterday, the learning curve also involves the language that's used in the House. I will catch on; I will. I will be a little more specific and a little more careful, I guess.
What I'm trying to indicate is that, as a result of the direction this government goes, there may not even be the necessity to reorganize departments. At this particular junction, we're absolutely sure of that, so I beg the member opposite's indulgence until I catch on to House lingo, if that's what's required here. But, again, I'm just trying to be open with the member. I'm trying to answer the questions fully. I might reach that point sometime this summer.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, let's simplify it for the minister. Was the staff watch a political decision - yes or no?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Chair, yes, it was.
Mr. Jenkins: Thank you, Mr. Chair. Now, the reason for the staff watch was in order to appoint certain people within government ranks - yes or no?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Chair, absolutely not.
Mr. Jenkins: Thank you very much, Mr. Chair. The certain people we're referring to, Mr. Chair, were mentioned by the Member for Faro yesterday, so we know full well whom we're speaking of. I don't want to get into the actual names of these individuals, I don't feel that that is the issue. They're well-known Liberal supporters or well-known individuals who did a tremendous amount to get this government elected and now they're there for their rewards. The member does recognize these individuals are there and do exist and they are looking for rewards. I guess we can ask the minister another yes-or-no question.
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: You want a yes-or-no answer to what, specifically?
Chair: Order please. I would just like to remind members to please not use the word "you". Rather, please direct your comments through the Chair.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, the question was a specific one. There is a group of individuals, very well-known Liberal Party supporters. Will the minister be appointing them to some of these roles in government - yes or no?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Chair, I will not, because that's not my job. But neither the Public Service Commission nor the departments will be appointing those individuals to any positions mentioned in the staffing watch.
Mr. Jenkins: I'll just leave that for now. We will be watching with bated breath to see where these individuals do pop up in government, in what form and in what role. I suggest to the minister, Mr. Chair, that the information that is flowing through that wonderful rumour mill is that some of these appointments are imminent.
Mr. Chair, let's just go back to this restructuring. I still didn't get a very definitive answer from the minister. We kind of skirted all around the edges. Yesterday, we were not restructuring; today, we are looking a restructuring, but the minister may have misspoken himself with respect to the word "restructuring" today, yet he had a very scripted answer in front of him today. He wasn't just speaking from memory.
I would ask the minister to kind of have a look at this and be more specific as to what the government is doing. Will they be restructuring or not? Yesterday, they were not restructuring; today, it appears that we have a different answer and that they will be. Which way is it?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Chair, as I tried to explain to the member opposite, I am not quite familiar with the terminology to be used in the House. Apparently, he's not going to allow me that grace period, so I will try and be more explicit in my answers and cognizant of every word that I provide to the member opposite. I would like to refer then to the DMs considering an assessment of their programs pending the direction that we provide to the department through the DMs.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, if the minister doesn't know - and I can understand that there is quite a learning curve, in spite of the fact that he has been sworn in as a minister and he's earning the big bucks. Now, I can understand that he probably is not quite familiar with everything so I'd be happy with a legislative return on this restructuring issue. If the minister would agree to provide one of those, we could move on.
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Chair, I have just indicated to the member opposite that we are in that transition period. We are assessing existing programs with respect to our respective departments. Over the summer, as we become more and more familiar with the intricacies of the programs within our respective departments and as we develop policy reflecting the outline as per our program document, our mandate document, It's All About the Future, these changes will then be passed on to the departments through the DMs for implementation. But this is a transitional thing. It's not something that happens at the flick of a switch.
It's going to take the summer and we will be assessing and preparing and implementing the change over a gradual period of time.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, let the record reflect that the minister has not answered the question. I specifically asked the minister a question. If he can't answer the question on the floor of the Legislature, he has another option. That's to provide an answer in a written format by way of a legislative return. I asked the minister if he would be kind enough to provide a legislative return on this restructuring initiative - yes or no? It's a simple yes-or-no answer.
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: It is not a simple yes-or-no answer, and the member knows that. He's fully cognizant, he's an intelligent being, and surely he understands that transition is gradual. The programs, the policies, are being developed. It's a gradual transition that, in respecting the ongoing works of the departments now, you just don't throw everything out the door and expect to start up the next day.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, that's not the way government works, Mr. Chair. The departments function, and they continue to function irrespective of who the government of the day is. The minister is elected, the deputy minister is appointed by the government of the day. That's supposed to be the only position in government that serves at the pleasure of the current government. Below that, these professional individuals in our public service sector are under the domain of the Public Service Commission.
Now, if there's going to be restructuring - as the minister yesterday said there wasn't, and today there will be - he can stand on his feet and advise the House what this restructuring will entail. The option is to send over a legislative return in a week or whatever timelines are convenient for the minister. But I would like to see it in at least the next month. Now, that will give them ample time to sit down with his colleagues and come to some understanding of what this restructuring is going to entail. Will the minister commit to a legislative return, yes or no? The option is to stand up and go over the whole restructuring program, which, obviously, the minister hasn't had time to be fully apprised of and is not conversant with. So, I'm not going to hold the minister up. I don't want to hold the department up. So, the easiest format is to provide it by way of a legislative return. Will the minister do that - yes or no?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: No.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, I guess the option is for the minister to stand up and explain what form the restructuring is going to take - how this restructuring form is going to take; timelines, terms and conditions, the whole gamut.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Chair, it looks like we'll have to be here another month. I guess we'll have to be here all summer because it seems that the member opposite - I've tried desperately here to give him an answer and that is unacceptable so I'll just have to repeat the same thing over and over and over, and like my colleague in Tourism, keep track, that as we develop our policy - and the member opposite is absolutely right, the government doesn't stop, he is fully aware of that. So I am attempting as best I can to keep in touch with my department responsibilities through the DMs. I will return to the House for as long as it takes, responding to the member opposite that, as we develop our policy reflecting our plans for the future, they will be passed on to the departments through the DMs, who will conduct the assessments, who will make the decisions to micromanage and implement those policies down through the department.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, yesterday the minister categorically stated that there was to be no restructuring; today we learn that there will be restructuring. So, all I'm asking from the minister is what form will that restructuring take? And the easiest way for him to respond so that he doesn't waste the time of this House - or continue to waste the time of this House because he obviously doesn't have the answers at his fingertips - is to provide it by way of legislative return, and I would ask that the minister do so, Mr. Chair.
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Chair, I've already indicated to the member opposite that I will not be providing a legislative return, and I will, again, apologize, probably for the third or fourth time, for using the word "restructuring," I hope that the member opposite would accept the word "assessment" in lieu of my using the inappropriate term.
Mr. Jenkins: So, what I hear now is that the minister misspoke himself yesterday. Has he advised Hansard accordingly and corrected the record? Can't do that. Has he corrected the record through the appropriate manner?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Chair, I'm attempting to be as open and upfront with the member as possible. Maybe he can instruct me of what the appropriate way to do it is, then. To erase a word, to change a word, to modify - what is the appropriate process - and I'll defer to the member opposite's vast experience in the House?
Mr. Jenkins: Well, Mr. Chair. The written record of what transpires in this Legislature is contained in Hansard and after it is into that, it is a verbatim transcript of what occurs here, and usually when ministers make a statement - or always when ministers make a statement - they're held accountable for their statements. If what the minister is saying is that he misspoke himself yesterday, correct the record. But how often has this occurred? How much of this information that we've painfully gleaned from this minister during this debate is he going to have to correct?
Now, I go through it in quite a bit of detail, spend quite a bit of time going over the answers the minister provided yesterday - not just to me but to the Member for Watson Lake and to the Member for Faro - looking at the questions and responses, just to ensure there is a smooth flow of information that's consistent.
The information that minister provided yesterday and that he is providing today is not consistent.
If it's because the minister misspoke himself on one word, that's fine. He can correct the record. But how inconsistent should what he said yesterday be today? Is the minister trying to manipulate himself out of a position that he found himself in? What's the problem here?
Now, I can understand that the minister doesn't have a complete and thorough knowledge of his portfolio. The simplest way would be to provide it by way of a legislative return. What's the minister's problem with providing a legislative return on this subject?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Again, I did request guidance from an experienced colleague in the House. He has refused to provide that. I will, for the fifth time and for the record, apologize if I have misspoken. I would ask the record to amend the word that I used yesterday; namely, "restructuring" to be replaced by "assessment".
I am not sure what more I could do. The member brought these specific words to my attention. Now, I have attempted every which way to amend the record appropriately by standing here in the House. I do believe that, during the campaign, we had said that if we made mistakes, we would stand in the House and acknowledge those mistakes. I have done that. What more can I possibly do?
Mr. Jenkins: Well, for one, answer the question on the restructuring plan.
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Chair, for the sixth time, I'm going to ask that the member accept my request and apology for misspeaking the apparently inappropriate word of "restructuring" and ask him to replace his questions, including the phrase "assessment".
Mr. Jenkins: Let's go under the premise that the minister said yesterday there would be no review. If we change his word yesterday, there's no review yesterday, and if we change his words today, there'll be a review today. So, we still have a difference in the position the minister took yesterday from today if we just change that one word.
Yesterday, there was no review. Today, there will be a review. All I'd like the minister to answer is this: what would that review entail?
Now, I understand that he's probably not conversant with all aspects of this portfolio and I'd ask the minister to provide a legislative return. What's the minister's hang-up with providing a legislative return?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Chair, as I have indicated in previous answers, I cannot provide a legislative return, because of the natural process of transition between governments. It takes time. We're assessing the ongoing programs within the current government. We are - as quickly as possible, with the exception of the time we spend in the House - attempting to pass a budget, which is, by the way, a budget that we have assumed responsibility and accountability for. We want to create certainty by passing the budget, by getting people to work this summer and creating a degree of certainty for them to work this summer. But the member opposite is choosing to review, in semantical terms, language that I have five or six times admitted in the House that I had misspoken.
I have also tried to provide information to the member on his question that it takes time to implement our policies fully, and he's absolutely right.
The business of government continues on. So, as we are building up on that policy and evaluating the existing programs with departments and how those policies will mesh through the direction of the DMs as we provide direction and instruction, it's going to take time. It's not like the flick of a switch. It's not that I can sit down and provide in clear, definitive writing at this specific moment and then present this as a legislative return. It's impossible to do at this time.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, let me tell you where I'm at, Mr. Chair. I'm prepared to clear general debate and clear this department, but I need a commitment from the minister to provide this information. Now I understand that he doesn't have it at his fingertips. What is the minister's problem with providing it by way of legislative return? If there is anyone holding up the business of this House, it's this minister because he is failing to provide the information that's being requested, and there's no justification other than that he has been told that he can't do it that way by someone upstairs. I don't know who it is. All I'm looking for is a legislative return on whether the minister wants to refer to it as a "review" or a "restructuring" or an "assessment". That's fine. Then we clear the department and move on. Stop impeding the flow of business in this House. There are ways to address it and speed it up.
I was hoping, Mr. Chair, that this minister could see the lights and recognize that he has brought things to a grinding halt by not providing information, and I would urge him - urge him, Mr. Chair - to provide this information by way of legislative return, because it's obvious he doesn't understand or have a full briefing on this area, and that's understandably so. He's a new minister in a new job. So I don't know what his hangup is with a legislative return, but I would ask that he just provide one so we can just move on and clear the department.
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Chair, I am totally mystified that the member opposite is not understanding what I am trying to give by way of an answer. I am not in any way deliberately impeding the progress of this House. I am desperately trying to accommodate the member opposite by providing him with best knowledge at this time.
I would be more than willing to sit down with him, in an incremental way, over time, and provide information to him, directly, as we get our program up and running, and provide responsible direction to the deputy ministers, to be implemented by them in their respective departments. I don't know what more I can provide to the member opposite at this time. I am totally mystified, quite frankly.
Mr. Jenkins: Would the minister have any problem with incremental legislative returns, once every two weeks, spelling out where we're headed. What's the problem? Yes or no?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Chair, no.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, let the record reflect that the minister is impeding the flow of business in this House. Now, all of us want to be somewhere else, I'm sure. All of us want to move on with the business of the House. In fact, I'm sure for a few days, this government thought they would be in and out. But it's our responsibility as opposition to hold this government accountable. What this government is doing is holding up the business of government by not providing answers.
Now, the minister has agreed to sit down with me and give me briefings every couple of weeks. I would like something in black and white. What is the problem with a legislative return every couple of weeks, spelling out where we're going? I'd like some concrete information. A briefing - we can get into the semantics of their meaning and wordsmithing - of, well, I didn't mean that, you misinterpreted what I said. But when I have a legislative return, I know exactly that someone within the department will have to take the time to spell out these new initiatives or these restructuring or reviews or assessments and where we're heading. It will have to be thought through thoroughly before they're provided. Indeed that should be the course of action for all government business, but the course of action we see from this minister today is one of refusal to cooperate with the business of this Legislature, refusing adamantly - no.
Now, there's one good thing about no, the minister can always change his mind. But after you have said yes, it's very difficult to reverse it. So, I'd ask the minister to really consider what he has said to my request for a series of legislative returns over the course of the summer, if that what he wishes, or one legislative return. It doesn't matter with respect to this issue. Could the minister provide the information in that format, please?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: No.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, Mr. Chair, let the record once again reflect that this minister is holding up the business of the House. It's the government of the day that is refusing to provide information on their one initiative. They'll provide it to me in a verbal format over time, but they will not provide it in a written format. Why?
Could I ask the minister to pay attention to what's going on? I've asked a question; I'd like a response, Mr. Chair.
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Chair, apologies to the member opposite. Would you please repeat the question?
Mr. Jenkins: Exactly as I said. Mr. Chair, the issue is that the minister has agreed to provide the information in a verbal format. That has been agreed to, and I've asked for it in a written format so that there's no uncertainty surrounding what was said and how it was said. Now, what is the minister's hangup with providing this information in a written format by way of a legislative return?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Chair, I will provide, in writing, progress reports, if that's what the member wants, and will circulate it to all members of the House.
Mr. Jenkins: Now we're moving along. I didn't know what the minister's hangup was. So he agreed to provide it in written format. Just one little caveat on that - by way of a legislative return.
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: No.
Mr. Jenkins: What is the minister's hangup with a legislative return? Could he kindly explain in detail what is the problem with providing this information by way of a legislative return?
Let the record reflect that the minister doesn't know. He has to ask his colleagues as to why he should answer the question in the negative. He's not going to do it, but he doesn't know why. That's the bottom line, and he's just getting advice accordingly, Mr. Chair.
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Chair, the art of compromise is a wonderful thing. It's give and take. It's providing for progress in certain areas. I've agreed to provide to the member opposite, in writing, progress reports and provide to all members of the House the progress on how I will be implementing programs through my respective departments.
Mr. Jenkins: I'd like to know why the minister has a problem with providing it by way of a legislative return, Mr. Chair.
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Chair, again my understanding of a legislative return is that it is items and summary on any given subject, and what I have offered to provide is more detail on progress through a written report to the member opposite.
Mr. Jenkins: Another Liberal lame-duck excuse, Mr. Chair. Let's try that once again. What's the real reason why the minister was advised not to provide a legislative return by his Cabinet colleagues?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Chair, he'll get his legislative reports.
Mr. Jenkins: Legislative returns or reports. Are they the same? Do we understand legislative returns?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Yes, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Jenkins: Just about half an hour to clear something so simple, Mr. Chair. Let the record reflect how much this minister is impeding the flow of business in this House.
I have no further general debate. We can move on.
Chair: Is there any further general debate?
We'll turn to the line items.
On Operation and Maintenance Expenditures
On Finance and Administration
Administration in the amount of $500,000 agreed to
Chair: Are there any questions on allotments?
Finance and Administration in the amount of $500,000 agreed to
On Corporate Human Resource Services
On Staffing Administration
Staffing Administration in the amount of $864,000 agreed to
On Staffing Operations
Staffing Operations in the amount of $63,000 agreed to
On Employment Equity
Employment Equity in the amount of $358,000 agreed to
On Classification/Competition Appeals
Classification/Competition Appeals in the amount of $38,000 agreed to
Corporate Human Resource Services in the amount of $1,323,000 agreed to
Chair: Are there any questions on the statistics?
On Pay and Benefits Management
Administration in the amount of $918,000 agreed to
Are there any questions on the statistics of pay and benefits management?
Pay and Benefits Management in the amount of $918,000 agreed to
On Staff Relations
Administration in the amount of $510,00 agreed to
On Yukon Government Employees Union/Public Service Alliance of Canada
Yukon Government Employees Union/Public Service Alliance of Canada in the amount of $193,000 agreed to
On Yukon Teachers Association
Yukon Teachers Association in the amount of $68,000 agreed to
On Managerial/Confidential Exclusion
Managerial/Confidential Exclusion in the amount of $5,000 agreed to
On Long Service Awards
Long Service Awards in the amount of $90,000 agreed to
Indemnification in the amount of $1,000 agreed to
Chair: Are there any questions on the allotments? Are there any questions on the statistics?
Staff Relations in the amount of $867,000 agreed to
On Workers' Compensation Fund
On Workers' Compensation Payments
Workers' Compensation Payments in the amount of $1,912,000 agreed to
Chair: Are there any questions on the allotments?
Workers' Compensation Fund in the amount of $1,912,000 agreed to
On Planning and Research
Administration in the amount of $270,000 agreed to
Planning and Research in the amount of $270,000 agreed to
On Employee Leave and Termination Benefits Adjustment
Employee Leave and Termination Benefits Adjustment in the amount of $2,109,000 agreed to
On Staff Development
Administration in the amount of $1,561,000 agreed to
On Employment Equity/Land Claims Training
Employment Equity/Land Claims Training in the amount of $450,000 agreed to
Staff Development in the amount of $2,011,000 agreed to
Chair: Are there any questions on the statistics on staff development?
Any questions on the recoveries?
Operation and Maintenance Expenditures for the Public Service Commission in the amount of $9,910,000 agreed to
Chair: We will move now to the capital budget, page 10-2.
On Capital Expenditures
On Finance and Administration
On Office Furniture, Equipment, Systems and Space
Office Furniture, Equipment, Systems and Space in the amount of $18,000 agreed to
Finance and Administration in the amount of $18,000 agreed to
Capital Expenditures in the amount of $18,000 agreed to
Public Service Commission agreed to
Chair: We will now proceed to the Department of Renewable Resources.
Department of Renewable Resources
Chair: Do members wish to take a five-minute recess so that we can get the resource person for Renewable Resources?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: We will take a five-minute recess.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. We will start with general debate on Renewable Resources. Is there any general debate?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Thank you, Mr. Chair. The total proposed expenditures of the Department of Renewable Resources reflect a decrease of $525,000, or three percent of our 1999-2000 forecast.
In O&M, the decrease is $34,000, or less than one-quarter percent. This is largely due to $45,000 one-time funding received in 1999-2000 for forestry-related work together with revotes of unexpended funds, totalling $94,000, for the state of the environment reporting and habitat protection work for the Yukon protected area strategy.
My government is very interested in assisting with the promotion of new recycling initiatives and $100,000 has been identified for this purpose.
My government will continue to provide NGOs with some assurance of stability in funding, and additional funds are being provided to the following organizations for the indicated purposes.
There is $20,000 budgeted to the Yukon Agricultural Association, which will assist them with a number of initiatives in which our government has interest, including the Klondike harvest fair, education in the classroom, careers in agriculture and consultation on various agriculture-related issues.
Also, $40,000 has been budgeted to assist the Yukon Trappers Association with fur marketing, and $20,000 has been budgeted to assist the Fish and Game Association with various initiatives.
The remaining difference in O&M is attributed to the effect of vacancies in the 1999-2000 years.
The major initiative most of the branches will be involved in is the continued preparation for devolution. We will be implementing a regional management structure, so that all of our department services can be delivered in rural communities in an integrated manner. The entire structure has not been finalized and I will be providing the Legislature with details when I am in a position to do so.
With the funds provided through this budget, the department will continue to provide critical support of key government initiatives such as land claims, devolution and the formulation of the development assessment process.
I would now like to make a few comments on the capital budget. In capital the decrease is $491,000, or 21 percent. This decrease is due largely to the fact that the 1999-00 figures reflect the first supplementary of $191,000 for the various job-creation initiatives with respect to campground facilities as well as revoted monies totalling $263,000 included in Supplementary No. 2, and the inclusion of $30,000 in funding for production of a video on bear safety. Without the effect of these three items, we would have reflected a net decrease of $7,000.
Some new and changing initiatives on the capital side include $5,000 that has been identified for a new conservation education learning resource project. This will enable the department to commence work on the production of some education and public awareness materials. In addition, $97,000 has been identified for the Yukon protected areas strategy-related initiatives; $30,000 has been identified to begin an assessment of the mule deer population in the Yukon.
Mr. Chair, that covers the major new and changing initiatives in my department, and we are looking forward to a productive year. I'd be happy to answer any questions the members might have in general debate.
Mr. McRobb: I would like to start, first of all, by reminding everyone how important this department is. The Department of Renewable Resources has the responsibility for protecting the Yukon's renewable resources - fish and game and so on - as well as administering the agricultural industry. There certainly is a need to balance development in the territory. That balance can be found within this department.
I know that one of the concerns of Yukoners about four years ago was the possibility that this department could be folded in with Economic Development. Certainly, that is something we did not agree with. Our policy was to keep it a distinct, operating department. In that regard, I do have some questions for the minister. I would like to start by asking him what his priorities for this department are.
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Chair, as I have indicated, with respect to the reviews of the budgets for the two previous departments, of course our intent is to create an effective transition and to review ongoing programs. In essence, I would like to ensure that there's a balance between resource development and environmental protection; with all due respect to the members of the Vuntut Gwitchin, to assist them in their opposition to the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge oil and gas development, and recognize that the interests of environment and the economy are not in conflict. I think that is very important. We want to create certainty. We want to let all players in the territory know - both the environmental concern aspects in the territory, as well as economic industry in the territory - what the rules are. We will be developing clear, definitive guidelines for that purpose.
I would also like to see the department recognize that Yukoners can work together to prepare clear environmental and economic agenda goals; provide Yukoners with certainty of the environment by enforcing the Environment Act; ensure the audit that is required under the Environment Act is completed and, as a matter of fact, I believe that one significant step in that audit is the release of the environmental report.
I'm sure the member opposite knows that my history has always been where my heart is, and that is with respect to environment and wildlife issues. My whole professional career has been attributed to moving in that direction. I know that the member opposite lives in one of the most beautiful parts of the territory and we would like to see that preserved in different ways. I know that the member opposite has stood up several times and extolled the virtues of his area of the territory and I know that he wants to work in the best interest of that area and represent his constituents appropriately.
In order to do that, I think that we have already indicated that we would be moving into a review process of the Yukon protected areas strategy and would work toward enshrining that protected areas strategy in a form of legislation. We all want to stay and live in the territory. We respect the nature that we have here. We want to work with the renewable resource councils. We want to work with the Fish and Wildlife Management Board.
We want to work with all those interests that can focus and assist us as a government in expressing the wishes of all Yukoners in keeping this area of Canada in as wonderful a condition as it is. But we also recognize that, to live here, we have to work here. We have to provide sustenance on the table and, therefore, we do have to come to mutual agreement on how we'll achieve that with economic interests in mind.
So, I don't think that the member opposite would disagree with me in that we do have to find that balance, but I know, just as he does, that I have an interest to work with the department in fulfilling their commitments and obligations to look after the renewable resources of our territory.
Mr. McRobb: I'd like to thank the minister for that and certainly can agree with him on the beauty and importance of the Kluane area. The Member for Klondike says it is much more substantial than his area and I would agree with him, too. Certainly there are a number of people out my way who have an interest in issues with this department and, as the minister knows - or, if he doesn't know I'm sure he'll find out soon enough if he ever goes to a public meeting in Haines Junction regarding fish or wildlife. Those meetings are usually well-attended and attended by well-informed people. I would caution him that if he does go, he'd better be fully up to speed on his briefing notes and take a contingent of personnel along with him, just in case.
I'd like to thank the minister for identifying some of his priorities and I'd like to ask him what else he hopes to achieve over the next four years.
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Chair, I have spent a considerable amount of time in the member opposite's riding over the years. Wetlands were my main interest in an over 20-year period with an organization that I was involved with, and studied considerably a number of wetlands in the whole of the member opposite's riding, right from the border crossing. As a matter of fact, it was a cooperative probing with the Alaskans on the Tetlin Wildlife Refuge, down into Scotty Creek, down through Pickhandle, Johnson Creek, and beautiful wetlands nestled in the Shakwak valley. I've also spent time on the land in the Kloo Lake area, Jarvis Creek, worked in Dezadeash and the outlet to Dezadeash - the Six Mile - and worked with First Nations in the area.
So I'm not at all opposed to going and meeting the fish and wildlife interests in his area, even in this capacity, and I'm not afraid to go alone. I think that within a reasonable amount of time, I would be able to competently represent the department there, and bring back the interests and concerns that would be provided me through mutual concern, through respective listening to the concerns that members have out in that area.
I would also like to encourage sustainable uses of our natural resources. As the member opposite knows, we have in debate, in Question Period, talked about the forest industry. I'm sure that the member is certainly aware of the details provided from the Member for Watson Lake in that area, so I have encouraged that we open dialogue, that we sit down and review those concerns, that we make the federal government aware of our inherent responsibilities through devolution, that we want to clearly identify with the federal government that we assume the responsibilities and will be accountable for the management of the forest resource. For all of south Yukon really, the interests of forestry are related - to work with other levels of government, like I had mentioned earlier.
With all First Nations with the renewable resource councils - I have already sent out requests to meet with the specific renewable resource councils. I have already met with the interests from Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society. I have read some fairly comprehensive reports by the Yukon Conservation Society. I met with the land use planning group for all of Yukon, in structuring the land use commission for north Yukon.
The member opposite, I'm sure, is aware of how comfortable I feel with the portfolio of Renewable Resources. I have committed to support the department and attempt in every way to provide clear direction through the deputy minister to the department and really keep in touch with the progress that is being made by the department as the responsibilities of devolution are marching down the road.
As a matter of fact, the member opposite had tangentially mentioned the agricultural aspects, even in his own riding. I hope to be travelling to an agricultural ministers meeting in eastern Canada, hopefully leaving tomorrow, should the gods will it and we can progress through the review of the Renewable Resource budget in a competent and efficient way. I will make every attempt to answer questions, again to members opposite, but I am willing to again commit to answering questions.
We also recognize that we do have to support trapping as a way of life in the territory; support the creation of a Yukon advisory council that provides input into forestry management decisions, prior to devolution; recognize the magnitude of the project of taking on the forest aspects in the Yukon; recognize the sensitivity of our rehabilitative capabilities within harvested areas and the time it takes for timber to grow in the area, and; develop forest legislation in conjunction with the First Nations, recognizing the valuable traditional knowledge that they could impart in the design of that legislation.
Mr. McRobb: I'd like to thank the minister for that.
I'd like to ask him what the key policy areas are in this department. There are a number of key policy areas, and I'd like to hear his version of what they are and whether any of them will be under review or be changed in the course of this mandate.
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Chair, there are existing policies on the Yukon protected areas strategy, on the Environment Act, on the Wildlife Act. I mean, these are guiding acts that will have impact by policy as it's developed.
Again, I would respectfully ask the member opposite to consider that we have only been at the job for two and a half months and that there is a transition period during which we are assessing the existing policies. In the meantime, we will be developing or looking at those policies to see how our government will effect the changes to those policies. So, it's unfortunate, but I can't provide specific details at this time, and I request the member opposite to grant me a period of time when I could get a competent and qualified answer back to him.
Mr. McRobb: Well, Mr. Chair, I'm not demanding anything unreasonable, and I do understand that he has been in this position for only a couple of months and that more time is needed to establish a number of these policy areas. However, I'm also aware that it's common for a party to have developed, even prior to an election, a position on a number of key policy areas, and I'm sure the Liberal Party is no exception to that.
What I would like to hear from him, basically, is which direction this government is going in on some of these policy issues. I'll give him a specific one: the wolf kill policy, caribou enhancement program policy. Where does this Liberal government stand when it comes to that issue?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Chair, with respect to the existing wolf management program, the current policy is that the department does not support the lethal means of wolf control management. I believe that is a wise and humane policy to consider.
If the member opposite has been listening to the debate on other jurisdictions in my care, I don't believe it would be very prudent to just go in and totally wipe the slate clean of all existing policies and all existing programs. These things have to be looked at in light of their effectiveness, and that's what we are going to do. We are going to recognize the values that are already inherent within the department - their programs - and be careful and prudent in our evaluations of those programs, so the aspect of the wolf management program is again, as I mentioned, premised on a non-lethal approach and is currently under review. The proposal coming forward right now is from the Alsek RRC.
Mr. McRobb: Well, Mr. Chair, that's all well and good, but I'm not clear on the answer. Is the minister saying that wolf kills are off the table, or is he saying they're on the table? Because it sounds like, in one breath, he is saying that it's up to the department. If it's an option, then that will be considered, but, in another breath, I think he's saying that non-lethal means will only be considered. So can he clarify for me what the policy is on that?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Chair, I thought that I'd given the member opposite a fairly comprehensive answer at this time; that I did preface all my remarks with the fact I'm still becoming aware and cognizant of the programs within the department. One of them is the wolf management program and, at the present time, the policy is the non-lethal approach to wolf management. I did not, in any way, mention lethal means and I will, within the next couple of weeks as a matter of fact, be provided explicit details on the whole wolf management program.
Mr. McRobb: Okay, Mr. Chair. That sounds very interesting. The minister said this policy issue is under review. Can he explain why it's under review, if it's not on the table? Are they considering changing the position on it, or just what?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Chair, I mentioned - and I will be supplying more detail to the member opposite - that the current program is under review in the sense that we have a non-lethal approach to wolf management in the Alsek area and the results of that program will be presented to me in a couple of weeks. Along with that, there will be recommendations included with respect to wolf management. So, I can't provide the absolute, definitive answer to the member opposite at this time, but in a couple or three weeks, I would be more than willing to provide whatever information I get.
Mr. McRobb: Well, Mr. Chair, this is very interesting. It strikes me that it's similar to a minister reading a briefing note in response to a policy question in Question Period.
Is the minister saying that the Liberals' policy on wolf kills will be guided by the recommendations of a specific resource council, or does this government have a policy that the recommendation from the resource council will have to be considered within? Who is steering the ship? Is this government willing to bend whichever way the specific council wants it to, or does it have a clear policy on this?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Chair, as I had indicated to the member opposite, we're working on the policy. We're conducting consultation processes. The particular application of non-lethal use of wolf management was done in the Alsek area, and I do respectfully look forward to the report that will be forwarded for review from the Alsek RRC. It's one piece of information that will help us define the policy and, with advice from the public through consultation and with advice from the department, we will be deciding which way to go with respect to wolf management.
Again, after I get the report, I will more than willingly pass information over to the member opposite.
Mr. McRobb: I take it that the minister is undertaking to provide me with a copy of the report once it's available. Could he just nod? Okay. That's fine, Mr. Chair. He's nodding in the affirmative.
Just to explore this a bit further, because I'm interested in finding out how this government will handle policy in significant areas like wolf kills, if it will be dependent on a recommendation from a specific resource council, or if it has a policy on behalf of the government as a whole, or the minister's pet policy, or just what is the policy? Furthermore, Mr. Chair, while the minister's on his feet, can he also indicate how they would respond to recommendations, say, from the Yukon Fish and Wildlife Management Board?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: It is through a comprehensive dialogue with Yukoners. I had indicated to the member opposite that we will be in consultation with renewable resource councils, with other environmental interests, listening to the concerns and issues that they present to this government and formulating policy that will accommodate the wishes and needs.
The member opposite is inferring that we are going to be listening to one and then run off and get a policy and listen to someone else and design a policy when, in fact, that isn't the case. It will be through consultation, through listening, and through respecting interests. It's very important that the member opposite tries to understand that, as a new government, we are respecting the existing operations of the department, that we are listening to the experts within the department, that we are listening to the experts from the private sector on how to reasonably manage the natural resources within Yukon.
Mr. McRobb: Well, Mr. Chair, there's another reason why I'm concerned about this, and that's because I'm concerned that the minister may not be able to make a decision before going out and talking with everybody and thinking about it. In the meantime, you flip the calendar a few times and it's election time again, and lo and behold, you know the Liberal government never did make a decision. This is a serious matter.
Sometimes there's not a lot of time to respond. I remember the situation back in 1992, with the low survival rate of the calves from the Aishihik caribou herd, and it was an urgent matter. A decision had to be made quickly. Unfortunately, there was not a lot of time. The minister might not have the option to go out on a whirlwind tour of the Yukon and go talk to everybody and hear what they have to say. He might have to make a decision.
Mr. Chair, in making a decision, it's important to have a policy framework in which to operate. But what I'm hearing so far is that the Liberals don't have a policy. They are listening to the department, which currently expresses a preference for non-lethal predator control, but that's under review.
Mr. Speaker, it seems that's the default phrase that not only myself as Renewable Resources opposition critic is hearing but we're all hearing is that it's under review. I think there are a lot of Yukoners who are a little concerned that the government is not taking a position. They have had lots of time to develop policies leading up to the election. I see some members are sputtering in the backbenches there, but maybe they should read their policy documentation, which outlines a lot of these issues.
Certainly, again, Mr. Chair, I don't want to be unreasonable. I understand it has only been two months for the minister in his role, but don't his colleagues have something to say on this? Don't the party insiders have something to say? What is the Liberal position on this? What do they hope to get out of this? Is the door completely open, depending on what they hear? Who are they going to talk to? What happens in the meantime? What happens if it's an urgent matter? What happens if a renewable resource council says one thing, and the Fish and Wildlife Management Board says another, and caucus members say another. What happens then? What is going to guide this minister at the end of the day if a serious issue should arise, where it's suggested that predator control is the number one option? What's going to happen then?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Chair, the member opposite is absolutely right when he says that Yukoners are concerned. They're very concerned and we are, in a very responsible and accountable way, taking into consideration exactly what those concerns are. We don't run off half-cocked and start implementing half-baked policies. We want to listen to what Yukoners have to say, what the renewable resource councils have to say, what the First Nations people have to say, and what the competent experts within our respective departments have to say.
We want to design policy that is meaningful; that is comprehensive. We have exercised a willingness to work with members opposite and there hasn't been a whole lot - I understand they're in opposition and their duty is to criticize the actions of the government, but I think a key aspect of their criticisms is the constructive aspect. They forgot to provide the constructive aspect to their criticisms, and that's fine. We will respectfully listen to their criticisms, because that's what we said we would do. We'll talk to people in the Yukon; that's what we said we would do. We'll design our policies, taking into consideration existing policies and existing programs. We'll evaluate those programs with as much information as we can possibly glean on any subject.
That is what we're going to do, Mr. Chair. We're going to act responsibly, be accountable, listen to the concerns of Yukoners and act on their behalf in a prudent, wise and careful way.
Mr. McRobb: Well, Mr. Chair, we hear the rhetoric coming out of the members opposite. We see very little of substance to back it up. You know, we hear the lines, "We'll act in a prudent, fair, responsible way," from this minister. From the acting Premier we hear, "Jobs, jobs, jobs." In reality, the pink slips are in the mail and the flip-flops in the decisions are beginning to mount.
The list of broken promises is getting longer. Two weeks ago I reminded them it was already longer than the budget and throne speeches combined, and since then it's grown a bit. The minister can stand there and poke me in the eye and say we're not offering anything constructive but, at the same time, I would encourage him to listen a little harder and also give us a chance. We have only just started here and, according to the calendar, we have until about August 14 before the 35 days are up, so I think there's lots of opportunity for constructive comment, and certainly our role in opposition is not to only criticize the government. As a matter of fact, that's not the main role in my view. The main role is to hold the government accountable.
Mr. Chair, you're looking puzzled. I'll explain that. Holding the government accountable for promises it made, for things it said, for expectations it has raised, all of those things; holding it accountable on actions that are required to responsibly govern this territory; holding it accountable for things that Yukoners expect from a government. Those are the guiding principles for me. Those are the action items on my agenda. It's not just to throw mud at the government. There'll be lots of time for that when they don't come through on their commitments, and there has been some time for that already, but we know there will be lots more opportunities to do that in the next three and a half years.
Mr. Chair, the minister has had a chance now to review the line items and expenditures in the budget for his department in operation and maintenance and capital, and I'd like to ask him how he feels about those expenditures. Does he agree with those expenditures?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Chair, is the member opposite asking us to go into line-by-line debate?
Mr. McRobb: No, I'm not. I'm asking in a general way, and it cannot be asked on any single line item. That's what this is and, again, I'll give the minister some slack here. This is general debate and I'm asking him if he will support his own budget that's tabled here by his government. I'm not asking at all to go into line-by-line debate. I know the minister is urgently wanting to get through his department and wrap up this Legislature so maybe he can get out of here to enjoy hunting and fishing and whatever in the Kluane area - maybe I'll see him out there - but we have a job to do here first. This is a large budget and it was made larger by the supplementary budget, and we have a responsibility to Yukoners and we're still in general debate. I'm asking him, does he support the expenditures in the budget for his department?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Chair, just a slight correction on my anticipated frivolities after the House adjourns. Au contraire. I have committed myself to becoming totally familiar with the Renewable Resources department so I don't really foresee, in the near future, any vacation time, or time off. I have committed myself to work here, to get the job done. I do believe that the Premier has indicated that, by accepting the responsibility and accountability of this budget, we have indicated to the members opposite what we are willing to do. I feel that we are totally accountable and feel that we should get on with getting this budget done so that we can get the departments back to work with some money and so that there is certainty out there for Renewable Resource professionals to get out there, to be assessing and evaluating those habitat areas in the forest area to protect the interests that the member opposite has positively indicated are areas of concern for him as well. So let's get our forces out there, get them to work by passing and implementing this budget.
Mr. McRobb: Well, Mr. Chair, this isn't Question Period either. I was expecting an answer to the question. We're not in line-by-line debate; we're not in Question Period. I would like the minister to indicate whether he supports the expenditures in this budget.
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Chair, yes.
Mr. McRobb: Are there any areas the minister would like to see changed to reflect his government priorities?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Chair, does he want to go line by line now?
Mr. McRobb: I thought the minister wasn't anxious to get out of his department, Mr. Chair. We're still in general debate. I'm not asking him a specific question on any line item. These questions pertain to the whole budget, not a specific line item. I'm asking him which areas he would like to see changed to reflect his government's priorities.
If that came up on a specific line item, Mr. Chair, the minister then would be saying that it's too late for that question, that I should have asked it in general debate and we're in line items now.
Well, Mr. Chair, I didn't fall off the turnip truck just yesterday. I have sat in your chair before, and I have heard all these back and forths, and I'm wise to them, and I'd like the minister to respond to the question, please.
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Chair, I have already fessed up to the Member for Klondike how novel this is to me, so I would not at all infer that the member opposite fell off the turnip truck. The questions he is asking me are specific to what's contained in the lines. That's my understanding. If he wants to get into line-by-line debate, I'm willing to do that.
Mr. McRobb: Well, we seem to have hit a snag here. I don't think line by line is an adequate response to the question, what areas do you like to see changed. Because when we get into line by line, the discussion is focused completely on that particular line item, not the budget as a whole or the line items collectively. That's the phase we're into right now.
Maybe I could ask it a little differently, and maybe I can get some better results. We know the budget as tabled; it's the same one we tabled back in February. The minister has indicated that he supports all the expenditures in the budget, and that's fine. He has identified his priorities and, as well, some things he'd like to see achieved over the next four years. He has provided some answers on the key policy areas, although it seems that that's a grey area - everything is under review for the time being.
I would like the minister to help me by giving some indication of what's likely to change, in future budgets, from these priorities. Can you help me out in that respect?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: I just indicated to the member opposite that I have accepted the budget on this department, and I think he is also aware that we will not be speculating on future budgets. So, I have indicated a commitment to accept this budget, and we, as a party, have agreed to accept the whole of the previous government's budget so that we can get Yukoners back to work and to create some certainty. They want to know that the government is supporting those programs and initiatives that are outlined in the current budget, so we want to get on with it.
Chair: The time being 4:30 p.m., do members wish to take a brief recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: It should be a short recess as we've already taken one recess. This will be a five-minute recess.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. We will continue with further general debate on Renewable Resources.
Mr. McRobb: Thank you, Mr. Chair. Can the minister indicate what programs in his department are presently under review? He mentioned some awhile back and I'd just like to find out for sure which ones are currently under review. At the same time, it might be efficient for him to indicate when he expects them to be completed and what the next steps are in the process for each.
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Chair, the member opposite asked me about the wolf program. I've been informed by the department that, within two weeks, I will get a full, comprehensive briefing, and I will be listening to that. I have already committed to the member opposite to provide the information when I get it.
I don't believe there was anything else that I had indicated but I'm sure in the House - in the discussions - we have indicated that we are in the process of reviewing the YPAS process, as well, and I will repeat that we are looking at the design of our policy. It will be coming into greater and greater effect as I become more and more familiar with all the programs within the department.
I understand that there were a couple of documents submitted in the House here with respect to review of the agricultural policy. The evaluations have been submitted to the House for review, so I know that those are ongoing. Should I be fortunate enough to get to the agricultural ministers conference, I will be lobbying for greater financial assistance from the federal government to Yukon to assist in our agricultural program development here in the territory.
So, it is my wish to do that: to work on behalf of all Yukoners in getting additional funding from the federal government to promote our agricultural industry here in the territory.
Mr. McRobb: So, okay, Mr. Chair, we hear the minister say the programs under review in his department include the wolf kill, YPAS and agriculture policy. That's three programs. Is he saying that there are no others?
I also asked him to give us some idea of the timelines for each. Maybe I wasn't listening, Mr. Chair, but I didn't hear any dates in what the minister had to say. So, could he just confirm whether it's those three only and, for my information, provide me with an idea of what the timelines are?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Chair, the member opposite did not mishear me, because I did not indicate any specific date.
The YPAS review, I believe, was thoroughly reviewed in the local press. At that time, I indicated that the steering committee would be putting forward an options paper in the late summer or early fall, and that we would be reconvening the advisory committee at that time. All key stakeholders involved in the original design of the strategy will be brought together this fall.
The wolf program - I do believe that in the next couple of weeks, I will be presented with an assessment of a program in the Alsek region. I have already committed to provide the member opposite with the information I get at that time.
As for the agricultural policy paper that was submitted for review, I believe it is to be out for review until the fall, as well.
Mr. McRobb: That helped a little bit, but still it didn't give me the information I was looking for. I would like to know what the expected timelines are for these reviews. I'm sure the YPAS might get underway this fall, but when is it expected to be complete?
I'd like to remind the member opposite that this is not an unusual question, and certainly it's quite normal in Committee of the Whole to ask for this type of information and get a clear response. I would also like to remind him that the previous Member for Riverside was quite clear in asking me, as the former commissioner for the energy commission, very similar questions. Not only did I provide clear responses, but we developed timelines in writing on our policy reviews and so on.
Now, I'm not asking him to provide the same level of detail, by any means, but I would like a hint, at least, from him of when we could expect these reviews to wrap up and when he might get around to making a decision on them.
Furthermore, Mr. Chair, he indicated that he had provided some information to a newspaper. Well, this is the Legislature. We're elected to be here, and one of the fundamental things we do in here is to pass information, and we shouldn't be expected to go out and grab the newspapers to find answers to our questions. The minister, in the same amount of time he used to describe the newspaper, could have provided me with the answer. I would like some idea when the timelines for these reviews would take place, including the wrap-up dates.
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: I thought that the member was understanding that we have been in government on this side of the House for two months and that we are attempting to pass the opposition's budget. We want to give Yukoners some certainty by getting them to work. What I have provided the member opposite is the best information that I have available at this time, but I will provide, in writing, the member opposite more defined timelines at a later date, if that would be satisfactory.
Mr. McRobb: I agree with him. He has been in the government two months. They are passing the opposition's budget; however, these reviews, like the YPAS review and some of these other undertakings, are not items that were in our budget. These are Liberal undertakings and I would expect them to have more information than he has provided in this House. He also mentioned a certainty to work. Well, how does providing me with partial information provide Yukoners with certainty for work? I just don't make the connection. He gave an idea about the timelines for these reviews. I could see that as providing Yukoners with more certainty, but how can Yukoners get more certainty when members in this Legislature aren't certain what's going to happen. The minister can't undertake these reviews and not have an idea of when they're going to wrap up. That's what I'm looking for. I want to be able to hold them accountable and, when the time comes to wrap up these reviews, they produce the results that we are expecting.
The minister should be able to provide us with an idea on that.
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Chair, the certainty that I was implying was the passage of this budget. I believe that, in itself, would provide certainty for summer work projects, most definitely, and I have committed to provide the member opposite more detailed information in writing on the scheduling of the projects that I mentioned at a later date. I have committed to do that.
Mr. McRobb: Well, okay, Mr. Chair. In the interest of moving on, I'm prepared to leave that if the minister can provide me with an estimate of when I could expect those timelines at a later date, because a later date could be any time.
Now, in tonight's paper, I can't help but notice an article - Wildlife Act will be reviewed, the minister avows. But I look at the information I'm provided with here and, guess what, Mr. Chair? The Wildlife Act isn't one of the reviews the minister has mentioned. So, once again, do we have to go to the newspapers to find out what's going on?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Chair, the article in the newspaper was provided as a result of the ruling that came down by Judge Barry Stuart in that current case. He provided some explicit comment with respect to the Wildlife Act. I have heard from the department that there are some concerns with respect to the Wildlife Act, and I made a suggestion to the paper that, in light of the comments that the judge had made and under consideration by officials within the department, it would be prudent to have a review or consider a review of the Wildlife Act. I think this is one of those cases, Mr. Chair, that the member opposite alluded to as making a decision on my feet or inferring that I make a quick decision or response. So, I hope the member opposite can recognize that.
The act itself is 20 years old, and there has been a patriation of the Constitution to Canada during that time, which affects the Wildlife Act. There have been innumerable aspects to the territory, such as the umbrella final agreement, that impact on the Wildlife Act, so I believe it's just being responsible to look at the act. The Wildlife Act is an incredibly complex piece of legislation, and it has to be modernized to reflect the current legal principles - First Nation final agreements and management of wildlife resources. Enforcement and sanctions will require substantial staff resources and public consultations, so recognizing that, I think it's just responsible to react responsibly.
Chair: Ms. Tucker, are you rising on a point of order?
Ms. Tucker: Mr Chair, I'd be -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Chair: Order please. Are you rising on a point of order?
Motion to sit beyond normal hour of adjournment
Ms. Tucker:In the interests in proceeding with debate on Renewable Resources, I make motion:
THAT the Committee of the Whole and Assembly be empowered to sit from 7:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. for the purpose of continuing consideration of Bill No. 2, entitled First Appropriation Act, 2000-01.
Chair: Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Motion agreed to
Mr. McRobb: Well, Mr. Chair, this is a matter for the House leaders to sort out, but judging from the reaction of my colleagues, it looks like we're bushwhacked completely by another strong-arm measure from this government.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Chair: Mr. Fentie, on a point of order.
Mr. Fentie: Mr. Chair, to extend hours in this Legislature, we need unanimous consent, not a vote.
Chair: I heard no disagreement, Mr. Fentie. It doesn't require unanimous consent, either, Mr. Fentie. The motion was properly moved, so it went to a vote and it was carried.
Standing Order 2(7): "A motion to sit beyond the normal hour of adjournment must be moved by the government House leader or designate at least one-half hour before the normal hour of adjournment. Such motions shall specify the business to be dealt with and may be moved either with the Speaker in the Chair" - I'm in the Chair - "or while the Assembly is in Committee of the Whole." That's the last part.
Mr. McRobb: Well, continuing with general debate on Renewable Resources, Mr. Chair, the minister has undertaken to provide me with some timelines on these various reviews.
I didn't hear when he would provide me with those timelines and whether that would include the Wildlife Act review that is mentioned in tonight's paper. So, when he gets on his feet, maybe he can address that for me.
Can he also provide an indication of what priority he attaches to these reviews? Are they all going to happen simultaneously? Is one before the others? Does the minister have any idea of what priority is attached to these reviews?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Chair, I have, as I indicated, committed a written response to the questions to the member opposite, and I will do that within the next couple of weeks. I do believe that the member opposite is aware that I will be away next week, and if he would allow me the grace, I would like to provide him the information the week after that.
Mr. McRobb: Yes, that's fine, Mr. Chair. I would like to move on now to some more specific matters. The minister has indicated that he's going to reconvene the committee that's reviewing the protected areas strategy.
Can he give me an indication of when that's taking place and what he expects out of this committee, some idea of the timelines. This isn't going back to the previous question, Mr. Chair. I would like to have the minister's expectations of what these committees will be doing in the months ahead.
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Chair, again, I'll provide a general guideline of time for the review of the YPAS. The YPAS, I must stress, is a review of the process as it relates to goal 1 areas. I think that's been made very clear.
Generally, the steering committee has been instructed to prepare - and they are now preparing - an options paper that is going to take us into late summer/early fall. In about the middle of October, if I can be a little more specific, the advisory committee will be reconstituted, inviting back all members. As a matter of fact, we'll be, in all probability, expanding that group to include the Yukon communities association. They will then look at the options, as they were the constituent that assimilated the information that was provided through a two-year extensive consultative exercise.
These people have the skills and abilities to do that. They are familiar with the conservation strategy. They are familiar with the present implementation process. So, they will take a look at the options paper as provided to them by the steering committee and will make recommendations back to government based on that.
Mr. McRobb: I would like to thank the minister for that. He has indicated this consultation on the YPAS will be major review. What does that entail? Does it mean going out to each and every community, talking to each and every First Nation plus public meetings and major stakeholder groups? Just what does that involve? While he's on his feet, can he also indicate whether he can provide a copy of the terms of reference?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: I think it is very, very important for the member opposite to understand that it's a review of the process. It is a review of what happened as a result of the previous government, where partners within the advisory group decided to pull out of the group.
So, what would this group be charged with? The steering committee will be providing options on the implementation aspects of the strategy as it relates to goal-one areas. They will be presenting that options paper to the advisory committee, who will be comprised of people that were originally involved in the advisory committee.
They will be reviewing the options provided to them. The advisory committee is quite extensive; it has incredible representation and is a cross-section of all peoples of Yukon First Nation's industry people.
As a matter of fact, the mining industry has agreed to come back to the table to review the option papers with the other members of the advisory group to participate fully. So, these people are certainly competent. Their opinions within their respective stakeholder jurisdictions are respected, so they will be charged with the responsibility of reviewing the options paper and making recommendations on the implementation aspects of the YPAS.
Mr. McRobb: There should be no question of the level of competency of the members on this committee, Mr. Chair. I did not raise that as an issue. I don't understand why I'm hearing an argument for it now. I'm well aware of how knowledgeable and experienced these people are and how dedicated they are to seeing a good protected areas strategy, just as they were when the policy was developed. I'd also like to point out that many of them are volunteers and are giving up their time in this very good cause.
The minister has indicated that the strategy will be enshrined in legislation. Can he give an idea of when we might expect that?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Chair, I very much appreciate the member opposite recognizing the quality of the individuals within the advisory group and of their full competency to review the options paper. I very much appreciate the supporting comments and the recognition that the group itself is comprised of volunteers - very experienced, competent and knowledgeable volunteers.
The aspect of entrenching the Yukon protected areas strategy is tentatively scheduled because it gets into a rather comprehensive involvement. It is anticipated that legislation will be presented to the House in about the fall of 2001. I will again include that information along with my written submission to the member opposite on other timeline aspects.
Mr. McRobb: All right.
Now, we discussed on a previous occasion the matter of withdrawal of staking claims after a candidate area has been announced, and, as I recall, the minister pushed that issue into the committee for review, and he would await the recommendation. And, Mr. Chair, I have some difficulty with this because his government, when in opposition, and certainly the Liberal Party, both had strong views on interim protection, and on several occasions, they held our government's feet to the fire to do something about it. And if this matter is left to an independent process to resolve, well, that raises a number of questions, such as: what happens if isn't identified as a recommendation coming out of the process? How does the minister then intend to implement the priority of his government, to do something about the matter of interim protection? What happens then?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Chair, again, because we are in the Committee of the Whole, I also have the opportunity to ask questions of the members opposite.
Can the Member for Kluane let me know if he's familiar with the current implementation process with respect to goal-one areas?
Mr. McRobb: Well, Mr. Chair, I'm going to remind the minister of an old line that we heard several times when we were in government. It's our role here to ask the questions and it's their role to answer. Certainly, I'm not going to take it upon myself to change this modus operandi this afternoon. I would expect, however, the minister to respond to the question. What happens if this recommendation doesn't come out of the review process? If it's not a recommendation, do the Liberals just simply forget about it? Does it fall between the cracks or do they integrate it into the decision, if there ever is one? How are they going to handle this matter?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: With all due respect to the member opposite, I will provide the answer to his question unequivocally if he would just answer my question in this one aspect. There is a purpose for my asking the member opposite a question about the implementation process of the YPAS as it relates to goal-one areas. A yes or no would be fine.
Mr. McRobb: Well, Mr. Chair, I'm expecting an unqualified answer from the minister. It shouldn't depend on where I'm at. Isn't he capable of answering this question? If not, we're going to be here a lot longer than extended hours this evening, and he's not here next week, so he won't be able to answer the question. He's got to answer now or never.
It's like the Yukon Party slogan from the campaign, it's now or never. What is it? How is the minister going to deal with this matter if it's not recommended in the process, which is a very likely possibility? How is he going to integrate the government's position that there should be interim protection in the YPAS if it's not recommended by the committee?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Chair, again, I'm new to this, and maybe I'm way off the mark, but I thought in Committee of the Whole it was a chance to debate. That means give and take. That means ask and answer and that comes from both sides of the House. So, in the Committee of the Whole, maybe the Chair could advise me if I'm way off the mark, and I will ask the Chair if he can qualify whether I am able to ask questions of members opposite.
Chair: Under advice, while it is allowable, in the past it's not something that has worked very well and I would not give the minister any advice to continue this practice, as the responsibility is normally that you would get the answers that you are getting.
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Fair enough, Mr. Chair. I very much appreciate the counsel on that.
I don't mind answering the questions at all and will try to give the member opposite the best answers I possibly can. Because of the complicated nature of it, I was just trying to get a sense of his understanding, so I could provide an answer adequate to his request.
Anyway, as I mentioned, over the next six months, with the assistance of the steering committee and with the assistance and recommendations of the advisory committee, the government will be making refinements to the implementation process aspect of the strategy, in order to clarify and strengthen the process.
As part of that refinement process, the issue of interim protection may be further explored. Our government recognizes the need to provide a level of certainty so that areas of interest will not be jeopardized by development, mining or otherwise, prior to the full status of protection being assigned.
I don't want to presuppose at this time, respecting as we both have already acknowledged, the competency of the advisory committee, what their recommendations on implementation will be. I think we owe them that much, to respect their latitude to make those recommendations without interfering.
Mr. McRobb: Well, Mr. Chair, I'm not surprised, because I have been in this Legislature for four weeks, too, and what would be surprising would be to get a conclusive answer out of this government. Instead, we just heard the minister read a note. It came from the Minister of Economic Development, which raises a bigger question. Who is calling the shots in Renewable Resources? Is it the Minister of Economic Development or the Minister of Renewable Resources? That is the question. Who's calling the shots?
Mr. Chair, we hear of the group hug approach when it comes to buying out the claims, that his department is working together with all other departments and that's why they're unable to make a decision. It's sad. It's sad to see how this department is being treated. It's quite obvious that Economic Development has the upper hand, and I'm concerned about that. I think there are a lot of other Yukoners who are, too.
It's distressing that I think that the most significant thing regarding Renewable Resources department I've seen in years is that it is now under the command of the Department of Economic Development.
The minister refused to answer the question - one of the most important questions on a very important issue, interim protection. He stood here and refused three or four times to answer the question until the Minister of Economic Development handed him a note and he stood up and read it. He says, "Okay, I'll answer it now." He had the note in his hand. He said, "I'll answer it now." I'm surprised he didn't inadvertently say Pat at the end of it and get the signature on the note along with it.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Chair, you know, they make a good team all right, but unfortunately, these group hugs don't always reflect responsible decision-making; they don't reflect what Yukoners are expecting out of this department. They expect the department to protect the interests of Renewable Resources in the territory. How can that happen if the minister can't answer in this Legislature these important questions, without being handed a note from Economic Development? It's not right.
I know he has only been in here two months and we're cutting him a lot of slack on that. We don't expect answers to everything. He wasn't able to give us an idea on the timelines on these reviews. He wasn't able to give a complete list of the review until we got the newspaper tonight and read the article on the Wildlife Act - how it's going to be reviewed too - and all of a sudden the list got longer. It is quite obvious that the list of broken promises isn't the only list getting longer.
But I'm unable to tell how long it's going to get until I grab the newspaper of the day and start reading more articles, because it's becoming apparent that, to be an effective opposition, we have got to dismiss the importance of this Legislature and increase the importance of the newspaper articles. You know, Mr. Chair, maybe we should stand on the street corner and, you know, hear what we can pick up from people talking, too.
The minister took me to task on the matter of working cooperatively with him and giving him constructive suggestions, but look at what's happening in reverse. The government should be setting the pace here. The government gets the information first; the opposition only gets what the government chooses to give us.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. McRobb: That's right. The Health minister says the leftovers, and he's laughing. Mr. Chair, there they go again, using the club of government to beat us down. He's getting a lecture now from the Renewable Resources minister not to speak up any more. Maybe you should dust off that Winnie the Pooh tie, Mr. Chair, because it's interestinger and interestinger in here.
Mr. Chair, this is rather disappointing. I expected a whole lot more than this. To quote several of the telephone callers we are getting in the office, who claim they voted for the Liberals - to quote them, Mr. Chair, "I never knew it would come to this." "I never knew it would come to this," is what they're saying, Mr. Chair.
It's all about the future.
Now, the Minister of Renewable Resources has had the opportunity to answer these questions and, unfortunately, he's not being very helpful. Maybe that's why the House leader stood up and bushwhacked us on the extended hours. Maybe she knew something the rest of us didn't, because it's going to take awhile to get answers to these questions. I guess I didn't anticipate just how long it would take.
Mr. Chair, the members are quite content to sit here and wind up the costs of Hansard and everything else, not giving answers, extending debate another couple of hours unnecessarily.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Chair, the Minister of Economic Development asks me if there is a question. Well, there she goes again, leading the debate in the Department of Renewable Resources. A note isn't enough. She has got to be calling across the floor at the same time. I'd like to remind her of their promise to model professional behaviour in this Legislature, and that doesn't mean hurling jabs across the floor of this House and beating us over the head with these unexpected votes to extend hours. Whatever happened to the agreement, Mr. Chair?
Now, I would like to get back on track and hopefully get some answers from the minister. I would like to ask him about the agricultural policy and grazing lease policy. When will it be released? When will the policy be announced, and so on?
Some Hon. Member: Point of order, Mr. Chair.
Point of order
Chair: Mr. Jenkins, on a point of order.
Mr. Jenkins: I think if we're going to spend a considerable length of time in this Legislature, as we apparently are supposed to do, that the temperature be lowered. I just checked the thermostat and it's set at 55. The thermostat in the hallway is over 75 degrees. It's uncomfortably hot. I would recommend to the Chair that we call the engineers to lower the temperature in here after we have a brief recess, Mr. Chair.
Chair: Do the members agree to take a brief recess?
Some Hon. Members: Disagree.
Some Hon. Member: Agree.
Chair: There is a majority on the government's side. There will be no recess. Since we are breaking for dinner in seven minutes, we will talk to the engineers at that point.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Chair: Mr. Jenkins, on a point of order.
Mr. Jenkins: If that was the case, I was listening in; there's a procedural error on how we went through that motion. It's supposed to be read back by the Chair and it certainly was not, so there was a procedural error that was overlooked and that motion is completely invalid. I ask that we call the Speaker back to the Chair and get a ruling from the Speaker, Mr. Chair.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order, Mr. Chair.
Chair: The leader of the official opposition, on the point of order.
Mr. Harding: I concur with the leader of the third party. There was no opportunity for the reading of the motion back to the Members of the Legislative Assembly as it was put forward by the House leader. I don't have recollection of even hearing, regarding the supper break, that apparently it has been decided by the heavy hand of the government that they now want to take it.
According to the Standing Orders, the Chair should have read the motion into the record before calling for a vote and I think that that fundamentally changes this motion, it should be struck from the record, and normal hours should be taking precedence here.
Chair: The practice of this House is generally not to be reading these motions back. If the members wish to read motions back in the future, we can make that the practice in the future, but since I was under the understanding that the motions didn't have to be repeated and read in the House, the motion will stand. If the members wish to appeal this to the Speaker of the House, they may call in the Speaker of the House to appeal this forthwith.
Mr. Harding: We wish to appeal this ruling to the Speaker. This is not a run-of-the-mill motions; this is a significant motion whereby the government of the day can use its majority and muscle to ram something through this House. It is very important that this debatable motion be read back into the record prior to calling for the vote. This is not a motion at the end of normal sitting hours to adjourn the sitting.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Mr. Chair: Mr. Jenkins, on the point of order.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, on the point of order. Having been in this House when the same type of motion was advanced prior, I can tell you that it is the practice of this House to read the motion back. And I just went back and had a look at what happened the last time a motion was moved to extend hours, and the leader of the Yukon Party at that time talked out the motion.
So I would submit, Mr. Chair, that we have not followed proper procedure here. We have deviated from proper procedure, and we should be adhering to policies and procedures in the formal manner in which they have previously been set out, that they are set out, rather than constantly having the Chair or the Speaker compromise the integrity of this House by saying that this has been the past practice or it wasn't done on this occasion or may not have been done on that occasion.
I believe that it is of utmost importance that the integrity of this House be maintained by adhering to the policies and adhering to them to the full extent that is possible.
Some Hon. Member: On the point of order.
Chair: On the point of order, Ms. Duncan.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, on the point of order. We have been in this House. It is absolutely tradition that if the hours are to be extended, the motion is called at 4:55 p.m. and that it can be. That has been the practice in this House, and it has happened when the member opposite has been sitting over there. It has been called at 1:30 p.m.; it has been called at 4:55 p.m. before as well, and the unanimous consent, which the Member for Faro is referring to, was asked for in this House and it was granted.
The members in this House at the time - and I was listening as well - granted it. Now, there has been practice as well in terms of summoning back the Speaker to the chair and the former Chair of Committee of the Whole absolutely refused to do it and so did the members opposite. We asked, as members of the opposition at that time, and it did not happen. There was a ruling given by the Chair; there has been standard policy and practices that have been followed.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Ms. Duncan: The point that I am responding to on the point order -
Chair: Order please. Order please. Order please.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Exactly. Let's show some respect. Mr. Chair, there are two points. First and foremost, the motion was read at the right time, with standard practice of this House. Unanimous consent was given, as has been given in the past practice of this House. And, thirdly, with respect to recalling the Speaker to the Chair, that has not been done. The members opposite refused to do that when we asked.
Chair: The leader of the official opposition has asked that this be appealed to the Chair. I am now letting this be appealed to the Chair. The Speaker will be returning at this point to appeal the decision.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order, Mr. Chair.
Point of order
Chair: The Member for Watson Lake, on a point of order.
Mr. Fentie: On a point of order. No one was asking for the Premier to make her speech in regard to this matter. The Premier is erroneous in some of her comments and I feel that the opposition side should be able to rebut those comments.
In the first place, there was not unanimous consent. That's number one, and a very important aspect of this particular issue.
Secondly, when the Premier talks about normal practice, the extension of hours in this Legislature has always been dealt with at the House leaders' level and taken from there. That's where the unanimous decision is made - with House leaders.
The Liberals have chosen to use their majority and ram a heavy-handed motion down the throats of the opposition merely to overcome the problem they have with the minister not being present next week. That is simply not the way this Legislature operates.
Furthermore, it is fact that every motion in this House that has ever been debated, since I have been in here, has been read into the record by the Speaker. That is a fact and we can go through every page of Hansard to find that out.
Some Hon. Member: Mr. Chair, point of order.
Chair: Ms. Tucker, on a point of order.
Point of order
Ms. Tucker: Several weeks ago, when we were in the Legislature, a point of order was raised about following the Standing Orders to the letter about the length of questions during Question Period. The response from the Speaker at that time was that, although that was in the Standing Orders, the practice of this House would take precedence over the Standing Orders. I would like to bring that to the attention of the Speaker and the Chair.
Some Hon. Member: Mr. Chair, on the point of order.
Chair: Mr. Jenkins, on the point of order.
Mr. Jenkins: On the point of order, the Member for Mount Lorne, who attended in my office shortly before, asked if I were willing to extend hours tonight. I gave her a very, very definite "no" at that time. She knew full well that our party wasn't willing to extend hours. She got the same message from the NDP caucus, that they weren't willing to extend hours. They took the opportunity to snooker the motion into the House and snooker this House.
The Chair has an obligation to read that motion back. Virtually all of us are listening to what is transpiring in this House. The Chair, I submit, Mr. Chair, did not read that motion back. We did not follow procedure. Now, we're deviating from procedure far too much in this House. I would submit to the Chair that the Speaker be recalled and that he bring down a ruling that adheres to the rules, and that we continue to follow proper procedure.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order, Mr. Chair.
Chair: On the point of order, Mr. Harding.
Mr. Harding: With regard to the comments from the Member for Mount Lorne, the member is referring to a ruling by the Speaker with regard to the practice surrounding Question Period and ministerial statements. That ruling by the Speaker was very accurate. With regard to motions to extend hours, it has been the practice, in my years in the House, that they are quite unique in the sense that either they are determined by unanimous consent by the House leaders, in which case there's is an agreement to extend, or, secondly, by a motion by the governing party, which is debatable, which is read back by the Chair or the Speaker.
The Member for Klondike indicated one such time when the Yukon Party leader, once that motion was read back to the Yukon Party leader, was afforded the opportunity to debate. He talked the clock beyond 5:00 p.m., in which case it rendered that motion null and void.
So, therefore, I argue that the practice of this House and the precedence of this House is that that motion is read back when there is something as unique as a motion to extend hours.
Chair: Are there any further points of order?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: I've just recently passed over to the table officers, Hansard, where this exact same situation occurred and, no, the motion was not read back. The motion was moved by Mr. Harding.
Some Hon. Member:On the point of order, Mr. Chair.
Chair: On the point of order, Mr. McRobb.
Mr. McRobb: I would suggest that maybe, to break this stalemate, if the members would agree to set aside this department until the end, unless we run out of departments next week, so that the minister is able to lead his department in Committee of the Whole. If that's really the issue, then let's show some cooperation. I'm willing to set it aside until he gets back. If other members agree, then let's do a motion on that.
Some Hon. Member: On the point of order, Mr. Chair.
Chair: On the point of order, Mr. Jenkins.
Mr. Jenkins: On the point of order, Mr. Chair, this is a very unique situation, that at day 16 of a sitting of this Legislature this government would be asking to extend hours, especially after the minister of Renewable Resources, in his capacity as Minister responsible for the Public Service Commission, wasted a considerable length of time in this Legislature today by not answering questions.
This minister has wasted time in this House; this government has wasted time in the House by not answering questions, and now they're asking to extend hours. There's no need to extend hours. We have 20 more days in this sitting and procedures have been violated.
Chair: I'm going to recall Mr. Speaker.
I will now relinquish the Chair to allow the Speaker to make a judgment on the points of order.
Speaker resumes the Chair
Speaker: I now call the House to order.
Appeal to Chair's ruling
Chair: The question is in appeal to the Speaker of a decision of the Chair of the Committee of the Whole under the provisions of Standing Order 42(4) as follows:
During consideration of the Bill No. 2, entitled First Appropriation Act, 2000-01, the government House leader at 4:55 p.m. moved a motion pursuant to Standing Order 2(7) that the Committee of the Whole and Assembly be empowered to sit from 7:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. tonight.
The Chair asked the Committee, "Are you agreed?" No member stood up to debate the motion, and it was agreed to. At approximately 5:25 p.m. the leader of the third party raised a point of order about the manner in which the motion to extend hours was proceeded with.
The point of order, as stated by the leader of the third party and others, was that the Chair had not read the motion back to the House. The Chair stated it was the understanding of the Chair that the practice of the Committee was that such motions were not necessarily read back.
The leader of the official opposition then asked, pursuant to Standing Order 42(4), that the Chair's decision be appealed to the Speaker.
Speaker: I have heard the report from the Chair of the Committee of the Whole. Do any members wish to offer any further comments?
Mr. Harding: Yes, Mr. Speaker, I have a comment for you. Thank you for coming to hear this appeal. Mr. Speaker, this is a very significant matter. What we have is a government that, without consultation with the House leaders, has taken an action that is quite unprecedented on day 16 of a legislative session. It is important when a government with a majority that takes such an unprecedented action at such a time in a sitting to ask for a serious motion, such as the extension of sitting hours, at a time when there has been no concurrence from the House leaders, that the House is given due and appropriate time to consider such a motion, and the merits or subsequent potential implications of that.
Now, we are in the middle of a legislative sitting, perhaps, Mr. Speaker. And there has been significant discussion with House leaders today about the issue of extended hours, and the House leaders at that time stated that on day 16, with the debate as it was being carried on, we should not be extending hours at this point and that we're actually moving through the debate fairly expeditiously and through the departments - keeping in mind that the Member for Klondike, in this particular case, has never supported the budget and had a full chance to go through the purview of this budget.
Mr. Speaker, on this side of the House, we have had fewer questions but still have pointed out significant areas of concern with regard to areas that have not been funded and areas that were previously identified by the Liberal Party when they were in opposition.
Mr. Speaker, I say to the member opposite that what is important here is to indicate to you the difference between what is the normal practice of the House and what has happened in this case. My first argument is that this is unprecedented on day 16, particularly when it was discussed and rejected at House leaders meetings. Secondly, Mr. Speaker, there is precedent in this House when there is no agreement among House leaders for the governing side, should they wish to exercise the majority, to read a motion to extend beyond normal hours of adjournment into the record. That happened on December 15, 1997 and as well on April 30, 1998.
This is a clear case where there was no agreement among the House leaders. This is a clear case where the government had made a cognitive choice to exercise their majority to extend the hours.
In each case, as on December 15, 1997, when the motion was put forward, the Speaker read the motion back to the House to give it more consideration, so that the implications of it could be once again - other than read by the member who was offering the motion - fully considered to give more time so that the implications of it could be thought through and so that the members could take a position - agree or disagree - and vote on it.
Again, on April 30, 1998, a motion was moved by me, which the Deputy Speaker read back into the record. Clearly, again, a case where there was no agreement among the House leaders. It was the government at that time that was sponsoring a motion to extend the hours.
Mr. Speaker, in the case put forward by the Liberal Party as of May 13, 1997, they say a precedent was set, actually by me at that time, for moving a motion forward for extending sitting hours. At that time, the Chair did not read the motion back into the record, but I say that, if you follow on with the debate for May 13, 1997, you hear no discourse from the opposition. Why? Because there was an agreement among the House leaders.
That is a fundamental difference here. On May 13, we had an agreement as a House to move and extend the hours. There's a big difference.
Mr. Speaker, if you look at the motion that was put forward by the Member for Mount Lorne - the government House leader - she came out of a disagreement with House leaders about adjournment and moved a motion. Now, we did not even have the courtesy from the Chair of being asked clearly whether there was unanimous consent. We do not agree that there was unanimous consent for this motion. We believe that we disagreed vehemently with this motion. We also maintain that this motion, according to the rules, is a debatable motion. Given that we were going against the practice of this House, the opposition should at least have been afforded the opportunity of having it clearly read back into the record, so that we could consider its implication. Perhaps then we could more definitively express our observations about the motion.
You will see from reviewing the Hansard what just took place just a few moments ago today. The speaker on the floor for us was trying to raise this issue at his absolute first opportunity and to express his concern when he was back up on his feet, after he had just had this thing slammed home by the government. He expressed concern to the Chair about what had just taken place.
It's also important to note that it has been the practice of the Chair and also, in many cases, the Speaker, to defer issues, such as this, back to the House leaders for consideration.
We did not hear from the Chair as to whether we were ready for the question. He did not read the motion back to the House. And, I must stress, once again, it is the practice of this House that in a case were there is no unanimous consent among the House leaders, the motion is clearly read back to afford the opportunity for the opposition to debate the motion and at least to hear the implications of the motion.
That differentiates dramatically from May 13, 1997, which was tabled by the Liberals. I ask you to review the Hansard of that day and you will see that there is no discourse. We had unanimous consent in the House. Follow the debate beyond the wording of the motion to extend hours. That's why things went off without a hitch. In this case, this was an attempt at 4:55 p.m. for the Liberals to use the muscle of their majority to put something through this House that was not agreed to among House leaders, and to try and do it quickly, with an unknowing Chair - I hope - to ensure that the opposition did not get the chance to debate it or at least even hear the motion once again before there was a call for question as to whether we disagree or agree.
Mr. Chair, I also want to point out that on April 30, which is a precedent that I proposed, that was on day 35 of a sitting. So, even in that case, where we proposed a motion on that day to extend the sitting hours we were on the - according to the agreement among the parties - last afforded sitting day. And even in that case, the Speaker of the day read back the motion to members to allow them a chance to debate.
In that case, the leader of the official opposition at the time, I believe possibly the third party official opposition, took the opportunity to debate the motion to its fullest extent and went beyond 5:00 p.m. and talked out the motion.
This ruling is very important, Mr. Speaker, because what occurred today - what occurred in this legislative session today - is not a normal practice of this House. Mr. Speaker, it is a very dark day for this Legislature when the Liberals decide to engage in this kind of a heavy-handed tactic. What is the point, one would ask of the House leaders when they decide to have discussions and then come out to bushwhack the government, or attempt to bushwhack the government.
They can get this motion passed using their majority should they cognizantly wish to do so, but the important element of the argument is that this is not a normal case. There was no agreement of House leaders. There was no opportunity, because it differentiated from normal practice, to even have the motion read back to us. There was no opportunity for question to be called.
So, Mr. Speaker, I submit to you, based on the precedents of this House, that this is not a normal practice - given the fact that this was not a normal practice; given the fact that we did not agree with this action and demonstrated it in our first available opportunity with Mr. McRobb's speaking after the gavel came down - we feel very strongly that you should rule in accordance with the practice of this House. The Chair should have read this out to the opposition and to this House and given us a chance to further consider it. We would ask that you rule that this motion put forward by the Member for Mount Lorne - the government House leader - today to extend hours from 7:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. tonight is indeed out of order and we should adjourn this House immediately.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, I'd like to thank you for agreeing to return to the House and address this extremely important issue that you have before you.
Mr. Speaker, this is day 16 of a session that has allocated for it some 30-odd sitting days. I cannot find another occasion, in reviewing Hansard, where hours have been extended this early on in the session. That's number one.
I submit that if hours are going to be extended, Mr. Speaker, the usual procedure is that House leaders confer and come to some agreement. Now, if it's agreed, a motion can go through this House very, very quickly, extending hours. All-party agreement, not a problem, no one really rises and speaks to the issue - it's an all-party agreement.
In this case, I was paid a visit by the Member for Mount Lorne, in her capacity as House leader, asking me if I would agree to extend hours, and I said no, not this early in the session. I probably might have added some other derogatory remark, referring to a request of that nature this early on, but my position was no. And I'm aware that there was no agreement between the House leader of the Liberal Party and the House leader of the NDP to extend hours.
So, it wasn't an agreement made at that level. Shortly thereafter, I hear the motion being read in and dashed into the House, just to see what was going on. It's a done deal - a done deal. That is not the way the procedures of this House are to flow.
Having been here for the extension of hours on a number of occasions, the procedure that was followed was very straightforward. In the case when all parties, at the House leader level, agreed, it was a simple procedure. Other than that, the motion was read. On April 30, it was read by the Speaker to extend hours. The Speaker read back the motion and it was debated.
On the one occasion that I recall very, very well, when our party vehemently opposed the extension of hours, our leader talked the clock out. The hours were not extended, and the motion went down to defeat, Mr. Speaker.
I submit that there are a number of shortfalls in procedures that weren't recognized, Mr. Speaker. Clearly, the Chair did not read back the motion. Clearly, the Chair did not recognize those in the House standing up wishing to be recognized, such as Mr. McRobb. Clearly, Mr. McRobb, the Member for Kluane, began to speak at his first opportunity, which was after it was a slam-dunk motion. It was just bang, bang.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Jenkins: Just check the Hansard, Mr. Speaker. Just have a look and see what's happening. The Speaker might be advised, if I could suggest to him, that he listen in on the tapes of proceedings that took place at that time, the verbatim tapes of the proceedings.
Our motions, if there's cause for debate, which, in this case, there surely would have been, our Standing Orders call for, under section 29 under motions, "Before a motion is debated, it shall be read from the Chair", Mr. Speaker. That certainly was not the case. The Chair did not read back the motion. It was almost as if there was collusion between the Chair and the House leader for the Liberal Party to get this thing slam-dunked. The Chair is supposed to be impartial and I'm only hoping that the Chair would continue to be impartial and that the Chair would follow the Standing Orders of this Assembly.
Now, clearly, Mr. Speaker, you should be concluding, in my submission that this motion was out of order, and we should be adjourning this House immediately.
Mr. Speaker, we've taken 45 minutes of this House's time to debate an issue that shouldn't have even arisen, had the Liberal House leader applied common sense to following procedures in this House. I submit that a lot of the debate here is unnecessary debate. I guess we can chalk it up to inexperience on the part of the new government.
I'm only hoping, Mr. Speaker, that we can get back and follow rules and procedures, but I refer to motions and to the Standing Order on page 20 dealing with motions, "Before a motion is debated, it shall be read from the Chair."
That didn't take place. That didn't occur. There was debate. There was probably considerable debate that would ensue around this motion at that time, given that the House leaders hadn't agreed to this motion being put forward and hadn't agreed to the contents of this motion, Mr. Speaker. Had there been agreement between House leaders, this motion would have flowed very, very quickly and would have been agreed to.
Furthermore, Mr. Speaker, on occasions where there has been a disagreement in this House - just recently, yesterday - the House leaders were sent out to discuss it and resolve it. Again, that was not the case. We took a brief recess while the House leaders got together and resolved the issue. In this case, I submit, that avenue wasn't even sanctioned, recognized or allowed.
Mr. Speaker, this deliberation you have before you is quite serious and we will respect the decision you provide.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, I rise to outline for you several points that have been noted by members opposite.
There was a suggestion that consultation was not undertaken by the House leader. Abusive responses by members opposite must be noted when the request was made.
The House leader for the government has undertaken and discussed this motion on many occasions with members opposite. The suggestion that this action is unprecedented, and where the call was for the question and the repeat - I would remind and respectfully submit to you that on occasions where there has been an agreement reached at House leaders' meetings, a motion has been called for by the Speaker and, yes indeed, read into the record, and as the Member for Klondike has noted, it passed very quickly. On occasions where the motion has not been agreed to, it has also been brought forward.
In the Committee of the Whole, there are many, many examples of this motion having been brought forward. I cite one from December 1996; the motions have not been read back. So the suggestion that there has been some shortfall in procedures by the Chair and, worse yet, allegations about the Chair are totally without basis and should be stricken from the record and withdrawn. To suggest that another member has behaved dishonourably should be withdrawn - let alone to call the Chair into question.
Regarding the shortfall in procedures, there has been none. It is outlined in the Hansard. On many occasions, this same motion has not been read back to members. Regarding the suggestion that the unanimous consent was not given, there was no "disagree" heard by any member sitting in this House, and there was no "disagree" voiced by any member sitting in this House. There was "agree". There was no "disagree" stated, and I would invite you respectfully, Mr. Speaker, to seek the audiotapes in that regard.
The arguments made many times in earlier debate that this is day 16 are completely spurious, Mr. Speaker. There has been no agreement on the length of this sitting; there has been none. Previous sittings in situations such as this have lasted four days. Previous general debates have lasted, at most, three and four days and, in the particular example of this session, it has gone on for 19 days. In previous debates on specific departments, the longest they have ever lasted has been 15 minutes and we have examples of two hours and 44. There has also been the suggestion that this side of the House is not prepared to work.
Mr. Speaker, we have indicated we are prepared to work. Our House leader and the acting House leader have brought forward the motion to extend hours on many occasions with opposition House leaders. The motion was brought forward again today. The motion was duly brought forward in this House as it should have been. I submit to you that all procedures were followed correctly by both the Chair and by the House leaders. Should we wish to reach agreement on these issues in the future that perhaps - although you are not asked on occasion to rule on House leaders' situations - you may consider making suggestions about the House leaders' meetings in your ruling, Mr. Speaker.
I respectfully request that we have done as we were asked to do and as the rules require.
Speaker: Do the members have any further comments?
I'm finding this very difficult, so I'm just going to ask the members if you are prepared to recess for 15 minutes while we prepare the ruling?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: Thank you.
Speaker: Order please. My apologies to all members for the issue at hand.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order, Mr. Speaker.
Point of order
Speaker: The Member for Watson Lake, on a point of order.
Mr. Fentie: Respectfully, Mr. Speaker, before you pass ruling on this motion before us this evening, I would like to point out a very important matter.
As the motion states that Committee of the Whole and the Assembly be empowered to sit from 7:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. for the purpose of continuing consideration of Bill No. 2, entitled First Appropriation Act, 2000-01, I would like to point out, Mr. Speaker, that the opposition benches were here present in the Legislature at 7:30 p.m. as the motion points out, and there was not a quorum.
Therefore, I would ask you, with all due respect, to rule this motion out of order and I move that the House do now adjourn.
Speaker: Order please. I thank the official opposition House leader for raising the point of order. However, a point of order cannot be raised while the Speaker is providing a ruling on another matter, and I will continue with the ruling on the appeal.
My apologies to all the members for the time it has taken. The issue at hand is extremely important and more time than anticipated was required to research the matter. The Chair has given consideration to the appeal to the ruling of the Chair of the Committee of the Whole respecting extension of sitting hours on this day.
The relevant events which lead to the appeal are as follows:
1. At approximately 4:55 p.m., the government House leader moved a motion, pursuant to Standing Order 2(7), that the Committee of the Whole and the Assembly be empowered to sit from 7:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m., for the purpose of continuing consideration of Bill No. 2, First Appropriation Act, 2000-01.
2. The Blues do not indicate that any member rose to speak to the motion and the Chair put the question to the Committee by stating "Are you agreed?"; the Blues further indicate that the motion was carried by those who said "Agreed" and that no recorded division was called for.
3. Later on, at approximately 5:25 p.m., the leader of the third party raised a point of order about the fact that the motion to extend hours had not been repeated by the Chair.
4. The Chair stated that the Chair had followed the normal practice followed in the Committee of the Whole and that there was not a point of order.
5. The leader of the third party then appealed the ruling of the Chair to the Speaker.
The Speaker appreciates the advice offered on the question by the leader of the official opposition, the leader of the third party and the Premier.
The leader of the official opposition stated that motions to extend hours were always read back to the House when they were being proposed without agreement having been reached between the House leaders.
It has not been possible in such a short time to be sure that every precedent has been found, but the Chair has reviewed a substantial number of motions to extend hours, including all of those cited by members in speaking to the matter. From that review, the Chair has found:
1. When the Speaker or the Deputy Speaker are in the Chair, a motion to extend sitting hours has been repeated by the Speaker or the Deputy Speaker to the House. That occurred on December 15, 1997 and April 30, 1998, which were the two precedents cited by the leader of the official opposition.
2. When the House has been in Committee of the Whole, the practice has not been for the Chair of Committee to repeat a motion to extend hours. Precedents of that, for members who may wish to review them, may be found on May 2, 1995; December 18, 1996; May 13, 1997; May 5, 1998; and, April 26, 1999.
The Chair finds, therefore, that the Chair of Committee of the Whole followed past practice in today's procedure.
The Chair, in reflecting on past practice and on today's events, would conclude that the Committee of the Whole has, in past Houses and continued on to this one, followed practices which do not meet the letter of the law in respect to our Standing Orders.
It is clear that the civility and trust that led to the adoption of those practices is no longer always in evidence and that the Chair of the Committee of the Whole is now going to have to adopt a much stricter approach to following the rules and the established procedures, as opposed to the past practice.
The difficulty, in making a finding in today's events, is that it is clear that the Chair did follow established past practice and that the Speaker will not overturn that decision.
However, the Speaker, by this ruling has to make clear to Committee that it has become obvious that the rules must now be followed much more strictly in Committee. The Speaker would recommend that the Chair review many of the practices of the Committee to determine whether they are in strict accordance with the Standing Orders and to take such action as is necessary to ensure compliance. The Chair and Committee should be aware that, in the future, rulings on appeals will be focused on the Standing Orders. The practices of the Committee which fall beyond the bounds of these rules will have no influence on Speaker's rulings.
Again, to repeat, the Speaker does not find that the Chair went outside the established practice in the Committee of the Whole and will not overturn the decision of the Chair.
The Speaker will now leave the Chair and the House will revert to Committee of the Whole.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Speaker: The Member for Watson Lake, on a point of order.
Mr. Fentie: I refer you to the matter, Mr. Speaker, of the motion, which states, as I pointed out earlier, that the time for reconvening the House shall be 7:30 p.m. The opposition benches were present in the House at 7:30 p.m. and there was not a quorum. As far as the time being now five minutes to eight, I would respectfully ask that you rule this motion out of order and I move that the House do now adjourn.
Speaker: Order please. I thank the Member for Watson Lake for bringing this matter to my attention.
The House technically never did take a break in the period between 5:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., and it is accepted parliamentary practice that the Speaker may set the House down for a period while preparing a ruling. When the Speaker returns, the House takes up where it left off. Therefore, the Speaker will now leave the Chair and the House will revert to Committee of the Whole.
Speaker leaves the Chair
Chair: I now call Committee of the Whole to order. Is there any further general debate on Renewable Resources?
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Chair: Member for Watson Lake, on a point of order.
Mr. Fentie: Thank you, Mr. Chair. I would ask for a clarification on a matter. The Speaker has clearly ruled that the decision on the matter of extending hours in this Legislature was based, not on the Standing Orders, but on past practices. In that case, I would like to point out to you Standing Order 1(1). It's called the general rule.
It states: "In all cases not provided in these Standing Orders or by sessional or other orders, the practices and procedures of the House of Commons of Canada, as in force at the time, shall be followed, so far as they may apply to this Assembly." I would ask you to rule on that ruling, Mr. Chair.
Chair: There's no point of order. If you're asking us to question every piece of the legislation in this, that is not what it's about. Do you have a point on this, or will you use this in reference to anything that's being done in the House currently?
Mr. Fentie: Mr. Chair, that's exactly what I've done. The Speaker has, in his own words, ruled that the decision here was made on past practices, not based on the Standing Orders. If you refer to the Standing Orders on page 20, Standing Order 20(5), when it comes to a motion: "Before a motion is debated, it shall be read from the Chair." The ruling by the Speaker is one of precedent and is based on past practices and I believe contravenes the rule of general application, Standing Order 1(1) and, as I read out, the House of Common's procedures then apply in this case.
Chair: Mr. Fentie, you're asking if this is applicable under the House of Commons rules? The procedures of the House of Commons would be reflected here. There are rules and regulations in the House of Commons that are allowed to lapse under the Speaker's orders. Under the rules of the House of Commons, they do lapse just like they did here according to the customs and procedures of the House. So, in this case the House of Commons has no precedence here because the procedure of the House of Commons was reflected very much the same way it was reflected here in the fact that some rules are allowed to lapse according to the civility and demeanour of the House.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order, Mr. Chair.
Point of order
Chair: Mr. Jenkins, on a point of order.
Mr. Jenkins: I move the Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Chair: We're going to assist the leader of the third party in rewording his motion since, currently, it would be out of order. So, if you just want to give us a second here, we'll give you a hand with your motion.
If you would actually move it that it had been moved by the leader of the third party that the Chair do now leave the Chair, rather than the Speaker resuming the Chair.
Mr. Jenkins: Thank you very much, Mr. Chair. Well, I move that the Chair do now leave the Chair and the Speaker resume -
Chair: It has been moved by the leader of the third party that the Chair do now leave the Chair. Are we agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Some Hon. Members: Disagreed.
Chair: Division has been called. It has been moved by the leader of the third party that the Chair do now leave the Chair.
Chair: Would those in favour please rise.
Chair: Thank you. Would those opposed, please rise.
Chair: The nays have it. I declare the motion defeated.
Chair: Is there any further general debate on Renewable Resources?
Point of order
Mr. Fentie: I'm asking for clarification on a rule in the Standing Orders of this Legislative Assembly. I would ask then that the Speaker resume the Chair to give us clarification on this matter.
Chair: Mr. Fentie, there is no point of order. Members cannot ask the Speaker for advice or clarification. It's in the Standing Orders.
We'll now continue with general debate on Renewable Resources.
Department of Renewable Resources - continued
Chair: Is there any further general debate?
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Chair, I'm waiting for an answer from the minister. I asked the question some two hours ago; he still hasn't answered it.
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Chair, with all due respect and the time lapse, I would ask the member opposite to repeat the question.
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Chair, I wasn't expecting this. Okay, I think this is what it was. The agricultural policy and grazing lease policy evaluations; I asked when will they be released. When will it be announced?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Chair, the draft policy review is presently being reproduced in quantity enough for distribution, and I believe that the response to the review will occur in the fall.
Mr. McRobb: Well, that's interesting, Mr. Chair. Can the minister indicate if that will be early fall or late fall, and how extensive the new policies will be that he is expecting out of this review, once it's released?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Chair, I'm not exactly precise on the time period within the fall, but I will get back to the member with a more definitive time.
Mr. McRobb: Okay, Mr. Chair. I'd like to ask the minister - I have a few other questions here. I'd like to ask about outfitter quotas. What is the status of outfitter quotas?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Just before I provide an answer to the member opposite, there's a point of clarification. Before the extended break and the continuance of review of the Renewable Resource budget, the member opposite had insinuated that, on this side of the House, I'd received a note from the Premier. I would like to set the record straight that it was a note handed to me by the ADM for Renewable Resources from our briefing book. So, just for a point of clarification on that.
Now to answer the question, I believe the question was what is the status of the outfitter quota discussions. The department, in co-operation with the Teslin, Alsek, Selkirk, Dawson district and Mayo district renewable resource councils has established moose and caribou quotas with 12 outfitters. One of the outfitters accessed the quota appeal committee as provided for in the guidelines and was subsequently placed on moose and caribou quotas. Discussions with an outfitter in the Little Salmon-Carmacks traditional territory and the Carmacks Renewable Resource Council are currently ongoing.
Mr. McRobb: I would like to thank the minister for that and move on to the issue of the bison herd. Can the minister provide us with an update on the status of the agreement between the department and my constituent, Mr. LaPrairie?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: It is with pleasure that I answer this question, because I have formally written to the member's constituent. He asked, through the department, to sit down and meet with me on this issue and I responded in a letter to him that I would meet at a time mutually convenient. He responded back that he couldn't take time out because of the business of the summer season and that we would meet, I believe, in early September. I could verify that and get back to the member.
Mr. McRobb: That's fine, Mr. Chair. Does the minister anticipate any other agreements and has he been requested by anybody for any similar agreement?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Chair, I don't believe there are any other agreements at this time. I have been advised that a couple of other farmers have expressed an interest. But I, again, repeat that there have been no specific agreements set.
Mr. McRobb: Does the minister anticipate there will be an agreement following those other requests?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Chair, that is rather speculative at this time, and would respect the farmers themselves approaching and discussing the issues with department officials before I commit there.
Mr. McRobb: Well, Mr. Chair, I guess I'll have to keep an eye on the newspaper to follow up on that matter.
The Fortymile caribou herd has been an issue with the department for some time. Can the minister advise what the status of the management of the herd is at this time?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Chair, I did have a meeting with the Yukon Fish and Wildlife Management Board and this issue was discussed. As it stands right now, there is a committee being struck. I still have to contact the chief from Dawson to verify the constituents of the committee. As soon as we do that, then the committee would be responsible for determining the management aspects of the Fortymile herd and follow through with recommendations back to the Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in, as well as myself.
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Chair, I understand that a subcommittee has been struck to help develop the harvest plan. Can the minister indicate whether there have been any appointments to this working group?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Chair, as I understand it, there are a number of individuals who have been recommended both to the department and to the Chief of the Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in. I still have to follow through, I understand, with the chief to discuss the constituents of the committee.
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Chair, are these appointments to the subcommittee made in similar fashion to other appointments to Yukon boards? Is it something that would be possible to be included in the all-party committee?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Chair, unfortunately, I don't have that document with me at this time, but as I understand it - and I stand to be corrected - but I believe it was initiated by the Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in First Nation. The committee that's being struck is an agreement between the Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in and the Department of Renewable Resources.
Mr. McRobb: Is the minister contemplating any kind of a predator control program to help rebuild the numbers in this herd?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Chair, is the member opposite still referring to the Fortymile herd?
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: With all due respect to the committee that is being put forward, the government does appreciate that management for the recovery of this herd in Alsek is a complex issue, given the various jurisdictions and interests. However, expansion of the herd into the former range could revitalize the biodiversity of the area and the presently depleted ecosystem in central Yukon. The department believes that the Fortymile caribou herd management plan will accomplish this goal. That plan will be determined by the committee.
So, again, I would not want to prejudge the efforts of the committee.
The Fortymile caribou herd working group, as it's being referred to, was established through the Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in final agreement, and the working group will advise both me and the Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in on habitat management and protection that contributes to the efforts to promote growth of this herd. So it is with the components and constituents of the committee that the charge and responsibility will be let and we'll consider their recommendations.
Mr. McRobb: Is the minister suggesting that some kind of a predator control program might be coming out of this subcommittee that's looking at this matter? Is that possible?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: At this particular time, I'm not sure and I'm not suggesting that predator control will be occurring in this area. I leave that up to the committee. The committee is constituted of members from the Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in, who know the area very, very well and will provide recommendations back to the Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in First Nation and the department, and we'll consider their recommendations.
Mr. McRobb: Well, I find it interesting that now we discover there is the possibility of another predator control program. When we discussed this issue earlier, it was only the Alsek Renewable Resource Council that was deliberating on such a decision. Can the minister explain that and also indicate if there are any other boards and committees, or sub-committees, out there who might also be dealing with a wolf kill situation.
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Chair, I have not once said that from this side - and the member is going off on his usual tangents, putting words in my mouth that I have not spoken. I have indicated that, respecting the collective knowledge of the members of the committee, we will seriously consider their recommendations when they come back to the Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in First Nation and the Department of Renewable Resources. We defer to their experience, their expertise, their knowledge and we'll let them do their job. I believe that at this time there was no discussion with respect to what the member opposite has suggested.
Mr. McRobb: Well, Mr. Chair, the member can accuse me of fear-mongering or being paranoid or going to extremes - whatever he wants; whatever language he cares to use - that's fine with me. I can take it. But, let me say that it doesn't represent modelling professional behaviour on that side of the House. That's something they campaigned on. Instead, Mr. Chair, we get the poke in the eye.
Now, what has been established here is that predator control programs are indeed an option that could be coming out of these multi-level processes. As we heard earlier, this government does not have a policy to deal with it. It's still under review. Well, that's unacceptable. This government should be letting Yukoners know where it stands on issues of this magnitude, to also help guide the work of these various councils, committees and subcommittees.
If they know it's off the table, maybe they can expend their energies in more productive options. Some of these options are not on the table. Instead, the minister wants to leave all the options open and not represent the positions they took in being elected to government; positions that his own party members and colleagues have taken publicly in the past. So, I would like him, when he gets back on his feet, to explain that a little bit - how Yukoners find any certainty in the lack of policy represented from this minister.
Now, can the minister assure us that there are no other herds in the territory where predator control is being investigated?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: No, not at this time.
Mr. McRobb: All right. I'd like to move on to the Aishihik herd, and ask about the status of the program there.
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Chair, the final, internal draft was completed in November of last year. The draft was sent out for technical reviews by three independent academic advisers, Dr. A. Sinclair from the University of British Columbia, Dr. B. McLellan, B.C. Ministry of Forestry, and Dr. S. Boutin, University of Alberta. These reviews have been received and their comments have been addressed. The paper is being prepared for publication in the Journal of Wildlife Management where it will undergo another peer review. The publication draft will be available to the public by mid-May of 2000.
The plain-language report will be prepared on the findings from the Aishihik report. This will be available to the public later this year.
Mr. McRobb: Can this minister give this House some indication of the evaluation of this program? Was it successful? Was it not successful? Is there a recommendation to repeat it elsewhere, and so on, or do we have to wait until later this year when the report is released from the printers?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Chair, as I just indicated, the plain-language report will be prepared and submitted for review and comment and will contain the recommendations, and then follow-up decisions will be made from that report.
Mr. McRobb: Can the minister provide us with some numbers and what the calf recruitment looks like for this year and the total population of that herd?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: I don't have that information with me right now, but I would be willing to find it and provide it to the member later.
Mr. McRobb: Yes, okay, that's fine.
I'd like to move on now to an issue that was raised in this House last year, about the hunting signs in the traditional territory of the Selkirk First Nation. Can the minister give us an update on that matter, please?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: I understand that the department is still in discussions with the renewable resource council for that area and that the discussions are ongoing with respect to the signage.
Mr. McRobb: I'm sorry, I didn't quite catch all of that answer. Can he also indicate what the government's position is on this matter?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Senior officials with the department had the opportunity to meet with the Selkirk Renewable Resource Council in early February. This meeting provided the necessary forum for the parties to exchange their views and interests and to work toward a mutually acceptable agreement on the management interests identified by the Selkirk Renewable Resource Council. The Yukon government is continuing to encourage the removal of the signs, in light of the impact to public harvesting interests.
The Selkirk Renewable Resource Council and Government of Yukon acknowledge the need for cooperative approaches to address management interests. The reporting and decision-making roles, as contained in the First Nation final agreement, provide the means to ensure required approvals are in place prior to an action being taken that may impact on the public management of the resource.
So, Mr. Chair, the discussions are continuing presently between the department and the Selkirk Renewable Resource Council.
Mr. McRobb: Well, Mr. Chair, I asked the minister what the position of his government was on this. From what I gather from his response, it's basically under review, and there are some discussions with other parties on it. Can the minister indicate what direction he has given his department in dealing with this matter?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Chair, I'm beginning to believe that the concept of negotiation and discussion between two parties is an alien exercise that the member opposite is unaware of. I just indicated in my answer to him that the Yukon government is continuing to encourage the removal of signs in light of public harvesting interests. The respect that we're showing in the negotiation phase with the Selkirk Renewable Resource Council is in place, and will continue to be in place, as this government works cooperatively with other parties and interests.
Mr. McRobb: Well, I recognize that, Mr. Chair, and the minister made that very clear when he read his previous response. I don't need to be jabbed in the eye again, but this minister is not indicating the position of his government on this matter. He's referring it to further process, just like buying out the claims in Tombstone, Mr. Chair. We're not getting an indication of what direction he wants the government to take and that's what I'm asking for. Can he give us a clue, at least, as to which direction he is hoping this matter will go in?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: The Yukon government is continuing to encourage the removal of the signs in light of the impact to public harvesting interests.
Mr. McRobb: Okay, it looks like the minister is spitting out his briefing note on that matter. We'll move on.
I have a question on the moose harvest update for the McQuesten and Ethel lakes area. Can the minister provide us with an update on that matter?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: The department and the Nacho Nyak Dun First Nation have agreed on an unlimited permit hunt for all moose hunters on these two lakes for the purpose of gaining detailed harvest information. The department is presently working on developing a letter of understanding to formalize a permit hunt arranged with the NND. The regulation was scheduled to be place for the 2000-01 hunting season. However, because of the call by the former government for an election in April, and the need for all regulation proposals to go through the 60-day review under the Environment Act, it is not possible to implement the regulation this year. The department will work with NND to set up closer monitoring of moose harvests on these lakes by other means.
Mr. McRobb: Well, Mr. Chair, this minister is again blaming us for calling an election to disrupt work that's being done by people in the department. How does he explain that? People in the department are unconcerned about an election call. Why wasn't progress on this made in time for this hunting season?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Chair, what an insult that was to our public service, that they don't recognize that they have voting rights, that they have concerns and considerations and legitimate involvement during an election. The government of the day decided that they would call an election and, as the member opposite well knows, government almost comes to a halt during that process.
Mr. McRobb: Well, Mr. Chair, that's absolutely ridiculous. Once again, the Liberals are talking out of both sides of their mouth. When we talk about the dialysis machine with the Health minister, he asked, "Why didn't you do it? Why didn't you do it?" We said it was the beginning of an election campaign and we would have been buying votes, but now the member here says that work comes to a grinding halt during an election campaign. Which way is it? Which way does the member want to have it? He should get together with the Health minister and they should get their stories straight. They can't have it both ways.
He expects no work to be done way down in the department working on a management item, but yet his colleague expects the wheels to turn on getting a dialysis machine with a multi-year commitment for O&M to happen. It doesn't add up, Mr. Chair. They can't have it both ways, and if he's insulted by that, it's too bad because he's misreading the intent of the question.
Last weekend, his enforcement people were handing out tickets on the Tagish bridge. Now, if we would have called the election so it would have occurred at the end of June, Mr. Chair, does that mean the enforcement people wouldn't hand out tickets? That's ridiculous.
Mr. Chair, the minister is suggesting that the public service is politicized. It doesn't add up. There are a number of contradictions here and I think the minister should explain just what he means.
Chair: Order, please. I would ask members to please use parliamentary language; for example, "talking out of both sides of the mouth" can be construed as accusing the minister of being dishonest and we know, all of us, that we are all honest people here.
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Chair, the Mayo District Renewable Resource Council and the First Nation of Nacho Nyak Dun initiated a proposal for a regulation moose hunt on Ethel Lake and McQuesten Lake. The proposal was presented to the Fish and Wildlife Management Board by the MDRRC for public review in December, 1988. The Fish and Wildlife Board indicated that the MDRRC should make recommendations directly to the minister on this issue, as it is now a local matter.
Some of the recommendations made by the RRC were not accepted by the minister in April 1999 in a memorandum, because they were perceived as being unfair to Yukon hunters outside of Mayo, as a limited number of permits were available only in Mayo. As well, all harvest reporting was to occur through Mayo.
There were also concerns about how compliance by First Nation hunters would be enforced. So, what happened, Mr. Chair, was that the issue did get caught up in the election, where it did require ministerial approval and Cabinet review. So, during the interim, until the new government came into effect, that couldn't happen and, as it turned out, the issue - by the time the government got in, it was too late to set regulations for this year.
Therefore, the proposal by the department that the regulations that were scheduled to be in the 2000-01 year couldn't occur. Respecting that it does have to go through a 90-day review, it just pushed it all the way back. The department will work to set up an alternate method of monitoring for this season.
Mr. McRobb: I would like to thank the minister for that. I notice he didn't address the matter of department people not being able to continue this kind of work during an election campaign, and possibly for good reason, Mr. Chair - because it doesn't add up.
Now, I'd like to move to the Porcupine caribou herd and ask the minister what the status of that herd is.
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Chair, just a point of clarification to, hopefully, qualify the answer provided to the Member for Kluane on the previous question. That is, due to the election and due to timelines and review processes that did require ministerial and Cabinet approvals, the timeline was pushed beyond what could realistically be accomplished to get the regulation in place. So, with all due respect to the department, they could not act on some things because of the fact that ministerial involvement was required, as well as Cabinet approval. Therefore, I'm sure that the department officials did continue to function at full capacity, but I'm sure the member opposite realizes there is the need for political-level involvement in some of these processes. So, I would hope that that helps the member opposite.
With respect to the Porcupine caribou herd, the last official count on the herd occurred in 1998 and showed 129,000 head of caribou. The herd experienced an increase of approximately five percent per year until the herd size peaked in 1989 at 178,000 head. Since then, the herd has been in a rather slow decline of about three percent per year. The next count will be conducted in July of this year, a year earlier than was originally scheduled.
Mr. McRobb: Well, Mr. Chair, the minister says there is political involvement required in the moose harvest proposal, but what about the other example? What about the example of enforcement on angling on the Tagish bridge? Was there political involvement in that decision, as well?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: The situation just mentioned by the member opposite is not - most definitely not - a political aspect. It was merely a regulatory enforcement action by the department.
Mr. McRobb: Well, it's hard to determine exactly where this minister stands on these matters. Awhile ago he said the department personnel couldn't make any progress because of the election. I pointed out that the Health minister demanded progress during the election campaign with long-term O&M implications. The members know that. But, that was their number one defence then. We find out how hollow that is now. Now, if political involvement was required to develop the moose harvest proposal, is the minister saying that he wasn't asked before the enforcement people went out and started ticketing people on the Tagish bridge.
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: What I meant to do was enlighten the member opposite, but that enlightenment, I see, is going to take a little time. What I tried to explain to the member was that there are processes and approvals required at the political level by a minister, which is a political level in Cabinet, which is a political level. These are matters that involve regulatory aspects. So, it's incumbent that the information proceeds up through the deputy minister to Cabinet and then back down. The timing with the election did bump the timelines to far to instill the regulation.
Now, with respect to the follow-up, there is a clear distinction between what I do as minister and my discussions with the deputy minister, the assistant deputy minister, in that I don't meddle with the functions within the department, namely conservation officers, whose responsibility it is to enforce the regulations within the Wildlife Act. I don't tell them how to do their job. I don't tell them when to go out and do something specifically. It is the responsibility of the deputy minister and the assistant deputy minister to direct the actions of the department. That's their responsibility, not mine.
Mr. McRobb: Well, Mr. Chair, it's hard to determine just who is responsible for the actions of the department. On some matters he is; he likes to take control, but on other matters he isn't. Just a little further clarification is needed on this. Is the minister saying that this issue wasn't raised with him at all before the enforcement officers were sent out?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Chair, that would be micro-managing the department. No, it is not my responsibility to phone up the conservation officer and tell him to go out on patrol. That is not my responsibility; it is the responsibility assigned to the department and they have legislation that guides them and associated regulations that they enforce. Surely the member understands that.
Mr. McRobb: It is his responsibility to ensure the policy regulations are followed. What the minister is not addressing is the simple matter of who he discussed this matter with. I'm not suggesting he phones up an officer in the department and says, "Go get those guys, they're fishing off the bridge and I don't think they have licences." That's not the case here at all, Mr. Chair, and nor should it be, because the political level of this government should not have direct contact with people in the department, other than the deputy ministers or designates thereof.
My question is geared to that relationship between the minister and his deputy or designates, not between him and an enforcement officer in the department. I expect no contact between the two there at all. My question, and I'll have to ask it again until I get an answer that pertains to the question: in discussions with his departmental people, was this matter raised with him before the go-ahead was given to the enforcement officers?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Chair, no.
Chair: The time being 9:00 p.m., do members wish to take a brief recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: The ayes have it. We will take a brief, 10-minute recess.
Chair: I now call Committee of the Whole to order. We will continue with general debate on the Department of Renewable Resources.
Mr. McRobb: We left off discussing the status of the Porcupine caribou herd. Can the minister give us an indication of what the calf recruitment numbers are like this year? We know there has been a problem in the location of the herd as expressed by the Vuntut Gwitchin. Can he provide us with an update on that as well, please?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: As I indicated just before the break, the next count will be July of this year and that will provide greater accuracy. When I do have the information, I'll pass it on.
Mr. McRobb: Okay, Mr. Chair. About the Porcupine Caribou Management Board, let's start with an update on this. Can the minister provide us with an update on this board? I understand there is a funding issue. Has that been resolved?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: I am not aware if there is a funding issue at this time. I do know that the government did provide an additional $25,000 to the PCMB to raise the profile, but that's all that I'm aware of.
Mr. McRobb: Well, all right. Is there any new money to kick-start the lobby to protect the Porcupine caribou herd? As the minister is no doubt aware, there is a lot of concern about the matter, given the political state in the United States, with the election this coming fall, especially regarding the position of George W. Bush with respect to developing the habitat area of the herd.
Can the minister indicate if there are any plans to provide some more funds so this lobby can try again?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Chair, in June of last year, as I'm sure the member opposite is aware, there was a contribution of $100,000 to the Porcupine Caribou Management Board explicitly for that purpose.
Mr. McRobb: Well, Mr. Chair, not only am I aware of what happened a year ago, I'm also aware that the Liberals attacked us for providing that money to the lobby group. That's one reason why I'm asking him now if the government has any intention to provide more money so there can be more lobby efforts before time runs out.
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Chair, I'm not aware at this time if there is going to be any additional funding.
Mr. McRobb: Well, can the minister indicate whether there have been any requests for funding from any individuals at this point?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Chair, I don't believe there have been any additional requests at this time.
Mr. McRobb: All right, Mr. Chair. We have several issues piling up for another day, but it's getting pretty late tonight and we'll move on to an issue that I'm sure the minister is aware of. It's the Mt. Nansen, BYG mine site. Can the minister provide us with an update on what's happening there please?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Chair, I'm sure the member opposite is also aware, that's a federal jurisdiction. Water resources within DIAND are addressing that problem.
Mr. McRobb: Well, sure it's a federal matter but the fact is it's within the boundaries of the territory, and the minister knows that, with devolution around the corner, it won't be long before he has the responsibility for it. In addition, there's the responsibility under the Environment Act and the Liberals committed to enforcing it. This is not a matter the minister can just wash his hands of and hope it'll go away or hope somebody else will resolve it. What is the plan of the government at this stage to address this matter and deal with it?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Chair, there is a working relationship between the Department or Renewable Resources and DIAND. It is the responsibility right now of DIAND and they do keep us apprised of the ongoing clean up. DIAND water resources has received a water licence to undertake an emergency care and maintenance operation and that is their responsibility. We're being kept apprised of the situation and the member is incorrect when he suggests that I would be negligent in assuming the responsibilities through devolution.
Mr. McRobb: It's funny how they have a close relationship on some matters like this, but a distant relationship on matters when exploration leases are granted. Again, it's a case of whatever seems to suit them the best on any given day. The fact is that this is a serious problem. The Yukon government sat in the review of this process. Many Yukoners are concerned, including people in the mining community, of future bad examples like this, giving the territory and miners a black eye. Many Yukoners want this matter to be addressed. Can the minister indicate whether he or his government have put any thought to developing a policy regarding abandonment and environmental liability?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: That's an assumption that will occur during devolution.
Mr. McRobb: Well, I'm struggling with this, because if everything is put off till devolution, how are Yukoners going to know what to expect in the future? There's an opportunity now for the government to be listening to Yukoners. The minister indicates he prides himself on listening to Yukoners and how important public consultation is, but we're seeing a void of policy at the political level and this is to the detriment of the environment and the territory.
It goes further than that. As mentioned, the mining community - the mining industry - also wants to avoid similar disasters in the future and feel that something definitely should be done to handle, control or prevent such situations in the future.
My question was a simple one. I'd like to know if any thought has been put into how to handle this by the minister or the government. Certainly we could wait for devolution, but what do we expect then? Are these decisions made instantly once devolution happens? There are plenty of applications before the mining recorder right now and into the Canadian environmental assessment process. This government is promoting mining exploration in the territory. What happens if a mine permit is approved in the meantime?
We saw the example of the five-year exploration permit being granted for Canadian United Minerals in the Tombstone Park. Well, Mr. Chair, following that issue when it was raised in Question Period, the minister indicated if no buyout could be had, there will be a mine in the middle of this park - simple as that. Unless his negotiations to buy out the mine are successful, there will be a mine in the park.
Well, Mr. Chair, I suppose I could be accused of fear-mongering once again but, as the member knows, you have to examine the worst probability in matters like this and what if there's another BYG up there? What if? And what if it's too late for devolution to handle it? Does the government not have a contingency plan or interim policy to deal with these matters?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Chair, the member opposite just managed to ask a question at length that took in the federal government and the responsibilities of the minister of devolution. We are acting in a very responsible way, I believe. There is dialogue occurring between this government and the federal government. There was a letter just recently sent to Mr. Nault encouraging, in fairly strong language, more cooperation by the local officials of DIAND, and that would also include the processes of policy transfer and policy assimilation into government through devolution processes.
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Chair, when he mentions a closer working relationship with DIAND, I am reminded of the recent employees who came to work for this Liberal government and also the close relationship they have with the Prime Minister's Office - the PMO - in setting up their government. It has cost thousands of dollars and we're trying to identify just how much it will cost Yukon taxpayers to bring up those people from Ottawa to set up this government. Where's their local hire policy there?
The fact is, they're relying on DIAND, all right. They're relying on DIAND to make all the decisions for them. They point to devolution. Everything's in the process. If it's not under review there's some committee or process involved.
The government is void of any position or any leadership - leadership is the word, Mr. Chair - on these issues. The member has been, in his previous life, involved in these types of matters. He knows how serious they are to Yukoners. Yukoners expect some leadership from the Yukon government on issues like abandonment of mines and environmental liability, especially when the owners of the mine pack up and leave. Who pays for it then?
After devolution, Mr. Chair, we know who's going to pay for it. It'll be Yukon taxpayers, because any mine that started after the point of devolution - the feds will wash their hands of it. It's now a matter for the Yukon taxpayers. What happens if a mine is developed in the interim period and there's no policy? Where does the government stand on that?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Well, again, Mr. Chair, the member opposite has danced through all kinds of portfolio responsibilities on this side of the House, but I will try to capture those responsibilities within Renewable Resources.
Mirrored legislation will be occurring at the time of devolution. That means that actions like CEAA will become Yukon CEAA and after CEAA, there will be the development of the development assessment process.
We are very cognizant of environmental liabilities and, as it so happens, if there are any problems or issues on Canada's watch, then that will be their issue and, after transfer, if there are any problems on our watch, then it will be our responsibility. We're certainly aware, and we'll deal with those situations.
Mr. McRobb: Well, Mr. Chair, we can agree on that. It will be the Yukon government's responsibility, and that's exactly the problem. If there's a liability, the bill will be passed to Yukon taxpayers and it could be an enormous bill.
We're looking at something in the magnitude that could cancel out all major capital projects for a number of years in the territory, to pay for reclamation or maintenance costs of another disaster. Yukoners simply can't afford that. I'm sure the minister can agree with that. But what happens if, somehow, through the cracks, a mine gets going, and it's after the bell strikes midnight, and the feds say, "It's your problem now, Yukon; you fix it."
Mr. Chair, what I'm worried about is that our successors, at some point down the road in this Legislature, are going to be reviewing the Hansard of this extended sitting, looking back on this discussion with some disgust, wondering why there wasn't an undertaking from this minister to develop a contingency plan to ensure that the problem mine of that day didn't fall through the cracks as it did.
Mr. Chair, I would like to ask the minister if he would consider developing some kind of a contingency policy to ensure that doesn't happen.
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Chair, yes.
Mr. McRobb: When might I ask the minister in the future about a progress report on that. Perhaps in the fall Legislature, or a year from now, or two years from now? When might be an appropriate time, in his opinion, to ask him that question?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: There is a possibility it could be within a year, around devolution time.
Mr. McRobb: Well, Mr. Chair, I'm not sure if that's satisfactory. Part of my concern, as I have laboriously spelled out, is: what if there is a mine in the meantime? What if there is a mine in the meantime? What if Canadian United Minerals says, hey, we found a good place to mine here, and they set up shop and, you know, something unexpected happens, and there's a tremendous liability for Yukon taxpayers that somehow slipped between the cracks. Does the minister not feel that it would be responsible to have an interim policy in effect now, during this interim period, and not simply wait a year or so for it to happen?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Chair, if there were to be a mine development in the territory now and if it incurred a water licensing requirement, that would be the federal responsibility. After devolution it will be our responsibility.
Mr. McRobb: Well, Mr. Chair, I'm prepared to move on, but I do want to leave a message on the record for our predecessors down the road, and that is I'm sorry we weren't able to establish more here tonight, should we look back with regret at the particular discussion tonight and say, "If only we had done more. If only we had done more at that time, it never would have turned out like it did."
And with that, Mr. Chair, I'd like to move on. I have several other issues here. Perhaps this one here is the most appropriate at this stage. Can the minister give us an update on testing horses in the Yukon for swamp fever?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Chair, if the member opposite would just give me a moment, I'd like to confer with a colleague on the back bench; she might be able to help me out. Would you allow me that privilege?
Mr. Chair, the Yukon Horsemans Association does require that all horses be tested for the item the member mentioned - the swamp fever situation. It is a problem in Alberta so we do have to safeguard here and there are safeguard measures in place.
Mr. McRobb: Well, Mr. Chair, at risk of being accused of sucking slough water on this one, I would like to follow up and ask him if the government would pay for comprehensive testing for swamp fever?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Chair, isn't this amazing? I really hope Yukoners are listening to this on the radio - $1,500 an hour.
Mr. Chair, I understand that that is not something that this government will do, no.
Mr. McRobb: All right. There's a meal out for all the swamp monsters out there, Mr. Chair.
I would like to point out to the member, when he questions the legitimacy of these questions, that it was the Acting Premier on his side in our first sitting, I believe, who was asking questions about the colour of the Jell-O at the hospital, and that was in the all-night sitting that went to 6:30 a.m.
Fortunately, we are going to be off the hook here in less than an hour and we know it won't get to that. I believe that was about 2:30 a.m. in the morning - what colour was the Jell-O at the Whitehorse General Hospital, and she was making an extended case for that there should be more than just green Jell-O at that time. And I recall this specifically, because I was Chair of Committee of the Whole that night and I struggled through the whole conversation. When it came to flush toilets, I think at about 3:30 a.m. in the morning, I did ask for a break.
So, we're still a ways away from that one.
The next issue on my list is: what's the status of the beverage container program?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Chair, 82.7 percent of refundable bottles and cans were returned to the recycling depots in 1998-99, compared to 91.2 percent in 1997-98. It takes time for people to become aware of new container types and this may have resulted in the decline of rates in the short term.
Under an annual auditing program, distributors and depots are checked to see if they are paying the proper surcharge to the recycling fund. Five distributors and two depots will be checked during the 2000-01 and following fiscal years.
Mr. McRobb: I try to follow with great interest, probably because his Premier liked to pursue the matter of recycling so fervently during her term in opposition, but I didn't quite follow the part about the decline in rates in the short term. Is he talking about return rates when he says that?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: March 31, 1999, financial statements showed a closing balance in the recycling fund of $440,708. The balance provides the necessary reserve of approximately three months' cashflow in the beverage container program.
Mr. McRobb: That didn't answer the question, but I'm prepared to move on. Can the minister indicate what's happening in regard to audits as far as the depots and distributors are concerned?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Audits of distributors and depots will help to determine the level of compliance with the regulations and will improve the government's visibility with respect to enforcement of illegal imports. Illegal imports are beverages imported and sold in the Yukon without having the appropriate surcharge remitted to the recycling fund. Program managers are reviewing freight costs in cooperation with the Department of Finance, Yukon Liquor Corporation and Raven Recycling Society. Freight costs for bringing empty containers to Whitehorse from the community depots have been on the rise for several years.
Mr. McRobb: That brings us to this question: what's this government planning to do about the Tetra Pak charge?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Deposits on tin and Tetra Pak beverage containers were added to the system on July 1, 1998. With these changes, all non-dairy beverage containers are captured by the deposit refund system. This means a level playing field for Yukon beverage distributors.
Mr. McRobb: Well, Mr. Chair, there is some misunderstanding here. I didn't ask the minister to read his briefing note and describe what Tetra Pak charges are. You know, we on this side of the House, and many on that side of the House, are well aware of what Tetra Pak charges are, because we certainly heard a lot about Tetra Pak charges from the Premier when she was in opposition. The question was: what is the government planning to do about the deposit charge on Tetra Pak beverage containers?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Maintain the status quo.
Mr. McRobb: Maintaining the status quo and sweeping it under the rug, Mr. Chair. Are there any plans to change this after this budget year?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Chair, I just answered the member opposite. We're going to maintain things as is.
Mr. McRobb: Well, Mr. Chair, it's hard to understand how they could be so upset with things when they're on this side of the Legislature and so complacent about the same things when they're on that side. You know, Yukoners heard about Tetra Paks from the Premier very frequently when she was in opposition. She liked to write about it in her newsletters, she liked to raise it during motion discussion, she liked to characterize it as a tax and use it as a club to hit us over the head with. Now, all of a sudden, everything's fine. It's hunky-dory. The beverage Tetra Pak deposit is there and they don't want to change it.
Mr. Chair, I would like to remind the members that they're in government now. They have the will to implement their view, perspective and position on these types of issues, including this one. It just seems a little startling, Mr. Chair, to find it's being swept under the rug right now.
Can the minister indicate if they really aren't planning any changes, not only in this budget year, but in future budget years?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Chair, I had indicated to the member opposite that we were going to maintain the status quo, and I won't speculate what's going to happen in the next budget.
Mr. McRobb: Well, Mr. Chair, I guess I'll just file that under "say one thing in opposition and another in government".
Another issue is the Marwell tar pit. Can the minister provide us with an update on that issue, please?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: I assume, Mr. Chair, that the minister opposite is asking for a status. The Yukon government has asked the Government of Canada to assume responsibility for cleaning up the Marwell tar pit, as it continues to pose risks to public health and the environment. This government is actively pursuing that course of action.
Mr. McRobb: And how is it pursuing that course of action, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Chair, the reason we're pursuing that course of action is that the Yukon government does not bear any responsibility for the contamination of this site.
Mr. McRobb: And has the Yukon government asked anyone else to do exactly that?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Chair, has the government asked whom?
Mr. McRobb: Well, anyone else. For instance, the federal government.
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Chair, that was the first response that I gave the member opposite.
Mr. McRobb: Well, all right, and if the federal government says no, what happens then, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Chair, if the federal government does not take action to clean up this site, we will consider taking legal action.
Mr. McRobb: Can the minister provide us with some sort of a timeline on what to expect in terms of any developments in this matter, and also indicate what they are currently doing regarding identifying responsible parties and so on for the site?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Chair, if the member had read a little further, he would have seen that the department is currently working to identify responsible parties for the historic contamination of the site.
Mr. McRobb: Okay, Mr. Chair, he answered my question by saying that they're currently working to do exactly that, and that's fine. I wanted to hear it in his words.
On the matter of border water management, can the minister give us a status update on the reciprocal arrangement on border waters with the B.C. government?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Yes, Mr. Chair, there is a B.C.-Yukon Intergovernmental Relations Accord, or an environmental harmonization agreement, and the B.C.-Yukon Intergovernmental Relations Accord was signed by the Premier of B.C. and the Yukon Government Leader on September 30, 1997.
Mr. McRobb: Is the minister indicating that the government is prepared to proceed on it, and would such an arrangement include Atlin Lake?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Chair, I'm not sure at this time if it does include Atlin Lake. I will find out and get back to the member.
Mr. McRobb: All right, that's fair, Mr. Chair.
I'd like to move on now to sport fishing licences for Yukon and Alaska. Can the minister give us an update on this please?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Chair, I believe that the State of Alaska is currently working on state legislation addressing these issues, as is Yukon and Canada, so that, when their legislation process has been completed, we will have corresponding legislation ready.
Mr. McRobb: I've gotten some indications that Alaska has passed their act. Am I correct in interpreting those indications, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Chair, as I understand it, there are two levels of approval required within the Alaskan State Legislature, and it has passed through one process and will be proceeding into the next.
Mr. McRobb: All right, Mr. Chair. Just to ensure there's no confusion, can the minister clearly identify the names of the processes - the first process and the second one we're waiting for, in Alaska?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Chair, not being an American, I'm not sure of the legislative processes within the State of Alaska but, if the member wishes, I could certainly provide that answer for him at a later time.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order, Mr. Chair.
Point of order
Chair: Mr. Jenkins, on a point of order.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, the temperature in here is set at 55 degrees. It's just about 80 degrees. Is there any way you can turn the heat down? If the Liberal government of the day is going to display their complete incompetence here in the House by keeping us here this late, at least they can make the Legislature temperature reasonable and acceptable. This is totally, totally unreasonable.
Chair: The temperature of the House is not covered under any rule of the Standing Orders. I will make a point to make a note of it and get it to the appropriate authority.
Mr. Jenkins: I move that the House do now adjourn because of the temperature of the Chamber here.
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: Hold on. There is a process now, remember?
Chair: The motion is out of order. We are in Committee now and this was the last motion moved, and the House cannot be adjourned from Committee. So, the motion is out of order.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Chair: On a point of order, Mr. Jenkins.
Mr. Jenkins: On a point of order, working conditions have to be reasonable. The temperature in the establishment that you ask individuals to be seated in for extended periods of time has to be reasonable. The air circulation here this evening is not adequate. Now, if you want, you can get Workers' Compensation in here, and they can give you the statistics and check it out. If that's what we have to do, I'll write a letter. But if we're going to be seated here for extended periods of time, late into the evening, Mr. Chair, it is totally unreasonable that we have to endure these sweltering conditions. The fans aren't even moving. Why can't we get a Chamber where the temperature can be set to normal room temperature and maintain that?
Now, the side opposite probably doesn't know the difference between cold and hot. But Mr. Chair, it would be nice if we had a Chamber where the temperature could be set at a reasonable level and maintained at that level.
Some Hon. Member: On the point of order, Mr. Chair.
Chair: On the point of order, Ms. Duncan.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, on the point of order, there has been more than a quorum present throughout the entire debate this evening. We've been here several hours in this evening debate and there have been no other complaints registered with respect to the heat, and the quorum has maintained its presence here in the House. With all due respect, you have indicated that you are prepared to have the temperature examined and steps taken, in due course. In the meantime, may I suggest we move on with debate?
Some Hon. Member: On the point of order.
Chair: Mr. Jenkins, on the point of order.
Mr. Jenkins: I raised this subject earlier in the House today. It was just after 5:00 p.m. that I raised the subject and it was going to be looked at over the dinner hour which didn't occur. I don't even believe that whoever is responsible for this issue took it up with the appropriate authorities. If they did, nothing happened, Mr. Chair. Now, I'm sure the Government Services minister could just get on the telephone and get someone over here to adjust the temperature downward, but why should we have to endure these kind of temperatures and lack of air movement and circulation at this time? This is totally unreasonable and unacceptable, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Fentie: On the point of order, I would just like to follow up on the Member for Klondike's point. I distinctly recall him raising this matter before we broke for the Speaker to review and rule on the motion that has us sitting here with extended hours. I don't believe that anybody did manage to look into the system. I do find it quite warm, myself; however, I think the member has a valid point and we should attempt to do something. At least turn on the fan here and try to get some air moving; it shouldn't be that difficult. If that fails, we should have the Minister of Government Services delve into this matter and solve the problem in this legislature.
Chair: On the point of order, there is no point of order. There are no rules in the book to cover this. As an explanation of what happened at 5:30 p.m., it was called to the attention of the Clerk of the House. At the time the Clerk of the House was recalled to the House to take care of a second, subsequent point of order that happened quickly after that. As a result, there was not immediate attention paid to it and it will be looked at.
We now resume general debate.
Mr. McRobb: Let it stand on the record that I also find it unbearably hot in here.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. McRobb: There is very poor air circulation. I don't know if a lot of it is due to the company I keep in here, but whatever the reason we should at least open a door or two and get some circulation. Let the record also show that perhaps these unbearable conditions have reflected on the calibre of debate this evening. Particularly the swamp fever question.
I want to respond to the minister's previous answer, because I'm not happy with it. He said he's not an American. Well, so what? I'm not an American. I'm not aware of too many people here who are. Not too many of my constituents are Americans either, but many of them are concerned about this reciprocal agreement with the Americans. We don't have to be an American to find out what's going on over there, especially since the minister said that once they pass it there, it will pass here. Well, who's keeping an eye on this? Do we have to put an American on the payroll to find out or can somebody in his department or his office upstairs maybe get on the phone once in awhile and find out what's going on.
Now I'll ask the question again, and I'm asking him to help me out here. He has explained there are two processes involved in approving this legislation in Alaska. Now I have checked out the Web site for the Alaska government and I have got documentation on one of them. It was a bill passed in the Legislature of the State of Alaska, the Twenty-First Legislature, the second session. According to my notes here, it was offered on March 3, and I believe it was approved at that stage. Now is this the first level or the second level, and what is the other level and what are the department's expectations for a timeline here?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Chair, I do feel that the member opposite feels that he's hot stuff so I will make every accommodation to try and speed up my answers so that it will get us out of here in a speedy fashion.
The wording in the Alaska legislation ensures that licence fee reciprocity in Alaska will not come into effect until Yukon passes parallel provisions in an amendment to the Yukon Territory fisheries legislation. As I explained earlier, that is exactly what is occurring and, again, I am not an American. I am more familiar with our Canadian parliamentary processes than I am with the state.
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Chair, I didn't quite catch his answer if it did identify what the other process is. Can he repeat that, please? The heat in here is just a little too unbearable and I'm sorry if I didn't catch it, if he did mention it the first time.
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Chair, I again reiterate to the member that I am not an American and I am not fully cognizant of the legislative process within the State of Alaska. I am familiar with our processes. I know that I have had assurances from the department that our processes are parallel with theirs and are occurring.
Mr. McRobb: All right. I'll have to look at Hansard for the answer, Mr. Chair, and hopefully find it there somewhere.
I'm not sure if he mentioned this, but when can Yukoners expect to have this agreement, and does he have an indication of what it would cost for angling licences in Alaska? Does he also have any idea of how many American fishermen we can expect coming into the Yukon and taking advantage of this reciprocal agreement?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Chair, about 2,000 Yukon residents buy Alaska licences, and about 1,000 Alaska residents buy Yukon licences annually.
In 1998, non-resident Alaska sport fishing licence fees doubled from $50 U.S. to $100 U.S. An Alaskan resident's licence fee is $15 U.S.
Under the proposed reciprocity arrangement, Yukon residents would pay $15 U.S. for an Alaska licence, and Alaskan residents would pay $15 Canadian. This is to come into effect January 1, 2001.
Mr. McRobb: All right. So, the minister is going to have to help me out on this a little bit more. How much of a break does it represent to the Yukon angler, and how much to the American angler? Because of this break, what can we expect in the way of numbers of Alaskans coming to the Yukon to fish? Can the minister give us some idea of that?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Chair, I just provided the member opposite with a specific answer to that question.
Mr. McRobb: Well, I'm sorry if I didn't catch all of it. I was distracted by the Acting Premier delivering a glass of water to me and the heat in here, Mr. Chair. If the minister assures me that the answer is in Hansard, that's fine. I can live with that. I will check it tomorrow and get the information out to the constituents who are concerned about this matter.
The next issue is a matter that the minister is familiar with: what is the status of the wetlands protection strategy, which is referenced in the YPAS?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: As the member opposite knows, this is a subject dear to my heart. I believe that, as a parallel process to the development of YPAS, it was recognized, because wetlands are an easily identifiable habitat type, that they would progress in parallel with the development of the YPAS. The draft framework for wetland conservation document has been prepared by the Department of Renewable Resources. A Yukon wetlands technical committee reviewed the draft framework and it is scheduled for internal Department of Renewable Resources review.
Mr. McRobb: Okay, it's under review, but when can we expect the strategy to be finalized?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Chair, in my walk-through within the department, meeting department staff approximately two months ago, the habitat section had indicated to me that, from that point, it would probably be moving on this area probably within three months, so I will be requesting department status on it, now that there is a month left to go in that rough guideline.
Mr. McRobb: All right, I'd like to thank the minister for that information on a subject so near and dear to him. Speaking of such subjects and reciprocal agreements, I'd like to ask him to provide an update on the Aishihik hydro re-licensing.
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Chair, the DIAND environmental directorate is coordinating the environmental screening on this project and the department is participating in a review through its involvement on the regional environmental review committee.
Mr. McRobb: All right, so the department is participating on the Cooperative Environmental Review Team. Has the department been given any direction from the minister or this government on how to proceed or what position to take on this matter?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Chair, with all due respect, the member opposite reminded me earlier that that's not the function of the minister.
Mr. McRobb: Once again, Mr. Chair, I'm not suggesting that he has direct contact with the departmental staff sitting on the Cooperative Environmental Review Team. That direction can be easily provided through appropriate means, such as I have elaborated previously, which are to top officials like the deputy minister or the assistant deputy minister, and that direction can be carried down through the personnel in the department, quite appropriately, in that manner.
I know it's hot in here, Mr. Chair, and maybe fuses are a little short tonight, but I thought we had gone around this bush once already and resolved it. No way am I indicating that he should short circuit the protocol and talk to people in the department directly, whether they are environmental screening people or conservation officers or enforcement people. That direction is better administered through his deputy minister and other designates in the department.
So, I'll re-ask the question: has he provided the department with any direction on how to handle the re-licensing of Aishihik Lake?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Chair, the department has apprised me that the department - and I recognize and acknowledge the full competency of the individuals within the department to recognize their involvement. The DM has let me know that the officials are involved in the RERC and the CERT processes.
Mr. McRobb: Maybe it's the heat or maybe I missed part of the answer, but did the minister indicate if any direction had been provided by him or his government - he can just wave at me if he has - to the department on this? I don't see a wave, Mr. Chair, so maybe the minister can get up and re-address that point.
Has he provided direction? That's the question. I know departmental officials are sitting on RERC and CERC. That's not the issue here. The question is whether any direction has been provided by this minister to his department on anything to do with this issue?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: I feel that the department is doing a competent enough job on its own and didn't feel that I had to provide direction on this issue.
Mr. McRobb: Well, that's interesting, Mr. Chair, because this is another matter that the Liberals had quite clear positions on, once upon a time. I think, if I recall, they said they would have a solution to this problem within 10 years. They made other indications, Mr. Chair.
We know they campaigned with It's All About the Future, and maybe we have to wait until some point in the future for a decision to be made, or for some direction to be given, so their commitments can be upheld.
I just want to focus on that, because I know that when we get to Yukon Development Corporation and Yukon Energy Corporation, if the minister responsible is questioned on this, we're going to hear how inappropriate that question is, how there's a board of directors and it's hands-off, how there's an arm's-length relationship, and we are going to hear all that rhetoric. We can expect that. Yukoners are interested to know how the Liberal government is going to make good on the expectations it has raised and whether it will take action to protect this lake. Now, you've indicated that the department's doing a fine job. Well, that's fine. I hope they are doing a fine job. Many Yukoners hope they are doing a fine job. But, what's your interpretation of doing a fine job? Are you making your judgement in isolation of previous political -
Chair: Order please. Please refer all statements through the Chair and do not use the word "you," please.
Mr. McRobb: It's the heat in here, Mr. Chair. I feel like I'm a guinea pig of some hothouse experiment and, after three hours, I'm starting to crack and not starting to follow the rules. Now, I'm being held to task for saying the three-letter word.
Crank up the heat a little bit more and maybe we can expand on that a little bit.
Anyway, this is a serious question and my constituents want to know. I know there are other people who want to know; I recall the Health minister even going out to the lake and expressing some opinions about it. Certainly the former leader expressed some opinions about it in newspapers. No doubt this raised expectations in the voters out there and they are going to want to know what this Liberal government's doing about the issue.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Chair, we know that the Liberal government likes to take credit for things that are perceived good and they like to wash their hands of things that are perceived bad. If it's a good decision by the Water Board, you know they'll be patting themselves on the back saying, "We did it; we did it." If it's a bad decision, well, Yukoners are going to be hearing the old line about how it's an independent quasi-judicial tribunal and it was out of our hands and so on. You know the question: once again, how is this government going to effect the change that it indicated to Yukoners it would?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: As the member opposite knows, the Yukon Territory Water Board is under the jurisdiction of the federal government. The department is involved in its work and CERT processes, which is an environmental review. This information will go forward, along with a licence, and I'm sure that the department will competently represent Yukoners during the water licence hearing process.
Mr. McRobb: We didn't even have to wait for the Water Board decision for the minister to wash his hands of it. I didn't ask for a technical explanation to comment further on my previous comment that the board is a quasi-judicial tribunal, independent from this government. We all know that about the Territorial Water Board.
Until devolution, it's under the control of the federal government. The Yukon government does make appointments to the board, but not in great enough numbers to have a controlling interest. The question that I must ask once more is, how is this government going to effect the change they have promised Yukoners into this independent process before a decision is made?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Chair, I believe that the question just posed is contradictory in nature, in that it is asking how we are going to effect change and then follow up with a request to respect the legitimacy of the Water Board hearing process. So, if the member opposite could clarify the question, I'll provide an answer.
Mr. McRobb: Well, I'm not questioning the minister on the state of the Water Board hearing process. I'm questioning the minister on how this government is going to fulfill political expectations in the minds of the voters on positions it has taken in the past to protect the lake, how it plans to enact that position into this process? Now, we know that departmental people are intervening. That's fine. But they are one voice among many, Mr. Chair. There are many issues in consideration of that also, like what kind of resources they have at their disposal, if they're well-equipped to meet the army of consultants, engineers and lawyers put up by the licensee, or if they're a lone voice in the wilderness.
Mr. Chair, this is an important matter, and I'd like the minister to cut to the chase and just clarify how the political will of the government - how he's going to be satisfied that it's implemented through this independent process.
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Chair, he hit the nail on the head. It's an independent process and therefore I will not interfere politically.
Mr. McRobb: Well, we agree on one thing, Mr. Chair. It's an independent process but the government, in raising expectations of Yukoners that it would provide a solution to this issue, clearly acted independently as well and now it's time for a little bit of accountability here. This is the Chamber of accountability, and I want to know how they are going to enact that position through this independent process because, Mr. Chair, I can tell I'm going to have to explain it a little bit more.
If the independent board makes a decision that is not consistent with the position of the Liberal government in previous occasions, then the minister is going to stand here and shrug his shoulders and tell us all how it's an independent tribunal that made the decision. So the question is, was it a bluff? Were the Liberals raising expectations falsely? Were they promising something, Mr. Chair, that they knew they couldn't deliver on? Mr. Chair, if they were promising something that was completely beyond their control, the minister should fess up now. If he isn't going to fess up, then he should explain how they're going to have some control in this process. Please.
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Chair, as the member opposite has stated several times, that is an independent, quasi-judicial board under the jurisdiction of the federal government. I will not exercise political interference in that process.
Mr. McRobb: Well, all right, Mr. Chair. I'm left to conclude, as my constituents will no doubt also conclude when they read this transcript, that they were - I'll be careful to not use unparliamentary language here, Mr. Chair - let's just say their expectations were greater than what could be delivered by the Liberal Party and this Liberal government.
They were not raised by some backbencher; they were raised by the leader of the Liberal Party at the time, and other members of the Liberal caucus, who are here today.
Mr. Chair, I'm sure many people in the territory will find this disappointing. This is not the only issue the government is washing its hands of now, saying, "That's an independent tribunal; we can't touch that." Well, Mr. Chair, where's the accountability? When they draft up their election platforms and news releases and other types of information used to sway the minds of the voters out there, where is the accountability then? The minister then says that that's an independent process? The Yukon government doesn't make those decisions. "That's the quasi-judicial tribunal that makes those decisions. That's not us."
Well, where is he then? Where is he then, when these newsletters are drafted and these promises are made? Mr. Chair, how can he explain that?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Chair, the member opposite has been involved for a long time in the project that he's alluding to. I can remember, in a former life, listening to the member opposite extol - and he has used these words before - compassionately and passionately with respect to his interest in the project that he is talking about, and I can understand that - just as we are passionate about our own interests, our own desires, our own wants. I certainly can understand and empathize with the member opposite when he explains his consideration in the area.
But he also understands fully the processes in the quasi-judicial actions of the Yukon Territorial Water Board. He understands fully the separate nature of the board from the department. The chair of the Water Board dialogues directly with the Minister of Northern Affairs, Robert Nault, as does the regional director general for DIAND, and that the constituent of the Water Board is made up, as is the chair, of Yukoners.
The board is comprised of nine board members - independent thinkers - recommended for appointment by Robert Nault to the board through three sources. Three appointments are made from the territorial government. Three nominations are made to the minister from CYFN, and then there are three nominations made by federal agency representations, mainly DIAND, Department of Health and the Environment department.
Now, these individuals are put forward by these agencies, based on their credibility, their knowledge of Yukon situations - there's a broad cross-section of representation from the public sector in the territory. You have engineers - structural engineers and civil engineers - biologists and geologists. These folks on the Water Board represent and take seriously their responsibilities to examine all evidence that comes forward through the public hearing process.
That information comes from a myriad of sources: one that is of primary importance is from DIAND itself. The processes of supplying information to the Water Board during a Water Board hearing are known by way of intervention. They intervene. Interventions can be positive; they can be negative. DIAND does provide comprehensive information on any matter before the Water Board, but there are other interests that supply information toward the Water Board. Those come from sources, such as the territorial government, contractors and other interests. All of this information is compiled and carefully examined by this competent team, known as the Yukon Territorial Water Board.
It is their evaluations of the evidence presented and assimilated into conditions of licence.
We have to respect that process, Mr. Chair. We do have to respect that process and respect its quasi-judicial nature, meaning that there should be - and cannot be - any interference from outside interests, particularly interferences of a political nature.
So, the member opposite has asked me repeatedly to act directly in affecting decisions that that board would make. I think it is totally inappropriate to even come close to suggesting that the political level of the government of the territory would be providing direct counsel affecting the decisions of a quasi-judicial board. That would never be allowed by the board itself or, as the member has expressed, that I would -
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Chair: On a point of order, Mr. McRobb.
Mr. McRobb: On a point of order, Mr. Chair, the minister is falsely representing my representations to him. I did not at any time say that he should interfere with that independent process. I merely asked him how this government plans to effect the positions it took before the election now. That's all. I did not advocate that he should interfere with that process, and I want to clarify that on the record.
Chair: On the point of order, there is no point of order. This is a dispute between members. There is no way for the Chair to be able to find out if you did or did not say it. All statements are reflected in Hansard.
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: I move that we report progress on Bill No. 2.
Chair: It has been moved that progress be reported on Bill No. 2.
Motion agreed to
Ms. Tucker: I move that the Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Chair: It has been moved 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. McLarnon: Mr. Speaker, at 4:55 p.m., Committee of the Whole passed the following motion:
THAT Committee of the Whole and the Assembly be empowered to sit from 7:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. for the purpose of continuing consideration of Bill No. 2, entitled First Appropriation Act, 2000-01.
Further, Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 2, entitled First Appropriation Act, 2000-01, 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.
Order please. The time being 10:30 p.m., this House now stands adjourned until 1:30 p.m. Tuesday, July 4, 2000.
The House adjourned at 10:30 p.m.