††††††† Whitehorse, Yukon
††††††† Wednesday, December 1, 2004 ó 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 remembrance of Pierre Berton
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: It is my honour to rise on behalf of all Yukoners today to pay tribute to Pierre Berton, who passed away yesterday, Tuesday, November 30, 2004.
Pierre was a man of vision, an independent thinker, a Yukoner who was not afraid of a challenge or a critic. He was a true son of Canadaís true north, with a colourful history and flamboyant style. It was the promise of the 1898 gold rush that lured his parents, Frank and Laura, to the Yukon, where his father worked as a government mining recorder. Pierre was born July 12, 1920, in Whitehorse. They moved shortly thereafter to Dawson City.
Now, there were no bookstores in Dawson City during Pierre Bertonís youth. As a boy, he spent much of his time at the library. He told the audience at a recent dedication of a library that bears his name at Woodbridge, Ontario, that it was his love of reading pulp magazines The Shadow and Nick Carter Magazine, which led him to real books ó any books that would entertain.
He strongly encouraged parents to let their children read what they wished, saying, ďGet them reading. Thatís the main thing.Ē
Pierre Berton believed books were meant to entertain. ďThatís what great literature does,Ē he said. ďIt entertains you.Ē And he certainly crafted entertainment into his own life as well. Dubbed journalist, editor, veteran broadcaster and author of 50 books, Mr. Berton worked in Klondike mining camps during his university years and spent four years in the army, rising from private to captain instructor at the Royal Military College in Kingston, Ontario.
He was educated at the University of British Columbia and was chief announcer in 1940 for the universityís radio society. He began his newspaper career in 1942 at the Vancouver News Herald, where at 21, he was the youngest city editor on any Canadian daily.
He moved to Toronto in 1947, and at the age of 31 was named managing editor of Macleanís magazine. In 1957 he became a key member of the CBCís public affairs program Close-Up and was a prominent panellist on Front Page Challenge for most of the programís 39 years, Canadian televisionís longest running program.
Several episodes of Front Page Challenge were filmed in the Palace Grand Theatre in Dawson City, due in large part to the efforts of Pierre. During this time, he received The Stephen Leacock Memorial Medal for Humour in 1959 and the first Governor Generalís Literary Award for non-fiction with The Mysterious North in 1956. He would go on to receive this prestigious award twice more for his works ó The Last Spike: The Great Railway, 1881-1885, published in 1972, and Klondike: The Last Great Gold Rush, 1896-1899, published in 1958.
He joined the Toronto Star that year as associate editor and columnist and eventually left journalism for television, hosting his own show in 1962, followed by appearances as host and writer on My Country, The Great Debate, Heritage Theatre and The Secrets of My Success.
He also received numerous honorary degrees in addition to other literary accolades, such as the Canadian Authors Association Literary Award for non-fiction in 1981, the Canadian Booksellers Award in 1982, the Biomedical Science Ambassadorís Award in 1997, and the John Drainie Award for significant contribution to television broadcasting in Canada in 1999.
Berton was a man of many words, spoken and written. He was a man of enthusiasm and immense energy. He loved flamboyant style ó thick white sideburns, huge butterfly-like bowties and dramatic opera cloaks.
When writing, he sometimes churned out 15,000 words a day, including a 1,200-word daily column for the Toronto Star, but he always made time to speak to anyone by telephone and to answer all of his mail.
He said, ďYou never know when youíre going to get a usable idea.Ē His usable ideas were given to childrenís literature as well. He began a 40-book series of paperback histories for children and produced several books of childrenís fiction; the most notable is The Secret World of Og, featuring his own children who discover little people living in a huge cavern under their playhouse. During the humorous and exciting adventures, the children learn about courage, unselfishness and tolerance for others.
Of all his honours and accolades, Pierre Berton particularly cherished a letter from a young Og fan. He wrote, ďI am six years old, and this is the best book I have ever read in my whole life.Ē
This six-year-old perhaps one day read the railroad books, The National Dream, published in 1970, and The Last Spike, published in 1972, which told the story of the background and construction of Canadaís first transcontinental railroad in a colourful and detailed style.
These two works were later adapted to a television series that provided Canadians with insight into the early history of the Canadian Pacific Railroad and its fundamental role in the development of our nation. This contribution earned Mr. Berton the Canadian Railway Hall of Fame Annual Award of Recognition in 2002.
Pierre Berton wrote with an eye to detail, which held the attention of the professional historian and the lay reader alike. Of his 50 works, 20 titles were about the north, showing his strong attachment to this land. In his book, The Arctic Grail: The Quest for the Northwest Passage and The North Pole, 1818-1909, Pierre Berton presented a narrative account of the heroic efforts of British-American Scandinavian explorers as they sought out the Northwest Passage through Canadaís north and up to the North Pole.
When Arctic Grail was written, few others except for professional historians or archaeologists had begun to explore the role of aboriginal people and Arctic exploration, including the search for Sir John Franklin.
Pierre Berton deserves much of the credit for bringing to the attention of Canadians the role of aboriginal people in Arctic exploration. He rightly stated that Arctic exploration, whether it be Parryís search or Amundsonís successful navigation of the Northwest Passage, would not have been successful without the participation of our native peoples of Greenland and Canadaís north and their intimate culture and scientific knowledge of the vast territories. Without them, the Europeans would not have survived.
It is through his prolific writing that we can now satisfy our hunger for compelling, readable Canadian history that brings the past into the present. Pierre Berton also nurtured the dreams of aspiring writers by investing in and donating his childhood home in Dawson City ó the Berton House Writerís Retreat, writer-in-residence program, which was launched in 1996. It was John Gould from Dawson City who convinced Mr. Berton to begin this program of purchasing back the family home. The program is now organized in partnership with the Canada Council for the Arts by the Berton House Writerís Retreat Society in Whitehorse and the Klondike Visitors Association as well as the Dawson City Libraries Association.
The Berton home became the newest addition to the famous authors block in Dawson City, with Robert Serviceís cabin across Eighth Avenue from the Berton home and Jack Londonís cabin just around the corner to the south.
When Pierre Berton visited Dawson City and spoke at the dedication, his words were to the effect that his father would roll over in his grave if he knew how much he had paid to purchase back the family home. And his father would probably roll over again when he realized that his son had the money to make that purchase.
It was Pierre Bertonís original concept to bring professional Canadian writers to the north to experience a part of the country that might otherwise never be seen. He wanted their time spent in the north to infect their writing and show up as a part of their literary works in the future. Pierre Berton donated not only his childhood home, but a large quantity of books at the onset. He continued his enthusiastic support by promoting the program, carrying out fundraising campaigns, and actively assisting with the selection of its writers. Beginning in 1996 with Russell Smith from Toronto, there have been more than 25 writers in residence at the Berton home retreat.
They wrote about military history, biographies about Canadians, childrenís literature, books about dinosaurs, supernatural and political thrillers, river stories, poetry, small business and investment survival guides, cross-cultural literature, theatre plays and aboriginal stories for children.
In the words of Pierre Berton, the Berton House retreats provide professional writers with the most precious of assets ó uninterrupted time in which to work or contemplate their work. It also provides a unique opportunity to live with history and experience life in a remote northern community.
During Pierreís lifetime, he was the first Chancellor of Yukon College and a Companion of the Order of Canada. For Pierre, the Yukon was a frontier land that stimulated his sense of adventure and hunger for facts, excitement and achievement. As a young man, he was known as a natural show-off who loved to sing and recite verse, often applauding himself. He was smart; he was irresistible; he was a Yukoner.
Flamboyant certainly, honest always. He crafted historical prose in ways that opened up our national history to all Canadians and, more than any other writer, he turned our history, once considered dull and boring, into a tapestry as colourful as his plaid jacket, as enduring as his bushy sideburns, as bountiful as his flowing opera cloaks. He was a man of words who lived by his word and he left a rich historical legacy to be added with others who shaped the Yukon, such as Robert Service, Martha Louise Black, Edith Josie, Jack London, Angela Sidney, Diamond Tooth Gertie, Joe Boyle, Skookum Jim, George Johnston, Sam Steele, to name but a few.
For a man who avoided computers and insisted on using one of six Smith Corona electric typewriters, he wanted to be remembered for his books. ďI enjoy them,Ē he said. ďI can hardly wait to get to work, because Iíve been thinking about writing all night. I have the story in my head. I am anxious to sit down and type it out.Ē
And luckily for us he did. This year his 50th book was published, his final work, which is titled Prisoners of the North.
In the 1950s he was involved with a series of films made by the National Film Board. One in particular, City of Gold, showcased Dawson City. This film won prizes worldwide. During a gold rush festival held in Dawson City in the 1960s, a theatre group from New York came and presented the play Foxy at the Palace Grand Theatre. Renovations had just been completed and the theatre reopened ó work that was in part spearheaded by Mr. Berton. That festival launched change and economic growth for Dawson and the territory. Roads were improved, businesses were built or renovated, and people came to Dawson to make it their home.
As a panellist on Front Page Challenge, Mr. Berton championed Yukon at every opportunity, making reference to his childhood home, letting Canadians know that he came from the Yukon, and that Yukon was indeed a part of Canada. He was one voice among many lobbying in the late 1960s for natural historic sites, particularly wanting Dawson City to be recognized. He was involved with the nomination of Dawson City as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and he will be remembered as a champion of this cause.
Drifting Home, which was published in the early 1970s, traces the entire familyís steps from Skagway, Alaska down the Yukon River to Dawson City. This book was the first time I had an opportunity to personally meet with Mr. Berton and his family.
On behalf of the Government of Yukon, I wish to convey our sincerest condolences to the family of Mr. Berton. He will receive many accolades in the days ahead. He will be remembered as a true statesman and gentleman to all those touched by his creativity and generosity.
As a Yukoner and a Dawsonite and a member of the Yukon Order of Pioneers, Pierre Berton took his strength and courage into the world and showed many of us how to fly. He bustled with a brash sense of confidence, a wilful, stubborn belief that we acknowledge our country, our history and our people ó aboriginal and non-aboriginal alike ó who make up this great land we call Canada. His legacy will live on in the Yukon; his memory will live on with Canadians.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker, for this opportunity to pay tribute to a fellow Dawsonite, a fellow Yukoner ó Mr. Pierre Berton ó a master storyteller of epic proportions.
Mr. Hardy: Yesterday Canada lost one of its giants, and Yukon lost one of its sons. Pierre Berton was a historian, he was a journalist, a television personality, and most of all, as has already been said, a natural storyteller. His book, Klondike: The Last Great Gold Rush, 1896-1899, published in 1958, did almost more than anything else to put the Yukon on the map for Canadians, or even back on the map for Canadians. Itís telling of his love for the Yukon that, almost half a century after Klondike, he was still writing about Yukoners. We can see that in the 50 books he published. That theme, that touching, that reaching back to the north was always there.
His final book, Prisoners of the North, published this year at age 84, contains compelling profiles of Robert Service and Joe Boyle, and itís fitting that that was his final book. This is where he started. He was born in Whitehorse, lived in Dawson City and the final book he wrote is about people of the Yukon once again.
He served the Yukon as the first Chancellor of Yukon College. His most lasting legacy to Yukoners, apart from his written work, is probably the Berton House in Dawson and its writer-in-residence program. That has had a profound impact on keeping the name of the Yukon in the Canadian identity.
Every year, Canadian writers are given an invaluable and unique opportunity to concentrate fully on their writing while becoming truly a part of the Yukon community. That contribution cannot be underestimated. Just as we have other residences now being set up throughout the Yukon ó the artist residence down in Carcross, Ted Harrisonís residence, is an example of something that has blossomed from this idea, and it will contribute and have a lasting legacy for people of the Yukon.
People come to the Yukon and stay at the Berton House; when they leave, they write about that experience and share that experience through their art form, which enhances the Yukon for other people Outside.
And we can be thankful that we knew him and that he continued to contribute. Can you imagine 39 years on a game show, called Front Page Challenge? Can you imagine that contribution, the work, that effort? Can you imagine 50 books in 50 years? And anybody who has ever read or seen any of Pierre Bertonís books will recognize that many of them are very, very well researched and a lot of work has gone into them. Many of them are not light reading.
Actually, last night, I was talking to my family about Pierre Berton. My son, who is an avid reader ó as all my children are ó mentioned that his favourite book that he read when he was in grade 8 was Vimy, written by Pierre Berton. It had a powerful, powerful impact on him. So young people are touched by what he has written, his contribution. There is so much to say about this man, but there is also so much to read. It may take a lifetime to go through the books and the contributions that he has made.
I grew up in the Yukon, and anybody who grew up here knows of Pierre Berton. Years ago, when Front Page Challenge used to be on TV, that was the only channel we had. Whether we liked it or not, we saw Pierre Berton, along with the other guests who were on that show year after year. And that was part and parcel of living up here and watching that.
Mr. Speaker, I liked his history. I envied his life in many ways ó the contributions he made, the passion he brought to his art form, his tremendous work ethic, his dedication as a family man, his generosity not just to the Yukon but to all of Canada.
I liked his politics ó they were politics I could understand ó and the passion he brought to that. And he never shied away from debate or discussion. And I applaud his accomplishments, as I think most people in this room do, as most people in Canada do.
Mr. Speaker, last night I watched The National, and they did a piece on Pierre Berton, in honour of him, and a Yukoner was interviewed, Max Fraser. He mentioned that he considered Pierre Berton to be one of the greatest Yukoners, and I have to agree with that. His contributions have been huge and will continue for a long time ó one of our greatest ambassadors for this northern corner of Canada.
The NDP offers its condolences to his family, to those who are close to him, and we wish that people do not forget the contribution he has made.
Ms. Duncan: I rise on behalf of the Liberal caucus and Yukoners to pay tribute to Pierre Berton today. Pierre Berton was one of Canadaís best known and most respected TV public affairs personalities. He was a tireless defender of public broadcasting and the importance of Canadian content. And, of course, as has been mentioned earlier by my colleagues, he is one of Canadaís best known writers.
His writings empowered readers with a love of Canadian history and a pride in where we have come from. Many Yukoners have their own memories and stories of Pierre Berton, and I have enjoyed listening to them on the radio, in the broadcasts, and in the Legislature today. Together, we honour and pay tribute to one of Canadaís best known Yukoners.
Thank you, Pierre Berton, for your tremendous contribution to our country and, most of all, for your recognition and dedication and for remaining true to your Yukon roots. We will not forget you.
Our thoughts and prayers and sincere sympathy go to the friends and family of Pierre Berton.
In recognition of Catherine OíDonovan
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I rise today to pay tribute to Catherine OíDonovan. Catherine is a third-year social work student at Yukon College. Each year 100 students from across Canada receive a first-level excellence award from the Canada Millennium Scholarship Foundation.
I am pleased to report that Yukonís own Catherine OíDonovan is a recipient of this prestigious award this year. We would like to offer our sincere congratulations to Catherine and wish her great success in her studies and profession as a social worker.
On a personal note, I hope she considers the Yukon as a place of employment.
I do apologize to Catherine for being unable to contact her with regard to this tribute, but I am sure she will understand.
Mr. Hardy: I would also like to acknowledge Catherine OíDonovan and her being accepted for the Canada Millennium Scholarship Foundation.
I ran into her at the radio station yesterday and congratulated her there. She was feeling pretty good about it.
It is very well-deserved. I have known Catherine for a long time; she is a very close friend of my children and our family. Often what we donít recognize is the contribution that young people are making in their lives at a very early age. Catherine has been making a contribution for a long time to the Yukon, to people in the Yukon ó as a coach in gymnastics, as a competitor in gymnastics, as an inspiration to many people. She has led by example and is a wonderful, wonderful person who has very strong social values. She contributes and continues to be involved in many areas of our society. She is also a single mother, Mr. Speaker.
This award is so well placed in my eyes for somebody such as Catherine and her daughter, Fayne, who happens to be Louiseís and my godchild, and we are very proud of the achievements that Catherine has been able to make in her life, and we look forward to a tremendous amount of more achievements in the future for the Yukon, for herself and for her family.
In recognition of World AIDS Day and Canadian HIV/AIDS Awareness Week
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I ask my colleagues in the House and my fellow Yukoners to recognize World AIDS Day. Today is the 14th World AIDS Day, and people in this House as well as around the world are wearing red ribbons, the symbol of AIDS awareness, to demonstrate their care and concern and to raise awareness that AIDS is still a worldwide problem. This is a day to celebrate the progress that we have made to date in battling this epidemic. Itís also a day to reflect on what still remains to be done to find a cure. This serves as our yearly reminder that AIDS has not gone away and we need to remain vigilant.
In the Yukon, 43 individuals have been diagnosed with HIV/AIDS since 1985. Worldwide, according to the United Nation estimates, there are 37.2 million adults and 2.2 million children living with HIV, and this year to date, 4.9 million new people have become infected with this virus. About half of these people become infected before they are 25 years of age and die from AIDS before they reach 35 years of age. While 95 percent of individuals with HIV/AIDS live in the developing world, this virus is still a threat to people of all ages and all nationalities worldwide.
Knowledge is the key to prevention and we need to continue to educate Yukoners at home and Canadians across the land about how to protect themselves from this virus. We are so much more knowledgeable today than we were almost 20 years ago when AIDS became part of our life. We know more about the transmission of the disease. We know it affects men, women and, sadly, children. We know that there are still individuals who will not take the steps to protect themselves from either contracting the disease or passing it on, and we know that there are those who would take such steps if they knew what they were or had the ability to do so. We also know that, with proper support, people can live long lives, making immeasurable contributions to their communities and caring for their families.
This yearís theme is focusing on women, because there are many ways in which HIV and AIDS affect women, including transmission, mother-to-child transmission, sexual violence and discrimination. In the Yukon we will continue to educate and create awareness of HIV and AIDS. We will assist those who have the virus through our health programs.
World AIDS Day is about raising awareness, education and fighting prejudice. It is a good reminder to all of us.
Mr. McRobb: I rise on behalf of the official opposition to pay tribute to World AIDS Day. There will be a candlelight ceremony tonight at the United Church to remember our friends and family affected with HIV and AIDS.
I want to start with the words of Stephen Lewis, UN Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa. He said, ďThe world is facing an apocalypse, and the international community response is abysmal.Ē
I think we have to consider those words when we learn of the sad statistics regarding these diseases in our world today.† Every day AIDS kills 8,000 people on the planet. One quarter of persons living with HIV donít even know they are infected, and they may transmit HIV to others. Weíre still far from controlling this disease. The theme of World AIDS Day this year is ďWomen, Girls, HIV and AIDSĒ.† Women and girls are two and one-half times more likely than men and boys to be HIV infected. This is primarily because of socially and economically based gender differences. Men and women still believe that women are at low risk of contracting HIV, and they are discouraged from receiving early detection and treatment.
Poverty also affects the ability to make informed action for good health. Women earn less than men, and women are often excluded from health schemes if they do work. Many mothers place the needs of children and family before themselves and delay diagnosis and treatment for themselves. Sexual violence makes girls and women more susceptible than men to HIV/AIDS. Research specific to the biological basis of the disease and the effects of available drugs is done mostly on men. Little is known about the biological reasons for the increase in AIDS amongst women.
In North America, women in racial and ethnic minorities are especially vulnerable. In the U.S., black and Hispanic women make up 25 percent of the population but are 83 percent of the women diagnosed with AIDS. Black women were 25 times more likely than white women to be diagnosed with AIDS.
In our Canadian aboriginal population, HIV infection threatens to become a full-blown epidemic. Aboriginal people make up three percent of the total population in Canada, with five percent of HIV infections, the highest rate in the country. First Nation people diagnosed with HIV and AIDS live only 50 percent as long as non-First Nations. This is partly due to co-infection with tuberculosis and diabetes prevalent in First Nations.
Infection and death rates continue to grow. A complex social and medical environment produces such drastic statistics for women and aboriginal peoples in Canada, but the numbers can be decreased with serious attention to the causes. A combined biomedical and behavioural strategy, backed by sufficient multi-year funding, is needed. Much more expanded access to counselling, prevention information and needle exchange programs is imperative. Also needed are programs and policies that decrease the poverty of women and aboriginals, that meet womenís needs for childcare, that promote addictions-free lifestyles and that reduce self-destructive coping mechanisms and risk-taking behaviour.
With an eye to the future, we must be cognizant that safe, healthy and happy children and youth will be at a far lower risk of HIV/AIDS infection than troubled children and youth. Mr. Speaker, we need to do much more to deal with HIV and AIDS at home and abroad.
Ms. Duncan: I rise today on behalf of the Liberal caucus to pay tribute to Canadian HIV/AIDS Awareness Week and World AIDS Day. They are milestones in the efforts to strengthen our responses to the AIDS pandemic, one community at a time, throughout the country.
The Canadian AIDS Society launched the first annual AIDS Awareness Week in 1991. It was to sensitize the public about HIV/AIDS issues and to support the awareness and education efforts of community-based AIDS service organizations in Canada.
During this campaign, itís an ideal time to challenge members of our communities to examine their attitudes about this disease and to work toward the elimination of HIV/AIDS-related stigma and discrimination.
World AIDS Day is about reminding us all that HIV is an issue for everyone.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
In recognition of National Safe Driving Week
Hon. Mr. Hart: I rise today on behalf of this government and the member of the third party to recognize National Safe Driving Week.
December 1 through 7 is a time when Canadians are asked to examine our driving practices and to focus on driving safely. The National Safety Council of Canada has chosen the first week of December to draw our attention to our driving practices, because for many Canadians it is the beginning of winter and winter driving conditions.
Mr. Speaker, driving too fast for the road and weather conditions is the leading cause of motor vehicle accidents in the Yukon. I wish to remind all drivers that posted speed limits are for ideal road and weather conditions. In the Yukon, the winter is dark; itís often snowy and icy, and driving and weather conditions are rarely ideal.
To deal with the changing conditions, drivers need to slow down and need more space between vehicles when visibility is reduced and conditions are slippery. As Minister of Highways and Public Works, I urge everyone to use the following safety tips. Always wear your seat belt. It is the single most effective way to prevent serious injuries and fatalities in motor vehicle collisions. Check your tires. Be sure that they are the right type for our winter roads and that they are in good repair to help manoeuvre and/or stop your vehicle in emergency situations. Give yourself more time. Leave a little earlier to reach your destination. It is now December, and if you are leaving at the same time you did in July, you may be placing yourself and others at risk. Clean your vehicle before you leave for your destination. Clear all the snow and ice from your vehicle.
Mr. Speaker, this is also the time of year for holiday celebrations, and that is why the theme for National Safe Driving Week is ďPrevent impaired drivingĒ.
In the Yukon in 2003, seven people were killed and 30 seriously injured in motor vehicle collisions. Over 55 percent of the fatalities involved alcohol. This year, during National Safe Driving Week, the Canada Safety Council appeals to all Canadians to always drive sober. I am pleased to say that the Department of Highways and Public Works has partnered once again with the Yukon Liquor Corporation and the RCMP to reduce the incidence of drinking and driving this holiday season. As part of this initiative, we have produced holiday hosting tips that the department, the corporation and the RCMP will distribute throughout the territory. These tips are conveniently designed as a bookmark and are available at the Yukon public libraries, liquor stores and motor vehicle offices. The RCMP will also hand them out at its random checkstops. Together with my colleague responsible for the Yukon Liquor Corporation, I am pleased to provide all members of the Legislature with a copy of this safe-host-tip bookmark.
I wish to remind all drivers that, beginning today, the RCMP will be conducting random checkstops throughout the holiday season to remove impaired drivers from Yukon roads. This is part of our ongoing joint effort to make our roads safer for all who use them. Please use this week, Safe Driving Week, as a reminder to make safe driving a year-round habit.
Speaker: Introduction of visitors.
Are there any returns or documents for tabling?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
†Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I have for tabling the Yukon Hospital Corporation financial statement for the fiscal period ending March 31, 2004.
Hon. Mr. Hart: I have for tabling the Motor Transport Board annual report for 2003-04.
Speaker: Are there any reports of committees?
Petition No. 5 ó response
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I rise to respond to Petition No. 5, tabled in this Legislature by the Member for Vuntut Gwitchin on November 18, 2004.
The Department of Environmentís wildlife-human conflict policy is designed to balance the public interest for safety and protection with the need for responsible wildlife management.
It is not unusual for wolves and coyotes to frequent settled areas during the winter months. Dogs and other domestic animals, either chained or running at large, present an attractive prey-base for these animals when food resources are scarce.
Mr. Speaker, last winter the Department of Environment investigated a high number of complaints of wolves attacking and in some cases killing dogs and other domestic animals. This unusual number of incidents in the Whitehorse area last winter was unique. It was the first time in 20 years that the department had been called on to respond to wolf predation in residential areas on this scale.
Conservation officers posted notices in affected areas, alerting residents that wolves were preying on dogs and other pets. An information letter was also sent out, advising area residents to keep a close watch over their pets and to discuss the situation with their children. A total of 11 wolves were removed from the Whitehorse area through the use of snaring techniques during the winter and early spring.
Occurrences of wolf predation such as those of last winter pose significant operational challenges for the Department of Environment. The resolution of these problems often takes a considerable amount of time, effort and resources. The best defence in these matters continues to be to encourage domestic animal owners to be extra diligent in taking precautions to protect their animals with adequate fencing and by not permitting them to run at large.
The Department of Environment has been directed to expend additional efforts on preventive measures designed to educate people so that wildlife-human conflict and the corresponding intervention by the department in these matters can be reduced. The department is also committed to working cooperatively with the City of Whitehorse bylaw services in its ongoing efforts to educate the public.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to report that all indications are that the wolf population in the Yukon is healthy and that Department of Environment staff are fully committed to ensuring that they remain so.
Thank you very much.
Speaker: Are there any further petitions?
Are there any bills to be introduced?
Are there any notices of motion?
NOTICES OF MOTION
†Mr. Rouble: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that all bills introduced in this Assembly should comply with the.
Speaker: Are there any ministerial statements?
This then brings us to Question Period.
Question re:† Fish and Wildlife Management Board vacancy
† Mrs. Peter: My question is for the Minister of Environment. Yesterday I asked the minister a simple question about why he refused to accept a nomination put forward by the federal government to fill a vacancy on the Yukon Fish and Wildlife Management Board. The minister claimed that the terms and conditions of the Umbrella Final Agreement were not being followed in this matter and that he had informed the federal minister of this. Iíve read the Umbrella Final Agreement and its implementation plans and the ministerís explanation makes no sense. Will the minister table the letter he says he sent to the federal minister outlining his concerns with the board selection process?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: The simple answer is yes.
Mrs. Peter: Yesterday again, the minister had accused me of breaking the law, and I found that very offensive. Let me refresh the ministerís memory about what the law says. The Umbrella Final Agreement implementation plan says that Yukon shall nominate six members of the Yukon Fish and Wildlife Management Board, one of whom shall be selected in consultation and concurrence with Canada. The federal government put forward a name; the minister refused.
In this ministerís opinion, how were the federal officials not conforming to the Umbrella Final Agreement?
Speaker: Before the minister answers, it is the Chairís understanding that one is not to ask for opinions. Minister, please carry on.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: The answer to the question was contained in the member oppositeís overview of the implementation plan for the final agreement.
Mrs. Peter: It seems weíre in agreement here today. The consultation process is a commitment from the Yukon Party government, which has not been followed through. The federal officials in this case did their job. The minister simply did not want that person to stay on board, and thatís the end of that story.
I would like the minister to clear up another assertion he made yesterday. He said the federal government selects the board chair. The Umbrella Final Agreement says the board elects its own chair. The minister was wrong. Will the minister now stand up and set the record straight in this whole matter?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Iím pleased to see that the official opposition has gone back and read the Umbrella Final Agreement and the implementation plan. It clearly identifies that Yukon will put forward six names, and we will agree ó after those names have been put forward ó with the selection of one of those. That process is still at the onset. The federal government jumped the queue by some of their officials sending a letter saying that this is the individual that is going to be on the board. The member is absolutely correct. The board selects its own chair.
Question re: Workersí Compensation Health and Safety Board appointments
†Mr. Cardiff: Same minister, different portfolio. On Friday, the Commissioner signed an order-in-council that appointed employer representatives to the Workersí Compensation Health and Safety Board. Apparently the minister didnít see fit to tell anybody about this, including the board itself. So can the minister explain why he ignored the recommendation of more than one of the stakeholder groups that a sitting board member be reappointed?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: From memory, I believe there were letters of recommendation after we went through the consultation process coming back from about 11 or 12 different organizations advancing the names of, I believe, eight different individuals for appointments and reappointments. That said, there was a full process of consultation that went on throughout the whole Yukon Territory, and the timing of the release of the information did not coincide with the timing that we as a government had originally envisioned. For that, I apologize, but the selection was made after due consultation with the stakeholders and on the recommendation of a number of organizations and individuals representing various entities.
Mr. Cardiff: Well, I think we are beginning to see a pattern with this minister. The minister made it very clear when he first took over this portfolio that he had a certain kind of board in mind. It only took him about a nanosecond to appoint the Yukon Partyís campaign manager as the chair of the board. It took him a little longer ó just a little bit longer though ó to reduce the size of the board overall.
With this latest round of appointments we are again seeing the familiar Yukon Party approach to consultation. The campaign promise of an all-party committee on government board appointments was obviously written with invisible ink, Mr. Speaker.
Is this latest appointment part of the ministerís master plan to remake the Workersí Compensation Health and Safety Board in his own image?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: There were probably about 80 letters that went out under my signature with respect to the consultation process, asking all the First Nations here in the Yukon, asking all the major employers and chambers of commerce for their input. A complete and thorough consultation process was undertaken, and the recommendations came back to me and were vetted through a process.
What we have, Mr. Speaker, is a board in place that is workable. But when we came to office, the deficit of that board was almost $25 million. That is not sustainable, and that message was conveyed to the board: they are there to protect that money so that the Workersí Compensation Health and Safety Board can use that money for the purpose for which it was intended, and that is to fund and rehabilitate injured workers.
That is the purpose of that fund, paid for by employers, and that we have to ensure. Itís not about political meddling, which is probably on the table for discussion. Itís getting the best people to do the job, to ensure that Workersí Compensation Health and Safety Board operates in the manner that it must operate.
Mr. Cardiff: Another lecture from the minister, Mr. Speaker. We seem to see thereís another pattern emerging here, and itís about consultation and this minister ignoring consultation. Both employee and employer groups are frustrated by this ministerís failure to implement the new occupational health and safety regulations that have had years of consultations with the stakeholders behind all of that consultation and approving of the regulations. The minister keeps saying to wait for the Workersí Compensation Act review. Well, Mr. Speaker, weíre still waiting, and the translation for that is apparently, ďwait until after the next election,Ē probably. The Workersí Compensation Act is so far behind schedule there isnít a hope of getting it back on track. I am surprised that the Member for Southern Lakes hasnít resigned in shame for the way that he has been handling this assignment.
Is it the ministerís intention to drag out the Workersí Compensation Act review so that there will be no substantive changes to the Workersí Compensation Act during this governmentís mandate?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, the purpose of reviewing legislation is to get it done and get it done right. The members opposite are always going on about ďlegislation lightĒ, and these are old pieces of legislation that must be reviewed. We are going to ensure that, as a government, any legislation we look at is done properly, in the best interests of Yukoners in all categories, and that includes a thorough and comprehensive review of some of our undertakings in major areas.
We have correctional reform underway. We are looking at the Education Act, and we are looking at the Childrenís Act, as well as the Workersí Compensation Act. These are all pieces of legislation that our government has determined need a full and complete review, and that is what is underway ó a complete and comprehensive review of a number of pieces of legislation. Itís not just the purpose of a government to make more laws for Yukon. You want to make laws that are sensible, logical, and workable.
Question re: Energy Solutions Centre audit
†Ms. Duncan: I have some questions for the minister responsible for the Yukon Development Corporation. As minister, he also looks after the Energy Solutions Centre. Each year, the financial statements of the Energy Solutions Centre are audited and, according to testimony in the Public Accounts Committee, weíve learned that the books are qualified, or not in order, for the year 2003. Under this ministerís watch, the auditor has offered a qualified opinion.
Will the minister confirm that, in 2003, the Auditor General of Canada said that the books are qualified and will he show us and table the reports?
Hon. Mr. Lang: I would like to remind the member opposite that weíre in the middle of a forensic audit with the Yukon Energy Solutions Centre. Hopefully that audit will be in front of us in January.
Ms. Duncan: † The minister might want to correct the record. Itís not my understanding that itís a forensic audit. The Auditor General has reviewed the books for 2003 and has offered a qualified opinion. Now the fact is that a year ago, almost to the day, the Premier had this to say in the Legislature: ďÖas a government, as a Minister of Finance, and in our responsibilities to the taxpayer, we want to make sure we are presenting a set of books that is not qualified from the Auditor General. Whatís that telling the Yukon public? That your accounting is incorrect. Thatís not something we should be doing. In fact, we should be doing quite the contrary.Ē Thatís a direct quote from the Premier. And in the words of the Premier, the minister has received a qualified accounting, an incorrect accounting, as the Premier put it.
Speaker: Question please.
Ms. Duncan: Iíd be delighted to ask my question. The minister has to answer to the public for this. Why is there a qualified audit and when we will see the books?
Hon. Mr. Lang: I have to correct. It is not a forensic audit. Itís an audit by the Auditor General of Canada. Itís an armís-length corporation. The audit is not ready. The audit will be in front of us in January.
Ms. Duncan: It has been stated on the public record that the audit is qualified and itís for 2003, when that minister was in charge; 2003 is long past. This has happened under the Yukon Party watch, and last fall the Premier said, ďWe want to make sure we are presenting a set of books that is not qualified from the Auditor General.Ē Maybe the minister missed that memo from the Premier, or that comment. Didnít he get it? Apparently the Auditor General has told the minister that thereís a serious problem. Why is the Yukon Party not presenting this information to the public and why are they not recognizing thereís a qualification?
Hon. Mr. Lang: I think the audit will make it very clear on whose watch this audit is taking place. This is an armís-length corporation. The Auditor General is doing an audit. The Auditor General is also auditing the Mayo-Dawson line. All those reports will be in front of this government to clarify what happened under the watch of the previous government.
Question re: Northern Splendor Reindeer Farm
†Mr. Hardy: I have a question for the Minister of Environment on his refusal to do anything to solve the problem this government created for the owners of the Northern Splendor Reindeer Farm.
On October 21, the minister said, ďWe can assure the owners of the reindeer farm that they will be able to continue to carry out their business.Ē The owners may be more willing to take the ministerís word than we are on this side.
This week, they announced plans to sell or lease reindeer to other Yukoners as pets, as a tourist attraction or for any other reason that the people wish. Has the minister advised his department to make permits available for this, if permits are even required?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: The offer to this firm still stands. There has to be a willing seller and a willing buyer for a contract to be entered into, and the willing purchaser must have the proper authority.
Mr. Hardy: Thatís a waffle if I ever heard one. Now, the minister has been all over the map on this. Let me quote him again. On November 8, he said: ďReindeer are one of the oldest domesticated animals. It is a commodity. It is just like any other commodity ó like beef, like anything of that nature.Ē According to the ministerís logic, there is nothing to prevent the owners of the reindeer farm from selling the animals to anyone who wants them, just like any other domestic animals, such as dogs or cats. Thatís his statement. No permits, no extra fencing requirements ó nothing.
This is my question: has the minister consulted with First Nations or the Yukon Fish and Wildlife Management Board or the Fish and Game Association about the implications of having little reindeer herds popping up all over the territory, with no real way to keep them from interbreeding with wild caribou? Has he done that?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: This is indeed a stretch. The integration of domestic animals into the wildlife population is not something that we support or endorse. The reindeer ó one of the oldest domesticated animals known to mankind ó if this firm wishes to sell them, there has to be a willing seller and a willing purchaser that has a proper authority. They can also be sold for meat and products of that nature. There is a multitude of avenues, but reindeer is another commodity. The problem is the bottom has fallen out of the market for reindeer meat and for a number of others such as elk. Its value is on a low cycle, as has beef gone up and down.
There is an issue surrounding the market. This is a private firm and a private market subject to certain terms and conditions, but if there is a willing buyer and a willing seller and that willing buyer has the proper authority, permits will be issued.
Mr. Hardy: I think this minister is making it up on the fly. The department recently wrote a pretty intimidating letter to the reindeer farm owners threatening dire consequences if they even thought of turning these animals loose. They canít carry out their business because of a regulatory gap that the department has admitted to. The minister has said that heíll ignore the law and issue permits. He said heíll change the laws so these animals are treated like farm animals. He hasnít consulted anyone; he wonít even sit down with the reindeer farm operators to try to find a solution that will satisfy everyone. He hasnít even done that.
Instead of hiding behind the lame excuses and half-baked solutions that simply wonít work, will the minister now direct senior officials to meet with these people and negotiate an arrangement that will get this ugly situation settled once and for all?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: That has been attempted on a continuing basis. As it currently stands, the member opposite is perhaps suggesting that you can keep cattle in your backyard in downtown Whitehorse. Such is not the case. There are rules regarding livestock; there are rules under the Animal Health Act that have to be abided by and adhered to. The regulatory glitch that the member opposite is referring to was ó letís be polite and call it an ďoversightĒ of the previous Liberal administration when they adopted the new Yukon Act.
Question re: Obesity among schoolchildren
†Mr. Fairclough: My question is for the Minister of Education.
The president of the YMA has said, and I quote: ďfat adults come from fat kidsĒ and that one of the factors involved is the amount of exercise for children. Physical education has received less and less attention in the school curriculum. The amount of physical exercise for our students is hit-and-miss. Every school does its own thing.
The Yukon Medical Association recently passed a resolution proposing mandatory physical exercise for students. I believe that we need to do the same thing. So, will the minister make physical exercise for students a compulsory part of the daily school curriculum?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: It is my opinion that there are a lot of members in society who are always willing to point the finger somewhere else. I believe that it is also a responsibility of all parents to ensure that daily exercise is endured with their family.
It only makes good common sense to me that, for example, the parents take their children out skating. Develop that family bond, Mr. Speaker ó letís not try to point the finger at the education system again because our children get no exercise.
Mr. Fairclough: That minister needs to do some homework on this matter.
Itís an important issue. It has been raised in the public in the past, and we are asking the minister to do a simple thing. Heís putting it back into the parentsí hands. Itís about our kids in school, sitting all day, in some cases.
The recent report to Yukoners on comparable health and health system indicators show that five percent more Yukoners than the Canadian average are considered obese. Nationally, trans fats have become a public health issue. Recently the House of Commons passed a motion to have trans fats prohibited from our food systems.
And still we have Yukon schools that promote ill health by selling junk food. Nova Scotia and New Brunswick have done the right thing. They plan to pull unhealthy food choices out of their schools.
Speaker: Will the member ask the question, please.
Mr. Fairclough: Will the minister ban the sale of junk foods in all Yukon schools to promote healthier lifestyles for our children?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I wish to advise the House and the member opposite that the Department of Health and Social Services is currently working on this initiative to restrict the access to ó I guess we can term it ó ďjunk foodĒ and carbonated beverages. What we are examining is the model that is currently in place back east, and I canít remember the jurisdiction that weíve examined as a model, but this is currently underway.
Question re: Liquor licence infractions
†Mr. Cardiff: I have a question for the acting minister responsible for the Yukon Liquor Corporation. It was very pleasant last week to hear the minister promise written responses to the questions that I had asked about enforcement of the Liquor Act, and I would like to thank the minister at this time for that. And for the acting minister, I would just like to clarify that what weíre hoping to receive is the number of licensed premise checks or walk-throughs done, as they are known as, and the letters of warning that were given out for the years from January 2000 to the present. And we are also aware that some of these checks are done by the RCMP and, if possible, it would be nice if those were included as well, to provide all the information.
Would the acting minister undertake to provide these statistics for us by next Thursday, which is December 9? We have not received them yet, so we are asking for them by next Thursday, the 9th.
Hon. Mr. Hart: Mr. Speaker, we will check the department and see where we are as far as tabulating that information and see what we can do about meeting his deadline.
Mr. Cardiff: Iíd appreciate the minister getting back to me on whether or not itís possible to get that information.
The minister last week said that there was a downward trend in numbers of suspensions, and that is due to the compliance with the current Liquor Act. He also said that the improvement was due in part to changes this government has made in response to the recommendations from the Liquor Act review.† Will the acting minister elaborate on which recommendations have been implemented that resulted in better compliance with the act?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: †In response to the member opposite with respect to his question on the Liquor Act, as I understand, 17 of the recommendations have been addressed. As well, some operational changes have already been made or are underway, as the minister responsible for the Liquor Corporation has addressed. We continue to carefully review all the recommendations of the Liquor Act, and as he can see, we are acting on many of them.
Mr. Cardiff: It gives me great pleasure to offer my assistance, because there are several recommendations in that review that have not been acted on. Among them is that the act should define ďintoxicatedĒ. How does an inspector or a server determine if a customer is intoxicated? Thatís a very subjective determination. Another recommendation is that the Be a Responsible Server course be a compulsory condition for licensing, and itís not. Recommendations to increase penalties for non-compliance ó that has not been acted on. And these are facts; these arenít my opinions; these are facts. This has not been done. Iíd like to point out especially that the ministerís implication last week that weíre accusing inspectors of being biased is totally wrong. Theyíre just doing their jobs, as they are directed.
Can the acting minister now say without question that there has been no direction to the liquor inspectors to ease off on the number and severity of liquor inspections?
Hon. Mr. Hart: I donít know what the member opposite is trying to imply in this particular line of questioning. I will state that the Yukon Liquor Corporation is following through on its process of enforcing the laws as outlined under the act. I would hesitate that nothing of any interruption from our point in trying to back off† ó They have a job to do, and we trust that they are doing that job.
Question re: Kluane information kiosk
†Mr. McRobb: This past summer, the Tourism minister enjoyed the sights while on the Alaska Highway Legacy Tour organized by the Mayor of Dawson Creek, B.C.† Along the way, she no doubt took the opportunity to visit the many fine visitor information centres and speak to the friendly and helpful staff. I would also expect that she would have visited the visitor reception facility in Tok, Alaska, located at an important crossroads where southbound travellers choose between two routes.
Given the ministerís familiarity with my questions on this matter, surely she would have noticed a lack of an information kiosk promoting travel through the Kluane region. Can the minister tell us what she observed at the Tok facility in regard to this deficiency, and has she taken any steps to equalize the promotion?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: †Indeed, I do take pride in all our visitor reception centres. They do an exceptional job, day in and day out, during our summer season with respect to providing up-to-date and accurate information for our travellers ó Yukon citizens as well as travellers from far and wide. I commend them for the job, particularly given the many challenges that were confronting all our staff this summer, given the fires, the Parks Canada strike closures, et cetera.
With respect to the member oppositeís question with respect to the visitor kiosk, I think the Member for Kluane was referring to a similar kiosk that is also maintained by the Klondike Visitors Association, with which the Department of Tourism and Culture has had nothing to do.
I should add though that we do provide assistance to all the visitor reception centres as well as providing assistance to the Silver Trail Association. We have assisted them for two years in a row in maintaining and ensuring that that kiosk is open and providing assistance to Silver Trail residents and will continue to provide that information.
Mr. McRobb: From that answer, Mr. Speaker, I deduce the minister has done nothing about the deficiency. Now, due to the lack of action from this government, I wrote to Mayor Case of Haines, Alaska, earlier this year about the prospects of working together toward establishing a basic tower display at the visitor reception centre in Tok, Alaska. Its purpose would be to jointly promote the Kluane region and the Haines Road tour. Iím pleased to say that Iíve heard back from the mayorís office and, in their own words, ďHaines would be very interested in a cooperative effort to better showcase one of the most stunning highway routes in the region.Ē Given the reasonable costs associated with this effort and the good prospects to cost-share with Haines, Alaska, will the minister put up the necessary funds to allow this effort to proceed?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: †Unfortunately, the member opposite didnít provide that information to my office or to the Department of Tourism and Culture, so unfortunately I canít say yes or no at this particular time without actually seeing the documents in front of me. Furthermore, we donít make it a practice of operating kiosks in other countries. However, we do very much appreciate and we do everything within our power to partner with many tourism partners: the tourism cooperative marketing fund, for example, of $500,000 that we announced in this yearís budget to partner with all of our tour operators, businesses that are facilitating business with our visitor industry. And we continue to look for partnerships and continue to look at how we can grow the tourism industry. We did actually experience a growth, six percent, I believe, when you look at border-crossing statistics, as well as visitor reception centre statistics. So we are looking to grow tourism on every front, and we certainly look forward to the information coming from the side opposite.
Mr. McRobb: Why is this government holding back? Weíre only talking about probably $2,500 CDN to satisfy this initiative. Now the Premier called this request reasonable at a public meeting in Haines Junction about a year ago. The Tourism minister also expressed interest on previous occasions.
Now the Mayor of Haines, Alaska is willing to partner with the Yukon government on the costs. The B.C. government was promoting all kinds of circle routes this past year. We can learn something from them. Why is it this Yukon Party government avoids this sensible initiative? Is it because the Deputy Premier, the Member for Klondike, scuttles the idea?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: †We on this side of the House take great pride in placing great investments in the tourism industry, a bright and shining light in the territory, as has been done throughout many years, despite the downturn in the Yukon economy up until recently.
Iíd also like to say that we do take great pride in providing additional financial assistance to our circle routes. For example, I announced earlier this fall $350,000 for a scenic drives initiative starting with the Alaska Highway, from which the communities of the members opposite will certainly benefit. We take great pride in placing more investments in growing tourism. We are doing just that. Itís starting to pay off ó a six-percent increase in visitation ó and weíll continue to provide great investments in product development, in cooperative marketing funds, in our scenic drives initiatives, and weíll continue to work very closely with First Nation governments and municipalities throughout the territory, as well as all our visitors associations.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed. We will proceed to Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
OPPOSITION PRIVATE MEMBERSí BUSINESS
BILLS OTHER THAN GOVERNMENT BILLS
Bill No. 105: Second Reading
Clerk: Second reading, Bill No. 105, standing in the name of Mr. Hardy.
Mr. Hardy: I move
THAT Bill No. 105, entitled Act to Amend the Conflict of Interest (Members and Ministers) Act, be now read a second time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the leader of the official opposition
THAT Bill No. 105, entitled Act to Amend the Conflict of Interest (Members and Ministers) Act, be now read a second time.
Mr. Hardy: This Act to Amend the Conflict of Interest (Members and Ministers) Act is a reasonably straightforward bill that we hope will help restore public confidence in the Yukonís political process. I have to tell you, Mr. Speaker, that public confidence has been eroded; there is no question about it. What we are going to put on the floor today I think is fundamental in trying to find the positions of where each and every MLA in this House stands on this issue. I can assure you, Mr. Speaker, if the MLAs are listening to their constituents, they would be voting in accordance to this change that we are proposing ó this minor change. If they are not listening to their constituents on this matter, then they will be siding with the Yukon Party line and voting this down.
We want to make that very clear. This amendment that has been brought forward would help address a very serious issue facing the Yukon. It is an issue that has been the number one concern of Yukoners since this government was elected ó absolutely number one ó and it speaks to the integrity of a government; it speaks to the integrity of the elected members within that government.
I can assure you that I know that each and every MLA in this House has been approached about this very particular issue ó each and every member. I would like to have heard each and every memberís defence or condemnation of the situation that has been created around this matter.
Letís make no mistake about it, Mr. Speaker: the outstanding loans issue dominates every conversation about politics in the Yukon. Other issues, other scandals arise; they rear their head, but after they settle down, this is the single number one issue, because it speaks to the integrity of a government. Thatís why people are not going to let this go, and they are not going to accept this.
We bring this amendment forward in all good faith to address this and I am hoping today that we have the support, enough support in this House, to pass this, because I can assure you, Mr. Speaker, people of this territory are watching and waiting to see what the government does; to see what each and every MLA does in this House.
This is not the only bill that weíve brought forward to address what we consider a deficit in the legislation. Itís not the only bill weíve brought forward to ensure something like this does not happen again in the history of the Yukon. But itís going to be the will of Yukon Party members that make it either pass or fail. It comes right down to it: it doesnít matter what arguments they bring forward; it doesnít matter. In the end, public opinion is very, very clear on this matter. They do not accept the status quo that the Yukon Party government has allowed to exist around the loans issue. They do not accept the Premierís position or his inability to resolve this issue ó his complete failure in that matter. The promises were made; the promises were not fulfilled.
The public does not accept the MLAs on that side of the House who continue to defend people who owe hundreds of thousands of dollars and refuse to pay their bill to the government and yet collect a salary, are elected, get benefits, represent the Yukon, vote on money bills ó though they still owe money. The people do not accept that.
At the end of the day, if the MLAs vote this down, that is a vote in support of that kind of behaviour and that kind of government. That is something that we cannot accept on this side of the House, nor can the people of this territory accept. Because I can tell you right now, if a person who owes social assistance money is in debt, this government goes after them. It investigates them. It goes after what small income they may have and it collects from them. Thereís a double standard in that matter when you apply it.
If an employee of this government is overpaid, this government goes after them, holds back some of their wages and collects that money, but if youíre an elected member of the Yukon Party government that doesnít apply, because the members on the other side support them.
They have a choice to make today. Itís a very clear choice and weíre putting it to them. No more hiding. No more pretending that this does not exist.
Itís not just a problem for the government; itís a problem for all members in this House. It casts a dark shadow on the type of people being elected. We all wear it.†
Itís not acceptable, Mr. Speaker. I do not like to carry somebody elseís debt or burden or disgrace. We are all part and parcel of the Legislative Assembly, representing people. The conduct in this House ó how we vote ó is reflected on all of us. And Yukon people expect and demand that their elected representatives will honour their obligations, and let us not forget what we swore when we were elected.
What do people expect? They expect and they demand that their elected representatives will observe a high standard of ethical conduct, and yet what I witness in this House around this matter ó two years later ó is not that. I witness a government that has gone after people who owe money to the government and has tried to collect from them, but I have not witnessed that among their own colleagues.
People of this territory see that. They donít like it. I hear it everywhere I go ó everywhere I go. Surprisingly, it is still the issue that people bring up in conversation to define the current government ó their lack of will, their lack of conduct in this matter. Thatís a heavy burden for other MLAs to carry. There is no question about that. Each of the colleagues has to carry it.
They are part and parcel of it. They are judged by it. They stay in the same party. They allow it to happen. They turn away and look the other way. Yet I donít hear any member on the other side offer amnesty to those who owe money to the government. I donít hear that. Not a single member has offered amnesty to debts owed to the government whether they are people on social assistance, or whether they are contractors who owe government money through overpayment, or whether they are the workers of the government who have been overpaid through a mistake. I donít hear the amnesty being offered. Why not? Itís sure being offered to members within their own ranks. What does that say? It speaks volumes to me.
Now, the public expects and demands that Cabinet ministers who make very serious decisions involving millions and millions of taxpayersí dollars will set a positive example when it comes to living up to the public trust. We have tried over and over to get this government to recognize how important it is to deal with this ó not just for the sake of the governmentís own credibility, but for the sake, as I have said, of all members of the Assembly. And do you know what, Mr. Speaker? By passing this bill we can show the Yukon people that weíre serious about making sure the situation does not arise again, that it canít be repeated in the future under any government.
And you know what? Itís not that draconian. Itís actually a fairly simple change.
The bill makes a few simple amendments to the Act to Amend the Conflict of Interest (Members and Ministers) Act that are long overdue. They are not difficult to understand and, frankly, shouldnít require much debate. If there is a will to do the right thing, it shouldnít require much debate.
Now, the significance of the bill is that it puts a member who is a Cabinet minister in a conflict of interest if that minister is more than one year in arrears on any amount owed to the government ó one year in arrears. Not that hard to clean up, in most cases. Itís not saying, ďif they are in debt.Ē Thatís not what it says. It says, ďif they are in arrearsĒ on an amount owed. Thatís something I believe any member in this Legislative Assembly can take care of, and possibly one of them has done that. I applaud him if thatís the case because, frankly, what I witnessed there was a person who saw that this could be done. Itís a responsibility, a debt owed, a debt will be paid. But it still leaves another one outstanding.
Now, the bill also puts a minister in conflict if his or her spouse or dependent child are in arrears for over a year. It also puts a minister in conflict if any business interest the minister or an immediate family member controls is more than a year in arrears on a debt to the government. Of course, the key word is ďcontrols.Ē If youíre a shareholder or a small shareholder, that doesnít apply because youíre not controlling a business. The key word is that you are the one who controls the business. There is a fair amount of latitude there for anybody.
Immediate family, of course ó immediate family, dependent children. Well, a dependent child is quite easily defined already. Itís not a child who has grown up, moved away and owes a debt. That does not apply. Itís not a child who is financially dependent on you. So, again, there is a separation, recognizing that families change and families move. We feel that this is a reasonable and responsible measure.
Weíve looked at other applications within businesses that have similar conditions on positions held. We feel that we should be no different in that regard. This does not prohibit ministers from owning or operating businesses or owning shares in companies. Itís about arrears. It isnít as encompassing or intrusive as many people feel the new federal government ethics rules are. If youíve had a chance, Mr. Speaker, if any member in this House has had a chance, take a look at the new ethics laws that exist for the federal government. They are far more stringent. This does not come to that level. They are far more stringent.
The arguments I am going to hear from the other side will come from all interesting angles. It will be very interesting to hear some of the debate if the debate is to strengthen this bill, if they want to propose changes to it ó absolutely. Weíre willing to do that. But if they are just to find fault, if theyíre just to say no, as one MLA over on the other side likes to always say, that we say on this side, ďno, no, no.Ē If thatís all theyíre going to do on this one is stand up and say no as theyíve done on every other bill weíve brought forward, then letís broaden the debate a little bit. Letís take a look at what businesses apply for shareholders within their corporations. Letís take a look at the federal government ethics laws that exist today and see if weíre even measuring up to that. Maybe the proposal that will come from the other side will be to adopt those ó far more stringent, absolutely. Weíre open.
Itís not as restrictive as our very own Yukon Municipal Act passed in this Legislature, which applies to people running for municipal office.
We already have an act that was passed by elected members that was more stringent in this regard than what weíre proposing, and it would be interesting to hear a debate about that. It would be very interesting to hear a debate if they tried to apply reasoning, natural justice or human rights to that ó because if you start down that path, youíd better be able to back it up. Itís very important. And youíd better be willing to debate and discuss the Municipal Act and see if you want to open that up. And how about challenging the federal ethics act? And how about challenging the many business regulations and ethics that have language that is far more stringent about what a person can and cannot own, what a person can and cannot do?
What does the Municipal Act do? The Municipal Act wonít even allow someone to run for municipal office if they owe more than $500 to the municipality ó $500. Weíre not even proposing that. Weíre not even talking about the debt. Weíre talking about arrears. Weíre not saying you canít run if you have a debt ó just donít be a year in arrears. You can be seven months in arrears and still run ó nine months and still run. But there is a threshold. After one year, get out of arrears. Get out of arrears, and start to honour the debt that you owe. Pardon me; I should correct this. Iím not even talking about running ó then you can sit.
If a minister acknowledges his or her debt and is keeping up to date with payments, there is no problem under what weíre proposing. Ministers in this situation would not be considered to be in a conflict. Weíre talking about ministers who want to have it both ways, who want to have a Cabinet ministerís salary and the benefits of being able to decide how taxpayersí dollars are being spent but who donít feel an obligation to pay back what they owe these very same taxpayers.
That has been one of the sore points that I have heard from my constituents and that I have heard from constituents of the MLA from Pelly-Nisutlin. I have received phone calls; I have heard it in the communities that he represents, but Iíve never heard the Member for Pelly-Nisutlin stand up in this House and take a position. Iíve never heard it, Mr. Speaker, yet I get calls from his constituents.
The MLA from Southern Lakes ó Iíve seen this before from this member ó I anticipate a very, very thorough and in-depth history lesson about this. I anticipate total support for the Member for Klondike on owing over $300,000 and not making a payment for nine or 10 years. I anticipate that from the Member for Southern Lakes ó I am sure he thinks that is what his constituents believe too ó and I canít wait for him to stand up and tell us in this House that his constituents have called him and told him that this is correct, this is all right, to not pay for 10 years on $300,000 but to collect a Cabinet ministerís salary and make decisions on hundreds of millions of dollars. I expect that to come. I am looking forward to hearing it because I can assure you, Mr. Speaker, that the constituents in that riding are going to get a copy.
And itís going to be very clear, very clear where that MLA stands, just like the MLA sitting beside him ó Pelly-Nisutlin. I hope he stands up and makes his position clear on this one because I havenít heard that yet.
How about the Member for Riverdale South? Now hereís a Cabinet minister who votes and decides on millions of dollars. My understanding is that he does not owe the government money or heís definitely not in arrears. But I still have not heard what he believes is correct in this matter, how ethical this is, how a government can act in this way and ignore this problem. Iím looking forward to that defence. Iím really looking forward to hearing whether they defend this conduct.
Now thereís a way to try to avoid taking a position and I will bet that this is the method thatís going to be used. They will attack this amendment, these very minor amendments. They will attack it and theyíll do everything to avoid talking about the real issue here. I want it on record that thatís exactly what weíre going to hear, and I look forward to that. I look forward to that because, if thatís all they focus on, then theyíre missing the mark.
How about the Member for Lake Laberge? I canít wait to hear the defence of the Cabinet minister, the Minister of Health and Social Services, how he defends this minister against not having to pay $300,000 for 10 or 12 years on debts owed. I canít wait to hear the logic and the principled stand that this government is going to take.
But weíre not finished. There are other members over there who could stand up and go the other way and push this through. How about the Member for McIntyre-Takhini? He has informed us many times that he is an honourable man, and I believe that ó absolutely. But you also have to ensure that your actions and decisions are reflective of that honour and belief in yourself and who you support and what positions you take. Itís very important you do that; people are watching.
I know many people whom this member represents owe money; they are in debt. You know what, Mr. Speaker? They pay that debt. They work hard. They honour those debts. They only want to see the same treatment, the same decisions made by each of the members in here applied to another member. Weíre not asking for much, as I said before.
How about the Member for Whitehorse West? Sometimes you never know what youíre going to get yourself into when you run for politics. And when youíre not in politics, youíre standing on the outside asking, ďHow can they make that kind of decision? Thatís so wrong. Theyíre not doing this, or theyíre not doing that, and if I was in there, Iíd do it differently. Mr. Speaker, I would do it differently. I would raise the bar; I would set a better standard. My principles would shine through. I wouldnít be pushed around and I wouldnít allow them to discredit me and what I believe and what I stand for and what my children believe and stand for; what my family believes and stands for; I would not allow that to happen.Ē
I will not allow this institution to be discredited, Mr. Speaker ó an institution I know youíre very proud of and one that you preside over. But the challenge, of course, is for the Member for Whitehorse West and there is scandal after scandal, and a minister who collects a government paycheque, as all members here do. Sometimes I like to remind certain members here that they do collect a government paycheque, and the government paycheque comes from the taxpayers.
So, what is going to be the argument about why this should not come forward ó why these minor changes should not happen or why no proposal will come forward to change it to, maybe, suit them? As I said, Mr. Speaker, I assume that all theyíre going to do is attack this on some kind of legal or human rights argument. But will they bring forward a change? Will they bring forward an amendment? That will be interesting to see. Or will it just be no ó just a criticism?
If we pass this bill today, we will be going a long way toward correcting a very serious wrong in our system. There are MLAs on the other side who are also trying to deal with this. But will they be allowed to vote with their conscience? Or have they been told how they will vote, what they will say, and how they will defend Cabinet ministers not paying their debts?
For two years weíve been waiting. It has been very silent on this issue.
There are two other significant aspects of this bill that I want to mention briefly. The first is an amendment to section 7 of the Conflict of Interest (Members and Ministers) Act, which gives deputy ministers access to the ministerís disclosure statement and allows deputies to act as a sort of early warning system to the Cabinet ministers. This is an assistance to the Cabinet ministers to avoid problems, to avoid finding themselves in conflict. This was a recommendation that was brought forward by our very own Conflicts Commissioner as something that would be good. It would be an assistance. Very simply, it would enable a deputy minister to advise a minister that he or she probably shouldnít take part in certain discussions or decisions because of a possible conflict.
There have been concerns around that. With this in place, possibly that would make the ministerís job a little bit clearer, a little bit easier. He would have somebody there possibly to give him a warning, to say maybe you shouldnít participate in this, pass it over to another minister or withdraw yourself from this discussion because you could be perceived to be in conflict. To us, thatís just a check and balance that would help a minister. If I were a minister, Iíd appreciate something like that. Now, of course, responsibility would still be up to the minister to avoid doing anything that would put them in a conflict, but maybe it would prevent them from stepping into a problem.
Now the other significant element of this bill is the addition of provisions to review the whole Conflict of Interest (Members and Ministers) Act. This is the kind of act that should be reviewed on a fairly regular basis. Circumstances change. Public values and expectations change. We are living in a changing world. Acts and bills must reflect what is happening so there has to be some diligence in this matter. Weíve put it into the amendments to make it more formal and make it happen.
For this or any other act to be effective, it needs to be kept up to date, and thatís why you do it. And sometimes you need to discard stuff that no longer is applicable. Situations change. Other times you need to make some language current. An example would be: in our other bill we brought forward we suggest changing ďGovernment LeaderĒ to ďPremier,Ē as that is the title that is now accepted in the territory. Again, thatís to reflect the current practice.
The current Conflict of Interest (Members and Ministers) Act has never been given a comprehensive review. We seriously believe there are other changes that could be made, and by passing this bill we would be calling for a special committee to begin reviewing the act shortly after the next election and for a review to take place after every two general elections after that.
Mr. Speaker, I will have to view silence as consent. I will have to view their vote ó if they vote this down ó as approval of elected members being held to a different standard than your average citizen. Iím not saying ďhigherĒ; Iím saying ďlowerĒ. They have a choice. They can make that choice today. They can separate themselves. They can speak on behalf of their constituents, or they can speak against their constituents. In this matter, I think itís very clear ó very, very clear ó where the people of this territory stand.
The choice is theirs. Find all the faults you want. At the end of the day, itís about a principle and a standard.
Mr. Rouble: † Itís my honour and my duty to speak to the bill that is before us today. The purpose of second reading of a bill is to debate the purpose and the principles behind it. I would like to do just that.
This is an extremely important issue that strikes at the democratic foundation and principles behind our government. As I understand it, after receiving a briefing from an NDP official yesterday, the intent of this legislation is to declare a member in conflict of interest and therefore disallow that member from sitting in Cabinet if they or their family is in arrears on any amount owed to the Yukon government, and that if a memberís dependent son, for example, had a speeding ticket that was one year outstanding, that member would be disallowed from holding the office that he or she was elected and appointed to hold.
This bill would have the effect of disenfranchising any Yukon citizen from holding a position in government if they had any amount outstanding with the government, be they fines, speeding tickets, building permit fees or money outstanding for a fishing licence, whether they had a legal obligation to pay the alleged outstanding amount or not. If there is an outstanding invoice from government, that individualís right to run, to be elected and to hold Cabinet office would be denied them.
The concept of denying someoneís right to run and hold elected office is a very serious matter and, as I said earlier, it strikes at the very heart of our democratic system.
Democracy is a system of government in which the whole population is engaged. The basic fundamental concepts behind democracy include those such as control over government decisions about policy, which is constitutionally invested in elected representatives; that elected representatives are chosen in frequent and fair elections; that elected representatives exercise their constitutional powers without facing overriding opposition from unelected officials. Itís getting very important that all adults have the right to vote in elections and a basic fundamental concept of democracy is that all adults have the right to run for public office.
Additionally, citizens in a democracy have the right to express themselves in political matters, defined broadly, without risk of state punishment. Citizens have the right to seek alternative sources of information such as news media and other sources that are protected by law. Citizens have the right to form independent associations and organizations including independent political parties and interest groups; and that government is autonomous and able to act independently from outside constraints. These are fundamental to our system. These are the very rights that we as Canadians have fought wars over.
Remembrance Day was only 20 days ago and most of us in this Assembly went back to our respective ridings and were involved in the commemorations and the ceremonies and we got up and we were proud of those who had gone before us and fought for our rights. These are the very democratic rights that those who fell in previous wars fought to protect. People have lost their lives defending these rights. These arenít something to be taken lightly.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which is endorsed by the United Nations, includes the ability to run for political office as a basic human right. In that document, article 21 states that everyone has the right to take part in the government of his or her country, directly or through freely chosen representatives. This bill would take that right away.
The Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the highest law in our country, states under section 3 that: ďEvery citizen of Canada has the right to vote in an election of members of the House of Commons or of a Legislative Assembly, and to be qualified for membership therein.Ē
This proposed bill would take that right away and I find that unconscionable. Taking away an individualís right to vote, to run for office or to hold office is an incredibly serious undertaking. As Justices McLachlin, Iacobucci, Binnie, Arbour and LeBel put forward in a 2002 Supreme Court decision in Sauvť v. Canada, ďThe right to vote is fundamental to our democracy and the rule of law cannot be lightly set aside.Ē They went on to say: ďThe governmentís novel political theory that would permit elected representatives to disenfranchise a segment of the population finds no place in a democracy built upon principles of inclusiveness, equality and citizen participation.Ē I put forward the position that the oppositionís novel political theory to disenfranchise Yukoners based on debt finds no place in our democracy, which is based upon principles of inclusiveness, equality and citizen participation.
Earlier today I put forward a motion that all bills introduced in this Assembly should conform to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. It is a sad day for this Assembly that members need to be reminded of these basic Canadian rights.
I apologize if the member opposite finds that I must give a history lesson, but I think itís incredibly important to go back and visit these basic rights that we as Canadians hold. Once again, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the highest law in our country, states under section 3: ďEvery citizen of Canada has the right to vote in an election of members of the House of Commons or of a Legislative Assembly and to be qualified for membership therein.Ē
This is entrenched in the highest law of our land.
Mr. Speaker, it is my position that this bill is in contravention of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and recent Supreme Court decisions. This is a flawed piece of legislation. The opposition leader challenged us to find all the flaws. Mr. Speaker, they are entrenched in the bill.
I donít agree with every personís political point of view, but I will fight for their right to vote, to run for office, and to hold that office. I even signed a Liberalís nomination form, because I believed in his right to run for office. And while every Yukoner should have the right to run for office, it is the electorate ó the voters of the Yukon ó that is the ethical and moral watchdog. It is the electorate that makes the decisions about whom to send here. The government shouldnít ó and canít ó be allowed to make that decision.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Speaker: The Member for Mayo-Tatchun on a point of order.
Mr. Fairclough: Point of order, Mr. Speaker. I believe that the member opposite is in violation of Standing Order 19(b)(i). The member is talking about voting and running in elections, but the bill has nothing to do with that. I think the member opposite ought to read the amendments carefully before making those comments. This is important. We need to have focused discussions. Thatís what the Member for Whitehorse Centre asked members opposite to do, and the member who is speaking on this bill is not doing that. He is in violation of Standing Order 19(b)(i).
Mr. Cathers: There is no point of order. The Member for Southern Lakes is laying out matters that he feels are germane to fundamental rights and principles that he feels would be affected by this bill, and there is no point of order.
Speaker: Order please.† There is no point of order. It is a dispute among members about the effects of the bill. Each side has its own opinion on the effects of the bill. I would ask the Member for Southern Lakes to carry on, please.
Mr. Rouble: Mr. Speaker, itís interesting to find the distinction that the members opposite make. Mr. Speaker, I canít in all good conscience support legislation that would limit membership of the Assembly to a select few.
Mr. Speaker, as I stated earlier, this is a flawed piece of legislation. There are many problems with it, many concepts that I havenít outlined, other concepts that are equally as important, such as being found guilty without due process, being guilty by association, and others that need to be debated and examined. There are fundamental problems here. Mr. Speaker, let us do the right thing and stand up for democracy.
Mr. Speaker, Iím also concerned with the amount of homework done on this issue. Yesterday, following the NDPís brief briefing, in which they provided no supporting documentation, I asked the NDPís briefer for a legal opinion of the bill. They refused to do this. They did not even provide documentation to support their arguments, no minutes of public meetings, no public consultation, no comparison with other jurisdictions, no legal analyses. Mr. Speaker, there is a lot of work to be done with this bill. Questions need to be answered. Is it consistent with basic democratic principles? Is it consistent with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms? Would it withstand a Charter challenge? Do the Yukon people want to go forward with something like this? There is a lot of work that needs to be done before I could even contemplate supporting this.
Mr. Speaker, based on the flaws here, it would be easy to simply vote this down. But in spite of the serious flaws, there might be some merit to exploring some of the objectives of the opposition; and as I have said before, I would like to work with them on accomplishing some of their objectives.
Mr. Rouble: Mr. Speaker, I move
THAT the motion for second reading of Bill No. 105 be amended by adding the following:†
ďand that it be referred to a select committee of the Assembly; and
THAT the membership and mandate of the select committee be established by a separate motion of the Assembly following consultation among the House leaders.Ē
Speaker: It has been moved by the MLA for Southern Lakes
THAT the motion for second reading of Bill No. 105 be amended by adding the following:†
ďand that it be referred to a select committee of the Assembly; and
THAT the membership and mandate of the select committee be established by a separate motion of the Assembly following consultation among the House leaders.Ē
Member for Southern Lakes, you have 20 minutes.
Mr. Rouble: As Iíve said, there are serious flaws with this legislation. Is it consistent with the principles of democracy? And is it consistent with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms?
There are also other problems ó other problems that we only need to go to our Charter of Rights and Freedoms to look at. This bill proposes the concept of being found guilty without due process. It states that if there is an amount outstanding, that after one year in arrears the member would forfeit their position in Cabinet.
I donít know too many business people out there, and practically every person whom Iíve ever talked to who has done business with the Yukon territorial government has had some challenge in the negotiation process, shall we say, where there has been some discrepancy; there has been some dispute over some contract.
Now, Mr. Speaker, I think we have to give that dispute over that issue the due process it deserves. Under section 11(d) of the Constitution, any person charged with an offence has the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty, according to law in a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal.
Iíve had invoices from YTG that I didnít believe were valid; however, that would go on my record, and the consequences would be the same whether they were valid invoices or invalid invoices.
We also have the problem of being guilty by association or relation to another. If my wife had a parking ticket from a year ago that was still outstanding, I would not be eligible for a Cabinet post. That makes no sense whatsoever.
Also, the concept of a limited liability corporation and its terms havenít even been discussed and need to be examined in this context.
Mr. Speaker, the issue of how to enforce it also needs to be looked at. I go back to the example of the parking ticket and my wife. I could not, in all good conscience, swear on a stack of Bibles and say that my wife did not have a traffic ticket that was more than one year outstanding. I donít think any member in here could.
The opposition seems to be making a great distinction between the ability to run, the ability to win, and the ability to be in Cabinet. I would suggest that it is the desire or future intent of every member who runs in an election to be in Cabinet. One wants to get into government to effect and influence change.
This bill would take that right to be involved in government and its decision-making away from that individual.
Now I havenít given up on the concept of working with the opposition. I sit on the Public Accounts Committee, where we have worked collectively, worked well together, worked toward common objectives, and Iím willing and eager to work with them. Letís put this issue into a select committee to examine it in much greater detail. Please take us up on that offer. Please respond to our requests for all-party meetings. There is an awful lot of work that needs to be done here.
The opposition leader has said that theyíre open to options and I would like to take them up on that. Letís look at some of the other ways of accomplishing the objectives theyíve stated. The opposition leader mused about adopting the new federal conflict of interest regulations. Letís look at those. Perhaps they accomplish the oppositionís objectives without destroying one of the basic tenets of democracy. I believe that itís fundamental that all Yukoners have the ability to run, to get elected and to be part of government. I canít support a motion or a bill that would destroy that right. Too many Canadians have given their lives fighting for democracy. I canít in all good conscience destroy one of the basic tenets of democracy in this manner.
I have put forward an amendment that doesnít destroy this bill and doesnít put it on a shelf. Instead it recognizes the issue that the member brought forward and presents an option of finding a solution to addressing their issues and accomplishing their objectives. I would encourage the members opposite to take the government up on its offer to create a select committee to study this in more detail and to work toward accomplishing their goals.
Mr. Hardy: Well, first off, I think the member opposite actually should read the amendment that was brought in. Maybe he would be able to speak with a little bit more authority or some understanding. I want to make it very clear: no matter what they do, we know what theyíre doing in this case. Itís very, very clear. Theyíre planning to delay this.
Now, what is the most fascinating thing about this amendment? What is the most fascinating thing I find about this amendment, besides the fact that theyíve tried this one before and theyíve done it with the whistle-blower legislation? Again, itís to delay, to delay, to delay, to hide, to prevent us from bringing anything forward.
Every single argument this member has made does not stand up. But I want to point out one simple thing about this that is so shockingly disturbing. Let me read it: ďthat the membership and mandate of the select committee be established by a separate motion of the Assembly following consultation with the House leaders.Ē Who is the House leader? Who is the person weíre talking about in here, predominantly? Who is the person who refuses to pay his loan? Who is the person who owes over $300,000 and refuses to pay it, year after year after year?
This member is saying letís give it to him to make the decision about this. What kind of silliness is this, Mr. Speaker? I have never heard of anything so utterly ridiculous in my life. For two years he has refused to pay. For two years it has been an embarrassment throughout the Yukon. This Member for Southern Lakes believes, by putting this decision in the hands of that very person, itís going to come up with a solution to this problem, a solution that will meet the requirements and the needs of the people of this territory in regard to this Legislative Assembly? I donít think so.
I have never in my life seen anything so utterly ridiculous. That member across the way should be embarrassed. Talk about trying to bury something. Well, I can assure you, the people of this territory are going to see exactly what that member is trying to do in here. Not only does the Member for Klondike owe over $300,000; not only will he refuse to acknowledge his debt to society; not only will he not recognize and make payments ó at least get out of arrears ó but now heís going to be given the power to decide what to do. Thatís the great solution; thatís a really, really powerful amendment to the motion that this member has brought forward. Brilliant ó absolutely brilliant.
Yes, the Member for Kluane asks, ďWho wrote it? Who wrote it?Ē Thatís a very legitimate question. I would like to say the Member for Southern Lakes wrote it; his signature is on it. Iím assuming he thought this one out all by himself. Or else, if he didnít think this one out, maybe he should have, because this is an absolute and utter embarrassment in here. Giving it back to the person who owes the money, saying, ďYou figure it out.Ē
It has been two years ó two years. The Premier was supposed to come up with a solution to this matter. He failed. He couldnít get the minister to pay. Do you think this amendment to this motion is going to have the resolve that the people of this territory want to see in this matter? Do you think that knowing how this Member for Klondike has delayed almost everything ó including the Workersí Compensation Health and Safety Board review, which interestingly enough happens to be led by the Member for Southern Lakes ó another review that seems to have gone off the rails and will probably not get done in this mandate, obviously, the way itís going. Do you think weíre going to get any results, any kind of action out of this? Brilliant ó absolutely brilliant. I havenít got anything more to say about that amendment to the motion. Itís a joke.
Ms. Duncan: I rise to address the amendment to the motion, and Iím reminded of a very famous political debate in this country that ended with the shot ó and itís well-recorded in history ó ďYou had a choice, sir.Ē Mr. Mulroney said that to Mr. Turner during the election debate. The members opposite had a choice. They had a choice ó the Premier had a choice when he selected his Cabinet, and members opposite had a choice in coming forward to debate this bill.
I was deeply disturbed when I listened to the Member for Southern Lakes on the motion. And Iím ó angered is too strong a word ó Iím frustrated with the amendment to the motion. Iím disturbed because the bill thatís before us, Bill No. 105, as amended, has absolutely nothing to do with whether or not a person can run for office, can vote in an election, or can be part of this Assembly.
What it has to do with ó subsection 3(1) ó is the definition of what constitutes a conflict of interest. So itís whether or not a person is able to hold office in the Cabinet ó not whether they can run to seek office, not whether they can vote, and not whether they can be part of the government. Itís whether or not they are in a conflict when they occupy the executive offices. Itís not about whether or not you can run. Section 3(1) ó conflict of interest defined, abuse of office rules.
The act itself says: ďSubsection 3(1) of the Act is amended by adding the following paragraph.Ē
It doesnít preclude an individual from running for office. It does not. I have the absolute most heartfelt respect for all those who fought for our freedoms and our right to vote, as well as those who fight for them daily. Itís incumbent upon us all to do legislation right. And itís incumbent upon the government, in bringing forward legislation, to do their homework.
Others have brought forward bills in this Legislature. Having attended exactly the same briefing, I heartily disagree with the Member for Southern Lakes. I believe the opposition, in bringing forward this bill, have done their homework. They have spoken with our current Conflicts Commissioner. Were I drafting this bill, I would have gone one step further and spoken with our former Conflicts Commissioner.
If I might, I am addressing the amendment, but I would like to digress for just a short moment in speaking about conflict of interest and our former Conflict of Interest Commissioner, because this Assembly has worked. I disagree with the Member for Whitehorse Centre that the Legislative Assembly has never dealt with changes to the Conflict of Interest (Members and Ministers) Act, because we have. I was the leader of the official opposition at the time, the NDP were in government, and the former leader of the Yukon Party stood where I am now. We dealt with and changed the conflict of interest act. The three leaders, working together, changed it.
Now the amendments were dealt with on the recommendation ó they were a result of the recommendations of the Conflicts Commissioner. So is this act.
The bill at the time did not go far enough in my opinion; however, I was prepared at the time to accept that we had made some strides forward, if not going all the way, as Mr. Hughes had recommended. I took that position on his advice as well in speaking with the Conflicts Commissioner. So the opposition did do their homework. They spoke with our current Conflicts Commissioner in bringing forward the bill. They had it reviewed. Granted, in keeping with the recognition of both official languages, we should have in the very near future an appropriate French translation. Itís not unheard of for bills to come to this Legislature with the French translation some days after the bill has been debated. The resources for French translation are not made available to the opposition. We donít have access to the government translators in our bills and would hope that we would get cooperation from the government in those bills.
Should we get an opportunity to address the bill itself at length, I would like to go through the changes that were made to the Conflict of Interest (Members and Ministers) Act. The changes were made ó for the memberís reference ó on December 2, 1999. It has been five years since we brought forward some changes to this act. The time has come again to do them.
For the government members opposite to stand and say, ďWe want to work with the opposition; we want to do this,Ē and bring forward an amendment that does exactly what they did with the whistle-blower legislation, which was to completely bury it and to completely indicate their lack of intention to proceed on this.
Their version of working together and calling a committee, as promised by the Minister of Education, is to have their House leader deliver ó a day before the House comes into session ó a copy of the federal government whistle-blower legislation. Thatís their version of working together.
What happened to the ďOver the summer months, we will call together a committee; weíll have a meeting of the House leaders; weíll have a meeting of the party leaders; weíll have a meeting of members of the LegislatureĒ? It has not happened. Had an invitation been extended, I would have gladly accepted. It hasnít been.
For the members opposite to suggest that, ďOh, the House leaders will meet and agree on a committeeĒ ó that is highly unlikely. When House leaders are not even given information as to membersí alternative arrangements for presentations here, it is not likely that there will be a committee convened, because the governmentís track record speaks for itself. They donít do what they say they will do, and we have two years of a lack of consensus, a lack of collaboration, a lack of accountability to prove it.
The Conflict of Interest (Members and Ministers) Act is one of the most important pieces of legislation that govern our actions in here. We hold it in the absolute highest regard. I know that I certainly do.
And there is nothing wrong with a bill that says that we should deal with an issue that is long outstanding, and every Yukoner in every single riding at every single occasion brings it up. I have not gone into a grocery store, gas station, a public meeting anywhere without somebody coming up and raising this issue. It is incumbent upon all of us to hold us to a higher standard ó all of us. And I fail to see why the government, when they had a choice, cannot look at this in the spirit in which it was intended, which is to make this act a better act for everyone and to deal with this concern of Yukoners.
In no way does this act do as the Member for Southern Lakes has suggested and prevent anyone from running for office. It does not. It prevents a member of Cabinet having outstanding debt to the people of the Yukon, and that is a high standard everybody should live up to. Municipalities live up to this. Itís not against their standards and not against the Charter of Rights and Freedoms for an individual to owe money to the municipality, not to be part of that government. Itís about accountability. Itís about a high standard, and the members opposite had a choice, and the one they have made, I vehemently disagree with. Letís not bury this piece of legislation. Letís have the courage of our convictions and stand and debate it. If itís not right, then make it better. Propose an amendment. But spurious arguments and burying it in a committee that is never going to be called would do a disservice to everyone. I donít support this amendment. It wonít happen under the members opposite. The committee will never be called, and it will never get debated, and they can rest assured of that. And they should be well aware of it, Mr. Speaker. I encourage them to either withdraw the amendment or to vote against it, in recognition that the memberís argument for not dealing with this bill is not what the bill represents.
This does not preclude anybody from voting. It does not preclude anybody from running. It further defines what a conflict of interest is. You canít vote on spending $100,000 or $1 million in any given department at the Cabinet table if you owe the government money. That just makes sense to people. It makes sense to the average Yukoner. I donít know why it doesnít make sense to the members opposite, and I donít support the amendment.
Mr. McRobb: I just want to put a few brief comments on the record. Once again, we see the Yukon Party government using its majority of members in this House to do what is essentially known as hijacking on a bill. That is simply sidelining a bill that is on the floor of this House into some other process. That other process is rather obscure. Itís almost like itís the twilight zone because it never really happens.
We also know that consultation among the House leaders is rather non-existent. There is nothing that is ever consulted on between the House leaders. I can attest to that. Both the leader of the third party and I meet with the government House leader every morning, and itís basically a one-way street. He tells us whatís going on. There is no room for discussion. Quite frequently we ask him if there is an opportunity for us to work together, and the minister considers that funny. Itís not even in the works.
So, what we have in this amendment to the bill is a situation where the amendment itself is something I believe should be referred to the Conflicts Commissioner because there is a conflict. This was spelled out by the leader of the opposition when he first spoke to this amendment. Certainly we have a situation where the MLA for Klondike, who is the Deputy Premier, and currently Acting Premier, is in conflict because of his outstanding government loans. And itís on record that he has avoided speaking to these matters at every opportunity because he knows he is in conflict. Thatís a given. Thatís not something thatís debatable. He knows there is a conflict.
Now, suddenly, under his guidance, we see his members bring in an amendment that appoints him as the one who will decide what happens in terms of process after it leaves this Committee. Well, I see that strictly as a conflict.
I think itís rather evident, and I donít want to speculate on what the Conflicts Commissioner would find, but it certainly raises a real possibility that this amendment could create a conflict. Why was it done that way? It didnít have to be done that way. First of all, the government side could have done the honourable thing; they could have brought this bill into Committee of the Whole and provided an opportunity to examine it and ask questions of the leader of the official opposition, who is sponsoring the bill. It was a golden opportunity for all Members of the Legislative Assembly to work together, cooperatively, constructively, collaboratively. Remember the ďCĒ words from the Yukon Party election platform? Exactly. This was it; this was the opportunity.
But the opportunity has been rejected by the government side under the stewardship of the MLA for Klondike who is in conflict. Mr. Speaker, this is a rather bizarre situation, and it does not serve the interests of the Yukon public to vote for this amendment. It would be rather interesting to see if the government side uses this majority to pass this amendment to the bill. It would be very interesting to see what the Conflicts Commissioner would have to say about it.
Speaker: Are you prepared for the question on the amendment to the motion for second reading of Bill No. 105?
Some Hon. Member: Division.
Speaker: Division has been called.†
Speaker: Mr. Clerk, please poll the House.
Hon. Ms. Taylor: †Agree.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Lang: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Hart: Agree.
Mr. Cathers: Agree.
Mr. Rouble: Agree.
Mr. Hassard: Agree.
Mr. Hardy: Disagree.
Mr. McRobb: Disagree.
Mr. Fairclough: Disagree.
Mr. Cardiff: Disagree.
Mrs. Peter: Disagree.
Ms. Duncan: Disagree.
Clerk: Mr. Speaker, the results are seven yea, six nay.
Speaker: So the yeas have it. I declare the amendment carried.
Amendment agreed to
Speaker: We will now resume debate on the motion for second reading of Bill No. 105, as amended.
Mr. Cardiff: I am glad that I have the opportunity to speak to this and that we still have time in the day. I would like to start off by issuing my condolences to the members opposite for what they have just done today, to put this back in the hands of the government House leader, the Member for Klondike.
This is an issue that has been hanging around the neck of this government for two years. It is unfortunate, because I know how uncomfortable ó Iíve had the opportunity to talk with members from the other side of the House, and I know how uncomfortable they are with this issue. The Premier has failed after two years of trying to bring some sort of a solution to the collection of the loans, and what weíve done is offered them a solution. Basically, the members on the other side of the House have rejected that solution. Theyíve been drowning in a sea of controversy for the last two years. We throw them a lifeline, and what do they do? They reject the lifeline and grab the anchor.
Now, I donít know what the purpose of that is. This is an issue where obviously the Member for Southern Lakes does not understand the issue. This bill was researched. It was researched over a period of time. These changes were vetted with the Conflicts Commissioner, and there is nothing in the amendment to the Conflict of Interest (Members and Ministers) Act that precludes anybody from running for office. If you were to take the analogy offered by the Member for Southern Lakes, the Municipal Act would contravene the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. What the Municipal Act says is that a person may be nominated as a candidate and elected to municipal councils only if (b) they are not disqualified because of being indebted to a municipality for an overdue debt exceeding $500, other than a debt for current taxes.
The members on the other side of the House think that that contravenes the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. They had an opportunity to fix the Municipal Act, but they havenít done it. We are not even suggesting that the Member for Klondike canít sit in Cabinet. What weíre saying is that he has to make a payment. Itís not about paying the whole loan back; itís about showing trust in the public.
The Member for Porter Creek South stated that this is an issue that comes up; this is an issue in the public. You canít go to the grocery store; you canít go to the clothing store; you canít go to the gas station; you canít go to a restaurant; you canít go to a public function, a meeting, a barbecue ó quite frankly, in a lot of instances, depending on what event you are at, you canít even go to the bathroom without this becoming an issue.
This is probably one of the most talked about controversies that is facing this government. Once again, we offer them a solution, and they want to sweep it under the carpet. Quite frankly, it is a sad day for democracy.
The Member for Southern Lakes wanted to talk about democratic rights and principles, and he mentioned the fact that the voters ultimately will decide.
That was one thing the Member for Southern Lakes was probably right about. This is one of the issues that is going to still be around this governmentís neck, and each and every member on that side of the House is going to have to deal with this when they go door to door in the next election. And itís a shame. What are they going to say? They even have a colleague that has made some effort in this regard, and I think that Yukoners recognize that; they applaud that. At least there is somebody who is trying, but what we have is a situation where somebody is not trying.
The Member for Klondike is basically thumbing his nose at the Yukon public and laughing. He honestly thinks that this is a funny matter that is going to go away. The Premier has tried many times; he has come up with a couple of plans. Unfortunately those plans havenít worked out for him, and theyíve failed. What we saw was that the options being offered by the Premier and the attempts by the Premier to make this go away werenít working. They werenít addressing the issue in the public. People are still coming up to us on the streets; people are still approaching members of the government about this issue. I feel uncomfortable about it, because I think it reflects badly on all of us in here, unfortunately. Thatís why we decided to bring something forward that would address the issue and that would prevent this from happening in the future.
And itís not about whether or not you have the right to vote or whether you have the right to seek office. There is nothing in the Conflict of Interest (Members and Ministers) Act ó the section that is being amended, section 3, is about the conflict of interest defined ó abuse of office rules. Section 3(1) says that a member who also holds the office of minister is in conflict. Itís talking about a member. Obviously, to be a Member of the Legislative Assembly, you have to have been elected. Obviously, you have to have been able to run. You even have to have been able to vote.
Iím not sure who the Member for Southern Lakes or the Member for Klondike are going to vote for the next time they run. Maybe if we were to pass this ó according to the Member for Southern Lakes ó the Member for Klondike couldnít even vote for himself, but thatís not what itís about. Itís about making decisions; itís about public perception and the ability of people to make those decisions and be accountable to the public, but they donít seem to recognize that.
It would appear to me that the members on that side of the House would like to see this go away. Unfortunately, what they have managed to do today is bring it back into the light of the public; theyíve thrown it back out on the street and made it worse than it was. Iím sure they were all hoping for a Christmas present ó that this issue would go away and that maybe the Member for Klondike would actually do something. Unfortunately, this isnít going to happen.
This is going to be talked about again in the public for many days and many months. They feel that they can sweep this under the carpet and hand off the responsibility to the government House leader to deal with. They want to refer it to a select committee of the Assembly, the same thing they tried to do with the whistle-blower legislation. They failed to bring anything collaborative or consultative forward, and unfortunately thatís where this is headed, too, by the looks of it.
We all know the government House leader doesnít consult. You canít get any information out of the government House leader. He basically will either tell you at the last minute or heíll tell you a story and switch chapters halfway through the day. Unfortunately, itís hard to read between the lines with the government House leader. Obviously heíd like to see this go away too. Itís a sad day.
The need for a select committee to deal with this is not there. I would argue that the homework has been done, the case has been made. The question of whether or not the act is reviewed by a committee is dealt with in section 7 of the amendment, where the next Legislative Assembly will establish and appoint a special committee for the purpose of reviewing the whole act. Weíre dealing with trying to deal with an issue, a situation that has been an embarrassment to this government, and I know that members on that side of the House are embarrassed. Theyíre very embarrassed by this situation, but theyíve chosen to ignore it.
Theyíve chosen to ignore the out that has been offered them. As I said earlier, we offered them a lifeline and they chose the anchor.
The need for a review of the act is dealt with. The homework has been done. I support the act. I have a hard time ó we donít have a choice about supporting the amendment. They rammed it through with their majority, so itís going to be a tough decision on this side of the House whether to support this or not. Theyíve basically swept it under the carpet and they are not going to deal with it.
This is no longer the same piece of legislation that was introduced into this House and brought forward in good faith to try to help the members on that side of the House, as well as on this side of the House, to put this Assembly in a better light in the public eye. Unfortunately, the government chose to soil that reputation and the way that members of this Legislature are held in the public view, and itís a sad day.
I hope that there are members on the other side of the House who are prepared to speak to this. If they feel so strongly about this amendment and about this bill, I challenge them to get up and give the rationale why.
I appreciate the opportunity to speak to this. Again, itís a sad day that members have missed an opportunity to put us all in a better light.
Speaker: Are you prepared for the question on the motion, as amended? Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Some Hon. Members: Disagreed.†
Speaker: I declare the motion, as amended, defeated.
Motion for second reading of Bill No. 105 negatived
Bill No. 107: Second Reading ó adjourned debate
Clerk: Second reading, Bill No. 107, standing in the name of Mr. Hardy; adjourned debate, Mr. Fairclough.
Speaker: The Member for Mayo-Tatchun has 14 minutes.
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Speaker, I didnít expect to be getting into a discussion on the Democratic Reform Act so soon, but it just goes to show how disorganized the members opposite are on their own amendment.
Mr. Speaker, I went over this bill the last time. I canít even remember what day we had discussions on it before members opposite did not want to discuss this any more back in ó well, almost a month ago. In brief, I said to this House that I wanted members opposite, the government side, to consider this bill carefully ó not how the last discussion on the bill went, where members opposite didnít really understand what was being proposed here.
Mr. Speaker, we feel that this bill should be given a lot of attention by the members opposite. We bring it forward in good faith, and we do feel that this bill is definitely a non-partisan bill. It is certainly not about who is government or who is opposition. We said that we on this side of the House will not benefit from this Democratic Reform Act; neither will the government benefit from it. It makes improvements, and that is what the Yukon Party campaigned on. They campaigned on that.
Weíre moving on even fulfilling those commitments and trying to make improvements to how MLAs do their job; how information can better flow to communities and so on. I believe the members opposite know that this is definitely about democracy; itís about the democratic right of Yukon people to say how they elect their MLAs. Iíve heard the members opposite bring this up from time to time. Weíve heard from the general public who has brought this to our attention to try to make improvements, so this is what weíre doing. I know there are discussions taking place on the other side of the House, but Iím hoping that people do not treat this as a bill that is not worth debating, because it is. It is worth debating, and it is worth taking forward to Committee to deal with these much-needed, important issues that Yukoners are talking about constantly today and that members opposite have talked about constantly here in the House.
We feel that this is one that members opposite will support.
Itís about how we do things and how we listen to people. This bill takes the whole issue back, not to this House, but back out to the people. It gives them a voice. Basically, if we want a strong democracy, we must listen to the people. Iíve heard the members opposite say this before, too: letís listen to the people. So letís take it back out and give the people the opportunity to debate this bill and to have dialogue with them.
I say this knowing there is not a whole lot of opportunity for the general public to do this. Itís rare for them to basically take ownership of the process, which they have asked for. We have said this over and over again. They have asked for it by commenting on what they donít like about debate in this House. I think this discussion is timely, actually, after what took place today and over the previous two weeks.
All of us here would like to see a stronger turnout at election time. If people have the opportunity to make comments on improving the process, we may see that ó if they are more involved. Take a look at how, for example, First Nation elections take place. People are quite familiar with the issues. They are being debated on doorsteps in communities for awhile, and there is a strong turnout when it comes to election time ó stronger than we see with the territorial elections or the federal elections. Actually, this was an issue nationally about how First Nations are not participating, for example, in federal or territorial elections like they should.
Hopefully this would bring some better information down to those who, I guess, make the difference and put it back into the hands of the people. There are several things in the bill that we have suggested. There were suggestions made that the committee could take out and deal with. One of them has been a little controversial, I guess, even dealing with wages of MLAs. I know that previous governments have chosen not to deal with this matter. This has been a discussion in the last election and this again takes it out of the elected membersí hands and puts it into a smaller group of people to deal with, someone who is neutral. So I think thatís a good thing.
Legislative renewal, as was said in the past, would be put in the form of a special committee and, weíve said this before, itís going to consist of four members of the Legislative Assembly and shall be appointed for the purpose of conducting a public review of the legislation, its rules and practices. That applies to the Yukon Legislative Assembly and its members. I believe that the Democratic Reform Act that has been presented by the Member for Whitehorse Centre is clear on that. The act itself, the bill itself, lays it out in an orderly fashion, describing what the act is all about and also suggests having a commission in place ó for example, the electoral reform commission ó and it lays out what the mandate could be.
And nothing is carved in stone about the outcome of the public consultation. These are suggestions. If members opposite have anything new to add ó weíve consistently said this on this side of the House ó it should be put in there. If itís fair, then I think we on this side of the House can accept that.
There is also importance in dealing with this bill. For example, weíre saying, ďLetís not drag this on.Ē This is the second opportunity weíve had to debate this bill. A month ago, November 23, was the last date. Youíd think the government could have shown some interest and had this brought forward to the floor of this Legislature, because if they did so, and we pass the Democratic Reform Act, we could have something to talk about and brought to the floor and debated in six months. I would say, maybe by the end of the next sitting, depending on when the sitting is called.
I think all members of this House would be proud of what has been accomplished here and what the people have brought back to this House.
I know the members opposite do the same thing and have said the same thing as we have. Letís take it back to the people. Theyíre the ones who should be able to debate how we can make improvements.
This Democratic Reform Act does exactly that. It lays out quite clearly what we think the commissions and committees could do in a public consultation.
The work would be done for this House; it wouldnít be done on the government side and it wouldnít be done through the official opposition; it would be a combination of work that is on the committee and all the public consultation, which I think the members should show some interest in because maybe we, on this side of the House, can teach the members opposite a little bit about what public consultation really is. And if they think that they know better, they can take it forward and maybe give the committee a few tips on how theyíve been doing good public consultation over the past two years. I urge all members to support this bill.
Mr. Cardiff: The members opposite, again, made a promise two years ago, a little over two years ago, during the election, to deal with legislative reform, to improve the decorum here in the Legislature and to improve our image in the public eye. But they donít want to talk about it. So weíll go back ó Iíd just like to take the members back almost a month ó it has been almost a month since weíve last talked about this ó and obviously members on the other side forgot what page they were on. It was November 3 and the last page in Hansard would be 3023.
Iíd like to point out that ó bring back the words of the Member for Lake Laberge in his opening comments. He said that he thought that this bill was a valuable contribution to our debate around democratic reform.
Can you believe that? We were even astounded that the member would say that, and he, as well, was equally astounded that we would actually think he would say something like that. But he obviously thought that there was something of value in Bill No. 107, the Democratic Reform Act, and heís quite right.
A little later on ó only moments later ó he said, ďThe bill presented many valuable ideas that are worthy of debate, and I would like to state that I do agree with many of them. I do not concur with all of them, and a number of these are key. I do feel they are valuable for discussion.Ē Where is the discussion? Why arenít members on that side of the House wanting to stand up and speak to this bill? This is important. This is about the democratic right of Yukon people to have a say in how weíre elected. And itís also about Yukoners, the citizens who elect us, having a right to say how we conduct our business and the publicís business. Now, we just witnessed earlier today what the members on the government side think of how they conduct business and how ministers conduct business and how the government can sweep some of that stuff under the table, but thatís not what this is about. The Member for Lake Laberge was critical again. I mean, verbatim, almost, the Member for Southern Lakes today must have been reading from the same speaking notes when he said we hadnít done our homework, this hadnít been thoroughly researched, we hadnít consulted with anybody. Well, theyíre wrong.
We did consult with people.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Cardiff: We did seek legal advice on this before we brought it forward.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Cardiff: This was a void in the ó
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
†Speaker: Order please. The Member for Mount Lorne has the floor. I would ask all members to respect that, please.
Mr. Cardiff: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
This was a void in the legislative agenda of the government. All we were trying to do earlier this afternoon, Mr. Speaker, was to fill that void, to send out a lifeline to Yukoners to participate in the democratic process. It is laid out fairly clearly. The first part is about electoral reform; itís about how we were elected. I would encourage all members on the opposite side to participate in this discussion or to vote for this bill so that we can have a discussion.
Letís get into Committee of the Whole and have the discussion. We could ask the sponsor of the bill questions. Iím sure we could dedicate some time to that. Maybe the government ó I mean, this is a good idea ó would grab on to it and we could spend next Wednesday in Committee of the Whole fleshing this out, because, as the Member for Lake Laberge said, it presents many valuable ideas that are worthy of debate. So letís have that debate. Letís not sweep it under the carpet like the members opposite wanted to do earlier this afternoon. Letís talk about it.
The public is frustrated, and that is definitely evidenced by low voter turnout, not just here in the Yukon but across the country.
So what does this do? This is an enabling piece of legislation. Weíre creating an electoral reform commission with a mandate. The few members who spoke on November 3 expressed some of their concerns about the mandate and the composition. Well, letís have that debate. Letís talk about it. Vote for the bill. Letís put it into Committee of the Whole. Letís have that discussion here in a public forum. Letís not hide. Letís do it. The mandate is laid out. The ability to amend it is there. It lays out the procedures that the commission will follow. Lo and behold, I think this is a brilliant piece here, on page 2: ďThe commission shall provide a final report on its findings and recommendations to the Commissioner in Executive Council within one year from the date of assent.Ē So maybe we wonít pass this in this sitting. Maybe weíll pass it in the spring sitting. The commission will be formed and a year later theyíll provide a report. After that, we may see a plebiscite or it may be attached to the ballot, or it will probably be a separate ballot, in the next territorial election so that people could vote on about how they want to elect Members of the Legislative Assembly. Whatís wrong with that? We donít have to discuss what type of representation itís going to be. There are a few mechanisms there that are spelled out in the mandate, but that doesnít limit the commission. It enables them to go out and to talk Yukoners.
But to go back to the point, there will be a report within one year from the date of the assent of this bill. We look at the other legislation thatís being reviewed endlessly and reports havenít been provided, or theyíve been ignored. I think that I like the part where there is actually a day where youíre going to get the report and something is actually going to be done. I think thatís important.
I think that we owe it to Yukoners to go out and consult with them ó to ask them, to present options. Obviously, everybody who goes to the polls doesnít know about various forms of representation. To be quite honest, I probably donít know a lot about it myself. I know that there are other ways of electing members to legislative assemblies and to govern, and I know some of those examples, but do I know them all? No.
There are capable people here within the Yukon, and the government ó even as participating in a process in British Columbia, and theyíve hired somebody they think is competent to deal with this. Iím sure we could gather together a few more minds to go out and talk to Yukoners and present options about how weíre elected to represent our constituents.
The second part of the bill speaks to how we do our job and whatís expected here in the Legislature.† As someone who has been an observer for many years actually† ó I recall many years ago sitting in those seats up there watching the goings on in the Legislature back in the early 1980s ó I was curious about what happened here in this room. A lot of times in the afternoon it was more well-attended than it is today. I think that says something about the public not being as interested in coming and listening and watching us do our job. Itís about a full public review. I think there are people who are concerned about how we do our business here in the Legislature. Iím not saying we canít have a little bit of fun, that we canít make little jokes or get in a little jab here or there, or whatever it is. If we werenít having fun, I think that would make it even more unappealing to the general public. But at the same time, we have to be respectful that weíre here to do a job: to represent our constituents and to conduct the public business.
This part of the bill would create a special committee, and there would be Members of the Legislative Assembly. If the Member for Lake Laberge has a problem with that, then again, the opportunity to amend this piece of legislation would be in Committee of the Whole. Letís have that discussion; letís debate that. He can stand up and say what he wants to say about it; Iím sure the sponsor of the bill will get up and give his opinion. Iíll kick my two cents in and the Member for Southern Lakes would probably have something to say about that. Perhaps the Member for Klondike could throw in his $300,000 ó or whatever.
I think itís laid out pretty clearly. Itís about how we do our business. Itís about the rules and the practices. We have to set some rules about how we conduct the business, how we interact with each other, and how we interact with the public. And this special committee would be guided by the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly and the mandate ó
If the members opposite have a problem with the mandate ó I donít know if I have time to go through this. I might have to beg for indulgence to go through this. But the mandate is fairly broad. If the members opposite have a concern with that, itís not limited. I direct the members to the fact that (3) of section 7 says, ďThe scope of the public consultation shall include, but not be limited to, the following areas of considerationÖ.Ē
So there are several things here, but one of them that is fairly relevant is an amendment to the Legislative Assembly Act, including establishing a code of ethical conduct for Members of the Legislative Assembly. Now, do you not think that the public should have some sort of input into that? Do you not think that itís valuable for Members of the Legislative Assembly to go out and ask that question of the public and to come back and make changes? Given their performance earlier this afternoon, maybe they donít.
Maybe they disagree with that. Letís put it into Committee of the Whole and we can amend it. I imagine that if the members opposite disagree with that, they would bring in an amendment to that. It deals with the creation of an executive council act, including the definitions of the terms ďPremierĒ and ďMinisterĒ and the principal duties pertaining to those roles. It deals with improving public awareness of the proceedings, of letting people know what it is we do here. I think that there is a lot in here.
The Member for Lake Laberge, in his opening comments, said that he thought it was valuable. So, I challenge them: there are valuable ideas that are worthy of debate, so letís do it. Donít sit down for the rest of the afternoon and not make a contribution to this Bill No. 107. I would urge everyone on that side of the House to get up and make their points of view known about this, to tell Yukoners in this forum that democracy is alive and well and that we can improve it, that opportunities for Yukoners exist to participate in the business that we do here, and in how we are elected, and that we are accountable, and that we do have ethics.
Mr. Speaker, I commend this bill. Contrary to what has been stated earlier, it has been researched. It may not be perfect, but it is a darn good start and it is a start down the road to improving the relationship between the public and this Legislature. It is giving them an opportunity to have a say and to participate actively in democracy.
I look forward to hearing the comments from the members opposite. I know that there are still many who have an opportunity now to stand up and to speak to it. I look forward to listening to the Member for Lake Laberge bring forward the issues that he so lengthily explored on November 3.
So I look forward to hearing those comments in Committee of the Whole and to a thorough debating. I know that the government wants to deal with this, and I look forward to talking about it at a later date.
Mrs. Peter: It gives me great pleasure to speak to this bill before us that was brought forward by my colleague. I feel the challenge before us. This government said they would like to be an open and accountable government. They campaigned on that promise. They also campaigned to consult. They committed to consult with people. Weíre bringing an opportunity for this government to embrace change. They constantly ask that we bring forward good ideas, and this is one of them. The opposition is bringing forward this act, and within this act it specifically spells out a democratic reform ó a different way of looking at options and choices that we may have. We were elected by the people in our ridings, and the people who elected us have a certain expectation of how we speak on their behalf in the Legislature, to make sure that their voices are heard.
They elected us on the way that they expect us to behave in this very respected environment.
Mr. Speaker, Iíll go back and share a story with you. I come from a small community in northern Yukon. We have always paid very close attention to politics. Our representation in this forum is very important. It has only been recently that we have had an MLA represent our community in the Legislature, and the people are very grateful for that. They have a voice that is a part of this government. They have a voice that will share their concerns and needs, and that is very, very important.
The community I come from is a self-governing First Nation today. We have another level of government within our territory. The elected members that represent my community today are held to the highest of expectations by our people. We definitely recognize that. The chief and council that represent the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation know that I, as an elected member of Vuntut Gwitchin, recognize that.
We have embraced many changes along the way ó many changes and many challenges, and that takes a lot of courage. It takes a lot of willingness on the part of the people of the community to flow with the changes that are brought to our community in many areas.
This bill that is before us will help to create dialogue in the Yukon public to look in-depth at some of the ways that we represent our people in the Legislative Assembly. One of the roles of the official opposition is to hold the government accountable for decisions that they make and people of the Yukon know that. Every day that weíre out there ó my colleagues mentioned earlier ó weíre stopped on the street; weíre stopped in the grocery store; wherever we go in the public people come forward. This role that we have is very important. We affect and we impact many people. Sometimes we donít even realize how much.
We have a very unique territory and there are many cultures that live within our territory. Do we understand that? Do we understand the many customs that are out there, the many traditions? So we know what the issues and concerns of the youth of our territory are? The youth of our territory are our next leaders, our next generation of leaders. And the elders of our territory are guiding those of us today who are in leadership positions. That is very important because they have the values. People might say, ďWell, itís from the past; you know, itís old.Ē I used to think that when I was much younger.
Today I feel very different, because the teaching that I got from my grandmothers and my aunties and my mother make so much more sense today than it did in earlier years.
Mr. Speaker, when we were addressing this bill, the Member for Pelly-Nisutlin, the Member for Southern Lakes, the Member for Lake Laberge all asked what the Member for Vuntut Gwitchin would think about all this change. What would the people think? Well, I challenge them to go to my community and speak to the people of Old Crow, because the people of Old Crow know exactly what goes on in this forum. They watch every night on television. They read in the newspapers. They listen to the radio. They are up to date on what goes on in the political world, and that is great. Not only that, Iím on the telephone to my community every day with members of my riding.
Mr. Speaker, this bill before us is going to help create dialogue within the territory, like Iíve said. The majority ó Iím not sure what the statistics are out there, but we have a lot of youth who live in our territory, in our communities and in Whitehorse, and fewer youth of today are voting. I wonder why that is. Maybe theyíre not as well-informed as they could be.
Or maybe they watch us on TV every night and they see the conduct that happens within this House, how weíre not getting the answers that we ask for on their behalf from the government. Another is that nobody is reaching out that hand to them and saying, ďThis is what our job entails.Ē
We need to reach the young people of our territory. We need to educate the youth in what it is that we do so that they can embrace that change happening in our world today in regard to politics and the decisions made not only in the Legislature but in our communities and at the federal level so that, when it comes time for them to take over leadership roles, they will be very much informed. They will have a vision of where they would like to go, whether it be sitting on a council in one of our communities, or running as a chief or running as an MLA. They can prepare themselves.
As the only woman in the official opposition, I play a huge role in that regard.
Mr. Speaker, I hear from many, many women across our territory. We have heard over the airwaves and seen in the newspapers too many times within the last couple of years the issues that are of great concern to the women of this territory in regard to family violence, in regard to young families having to face the challenges of trying to bring their families up in a good way. Many of the people in our territory are also concerned about the environment and where this government is taking us.
The history of women in politics, not only in our territory, but throughout Canada, has been challenging. The roles of the women have changed much throughout the years. We were caretakers of our home. We were caretakers of our family, and we have always worked in the background and made our communities a better place to live. But today, Mr. Speaker, it is very different. Many of the women of our communities work in leadership roles and have not been acknowledged or recognized for it.
This bill before us is going to create dialogue for the women of our territory. We most definitely need more women in this House, and I believe that very strongly.
Mr. Speaker, the bill that is before us is going to help us have a more democratic process. A study was done on womenís participation in Canadian politics, and it showed the absence of participation. That is sad. Yet the women who were part of the political scene throughout Canada and throughout the territory made a real difference while they were there, and many of us in here know who those women are.
This bill before us spells out what the act will address. It will form a commission consisting of five qualified Yukon electors for the purpose of conducting a public review. It will actually enable this government, if they choose, to help create a consultation process.
It will actually help this government to consult with the people of the Yukon and ask the people of the Yukon what is important. How can we represent you better in our role as MLAs? But Mr. Speaker, the silence from across the way I think speaks volumes for a government that makes a commitment to be more open and accountable with people of the territory. I think that sends a huge message. However, the official opposition has brought forward this great idea and I definitely support this bill.
I know my time has expired and I appreciate the time that Iíve had.
Speaker: If the member now speaks, he will close debate. Does any other member wish to be heard?
Mr. Hardy: Itís with a great deal of pleasure that I once again stand to address another bill that the opposition has brought forward into this Legislature ó of course, another bill that the Yukon Party government is having a great deal of difficulty with. Itís always quite amusing to watch the struggle that they have over there in trying to understand the fact that the opposition may do some of their work, may bring forward some initiative and progressive change that they would like to see themselves. Of course they canít, because theyíre working within a structure, the Yukon Party, an elected structure that only allows certain ideas to flow out ó a very controlled and restricted type of structure. Saying that is pointing toward a problem with democracy.
Now the reason I said that was to point out that this is a government that has very few at the top making all the decisions and all the other members following, getting in line, doing the bidding, being called out to hear the latest command from above. It is not a democracy when it is exercised in that manner.
I have watched for two years now this government condemn almost every suggestion that has come from this side. We have brought forward bills, and they cannot accept a single one. They canít do it. They say ďno, no, noĒ to all of these things. And maybe I am referencing some member on the other side who did that little speech, because I found it quite interesting that they would say it from that perspective, but they wouldnít recognize ó they wouldnít look at themselves and recognize that theyíre saying the same thing. Theyíre doing the exact same thing. If thatís what they think weíre doing on this side, maybe they should look at themselves and their colleagues. Maybe they donít fit well over there. I donít know what their problem is.
However, democracy works best when there is vigorous debate. It works best when ideas are presented on the floor, or in forums, or in ó
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Hardy: I missed that. Iím sorry. I would love to put it on record, but I missed it. However, when the debate happens at kitchen tables, when itís in families, it is wonderful when that debate is received with an open mind. And you can engage, you can challenge, but itís with an open mind. And if youíre in the middle of a debate and somebody makes a very good point and you canít sit back and go, ďYou know, thatís right,Ē then you have a problem. As a matter of fact, I would recommend you donít have children.
I can assure you, Mr. Speaker, you will be challenged when they are two years old saying ďnoĒ, and youíll be challenged when theyíre 26 years old saying ďnoĒ. Frankly, I find it invigorating because my children ó and Iím sure other people who have children ó are engaged in that kind of debate on a daily basis and a weekly basis, depending on how they relate to their children.
The worst thing a parent can do is to never listen to your child, never actually recognize that they can be right and you can be wrong; they have a point and theyíve just exposed a fault in your argument. Or they can teach you something. Now, I know; Iím looking around and I see some people with children wondering, totally puzzled, that they could ever be wrong. Well, frankly, I used to think that way too, but I have four of them and they gang up on me sometimes and Iím thoroughly run through the wringer and usually end up saying ďUncle, youíve got a point, you guys; weíre going to do it, youíre right.Ē But children teach you that.
As I said, the worst type of parent you can be is to never recognize that your child has a mind and has a different perspective and has different opinions and has a different life experience where theyíre coming from. The teensÖ Thatís why we talk a lot about youth. Give youth a chance. Give youth a voice. Listen to them. They have something to say. What theyíre saying is important. Thatís why we have Bringing Youth Toward Equality. That voice is important. And itís not just allowing them to talk; itís actually listening and then maybe taking what you hear and working with them to enact it. That should happen in a family, it should happen with our youth organizations and it should happen within the schools ó the dialogue that happens.
Thatís what makes a society strong ó the interchange and exchange of ideas. Itís not, ďYouíre on that side; Iím on this side, and your ideas and suggestions can never be right. Youíre on a different philosophical plane that I am, and I canít agree with that. And youíre in a political party. Guess what? Never agree with another political party.Ē Thatís absolute nonsense. Thatís the problem ó itís one of the problems we have with democracy. Thatís why people are frustrated and why they get upset. Thatís why people are angry with us in here at times. Itís because the partisan politics can and will cause serious problems if they are not treated with the proper respect and understanding that they should be.
I am not opposed to partisan politics. The Democratic Reform Act we brought forward does not say we should abolish it. I see serious problems in our two sister territories that have a different model, but I also see strengths. I think we all do. I see strengths in having political parties, but I never ó and I donít think anybody should ever ó blind myself into thinking that this way is the only way. It is the debate that happens in this Legislature that strengthens our community. Itís not the elected party, and thatís the only way.
However, we are here to do the public good. Fundamentally ó first and foremost ó we are here to do the public good. We are not here to fulfill a mandate of two or three people within a party or two or three people from a certain organization or business or whatever. Thatís not what weíre here for ó or to fill our own ego. One of the biggest faults that people have is with their ego and not being able to control it.
So we must remind ourselves why we are here. Itís for the public good ó thatís all it is; thatís what it comes down to. Not down to the individual good ó itís for the public good. Our society is strongest when we try to benefit the majority not the minority.
We are here to bring forward, I would hope, from all sides, progressive politics ó there are many forms and shapes ó and embrace good change. We tried on this side. We tried earlier today. Obviously it wasnít accepted. We tried with Bill No. 107, the one we are debating now. The members on the other side donít want to stand up. A few have but most havenít. Is that debate? Is that contribution? Is that contributing to something that was brought forward in good faith? Is that serving the public good? Refusing to debate, refusing to discuss, refusing to find common ground ó does that serve the public good?
Do we do a check on ourselves? Do we go home at night and say, ďYeah, I did great. I beat up on so-and-so, and man, did I ever say this and thatĒ? Well, thatís nonsense.
We get heated, we get passionate, we speak, we challenge each other. Thatís all very good but, at the end of the day, what are we here for? What can we contribute at the end of our mandate? Whether we are in opposition or in government, what have we contributed to the public good?
What have we brought forward? Have we made this Legislative Assembly better? Have we even made an effort to do that? People get involved in politics because a lot of times theyíre mad at politicians. Theyíre mad at the decisions. Theyíre mad at the behaviour of the politicians. They come in; theyíre mad; theyíre frustrated; they have a strong belief that they will change things; they will do better. They get in here and are they swallowed up by the whole mechanism? Are they swallowed up by their party? Are the camps formed? Are the rules used to suppress debate? Are the rules manipulated on a daily basis to compromise good legislation? Are they used to serve a political agenda? If so, weíve failed.
There are two parts to the Democratic Reform Act. Some of my colleagues have mentioned already the voting patterns are dropping. The disenchantment among many, many voters is out there. Even if they vote, they are disenchanted with what they are voting for; they donít believe change will happen. They do want change.
First part, electoral reform: electoral reform is and can work with the initiative of this government in hiring their one person to go and monitor the B.C. process. Our proposal was to get something on the ground happening here immediately. They can work side by side, as I said in the past, and we could be moving forward very quickly on electoral reform. The options could be presented to the people; debate could be happening; discussions could be happening. We could be looking at something different. We could be leaders in Canada in this field, and quite easily be it, and be proud to be leaders because that cry for change is happening across Canada, not just the Yukon.
Somebody has to do it. I have never known the Yukon to take second place to any province or territory when it comes to innovative or creative legislation.
The second part of the bill: how we function, both in the House and in our constituencies, how we function in here ó now, we put down some suggestions, not all. And again, weíre calling for a committee to be formed, which would look at the way the House operates, how this body operates, and it would take it to the public and would engage in that debate. And itís time ó I think itís long overdue that this happens. And I firmly believe that there are many areas we havenít even touched on that would either be explored or brought forward by the public or members within this House once the committee was formed: for instance, amending the Legislative Assembly Act to establish a code of ethical conduct for its members. That is something I think the public would look at as a positive step forward, especially with the problems that the government has been facing over the last while.
We believe that the creation of a separate legislative indemnification act would go a long way toward addressing some of the serious concerns that have been expressed by every member in this Legislative Assembly. Members in the past, and of course even you, Mr. Speaker, have discussed this at times outside the Legislature, and that is of course the wages and benefits and the concerns around that. The media has discussed it and even encouraged the MLAs to do something about it. I remember some articles and some editorials around that. This would be an avenue to do that. We believe so.
The creation of an executive council act would clean up some stuff that needs to be cleaned up: the assessment of whether the appointment of government private members to Cabinet committees, to positions such as legislative secretaries or legislative assistants to ministers, or as Cabinet commissioners aids in the governance of Yukon or whether such appointments potentially harm the Legislative Assembly by endangering the independence of those private members. All that ó ideas brought forward. That side wonít debate it. As a matter of fact, what they want to do, of course, is to vote it down. Thatís a shame because we could have a great debate in here. We could have amendments. We could move forward. We could have an amendment saying to move this to a standing committee, but that hasnít happened on this one.
So I think in that case and in this area we have failed once again.
Today, we witnessed debate on two bills from this side. They will be voted down. They will not even be given a fair hearing by members from the other side, and thatís a shame. And I think thatís a failure.
Seeing as my time is pretty well up, Mr. Speaker, I will sit down and see where we go.
Speaker: Are you prepared for the question?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Some Hon. Members: Disagreed.
Speaker: I think the nays have it. I declare the motion defeated.
Motion for second reading of Bill No. 107 negatived
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I move that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Speaker: It has been moved by the government House leader that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Motion agreed to
Speaker leaves the Chair
COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
†Chair: Order please. Committee of the Whole will now come to order. The matter before the Committee this afternoon is Bill No. 12, Second Appropriation Act, 2004-05. The Department of Health and Social Services is up for debate. Before we begin, do members wish a recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: Weíll take a 15-minute recess.
Chair: Order please. Committee of the Whole will now come to order.
Bill No. 12 ó Second Appropriation Act, 2004-05 ó continued
Department of Health and Social Services ó continued
Chair: The matter before the Committee is Bill No. 12, Second Appropriation Act, 2004-05. We will continue on with the Department of Health and Social Services, which is Vote 15.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: When we left general debate on the Department of Health and Social Services, we were into a lot of detail on various areas, but I believe it is extremely important to indicate to the House the comparable health and health system indicators for this last period.
Good information helps to support good decision making. Yukon Health and Social Services recognizes the importance of knowing about the health status of Yukonís population. In examining the performance of our health system, the quality of service and health outcomes helps us to ensure that our health programs and services are responsive and meet the changing needs of our population.
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, I seem to recall you have been frequently reminding members to try to focus on the supplementary budget. And what we have here is a case of a Health minister reannouncing a press release on an entirely different matter from this morning, and I donít think it should be allowed.
†Chair: †The member is right. The Chair has reminded members on several occasions to stay on the topic and the matter at hand. The matter of discussion currently is the supplementary budget for 2004-05, the Department of Health and Social Services, and I would ask the member to please stay on the topic.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
The Department of Health and Social Services supplementary budget shows a considerable amount of money on the operation and maintenance side. In fact, it is, again, one of the largest supplementary budgets, at $8,424,000. and it encompasses a tremendous number of areas. One of those areas is the comparable health and health system indicators that I am elaborating on and have been elaborating on, which is contained within the supplementary estimates.
Mr. Chair, of the full 70 indicators that were selected for the 2004 report, 18 are featured within the published reports and became the basis of the health system story for each jurisdiction.
Of the 18 featured indicators, we have the ability here in the Yukon to only report on 11 and, like other small jurisdictions, we are unable to report on some indicators due to the availability and reliability and identification problem associated with a small population base.
Indicators are measurements of flags that help us monitor, evaluate then improve ó
Some Hon. Member: Point of order, Mr. Chair.
Point of order
Chair: Mr. McRobb, on a point of order.
Mr. McRobb: On a point of order, it seems to me the Health minister is resuming where he left off on re-announcing the press release from this morning, which is on a matter that is entirely different from the one being discussed relating to the supplementary budget. I would also be a little concerned that he seems to be mocking orders from the Table in this Legislature.
Chair: Mr. Cathers, on a point of order.
Mr. Cathers: There is no point of order. During Committee itís a standard practice to allow members a significant amount of latitude in discussing the matter at hand. The Member for Kluane might consider his own previous remarks on the budget which, in general debate on the budget, included talking about grouse being scared up on the Dezadeash Trail. There is no point of order; it is merely a dispute among members.
Chair: There is no point of order here. The matter under debate is the Department of Health and Social Services. While the Chair has on several occasions instructed members to focus their debate on the matter at hand, there has been a considerable amount of latitude given to all members. The matter the minister is discussing right now appears to be, on the face of it, related to the Department of Health and Social Services. Please continue.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Indicators are measurements or flags that help us monitor, evaluate and improve programs and services. The health indicators chosen for this report provide information about the health of Yukoners, the state of our health system, what is working well, and what requires further attention.
Most of the data comes from the Canadian Community Health Survey, conducted in 2003 by Stats Canada. At that time, over 750 Yukoners were interviewed. The main focus of the questions was: are the health and behaviour of Yukoners different from those of other Canadians? Is our experience of the health care system different from that of other Canadians? Have there been changes in health status behaviour or satisfaction with health services over time?
Weíve taken considerable pains as a government to identify the areas that need attention and that is clearly enunciated here in our supplementary budget before the House today of $8.424 million. At the end of the period of time, Iím sure the members opposite will vote against this money thatís going to the health and the health needs of Yukoners.
But when you take all these indicators together, the indicators in this report contributing to a high level assessment of the performance of our health system ó let me share with the House some of those indicators. Patient satisfaction affects patientsí direct perceived experience with the health care system at a particular point in time.
There are four indicators outlined. There is patient satisfaction with overall health care services. Yukoners, like most Canadians, are satisfied with the way health care services they receive were provided. Patient satisfaction with community-based care: in this case, the satisfaction level is 85.9 percent of Yukoners. In the previous case, it was 85.3 percent, which is ahead of the Canadian average. Patient satisfaction with community-based care covers areas like home care, personal care, home-based therapy and community clinics that have been provided. Home care is an area that we spoke about earlier in general debate in this supplementary budget because we are expanding home care into the beautiful Southern Lakes area.
The other area ó one of the third indicators ó is patient satisfaction with hospital care, and here in the Yukon we really have one major acute care centre, and thatís in Whitehorse. More Yukoners ó itís at 90.4 percent versus the Canadian average of 81.1 percent ó report being either very or somewhat satisfied with the way hospital services were provided during their most recent visit. Men, but not all women, in the Yukon rated the way hospital-based services were provided more favourably than did their Canadian counterparts. Like other Canadians, the level of care with patient satisfaction with physician care in the Yukon is 88.3 percent. Most Yukoners were very or somewhat satisfied with the way care was provided by their physician during their last visit.
So these are some of the examples of the program initiatives contained within the supplementary budget that our government has been working on ó enhancing service delivery, continuing to provide the highest consistent level of care in a multitude of areas across the Yukon ó and we have considerably improved under our watch a number of these areas. I am very, very pleased with the progress that we have underway and are making. I would invite questions on the fantastic job that the department is doing across the broad range of initiatives that we have under our mandate, Mr. Chair, and I look forward to constructive debate with the opposition members today.
Mr. McRobb: Well, I see the Health minister is back in form. He has his chest all puffed out once again on how great a job he thinks heís doing, but we see a rather different picture. I would like to ask him a bit about childcare funding. Can he provide us with a detailed breakdown on the allotments provided in this area in the fiscal year? Can he do that?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: There isnít anything contained in the supplementary budget for that area.
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Chair, this opportunity presents us with the ability to ask about government procedures, government spending, government policies and, basically, anything to do with the department. We are not in the lines of the department. We are in general debate. So the minister, by trying to narrow the line of questioning, is really out of order.
I would remind him that it is incumbent upon him to be accountable. Now I notice his official just handed him a bunch of statistics on paper. Thatís probably exactly the information weíre seeking, so once again Iíll ask him for the material.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Most of the money for this area was contained in the main estimates, and if the members had budgeted their time adequately during general debate in the spring of this year on this area, we would have been very forthright, as we always are, in providing the information. But very little time was spent in general debate on the main estimates this spring ó the largest budget ever provided, enhancing economic development and ensuring that we were going to be able to provide the highest consistent level of service to Yukoners in the Department of Health and Social Services, but the issue before us is childcare. Other than the management of the four-year plan, there isnít anything for childcare contained within the supplementary budget. Weíre on the supplementary. If the member opposite wanted to go back to the spring where I was encouraging the official opposition and the third party to spend 40 days rather than the 28 days they wanted to spend on the largest budget ever in the Yukon, all this information would have come forward, but at the end of the day, the guillotine dropped and there were millions of dollars in the mains cleared per hour.
Mr. McRobb: Well, Mr. Chair, the member opposite can take some of the credit for a vast amount of money being cleared in such a short period of time. As the government House leader, he is the one who basically set the doctrine of procedure followed by every one of the Cabinet ministers to delay their answers, stretch them out to the limit, and thatís why we were in a time crunch at the end of the day.
Furthermore, I believe I heard a misrepresentation on the numbers. That member advocated a 32-day sitting. Now, aside from that ó
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Chair: I believe the member is well aware of what I am going to say.
The member has just accused another member of misrepresentation of the numbers. Thatís clearly outside of the Standing Orders of our Assembly, and I would like the member to retract that statement, please.
Withdrawal of remark
†Mr. McRobb: Thank you, Mr. Chair. I will use another word. We can say that the numbers that were put on to the record by the government House leader ó the Health minister† ó were wrong, and the numbers I gave where he advocated a 32-day sitting are correct. This is my view. I am sure that the leader of the third party could probably verify what Iím saying.
Now, back to where I was going, Mr. Chair: aside from all of that, what is important here is dealing with the publicís business. The question I am asking is 100-percent legitimate. I donít want to get into an argument with the member across the way. I donít want to waste the publicís time. I would like him just to agree to provide us with a breakdown on paper, and I will ask him again to do that. Will he do that?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: If the member opposite is asking me to send over a copy of the mains from this spring, Iíd be happy to do that.
Mr. McRobb: The member is wrong. Iím not asking how, in his words, he describes my request. Iíll repeat my very simple request. Iím asking the minister to provide a breakdown of what his government has spent this fiscal year for the purpose of childcare. That would include that section from the mains, that section from any supplementary budgets or warrants or whatever. It is the collective accounting that Iím looking for. Iím not just looking for two or three numbers. My request was for a detailed breakdown.
So, Iím asking the minister: in the interests of public scrutiny, is he prepared to provide that information to the opposition parties?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: The order of magnitude of expenditure is just over $5 million ó between $5 million and $5.5 million.
Mr. McRobb: Thatís fine as a ballpark number; however, thatís not what Iím requesting. Once again, I am requesting a detailed breakdown of money spent in this area during the current fiscal year. Can the minister provide us with that information on paper?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I have to remind the member opposite that we are on the Department of Health and Social Services. We are on the supplementary that is before the House for $8.424 million. If the member opposite wants to get into line-by-line debate on the various areas, Iíd be happy to oblige him. But to go back to the spring and the mains ó I can see where the member is heading. This would place an unwarranted and needless burden on our officials, just for the fact that the member opposite didnít spend the time this spring and didnít do the appropriate analysis when the mains were presented. Further to that, he voted against it at the end of the period of time.
So, we can probably deal with the mains next spring. At that juncture, Iíd be happy to share with the member opposite a complete breakdown and an overview. But what we have before the House here today is the supplementary. In O&M expenditures, weíre asking for an additional $8.424 million.
Iím prepared to go line by line.
Mr. McRobb: Iím not going to get into an argument with the member, as much as he would like that to happen. First of all he said that my request was too general; then he comes back and argues that it is too detailed. I would submit, respectfully, that neither argument is reasonable, and I would suggest a reasonable approach would be for the minister to simply acknowledge that he will provide the information requested. He also pointed to the fact that weíre dealing with the Department of Health and Social Services. The area of my request pertained to childcare, which falls within the scope of that very department.
I would suggest that the memberís points are moot and what remains is the request for information, which is totally valid. Weíre in general debate of the Department of Health and Social Services. Iím simply requesting a breakdown of money spent in this particular area during the fiscal year. If the member insists it is out of order for some reason, then maybe weíll have to research the number of times that very minister insisted on requesting very similar matters from previous governments. I would go so far as to say that most of those requests were satisfied ó until now. And the culture of secrecy from that government, led by this member, is starting to prevail over all its actions.
Now, Iím going to stop there because at the outset, I said that I wouldnít take the bait to fall into an argument. I feel Iím being led in that area. Letís stick to the request. Will the minister provide that information in writing for us?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: This spring of this year, there was an inordinate amount of time that was spent on other areas, rather than the main estimates, which contain virtually all of the money spent in the area that the member opposite is referring to. But as I can see, the member opposite doesnít want to get into a debate on the sensitive matters that the member opposite has not done his homework on.
Let me continue to share with the member opposite some of the other indicators with respect to the comparable health and health system indicators contained within the supplementary budget.
One measure of access to appropriate community health services is the extent to which individuals are hospitalized for conditions that can be managed well with effective and timely treatment in the community. Examples of these conditions are diabetes, asthma, alcohol and drug abuse and depression. Preventive care, primary care and community-based management of these conditions may reduce the need for hospitalization. The Yukon is not a leader in this area. We have a higher rate. We have 520 admissions, versus the Canada average of 346 admissions. Factors such as our small, dispersed population size and the resulting structure of our health services may mean that these indicators are not as relevant to the Yukon as other measures of access to appropriate care.
Probably what is needed is further analysis, and Iím hoping for approval of the supplementary budget so that we can move forward. There has to be a clear overall downward trend in the rate of hospitalization over time, which is occurring here in the Yukon, and which hopefully we can continue.
Some of the other issues include the self-reporting of health. One measure of health status is how individuals rate their own health on a scale from poor to excellent. In the last reporting period, Yukoners were less likely to rate their health as very good or excellent than the average Canadian. We were at 54.4 percent versus the Canadian average of 59.6 percent.
Diabetes is another area that we are having difficulty with and where there is an increase. It is a condition that creates a great burden of illness on individuals, their families and our communities. Many health care dollars are spent in the treatment of diabetes. Knowing the percentage of Yukoners who are diagnosed with diabetes ó referred to as a prevalence ó can assist in identifying the burden of the disease and can be used in public health monitoring and planning.
This is another area that is contained within the supplementary budget and is well identified among Yukoners as a very difficult area to overcome here in the Yukon.
One of the other areas where we can spend a great deal on prevention and move forward is on our teenage smoking rates, and our overall smoking rates. Tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable illness and death in Canada. Because of the addictive nature of nicotine, smoking among youth ó those of the age of 12 to 19 years ó is a great concern. Many of those individuals who try smoking become habitual smokers. But in the last reporting period Canada and the Yukon had a comparable rate of smoking. Fifteen percent of Yukon adolescents reported smoking on a current, daily basis, compared to 14.8 percent of Canadian adolescents.
Mr. Chair, one of the other areas is physical activity, and Yukoners were more active than Canadians as a whole: 58.8 percent of Yukoners versus 51 percent of Canadians reported being active or moderately active. This is an area of great concern. The next one has concerns, and I would encourage all members to pay attention ó
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, I donít want to sound repetitious, but this minister is all over the map. I asked him a question about childcare information, and what he is doing is reading some script of a previous speech from I donít know when. It is not pertinent to the debate. There is no rule in the Standing Orders to prevent this; there should be a rule. But at least the minister should have some compunction in the public interest to avoid wasting time.
Chair: As there is no Standing Order, there is no point of order.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Chair: The member has just requested a meeting of the Standing Committee on Rules, Elections and Privileges, and I would encourage the chair to call such a meeting.
Letís continue on with debate.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: The next item I would encourage all members to take heed of. It is a very high indicator of our health. It is body-mass index. It refers to obesity, which has been identified as a major risk factor contributing to a number of chronic illnesses, including diabetes and heart disease.
The body-mass index is a self-reporting measure of weight that takes into account a personís height. This is an area that my colleagues in this House should pay special attention to.
Half of Yukoners are within an acceptable weight range and there are no gender differences that exist. Roughly one-third of Yukoners ó 30.7 percent ó were overweight and no gender differences existed. More Yukoners, at 19.2 percent, than Canadians, at 14.5 percent, were classified as obese. This is a serious concern. We have three identified issues. We have the issue of obesity, we have the issue of physical activity and we have the issue of smoking, and I would encourage the official opposition to get on board and see what they can do to reduce them.
Seeing the time, I move that we report progress.
Chair: It has been moved by Mr. Jenkins that we report progress on Bill No. 12, Second Appropriation Act, 2004-05.
Motion agreed to
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I move that the Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Chair: It has been moved by Mr. Jenkins that the Speaker do now resume the Chair.†
Motion agreed to
Speaker resumes the Chair
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
May the House have a report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole?
Mr. Rouble: Mr. Speaker, Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 12, Second Appropriation Act, 2004-05, and has directed me to report progress on it.
Speaker: You have heard the report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: I declare the report carried.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I move that the House do now adjourn.
Speaker: It has been moved by the government House leader that the House do now adjourn.
Motion agreed to
Speaker: This House stands adjourned until 1:00 p.m. tomorrow.
The House adjourned at 5:56 p.m.
The following Sessional Papers were tabled December 1, 2004:
Yukon Hospital Corporation Financial Statements (dated March 31, 2004)† (Jenkins)
Motor Transport Board Annual Report 2003-04† (Hart)