Wednesday, May 8, 2002 Ė 1:00 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
We will proceed at this time with prayers.
Speaker: We will proceed at this time with the Order Paper.
In recognition of Prairie Northern Fetal Alcohol Syndrome conference
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, I rise today to pay tribute to the 2002 Yukon Prairie Northern Pacific Fetal Alcohol Syndrome conference.
I am pleased to take this time to welcome to the Legislature the hon. Tim Sale. He is the Minister of Family Services and Housing for the Manitoba provincial government. Minister Sale will be attending the conference along with hon. Minister Reid from B.C., the hon. Minister Evans from Alberta, the hon. Minister Miltenberger from Northwest Territories.
Mr. Speaker, the former Minister of Health and Social Services, with the support of dedicated staff and many volunteers, made it possible for this conference to be held in the Yukon. We thank them for their hard work. Yukoners will benefit from this conference in many ways. Four hundred-plus participants is a very good turnout for the Yukon, Mr. Speaker. Itís important that peer groups and participants gather to discuss this very serious issue.
Mr. Speaker, fetal alcohol spectrum disorder touches all of our lives. We need to take this opportunity to learn more, to share our knowledge and to see how we can do things better.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the Yukon Party caucus, I rise to also pay tribute to Yukon 2002 Prairie Northern conference on fetal alcohol syndrome, which kicks off this evening at Mount McIntyre Recreation Centre in Whitehorse and wraps up this Friday.
The Prairie Northern conference provides partners from the territoryís western provinces with an opportunity to get together to share and exchange information pertaining to FAS/FAE, the challenges associated with this affliction and how we as a community can manage and prevent FAS/FAE.
Over the next few days, over 25 presentations will be made, comprising discussions on everything from programs and services ó what works, what doesnít work ó to active living opportunities, to the role of parenting and teaching for the prevention of fetal alcohol syndrome. The roster of sessions scheduled to take place is impressive and is sure to spark some creative discussions.
Now, during the last territorial election, the Yukon Party proposed a five-step action plan to deal with fetal alcohol syndrome and effects. The plan featured preventative programs to reduce alcohol consumption of high-risk parents, early diagnosis of FAS/FAE before the age of six, professional counselling, and a wide range of services to provide a stable home environment for victims of FAS/FAE, creation of a team of professionals to deal with FAS/FAE, both at home and at school, as well as a study to determine if special group homes for adults afflicted with FAS/FAE should be set up.
These issues remain as important today as they did two years ago, perhaps even 20 or more years ago for that matter. The topics of discussion during the conference raise the importance of FAS/FAE and the need to raise awareness about the issues and challenges of FAS faced by children, youths, adults, families and our communities.
More importantly, it emphasizes the need for results. We on this side of the House are pleased to support this particular initiative and look forward to hearing progress resulting from the conference.
On that note, Iíd like to extend our best wishes to the participants of the conference and those involved in organizing the event. Congratulations on a job well done and bringing another event to the Yukon. Weíll look forward to seeing positive results from this initiative.
Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Roberts: On behalf of the independents, I would like to take this opportunity to honour all our caregivers who support and build programs for those afflicted with this terrible condition, and to thank the organizers who spent many long hours and days putting this conference together.
Last May, when I was Health minister, I was invited, on behalf of the Yukon government, to the Prairie Northern FAS/FAE conference in Saskatoon, and I invited all the people there to come north. I challenged the participants to send proportionally as many from the provinces and territories as the Yukon sent to the Saskatoon conference. The Yukon had sent over 40 participants.
In many ways, the Yukon is a leader in FAS/FAE, but we still have a long way to go to have all the answers. One of the main objectives of this conference is to raise the awareness of FAS/FAE and to increase the knowledge about the issues and challenges of this particular affliction with young adults, children, families and communities.
This conference will profile effective and innovative programs and strategies. There will be opportunities for those attending the conference to network with others and share information about resources and experiences.
The opportunity to hold this conference in the Yukon will provide a much higher profile on the prevention and what we, as a community, must do to prevent this disease. We all know this affliction is preventable.
Iím pleased to see and hear that today the government has made an announcement about putting more money into drug and alcohol programming. I think this is a very important step. Itís just a small part, but I believe itís in the right direction. Once again I would like to take this opportunity to thank all the caregivers and those who struggle so hard to provide the best programming we can.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: Are there any further tributes?
Are there any introductions of visitors?
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS
Mr. Fairclough: We have in the gallery Chief Robert Hager from Na Cho Nyäk Dun and his wife, Christine. Iíd like all members in this House to join me in welcoming them here today.
Speaker: Are there any 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. Jenkins: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that the adoption of the Kyoto Protocol by the Government of Canada could have a profound impact on development activities in the Yukon;
THAT this House recognizes that the Yukon Liberal government has stated that its position on the adoption of the Kyoto Protocol is similar to the position being advanced by the Liberal Government of Canada; and
THAT this House urges the Yukon Liberal government to develop its own position on the adoption of the Kyoto Protocol after first analyzing its socio-economic and environmental impacts on Yukon.
Mr. McLarnon: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that the government policy requiring immediate return to the Yukon after medical travel should be changed to allow Yukoners more flexibility, better health care and reduced cost to the government; and
THAT this House urges the government to change this policy to:
(1) eliminate the requirement that Yukoners travelling for medical reasons be required to return home in between specialist appointments if they are less than three days apart, with the money saved on the extra airfare being split with the patient to cover meals and accommodation during the stay; and
(2) introduce on-line registration for patients to outside hospitals to avoid cases where flights have been made and money spent by Yukoners only to fill out paperwork at the outside doctorís office and be sent back to the territory to await yet another appointment.
Mr. Roberts: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that the Government of Yukon should give high priority to determining the future needs of new and existing schools; and
THAT this House urges the Government of Yukon to establish a consultative working group to give consideration to and make recommendation on the utilization of new and existing schools and that, in particular, this working group consider and report on the following options for action:
(1) moving the French immersion students to an already existing school, or building a new school for them in a location such as the Copper Ridge area; and
(2) using the Whitehorse Elementary School as a community centre in which the following programs are housed: experiential science, outdoor education, music, arts and drama (MAD) program, youth centre, public health centre, office space for non-government organizations and art groups and other related usage.
Speaker: Are there any further notices of motion?
Is there a ministerial statement?
This then brings us to Question Period.
Question re: Economic action plan
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Premier.
The Premier told us over and over again that she listens to Yukon people and that they have been telling her what a great job she is doing on the economy. I hope the Premier was listening to the radio this morning when the president of the Watson Lake Chamber of Commerce said how bad things are. Now, if the Premier got out more ó and I mean right here in the Yukon Territory ó she would hear a lot more people telling her what a dismal job she is doing on the economy. If the economy is so rosy, Mr. Speaker, can the Premier explain why the building permits are down some 44 percent in the first three months of this year compared to the same period of last year?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, I answered the memberís question yesterday, and what I said was, with respect to the economy, that there are some key indicators weíre seeing that are up, that show that our economy is starting to show signs of improvement. I also said that we know weíve got a lot of work yet to do and we are working on it. The fact is that what Yukoners care about is not what statistics members opposite say or what statistics I say. They care about, "Do I have a job? Is there a future here for my children?" Thatís what they care about, and thatís what we as a government are working on.
Weíre working on it by moving the capital budget back to the fall and having our infrastructure people working early this year. Weíre working on it in terms of planning and the work that we do and also in terms of the retail sales ó theyíre up, Mr. Speaker ó and also, of course, in our tourism industry.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, Mr. Speaker, the Premier does need to get out a bit more, and building permits do create jobs. When there is activity in that sector, people are working. Mr. Speaker, the Tough report made it clear that the Yukon government shares its blame for not getting the forest management mess resolved. This issue doesnít just affect the southeast Yukon; itís part of the whole equation of providing certainty so that people are confident in investing in the Yukon Territory. Now, this government has ignored forestry. Theyíre ignored trade and investment. They have ignored the economic concerns of rural Yukon, and even here in Whitehorse, but the Premier says everybody is happy because she tabled her capital budget in the fall.
Mr. Speaker, when will the Premier quit making excuses, quit saying everything is fine and start addressing our economic problems head-on? When will that happen? When will this action plan kick into place?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Well, Mr. Speaker, it has. The fact is that what I have said on the floor of this House, what we have tabled in the economic outlook, shows weíre starting a modest economic recovery. We have started. Thatís the whole point. We have stemmed that endless spiral downward under the NDP; weíve started to climb back out. We have said many times on the floor of this House that we know weíve got lots of work to do. Weíre working on it. Weíre doing what we said we would do. Weíre creating certainty by settling land claims and achieving devolution. Weíre working to those ends. Weíre also working with the tourism industry, with small business and with the resource sector. We know thereís lots of work to do. On that point, the member opposite and I agree. The fact is that weíve started that work.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, the Premier is wrong when she says the economy is turning around. It just isnít. Get out there and talk to people, and youíll see.
An 80-percent decrease in non-residential permits in three months ó that says a lot about how people feel about investing here in the Yukon Territory. The kinds of things the Premier has laid out are what governments should be doing anyway. We have tried, on this side of the House, to give good ideas and positive ideas to the members opposite. We offered to help the Premier take a strong, united voice from this territory to lobby Ottawa on an economic development agreement. Next week, the official opposition will be holding a public forum on the economy, asking Yukon people for their practical suggestions on what can be done right now to make things better, and we will share those ideas with the Premier.
Speaker: Order please. Question please.
Mr. Fairclough: Will the Premier agree to consider those suggestions in building her own economic action plan, which we havenít seen yet, or will she continue to sit in the corner upstairs and tell Yukoners that everything is good?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Well, unfortunately, I must say that the member opposite is wrong on a couple of points. First of all, the member opposite is wrong in suggesting we donít listen to what Yukoners have to say. In fact, we do listen to what Yukoners have to say. And the member opposite is wrong in suggesting that I spend my time in my office. In fact, I spend my time listening to what Yukoners have to say, both in the community of Whitehorse and outside of the community of Whitehorse. I just fail to see the member when Iím travelling. Perhaps heís spending his time in his office.
The fact is that when we stand on the floor of this House and start talking about statistics, there is an expression about statistics ó unfortunately, Mr. Speaker, itís unparliamentary. The fact is, the bottom line is that Yukoners care about jobs. They care about, "Am I working? Do I have a job? Can I feed my family? Do I have a future here?" The overwhelming, resounding answer is, yes, Yukoners have a future here under a Liberal government, and this Liberal government has worked very hard on the cornerstones of our economy ó namely, certainty with land claims and devolution, and investor confidence, by doing what we said we would do.
Question re: Water quality
Mr. Keenan: I have a question for the Minister of Community Services today. Now, Yukoners are concerned about the safety of our drinking water and each time we raise this issue in this House, this government has refused to accept its responsibilities. It seems that they like to hide behind studies.
The Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development has just released an environmental assessment of the Whitehorse water supply and it raises serious concerns about the safety of Whitehorse drinking water, and I will take the opportunity to table a copy of that report at this point in time.
Iíd like to ask the minister: why does this minister insist that there is no problem with the safety of drinking water in Whitehorse?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: As Iíve said over and over again, a safe water supply is a priority for all Yukoners. The Yukon government takes this issue very seriously.
The medical officer of health has no problem with the quality of drinking water in Whitehorse. He says it is safe. I see no reason to disbelieve that professional person.
The Department of Health and Social Services requires that all potable drinking water supplies in the Yukon meet the guidelines for Canadian drinking water quality set by Health Canada ó and they do, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Keenan: Iíd like to point out what this government needs to do, which is to adopt a comprehensive strategy to deal with drinking water standards put forth for and by Yukon people.
Now, just last week, this minister stood on her feet and said that she was more interested in ensuring that the water supply was safe than in trying to blame people. Weíre not trying to blame this minister. Weíre not trying to spread blame anywhere; we just want some action. Thatís all we want.
Why did this minister allow her officials to challenge the findings of a draft Canadian Environmental Agency screening report which clearly showed potentially harmful giardia and cryptosporidium within the Whitehorse water supply? Why did the minister do that?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I think itís quite clear that those tests were flawed.
Mr. Keenan: In the first supplementary, the minister stood on her feet and said that she trusts the professionals. Now she stands on a second question and says that she doesnít trust the professionals and that this report is flawed. Where does this minister get her information from? I donít know.
Iíd like to point out that the Kwanlin Dun First Nation is so concerned about this that they went out and commissioned a study, and that study expressed a very serious concern about water treatment in Whitehorse, and it was commissioned by the Kwanlin Dun First Nation.
The federal report uses the highest standards of scientific research, the same standards that are used by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and Iíd like to say that the report does not mince words. It says flat out that the Yukon territorial government has to establish guidelines for, and I quote, ". . . chlorination, guidelines compliance, and monitoring and reporting . . ."
It also says, Mr. Speaker ó
Speaker: Order please. Will the member please get to the question.
Mr. Keenan: Certainly. It also says that DIAND cannot exercise its regulatory role until the Yukon territorial government does that.
When will this minister get the job done so that Yukoners can feel safe about their drinking water supply?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Yukoners can feel safe about their drinking water supply today, Mr. Speaker, and yesterday and tomorrow. We take the issue of safe water supplies very seriously, as I keep pointing out. We offered a small water operations course to municipalities last November, which people from all over the Yukon attended, and there is testing carried out in the municipalities and in other locations on a regular basis.
The Yukon does meet the guidelines for Canadian drinking water quality set by Health Canada, and we will continue to do so.
Question re: Conservation Society participation on Yukon Placer Committee
Mr. Jenkins: I have a question to the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources. The health of the Yukon economy has traditionally been based on the state of development of its natural resources. Unfortunately, both placer mining and forestry are in trouble because of federal government mismanagement and the inability of this government to speak out in favour of practical, environmentally sound and cost-effective regulatory regimes. I will deal with placer mining and leave forestry to my colleague.
Can the minister confirm that the Yukon Conservation Society has withdrawn from the negotiations of the Yukon placer authorization? Further, can the minister confirm that Yukon Conservation Society is threatening to take legal action against the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans unless the Yukon Conservation Society policy of zero discharge is adopted?
Hon. Mr. Kent: The answer to the Member for Klondikeís first question is yes, I can confirm that the Yukon Conservation Society has withdrawn from the current round of negotiations surrounding the Yukon Placer Committee. I can also confirm for the member opposite that I have sent a letter to the Yukon Conservation Society expressing my disappointment in the fact that they had withdrawn. This government supports the work of the Yukon Placer Committee in reviewing the Yukon placer authorization. We certainly have encouraged the federal minister and federal officials that the Yukon Placer Committee be able to do their job of reviewing the Yukon placer authorization, and I stand by that commitment.
Mr. Jenkins: I thank the minister for his response. So the minister has written one letter ó he says ó to the Yukon Conservation Society. I would encourage him to table that letter and any other correspondence because what weíre looking at is a policy of zero discharge, which will effectively shut down placer mining in the Yukon.
Can the minister confirm that, while the Conservation Society has withdrawn from the Yukon placer authorization regulatory process, it is still maintaining its seat on the Yukon Placer Committee that gives it a veto power over what regulatory regimes the committee ultimately recommends to the Minister of Indian and Northern Affairs.
Hon. Mr. Kent: First of all, I have to correct the Member for Klondike. The recommendations, of course, go to the minister responsible for fisheries and oceans, although the DIAND minister is a signatory to the placer authorization as well. What I can confirm for the Member for Klondike is that the Yukon Conservation Society is not in possession of a veto with regard to the Yukon Placer Committee. They have withdrawn from the current round of discussions on the placer authorization. I can also confirm for the Member for Klondike that I have a meeting scheduled either this evening or first thing tomorrow morning with the president of the Klondike Placer Miners Association to discuss, among other things, the current review of the Yukon placer authorization and the meetings that are taking place in Whitehorse this week.
Mr. Jenkins: Itís my understanding that the Yukon Placer Committee operates by consensus. Now, with the Yukon Conservation Society out of the equation, is the minister stating that the balance of the committee members are authorized to proceed and deal with the Yukon placer authorization and make a recommendation to the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans and DIAND, or can the Conservation Society still come in after the fact and superimpose a veto over the whole process?
Hon. Mr. Kent: As I said to the Member for Klondike in the first answer, Iíve sent a letter to the Yukon Conservation Society expressing my disappointment that they have chosen to withdraw from the current deliberations on the Yukon placer authorization. The committee does work on a consensus basis. The Yukon Conservation Society does not have a veto over the proceedings of the committee or the deliberations of the committee, and the committee is meeting, as we speak, in Whitehorse, as confirmed to myself and the Premier by the independent chair last week.
As I mentioned, I intend to meet with the president of the Klondike Placer Miners Association either later today or first thing tomorrow morning to discuss, among other things, the current round of talks surrounding the Yukon placer authorization.
Question re: Education Act review
Mrs. Peter: I have a question for the Minister of Education. First Iíd like to commend the minister for finally recognizing what people on this side and people outside the Legislature have known all along. The process was badly flawed, and Iím glad that the minister admitted to that.
Can the minister tell us how this badly flawed process came about? Was it under her watch or the previous ministerís watch?
Hon. Ms. Tucker: I went out and I listened to the people; I brought that information back, and I made the right decision. Whatever went before is irrelevant. Iíve made the right decision, and Iím very grateful to all the people who came out and shared their concerns with me so that I could change the decision and make a good one.
Mrs. Peter: Mr. Speaker, this minister is certainly responsible now. The buck stops at her desk. Our party is in total support of finding a good home for the youth centre, just as we made it possible for the Victoria Faulkner Womenís Centre to get its own home. Our concern is how the minister intends to ensure that the process from here is not flawed. Will the minister accept our constructive suggestion and commission an independent study of how the education system operates, especially in the area of decision making and communications?
Hon. Ms. Tucker: If there is anything that I have learned from the last two weeks, it is that Iíd like to go and listen to people before I make future commitments. So, in answer to the member oppositeís question, it would be premature for me to set up a process without having talked to people and listened to them.
Mrs. Peter: Mr. Speaker, Iím glad this minister is finally beginning to listen to the people out there, because another process that was badly flawed from the very beginning was the Education Act review. People have seen that this government will respond to public pressure. I wonder how long it will be before we see another demonstration outside the building, demanding that the Education Act be taken off the table and put back out for consultation. If that happens, Iím pretty sure that the signs will be both in English and in French and maybe in a number of other languages. In the spirit of cooperation, Mr. Speaker, will the minister stand down the amendments to the Education Act and go back to the people with a process that isnít so badly flawed?
Hon. Ms. Tucker: I would like to answer the member oppositeís question with the following, and that is that I believe the member oppositeís information is somewhat out of date. I have sent a letter to all the school councils and the First Nationsí leadership to ask them whether they would like me to proceed with the amendments at this time, knowing that there could be future amendments on an ongoing process. I am going to be contacting them individually to see how they would like me to proceed. So, once again, I will be listening to them before any decisions are made about any future process.
Question re: Yukon protected areas strategy, moratorium on
Mr. McLarnon: It is fortunate that this government werenít car designers instead, because we would end up with a car with one gear forward and four in reverse.
My question is to the Minister of Environment. On April 24, the Minister of Environment and the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources announced a moratorium on the YPAS process. Yet, yesterday the budget was passed for YPAS with resources totalling over $1.1 million dedicated to this work. Renewable resources councils are still being tasked with identifying areas of interest. The minister herself stated in debate, and I quote, "There is a technical group that is still working on identifying areas of interest." The fact that any political discussions have been stalled while the government is working at full speed toward its agenda looks baldly like another ó
Speaker: Order please. Question please. Question please.
Mr. McLarnon: With the budget for this process intact and resources applied to continue with the governmentís agenda, can the minister tell us what dictionary this government is using for their definition of "moratorium"?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: And I thought weíd had this discussion seriously yesterday. I do appreciate the question. Iím more than willing to answer it again. The fact of the matter is that, first of all, itís a slowdown, so we are still working on the YPAS project, just at a much slower pace. The fact is that the members opposite, in the budget, put forward an amendment yesterday specifically targeting the branch that deals with policy for the whole Department of Environment. A significant aspect of that policy unit is that, first of all, it contains seven jobs, and secondly, itís dealing, in large measure, with First Nation land claims in policy development, working on special management areas, on legislation, the second phase of the Wildlife Act changes ó many areas.
So, the member opposite is asking that I cut seven jobs for Yukoners and not respect the land claims process. Thatís exactly what the member is asking.
Mr. McLarnon: Actually, the minister isnít respecting the renewal process. The line item following this line item was land claims. This government committed to putting all services under the same roof.
The assessment work the minister is referring to is all fine and good, if stakeholders agree to this. They should agree to the criteria for the protected areas process. This discussion has not happened, and will not happen for the next year. Work is being assigned now that may not be needed. No process exists to define the assessment or define the process arriving at the decisions. The only part of the moratorium that has been brought to a halt is stakeholder consultations.
This leads stakeholders to ask one of two questions. First, asking the government if they are still running on their own agenda and second, questioning if the government is Ö
Speaker: Order please. Will the member please get to the question.
Mr. McLarnon: Ö finally speculating ...
Speaker: Order please. Will the member please get to the question.
Mr. McLarnon: Yes, Mr. Speaker, Iím trying. Now ó on what they perceive is the stakeholdersí agenda. Now, the question is: with no guidance from stakeholders, which is the answer ó is the government working on its own agenda, or are they trying to guess what stakeholders want without talking to them?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: The simple answer is neither. The fact is that the member opposite is asking this government to cut seven jobs. The member opposite asked, in yesterdayís debate on the budget and in todayís Question Period, that we ignore the land claims process, totally take that unit ó the seven jobs that are assigned to working on assessments, or legislation or the policy development of the Department of Environment.
The fact of the matter is, and I explained this to the member yesterday, the director does share his time, as the director of policy and planning within Environment, and has to be aware of the fact of what YPAS is doing. We said YPAS has slowed down. In the announcement, we made it very clear that we would still be moving forward on the assessments process, that we are engaging First Nations, that we are engaging renewable resource councils, communities, industry and the public at large. We said we were going to strengthen the process, so we are inviting people back. We are sitting.
The Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources and I have already met with the Yukon Chamber of Commerce, and weíre going to continue meeting with stakeholders who have an interest in working toward a process that is responsible to everyone with respect to YPAS. So it is a slowdown, and we still have work to do.
Mr. McLarnon: Thank you, Mr. Speaker, for that two-minute answer ó far over the time limit. Would this government impose the moratorium to garner trust from the industry stakeholders and recover credibility in the business community? The business community can now see that the resources are still being spent, as if there were no moratorium announced. Protected areas are still being identified; assessments are still happening; renewable resource councils are still fully engaged in the process. The process has merely slipped into the backroom. It is obvious now that the only thing that has slowed down is the consultation.
After the twenty-fourth announcement, the industry stakeholders had some hope that the government was starting to see the light. Today, they are starting to see it is just lip service and pre-election posturing.
My question to the minister: how is this Liberal government going to ensure that the smoke of mistrust that has hung over this process since they were elected disappears if they continue to add green wood to the fire?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Well, the short answer to that is that the member doesnít respect Yukoners. The member opposite doesnít respect the work they are doing with respect to special management areas. The member opposite does not respect the fact that we are working on land claims, which is all part of the unit that he is referring to with Environment.
Question re: Highway safety, roadside inspections
Mr. McRobb: My question today is for the Minister of Infrastructure on the issue of highway safety. Now, in review of the departmentís so-called accountability plan I see it clearly states as a key objective to provide an effective regulatory environment for highways and the vehicles that use them.
I find this somewhat ironic, given the fact that this Liberal government has done away with the mobile highway enforcement units. These units were responsible for roadside inspections on commercial vehicles. This includes trucks from outside the territory that we know are running on small profit margins and could be really in jeopardy of running unsafe equipment.
Iíd like to ask the minister how he plans to replace these mobile highway enforcement units so Yukoners can feel safe on their highways.
Hon. Mr. Kent: In response to the Member for Kluaneís question, this of course came up in departmental debate in Infrastructure late yesterday. What I explained to the member at that time is that, as far as roadside checks go, we have partnered with the RCMP so that the RCMP can work at specific roadside sites with members of the mobile enforcement division of Infrastructure.
This past weekend we had the first check, and my understanding from briefings from my department officials is that it went quite well and the RCMP worked very well with our officials in conducting those commercial vehicle inspections.
Mr. McRobb: Well, Mr. Speaker, our discussion yesterday was very brief, and I was only allowed one or two questions at that time. It became known that the RCMP will not be responsible for conducting roadside inspections. Instead, the RCMP will only be directing roadside vehicles to report for inspection.
Now, another surprising development yesterday was the minister saying that there were a number of proposed sites for inspection. My question: how is this government protecting the public with respect to highway safety if all these sites donít exist now?
Hon. Mr. Kent: Mr. Speaker, as I said to the Member for Kluane yesterday at the end of the day and when we were concluding debate on the Department of Infrastructure for the day, the RCMP has partnered with the Yukon government to conduct these commercial vehicle inspections. We had a successful trial run of that this past weekend, is my understanding, in speaking with officials. In answering his question about where the sites are, certainly weíd like to keep the sites and the times of the sites relatively confidential so that truckers and commercial vehicles arenít made aware of them. I know the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes and I shared a chuckle over that yesterday at the conclusion of debate.
Mr. McRobb: Well, Mr. Speaker, I donít find it surprising that the governmentís approach is, once again, a big secret, because really this government is too ashamed to reveal anything it has done because it has done very little.
Now, the ministerís admission yesterday that there still is no agreement in place with the RCMP is somewhat amazing. Can the minister confirm that this government has yet to enter an agreement with the RCMP to take on this task? And as far as the proposed sites go, Mr. Speaker, they still havenít even been identified. Theyíre not in existence yet. Just what is going on here? How could our highways possibly be safe in the meantime?
Hon. Mr. Kent: We are working toward making our highways safer. We work toward that every day. As I mentioned yesterday, I have a meeting planned in the near future with the Yukon Transportation Association to discuss highway safety and commercial vehicle compliance. A formal agreement has not been reached with the RCMP as of yet, but as I mentioned earlier, we did do a roadside inspection this past weekend with the cooperation of the RCMP. According to briefings from my officials, they all went quite well. Certainly, as I mentioned in my previous answer, in order to maintain the integrity of these inspections, we canít divulge the time and/or the place where they are to be conducted. I mentioned yesterday that I would expect them to be done close to services in case the commercial vehicles do need repair. That is something that I have spoken with my department about. Certainly, at the beginning of the holiday season, the times and places of the stop-checks for drinking and driving offences and those types of offences arenít announced, and I donít want to announce the times and places for the inspections of commercial vehicles.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed. We will now proceed to Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
OPPOSITION PRIVATE MEMBERSí BUSINESS
BILLS OTHER THAN GOVERNMENT BILLS
Speaker: The Member for Kluane, on a point of order.
Point of order
Mr. McRobb: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker, the critic for Health had to take a quick health break, if I may describe it that way, and he is back now so we can proceed.
Speaker: Thank you. The Chair was aware of that, and the Chair was going to ensure there was time.
Bill No. 101: Second Reading
Clerk: Second reading, Bill No. 101, standing in the name of Mr. Keenan.
Mr. Keenan: Iíd like to show my appreciation to the Member for Kluane for giving me a commercial break across the Yukon about much-needed health breaks ó certainly very generous of my colleague to be able to point out to the Yukon at large that I am simply a human being too.
Mr. Speaker, I move that Bill No. 101, entitled Child, Youth and Family Advocacy Act, be now read a second time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes that Bill No. 101, entitled Child, Youth and Family Advocacy Act, be now read a second time.
Mr. Keenan: Itís with great pleasure indeed that, on behalf of the official opposition, I get the opportunity to speak to this very critical piece of legislation that we have before us here today.
I have sought all-party committee and all-party support for this piece of legislation, this act before us, and I do believe it is there.
Iíd like to also point out that this act is not about you or me. It is about children, youth and their families. Certainly, Mr. Speaker, I guess it could be about you or me because we are all affected. We are certainly all affected by what is taking place, if I could say, across the land, across the nation. With communication the way it is now, there is not a day that goes by that, somewhere in Canada or North America, an abuse of a child has not occurred. It happens every day.
In our previous lives, I think weíve all worked quite closely with those issues and have always desired an opportunity within our professional careers or within our lives that we might be able to advocate positive change and certainly that is what this is all about.
Mr. Speaker, we have been doing some footwork because we know this act has been sitting on the Order Paper now for approximately two years. I know that it has been in the minds of the Legislature for much longer than two years.
I do believe somewhere ó well, here it is right here. On March 30, 1998, Mrs. Edelman ó and Mrs. Edelman, as we know, is now the Minister of Health ó gave notice:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that the Government of Yukon should investigate the possibilities of creating a position of childrenís advocate to:
(a) provide advocacy to children who are receiving services pursuant to the Childrenís Act and who might require the assistance of an advocate to ensure due consideration of their rights, interests and viewpoints when decisions are made; and
(b) to identify issues and provide information and advice with respect to the nature, adequacy, availability, accessibility, effectiveness and appropriateness of services that are offered to children.
Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Health ó then a backbencher four years ago ó was thinking of that idea at that time. I can only applaud the now Minister of Health for, I guess, seeing the light ó for looking into the future and finding a way that we might be able to work together, as we have in other areas that affect people.
Weíre talking now about families, and weíre talking about children of the families. Iíd like to point out that it was in the year of 1998, I believe, when the Member for Riverdale South, now the Health minister, brought forward a Grandparentsí Rights Act. She lobbied vigorously and hard for it. Iíd like to point out that, at that time, the New Democrat government was in a majority position, yet the New Democrat government raised an ear out, and we listened, we looked, and we knew there was a problem that the Member for Riverdale South was attempting to correct, and we threw the weight of government behind that bill, and we ensured that that bill received assent.
Today, we have many, many grandparents enjoying a right to their grandchildren that would not have taken place unless there had been cooperation ó and that we worked cooperatively in this House together.
Whether we are government, whether we are the official opposition, whether we are the third party, whether weíre the independent alliance, we are affected ó we are affected by these very serious issues because we all come from families. So, Mr. Speaker, I know that the Minister of Health will put the weight of government behind this so that we might be able to find the solution to do the right thing for the children. Of course, we all realize that our children of today are certainly our future of tomorrow.
Mr. Speaker, I say these strong words, and Iím hoping that people will find a way to cooperate. I am very much hoping that government will not find a way to be able to say, "Well, we could do that if we had more time," or anything like as such. Mr. Speaker, the government is government, and government can bring down the Berlin Wall. We can do all sorts of wonderful things, so why can we not do this wonderful thing here that might be helpful to the people, I think, who are nearest and dearest to us.
Mr. Speaker, it was four years ago that this current minister had this idea. It has been on the Order Paper for two years before this act has been brought forward. With the legislative writers within the department and being the minister responsible for the Department of Health, with the Justice minister having control over the lawyers and the draftspersons, I do not see why there should be even one excuse as to why this cannot be done. I would ask that when the minister gets the opportunity to speak that she attempt ó no, the minister will state categorically on the floor of this House that we shall search for a way and find a way, regardless if there are no resources or time. Because, Mr. Speaker, there are resources out there; there is time out there to be able to do the right thing.
I do not believe government can say that we backed them into a wall on this, because certainly it has been around in the ministerís mind since the minister was a backbencher ó that was four years ago. Now the minister has the authority with government to bring it forward. So, over a four-year period, surely the Liberal government must have found a way that we could work toward making it right for our children.
Is the act thatís tabled perfect? Absolutely not ó absolutely not. But, again, I point out that for two years this act has been in governmentís hand and under the control of the Justice minister, wherein I do believe that there has been adequate time and resources made available so that we might be able to work cooperatively toward this very, very dear issue that we have here.
I have chatted with colleagues from all sides of the House here, and we do look to have amendments. Weíve spoken to different folks here who are going to propose amendments. I see really no reason why this should not go forward and Iím hoping that the minister and her colleagues will be able to support this very important bill on which we have done the work for her and her department, and which we will continue to be advocates for.
I touched very briefly on the events that have led to the childrenís advocacy in different provinces and different regions. I think that I cannot simply confine myself to speak of children of the Yukon or children of Canada ó children are children, wherever they are. Recent events that we see around the world are affecting children ó children are starving, children are being murdered around the world. Itís not that serious in the Yukon Territory ó and God bless us all for not having that problem that we have in other areas of the world ó but it is a problem in the Yukon Territory and I do not want a tragedy to be the trigger that enables government to get in gear on this.
I do not want a death of a child to be that trigger, but thatís what a tragedy trigger is. It is when you have a fatality of sorts of that magnitude. And then, of course, we will all rush to do the right thing. I am tempted to head that tragedy trigger off at the pass so that we might be able to now invoke, through a piece of legislation, through an act that will be there, that will put children first ó because first is where the children deserve to be, and where they should be. So many times, the child is neglected or the child is not listened to by government, by its family, and that child should be the priority. It should be the absolute priority of the basis of our families.
I come from a native background, where my family is very important. My family is an extended family and includes the elders of my family, the elders of my clan and the youth and children. There is not a real hierarchy within my family. There is a networking within my family. There is an educational tool of networking within my family. There is a social networking tool within my family, because the children also have responsibilities, as the parents and grandparents do, to be able to work cooperatively and to be who we are. On paper that is such a wonderful thing to be able to say, but is it always there? No. Abuse of children is cross-cultural. It doesnít just affect poor families, or middle-income families or rich families; it affects every one of us, every one of the families that are there. We do have those types of families in the Yukon.
So I ask that this government work cooperatively with the official opposition, the third party and the alliance so we might be able to find a way to make this work for the children.
I have to reiterate again, Mr. Speaker, that we need to put the rights of the children first ó absolutely first ó before the system, first so we might be able to circumvent some of the deaths that might occur, some of the tragedies. It will make the world a better place to live. It will make our communities better.
I go back 50-some odd years in this territory, and I can remember the time when there wasnít even a door lock on homes ó those types of issues. I want to get back to those times. I want to because then it showed that children were a meaningful part of the community, and some of those children I lived with during that time frame are now leaders within the Yukon. Have they all been pure as the driven snow? Absolutely not, but we have to be worked with and we have to work with one another.
Again, I point out that it does not affect just one segment of society. It is all over.
Canada, the federal Liberal government, has ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, and this means that we must ensure that the children have the right to be safe and to have their interests protected. I do believe that this is just going to add to it. We have seen, in many situations in the Yukon Territory and elsewhere, where children services have not been adequately addressed.
Iíd like to point out that the Health department has been doing the right thing. With some massage, with the previous minister and others, we have gone out and looked at the review of the Anglin report, and that report speaks about our children in care and what we should be doing for them.
Mr. Speaker, this is just a logical next step. Itís a logical next step for our department and for our governments to be moving and working toward. The department is very busy doing reviews, but at some point in time, we cannot hide behind reviews. We must not use these reviews as shields but read them and implement them for the best of our society.
A children and youth family advocate can help ensure that the needs of the children and the youth are a priority, as they should be. I mean, this government, Mr. Speaker, has set up the youth secretariat or the Youth Directorate. Theyíre moving in the right way. All I plead now is that, on behalf of the children of the Yukon, this government finds a way to make this work, to continue on, not to come with a carte blanche "no but". How about a "No, but weíll look at it," or "Yes, weíll look at it and weíll find a way to make it work because itís not going to work this way." Mr. Speaker, I am just a humble MLA. I am not a lawyer. I am not a child services professional. The minister is not either, but the minister is very much in control of lawyers who can develop the policy ó very much in control of a department that can and should ó and maybe even will ó do the right thing for the children.
The guiding principle, Mr. Speaker, that should be built in, which is built in to the UN convention is non-discrimination. Thatís one bullet; itís a headline. The next one is for the best interests of children, the survival and development and participation. Mr. Speaker, I personally, and we as the official opposition, support these principles and see an advocate as an avenue for ensuring that we might be able to meet the needs. Because, Mr. Speaker, if one child slips through and there has been opportunity to help that child and we have not acted on the opportunity to help that child, Iím going to feel personally hurt, professionally hurt, and itís not going to be the right thing, because today we should not be playing politics with the childrenís lives. We should be doing the right thing for our children.
Mr. Speaker, I think itís important that, as a community as small as the Yukon Territory, we do those right things.
I remember during the debate with the previous Minister of Health and Social Services where we were going back and forth about children in care and children in need. I come from a background where I work with many children in need and different folks in need. I can say that if you do work with them, there is a happy future for them. When we were going through that debate, I had presentations from children. I had presentations from children on the street. I had children come to me in my office and they showed me the wounds that they have. Some of the wounds that the children have are not simply physical wounds; theyíre not simply a cut on the wrist when they try to do away with themselves because they canít cope. There are hidden wounds ó hidden wounds that we could not see. Mr. Speaker, neither you nor I nor the Member for Vuntut Gwitchin are prepared to be able to recognize those wounds and those needs. Yet we know ó the three of us and all in the House ó that there is a need. I do believe that we should be moving toward fulfilling that need so that our valued members of society, our children, are going to be respected and feel safe.
Again, Iíd like to close. Iím going to offer the floor to the minister. The need for a childrenís advocate has been identified many times before. It has been identified at election times; it has been identified when there was a need, I guess. What Iím saying now is that there is a need. Children should not be punted as political footballs or moved anywhere or used as such. This is a need to heal our society and to ensure that our children, our future leaders, will be there for us.
I want to see those children there for us because I expect to grow to be 90 years old and older, and I want to be able to see those children mending the fabric that has been torn in the past and enabling them to come forward. Mr. Speaker, you and I and everyone in this House knows that many leaders come from many backgrounds.
You are not necessarily born a leader; you can become a leader and it does not mean you have to go to the University of Victoria to become a political scientist or a lawyer. They come from many backgrounds, from many humble backgrounds.
I thank you very much for the time and the opportunity to address you, and for you to listen to me with open ears.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Sometimes in the House I have a problem, and the problem I have is that I often agree with the members opposite.
The member opposite talked about the time back in 1998 that I brought forward a private memberís bill on grandparentsí rights. At that time I talked to the then Minister of Health, and said, "This is a good idea and you might want to consider it." I also talked to the member at that time, who was the Member for Whitehorse Centre, and he supported it as well. I also talked to the Member for Ross River Southern Lakes, and he supported it. The problem was that the bill itself was fundamentally flawed because it referred to bodies that didnít exist in the Yukon Territory. I had taken that bill and I had tried to convert it into a Yukon piece of legislation, and it had problems. So, what happened was the government of the day ó the previous NDP government ó took that bill and the basis of that bill, and they built their own bill. Then they tabled another bill in the Legislature that was similar to mine. But, it was a government bill; it wasnít the private memberís bill. It wasnít my bill, although it was the same idea.
I suppose that is the problem with this bill. It is fundamentally flawed. It is fundamentally flawed for a number of different reasons, but the biggest one is that we havenít talked to anybody about it. We havenít gone out and done a consultation on it. The members opposite are constantly saying we donít consult and that is the biggest problem.
One of the recommendations in the Anglin report, that the member opposite has referred to on a number of occasions ó and I think the most important one ó is that Family and Childrenís Services and First Nations in the Yukon Territory should initiate discussions with the purpose of mutually defining a development and action plan for young people from each First Nation who require out-of-home care.
Now, the report says we should go out and talk to people, and I think thatís exactly what we should do. This government has a very strong interest in exploring how a child advocate, or childrenís ombudsman, might be implemented in the Yukon. This recent report has recommended the establishment of the Yukon child advocate office.
Departmental staff are currently carrying out the necessary policy work to examine ways that a child advocate office could be set up. We would like to consider this issue by taking into account the views of all interested parties in the Yukon. In particular, we would like to consider with Yukoners the role that is needed here, given our small size and our service system.
We have already begun discussions with the Council of Yukon First Nations on a number of child welfare topics, including this one. Accordingly, proceeding with this private memberís bill at this time would foreclose, or stop, that careful discussion on the issue. When we have the opportunity, I would like to ask the member opposite to provide, for review by the House, a list of those who have been consulted on this bill and what their responses were to the concerns we are raising today.
Mr. Chair, the Yukon Ombudsman Act currently limits ombudsman inquiries to departments of government, public schools, hospitals, colleges and Crown agencies. Where it has been established in larger jurisdictions, a childrenís advocate has filled a useful role in monitoring the children social service system. Organizational models vary greatly across the country. Yukon already has in place the following bodies that together meet many of the requirements of a good childrenís advocate.
The Childrenís Act requires all staff applying the act to make decisions in the best interests of the child. The official guardian may appoint a lawyer to act as a child advocate for a child who is a subject of court proceedings. The child advocate protects the rights, interests and viewpoints of the child when critical decisions are being made about the custody and access to the child.
The Health and Social Services Council, which is a ministerial advisory body established by an order-in-council, identifies issues and provides advice and information regarding programs for children and youth. The Yukon Ombudsman investigates concerns raised by any member of the public regarding government services, including services for children and youth. Now, individual First Nations advocate for children and their families who are receiving services from the Yukon government and, given the Yukonís small size and the accessibility of elected officials to members of the public, concerns about services for children and families are frequently raised with MLAs and with ministers.
The proposed bill presents a scheme that is different from the legislation already enacted in the Yukon establishing the Ombudsman. The Ombudsman serves a comparable purpose to the one expected of the child advocate, so it would be preferable to have some consistency in the legislation authorizing both bodies. Some differences are that the appointment process would be different. While both are officers of the Legislature, section 2 of the Ombudsman Act requires a vote of two-thirds of the Legislative Assembly to appoint the ombudsman. Section 3 of Bill No. 101, the bill that weíre discussing today, requires the unanimous recommendation of a special committee of the Legislative Assembly. Mr. Chair, we will need to know what the outcome would be if there were not a unanimous recommendation from a special committee of the Legislative Assembly. What happens if not everybody agrees? Iíll be asking the member about this later.
The powers of each body would be different. The Ombudsman can only act on a complaint or a referral from a First Nation, municipality or the Legislative Assembly. Bill 101 would permit the advocate to investigate any matter on his or her own initiative. Mr. Chair, without careful legislative parameters, this power has the potential of escalating to a personally motivated investigation, and Iíll also be asking the member opposite what steps have been taken to assure Yukoners that they will be safe from such investigations.
The proposed Bill No. 101 is a copy of the B.C. statute Child, Youth and Family Advocacy Act. On February 7, 2002, the B.C. Cabinet ó and this is critical ó decided at an open meeting to repeal this legislation and eliminate the office of the child, youth and family advocate. In its place, B.C. intends to establish a childrenís officer reporting to the Attorney General. Given this significant change by British Columbia, it would be prudent of Yukon to examine the reasons for the proposed repeal in British Columbia of legislation identical to Bill No. 101 before adopting it. Surely we can learn from other jurisdictionsí mistakes.
The definitions in section 1 speak to designated services provided by prescribed ministries ó which is a British Columbia term ó and this will determine the scope of the advocateís powers. What these bodies and services are would be set out in regulation according to this bill. Prior to adopting this approach, the Legislative Assembly should be provided with greater certainty regarding what will be designated and which department branches an agency will be designated in addition to the Childrenís Act.
Under the definitions in section 1, this bill defines "youth" as anyone under 24 years of age. The Yukon Childrenís Act permits service only to age 19. This is either an inconsistency caused by copying the B.C. act or the proponents of the bill have something else in mind with respect to the scope of the legislation. For example, will the advocate be able to investigate social assistance cases involving young adults as the ombudsman does today?
In looking at the powers of the advocate in section 4, while the advocate is given extensive powers to act regardless of whether or not anyone asks him or her to act, there is no balancing provision to permit a family child/youth up to age 24 or First Nation to prevent the advocate from intervening in their lives.
This is a serious omission from the bill. It does not respect the autonomy of individuals receiving service from government.
Under the power to delegate in section 6, while the advocate must be appointed on the recommendation of the Legislative Assembly, this bill then permits the advocate to delegate his or her powers to any other person, agency or community organization. One would question the accountability of any organization acting pursuant to these delegated powers. When do they report to the Legislative Assembly? When do they become accountable?
In the right to information in section 7, this provision needs to be assessed with respect to existing Yukon law on access to information. When read in conjunction with the broad power of the advocate to investigate, even without the permission of the client, the proposed provision again ignores the right of any individual to determine who sees personal information about him or her, and this is a right that underpins Yukon law. We respect Yukonersí privacy.
Also, looking at salary in section 15, the proposed bill provides that the advocate will be paid a salary equal to the salary paid to the chief judge of the "provincial" court of the Yukon? Ignoring the copying error ó for example, this should probably read "territorial" court ó surely this rate of remuneration is somewhat excessive. This would mean that the advocate would receive approximately $168,000 to $178,000 each year. While the salary range of a deputy minister is about $90,000 to $125,000, a ministerís salary is about $70,000, and the salary of an MLA is about $50,000 a year. The ombudsman, who is in a similar position, only works half time and receives far less than the proposed salary for the child advocate.
In summary, our principal concerns with the bill are the lack of consultation that went into the development of the bill and the confusing inconsistency with Yukon laws like the Ombudsman Act and the Access to Information Act, as well as the unbalanced powers of the advocate.
Mr. Speaker, we do have a very strong interest as a government in exploring how the child advocate or childrenís ombudsman might be implemented in the Yukon. Mr. Speaker, that was one of the recommendations that came out of the Anglin report, which we have been discussing at some length for the last few months.
However, we cannot support bringing this bill forward to third reading until consultation has occurred. Mr. Speaker, we will support bringing this bill into Committee of the Whole, moving it out of second reading but, without significant amendments plus the consultation that we have already promised Yukoners that we would do over the summer and fall, we cannot support the billís passing in the Legislature. We do need to talk to Yukoners about the child advocate. We do need to talk to them about the hundreds of recommendations that came out of the Anglin report and that will be coming out of the Child Welfare League of Canada report, which is due at the end of June.
Mr. Speaker, we have started some of the initial consultations, but we want to get out and talk to people over the next six months to make sure that not just the child advocate position is discussed with Yukon First Nations and with Yukoners in general, but the many, many, many other very good recommendations that also came out of the Anglin report. There is more than one answer to delivering better care for our children in care. Mr. Speaker, there are many things that we should be talking about at the same time. We cannot look at the issue of the childrenís advocate in isolation. It doesnít make sense.
The member opposite has talked very, very much about the independent institutions protecting childrenís rights. Well, Mr. Speaker, rather than coming up with another level of bureaucracy that will cost an awful lot of money, may I suggest that we also need to talk to Yukoners about spending that money on programs for children, as is recommended in the Anglin report. It says that the money would be better spent on services to children.
Mr. Speaker, we know that thereís a problem with children in care. We know we could deliver this service better. We knew that, and the previous government knew that as well. Weíre working very hard to try to improve those services for Yukon children and Yukon families. What we do need to do is look at the whole picture. We have to talk to Yukoners first and, although I commend the member opposite for bringing forward this particular piece of legislation, itís a good idea, but itís a very small piece of the puzzle, and it is fundamentally flawed.
As I say, we will support it through second reading to get it into Committee but, even with almost a complete rewrite, which is what this would require, it doesnít answer the problem. What it does is talk about a very, very, very small part of the issue. We think Yukoners deserve better. We want to go and talk to them about it, and we want to develop solutions that make sense here in the Yukon ó not a B.C. solution, because it may not be right.
Mr. Roberts: I listen to the minister, and I think in my own mind, "How many governments are we going to have to go through before we start moving down the path of correcting the problem?" I believe what the minister says, that consultation is very important. This whole report was consultation. The Child Welfare League of Canada report is consultation. Now, the minister is talking about going back out and consulting again. How many times do we have to consult? I guess maybe the minister is hoping their government can hang on long enough so that they donít have to worry about going further with this particular piece of legislation, and then the next government can worry about it, because it sure wonít be them.
When do we see leadership? When do we bite the bullet? I am very concerned that once again this is being shoved off into the corner so that we wonít have to deal with it. Yes, I would agree with the minister that there are some problems with the act. When I was on the other side and working through the issues, the issues were basically of the same nature. It was taken from the B.C. plan. I have no problems with that. A lot of times we rob and steal from every part of the country with different types of legislation. Not everything is original here. Yes, there are probably some errors and mistakes that were adopted in the printing, but those can be changed. If it talks about the "province of Yukon", maybe that is in anticipation. I really have some problems that this is going to be put off until the end of June because that is when the other report is coming forward. Then suddenly in the other report there is going to be some other magic in there that is going to tell us something quite different from what we already know. We know that First Nation governments want more involvement. They want more connection. They want more involvement in the process of how they can work with the government in building for their families and their communities. Advocacy is one of the ways.
Over the past year there has been a lot of discussion about setting up a First Nation secretariat between YTG and CYFN. Where is that? Where is the $60,000 that was put aside to put that particular agency in place so that we could have a better communication linkage?
That could have been the beginning of the advocacy. We donít have to do it all at once, I know, but there are some steps there that we could have taken.
Iím very disappointed with the fact that the government and the minister are saying, "Letís put it off. Letís keep putting it off so that we never do it." The minister says, "Well, we want to do it but weíve got a lot of problems. Weíve got to go out and consult."
I agree but I think people want to see action. This whole report was consultation. The Child Welfare League of Canada report will be on consultation. The ministers of the past and present obviously are consulting with the communities and with their First Nation governments to ensure that they are coming forward with the right ideas. Where is the Childrenís Act proposal? Where is that? That has been buried. The Liberal government has buried that.
When I was on that side, I received a lot of support from the communities. I received a lot of support from my caucus fellows at that particular time ó that we should review the Childrenís Act. For 17 years the Childrenís Act hasnít been reviewed. So that tells you the commitment of the government on the other side.
Nothing has come forward on even going through the steps of reviewing what it would take to change the Childrenís Act. There is much frustration out there by many people because the act was built and put together at a time when conditions were different.
So, Mr. Speaker, I think itís important that we try to put this all in perspective. Iím not saying that we have to adopt this particular piece of legislation. I mean, itís a good attempt, itís a good start. I would agree with the minister that there are some flaws in it that have to be improved and corrected.
If the minister is saying that we have to wait now until all the reports are in, and suddenly itís going to be anointed that we have to go forward with an advocacy program ó and because, as the minister has stated, there are some different issues when you look around the ombudsman and how that affects and how that works ó then why canít we today, starting today, sit down with our partners and move forward on bringing an advocacy act to this Legislature next fall that all of us can be happy about, instead of putting up all the walls that are there so that we can say, well, we have to go out and consult. I mean, the government obviously hasnít consulted on a lot of things. All of a sudden, theyíre into consultation. I donít know what the problem is. The government just carries on with their own views and then, after a decision is made, they go out and consult and find out that the people out there are saying, "Why werenít we involved in this?" Is that leadership? Maybe thatís one of the reasons why Iím standing here, why Iím sitting on this side, because consultation is a very hollow word. I believe in consultation.
I see the Minister for Riverdale North shaking his head ó of all the people to shake their heads about consultation. I think, Mr. Speaker, that word hasnít even become part of their vocabulary yet.
I think itís important that we move forward. If this is what it takes to actually come forward with all of us working together ó the people on this side, the government of the day, and our partners out there ó then letís have a working group in place now to bring forward what I believe is an essential part of helping our youth and helping our children. Weíve had many examples already during this session of how we have been failing our children.
Unfortunately, it has to come to the floor of the Legislature ó hopefully to get some answers and some action. This can be avoided by having a person of this calibre ó a person who is out there to advocate for our youth. I think thatís very important. We value our youth, we value our children. We must do a better job in working with our children.
If you look at the first recommendation in the Anglin report, it says very clearly that young people need to be actively involved in all decisions directly affecting them, that they need to be involved in the assessment of needs, care planning, care reviews, formulation of residence rules, transition and placement decisions in preparation for independent living. A clear statement of the advocacy responsibilities of all caregivers ó caseworkers, social workers and administrators involved with the children ó youth and their families needs to be developed and made available to everyone in the child welfare system.
We contracted with Professor Anglin from Victoria, one of the top-rated social advocates in the country. He has been here more than once. He has been here a couple of times, so he knows the system well. He has given us a good template to move ahead. Then letís move ahead. We donít have to wait until the Child Welfare League of Canada comes forward with their report. Weíre talking about an advocate here. Is the Child Welfare League going to say that we donít need one? I doubt it. They have worked together. They have worked very closely together in trying to ensure that they address the issues very clearly.
Itís very important, from what Professor Anglin has to say, that the position of an advocate for children in the Yukon should be established. The advocate needs to be an independent officer, reporting directly to the Legislature in accordance with the principles established by UNICEF for independent institutions protecting childrenís rights.
All the information is here. How much more consultation do we need to do? I am not saying that we donít sit down with our partners and come forward with a solid plan. I have to commend the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes for coming forward, at least, with a plan that would get this action moving. It may not be the perfect one but no plan is. So, I commend him for doing that. I would like to very clearly support the fact that we donít want to move down this path. Whether this is the act ó and I think I would agree with the minister that it is probably a good start. And then we could take what the Anglin report has put together, pull all our partners together, and then come together with something in the fall that will bring this to a head so that we could proclaim this act next November so that we will have done something substantial for our youth and children.
I donít think there is any argument from anyone about what we should do. I think we all agree that we need an advocate. But we donít need to wait for six months to a year to two years to get it up and running. We have been talking about this for a year and a half or two years, since I have been here. We now have some good substantive evidence to provide us with the impetus to go ahead and move forward. Why donít we do it? What are we waiting for? Another report? Why are we waiting for another report? That report is going to say the same thing that many other reports in the past have said.
I believe that sometimes reports become smokescreens in preparation for something else. I believe that we should never go into reports and try to assess our system and situation unless we are willing to do something about it.
If weíre not willing to do anything about it, then letís not even go down the path of having another report sit on a shelf to gather dust. There have been many reports done over the past by the previous government and the government before that that are sitting on the shelf. We do lots of reports, but all they do is sit on shelves and we twinkle and tinkle and do a little bit of manoeuvring and we think weíve addressed the needs of those reports when we havenít. Yet we come back five or 10 years later and the same issues are there.
I believe that we have the will. Let us show how we can work together. Letís get rid of the partisan aspect of doing something right. The Yukon has fewer than 30,000 people, and yet we act like we cannot work as a team. We act like it has to be partisan or it has to be my way and it canít be our way. Why canít it be our way? Our way means every one of us in here contributing and building for our youth.
If this is not what the government likes, then letís roll our sleeves up and letís get at it and letís do something now so that, come fall, we have something that everybody is going to be happy with.
I donít want to hear from the minister that weíve got to go out and do a road show again in order to find out what the people out there want. The people out there want to see some action. Consultation has already taken place on this. Both Mr. Anglin and the Child Welfare League of Canada have gone all over the territory. Theyíve asked for input and they have received input. They donít want to hear that weíre going to go out and research some more so that we can review what we already know we have to do.
So letís get on with the show, Mr. Speaker. Letís do what is right for children. I donít think we need any proof. I donít think we need any evidence. I think itís all here. Professor Anglin has made it very clear what we need to do. The Child Welfare League of Canada, in my estimation, is going to support that, because they work together. They believe in children, they believe in what is right for children. If the minister doesnít like whatís in here, then letís come forward with something that is going to work and that everybody is going to be happy with. I think the main thing is that we need something different than what we have.
The government has made some steps in that direction, when I talked about the secretariat. The problem is, they havenít put it in place, and Iím not sure whose fault that is, but unfortunately itís one of those linkages that needs to be sooner than later. So I encourage all of us, letís roll our sleeves up again, letís get at it, letís come forward with an act that we can all be happy with, instead of saying itís my way or itís no way. I think we have enough impetus here and enough understanding by all of us to move down the path of doing what is right.
I do have some amendments that I could recommend. When that comes up, we can move down that path but, again, itís not the perfect model, but itís the beginning of a model. Thatís basically what I see as being important. As I said earlier, if itís not what the government wants to see in place ó and I understand some of their objections to some of the areas there ó well, letís refine them. Letís get at it. Letís not pretend that weíre going to put it aside, wait until the Child Welfare League comes forward with their report at the end of June, and then say well, weíve got the summer, we canít do anything during the summer because everybodyís gone; so weíll wait until September ó oh, well, weíre preparing for the Legislature in October and November, and maybe there will be an election. Who knows? And that means this whole thing is again put on the shelf. I donít want it on the shelf, Mr. Speaker. I want something done about it, and so I encourage everybody to work together as a team.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I would like to take some time to comment on private memberís Bill No. 101, the Child, Youth and Family Advocacy Act that was introduced by the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes. First I would like to commend the member for taking the initiative to draft this legislation. Iím sure that everybody in this House shares his concerns for children, youth and family. However, itís too bad the member didnít believe this was important when the NDP was in power. They chose not to deal with it.
That said, Mr. Speaker, Iím left wondering why the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes spent his own time and has now called this bill for debate so as to use the valuable time of this House on a piece of legislation that, whatever the intent, is so flawed that it could not possibly be used in its present form. Writing a bill in the House is not a good use of MLAsí time, and it would take a great deal of time to produce a workable bill.
My colleague has already discussed several problems with the act, and I would like to focus for a minute on just a couple of issues that I see as problems, as the minister responsible for the Public Service Commission. In several sections, this bill refers to the Public Service Act. While there hasnít been a full analysis done, an initial examination shows that the references to the Public Service Act show no relation to the Yukon Public Service Act. To offer a couple of examples, this act refers to the Minister of Finance and Corporate Relations under section 6 of the Public Service Act, and Iím sure the member opposite knows that there is no Minister of Finance and Corporate Relations in the Yukon. Section 6 of the Yukon Public Service Act provides that the Public Service Commissioner is responsible for the administration of the Public Service Act.
This act introduced by the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes includes provisions for protection of employees who take part in an investigation of the auditor. This bears absolutely no relation to the similar provisions under the existing Yukon Public Service Act.
The bill from the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes suggests that the Public Service Act would apply to the advocate. This is not the route the government would choose to appoint an advocate, but even if it were, the Public Service Act would have to be amended to allow this arrangement.
Mr. Speaker, there seems to be an attempt to have the services of the advocate be independent from government. At the same time, there is provision for services to be provided to the advocate by the Public Service Commission. This seems to me to be a contradiction that needs to be rectified.
Now, again, I wish to assure the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes that everybody in this House supports children, youth and families. This government will continue to explore ways to provide services and protection to these vulnerable members of Yukon society. But this bill, Iím afraid, is not workable in its present form, and I look forward to discussing this in more detail during debate in Committee of the Whole.
Mrs. Peter: I rise today to speak to this act and in support of this act, not only as the MLA for Vuntut Gwitchin, but also as a parent, grandparent and auntie to many little nieces and nephews. The decisions we make on the floor of this Legislature will affect those little children who are growing up in our communities today and throughout other communities in the territory. This act is an important step toward putting the needs of children first.
My granddaughter is seven months old. This act has been sitting on the Order Paper for the last two years, and I hope that by the time my granddaughter is two years old, weíll have something in place, so that she can and will feel safe and protected out there in the society we live in today and that she will have someone, other than me, to speak on her behalf and be able to say, "Yes, this child is questioning this, and this child will get an answer."
As a society, it is important that we demonstrate that we value the children of today. When I say children, I mean from the newborn right up until they are able to be independent, whether they be 18 years old or 24 years old.
In this society today, we need to support those who are trying to become independent. They need someone out there to speak on their behalf because today, especially in the economic crisis that we are living in in the territory, there are no jobs out there for the young people today. The young people in our communities are sitting back, trained and waiting. They have been waiting for the last two years. This act will also provide a way of letting children and youth know that their needs are important.
I guess I donít need to remind the people in this Legislature what we saw out front yesterday. Young people do have a strong voice and they do want to be heard. They can affect decision making within the government system. It is too bad that they have to do such things as demonstrating in order to be heard. This act will also mean that grandparents will be listened to and they will have the best interests of their grandchildren listened to.
Also, we have to begin to realize and accept that there is and there will probably always be discrimination against whatever sectors of people are out there. We deal with that on a daily basis. As an advocate for a child, that will be very important because the position will be used to educate the young people about whatever issues that may come forward for them ó whether they are First Nation or whether they be another minority group. What about the act?
What about the act? The act will also mean that the gay and lesbian youth in our society will be able to have a spokesperson if theyíre not respected out there in their dealings ó whether it be with the public or within the government system. We need to educate our people on these very important issues, because they are not readily accepted in our communities.
I heard with great sadness the other day in the media about the state of our children in Canada. For me, itís a disgrace. Yet, I also understand it, because I speak from experience ó itís the poverty of children in Canada. Since 1989, there has been a 39-percent increase in the number of poor children in this nation. Yet we have all levels of government standing up and saying, "We support the youth; we support the children." Yet, Iím hearing from the members opposite that there are inconsistencies, that "we want to ensure support butÖ" Of course, we have to do things backward again. "Oh, weíre going to do some consultation."
I do not agree with that. We have statistics in front of us regarding child poverty, and my colleague is trying to introduce an act that would help to alleviate some of those issues. I listen to the side opposite and hear all the excuses, and again I wonder, "What is it going to take to have some political will in this House?" When are we going to address the very matters and issues that are important today? We need to take steps to make progress. I have said that before, and Iíll continue to say it.
We can stand on podiums or wherever, and speak nice words about our children and youth, and yet weíre going to stand here today and say, "Weíd like to, but ó " We are speaking about our future leaders. We are talking about taking into consideration the very lives that are going to be our leaders when weíre elders. We would like for them to take our best interests into consideration, yet today we make statements such as this.
"Yes, weíd like to, butÖ." I really donít buy that.
My colleague mentioned earlier about his beliefs and his values in family, and I hold similar values very dear and close to my heart. I was brought up by a single parent who raised six women out on the land, and she had to hunt and trap so that we could live in a good way. And I didnít even question the fact that we had no materialistic things around us. It didnít matter. We had a roof over our heads, we had good traditional food on our table three times a day, and we had love and care. As a young child growing up in that environment, my very spirit and my soul was happy and free. And I made the comment yesterday that as long as I live on this earth, I will try my very best to provide that same environment for my granddaughter, and I will stand by that. Many of us here are not grandparents yet, but some day you will be blessed. And let me tell you: I used to hear my grandmother say that she is very blessed to be a grandparent, and today I understand what she means by that.
The children not only in this territory but throughout this nation have the right to be safe. They have the right to be able to speak out on issues that they think are important. The Creator gave each and every one of us ears, and not to be selective about what we hear. When a child speaks to us, I believe the child speaks more truth than any of us here put together because they are very innocent and they speak about what they see with no ulterior motives. Believe me, I have learned that from my own son. They do not make any bones about what they would like to say to us as parents. I have respect for them for that. In closing, I would like to encourage all members of this House to support this act before us. I for one will be supporting it.
Hon. Mr. Kent: It is my pleasure to respond at second reading to Bill No. 101, as presented by the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes. My colleague, the Minister of Health and Social Services, as well as the minister responsible for the Public Service commission, have touched on some of the issues that we have problems with in respect to this bill.
As well, the Member for Porter Creek North touched on some of the issues. Those will be addressed in Committee of the Whole.
Iíd like to take my opportunity at second reading of this bill to speak about something that I rarely get a chance to speak about, and thatís the Youth Directorate ó something that Iíve been very closely involved with over the past two years, starting as a private member and continuing on as the minister responsible for youth in the Liberal Cabinet.
Weíre very committed to enhancing support for youth by promoting their participation in the territoryís social, economic, cultural and political activities. Responsibility for the Youth Directorate has been permanently transferred to the Executive Council Office and, as I previously mentioned, I have been appointed as the minister responsible for youth.
The youth office itself is a storefront operation located in downtown Whitehorse and itís co-located with Bringing Youth Toward Equality, or BYTE. As well, in the space immediately next door, the Whitehorse Youth Centre is the tenant.
Services that will be offered through the youth office include a computer lab, peer support, resource information and support for youth and youth service providers. The Youth Directorate continues to support several contribution agreements that promote youth initiatives, and Iíll touch on a few of those in a minute.
The Youth Directorate also works very closely with a number of stakeholders to identify and address the needs of Yukon youth. This includes the Interdepartmental Committee on Youth Initiatives, the Youth Shaping the Future Council ó Iíve attended a number of their meetings and Iím very proud of the youth who are on that council and the work that they do. Youth service providers are another example of who the Youth Directorate works with. First Nation offices, youth centres and municipal governments are also included in the list of stakeholders that we meet with on a regular basis to address concerns and identify issues that youth of the territory may have.
Mr. Speaker, let me touch now on a bit of the background of the Youth Directorate and how we have arrived at where we are today with the youth office being co-located with BYTE and the youth centre. An interim Youth Directorate was established for the 2001-02 fiscal year to further develop the permanent youth office. A total of 511 youth questionnaires and 110 youth service provider questionnaires were completed as part of the consultation that took place in September to December in the year 2000. According to the information that we collected, 82 percent of young people and 63 percent of the youth service providers supported the establishment of a youth directorate.
Bringing Youth Toward Equality, as I mentioned, BYTE, a youth advocacy group and staff from the advanced education branch, held focus group meetings with youth in communities around the Yukon and in the Whitehorse area. The interdepartmental committee on youth initiatives sent out a questionnaire asking youth service providers for their opinions on what the Youth Directorate should include. The information collected from the surveys indicates that the new youth office should provide information on resources available to young people in the Yukon in an environment that is youth friendly and welcoming. Itís this type of consultation, Mr. Speaker, that we embarked upon very successfully in the establishment of the youth directorate. Consultation continues with a number of stakeholders ó the ones that I mentioned ó as we move to further develop the youth office in a very progressive manner and continue to work with other youth centres and other youth service providers to make sure that the needs of Yukon youth are met in the coming years.
Mr. Speaker, Iíd like to briefly touch on the youth strategy initiatives in the budget and some of the activities that take place under those youth strategies.
The total O&M budget for youth strategy initiatives is $476,000. Some of the contributions included in that are for community youth activities involved in this or funding for activities offered in those communities that do not participate in the Crime Prevention Yukon youth leadership program. That amount is $30,000.
Mr. Speaker, we also have contributions for youth leadership training week in the amount of $40,000. Over 50 participants are expected to travel from Yukon communities to Whitehorse to participate in this workshop in July of this year. Topics could include the following: communication, leadership program planning, arts and crafts, conflict resolution, cooperative and traditional games, FAS/FAE information, behaviour management, other team-building activities, and bullying. I certainly look forward to the conference and some of the positive results that will come out of that workshop.
Mr. Speaker, we also spend approximately $195,000 on a winter activities program. This program allows rural Yukon communities and Kwanlin Dun up to $9,200 each to offer youth activities during the winter months. Proposals must include youth recreation, training and employment components. Communities must also involve youth in deciding which activities should be offered.
Another contribution is $75,000 for the operation of a youth office. This funding will support the operation of the youth office, as well as the annual "Youth Plan to Take Over the World" youth conference. A further $10,000 is a contribution through Health and Social Services to support the annual operation of the Whitehorse Youth Centre.
Mr. Speaker, through the Youth Directorate we have undertaken a number of initiatives in cooperation with other departments in the Yukon government. The A Cappella North II initiative was a cooperative initiative between the Womenís Directorate and the Department of Education. As well, a play thatís touring the Yukon right now by the MAD program at the Wood Street Annex, known as A Little Respect, is also a collaborative initiative of the Department of Education and the Womenís Directorate. Thereís also a teen sexual assault prevention booklet offered by the Womenís Directorate and the Youth Directorate. The release took place in conjunction with the third annual youth conference held in Whitehorse this past February.
There are a number of initiatives that the Youth Directorate is involved with in providing services to youth, and we continue to work on further initiatives to increase the opportunities that Yukon youth have. Certainly I know that a number of members in this Legislature grew up in the Yukon and went to school here. I am one of those members. I started school in Selkirk, carried on my education to Jeckell and completed my high school education here at F.H. Collins. I know that members of the opposition have had those opportunities, as well as other Cabinet ministers and members on this side of the House. I believe that five of the seven current Cabinet ministers are graduates of F.H. Collins, so there were a lot of opportunities presented to us as we grew up in Whitehorse and the Yukon. I would hope those opportunities can exist for the graduates of the year 2002.
I note that the F.H. Collins graduation ceremonies are taking place this weekend, as well as a number of other grad ceremonies over the next couple of months for other high schools throughout the Yukon Territory. I wish those graduates all the success in the world. I hope they can have the same opportunities to enter into politics in the Yukon, or to return to the Yukon following post-secondary education, or to complete post-secondary education here in the Yukon and become active participants as contributors to the Yukon and the Yukon economy such as many members of this Legislature who have been afforded the opportunity.
I think, through the good work of the Youth Directorate over the coming years, that those opportunities will exist for Yukon youth, and I certainly look forward to Committee debate on the bill that the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes has introduced here today. Again, just to echo some of the comments of the Minister of Health and Social Services, we do have a number of concerns and proposed amendments and certainly issues with the amount of consultation that will take place surrounding this bill. With that, that will conclude my remarks.
Point of order
Hon. Mr. McLachlan: Actually, Mr. Speaker, I am rising on a point of order. I want to make absolutely sure that, in the true spirit of debate between government and opposition, before we rose on this side as the last speaker, we would give the official opposition House leader his opportunity to speak, which I really believe he should with his large, extended family.
Mr. Keenan: I make no heads or tails out of the memberís point of order. Could the member please tell me where that is reflected within the Standing Orders?
Hon. Mr. McLachlan: I was just giving the member, as the last opposition member, the courtesy before I rose to speak.
Speaker: I will recognize the Minister of Justice to speak now, please.
Hon. Mr. McLachlan: I rise today in response to second reading of Bill No. 101, sponsored by the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes.
Weíre prepared to debate the bill now, but it is with a great deal of trepidation and apprehension that we have to debate a bill in such form as it is tabled today before us. Weíre not sure where the bill came from. It looks like it suddenly appeared out of thin air somewhere, because thatís about the extent of some of the items that are in it. Itís important that I make that known to this Legislature because, as Minister of Justice, all members present know that the precise wording ó in order for this bill to be proper, to be workable, to have any effect in this territory and to be done in a judicially responsible manner ó the clauses have to have some effect in law. They have to have some applicability. They have to mean something and they have to be workable and enforceable. There are so many clauses in this bill that donít come halfway near that.
The Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes will have a lot to answer when we come to Committee of the Whole. Thatís where we will attempt to make a large number of the corrections on the clauses that are there. Itís flawed in so many areas that, if we donít do it properly, the intent ó and thereís nobody on this side who doesnít deny that the member is trying to do the right thing, but there are so many clauses that are lost in thin air on this one.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. McLachlan: Was it designed by Yukoners? No. Was it designed for Yukoners? No. Was it done with good intent? Possibly. But where is it? Where was the consultation? The membersí opposite favourite line is to get up and say to us, "Who did you consult with yesterday, the day before, the day before?" We want to ask the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes, where is the consultation addressed in this? Where is the consultation?
It didnít come. Maybe in someoneís dreams it came, but it didnít come in reality.
Mr. Speaker, it seems strange to me that weíre seeing the bill done today, especially in the light of the ongoing work that is being done by the present Minister of Health and Social Services. The Anglin report, which the Member for Porter Creek North has raised quite fairly, has made a number of recommendations on the children in care. That process is underway, and Yukoners are being consulted in that process. For example, one of the very large tenets of the Anglin report is that there is a recommendation to consult with First Nations on an action implementation plan. Where do we see evidence of that today in Bill No. 101, presented by the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes? Is it in thin air, as well? Is it a figment of the memberís imagination? The Minister for Health and Social Services has stood on her feet and said a number of things, but one of the things that appears to be lost by members opposite is that when she brought forward that bill, there were no financial attachments to the bill. This one, presented by the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes, has huge financial implications. Did the member consider that? Not a chance. Would it have made any difference? Probably not, because they seem to think that members on this side have full wallets, pockets full of money that we just roll out. There are two critical points that the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes has forgotten.
The Member for Riverdale South worked tirelessly to get the previous government to move even a little on this file. The Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes and his party had three and a half years to do something about the file. What did they do? Where was the former Minister of Health and Social Services when it came to doing the action? Nowhere to be found, head in the sand ó working on something else, he said.
Mr. Speaker, now the member has come to the floor of the House with a bill that looks like it came off the Internet. As Minister of Justice, I want to emphasize to members opposite how absolutely critical it is that the wording be done properly. We simply canít take a bill thatís applicable in someone elseís jurisdiction and say that it will work here. It wonít. It must have the reflection of the local jurisdiction, and this one doesnít. For example, province to territory ó where was the applicability there? Itís not there again. Itís too little, too late.
I can tell you, as someone who has to be responsible for the proper wording of legislation that goes through this Legislature, that we have a lot of questions to ask the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes about the bill. Iím going to be tabling a number of amendments because I believe that if weíre going to try to make it work, we should at least work with members opposite in putting together a bill that might work for Yukoners. Iím pleased that the Member for Porter Creek North has some amendments as well. Weíre on the right track there. We have seen the holes in the bill, and weíre going to fix them.
I am opposed to ramming the bill through ó and those are tough words ó in the form it is in right now and as it currently stands, without talking to Yukoners. We have to involve the rest of the territory. And I believe that we can do a lot better than what the member has done by tabling the piece of work that we see before us today.
Iím going to look forward to line-by-line debate when we get there, because I believe that the sponsor of the bill should be able to stand on his feet, in his place in this Legislature, and answer any of the questions to the satisfaction of the House before we proceed.
Mr. Speaker, I donít have any evidence from this member whatsoever that thatís going to happen. All I have is a pie in the sky. The bill before us has a scheme thatís very different from legislation thatís enacted in other similar bills in the territory, and I want to draw attention to some of them.
The Ombudsman Act is one of them, and it serves a very comparable purpose to the one that is expected of a child advocate, so it would be preferable to have consistency in the legislation that authorizes both bodies. Does it? Not a chance. The appointment process would be different. Both are officers of the Legislature. Section 2 of the Ombudsman Act requires a vote of two-thirds of the members of this Legislative Assembly to appoint one. Bill No. 101 requires the unanimous consent of a special committee of the Legislature.
The powers of each body would be different. The ombudsman acts on complaints or referrals from First Nations, municipalities, governments. Bill No. 101 would permit the advocate to investigate any matter on his or her own initiative. If the advocate didnít like the way somebody parted their hair in the morning, they could be out there on an investigation. Whereís the consistency? Thatís the kind of thing Iím referring to when I talk about consistency of wording.
Bill No. 101 is a copy of a British Columbia statute that has already undergone significant changes by the British Columbia Legislature and a very thinking, proactive government, who just came into office last May and who realized the holes in the legislation. Theyíve eliminated the office of the child, youth and family advocate, and in its place theyíre going to establish a childrenís officer, reporting to the Attorney General. Given the significant change by the Province of British Columbia, why arenít we looking at similar things?
The Member for Vuntut Gwitchin has said that this sat on the Order Paper for two years. Yes, and the previous government left it sitting there for three and a half, and nothing was done.
Hereís the danger of leaving it for two years when changes could have been made, such as British Columbia did, to bring the current wording into line with what it should be and to make the legislation better ó the best in the country. Hereís the danger of whipping something off the Internet from another jurisdiction, and saying, "Here, letís do this."
Section 1 speaks to designated services provided by prescribed ministries. Thatís directed right from the British Columbia legislation, and itís designed to determine the scope of the advocateís powers. Does it work here? Thatís a pretty big question. Itís a really big question as to whether we can do it.
What will these bodies and services do that will be set out in regulation according to the bill? Prior to adopting the approach set forward, the Legislative Assembly would be provided with greater certainty regarding what will be designated and which departments, branches and agencies should be designated in addition to the Childrenís Act.
Youth ó anyone under 24 years of age. The Yukonís Childrenís Act permits service to 19. Somebody was asleep at the switch, because the definition of "youth" is the one that we use consistently through employment applications for our summer student employment program ó just starting in the territory this month. Somebody forgot about anybody who is 19 years and two months. Itís either inconsistent, caused by copying a B.C. act directly off the Internet, or the proponents of the bill ó we donít know at this point ó had something else in mind with respect to the scope.
Will the advocate be able to investigate social assistance cases that involve young adults? Itís debatable; itís not clear. Where was the consistency? Where was the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes in coming forward with reasonable points in the bill? Where was the thought given to the drafting of the legislation?
In section 4, the advocate is given extensive powers to act regardless of whether or not anyone asks him. There is no balancing provision that would permit a family, child, youth ó we think should be at a higher age ó or a First Nation person to prevent the advocate from intervening in their life. Itís a serious omission from the bill, which doesnít respect the autonomy of individuals who receive service from government. We all know that we have to be uniform in providing services for government. Otherwise, the legislation could likely be ruled ultra vires, a Latin term for "beyond the powers of the Legislature."
In section 6, the advocate should be appointed on the recommendation of the Legislative Assembly. This bill then permits the advocate to delegate his or her powers to any other person, agency or community organization. Is that workable? Is that fair? One would question the accountability of an organization acting pursuant to these delegated powers when they donít report to the Legislative Assembly.
In section 7, there is a provision again that needs to be examined. It needs to be assessed with respect to existing Yukon law on access to information. When read in conjunction with the broad power of the advocate to investigate even without permission of the client, the provision again ignores the right of any individual to determine who sees personal information about himself or herself. This is a right that currently underpins existing Yukon law.
Salary ó wow. The proposed bill provides the advocate will be paid a salary equal to that paid to the chief judge of the provincial ó not even territorial ó provincial court. It ignores, perhaps, one of the most fundamental aspects of how the remuneration is determined.
Although we have not yet got to the debate on the Health and Social Services budget, all members, if they were keenly applying their wisdom to debating this bill today, should have been reading what is in that budget document. In there, the Minister of Health and Social Services commits to developing an action implementation plan in this matter over the next year. There is more in that one statement in the budget than we got out of the NDP in the previous three and a half years, and the previous Minister of Health and Social Services, who wouldnít move on it under the previous governmentís regime. That is more than anyone over there could commit to. Read it; donít take my word for it. It is in bold face type on the budget right now. How much does Health pay out in order to finance the portion for the group home services for seniors? Where is the member with his information on that?
We have many concerns with the bill. There are confusing inconsistencies that relate broadly to other Yukon laws in the territory. The ombudsman I mentioned earlier. The access to information is yet another one. There appear to be unfettered powers of the advocate to do whatever he/she wants on a very broad basis and continue without any checks and balances to stop them. The previous system presented far too much duplication, and the advocate approach moved the focus of accountability for services away from responsible government departments. How would that work under our present regime? I want to emphasize again and again and again that the departmental staff in Health and Social Services are currently carrying out the necessary policy work to examine ways that a child advocate office could be set up.
Weíre not disputing for one moment that the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes is on the right track and headed in the right direction. We on this side are very concerned about children and children in care. But for heavenís sake, if weíre going to do it, letís do it properly. Letís do it with the right amount of research, letís draft the legislation properly, and letís get on with the job. Letís not do half an effort. Thatís what we have before us today ó half an effort, and something that seems to have been designed on the back of a restaurant napkin over a hamburger. Thatís what we see in some of the stuff here today.
We want to consider the issue by taking into account the views of all interested parties in the Yukon. Did he? Did the opposition when they brought this forward? We want to consider with Yukoners the role thatís needed, given our small size and service system. We have begun discussions with the Council of Yukon First Nations on a number of child welfare topics. It quite likely will show up in future legislation given the success of this government, which will make big differences in the territory.
Proceeding with a private memberís bill at this time ó although I acknowledge that the member is on the right track, has the right thoughts in his mind and the right wishes for Yukon children ó is going to foreclose the careful discussion weíve been having and that this issue merits.
The current act limits the ombudsmanís inquiries to departments of government, schools, hospitals, colleges and Crown agencies. Where it has been established in larger jurisdictions, a childrenís advocate has fulfilled a useful role in monitoring the childrenís social service system. But the organizational models vary across this country, and they vary distinctly. We have in place the following bodies that together meet many of the requirements of a good ó and I want to emphasize the word "good" again ó a good childrenís advocate. We want that, and we want better. We want the best in the country for the Yukon childrenís advocate.
It requires that all staff applying the act make the best decisions ó
Speaker: Order please. The member has two minutes.
Hon. Mr. McLachlan: I want to emphasize "in the best interests of the child". The private memberís bill currently before the Legislature doesnít demonstrate that to us. The official guardian may appoint a lawyer to act as child advocate for a child who is the subject of court proceedings. The child advocate has the right to protect the rights, interests, and viewpoints of the child when critical decisions are being made about the custody of and access to the child. The Health and Social Services Council is the ministerial body established by order-in-council and identifies issues and provides advice and information regarding programs for children and youth. The ombudsman investigates concerns raised by many members of the public regarding government services, including services for children and youth. First Nations advocate for children and their families who are receiving services from the Government of the Yukon. Finally, Mr. Speaker, given the Yukonís small size and the ready accessibility of our elected officials to members of the public, concerns about services for children and families are frequently raised with MLAs and ministers.
Itís unfortunate, Mr. Speaker, I canít go on any longer. I have so many issues to point out where Bill No. 101 is flawed. We will be pointing that out if we ever get to Committee of the Whole when we come to realize those changes.
Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: If the member now speaks, he will close debate. Does any other member wish to be heard?
Mr. Keenan: I very much appreciate the opportunity to speak one more time to this very, very important bill before us.
Mr. Speaker, like the Member for Riverdale South, I, too, agree with her many times. We share a common heart and a commonality to want to do the right thing.
So I can understand that. What does baffle me, though, is the attitude. If we want to do the right thing for the children, then why are we putting the children into a football game? Why are we punting them around? And I do truly believe that that is what is happening in this, I think, rather personal debate this afternoon, especially from the Member for Faro, especially when coming out with personal shots and monetary considerations.
We have considered that. I know the process of government. I have been in politics for 16 years. I understand what politicians can and should be doing. And, in that way, I can mirror the Member for Riverdale South and her comments when she says she wants to do the right thing. It must be very difficult to be in a caucus when you want to do the right thing, and you canít. It is tyranny? I am not sure what goes on there, but it is obviously not right because I heard three Liberal Cabinet ministers on that side contradict themselves. I heard the Member for Riverside speaking about the initiatives of Bringing Youth Toward Equality and the sexual assault programs that have been out there for young people. I have heard that. And that is good. I have also heard the minister responsible for the Youth Directorate speak about the consultation that was done with youth for the youth by the youth.
Mr. Speaker, you were here with me in the room when I heard the Member for Riverside speak that way, and he spoke most elegantly about what they wanted. As I recall ó and everybody that was in the House at that point in time can recall ó the youth wanted a youth advocate. It is there, Mr. Speaker.
In terms of the consultation, that is only one component of it; the other component is what has happened from the Member for Porter Creek North through the commission of the Anglin report. Again, thatís consultation.
Iíd like to speak a bit about the consultation that the Member for Riverside spoke about, and the youth and what their desires are. The programs that were spoken of there, Mr. Speaker, were programs of prevention. God bless the government for bringing forth those types of initiatives of prevention, because if something can be prevented, it should be.
How can a six-year-old child take advantage of prevention programs? I think itís incumbent upon government to do the right thing and start to protect the six-month-old babies, the three-month-old babies. People are crying out for help, we need help, and I ask again: whatís it going to take ó a death? ó to move this government?
The government that exists today reminds me of the Joe Clark government. I donít expect them to last, because they are attempting to rule as if they had a majority government. Every time we offer an olive branch to do the right thing ó not for the official opposition, not for the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes, but for the children who are affected ó we come up with all sorts of reasons why something should not happen. They challenge me to get it into Committee of the Whole so they can come after us and talk about the amendments they have.
Well, if that work has been done, why donít we just go back to the precedents that were set by the Member for Riverdale North, who was then the Minister of Renewable Resources, who tabled a piece of legislation and then, for the first time, I think, in Yukon history, amended his own legislation.
Mr. Speaker, there were oodles and oodles and oodles of amendments that were brought forward by that minister on his own piece of legislation, so donít tell me it canít be done. If the Member for Faro, the Justice Minister, was doing the job that he is charged with ó the responsibilities, Mr. Speaker ó I think we do have amendments from that side that could come forth if there was the political will. But again, I do not see where there is any political will anywhere on that side of the House. Itís hockey season, Mr. Speaker, but the Member for Faro and others insist on playing football, and I donít like the football that theyíre throwing around, Mr. Speaker. Itís about children and youth who cannot protect themselves.
Mr. Speaker, the Member for Takhini says she shares my concerns and then scolds me ó Mr. Speaker, if the world were a sound bite, that minister would be just right in her glory, right in her glory, if the world were a sound bite. But unfortunately, Mr. Speaker, once you get out of the quotations on either side of a sound bite, you come in, and the reality is there at one time.
I certainly support what the Member for Porter Creek North has said. It will take political will. The consultation is done. Then, Mr. Speaker, when we come out and we talk about ó yes, and then put a "but" on the end, why donít we just quit playing politics, and why donít we just say a positive-positive ó or not a positive and then take it away with a negative, "Yes, butÖ." We are not children on this side of the House ó and I shouldnít say it in that context. Mr. Speaker, we are learned professionals on this side of the House who have been around for a good amount of time and know the issues and are concerned about the policy issues that can and should be addressed for the children of the Yukon Territory.
Thatís what weíre about, Mr. Speaker. That is exactly what weíre about, and we have the political will. We donít speak in sound bites. We share concerns. We donít speak down. And you know what? We can speak from our hearts, as other members cannot do. They can only speak from a scripted initiative. It just reminds me again of what this government is all about ó about nothing that I can see that is a positive. When we bring forward motions to the floor of this House to speak on the economy, and then we get blah-de-de-blah-blah-blah-blah, and then we get it all over again ó where is the leadership here? Where is the leadership? Obviously, the leadership is not in the corner suite. The leadership is in the communications office. Thatís where it is. I has been pointed out today in Question Period about reverse leadership ó one gear forward and four backward. My God, if they had a limo, Mr. Speaker, weíd be running people over. Itís just absolutely not right that we should be punting children around. We are very concerned and worried about the children.
The Member for Faro stood up and spoke ó "Weíre going to do it right." Well, let me tell you about these Liberalsí city cousin ó southern cousin. The Liberals in British Columbia have done away with the advocacy act against the will of the people. Is that what this government is waiting to do ó to take away something thatís not even there, but to speak very elegantly before an election, or when theyíre in government and have the authority to do something?
Well, that is wrong. Again, what this Yukon Territoryís Liberal governmentís southern cousin is doing is cutting the civil service. They are cutting programs that support elders, seniors, youth and students in B.C. I know that when the Member for Faro stands and speaks and practices his speech in his apartment in front of the mirror, that he must mirror himself as the Premier of B.C. That is the truth; the absolute truth. It might seem like I am taking a couple of personal shots, but I guess I have because I am very disappointed. I would like to point out that I didnít take the first shot in this House on this issue. It was not I who brought forth this issue as a political football. I brought it forth to the Minister of Health, hoping that we would find a way to do something good for the Yukon, how not to baffle it in. Well, there are many examples of baffle I guess.
So, Mr. Speaker, I have lost my place in my script here so you are going to have to give me two seconds. I can certainly understand the troubles that you experience from time to time because here I am experiencing it, too. I donít know if my arms are too short or not long enough. It is not in the script here my friend or is it? Oh you donít know. Here it is right here; it should be right there.
Speaker: Are you prepared for the question?
Some Hon. Members: Division.
Speaker: Division has been called.
Speaker: Mr. Clerk, please poll the House.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Agree.
Hon. Mr. McLachlan: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Agree.
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Agree.
Hon. Ms. Tucker: Agree.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Kent: Agree.
Mr. Fairclough: Agree.
Mr. Keenan: Agree.
Mr. McRobb: Agree.
Mrs. Peter: Agree.
Mr. Jenkins: Agree.
Mr. Fentie: Agree.
Mr. McLarnon: Agree.
Mr. Roberts: Agree.
Clerk: Mr. Speaker, the results are 15 yea, nil nay.
Speaker: I declare the yeas have it. I declare the motion carried.
Motion for second reading of Bill No. 101 agreed to
Speaker: Bill No. 101, entitled Child, Youth and Family Advocacy Act, has now received second reading and, pursuant to Standing Order 57(4), it stands ordered for the consideration by Committee of the Whole.
Pursuant to Standing Order 14.2(2), the official opposition designated Bill No. 101 as the first item of business today. The Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes is, therefore, entitled to decide whether the House should resolve into Committee of the Whole for the purpose of the continuing consideration of Bill No. 101.
I would ask the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes to indicate whether he wishes the House to resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Mr. Keenan: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. I ask that the House now resolve into Committee of the Whole for the purpose of continuing consideration of Bill No. 101.
Speaker: Pursuant to the request of the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes, I shall now leave the Chair and the House shall resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Speaker leaves the Chair
COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
Chair: Good afternoon, everyone. I now call Committee of the Whole to order. Committee of the Whole will recess until 3:55.
Chair: Order please. I will now call Committee of the Whole to order.
Bill No. 101 ó Child, Youth and Family Advocacy Act
Chair: Committee of the Whole will consider Bill No. 101, Child, Youth and Family Advocacy Act. Is there any general debate?
Mr. Keenan: I certainly appreciate the indulgence of the House, Mr. Chair, as we move forward on Bill No. 101 ó a very, very important bill in the minds of many parents, grandparents and extended families throughout the Yukon Territory. I thank the House for unanimous consent to move it forward into Committee of the Whole where we may look at it and bring it forward.
I must say, though, Mr. Chair, that Iím deeply, deeply, profoundly disappointed with government. Even though government has brought forward comments and has moved it into Committee of the Whole, there is certainly not a willingness to work toward this end to implement something that is so badly needed in the Yukon Territory.
I have heard nothing but excuses from the Liberal benches on this. I have actually heard from deep within the wine cellar on this, Mr. Chair. But it will not go away; these efforts will not go away. These efforts to make a better life for our children is something that is incumbent upon all who sit in this Legislature. And simply masquerading behind a process shows very much a lack of leadership at the Cabinet level and the Premier level of the Liberal government. And for members of a Cabinet to be contradicting each other at the expense of an advocate for children is appalling. As for me, Iím upset.
Iím disgusted at how this is going. You canít hide behind the process. I have even offered to relinquish my name on the bill. I have offered to do that in the effort of cooperation with government and the official opposition, third party and the independents, to work together, and obviously it is not going to happen. It has been said that it canít be done because of a lack of consultation. Well, hooey to that because I do believe that consultation has been done. The Member for Riverside said there was consultation done; the former Minister of Health and Social Services has gone and done a fine job by commissioning the Anglin report, which comes forth again and speaks to consultation being done. It comes down to financial considerations. That is exactly what it does. It comes down to financial consideration and I donít think that is what we should be considering in whole.
I do believe we can consider that in part, but I ask how you can put a financial consideration on a child who is living in poverty, or maybe living in wealth, but still not living or guaranteed the rights that the UN Charter guarantees those children. It just canít happen.
So, Mr. Chair, I donít think this Liberal government should be putting financial considerations on to this bill, other than to find ways to make it work. I do believe it was the Auditor Generalís report last fall that said we had $80 million in the coffers ó $80 million plus lapsed funding. Iíve been around just too doggone long for people to tell me that I donít know what Iím talking about. There is money in government; thereís just a reluctance to spend it on anything other than a Liberal initiative. There are examples of dissatisfaction within the Liberal Party, simply by what used to be Liberals on the government side who are now Liberals on the opposition side. Those are examples, and if the leadership and Cabinet would start to understand that you cannot bully your way through this world ó pardon me, Mr. Chair. I will retract the word "bully". You cannot rush your way and get your way in all aspects. It just simply cannot happen again, and that is exactly what this government is doing.
Weíre sitting on approximately $100 million ó and what are we saving it for? What are we saving it for? Every day I hear in this House about the economy and, "Weíre doing it. Weíre doing it. Weíre doing it." The Premier can stand on her feet and say, "I can say something about statistics. but itís unparliamentary."
Mr. Chair, letís just forget about all that language and do the right thing. Letís concertedly move forward with the wealth that we have that is held within the treasury of the Liberal government and distribute that wealth where that wealth should be distributed. That wealth should absolutely be distributed to the children of the Yukon Territory ó the children in need. There is a need ó regardless of what the former Justice minister might think, there is a need out there of those children. We can speak elegantly about it but, until action takes place, itís not right. It is just absolutely not right.
$35 million is an adequate figure to hold in the bank. I do believe those were the Premierís words. Make it $40 million, Mr. Speaker ó thatís less than half of the money that is in the coffers of this Liberal government. What is the Liberal government waiting for?
Aside from taking personal shots, what are we waiting for? Are we waiting for cooperation? Well, cooperation is here. Are we waiting for finances? Again, finances are here.
I just canít say how serious this is. It has been asked why we didnít bring it in. Everything in time, Mr. Chair, everything in time ó roads, childrenís services, dentistry. They shouldnít be political footballs. Yukon people, regardless of where you live ó and we all choose to live in different spots, whether itís urban, urban-rural, rural or way the heck out in the bush as a trapper ó deserve services. It cannot be delivered in all cases because we have to have fiscal responsibility.
Iím telling you that the New Democrat government previously did have the fiscal responsibility. We delivered programs in every sector. We had plans to move forward with childrenís services and to do these things, and we were moving in that direction. And we left, I believe, $64 million in the hands of the Member for Faro as one of the people on Management Board.
What is this Management Board and Cabinet doing now? Playing football in hockey season and using children.
Itís absolutely disgusting. Mr. Chair, Iím not going to allow this government to get off this easy. Already I can hear the typewriters clicking upstairs. I can hear them, Mr. Speaker. I can feel their vibration right through these walls, because that spin crew upstairs is getting at it full-time. They know, after listening to comments from the member from Takhini, and her sound bites and the Member for Faro and his elaboration and having to read a prepared script twice to fill the 20 minutes, they know weíre not going to lie down on this one.
Mr. Chair, this has been sitting around for four years ó four years in the mind of the current Health minister. And saying at this point in time that itís going to take $500,000-plus dollars to implement this ó what a way to put a cost on the life of a child in need.
The former Minister of Health spoke quite eloquently. Iíve got to say quite honestly, Mr. Chair, that we did not always agree, but at least we talked and we worked, and we cooperated, and out came the Anglin report. We commissioned something to look at children in care. This is not just a logical next step. It shows that things can be done if you have the political will and the personal desire to step out of the box, to step out of the region that you live in and to look at the Yukon as a whole. The Liberal government should not only be governing for the people who supported them, they should be governing for the people who didnít vote for them. Mr. Speaker, there are many more people in the Yukon who did not vote for the Liberal government than who did.
There are children who do not have the right to exercise a vote at this time. If they could vote, whom would they support, Mr. Chair? I wonder. It has been said quite elegantly again today by the Member for Vuntut Gwitchin about the honesty of children ó God bless their little souls.
I could tell you, Mr. Chair, that when we form government, believe you me, Mr. Chair, if we just let the Cabinet as of today continue to rule as they are ruling, then I would probably have to break a promise to my family to return home. Weíre running for government again to form a government, and when we do form that government, because people are so terribly dissatisfied at being used as footballs, punted here and there, pitting Yukoners against one another such as the ill-conceived dental plan where they were going to allow dentistry to flow into the communities but not into the city ó well, people observe these things, people understand.
Mr. Chair, I do get out to my community, regardless of the snide shots that the Premier takes at the folks on this side. I have four major communities to touch bases with. Any given trip for Dave Keenan here who goes out and does something in his riding could amount to a two-day trip because I have to go through Whitehorse, through Faro, into Ross, try to spend quality time listening to people ó Mr. Chair, weíre out there, weíre moving and weíre listening to people, and people are telling me ó well, doggone, sometimes itís not so elegant. Sometimes itís not even parliamentary. And I say, "Whoa, everything in time."
I will not be supporting this budget ó not for whatís in it but for whatís not in it.
And by golly, Mr. Speaker, there is a big difference between what is in it and what is not. It is like the attitude ó the attitude of "can do". I am not asking for the world. I am not asking for a fruit basket that reflects every fruit in the world. I am just asking for something that will suffice, something that will work to protect our most treasured treasure, if I can say it in that manner. And, for the Liberals to sit there and to say, "agreed, agreed, agreed, agreed, agreed" and to get into Committee of the Whole, just to present all of these ó to filibuster, basically, is what it is. We are going to have to be listening for 20 minutes. Unless they have a prepared script from the Member for Faro, it isnít going to make 20 minutes. We are going to have to listen, to be tortured once more as to why we canít do something. That is just not right. Governments should have a can-do attitude. We have responsibilities in place, such as fiscal responsibilities. I am not asking to step outside the monetary box. Those services are for Yukon people, and yes, little Davy, if he is only six months old does get counted into the census. And, little Davy could bring $13,000 into this community such as every one of us do. That money is meant to be shared. Share the wealth and create wealth within the territory. It is to show fiscal responsibility, creative programming and development, and to look at the preventive ideas that the Minister of Health previously had put forward because one day we will get there if we start to work incrementally toward those moves. When I say "incrementally", well holy moly, I donít want to see increments every four years at election time. It canít be in that manner. This is serious. I have said it has been around for four years in the mind of the Member for Riverdale South. It has been sitting on the floor of this House and has the government done anything to it? No, all they have done through the Department of Justice ó the Minister of Justice likely ó is to find ways not to do something.
Yes, but ó starting with a positive and ending with a negative ó yes, but. Yes, but we have close to $100 million in the bank. Yes, but weíre waiting for an election. Yes, but we put ourselves on the ropes within two years. Within two years, this government has put themselves on the ropes, and is now attempting to find a way to spring off the ropes.
So, weíre going into things such as land claims, and weíve finished land claims ó thereís no certainty to that. Weíre shelving YPAS ó whereís the certainty to that? I have a dozen metaphors, but one isnít coming to me right now. Itís confusing. I can only think of the Member for Whitehorse Centre speaking today about one gear forward and four in reverse. Thatís absolutely true, and reverse leadership is personality-driven. Itís what I hear within my riding.
Well, Mr. Speaker, I can take a walk around some of these city ridings ó and Iím not bashing city people ó I can do it in an afternoon. For me to cover my riding is going to take me a week. Are things different? A little bit. But the Liberals should get out and talk to some people out there ó not just to spread propaganda, as has been happening, and that has been happening, because people in my riding speak to me about these issues.
I also notice that when I send a letter and the government doesnít want to answer it, in a casework situation, because itís going to get them in trouble, I donít get answers to casework. Is that a way to run government ó to slow it down, so incrementally and so slowly that we think weíre first? Thatís whatís happening here. This is the most appalling government in history Iíve seen ó terrible. Itís absolutely terrible, Mr. Chair, that they would take and use economics and social programs, and that they would abuse a chest of dollars that was sent here for them.
Again, itís a pretty sad move, Mr. Chair.
I have the floor of this House and, yes, I am speaking out of character, because I am a consensus-driven person. If people would work within a consensus mode and actually listen to the people who are mandated and who do not need notes from home in order to ask questions in Question Period and Committee of the Whole, it would be there.
I can see that things are not going to go as smoothly as I want, that weíre going to have to be subjected to Liberals this afternoon talking, so I do now move that we report progress on Bill No. 101.
Chair: It has been moved by Mr. Keenan that we do now report progress.
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Some Hon. Members: Disagreed.
Chair: There will be a count. Five minutes.
Chair: I now call Committee of the Whole to order.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Chair: Mr. McRobb, on a point of order.
Mr. McRobb: On a point of order, Mr. Chair, under section 44.1(1) of the Standing Orders, I would like to call for this count to be deferred.
Chair: This is on a taxation or appropriation bill, Mr. McRobb. Do you see any relevance in your bill that might have that appropriation or taxation authority?
Mr. McLachlan, on the point of order. I will allow Mr. McRobb to respond after that.
Hon. Mr. McLachlan: In response to the member, under Standing Order 44.1, the Member for Kluane is incorrect in his interpretation of the Standing Order. He canít call for deferral of the count in Committee of the Whole because itís not in a taxation bill.
Mr. McRobb: Clearly the side opposite has attached a monetary cost to this bill and, therefore, it could be interpreted as an appropriation of the taxpayersí money. Therefore it does comply with this section of the Standing Orders.
Chair: Mr. McRobb, very inventive, and Iíll give credit for that, but unfortunately opposition cannot present appropriation bills, and thatís how we define it. But it was a good attempt.
Thank you, Mr. McRobb. Weíll go to the count now.
Will all the yeas stand?
Chair: Will all the nays stand?
Chair: The results of the counts were seven yea, eight nay. There will be no progress called.
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, itís going to take awhile to get back into the rhythm of this. It has been over two years since I sat on the opposition benches, but I would be more than happy to go through the process.
There have been a number of comments made by the member opposite about this bill. I think to clear the record, once again, on this side of the House, there was unanimous support for this bill to pass second reading and to go into Committee of the Whole. To rail against unanimous support is just strange ó very, very odd. However, I think that it behoves us to treat this issue seriously.
As every one of us in opposition knew, and all of us who have served since 1996, legislation is a very serious matter. And the 50 or so bills that we have passed through this House since 1996 have gone through a very arduous process of development, of consultation, of drafting and of going back out to the public to make sure that that legislation adequately represents the current views of Yukoners.
With that in mind, Iíd like a copy of the letter or letters that the member opposite apparently sent to our offices that were not answered. I would also like a detailed costing from the point of view of the member opposite on how much this office was going to cost.
Chair: Is there any further general debate?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: With that in mind, Mr. Chair, has the member opposite looked into any other jurisdictions or any other models? My understanding, when I was in the opposition benches, was that the Alberta model was a very good model and was more in keeping with Yukon legislation.
So has the member opposite done any work looking at what is available for child advocate positions in other jurisdictions?
Does the member opposite know how many employees would be hired to staff this position?
Mr. Chair, which programs from the Health and Social Services budget does the member suggest that we cut to finance this particular position? I can name some of those programs ó perhaps the kids recreation fund. If this program is anything like what it is in other jurisdictions, weíre talking about approximately half-a-million dollars to finance this office. So, should we cut the kids recreation fund?
Should we cut the Youth of Today Society, Advisory Council on Indian Child Welfare, community development project, Foster Parent Association, or the Whitehorse Transit and Handi-Bus System? Should we cut the Yukon Medical Association, Yukon Hospital Corporation, health investment fund, nursing education fund, Yukon Nursing Advisory Committee? Should we cut the speciality education fund for health providers? Should we perhaps cut the Liard and Ross River Dena family support program? Should we cut group homes? Mr. Speaker, should we cut programs for seniors because the only option available to the members opposite, in order to finance something, is to cut programs that exist? Programs that exist in Health and Social Services would have to be cut in order to finance this position. It would require a great deal of work. If the members opposite took this issue seriously ó which apparently they donít, because they tabled a piece of legislation that doesnít make sense in the Yukon Territory. They frivolously tabled a piece of legislation that would cost an awful lot of money. There was no understanding of how it would interact with Yukon legislation. There was no understanding of how long it takes to build a good piece of Yukon legislation. And, it is surprising, Mr. Chair, because two of the members opposite were ministers in the previous government. They know how long it takes to build a good bill. The members opposite say they care about children but they donít want to make best efforts in order to build a good piece of legislation. They say that they care about advocacy. If the members opposite cared about advocacy, perhaps they would have reviewed the Anglin report and looked at the other issues around advocacy.
Does the member opposite believe that itís possible in four months ó which is when they have asked to have this legislation come forward, in the fall ó to adequately consult with Yukoners, build good legislation, go back and consult with Yukoners again, come up with an action plan, and look at all of the issues around advocacy, which are substantial? Does the member opposite believe that, as part of the UNICEF protecting rights of the children and issues around advocacy, in four months we can influence policy makers and practitioners to take greater account of the human rights of children? Within four months, can we possibly promote respect for the views of children, raise awareness of child rights among children and adults, and ensure that children have effective needs of redress when their rights are violated?
When you bring forward a frivolous piece of legislation that doesnít adequately meet the needs ó this is a very important issue ó then what the side opposite is saying is that they donít value this issue, because they are paying lip service to it. They took this piece of legislation off the Internet. Quite clearly, they didnít even make the effort to even Yukon-ize the terms and conditions of the legislation. They have a clear contempt for their role as legislators in this House.
Chair: Order please. The Standing Orders clearly do not allow the imputing of false motives in that respect. We are asking right now that we keep away from that language to make sure the Committee of the Whole demeanour does not degenerate.
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Certainly, Mr. Chair ó certainly. So what I can say is that this frivolous piece of legislation, which does not ó this piece of legislation does not adequately meet the needs of Yukoners. These needs are important. These needs have been recognized by our government. These needs are outlined clearly in the Anglin report. These are important issues that need to be dealt with carefully and over time.
They also need to have adequate resources assigned to them. In order to assign resources, something has to be cut. So, once again, letís go through it. What should we cut in Health and Social Services in order to finance that? Perhaps we could cut early childhood and prevention services or the child abuse treatment services. Perhaps we should cut child placement services, family and children's services. Perhaps we should cut any number of other really good programs that are necessary for Yukonersí health.
Mr. Chair, I would love to properly address this legislation with the members opposite, so letís go through a few more questions.
How does the bill protect the childís right to privacy? When a child confides to a third party, does this act apply to that third party or is the child abrogating their rights?
The act identifies the childís rights as paramount. How does the member intend to protect the rights of other family members when it comes to minor children?
If there is a dispute between family members, what sort of dispute mechanisms is the side opposite suggesting to resolve these disputes, Mr. Chair? How does the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes intend the child to carry out investigations? What guidelines will guide this process? Where can we find in this act protection from frivolous allegations by minor children or adults? Where in this bill is there an onus upon the child advocateís delegate to show reasonable cause when entering a residence or other premise? Has the power of the delegate been addressed in this bill? Could the member possibly point that out?
How do we protect parents and children from making uninformed consent to be investigated by the child advocate? I would like to know if informed consent was even brought up in the memberís consultation. If so, what were the results? How will the advocate protect the legal rights of people they are investigating? The advocate is not to be a lawyer and has no authority to inform people of their rights. How do we protect the rights of the people?
Mr. Keenan: Certainly, Mr. Chair, the minister is speaking from a very deep knowledge base. It has been circulated into the department and all the questions sheís asking. I would ask the minister: what has the minister done with the department to provide an answer in terms of what weíre proposing here as a consensus-driven initiative? What has the minister done? The department has the answers. Would the minister please provide the answers?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, the member opposite forgets how this works. Itís the other way around now. This side gets to ask the questions of the member opposite. So my questions ó and Iíll go through them again because the member opposite has made no effort to answer them ó are: what is the estimated cost for the child advocateís office? How many employees do we see to be hired for this office? The child advocate position is not currently budgeted for. Which programs from the Health and Social Services budget does the member suggest we cut? What is the estimate to pay for the advocate? Is that too much? Is that too little? And what do Yukoners think about this from the member oppositeís consultation?
Mr. Keenan: Well, in answer to the member opposite, the Minister of Health, who does have the wherewithal of government to further analyze this ó and Iím sure they have done this analysis through Management Board and whatnot, because the minister did say to me, albeit off the record, that there was to be a $500,000 cost to this bill. Now, Mr. Chair, I think that that is just government putting a motherhood figure to it. I do not see how it would cost $500,000 to do it. The minister is asking me to show which budget cuts I would put in. I am not government. I am talking about a program that should be put into place. I have said that the government, according to the Auditor Generalís report from last fall, has $64 million. That is just a pittance of what the government has at its disposal in order to move forward with this badly needed bill. Again, I do think that the minister, with the access of government, would be able to bring those initiatives to the House to show how it could work in terms of cooperation. Because I must remind this minister that it was this minister who brought forth the motion and the very idea four years ago.
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Okay, letís go through this slowly. First of all, Mr. Chair, the process to do the consultation on the Anglin report is being undertaken as we speak. We have financed a position through the Council of Yukon First Nations in the budget for $60,000. Now, that process is being undertaken. What are the processes that the member opposite has undertaken on his bill?
The member opposite seems to have a problem with motherhood and, quite frankly, I take umbrage at that, being a mother myself.
The conversation I had with the member opposite was, what if this costs half-a-million dollars? Where shall we get the money? Mr. Chair, the actual figure of the surplus as of March 31, 2003, is $25 million, which is not even a monthís operating. So can we go through these clearly again? I have been asking the member opposite some questions and heís not responding; heís not answering the question. Iím shocked and appalled.
Mr. Chair, what are the estimated costs for the child advocateís office?
Mr. Keenan: I would say, Mr. Chair, that using the Liberal language and understanding ó well, first of all, I must point out that if the Finance minister has brought the surplus down to $25 million, that that is below what the Finance minister has said is adequate to support the Government of Yukon for a month. Iím shocked and appalled. Iím shocked and appalled that the Minister of Health could not speak to the Finance minister, and Iím sure they must get together at Management Board meetings to talk about these very issues.
So, again, Mr. Chair, I do believe that there is money out there. There is money out there that this minister can use. This minister has said that it could cost about ó well, motherhood is motherhood and I donít think you have to be a mother to spread motherhood in this sense. The Liberals are very successful in saying motherhood statements of what theyíre going to do. They have not implemented a lot of those issues, and again this is a classic example of saying something and not bringing it forth to the House to do the right thing.
So I would say to the minister, in direct answer to her question, that it could cost about $500,000, but Iím sure that is a motherhood statement that could be brought down to a more realistic issue. If the minister had the desire to protect the children of the Yukon Territory before a tragedy arises, well, it can happen. It takes me back to when this minister first assumed the Health and Social Services department and found millions of dollars to take the heat off the Health department. I think very possibly that the money is there, and I think if the minister would exercise goodwill, we could find a way to make this work, and that is exactly what this side of the House wants to do. We do not have the numbers to win, but we have the time to speak to it.
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Can the member opposite provide a detailed costing of this initiative and, in particular, can he provide the number of positions, the cost of the FTEs and whether or not those individuals are included in the public service agreement? Can the member opposite give a detailed costing of the administrative costs, travel costs, pay and benefits?
Mr. Keenan: Certainly, I cannot bring forth detail. Iím not privy to the finances of the Government of Yukon. I do know that the Auditor General said there is $64 million out there. I take this Assembly back to 1999, when we recognized that government does not have all the right answers. We recognized that, Mr. Chair, and we said we donít, but we were a listening government, and we wanted to be a can-do government.
Well, when the Member for Riverdale South brought forth an initiative that we thought warranted merit, we broke with tradition ó if I could say it in that manner. Even though we had a majority government, we found a way and a willingness, and we put the department to work on the initiative of the private member of the day.
Mr. Chair, there is no reciprocity in here. I can feel there is no reciprocity, and there will be no reciprocity in this room, because theyíre in an election mode, and guaranteed that the detailed costing they do have now ó because the bureaucrats will not go through and say, "This is no good and this is no good." They will come to a logical conclusion, and say, "This is the cost."
Yes, in a motherhood sense, we brought forth something that is very good for children. It is going to keep families together. It is going to improve the quality of families, and it is going to continue to be able to do that. Mr. Chair, I do believe that, in the spirit of working together for the children of the Yukon, that is just a speed bump on the way to where weíre going. Unfortunately, I do not believe that this Liberal government has the will to do what we ask them to do. As we go through the afternoon, this is the debate that will take place.
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: As a responsible legislator in this House, the member opposite should have some indication of a detailed costing on this bill. When I brought forward my private memberís bill on grandparentsí rights, there was no cost attached to that legislation.
Mr. Chair, the member opposite is saying we are going into an election. We have said on a number of occasions that we are not going to call an election unless we are forced to by the members opposite. The member opposite says we are not committed to this position, and I have said, on a number of occasions, that we already have individuals actively working on the consultation on the Anglin report. One of those positions is with the Council of Yukon First Nations. That is one position for $60,000, as noted in the budget.
Mr. Chair, I will ask the member opposite again, and this is not a motherhood issue: can the member opposite, as a responsible legislator and member of this House for the last six years, give any detailed costing on this legislation?
Mr. Keenan: As I said previously, no, we did not do a detailed costing. We are not privy to the resources of government. No, Mr. Chair. What we did is simply what the Member for Riverdale South did, when she brought forth to a majority government an issue that concerned all people. As a majority government, we felt it had merit.
The member stands on her feet and says that brought forth something that had no cost to it. Everything that happens in government has a cost to it. The member stood up and said, "Can you give me the detailed costs in the Public Service Commission? Can you give me the administrative cost? Can you give me the travel cost?" Is the member actually suggesting that within the grandparentsí rights ó which a majority of government worked with for the benefit of the grandparents and family units, again in the Yukon Territory. We did that. We did the work. We did the cost implications and we worked it through because we knew that it wasnít about Liberals and it wasnít about New Democrats; it was about grandparents and their rights.
If this Committee of the Whole cannot get together to build a consensus and work as we are offering to work, to find a way to protect childrenís rights and not hide behind a lack of consultation ó because consultation is done. Consultation is done, and it has been done in part by the New Democrats of this House ó because we are not government yet. But, Mr. Chair, we will be and this will be one of the issues that we will bring forward. Why? Because we know itís needed. It has been said ó it has been said through the Youth Directorate and their consultation as provided by the minister responsible for youth. He stood in the House and said that the majority of the youth wanted it.
The Anglin report alludes to it and says that this can and should happen. The consultation is done. What is not done and what cannot be done here is the political will. So I would ask the minister: is the minister willing to find a way to make this work?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: This is so interesting. You agree with the member opposite and he rails against you. You disagree with the member opposite and he rails against you. It really makes no difference what you say because the member opposite doesnít listen.
The member opposite has not answered the question.
Mr. Chair, the member opposite is a responsible member of this Legislature. He is a legislator. We are spending in this House Yukon tax dollars. We have a great deal of responsibility to be accountable for those dollars. The member opposite refuses, again, to bring forward a costing on this legislation.
The member opposite also continues to rail on about this imaginary $64-million surplus when, in fact, as of March 31, 2002, it will be $25 million. The member opposite refuses to acknowledge that this government is already working on an implementation and action plan for the Anglin report and that we have put $60,000 toward one position ó and this is just one example of the many areas where we are doing this consultation ó in the Council of Yukon First Nations for a position.
As the member opposite is not being responsible and he has not come forward with a reasonable costing, perhaps he can give me answers to other questions. How does this bill protect the childís right to privacy?
Mr. Keenan: Mr. Chair, what the minister speaks of is purely administrative. The minister knows that the next step is to do that type of work, to get it passed in this House, to say that that is the intent and to be certain that that is the intent. Then I think the logical step would be, if we were in government, to find a way to make things work.
Mr. Chair, the member says I rail on. Well, that is absolutely not the truth. It might be the governmentís perception that I rail on. I am very passionate about the future of the Yukon Territory. Iím very, very passionate. I would like to point out that it is this government that was left two years ago with a $60-some-odd million surplus that was left for them. There was spending by choice ó by choice.
The government of the day, in my opinion, made the wrong choice. So, through much scrutinizing, through much massage in this House, we did get the government to do the right thing in terms of going out and looking at children in care. Mr. Chair, again I point out that spending is by choice. If you choose to rip up the BST of a road and not do a proper job on the BST and then have to go back and do it again, that is by choice and it is not done through proper initiatives. Youíre not going to be spending the money there again. So, again, it is by choice, and this minister here is absolutely by choice refusing to deal and work with children who need it.
Now, this minister has found approximately $2 million since this minister became the minister and fixed and corrected things that should have been done, and again I ask this minister: where is the goodwill to do that now, in this case, for children in need?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Letís go through this again, Mr. Chair. First of all, the member opposite refuses to answer the question. The member opposite said, and he honestly said this ó it was quite interesting. He said, when he wasnít answering the question, that what we should do is pass the bill first ó in other words, make the decision first ó and then go out and study the issue. An interesting turn of events, a very interesting turn of events, particularly in light of some of the conversations we have had in this House over the last two weeks.
The member opposite still has not answered the question. He says that he is passionate about issues and this is apparently why he canít answer questions. However, being a passionate individual myself, Iím also a responsible member of this Legislature and, as a responsible member of this Legislature, I look at legislation and I try to get a decent idea of what the cost is of that legislation.
I also try to pass legislation and scrutinize legislation so that the legislation that comes forward from this House serves the interests of Yukoners. The member opposite, because he has sponsored this bill ó he has brought it forward to the Legislature ó should know these basic, basic points about his bill. I will ask some more questions and perhaps he could actually answer a couple; I would appreciate it.
How does this bill protect the childís right to privacy?
Mr. Keenan: There is so much that could and should be done for children.
The member is talking about protecting the childís privacy rights. I am talking about protecting the child in whole, not simply from privacy. That is a part of what we are attempting to do through this very critical piece, I believe, of legislation. The minister and the spin masters upstairs are going to be working frantically right now, hanging on every word we say, looking for a way that they might misinterpret what I am saying. Again, I am shocked, ashamed and appalled. I am absolutely all of those things.
The government seems to find that funny. The government seems to find that funny, because when they werenít government, they could certainly stand on this side of the House and do things.
Again, I point out that a good consensus-driven government will always try to find ways to do things with and for one another. Unfortunately, we donít have that type of consensus-style government any more, but I am sure that it will be coming soon.
The minister has spoken about giving $60,000 that was directed by the Anglin report ó ship it over to the Council of Yukon First Nations. That was their response. What this minister did not say is that they took back a $120,000 line item that was to go to the First Nations Health and Social Services Council. So, when you take $120,000 from this initiative and put back $60,000 to this initiative, it shows that there is a savings of $60,000 there. Now, could that simple type of arithmetic not be applied to what we are trying to do here?
I do believe it can be done. Itís just a matter of choice, and obviously this government chooses not to move forward to do the right thing for the children. Again, I have to point out to the Minister of Health, who was then the backbencher from Riverdale South and brought forth a motion ó four years ago it was okay. She didnít do any costing but, "By God, Iíve got a government over there that will work with me, anyway, because theyíre a bunch of nice folks and want to do the right thing. They are not looking to not do the right thing and save money for an election war chest."
Thatís obviously what this government is up to because theyíre spending by choice. Their choice right now is to take from Peter and Paul and just give back to Pete. So I think that if there was political will in this House, this minister could, should and would do it.
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: I need to point out to the member opposite that when I brought forward my private memberís bills ó there were two of them ó I could defend my bill. I knew my bill and understood the repercussions of each and every clause. These are very valid questions to be asked about this piece of legislation.
The First Nations child secretariat has gained the funding that came from the council. The member opposite is once again getting this all mixed up because, in this case, the member opposite is the one who should be answering the questions, and he is not.
The member opposite continually refers to me as a backbencher. When I was in opposition, I was a member of the opposition. I was not a backbencher of the government in power.
The member opposite talks about political will. Perhaps the member opposite should consider the three and half years that the NDP was in government and nothing happened on this issue. There was another study done ó I remember it well ó and nothing happened.
Iíll go back and ask the questions again, and the member opposite, as a responsible legislator and the sponsoring member of this bill, should surely have some answers. So, Iíll go back and, hopefully, he can answer the question.
How does this bill protect the childís right to privacy?
Mr. Keenan: I can see that weíre going to be going around for awhile, because I told the minister that we have taken a model and that we have reflected that model ó albeit itís not the perfect model. Obviously it canít be the perfect model, because the Liberal government in British Columbia killed ó pardon me, unparliamentary language ó the Liberal government did away with it. They did a post-mortem on this bill and they took it down and did away with it. Sheís in the scrap pile. What are the children doing there?
Now, I can see where there is no willingness to work toward the protection of the children of the Yukon Territory. They keep wanting to ó and I must say that it is by choice; they want, by choice, to not do the right thing for the children of the Yukon Territory. So I asked the minister ó the minister asked me about the privacy of the children. What does the department have to say about that? Obviously the minister has amendments to bring forth on these issues, because the minister did say to me today that we have lots of amendments, that we have amendments to bring forth and it just might not work.
With the access of government and with the financial resources of government and the person years or the FTEs that they have within the different departments of government, they can find a way if thereís a political will.
So I would like to ask again: by choice, does this minister feel that this could work? Is there a need for a childrenís advocacy act in the Yukon Territory?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Our government ó letís get this straight, this is the way it works. The member opposite is sponsoring a bill. This side of the House gets to ask the member who is sponsoring the bill the questions.
Mr. Chair, we have a number of individuals within the government who are going out and working with Yukon First Nations and Yukon people on implementing an action plan as recommended by the Anglin report. This would be one of the very first recommendations that was made by Mr. Anglin. Iíll read that again: "Family and Childrenís Services and First Nations in the Yukon Territory should initiate discussions with the purpose of mutually defining a development and action plan for young people from each First Nation who require out-of-home care."
So letís go through this again. If the member opposite is really interested in protecting children, perhaps he can tell me: how does this bill protect the childís right to privacy? When a child confides to a third party, does this act apply to that third party, or is the child abrogating his or her rights? Itís a reasonable question, Mr. Chair. And the member opposite should remember that for this day, for private membersí day, the tables are turned. The member opposite is sponsoring a bill. He should be prepared to defend that bill. He should have a good understanding of that bill and the repercussions of that bill when it comes forward in the Legislature.
We are agreed; we are totally agreed. There is unanimous agreement that this is an important issue. Thatís why we have the department working on issues around child welfare. Thatís why we voted to bring this bill into second reading ó unanimous consent.
Mr. Chair, letís go through this again. If the member opposite really believes in this bill, thinks that this is the answer to all things, and somehow or another thinks that itís going to save childrenís lives that are in jeopardy today ó and thatís what the earlier comment was, which is just, in my mind, absolutely indefensible, because it said to me that the member opposite felt that childrenís lives were in jeopardy because we donít have this bill ó the member opposite should be prepared to defend this bill, this wonderful bill. The member opposite is treating this issue frivolously. This is an important issue, and if itís such an important issue, then the member opposite should bring forward a bill that will remedy the problem.
This bill does not do that. We are not treating this issue with the seriousness that we should.
The member opposite, if heís sponsoring the bill, should be prepared to have a costing of the implications of that bill, the member opposite should have a serious understanding of that bill, and the member opposite should at least be able to answer one question, which he has not done so far. He has not been able to give a costing for the bill, and I have asked a number of times about how this bill protects the childís right to privacy. In particular, when a child confides to a third party, does this act apply to that third party or is the child abrogating their rights? Itís a reasonable question. These bills deserve scrutiny in this House. Thatís our job. We are legislators.
So Iíll ask the question again. I havenít had an answer yet. Perhaps the member opposite can answer the question.
Mr. Keenan: Mr. Chair, I have been led to believe that the protection of childrenís privacy can be done through regulation. Obviously, the minister knows that and can work to that.
Mr. Chair, I did not say that this is the wherewithal of everything when I came in here. We have been seeking amendment. We know that it needs to be critiqued and it can be critiqued. What we do know is that we, on this side of the House, are not privy to the resources that the minister is privy to.
Obviously, the minister didnít scrutinize the bill and have a look at it.
And I have to say, Mr. Chair, that for the minister to categorize this as being frivolous is wrong. Itís absolutely wrong for the minister to say that this issue is frivolous. For the minister to stand and say that itís frivolous is absolutely wrong. For the minister to say that the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes is against children or against families or thinks that something is going to happen ó well, Mr. Chair, it has happened in other jurisdictions. It has happened in British Columbia where a tragedy trigger had to be ó well, I guess a tragedy trigger happened, and there the death of a child, and the death of that child could have been circumvented and not happened at all if there were an act such as this in place.
Obviously what this minister is doing is categorizing this by being frivolous and saying that I cannot speak to the act, Mr. Speaker ó I do not have the wherewithal of government. Again, I point out that, if the government had a can-do attitude, then the government would be back here, saying, "Weíll be back this fall Mr. Keenan; we will be back this fall and we will have the detailed costing, and we will have the consultation in part done again" ó because the consultation is done.
There is a need, and to hide behind something and say that consultation is not done, and repeat over and over that I cannot speak about the privacy issue ó well, that is just hooey again. That is just terrible for them to say that. Obviously the minister does not want to answer the question. She treats the whole issue as frivolous. She is waiting for something very serious to happen to children, and then there will be an ad hoc committee that comes out and develops it.
Chair: Order please. We have just gone through again imputing motives, questions, or the character of the members. We would ask members to remember again to keep it to issue and not impute motives or any other character flaws to members of the House. Thank you.
Order is over.
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: This is just not the way this debate should be going. It is not the way it should be going. The member opposite brought forward a piece of legislation and is prepared, of course, to defend that legislation. But the member opposite is not willing to be critiqued on that piece of legislation as he said he was prepared to do. The obvious questions are about privacy. The obvious questions are about costing. The member opposite should have been prepared to at least do that with this legislation.
Now, the member opposite says that the privacy issues can be dealt with in regulation. How exactly can these privacy issues be dealt with in regulation?
Mr. Keenan: Well, the minister knows that, based on the consultation that has taken place throughout, if the minister were willing to work toward the enactment of this ó incrementally or not, just to act on it ó that the minister would be able to do that. Obviously, however, this government ó and I have to say not just the minister. I must point out that I have personally nothing against any of the members on the opposite side of the House. I do not wish to take personal shots at anybody over there, and for it to be interpreted in that manner, well, I will attempt to correct myself.
I must say that, when a member would say "frivolous" about something weíre talking about, thatís not a slander against character. Thatís just a throwback of what has been said in the House.
The member has a copy of the legislation in front of her. The member knows, from the previous Health minister, that there were flaws. There is reference to a province that shouldnít be there. Obviously that member is now willing to work to find a way to make things work for the people of the Yukon Territory. We have an act in front of us that can be done and can be worked if there is willingness. It can be done through legislation; it can be done through regulation. There are ways to do it.
Iíd like to say ó and maybe I have to walk the minister through the whole thing. Maybe we have to get into a line-by-line debate so we can get right at it and find out what it is and, maybe through that interpretation and a line-by-line debate, this minister can show me what this minister is willing to do for the children of the Yukon. If this minister is not willing to do anything for the children of the Yukon, then this minister should stand up and do it.
Obviously this minister is not. This minister is going to hide behind the means of the department. I beg your pardon ó thatís not exactly right. The minister has the wherewithal of the department to provide these answers, if there is a can-do attitude.
Obviously there is not a can-do attitude. It means nothing to this minister here ó absolutely nothing. But if we look through the act as it is here, it has the definitions. It tells you what the advocate means. It tells you what a child is, it tells you about the age. It tells you the different things. If the minister is willing to put in the resources of government, as the New Democrat government, with a majority government, did with this Member for Riverdale South, then we would be able to work cooperatively together.
Well, Mr. Chair, obviously, this government, this minority government, which will fall in the very near future, does not want to work with children. They want to hold them in abeyance until such a time is right. Well, this will not allow that to happen. If this act is put in place, the rights of children will be and should be protected, and we can do it.
We do realize that it needs amendments. It was brought forth to this House to be amended. And if the minister would work toward those ends, to see that it can be and how it should be amended, I think the world would be a much better place. The minister has maybe alluded to me maybe not being a responsible legislator. Well, I take offence to that, because Iím a very responsible legislator. I vote for what I think is right, I have the mandate of the people of Ross River-Southern Lakes to do this. This is an issue that I have worked with the Minister of Health and the previous Minister of Health many times on to find a way.
Obviously, there is not going to be a resolution, and I have to point out that it is not because of the New Democrats, the official opposition, it is not because of the third party, and it is not because of the independents. Because within that opposition, Mr. Chair, there is a desire of nine people to move forward to be able to make this act work for the people. Does the minister not believe that a child has rights and that the interests of children and youth and our families shouldnít be protected? Is that what this ministerís telling me?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The Minister of Health has pointed out several times that, in the House this afternoon on private membersí day, when the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes is putting forth his private memberís bill, this side of the House asks the questions and the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes answers them. We have heard no answers, Mr. Chair.
The current Minister of Health and Social Services is working on the problem, which is, as far as I can determine, a lot more than the previous government did. Nobody on this side of the House is masquerading behind a process, as the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes suggested in his introductory remarks before this Committee of the Whole.
We on this side have offered legitimate criticism of this Bill No. 101, Child, Youth and Family Advocacy Act. We have expressed the worry that the member didnít do his homework in drafting the bill. It is flawed, as we have pointed out. We cannot proceed with it in its present form. Let me be very clear, Mr. Chair, that we all have concerns for children, youth and family, but we have a duty to our parliamentary system to do things in this House in a certain way.
Nobody is disputing that there are children in need in the Yukon. The Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes did nothing about that during his time on the government side. It wasnít a priority. "Everything in its time," he says and, "We were moving in that direction," he says. The fact is that his government did not do what they suddenly have decided is a priority.
We know itís a priority, and the Minister of Health and Social Services is working hard on the whole issue of children, children in need, and children in care. This government is doing what the previous government wouldnít. It is a priority, and we are working hard on it.
This Bill No. 101, this Child, Youth and Family Advocacy Act, is not a made-in-Yukon piece of legislation. It was borrowed wholesale from another jurisdiction. The member didnít even bother to make all the basic changes.
There is no provincial court of Yukon. There is no minister of finance and corporate relations in the Yukon Territory.
Mr. Chair, this private memberís bill was tabled some time ago, yet the member did not find the subject matter important enough to call for a debate on private membersí day until now.
This side of the House recognizes that children are a priority, and the Minister of Health is working very hard on these issues. I would like to ask the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes to give us the details of the consultation he did in preparing this private membersí bill. Can he tell us who he consulted with, where and when, and table the supporting documents?
Mr. Keenan: Itís nice to hear from the specialist on sound bites to be able to get this out and about.
The minister has gone right forth and said that the previous government did nothing about this. Well, I have to point out that the previous government started work on this issue, and the previous Minister of Health, who is not represented in this House now but will soon be, I hope, was moving toward those ends. The reviews enacted under the New Democrats were, of course, part of the process ó the logical next step. I have to point out that the logical next step didnít happen willingly on the part of the Liberal government because this side of the House had to work toward getting, under extreme political pressure, direction to do it. Now, it seems that this government will only do things when they are under extreme pressure. It seems like you have to have a demonstration outside or that something has to happen before this government will do the right thing.
Iíve been informed that the privacy of children ó as a matter of fact, of all Yukon people and families ó is under ATIPP regulations and can be put in place to ensure that the best interests of a child are observed.
So, Mr. Chair, we do have something that we might be able to move forward on. Iíd like to point out that itís the intent of this to ensure that there is a body, a body or a group, such as when we put the ombudsman in place. There was a need for the ombudsman to be there to do the work that he had to do on behalf of Yukon people. Again, there is a need for a body that can advocate for a child or for the childís interests through his family, or whomever, even for the best interests of dealing with government.
Is the minister saying that thereís absolutely no need for this? Obviously the Member for Lake Laberge did not say that. The Member for Lake Laberge recognized that there was a need for this, that there was an absolute need for it.
Mr. Chair, I can say that this side of the House has already extended the olive branch to the government to say that we do not need our fingerprints in this. It does not have to be a Democrat-led initiative. It can be Democrat-brought to the floor of this House, and it can be given to government so they can go away, do the right thing with this piece of legislation, and bring it back in the fall.
That offer was made, and obviously the Member for Lake Laberge enjoys it, because she says it canít be done in its present form. Well, as the previous Justice minister, this minister must have knowledge of how to make it work. If it cannot work in its present form, how can it work? Thatís the question. First of all, you have to have a political will to be able to move forward. If you do not have the political will, even though you have the resources, itís not going to move forward, and obviously, Mr. Chair, there is absolutely no political will on that side of the House.
Mr. Chair, they stand on the floor of the House and they ask, has it been costed-out? Well, the minister knows that this is not an appropriation act, and it would be right out of order to even assign the costs to it. Itís in the sense of what we can do for the children. Obviously, again, itís by choice, and if this government refuses to make that choice ó Mr. Chair, again, Iíll point out the minister says itís frivolous.
Well, Mr. Chair, if it was frivolous, why didnít they just do away with it in the second reading? Obviously, they wanted to play political football with this. Were they afraid of the next motion that was on the House if we had this put together? Is that what it is? Is this government so frightened of doing the right thing that they donít know what the right thing is? I think that might be true. Because to say that it is frivolous is absolutely wrong. To say that the previous government didnít do it is absolutely wrong, because the previous government started moving toward it. Now, I can see those members who were elected previously just love to revert back to that criticism role, because it was so often just criticism that was brought forward. There were no olive branches extended on how to do it and how to do the right thing and the way to do the right thing ó no, Mr. Chair, criticisms only. We stood over that, and we recognized, especially in something as important as grandparentsí rights ó as we would have with childrenís rights ó that we would be able to move forward and do the right thing for the children as we, as a government, have in the past done the right thing with the private members.
So for the Member for Lake Laberge to get up and speak about criticism and from a critical point of view, when they know thereís a need out there, that this is not an appropriation act, that there are answers for every piece here ó Mr. Chair, if this government wants to throw this out, then the government should just throw it out, but the government should replace it with something. Is this government willing to replace it with anything? Obviously not, Mr. Chair, obviously not. Theyíre not willing to do the right thing for the children; and, again, thatís just disgusting. Thatís just disgusting.
I can hardly wait for the next one to stand up and tell us why we canít do something ó why it cannot be done. Because we donít have the resources or we donít have the money. I want to point out that not only did the Auditor General say there is $64 million but this government, through a special relationship with Ottawa, has pockets of money everywhere. They have money hidden in here that does not have the terms of references for what itís to be spent on yet.
Iím just absolutely certain that those initiatives will be dusted off, getting closer to an election time or when weíre going to call an election ó or be forced into an election, I hope. Is that when itís going to happen?
I just have to ask the Member for Laberge. The Member for Laberge says not in its present form and that we can be very critical about it, but we cannot ó and I must point out that everyone on that side of the House is a Cabinet minister with portfolios, with resources to make it work. The only thing thatís lacking over there is an attitude of can-do. Again I point out that they are using this as a political football and that is at the detriment to, and hopefully not the cost of, a childís life.
So, Mr. Chair, I can see the Member for Faro throwing his finger around in the air over on that side of the House because maybe itís that side of the House that feels, as the Minister of Health feels, that this is frivolous. But I must say that this is not frivolous. It is not an appropriation bill and it can work if the government wants it to work.
Simply, Mr. Chair, I donít see the political will. Is there political will on that side of the House for the protection of children?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The words of the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes make it quite clear that this is not about children. This afternoon is about furthering his political agenda at the expense of Yukon children.
The member opposite hasnít answered the question. I asked him whom he consulted, and if he could table that information, and if Yukoners were allowed to have input into the content during the writing of this bill. Can he answer that simple question?
Mr. Keenan: I have to point out for the Member for Laberge that it has been frivolous. There is absolutely no political will on that side of the House. If you have ministers in charge of children ó certainly the minister from Laberge has agendas or programs that involve children within her portfolio. They donít want to do it. The government does not want it to happen. They say it is a political agenda. I have to point out that it is not a political agenda. They ask about consultation. I go to the communities and I talk to the communities. I donít just cherry-pick whom I speak to; I talk to the people. I can listen and I can hear. If there is one thing I am good at, it is listening. You have to work hard to listen because sometimes people will just rant and rave or they will just destroy things that they feel they should, as they are making their move toward making their point. This is not what this is about. This is not a political agenda.
I have had presentations. As I have said before, I have had presentations from children and youth who are affected. I have seen the scars and I have said that already. Some scars you cannot see. Obviously the Member for Laberge does not support the protection of children because, as politicians, we are in this House to make political decisions. So she is asking me if this is a political agenda. No, it is not a political agenda but it is a political initiative.
We, the New Democrats, will look, talk and find ways to work with people. Is this a regional issue? No. Is it a class issue? No. Is it an issue of ethics? No. It is all of the above. It is all of those issues.
So if the Member for Lake Laberge can stand on her feet and create ó oh, yes, please, let her do it. If she can stand on her feet and say this is political ó well, Mr. Chair, I am a father. I have children, I have grandchildren, and I feel very close to them, and I know that there is a need for all. Government should be putting into place an advocate for the children. If government does not have the will or the desire ó Iím actually quite shocked that they donít have the political will to do this. Iím absolutely shocked that they would treat children this way.
I must say that, now that we have the spin masters in the room, itís going to get very interesting. So I would like to hear what the Member for Lake Laberge has to say about the protection of children and how this very important part of the Cabinet is going to stick up for the rights of children in her riding. How is the minister going to do that?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: For the record, the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes has not answered a single question that he has been asked this afternoon by the Minister of Health or myself.
Under section 1 of this act, a child is defined as someone "under 16 years of age who receives or may be entitled to receive designated services". The act further defines "designated service", and this definition seems very open-ended. I would like to know if the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes could please tell this House all the specific services that this definition would apply to.
What Iím concerned about here, Mr. Chair, is children who do not fall under this definition. This act defines a designated service as something that is specifically defined under an existing act, is provided by government or provided in a prescribed facility or class of facility. It seems that this legislation is exclusive rather than inclusive. Iím very interested in hearing from the member sponsoring this bill why he is choosing to include only specific children under this act rather than all children. Could he please answer this question?
Mr. Keenan: Well, Mr. Chair, again Iíve just got to point out that certainly the intent of this government is not to protect the childrenís interests in the Yukon Territory.
Now, the members asked about privacy issues, and Iíve explained that ATIPP, the program, can be formulated to fit and work within this. That can be done. Letís drop the quizzical looks, and letís just listen with open ears. Thatís what can be done. It can be done.
The Health minister stood on her feet and said, "Well, whatís the cost? We figure itís going to be $500,000."
This is not an appropriation bill. It is not an appropriation bill, and I have answered the question. The question has been answered. Both questions have been answered.
Now, what this member has said ó was it exclusive and not inclusive? Holy moly, Mr. Chair, holy moly. For this?
If the member wants to snarl at me, Iíll give the member all the time in the world.
Chair: Order please. This is a ruling from the Chair.
The debate has been on topic fairly well, and we want to make sure that it stays that way for the next 25 minutes.
So we want to make sure that the demeanour of the House ó there were other comments earlier about personal and political agendas, or another member disliking or not honouring children. These arenít on issue or the topic, and we want to make sure we get to ó based on policy and topic.
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: The member opposite said that apparently this issue means nothing to the minister, and he was referring to me at the time.
The sponsor of this bill says that there is a willingness on the side opposite to let the government put their stamp on it and bring it forward in the fall. Mr. Chair, that means in four months we are to develop a good piece of legislation for Yukoners. That has never happened. The member opposite used to be a minister. He knows that.
Mr. Chair, if the member wants to protect the rights of children, he should have brought forward a better piece of legislation. When I was in opposition, I did a great deal of research on this issue, and I have since as well. In my research, I found that the Alberta model was a better model for the Yukon. Has the member opposite done any sort of canvassing of other jurisdictions to look at other models for a child advocate?
Mr. Keenan: No, Mr. Chair, we have not because, as I said, we felt there was certainly a need for a child advocate in the territory and if the minister has found a better model that could be adapted to work toward the protection and preservation of childrenís rights within the territory, then I would welcome going to that model. I have been quite clear in this House this afternoon and previously when this has come up that this is not about me; this is not about a political agenda; this is not about the New Democrats; this is not about the Liberals or the Conservatives. This is about children, so weíre very, very willing to be able to find a way to make it work for children. Absolutely. And if the minister has a better model in mind, then please bring it forward and find a way to make it better because thatís exactly what weíre about.
Mr. Chair, I did not say anything about people not having children. I said that I, myself, have children and I know that other people who do not have children feel very deeply. Children are the essence of our lifeblood as a society and itís up to us to be able to do the right thing at the right time. To say itís inclusive or exclusive ó well, I hope nobody has to use this. I would hope that this trigger we would put in place would not ever be used, but obviously it is going to be used because that is the way of the world.
So whether itís inclusive or exclusive, itís about children in need. Thatís exactly what itís about. So, yes, if the Health minister is willing to look at different models and work with us, Iím absolutely willing to sit down and work with this minister to find a model that will work toward the protection of children. Absolutely.
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: The department is going throughout the Yukon, on the direction of this government, to speak to Yukoners about the development of an action plan for Yukon First Nation people and for Yukon First Nation young people in particular. That is what the government is doing.
The member opposite states the position that this is all about children. Well, itís also about our responsibility as legislators. We are the end of the road. This is where legislation becomes law. This is our responsibility as legislators. The bills literally stop here.
It is reasonable for the member opposite who brings forward a bill to expect reasonable criticism of that bill. Itís reasonable for us to have a debate in this House with a few facts on the table. Bearing that in mind, I have some more questions about this bill.
Now, how does the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes intend the child advocate to carry out investigations? This differs from jurisdiction to jurisdiction? What guidelines will guide this process, and where can we find in this act protection from frivolous allegations by minor children or adults?
Mr. Keenan: I was very hopeful there, just a few moments ago, that this minister would be able to stand on her feet and say, "Yes, weíve looked at these different examples and weíve done this and weíre going to be doing this and weíre going out and weíre going to be talking to First Nation people."
Are First Nation people the only people this minister is going to talk about? Thatís exactly what I heard from this minister ó "Weíre going to be involved in partnership." Itís important that we involve First Nations people, but itís important that we talk to all. Certainly, that consultation has been done. It has been done through the Anglin report. It has been stated what direction to go in. It has been done through the minister responsible for the Youth Directorate. He said that the majority of the youth wanted a youth advocate.
What do we, as legislators, have to say about what the youth have to say to us? We should have the attitude of, "Yes, I agree." With whatís happening in other parts of the world, we want to prevent ó and weíre putting preventive measures into place, and weíre going to continue to do that. But weíre also going to be putting into place an act, and the act that has been started here. If this is not the polished version, then so be it. Letís work it and look at the different models. That is exactly what I want to hear from this minister. I want to see that itís going.
The minister talks about guidelines. Those guidelines should be culturally relevant to all of the cultures of the territory. It should show the linkages to the families, et cetera. They can and should be developed, and this is ongoing work. Again, I ask this minister: is this minister willing to sit down and work with us to find a way to expedite this process and do the right thing for the children? As a former New Democrat government and as a Cabinet minister in charge of youth, we saw it was a good thing and we went out to do the right thing.
The minister says I should expect reasonable criticism. I do expect reasonable criticism. I also expect answers. Iím trying to be part of a process. I want to find a process that will work ó that will enable us to work as mandated legislators for the best interests of the Yukon people who are out there to protect.
I do not think, as the minister has said, that this is the end of the road, that the bill stops here, that the buck stops here. No, no, no. This is not the end of the road; this is not the end of the rainbow. This is not it. This is a place where we look at the big picture and we find ways to enact, as responsible legislators, to be able to work and protect the children of the Yukon Territory, and we cannot say that there are not abuses because there are abuses. And they asked whom have I consulted? I talk to people in the Yukon seven days a week, and I have seen the scars ó both the emotional and physical scars ó of people who were put into a situation. And thank God they were there to talk to me about those issues. Hence we bring forth an act that might be able to be worked upon and built upon with this minister. So I would very much enjoy it if the minister would find a way that we could work cooperatively together to do the right thing and not make it political. Is the minister willing to do that? Is the minister willing to accept that reasonable criticism?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, letís go through the process again. The member opposite is sponsoring the bill. He is to answer questions on the bill. Itís reasonable to expect criticism of the bill. The member opposite was a minister in this House. He understands what the process is.
Mr. Chair, of course we want to work together, but in order to do that we have to have a better understanding of what the positions or the policies are of the member opposite who brought forward the bill. The member opposite has not been answering the questions or giving us any indication of what those policies or positions are. So it is very difficult to debate something when one doesnít know what the other side is thinking, especially the member opposite who sponsored this bill.
The member opposite has seen the scars, he says. Well, the member opposite seems to think that he has some sort of monopoly on feeling other peopleís pain. Mr. Chair, Iím the minister responsible for Health and Social Services. I am responsible for all children in care. If the member opposite doesnít think that I take that responsibility quite seriously, then he is sadly mistaken.
Mr. Chair, if the member opposite thinks that this is such an important issue, he should have come forward with a much better piece of legislation. What he is now advocating is that, in four months, we should bring forward a government bill to answer his concerns, whatever they are. We have no idea what the member oppositeís concerns are, because he will not be forthcoming on answers about the policy behind this bill or answers on the positions of the party opposite on this bill. Letís remember that we have no idea what the positions are of the members opposite because, when they were in government for three and a half years, they didnít bring forward this issue for discussion. So we really have no idea where the member opposite is coming from. At the very least, he should be able to defend the bill that he brought forward for discussion on the floor of this Legislature.
So I am going to ask a few more questions. Thatís how it works ó we ask the questions and the member opposite will recall that he is supposed to provide the answers. So here are some more questions. This will give us a better idea what the policy is behind this bill.
Now, how do we protect parents and children from making uninformed consent to be investigated by the child advocate? I would like to know if informed consent was even brought up in the memberís consultation, if he did one and, if so, what were the results?
Mr. Roberts: Iíd like to move an amendment.
Chair: Order please. We wonít be able to take any amendments until line-by-line, Mr. Roberts. Thanks.
Mr. Keenan: Thank you very much, Mr. Chair ó with my hearing problem, and in-between taking this out, I didnít hear you address me. I thank you.
The Member for Riverdale South says that ó Iím speaking about myself now ó that she doesnít know what Iím thinking.
The member doesnít know where Iím coming from. The member doesnít know my concern. Well, my goodness, Iíve been standing on the floor of this House for three and a half hours talking about what my concern is. If the minister canít recognize what my concern is or where Iím coming from on this, I will elaborate again on what the minister needs to know.
My concern is that there is no adequate protection for children in the Yukon Territory. There is an absence of protection. There is a vacuum that should not be there. We are a small jurisdiction ó 30,000 ó but we have all the big city problems. The world truly is a global village at this point in time, and we do have all those problems.
The minister wants to know what Iím thinking. Iím thinking that we should get proactive and, even though there is only one avenue for a backbencher, a member of the opposition, to bring something forward to government, and that only avenue is through a motion ó I have done that. Iíve shared with the minister what my concern is. We found a way we might be able to take a model and adopt it. I have said consistently in this House that it wasnít perfect and was never meant to be perfect. It was meant to be built upon and to be worked upon. What am I thinking? Iím thinking thereís a need. There is a definite need for this.
Iím concerned. The minister says I should have all the answers. No, I should not have all the answers. I should have the right to work with government, my government, as a legislator, as an elected representative of a riding, to bring forth an avenue through which to work with this minister, with this Cabinet.
Obviously, this minister and this Cabinet are not desirous of working for the protection of children. Theyíre not. They will find a way that will enable us to not do the right thing. I want to point out, Mr. Chair, that this doggone thing has been sitting on the Order Paper for almost two years ó two years. Is this government telling me that they didnít anticipate that it would be coming and that they did not sit down and find the work, that they actually said, "Letís look at it from the other side. Oh, yeah, and Keenan, all heís doing is he has got a political agenda." Itís not a political agenda. Itís not. Itís about doing the right thing for children in need.
Mr. Chair, I look on that side of the House, and I see people who come from many walks of life, have many previous experiences, many who have reached out and touched people in need at different times or have reported on those people in need. We have people who I used to think were people with a social conscience who ran for government so they could act upon that social conscience.
Mr. Chair, I have never, ever said I have all the answers, because I am well-grounded in who I am. I am well-grounded with my capabilities, and I know my capabilities. I try not to be all, because I cannot be all. Nobody can be all, and anybody who thinks they can be all ó nobody knows all, nobody. And so when we have people in government who think they have all the answers, weíre in trouble. Weíre in deeper trouble than I actually thought we were, because itís government.
Itís incumbent upon government to try to find a way to make those answers work, to look at a different model. If this B.C. model does not work, then thereís a Saskatchewan model, thereís an Alberta model. Letís find a way to do it. Letís not hide behind, "Iím very concerned about what the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes is saying, Iím very concerned about it, but I donít know what his concern is. I donít know what his thinking is."
I guess it just comes right down to our society as we recognize it in the Yukon Territory. Thatís what my concern is.
I see children on the streets. And Iím not saying that the minister who is charged by law with the running of the department, which in part provides protection for children, is not doing a fine job. Iím not saying that. Iím saying that I want to work with the minister so that we might be able to do the right thing and to bring into place a program that fits. Itís not exclusive; itís for children in need. Thatís what it is. And children in need come from many, many walks in life.
The minister asks what my position is and how it is reflected in the policy. Mr. Chair, we bring forth an act, and we work it through. We have the technocrats within the Justice department. We have the technocrats within the Health and Social Services department. We have them there at our disposal to work. Is the minister not willing to put the resources of government behind the protection of children? Is the minister not willing to do that? I think that the minister should be willing to do that. The minister should be able to put aside the political party stripes that cover us in this House and find a way.
Now, those political party stripes on this side of the House have been put away. The NDP colours are not flying here. The Yukon Party colours are not flying here. The independent colours are not flying here. Thatís because we on this side of the House recognize that there is a need. There is a need in the Yukon Territory for protection, and it happens on a daily basis, where these children need to be protected. It happens on a daily basis.
We the public are not privy to this all of the time because a lot of these cases are right into the court system, and we donít see it. But weíll hear, down the line, about an abuse in the newspaper or something and what has happened. What Iím now asking is to prevent the abuse ó prevent the abuse. The Yukonís 30,000 people ó and growing smaller ó still suffer from the big city problems. As I said, those big city problems are cross-cultural. They cross the monetary gain, or however you want to say it. Itís not just from poor folk; itís from all folk.
Again, I reiterate that I donít have all the answers. I do not have all the answers, and I donít pretend to. What Iím asking is to work with the Cabinet, and for the Cabinet to find a way to direct the department and to bring it back sooner, rather than later. For this to be sitting around for two years on the Order Paper, and for government not to have been able to have the ability ó I donít believe that government hasnít looked at this.
I absolutely donít believe that. Iím sure that government has looked at it at some point in time, because they are government ó they are government. Government should be able to stand up and see this coming and find a way, as the previous government found a way for grandparentsí rights. We found a way.
What Iím very disappointed in, I guess, is that I personally have not been able to convince this government that there is a need for a childrenís and youth advocate. Iím very disappointed that I havenít been able to get the minister to understand. The minister goes into the meat and potatoes of it and talks about, well whatís the costing on this and whatís the privacy ó Iíve answered those questions.
I donít think the Liberal government really wants to do the right thing for children ó I really donít think they want to. I absolutely feel in my heart now that they donít want to, that they want to stay away. They want to be able to rise above it and say, "Oh, itís just the NDP under a political agenda."
Well, I agree. It is a political agenda, and it comes from the people in my riding and the people whom I talked to on the streets of Whitehorse. And for the minister to say that I donít have a monopoly on it, I hope nobody has a monopoly on that ó absolutely nobody ó because weíre not talking about a monopoly on something that is ó I donít even know what the right word is. Something that is so blatantly harmful to society is what Iím trying to correct. If the minister wants to take the walk or if Cabinet wants to take the walk and go out into the streets and look at the different people who are in need ó the youth, the children ó and I certainly believe that they should be doing that.
The minister says I can expect reasonable criticism. Mr. Chair, this Liberal government is simply hiding behind what they call reasonable criticism to filibuster this issue, when they could have brought forward, as the previous Minister of Renewable Resources did, their own initiatives. They brought forward their own initiatives and their own changes, and thatís the first time in my experience in this House that those amendments have been done in that manner, and that tells me that there was no consultation done. There was no consultation done at all. But it was a political agenda and we had to ram it through, and it had to be done.
Is that not a precedent for this government to find a way? If that could be done to a piece of legislation just last fall, and they found a way to amend it themselves, which we agreed to ó we were quite appalled we could not be a part of the process. We had found ways we might have helped to improve the legislation, which we are attempting to do at this point in time ó to bring forth a piece of legislation that might be able to do the right thing.
Well, again, I point out that Iím doing what my social conscience and heart say I should be doing, and I will continue to work to that end. The minister said, "Privacy." I provided the answers. The minister talks about what guidelines we should use. Well, we should be developing those guidelines, and we can be talking to people.
As the minister responsible for the Youth Directorate has pointed out just this afternoon, the consultation has been done and the youth want an advocate.
So I surely hope that this minister understands now where Iím coming from ó that this minister understands my concern, and also understands that I donít have all the answers or the resources of government, but they certainly do. If this Liberal government is willing to sit down and work with the New Democrats as they could and should, then we will find a way.
Iíll tell you, if there is something that would trigger this in the way of a tragedy, it would not be a simple, family tragedy ó it would be Yukonís tragedy.
We would all take ownership of that, Mr. Chair. We would all take ownership of that because the Liberal government was doing nothing but playing out their political agenda, which simply means they want to do it their way; they want to do it on their terms. If anything, that is an exclusive club ó a very exclusive club, and the Member for Lake Laberge knows it because she is the one who wants to bring in the word "exclusive" here.
So the Liberals are an exclusive government, they donít want to include the rest of the Yukon Territory, they do not want to include a mandated MLA to bring forth ó and no, Mr. Chair, I do not have a note from my chief, I do not have a note from my mayor. I do not have notes, but I do have the direction from all to bring it forth. If the Premier and her frantic follies going out to the communities at this point in time will actually listen to the people about these issues, the minister and the Premier and her Cabinet will see where they are absolutely wrong ó absolutely wrong.
Chair: Order please. The time being 6:00, the Chair will now call upon the Speaker to resume the Chair.
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, Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 101, Child, Youth and Family Advocacy Act, and directed me to report progress on it.
Speaker: You have heard the report of the Chair of Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: I declare the report carried.
Order please. 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 document was filed May 8, 2002:
Water Licence Application MN00-031, City of Whitehorse: letter from David Sherstone, Regional Manager, Water Resources, Indian and Northern Affairs Canada to Ms. Judi White, Secretary, Yukon Territory Water Board (dated May 3, 2002); Canadian Environmental Assessment Act Screening Report (May 3, 2002) attached (Keenan)