Monday, November 20, 2000 - 1:00 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
We will proceed at this time with prayers.
Speaker: We will proceed at this time with the Order Paper.
In recognition of National Child Day
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Mr. Speaker, I rise today to recognize National Child Day, which is being celebrated in Yukon and across the country in commemoration of the adoption of the Declaration of the Rights of the Child in 1959 and, 30 years later, in 1989 the adoption of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
Indeed, Mr. Speaker, children from around the world will participate in the United Nations general assembly special session on children next year in New York City. It will be a time of learning and sharing for all.
The Convention on the Rights of the Child recognizes the rights of children and youth under the age of 18 years and gives them not only human rights but additional rights to protect them from harm.
Across the country, activities and events for families and children celebrate this day. In the Yukon, we owe the celebration to a very special woman who worked hard to ensure children would be recognized on this day of the year. On November 20, today, we wear a raggedy ribbon to recognize National Child Day. This year, the ribbons have a special significance as we honour the late Linda Epp, a former employee of the Child Abuse Treatment Services, who passed away two years ago.
Linda was instrumental in starting the raggedy ribbon campaign in the Yukon several years ago and ensuring Yukon's participation in the national celebration of our children.
Earlier this afternoon a plaque in Linda's honour was erected in the resources room at CATS.
Mr. Speaker, the adoption of the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the National Child Day reflect the growing recognition that children are important and are valued in our society. National Child Day creates that recognition. We use it as a day to reaffirm our commitment to protecting and promoting the well-being of our Yukon children who are at risk because of poverty, abuse and neglect. It also provides us with an opportunity to celebrate children just for themselves. I would like to take this opportunity to remind all of us that children need love and respect to grow to their full potential. They have much to offer us and we need to listen to them. We also need to keep them safe from harm. It is a day to listen to the children in your life and to celebrate them.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Keenan: Mr. Speaker, I arise today on behalf of the official opposition to recognize National Child Day. National Child Day is a special day for the children of Canada. It's a day to rejoice at the special meaning that children bring to our lives. It is a day to honour those parents, foster parents, the teachers, the childcare workers, the youth group leaders and all the others who contribute so much to raising children. After all, children are our future.
The importance children play in our lives has been slowly recognized as federal, provincial and territorial governments work together on a national children's agenda and an early childhood framework agreement. However, we must remember that our future relies on all children, and programs for children must not be targeted to select populations. In developing a comprehensive service for children under the early childhood framework agreements, we should recognize the need of all children and of their families.
It is important that we find ways to ensure that all Yukon children have access to the services that best support their needs and that children no longer fall into the cracks. It is appalling to think that in a country as rich as Canada, we have so many children who live in poverty.
Campaign 2000 released its child poverty report card today, and campaign 2000 is a national coalition of over 85 partner groups that was formed in 1989, following the all-party resolution to end child poverty in Canada by the year 2000. Mr. Speaker, we are now in the year 2000, and instead of seeing an end to child poverty in Canada, we have seen alarming increases in the number of children living in poverty.
The number of poor children in Canada has increased 43 percent since 1989. The number of children in working poor families has increased by 55 percent. All children deserve to have adequate shelter, enough food and quality care every day of their lives. With the number of children living in poverty in Canada increasing so dramatically while government surpluses increase, it is obvious that children have not been a priority for recent federal governments.
On National Child Day, we should be actively seeking ways to improve the lives of children in our communities. One practical way we can do this in this Legislature is by passing a child youth and family advocacy act, which I will be introducing as a private member's bill in a few moments.
This legislation, which is based on a successful British Columbia model, would provide a mechanism to ensure that the best interests of Yukon's children are protected in their dealings with government programs and services.
So, on National Child Day, each of us, whether we have children or not, should find time to reflect on the importance of children in society. I would like to take a special blessing and opportunity at this time to send a special message to my grandson, Kevin Bob Jacobson, and tell him how much I love him.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the Yukon Party, I'm pleased to also pay tribute to National Child Day and the raggedy ribbon campaign. This is an opportunity to recognize, respect and cherish children in our society and to celebrate the meaning that children bring to our lives each and every day.
National Child Day is a very special day, indeed. It gives us all an opportunity to recognize the fundamental rights of children, including access to proper health care and education, protection from exploitation and abuse, and the right to be able to express one's feelings without fear of reprisal.
Over the past decade, the Convention on the Rights of the Child has made a huge difference for children by increasing respect for their rights all over the world. In doing so, governments and individuals have become more aware of the need to promote children's rights and made great strides to ensure these rights are enshrined in law. While we acknowledge the importance of improving the lives of children today, there is very much more that needs to be done.
To help raise awareness about the importance of children and their right to be free from abuse each year, Yukoners participate in the raggedy ribbon campaign - a campaign that was introduced three years ago by Yukon's own Child Abuse Treatment Services as a means of raising awareness of child abuse.
Although a small gesture, the ribbons speak volumes. By wearing a ribbon, we are saying to others that abuse of children, whether physical or emotional, is not acceptable and will not be tolerated in any form.
I, too, would like to join with members in honouring former childcare worker Ms. Linda Epp for her work in organizing the very first raggedy ribbon campaign. By taking the time to undertake this important initiative, Ms. Epp has helped make a difference in the lives of many children, for which we are thankful and can be proud.
With the continuation of public awareness campaigns such as this and increased education, each of us can make a difference in a child's life, and so we should. Children are the key to our future.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: Are there any further tributes?
We will proceed to introduction of visitors.
Are there any returns or documents for tabling?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I have a legislative return for tabling.
Speaker: Are there any reports of committees?
Are there any petitions?
Are there any bills to be introduced?
INTRODUCTION OF BILLS
Bill No. 101: Introduction and First Reading
Mr. Keenan: I move that a bill, entitled Child, Youth and Family Advocacy Act, be now introduced and read a first time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes that a bill, entitled Child, Youth and Family Advocacy Act, be now introduced and read a first time.
Motion for introduction and first reading of Bill No. 101 agreed to
Speaker: Are there any further bills for introduction?
Are there any notices of motion?
NOTICES OF MOTION
Mr. Kent: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT this House recognizes that the Liberal Government has followed through on its commitment to reduce Yukoners' personal income taxes by pledging to reduce the tax rate by January 1, 2002, to 44 percent of the basic federal income tax, and
THAT the rate effective January 1, 2002, means the Yukon tax rate will be lower than both the Northwest Territories and Nunavut, and
THAT this House recognizes that the previous NDP government made zero personal income tax rate cuts during its four years in office; and
THAT this House urges all members of this House to support these tax cuts, which benefit all Yukoners.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that Canada's three northern territories should be treated equally by the Government of Canada in relationship to the recognition of their respective offshore boundaries; and
THAT this House urges the Government of Yukon to ensure that Yukon's northern boundary description in the draft Yukon Act (1999) should be made more consistent with those of the Northwest Territories and Nunavut by amending Schedule I of that draft legislation as follows:
1. Change "on the north, by the part of the Arctic Ocean called Beaufort Sea" to "on the north of the northern limit of Canada in that part of the Arctic Ocean called Beaufort Sea."
2. Replace paragraph 2 of the definition of "Yukon" in section 2 of the draft Yukon Act (1999) with the following paragraph:
2."Yukon" includes the designated area of the Yukon Territory, comprising all land and waters in Yukon to the south of the northern limit described in Schedule II.
3. Elsewhere in the draft Yukon Act (1999) including the heading to Schedule 11, change "adjoining area" (or "Adjoining Area") to "designated area" (or "Designated Area") and include a consequential amendment to the effect that any references to "adjoining" (or "Adjoining") in the Oil and Gas Accord should be interpreted in light of this change.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: Are there any further notices of motion?
Are there any statements by ministers?
This then brings us to Question Period.
Question re: Pipeline route, support of federal Liberal government
Mr. Fentie: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Premier, the Minister of Economic Development. Last week I asked the Premier, before she went to Alaska to speak to a number of groups, including the governor and some of the State Legislature, what message she would be bringing to the Alaskans with regard to the Alaska Highway pipeline. Subsequent to that, we find out from the Prime Minister of Canada that we seem to have a mixed message when it comes to the Alaska Highway pipeline. When the Prime Minister is on the west side of the divide, the federal government supports the Alaska Highway route. When the Prime Minister is on the east side of the Great Divide, it seems that the federal Liberals and the Prime Minister support the Mackenzie Valley route.
Can the Premier explain to this House and to Yukoners this contradiction from the Liberals in Ottawa?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to be able to once again respond to the member opposite regarding the Alaska Highway pipeline project and the proposal that is on the table. It is a proposal that clearly the side opposite has not supported.
There is no contradiction in anyone's position. My position, as leader of the government, has been that northern natural gas projects are not in competition. The Alaska Highway route is the fulfilment of an existing Canada-U.S. treaty and it will be built first. There is market demand and opportunity for a second pipeline - the Mackenzie Valley pipeline route - and that position has been accepted and supported by industry, including most recent statements by Gulf Canada, I believe it was.
In terms of the Prime Minister's comments here, the Prime Minister recognized that also, and stated very clearly that construction of an Alaska Highway gas pipeline would be the fulfilment of an existing Canada-U.S. treaty, which was negotiated in the 1970s. The Prime Minister did not preclude a Mackenzie Valley pipeline. The Prime Minister, in fact, stated that he was also very supportive - as is the Liberal government - of northern regional economic development programs, which is something that all three northern premiers have lobbied for, and which the Alliance is clearly against.
Mr. Fentie: The federal government supporting northern economic development is a wonderment, at least, in the Yukon Territory. We have yet to see it in two terms of federal Liberal mandate.
Mr. Speaker, it seems very strange that the Prime Minister would say one thing to Yukoners and yet say something else to those in the Northwest Territories, and I am thinking the Alaskans are wondering too, because this Premier dropped everything on her trip to Alaska and rushed back to meet with the Prime Minister, the lead Liberal of the land, for a 10-minute car ride. I wonder if the Premier was actually discussing this with the Prime Minister, or were we playing politics with the future of the Yukon?
Will the Premier now stand in this House and at least commit to asking the Prime Minister to clear the record on which pipeline is really going to have federal Liberal support, given the fact that the federal Liberals do authorize land use in this territory as they do in the Northwest Territories?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister's statements are very clear. The record is absolutely clear. Again, I would invite the member opposite to go back and look at the Web site, which Economic Development has and which has every single one of my speeches to a variety of individuals in the oil and gas sector, including the most recent speech I gave in Anchorage. I stated, and have always stated, that the Mackenzie Valley and the Yukon-Alaska Highway route pipelines are not in competition. They are not. Market demand and opportunity will support both.
The Prime Minister, in his remarks to Yukoners, stated that the construction of the Alaska Highway pipeline would be the fulfilment of an existing treaty, a treaty that was negotiated in the 1970s, something that we have stated consistently as well.
There's no need to clear the record, as the member opposite states. The record is absolutely clear, and I invite him once again to examine it.
Mr. Fentie: Well, the record is never clear when it comes to Liberals. All we have to do is look at the examples of the GST, northern economic development, all the things that have never materialized, especially here in the Yukon.
Mr. Speaker, there is now a mixed message. There's no doubt about it.
Furthermore, the federal government may very well take a different view than this Premier and may very well put roadblocks up on the Alaska Highway route. The Prime Minister is now on record as supporting one line or the other, depending on whom he is speaking to. Will this Premier immediately - immediately - clear this matter up with the Prime Minister so that we in the Yukon and the industry and all those concerned will fully understand that it is the Alaska Highway route that is the primary route for the federal government of this country?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, the only record that needs to be cleared up is the members opposite's, who refer to the Alaska Highway pipeline as a black hole, as a far off pipe dream - ambivalent. The Alaska Highway pipeline does not even make their federal leader's radar screen. At least the Prime Minister of the country and the leader of the Liberal Party recognizes the fact that there is a treaty, that it exists, that it's valid and, furthermore, that it supports the construction of the Alaska Highway pipeline route.
The member opposite is fear-mongering in trying to find a position on the pipeline and suggesting that there is a competition between the Mackenzie Valley and the Alaska Highway route. This is not the case. We have consistently supported both, and industry has come to that conclusion as well. I can reference a half a dozen speeches by a variety of members of the industry, who consistently are referring to the Mackenzie Valley as a stand-alone to be built after the Alaska Highway pipeline project.
Question re: Land claim settlements, commitment of Prime Minister
Mr. Fairclough: My question is for the Premier. Last Thursday, the Prime Minister flew into town for a whirlwind meeting with local Liberals. He also met with First Nation leaders. And out of this came a promise from the Prime Minister that he will settle land claims in the Yukon. Could the Premier tell us exactly what commitments she was able to get from the Prime Minister during her eight-minute car ride from the airport last Thursday?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, for the member opposite's information, I sat in as an observer at the meeting between the Prime Minister and the Grand Chief. The Grand Chief put the case toward settlement of land claims far more eloquently than I can. He received assurances from the Prime Minister, and the exact text of those words were, from the Prime Minister, "She wants to settle them," and Mr. Schultz said, "And I want to settle them," and the Prime Minister said, "We've managed to settle seven; let's get the other seven done."
Mr. Fairclough: Well, Mr. Speaker, she didn't answer the question. The Premier's being as vague as the Prime Minister. Now, there are specific issues that are unresolved in respect to settlement of land claims in the Yukon. There are the outstanding loans - repayment from negotiation, and section 87 provisions for taxation. What decisions have now been made by the federal government toward resolving these two issues as a direct result of the Premier's intervention?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, the first words out of the interim leader of the official opposition's mouth whenever I answer a question, are, "Well, she didn't answer the question." In fact, I did answer the question. With respect to section 87 and loan repayment - the two outstanding federal issues - the Grand Chief and others in attendance at the meeting received the Prime Minister's commitment of his desire to settle the land claims, including the two federal outstanding issues. The Prime Minister has committed to it. That, to me and to the Grand Chief's way of thinking, is a good commitment, a strong commitment. And now it's time to get it finished and get them done, and that's exactly, pending the results of the federal election and our continued work, what's going to happen. We'll get it done.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, it has been about 25 years since the current Prime Minister was the Minister of Indian Affairs and he promised to settle land claims at that time, Mr. Speaker. Every federal election since then - and we have heard Liberals promise to resolve claims quickly. Why should Yukon people believe that anything has changed and that these outstanding land claims are finally a priority for the federal Liberals?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, it's not just every federal election. At every territorial election there has also been a commitment by every single party to do their best and to settle outstanding land claims. It has been a key priority.
Why should Yukoners and the Grand Chief and Yukon First Nation chiefs believe us? Because our work record so far has proven our commitment. In six short months, we have done a lot of work toward the settlement of land claims. I have, as I committed to do, met with Finance Minister Paul Martin on section 87. We have established the common forum. We have an intergovernmental relations office. We are working on these issues.
Now we need the federal government, we need that top-level key commitment by the Prime Minister to settle these land claims, and he gave it.
Question re: Health care, government advertising
Mr. Jenkins: I have a question today for the Minister of Health and Social Services.
Mr. Speaker, this minister has taken out two full-page newspaper ads entitled "Report card for Yukon health". What he is doing is trying to convince Yukoners how well off they are in terms of health care. Now, some of the claims, such as those relating to medical travel costs, could be called misleading advertising. The minister takes pride in the fact that the cost for medical travel into Whitehorse from the communities and for ambulances and medevacs has increased significantly. Now, the minister attributes this increase to more referrals, when he knows full well that the real reason for the increase is because of his refusal to pay for on-call physician services and his failure to recruit more rural doctors and nurses.
How much is the minister paying for this misleading advertising, Mr. Speaker?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Mr. Speaker, the whole idea of trying to build understanding and information with Yukoners takes a medium. You have to have a way of doing that, Mr. Speaker. The federal government, the territorial government and the provincial governments have made a commitment to move ahead on sharing with Yukoners and Canadians what kind of medical health care and issues are related to the whole area of support. The report card is one attempt at trying to do that.
I believe that we are learning by doing this. We are not sure that this is the complete answer. It is part of the answer, but it's one of the commitments that the first ministers made when they made their agreement. We are going to continue it, Mr. Speaker, because we believe that it brings the people of the Yukon into the understanding of what health care really costs.
Mr. Jenkins: I didn't get an answer. I don't know what this ad cost.
The way to do it, as the minister put it, is to deliver the services he is charged with delivering. This piece of propaganda is designed to try to make Yukoners believe that health care in the Yukon is improving. Clearly, it is not.
This is the minister who is responsible for creating a two-tiered health care system here in the Yukon - one for Whitehorse and one for rural Yukon. The only thing that is increasing is health care cost.
Can the minister advise the House what plans he has to recruit rural doctors and nurses?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite is always great at using inflammatory words, such as "propaganda". The thing that people of the Yukon want is information. That's not propaganda, but information I think all of us as Yukoners should have. It shouldn't be hidden or secretly squirreled away. It should be right up there so that people can see what the health care costs are.
This is not a direction that we in Yukon are taking alone. It is an issue that many in the country are going to be dealing with. We just happen to be perhaps a bit quicker in trying to respond to it. If you were living in another part of the country, there would be this type of sharing with fellow Canadians. It's not something completely new.
The issue of recruitment is not one of those simple factors and to suggest that we have a two-tiered health system is bogus. But, again, we know, Mr. Speaker, that the Member for Klondike is good at inflaming and making words out of the issues that are not really there. I think the important issue here is being honest with Yukoners, sharing with Yukoners and trying to build with Yukoners.
Mr. Jenkins: It is a fact there is a two-tiered health care system here in the Yukon - one for Whitehorse and one for rural Yukon. It is a fact that other jurisdictions in Canada are out actively recruiting, spending money and putting together policies and programs to attract and recruit health care professionals.
Now, all we have got are these feel-good ads from this minister. Why doesn't the minister concentrate on these feel-good ads and concentrate on initiatives that will attract and retain health care professionals to the Yukon? Why doesn't the minister do that, Mr. Speaker?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Mr. Speaker, I'm not sure the Member for Klondike understands what the question of two-tiered really means. The Member for Klondike is suggesting that we have to have Vancouver- or Edmonton-type medical care and health care; we cannot. We're a rural jurisdiction, Mr. Speaker. We will not - and probably will never - have a lot of those issues until our population grows.
The same thing applies to small rural communities. We have very competent nurses. We have doctors in some of those communities. We don't have them in all of them because it wouldn't warrant having a doctor in every community.
We are moving ahead, Mr. Speaker. We're sitting down with the YMA. We have sat down with the YMA. We have come up with some thoughts and ideas that will be presented to the House shortly. As I said earlier, Mr. Speaker, we can't do this overnight, but we're concerned about recruitment and maintaining it in the future. It's an issue that all of us have to work on and rather than inflame the idea that there's a problem and there's a crisis, I think the member opposite should investigate before these comments are made.
Question re: Beringia Interpretive Centre, purchase of gift shop
Mr. Fairclough: I have a question about government business policy under this Liberal administration. My question is for the Premier, who is also the Minister of Economic Development. Will the Premier tell us what her government policy is with respect to using taxpayers' dollars to pay for goodwill in a private business?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Excuse me, Mr. Speaker, but I have a dreadful cold, so if I'm not clear, that's probably why. The Beringia gift shop issue - the side opposite continually brings forward requests for information, makes innuendoes about a business transaction that this government took part in. May I suggest to the side opposite that under section 17(1)(d) of the Conflict of Interest (Members and Ministers) Act, a member can ask the conflicts commissioner to investigate any complaint that he may have. That is why the act is there, Mr. Speaker, to deal precisely with these types of questions. And I respectfully suggest to the leader of the official opposition that he follow the process that is clearly laid out in the act, and this time do it with a specific charge so that we can get on with the business of this House.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, Mr. Speaker, I hope the Premier's not hiding from this question. It's about government business policy. The Premier should be able to get up on her feet and answer the questions. Yukon business people are confused about where this government stands on this question. They want to know where the government stands, and they want to know where they stand, both as business people and taxpayers.
Once again to the Premier, under what conditions can a private business in this territory expect to receive payment for goodwill from this Liberal government?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, obviously the member opposite is making a comment about the Beringia gift shop buyout. Now, a series of comments have gone back and forth in the House about goodwill in relation to this contract. Goodwill in relation to this contract is not the traditional meaning of goodwill in a transaction, where you pay for the good name of a person who has been undertaking business in a specific location, for example, for 30 or 40 years.
In this particular case, it was very, very specific. We paid for lists. It was a turnkey operation. And I have supplied to the side opposite information about this very issue in the past. More information is coming, in greater detail. The side opposite has also got an ATIPP request in, an access to information request. They will have that further information by the end of this month, and, at the end of this month, it will become quite clear that there were no additional payments for the type of goodwill that the innuendo is about.
The breakdown of the expenditure will be coming very, very shortly. The person who can do that is out on holidays. She will be back tomorrow, and they will get much greater detail on the goodwill issue.
Mr. Fairclough: Why is the government hiding from this question about government policy, Mr. Speaker, bringing it back to the Beringia. We're not asking about that - government policy.
Earlier this year, we saw the Premier turn her back on a Yukon company that was employing over 100 people. That company had support from many, many individual Yukon investors who wanted this Liberal government to show some faith so that it could expand the operation and create even more jobs for Yukoners. The Premier said she couldn't see the business case for helping that company, Mr. Speaker.
Will the Premier explain the business case for paying goodwill in a tourism operation that was operating out of a government building and being subsidized by the admission price to a government-run facility?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, we are finally getting down to the specifics. To be absolutely clear, it was the side opposite who signed the contract with the stipulation for a buyout of the contract. We have followed that contract. We bought out the individual who was operating the gift shop at Beringia and with whom the NDP had a contract.
Now, the NDP signed the contract; we followed through on the contract. The side opposite continually makes allegations about this particular transaction with the government. We have done nothing wrong and have nothing to hide. However, if the member opposite feels that he needs to make a charge about this, I wish he would get down to it. I wish that he would follow the process that's clearly laid out in the act, so that we can get on with the good business of this House.
Question re: Trade and investment fund, government assistance to companies
Mr. Fentie: My question is for the Premier and it's to do with clearing up matters here with regard to a level playing field. Last week the Minister of Tourism, acting in the Premier's stead, stated in this House that, "The principles of our government are that we believe in a level playing field for businesses; therefore, we believe that one business should not get any more than another business. So, what we are trying to say to the people of the Yukon is that we don't play favourites with Yukon businesses." Is that the Premier's position? The buck stops at the Premier's desk. The Premier is the leader of the Liberal government here in the Yukon. Does the Premier concur with that position?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Absolutely. This government is fair. We have been fair and we will continue to be fair.
Mr. Fentie: Well, that's why we, in the official opposition, are asking these questions. It is unclear as to exactly what "level playing field" means to the Liberal government opposite.
Mr. Speaker, we know that this Liberal government turned its back on a business in Watson Lake, which employed over 125 people. We know that this government across the way turned its back on businesses in Mayo and shut down the Mayo school contract. We know that this government across the way has stopped any funding through the trade and investment fund, severely hampering a local business from expanding and entering markets in B.C. with its product.
How, then does this Premier explain the fact that, given all those examples, we have a government, on the other hand, that is willing to pay for goodwill to another Yukon business here in Whitehorse? Please explain that contradiction to Yukoners and to this House.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite has bootlegged into a question half a dozen different issues and half a dozen facts, which I would dispute, and others knowledgeable in Yukon industry would find quite a dispute with the member opposite.
First of all, the only people who have turned their backs on Yukoners are the NDP, who had four years to fix the Yukon economy and did nothing. They did nothing. The unemployment rate under the NDP averaged 13 percent. It topped out as high as 17 percent. This government pledged to Yukoners on page 8 of our platform that we would be fair. We would provide a level playing field for all businesses. That's what we have done, and that's what we will continue to do.
In terms of the government support for a particular brewing company or the community development fund, the tourism marketing funding and the trade and investment fund funds, the NDP knew that their funding programs were not effectively meeting the needs of the groups applying for them; they knew that. They knew that they were handing out money without any assessment of whether or not it was meeting the objectives. They knew this, and they didn't care.
Mr. Speaker, we're doing what we were elected to do. We're being fair, we're providing a level playing field for businesses, and we're managing Yukon taxpayers' money wisely.
Mr. Fentie: Well, first off, the Premier should actually look at the statistics in their entirety, because if the 600 people who have left this territory were actually on the unemployment line, the unemployment figures in this territory would be 13-plus percent. This Liberal government has done a great deal of damage to the economy and has done a lot in shutting down job creation in this territory.
Mr. Speaker, let's look at the facts: under the NDP government, we had an increase of the export of lumber from this territory by 400 percent. We had, under the NDP government, a brewery in the City of Whitehorse able to expand its markets into Ontario and other places in Canada. And now we have no export of lumber, and now we have a business that is simply going to have to struggle to try and continue to expand its market without government's assistance. This government has stated -
Speaker: Order please. Will the member please get to the question?
Mr. Fentie: This government has stated that they believe in a level playing field. How can they, on the one hand, ignore those businesses and shut them down, and yet, on the other hand, pay to another business taxpayers' money for goodwill that doesn't exist?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, the only message that's being ignored by the member opposite is the message that the voters gave them on April 17 of this year. They spent four years destroying the Yukon economy. We will freely stand on this side and admit it's going to take us more that six months to fix it, but we've done a lot more in six months then the NDP ever dreamed of doing to fix the economy. We're working on a number of areas.
With respect to the level playing field for all businesses, again, I refer the member to page 8 of the Liberal platform. It was also a recommendation given to the previous government in January 1999 by the small business summit - a recommendation they steadfastly ignored, just like they steadfastly ignored the problems in the Yukon economy. Unlike the NDP, Mr. Speaker, we are working on these issues. We're dealing with a level playing field and how funding agencies, such as trade and investment fund and tourism marketing fund work in the Yukon economy and how they should work. Did they meet their objectives? We're looking at it and we are going to deal with it.
We're dealing with such issues as support for the Alaska Highway pipeline, as support for the mining industry, as support for the film incentive, as recruiting medical professionals for this territory. We're dealing with the tough issues and we will continue to do so.
Question re: Beringia Interpretive Centre, purchase of gift shop
Mr. McRobb: I have a question for the Minister of Tourism on a subject that's already been raised today - government paying for goodwill. Now, one conceivable case where goodwill might be paid would be when someone buys out a business with the intention of continuing to operate a similar business, perhaps even under the same name. But, that scenario doesn't fit the situation of the contract between the Department of Tourism and Mike's North Communications. Since the Minister has been fully briefed on this, expect a full answer. Will the minister tell us what market analysis or other objective criteria her department used to determine an appropriate value for goodwill in this purchase?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Let's be absolutely clear, Mr. Speaker, that what the member opposite is referring to as goodwill is not what we were talking about in the contract. The goodwill issue is one where, in this contract, we talked about lists of inventory, et cetera, et cetera. And that information is part of a turnkey operation.
Now, I have sent briefing notes to the side opposite on this issue. I'll send more. That's not a problem. But once again, the members opposite ask the same questions over and over and over again, implying, of course, that there's some wrongdoing going on on the part of the department or on the part of government. I would hope that the member opposite would finally get to the point where he actually makes a charge - a specific charge this time - to Mr. Hughes and asks him to extend the conflict investigation that he is doing right now. And, once again, I refer the member to section 17(1)(d) of the Conflict of Interest (Members and Ministers) Act. He has made reference to that before, but this time I think he needs to be a bit more specific about what exactly the charge is.
Mr. McRobb: The minister is hiding behind the conflicts act; she's hiding behind the conflicts commissioner. Let's be very clear; I am not making an allegation. There is no need for me to file a complaint on this question. I merely asked what the market analysis was or other objective criteria. The minister who prides herself - she likes to stand up and say, "I answer all the questions, Mr. Speaker." Where is the answer to that last question?
Now, one of the questions we asked the minister earlier was whether an independent evaluation had been made of the inventory and equipment the government was buying. The minister hasn't answered that question here in the House, but she was quoted in the local media saying that the answer was no. Can the minister tell us right now if there was an independent, third party assessment done on the true and current market value of the items the government was prepared to buy from this contractor?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, an extensive briefing note was sent to the member opposite. It's impossible to give him any more information.
I think the problem is that the member opposite gets the written information, looks at it, and then just asks the same question again anyway because he isn't happy with the answer he has been given.
Now, to go back to the breakdown on goodwill, which is just over $23,000, I have told the member opposite that that breakdown will become available to him tomorrow when the staff member returns from holidays. And he will get that information.
As for the market value and the independent analysis of the market value, he has also received an extensive briefing note on that area. This was done by a member of the staff, who did a spot check on the inventory, and I will send that information to the member opposite again.
I have to tell you though, Mr. Speaker, that this is sending the same information over and over and over and over and over and over again. It doesn't change. We have nothing to hide. If the member opposite feels that he doesn't need to make a charge, then that's his opinion, but the inquiry should take place under the conflicts commissioner, not on the floor of this Legislature.
Mr. McRobb: The minister is wrong, Mr. Speaker - absolutely wrong. This information has not been provided, period. It has never been provided, and she has not answered the questions on the floor of this Legislature. And this is the open and accountable Liberal government.
We are still waiting for a lot of information from this minister and for some consistency in the answers we do get. It's a good thing we have an access to information act to help, but it's too bad that Yukon people will have to wait for the answers they deserve.
I know the minister is awfully busy and I don't want to add to her workload, so let me just ask her one more simple, direct question. Will the minister now undertake to put this matter in the hands of an independent, non-government auditor to determine if Yukon taxpayers got value for their money in this transaction?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, I think we can do better than that. I think that the side opposite wants to make a specific charge, and he does not - if the side opposite wants to make a specific charge, we can have the conflicts commissioner, who is already working in this area, extend his inquiry and do exactly what the side opposite is asking for. That would be fine. Now, if the member opposite would make a specific charge, instead of dancing around the issue, even in a direct communication with the conflicts commissioner, then we could probably get working on this very, very quickly.
Now, I'll refer the member to section 17(1)(d) of the Conflict of Interest (Members and Ministers) Act, and if Mr. Hughes sees this as part of his inquiry, then he would be happy, I'm sure, to do this audit.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed. We'll proceed to Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Ms. Tucker: Mr. Speaker, I move that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Speaker: It has been moved by the government House leader that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Motion agreed to
Speaker leaves the Chair
COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
Chair: I now call the Committee of the Whole to order. Do members wish to take a brief recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: We'll take a 15-minute recess.
Chair: I now call Committee of the Whole to order.
Bill No. 2 - Fourth Appropriation Act, 1999-2000 - continued
Chair: Is there any further general debate?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the Minister of Tourism, ably acting in my absence, began the general debate on Bill No. 2 in Committee of the Whole. She noted that members know the purpose of this appropriation bill, and the interim leader of the opposition has noted that it is a standard procedure that it is granting approval of spending for the past fiscal year, 1999-2000, which was in excess of the sums that were previously voted in the Legislature. And the sums for overexpenditures are less than the underexpenditures for the year, but the House approves money by individual departmental vote, not in totals, so the bill is necessary, as noted by the interim leader of the official opposition, to regularize previous government spending in 1999-2000.
I am prepared to answer specific questions in general debate on this particular bill. As mentioned in my second reading remarks, the annual deficit for the 1999-2000 fiscal year was in excess of $16 million, less than originally budgeted but still unsustainable in the long run.
In addition, a good part of the improvement was due to the lapse of spending authority, the majority of which is being revoted again this year. Fortunately, due to an improvement in the formula financing grant's input, as reported by StatsCan and projected by the Conference Board, our revenue inflow has also increased substantially.
And, Mr. Chair, we can also note that we can expect more funds from this source, as improved Canada health and social transfer grants were also a factor in the previous year's results. This will help get a handle on government's finances. However, I remind Mr. Chair and members in the House that we must be very prudent with our spending decisions and efficient in the use of public funds.
Again, if members have any questions of a general nature on the 1999-2000 supplementary estimates, I would be prepared to answer them.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, as was pointed out by the Minister of Finance, this is an area that we have been asked to approve after the fact. In fact, the current government is not even responsible for these expenditures; it was the previous NDP government. So, it's a question of accountability. At this juncture, all we can do is ferret out the direction and the reason for a lot of these overexpenditures, and whether they are justified and whether they continue to be justified, in light of the downturn in our economic well-being.
A couple of the areas that come to attention: the department with the most major increases, both in the O&M side - although there is a reduction on the capital side - is Health and Social Services. Health and Social Services is the area where we are spending more and more on less and less of a population. Just where are we at the end of the day?
The other one that has quite an interesting overview, Mr. Chair, is the Department of Education, where there was somewhat of a minor lapse on the O&M side. When we look at the capital side in Education, there was also a lapse. But given the size of the school population in the Yukon, how can we justify this type of continued expenditure, especially when we look at the number of schoolteachers we have on staff throughout the Yukon?
They're heading downwards, and yet the total cost of running the department is heading upwards. The same holds true for Health and Social Services. If you start analyzing where we're spending all of the money, at the end of the day, I submit, Mr. Chair, that we have created a two-tiered health care system here in the Yukon: one for Whitehorse and one for rural Yukon. And it's being augmented and increased upon by the current Minister of Health and Social Services. I guess, in some respects, we're just blessed with a taller version of the previous Minister of Health and Social Services - same platform, same position, same expenditures. So, we're ratcheting up the costs of health and social services throughout the Yukon, but at the end of the day are we getting value for the dollars we're spending? That has not been answered. In fact, the question goes on, and it continues to beg an answer.
If we look at the health care and the attraction of health care professionals across the north, and we look at what other jurisdictions are doing to attract, recruit and retain health care professionals, the only place where there is some incentive for health care professionals to remain is Whitehorse.
In rural Yukon, the Government of Yukon did nothing under the previous NDP government and is doing very precious else under this new Liberal regime, Mr. Chair. All we have is a two-page newspaper ad signifying where the money is going, and don't worry, be happy. I'll try to sell that to a mother who is sent to Whitehorse to have a child, from rural Yukon, and no longer can get any assistance because there's no longer any assistance available from various levels of government - so much for this wonderful health care system, so much for the attraction and retention of health care professionals in rural Yukon. They're moving from rural Yukon into Whitehorse or elsewhere - doctors, nurse practitioners. There just doesn't seem to be an end to it. What this government is missing is the intestinal fortitude to address the issue. And, the issue that has to be addressed head-on is to put in place a policy to attract and retain health care professionals here in the Yukon - nurse practitioners, doctors.
Now the scenario that was advanced under the previous NDP government, Mr. Chair, was that we want to hire doctors on contract; we don't want to hire them on a fee-for-service basis. There hasn't been any change in the platform coming out of the new Liberal government.
We were told that this wonderful new relationship between the federal Liberals and the Yukon Liberals was going to pay benefits and have tremendous advantages for us here in the Yukon. Well, we haven't seen them. There doesn't appear to be anyone here in this new Liberal government representing the interests of Yukoners. What they're representing are the interests of the federal Liberal government; they're apologists for the federal Liberal government, Mr. Chair.
Now, history has a funny way of repeating itself. We only have to look back to the last time there was a Liberal elected here in the Yukon, Mr. Chair, and the reason why Erik Nielsen won. And he won because he stood up for Yukoners, and he wouldn't bow down to the political masters from Ottawa and he would say, "Hey, I'm not going to stand here and just be an apologist for the Liberal government's position in Canada. Yukoners need to have their issues addressed, and I'll stand up for Yukoners." And he did, and he did so very well for a good number of years. He was constantly re-elected. Now, at the end of the day, we need someone to stand up for Yukoners, whether it be the Indian land claims or whether it be oil and gas, offshore or Crown-in-right. There's a whole series of issues. But at the end of the day, what we're seeing, Mr. Chair, is just a new Liberal government recently elected here in the Yukon that is an apologist for Ottawa.
The Minister of Justice on Bill C-68 says, "That's the law. We can't do anything about it. We're opposed to it, but you're going to have to obey it. We're going to have to go on." It's costing time and effort and money up here, Mr. Chair, because the laws that are made in Ottawa for Canada don't always suit the best interests of northern Canada and should be adjusted and should be altered accordingly to best meet our needs.
That hasn't happened. I don't believe it will happen, because there isn't anyone in this Liberal caucus, which is currently the elected Government of Yukon, who is going to stand up for the rights of Yukoners. It's not happening.
Health care is a major, major example. Justice is another example. What we have is a supplementary budget that we're asked to approve. Really, the money is already spent, it's gone - previous government. We haven't seen any real major improvements or incentives coming our way in the health care, especially in rural Yukon. The two-tiered health care system that everyone is crying about not wanting, we have had it here in the Yukon for quite some time. And it's continuing under this government. Shame on them. At the end of the day, where are we going to be at with the provision of health care here in the Yukon? Now, I'm sure there has to be an idea there. Newspaper ads aren't the solution, Mr. Chair. We've seen a significant increase - in fact, the major supp, the major amount of money spent by this previous NDP government was on health care, Health and Social Services, $3.2 million. At the end of the day, just where are we going to be at? Are we getting a handle on these expenditures? Are we going to improve health care? And what are the new policies that we are coming out with that are going to enhance health care? We haven't heard anything about those. Where are we going to be at - just a bigger hand out to Ottawa?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, there was one question in that speech in general debate on Education that asked about why there was a lapse. The lapse was due to savings in the busing contract and lapses in the Education Act review.
With regard to some of the other items in the supplementary estimate, there is an overage in the Public Service Commission, which results from valuing the employee leave liability at a sum that is accepted by the Canadian Institute of Chartered Accountants as being appropriate. The value is the result of an actuarial calculation and avoids the Auditor General having to qualify the accounts for the 1999-2000 fiscal year.
The overage of concern occurs in the Department of Health and Social Services, where $3.2 million more was spent than what was actually voted. The fact that it's an area of concern to Canadians and the fact that it was $3.2 million over what was voted were the only points the member opposite had in his speech.
The reasons for the $3.2 million are an underfunding to group homes that took place in the budget and increased foster and children-in-care costs due to price and volume. There was a decreased demand for child care subsidies and there was a decrease in demand for child care operating grants due to fewer family day homes opening.
There is additional funding for auxiliary overtime - people issues - and increased overtime again for training. There is a decrease in social assistance in Whitehorse - a downward trend in the number of people relying on SA - and, likewise, that applies to areas outside Whitehorse as well. There is an additional funding request to deal with an issue that I certainly dealt with many times in opposition - reclassification. There is an increase in volume and costs for out-of-territory medical travel, and there are increased costs - the bulk of them and fully one-third of them - for chronic disease, pharmacare and extended health increases in volume and in cost, Mr. Chair.
There has also been an increase in out-of-territory hospital costs as provinces, which give care to Yukon patients, are charging us more. There are some smaller items that have resulted in the $3.2 million in costs.
I have been supported at first ministers conferences by the Minister of Health, and, as have all ministers of Health, Finance and premiers and the Prime Minister, I have wrestled with this issue. The Health ministers were in attendance at the annual first ministers conference where all premiers and the Prime Minister dealt with the issue of concern around health care costs.
There are increasing costs and there are pressures on our system, and we are dealing with those pressures in a fiscally responsible manner.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, I would like the Minister of Finance to elaborate on what a fiscally responsible manner is. How is she defining that?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the previous government underbudgeted for such items as increased costs for hospital services for out-of-territory travel. It is difficult, in any given year, to predict some costs, such as increases in volume and cost for out-of-territory medical travel. We are dealing with those issues by being present at the discussions around health care and the future of health care in our country, and by championing the cause for territories that have a different formula than provinces in terms of dealing with the Canada health and social transfer. As well, it is noted that any additional funding and funding programs provided by the government must take into account the unique needs of the north.
Mr. Jenkins: So, we're blaming it all on the previous NDP government. Mr. Chair, you know we've got 23 votes for various departments and corporations. And, of those 23 votes, 11 are underspending on the O& M side, six are a wash - they remain the same - and three departments have increased. Now, I'd say that that was pretty reasonably good and accurate budgeting on the part of the previous government. I don't agree with a lot of the expenditures, but as far as budgeting and the exercise of budgeting goes, when it's that accurate - only having three departments out of 23 with an increase - that should say something about the ability of the departments to manage the money that they had voted.
I'd like to focus in more on the Health and Social Services department - the area where we have the biggest and most significant increase. The minister said she's going to be fiscally responsible and kind of implied that the previous government wasn't in that they didn't budget for and fully recognize the added costs associated with this department. Given that out of 23 departments, three have increased, how can the Minister of Finance currently state that they weren't fiscally responsible and she's going to be fiscally responsible?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I didn't really hear a question in that speech from the member opposite. I can remind the member opposite that this government will be responsible to this House - and of course we are - and fully open and accountable for all the expenditures. The member opposite is voting in favour of the previous government expenditures; that's his choice and his right to do, although he didn't vote for the budget when we brought it in - it seems as though the member opposite can't make up his mind.
This government will spend the money.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Chair: Mr. Jenkins, on a point of order.
Mr. Jenkins: The Minister of Finance is giving inaccurate information to the House. I never said I was going to vote for this budget. I was just pointing out that the previous NDP government, in their budgeting of the 23 departments - 11 were underbudgeted, and I said it was a pretty good budgeting process. I didn't say I was going to vote for it, and I haven't voted for it. So, if the minister could correct the record, I would appreciate it.
Chair: Ms. Duncan, on the point of order.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: I understood my remarks to have been that the member opposite was in support, and clearly those positive remarks could be conveyed as support.
Chair: On the point of order, my ruling is this is a difference between members. There is no point of order.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, just to conclude my response to the member opposite, I have already outlined what the $3,220,000 in additional expenditures are - that are required for Health and what they are required for. And I have indicated to the member that we are championing the cause for additional health care and health spending by the federal government and that we will continue to lobby in such a way. And what I was going to say prior to the interruption was that this government will spend the money for what it is budgeted for. So, in other words, if this Legislative Assembly votes money for health care, the public and the member opposite can rest assured that that's what the money will be spent on.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, if that were a fact, Mr. Chair, we wouldn't be here debating it because we've already seen that in many instances where we vote for money is this Legislature and it's approved, the government of the day takes it upon themselves to cancel the project. We've seen that with respect to the Mayo school. We've seen that with respect to the school bus for Old Crow, the community bus. We still don't know where that's at, although there have been promises made. I'll be expecting some announcement shortly. So, to say that they're going to spend the money where it has been budgeted and approved and that they will apply that across the board is simply not an accurate reflection of what this Liberal government is doing.
With respect to Health and Social Services on the capital side, there has been a $1,565,000 reduction. What does that relate to? What program has been curtailed or cancelled, or what initiative was not proceeded with, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, that particular reduction points to three particular items. There is a revote for the continuing care new facility, the Teslin Health Centre came in underbudget, and there have been additional other lapses of $471,000, which have been approved as a revote.
Mr. Jenkins: Could the minister be more specific?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the Teslin Health Centre came in underbudget. The $694,000 was a revote for the continuing care facility, and the other lapses total $471,000, which has been approved as a revote, and I will provide the member opposite with complete detail, line by line. If he wishes it read into the record, I'll just pull that out for him.
Other than me reading that into the record, does the member opposite have an additional question on that?
Mr. Jenkins: I'd just like to know the specifics of that $400,000 and something that was saved on the capital side.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: There are a number of details for a net of $425,000 on that. The details include the following: no variance on the Hospital Corporation equipment; $2,000 over in dental health services equipment; Whitehorse Health Centre, $1,000; a $10,000 reduction in the communicable disease unit equipment; hearing services equipment, $5,000; the ambulance unit equipment, underspent by $3,000; ambulance vehicle replacement was underspent; there was an overexpenditure of community nursing equipment and facilities; and there is again an underexpenditure in the Teslin Health Centre and an underexpenditure in telemedicine. The total Health Services underexpenditure was $425,000.
Mr. Jenkins: The minister mentioned Teslin twice - once under a bulk sum and once again. Could she be specific as to what is what, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the member opposite is correct. That was the variance report for the Health Services. In the capital recovery, there is also an additional $7,000 underspent in ambulance unit equipment and telemedicine of $18,000.
In Social Services capital, there are also underexpenditures in policy planning and administration, systems development, integrated health and social services facilities. There are some underexpenditures in family and children's services. There are various line item underexpenditures and some overexpenditures in Social Services.
This is quite a detailed variance report, which is what goes to Cabinet and Management Board as the final variance report. Perhaps it would serve the member opposite's purpose if, with permission, I provided him with more detail, and I will provide the member opposite with a summary document so he can have it in front of him.
Mr. Jenkins: I'd ask the minister to send that over.
While we're still on that, on the recoveries on the O&M side, we're up on recoveries by $1.2 million. Is this all from Canada?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: I cannot send over to the member opposite the variance report because that's a Cabinet document. What I can send over is a listing taken from that document, which will be sent over to him shortly. In terms of the recovery that the member asked about, yes, I do believe it is all from Canada, but we're double-checking that.
Mr. Jenkins: Could the minister confirm if all of that recovery is from Canada?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: I'll confirm that in a moment.
Mr. Jenkins: If we look at the recoveries on the capital side of Health and Social Services, they're under by some $25,000. What program didn't we proceed with, or where did we not pick up on the capital side?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: The member opposite has asked a couple of detailed questions. Because the figure printed here is a summary, the member will be supplied with a detailed written response on that item. And in terms of the recovery from Canada, I will also, if I may, just take a moment. I'll get back to the member on that.
Mr. Jenkins: One of the areas that is covered off under Health and Social Services is the Whitehorse General Hospital. Its annual report was just tabled. It showed a deteriorating cash position and a shortfall of some $132,000. What is anticipated for the Yukon Hospital Corporation? Were they accorded all the capital and O&M that they could have been in the last fiscal period?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the specific question asked by the member opposite with respect to the Yukon Housing Corporation is better answered by the Minister of Health and Social Services. Again, I would remind the member that this budget document relates to the supplementary estimates 1999-00, and I will be supplying, shortly, the member opposite with written detail of all of the capital and O&M, underexpenditures and overexpenditures. That will be provided to the member opposite, in writing, in complete detail.
The $1.2 million O&M recovery - I'll outline it for the member opposite, if he wishes to note this.
Under family and children's services branch, $525,000 was recovered from the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development; $29,000 from the federal child benefit; $8,000 from client recovery; $143,000 from the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development for the transition home. There was a $10,000 reduction in the Dawson shelter from Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and a $2,000 reduction in the Youth Achievement Centre. There was $3,000 for healthy families. There was $18,000 from social services - DIAND; a reduction of $5,000 from home care - Department Indian Affairs and Northern Development; $12,000 additional for home care in Dawson - Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development; client recovery was $23,000 and the Yukon child benefit from the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development was $180,000. There was a $10,000 reduction in our recoveries from Yukon Housing Corporation at the Thomson Centre; $20,000 additional received in per diems at the Thomson Centre; there were reduced recoveries at the Thomson Centre due to payment required for Workers' Compensation Health and Safety Board.
There was $355,000 recovered from the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, and this was resident volumes increased from additional beds available at the Thomson Centre; a $7,000 decrease in the adult day program at the Thomson Centre. Macaulay Lodge - the recovery from the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development was reduced by $62,000; there was an additional $10,000 recovered from residents at Macaulay Lodge; $25,000 reduction in our recovery from the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development at McDonald Lodge, in the member opposite's riding. This was a decrease in the number of status bed days. That is the reason for the decreases from the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development. There was also a reduction in the amount of money recovered from residents at Macaulay Lodge. The total on that particular amount, under family and children's services, was $696,000. Under social services, the home care et cetera that I just outlined for the member opposite was $487,000.
In Health Services, under third-party medical care, $4,000 was recovered. In the third-party hospital care, there was an overexpenditure of $22,000, and this was the conclusion of a legal suit. There was $57,000 in recovery for medical travel. This expenditure has been offset by the increase in revenues. There have also been emergency travel recoveries, non-insured health benefits and medical travel - $191,000 recovered, and in non-resident medical travel, there was an overexpenditure of $31,000.
There was $1,000 recovered on the Patent Act. In reciprocal billing, there was an offset of $329,000. In the environmental health food-safe course, there was a recovery of $2,000. For the Whitehorse Health Centre vaccine, there was a recovery of $5,000. Communication aids was a recovery of $29,000, and there was an offset increase in expenditures of $4,000.
In community nursing, there were also recoveries: $125,000 in patient services, $9,000 in drug recoveries, $9,000 Lower Post recovery, $8,000 in rent and utility recoveries, and $1,000 in dietary recoveries. The total in Health Services recoveries is $54,000, and that amounts to $1,237,000.
Mr. Jenkins: Could the Minister of Finance advise if all of the amounts recovered from Indian and Northern Affairs pertain to this fiscal period, or was a lot of it picked up from prior fiscal periods? If so, how much was picked up from prior fiscal periods?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, what the member opposite is referring to is a debate that we had in this House about the recoveries from the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs on outstanding billings that were related to this department. There was a motion in this House, which was unanimously approved, on gaining that recovery and my understanding is that most of it has been paid. Where it is shown in the budget documents - if it's this $525,000 or how much of it it is - I will respond again in writing to the member opposite, detailing precisely that account.
I should just add, Mr. Chair, that the member opposite asked about the $25,000 capital recovery; $7,000 was a reduction of ambulance unit equipment. It was money that wasn't spent. And $18,000 was a reduction in the telemedicine, and that was an accounting error.
Mr. Jenkins: To be specific, Mr. Chair, what I'm looking for is the total amount that we have recovered of that $1.2 million on Health and Social Services. I'd like to know what amount was a recovery from prior fiscal periods, and how much of that $1.2 million actually pertained to this fiscal period that is covered off in this supplementary.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: The member opposite is referring to our outstanding account and recoveries from the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, and I just want to share with the member opposite some information on the status of negotiations and the outstanding invoices. As of March 31, 2000, we are continuing to negotiate for payment of outstanding invoices for services to status Indians. This now totals $24.7 million for the prior seven fiscal years. Health and Social Services is in the final stages of negotiating an agreement with Department of Indian Affairs recovering the payment of child welfare services. There have been negotiations for payment of outstanding invoices in other program areas, specifically to resolve payment for status First Nations residing in the Thomson Centre. So the amount that is shown that specifically relates to this long outstanding issue with Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, of the recoveries I mentioned, how many of them relate to this outstanding issue? As far as I'm aware, they aren't; they are this year's recoveries. However, I will double-check that that is in fact correct.
Mr. Jenkins: Could the Minister of Finance advise the House how prior year financial recoveries from Indian and Northern Affairs are treated in the financial statements? Are they put in a supplementary? Where are they addressed?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: As the member opposite knows from business, in this particular case, the amount invoiced to the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development is shown as income in the year it is invoiced. There is also, the member opposite is aware, the allowance for doubtful accounts so when the money is received, it has already been booked as income. The allowance for doubtful accounts is also further in our budget documents.
Mr. Jenkins: It sounds like fuzzy math to me, Mr. Chair. So, if there's a recovery from Indian and Northern Affairs, that amount is plugged in, over and under, for doubtful accounts. Is that what the Minister of Finance is saying?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, as of October 31, 2000, the claims receivable from Indian Affairs and Northern Development were $27,290,948. The allowance for doubtful accounts is $9,351,804. That leaves a balance of $17,939,144. When this money is received from Canada, it is shown in our record, depending on the allowance for doubtful accounts - whether they pay us the $27 million or the $17 million. It's simply shown, and there's no impact on the bottom.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Ms. Duncan: The Member for Watson Lake is just so anxious to be on this side of the House, he's trying to supply answers for me.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, I know that on an accounting standpoint, it doesn't affect the bottom line, but it does affect the cashflow. So the cashflow is also important, given the forecasted position that the Government of Yukon is going to begin in 2003-2004 - projected actuarial accumulated surplus at the end of the year. We're down to $12.5 million. Given that our recoveries from Indian and Northern Affairs are going to be $17.9 million, I just want to know how a layperson can pick up on where this is going to be located in the financial statements. Is it just going to be in revenues above and beyond, or a recovery on prior year write-offs or writedowns? Is that where it's stated?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, it will be shown as prior year's adjustment.
Mr. Jenkins: So, it comes under prior year's adjustment. I haven't really seen too much in the way of notes to prior year adjustments in the financials. Is it going to be duly noted as a prior year adjustment in the notations?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, we haven't collected the money yet. We're certainly working on it and I know that there was a great deal of movement as a result of the collective work of all members of the House on this particular issue with the Government of Canada. It is certainly something that we will give consideration to in the future, showing it as the member opposite has suggested.
Mr. Jenkins: That is a very significant sum of money, Mr. Chair. In fact, if you add the receivables to the Department of Health and Social Services as a cost of doing business by that department, you come up with a department that is by far the largest department that this government has. It's way over $200 million a year. When you add up the capital, the O&M and the amount of money in receivables, it is a big, big department. At one time, the arrears on Indian and Northern Affairs was some $40-something million. If you add up the total outstanding monies due from Indian and Northern Affairs, and add that to it, we're talking about a department that has over $200 million in total financial transactions. That is quite significant.
So, I believe it's very appropriate, from an accounting standpoint, to directly correlate all the activities back to the financial statements, and it takes one of those fuzzy math individuals quite a period of time to go through it and ascertain where everything is. I'm not very good with fuzzy math, but I'm sure the Minister of Finance will help me.
One of the other of the three departments overexpended was Renewable Resources. What is happening in that department, given that it showed the largest growth in employees of any department within the government this last period of time? Where are we incurring all of these additional costs?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, before I provide the member opposite with the detailed response on Renewable Resources, I would just remind him that when we refer to the amount of the claims receivable from Department of Indian Affairs as of October 31, 2000 - this has been a cumulative issue, in that we have been dealing with Indian Affairs and Northern Development - every single government has dealt with them on this particular issue. There have been some claims paid and then there are more incurred. It is an ongoing issue and one that I hope, certainly over the next two years, to bring far closer in the actual expenditure - in that amount. We were making progress with Canada over this. And again, thanks to all members for the unanimous support of members in this House, and we will continue to do so.
If the member would just be patient for a moment, I will provide him with the Renewable Resources answer.
Mr. Chair, the member used the term "overexpenditures" in Renewable Resources. In fact, there were some small items - contribution agreements that were entered into with Canada - that are subsequently recoverable. So, in fact, there are not a great many overexpenditures in that department. There is additional money that was required as a result of the collective agreement negotiations sum, but the majority was due to these recoverable agreements that we entered into with Canada. So, we've booked them in this year, and we are recovering the money next year.
Mr. Jenkins: Thank you, Mr. Chair. One of the other areas that the Minister of Finance is responsible for is those wonderful numbered companies. Could the minister brief us as to where the government is with Kassandra?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Sure, Mr. Chair, but not in this debate. We're in general debate on the budget 1999-2000 - the supplementary estimates. I would be happy to provide the member opposite with a detailed discussion of, as he terms it, the Kassandra file. It's quite lengthy. Would the member opposite prefer to have this discussion in general debate on the other appropriation bill or would the member opposite be prepared to participate in a detailed briefing between myself, the Deputy Minister of Finance and himself on this file?
Mr. Jenkins: Thank you very much, Mr. Chair. The other option that I am pursuing is that I would like to know the financial position of this investment by the Government of the Yukon. We're in general debate - Finance is covered, it's line item, vote 12 - we can deal with it under that area and we have the Premier, the Minister of Finance and, I'm sure the chair of that initiative here, all in one individual. So, I would ask the Premier if, as Minister of Finance, she could give us an overview as to where we are at the end of the fiscal period contained within this supplementary budget?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the position we are in, as of today's date, November 20, is that the Anvil Range action has been refused by the courts and we are in negotiations with the Alpha Group toward a settlement.
Mr. Jenkins: Of the sums of money paid to the shareholders, how much more is actually accrued to the Government of Yukon?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Since the spring sitting, we have received an additional $250,000, and it's held in trust.
Mr. Jenkins: Just how much of that trust fund has been spent on the legal fees to date? What has been the total cost of legal fees and other costs associated with fighting this action?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Twenty-six percent of the legal fees associated with this are $380,509, and that's what we're responsible for.
Mr. Jenkins: So legal fees incurred to date have been well in excess of a million dollars on this action, of which the Government of Yukon's portion is some $380,000. Is that what the minister is stating for the record, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Yes.
Mr. Jenkins: And does the minister have any idea as to a conclusion of this negotiation? The negotiation has been underway for quite some time. What is the latest advice as to when these arrangements are going to be concluded?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Up until recently, the Alpha Group was not discussing this issue, and we are now in discussions with them. I don't have a speculative date to offer the member opposite.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, could we just look at the Housing Corporation, which had a considerable lapse in all areas in the O&M, the capital lapses and, of course, recovery in capital. Is this directly related to a downturn in the economy or a lack of uptakes in the programs, or just what signals are coming out of the lapses all across? In fact, other than the Executive Council Office, those were the most significant lapses of any department on the O&M side, Mr. Chair.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the $514,000 underexpenditure by the Yukon Housing Corporation in operation and maintenance is due to a combination of vacancies in positions, lower non-profit housing subsidies, lower electrical and insurance expenses. In terms of the O&M recoveries for the Yukon Housing Corporation, due to lower program uptake, most of which is recoverable. In the O&M recoveries for the Yukon Housing Corporation, there's a higher home ownership and home repair interest income and some other recoveries, which account for the change in recovery summary in O&M. In capital for the Yukon Housing Corporation, the lapses are, as the member opposite had guessed, due to lower program uptake, most of which is recoverable. That applies both in the capital expenditure summary and in the capital recovery summary.
Mr. Jenkins: Also, perhaps just a brief overview of the Tourism department, Mr. Chair. There is an underexpenditure of some $70,000 and, on the capital side, just about $500,000 underexpended.
Are we going to see, under this new Liberal regime, a new definition of capital expenditure across government, or are we going to be holding true to the same focus and positions that have been maintained for quite some time by government with respect to the definition of capital?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: The member opposite is aware that the CICA - Canadian Institute of Chartered Accountants - has some dispute and some discrepancy of opinion with regard to capitalization and depreciation, et cetera, and how governments account for that. This is certainly something we have discussed and we are looking forward to further discussions on it. We are looking to the Canadian Institute of Chartered Accountants to come up with a definitive response on this. At present, they have not.
Mr. Jenkins: Could we focus in on Tourism, the saving on the capital side of $500,000? Did we not proceed with some program? What has happened there? Also, there's a saving in O&M of some $70,000. Given that this is the last industry surviving in the Yukon - this government has destroyed the mining industry and mining exploration, and has destroyed oil and gas initiatives. The only thing we have left is our visitor industry, and the Liberals are going to take a pretty good shot at that with Bill C-68, the gun legislation, and that's going to further reduce the number of visitors coming into the Yukon as a consequence of this bill's application.
The Minister of Justice is shaking her head in disbelief, but she only has to talk to her colleague, the Minister of Tourism, and she'll find out that Beaver Creek is the second-highest port of entry for any firearms into Canada. Currently, the FAA regulations in Alaska require firearms to be carried on every aircraft and, as survival gear, they're part of the aircraft. But when you come into Canada, they have to be registered in the name of the pilot.
How is it that you can't find out a decision from the federal government or the Department of Justice or Canada Customs with respect to an aircraft that's constantly going back and forth with different pilots? It would appear that the firearm that's part of the survival gear has to be registered every time on every trip to every new pilot, for $50 each time. Thank you very much. That's what you've done to our visitor industry with Bill C-68.
Chair: Order please. I would ask that you, Mr. Jenkins, refer your remarks through the Chair.
Mr. Jenkins: Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Well, Mr. Chair, if we look at the Department of Tourism, this is an initiative that has been taken on by the federal Liberals. I guess this wonderful relationship between Ottawa and the Yukon is not going to pay us any dividends, other than they will be the government that apologizes for the actions of the federal government.
I just wonder who, at the end of the day, is going to stand up for Yukon?
Mr. Chair, can I have an explanation from the minister as to the underexpenditure on the capital side - significantly, the approximately $500,000 expenditure - and another amount on the O&M side?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the information for the member opposite is that underexpenditure in capital in the Department of Tourism, once again, is a combination of overexpenditures in some areas and underexpenditures in others. There are some projects where funds have been fully committed and then not spent in that specific year, so they were lapsed. I will go through them in some detail for the member opposite.
I will give details for the member opposite. On corporate services, there was an overexpenditure of $45,000 on office furniture, equipment, systems and space, and an underexpenditure in marketing initiatives. These are lapsed funds that were fully committed to projects but not spent, and were subsequently revoted by Management Board. The historic resources - there was an underexpenditure of $17,000. And for museums assistance, there was an underexpenditure of $25,000 and an overexpenditure of $51,000. In historic sites, there were underexpenditures in maintenance, inventory, Fort Selkik, interpretation and signage, and an overexpenditure by the archaeology section, paleontology section and the research studies, for a net underexpenditure of $29,000. In industry services, there was an underexpenditure of $49,000. Still with capital, in terms of marketing and visitor reception centres, there was an underexpenditure in some capital maintenance and an overexpenditure in Beaver Creek. The visitor reception centre was not complete and was subsequently revoted, and there were additional overexpenditures in multimedia equipment purchased for the VRCs. There was underexpenditure in travel, equipment, displays and productions. The maintenance of displays was underexpended, as were the production distribution and version of vignettes and film and audiovisual shows. In arts, there was an overexpenditure in the film incentive program and in the grip package, and there was an underexpenditure by the millennium fund, in that funds that were fully committed were subsequently lapsed by - for some reason or another - specific projects. That deals with the capital.
In the O&M, there is overexpenditure in corporate services, underexpenditure in heritage, museums and in historic sites - a total underexpenditure by heritage of $88,000 and an underexpenditure in industry services operations of $13,000.
In marketing, there was an overexpenditure in operations and an underexpenditure in promotions, for a total net O&M underexpenditure of $70,000.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, Mr. Chair, I'd like to know from the Minister of Finance with respect to the Department of Tourism if goodwill is expensed in the year that it is spent, or is it capitalized? Strictly from an accounting standpoint, how is goodwill treated? Is it capitalized or expensed?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, if I as a private citizen were out in the business world and purchased a particular business, then the accounting standard is to capitalize that. When purchasing a business and including goodwill as part of the purchase price, then the goodwill portion is capitalized, as the member opposite, who prides himself in his knowledge of accounting procedures, I'm certain, knows.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, I'm quite familiar with how it's done in the private sector, Mr. Chair, and I thank the minister; but I want to know how it's done in the Department of Tourism. Is it expensed or is it capitalized when we deal with goodwill?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, again, the member opposite prides himself on his knowledge of all things in government, and all items in government are expensed.
Mr. Jenkins: I'm specifically referring to goodwill. When you purchase an asset in the private sector, Mr. Chair, goodwill that's associated with it is capitalized. And if you sell something in which there's a goodwill component, the tax component that you pay to Canada is based on it being an asset. It's considered an asset.
I want to know, specifically, within the Department of Tourism, when they acquire an asset that has a component called "goodwill" - and the minister categorically stated that we expense everything. Well, that's not an accurate reflection of how the Finance department works, Mr. Chair. Is the minister saying that in the Department of Tourism, when a capital asset is acquired that has a goodwill component, it's expensed in the year of acquisition, or is it capitalized?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, there's nothing in these accounts that has not been fully accounted for. I've already answered the question for the member opposite, in that items are expensed. In fact, we had the discussion of capitalizing and dealing with the CICA ruling, earlier today. Items dealt with by this government are expensed.
Mr. Jenkins: Could the minister confirm that that is across all departments and all agencies of the Government of the Yukon, that that policy holds true? Because I don't believe it does, Mr. Chair.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I've told the member opposite that we have no capitalization. We have discussed that, earlier in the CICA ruling - our discussions that are ongoing - and I indicated to the member opposite that we were concerned about it and we're following this issue. If the member were perhaps more specific in his question - he doesn't seem to be satisfied, no matter what answer I give him. So, perhaps he could try a more specific question. I've said to the member opposite that purchases by the government are expensed and that we're dealing with the capitalization issues overall in government, as an issue of good government. What more specific questions does the member have?
Mr. Jenkins: The question to the minister was this: does that policy hold true across all government departments and all agencies - Crown corporations - of the Government of the Yukon? That's quite a specific question.
I know the answer is no, it does not, because it doesn't apply to some of the Crown corporations.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, Crown corporations capitalize, but across government departments, items are expensed.
Mr. Jenkins: Then what's the benefit of having a capital component to the budget if we expense everything?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, we have had this discussion previously in this House, both since we have been on the government benches and on the other side of the House, and it is entirely possible that the entire budget could be reflected as an O&M budget. I'm told that is the case in some places.
We feel very strongly - and I, certainly, as Minister of Finance feel very strongly - that we should properly reflect the capital issue and the capitalization of matters. That's an item I explained to the member opposite. There is no clear, definitive ruling on that from the accounting profession. Once there is, then of course we will examine this government. We don't account for depreciation either. For example, we don't depreciate bridges. Maybe the previous government should have. There are all kinds of issues, or, some other assets, for lack of a better term.
The member opposite knows very well the question of what's capital and what's O&M. As reflected by the budget documents tabled by this government and other governments, the O&M reflects the ongoing expenditures and the capital reflects the zero-based expenditures of the government.
Chair: Is there any further general debate on Bill No. 2?
If we turn to page 13, budgets 1999-00, this is where we'll start. We're going into supplementary estimates number 3.
On Yukon Legislative Assembly
On Capital Expenditures
Capital Expenditures in the amount of $18,000 agreed to
Yukon Legislative Assembly agreed to
On Health and Social Services
On Operation and Maintenance Expenditures
Operation and Maintenance Expenditures in the amount of $3,220,000 agreed to
Health and Social Services agreed to
On Public Service Commission
On Operation and Maintenance Expenditures
Operation and Maintenance Expenditures in the amount of $650,000 agreed to
Public Service Commission agreed to
On Renewable Resources
On Operation and Maintenance Expenditures
Operation and Maintenance Expenditures in the amount of $85,000 agreed to
Renewable Resources agreed to
On Women's Directorate
On Operation and Maintenance Expenditures
Operation and Maintenance Expenditures in the amount of $6,000 agreed to
Women's Directorate agreed to
Chair: Now go to, on page 3, Fourth Appropriation Act, schedule A.
On Schedule A
Schedule A agreed to
On Schedule B
Schedule B agreed to
On Clause 1
Clause 1 agreed to
On Clause 2
Clause 2 agreed to
On Clause 3
Clause 3 agreed to
Title agreed to
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I would move that you report Bill No. 2, Fourth Appropriation Act 1999-2000, out of Committee without amendment.
Motion agreed to
Bill No. 31 - An Act to Amend the Motor Vehicles Act
Chair: We will proceed now to Bill No. 31, an Act to Amend the Motor Vehicles Act.
Is there any general debate?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, when we were doing the second reading speeches there were a number of questions which arose, which I would like to reply to, if I may.
The question was asked if the government is trying to turn everyone into a highway enforcement officer. My answer is absolutely not. In fact, these provisions of the Motor Vehicles Act are not making anyone into a highway enforcement officer. These provisions allow government to give, to the motor vehicle branch, enforcement powers beyond the very limited authority under which government currently has to do that now. For example, the enforcement of the act can be very necessary to protect the public in dangerous situations. If there is a spill on the roadway that creates a hazard, government employees closest to the scene may need to have lawful authority to direct traffic for the safety of all motorists. The RCMP are not always available in every place where serious problems happen on our Yukon roadways. The opposition would like to have people believe ridiculous things, like the minister will become a traffic cop. That is caricature and not reality. This change is about letting government have the legal authority to thoughtfully consider which of its employees need limited authority to direct traffic, to promote safety and ensure, on occasion as appropriate, motor vehicle laws are being obeyed.
The question was asked why the government wants to put people in jail and cost the taxpayer more than the value of the payment of a fine that they owe.
The law in the Motor Vehicles Act, and the law in general, has penalties for convictions of offences. Penalties include fines and the possibility of jail time. That is a fact and that is the way it always has been. Section 224(1) of the Motor Vehicles Act is a classic example of standard penalties. The section states that where ever a person is guilty of an offence against the Motor Vehicles Act - and there is no written penalty for conviction on that offence - the person may be fined up to $500. In default of paying the fine, the person may be jailed for up to six months.
Or the court may decide that it is appropriate not to fine the person and, instead, jail the person for up to six months.
These two amendments are proposed because the current wording of two provisions has shown that the usual option of jail time is unavailable. That fact has been realized by some offenders who have numerous unpaid fines. They will continue driving on a suspended licence, for example, as long as they believe that the court can only sentence them to pay another fine. They have not paid previous fines, so why pay any fine?
It seems that the member either doesn't understand the issue here, despite telling me that I don't understand my responsibilities, or the member thinks this state of affairs is good. Perhaps the member has a unique view of law and order, but in any event, these changes make the option of jail available. That's good because it is the threat of jail that makes a convicted offender realize that jail is a worse option than continuing to not pay fines.
Fines are a sentence made in a just process for offenders of Yukon law, and government wants the law to be obeyed. Government wants fines to be paid, as well. If a few people choose jail as their choice over paying a fine, so be it. We know that most people do not.
The question was asked: why is the government saying that people with diabetes and people using legal drugs can't be co-drivers? The safety of people using our highways is of paramount concern for this government. The government is concerned about the effects of prescription, non-prescription and illegal drugs on a person's ability to safely drive a vehicle or teach someone to drive a vehicle. It is often difficult for people to judge their own level of impairment from prescription, non-prescription or illegal drugs. The only safe level of impairment is no impairment.
People who use legal medications according to a doctor's directions or as instructed by the manufacturer are rarely impaired. Prescription and non-prescription medicines that do cause impairment in their regular doses are clearly marked to inform the user that impairment occurs with using them. Contrary to the member's thinking, this provision is written correctly. The new provision clearly states that people who are impaired by drugs may not be co-drivers. The type of drug is not relevant. The issue is impairment or no impairment.
The member suggests that it is safe for an impaired person to teach another person to operate a couple of tons of metal in a public place. That would be dangerous, Mr. Chair. Thankfully, the proper -
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Chair: Mr. Jenkins, on a point of order.
Mr. Jenkins: On a point of order, I'd ask the minister to go back and review Hansard because that's not what I said. She's making inaccurate accusations here in the House.
Chair: Ms. Buckway, on the point of order.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: On the point of order, we have reviewed what the member said, and this response is as a result of the member opposite's statements.
Chair: Mr. McRobb, on the point of order.
Mr. McRobb: No, not on the point of order, Mr. Chair. I'm willing to proceed with general debate unless you want to rule upon the point of order first.
Chair: I certainly will. On the point of order, it's a disagreement between members. Unless the member can prove or disprove the allegations, it is a disagreement between members.
Hon. Ms. Buckway:As I was saying, thankfully the proper use of legally available medicines does not usually impair a person's ability to operate a motor vehicle safely, so being a co-driver is virtually unrestricted. When people are taking drugs and are in fact impaired, teaching driving is not a safe activity. And people who are teaching driving are in a position of being a role model and, as such, should not be impaired.
On the point about diabetes, individuals with medical conditions that are controlled by medication will be able to act as a co-driver, provided the medication they are taking does not impair their ability to safely operate a motor vehicle. Drivers with uncontrolled medical conditions that affect their ability to safely operate a motor vehicle are already limited in their ability to be a co-driver, under section 9.2, because their driver's licence will be suspended. This question was also asked: why do we not require school buses to be equipped with seat belts? I could go on with this subject for hours, but I will try to be relatively brief. It is the federal government, not the Yukon government, that has regulatory responsibility for new school bus safety standards.
Seat belts are not required on school buses in Canada. It is Transport Canada that investigates all school bus crashes. Information from all types of school bus collisions demonstrates that the current school bus design provides a high level of protection to occupants. Based on accident research analysis, Transport Canada has determined that seat belts may actually adversely affect the safety of children on school buses. For example, school bus crash tests conducted by Transport Canada revealed that lap-belted occupants would be more likely to sustain serious head and neck injuries than would unbelted occupants in frontal collisions. Transport Canada also believes that combination lap and shoulder belts could pose problems because they can't be properly adjusted to safely restrain smaller children, and any slackness could injure a child. Transport Canada continually analyzes school bus accident data and reviews standards regularly to take into account emerging safety-related issues, and I expect that we haven't heard the last of that question from the members opposite. I would point out that the two previous administrations had not made any changes in this regard.
Another question dealt with insurance companies, and why the government can't require insurance companies to notify the motor vehicles branch when a policy is not renewed or is cancelled, just as is required for commercial vehicles with operating authority. Mr. Chair, if the objective is to get uninsured drivers off the road, simply receiving a notification for cancellation, non-payment or lapse of insurance coverage from the insurance company will not accomplish this on its own. Only those jurisdictions with public insurance - B.C. through the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia, Saskatchewan through the Saskatchewan government insurance, Manitoba through Manitoba public insurance and Quebec through the SAAQ - have the capability to do this in Canada at the moment. This type of arrangement has been recently reviewed in other jurisdictions. However, the hurdles to implementation have prevented all but the public insurers from doing this. Ontario would like to implement this system, for example; but it is not in place, due to various technological, logistical, legislative, funding and enforcement issues that would be required to provide this type of service. Again, I expect that we have not heard the last of this issue.
It was asked why we are proposing to require the motorcycle or moped co-driver to ride on or in another vehicle within sight of the learning driver, rather than on the motorcycle or moped. Balancing a motorcycle takes practice and concentration and is more difficult with another rider on the bike. The extra weight of a passenger changes the way a motorcycle handles. The majority of people who responded to the 1999 graduated driver's licence public consultation indicated that the learning motorcyclist should not be permitted to carry passengers for the above reasons. The learning motorcyclist is expected to learn to handle the motorcycle in a safe environment, like an empty parking lot, after receiving instruction on the safe operation and handling of it.
Most jurisdictions do not allow a learning motorcyclist to carry passengers, not even a co-driver. That includes British Columbia, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland, Prince Edward Island and the Northwest Territories. Alberta allows the co-driver to follow in another vehicle or ride on the bike.
We were also asked how effective alcohol ignition interlock programs are. Evaluation studies have consistently demonstrated that interlocks are effective. In addition to modifying the behaviour of the driver over time, the device has a more immediate benefit. It prevents the driver from operating the vehicle when the driver's blood-alcohol count is above the limit set for the device. The rearrest rate among offenders with an interlock device has been found to be as much as 75 percent lower than among those without the device. So, I think it has been proven that they are effective. I expect we will have more questions on that, as well.
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS
Mr. McRobb:I would like to welcome Ms. Howie to the Legislature.
On Thursday, I indicated that we would support this bill. However, since that time, I've had the chance to take a closer second look at this bill. I have discovered that there are several sections that do cause us some concern. We will be asking the minister this afternoon about those clauses to try and get some more information and meaning behind those clauses.
I'd also like to point out that the radio news this morning incorrectly reported that the Legislature did give approval to this act. In fact, we are still in second reading and there's a lot of opportunity to amend the act and change it. It's not approved.
Now, one of these areas of concern deals with the expansion of powers of enforcement. I know the minister addressed this in part in her preamble, but I want to explore it quite a bit further.
I would like to start by asking her why she feels this is necessary.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, I note with interest that, on Thursday, the Member for Kluane voted against the bill and said the amendments were trivial and unnecessary.
Regarding the change the member is referring to, the current subsection states which Motor Vehicles Act traffic control powers the government may authorize its officers to enforce, inside and outside municipalities. This change removes the specific list of MVA sections and inserts wording that allows the government to decide which MVA powers, in general, should be enforced by its officers inside and outside municipalities.
I should point out that no new powers are given to officers by this change - no new powers.
Mr. McRobb: Well, here we go. We're off to a great start. The minister is trying to pick a fight with me. I am trying to be nice to her while trying to get some more information, but she has got to pick a fight.
Mr. Chair, I want to respond by saying, as I did at the outset here a few minutes ago, that, upon closer inspection, it was discovered there are a few clauses in this act that cause some concern, and that is why we didn't vote for it on Thursday afternoon.
As simple as that, I have got nothing to hide there. We're proud of the fact we didn't vote for it, but not for the reasons expressed by the minister, which I also might add, Mr. Chair, the Yukon Liberal caucus fired out a media release on this, November 17, on Friday. I guess they figured there was a lot of high ground to be seized on this matter and they fired out a press release saying that the NDP and Yukon Party voted against tougher penalties for drunk drivers. Well, Mr. Chair, there's a lot more to this bill than that, and I think this is going to become evident as we begin to explore our way through the smoke and mirrors and get to the bottom of some of these clauses and what they mean.
Mr. Chair, it's clear the minister doesn't know what's going on in her department. Now, those are pretty strong words, but I can back them up. They're not hard to back up. There will be countless examples, as we go through this this afternoon. There are examples already. She accused the NDP and Yukon Party of being out of touch with public opinion. Mr. Chair, that's pretty strong language. She also said that these amendments are minor. They're only minor amendments and there is no need to consult the public on them, because they're so minor. Well, Mr. Chair, we'll see. We'll see, as we shed some light on these clauses, just how minor they are.
Now, I want to get back to this area of expanded enforcement. I can see it's going to take some time because the minister insists more on reading her briefing notes and speaking in bureaucratese than she does in plain English. Mr. Chair, there are Yukoners who want to follow this debate. It is not only me, my colleagues and the leader of the third party; there are Yukoners who are following this debate who speak plain language. I would appeal to the minister to speak in plain language and spell out the acronyms, if they are used for the first time, and not just try to breeze through these sections, because we're not going to let anything slip through the cracks on this one. There's enough here to be concerned about and we're going to deal with it extensively. If the minister wants to charge me with being in contradiction of what I said Thursday afternoon about how we should move through this quickly and address the priorities of Yukoners, like creating jobs and addressing the economy, well, that's too bad - let her do that; let her fire out another press release today.
Because there are some serious things in here that are concerning Yukoners, and we do want to address them. And again it goes back to the need to introduce this bill at this time, instead of dealing with the greater, more important issues like the economy. And at no time should we be leveraged into quickly passing this bill so we can get to more significant issues of public concern, because we have a responsibility. We have a responsibility to ensure that legislation that is passed through this Legislature is as good as possible. And until we're satisfied, we're going to do our best to scrutinize it and try to make it the best. I know in the end that the Liberals are going to use their majority to win the vote on this matter, but I would invite them to listen, to listen for reasonable and sensible suggestions coming from this side as we go through these clauses and to be open to amendments.
Because we know the Liberals are good at listening. I know the Member for Porter Creek North feels very strongly about that because we hear him say it an awful lot. "We're good listeners," he says. And I've got a copy of the Liberal campaign document in my hand as well, and I'll be referencing it as we're going through this debate.
There's something that I would like to put on the table right now. It's the major promise by the leader of the Yukon Liberal Party about restoring the public's confidence in government, and it's not about buying votes or raising expectations with unrealistic promises. Well, Mr. Chair, already in the minds of listeners there are easy examples that come to mind to contradict that grandiose philosophy.
Mr. Chair, they also say it's all about listening because they don't have all the good ideas. Well, let's see just how honest they were when they wrote that. Let's see if they will listen to good ideas, because there is bound to be some better ideas coming forth than what's down on this list of amendments.
Now, with that, I want to get right to it. I want the minister to list each and every possible officer who could be given added powers under this clause. I'm speaking about clause 20, the expanded enforcement. I know there are conservation officers, weigh scale officers and so on. I want the complete list of officers employed by the Yukon government who could be empowered under this section.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, the current section, 226(1), provides specific powers within a municipality only. Officers need authority to enforce traffic laws outside municipalities, as well. It's that simple. There is no nefarious plot.
Mr. McRobb: Perhaps the minister didn't hear me when I asked her to identify a complete list of officers who are referred to under the section.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, weigh station supervisors and weigh station operators, as well as the chief of weigh stations and enforcement, mobile safety officers, mobile enforcement officers and National Safety Code inspectors.
Mr. McRobb: I'm trying to write that down. The minister was quite rapid in giving her response.
What about conservation officers? Are they included?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, the people who are included are the people who are already included. No new powers are given to officers by this change. No officers are added.
Mr. McRobb: Can the minister indicate where it says that? Is there a specific clause in the amended amendments?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, I think it would be more appropriate to deal with specific clause-by-clause material when we get there.
Mr. McRobb: Well, that doesn't come as a surprise, given the lack of this Liberal government in wanting to be open, accountable and cooperative. The fact is that we are in general debate. We can ask questions on any clause. We can stick to general debate. There's no way we're going to get pushed into going clause by clause. This question still stands. Will she answer it?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The change is that the current section provides specific powers within a municipality only. Officers need authority to enforce traffic laws outside municipalities, as well. The same people will be doing the work.
Mr. McRobb: I asked her to identify which section. I don't believe I heard the number.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, we are referring to section 226(1).
Mr. McRobb: Well, thank you for that. Of these types of additional officers, how many are currently under the employ of the Yukon government, by number?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The member was asking how many of these employees work for the government. I don't have that number at my fingertips, but I have read him the list of the categories they are under. I can certainly provide him with the specific number of employees.
Mr. McRobb: Yes, that would be helpful. I know the minister has an assistant by her side, and other assistants available to produce such information, so I would hope it wouldn't take too long to get that answer. When she does have it, she would be invited to insert it as soon as possible into this debate. Now, what extra powers can these government employees be given in the way of enforcement?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: For the third time, no new powers are given to officers by this change.
Mr. McRobb: Well, outside of municipalities, what powers would be given to this unidentified number of government employees?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: No powers that they do not already have.
Mr. McRobb: Well, I know that the minister has a lot of information at her fingertips that we on this side don't have, and she has an assistant by her side and others not too far away who can provide information. I'm just wondering if she has a summary that we could be provided with about the additional powers these employees will have outside of municipal boundaries. Can the minister give us that?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, the powers that they have for the purposes of administration and enforcement of this act within a municipality are: production of a licence; production of a certificate of registration for a vehicle; production of a financial responsibility card, a pink insurance card; stopping for a peace officer; forcible entry of a vehicle to facilitate removal, taking and storing of a vehicle; maintenance of equipment; order that work be done to the vehicle to make it safe to operate on the road; seize radar detectors found to be in use; observance of rules of the road, peace officers may direct traffic; direction of traffic contrary to rules of the rules when necessary; driving and parking contrary to rules of the road; parking restrictions - a peace officer may direct a driver to park contrary to rules of the road; tampering; required equipment for bikes - a peace officer may require the operator of the bike to submit it to examination tests to be sure it's fit and safe to be ridden; a peace officer directing traffic; a pedestrian shall obey the directions of a peace officer; request for identification - a peace officer may request the name and address of any person crossing or walking on a highway.
So it would be seen to expand those to outside municipalities.
Mr. McRobb: That was it, Mr. Chair; that was exactly what I was looking for. So I've learned a valuable lesson already in my young life in opposition, and that is just don't be deflected at the first layer of defence. Pry a little bit, and sure enough, the minister will find the exact briefing note I was looking for. That saved us a lot of trouble going through the Motor Vehicles Act and identifying all the different sections, so I want to thank the minister for being so cooperative.
Now, I would like to ask who supported these amendments, particularly this expanded enforcement?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: It would be a lot more agreeable in here if the member opposite would drop the condescending tone he is using.
It was the Department of Justice that was asking for this amendment.
Mr. McRobb: Well, I think that speaks for itself.
Did the member say the Minister of Justice? Could she nod her head one way or the other?
Well, she's not responding, so I would ask her to repeat the answer, because I didn't hear it.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, it was the Department of Justice that was asking for these amendments.
Mr. McRobb: So, the Department of Justice asked for the amendments. Were they grounded in public support at all? Were there any consultations with other organizations and so on about these amendments?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, I have already given him the reason for the change. It is to enforce traffic laws outside municipalities.
Mr. McRobb: This is going to be a long, condescending afternoon if we get answers like that, Mr. Chair.
Now, I asked if these amendments were grounded in any kind of public support or if they went through any kind of process dealing with other organizations or whatever internally. The minister stands up and says that it's just the Department of Justice and that's that. Can she be a little more informative? I would appreciate that.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: This change is necessary, as I've said, to enforce traffic laws outside municipalities and to enforce the National Safety Code.
Mr. McRobb: One could argue it hasn't been necessary for years and all of a sudden now it is, because it came from the Department of Justice. Before I proceed with my questioning, I would just like to slip this in. Did the department produce this for the minister out of the blue or did the minister request the department produce this, which it in turn brought back to her?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: This amendment was done by the Department of Justice in consultation with the Department of Community and Transportation Services; it was not a specific request of mine.
Mr. McRobb: So the departments brought this forward and the minister said, "All right, it all looks good." Obviously she brought it to her colleagues in Cabinet and, if what they say about the big group hug is true, then I would assume the backbenchers got in on the matter and they all agreed to bring this forward and here we are. So in not identifying any other groups or public involved in this, we assume then that it was just a governmental initiative. I would like to ask the minister, what information about these changes has been provided to the public?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: As the member said the other day, these are housekeeping amendments. They have not been brought before the public. There was extensive public consultation on the Motor Vehicles Act within the last few years. If the member could explain to me why he has a problem with officers having authority to enforce traffic laws outside municipalities as well as within municipalities, we might be able to move this along and determine what he's actually getting at.
Mr. McRobb: We'll be getting to that in due course, Mr. Chair. It's up to us to ask the questions and it's up to them to give the answers. If they stick to that, we'll just be all the speedier on both sides. Then maybe we can get to dealing with the economy.
Mr. Chair, I'm wondering if there was any consultation with the Government Employees Union on this?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: No, Mr. Chair.
Mr. McRobb: Was there any consultation with the Yukon Transportation Association?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: No, Mr. Chair.
Mr. McRobb: Was there any consultation with First Nations or municipal governments or hamlets?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, in 1995-96, there was broad-ranging consultation with all Yukoners on the Motor Vehicles Act. All Yukoners were given the opportunity to respond - First Nations, municipalities, every household, every mailbox in the Yukon. Some of these amendments that we're dealing with are still as a result of that consultation.
There was, as I have said, no consultation on these specific amendments.
Mr. McRobb: Here we go, Mr. Chair. The Liberals already are trying to distance themselves from ownership of these amendments by saying that it was the previous government that did all the work on it and now they're just dealing with housekeeping matters. Well, we're not going to let them off the hook that easily, because we dealt with updating the Motor Vehicles Act all right, but these amendments were not part of it.
And this particular clause was not part of it for good reason. It was intentional. Because the Liberals are bringing it forward, they can't hide behind the previous government and say it was them, because it was not. It is a Liberal initiative to bring forward this amendment. Sure, there was consultation done before but it was deemed appropriate that the amendments would not be carried forth. That's exactly what happened, because it was decided not to do it.
Now, when the minister says that these are the products of consultation and that's good enough, well, Mr. Chair, she's balking the input received, and going against the will of Yukoners consulted on this. She can't have it both ways. It's one way or the other.
On another point, Mr. Chair, she's needling me again about the position the other day. Sure I said these were housekeeping measures. However, that was before shedding a little more light on these clauses, looking a little closer and finding out what they really are. I don't know how many times I have to stand up and say that to the minister. I wish she would get it, so I wouldn't have to say it any more.
We decided that, in the public interest, we would not support this bill as written until we either become more familiar with what it means and what it does or we don't support it at all. And, we haven't made up our minds yet. The minister is challenging us to make up our minds. Well, Mr. Chair, we can't until we get proper information. To be able to make an informed decision, we need the information. So, I would ask her to put aside those silly little challenges and just give the information and let us make up our minds. We're adults on this side, we don't need to be spoon-fed and we can make up our own minds.
Now, I still have a number of questions about this. Just to wrap up this particular concern about the consultation, I asked a question and I'm not sure if I got a proper answer. I think that what I've said has shed a bit more light on it.
These are new amendments. This has come after the fact. What information has been put out to the public so they know that these amendments are being discussed now?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Once again, this section that the member is referring to provides for enforcement outside municipalities. In 1998, the Motor Vehicles Act was amended, as the member knows, to provide a framework for the National Safety Code. There was support for this by the House.
The National Safety Code program will be ineffective at removing unsafe vehicles and drivers from the roadways without this amendment. Within municipalities, there are bylaw officers and RCMP, and outside municipalities, the people who deal with situations where they'll need these powers, in addition to RCMP, include weigh station supervisors, weigh station operators, the chief of weigh stations and enforcement, mobile safety officers, mobile enforcement officers and National Safety Code inspectors. Those are the people who need the power to deal with these situations outside of municipalities. That is required.
The groundwork for this was set by the previous administration; we are merely following through and fine-tuning it. If the member still sees a nefarious plot, I say again that there isn't one.
Mr. McRobb: We're not sure if there's a nefarious plot. The minister keeps referring to a nefarious plot. If she is aware of a nefarious plot, I would ask her to let us know what it is. I don't see one. What I see is a great amount of confusion.
I asked what information has been given to the public about these amendments going forth at this time, because this is a serious matter. These could be law very soon if we pass it here. I want to know what information has been made public about these amendments.
I know that on today's radio news, all three stations carried a story on it this morning.
I know on Friday the minister put out a press release attacking the Yukon Party and the NDP. Aside from that, what other information about these changes has this Liberal government put out in the six months it has been in power?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, for approximately the fifth time, there has been no public consultation on these housekeeping amendments. I have said this before. The member opposite isn't hearing me.
Mr. McRobb: Obviously they're too embarrassed to answer the question.
Let's go to another aspect of her answer. We're still waiting for an answer to the number of government employees who would be given additional powers under this section. If she has that, I would invite her to bring that forward as soon as she can. Now, Mr. Chair, this question is very simple. Does she feel that giving an undisclosed number of government employees increased enforcement powers outside a municipality is a housekeeping item?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, I repeat that no new powers are given to officers by this change; it is merely broadened to include outside municipalities as well as within. The people exercising the powers have no additional powers. It is the same, relatively small number of people.
Mr. McRobb: That doesn't answer the question. I wanted to get more insight into the minister's view on this. She says that they're essentially housekeeping items. I specifically asked a question, and I'll repeat it: does she feel that the expansion of enforcement powers to an undisclosed number of government employees operating outside of municipal boundaries is a housekeeping matter?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, I repeat: no new powers are given to officers by this change.
Mr. McRobb: Well, there they are. They're ducking out. They are too embarrassed to answer the question. And why am I asking her opinion on whether she considers this expanded enforcement to be housekeeping? That's because that's where the Liberals are drawing the line on public consultation. That's why. They're saying they are housekeeping. That's why they didn't consult that public, they're housekeeping. That's why they didn't let the public know, they're housekeeping.
Now, Mr. Chair, having expanded powers given to all the types of government officers that she has identified earlier, outside of municipal boundaries - and expanded powers range from demanding the production of licences, registration and insurance to ensuring vehicles are properly maintained, to seizing radar detectors, to giving exemptions under the Motor Vehicles Act as far as speeding goes, extra privileges as far as parking and directing traffic goes, all of these things. There are a number of Yukoners who would take issue with the minister's view that this is a housekeeping matter, because I've talked to some people already and explained to them what it appeared to look like to us, which the minister has now confirmed. And what they said to me was that this is a serious matter. This is an expanded police state in the territory.
This is an infringement on their rights. This is an expenditure of public funds they find questionable. Mr. Chair, the concerns go on and on and on. There are plenty of other concerns, too, that we'll be getting to in a little while.
So, Mr. Chair, did a light go on for you? Did a light go on for anybody, that there's enough seriousness to these issues to warrant public consultation or public notification? Indeed so. So why didn't the Liberals do it? Are the Liberals a government that doesn't believe in public consultation? It's starting to look that way, but that's not what they said.
Mr. Chair, I quoted earlier from the Liberal campaign document. I referenced statements made by the Health minister, the Member for Porter Creek North. I recall when he stood up and mocked the previous government for only saying they knew how to do consultation right, but they didn't. He took great pride in how his government does consultation right, and he went on and on about it. One of these days, when I get a spare few minutes, I'm going to find that reference; I'm going to print it out and I'll be tabling it so we can all see exactly how much he went on about how the Liberals would do consultation right.
Now, I know the Liberals had a planning session this summer, because that was their main reason for not giving us definite answers in the spring sitting. They said, "Well, we can't answer much until we have all had a chance to have our group hug and decide what our priorities are and, in the fall, we'll come back with all the answers. You can check on delivery then." Well, Mr. Chair, we have checked on delivery and we have found it's a bounced cheque and no delivery.
And where's the consultation? Mr. Chair, there are some very troubling clauses here that require input from Yukoners. We on this side certainly feel strongly about that. We respect the opinions and lifestyles of Yukoners enough that we would have brought this to them and said, "Hey, what do you think about significantly increasing the number of officers on the highways who can pull you over on a range of matters, including the proper maintenance of your vehicle? What do you think about that?"
Well, Mr. Chair, let's think about that for a minute. Let's think about that. Let's reflect back on some of the issues that the government has consulted Yukoners on in the past. And we can find very similar examples, even some that are less significant. One that comes to mind is the mandatory 10-year vehicle inspection. Mr. Chair, I recall when that consultation took place, there was quite a response from Yukoners on that matter.
When it comes to Yukoners, they take seriously their vehicles, because we know a lot of rural Yukoners, especially, have pickup trucks or whatever, and they depend on those vehicles to be able to maintain their lifestyles. And we know that there aren't many rural members on that side of the House, and they don't quite get it when it comes to rural Yukon. That's another task we have to deliver on this side, explaining it to them from time to time. But when it comes to vehicles, Mr. Chair, Yukoners have said over and over that they want to be consulted.
We don't want to be ambushed with changes that are going to affect our lifestyle and affect our lives. Remember the gold pan on our licence plate, Mr. Chair? What a reaction that caused. Now, to all of a sudden increase the powers of enforcement - well, this is quite significant.
Mr. Chair, can you imagine the confusion that's going to happen when Yukoners get pulled over by some of these people - by a weigh station employee. They get pulled over and get asked for their driver's licence, insurance and registration, maybe get taken to task because their muffler is not quite secured to the vehicle properly. Well, what's going to happen. I know some people who would react quite aggressively to this situation. That raises a whole host of other questions about safety of these officers. We haven't got to that yet. I'll stick to the infringement of the rights of Yukoners for awhile first.
Now, does the minister not see this to be a substantive enough issue to take it to Yukoners to find out what they think about it?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, the member has been merrily driving down a side road, and the only person who is ambushed is himself. I hear him saying that driving unsafe vehicles is okay, and I say no it isn't, whether it's in rural Yukon or in Whitehorse. Unsafe vehicles are a serious matter. However, the member is failing to realize that we are talking about commercial vehicles here - only commercial vehicles. The job descriptions of these staff, which we have been talking about, limit their involvement to commercial vehicles, so your average Yukoner, Mr. Chair, is not going to notice any difference - no difference at all. So the member has been going down a side road. He is in error as to his interpretation of this legislation.
I would also point out that there are 17 employees who enforce the Motor Vehicles Act. There are six weigh station operators and one mobile enforcement officer in Watson Lake; one mobile enforcement officer in Haines Junction; in Whitehorse there are six weigh station operators, one weigh station supervisor, one mobile enforcement officer and a National Safety Code inspector. The ones who would be outside of municipalities enforcing the Motor Vehicles Act - the provisions we have been talking about - are three mobile enforcement officers, one weigh station supervisor and a National Safety Code inspector - so five people, Mr. Chair.
Mr. McRobb: I thank the minister for the numbers. Seventeen extra patrol officers patrolling the highways for driving infractions on commercial vehicles outside municipal boundaries. Well, isn't that something? This Liberal government prides itself on being business friendly. I want to ask the minister this: did this government consult on these changes with the Yukon Chamber of Commerce or the Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I would point out that these are not extra. These mobile enforcement officers already exist. They do their day-to-day work. Unsafe vehicles on our highways are a serious matter. The member, I'm sure, remembers the furore in Ontario a few years ago with the number of unsafe trucks. I think any extra, little step we can take to deal with unsafe vehicles on the road is welcomed by Yukoners. It certainly is by the Yukoners who have been speaking to me about this over the weekend.
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Chair, just so that this is clearly on record, I want to say that we also support safe vehicles on the highway and do not support unsafe vehicles, but there are regulations in place that already govern this area.
The Liberals in opposition say one thing and in government they do something completely different.
Remember the red-tape meter, Mr. Chair, down at the Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce? Remember how they kept challenging the former Government Services minister because it hadn't moved lately? Well, what this Liberal government is doing is moving that red-tape meter all right, but the wrong way. They had better hope that their friends in the business community bail them out on this one, because they're going to need all the help they can get.
This is extra red tape. This is unnecessary regulation. This is overregulation. And these 17 enforcement officers are extra officers operating in an area where they currently aren't empowered to do so, but who will be empowered by this legislation if it ever passes. So, let's make sure we understand that.
The minister obviously is quite sensitive about the public consultation aspect and for good reason because, as we explore this further and further and deeper and deeper, we find out more about what this means. More red tape, another Liberal contradiction and more enforcement. Where's that in the Liberal campaign document? No public consultation. Mr. Chair, that's a big contradiction to what this government said it would do.
No backroom deals - recall that one? We're not a backroom government, they say. Well, what do you call the departments and the minister, if it's not in the backroom? It's certainly not open in the public.
Now, the minister admits that there was no information given to the public about these changes. Well, back in 1998 there was some consultation, sure, but the NDP government of the day deep-sixed it before it ever got to the Legislature because of concerns expressed by the public and some stakeholders - serious concerns.
Now, I've gone through the list of some of the primary stakeholders. The minister stood up and clearly said that they weren't consulted. So clearly, it's a backroom deal by this Liberal government - no consultation. It's this group of Liberals doing what they think is important: looking after themselves, Mr. Chair. They say they're looking after Yukoners. Well, if they were looking after Yukoners, they'd ask them what they think about these changes. They'd even let them know first. They didn't even let them know.
People I contacted this morning - I want to address this to make sure there's no misunderstanding. There was some confusion. At first, people thought, well, are you talking about the amendments that we dealt with about a year ago, because, yes, we've already discussed them. We already said we were against that. That was a year or two ago.
Mr. Chair, I've got to admit, I'm no expert on this. There are a number of things we have to do in this job. It's quite a diversified responsibility. We deal with a number of acts, legislation, budgets and so on. I've tried to broaden my understanding as best as I can under those circumstances. I had to go back and check, and the bottom line is that all of those amendments that were reviewed by stakeholders and the public a year or two back did not proceed to legislation.
What the Liberals have done since they've come to power is that they have dredged them up. Or, as the minister said, the department brought them forth. And the minister is all too glad to give her signature on them. After all, they're desperate for things to lean on, things they can say they've actually done since they've been in government. And she probably thought, wow, look at all these amendments, look at all these clauses. You know, there are a number of them here. There are 28 clauses. Boy, that should buy me some time. That should buy us some accolades. That's probably good for a newsletter story in a couple of days in the Legislature. That will probably make it look like we've done something since we've been in government.
But, Mr. Chair, think about how they've done it. Put aside the issues for a minute. Just think about how they've done this, because it's very revealing about the character of this government - very revealing. They're not even telling Yukoners about this.
Until this morning, people didn't know that their Motor Vehicles Act was being changed. And here we are. If we weren't standing up this afternoon, asking questions, it would be changed now. It would be out of second reading, and it would be law. Let's make no mistake about that.
What we're going to do is we're going to continue to ask questions this afternoon until closing time. We're not going to move off this act. We are going to give Yukoners a chance to find out about what this Liberal government is doing. We will see what they think when we come back, whenever - tomorrow, the next day or next week. It's up to the Liberals as to when they decide to call this back. They couldn't decide this morning at the House leaders meeting if it was going to be this or the supplementary budget. It wasn't until later on that we found out that it was indeed the Motor Vehicles Act. Well, let's see if they still bring this back tomorrow, after the views of Yukoners have been heard.
Let's find out what Yukoners have to say. This is a last-minute consultation, Mr. Chair, but we have no choice. There is no choice but to do it this way, because the government didn't let Yukoners know these changes were coming forward. The minister admitted it - nothing. There was no brochure, no advertising, nothing. The minister wasn't on the morning radio interview talking about it. How are people supposed to know?
There are all kinds of things in here. This area of enforcement is one major area of concern.
Mr. Chair, given the time, I see you're looking to call a break. I'll sit down and let you do it.
Chair: The time being 4:30 p.m., do members wish to take a brief recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: We'll take a 10-minute recess.
Chair: I'll call Committee of the Whole to order.
Mr. McRobb: Well, I'm hoping that, over the break, the minister had a chance to talk to somebody about this bill and I'll be asking her if the government wants to set it aside to allow for some public notification - public consultation and input - on the clauses in this bill. The reasons, Mr. Chair have been demonstrated. Number one, it's of enough significance that Yukoners want to be consulted; number two, it's imposing enough on the business community, and probably in particular the trucking industry, that consultation should be required; number three, it's going to increase the red-tape meter, which we know the Liberals wouldn't stand for; number four, we know that the Liberals stand for good public consultation and they're not a backroom government. It will give them a chance to clear the air by shedding some light on this bill in the public. Finally, Mr. Chair, a lot of people are going to consider causes such as the one we've been discussing as harassment.
I want to speak to that for a moment. Commercial vehicles have to get permits before they can even get insurance. They are regularly inspected at weigh stations and other places - even random checks. To all of a sudden expand the number of enforcement officers on the open highway - and the minister shakes her head at that. She says they aren't extra. Well, they are, because out on the open highway there will be 17 more officers who can pull over commercial vehicles. More is extra. So for these reasons, I want to give the government an opportunity to do the right thing and salvage an hour of this afternoon for other matters - maybe matters of greater importance, like discussing the economy - rather than going through these Motor Vehicles Act amendments, which should have been discussed with the public, not just in the backroom.
So will the minister agree to set this bill aside, and maybe bring it back in the spring after due process?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: No, I will not agree to set this bill aside and bring it back in the spring. We will deal with it now.
I say again that we are not expanding the number of officers. There will be five officers. The mobile enforcement officers, the weigh station supervisor and the National Safety Code inspector will be the only ones to carry out this work outside of municipalities. The rest of them are already physically located in municipalities. So the member is factually incorrect when he says there will be 17 more people out on the highways. There will be five people, who are already out on the highways, merely expanding their range a little bit. Again, the Member for Kluane is calling these amendments trivial. He can't have it both ways, Mr. Chair.
We continue to hear from the trucking industry that it wants a level playing field. It wants to ensure that all trucks and drivers are safe and have been checked, not just those within the municipalities of Whitehorse, Watson Lake and Haines Junction, where we have weigh stations, but throughout our highway system.
The National Safety Code, which was part of the 1998 amendments, is the reason for these current amendments. And there was support for this in the House.
Unsafe vehicles are a serious matter, and Yukoners who live outside municipalities should have the same reassurance that vehicles are operating safely on the highway and that commercial trucks are operating safely. People who live outside municipalities are disadvantaged by the current law, Mr. Chair, and that is one of the things we are trying to address with this amendment.
Mr. McRobb: Well, Mr. Chair, the minister is the only one who's calling these amendments trivial, not I. These amendments are significant enough to warrant consultation with Yukoners, and certainly prior notification, before making them law - how many times do I have to repeat that? The minister keeps misstating my words, saying I called them trivial - wrong.
Mr. Chair, I see she's reaching for a copy of the Blues from last Thursday. She'll find in there such reference, Mr. Chair; however, to solely rely on and believe that reference would be ignoring the several references since then that I've made.
I'm going to have to repeat it. Since first blush at this act, we looked at it a little closer. We discovered some areas of concern.
We called some Yukoners with experience in these areas, and I have explained what happened. We heard their concern. Upon questioning a little further this afternoon, our concerns are validated. These clauses mean everything we thought they might mean.
After all, we voted against this bill on Thursday afternoon, Mr. Chair. That's because, at that time, we started to see there were problems with some of the clauses. We sent a signal to the minister. We're not ambushing anybody on this. We sent a clear signal that we had problems with this act. So, the minister had four days to think it over. Surely she must have considered some of the areas of concern that were identified. Surely she must have considered other options, rather than forcing through what the Liberals want to see in the Motor Vehicles Act. Surely she has some compassion for Yukoners who might want a say in how their new Motor Vehicles Act reads.
We've asked the minister if she would set this act aside until the spring, because obviously there is insufficient time in the calendar now to undertake public consultation. What I would suggest they do - the very first - is consult the industry stakeholders, the other levels of government, to smooth over some of the rough edges of this act before going to the public, because there are some real problem areas here. It's compounding the regulation. It's doing all kinds of things that this Liberal government apparently doesn't stand for. You would wonder why this government is trying to push ahead on this act the way it is. The previous government dealt with the Motor Vehicles Act after a very respectful public consultation process. We discussed it with Yukon stakeholders, other governments - whomever was interested. It was a very good consultation process. But that was a couple of years ago. We brought forward the clauses that were supported, and they passed. To be clear, Mr. Chair, what this act is is a collection of clauses that didn't meet the grade last time.
And all of a sudden they're showing up in legislation now. Why is that? Well, we've already speculated on some reasons; there's no need to retouch that base. But, Mr. Chair, they did not consult Yukoners on these changes. They did not even let them know. It's very disrespectful.
It reminds me of the unilateral decision to rename Mount Logan, Mr. Chair, which we discussed at length last Wednesday. It's very similar. Nobody knew about it. The government made the decision based on what it thought was right. It just pushed the button and it was all over it thought; it's a done deal. Well, Mr. Chair, in the ensuing dozen days that followed, we know what happened. There was somewhat of a rebellion. People very much opposed. In retrospect, if the federal government had operated more openly and more compassionately, they would have asked Canadians what they thought and gone from there. At least it would have been processed. At least nobody could claim it was an imperialistic government from Ottawa that forced something on the Yukon colony that it didn't want.
Well, Mr. Chair, in this example we don't even have to go to Ottawa; the government is right here; it's the Liberals. They're the imperialists this time. Is this what they think of Yukoners? They don't want to hear what they have to say about these amendments to the Motor Vehicles Act. They're going to affect highways. Virtually every highway in the territory is going to be affected by this act and these changes.
Commercial vehicles, Mr. Chair, trucking companies - every time a trucker is harassed by some overzealous officer and pulled over, that's going to add cost. It's going to add cost. How are we going to ensure that our officers receive proper training to deal with carrying out enforcement on the open highways? Are we going to send them to police school in Regina, or just rely on what they know now?
Mr. Chair, how are we going to inform truckers - Yukon truckers, Alaska truckers, whoever - that weigh scale operators, informants, have the powers to pull them over and to not just treat them like another vehicle? How are we going to inform everybody? Are we going to have to develop a bunch of pamphlets and commercials? Just how is the government going to do that?
Are these officers going to be armed? What are the plans for that down the road, if they're not armed immediately? How are they going to protect themselves against situations where maybe someone unsuspecting thinks they're being harassed and takes issue with it? How are they going to defend themselves? I know some of these weigh scale operators, and they have families. Mr. Chair, this is a real concern.
I see the minister over there is smirking at this. Well, this is a serious matter. These people are Yukoners too.
How are we going to ensure that they can properly defend themselves? Do we give them side arms? Pepper spray? Handcuffs? What tools will these officers have to assist them in the carrying out of these additional powers of enforcement?
What about other jurisdictions, Mr. Chair? I understand that similar additional enforcement amendments have been applied in some other jurisdictions. How successful are they there? Maybe the minister can enlighten us on that and maybe explain to us what happened in B.C.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, for the record, I was not smirking. The member loves to make things up to misrepresent what is happening in the House.
The NDP has complained about every review this Liberal government has initiated - too many reviews, too many reviews. You're reviewing everything.
Now, he's saying we should be consulting on every single amendment and every single act that we're doing.
The member referred to overzealous officers. Is he accusing the employees? If he wants to make a charge against them about something, let him spell it out.
The member asked about training. They're already trained. As I have repeatedly said to the Member for Kluane, this change gives officers no new powers - no new powers.
As I have already said, we are in contact with the trucking industry on a regular basis. We continue to hear from them that a level playing field is what they want. The member is obviously not familiar with trucking. Truckers stop at weigh scales. Truckers instantly know anything that's going on anywhere on the highway network.
The member has been fear-mongering. When he was talking to Yukoners, he was under the mistaken belief that this amendment we're discussing referred to all vehicles, rather than just commercial vehicles. The member should go back and talk to the same people and explain to them that he was mistaken.
Mr. McRobb: Well, you know, the atmosphere in here would be a lot better if this minister didn't assume, because we all know what happens when you assume. And I don't want my credibility to be dragged down to where others might be. Now, she accused me of not knowing anything about the trucking industry - au contraire, au contraire. It is another unsubstantiated attack.
Now, they go on and on about a level playing field and everything else, but I didn't just fall off the turnip truck yesterday. I don't trust this government when it comes to just accepting what it says, because there are too many examples of the things they say meaning something else. And I'll just explain what I mean by that.
You know, we might be debating something in Tourism, and the Minister of Tourism will stand up, when she's not writing notes, and say, "Why don't you just ask the former minister who is one of your colleagues?" Mr. Chair, that's not the point, because the Liberals have their own interpretation of just about everything. And even if it's written in black and white, to the Liberals it means something other than what it meant to us. It sort of reminds me of the umbrella final agreement. There is simply too much grey area, too much room for reinterpretation, too much ability to apply discretion, to change the meaning. Those are all aspects of something down in writing.
And maybe it should be so. We have different political parties with different philosophies. Maybe it's only fair to interpret things differently, because that's what sets us apart, supposedly, at least in part. So when the government challenges us or speaks condescendingly toward us and instructs us to consult former ministers who might have wrote something or played a part in something, it's meaningless. It's meaningless because it means something different to them than what it does to us. I appreciate the opportunity to explain that.
Mr. Chair, this government also has shown a propensity to take things out of context. There are several examples of that. So why should we believe them when they say these changes aren't significant? Because we've looked through some of these examples. One is saying that we don't support the pipeline. Mr. Chair, what a load of garbage that is. I challenge them - here's the Premier, and now she's smirking at this - to prove it, because they can't prove it, Mr. Chair.
Now, go back to the economic motion a year ago, when I tabled several initiatives that government could be doing on behalf of Yukoners. And in that, I said that the railroad and pipeline are no-brainers, because if they happened, they'd be of great benefit. Mr. Chair, the comments a few weeks back were taken out of context. And once again, to explain what was meant - a further example of how this government spins things around out of context is that their sole focus economically has been the pipeline. They've abandoned a number of the diversification initiatives that were set in motion by the previous government. Funds like the trade and investment fund helped companies market their goods elsewhere.
It has all been put on hold. That is what I meant and that is what the Member for Watson Lake meant. But how did they spin it, Mr. Chair? Well, we saw another Liberal caucus press release. "NDP opposes pipeline", it says, and it pulled those quotes completely out of context. Is that an indication of a responsible government, one you can believe in? When they say something, you accept it and say that that's got to be the way it is? No chance. No chance.
Mr. Chair, I have been around here long enough now to know that if they say something, don't believe it. Don't believe it.
The minister also takes the opportunity to chastize me about wanting something reviewed and not wanting something reviewed. I want to address that, because that's another one of these examples we don't always get an opportunity to speak to.
On Thursday, I pointed out that if I stood up and responded to everything I didn't believe in, I'd be like a jack-in-the-box every three or four minutes. Well, Mr. Chair, that's just based on what the Member for Klondike has to say. When it comes to this Liberal government, it would be about once every 30 seconds. So think about that.
Anyway, there are a number of programs under review. There are a number of things not under review. What's the difference? Here it is. The things they are reviewing include funds that Yukoners are relying on for work, for building their communities, for developing their lives to the benefit of the Yukon. The things they are not reviewing impose on a lot of Yukoners without consultation. Basically, that's the bottom line.
So, when the minister says the NDP can't make up its mind, one day it wants things reviewed and the next day it doesn't, that's the difference, Mr. Chair - a big difference.
Take a look at what they're referring to and ask yourself why they're saying it. The answer is quite simple. They don't have much better to say. They have to make up these things, combine them with some assumptions and a few other things, and that's the way they are; that's the way they govern; that's the Liberals.
Well, Mr. Chair, it's not getting us very far in debate this afternoon. I've been asking for information. It has been very difficult to get a straight answer - very difficult.
Mr. Chair, what I want to do now is give my colleague from Watson Lake a chance to ask a few questions.
Mr. Fentie: I would like to explore with this minister some of the comments that the minister has been making and some of the rationale used for the amendments to this particular legislation.
First off, the minister is implying that making the amendments to this act, which would allow more enforcement people to drive our highways and regulate and harass the driving public, is somehow connected to safety on our highways, and nothing could be further from the truth. There is no proven correlation between regulators and enforcement people stopping and harassing the driving public and safety. Quite the contrary, safety on our highways can only come, if we're dealing with commercial traffic, from industry compliance. Safety begins with the industry itself. You cannot legislate stupidity.
Now, the point here is, I would submit, that the Yukon trucking industry, for example, is probably one of the safest, most well-kept industries in the country.
It is for good reason. The trucking industry in the Yukon has to drive in adverse conditions. They take their lives in their hands to go out with an unsafe vehicle on highways in this territory. Furthermore, we've been living under the National Safety Code and safety inspections on commercial trucks for years - it's not something new - without this amendment to the legislation.
This amendment to the legislation is also spawned out of an ill-advised survey by this minister's department, with absolutely no controls on it. It was nothing more than a questionnaire. It was from that questionnaire that amendments to the Motor Vehicles Act were spawned. There has been no consultation with industry on this. Furthermore, if industry knew exactly what these amendments meant, there would be a serious protest by the trucking industry in this territory.
Now, the minister says that the industry wants a level playing field. Yes, they do. They want a level playing field, so that if they leave this territory into another jurisdiction, they don't have the hassle that's put on them in that jurisdiction. They want a level playing field in this way. What is the minister doing about the fact that the Yukon Territory is wide open?
The operating authorities and all the restrictions that would assist local truckers to ensure that they could benefit - at least to the maximum that they can - happen in this territory. Today, it doesn't. The Yukon has open borders. The Yukon signed on to the deregulation of trucking many years ago. Other jurisdictions, like B.C., didn't.
There are good reasons why the industry is asking for a level playing field, and it's not to be harassed and regulated to death; it is so they can go out, operate and earn a living. Industry compliance will dictate safety on our highways.
There is no truck traffic that can go by a scale, unless they fall out of the sky, coming into the Yukon on the Alaska Highway, for instance. They have to stop at a weigh scale. Safety inspections can be done at the weigh scale. We don't need to put an army of regulators driving on our highways, stopping somebody who, just half an hour ago, had their truck inspected at a weigh scale.
These types of amendments aren't meant to give a level playing field or make our highways safer at all. These amendments are meant to increase bureaucracy, because once this amendment is passed, the next thing that's going to happen is that the department is going to require more enforcement people to drive the highways. And for what purpose? To write out tickets, harassing the trucking industry, with no regard for what true highway safety is all about.
Mr. Chair, the minister also said that we, on this side of the House, are always - the NDP - complaining about reviews. Well, I find that a little bit misleading, because when we represent and protect Yukoners' interests in this House, as we are charged to do on being elected to this Assembly, we're not complaining; rather we're holding this Liberal government for its actions and decisions. And this is one instance where we, in the opposition, with good reason, are holding this Liberal government accountable for its actions.
Can the minister stand on her feet and tell this House that because our highways and commercial traffic are so unsafe, we must make this amendment to ensure that we do have safety on our highways. Is that the case?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I want all Yukoners to enjoy safety on our highways, not just those within municipalities.
The Member for Watson Lake is suggesting that we're putting an army of regulators out. I have already explained to the Member for Kluane that this is not the case. The same five people who currently carry out enforcement will be doing the work, with just a slight few more kilometres on their tires. I'm a little upset at the suggestion by both of the members opposite that the enforcement officers exist only to harass truckers. That is not the case.
The members opposite are seeing something in this amendment that isn't there. This is merely an amendment to give existing officers a mandate to enforce the same powers they already have, outside of municipalities as well as within municipalities. It's very simple. That's what it is. It's no great increase in bureaucracy. The same five people will be doing the work. It's no great increase in red tape. They are exercising the same powers, merely in a different place on the road system. That's all.
Mr. Fentie: Well, first, let me point out that it's not me who is making the claim that this would create a harassment of the trucking industry, for example. It's the industry itself that makes that claim. It's not us. That's why we're here holding the government across the floor - the Liberal government - accountable. Secondly, let me point out and give a factual example: look what happened in the jurisdiction of British Columbia. They went down this road many years ago. Well, today, not one of those enforcement officers goes out on the highway outside municipal or city boundaries without the RCMP in tow.
Now, there's good reason that that has taken place. It's because the government agencies that were enforcing these types of things on the highways were, in fact, harassing the trucking industry and the commercial traffic. So it got to the point where now they can't go out without the RCMP with them. So why are we going down a road that's already proven to be fruitless when it comes to safety on our highways?
Secondly, Mr. Chair, by saying that the same five people are going to be doing this, should this amendment pass, tells me that this minister doesn't have a real good grasp of what it's like to drive on Yukon highways between any town or municipality or anywhere. Quite frankly, if this is going to actually become a reality, these five people aren't going to do this all the time and, in very short order, there will be a need for more people to be able to drive the highway and regulate because of this amendment. This is making government bigger on the backs of the trucking industry already succumbing to the fact that it has no work in this territory and unfortunately has a very difficult time going outside this territory because of restrictions that would allow them to go trucking in the provinces. Conversely, truckers from outside of this territory can enter this territory at any time, anywhere, and it's just a given. You get a Yukon plate and go trucking. That's the problem here. They don't need any more harassment and regulators running around; they need a minister - a minister of this department who is going to make a concerted effort to ensure that they can earn a living.
And this government already shut down a good portion of the trucking industry in the southeast Yukon that was hauling logs.
Instead, we're dealing with these types of regulations, these types of amendments that came from an ill-advised survey that proves nothing, without any consultation with industry or the driving public or anybody else. I challenge this minister to drive a highway on a regular basis and tell me that those trucks that the minister passes are unsafe. That's not true.
This isn't Toronto and Ontario and places like that where there's a multitude of side roads and other places where those who want to beat the system, who do not comply, are going to sneak around anyway. And no matter what you do in terms of regulation and enforcement people, there will always be those who will try to beat the system. Unfortunately, it's the law-abiding segment of the industry, the people who pay the money, who do their job properly, who ensure they're putting safe equipment on the highway, who wind up paying the brunt of these types of regulation and amendment changes to the legislation. This is not something that is required.
You already have the ability to inspect vehicles. So what's the difference between a vehicle that gets inspected within a municipality and, a half an hour later, is stopped on a highway and inspected again by one of your highway enforcement people? How does that constitute safety on our highways?
This government would be much more well-served if they would come up with ways to ensure industry compliance, because that's what will bring us true safety on our highways. Can this minister, given all the problems that are going to arise from this amendment, not see the error of her government's ways and stand this amendment to this legislation down? Will she do so?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: There is no intent to harass truckers as a result of this amendment, just as there is no intent to harass truckers now. The intent is to ensure that our highways are safe. There are no more regulators. We have, already employed by the government, the people who will be doing this work.
I have not said that trucks in the Yukon are unsafe. I believe that the vast majority of them are safe. However, if there is an accident or spill outside a municipality, these officers have no power to stop traffic or direct traffic around the situation. They do it and they will continue to do it, but they have not got the backing of the legislation to do it. There isn't an RCMP officer available immediately at every serious situation on the highway. That's one example showing why we want this amendment. It's merely to enable these officers to do the same work they are already doing throughout the Yukon, instead of only within municipalities.
There will be virtually no effect on the truckers, no additional staff. The member is seeing a plot where there isn't one. It is a minor amendment - not a big deal - and I wish the member would treat it as such.
Mr. Fentie: Well, what the minister is trying to say is that this amendment has all the good intentions in the world, and, Mr. Chair, we all know that the road to hell is paved with good intentions. This will result in truckers on Yukon highways - most of them local truckers - being stopped by zealous department officials out on the highways who think that, under this legislation, they are doing this territory good because they are making our highways safer.
That is not the case; that is not the case at all. Furthermore, Mr. Chair, this minister has decided to proceed with this legislation, not after giving it good thought - not after talking to Yukoners and the trucking industry and anybody else that may want to speak up to this particular change to the legislation - but merely because the department brought it forward and stuck it in the hopper. This is the fall legislative sitting. There is good reason to stand this clause down, and we in the official opposition intend to do our part to ensure that innocent commercial traffic is not harassed and regulated to the point where they are succumbing to this type of thing for no reason.
The minister herself just admitted that she believes the trucking industry in this territory to be safe. That is all the more reason to stand this clause down. There's no need for it. Furthermore, the minister's example of directing traffic at an accident is ridiculous. The average citizen stands on the side of the highway directing traffic at an accident. We don't need paid enforcement people to direct traffic at an accident. For years, since the Alaska Highway has been built, citizens do that. Signs are put up. Is the minister trying to kid us, or what?
There is no need for this amendment. This amendment is not a good amendment. This amendment takes a good piece of legislation, the Yukon Motor Vehicles Act, and really does a disservice to that good piece of legislation.
Will this minister take this amendment and the rest of these amendments and stand them down? There's no need for this to even be taking place in this Legislature. There are reasons why these amendments were left out the last time amendments to the Motor Vehicles Act were made. Will the minister stand down this whole amendment to the Motor Vehicles Act?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: No, I will not, Mr. Chair. The member seems to believe that these officers exist to harass truckers, that that's their life's meaning. That is clearly not the case.
I'm going to repeat what I said to the Member for Kluane at the beginning about what this particular change does. The current subsections to the act, (1) and (3), state which Motor Vehicles Act traffic control powers the government may authorize its officers to enforce inside and outside municipalities. This change rewrites those subsections (1) and (3) by removing the specific list of MVA sections and inserting wording that allows the government to decide which MVA powers, in general, should be enforced by its officers inside and outside of municipalities. The change gives the government more flexibility to decide the powers that its officers need to perform, and no new powers are given by this change. No new powers - I say this again. The amendment does not give these powers to officers directly through the legislation. The Commissioner in Executive Council is still required to determine which officers these powers would be given to.
Mr. McRobb: Well, Mr. Chair, I have something to read to the minister. It just came in.
It's a letter from the Yukon Transportation Association, signed by the president, Mr. George Law, and copied to the NDP and the Yukon Party. It has today's date, Monday, November 20. It is addressed to the minister, and it reads as follows: "The Yukon Transportation Association, along with its member companies, would like to express immediate interest in today's legislative discussion. It has been brought to our attention that several amendments affecting commercial highway transport have been introduced to the House without the necessary consultation with the stakeholders. We strongly urge your department to table all legislation that would directly or indirectly impact our industry until you have met with us. Our member executive is available on short notice and can meet with you at your convenience." Will the minister oblige?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, I have not yet seen the letter.
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Chair, I'll send over my copy. I'll give the minister a minute to review the letter before her response.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, I am not prepared to stand down this bill. We will continue with debate on it. We have spent a great deal of time on one section. I'm sure there are some other sections the members would care to give their attention to.
I do not believe these amendments would have a huge impact on the trucking industry - indeed, no impact at all, since the officers already have the powers. They would just be enforcing them in a broader area of the territory. The members opposite are fear-mongering, and there is no need for them to do that, Mr. Chair.
Mr. McRobb: Well, Mr. Chair, the minister stands up and pads a few insults with her boasting that she knows best. She knows best for the industry in the Yukon, and that's the way it will be. Well, Mr. Chair, how can she know best when she hasn't heard what Yukoners have to say? In the discussion this afternoon, she tried to convince me that these were minor changes not requiring consultation.
Now we have a letter from the Yukon Transportation Association expressing concern about the proposed amendments.
On at least three occasions, we've asked the minister to set aside the act, not just the clause - the act. The reason for that is that there are at least a few items in this act that cause us concern. Do we have to go through each one with the same treatment we gave this one today? Mr. Chair, they are part and parcel. This parcel has been rejected. Let's take it off the shelf, run it back through the system. Number one, let's let Yukoners know what it contains; number two, let's find out what they have to say about it; number three, let's consult with industry. Let's consult with industry before making laws that affect them. Does that sound familiar, Mr. Chair? Well, it should, because it was a platform commitment out of the NDP government in 1996: consult with industry before making regulations or laws that affect them.
In six months the Liberals have broken that promise. They've broken that promise by wanting to impose laws upon an industry without their knowledge. Maybe it wouldn't be so bad if they did it at least with their knowledge. Maybe they would have some reasons, some rationale to explain. But in this case, industry didn't even know. It's a backroom deal by the minister and her colleagues and the departments. That has been discovered on the floor this afternoon. It's a backroom deal - no consultation and no notification.
Mr. Chair, I will look in the next few days at that red tape meter downtown and see if it budges. We will have to dig out those old Liberal press releases, in which they held the previous government to task about the red-tape meter. We will have to think about how this government boasts that it is business friendly and accuses the NDP of not being business friendly. We can determine by this example that it is just more hot air - more hot air from this government.
Where is the climate change minister when you need him? He's off touring around. He should be reining his colleagues in.
Chair: Order please. Mr. McRobb, please do not refer to absences in the House. It's against the Standing Orders.
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Chair, I would like to point out that I made no reference to an absence in the House. A member could be touring around by merely walking around on that side.
Chair: Mr. McRobb, I believe that that was out of context. I am asking you to please not make any further references to absences of members from the House.
Mr. McRobb: All right, Mr. Chair. I know that the Liberals are quite sensitive over there. They don't like to hear it when we hold them accountable.
Now, the minister is being stubborn. She wants us to go on and talk about some of the other clauses. What for? This is a package. It didn't meet the test. It has been recalled. Send it back to the mill.
It's as simple as that. We're going to have to deal with it again anyway. Let's deal with it in the spring as a package.
Let's find out what the industry has to say. Maybe the minister can talk with the stakeholders first-hand, instead of them hearing about it through us. She has a responsibility to consult. Mr. Chair, this Liberal government campaigned on consulting Yukoners and restoring confidence in government.
Mr. Chair, I want to read something from the campaign document, and hopefully the members opposite will take it to heart and let it guide them the next time they're faced with a similar situation to this, when they're all in a group hug at the caucus table and somebody says, "Hey, I have an act here we want to pass through the House." Somebody else might pipe up and ask what's in it. Then somebody say, "It doesn't matter, we have the majority anyway, and it'll pass."
Mr. Chair, I want them to think about their own words: "Restoring confidence in government. Pat Duncan and the Yukon Liberals recognize that restoring confidence in government will not be an easy task. Yukoners are frustrated with the elected representatives who have forgotten how to serve the people who elected them. They want to see a more professional Legislative Assembly and they want elected officials to lead by example and be more accountable for their actions. Managing government better means responding to the needs of all Yukoners, not just the loudest. It means doing what we say we'll do and not just what is easy. Government workers and contractors need to feel free to speak their minds. Pat Duncan and the Yukon Liberals will put people ahead of politics in government."
Well, Mr. Chair, it says quite a bit. Are they living up to it? No. No way.
Mr. Chair, the message on the inside cover I feel deserves repeating, and I note that the Premier is all ears. She's anxious to hear this.
"This election is all about the future of our territory. It is about creating the type of government we can all believe in. People have become frustrated with their elected representatives who promise one thing at election time and do something else after taking office.
"The message that I have been hearing from many people is simple. Yukoners want change. They want elected representatives who do what they say they will do. They want a government that has the ability to say it does not have all the answers, that admits when it needs help, and when it makes mistakes.
"I want to make one thing clear in this election. The Yukon Liberal Plan is not about buying your vote or raising expectations with unrealistic promises. Our plan is about restoring your confidence in government. It is about rebuilding the Yukon economy while protecting our social programs and respecting our environment. It is about creating a balanced approach to the way government works. The following pages outline the Yukon Liberal Plan. Thank you for taking the time to read it and giving it your consideration.
"Over the next two weeks I also encourage you to discuss this document and your thoughts with the Yukon Liberal Party's team of candidates. We are parents, we are workers, we, like you, are dedicated Yukoners."
This election is all about the future. Well, Mr. Chair, there's one thing there that's accurate. It's all about the future, because we're going to have to wait a long time for this government to fulfill those lofty promises - wait a long time, long into the future.
Mr. Chair, I note the side opposite is looking rather humbled, except the Member for Riverdale South, who still thinks this is funny. They can probably relate back to that group hug, when they all gave their support to proceed with the Act to Amend the Motor Vehicles Act. They thought to themselves, "Hey, you know, we have to be putting forward some legislation. It may as well be this act. After all, what else did we have? We had the NDP budget and the NDP supplementary budget. We did have our own supplementary budget, but it's full of housekeeping things just to make government bigger. We don't want to give the opposition too much time to scrutinize that, so let's make sure we have plenty of legislation. We have a bunch of housekeeping bills, including this Motor Vehicles Act."
However, Mr. Chair, they got tripped up. They got tripped up because they didn't realize that some of these clauses are as serious as they are. Maybe they did realize it, but maybe they are so separated from public opinion that they had a different view. Maybe they felt they could force this through. Maybe they support overregulation of the trucking industry.
Who knows? Maybe we'll never know. I remember, when in opposition, the Liberals, as I've mentioned, liked to talk about the red-tape meter. They liked to talk about being business friendly and about consultation. They liked to talk about a number of things, except for the economy, because whenever we had a discussion on the economy, they didn't have much to say - or they ran out one time. They said, "Wait until election time and we'll tell you then." They said, "Wait until the spring." Well, in the spring they said, "Wait until the fall." Now in the fall, they're saying, "Wait until the spring again." Mr. Chair, I think we're getting the runaround. When are we going to find out the priorities of this government? When are we going to find out?
There are several questions on this act - several unanswered questions. We have a letter from the Yukon Transportation Association. Maybe there are other letters coming in, too. Who knows? This could just be the advanced party of many. Because Yukoners just found out. They found out this morning. They found out on the 7:30 a.m. CBC news, CHON FM news, and the 8:00 a.m. CKRW news. Some who don't get radio will find out from tonight's Whitehorse Star. I haven't seen the Yukon News - maybe there's a story there, too - whatever.
Today, Yukoners are finding out for the first time that the Motor Vehicles Act is up for amendment and that it contains a number of clauses that were rejected by the previous government for being heavy-handed, for being overregulated, for being not friendly to business - for a number of good reasons.
This Liberal government supports big brother, they support overregulation, they support making government bigger. But what for, Mr. Chair? For the sake of doing it? These measures will cost the transportation industry additional expense. Let's make no mistake about it. That's the early indication I've received; that's the bottom line. We all know what happens then. That extra expense is passed on to the consumer.
Remember the arguments on increased electrical rates, Mr. Chair. Remember how the opposition parties related that to the cost of a loaf of bread? Remember how they said Yukoners will have to pay more for their bread now because the government didn't control electrical rates? Well, that was a bogus argument because we know now that the previous government was very responsible in introducing a number of cost-control initiates in the energy area that are still in force today, and hopefully the Liberals will continue them and not review them. But on this act, Mr. Chair, it has the same result they were fear-mongering about back then - increased cost to the consumer. And I'm concerned about the impact on people who can afford it the least - the people in rural communities, especially, people who were planning on employment this winter from programs now under review by this Liberal government, programs like the community development fund, the fire smart program, the tourism marketing fund, the trade and investment fund, to name a few.
People have been disappointed, because the Liberals are reviewing these programs for the sake of reviewing them, but when it comes to consultation on an act - a big brother act - Mr. Chair, there's no consultation at all. No review at all. Whereas it was review, cancel, delay; it's the Liberal way, now it's pedal to the metal; full speed ahead. What a difference - what a difference.
I guess it demonstrates to Yukoners just what difference a government can make to their lives - to the lives of ordinary people.
This government wants to review a number of programs Yukoners were dependent on, to which they look forward and to which communities look forward. Instead, it puts priorities on increasing red tape, being unfriendly to business and imposing on industry, with repercussions to consumers. Well, Mr. Chair, what does that say about this government's priorities? What does that say about where this government's head is at in regard to Yukoners' priorities? Not much
. At a critical time of the year in the fall, when there's time to bring in a supplementary budget for winter works; after the Auditor General's report and a $64-million surplus; with bigger projections for the year-end after all the lapses, Mr. Chair, who'd believe it? Who'd believe it if you were told that a young Liberal government, who campaigned on doing things better and listening to Yukoners, would come in six months later without a winter works program? Instead they are imposing more red tape on business and industry causing higher costs for Yukoners. Who would have thunk it, Mr. Chair? Who would have thunk it?
Well, it's very revealing - six months later - very revealing. I must say it doesn't come as a complete surprise, because we're very familiar with the Liberals in opposition and how they were bankrupt when it came to ideas of how to improve the economy. We knew all about it. We sat across from them day after day. We knew them all too well.
Well, Mr Chair, six months later, Yukoners are getting to know them a bit better, too. Their actions speak louder than words. And when Yukoners see that this government is neglecting the economy and doesn't care about their jobs this winter - whether they have work, whether they have the ability to put food on the table or have to move out - and instead wants to increase red tape, they're going to be a lot smarter. They're going to be more familiar with the priorities of this government. They will be in a better position to assess the performance of this government, and they'll be more disappointed than they ever thought they would be, because this government had the opportunity to do things right. They had the opportunity to come in, show some compassion, look after Yukoners this winter, and put aside this red-tape stuff until later - consult people first, let them know, too.
Mr. Chair, they have blown it. Already, more Yukoners are catching on. We're hearing back, all the time, every day. We're hearing back about how people have never seen a government self-destruct so rapidly. Why is that, Mr. Chair?
Why is that? Well, I'll give them a clue: no leadership; they're a ship without a rudder; they're a single-focus government; they don't care about Yukoners, they care about themselves; they look after their own kind and themselves ahead of anybody else. That's why. Their priorities are self-centred. I guess there is more to it than being at the centre of the political spectrum, Mr. Chair; they are centred more ways than one.
Now, we're almost at the end of the day and we're no further ahead on this Act to Amend the Motor Vehicles Act than we were at the beginning, with the exception of now sending a strong message to the minister and her colleagues that there are problems with this act, not just in the minds of the opposition parties, but in the minds of industry. Maybe they've heard from other Yukoners by now. And we're requesting them to take it back to the drawing board, to not bring it back here tomorrow afternoon. Let's give Yukoners a chance to look at this. Maybe the minister can convince Yukoners and convince industry, but she has been unable to convince us. So I would say, in the interest of reducing needless discussion on low-priority stuff, the minister should take this act back to the drawing board and start a public consultation process involving Yukoners and what they want to see in a new act.
Mr. Chair, I move that you report progress.
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: Mr. Speaker, the Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 2, Fourth Appropriation Act, 1999-2000, and directed me to report same without amendment.
Mr. Speaker, the Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 31, An Act to Amend the Motor Vehicles Act, and directed me to report progress on it.
Speaker: You've 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.
Motion agreed to
Speaker: This House stands adjourned until 1:00 p.m. tomorrow.
The House adjourned at 6:00 p.m.
The following Legislative Return was tabled November 20, 2000:
Street lighting: status of requests near the Takhini River subdivision, Tagish and Chootla subdivisions, and Upper Liard and Albert Creek subdivisions
Oral, Hansard, p. 378