Thursday, November 16, 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 remembrance of Lena Johns
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Speaker, I rise today on behalf of all Members of the Legislative Assembly to pay tribute to a very close and dear friend of mine and of a lot of people all over the Yukon. She was a special Yukoner, Lena Rose Johns, who passed away recently in Whitehorse.
Lena was born at Lower Lake Laberge on January 15, 1934. She was the fourth child of Jim and Alice Sam and grandniece of Chief Jim Boss. Lena belonged to Dakhl'awedi Clan, the Wolf Clan. As a child, Lena attended the Chootla residential school in Carcross, and later the Whitehorse Baptist mission school. Here, she met and married Art Johns Senior. They had seven children: Lydia, John, Darlene, Charles, A.J., Daphne, Dino and stepson Conrad.
In the late 1960s, Lena met Pete Borotsik Sr., and together they had two children, Alan and Peter Jr.
Lena was a powerful force in the community. She worked for Yukon Native Products parka factory, and she was also the manager of the Yukon Trappers Association and a NNADAP worker for the Kwanlin Dun First Nation. In 1988-89, Lena was elected councillor of the Kwanlin Dun First Nation. In 1989, she was elected chief and remained chief for seven years.
I remember Lena when I was a young child. I used to spend some summers at Lake Laberge. At that time, there were fish around her, and she loved fishing. There were also always children around her. She loved children. Just about everywhere she went, there were children and there were her fish camps.
One of Lena's focuses was Indian child welfare. She developed policy changes to help children remain with their families and also help reunite children with their families. One of her legacies is the Na Kwa Ta Ku Potlatch House. Another is the Ashea Daycare at the Kwanlin Dun First Nation. She helped establish both those two complexes.
Lena loved traditional activities such as fishing, hunting, camping and berry picking. She had a great talent and passion for sewing. She also like the faster pace of city life, especially gambling and bingo.
In October 1998, Lena suffered a serious head injury. Through sheer determination, she recovered and was able to return home and enjoy her time with her children, her 16 grandchildren and her 10 great-grandchildren.
Lena spent most of the past summer working with Shirley Beattie and camping out with the Don't Fence Me In Society. Lena had a wonderful sense of humour, which she shared with her family and her friends. She will be greatly missed for her many talents, skills and knowledge.
On behalf of all the members of this House and all Yukoners, I offer our condolences to her family and all the people of Kwanlin Dun. I know she will be greatly missed. Farewell my friend.
Speaker: If there are no further tributes, I will proceed to introduction of visitors.
Are there any returns or documents for tabling?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Hon. Mr. Roberts: I would like to table the Yukon Hospital Corporation financial statements, March 31, 2000.
Mr. McRobb: I have for tabling the fall 2000 issue of Heritage Magazine, which has a feature article on Dawson City.
Speaker: Are there any other returns or documents for tabling?
Are there any reports of committees?
Are there any petitions?
Petition No. 1 - not received
Clerk: Mr. Speaker and hon. members of the Assembly, I have had the honour to review a petition, being Petition No. 1 of the Second Session of the Thirtieth Legislative Assembly, as presented by the Member for Kluane on November 15, 2000.
Pursuant to Standing Order 66(1) of the Yukon Legislative Assembly, it is the responsibility of the Clerk to report on whether petitions conform to the rules and practices of this House.
Petition No. 1 does not conform in the following respects: it has a covering page setting out a petition in the format of the model petition outlined in Appendix 2 of the Standing Orders of the Yukon Legislative Assembly; however, the following pages, on which signatures are found, does not contain the same text as is found on the covering page. The pages with signatures are not addressed to the Yukon Legislative Assembly and do not conclude with a prayer requesting the Assembly to take any specific action.
Standing Order 65(7) states: "Petitions may be either written or printed, provided always that when there are three or more petitioners the signature of at least three petitioners shall be subscribed on the sheet containing the body of the petition."
The covering page of Petition No. 1, which is the only page of the petition that might be found to meet the requirements of the Assembly, is not signed by anyone.
Further, it is required that a petition have original signatures or marks. Petition No. 1 is entirely composed of photocopy pages.
Speaker: Accordingly, Petition No. 1 may not be received.
Speaker: Also, the Chair reviewed the remarks made by the Member for Kluane when presenting this petition on November 15. Standing Order 65(3) states: "Every member offering a petition to this Assembly shall confine himself or herself to the statement of the parties from which it comes, the number of signatures attached to it and the material allegations it contains."
Also, annotations 1041 and 1042 in Beauchesne's Sixth Edition state: "A Member, when presenting a petition, may not make a speech nor present argument in support of the petition." And "When presenting a petition a Member may make a brief statement of the content of the petition. In making such a statement, the Member should avoid going beyond the thrust of the petition and entering debate."
It is clear that the Member for Kluane violated these rules in the remarks he made in presenting the petition yesterday. The Chair would recommend that any members presenting petitions in the future acquaint themselves with these rules and adhere to them.
Speaker: Turning to the Daily Routine, are there any new petitions to be presented?
Are there any bills to be introduced?
Are there any notices of motion?
NOTICES OF MOTION
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that the Government of the Yukon should work toward the development of a territorial-wide electrical grid, commencing with the extension of the Whitehorse-Aishihik grid from Carmacks to Mayo and then to Dawson City.
Speaker: Are there any further notices of motion?
Are there any statements by ministers?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: I would like to report to this House on this government's continued involvement on climate change issues.
As many of you may know, the predicted effects of climate change may make this the single most important environmental issue facing the whole of Canada's north. These effects will not only have environmental impacts, but we will also experience profound effects on Yukon's economic, social and cultural fabric. For example, we have reports that we are losing significant portions of our Arctic coastline due to permafrost melting. We may have to look at higher costs for infrastructure construction and development as a result of the melting permafrost.
There is expected to be an impact on traditional lifestyles due to habitat loss and the potential extinction of some species. The threat of longer, more severe fire seasons is also a concern.
As we indicated in our election platform, we acknowledge our responsibility to preserve and protect our environment for future generations. The Yukon government is taking action at the local level, as well as being involved both at the national and international levels on the climate change issue.
At the local level, we will continue to provide good policy and effective leadership on this issue and take action in several areas. The Yukon government's extensive energy efficiency and greenhouse gas reduction programs have resulted in the highest grade, an A-minus, in Canada on the Energy Efficiency Alliance's report card on energy efficiency measures.
The department's environmental protection and assessment branch chairs the Yukon government's Climate Change Coordinating Committee, which, among other things, is developing an inventory of climate change activities in the Yukon. This inventory will be the first step in preparing an action plan for the Yukon with respect to climate change.
The Yukon government already has a number of research projects underway with respect to the impact that climate change has and will continue to have in the north.
Our policy is to identify other areas that need to be studied in the future, and it will also identify additional actions that the Yukon government can take to reduce its releases of greenhouse gas emissions.
We are also working very closely with the other two territories to ensure optimum benefit to Canada's north.
At the national level, we recently attended the joint ministers' meeting on climate change in Quebec in October, and we will be attending and supporting Canada's negotiating positions at the upcoming international negotiations in The Hague during the third week of this month.
While recognizing the importance of maintaining a competitive edge for Canadian companies, we also believe it is important that Canada show that real action is being taken in reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
We have been part of the process to develop an integrated package at the national level. This package includes the national implementation strategy for how Canada will fulfill its commitment under the Kyoto protocol; the first national business plan that explains how the implementation strategy will be implemented; and, the federal/provincial/territorial agreement with respect to climate change.
We will continue to provide leadership on this issue. I would also like to urge all Yukoners to participate with the Yukon government in continuing efforts to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. McRobb: Again, today I am pleased to rise in support of this former NDP initiative. It was the previous government who launched these programs that are now in place and which the minister speaks of. In fact there's nothing really new in the statement today.
The only new thing out of this Liberal government, Mr. Speaker, is "review, cancel, delay". It seems to be the Liberal way. We don't get much new.
The report card he speaks of is generated as a result of the energy commission, which I headed in 1997-98. It's interesting to note that back then the Liberals were extremely aggressive and critical toward the work of the energy commission, yet they're here today speaking proudly on the commendations of the work generated by the commission and the follow-up by the Yukon government and the Crown corporations. So, I would ask the minister, when he tries to take all the credit, to maybe give credit where credit is due in that regard.
The announcement is basically a follow-up, part 2 if you will, on a September 16, 1999, announcement by the previous Minister of Renewable Resources, Eric Fairclough. It's interesting in that release, Mr. Speaker, he was quoted as saying, "This project is all about our future." Sounds familiar - it's all about the future to this Liberal government. If it's not happening in the future, it seems it's being cancelled, reviewed or delayed.
The energy report card reminds me of the implementation of the final recommendations from the Cabinet Commission on Energy and the greenhouse gas reducing measures it contains in the 56 recommendations. We have yet to hear a peep from this government about implementing those recommendations.
What about the telework project which is telecommuting? What about using waste heat from diesel generators in Yukon communities and in Whitehorse? We don't hear anything about that, Mr. Speaker. What work is being done in that regard?
The minister speaks about his trip to The Hague. Well, I hope it's more productive than his trip to Iceland last summer, in which he bragged about how great the endangered species legislation was going to be this fall. Because we all know what happened to that, Mr. Speaker. The federal government killed it. They left it on the table when they called the election. They put politics ahead of endangered species. I certainly hope this minister takes this issue more seriously and does what he can to convince his federal counterparts to do the same.
Now, the minister appeals to Yukoners to do what they can to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Well, I'm wondering if he has got the message to the Premier, because I understand that she's making a special flight back today to help the Prime Minister campaign. How many tons of CO2 are being burned for that special trip?
So, if he's interested in getting the message out, I would suggest they look internally first and maybe think about a little less hot air in the Legislature and a few more constructive ideas on the ground. There are plenty of recommendations out there; all they have to do is follow up on them.
Mr. Jenkins: I would like to thank the minister for his statement on climate change in Canada's north. I believe it is fair to say that Yukoners are doing their part to mitigate the effects of climate change, as witnessed by the highest grade in Canada that Yukon received on the Energy Efficiency Alliance report card on energy efficiency measures.
While Yukoners are doing more than their fair share, it is obvious that climate change is a global problem that requires global solutions. Climate change has been portrayed by some groups as almost a doomsday scenario for Canada's north. While there are bound to be negative effects of climate change in Canada's north, there are bound to be some positive impacts, as well. I believe that it is important for Yukoners to keep a balanced perspective on climate change.
While climate change is important to Yukoners, an even more important and immediate concern to Yukoners is the current state of our economic condition. The primary focus of this government should be on how it can improve Yukon's investment climate. There are things that this government should be doing to improve Yukon's current economic plight by settling land claims, basing the protected areas strategy on multiple use and ensuring that the development assessment process doesn't become a major impediment to economic growth.
Now, I might be sounding like a broken record, but while such issues as climate change, the Wildlife Act review and other reviews this Liberal government has initiated are important,, they shouldn't be used to divert the attention of the government away from what it should be doing, and that's to turn the economy around and encourage Yukoners to not give up hope, to live and stay and work in the Yukon.
Mr. Speaker, if you stopped a Yukoner on the street and asked him what the single most important issue facing Yukoners is today, the response wouldn't be climate change. It would be about jobs and how many families, friends and other youth have had to leave the territory to find their livelihoods elsewhere. I'd ask the minister, in his response, to tell us what this Liberal government is doing to turn this situation around. Every day we have a new statement from a minister raising important issues but failing to address the most important issue of all: Yukon's and Yukoners' economic well-being.
Now, Yukoners, Mr. Speaker, are addressing greenhouse gas emissions but haven't done anything yet about the Liberal gas that is driving Yukon's economy into a full-blown depression. Let's refocus our energies, our efforts and do something about the economy here.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Speaker, in response to the members opposite - the Member for Kluane - I believe that this issue, as expressed by the leader of the third party, is global in nature and I did not mean to pre-empt any former governments' initiatives in this effort. As we all know, the former Minister of Renewable Resources thought it so important that he spent 10 days in Kyoto to represent the northern interests at that conference. I am just carrying on the tradition of going to The Hague to represent Canada's north and to put forward our concerns in that global warming is not something that's going to happen, not something that's coming down the pipe, but it's something that is happening now. It is affecting such things as migratory routes for caribou. It is affecting our permafrost layers. It is having a direct effect on the territory right now, not only Yukon but the Northwest Territories and Nunavut. And the Member for Kluane should know that Nunavut is in Canada, not Iceland. I do acknowledge the initiatives that were put forward by the previous government, but I also want to indicate that this initiative is not solely the responsibility of the Yukon Liberal Party, although we're being very proactive in that aspect, as well.
So I do credit the former minister for making his presence at Kyoto. I think that was a very, very worthwhile endeavour. It's not a new initiative, but the fact is that global warming is having a direct effect here in the territory as we speak. I do believe that the national leader of the NDP did make a special trip to Yukon, so I don't think that any one party has the total op on the use, or creating or adding to global warming. I believe the NDP, in their expressions, are also adding to the problem.
I disagree with the leader of the third party, Mr. Speaker, in that he says it is not an economic concern. It is an economic concern because of the impact it is having on our land base as we speak. The fact is that it will change the dynamic of the landscape and will change economic opportunities with respect to wildlife, ecotourism.
So it is something that this government is taking very responsibly. We're not only looking at the short term by making Canada's representation at The Hague, but we're also looking down the road, because these impacts will have profound effects on the whole of Canada's north and are of concern to this government, Yukon's north. We're concerned about the impact it's going to have on the Vuntut Gwitchin traditional territories, as well as other places in the Yukon.
So that is my response to members opposite.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: Are there any further statements by ministers?
This then brings us to Question Period.
Question re: Yukon Brewing Company, trade and investment fund
Mr. Fentie:My question today is for the Acting Minister of Economic Development.
Mr. Speaker, yesterday, an article in the Yukon News appeared that brings to bear another example of this Liberal government's lack of economic vision and lack of an economic plan - proof positive that they're flying by the seat of their pants.
I think the headline says it all: "Liberal policy may flatten brewer's expansion plan". The Yukon Brewing Company has been a successful and symbolic business of economic diversification in this territory over the last four years. It is through the trade and investment fund that this company has been successful in marketing a made-in-Yukon product outside of this territory - reaching millions of Canadians. They now have a chance to enter one of the toughest markets in the country: British Columbia. Then in steps the Liberal government, and throws up a roadblock.
Mr. Speaker, why has this government eliminated the trade and investment fund and further strangled - further strangled - any hope of economic diversity in this territory?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: First of all, Mr. Speaker, "strangled" is violent language and it's not appropriate for use in this House.
The member opposite says that we have eliminated the tourism marketing fund, and that is factually incorrect. The tourism marketing fund was largely spent by the previous NDP government, long before we were sworn into office. The money that was left, and there wasn't an awful lot of it, was distributed shortly thereafter. At the present time, we're looking at that fund to see if it best meets the needs of Yukoners.
Now, the business the member opposite is making reference to is a great business. It has been very successful in a number of different markets and it has, indeed, accessed a fairly large amount of taxpayers' dollars in the past to help them in their business pursuits. The principles of our government are that we believe in a level playing field for business; therefore, we believe that one business should not get any more than another business. So, what we're trying to say to the people of the Yukon is that we don't play favourites with Yukon business, that we believe business should do what it does best and that is to strengthen the economy of the Yukon. And that should happen without government interference.
Mr. Fentie: A very interesting answer, Mr. Speaker. Unfortunately, the minister fails to get the point.
This business, as stated - there's no question the Yukon Brewing Company has been a classic example of what some small investment and a little help can do. It is the government's job to help Yukon businesses diversify their businesses and help to diversify this economy.
This government refuses to do so. The reason that this brewing company is now having trouble expanding their business is not because they lack markets or that they lack their own investment, but because they lack the help of this Liberal government. Why won't this minister recognize how important the tourism marketing fund and the trade and investment fund are to Yukon businesses, and reinstate them immediately?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: There is no money tree. We just can't make money appear. The money was spent by the previous NDP government long before we were sworn into government. Economic Development has helped this business in the past. As a government, we are supportive of business within the Yukon Territory. We believe that there should be a level playing field, and part of that level playing field is letting business do what they do best - and that is to go out and make money and provide services for the people of the Yukon without government interference.
Mr. Fentie: Well, the minister has just claimed poverty. Yet we are debating a $37-million budget in this House which, for the most part, makes government bigger and ignores Yukon businesses. These Liberals turned their backs on the 125 forestry workers in Watson Lake, shutting that down. They turned their backs on the people and the children of Mayo and stopped the Mayo school, so those benefits are gone. They ignored our economic future and cancelled the port options which may very well landlock this territory. And now they're turning their backs on small business. Why has this Liberal government given up now on small business in this territory, among all the other things they've given up on?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: To the contrary, Mr. Speaker, our government believes in small business in the Yukon Territory. That's why we don't interfere with it. Now, the previous NDP government knew that funds such as the trade investment fund did not effectively meet the needs of Yukoners. They knew that the previous government was handing out taxpayers' money with no assessment of how that money was being spent. What they were doing was trying to meet their political objectives. This government does not do that. This government supports small business by letting it do what it does best. We let the private sector in this territory work without government interference. We believe in a level playing field for all the private sector in the Yukon Territory.
Question re: Yukon Brewing Company, trade and investment fund
Mr. Fentie: Well, this is the same minister who refused to answer in this House what assessments were done on purchasing a private sector business in this territory. Yet, the minister claims that they don't get involved.
Mr. Speaker, the Yukon economy, when the Liberal government took office, was diversifying and turning things around. Now, it's in the toilet. The only thing the Liberal government has done, instead of trying to recover it, is pull the lever and flush it.
Will this minister recognize the crisis we're in economically and lobby her Premier and Cabinet colleagues to immediately reinstate the trade and investment fund, so that this brewery can expand its markets, creating more jobs and benefits for Yukon people?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: No.
Mr. Fentie: Now we have a government that claims they are reviewing the funds. The reality is that they have cancelled them. The ramifications are now starting to set upon us.
This business is now going to have major trouble in trying to enter the B.C. market and help increase jobs and benefits for Yukoners.
Mr. Speaker, we are on the brink of economic devastation in this territory. This minister and her government continue to do nothing. They claim they are reviewing all these programs to make them better - to make them responsive. Well, they're reviewing the Education Act. Does that mean we're going to stop teaching our children?
There was lots of money when this government took over. The Auditor General has said it was $64 million. Surely they could step up and help this brewing company expand its business, and create jobs and benefits for Yukoners, as it is their duty to do.
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, the member across the way is once again factually incorrect. To go back to his first question, I have never refused to answer a question in this Legislature. That's my job. I am the minister. I have never refused to answer a question. As that is my job, it is unlikely that I will do that in the future.
The other factually incorrect statement by the member opposite is that we have cancelled these funds. What we are doing is reviewing these funds, because we felt - and we heard this from many Yukoners - that those funds did not meet the needs of Yukoners. Therefore, what we are doing is going out to find better and more improved ways to support Yukoners in the initiatives they wish to undertake.
I want to remind the member opposite that if we are on the brink of economic devastation - and that's a matter of some debate in this House on an almost daily basis - then it is because of the actions of the previous NDP government.
Mr. Fentie: Well, the minister claims that I am factually incorrect. If I had a half an hour to ask this question, I could read from Hansard many, many quotes where this minister has refused to answer the question.
Secondly, this is a cancellation. There is no money in the fund. You may be reviewing it, but how long is that review going to take and will it save this company, this Yukon company's ability to expand its market? It's highly unlikely. This cold-hearted government, with no vision and no plan, is now sacrificing solid businesses that, through the initiatives of the former NDP government, actually begin to diversify and expand our economy outside of Yukon borders. When will this minister wake up, lobby her Premier and her colleagues to do the right thing, help this brewery company get into the B.C. markets, create more jobs and benefit for the Yukon Territory? When will she do so?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: To be clear, Mr. Speaker, I am awake. The member opposite is factually incorrect in two statements once again that he has made.
He is factually incorrect in saying that I have refused to answer a question. That has never happened in this Legislature. The member opposite is also factually incorrect when he says that we have cancelled the funds. The trade and investment fund was spent. The large majority of it was spent long before we were sworn into office. It was spent in less than a month by the previous NDP government, as was the community development fund, as was the tourism marketing fund. That money was gone, and it was spent to buy political favours throughout the Yukon Territory, but it didn't work.
The member opposite says that this business, which we have supported in the past as a government, which their government supported in the past, will somehow or another go under because of a lack of support from this government. What we have decided to do, as a government, is to support business by promoting and keeping to a level playing field. That is something that came out as a recommendation from the business forum here in the Yukon Territory. There was a report that was given to this Legislature when I sat in opposition, and the government at the time completely ignored those recommendations. The number one recommendation was a level playing field for business, and that is exactly what we paid attention to, that was in our platform, that's what we're doing as a government.
Question re: Job creation
Mr. Jenkins: I have a question for the Acting Minister of Economic Development.
Now, in response to a question in the House about unemployment on October 26, the Premier took pride in the fact that the unemployment rate was down two percent since the Liberal government took office - sounds great. The unemployment statistics for October, however, made it clear that there was no reason to be proud, as Yukon's labour force between this October and last has dropped by some 600 workers. If these workers hadn't decided to leave, Yukon's unemployment rate would actually be an alarming 13 percent, not 9.7.
Can the minister explain why her government didn't use a portion of the $64-million surplus to create a winter works program to help find work and create employment for Yukoners this winter? Why doesn't this government care about the economy?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, apparently the previous government didn't care about the economy either. They are the government that brought us to this position. They are the government that did not have winter works within the budget that this government adopted.
The member opposite is saying that this government does not care about the fact that there are Yukoners who are out of work, and we certainly do care. That's why we have undertaken a number of different projects that will put people to work this winter. Those are projects that are going to be in the Department of Community and Transportation Services; those are projects that are taking place within the Tourism department; those are projects that will be taking place within Government Services as well as Health and Social Services. All of those are areas where Yukoners will find work this winter, and those are initiatives, some of which came from the previous government and some of which came from our government in the supplemental budget.
Mr. Jenkins:What we have is this Liberal, NDP-clone government creating a U-Haul economy, by turning the Alaska Highway into a one-lane U-Haul route heading south. Can the minister explain why there is a waiting list to rent U-Haul trailers, if all of the wonderful things that the Premier amplified the other day in this House are going on that she said were going on? Why can't Yukoners find employment for Yukoners themselves here? Why are they having to leave in droves to find work elsewhere?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, this government is working very hard on projects and on programs that employ Yukoners. One of the ways that we help to promote certainty within the Yukon economy, and the Member for Klondike has always found a problem with this, was that we adopted the NDP budget in order to provide certainty for businesses within the Yukon Territory. When the previous Yukon Party government came to power, they very quickly adopted another budget of their own. At that time, a number of contracts were torn up. There was a great deal of uncertainty added to the Yukon economy. A number of businesses went under that year. We determined, as a government, that we would not do that, and we have not, and we will be employing a number of Yukoners this winter.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, I guess it's all the NDP's fault, because the Liberals adopted their budget. That was a Liberal decision, and when that budget was adopted we were told, "Wait until the fall. We will have the Liberal picture painted for you in our supplementary budget." We have yet to see anything. In fact, one of the auto parts store owners in Watson Lake has commented that one of the most popular items was the sale of trailer hitches as Yukoners head south looking for work.
I'd like the minister to name one winter works program that Yukoners can hitch their hopes to this winter, because I can't think of one. Name one winter works program.
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, a number of different projects are taking place throughout the Yukon. I am thinking off the top of my head about the Shakwak project. I'm also thinking about the clearing for the sewage lagoon out in Carmacks. That's through the Department of Community and Transportation Services. I'm thinking about a number of multi-million dollar films that are going to be produced in the Yukon, and the former Tourism minister is very, very proud of that even though the negotiations took place long after the election took place. The other things that I can think of, just off the top of my head, would be projects to do with, once again, Community and Transportation Services, and those would be works programs around highways.
It's not the be-all and end-all, because the private sector is also employing people and, to be absolutely clear, the unemployment rate is down to 9.7 percent.
Question re: Beringia Interpretive Centre, purchase of gift shop
Mr. McRobb: I have a question for the Minister of Tourism on the Beringia Centre gift shop matter. On November 6, I asked the minister if any of the purchase price paid by her department went toward paying for goodwill. In a letter to me on November 9, the minister said no, meaning, I presume, that no public money went toward paying for goodwill.
Is the minister now prepared to admit that this statement in her letter is not true?
Speaker: Order please. I remind the member that making references to statements being true or not true, or suggesting falsehoods, are not acceptable in the House. They are unparliamentary. I would ask the member to refrain in future.
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: The member opposite is talking about two different things. First of all he asked in the Legislature - despite the fact that Mr. Hughes was here for the Hughes inquiry as opposed to the McRobb inquiry. Mr. Hughes has spoken to most people in the Yukon about this issue, and he is conducting an inquiry. The member opposite also seems to be conducting an inquiry.
Now, the issue of goodwill was two different issues. The first one - and to be clear, I had no involvement in this as the minister responsible. I was at arm's length for the entire process. And I apologize for any confusion around this issue to the member opposite.
Now, there was no payment for goodwill. The term "goodwill" means a lot of different things in a business transaction. In this case it meant lists of inventory, et cetera, et cetera. It didn't refer to the common - or what the member opposite thinks is goodwill. Now, what I will do - and because this is a subject that seems to have a lot of unclear areas about it - is once again provide yet another written response to the member opposite. Of course, he does have an access-to-information request in, and he will be getting that information in complete detail by the end of this month as well.
Mr. McRobb: Well, Mr. Speaker, let's be clear on one thing. I'm not interfering with the investigation. This question is clearly beyond the scope of the investigation being conducted by Mr. Hughes. My questions relate to policy, and what the minister said.
Now, the minister can call it anything she likes, but that doesn't change the facts. In the same letter, she refers to a letter from the former contractor on May 12, which included the following items: supplier list, contracts, product research, goodwill.
On Tuesday of this week, the minister finally provided an inventory list we had asked for. The final item on that list is for supplier list, contracts, product research, goodwill.
Will the minister confirm that her department paid in excess of $25,000 for this item, including goodwill?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, we have nothing to hide, so for the McRobb inquiry - and once again, this is an individual who refuses to make a charge, as Mr. Hughes pointed out to the member opposite as well - if he would like to make a charge, if there has been some sort of wrongdoing, then it is his responsibility to spell it out, to tell Yukoners what he thinks is the problem.
I have answered the question previously. I will get back to the member opposite, because he will not listen to the answer. I will get back to him in writing. Actually, you know, Mr. Speaker, it doesn't matter what I say, the McRobb inquiry continues day after day after day after day. If the member opposite had been willing to make a charge against the Member for Whitehorse Centre, Mr. Hughes would have been happy to expand his inquiry, to look at all the issues the McRobb inquiry is now looking at.
So to be absolutely clear, I will get back to the member opposite in a written response, to clear up this area for the McRobb inquiry. I would suggest to the member opposite that he still has an opportunity to ask Mr. Hughes to expand his inquiry by making a charge against the Member for Whitehorse Centre. That is his opportunity.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. McRobb: Well, Mr. Speaker, the member opposite can insult me, she can mock me all she wants, but I can take it. I've got a thick skin, and I'm here to represent the interests of Yukoners and Yukon taxpayers, and I will do whatever it takes to stand here and ask the questions, no matter how much she insults me.
Now, Mr. Speaker, we're dealing with a seasonal operation, a concession stand that drew its clientele from people who were there to visit a government-owned tourism operation - a money-losing operation, at that, as the side opposite used to point out when they were over here. The vast majority of that clientele was one time only. Given all of those factors, can the minister tell us why any reasonable Yukon taxpayer would think the government should be paying goodwill to any private business in a case like this?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite once again refuses to make a charge. There is an opportunity for him, as a Member of the Legislative Assembly and a representative of the people of his riding, to make a charge against the Member for Whitehorse Centre and to expand the inquiry of Mr. Hughes. As long as he does not do that, it is the McRobb inquiry on the floor of this Legislature.
Speaker: Order please. Order please. I would ask the member to be cautious or be judicious with her choice of words. I find "the McRobb inquiry" can be insulting language. Thank you.
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, there's a constant insult on the floor of this Legislature every day that the member opposite stands up, refuses to make a charge - the constant innuendo. It is there every day. I have told the member opposite that I would respond to him in writing, and I will. He has an opportunity to expand the inquiry of Mr. Hughes. He does not take that opportunity.
Question re: Beringia Interpretive Centre, purchase of gift shop
Mr. Fentie: Mr. Speaker, I'd like to follow up with the Minister of Tourism. Earlier in this Question Period, the minister, acting on behalf of the Minister of Economic Development, stated that this Liberal government does not get involved in the private sector - especially with money - and is very focused on a level playing field.
We know it's a matter of public record that a private sector business was purchased by this government. That purchase included $25,000 of goodwill. Are we to take it, Mr. Speaker, that that means now that the Liberal government, whenever a government contract comes to its end, will be purchasing and paying for goodwill from other Yukon businesses? That to me spells "level playing field".
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, I will get back to the member opposite about his inquiry. The contract had three options at its termination. I got back to the member opposite about those. One of them was to buy the business out. That is what the government did. It is the same opportunity that is given to anyone who has a contract with the Yukon Territory in this respect.
If anyone had had that contract, other than the Member for Whitehorse Centre, they would have had the opportunity to be bought out as one of the three options for terminating that contract.
Mr. Fentie: Well, this is not an inquiry. I am merely trying to get the record straight. The minister, on the one hand, when dealing with the Department of Economic Development states, "The Liberal government does not get involved monetarily with the private sector." She wants to ensure a "level playing field." Yet, on the other hand, this same government will purchase private sector businesses and pay for goodwill. Is that the Liberal government's idea of a level playing field? Are we now, here in this territory, with taxpayers' funds, going to be paying for goodwill to government contractors whose contracts have come to an end?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, once again I will answer the question. It was a level playing field. It was within the terms of the contact negotiated and signed by the previous NDP government. We followed the terms of the contract as written.
Mr. Fentie: Well, the word wizards from upstairs have missed the question. The little note that the minister just got to read does not deal with the question I'm asking.
This minister is telling us, then, that a Yukon company that is now trying to access further markets outside this territory, is not eligible for government help. But, on the other hand, there's this other business, which just happens to have been owned by a member of the Liberal Party that is eligible for government help.
We are trying to find out, Mr. Speaker, if the minister's meaning of "a level playing field" is the purchase of goodwill from Yukon businesses that have government contracts. That's all this is.
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite is confused. He is confusing buying out a contract with gaining marketing dollars from the Department of Economic Development. Those are two entirely different issues. There is no connection whatsoever, and to be absolutely clear, we believe in a level playing field for business.
Now, the contract with the Member for Whitehorse Centre, which was bought out by this government, was negotiated by the previous NDP government. Buying out the contract was one of the three options at the termination of that contract. We followed the terms of the contract as written.
Question re: Prime Minister of Canada's visit
Mr. Fairclough: I have a question for the Acting Premier.
We know that today is a big day for the Liberals, with the Prime Minister coming to learn all about Yukon in the 90-minute love-in with a few invited guests. Today we learn that the Premier will be coming back from Anchorage for a piece of the action.
Can the Acting Premier tell us if the real Premier will be returning to Anchorage after 10 minutes of rubbing shoulders with the Prime Minister?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, this brings us to an issue that came up yesterday. The Member for Kluane referred to the Prime Minister of Canada as "the grand pooh-bah". Now we're talking about a political rally as a love-in with the Prime Minister of Canada. That is completely lacking in respect.
To be absolutely clear, the Premier will be returning to the Yukon Territory. She will be staying in the Yukon Territory until she next goes somewhere else, obviously. But the issue here is a lack of respect, Mr. Speaker. The Prime Minister of Canada, as the Member for Kluane seems to think, is not the grand pooh-bah. He is the Prime Minister of Canada.
And to be absolutely clear, the political rally tonight is not a love-in. It's an honour for our family, for example, to meet the Prime Minister of Canada. My children are very excited about it, and it's something that Yukoners take for granted. We are a very, very small area of Canada and we meet prime ministers all the time. There are many people in this nation who never have that opportunity. I'm excited about it.
Mr. Fairclough: The Prime Minister comes to the Yukon once, on average, every 12 years, and every 16 years, when it comes to a federal election. I think it's important that we do have our government lobbying on behalf of Yukoners.
Can the Acting Premier tell us why the real Premier now thinks it's more important to take part in a political photo-op than to carry on with her aggressive promotion of the Alaska Highway pipeline route?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: The Premier's efforts on lobbying for the pipeline route are never ending. To be absolutely clear, her meetings are over now in Alaska.
The last time the Prime Minister visited, to be absolutely clear with the member opposite, was in 1996. That was not 12 years ago. We meet regularly, as a government, with officials and with politicians in Ottawa and the sad, sad truth here is that the side opposite has a real lack of respect for the political leader of our country.
Mr. Fairclough: It's funny that he'd be coming to the Yukon at this time when many times we have invited him to look at Yukon issues. There are, of course, many very, very important issues that Yukon people want the Prime Minister to be aware of. There's land claims, of course; devolution; environmental clean-up - the Marwell tar pit comes to mind; northern economic development; timber harvest agreements; fuel prices; global warming; and the list goes on.
Now, will the Acting Premier give her assurance that the Prime Minister will not leave here tonight without someone from the Liberal government making it crystal clear that what Yukoners want and need on these matters are dealt with and voiced by someone from the Liberal side?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: We take the opportunity as a government to constantly voice our concerns and enjoy opportunities in all the areas that the member opposite has just listed. We will again be speaking to the Prime Minister of Canada today about some of those issues. But, to be absolutely clear, there are many, many letters, many, many meetings, that we've had with officials and with politicians in Ottawa, about every one of those issues. Those happen on an ongoing basis. It will not just happen tonight; it will happen for many, many years into the future as long as our government is in power.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed. We will proceed with Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Bill No. 31: Second Reading
Clerk: Second reading, Bill No. 31, standing in the name of the hon. Ms. Buckway.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I move that Bill No. 31, entitled An Act to Amend the Motor Vehicles Act, be now read a second 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 read a second time.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Speaker, hon. members of this Assembly, today I introduce you to Bill No. 31, An Act to Amend the Motor Vehicles Act. Bill No. 31 is, for the most part, the fine-tuning of some previous amendments made under the Motor Vehicles Act.
In 1997, this Legislature approved amendments to deal with drivers who abuse their driving privilege by driving impaired, without insurance, or with a suspended or disqualified licence. New laws were introduced, including vehicle impoundment and roadside suspension provisions. Now, after two years' experience with these amendments, some changes are necessary to ensure these laws work as effectively as originally intended, and as effectively as we all want them to work. We share the highways with our neighbours, our friends and our families. We need to know that our laws are structured to keep unsafe drivers off the road.
In October of this year I signed a protocol of recognition agreement with B.C.'s Minister of Transportation and Highways. This agreement will allow Yukon traffic laws to apply on sections of B.C. highways. The agreement will provide for greater clarity and consistency in traffic laws. And, because these sections of highway are operated and maintained with Yukon government funds, it makes good sense to have a parallel legal regime that applies to traffic on the B.C. sections of the highway.
Mr. Speaker, these amendments before us will help to keep drivers who abuse their driving privileges off the roads, and therefore will help to protect law-abiding citizens from harm when they use our roadways.
Some years ago Yukoners told government that it was time to get tough on drivers who abuse their driving privileges by driving after using alcohol or drugs and driving without a valid licence. To be effective, the law must deter unsafe behaviour. The laws exist to convince people that driving after drinking too much alcohol, driving without a valid licence or without proper insurance, is not worth the consequences. These consequences, Mr. Speaker, are in the form of tough laws. They have to be tough, and I'm glad they are.
The behaviours they are trying to deter are very destructive, very costly in dollars and in wasted potential, and are also very avoidable. There is tragedy in avoidable harm and wasted potential. Every motor vehicle crash that results in a fatality is a tragedy. Every crash that seriously injures a victim wastes the potential of that individual.
Across Canada and in the Yukon, there are too many stories of wasted potential because of avoidable crashes. The best way to avoid crashes is to prevent them from occurring in the first place, by removing unsafe drivers from our highways.
Through these laws, we are sending a very specific and a very strong message, that drinking and driving, or driving without a valid licence, will not be tolerated. For the betterment of all people, it cannot be tolerated. I believe the amendments in Bill No. 31 that deal with impaired driving will send just that message to those who abuse their driving privilege.
A number of provisions in this bill are connected to the crime of impaired driving. I use the word "crime" purposefully, Mr. Speaker. Impaired driving is a criminal offence under the Criminal Code. Impaired drivers have a disregard - often a reckless disregard - for your safety, for my safety, and for the safety of every other person, whether a mother with children, a teenage cyclist, or a senior using the road.
Mr. Speaker, I will now review the major aspects of the bill. Improvements in this bill cover the laws for impounding vehicles when police detect impaired driving and other offences like driving without insurance. These changes to the impoundment laws will hold people more accountable for illegal and dangerous driving behaviour.
Improvements to the processing of reviewing a vehicle impoundment by a review officer are proposed. Review officers have an important and difficult role. Changes will set clearer parameters for those requesting reviews and also will set clearer parameters for deciding reviews. In addition - and very significantly, because it is new - drivers who have very high levels of alcohol will be subject to even longer periods of vehicle impoundment. A driver who is tested and found to have an alcohol content greater than twice the legal limit will have his or her vehicle impounded for twice as long.
I would like to share some statistics on the vehicle impoundment law. Between April 1, 1999, when the law was implemented, and October 31 of this year, 516 vehicles were impounded. Of these, 311 vehicles - or just over 60 percent - were impounded because police found the drivers impaired. That's 280 vehicles. Or, the person refused to give a breath sample - 31 vehicles.
The second highest number of vehicles - 116, representing just over 20 percent of the total - were impounded for not having liability insurance. The remaining 89 vehicles were impounded for driving while disqualified, prohibited or for leaving the scene of an accident.
Changes made over the past years are working. Many unsafe drivers are being removed from the roadway before they can harm the innocent. We still need to do more to reduce the deaths and injuries on Yukon highways.
The bill also contains an important component of the graduated drivers' licensing laws connected to the impaired driving problem. Graduated drivers licensing in the Yukon, and in the six other Canadian jurisdictions with these laws, requires new drivers to drive alcohol and drug free for the two years of their driving apprenticeship, as one might call it. This bill requires the people who teach new drivers - we call them co-drivers - to be alcohol and drug free when in a vehicle teaching driving.
Several provisions deal with the alcohol ignition interlock device. The amendments will provide an opportunity for a person convicted of impaired-driving-related crimes to seek approval from the Driver Control Board for installation of such a device at an earlier time than was permitted in the current law.
The Criminal Code was changed on July 1, 1999, to permit reinstatement of driving privileges at an earlier time after a conviction if an ignition interlock device is approved and used. These amendments harmonized the Motor Vehicles Act with the Criminal Code provisions regarding alcohol ignition interlock devices. Some provisions make minor adjustments to the 90-day driver's licence suspension or disqualification law. A number of other amendments correct a few minor errors in other parts of the act and clarify some existing laws to make explicit what was implicit.
As we bring this act through the Legislature, we will make all roadways, which are some of our most public places, safer places for Yukoners. I think it is great work for this Legislature, and I look forward to support as we debate this bill.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to recognize former MLA and minister Bill Brewster and the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes, who held this portfolio in the previous government. Both of them did significant work on the Motor Vehicles Act. I thank them for it. My role is to bring forward a few more changes that are necessary to make our roads safer.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS
Mr. McRobb: First of all, I'd like to ask the members to join me in welcoming Dawson City Mayor Glen Everitt to the gallery.
Mr. McRobb: Now, on An Act to Amend the Motor Vehicles Act, Mr. Speaker, if it's so important to this government, why wasn't there public consultation on these changes? Mr. Speaker, this government has said over and over and over how it prides itself on good public consultation. I can still hear the stinging words from the Member for Porter Creek North ringing in my ears when he condemned the previous NDP government for only talking about consultation but never doing it right - only talking about it, he said, but the Liberal government would do it right because they believe in good, public consultation.
Mr. Speaker, it's our job here, as you know, to hold them accountable when we see some things that they should be held accountable for, and once again, I'm standing here holding them accountable on their promise to do good public consultation. Because it seems that what's happening is a long way off from being as good as they had vowed it would be. It seems they only want to consult on matters they feel are important, not what are important to Yukoners.
In some cases, they use consultation as a means to delay something. For instance, the community development fund, the fire smart program, the trade and investment fund that we heard about today, training trust funds and so on, are all under review, internally.
Mr. Speaker, this whole pledge to public consultation turns out to be nothing more than a tool of this Liberal government to use in its larger scheme of repackaging all the NDP programs into a new red and white wrapper they're going to call some Liberal program. In the meantime, people are hurting.
Now, An Act to Amend the Motor Vehicles Act is no exception. Why wasn't the public consulted on all of these matters?
Like the CDF and the other funds - people are hurting this winter - people without work, who can't put food on the table. The members opposite, yesterday, when we discussed this matter in great detail, found it to be funny. Well, it's no laughing matter, Mr. Speaker.
I want to talk about the priorities of this government. Does it really feel that an act like this, which is basically - if I may be permitted - a housekeeping act to tie up this Legislature when there are far more important matters to be dealt with - far more important matters.
The economy is worsening day by day. People are leaving. I know, as an MLA for a rural riding, the rural communities are especially a target of this neglect by the Liberal government. Why is this government only doing what it sees is important to itself? This Act to Amend the Motor Vehicles Act - sure these things are important, but are they the highest priority? I think not. There are other priorities such as the many things that have been raised by members of both opposition parties in the Legislature - not only this sitting but in the spring sitting.
It's very disappointing to discover this Liberal government has ignored the priorities that we see as priorities, and instead is focused more on housekeeping - housekeeping, Mr. Speaker - not priorities of Yukoners, but priorities of a housekeeping government. These bills we are dealing with in this sitting, and the supplementary budget we are reviewing in this sitting, are all about government. But what about the people? It is the people who are important to us, Mr. Speaker. It seems the Liberals have lost that connection. They deal only with matters that are important to them - what they see as important. There are countless examples to substantiate my argument in only six months of their reign.
Look at the friends of the Liberal Party, Mr. Speaker. A lot of them have nice, cushy appointments, big contracts - you name it - because their friends are in power now. Their friends are in power and their priorities are to look after their own ilk - not the public, not ordinary Yukoners, but themselves. They're a housekeeping government.
They stand up and take credit for things that were well in the works, with no mention of all the previous resources and energies devoted right from the beginning of those initiatives. The energy report card is one. Mr. Speaker, if the public really knew what happened there - and I'll explain. That report was a year late because, apparently, the explanation of the work done was not worded as extensively as required - something to that effect. Otherwise the report card mark would have been given a year earlier. Now the government knows that. Their briefing notes should all say that. But, do we hear that? No, instead there they are, they're taking credit for it. They like to do that; they like to stand up; pat themselves on the back for all the wonderful things they've done in six months, but don't give any credit where credit is due. They're not very charitable at all, wouldn't you say, Mr. Speaker? Charity is not a priority of this Liberal government. They like to cut ribbons, eat cake, break ground, but really, Mr. Speaker, they are breaking ground all right because they're digging their own grave, politically speaking. When judgement day comes and we hold up their record and compare it to the priorities of Yukoners, there will be a large gap - a very large gap.
We'll also compare it to our record in government, and it will be embarrassing for this Liberal government when that is done.
I spoke of priorities - economic priorities. Mr. Speaker, in this current budget year, we had dozens of new economic initiatives. A lot of them are going down the drain now, because the Liberals don't consider diversifying the economy to be a priority. Instead, we're dealing with housekeeping motions, like An Act to Amend the Motor Vehicles Act, to bring in alcohol ignition interlock devices. Mr. Speaker, is that a priority of Yukoners? Because if it is - they say it is. They seem to stand up over there and say it is. When people in Destruction Bay ask me, "What happened to our fire smart? How am I going to feed my family this winter?" I'm going to have to tell them, "It's because this Liberal government put a higher priority on housekeeping than it did on you, or your family, or your neighbours, or friends in other Yukon communities."
Mr. Speaker, I'll report back what some of those people say. I won't speculate what they'll say, but I'll report back at a future date, and we can discuss it then - that the priorities of this Liberal government certainly are not grounded in public opinion. In the spring we asked for a supplementary budget to provide some jobs for Yukoners right away, because there was, as we claimed, a $56.2-million surplus. They said, "No way." Well, the Auditor General has substantiated that claim and, in addition, has found there's another $8 million in the coffers, for a total of $64 million.
Mr. Speaker, could this government find it a priority to bring forward even $500,000 for something like the fire smart program to keep Yukoners employed this winter? No.
During Question Period, the member of the third party challenged the Acting Minister of Economic Development to name one winter works program to employ Yukoners this winter that was devised by this Liberal government. When she got up, I listened carefully, but every one of the few examples she gave were all initiatives done by the previous government and were in the budget that the election campaign was all about, Mr. Speaker, and she stands up and says, "Well, that's what we're doing." Yesterday they said, "Well, it's your budget. If there are no winter works, you have to accept the blame."
Mr. Speaker, sitting back here sometimes - obviously there's not an opportunity to respond every time. Every time something is said I don't agree with - otherwise I'd be like a jack-in-the-box over here and I'd be interrupting about every three or four minutes.
But on that one issue, Mr. Speaker, I'd like to point out that every fall, we introduced a supplementary budget with winter works, and the reason for waiting until the fall is because, after the Auditor General reported, there was a clearer picture of the surplus and the lapses and the year-end projections, and a more responsible government would clearly have a better idea of fiscal management and what could be done to help Yukoners. That's why. Why try to guess ahead in the spring to what's happening in the fall when the Legislature sits in the fall anyway? And the fall is before winter.
The fall is the time to bring in winter works, and this government failed to do it. Instead, I'm embarrassed to stand here today and talk about An Act to Amend the Motor Vehicles Act. It's embarrassing.
I'm ashamed because people out there expect more of us. And the poor performance of this Liberal government rubs off on us all. It's like the behaviour in this Legislature - they raise the expectations of Yukoners that there will be better decorum in this Legislature, but they're the worst offenders, Mr. Speaker. And it reduces our credibility on this side as a result. The same goes for the economy. When people out there are starving and without a job, and they're forced to move from communities like Destruction Bay, they hold me accountable. Not everybody understands that I am a member of the official opposition. They think I'm the government and I should be doing something to help them. Well I try to, through my role as holding them accountable, on occasions such as this one. But I don't write the budgets, the Liberals do - they're elected. They have the majority in this Legislature. It's up to them to do what's right. It's up to the Liberals to decide what priorities are best for Yukoners.
Now, in the spring sitting back in May and June, we wanted to know where the Liberals stood, because nobody knew. At election time they wouldn't say - they said, "We'll have to look at the books. We'll just do things better." Well, Mr. Speaker, what a joke that has been. Prior to that, they walked out of this Legislature when we brought forward a motion on the economy. They walked out. They were bankrupt of ideas. On another occasion, in November 1999, I brought forward a motion on the economy. It's embarrassing to review what they said. They contributed nothing. This government is clueless. They're without a plan.
Speaker: Order please. Order. I would like to draw the member's attention to the word "clueless". It is unparliamentary.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, I have spent considerable time researching "clueless" or "minister doesn't have a clue." It all depends on the context it's used in. It's used quite extensively in Ottawa, and I would be happy to provide the Speaker with copies of the research. I will have to go back into the federal Hansard and print it off, but it is used very, very commonly in Ottawa. It translates it quite differently, in that it is used in French quite frequently, and it translates differently into English. But it means the same thing: the minister is clueless or the minister doesn't have a clue. It's used quite frequently. In fact, in general debate, I've used it myself. I was told that there are two separate sets of rules here in the Legislature.
I believe we should be consistent in the application, and when we don't have a rule here in this Legislature, we should hold true to what occurs in the federal Parliament as guidelines for ourselves. I would ask that some research be undertaken on this issue.
Speaker: Well, thank you very much. The Chair has done some research on that, as a matter of fact. I will just take some time to review it.
In Beauchesne's, "clueless" or "does not have a clue" denotes ignorance, incompetence, stupidity, unintelligent or foolish. In addition to that, it denotes an ignorant person, lacking knowledge, ill-mannered or uncouth. While I occupy the Chair, I will make the rule that it is not acceptable in this House.
Mr. McRobb: Thank you for that ruling, Mr. Speaker. Well, if I just say that they're not shoeless, I think everybody will get the idea.
Mr. Speaker, I'm not finished talking about the priorities of this Liberal government. It's not to say we won't be supporting this bill, because we do support it. It's a matter of priorities, Mr. Speaker.
Now, I was referring back to the dismal record of this Liberal government about their priorities of being a housekeeping government instead of responding to the needs of Yukoners. This, Mr. Speaker, was the basis of our questions in the spring, when we asked where they stood, because up until that time, nobody had a clue. Now, Mr. Speaker, it's still very difficult to get a clue around here as to what their economic agenda is.
Speaker: Order please. I find that the member is trying to embarrass the Chair, and I just simply finished ruling that "clueless" and "does not have a clue" in my research, is used in the same vein. I would ask the member to try to raise the professionalism of the performance here.
Mr. McRobb: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I can assure you that I had no motive whatsoever to try and embarrass the Chair, and I want to be clearly on record.
Now, Mr. Speaker, what about the priorities of this government? It has clearly not responding to the needs of Yukoners. We've seen how they're bankrupt of any new idea.
We've seen how a lot of the good ideas are under review, cancelled or delayed. Today the Acting Minister of Economic Development stood up and said that none of the programs are cancelled. But, Mr. Speaker, we know that a few weeks ago in Hansard, the questioning on cultural arts funding and the questions I brought forward clearly indicated that these programs had been cancelled based on minutes of meetings and direction from the minister. I can table a newspaper article next week, Mr. Speaker. I see the acting minister shaking her head, but it's true.
So, they say one thing and do another. They're not responding to the priorities of Yukoners, and I'm really wondering what this government does stand for. A lot of Yukoners are wondering. I hear them talking about it downtown, asking if this Liberal government has produced even one new job for Yukoners. People are scratching their heads in wonder. Those who know are already disappointed, and it reflects poorly on their performance. If there were performance indicators, after six months, Mr. Speaker, it would be a huge failure.
I remember when we were in government, the opposition parties were quick to pump out six-month report cards giving us failing grades. Well, Mr. Speaker, I think we deserve better because there were many programs in the hopper and consultation had started on a number of priorities. There was action being done to deliver programs important to Yukoners.
Now, is the same happening over there? I think not. They call in an audit team to review a bunch of funds important to Yukoners to put food on their table in the winter to develop their communities productively. They're all on hold. Even with a $64-million surplus, Mr. Speaker, they're all on hold. Instead, we have to deal with An Act to Amend the Motor Vehicles Act. It's embarrassing.
The Premier, today, is flying back to hold the Prime Minister's hand during his political tour when she promised to aggressively lobby for the Alaska Highway pipeline. Well, Mr. Speaker, the meeting in Anchorage was an all-day meeting. She was also booked to speak to the industry Alliance of Alaska tomorrow morning. It's on the Web site, Mr. Speaker, I see they're nodding their heads over there. It's on the Web site. I printed it off. Why did she feel it's more important to come back and play federal politics than to continue aggressively lobbying for the pipeline. Again, that's a poor reflection on the priorities of this Liberal government.
Mr. Speaker, I don't have much problem with this act, and as I said, it's basically a housekeeping act to modernize a few clauses, to be consistent with terminology used in the rest of the country. Now, it could be debated that there are a few things that are worthy of discussion. I'm sure that the Member for Klondike will be bringing those items forward. But I suggest we not spend a whole lot of time on this act and that we buckle up, buckle down, and buck up, and start addressing the priorities of Yukoners.
Mr. Jenkins: I rise to speak to this Bill No. 31, the proposed amendments to the Motor Vehicles Act, and I must emphasize the "proposed".
Mr. Speaker, just a few short years ago, we went through a complete review of the Motor Vehicles Act here in the Yukon and that took place after extensive consultation during two former ministers of Community and Transportation Services, Bill Brewster and Dave Keenan. That extensive consultation resulted in the act that was passed by this House in, I believe, 1997.
It has come into force and here we are, just a few short years later, with some 50 amendments to this act. Some I will accept and some I will recognize as perhaps oversight, but there had to be something wrong in the original drafting of the act, because we relied on input from virtually every jurisdiction in Canada, Mr. Speaker, and a tremendous consultation process, and the department itself. What I see is an effort by the department to cover off a number of other areas, and I do have some grave concern with these because, in some respects, we haven't gone far enough and, in other respects, we have gone too far.
We have a number of issues here in the Yukon that must be addressed. One of the largest is the chronic problem of drinking drivers. Now, a few steps are taken up by addressing shortcomings in the Motor Vehicles Act and dovetailing it with the Criminal Code. I don't have any quarrels with those.
With respect to insurance, there's another problem in the Yukon. We haven't gone far enough. In other jurisdictions, when your insurance is cancelled, your insurance carrier must notify the motor vehicle branch. The repercussions of driving around with licence plates that may be expired is not too significant. The consequence of driving a vehicle without liability insurance can be very, very costly and impact financially on a great number of individuals - if you're involved in a motor vehicle accident or even if you're the other party and you do not carry uninsured insurance. We haven't gone far enough in that area, and I'd ask the minister to go back to her legal draftspeople and look at that area, because it is a very important, critical area and it's not being addressed.
If we look further at some of the areas that are being addressed, it's whom we are empowering to enforce the Motor Vehicles Act. Currently we have the RCMP and YTG highway enforcement. But what we're doing here in this legislation is expanding the powers so that it may include the games branch, highway foremen - probably the minister herself, we can put some red lights on the top her van as she tootles up and down the highway and she can get involved in enforcement. I would hope not, Mr. Speaker. But we're extending this and broadening it when it really isn't necessary. The Yukon is currently the most over-governed, over-regulated, over-policed and probably now over-legislated part of Canada, if not the world.
Because this government is void of ideas with respect to what to do with the economy, the smokescreen that's coming up is all of these other acts and bills. Well, let's deal with it. There are other areas that are problematic that are not being addressed. We can insist that rental vehicles have child-restraint devices. That's great, Mr. Speaker. I don't have a quarrel with that, but at the same time, how do we still allow our school buses to transport our students back and forth to school in a bus that doesn't have seatbelts? Someone ain't doing their homework.
What's good on one hand is not good on the other. What are we saying here? I think it's probably appropriate - given the thought that was given to these amendments - Mr. Speaker, that the Minister give some consideration to taking it off the table, go back and have a look at it and rework it. There are many, many other areas that lend themselves to change to improve this act and improve the safety and enforcement standards. But we seem to go overboard on one hand and, on the other hand, they just leave it alone and ignore it, like riding in the back of a pickup. That was totally ignored. It is outlawed in most other jurisdictions in Canada, but here in the Yukon it's okay for the folks to get into the back of a pickup and go tootling down the highway at 90k. It is not even addressed. And why not, Mr. Speaker? Probably because this minister doesn't understand her portfolio, and this was just thrown on her desk, and she looked at it, "Oh, yeah, sure, fine." But let's get into the nitty-gritty of it. The nitty-gritty is that this is not going to do very much to address the hard-core problems that we have here in the Yukon.
I expected more from this Liberal government, Mr. Speaker. I expected a lot more.
Let's start looking at some of the other areas that are going to be problems. An amendment is added that a person who teaches driving is to have a zero blood-alcohol level and not be impaired by any drugs. Okay, what about prescription drugs? What about a diabetic? Their insulin level goes up and down. Things change. Where's that covered off? I can't find it anywhere. I can agree with illegal drugs, Mr. Speaker, and I have no quarrel including those, but they're against the law anyway. That's accepted. That's known. These are substances that are against the law - marijuana, cocaine, whatever you want to deal with - yet we eliminate all drugs. What benefit is that going to serve society? It's not.
These amendments haven't been given a lot of forethought. It looks like they were scrambled together at the last minute. It looks like they're a series of wish lists from somewhere - I don't know where - and we have them before the House.
It goes on under this amendment that's proposed: a person who teaches driving is to have a zero blood-alcohol level. The accepted factor is .08. That one would have ignorance of the law is not an excuse, but if we have all these different sets of values out there, why not just lower everything to .05 if that's the intent? At least apply some consistent standard across the board.
What we're doing is getting involved in society at a different level, when we start looking at changes that are being proposed here. Why not an amendment that if you operate a school bus, or if you operate anything with a motor transport licence on it, you have zero alcohol level? That's not even suggested. It would make a heck of a lot more sense to me, Mr. Speaker, than it does to have the person accompanying a driver that's just in the learning process have a zero level.
All I'm asking is for something that's workable, something that's consistent and something that addresses the safety issues. The safety issues are out there and recognized. This goes a little way, but it doesn't go far enough with respect to insurance, in my opinion, Mr. Speaker. I'm sure that when you get right down to it, they're going to say it's an unworkable arrangement.
Well, if you have an operating authority here in the Yukon, as soon as your insurance is cancelled, your insurance carrier has to notify the Motor Transport Board and your plates are automatically revoked. Driving without insurance is a problem here in the Yukon, especially for out-of-territory licensed vehicles and for vehicles licensed here in the Yukon. Your licence tags expire on a certain date, but your insurance doesn't necessarily expire on the same day - it can slip by. So, there has to be a mechanism to ensure that the vehicles are, at least, insured. The tags, really, are a side issue.
Why can't we do something with that? I'll tell you why, Mr. Speaker. It's because it might take a little forethought, a little planning and a little bit of initiative on the minister's part to even think about it. To date, she hasn't.
Mr. Speaker, the problem with fines is that people just don't pay them. They have their vehicle impounded, but they don't really care. What's the bottom line that the enforcement side can do? Throw them in jail? That doesn't serve any purpose. It just ends up costing us. That is what we're doing here.
At the end of the day, what we should have is legislation presented to this House that is going to address the shortcomings in the specific piece of legislation that we have. At the same time, it should improve safety, especially when we're dealing with the Motor Vehicles Act. It should improve the safety of Yukoners and our visitors alike.
I can't see this going very far in this regard. It just avoids dealing with some of the glaring abnormalities in the Motor Vehicles Act, Mr. Speaker.
I could go on at great length, but I want to get into the supplementary budget, which is the heart of the economy of the Yukon - which doesn't exist any more - and deal with the areas that this government should appropriately be dealing with. It is the economy that creates jobs and puts the light back on at the end of the tunnel, which they have switched off. It means attracting business, enhancing business and creating a window of opportunity for our children.
That's not being done. Instead, we're asked to deal with blah, unthought-out amendments to the Motor Vehicles Act. It just shows us how much knowledge and understanding that the Minister of Justice has of her portfolio, Mr. Speaker. It's very, very sad.
Mr. Speaker, I'll look forward to debating some of these areas in line-by-line debate, but at this juncture it would probably serve the interest of Yukon better if this piece of legislation were taken off the table, went back and carefully thought out, and those areas that need to be addressed, be addressed. It's going to take a little bit of time. The act itself is not an old act - the Motor Vehicles Act. It's only a couple of years old, Mr. Speaker. It can be brought back this time next year and we could really do something for Yukoners, instead of making every one in the Yukon employed by government a highway cop, not addressing the important safety issues, because that's what this is doing, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: If the member now speaks, she will close debate. Does any other member wish to be heard?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I will confine my remarks to the matter before us, as is right and proper. The Member for Kluane asked if it was so important, why wasn't there public consultation?
Mr. Speaker, the Member for Kluane spent his time speaking all over the map. We're continuing the process begun by the previous governments in these amendments to the Motor Vehicles Act. These are minor amendments, not a total review of the act.
The members opposite frequently complain bitterly about the number of reviews that are underway, yet in the next breath they're asking for more.
The Member for Kluane admits that these are housekeeping amendments to the Motor Vehicles Act, yet he wants the government to review it. That is contradictory, Mr. Speaker. There are a number of housekeeping matters before the House this session because the previous administration didn't do their housekeeping in a great many areas.
I am disappointed that the Member for Kluane is making light of these amendments to the Motor Vehicles Act, which are designed to make our highways safer. The member's riding contains a great deal of highway, Mr. Speaker, from the Ibex Valley up to Haines Junction, down the Haines Road and up the Alaska Highway through Destruction Bay, Burwash to Beaver Creek and the border. I know his constituents, like me, will be very disappointed that he refuses to take their safety seriously - for shame, Mr. Speaker.
Drunk driving is a serious issue. I'm very disappointed that the members opposite are laughing at that. It's embarrassing that the Member for Kluane doesn't understand this. Like many other Yukoners, including residents of the Kluane riding, I have lost family and friends as a result of drunk drivers. The only acceptable level of drunk drivers on our highways, Mr. Speaker, is none - none. If one life is saved as a result of these amendments, Mr. Speaker, it will be well worth it.
The Member for Kluane can't find anything good to say about these amendments to the Motor Vehicles Act. He's trivializing the loss of life on our highways as a result of impaired driving. I'm also surprised that the Member for Kluane is trivializing the good work of his colleague, the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes, on the Motor Vehicles Act when he was the minister.
I point out to the Member for Klondike that these amendments are, as I've already said, fine-tuning. The member, I'm assuming, does get a tune-up on his car from time to time; he does make repairs, I'm sure, when problems arise. We can pass these amendments this session and bring forward further amendments in the future. The Member for Klondike is again seeing nefarious plots where there are none. There is no plan to put red lights on top of my van so I can do highway enforcement.
The objective of these amendments is to keep drinking drivers off the road, Mr. Speaker. Alcohol abuse is a huge problem in the Yukon.
I thank the members for their questions. I'll be pleased to deal with them in line-by-line debate. I'd also like to thank departmental officials for their hard work on these amendments.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: Are you prepared for the question?
Some Hon. Members: Division.
Speaker: Division has been called.
Speaker: Order please. Mr. Clerk, please poll the House.
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Jim: Agree.
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Agree.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Agree.
Ms. Tucker: Agree.
Mr. McLarnon: Agree.
Mr. Fairclough: Disagree.
Mr. Fentie: Disagree.
Mr. Keenan: Disagree.
Mr. McRobb: Disagree.
Ms. Netro: Disagree.
Mr. Jenkins: Disagree.
Clerk: Mr. Speaker, the results are seven yea, six nay.
Speaker: The yeas have it. I declare the motion carried.
Motion for second reading of Bill No. 31 agreed to
Ms. Tucker: Mr. Speaker, I move that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Speaker: It has been moved by the government House leader -
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Speaker: Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes on a point of order.
Mr. Keenan: Mr. Speaker, I find it hard to concentrate when we have, I believe, Liberal staff in the gallery taking pictures of the proceedings as they go on here. I'm not sure if that is allowed in this House. I understand that it's not.
Speaker: I'll look into that matter. Thank you. I will. Thanks. And I'll continue.
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. Are you agreed?
Motion agreed to
Speaker leaves the Chair
COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
Mr. McLarnon: Good afternoon. I now call Committee of the Whole to order. Do members wish to take a brief recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: This will be the only recess of the day. It will be 15 minutes long.
Chair: I now call Committee of the Whole to order.
Bill No. 22 - An Act to Amend the Elections Act - continued
Chair: We will continue with clause-by-clause debate on Bill No. 22, An Act to Amend the Elections Act. When we last left, we were on clause 409. Is there any further debate on clause 409?
On Clause 2 - continued
On Section 409 - continued
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, I just wanted to clarify that the Member for Klondike was indeed correct that the option was for 12 to 20 seats under the Yukon Act.
Mr. Jenkins: What we were dealing with in section 409 was the fact that the electoral boundaries commission that was going to be set up under this act was going to make recommendations on the number of seats in this Legislature, and I think I would be more comfortable if that decision were a political decision, not a commission decision, and if we could exclude the word "number" and go back to the way it was in the previous act - because what I don't want to see, and I would believe that most Yukoners would be of the same opinion, is for us to be represented by 17-plus members, an additional three members.
And that would be an easy solution. The responsibilities of this electoral boundaries review is to look at what is existing, in my opinion, not to add one, two or three more seats around the peripherals of Whitehorse, which would be an easy solution. I'd like to ask the stand-in Premier today if that's in fact an option - if they will entertain that kind of an option?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: I need to remind the member opposite that exactly one year ago his party had the exact opposite position. I'll read from the Justice critic, at the time, who was Mr. Phillips of the Yukon Party. He says on November 15, 1999 - just slightly more than a year ago - "Mr. Chair, the minister said that I wanted to disenfranchise rural Yukoners. The fact of the matter is that the bill we have here before us is doing exactly that, it's disenfranchising rural and urban Yukoners the way it's written and that's the point we're making to the minister. This is on the amendment that we have made as a government.
"I am not the person who is going to decide what the boundaries look like when this is over. I am not the person who is going to decide how many ridings there are in the territory when this is over.
"It will be the commission that comes forward with those recommendations, and that's where it will come from, not from me. I don't go out there and decide or draw boundaries. I won't have anything to do with it. It will be Yukoners who will do that."
And then he goes on: "My argument is exactly the opposite of what the minister is saying." And, of course, Mr. Chair, that's why we're bringing this amendment forward. "It's the minister herself and this government that's disenfranchising rural Yukoners and urban Yukoners by refusing to have an electoral boundaries commission established and boundaries set prior to the next election. There may be 17 ridings" - and this is what's interesting. We've just heard almost exactly the same line from the member opposite. "There may be 17 ridings; there might be 18; there might be 19; there might be 20; there might be 15 - who knows. And I'm sure that the boundaries commission will recognize a fair urban and rural split, but will also recognize the gross discrepancies, even in the City of Whitehorse - with the Whitehorse West ridings and some of the other ridings, and many of the other ridings. I mean, the minister said that Whitehorse West is different because it encompasses some more rural areas. Well, so does Porter Creek North and Porter Creek South. They have some fringe and boundary areas to them as well; we all know that; we're not kidding anybody here."
Mr. Chair, we're not kidding anybody here. A year and a day ago, the Yukon Party asked for the amendments that we're bringing forward. These changes allow for public input. The previous act passed by the NDP government did not allow for public input. As we mentioned on a number of occasions when we were on the side opposite, as the Yukon Party mentioned on a number of occasions on the side opposite, this act - the new act - empowers all Yukoners, rural and urban, to make recommendations to the Legislative Assembly.
I'm not going to prejudge the outcome of the work done by an electoral districts boundaries commission. Yukoners have asked for these changes; we spoke out for these changes when we were in opposition. Our position has not changed. The Yukon Party's position has changed 180 degrees. But our position, as a Liberal Party, has not changed.
These amendments open up the possibilities for change as expressed by the people of the Yukon and in consultation with the people of the Yukon.
Mr. Jenkins: That's completely incorrect. The position of our party is that we wanted an electoral boundaries review quite some time ago. In fact, we saw it coming into place before the last election. It didn't happen. That was our position; it has not changed. We still deem it very necessary and very appropriate to have an electoral boundaries review.
Look at what has changed over the past few years, Mr. Char. We've lost probably 12 percent of the total population base of the Yukon. Our economy is going down. If our economy were growing and the population were increasing, as it did under the Yukon Party, then we could make a case for increasing the number of seats. I don't have any quarrel, but I think we should be very cognizant that another seat is going to have a cost associated with it. And the exercise of government is to provide the highest, consistent level of cost, the best cost to the taxpayer - give them the best bang for their buck - and this certainly is not doing it, what I see here today, Mr. Chair.
Given that the population of the Yukon is going downhill at a very rapid rate, I think we have to recognize that and put a cap on so that the number of seats is not on the table - 17 is it. We should make a cognizant decision that we are not going to reduce it at this juncture. But, if the population increases and goes back up to probably 35,000 or 40,000, that should probably trigger another seat and another review. But I don't see it ever happening under the Liberal regime, and probably not under the NDP either, but there is hope. There is the Yukon Party, Mr. Chair.
Let's look at what we have before us. I want to make it abundantly clear that our party's position has not changed. We still want to see an electoral boundaries review. The caveat on that is that, given the severe economic recession and the severe downturn in our population - I could probably suggest that the Yukon population is under 30,000 today, and I don't think I would be far off. I know how much it has dropped in our area. I know how much it has dropped in other areas of rural Yukon. It's going down at a very rapid pace.
I think that, as legislators, we should be cognizant of the spending of government money. Let's move ahead with the electoral boundaries review at all speed, but let's remove from the table or from the equation the opportunity for increasing the number of seats. That's all I'm saying with respect to this clause. That's all I would like to deal with.
You know, if you look at what happened in our riding with the voters list and the complaints I lodged with the chief electoral office - and the RCMP investigated it and said there was no cause. What it says to me and what I am told is that this act does not have jurisdiction if someone from outside of the territory votes in the Yukon.
They just don't have jurisdiction. Perhaps the Minister of Justice could correct me, or correct the record, but that someone can live elsewhere, fax in the proxy vote and say they're a voter or an elector in Yukon, makes a mockery of this act, if that is the case. Because there was a black-and-white case of someone having moved out of the Yukon several years before and voting by proxy. The RCMP investigated, and they said, "You know, we can't do anything. We're not laying any charges." And I've asked a few questions of a few legal minds, and they've told me that, in all probability, this Elections Act in the Yukon doesn't have jurisdiction in British Columbia or Alberta or anywhere else where voters might send in their request, saying they're still a Yukon resident.
So, if you want to look at things in this act that should be addressed, they are eligibility requirements and the definition of a Yukon individual to actually vote here. Those could be looked at.
But let's look at and focus on the issue before us. We have to have electoral boundaries review and we have to have it at the earliest time. I support this legislation. I'm uncomfortable with a couple of clauses - one was amended, and I thank the Liberal Party and the official opposition for supporting the amendment to broaden the focus that only three individuals could chair this commission. I think that was a good move.
But let's look at the reality of today's Yukon. Heck, we can't even support 17 seats, let alone expand it, Mr. Chair. Let's not fool ourselves. That's the only part that I take exception to, and I would urge the minister to give consideration to taking that part out of the equation, as far as the electoral boundaries review is concerned.
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Let's go back and talk about some of the issues that the member opposite has been discussing. First of all, the cost of a new seat. Obviously the cost of a new seat will come back to the Legislature - that is, the cost of the running of the Legislature - is part of our responsibilities. We regularly go through the budgets here every year and supplemental budgets, of course. And those will be included in those budgets and the cost will be part of the debate at some point in the future if there is going to be an additional seat. And there may not be - there might be fewer. All these things are possibilities. There are many, many possibilities. The member opposite says that we should only increase the number of seats if the economy improves. The member opposite, like most of us here in this Legislature have been here for many, many, many, many, many years. Some of us were born here. And we all know that the economy in the Yukon goes up and down and up and down and it always has because we're a resource-based economy. And the economy of the Yukon will improve, but that should not be related to the work of this commission. The member opposite says that - now his party is saying that there should be a cap on the number of seats. Well, that is in direct opposition to what his party's position was a year and a day ago. And I read from Hansard from November 15, 1999, and I'll read this portion again, "There may be 17 ridings; there might be 18; there might be 19; there might be 20; there might be 15 - who knows. And I'm sure that the boundaries commission will recognize a fair urban and rural split, but will also recognize the gross discrepancies, even in the City of Whitehorse." Now, the boundaries commission will be asking Yukoners what their opinions are - and that's a good thing to do. And it's something that as a government we endeavour to do often, and especially when we bring forward changes to the way we do government. We will be going out to the communities with the boundaries commission and asking what Yukoners think. Then those recommendations will come back to this Legislature and the decision will be made by the members of this Legislature at that time.
The commission will not be making those decisions. So, to be absolutely clear, this is a decision that will be made here in this Legislature, and hopefully we will make a good decision at that time.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, at that time, the horse is out of the barn. Then we just close the barn doors and pay for it.
The issue before us is that the population here has gone down. We have lost better than 10 percent of the total population of the Yukon, Mr. Chair. That's the issue. The only thing that's going to increase the population of the Yukon - well, maybe this global warming will have an effect if there are palm trees appearing suddenly and it becomes another very tropical area, but I don't think it's going to get that warm up here. The only other option is if the economy turns around and the population increases.
What should be the driver of the increase in the number of seats in this Legislature is the Yukon's population. That's what I'm saying, Mr. Chair. Given that it has decreased so significantly, I believe that taking out of the equation for the electoral boundaries review the fact that they can look at the number of seats and expand them according to the Yukon Act - it's currently 20. I might point out that, under the proposed Yukon Act that the NDP brought forward and the Liberals agreed to, there's no upper limit on the number of seats that this Legislature can have. I believe that, somewhere along the line, we should tie in the number of seats to the population.
Adding another seat is probably adding another $150,000 to this equation, if you want to look at the total cost. It may be more or may be a bit less; I don't know, Mr. Chair, but I suspect it's in that order of magnitude.
All I'm asking is that consideration be given to taking the number of seats out of the equation in the electoral boundaries terms of reference. Probably, next time, under a new government, the economy will turn around, there will be an increase in the population and there will be a need for another electoral boundaries review and there will probably be a need for more seats in this Legislature, Mr. Chair. But, at this time, 17 are a stretch.
Now, the taxpayers of Yukon and Canada are being very considerate and very generous. You don't want to stretch them too thin.
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, I'm not going to belabour this. The member opposite is in complete opposition to the position his party took a year and a day ago. This is a ludicrous discussion. The opportunity to have fewer seats or greater seats will be in the recommendations from the commission. It's quite clear.
Mr. Fentie: Unfortunately, this Liberal government fails to grasp the situation. In all likelihood, if a boundaries commission is charged with dealing with issues beyond the electoral boundaries' names and areas, and asked to look at number of seats, there's going to be a dramatic change in this Legislature. That change will be fewer seats in rural Yukon, more seats in Whitehorse. That simply does not constitute fair representation in this Legislature.
Furthermore, the minister has stated that we're going to go back out to Yukoners and ask them about this. Well, in rural Yukon the minister is going to find, very readily, that people in rural Yukon are going to say, "Close the whole thing down."
This Liberal government is irrelevant, because they're only following the federal Liberal doctrine and the issues that the federal Liberal government will deal with - none responding to the Yukon Territory. We don't want to belabour this point any more, either. It's evident that the Liberals aren't interested in fair representation in this territory. They're bent on increasing the seats in Whitehorse, decreasing the seats in rural Yukon for very good reason. They are simply not going to get support in rural Yukon, the way they've alienated rural Yukon in the last six months and turned their backs on the people out there in the communities. Those are the facts.
So, we in the official opposition propose an amendment to clause 409.
Mr. Fentie: Mr. Chair, I move
THAT Bill No. 22, entitled An Act to Amend the Elections Act, be amended in clause 2 at page 2 by: amending Section 409 by deleting the word "number" and the commas that precede and follow it.
Chair: It has been moved by Mr. Fentie
THAT Bill No. 22, entitled An Act to Amend the Elections Act, be amended in clause 2 at page 2 by: amending Section 409 by deleting the word "number" and the commas that precede and follow it.
Now, do I have leave of the House to continue debate while this is photocopied, or do you need this photocopied now? Is there anybody who needs this now?
We'll have a five-minute recess while we photocopy this.
Chair: I now call Committee of the Whole to order. Everybody has a copy of the proposed amendment now, and we'll go through it again. It has been moved by Mr. Fentie
THAT Bill No. 22, entitled An Act to Amend the Elections Act, be amended in clause 2 at page 2 by amending Section 409 by deleting the word "number" and the commas that precede and follow it.
Is there any debate on the amendment?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, to be absolutely clear, the member opposite who made the amendment made the leap that there were going to be fewer rural seats and more urban seats if this amendment goes through. Well, that leap in logic is a complete leap in logic because it doesn't make sense. The commission may say that there are going to be fewer seats in Whitehorse; they may say that there will be more seats in the rural areas. It doesn't make sense. We can't prejudge what the commission will say.
What Yukoners have said to all of us, throughout our political careers, is that they only want two things. They want to be listened to and they want to be treated fairly and equitably. So even if they are getting treated poorly, Mr. Chair, then they want everybody to be treated just as poorly. And if they are being treated well, they want everybody to have that same kindness.
So, that's what the commission will do. They will go out and endeavour to make sure that Yukoners are going to be treated fairly, that they will get fair representation within this Legislature, that they will be listened to because the commission will go throughout the Yukon and find out what Yukoners want.
The findings from the commission will come to this Legislature and, at that point, the learned members of this House will discuss those recommendations.
I think I should remind the members opposite, too, that this is an independent commission that will be chosen partly by the members of the opposition. That seems to be something that is lost within this debate. So we will not be supporting the amendment.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Mr. McRobb: Well, Mr. Chair, isn't this interesting. I remember not long ago sitting in your chair and listening to the Liberals when they were in opposition, talking about how the shutdown of the Faro mine and the increased size of the Whitehorse West riding were two major factors prompting the need for an immediate electoral boundaries review. Now we get the Acting Premier here today saying we can't prejudge the commission. The two don't add up. Another contradiction by this Liberal government.
Mr. Chair, the main focus of debate last time was the need for an electoral boundaries review and all the issues that surrounded it, including the frequency of such review, and this was based on the Faro and Whitehorse West ridings. The population in Faro had dramatically decreased and the population of the Whitehorse West riding had dramatically increased. There were arguments raised and arguments refuted that voters in Faro were better represented than voters in Whitehorse West. Therefore, there's a need for a boundaries review.
So when the Acting Premier, the Member for Riverdale South, stands up and claims that we can't prejudge the commission and that we can't prejudge what number of seats or ratio of rural to urban seats the commission will recommend, I don't see a basis to that. This is a very futile argument. It's not grounded in anything factual or on the previous discussion that took place in this Legislature - an extensive discussion, I might add.
And I would imagine that if I wanted to take the time to research this, I'd probably find a Liberal press release to that effect, and possibly even comments from the same minister when she was in opposition. So they say one thing and do another.
Now, I think this amendment is very worthy of our support. The redefining the number of ridings is a contentious issue. It's also clear that the Liberals in government have no rural ridings. So, Mr. Chair, it's quite obvious why they want to tinker with the number. It's because they know the Faro riding probably won't be substantiated on its own, and they know that an urban riding - at least one, Whitehorse West - will probably be divided somehow. So they stand the most to gain. Again, Mr. Chair, this is another example of how this Liberal government is thinking of itself only, not the interests of Yukoners.
Now, this issue of fewer rural seats and more in Whitehorse is troubling for a lot of Yukoners. In many democratic countries, it's an accepted principle to give an advantage to rural seats in order to avoid inflicting upon them the ideals of urbanites, who greatly outnumber the sparse populations in rural ridings. As a matter of fact, Canada recognizes that. Look at the population in the Yukon riding, compared to some of the urban ridings. The population is a lot smaller. The United States recognizes that. Now, surely we don't want to go too close to that model, given all the confusion around the college system.
But surely, Mr. Chair, the point is there - that special recognition should be given to rural ridings and not base the definition of ridings solely on population numbers.
What the Liberals are doing is that they are trying to capitalize on a natural advantage, given the circumstances in the territory. The circumstances are such that rural communities have suffered because of the depressed mining economy. Towns like Faro have diminished in number. In fact, in recent years, Mr. Chair, some towns in the Yukon have vanished altogether. Look at Clinton Creek. Look at Keno Hill; it's still there but it's just a shadow of its former self. Look at Cassiar in northern B.C. - same story - and Tungsten, just inside the N.W.T. border on the Nahanni Range Road out of Watson Lake - same story there. There are other examples too, but why should we reconfigure the number of seats at a time when the rural ridings have suffered great losses because of poor commodity prices and bad times for mining.
As well, Mr. Chair, in a more direct aspect, one could argue that the Liberals are not assisting the economies of rural Yukon, in order to further hope that their numbers are plundered when people move into Whitehorse, because the conclusion is obvious. It means more Whitehorse seats and fewer rural seats.
Is that why the CDF and fire smart and other programs are all under review, to help people without jobs move into Whitehorse just in time for the electoral boundaries review, Mr. Chair? I may be paranoid but this, again, may not be without merit.
I have had the chance in my four years in government to talk to several constituents in the Kluane riding, and many of them have strong feelings about the makeup of the riding. The riding extends from the Whitehorse border to the Alaska border, both on the Haines Road and the Alaska Highway, plus the Fish Lake Road beyond the city limits - there are a few families out that way. It used to include only the communities of Haines Junction, Destruction Bay, Beaver Creek, Burwash Landing, Canyon Creek, and so on, but the last boundaries review expanded it to include the Whitehorse bedroom community of Ibex Valley.
This has had the effect, according to the concern I have heard from a lot of people in Haines Junction and the other communities, of taking away and reducing their outlook on where and what the Yukon government should do. It could be argued that a portion of the riding now essentially is Whitehorse based.
Mr. Chair, if the boundaries review is based on numbers of reduced populations in these communities, there could be a greater area of Whitehorse hived off and lumped into the riding. This could also occur in other rural ridings.
So there's another concern. It's not just on the total number of ridings and which ones are rural and which ones are urban; there's a concern about the makeup of the rural ridings and how the rural voice is being diluted.
So, Mr. Chair, one thing I think the Liberals should consider is accepting this amendment, doing away with this number, keeping the same number, but they should also consider additional measures to protect the makeup of rural ridings. In order to give some level of comfort to people in the outlying communities, they will still have a strong voice - just because people in the communities can't find jobs at this time and have to maybe move into Whitehorse, that they won't be punished.
Now, there's one more matter I want to speak to. In the Liberal platform document, under restoring confidence in government - Mr. Chair, I might add they have a long way to go there - one of the bullets is "provide balanced representation to all Yukoners". I'd like to know what that means. Is that code for reducing or eliminating special considerations and just basing ridings purely on number alone? So I'd like to hear what the acting minister has to say about that and the other questions.
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, the Member for Kluane said that perhaps he was paranoid.
The comment in the platform talked about the fact - and we've always been very clear about it - that we felt that there needed to be amendments to the Elections Act as it was put forward by the NDP. We are doing what we said we would do. These are the amendments that are coming forward.
The Member for Kluane said that members of my party - of the Yukon Liberal Party - when we were in opposition used the example of Faro for discrepancies in representation within this House, and I challenge the Member for Kluane to find any Hansard that says that. Because there isn't any, Mr. Chair. I know. I was here every day. I listened to every word the Member for Riverside - my father - said, and he was the critic in this area, and every word that the Premier said, when she was the leader of the party, over in opposition. And it never happened.
The only thing that I ever remember the Premier saying, when she was in opposition, about Faro, was that it was the little town that could. Plainly, the Member for Kluane is trying very hard to fight the Faro by-election on the floor of this Legislature - and he's not doing a very good job of it, at that.
The Member for Kluane says that his constituents - and these are his words - have strong feelings about the Kluane riding and its makeup. Well, here is an opportunity for those constituents to come forward with their concerns - come and talk to the commission. It's a perfect opportunity. When those concerns have been registered, and when the recommendations are made to this Legislature, then the Member for Kluane can point out those concerns again, and bring them to the further attention of the members of this Legislature, as we - as legislators - make the decisions. The decisions will not be made by the commission. They will be made by us, as the representatives of all Yukon.
I have to say that I have great faith that the members opposite will represent their ridings well in their positions, as they believe, as the representatives of rural Yukon.
I have faith in their ability to do that. I certainly wish that they did.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Chair: Is there any further debate on the amendment?
Are you prepared for the question?
Some Hon. Members: Division.
Chair: It requires two members to call division.
Okay, I didn't see him stand up. We will call division.
Chair: Division has been called.
Chair: I now call Committee of the Whole to order.
We will be taking a division vote on the proposed amendment moved by Mr. Fentie. All those in favour, please rise.
Chair: All those opposed, please rise.
Chair: The numbers are four yea, seven nay. The nays have it; the amendment dies.
Amendment to Clause 2, Section 409 negatived
Chair: Shall we continue on with debate of clause 409? Is there any further debate on clause 409?
Mr. Fairclough: I have one quick question for the Acting Premier on this. In questioning fairness of boundaries being changed in Yukon, the Premier said that what the Liberals believed in is fair and equal representation. I would like to know from the Minister what their definition of "fair representation" is.
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, the representation in the Yukon has changed over time. We've always said that Old Crow, for example, should be a riding. The Premier has always spoken up for the riding of Old Crow, that that needs to be a seat, but there are other considerations that need to be taken into account. The First Nations, for example, in the riding that the member opposite now holds, Mayo-Tatchun, those considerations were taken into account.
By having a commission of Yukoners, we can make better decisions as Yukoners about what we think is fair and equal representation within this Legislature.
I think the comment that has been made in the past was "fair representation within this Legislature", and that's what we all endeavour to do - to treat people fairly within this Legislature - and the recommendations that come from the commission will come to this House, and then we will make the final decision as to what we think is fair representation for Yukoners.
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Chair, I didn't get the answer to the question that I asked, about what fairness was. I just wanted to know, to get a sense of where the Liberal Party is coming from, on what they believe "fair" to be in distributing boundaries around the Yukon. What does "fair" mean to them?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, it's not up to any one party - the NDP, the Yukon Party or the Liberals - to decide what Yukoners think is fair representation. The Liberal Party has taken the position that they will take the recommendations from this commission and that they will support them in this House when they come forward.
Now, if the side opposite decides that they are not interested in the recommendations that come from Yukoners, that they don't think they're fair, then that will be their opportunity to state that position.
What we're saying, as Liberals and as the government side of the House right now, is that it's our position that fairness in representation will be represented by the recommendations that come out of the boundaries commission report and those recommendations that come forward to this Legislature. At that time, we will all decide - every one of us in this House - what we think the new Legislature of the Yukon Territory should look like. Perhaps it will be exactly the same. Perhaps there will be fewer seats. Perhaps there will be more seats for the urban areas. That's something that we'll decide at the time. I don't think it makes sense for us to stand up at this point and decide for Yukoners what is fair.
That's why we're going to have a boundaries commission to go out and find out what Yukoners think. So, our position is, we're going to listen to Yukoners. We're going to let them make that decision.
Mr. Fairclough: It's not what the Premier had said in this House. She did put a position forward that the Liberals believe in fair and equal representation. I'm just trying to get a sense of what the Liberal Party means by "fair". I think that's a very legitimate question before we carry on with this, because we are talking about numbers and so on. I just want to get what the Liberal's thoughts were on that - a simple answer?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, I'm not going to belabour this point again and again and again and again. The Premier has also been very clear. Her position is exactly the same as mine and her position was that we're going to go out and ask Yukoners. She talked about fair representation being determined by the commission and by the views of Yukoners.
Mr. Fairclough: So, Mr. Chair, the Premier said, "fair and equal representation". Is it one or the other or is it both together? I would like to know that. Perhaps the minister can tell me what the Liberal definition of "equal representation" is?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, "fair" is listening to Yukoners. The member opposite is claiming that there was a statement made in Hansard and - to move things along, I wonder if he could tell us where that statement was made? I would appreciate it.
Mr. Fairclough: It was in an answer by the Premier in the last discussion on this bill. I could bring it forward for the member opposite, if she's questioning that. Even the minister had made the same comment as the Premier about believing in fair and equal representation. I just want to get a sense of where the Liberal government is coming from when making amendments to this act.
It's only appropriate that this question be asked and not in a roundabout way. I'm trying to get a sense of it. I need to answer questions from my constituents about this Liberal government and what this Liberal government believes in, too. So, equal representation - what does that mean to the member opposite?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, the member alleges that there was a comment made by the Premier about equal representation within the Legislature, and I've gone through Hansard from the previous discussion and cannot find it. I wonder if the member can help me and state where that was said by the Premier, because I haven't been able to find that statement. Perhaps he can be a little more clear about where that statement was made.
Mr. Fairclough: Just a few minutes ago, Mr. Chair, the minister did say that they believe in fair and equal representation, and that there was no different position by the Premier. So, if you're not saying what the Premier's said, what is the difference between her position and the Premier's?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, once again, there is no difference.
Mr. Fairclough: I don't know why the minister would not be able to answer that question. Does the Liberal Party believe in fair representation, do they believe in equal representation, or do they believe in fair and equal representation?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, we believe in fair representation.
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Chair, the minister is contradicting what the Premier has said. It's different from one day to the next, and many people have heard it and written it down, and we would like to know why the Liberals have taken that position of fair and equal representation.
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, the only statement that I can find from the previous conversations in this House is a comment by the Premier saying that she believed in fair and adequate representation in the Legislature. I believe that I give adequate representation to the people of Riverdale South. I think it's up to each and every one of us to do the best job we can, and I've gone through this a couple of times now and cannot find the statement that the member opposite is alluding to. Perhaps he can be clearer about where it is. This is the fourth time I've asked. Perhaps he can tell us where the Premier made that statement.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, I did, Mr. Chair. The last discussion we had on this the Premier said "fair and equal". Now you're reading through the Hansard and slowly finding more words that the Premier has said in this House. So what is "adequate"? Can the minister tell us that?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: This is skipping ahead quite a few clauses, and I know that this isn't proper procedure for the House, but let's go to clause 419, if the Chair allows, although I presume that that discussion can probably best happen at that time.
Chair: My ruling would be that, consistent with other people trying to do it, when we're on clause-by-clause debate, unless it's extremely relevant to this clause being discussed, I would ask you not to.
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, the answer to the question is in clause 419.
Chair: Okay, then that's good.
Mr. Fairclough: Maybe the minister can tell us what it is, because the amendment that we have put forward speaks to the future of the Yukon, of course, and the boundaries that will be established. And it's directly linked with the number of people we have here in the Yukon Territory, so why can't the minister answer the question?
Chair: In the ruling, I understand now and I will allow you to go ahead to clause 419 to explain. As long as we do not get into debate on 419, you certainly can refer to it.
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, thank you very much for the ruling. We're talking about relevant considerations, and that is in clause 419. And the member opposite obviously has a copy of the bills, so I'm not quite sure if I'm supposed to just read this out to him or he can read it himself. But it says: "For the purpose of the reports required under sections 415 and 417, the commission shall take into account the following" and then they talk about density and growth, patterns of transportation, number of electors, special circumstances - for example, Old Crow - public input - which is the most important thing of all, of course - and any other reasons or information relied on by the commission. So nobody is prejudging at this point. What they're saying is that these are some of the things that they're going to take into consideration. There is an opportunity under section 419(i) to look at other reasons or information relied on by the commission. So it's fairly open-ended in a lot of ways, and I don't want to start debate on this clause until we get there.
Chair: I won't allow it.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, the line of questioning I have is directly related to 409, because what we've done is bring out an amendment, and I want to try to get some sense of what the Liberals are thinking about in putting numbers into this. I think it's directly relevant questioning now on this clause.
Chair: Well, I would say that if you want to skip ahead and debate 419, you can ask the House, but 409 - while I will allow you to refer to it, as I have allowed the member on the other side to refer to it, it is not under debate, and we are still discussing clause 409 at the moment.
So you are allowed to refer to clause 419 at the moment if you wish.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, Mr. Chair, what I'm doing is trying to get an understanding of the Liberal position on this, and if she feels it's reflected in 419, then I would like to hear the Liberal side on this, because they are saying more than one thing in this Legislature, and what the position is needs to be cleared up. So at one time they say "fair" - and the ministers say "fair representation" - they say "equal" or "adequate representation," and then they say "fair and equal representation". What about "balanced representation"? Is that on the Liberal books, too? Is that the Liberal position on balanced representation?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, it's very, very difficult for me to answer the statement without going into debate on 419. It is my preference - and, you know, it's obviously up to the Chair - that we wait for this discussion until the time we get to 419. I've repeated to the member opposite on a number of occasions that the Liberal position is that it will be up to the commission to recommend what the people of Yukon feel is fair. And that's the recommendation, and that's the position that we take. We're going to ask what Yukoners think about this issue, and then we will discuss it here in this Legislature. And the rules around what the commission thinks is relevant are in section 419, so it's impossible to go any further with this discussion.
Chair: I'd like to give a ruling now so that everybody understands.
What I believe we're getting into right now is very close to general debate, which is one of the reasons why we're ranging all over the map looking for definitions.
What we are intending to do, when we have passed general debate, is to discuss section 409. So, as a result, if there is discussion regarding section 419, then I would ask you to use it as passing reference only, and then, when we get to section 419, at that point we will be discussing that clause.
As the time for general debate has passed, I have not ruled that this is not general debate, but I will not allow him to go into section 419 until we actually go into it. You are allowed to refer to it only.
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Chair, I asked a question over and over, and the minister can't give an answer. I don't know why she would be hiding it or why her position would be hidden from us at this point. Obviously, there is a rationale behind their amendments to section 409. I'm trying to get a position from the Liberal government, and they won't give it.
They are referring it to section 419, but, Mr. Chair, they have said many different things. Balanced and equal and fair representation, or fair and equal - I'm wondering why the number is there.
If there is a position out by the Liberal government, then I can understand why the number is there, and I need to know that. That's why I am questioning this.
So, I ask the minister for an answer on whether fair and equal is the position they're taking? Is it fair, or equal, or fair and equal, or is it fair and adequate, or is it a balanced representation that they're putting forward as a position?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, the Premier has said "fair and adequate".
Chair: I actually didn't hear it myself, Mrs. Edelman. Could you please repeat that?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: I'm sorry, Mr. Chair. I'm getting a headache. The Premier has stated that it is "fair and adequate representation".
Mr. Fairclough: Then can the minister tell us what the difference is between their last position and this one on a balanced representation?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, I've gone through this, and I can't find where the member says the Premier said, "balanced representation". And I'm actually still not sure what the point is of this whole debate.
The members opposite tried to amend this clause. It was voted down. We keep going back to the same issue over and over and over again. It is somewhat pointless, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, I find it very confusing, on this side of the House, knowing what the Liberal position is. And many different things have been said. You know, what is it at this point? It was fair and equal the day before yesterday, by the Premier - that's what the position was. I've heard "fair" from the minister opposite, and "fair and adequate". And I've heard just "equal" on it own. And I've heard "balance". Now she's asking, where did I get "balance" from? Well, it's in their platform, Mr. Speaker. So I would like to know what the difference is now.
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, perhaps the member opposite is confused about where we are in the act. This clause talks about the boundaries, number, and names of electoral districts of the Yukon. Comments around fairness or around the way that the commission will judge fairness is in section 419.
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Chair, it's a simple question. We need to get our thoughts about why this particular amendment is in there and changed from the previous one, not even a year ago. So I'm trying to get where the Liberals' thoughts are, and so far we're getting mixed messages. Does it change from day to day?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Obviously not.
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Chair, we're not getting anywhere on this. The minister is giving us mixed messages and doesn't want at all to give us reasons why they've changed their position on "fair and equal" from "balanced," and now she's got it - she's finally found it after dusting off their platform and looking into what they've said before. Maybe she can enlighten us on what the difference is.
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, I find that in the Liberal platform, under "restoring confidence in government" from the previous election held in the spring of this year - the year 2000. The comment comes under changing how government works, and it talks about providing balanced representation to all Yukoners. That particular clause - and remember, this is from the development of the platform at the time - talked about how the Yukon has gone from the far right of the Yukon Party and the Conservatives, as they used to be, and to the far left of the NDP. What we were going to be offering to Yukoners - and we have, and we're doing it - is offering balanced representation so that we don't swing from one political philosophy right across the political spectrum to the far end of the political philosophies and so that we don't swing from the right to the left to the right to the left to the right and to the left, as we have for so many, many, many years. What Liberals offered was the middle-of-the-road approach, which is what most Canadians are and what most Yukoners chose in the election. That was what that statement represents.
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Chair, it's obviously not satisfactory to this side of the House. We cannot get the difference from the minister on how they've changed positions on this whole thing. We're not making any headway here. Any recommendations that we do bring forward here that are clear and beneficial to Yukoners at this point in time are going to be rammed through by the majority government anyway. So what's the use of asking questions about this?
The ministers are not even answering the questions - very simple questions, too - on Liberal positions from one day to another. It's different, different, different, and that's the mixed messages that were given here in this Legislature and outside of the Legislature to the general public. It's a shame that we have to even go this far and still not have our questions answered - very simple ones - so we can get our thoughts around where government thinking is in this amendment. So, Mr. Chair, I have no further questions on 409.
Chair: Is there any further discussion on section 409?
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, I believe this is going to come back to haunt us. I believe we are remiss if we do not set the terms of reference very, very, specifically for the electoral boundaries review.
I think back to the last review carried on under the Hon. Justice Kenneth Lysyk. At that time, we were looking at 19 seats - 19 seats, Mr. Chair. But at that time, the economy was growing. The population of the Yukon was growing, and subsequently we settled for 17 seats. Seventeen seats seemed to be the number that was acceptable. It was an odd number. That doesn't mean this Legislature is odd; it just means that there should be a balance when it comes to voting, and there should be a positive and a negative, and there should be someone at the end of the day who is going to carry the day. But to leave this part of the equation open is, in my opinion, not right. Because at the end of the day, when the electoral boundaries commission reports back, it's going to be very, very difficult for us, as legislators, to not accept wholly what is presented to us.
It's going to be very, very difficult to say no, we don't recommend or we don't accept two or three more seats all being created in and around Whitehorse.
One seat, I would say $150,000, two seats $300,000 - another half a million dollars added to O&M costs if we go up to 20 seats.
And what do we have at the end of the day? Probably the most over-represented, over-regulated, over-governed, over-legislated part of anywhere in Canada, indeed probably the world, Mr. Chair. That's not what we should be doing.
We need fair representation, recognizing some of the abnormalities here in the Yukon. In fact, if you look at the case that was made before the Lysyk inquiry for Old Crow, being a separate entity and a separate riding, and if you look at the rationale provided in the last electoral boundaries review, it was identified separately, in part, because they had not settled land claims. They needed access to this Legislature.
That was one of the major reasons that land claims were settled. In fact, First Nations in the Yukon are, in many respects, equal in legislative authority to the Government of the Yukon or probably beyond. That was the case made for Old Crow.
So, we're going to skew the equation this time, given that the same rationale and reasoning no longer applies to some of these smaller ridings. The easy way out of solving the dilemma is to create more ridings, Mr. Chair - more government.
And if we look at what this government currently is doing to Yukon - their supplementary budget $37.5 million more in expenditure; a 6.5-percent increase in the O&M cost of Government of the Yukon. It doesn't translate into anything more than a job for government employees and members of this Legislature.
That's not the reason for government, Mr. Chair. That's not what we're here for. That's not what the Yukon is all about. It's about treating everyone fairly, but allowing opportunities to move ahead, allowing opportunities that are recognized to be seized upon, grasped, and we run with the ball. We can create an economy. There's something for our children to look forward to in the future, potential to succeed in business, potential to have a good job, potential to go on, marry, raise their family in the same kind of environment.
Many, many of those avenues are now being cut off, and I very much ask the minister to carefully reconsider what she is saying, because at the end of the time, we are going to be hard-pressed to not accept fully the commission's report, and should it include an increase in the number of seats, everybody's going to say, "Oh well," and all we in opposition can say is, "I told you so", and the government of the day - the Liberals - will say, "But the commission report said this is the best way to go."
If the government defined the terms of reference - that's not an avenue that would be open to them. We might want to put a caveat on it as soon. As the population hits 40,000, we'll look at expanding the number of seats. But until that time, the number of seats are frozen at 17. I really haven't heard a good explanation from the minister as to why she really wants to grasp and run with that area in this act. I can't put it down to stubbornness, because I know the minister isn't stubborn. She is probably just toeing party lines. I can't put it down to a lack of common sense, because in many respects this minister does have some common sense. It must be political direction from caucus. That's all I can put it down to. And if she wants to stand up on her feet and say, "That's the direction I've been given by the spin doctors who give us the guidance, write our speeches and tell us what to do and how to do it," well, that's fine. We know where to go and who to lobby because it's obviously not the elected officials. They are only the mouthpieces for some of the speechwriters.
Would the minister carefully consider her position on that? And I'd like to know if that decision to stick with that area is a Cabinet decision, a caucus decision, and if it's unanimous.
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: First of all, I think that the so-called spin doctors upstairs would be thrilled if we actually did what they told us to do. That would be a first.
The member opposite asked whether this was a Cabinet decision. Of course all pieces of legislation go through Cabinet and are approved by Cabinet. And it was a unanimous decision of members of caucus to approve this bill to come forward, representing the government at this point.
The opposition is now saying that they do not trust the commission to make the right recommendations, which means that they don't trust Yukoners to make these recommendations. And I might point out that this is, once again, in direct opposition to what the side opposite said a year and a day ago.
And they said - this was Mr. Phillips again - "I am not the person who is going to decide what the boundaries look like when this is over. I am not the person who is going to decide how many ridings there are in the territory when this is over. It will be the commission that comes forward with those recommendations, and that's where it will come from, not from me. I don't go out there and decide or draw the boundaries. I won't have anything to do with it. It will be Yukoners who will do that."
Mr. Chair, this side of the House has great faith in Yukoners.
There are two more issues, Mr. Chair, because they've been brought up in the somewhat lengthy dissertation from the side opposite. The side opposite says that this is political. Now, what the side opposite continually neglects to mention is that the opposition will have the majority on the commission. There will be one Yukon Party member and one NDP member and only one Liberal member on the commission. So the opposition will have the majority. So if there's going to be a political agenda, it will obviously come from the majority on that commission.
Now, the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes is confused about the makeup of the commission. The Member for Klondike is extremely concerned about the issue of population growth, and I am reluctant to do this, Mr. Chair, because you've already ruled on this again, but the issue of population growth is in section 419(a). That is what that section deals with - the density and rate of growth of the population of any area. And that's in section 419(a), which talks about some of the considerations that the commission will have.
Once again, this is out of this clause. We'd have to look forward to discuss this issue in 419. We're on 409, as the Chair has pointed out a number of times. I know that the Member for Klondike has said he has no other objections to anything else in the bill except this particular clause, and so I'm not clear where I can go with this, Mr. Chair, again, because he's referring to population growth as one of the considerations. That consideration is outlined in section 419, and we are now discussing section 409.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, let's deal with the wonderful compromise here, Mr. Chair. Let's stand aside section 409, work our way up to section 419, deal with it, and then come back to section 409.
Chair: Is there unanimous agreement to stand aside section 409 and come back to it later in the debate?
Some Hon. Members: (Inaudible)
Chair: Since there is not unanimous agreement, section 409 cannot be stood aside.
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Chair, this is a government that said it would cooperate with us on this side. It constantly challenges us to cooperate, and this instance is just another example of how it doesn't cooperate.
Now, I support the request by the Member for Klondike, because this minister is just a stand-in today on the Elections Act. She's nodding her head in agreement. She's not all that familiar with the act. She's admitting that. She doesn't have the authority to take a position on the act. She admits that, too.
So, Mr. Chair, it's obvious that she's not familiar with the underlying philosophies behind the Liberal position on this act. The Premier is, but she's not here.
Chair: I would ask the member not to refer to the Premier's absence.
Mr. McRobb: Pardon me. The Premier is unable to comment on that. What I would suggest is that the government should rethink this request and agree to set this clause aside, and let's see what happens with the rest of the act.
This is a very important clause, and we, on this side of the House, have all spoken to it now. It deals with a very important matter to rural Yukoners. Now, of the seats represented in this House, every rural seat has spoken with great concern about this clause - every rural seat. The governing Liberals, who hold no rural seats, are ignoring the concerns of rural Yukoners by refusing to set this clause aside.
They say they listen to rural Yukoners, but it's obvious they do not. It's a very fair and reasonable request. I would ask them to reconsider. If we set this very contentious clause aside, we can probably make some good progress on the rest of the act.
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, the member opposite has made a number of inflammatory comments that were factually incorrect. First of all, he said that I'm not familiar with this act. I'm extremely familiar with this act.
It's true, I am a stand-in for the Premier, and I take that responsibility very seriously, so as to represent her well in this House. I am familiar with the issues. I've been here for the entire debate - not only this time, when the act went through, but in the previous House.
Now, to be absolutely clear - this is the fourth or fifth time that the side opposite has asked to have this clause stood aside. The answer is still the same: no. And if we could have a debate on this that doesn't cover the same issue 40 or 50 times over, then perhaps we could move forward with this bill.
I know that I always look forward to the scintillating debate in the Legislature, and I'm hoping that we can have a scintillating debate on the upcoming clauses in this act.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, I guess if the minister is that familiar with the act, then she's probably more familiar with it than the Premier of the territory, which begs the question: how come she's not leader of the Liberal Party here in the Yukon, Mr. Chair?
But I still go back to my original point, Mr. Chair. We have a population base that is shrinking. It's eroding, and it continues to erode, Mr. Chair.
The economy is going and has gone from bad to worse. The budget that was tabled - the supplementary budget, $37.5 million - doesn't create any winter works. It adds to the cost of government; it adds to the amount of government. The O&M cost of government is up by 6.5 percent.
On a per capita basis, we have to be the most over-governed, overrepresented, over-legislated and over-regulated jurisdiction of any in Canada, probably in North America and probably in the world, Mr. Chair.
What we need is a workable solution. If we put all of the options on the table for this commission, the commission is probably going to select the easiest one. The easiest solution to the dilemma we're in is to create two more seats in and around Whitehorse, divide them up a little bit differently, and go to 19 seats. Is that where the minister sees us heading, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, this question has been asked so many times by the side opposite. It's, to say the least, repetitive. And, I'll go through it again.
This side of the House has great respect already for the recommendations that are going to come forward from Yukoners, that will be reflected in the recommendations from this commission. What my concern is is that the member opposite will not respect those recommendations as they come from Yukoners. I have a great concern about that, Mr. Chair.
Once again, this is - I don't know how many times this issue has been brought forward, the same question has been posed, and the same answers given. It would be just so delightful, Mr. Chair, if we could move forward instead of recycling the same lack of discussion.
Mr. Jenkins: We still haven't got through to the minister, Mr. Chair - the wannabe leader of the Liberal Party here in the Yukon. I don't know how to express it differently, and I'm not prepared to give up. So, we can go two ways: we can carry on this debate until the end of the day, and hopefully the Premier will be back on Monday, and we'll go back into the same act and go over it with the Premier. Maybe a different point of view will finally prevail, or we can stand this aside and move on. At the end of the day, we have to have an act that's going to accurately reflect what is best for Yukon.
Anyone I have spoken with, when you mention increasing the number of seats here in the Yukon, actually look at you and laugh. They just shake their head and, unless they're paying for it, they just say, "Well, whatever will be, will be, but it doesn't make any sense to have more government - no government at all."
All we seem to be getting under this Liberal regime, Mr. Chair, is more and more government, and it's endless, and that's as a consequence of them being void of ideas as to how to turn the economy around, how to do something in a positive vein that's going to attract mining investment back to the Yukon.
Mining knows no boundaries. Under federal regulations that the Liberals have advanced here in the Yukon and that this Liberal government here has bought into, we have virtually destroyed mining and mining exploration. That's a fact, Mr. Chair.
It's interesting that almost 60 percent of the money invested in mining worldwide is raised in Canada, on the Canadian financial markets, and it's moving everywhere in the world but the Yukon. It's not coming here, because there isn't in place a system that is conducive to attract mining, allow them to get on with the business of mining, allow them to get through the permitting process in an expedient manner, allow them to do their job.
Oh yeah, there is $250,000 in mining incentives, but at the end of the day what have we got here in the Yukon?
This last year was the worst year ever in the history of the Yukon - Yukon was formed over 100 years ago - if you look at mining exploration and costs in dollars. It was the worst year ever, Mr. Chair. And who do we thank for that? The federal Liberals and the Yukon Liberals.
I think we owe it to Yukoners at this juncture to deal with something as important as the number of members in this Legislature in a manner that is going to be appropriate. And section 409 gives very, very broad terms of reference for the commission - very, very broad. In fact, it gives them a clean sweep of virtually everything.
Section 419 is somewhat restrictive, based on the population. But at this juncture for this review, wouldn't it be in the best interest if we put a cap on the number of seats at 17 and show Yukoners - and indeed show the rest of Canada - that we're spending their tax money wisely? Now, I know that that's not something a Liberal can grasp - how to spend tax money wisely. It just moves around at the political whim wherever it's going to do the most good politically. And it's used for political patronage appointments where it's going to best benefit the party.
Even the Prime Minister of Canada flies in here today and he's only going to be meeting with the party faithful - just a few. A few of the elite Liberals here in the Yukon. I'm sure the minister and her family will be some of them. But I'm sure most of you in the government of the day will be excluded, as I will be, and as I'm sure everyone else over on this side of the House will be, Mr. Chair.
Well, Mr. Chair, what is so wrong with putting in place a program that's workable? If the terms of reference do not include the review of the number of seats here in the Yukon, we'll probably make the commission's work a lot easier. All they can do is mention in passing that we would have liked to have had the opportunity to examine the increasing number of seats and the role that would have played, but that wasn't within our terms of reference. So the buck stops where it rightly should stop; that's right here, Mr. Chair.
I have no quarrel with enabling legislation. I do have a quarrel with enabling legislation when it's going to act as a deterrent to fair government and reasonable government, because what I'm concerned with is that the increase in the number of seats will do nothing but cost Yukon more money. Does the minister really believe that increasing the number of seats will actually provide better government for Yukon? Does she believe that, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, it's quite likely that the commission - well, it's equally likely that the commission may recommend fewer seats. If that's what the member opposite has heard out there - and I respect that that's what he has heard and that's a fair representation of what he has heard - then perhaps the commission will come back and say there should be fewer seats.
Let's go back to some of the earlier comments from the Member for Klondike. First of all, he thinks he's going to get the Member for Riverdale South all excited by saying that I want to be the leader. This is downright humorous, because he knows that we've had this discussion many, many times - that I thank my lucky stars every day that I am not the leader.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: And the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes says that may be obvious. Well, that's good, because I've certainly had frank discussions with him as well.
Now, the threat from the side opposite is that they are going to - and they've been very clear about it. The Member for Klondike just said that he is going to waste time, waiting for the Premier to come back on Monday to discuss this issue. At $1,000 an hour, they'll continue to ask the same question, the same question that they asked the Premier on the day previous when we were discussing this very bill, on the very same clause. They are going to waste time - the taxpayers' dollars, at $1,000 an hour - until this side agrees to stand aside the clause.
Well, you know, it's not going to happen. Everybody in the House knows it's not going to happen. We've said at least 12 times now that we're not going to set it aside, so plainly we're in a time-wasting mode, by the side opposite, at $1,000 an hour - $1,000 taxpayers' dollars an hour. And the side opposite is being very upfront about it. It's quite amazing, actually. And actually, to hear that is probably not one of the prouder moments I've had in this Legislature.
Now, the Member for Klondike is prejudging the work of the commission and what's wrong with trusting the commission to do their job. The commission is going to be represented by a majority of opposition members or representatives. The commission is going to represent the points of view from Yukoners throughout the Yukon Territory, and the commission will only bring forward recommendations to this Legislature, and the decisions will be made on the floor of this House. And that position has been made - and I'm not kidding, Mr. Chair - 30 or 40 times between the last day that we debated this bill and today. So it's plainly repeating for the sake of repeating - them trying to get their way and assuming that Yukoners will put up with this sort of time-wasting from the side opposite. It's not a pretty picture today, not a pretty picture at all.
The Member for Klondike is taking the exact opposite position that his party took a year and a day ago. Perhaps the side opposite thinks we're being paid by the word.
Some Hon. Member: A point of order.
Point of order
Chair: Mr. Jenkins, on a point of order.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, it's abundantly clear that I have not taken a 180-degree turn or reversal of the Yukon Party's position. I thought I made that position abundantly clear, yet the minister keeps repeating it. She is wrong. Would she please correct the record.
Chair: On the point of order, Mrs. Edelman.
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, during debate, I have read from Hansard the exact opposite position from his party a year and a day ago.
Chair: I find this is a disagreement between members and that there is no point of order.
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, there may be some confusion. We, as members of the Legislature, are not paid by the word. We are paid to sit here and make good decisions on behalf of Yukoners. Part of that good decision-making is to have good debate on the bills that come forward to us as legislators. Good debate does not mean asking the same question 30 or 40 times and getting the same answer 30 or 40 times. Good debate is good back and forth.
And there have been days in this Legislature when we have had really good debate. Ideas have come from the side opposite when we were in opposition and, as well, since we have taken power, the side opposite has come up with a number of good ideas during debate. We have discussed those issues, thought about things, and made amendments to various pieces of legislation already.
This is not one of our finer days. This is a very repetitive debate. The same question gets asked; the same answer is given.
To be absolutely clear, we will not stand aside section 409. If the member opposite feels it's his right to waste taxpayers' dollars, at $1,000 an hour, by asking the same question over and over again until the Premier comes back on Monday - as he quite clearly stated - then he can certainly do that. It's not up to me to say that he can't. However, it is quite disturbing that that's the way this debate is going.
Mr. Jenkins: It's interesting to note, Mr. Chair, that one of the previous debates that we had with this same minister, when she was standing in for the Premier, surrounded a major issue, and the constant answer was, "We do not negotiate land claims on the floor of this House." That went on repetitively for quite a period of time, and the position changed 180 degrees when the Premier returned and after I got involved in the debate, after the official opposition couldn't get an answer from the Acting Premier.
What we have here is a very similar situation, Mr. Chair. It's very similar. And probably, to expedite the business of the House, we could stand aside this whole act, and the Premier, who tabled the act in the House - and we can deal with it when the Premier returns and kind of eliminate the middle person in the equation. Then we can hear it right from the mouth of the individual who makes the decisions, or who we were told makes the decisions. I'm not sure if Jason is putting the words in her mouth, Mr. Chair.
We can stand this aside, we can move on to other business, and we can move on. I'm not delaying it, but it has happened before when the stand-in Premier, the Acting Premier, didn't answer, wouldn't answer and couldn't answer. It wasn't in her terms of reference. She had her marching orders from the Premier, and those were very specific, very succinct and very definite. In fact, she parroted them in the House here time and time and time again. A trained parrot could have done equally as well, Mr. Chair. It was just repeated time and time and time again back then that we will not negotiate land claims on the floor of this House.
I went through, and I believe it was about 30-odd times that it was said. I have a concern with wasting the time of this Legislature. I don't want to waste any time, but we have to have answers.
What the minister - the Acting Premier - is doing is just holding to the instructions she has received. Now, we can move forward by debating another act in Committee, get into the supps, anything, leave this alone if we don't want to stand aside this one clause. We can move forward, Mr. Chair, and I would ask the Liberals - the Acting Premier, the minister - if she would consider that approach, because it won't hold up anything. It can be dealt with when the Premier gets back, Mr. Chair.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Chair: Mrs. Edelman, on a point of order.
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, I was quite surprised that nobody made any comments when the Member for Klondike called me a trained parrot.
Chair: If that's a point of order, Mrs. Edelman, what I understood, like yesterday when there was somebody talking about chasing their tail and offence was taken, that this was a simile. It was a comparison. It certainly wasn't a direct comment.
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, I take that as a very denigrating comment from the Member for Klondike, again.
Now, let's go through this. We are not going to set this clause aside, as the Premier said, for a number of hours, when last we debated this motion. Nothing has changed. When the Premier was here, the side opposite asked the same questions; the Premier gave the same answers. There has been no change whatsoever and no reason given by the side opposite that is reasonable to set this clause aside. Nothing has changed, other than the way that the members opposite are now referring to us here on the government side, which is going downhill rapidly. We will not set aside this clause, and this is, I think, the thirteenth time.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, let's set aside this whole bill, Mr. Chair. Let's move it out, set it aside; never mind this one clause. Let's set this aside and move on to another piece of legislation.
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: No.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, that was definite.
Mr. Chair, let's go back over this issue once again so that we will have it all fresh in our minds if the government chooses to bring this act before us again on Monday.
The issue that we're looking at is whether the electoral boundaries commission should have, within its terms of reference, the ability to set the number of seats in this Legislature, to recommend to this Legislature the number of seats. I find it very, very interesting that the Liberals would choose to hide behind a commission.
The rhetoric I'm going to hear in response, Mr. Chair, is that yes, we're going to have an all-party committee, there's going to be a chair and four other members, one appointed by the Legislature, one from each of the political parties, and it's going to be comprised of Yukoners, and they're going to have - don't you trust Yukoners? It's not a case of not trusting Yukoners, Mr. Chair; it's a case of focusing the political direction on the future of the Yukon and where this Liberal government wants to take us.
At this juncture, given the sad state of our economy, given the decrease in our population that we've witnessed this last number of years and the continuing decrease under this Liberal government, Mr. Chair, we're over-governed. So for this one time, we set a maximum number. The seats will remain at 17 - not go up, not go down.
And the clause down the road, maybe after the next review, would kick in when the population hits perhaps 40,000 - who knows? It's just an arbitrary number I'm throwing out. But if you look at the amount of representation Yukoners have, and if you look at the number of individuals employed in all of the various levels of government, one has to start saying, "Wow, why do we need this much government?" One only has to add up all of the territorial government employees, look at all of the elected officials, look at all of the support staff, and then you look at all of the communities and municipal governments and add up all their elected officials, all of their support staff, and then you look at all the First Nations with their elected chiefs and counsellors and their support staff - one would think that there would be zero unemployment today in the Yukon, Mr. Chair. There isn't. It's just under 10 percent. And if the workforce would have remained where it was a year ago, it would have been 13 percent. But what's more alarming is that if the workforce was where it was four years ago, we would have over 20-percent unemployment. That's a pretty alarming figure. And in the last four years, the only area that has grown is government.
We have government, more government, and more government.
Does the minister honestly believe that we need all the government we have, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, this is not at all relevant to clause 409.
Mr. Jenkins: It's highly relevant. It speaks to the number in the equation, and is what the commission looks at, so it's an entirely relevant question. I would ask the minister for an answer, Mr. Chair.
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, this is the same debate over and over and over again. All day previous, the side opposite debated with the Premier and now all day today, wasting time, $1,000 an hour.
I think that we'll go through it again. The commission may recommend that there be fewer seats. That's also a possibility. The member opposite has to trust the commission to represent fairly the views of Yukoners that they speak to.
The commission will bring forward recommendations to this Legislature, and at that point we can debate, in an informed fashion, those recommendations. Then we, as legislators, can decide on the makeup of this Legislature, because we are the decision-makers in the Yukon - all 17 of us.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, Mr. Chair, could the minister give me an example of one jurisdiction in Canada where the number of seats has been decreased?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, perhaps we can get the officials to go out and do that research for the Member for Klondike, if he doesn't feel that he has adequate resources to do that research.
We think perhaps that there's a possibility that may have happened in Saskatchewan, but we will go out and check for the Member for Klondike.
Mr. Jenkins: Would the minister not agree that the number of seats are more apt to be increased, and have been increasing, in virtually all jurisdictions?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: I'll say it again, Mr. Chair: I'm not going to prejudge the recommendations that come out of the boundaries commission. That's obviously what the Member for Klondike is trying to get me to do. It's not going to happen. But I do trust that the recommendations that come from this commission will be a good representation of what was heard across the Yukon by the people who will be sitting on this commission. And I believe that those will be made-in-Yukon solutions.
In the past, we have had problems with people from outside coming in and making decisions about the way we operate here in the territory. Of course, we all know about the expert who just becomes an expert by virtue of being only a few miles outside of the city boundaries. Therefore, everybody from outside thinks they know more about the Yukon than we do. But I trust Yukoners. I think they're going to come back and give us some pretty fair recommendations about the way this House should be structured. I trust Yukoners, and I trust that this commission will adequately represent those points of view. I certainly wish the Member for Klondike had the same trust in Yukoners.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, Mr. Chair, there have been four electoral boundaries reviews that have taken place in the Yukon to date. Can the minister point to any one of these electoral boundaries reviews that hasn't been accepted in its entirety by this Legislature?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: My understanding, Mr. Chair, is that in the previous review the names and the boundaries were accepted, although I'm going to get the officials to check on that again. It seems to me that there were some last-minute changes that were done by the NDP government in power at the time. There were a couple of really strange things that happened back then, and my memory is cloudy on it. What I will do is get the Premier's officials to get back to the member opposite on that issue.
Mr. Jenkins: These are all very, very pertinent questions relating to the number of seats in the Legislature. The most controversial electoral boundaries commission was the Lysyk inquiry, Mr. Chair, and it was accepted in its entirety. Having looked at Chief Justice Maddison's review of the three previous electoral boundaries reviews, I find no change from what his recommendations were.
So, the chances of this Legislature altering or deviating from what the electoral boundaries commission presents to this House is very, very remote, Mr. Chair, if not non-existent.
The ray of hope that the minister is throwing out is that we don't have to accept what is presented. Well, that's really a far-fetched reasoning and very, very unlikely. I would have been of the opinion that the minister, knowing that she was going to get into quite extensive debate on this one specific area, would have spent a few minutes doing her research and looked at other ridings to see if they have shrunk. My information is that all of the ridings have been increased.
Look at ridings in the north. They've increased. The federal government - the House of Representatives - has gone to 301. The Senate has been increased. There have been redefined boundaries all across Canada, and I've looked at some of the other information that's available on boundary reforms and some of the case law, which is very, very interesting. Voter parity is the area that comes to the forefront most frequently, but here we're looking at an economy that's going down. We're looking at an economy that is shrinking. We're looking at a population that's shrinking. We're looking at fewer and fewer people here but more and more government, Mr. Chair. I don't agree with it. I don't think you'll find too many Yukoners who would. They'd probably have to be arm's length from government, but we can't be totally dependent and totally consumed by government here in the Yukon.
And we're running out of people to appoint to boards and committees, Mr. Chair. There are very few, except in the cases of those wonderful political patronage appointments of $100,000-a-year positions that the Liberals have become very famous for, Mr. Chair. But at the end of the day, how does the minister rationalize putting on the plate for debate and for consideration by the commission the issue of the number of seats in this Legislature, given the downturn in our population? Our population, Mr. Chair, has gone down in the last four years, and it continues to drop. Just how does the minister explain that that is a good topic for debate and discussion and for consideration by the electoral boundaries?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Let's go back. I've had officials do some research. Apparently, in the Ontario boundaries review the number of seats actually did decrease - that's under Harris, a compatriot of the member opposite from the Yukon Party, the leader of the third party.
The last comment from the Member for Klondike was about the issue of population growth. Well, that's quite clearly contained under section 419. When we get to that clause, we can discuss that issue. That would make sense.
Now, I'll make the same point again and again and again, because the member asks the same question again and again and again. What if the boundaries change? Well, the only thing you can count on in life is that things will change. Now, they may change so that there are fewer seats. It may change that there are more seats. Population growth is one of the issues that will be taken into account by the boundaries commission. And when we get to section 419, we can discuss that at some length.
What it comes down to is trust. The previous Legislatures trusted that the boundaries commissions would go out and do a good job and reflect the views of Yukoners, and the current trends, beliefs and attitudes of the people at that time. The government side trusts that Yukoners will make their points known to the commission when it goes throughout the territory. And we trust the commission to reflect those attitudes, beliefs and issues raised by Yukoners. The previous Legislatures did. We have that trust in the Yukon electorate. And I truly wish that the Member for Klondike also had that same trust.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, I have a tremendous amount of trust in Yukoners. When they're assembled together and called the Liberal Party here in the Yukon, my trust disappears very quickly. That's what I have a problem with.
So let's just look at this again, in light of the enlightenment that the minister has added to the equation. The last electoral boundaries review - or the last act that we had before this House - did not include a review of the number of seats. That was a change from the last act to this act.
Now, what precipitated the necessity for that change?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, that was one of the recommendations. Let me first point out again that that was one of the recommendations of the Yukon Party critic at the time, a year and a day ago - that it should look at that issue, whether there are fewer seats or more seats. That was what the recommendation was from the Yukon Party at that time. It was also the recommendation from the Liberal Party, which sat in opposition at that time. What a difference a year makes, Mr. Chair.
The recommendations from the chief electoral officer are fairly open. The opportunity to look at the number of seats is not precluded from those recommendations. That would be the December 1997 Report of the Chief Electoral Officer of the Yukon on Elections of Members of the Legislative Assembly and Other Related Matters. So the recommendations came from the side opposite, and it came from the Member for Klondike's own party, that this is one of the issues that we should be looking at. And I'll once again refer him to Hansard on November 15, 1999 and to Mr. Phillip's comments, the critic at the time for the Yukon Party on this very issue.
Mr. Jenkins:What the minister has just done has substantiated the position I have advanced in the House - that whatever the commission provides by way of information is going to be accepted verbatim, without any change or without altering it. Of the report to the House, there has been very little change, if any - and I'm not aware of anything - from the original information that was provided.
Could the minister point out some areas where changes have occurred from the original report that was submitted from this all-party review? It was summarized, concluded, tabled. From it, this act was drawn. There have been no changes. There has been very little thought given to it at the elected political level, other than the initial input. In fact, the people who worked the hardest on it were those in the serious ranks of government, offering political advice to the elected officials. The parties all worked very, very hard on it also, Mr. Chair. But after all this information was synthesized; there has been no change. We'll have the same situation with any report that is tabled. It will be accepted verbatim, with very little questioning. So that's why it is contingent upon us, if we want to be effective legislators, to ensure that the terms of reference for the studies or reviews are as comprehensive as they can be and accurately reflect where we should be heading. That's not the case, with what we're asked to approve here, and I'm sure the minister will agree with that.
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, the member opposite is putting forward the argument that nothing has changed in the legislation that governs the way we operate in the Yukon Territory and the way that we represent Yukoners in this House in the last 10 years, and therefore nothing should change. Well, that's ludicrous - absolutely nonsensical. Obviously, things change.
When the last boundaries review was done 10 years ago, things were different in the Yukon. And knowing the transient nature of the population in the Yukon Territory, the prevalent beliefs and attitudes of the people in the Yukon have also changed. Things change. For example, the position of the Yukon Party a year and a day ago has changed dramatically. I see the Member for Mayo-Tatchun is the next tag team member to continue on with this somewhat pointless debate on the same issue, over and over and over again.
Now, let's go through it again. We, as legislators, are responsible to fully and responsibly debate the recommendations that come out of this commission. Once again, this is a commission where the majority of the members will be from the side opposite: one from the Yukon Party, one from the NDP - both are in opposition. There will only be one Liberal Party representative on the commission.
I will look forward to continuing the debate again, obviously, with the next tag team member from the side opposite.
Chair: Is there any further debate on clause 409?
Clause 409 agreed to
On Clause 410
Clause 410 agreed to
On Clause 411
Clause 411 agreed to
On Clause 412
Mr. Fairclough: I just want to let the Legislature know that we do have questions on this. I don't believe that the changes we would recommend on any of these would go through. I don't want to spend the time of this House on this bill any longer. I think that we need to move it on through, and I have no questions on this now, Mr. Chair.
Chair: So, Mr. Fairclough, what you're asking is that we consider this read and passed, the rest of it?
Mr. Fairclough: Yes.
Chair: Okay, thank you.
Section 412 agreed to
On Section 413
Section 413 agreed to
On Section 414
Section 414 agreed to
On Section 415
Section 415 agreed to
On Section 416
Section 416 agreed to
On Section 417
Section 417 agreed to
On Section 418
Section 418 agreed to
On Section 419
Section 419 agreed to
Clause 2 agreed to
On Clause 3
Clause 3 agreed to
On Clause 4
Clause 4 agreed to
Title agreed to
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, I move that you report Bill No. 22, entitled An Act to Amend the Elections Act, out of Committee, with amendment.
Chair: It has been moved by Mrs. Edelman that Bill No. 22, entitled An Act to Amend the Elections Act, be reported out of Committee with amendment. Are we agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agree.
Some Hon. Members: Disagree.
Chair: Division has been called.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. It was put forward by Mrs. Edelman that Bill No. 22, An Act to Amend the Elections Act, be reported out of Committee with amendment.
All those in favour, please rise.
Chair: All those opposed, please rise.
Chair: The results are seven yea, six nay.
Motion agreed to
Chair: We will now move to Bill No. 2, Fourth Appropriation Act, 1999-2000.
Bill No. 2 - Fourth Appropriation Act, 1999-2000
Chair: Is there any general debate on the Fourth Appropriation Act?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, this is essentially the NDP supplemental budget. I welcome any questions on it that the side opposite would be happy to pose to me.
Chair: Is there any further general debate on Bill No. 2, Fourth Appropriation Act?
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Chair, certainly we, on this side of the House, don't have a problem with this particular act. Of course, it is minor and a procedure that we should be going through. I just ask that we move on with the business.
Mr. Jenkins: Once more, Mr. Chair, this just points the NDP-cloned government that we have. They're called Liberals and they haven't got -
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Chair: Mr. Fentie, on a point of order.
Mr. Fentie: Mr. Chair, I can no longer sit silent - no longer can I sit silent. I can no longer be an exact replica. That's impossible - looking across the floor and then comparing them to us.
Chair: There's no point of order. Thank you very much, Mr. Fentie.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, what we have before us is a budget that was done by the previous government and has been adopted by the current government because they are void of ideas. They don't really have an understanding of where they're heading, where they're taking the Yukon, or what we're going to be up to, other than we're going to have more government.
More government is where we're at. And at the end of the day, it's going to be a very sad day for Yukoners, given that all we have is the old act review, because this government is void of ideas. We have a main budget that was presented that was identical to the previous one tabled by the previous NDP government. Of course, in opposition the Liberals said it was a poor budget, it was a bad budget and voted against it. Shortly thereafter, hey, it was good enough for them, and they endorsed it wholeheartedly, Mr. Chair - endorsed it wholeheartedly. Now we see them endorsing all the supps wholeheartedly and embracing it as if it was their own creation. Well, Mr. Chair, nothing could be further from the truth.
This was the creation of a previous government, and because the Liberals, when they were elected, didn't have the ability or the skill, they chose to take the easy way out. They could have done something at that juncture. They could have created jobs with the $64.9-million surplus. They could have put Yukoners back to work. Instead, they were so much enthralled with obtaining the reins of power here in the Yukon that they lost track of what they had been elected to do.
This government was elected to provide economic leadership, stimulate the economy and provide some hope and opportunity for Yukoners. I look forward to line-by-line debate of this NDP supplementary budget and am just very much disappointed that the Liberals couldn't have done much, much more with the $65-million surplus that they inherited. Yukoners will be suffering this winter, if they're still here - they probably will be leaving the Yukon. The U-haul economy is going great guns, but it's all one way - out of the Yukon Territory, Mr. Chair.
I look forward to the Acting Minister of Finance providing an explanation for this area. I'm sure she hasn't had the time to be as versed with it by the Premier as she should have been, so it should be very, very interesting to see the explanations coming forward in the line-by-line debate.
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: First of all, Mr. Chair, let's be absolutely clear. This budget document talks about money that was spent by April 1, 2000, prior to our government coming to power. This is a formality. It has to go through the House. That's our responsibility as legislators. This is money that was spent before April 1 of this year.
When the Yukon Party was last in power - when it had considerably more members than it does now, I might point out - they had to pass a supplementary budget, much like this one that came from the previous NDP government, and that money was spent long before they took office as well.
I remember when the NDP took office in the 1996-2000 term, they had to pass - and it probably disturbed them as well - a supplementary budget exactly the same as this one, which was actually money that had been spent by the previous Yukon Party government. That's the way the process works.
Mr. Chair, in light of the time, I move that you report progress on Bill No. 2.
Motion agreed to
Ms. Tucker: Mr. Chair, I move that the Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Motion agreed to
Speaker resumes the Chair
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
May the House have a report from the Chair of the Committee of the Whole?
Mr. McLarnon: The Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 22, An Act to Amend the Elections Act, and has directed me to report it to the House with amendment.
The Committee has also considered Bill No. 2, Fourth Appropriation Act, and has directed me to report progress on it.
Speaker: You have heard the report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: I declare the report carried.
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. Monday.
The House adjourned at 5:55 p.m.
The following Sessional Paper was tabled November 16, 2000:
Yukon Hospital Corporation Financial Statements for the year ended March 31, 2000