Wednesday, November 28, 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.
Introduction of visitors.
Tabling of returns and documents.
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I have a legislative return for tabling in response to a question from the MLA for Ross River-Southern Lakes about training provisions in the O&M budget.
I have a legislative return in response to a question from the MLA for Klondike about the costs of the operation of the George Black ferry for the last 10 years.
I have a legislative return in response to a question from the MLA for Klondike on relocation costs on the Whitehorse waterfront.
And I have a legislative return in answer to a question from the MLA for Klondike about C&TS and the Auditor General's report.
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: I have for tabling the Yukon Heritage Resources Board 2000-01 annual report.
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?
NOTICES OF MOTION
Mr. Fairclough: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that
(1) the terrorist atrocities of September 11 justify the Government of Canada taking appropriate measures to protect Canadian people from possible terrorist activities in the future;
(2) the Government of Canada is also justified in taking appropriate measures to identify potential terrorists and their supporters in order to eliminate this menace to the safety and security of Canadians;
(3) Bill C-36, the federal Liberal government's anti-terrorism legislation, defines terrorist activities in a manner that could lead to abuse of the civil and human rights of Canadians, as guaranteed in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms;
(4) many Canadians, including Members of Parliament on the government back benches, have expressed concerns about elements of Bill C-36 that pose a potential threat to civil liberties of Canadian citizens who are not engaged in any activities that could be interpreted as terrorism by any reasonable definition of that term;
(5) in spite of those legitimate concerns, the federal Liberal government has chosen to use its majority to rush this legislation through the House of Commons without correcting the flaws that have been identified; and
THAT this House strongly opposes the adoption of any federal legislation that could restrict the legitimate rights of free assembly and free speech that are guaranteed in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and urges the federal Liberal government to amend the anti-terrorism act to provide the necessary safeguards to prevent abuse of those Charter rights by any civil or military authority.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Jenkins: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT this House affirms that it is the responsibility of all members to ensure that information conveyed to the House is factually accurate;
THAT the House notes the statement of the Minister of Education on November 27, 2001, which appears at page 2877 of Hansard, and which reads "But neither this territorial government, nor any previous one, has ever given community or training trust funds directly to Yukon College to be used at the College's discretion.";
THAT this House recognizes that, on November 7, 1994, the previous Yukon Party government announced the reactivation of the Yukon apprenticeship program, which was suspended in 1989, and identified $200,000 to be directed to Yukon College to develop entry-level mining training, targeted at communities such as Ross River, Mayo, Carmacks, Faro, Watson Lake and Dawson, as well as entering into a contract with Yukon College to provide courses in pre-employment training areas through their community campuses; and
THAT this House urges the Minister of Education, in future, to ensure that he is providing correct information to the House about what previous Yukon governments did or did not do.
Speaker: Are there any further notices of motion?
Is there a ministerial statement?
This then brings us to Question Period.
Question re: Government renewal process, creation of new departments
Mr. Fairclough: I have a question for the Acting Premier. Mr. Speaker, we finally have a glimpse of what the Premier has in mind for new departments, but there are many, many details missing. The Premier talked about two new departments, but the renewal game plan calls for at least five new departments and the occasional Crown corporation. The Economic Development department is disappearing; Tourism is disappearing; Renewable is disappearing; Community and Transportation Services is disappearing. And that's just a few that we know about.
How does this acting Finance minister expect this House to debate a capital budget for departments that will be extinct before the next fiscal year begins?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: By tabling and passing the 2002-03 capital budget now, we are providing the certainty that the contracting community has asked for. The capital budget can be restated in the spring to reflect a new government structure, but it needs to be tabled and passed now.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, Mr. Speaker, the acting minister hasn't heard the question and didn't answer the question again, as with the many questions we have asked in this House. There's something wrong with this picture.
Later today, in Committee, will be the debate on the capital budget for 2002-03. That's $118 million of taxpayers' money but we have no idea who will be spending that money. Talk about making informed decisions, Mr. Speaker.
We are being asked to give spending authority to departments that are about to evaporate and we don't even know what the new departments will look like. Now, will the acting Finance minister do the right thing and agree to set aside the capital budget until we know what departments we're supposed to be giving spending authority to?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: No, we will not be setting aside the capital budget. The opposition members are clearly being lazy and are not prepared or not capable of doing the job they were elected to do. I suggest the opposition members get to work and do their jobs.
Whether or not these capital projects and capital items fall under a new department in the spring, Mr. Speaker, is totally irrelevant. The $7 million that has been budgeted to do work on the Champagne to Haines Junction section of the Alaska Highway is in this budget. That work will be done next year.
Opposition members have a responsibility to debate this project and to ask questions about this capital project. Whether or not this project falls under a new department in the spring is irrelevant. The project has not changed and there are numerous examples.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, I can assure the acting minister that we on this side of the House are working very hard, and we are getting the comments back from Yukoners, and we're asking the questions, and it should not be ignored by ministers opposite.
Somebody upstairs hasn't thought this through very carefully. The Premier's big economic vision is to table her capital budget in the fall. Then the spring comes, and the government reorganization plans will throw everything into chaos, and that's an admission by this minister.
At least five departments are disappearing. One of them is the minister's own and has the biggest capital spending of all.
Will the acting Finance minister at least set aside the budgets for the departments that are disappearing so that we can concentrate on debating the departments that still will be around as of April 1 of next year?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: No, we will not be setting aside any departments in this budget. The opposition clearly does not understand the way the finances of government work, Mr. Speaker. The capital budget will already have been passed before the spring sitting. What would be the point of debating a budget in the spring that has already been passed? The opposition needs to quit making excuses and just do their jobs.
Question re: Government renewal process, devolution
Mr. Fentie: Unfortunately, it's the members opposite who are in charge of the Yukon's finances who don't understand.
You can't give spending authority to departments that don't exist this fall - or won't exist next spring. Mr. Speaker, this is a pretend budget, and here's another pretend project: renewal.
I have a question for the minister responsible for the Public Service Commission. There are about 240 federal employees wondering what's going on over here in the Yukon government. They are very concerned about their future. They don't know if they should come to the Yukon government through devolution or if there will even be jobs available to them. There's no structure for new departments, which is why this budget tabled this fall is a problem.
Can I ask the minister this: at what stage is the Public Service Commission at in classifying Yukon government jobs that will come about as a result of the transfer of federal employees to the Yukon side?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The Public Service Commission is at work on job descriptions. The Premier has already told the members opposite that, under section 3.4 of the devolution transfer agreement, each indeterminate Northern Affairs program employee will receive a written offer of employment. The members opposite know this but instead keep insisting that this is not the case. The members opposite should be ashamed of themselves, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Fentie: Well, I hope I don't spoil the minister's day; we're not ashamed of ourselves. And the point is that there has been no classification work done here. There is no structure. What kind of job offer is this government going to offer federal employees? The classification structure in the Yukon government hasn't been looked at for years, and to deal with this classification structure is a long, arduous process. There's absolutely no guarantee, Mr. Speaker, that classifications or job descriptions will even be ready by the time offers go out to federal employees. What kind of offers will they be?
My question to the minister responsible for the Public Service Commission is: how many federal employees does the minister expect will be offered jobs at a lower level than their current classification in the federal system but be paid at their existing rate in the Yukon government?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Speaker, as this is a renewal question, I will answer it. The Member for Watson Lake is being shamelessly irresponsible. The date for devolution is April 1, 2003. The job offers will be made in plenty of time for that. The members should not be concerning themselves at this point with classification levels. They are merely fear-mongering, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Fentie: Well, that's why Yukoners are concerned. This Liberal government has been in power almost two years and hasn't done a thing but create chaos. That's why people are concerned. That's why the federal employees are very concerned about what's going on. Managers have been told there are 111 positions vacant for people who will need jobs to go to because of this pretend renewal project. We're at 111 already, and closing fast on the real target of 175 jobs. Before renewal was even announced, the Yukon government asked for two changes in the union agreement, including putting people in lower paying jobs but letting them keep their existing salaries. This is a question for the minister responsible for Public Service Commission. They do have a contract with government employees, Mr. Speaker.
How does the minister plan to deal with the morale problem of having two people working side by side, doing the same job, when one of them is being paid significantly more than the other one? Can the minister answer?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The members opposite are being irresponsible and fear-mongering. Their agenda is to disrupt this renewal process; they are not going to do that, Mr. Speaker. There are no targets, as the members keep insisting, and there never have been, and the members should be ashamed of themselves.
Question re: Training trust funds, Yukon College budget
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, I have a question today for the Minister of Education. The previous Yukon Party government, in its four-year plan, put great emphasis on providing funds to Yukon College to provide training programs for trades and cottage industries, for training and tourism, mining, road construction, forestry, fire fighting and other industries. The Yukon Party government encouraged Yukon College to work with First Nations and communities to put together training programs that would help train Yukoners in the communities for future jobs. Now the current minister is pitting Yukon College against communities and is claiming that Yukon College is trying to hog all of the training funds. The minister even went further to state that it was the communities and industry that asked for this $1-million cut.
Will the minister now come clean and tell Yukoners that he received no such request from any community or industry and that the decision to cut $1 million in training funding was his and his alone?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: I do have to correct the record on one thing. The Member for Klondike has suggested that I suggested to the communities that they indicate where they were cutting. I made no such suggestion, Mr. Speaker.
We have not reduced the College's budget. How they manage their finances is not up to this government. The College makes their own decisions. There are 14 community and industry trust funds in place currently. In 2000-01, there was $1.5 million in community training trust funds accessed by Yukoners. This year, there are $2 million in training trust fund monies available. It's quite clear that the College wants to take the training decisions away from the communities.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, nothing could be further from the case, Mr. Speaker. Several communities have publicly stated the exact opposite to what this Scrooge-like minister is claiming and that this $1 million in cuts will have a devastating impact on their communities as well as crippling Yukon College's ability to meet training needs of communities.
In view of the huge surplus this Liberal government has at its disposal, will the minister come to his senses and restore the $1 million to the advanced education training trust fund?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: In 2000-01, there was $1.5 million in community training funds accessed by Yukoners. This year there is $2 million in training monies available. The College wants Yukoners to believe this is the College's money. It is not. The training funds are set up for communities or industry to provide training to residents. The College had campuses in the communities doing training long before there was a community training fund. There is no reason why the College should close any of their satellite campuses at this time, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Jenkins: May I suggest that the Minister of Education join with the Minister of Health and Social Services and form a sucker-for-punishment club, in view of the unique ability of these two ministers to inflame the public.
Will the minister admit that the $1-million funding cut will have a far greater impact than the $1 million, because this training fund levers contributions from other sources, or is this the way that this minister has chosen to downsize the staff at Yukon College? How many staff will be losing their positions as a consequence of this minister's decision to cut $1 million in funding to the College?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: There are 14 community and industry trust funds in place. In 2000-01, there was $1.5 million in community training funds accessed by Yukoners. This year, there is $2 million in training monies available.
There are a number of industry-based trust funds available, Mr. Speaker - funds such as the Yukon environmental training fund, the Yukon forest training trust, the Yukon mining and exploration training trust, the Yukon tourism industry training trust - they can all be approached for training.
Our government feels that communities can best determine the training needs of their own residents. Each community or industry trust fund board makes the decision on what training is required and who does that training. The Yukon College wants to take this decision making from communities directly.
Question re: Training trust funds, Yukon College budget
Mr. Fairclough: My question is for the minister who has allowed Management Board to take the scissors to the training trust funds. As part of the minister's smokescreen, the minister took some nasty shots at Yukon College, and we know that the training trust funds don't go directly to the College. That's not what the College is asking for.
Training trust funds go to communities. They go to the economic sectors, such as labour, and they go to the volunteer-run, non-governmental organizations.
Much of this training is delivered by Yukon College at the community-campus level. Why is the minister allowing Management Board to penalize communities, economic sectors, non-governmental organizations and Yukon College?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: We have not reduced the College's budget. The budget is still at $11 million. How they manage their finances is not up to this government. The College makes their own decisions. There are 14 community and industry trust funds in place currently. In 2000-01 there was $1.5 million in community training funds accessed by Yukoners. This year - and the members opposite are finding this hard to grasp - this year there is $2 million in training monies available. The College simply wants to take the training decisions away from the communities.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, how easy it is for the minister to be distracted by the question. We are talking about training trust funds. There are people out there, working people, who want training to be retrained to go into the workforce.
Yesterday, the minister tried to justify his cuts by suggesting that private sector industry will pick up some of the tab for training. Because of this Liberal government's total neglect of the economy, there is hardly an industry left. HRDC has drastically cut back its training as part of off-loading responsibilities to the provinces and territories.
Now, before this government comes back with a real capital budget, will the minister go back to the Management Board and insist that the training trust funds be restored to the 2000-01 level? Will he put up a good fight?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: The member opposite is suggesting that I am distracted by the question. Well, unfortunately, he doesn't hear the answer because they don't like to hear the answer - that is the fact. There are 14 community and industry trust funds in place. In 2000-01 there was $1.5 million in community training trust funds accessed by Yukoners. This year, there is $2 million in training monies available. There are a number of industry-based trust funds currently available. Funds such as the Yukon environmental training trust, the Yukon forest training trust, the Yukon mining and exploration training trust, Yukon tourism industry training trust - these can all be approached for training monies. Our government feels that communities can best determine the training needs of their residents. Each community or industry trust fund board makes a decision on what training is required and who does that training.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, those are all created by the previous NDP, Mr. Speaker. What I ask and urge the minister to do is read his own budget, because the cuts are in there. Cutting training trust funds shows the Liberals have no faith in the Yukon's economic future. Given their track record, we can understand that, and why.
Cutting training trust funds means jobs will be lost. Downsizing government means jobs will be lost. That means less money in every Yukon community and less money in every cash register.
When will the minister do his part to end the Liberal attack on Yukon people and our economy and use his influence in Cabinet by putting back funding where it belongs?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: The member opposite has often challenged us to be fiscally responsible and that's exactly what we're doing, although they refuse to believe that, because they weren't. The fact is, in 2000-01 there was $1.5 million in community training funds accessed by Yukoners. This year, there is $2 million. That's a half-million dollars more, Mr. Speaker, in monies available. The College wants Yukoners to believe this is the College's money. It is not the College's money. The training funds are set up for communities or industry to provide training to the residents as they best see fit.
Question re: Child care services funding
Mr. Keenan: Today I have a question for the Minister of Health, if I may.
I want to point out to the Yukon people that, underneath this minister's watch, child care services has seen its capital budget repeatedly cut. In the year 2001-02, the minister reduced the budget by 40 percent, and in the make-believe budget that's before us right now, the minister has further reduced services to them by 33 percent. So, when the real capital budget comes back in the springtime, would the minister please guarantee that this funding is restored to the 2000-01 level?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Again, I don't believe the member opposite is providing all the facts on this issue, and I'll do my best to ensure that we have very good child care support throughout the territory. That's my job.
Mr. Keenan: Well, I'm here to point out that the minister is not doing his job and, indeed, it gives me great pleasure.
Let me point out that the minister has also refused to provide capital funds for a related child care issue. Now, the minister knows that child care centres are expected to meet certain safety standards for their outside play spaces and that to meet these standards, some centres need help to make changes to their play spaces. Yet the minister refuses - absolutely refuses - to provide additional funding.
So, I'd like to ask this minister: why is this minister refusing to help with the safety of our children in their play spaces? Can the minister answer that question?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: That's the whole intent of this session - to pass a capital budget. I hope the members opposite are going to be responding accordingly so that Yukoners are prepared for the spring and the summer.
If the member opposite is saying I have directly refused to support what these capital requests are, I have to say that I did not directly refuse anything at this point. The issues have to be brought forward to me before I can refuse anything, Mr. Speaker, and that hasn't happened.
Mr. Keenan: I'm absolutely appalled. I hear the Minister of Education taking shots at the Yukon. I hear this minister taking shots at the child care people. I mean, the Acting Premier has said that we're shameful, we should be ashamed, we're lazy, and we're irresponsible - for what? For bringing forward Yukon concerns?
I say somebody has to pull up their socks, and I think they're on the other side.
Young children are obviously not a priority for this minister, and that's very obvious. What's also very obvious is that this minister has absolutely no respect for the people who work with young people or for those young people themselves. The minister has broken his promise to put dollars back into the hands of the people who are charged with the care of those young folks, and now he's turning his back on the need for playground equipment.
What is it going to take to move, to force, to get this minister to open his mind, to expand the box, to put the needs of real people ahead of the needs of this government's surplus?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: I want to correct for the record, Mr. Speaker, that my colleague, the Minister of Education, did not take shots at the Yukon, as the member opposite says. That's the member's view but that's not the Minister of Education's view. I am opposed to child care? That's, again, the member's view, not my view. If the member opposite wants to state a case, obviously he can state what he likes, but I am very supportive.
You know, in order to move down the path of trying to build together, we need ideas; we need support; we need to know what their needs are. If I don't know those needs, Mr. Speaker, I can't respond to them.
Question re: Grey Mountain Primary School rebuild
Mrs. Peter: My question today is for the Minister of Education. The 2002-03 capital budget includes $500,000 to start the process for building a new Grey Mountain School. The latest enrolment figures clearly show that there is no need for a new school in Riverdale. The minister and his colleague from Riverdale South are doing this for purely political reasons.
What does the minister plan to do with the unused space for 150 students at Selkirk Elementary School?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: The Grey Mountain School is a collection of portables. I know that I told this to the member opposite, but I'll repeat it because obviously they don't like hearing it, but I'll repeat it anyway. Those trailers are 35 years old and have way outlasted their lifespan. These portables have a history of rotting carpets, musty smells, poor ventilation and heating and inadequate classroom space.
Mr. Speaker, successive governments previously promised to replace this school. These promises were not simply political commitments. These promises were made for good reasons. The school needs to be replaced. This is one of the most successful schools in the territory. This is one of the only schools in Whitehorse where enrolment hasn't dramatically declined. It is also one of the oldest schools in Whitehorse and one in the most need of replacement.
Mrs. Peter: My question wasn't answered. The minister has said that no schools will close this year. He suspended the capacity study, but he has made no guarantees for the future. Will the minister guarantee that neither Whitehorse Elementary School nor Takhini Elementary will close during this government's mandate?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: I have stated in this House previously, Mr. Speaker, that in the foreseeable future no schools will be closing in the Whitehorse area.
Mrs. Peter: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. "The foreseeable future" can be only a few short months away. The minister took away $400,000 from Takhini School and gave it to Grey Mountain. The obvious conclusion is that Takhini Elementary has only received a stay of execution from the department, this in spite of the fact that the MLA for Takhini-McIntyre promised it would stay open. Will the minister ensure that the $400,000 for Takhini's heating system is in the real capital budget when they table it in the spring?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. The member is wrong, wrong, wrong. The fact of the matter is that the $400,000 that was taken from Takhini went up to Dawson. It had to repair the Dawson school roof, and it also purchased an adjacent lot to increase the school property there. The fact is, Mr. Speaker, if the member opposite would bother to look at the capital budget at all, she would find that there is $400,000 in there for the Takhini heating system replacement that, hopefully, we can get on with quickly.
Question re: Yukon native teacher education program
Mr. Fairclough: We on this side of the House, and the general public, are tired of hearing these songs of compassion that are coming from the Liberal side.
Recently there have been a number of concerns around education in the Yukon. The need for teachers has been discussed, as has the effectiveness of the Yukon native teacher education program.
Some have also lobbied the government to have other education programs in place. The minister has said in this House that there are problems with the Yukon native teacher education program. I'd like to ask the minister what plans he has in place for that program. Are we looking at having this program opened up to the general public, or is this government looking at scrapping the program altogether?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: I am somewhat confused by the question. I hope that the member opposite was asking about the YNTEP currently at the College. The member knows that the YNTEP is still functioning. It is still providing quality First Nation teachers for Yukon.
As far as I know, Mr. Speaker, there are no plans to change that.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, the minister did say there were problems with that program, and I wanted to know what the plans of the government are. We also heard from the minister that the teachers who are coming out of this program, in his words, were not qualified to be teaching in the schools. This is a problem for the students who are taking the teacher training program at Yukon College.
Does the minister have plans to cut this program? Is this program going to be opened up to the general public? Can he answer that question?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: I failed to recognize, Mr. Speaker, the compliment that the member opposite paid this side of the House in his first question in that they recognized that this side of the House is compassionate, and we appreciate the compliment.
The second fact is that in the first answer I provided I said there were no plans to change the YNTEP at the College. He failed to acknowledge that.
Another correction I would like to provide to the member opposite - the teachers who graduate from there are qualified in a general sense. A lot of the spaces in Whitehorse, as a matter of fact, are specialized and we recognize that there are limited spaces for generalized teachers in our system here in Whitehorse but there are spaces and teaching spaces outside in the communities, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, Mr. Speaker, this is what people have concerns about with this minister, the Minister of Education. On one hand, he says there are problems with this particular program, and of course we, on this side of the House, know that this is a very good program. I urge the minister to go up to the College and sit down with some of the students to have a really good look at the program.
Mr. Speaker, the minister said that they are good teachers in a general sense. What does that mean out there? We have heard in the past that the minister is going to be opening up this program to the general public in the Yukon Territory. Are there plans in place, through the Department of Education, to have another teacher program in the Yukon College?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Well, that is the problem. The members opposite don't understand that there are generalized teachers within our education system, and I would advise the member himself to go up there and check it out at the College.
We are looking at options for what's called a bachelor of education after degree program, or BEAD program, and we are still investigating that. I have provided the member previously - questions in this House with respect to that program. So we are still investigating options and opportunities available, that we can implement that program at Yukon College.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed. We will now proceed with Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Bill No. 49: Third Reading
Clerk: Third reading, Bill No. 49, standing in the name of hon. Mr. Roberts.
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Mr. Speaker, I move that Bill No. 49, entitled An Act to Amend the Medical Profession Act, be now read a third time and do pass.
Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. Minister of Health and Social Services that Bill No. 49, entitled An Act to Amend the Medical Profession Act, be now read a third time and do pass.
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Mr. Speaker, our medical community has told us that the Medical Profession Act has some provisions that contribute to the difficulty of recruiting doctors. There are some outdated requirements respecting the education and clinical training requirements for licensing of doctors who meet Canadian standards, and it creates unnecessary barriers to recruiting qualified, foreign-trained doctors who have not yet met all the Canadian requirements.
The Yukon Medical Association, the Yukon Medical Council and the Whitehorse General Hospital Corporation and the departments of Justice and of Health and Social Services have worked together over several months to develop amendments to the Medical Profession Act to address these issues.
Mr. Speaker, as was discussed in this House earlier, the proposed amendments help to address the recruitment issue by first creating a category of licence known as a special licence that will be issued under certain circumstances and with certain conditions to qualify foreign-trained physicians who have not yet met the Canadian requirements. Second, the proposed amendments will update the licensing criteria for qualified foreign-trained physicians.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order, Mr. Speaker.
Point of order
Speaker: Order please. The Member for Watson Lake.
Mr. Fentie: Pursuant to section 19 (c) a member may be called to order who persists in needless repetition or raises matters which have been decided during the current session. We on this side of the House have already voted for this bill and have already heard the very same rationale for this bill coming forward. In the spirit of expediting the business of the public in this Legislative Assembly, I would urge the minister to allow us to vote in third reading to pass the bill, and let's move on. We've already heard his speech.
Mr. McLachlan: I wish to remind members of the Legislature, this is the same member who yesterday proposed a motion and did not allow members on this side to vote for it before launching into a diatribe that was directed against the Premier while she was executing business on behalf of this territory in another part of North America. The Speaker has recognized the minister to speak. He has the right to be listened to. We haven't voted.
Speaker: Order please. I believe it's clear that there is no point of order. A minister has the right to introduce his bill at third reading, and generally, as far as the Chair knows, it has always been done. Therefore, I'd ask the minister to continue, please.
Hon. Mr. Roberts: That rude interruption - my train of thought is gone now. I will have to come back to it, but I'm sure it will.
Some Hon. Members: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Roberts: I'll start all over again, yes. No, I won't do that.
Third, the proposed amendments will clarify that, in order for physicians to be enrolled in the Yukon medical register, they must be enrolled in the Canadian medical register. This provision would update the Yukon licensing requirements to ensure that they are consistent with standards in other Canadian jurisdictions.
Fourth, the proposed amendment will repeal the provision regarding a post-graduate training requirement for physicians enrolled in the Canadian medical register. Post-graduate training requirements have changed since the Medical Profession Act was established. The requirement in the Yukon act no longer reflects the present training requirements.
These amendments will enhance our capability to deliver the medical services that Yukoners are accustomed to and do expect.
I am pleased to introduce this bill for the third reading.
Mr. Keenan: Well, Mr. Speaker, that just begs to be spoken to.
Of course, on this side of the House, we agree with this legislative amendment. We absolutely support anything to do with the recruitment within our health care system. Now that the minister has done his job, I would just ask the minister not to interfere with the department when the department goes ahead to implement this, because not only does the minister lose his train of thought, but the minister has gotten the whole track of health care on to another train track, and I think that is privatization.
So, I would certainly encourage this minister to admit that he has done his job. We support the minister so far, but please do not interfere with the implementation of this.
Motion for third reading of Bill No. 49 agreed to
Speaker: I declare that Bill No. 49 has passed this House.
Bill No. 53: Third Reading
Clerk: Third reading, Bill No. 53, standing in the name of the hon. Mr. Roberts.
Hon. Mr. Roberts: I move that Bill No. 53, entitled the Canadian Council for Donation and Transplantation Indemnification Act, be now read for the third time and pass.
Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. Minister of Health and Social Services that Bill No. 53, entitled Canadian Council for Donation and Transplantation Indemnification Act, be now read a third time and do pass.
Hon. Mr. Roberts: I must clarify, Mr. Speaker, and just for the record, the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes made the comment about interfering in the process of what the department does. I don't interfere in the process of what the department does. I work with the department in ensuring that we have the best health care in the system.
The member once again made a comment about privatization. I have never said that this government will be privatizing health care, Mr. Speaker.
Because the discussion, Mr. Speaker, has come forward in the public domain doesn't mean it can't be discussed. But we, as a government, are not privatizing health care at this point.
Motion for third reading of Bill No. 53 agreed to
Speaker: I declare that Bill No. 53 has passed this House.
Bill No. 54: Third Reading
Clerk: Third reading, Bill No. 54, standing in the name of the hon. Ms. Buckway.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Speaker, I move that Bill No. 54, entitled Interjurisdictional Support Orders Act, be now read a third time and do pass.
Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. Minister of Justice that Bill No. 54, entitled Interjurisdictional Support Orders Act, be now read a third time and do pass.
Are you prepared for the question?
Some Hon. Members: Division.
Speaker: Division has been called.
Speaker: Mr. Clerk, please poll the House.
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Jim: Agree.
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Agree.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Agree.
Mr. McLachlan: Agree.
Ms. Tucker: Agree.
Mr. McLarnon: Agree.
Mr. Fairclough: Agree.
Mr. Fentie: Agree.
Mr. Keenan: Agree.
Mrs. Peter: Agree.
Mr. Jenkins: Agree.
Clerk: Mr. Speaker, the results are 14 yea, nil nay.
Motion for third reading of Bill No. 54 agreed to
Speaker: I declare that Bill No. 54 has passed this House.
Bill No. 52: Third Reading
Clerk: Third reading, Bill No. 52, standing in the name of the hon. Ms. Buckway.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I move that Bill No. 52, entitled Physiotherapists Act, be now read a third time and do pass.
Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. Minister of Justice that Bill No. 52, entitled Physiotherapists Act, be now read a third time and do pass.
Motion for third reading of Bill No. 52 agreed to
Speaker: I declare that Bill No. 52 has passed this House.
Mr. McLachlan: I move that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Speaker: It has been moved by the government House leader that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Motion agreed to
Speaker leaves the Chair
COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
Chair: I now call Committee of the Whole to order. Committee of the Whole will recess until 2:15 p.m.
Chair: I now call Committee of the Whole to order. We will continue with general debate on Bill No. 39, An Act to Amend the Jury Act.
Bill No. 39 - An Act to Amend the Jury Act - continued
Mr. Jenkins: The act that we have before us for consideration today is once again the Jury Act, and the amendment that is being proposed to the Jury Act is to allow the sheriff to access Yukon health care records in order to assemble the jury and subpoena individuals.
Mr. Chair, it is our position that this is an invasion of an individual's privacy in a number of areas. No consent would be granted by the individual to allow that access to this information. When we look at the past background in other acts, we see a pattern established by previous governments - and rightly so - to deny access to various databases or information bases. It used to be that the sheriff had access to the voters list here in the Yukon, and that access has been subsequently denied and removed. And if we look at the abuses that took place on the voters lists that were in existence, we had many, many occasions when access to the voters lists was requested by the RCMP to assist with an ongoing investigation.
That request was denied. We had requests made for the voters list by conservation officers from Renewable Resources to assist them in establishing residency for the purposes of prosecution under their legislation. That access was denied. We have the health care organization, or the health care body itself requesting access to the voters list just a few years ago when we were paying for health care. That access was requested to track down individuals who hadn't paid their health care bill. That access was also denied. The Canada Customs and Revenue Agency, that wonderful body called Revenue Canada, requested information from the voters list here in the Yukon for the purposes of tracking down delinquent taxpayers and that access was denied. We also had families seeking missing relatives and wanting access to this database of Yukon voters list. That access was denied. It goes on and on and on as to the access to privacy. And, that's what this issue is all about.
Health care information has been assembled for the purpose of the provision of health care. I want to make that abundantly clear. Anyone who has been registered for health care purposes in no way intended that information to be used for jury purposes or to be a database for information to be provided to the sheriff to assemble a jury. Consent has never been requested nor granted, Mr. Chair.
If we look at the vast warehouse of information in the various databases and how it can be abused, we currently have a situation here in the Yukon, Mr. Chair, that not too many people are familiar with. Our same Minister of Justice, as the minister responsible for motor vehicles and for driver licensing, is probably not even aware of this: driver licence information here in the Yukon is provided to Elections Canada. Under what authority? We don't know. We don't know if the request for this information was agreed to between Elections Canada and the Government of Yukon, or between Elections Canada and the Department of Community and Transportation Services, or with the agency itself. We don't know. And certainly, when anyone here goes to renew their driver's licence, have you ever been asked the question, "Do you want this information on your driver's licence to go to Elections Canada?" I'm willing to bet, Mr. Chair, that no one in this House has ever had that question posed to them.
That constitutes an invasion of one's personal privacy. About the only question that you're asked when you renew your driver's licence is: the second photo - do you want it kept on file or destroyed? Some choose to have that second photo kept on file, some ask that it be destroyed.
We even look at that wonderful Canada Customs and Revenue Agency - right on the top of the form, they ask a question when you're filing your personal tax return, asking if the information here can be provided to Statistics Canada, and you either tick it off "yes" or "no".
What we are seeing here is an invasion of privacy. We are seeing Yukon health care information used for a purpose it was never intended. One has to go back just a few years ago when Yukon health care was initially brought into existence here in the Yukon and the registration number that was used for purposes of Yukon health care was initially one's social insurance number.
Well, Mr. Chair, Yukon health care was advised that that was an inappropriate use of our SIN numbers, and they were instructed to bring in their own numbering system, so everyone had to be provided with a different number, other than their SIN number.
Mr. Chair, it goes on and on as to the areas where government is invading the privacy of individuals, but the bottom line is that this minister has accepted the rationale advanced by someone back there in her department who has said that this is not an issue, that no one will contest it and that it will help the sheriff. Well, why can't the sheriff's office assembly their own database? The easiest one is a Yukon phone book.
Even if they did take the database for Yukon health care and they only extracted the name, address and age, there is nothing to ensure that the individual is even allowed to serve on a jury, unlike a voters list where voters have the same rights, and there are the same requirements to be on a voters list as to serve on a jury here in Yukon.
It doesn't hold true to the same extent for the provision of Yukon health care. There are examples after examples. This minister is probably not in complete compliance with the access to privacy with respect to permitting information from Yukon driver's licences being provided to other federal government agencies, specifically Elections Canada. I would submit that that in itself is an invasion of personal privacy, and it's an area that should be brought to the attention of the federal government under the federal Privacy Act.
I am sure, should this Jury Act pass in its present format - and, once again I am urging the minister to stand down this act; it is not necessary. It is an invasion of one's personal privacy. It is using a database for a purpose that was never intended. That is the bottom line. I am sure that ultimately there will be a challenge put forward under the federal Privacy Act as to this abuse of a database. That is a very serious issue. Why doesn't the minister stay out of hot water and not even deal with this act? It is a bad act; it is not going to do anything to assist the Yukon. It is not going to do anything but alienate specific groups of individuals here in the Yukon, when they become aware that the database for Yukon health care is being used for a purpose that was never intended. Furthermore, it is just a very simple password code to get beyond that basic information in the database of Yukon health care.
The amount of private and confidential information that is shared between a doctor and a patient and subsequently billed to Yukon health care - it's all there. It's all there in black and white, Mr. Chair.
Is it fair that there's a potential for a mishap and access to that information being ultimately provided? I'm sure the minister's going to respond, "Oh, no. We won't look at that even if it does happen to occur. Well, we won't go there." It's happening more and more frequently all the time. The only way to stop it from happening and to not let it occur, Mr. Chair, is to not pass this act, to leave this act and let it stay on the Order Paper, because there are other ways for the sheriff to accomplish his role.
Mr. Chair, I believe that this is a very, very serious issue. I'm vehemently opposed to this act. It's unfair. It's an invasion of privacy. It's probably ultra vires, and it's probably going to be ultimately rendered to be illegal, but that will have to be determined by another court.
There is a lot of background, Mr. Chair, on this issue. One has to look right across Canada. There are no provisions being granted in this act for individuals to allow access to their health care records, and that in itself is a very, very grave shortcoming in this information provided.
Why isn't there a box where individuals can say "yes" or "no"? They want to allow the sheriff -
Chair: Order please. The member's time has elapsed.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The suggestion of the members opposite that the sheriff should simply consult the phone book to make up a jury list is ludicrous. Quite often, Mr. Chair, a spouse's name isn't listed in the phone book. People have unlisted numbers. It's simply not a practical suggestion.
The Canadian Constitution provides for a right to trial by jury for serious criminal offences - Charter of Rights and Freedoms section 11(f). The Supreme Court of Canada has said that one of the most important characteristics of jury selection is that the jury array be drawn from sources that are representative of the community. An essential part of ensuring a jury's representativeness is the sources of information that the sheriff can draw upon to compile jury lists.
The Constitution requires that the jury be chosen at random from a comprehensive list of eligible jurors who are representative of the population - that's the whole population, not just representative of the people who subscribe to telephones or of the people who are registered owners of motor vehicles or of land, or of the people who are not employed or who are on social assistance, or of the people who are employed by the government or of any other segment of the population. It's the whole population we are talking about.
Most adults are eligible for jury duty. If a person is eligible and is called, then that person is obligated to serve. If the list of eligible jurors is not comprehensive and representative of the population, then (1) the constitutional requirement is not met, and (2) the burden of serving on juries falls unevenly on the people who happen to show up on incomplete sources of information.
Someone could, quite rightly, raise a constitutional challenge on that basis, Mr. Chair. Health care records are a very reliable and complete source of information of the names, addresses and dates of birth of potential jurors. The provinces of Saskatchewan, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island permit the sheriff to access health records to compile a jury list. Our Jury Act already permits the sheriff to access health care records to ensure the accuracy of existing jury lists, i.e. name, address and date of birth.
Mr. Chair, this amendment has been drafted so that there is no conflict with the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act. Section 36 of the ATIPP act permits disclosure of personal information like name, address and date of birth when it is required by other territorial legislation. This is ultimately about balancing the individual rights of privacy with the public interest. The individuals have privacy rights but they are not absolute. They must be balanced against the interests and rights of the larger community.
There is also a public interest in ensuring constitutional right of accused in criminal matters to have jury panels selected from lists that are representative of the community.
The logical extension of the opposition's reasoning is that the sheriff should give up all attempts to compile lists of prospective jurors and, instead, go out as need be and arrest citizens, as was recently done in Moncton, to the consternation of shoppers at the mall, to serve for jury duty. That, too, is ludicrous, Mr. Chair.
This is a good amendment, Mr. Chair, and I urge the members opposite to rethink their opposition to it.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, I couldn't disagree more with the minister. I think we're on a collision course with disaster if we go down the road that's laid in front of us by this minister.
It's interesting that the minister mentions that one of the areas that allows access to medical records for these purposes - the Maritimes - and in the same breath one of the areas where they have problems assembling a jury is Moncton, New Brunswick.
It speaks for itself. The population of Moncton, New Brunswick, is probably at least three or four times that of the Yukon - that one city itself.
So I'm hearing a message from the minister, but it's contradicting itself immensely. I still submit that this is an invasion of privacy. The minister couched her words very carefully - unless it is required by other territorial legislation - and this is exactly what this amendment to the Jury Act would do. Other territorial legislation would impose that on Yukon health care and the keepers of that information.
Mr. Chair, let me ask this question of the minister: will Yukon health care be sending out information to each individual who is covered by Yukon health care, asking them whether they want that information provided or not provided to the sheriff's office for the purpose of assembling a jury? Will they be informed of this change?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: That's a checkbox that could easily be added in the future if that department chooses to do so.
Mr. Chair, the members opposite seem to be missing the point. The sheriff is already able to search government sources, like the health care insurance recipient list, to check names, addresses and dates of birth to locate people and serve them court documents.
The Member for Klondike's suggestion that the sheriff would hack into a database to access fields that he doesn't have access to is also ludicrous and speaks to his lack of respect for the public service, which he demonstrates regularly in here, Mr. Chair.
This is a simple amendment. It serves a good purpose, as the sheriff is bound by a constitutional requirement to compile jury lists that are representative of the population.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, Mr. Chair, the question that begs an answer: is if the sheriff already has access to the database for Yukon health care with respect to confirming whether someone is a resident in here and can look at that information, what are we going to accomplish under this change to the Jury Act, and what additional provisions are we going to be providing the sheriff, and what additional access to information are we going to be allowing the sheriff to glean from the Yukon health care records?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The sheriff can take old jury lists and check to see whether addresses and dates of birth are up to date but cannot add any new names to the existing jury lists from these sources. The sheriff already has access to these sources to serve people with court documents, and the proposed amendment will allow the sheriff to compile jury lists from government-wide sources, including the health care lists. The sheriff is only able to access name, address and date of birth of prospective jurors from each source list, and the sheriff is given a password for this restricted search access. The sheriff has been searching government source documents. There have been no problems with this practice in the past four years, and personal privacy is provided for under the search limitations imposed on the sheriff. The sheriff is both responsible for and accountable for obtaining information as requested by the act.
The sheriff is an officer of the court and an employee of the Department of Justice. He is duty bound not to use the information for any purpose other than that for which it was gathered - to compile a jury list.
Mr. Jenkins: I still submit that it is a tremendous breach of privacy of individuals, and it's not fair, it's not reasonable.
I would like to explore with the minister the issues surrounding databases and pass codes. It is common knowledge that pass codes are occasionally provided to individuals to access databases that they don't even know what they are getting into. I have had this example brought up to me a couple of times. So, it does happen, through no fault of the individual in question, and the more information that is compiled in one area, the more right of access.
If you want to look at a system that works, the minister might want to go over and see the RCMP, and ask how access to their CPIC is provided and, when you log on, what information is gathered and stored, and what you do - all that information is stored. That is certainly not going to be the case when the sheriff enters into this database for Yukon health care. There will be no tracking of his access or the information that he takes off the system, and I would like to know why not?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I repeat, the sheriff is an officer of the court and an employee of the Department of Justice. He has been provided a password for the database access he now has and would be given a password for the restricted search access he would have, once this amendment to the Jury Act passes. The sheriff is duty bound not to use the information for any purpose other than that for which it was gathered - to compile a jury list.
The member is suggesting that the public service is rife with people who would misuse this information if they were able to underhandedly obtain a password. I submit again that the member opposite has no respect for the public service, as he consistently displays.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, the minister is completely wrong and incorrect in her assumptions. I have the utmost respect for the employees in the Government of Yukon. The respect that I lack is for the minister herself, not for the office that she holds, Mr. Chair. It's a lack of respect for her inability to grasp the fundamentals of where she is heading with this issue.
Now, let's compare RCMP access to CPIC with the sheriff's access to this database. Is the minister suggesting that the RCMP have put all of the controls and safeguards in place and the storage of information in place because their officers are searching for information that they don't have a right to search for? No, it's so that they understand what is going on, and if they ever have to go back and look, they know full well who accessed what area, when, and from where. All that information is stored - not so for the information that the minister is allowing the sheriff to have access to.
Why are there no safeguards being put on the access to this information?
Now, if there is one police force in Canada that is doing an excellent job and is beyond reproach, it's the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, and they have these safeguards in place. That's to go into their own database, Mr. Chair, and yet the minister is putting something in place where officers of the court can go into a database. RCMP officers are officers of the court also.
Why is there a difference, Mr. Chair? Does that not suggest that the RCMP know a lot more about this issue than this minister will ever know, and that this minister hasn't thoroughly thought out this whole issue?
Now, every time that the sheriff goes into this database, will information be stored as to when the sheriff logs on, what information he retrieved? Will all that information be stored somewhere? Yes or no?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The Member for Klondike does not know what security measures may or may not exist with respect to any government database, and he's certainly not going to learn it from me because, quite frankly, it's none of his business. Security matters are security matters.
The sheriff is the one who would have access to this database, not any number of other people, as the member seems to be suggesting. As well, it's irrelevant to compare the security measures surrounding CPIC with the security measures surrounding a Government of Yukon database.
Mr. Jenkins: If I differ in opinion from the minister, it's because I've probably spent a little bit more time researching the issue than the minister herself has, and have asked questions of a lot of individuals.
While I'm probably not as familiar with the pass codes and the levels of security for accessing the Government of Yukon's computers, Mr. Chair, it's no deep, dark secret that errors do occur and pass codes are given out, and access to information that is out of the realm of that individual's domain occurs.
Unlike the RCMP and access to their files in CPIC, there's no logging on that's recorded, and the information that is taken from the database is also not recorded. Information added to the database is recorded.
So, security is a big issue on this, Mr. Chair, and I am not receiving any measure of comfort that security is adequate when we expand access to the database, as the minister is suggesting we do.
Mistakes happen, and will happen, and no one is suggesting that government employees are hacking in. On the contrary, it's only the minister who is suggesting that government employees might be hacking in and attempting to attribute this to me. And that is wrong, Mr. Chair - very, very wrong.
Can the minister advise the House what measure of security is in place to record the access that the sheriff has to the database and what information he gleans? I submit that, other than a pass code to access the database, there is no security in place.
Could the minister just confirm that for the record?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The Member for Klondike does not know what security measures may or may not exist with respect to Yukon government databases, and I will not discuss such security measures with him because, as I said, it is none of his business.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, all I am seeking from the minister is information that security of the database is adequate, that it is commensurate with what the RCMP have with respect to access to CPIC. Could the minister just confirm that, for the record?
Chair: Is there any further general debate?
Mr. Jenkins: Obviously, one can only conclude that the level of security for government computers is nowhere as controlled as the access that the RCMP have to CPIC, that there is not a constant log kept of everyone who logs on when and from where. That information is not recorded, Mr. Chair.
What I submit further, Mr. Chair, is that this minister is not doing her job and not protecting the privacy of Yukoners, by leaving the door as open as she is proposing that it be left open.
I'm just disappointed that this Minister of Justice has not the ability to do her job.
Mr. Chair, let's just go back a little ways. Is the minister aware of why the voters list was removed from the sheriff as a database that the sheriff could access for purposes of assembling a jury? Why was the voters list here in the Yukon removed from the sheriff? Is the minister aware of that? Why?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Yes, I'm aware of it, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Jenkins: And would the minister kindly elaborate as to why?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: It was part of a larger amendment denying the sheriff access to the territorial voters lists because, as the member well knows, that was not the purpose for which the information was gathered.
Now, I know that this feeds right into the member's argument. However, this proposed amendment to the Jury Act has been drafted so that there is no conflict with the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act. Section 36 of the ATIPP act says that a public body can disclose personal information when, among other listed possibilities, another act requires disclosure. In this case, the Jury Act would qualify as an act that requires disclosure. And once again, I point to the constitutional requirement that a jury be chosen at random from a comprehensive list of eligible jurors who are representative of the population - not a segment of the population, the whole population.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, the minister answered the question with respect to why the voters list is not being used by the sheriff for the purposes of assembling a jury. And the same argument holds true with respect to the Yukon health care information that is gathered. It is gathered for the purpose of health care - health care, Mr. Chair.
Now, sooner or later the minister is going to wake up to the realization that she is going to join the Minister of Health and the Minister of Renewable Resources in sticking their chin out, leading with their chin and kind of distorting public confidence in government, with the approach that is being taken.
You could go out tomorrow and do a random sampling of Yukoners and ask them what they would prefer if they were to be given a choice - whether the government, for the purposes of assembling a jury, should have access to their health care records or to the voters list. And I am sure that it would probably be better than nine out of 10 would say, "Take the voters list. I don't want anybody looking at my health care records," especially given that there are no safeguards being provided by this minister and her department for access to that database.
Access to a database and security is very, very important. All I want to know from the minister -
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Chair: Ms. Buckway, on a point of order.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The Member for Klondike was chastising one of my colleagues earlier for not providing factual information to this House. I ask him to consider what he has just said. I have said to him repeatedly that he does not know what security measures may or may not exist with respect to Yukon government databases. He is now saying there aren't any. That is not factual, Mr. Chair.
Chair: Order please. This is a dispute between members since no facts can be given on security. It's a dispute between members on facts.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, thank you, Mr. Chair. Before I was so rudely interrupted by the Minister of Justice trying to expand on her vast knowledge of access to databases and the security of it - the information is readily available as to what type of security and various levels of security that Yukon has with respect to the database. It's not a deep, dark secret, and I am not here to discuss it on the floor of the House. I am here asking the minister to confirm that it's adequate, because it is not adequate. When you log on to Yukon health care from the sheriff's department, there is going to be no tracking of that individual logging on, and there is going to be no tracking of the information the minister takes out of that database.
All I want is for the minister to confirm that the access to this database is going to be secure. The comparison I'm using is in a like manner to the access to the database that the RCMP has. Even the RCMP access to CPIC is very secure, Mr. Chair. I don't want to go into the details there for security reasons.
All I'm asking the minister is to ensure that, if she's bound and determined to ram this act through that's going to jeopardize and question the privacy of Yukoners, there be adequate security on that database and that it be a similar type of level of security and control as the RCMP have on their database. Will the minister provide that assurance - a simple yes or no?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: With the Member for Klondike, it is never a simple yes or no.
Mr. Chair, if people were given a choice, most of them would choose not to serve on a jury. It is a duty of citizenship, and name, address and date of birth are the only fields in the database that the sheriff would have access to. He already has access to those fields for another purpose.
Mr. Jenkins: The issue before us is not whether Yukoners want or don't want to serve on a jury. That's not the issue. The issue is safeguarding the privacy of information that is assembled on Yukoners for one purpose, being used for a purpose it was never intended to be used for. That is the issue.
What I want to know from the minister is what safeguards she is going to insist be put on that database from Yukon health care when the sheriff accesses it. I want to know, and I want the minister to confirm, that that access is going to be as secure as currently exists with the - and I'm using the comparison of the RCMP CPIC database. Is it going to be that secure?
Before the minister stands up, I can assure her that the answer is no, it's not. It begs the question: why not?
The minister thinks it's a laughing matter. That's how seriously she takes her responsibilities, Mr. Chair.
Here, she's advancing a bill that's an invasion of privacy into the lives of Yukoners. They're not going to be given any forewarning or any knowledge of it. Other agencies of the government that have previously had access to their databases have had it curtailed. There isn't anything wrong with the sheriff assembling his own information. I don't want to get into Yukoners not wanting to serve on juries, because that is not on the floor for debate. What is on the floor for debate is access to information that was assembled for one person and is kept for one purpose, being used for a purpose it was never intended. What this minister is proposing is an invasion of the privacy of the lives of Yukoners. I'm sure she'll stand on her feet and confirm that, Mr. Chair.
Chair: Is there any further general debate?
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, let's go back to the database and the security. Can the minister confirm that the database and the access to it will be as secure for the sheriff as it is for a member of the RCMP accessing their database? Could the minister just confirm that security will be at that level? Yes or no?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I have already said that the Member for Klondike doesn't know what security measures may or may not exist with respect to Yukon government databases and, for security reasons, I will not discuss these matters with him.
Mr. Jenkins: I'm not asking to discuss the specifics of the security, Mr. Chair. I'm asking if the minister can confirm that it's the same level and the same type of security as the RCMP have for their members for access to their database. Yes or no?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, here's how the information is safeguarded. The sheriff is under an oath of office. The sheriff is an officer of the court. The access is password protected, and I will not advise in public any other security measures that may or may not be in place. It is not appropriate.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, Mr. Chair, I submit that there is an inadequate method of security in place and the same does not hold true for the RCMP database. Members of the RCMP are also officers of the court, and yet, when they log on, all of that is duly recorded - not so for the sheriff. Everything that occurs for the officers of the court who are in uniform as RCMP members when they access their database is recorded.
What the minister is attempting to sell here, Mr. Chair, is access to a database that was assembled for health care purposes, not to put in place a jury. Other agencies of the government that have had their databases used for the purposes of assembling a jury have had that privilege revoked and removed.
Let's take this one step further. Are people who are covered by Yukon health care going to be advised that the information that is assembled on them is being used for the purpose of assembling a jury? Yes or no?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I have already answered that question.
Mr. Jenkins: Could I ask the minister if Yukon health care recipients will be given a choice of allowing that information to be used for the purpose of assembling a jury? Will they be asked a question as to whether they want this information to be provided, and will they have to sign a form of any sort? Yes or no?
Chair: Is there any further general debate?
Mr. Jenkins: Well, Mr. Chair, the answer to that question is a simple no. The minister doesn't want to let Yukoners know what's going on; she just wants to have what she calls a "seamless transition" of this invasion of privacy.
Let's go back to the driver's licence. Information collected on Yukon driver's licence recipients is provided to Elections Canada. Why isn't this minister responsible for this area? Why aren't Yukoners made aware of that information being provided to Elections Canada? Or is there a blatant breaking of the law here, Mr. Chair? Which one is it?
Chair: Is there any further general debate?
Mr. Jenkins: I can see that the minister is getting a little concerned and testy because she has failed to answer any of the questions put to her. In fact, it's a big laughing matter, that she would invade the privacy of Yukoners and use information gathered for one purpose for a purpose that was never intended.
Privacy is a big issue. Why has the minister no respect for the privacy of Yukoners?
Chair: Order, please. The line of questioning has been very good up to this point, but unfortunately that is imputing unavowed motives and I would ask the member to refrain from that line of questioning.
Mr. Jenkins: Can the minister tell Yukoners what she is going to do to protect the privacy of Yukoners?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The Act to Amend the Jury Act has undergone thorough debate. The members have heard the rationale for it. They are choosing to not listen to it. I could repeat myself but I don't see the point in wasting the Legislature's time.
Mr. Jenkins: I have to give that parrot a cracker. The issue before us is this: what is this minister doing to protect the privacy of Yukoners? What steps is this minister taking to protect the privacy of Yukoners?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: That is a very broad question, involving a number of departments and not at all relevant to this amendment.
Mr. Jenkins: That is exactly what we are discussing - the privacy of Yukoners - access to government databases, assembled for one purpose and used for another purpose. That is exactly what we are discussing. I'm sure, when the minister has finished receiving her briefing on this very important issue, she can stand on her feet and attack this broad issue and provide some enlightenment on what steps this government is taking to protect the privacy of Yukoners.
Really, Mr. Chair, other than a simple pass code, there is really no protection of Yukoners' privacy under Yukon health care. That information was assembled for that purpose and that purpose alone, and it might even be an issue that goes to the federal Privacy Act, because it is an issue that is just being rammed through this House. I would have thought that, after the minister heard the arguments put forward to her in the spring session, she would have been very reluctant to bring it back in the fall session, and I'm disappointed to see it not just die on the Order Paper.
But the question for the minister, Mr. Chair, is still the same: what steps is this minister taking to protect the privacy of Yukoners?
Chair: Is there any further general debate?
Mr. Jenkins: Well, it's becoming clearer and clearer, Mr. Chair, that this minister does not possess the answers - either that, or she doesn't want to share them in the House for fear of embarrassing herself, because there's really no protection accorded to Yukoners. This minister, Mr. Chair, is the Minister of Justice and has a tremendous amount of responsibility to ensure that federal statutes are respected, not just circumvented by other laws, and that appears to be what we're seeing here.
It's one of those famous notwithstanding clauses, Mr. Chair - never mind what this other piece of legislation says or that other piece of legislation says, we're going to do this upon that other act. That is not good legislation, not good legislation at all. But I guess it appears to be more and more the Liberal way. One can only shake one's head in amazement as to how many of our liberties are being eroded and how fast they're being eroded under this Liberal government.
Health care information was assembled for the purpose of the Yukon health care act, and for no other purpose. That information in that database should and must be used exclusively for that purpose.
The Elections Act information was assembled for the purpose of elections. The voters lists were assembled under that act, and the sheriff used to have access to the voters list, but no more because, as the minister rightly pointed out, the voters lists weren't assembled for that purpose.
What happens? Instead of closing the window that might be blowing in the breeze on the Elections Act, we closed the window and we opened both barn doors, Mr. Chair.
That's a shameful way for this government to be behaving and proceeding.
There are a number of questions that the minister has failed to answer, Mr. Chair, and I'd very much like to have a decent response.
Mr. Chair, the major issue is that this Liberal government is probably going to force this legislation through, given their majority. I don't agree with it, but I'm sure that's what's going to happen. Now, if it's going to happen, I want the minister to confirm that the security on that database is commensurate with the same level of security as the RCMP have on CPIC - that every access will be duly recorded and logged, and that information retained.
The way it currently is, Mr. Chair - the minister can ask and her officials can tell her - all one requires is one of the entry-level pass codes. There are various entry-level pass codes, but I don't want to get into that because the level of security is not there. The system can be easily and readily hacked into.
What I'm looking for is the minister's assurance that, when somebody enters into the database, their entry will be recorded. Could the minister confirm that that is going to be done?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: We aren't talking about "somebody" here. We are talking about the sheriff, who already has access to the health care insurance recipient list.
Mr. Chair, the Canadian Constitution provides for a right to trial by jury for serious criminal offences. I refer the Member for Klondike to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, section 11(f). The Supreme Court of Canada has said that one of the most important characteristics of jury selection is that the jury array be drawn from sources that are representative of the community. An essential part of ensuring a jury's representativeness is the sources of information that the sheriff can draw upon to compile jury lists.
The ATIPP act says that personal information such as health care can be used for other purposes. I refer the member to section 36 of that act.
Mr. Jenkins: The minister went on further to use the example of Moncton, New Brunswick - they have tremendous problems assembling a jury. They had to go out and arrest people to sit on a jury, and yet, New Brunswick is one of the areas where you have access to the database for health care. Interesting, Mr. Chair.
The Yukon's total population is probably 30,000 and shrinking, Mr. Chair, of which probably only half can serve on a jury. So we've got about 15,000 individuals to select from. The issue before us is not one of the rights to a fair trial and the rights to a jury. The issue before us is access to information. The access to information via the ways that this minister is suggesting is very improper - very improper indeed, Mr. Chair. In fact, it's one of an invasion of one's personal privacy, because individuals are not going to know who is using the database and for what purpose.
If the minister wants to go this far for this purpose, what is the next step she is going to take as Minister of Justice and how much further intrusion into the privacy of Yukoners is going to be made by this minister and this Liberal government, Mr. Chair?
The minister went on to state that the sheriff has access to Yukon health care records currently. Can the minister advise the House under what authority, or by what authority, the sheriff currently has access to this information?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I suspect it may have been a previous Yukon Party government that gave the sheriff that authority.
Mr. Jenkins: This is a serious matter, and I would expect the minister to know. By what authority does the sheriff currently have access to the health care records? Where is that authority provided?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: It's in the Jury Act.
Mr. Jenkins: Could the minister be specific and point to what section?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I don't have the entire act in front of me, but I am sure I can get it for the member at the 4:30 break.
Mr. Jenkins: From the advice that the minister has received, does it specifically state in the Jury Act currently that access can be provided to Yukon health care information? Yes or no?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I do not have the entire Jury Act with me. I will be pleased to find that section for the member during the 4:30 break.
Mr. Jenkins: Now perhaps that the department has heard the request, it can be sent down to the minister, so that she does have the information. Currently the sheriff is accessing some of the information. He wants a broader access. He wants a broader access into the privacy of Yukoners, and this minister is appearing to grant it without hesitation or reservations, without putting any restrictions or guidelines on that access to the information.
Why would the -
Some Hon. Member: Point of order, Mr. Chair.
Point of order
Chair: Ms. Buckway, on a point of order.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Without putting any restrictions or access? Mr. Chair, we've been talking for two days about the restrictions the sheriff is under - name, address and date of birth. That was not factual, Mr. Chair.
Chair: On the point of order, there's no point of order. It's a dispute between members.
Mr. Jenkins: I understand the minister's getting a little testy and rudely interrupting debate here for no intent and purpose other than to disrupt the ongoing debate because she cannot answer specific questions relating to the current legislation and the proposed legislation, Mr. Chair. Maybe it would be prudent to allow the minister a couple of minutes' break to be briefed by her officials on the sections of the previous Jury Act that pertain to the matter we have on the floor here for debate and where we can go from here. Maybe we can offer the minister a small break at this juncture to entertain a briefing by her officials. Is that on the floor? Would the minister consider it? Probably not. She has been given advice by the government House leader to say no, and I'm sure these are the instructions she's taking. So perhaps she can think for herself and maybe take the time to get a full briefing and a full understanding of it. Would the minister consider this?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, the member opposite has a vivid imagination. The government House leader did not say anything to me.
For the third time, I do not have the full Jury Act with me. I would be pleased to get it and find the section the member is so concerned about on the 4:30 break.
Mr. Jenkins: Okay. We'll wait for that information.
Let's go back to the voters list and the information that the minister gave as to why the voters list was no longer used for the purposes of assembling a jury. Could not the same response apply to the information assembled under the health act?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: We have been through all this information before. I'm really not interested in wasting the time of this Legislature by repeating it again.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, you know, just earlier today the minister was in Question Period, and she was calling the opposition shameless and lazy. Mr. Chair, I have spent quite a bit of time researching this little bit of an act that, from all appearances, shouldn't take too much time to pass if it were an act that would benefit Yukoners, but it's not. It's going to be an invasion of privacy.
One could also suggest that it is very irresponsible to proceed in this direction, because all we're doing is bringing the concerns of Yukoners forward and pointing out the shortcomings of this legislation. And the minister won't even entertain any of these suggestions, nor will she entertain security measures commensurate with what the RCMP have in place for access to the database, saying that the sheriff is an officer of the court. Members of the RCMP are similarly officers of the court, Mr. Chair, yet they record information as to who accesses the database - times, days, who, ID numbers. Not so here in the Yukon. And it's not going to become an issue until information that shouldn't be provided is provided.
And then the minister is going to hide behind the veil of her office and all it's going to do is provide a lot more work for a lot of lawyers. Other than park wardens and lawyers, I guess that's the only growth occupation in the Yukon, Mr. Chair. It's a sad day for Yukon, a sad day indeed.
We could move forward in this debate if the minister would provide the information in a more timely manner than waiting until the 4:30 break, which is about an hour and 10 minutes away. Can the minister get that information sooner than the 4:30 break?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: This amendment to the Jury Act guarantees Yukoners a representative jury. The member says that isn't the issue, but that is exactly the issue.
Mr. Jenkins: Guarantee a representative jury - it does not. Nothing could be further from what is happening than that kind of a statement. We only have to look to Moncton, New Brunswick, which probably has a population three or four times the size of the Yukon, and where they have access to this information, where they can't assemble a jury, and where they had to go out and arrest people to serve on a jury, Mr. Chair.
So, this access to this information is in no way going to ensure or guarantee a representative jury. How can the minister make that statement? How is this going to guarantee a representative jury?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I submit, with respect, that it's a lot more accurate than the telephone book. In Moncton, New Brunswick, the major difficulty in finding jurors for this particular trial was language. They required a bilingual jury. And I think that was an extraordinary effort. I certainly would not want to see our sheriff reduced to rounding up jurors from a shopping mall or a bar, Mr. Chair. That would be improper.
Mr. Chair, we have been over this information again and again and again. I don't see the point of repeating myself. It is merely wasting the Legislature's time. The member opposite, however, obviously feels no such constraints.
Mr. Jenkins: For the minister's information, New Brunswick has the highest bilingual population in Canada - as a percentage of the total population. Quebec has more bilingual individuals but not as a percentage of its total population. French and English are readily available in New Brunswick in most venues, Mr. Chair. The minister might want to stop on her travels in some of these areas and she'll gain an understanding of the Canadian population - as to the languages that are spoken in the respective areas. It's very, very interesting that they couldn't assemble a bilingual jury.
Mr. Chair, there is no way that access to this information will guarantee a representative jury here in the Yukon. That is simply not the case.
Could the minister please correct the record?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I am sorry, Mr. Chair. I didn't hear exactly what the member said.
Mr. Jenkins: What I said was with regard to the minister's statement that access to this database would guarantee a representative jury here in the Yukon and I submit that there is no way that access to this database will guarantee a representative jury here in the Yukon. Could the minister please correct the record?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Use of the health care insurance recipient list and other Yukon government and municipal databases would provide the most representative jury possible - Mr. Chair, a lot better than the telephone book, which is not representative at all.
Mr. Jenkins: So, what the minister is saying for the record is that it does not guarantee a representative jury. All it does is provide a bigger base from which to draw potential jurors. I will agree with the minister on that point.
The minister also mentioned municipal databases. What municipal databases are being accessed currently?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: As the member can see in the amendment, it states, "For the purpose of compiling the list referred to in section 8, the sheriff shall be given access to
(a) the voters list and other public documents under the control of any officer of a municipality; and
(b) records in the custody or in the control of a department or public officer of the Government of Yukon, for any information about the name and address and eligibility for service as jurors."
Again the things the sheriff would have access to are name, address and eligibility for service as jurors. That is all.
Mr. Jenkins: Is the minister reading from the proposed act or the current act? What I asked previously of the minister was this: by what authority does the sheriff currently obtain information from Yukon health care? Where is that authority currently provided to the sheriff?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I said I would get that information for the member at the 4:30 break, and I will do so.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, what information did the minister just have handed to her? Is it the old act, the new act, or how they dovetail together? She read from some documentation there that may or may not be relevant, or is the law currently not being adhered to, and we have to change it so it covers for what the minister has allowed to occur under her watch? Which way is it?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I was reading from the proposed amendment. I will obtain the previous act at the 4:30 break and make it available to the member. What I was reading from - the document that was handed to me - had no relevance.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, Mr. Chair, in order to expedite the business of the House, can we stand down general debate and move into something else until the minister gets the information?
Chair: Mr. Jenkins, I would have to get unanimous consent to stand down the bill. I'll ask for it formally right now.
Unanimous consent re standing down Bill No. 39
Chair: Is there unanimous consent to stand down the bill?
Some Hon. Members: Agree.
Some Hon. Members: Disagree.
Chair: There is not unanimous consent.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, Mr. Chair, I guess we are going to spend an anguishing hour in general debate on this issue, once again, asking questions of the minister that she appears to be incapable of answering.
Mr. Chair, on the issue surrounding security of the information, could the minister confirm that she's going to provide a measure of security equal to that of what the RCMP currently have in place? Yes or no?
Chair: Is there any further general debate?
Mr. Jenkins: Well, let the record reflect that the minister has failed to answer the question, Mr. Chair.
The issue of security surrounding a database is a very important one, and currently, in the opinion of a number of individuals whom I have spoken to, adequate security does not exist on the database, and it would be very easy to access the information currently, Mr. Chair. The minister is supposed to be safeguarding the interests of not just the sheriff to select a jury, but safeguarding the interests of all Yukoners. That does not appear to be the case.
Now, I don't know if it's because the minister is not equal to the task, or if the information provided to her is not adequate, or if she hasn't spent the time reading her briefing notes. But now she has an opportunity to go through this act while she's sitting here in the Legislature and come to an understanding of it. Because this change to the Jury Act is, indeed, Mr. Chair, an invasion of the personal privacy of Yukoners - an invasion, Mr. Chair. All other government departments and agencies that provide information - the individual in question is asked whether that information may be provided to another government agency.
Right from the Canada Customs and Revenue Agency on down to Statistics Canada, this is part of the civil liberties that we enjoy as Canadians. But, under this Liberal government's watch, George Orwell is alive and well - 1984 has come and gone, but his reach is still descending upon us - his Liberal reach coming down and removing some of the last semblances of privacy that Yukoners have, and that is their health care records.
Mr. Chair, I would submit to the minister that the same rationale used to deny the sheriff access to the voters list currently compiled here in the Yukon, or regularly updated, should be the same argument she puts forward to the sheriff for not accessing the health care records. It would appear that currently, by some method, officials may be exceeding their authority in accessing health care records currently with permission granted by the minister. Now, that is disappointing, Mr. Chair. I don't know why the minister would want to take that tack and that approach.
But this Jury Act allows the sheriff to access Yukon health care records in order to subpoena potential jurors. Yukon health care information was never assembled for that purpose, Mr. Chair - never assembled for that purpose whatsoever.
Yukon health care records contain a lot of privileged and confidential information that may get into the wrong hands. In fact, that debate is ongoing in rural Yukon where, in many communities, two sets of records are currently being kept. Access to privacy is an issue there, and confidentiality between an individual and their doctor is privileged, the same as information between a client and a solicitor. This information may be allowed to leak out because the minister won't take the necessary steps to ensure that there are adequate safeguards. Nor, Mr. Chair, has she considered it.
Now, I'd like to know why. Why won't the minister ensure that safeguards are in place on this very privileged and confidential database - Yukon health care information - on the same level and to the same standard as the RCMP guard their CPIC database?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, security issues between RCMP database and Yukon government health records are irrelevant, and I will not discuss what security measures there may or may not be, for security reasons.
It has become obvious to me, Mr. Chair, that the Member for Klondike has not read clause 2, subsection 2 of this proposed bill, which reads: "The officer or department from whom the sheriff requests information under subsection (1) shall supply the information to the sheriff, or allow the sheriff to extract the information, within 14 days of receiving the sheriff's request for it." The member has been sitting there assuming that the sheriff has a computer in his office and he can access the database at will. That is not the case, and if the information is supplied to him, it contains name, address and date of birth. If the sheriff accesses the database on a computer, the information that is available to him is name, address and date of birth - that is all.
Mr. Jenkins: So, is the minister, for the record, confirming that the sheriff will not have access to the database for Yukon health care records. He will just submit a written request and receive a written response from the health care department. Yes or no?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The Member for Klondike isn't listening. Subsection 2 of clause 2 says that the officer or department from whom the sheriff requests information under subsection 1 shall supply the information to the sheriff or allow the sheriff to extract the information within 14 days of receiving the sheriff's request for it. So there are two options.
Mr. Jenkins: That's exactly what I am getting at, and it is the second option that I am concerned with - where the sheriff has direct access to the database. That is the issue, and the minister fails to see it.
Now, due consideration hasn't been given to the security issue. Why not?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The sheriff is under an oath of office, and the sheriff is an officer of the court.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, the minister is ducking behind her responsibilities, trying to get out from her responsibilities. It's broader than just putting a law in place. It has to be a workable law, and this one is very one-sided - very one-sided, in favour of the officials. Why hasn't the minister advanced the same argument as the electoral office advanced with respect to access to their information, that it wasn't collected for that purpose, nor should it be used for a purpose that it wasn't collected for? Why can't the minister make that argument to the sheriff, or does she really believe that this is a fair and just way to treat Yukoners, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, this is about representative juries, Mr. Chair. The telephone book is not the logical way for the sheriff to gather information for a jury list. This amendment is in keeping with a principle of the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act, that personal information can be disclosed without consent only in limited circumstances, one of which is that an act authorizes the disclosure. That is the purpose of this amendment, Mr. Chair.
The sheriff needs to refer to up-to-date government records in order to establish a panel of potential jurors. The panel must be comprised of eligible citizens who can be randomly selected and are representative of the population at large. This amendment would allow use of the most up-to-date and extensive information for the sole purpose of establishing a panel of potential jurors. The sheriff does not have access to the rest of the database. The sheriff has access either in printed form or on a computer to name, address and date of birth only. And that's the last time I'm going to say that, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, would the minister consider a friendly amendment in that clause that the sheriff can request the information and the request is responded to within 14 days, rather than the alternate where the sheriff has access to the database via computer link? What is the downside of changing the access to just putting the access to information request forward and it will be responded to within 14 days?
Would the minister consider that kind of amendment?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: No amendment to the amendment is necessary because that is provided for. I will read it for the member one more time: "The officer or department from whom the sheriff requests information under subsection (1) shall supply the information to the sheriff or allow the sheriff to extract the information within 14 days of receiving the sheriff's request for it."
Some Hon. Members: (Inaudible)
Hon. Ms. Buckway: That is the entire amendment. That's all there is. If the member would like me to read the entire thing - I mean, that's all there is.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, Mr. Chair, if the minister has to go to 4:30, she might as well do something to understand this bill that she has before her. I guess her next briefing comes at 4:30 and, between now and then, I don't know what she's going to do with her time, other than attempt to answer and feebly respond. But it's a very sad day for Yukoners when we see an erosion of our rights like what is taking place under this Liberal government, Mr. Chair.
Has the minister ever suggested to her officials to go back to the sheriff and use the same argument that the elections people used to deny access to their database? Has that suggestion ever been put forward, or has the minister done what she normally continues to do, and just react to the strings on the puppet that she appears to have degenerated into and just respond in the way that she is instructed to respond?
There seems to be no common sense prevailing, Mr. Chair - no common sense prevailing and no questioning of the wisdom or the rationale, because for every piece of legislation that comes forward I would expect that the minister would have a number of questions. But it doesn't appear that the minister has even thought the process through.
I recognize that this is her first experience in political office, Mr. Chair, and I recognize that it's a novice Liberal government, but common sense is common sense. Stand back from a lot of these bills that are being presented, and have a look at them, and question them before we just go merrily down the path of giving assent to them, because that's not our role here. It's not the role of the minister either. It's the role of the minister to do her homework and to safeguard the privacy of Yukoners, among many other things.
But this amendment that we have here before us, Mr. Chair, appears to be very one-sided, and I'm disappointed to see that.
We know it's going to go through ultimately because this minister is determined that that's the way it's going to be. She's not prepared to accept any amendments to it, because what's written is - that's it. Nor is she prepared to put any safeguards in place as to the access to this information. That speaks well for how the minister views the privacy of Yukoners.
I'm just terribly disappointed with the way this Liberal government is going. I'm sure the Acting Premier, the Minister of Justice, is going to end up being right up there with her counterparts, the Minister of Renewable Resources and the Minister of Health, in the way they address Yukon issues.
They lead with their chins. The overall best interest of Yukoners is not even being addressed and not even being recognized. When will we see the rationale for not adequately safeguarding this information?
What it's going to take is some of the information that shouldn't be in the public domain getting out into the public domain. Then what is the minister going to say? Really, all she can say then is, "I'm sorry." And, it is going to happen.
It will happen in due course because, even at the level I'm at, I am aware of pass codes being provided to officials that were beyond the range of where they were supposed to have a pass code, and they didn't do anything other than report it, and it was the technical people who quickly changed it.
This is in a government that is not very large, that doesn't serve - I don't know who it doesn't serve, but it doesn't serve Yukoners in the manner that it probably should and it costs a lot of money. I can't even get access to my e-mail in my office from outside of this building because of the way this government has things locked up, and yet I am told that they have got more than adequate security on everything else.
Very interesting, Mr. Chair. I know of colleagues who have the way of going around and accessing their e-mail even though there's a firewall up. So I don't know who the minister's trying to kid or who the minister's trying to impress about this tremendous security. All I'm telling the minister is it just does not exist to the same level or on the same level that an organization like the RCMP has.
When you log on, it's recorded, your ID number, time, everywhere, information you've requested out of the database - that's all stored. A tremendous amount of information is stored. And every now and then it very much comes in handy, especially when a mistake has been made. But, Mr. Chair, this minister is failing to provide those safeguards, just looking and focusing on the sole purpose of a representative jury, a representative jury at the expense of the privacy of Yukoners, Mr. Chair. I don't think that's fair to Yukoners, and I'm sure, when the information gets out there, I'm sure the general population will be telling the minister the same thing. Why are you proposing an invasion of our privacy? And I'm sure, once the press grabs on to the fact that the information from Yukon drivers' licences is sent to Stats Canada, Elections Canada, without the consent of the individuals, that that will become an interesting bone of contention.
I don't know by what authority or what right, or who the arrangement was made with, whether the arrangements were made with the government agency itself of Community and Transportation Services, whether it was made with the Yukon government or right with the motor vehicle branch. I would like to know how and when this happened. While I recognize that we're not in the Department of Community and Transportation Services or in this area, this is an area under the minister's umbrella that she was probably not aware of until it was brought to her attention today. She doesn't know how it happened. She is probably going to blame it on the Yukon Party, like she blames everything else. It's always somebody else's fault, Mr. Chair - always somebody else's fault.
Well, I guess this minister of towns and trucks will go down in history as one who probably has been the least knowledgeable and the least understanding -
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Chair: Mr. McLachlan, on a point of order.
Mr. McLachlan: We have previously discussed in this House that there are proper titles for ministers on this side, and the last time I looked no one has the title "minister of towns and trucks". The member is in violation.
Chair: On the point of order, technically, Mr. McLachlan, you're correct. Minister of Community and Transportation Services or Minister of Justice are the titles that Ms. Buckway has and, technically, that is correct. There is a point of order here.
Some Hon. Members: (Inaudible)
Chair: I know you would.
Go ahead, Mr. Jenkins.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, Mr. Chair, technically the Member for Faro is absolutely correct but, normally, the previous ministers of Community and Transportation Services, because they were well-respected and knowledgeable, they were affectionately called the minister of towns and trucks. I don't think that is going to carry forward under this government, Mr. Chair. That's where I was coming from, and that's where I was heading.
It's an affectionate name that the previous ministers were known by, and they have to earn that respected title, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Chair, with that, we can go back into the Jury Act and this tremendous breach of privacy that this minister is advocating. Personal privacy is a major issue.
Could I ask the minister if she has asked her officials to see if there could not be a breach of the federal Privacy Act with this amendment to the Jury Act?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, this amendment is about representative juries. The Canadian Constitution provides us with a right to trial by jury for serious criminal offences and, according to the Supreme Court, one of the most important characteristics of selecting a jury is that it be drawn from sources that are representative of the community.
Now, how that happens is the sheriff needs access to good sources of information to compile jury lists. Mr. Chair, the sheriff has a constitutional obligation.
Mr. Jenkins: As does the minister have a constitutional obligation and the minister has sworn an oath, Mr. Chair.
What we have to deal with, Mr. Chair, is that representative juries be balanced with the privacy of Yukoners.
Now, Mr. Chair, I submit there is no balance present in the equation that the minister is advancing under this amendment to the Jury Act. Invasion of one's personal privacy is not even on the table for discussion, and I don't believe that the minister has given equal weight to her responsibilities in that area. All of the weight has been on the amendment to the Jury Act as to there having to be a representative jury. That's a given. Representative juries are acknowledged and accepted, but there are ways of assembling juries other than accessing health care information. And the minister is not spending the time and effort needed to assemble that information.
Databases exist and continue to exist for quite a number of purposes. I don't believe anyone has a quarrel with accessing some of the databases. I think that, by and large, the last database I'd want anyone to see is that with my personal life and my personal health care issues.
That's where we're headed with this kind of legislation because the minister is failing to provide safeguards so that the information won't go beyond a certain point. In statute, they're saying you can only go this far, but given the system we currently have in place, it's going to extend beyond that point very quickly.
And what is the minister going to say when that information is out there in the public domain? What can she say? "I'm sorry." What responsibility does she have? All the responsibility in the world for cutting the line so close to the edge, and there needn't be a line so close to the edge. The best thing that could happen is for the minister to take this amendment to the Jury Act, put it on the back burner and obtain some other advice and balance that advice with the advice that she has from the sheriff's office, and balance the representative juries with access to privacy of Yukoners. Because what we are debating here today is really the issue of privacy, and just how private is the information that is assembled on you and me, and just how much of that information can ultimately be given out to other agencies. The minister is on a very slippery slope and it's frozen, and I would suggest that her footing isn't very favourable to remaining upright. The same holds true for the whole government. There is a major issue here. Now, I don't know why the caucus hasn't brought this minister to recognize the importance of the issue she is dealing with.
I guess they either don't want to or they haven't recognized the importance of the privacy of individual Yukoners, Mr. Chair, but it must be pointed out that there is no need for assembling this information in this manner. Yes, it would make it a little bit easier for the sheriff to assemble this information but, otherwise, there is no great advantage. The downside of it is the invasion of one's personal privacy and intrusion into their health care records.
I have asked the minister to provide the information of how access to the health care records is currently provided, under what authority and what statute, because I don't believe there currently exists that right under the current statute. Yet, the minister admitted that the sheriff does access the information already. It sounds to me like some law may be broken somewhere. Now, why?
Can the minister provide a clear and concise outline of how the sheriff is currently obtaining information from Yukon health care - by what authority and what authorization?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I have explained to the member opposite that I don't have that information in front of me. It now appears as though it may take some time to get it, so I may have to reply to him in writing.
All sorts of people have access to all the information in the Yukon health care insurance database on a daily basis, and it's not out in the public domain.
For the member opposite to suggest that giving the sheriff access to name address and date of birth only is going to put the information at risk, is totally ludicrous. It's wrong, it's misleading. The member is choosing not to understand the intent of this amendment, Mr. Chair.
Chair: Order please. Two things are wrong there - "misleading", and "choosing not to understand" is also imputing motive. I would ask the member to be very careful in making statements like that, and those kinds of statements will be ruled out of order in the future.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, Mr. Chair, I can see that the minister is somewhat rattled by her inability to grasp her role in this matter and, given the tenacity of her responses and her delving into unparliamentary language here, contrary to the Standing Orders, is growing alarmingly. I'm disappointed that the minister can't grasp her responsibilities as Minister of Justice and weigh equally the representation factor on juries with the issue of access to privacy.
What we're seeking here, Mr. Chair, is a compromise - a compromise that may or may not be necessary. At the end of the day, what we have to have is something that's workable and something that protects the privacy of Yukoners.
Now, Mr. Chair, the information contained in the Yukon health care records was assembled and is there for a specific purpose, and that purpose is to provide Yukoners with health care coverage.
Now, as soon as you are born here in the Yukon, you are virtually covered by health care, and you're registered shortly thereafter. It usually takes a short period of time because, unless you have a SIN number, Yukon health care won't register you. You have to have a SIN number, so that information is on file.
The first step you take with a newborn is obtain their SIN numbers, fill out the documentation, send it in to Yukon health care. The newborn receives a health care card. The process has been the same for quite a number of years, Mr. Chair, so in that database is a tremendous amount of information that is protected that may be available. It's a simple step to provide another amendment, and Yukon health care records are not the be-all and end-all, especially when the sheriff only wants name, address and date of birth. That doesn't indicate whether that individual can serve on a jury.
The minister could make a better argument for the voters lists to be used for that purpose than the health care records, Mr. Chair, because in order to vote, there are certain criteria that have to be met. You have to be the age of majority, and usually when you can vote there is no impediment to your serving on a jury, but many people who are covered by Yukon health care do not have the ability to vote, nor can they serve on a jury here in the Yukon for one reason or another.
A lot of times, they're not even here for most of the year. So why would the minister not pursue the avenue of the Elections Act and the enumerated voters lists for the purposes of the sheriff's ability to assemble a representative group of jurors. That would appear to make a lot more sense and be much more reasonable than the course of action that this minister is currently taking.
I guess, Mr. Chair, that the last time the Elections Act was reviewed here in the Yukon, a much higher level of thinking prevailed and common sense was clearly prevalent, and the voters list was never assembled for the purpose of assembling a representative group of jurors - it was never intended for that purpose - and it was determined that it would be inappropriate to use it for that purpose, so it was subsequently revoked from the purview of the sheriff to be used for jury purposes.
But now enter into the equation with the health care - I don't know if the Minister of Justice and the Minister of Health are in collusion on this matter, but there obviously has to be some prior arrangement or knowledge shared between these respective departments. It was obviously done at the minister's level.
Equal weight has not been given to the privacy of Yukoners in this determination to move forward with this amendment to the Jury Act, and that in itself is extremely disappointing.
The issue of drivers' licences and that information is another area that I would like the minister to get back to me on - as to how and when the determination was made by whatever it was, whether it was the Government of Yukon, the Department of Community and Transportation Services or the licensing agency itself to provide information to Elections Canada. Where did that flow of information - and by what right and authority is it transferred to Elections Canada? Could the minister agree to provide a legislative return on that situation? Because it is all relevant. It all comes into the same area.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: We are debating a minor amendment to the Jury Act. The member's question has no relevance.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, the relevance is that this minister is overseeing departments where there is a tremendous exchange of information to agencies that may or may not be permitted by statute or regulation. Now, I don't know what the case is, and I would like the minister to show me where this information - and by what authority, whether statute or regulation, this information can be provided. Because my research doesn't indicate any, and I have gone through the regulations in this area and I could very well have missed something.
Mr. Chair, I'd also like to know if individuals in the health care database are going to be given the option of allowing this information to be provided or not provided, or whether they will even be informed that the information contained in the health care database is being used for a purpose other than health care. What is the situation?
Chair: Is there any further general debate?
Mr. Jenkins: I guess my question to the minister fell on deaf ears, Mr. Chair. She spent most of her time conversing with the Minister of Renewable Resources, getting her instructions on how to stick her chin out further, I guess. I don't know. That Minister of Renewable Resources is very much a leader in that regard, but the question to the minister, once again, is a very simple question: are individuals covered by Yukon health care going to be given the opportunity by this minister to be advised that their health care information will be used for a purpose other than for health care reasons?
Chair: Is there any further general debate?
Mr. Jenkins: I guess the minister either doesn't have the ability to respond or doesn't know the answer. I don't know which it is, but I guess the question once again to the Minister of Justice: will Yukoners covered by health care be advised that the information in the database for health care will be provided to other government agencies, and will they be given the option to say yes or no?
Chair: Is there any further general debate?
Mr. Jenkins: Let the record reflect that the minister is refusing to answer or can't answer. I don't know which it is. I would like to give the minister the benefit of the doubt that she is refusing to answer, but I think it's more the latter, that she doesn't have the information and doesn't know how to respond on this matter.
Given that this is an issue about the invasion into the privacy of Yukoners through Yukon health care records, could the minister confirm that those registered under Yukon health care will be advised that the information in the Yukon health care government database will be used for a purpose other than for health care?
Chair: Is there any further general debate?
Mr. Jenkins: Well, seeing that the minister doesn't have the ability to answer, perhaps it would be prudent to break a little earlier so the minister can gather the information and get a further briefing on this situation. Can we suggest that? Because the minister is just prolonging debate, and it's very, very agonizing when a minister cannot answer or is not willing to answer. Can we break earlier so that the minister can have a briefing and get the information that has been requested of her, Mr. Chair?
Unanimous consent re recess
Chair: Since I have already asked that question and it was far from unanimous consent, I will ask one more time, but I won't ask it again today because I don't think you'll get it. Do we have unanimous consent to break early?
Some Hon. Members: Agree.
Some Hon. Members: Disagree.
Chair: We do not have unanimous consent.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, let the record reflect that the Minister of Justice is prolonging debate. She is just holding up this whole Legislature because of her failure to provide answers to basic questions about the invasion into the privacy of Yukoners through the Yukon health care act. And she can sit there as long as she wants, but this minister - and no one else - is responsible for the blockade that we have currently in this Legislature.
Now, I would encourage the minister at the break - we've only got a few more minutes to go, or half an hour or 20 minutes, or, I guess, about 10 to 15 minutes. And I am hoping that the minister will get a full and complete briefing on the matter. She seems to be in deep dialogue with her officials, and hopefully there will be a transmission to her of some of the tremendous knowledge and understanding of the question from the officials she has with her in the Legislature so that she can impart that knowledge and understanding here in this Legislature.
We'll probably miss a lot in the transition. That has been the case in the past; I'm sure that'll be the case in the future, Mr. Chair.
I'm somewhat dismayed that the basic questions that were asked of the minister - and they're very simple, which I'm seeking an answer to - by what authority or regulation or statute is the sheriff currently taking information from the health care records? That is some of the information I'd like. What change will this amendment to the Jury Act do, or is it going to just legitimize a long-standing situation?
I guess the other question is this: what safeguards are being put on the database of Yukon health care now that it's going to be used for a much more extensive purpose than what was originally envisioned?
These are some of the questions I would encourage the minister to get a thorough and complete briefing on at the break, as they are paramount to this debate continuing. The issue is one of recognizing the importance of the privacy of Yukoners, which is not being given fair and equal weight, as representative juries are being given. There's a tremendous imbalance between these two extremes, and I would even encourage the minister that she might want to have the sheriff assemble his own database of potential jurors, that this database can be gleaned from many other areas, Mr. Chair, other than access to our health care records.
Of any of the records that are kept in any of the databases, Mr. Chair, I think these are some of the most sacred and some of the ones that should be protected much, much more extensively than a lot of other records, but this minister has no respect for the privacy of Yukoners, and that's becoming more and more apparent, Mr. Chair. That respect might have existed but, currently, it's going downhill at an alarming rate, Mr. Chair. I would encourage the minister, at her briefing at 4:30, to have her officials tell her how the sheriff is currently accessing this information, by what regulation or statute, and what's going to change, or is it just going to become legitimized under this amendment to the Jury Act.
I'd also encourage the minister to pose the question to her officials: if the list of enumerated Yukoners is deemed to be inappropriate for the sheriff to access, why is it that the database for health care recipients is? What's the rationale? Mr. Chair, I don't believe there really is any. The minister is certainly not protecting the privacy of Yukoners or, for that matter, doing anything about it. It's a very, very sad day for Yukoners, Mr. Chair.
The privacy of Yukoners is of paramount importance, and this constitutes an invasion of that privacy and of use of information that was collected for a purpose other than to assemble a jury. I think when anyone signed up for Yukon health care, as we were required to do, no one would ever have envisioned or no one was even told that there was a potential that this information would be used to assemble a jury. The whole purpose of that information was solely for health care purposes and health care reasons alone, Mr. Chair.
Since health care in the Yukon is free, Mr. Chair, we probably capture a lot more individuals than we would if it were paid for.
Now, that's not the issue on the floor for debate. The issue on the floor for debate is why the health care records should be used for general purposes as a database for the sheriff to assemble a representative jury.
And why is there such an extensive invasion of personal privacy being contemplated by this minister and this government?
Why would this minister do this? Now I see that she is tremendously enlightened by something out the window, and I hope it's a big raven that's coming to tell her there are no health care records kept on ravens, unless Renewable Resources has them. Maybe if we gave them a name, we could subpoena them for jury purposes, Mr. Chair.
But I'm disappointed that the only area that this minister wishes to recognize is improving the efficiency of one government department at the expense of the privacy of Yukoners, Mr. Chair.
I find it ironic that the minister carefully points out that New Brunswick is a jurisdiction that allows access to their health care records and yet, in Moncton, the sheriff there had to go out and arrest people to serve on a jury.
The minister's excuse was, "It was a bilingual jury", failing to recognize that New Brunswick has, per capita, the highest rate of bilingual residents of any jurisdiction in Canada. I'd encourage the minister to visit New Brunswick. It's one heck of a fine place, has some of the best fishing you'll find in Canada and, yes, they still have logging there. They still have a forestry industry, Mr. Chair.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order
Point of order
Chair: Mr. McLachlan, on a point of order.
Mr. McLachlan: During debate in Committee of the Whole, article 42(2) clearly says, "Speeches in Committee of the Whole must be strictly relevant to the item or clause under consideration." It has got nothing to do with fishing or logging in New Brunswick.
Mr. Chair, this is the second point of order in a short period of time that has been raised because of the Member for Klondike. If the member cannot stay by the Rules in Committee of the Whole, members on this side question why - and if he even wants to - debate the Jury Act. Perhaps the questioning should be handed over to the Member for Mayo-Tatchun. Maybe he has a few questions.
But clearly, the Member for Klondike has no interest in the Jury Act debate, which is what is currently under discussion - not fishing or logging in Miramichi.
Chair: On the point of order, the relevance is essentially tied to a larger question, and I cannot, in specific instances, pick relevance out. If he's talking about fishing in New Brunswick, he's also maybe talking about privacy in New Brunswick. So, there is no point of order.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, Mr. Chair, once again we're rudely interrupted by the Member for Faro. You know, I don't know where he's coming from half the time, constantly popping up on a point of order that bears no relationship to reality.
But the issue before us is the Jury Act, the amendments to the Jury Act. No, I wasn't fishing in New Brunswick this time. I was pointing out the comparison between Moncton having to go out and subpoena jurors for jury duty because they couldn't find jurors, and yet they have access in New Brunswick to the database for health care records.
I would encourage the minister to look up the population of New Brunswick and cut it in half, Mr. Chair, because that's about the number of individuals who are able to serve on a jury. Then take the statistics for New Brunswick, as to what percentage of that province is bilingual, and it's the highest in Canada. So what that says is that, even with access to health care records for the purpose of putting together representative juries, those jurisdictions that have this in place have problems and can't assemble a jury. Furthermore, the minister's suggestion that changing this here in the Yukon is going to guarantee representative juries here in the Yukon is totally inaccurate, Mr. Chair.
All we are going to see under this change is access to private and confidential information that was assembled for a purpose other than for the sheriff to access for jury purposes.
Chair: Just as a matter of clarification, all members are notified that since Workers' Compensation Health and Safety Board is coming in today, we will have a break at 4:45 p.m.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, you yourself said that we were going to break at 4:30 p.m., so it has now been changed.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Jenkins: And the letter said 4:45 p.m. Well, I can't see what - if we break at 4:45 p.m. and go until 5:00 p.m., then we are into something else. We are back into the Jury Act tomorrow. Perhaps I could ask the minister if she is going to take it upon herself to be fully briefed overnight on the issues that I have raised here today.
Chair: Is there any further debate?
Mr. Jenkins: Well, I have a number of questions for the minister, Mr. Chair. It is obvious that she has not demonstrated the ability to respond to those questions. What I am asking the minister is: is she going to address her responsibilities in the appropriate manner, accept the briefing from her officials so she can come back tomorrow fully prepared and understanding the questions, and provide accurate, open and accountable answers to the questions posed to her today? Will the minister do so?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, I will undertake to find an answer to the member's question, "By what authority is the sheriff currently taking information from the health care database?" It was by decision of a previous government. I don't know which one. It may have been a Yukon Party government, but it is not turning out to be as easy to find the answer as I had thought it would be, so it may take some time and some research, and I will provide the member with an answer in writing when I get the information.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, Mr. Chair, for an intrusion into the database for Yukon health care currently, there has to be either a statute or a regulation granting that authority, and if there isn't, the minister knows full well what is occurring. If the minister cannot find a statute or a regulation that permits this, what is going to be the consequence?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, that's speculation. I have said that, when I find the information, I will provide the member with an answer in writing, and I will do that. For him to suggest that there is no such authority is speculative, and I point out that whatever authority there is was granted by decision of a previous government. So, it may take some time to find it, but I will provide him with an answer in writing when I do.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, we can probably stand down the act until next week or sometime when the minister is prepared to provide the accurate information. Of all of the ministers, this minister, in her various portfolios, has provided the most legislative returns of any minister I have ever debated with in this Legislature.
Some are still forthcoming from the spring session and I'm sure there will be a whole raft of them after this session. And I'm sure that next spring, given the magnitude of changes that are anticipated and contemplated by the federal Liberals and their puppets here in the Yukon, there is going to be a whole raft of additional legislation. That's going to be a major issue, and I know full well, given the track record of these ministers to address their responsibilities and take the time to understand the issues they're faced with, we are probably going to see a lot more written correspondence because the ministers are not up to speed, not conversant with their departments and not knowledgeable or understanding of the issues they're faced with.
But the issue that we have on the floor is the Jury Act and the access to the health care statistics, which, I believe, is an infringement on the privacy of Yukoners. Yes, I would prefer to be fishing in the Miramichi but, be that as it may, we're here in the Yukon, we're here in the Legislature and it's our job in opposition to keep the government accountable, and we can't even get them to stand up and respond to a question. They've got to go and research them and provide a written response.
Some Hon. Members: (Inaudible)
Mr. Jenkins: It's not an outrage; it's worse than an outrage. At least an outrage usually occurs after something is done or not done. In this case, something hasn't been done, and I guess the issue is that the minister either hasn't sat down and been fully briefed on this matter, hasn't come to a clear understanding of the issues and hasn't recognized the importance of the privacy of Yukoners, or she hasn't recognized the whole purpose for why Yukon health care records were established.
That is sad; that is really sad. So what we are going to see is a progression of the big wheels of government accessing the privacy of individuals for one purpose or another. I don't know what is going to occur tomorrow, but it will be one thing after another, after another. At the end of the day what are we going to have? Another day older and deeper in debt was suggested.
Mr. Chair, I guess that is where we are at with this government. Could I encourage the minister to have this information I have requested for the Legislature tomorrow? Can the minister endeavour to do that and provide it? I would like to get out of this debate, but it is because of the minister's lack of understanding of the issues and her lack of understanding of the history surrounding this amendment that is prolonging debate. I certainly don't want to prolong debate. It is just that the minister can't answer and won't answer. Can we expect to see these answers tomorrow?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The member opposite will get the answers when I have located the information about his question: by what authority is the sheriff currently taking information from the health care database? This has been happening over the past four years. It was under a previous government's watch, so it may take some tracking down. I will get him the information as soon as I have it. I can't promise if that will be tomorrow. Mr. Chair, clearly the member either can't understand the issue or doesn't want to understand the issue.
The sheriff has a constitutional obligation, which he is having difficulty fulfilling, creating jury lists from telephone directories. That's the member opposite's preferred source. The most up-to-date and comprehensive database is the health care insurance recipient list for the Yukon, Mr. Chair. This is a minor amendment, which would give the sheriff access to that database, on a limited basis, for name, address and date of birth. The sheriff already has that access, and I will attempt to determine exactly under which government he got that authority and how it came about.
The member opposite is the one who is needlessly prolonging debate and is the one who doesn't care to understand the amendment.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, I understand fully what the minister wants to accomplish with this amendment to the Jury Act. Unfortunately, it is the minister who does not, because the issue is one of privacy. The issue is one of access into a database for a purpose other than what that database was collected for. The very same response should have been forthcoming from the minister on access to this health care database, as was given to the sheriff when he was denied access to the voters lists here in the Yukon.
That has not been the case whatsoever. What we are seeing, Mr. Chair, could almost be construed as abuse of power, in that we're stretching the envelope to a length that it was never intended to be stretched. Mr. Chair, that's sad.
Now, the minister is vested with the responsibility to move this legislation forward, but I would encourage her to do so only after she has fully, fully consulted with those who are familiar with the issue of privacy, and I don't believe that has been the case. Could I ask the minister, Mr. Chair, if she has consulted with anyone outside her department with the issue of privacy regarding the issue of access to health care records?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, the member is grasping at straws. One more time: the Canadian Constitution provides for a right to trial by jury for serious criminal offences. That is in section 11(f) of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Now, the Supreme Court of Canada has said that one of the most important characteristics of jury selection is that the jury array be drawn from sources that are representative of the community. An essential part of ensuring a jury's representativeness is sources of information that the sheriff can draw upon to compile jury lists.
So, Mr. Chair, the Constitution requires that the jury be chosen at random from a comprehensive list of eligible jurors who are representative of the population. One more time: that's the whole population, not just representative of the people who subscribe to telephones or of the people who are registered owners of motor vehicles or of land or of the people who are not employed or are on social assistance or of the people who are employed by the government or of any other segment of the population.
Mr. Chair, most adults are eligible for jury duty. If a person is eligible and is called, then the person is obligated to serve. If the list of eligible jurors is not comprehensive and representative of the population, then the constitutional requirement is not met. That is very serious. And the burden of serving on juries falls unevenly on the people who happen to show up on incomplete sources of information.
Health care records are a very reliable and complete source of information of the names, addresses and dates of birth of potential jurors. It is only those three things that the sheriff has access to currently, and those are the only three things this amendment will give him access to - name, address and date of birth.
The amendment has been drafted so there is no conflict with ATIPP. This about balancing the individual right of privacy with the public interest, Mr. Chair. The individuals have privacy rights but they are not absolute. They must be balanced against the interests and rights of the larger community, and there is a public interest in ensuring constitutional right of accused in criminal matters to have jury panels selected from lists that are representative of the community.
Chair: Order please. The time being approximately 4:45, we will now break. I would ask all members to please respect the time frame of being back here at 5:00 sharp as we have witnesses in the House.
Chair: I now call Committee of the Whole to order. Pursuant to Committee of the Whole Motion No. 3, passed November 27, we are welcoming Arthur Mitchell, alternate chair of the Workers' Compensation Health and Safety Board and Tony Armstrong, president and chief executive officer of Workers' Compensation Health and Safety Board.
I would ask all members to remember to refer their remarks through the Chair when addressing the witnesses, and I would also ask the witnesses to refer their answers through the Chair when they are responding to the members of the House.
Mr. Roberts, I believe you will introduce everybody.
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Mr. Chair, before I get started, I'd like the House to join me in introducing and welcoming three people from the Workers' Compensation Health and Safety Board: Roxanne Vallevand, Tina Sebert, Deborah McNevin and also Doug Rody, who represents the board, and Mike Travill from the workers' advocate office. Could you join me in welcoming them to the House?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Mr. Chair, it gives me great pleasure tonight, as the minister responsible for the Workers' Compensation Health and Safety Board, to present to the House the alternate chair of the board, Mr. Arthur Mitchell, and the president and CEO, Mr. Tony Armstrong. Tonight we will be discussing topics pertaining to the Yukon Workers' Compensation Health and Safety Board. Please let me briefly introduce the two gentlemen before us.
Mr. Mitchell has kindly agreed to be here tonight in place of Mr. Dale Schmekel, the chair of the board, who is presently out of the territory. Arthur was appointed to the board of directors this August. He was selected as alternate chair as the result of a consultation with both business and labour.
Mr. Armstrong has worked at the board since 1993. He has been president since July 31, 1997. Mr. Armstrong is greatly respected by his peers in the arena of compensation and health safety, and was recently elected to sit as a member at large on the executive committee of the International Association of Industrial Accident Boards and Commissions. Mr. Armstrong is the only Canadian who is sitting on this very prestigious committee.
I know that Mr. Mitchell and Mr. Armstrong want to make some brief statements. After that, they will be able to answer any questions that you may have. Mr. Mitchell, please begin when you are comfortable.
Mr. Mitchell: Thank you, Mr. Chair and Minister Roberts, for giving us the opportunity to speak with the honourable members today and to provide a report to the Legislature on the activities of the Yukon Workers' Compensation Health and Safety Board.
Mr. Chair, I would like to present to the members of the Legislature a report on the board of directors' activities in 2001, beginning with policy work.
We have reviewed and implemented five policies this year: the board travel policy; reviews and appeals; procedures on a review hearing; claimant and witness travel; and relocation of disabled workers.
We have also reviewed two policies that have been out or are out to public consultation. These are loss of earnings benefits, CL-35, and interest, CL-52, which is a new policy required by the Bill No. 83 amendments.
The draft interest policy went to public consultation this fall, with the consultation period closing on October 2. We have reviewed all of the comments we received during consultation and have asked for some specific changes to be made to the policy. The policy will be put into place as soon as all elements of implementation are ready to go.
The draft policy for loss of earnings benefits is currently out for public consultation. This period of consultation will end on December 15, and the board intends to review the comments shortly thereafter. Loss of earnings benefits is the policy that provides the methodology to be used for the calculation of workers' loss of earnings benefits.
The board would like to recognize the workers' and employers' advisory committees and the policy working group for the important role they played in developing these policies. These three groups have provided us with both creative and concrete input on loss of earnings benefits and interest policies. They gave us suggestions on how to craft a better policy and how to build a better system of caring for workers through their rehabilitation and return to work.
Certainly, involving stakeholder groups into the crafting of policy adds to the policy-development time frame. However, there is no doubt that the value added by their input makes for a superior end product. Labour and employer representatives have given generously of their time, and their commitment indicates that they appreciate being involved in a meaningful way in the development of policy at the board.
Another activity undertaken by the board in 2001 was a draft governance policy. The governance policy reflects the duties of the board of directors as outlined in the Workers' Compensation Act and provides a clear description of how to interpret these duties and provide them in an efficient and effective manner. We have made great progress on this policy and hope to complete it in the new year.
In regard to our quasi-judicial duties, the board has heard a total of eight appeals in 2001. To date, the board has heard three assessment, one claim and four occupational health and safety appeals.
In regard to workers' compensation, the Workers' Compensation Appeal Tribunal has been hearing the final level of appeal on claims for compensation since April 2000, when the Bill No. 83 amendments came into effect. The one claims appeal heard by the board this year was a special case in which the board had retained jurisdiction due to a court order.
Mr. Chair, we are eager as a board to move from our historical issues, such as CL-35, on to the issues of today and tomorrow. With this in mind, we rescinded the CL-35 application document this August. This document was an impediment to our making progress on loss of earnings benefits and entrenched us in the issues of yesterday.
We felt, as a board, that it was important to move on and provide our clients and stakeholders with a strong future direction rather than continue debate on past concerns.
Mr. Chair, I would like to speak now on our fiduciary duties as a board. It is the responsibility of the board to safeguard the solvency of the compensation fund on behalf of the employers who have paid into the fund and all workers with a disability, both now and in the future.
In 2000, the board approved a new investment policy that allows for greater flexibility when making investments. This year, the Finance and Investment Committee, which is composed of board members and staff representatives, has reviewed proposals from various investment managers and will be putting forward a series of recommendations for management of the fund.
The investment climate has changed since September 11, Mr. Chair, and the Finance and Investment Committee is diligently analyzing options with these changes in mind so that we can best fulfill our financial responsibilities to Yukon workers and employers.
For over a decade, the Workers' Compensation Health and Safety Board has had among the strongest average investment returns of any board in the country. We are in the enviable position of having reserved all the funds necessary to cover the full claims costs of our clients from now into perpetuity. In other words, we have reserved the funds necessary to fully pay all of the claims costs of all the workers who are presently in our care, for the rest of their lives.
In the compensation world, the phrase used for this state is "fully funded". Being fully funded is the goal of every compensation board in Canada, but not all jurisdictions have achieved it and, unfortunately, due to September 11, some Canadian boards that had achieved it may now have lost this status.
In the third quarter of 2001, all Canadian boards, with the exception of the Yukon, are reflecting significant negative returns. We are the only board in the country with a positive return of approximately three percent in the third quarter.
There are many uncertainties facing Yukon businesses in the aftermath of September 11, but I'm happy to be able to say the status of the Yukon compensation fund is not one of them.
Mr. Chair, I am pleased to announce that the board of directors has decided to freeze Yukon assessment premiums for 2002. This will be the fourth year in a row that assessment premiums have been stable in the Yukon.
Mr. Chair, as the members of this Legislature are aware, the board balances the interests of both workers and employers. In 2002, we will be offering employers the second lowest average assessment rate in the country and, at the same time, Yukon injured workers receive the highest weekly earnings loss benefit in Canada.
This brings to a close my opening remarks. At this time, I will pass the floor over to Tony Armstrong, the president and CEO of the Yukon Workers' Compensation Health and Safety Board.
Mr. Armstrong: Thank you, Arthur, and thank you, Mr. Chair. This evening, I will provide a brief report on the progress of the Auditor General's special examination, strategic business and operational planning, status of the compensation fund and assessment premiums, and results of our stakeholder survey.
The special examination called for in section 104(1) of the Workers' Compensation Act has commenced, and the board anticipates receiving a report in July of 2002. We eagerly anticipate the results from this report, as they will help us improve customer service and increase efficiency and effectiveness. The special examination results will also inform the legislative review process, due to commence no later than January 2003.
Mr. Chair, our organization officially approved its strategic plan, Ideal Workplaces, in 1999. This plan was the result of extensive consultation with the public, the board and staff. This plan has provided our organization with a strong, shared focus with all of our stakeholders. This year, we revisited this plan and took its ideals and goals further into the organization's planning processes. We have developed a three-year business plan and operational plan for 2002 that will form the basis of our budget. We are very pleased that we have implemented strategic business and operational planning in the organization. The revised strategic plan will be available to our stakeholders so that they can clearly see the strategic direction of the organization. The plan also increases accountability through reporting indicators of our performance.
Mr. Chair, I know that the Members of the Legislature are interested in the status of the compensation fund. The Yukon Workers' Compensation Health and Safety Board may be compared to a two-income household. Our two incomes are assessment revenues and investment revenues.
Historically, the board's investments have been strong and provide over 50 percent of our revenue. A secure fund with good investment returns is key to our being able to provide excellent care to injured workers and to offer reasonable premiums to Yukon employers. In 2002, five jurisdictions, including Saskatchewan and Alberta, will be raising their assessments in an attempt to recoup the investment losses they suffered this past year. In Alberta, the average rate increase is 27 percent.
Here's a brief rundown of the 2002 average provisional assessment premiums from across the nation: B.C. increased from $1.99 to $2.01; Alberta increased $1.32 to $1.68; Saskatchewan increased from $1.70 to $1.75; Manitoba increased from $1.49 to $1.56; Ontario, stable at $2.13; Quebec will decrease from $1.90 to $1.85; New Brunswick increased from $1.64 to $1.90; Nova Scotia, stable at $2.54; P.E.I., stable at $2.24; Newfoundland, stable at $3.24; Northwest Territories, stable at $1.18; Yukon, stable at $1.41.
This is the second lowest average assessment rate in Canada. At present, the Workers' Compensation Health and Safety Board provides every privately owned Yukon business with a minimum subsidy of 45 percent. Certain industries, including forestry and long-haul trucking, receive subsidies of up to 79 percent. When we did the last public review of assessment rates in 1998, Yukon businesses told us that the rate stability was one of their key concerns. We promised to keep rates the same from 1999 to 2001, and we are pleased, as the alternate chair has said, to offer those same rates for a fourth year in a row.
Mr. Chair, at this time, I would like to announce to the members that the report from our survey of workers, employers and board staff will be publicly released tomorrow. The page has distributed preliminary copies for your perusal this evening.
The Yukon Bureau of Statistics conducted the survey on our behalf and ensured our clients complete confidentiality. Workers who have recent contact with the board, employers registered with the board, and board staff were surveyed by the bureau this spring and summer.
The survey is of a very high quality, due to the number of respondents. It is one of the most comprehensive client surveys that has ever been done by a Yukon government organization. The main purpose of the survey was to give us information on our present level of service and to reveal opportunities for improvement.
Mr. Chair, we will be carefully looking at the results and seeing where we can make improvements of real significance to our stakeholders.
A very brief summary of the survey results: all three stakeholder groups show a predominantly positive perception of the board's programs, services and outcomes. Injured workers rated the overall service quality provided by the board at over 70 points out of 100; friendliness and courtesy of the staff rated even higher, at nearly 80 out of 100. The survey also clearly outlines the expectations that workers have for time frames. A majority of workers see a time frame of 30 days or less as a reasonable amount of time for processing a claim.
The survey reveals some challenges we face as an organization. In particular, outcome has a strong effect on how workers viewed the services delivered by the board.
Workers who have accessed our appeal system were much less likely to positively view any services they had received from the board. These results show that we operate, at times, in a difficult arena, where the decisions being made have a large impact on individuals and on the public image of the board.
Mr. Chair, in light of the time, I am going to pass over the rest of the survey results. I have handed them out for your perusal. This concludes my opening remarks tonight; however, I would like to extend an invitation to all members of the Legislature. As our time here tonight is limited, you may find that you have some unanswered questions at the end of this session. We would be delighted to offer the members briefings on any topic of interest. Please approach us after the session, and we'll sit down and review the issues and provide you with any additional information you may wish.
Thank you for providing us with this opportunity, Mr. Chair.
Chair: Thank you, Mr. Armstrong. Are there any questions?
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Would the House join me in welcoming another one of the workers' advocate team, Eldon Organ, and also the wife of Arthur Mitchell, Nancy.
Mr. Keenan: Certainly, Mr. Chair, we do not have much time as it is. There are two questioners here this evening, and we'd both like to be able to take time to ask questions. I have a scripted format before me, which will keep me within the box, and will hopefully make it simple. In the meantime, I do welcome you here. I do appreciate the folks coming here, Mr. Chair. It's certainly an honour to have them here.
Now, I would like to speak about maximum wage rates, if I may. Now, the discrepancy in maximum wage rates between workers injured prior to and after 1993 has yet to be dealt with. Last November, the president said, "I believe there is a way around this - in dealing with this. But that requires an amendment to the legislation." That's a direct quote.
We know, through questioning the minister in the House, that the president has not brought that amendment forward for his consideration. That has not happened, according to the minister. In an August 15, 2001, letter to myself, the president stated that the administration would be forwarding options to the board in September or October for their consideration, including a possible amendment. We also know that the president has told members of the public that the issue will not be addressed until the act is reviewed in the year 2003.
Meanwhile, we have injured workers making less now than they did 20 years ago. So, to the alternate chair, will the board be dealing with this matter now? These require really simple answers, actually.
Mr. Mitchell: The board has had some discussions on this matter with an attempt to try and come up with some suggested solutions. We have not yet forwarded our recommendation to the minister, but it is our goal to do so, at which point the minister will have to consider the options.
Mr. Keenan: The time frame, please?
Mr. Armstrong: Mr. Chair, it is unlikely that we will resolve the issue in December as the board has a number of other pressing issues to deal with. I would anticipate, however, seeing that documentation forwarded in January or February.
Mr. Keenan: Could the member be more specific? I know we are coming into Christmas holidays et cetera, but this is a very serious issue and a 60-day span just - Can it be tightened up a little?
Mr. Armstrong: We can certainly make best efforts to deal with it as expeditiously as possible.
Mr. Keenan: Thank you very much. I expect to see that then. If it is best efforts, then it could possibly work out good and I appreciate that.
Under the act, the board is obligated to deal annually with the matter of maximum wage rates, and decide whether to address it. So, to the alternate chair, has the board sat on this matter this year?
Mr. Mitchell: Basically, my understanding of it - and I hope, Mr. Chair, that you will be somewhat forgiving of my newness to the board - is that the problem that has arose at this point in time is a problem of methodology, relating to previous formulas that result from the legislation. Perhaps Mr. Armstrong could give some more details on that.
Mr. Armstrong: I would be happy to elaborate. There are currently many workers' compensation acts in force in the Yukon. Whatever act was in force and in effect at the time that the injury occurred is the act that the injured worker is governed by.
The member has asked a question as to the requirement for the board to deal with the maximum earnings, maximum loss of earnings or maximum wage rate on an annual basis. The board has met and determined the maximum wage rate for 2001, and we have been operating on that under the current Workers' Compensation Act. The board will also be reviewing and establishing a maximum wage rate for 2002.
However, I believe the issue that we're driving at is the maximum wage rate as it pertains to the prior piece of legislation, which is what the alternate chair was referring to when it came to a matter of methodology and the fact that the maximum wage rate cannot be calculated according to the methodology that is established within that piece of legislation. This is the need for an amendment to the legislation that I referred to before.
For a point of clarification, we should realize that, once that and if that were accomplished, what that would do is to change the maximum wage rate. It would not necessarily move all individuals who are receiving compensation or, more correctly, loss of earnings compensation under that piece of legislation. It would automatically move them to the new level of the maximum wage rate. The maximum wage rate, regardless of which piece of legislation, establishes the ceiling. The movement from where a worker is is done by indexing.
Mr. Keenan: I understand about the methodology and the newness to the board, and I certainly understand the difficulty and everything that you work in sometimes. But the question was - and I'm sorry I didn't hear an answer - if the board has sat on this matter this year. Yes or no?
Mr. Armstrong: Mr. Chair, the board has discussed the maximum wage rate pursuant to the new legislation, or the current legislation, this year. The board has had some dialogue regarding the issue of the maximum wage rate for the prior legislation this year also.
Mr. Keenan: Has the board put forward a motion, duly recorded in the minutes, stating that they're going to deal with an increase for those workers injured prior to 1993?
Mr. Armstrong: Mr. Chair, I have to apologize in that I can't recall actually whether there is a board motion to that effect or not, but I would be pleased to get back to the member.
Mr. Keenan: If the president does look and sees that there isn't one, I would certainly suggest that it might be something to add to the agenda and to put a motion forward. It just makes for good sense.
I'd like to talk about CT scans at this point in time, if I may. There are two public entities that can secure and direct where Yukon people have CT scans: the Yukon Medical Association and the Yukon Workers' Compensation Health and Safety Board. I'd like to ask the president: who makes the decision on which CT scanner will be used?
I understand that under section 100(1)(e), it is the president who approves capital and operating expenditures, although he can delegate that authority.
So, I'd like to ask again: who makes the decision on which CT scanner will be used?
Mr. Armstrong: Mr. Chair, the use of diagnostic equipment - and in this case CT scanners in particular - really is a process that is gone through with the adjudicator and other staff involved in the management of a claim. I would suspect that, in using CT scans or MRIs or any of the other diagnostic equipment, it would be a question of which facility that has those would be most readily available from a time perspective so that we could get an injured worker in and get a diagnosis as quickly as possible. Mr. Chair, it has nothing to do, however, with capital issues.
Mr. Keenan: Mr. Chair, I'd like for the member to shorten that answer a bit. I did hear that there was staff involved and individual personnel who are focusing on this one particular claim. Could the president please reclarify that? I'll listen very carefully.
Mr. Armstrong: The decision to use a CT scan or an MRI or any other diagnostic equipment is an exercise that - A number of individuals would participate in, depending on the particular case. It would, in all probability, involve the adjudicator. It may well involve the primary physician or, in other words, the injured worker's family doctor. It may involve the medical consultants of the Workers' Compensation Health and Safety Board.
Mr. Keenan: Thank you. It could be the adjudicator; it could be the family physician. That is to the limit of the president's knowledge? So those four steps that the president outlined and nobody else but those four folks. You know, they could all be different folks. There are different doctors in every situation and whatnot, but it's a four-step process, more or less; is that it? Four people?
Mr. Armstrong: I'm not intending to try and develop an all-inclusive list of who may or may not be. I'm trying to provide a general sense of the decision-making process. If the question is, is the executive of the organization - for example, me - involved in the decision around the use of a CT scan - not at all. The president and CEO of the Yukon Workers' Compensation Health and Safety Board is not involved in the decision as to whether an injured worker requires a CT scan or, if they are, what CT scan is used.
Mr. Keenan: Yes, I would never expect the president to say if somebody needed a CT scan or not. I know that the president, unlike others in the House, knows his station.
But is it not true that only the board can give direction on the hiring and firing of the president? And under section 100(6), the Commissioner in Executive Council may only dismiss the president on the recommendation of the board. Is that true?
Mr. Armstrong: Yes, that is true.
Mr. Keenan: I appreciate that.
Board policy directive no. 5 sets out that rules governing conflict of interest for board members - part 4 states, and this is a quote, "A potential conflict of interest exists where conflict of interest is reasonably likely to arise at some point in the future." So I would like to ask the alternate chair: given that a member of the board has publicly stated that he is embarking on a private interest that may provide CT scans in the territory and may provide a conflict of interest in the future, did the board discuss the issue and record the potential for future conflict in their minutes?
Mr. Mitchell: I don't believe there has been anything yet discussed formally or recorded in the minutes, but there has been some initial informal discussion that this issue could arise and we would have to address it.
Mr. Keenan: Board policy directive no. 5 sets out that the rules governing conflict of interest for board members - part 4 states, "A potential conflict of interest exists where conflict of interest is reasonably likely to arise at some point in the future." With all respect, I would suggest to the board that there is a likely conflict of interest, and I would very much deeply appreciate it if the board could look at it in a formal sense, because in my mind and opinion, it is there.
Could the board please look at that?
Mr. Mitchell: I thank the member for the question, and I will certainly bring back to the board that we should be prepared to look at that.
Mr. Keenan: Now, on October 25, 2001, in an article in the Whitehorse Star, a board member stated that there is no process to deal with workers who have filed fraudulent claims and, therefore, there is an imbalance against employers in the system. I'd like to ask the alternate chair: given that one of the duties of the board is to promote basic awareness of the obligations of both workers and employers, does the board feel that one of their members has misled the public?
Mr. Mitchell: Mr. Chair, I don't have a copy of the actual remarks made by one of the members of the board, so we're referring to a newspaper article about it. I can only say that that board member, to my understanding, was trying to provide some information to a stakeholder group, and I can't speak to the accuracy of the information he provided. I was not there.
Chair: Order please. Actually, no one can speak to the accuracy of the information provided. The Rules of the House still apply here, so we'll make sure that we use parliamentary language, as far as "misled".
Mr. Keenan: Certainly, Mr. Chair. I apologize. That's certainly not what I meant to say. But certainly, as you can see, the perception is there, and I would again suggest to the board that there might be a conflict. I urge the board to expeditiously move on this one or we'll be addressing it in other arenas, of course.
I'd like to ask the president: does the president have any knowledge of workers who have defrauded the system?
Mr. Armstrong: Sorry, Mr. Chair. Could I ask for the question again?
Mr. Keenan: Certainly. Does the president have any knowledge of workers who have defrauded the system?
Mr. Armstrong: Mr. Chair, I can say that I do not have direct knowledge of workers who have defrauded the system.
Mr. Keenan: Then I'd like to ask the president: why is the board insinuating fraud on the part of workers with the continuation of the collection of video evidence?
Mr. Armstrong: The Workers' Compensation Health and Safety Board has a responsibility to ensure that the decisions it makes are appropriate decisions from both the fiduciary perspective as well as from a quasi-judicial perspective. The adjudication of a claim is in fact a quasi-judicial function. The use of videotaping in the past by the organization has been one methodology of collecting information and is in keeping with the practice and approach by the majority of jurisdictions across Canada.
Mr. Keenan: Well, I would suggest that the next time the president has an actual meeting, maybe the president could just talk about that and maybe separate ourselves from the national folks or folks across there, because this is Yukon. The member has just said that - no, the member doesn't understand. To me, it could look like a cost-effective measure. If the president and the alternate chair would consider that, I would appreciate it.
I would like to ask: how is a worker removed from the workers' compensation system? Again, how is a worker removed from the workers' compensation system?
Mr. Armstrong: Well, Mr. Chair, I'm not sure that I have the context of the question. I understand the words of it but I'm not sure I understand the context of it.
Workers obviously become involved with the workers' compensation system through injury, and the life of the claim may be very short. There may be no time loss, in which case the worker continues in their course of employment. There may be some medical coverage that has been provided that is paid for by the board, and the file basically becomes dormant.
However, in those other cases in which a worker has been injured and there is time loss, there are a number of other benefits that flow, such as the loss of earnings. In a very big case, we have vocational rehabilitation. But at some point, the worker reaches a point where there is no further vocational rehabilitation required, there is no further medical rehabilitation required. They're ready to go back; they're employable, and they re-enter the workforce and the job they were in or another job, or they look for work.
Mr. Keenan: Mr. Chair, I thought the president might just say that an adjudicator decided or something like as such. I can say, though, in section 7, it states that when a worker becomes medically fit, according to policy CS-08, fitness for employment is defined as when a worker is medically capable of returning to work. It also states that fitness for employment shall be based on the medical evidence provided by the attending physician. So I'd like to ask: will the board discontinue, then, with the collection of the video evidence? It seems contrary to what we're talking about here.
Mr. Armstrong: Certainly, in regard to the medical issue, you're quite right. There is a medical plateau that is attained. That plateau may be that an individual has completely medically recovered, or they may not have. It may be a situation in which they're never going to be quite as they were prior to the injury. I want to point out that there are other ways, however, by which a claim comes to an end. It's not simply an issue of when a person has medically recovered. We would be short-sighted to think that that was the case. Simply being medically fit to return to employment, if that definition of "medically fit" is not the same as it was prior to the injury -there are in all probability other benefits that are required, such as vocational rehabilitation and such. So simply saying that somebody has medically plateaued and hence should be off workers' compensation is not necessarily the answer.
Mr. Keenan: The policy doesn't say "medically fit"; it says "medically capable", and it says "shall be medical evidence provided by the attending physician", so I reiterate my point to the president and to the alternate chair.
On April 26, 2001, a memo from the chair to the president and the chair said, when referring to the video-taping of claimants, that the act obligates them to maintain a solvent compensation fund managed in the interests of workers and employers, and I understand you're doing that, and I appreciate that.
Now, according to the workers' advocate, whom I asked about this, the medical advisor, under sworn testimony, stated that he has reviewed only one piece of video evidence in 28 years - one piece in 28 years. So I'd like to ask, given this, how is video-taping claimants providing cost-effectiveness to the system, and will the president and the board please reconsider this issue again?
Mr. Armstrong: We hear the issue and the request that we take it under advisement and consider it.
Mr. Keenan: Next year, I hope not to be talking about the same thing, because I hope our bank account will have grown a little bit more and that the funding is out there for the injured workers, as it should be, and that we can look to becoming very cost-effective and maintaining that we are Yukoners, Mr. Chair. I appreciate that.
Now, the board has the authority to refer appeal tribunal decisions back to them if they feel the decision is not in keeping with the act. This process of the board - referring decisions of the appeal tribunal back to them - results in delays of up to four months on a worker's claim - four months' delay for an injured worker who is not capable of supporting their family.
How many cases has the board referred back to the appeal tribunal?
Mr. Armstrong: I actually don't have the figure in front of me.
Mr. Chair, the member is asking whether the number is many. No, I don't believe it is many. We have seen approximately 24 decisions from the appeal tribunal. A small number of those may have been considered and a request sent back.
Mr. Keenan: How many cases has the appeal tribunal overturned as a result of referral back to them?
Mr. Armstrong: Again, Mr. Chair, I don't have the figure before me, but I would be more than happy to provide a written response.
Mr. Keenan: It's unfortunate we don't have the numbers. A written response will work, but I'm hoping that, when the president reads the numbers - and the president is going to go back and do the research - the president can see where I'm going with this flow of questioning. If the president, at that time, after providing the written response, would make time for me, hopefully before Christmas, to sit down and talk these issues through, I can more than massage what I'm thinking into the president and also into the alternate chair.
Now, after the appeal tribunal has taken a second look at the board's direction and has made no change in its decision, the board can still direct the matter back to the courts. How many times has the board referred the second decision of the appeal tribunal back to the court?
Mr. Armstrong: I don't recall that the board has actually referred a decision, after a stay, to the court for determination. I can check that for the member, though.
Mr. Keenan: If the matter is not referred back to the court, then is the board stating that it's in agreement with the appeal tribunal decision?
Mr. Mitchell: Just to touch on this briefly - and Tony may have more that he wants to add to it - it is an obligation of the board to review all decisions of the appeal tribunal as part of Bill No. 83 amendments. Now, in some cases what has happened is that the board, upon reviewing a decision of the appeal tribunal, has found that there is some aspect of the decision that is not in compliance with the act. In such cases, they may send the decision back to the appeal tribunal. The appeal tribunal may go through the matter again and come back with the same resulting decision based on some different logic or different wording, which is compliant. In which case, at that point, the board would certainly allow the decision to stand.
Mr. Keenan: I am trying to expeditiously move through here, so I can give my colleagues some time. I would like to speak about the process now for CL-35 claimants.
In the opening comments, the alternate chair, I believe, was mentioning it and he said that it was there. I am just wondering if, in one sentence, the alternate chair could please reiterate that and put the time frame to it this time. If I may have a time frame, I would deeply appreciate that.
Mr. Mitchell: The revised draft policy that is out for public consultation has a consultation period that ends on December 15. As soon as administration is able to consolidate the results of the public consultation and bring it back to the board, the board will make its best efforts to come out with a final policy as a result. We have to await and not prejudge the input from the stakeholders.
Mr. Keenan: And the time frame?
Mr. Mitchell: I don't believe it will be possible to get us the results before our last meeting before the Christmas break, but as soon as possible in the new year is the best I can do, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Keenan: I appreciate that advertisements are directing potential CL-35 claimants to speak with the workers' advocate. Now, if the claimants are entitled to benefits, why is there this direction to the advocate? Why not just pay out their benefits?
Mr. Armstrong: I believe the member is referring to the issue around the rescinding of the application document. Could I just see a nod from the member if that is in fact the issue, not the new policy - CL-35?
In dialogue, as I understand it, around this issue and the rescinding of it, the board was mindful that the workers who potentially were affected by the application document might wish to have input from the workers' advocate and have advice and participation with the workers' advocate prior to coming to the board. They're not obligated to go to the workers' advocate. If any worker wishes to have their loss of earnings over that time frame while the application document was in effect, they can certainly come to the Workers' Compensation Health and Safety Board and we will do so. I think it was simply an effort between the board and the workers' advocate office to allow that opportunity for an injured worker to touch base there before they came to the organization.
Mr. Keenan: And is the injured worker aware that there is a choice?
Mr. Armstrong: I believe injured workers know, Mr. Chair, that they can, at any time throughout their claim, come to the Yukon Workers' Compensation Health and Safety Board regarding any issue related to their claims. I will make the assumption, although it may dangerous to do so, that this case is no different than any of the other issues that a worker may wish to address the board on.
Mr. Keenan: Well, Mr. Chair, I find that is not correct in all situations, and I would ask the president and alternate chair to make definitely sure, as a matter of course, that an injured worker does know that if they wish to settle for what it is here, that they do not have to go to the workers' advocate. They have to know that's a simple choice because, in some cases, they do not know, and they feel like there is a delay, and they feel that the board is moving them in a direction they do not wish to go.
So, I think that it would be very helpful if the board, in its wisdom, could look at making that a clear and concise communication factor to the injured worker. Could that be possible?
Mr. Mitchell: I think the point is well-taken, and I don't think it would be difficult to go ahead and better publicize those options through advertising or discussions with the media, so I thank the member for that suggestion.
Mr. Keenan: I must say, Mr. Chair, that it's certainly refreshing to be thanked for a suggestion in this House. It should happen more often.
Now, Mr. Chair, some workers have informed me that the process for being paid out - and this is after a determination has been made - has been delayed because of the holidays of the vice-president. I'd like to ask why that is, and can we please expedite the issue? We're talking about injured workers, and Christmas is coming.
Mr. Armstrong: Unfortunately, Mr. Chair - I'm not sure if I'm answering this question correctly, but I would advise the Legislature that a particular staff individual, by title, has been referred to here. The processing of injured workers' claims, whether it is a result of this issue - the application document - or other issues is not dependent on that position being with the organization, whether they are on holidays or not.
Mr. Keenan: Well, thank you, Mr. Chair, but that's not what I've been told. Certainly I'm not here to duke it out or anything and I'm not here to use violent language either, but I'm certainly here for the injured worker, and that's what it's all about. I have to say that in some cases that is wrong. I've been told that's wrong. So if the president would make best efforts to expedite those payments and to make sure that it's a clear and concise process, that will satisfy me. May I have that from the board?
Mr. Armstrong: Mr. Chair, I can assure the Legislature that we will make every effort to expedite those types of payments.
Mr. Keenan: I have no further questions.
Mr. Jenkins: I would like to explore with the president and the alternate chair the CL-35, the application document appeal, and what's going on and whether there will be interest paid to the injured workers under this process when their payments are so long in ending up in their rightful lap.
Mr. Armstrong: I am not actually in a position to be able to answer as to whether interest would be payable or not on these. The board has done extensive work on the development of a draft interest policy, which is currently out for public consultation. The board will be reviewing that and putting out an interest policy, again, in the near future. Whatever that policy determines will be the guiding principle as to whether these people would receive interest or not.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, on the last occasion when the Workers' Compensation Health and Safety Board appeared before the Legislature the issue of interest on monies due to injured workers was a policy that was being worked on then, and it's still not in place. I'm curious as to why we are continuing to get the same answer.
What is taking the WCB so long to put in place a basic policy as to how they will pay interest to an injured worker on monies due to them, and at what rate? Why is there such a timeline?
Mr. Armstrong: I have a short answer and I have a long answer. I know the Legislature would prefer the short answer, so I will do that.
The development of the interest policy took longer than was indicated last year, as the board is trying a new approach involving and engaging the stakeholders in the development of policy, rather than simply consulting. So, it's an involvement of the stakeholders in this development.
The issue is also not as easy as it may appear and required extensive research, analysis and some legal work. A draft went out for public consultation, as required, and the board, as I said, expects to adopt a revised policy shortly.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, it appears that somebody is dragging their heels and I'm not prepared to accept that as a good excuse. It's not even a good answer. It has been an ongoing situation that has been a bone of contention for quite some time, and I'm disappointed to learn that they haven't even been able to address the interest on injured workers.
I'd like to explore further with the board, the president and alternate chair, the issue surrounding the salaries and benefits paid out to WCB. In 1998, $2.9 million in wages and benefits; in 2000, $3.9 million in wages and benefits. The number of time loss claims reduced significantly during that period. Certainly, the workforce here in the Yukon reduced significantly.
Why is it costing more and more to run a board serving fewer and fewer?
Mr. Armstrong: Without referring to the salary dollars related to the Yukon Workers' Compensation Health and Safety Board, simply because I don't have the salary dollar figures before me, the general question behind there I hear quite clearly. The organization has seen some growth in the last couple of years. A good part of that growth in the last two years has been as a result of the passing of Bill No. 83, which came before this Legislature and was passed here. That has driven a number of positions in the organization as a requirement of that piece of legislation, which the organization did not have prior to that.
Further, however, because I certainly am not going to lay the operational expense or the salary dollars at the foot of Bill 83 alone, I will say that, yes, on the one hand, we may be looking at a decrease in the number of accidents, or the number of claims, that are filed with the Workers' Compensation Board. That, in and of itself, does not equate to a reduction in the workload. The very nature of injuries, disabilities and diseases that we deal with in 2001 and 2000 is substantially different than it was in prior years. As we see new types of issues becoming compensable, these are much more complicated issues than what we saw some 20 years ago.
And to illustrate my point, let me suggest that some 20 years ago, the types of disability that we would be dealing with were issues such as a broken arm or a broken leg - traumatic, certainly, for the person who experiences them, but also something that is much easier to adjudicate and much easier to manage than the types of disabilities that we are anticipating and seeing today, such as occupational illness, occupational diseases, chronic stress, chronic pain, second-hand tobacco smoke and breast cancer. These are much more complicated issues, and although the number may be decreasing, the actual impact on the workload is much higher when you come to looking at the management of a claim with somebody who has these types of diseases versus somebody with a broken arm.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, I was comparing 1998 to 2000; that's two years ago. That's a two-year period, not 20 years ago. I know there have been some changes from 20 years ago, but I'm afraid that kind of response is not a justification for the tremendous increase in cost, given the size of the workforce currently in place here in the Yukon that is being covered by the WCB.
Mr. Chair, there appears to be currently a move afoot for the Government of Yukon to be self-insured once again and not be covered directly by WCB. I know that analysis is currently underway by the Department of Finance. That would reduce approximately $2.5 million a year in annual assessment from the rate-making base of the WCB. And currently there is a dispute between the Government of Yukon and WCB over the amount of assessment that is due, with there being an amount in dispute.
Could the president comment on this: what will the board be doing in the event that the YTG opts out of coverage, and what will happen to the amount in dispute between WCB and the Government of Yukon?
Mr. Armstrong: As members will recall, the Yukon territorial government became an assessable employer with the passing of the current Workers' Compensation Health and Safety Board Act, which became effective January 1, 1993, and has been an assessable employer ever since.
Prior to that period of time, the Yukon territorial government was self-insured and the claims were administered by the board. We are certainly aware that there has been some dialogue around the issue of remaining within the workers' compensation system or going out for self-insurance, and potentially, as I listen to the dialogues in the Legislature here, simply having the Workers' Compensation Health and Safety Board administer those claims and pay for them as was done prior to January 1, 1993.
The question of what is the financial impact on the organization - really, that tends to be somewhat of a neutral question in that certainly the assessments received from the territorial government are significant. But I would also suggest that the incident rate matches the assessments that we are receiving.
Chair: Mr. Jenkins, last question.
Mr. Jenkins: There appears to be a considerable thrust now by the Workers' Compensation Health and Safety Board to get out there and be around much, much more frequently with a team approach to employers, and there may or may not be benefits accruing but it is a more in-your-face approach than there was previously. Could the president explain the rationale and the purpose? Because there really has been a reduction overall in lost time accidents these last few years. There has been a tremendous loss in the number of organizations and firms that are covered by the Workers' Compensation Health and Safety Board, and yet staffing levels remain very, very high and, instead of having one person coming through the door of a business, we currently have two or three.
Just what is going on? Is the workload just being made to fill the time available for it and spread over a smaller base, or what's happening?
Mr. Armstrong: Thank you for the question. The implementation of service teams is something that I personally, as president and CEO, and - I believe - the rest of the organization is quite proud of. What we are attempting to do, through the implementation of the service teams, is provide every employer in the Yukon, and hence, every injured worker in the Yukon, with a one-stop approach to all of the services they may require from the Workers' Compensation Health and Safety Board.
Very briefly, the service teams are structured this way. Through the service team, we will and can provide education training to employers and workers; compliance, which is inspection; adjudication; rehabilitation; as well as the financial services to the employer group. What this ensures is that that service team within the organization becomes intimately aware of the needs of the employer and the employer group they are dealing with. The employer knows who is handling all aspects of their issue. The intent we have there is that an employer has one contact or one group of individuals to contact within the organization regarding any aspect of the interaction between the organization and that employer, whether that's the employer taking interest and participating in the rehabilitation and return to work of an injured worker or providing intervention training or inspection and compliance, and the list goes on.
Hon. Mr. Roberts: On behalf of the Legislature, I would like to thank the alternate chair, Arthur Mitchell, and the president and chief executive officer, Tony Armstrong, for coming. I would also like to thank those in the gallery for joining us today.
Mr. McLachlan: Mr. Chair, I move that the Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Chair: We've got to report progress first. The witnesses are excused.
I will now rise and report progress.
Speaker resumes the Chair
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
May the House have a report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole?
Mr. McLarnon: Mr. Speaker, the Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 39, An Act to Amend the Jury Act, and directed me to report progress on it.
And, Mr. Speaker, Arthur Mitchell, alternate chair of the Yukon Workers' Compensation Health and Safety Board, and Tony Armstrong, president and chief executive officer of the Yukon Workers' Compensation Health and Safety Board, appeared as witnesses before the Committee from 5:00 to 6:00 p.m. pursuant to Committee of the Whole Motion No. 3 passed on November 27, 2001.
Speaker: You have heard the report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: I declare the report carried.
The time being 6:00 p.m. this House now stands adjourned until 1:00 p.m. tomorrow.
The House adjourned at 6:00 p.m.
The following Sessional Paper was tabled November 28, 2001
Yukon Heritage Resources Board 2000-01 Annual Report
The following Legislative Returns were tabled November 28, 2001
Community and Transportation Services: training provisions in O&M budget
Oral, Hansard p. 2544
George Black Ferry: O&M costs for fiscal years 1991-92 to 2000-01
Oral, Hansard p. 2501
Whitehorse Waterfront Relocation Program: expenditures
Oral, Hansard p. 2635
Community and Transportation Services: responses to the Auditor General's 1998-99 Report on Other Matters
Oral, Hansard p. 2631 & 2633