Monday, November 6, 2000 - 1:00 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
We will proceed at this time with prayers.
Speaker: We will proceed at this time with the Order Paper.
In recognition of Remembrance Week
Mr. Kent: I rise today on behalf of the entire Legislative Assembly to pay tribute to the men and women of the Yukon, and of our country as a whole, who served our country both in times of war and peace.
This week has been proclaimed Remembrance Week by the Commissioner's office, and I am honoured to be given this opportunity to pay homage to those who fought and to those who fought and gave their lives so that we can enjoy what we have today.
Remembrance Week and Remembrance Day, this Saturday, November 11, are not only about remembering the dead. We can't lose sight of those still living who were spared their lives. There are few Canadian families who weren't touched by the three big wars of the 20th century: the First World War, Second World War and Korean War. Nearly everyone has a family member, a relative, a friend, or knows of someone who served.
Future generations must be kept aware of these sacrifices to protect them from having to make similar choices.
Yukoners fought and Yukoners died in each of these wars, and I feel lucky that I can't comprehend what they must have gone through. We owe them and all Canadians who fought, and fought and died, a debt that will never be repaid. All we can do is honour them, and I urge all Yukoners to take part in Remembrance Day ceremonies this Saturday.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: Introduction of visitors.
Are there any returns or documents for tabling?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, I have for tabling Tourism Yukon's winter tourism development study, phase 1.
Speaker: Are there any reports of committees?
Are there any bills to be introduced?
INTRODUCTION OF BILLS
Bill No. 31: Introduction and First Reading
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Speaker, I move that Bill No. 31, entitled An Act to Amend the Motor Vehicles Act, be now introduced and read a first time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. Minister of Community and Transportation Services that Bill No. 31, entitled An Act to Amend the Motor Vehicles Act, be now introduced and read a first time.
Motion for introduction and first reading of Bill No. 31 agreed to
Speaker: Are there any further bills for introduction?
Bill No. 33: Introduction and First Reading
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Mr. Speaker, I move that Bill No. 33, entitled Perpetuities and Accumulations Repeal Act, be now introduced and read a first time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. Minister of Health and Social Services that Bill No. 33, entitled Perpetuities and Accumulations Repeal Act, be now introduced and read a first time.
Motion for introduction and first reading of Bill No. 33 agreed to
Speaker: Are there any further bills?
Bill No. 34: Introduction and First Reading
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Mr. Speaker, I move that Bill No. 34, entitled An Act to Amend the Trustee Act, be now introduced and read a first time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. Minister of Health and Social Services that Bill No. 34, entitled An Act to Amend the Trustee Act, be now introduced and read a first time.
Motion for introduction and first reading of Bill No. 34 agreed to
Speaker: Are there any further bills for introduction?
Are there any notices of motion?
NOTICES OF MOTION
Mr. Keenan:Mr. Speaker, I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that
(1) like most parts of Canada, especially Northern Canada, the Yukon is facing a possible shortage of doctors and other medical personnel; and
(2) such shortages could pose a serious hardship for Yukon people, both in the City of Whitehorse and in rural communities; and
(3) the recent departure of two doctors from Watson Lake makes it clear that this situation cannot be ignored and needs to be addressed without delay; and
(4) this is an issue that requires thoughtful, long-term planning that should not be limited by partisan political considerations; and
THAT this House urges the Yukon Government to establish an all-party committee on a priority basis, to bring Members of the Legislative Assembly from both rural and urban Yukon together to examine options for solving the ongoing problem of recruiting and retaining medical personnel throughout the territory.
Mr. Jenkins: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that Yukon's health care services are currently being eroded due to a shortage of health care professionals; and
THAT this House urges the Government of the Yukon to implement programs and incentives that will attract and retain health care professionals such as nurses, nurse practitioners, doctors and dentists.
Speaker: Are there any statements by ministers?
Liquor Act and regulations review
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, I arise today to speak to this House about this government's policy initiative to review the Yukon Liquor Act and regulations.
This past spring, I formally announced that this government would conduct a full and public review of the Yukon Liquor Act and regulations. For this first time in 25 years, the Yukon Liquor Act is to be updated and improved in order to better meet the needs of Yukoners.
So as to draft the most appropriate and best legislation possible, our government is seeking ideas, concerns and recommendations of Yukon individuals, business organizations, First Nations, municipal and territorial government interests and a multitude of special interest groups.
Our policy initiative for this review has been to establish an independent, four-member review committee to assist us with the review. The committee members were chosen for their wide range of collective professional and cultural diversity.
Mr. Doug Phillips has called the Yukon his home for 51 years. He is a business owner and operator and commercial pilot. In addition to his good understanding of business operations in the Yukon, Doug brings to this review process 15 years of dealing with legislation in the capacity of MLA and as a government minister. He has also served on a diverse variety of boards and committees, including the Sourdough Rendezvous Society, Canadian Wildlife Federation, the Yukon Judicial Council and the Yukon Fish and Game Association.
Mrs. Judy Gingell served as Yukon Commissioner from 1995 to 2000. She has held many executive positions for Yukon First Nations organizations, including the Yukon Native Brotherhood, Yukon Indian Women's Association, the Yukon Indian Development Corporation and the Council for Yukon First Nations. Mrs. Gingell is also a founding member of Northern Native Broadcasting.
Ms. Dorothy John was born and raised in Ross River. She is a Kaska from the Wolf clan. Dorothy has 30 years experience in the social services field. For three years, she has operated a culture camp for at-risk youth.
Mr. Jim King was born and raised in Ontario. He brings 30 years of enforcement and public service experience to the committee. Mr. King joined the RCMP in 1965 and was transferred to the Yukon in 1982. He retired from the force in 1996 and now owns and operates a private business.
And long-time Yukoner Cam Ogilvy has also been named as a committee alternate.
The committee's role is to make sure a consistent process is followed during the review. The five main requirements are: to conduct public and stakeholder consultations throughout the Yukon; to gather ideas, concerns and recommendations by questionnaires, phone, e-mail, fax and mail submissions; to document all ideas, concerns and recommendations; to develop interim reports on findings; and to provide a final report with recommendations to the minister responsible for the Yukon Liquor Corporation.
I am confident that the committee will ensure that all ideas, concerns and recommendations are fully heard, documented and reviewed prior to being incorporated into a recommendation report for Cabinet consideration.
As the lead agency, the Yukon Liquor Corporation will provide technical and secretariat support to the review. The review committee, a facilitator, a representative of the Liquor Act and the Review Secretariat have begun travelling to Yukon communities already. This week, they will be visiting Beaver Creek, Destruction Bay, Burwash Landing and Haines Junction. Next week, they will travel to Carmacks, Faro and Ross River.
In addition to public meetings while touring the communities, the committee will also meet privately with liquor licensees, First Nations organizations and any other special interest groups that express an interest in making a presentation at that time.
The target date for the final report is June 30, 2001. It is anticipated that new legislation will be tabled in the Yukon Legislature in the fall of 2002, with full implementation effective April 1, 2003.
Based on preliminary estimates, it is expected that the cost for this review will be approximately $100,000.
Mr. Fentie: Mr. Speaker, it's evident, with this ministerial statement, that the Liberals opposite are moving farther and farther away from the rules of this Legislature and what defines ministerial statements, but that's to be expected, given the disregard they have shown for other rules and procedures in this Legislature.
Mr. Speaker, this is merely a carbon copy of a press release dated August 7, 2000, announcing that the Liquor Act will be reviewed, and a carbon copy of the October 30, 2000 press release that the Liquor Act Review Committee is ready to go. Furthermore, it would have been more appropriate for the biographies of the committee members to be put in the final report. That would have done them some justice.
Mr. Speaker, I think it's important to note that there is nothing in this ministerial statement that would denote government policy. Again, it is an announcement of something that has been well-known, going right back to the campaign and the Liberal commitment to review the act.
Mr. Speaker, when the minister gets on her feet to respond, it would be nice to know exactly what the costs will be here. The projection of $100,000 is one thing, but how much to bring this whole process to completion, given the potential for polarization in this particular area? And I think we are all aware of that fact.
Mr. Speaker, it is also important to note that they say there will be one public meeting in each community. I would like the minister to explain, if she truly believes that one meeting can be deemed consultation in each community, given the issues that surround this and the in-depth approach that must be taken. It would be my view and the view of this side of the House that more than one meeting may be required to bring forward recommendations and a final report.
Mr. Speaker, I would ask the members opposite to rethink ministerial statements as they are bringing them to this Legislature. The rule is specific. You, yourself, Mr. Speaker, have said that these things must be addressed. Unfortunately, the Liberals have killed the committee that was meant to address them.
Finally, Mr. Speaker, I think the minister should be more clear when it comes to government policy when it comes to the Liquor Act review. There is much more to it than this follow-up press release and the biographies of the committee members.
Mr. Jenkins: I rise in response to this statement. Now, this ministerial statement is not a ministerial statement, but it's just a reannouncement of a reannounced announcement. But I would like to commend the minister on her choice of committee members for this Liquor Act review. There appears to be a lot of experience there, and that should serve her well.
According to the information we have been presented with, the review is going to cost Yukon taxpayers some $100,000 and take three years to implement.
I guess at the end of the day, we will find out what it really does cost and what the outcome will be.
The central question that the committee must address is whether alcohol should be made more or less accountable in Yukon. That's the central issue. While this question isn't even addressed in the committee's terms of reference, it is the central question that committee members will have to deal with. I expect that Yukoners are going to be divided on how that question should be answered, and that differing points of view may well be quite controversial. Committee members are going to have their work cut out for them, and I wish them well in their deliberations.
Now, the concerns that I have about this review of the Liquor Act do not relate to the act itself, but to the priorities of this new Liberal government. When the HMS Titanic struck the iceberg and was sinking, the last concern the passengers had aboard that ship was about alcoholic beverages - what the wine list was going to be that evening. Well, we have the same situation here. The HMCS Yukon - our ship of state - is in very much a similar condition. It has hit an economic iceberg. Our Yukon economy is shrinking out of sight and we have a befuddled crew running all over the territory, trying to review virtually every aspect of law that we have - anything to move the Yukon population's focus away from the central issue. Deflect, deflect, deflect.
What needs to be reviewed immediately is the Liberal direction on the economy. Currently, our ship of state has no captain and no rudder, and we are headed for economic disaster. Instead of placing such a high priority on reviewing the Liquor Act, this government should be dealing with those issues that are making the Yukon one of the most economically depressed regions in Canada. This government should be proposing solutions to overcome the land claims impasse. It should be enshrining the protected areas strategy in law, based on multiple use. It should be ensuring that the development assessment process does not kill all development in the territory. It should be doing everything in its power to expedite the permitting process for mining, forestry and other resource developments here in this territory. They don't exist. They are all going away.
So, now what do we do? We review the Liquor Act. Mr. Speaker, this is what this government should be doing, rather than buying another round of reviews for the House.
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, that was interesting.
The relevance of this piece of legislation is that it affects most Yukoners' lives on a daily basis. It was our first piece of legislation, and you could argue, historically, that is the reason that we have a Yukon Territory today.
I've already given the members opposite the total cost. At this point, we're predicting $100,000 for the cost of reviewing and rewriting the Yukon Liquor Act. I will be happy to report back to the Legislature at the end of the process as to the final cost for the rewriting of this act - an important act to all Yukoners.
Both members opposite bring up the obvious point that there are going to be many contentious issues that will be raised as part of the review of the Yukon Liquor Act. Yeah, Mr. Speaker, there are going to be some pretty wild meetings in some of these communities. I have no doubt that that's what's going to happen. And one of the reasons it's going to be so wild is because nobody has looked at it for 25 years.
So that is quite correct from the members opposite, and that's certainly what we've said right from the very beginning.
As for the fact that there's going to be one public meeting in each community, that's true, there will be. And there will also be a discussion paper that will go back into those communities, so that people can check to make sure that that's what they said, and that that's what was heard at those meetings. And that's how we're going to check the validity of the statements that are made in each one of those communities.
The member wants further clarity on some issues, and he wasn't clear as to what they were. If the Member for Watson Lake wants further clarity on issues, he can certainly write me, and I would be happy to respond to him at that time.
This act is about the sale and distribution of alcohol. That is what it is about. The fact that we have so many social issues attached to that piece of legislation is going to make for some pretty rocky times, when Yukoners have to face how they feel, and how they've responded to alcohol within our territory.
So the Member for Klondike is absolutely correct. All this act is about is the sale and distribution of alcohol, and people will inevitably mistake it for being something far greater than it is.
The Member for Klondike says that we're doing lots and lots of reviews. Of course we're doing lots and lots of reviews; there has never been a Liberal government in the Yukon Territory. We have to make sure that what's out there accurately reflects up-to-date notions, ideas, and opinions of Yukoners, because many of these acts have not been reviewed in a good long time. And there's nothing wrong with checking out what Yukoners think and feel about issues. That's something that we need to do more regularly.
The member goes on and on and on about economic issues and basically spoke about our election platform, and we're doing all that.
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS
Mr. Fentie: If the House will indulge me, I'd like to turn our attention to the gallery and introduce Mr. Tom Cove of Watson Lake and his son Zunza, and ask all members to join me in welcoming them to the Assembly.
Speaker's ruling re question of privilege raised November 2, 2000
Speaker: Before proceeding to Question Period, the Chair will provide a ruling on the question of privilege raised on November 2, 2000 by the Member for Whitehorse Centre.
The Member for Whitehorse Centre met the notice requirement found in Standing Order 7(1)(b) by submitting a written notice to the office of the Speaker at 10:59 a.m., November 2, 2000.
Standing Order 7(4) states that the Speaker must rule on (a) whether there appears, on the face of it, to be a case of breach of privilege, and (b) whether the matter has been raised at the earliest opportunity.
The normal practice of this House has been that, to meet the "earliest opportunity" requirement, a question of privilege must be raised at the time the event occurred or on the next sitting day. In this matter, the event took place on Wednesday, November 1, 2000, and was raised as a question of privilege on the following sitting day.
The question for the Chair to decide on, then, is whether the Member for Whitehorse Centre has raised a question which, on the face of it, is a possible breach of privilege.
The Member for Whitehorse Centre stated that, "The point of privilege I am raising is, at the first opportunity, to state that my credibility has been attacked in this House, without a chance for me to respond and without the prescribed and proper legislative practices being followed."
The Member for Whitehorse Centre concluded his statement to the House by saying:
"And I am asking, since this is a question of privilege and I cannot defend my name in this House, that the Member for Kluane be asked for an apology and a retraction, and also that the Speaker rule that this line of questioning is indeed infringing on my privilege as a private member."
The Chair has reviewed the portions of Hansard of November 1 and 2 in which questions were raised about the Beringia Interpretive Centre gift shop. The Chair has also given consideration to the provisions of the Conflict of Interest (Members and Ministers) Act and to the Standing Orders and previous Speakers' rulings in this House.
The central features of the rights and immunities of individual members are freedom of speech, freedom from arrest in civil actions, exemption from jury duty and exemption from appearing as a witness. The Chair is not able to find that the Member for Whitehorse Centre has raised a question, which, on the face of it, constitutes a violation of any of those rights or immunities.
Further, the Chair finds that questions respecting the arrangements made by the Government of Yukon in regard to the Beringia Interpretive Centre gift shop are in order, so long as they do not stray into an investigation of the conduct of the Member for Whitehorse Centre or making charges against him. They must centre upon government policy and administration and not upon the activities of a private member of this House.
If members desire an investigation into the conduct of a member, they have two avenues open to them. First, they may lodge a complaint with the Conflicts Commissioner pursuant to paragraph 17(1)(d) of the Conflict of Interest (Members and Ministers) Act. Members, however, are not obligated to utilize the provisions set out in the Conflict of Interest (Members and Ministers) Act as section 29 of that legislation states: "Nothing in this Act abrogates any power or duty that the Legislative Assembly has apart from this act to control or discipline or punish its members."
Therefore, the second way in which members may pursue an investigation into the conduct of a member is to bring to the House a substantive motion containing the charge they are making and offering a proposal for dealing with it.
In that regard, Speaker Johnston, in a ruling given on April 27, 1992, stated: "[A] former Speaker of the House of Commons, Roland Michener, made a ruling in 1959 which is now relied upon by the House of Commons in such matters. In it, he stated: 'Simple justice requires that no honourable Member should have to submit to investigation of his conduct by the House or a committee until he has been charged with an offence.'
"The proper procedure for charging a Member with an offence is to move a substantive motion containing the charge and a proposal for dealing with it. For such a motion to be in order, it must charge a Member with conduct which amounts to a breach of privilege, or which disqualifies the Member from sitting in the House, or which amounts to contempt of the House. It is possible that having a conflict of interest that may lead to some personal gain could be viewed as a contempt of the House. If the Speaker finds such a motion to be in order, the practice is to give the motion priority and to have it debated as soon as possible."
In conclusion, the Chair does not find there to be, on the face of it, a breach of privilege. The Chair would add the caution that members addressing issues such as this must exercise great care in crafting their remarks to ensure that the requirements of simple justice are fulfilled.
This concludes the ruling. The House will now proceed to Question Period.
Question re: Yukon Housing Corporation mortgage financing in Faro
Mr. Keenan: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker, and thank you for that excellent ruling.
Today I have a question for the minister responsible for the Yukon Housing Corporation. In last spring's territorial election campaign, the Liberal candidate in Faro promised that a Liberal government would provide more mortgage financing for Faro residents to purchase homes. But we on the opposition side and all Faroites know that this government has not honoured that commitment. Now there is a by-election in Faro, and the very same Liberal candidate is running. I was wondering if the minister responsible for the Yukon Housing Corporation will be announcing any time soon that mortgage funding and money will now be made available to Faro residents through Yukon Housing Corporation.
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Speaker, as you know, we have a board of directors at the Yukon Housing Corporation. I don't know exactly where the board is standing right now with respect to mortgage financing; however, I do know that we hold mortgages on the FREL properties in Faro, and that the Yukon Housing Corporation manages their mortgage portfolio in a responsible and businesslike manner.
We have looked at Faro with respect to mortgage financing, and the board is still underway in presenting its case with mortgage financing.
Mr. Keenan: Well, Mr. Speaker, the minister is hiding behind a Yukon Housing Corporation board. Mr. Speaker, this isn't the first time the Liberal government has cut and run on a commitment made by Liberal candidates in rural Yukon - no. The commitment made by the former Liberal candidate in Watson Lake was for a multi-level health care facility. That certainly comes to mind at this time.
This weekend, we all know that Faro Real Estate raffled off a house in order to attract new people to the community. The community of Faro is trying to take a lot of new initiatives to diversify its economy.
I will ask this minister: why is this minister continuing to place roadblocks in their path by not providing the appropriate funding?
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Speaker, it's not that I'm not providing appropriate funding; it's more that the board is still sitting with the Faro Real Estate proposal. They have a Faro Real Estate proposal that they are looking at. They received a letter and a briefing from Faro Real Estate regarding their plan to begin selling houses in Faro. The board has received this information and will be making a decision. Until this process is complete and we see a final proposal, it would be inappropriate to pre-judge this process.
This government evaluates all proposals fairly in its endeavours. We have already met twice with the town leadership in Faro. We will continue to do so.
Mr. Keenan: Well, hiding behind a board, under review. Certainly, with the initiatives that are being undertaken now, it must be by-election time in Faro, Mr. Speaker.
By not providing the money, maybe the minister can change the inequity that affects government employees in Faro, and I'm referring to the fact that they can't benefit from the Government Employee Housing Plan Act, because their housing units don't qualify for NHA mortgages. According to the Yukon Housing Corporation, it would require a legislative change to correct that inequity.
In a letter of May 30, the housing minister committed to raising the issue of a legislative review with the board of directors. Has the minister done that, and when can Faro residents expect to see legislative amendment introduced into this House?
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Speaker, the Housing Corporation holds mortgages on FREL properties in Faro, and the Yukon Housing Corporation manages their mortgage portfolio in a responsible, businesslike manner.
Once again, we are not running, or hiding from Faro. We are still presently doing some business with Faro and, at this point in time, we have really nothing to address until the proposals go forth in the Yukon Housing Corporation board.
Question re: J.V. Clark School, construction contract
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the Minister of Community and Transportation Services.
Will the minister confirm that the supplementary budget includes an additional amount for construction work on the Hamilton Boulevard, because a successful bid came in at $500,000 more than the department expected?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Speaker, I'll have to check on that, and get back to the member.
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Speaker, that department is bringing forward a supplementary budget, which addressed the $500,000 over budget on Hamilton Boulevard. I'm surprised the minister does not know that, Mr. Speaker.
And that's a very interesting figure, Mr. Speaker. It happens to be the same amount that the lowest bid on the Mayo school came in above the expected amount.
My first supplementary, Mr. Speaker, is to the Minister of Government Services. Can the minister explain why it is okay for the successful bid on a road project to exceed expectations by $500,000, but it's not okay for a school project?
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Speaker, earlier in the sitting, we pointed out that it was a matter of process that took place. It wasn't a question of dollar figures.
Mr. Fairclough: Wow, he has to be proud of that answer, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Speaker, I'm sure that it wasn't just a coincidence that the road project involves two main urban ridings held by the Liberals and the school project in Mayo by an NDP MLA. People in Mayo are upset. The parents are upset. The children are upset. The workers who took the training are all upset that they did not get jobs this winter.
Now, the Minister of Education has promised that there will be work for some of the trained people but not all of them, and there are also businesses in Mayo that are basing their winter plans on expectations that the school construction would be taking place.
Now, I have a question for the same minister, Mr. Speaker: will the minister offer any compensation to those businesses that are acting in good faith based on the fact that the school project had gone out to tender?
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Speaker, once again, I say that it was a process that needed to take place and it was an operational matter. We also say that the bids for the construction of the new Mayo school came in higher than expected. Government Services recommended that the project be redesigned to reduce costs and be retendered in the spring of 2001.
The structure will be weather-protected and left unheated, avoiding the high cost of winter construction, and should also yield some cost-savings. As well, there should be more competition to tender on the redesigned project in the spring.
Furthermore, we have met with the Chief of Nacho Nyak Dun, Robert Hager. We have also said that we would look into jobs that will pertain to training for the six positions that the Nacho Nyak Dun First Nation was looking at, just for this job alone here - the Mayo school job.
Question re: Physicians, on-call services in rural communities
Mr. Jenkins: I have a question for the Minister of Health and Social Services.
Mr. Speaker, the Yukon is facing a critical doctor shortage. If current trends continue, that is going to accelerate. This minister is responsible, in part, for implementing and maintaining a two-tiered health care system here in the Yukon. There is one system for Whitehorse and one system for rural Yukon, or TROY - the rest of Yukon, as it has become known.
One of the most contentious issues for rural doctors is payment for on-call services. The previous NDP government and now its clone, the current Liberal government, have both steadfastly refused to pay rural doctors for on-call services. I would like to know why.
Hon. Mr. Roberts: This issue is not just a Yukon issue. It is a Canada-wide issue. There are doctor and health professional shortages. It's not an easy matter to have a quick answer to, Mr. Speaker.
Many jurisdictions in Canada are doing different things. You must have all the facts before you move on where you want to go in each jurisdiction, because there are compensations in different areas.
So, there is no quick answer to it. It is one that has to be really looked at, and it's one that has to be shared, as the Member for Klondike has said, with the community. And it is one that I think all of us have to be fully aware of. It's not a single problem. It is a major problem throughout the country.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, if I've ever heard a non-answer, that was it. No response whatsoever. He recognizes that there is a problem. Well, what is he doing to address the problem?
Now, the issue can't be money, because the government is now paying more to medevac patients than it would have to pay doctors for their on-call services. So, I would like the minister to give a commitment to resolve the issue - let's say in the next 30 days. It has dragged on for long enough at tremendous cost in money to taxpayers and, more importantly, in the delivery of health care to Yukoners. It has destroyed our trust in this government, and something has to be done.
Will this minister make a commitment to resolve this issue of on-call payment for services for doctors in rural Yukon?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: I think the problem is, as I have shared earlier - I mean, it's not a non-answer. It's an answer that I think is being given throughout the country. There are no quick answers. I know it would be very simple: just throw money at it, and it's solved.
We are currently negotiating or sitting down with the doctors from Dawson and looking at what we can do and looking at what they can do. In negotiating, it takes two sides to come to some type of agreement. It's not all one-sided, Mr. Speaker. Sometimes the information that's out there tends to be a one-sided view. We cannot look at just one jurisdiction; we have to look at all jurisdictions and the impact that it's going to have on all our other areas here in the Yukon. In the current moment, we are in the process of looking at very specifically what we're going to do for recruitment, and a submission will be made shortly to the caucus and to the Cabinet, and we will be reviewing where we want to go with this. It has taken time to get this together, Mr. Speaker, but this is what it takes when you're going to do a good job. We do our homework, and hopefully the member opposite, once this has become public knowledge, will be satisfied with the results.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, what the minister has responded and said is that he is going to be maintaining this two-tiered health care service. The delivery of health care is now done two ways in the Yukon - one way for Whitehorse and the other way for rural Yukon. And he's going to think about it, and he's going to give it some consideration. I'm asking the minister for a commitment to sit down and resolve the issue for on-call, for rural doctors in all of the Yukon immediately, and I'm suggesting the next 30 days. Will he give that sort of a commitment here on the floor of the House today, Mr. Speaker?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Well, I gather the member doesn't quite hear what I'm saying. We are sitting down right now, Mr. Speaker; we're sitting down with the YMA; we're talking to the doctors in Dawson at this point. I have spoken to the doctors in Dawson on at least three different occasions. We want a resolution to this issue, Mr. Speaker, but it's a two-way street. It's not all one way; and I think it's very important that we, in a negotiating arena, must give both ways. And, Mr. Speaker, we are doing a lot right now.
Yukon physicians are continuing to be compensated at least 25 to 50 percent more than most jurisdictions in Canada, and that's a fact.
We also are offering many initiatives. There have been suggestions that we look at what Nunavut and the Northwest Territories are doing, Mr. Speaker. We are doing that. But that takes time, Mr. Speaker. We don't just do it overnight. We're not a knee-jerk government.
And we also have to look at some other aspects. We want to look at how we can make the lifestyle of rural physicians and rural nurses and health care professionals the best that we can.
And Mr. Speaker, we also want to make sure communities are part of the package.
Speaker: Order please. Would the minister please conclude his answer.
Hon. Mr. Roberts: The important part, Mr. Speaker, is that we must work together.
Question re: Beringia Interpretive Centre, purchase of gift shop
Mr. McRobb: I'd like to thank the Minister of Tourism for her letter that she provided this morning, regarding the purchase of inventory and equipment from Mike's North Communications. Unfortunately, it leaves a few policy and procedure questions unanswered.
The minister's letter said that the contract in question was terminated in April, and her department negotiated the purchase of inventory for resale in August. Yet on June 22, the Member for Whitehorse Centre filed a disclosure document that said negotiations on this purchase had been completed in May.
Does the minister have any knowledge of any discussions between the member and anyone in her department that could have led the minister to that conclusion?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, subsequent to the member opposite's claims in this Legislature, I was fully briefed on this issue, and those facts will be taken to the investigation that Mr. Hughes is going to be undertaking. Mr. Hughes will be arriving on Monday, and all of us will then have an opportunity to add to that investigation.
I think, Mr. Speaker, that it's important to realize right now that the member opposite is getting dangerously close to making allegations about my staff, that they perhaps are not doing things in an above-board manner. To be absolutely clear, they did everything that they were supposed to do, properly; and I'm certainly defending everything that they did at that time.
One of the things that they did properly was that they kept me at arm's length from this process, because that's where I belong, as the person in this Legislature responsible for policy going down to my department.
So, if the member opposite thinks he has to make any more allegations about the staff in the Department of Tourism and about how, perhaps, they are not doing their jobs properly, he should take it up with the commissioner. I think he should apologize.
Mr. McRobb: Well, Mr. Speaker, obviously the member opposite didn't hear your ruling at the outset today, in which you ruled these questions to be fair. Now, she pretends to override your ruling, Mr. Speaker, and give one of her own. Well, I prefer to listen to yours, and wait for an answer from the minister.
I want to emphasize that we are asking about the actions of the government, not the actions of her personnel in the department or the Member for Whitehorse Centre.
Now, prior to June 22, some sort of discussions must have taken place. Perhaps the minister would prefer that word, rather than "negotiations". It is also obvious that the member believed that a purchase of inventory and equipment was imminent for an approximate amount of $68,000.
Will the minister tell us what discussion took place between her department and the member, and whether or not those discussions included a possible purchase price for this inventory and equipment?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, there are three things. The first thing is that we need to go back to your ruling. I wrote it down as you were saying it: you talked about how we don't go into the conduct of a member or an ongoing investigation. That was part of the ruling that apparently the member opposite didn't hear.
The member opposite talks about actions. What he wants to talk about are the actions of the government. He doesn't want to talk about staff and he doesn't want to talk about the MLA. Now, the staff is the government. The MLA is the other party in the negotiations. So, I'm not too sure what the member is trying to talk about.
What I'm concerned about is that he is making allegations of improprieties on the part of my staff in the Department of Tourism. I think that that is something for which the member should apologize, because everything my staff in the Department of Tourism did was completely above board.
I gave the member opposite the best information that I had available to me from the department. If that is not good enough and if he has specific questions - and I answered all the questions he asked today - or if he has more questions, I would be happy to provide, in writing, a response to the member opposite.
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Speaker, we're not suggesting that the minister should interfere with the day-to-day workings of her department or that she does interfere, but at some point after she was sworn in on May 6, surely she had some sort of briefing on this matter.
Can the minister tell us when she first learned that some sort of discussions or negotiations were taking place between her department and the Member for Whitehorse Centre or his spouse?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, I have no idea where the member opposite is getting his information. He wants to know when I found out that the Member for Whitehorse Centre was going to be going through a buyout with the Beringia gift shop. To be clear, on May 6, that afternoon, we were all, as ministers, at briefings. There was no rest for the wicked that day, I can tell you, Mr. Speaker.
Immediately upon being sworn in an hour later, we were presented with huge briefing books. One of the issues in those briefing books was the fact that the Member for Whitehorse Centre was a contractor up at the Beringia Centre and that it was likely that he would be going for a buyout. The details of that process are not my business. That's the business of the staff who deal with the day-to-day workings in the Department of Tourism.
I can tell you right now - or tell the Speaker or the member opposite right now - that whatever my staff did, it was correct. They were very, very careful in this matter. I can also tell you that, as the minister responsible, it is not my job, as the member opposite has pointed out on a number of occasions, to interfere in that process. They did their best. They were above-board. It is without reproach.
Question re: Beringia Interpretive Centre, purchase of gift shop
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Speaker, it would be nice to get an answer to my question, and I'll try again.
Now, the contract in question identified certain items that the government was obliged to purchase from the contractor. These included an espresso machine, some computer equipment and some display materials. The minister's letter refers to other items under the rubric of the turnkey business operation. Can the minister advise us if these discussions between her department and the contractor, before the actual negotiations began, involved these additional items?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, to be absolutely clear, I don't interfere in the day-to-day workings of my department. I will, however, have my department create a response for the member opposite on this issue. Now, that is not my job - to go out there and do the negotiations on all the contracts. There are a number of contracts the Department of Tourism has. This particular contract was signed by the previous minister, Minister Keenan at the time, and he dealt with these issues. I presume he read the contract that he signed. I can tell you that if it had been my contract, I certainly would have read it. I read all contracts that I sign. If the member opposite wants further detail and he wants minutia at this point, I will certainly have the much-maligned Tourism staff provide that information to him in writing.
Mr. McRobb: Our problems are not with the contract; it's what happened at the end of the contract. The minister, one week, stands up and claims full responsibility for what happens in her department. She says she knows about everything that happens but she doesn't interfere. This week she stands up and claims innocence. Mr. Speaker, the two just don't line up.
This does appear to be a somewhat complex matter, Mr. Speaker, and I would like to thank the minister for helping us to unravel it. Perhaps she could start by explaining this: at what point did discussions, which may or may not have involved heritage branch personnel, turn into negotiations carried out by the corporate services branch with information provided by heritage branch?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, I'd be happy to provide that minute detail to the member opposite, and I'll have that prepared by the much-maligned Tourism staff whom he continually takes shots at. To be absolutely clear, I don't interfere in the day-to-day workings of my department, but I do take full responsibility for what goes on; and I take full responsibility happily, because the people who work for me in the Department of Tourism are very, very good at what we do. They have experience, they have education, they have knowledge in those areas. And I presume, quite rightly, that everything that they do is above board and to the best of their abilities, unlike the member opposite.
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Speaker, I'm not criticizing personnel in her department. The questions I'm asking relate to the minister's knowledge of what took place, and I wish she would answer the questions.
Now, the minister's letter says that these negotiations were carried out in the same manner as any other contract negotiation or settlements. However, there is at least one clear distinction. That is the fact that the contract involved a government MLA, or perhaps his spouse. Did the minister at any point see fit to discuss this unique situation with the conflicts commissioner or seek his guidance on how these negotiations could be best carried out?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, I have no conflict with this situation - none; therefore, I did not speak about this issue to the conflicts commissioner. I have no conflict. The reason I have no conflict is that I don't work for the Department of Tourism and negotiate contracts. I am the minister responsible and take full responsibility for my department.
The member opposite continually asks for minute detail about knowledge of one contract negotiation that happened within the six-month period that we've been government. To be absolutely clear, I don't do the contract negotiations in the Department of Tourism. The staff do, and those staff are very good at what they do. They were particularly careful with this negotiation, and they were particularly careful with this negotiation because it was with an MLA in this House, and I totally believe that those staff did everything properly in this case.
Question re: Beringia Interpretive Centre, purchase of gift shop
Mr. McRobb: The member continues to defend personnel and charge me with making an attack on her department, when in fact that is clearly not the case. I am attacking no one. I am merely trying to find out what the minister knew and when.
Now, the minister's letter refers to a number of items that were part of the purchase from Mike's North Communications, including artist royalties, suppliers lists and catalogues, and inventory control systems.
Can the minister explain who first suggested a value of approximately $68,000 for these items prior to June 22 if negotiations weren't concluded until August?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, let's go through this again. This is politics 101. There are two levels of authority here. The first one is political direction, and the second one is operational. I don't know the minute detail of this particular negotiation. What I will do and what I have already committed to, six times, is that I will get back to the member opposite about the details of this negotiation. It is not up to me to know extreme minutia about every single detail about what goes on in my department. What I do do is look at greater policy issues. That is my responsibility, which I take very seriously. I have said six times now that I will get back to the member opposite with the information that he has requested.
Mr. McRobb: The questions I ask are not minutia and great detail. They're simple questions the minister should know. She claims she takes full responsibility. This situation involves one of her colleagues. It's an important situation that has now involved the conflicts commissioner.
Now, the minister's letter refers to fixtures, equipment and supplies as well as the turnkey business operation. Was any of the purchase price allocated to buying goodwill in this business operation?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, once again I'll get back to the member opposite on this level of detail, on this particular negotiation. That's not a problem. I said that I would do this a number of times. But to be absolutely clear, this is getting to be a kind of a waste of our time here in the Legislature.
If the member has a good policy question to give this side of the House, I'd be happy to answer that as well, if he has anything up his sleeve. Thank you.
Mr. McRobb: Well, Mr. Speaker, it's clear that the minister isn't being very helpful, open or accountable on this matter - the very significant matter that one would assume she would be fully briefed on.
Now, certainly it seems unusual that taxpayers' money would be used to pay for good will in a private business, especially one that is still in operation - if that is, indeed, the case, Mr. Speaker. Well, we know now that the final figure for the purchase was remarkably close to the figure in the member's declaration filed on June 22.
Will the minister provide a detailed list of all inventory and equipment bought by her department, as well as any independent evaluation that was done to determine the appropriate price? Will she undertake to do that?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Sure, Mr. Speaker, no problem. This is time number eight.
The member opposite makes the charges that we're not being open and accountable on this side of the House. Well, agreeing eight times to give the member opposite the same information as prepared by the staff - the minute detail that he asks for - is being open and accountable. He asks for information; we give it. It's very, very easy.
Now, the member opposite is acting like he's conducting an inquiry. And I know he thinks he's being, you know, terribly clever. But, you know, if the member has specific allegations, he should make them, instead of speculating that someone is breaking the law. And I challenge the member opposite to make those allegations outside this House. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed. We will proceed to Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Ms. Tucker: 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 take a 15-minute recess.
Chair: I now call the Committee of the Whole to order. We'll continue with general debate on Bill No. 23, the Arts Act. Mrs. Edelman, you had the floor the last. Do you wish to speak?
Bill No. 23 - Arts Act - continued
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, I believe at the end of debate when last we met, the Member for Klondike was making some comments about the possible reorganization within the arts branch, and I wonder if he could give me further detail on those comments.
Mr. Jenkins: I was wondering just what the reorganization was going to be, what it was going to cost, and timelines for implementation.
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, when last we met, I gave the member opposite a copy of the extended costs for the move to move the recreation arts committee from C&TS over to the arts branch, and the possible additional costs of adding members to the committee and that additional cost should the committee decide to increase the size of its membership - and they don't have to, to be absolutely clear. The additional costs, if they went to the maximum number, would be approximately $3,000.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, the issue surrounds not only that, but also what we eventually will have in this new Arts Act in the arts branch. How does the minister envision the whole department flowing? Will there be any changes from its current format, now that it has its own identity under its own act? Will there be any increases in salaries at the upper levels of the department? How much will those additional costs be?
Because we are setting a pattern here, Mr. Chair. Any of these areas that have been encompassed under their own act, usually end up costing more money to operate. What I'm concerned about is the flow of funding to the arts community and the arts societies - that it remain, at a minimum, at its current level, if not that it be enhanced or improved upon. That is the crux of the whole requirement from the arts community - more funding.
How is the minister going to provide, on the one hand, for more government and maintain the funding, and we're only going to do it with perhaps only a $3,000 increase per year?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: I think I need to go back and answer all the questions in order.
First of all, there is no increase contemplated in the number of staff or the salaries of the staff that will be dealing with the arts branch, much to some of their chagrin. There will be no additional costs, other than the additional $3,000. I just mentioned to the member opposite that this is just moving the arts committee from C&TS over to the arts branch, where it's better situated. At some point, there may be additional costs for consultation, because the way that the arts branch does consultation is slightly different than was done in other areas, and there is also the possibility of additional dollars coming from the federal government to offset some of that.
The greater question, of course, from the member opposite is whether or not there will be improved funding for the arts community. To be clear, as I have already stated previously in the debate, we will not be replacing millennium funding. Millennium funding, which was quite substantial, was a one-time only fund, and it will not be replaced by this government.
As far as increased funding for the arts community, I have certainly made no commitment in the past about that issue. What I have said is that we already have, to a certain extent, increased our funding in certain areas - for example, cultural industries - but we will be working with art groups to look at better-suited funding mechanisms for those communities, because currently some of the groups are less than satisfied with the funding mechanisms that have been in place in the past.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, I haven't heard too much concern from the arts community about finding a better funding mechanism. The concern that I hear raised is better and more funding. And with the demise of the millennium funding, that's going to have a significant blow to the arts community this forthcoming fiscal period. That was a sizable pot of money, and it goes contrary to the minister's stated position, Mr. Chair, that there's going to be no reduction in funding. In fact, that's the elimination of one whole program.
The only area where we have a potential cost increase is if there are more board members added. So of the programs that currently exist - I guess we'll call them the NDP clones over here on the side opposite, the government of the day, the Liberals - do they plan to eliminate any more of these programs, in addition to the elimination of the millennium fund, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, no one has ever accused me, ever, of being an NDP clone, and there's a good reason for that. And actually, in a political, philosophical sense, I actually tend more to the area of the Yukon Party; however, I am a Liberal, and that is a great thing.
The Member for Mayo-Tatchun is saying that I'm perhaps trying to curry favour with the member of the Yukon Party, and that's also unlikely within this lifetime.
Mr. Chair, there is no contradiction in my position. We will not be replacing the millennium fund. That was a one-time-only fund, and it was cost-shared with federal government. It's just not going to happen, just to be absolutely clear, and I'm taking the position. The member opposite says on one hand, I don't take positions; on the other hand, when I take positions, he doesn't like the fact that I've taken a position. Well, it's a position he may not like, but that's the position, as we will not be replacing millennium funds.
And we have heard from a number of groups, contrary to what the member has said. There have been complaints that there are just too many different groups to go to for funding, and none of those funding mechanisms really match the needs and the desires of these groups, and they tend to get off track from their original mandates in order to get funding. And that's not what they're trying to do.
So that's a conundrum that we're dealing with. We're doing that through consultation, getting these groups to help us to prepare the next budget and looking at adequate funding mechanisms for the future.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, we're looking at some of the funding mechanisms. The fact is that a lot of the funding mechanisms flow from the federal government, with the funds and the strings attached to them. We have to buy into the strings attached to the federal funds flowing to Yukon. If we don't, we don't get the funds from the federal government.
So, how can the minister look at the funding mechanisms when they're associated with the transfer of funds from the federal government to YTG on some of the specific programs? How can we tinker with them when they are part and parcel of the funding?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, I have a document that I will circulate to the side opposite, which talks about federal funding. It is quite a complicated document, but I think it may answer some of the questions that the member opposite has.
A brief synopsis of the paper is that we do receive some federal dollars and there are program commitments attached to those dollars. Those dollars are, however, somewhat minor in the greater scheme of things. The vast majority of funding comes directly out of the arts branch and out of the Department of Tourism. It has also obviously come out of the tourism marketing fund and the trade and investment fund, which was out of the Department of Economic Development, and the community development fund, which was also out of the Department of Economic Development.
To be absolutely clear, though, we are going to be looking at those issues when we are in the negotiation phase for an economic development agreement with Canada. That is certainly the cornerstone of our negotiations: to see what money has already been spent, what it has been spent on and whether that money was spent wisely and if the funding mechanism was appreciated by the groups that received the dollars.
We have our own programs, Mr. Chair. As I said, the vast majority of funding comes out of the arts branch for groups - for example, the dollars that are spent at the Arts Centre. That's a perfect example.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, the question still begs an answer. Some of the funding flowing to the arts community originates from the federal government. With the transfer of those funds from the federal government to the Government of the Yukon, there are strings attached or it's cost-shared, but usually there are specific strings attached to that money that these groups that have applied must conform to.
Now, it's a fact that a lot of these groups do not like some of these strings that are attached when they make an application for these funds, and the minister has stated that she's going to develop a better-suited funding mechanism. Well, Mr. Chair, how is she going to do that on the funds that flow from the federal government to the Government of the Yukon where the strings are already attached? Where is there room to manoeuvre?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, again, these are minor dollars that come in cost-share agreements from the federal programs. These are minor dollars in the great scheme of the arts funding here in the Yukon Territory. And the member opposite will see that, if he examines the documents that have been given to him.
The economic development agreement negotiations are going to be addressing some of the issues that the member opposite has alluded to, and those include the fact that these funding mechanisms do not work for the groups that are getting the dollars, in the sense that they don't adequately meet their core needs so that their core programs aren't being funded, so they have to go off and create new ways of operating in order to get federal funds. Indeed, that was also the case for the community development fund. And that was the concern, and one of the ways that we're dealing with that concern is by doing quite an extensive consultation through ARTSnet, as well as less formal methods through the arts branch, directly with artists and with people who gather this type of funding.
This is a problem. It's a problem on the federal level; it's a problem on the territorial level. I agree with the member opposite, we're having quite a vigorous agreement and it's something that we're trying to address at the territorial level, because that's what we can address.
At the negotiations for the EDA we will also, hopefully, point out to somebody in Ottawa that not all their funding mechanisms work as best as they can in the territory.
Once again, we're consulting with the arts community. It's quite an extensive consultation and it will be continuing throughout the term of this government.
Mr. Jenkins: I'd like to point the minister, Mr. Chair, to the chart that she just sent over. It shows that the federal share of total government expenditures on culture in each of the provinces and territories, in the Yukon and N.W.T., amounts to some 60-odd percent. The YTG's contribution, or territorial share, amounts to just less than 30 percent, and yet the minister refers to the federal contribution as "minor dollars". Minor dollars, Mr. Chair.
How does the minister respond to these minor dollars when the feds come to the party with 62.4 percent? Now, it might break down a little bit differently for the Yukon vis-à-vis the N.W.T., because this is the combined stats for both jurisdictions, but I don't believe they'd be significantly off. It's less than 30 percent YTG contribution and N.W.T. contribution, and 60-odd percent from the feds. Minor dollars from the feds.
That begs an answer to the question I originally posed. How are we going to tinker with the formula when the feds are providing so much of the funding? They're providing twice the funding that the Government of N.W.T. and the Government of the Yukon are providing, according to this information that the minister just sent over - over twice the funding.
And with that funding, Mr. Chair, there are strings and conditions attached. Now, the arts community doesn't really appreciate it or like it, but the minister says she's going to bring forward a funding mechanism that's better suited.
I just want to know how she's going to do that. There might be this wonderful relationship between the Yukon Liberals and the federal Liberals, but I haven't seen it come into play here in the Yukon since day 1 of the election of this government, other than some patronage appointments. Hopefully, she can enlighten us, Mr. Chair, as to how this is going to be serving the arts community.
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, my problem is that I wasn't clear enough about the document that I circulated to the side opposite. The figure that the member is looking at includes culture - First Nation culture as well - heritage, libraries and archives. The best guesstimate that I have from the department is that five to 10 percent of funding to the arts community here in the territory comes from the federal government. So that's my fault; I should have been more careful about the explanation that I gave with the document.
To be clear, these are also from Statistics Canada. The breakdown is not as detailed as it could be, and you cannot get a greater breakdown than what we've already received. This is the best that we could get. Like I say, the best guesstimate out of the arts branch - and they're pretty accurate, they work in this all day, every day - is that it's five to 10 percent that comes from the feds.
Once again, I've answered the member's question on a number of occasions now about tinkering with the formula. And believe me, Mr. Chair, I don't want to tinker with our formula financing; that's not something that we're in the mood to do. What we are doing, though, is negotiating with the federal government on economic development agreements. And we've come quite far, so far, on those agreements; however, it's important to note that we're in the middle of a federal election and, depending on the outcome of that election, is how far we're going to get with those economic development agreements. One of the parties that supposedly has an option to win this election is not interested in the north, nor are they interested in First Nation agreements in the territory or anywhere else in Canada. So, I'm somewhat concerned, of course, that that crew gets in. And if that particular party gets in, then our negotiations with Ottawa are going to become extremely difficult.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, I didn't think we had to get into the Bloc Quebecois and their position in the federal - I thought we were focusing here on the issue before us, and that is funding for the arts community. Now, the minister has obviously made the statement based on some kind of research or analysis, because the statistics that she sent over to me certainly don't support the position that the minister has taken in the House, Mr. Chair.
In fact, they are 180 degrees opposite. It clearly indicates here that over 60 percent of the funding comes from the federal government, and less than 30 percent comes from the territorial government.
Now, perhaps the minister is extrapolating just a small little sliver of the funding and basing her position on that small little sliver of funding, but the totality of the picture as to the total dollars that flow in this direction from the feds - I have no reason to disbelieve StatsCan and their overview and analogy. It is quite comprehensive and usually very, very accurate.
So, does the minister have any actual hard numbers on which she is basing her position? It doesn't sound like it. It sounds like there are no hard numbers. It is just someone using a chalkboard to paint a picture that looks good, but it is easily erased. These numbers from StatsCan, Mr. Chair, cannot be easily erased. Again, I point out to the minister that StatsCan's position is 180 degrees opposite to what she has stated in the House.
Can the minister provide some hard numbers?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, the member opposite was not listening. The figures I gave him - and I am rueful of the day that I ever did - include funding for culture, heritage, libraries, CBC and archives. One cannot say that that is all arts funding. They are also blended with the Northwest Territories. So, what I will commit to the member opposite - and perhaps he can be a bit clearer about it - is that I, once again, can tell you that the best guesstimate from the arts branch is between five and 10 percent.
If the member opposite wants more detailed information, I can provide it to him in writing from the department. I think he'll find, quite clearly, that the advice that I have been getting is good and that that figure will be between five and 10 percent for federal funding of the arts groups in the Yukon.
Again, just to be clear, I'm not talking about the money in the document, because the money in the document talks about CBC, it talks about broadcasting in the Yukon, it talks about archives, it talks about libraries, and it talks about heritage; and it talks about culture as well, and a small amount of that is the arts. So, I will provide that information to the member opposite. It's not possible to do any more. I will get that back to him at our earliest opportunity.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, I have very grave reservations about a government that makes decisions on the basis of which we are currently seeing them come forward.
We are told that the whole reason for this Arts Act is that it's a symbolic gesture for the arts community. Then when we get into the financing of it, the financing is based on the best guesstimates of the department. And when we're starting to talk in government circles about best guesstimates and symbolic gestures, I really have serious reservations about where we're heading, and where we're going to end up.
Perhaps the minister can enlighten the situation by providing a breakdown of the Statistics Canada position, with respect to distribution of total government expenditure on culture in each of the provinces and territories. Because it shows here - it clearly shows, Mr. Chair - that the feds contribute over 60 percent to the total funding pie here in the Yukon.
Does the minister have a further breakdown of the various categories that she has outlined? Because I'm sure that will be the telling tale, and we can become more focused in where we're at and where we're heading.
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, let's go back to the Arts Act, which is what's under discussion right now.
I have told the member opposite - I have committed to the member opposite - that I will get him more detailed information about the federal funding for the arts within the Yukon, and that figure should be between five and 10 percent. That is the figure given to me by my officials, and I have no reason to expect that that figure is erroneous, and I will get back to the member opposite with more detail.
For the financing for the Arts Act - and let's go back again - the maximum amount is $3,000. That $3,000 will only be used if the members on the committee decide to increase the size of the committee. Those would be additional costs - $3,000 per year, should the committee decide to expand the number of members on the committee. Then those would be additional administrative costs - $3,000. And that's the answer, the best answer. I've committed to the member opposite everything that he has asked for. I'm not quite sure what else he wants.
Mr. Jenkins:We started off at the beginning of this debate as to what the advantages of this new act are to the arts community. And the minister, after going through the usual rhetoric, made the statement that it's a symbolic gesture to the arts community to recognize them. In my conversations with members of the arts community, the largest and major concern that was voiced to me was the level of funding that was being provided to the respective organizations from the Government of Yukon and that it be at least maintained or enhanced. So the funding mechanism and how that's going to work begs a series of questions of this minister. All we have learned is that there is going to be no replacement for the millennium fund, which was a cost-shared undertaking between the feds and YTG.
What it says to the arts community is, "You're going to have this new Arts Act, but the total level of funding is going to be reduced because we're not going to replace this millennium fund, and we might have to expand the board, but that's your option and that's going to cost another $3,000 a year. We're not increasing the level of funding to the whole department, but they will have to find that $3,000 internally." So there's $3,000 less to flow and less to go around, should the size of the board be increased. Or is the minister suggesting that she is going to put another $3,000 into this whole program? Which way are we heading?
I'm very, very uncomfortable with suggestions working on best guesstimates and symbolic gestures in government. It might be the Liberal way, but it's not the way that we should be running a country, which I think is going to become abundantly clear. And even these best guesstimates of five to 10 percent of the federal contribution - even that estimate, Mr. Chair, I have to point out, is 100-percent variable. That's significant in itself. Does it have to be that much - five to 10 percent? Surely there must be a better grasp of how much we contribute in the total scheme of things than five to 10 percent. We should have these numbers hard and fast, and why does the minister not have them hard and fast?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Let's go through this bit by bit. We just repeat the same thing over and over and over and over and over again. And the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes says that perhaps I should get used to it, and Lord knows he certainly got used to it when we were having the great larvicide debate, also with the Member for Klondike. And I have an incredible knowledge of larvicide from that debate - more knowledge, I must point out, Mr. Chair, than I ever needed in my life, and it seems that that is exactly where we are going today.
The Arts Act is not equivalent to the millennium funding. We're talking about $3,000, which is an expense that may or may not occur. The member opposite is quite correct. Should the committee decide that they're going to expand the number of members, we should consider putting that amount of money in the budget. Yes, that's common sense.
Regarding the five- to 10-percent figure, I have committed to the member six times now that I will get him a greater breakdown. He talks about the Liberal way; well, the Arts Act is the Yukon Party way, because the consultation that started this process happened under the Yukon Party. That's where the Arts Act comes from. It came out of a consultation on the arts policy. It's a symbolic gesture. Yes, it talks about growth within the arts community. It is greater than a committee under YRAC. The arts community needs to be recognized, and it's going to be recognized through the Arts Act. It talks about a coming of age for an arts community and a cultural industries community in the Yukon, which, to me, is absolutely astounding. We are so blessed here in the Yukon Territory, particularly in Dawson City, Mr. Chair. Dawson City, in many ways, is the Paris of the North.
Mr. Chair, the Arts Act adds clarification to the roles of the committee members under YRAC. That is why we're doing the act. The act started with consultation under the Yukon Party. Then the policy and action plan was passed by the NDP. And the Liberal Party delivered on the whole thing, much as we've had to deliver on a number of different issues, Mr. Chair, within six months of being elected. We brought forward something that was started in the early 1990s, and nobody else saw it as a high priority.
I have limited Hansard that goes back - I have three pages of Hansard over the last eight years about the Arts Act that each one of the parties in this House felt very committed to, apparently. Well, I don't think so, Mr. Chair, because this is the party that brought it forward. This is the party that brought forward the Arts Act. The NDP could have done it; the Yukon Party could have done it, but they didn't. Instead, in an odd way - and I mean truly odd way, Mr. Chair - we've worked together to produce this act.
The Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes is commenting again, "Now the end is near," and indeed it is. Soon we will be passing the Arts Act, and it is not the most contentious piece of legislation that has ever come through this Legislature. I would debate with members opposite that it might be one of the most boring.
But what it does is good because there is a mechanism to recognize arts communities here in the territory through legislation. It is housekeeping - sure. And it's just moving it from C&TS over to the arts branch, but it's what had to happen. It's a natural progression. That's what we're doing.
I could stand up here and answer the Member for Klondike's questions for the ninth time, if he wants, but let's go through it again, because he'll probably stand up and ask the same questions again. Let's go through it again. Personally, I'm finding it less than scintillating to go through this over and over again, and I do enjoy a good intellectual challenge, and this hasn't been lately.
But let's go through it again. There is a maximum of $3,000 that would be spent, should the arts committee decide to expand their number of members. That $3,000 - and I agree with the Member for Klondike - should be and could be added to the next budget, if it's required.
The five to 10 percent to fund arts groups here in the territory, from the federal government, is a best guesstimate from my officials. I have committed to the side opposite - and this is number seven - that I will provide the greater breakdown for the member in the future.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, I haven't been lectured to like that since I left high school or university. Even in university, it wasn't as condescending as we're seeing it here.
Let's go back to the funding. The minister made the statement, Mr. Chair, that this funding should be and could be included. I'm looking for a commitment that it will be included. We're putting in place a new act. If it requires more money at the operating level at the government level, what I don't want to see is a reduction in the programs and the effective delivery of those programs to the arts community. I don't want to see another Taj Mahal built somewhere for the officials in her department to administer this Arts Act. I want to see as much as possible of the money that flows into the arts branch to flow out to the respective agencies that are so anxious to receive that money and do something with it.
I look upon the government as just an agency that funds these various organizations and comes up with a fair way of evaluating their programs and providing funding to them. In fact, that funding has become the lifeblood of many of these individuals in the art society. And when I see a government taking over and shuffling the decks on the Yukon's good ship, SS Titanic or HMS Yukon, which has hit an iceberg of economic inactivity - or on a very, very depressed economic iceberg - it's deplorable to see that more money is being spent on government than is flowing out. So we've made a mechanism, put it in place, that the board could be increased. The minister said the funding should be provided and it could be provided. But it begs the question: will it be provided?
Now, what I'm looking for is some certainty for the arts community, that there's going to be no reduction in the funding flowing through to the arts community. The level of funding will be maintained at the same level. If the size of the department grows or increases or the respective boards established under this new Arts Act, that will there be additional money flowing to this department to fund those functions or those new FTEs or whatever we want to call them in this day and age? All I'm looking for is some sort of a commitment. Can the minister do that?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: First of all, I need to apologize to the member opposite for appearing condescending. I tend to emulate the way I'm treated. The member opposite needs to realize that I will personally guarantee that there will be no reduction in arts funding as a result of additional administrative costs, which could be up to $3,000 for this act.
The funds can be found within existing budgets, and it obviously will be part of the budgeting process for next year.
To be absolutely clear, these are not dollars that will be funding bureaucratic positions within the government. These are extra dollars so that we can have extra members from the arts community sit on this committee - perhaps a member from Dawson City, as a representative from that area.
Mr. McRobb: I don't have too much more to add, other than putting the government on notice that we'll be following up in budget debate and in the future, if this government certainly does not replace the standard of programming enjoyed by the arts community in recent years.
Just one correction that I'd like to put on the record. I speculated on November 2 that there might be 350 to 400 more days in this Legislature during this term of government. I'm sure all members will be pleased to know that the correct figure would be about half of that.
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: I move that we move to line-by-line debate - although I don't have to do that. It has been awhile, Mr. Chair. I'm starting to lose my lines, and hopefully the Chair will advise us as to the best course of action now.
Chair: Thank you for that suggestion, Mrs. Edelman. We'll continue on now. We'll go line by line.
On Clause 1
Clause 1 agreed to
On Clause 2
Clause 2 agreed to
On Clause 3
Clause 3 agreed to
On Clause 4
Clause 4 agreed to
On Clause 5
Clause 5 agreed to
On Clause 6
Mr. Jenkins: Perhaps the minister could point out where the clauses differ from the current standards.
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, substantially, there is no difference from what is in the Recreation Act.
Clause 6 agreed to
On Clause 7
Clause 7 agreed to
On Clause 8
Clause 8 agreed to
On Clause 9
Clause 9 agreed to
On Clause 10
Clause 10 agreed to
On Clause 11
Clause 11 agreed to
On Clause 12
Clause 12 agreed to
On Clause 13
Clause 13 agreed to
On Clause 14
Clause 14 agreed to
On Clause 15
Clause 15 agreed to
On Clause 16
Clause 16 agreed to
On Clause 17
Clause 17 agreed to
On Clause 18
Clause 18 agreed to
On Clause 19
Clause 19 agreed to
On Clause 20
Clause 20 agreed to
On Clause 21
Clause 21 agreed to
On Clause 22
Clause 22 agreed to
On Clause 23
Clause 23 agreed to
On Clause 24
Clause 24 agreed to
On Clause 25
Clause 25 agreed to
On Clause 26
Mr. McRobb: I was wondering if the minister could provide a definition of what advanced athletes are.
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: It would be elite athletes, more senior athletes, Jeane Lassen, for example, someone who has reached the calibre that they're at at the national level.
Mr. Jenkins: I don't want to belabour the point, but I wonder if - I know we passed 24, but an "Indian band" is still the official legal definition in Canada and in the Yukon we refer to them as "First Nations." And how can we be consistent with Canada and recognize the First Nations by changing this? Because the legal entity is still under the Indian Act and our First Nation people are still referred to as "Indians". So how can we use this change here at this point in time? I'm sure the Minister of Justice is eminently qualified to respond, but can't because she doesn't have her briefing notes with her on this point, but I was seeking some sort of an opinion from the minister opposite.
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: I'd be happy to answer that question. This was a request from C&TS to update the Recreation Act. If the member opposite feels that this is a concern I can certainly get some notes from the Executive Council Office on this issue.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, I just want to know how we're consistent. Because if there are funds flowing to the Yukon from Canada and they're going to specifically reference federal statutes, and in federal statute and federal law, First Nations are still referred to as "Indians" and their First Nations are still referred to as "Indian bands", that has not changed.
Now, how can we be consistent with federal legislation, which is our parent, and especially with respect to this Liberal government? The Liberal government in Ottawa certainly must be their parent, Mr. Chair.
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, I try to stay away from comments about people's parentage.
To be absolutely clear, this was a request from C&TS. It was passed through Justice. It's a more respectful way of referring to individuals within the territory and it has been vetted through all the normal processes. There are no concerns and it meets all the standards and all the needs for the legislation that will be working with this legislation, from federal to territorial.
Chair: Is there any further debate on clause 26?
Clause 26 agreed to
On Clause 27
Clause 27 agreed to
Preamble agreed to
Title agreed to
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, I move that you do now report Bill No. 23, the Arts Act, out of Committee without amendment.
Chair: It has been moved by Mrs. Edelman that we report Bill No. 23, the Arts Act, out of Committee without amendment.
Motion agreed to
Bill No. 28 - An Act to Amend the Income Tax Act
Chair: We will now move on to Bill No. 28, An Act to Amend the Income Tax Act.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The purpose of this bill is rather mundane and is unrelated to any initiatives taken at the local level. For the most part, our Income Tax Act must mirror the federal act, since our tax is a function of the federal tax and all the inputs that go to determining that tax. Consequently, when Canada amends the federal Income Tax Act, ours must be similarly amended. This also holds true for most of the provinces and they, too, will be passing similar legislation for similar reasons.
The legislation we're speaking to today incorporates changes that have been made to the federal act over the past several years. In addition, it makes consequential amendments referencing the newly formed Canada Customs and Revenue Agency, the body that has replaced Revenue Canada as the principal collector of federal and provincial-territorial taxes.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Fairclough: I don't have many questions on this particular act. I understand that it's making a lot of changes to definitions and so on.
I would just like to ask the minister, though: what benefits does she see the amendments to this act bringing to Yukon people?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: It brings us into line with the federal act and provides ease of administration.
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Chair, this is certainly always a very complex issue, when it comes to taxes. First Nations are coming forward and have the ability to tax in the same manner as the Yukon government. Does this act reflect that at all?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I'm having a little trouble hearing the member. Perhaps he could speak up.
This act doesn't affect First Nations at all.
Mr. Fairclough: In putting this act together, in consultation and so on, were they considered? Were the First Nations considered at all, now that they have had self-government agreements in place for many years now? Were they considered when this act was put together?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: This act is strictly administrative on our part, so it does not affect First Nations taxation at all.
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Chair, the question I asked was whether or not they had considered the abilities of First Nations in self-government in this act. Obviously, there is tax-sharing room between the two senior governments. Why were they not consulted extensively when it comes to taxation?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, the First Nations have their own tax collection agreement with Canada.
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Chair, the First Nations also have ability to tax on land, which involve municipalities and monies to flow back and forth to the territorial government. In regard to income tax, are you saying that the First Nations are not tied to this at all? They are out of the picture, and there would be no ability for any dollars to flow through Yukon government to them as an organization now? I know it hasn't been in the past. There hasn't been anything set up, and there's no changes in this act now, but there's no consideration of that for the First Nations? Is that what the member's saying?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, if I could ask the member to please repeat the question? There was some incidental noise in the room, and I did not hear everything he said.
Mr. Fairclough: Simply put, Mr. Chair, First Nations do have the ability to collect taxes, and it has fallen down through the self-government agreements, and I did not see in here any reflection of that. I asked whether they were consulted and I did not hear an answer. Is there any type of recognition in this act for that ability?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, there is a requirement to consult with First Nations on matters of tax policy. This is not a tax policy issue.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, Mr. Chair, I would think that the Yukon government has a responsibility to consult everyone in the Yukon, especially with those people it affects the most. Now, there are changes in the Yukon, and I wish the members opposite would really read the final agreements and self-government agreements. Now, are you saying that First Nations have not been consulted when it comes to these amendments?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: That's correct, Mr. Chair. There was no requirement to consult, as this is a routine matter and not a matter of tax policy. These are - I hesitate to use the word, because the members opposite will scoff. But this is more housekeeping.
Mr. Fairclough: In keeping with the final agreements on self-government, does the federal Income Tax Act reflect at all First Nations' ability to collect income tax? Does it reflect at all, or recognize, self-government agreements?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, I'm not familiar with the intimate details of the federal policy. We are required to consult on matters of policy, and this was not a matter of policy.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, Mr. Chair, this act affects people in the Yukon Territory, and I would think that the member opposite would take it very seriously and consult the people whom it may affect. First Nation people are some of those people who could be affected by this act.
Are you saying that you read and understood the changes to the federal Income Tax Act, and you would like the people in the Yukon now to -
Chair: Order please. I would ask that you refer remarks through the Chair, please.
Mr. Fairclough: Is the minister saying that she understood the changes in the federal Income Tax Act and would now like the Yukon to adopt their changes?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, I'm saying that this bill is of a routine nature and merely brings our Income Tax Act into line with the federal act, as a result of recent changes to Canada's legislation.
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Chair, I understand what the member is saying. I would think that the minister would have taken this seriously and seen that there are changes in the Yukon and in the government structures around the Yukon with First Nations and self-government agreements. She has obviously reviewed the federal income tax changes and amendments and felt it important enough to bring it forward and ask this House to pass it in this Legislature because it benefits the Yukon and the people in the Yukon. I'm asking about Yukon First Nations and their ability to tax and collect income tax. Is this beneficial to Yukoners? Has she reviewed that, or can she tell us what the changes are that Yukon people can expect from amendments to this act? Are they small? Did you overlook details in this, that Yukon people could actually benefit from the changes to this Income Tax Act? What are those, and how do First Nations benefit from this?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The member opposite may be a bit confused. This has nothing to do with recent rate changes in the federal legislation. The administration of our act is done by the Canada Customs and Revenue Agency, the successor of Revenue Canada; it makes it easy to administer. These are merely consequential changes. There is no policy change. There should be no effect on the day-to-day life of any Yukoner as a result of the passage of this act.
Mr. Fairclough: There are definition changes in this act that could affect self-government agreements with First Nations. Has the member looked at this thoroughly, and will she give First Nations reassurances that they will not be affected in any bad way at all by this act? Can she reassure First Nations that this is to their benefit?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The definitions are obsolete for the purposes of the act. That is why they are being removed.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, Mr. Chair, I would think that that is a given when bringing forward changes to definitions and moving words around. What I'm asking is if she can give reassurances to the people in the Yukon, particularly First Nations people? Because I'm sure that they have a lot of interest in income tax in general. It is a huge issue at the land claims table right now.
Obviously, we are looking at word changes and moving words around. Some of them could be significant in how provinces do things. The Yukon, I think, is ahead of the game in having self-government agreements in place. So, can the minister reassure First Nation people that the changes in this Income Tax Act are beneficial to them?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I've already said that there should be no change to the day-to-day lives of Yukoners as a result of the passage of this act - no detrimental change, and presumably no beneficial change. Like, no change, no difference. Our act has to mirror the federal one and that is why we're making these changes.
Mr. Fairclough: Does the minister now understand the changes in the federal Income Tax Act, then?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, can I please ask the member opposite to speak up? I'm having trouble hearing him.
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Chair, can the minister tell us what the changes are in the federal Income Tax Act? Does she know what the changes are in the federal Income Tax Act?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, of course we know what the changes are. That's why we're making the changes to this legislation. If the member opposite is asking for a copy of the federal act, I'm sure we can make one available to him.
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Chair, I'm asking the question now for a purpose and not to prolong debate on this particular bill. But if she understands the changes to the federal Income Tax Act, then she must know what effects it has on Yukon people and Yukon First Nation people with self-government agreements. That's why I ask. Does she not know the answer? If she doesn't know the answer, that's fine. But does it affect the ability of First Nation people with self-government agreements to collect income tax?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, I have already answered that question. This is not a matter of policy; therefore, there is no change in the day-to-day life of any Yukoner.
Mr. Fairclough: I don't believe the member opposite knows the changes in this act. Now, there's a lot of minor stuff, the changes in names. She has basically taken the federal Income Tax Act, but she doesn't know whether or not this affects First Nations' ability, through their self-government agreements - she doesn't know that. I don't believe the member understands this acts fully, Mr. Chair, because what I'm asking are questions that affect people in the Yukon Territory.
Now, this is not a big deal act, as far as I can see, with the changes. They're small. It has a lot of good wording in there. What the federal Income Tax Act has is obviously reflected in here. I didn't get a reassurance from the minister whether or not First Nations can have the assurance that this is beneficial to them. I didn't get that.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, this can only be beneficial to all Yukoners, as to the ease of administration, once we make these required changes - all Yukoners.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, there wasn't anything in that answer. Mr. Chair, I don't have any more questions at this time. I was hoping that the minister had more knowledge about First Nations self-government agreements. Obviously, that wasn't taken into account when the amendments were put into this Income Tax Act, to reflect the federal Income Tax Act, to make any changes that could be made, or should be made, because First Nations do have self-government agreements.
I'll just pass it on to the Member for Klondike.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I'll say again that this act does nothing to affect any First Nation with intergovernmental agreements. That was not its intent. Its intent is to bring our Income Tax Act into line with the federal act.
Mr. Fairclough: Just to be clear, I wasn't talking about intergovernmental agreements. I'm not talking about the final agreements, but I'm talking about the self-government agreements. That's what I'm talking about. Can you clarify that?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I misspoke myself. Yes, this does not have any effect.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, I happen to disagree with the minister. It has a great deal of effect on the lives of Yukoners and on some of the agreements that we have in place.
I took the liberty, Mr. Chair, of sending this income tax amendment to our accountants in Vancouver, who are quite internationally renowned, and asked them to look at the impact from the perspective of my personal taxes and my business, and also in general terms for Yukon. They came back with a few things they didn't understand, and they didn't understand why they were doing it. There were a number of changes in here that appear to be jumping the gun. The federal initiative is not completely through.
Can I have the minister's assurance that everything that we are dealing with in this act has been dealt with, that this is subservient to the federal legislation just to bring us into line, that there is nothing that is still pending or being contemplated or considered by the federal Parliament, and that this is just all legislation to bring it in line. Can I have that assurance from the minister?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, this bill is routine and brings our Income Tax Act into line with the federal act. The member opposite can have that assurance.
Mr. Jenkins: There are several references made through the preamble in the act as to collection agencies, whether or not there's an agreement with Canada for collection, and where there is and is not. Can the minister provide an example of having no collection agreement in place between Yukon and Canada, where the second part of the equation would kick in? There are references to it with respect to the Minister of Finance, the deputy minister. On some occasions, the Minister of Finance is the collection agency; in other cases, the Deputy Minister of Finance is the collection agency; in other cases, where there is an agreement in place, it falls to the commissioner for the Canada Customs and Revenue Agency.
Could the minister provide an example of some of these agreements?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: We only have one tax collection agreement with Canada. This is a template - speaking to when we don't and when we do. If we have an agreement, the federal government administers it. If we don't, then we have to do it ourselves. Is that what the member was getting at, or does he have more detail?
Mr. Jenkins: I don't want to go line by line at this time. I still have some more questions in general debate. If the minister were to look to (3): "Section 1 of the Act is amended by repealing the definition of 'deputy head' and substituting the following definition for it: 'deputy head' means (a) when no collection agreement is in effect, the Deputy Minister of Finance for the Yukon, and (b) when a collection agreement is in effect, the Commissioner of Customs and Revenue appointed under section 25 of the Canada Customs and Revenue Agency Act (Canada); 'administrateur général'".
We have that reference made with respect to the Minister of Finance and the Deputy Minister of Finance. I was wondering if the minister could enlighten me as to what collection agreements would not be in place that the Minister of Finance and the Deputy Minister of Finance would come into play as being the collection agency?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: As I just said, when no collection agreement is in effect, then we have to do it ourselves. This same clause was in the previous act with similar wording.
Mr. Jenkins: What I'm looking for are examples as to what area this would encompass.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: In the Yukon, we have one agreement that covers both personal and corporate income taxes. Canada handles both of them. In Quebec, for example, Canada does neither. In Alberta, Canada does personal but not corporate.
Mr. Jenkins: It still begs an answer to the question: in what case would the Deputy Minister of Finance be the collection agency and in what case would the Minister of Finance be the collection agency? You have two separate clauses, one covering each area - one in section 3 and one in section 7. How does this differ from, let's say, the Yukon consolidated revenue fund or just Government of Yukon as the collection agencies? How do they all differ and how do they all dovetail? Could the minister provide us with some examples?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The intent is the same in all cases. It's appearing in different sections, because it's dealing with definitions.
Mr. Jenkins: Could the minister give us some examples of where the Minister of Finance would be the collection agency and where the Deputy Minister of Finance would be the collection agency?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I think the member opposite is confused about the definitions. The clauses have the same meaning. We're defining "deputy head" and "Minister of Finance" and explaining who is responsible when no collection agreement is in effect and when a collection agreement is in effect.
Mr. Jenkins: Unlike the Minister of Justice, I like to be able to do more with these acts than just be able to read them. I like to have a basic understanding. And I'm seeking an explanation from the minister that is not readily forthcoming, because the minister doesn't even have a basic understanding of what she has presented here in the House, Mr. Chair.
I'm looking for a definition or an example - let's say I'm looking for an example of where the Minister of Finance or the Deputy Minister of Finance would be the collection agency under this act. It's quite specific. In the event that there is a collection agreement, the Minister of Finance for the Yukon is that individual who does the collections, or the deputy minister is the collection agency; and where a collection agreement is in effect, the Commissioner at Customs and Revenue is the collection agency. So who does what, where and when, and give me an example of when the Minister of Finance acts as a collection agency and when the Deputy Minister of Finance acts as a collection agency? And how does that differ from, say, the Yukon consolidated revenue fund taking action? Who does what and how?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, when no collection agreement is in effect, the Deputy Minister of Finance or the Minister of Finance would do it, but we do have a collection agreement in effect with Canada. That agreement exists.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, if we look at section 1 of the act - and I would ask the minister: does she have a copy of section 1 of the Income Tax Act before her, which this flows from?
"Section 1 of the Act is amended by repealing the definition of 'deputy head' and substituting the following definition for it" and "'deputy head' means", and it breaks down differently. It's the same thing with the Minister of Finance. Now, this is to bring it into line with federal regulations, but what I want to know is, when does the Minister of Finance function, and when does the Deputy Minister of Finance function? Give me an example.
All that the minister is saying is that we have a collection agreement with Canada, but we have one collection agreement with Canada, but they act on behalf of Yukon with respect to the collection of federal income tax, both corporately and personally. And I'm well aware that in the Province of Quebec you remit to both the federal government and you remit to the province, because they control their own income tax in the Province of Quebec, and they control their own Quebec pension plan. So there is a separate entity altogether.
But I'm looking for an answer from the minister, Mr. Chair, as to an example in this regard here.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, we could deal with this in line-by-line debate, but again, it's definitions. We're amending the definition for "deputy head" to clarify in which government that deputy head is located. When a collection agreement is not in effect, then a reference to "deputy head" is to the Deputy Minister of Finance for the Yukon. Otherwise it's to the Commissioner of the Canada Customs and Revenue Agency.
Likewise, the definition for "Minister of Finance" included a reference to Minister of Finance of a province; the reference to "province" has been removed, and includes "Yukon" instead. "Minister of Finance" means when no tax collection agreement is in effect, the Minister of Finance for the Yukon. When there is an agreement, then the Yukon Act is administered by Canada. It isn't an either/or situation, as the member opposite is trying to make it, Mr. Chair. It's a matter of definition, and the definition is what is being changed here.
Mr. Jenkins: I still haven't got to the crux of an answer to the question, Mr. Chair. When would the deputy minister or the minister be the collection agency? Only when we opt out of the agreement with Canada to collect income tax on our behalf? What other situation would occur where that would be the case?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, when there is no agreement in place. If we cancel it, opt out of it, or if for some other reason it's not in place.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, Mr. Chair, further to that, are there any other taxable areas where the Government of the Yukon, its Minister of Finance, or its Deputy Minister of Finance or the Commissioner would be the tax collector?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Can I just clarify which commissioner the member opposite was referring to? Thank you.
Mr. Jenkins: The Commissioner of the Yukon. There are still some rights in law in some of the federal legislation referring to the Commissioner of Yukon and the powers and duties and responsibilities. That has not been changed.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, we're dealing here with income taxes - personal and corporate. There are a number of other taxes that would not be included here. For property taxes, we have no agreement with Canada. We do our own fuel taxes and tobacco taxes.
Mr. Jenkins: Let's take tobacco taxes. That's a joint jurisdictional matter. There are federal taxes collected and there are territorial taxes collected. How does that work, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, we're dealing here with An Act to Amend the Income Tax Act, not any other taxes.
Mr. Jenkins: I raised it because the minister raised it, Mr. Chair.
There are several areas in this act, and I'm noticing this more and more often, where the English text has French contained in it, and the French text contains English. Could the minister provide an explanation for that?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, if a change is required in the French text, then that French text needs to be quoted on the English side. You can't go crossing your languages that way. Those changes are consequential and minor.
Mr. Jenkins: Let's try that one again, Mr. Chair. I'm looking for a reason, other than "consequential and minor", as to why French text appears in the English version and why English text appears in the French version. I have noticed it in only a few acts, not in all acts where we have made amendments. I would very much appreciate an explanation as to why it is being done with respect to this An Act to Amend the Income Tax Act.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I have seen that in every act I looked at. I don't believe it's anything new. It's certainly nothing sinister.
Mr. Jenkins: What is the reason for it? I'm just looking for an explanation, other than it's a change and we quote it on both sides of the page. You have to read it thoroughly and then if you read the French text - I admit I'm not up to 100 percent speed on my written French - it doesn't always translate 100-percent the same. I'm just looking for an explanation of why the English has French text in it and the French has English text?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: If the member opposite will take this on faith for a short period of time, I'll get the Department of Justice to provide a complete answer for the reasons. It doesn't relate specifically to this act, but to, I think, every piece of legislation we're dealing with this session.
Mr. Jenkins: I'm surprised that the minister hasn't asked the question herself. I'll look forward to a response. I guess the correct answer, from the minister, is that she doesn't know.
The Member for Mayo-Tatchun referred at great length to the impact on the First Nations and if there was any impact, and if the changes to the Income Tax Act take into consideration all of the First Nation self-government agreements. The minister danced all around the question and I wasn't comfortable with the response that I heard from the minister and I'm sure a lot of the First Nations out there would be equally as uncomfortable with it. I was just wondering if the minister wanted to bring back a legislative return and provide some certainty to the issue as to just what kind of a comprehensive review has taken place with respect to the self-government and First Nation agreements.
Also, there are quite a number of accords in place between the Government of Yukon and First Nations, and there is quite extensive consultation that has to take place with the First Nations as a consequence of not only the basic agreements but also these accords.
I haven't heard of any kind of dialogue on this issue in this area. Can the minister confirm that there has been no dialogue with First Nations on the amendments to the Income Tax Act?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: This act is not a matter of policy, and as such there was no requirement for consultation. I have already explained that.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, so much for these wonderful, fine, self-government agreements and a government-to-government relationship and dialogue. I guess we just rubber-stamp it upstairs in the ivory tower and let everybody know after the fact, like the Mayo school situation. I only have a few other questions in line-by-line debate, if we can move forward.
Chair: Is there any further general debate? Seeing no further general debate, we'll proceed clause by clause.
On Clause 1
Clause 1 agreed to
On Clause 2
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, personal taxation years are usually the calendar year. Where would we go differently in personal taxation, other than a calendar year? I know corporately you set your fiscal year-end. It's usually a natural to the business, and you can change it during the course of business for adequate reason. But on a personal level, just receiving income, a sole source, a wage earner, why would the taxable year be other than a calendar year? Could the minister provide an example?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: If the member can tell me where he's finding that, that would be helpful.
Mr. Jenkins: We're dealing with clause 2(11). "Section 1 of the Act is amended by repealing the definition of 'taxation year'," which used to be "calendar year," "and substituting the following definition for it, 'Taxation year' of a person means the period determined under the federal Act as the person's taxation year."
Now, what I want to know is where would the taxation year be other than a calendar year for a normal wage earner?
Chair: Just to avoid confusion, we've been clearing subs, and I apologize, Ms. Buckway. I realize we're not in clause 11. We're in clause 2(11), so that's why there has been confusion.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Or clause 2(11)?
Chair: Yes, clause 2(11). Sorry.
Hon. Ms. Buckway:Thank you. The definition for "taxation year" was amended to exclude the specific provisions referencing the federal act, in order to not limit the definition. There are a number of provisions in the federal act that deem taxation years to begin or end at specified times, which may not quite coincide with the provision referenced. The definition has been changed to accommodate a broader application. This amended definition is more flexible, allowing for the application of other specified times as the need arises.
Mr. Jenkins: I still can't get my head around that, Mr. Chair. I can understand a corporate year-end. I can understand someone in the sports field, but they're deemed to be a contractor. They're under contract, so they qualify more under the business sense than they do under an employee/employer relationship. If you look at the definitions of "employer" and "employee", they are very, very specific. So, when we come to the taxation year, could the minister provide an example of where a person's taxation year would be other than the calendar year?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, perhaps upon the death of a taxpayer.
Mr. Jenkins: That's simply not the case, Mr. Chair. It's that taxation year.
Could I ask the minister to try again and take another shot at it, please?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, as I have said, the definition is amended to make it broader. I'm sure there are plenty of other examples. I can't happen to think of another one at the moment, but if it's bothering the member, I'm sure we can provide a whole list of them.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, unlike the minister, Mr. Chair, I like to have an understanding of what I'm dealing with, and you want to know what the implications of this legislation are going to be, who it affects, how, and when. And in this area, like a couple of other areas, I could not figure out who it would pertain to. Neither could my accountants.
So if the minister would kindly bring back a legislative return on that issue, as to whom it would apply to, under what circumstances, I'd certainly appreciate it. Like, on the death of an individual, it is very, very specific as to how taxation flow and how it's treated. Even for estate planning purposes, that's all set out, and well-defined, and estate planners can give you all the information you need in that regard, Mr. Chair.
But this one clause seems to be out there somewhere. I couldn't figure out what it applies to, and I'd appreciate it if the minister could enlighten us in that regard.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Of course, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Jenkins: So I would take it, Mr. Chair, that the minister is committed to providing a legislative return on this subject?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: That's what I said, Mr. Chair.
Chair: Just to correct myself, now, we are on clause 2(11).
Clause 2 agreed to
On Clause 3
Mr. Jenkins: On clause 3(5), can the minister give us an example of something that has transpired that is covered off by this area?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: That subclause ensures that when a federal provision is repealed without a substitution, the federal provision will cease to apply for the purpose of this act, whether there is an application rule governing the repeal or not.
Mr. Jenkins: I was looking for some sort of an example of some section of the Income Tax Act that this has covered off. Could the minister be specific?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I can't give the member a specific example. It is to avoid any problems in the future.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, we want to avoid any problems in the future, but we also want to avoid any problems currently, so a firm understanding of the issue is most important.
Now, I can understand where we've gone for a tax ruling before, corporately or personally, and a ruling has been granted or provided by the feds. Subsequently, that section of the Income Tax Act has been amended or cancelled altogether. But I couldn't think of an area that this would cover off, specifically. It was a question I asked my accountant - could they think of any area? And they said that there have been many, but a new section kicked in immediately; however, nothing has just fallen out of the bottom or been cancelled altogether. I would like the minister to provide examples of that, if she could, please.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, I think one area where this could apply would be if the federal act drops a section, then we wouldn't have to make a further change in our legislation. I think it's as general as that.
Chair: Is there any further debate on subclause 5?
Clause 3 agreed to
On Clause 4
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, this is quite an important section, and it deals with the definition of income earned here in the Yukon, and from it flows one of those wonderful benefits that we as northerners enjoy: the northern allowance.
Now, is this going to tighten up this definition here of income earned? Would that translate into a better definition for the purpose of the northern allowance, or are we going to continue to be harassed and audited by Revenue Canada with respect to that provision as to who qualifies and who doesn't qualify? That has been quite a bone of contention, and people are constantly called into question as to not being deemed qualified for the northern allowance, even though all of their income is earned here in Yukon and their principal residence is, has been, and continues to remain in Yukon. Does this definition tighten up that area of the Income Tax Act?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, in this section, the definition for "income earned" is amended to remove the reference to paragraph 120(4)(a) and direct it to 120(4), as the paragraphing of definitions was deleted when the federal act was revised.
Mr. Jenkins: The question to the minister: does this provide more clarity as to who qualifies for northern allowance?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: There is absolutely no change in the definition. It was merely a reference because the paragraphing changed.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, one of the issues that a great deal of Yukoners and northerners have is with respect to the northern allowance. And the allowance, when taken, is frequently disallowed and frequently a cause for major concern for Yukoners and northerners, Mr. Chair. Now, why doesn't the minister, when we're dealing with these areas, tighten up the definition of "northerner" and "Yukon income" so that we kind of avoid any major difficulties with the interpretation as to who or who does not qualify for northern allowance? Because it is a bone of contention, and it shouldn't be. There was an opportunity to open up the act to bring it into line. We could have done so at the territory level, and it could have been used on the enforcement side of Revenue Canada - our new, wonderful agency, Canada Customs and Revenue Agency - for a firmer and better definition. Because there are a lot of people who have spent a lot of time out there with respect to this issue surrounding northern allowance, and with respect to some of the other benefits accruing - flight allowances and such. And it has given rise to "you pay now and then appeal it", and it has been quite difficult to deal with. I mean, 1984 has come and gone, but George Orwell is still alive.
Big brother is there in the form of some new watch dog. So, I would like to see some initiative made on behalf of the department to better define taxable income here in the Yukon so that we preclude these difficulties occurring on the continuing basis that they do. I see this as a wonderful opportunity for the minister, who probably doesn't see it in the likewise manner, but if there were ever a problem that needed to be addressed in the Income Tax Act, it was these deductions that northerners have come to rely on. There are fewer and fewer of us in the Yukon, I might state, as a consequence of the way that the Liberals are operating the economy here, but it's still a benefit.
Why wasn't a better definition included? Now, the minister is going to stand on her feet and say that we're just dovetailing to the federal regulations. Here was an opportunity to do something; why wasn't it seized and taken?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: As the member opposite is well aware, northern allowance is a federal issue and not a territorial one. The member is quite right; we are bringing our Income Tax Act into line with the federal act since there have been several changes to the federal act in recent years.
Mr. Fairclough: I did not know under which section to really ask this question, but we are dealing with taxes that are payable under the federal tax act. This Liberal government is always in favour of having something done in the land claims agreements with the loan repayment and section 87. Did this Liberal government take into consideration at all, having the opportunity, while doing the amendments to the Income Tax Act, to look at section 87 and have it written in a way that it applies to the First Nations that still don't have self-government agreements?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, I don't believe the matters the member is referring to could be accomplished through a change in the Income Tax Act. These are housekeeping amendments and not matters of policy. It's a federal issue as well.
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Chair, the Liberals have come forward in support of the issues that the First Nations brought forward in regard to loan repayment. I'm not talking about loan repayment now. It's section 87 that applies to those First Nations who have not had the opportunity to complete the negotiations of their final agreements.
Is the minister saying that she has not considered this issue at all in drafting this bill?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, again I'm having trouble hearing the member opposite. Could he please repeat the question?
Mr. Fairclough: I'm asking the member whether she had considered, being that they are in support of dealing with the loan repayment, the two big issues that are on the table with First Nations right now. Section 87 has basically gone off the table for those First Nations that don't have final agreements right now. You're in support of them having that break that everybody else had while they were negotiating. Did you consider that? All I'm asking is whether you considered that when you had the opportunity to make changes to the Income Tax Act in the Yukon, our portion? I know there are two sections to this, but our portion - did you consider that at all?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, this is a land claims matter and I can't speak to it.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, Mr. Chair, I would think that this is a fairly important question. Collectively, the Liberal government has been out in the public in support of these three issues; particularly these two issues that were outstanding. They're negotiations, sure, but in the spirit and in the will of what has come down with the other First Nations, did you not consider this at all while you were amending the Income Tax Act?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, this is a land claims matter and I cannot speak to it.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, Mr. Chair, the member could speak to it, if she were so willing. But if the will isn't there - are you saying you don't have the will, or the interest, to have brought this up with First Nations?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, I'm saying we don't negotiate land claims on the floor of this House.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, it's quite evident that the minister opposite does not understand negotiations at all. Consultation, negotiations - it's just not in her everyday words. Nobody's asking her to negotiate on the floor of this Legislature. I would think she'd be way out of her league if she even tried.
What I'm asking is if she considered that. I mean, those agreements are done, but what happens with the First Nations that do not have a final agreement yet - not had the opportunity to ratify their agreements? Take Ta'an Dun, who are not recognized by the federal government as a First Nation. None of their programs apply to them, and still they're affected by that agreement.
But we could make these changes in the spirit of negotiations. It's not a negotiated matter. It's basically giving them the opportunity that others had, and you can do it right here with simple amendments.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: That is not the purpose of these amendments. We have not considered it as part of these changes. The member is trying to bring land claims into this debate; it is completely unrelated, and we do not negotiate land claims on the floor of this Legislature. The member opposite is well aware of that.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, An Act to Amend the Income Tax Act that we have before us, Mr. Chair, and the note on the front, "This act will get the Yukon's Income Tax Act up to date with amendments that have been made to the federal act" - that's all it says. But I would have been of the opinion, Mr. Chair, that this government could see its way clear - and I understand it's probably having a tough time, given their federal Liberal masters and the umbilical cord between the Yukon Liberals and the federal Liberals - to do what's best for Yukoners. And the Member for Mayo-Tatchun was onto a very, very - probably a touchy area. And no one is asking anyone to negotiate land claims on the floor of the House. All we're asking is that Yukoners be treated in a fair and just manner. And when we look at the First Nations, as a consequence of stalling by all three parties at the negotiating table and not being able to reach a consensus, there are seven First Nations here that still do not have a final agreement. Section 87 applies equally now to all First Nations. And the Government of the Yukon, if it were acting in good faith, could effectively deal with the Yukon income tax portion of those seven First Nations that haven't settled yet. I understand they can't deal with the federal income tax, but they can deal with Yukon income tax portion, which, I'll remind the minister, still remains very high - 50 percent and going down, but it's still a significant amount of dollars. And if this Liberal government were acting in the best interest of Yukoners and, specifically in this case, First Nations, it could see its way clear to reducing that income tax burden that they currently pay until they finalize their land claims.
No one is asking the minister to negotiate First Nations land claims on the floor of the House, but there are a number of instances in this act where, had there been some forethought given to it, Mr. Chair, we could better clarify a number of areas to provide certainty for Yukoners, and I refer specifically to the northern allowance and flight allowances that a number of individuals receive in the course of their employment. The wide degree of interpretation there and the amount of audits of individuals in these areas cause a lot of problems and a lot of anguish in a number of homes, and it needn't be.
Now, would the minister consider going back with a further amendment to this act that addresses the issue of the First Nations section 87 income tax and the area surrounding a better definition so that Yukoners are not faced with the uncertainty surrounding the qualifications and the interpretations placed on them by our new Canada Customs and Revenue Agency with respect to northern allowance and flight allowances? We're just looking for some clarity - we're not looking to negotiate anything - some clarity that will benefit Yukoners. Why can't the minister take that upon herself and do something with it? There's going to be an election in about another four years. If there are changes to the Yukon Act, it might go five. We're six months into a mandate, and they will have to be facing the people. It would be nice to be able to stand up there and say, "We did this for you," instead of, "We just destroyed some more of your jobs and you have to leave the Yukon, and you're not here to vote for us so thank you very much, goodbye."
There are two wonderful issues here that could be further enhanced by better definitions or by way of some hope or certainty, and that's dealing with the seven remaining First Nation land claims and section 87 and the provisions of a better definition for northern allowance and for flight allowances.
So that people - Yukoners - do not have to go through the anguish of facing an audit and having to substantiate, even though they are lifelong Yukoners, that they are in fact full-time residents here in the Yukon. Their paycheque from their employer is from the same source and has been for many, many years. They are indeed qualified - eminently qualified - for this northern allowance or airfare or flight allowance subsidy, Mr. Chair. Why can't the minister address these issues?
Now, I know she's not scripted on this, and I know she probably doesn't have an answer, so rather than embarrassing all of the House, she could probably take it under advisement and bring back an answer as to where she's heading with respect to these very important issues.
When you're dealing with the Income Tax Act on a personal level and you go out and talk to Yukoners and listen to what their biggest problem has been, it's been Revenue Canada descending upon them from great heights and saying, "You do not qualify for the northern allowance" or "You do not qualify for this flight allowance you received. Pay it all back immediately. You owe us $9,000 or $10,000 or $12,000 or $15,000." Why can't the minister deal with these issues and provide some certainty? The same holds true for section 87.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I find the member's speech most interesting. These issues did not suddenly arise within the last six months. I note with interest that the members opposite did nothing about these issues during their time in office, yet they expect this Liberal government to do everything - fix all their mistakes - in the first six months of our mandate.
I repeat that our Income Tax Act is required to mirror the federal one and these are routine changes to bring our Income Tax Act into line with the federal act, as a result of recent changes to Canadian legislation.
Mr. Jenkins: I would point out to the minister that our Income Tax Act does not, by law, have to mirror the federal law in this respect.
I see that the minister is unsure on that point, but we established our own Income Tax Act and our own rates. In some respects, we can establish our own definitions, for purposes of that portion of the income tax that we levy here in the Yukon. Now, the minister might want to stand on her feet and correct the record after consulting with her officials.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, our income taxes and those of most of the provinces and territories are based on the federal act's determination of taxable income and federal tax owing. Those are the changes that we are attempting to make to our Income Tax Act today.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, I would point out once again for the minister that we do not have to mirror the federal legislation. Can the minister confirm that?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Yes, we do set our own rates, but northern allowance and section 87 are federal issues. We are not negotiating them on the floor of this Legislature.
Mr. Jenkins: The question to the minister was that we do not have to mirror federal legislation. We can change our Income Tax Act and can vary it from the federal one.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, in many respects, we must mirror the federal legislation.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, we're getting there, but it's a long, anguished journey, Mr. Chair. The bottom line is, in Yukon, we do not have to mirror the federal Income Tax Act - yes or no?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, in many respects, we must. There are some areas in which we do not have to. I think we're both a little correct, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Jenkins: I was looking, Mr. Chair, for a simple yes or no answer. I wasn't looking for a long, drawn-out explanation. The bottom line is that in the Yukon we do not have to mirror the federal Income Tax Act - yes or no?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, in many respects, we are required to mirror the federal legislation. In some other respects, we are not. It is not a yes-or-no answer, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Jenkins: Now, the simple answer is no, we don't have to mirror the federal legislation; we can deviate from it in many, many areas. And there are some areas here that would enhance the lives of Yukoners if this minister would have taken it upon herself to look at the issues that are facing Yukoners and that we could deal with, but she has chosen not to. Shame on this Liberal government, Mr. Chair, and shame on this minister. Now, we've probably described this minister as a lightweight in the Cabinet, but she's got a lot of responsibilities, and -
Point of order
Ms. Tucker: Mr. Chair, I believe that the mention of the Cabinet minister's weight in Cabinet is inappropriate and unparliamentary language.
Mr. Jenkins: Far be it from the truth; that's a real stretch. There's no point of order; there's just a rude interruption on behalf of the government House leader, Mr. Chair.
Chair: Well, I don't find the interruption rude. There is no point of order. Please continue.
Mr. Jenkins: I was hoping that this lightweight Cabinet minister could address the issue and address it in a forthright manner. And I see no reason why a lot of these areas could not be covered off with further amendments in this act, and this minister, in her responsibilities, has chosen not to. These are areas that would very much be beneficial for Yukoners.
Why has the minister not chosen to even discuss this area of this act with Yukoners and look at some of the specifics of the problems arising out of the enforcement of the Income Tax Act, and look at ways of improving or enhancing this act for Yukoners? It becomes abundantly clear that there has been no consultation with Yukon First Nations. I'm not aware of any consultation.
Has there been any consultation on these amendments with Yukoners?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, this Act to Amend the Income Tax was not one that required consultation. This bill is of a routine nature, and it is a requirement for our tax act to mirror the federal act, since our tax is a function of the federal tax, and all the inputs that go to determining it.
The member is, once again, looking for nefarious plots, and there aren't any, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Jenkins: There are no nefarious plots being looked at. We're just looking at making this act helpful for Yukoners from all walks of life. That's all and that is not the case, and I'm disappointed, so let's move on.
Mr. Fairclough: Just one question, I guess, to the member opposite. The minister would not go back and talk it over with Cabinet in considering these changes somewhere in this amendment to the act that would address the First Nations issue. She would not do that during this perfect opportunity. You're doing an amendment to the Income Tax Act, so it's a perfect opportunity, yet you did not give Yukoners say in what could better their lives in the Yukon.
I would just like to ask the minister whether she believes the federal government is violating the Canadian Constitution by charging income taxes to people?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, I won't offer an opinion on what the federal government is doing. The member is quite aware that the amendments he is suggesting would require consultation with Yukoners and could not be carried out on the floor of this House with the snap of a finger.
So, not at this time, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, it's obviously, as the minister has pointed out, a failure on their part to consult with Yukoners. The reason why I asked the question about the Canadian Constitution - and it states right in there that it is not the responsibility of the federal government to charge income tax. It's the provinces' responsibility. Now, they have taken it on since, I think, 1916. I'm not sure what year it was, and from then on we have been paying federal income tax. That's why I asked the member if she believes that the federal government has that responsibility, or is it the provinces' and territories' responsibility?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, what I believe or don't believe is of no consequence.
Chair: Is there any further general debate?
Mr. Jenkins: On clause 4(3), could the minister enlighten me: "...but for section 127.4 of the federal act", what does that pertain to, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: This subclause is amended to remove the reference to section 120.1 of the federal act, forward averaging, which ceased to be effective under the federal act for years after 1997.
Chair: Order please. The time being 4:30, do members wish to take a brief recess? We'll take a 10-minute recess.
Chair: We'll continue with any debate on clause 4(3). Is there any further debate?
Mr. Fairclough: I believe there was a question asked when we took a break, and I was waiting for an answer.
Chair: I believe that the question had just been answered. Mr. Jenkins was about to rise on his next one, but he hadn't asked - there was no question on the floor, as far as I understand. That's what I remember. Do I have concurrence? If Mr. Jenkins wishes to rise on it, I'll allow him to reopen questioning.
Mr. Jenkins: Yes, Mr. Chair.
Chair: We'll continue with questioning.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, I asked the minister what section 127.4 of the federal Income Tax Act pertained to. I'm familiar with 120.4 and the averaging, but 127.4 is still in the equation. What does that pertain to?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, section 127.4 deals with labour-sponsored funds tax credit.
Clause 4 agreed to
On Clause 5
Clause 5 agreed to
On Clause 6
Mr. Jenkins: The expression "active business" has come to be well-defined, and 125.7 of the federal Income Tax Act - does that redefine the definition of an active business, one that's ongoing and continuous, or does this narrow it down? There was a move to amend it to shorten the period of time as to its period of operation to remain active.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The term "active business" is used in section 5(2), the section allowing for the small business investment tax credit.
For greater certainty, the meaning to be applied is now clearly set out in the act; "active business" under the federal act means any business carried on by the corporation, other than a specified investment business or personal services business; lawyers, dentists, et cetera, and includes an adventure or concern in the nature of trade.
Clause 6 agreed to
On Clause 7
Clause 7 agreed to
On Clause 8
Clause 8 agreed to
On Clause 9
Clause 9 agreed to
On Clause 10
Mr. Jenkins: We have a lot of problems with this area from time to time in Yukon, Mr. Chair. I was wondering if, other than mirroring the federal legislation in this regard, any consideration or any discussions ensued within the department with respect to the issues surrounding reassessment.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: No, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Jenkins: Does the minister want to be more specific? It is a very important issue to Yukoners, and it's one that has serious implications for a number of Yukoners from time to time. And the issues surrounding - I'm sure a position could be made that it's the one that you pay, and then you dispute it. That seems to have serious financial implications, yet we're just accepting what the feds put in place. I guess this is the Yukon Liberal way. The feds do it, and as long as they're Liberals, it's okay. But there's room here to manoeuvre and do something for the advantage of Yukoners. If an amount is under dispute, it has to be paid up front and then you dispute it. There have to be other ways of dealing with it, Mr. Chair.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: If we made too many changes other than the necessary ones, we wouldn't have a collection agreement any more. This reassessment section says that section 11 of the act is repealed and the following section substituted for it. Section 11 is the provision that enables the minister to reassess tax interest or penalties as a result of a reassessment of a taxpayer's taxation year. Section 11 is amended to insert the defined term "reassessment period", which may not always be the three-year period used prior to this amendment.
Mr. Jenkins: What I'd like to point out to the minister is that this is an area that causes some grief for some Yukoners from time to time. If it's not under active negotiations with the federal government tax department, or department to department, nothing will change in this area. There are ways that you can treat these kind of amounts differently than they are currently being treated.
Right now, under reassessment, the total amount is due and payable. If you want to appeal it, you have to take leave to appeal and you have to go through the whole rigmarole, but the bottom line is that you have to pay the money up front and then appeal. It's an issue that has been facing a number of Yukoners and it could be addressed through a representation from this government to their well-entrenched federal Liberal counterparts to ensure that benefits will accrue to Yukoners.
All of these areas that I bring forward are areas where there are problems with the Income Tax Act - problems to Yukoners. Examples are the interpretation and definition of northern allowance, the interpretation and definition of section 87, and how it should apply and to whom.
We're just accepting, verbatim, the position of the federal Liberal government. Why? Without any argument and without any discussion, we're just accepting it. Why would you want to do that? That's not acting in the best interests of Yukoners. There's room to manoeuvre or to negotiate - there's room for discussions - but there doesn't appear to be any discussion.
I guess somebody has to put forward a paper for the minister, so she can take it forward. But, there are three or four good initiatives here that have come out of the debate on this act. None of them - none of them - have even been recognized by this Liberal government or this minister, and none of them have been taken forward or are even under active discussion. I find that very disappointing. It's very disappointing indeed.
Is there any further debate on Clause 10?
Clause 10 agreed to
On Clause 11
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, on the instalment paying by those in various industries, did the Yukon have any input on the way that this has been interpreted?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, no. This is just mirroring the change to the federal act.
Mr. Jenkins: It was just as I thought, Mr. Chair. Thank you.
Mr. Fairclough: The minister is asking that we accept the amendments to the Income Tax Act, and many questions have come up that I have asked about, such as section 87 and the Yukon government's ability to make some changes. There are sections throughout this whole act that could have addressed those types of issues. At any time in the future, will this be addressed in an amendment to the Income Tax Act?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, it's possible that the issues the interim leader of the official opposition raises could be addressed in a future amendment.
Mr. Fairclough: Can the minister tell us whether or not they have plans in the near future to make another amendment to the Income Tax Act to address this issue?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, we have made no plans for the Income Tax Act beyond passing it here and now, as amended. We'll be dealing with further legislation a couple of months down the road.
Mr. Fairclough: We have had the opportunity to do something, and it has passed us by here. The Liberal government has not taken it forward to the general public to even have any input at all into this Income Tax Act. There could have been improvements, small ones, that could have been made right here and probably would have moved things ahead a lot better in working together with senior governments in this territory. Now we have a whole section in here that deals with farmers and fishermen, yet this government, this Liberal government, did not take the time to even go back and address those First Nation issues when it comes to things like settlement land, category A and category B lands, and so on, and there are self-government agreements that do apply to them. I just find it amazing that this could even take place, given the fact that the Liberal government did say that they do support and will work hard to implement First Nation final agreements, yet opportunities like this come by and they're not addressed.
Why were they not addressed?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, as I have pointed out to the member opposite several times, the changes to the Income Tax Act that we're proposing in this Act to Amend the Income Tax Act are not of a policy nature. They are not of a kind that requires consultation. I can only imagine the hue and cry from the benches opposite had we announced a review of the Income Tax Act. We would have heard, "Oh, no. Another review. The Liberals are reviewing everything."
So, please, would the members opposite make up their minds? Too many reviews, not enough reviews - they don't have a clue which side of the fence they're on on this, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Chair, obviously the Liberals are, again, trying to balance on this fence, not knowing which way to go, and trying to smoke one by Yukoners again by not having a public consultation on important issues that affect them.
I'm just asking this. It's not a Liberal policy to, say, give breaks to farmers. It's not that, but you have it in here. I mean, what's the difference between, I guess, in the Liberals' view, an act and a policy?
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Chair: Mr. Jenkins, on a point of order.
Mr. Jenkins: On a point of order, the Member for Laberge referred to the members opposite - "haven't a clue", and that was exactly the statement I made that's used regularly in the federal House of Parliament, but here I was called to order by the Speaker for using that. And I don't know if it should or should not be ruled out of order. I think the Speaker was probably a little bit premature in ruling "the member doesn't have a clue" out of order. It's constantly used in our federal Parliament. It is also translated as to "the member is clueless", and it has been accepted. But today I hear it again, and the member is not called to order.
Are we being consistent, or not consistent?
Chair: I didn't find it derogatory, nor did I find it detracting from the demeanour of debate. The circumstances may have been different for the Speaker, though, at the time. The House may have been under a different demeanour, which is, right now, excellent.
I would ask members to please make sure that there are no inflammatory statements. It has been a very good day, so far.
Hon. Ms. Buckway:Contrary to what the interim leader of the official opposition has suggested, this government is not smoking anything by Yukoners. As I have explained several times, these are consequential amendments. There was nothing in them - no policy - which required any consultation. They're merely to bring our legislation in line with the federal legislation, and the members seem to be suspecting something that isn't happening, Mr. Chair.
I would ask them to, you know, confine themselves to the amendments as listed, and not go off in all sorts of directions that have nothing to do with the act before us.
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Chair, I'm amazed by the answers that we are given to our questions. It's not policy, she says. What is the policy? Is it Liberal policy to adopt federal legislation without even having any consultation with the public on it? Is that Liberal policy?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, as I have explained several times, the nature of these amendments is routine. The bill before us today accomplishes the purpose of bringing our legislation into line with the federal government. They have made several changes in the past number of years, and we are merely aligning our legislation with theirs. There was no policy matters in these amendments that require consultation. I have said this several times. The members keep trying to make out that this is some great big piece of legislation that will have huge consequences for Yukoners. It will not. There will be no change in the day-to-day lives of Yukoners as a result of the passage of this bill. It is merely to bring our legislation in line with the federal legislation.
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Chair, I asked the minister if it was their policy to make changes to an act following the federal changes. Is it their policy to just amend our acts to reflect theirs, without public consultation?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, in the cases where the amendments do not require public consultation, we won't put the public to that trouble and expense.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, Mr. Chair, opportunities are going by here. I'm sure the minister, in putting amendments forward for us to pass, would consider Yukoners in doing so and have an opportunity to make things better for us here. Is it not common practice for governments to consider their own constituents when passing and trying to pass amendments through the House?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I say again, had we announced a review of the Income Tax Act, the members opposite would have complained loudly that we were going through yet another review. These amendments do not require consultation; they are routine and mundane amendments. And the members are reading far more into them than is present, in an attempt to inflame the debate.
Mr. Fairclough: I think the minister is wrong in her statements. I believe Yukoners deserve to be informed about changes.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Chair: Ms. Tucker, on a point of order.
Ms. Tucker: Point of order, under the rules of debate charging another member with uttering a deliberate falsehood.
Chair: I never heard any accusations of an uttered falsehood.
Mr. Jenkins, on the point of order.
Mr. Jenkins: On the point of order, we have a government House leader who is constantly interrupting debate in this House on areas that she doesn't even have an understanding of, Mr. Chair. And I would urge her to go back and maybe consult with her caucus and not rudely interrupt debate here on a constant basis in a manner that's not conducive to the operation of this House.
Chair: On the point of order, I find that this is a dispute between members. There is no point of order. It's clearly okay to say that a minister is wrong. It's not the same as saying a minister has uttered a falsehood.
Further to Mr. Jenkins' previous point of order, just to clarify, when asking in the House, one ruling is made on language whereas in the Committee of the Whole another ruling may be made. In the Committee of the Whole, it's far less formal, and so my judgements are based on the formality here. So as a result, that is the reason I made the ruling, so there can be differences of opinion between the Committee of the Whole and the House.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, I have to say, Mr. Chair, that the minister does not have a clue about what she would like us to pass in this House. We asked some simple things that affect Yukoners - simple things that could have been included. She did not say why others were not included in this amendment to the Income Tax Act. She did not say why. She chose to have just the federal changes to the income tax included, and it was an opportunity, I think, that she passed by.
Really, if we would like to address this again, we would have to go through the whole process over again. It could have addressed some of the burning issues that are out there right now with First Nations that are not reflected in this act at all. It does address things like farmers and fishers and so on, but First Nations just don't seem to rate up there with this minister. Mr. Speaker, I think it is a sad day today to hear that from the member opposite.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, the amendments that are before us are of an consequential and minor nature. The changes the members opposite are talking about would require a review of the Income Tax Act. That is not what is before us today. We have some routine amendments that do not require consultation. The Yukon public would laugh if we consulted them on these amendments on the matter of definitions. It would be like the Minister of Education going out and consulting on keeping grade 3. Nothing is going to change, so there's no need to consult, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, if I take exception to the minister's remarks, it's not going to be the first time, Mr. Chair. I'm very, very disappointed to listen to what she has to say. What the Member for Mayo-Tatchun and I were pointing out, Mr. Chair, was that this is a very good opportunity to bring some certainty to a number of the areas of the Income Tax Act dealing with Yukoners, specifically First Nation Yukoners.
There isn't anything here, and if these are consequential amendments - minor - what are the implications to Yukon if this act doesn't pass for, say, another two or three years? There's no impact to Yukoners, Mr. Chair. No implications, no financial considerations whatsoever.
We had an opportunity to firmly establish and define "northern allowance", "flight allowances", and do something with reassessment to make it fairer for those in the Yukon who are reassessed. Instalment payments by various fishers, farmers. All of these areas. It doesn't take anyone other than an individual who has to deal with life in the Yukon on a continuing basis in many, many different manners and with many different people to recognize what areas of the federal Income Tax Act have to be looked at to further enhance it for Yukoners.
Why can't the minister postpone this act until the next session? My party, and I'm sure members of the official opposition, will ensure a speedy passage if we look at a lot of these areas and bring forth some further definitions to provide some certainty and clarity. There is a lot that the Yukon government can do with the section 87 taxation issue. In fact, in their election platform, their top priority was to settle the land claims. There's an area that could be done and could at least demonstrate some good faith on this government's part.
As to the issues surrounding taxation - missed opportunity, very, very much missed opportunity. On the northern allowance, if the minister were to take the time and sit down at a wine and cheese party with Yukoners and ask them about the Income Tax Act, and what areas they have had the most concern about - to compile a list, I had five without any trouble. Even if the minister comes up with six, I'm sure they can be dealt with speedily.
You'll hear the same thing, should the minister ask that question at a wine and cheese party. It will be the issues surrounding reassessment by what was previously known as Revenue Canada and what is currently known as Canada Customs and Revenue Agency. It would be the issues surrounding flight allowance and its certainty as a tax deduction, so that you don't pay a whole bunch of income tax on it.
It would be the issue from a number of long-standing Yukoners surrounding some more certainty with respect to northern allowance and it being disallowed on a continuing basis. Also, it would be on the instalments that you have to make on a regular basis, either when you're self-employed or, in a lot of the industries, in terms of when you actually make those instalments.
A lot of times the instalments are due on a fixed date, and not when you sell your crop or when you dispose of your product that you manufacture. But you have to come to the plate and pay the federal government their tax on the date so many days after your year-end. It could be an inventory item that's costing you money to carry it. In a lot of cases it's an inventory item here in the Yukon, because of the depressed state of our economy as a consequence of this lack of action on the part of the Liberals to address it.
I'm just amazed at the amount of ideas that are forthcoming from this Legislature and the inability of this government to take it upon itself to say, "Yeah, there are some good ideas out there. They need to be addressed. We could do something with it, and it will make the lives of a lot of Yukoners that much better." But no, they chose the other way. Our federal Liberal government has told us that these are what the changes are, and we have to bring ourselves in line, and that they are just routine housekeeping, consequential amendments. They do not require review. Far be it from the truth. They do require review. They require review, and they require someone to take a common-sense approach to this whole situation of taxation and address the areas that need addressing.
Would the minister take it upon herself to include those items in this income tax amendment that she's proposing to bring forward at the - I don't know when it's to be - next session or the one after that? Will the minister do that, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I find it rather interesting that the previous administration - the NDP administration and the Yukon Party government before that - had the opportunity to review the Income Tax Act. They did not. Why not? The Income Tax Act has been regularly amended for consequential changes by previous governments - the NDP and Yukon Party - and no consultation was ever undertaken. Why not, Mr. Chair? Nor did they ever introduce any amendments of their own, except for rate changes, which are under our control. Why not, Mr. Chair?
The tax collection agreements between Canada and the provinces and territories state that the provinces and territories shall maintain their legislation in a form similar to the federal to permit expeditious administration. That is what we are doing, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, just with that, I'd like to ask the minister when they began to do this review, and when did they start the review for the amendments of the Income Tax Act? When did that start?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, it has been about two years, I think. The NDP was in power then.
Mr. Fairclough: Yes, that's just what I was getting at. Things started rolling under the previous government, but obviously the Liberals have brought some issues forward in this Legislature that they thought were really important, and it could have been reflected in here.
Was there any consideration in the six months that the Liberal government has been in to do additional amendments to the Income Tax Act?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: No, Mr. Chair, we are proposing, as the previous administrations have done, to amend the Income Tax Act for consequential changes, as previous administrations have done on a regular basis. It's that simple, Mr. Chair.
Clause 11 agreed to
On Clause 12
Clause 12 agreed to
On Clause 13
Clause 13 agreed to
On Clause 14
Mr. Jenkins: Clause 14, "penalties for failure to file" - the subsections that are referred to, could the minister enunciate what they are - 162.1 to 162.3, 162.5, 162.7 and 162.11? And there are a couple in between there that are omitted.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Section 21 of the act establishes that the penalties contained in the federal act apply to the Yukon Act, which is amended to reference the appropriate provisions in the federal act. It's just basic paperwork, Mr. Chair.
Clause 14 agreed to
On Clause 15
Mr. Jenkins: What is section 22 of the act?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Section 22 ensures that the federal act applies to taxpayers who fail to report income or who make false statements. The amendment is for removing the references to paragraphs after (a) in section 163.2 of the federal act. Paragraph 163.2(b) of the federal act was repealed, and paragraph 163.2(c) does not apply.
Mr. Jenkins: If the minister could spell it out in simple layperson's terms, it would be appreciated.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: As I said, there was a paragraph that was repealed. This section has to do with false statements or omissions. Would he like me to read the section?
Mr. Jenkins: Just a simple explanation is all we're looking for, Mr. Chair. We're repealing subsection 22 of the act and substituting the following subsections. Well, okay, what are we repealing, what's the purpose of them being repealed, and what are we substituting? What is the intent of the substitutions? Because at the end of the day, what we're looking at is if you fail to disclose your income or any part thereof, you've committed an offence, but it just states it in a different way. How does it work? What has changed?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, that was the case, already. If you fail to report, you're committing an offence.
As the act was before, under false statements or omissions: "Every person who, knowingly or under circumstances amounting to gross negligence in the carrying out of any duty or obligation imposed by or under this Act, has made or has participated in, assented to or acquiesced in the making of, a false statement or omission in a return, form, certificate, statement or answer, in this section referred to as a return, filed or made in respect of a taxation year as required by or under this act or a regulation, ... is liable to a penalty of the greater of $100 and 50 percent of the total of ..." The proposed amendment says, under false statements or omissions, "Every person who, knowingly or under circumstances amounting to gross negligence ... has made or has participated in, assented to or acquiesced in the making of, a false statement or omission in a return, form, certificate, statement or answer, in this section referred to as a return, filed or made in respect of a taxation year for the purposes of this act ... is liable to a penalty of the greater of $100 and 50 percent of the total of ..."
As I have said previously, Mr. Chair, the amendment is for removing the references to a particular paragraph, which was repealed.
Mr. Jenkins: At the end of the day, what has changed? There has really been no effective change in that whole provision of the act. What are we doing? What has changed?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, for the third time, the amendment to section 22 is to take out references to a particular paragraph that has gone from the act. That's all - no nefarious plot.
Clause 15 agreed to
On Clause 16
Mr. Jenkins: Section 23(1) refers to a whole bunch of different areas - application of federal refunds. Just what do they pertain to?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, section 23(1) establishes the application of federal provisions that are used to process refunds to taxpayers. It is amended to specify each subsection and not provide a range, as was in the previous provision. A reference to section 164(2.2) was removed from the list.
Clause 16 agreed to
On Clause 17
Clause 17 agreed to
On Clause 18
Clause 18 agreed to
On Clause 19
Clause 19 agreed to
On Clause 20
Clause 20 agreed to
On Clause 21
Mr. Jenkins: Could the minister provide an explanation of clause 21, please?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Clause 21(1), section 41, which it's referring to, contains the references to the federal act that provide for deducting or withholding money in compliance with that act.
Section 41 was amended to reference section 227(5.1) and (5.2), the provisions that define a specified person used in relation to payments by trustees, and another reference was added to 27(10.2) of the federal act. It makes the employer jointly and severally liable with the non-resident person to pay an amount in respect of contributions to a retirement compensation, under a retirement compensation arrangement.
Mr. Jenkins: That last little area - the federal pension plan - was dealing with the sports world, I take it. Was it the controversy surrounding that area, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, if the Member for Klondike would clarify what he's asking, it might help me to give him an answer.
Mr. Jenkins: Employer and employee are jointly and severally responsible for the withholding and payment of pension plan contributions. This arose from the sports and entertainment area, I believe. Could the minister confirm that? Where has the problem been in the past?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, I'm not aware of how this arose - whether it was in reference to a specific case or not.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, Mr. Chair, employers are currently responsible for withholding tax and CPP contributions. The only area that is not covered off is withholding tax from a contractor when you have an employee-type contract. That arises in the sports and entertainment area, and there was a major issue with respect to the federal government withholding taxes or Canada Pension Plan contributions in this area. There has to be a reason why we're doing this. Or are we just accepting the federal Liberal position? I'd like to know. Perhaps the minister can send me over a written explanation, and I won't belabour it here.
It was another interesting area that was flagged by my accounting firm, and I couldn't get an explanation that satisfied me. I did spend quite a bit of time on this, Mr. Chair, but it's abundantly clear that the minister hasn't. I'm just hopeful that she might, and we might come to an understanding of this.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, I'd be happy to check into this for the Member for Klondike and see if it did arise in respect to a specific case or not. I'll be glad to provide him with written information.
Mr. Fairclough: I was just wondering if the minister, in going through the review, if government had any concerns - concerns that you were able to leave off and perhaps address another time - in these sections.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: We had no concerns about this section.
Chair: Is there any further debate on clause 21?
Clause 21 agreed to
On Clause 22
Clause 22 agreed to
On Clause 23
Mr. Jenkins: Could the minister provide us with an overview of subsection 23, please?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Section 51 gives the minister the right to take or refrain from any action against a person that is contemplated by section 49 or subsection 239(1) or 239(1.1) of the federal act. An example of when an action could occur is if a person fails to file a return as and when required. Section 51 is amended to refer to the federal act rather than the Yukon act. Prior to this amendment, section 50 was referenced by this section and section 50 simply referenced the federal act.
Clause 23 agreed to
On Clause 24
Mr. Jenkins: On subsection 24, could the minister provide an overview on what this subsection applies to?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Subsection 55(1) deals with the laying of information and complaints for offences and some rules of evidence in prosecutions. It is amended to include additional references to the federal act; for example, federal provisions that relate to proof of electronic filing of returns, time of electronic filing of returns, and the notices to partnerships are now referenced under this subsection.
Mr. Jenkins: How does this dovetail into this Electronic Commerce Act that we have before us? Does this negate the need for the Electronic Commerce Act because it's enshrined in federal legislation and we're just basically buying in underneath it? Where do we sit? Because I was told that the main purpose of the Electronic Commerce Act was for income tax purposes and for banking purposes to provide certainty there. Now, there doesn't appear to be a need for it in the income tax. Is this just another needless initiative on the part of the Liberal government, or what is it?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, this and the Electronic Commerce Act don't negate each other. There are other applications for the Electronic Commerce Act.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, the information I have is that the Electronic Commerce Act was going to provide some certainty with respect to taxation, electronic communications in that area, and we're more and more often on a personal level filing electronically, and this clause here brings some certainty to electronic filing and electronic communications between the taxpayer and the Canada Customs and Revenue Agency. So, that appears to be out of the equation. The only other area that the e-commerce pertains to and provides some more certainty to is the banking, and that also comes under the federal Bank Act, so where is this Electronic Commerce Act going to impact on the Income Tax Act and the need for an Electronic Commerce Act?
The minister can stand up, Mr. Chair, and say this isn't relevant, that this is just a housekeeping issue, but when you start dovetailing all these things together, you add up to a different sum from what we're given to understand at the onset, and I want to know why I'm getting there, Mr. Chair.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, two and two still equals four. It relates to proof of filing, et cetera and it is not in conflict with the Electronic Commerce Act, and I'm sure the Member for Klondike will have plenty of questions when the Electronic Commerce Act is being debated line by line.
Chair: Is there any further debate on section 24?
Clause 24 agreed to
On Clause 25
Mr. Jenkins: The anti-avoidance rules are quite an interesting area in tax law and I was wondering what the implications would be in applying it after section 55?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: This amendment makes the general anti-avoidance provisions of the federal act apply for the purposes of this act. Section 55(1) enables a tax benefit to be denied if a transaction is determined to be an anti-avoidance transaction.
Clause 25 agreed to
On Clause 26
Clause 26 agreed to
On Clause 27
Clause 27 agreed to
On Clause 28
Clause 28 agreed to
On Clause 29
Clause 29 agreed to
Title agreed to
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, I move that you report Bill No. 28, An Act to Amend the Income Tax Act, out of Committee without amendment.
Chair: It has been moved by Ms. Buckway that Bill No. 28, An Act to Amend the Income Tax Act, be moved out of Committee without amendment
Motion agreed to
Chair: We will move on to our next bill.
Bill No. 32 - Municipal Loans Act
Chair: Is there any general debate?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Speaking to Bill No. 32, which is the Municipal Loans Act, there is not an awful lot more I can say about the bill that the Premier has not mentioned in her second reading remarks. This bill is a bit of a technicality, in that we ask for appropriation authority for this purpose each year in any event. This measure simply says that the drawdown on these appropriations cannot exceed $15 million over the next number of years without coming back to the House with a similar bill again. The $15-million figure is fairly arbitrary but was chosen as being not being so large as to grant this authority too far into the future.
Mr. Chair, there are a number of questions that have arisen, and I have responses to those questions. I will go through those.
The first question was from Mr. Jenkins: why is the government changing our financial dealings with municipalities? The answer is that, obviously, we're not. This bill simply renews authority to continue doing what we have always done. In other words, not passing this bill would constitute changing our financial dealings with municipalities.
Another question from Mr. Jenkins was: why are municipalities now going to have to borrow money, instead of the government cost-sharing with them? I think, Mr. Chair, I will refer to him as the Member for Klondike from now on. There have been no changes in policy regarding cost-sharing.
The Member for Klondike also asked: why have you further restricted the amount of money that municipalities can borrow? The answer is that there is no further restriction on the amount of money that municipalities can borrow. This bill only deals with borrowing by them from government. Not passing the bill would mean there was a restriction, in the sense that they could not then borrow from us.
On the question from the Member for Klondike: "Why are you bringing in legislation that allows municipalities to exceed their borrowing limit, without going to plebiscite?" The legislation does not allow municipalities to exceed their borrowing limit. Section 3 of this act specifically says that any municipal borrowing from YTG is subject to the Municipal Act.
The question, again, from the Member for Klondike: "Borrowing from municipalities is increasing at an alarming rate under this Liberal government. Why? Where are the checks and balances?" And the answer is that the only borrowing by municipalities that would appear to be larger than usual is by Dawson, which will be borrowing $4.6 million, of which about $880,000 is simply a refinancing for overruns and the various projects being carried on by the community. I understand there were a number of really high bids that came in on those capital projects.
A question again, and the last question from the Member for Klondike: "Why, in this depressed economy, are we requiring municipalities to borrow so much more? Five million to $15 million is a 300-percent increase."
We are not requiring the municipalities to borrow anything. That is simply their choice. There is no increase from $5 million to $15 million. The $15 million in this bill was simply there to avoid having to repeatedly introduce similar bills in the future. We expect, therefore, assuming municipalities were to borrow $5 million per year, that the authority under the present bill will last for three years before a renewed lending authority by a similar new bill. In practice, of course, municipalities seldom borrow $5 million per year, so this bill should be good for another three years. And also, please remember that despite the bill, we must still have an appropriation every year. So the Legislature will in the future, just as it has in the past, continue to control the amount lent to municipalities on an annual basis.
As an aside, Mr. Chair, one of the things that has become clear to me is that we have to do two pieces of legislation in order for this to happen - for municipalities to borrow money. One is in the appropriation and the other is the act that we pass every few years until we run out of money, and then we have to pass a new one.
There is an alternative, although we're too far down the line with this one, because there is a pending application for money right now, that we don't want to slow down. But, in the future, one of the things that we may be looking at is increasing the level of detail in the appropriations acts, so that would answer the legal restriction on having to do a bill, as well as the appropriation acts.
So, if we put more detail into the line at the very end of our budgets, and talked about borrowing in more of a detailed way, perhaps we wouldn't have to go through these duplicating processes. However, we are way down the line on this one, and there is one municipality - Dawson, in particular, the member's own city - that needs to have these dollars allocated shortly.
Thank you, Mr. Chair, and I would be happy to entertain questions.
Mr. Fairclough: There's not much to this act itself, the Municipal Loans Act, and there's not much to question on this. But I would like to know - you have $15 million that's put in this, to some people in the municipalities. My questions are whether or not they are eligible for that through loans and what the interest rates are on these types of loans. Of course, they should be lower than the bank loans that we do have. But how did we arrive at $15 million? Was the number just picked out of a hat? They didn't want to go up to $20 million or $25 million. You don't want to bring another act forward, should the monies disappear. So why wasn't it higher if you wanted to be safe?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: The first question from the member opposite was about the interest rates. And to be absolutely clear, municipalities can only borrow so much money, depending on what they've got for a budget. What I'll read is the briefing note from the department. It says that, years ago, when municipalities wanted to borrow from YTG we would borrow it from the Canada Pension Plan. And I remember this actually from my days on city council. It also says that YTG can still borrow from the CPP, but on a much more restricted basis. For the past several years, YTG has financed lending from its own cash surplus. To be objective as possible, Finance has based the lending rate on the CPP rate. We use the CPP lending rate that YTG can borrow at and round it up to the nearest .25 percent. For example, if CPP will lend funds to the YTG at 6.10 percent, YTG charges municipalities 6.25 percent for the loan. This method prevents having to canvass the market to determine an appropriate interest rate each time a municipality wants to borrow money.
So there is a mechanism for deciding what the interest rate should be, and it's consistent with past practice.
The second question was: where did the figure $15 million come from? Quite frankly, it is an arbitrary figure. We needed a larger figure. We had been using $5 million, but there have been a number of requests from municipalities that have gone up over time.
The most recent request, of course, is from the City of Dawson, which plans to borrow $4,460,000 at six percent for 25 years, and of this amount $889,000 is a refinancing of its existing debt, and $3,571,000 is new borrowing. So, the amounts that municipalities are requesting are going up and up and up, and if we passed a bill that was for only $5 million, we would have to be back here doing the same thing again next year. And we also would be looking at the opportunities that other municipalities would have lost, because we would have to come back and go through the legislative process again.
So, $15 million seems to be in keeping. It's just keeping up to date with how much municipalities are asking for. So, the $15-million figure, I agree, is arbitrary, and the government has certainly been clear about that, but it is more in keeping with the requests that we're receiving now from municipalities.
Mr. Fairclough: There must have been some calculations that the government has done to arrive at this number. I would think that this type of bill is threatening to municipalities, should they be needing work done that normally gets funded by the Yukon government. I hope this is not referred back to them, that they do have the ability to draw funds through loans from the Yukon government.
Calculations to $15 million - the minister and the government must have crunched some numbers to arrive at this. What is the rationale?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, contrary to what the member opposite was saying, municipalities don't find this threatening. They welcome the chance to be able to borrow money from the territorial government, and that has always been the case.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: The Member for Klondike points out that that is the case until they have to pay it back. That has also always been the case.
The figure of $15 million is arbitrary - absolutely, it's arbitrary - but it's a way of saving on having to come back to the Legislature year after year after year. On previous acts, for example, with the $5-million limit, they found initially that they didn't have to come back to the Legislature for six years; and then they didn't have to come back to the Legislature for five years, then four years, three years, two years. Now, they're saying that with a $5-million limit, they'll have to come back every year, and perhaps it would be more advisable to raise the limit instead of having to come back continually with these acts. So the $15-million limit is arbitrary; that is correct. And the long-term solution is to put more detail into the line in the appropriations act, and that is what the long-term solution will be.
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Chair, I just wanted to know how we arrived at the number. To some municipalities, it's a big number. And how long does the government believe that this is good for, now that we've gone up from $5 million to $15 million? Is it something that needs to be addressed a year from now, or is part of the rationale of bumping it up this high that it's good for five years or three years. What is it?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, once again, the figure was arrived at arbitrarily. However, it's estimated that the $15-million figure should cover us for three years.
Mr. Jenkins: I'd just like to explore with the minister some of the areas surrounding this Municipal Loans Act and some of the implications of it. Currently, Mr. Chair, there is some borrowing on the books by the various Yukon municipalities - the largest one being Whitehorse, second being Dawson, and I believe Faro has just paid everything off. Could the minister advise the House of the longest period of amortization of any of these loans currently on the books?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: I need to refer to the document. What I'd like to do is make this available to the members opposite. I'll be circulating this document to them shortly. I will answer the question initially, however. There are two 25-year terms, one for the City of Whitehorse and the second one for Haines Junction. As I said, I will circulate this document to the side opposite right now.
Mr. Jenkins: For what purpose was the long-term amortization with Haines Junction and the City of Whitehorse?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, I can get back to the member opposite, in writing, on that. I will get back to him tomorrow morning, long before we're debating this bill on the floor of this House tomorrow.
Mr. Chair, the time being close to 6:00 p.m., I move that you report progress on Bill No. 32, Municipal Loans Act.
Chair: It has been moved by Mrs. Edelman that we report progress.
Motion agreed to
Ms. Tucker: Mr. Chair, I move that the Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Chair: It has been moved by Ms. Tucker 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: The Committee of the Whole considered Bill No. 23, the Arts Act, and directed me to report same without amendment. The Committee of the Whole considered Bill No. 28, An Act to Amend the Income Tax Act, and directed me to report same without amendment. Further, it has considered Bill No. 32, the Municipal Loans Act, and directed me to report progress on same.
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.
Ms. Tucker: Mr. Speaker, I move that the House do now adjourn.
Speaker: It has been moved by the government House leader that the House do now adjourn.
Motion agreed to
Speaker: This House now stands adjourned until 1:00 p.m. tomorrow.
The House adjourned 5:56 p.m.
The following Sessional Paper was tabled November 6, 2000:
Winter Tourism Development Study (Tourism Yukon): phase one (dated June, 2000)