Monday, April 23, 2001 - 1:00 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
We will proceed at this time with prayers.
Speaker: We will proceed at this time with the Order Paper.
In recognition of International Earth Day
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Today I rise to pay tribute to International Earth Day.
Earth Day has been a symbol of global environmental responsibility for over 31 years. First initiated in the United States, Earth Day has inspired millions of people to contribute efforts toward ending decades of environmental degradation and to repair the damage done to our earth, through voluntary efforts and through legislation.
Here in the Yukon we continue our efforts toward protecting our unique and vast environment. Yukoners are proud of their environment and reside here because of it. For First Nations, it is an integral part of their culture. For Yukoners, it is no coincidence that Earth Day appears and happens in the spring when swans and geese return and the Porcupine caribou herd begin their long migration back to the North Slope.
In doing its part to demonstrate citizens' responsibility to the environment, the Yukon Department of Renewable Resources will host the annual litter challenge held near Earth Day and now in its 10th year. This year's event is scheduled for Wednesday, April 25. All YTG departments, the City of Whitehorse, Environment Canada and the Crown corporations are invited to participate. This year, we welcome a new team from Yukon College. All teams are challenged to exceed last year's record of 800 bags of garbage. The event will close with a presentation of prizes and a lunchtime barbecue sponsored by the city, Mr. Speaker.
This year marks the third celebration of Biodiversity Awareness Month, and to honour this event, we continue our annual celebration of swans at Swan Haven Interpretative Centre at Marsh Lake. This year, Swan Haven celebrated Earth Day with a Southern Lakes birding bus trip, a whirlwind tour of the M'Clintock Bay, Mount White, Tagish, Carcross and Whitehorse area to view and learn more about our birds and wildlife. This year's recognition of Biodiversity Awareness Month is particularly special, as I have the honour of announcing two winners of the first annual biodiversity awareness award.
This award is given to individuals who have shown an outstanding contribution to Yukon biodiversity through education. This year, two awards are being presented to Mr. Bob Frisch and Mr. Helmut Grunberg. Bob is being awarded a posthumous lifetime achievement award for his work on the natural history of the Dempster Highway area. Bob touched the hearts and minds of many who now follow his footsteps. He is perhaps best known for his book, Birds of the Dempster Highway.
Helmut Grunberg is a very active member of the Yukon Bird Club and was a director of the Yukon Conservation Society for four years. While volunteering with the society, he initiated the nature appreciation series of guided walks. He is also the author of the book, Birds of Swan Lake.
Yukoners expect their government to be in the forefront in addressing issues that put the environment at risk. Steps that we are taking to implement the National Accord for the Protection of Species at Risk help to ensure that future generations will enjoy the full diversity of species that we have today.
We are reminded especially at this time that we have a special obligation to make sure that the environmental quality of our world either improves over time or, at a minimum, at least stays the same.
Over the past year, Yukoners have learned much from the events, such as the Climate Change Summit, where leading experts presented views on global warming. Here in the north we are reminded that our contribution toward scientific and traditional knowledge are needed to address the broader global climate change issues that affect all of us on this planet. Earth Day is a reminder to all Yukoners that we must continue to preserve our precious environment. I encourage all Yukoners to join millions of Canadians in celebrating the earth and participating in the many events associated with Earth Day.
Mr. Jenkins: I am also pleased to join with members in paying tribute to Earth Day as an opportunity to promote the awareness of environmental issues. Earth Day has been marked annually since 1970 and, while the actual day is celebrated each year on April 22, Earth Day has grown into Earth Week and even Earth Month, to accommodate the growing number of special events and projects held in honour of our Mother Earth. Earth Day has become the largest organized environmental event in human history, aiming to bring together everyone to promote a healthy environment and a peaceful, just, sustainable world.
For the 31st anniversary of International Earth Day, millions of Canadians will be joining over 500 million people in over 164 countries in a wide variety of projects, activities and events ranging from tree and native garden planting, festivals, cultural events, concerts, workshops and seminars to waste- reduction projects and the launching of proactive environmental programs.
The emphasis is on solutions. Together, I believe we can make a difference, and I am pleased to support this global event as an opportunity for positive actions and results for the betterment of our Mother Earth.
Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. McRobb: I'm pleased to see that the members from the other parties have risen today to recognize Earth Day and follow our lead from last Thursday, Mr. Speaker.
As we all know, Earth Day was yesterday, and many Yukoners were able to get outside, enjoy the outdoors and the beautiful weather, and celebrate many aspects of Earth Day. I think it's all something we can be proud of.
Tribute to Hubert Croteau, CEO of Midnight Sun Plant Food
Mr. McLachlan: I rise today to pay tribute to the CEO of Midnight Sun Plant Food in Faro, Mr. Hubert Jay Croteau, an individual whom the side opposite is not totally unfamiliar with from their days in government.
Herbie, as he is more affectionately known around the Yukon, took an idea that was discovered by accident in the nurturing of some houseplants, and turned it into a viable business of manufacturing and distributing an organic and chemical-free plant food business.
Last Tuesday, April 17, the Member for Riverside, the territory's MP and I participated in the official opening of the manufacturing plant at Faro. A large turnout of local residents, the local air cadet squadron, the RCMP in red serge and the reception hosted by the municipality, all attested to the high regard in which this individual is held in the community.
He has persevered in spite of all obstacles - lack of initial markets, low cash flow, transportation problems to market and the usual banter of fertilizer jokes - to develop the business to the point where national distribution chains are sitting up and taking notice. In Canada, these include, but are not limited to, Canadian Tire, Tru Value, TSE stores and Home Hardware. Within the next year, potential deals are in hand with Wal-Mart, Home Depot, and Fred Meyer stores in the U.S. Internationally, he is talking to a user-distributor in Beijing, which has the potential to be the largest target market of any of the current customers.
He is the epitome of everything this government stands for in the development of private industry. When he realized that one job in open-pit mining was fading away, he turned to another line of endeavour. He just didn't leave the territory. He stuck with the idea, when there was often little or no support. He has developed a product locally, within the territory, employed local people and used local resources to get the product to market.
Even more important, he has put the territory on the map in the development of an export business that sells out of this territory, and at some point in time, may very well sell outside of Canada.
Herbie, we congratulate you and wish you every success in further development of the business. Well done, indeed.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS
Mr. Jenkins: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. I'd ask all members of the Legislature to join with me in welcoming Janet Webster to the House. She has been sitting through a lot of the debate on Health and Social Services, and she's currently spearheading a drive - a petition that is shortly to be tabled in this Legislature - speaking out for children to support a public inquiry into family and child activities in the Department of Health and Social Services.
Speaker: Are there any returns or documents for tabling?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Yes, Mr. Speaker. I have for tabling a legislative return. On April 12, 2001, according to Hansard, page 1723, the MLA for Watson Lake asked an oral question with respect to the Kaska memorandum of understanding, and I have the response in this legislative return.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Speaker, I have for tabling the Yukon Judicial Compensation Commission report and recommendations, December 1998.
Speaker: Are there any reports of committees?
Are there any petitions?
Are there any bills to be introduced?
Are there any notices of motion?
NOTICES OF MOTION
Mr. Fentie: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that:
(1) the Yukon Liberal Government has needlessly delayed the conduct of public business during the current legislative sitting by refusing to be open and forthcoming in response to legitimate questions from the Opposition;
(2) the introduction of several substantive amendments to legislation, contrary to the spirit and the letter of the all-party agreement on legislative sittings, has further hampered the Opposition in its legitimate role of holding the Government accountable for its spending priorities in the biggest budget ever tabled in Yukon history;
(3) by its actions, the Liberal Government has indicated that it considers the all-party agreement to be null and void; and
(4) it is not in the best interest of the Yukon public to allow the Government's budget to pass without a thorough examination of its implications; and
THAT it is the opinion of this House that the current sitting of the Yukon Legislative Assembly should be extended beyond the 35-day limit called for in the all-party Memorandum of Understanding and should continue sitting until such time as all the business before the House has been given thorough scrutiny and can come to a vote of the Members.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: Are there any further notices of motion?
Are there any statements by ministers?
Speaker: Order please. Before proceeding further the Chair will provide a ruling on the matter arising from the actions of the Member for Klondike during Question Period on April 19, 2001.
The Chair wishes members to recognize that this most serious matter is not something that has occurred without background. It is the culmination of an ever-increasing and escalating disregard for order and decorum in this House.
Let all members understand that the very requirement that this ruling be given obliges every member to reflect on what has led up to it. Let every member also understand their personal responsibility to learn from this experience and to consider how they may contribute, on a regular basis, to greater civility in this Assembly.
The central issue at hand today has to do with an e-mail communication that the Member for Klondike read to the House and attempted to table in print format. Following Question Period, the Chair informed the House that the Chair intended to review the matter and that the Chair directed the table officers to delay entering the document into the records of the House pending this ruling.
The Member for Klondike, in the introductory comments to his question, remarked that "the Premier has established the practice of tabling personal correspondence in the House." This statement was in reference to an action taken by the Premier on the previous sitting day, April 18, 2001. During Question Period, the Premier read to the House a portion of a letter written by a private citizen. The Premier, at that time, provided the letter to the House as a filed document.
The Chair has reviewed the proceedings of April 18 and studied those proceedings in the context of the direction found in various parliamentary authorities. In House of Commons Procedure and Practice, it is stated at page 517: "Generally, the reading of articles from newspapers, books or other documents by a member during debate has become an accepted practice and is not ruled out of order provided that such quotations do not reflect on past proceedings in the House, do not refer to or comment on or deny anything said by a member, or use language which would be out of order if spoken by a Member."
The letter filed by the Premier did contain, as was made clear by the Premier, reference to and commentary on statements made in the House by the Member for Klondike.
The concern that this raises is that quotations from private correspondence are not to be used in a manner in which unelected private citizens can enter into debate on the floor of this Assembly. This restriction has been in place for a very long time. As far back as 1877, a Speaker of the House of Commons, quoted on page 108 of W.F. Dawson's Procedure in the House of Commons, stated:
"I cannot imagine anything so improper as that any gentleman, no matter how eminent (who is not a Member of the House), should be allowed to take his place in the House by having his opinions or his comments introduced upon what an honourable gentleman might say in his place in the House."
The Chair feels, on reflection, that the events that took place on April 18 should have received attention. That could have been done either through the Chair's intervention or by a member raising a point of order.
The conclusion reached by the Member for Klondike that an oversight on April 18 created what he called a "practice" leading to members being able to read any kind of private correspondence to the House is unfortunate. It does not, however, lead to a justification for his actions of April 19.
The Chair notes that the Member for Klondike did not identify the person who was the author of the e-mail he read to the House. As the Chair informed the House, the document forwarded to the table by the member was from an anonymous source.
It is stated on pages 517 and 518 of House of Commons Procedure and Practice that: "Members may not . . . quote from correspondence when there is no way of ensuring the authenticity of the signature. They may quote from private correspondence as long as they identify the sender by name or take full responsibility for its contents."
The Member for Klondike, then, has two choices: he may either inform the House of the name of the person who wrote the e-mail communication that he quoted from, or he must take full responsibility for its contents.
The difficulty, of course, with either option is that the unparliamentary language and the extremely serious allegations contained in the communication have been made known and widely circulated through a variety of media. This includes the Assembly's Blues, which are published both in print and on the Assembly's Web site, the television and radio broadcasts of the proceedings of this House, and newspaper and radio reports. Even were the House to order the offending remarks expunged from Hansard - a drastic and, for this House, unprecedented action - it would accomplish little to alleviate the harm already done.
The freedom to speak freely in this House is the most important of all the privileges of members. It is a right that this Assembly and other parliamentary institutions have diligently guarded because it is essential to members being able to represent and speak on behalf of their constituents to the fullest degree without fear of reprisal. However, it is a humbling right that carries with it the absolute requirement that it be exercised in a careful, responsible manner because its abuse can bring great harm to others and to the reputation of this institution and all its members. The Member for Klondike must understand that, in doing what he has done, he has lost sight of his obligations and failed to meet a standard of behaviour that can rightly be expected of members of this Assembly.
What can be done now?
First and foremost, the Chair must, on behalf of the House, require the Member for Klondike to withdraw the offensive language that he uttered.
The Chair will also call upon the Member for Klondike to name the author of the e-mail.
Whether or not the Member for Klondike names the person, he will possess some level of responsibility for what has taken place. If he does not, the result will be that the words will be considered to be his own. If he does, he still has to take the responsibility for having uttered the words in this House. As is stated on page 387 of Erskine May (22nd edition): "A Member is not allowed to use unparliamentary words by the device of putting them in somebody else's mouth."
The Member for Klondike must be aware that this matter may not end here. The House is capable of taking such action as it may choose including censuring the member or referring the matter to a committee for consideration.
If referred to a committee, the issue that would be under consideration would be that of the production of the e-mail communication to the House; no member should be under any illusion that a committee would be passing judgement on the allegations contained in it.
If the Member for Klondike wishes an investigation of the allegations found in the communication, he has his own options, including private ones, for action. If he chooses to pursue the matter in this House, he must propose a motion containing the charges he is prepared to make and his proposals for dealing with those charges.
In a moment, the Chair will recognize the Member for Klondike solely for the following three purposes:
(1) The Chair calls upon the member to withdraw completely and unequivocally the offensive language that he used in the House last Thursday;
(2) The Chair calls upon the member to inform the House now of the name of the person who is the author of the e-mail communication that the Member for Klondike read to the House on April 19, 2001. As has been stated, if the Member for Klondike is unable to provide that information, he will take full responsibility in this House for the contents of that communication. Also, as has been stated, even if he does provide the name, he continues to be responsible for having spoken the words of that communication in this House;
(3) The Chair will also allow the Member for Klondike to speak but only for the purpose of offering an apology.
Further, the Chair directs that the document the Member for Klondike attempted to table on April 19 not be entered in the working papers of the Assembly at this time. The Chair further directs that the Clerk maintain it in a secure place and place it in the working papers or make it available only upon receiving future instruction to do so from the House or the Chair.
The Chair now recognizes the Member for Klondike.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, given the extensiveness of your ruling here today, I ask that I be allowed the opportunity to reflect upon your ruling overnight and provide a response to the House tomorrow, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: The Chair must insist upon an immediate withdrawal - an unequivocal withdrawal - from the Member for Klondike. This is not a debatable point.
Withdrawal of remarks
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, with respect to the withdrawal of the remarks made, I hereby withdraw them.
Speaker: The Chair accepts that the Member for Klondike has withdrawn the offending remarks. The House will now proceed with Question Period.
Question re: Children and youth in care
Mr. Keenan: Mr. Speaker, today I have a question for the Acting Minister of Health and Social Services - it will be the Minister of Tourism by indication.
Now, we know that over the last couple of weeks, a number of concerns have been expressed by both the staff and clients over the government's treatment of children, in particular in this case, children in care and in group homes. Since then, we have had many reports from both staff and children in care about being intimidated by officials in the department. This is a very serious charge - intimidation.
Will the minister provide assurance that those people who have expressed legitimate concerns will not be intimidated or penalized by this Department of Health and Social Services?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Health and Social Services has stated on a number of occasions that there will be an inquiry - and a constant inquiry - and a study for improving our residential services. Part of that is making sure that we get good input from the staff at the group homes - the people who use the group homes and the people who are working with those group homes in our communities.
It's extremely important that people not feel intimidated and that they want to bring forward information that's beneficial to that end. So, I can certainly assure the member opposite that we will try very, very hard to make sure that people are not intimidated in that process.
Mr. Keenan: Mr. Speaker, I'd like to clarify that it is happening; it has been happening over the weekend; it happened late last week. It happened early last week. I appreciate the acting minister's choice of words of "inquiry", that the minister is going to be putting forth an inquiry, because that's something we've been asking for for months, but I don't think that's what the minister's really talking about.
This government has a record. This minister has told individuals and groups not to go public with their concerns. NGOs are afraid that criticizing this minister or department will jeopardize their funding, Mr. Speaker. Health and Social Services staff are afraid that expressing their concerns may cost them their jobs. Children in care are afraid that expressing their concerns will result in intimidation and in punishment.
So I'd like to ask the minister again: what is this minister doing to ensure that Yukon people are free from intimidation by the minister and the department? What is actually happening?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, this is a democracy, and it's a democracy in which representatives of all Yukon people speak freely in this Legislature, and those concerns are brought forward, and responsibly, by the members opposite as well as the people on this side of the government.
So where do we go from here? What we do now is what we said we were going to do. We said that we were going to be doing ongoing research and improving our residential services, and we will continue that process. Mr. Speaker, the comments from the members opposite are not beneficial to doing a good process and to doing a good representation of those things that are happening. To constantly say that people are being intimidated, that this side of the House doesn't care about children and the quality services that we would like to offer them is not beneficial to that process in the least. I understand that the members opposite have to make allegations, but it's really important that we work together to make sure that we come up with the best services possible for these youth who are in our care.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Keenan: Mr. Speaker, the minister speaks of democracy. Maybe we should sit down and have about a 10-hour conversation about democracy and how it could work, but I think that one of the first underlying principles of democracy is that it shall be free of intimidation. There are people who are in these situations - some are there by choice because of a job, others are there because they are forced to be put into that. So it's very interesting that the acting minister would stand up and say that I am not working to be of benefit to the government. I am bringing forth and making this government aware of some situations, and every time I bring them forth, I'm told that it's not beneficial, that it's not democratic, that you don't listen to me, that I'm making things up. Well, it has to stop.
We haven't had one adequate response from the department staff breaching confidentiality to harass people. The Member for Watson Lake brought forth instances last week that that has been happening. The minister has refused -
Speaker: Order please. Would the member please get to the question.
Mr. Keenan: Absolutely, Mr. Speaker, because it's very frustrating and I appreciate the break.
There's no public inquiry happening here, and people are hiding behind excuses about micromanagement.
I'd like to ask now, Mr. Speaker, if this minister will stand on her feet and make a commitment for democracy in the Yukon Territory, to hold a public inquiry. Will this minister do that on behalf of the democracy of the people of the Yukon?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, I'm sorry if the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes feels that I don't believe that he brings forward good issues on the floor of this Legislature, because I truly do. I was the Health critic in opposition. I brought forward these issues when I was in opposition, and at that time, the same issues that the member is talking about now were very much in evidence. I had people who had meetings with me in dark rooms and in back alleys. It was constant and it was not pleasant to have to be in a situation where I couldn't bring forward those concerns on the floor of the Legislature because I was afraid that somehow there would be repercussions from that.
Now, the member opposite is saying that that's still the case, and we have said that we want to improve our residential services. So what we are doing is having an ongoing study on improving our residential services for youth. That is what we are doing.
Mr. Speaker, we are doing the best job we can and it's extremely important to this side of the House that we offer the very best services for the youth of the Yukon.
Question re: Deputy Minister of Tourism, racist remarks
Mr. Fairclough: I have a question for the Minister of Tourism on a very sensitive and disturbing matter. Last week at the Tourism Industry Association convention in Haines Junction, the Deputy Minister of Tourism made some remarks that were racist in nature and completely out of line for a senior official of this government. We understand that the minister herself was present when these comments were made. Can the minister tell us what she did at that time to make her deputy aware that this behaviour was unacceptable?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, I have for tabling an apology to the president of TIA from that deputy minister and I would like to give that now to the pages and we will have that given to the side opposite.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Fairclough: The minister didn't answer the question. I asked her what she did at that time to make sure that her deputy minister was aware of this behaviour. The minister can't just dismiss this matter with an apology. This was one of the highest ranking officials in government, making racist comments in a public forum. We have human rights legislation in the territory that specifically outlines discrimination on the basis of race. The Yukon government has spent millions of dollars providing members of the public service with training in cultural awareness. Now, will the minister personally contact members of the ethnic community that her deputy minister offended with his comments and make it clear to them that this Liberal government does not condone such behaviour? Will she do that?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, by tabling the apology to the Tourism Industry Association, I have been very, very clear about where this government stands. We do not tolerate that kind of activity. That's why the apology was made. That was the action that I took as the minister. He is my deputy minister. And to be absolutely clear, that type of activity is not acceptable. That's why the apology was tabled. It's now a public document, available to anybody in the public.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, Mr. Speaker, I was hoping that the minister would be making such an apology to the people who were offended by those remarks and not just to an association.
Now, deputy ministers are directly accountable to the Premier. I would like to address my final supplementary to her. Will the Premier remind all her deputy ministers that her government will not tolerate racist actions or comments and that they could face serious consequences for engaging in this type of behaviour. Will the Premier do that?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, the consequence to those somewhat intemperate comments was a public apology, which is now a public document, available to any Yukoner. That is what this side of the House has done.
Question re: Transboundary claims
Mr. Jenkins: I have a question today for the Premier.
Now, First Nation residents in British Columbia represented by the Kaska Nation are claiming 1,000 square miles of land in southeast Yukon. The Tetlit Gwich'in of the Northwest Territories already own 600 square miles of Yukon land in northeast Yukon. The Government of the Northwest Territories has jurisdiction over Yukon waters in the Beaufort Sea, and the federal Liberal government isn't prepared to grant Yukoners ownership of Yukon land and resources. All they will give us is the environmental liability for managing these resources. Can the Premier see what is wrong with this picture?
My question to the Premier: when is she going to stand up to the federal Liberals in Ottawa and say enough is enough? When is she going to stand up and fight for the rights of Yukoners and do what is right for Yukon, rather than what the Yukon Liberal Party wants?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, it's hard to tell from the member's preamble if he wants me to negotiate land claims on the floor of the House, have a discussion about the offshore boundary or repeat for the member the litany of work that this government has been doing with the federal government and other governments, including First Nation governments since we have been in office in the last year. Given that it was a choice between door number one, two, or three, I'll take three and advise the member what we have been doing. We have successfully worked with the federal government over the last year to right an old issue and gain for the Yukon an additional $42 million in formula financing. We have successfully worked with First Nation governments in holding a second land sale in the territory. We have worked with other levels of government and with other non-government organizations in any of a number of successful ways.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Jenkins: I guess the Premier's response is when she can't answer a question she just goes on to another topic.
Now, all previous Yukon governments were prepared to go to bat for Yukoners over transboundary land claims. When another thousand square miles of Yukon land is now up for grabs by non-residents, can the Premier explain why she said this land grab is not up for public discussion? Why aren't Yukoners entitled to know about this Liberal sellout?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, first and foremost, I have said to the member opposite, and explained very clearly, that once the abeyance agreement had been achieved between Canada and the Kaska, in both my meetings with the Kaska and Minister Nault's meeting with the Kaska, we agreed, as three parties, that the first step was for negotiating parties to get back to the table and discuss the substantive issues. That's what we're doing. It's a fundamental principle of negotiating that one does not discuss the points of one's negotiating platform, if you will, in the public. Mr. Speaker, the member opposite and I were both on the opposite side of the House when we had the former Minister of Education stand up and publicly announce what the government was paying for a piece of land. It then becomes not a negotiation but the set price. The member opposite doesn't seem to understand that this is a negotiation, that that's what we have fundamentally committed to do - negotiate and settle outstanding land claims - and that's what we're going to do.
Mr. Jenkins: Major wars have been fought over a lot less land than what we have on the table here today. Yukon is just a big piece of pie with the Liberal Fat Alberts crunching away at it, kneading it away. All we're left with is a small, small section of Yukon and pick up the crumbs at the end of it.
Mr. Speaker, how can the Premier still call herself a Yukoner when she has allowed this to happen?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite is spending too much time playing video games. Perhaps he should take the opportunity and re-read the umbrella final agreement to really, clearly understand the land claims process and to understand the fact that we have spent almost 30 years in negotiations, that we have six land claims left to settle, and that we're working very, very hard in that area. We're already starting to see some success by signing the Ta'an agreement and initialling it off. That's very important.
We are continuing our work and we are looking forward to getting back to negotiating and to being at the negotiating table with the Kaska. We are working to that end. I'm glad, once again, that the member seems to state his opposition, not only to our work but to moving the Yukon forward by settling these land claims.
Question re: Arts branch, relocation to Tourism
Mr. McRobb: I have a question for the Minister of Tourism.
Last week the minister dropped a bombshell on the arts community of the Yukon by essentially eliminating the arts branch as a stand-alone unit within her department. She did this at a time when the ministerial advisory council called for in the Arts Centre Act was in limbo, and she did it without any real discussion with the arts community. Mr. Speaker, this example perfectly demonstrates how exclusionary and self-fulfilling this Liberal government's brand of consultation really is.
Can the minister tell this House exactly whom she consulted with in the weeks between the business summit and last week's decision to reorganize her department?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Let's go back to some of the earlier comments from the member opposite. First of all, there is an arts branch. There was an arts branch last week. There will be an arts branch next week. There is a separate budget for the arts branch and that will continue. Now, the next point the member said is that apparently the Arts Council is in limbo. That is totally incorrect. Those facts are absolutely incorrect. When we passed the Arts Act legislation in the fall sitting, we said that YRAC funds will come out of the sport and recreation branch and they will move to the Department of Tourism. What we had to do was change the order-in-council so that we would unappoint them from C&TS and reappoint them into Tourism. So they haven't been in limbo - they have been in bureaucratic limbo, I suppose, but they are still doing their job and they are still giving out their money. So everything is fine there.
The next point that the member opposite tried to make - poorly - was that there had been no consultation. This is absolutely incorrect; those facts are incorrect. Since we took office, we have had many representations from cultural industries as well as from the arts saying that there is a different focus for cultural industries. What we have done as a government is recognize that. First of all, you have community arts - those are the kids at the Rotary Music Festival. Then you have the advanced artists, and those are the people who decide whether or not they want to go into a cultural industry. Some of them just go on and develop their art. Others go into cultural industries. Lastly on the continuum, you have cultural industries. What we have done is, rather than somebody who is in cultural industries going to, say, the Department of Economic Development and getting whoever happens to be available, what we have done is said there is one specific person that anybody in cultural industries goes to speak to, and that person is in the Department of Tourism, as is the arts branch.
Speaker: Order please. Will the minister please conclude her answer.
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. McRobb: The minister can waffle and chant out the excuses all she wants, but she's skating on thin ice. This morning, on CBC radio, it was clear that there are a great number of groups and Yukon people who have not been consulted. That included the president and board of the Recording Arts Industry Yukon Association, the Chair of ARTSnet, the Yukon Recreation Advisory Committee, the Arts Advisory Council, which was just established last week, the Nakai Theatre, Guild Hall Society, Frostbite Music Society - the list is huge, Mr. Speaker. This government did not consult, despite the rhetoric we're exposed to on a daily basis in this Legislature.
Now, the minister slapped together a major overhaul of her department all on her own because she wanted to showcase and announce it at the TIA convention on the weekend. Will she now stand down her hastily conceived plan and go back to the arts community and Arts Advisory Council for their input?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite has thrown this together again, making allegations that somehow or other I slapped it together just in time for TIA, which is absolutely ludicrous.
Now, we have heard a number of representations from a number of groups saying that cultural industries are different and we need to recognize that. We have to be very careful that the money for cultural industries isn't being taken out of community arts and isn't being taken out of advanced artists. That's what this does. It separates out the funding in a much clearer way.
Now, I met with ARTSnet this morning at 11 o'clock. I had quite an extensive conversation with them. In addition to that, I will be meeting with them at Beringia at 6:30 tomorrow night to talk again about the finer details of the move. We will be in contact with the outer communities, although we have already contacted many of them already.
It is a good thing that we are moving forward. First of all, the arts branch was one person in C&TS. Now, we have the arts branch and we have cultural industries. We have recognition for all three levels of the arts. That's a good thing, Mr. Speaker, because that's the way it is. They're different.
Mr. McRobb: Well, Mr. Speaker, that's not what we're hearing from the Yukon public. This is only a good thing in the mind of the minister.
Now, I asked her to take a step back and allow for some proper process. She has refused to do that, Mr. Speaker. It's clear the arts branch is now subordinated under the control of the heritage branch and the minister fails to recognize that point. It's a very important aspect.
No one objects to the minister supporting cultural industries. The previous NDP government was in total support of film and video, new media and the recording industry. We did it through the trade and investment fund, which was subsequently axed by this Liberal government. We did it by sponsoring trade missions and through funds such as CDF and the millennium fund.
Will the minister call off the major change she made last week, appoint a cultural industries facilitator, as was suggested at the business summit, and restore the arts branch to its previous status with a separate director?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, that's what we just did. We appointed a cultural industries facilitator. Hello? We have an arts branch with a separate budget so that you don't have the funding being taken away from little kids playing piano at the Rotary Music Festival in order to support cultural industries.
Mr. Speaker, things are different. There has been a change, and it's a good change. We heard that request over and over and over again from the community. The money will come out of many, many different pots, but there will be separate support for cultural industries than there is for the kid who is involved in community arts - something that we support strongly - as well as the advanced artist. We have done it. It's a good thing and it will help the cultural industries in the Yukon Territory grow.
There is a separate budget for the arts branch. I don't know how many times I have to tell the member opposite, but there is a separate budget.
Question re: Arts branch, relocation to Tourism
Mr. McRobb: Well, hello, Mr. Speaker. Now that we've got the minister on the line, maybe she can answer that question along with this one. The question was this: will she bring it back to the previous status with a separate director. Now, Mr. Speaker, it's hard to see how the minister could have fumbled this decision any worse than she did. I don't imagine she reads the ARTSnet e-mail traffic, so perhaps her executive assistant can tell her how much confusion she has caused. Here is just one of the many of the comments posted on that site since last Friday: "If anyone truly believes that the merger of the arts branch with heritage is a true merger of equals, I would question their vision." Does the minister believe the arts branch wasn't doing its job, or did she have some other reason for downgrading its status?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, once again, the member from the opposite side has read an anonymous comment into the record, and that's up to you to deal with that, but I think, to be really clear, the only one adding to the confusion here is the member opposite. I'll go through it again. There is a separate person - a cultural industries facilitator - who will deal with issues around cultural industries.
The arts branch, which also has expertise in this area, has a separate budget. They will deal with community art, and they will deal with advanced artists. For the member's information, I do read the comments on ARTSnet. I think it's a very valuable communications tool, and that's one of the reasons that there were so many people at the meeting at 11:00 this morning and that there will be so many more people at the meeting at Beringia tomorrow night at 6:30.
Mr. McRobb: Well, Mr. Speaker, I wouldn't be offended by the minister's attempt to try to do your job. She can barely do her own.
Speaker: Order please. Order please. Comments like that serve no purpose, and they're of a nature to create disorder, so I'd just ask the member to be judicious in his choice of words and to continue, please.
Mr. McRobb: Well, Mr. Speaker, the arts branch has been in existence for a decade and has earned the respect of the arts community throughout the Yukon. It could be argued that without the work of the arts branch, the Yukon's cultural industries wouldn't be what they are today. Let me also bring to the minister's attention a concern out there that a division of cultural industry and arts - by dividing it into two halves of a whole, some people feel that pits us against each other for funding, something the Liberals promised they wouldn't do.
What guarantee can the minister give that this change won't affect resources for either the arts or cultural industries?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: The member opposite doesn't understand that it is no longer one group pitting itself against another for resources. By dividing it out so that we have cultural industries as a separate group, we will be trying to prevent that competition for funds because, personally and as a government, it's not right that cultural industries, which are small business, should be taking money away from little kids playing piano. That's not right.
By having a cultural industries facilitator, we are separating out that funding. I can tell you that the whole is greater than the parts. We have a very small jurisdiction with very limited resources, and this is the best way that we felt as a government we could reorganize and pay attention to cultural industries, because certainly the community had told us that that is important. Cultural industries are small business. This side of the House supports small business.
Mr. McRobb: In her media interviews, the minister referred to diminished government resources. But that's a hard one to swallow, considering the $42-million windfall they just inherited. What's really at work is that the Liberal government doesn't understand the arts, doesn't appreciate the arts. It wants to turn everything into a bottom-line issue.
Another concern I have heard out there is that the absence of any reference to creating an environment in which the arts can flourish is chilling. There is a lot of confusion out there. There's a lot of fear out there. There's a lot of uncertainty out there brought about because this minister and this Liberal government didn't consult like they said they would do.
Will she give her assurance that she will at least maintain the current levels of funding for the arts and not divert arts funding to other areas to reinforce tourism marketing?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, this is just ludicrous, absolutely ludicrous. The member opposite knows that we just created an arts fund with half a million new dollars toward the arts. The member opposite is spreading even more less-than-accurate information in an attempt to make a political point, and it's a poor one at that.
I'll have to admit, Mr. Speaker, I should have gone and checked with the arts community, again. I'll admit that. Maybe I should have done that, but what we are doing is speaking to them now. We have certainly heard from them over and over and over and over again. That windfall that we got from the federal government, we worked very hard to get, and that windfall is going to benefit all Yukoners.
Question re: Museum strategy consultations
Mr. McRobb: Well, Mr. Speaker, we have the minister back-tracking already, but she didn't go far enough, and she didn't commit to putting things back to what they were before she went and tampered with the departments.
Now, it's not only the arts and cultural groups that are mad at the minister, it's the heritage community as well.
The minister is going on about creating a museum strategy. In February she told us that consultations on this strategy had begun last fall. Will she tell us what specific groups in the heritage community she has consulted with?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, shortly after taking office, we certainly heard from the arts groups first - they were the very first in the door - but, after that, we also heard from the heritage community. What we have been told is that there is no clear direction about where we want to go in heritage, so we developed and have funded a museum strategy. The money for that came out of the last supplemental budget, as well as this one.
What we have done is we have given the Yukon Heritage Resources Board a commitment to work on that strategy. The Heritage Resources Board is representative of the entire Yukon public, because it has First Nations representation and it represents First Nations' interests.
One of the other groups that has asked to represent does not have that and, Mr. Speaker, it's important to us that we look at culture and heritage with our First Nation partners.
Mr. McRobb: Well, Mr. Speaker, the minister knows that the Yukon Historical and Museums Association was not consulted. In fact, this minister even refused to show them the terms of reference for this new strategy.
Now, the YHMA is a community-based, voluntary organization that represents the interests of more than 100 Yukon museums, heritage organizations and heritage workers in the Yukon. In the government's museums policy, it explicitly states that the Yukon government will work cooperatively with Yukon community museums.
Could the minister tell us why the heritage branch would refuse to consult with the YHMA?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, the member's facts, again, are incorrect. The Yukon Historical and Museums Association was spoken to early in the process. We told them that we were doing a museums strategy. We were also very clear with them, in the last meeting that I had with them, that the Yukon Heritage Resources Board would be working through that strategy. The reason why they were picked, rather than the Yukon Historical and Museums Association, was because the YHMA does not represent First Nations' interests.
They have been very clear that they do not, and therefore we went with the Heritage Resources Board, which does represent First Nations' interests. The members opposite don't seem to care about that, but this government does.
Mr. McRobb: Well, the Yukon Heritage Resources Board is an important part of the heritage equation here in the Yukon, but it is neither a community-based organization, nor is it independent of government. It is obvious that there's friction between the YHMA and the heritage branch. For example, the branch has asked the YHMA to submit minutes of all its proceedings, something not required of any other organization. The heritage branch also wants the YHMA to provide a five-year capital plan as part of its financial application process. Once again, this is not required of any other NGO that deals with government. It's something even the government refuses to do.
Will the minister explain why these unusual requests have been made of the YHMA and when will she instruct the heritage branch to begin consulting with the YHMA on the museums strategy in a fair and open way?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Oh, Mr. Speaker, I'm so glad this issue is out on the floor. First of all, the Yukon Historical and Museums Association will be consulted by the Heritage Resources Board, which well represents Yukoners' interests, including First Nations' interests.
Secondly, the request for minutes and five-year capital plans are made of every group that we have a service agreement with in the Department of Tourism. So the member opposite's allegations are completely false, and we are very -
Speaker: Order please. I ask the minister to please withdraw that unparliamentary remark.
Withdrawal of remark
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: I do. We run a fine line in here, but I can tell the member opposite his facts are less than factual.
So, what I am going to say to the member opposite, again, is that we do require five-year capital plans, we do require minutes, because these are taxpayers' dollars that we're spending, and every single organization that we deal with has no problem giving us that information.
We are accountable as a government. That's why we do have a five-year capital plan. Right now, it's the NDP five-year capital plan, and we're working on our own, but we do require five-year capital plans, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed. We will now proceed to Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Ms. Tucker: I move that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Speaker: It has been moved by the government House leader that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Motion agreed to
Speaker leaves the Chair
COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
Chair: Good afternoon, everyone. I now call Committee of the Whole to order. We will take a 15-minute recess and return at 2:15.
Chair: I now call the Committee of the Whole to order. We will continue debate on Bill No. 37, An Act to Amend the Territorial Court Act.
Bill No. 37 - An Act to Amend the Territorial Court Act - continued
Chair: I believe we were in general debate and Ms. Buckway has the floor.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I will just mention once again that these are housekeeping amendments. Most of them deal with judicial independence, not with compensation, and the members have had all my answers several times now, and I would ask that we move forward on this bill.
Mr. Fentie: Well, I think the minister will understand that the opposition benches don't agree with her assessment. This is not just a simple housekeeping matter. Furthermore, I think the opposition has shown where the minister's priorities lie, and that is also evidenced in her insistence on pushing these amendments forward when there is so much other work ongoing with this particular act, which will all be brought forward in the fall - at least that is the theory.
The opposition - as far as the official opposition - sees no further point in dancing around this issue with the minister. Her stubbornness is simply overwhelming. The minister has an inability to see how many other important things there are out there in this territory that should be dealt with over and above this particular amendment to the Territorial Court Act. The minister doesn't realize that the former government, when faced with this very same issue, did make a stand. This minister has refused to make that stand on behalf of Yukoners. So I think with that, Mr. Chair, the official opposition is prepared to move through this act clause by clause. We have asked the minister to amend a couple of the clauses already. She has refused to do so, and we will not extend debate any further on this bill. We will progress from this point.
Mr. Jenkins: Our position is that the Act to Amend the Territorial Court Act is not a housekeeping amendment. It is much more extensive than that. It is a shame that the minister could not have brought this forward with the multitude of other amendments necessary last fall, in the fall session when legislation is on the floor for debate in this House. We are here this spring to debate the budget. The Liberals have intentionally stacked the Order Paper, Mr. Chair, in order to ensure that we don't have an opportunity to do that. And, without further ado, I see no need to continue with any debate on this Act to Amend the Territorial Court Act, and I would move it out of debate without amendments.
Mr. Fentie: Given where we're at with this particular bill, the opposition benches will unanimously agree to deem this bill read and carried.
Chair: Is there unanimous consent to deem this bill to have been read and carried?
All Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: Unanimous consent has been granted.
Clauses 1 to 11 deemed to have been read and agreed to
Title agreed to
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, I move that Bill No. 37, An Act to Amend the Territorial Court Act, be reported out of Committee without amendment.
Chair: It has been moved by Ms. Buckway that Bill No. 37, An Act to Amend the Territorial Court Act, be reported out of Committee without amendment.
Motion agreed to
Bill No. 43 - An Act to Amend the Fuel Oil Tax Act
Chair: Is there any general debate?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: I can rise to advise members that the purpose of this particular bill, as they are well aware, is to provide for the rebate for small tourism operators. This was an approach that was made to the government by both the Wilderness Tourism Association and by others. It was a direct request to the government to deal with this.
What it does is add the tourism industry to a list of commercial activities able to avail themselves of the off-road fuel tax exemption.
As members know, the following industries access this exemption: fishing, logging, hunting or outfitting, trapping, mining and mining exploration development, and farming. Over the years there have been a number of representations by various parties and organizations to include tourism operations among those who can take advantage of the off-road exemption.
We recognize the critical importance of this industry to the economic well-being of our territory and believe it's incumbent upon us to provide it with as much help as possible.
It's a current, simple, but important amendment. We expect the lost tax revenue as a result of this change would be in the neighbourhood of $19,000 per year. This is a relatively small saving, but it's a significant benefit to many tourism operators.
The second purpose of the bill is to place the capacity criteria used for interprovincial or through carriers under regulation rather than providing the same under the act, and this intent is to exclude by regulations those small busses and vans used by tourism operators in the territory. At present, these small vehicles are subject to reporting requirements for fuel consumption mandated by the act. This change eliminates for operators the burden of paperwork necessary to comply with the Fuel Oil Tax Act. Representations have been received in this matter, and we're pleased to be able to address the concerns of industry in this regard. This latter change is revenue neutral, being more in the nature of an administrative or red-tape reduction initiative. These changes in taxation policy are evidence of our commitment to Yukon businesses and citizens to aid the private sector in promoting economic development in the territory, and we will continue to examine other options in the ongoing process, because a healthy private sector is healthy for all of us.
Mr. Speaker, there have been some questions and some doubt raised by the Member for Klondike with regard to some of the interprovincial carriers, and I'd be happy to address those questions in detail.
Mr. Fentie: First, I must point out to this House that, unlike the Justice bills, the opposition - both official and the third party - did not receive briefings on the Finance bills, even though we waited some 10 to 15 minutes in our predetermined meeting room, the committee room. No one did show, so we did then take it upon ourselves to leave.
So there are some further bills, although this one is not overly complicated in terms of being able to figure out what the amendments are going to do. There are some other bills in Finance that are not that simple. I wanted to put that on the record so everybody is aware of what position we are dealing with this on.
With regard to the bill itself, it's a well-known fact that purchasing tax-exempt fuel is certainly a positive, if you will, or a mechanism that our small operators - small business and, indeed, some larger ones - can use to help themselves in their overhead and cost of doing business, specifically when they're using fuel, whether it be diesel or gasoline, for off-road purposes.
This debate has raged on and on in this territory for years: tax exempt fuel and how to do it, how to monitor it, who should be exempt, and why, if they're exempt, others aren't exempt. As I said, the debate has gone on and on.
One of the issues that cropped up at the tax round tables was with regard to the wilderness tourism industry and how to approach this tax exemption on behalf of that industry, given the fact that a lot of this fuel will be burnt in an off-road usage, such as riverboats.
We have some questions that we are going to ask the minister. We don't have a lot of debate on this, but some of the questions that we would like to clear up when the minister gets on her feet are as follows: is this remaining an exemption at point of purchase or how are the tourism operators going to realize their exemption? If it's not at point of purchase, do they have to apply and provide records to the department that show the volume of fuel burned off-road? In other words, what I am driving at is that there is added paperwork for somebody. When we look at the wilderness tourism industry, a lot of these people may not have offices set up with appropriate filing systems, computers and all this stuff, to do extensive paperwork. This is not the only group or area in this territory that asked this same question.
Tax exemption at point of purchase is where the true saving is realized. Our system, as I understand it today, our tax exemption comes after the fact. In other words, a tax-exempt individual will purchase their fuel at a distributorship and then at a later date apply for a rebate for the amount of litres times the tax on those litres that were used for an off-road purpose. What really is a true saving, as I pointed out, is if that tax exemption is at point of purchase because then they don't have to pay out of pocket for the full cost of the fuel. We are getting those questions in the mining industry, in the logging industry. It was a long discussed topic at the tax round table because a point-of-purchase exemption is the truest form of buying tax-exempt fuel. That is one of the reasons that other jurisdictions used dyed fuel. Anybody can go into approved distributorships and buy tax-exempt fuel by simply dying their fuel.
That way, it's fair. Anyone can purchase that fuel. The onus is on the customer. The onus is on the person or group to utilize that fuel in accordance with the law and regulation. Government has, because of dyed fuel, an easy way to monitor what is happening by doing very simple checks on who is burning what fuel in vehicles travelling the highway.
I would like to ask the minister if any consideration has been given to the Yukon as a jurisdiction moving toward dyed fuel. Now, I know that the minister has probably heard from the department already that this is an exorbitant amount of paperwork and so on and so forth. I would like to point out to the minister that, quite frankly, it's being done already in the Yukon Territory. Fuel distributors in Watson Lake, because of our proximity to British Columbia, and because we're selling fuel in British Columbia, sell dyed fuel now.
The onus is not on the government to track this. It is on the proprietors' distributorship to log and calculate the amount of dyed litres that have been sold, and they must correspond with the amount of dye used for those purchases.
Another point that we could make, if the minister could answer this: how, in the second part of this amendment, is this going to affect our local carriers? Are we giving another added benefit to a long outstanding area of grievance to local carriers by opening up the doors for tax-exempt fuel to be purchased for interterritorial carriers that are coming into the territory - that type of thing? Those types of questions have already been asked of me, given the number of truckers we have in the southeast Yukon.
Can the minister just expand on the exactly what the interprovincial carrier part of this amendment means in relation to the local traffic and are they given reciprocity should we cross the border into other jurisdictions?
That's all I have at this time, Mr. Chair.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I have a number of answers for the member opposite.
First of all, I certainly extend my apologies to the member opposite for any confusion surrounding briefings supplied to the opposition. We as a government have endeavoured to ensure that all briefings were available in a timely manner and that they were not dragged out, so I apologize if there has been some misunderstanding on the part of anyone else.
With regard to the member opposite and a discussion around dyed fuel, the question from the member was how would this work for the wilderness tourism operator? The way it works in the Yukon is via a permit, so what happens is there is an application for a permit, and then the individual can purchase the tax-exempt gas. The purchase tax-exempt program is, as I said, controlled by permit. Permits are issued upon the proof that the operator intends to earn income from the activities conducted. Previously, it has been fishing, logging, hunting, outfitting or trapping. What we're proposing to add is the wilderness tourism operators' off-road use, mining, and farming.
So what happens is that the sales to permitholders are recorded separately by licensed fuel distributors so there is not a requirement in terms of enforcement and dyed fuel. Dyed fuel is a costly alternative to the permit holders and the permitting system so far has been working very well. Adding the wilderness tourism operators to it is merely an expansion of it.
In short, it is at point of purchase, as the member requested; it is by permit. Should an individual miss applying for their permit and purchasing fuel, they can, after the fact, also apply for a refund, so there are options for the business person.
Dyed fuel is not necessary at this time. With respect to interprovincial carriers, when this legislation was first put in place, the focus was on the much larger carriers. What has happened is that the requirement has not really been focused on these small carriers, and it's a huge burden of paperwork on the smaller carriers. What we're trying to do is sort of alleviate the burden of paperwork on these much smaller carriers, when it was really an onerous burden to start with. What we're trying to do is alleviate it.
Mr. Fentie: I thank the minister for her answers. The official opposition, though we may have some minor questions further on in debate, sees no further reason to extend general debate on this bill. We may have a question or two, as I said, as general debate proceeds.
There's a little bit of confusion that I'd like to get some clarity on. The minister said "at point of purchase", but I think it's a fact that there are instances, such as in the logging industry, where fuel exemption is applied for after the fact. A cutting permit is necessary, which rules out most of the loggers in this territory who don't have cutting permits - they contract log for permit holders. At the tax round table pre-election call, there was extensive work being done around this issue on how to address that.
I just wondered if the minister could expand on where we're at today with that issue.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, perhaps the member opposite is unaware. I can assure the member that it was addressed administratively, and subcontractors can now get permits.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, we don't have any quarrel with the off-road changes that are being proposed, especially for the visitor industry. In fact, we concur and agree with them.
Where we do have some concerns is with respect to there being a uniform standard applied across the board to all the tax-exempt categories. That appears to not be the case at present, although I just heard from the Premier that it has been changed administratively. But I don't know when that came into place. Perhaps the minister could advise the House as to when this change was made on the administration side.
I do have some concerns as to how this is going to be applied to the interjurisdictional and the extraterritorial registered motor carriers with operating authority. Given the free trade agreement, we have to be consistent with other jurisdictions as to the treatment of our business sector, Mr. Chair.
Can the minister confirm that we are in compliance with all aspects of the free trade agreement and will not be granting any undue advantage to our local sector by refunding the interterritorial operating authority permit holders this benefit? Currently, the large motorcoaches can run from one end of Yukon to the other without even fuelling in Yukon. A large number of these motorcoaches usually fuel in Skagway and don't have to fuel again until they hit Fairbanks, so their fuel is purchased at a considerable saving. Their paperwork and reporting is somewhat higher. If the minister could just respond to those questions, I'd appreciate it, Mr. Chair.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: The first question was with regard to the administrative change. The original question from the Member for Watson Lake was, "Have the sub-contractors in the logging industry's fuel exemptions been dealt with?" My response was, "Yes, it was dealt with. It was dealt with administratively." Officials believe it was in the summer of 2000. If there is any change or correction to that information I will advise both members opposite.
Now, with regard to whether or not the Yukon is in line with other jurisdictions with respect to the amendment to no longer classify the small carriers as interprovincial or through carriers under the Fuel Oil Tax Act. Yes, this legislation brings us in line with other jurisdictions. If the member has more detailed questions, I will be happy to respond to them.
Mr. Jenkins: In reading the deregulation format that is supposed to exist all across North America, we in the Yukon are still not in step with a lot of other jurisdictions with respect to deregulation. I was just wondering when - and I am advised by Community and Transportation Services that a number of these areas are too costly for Yukon to entertain or get in step with the rest of North America - are there some provisions being made or some review being undertaken by Finance with respect to these areas? Could the minister advise the House what the current thinking is of the government of the day?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Could I ask the member a point of clarification? Is he referring to international fuel tax agreements?
Mr. Jenkins: That is part and parcel of the totality of the deregulation. That is only a small component of it, but that's part of it.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, then let me deal with that small component for the member opposite. On international fuel tax agreements, all jurisdictions across Canada except for Northwest Territories, Nunavut, and Yukon are signatories to an international fuel tax agreement. The agreements are usually referenced in the specific jurisdiction; i.e. British Columbia's or Alberta's legislation.
These agreements contain the weights that apply to carriers. Those weights do not capture small carriers, so they do not end up being classified as interprovincial or through carriers as they do under the Fuel Oil Tax Act. Territories have not entered into these agreements mostly because of the cost involved. There are specific audit requirements, as well, to fulfill and an administration fee that has to be paid. At this time, Yukon can't justify the cost of a complex enforcement system when it manages small and relatively simpler systems.
In efforts to standardize the process for taxpayers, Yukon incorporates, where possible, aspects of the IFTA, the international fuel tax agreement. So what I'm advised, in response to the member opposite, is that the system we are using is better than the IFTA, and it would be costly for us to enter into the IFTA, and the reporting mechanisms and so on would be far more onerous. So we take the best of the IFTA where we can and we incorporate it in our jurisdiction, but we are not contemplating at this time entering into an IFTA or being signatory to it.
Mr. Jenkins: Could the minister give us some order-of-magnitude cost of what we're going to incur to enter into this agreement? Because I understand that it has been signed all across North America, with the exception of the three northern jurisdictions, and most of our problems occur, Mr. Chair, with the transportation industry entering into the Yukon either through ports of entry in Alaska or British Columbia, and just going through Yukon and exiting either on the Alaska Highway or the Top of the World Highway.
It's just through transportation that we're concerned with, some of them going into Inuvik. Just what kinds of costs does the government anticipate they would incur by entering into this agreement with all the other jurisdictions?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: We're not entering into it. We're not entering into this agreement. The cost, if we were to consider it, would include the cost of auditing.
Perhaps this will help the member opposite. What we're doing with this legislation is, the small carrier is no longer classified as interprovincial or through carrier under the Fuel Oil Tax Act. We remove the 15-passenger van capacity criteria, classifying a small carrier as interprovincial or through carrier. Instead, the capacity criteria will be provided for by regulation and those criteria will be used in most jurisdictions across Canada.
Most jurisdictions use the weights contained in the international fuel tax agreement. The commercially licensed interprovincial or through carriers include vehicles - perhaps this might help the member opposite - that have two axles and a gross vehicle weight, or registered GVW, exceeding 11,800 kilograms, or 26,000 pounds, or have three or more axles, regardless of weight, or are used in combination when the weight of such combination exceeds 11,800 kilograms or 26,000 pounds gross vehicle weight.
So, we're not entering into the IFTA. What we are doing is making our legislation easier for the small carrier, and we are incorporating the capacity criteria provided for by regulation, and using those that are used in most jurisdictions across Canada.
Mr. Jenkins: The minister still didn't answer the question. What is the order-of-magnitude cost of setting it up so that it's standard with pretty well the balance of North America, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: At a minimum, it would be the cost of maintaining a professional auditor solely dedicated to this on staff here with the Government of Yukon.
The member opposite accuses us regularly of growing government. I'm sure he can anticipate what it would require in terms of the cost. And that's the start. Then there are other costs associated with working with the transportation sector and working with others to determine their views on it. The Legislature would be subject to a lengthy debate. It's far more work than what this simple amendment anticipates.
This simple amendment is just trying to help those very small-capacity carriers that travel. Because we are a unique position in the Yukon, being so close to Alaska and British Columbia. At times our Alaska Highway dips into British Columbia, and there are all kinds of arrangements we come to, trying to assist small business in the territory. This is just another one of them.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, I would like to get a handle on the cost of this auditor. Are we looking at $100,000 or $200,000? What are we looking at? Could the minister kindly respond?
Further to that, why are we just exempting up to 15 passengers? Why don't we look at the entire motorcoach industry?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the best answer for the member opposite that would deal with his concerns is that we are not singling anyone out. We are following what is currently in the IFTA, the international fuel tax agreement. These are their weights and their suggestions. That's why they're included in here. That's the benchmark that was used.
Mr. Jenkins: Many of these 15-passenger vans exceed the weight provided for in this tariff category, and it's one benchmark. The seating capacity is the benchmark that's used predominantly. The GVW is another area that's used predominantly, Mr. Chair. But there are abnormalities or differences whatever method is used. How does the minister intend addressing these areas?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, according to Canadian provinces involved with the international fuel tax agreement, only vehicles weighing greater than 26,000 pounds are required to report. This is as per the information I provided to the member opposite. Fifteen-passenger vans weigh approximately 5,000 to 9,000 kilograms fully loaded, falling well below this limit.
Perhaps the member opposite is aware that Yukon weigh scales do not require any vehicles weighing less than 9,000 kilograms to check in.
With both the international fuel tax agreement and Yukon weigh scales weight limits, the mine buses would still be required to obtain permits as they surpass these limits and significantly impact Yukon roads. Discussion with Community and Transportation Services and my colleague confirms that the impact of 15-passenger vans is insignificant compared to buses or semi-tractor trailers.
Mr. Jenkins: My question still hasn't been answered. What is the cost that the government would incur, should we enter into this agreement? There is a carte blanche issued by the government that it is too expensive. We don't even have an idea as to the order-of-magnitude costs. What is the cost? Sooner or later we have to come into step with the rest of North America. Some areas are going to cost us, and we are going to derive some benefits from other areas. We have certainly derived a lot of benefits from the North American Free Trade Agreement. We might have some disagreements from the NDP who were recently in Quebec City, but so be it, Mr. Chair. The benefits that we have accrued are quite tremendous. What we're singling out is a small sector of the transportation industry. If we can do it for a small sector, why can't we do it for the motorcoach industry in its entirety? What is the downside there?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Just for the member's information - perhaps that member is not aware that Alaska is not a member under the IFTA. The cost - I told the member in my previous response - the cost of Yukon considering this is the cost of audits, which we don't currently do. We would have to do an estimate of those and we would have to audit all carriers as well which is not - I'm sure from a public policy perspective the member opposite could agree that where one can take the best in terms of ideas in regulation, that we should work from those and we should not be onerous or unduly penalizing small carriers or small business. What we are trying to do is assist small business in their fuel oil tax reporting.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, I am looking for an explanation for the in-between category that is not over the GVW specified but it is under the number of seats specified. There are quite a number of those smaller coaches running the Yukon highways - they are 15-18 passengers and they are small, little coaches and they are under the GVW specified. How is this going to impact because our registration system is based on the seating capacity here for buses. You pay your registration fee in the Yukon, if you have an operating authority, based on the seating capacity.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: The regulations forthcoming will focus on the weight as opposed to seating capacity. That is what the member is unaware of, and that will meet the member's concern.
Mr. Jenkins: So, if I understand the minister correctly, there is going to be a change in the regulations for C&TS for the registration of these vehicles. Is that what the Premier is stating?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: No, the change is to the regulations respecting the Fuel Oil Tax Act. Those regulations will focus on gross vehicle weight. It's not C&TS's regulations, it's the regulations to be passed under the Act to Amend the Fuel Oil Tax Act. What these regulations will do is exempt those carriers based on the vehicle weight.
Mr. Jenkins: So are we going to go back to the buses having to post both the number of the GVW and the passengers on the sides of their vehicles? Is that where we're headed again?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, we're just dealing with small carriers here, and we're trying to help the small carriers. We're not trying to penalize anyone. We're trying to help the small carriers; that's what we're trying to do. And we're trying to do it by amending the act and then subsequently dealing with regulations that would focus on the vehicle weight.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, the question is still not answered. What is going to have to be posted on the side of your vehicle if you're a commercial operator with an operating authority? Currently, it's only the name. For awhile, we had to have the GVW and the number of passengers we were allowed to carry. Now what is it going to end up being? What is this new Liberal initiative going to end up being, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, under the Fuel Oil Tax Act, when a carrier applies, it receives a permit and an emblem, and the emblem is displayed. We are exempting the small carriers who, because they won't receive this permit, won't receive the emblem and will therefore be exempt.
Mr. Jenkins: On the other side of the equation, there are still the operating authority that is granted and the requirements under the operating authority for compliance with the certificate of operating authority thus issued. Previously, depending on the category, you either had the number of passengers or the GVW. Are there any changes anticipated there?
Now, it's probably a technical question of a very in-depth nature, and I guess I'm probably the only individual in the House who has operating authority, and this has an effect. So I have an interest in it, and I know where the minister is heading. I'm just wanting to get some details of how we're going to get from A to B. Now, it's in-depth. Perhaps it's easier if the Premier just provides a legislative return with these areas outlined.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: We are not contemplating, as a result of this, changes to motor vehicles. I appreciate that the member has stood on his feet and asked that we deal with an example, so that we can follow this through and ensure that there is no onerous burden upon the operator, and that we aren't making things unduly complicated for operators.
My understanding of what the member has stood on his feet and said is that he accepts the fact that what we're trying to do with this legislation is help the small carrier. What he has also said is that he is hoping that we are not inadvertently placing an onerous burden, through paperwork or amendments to other acts, by trying to help. That's my understanding.
So my suggestion then is that I will go through the exact questions with departmental officials. I will provide the member opposite with a detailed letter that specifically walks us through a couple of scenarios, so he has that comfort level and is able to answer his constituents who are in a similar situation. And I will do the same for the Member for Watson Lake.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, I appreciate the minister's response. I went over this in detail with operators in our area who run interjurisdictionally into the Northwest Territories, and they have a reporting system in the Northwest Territories. Then you want to have a system that's compatible and makes it very simple.
Inside the Yukon is not a problem. The only time it becomes a problem is when you run into Alaska, and the biggest problem there is an operator has to have $5 million U.S. liability insurance. Into B.C., it's a little bit of a hassle, depending on who you hit at the scales. That's the nature of the beast.
All I'm looking for is that this transition is very smooth, and it's easy, and it doesn't impact on another area, given that we have operating authorities issued by the Government of Yukon for either interterritorial or extraterritorial, and they have implications.
Some individuals, when you have interterritorial, have to purchase a permit every time they enter into another jurisdiction, and what's the impact there?
There's a whole series of questions, so I'm just looking for a smooth transition between C&TS, which appears to administer a large portion of this, and the fuel tax. It's all right to say "Okay, we're going from seating capacity to GVW." I don't have a quarrel with that. Historically, some jurisdictions are one way, some the other. As long as we're consistent with other jurisdictions and it's easy to administer and it doesn't place an undue burden on the operator of the unit, that's all I'm looking for. Make it as simple as possible.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, if the member is not fully satisfied with the response I provide him in the immediate future, then I would invite him to, by all means, ask additional questions or indicate.
Mr. Jenkins: That, I can assure the Premier, is exactly my intention, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Chair, I have no further debate on this. It's certainly not housekeeping. I could go into this area in great length because I believe there are other amendments that should be forthcoming in this area to assist the industry, and let's move this out of Committee.
Mr. McRobb: Before we do that, I'd like to get a few comments on the record.
First of all, of course, we're in favour of assisting tourism operators by decreasing the fuel oil tax. Mr. Chair, it's unfortunate there wasn't more time in the spring sitting of the Legislature to deal with what is a substantive issue. What I'm referring to is the possible discussion that has been circumvented that could have taken place around this act, maybe some questioning on whether user groups out there can also benefit from a tax exemption. I am aware there is a need in the commercial highway traffic. I think there is a potential to do something to target Yukon businesses in that regard.
There's often room to decrease the administrative burden on operators of that type and other types, but, as I mentioned, there is no time for that discussion to take place. We have a limited number of days left in this Legislature. This was supposed to be the budget sitting. It was supposed to be a sitting where we deal only with housekeeping bills. This bill is a substantive bill. There are far more clauses and aspects of it that could be discussed for the benefit of Yukoners than what is proposed by this Liberal government. Unfortunately, there just isn't an adequate opportunity at this time to do that. I just wanted to put that on the record.
Chair: Is there any further general debate?
Shall we proceed to clause-by-clause debate?
Mr. Fentie: I will be very short. The opposition would be agreeable to deem it read and carried.
Chair: It has been moved by Mr. Fentie that we consider this bill read and carried. Does the House have unanimous consent to deem the bill read and carried?
All Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: Unanimous consent has been granted.
Clauses 1 to 4 deemed to have been read and agreed to
Title agreed to
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I move that Bill No. 43, An Act to Amend the Fuel Oil Tax Act, be reported out of Committee without amendment.
Chair: It has been moved by Ms. Duncan that Bill No. 43, An Act to Amend the Fuel Oil Tax Act, be reported out of Committee without amendment.
Motion agreed to
Bill No. 38 - An Act to Amend the Public Utilities Act
Chair: Is there any general debate?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I would just like to make a few comments with respect to An Act to Amend the Public Utilities Act.
As my honourable colleague, the Minister of Justice, has noted, it clarifies the definition of "gas" and confirms the Yukon Utilities Board's regulatory authority over a piped propane distribution system.
A number of energy supply companies have made unsolicited inquiries to the Yukon government regarding the possibility of building and operating a piped propane distribution system in Whitehorse. The inquiries were made to the Yukon government because it's responsible for granting a utility franchise for such a system. We believe that a piped propane distribution system offers many advantages to the territory. It brings private sector investment in, energy infrastructure supports, economic development in the Yukon. Propane is safe, in abundant supply and is an environmentally positive energy option.
The distribution system would position Whitehorse for the future availability of natural gas. The energy supply companies that have expressed their interest to date anticipate converting the propane system to a natural gas distribution system down the road. This government is amending the Public Utilities Act in order to pave the way, so to speak, for regulating the utility.
Now, I'm sure the Member for Watson Lake will confirm that he and his caucus have enjoyed a briefing on this and are aware that many of the questions previously raised by the member have been answered or will be answered by the Yukon Utilities Board review. The Member for Watson Lake spent a good part of two Question Periods outlining his opposition. I hope that he has had an opportunity to reconsider that opposition in light of the fact that the Utilities Board hearing, the whole purpose and the point of the hearing will be to raise questions, get answers, and decide whether or not to move ahead. It's as fundamental as this, Mr. Chair: we can't have the Utilities Board hear this application. Four businesses have come to me as Economic Development minister and said, "We'd like to do this." My response and the response of the government is, "Of course. We are very supportive of business and we're very interested in such a distribution franchise in Whitehorse", which was where the proposal was for.
The city council in Whitehorse is very interested in this, as well. The difficulty is that it's not like we've called for a tender, where there are clear rules and the tender goes out and everybody understands it. We haven't called for a request for proposal, because we don't have the authority to do that. That's the Utilities Board, which has to have a fair hearing and go through that. In order to allow and promote the Utilities Board having such a hearing, we had to define "propane" and "gas" and enable the Utilities Board to hear this.
So that's what this is about. Many of the questions that the member opposite has raised are questions that we are interested in as well, and they are questions that we would invite the Utilities Board to hear.
Most importantly, this bill is about continuing to support private sector development and investment in our energy infrastructure.
A couple of other points that I would make, just for the member's information. The current definition of "gas" in the current Public Utilities Act is unclear, and that's why we're amending it. The definition of "gas" is an important issue. What could happen is that the current definition is unclear, so the Utilities Board could throw up their hands and say they don't have the authority to hear this. What this does is it defines "propane".
The proposed amendment clarifies that "gas" means methane and propane, and that the existing act applies to methane and propane distribution.
The member has asked if the expanded definition of "gas" will have any impact on the propane distributors in the Yukon. The definition of "gas" is being clarified; it's not being expanded. The sole distributor of propane in the Yukon is not regulated by the Public Utilities Act. The act does not apply to the sale or delivery of gas not delivered by means of a pipeline.
Superior Propane, the sole distributor of propane, does not deliver propane by pipeline. It delivers propane by truck. The definition of "gas" will be consistent with other Yukon and federal legislation relating to the oil and gas industry. The propane distribution system is convertible to a natural gas distribution system. Again, however, I would emphasize that this introduction of this very housekeeping, minor word change to allow government to be receptive to private industry approaching - the discussion took place well before the current discussions around the natural gas pipeline had heated up. In fact, the initial approaches to the government were made to the previous minister and the previous minister was examining this issue when there was an election called. As a result of the election, the companies also came to me, as they went to the City of Whitehorse - it was well-discussed last summer. All this enables us to do is to respond as a government, and I invite the member's questions.
Mr. Fentie: Well, I don't want to be argumentative with the minister but sometimes - and I know the minister has got good intentions here. We will certainly provide credit where credit is due. There are good intentions here, but we also all know that the road to hell is paved with good intentions. There is much more to these amendments in this short bit of amending of the Public Utilities Act than the Premier has stood on her feet and relayed to this Legislature. The fact is this: when we look at the real reason that is driving this necessity to amend the act, it's because there are a number of outside utilities vying to get into this territory, in Whitehorse specifically, to set up a utility.
I want to just put on the floor a comparison of what that is. Northwestel is a utility. Yukon Electrical is a utility. And what they are, as the Premier has pointed out - and so wrongly accused this side of the House as being anti-business - is that they are large corporations that invest money in a specific region, have a tailor-made customer base - the public in that region - and then they are given a guaranteed return on investment and then, once the consumer base is hooked up and the delivery of whatever is going to be delivered by that utility is taking place, the outflow of money begins.
We in the official opposition do not oppose gridding the City of Whitehorse and establishing another method of supplying energy to homes and business and buildings, but we have some serious questions about what is driving this minister so rapidly toward opening the door to another Northwestel and Yukon Electrical when there is ample reason not to do so at this time.
The first reason, Mr. Chair, is that it would make sense if the pipeline down the Alaska Highway became the chosen project, the flag drops, and we know that, in five years' time, there will be natural gas flowing through this territory. Then, a change to this act so that a utility could be established and we grid the City of Whitehorse for natural gas makes sense, but this quest to do it now leads down a road that is going to be problematic.
Another problem with the minister's logic here is that propane today, this winter, was probably, throughout the course of the winter, the highest cost for energy in this territory. So I have to ask this of the minister: who did this government talk to in regard to the possibility of an application going to the Yukon Utilities Board to plumb the City of Whitehorse to supply the homes with propane? What if nobody wants it? What we have to establish here is what are we doing with these changes, these amendments, and how does it impact Yukoners, both negatively and positively - the pros and the cons, Mr. Chair?
First, also, the minister said this is just a mere housekeeping piece of legislation, but it's not. If it opens the door for another Northwestel or Yukon Electrical to be established here, it cuts out our local element. And as I pointed out, it creates an outward cash flow, from the pockets of Yukoners instead of it circulating here in this territory where it should be circulating.
Now, the minister knows full well that we already have a corporation very capable of entering into this area. The Yukon Development Corporation and Yukon Energy Corporation have been established as a public utility to ensure that Yukoners get the best bang for their buck and we own it. In other words, the outflow of investment dollars does not leave the territory; it circulates in the Yukon.
Secondly, the Municipal Act has been changed, and the minister should know this has been changed so that municipalities and First Nations can establish utilities here in the Yukon.
I question the logic of moving with this at this time. Do we want Saskatchewan Gas here? Do we want B.C. Gas in this territory? Do we want ATCO? We have the ability, through our own public corporations, to do this very thing. We would own it.
Now the minister is shaking her head. Well, if natural gas is flowing right by our door, then yes we can. The official opposition is very skeptical about the minister's logic behind these amendments. There's no need to be pressing ahead with these at this time. It almost appears as if ATCO flew into Whitehorse on a Lear jet, dropped a nice hook and bait into the pond, and the minister jumped out of that pond like a hungry trout, latched on to it, swallowed the whole thing - hook, line and sinker - and we're pressing ahead with this to open the door for another utility to come to this territory. Then we can watch what happens to our energy costs.
Look what happened to propane - in the neighbourhood of 15 to 20 price hikes this year alone. What is the minister really doing here? Is this government across the way so desperate to put something on the product side of the column for economic development that they're willing to sell the whole territory out to a utility from some other jurisdiction? That's why we're debating this. That's why we're going to ask these questions.
This is a serious issue to Yukoners. We've heard a great deal from the local distributors, who know full well, given their expertise, their history in the business and knowledge of the customer base in this territory, that if such a utility were established in Whitehorse for propane - that, Mr. Chair, could be ATCO leaving now - they could very well be out of business. Because they have survived throughout this territory, distributing propane to Yukon communities and Yukon people because of their customer base here in Whitehorse.
The two are married - rural Yukon, urban Yukon - Whitehorse. Mr. Chair, the loss of the volume of propane for the local distributors in Whitehorse could be their death knell as a Yukon business.
So, I'm going to throw this back at the minister: we on this side of the House aren't anti-business; we're pro-Yukon business.
The member opposite is anti-Yukon business and pro-outside business, and we'll all watch our hard-earned dollars flow out of this territory, and that flow will result because we are paying to heat our homes.
There is absolutely no panic in moving ahead with this legislation. We will know by December, or so the oil and gas industry tells us, which pipeline will be built.
That is ample time to have the Yukon Energy Corporation, the Yukon Development Corporation, municipalities and First Nations give serious consideration to the establishment of a Yukon publicly/solely owned utility that sees us benefiting not only in the short term, but through the fullness of time - not an outflow of money, but a circular flow of money within the borders of this territory.
Now, I want the minister to get on her feet and explain exactly how she intends to deal with the issues I've just brought to the floor of this House, Mr. Chair.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I admire the member opposite's righteous umbrage. The member opposite feels that he's just doing his job, speaking up for Yukoners, and this isn't needed now, and we're just rushing it through, and we're not paying any attention, and we're not supportive of Yukon business, and all sorts of righteous umbrage. Debate - full and thorough debate - involves also listening to the response.
Now, the fundamental point that the member is not getting is that, first and foremost, this is about a private sector initiative.
Now, the member opposite is trying to suggest that I have no regard for Yukon businesses. Well, that is not the case. I have every regard for Yukon businesses. For the record, Mr. Chair, I heat my home with propane. For the record, Mr. Chair, it's highly unlikely, if the system were established in Whitehorse, that I would even be able to access it, given the very nature of where we happen to live. Highly unlikely. Many of the business people the member opposite references are my constituents and I have heard from them, and I speak with the propane folks as well.
First and foremost, I would remind the member opposite that his former interim leader, Mr. Harding, said, "My guess is government can't control who wants to invest. It's becoming an increasingly competitive marketplace out there and when people come in and try to invest and put money in the territory, I don't think the City of Whitehorse should be saying no to them, nor should the territorial government."
This is not about money flowing south, Mr. Chair. If the private sector is interested in wanting to invest in this territory, and they are - more than one particular company - then it's incumbent upon the territorial government to be able to say, on that level and fair playing field, "Here are the rules; if you want to invest, those are the rules." And there's nothing to prevent those rules including local content and local partnership. However, what this housekeeping amendment is about is allowing the Utilities Board the authority to do that. That's all it does. It says to the Utilities Board, "You have the authority to hear it." The subsequent questions and subsequent requirements are put on by government. Government then can say, "We don't want a franchise without local content or we don't want -"
The member opposite is getting some more information. Perhaps I will just wait until he is finished. The member opposite is saying, "Well, just wait until December and maybe there will be a pipeline routing decision." First of all, this is a proposal that came about as a result of private sector interest in propane. I for one do not want to be part of a government that says to the business community, "No, we're not interested, thanks." That's not the type of government we are. We are interested in private sector investment in this territory and, what's more, we are absolutely interested in ensuring that there is a fair and level playing field, that everybody knows the rules.
What we are doing is providing for the Utilities Board to hear an application to have a gas distribution franchise. The fact that a number of outside companies are interested in investing millions in the Yukon is a vote of confidence in this territory. And yes, I for one will stand up and say that I welcome that vote of confidence in the territory. It's not at the expense of Yukon business people. The member opposite is fear-mongering. This presents all kinds of opportunities for Yukoners. If we were not to proceed - and I must advise the member opposite that this is not something that has been rushed through and not something that has been rushed. We were sworn into office almost a year ago on May 6. Since then I have met, as the previous Minister of Economic Development had met, with several companies that are interested. They have waited a year for this government to move forward and say, "This is how we need to do this." We have to amend the Public Utilities Act to enable the board to hear an application and we have to set out the rules of the application.
But we have to start with allowing the Utilities Board to hear this. That's where it starts. We've had differing legal opinions. Some say they can hear it; some say they can't. We have chosen to say that we need to be clear that the Utilities Board has the authority. That's the first step.
Now, the member might want to stand up and say, "No, thanks" to the private sector business community, "No, thanks" to potential future Yukon partnerships, "No, thanks" to people who are interested in being part of the Yukon business community, but that's a cliquish attitude, Mr. Chair. That's an attitude that isn't opening the doors and saying that we welcome investment, and it's an attitude from the opposition that flies in the face of previous work done by the previous Minister of Economic Development, who was also welcoming these individuals to the territory and knew very well that this is the process that had to be done.
What would be wrong - and what the member's righteous umbrage would be justified in saying - would be if we had just chosen one of these companies and not gone to the Utilities Board. What we're doing is trying to establish, by this amendment, that the Utilities Board has the authority to hear all the concerns by the member opposite and all the interests, and then make a recommendation to government. That's what we're trying to do.
Mr. Fentie: Well, all I can say, Mr. Chair, is what a bunch of hooey. Here's the Premier, the minister, saying that it took one year of work, work, work to come up with changing the definition of "gas" and "propane"? That's not likely, Mr. Chair. And you will notice that, since the minister has brought up the former Minister of Economic Development, he did not rush ahead with these changes because there was enough of a vision there to realize that the changes to this act had to include more than redefining what "gas" means.
Mr. Chair, nobody is disputing the fact that any kind of investment coming into this territory that would establish benefits and jobs for Yukoners would be a welcome investment. What we have to look at is the total, the big picture. We have to ensure that, if we allow that situation to transpire, it does not become a negative to the Yukon public in the long run. Public ownership is an important issue here, a very important issue. It's not a side bar. It is at the very heart of what we are about to embark on, should natural gas flow through this territory.
The benefits, the royalties and all that goes with it must accrue to Yukoners. And if some outside company of the size and dimensions of Saskatchewan Gas, ATCO - which owns Yukon Electrical, by the way - or B.C. Gas want to come in and assist Yukoners establishing that, we don't have a problem with that. But if you're going to change legislation to ensure that all that happens, then why isn't it on these pages, instead of this so-called little definition that took a year for this government to change?
I mean, Mr. Chair, the Premier, the minister, should give us at least some benefit of the doubt. These definition changes are merely brought forward at this time because the pressure is on from certain companies on the outside to get this done so they can get their application in to the Utilities Board ahead of anyone else's.
That's business, and the minister knows that. The minister can shake her head forever and a day, but we are going to extract from the minister, in debate, exactly what assurances this minister and this Liberal government are going to give Yukoners in this matter. Yukoners do not want to give away the future when it comes to this particular area. It's high time that the members opposite start realizing that they are in place to govern Yukon people and not elsewhere, and they have shown little of that to date in the 12 months since they have taken office as they have stumbled from one kerfuffle and bungle to another.
If we had had the experience over the last 12 months of a government that had a vision, that had a plan, that wasn't flying by the seat of its pants, that wasn't embroiled in one crisis and controversy after another, we may have a little more comfort in this type of amendment coming forward and in what the end results are going to be.
But the proof is in the pudding, Mr. Chair. We have seen little that would indicate that some of the concerns that we're bringing forward here are even on the minds of the minister and her government colleagues.
The change in the Municipal Act allows municipalities to own utilities, and First Nations, as we continue to settle land claims and implement final agreements and self-government agreements, can also own utilities. Our own public corporations, YEC and YDC, are going to be able to establish a public utility in this territory that will accrue benefit to the Yukon public, not in just a short-term bustle of activity laying pipe in the ground but, through the fullness of time. Can the minister give us the assurances that the main focus here is that this territory will not only accrue benefit but will also establish growth because of the amenities we have to offer?
We own them, and we will not be dictated to by exorbitant price hikes. We can control our destiny in a utility if we do the right thing here today. That's why this legislation is so important. That's why it's not simple housekeeping. Once the door is open and once the floodgates have opened, many, many opportunities fall by the wayside, especially in small jurisdictions.
We are looking ahead. We are looking to the long term. We want to ensure - I hope I'm not boring you, Mr. Chair - that the right thing takes place here and that we can establish, if we're fortunate enough to have a pipeline, a natural gas utility owned by Yukoners and that dividends go to Yukon and that jobs and development go to Yukoners.
Can the minister somehow assure the Yukon public and this side of the House that that's what she intends to do with this so-called housekeeping amendment?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I would be more than happy to do that for the member opposite. I would be more than happy, especially if the member opposite would do his job and come in here and pay attention to what he's supposed to be doing.
I have told the member opposite over and over and over and over and over again that we can't ask those very questions. They are asked by the Yukon Utilities Board, and the Utilities Board can't hear this hearing until we define "propane".
It is not rocket science. It is simple, straightforward housekeeping. The member opposite cannot accept the fact that there are people who want to invest in this territory, people who want to move the Yukon economy forward, people who are interested in business. It's too bad the member opposite has forgotten that he is, at his very heart, a business person and a business conservative who would be standing up and welcoming investment.
I simply do not understand why the member cannot hear the responses and cannot understand that the very questions he is asking are questions the Utilities Board is charged with hearing, but they can't hear it until we define "propane". It's that simple. It's like trying to make the member opposite understand that there are people who have waited five years for us to pass the Territorial Court Act amendments. And they spent days and days and days on inane questions.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Ms. Duncan: The member opposite says "poor judges".
Mr. Chair, we are here to pass the 2001-02 budget. That is what the spring session is for. The spring session is also for housekeeping legislation.
The member opposite would like us to simply ignore the fact that there are people interested in the business of this territory. He would like us to ignore the fact and say, "Thank you very much for that presentation, Saskatchewan Energy. Thank you very much, City of Whitehorse, for your interest in moving this forward. Thank you very much, Canadian Utilities. Thank you very much, B.C. Gas. But we're not interested because the opposition doesn't want to deal with this legislation."
The fact is that this government has given very, very careful and very considered thought to those people who are interested in investment in this territory and, yes, has met with them and has said, "How do we as a government ensure that we are welcoming of the private sector and, at the same time, that we are standing up on behalf of Yukoners and saying that we want to ensure that Yukoners' interests are able to be heard in a fair forum, that they are able to be reflected in advice." The Yukon Utilities Board is a quasi-judicial board, above reproach.
What we are asking this quasi-judicial board to do is to hear from people interested, and the quasi-judicial board can hear such things as their opportunities for laying cables at the same time as you're laying pipe in a propane distribution franchise, that there is interest by the City of Whitehorse, that there is interest by First Nation governments in participating in private sector enterprises and proposals, and that Yukoners are interested in investment and here are the rules by which any such franchise should be awarded.
The very questions raised by the member opposite are the questions the Utilities Board would hear. The Utilities Board would make the recommendations to government. Their recommendations could be - who knows what. I'm not going to prejudice them. But the fundamental fact that the member is missing is that we can't get that advice from the Utilities Board. We can't ask those questions without a forum in which to ask them, and the forum in which to ask them and review them properly - by those who know this industry and who are interested in this investment - is before the Utilities Board, and we can't do that until we define "propane".
Now, if the member would like us to just leave this, to not bother, is that the answer we should have given North American Tungsten? Is that the answer we should give all the other companies interested in investing? Should we say to other companies - those who are interested in the forestry industry, which is so near and dear to the member's heart - and should we just have thrown up our hands and said we're not interested? No. As a government we're proactive, and as a government we have acted.
The way they do that is to allow the Utilities Board, which hears the various aspects surrounding utilities, their development, franchising - it's to allow them to hear this. They can't hear it until we define "propane".
Now, the member opposite may wish to take days and days and days and days, as per usual. He's not defending, contrary to his own inflated opinion, his constituents. He's not asking the reasoned questions that opposition parties are asked to present in this House. I answered them the first time he raised them.
The member opposite's questions have been fully answered. There are issues that will be heard by the Utilities Board, but we can't have the Utilities Board hear it until we define "propane".
Mr. Fentie: Well, that was the minister's opinion, Mr. Chair. All I heard was the minister's opinion, and we all know that opinions are very much like a part of the anatomy we all have.
The minister has not made any assurances here that there's anything beyond a company wanting to apply to the Yukon Utilities Board to establish a utility in the Yukon.
Now, the minister has put a lot of onus on that quasi-judicial board. I say to you, Mr. Chair - what the heck are we? We were duly elected to represent our respective constituencies in this Legislature, and the minister can say all she wants, but it's my constituency that is very concerned about this and would much rather see these amendments come forward if a natural gas pipeline is commencing through the Yukon Territory.
They are very concerned about their business and their life earnings that they have invested in this business that has been reeling from massive price hikes, one after the other. The minister should know full well the difficulties in dealing with the Yukon government on that very issue because the contract was so far out of the goalposts of what it was costing the distributor for the propane at refinery gate.
There are so many issues around that, and the minister is trying to simplify all this by saying that we have to have the Utilities Board review an application, and we can't do that until we define "gas". Well, what we are saying to the minister is that you could put a lot more in this Public Utilities Act amendment that would lock this up for Yukoners. That's what law is all about - if the minister understands that fact of why we are here. Legislation is law. We are the lawmakers. We, through legislation, can establish exactly what we want to see happen on the ground in this territory. This Mickey Mouse amendment that took 12 months just to define "gas" does not do that. It doesn't do that at all, and that is why Yukoners are concerned.
But this minister already has a reputation for heading headlong into problems and then spending a great deal of time trying to dig herself out of those problems. We are experiencing that over and over and over. Instead of working on initiatives and issues for Yukoners, the members opposite spend all their time working on covering their rear ends. So that is why we are debating legislation here today. It is to ensure that Yukoners' rear ends are being covered. That's our job and the minister can get very, very excited, the minister can lecture me, and the minister can go to great length with all that indignation.
Nothing is going to change the fact that I intend to do my job on behalf of my constituency and, indeed, all Yukoners to ensure that what's going on as far as the members opposite leading this territory - and it is very debatable at the moment whether they're leading it or not - is not going to be of a destructive nature to the Yukon Territory and its people, not only now in the short term but in the long term. Mr. Chair, much of what happens here today has far-reaching impacts. Government is a slow-moving institution. When mistakes are made early, it takes a long time to correct those mistakes, long after much damage has been done.
Now, I didn't hear anything from the minister that would even resemble assurances that what we are doing here is heading down a road where we in this territory can own our own utility and we can control and manage our destiny.
Do you think the Alaskans, Mr. Chair, are the recipients of what they have today in the Alaska State permanent fund and, indeed, what every single Alaskan gets from its own resource, because they went to a utilities board? No, they went to great lengths in establishing law, establishing the appropriate legislation, to ensure that that happened, and that's the point we're making. The minister well knows it and she's trying to diffuse it with a bunch of rhetoric that means nothing.
Will the minister give the assurance that what she's doing with this so-called housekeeping amendment will, indeed, provide Yukoners with that short- and long-term, long-lasting benefit and not drive other Yukoners out of business? When the minister talks about a level playing field, that includes rural Yukon in our view of the Yukon, Mr. Chair.
Not just Whitehorse - it's inclusive of rural Yukon. Will the minister do that?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the member opposite would be well-advised to consider that what this minister has presented is not rhetoric; these are the facts of the matter. And I would encourage his consideration of the facts of the matter.
The current definition of "gas" in the Public Utilities Act is unclear. This amendment makes it possible for a piped propane distribution system to be franchised as a public utility to distribute propane to customers pursuant to the Public Utilities Act. The definition of "gas" needs to include propane.
Private industry approached the Government of Yukon - both the past government and this government, and it was in the very late days of the previous government and the very early days of this government - about constructing a piped propane distribution system for the City of Whitehorse. Before such a distribution system can be considered, it needs to be determined what kind of gas can be distributed through the system. Propane needs to be included in the definition of "gas" under the Public Utilities Act. Under the act, a public utility must be awarded a franchise before it can operate in the Yukon. A franchise may be granted after applicants for the franchise undergo a public review process led by the Yukon Utilities Board. If a franchise is granted, the franchisee is then able to proceed to establish a system to distribute gas to customers in Whitehorse. Without a more explicit definition of "gas" in the act, there could be concerns about what type of gas could be distributed.
The proposed amendment, which is housekeeping, makes it clear that "propane" is to be included in the definition of "gas". In order for this government to establish a regulatory framework around the franchising of a piped propane distribution system, the act needs to clearly define "gas", such that there's no question that it includes propane.
Will the expanded definition of "gas" have any impact on propane distributors in the Yukon? The definition of "gas" is being clarified, not expanded. No. The sole distributor of propane in the Yukon is not regulated by the Public Utilities Act. The act does not apply to the sale or delivery of gas not delivered by means of a pipeline. Superior Propane, the sole distributor of propane, does not deliver propane by pipeline. It delivers propane by truck.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Well, if the member would take the opportunity to listen -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I believe I still have the floor, and I'd like to continue.
The Yukon Utilities Board defines "gas" under this. The definition of "gas" will be consistent with other Yukon and federal legislation that relates to the oil and gas industry. The piped propane distribution system is convertible to a natural gas distribution system. The Government of Yukon -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Ms. Duncan: What a switch. The member opposite says he's listening.
The Government of Yukon is setting up a regulatory framework for franchising a propane pipeline distribution system in Whitehorse. Again, Mr. Chair, private industry - we know the members opposite are anti-business - approached the Government of Yukon about constructing a piped propane distribution system for the City of Whitehorse. Before a distribution system can be considered, what kind of gas can be distributed through the system needs to be determined.
Propane needs to be included in the definition of "gas". A regulatory framework around franchising will follow when a clear definition of "gas" is established in the Public Utilities Act.
The member asks why now. And I will forego commenting upon his disparaging remarks about our government.
The fact is that this is entirely timely and entirely in keeping with a thoughtful, considered approach. Companies - again, private sector investment - are interested in starting this project now. Private sector resources and private sector interests very likely could be doing other things, should there be a pipeline constructed. If, through the public review by the Yukon Utilities Board, the project is determined to benefit Yukon people, then the Yukon government is not going to stand in the way of benefits to Yukon people. Maybe the previous government would have but we are not going to.
The member asks why we would do it now when the price of propane is high. All we are doing is talking about changing the act. It would be some time before a piped propane franchise would be put in because it has to go through the whole Yukon Utilities Board hearing, it has to be considered by the government and there have to be recommendations made about Yukon involvement. So it would be 2002 or 2003 when the system would be operational. However, if we continue to delay and not act on this legislation, not give the Yukon Utilities Board the authority to go ahead, then we are pushing this back further and further and further and further. And, what's more, we've said, "No, thanks" to people interested in business in the territory.
The Yukon Utilities Board will set the very public conditions the member is asking for. The Yukon Utilities Board's public review process looks at the benefits to Yukoners and deals with the very questions that the member has asked. The central distribution system would not jeopardize the ability of independent distributors to remain in business.
Would the proposal lead to a gas distribution system in the hands of a large company from outside of Yukon? The member has said it has; we say Yukon-content benefits to Yukoners are an important criterion that will be used in evaluating applications for the franchise. The member opposite's anti-business attitude doesn't even want us to hear the applications. All this housekeeping does is let the Yukon Utilities Board hear the applications and talk about those very benefits to Yukoners, talk about things like Yukon First Nations' business ownership and the City of Whitehorse's involvement in this franchise. Right now, nobody can do anything with this, because the Utilities Board can't hear the application. That's what we're trying to do. We're trying to encourage investment by Yukon First Nation governments and municipalities by allowing the Utilities Board to hear a hearing and call for applications. They can't even do that, and we have no ability to do this right now. That's all we're trying to do with this legislation.
Chair: Order please. Before we continue debate, I'd just remind the members that interjections from the floor are discouraged and, in fact, not even allowed in the Standing Orders, so I'll be enforcing the rule for the rest of the afternoon.
Mr. Fentie: I go back to one of the comments that the minister read from her briefing note, that this will not affect existing distributors. Anybody who can figure out how volume impacts the existing distributors and their ability to maintain their businesses, especially in rural Yukon, will understand how far off the mark that argument and that briefing note really is. If you extract a substantial amount of volume from the existing distributors' accounts receivables, you definitely put them in a situation, Mr. Chair, that they may very well not be viable enough to survive in rural Yukon. We then have a situation many people are going to be faced with - do they drive to Whitehorse to get their propane? How is all this going to be handled?
The minister is not even getting what we're saying here. Don't hide behind the Utilities Board. Stand on the floor of this Legislature, give the assurances, here and now - the minister is in charge - that she will protect and make sure that what happens here does not take this territory down the wrong path.
We don't really need another Northwestel and another Yukon Electrical. Let me remind the minister that it costs the Yukon taxpayer a great deal of money to subsidize Yukon Electrical's rates. Let's remind the minister how much money we've put into Northwestel to ensure that we get phone systems for Yukoners and an updated system that allows us to use a number of the things that other Canadians are able to use, such as the Internet, which also, I will add, Mr. Chair, helps economic development in this territory. But it's coming out of our pockets, and the money's flowing out of this territory.
Does Northwestel throw all that money back into the Yukon? No, Mr. Chair, it goes out of here. All we're saying is that we want assurances from the minister in charge that we will make every effort, including a hearing at the Yukon Utilities Board, to get the most for Yukoners out of what our potential is, given a natural gas pipeline down the Alaska Highway.
The argument about propane here, in my estimation, is a red herring because propane simply isn't the answer to supply energy to the City of Whitehorse, especially in a grid. However, I think the minister and I can agree - although it's seldom - that the driving force is the potential gas pipeline. Therein lies the reason for the utility.
But the propane issue has ramifications, and we are asking the minister to take care of that side of it, too. Those people can't just be shunted aside. The minister, not the Yukon Utilities Board, has a duty to address those issues, and we merely want the minister to give those assurances on the floor of this Legislature. That can't be that difficult.
We all know from recent history that we have some real concerns and questions about the minister's decision making - landlocking the Yukon by dropping the port options, shutting down the forest industry, turning their back on that so-called private sector investment, and then accusing this side of the House of being anti-business. Let's look at the statistics, Mr. Chair.
All the trumpeting and the claims that the minister makes about what's going on in land sales where, for 60 days, a few people went to work and cut seismic line. And the land sales began under the former government. All the work that's going to happen in the construction industry and is ongoing is thanks to the last capital budget, which includes the Minister of Health's pet project, the extended care facility. All those things are going on under this government, which is making the claim that it is working so hard on the economy. Unemployment is going up and the workforce is leaving. There's no hope.
Mr. Chair, we are asking the minister to get on her feet, do her duty and assure Yukoners that what she's doing with this amendment to this legislation that the minister is sponsoring will not have a long-term, negative impact on this territory.
Chair: Is there any further general debate?
Mr. McRobb: Yes, Mr. Chair, I would like to enter the debate. I have a few questions that hopefully the minister can clarify for me.
I would like to put on record, similar to the previous bill, that I find it very unfortunate that we don't have a full opportunity to debate the merits of amending this Public Utilities Act, or the issue at hand, the propane distribution system throughout the territory. We have limited time, as you know, Mr. Chair. We're in a budget session. We've been swamped with a number of legislative bills, including several that we think are very substantial, including this one.
Mr. Chair, I have a few concerns, and I want to put them on the record. Number one, I'm a firm believer in local control and ownership over Yukon infrastructures, such as a distribution system for gas, propane or any type of fuel, and it's very important that we don't lose the possibility of that local control and ownership through a knee-jerk reaction that might, in fact, jeopardize that to outside interest.
In the Yukon at present, we have a considerable potential to build partnerships with municipalities and with Yukon First Nations and to even bring in the Yukon government - say, through the Yukon Development Corporation, which has a mandate to invest in energy infrastructure - to help make the investment a safer investment for everyone. Mr. Chair, such an arrangement would reduce the risk of the investment to the municipalities and First Nations and also provide the Yukon government with an ownership position in this infrastructure.
Such a proposition would maximize local control and ownership, something Yukoners tell us they want. It would provide long-term and safe investment in something that affects Yukoners' lives. Another thing we hear from Yukoners is that that's something they want. So I would like to urge the Liberal government to put Yukon business first and to put primarily the interests of municipalities, First Nations and possibly Yukon Development Corporation into the ownership equation.
Mr. Chair, I'm looking at the government press release dated April 2, 2001, and I reviewed it again to see if it mentioned local business opportunities and, for the record, it doesn't.
It's obvious that the press release, and the whole concept here, is to pander to outside business interests.
Mr. Chair, the Premier can stand up and paint the NDP as anti-business. However, I urge her to consider the reality, and that is that we're pro-Yukon business.
So that's my first concern, Mr. Chair.
The second concern is that we need to examine the Yukon as a whole. This is very important, and this is a point that has been made by my colleagues. Mr. Chair, the Yukon is a small market with a large geography, and there isn't a lot of economics for any outside company to come here and invest, whether they're in the industry of telecommunications, power distribution, or home heating distribution. The economics simply aren't here because of some of the Yukon realities, such as a small market and our vast geography, difficult logistics, and so on.
So, that feeds into the importance of looking at local control and ownership, as well, to help keep a lid on the costs and the management of such systems down the road.
Now, we've all heard arguments before about creating a local energy industry and trying to protect ourselves from the volatile prices we're exposed to at present - purchasing petroleum products from foreign countries, for example. The more we own and control ourselves, the more we're insulated from those outside negative influences.
Now, before we carve up the Yukon pie and slice it and serve it to anybody who wants to submit an application, I think it's very important to look at the economics as a whole first.
Because if that's not done, then the economics will be ruined. So I want to emphasize the importance of doing this first before the pie is sliced and served; otherwise it will simply be too late.
Now, I am not totally familiar with the history behind this amendment and the so-called urgent need to bring it forward at this time. But it strikes me that there is no rush in this matter. The gas pipeline is several years away.
I understand that we are talking at present about a propane distribution system. It has been pointed out already that propane is about the highest cost fuel there is. How much of a real threat is it that these people want to build infrastructure related to propane distribution for that purpose at this time? That really raises a question. I don't think it has been fully substantiated.
There are all kinds of other matters that this Legislature should be focusing its attention on. The economy, the environment and jobs for Yukoners are just a few of them. There are all kinds of other things in the way of legislation that this Chamber should be looking at. It really appears that the case for urgency through this legislation has not been made, nor has it been substantiated.
I also want to point out that, contrary to what the Premier would have us believe, bringing this legislation in is not just a first step in a process that could ultimately favour Yukoners. What it does is that it opens the door to these outside interests to come in and start to build their case - a very competitive case - in which local interests could be pushed back out that same door at some point in the future, Mr. Chair.
Ask yourself this question: if we open the door to these outside interests and they come in and initiate a process with the regulator - one on which they spend hundreds of thousands of dollars perhaps and go through the hoops and circles - and the government later says, "Wait a minute, because we're going to strike a deal with Yukon First Nations and municipalities," what kind of a tenuous situation is Yukon government put in then, Mr. Chair? The answer is very simple. It's another Windy Craggy lawsuit for compensation, or a southeast Yukon THA suit-for-compensation process. That's the answer.
So the government had better know what it's doing when it's opening this door to these outside companies to come in and start to spend their money in a process. If the Premier thinks that that door can later be closed and we can do the right thing and involve Yukon people, that had better be well-thought-out before we pass this legislation, because I certainly don't see the merit in that.
Another aspect, Mr. Chair: why do we put this burden on the regulatory body when, in fact, the big issue is one for government to decide? This really strikes me as another case where the Liberal government is shunning its responsibilities to make decisions onto boards and committees and anybody else who will share the pain, because they can't make a decision.
Now, Mr. Chair, this is a serious matter. If a company approaches the regulator, the regulator might be bound to initiate a public hearing. There will be great expense. There will be a lot of time and effort involved by everyone.
Mr. Chair, the Premier herself said that the YUB would look at the benefits to Yukoners.
Well, how can the YUB look at the benefits to Yukoners if it doesn't know what the Yukon government wants to do, if it doesn't know what the Yukon government is willing to invest from Yukon Development Corporation and if it doesn't know what kind of an arrangement the Yukon government might have with Yukon First Nations or municipalities? How is the Yukon Utilities Board going to know all that, and how are they going to look at what's beneficial to Yukoners in the absence of that information? Mr. Chair, this government all too often stands up and tries to put the horse before the cart, but this is another case where it has backfired. This is definitely the cart before the horse. This is opening a can of worms that is going to be very hard to put the lid back on.
Now, here's another possibility, Mr. Chair. What if an outside company comes in, they go through the YUB process, and they're granted a franchise to build a propane distribution system, so they go ahead and build it and the Alaska Highway pipeline gets built and they want to change it to natural gas distribution. Let's say at that point that First Nations and municipalities are prepared to get involved in an equity position because they might have some royalties flowing in or be in a better economic situation. Let's say at that time they are prepared to sit down and enter into an ownership position. Well, Mr. Chair, it's too late. This outside company already owns it. Mr. Chair, the opportunity is lost, and I would go so far as to suggest that opening the door to these outside companies before Yukoners are consulted could be in violation of the umbrella final agreement where economic opportunities must be offered to Yukon First Nations. I don't see it happening.
Now, I can see the Premier is growing frustrated in what she's hearing. Maybe the chickens are coming home to roost, Mr. Chair. Maybe this is giving her something else to consider.
What I've laid out here is a series of concerns that are all related to bringing in this legislation now. Mr. Chair, I think it was a knee-jerk reaction. Obviously, the Premier has been rubbing elbows with oil barons in the States and anyone else who would love to come in here and scoop these opportunities, and has not been listening to Yukoners.
Now, I know we're not going to convince her to stand this legislation down, so I've put my concerns on the record, Mr. Chair, and I would like to hear what the Premier has to say in response.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: This Liberal government has thought very long and hard about those issues that the member has raised, and the discussion place for some of the issues pointed out by the member opposite is in a review by a public utilities board. That's what this amendment allows to go forward, a full review and discussion by the Yukon Utilities Board - an ability to hear and to have a full, open, accountable and frank discussion of these issues. It doesn't preclude anything and it doesn't finish anything.
The lost opportunity the member mentioned is for Yukoners to close their ears, close their eyes and close their minds to an opportunity presented by the private sector. This amendment to the act allows us to hear it, allows us to explore the opportunities and allows us to have a public discussion.
Now, we know the member has only to review his Hansard and he realizes that the NDP do not support business or private sector in this territory. We do, and we also support this bill.
Mr. McRobb: Well, Mr. Chair, the Premier simply doesn't get it and, instead, chooses to repeat her mantra of lines that certainly are not accurate. For the record, once again, the NDP, the official opposition, supports business, especially Yukon business. For the Premier to ignore that and try to deflect attention away from the inadequacies and dangers of this bill, by merely repeating that mantra, is disgraceful. One would expect a higher level of performance in this Legislature. Unfortunately, this is another example of how the Liberal government isn't performing.
Now, the YUB has limitations on what it can do. It is clearly governed by the Public Utilities Act. It's governed by various orders-in-council that are in place. It is also governed by the wording of requests for a hearing from the government, whether they are in the way of OICs or just a written letter or request. It could also deal with requests from others, whether they are outside gas companies, whatever.
Now, Mr. Chair, what the Premier is not acknowledging are the inadequacies of that process to examine the benefits to Yukoners of the bigger picture. Certainly, they can look at the smaller picture and take representations on what is beneficial and what isn't to the Yukon, but think about how broad and nebulous that discussion might be. It won't get down to the nuts and bolts of how to do anything. It might carve up that pie prematurely. It could open the door that later will not be closed without a huge cost to Yukoners.
Mr. Chair, this bill really requires some sober second thought.
The Yukon Utilities Board cannot look at the potential benefit to Yukoners from partnerships between the Yukon government, First Nations and municipalities. They can't - let's get that straight. The Yukon Utilities Board can't.
What is the Premier going to do? Invite every First Nation and every municipality to the hearing? Is that what's going to happen? Then let the public process hammer out an arrangement that really is the responsibility of this government? That would be the classic case of how this government can't govern, when they try to shuffle everything off onto boards and committees to do their work for them.
Mr. Chair, it's up to the government to decide these big ownership issues before opening the door, or the horse will be out of the barn.
Mr. Chair, when the rubber hits the road, this government has to realize it has the responsibility. Nobody else is going to decide these bigger picture items for it. I can predict right now what's going to happen with the YUB review. The YUB will decide and comment on the case at hand and they won't go a word further. It can't go further.
So, when the Premier tries to assure the members of this Legislature that the board will look at the benefits to Yukoners, Mr. Chair, I'm very perplexed, I am very bewildered, and I am very disappointed at the understanding from this Liberal government about such important bodies as the Yukon Utilities Board and the restrictions they have.
I have been involved in hearings before this board where the board has clearly come out and drawn the envelope around the issue it can decide.
Mr. Chair, past practice dictates that the envelope it will draw is very close to the heart of the issue. And to expect the board to expand that envelope to the extreme limit, to look at the benefits of gas distribution in the territory to Yukoners, is a very unrealistic expectation and naive understanding of how this process works.
Chair: Order please. The time being 4:30, we'll take a 15-minute recess. We'll return at 4:45.
Deputy Chair: I now call Committee of the Whole to order.
We are considering Bill No. 38, An Act to Amend the Public Utilities Act. We will now continue general debate on Bill No. 38, An Act to Amend the Public Utilities Act. Is there any further general debate?
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, I have some serious concerns with what appears to be a very nominal amendment to the act. I'm concerned with the danger we may be setting with respect to the opening of the window of opportunity under the Public Utilities Act for the granting of a licence or a franchise.
There isn't anything there that sets out how this is going to be accomplished. I would imagine that it's going to be an area that's all going to be covered in the regulations.
Mr. Chair, we don't know if, by granting the government of the day this opportunity, it will even include municipalities, or First Nations, or the government itself or the private sector. It's wide open. I would like to ask the Premier how this is going to be determined.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, this amendment allows the Yukon Utilities Board to hear applications for a propane franchise. It allows for a full discussion by the Utilities Board as to whoever should apply.
The City of Whitehorse has already indicated that they are not interested in owning or operating a gas distribution system. First Nations are free to apply, as is the private sector, partnering with First Nations.
The process, once the act has passed this House, would be for the Utilities Board to call for applications and to examine the matter before it.
Specific questions such as questions around public involvement and interest in Yukon involvement would be by way of request to the Public Utilities Board to hear that information and to ask those questions.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, Mr. Chair, therein lies the trouble. It's very, very open-ended as to what can transpire. At this juncture - and I would assume the Premier is speaking of a propane air distribution system, because you can't just distribute propane on its own, Mr. Chair - the number of individuals who would be looking at this kind of a situation is very, very limited. But once the franchise is granted and the monopoly exists, it's very easy to change over to natural gas should that become available, and there is, we're told, quite a little bit of natural gas in the immediate proximity of Whitehorse. The Braeburn area has potential; even the Whitehorse basin has potential for natural gas - probably not in the quantities that could be justified to pump into a pipeline but certainly in quantities sufficient to feed an existing pipeline system, Mr. Chair.
That being the case, what recourse, after this franchise may or may not be granted by the Yukon Utilities Board, does the general population have, should they wish to change over to natural gas?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, with all due respect to the Member for Klondike, he's getting a bit ahead of himself. The idea is for the Utilities Board to be able to hear these issues and subsequently to make a recommendation to government. We're not talking about the granting of franchises, per se, here. We're talking about hearing from interested parties.
Right now, there's no way for us to do this. Right now, if B.C. Gas and Canadian Utilities and Sask Energy come to town and they're interested in this, there's no way for government to respond. There's no forum for government to say that it's important to us that there be Yukon involvement in this project, that it's important that it be of benefit to Yukon.
We recognize that such a hearing before the Utilities Board is ground-breaking, and we're very interested in ensuring there's a full, impartial hearing before this quasi-judicial board so that all these issues can be discussed and the interest can be discussed and we have a way of evaluating it. The Utilities Board would then make recommendations to government as to how government should proceed.
Now, members previously speaking have pooh-poohed this idea and said that government is abrogating its responsibility. That's simply not the case. What we want to do is enable the Utilities Board to have a full hearing about this matter and to assess the applications and to assess the interests of Yukoners and of those companies interested in making a private sector investment.
This is all about private sector business investment in the territory which, personally, and on this side, we welcome.
Mr. Jenkins: This is all about a business opportunity. That's exactly what it is. And it's about the Premier paving the way so that this could come into place in as easy as possible of a manner, without protecting the interests of Yukoners. Those interests should be protected in this legislation. They are not being, Mr. Chair. They are not being protected at all. There is nothing to ensure that Yukon companies, Yukon individuals, or indeed Yukon gas, will flow through these lines. It will probably result in an outside company being granted a franchise for propane air distribution that could subsequently be turned over to natural gas distribution with very, very little change.
As to how it is regulated, we don't know. All these areas should be examined, should be looked at, Mr. Chair. If we look at the Alaska natural gas pipeline, there is an opportunity there for us to draw an energy source from the pipeline - if it does come by our doorsteps - and replace that gas, because we have to pay the cost of the gas at the end of the pipeline. That's established already.
We could feed gas back into the pipeline from one of the areas that's producing gas in the Yukon to bring the cost of the product here. It used to be that natural gas and propane were tied to the price of a barrel of oil, and it used to be that propane was a by-product, as was butane. But, at the end of the day, what has happened is that the demand for these products has increased and it's a supply and demand situation.
Mr. Chair, once you're connected to a pipeline, there's very little regulatory ability to compensate for the increase in the market price of the product because of demands in other areas of North America.
On a per capita basis, Yukoners consume a tremendous amount of energy, Mr. Chair, but in the North American scheme of things, the amount of energy we consume is a very small drop in the bucket. I'm looking for more safeguards to protect the interests of Yukoners than what we're told are going to occur. We're just opening this area, Mr. Chair, and including another category. That's what we're told on the surface.
The Premier suggests that I'm looking too far down the line. I guess that's our role as legislators, to look at the big picture, not just the little area that we're instructed to focus in on. We have to look at the big picture and ensure that the Yukon and Yukoners are protected. I don't have any measure of comfort, Mr. Chair, of that occurring.
We only have to look at the current electrical energy situation.
The Yukon Utilities Board is completely out of the loop with any of the major capital expenditures, because we're told that it doesn't impact and doesn't trigger a rate increase. So any of these new, major, capital undertakings that are well above the cost that would normally trigger a rate hearing are not even subject to examination by the Yukon Utilities Board. The same possibility exists after we include propane in this category.
The minister is shaking her head. I would suggest, Mr. Chair, that the minister doesn't really have an understanding of the utility field, and I urge her to examine this area in great detail. What the Legislature is being asked today is to grant a blank cheque to the government to allow this to occur.
Mr. Chair, I don't want to see that happen. I think it's incumbent upon us to ask for more legislation in this respect to ensure that the safeguards of Yukoners are protected. I would like to ask the Premier why this is not included and covered off in these amendments.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Chair: Order please. I would remind members that Ms. Duncan has the floor and that all other interjections are out of order.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the public interest is covered through the Yukon Utilities Board, and this amendment simply enables the Utilities Board to actually hear this issue, as opposed to the government attempting to deal with this outside of that very public process, which is not something we would do.
The interests of the public are protected and served in this case, in terms of a franchised distribution discussion, by the Yukon Utilities Board.
That's what we're trying to do: ensure that the Yukon Utilities Board has the ability to hear on this important issue.
Mr. Jenkins: Again, Mr. Chair, the interests of the consumers are not being protected by this initiative. And furthermore, they will be deeply buried behind a public utilities board. Down the road, the minister will just stand up and say, "Well, the Yukon Utilities Board has ruled. We're not prepared to interject or review this."
But let's just look at what is transpiring in the area covered by the Utilities Board. They're not even being given an opportunity today to even rule on major capital expenditures that this government has virtually dictated will occur. Now, the same could happen under what appears to be this initial step forward - licensing or offering a franchise for a propane air distribution. But let's take it through the normal steps of progression. Let's look and see what has transpired in other jurisdictions.
In the Northwest Territories currently, there is one natural gas distribution system and one propane air situation. Is the Premier aware of the legislation in place in the Northwest Territories? What has transpired with these two systems, and has the Premier examined it in detail?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Yes, I am very aware of what has happened in the Northwest Territories, and particularly in Inuvik with their natural gas distribution and how they went about holding a public hearing and so on.
The member is trying to link two projects. The fact is that what we are trying to deal with is an amendment to the Public Utilities Act, which would enable the Yukon Utilities Board to hear and be fully aware of this discussion. And I would remind the member opposite that they have been consulted and agree with this change.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, Mr. Chair, is the minister aware of the propane air distribution system in the Northwest Territories?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I am aware of how the Northwest Territories went about hearing a very similar issue and how they went about dealing with this particular issue and how their hearing was conducted and the sort of information that was gathered. I fail to see how the member's line of questioning adds to this debate. What we are trying to do is enable the Yukon Utilities Board to fully hear this issue and make their recommendations to government, where Cabinet does the ultimate decision making.
Mr. Jenkins: Now, what the Premier is attempting to do is hide behind the Yukon Utilities Board because she doesn't want to make the decision directly with respect to the granting of a franchise - that's the issue, Mr. Chair - and deal with the subsequent costs once the people are connected - probably at bargain-sale prices - to this distribution grid that would initially be propane air and what eventually could happen and what ties the prices together. This field is a very, very interesting field, Mr. Chair, and it's one that, for some reason, the Premier has bought into, and she's trying to soft-sell it here in the Legislature. There needs to be a thorough examination of it and a more thorough set of rules in place for who can attain these types of franchises and what they can use them for, because after they're granted and after they're in place, the natural evolution is to go from propane air to natural gas.
For natural gas, a few years ago, it was a buyer's market. Today it's a seller's market. What we want to do is ensure the protection of Yukoners for that product. Once you're connected to that grid, you only have one source of supply, Mr. Chair. We only have to look at the electrical business here in the Yukon. There's only one major power generator and two distributors of energy, and currently the only safeguard we have in place is the millions of dollars that the NDP put into the equalization fund that will soon be depleted. We have no indication from this Liberal government yet as to the impact and the consequences of that decision. We have no idea of where we're heading. And this was an area that was supposed to have been examined under the Liberals and confirmed by the minister who was in charge of this area. It has yet to be done.
So all the Premier is doing with this amendment is, again, spoon-feeding a small bit of legislation across the floor of the House, of which the implications are tremendous. I guess they don't want to get into the budget debate, so they want to debate these what they call housekeeping amendments that are much, much more extensive than that, Mr. Chair.
Now, for the minister's benefit, the propane air distribution system is in Hay River in the Northwest Territories. It's owned by a private company, and its impact on that community was initially very, very positive. Is the minister aware of what has transpired to date?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: What I am aware of and what I am fully cognizant of, which the member opposite does not appear to be cognizant of, is that no public utility can operate in the Yukon unless it has been granted a franchise as recommended by the Yukon Utilities Board in accordance with the Public Utilities Act.
The Utilities Board can't hear an application for franchise right now, because they don't have a definition of propane and the legal authority to hear such a hearing. A franchise may - may - be recommended for approval after public hearings are held.
What the members opposite want to do is slam the door on opportunity with their anti-business attitude. They do not want to enable a publicly charged, appointed, quasi-judicial board which has a great deal of expertise in dealing with utilities - far more than anyone in this Legislature. They are asked to deal with that. They are publicly appointed and they are charged with the responsibility. What we want them to be able to do is to hear about this, to recommend what restrictions should be placed on a franchise, to make recommendations about the local content, and to make recommendations to us. Right now we are caught in a no-man's land of saying no to private sector interests and no to business, because we have no ability to hear this application.
I am glad the members opposite are so confident in their anti-business attitude, because we on this side support this legislation and we are interested in hearing about private sector investment in the territory by Yukoners and by others.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, the minister has missed the point entirely. I certainly am not anti-business. I am not anti-business one iota. I am against the Yukon Liberal government's approach to business, in that it doesn't look at the whole spectrum and address the inequalities and level the playing field.
Mr. Chair, this natural gas situation and the whole energy situation is of crucial importance to Yukon. I haven't seen the statistics currently, but just a few years ago, 25 cents out of every dollar that changed hands here in the Yukon went south to purchase energy in one form or another. That didn't include the total cost of electricity that was generated here in Yukon.
There is a lesson to be learned here, in that we are not addressing the energy situation in a proper manner. Mr. Chair, the Yukon could be self-sufficient with respect to energy. In fact, we could be deriving benefits from the energy that we produce. We could be exporting energy. We could have a situation similar to Alaska, where the money from the exported energy goes into a permanent fund with a dividend paid out to each and every Yukoner.
Mr. Chair, this is something that could be done with some careful planning and careful consideration by this government. They have a very big majority, and there's no excuse with respect to money. When they took power, they had over $60 million in the bank, and that has been further augmented by another $40 million-odd. Over $100 million of money to play with.
We look at the current costs of the various ways of heating. Inuvik, Vancouver and Edmonton are virtually at all the same costs for natural gas. The Yukon, if you want to look at the areas that we can heat with - propane is currently the highest and, in order for propane to be piped through a system, it has to be mixed with air - propane air. Propane is a more difficult gas to handle than natural gas, and it's not environmentally friendly to the same degree as natural gas is. Propane liquefies and settles on the ground. Natural gas, when it vents to the atmosphere, doesn't really harm the environment. Propane does, Mr. Chair.
Propane currently is the highest cost way of heating your home in the Whitehorse area. We don't have natural gas, because this government doesn't have a policy with respect to drilling and providing natural gas to the areas that need it.
A piped LNG system could be utilized, utilizing trucked LNG from any of our fields. That's not even being entertained or looked at, Mr. Chair. All these areas are open, but all we're doing, Mr. Chair, with this legislation, is just opening the window, and it might as well be 40 below, because everything is going to be cooled off and we can't control the temperature in the House, because we'll end up granting a franchise for a propane air distribution system that will ultimately and, hopefully, Mr. Chair, be converted to a natural gas system with the price tied to the world markets.
It won't relate to anything up here unless government gets involved at this point and does something to enhance your position, Mr. Chair, and each and every one's family's position. And I'd like to see something like that, but there's no forethought given to this legislation. It's just, "Open it up and give them the opportunity and we'll examine it with the Yukon Utilities Board." But that's after the fact, and given the Liberal government's position with respect to the Yukon Utilities Board, any of the current initiatives and major expenditures are not even being examined by them, which will probably ultimately be the case, because they'll find a way around the regulations which come after the fact, Mr. Chair. I see a real trend developing here, Mr. Chair, in that we're going to have regulations much more extensive and empowering than this simple little amendment to the act would lead us to believe.
By way of the regulations, virtually everything is controlled or not controlled. I believe it is incumbent upon us as legislators to ensure that as much as possible is put in the act and become legislation and not left to regulations after the fact.
Could the minister advise the House, Mr. Chair, why so much is being put into regulations and so little into legislation these days by her government?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the member is incorrect. If the member takes the time to review the Public Utilities Act, the member will note that the board shall conduct such investigations, make such reports and perform such duties in addition to the duties assigned to it by this act as the Executive Council member may request. The Executive Council member may request from the board, on a matter of general public policy. The difficulty for the Utilities Board is that, should we ask them about this, which any government as open and accountable as we are would naturally do, the place to hear this is through the Yukon Utilities Board, and that is the place to deal with this very important issue of public policy. They are the body to hear it.
The member said two things in his previous comments. He said that this should be regulated, that this shouldn't be regulated. The fact is that the Yukon Utilities Board is the place to hear this. In order to enable the board, we have to define "propane" because right now the board doesn't have the ability to do that. We could have brought this amendment forward under the Miscellaneous Statute Amendments Act. We chose the more open and accountable method.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, the Yukon Utilities Board is a very, very formal process, and what the minister is expecting the board to decide is public policy. Is that what the minister can confirm?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, if the member had listened, I said "make recommendations", not "make decisions".
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, we have all been there. We have all listened to this - make recommendations. Yes, okay. Let's carry this to the next step. The Yukon Utilities Board makes recommendations to the Cabinet and Executive Council. It's very, very rare that they deem fit to alter - in fact, chances are that they'd hide behind the decision, saying, "The board made the recommendations. We really don't want to go back out there and conduct another review. We don't really want to do what's in the best interest of Yukoners, and we really don't want to do what's in the best interest of Yukon business. We will just stand there, behind their decisions, and move ahead."
But the issue surrounding public policy is a very important one, Mr. Chair. That's what the government was elected to do - not to hide behind another board, committee, secretariat or anything of that nature that's constructed by the government of the day to deflect their apparent lack of responsibility to address these very, very important issues. That's what it is, Mr. Chair - the government of the day is abdicating the responsibility.
What I'm looking for from the minister is a way to enshrine in this legislation that the policy will be made at the senior level after consultation with all parties - not by an arm's-length board that the government will probably rubberstamp and hide behind because, more often than not, they are issued their instructions from the Premier or her officials as to how the government is wanting to proceed.
Here's the solution we want. Bring us back this solution, Mr. Chair. What's going to change? Nothing is going to change.
We could go on for days and days and days on this legislation, because it is much more extensive, much more involved and it impacts Yukoners to a much greater degree than the Premier is even beginning to suggest here in this Legislature. I am disappointed. I am very disappointed, but that's the way this government wants to conduct itself, and we will just leave it at that.
I am on the record as saying that I support the business approach, but I see a lot of pitfalls because this government is not doing its homework and is abdicating its responsibility. I cannot support this legislation, Mr. Chair.
Chair: Is there any further general debate?
Seeing no further general debate, we will proceed to line-by-line debate. Since there are only three lines it is probably quicker this way.
On Clause 1
Clause 1 agreed to
On Clause 2
Clause 2 agreed to
On Clause 3
Clause 3 agreed to
Title agreed to
Hon. Ms. Duncan: I move that Bill No. 38, An Act to Amend the Public Utilities Act, be reported out of Committee without amendment.
Chair: It has been moved by Ms. Duncan that Bill No. 38, An Act to Amend the Public Utilities Act, be reported out of Committee without amendment.
Motion agreed to
Chair: We will now proceed to our next bill, Bill No. 33, Perpetuities and Accumulations Repeal Act.
Bill No. 33 - Perpetuities and Accumulations Repeal Act
Chair: Is there any general debate?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, we're simply repealing an act. These rules are very, very outdated and old. They became part of Yukon law through adoption of English law when the Yukon was created in 1898 and, if members wish, I can discuss what an accumulations act is. The Perpetuities Act was formulated in English law several centuries ago to prevent the alienation of land by the aristocracy for lengthy periods, and this prevented taxation through succession duties.
These concerns are clearly no longer relevant, as they are addressed through modern income tax laws, and we are removing, by repealing this legislation, an impediment to the establishment of non-charitable purpose trusts provided for under the Trustee Act amendments, which is the next piece of legislation for debate.
Mr. Fentie: Given the extent of the Trustee Act, we understand fully why the Perpetuities and Accumulations Repeal Act is before us. It's to allow Bill No. 34, An Act to Amend the Trustee Act, to come into effect.
However, I must point out again to the minister that, after the Justice staff had left from their briefing of the two Justice bills, we waited and waited in that lonely old committee room, and nobody showed up to brief us on a bill that has some 32 - or I don't know how many - clauses, Mr. Chair. We're up in the 80s here, by the looks of it, and we have had no briefing.
This cannot be just simply fobbed off as some housekeeping legislation, given the extent of this bill. I have a suggestion to make to expedite the business of the House, Mr. Chair.
We still have one more act to deal with. I believe that is Bill No. 39, An Act to Amend the Jury Act. I have a suggestion to offer to the minister. I suggest that maybe we could just set this aside so that people can get a briefing on it. We're not so much concerned about this, the Perpetuities and Accumulations Repeal Act, as it directly impacts the major piece of legislation. If we could set this aside, deal with the Jury Act, and then bring this back up after the budget, that gives us ample time for the briefing, and we may find that debate on this could be limited in that manner. I offer that suggestion in a constructive, cooperative approach, and I would hope that the minister would reciprocate in kind.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I would like to remind the members opposite that there was a full and complete briefing on both Bill No. 33 and Bill No. 34 last fall when these pieces of legislation were first tabled. They have been on the Order Paper for some time, and that briefing was attended by an employee of the official opposition caucus. And one would assume that that information, of course, was fully relayed to the opposition caucus.
In light of the length of time that Bill No. 34, which is the lengthy act, has sat on the Order Paper, there have been some subsequent suggestions put forward - some amendments that I will be tabling. Perhaps, Mr. Chair, I could ask that we indulge in a short recess and allow the House leaders to agree on how to proceed from this with respect to both Bill No. 33 and Bill No. 34, in light of the information I've just provided the member opposite.
Unanimous consent re recess
Chair: Do we have unanimous consent to adjourn for five minutes while the House leaders meet?
All Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: Unanimous consent is granted. We'll recess for five minutes.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order.
Ms. Tucker: Mr. Chair, I move that you report progress on Bill No. 33.
Motion agreed to
Ms. Tucker: Mr. Chair, based on unanimous agreement by House leaders, 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. 37, An Act to Amend the Territorial Court Act, and has directed me to report it without amendment.
Mr. Speaker, Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 43, An Act to Amend the Fuel Oil Tax Act, and directed me to report it without amendment.
Mr. Speaker, the Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 38, An Act to Amend the Public Utilities Act, and directed me to report it without amendment.
Mr. Speaker, Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 33, Perpetuities and Accumulations Repeal Act, and directed me to report progress on it.
Speaker: You have heard the report from 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 5:39 p.m.
The following Sessional Paper was tabled April 23, 2001:
Yukon Judicial Compensation Commission: Report and Recommendations (December 1998) (Buckway)
The following Legislative Return was tabled April 23, 2001:
Forest Management Plan for Southeast Yukon: revised draft Memorandum of Understanding provided by DIAND to Liard First Nation and Yukon Government (Duncan)
Oral, Hansard, p. 1723
The following document was filed April 23, 2001:
Apology regarding comments made at the TIAY AGM (letter dated April 23, 2001) from Dan Brennan, Deputy Minister of Tourism, to Steve Leonard, President, Tourism Industry Association, Yukon (Edelman)