Tuesday, April 24, 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 the International Year of the Volunteer
Hon. Ms. Duncan: I rise today on behalf of all members of the Legislature to pay tribute to our Yukon volunteers as we celebrate the International Year of the Volunteer. As you all know, we launched 2001 - the International Year of the Volunteer, in December. Today I am pleased to announce that the next phase of our celebration of volunteers will be launched by His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales in Mayo on Sunday, April 29, 2001.
The Book of Stars Community Tour will begin in Mayo and continue through the year as the book travels to every Yukon community. The Book of Stars is a beautiful tribute to volunteers to mark the International Year of the Volunteer. All volunteers in the Yukon are invited to sign the book when it visits their community. They are also encouraged to include a few comments or photographs about volunteering. The Book of Stars is about five feet wide when opened. The cover displays original art by Whitehorse artist Tanya Handley.
After touring every community, the Book of Stars will be displayed as part of the Yukon's permanent art collection.
The central theme of His Royal Highness' visit to the Yukon is a celebration of our volunteers, youth and seniors.
I know the people of Mayo have volunteered many hours to ensure His Royal Highness has a memorable visit to their community; therefore, it's a fitting tribute to all our volunteers to have His Royal Highness launch our Book of Stars in Mayo as it begins its journey throughout the Yukon.
Speaker: Are there any further tributes?
Introduction of visitors.
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Mr. Speaker, I'd like the House to join me in welcoming Mr. Sullivan and Mr. Toews' grade 11 social studies class from Porter Creek Secondary.
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Speaker, I ask that all members join me in welcoming members of the Sikh community who are here in the gallery today.
Speaker: Are there any further introductions of visitors?
Are there any returns or documents for tabling?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Hon. Mr. Roberts: I have a document dated April 10 in answer to a question from the Member for Klondike, Mr. Jenkins, page 1671 of Hansard, Diagnostic Services for Whitehorse General Hospital.
I have a second return dated April 5 for the Member for Klondike regarding social assistance figures for the Yukon.
Speaker: Are there any further returns or documents for tabling?
Are there any reports of committees?
Are there any petitions?
Are there any bills to be introduced?
Are there any notices of motion?
Are there any statements by ministers?
This then brings us to Question Period.
Question re: Deputy Minister of Tourism, racist remarks
Mr. Fairclough: I have a question for the Minister of Tourism. Yesterday the minister tabled a very brief note of apology by the deputy minister to the president of the Tourism Industry Association for what he called an "intemperate comment". Mr. Speaker, this was not an intemperate comment. It was a racial slur against an identifiable religious and ethnic community - the Sikh community.
An apology to TIA does not address the injury the deputy minister's comments caused members of that community. Several, as introduced today, are here in the gallery. Will the minister now rise and publicly apologize to the Yukon Sikh community for her deputy's insensitive and insulting language?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, this is a very serious matter. This government has taken appropriate steps to deal with it. As the member noted in his opening preamble and as the members opposite are all aware, the Minister of Tourism tabled a letter of apology from the deputy minister in this House yesterday. I understand that the Deputy Minister of Tourism has issued a public statement about this matter, as well.
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Speaker, that's not good enough. It is not apologizing to the Tourism Association that is going to do it. It is to the people who have been affected by those comments. One of the most disturbing aspects of this whole situation is the fact that the minister, in her own conversations with the media, tried to downplay the whole matter. Her words to one matter was, and I quote: "There are people going out, blowing off steam, getting ready and geared up for the season." Mr. Speaker, this is not an appropriate position for the minister to take. Her deputy made insulting remarks to the Sikh people and their religious customs.
Will the minister now set the record straight that this was not a trivial matter and that she will take appropriate action to deal with the situation. Will the minister do that?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, this is a very serious matter. Our government is taking this matter very seriously. The member opposite is aware that there was a letter of apology tabled yesterday in this Legislature from the deputy minister. I have also advised the members opposite that the Deputy Minister of Tourism has issued a public statement on this matter as well. This is very serious, and our government takes this matter very seriously. We have taken appropriate steps to deal with it.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, Mr. Speaker, the Premier could have laid out the appropriate steps that this government has taken. The fact of the matter is that something has been said by a senior official of this government and I would expect that the minister or the Premier would take action.
The minister has to take ownership of this matter, Mr. Speaker, and she must take the appropriate action. Her senior official insulted - that's the bottom line - members of the Sikh community and he basically diminished their value as human beings.
Mr. Speaker, the minister has a responsibility to ensure that her deputy is prepared to acknowledge the damage that he has done and to make amends.
Now, will the minister direct her deputy to arrange a face-to-face meeting with the Yukon Sikh community and begin the process of healing that is required?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: First of all, the member opposite has asked in his preamble that this government take appropriate steps to deal with this matter. I have already indicated in my previous two responses that we have.
I have indicated that those appropriate steps - there has been a letter of apology tabled. And I have also indicated that the Deputy Minister of Tourism has issued a public statement on this matter. Any further discussions or comment is a personnel matter and is not for the floor of this Legislature. We have indicated, as a government, that this is a very serious matter, and we have taken it seriously and have taken the appropriate steps.
Question re: Deputy Minister of Tourism, racist remarks
Ms. Netro: My question is for the Premier. Racist comments by anyone in public or private do damage to individuals and groups. They damage relationships in our entire society. Referring to Sikh individuals as "towel head" is as offensive and hurtful as calling members of my race "brown faces." When such comments are made in public by a senior official of the government while acting in an official capacity, the situation becomes much more serious.
Will the Premier undertake to issue a written reminder to all deputy ministers about the need to act appropriately when they are representing this government in public?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: First and foremost, the member has stated in her preamble that racist remarks are unacceptable as are sexist remarks that have also been made publicly, as is ageism. Those are unacceptable forms of public comment. The member and I agree wholeheartedly on that. In fact, we have rules in our House to talk about those, Mr. Speaker. And the government has policies in that regard.
I have already indicated to the member's interim leader that not only has the deputy minister tabled a letter of apology in this House, the deputy minister has also issued a public statement on this matter. It is very serious. The Government of the Yukon has taken this matter very seriously and we have taken the appropriate steps to deal with it.
Ms. Netro: The Yukon has a Human Rights Act that prohibits racial discrimination. Every year, members of this House pay tribute to the International Day for the Elimination of Racism. We give our schoolchildren the message that racism is not acceptable. We are judged by our actions, not just by the noble words we say.
Will the Premier make it clear that racism in any form will not be tolerated within the Government of Yukon at any level?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, the Premier has made it abundantly clear - abundantly clear - that this is a very serious matter. This government has taken this very seriously. We have taken the appropriate steps to deal with it.
I would encourage the member to examine Hansard, because all of us - by their actions ye shall know them. What we say in this Legislature and outside of this Legislature is very, very important. Racist remarks have no place. Neither do sexist remarks. Nor does ageism.
This government has taken the appropriate steps to deal with a very serious matter, and I would encourage the member to examine the deputy minister's public statement.
Ms. Netro: This incident has now reached a national audience. The Yukon's reputation has been tarnished in other parts of Canada. Next month, the Yukon will be hosting the annual conference of the Canadian Association of Statutory Human Rights Agencies. One of the keynote presentations at that conference is called, "The Anatomy of Prejudice." The presentation is about the problems of various forms of discrimination and the responsibility we share to eliminate them from ourselves and from our environment.
Will the Premier agree to write a letter to the Yukon Human Rights Commission to be read at that conference re-affirming her government's commitment to eliminate discrimination in the territory?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, I was very pleased and heartened by the member's comment that we all share in the battles against racism, sexism and ageism - all forms of discrimination. We all, as members of the public and most especially as members of this Legislature, share in that responsibility.
We take this matter, as raised by members of the opposition, very seriously.
This also presents an opportunity - a very good opportunity, Mr. Speaker - to remind all members of the Legislature that racism, sexism and ageism are not acceptable. They are hurtful and they are extremely disrespectful.
I'd also like to suggest that all members review Hansard in a new light and review sexist remarks that have been made in this Legislature as recently as last week. They are hurtful and they are disrespectful and they are not upholding what we, as legislators, should hold as a standard.
All members, both sides of the House, should lead by example. Our example has been to treat this matter very, very seriously and to take the appropriate steps.
Question re: Elementary schools capacity study
Mr. Jenkins: I have a question for the Minister of Education, Mr. Speaker.
The Whitehorse elementary schools capacity study has revealed that the current vacancy rate is 34 percent and is expected to increase to 50 percent by the end of the decade. The end of the decade may be coming sooner than we think, Mr. Speaker. The minister and his officials are trying to blame this decline on demographic trends of parents having fewer children. The fact is, if parents with young families are leaving the territory in droves as the Yukon Economic Outlook 2001 says they are, then it is realistic to expect there is going to be a rapidly declining school population.
Mr. Speaker, this decline isn't just confined to Whitehorse. It is affecting rural schools as well right now.
Is the minister prepared to admit that the Yukon's rapidly declining school population can be directly attributed to the disastrous economic policies of his Liberal government rather than to family planning or demographic trends?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: I am glad that the Member for Klondike got his usual commercial in during Question Period.
The fact of the matter is, Mr. Speaker, that not only is the problem of declining K-to-7 students in schools evident here in the territory, but it is quite evident across the north and, as a matter of fact, right across the nation, and it is a fact of demographics.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, the minister's not laying the blame on anything other than demographics. He's not recognizing the reality of the situation, Mr. Speaker.
Now, during the 2000 election campaign, both the minister and his colleague, the MLA for Riverdale South, committed the Liberal government to building a new Grey Mountain Primary School, irrespective of school population numbers. Neither the Yukon Party nor the NDP committed during that election campaign to that. Is the minister now going to live up to that commitment, or is he going to become the new leader of the waffle wing of the Liberal Party here in the Yukon?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Well, Mr. Speaker, the Member for Klondike knows all about waffling, because it was his government and governments before and governments after that totally ignored "the little school that could". For 24 years, those students have been in trailer classrooms, as a matter of fact, as had occurred in Mayo, Mr. Speaker, where students were allowed to stay in that kind of environment. We are building the school in Mayo right now, Mr. Speaker, and we are committed to the school at Grey Mountain. We will do that. We do what we say we'll do.
Mr. Jenkins: So it's everyone else's fault - the fault of all the previous governments - and none of the responsibility is vested in this government. Now what is the minister going to do with the Grey Mountain Primary School? Is it going to be rebuilt? And recently the Education officials met to discuss the future of "the little school that could". Can the minister advise the House of what directions he gave to his officials to tell the parents of students in "the little school that could"? Is he just adding some sweetened syrup to this raw waffle side that he has become a member of, Mr. Speaker?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: For the first 10 minutes in the House this afternoon, the Premier indicated that we are going to attempt, at least on this side, to be respectful in the House. We will continue to do that. The fact of the matter is that there are piles of architectural drawings with respect to the Grey Mountain School that are doing nothing but collecting dust. That was the direct result.
I'm sorry that the members opposite don't like to hear the fact that they said they would do something and ended up doing nothing. Well, this government is going to move forward with it. I have committed directly to the school council, to the administration and to the Department of Education that we will be replacing the Grey Mountain Primary School.
Question re: Arts branch, relocation to Tourism
Mr. McRobb: I would like to revisit some issues raised yesterday about the Tourism minister's restructuring of the arts branch and the heritage branch.
In the fall, Mr. Speaker, you will recall that we passed amendments to the Arts Act. In that act, in part 1, under functions of the council, part 6, it says that the council has the following function: "(d) to make recommendations to the minister about changes to the Yukon arts policy."
Now, the Arts Act clearly states that the Yukon Arts Advisory Council makes recommendations to the minister about changes to the Yukon arts policy. Is the minister concerned that her failure to consult with the Yukon Arts Advisory Council about downgrading the status of the arts branch puts her government in contravention of the Arts Act?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, that is not an issue. The member opposite has said that there have been changes to the arts policy. There have been no changes to the arts policy.
As a political policy of this government to come forward with a solution to a need in the community for a cultural industries representative, it was clearly identified. We have not downgraded the arts policy, the Arts Advisory Council, the arts branch or any arts groups. That is not accurate information from the member opposite.
Mr. McRobb: I would like to invite the minister to review her own ministerial statement on April 19 about the change in government policy regarding the arts branch. Now, I'm not the only one concerned with how this reorganization is impacting Yukon arts policy. Yesterday the government's own Cabinet communications advisor admitted through the local media that the news release regarding the demise of the arts branch was, "Kind of rushed at the last minute." This tells me that the whole initiative was undertaken with very little forethought and with even less consultation.
Will the minister agree to step back from this major shift in government policy toward the arts until after she has properly consulted with the Yukon arts community and the Arts Advisory Council, as required by the act?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: There is no commitment to consult with the Arts Advisory Council on this issue. The member opposite is asking me to change my mind again and go back on a commitment that we have made, and we are not going to do that, Mr. Speaker. We have made the decision. We have talked to the arts community at length in a number of communities and there has been a clear message from them that cultural industries should be a priority of this government.
We have heard from a number of communities within the arts community as well as the heritage community, as well as the general public, that this is an economic way of looking at arts and that it is different from community arts, and that it is different from advanced artists. Therefore, we have clearly delineated cultural industries by putting that area under a facilitator. Now, the Yukon Film Commission is also under that area. That's an internal government reorganization and it is an internal issue. It is, however, a political policy to follow through on commitments we make to the people of the Yukon. We heard a number of representations on this issue. This is an important issue to Yukoners. They want some sort of recognition that cultural industries are different. We have done that.
Mr. McRobb: Well, Mr. Speaker, what the minister heard were discussions in the back room. This was not an open and honest public consultation process, nor was it following the act, which requires the minister to consult with the Arts Advisory Council.
Yukoners are being invited to the minister's office, the Liberal back rooms, and then they'll make the decisions. That's not good consultation.
The minister has her blinders on. We know the arts community is upset. I'm glad she mentions the heritage community because they are also concerned about the minister's statements regarding a future museum strategy. That strategy, when developed, will be a very important guide for all future heritage activities in the territory.
Yesterday, the minister surprised heritage community members by announcing that the museum strategy would be one of the items for discussion at a meeting, called at the last minute, regarding the cultural industries secretariat.
Why has this minister slapped the museum strategy issue on the agenda at tonight's meeting? Does she not agree that concerns around the development of a museum strategy deserve to be dealt with separately and with proper notice and respect to the people involved?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, to start with - and I have to use the word again - it's violent language. I didn't slap it on the agenda at the last minute.
The member opposite is using a shopping-list type of questioning in Question Period. During Question Period, we start with the original question and have two supplemental questions afterwards. Those questions are supposed to be somewhat related to the first question, and in this case once again, Mr. Speaker, they are not.
Now, as for discussions in the back room, I think I need to remind the member opposite that there is a series of articles and communications from the arts community on CBC. There was a series of articles in the Yukon News, and these discussions have gone on in public. There was a series of round tables on arts in the fall, and there was also a series of meetings with the YHMA about the museum strategy. In particular, I met with 20-some-odd representatives up here and talked quite extensively about that issue. In addition to that, I also went to a YHMA meeting, which was an open meeting, and talked about the museum strategy and the need for a museum strategy.
Even though that has nothing to do with the first question, I need to tell the member opposite that there have been a number of groups that have been advised in many different ways about the meeting tonight, and I'm very, very happy to say what this government has done to fill a need that has been represented to us by the Yukon public for a cultural industries facilitator.
Question re: Children and youth in care
Mr. Keenan: Yesterday, Mr. Speaker, I asked the acting minister a question that has been on the floor of the Legislature for quite some time, and the acting minister did confirm that there had been problems in the department for a very, very long time and that the same issues were very much in evidence when she was a critic and even went on to give examples of meeting in some very mysterious, dark places. So we have established that the problem has been around. She also said, and I quote, "A constant inquiry into the issues of residential health care would happen."
I'd like to stress that we do not feel at this time that this issue can be dealt with by the department. We feel that it needs an independent process, and it would include the Health and Social Services Council. It would include First Nations and other stakeholders, and I think that the issue needs to be broader and address the issues of children and youth in government care. So I would respectfully ask the minister to provide his assurance that this inquiry will be an independent inquiry into the issues of children and youth in the government's care.
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Thank you for that question, Mr. Speaker. We are undertaking a review of our residential services. We will not hold a public inquiry, but we will hold a review.
Mr. Keenan: Well, Mr. Speaker, this issue has been around for years. It has been on the floor of the Legislature almost every day, Mr. Speaker, and I've been bringing examples to the floor of the Legislature, both from a staff perspective and from a youth perspective. There is definitely a problem out there.
Intimidation - people are being harassed if they speak out publicly. Staff worry that they'll lose their jobs. NGOs are worried that they'll be losing their funding. Youth in care worry that they'll be punished. Now, I believe it's very necessary that we expand our horizons from an in-house review, a departmental review to looking at the problems. We have First Nation children, over 90 percent of whom are living in here, Mr. Speaker. It is not simply review of departmental initiatives; it is a broad-spread problem, and we have to reach out and be inclusive and bring all partners to the table, of which, of course, the department would be one of those partners. But most importantly, we'd bring all stakeholders of the Yukon Territory forth. So would the minister please reconsider going from a review into a full-fledged inquiry so we can put this issue to bed once and for all?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: As I told the member opposite, we are going to do a review, and we will. We expect it will take about a month to get the independent review group and terms of reference together. I expect the review to be underway by midsummer. Without knowing about availability and the length of the report, I'm hoping that a public document will be available by the next session.
Mr. Keenan: Well, I would ask the minister to take the whole trip, enjoy the trail as we go along, and let's find out just exactly what the problems are out there, and let's put some much-needed resources and energy - most importantly, the energy - to this.
Mr. Speaker, I believe that we do have a problem out there. I'm not pointing at the Department of Health and Social Services saying that they are the problem. I'm pointing at the department saying that it could be the catalyst to solve this problem. We know there's a problem. We have to reach out to a broader network, not just an internal review.
I have questions, Mr. Speaker. I would like the minister to stand on his feet and tell me who is going to accompany the department in the development of the drafting of the terms of reference. I can appreciate the time frame because it speaks of something that is going to happen quickly. Mr. Speaker, just a simple review group examining the department is just not going to cut it.
Will the minister do the right thing and call a public inquiry into this issue and answer the question as to who will be drafting the terms of reference?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: For the third time, we will be doing a review. The public's concern for the proper care of children is being heard loud and clear by this government. It has been a concern of mine for years. As a school principal and as a school administrator here for a number of years, I have been concerned, as well.
It is now time to take this out of the public forum. I appreciate the member opposite's concerns. I had the same concerns. Professionals are telling us that discussing this issue in a public forum is adversely affecting youth in care at this moment. The youth in care read about it in the papers. They hear it on the radio and they talk about it.
I welcome the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes and the members on the side opposite to meet with me if they require more information.
The final answer, Mr. Speaker, to the member opposite's question is that caucus and Cabinet will be the final previewers of the frame of reference. We will be deciding what that frame of reference will be. It will be a public document. It will be available to the public. We are here to fix the problem - at least try to fix it for the future. We don't want this to keep hanging around.
Question re: Children and youth in care
Mr. Keenan: That just doesn't quite get her. It's like going on a month-long vacation but you only take enough grub along for a week. It just doesn't cut it, Mr. Speaker. We've got to make sure that the terms of reference are applicable to what the nature of the problem is. Certainly by bringing it through the political process from the department to Cabinet and to caucus, again, Mr. Speaker, it just doesn't cut her. The minister speaks about involving professional people. Well, this is in the media, it's in the printed media, it's on the street, it's in the staff; it's in the union hall. Mr. Speaker, it's everywhere. We know there's a problem and I offer my energies to the minister on behalf of the official opposition to work with the minister to find a solution to this very critical problem. An article in the paper just yesterday spoke about - and I know you are going to cut me off here but I would like to finish this if I may -
Speaker: Order please. Yes, the question please.
Mr. Keenan: There are 170 children and youth in temporary care and 121 children and youth in permanent care of the government. That tells me that we have to go all the way. Will the minister please go all the way, with my energies, with the Yukon people, to draft a terms of reference and to find a solution to this very critical problem?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: I do agree with the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes; it is a very critical problem. It's a problem that has been with us since I have been here, and long before I arrived here. I think it's a problem that we as a community, we as citizens, have to address. It is very important that we work with all our partners in trying to resolve it. There is no one body that can find all the answers. I am committed to that. We will consult. We will draw on those resources that are in our communities to help come up with solutions that are workable.
Mr. Keenan: Well, Mr. Speaker, it's ironic that the minister stands on his feet after a couple of days of questioning in this House and says, "We will consult".
The Liberal government's track record on consultation at this point in time, Mr. Speaker, is not a very good track record, so I certainly would not run on the reputation that the Liberal government has at this point in time.
Mr. Speaker, the minister is almost there. I am saying I would like to work with the minister, as would many people in the Yukon Territory.
Mr. Speaker, the article yesterday also mentioned a national study and that child welfare, including the rights of the children, was often subjugated to the rights of the parents in custody cases. One of the recommendations that came out of the study is that a new model of child welfare be created and centred around the rights of the children. I'd like to ask this: will this minister request that the department start developing a new model of child welfare that puts the child first? Will the minister do that in consideration of moving ahead with the inquiry?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: I would like to believe, and hopefully we all believe, that it is the child who is always first, Mr. Speaker. That is the role that we, as government, try to play. We're there as the last resort. Hopefully it's children who come first before we reach any kind of decision. I'm committed to that.
As I mentioned earlier, Mr. Speaker, we expect to take about a month to get this independent review group and the terms of reference together. We expect that, by midsummer, we'll have this underway. We also realize that timing is always an issue and hopefully, by next session, we will have a report that we can deliver and share with the public so that we can come back with some solutions. There is no report that is going to resolve all the issues. These issues are very complex and very serious and it takes a lot of work by all of us to ensure that we come to the right avenue in trying to come up with solutions.
Mr. Keenan: Now, Mr. Speaker, I understand that the member opposite, the respectful Minister of Health and Social Services, has a history of working with children in the field of education. I understand that. So this is not the first time that this minister has been apprised of the situation. The minister has worked with it for many, many years.
But I must take exception to the minister's remarks. I do not feel that government is here as a last resort. To me, Mr. Speaker, that is a very reactive attitude. I am asking the minister to reflect a proactive attitude and for the minister to show leadership, because I truly believe that's what it is all about, being a minister in this government. There is a sad state of affairs out there. On the radio, on the streets, on my telephone at home, I've talked to staff, I've talked to the youth, I've talked and portray this in this House at this point in time.
Speaker: Order please. The question, please.
Mr. Keenan: Yes, certainly, sir. But I would like to certainly ask the minister again: will the minister do the right thing? Will the minister go all the way? Will the minister call a full-fledged public inquiry so that we might be able to get to the bottom of these issues, and are we doing it for today? No. I'm asking the minister to do this for the future of the Yukon, which we have invested in our youth.
Hon. Mr. Roberts: I agree, Mr. Speaker, that this is not just for today. It's for tomorrow and for the future. Hopefully we can all put our minds together and try to come up with very creative solutions, because it's going to take that. It's going to take that from all of us as Yukoners. There is no one group that has all the specific answers. It's going to take all of us to pull together how we're going to deal with this very important issue.
As I mentioned earlier, I think it's time. I think we've made our commitment to take this issue out of the public forum and let those people who are trying to work with our youth right now get on with their job. The longer it stays in the public forum, the more difficult it is to address and try to deal with the issues. I'm not saying that the problems will go away. They'll never go away, Mr. Speaker. That's the nature of the kind of work we're in. Hopefully we can work together and these young people can get on with healing; hopefully the employees who are working and trying to resolve this can get on with their job; and let the review take its course so that we can come together with trying to find answers and solutions.
I am committed to that, Mr. Speaker. We will make some changes. We will make some very creative changes, and it will come from all of us having input to it.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed.
Notice of opposition private members' business
Mr. Jenkins: Pursuant to Standing Order 14.2(3), I would like to identify the items standing in the name of the third party to be called on Wednesday, April 25, 2001. They are Motion No. 44 and Motion No. 86.
Mr. Fentie: Pursuant to Standing Order 14.2(3), I would like to identify the item standing in the name of the official opposition to be called on Wednesday, April 25, 2001. It is Motion No. 121, standing in the name of the Member for Watson Lake.
Speaker: 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. Do members wish to take a brief recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: We will take a 15-minute recess and return at 2:00.
Chair: I now call the Committee of the Whole to order. We will continue with general debate on Bill No. 33, the Perpetuities and Accumulations Repeal Act.
Bill No. 33 - Perpetuities and Accumulations Repeal Act - continued
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, as I indicated at second reading, the Perpetuities and Accumulations Repeal Act that we have proposed is to remove barriers to establishing non-charitable purpose trusts, which are introduced in Bill No. 34, which is scheduled for later debate in this Legislature.
The rules that we're asking the House to repeal are very, very old. They became part of Yukon law through the adoption of English law when Yukon was created in 1898. The Accumulations Act was originally put in place in England because of concerns that accumulation trusts could take significant portions of the nation's wealth out of circulation and free from estate taxes for a very long period. Similarly, 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, Mr. Chair, are clearly no longer relevant, and neither is the legislation. They are addressed through modern income tax laws.
We are proposing the changes to remove the impediment, as I stated, to the establishment of non-charitable purpose trusts provided for under An Act to Amend the Trustee Act, which is Bill No. 34.
It was my understanding yesterday, when we adjourned debate, that this piece of legislation was first tabled in the fall, on November 6 to be precise, so this has sat on the Order Paper for a very long period of time. In light of that, the opposition members were provided a detailed second briefing on this particular legislation, and I am fully prepared to answer questions they may have on Bill No. 33.
Mr. Fentie: Mr. Chair, I have a proposal to make here. Given the fact that the impetus for Bill No. 33 coming forward is actually Bill No. 34, An Act to Amend the Trustee Act, as well as the absence of our fine colleague from Klondike, that we just set this aside and deal with Bill No. 34 first. We believe, given the depth of our arguments with the minister around the An Act to Amend the Trustee Act, that the minister may come to her senses and realize that there are a number of issues now with the An Act to Amend the Trustee Act. Its date of drafting was some two-plus years ago and it was on the Order Paper for a great length of time. The federal government would not administer what was to be the plum in the trustee legislation for the Yukon, which was a very competitive tax regime. That has removed that incentive. Aside from all this, we may have to look at exactly what is in this very substantive piece of legislation. It's certainly not housekeeping, given the scope.
We may also have to collectively look at ways to ensure that, if we move ahead with legislation of this type, it does become a positive for the Yukon Territory and is not just something to fill our time here and discuss in endless discourse and come to no real solution.
So my proposal is that we look at that main act first and go through that because, quite frankly, Bill No. 33, the Perpetuities and Accumulations Act amendments are a slam-dunk if the An Act to Amend the Trustee Act is passed in this House.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Well, with all due respect to the member opposite, he has erred on a number of counts. First of all, it is incorrect in the rules of our House to draw members' attention to the absence of a member. I am sure that the member did not intend to do that. Secondly, it is entirely appropriate that we deal with Bill No. 33 now. We ran into this problem previously in the Legislature when the Minister of Economic Development at the time, in his haste, passed the Yukon Oil and Gas Act without the federal government having deal with their end of the legislation first. So it's entirely appropriate to deal with Bill No. 33 in advance of Bill No. 34 - do away with the old legislation prior to passing the new. With respect to Bill No. 34, yes, Bill No. 34 has been on the Order Paper since November 6. It has been on the Order Paper in order to allow members opportunity to examine this bill and to let it be known to the public.
In reference to Bill No. 34, if I might stray slightly from Bill No. 33, Bill No. 34, in its origin, was a request from the business community that the Trustee Act be changed to allow for this financial incentive - for lack of a better description. That is not available to Yukon at this time. That point was also made clear to the business community, which had first proposed this.
The business community, which had first proposed this legislation, have been fully familiar with the draft that was tabled and written by this government - fully familiar with it - and have, in fact, encouraged us to pass it. The very minor amendments, which I gave the courtesy of providing to the members opposite yesterday afternoon - these had not yet been brought to the floor - are very, very minor.
Mr. Chair, in terms of what is housekeeping, this has been on the Order Paper since November 6. It is hanging out there and it's time to clean house, clean the slate with these pieces of legislation, pass them and move on with the budget debate. I would encourage members to do so. Certainly, the business community supports the passage of this legislation as it's written.
Mr. Fentie: Well, I'm stunned that the Premier would think that we on this side of the House have made many errors in our review of this. We've looked at it since last November. There have also been significant - and I might add that I'm going to deal just briefly with Bill No. 34 before I go back to Bill No. 33 - changes nationally with regard to trusts in this country.
The Premier has erred, Mr. Chair, by saying it was her government that drafted this. The work on this was done back in 1999, so the Premier, I think, should maybe take some time herself to get up to speed on exactly where this began, because I would - in the words of the Premier, this minister, and remind her of one of the comments she made in this Legislature: to know where you're going, you have to know where you've been.
So I think, in all fairness, Mr. Chair, that the Premier and the minister sponsoring this bill - the main bill, which has led to the reason why we have to deal with Bill No. 33 here today - should take some time to reflect on this and have some discussions in the broader context, on a national level, on what is going on with trusts today in this country and some of the issues that the federal government has recently dealt with. These will have an impact on what we do here in the Yukon Territory.
So my proposal was quite simple in its makeup. Let us just move Bill No. 33 behind Bill No. 34. I realize that the minister doesn't like any upheaval. However, it seems to me to make more sense to deal with the reason why we have to pass Bill No. 33 in this Legislature.
Once we get through Bill No. 34 and come to some sort of resolution on what we're going to do with this legislation, Perpetuities and Accumulations Repeal Act would, as I said, be a very simple process, because it's a mechanism that's needed so that we can move ahead with part of the trust legislation.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I'm compelled to point out the relevance of the member's arguments, or to relate it to the member's distinguished visitors who are with us today. This is exactly akin to the member having been assigned an assignment in November with the full knowledge that it was due by the end of the second term. And guess what, it's due, and the member hasn't done his homework. He has not done his homework. So what's the option? I could take a moment and invite members of the gallery to speak, but that would be out of order, so I won't do that. I remind the member, first of all, as part of developmental work on this legislation, consultations were held with the local legal, financial community and the financial community nationally. They are very well aware of this legislation, and that relevant Ontario, B.C., Alberta and Manitoba acts have been reviewed.
Again, for the record, Mr. Speaker, I'd like to thank our visitors for coming today.
I repeat for the member that the relevant Ontario, B.C., Alberta and Manitoba acts have been reviewed and nothing has been found that suggests that these acts have been amended significantly since 1999 - they have not been. The original practices in Canadian jurisdictions with respect to trusts were originally reviewed in 1999 by the previous government. However, the draft legislation is drafts that we have worked on as a government since coming in. We worked with the local legal and financial community. We have done our homework on this legislation; it's good legislation; it's business-friendly legislation, and it is worthy of the approval of the members opposite. It's entirely appropriate that we deal with Bill No. 33, if the member has no issue with it, get on with it, and let's get on with Bill No. 34 and answer those questions again. I would encourage the member again to listen to the answer.
Mr. Fentie: I appreciate the Premier putting the opposition benches at a level of a school assignment delivered by the Premier. I mean, Mr. Chair, that in its nature is completely ridiculous. We're dealing with the law of the land here. This has nothing to do with a school assignment. Furthermore, because of their lack of product across the floor, this Liberal government has yet to find the gear shift and get out of neutral and put it into anything but reverse, and is constantly trying to attach themselves to other people's hard work. Quite frankly, this legislation was in the hopper. All the Premier did was spin the handle and it fell out of the spout. The homework here is not so much of a local nature as it is what has happened since the work setting up and drafting this bill, and what has happened from that time to now.
There could be evidence, if the Premier took a little time to further review this, that some of this act - and there's not a great deal of it - may be stale-dated. One of the main incentives that was supposed to be part of our trust legislation in its inception for attracting trusts to this territory was a very, very - if I could use the word - lucrative tax break, competitive tax break, in this country. Well, that's no longer the case because the federal government has refused to administer that on behalf of the Yukon Territory. Therefore, there is no tax or financial incentive in relation to this legislation now to attract trusts to the territory.
We are dealing, Mr. Chair, with Bill No. 33, and my original point was why are we dealing with the cart when we haven't got the horse hooked up yet? So, I don't want to spend a lot of the time of this House in a fiddle-faddle with the Premier on semantics in this regard.
The official opposition has no problem with Bill No. 33, given why it's here on the table and what it means to Bill No. 34. We see no further point in debating Bill No. 33 and believe that Bill No. 34 is the substantive legislation that should be thoroughly dealt with. It is a huge piece of legislation. It's very substantive in scope and nature. It's certainly not a housekeeping set of amendments.
So, as far as Bill No. 33 is concerned, the official opposition has no more general debate.
Chair: Is there any further general debate?
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, this could be a very important bill for the Yukon. It is out of date in many respects. One only has to go and talk to the investment community. After our briefing this morning, I did make a phone call and asked what the best locales were in Canada to set up a trust. I was assured that it wasn't currently the Yukon and that even after potential changes in the legislation, it doesn't appear to be likely that we will attract much business as a consequence.
Can the minister tell me the intent of this legislation and the urgency for it, given that it's not of a housekeeping nature and given that it's not going to produce the desired effects that we were initially advised it would? What's the urgency? Why can't we do it once and do it right, Mr. Chair?
We are going to have to cross-reference these changes with what is happening in other jurisdictions, primarily Ontario, which is moving ahead very, very rapidly. I would suspect that British Columbia is going to change significantly in the not-too-distant future. We should have an idea of what changes they're anticipating.
And for the individuals in the accounting world who deal with this sector, it's pretty common knowledge as to which way B.C. is going to be heading after the change in government that is imminent in that province.
So the business community understands the changes that are anticipated. Why can't we get in step with these other jurisdictions? Do it once, do it right. This has been sitting on the Order Paper now since last fall. The Liberal government didn't see it as being urgent and didn't want it moved ahead last fall. It sat until the spring session. The spring session is only for minor amendments and bills of a housekeeping nature, and yet they've loaded up the agenda with 11 bills, five of which the opposition said were of a housekeeping nature, and passed. Now we are into these six other bills. They are not of a housekeeping nature. They do not appear to be urgent. Some of them are very much out of step with the other jurisdictions. Now if we are going to do something, I repeat once again, let's do it right. Let's do it right. That step doesn't appear to be taken, Mr. Chair.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: The member opposite is wrong when the member opposite is discussing Bill No. 34. The member has decided that his opinion is the only one that counts in this Legislature, that the very fact that we have worked on this bill that has been on the Order Paper - trusts are quite complex for many people. We afforded the opposition the opportunity to examine it, to speak at length - because they had many months to do it - with the financial and legal community, as we have done. And we are entirely in step. We are doing as much as we can do with Bill No. 34. The intent of Bill No. 34 is to deal with the trusts. We cannot deal with it as a financial, lucrative vehicle because that option is not available to us.
So the member opposite is saying, "Throw the baby out with the bathwater. Don't bother doing it at all; don't bother working with the business community and actually putting in place a good piece of legislation." That's what members opposite are saying. They don't even want to debate it.
The member says that I trivialize, somehow, the members opposite in likening this to a homework assignment. Well, this is a task. This is a job we have to do as members. It's our responsibility to bring forward well-thought-out, well-considered, well-written legislation. It's the opposition's job to make sure that it is fully and fairly debated, and that where it is a reasonable request of the government, just as we did in opposition, we would fully expect members to support it, particularly when it's supported by the business community.
However, Mr. Chair, I do believe we're debating Bill No. 33 at this point in time.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, I really appreciate the minister's overview - well-thought-out bills. Could the minister advise the House when we're going to see such a bill presented to this House by her government?
Chair: Is there any further general debate?
Mr. Jenkins: Just what I thought, Mr. Chair. We're not going to see it, and we certainly haven't seen it demonstrated this session, save and except for those five housekeeping bills. But these six bills that we have before us currently, they are certainly not of a housekeeping nature. They are certainly not going to attract or make the Yukon any more attractive from the standpoint of setting up a trust.
One only has to go through the exercise, on a personal basis, to understand what this is all about. It's very complex, very involved, and very expensive - very expensive to set up, if you want to look at a family trust.
My consultation with a number of different individuals in the accounting world - one in Toronto, two in Vancouver - did not even begin to suggest that it would be advantageous, even under these proposed changes, to consider the Yukon.
In fact, on the contrary, it was suggested that the changes that are going to be proposed in British Columbia are going to be much more advantageous to this area than the Yukon has ever shed light on, Mr. Chair. So we're starting from not just behind, but well behind, and we needn't be.
If you want to look at another area in which the Yukon used to have a distinct advantage, it was in the corporate world. The corporate headquarters were in all likelihood in Canada, based in the Yukon, just another area. They used to be - not any longer. It has ceased to be an advantage from a taxation standpoint, Mr. Chair, and the Liberals' formula financing coming from Ottawa, which proved to be a disincentive - it proved to be a disincentive. But, prior to that, Mr. Chair, the corporate world used to headquarter a lot of their major corporations here in the Yukon, and it used to provide an abundance of work for Yukon law firms and Yukon banks. The advantage to the Yukon was that corporate income tax paid was paid to the area of residency of the corporate headquarters, which was the Yukon. So they were just paper companies set up here in the Yukon with a bank account, with a nice little Dyno-labelled corporation registered with one of the law firms in Whitehorse, and they gave birth to a whole new industry that did a lot for the Yukon. But those days are gone - killed by the federal Liberals, destroyed.
It's no longer an incentive to produce wealth in the Yukon because the formula financing treats it in another manner, Mr. Chair, and Yukon goes backwards once again. We are more and more dependent on our federal Liberal masters in Ottawa. There's no incentive. In fact, it's a disincentive to produce wealth in the Yukon today. The more we make, the more we are penalized by Ottawa. That's a heck of a deal.
Normally, the incentive works in a different manner from what we are witnessing here in the Yukon. So much for the Liberal way at both the federal level and at the Yukon level, Mr. Chair. Once again, we have been presented by the Yukon Liberals with a number of bills that are certainly not housekeeping. They go way beyond being housekeeping. We are being told to do our homework, ram them through. When we do our homework and bring concerns back to the floor of this Legislature, we are told we're wrong, incorrect.
Well, Mr. Chair, it's very interesting. I don't know how we can be wrong all the time, like we are purported to be, because that simply isn't the case. If anyone hasn't done their homework, it's the ministers responsible for this novice Yukon Liberal government. They certainly have a long way to go, to even begin to understand what creates wealth and how the wealth-creating mechanism works. This area here could be a major facet of wealth creation. It's probably not going to be and, at the end of the day, the Yukon will probably see these bills signed into law because the Yukon Liberals have used their big majority to ram them through the House.
It will probably result in fewer and fewer Yukoners working and more and more going south or going north to the Northwest Territories to find work. There's certainly no incentive to stay here. The only area in western Canada where mining has gone backwards, oil and gas production is not really keeping pace - the potential is there, but it's not being realized. The mining potential is there, but it's not being realized. Exploration this year will be at an all-time low for mining. For oil and gas, there's some, though not significant when we look south to northern British Columbia, east to the Northwest Territories or west to Alaska.
What are we doing wrong here? It's probably the only area in North America where you can point a finger directly to the government of the day and say that they're out of touch with reality, that they don't understand the issues, what they're doing and what it takes to create wealth and jobs, and put people back to work. The only area in which the Liberals have been successful at creating jobs is by creating more government. That has short-term gains.
We can even look at the visitor industry. We are probably going to once again step backwards, Mr. Chair.
At the end of the day, I would like the minister to explain how she can describe this bill that we have before us as a housekeeping bill? What is the minister's definition of a "housekeeping bill"? These bills that we have now to address are purported to be housekeeping. Can the minister please provide kind of a definition or an overview of "housekeeping"? Because, by any stretch of imagination, these last two especially are certainly not housekeeping.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Bill No. 33 and Bill No. 34 - the member seems intent on debating two at once - have sat on the Order Paper since November 6.
Now, since the member wants to discuss housecleaning, it's customary in the spring for many individuals to clean off old cobwebs, scrub the ovens, clean out the fridge and scrub the windows to erase a winter's worth of old dust.
This has sat on the Order Paper. It's not a contentious piece of legislation in that there has been extensive consultation and work with the public on both of these pieces of legislation. In fact, the public and the legal and financial community have recognized, as have we, that, while we are not moving forward on the tax credit lucrative issue, which the Member for Watson Lake mentioned, they have still indicated to us that this is good legislation, it is a solid step forward for the Yukon and it is supportive of the business community and of the Yukon community at large. They have reviewed it extensively.
I would not stand on my feet and commend a piece of legislation to this House that I was not comfortable with and was not fully satisfied that we have examined thoroughly. And it is an issue that I take very, very seriously. I have been asked, when I was in opposition, to pass pieces of legislation that I did not feel was the best drafting work that we could do, and I feel that this is.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Chair: Mr. Fentie, on a point of order.
Mr. Fentie: Thank you, Mr. Chair. I think we're getting off on a tangent here. We're dealing with Bill No. 33. I have another suggestion to make. The Premier didn't follow up on my earlier suggestion. Let's take five minutes, have the House leaders meet and discuss what we're doing here because, quite frankly, Bill No. 33 is nothing more than a mechanism required to allow passage of parts of Bill No. 34.
We're getting into these broad debates now on Bill No. 34, which hasn't been called at this point in time. So I think if House leaders could come to some sort of an agreement here, there is no real problem in just going ahead and debating Bill No. 34, Mr. Chair, and then Bill No. 33 would just simply pass.
We want to expedite the public's business, Mr. Chair.
Chair: Ms. Tucker, on a point of order.
Ms. Tucker: The Premier has already stated that if there are no concerns with Bill No. 33, then let's get on with it and pass Bill No. 33. There's no need for House leaders to withdraw at this point.
Chair: Order please. Ms. Duncan.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the member opposite is quite correct. I did engaged on Bill No. 34, in response to the Member for Klondike. I will stand down responses on anything except Bill No. 33, and we can deal with it.
Mr. Jenkins: Both of these bills are tied together. You can have one - you can have Bill No. 33, but you can't have Bill No. 34. One is just the trigger mechanism for the second bill. So they're intrinsically related, if you want to put it in that context.
Chair: Order please. They are tied together so, as a result, if there is a formal motion moving this one through so we can get to debate because, right now, since they are tied together, I'm having a hard time discerning general debate on either one of them. So if there would be a formal motion on the floor to move this through, then we could get right into Bill No. 34, and then there would be no confusion.
Mr. Fentie: Mr. Chair, again, for clarity's sake, the official opposition has no further general debate on Bill No. 33. The point we're trying to make, though, is we are definitely going to have some debate on Bill No. 34. So why don't we do what we believe is the sensible thing here? Let's deal with Bill No. 34. You know, where is Bill No. 33 going if Bill No. 34 gets hung up on the floor of this House? What's the purpose then? We're trying to expedite the public's business. We've made a number of suggestions now. I think the minister, in reciprocating in a constructive and cooperative manner, simply would stand down Bill No. 33, and let's deal with Bill No. 34, Mr. Chair.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the member opposite is suggesting that we should just deal with Bill No. 34 because that's the agenda they want to set. Bill No. 33 was called for debate, and it's ready. I'm ready to debate Bill No. 33. They have no further debate. It's not passing third reading; we're passing it out of Committee. If there's no issue with Bill No. 33, let's clear it and move on to Bill No. 34.
Mr. Jenkins: Bill No. 33 is a trigger mechanism, and if we clear it out of general debate and go into Bill No. 34 and then some components of the trigger mechanism have to be looked at again - the minister is shaking her head, saying it's not going to happen. Well, it can't happen if we clear Bill No. 33 out of Committee; we can't go back into it. I think it's only fair that we deal with the substance of these two bills, which are contained in Bill No. 34 - deal with it, address it, and then go back and put the guidelines in place to deal with Bill No. 34. The guidelines are contained in Bill No. 33 as to how it's going to be implemented, and Bill No. 34 is the crux of the whole thing, but once we've cleared Bill No. 33, we can't go back and look at it.
Chair: Order please. The Chair is going to take a one-minute time-out to discuss this issue.
Chair: Order please. Since we can't come to an agreement as to what to do with Bill No. 33 and Bill No. 34, I will liken this to the chick-and-egg theory of what came first. Since the chick and the eggs are generally not able to talk about it separately, we are still going to try it. We're talking about eggs here - in this case the Perpetuities and Accumulations Repeal Act - and ask that debate be strictly applied to perpetuities and accumulations repealing. After that, the debate that we are right now experiencing is more appropriate to Bill No. 34, so I will keep the general debate and relevance to the Perpetuities and Accumulations Repeal Act, and then we can get into the broader debate on Bill No. 34, which would seem to be the majority of the debate anyway right now.
We can continue.
Is there any further general debate on Bill No. 33? Seeing no further general debate on Bill No. 33, we will continue right now into clause-by-clause.
On Clause 1
Clause 1 agreed to
On Clause 2
Clause 2 agreed to
On Clause 3
Clause 3 agreed to
On Clause 4
Clause 4 agreed to
On Clause 5
Clause 5 agreed to
On Clause 6
Clause 6 agreed to
On Clause 7
Clause 7 agreed to
Title agreed to
Hon. Ms. Duncan: I move that Bill No. 33, Perpetuities and Accumulations Repeal Act, be reported out of Committee without amendment.
Chair: It has been moved by Ms. Duncan that Bill No. 33, Perpetuities and Accumulations Repeal Act, be reported out of Committee without amendment.
Motion agreed to
Bill No. 34 - An Act to Amend the Trustee Act
Chair: We will now proceed to Bill No. 34, An Act to Amend the Trustee Act. Is there any general debate?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I would like to provide some information to the members opposite with respect to An Act to Amend the Trustee Act. This legislation was originally suggested by the local legal community. The government welcomes their initiative and the general notion that we look at reforms to business-related legislation as one means of helping to grow our economy.
As recently as early January, I received subsequent recommendations from the business community on ways to go through our legislation where they can suggest similar tidying up and housekeeping in other acts. It's something that I have asked the department to examine. The point I want to make to the members is that this is an idea that came from the local legal and financial community and it is one that has been followed up on. And to give credit where credit is due, it has been some time in coming forward.
There are a number of issues that had to be examined. I received representation, as previous governments had, from two distinguished members of the local legal community on this and they encouraged me to go forward. I have been in touch with them since and they are very aware of the legislation. What we do with these amendments - and these are just amendments to the Trustee Act. These amendments create a modern legislative and regulatory regime for trust business in the Yukon. The existing Trustee Act is renamed through one of these amendments, reflecting the broader focus of the legislation.
In fact, I have three amendments also, Mr. Chair, and may I just seek your advice before continuing as to whether I should table these with the Chair now? They have been provided to members opposite in advance out of courtesy. May I ask, before continuing, at what point I provide them to the Chair?
Chair: Ms. Duncan, I can receive them as notice now, but they'll still have to be properly brought forward when they're supposed to be. We can take them as notice now.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Ms. Duncan: The Member for Watson Lake is advising me to table them during clause-by-clause debate. I will accept that as enough notice then to members opposite that these are coming.
The suggestion with regard to one of the amendments is that the act be renamed the Yukon trusts act. Again, this is a suggestion from a local lawyer in examining the redraft bill and it's something that we're prepared to look at. I am, in fact, bringing forward that suggestion. It's worthy of support, because it highlights our efforts to establish the Yukon as a niche market for trust business.
The legislation before the House deals with the investment authority of trustees. It maintains the requirement for a trustee to act as a prudent investor, but enhances this in several respects. It requires a trustee to consider specified criteria when planning investments, and it authorizes a trustee to obtain and rely upon investment advice.
It specifically authorizes investments in mutual funds, recognizing that such funds are readily available tools for investors.
The legislation enhances the powers and protection for trustees by limiting their liability and allowing them to employ agents, bringing Yukon law in line with current investment practices. The bill provides simple procedures to establish trust, in keeping with our efforts to make the Yukon a more attractive place to do business. The Member for Klondike noted that setting up a trust is complex. This legislation makes it as forthright and simple as it can be, and it makes the Yukon more attractive.
We do not, in this legislation, deal with the tax credit issue. Members are quite correct in that. We cannot deal with that at this point in time. We do not want to ignore the fact that bringing forward the trust legislation, however, brings us in line with other jurisdictions, it examines what other parts of the country are doing, and it makes the Yukon an easier place to do business.
This is a matter of enhancing the Yukon business community and enhancing the Yukon's ability. It doesn't go as far as some would like. We are not able to do that. It does, however, go a long way to making the Yukon an attractive place to do business.
It simplifies the administration of trusts. It allows for the passing of accounts every two years, rather than annually. This meets a beneficiary's entitlement to an accounting of the trust without placing an unreasonable burden on trustees. So we have taken into account beneficiaries' needs, as well as trustees, Mr. Chair.
There is an innovative feature in this bill that is unique in Canada. It allows for non-charitable purpose trusts. Purpose trusts are intended to further specific purposes rather than specific individuals. It's available for personal, commercial, and not-for-profit purposes that meet the requirements of the legislation that's before the House.
This legislation provides for the operation of trust companies in the Yukon. It allows trust companies, qualified to carry on business under federal or the appropriate provincial legislation, to operate in the Yukon once they've registered here and meet other regulatory requirements.
Members asked with regard to what had happened in other jurisdictions, and if I could just take a moment, Mr. Chair, I'd just like to remind members that this new trust legislation in the Yukon is competitive with other jurisdictions.
What happened is that practices in Canadian jurisdictions with regard to trusts were reviewed in 1999 to identify areas where the potential areas for improvement could be made. So it was first examined in other areas, again, at the suggestion of the local business community and legal community, to look at potential areas. Since this legislation has been tabled, officials have gone back and examined those pieces of legislation in Ontario, B.C., Alberta and Manitoba, and they have not significantly changed. So from the time we've looked at other jurisdictions until the time we've written our legislation, the other jurisdictions haven't changed. The consultations have been held with the local legal and financial community all the way along on this. The local community has been aware of the draft that was tabled before members, and I believe they are also aware of the very minor amendments. In fact, one of the minor amendments came from one of the communities, and it's just to make the Yukon more attractive. Instead of calling it the trusts act, they call it the Yukon trusts act, which is an innovative, great idea from the business community.
Some of the other suggestions, besides naming it the Yukon trusts act, were recognition of non-charitable purpose trusts. They asked for Bill No. 33. They also asked that we allow for delegation to an investment advisor, and they asked for simplifying the establishment of the rules. So these are their suggestions. We have taken them, ensured they were current and they were in line with other jurisdictions, and it is a commendable piece of legislation that has been on the Order Paper for some time.
Mr. Fentie: Mr. Chair, from the minister's very own presentation on this bill, one can only conclude that this is not simple housekeeping legislation. This is a very substantive piece of legislation - one that we are debating now on the floor of this Legislature - that may very well become the law of the land, and there's a problem here. First and foremost - and the minister has to recognize this fact - if the appropriate processes would have been implemented with regard to this piece of legislation, there could very well be some significant differences in how this bill is dealt with here in the Assembly. That is why - as clearly stated in the agreement that the members opposite lobbied long and hard for the opposition to re-sign and maintain the status quo as far as this Legislative Assembly's proceedings are concerned - it states very clearly that, when we are in a spring sitting, a budget sitting - a budget sitting of this magnitude with such an impact and bearing on the Yukon public - we as opposition, when it comes to substantive legislation, must be fully consulted.
Now, the minister has stated a number of times - and it is starting to become of concern - that the members opposite, this government, has consulted with the legal community. Mr. Chair, that's a very tiny portion of the Yukon. The minister and her government have ignored the memo of understanding and ignored consulting with the opposition. They obviously haven't consulted with organizations outside the legal community, such as NGOs, which may have something to say about this legislation.
They have, in my estimation, Mr. Chair, brought forward to this sitting an extremely complex set of legislation for the opposition and this House to deal with. And, more importantly, it's evident that, by already bringing forward some amendments to the legislation, the arguments the opposition - in this preliminary fashion - has already made are bearing out that there is substance to them.
Now, the minister cannot continue to stand on the floor of this Legislature and make the claim that we're dealing with housekeeping legislation, because, if she continues to do that, Mr. Chair, I'm sure that a bolt of lightning will strike her because it's incorrect. We can't continue to work on that basis.
Now, Mr. Chair, if the minister was interested in following an agreement that the minister and her government have entered into, we would not be dealing with this legislation here today. We would instead, Mr. Chair, be dealing with the public's business - the budget - and moving forward in that regard, as Yukoners want us to do.
Now, we can fully understand that this legislation is important to sectors of the community here in the Yukon. But, by the same token, given the job that we are charged to do - our duty - so are many other issues important to a much broader segment of the Yukon and its people.
So I want to establish something with the minister. If we are to debate this bill in a productive and constructive manner, I first want to establish with the minister and have the minister openly admit that this is substantive legislation and is not of a housekeeping nature, that it's very complex and is going to require some in-depth discussion. Will the minister do that?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: The members opposite, first of all, need to recognize that these are amendments, which, in the normal context and use of the word, are to tidy up, update, clean up, houseclean, just like the Miscellaneous Statute Law Amendment Act, which we have also from time to time brought forward.
In recognition of the complex nature of these amendments, this bill has sat on the Order Paper for some five or six months now. They have had six months to fully examine this - six months. Were the members opposite to ask any members of the Yukon business - and while I have used the term "legal community", I am referring to legal/financial community and the business community as a whole, just to clarify for the member opposite. I am certain that the many or most of the 800 members of the Law Society - whatever their latest membership is - count themselves as Yukoners. And they have been apprised of this legislation. The business community has been made aware of it for some time, just as members opposite. There has been plenty of time for members to review this.
Discussion at this stage, were there amendments brought forward as has been done by the public - I'm pleased to work with the members on. But the fact that they are not prepared to debate and deal with these housekeeping amendments - I will grant the member that they are complex. That's why there have been six months to look at them. However, I will not grant the member that there has not been ample time. There has been ample time. There has been plenty of consultation and lots of work done on this. We want to move forward on that work - to have the rubber hit the road, so to speak, since the member likes transportation analogies. It's time to debate the amendments and move forward.
Mr. Fentie: Well, the minister's own admission that this is very complex completely refutes her argument that this is housekeeping - housecleaning, as she puts it.
The fact also that the legal community has probably spent some number of months looking over this, as it relates to other legislation in this country, tells me again that this is not simple housekeeping, but is an extremely complex set of amendments to our legislation, which is going to be changed to the trusts act, not the Trustee Act. It will no longer be called the Trustee Act. We can't, on the basis that it has been on the Order Paper for six months, just rubber-stamp this legislation. We can't proceed in that manner. If we did, we on this side of the House would be remiss in our duties because there's a broader community out there that has questions.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Fentie: Mr. Chair, the minister says, "Ask him." We are in general debate at this point in time. That's what this general debate is for. It is to discuss elements of the bill before we get into finite detail and clause-by-clause where a number of questions would be asked, as they relate to that clause.
We're trying to establish right now, Mr. Chair, believe it or not, for the minister's benefit, some sort of constructive working relationship to debate this bill. We can't get beyond this roadblock that the minister has put up in her refusal to recognize the fact that the opposition, in debating this bill, does not approach it as simple housekeeping or housecleaning.
So, Mr. Chair, we need to see some indication from the minister that the side opposite is prepared to work on this legislation as required, and to keep throwing back at the opposition that this is housekeeping is only going to further entrench the issues here. I am trying to be constructive. We in the official opposition are trying to approach this in a manner in which we can expedite the public's business in this House. It's the minister who constantly refuses to approach it in that manner.
Now, I know the minister likes to be argumentative, and I know the Premier does not like anybody questioning her authority and the reason she does things, because the minister is the Premier and that's the way it is and these things have to happen; however, that isn't democracy. This is a democracy. We are going to approach this, hopefully, with the minister in a manner so that if anything needs to be changed or amended, as already has happened - albeit they may very well be very small amendments - we've got to establish and lay out some groundwork from which we can proceed. If the minister's not willing to establish that groundwork, then all I can say, Mr. Chair, is, "Batten down the hatches, because the seas are going to get rough."
Hon. Ms. Duncan: I'm pleased the member didn't lapse into the language of the sailors, just the analogies. We are trying to preserve decorum this afternoon, after all - and every afternoon.
Let me provide for the member opposite that, first of all, I have no desire to debate whether the bill is housekeeping or not. It was the members themselves who started down that road and, much as there are some people who like to suggest that I'm an argumentative individual, I would suggest to the member opposite that that is not the case. I consider myself quite reasonable, believe it or not.
Now, let me liken this, Mr. Chair - given that his colleague, the former Minister of Renewable Resources, is seated right beside him, I'd like to ask the member for a few minutes of his time, given this is a democracy and I have the floor, to relate a similar situation.
The Wilderness Tourism Licensing Act came before this House. It was a bill I supported, a bill that the Wilderness Tourism Association had worked long and hard to prepare. There was an error in law in the drafting that was caught by my former colleague, a lawyer, the former Member for Riverside. It took an entire afternoon, and then some, and the presence in the gallery of the president of the Wilderness Tourism Association, for the minister to agree to amend that act. There was an absolute stubborn refusal because it came from the side opposite, and the member has only to go back through debate to see that. The issue was an error in law, and it had to do with the burden of proof, and it was - my former colleague explained it far better than I.
The point is, this side is not of that mind. If the member opposite wants to bring forward amendments to the Trustee Act, I am more than prepared to look at them. I'm more than prepared, in general debate. If the members opposite have an amendment they wish to bring forward, we're open to that. We're trying, like the member, to create the best legislation we can.
That's what we're trying to do, and if the member has an amendment, the government side is prepared to examine it and to work with him on that.
What I'm not prepared to do, Mr. Chair, because this bill has been on the Order Paper for a long time, is to keep putting it off. The member is just not willing to enter into debate on it.
I am willing to debate it clause by clause. We're willing to accept amendment. I'm willing to go into general debate again and again, and go through the reasons why we're bring it forward, the specific details. I'm more than prepared and happy to do that.
We have been so looking forward to it, as have the legal, financial and business community, that that's why we're ensuring it doesn't continue to gather dust on the Order Paper.
Mr. Fentie: Well, Mr. Chair, there was definitely a semblance of an offering of a cooperative approach to this, but it only adds more credence to the argument that we shouldn't be dealing with this legislation in this sitting. We also have a $535-million budget, of which 40 percent, in terms of dollars, has been passed. There's still 60 percent of that $535 million to be debated and passed in this House.
Now, I can tell you, Mr. Chair, beyond any reasonable doubt, that there probably isn't a lineup of trust companies beating down the minister's door trying to get into this territory this very minute. And the minister's offer about amending the legislation and working cooperatively to make it the best possible piece of legislation can't be done in this diminished timeline that we are facing here, and it's not because of the opposition. We in the opposition are here to manage our time. It is the government's side that is there to manage the agenda and the business of the House on behalf of the Yukon public.
In doing that job in the manner that the side opposite has done it, they are diminishing the Yukon public's ability to get full value from their elected people. That's the reason we are here, Mr. Chair. I see too many signs from the side opposite in terms of them trying to fend off and deflect the media, trying to muzzle groups in the public from saying anything, and muzzling - and this is a real attack on this Assembly - the side opposite's own backbenchers who have little opportunity -
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Chair: Ms. Tucker, on a point of order.
Ms. Tucker: On a point of order, I believe the member is misspeaking himself. None of the backbenchers on this side are muzzled or feel muzzled. And I would like to remind the member opposite when he says that the memorandum of understanding about the length of this sitting is no longer valid that the government has indicated our willingness to sit here as long as it takes to get full debate.
Chair: On the point of order, there is no point of order. Mr. Fentie, will you continue?
Mr. Fentie: Thank you, Mr. Chair. And - just so I can continue on with my point - in that environment, how does the minister and the members opposite expect this side of the House to proceed in a manner that precipitates a cooperative, constructive working relationship? This side, the opposition benches, are here to do a very difficult job. Now, the minister may not like it; however, we are entrusted with doing that job.
So let's go back now to this legislation. The official opposition has to make this point, and we believe it's a very relevant point in regard to this act.
This is a huge, huge initiative in terms of importance for this territory, and I want to point out some of the reasons why we in the official opposition believe that to be the case. Establishing trusts in this territory can be a good or a bad thing. There are pros and cons as there are in all issues that we must deal with. But the importance of this lies in how we make sure that we establish something that truly will benefit the Yukon people.
Now, one of the most problematic areas that businesses in this territory and the Yukon public face in relation to business revolves around access to capital. So for us to do justice in regard to trust companies being established in the Yukon, how do we address that issue in this cramped timeline? It hasn't been addressed in decades in this territory, Mr. Chair. In this territory today, the inability of Yukon people to access capital is having a direct and very negative impact on our economy. We feel this is important. We feel it could be critical. We will not stand down the fact that this isn't housecleaning or housekeeping legislation, and it needs to be dealt with in a manner that does it justice, not only on behalf of the members of this Assembly but, indeed, for the Yukon public in general. We can't hurry through this type of legislation and bills. These are not something to be rammed through because of majority in numbers.
The importance of initiatives such as this have to be given the appropriate scrutiny to ensure that the right thing is going to happen. I'm sure that we can all agree to this statement. Far too often, law is passed in this territory and across this country that, in the final analysis, turns out to be a mistake. It happens day in and day out. The realization that the lawmakers have not done their job thoroughly and have not represented the voting public appropriately is shown by the fact that, in many cases, developing legislation in terms of what happens on the ground once it's implemented is done in haste and is not done with the proper thought process brought to it.
When we get to this legislation, Mr. Chair, it's evident that there are a number of requirements that must be dealt with. It's one thing to be able to look through amendments to existing legislation with a very limited number of amendments, but when you look at something of this magnitude and scope, it matters little whether it sat on the Order Paper since last November or the November before last November. What counts is the work that we do in this Assembly.
With regard to this bill - and I think that, in the best interests of the legal community, of the business community, of the Yukon public, of this Legislative Assembly and everyone concerned, we should take the time on this bill to do it justice.
To do that, Mr. Chair, it should be brought forward in the legislative setting that is meant to deal with legislation. I think one can understand, in very simple terms, that we all were preparing for a budget sitting. Never did we in the opposition or, in fact, the public, for a moment, believe that we were going to get bogged down in the extensive legislative agenda that the members opposite, under the leadership of the Premier, the Member for Porter Creek South, has decided to foist upon the members of this Assembly.
Now, I'm urging the members opposite to give serious consideration to the importance of this legislation. I'm urging the Premier and the minister sponsoring this bill to give it a second thought, to realize how important this really is to the Yukon Territory. We need to ensure that the time allotted to debate this bill is an appropriate amount of time. Put it into the fall sitting where it belongs, so that the work done on debating the bill will produce constructive, positive results. Let's get on with something that, I think, is much more important to the Yukon Territory - getting the budget dealt with, getting the budget out there and implemented, so that some help can be directed toward Yukoners - Yukoners, Mr. Chair, who are waiting for something to happen from this government. If you look at it, in general terms and in a majority setting, it certainly isn't the Trustee Act, and it certainly isn't the number of bills that we've had to deal with in the last number of days in this House.
There are much more important things to Yukoners at this point in time. Can the minister not see the fact that this type of legislation requires very close scrutiny and may very well require some difficult, complex amendments? Will the minister agree with that?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: No, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Fentie: Well, there's a very flippant answer, Mr. Chair - very flippant indeed.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order, Mr. Chair.
Point of order
Chair: Ms. Duncan, on a point of order.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the member opposite is characterizing my remarks. He asks, "Will the member agree with that?" I stood on my feet and quietly said, "No, Mr. Chair". That's what the Hansard will reflect. That is not a flippant answer. It is a short, direct answer, but it is not flippant. And that's an unfair characterization or rendering an opinion of my response.
Chair: Mr. Fentie, on the point of order.
Mr. Fentie: Mr. Chair, I think the minister is somewhat mistaken. My comment that the answer was very flippant alludes to the fact that this is an extremely important piece of legislation and the minister refuses to even recognize that fact and the scrutiny required to deal with it. Therefore, I can only conclude that the answer was flippant.
Chair: The only Standing Order that would possibly break this is Standing Order 19(j) "uses abusive or insulting language of a nature likely to create disorder", and I don't believe that that passed the litmus test with me. There's no point of order.
Mr. Fentie: Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Chair, time and time again in this House we try to extract yes-or-no answers from the members opposite. In this regard, the minister certainly should not have been giving a yes-or-no answer but should have provided the opposition at least a cursory attempt at explaining how important the minister, after already admitting this is a very complex piece of legislation, believes this legislation to be, especially as it relates to Yukoners, whom we are working for, Mr. Chair.
Can the minister take another stab at answering my question?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: I extended, in the spirit of cooperation and willingness, to the member opposite that, had they amendments to bring forward, I would be more than prepared to look at them. The member opposite twisted that around to suggest all sorts of other nefarious things. All that does is convince me that, in their heart of hearts, the members opposite really do not want to work with us. We are fully prepared to debate Bill No. 34. It has been on the Order Paper for a long time. We are prepared to debate it. I have the amendments that have come as a result of further suggestions. The financial/legal business community is encouraging us in our efforts to pass good legislation. That's what I am trying to do and that is not running roughshod over members. It is providing enough time for debate. It does all those things. There has been plenty of time provided for research. There have been not one but two briefings provided to the members opposite. I have provided all the information. I would like to continue with the debate on Bill No. 34 - its intents, its purposes and the fact that it's good legislation for the Yukon business community and Yukoners as a whole, who may one day be beneficiaries of a trust. Who knows what will happen in the future?
Mr. Fentie: Well, Mr. Chair, with all due respect to the minister, I think the minister is being somewhat hasty in making the claim that this is good legislation. As I pointed out earlier, all too often we find that the good intentions applied to developing legislation turn out to be not the case. The minister should not be so hasty in making that claim.
Furthermore, let's look at the priorities. The minister has said that the bill sat on the Order paper for quite some time. Well, so has the Child, Youth and Family Advocacy Act. And in terms of the needs of Yukoners, I would submit, Mr. Chair, that that particular piece of legislation is extremely vital to this territory, yet it continues to languish on the Order Paper.
Mr. Chair, to do this bill justice, to ensure that we can achieve what it is intended to achieve, to ensure that we maximize returns to Yukoners and to ensure that we're not back here in a very short period of time amending this legislation, taking up the time of this Legislative Assembly with those amendments because we did not do a thorough job originally, to go down this road without first making every effort to close every door that will ensure that Yukoners are getting a good piece of legislation - because, Mr. Chair, it's far too premature to make that claim here on the floor today - it's going to require a great deal of work, time and effort.
The point we're trying to make, which the minister refuses to accept in the most limited terms, is that we should not be dealing with this type of substantive, complex legislation here at this point in time in the spring sitting.
Now, the minister is making the claim that the side opposite is not going to, in a heavy-handed way, ram this through. I take exception to that statement, Mr. Chair, because that's exactly what took place with this legislation coming to the floor of this Legislature. It was rammed through in a very heavy-handed manner. The opposition voiced their position in House leaders meetings. We also passed, on the floor of this Legislature, two housekeeping amendments in a very constructive, expeditious manner. There was no delay.
I think it's evident that when you deal with housekeeping legislation in a budget sitting, that's how it should be handled. We can't do that with this bill. We simply cannot do it in that manner. I would, again, urge the minister to stand down the stubborn approach that the minister takes in dealing with the opposition - and indeed, as is evidenced now, with the Yukon public in general - and let's do the appropriate work on this bill. Let's bring it forward in the fall when we are assured that what we've undertaken to pass is going to do what it is intended to do, Mr. Chair.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: The only bodies stubbornly refusing to accept that the work on this bill has been done are the members opposite. The member says he takes great exception to the minister. I take great exception to the members opposite suggesting that this government has in any way been heavy-handed.
The member opposite should have a little more experience, having been seated in the opposition benches and dealing with the former government - if the member wants examples of heavy-handed. We are, however, in the spirit of cooperation and in the spirit of moving forward, here to debate Bill No. 34. The homework on this bill has clearly been done by the government side and, if the opposition members have not completed their research - although they have had six months to do it - or completed their consultations, then I would suggest to the members opposite that they have had plenty of time to do it.
This bill is a well-considered bill. The homework has been done, and I would encourage members to debate it.
Mr. Fentie: Well, by the minister's statements, we can not only add "stubborn" to the minister and her government's approach to dealing with the Yukon public and the opposition; we can now add "vindictive", because the minister is totally stuck on the fact that -
Chair: Order please. I would caution all members that the road we're about to go down is not one that I'll allow us to go down - no abusive or insulting language. We're here to talk about policy and the Trustee Act, and not the personalities of other members. Thank you.
Withdrawal of remark
Mr. Fentie: I retract "vindictive" and we'll frame it in this manner: the minister is pushing this through because the minister, when in opposition, feels that the former government was heavy-handed in their actions in terms of governing this territory and doing the public's business in this House. So that's the only conclusion we can draw from the minister's refusal to look at the complexity of this bill and the nature of this bill, what this bill will do in terms of impact to this territory, what's going to happen once this bill is on the ground. It is only testimony to those statements I have just made. If the minister truly wanted to be cooperative, she would have followed three rules. However, they didn't and, in a very heavy-handed manner, they ran through an exorbitant amount of legislation in a budget sitting. I am saying to the minister that there is a way to handle this. There is a way to do the necessary work. There is a way to help the business community and the legal community, and at the same time assist all Yukoners.
That way, clearly, is to put this legislation where it belongs, in the fall sitting, which is the legislative sitting, and deal with it in the appropriate manner. Now the minister's refusal to do that is going to severely restrict the ability of this House to conduct the public's business. Can the minister not realize that, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: The only thing I am realizing in listening to the member opposite is that he is not prepared to do the job he was elected to do, which is to debate good legislation for the people of the territory.
Mr. Fentie: Well, here we go now with the personal attacks. The people in my riding will judge what my focus and intentions were when it comes to debating the business of this House - their business. They will pass that judgement, not the minister.
I am here, debating with the minister and saying the things I am saying and making the statements that I'm making, because that is my intention - on behalf of my constituents, and indeed all Yukoners, to debate what has been brought before us. It shouldn't be here in this sitting, but it is.
Now, the minister should be well-advised, Mr. Chair, to get on with the job that the minister was elected to do, and it certainly isn't throwing comments back across the floor that relate to nothing remotely close to this piece of legislation and how critical it is - in the minister's own words, how important it is and how vital it is. That tells me that the minister doesn't really have a good handle on what's in this bill, looks around her at the numbers that she has and is going to ram it through.
We have made a number of offers on how to handle this, throughout the last number of days, all of them ignored by the side opposite.
Mr. Chair, this is not a simple piece of legislation. It could have sat on the Order Paper since the ark was built. What point does that have or what bearing does that have on where we're at today? We are here to deal with it today in a manner of a mistake made by the members opposite in bringing this forward at this time. That mistake is severely restricting our ability to conduct the public's business, on this bill and on the budget, and it's high time the minister came to her senses and we start looking at ways to address that fact.
Chair: Is there any further general debate?
Mr. Fentie: Well, Mr. Chair, let the record show that the minister has so little regard for the opposition and this so-called important piece of legislation that she has tabled on the floor of this Legislature that she is busy going through correspondence and who knows what else, Mr. Chair. That shows a real lack of respect for this Assembly. We can't conduct the public's business in that environment.
Now, I asked the minister to look at ways that we can handle this very important piece of legislation and do it justice, and one of the offerings I made was to set it aside until the fall sitting, where it belongs, in case there are a number of significant amendments that will come forward out of this. The minister's refusal to act on that request shows that the minister has no desire to work with this side.
And then the minister's approach to this, by going off and doing other business while we're trying to debate this very important bill, which she sponsored and brought to the floor of this Legislature, speaks volumes to the approach that the minister is taking. We can't continue to conduct the public's business in this manner, Mr. Chair, and I think the minister should maybe stand down this bill, go back to her office, and give serious consideration to how she is approaching her job, because it is an important one and the minister simply isn't doing it justice.
Chair: Order please.
It's important that we all remember that we're not to introduce any matter into debate that, in the opinion of the Speaker, offends the practices and precedents of the Assembly. One of the practices and precedents of the Assembly is that all members are considered to respect each member in the House and that we are considered to, at all times, respect the rules and members of the House.
So to refer to a lack of respect in the House is actually imputing false motive and also offends the precedents and practices of the House. In the future, I'd ask members to refrain from using that tack in a debate, please.
Is there any further general debate?
Mr. Fentie: Well, Mr. Chair, I believe that I, on the official opposition benches, warrant at least the minister's attention. I think that's a fairly important part of debate. And the minister's lack of even affording me that attention is not going to help this debate one little bit.
Now, I think the minister should get on her feet and explain why we cannot do the necessary work on this bill - the job we were elected to do - put this bill in the environment and confines of where it should be, which is the fall legislative sitting, so that we can get on with conducting the public's business of passing the biggest budget in the history of this territory. Can the minister answer that question?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, this side of the House is not holding up people's business. This side is not stubbornly refusing anything. This side was elected by the people, just as members opposite were, to debate legislation in this forum.
By virtue of the number of seats, we were chosen by the people to be the government. It is our role to bring forward good legislation. That's what we have done. I am fully prepared to debate the legislation. We are debating it now. I am not prepared to engage with the member opposite - the member opposite views this as some sort of a game. If I stand up and suggest that - Mr. Chair, I will withdraw the comment about a game.
The member opposite sees this as some sort of an exercise where the government is somehow being attributed motives, which is incorrect.
We have brought forward the piece of legislation; it's good legislation; we are very confident in that, and I have not heard one argument from the members opposite to the contrary. No one has said it's not good legislation. No one has made one comment, or asked for clarification on one aspect to do with the bill.
Instead, we have spent three and a half hours, or whatever the amount of time is, listening to the members accusing the government of being stubborn, of not working with the opposition, which is incorrect, Mr. Chair.
There's no point in calling points of order; that's a dispute between members. Let's get on with debating this legislation. That's what we're here to do. That's what people elected us to do. That's how we earn our salaries, whether we're in opposition, or government members. It's our role to scrutinize legislation, debate it. Is it the best it can be for the people of the Yukon?
Now, let's get on with the job.
Mr. Fentie: Well, that's what we're doing, Mr. Chair, but this side of the House, and Yukoners in general, given the Liberal government's performance today, are very skeptical about anything they bring to the floor of this Legislature. That is an issue, Mr. Chair, that we, unfortunately, have to deal with, and to cut through all the minister's rhetoric - well, let's talk about working cooperatively.
An example of working cooperatively would have been to deal with this legislation in the appropriate timeline for legislation to be dealt with. That's when; that is in a fall sitting.
By adhering to an agreement that they lobbied long and hard for this side opposite to sign back on to, by adhering to that agreement, that is an indication of wanting to work cooperatively.
I have made a number of suggestions around this bill that may very well improve it, given the complexity of this bill and the work that may very well be required to do this job, and they have fallen on deaf ears. In fact, I have been scolded and lectured, and I have been shown everything but a cooperative, reciprocal attitude to what I am offering.
There is no reason for the minister to dig in on this piece of legislation as the minister has. There is every reason to move into the budget and give it its appropriate scrutiny and pass it - every reason. Because this legislation, if looked at more thoroughly, worked on more thoroughly, and indeed amended - any number of times as possible - will be much better. And in the fall, we can all stand in here in a very proud manner and pass a piece of legislation that will truly impact, in a very positive way, our constituencies. That's what I am saying. And for the minister to somehow conclude from what I am saying on the floor of this Legislature that I am wasting time is ludicrous. I have made a very solid, very sensible offer. The official opposition's approach to this makes sense because there is much more to this bill than the minister is admitting at this time.
So I again urge the minister to come to her senses, come to the realization that just because a few people in the legal community have offered her some advice, remember that there is much more to the fabric of this territory than just the legal community and there is much more to this legislation than the legalese of the legislation. It's about Yukon people.
With that, Mr. Chair, I will turn this over to my colleague, but I still have more in general debate.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, the Premier suggested that this was a good bill. It has been analyzed and compared to other jurisdictions. We know that some work was done back in 1999 but currently it may or may not be good in relation to other jurisdictions.
If all this work has been done and the analysis of this bill has been done by the government, could the minister please table the comparison between what we're going to have in place in Yukon and other jurisdictions?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I can provide that information for the member opposite. I would encourage the member opposite to listen to my response because I told the member opposite earlier that there was also a recent - the member is saying that we examined this legislation in 1999 and haven't looked at other legislation since. That is factually incorrect, and I already advised the member opposite of that. We have examined other legislation, very recently. This legislation is entirely in keeping with it. There have not been significant changes in Ontario, Manitoba, B.C. or Alberta since 1999, and that fact was re-verified this morning.
And yes, I'll table that for the member opposite when it's ready.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, we took the Premier up on a briefing this morning on this very issue and that was one of the questions that was posed to the officials. The information provided was that there was only a kind of comparison done to other jurisdictions and that there wasn't anything in writing available. We kind of indicated to the officials that it would probably be a worthwhile question that we would explore with the Premier during general debate, and could they do some of the background research.
So perhaps, in light of the timing of the delivery of this information, we should really just set aside this bill and go on to general debate on the budget where we appropriately should be at, Mr. Chair, and move forward.
The issue is that this could be a very important piece of legislation for the Yukon.
Given the apparent high-handedness that the Premier is very capably demonstrating here today in the Legislature, Mr. Chair, it does not bode well that this piece of legislation is going to receive the scrutiny that is required of the opposition, Mr. Chair.
So I would like to know when we can expect to receive this comparison to other jurisdictions, Mr. Chair. If that is going to be forthcoming, could it be tabled or sent over this afternoon? If not, when can we expect to receive it, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I will not stand down this legislation. The members opposite asked in their second briefing the particular question posed by the member. I advised the member earlier in my introductory remarks - perhaps he missed them, Mr. Chair - that we have gone back since the briefing, re-examined that particular question, and I have advised the member opposite that those particular jurisdictions have not changed their legislation, that our original research stands.
Now, the members opposite seem utterly incapable of taking the government's word or accepting the fact that this government would not only do our homework but that we would do it very well. No, that is not high-handed. Having a particular piece of legislation on the Order Paper for members to give it their full attention for six months, given its complex nature and given the fact that other members in this House seem utterly incapable of holding to agreements or time allocation or focused debate, we are prepared to move forward on this legislation. That is not high-handed. That is not using a majority. That is doing what we were elected to do, to do good legislation, and we're prepared to debate it.
Chair: Order please. Earlier, when we were discussing the memorandum of understanding and agreements, the Chair had ruled that references to who is holding to the agreement and who is not holding to the agreement would not be allowed in debate, and I will not allow that to continue further. The MOU is not under debate here; An Act to Amend the Trustee Act is.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I will certainly withdraw any reference I have made to the agreement, or to any member's reference to it. I will, however, indicate, once again, for members opposite, that this side is fully prepared to debate this legislation; as any legislator knows, once a piece of legislation is on the Order Paper, it can be called according to the Standing Orders. It could have been called at any point in time, and members have not appreciated the fact, in debate, that we have allowed for a lengthy time period. We have not only encouraged and attempted to strike a cooperative attitude and working arrangement with members opposite on this bill, we have provided briefings - more than one - we have revisited the research, ensured its accuracy and veracity, and we are prepared to debate it.
Now, I would encourage members to debate the bill at hand.
Mr. Jenkins: I just got another lecture from the Premier. The questions I was asking of the Premier directly related to this bill. I wasn't deviating from the bill. I was asking questions of the Premier directly relating to this bill.
Mr. Chair, I have another question for the Premier directly relating to this bill. Could the Premier advise the House what the advantage will be to set up in the Yukon, vis-à-vis Alberta, Ontario - let's leave Alberta out of the equation - Ontario and British Columbia? What are the advantages? Why would people come to the Yukon versus these other jurisdictions?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: A direct answer, once again, for the member opposite: the advantage is not solely for those outside of the territory in establishing trusts; it's for Yukoners as well. And the advantage in the Yukon legislation is the clarity of the legislation. And there are a number of points that the financial/legal community specifically requested in our bill, including the ease of annual reporting and the issue with respect to the rule allowing for delegation to investment advisor, and the minimal paper burden - I referenced this earlier - simplifying the establishment of trusts. And the recognition of non-charitable purpose trusts is an innovative feature in the Yukon legislation that is not present elsewhere that we examined.
Mr. Jenkins: Does the minister have any order-of-magnitude cost that one would incur setting up a trust here in the Yukon vis-à-vis Ontario with any one of the reputable, outstanding law firms that exist in either one of these jurisdictions?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: The purpose of the amendments to the act is to simplify the setting up of the trusts. The costs would certainly not be any more onerous than other jurisdictions.
I am glad the member opposite finds a direct response to his questions so humorous. The member asked for direct responses and I am providing them. The member opposite earlier mentioned that he had phoned his sources outside of the territory to seek their advice on this legislation. Why hasn't the member asked Yukoners what they would like? They are the people who vote and elected us.
Mr. Jenkins: The Premier is getting a little bit off track here with respect to her response. Mr. Chair, I'm looking for a cost. I'm looking for the advantages. The minister waffled all around the answer and said it wouldn't be any different from any other jurisdiction. I am looking for an order-of-magnitude cost to set up a trust here in the Yukon, vis-à-vis the other areas. Tell me what the advantages are? All I'm hearing about is that the paper burden is significantly less. Let's get out of the domain of the trust set up specifically for donation purposes - to cover that area - because that still has not been completely clarified by Canada. There are still a lot of questions in that area that the tax department hasn't really addressed with respect to donations from those areas.
Mr. Chair, there's a potential for a lot of good in this type of an act, but I have yet to hear from the minister any really good reason why I should rush to the Yukon and set up under this new act, instead of Ontario or British Columbia. I haven't heard from the minister that it's going to cost me considerably less. She was very, very careful in the selection of her words; the costs wouldn't be any more onerous than those other jurisdictions. That's not a sufficient enough answer to attract this kind of individual or individuals to the Yukon. It certainly isn't.
Even if a Yukoner were to look at this avenue, the chances are that his tax people would probably be based in Vancouver, maintain offices in Toronto and would advise to set up in jurisdictions other than the Yukon.
We did have an opportunity a few years ago for corporations here, but that has gone by the wayside. That has gone by the wayside due to the federal Liberal initiatives.
Mr. Chair, could the Premier be more specific as to the cost? Let's zero in on the costs and see if we can get some specific answers from the minister.
The minister can sit there as smug as she wants, but we are here to debate this important issue. It's like virtually all the other areas that we have in the Yukon, whether they be mining, forestry, oil and gas, our visitor industry. We have a tremendous amount of potential. We have a government that has been given a clear majority by the electors in Yukon. They have over $100 million, so we can't point to a government that doesn't have a majority; we can't point to a government that doesn't have the money. All we can point to is a government that doesn't have the ability to get these areas up and running, and I'm disappointed to see that, as are more and more Yukoners these days, Mr. Chair.
We have before us another act that certainly is not a housekeeping act, Mr. Chair. It's much more involved and much more thorough than a housekeeping act, but we're told it's a housekeeping act because it has been sitting on the Order Paper since last fall.
The Liberals didn't have the wherewithal to get it through in the fall session, where it rightfully belongs, Mr. Chair. So I want to know from the Premier what are the cost advantages of setting up the same trust here in the Yukon vis-à-vis Ontario or British Columbia.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I've already provided the member with some of the advantages. I will restate those and I will provide the member with precise costs if that's what he wishes, although costs are not part of this legislation. They can vary depending on the complexity of the trust and complexity of the work required. I will remind the member opposite that the advantages that the legislation currently under debate offers are that this legislation has efficient procedures to establish and maintain trusts, such as the statutory form of a trust instrument. It is less complicated, in short, to establish a family trust in the Yukon than it is in other jurisdictions, thanks to this legislation. Other jurisdictions have instruments and procedures that are far more convoluted and difficult. Under the proposed amendments, administration procedures such as passing of trustee accounts, have been simplified, and trustee powers and protections have been enhanced so that Yukon is a good place and a safe place to maintain trusts. I know that all members in this House are familiar with legal costs and legal bills, wherein every telephone call, every document is listed as a billable entry. Making this paperwork and these entries easier also reduces costs, Mr. Chair, and makes it far easier and advantageous to establish a trust in the Yukon, which is the question the member asked, and that is my very direct answer.
Mr. Jenkins: Could the minister tell me what the cost-saving is of setting it out in the Yukon vis-à-vis Ontario or British Columbia?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: The question the member asks is outside of this specific legislation. I have already indicated to the member that we will take a sample and compare costs, since he seems so interested in the costs. This legislation doesn't cover the costs. The member asked what the advantages are; I've already outlined those. The member has asked what the costs are; I've already indicated that I will take a sample case - I know there are many variables - and I will seek a response for the member opposite.
I do not have specific costs in front of me. I do have specific advantages of this legislation, and I have already outlined them for the member opposite.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, it doesn't matter what we're doing. We can put in place the best legislation in the Yukon, Canada and North America so that somebody can sell widgets. But if those same widgets can be sold in Toronto or New York or Boston or L.A. or Calgary for a quarter of the price, it really doesn't matter what our legislation is or how much better our legislation is than what is in place in these other jurisdictions. That's reality today. And your population base and the wealth of that region usually tend to be associated with family trusts, per se.
Lately, the exodus of money and capital out of the Yukon has been at an alarming rate. We know that. You only have to pick up your phone and call your accountant and ask where you should be setting up a family trust for the future, and currently the Yukon isn't a place that is recommended.
It's not recommended at all. Trusts are set up in the jurisdiction that has the most likelihood of success. Currently the thinking is that that is the Province of Ontario and the second is the Province of British Columbia. Now, we all know that British Columbia hasn't done everything right for the past probably almost a decade, but there are proposals out there that the government to be is circulating as to the areas that they envision changing. I just briefly asked about some of them and there are some of the areas that the minister suggested were going to be incorporated into this legislation. I was told that probably the area of choice in the not-too-distant future will be British Columbia. I asked what was wrong with the Yukon. Well, I received a litany of responses that I won't even go into here, but the suggestion was very firm and very direct: don't even consider it. Don't even consider it. So I just put that information out because I know the Premier is relatively new and inexperienced in this area. It takes quite awhile to get one's head around the totality of the situation because we are dealing with numbers and situations that I don't think too many can comprehend.
And we're thinking in an area that is very hard to relate to. But if the government of the day is determined that they want to get involved in this area and enhance it, I'm all for it. But as I said earlier, let's do it once and let's do it right. Let's not fumble the ball. Thus I asked for comparisons with other areas of Canada to see how we would compete and what benefits Yukon would have to offer.
Money is a very interesting commodity. It doesn't recognize boundaries, whether they be provincial, territorial or, for that matter, international boundaries. Money moves where it gets the best treatment and the best rate of return. It gravitates to those areas.
Now, there have been changes in the tax act in Canada that have made it mandatory to report offshore trusts. I guess Canada has a right to keep its thumb on the pulse of money, especially big money that is moving around. But if you look at the decisions that allow big money to move around in trusts, usually the accountants and lawyers representing this big money approach the tax department in Canada and seek a ruling - a measure of comfort - as to how, why and what the tax implications are going to be for this trust.
Mr. Chair, most of this act, save and except for the three amendments that are of a housekeeping nature that we were advised of just yesterday, was drafted back in 1998-99 and I'm sure that most of the research was done at that time. Individuals who have family trusts and other trusts basically just want to protect that money. They want to ensure that it's safe, they want to ensure that it grows and that it's not taxed into oblivion.
The minister, in a meeting just the other day, in her capacity as Minister of Finance, wants to move in synch with the federal government and all the other provinces with respect to how taxes are applied at either the personal or corporate level. Currently, the Yukon, N.W.T. and Nunavut have tax on tax. The provinces have moved away from that method. There is one exception in Canada: the Province of Quebec, where you file federally and you file provincially. You file two separate tax forms in that province, but here in the Yukon we file one, we file it with Canada, and our Yukon tax rate is a percentage of the federal tax rate. We're going to be moving away from that model in the not-too-distant future, Mr. Chair, and so be it.
Well, that does a number of things, Mr. Chair. When the federal government changes the tax rate, it allows for some tax room here in the Yukon that the current government may or may not take up.
We don't know. That's a political decision once again. It also, Mr. Chair, allows for better tracking by the federal government, because the computer models that they have now currently designed and in place kick out anything that is not in synch with what is transpiring in the rest of Canada. Yukon is an exception that shows up. The abnormal things that we have up here, like flight allowances and the northern allowance, usually trigger a review by Revenue Canada or its new agency, Canada Customs and - whatever it's called currently. Tomorrow the Liberals will probably dream up a new name for it, Mr. Chair. Who knows? But we're playing in an international marketplace; we're playing in a national marketplace. If we're going to do so, we had better have done our homework with respect to how we're going to dovetail into this area, Mr. Chair. And all the information I've asked for, the minister's going to provide it. "Pass this act, pass it now, and we'll get you that information after we've passed it, because we really haven't got it on hand." Mr. Chair, the minister is saying that that's fair and that this is an open and accountable government. Just ask yourself if you would subscribe to such a plan, Mr. Chair. "Approve this, ratify this, move it forward, and we'll give you the information to justify it later." We don't get a chance to examine that material that may or may not justify this act, Mr. Chair. We don't even know that.
We're looked upon as impeding the flow of business through this House because we want this material, we want some comparisons, we want some costs.
The Premier expects us to come in here and just rubber-stamp whatever she provides, Mr. Chair, and she's determined to do that at all costs. Well, that's a sorry state that we've degenerated into. Why can't we have a look at this information the Premier has agreed to provide, and then get back to this act? What's the hang-up with that? Why is the minister determined that this has to pass and we get the information after the fact? That's not fair. That's not reasonable. It speaks well of a very heavy-handed, autocratic approach to government - so much for a new open and accountable Liberal government, Mr. Chair. We have exactly the opposite.
When can we see this information so we can make a determination - the comparison between Yukon and other jurisdictions, and the financial costs comparison so we can make a determination of whether this is indeed the correct route to be taking?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: The member opposite made up his mind, no matter what I have said on the floor of the House, that information was incorrect. The member opposite has stubbornly refused to listen to the answers I've provided. I have indicated to the member opposite that, following up to a question posed at the briefing this morning - a question that could have been posed six or eight months ago, when the original briefing was offered and accepted by the members opposite. The question that was posed this morning has been answered. I have provided the member opposite with an answer. The member opposite will not accept an answer from me. The member wants it verified in writing.
I'm in the House answering questions. I will provide the member opposite with the answer in writing as soon as I am able.
And no one has behaved in a heavy-handed manner other than the members opposite. The members opposite have had six months - six months after a first briefing - to raise questions, to look at this legislation and to discuss it. They've had four hours this afternoon to ask reasonable questions.
I have answered the questions that I have been asked. As to costs, a new question - the original question was what the advantages were. I have outlined those for the members opposite. I have also outlined that those advantages will translate into reduced costs. The member opposite has chosen to phone his friends in southern Canada and professionals in southern Canada to seek their advice. I have chosen to ask that professionals in Yukon be asked the very question about costs, and I will respond to the member opposite.
Does the member opposite have a new question? No one has suggested that the bill be cleared before the questions have been answered. No one has suggested that, Mr. Chair.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Ms. Duncan: There are two questions. I fully anticipate having the responses post-break. Perhaps, in light of the fact that the members opposite clearly need an opportunity to review information, we would like to have the break at 4:15 today until 4:30.
Chair: It has been requested by Ms. Duncan that we do now take a recess for 15 minutes.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, I would be hopeful that, at the end of the break, the minister would provide this information, if that is the purpose of the break.
Chair: We will recess for 15 minutes and be back at 4:30.
Chair: I now call Committee of the Whole to order. We will continue with general debate on An Act to Amend the Trustee Act. I believe Ms. Duncan had the floor.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, two specific questions have been asked by the Member for Klondike. One of the questions was couched in the phrase, "What would be the advantage of moving a family trust to the Yukon? What would be the advantage of establishing a trust in the Yukon under the amendments to the act?" Couched in that question was,
"What is the cost of establishing such a trust in the Yukon?"
I can advise the member opposite that I posed that very question to the legal community in the business of setting up such trusts. I can advise the member opposite of a number of caveats with my response. First of all, they're not cookie cutters, so each trust doesn't cost the same amount. There are different facets to do with different trusts. A typical family trust can have a variety of special caveats. Typically, it would cost about $1,500, and that cost is comparable, if not lower in some instances, and is easily comparable with southern Canadian jurisdictions.
I'm also advised that cost is a very minor issue in establishing trusts - a very minor issue. Trusts are also very flexible documents as afforded under this legislation.
I would also make the point that, at a recent law conference in Calgary, I'm advised that Saskatchewan has adopted legislation very similar to the Yukon's and that we are one of the few jurisdictions that have moved ahead on the recommendation with regard to the perpetuities and accumulations repeal of such an act. It's a request from the legal community to provinces. We're one of the few that have moved forward on it, and that move is very much applauded.
With respect to the actual legislation and its comparison with southern Canada, the member has asked whether the legislation compares with southern Canada and has questioned the veracity of how we have determined that. I can advise the member opposite of two points: first of all, the previous point that I just mentioned regarding a recent law conference in Calgary on this specific issue; and secondly, this legislation was examined with other provincial legislation.
The officials have gone back and verified that the amendments proposed have not been superseded by any amendments in other jurisdictions. We're specifically advised that Manitoba, Ontario, B.C. and Alberta have not changed their trust legislation since it was initially examined, and that will be provided in writing to the member opposite.
Overwhelmingly, I have also been advised that the amendments to the Yukon trusts act, as we would like to amend it to be called, are not simply beneficial to those in the legal community. The accounting community and the financial investment community also benefit. Now, in that regard, this particular piece of legislation is seen as a viable export tool for Yukon professionals. It would appear that the members from both opposition parties would like to focus on the fact that the legislation before us does not include the tax initiatives that were originally proposed.
We have been open and accountable, and we advised members as soon as we were advised that we cannot do that in this legislation. We're advised by Finance officials that it is not acceptable at this point in time and is not acceptable in Yukon's legislation.
We want to work within the Canadian context. Therefore, the question then becomes: do you go ahead with amendments to the Trustee Act without the tax issue, without the tax credits? And the overwhelming response was yes, because of the advantages this legislation affords, because the business community believes it is a viable tool for not only the benefit of Yukon business people, but Yukoners as a whole.
The member opposite has seen fit to seek an opinion from a Vancouver company. Perhaps the member opposite is also willing to provide that in his information to us, in writing, in order that we may also respond.
Mr. Jenkins: I thank the minister for the information. Mr. Chair, I advise the minister that I am not looking for a letter spelling out that they've compared Ontario, B.C. and Alberta's current legislation to the Yukon's proposed legislation. What I am seeking is a copy of the comparison that was undertaken by the department among the various jurisdictions and a list of the pros and cons of the various areas. That's what I am seeking. Could the minister confirm that that is what she will be providing?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: That information was provided verbally to the member opposite; however, I can provide that information to the member as well. When the member asked the original question he was asking whether or not the comparisons were recent and I indicated verbally that they were. Now I am prepared to indicate in writing to the member opposite that we have reviewed them and yes, the comparisons are recent and we can provide a background document if the member wishes.
Mr. Jenkins: That's exactly what I'm looking for - the background documentation doing the comparison and doing the analysis of the various jurisdictions. I imagine there's going to be some information coming from the various law conferences that have been held over the past few years. There's a certain component in this area, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Chair, there has, in the past, been an organization or some kind of mechanism in government. It was with respect to standardizing the legislation across all the provincial/territorial jurisdictions. I don't have the actual name of this organization, but it worked to achieve that aim. It has been in place for quite a number of years. I was wondering if this body fit into this equation. And I'm sorry, the name of this body escapes me. I know it exists and I know it could be utilized for this very reason - to examine what is transpiring in other jurisdictions and to propose changes to existing legislation to bring us in synch with the current trends.
My, how you change, Mr. Chair.
But has the advice of this body been sought on this occasion, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the member opposite is referring to the Uniform Law Conference. If the member harkens back to the Electronic Commerce Act and Electronic Evidence Act, the function of the uniform law group is to undertake reviews where they has been directed to do so, and they dealt with the e-commerce and e-evidence legislation. To the best of my knowledge and my officials' knowledge, they have not been asked to review this type of legislation from the provincial jurisdictions or from us. It's not a situation where one territory or province submits a case or submits a question. It's a more universal application to the Uniform Law Conference.
That's my best understanding of how that works, and they did provide advice in the e-commerce and e-evidence legislation, as I noted.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, Mr. Chair, I believe there's a body in-house or some organization in-house that undertakes this, and it's in existence in all jurisdictions. It's not just this one autonomous group, and its purpose is similar to what the Premier outlined. The name of it escapes me. It has been in place for quite a number of years, and I was wondering if the Premier could tell me if that group has been consulted. I'll see if I can find the name of this group.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, to the best of my knowledge, the member is referring to the Uniform Law Conference, and our legislative council is part of that. There is no organization internal to the Government of the Yukon that the member is referring to. I believe that what the member's referring to is the Uniform Law Conference, and our legislative council is part of that. And our legislative council is, of course, given earlier legislation that we've passed in this House, very well aware of this legislation and whether or not it withstands the scrutiny of other provinces.
Mr. Jenkins: Has there been any move made by the government here in the Yukon to seek the advice of this group? How is this working on this initiative?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, my understanding is that the Uniform Law Conference works in areas where we require a uniform application. For example, for e-evidence, we need to have the same rules between courts. Trusts and trust legislation are unique to the provinces. So it's not an area where the Uniform Law Conference would work, and the Yukon is not spearheading a movement to have the Uniform Law Conference work in this area.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, usually the easiest way to deal with the subject matter is not to go back and reinvent the wheel, Mr. Chair; it's to pick up where others have left off and learn from the experience of others. So if we want to get involved in this area extensively, as appears to be the case, Mr. Chair, the best way to proceed is to review what currently exists in other jurisdictions, and the minister confirms that that is what has been done. I'm sure she will also confirm that it was done as far back as 1998 before this legislation was first drafted.
As to why the previous government didn't bring it forward, that tale will be told another day. But the fact that it wasn't renders parts of it - probably instead of leading, we're following, in many respects. The minister nods her head and says no.
It's interesting that, when one picks up the phone and phones somebody in the accounting profession in Toronto or Vancouver and says to them, "I wish to set up a trust in the best area of Canada. What is that currently? What do you envision it will be, and what are the advantages of each one of those areas, and what is it going to cost?" You'll get a sliding scale order of magnitude as to the cost, and it's pretty interesting.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Jenkins: Thank you, Mr. Chair.
I just received a note from my office. The committee was established by the federal government in the provinces to deal with this area of uniform - not just laws, but it's to standardize legislation between all the jurisdictions. That's the note I have. I was aware that it existed and that it is not being used. I guess that's the Premier's choice.
At the end of the day, what we want is something that leads instead of follows, Mr. Chair. We don't want to be bringing in new legislation that will not be so new in a very short period of time, and all we have are the minister's assurances that she's going to provide this comparison, but please pass the bill now.
I think it's important that we recognize and keep in focus the steps. I think it's of paramount importance that we review all the background information before we move this bill forward.
I would ask the minister to consider going back into budget debate. Let's clear the budget and leave these amendments, which are not of a housekeeping nature, until the end, so that we can have a chance - we just received the briefing this morning. I only had a chance to make one phone call on this very important issue. I'm waiting for some more information from the Premier.
Mr. Chair, I think it's only fair that we set this aside, move forward and deal with the important issue of the budget.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I find it's quite amazing that the member asked that we be fair because this side has been fair - has been more than fair, has been more than open and accountable, has been more than cooperative. Not one briefing, but two; six months to read the legislation, go through it, and the member complains that he has only had the opportunity to make one phone call. There has been six months that this bill has sat on the Order Paper. It has been out there. The member has had not one briefing, but two. Members have been well aware of this.
Now, no one has said, "Just pass this bill." No one has said "rubber stamp". No one but the members opposite have used those words - no one on this side. I have answered questions not only openly and fairly to the member opposite, but I have answered them immediately.
Now, it seems to me that we have two choices: the member can filibuster, as he is wont to do; the member can ask additional questions he may have on this legislation, or the member has suggested that we should just acquiesce to their demands - that we not do the job we were elected to do and debate this legislation.
My proposal to the member opposite is that we continue to answer questions. We are unlikely to get through the clauses today. I am more than happy to answer questions. Tomorrow is private members' day, in which there is an opportunity to debate other things, and we will be back to this on Thursday.
Now, the member indicates he has other questions. I am more than prepared to answer them.
Mr. Jenkins: The issue before us is that we received a briefing this morning at 10 o'clock. I had a number of questions arising out of that briefing. I contacted an individual I know very well in the accounting world who deals not solely in this area, but it's one of the areas that he deals in. I asked for his advice, and I asked him for an overview of what is transpiring in this area in Canada. He is based in Toronto and is naturally of the opinion that that is the best area to set it up. He also recommended British Columbia and, as a third choice, Alberta. We got into costs, and each trust situation is somewhat different. It has to be structured for the client. So you're talking about the legal community as well as the accounting community, so that all bases are covered.
But this opportunity to get into this area came up as a consequence of changes in federal government legislation. So there is an opportunity to attract investment capital and capital to the Yukon.
I don't have any quarrel with that. I laud and welcome an initiative that would see that occur.
My questions to the minister are such that I would like the opportunity to examine the analysis that was undertaken by the department about the various jurisdictions. At the end, when we finally give approval to this legislation, I would like it to be the best that it possibly can be, to be a very workable instrument that attracts trusts to this area, that makes it attractive and keeps it attractive. I'm not convinced that that is the case.
Now, other than dialogue with the minister's departments, I don't believe there has been any outside dialogue other than what the minister has advised the House took place just today. I may be incorrect in that overview, Mr. Chair, but I would suggest that it's probably a very accurate view of the minister's involvement with this. It is a last-minute, rush situation. Let's get it through - ram it through the House.
The minister is determined that this has to go forward. All I'm suggesting to the minister is that we go back into general debate of the budget, deal with that material, and set this over until after we have had a chance to review the information that the minister has agreed to provide the opposition. It is supposed to be forthcoming. If that information can be tabled tomorrow, I'm sure that when we get back into debate on this act on Thursday, we will be able to deal with it.
But right now the minister, by her approach and attitude, is not conducting the business of this Legislature in a very good manner. There is not any new and improved method of openness and accountability. In fact, it's more closed now under this Liberal government than it has ever been before, Mr. Chair. There are more displays of autocracy and autocratic forms of government now than I have seen demonstrated in the short time that I have been in this Legislature by an NDP government.
When is the Premier going to demonstrate this open and accountable form of government that she campaigned on and won an election on? When is that going to be demonstrated, Mr. Chair? When is the government House leader going to work with House leaders from the opposition to move forward these debates?
We're at an impasse here. We're awaiting information, Mr. Chair. We're awaiting information on this act so we can analyze it and see if it is factual and accurate and see if this is going to be best for the Yukon and attract investment capital and trusts to the Yukon. I'm not convinced. Those whom I have spoken with are not convinced, and I'd be hopeful that the Premier can see her way clear to give us an opportunity to reach the same conclusion she has obviously reached.
But without providing those tools, Mr. Chair - and the tool that she must provide is information - we are at a loss. And why the minister wants to move ahead, rather than move into what we are here in this session to debate, which is the budget, I don't know. I don't know what the ulterior motive is.
Now, I can assure the Chair that my responsibility is here in this Legislature, and it's to hold the government accountable. And if I were in government and seeing what has transpired since this session began, Mr. Chair, I'd want to spend the least amount of time possible in this House and get out. The Liberal government's wheels are coming off the cart, and I'm not sure if the horse is pushing it or pulling it or whether it indeed has a horse. There's probably a very fragile string trying to pull this cart along, Mr. Chair. So seeing that, we want to move ahead with the business of the House. The prime business of this House - no one will dispute it - for the spring session is the budget. We are into other acts where the minister hasn't provided all the information she has agreed to provide. Until we have that other information, Mr. Chair, we are at an impasse. Can the minister please stand this down? We can move into general debate on the budget and see some progress on the business that we have before us.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the member opposite has stood on his feet and said that they have not been offered briefings, that they've only just learned this information, that there has not been enough time.
The opposition has consistently refused briefings. They were advised at the opening of this session that briefings were available. We had already provided them with one briefing, already provided the opposition with a full briefing. The full briefing was provided last fall when this bill was tabled. There were six months of opportunity for members to make phone calls, to speak with the very capable and able members of the Yukon legal profession because, despite the Member for Klondike, who doesn't seem to have a high opinion of our Yukon legal and accounting and financial professions, I do. And members of this side hold their opinions in high regard. We do ask, and we do listen to them.
The member has stated that the government and I have some ulterior motive. The motive of this government is to provide good government for the people of the Yukon. Good government includes not only the wise management and expenditure of funds; it also includes putting forward and passing good, decent legislation. This bill is good for Yukon businesses. It provides them with - I have just quoted to the member opposite from a member of the legal community here in Whitehorse. It is a viable export tool for Yukon professions.
They have been amply aware of this - they, the Yukon's financial legal community and members of the opposition - for some time.
We want to facilitate business. The members, in their never-ending search for other ways to somehow alter their positions, do not appear to respect the fact that we are rebuilding the economy, we are working with the Yukon business community. And when the Yukon business community comes to us with suggestions on how to make good legislation better or to have good legislation on the books for the business community, that is what we are doing.
We are working with the business community to give them tools to help create jobs. We support this legislation. It's good legislation. Members have been provided with all the information that is available. They have had ample opportunity. They will be subsequently provided with that information in a written form, Mr. Chair. However, it does not matter what I stand on my feet and say to the members opposite. It seems to me that the members opposite will not grant that I am speaking the truth, that that is what I am saying.
Chair: Order please. Implying that the opposition or that any member is doing anything but accepting the truth is implying that there may have been an inference of lying. I would ask that we be very temperate in this area. Mention of the truth always brings alarm bells up and this is very close.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: I absolutely recognize that, Mr. Chair. I also recognize that the members opposite have doubted every time I have stood on my feet and said that this is what has happened. The legal community has said, and others have suggested, that the trust legislation should include the tax credit. I have said that we cannot do that.
The Member for Klondike has said, "Well, this trust legislation doesn't go far enough. How do we know it's good legislation? How do we know we don't have to amend it?"
I have indicated to the member opposite that this is the best. We have researched other jurisdictions; we have looked offshore; we have examined them lately to see if there have been any changes in response to a question; we have looked at that; we have examined the costs; we have examined the advantages. It is not as far - it is not offering the tax incentive. We cannot do that.
So do we then not update our trust legislation because we can't do that part of it? No. If we cannot do that part of it, we go ahead with what we can do. We can make sure that the advantages of having a family trust in the Yukon are there. And the advantages are that this legislation provides for efficient procedures to establish and maintain trusts. It's less complicated to establish a family trust in the Yukon. Trust administration procedures, such as passing of trustee accounts, have been simplified, and trustee powers and protections have been enhanced. Yukon is a good, safe place.
The members opposite are suggesting that somehow, by bringing this forward, we are doing them a disservice. The service that we are all expected to perform on the floor of this House is service to the people of the Yukon. And that service is wise management of the taxpayers' dollars and good legislation.
Mr. Chair, we have allowed ample opportunity, not only for briefings, but for follow-up. I have offered to the members opposite. I have been more than cooperative with members opposite - far more than has been seen.
Amendments in advance, willingness to allow them to have, on these two bills - Bill No. 34 in particular, since it's under debate - an opportunity to have yet another offer of a briefing. Thankfully, this time, they themselves accepted it. Previously, it had been offered and staff attended. They accepted the briefing. They had the briefing. We've answered the questions. I'm more than prepared to answer specific questions on specific clauses - more than prepared to do that.
The difficulty I have, Mr. Chair, is that it does not seem to matter to the opposition what we provide. It doesn't matter that we have worked with the opposition and offered briefings. It doesn't matter that we've let this bill sit on the Order Paper for six months. It doesn't matter that they were given ample notice that this bill was going to be called. They stand on the floor of the House, create Hansard, and suggest that we are not being open and accountable and that our House leader is uncooperative. That, Mr. Chair, is not what being an MLA is all about.
Being an MLA, right now, today, in this Legislature, means asking things like, "Have you reviewed the other acts?" I answered that question. "Will you provide us with that in written form and the act-by-act comparisons?" Yes. The members could have had it six months ago if they had asked. But they didn't ask. So they can hardly accuse us of withholding information.
Being a member of this Legislature is about providing a business community that enables us to rebuild the Yukon economy. It means asking what a common trust fund is. Does the definition include all of the trusts that might be established here? Have we provided the proper safeguards around investment counsellor? Is two years enough to process paperwork? Should it have been three? Should it have been one? That's what debate is about.
Debate focuses on the bill. Debate focuses on whether or not this is the best legislation. I'm confident it is and I'm confident enough that I want to debate it. The member seems mired in personalities. I want to debate the bill.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, let's set the record straight. First and foremost, the minister tried to suggest that I have no respect for Yukon lawyers, accounting firms and individuals. That is incorrect. That is wrong. I want to make that abundantly clear. I have the utmost respect for the law profession here in the Yukon and for the accounting profession here in the Yukon.
It just so happens that some of the fellows I went to university with are now involved in those fields elsewhere, and I rely on their advice. It's much easier to rely on that advice and ascertain what is transpiring nationwide by speaking with someone who is directly involved in it and has the background knowledge and understanding of it. That's why I seek the advice of these individuals. It's not to preclude anyone here in the Yukon. It's not to slight anyone here in the Yukon, but they are excellent sources of information.
Mr. Chair, further to that, a number of questions have been posed to the Premier. The minister made the statement that all the information that is available has been provided.
Well, Mr. Chair, what I asked for from the Premier was the analysis that was supposed to have been undertaken in-house by the department between all of the jurisdictions that led the Premier to conclude what she has concluded, that this is the best act. Because really, in that respect, we're on the same wavelength. I'm looking for the best act for the Yukon. The Premier tells me that this is the best act but won't substantiate it with backup documentation that concludes just that, Mr. Chair.
Until such time as the backup information is provided, outlining the analysis undertaken of the other jurisdictions that were in the - I'm not looking right across Canada. I'm looking to compare with the other jurisdictions that are in the forefront, and the only three that were really mentioned to me as being in the forefront were Ontario, then B.C., then Alberta. They're about the only areas that are being looked at for trusts, and Ontario came to the top of the group, Mr. Chair. Now, there must be some reason for that. Perhaps it's that Mike Harris and his Conservative government are just doing one heck of a fine job there, and that's not the case in the Yukon. The Premier and her colleagues are doing a poor job here, Mr. Chair, and are not addressing their responsibilities and not addressing the issues and just paying lip service to the economy.
But, Mr. Chair, our economy is in desperate straits here, and there hasn't been any initiative to speak of that has been undertaken by this government that is going to turn it around. In fact, all the initiatives so far have only done a number of things. They've served to increase the cost of government. They've set up more areas and facets of government. Today, we have before us something that we want to debate, but because the government of the day, the Liberals, set the agenda, we're not allowed to debate the budget.
We're being held for ransom, Mr. Chair, by the Premier and her colleagues saying, "You pass these acts before we go back into the budget." And the arrangements were one thing - today we have a different venue.
I will give the minister a measure of comfort in that there are three housekeeping amendments to the act that we have before us for debate, but then we're told that this is a housekeeping act, so we're going to be housekeeping the housekeeping.
I don't want to be out with the Premier when she's doing her spring cleaning that she suggested we should all be doing - cleaning her windows and her oven and her fridge, and all those kinds of things. She went on at great lengths, saying that this is spring cleaning, and trying to make the analogy that this is what this act was all about.
But, Mr. Chair, this spring session is to debate the budget. We're waiting for more information on this act. Chances are, and I'm hopeful, that we can look forward to receiving that written information tomorrow and, if that's the case, we can get back into this if the Liberal government of the day determines that they want to go back into debating this act. If the information is provided tomorrow at the session, we can probably get back into it, Mr. Chair. But, without the information that's requested, arising out of our debate here today and out of our briefing this morning, it is not a reasonable request to ask the opposition to continue with debate on this act.
The Premier is holding up the business of the Legislature. She is filibustering on this very, very important act that should be set aside. We should be in the budget debate and get back into the act when she has provided all the information requested.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: It is the opinion of the member opposite that I and the government have not been reasonable, that we have not provided information. That is the opinion of the member opposite. With all due respect, I beg to differ. Not only have we been reasonable, we have been more than accommodating.
I have indicated to the member opposite that I will provide a written response to the member's question - a comparison of other jurisdictions - and I will provide it. Had he done his homework and asked the question six months ago in the initial briefing, he could have had it then. That is not a reason to hold up the debate on this particular bill.
Let me ask this: if the member is provided with opinions from the legal community, whom he has so eloquently expressed that he holds in high regard and respects, is he prepared to accept that and is he prepared to move the debate along?
Mr. Jenkins: What I am seeking from the minister is the in-house analysis that was supposedly conducted to compare this legislation with the other major jurisdictions in Canada. That is what I am looking for - the comparison. I am not looking for some letter from a lawyer saying this is good legislation. I am looking for the comparison, Mr. Chair, that obviously was done in-house. We were told that there was a comparison done.
I'm looking for a copy of that comparison. If that's forthcoming and looks reasonable, I'm sure we can move forward.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, as I have already indicated to the member on many occasions this afternoon, not only is that forthcoming, but I will do my utmost to ensure that it is delivered to the member just as soon as I can possibly do that. I will go beyond the member's reasonable request.
Mr. Chair, I asked publicly - I'm prepared and have committed many times to the member opposite to provide information. I'm asking for the member's public commitment that he's prepared to end the unreasonableness and filibuster and move this forward. That is the question that has not yet been answered.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, we're going nowhere very, very quickly because the minister is not recognizing that she has a responsibility to answer questions and provide information in a timely fashion.
All I'm looking for from the Premier is a copy of the analysis that was conducted in-house comparing the legislation in this area to that of the legislation in other jurisdictions. Upon receipt of that information, I would like a window of opportunity to conduct a review of it and make a few phone calls. If that's forthcoming tomorrow, I'm sure that this coming Thursday we can probably get back into general debate and move forward.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, in doing my responsibility, I'm seeking clarification from the member opposite. Is the member prepared, upon receipt of the information, to discuss this on Thursday and move it out of general debate, or is the member seeking more time - say, August? I'm seeking clarification from the member.
Mr. Fentie: Mr. Chair, the official opposition would also like to be in receipt of the comparison or the analysis with other jurisdictions in relation to what point their legislation is at in comparison to ours. I think that's what the question was. The fact is that other jurisdictions have been updating their legislation recently, so we would like to be in receipt of the same information.
It does, though, pose the question of how we proceed in general debate without that information. The minister has said a number of times that we could have asked for this six months ago. Well six months ago, there was no indication that any legislation would be coming forward - at least this type of substantive legislation - to the spring sitting. So, I think that's kind of a moot point, Mr. Chair.
However, we do want to move the business of the House along here, and in general debate I have a number of questions that the Premier may be able to answer. It's obvious we're not going to get far in terms of changing our process in dealing with this bill.
First question: I alluded earlier to the lack of access to capital that Yukon businesses and Yukon people experience here, which is a real impediment to our ability to realize growth and develop economically, because the fuel for any economic engine, of course, is cash flow. So, can the minister provide assurances that, with this legislation and the establishment of trusts in the Yukon, this will be an avenue for people to access capital in some way or some form, or is it just an area that is going to be used strictly for holding investment?
It doesn't necessarily have to be like a lending institution, but it can be used in other forms - for instance, collateral and those types of things.
Secondly, on the issue around non-charitable trusts and organizations in the Yukon that may choose to use this particular avenue to establish a trust - like non-government organizations and so on and so forth - can the minister elaborate on that area and, just in layman's terms, in a brief manner, how that would work with this legislation?
Thirdly, can the minister provide assurances that, with this legislation and the establishment of trusts in the Yukon, we are not going to be a haven for - I'll put it this way - illicit monies, laundering of monies? It is a big issue in the territory at this point in time. I feel that with all the good that may come from establishing, as the minister put it, good legislation, if something like this were to materialize if the safeguards are not in place, we certainly diminish the good we intended to do in setting out with this if only one instance of something like that takes place. And we want to be sure that, when we pass legislation such as this, the safeguards are in place.
The difficulty in trying to establish all of those things is, again, we're restricted to a very small time frame, being mindful on this side of the House of how important it is to expedite the public's business.
Furthermore, Mr. Chair, another question for the minister: should we be successful in establishing trusts, what connection would the trust in the Yukon have with Yukoners - obviously Yukoners' resources or monies - in these trusts? Hopefully, a second part to the question I will get to later about outside investment coming in to these trusts.
What are the avenues where this money will go out of the Yukon? Is the money just going to sit here dormant? Obviously not. It has to be out there to do something. It's called money working for us. What are the arrangements? Are they going to be similar to any other trust, or do we have some niche areas that may be directly related to Yukon, given our uniqueness?
Those are just some of the questions the official opposition has, Mr. Chair, if the minister could provide some insight.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Yes, certainly I can, Mr. Chair, and I thank the member for the questions.
With regard to the trusts and use of trusts as collateral, or access to capital, that is not traditionally the use of trusts, and I'll get into the response to the purpose trusts in a moment.
So, the family trust, for example, is not traditionally used as an access to capital vehicle, so that's not the intent of the legislation.
I understand the concern the member is expressing, but that's outside of this legislation - that need for an access to capital.
The member asked what a non-charitable purpose trust is - what I mean by that and what is meant by that in the legislation. The Manitoba Law Reform Commission recommended that purpose trusts be established. The name says it's a trust for a specific purpose.
Let me give the member an example. If the Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce, as a business organization, wanted to set aside funds in trust for the trust to be used for a specific purpose - for example, we're always asking the Chamber of Commerce to review legislation and they depend upon their members as volunteers to do that. They don't pay for legal fees. So if the chamber wanted to set up a trust and use the funds solely for the purpose of reviewing legislation, other organizations - the member gets the idea, I am sure, what I mean by that. I see the member nodding.
The member's concern is that we would become a haven for - at the risk of being unparliamentary - money laundering. This legislation does not do that.
One of the issues that has been asked - the idea of being a niche market and the idea of being a haven and the idea of being leading - the original concept or idea was to put in this special tax incentive. The departments of Finance, federally and territorially, have advised that we can't do that. So, we could have said that we won't proceed with any of the other advantages of this market and this tool to the business community and for the Yukon community professionals.
We have elected to proceed, because the business community and the professional community have said that even without that tax incentive, this is - and the way that the legislation is written - a viable tool that is at their disposal to help create jobs and to create the kind of community; to build a business and to build upon the fact that we have this very clear legislation.
So it's facilitating business, and the safeguards the member is concerned about are ones that I would also be concerned about. I have given an example with respect to non-charitable purpose trusts, and the member has nodded.
I have responded to the question regarding the use of collateral and access to this money, and I have the assurances that it is not a haven for money laundering.
I have additional information that I can provide to the member. Trusts created solely for asset protection purposes are not covered in the legislation. So that may also help.
The purpose of the non-charitable trusts must not be immoral, contrary to public policy or unlawful. So there is further assurance for the member that a non-charitable trust couldn't be set up for a purpose that is immoral, unlawful or unacceptable to Yukon public policy.
Mr. Fentie: Well, in trying to grapple with this then, Mr. Chair, obviously our intent here is to see legislation that would positively impact Yukoners in general - not so much a small segment of our community, but in general. So the idea around a pool of capital that can be accessed obviously comes to mind, given the difficulties people have in dealing with banks. Anybody who has ever gone to a bank can understand the problems here that we have, and they are quite extensive.
The minister then went on to say that no matter what, the professional community in the Yukon views this as a - still, no matter what - good export tool. Can the minister expand on what exactly the business community means by "export tool"?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: I can, Mr. Chair.
I just want to talk about the business trusts, if I could for a moment return to that discussion.
The personal trust is created by an individual for the benefit of the members of the family. It's perfectly obvious what that's for. The business trust is one established for the purposes of business and commerce, so trustee pension plans, RSPs, pooled investment trusts, stock-voting trust, unit trusts and other investment trusts - those are the business trusts that are covered, so that may clarify for the member access by the business community.
The member's second question was with regard to export tools. The legal community have indicated that, with the tax credit initiative, this legislation would have gone further and would have been even more of a tool. Without that, they still feel it's a viable export tool, because what it does is - the legal community is quite extensive. There are many lawyers that have registered with the Law Society in Yukon and have been called to the bar here.
The people who have established existing law firms are able to say to Yukoners, "We can provide this service here. You don't have to go to your Vancouver or Toronto law firm because we have the expertise." Similarly, because of their expertise with this good legislation, we're able to say to people out of the territory who use law firms here all the time - and there are many of them - that their trusts are here, that our legal community is fully conversant with this and also that our law is conducive to business.
So, in that respect, the Member for Klondike referenced the corporate tax initiative. During the early days of the Ostashek government, the Yukon was a place where many corporations registered their entities. That changed as a result of Yukon Party changes to the tax, and it was something that I dealt with quite extensively as manager of the Chamber and our volunteer community, who opposed this. Some members of that same legal community have come back and started this initiative under the previous government and included the tax incentive.
The member knows that story - we've come back and said, "No, we can't do that." They have still said, "You, being the members of the House and the government, even as far as it goes, are just simplifying the rules, making the business procedures, providing for two years instead of annual reporting, and establishing these non-charitable purpose trusts." These sorts of things are innovative, and they are what the legal community see as being able to export and facilitate business.
Does that answer the member's question?
Mr. Fentie: Well, I like the word "innovate," Mr. Chair, that the minister just spoke of, and that brings me back to our discussion this afternoon around developing good legislation. Now, just bear with me, Mr. Chair, for a moment.
It seems to me that trusts are a pool of resources. I think, in a lot of aspects, business trusts - not your family trusts, but we're talking strictly business trusts here - the money that is put into those trust companies gets invested somewhere. It goes somewhere; it does something.
Is it then not reasonable to believe that, in developing an innovative piece of legislation here in the territory, we can't utilize this legislation and the establishment of business trusts in the territory to pave the way to have money invested in this territory, thanks to this legislation and the establishment of trusts?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, if I'm understanding the member correctly, what we're trying to do is facilitate the establishment of trusts, to make it so that a person who wants to establish a family trust or a non-charitable organization - like a business organization or an organization that doesn't have charitable tax status and wants to establish a trust, a purpose - what we're doing is facilitating that. We're not, in this legislation, directing where that money gets spent. We're trying to make it so that people can do this and can do it in a straightforward manner, fairly routinely with the legal community here in Whitehorse or elsewhere. I understand many law firms have branch offices.
The purpose of the legislation is not to say, "This is how and where the money is spent." The purpose is to say, "Yes, you can use this tool of commerce, of trusts," by facilitating the legislation.
Mr. Fentie: You see, Mr. Chair, that is why debate is so important. It seems to be, given the minister's answer, that we could - and it's reasonable then to believe that we could - set up these trusts, have Yukoners invest in these trusts or put resources or assets or money - or whatever you want to term it - into these trusts but experience an outflow because we are not saying that some of this investment must go back into the territory.
What we are dealing with here, Mr. Chair, is the situation where a return on investment becomes the catalyst and the force that drives people's decisions.
I say that we already have institutions that take Yukoners' money and send it out of this territory in vast amounts. They are called banks. And very little of that is returned back to Yukoners and back to the Yukon Territory. So it's important to have debate on these types of legislation, because there is obviously something here that we may be able to do to become even more innovative but to address one of the biggest problems that Yukoners deal with on a daily basis. It's a serious impediment to economic development in this territory because cash flow is choked off here. Access to capital is critical. So let's just go back a step with the minister and have another look at this.
Is it not possible to develop within the framework of this legislation something that would ensure that there is, even if it's limited, direction of investment going onto the ground in the Yukon and not 100-percent outflow into mutuals and all these other wonderful things that provide return on investment? Is it not possible to take a serious look at this?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I think the member has two initiatives in his mind. First of all, if we were to pass this legislation and make it straightforward with an ease of operation to establish these trusts - the idea of this legislation is that it provides simple procedures and it's modern. It's not 1898. We have this feature of the non-charitable purpose trusts, and it regulates the trust business and protects the consumer, makes it simple and it enhances the powers and protection for the trustees.
If we were to do all of that - which is what this legislation does - and then introduce another point to say, "Well, yes, you can do this, but only if you do this," no matter how limited, we would have defeated the purpose.
What the member is getting at is that the member is thinking - if I might be so bold as to interpret this - that the Fireweed Fund is a fund where the idea of it is that the Yukoners could invest, could put their money - and this RRSP money, mutual fund money, that money that Yukoners invest - it could go into the Fireweed Fund, and the Fireweed Fund would then invest and provide Yukoners with access to capital.
That's an idea that we supported. The difficulty with the fireweed fund has been the initial seed monies. It's an idea that is not lost; it's one that we're certainly examining, but it's not part of this legislation, and that idea is not covered and encompassed by this act. It is a very, very, very good idea in many respects. There is the crocus fund and all kinds of other ones, and they've had some real success stories, but that's not part of this legislation, and to mix the two would defeat the purpose of this bill.
Mr. Fentie: Well, Mr. Chair, I must say that the minister and I are very close on this, because the fireweed fund is certainly lacking the seed money, the start-up capital, what makes it all go.
Now, let's just for a moment, Mr. Chair, picture ourselves walking down Bay Street in Toronto. The Royal Trust Tower, all 30-plus storeys of it, isn't there because the Province of Ontario, in developing their legislation, didn't take some steps early on in this whole process to ensure that that 30-plus-storey building got built right there.
The point in that analogy is, if we are going to do this in the best interests of Yukoners, I think that we have to look seriously at ways to marry things like the fireweed fund in some manner to ensure that we can derive a direct hit, or benefit, from these trusts over and above what - you know, I stand corrected, but what I see as simply an office, maybe, with a computer hookup to that 30-plus storey tower. We may get some employment because of office staff - that type of thing. I'm looking for bigger and better, something that this will do to ensure we establish a real main link in economic development in this territory, because we do get access to capital.
I know this is a difficult thing to grapple with, Mr. Chair, because none of us here are ardent economists or accounting wizards, or those types of things, and we're not legal beagles, but we have visions and ideas, as the minister put it. But we're also rooted to the ground, to the fabric of this territory.
So that's why debate on bills like this tend to take some time. And that is the point that we were making all along. But I think the minister may want to give another serious look at this legislation and something that may assist Yukoners in addressing one of the single biggest problems that Yukoners face in this territory. I believe that it's well worth taking a serious look at this. It's well worth taking some time to discuss those possibilities with trust companies and legal people and other people. It's well worth looking at this in detail to see if we can't - for lack of a better comparison - kill two birds with one stone.
I believe it has merit. We on this side of the House do not oppose the establishment of trusts - not anywhere in the least do we oppose that. We are looking for avenues to truly help Yukoners now in this desperate time of need.
We, collectively, in this Legislature, do have a role to play in that regard, and hastily passing legislation like the trust act simply, Mr. Chair, does not serve our constituencies well. This may be the best piece of legislation ever drafted, as it relates to trusts, but the question remains: can we use this to do even more on behalf of Yukon people? I think that is why we were initially trying to get through to the members opposite the need for the time to go through this bill. Notwithstanding briefings and all the rest of it, there are some definite angles here that should be researched, should be critiqued, should be looked at, and I think the onus is on all of us to take that step and do that. If it means a second look with professionals, with the trust companies and with anybody else who can assist us, I believe we have to take that step.
Mr. Chair, if we were to do something in that regard, we truly can stand on the floor of this Legislature and proclaim that we have, in a cooperative and constructive manner, developed legislation on behalf of the Yukon public in a way that will not only benefit Yukon people now, but into the long term.
It is all about why we are here, Mr. Chair. And I believe that we should take that second look. That is why, at least in a great part, we are asking the minister to do what we have said - or tried to get the minister to do today with this bill, which is to take the time.
Mr. Chair, given the time, I move that we report progress.
Chair: It has been moved by Mr. Fentie that we now report progress.
Motion agreed to
Ms. Tucker: Mr. Chair, I move that the Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Chair: It has been moved by Ms. Tucker that the Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Motion agreed to
Speaker resumes the Chair
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
May the House have a report from the Chair of the Committee of the Whole?
Mr. McLarnon: Mr. Speaker, the Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 33, Perpetuities and Accumulations Repeal Act, and directed me to report it without amendment. Mr. Speaker, the Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 34, An Act to Amend the Trustee Act, and directed me to report progress on it.
Speaker: You've 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 to 1:00 p.m. tomorrow.
The House adjourned at 6:00 p.m.
The following Legislative Returns were tabled April 24, 2001:
CT scan diagnostic services for Whitehorse General Hospital (Roberts)
Oral, Hansard, p. 1671
Social Assistance figures (Yukon): 1998/1999, 1999/2000 and 2000/2001
Oral, Hansard, p. 1612