Tuesday, November 21, 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.
Introduction of visitors.
Are there any returns or documents for tabling?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, I have for tabling the public service group insurance benefit plan statement of accounts for 1998-1999 and 1999-2000 policy years from Aon Consulting.
Speaker: Are there any further returns or documents for tabling?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, I have for tabling a press release from the New Democratic caucus August 29, 1997, "Ostashek All Wrong About Aishihik Lake."
I have for tabling a story from CKRW, Friday, April 25, 1997, on the same issue.
I have for tabling a story from the Whitehorse Star, April 29, 1997, entitled "McRobb blasts Ostashek."
I have for tabling Beringia contract final payment.
I have for tabling a letter from Mr. McRobb to Mr. McLarnon dated November 14, 2000.
I have for tabling a letter to Mr. Hughes from Mr. McLarnon dated November 15.
And I have for tabling a letter from Mr. Hughes to Mr. McLarnon dated November 16 of this year.
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Speaker, I have for tabling the following documents: the Property Management Agency annual report; the Queen's Printer Agency annual report and the Fleet Vehicle Agency annual report.
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Mr. Speaker, I have for tabling the Yukon Childcare Board annual report April 1999 - March 31, 2000.
And, Mr. Speaker, I have for tabling the Yukon Health and Social Services Council annual report 1998-99.
Speaker: Are there any further returns or documents for tabling?
Are there any reports of committees?
Are there any petitions?
Are there any bills to be introduced?
Are there any notices of motions?
NOTICES OF MOTION
Ms. Tucker: Mr. Speaker, I give notice of the following motion:
THAT this House recognizes that:
(1) symbols of Canada help identify us on the world stage;
(2) trees are popular symbols of Canada, and the Yukon and Nunavut are the only jurisdictions in Canada without official trees;
(3) trees are inextricably linked with Canada and the Yukon historically, and
THAT this House urges the Yukon Government to consult with the public and work towards the establishment of an official tree for the Yukon.
Mr. Jenkins: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that:
(1) the settlement of Yukon Indian Land Claims should be the top priority of the Yukon Government in order to create certainty with respect to the management, disposition and ownership of Yukon land and resources;
(2) certainty over land tenure and disposition is essential if a positive economic climate is to be created in the territory;
(3) the Yukon Government should ensure that devolution of land and resources from the federal government to the territorial government does not become an impediment to settling the seven remaining land claims; and
(4) the Yukon Government act as a mediator between the First Nations and the federal government and propose solutions in helping to resolve the major issues of taxation exemption and repayment of land claims negotiations loans.
Speaker: Are there any further notices of motion?
Are there any statements by ministers?
Information technology funding
Hon. Mr. Jim: I rise today to announce a new way of approaching how we fund information technology within the government.
In the past, funding of information technology, or IT, as it is known, has ebbed and flowed depending on other funding priorities and the opinions held by the government of the day about the value of IT in the public service. What has not fluctuated has been the fundamental IT requirements of a modern organization the size of the Yukon government.
It hardly needs to be said that computers are here to stay and that operating an effective, efficient and modern public service implies a heavy reliance on IT and the clear productivity advantages that IT offers. To ignore this fact and to try and realize short-term budgetary savings by drawing down IT budgets is an exercise in putting our heads in the sand.
The policy of the former government of cutting IT budgets would have eventually led to a crisis in the technology sector, both within the government and in the private sector. This government has begun a new approach to funding for IT. It reflects the government's much stronger commitment to this sector of our economy and the ability of our economy to provide services.
As the first result of this new approach, I am announcing today that an additional $500,000 in funding for IT will be provided to the supplementary budget for this fiscal year.
The budget for the current fiscal year, which was prepared by the previous government, reduced the government-wide capital allocation for internal IT to $1.4 million from a $3.6 million in 1999-2000.
This represented a cut of $2.2 million. In recent years, about two-thirds of the capital IT budget has been spent with local suppliers and service providers generating jobs, innovation and growth in the Yukon's fledgling high tech sector.
The impact of IT budget cuts on this industry could be dire. Reduced revenue could result in the loss of jobs or even the closure of one or two small businesses. This, in a sector of the economy where strength and viability is critical if the Yukon is to participate in the benefits of the so-called "new economy".
Aside from the external impacts, cuts to this budget impair the government's ability to carry out service delivery improvements to the public.
The reductions would eventually impact internal government operations, as the proposed funding level is insufficient to sustain infrastructure that is already in place. In addition, the government relies on expertise in the private sector to support its IT programs and infrastructure. Job losses in the private sector will negatively affect internal government operations and the government's ability to implement future initiatives using local companies.
Will $500,000 be enough? Our fiscal position does not allow us to restore the full cut at the present time. However, our goal is to establish an objective funding formula to guide IT budget decisions in future budget cycles.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Keenan: Mr. Speaker, I rise in this House today to respond to this ministerial statement on information technology.
The minister talks about a new way of how government funds information technology within government. This government is responding to the departmental desire and is not responding to IT industry needs. He calls it "IT funding." This is just more government spending on government itself.
The minister and this government must have been taken in hook, line and sinker to the wants of the bureaucracy and not to private industry, where it belongs.
What this government is doing is unimaginative and irresponsible, and there are better ways to assist the information technology industry here in the Yukon. They are using $500,000 to be spent within government. I understand that there will be the benefit of some retail sales for local businesses, but I don't understand how making government bigger will help IT businesses in the long run.
We the official opposition feel that we need to encourage people in the private sector to expand their horizons. The Yukon Technology Innovation Centre, which the NDP government established in association with Yukon businesses, Yukon College and the Northern Research Institute, is a vehicle that identifies ways to expand this dynamic industry.
There is also a fund to which, last year, the government contributed $200,000, that will support research in innovative approaches to using technology.
We need to invest in people, not in bigger monitors and faster computers. Investments in ingenuity can lead to new jobs, new services and new business opportunities for Yukon people, not only in the territory but reaching all around the world.
The minister asks, "Is $500,000 enough?" Well, it was enough to cancel the construction of the Mayo school, and I guess that any more increases will postpone or cancel the construction of the Carmacks or the Pelly schools.
Looking at the supplementary budget, it just isn't an increase of $500,000. There are huge increases identified throughout all the departments for office equipment, furniture, increased space and computers. There has been no restraint in government spending on government in this supplementary budget - none whatsoever. There's an additional $900,000 for corporate computer equipment and systems. Is this over and above the $500,000? Where does this fit into the new approach? Can the minister explain where the $500,000 in this statement are allocated, per department?
In short, Mr. Speaker, this is a weak and feeble attempt to help this information technology industry. In reality, it's just a thinly veiled excuse to spend more money on government and not direct it to where it's really needed, which is in the hands of Yukoners. So, I'm truly disappointed in the efforts this minister has made toward a growing, dynamic industry in the Yukon.
Mr. Jenkins: This is a most interesting ministerial statement on information technology funding coming from this Liberal government.
One of the most severe critics of information technology funding in the past was none other than the Premier herself. The current Minister of Government Services now rises in the House as the Liberal knight in shining armour to protect and defend information technology funding from the ravages of previous governments. This is an amazing transformation, Mr. Speaker.
The minister accused the previous NDP government of cutting funding in this area by some $2.2 million. Then he says he's going to restore funding by spending a further $500,000. He says he can't spend more, in spite of the fact that this Liberal government inherited a surplus of some $64 million. This is another example of this government's fuzzy math. One-half a million dollars is going to replace a $2.2-million shortfall. The Liberals are still using the NDP calculators.
I agree with this minister that this government can't afford to stick its head in the sand when it comes to information technology, and that information technology is here to stay. The central issue, however, when it comes to information technology, is whether the Yukon taxpayers are receiving value for their money and who in the government is making these decisions. Has an audit been done to assess where we are at right now and what can be done to improve or replace our existing technology? I suspect not.
One wrong decision in this area can cost millions of dollars. With technology and information systems changing so rapidly, who in this government is keeping on top of this ever-changing situation?
Mr. Speaker, we need information technology that works for Yukoners - technology that is sensitive to our economy of scale and allows different departments to exchange information easily and make this information available to the general public, which is ultimately paying for the technology.
I note that the Minister of Government Services has become enthralled with information technology funding, and he threw the $23-million Connect Yukon project hot potato over to the Minister of Community and Transportation Services to handle. This is probably because he couldn't handle it himself - some champion of information technology, Mr. Speaker.
My final word to the minister: let the buyer beware. Spending millions and millions of dollars on information technology does not necessarily mean that the government will end up with something that works. Spend the money wisely on technology that will ultimately work for Yukoners to improve the lives of Yukoners to make government more efficient. Just don't throw money at an issue because it's underfunded.
Hon. Mr. Jim: The bottom line is that the NDP - the previous government - made a mistake by not having sustainable provisions within the supplementary budget to provide for simple things such as maintenance, maintaining and upgrading the IT equipment.
The member opposite says that we should invest in people. Yes, we invest in people, and we also invest in hope of people - Yukon people. And as well, we are covering costs of maintaining and upgrading of all the IT equipment that we do have. The NDP government during their mandate cut IT spending dramatically. We have begun the process of restoring IT funding and will continue to do whatever we can to fix these IT mistakes made by the NDP.
My caucus, the Premier and I have all met with representatives of the IT sector, who have been telling us that this government must adopt a progressive policy for IT deployment. One of the first steps in changing previous policy is to restore funding levels for IT spending, as I have mentioned in my ministerial statement.
On June 14 the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes complained in his question that there was no money in the first supplementary budget for IT spending. I informed the member opposite that this government had only been in power a very short time, and, at that point, it still needed to consult with industry. I have since met with industry representatives, as have my colleagues, and I have attended the IT conference held this fall, where I met with more industry representatives. As a result of these consultations and this government's commitment during the election campaign, we have begun to restore funding for IT and fix the short-sighted policies of the NDP.
In just six months, Mr. Speaker, this government has already been undoing some of the damage done by years of neglect and cutbacks by the NDP. This is a good first step down a long road that the members opposite continually got lost on.
The NDP budget, which we passed this past spring, had a $39-million deficit. We are prudently spending the taxpayers' money on the priorities of this government, without the kind of fiscal irresponsibility of the previous NDP government.
Unlike the Yukon Party, when they, upon taking office, were faced with the NDP overspending, we are taking a very cautious approach to getting spending under control. There will be no wage rollbacks for this government as a result of tighter fiscal controls. Instead we will carefully examine spending on programs such as IT and set priorities of government as the electorate told us to when they gave us this mandate.
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS
Mr. Fentie: I would like to point to the gallery and ask the Assembly to join me in welcoming a constituent of Watson Lake and a long-time Yukoner, Joyce VanBibber.
Speaker: This then brings us to Question Period.
Question re: Social assistance rate increase
Mr. Keenan: My question is to the hon. Minister of Health and Social Services and, by the way, I compliment the member on his haircut.
The 2000-01 budget adopted by the Liberal government included a two-percent increase in social assistance rates. Now, a few weeks ago the minister refused to give a clear answer about the fate of this increase. Has the minister now instructed the department to increase social assistance rates two percent, retroactive to April 1, 2000, and if not, why not?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: The adoption of the NDP budget, Mr. Speaker, was one of our commitments this last time around, and we are following it. We don't do it knee-jerk. We do take our time to analyze and make sure that we're going down the right path. As we heard from the previous speaker, my colleague Mr. Jim, we don't want to get lost on the road. We know exactly what that does.
We are proceeding, we are developing, and we will shortly be bringing to the House some of these ideas.
Mr. Keenan: Mr. Speaker, it is impossible to get lost on our road - although certainly the Health minister has gotten lost - because we left a blueprint; we left a road map called the budget. There is no excuse. That should have been implemented months ago.
Now, in the early answers that I heard the minister speaking about, he just wandered off into the discussion of the Liberal platform, going out there and blaming people, talking about supporting mothers of young children, and I actually heard him encouraging social assistance recipients to go to work.
He talks about taking your time. Well, Mr. Speaker, people are suffering. They're out there suffering at this point in time. They expected a two-percent increase, but when is it going to happen? When are you going to honour the budget commitment and give the social assistance recipients that two-percent increase?
And please, I don't want to go for a skate in the park with the gentleman opposite. I just want some answers for the people.
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Mr. Speaker, one of the points I make every time I answer a question from the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes is the fear-mongering - the idea that I'm telling people that they have to go back to work. I have never said that. Those are words, again, that the party opposite is famous for putting into other people's heads. They believe that that works.
So, Mr. Speaker, to answer the question specifically and clearly, we are working on it. Yes, we will be following up on it and responding to that issue, and it will be coming to the House shortly.
Mr. Keenan: I think I heard the semblance of an answer in there. Now, Mr. Speaker, I've been accused of fear-mongering, of grand-staging - whatever that means, I'm not too certain about it - and using inflammatory words. Well, that's because we on this side of the House take it very, very seriously.
I wish the only one thing I could get famous for, and that's putting an idea into the member opposite's head and the member opposite actually implementing something like as such, because I say again that there are children suffering. There are children in poverty. It has increased dramatically, as I said yesterday - people in working families, those in families trying to survive on social assistance. So now, will the minister do the right thing immediately - not in the future - and will it be retroactive to April 1?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Again, Mr. Speaker, in the last week or two, I've been knocking on doors, and I've been knocking on doors of people who are on social assistance. And it's obvious, from what I'm hearing from them, that they're very pleased with what we're doing. They know that it takes time to put everything in place, and they're elated that we're now government; and they expect, as we have been saying in the House, that we will follow through. We will take our time, of course, in doing it right. We don't want to go down what we call that road and never finding the end of it. We obviously want to do it right for the people of the Yukon.
Again, it will be coming to the House in the next near moments - not today, not tomorrow, but it will be with us, and the member opposite will be pleased with what we're doing.
Question re: Child, Youth and Family Advocacy Act
Mr. Keenan: Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the same minister, the hon. Minister of Health and Social Services. I'd prefer it if we didn't go down the yellow brick road on this one.
Yesterday I tabled a private member's bill for a child, youth and family advocate. Is the minister prepared to give serious consideration and support to this bill?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Mr. Speaker, we are always interested in doing what is right for Yukoners. And to specifically respond that we are going to be responding to this bill as submitted yesterday, I would have to say we'll have to look at it, we'll have to read it and we'll have to consult. Because, remember, Mr. Speaker, that the members opposite have been on the case of our government for not consulting, and yet I find that this legislation is all ready to go. Here it is. Where is the consultation in this? Yes, we are going to move in that direction.
Mr. Keenan: Well, that's very pleasing to hear that, Mr. Speaker. But it certainly seems that before the election, all the answers were on that opposite side of the House as they sat here. Now, they are finding speed bumps in those roads, and they are not finding them. They're looking for them; they're looking for excuses.
Now, we know that the Liberals are going to support this. I mean, the minister's colleague from Riverdale South said in this House a year ago: "Some day, it's my hope that we will celebrate this day in the Legislature with the appointment of a child advocate or a child ombudsman so that gaps in services for children will be recognized and that children will stop falling between the cracks in the system."
Now, has the minister asked his department to look at the feasibility of creating an advocate position for children?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: We have been in government for six months, and the day I walked in the door, Mr. Speaker, we sat down with the department to look at where we wanted to go. And this is one of the issues that we want to respond to. Not much like the opposition - they had three and a half years to put this advocate in position. Where is the advocate? It never happened. My colleague from Riverdale South asked this over and over again when she was in opposition, and yet, no advocate - three and a half years, no advocate. Here we are, six months, and we're already sitting down with our respective partners, partners in the community - the Health and Social Services Council, that's the First Nation. We are building together. We are doing what is called "consultation". We didn't come up with the legislation, as this demonstrates. This is already to go. It's like we should pass it right now and it's in place. Where has the consultation gone on this?
Mr. Keenan: Well, it's funny, Mr. Speaker, that the member opposite would say that, because certainly the hon. Health minister acted very quickly. He acted quickly enough to promote a new secretariat for alcohol and drug services, maybe spending in excess of $5 million. Surely the needs of children deserve that equal attention and equal resources.
Both parties on this side of the House have called for a public inquiry into problems regarding children in care. The public is very concerned about this issue. Now, this bill is one way to address these concerns and ensure that a child's best interests are being served.
Will the minister now commit to supporting this bill in debate and instructing his department to make it happen immediately - not to follow the yellow brick road, but to immediately make it happen? It was called for twice in the past. Now the minister has the opportunity to do the right thing. Will the minister do it immediately?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Once again, the member opposite likes to fear-monger. The member opposite is famous for it.
The important issue here is to have the facts. We are not spending $5 million on alcohol and drug services. I know the members opposite are very upset about this initiative, because they did nothing when they were in power for three and a half years. They did nothing. In six months, we have come up with a strategy that is just the beginning. For three and a half years - I have to repeat it - they did nothing.
So, I think it's very important to recognize that we are moving ahead. I have already shared with the members opposite that we are sitting down with our partners. We are consulting with our partners. We are discussing how we can work better and how we can be advocates for all Yukoners. We have met a number of times to review these issues with our partners, and we are now in the process of coming up with some hard facts and hard data.
We haven't formulated the legislation yet, because we are still consulting. We think that consulting takes time. In six months, for us to have come forward with an advocate bill at this point would be presumptuous of our government. We are not doing that. We are taking our time to ensure that we do it right. It is going to be there for the long term. We want to make sure that we make the right points and put the right support where it needs to be. Once again, we are working to do it right.
Question re: Physicians, recruitment and retention
Mr. Jenkins: I have a question for the Minister of Health and Social Services on the now infamous failed Liberal report card on health.
Yesterday I took issue with the misinformation on medical travel costs and the real reason why these costs are escalating astronomically. It's because this government is forcing rural doctors and nurses to leave the Yukon in its drive to create a two-tiered health care system for Yukon: one system for Whitehorse; another system for rural Yukon.
In a recent letter to the editor, Doctor Beaton, the secretary-treasurer of the Yukon Medical Association, also took issue with the minister's figures. He stated that the minister is wrong in saying one physician for over 700 Yukoners is a very good ratio compared to the Canadian average. The Canadian average is one physician for every 537 citizens. The Yukon has only one physician for every 722 Yukoners.
Is the minister claiming that the Canadian Medical Association figures are wrong, Mr. Speaker?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Mr. Speaker, once again, the Member for Klondike is very good at trying to cherry-pick things out and then highlight them.
To answer his question specifically, I would say no, they're not wrong but they're not right either, and I think the important part to that is how you do it. The terms that are used by all of us are to ensure that we're fair when we do any kind of number analysis, and we all know how that can go, Mr. Speaker. You just have to look at polls. They can be one way, they can be another way, and they can be done in the same area.
It is important to realize, Mr. Speaker, that numbers are not always the truth. Sometimes they help us to arrive at the truth, but it's very important that we put them in the proper context.
Mr. Jenkins: What the minister is admitting to is cherry-picking the figures to portray the situation in a much better light than it actually is. Now, the facts speak for themselves. There's a shortage of doctors here in the Yukon. The number of doctors here in the Yukon is actually going down. It's being reduced because of the policies of this government.
When is this government going to come up with a concrete policy for recruitment and retention of health care practitioners here in the Yukon? When is that going to take place? We have heard all sorts of undertakings that it's underway. In an interview on CBC on November 8, the minister stated it was imminent; it was going to happen today or the next day. When are we going to see it? Is it a 10-year plan or is it ever going to occur, Mr. Speaker?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Mr. Speaker, this side of the government always talks in 10-year plans, because that was the problem with previous governments. They only spoke in three-year plans, and that's why nothing was ever done.
It's very important to understand how we arrive at numbers, Mr. Speaker, and it really depends on the source of information. For example, patients-to-doctor ratios that I have reported are from the Canadian Institute for Health Information. The numbers can vary if specialists are included with general practitioners when the term "doctor" is used. I would also like to point out that, as all Yukoners know, we live in a small jurisdiction, and so a slight change in the small numbers we have can look like a large percentage change.
Now, putting on my teacher hat, when I used to teach math, it's far different to say that if you score 25 out of 30 questions, it's not a big deal; but if you get 95 right out of 100 on a test, it's not such a big deal, either. So what I'm saying here is that numbers always have to be put into perspective, and I encourage all Yukoners to really look at the numbers.
What Dr. Beaton did, Mr. Speaker, from my understanding, was to include the specialist as part of the number factor. We just included the actual GP, the family doctor component that we have, because we have specialists who come up here on a visitation type of process, they're not here on a full-time basis. So that's the reason for the difference.
Mr. Jenkins: I'd like the minister to advise the House how he is going to address the crisis in our territory involving the shortage of health care providers if he is refusing to admit there is even a problem. Why is he more interested in conducting an ad campaign to try and disguise this crisis than he is in addressing the problem and fixing it? When is there going to be a concrete program of attracting and recruiting and retaining health care professionals here in the Yukon? When is there going to be an established policy and program?
Mr. Roberts: Again the Member for Klondike is always fear-mongering. A crisis? We have a problem, yes, Mr. Speaker, but it's not a crisis. And unfortunately, when the member opposite or the members opposite yell about these kinds of things it's because they really don't know what's going on, even in their own communities. The department has been sitting down with the YMA, with the nurses, with the hospital, and they have been putting a process together. And even as they're putting it together, they're out there doing recruitment, Mr. Speaker. It's not like we need a sudden policy to answer the recruitment problem. This is an ongoing problem. It's an across-Canada problem. So that's why it has to be ongoing in its delivery.
We realize we have to do far more; we know that. We're not denying there is a problem. We know there is a problem, but it's not a crisis. The YMA, the doctors and nurses, want to work with government. And for once I am sure that many of these professional groups are saying, "We can work with these people because they are honest about where they want to go. It's not for political gain; it's for services." It's to respond to the needs of Yukoners. So I have to very much underline the fact that we are working together.
Question re: Natural gas pipeline route, competition for
Mr. Fentie: Well, not only do we have a crisis in our health care system under this Liberal government, we've got a crisis in our economy. The Premier and this Liberal government have hung their hats on what they claim to be the panacea for the Yukon's economy - the Alaska Highway pipeline route. The Premier fails to recognize or admit that there are other potential options for a pipeline route to move northern gas to market. We have right here, headlines off the news, "Yukon and Northwest Territories must complete in pipeline". Will the Premier now get on her feet and admit that we may very well be in competition with another route - the Mackenzie line for example - and that our focus, this Liberal government's total focus on the Alaska Highway pipeline, may be leading this territory into economic oblivion.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite and his party cannot make up their minds whether or not they support the Alaska Highway pipeline and support our aggressive promotion of the route - which is what we promised Yukoners to do. They can't bring themselves to even do their homework on what we have been saying for the past six months. For the 30 days of an election campaign and prior to the election campaign, I committed to Yukoners that our party would aggressively promote the selection of the Alaska Highway pipeline route.
We clearly state that we recognize there are other options out there. I have also consistently stated, through every single one of the speeches I have given, whether they're in Anchorage, Calgary, Vancouver or anywhere in the Yukon, and in any conversations with Yukoners, that the Mackenzie Valley pipeline route and the Alaska Highway pipeline route are not in competition. Both should be built and that fact has been recognized by industry. Gulf Canada executives - as have other executives - have stood on their feet in front of audiences and in front of newspaper reporters and said that there should be two pipelines built. The Alaska Highway should go first and the second is the Mackenzie Valley. That's a fact.
It's really unfortunate that the members opposite won't recognize that, yes, we need to aggressively promote the Alaska Highway route, that that's what they're doing and it's too bad that -
Speaker: Order please. Will the Premier please conclude her answer.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Certainly, Mr. Speaker. It's too bad they can't make up their minds on this issue and join us, with the support of other Yukoners.
Mr. Fentie: Well, it's interesting to note that this Premier's attempt at aggressively promoting the Alaska Highway route in Alaska stopped short when the Premier fled Alaska, rushed back to the Yukon to spend a 10-minute car ride with the Prime Minister and attend a Liberal love-in during a federal election campaign. I don't take that as aggressively promoting Yukoners' interest in the Alaska Highway route.
Secondly, Mr. Speaker, the main question is, which pipeline gets built first? Today, in the Yukon Territory, all we have are Liberal platitudes on the Alaska Highway route. Yet, in the Northwest Territories they have action - on the ground action - pipeline right-of-ways. In the next five years, there will be a billion dollars of development and exploration expenditure in the Northwest Territories. I say to the Premier, does she not realize, and will she not admit, that those expenditures may very well put the Mackenzie line ahead of the Alaska Highway line?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, I say to the member opposite: will the members opposite please pay attention? What do they think I've been doing for the last six months?
The fact is that we have been aggressively promoting the Alaska Highway pipeline route, and the members opposite - who continue to keep their blinkers on, unable to make up their minds whether or not they support this very important project to the Yukon - fail to appreciate the fact that the easements are in place, that they are registered with the land titles office in Whitehorse, that there is an existing Canada/U.S. treaty, which our Prime Minister acknowledged. He stood in front of hundreds of Yukoners and said that the treaty is valid, the treaty exists.
There are certificates of public convenience and necessity, granted by the Parliament of Canada, as well as by American legislators. There is a 1982 environmental permit, which we have agreed needs to be refreshed.
The member opposite clearly does not want to admit, recognize or even read about the work we've been doing. I've tabled this information in the House for the member opposite. I have encouraged him to visit the Economic Development Web site. Our speeches and our comments from every single member of this caucus have been clear. They have been consistent and factual, and they have accomplished what we set out to do, which is to aggressively promote the Alaska Highway route. Yukoners, at least, recognize that, even if the member opposite doesn't.
Mr. Fentie: Well, what Yukoners recognize, Mr. Speaker, is that this Liberal government has tossed every other economic plank and economic engine into the junk heap in this territory, and has totally focused on something that is futuristic and may not begin in the next five to seven years. That is according to Anderson, one of the biggest investors in the Northwest Territories. They said it was five to seven years away.
Mr. Speaker, furthermore, Yukoners are confused. This Premier claims that it's the Alaska Highway route that is on the Prime Minister's priority list, yet when the Prime Minister talks to the rest of Canada, when he's on the east side of the divide, it's the Mackenzie line.
Mr. Speaker, let's look at the facts. Environmental screenings must be redone -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Fentie: Must be redone. Refreshed, redone, reviewed - it's the same thing. Environmentally, we're no different from the Mackenzie line, because reviews are going to take place there, too. Where we are different from the Mackenzie line is investment today -
Speaker: Order please. Would the member please get to the question.
Mr. Fentie: There are hundreds of millions of dollars on the Northwest Territories side today in oil and gas development and pipeline development. Here in the Yukon, what do we have for the Alaska Highway project? Nothing.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite absolutely refuses to recognize a fact if it leapt up and bit him. He just does not see the facts, does not want to hear the facts, does not want to read the facts, does not want to listen to the facts. The member doesn't want to listen to me, either.
Let's invite him. Go read Governor Knowles' speech. How much clearer does it get? "My way is the highway." It doesn't get clearer than that.
Senator Murkowski's speech - Senate, President and Alaskan speeches. The only people who fled - as the member opposite has used the term - the resource development council conference was the Northwest Territories. It wasn't the Yukon. We were extremely well-represented.
The member refers to the environmental permits. At least we have them. It's not even on the radar screen for the Northwest Territories.
I invite that member again and again and again to learn the facts of this issue before he tries and drum up a question. Clearly, the opposition is out of questions.
Question re: Natural gas pipeline route, competition for
Mr. Fentie: My, my, the Premier is testy today.
Mr. Speaker, let's look at the facts. I want the Premier to answer and tell Yukoners this: if the environmental issue is no problem here in the Yukon and we're ready to go, then why are hundreds of millions of dollars being invested right now on the Northwest Territories' side? Why are feeder lines being prepared to enter the grid, which ultimately results in entering the alliance system all the way to market in Illinois?
Will the Premier answer that? If the environmental concerns are so great in the Mackenzie line, why the hundreds of millions in investment now?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, I do apologize to the listening and viewing audience for my lack of patience with the member opposite's inability to do his homework.
With respect to the facts about the investment in the Northwest Territories, there is, yes, a feeder line in Inuvik. Yes, I have seen that. The hundreds of millions of dollars in investment are also in exploration.
Now, for the member opposite, there is no environmental approval, whether granted in 1982 or otherwise, for the Mackenzie Valley line, and, most importantly, in the 1970s the offshore pipeline suggestion, which is supported by Premier Kakfwi and by Nellie Cournoyea, and not supported by Yukoners - and, most importantly, I am confident it is not supported by the Vuntut Gwitchin, no matter if they live in Yukon or the Northwest Territories - is clearly an option we have taken off the table. That is the area that has the environmental issues. The Mackenzie Valley does not have a 1982 environmental permit. The Alaska Highway does.
The Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes refers to the refreshment. Those are industries' words and those are my words.
Speaker: Order please. Will the Premier please conclude her answer.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: I am happy to discuss this issue with the member opposite. I would invite a serious, well-thought-out question.
Mr. Fentie: Well, I think it's the Premier who should do her homework. If she looked at her own supplementary budget, she would see that revenues from oil and gas in the southeast Yukon have increased by $4.1 million. We're not getting revenue increases because it's just shooting off into the air; it's going into a system to market. I'm talking to the Premier and asking the Premier, what are Yukoners accruing in terms of benefit right now, today, in the territory? It's absolutely nothing, Mr. Speaker. Yet on the other side of the border in the Northwest Territories, they are receiving hundreds of millions of dollars in benefit because they are preparing themselves to send northern gas to market.
The Premier is talking about the Arctic coast. We're talking about the need of Yukoners to go to work today. What is the Premier doing in terms of putting Yukoners to work and having benefits accrue to Yukoners when it comes to their only economic plank, the Alaska Highway pipeline? What is she doing today?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: What I'm doing today is answering three different questions from the member opposite. The member opposite cannot make up his mind, or his party's mind, whether or not they support the Alaska Highway pipeline route, whose national party can't even mention the north and economics in their platform. Alexa McDonough doesn't even know about the pipeline.
There are two issues the member is talking about: one is exploration and development of Yukon's oil and gas industry, and the second is the Alaska Highway pipeline route. I've already encouraged him hundreds of times now to look at the facts on the Alaska Highway pipeline route. In terms of exploration and development, work has been done by Anderson Exploration; we have a second land sale underway. Kotaneelee gas fields is producing - yes. The revenues are shown in the supplementary budget - yes, that's a fact. It's the one the member got right. The member opposite should make up his mind and his party's mind, since they can't seem to get together on anything over there. Do they support the pipeline or don't they? Come clean with Yukoners.
Mr. Fentie: Well, Mr. Speaker, this government and this Premier should come clean with Yukoners.
The pipeline and the support of the pipeline are a no-brainer. What I'm talking about is that it's five to seven years away. Right now, in the Northwest Territories' side of the border, there are jobs and benefits accruing to residents of the Northwest Territories. In fact, Yukoners have to leave home to go to work there in the oil and gas industry. Furthermore, if the Premier understood the industry, she'd realize that exploration and development come first, then the pipeline.
Mr. Speaker, we are now behind the Northwest Territories' line, because of the inaction of this government, and all the Premier has managed to do is go to speaking engagements and photo ops, which didn't even count when the Prime Minister came to this territory.
Will this Premier act immediately so that Yukoners start to receive some benefit from the only economic plank this Liberal government and this Premier have today in this territory - oil and gas? Will she do so immediately?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite started his question by saying that - I think it was a question, or it was another diatribe from the member opposite - saying that support for the Alaska Highway pipeline route is a no-brainer. If it is such a no-brainer, how come they can't figure out to support it? It's pretty simple. It's an aggressive promotion of the Alaska Highway pipeline route.
The Alaska Highway pipeline route is for the transportation of Alaskan gas. In the development of Yukon's eight sedimentary basins, which are largely unexplored - we've only ever had 71 wells drilled in the Yukon. The pipeline gives us access and promotes exploration and development, for which the member opposite, in his oh-so-patronizing tone, suggests that I go back and do my homework.
The member opposite can't make up his mind whether or not he and his party support the Alaska Highway pipeline - they can't get it on the national radar screen from their leader - and they criticize the Prime Minister of the country, who remembers and knows the fact that there's a treaty between Canada and the U.S. that is valid today. What the members opposite fail to appreciate is that this is but one area that we have been working on, and working very hard, and which has shown results. The member opposite loves to use the five-to-seven-year time frame. I'd invite the member again, in fact-
Speaker: Order, please. Would the Premier please conclude her answer.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Certainly, Mr. Speaker. I'd invite the member opposite to review the facts.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed.
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Chair, I would like to note the presence in the gallery of constituent Ms. Carol Pettrigrew, also spouse of former Member for Porter Creek North and government leader, John Ostashek. Please join me in welcoming her today.
Notice of government private members' business
Ms. Tucker: Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 14.2(7), I would like to identify the item standing in the name of government private members, to be called on Wednesday, November 22, 2000. It is Motion No. 43, standing in the name of the Member for Riverside.
Speaker: We will now proceed with 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: Good afternoon. I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. Do members wish to take a brief recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: We will take a 15-minute recess.
Chair: I now call Committee of the Whole to order. We will continue with general debate on Bill No. 31, An Act to Amend the Motor Vehicles Act.
Bill No. 31 - An Act to Amend the Motor Vehicles Act - continued
Mr. McRobb: Well, we're discussing An Act to Amend the Motor Vehicles Act. There are a number of amendments being proposed to this act. It has not been passed by this Legislature yet. Yesterday we asked the minister to set aside this act until public consultation had been done. In fact, Mr. Chair, we identified many concerns yesterday, including the fact that not only was no consultation done by this Liberal government, but the public was not even notified of these amendments to the act. We had some discussion around that, Mr. Chair, and wondered why the public wasn't notified.
The minister, in her response, said that these changes were minor and not worthy of public consultation. Well, Mr. Chair, is broadening the powers of enforcement to numerous officers of the Yukon government - to be able to pull over, stop and ticket drivers on the open highways - only a minor amendment?
I should say not. This is a substantial change in the way our highways are policed. And the minister should acknowledge that, and be prepared to take this issue to Yukoners to discuss it and hear what they have to say. The least this government should do is be respectful enough of Yukoners to know they will have an opinion on a matter such as this. This is simply more government red tape. It's overregulation, especially of the trucking industry. Overregulation is something the Liberals say they don't stand for, but we've discovered through this example and countless others that this Liberal government says one thing and does another.
I recall when they were in opposition holding us accountable and pointing to the red-tape meter of the Chamber of Commerce downtown, giving the former minister a hard time because the meter hadn't gone down. Well, the meter is going to bounce up if this amendment is approved.
Now, we managed to stall off approval of these amendments yesterday through debate of a number of clauses. In order to do that today, Mr. Chair, we're going to have to stay on our feet for almost four hours of discussion. This can be avoided if this minister will be compassionate enough about Yukoners and their concerns to agree to set aside this bill until proper consultation has been done.
Mr. Chair, yesterday she admitted there was no consultation. There was no consultation with industry, no consultation with the Federation of Labour, no consultation with municipalities, hamlets or other forms of government, no consultation with First Nations. No consultation on these amendments was done.
The minister also tried to blame the previous government and put the burden of responsibility on the previous government for these amendments. I clearly clarified these amendments are a child of this Liberal government.
These amendments were refuted by the previous NDP government as being intrusive regulations that simply were not needed at this time. It is this Liberal government that decided these amendments were important enough to put them at the top of its priority list. It's this Liberal government that decided that broadening the powers of enforcement on our highways is more important than attending to the needs of Yukoners and addressing the sad state of our economy.
Well, Mr. Chair, shame on them. Shame on them. I have been in touch with people, especially people in rural communities, and I hear what they're saying. They are really concerned about how they're going to survive this winter without employment, because this government chose to increase red tape rather than address the economy by introducing winter works initiatives, and that's rather disappointing.
I would note that, as a member of the previous government, we ensured that every fall we brought forward a supplementary budget containing jobs for Yukoners over the winter - winter works. This government, despite having a surplus of $64 million, now confirmed by the Auditor General of Canada, has neglected this whole area of winter employment for Yukoners. Instead, it has decided to increase red tape, increase overregulation and increase harassment of the trucking industry by allowing dozens of officers to patrol Yukon highways in addition to what numbers are currently there.
Now, Mr. Chair, this raises a number of concerns. But before continuing along this line, I do want to put on the record that we do support safer highways. We do support increased changes to prevent drunk driving and we support safety on our highways. There is no doubt about that.
The question: is it the highest priority that the government should be addressing? I think the answer is no. It is one of the highest priorities of this Liberal government, but it should not be. Several times in this Legislature, both opposition parties have pointed this out, and the government has ignored our suggestions, and it instead continues to plod along on these amendments and other legislation that clearly could wait until the priorities of Yukoners have been addressed. Now, the minister likes to get up and say, "Well, the Member for Kluane said these were minor amendments and he supported the bill." Well, that was true in the beginning. And as I indicated about three times yesterday, upon closer inspection it was clear to us that there were enough areas of concern to vote against this bill. And on Thursday, we sent a message to the government that we had problems with this bill. So it should come as no surprise to the Minister of Community and Transportation Services, the minister bringing forward this act, that the vote will not be unanimous.
In addition, Mr. Chair, yesterday I read into the record a letter from the Yukon Transportation Association, which asks the minister to stop progress on this bill, provide information to Yukoners and allow adequate time for consultation. That is indicative of what we're hearing from other Yukoners and other stakeholders. Anybody I have talked to or my colleagues have talked to has indicated that they had no advance notice of these amendments. This from a government that apparently prides itself on consultation.
Now, I went into that at length yesterday and, at this point at least, I don't feel it's necessary to repeat all of that. Anybody who wants to know about it can refer to yesterday's Hansard. There are several areas in this bill that require examination.
In this area of powers of enforcement, Mr. Chair, I have several questions. Clearly, this clause gives broader powers to several more officers to stop vehicles and ticket drivers on just about any driving infraction in the law. That is what is indicated by the relevant sections.
The minister was also a bit vague on which officers these amendments would apply to, which officers would be given additional authority. She did quickly recite a list of which ones would be given greater authority, and now that we have a copy of Hansard, we're able to take a closer look. The minister indicated that 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, are all included as those who will be given broader powers of enforcement.
The minister indicated that there are 17 such officers at present.
Mr. Chair, I've reviewed the internal telephone directory of the Yukon government this morning and noted there were several positions currently vacant, and it occurs to me that 17 may, in fact, be a low number.
So, when the minister gets on her feet to respond, I would like her to provide some more information about what that number really could be. Yukoners want to know how many more highway officers will be patrolling the highways having the authority to pull them over, give them tickets, seize and impound their vehicles, seize and impound any contents in their vehicles, order them to undergo immediate repairs on their vehicles and make other demands. Yukoners want to know.
They want to know a little bit more from this government about these amendments and what it will mean to them. So far, all people have heard are some reports on the radio yesterday morning, a newspaper story in the Whitehorse Star yesterday and that's about it, unless they listen to the Legislature on the radio. This government has not provided any information to the public at all - none. These amendments came out of the blue. These amendments have broad-sided Yukoners. These amendments clearly break the promise of this Liberal government to consult Yukoners on matters that affect them.
Mr. Chair, if getting pulled over by a weigh station officer and having your vehicle impounded, for instance, is not a matter that would affect Yukoners, then what is? The minister called this amendment minor. This is only one amendment, Mr. Chair. There are several others.
In the interests of all Yukoners, I would ask the minister to seriously consider bringing this bill back to the drawing board. Consult with Yukoners, collect their input, put together a new bill and bring it back in the spring, because there isn't time in this fall sitting to do that.
Let's get on to other matters of greater importance like dealing with the economy and providing some jobs to Yukoners this winter, Mr. Chair. Those are the priorities I'm hearing. I have yet to hear one constituent tell me that their priority is that there should be more officers patrolling the highway, handing out tickets. I have yet to hear that.
On the other hand, I have had several calls. I just got an e-mail message this morning from a constituent, complaining about how this Liberal government has ignored the concerns of rural Yukoners and really wonders what people in rural Yukon will be doing for work this winter.
Mr. Chair, I would say that there is lots of room for improvement. On Thursday afternoon, when second reading started on this bill, I explained how Yukoners expect their elected representatives to be addressing their priorities, not the priorities of government, because we have seen this Liberal government put at the top of its priority list its priorities, like making its job easier, spending money on itself, appointing its friends, et cetera.
People expect us to represent them and, Mr. Chair, what this government does affects the reputations of us all in this Legislature, whether we're part of the government or part of the opposition. As I explained on Thursday, some people who don't know the difference look at their MLA and say, "You are the Yukon government. Why don't we have a job? What happened to the community development fund?" Mr. Chair, I must say that, unfortunately, it's rather ineffective to start explaining the sad story of how the Liberals have delayed, if not cancelled, funds like the community development fund.
People don't want to hear that. Most people just want to know where it is. And, as a consequence, some of this bad image, developed by this young Liberal government in its six months in power, rubs off on us all - even on those of us who do not support what this government has done, like review those funds. It does not support the increased red tape like what this bill will mean. It rubs off on us all. That's what it means to Yukoners, and that's the net result of what it means to us.
So I am personally appealing to the minister to have some compassion toward Yukoners on their need to be consulted on these amendments, by pulling back this bill, allowing enough time from them to be properly consulted and bringing it back in the spring so that will satisfy their wish to be consulted and their desire to give input, and it also allow us to switch gears out of this legal quagmire and shift into something more productive and that is a greater priority to Yukoners, like addressing the economy this winter. Can the minister do that?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Where to begin? As the Member for Kluane well knows, the budget is on the agenda for this legislative session. Is he saying the budget is trivial? Mr. Chair, the member is misinformed on the amendments to the Motor Vehicles Act, I am sad to say. He has been passing on this misinformation to everybody he speaks to as well. He is doing Yukoners a disservice.
Also, on the one hand, he continues to say that these are trivial amendments. On the other hand, he says they're serious. He can't make up his mind. This seems to be the normal state of affairs for this member.
I explained this to the member opposite several times yesterday - this particular section that we dealt with for three hours at $973 an hour of the Legislature's time. I obviously wasn't getting through to him.
I, too, have been speaking to people in rural areas. They are puzzled that the member is wasting the time of this Legislature over a minor amendment. They are shocked that he and the rest of the opposition voted against these amendments on second reading. They voted against safety on our highways. They voted in favour of drunk drivers on our roads. Mr. Chair, safe highways are a priority for Yukoners.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order, Mr. Chair.
Point of order
Chair: Mr. Jenkins, on a point of order.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, the minister continues to provide wrong information to the House. We did not vote against this bill because it would provide for drunk drivers on the highways. That's the issue. That's the area that this minister is picking up. She's patently wrong, and I would ask that she correct the record and provide correct information in the House.
Chair: Ms. Buckway, on the point of order.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: On the point of order, Mr. Chair, in their second reading speeches, the members opposite on Thursday referred to these amendments as trivial. The Member for Kluane went on at great length about the economy. "Trivial" was the word that stuck in my mind, and it was quite obvious that they had not paid a great deal of attention to the amendments and did not realize that safety on the highways is of paramount importance. I stand by my words, Mr. Chair.
Chair: On the point of order, Mr. McRobb.
Mr. McRobb: On the point of order, Mr. Chair, I think the minister is stuck in a mode of nit-picking. She says she has one thing on her mind that's trivial.
I would suggest that we all kick it up a notch. Let's quit pointing the finger. The accusations she made toward me have been explained about half a dozen times now. Let's not dwell on something that is senseless. Let's get on with it. Let's get on with it, and let's be true. She has made a number of accusations. I would agree with the Member for Klondike. She is putting misinformation on the record, and if that's not against the rules of this House, then it should be.
Chair: On the point of order, there is no way for the Chair to tell why votes were taken one way or the other. This is a disagreement between members and I will not allow the point of order to stand.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, the one who is misinformed is the Member for Kluane. Here are the facts.
The amendment in Bill No. 31 that we spent three hours discussing yesterday does not provide any additional powers to any officer under the Motor Vehicles Act.
In their letter of November 20, 2000, the Yukon Transportation Association asked to meet with the minister to discuss the changes. Departmental officials met with the Yukon Transportation Association today, and, as the Minister for Community and Transportation Services, I have provided the Yukon Transportation Association with my written assurance that the government will consult with the association directly prior to making any change to the power of officers under the Motor Vehicles Act.
The weigh station and enforcement officers already have powers to enforce limited sections of the Motor Vehicles Act. The officers need this power to properly undertake their duties. There is no expansion planned on their powers.
There are 17 people, as we mentioned repeatedly yesterday. Five of those are the people who are commonly out on the highways. There is no expansion planned for their numbers. We are not planning to increase the size of government with this amendment. I wonder if perhaps the members opposite are suggesting that we should be cutting back the size of the public service. This amendment provides the government with the means by which to appoint officers and designate which powers should be given to which persons under the Motor Vehicles Act.
The Commissioner in Executive Council, as I explained yesterday several times, already has the power to appoint persons to be officers under the Motor Vehicles Act. The persons appointed within the Department of Community and Transportation Services to enforce limited sections of the Motor Vehicles Act are employed in the weigh stations and enforcement section. I explained to the member yesterday which 17 people these were, and they are constrained, by the job descriptions, to deal with commercial traffic on Yukon roads. The Member for Kluane keeps suggesting that we're talking about all vehicles. This is not the case. He is misinformed. It is commercial traffic. These persons have been designated as officers, under the Motor Vehicles Act, since 1997 by Order-in-Council 1997-40 and 1997-41.
As it has done in the past with the National Safety Code and the highways regulation changes, the Yukon government will consult with the Yukon transportation industry before making any changes to the powers of officers that deal with the transportation industry.
The weigh station and enforcement officers already have power to enforce limited sections of the Motor Vehicles Act, Mr. Chair. The officers need this power to properly undertake their duties. Outside of municipal boundaries, these officers have had the power to enforce the following sections of the Motor Vehicles Act. They can already do this, Mr. Chair. Section 35 - require a driver to produce a driver's licence. Section 49 - require a driver to produce a certificate of registration for a vehicle. Section 82 - require a driver to produce a financial responsibility card, a pink insurance card. Section 101 - require the driver to stop for a peace officer. Section 108 - when an offence has been committed under the Motor Vehicles Act, section 107, the officer may seize a motor vehicle when the officer has reasonable and probable grounds to believe that the vehicle is not properly registered, insured and is plated.
Section 123 - the officer may direct that work be done to the vehicle to make it safe to operate on the road. Section 128 - when necessary the officer may direct traffic contrary to rules of the road. They can already do this, Mr. Chair. There are no plans to increase this authority for these officers.
In addition to the sections I have just mentioned that deal with the enforcement of the Motor Vehicles Act outside a municipality, some officers currently have the authority to enforce a number of other sections of the Motor Vehicles Act within a municipality. Section 109 allows an officer to forcibly enter a vehicle to facilitate removal, taking and storing of a vehicle. Section 126 allows an officer to seize a radar detector found to be in use, which contravenes Motor Vehicles Act section 126. Section 127 - the officer may direct traffic. Section 129 - the officer may drive and park, contrary to rules of the road, when responding on official business in a vehicle equipped with a siren and may, when necessary, park, contrary to the Motor Vehicles Act or municipal bylaw. Section 174 - the officer may direct a driver to park, contrary to rules of the road, when necessary. Section 191 - the officer may use a vehicle or its contents without the permission of the owner, when necessary. Section 205 - the officer may require the operator of the bike to submit the bike to examination to be sure it is fit and safe to be ridden. Section 218 - the officer may direct a pedestrian, and the pedestrian must obey the directions of the officer. Section 220 - an officer may request the name and address of any person crossing or walking on a highway, as necessary. Some of the officers already have those powers within a municipality.
There are, as I said repeatedly yesterday, no plans to increase the number of people who will be appointed to enforce the Motor Vehicles Act. The department has only appointed those persons who need this authority to carry out their duties in the weigh station and enforcement section. The officers who have authority to enforce sections of the Motor Vehicles Act outside of municipal boundaries are the chief of weigh stations and enforcement, mobile safety officers, mobile enforcement officers, and the National Safety Code inspectors.
In addition to the above officers, weigh station supervisors and weigh station operators may enforce limited sections of the Motor Vehicles Act within a municipality. There are no plans to increase the number of officers with these duties. Passing the act changes nothing, as I explained to the member opposite repeatedly yesterday. Cabinet has the power to make changes to the powers of the enforcement officers.
I have committed to the Yukon Transportation Association to consult with them before making any changes. The Yukon Transportation Association, from the meeting my officials had with them this morning, seems quite happy to have Cabinet make that decision.
We, Mr. Chair, are following the same process that has been followed before with the Yukon Transportation Association: enabling legislation first, then a discussion with the Yukon Transportation Association on the specifics, which lead to the development of the regulations. We are doing the same thing this time, and I would be pleased to table the letter that I sent earlier today to Mr. George Law, president of the Yukon Transportation Association.
Mr. McRobb: Well, Mr. Chair, where do we start? I'd say maybe starting with suggesting that the Hansard office send her a bill for about $150 of Hansard time, because what she did was stand on her feet and repeat all of the powers that would be given to these officers. Check page 489 of the Blues. It's all there. She also went through the list of officers who would be empowered, also page 489 of the Blues. That information is not helpful. It was repetitive - repetitive information.
The minister also made some accusations. We'll deal with those, Mr. Chair. But for about the sixth time, I want to get the message to the minister that we do not see these amendments as trivial. We see them as serious concerns to Yukoners. We discovered that when taking a closer second look on Thursday afternoon, and that's why we voted against this bill.
Why does the minister think we voted against the bill? The reason is that we have some concerns about these amendments. We're not opposed to the intent of the bill, which is toughening the laws on drinking drivers and making our highways safer, Mr. Chair. The question is how do we do that? How do we do that without being intrusive on Yukoners or industry or anybody else? That's the question.
Upon closer examination, we discovered that there are some grey areas here that need explanation, and that's what we're doing. This is Committee of the Whole, and this is where we do it.
Now, if the minister was really concerned about the cost of Hansard, in the interest of moving along the discussion today, she would have sent over the letter before. We still haven't received the letter on this side. She would have sent it over before, so we could see what it says.
She indicates that she made certain promises to the Yukon Transportation Association. I have some concerns about what was promised. I also have some concerns about her treatment or neglect of other stakeholders - other governments and ordinary Yukoners - who might have something to say about this.
For the minister's information, it's more than just highway tractors that fall under these amendments. Think of all the commercial plates in the territory, Mr. Chair. Next time you're out on the streets and the highways, look at the licence plates. Look for the commercial plates. They used to start with a C. I'm not sure if that has been changed, but just take a look. There are hundreds of them - hundreds of commercial vehicles and they're all affected by this legislation. All affected.
I also have some concerns about what was said at this meeting with department officials and the Yukon Transportation Association today.
Because I did my homework. I checked with someone present at the meeting, and I understand that there were basically three things that happened during the meeting. Number one: the department officials aplogized, apologized and apologized for not consulting the industry. Why? The answer is simple: the industry was guaranteed, guaranteed and guaranteed to be consulted on any future amendments affecting them before legislation was put on the floor of this Legislature. I can't state that enough, Mr. Chair. That was a guaranteed promise.
Now, the minister stands up and says, "Well, the process used here is no different from any other." Mr. Chair, she should be asking her officials about what I just said. The commitment to industry to be consulted first was completely neglected. Point number two: I understand there were assurances given to the Yukon Transportation Association that they would be consulted before any officers were appointed. Now, I haven't had an opportunity to review the letter to see what the minister's words are about that. I expressed a concern about who else is included in this. Who else?
The third thing I found out about this morning's meeting is that the understanding given to the Yukon Transportation Association of this bill - and particularly the broadening of powers of enforcement to several more officers - is based on the understanding that they do not have the ability to pull over and stop vehicles.
Now, Mr. Chair, that is clearly wrong. If indeed that happened, it is clearly wrong.
In the summary from yesterday, page 489 in the Blues, the minister said, "The powers these officers would have for purposes of administration and enforcement of this act would be..." and among the additional powers was "stopping for a peace officer."
Now, Mr. Chair, I researched this a bit more and found that, in the amendments under clause 20, it referred to other clauses in the act, including section 226(2), which says that the additional powers will include a number of sections in the Motor Vehicles Act. One of those sections is section 101. So I looked it up in the Motor Vehicles Act. It says - it's part 8 in "Powers of peace officers and officers" - stopping for a peace officer, section 101: "Every driver shall, immediately [when] he is signalled or requested to stop by a peace officer in uniform, (a) bring his vehicle to a stop, (b) furnish any information respecting the driver or the vehicle that the peace officer requires, and (c) remain stopped until such time as he is permitted by the peace officer to leave."
Mr. Chair, clearly these additional officers who are empowered on the open highway under this act will be able to stop vehicles - clearly be able to stop vehicles.
Further, on page 49 of the Blues, the minister refers to another one of the powers given to these number of officers as observance of rules of the road. Mr. Chair, we haven't even begun to explore that one yet. What does that mean? Does that mean any driving infraction? Does that mean that when, say, a truck is running a hill, getting up a bit of steam for a steep hill - there could be slippery conditions, maybe he wants to avoid chaining up - it's possible for one of these officers to stop that truck and ticket that driver, search the vehicle, inspect the vehicle and impound the vehicle?
By the wording in this act, if we in this Legislature approve it, that's what it means. It's government harassment of the business community, it's government neglect to consult the public or industry first, and it's no wonder this act is a disgrace. It was cooked up in the backroom by this Liberal government. It didn't see the light of day until it came forward in this Legislature. When we took a second look, Mr. Chair, it's obvious to us and it's obvious to other Yukoners we have spoken to that there are problems with this act.
Now, do we have to continue picking this apart, or will this minister answer my previous question and answer my next question and commit to pulling back on this bill, bringing it through proper consultation with all the stakeholders, including the other levels of government and Yukoners who are interested, before bringing it back and wasting our time - $973 an hour just for Hansard, Mr. Chair - so we can attend to the priorities of Yukoners, the real priorities, who are talking about how they're going to put food on their table this winter? Will she commit to doing that, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: No, Mr. Chair.
Mr. McRobb: That's a caring Liberal government for you, Mr. Chair. They are digging themselves in. It could be the beginning of a political grave, because when other Yukoners find out how they get neglected by this government they are not going to be happy either. There are more examples all the time. Every day we get more examples about how this government is not doing what it promised it would do.
Now, the minister refuses to take a second look at this bill or talk to Yukoners. She's not interested in what they have to say. She doesn't care. She doesn't care about red tape or about all the concerns surrounding this. She admitted yesterday that she didn't consult a number of groups: federation of labour, municipalities, First Nations, industry. Did the minister consult the Yukon Employees Union?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: No, Mr. Chair.
Mr. McRobb: Well, that raises another set of questions. This bill clearly adds duties to government employees - downloads more responsibilities on government employees. It could also be argued, as it was yesterday, that it makes the jobs of these officers more dangerous. We heard about an example in B.C. We can assume that there is added danger to these officers when they are pulling over trucks on the open highway - drivers who don't believe, for one thing, that these people have the authority to pull them over, because they never heard about it.
It's a new regulation - overregulation of commercial vehicles. Why wouldn't the government consult with the Employees Union to get their feedback? Mr. Chair, is this government so disrespectful of labour that it doesn't consider it important enough to consult them on this?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, the member opposite is confusing enabling legislation with the regulation that follows. The consultation with the people affected will take place, as I have already said, at the appropriate time.
There is no broadening of authority. There is no additional red tape. This is a minor amendment and, as such, there was no need to consult. Obviously, the member has a fertile imagination and is reading a lot more into these amendments than is there.
Mr. McRobb: The minister is - I don't know. It's quite obvious that if this bill is passed into law we will not have the opportunity to debate the regulations on the floor of this Legislature. That's not required of any government - not required. Then it's too late. The horse is out of the barn.
The minister can't lead us down the garden path on this. She might want to go there herself but we just didn't fall off the turnip truck yesterday, Mr. Chair. We know better.
Once this becomes law, it's too late. Members of the Legislative Assembly do not draft regulations. Anybody knows that.
Now, I asked the minister a question and she refused to answer. Is this government so disrespectful of the Yukon Employees Union and its workers that it's not interested to hear what they might have to say about this bill? Is it so disinterested that it didn't even call someone to ask them what they might think?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Apparently, now, consultation isn't what the member wants. Now he wants to have a hand in the regulations too.
I have said that the government will consult with the Yukon Transportation Association prior to making any change to the power of officers under the Motor Vehicles Act. We will speak to them when it's time to do the regulations. I have said that no additional staff will be hired as a result of this amendment. The duties of the people employed by the department to work under this section of the act will not change. I quite frankly can't imagine wasting the time of the Yukon Employees Union or anybody else by consulting on a trivial amendment.
I have said that the consultation will follow at the normal time. This is the same process that has been followed before with the Yukon Transportation Association - first, enabling legislation, and then discussion with them on the specifics, which leads to the development of the regulations. This same process has been followed before by the previous government. Are they now saying that process was flawed when they carried it out previously?
Mr. McRobb: That's got to be the spin of the week if I ever heard one. The minister stands up and says that she didn't call the YEU because it would be wasting their time. I can't believe it. I can't believe it. And she stands up and says it wouldn't be giving any additional powers to anybody, wouldn't change their job description at all. I can't believe that, Mr. Chair. Pulling over vehicles and searching them or impounding them or inspecting them, handing out tickets on the open highway or whatever - if that's not adding to the workload, what is?
It doesn't add up. It doesn't add up. The more we explore these clauses and the limited understanding of this minister, the more concerned we're getting.
I'd like now to ask the minister: does her department follow the requirements of the Code of Regulatory Conduct?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Yes, Mr. Chair.
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Chair, I'd like to just test the minister's understanding of this in regard to this bill and this act, and ask her what was required in order to follow the requirements of the Code of Regulatory Conduct.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: If the member has a specific question, I wish he'd ask it.
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Chair, I did ask the question. She is the minister. She's the one with the department official by her side and others within arm's reach. I asked her what requirements under the Code of Regulatory Conduct were her department required to follow in bringing forward this bill? Can she enlighten us, please?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, the regulations aren't developed yet. I have explained that to the member.
Mr. McRobb: Well, that's very helpful, Mr. Chair. Is she saying that there were no requirements under the Code of Regulatory Conduct that her department had to follow in bringing forward this bill? Because a minute ago she said yes, they do follow it. Just what is she saying?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, the department does follow the Code of Regulatory Conduct. The regulations, which will follow from the passage of this bill, have obviously not yet been developed.
Mr. McRobb: I'm trying to follow the line of reasoning by the minister, Mr. Chair, and I'm starting to develop a headache. It doesn't seem to add up. One minute she says they follow the Code of Regulatory Conduct and the next minute she says it's not in yet. Now, I think I heard something to the effect that the department did follow the code, but it's not in yet. Mr. Chair, can the minister do us a favour and try to straighten out the confusion on this matter? Thank you.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, for approximately the fifth time, the amendments to the Motor Vehicles Act are enabling legislation. Once they are passed, there will be a discussion with the stakeholders - primarily the Yukon Transportation Association, on the specifics - which will lead to the development of the regulations.
It is Cabinet that has the power to make changes to the powers of the enforcement officers. That is what this bill is for, and I have committed to the Yukon Transportation Association to consult with them before making any changes. They would normally be involved in the preparation of any regulations. They have been before; they will be this time; they will be in the future. I'm not quite sure what part of this the Member for Kluane doesn't understand, Mr. Chair.
Mr. McRobb: Well, it doesn't seem to add up, Mr. Chair. The Code of Regulatory Conduct, according to the information I have from April 2, 1998, indicates it became effective October 1, 1998. That's more than two years ago.
This government has been in power for just over six months. This government has decided to bring forward these changes to the Motor Vehicles Act on its own, without consultation, without notification. It has admitted that. Clearly, Mr. Chair, that raises some questions regarding the Code of Regulatory Conduct.
One of the clauses of the code, under characteristics of the regulatory process, part 2, says "opportunity and reasonable time for affected sectors to provide input into bills and regulations". It's very clear. It's quite apparent that there has been a failure to live up to the Code of Regulatory Conduct.
Breaking their promise to Yukoners is one thing; not fulfilling their campaign promises is another; but breaking the Code of Regulatory Conduct, as the Government of the Yukon, is a more serious matter.
Why didn't the minister give reasonable time and opportunity to the affected sectors to provide input into this bill?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, I'm feeling somewhat sad on behalf of the member opposite. This is enabling legislation. The Code of Regulatory Conduct refers to regulations, and it specifies that we must consult with affected parties. Once the enabling legislation is passed, when we are developing the regulations, that is when the consultation is specified and that is when the consultation will occur.
Mr. McRobb: Well, that's debatable. The minister has made statements regarding this bill that have been proven to be otherwise. I say that in respect to what are the rules of this Legislature, Mr. Chair.
Now, we'll deal with this Code of Regulatory Conduct again. But the minister points a finger to the consultation we did two years ago and challenges us on whether we think that was good consultation.
Well, let's explore that for a minute. Why does this government have the discretion to, willy-nilly, pick what consultation it thinks it should review or go by, Mr. Chair? Look at the community development fund. Look at all the consultation that went into developing that program. The winter of 1996-97 and into the spring of 1997 - extensive consultation. Now the government wants to review the program, saying that people have some problems with it. Well, we know the Liberals have some problems with it, but I think that most Yukoners were very satisfied with it.
There was certainly no justification to stop or cancel the program and not have anything all winter, despite having a $64 million surplus. Why should this government punish Yukoners so severely, only to put on the Santa Claus outfit in the last year and dole out the goodies? Because we see it coming, Mr. Chair. And Yukoners are wise to those tricks. They won't stand for it.
We see what's happening on a federal level all the time. There are $20 million in health care cuts, Mr. Chair - severe. The federal government gave us about a $1.5 million back a couple of years ago. That's an example.
Now, I've asked the minister if she would be compassionate enough to bring this bill back for some consultation. I received another letter, in addition to the one yesterday, and I'd like to read it to you now. The one yesterday was from the Yukon Transportation Association. This one is from the Village of Teslin, November 21, 2000, from Mayor Orville Smith, regarding Motor Vehicles Act amendments. It says, "This is to acknowledge your recent discussions with the Village of Teslin office regarding the proposed amendments to the Motor Vehicles Act. The village and the council were unaware of these amendments until you brought them to our attention. Our office checked with the Association of Yukon Municipalities and found that they were unaware of any communication with the government on the topic of MVA amendments. Also, because of the sweeping nature of the proposed amendments, we would have appreciated being consulted on these issues, as they could have a profound effect on this municipality."
Mr. Chair, is that not evidence enough that Yukoners are concerned? Is that not enough evidence?
The minister stood up and said that these are minor amendments and that Yukoners don't need to be consulted. They're trivial, she says today. That's all that's on her mind - they're trivial. Mr. Chair, these are more than minor amendments.
Does the minister not think she should respect the views of municipalities like the Village of Teslin and pull this bill back and allow for some process here?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: With respect, Mr. Chair, the sweeping nature of the proposed amendments is only in the mind of the member opposite, Mr. Chair. The information that the municipalities has received about these proposed amendments is from the member opposite; and, as I have said previously, I do believe the member is misinformed as to the nature of these amendments.
Mr. McRobb: Well, Mr. Chair, the minister has her head in the sand, a favourite phrase from the Government Services minister over there, "head in the sand." They're blind to what the Yukon public and other governments are saying. Her excuse is not valid; it is clearly not valid. People are concerned. They want to know more about this bill and about these amendments. So far, in about four or five hours of debate, we've been focused on one clause. There are several other clauses to this bill. The Member for Klondike has identified several others that need exploration in this Legislature.
I focused in the area of clause 20, the expansion of enforcement to other officers. Mr. Chair, can't we just take a step back, take stock of where we are, and see that there's a lot of discussion required here on this bill and acknowledge that? I'm not asking the minister to accept all our concerns and do everything we say. I'm just asking her to acknowledge that it appears at this stage there's going to be plenty of discussion on this bill.
So, it's certainly safe to say that it's going to consume the rest of the day today. The earliest they can bring it back after today is Thursday. Mr. Chair, it wouldn't be surprising to see it consume Thursday as well. Now we're into next week. By then, we're bound to have lots more letters to read into the record, and the pressure on this bill is going to mount. Let's take stock, sit back and reload. Let's acknowledge -
Some Hon. Member: Point of order, Mr. Chair.
Point of order
Chair: Ms. Buckway, on a point of order.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Stepping back and reloading - that would be violent language, Mr. Chair. I do not believe that is permitted in this Legislature.
Chair: Mr. McRobb, on the point of order.
Mr. McRobb: On the point of order, Mr. Chair, if anything is violent, it's the reaction of the minister. Obviously, she's too thin-skinned. She knows she's going down a losing path on this bill, and she's being overly sensitive. I was not exercising any violent language.
Chair: On the point of order, I find "reload" to be a number of different terms. I find, in this case, in fact, it's not even in the Standing Orders, so I will interpret this as non-violent language and not allow the point of order.
Mr. McRobb: Thank you, Mr. Chair. Anyway, maybe with that, we can just allow some cooler heads to prevail.
My point is: let's acknowledge that this bill won't be passing very quickly in this House. Let's acknowledge that. Let's be fair.
To be truthful, Mr. Chair, I would prefer not to be debating all of these clauses and subclauses in the Motor Vehicles Act. There are more important things to do here.
Jobs this winter, Mr. Chair, and the economy are more important. We have heard that from Yukoners, but we're not going to cave in and allow this bill to be passed until we're all satisfied with it, or at least satisfied that we have done all we could to ensure it's the best legislation we can produce.
Because when it comes down to it, all MLAs in this Legislature - all 15 of us with the exception of the Speaker - have to claim some responsibility for what is passed through this House. And if some of these sections are going to result in havoc on our roads and confusion and overregulation, that are going to cause a backlash out there in the public and industry, then we have got to do something to stop it now.
So what I am asking the minister to do is this: let's acknowledge where we're going on this bill. Let's acknowledge that. Let's allow for some process here, because clearly there hasn't been any yet. There is an indication that there is concern out there. We've got two letters so far. Let's do the right thing. Let's take a step back and allow for some process. And if Yukoners say that these are the amendments they want, then fine. Then the Liberal government has the opportunity to approve it and bring it back. But in order for that to happen, we'll have to deal with this in the spring, not in the fall. Now, I'm hoping that we can all agree on that point. Will the minister do that?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, it sounds as though the member is making a threat that we will debate this clause and the amendments to the Motor Vehicles Act until this side gives in and does what they want. That's not going to happen, Mr. Chair.
As I have said, this is enabling legislation. The regulations follow, and we will follow the same process that the previous administration did in dealing with amendments to the Motor Vehicles Act - enabling legislation first, a discussion with the Yukon Transportation Association and any other interested group on the specifics, and then the development of the regulations. That is what we will do, Mr. Chair, and if the members opposite are happy to deal with this clause in this amendment until Christmas and not get on to the budget, so be it, Mr. Chair.
Mr. McRobb: Well, Mr. Chair, I was hoping for more in the spirit of cooperation, and obviously we're not there yet.
Now, the minister raises again a few things she feels are points in this debate that have already been dealt with. I thought they were put to bed, but apparently not. One of them is that she feels the previous consultation process was adequate. Well, Mr. Chair, that took place two years ago, and I recall a bit of a flurry around it that resulted in a guarantee to the Yukon Transportation Association that they would be consulted first before the Yukon government introduced any legislation affecting it. I want to underscore that point. There was a solid, iron-clad commitment given to industry to consult first. Her departmental officials know that; maybe the minister doesn't.
To point to a process that took place prior to that commitment is a meritless argument. It's not worthy of further discussion.
Now, on the second point, the minister refers us to the regulations. Well, Mr. Chair, I thought we established the fact that we on this side won't have the opportunity to discuss regulations, the drafting thereof, on the floor of this Legislature. We have to deal with that now because, once this bill passes, it becomes law. It provides the framework in which regulations can be drafted.
For instance, this section 20, which broadens the powers of enforcement to all these other Yukon government officers on the open highway to pull over and ticket and seize and impound, Mr. Chair, is intrusive. It's a matter that concerns Yukoners.
To adopt this into law, ask yourself, Mr. Chair, what the regulations would look like. How would the regulations soften this, once this is in law? Would it somehow restrict the powers of those officers? Well, a lot of good that would do. This is clearly a matter that has to be dealt with in the bill, which is the overriding framework for any regulations. Once it's into law, it's a simple matter to draft regulations accordingly and change the regulations down the road.
We've seen it before on a number of laws and statutes, Mr. Chair. Though there are good intentions at the time the law is drafted, somehow down the road things change and there are regulations approved that have a different intent than at the time the governing bill was discussed in the Legislature.
Now, I would hope that the minister could agree to that. It seems like a fair proposition. I know, sitting in your chair previously, Mr. Chair, I heard discussions to that effect from representatives who are no longer here serving their constituents. Things change. Regulations change. The finger always gets pointed back to the bill. That's why we're pointing the finger at the bill now. Because if we sit down to come to a vote, this will become law. It will be too late; it will be too late.
There is too much wrong with this bill. Maybe the minister didn't have much time to review it when she got it. Maybe she thought like I originally did that these matters don't appear to be too serious or are just housekeeping things. After all, she can be forgiven, Mr. Chair. We all have a heavy workload. I'm sure the minister is no exception. And sometimes we don't have sufficient time to carefully review everything on our desk. That was the case when I looked at this bill. It wasn't until after initially speaking to it that I had the opportunity to take a second look at some of these clauses, do some homework and reference them in the act, take a closer look at the briefing notes we got during the departmental briefing, talk to my colleagues and discuss this with other Yukoners, that I discovered that there are problems with this bill.
And, that's what we're here to do - bring those concerns to the attention of the minister. Now, I think it's fair to say we've done that. I think it's fair to say that other Yukoners have done that. Whether or not these concerns are 100-percent valid, Mr. Chair, is not the issue. The issue here: is this a wise use of this Legislature's time, to continue debating this bill? This legal quagmire of detail, Mr. Chair, is extensive. There are several clauses here that require scrutiny and questioning.
Mr. Chair, if we in the opposition were comforted in knowing that Yukoners were satisfied with these amendments, we would stand down. That's reasonable, isn't it? That is not the case. We're hearing from all corners of the territory, from people in industry and other levels of government. We're hearing their concerns.
One of the biggest concerns we're hearing is that they don't know what this is about. Can't we just accept that as a legitimate concern? They don't know. Can't we just accept that and try to satisfy it? Mr. Chair, you know, under the principles of natural justice, it's a requirement for each party to be aware of the case made by the other side, and if not, that's grounds for appeal.
Mr. Chair, in the rules of public fairness, one could argue that it's the responsibility of government to makes its case known to those affected. That hasn't been done. We've established that. That hasn't been done.
Mr. Chair, I've made an appeal before. Let's try to let some cooler heads prevail. What I would like to do is give an opportunity to the leader of the third party, in his cooler mindset, Mr. Chair, to explore this bill. Hopefully we can all come to a common understanding that there's enough concern about it out there in the public that a process should be developed to allow Yukoners the opportunity to, number one, find out what's in the bill and, number two, provide their input. Thank you.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: So, let me just make sure I get what the Member for Kluane is saying. When he speaks about an act stating one thing and then the regulations being changed, he must be suggesting that was how the previous government did business, since this Liberal government has only recently come to power. If the NDP did it, it must be okay, but if the Liberals follow the same process, it's somehow flawed. Yes, that's what I thought I was hearing, Mr. Chair.
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Chair, I don't wish to raise the bar of heated debate. I think it's obvious that what I said isn't exclusive to the previous NDP government. It applies to any previous governments.
Now, I'm willing to pass the floor to the Member for Klondike, and I wish us all to heed my request to try to let some cooler heads prevail, accept the fact that there are concerns with this and that there's a need to initiate some process to the public to review this bill so we don't have to deal with it here, and so that when it does come back, it's a much easier matter to deal with.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: As I have said before several times, this is enabling legislation and the regulations will follow. The Yukon Transportation Association and others who are interested will be consulted, as they have been before and will be again.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, I'd like to get into the debate on An Act to Amend the Motor Vehicles Act by asking the minister to set the record straight. The minister went on at great length in her preamble yesterday, and she referred to me specifically, "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." At the same time, the Yukon Liberals issued a press release, and the press release was to the effect that that NDP and Yukon Party voted against tougher penalties for drunk drivers.
Well, that is patently false. Nothing could be further from the truth than what the Liberals are saying in this press release.
Chair: Mr. Jenkins, I would remind you, and I will ask you to rephrase that as it is impossible in this House to operate if you are accusing people of lying or falsehoods.
Mr. Jenkins: Thank you, Mr. Chair.
This Yukon Liberal caucus media release says, "NDP and Yukon parties vote against tougher penalties for drunk drivers". That is a false statement. We did not vote against that act because it imposed tougher penalties on drunk drivers. In fact, if the minister would go back to the Blues, she will see I supported those initiatives and supported the efforts in that regard. I was referring to a new double standard that the minister was looking at bringing into effect. And that was that an operator of a motor vehicle, under a learner's permit or a beginner's graduated licence, had to be accompanied by a licensed individual. That person had to have a zero blood-alcohol level and be drug free. That is a new initiative. I requested some background information as to why this was necessary and asked about a whole category encompassing school bus drivers who are in the same category. Because in my opinion - and I'm sure in the opinion of anyone in the transportation industry - the operator of a school bus should have zero alcohol in their blood stream and yet, according to the current legislation, they could go as high as .08.
That's a fact, Mr. Chair. Now, could the minister kindly confirm that the facts as I've stated them are actually correct?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: So, Mr. Chair, is the Member for Klondike suggesting a zero-tolerance policy for all drivers of motor vehicles - no alcohol at all?
Mr. Jenkins: Well, it's obvious the minister can read from script better than she can listen.
What I was comparing the category to was an operator of a school bus and suggesting that the same conditions should apply to an operator of a school bus as applies to a graduated driver that is in the beginning stages of obtaining his or her driver's licence. That's what I was referring to, because we're creating a whole new category in the Motor Vehicles Act with zero tolerance. The playing field is going to be two tiered. We're going to establish two guidelines.
I really don't have any quarrel with establishing two sets of guidelines with respect to drinking and driving. But this minister has not done her homework and looked across the broad spectrum of the Motor Vehicles Act to see if there are other categories that it might pertain to, and it might well pertain to the operators of school buses. Equally as well and importantly is that it pertains to the licenced driver accompanying an individual who is obtaining his or her graduated driver's licence.
All we've done, with these amendments that we have before us, Mr. Chair, is cherry-picked a few little areas. It becomes brutally evident that this hasn't gone out for consultation, because all we're addressing are the issues that are of importance, somewhere - somewhere, but it's not out in the public domain.
An equally important issue is the issue of legislation and regulation. If you look back in history, it was under a very famous Prime Minister of Canada - Liberal Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau - where the wheels started coming off the system and the legislation became enabling legislation. The regulations flowing from that legislation were expanded upon and enhanced considerably.
I do have some concerns with how much we allow to be determined by regulation. I believe, Mr. Chair, as do a lot of individuals, that more often than not, it's best if all the information comes out and we deal with as much as possible in legislation, because it's going to become carefully scrutinized before it's passed. The regulations that flow from that legislation are just going to be subject to a review out in the public domain, and they're constantly being altered and amended and adjusted to serve the needs of whom? Mr. Chair, it's usually not the public. In a lot of cases, the need being served is the bureaucracy.
And I do have some serious concerns with where we're heading in this regard. Because at the end of the day, given the majority and given the arrogance of the Liberal government in dealing with this piece of legislation, it will probably pass this House, Mr. Chair.
The regulations go out to a public review. And if you even look at the minister's letter to the president of the Yukon Transportation Association, the minister says in part that we may increase the powers of the enforcing officers but we'll consult with you prior to making this change - well, whoop-de-dingy-do, Mr. Chair. We will have this wonderful new set of legislation in place, and we'll go out and talk to you after we make any changes in the regulations. I don't think anyone here is naive enough to believe that this provides a measure of comfort.
You know, here we have a government that can't even acknowledge, accept, recognize and adhere to the terms and conditions of the umbrella final agreement with respect to consultation. And we're going to respect a letter that was drafted, I'm sure, for the minister's signature, after the officials in her department met with the individuals from the Yukon Transportation Association. It's all after the fact, Mr. Chair. There's not a measure of comfort there.
So, let's go back through these areas one by one. First of all, I'm asking the minister to correct the record with respect to the Liberal press release and with respect to the position of the opposition on this very important issue, because we are certainly not opposed to stiffer or more restraints placed on impaired drivers. In fact, I personally support them. And I tell the minister and the House that that is probably one of the biggest problems we have on the road today.
It's the habitual impaired driver. Even though due process has been accorded that individual, their licence has been suspended, insurance has been cancelled and vehicles have been impounded, that person still continues to drive. Let's do something about that, Mr. Chair. And it still brings me back to the issue of insurance, which the minister just blew away - like, other jurisdictions have looked at it, and there isn't anything we can do. That's pure bunk, Mr. Chair. There is something we can do, and other jurisdictions have done so. And they haven't done so by setting up their own insurance company. Yes, that has been one solution, but the last thing I want to advocate is another Moscow mutual up here in the Yukon. Moscow mutual - it's a government-run insurance corporation, like the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia. In fact, there might be some advocates for that, given the high dividends that they paid a number of their employees this last little while.
But, at the end of the day, the exercise is that people should be insured when they're operating a motor vehicle. Now, other than a law that says they have to be insured and other than that when you renew your tags you have to show proof of financial responsibility, there are no other safeguards accorded the general population to ensure that insurance for motor vehicles is maintained in place for the rank and file vehicles.
This is an area that demands attention, Mr. Chair, and the minister is totally ignoring it, has brushed it aside, and left it alone. Why?
Does she have the ability to address that area, or does she not see the importance of it? Which one is it?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I'm glad to hear that the Member for Klondike supports stiffer measures against impaired drivers on our highways. The truth of the matter is that he did vote against the amendments on second reading.
As far as the insurance aspect goes, we did have discussions with local insurance brokers and companies on the issue that the Member for Klondike raises. If such a system were legislated, they would comply. However, they would be concerned about the additional administrative burden it would place on them. The cost of this administrative burden may have to be passed along to policyholders, who are likely to object.
If notification of cancellation, lapsed policy or non-payment were required, these would have to be provided manually, since there is no computer link between the motor vehicle branch and their offices. Insurance companies do not believe that sending a notice will take uninsured drivers off the road. Insurance companies already send out notices to the policyholder indicating that the policy is no longer in effect for non-payment, lapse or cancellation, and this is not deterring those drivers who intentionally drive uninsured. Insurance representatives are also concerned about the inconvenience to their clients that could be caused when the client simply forgets to renew on time.
Mr. Chair, insurance companies have suggested that increasing the fine for driving without insurance may deter people from this activity. They stressed to us that the fine would have to be at least twice the cost of the average insurance premium in order to deter this activity.
Mr. Chair, I would be pleased to undertake further discussions with the insurance industry, prior to the next round of motor vehicle amendments, which will be forthcoming in a couple of years. But on their advice that it's not practical at this time, we chose not to pursue it at this time. We aren't closing the door on it in the future. The member does raise a good point.
Now, on the other matter he raised, there has been a great deal of consultation on the graduated driver's licence. That is where the zero alcohol for co-drivers comes from. And I do not believe that it is overregulation. I believe it is what Yukon people want. A majority of Yukon people - 80 percent of adults and 73 percent of youth - supported a zero-percent blood-alcohol content level for the co-driver during the graduated driver's licence consultation with Yukoners in 1999.
The response to the GDL questionnaire indicated that Yukoners did not want a co-driver with a blood-alcohol content level at .08 milligrams to be providing instructions and supervision to a new driver. In their responses, Yukoners did not want a co-driver to provide instruction and supervision to a new driver even with a blood-alcohol level of .04. Yukoners, both adults and youth, have clearly indicated that they wanted a zero blood-alcohol content for the co-driver.
The time has come for this change, and Yukoners have told us that they are ready for this change. The people most affected by this amendment have indicated strong support for it. A majority of people who may become co-drivers have indicated, in their support for this amendment, that they understand the need to be good role models for new drivers. That is one of the most important points: to be good role models for new drivers, to teach them by example that drinking and driving is not acceptable in this day and age. A majority of people who may become co-drivers have indicated that they understand that they have a responsibility to be drug- and alcohol-free when they are teaching someone to drive. These same people understand that drinking or using drugs interferes with their ability to supervise, teach, and take control of a vehicle if necessary. The co-driver is responsible for giving instructions to the learning driver and should not have those instructions or decisions clouded by alcohol or drugs.
Mr. Jenkins:Let's deal with the insurance issue first, Mr. Chair, and I'm not comfortable with the response that the minister has provided, that there's an administration burden. Well, everything has an administration burden, but the issue is that if you're on the highway you must have in place an insurance policy that provides for protection.
Can the minister tell the House how the current legislation does that? Because it doesn't, Mr. Chair. How does the current legislation do so? It insists that you must have public liability insurance in place to a limit, and if you don't, there's a fine. But there are no provisions there for which to monitor it or ensure that it is in place during the life of the licence plates tag, which is the one year. So how is the minister going to monitor this area? Because what we're talking about is the life, safety and protection of the driving public and, indeed, pedestrians alike. We're talking about a very broad cross-section of Yukoners who, from the way this legislation is currently worded, are not accorded any sort of protection.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, I do believe that the majority of Yukoners are law-abiding and do keep their insurance up to date. A small percentage does not, and, at the moment, there is a fine in place for driving without insurance. A fine of not less than $400 and not more than $2,000 on the first offence.
If Big Brother is watching you is what the member is after - I mean, I'm sure at some point we'll have a little chip embedded in our brains and everything we do will be monitored. We have consulted with the insurance industry, and, at this time, they see problems with going down the road the Member for Klondike would like to go. They see a fairly high cost to policyholders to pay for this increased administrative burden.
I have said that I will look at it for the next round of Motor Vehicles Act amendments, because I think there is some merit in what the member opposite is suggesting, but I do believe its time has not come in the Yukon.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, let's get a couple of statistics out here. Would the minister advise the House how many private licence plates are issued in the Yukon and how many plates are issued with operating authority?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: As of October 31, there were 22,584 active licences in the motor vehicles database.
Mr. Jenkins: How many operating authorities?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, I don't have that figure at the moment. I'd be happy to provide it to the member as soon as I do.
Mr. Jenkins: Is it readily available? Can we have it in the next few minutes? I wish to make a point on this, Mr. Chair.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, the person in the department who has the information readily available unfortunately is on a course for the next few days.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, let's set this aside until we can get the information, Mr. Chair.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, I'm sure the member can find some other questions to ask about the amendments to the Motor Vehicles Act while we're waiting for the other information.
Mr. Jenkins: I'm glad that the minister can see it in that light.
What I was driving at, Mr. Chair, is that about one-third of the vehicles have operating authority in the Yukon. So, we have one set of rules for approximately one-third of the motor vehicles registered in the Yukon and we have another set for the balance of two-thirds, with respect to insurance.
The minister's excuse for not implementing the same set of regulations across the board is that the administration costs would be too high. That's a pretty sick reason, Mr. Chair, given the lives that are at stake and given the potential exposure of Yukoners to vehicles not carrying insurance in the event of a motor vehicle accident. Now, why do we have one set of rules apply to insurance on motor vehicles that have an operating authority and another set for the other two-thirds? Why?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, I'm told that the ballpark figure - this is not exact - for vehicles with operating authority would be less than 500, and the commercial insurance filing model has its own set of limitations and difficulties for commercial carriers.
Mr. Jenkins: Perhaps the minister can expand on what the problem is, because I went to our insurance carrier, and I said I know you have to keep the motor vehicles board advised that I have insurance in place, how much more does it cost? We just copy them with a copy of the policy, and if it's cancelled, we just notify them accordingly. And then their operating plates are yanked right away.
Now, the system is already there. Yes, there are probably smaller administration costs, but why can't we accord Yukoners the protection that this kind of change would bring us, Mr. Chair? The minister's asking for authority for 17 more individuals to enforce the Motor Vehicles Act up and down the highway. She doesn't have any quarrel with asking the House for that legislative authority, Mr. Chair. And at the end of the day, what have we actually accomplished for Yukoners? Probably nothing more than that Big Brother is watching at a much more alarming degree than ever before.
But on the same hand, when it comes to a simple little paper transaction that will probably provide more of a likelihood that liability insurance is in place and remains in place on an operating motor vehicle on Yukon highways, the minister is mute on that point. She is going to look at it - she might bring it back in a couple of years. But she has spoken to a couple of insurance carriers and brokers and they told her that the administration costs would be too high. That shows us what kind of focus this minister has with respect to safety on our highways. It's all focused on the enforcement side, not on areas of the law, which would accord a better protection for Yukoners.
Why is the minister taking this tack? Because I'm sure this act can be taken back and that aspect could be incorporated in the act itself. It's currently not in the act with respect to operating authority; it's in the regulations. The minister won't even look at it. Bring it back in a couple of years. Is this the regard she has for the safety on our highways? It would appear to be so, Mr. Chair.
I think it was set off quite well by the minister who said that they will implant a chip and that chip - everyone could be kept track of by the government and we could see just exactly where they are. I understand that's how a lot of individuals became Liberals. They went through the same process. But I would hopefully submit that at the end of the day we could be concerned with safety on our highways.
Now, why is the minister showing no regard for safety with respect to insurance? Why can't she address this issue?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: One other point, Mr. Chair, is that 17 more people are not going to be running around the highways, enforcing the Motor Vehicles Act, as the Member for Klondike suggested. There will be no increase in staff.
Mr. Chair, we have consulted with the insurance industry, and they are telling us that the time is not yet right to make these changes. I do not believe that Yukoners are ready to pay double their insurance premiums for such a change. I have said that we will look at this in the next round of Motor Vehicles Act amendments, and we will indeed do that.
Mr. Jenkins: Could the minister table this review that has been done with the insurance underwriters? Because doubling the insurance fee appears to be completely out of line with the information that I have had from my broker. I have been told that all they do is send a copy of the policy out and the administration cost is minimal. We might be looking at another $15 or $20 for each piece of correspondence that goes to the government, and the minister is way, way off base if she's trying to suggest in this House that this kind of a procedure is going to double the cost of insurance. Far be it from the truth, Mr. Chair. It's in no way even close. There would be a small administration fee.
I'd ask the minister to check her information and table a copy of this review that has been conducted with the insurance people so that we can have a look at it, because I believe the information is not accurate whatsoever, Mr. Chair.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I'm sorry, Mr. Chair. I misspoke myself in my enthusiasm. It was the fine they were suggesting be doubled, but there would be an increased cost that would have to be passed along to policyholders. I did misspeak myself, and I do apologize.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Jenkins: Why can't we implement such a procedure under this government at this juncture? Why can't we do it now?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, I have outlined the reasons for the member. Following discussions with local insurance brokers and companies, they are concerned about the additional administrative burden it would place on them, and they would have to be providing notification of cancellation, lapsed policy or non-payment manually, since there is no computer link between the motor vehicle office and their offices. That is something we can be looking at, leading up to the next round of Motor Vehicles Act amendments. But, I'm sorry; I have no way to put a computer link in tomorrow.
The member is suggesting a positive change and I will be glad to work toward that change, but not at this time, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Jenkins: I haven't heard a very sound reason for "not at this time," Mr. Chair, and I'm very uncomfortable with what the minister is suggesting, that it's going to take a computer link. I'd suggest to the minister that for the greatest number of vehicles, the pink slip is issued by an insurance carrier or broker outside of the Yukon. In fact, I'm very much aware of three distributorships and three rental car fleets that are all covered by the same broker, and that broker is a resident of British Columbia. But this is a reality of life.
So probably the largest number of vehicles are in one pool - the insurance carriers in British Columbia - and it's not the Moscow mutual, the ICBC, Mr. Chair. It's a private carrier.
I would again urge the minister to come up with a much better excuse than "Not at this time; it's going to cost some administration fees". There has to be a way to bring this in. It's a positive step. It will alleviate, in my opinion, what is the second largest problem that's faced in the Yukon - motorists driving uninsured. The biggest one is impaired drivers and repeat impaired drivers. The second one is insurance.
Now, the minister appears to be reasonable in her approach to the first one, although she hasn't got a good handle on it yet, but with respect to insurance, she's not even in the ball field. She's out of the ballpark, Mr. Chair. Now, let's focus in. The ability is there. It's just to have a determination that we're going to proceed.
Why not afford Yukoners more protection than what they currently have with respect to insurance coverage? What's the downside on it? Just a few more dollars in administration costs, Mr. Chair.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, I agree that the member opposite is making some good suggestions, and we will work toward them. However, there is groundwork to do and it is not going to be accomplished by the end of this legislative session. That is why this is something we will look at for the next round of Motor Vehicles Act amendments.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, the model is already there - it's in-house, it's in government - with respect to operating authority. Why can't that be duplicated? The model is already there. Can the minister confirm that?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, as I've said, the commercial insurance filing model has its own set of limitations and difficulties for commercial carriers. Enforcement is easier, as these commercial vehicles holding operating authority are not required to regularly report to an inspector or weigh station where the validity of the plate would be checked and so forth. This model requires a commercial carrier to purchase a policy from the broker or company of choice, the policy that meets the legislative minimum set out for the type of cargo being transported. If it is purchased through a broker, the broker must request that the insurance company submit a filing, signed by a company official and bearing the stamp of the insurance company. The filing indicates to the Motor Transport Board that the insurance company will provide notification of cancellation or non-renewal of the policy to the board.
Once this notification from the insurance company is received by the Motor Transport Board, they can issue an operating authority to the carrier, but not until then.
This same type of system would not serve the general public very well. It would disadvantage private vehicle owners, some of whom continually shop for the best priced policy. Most commercial carriers do not change their insurance company as often as private vehicle owners do, so they are less likely to be inconvenienced by this type of system.
In addition to increased costs for insurance brokers and companies, there would be an increased cost for government and enforcement, should such a system be implemented. This could create a problem for some vehicle owners who shop around for the best price on their policy and cancel a policy with one company and, the same day, take out a policy with another company. If the motor vehicles branch were to issue a notice of cancellation of the licence plate upon receipt of the insurance cancellation, the notice would have to be withdrawn immediately upon receipt of the new policy filing from the new insurance company. This would likely result in confusion and administrative burden for all parties.
Mr. Chair, this is something that the department is looking at. It is something that we would prefer to get right, and we will look at it for the next round of amendments to the Motor Vehicles Act.
Mr. Jenkins: Is the minister saying that the way it is established for vehicles with operating authority is not right? Is that what the minister is saying?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, I'm saying that there are some problems with it, especially if its application were to be broadened to all vehicles.
Mr. Jenkins: And what would that problem be? We have 17 individuals who are running up and down the highway now. We can probably move them over into the administration side. I'm sure they'd welcome a nice office job.
But, Mr. Chair, here is the second most important issue with respect to the operation of motor vehicles on our highways. Let's make it abundantly clear at the onset. Driving is a privilege; it's not a right. And that right is accorded to you by the government. We, as legislators, must be very, very positive in how we set the terms of reference for the individual driving or operating that motor vehicle.
Now we have deemed it necessary and appropriate to deal with insurance on vehicles that must have an operating authority. We have the blueprint. We have it there, Mr. Chair.
To encompass the balance of the 20,000 motor vehicles, I must also refer to the current stats. It looks like there are going to be about 600 fewer motor vehicles registered here, according to the supplementary estimates on the revenue side. And that's just in the private sector. Heaven knows what the downturn is going to be on the commercial side.
Given that there is a blueprint, I haven't heard an adequate explanation from the minister as to why we cannot adapt that blueprint to the general vehicle population. We are talking about 20,000 vehicles - 20,000 vehicles. And it's getting fewer and fewer every day, because this Liberal government is driving the economy into the toilet. It's going into a full-blown recession and from that into a full-blown depression. There is very little hope.
The biggest sale of motor vehicles this last little while is to other jurisdictions - it's amazing. All of the commercial vehicles - the flatdecks and the Hiabs - are going to the Northwest Territories and Alberta and the oil patch in other areas. They're not here. All we have is some pipeline hype, full of Liberal gas.
Let's take some of that Liberal gas and direct it where it might do some good, and that's putting in place a procedure to ensure that motor vehicles operating on Yukon highways have, to the best of our ability, valid insurance in place. Now is this a big task? I don't really believe so, given that there is a blueprint from the commercial side.
Has the department analyzed what the additional costs of serving this administration would be? I mean, we can issue a licence plate for nigh on $35 a year. Sounds like another Bill C-68 gun control - it might be good for you, it might not, but you have to take it because it's the law. But let's look at the reality of the situation. Individuals operating a motor vehicle without valid insurance pose a very, very big threat and risk on our highways. Much more so than if they're running around with expired tags, and you're more apt to be apprehended with expired tags going up and down the highway than you are with expired insurance and valid tags. That's the reality.
I'm looking for solutions, Mr. Chair, not excuses, and all I'm getting from this minister is a whole series of excuses as to why we can't do it.
Now, let's look at a can-do approach and a can-do solution to this problem we have. Why can't the minister implement the same kind of procedure as we have for vehicles with operating authority?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, I have said to the Member for Klondike that we are working toward that. In this set of amendments, we are working on fines and impoundment, and in the next set of motor vehicle amendments we will, I think, get where the member wants to go. He's just a little anxious to get there before the work is done.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, they haven't consulted with the industry on any of these amendments. We've learned that, Mr. Chair. And it's going to be after the fact. We'll pass the legislation, and then after the legislation is in place and we're developing the regulations, we'll go out and consult with you. But by then, the horse is out of the barn; it's too late.
Government has the big hammer, the big stick, and says, "These are the regulations that we're looking at imposing. Do you have any problems with them? We have the legislative authority." It's after the fact.
Let's go back to this insurance issue. And this is a big, big issue, Mr. Chair, and the minister doesn't have an understanding of it. She doesn't recognize the importance of it and she doesn't recognize that it's within her power to address it and do something.
I want to know from the minister why she won't take the initiative at this juncture. I'm not looking for the excuse that we haven't consulted, because they hadn't consulted on any aspect of this piece of legislation we have before us until yesterday, Mr. Chair, when they met with the Yukon Motor Transport Board.
Mr. Chair, the answers are not very forthcoming from this minister. Let's do it once, and let's do it right. Why can't we take that approach, or is it the Liberal way to do it time and time and time again so they have something to do because they can't get it right the first time?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The Motor Vehicles Act was subject to extensive revision under the Yukon Party government. Obviously, they didn't get it right because the NDP brought in further amendments. Now we're bringing in further amendments. I like to think of it as a fine-tuning process. The member, I'm sure, tunes his van from time to time so it will run better, and that's what we're doing with these amendments to the Motor Vehicles Act.
We have consulted, as I have said, several times with the insurance industry on this very question, and we are moving in that direction, and I suspect we will get there in the next round of Motor Vehicles Act amendments, but there is still work to be done on that process. The insurance industry has indicated that they are not ready for it in the Yukon at this point.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, I don't believe that for one minute. I can't believe it, because the insurance industry has required in many, many areas to provide all sorts of endorsements, and I don't recall ever being invoiced for additional costs for these services.
I asked our carrier what additional costs were incurred with them notifying the Motor Transport Board that I have insurance in place on those vehicles that I have covered by operating authority. They said, "We just send out a copy of an endorsement that it's in place and it conforms to the applicable limits that they require. How much more? It's just a copy of your principal policy. We do it well ahead of time - not an issue." Okay. So I've taken that step and asked.
I guess where we get into a problem is when people shop around. The commercial sector shops around probably more than the private sector. I know we've changed brokers about three times over the last 10 years and it's price that drives it - it's price, Mr. Chair. The private sector is virtually in the same boat. But the private sector is more apt to stay with the same insurance provider than the commercial sector. So, let's discount that excuse.
That's experience that I've obtained in speaking with a number of individuals in this area.
Let's cut to the chase. What's the real reason why the minister doesn't want to get involved in ensuring that the life and safety of Yukoners on Yukon highways are protected by ensuring that liability insurance is in place on all motor vehicles operating on the highway? What's the real reason? Why doesn't she want to go there?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, I have indicated to the member opposite that these amendments are tightening up the penalty for driving without insurance. I have indicated that we are looking at taking a further step in the next round of motor vehicle amendments, because there is still work to do in that area. That is the reason, Mr. Chair. If the member chooses not to believe it, that is his prerogative, but that is the reason.
Mr. Jenkins: Let's back up a little step, Mr. Chair. Obviously, the requirement to have the insurance carriers provide proof of insurance directly with the Motor Transport Board was necessitated by something. Now, what was that something?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I'm sorry, Mr. Chair, that was a fairly convoluted question, and if the member could restate it, I might be able to give him an answer.
Mr. Jenkins: Yes, might be able to provide an answer, just like she might be able to provide an answer to all the other questions, Mr. Chair.
The question was quite specific. The requirement for those using operating authorities here in the Yukon to have their insurance carrier report directly to the Motor Transport Board and show proof of financial liability came about. What caused it? Why was this step necessary? Something made that step very important and critical. What was the problem that was addressed?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, that provision goes back a number of years, long before I was in government, long before the member opposite was in government. We'll have to do some research to find out what caused the change.
Mr. Jenkins: It's a recent amendment. It's about six, maybe seven years old, Mr. Chair. I could stand corrected on that, but it's a recent amendment to have the requirement put in place. Now, does the minister have any idea as to what precipitated the necessity for the board to request that the insurance carriers of all those with operating authorities must report directly to the board?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, from what the Member for Klondike is saying, it sounds as though it was his party that was in power at the time the change was made, so I'm sure he can enlighten us as to the reason for it.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, the reason is obvious. It's because commercial vehicles were being operated without adequate insurance or any insurance, and this requirement made it mandatory that they have insurance and that that insurance be reported directly to the board. It's a simple equation. In fact, I'm sure the review paper is still available if the minister wants to go back and review it as to what precipitated this requirement. And insurance carriers and insurance providers in the Yukon are well aware of this section if they deal in the commercial market.
And most of them do, Mr. Chair. So it's not a big leap forward. It's a safety issue, and this is one of the most important areas that we should be addressing.
Why isn't the minister aware of that area of her portfolio that she's responsible for? We can't even get a simple question answered on specifics of these amendments, let alone dealing with the act as it was before, as it is today and as it currently stands. But history is a tremendous teacher with respect to what the problems have been and how we got to where we are today.
There are benefits that have accrued to Yukon and to the transportation industry. Yes, there's a little bit more of a paper burden, but it's an area that should be addressed and this minister can do something with it. Why is she refusing to address it immediately, Mr. Chair?
Chair: The time being 4:30 p.m., do members wish to take a brief recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: I now call Committee of the Whole to order. We will continue in general debate of Bill No. 31, An Act to Amend the Motor Vehicles Act.
Hon. Ms. Buckway:The Member for Klondike has been asking about the insurance issue for some time - 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.
As I have been attempting to explain to the member, to implement this doesn't take the driver off the road. It just lets us know that a certain licence plate number isn't registered. The member doesn't want to wait until all the work is done on this. He wants to impose this on the industry right now, when they have clearly indicated that they're not ready for it yet. I would prefer to do the necessary work, and we will be doing further work on this. We will do a further analysis, and we will be glad to present the member with that analysis when it is complete.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, I asked the minister to table the analysis that her department has done to date. I believe she signalled that she would be doing so. Could she confirm that she will be tabling the analysis that has been undertaken within the department to date, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, at this point, the analysis that has been done to date is a series of notes. It's not in a formal form and is not ready for tabling.
Mr. Jenkins: So it is probably not the all-encompassing analysis on which we're basing the decision not to proceed. It's just a series of notes and probably opinions of a few department officials. It's not an all-encompassing analysis. Is that the case, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, the member is making an unwarranted assumption.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, perhaps the minister can correct the record and provide the actual extent - how far we went with this analysis that was undertaken within the department. How many different insurance agents or brokers were contacted? What was the extent of the conversations? What were the questions posed to them? Just how extensive a consultation was involved?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, we'd be happy to put those notes in formal form and present them to the member when they are completed.
Mr. Jenkins: Can I have some timelines for this undertaking?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Since I'm not sure when we will finish debating this in the House, it certainly won't be until after we're finished with the debate on these amendments.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, I was hoping we could have these notes - probably if they could table them tomorrow in the morning, Mr. Chair. I don't think it's an extensive request and we can deal with them in general debate tomorrow afternoon. Could I ask the minister to provide that undertaking?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, I believe that the amount of work required to pull those notes together is more than we could provide tomorrow afternoon. Since the person who has done the work on this is the departmental official who is with me, she obviously can't be in two places at once. We will undertake to pull that information together as soon as the debate on the amendments to the Motor Vehicles Act is finished.
Mr. Jenkins: What it appears to boil down to is that we have one departmental official who has compiled these notes. Is that the case, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, that is correct.
Mr. Jenkins: Perhaps we can have an insight as to what questions were actually posed to the insurance industry, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, I have said that we will pull these notes together into formal form and give them to the member. We will do that and he will find out the answer to his question at that point.
Mr. Jenkins: That's very unfair, Mr. Chair, seeing that we're on a very important debate. If we can't provide the information in a timely manner, perhaps we can just stand this bill aside until this information is forthcoming. There seem to be more and more requests for information that's not forthcoming and that we'll get after the fact.
We shouldn't be debating a bill when the minister doesn't have an understanding of it, let alone the opposition doesn't have a copy of the reviews on which the decisions were based. That's totally unfair and unreasonable - not a very reasonable request to be making, Mr. Chair. So, we can stand aside this act and move forward.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, we will undertake to provide this information to the member by the beginning of debate on Thursday afternoon. The member will have to understand that it will be not as polished as it would otherwise be, but we will undertake to do it quickly to satisfy his request for information.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, we can move into other areas, and I hope we can probably stand down this Motor Vehicles Act debate tomorrow, and then when we have some more information we can get back into debate on it.
I would like to go back to the issue of zero blood-alcohol level and not being impaired by any drugs. Now, I don't have a quarrel with it for the category that it's being implemented for. In fact, I believe it's a reasonable request and a good move, Mr. Chair. But we haven't looked at a lot of the other areas. An individual can still operate a school bus - legally operate a school bus - with a blood-alcohol level of .04, .05, .06. That's still legal.
Why haven't we looked at these other areas? We have the lives and safety of perhaps 60 or 70 school children on that bus and the resulting accident. At the same time, we're looking at imposing a new set of regulations and a new area of zero tolerance for those charged with riding along as a supervisor of someone who is working through their graduated licence, Mr. Chair. I just don't think that we've looked at the broad spectrum. I think the minister can agree with me. It might be hard for her to do so, but I think she can agree with me that there are probably other categories that this kind of zero tolerance should be applied to.
Now, if we're into the Motor Vehicles Act, why are we just cherry-picking this one area? Why can't we look at the totality of it and deal with the lives and safety of Yukoners in a responsible manner.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: This one area is the graduated driver's licensing provisions of the act, which underwent extensive consultation. As I have told the member previously, a majority of Yukon people supported a zero-percent blood-alcohol content level for co-drivers during the GDL consultation in 1999.
Certainly there may be other areas we should look at, but graduated driver's licensing is an area that is new to our act this time and we are looking at it at this point in these amendments.
The zero-percent blood-alcohol content law for co-drivers is not impractical or unenforceable. It's both worthwhile and logical that the co-driver maintains all of their mental and physical reactions and reflexes while teaching driving. As I have said, it is a matter of being a role model, as well.
Is the member opposite asking that we look at other areas in the next round of Motor Vehicles Act amendments? If so, that is certainly an area we could address. It is not in these amendments, nor is it going to be in these amendments that we are dealing with now, in the fall session of the year 2000.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, I might remind the minister that the minister is responsible for the totality of the Motor Vehicles Act and she has just cherry-picked a couple of little areas that have been brought to her attention. I have previously stated that I have no quarrel whatsoever with a co-driver or a trainer-driver riding along with an individual going through their graduated licence process, providing they have a zero blood-alcohol level. I have no problem with it whatsoever.
But I think that, in the total scheme of things, this minister is remiss in addressing her responsibility if she doesn't believe it equally important that the driver of a school bus must have the same zero blood-alcohol level.
Now, what's more important? A school bus driver can legally drive with a blood-alcohol level up to .08. It makes a farce of the law, doesn't it, Mr. Chair? Yet, a co-driver, accompanying an individual going through the graduated licence, has to have zero.
Can't we be consistent across the board and treat all Yukoners the same - in the same category? Or, is the minister saying that it's more important for the co-driver than it is for the school bus driver? That's exactly what she's saying, because this minister hasn't done her homework - hasn't looked at the implications and the totality of the implications of these new regulations. Instead, she's just focused in on a few areas.
She's not totally scripted, Mr. Chair. She doesn't have an understanding of it. I don't know if she didn't grasp the fundamentals of her briefing in this area or what the problem is, but the issue is a very important one - that all Yukoners in the same category be treated in the same manner. It's called equality before the law.
Or doesn't the minister believe in that aspect of it, either? Because what she's doing is differentiating. I'm looking for solutions, not excuses. Why weren't all of the areas dealing with this very important issue looked at, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, as the member opposite is well-aware, the graduated driver's licensing regulations are new in this act, and after extensive consultation with Yukoners, people said they wanted a zero-percent blood-alcohol content for the co-driver.
Now, it sounds, once again, like the member is suggesting that, if we're going to be equal across the board, nobody who climbs into a motor vehicle should have any level of alcohol in their blood. I'm sure that's not what the member is suggesting, but it certainly sounds like it.
These amendments are to deal with the graduated driver's licensing provisions of the act, which are new; that is why they are there. I have said that if the member wants us to look at broadening that to include school bus drivers, truck drivers, delivery truck drivers, van drivers or anybody behind the wheel of a vehicle, we can certainly consider doing that. However, if this is such an important issue, I do wonder why previous governments haven't leaped to make the change, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, it was a previous government that brought forward the graduated licence initiative, and now we're just dealing with a few amendments to it. So, obviously, the amendments we have before us are as a result of consultation, but when I look at them, Mr. Chair, it doesn't appear that the minister has done her homework and looked across the broad spectrum of the Yukon transportation industry and applied what she is suggesting be applied in the areas that are going to be applied. Does the minister not believe in equality before the law? That's the issue.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, of course I believe in equality before the law. Is the member suggesting that no Yukoner should drive a vehicle with any level of alcohol in their blood? I say again that that sounds like what he is suggesting.
Under the current Motor Vehicles Act, no driver may drive while their physical or mental ability to operate a vehicle is impaired by alcohol, drugs or other substance. Under section 232(1), the police can suspend the licence. In this graduated driver's licensing provision, consultation with Yukoners reveals that a majority of people who may become co-drivers have indicated that they understand the need to be good role models for new drivers.
I believe the member is having a hard time understanding that part of it, that a good role model is indeed important. If the member wishes us to look at banning drinking while driving, with any level of blood-alcohol impairment, I'm sure we could undertake to do that, if that is indeed what the member is suggesting, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Jenkins: What the minister is failing to recognize is that she is creating a double standard, two sets of rules. That begs the question: does she not believe in equality before the law? Because it's the minister herself, Mr. Chair, who is creating the double standard - two sets of rules, two sets of blood-alcohol level for operators of motor vehicles, two separate sets.
Now, whether we go to one extreme or the other, I don't have a quarrel, but I believe we should be consistent across the board with respect to the application of law.
What the minister is advocating that we're not all equal before the law and is going to make two sets of laws. That's the message that the minister is giving out, Mr. Chair. So, if the minister could kindly confirm that that is her intention, that all individuals are not equal before the law, that she's creating a double standard - just stand on her feet and say so, Mr. Chair.
Hon. Ms. Buckway:So, let me get this straight. Is the Member for Klondike disagreeing with the 80 percent of adults and the 73 percent of youth who, during the graduated driver's licensing consultation, supported a zero-percent blood-alcohol content level for the co-driver? Is he disagreeing with those people?
Mr. Jenkins: I remind the minister that I'm here to ask the questions and she's here to answer them. Seeing she can't answer them, she poses questions, Mr. Chair.
I would hope that she could answer the question, the question being: she has created a double standard here in the Yukon or she's attempting to create a double standard by creating two sets for blood-alcohol levels for operators of motor vehicles. That's the issue. She has created a double standard and all Yukoners are not equal before the law. Can she just stand on her feet and say that she's creating a two-tier system?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, I'm just striving to understand where the Member for Klondike is coming from. It sounds to me like he is disagreeing with the 80 percent of adults and 73 percent of youth who asked that co-drivers have a zero-percent blood-alcohol content. I'm just trying to understand if that is indeed what the member is saying.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, Mr. Chair, all the minister has to do is listen. If I were in a position to send her over a briefing note, she could read it into the House and I would get my answer. So perhaps for tomorrow I'll just send her over a briefing note and she can read it into the record, and we'll all have a firm understanding of what she said. She might not but the rest of us would, Mr. Chair.
The issue before us is that this minister is creating a double standard. Yukoners are not equal before the law. Could the minister just confirm that?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I am merely striving to understand what the member opposite is saying. Is he disagreeing with the majority of Yukoners who want co-drivers under the graduated driver's licensing provisions to have a zero blood-alcohol content? Does he believe it's okay to teach someone to drive when you've been drinking?
Mr. Jenkins: Once again I remind the minister, Mr. Chair, that I am here to ask the questions and she is here to answer the questions. And after the next election, she might be over here on this side of the House asking questions of the government of the day, but it's highly unlikely, given the performance that we have witnessed from this minister.
What I'm saying to the minister is can she confirm that all Yukoners are not equal before the law and that she is creating a double standard? Could she just confirm that for the House, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: After the next election, when I'm here, I'll miss the Member for Klondike.
I'm merely striving to understand where he's coming from. Is he saying that it is okay to teach someone to drive when the co-driver has been drinking? Is he saying that he disagrees with the majority of Yukoners who asked for a zero-percent blood-alcohol content level for the co-driver? Can he just tell me that?
Mr. Jenkins: Once again, Mr. Chair, I point out that the minister has failed to answer the question - failed miserably. The question I am posing to the minister is could she just confirm that all Yukoners are not equal before the law in her eyes and that she is creating a double standard? Just a simple yes or no.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: A majority of Yukon people asked for a zero-percent blood-alcohol content level for the co-driver during the consultation on the graduated licensing provisions of the Motor Vehicles Act. I am asking the member opposite - I am striving for understanding here - if he disagrees with that. Does he think it is all right to teach a person to drive when the co-driver has been drinking? I am just looking for understanding here on where he is going with this.
Mr. Jenkins: I guess understanding is something that the minister is going to have trouble with in a great many aspects of her portfolios, Mr. Chair, given the performance we've witnessed to date. The question to the minister, once again, is a very simple one: does the minister believe that all Yukoners are equal before the law, and why is she creating a double standard?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I am asking if the Member for Klondike is disagreeing with the majority of Yukon people who wanted co-drivers to be alcohol- and drug-free when they're teaching someone to drive?
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, it's time to get that trained parrot in here, because all I hear is a repeated, repeated and repeated answer, and we could probably save a lot of money if we hired one such bird and just allowed them to repeat and repeat and repeat. It would save a lot of money and a lot of time.
But I go back to the minister, Mr. Chair, and ask once again if the minister believes - now, we're talking to the Minister of Justice here - that all Yukoners are equal before the law. Yes or no? We'll simplify it even further.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, zero-percent blood-alcohol content for drivers is already established under the graduated driver's licensing regulations for drivers. The zero-percent blood-alcohol content for GDL drivers was supported by a majority of Yukoners during the GDL consultation. They asked for zero percent for the co-drivers. There is consistency within the GDL program.
I'm just looking for understanding from the member opposite. It sounds to me like he is disagreeing with this majority of people. It sounds to me like he is suggesting that it is perfectly all right to teach someone to drive when the co-driver has been drinking. I'm merely looking for confirmation that that's what he is thinking, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, all I'm looking for is a position from the Minister of Justice with respect to Yukoners. Does she believe that all Yukoners are equal before the law? A simple yes-or-no answer.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, under the graduated driver's licensing provisions, the driver is already required to be alcohol- and drug-free. A majority of Yukoners asked that the co-driver also be alcohol- and drug-free. I am asking if the member opposite disagrees with this - if he thinks that it is all right to teach someone to drive when you have been drinking.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, once again, I remind the minister that I'm here to ask the questions. The minister is here to respond or attempt to respond in an accurate, forthright manner. I'm just getting some bafflegab here - a repetitive form of bafflegab.
The question is a very specific, succinct question. I'm speaking to the Minister of Justice and I'm asking the Minister of Justice if she believes that all Yukoners are equal before the law - yes or no? It's a simple answer. It shouldn't take very long to answer that and then we can move forward.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, I have pointed out that there is consistency within the GDL program. Young drivers under GDL must have a zero-percent blood-alcohol content. A majority of Yukoners have asked that co-drivers, the people who are teaching those people to drive, must also have a zero-percent blood-alcohol content.
I am hearing from the Member for Klondike that he disagrees with this, and that he thinks it is okay to teach someone to drive when you have been drinking. I am merely trying to establish if that is indeed what the Member for Klondike is thinking, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Jenkins: It would be quite an experience to let the minister in on my thought process, Mr. Chair, so we don't want to go there.
I have a simple question for the minister. It requires a simple yes-or-no answer. Does the minister believe that all Yukoners are equal before the law - yes or no?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I have explained to the member opposite that the GDL program is consistent in its treatment of drivers and of co-drivers in the learning process. I am trying to understand where the Member for Klondike is coming from and if he believes that it is okay to teach someone to drive when you have been drinking and if he disagrees with the majority of Yukon people who asked for a zero-percent blood-alcohol content level for co-drivers. It's a very simple request, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, Mr. Chair, once again, a simple question to the Minister of Justice. Could the Minister of Justice say yes or no? That's all I'm looking for. Does the Minister of Justice believe that all Yukoners are equal before the law - yes or no?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: We are dealing with zero alcohol for co-drivers and I am merely trying to determine if the Member for Klondike is in opposition to the majority of Yukoners, who have clearly stated that they want a zero-percent blood-alcohol content level for co-drivers. I am merely trying to establish if he thinks that it is okay to teach someone to drive when you have been drinking.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, I didn't get an answer to my question. Once again, I point out for the record that the minister has failed to answer the question.
The question is a very simple question. Does the Minister of Justice believe that all Yukoners are equal before the law - yes or no?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I will point out for the member opposite that there is consistency within the graduated driver's licensing program with respect to drivers and co-drivers. Both must have a zero-percent blood-alcohol content level. Yukoners have asked for this, and I am merely trying to determine if the Member for Klondike disagrees with this and thinks that it is okay for someone to drink and teach someone to drive.
Mr. Jenkins: Once again for the record, the minister has failed to answer the question.
I pose the question once again and I urge her to answer it, Mr. Chair. Could the minister just answer with a simple yes or no? Does the minister believe that all Yukoners are equal before the law? Yes or no?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I am attempting to determine where the Member for Klondike is coming from. I am attempting to determine if he is disagreeing with the majority of Yukoners who have asked for zero-percent blood-alcohol content for co-drivers under the graduated driver's licensing program. I am asking if he thinks it is okay to drink and teach someone to drive.
Mr. Jenkins: For the record once again, the minister has failed to answer the question. For her to do so, I believe, is an abuse of her position here in the Legislature.
It's a very simple question that requires a simple yes-or-no answer. Does the Minister of Justice believe that all Yukoners are equal before the law? Yes or no?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I have pointed out that there is consistency within the graduated driver's licensing program. I am attempting to determine from the Member for Klondike if he is in opposition to the majority of Yukoners who have asked for a zero-percent blood-alcohol content level for co-drivers under the graduated driver's licensing program. I am attempting to determine if he agrees that it is all right to drink and teach someone to drive.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, this is getting to be almost like pulling hen's teeth. It's non-existent, and I would urge the minister to respect the rules of this Legislature and answer the question like she is charged with answering, Mr. Chair. It's a very simple question. Does the Minister of Justice believe that all Yukoners are equal before the law? A simple yes or no.
Hon. Ms. Buckway:I am looking for clarity from the member opposite to see if he is disagreeing with the majority of Yukoners who asked that co-drivers, under the graduated driver's licensing program, have a zero-percent blood-alcohol content level. I am looking for clarity on this issue to see if he believes that it's okay to teach someone to drive when you have been drinking? I point out that there is consistency within the graduated driver's licensing program, which is what this particular amendment is about.
Mr. Jenkins: I'll just point out, for the minister's benefit, that I'm here to ask the questions and she's here to answer the question. She has failed once again to answer a very, very specific question in general debate, and the question I will pose once again for the minister in the hopes that she might consider a response rather than wasting the time of this Legislature is this: does she not believe that all Yukoners are equal in the eyes of the law? Yes or no?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Once again, in the hope that the Member for Klondike will provide some clarity, I am seeking to understand whether he believes that the 80 percent of adults and 73 percent of youth who supported a zero-percent blood-alcohol content level for the co-driver during the GDL consultation are wrong. I am looking for clarity in whether he believes that it's okay to teach someone to drive when you have been drinking. If the member would cooperate, Mr. Chair, perhaps we could move forward.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, I point out to the minister that I'm here to ask the question. After the next election, I'll be answering the questions. The minister will be sitting there in her usual manner, asking questions. But let's move ahead.
The question is for the minister, which she's refusing to answer. I don't know if it's because she can't answer it or she doesn't have the ability or she doesn't have the briefing note before her, but this is getting to be very repetitive and unnecessary.
Would the minister confirm or deny that she believes all Yukoners are equal before the law? Simple question. As Minister of Justice, I would have thought she would have a very good understanding of it, but, obviously, Mr. Chair, that's not the case. The fundamentals of her portfolio are not understood by this minister. That's appalling.
Now, the Member for Watson Lake has a very nice, well-trained individual in his office that could probably fill in for the minister if she wants to take a 10-minute recess and answer the questions accordingly, but I don't know. The question is a very simple one: does the minister believe that all Yukoners are equal before the law - yes or no?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: A simple question of clarification: does the Member for Klondike believe that the majority of Yukon people who wanted a zero-percent blood-alcohol content level for co-drivers are wrong? Does he believe they're in error? Does he think it's okay to teach driving to someone when you have been drinking? That's the simple information that I've requested, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, I haven't made any reference to drinking and driving. I haven't made any reference in this question that I posed to the minister about the area that she's going on ad infinitum about.
My question is specifically to get on the record the minister's position with respect to her portfolio and this act. The question to the minister, once again, is very simple: does the minister believe that all Yukoners are equal before the law - yes or no? I can't seem to get an answer. If the minister doesn't know, perhaps we can take a brief recess and she can run upstairs to her office and get a briefing from her officials as to how she's supposed to answer that question.
It's her option. I can suggest that, Mr. Chair. It might help the minister and aid her in coming to an understanding of the portfolio she's responsible for. All I'm looking for is a simple yes-or-no answer. Does the minister believe that all Yukoners are equal before the law - yes or no?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, a simple matter of clarification. We are referring to the graduated driver's licensing provisions of the act, and the zero alcohol for co-drivers. I am merely looking for clarification on whether the Member for Klondike is disagreeing with all of those Yukoners who wanted co-drivers, under the graduated driver's licensing provisions, to have a zero-percent blood-alcohol content. I am merely looking for clarification on whether the Member for Klondike believes it is all right to teach someone to drive after one has been drinking.
Mr. Jenkins: Once again, for the record, the minister has failed to answer the question. The question is very specific. Can the minister confirm or deny her opinion with respect to the following question: does she believe that all Yukoners are equal before the law - yes or no?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I continue to seek clarification from the Member for Klondike on his position relative to the graduated driver's licensing consultation, where a majority of Yukon people want the co-driver to have a zero-percent blood-alcohol content. I am looking for clarification on his position about whether a person should be able to drink and teach someone else to drive. I point out again that the GDL program is consistent within itself.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, I can't seem to get an answer out of the minister. She is failing to respond. Let the record reflect that she has not answered the question that was posed to her. She has gone on from her scripted notes, read them time and time and time again. That is serving no purpose here in this Legislature, and I would urge you to ask the government House leader at the next caucus meeting to apprise the minister of the waste of time that she is imposing on this Assembly and urge her to answer the questions in a forthright manner. We'll change gears here. I'll bow out and let the Member for Kluane take over.
Mr. McRobb: Well, I hope I can get a little more of an answer to my questions.
I'm going to start off by asking for a bit more explanation. The minister claims that with these amendments, there are no new powers given to any officers. And I know there are some officers who have certain powers greater than others at this point. And I'm wondering if giving them increased powers outside of municipalities isn't, in effect, giving certain officers powers that they don't currently have. Could the minister shed some light on that area, please?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The answer to the member's question is no.
Mr. McRobb: I'm still not satisfied that this concern isn't valid, and I'm going to explore it a little bit more. Now, some officers currently have the authority to enforce sections of the act within a municipality. And some of the areas that they are empowered to enforce include a number of sections in the act.
I'll just read out some numbers: sections 109, 126, 127, 129, 174, 191, 205, 218 and 220. Those are only some officers. Some of the other officers have the authority under the act to enforce additional sections, 35, 49, 82, 101, 108, 123, 128, for example. So, is the minister saying that if they're not given any greater powers of authority, these officers, when they go on the road, will have different levels of enforcement ability? And that some officers, for example, can request certain things while others can't, so there will be - let's call it a two-tier level of enforcement on the highways?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: That's already the case, Mr. Chair.
Mr. McRobb: Well, it's not the case outside municipal boundaries, so I'm wondering how much thought has been given to levelling the playing field, if you will, Mr. Chair. That's been a recent phrase used by this Liberal government. How much thought has been given to making it easier for Yukoners, and truck drivers who may not be Yukoners, to understand which officers have what authority?
It seems confusing. If people have to realize which officers have reduced enforcement ability while others have greater enforcement ability, it's going to be quite complicated. What thought has been given to this?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, could I get the member opposite to repeat that? That's a bit convoluted.
Mr. McRobb: Well, that's the opinion of the minister, Mr. Chair.
The question is based on the fact that it's going to be confusing for people to figure out which of these officers have greater authority than other officers. There are two different levels of enforcement by these officers outside of municipalities. This is going to be created if this bill is going to become law and, subsequently, when regulations are drafted.
Now, has any thought been given to standardizing the powers these officers have, to make it less confusing to the motoring public?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Could the Member for Kluane give me a specific example of where the motoring public might become confused? Is there a specific example of something they might be doing that might cause them to wonder?
Mr. McRobb: Well, Mr. Chair, the Member for Lake Laberge is sounding quite confused. I spelled out all the different sections, and now she wants me to provide her with an example. I don't think this is that complicated.
The government is trying to create a double standard of enforcement officer on the Yukon highways.
The question is quite simple. What thought has been given to standardizing this to reduce it from two levels of officers down to one level, so they all have the same enforcement capability?
Now, she wants me to give her an example. Well, I'll try to, Mr. Chair. Let's pick a number here - let's pick section 123. An officer may require repair to be done to a vehicle. Some of these officers have this ability within municipal boundaries, as I understand it. Others do not. So, Mr. Chair, that would be an example.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, it's my understanding that all of the officers affected have that power now. There is no double standard, Mr. Chair.
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Chair, obviously there's confusion here. This just testifies to the fact that this bill, in all its complexities, is a little too much to be dealing with at this time, given the level of public concern. If we were comfortable in knowing that the public is okay with this bill, Mr. Chair, we would feel a lot more satisfied with these clauses. But we're getting a different response from the public, from industry and from other governments. They're requesting to be consulted on this, because they don't know what's in the bill. They're quite anxious about what they think might be in the bill and they want an opportunity to provide input.
This confusion testifies to that need, Mr. Chair. And earlier today and yesterday, I asked the minister if she would take this bill back and allow for some process. In the meantime, the Member for Klondike has asked several questions dealing with other clauses in this act. He has demonstrated several other areas of concern with this bill. Now, we can go at those areas, too, Mr. Chair, and spend more time, but I know the Member for Lake Laberge is very concerned about the cost of Hansard, and she and her colleagues should be quite concerned about the priorities of Yukoners. And collectively, all of us in here should be directing our focus more at resolving those problems instead of dealing with this level of detail in the Motor Vehicles Act.
This should have been cleared through public consultation and streamlined and brought back to us with some indication of public support, but the opposite has happened. This act was plunked on our laps with hardly any notice. There was no notification given to the public. They heard it themselves for the first time on the radio yesterday morning. There was no information provided to the public; the minister has admitted this. She said that there was no consultation at all given to the public. The response we're getting by members of the public is that they want to be consulted. They want to be consulted on this. Mr. Chair, that's the best way to deal with this act.
Instead, the minister insists on making us deal with it on the floor. We would prefer not to. I think it's only fair to Yukoners to allow them a chance to help shape future legislation that governs them in the territory, instead of just us here in this Legislature. Just participating in this upsets me because I feel that I am being forced to participate in a process that is very disrespectful of the public. And again, being part of this affects us all.
I think it is a fair request to allow some consultation. Earlier today I read a letter from the Village of Teslin; yesterday it was the Yukon Transportation Association. We are aware of other concerns out there. Who knows? There could be other letters arriving by now. It just seems that this is really a waste of time and it's insulting to Yukoners and it's insulting to us.
Now, there has been plenty of information going back and forth. How much of it valuable is, I guess, questionable. A lot of the answers we are getting are really not informative. A lot of the answers we are getting are questions back to us. This whole discussion around this bill got off on the wrong foot on Friday, when the minister fired a press release out her door, attacking us for the way we voted, attacking us with the Liberal spin that we voted against tougher penalties for drunk drivers.
We, on this side of the House, can assess this media release for what it is. It's garbage, Mr. Chair. It's not worth the paper it's written on. We know that. We're familiar with this sort of thing. We hear it every day. But for the minister to take such a position and try to antagonize the opposition - put a spin on it - when she knows it to be not true is a different matter altogether.
Now, we are willing to put that aside and to try and work more cooperatively by suggesting a better process, asking the minister to allow for some process, because there hasn't been any on this. There has been no process. That's why we're hearing from concerned Yukoners now. No process at all.
These amendments will have a significant effect on Yukon highways and how they're policed. Suddenly, we're going to have at least 17 officers on Yukon highways given special authorities to pull over vehicles and ticket vehicles on virtually any driving infraction there is.
They can impound vehicles. Mr. Chair, these are commercial vehicles. We have already discussed that. The minister doesn't have to go on and on, trying to confuse matters. We understand commercial vehicles, but there are hundreds of commercial vehicles in the territory - pickup trucks, big trucks, you name it. There are commercial vehicles from Alaska and elsewhere that use our highways.
These 17 officers - and this number could increase - will also be able to search and inspect vehicles. For virtually anything they find wrong, they can issue a ticket or call the tow truck - whatever they feel is necessary. Yet the minister says this clause and the others are only minor, and Yukoners don't need to know about them, because she says they are only housekeeping measures.
That's why they didn't talk to anybody. The minister says they didn't talk to the Yukon Government Employees Union about the added responsiblities for these workers, because she denies there was any added responsibility. Yet she refuses to accept the fact that they will have the added responsibility of policing highways outside municipal boundaries. It doesn't add up. Like many things about this, it doesn't add up.
These changes have the potential to add up to a number of problems. Essentially, it's more regulation. Some would argue that it's overregulation, unnecessary regulation. Some would argue that it's more government red tape.
Mr. Chair, these vehicles already are inspected at the weigh stations. Forcing them to submit to these other inspections is unnecessary duplication that will hinder businesses in the territory. This will result in greater cost to those businesses, and who pays, Mr. Chair? Who pays? It's the consumers.
As a matter of fact, Mr. Chair, you know what? Being somewhat familiar with the trucking industry, these changes could give the territory a bad reputation throughout the industry, one that deters certain operators from hauling freight to the territory, because there's a greater chance of being ticketed, there's a greater chance of being harassed, and there's a greater chance of having to pay fines and penalties and towing charges. Add them all up. It's a greater cost of doing business.
Mr. Chair, is this reasonable? Depending on the severity of the enforcement - whether an officer decides to enforce the law to the letter or use a great degree of discretion will depend on the impact of this bill. But, what if we have a situation where one of the officers - let's say a weigh scale operator, just as an example - is driving to work and a truck passes him to get a run at a hill. Maybe it's wintertime; maybe it's slippery; maybe the truck driver just goes five miles an hour over the speed limit to try to decrease the chances of spinning out on the hill. Anyone familiar with this realizes that that presents a hazard in itself. What if one of these operators decides to enforce his ability to the limit and starts ticketing drivers in these examples?
Is that what we want? Is that the priority of this minister, of this government? Is that why we're on day two - who knows how long it's going to take to review and pass this act through this Legislature? Is all of this really worth it? Does this reflect the priorities of Yukoners?
Well, I say not. We have a strong case built for that already. Does this bill reflect the views of Yukoners? Well, I say "no" again, because we have already established that it doesn't because Yukoners have not been consulted about it.
So what exactly does this bill do then? Why are we expending our resources in here on this bill? Well, Mr. Chair, that's a good question. The minister says she wants to make the highways safer and have tougher penalties for drunk drivers. Well, those are laudable objectives that we can support. But this bill has some clauses with meanings that are very unclear - such as this expanded enforcement clause - and that are not grounded in public opinion, but are grounded in the Liberal backroom only. The Liberals believe that enforcement should be expanded, not Yukoners. That has been established too.
So, Mr. Chair, there are about another 10 minutes left in this debate. We don't expect it will clear general debate today. Tomorrow is government motion day, which is bound to be another wasted day, Mr. Chair.
They want to talk about tax cuts and we all know how big a joke that is for this Liberal government. And then there's Thursday and then next week after that. So, we expect that there are two options. The government can take this back here on Thursday, which will be the fourth day we're dealing with this bill in second reading. We haven't really got anywhere. Or the government can show some leadership, let Yukoners know: (1) they're going to notify them about the changes this bill will bring; (2) they'll let them know they're interested in hearing what they have to say; (3) they'll set out a reasonable schedule for a consultation process to hear what Yukoners have to say; (4) they'll collect those suggestions and roll it up into a new bill to bring back to this Legislature.
Mr. Chair, I think that would be the more reasonable option because, once again, if we know there is support out there for this bill and that concerns are being mitigated or satisfied, then these clauses will become housekeeping clauses.
Essentially, the bill will be a rubber-stamped bill - one that has gone through the wringers of public process. There is no use or need to dissect it clause by clause. We, as opposition, won't be forced to do that, like we are being forced to do now, because we in the official opposition strongly support the need for public consultation. If we didn't believe in that, we would have voted for this thing yesterday. But because we believe in public consultation, we want to see public input considered.
Now, I know my time is just about up, Mr. Chair, and I kind of doubt that we are going to get any commitment from the minister on this. She will probably just get on her feet and give me an answer that is no more meaningful than the previous ones, and maybe throw a few insults my way. That's fine. Then I'll get up again, and we'll move progress, if you want to call it that. It might be progress in the mind of the minister, but not for other Yukoners. This whole process is shameful. It's not something I support, and it's not something anyone I know supports.
So, Mr. Chair, can the minister give us any comfort at all that she will initiate some process on this bill?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: In response to what the Member for Kluane has been saying, he has failed to explain to me, if there is a law at kilometre 1474 of the Alaska Highway, what the problem is with having the same law at kilometre 1600. This is a level-playing-field issue, Mr. Chair, for the protection of all Yukoners inside and outside municipalities. Safer highways are the goal. Compliance is the goal, and some regulation and enforcement is required in order to ultimately achieve compliance. The confusion about these amendments, Mr. Chair, is largely the result of the Member for Kluane failing to understand them.
This is the same member who has been telling everyone that there was mandatory drug testing in the graduated driver's licensing provisions, which is not the case, Mr. Chair.
We have explained at length that we are following, with these amendments, the same process that we have followed before with amendments to the Motor Vehicles Act - enabling legislation, then discussing with the Yukon Transportation Association the specifics, which lead to the development of the regulations. This is the same process that was followed by the previous administration. It was the way they did business, but obviously that was only okay with the NDP government. Now that it is a Liberal government, that process somehow isn't good enough.
Mr. Chair, the goal of these amendments is to have safer highways, safer places for Yukoners and visitors alike to travel. These are relatively simple amendments. It is the Member for Kluane who is furthering the confusion by passing on to everyone he speaks to how damaging he thinks these are going to be. Now, the Yukon Transportation Association, which met with my officials this morning, now seems satisfied that there is no problem and that things will proceed, as they have done before - enabling legislation, discussions with the YTA, and then, in conjunction with the YTA, the development of the regulations. There is no double standard here, Mr. Chair. Any powers that these enforcement officers have are the powers given to them by the previous administration, and it is Cabinet that has the power to make changes to what the enforcement officers can do.
As I have already said, I have committed to the Yukon Transportation Association to consult with them before making any changes, and that will happen as the previous administration has done before and as I'm sure will happen again. The Yukon Transportation Association seems happy to have Cabinet decide on these powers, in consultation with them. This is merely, as I have said, enabling legislation.
The Member for Kluane has said a number of other things over the course of the afternoon, implying that there will be an enforcement officer behind every highway sign, which is not the case. We have 17 people who already have these powers. The member is unable to give me an example of why this could be a problem and, as long as the members opposite want to keep asking questions about this, at a cost of $973 an hour - and it has been seven hours now, Mr. Chair - I will be happy to answer them.
Mr. Chair, the time being close to 6:00 p.m., I move that we report progress on Bill No. 31.
Chair: It has been moved by Ms. Buckway that I do now report progress on Bill No. 31, An Act to Amend the Motor Vehicles Act.
Motion agreed to
Hon. Ms. Buckway: 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. 31, An Act to Amend the Motor Vehicles Act, and directed me to report progress on it.
Speaker: You have heard the report of the Chair of the Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: I declare the report carried.
Ms. Tucker: Mr. Speaker, I move that the House do now adjourn.
Speaker: It has been moved by the government House leader that the House do now adjourn.
Motion agreed to
Speaker: This House now stands adjourned until 1:00 p.m. tomorrow.
The House adjourned at 5:59 p.m.
The following Sessional Papers were tabled November 21, 2000:
Public Service group insurance benefit plan statement of accounts for 1998-1999 and 1999-2000 policy years from Aon Consulting (dated September 2000)
Aishihik Lake property/Cabinet Commissioner on Energy (McRobb): information package relating to; comprised of Yukon NDP Caucus Press Release (dated August 29, 1997); CKRW news transcript (dated April 25, 1997); Whitehorse Star article (dated April 25, 1997)
Beringia Contract - final payment (dated November 21, 2000)
Conflict of Interest Commission (Yukon): correspondence regarding Beringia Interpretive Centre Gift Shop - letter (dated November 14, 2000) from Mr. McRobb, Member for Kluane, to Mr. McLarnon, Member for Whitehorse Centre; letter (dated November 15, 2000) from Mr. McLarnon, to Mr. Hughes, Conflicts Commissioner; letter (dated November 16, 2000) from Mr. Hughes, to Mr. McLarnon
Property Management Agency 1999/2000 Annual Report
Queen's Printer Agency 1999/2000 Annual Report
Fleet Vehicle Agency 1999/2000 Annual Report
Yukon Child Care Board 1999/2000 Annual Report
Yukon Health and Social Services Council 1998/1999 Annual Report
Motor Vehicles Act amendments: letter (dated November 21, 2000) to the President, Yukon Transportation Association from the Minister of Community and Transportation Services re consultation