††††††† Whitehorse, Yukon
††††††† Wednesday, April 20, 2005 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.
Introduction of visitors.
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS
†Mr. Rouble: Mr. Speaker, Iíd ask the Assembly to join me in welcoming a former Commissioner of the Yukon Territory and a resident of the beautiful Southern Lakes, Mr. Ken McKinnon.
Speaker: Are there further introductions of visitors?
Are there returns or documents for tabling?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Hon. Ms. Taylor: †Mr. Speaker, I have for tabling, Investing in Public Service ó serving Yukon people.
Speaker: Are there any further returns or documents for tabling?
Are there any reports of committees?
Are there any petitions?
Are there any notices of motion?
Are there statements by ministers?
This then brings us to Question Period.
Question re:† Coal-fired plant
†Mr. McRobb: † On March 30, I questioned the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources about the CBC Radio report on coal mining near Braeburn. I quoted the acting CEO of Cash Resources, who said his company wants to become a major player in the Yukon energy market with the introduction of coal-bed methane, coal-fired generators and uranium production. The minister scoffed at the CBC report. However, it seems there is more to the ministerís secret plan than he was letting on.
This morning, CBC carried another report, this time quoting the CEO, who said he is having positive discussions with the Yukon Energy Corporation. Whatís going on here? Why is the minister not letting Yukoners in on his secret plan?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Obviously, itís not a secret ó CBC knows about it.
I would like to inform the member opposite that we currently have an excess of hydro power. Should we buy more excess power? I think not.
Mr. McRobb: Well, weíre not getting much information out of this minister, as usual. Let me help him. This Toronto-based mining company wants to mine coal at Division Mountain near Braeburn. Cash Resources wants to ship most of that coal to Asia while burning the rest in the coal-fired generation plant.
That sounds just like the plan from back in 1994 when the Yukon Party was in government. Itís ďback to the futureĒ all over again. Whatís next ó a railroad to Carmacks? And is it a mere coincidence that the Yukonís energy minister at the time is now the chair of the Yukon Energy Corporation? When will the minister be disclosing to Yukoners the details of this backroom arrangement?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Again, Iíd like to correct the member opposite. There is no need for excess power at the moment. The coal mining company the member opposite is mentioning is certainly looking at the prospect of exporting coal from their claims on Division Mountain. All thatís happening now is itís proceeding with the exploration. As far as coal-fired generation, again I remind the member opposite that we have excess hydro power at the moment.
Mr. McRobb: That minister is not being very forthright, as he wants us to believe. I invite him to bring in a ministerial statement tomorrow on this matter ó letís discuss it. The radio report said 175,000 tonnes per year could be burned at a generating station. Presumably this is the same old mine-mouth coal plan scheme from more than a decade ago, long before Kyoto and the severity of climate change was known.
Doesnít the minister know that the amount of carbon dioxide released during mining the coal is just as high as when the coal is burned?
Since this is clearly a public policy issue, when does the minister intend to ask the Yukon public if they support his back-to-the-future approach with coal?
Hon. Mr. Lang: To calm the member opposite down, I will repeat: we have excess hydro power at this moment. As far as the prospects of the coal mine on Division Mountain, certainly there are prospects for exporting the coal, but as far as this government is concerned, there is no need for a cogeneration out of coal at the moment.
Question re: Kyoto Protocol
Mrs. Peter: The Yukon Party government is paying little attention to environmental implications in its secret pursuit of coal development. Greenhouse gas emissions from coal have the potential to bury the Kyoto Protocol.
On Monday the Minister of Environment stated that his department was solely a monitoring agency when it comes to climate change. While the effects of global warming grow, the minister is prepared to stand by idly while his officials check the temperature and pass the buck to the Department of Energy, Mines and Resources.
Will the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources tell us why the Yukon Party government is ignoring the territoryís Kyoto Protocol responsibilities?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, this government is not ignoring anything with respect to the Kyoto Protocol. We have a responsibility; the Department of Environment has a responsibility. I would like to table for the member opposite a copy of the federal governmentís position, Moving Forward on Climate Change: A Plan for Honouring our Kyoto Commitment. It clearly outlines what the responsibilities of the Yukon are in this regard.
Mrs. Peter: Mr. Speaker, other provinces and territories are taking this problem of climate change seriously. B.C. has published a plan to guide its approach as it works with the federal government, industry, local government and individuals to address climate change. Nunavut has signed a memorandum of understanding with Canada for cooperation on addressing climate change. The N.W.T. has had a greenhouse gas strategy since 2001. To this day before this minister tabled the report, there was nothing from this government. Why has the Yukon Party government failed to make any agreements with the federal government to meet the Kyoto objectives?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, that information is totally inaccurate ó totally. One of the major goals in the northern strategy that the Yukon, Northwest Territories and Nunavut signed on to is addressing the issue of global warming and climate change.
Mrs. Peter: This government is not up to the task of keeping Yukoners informed on climate change. If someone goes to the federal government climate change Web site, the only link to the Yukon is to the non-existent Department of Renewable Resources. The budget for 2005-06 does not contain one single thing on climate change. Why is this global threat, which is affecting us more than anywhere else, not on this governmentís agenda?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: The Web site that the member is referring to is a federal government Web site. Iíll pass the information on to the federal government that their information contained therein is inaccurate.
Our position is clear: climate change is one of the major goals in the northern strategy that Yukoners signed on to with Canada, along with Nunavut and the Northwest Territories. Weíre moving forward. Itís an initiative that is well-recognized, but letís bear in mind that the climate change that weíre experiencing here is primarily occurring because weíre the recipient of changes in lifestyle in other areas of the world. The prevailing winds move everything up to the north and we are the recipient. You might even refer to it as a cesspool of waste from other areas of the world.
We have a problem but we are dealing with it. Canada is the lead and weíre working with Canada in this regard. Weíre working inside the goals of our northern strategy.
Question re: Electoral reform
†Ms. Duncan: Iíd like to follow up with the Premier on electoral reform. During the 2002 territorial election campaign, the Yukon Party promised in its platform: ďUpon formation of government, strike an independent commission of citizens to hold public consultations on electoral reform in the Yukon.Ē The Premier appointed a senior advisor in response to his commitment. The public consultation portion of the promise remains unfulfilled.
As we all know, Robert Service said, ďA promise made is a debt unpaid.Ē My question for the Premier is this: is this the end of the Yukon Party commitment to public discussion of electoral reform? Will the public consultation portion of the promise on electoral reform remain a promise made and not kept ó an unpaid Yukon Party debt?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: This is certainly not the end of the initiative, but it was clear that the governmentís choice to first look into the matter of electoral reform by utilizing processes in other jurisdictions ó in this case, British Columbia ó was important. It pointed out that the electoral system in the Yukon is not broken; we need not fix that. But it certainly exposed the issue of legislative renewal ó changing how we conduct ourselves in this institution and improving that area.
So we are going to continue on with public consultation and, in fact, today we will be debating with the members opposite that very initiative. We need not spend millions of dollars on commissions. We have the tools necessary. The Standing Committee on Rules, Elections and Privileges can do the work that is required here.
Weíll continue on with legislative renewal, building an economy, improving our education system and strengthening our social fabric. If the members opposite want to make an election plank out of electoral reform, thatís their choice ó we wonít.
Ms. Duncan: The difficulty with changing the focus of discussion from electoral reform to legislative renewal is that the public consultation portion of the promise is lost in the debate. Public consultation remains a promise made and a debt unpaid, and the remainder of the bardís line was, ďand the trail has its own stern code.Ē
The election trail has its own code, Mr. Speaker, and there are Yukoners who feel very passionately about electoral reform and the opportunity to publicly discuss it. Thereís a great deal of information available. Iím not advocating a $5.5 million process like British Columbiaís; however, before the Yukon Party feels the stern code of the election campaign trail, where they will repeatedly hear that they didnít keep their promises, will they act on the leader of the official oppositionís motion about a public commission? Will they hold public consultations specifically on electoral reform, as they promised?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Thatís exactly what weíre going to do today. We are going to debate in this House a motion tabled by the government side that we believe is the important initiative we must proceed with ó that is, legislative renewal.
Electoral reform is not needed in this territory. Furthermore, Mr. Speaker, it became evident that electoral reform for the Yukon could compromise the fair and balanced representation in this House, considering the demographics of this territory politically. We are doing the job we committed to do, and that is improving governance in the territory, and we start today.
The challenge of the members opposite is to join with us constructively, strike the committee and go to work on legislative renewal. Thatís their challenge.
Ms. Duncan: We have a Yukon Party promise. That promise specifically said: public consultation on electoral reform ó public consultation. We have a Yukon Party promise made and a debt unpaid on public consultation. It sounds, from the Premierís answer, that there will not be any public consultation: no opportunity for Yukoners to have a very public discussion.
Thereís a wide array of information available about electoral reform. Instead the Yukon Party has focused on legislative renewal ó electoral reform to legislative renewal. The Yukon Party response in the motion weíre discussing today focuses on manners in the Legislature rather than the manner in which we all got here. Thatís what the public would like to have a consultation about. The leader of the official opposition brought forward a motion yesterday for a commission. The Premier is saying no to all of those. The Premier is saying no to Yukoners ó no consultation on electoral reform.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Let me point out to the member opposite that weíre here in this position, elected as government, because of the economy. That was the number one issue for Yukoners. It wasnít electoral reform. It wasnít that issue at all. But we conducted a process in honouring our commitment and that process clearly points out that the electoral system in the Yukon is working. Thereís nothing wrong with it. In fact, itís one of the better systems in the country when it comes to fair and balanced representation.
Furthermore, this is not a jurisdiction that has struggled with voter turnout. I believe we historically are looking at very high numbers. In the last election, it was somewhere in the neighbourhood of 80-percent voter turnout. We need not fix something that isnít broken, but we can certainly improve the product that comes out of this Assembly, and thatís what the government intends to do.
The members opposite say that the number one burning issue for Yukoners, as laid out here today and articulated by the third party, is electoral reform. Thatís their position. This government says the number one issue for Yukoners is building the economy, building a better and brighter future for our children. That includes jobs for people. That includes an improved education system. That includes a strengthened social fabric. Thatís what weíre doing without the contribution of the members opposite.
Question re: Public/private partnerships
Mr. Hardy: Itís interesting that weíve been talking about burning coal to generate electricity in the same week that weíve been trying to get to the bottom of this governmentís agenda on public/private partnerships. Itís interesting, but not too surprising, considering some of the commitments this government made at election time ó and I know Iím not allowed to reference back to a question, so I wonít.
For example, on page 6 of the Yukon Party platform, we see this little gem ó another reference to the party platform today, interestingly enough: ďencourage the effective management and operation of the Yukon Energy Corporation and promote a public/private sector partnership in supplying power to Yukon communities.Ē
My question is for the minister responsible for the Yukon Development Corporation: is the Development Corporation or its subsidiary, Yukon Energy Corporation, involved in any discussions with Cash Resources Ltd. or any other companies regarding P3 projects to supply power to Yukon communities?
Hon. Mr. Lang: The answer to that is no.
Mr. Hardy: Now, Mr. Speaker, this is a question that needs to be asked, especially since the minister has not been very forthcoming about certain YDC issues recently. One of these issues is a sole-source contract the ministerís Energy, Mines and Resources department has with a consultant to act as a champion of a particular mineral resource project. That consultant also happens to be the ministerís choice as Chair of the Yukon Development Corporation. Now, we have to wonder why there is so much secrecy surrounding the situation. The minister has happily told us this person is well qualified for the job, but he hasnít told us what that job is.
Now Iíd like to give the minister an opportunity to spell out his agenda. Will the minister provide detailed terms of reference for all contracts between his department and the Yukon Development Corporation, and the chair of the corporation, as well as any directions given to the YDC chair related to public/private partnerships to supply power to Yukon communities? Will he do that, please?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Mr. Speaker, in answering the member opposite, we certainly arenít looking at P3s for generating power for the Yukon. To answer that one question again, no.
The other question he asked about ó the information pertaining to the Yukon Energy Corporation/Yukon Development Corporation on contracts, whether labour or otherwise ó those are all on the Web site. They are public information and the member opposite can certainly have access to them.
Mr. Hardy: Thatís interesting, Mr. Speaker. What Iím referring to ó a lot of it was in their platform when they ran. Now, I have looked on those Web sites and I havenít been very happy with what I have been able to find so far. But I am going to try to get answers from this minister again.
Iíd like the Premier in this case to help us out in a collaborative and consensus-building style that was promised from the platform. The Premier has opportunity to reverse the culture of secrecy that the Ombudsman referred to in his last report. So hopefully when he stands up he is going to be very forthcoming.
For the record, will the Premier tell us what mandate his government has given the Yukon Development Corporation with respect to public/private partnerships and how does this fit in to the P3 policy we have been hearing so much about but havenít seen yet?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Mr. Speaker, again, Iíd like to correct the member opposite. There is no P3 concept for anything in the Yukon at the moment, least of all the power corporation. We have enough issues with the power corporation without going to P3s, Mr. Speaker, I assure you.
Question re: Public/private partnerships
Mr. Hardy: Well, there is no P3 concept, yet theyíre spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on it ó interesting.
Now, if we look at the governmentís Web site, public/private partnerships come across as the greatest invention since the wheel. But that is a long way from the true story about P3s. Two of the worst features of P3s are that taxpayers often end up paying more for services that arenít up to the highest standards and that P3 deals are often shrouded in a huge amount of secrecy. In the last few days, the members opposite have been changing their tune a little on the Dawson bridge P3 ó you only have to reference Hansard. To use the Premierís term, the bridge is not yet a P3 project.
Let me ask the Premier this: why is the Dawson bridge even being considered as a possible P3 when a report from within his own government said that thatís not the best way to go with this project?
Hon. Mr. Hart: We are going through the process with regard to an RFP on the Dawson bridge right now and we are asking the private sector to provide a bid on building the Dawson bridge. Thatís the process weíre going through.
Mr. Hardy: No, P3; yes, possibly a P3; absolutely a P3 for Dawson City. Which minister or Premier is going to stand up and tell us the true story in this matter?
Last year the Premier singled out the Dawson bridge as a prime and ideal candidate for a public/private partnership. This government has already spent a significant amount to get Partnerships B.C., which works on P3s, involved. Now weíre being told itís not yet a P3 project, but itís walking like one and itís talking like one.
What commitment did the Yukon government make to the companies that qualified to bid on this project that the tender documents would be treated as privileged and confidential? Try to answer that one.
Hon. Mr. Hart: Weíre following the process thatís outlined in the RFP and RFQ process that has been worked on.
Mr. Hardy: My goodness, isnít the information pouring out of these people?
Mr. Speaker, Iíve already mentioned that two features of P3s are excess cost and excess secrecy. Guess what weíre getting today? Iíve been involved in many government tenders over the years. The whole point of public tenders is that they are public. An open, competitive bidding system is the best way to guarantee that everyone is being treated fairly and that there has been no political interference. Itís the best way for the public to see that theyíre getting value for their tax dollars.
All tender documents are supposed to be public. There is absolutely no reason the rules should be different for the Dawson bridge unless the government feels it has something to hide.
Will the Premier now overrule his minister and lift the veil of secrecy from the tender documents for this multi-million dollar contract and assure the House that all future infrastructure projects involving Yukon taxpayersí money will be done openly and transparently?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: In the first place, this government is already on record as clearly committing to the Yukon public that we would, for any public/private partnership project, make the business case in the public domain. There are no P3 projects in the Yukon ó not one. There are processes involved that are looking into the possibility of such projects as the Dawson bridge as a candidate for a P3 project.
Why are we doing that? Because this government is going to use mechanisms in this territory that increase private sector investment, complementing government investment. In other words, this government intends to create growth in the private sector in the Yukon. This is not a secret. Weíve talked about it over and over and over. The secret is that the members opposite arenít clearly demonstrating to the public that they have an aversion to the private sector growing in the Yukon.
Question re: Contracts, sole-sourcing
†Mr. Hardy: Yesterday, I asked the Premier about the Yukon Party governmentís addiction to redistributing taxpayersí dollars through secretive sole-source contracts. I touched on a number of departments, but didnít get to one of the most outstanding ó truly a champion of the sole-source contract.
My question, very simply, is: why is the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources issuing such an inordinate number of sole-source contracts in its department?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Those contracts are far from secret. Theyíre public information.
†Mr. Hardy: Well, after the fact, Mr. Speaker.
†Now letís look at some of those examples since the minister opposite wonít share any information with us. From April 2004 to September 2004, 80 percent of all Energy, Mines and Resources general consulting contracts ó worth over $6.3 million ó were sole sourced. Eighty percent. Since April 2004, thirteen contracts dealing with oil, gas and pipeline consulting were signed by the government; each and every one was sole sourced. If you sole source every single contract, how do the Yukon people know if theyíre receiving value for their money. Will the minister commit to providing a public evaluation of these consulting contracts? Will he do that?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Theyíre all within the policy of the government. Most of those contracts the member opposite is cherry-picking on are specific assignments that have specific qualifications to do the job at hand. We are not running the Department of Energy, Mines and Resources any differently from how it was run in the past. A lot of these contracts are specific contracts for specific jobs with specific expertise, not available in the local arena.
Mr. Hardy: Well, there we go. This minister is standing on his feet admitting that the local people do not have the talent to do these contracts. Thirteen contracts in oil, gas and pipeline, all sole sourced so other people donít have an opportunity to even submit a price or even to qualify. Iíve heard this from contractors and consultants, and what they have asked is, ďHow can I compete when weíre not even given a chance to bid on contracts?Ē How is that fair? They arenít contacted and they only learn after the fact about the contracts, and thatís what this minister is doing. Now Iíd like to remind the Premier in this case that the government has policies and regulations in place designed to give everyone a fair shake and prevent this kind of abuse thatís happening. There are source lists and there are contract limits, but they seem to have been continually ignored by many of these departments.
So my question goes to the Premier: will the Premier insist that all his ministers stick to the rules when it comes to sole sourcing and commit to a review of all departments in regard to sole-sourcing contracts, amounts, limits and source lists?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: The member opposite is implying that departments are breaking policy, law and regulation, and thatís not happening. I need not insist anything of the sort. All departments and all ministers are following the policies and regulations and legislation we must.
The member alluded to the fact that Yukoners arenít getting a chance to bid on government contracts. I would point out to the member opposite that this government, in three budgets, has doubled the capital investment in this territory. All Yukoners have an opportunity to bid on government contracts in todayís Yukon. This fiscal year, there are 206 million reasons to bid on contracts for government.
Question re: Energy policy
Mr. McRobb: I want to follow up with the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources on his governmentís energy policy, or perhaps lack of an energy policy.
It has become quite noticeable, especially since the coal mine and coal plant have been put back on the table, that this government really needs a public energy policy built from public involvement in order to guide how the territoryís energy sources are developed.
Weíve heard not a peep out of this minister about what his energy policy is. Can he enlighten us now?
Hon. Mr. Lang: We have existing energy policies. I see no reason to tweak them. They seem to be working. Weíre moving forward.
As a government, weíre committed to working with the Yukon Development Corporation and the Yukon Energy Corporation in a positive way, understanding the challenges that this government found itself in when we took office two and a half years ago. I think the Energy Corporation should be complimented for moving forward and addressing the challenges as they moved along.
Again, we are a government that works with the Development Corporation, which is a Crown corporation, in a very positive way and I think theyíre doing an exceptional job.
Mr. McRobb: Well, where is this secret energy policy, Mr. Speaker? Iíve asked for it on previous occasions. The minister said theyíre working on tweaking it. What I think I just heard him say is that there is no need to tweak it. Theyíre using an existing one. I would like him to table for us whatever energy policy it is theyíre operating under.
Now, if we look at the Northwest Territories, Mr. Speaker, they have a much more advanced approach to energy policy in their territory. On April 15, their minister of the power corporation announced they would be pursuing vigorously green sources of energy, including microturbines, wind power and solar energy. In the Yukon we have quite a different approach from this minister. He is going back to the future with his mine-mouth coal plant scheme. Why doesnít the minister learn from his counterpart in the N.W.T., not from the Member for Klondike, who is advising him and coaching him on his answers, Mr. Speaker, and soften his back-to-the-future with coal approach.
Hon. Mr. Lang: For the member opposite, our secret energy policy is interesting, and maybe he should contact his local media to find out what is secret about it.
I would like to remind the member opposite about his term in office, when they burned $4.7 million worth of diesel on not drawing down the Aishihik Lake without any science or anything else, just the word of the member opposite. It cost the Yukon consumers ó
Speaker: Order. Order. The Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources has just made a statement that imputed false or unavowed motives to the Member for Kluane, and I would ask you to retract that, please.
Withdrawal of remark
Hon. Mr. Lang: I retract that, Mr. Speaker. I apologize for that, but I would like to remind the House of the operation today and in the past of Yukon Energy. This government does not meddle with the internal management of the corporation. It has a very solid board of directors. It is moving forward in the energy of the Yukon and I am very pleased with the outcome as it is today.
Mr. McRobb: This minister is bent on reliving the past. A lot of the past was when he was a member on that same board of directors for the Yukon Development Corporation that was starting to deal with the Mayo-Dawson transmission line and dealing with the other matters he mentions and so on. Now, he is the minister and he also has a couple of key Yukon Party people in place, guiding the corporation along the secret path that the minister has planned.
Now, the N.W.T. has a much more advanced energy policy. This government hasnít tabled its energy policy yet, so weíll wait for that one to come along. In the Yukon Party platform, it stated that they would ďsupport energy conservation initiatives and ensure Yukonís energy resources are developed and managed in an economically and environmentally responsible manner.Ē
How can the minister promise that when his corporation is having active discussions with the proponents of a mine-mouth coal plant scheme?
Hon. Mr. Lang: We arenít having any discussions with this non-existent, coal-fired project. So, we can move that off the table. We are moving forward in the energy field, working very solidly with our corporation.
I cannot, as Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources responsible for the Yukon Energy Corporation and Yukon Development Corporation ó we certainly can learn from our neighbours, but we do not run their energy policies. We are responsible for our own corporation, and the corporation is moving ahead with very capable people in charge.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed. Weíll proceed to Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
government private membersí business
MOTIONS OTHER THAN GOVERNMENT MOTIONS
Motion No. 435
†Clerk: Motion No. 435, standing in the name of Mr. Rouble.
Speaker: It is moved by the Member for Southern Lakes
THAT the Standing Committee on Rules, Elections and Privileges begin a process of legislative renewal for the Yukon Legislative Assembly by making recommendations to the House on a code of conduct and decorum that promotes consensus building, collaboration and compromise.
Mr. Rouble: Itís my honour and indeed my pleasure to rise before the Assembly today to discuss this motion. The legislative reform motion is designed in a way to get members to work together in consultation, collaboration and consensus with each other to ensure that we have a system that best meets the needs of all Yukoners.
As an MLA, I was sent here to represent the views and opinions of my constituents, to work toward addressing their needs and to implement the policies and platform commitments that the Yukon Party put forward. Iím here to lobby, to manage, to balance, to ensure fairness, to compromise and overall to act in the best interests of the people of the Southern Lakes and the people of the Yukon. This is a responsibility that I take very seriously and one that I work very hard to accomplish.
As youíre well aware, Mr. Speaker, being an MLA is not without its challenges, and one of the questions that Iím constantly asked is: ďWhy did you run? Why would you go through all of that? Why would you put yourself in that position? Why would you put up with all of the challenges and difficulties that we all know all of the MLAs face?Ē Well, I believe that we as politicians get involved with the leadership and governance of our community because we sincerely want to make things better, and that we believe that we have the skills and attributes necessary to do the job. We have strong beliefs and we want to see them acted upon. We as a society obviously need some type of governance structure, some type of assembly and, as Churchill said, ďDemocracy is the worst form of government except for all those others that have been tried.Ē
Our process isnít perfect, but it does work and it works especially well when people work with it rather than against it.
Part of this debate has to deal with how we are elected, how we operate as legislators, and how we work together. The beginning of the process includes the election process. For me, it was a very interesting and motivating experience. It was an incredible experience to find out what Yukoners wanted from their government. It was also very interesting to find out the criteria that people chose to select their representatives.
Some considered the personality of the individual running and the background of that person; some, the affiliation with a party and a particular philosophy; and others considered the specific platform commitments that were made.
Mr. Speaker, as representatives, our ultimate but impossible goal would be to make the same decision that each of the electorate would make if they were given the same information weíre given, but that is understandably impossible. Thereís simply too much diversity to satisfy all the people all the time. The challenge that all politicians and leaders have is to remain true to constituents, true to our promises and commitments and true to our beliefs, all the while operating in the best interests of the citizens of the territory.
As we are all aware, Yukoners are very involved in politics. One only has to take a quick walk down the street and one is soon involved in a political discussion. Whether itís a matter of municipal nature, territorial or federal, itís often the number one topic with Yukoners and, with our small population, weíre often very involved.
As the Member for Kluane said last week, he knew all the individuals in his riding.
People are very close with their elected representatives. They all have our own home telephone numbers, they know where we work, they know where we live, and theyíre not afraid to knock on our doors and tell us what they think.
As we have such an involved electorate, we also have very good results for our elections. In the last election in the beautiful Southern Lakes riding, over 76 percent of electors voted. Mr. Speaker, thatís a statistic that other jurisdictions can only dream of having. Our people are very involved. Our young people are involved. Our people of different cultures are involved. Everyone is involved.
Now, the last election was very successful in terms of voter turnout, in terms of participation of young people, gender and minority representation and democratic representation. In our system, our electorate has very close ties with their representatives. We are each contacted daily by constituents with concerns and opinions, and with our relatively small population in our ridings, we know all of our constituents. What they say influences us and our choices.
Now, we have all heard what is important to Yukoners. They have stopped us on the street; theyíve called us at home. We knocked on their doors and asked them whatís important to Yukoners. Mr. Speaker, we were told that Yukoners were very concerned about having a sustainable economy. They wanted to see improvements to the health of Yukon communities, and they wanted an overall better quality of life for Yukoners. Mr. Speaker, thatís whatís important to Yukoners, and that is what the Yukon Party has taken action on.
In the couple of years that the Yukon Party government has been in power, we have had many successes. Weíve practised good governance by being good fiscal managers. Weíve targeted government spending to create jobs, and weíre leading the nation in First Nations relations.
Weíre building a strong and resilient economy. We have the lowest unemployment rate in years. We have a growing population. There are more pages in the help wanted section of the newspaper than Iíve seen in years. Weíve made tremendous inroads in developing all sectors of the economy, whether it be mining ó we have a drill operating in the Yukon after 30 years of no oil exploration. Weíre getting pipeline-ready. Weíre working on resource extraction, including timber.
Weíre increasing traffic on the Alaska Highway with the scenic drives. Weíre moving forward with construction and planning, and preparing for our athletes coming to the Canada Games. Weíre investing in tourism and scenic drives. Weíre building tourism partnerships with different companies, such as Fulda, Holland America and White Pass. I am proud to say that the train will be coming back to Carcross this year: with the work of the Carcross-Tagish First Nation, this government and White Pass, weíre going to see the train come back. In conversations that Iíve had with a representative of White Pass, Iím told that the crew will be starting in about a week and that, later this year, weíll see upwards of 25, 30, 35 people working to rebuild that economic and tourism tie that we have. Weíll see the train come back and with that will come back more opportunities for all Yukoners.
Weíre seeing investments in information technology. Weíre seeing investments in the arts and cultural industry. Weíre seeing investments in the environment with Tombstone Park, with Kusawa, with the Wildlife Preserve. We are indeed building a stronger, more resilient economy.
Weíre also taking very concrete steps to improve the lives of Yukoners. It has been said before, and it needs to be said again: more Yukoners are employed now than there were only a couple of years ago. Weíre recognizing and treating fetal alcohol spectrum disorder; we have a 28-day alcohol and drug treatment program; we have the second most funded childcare system in Canada; we have benefits for seniors who stay in the north, including pharmacare, the pioneer utility grant and our growing infrastructure of extended care facilities.
Weíre working in partnership with First Nation governments: the joint Childrenís Act review, the joint corrections review and the joint education reform ó
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Speaker: Member for Kluane, on a point of order.
Mr. McRobb: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker, the member is all over the map, talking about commitments in his riding and so on ó undertakings by this government ó just about anything other than the content of the motion itself, which is to refer legislative renewal for this Assembly to SCREP. Heís talking about projects and initiatives, and itís contrary to Standing Order 19(b)(i) of the House rules. I ask you to call him to order.
Speaker: On the point of order.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: On the point of order, Mr. Speaker, there is no point of order. The member opposite is just concerned with the content of the member oppositeís motion debate and has risen accordingly. Itís probably one of the major reasons why weíre in this debate today here.
††††††† Speaker: There is no point of order. Itís a dispute between members; however, the Member for Southern Lakes is presumably providing linkage, and I would ask that the focus be on the motion, from all sides.
Mr. Rouble: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite has made a good illustration here ó that there are Standing Orders that do govern our behaviour in our Assembly and all members would do well to follow them and not raise needless or inappropriate points of order.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Speaker: Order please. Thatís my job. Yours is to debate the motion. The Chair will decide when there is a point of order.
Mr. Rouble: Now that weíre on track with the key priorities of Yukoners, there are other issues that Yukoners would like us to focus our attention on.
My constituents have told me that they want the behaviour and antics in the Legislative Assembly cleaned up, and that is something that I have taken seriously, both in my role as MLA for the beautiful Southern Lakes and also in my role as Deputy Speaker.
I have faced criticism from some for being too strict on interpreting the rules of the Assembly, and others have suggested I should allow a freer debate. But I believe there are good reasons for our Standing Orders. They help us preserve order and decorum while allowing criticism and different positions to be expressed. They arenít perfect, but few things in life are. They were only recently amended by a committee made up of the leaders of the three political parties. Weíve barely had a chance to apply these new rules in a full legislative cycle.
I understand that in comparison to past governments, there has been an improvement in the decorum of this Assembly. The Commissioner, in closing the second sitting of the 31st Legislature on December 16, 2003, paid members the following compliment. He said: ďMr. Speaker, I had the opportunity to listen to the debate this afternoon and on some previous occasions, and I have to give you my personal compliments. I think the peace, order and good government quotient in this room has gone up quite markedly. So my compliments to you and to the members. Iím sure the public will take notice of the increase in civility and will accord you the respect you deserve.Ē
Mr. Speaker, during the initial sittings of this Assembly, the members proved that they could work together. We saw many, many examples of motions that were debated, amended and unanimously supported.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Rouble: Iím sorry, Mr. Speaker, there is a comment being made from the opposition side. Perhaps he can address that later when itís his turn.
We do have a challenge in this Assembly, when we are debating an issue, to keep on track without being interrupted, again, by the catcalls and comments from other members.
Mr. Speaker, during the initial sittings of this Assembly, members proved that we could work together. But recently there has been a change in behaviour in this House that is a concern to some Yukoners. There is bickering, there are personal attacks, catcalls, heckling, political attacks, negativism for the sake of personal political gain and other issues. We only have to look to last week when we saw an opposition motion talked out after it was amended to include consulting with appropriate stakeholders.
Mr. Speaker, what causes this? Why is this the case? How come members just canít get along politely? I mean, thatís a question we have all heard before: ďWhy canít you folks just get along and work things out?Ē Well, how can we look at structuring our business operations to better serve the needs of Yukoners? Part of this is due to the way weíre set up in this Assembly with the opposition and the government side. The governmentís role is to implement its platform. It was given a mandate by the people to perform certain tasks, certain projects, to think in a certain way, to behave in a certain manner, and thatís what it intends to do.
The role of the opposition is often a very interesting one. Iíve heard the leader of the opposition try to define his role as the leader of the opposition to other people, because in the very title ďleader of the official oppositionĒ, the notion is often to oppose what the government is doing. Now the overall role of the opposition in our system is very interesting, because it is often to oppose, to often do everything within their power to put themselves in the best light so that they can win the next election. In their defence, they think theyíre right so pragmatically they should do whatever it takes so that they will have the best chance of running the territory and ultimately do what they think is right for the territory. This belief then justifies that they can and should use every means and tactic at their disposal to create the perception that the government is bad.
So when the opposition works to create a negative environment in our Assembly, what happens? Well, we all look bad, especially the sitting government. That is often an objective of the opposition. We have rules in our Assembly: our Standing Orders outline our behaviour and our actions. They give us a tremendous amount of flexibility and the openness to say what is in our heads and in our hearts. We often need that flexibility without restraint to properly express the views of our constituents, and to come to the Assembly and speak without restraint, without fear of reprimand, about the concerns and opinions raised to us by others. But we need to be able to do that in a way thatís conducive to working with each other.
We have an adversarial relationship in this Assembly by the very nature that we have a government and an opposition, but there has to be a better way. I know for a fact that there are good ideas coming from the opposition side. They have demonstrated that in debate, in motion debate and in some cases in the bills theyíve put forward, which have contained, in some part, good points. So we need to work with them as they need to work with us. There is no one that has a stranglehold on a good idea. There are good ideas all throughout this Assembly, but we need to find a way within our system of allowing us to have a better, more open debate without the bickering, the heckling, the catcalls, that weíve seen in our Assembly.
I suggest that changes to our Standing Orders ó including a code of conduct that would outline acceptable behaviour, including comments made off-microphone and heckling ó would have an increase in the decorum and an increase in the ability of members to express themselves, and the ability to have a fuller and more open debate and ultimately to better serve the needs of all Yukoners.
In our Assembly we have a mechanism for changing our rules. This is the Standing Committee on Rules, Elections and Privileges. The most common duty of this committee is to review the Standing Orders and to report recommended changes of the Standing Orders to the Assembly. Its membership includes a representative makeup of members from all political parties.
Mr. Speaker, itís one of our committees that we already have, that we have outlined in our Standing Orders, that we already have members on, and that I believe has already met. We already have this committee established to look at some of the procedures, the Standing Orders and the election rules that we have for our Assembly. Mr. Speaker, I would urge that a meeting be called as soon as possible where all members of the Standing Committee on Rules, Elections and Procedures, or their designated alternate, attend ó
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Rouble: I stand corrected. I have received some constructive criticism from member opposite that the ďPĒ is ďPrivilegesĒ.
Indeed, Mr. Speaker, there are opportunities in our Assembly where we can get a helpful hand from the members opposite, and I thank him for his constructive criticism.
Now, Mr. Speaker, we already have this committee formed. It has rules. I believe in the Legislative Assembly budget there are provisions that are made up for it. We already have members who are paid to be on it ó or I believe if they donít attend the meeting they receive a reduction in their pay as a means of encouraging members to attend. I also understand, Mr. Speaker, that some members have been reluctant to attend. Well, Mr. Speaker, I would urge a meeting to take place where these issues can be brought forward in the manner that they were designed to be brought forward, discussed, debated and acted upon in our Standing Orders.
Mr. Speaker, I think that just the very nature of having SCREP reconvene and work together will work toward improving decorum, but if they can also make some substantive, quality recommendations regarding the issues that have been brought forward, such as fixed opening dates for the Assembly or the composition and role of the committees ó they have the power and the ability to work through these issues. This committee has the ability to call witnesses, and I believe there is nothing preventing this committee from seeking input from others, such as from the Yukon public.
Now, let us try this efficient, economical, existing solution before we try to reinvent the wheel. It was only one week ago when the Member for Mount Lorne said, ďWhat I fail to see, I guess, is the need for another consultation process when there is a consultation process already happening and itís in place. I feel that it injects yet another consultation process into a consultation process that is already underway, and it disrespects the process that is already in place and already happening.Ē
Mr. Speaker, I agree with the Member for Mount Lorne. We already have a process for dealing with this. Weíve all identified the need for a solution. Weíve all read the recent report that has indicated that this is an issue of concern for Yukoners, and Iím sure that we have all heard it on the street. The Yukon public would like to see a change in the behaviour here.
Yes, we can accomplish a lot by simply following the existing Standing Orders, being true to them and following them in good faith, not trying to press the boundaries or cross the line, and the only ramification being an admonishment from the Speaker or Deputy Speaker. Again, I thank the member opposite for his words of encouragement.
We have a way of dealing with this. Itís the Standing Committee on Rules, Elections and Privileges. I would ask all members to support my motion that the Standing Committee on Rules, Elections and Privileges begin a process of legislative renewal for the Yukon Legislative Assembly by making recommendations to the House on a code of conduct and decorum that promotes consensus building, collaboration and compromise.
SCREP is an existing representative body; SCREP has the ability to call witnesses; SCREP has the ability to address many of the issues weíve been aware of. Letís put our existing committee to work and address the needs of Yukoners so we can all work for the betterment of all Yukoners.
Mr. McRobb: Itís a pleasure to rise today to speak to this motion. Itís something that has been on my mind an awful lot lately and the subject of discussion among members of this Assembly and among members of the public as well.
Weíre pleased to see that the Member for Southern Lakes acknowledges what we have recognized for some time: that all members of this Legislature have an obligation to help improve how we conduct the publicís business in this House.
Unfortunately, when there was an opportunity to make real change, the members opposite ó including the mover of the motion, the Member for Southern Lakes ó passed up that opportunity by voting against the Democratic Reform Act. Thatís quite interesting, Mr. Speaker. We could have been well on our way to legislative reform if we had worked collaboratively together on passing the Democratic Reform Act, which was introduced in the fall sitting of this Legislature. But that didnít happen.
Iíll deal more with what that act was about in a few minutes, but weíre not here to talk about history; weíre here to talk about the future. We appreciate what the sponsor of the motion was trying to achieve; however, with the greatest respect, Motion No. 435 is seriously flawed in three respects.
I would like to cover each of those three flaws to some degree. First of all, the motion puts the responsibility for legislative renewal into the hands of the Standing Committee on Rules, Elections and Privileges, or SCREP. SCREP is a committee that is heavily weighted in favour of one party in this Legislature and that hasnít even met for over two years now. Iím looking at some minutes, or an agenda, from April 11, 2003. I believe that was the last SCREP meeting ever held.
So whereís this Yukon Party government been on calling SCREP together? Well, weíve received no indication that it even wanted a SCREP meeting for more than two years now.
Thereís a basic problem with SCREP, and itís one that has been recognized by the government side when it was in opposition, as well as by us. That is that it has a weighted favour that benefits the government side. How that works is basically that the committee is comprised of members who sit on the committee, and each member has a vote, and the government side outnumbers the members from the opposition site. This is a real conundrum because in the past any issue that has been identified on the agenda has been exclusively identified by the government only, without input from opposition members.
And whatís worse is that when it comes to a vote on an issue, the government side has always voted in a bloc in favour of the agenda items it has brought forward. Even worse, the government side has always voted in a bloc against any suggestions forwarded by opposition members. So the net result is that SCREP is a rubber-stamp board of the government in power. How can we possibly develop rules that are fair to everyone if those rules are only developed by the government side?
If all members had a fair opportunity to provide input at the SCREP meeting into how the Legislature can be improved, then the situation would be different. For instance, if the Chair of SCREP wasnít able to vote, then the government side would be equalized with the opposition side in voting numbers. In that case, what types of suggestions would be approved?
Letís think about it. For anything to be approved, it would require the majority of members, which would mean that if something was forwarded by the opposition parties, then at least one member of the government side would have to agree and vice versa. At least one member of the opposition side would have to agree to any government proposal. Thatís the fair approach.
Itís something we raised at the last SCREP meeting and the one before that. To prove it, Iíll just refer members opposite to the minutes of Meeting No. 1. It said, ďDiscussion resumed on the suggestion that the composition of the Standing Committee on Rules, Elections and Privileges be changed so there would be an equal number of government and opposition members. The chair indicated that the Yukon Party caucus members had indicated their preference that the composition of the committee remains as is. Mr. McRobb and Mr. Hardy sought explanation for the position taken. Mr. Cathers said their lack of experience with the committee made members wary of changing its composition, though this might be done at a later date. Mr. McRobb expressed his disappointment with this decisionĒ ó
Speaker: Order. Just to remind the Member for Kluane not to mention membersí names.
Mr. McRobb: All right, Iíll translate the names to the ridings, Mr. Speaker. Thank you for that.
ďThe Member for Kluane expressed his disappointment with this decision and the explanation and suggested committee members of the government caucus were not being open to a more inclusive, consensus-oriented means of decision making. The Member for Porter Creek South pointed out that, even if the government gave up its majority in the committee, it would retain its majority in the Assembly, which is where all the reports of the committee would be accepted or rejected.
ďThe Member for Klondike noted that having a majority of government members on a committee is an established practice in the Yukon and across Canada and was an accepted component of a party-based political system. The Member for Lake Laberge expressed the view that party affiliations were not a barrier to collegiality in the committee. The Member for Porter Creek South suggested that the proposal be accepted on a provisional basis and be evaluated at a later date. The chair said that suggestion could be taken back to the government caucus. The Member for Lake Laberge requested that committee members be furnished with more information about practices and other Westminster-style legislatures regarding the composition of committees.Ē
The motion was moved by me, the MLA for Kluane, that the committee recommend to the Assembly that the composition of SCREP be changed to result in there being three government members and three opposition members. The motion was defeated on a four-to-three vote. Well, there we go, Mr. Speaker. There is a fine example of how SCREP doesnít work as long as its voting membership is skewed to favour the government. That was the last time it ever met. So we in this House recognized that, Mr. Speaker, and I recall how the MLA for Watson Lake, along with the MLA for Klondike took this same position before the last election.
That was part of what I pointed out at these last SCREP meetings: that balanced voting representation was being advanced by the now Premier and the Deputy Premier when they were in opposition prior to the last election. But what was good for them in opposition obviously wasnít good for them in government because the orders were given to the backbenchers who sit on the committee to bloc vote against this initiative to equalize the voting membership. So that brought us back to square one.
The way it sits, SCREP just is not able to deal with matters. Itís not an atmosphere thatís conducive to collective ideas on how to improve the Assembly. It has been off on the wrong foot from the get-go.
When we on the opposition side know that any of our ideas are going to be thrown out simply by a vote held by the majority on the committee, why should we even bother? Itís completely a waste of time. Furthermore, thereís a danger element of even walking into a meeting for fear the government is going to change the rules in an even more severe manner that favours itself. So the way SCREP is now is simply out of the question. It has to be changed. So the basic element of this motion to refer this matter to SCREP is seriously flawed.
I hope to talk more about SCREP in a little while.
The second major flaw with this motion is that it makes absolutely no provision for Yukon people to express their views on how we can make this House work better on their behalf. We cannot lose sight of the fact this is not our Chamber; it is their Chamber. We are not here to serve our interests; we are here to serve their interests.
Mr. Speaker, that is a very important element of this discussion ó that if any member of this Assembly feels or believes the rules should be changed to benefit their party or where they sit in this Assembly, then the motives are wrong right from the start. We have to think about the public trust; we have to think about how best the Yukonís elected representatives can serve the people of the territory; and we have to put our own personal objectives behind us and put the public first.
Iím not hearing that so far today from the other members, but I do invite other members who will speak to be very cognizant of that need to put the public first.
Thereís quite a well-known line that has been passed down from one government to another, and in this day and age of one-term governments in the territory, it is more relevant than ever.
Iíve heard it a few times now. This is my third term in here, and I hear it each term and have probably said it on occasion. Itís something that is usually said to the government side, and it goes something like this: ďBe careful of what rules you adopt, be careful of what changes you make, because some day you could be on the other side of the Legislature.Ē That has turned true in every case for the past four elections.
I wonít speculate on the next election, but letís just say that Yukoners have a habit of changing their governments at the first opportunity. What we have seen so far in this term of the government is a complete lack of will to change any rules to be more democratic to all members in the Assembly.
Now, I can go back and quote from the Yukon Party platform document about the four Cs and so on, but I wonít because I think we should take the high road today, as much as possible, and put on the record ways we see to improve the situation. Certainly there is a lot to improve.
The Member for Southern Lakes pointed out a few items that bother him. There are lots of items that bother me, and I do believe these items are in the public trust because they need change and the change would better serve democracy in the territory.
One of the things I really feel that needs change, in addition to the voting membership on the SCREP committee, is the House rules. There are several inadequacies in our House rules today. One of the inadequacies was developed about four, maybe five, years ago that limited the number of sitting days in the Assembly.
Maybe some of the government members arenít quite aware of the dynamics of this. Well, Iíll spend a minute and give them my perspective.
The number of sitting days prior to the agreement was never fixed. It was something that was decided among the three House leaders, as to what the end date would be. That decision was usually made well into a sitting. So in such an uncontrolled situation, the opposition parties had quite a lot of leverage, unlike today.
That leverage, Mr. Speaker, would compel the government to cooperate with the opposition parties in terms of providing information, such as tabling reports, contracts, terms of reference, other material, et cetera, and in terms of providing briefings, such as providing briefings on Yukon Development Corporation and Yukon Housing which, by the way, we have been denied again just this morning by the government House leader and in previous sittings. We donít get those briefings any more ó denied, such as briefing handouts.
This was something that all opposition parties used to get ó quite a thick, comprehensive handout ó during the briefing on each and every department. Nowadays, most departments give nothing, and when they do give something, itís usually one or two pages, as instructed by the Yukon Party ministers. They are who have brought in this change.
Another aspect is how the ministers rag the puck, even in budget debate. Itís to their advantage to waste time and avoid expediting debate. Iím not just pointing the finger at the Yukon Party. We can say any government under these rules would benefit with a fixed sitting date. What happens is that the opposition side no longer has control over the agenda; the opposition side no longer has any control over when a department clears, because the ministers commonly stand up and talk for 10, 15 or 20 minutes at a shot about matters that often are unrelated to the question.
For an example, Mr. Speaker, I invite you to refer to the current Department of Health and Social Services, in particular the debate last Thursday afternoon. Itís a prime example of no compunction whatsoever on behalf of ministers in a government that enjoys the benefit of having fixed sitting dates in a sitting.
If we go back to prior governments ó
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Speaker: Minister of Education, on a point of order.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I believe the member opposite is imputing false or unavowed motives, according to Standing Order 19(g).
Speaker: I donít believe thereís a point of order. Iíll have to think more on the point but, initially, I donít believe thereís a point of order. Member for Kluane, you have the floor.
Mr. McRobb: I would invite the Education minister to listen because Iím going to relate what it was like when I was a member of the government side. I wasnít House leader at the time, but I was aware of some of the things that were happening. There always is a desire for the government of the day to end the sittings of the Assembly sooner rather than later.
I see some members nodding their heads. Okay, weíve established and agreed on that point.
I refer to you a sitting I believe it was the spring of 1995, possibly 1996. I think it went 76 days. Well, that was quite a ridiculous number. It went well into June. The public had long lost interest. The debate had turned stale and it was being dragged out for probably just basic reasons. The two sides didnít like each other and they wanted to make each otherís life unpleasant by forcing them to be in each otherís presence. But that was not in the public interest. That should be used as a bad example.
But let me get back to the situation prior to the 2000 election. The onus was on the government side to appease the opposition parties. That often happened. In every sitting there was some deal that was made at House leadersí meetings. Sometimes the deals meant handing over certain documents that had been identified by the opposition parties, or it meant some other type of matter that the government would relinquish to the opposition parties. To resolve their concerns, a deal would be made and the end date would be decided upon and it would come and go.
Sometimes it wouldnít come and go very easily. I recall one day ó I believe it was December 14, 1996, or it could have been 1997 ó when the Assembly sat all night long, until 6:30 a.m. the next day. As Chair of Committee of the Whole, I recall some of the stimulating debate, including the debate that lasted a good half hour about what colour the Jell-O should be at the Whitehorse General Hospital and another one that occurred about 2:30 a.m. about flush toilets. Itís no wonder that with such urgent matters the Assembly was required to sit all night long, until early the next day.
But letís face it ó again, that was a bad example. There was a need to look at changing the House rules. So, when the Liberal government came in, they initiated some discussions to do exactly that, and that led to the changes. But I would submit that the changes have gone from one extreme to the other, because in the past three years in this Assembly, the strategy benefits the government side by wasting time rather than disadvantages the government side, as it used to do.
From an opposition perspective, itís very difficult to achieve expedited debate. Quite often, there is an onus on us to clear all departments in the budget. Well, I know how difficult that was in the fall sitting. In some departments, we were limited to one question. I recall that our Tourism critic had a slate of questions she worked diligently on developing, yet had time for only one question because the minister gave a 20-minute opening preamble and then another 20-minute response to that one question ó sorry, time was up. If we would have taken more time to ask more questions, not all the departments would have cleared before the deadline.
What would have happened in that case, Mr. Deputy Speaker? Well, the government side would accuse the opposition of mismanaging their time and not properly calculating their schedule and failing in their job to scrutinize the governmentís budget. That has happened. We have heard that type of criticism. So I would put on the table that these rules need to be changed, and they are, in my view, a primary driver of discord in this Assembly ó a primary driver. So weíve got the SCREP representation. Weíve got House rules. Weíve got the provision for Yukon people to express their views on how their Assembly can work better for them.
Now, finally, there is a third area, and it is far too limited in scope. If we are serious about restoring public confidence in the political process, we must do much more than what this motion calls for. Yukon people need to see that this Assembly works, that the Assembly is effective, democratic and fair. Yukon people need to see that debate is informed, responsible and open and that public business is conducted in a dignified and respectful way. What Yukon people are asking for is nothing less than a renewal of this institution and how it functions. A code of conduct for all MLAs is part of that renewal, but itís just a part.
Now, all these three elements I have related to you were addressed very well in the Democratic Reform Act. I would also remind all members ó it was an act tabled by the official opposition; however, any other party in this Assembly is also welcome to bring in amendments that could be debated and voted on.
We werenít taking the ďitís our way or the highwayĒ approach; we were basically tabling the best we could come up with under the circumstances and we were very receptive to any ideas on how it might be improved.
So the elements from the Democratic Reform Act were contained in the two private membersí motions tabled by the leader of the official opposition this week. You might recall, Mr. Speaker, that they were both nearly five minutes in duration, probably setting records for length of motions read into the record in this Assembly, but they were very worthwhile motions. Essentially they were rewrites of the bills that we had tabled previously and were voted down by the Yukon Party government.
Hopefully later in this sitting weíll have an opportunity to debate these motions, and I look forward to seeing where that might lead.
As we debate the present motion, weíll be urging the government side to broaden its horizons and to think in terms of a process that is non-partisan. Thatís very important. Iíve spoken before about how politics gets in the way of fairness to all members, how politics seems to block good initiatives on how to improve the rules of the Assembly and better represent Yukon people in the future. We need to be non-partisan.
A process that directly involves Yukon people and does more than apply a bandage to one part of a problem would certainly be appropriate. I would encourage all members to remind themselves that itís the public weíre here to serve and not ourselves or the party of the day.
We have to think ahead and do what we can to improve the rules of the Assembly for future MLAs. Thereís a fair amount of experience in this room. There are five members who have about eight-and-one-half yearsí experience. Thatís 42-and-a-half yearsí experience just within the five members. Collectively we probably have something like 70 yearsí experience all told in the Legislature with the existing MLAs. So who is in a better position than us to try to work together to improve how this Assembly functions? We can work on ideas for the publicís consideration, but in the end the public should be listened to.
Mr. McRobb: So I would like to propose an amendment to Motion No. 435. I move:
THAT Motion No. 435 be amended by deleting the phrase, ďthe Standing Committee on Rules, Elections and PrivilegesĒ and substituting for it the phrase, ďa special committee of the Yukon Legislative Assembly, consisting of equal representation from the three recognized political parties in the Assembly, with the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly acting as a neutral chairĒ; and
THAT Motion No. 435 be further amended by inserting, between the word ďbyĒ and the word ďmakingĒ the following phrase: ďconducting meaningful public consultations with Yukon people about ways to improve the functioning of the Legislative Assembly, for the purpose ofĒ.
Speaker: The amendment is in order.
It has been moved by the Member for Kluane
THAT Motion No. 435 be amended by deleting the phrase, ďthe Standing Committee on Rules, Elections and PrivilegesĒ and substituting for it the phrase, ďa special committee of the Yukon Legislative Assembly, consisting of equal representation from the three recognized political parties in the Assembly, with the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly acting as a neutral chairĒ; and
THAT Motion No. 435 be further amended by inserting, between the word ďbyĒ and the word ďmakingĒ the following phrase: ďconducting meaningful public consultations with Yukon people about ways to improve the functioning of the Legislative Assembly, for the purpose ofĒ.
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Speaker, I will try to put this together for listeners and read how the motion would read with the amendment. Let me try: THAT a special committee of the Yukon Legislative Assembly, consisting of equal representation from the three recognized political parties in the Assembly, with the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly acting as a neutral Chair, begin a process of legislative renewal for the Yukon Legislative Assembly by conducting meaningful public consultations with Yukon people about ways to improve the functioning of the Legislative Assembly for the purpose of making recommendations to the House on a code of conduct and decorum that promotes consensus building, collaboration and compromise.
So that would be the wording of the amended motion, if it comes to a vote and passes. I would appeal, first of all, to the government side to examine carefully what the official opposition has put on the table and to push back any political aspirations and let their actions serve the public in the public interest. Other than that, I will have no control over how they deal with this amendment.
Now, letís talk about SCREP. Why not SCREP? Well, if our process were working the way it should, SCREP would be the ideal mechanism to deal with issues, such as the code of conduct for MLAs. It has been a long established principle of representative democracies that elected people themselves decide on the rules and procedures they use to conduct public business. We respect that principle, and ultimately it will be the members of this House who make the decisions on any changes in how we do things in here.
Unfortunately, things are not working the way they should. We only have to look at SCREP itself for evidence of that fact. SCREP can work when there is goodwill on all sides. SCREP can work when there is a level playing field. SCREP can work when there is mutual trust and respect. SCREP can work when MLAs are prepared to set aside partisan objectives and put the best interests of Yukon people ahead of any other consideration.
Unfortunately these conditions do not exist at the moment, nor can they be expected to exist at nearly any other moment under almost any other circumstances with various configurations of how this Assembly is made up, unless some basic things are changed.
The Member for Southern Lakes referenced some changes that were made a few years back by the party leaders ó had to be made by the leaders ó but the reason for this agreement was that SCREP was not working. House leadersí meetings werenít working, and still arenít working.
Let me just talk about that for a moment, Mr. Speaker, because not all members in here are apprised of what happens at House leadersí meetings and only two members of the government side have ever attended one, to my knowledge, in this term of government. House leadersí meetings occur every morning from about 9:45 to 10:00 a.m. Representatives from each party ó usually the House leaders ó attend and, in the past, any independents have been welcome to attend as well.
The purpose of those meetings is to ensure everyone has an understanding of the House business of the day. For instance, we go through the Order Paper, which you recite commencing every day, Mr. Speaker, beginning with Tributes, all the way down to Question Period. Mind you, we donít discuss Question Period items, but we do discuss the afternoonís business.
Just to give you an example, Mr. Speaker, of how even House leadersí meetings are dysfunctional, I only have to think back to the last two days for a prime example. On Monday we had two members of the public in here who were expecting a tribute to Volunteer Week in the territory. The Volunteer Week tribute was read on Tuesday, not Monday. Let me describe what happened.
I first raised the issue of doing the tribute on Monday at the Monday morning House leadersí meeting. It was rejected by the government House leader and I was told we can do it on Tuesday or Wednesday. Well, at 1:00 p.m. or so, Mr. Speaker, you will recall someone on the government side stood up but was not recognized. The government side wanted to do the tribute while the opposition parties were completely unaware. Now, what type of a manoeuvre is that, Mr. Speaker? Well, itís called political one-upmanship. Does it serve the public interest? The answer is a clear no.
When people from the public come in this Assembly for a tribute, they probably believe all members in here are aware the tribute is going to be read on that day. It was not the case in this session, Mr. Speaker. There was another one from last year, the Small Business Week. The president of the Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce was in the gallery today, as is the former Commissioner. It was a Small Business Week tribute, and we were caught completely by surprise because it wasnít identified in the House leadersí meeting.
Now, I wonít want to go into other examples, but there are plenty. Take my word for it. There are plenty of examples ó lots of them. I guess the question is: are House leadersí meetings operating as they should, or should there be changes? Well, obviously there is a need to depoliticize to a great extent the political games that can happen and to try to act in the best interests of the public.
Letís try to communicate and not catch each other by surprise. After all, weíre here to serve the public interest.
Switching up the order of departments for debate is another one. There are all kinds of other areas, but I wonít elaborate.
House leadersí meetings arenít working; SCREP isnít working; the new agreement ó itís about four years old now in this Assembly ó isnít working. Well, itís no wonder we have such discord in this Legislature. Just look at those three factors. They alone are dictating many of the problems we are experiencing in this Assembly.
So weíre at a stage where the Yukon public is demanding change, and certainly they deserve change. SCREP, as it sits, will not answer their concerns. SCREP, as it sits, will not give the people a voice. We need a more inclusive, open process, and we hope the government side will recognize the need for that process.
I would especially appeal to the first-time MLAs on the government side, who probably have hopes of being re-elected, to consider their future in this Assembly, if there is one. Will it be a future of sitting on the government side, enjoying the advantages of how things sit as they are now? Iím talking about the SCREP committee, the House leadersí meetings, the agreement on the number of sitting days and other measures in this Legislature. Or will they be on the opposition side, having to contend with the same three areas?
That should be something they consider very seriously because, if nothing is done, there could very well be a day when those same members who think life is rosy now will be looking at it from an entirely different perspective. They will come to understand, Iím sure, how unfair the present parameters we work under really are.
I also mentioned the House rules, and thatís something that can be dealt with by SCREP, but the House rules need a good going over, I believe. Some of the rules are never used; theyíre ineffective. Other rules should be implemented that are effective.
One of the rules is keeping the discussion relevant to the matter at hand. That rule is completely missing from the House rules in terms of budget debate, especially Question Period, although Iím not sure what could ever be done about Question Period ó but certainly budget debate needs to be reined in so that time canít be wasted to the governmentís advantage.
The current rule I cited earlier on a point of order, 19(b)(i), which calls a member to order if a member speaks to matters other than the question under discussion, does not apply to budget debate, especially general debate in the budget.
It simply does not apply. Thatís probably one of the first rules that should be examined. Weíve had cases in this term where a minister will get up and read from the previous dayís Blues, and what is read is completely unrelated to the question. I know personally Iíve gotten up and put on record my objections and stated what was happening, but nothing ever happens as a result. No rules are changed; no pressure is brought to bear on the government. Nobody is listening, so the abuse continues. Well, as time runs out on this government, they have to pay more attention to rules that will govern future assemblies. Itís in their best interest and the best interest of their constituents to ensure those rules are fair and effective.
I alluded earlier to representations that were made at SCREP meetings in the past by the Premier and the Deputy Premier, and I was looking through my file on SCREP, which is quite a thick file ó most of it prior to 2002, mind you. So far Iíve been unable to locate that exact reference, but I can assure you it is there and I did use that exact reference the last time SCREP met more than two years ago; however, the four members of the Yukon Party voted en masse against making the changes to SCREP, so itís no wonder the committee is being rendered useless. Once again I call upon the sense of goodwill and fairness from all members to consider this amendment weíve brought forward to direct the action of the motion away from SCREP and put it into the hands of a committee that you head, Mr. Speaker.
Let me just comment on that ó a special committee of the Legislative Assembly, consisting of equal representation from the three recognized political parties in the Legislature, with you, Mr. Speaker, acting as a neutral chair. Well, whatís wrong with that? In the past three terms, we have seen majority governments in favour of each of the three political parties. Who knows what the future has in store, but we do know that the last three Yukon governments have been equally divided among the three parties in a majority manner. So out of respect for each party, what can be more fair than equal representation?
And you as chair, Mr. Speaker, Iím sure, will ensure that proper decorum is met at meetings of the group and when the group conducts the meaningful public consultations with Yukon people. Well, Yukon people do have a stake in this matter, and they should not be sidelined. There are plenty of people from Watson Lake to Ross River to Dawson City to Beaver Creek who have views on how their representatives should conduct themselves in this Assembly. The least we can do is provide those people an opportunity to input into a process for change. So obviously, conducting meaningful public consultation with Yukon people about ways to improve the functioning of the Legislative Assembly is a sensible course of action that is inclusive to the people.
It also opens the door for suggestions from the public that may not be considered by members of the committee or members in this Assembly.
Iím not going to talk much longer, Mr. Speaker, because Iím very interested to hear what members across the way have to say with respect to this amendment. Once again, I appeal to their broader judgement in the hope that this could be an example of how we could work together to develop a motion that all parties can agree with, so we can move ahead and perform a duty we are expected to do.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: On the amendment, I want to begin by pointing something out. The government, the Assembly, and all members in it, are involved in the appointment of the membership for the Standing Committee on Rules, Elections and Privileges. That said, Iíd like to delve into the Member for Kluaneís argument that SCREP is not working.
I think itís important to note that under the motion that was passed in this House, establishing the membership of the committee ó we have three government members, we have one independent member, we have two members representing the official opposition, and we have one member representing the third party.
Therefore, Mr. Speaker, the Member for Kluaneís argument about the composition of the Standing Committee on Rules, Elections and Privileges simply does not hold water.
This committee is charged with specific duties and, as far as the government side is concerned, it is the mechanism that should be used to deal with legislative renewal and improving the overall processes in this Assembly, because thatís why it is there.
It goes on in the motion to state, beyond the composition of the committee and appointing membership to it, that the committee has the power to call for persons, papers and records and to sit during intersessional periods. So, by its very makeup and the mandate it has been given, the committee has the latitude and mechanisms to carry out a function such as legislative renewal. By the way, this House passed the motion that gives effect to those mechanisms.
It also goes on to give the committee the power to review, as necessary, such Standing Orders as it may decide upon and that, following the conduct of any such review, report any recommendations for amendment to the Assembly.
Mr. Speaker, thatís an important facet of the committeeís duties, as it has been charged to carry out by this Assembly. This Assembly passed the motion creating the composition of SCREP, the Standing Committee on Rules, Elections and Privileges, giving it its powers, mandate and focus, giving it its responsibilities and obligations to be carried out on behalf of the Legislative Assembly.
There is no argument here that the member opposite can bring to bear that would discredit or diminish the role of the Standing Committee on Rules, Elections and Privileges. I say that because it is this House that has given force and effect to the committee itself.
Nothing precludes the committee from discussing such things as creating a special committee to review a specific issue on behalf of the Assembly. It could come forward to this Assembly as a recommendation. What the government side is saying is that the committee as structured ó its composition, its makeup, its membership, its responsibilities and its powers ó are exactly what has to be used to commence the proceedings of legislative renewal. There are no politics being played in the Standing Committee on Rules, Elections and Privileges, as the Member for Kluane has just stated. There canít be. They canít be based on the very motion that this House passed and we all agreed to. It clearly lays out the very makeup of the committee itself and what it should do.
Now, the official opposition is only providing half the story. If you go through their motion and their bill and the intent around it, itís all about the fact that there is a majority government in this House and in this territory. Thatís an important point, because if we go to what is important as far as engaging with Yukoners, consulting with Yukoners, I think it can be said that the majority of Yukoners, and indeed the majority of British Columbians, view that a strong majority government elected through a democratic process as we have is the first choice.
The members opposite donít like the majority system right now because theyíre not in the position of being the majority government. Thatís essentially the basis for their argument. They right now support and promote a minority system.
Now, Mr. Speaker, thatís something we should discuss here: a minority government system, its merits, what can it do, is it effective, is it the right fit for this territory at this time of its evolution of responsible government?
Mr. Speaker, the government of today was elected to do certain things. We were not elected to go off on a major process of changing the electoral system in the territory. We went and conducted a process to determine what the best course of action is with respect to our electoral system. We engaged a Yukoner who has a tremendous amount of history, involvement in the political system and the evolution of responsible government in this territory, a great deal of knowledge in that area, a former Commissioner ó all these things were important when we thought about how best to proceed with this initiative.
Through it all, it became clear: electoral reform is not needed in todayís Yukon. There are a number of reasons why that is.
If we start looking into things like proportional representation, you then raise the spectre of rural Yukonís representation in this House. I wonder if the Member for Vuntut Gwitchin recognizes that, if the zeal of her colleagues to promote dramatically changing the electoral system in the Yukon ó I wonder if the Member for Vuntut Gwitchin recognizes that may be the end of the riding of Vuntut Gwitchin.
Do the members across the floor recognize that rural Yukon, with its population widely dispersed in small communities, may also have to be represented by an MLA in this Legislature who does not, in any way shape or form, connect with that community? The possibilities are there in this process. Our focus is to ensure a fair and balanced representation at the seat of government, and thatís exactly what the electoral system in Yukon does today.†
The next course of action that came out of our exercise in looking into the issue was the need to pursue legislative renewal. I think we all agree that a lot of nonsense has transpired in this House over the years. There is a need to look into Standing Orders. There is a need to look into debate and the proceedings of debate, especially in Committee of the Whole. There is a need to look at decorum. There is a need to look at how we can better compromise and cooperate in the House.
I want to give some examples in that regard. The government side has made every effort to cooperate, but the government side is also going to exercise the responsibility it has been charged with by the Yukon voter putting a majority government in place in this Assembly. We cannot shirk that duty, diminish that responsibility or lower that expectation. We are here to make decisions on behalf of the Yukon public, and we will not compromise our obligations in that regard.
The members opposite, in talking about cooperation, must recognize that cooperation has to come in the form with respect to what the Yukon public has asked this House to do by electing a majority government, and that is exactly what is at play here, Mr. Speaker ó a majority government dealing with an opposition that represents a percentage of the constituency in the Yukon; this side represents a percentage of the constituency in the Yukon; the bottom line is we all represent the Yukon in its entirety ó every single citizen. So when it comes to cooperation, it must be based on the fact that the government is charged with making decisions, and thatís what weíre doing.
The public is not clamouring for a new electoral system; the public is not clamouring for a minority government; they elected a majority government two short years ago.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Speaker: On a point of order, the leader of the official opposition.
Mr. Hardy: Iíd just like to remind the Premier, since he seems to not understand the fact that we are talking about legislative renewal and conduct in the House, not electoral reform. He canít seem to be able to move on beyond electoral reform, so Iím trying to help him here.
Speaker: Obviously thereís no point of order. Hon. Premier, you have the floor.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: † Thank you, Mr. Speaker. If I may, just for a moment, point out to the member opposite that much of what weíre doing here is based on the official oppositionís call for electoral reform, and theyíve done so on many occasions.
So the idea of cooperation in the House is something we all are challenged with, but itís a reciprocal arrangement based on the dynamics of this House and what the Yukon electorate has charged us to do.
The government has shown by example on many occasions the willingness to cooperate through unanimous motions, agreeing to amendments, passing motions collectively with the members opposite, working on initiatives collectively with the members opposite.
I mean, the leader of the official opposition must recognize that a very comprehensive summit on substance abuse in this territory was done cooperatively, in conjunction with, through meaningful input from the member and the third party on the creation of the summit in addressing a common problem for all of us. Thatís another example.
The multitude of motions weíve unanimously passed in this House is a sign of cooperation. Weíre not always going to agree, but by virtue of our system, there is not a necessity for us to agree on everything. Thatís the beauty of a majority government. We can make a decision, carry that decision out, implement initiatives, do things on behalf of the public that they want done.
This government was elected to do certain things. We were elected to address the economy and we tried to work with the opposition on that. Point number one: we offered to jointly develop budgets, to use the budget as a mechanism for investment in the Yukon to address the economic challenges to the greatest degree possible, to stimulate the Yukon economy, to strengthen our social fabric, to deal with programs and services that are needed by Yukoners and delivered by government.†
The offer fell on deaf ears, Mr. Speaker. The only response we got from the third party was specific investments she wanted for her riding. There was no connection to the broader Yukon, no desire to discuss with the government how we could put this joint process together in developing the budgets ó none whatsoever. The government side tried, and weíll keep trying. Thatís why we have brought forward a motion to convene the Standing Committee on Rules, Elections and Privileges and go to work on this. Thatís what weíre paid to do ó to go to work on these issues.
The other point about cooperation is the recognition by the members opposite on what has transpired to this point in time in this Assembly. How often have we seen in debates the challenge of the opposition in managing their time appropriately, coming to the point in a budget debate, for example, where hundreds of millions of dollars have passed this House by standing rule, not by discussion and meaningful input from the opposition.
It was not the choice of the government side to do something of that nature. We did not dictate that the opposition had to conduct themselves in that manner. They chose to do that. But how can we talk about cooperation when there is no engagement with the opposition on the details of such things as budgets ó department by department, line by line, meaningful input from the opposition, meaningful debate by the opposition?
Mr. Speaker, itís unfortunate that we cannot come to terms with what is already in place and use it on behalf of Yukoners to improve and create a better institution. The Standing Committee on Rules, Elections and Privileges, as I have pointed out, is made up of a balanced membership: three government members, one independent member, two official opposition members and a representative from the third party. It is charged with responsibilities. It has the power. It can make the recommendations for change and improvement. It is up to the opposition to recognize their role and responsibilities. As the motion passed in this House points out, if the members opposite want to ignore their responsibilities, as they agreed to with the passage of the motion structuring and giving effect to the Standing Committee on Rules, Elections and Privileges, it is their choice. But then they cannot argue that there is no cooperation in the committee itself. They are ignoring what they have already agreed to. They cannot make the case that the committee does not work.
The starting point for change is in the Standing Committee on Rules, Elections and Privileges. The need for change and legislative renewal has been recognized by the exercise the government has gone through in its review of the overall system. The time has come to go to work. That is what the government is offering. That is why we have tabled the motion. This is a simple motion. It is charging us with the responsibility to go to work, as members of this Assembly, collectively.
If the members opposite wish to do so, I think we can quickly get to a vote and move on and get to work on real legislative renewal and improvement in this Assembly. The cooperation issue does not rest with the government side; it rests with the opposition side. Itís them who must reciprocate when it comes to cooperation.
Mr. Hardy: I think I will agree with what the Premier said on the last part, that cooperation doesnít rest with the government side, and heís perfectly correct ó thereís no cooperation on that side. Iím glad he actually acknowledges his own failures.
Another point he made I found really quite fascinating is how SCREP is perfectly functional. Well, I donít know where the Premier has been for two and a half years, but he obviously hasnít been paying much attention to what happens with our boards and committees. He doesnít pay much attention to what happens around SCREP because, guess what? SCREP hasnít met. It met right at the beginning, and then that was the end of it.
How can the Premier stand there, with a straight face, and say SCREP is functioning? How can he stand there and say this is the proper avenue in which to engage debate or to move forward on decorum in the House? I have a hard time actually believing that the Member for Southern Lakes would use SCREP, knowing full well it hasnít met for two and a half years. Previous to that, the Premier, who was an opposition member, had resigned from SCREP, even though he was told you canít resign officially in that sense. He had actually walked out of SCREP and refused to participate for reasons heís now contradicting himself on, such as a statement he made. In the minutes of SCREP, March 28, 2001 ó before he walked out, before he quit ó he noted that the majority of the members on the committee were government members, and he stated that he felt the committee should be non-partisan and advocated aiming for a consensus rather than a majority-dominated approach.
Now thatís the position he has taken. He didnít like the composition then. He seems to think itís perfectly fine now. He says itís perfectly balanced. Of course, itís not perfectly balanced. Until the Member for Copperbelt was removed from the Yukon Party, sent over here into purgatory and was made an independent member by them, it would not have been a balanced committee ó
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Speaker: Yes, you do have a point of order, government House leader.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Thereís a point of order. The member opposite is imputing false or unavowed motives to another member pursuant to Standing Order 19(g).
Speaker: I agree there is a point of order. Itís not necessarily the Standing Order the government House leader is quoting, but I feel that the leader of the official opposition is imputing motives on the Member for Copperbelt, that the Member for Copperbelt made the choice. He is an individual, so Iíd ask the member not to impute motives to the Member for Copperbelt.
Mr. Hardy: Now I will not impute motives; unfortunately, I based it upon information I had heard. I donít know how the Member for Copperbelt made it over here, so I wonít speculate ó maybe thatís a better way. Okay, thank you, Mr. Speaker.
However, he at one time was a member on that side. Of course, many times, the majority of time that we spend in this Legislative Assembly, it does not have independent members, which therefore means that SCREP would not be a balanced committee between government and opposition. So the argument being made by the Premier once again is up for question.
Now there are also some other comments that the Premier has made that I think need to be addressed.
He spoke at length regarding electoral reform, and interestingly enough, Mr. Speaker, he didnít reference the promise that he had made during the election, in which a committee would have been formed ó a committee, from my understanding, that would have involved public consultation, would have involved public people. Instead, he referenced the person that the government hired, a single individual who was hired, not to consult people in the territory but to go and follow a process that was happening in British Columbia. When the report was finally brought forward, there were references made that this single individual had the desire of the Yukon Territory in his hands. The individual seemed to indicate that he did conduct some form of consultation, albeit his own way, with people of the territory who indicated that electoral reform wasnít wanted. I know for a fact that he talked to people who are working very hard on looking at options in electoral reform.
That raises a concern for me, and I have expressed that concern in the past. But it is a single individual. He was hired to do one job. He didnít consult with the people of the territory. That didnít seem to be his mandate. He didnít have to. My understanding of the terms of reference in his contract is that that wasnít part of it. It didnít happen. It didnít happen in a broad context and it didnít necessarily give the impression of where the people of this territory stand. Is it a number one issue? Probably not. Is it an issue? Absolutely. There are people who feel very strongly about this. There are people who are interested in it to a certain degree and there are people who arenít. Thatís the situation with every single issue that faces this territory.
You donít just dismiss it because you donít have a public outcry and people standing on the streets waving banners, such as what happened over the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge or the school in Carmacks on three occasions. But itís still an issue for many people in this territory that should not be diminished or treated poorly.
The promise made was a committee. What this government gave was a single individual looking at some other provinceís process that may or may not be applicable here ó not fulfilling a promise.
Now, the initial motion that was brought forward with respect to taking it to SCREP ó of course, we all know SCREP is broken. There are problems with SCREP. People arenít even meeting. How are you going to take it to SCREP when people donít even meet? I would like to know how thatís going to happen. How can any decision be made when people donít meet and wonít agree ó even about the composition of SCREP?
The Premier indicated in March 2001, when he was in opposition, that he wanted to enter into discussions about how to make the SCREP committee more functional ó more functional. However, today, now that heís in government, thatís not the position he takes. Now his position is that SCREP is functional. Now that he has the power, SCREP is functional. When he did not have the power in opposition, SCREP was not functional.
So, here we go again. Interestingly enough, he also referenced the election. The Premier said, ďcooperation has to recognize that thereís a majority government,Ē meaning, if you interpret that ó ďmight is right.Ē
They have the numbers, Mr. Speaker. They will bring forward exactly what they want; they will lay out exactly what they want; they will stack the committees exactly the way they want, and we, because we are not the majority elected, should just be quiet and do what they want.
I would like to remind the Premier that, if you look at percentages, 60 percent voted against the government. That is not a majority government; maybe this government should recognize that, next election, it could be 70 or 80 percent voting against them, and guess where they will be? My colleague from Kluane has already mentioned and tried to remind the members opposite, in their deliberations, that that position over there is not guaranteed and never has been in this territory, and if we follow the same patterns weíve experienced over the last four elections, there will be another change.
So I would suspect ó I would hope ó that a government knowing thatís going to happen, knowing no matter what they do they will probably not be in that position, would be more open to bringing forward changes that empower everybody in this House.
Our amendment should not be a difficult amendment for members opposite. They should recognize that SCREP is dysfunctional. It hasnít met for two and a half years. They should recognize that their motion wonít address what people are asking for. Ours does. SCREP does not allow public consultation. Nowhere did I hear any member across the way recognize that. Why?
If they want to try to champion a position of consultation, as they did with the motion last week that was brought forward by the leader of the third party ó a good motion on which they immediately put an amendment to broaden it to go through more consultation, which they felt was necessary ó if they applied that same reasoning, they would recognize that this amendment weíre bringing forward today does the exact same thing: it allows public consultation. SCREP, and the way theyíve written this one, does not. So, in other words, any changes would only be conducted, would only have the input of the SCREP committee and then back into the Legislative Assembly.
Now I know that members opposite are eager to respond to that, but I put it to them: whatís offensive about this amendment? I didnít hear the Premier talk about the amendment, frankly. I heard him talk about everything but our amendment, which raises questions about that kind of debate. However, whatís offensive about that?
What are we saying? A special committee of the Yukon Legislative Assembly, consisting of equal representation from three recognized political parties in the Legislature with the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly acting as a neutral chair and further amending Motion No. 435 by inserting between the word ďbyĒ and the word ďmakingĒ the following phrase: ďconducting meaningful public consultations with Yukon people about ways to improve the functioning of the Legislative Assembly, for the purpose ofÖĒ and it goes on.
What do they have against public consultation? I donít understand why they are resisting public consultation and this amendment that we brought forward today. Why are they resisting it when, last week, they did what weíre doing right now: we are asking for the public to be involved. I thought they asked for that last week.
But the tables have turned, interestingly enough, Mr. Speaker, and they seem to be struggling to accept it.
There is also a motion that was brought forward in regard to SCREP by the Member for Klondike who indicated in the motion dated June 21, 2000 ó and Iím quoting the motion here ó ďTHAT the government caucus appoint three members, the official opposition appoint two members and the third party appoint one member to the Standing Committee on Appointments.Ē Well, what was he trying to do there, Mr. Speaker? He was trying to get a level playing field as an opposition member.
You know whatís interesting is that there is a committee that is up and running, has done a lot of really good work, is working through some tough issues and is questioning departments. Itís called the Public Accounts Committee. That is a committee that has agreed to work on a consensus basis, and that is a committee that has three government members and three opposition members, just exactly what this Member for Klondike ó or Deputy Premier as the title was given to him for whatever reason I havenít figured out yet, but Iím sure weíll get there ó was proposing for SCREP. But interestingly enough, that is a committee that does meet. Thatís a committee that has taken on very serious issues and, as much as possible, is doing it in a non-partisan way and agreeing to work together, even when there are differences of opinion, and working hard to find the common ground to serve the people of this territory. SCREP does not and has not worked.
This reminds me of a recommendation that the same person, the Member for Southern Lakes, brought forward awhile back, in which he indicated that he thought the loans should be looked after by the Member for Klondike. I think we all remember that suggestion.
Well, here we are with another motion being brought forward by the same Member for Southern Lakes that is suggesting that the code of decorum in the House ó only that one section, as far as I can see, to only look at that ó should be done by a committee that doesnít even meet. It canít even agree on its own composition.
The chair of this committee has never called a meeting since the first one ó he hasnít called one. No one even knows who is on SCREP any more, and yet this Member for Southern Lakes continues to make recommendations that will not advance or serve the cause of the public good, nor does it involve the public, which I find to probably be one of the more disturbing things.
There are a lot of other points about this. I would just like to wrap up by saying that the motion that has been brought forward does not go far enough and does not serve the public good. It is not broad enough; it only looks at a very small area of correction. Itís directed toward a committee that doesnít function and doesnít meet and doesnít involve the public.
Our amendment was brought forward to hopefully strengthen the motion the Member for Southern Lakes introduced, to engage the public, to involve people, to look at the broader changes that are needed in the Legislative Assembly, to get input from the public instead of just being told individually, but to have a committee that goes out and consults in a broader context throughout the whole Yukon.
Now, there is no question about it. This is getting to be an extremely big issue. Whether people want to say legislative renewal is not, whether people want to say electoral reform is not, it is growing. It is growing across Canada and it is growing in the Yukon. Itís something that we need to address.
In todayís Whitehorse Star, for example, the headline of one of the articles ó the editorial ó says, ďOur system remains fraught with problems.Ē There are a couple of quotes in here that I will read. Hereís one: ďMeanwhile, MLAs should work constructively on whatís being coined Ďlegislative renewal.íĒ Legislative renewal is not being addressed by this motion. I can assure you, our motion ó the one we read into the record on Monday ó does address that. The article goes on to say: ďThat would involve such achievements as a code of conduct, modernized conditions for Cabinet eligibility and all-party committees having more weight in major government appointments.Ē These are being discussed.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: It gives me great pleasure to enter this debate. I would like to approach this issue from a little bit of a different perspective than what has been talked about today.
I do agree with the issues that the Premier raised here. They were all very to the point and, I believe, quite factual.
I have to say that if the NDP formed the government of the day today with a majority government, my belief is that this wouldnít even be on the floor. I honestly believe that. It appears that every time thereís an election where one party or the other gets annihilated or basically wiped out, election reform becomes the main issue of the day. I think itís very difficult for different political parties to have enjoyed a majority government and then have to be in opposition. But thatís the nature of the beast and people have to get used to that.
I have to say that in the two years plus that I have been representing McIntyre-Takhini I have never heard this issue raised once ó not once. No one has ever come to me and said, ďWe need to talk about electoral reform.Ē Itís not an issue.
The things that I did have discussions on were things about economic development. We need to have work. We need to be able to feed our families. Those are issues Iíve had discussions on. Iíve had discussions on education and how, for every program that is provided through government, there must be equality for all citizens to enjoy it. Iíve had discussions on social issues where constituents have stated that they would like to see something done with the child welfare act, for example.
So those were the main issues of concern that I have witnessed. Now, I would like to talk just a little bit about the traditional knowledge, values and beliefs, because I believe that people in this House and government could utilize some of the traditional knowledge, values and beliefs.
For example, in discussions with my mother before she passed away ó she was 90 years old ó I asked her about selecting leadership and some of the comments she made were that the elders a long time ago used to watch the children in the community. They watched the children for a reason, because they were looking for potential leaders. Those potential leaders had to have a lot of good qualities. For example, they had to know how to play with other children in a good way. They watched the children for their temperament, for how they conducted themselves with other children ó were they aggressive? Were they mean? Were they violent? Or were they timid and understanding? They watched for things like respect: did the child respect other children? Was he a bully, or did he let other people have input into what their play of the day was? So, all of those characteristics were very important.
Through those different values, the child would be identified who had these good characteristics. Then the elders would nurture and start to train that child to be a potential future leader, quite different than the politics of today where just anyone, basically anyone, can run in the election. Qualifications are not a question; people can run.
So maybe somewhere down the line, some of that might have to be built in, but then there would be the questions, ďIs it democratic?Ē and ďAre we infringing on human rights?Ē So all those other different acts and rules and regulations would then come into play. At the end of the day, I think the traditional way of selecting a leader was a good way.
In other words, what is at question here today with this motion is the conduct of the individual. Again, I believe that the responsibility of everybodyís actions belongs to the individual. You could put any rules you want in place here, but if the individuals on the floor of the Legislature cannot conduct their own behaviour in a professional manner, then youíll be calling everyone to order here every five seconds.
So, again, I canít stress how important it is for the individual to be responsible. A little bit more of the traditional knowledge side of things is where we must recognize that everyone is different ó everyone is different. No two people would have identical minds and think identically every second of the day. Therefore, everyone evaluates issues differently, the end result being that there are many differences of opinion.
Once again, the challenge here for the individual then becomes the responsibility of being able to respect the differences of opinion, which appears to be a real problem for some individuals. It is a real challenge to be able to put aside your personal agenda and your personal beliefs and try to think for the broader collective good. Itís really difficult to do that. So, itís going to be a challenge for anyone who runs for a political position.
Maybe one of the conditions should be that anyone who does run for a political position has done extensive work in understanding power and control. People need to understand why you run for a position like this. Itís a big question mark that I think a lot of people donít answer, and they donít think it out very clearly before they move into politics.
Politics is not a friendly place. Thatís the nature of the beast. It never has been a friendly place. My experience ó Iím a rookie to territorial politics, but Iím certainly not a rookie to politics in general. Iíve been involved in First Nation politics for many years.
I know that there are a lot of good things that come from it, and then sometimes there are a lot of difficult challenges. I heard the Member for Kluane stating that there are 42 years between eight seasoned veteran MLAs in this House. Well, having said that, I would be one to assume that they should already have this issue corrected. How can you have 42 years of knowledge and learn nothing? Thatís kind of puzzling to me.
Once again, I have to say it: it is up to the individual to respect others, and if one cannot do that, then I would have to say that that individual really should obtain professional counselling to seek understanding of why that is so, why they cannot respect other people, because there is a mental impediment here. There is an issue if one person cannot respect another. I do not believe it is up to this Legislature to correct that. Again, it is up to the individual to correct that, and we should not be trying to shift our own personal responsibilities of conducting ourselves in a good manner onto the floor of the Legislature and making it a big issue for everyone here.
I have to state again that we have to recognize that politics are politics. There is always going to be a competition with this system to be in government. There is no way around it. Even on regional representation, there will still be that competition to be the individual who is going to be representing a region and is going to be the one responsible for putting forward good programming that meets the needs of society. Weíre not going to escape that, so it doesnít matter what form of government we have; there is always going to be a competition among the individuals to be in government.
I donít believe that politics should really get a bashing and a bad name because of individuals who cannot conduct themselves professionally and with respect for each other.
As I listen to this debate today, itís somewhat amazing. I hope everybody listens to themselves as they talk about this issue, because all Iíve heard today so far is nothing but criticism, and thatís the very thing this motion is trying to address. I would have to question some of the factual parts of what has been said by members in the House today. Are they factual? Itís questionable.
I heard the leader of the official opposition referring to demonstrations once again in a negative fashion. It was meant to jab or to dig at the government. I want to put on record that this government recognizes that the individuals who want to stand outside this Legislature are on the ice fields of Hudsonís Bay protesting. They have that right and itís a democratic right they have.
Once again, that is the individualís choice. The individual will choose to stand out and protest anything they want. Whether itís right or wrong, itís their choice. Thatís one vehicle that people use right across the whole world. Some are peaceful, some are not.
I would have to state for the record that I do not support the amendment because it does exclude members of this Legislature. As was already pointed out by the Premier, the amendment mentions only three parties. Well, we do have an independent member in the Legislature and, in the future, thatís another right that the individual has ó to run as an independent.
I do not support this amendment.
Ms. Duncan: Iím very pleased to rise to address this subject that, quite frankly, I feel quite passionate about, in terms of my role here as an MLA and my personal long-held view that itís an important right that we have as citizens and a responsibility to seek to serve our community. Being a legislator is something that I feel very strongly about, and this particular motion and the amendment are about legislative renewal. Iím pleased to have an opportunity to rise to speak about the issues.
Iíd like to address the electoral reform component of the motion and amendment today. Electoral reform is not specifically mentioned in the amendment or the motion; however, it has been brought into debate significantly in the discussion of the amendment.
I agree with the Member for McIntyre-Takhini when he said that electoral reform was not the burning issue at the doorstep in the 2002 election campaign, nor was it the burning issue in 2000, nor was it the burning issue in 1996. However, in 2002, there was a clearly stated commitment by the Yukon Party in their platform document that said they would undertake public consultation on electoral reform. That was a very clear commitment ó public consultation.
The difficulty ó and what I have pointed out in Question Period and elsewhere ó is that the Yukon Party government is not living up to that commitment to the Yukon public. Thatís part of the frustration around electoral reform.
The second part thatís fuelling the discussion about electoral reform ó first of all, there is the sense by a number of citizens that they havenít been listened to and the Yukon Party has not lived up to its commitment. The second thing is that itís a passion of the citizens.
There are a number ó and it is a growing number ó of citizens who have looked at the extensive research on electoral reform systems and are saying that they want a public discussion and they want to talk about this, because they are looking at the election results for the Yukon.
I have heard the Premier in particular say that somehow electoral reform would remove or change the idea in the Yukon that there has been a seat, for some time, solely for the riding of Vuntut Gwitchin ó Old Crow. The reason we have the seat for Old Crow is as a result of not only a Supreme Court decision, but also, repeatedly, boundary commissions have recognized and recommended that there be a single seat held for Old Crow. It is a unique situation and that is as it should be.
A boundary commission deals with those subjects, not electoral reform. Itís a big difference. If we want to talk about electoral reform, then focus on electoral reform. I would say to the government that, firstly, the message from the people ó coincidentally, many of whom happen to be my constituents ó is that the government should live up to the promise they made. Secondly, it is that they have done their homework and want to talk about this publicly.
I have to confess that I havenít waded through all the articles on electoral reform. There are a number of other items on my agenda, as the sole member of the third party in the House. I havenít waded through all the material that is available. We have done substantial research that we have kept in our office from the previous Liberal caucus, in all its sizes. Itís fascinating information. I donít claim to be an expert. I donít claim to have read it all. I know that it would certainly make a difference to our party were there electoral reform. I am not championing it for that particular reason, as some members may think. I am championing it because it is a passion of the citizens. They want to talk about it and I believe they should be heard.
I do believe there should be a public discussion about it. And I was reminded when the Member for Southern Lakes was speaking, and he asked repeatedly the question of why we run for office and why we seek public office. I, too, am asked that on a fairly regular basis, if not once a day. Itís once an hour some days. I noted that there was a speech that I gave in response. It was many years ago now, but it was in response to the release of the Canadian Advisory Council on the Status of Women document called Primed for Power: Women in Canadian Politics.
I was urging women at that time to put their names forward for political office. In those remarks, I addressed the idea of electoral reform, as well, in noting that there are a number of jurisdictions that had examined ó and this speech was given in the early 1990s ó had examined the idea of different electoral systems, and there are some areas that have examined even the idea of dual representation, a man and a woman for each riding, Mr. Speaker.
So electoral reform discussion has been around for a very long time, and it is a very interesting subject, and I would encourage the government, as the editorial in the Whitehorse Star has done today, to keep this file open on their desks, and ó no harm, no foul; citizens have a passion for this ó have a public discussion. There is no reason not to. I would encourage that.
That is the issue of electoral reform, and I want to be clearly on the record on those particular points. The amendment and the motion and this discussion are about legislative renewal. And, Mr. Speaker, it is a fascinating discussion to look back at legislative renewal and to look back at order and decorum in the Legislature. This has been a subject for a very long time, and I am reminded of some recent ó there is quite a stack of editorials that go way back, that talk about the need for all of us as members to conduct ourselves with a greater degree of decorum and to be mindful of one another.
There are a few of us ó I believe about five ó who have served in this Legislature for a decade, almost a decade, although it feels like a lifetime. Weíve all been in various positions in the House. I look back and members who were elected in 2002 are shocked and appalled at some of the unparliamentary language that comes out. I refer back to some of the interesting comments during my time in here. One only has to examine the index to Hansard and note that the Speaker has called to order and suggested that such items ó and Iím pausing, Mr. Speaker, because Iím mindful of the rule that I canít quote what I canít ordinarily say. So, that being said, I would encourage members to just have a quick look at the index to Hansard at some of the unparliamentary language that has been ruled out of order, and some of the names and some of the name-calling.
In asking my staff to pull that together for me, I was also reminded of many comments that I had heard in the Legislature directed at me, and I have also heard particular comments directed at other members.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Ms. Duncan: The Member for Mayo-Tatchun made a joke making reference to the bituminous surface treatment that we have applied to our roads.
The issue is how we conduct ourselves in this Legislature, and some of the name-calling, for lack of a better word, that has gone on and some of the treatment of one another is truly sickening. I donít believe thatís unparliamentary, Mr. Speaker. It was terribly distressing to me to ó members opposite are sometimes frustrated, I know, about the rules in debate in Committee of the Whole. Twelve days discussing the type of larvicide to be used in the mosquito patrol program, day after day after day in this Legislature, wasnít very much fun. I donít think that was a productive use of taxpayersí dollars.
I donít think asking repeatedly how many lug nuts are on a grader in Old Crow was a productive use of taxpayersí money.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Ms. Duncan: That was the NDP asking the Yukon Party. The larvicide was the Yukon Party asking the NDP. And I am not standing here reliving these dark days in the Legislature, suggesting for a moment that either I, or the Liberal Party as a whole, are without fault. I have said things I have regretted and withdrawn in this House as well. Again, I would apologize for doing so. Nobody is perfect. There was also a debate about the type of Jell-O being served at the hospital. And there was the all-night sitting. There are all sorts of things that have happened in this Legislature that none of us are proud of and weíd all like to fix.
We canít control our caucus behaviour, whether weíre the leader or a backbencher. We canít control other partiesí behaviour. We can only control our own. So, each of us has to treat each other with respect. It starts with us.
In looking through a book I keep in my office of different addresses Iíve given about different subjects, I happened to come upon a eulogy that I was asked to deliver. I quoted the late Very Rev. Desmond Carroll. It was a eulogy in his honour. I said, ďWhere else then would I turn as a leader for help in the dark days of the world following September 11, 2001, but to the man of God who never failed to restore my sense of faith, a spiritual light in the Yukon. The Very Rev. Desmond Carroll led us in a memorial service. He said, in speaking against retaliation ÖĒ ó I raised this quote because thatís how it feels sometimes, when youíre being ó would you permit me the use of the word ďsucker-punchedĒ?
Ms. Duncan: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. When it feels like you are being sucker-punched because yet again someone is saying something, and you believe the opposite to be the case, itís a human instinct to retaliate.
Desmond Carroll said to us, in speaking against retaliation: ďFor if we decry the violence of others, we must live and respond in a different way. If we pray for peace, we need to live by the ways of peace, justice, reconciliation, forgiveness, decency, respect and sharing.Ē
We come into this House each day and we ask for peace and guidance. Perhaps we have to ask for that extra degree of patience and to be reminded of those words to not retaliate. Itís very easy, speaking of an Irishman like Desmond Carroll ó and having a wee bit of Irish ó itís very hard to keep your temper sometimes in this place. Thatís why I think the decorum sometimes sinks to new lows. That being said, how do we fix it? Because it is, by its very nature, an adversarial situation. In opposition, itís our job to oppose. Itís our job to point out the flaws in legislation. Itís our job to point out that the kids recreation fund didnít get an increase in this budget despite promises by the Minister of Health and Social Services. Itís our job to do that. We have to do it. We have to try to do it in as non-confrontational a manner as possible. However, letís face it: that doesnít always grab the attention of either the members opposite, no matter who they are, or the fifth estate, who report on what we do.
Anyway, that brings us to the question of how we fix it and the discussion of the scrap at SCREP. Thatís what it has been since day one: the scrap at SCREP. It doesnít get fixed, no matter how hard we try.
I will just share with the members opposite, because they werenít there at the time, that when we changed the standing rules to fix the sitting dates and end the night sittings, there was a member who was on our side at the time who was passionate about the rules ó who went through those rules and tried and tried to come up with fair solutions. The member tried to present them at SCREP, and it was a negotiation, a scrap at SCREP, and we ended up with rules and still no one is happy.
At the time, the members of the Yukon Party in particular voted against them and then stood up and went, yahoo, and they ended night sittings, which was the whole reason we had started it. Those endless night sittings were extremely difficult not only for the members, but they werenít serving the purpose of having the public attend. And those night sittings were before we had the camera. Now we have the camera. Itís a different situation. So weíve ended up with 1:00 to 6:00, and thatís not particularly conducive to any of us as members, either, or the public.† One oíclock is too early to get here for a lot of people who we may wish to pay tribute to. Itís not functional. We still have ministerial statements, and we havenít looked at the idea of private membersí statements, which are a really reasonable idea. They give members an opportunity, particularly those who arenít seated in the front bench or over here asking questions, to stand up and say, ďThis is the issue of the day for my riding.Ē Itís limited and itís done, and they have had an opportunity to speak.
We all could make suggestions of how we could improve Wednesdays. Iím absolutely positive everybody could make a suggestion about how to improve Wednesdays, Mr. Speaker.
The ideas are out there. Is SCREP the answer? Is a standing committee the answer? Is public consultation the answer on these rules? I donít have a definitive yes or no. Iím prepared to support the motion. Iíd like to work on this issue. Iíd like to deal with it. Iíd like to raise the bar. It takes each of us, and we have to work together on it and I would like to do that.
I would welcome the opportunity. It has to be fair, it has to be open, and it has to be respectful in coming to a meeting as a legislator, not the Yukon Party, not the NDP, not independent, not Liberal, although we have to use that as representation. But when it comes to deciding the rules by which we operate, letís remember first and foremost that we are legislators, we are here to serve all of the people of the Yukon. Letís try to set the politics, which unfortunately has a nasty connotation these days, aside and try and improve our behaviour.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I appreciate the time of members.
Mr. Cathers: It gives me pleasure to rise today. Iím not speaking in favour of the amendment to the motion. I believe that the original motion served a better purpose or, rather, served that purpose more effectively than what is being proposed by the Member for Kluane in the amendment.
I am certainly not questioning your ruling. Youíre always right, Mr. Speaker. I was actually surprised, though, to find that the amendment was even in order because in my opinion it so dramatically changes the crux of the motion, the critical elements, that I was surprised that it actually was in order, but of course youíre always right; Iím not questioning that.
The effect of this amendment, in my opinion, basically guts the motion. The Standing Committee on Rules, Elections and Privileges was established for the purpose of dealing with the House rules. The amendment to this motion is essentially a change that moves this exactly to the bill that was tabled by the Member for Whitehorse Centre, the leader of the opposition, and the motion, Motion No. 439, that he tabled. The bill is Bill No. 108; the motion was Motion No. 439. He has both on the table and I am assuming that we will debate them on some opposition motion day. However, that is not the approach that we have favoured on this side of the House.
One of the reasons is the cost. I think that there needs to be public consultation on certain elements. Other parts of it are things that should provide the opportunity for public comment but probably would attract very little interest. A number of the technicalities of the rules are things that would probably bore the living daylights out of most citizens. I certainly support giving them the opportunity to comment if they so choose, but Iím very dubious that there would be a tremendous amount of comment.
We have to strike a balance between ensuring that there is public input into what is their Assembly ó what is supposed to be their Assembly ó and spending a tremendous amount of money touring the Yukon, holding numerous meetings in every community to find that all youíve done is waste a lot of taxpayersí money on a dog-and-pony show and taken MLAs away from doing constituency business.
I know Iím very busy in dealing with issues brought forward by constituents. While raising the decorum I certainly feel is something that needs to be looked into, it is not the only issue that is critical to my constituents and I would not want to lose a lot of time to work on the issues that affect them daily, if it wasnít well-advised.
Mr. Speaker, the structure that was proposed in the amendment by the Member for Kluane ó and obviously supported by the leader of the NDP as well ó not only gets rid of the government having a majority on the committee, but it actually gives the opposition the majority on the committee. That may be fine if you take the philosophy that it appears the NDP has ó that the most important thing here is to represent parties.
I take a different view. I believe the most important thing here is to represent ridings, to represent our constituents. I was not elected to represent the people in Lake Laberge who voted for the Yukon Party, for myself, and represent no one else; I was elected to represent all people, whether they voted for me or not. When someone comes into my office, it doesnít matter who I think they voted for; they are my constituent and I have a duty to work for them.
The structure proposed by the NDP would mean, if you looked at the caucuses, you would have the caucus of one member ó the Liberal member would have a seat on this committee. The caucus with five members, the NDP, would have one seat on this committee. The caucus with 10 members, the government side, would also only have one seat on this committee, and that means that our 10 ridings would not be nearly as well represented as theirs on this committee, and I have a real issue with that.
For that reason, I will not be supporting the amendment to the motion.
Now, Mr. Speaker, I enjoyed hearing the leader of the third party who immediately preceded me, and I found myself having the rare experience of agreeing with the member on a point that was brought forward. She was quoting the Very Reverend Desmond Carroll and the ó I believe it was from a eulogy that she was quoting. I wasnít familiar with that document, but I did find that elements from it were very moving and were excellent points. I do agree with her on that, that it is important in this House that we do not allow ourselves to be tempted to retaliate or allow ourselves to participate in behaviour that we find inappropriate simply because someone else did it first and we were mad about it.
Decorum in this Assembly ó the actions of MLAs ó is something that a number of Yukoners are concerned about. Most of us have probably heard people refer to this Assembly as a kindergarten or use other terms that demonstrate an opinion that this House does not spend its time productively discussing the business of the people. The problems with decorum include personal attacks, which are heard in Question Period on a daily basis.
Another issue is heckling by members when others are speaking and the background chatter, which has notably increased during this current sitting of the Legislature. Now, regrettably, I cannot claim innocence in that area. Last week, I participated in the background chatter in the Legislature by making a remark that suggested that the Member for Kluane makes use of escort services and would like the Yukon government to pay for that. My remark was inappropriate and unkind and I apologize to the Member for Kluane for making it. I would also like to apologize to any Yukoner who was offended by my remark or who felt that I was making light of those who accompany a loved one who is travelling outside the Yukon for surgery or other medical reasons.
I certainly respect those individuals who support family members or friends experiencing health problems by travelling with them and staying by their side. I have great sympathy for those whose loved ones are coping with chronic problems or life-threatening illnesses.
I have personally been fortunate enough to never have had to travel Outside for medical attention or to have had any of my immediate family members in that situation. However, close friends of mine have been in that situation, so the importance of this matter certainly hits close to home.
A couple of years ago, I personally did have fairly minor surgery done on my nose and I was fortunate enough to have this done locally. It was pretty minor in comparison with what many people undergo, but even with that surgery, I was very glad that my mother took the time to be there with me through that. Having surgery can be a rather lonely and daunting experience. Without a loved one nearby, it is no doubt many times worse. Again, I would like to apologize to any Yukoners who were offended by my remark.
Beyond that remark, I would like to apologize to my constituents for participating in the background chatter in this Assembly. That inappropriate behaviour such as that is occurring does not make it okay to participate in it. The behaviour of other MLAs in this Assembly is an issue between them and their constituents. For my part, I apologize without reservation to my constituents for my lapse into unprofessional behaviour in this Assembly.
Mr. Speaker, the decorum of elected members is an issue that affects all Yukoners. It affects the ability of MLAs to do our jobs by damaging the image of members and the image of this Assembly. It affects the morale of government employees by eroding their faith in those who currently serve as ministers, as well as those who may be elected to serve as an alternative to whatever Cabinet is currently in place.
This also has an effect on service delivery to Yukoners. When government employees are not certain if initiatives they pour time and effort into will ever be implemented, itís impossible for them not to lose a bit of their morale in that situation.
Yukoners are also affected, when the decorum in this Assembly declines, through loss of hope that the government will be around long enough to implement meaningful changes. Decorum and conduct are definitely an issue for all Yukoners, and when Yukoners lose faith in their elected representatives, it does not benefit any of us.
Now, I think there is agreement by most members, if not all, in this Assembly that change is needed. I think most of us have periods in this Assembly where the days seem to pass somewhat endlessly with not as much product achieved as we would have hoped. The debates can sometimes be frustrating. Comments from members opposite in discussion can be irritating, especially when we do not agree with them or do not believe they reflect the facts as we understand them.
As the member of the third party referred to, Wednesdays can be frustrating. But then, what day here cannot?
The issue at hand is: what method do we use to make this change? I appreciate the amendment brought forward by the member of the New Democratic Party, but I do not agree with it. This is not an issue of government majority versus opposition. It is also, in my opinion, an issue of representation of ridings. I represent my constituents first, not the party whose caucus I sit in.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Speaker: Member for Mayo-Tatchun, you donít have the floor. The Member for Lake Laberge has the floor. Iíd ask you to respect that.
Mr. Cathers: I do say with great sincerity that I do appreciate the bill that the NDP tabled: Bill No. 108, the Legislative Renewal Act. It does have some excellent points in there that are worthy of discussion. My disagreement is not so much with the components they put forward for discussion ó although there are a few that Iím not sure I would approach in that way. My primary disagreement is the structure of the committee they are proposing.
I do believe that the Standing Committee on Rules, Elections and Privileges is the appropriate mechanism for this. The leader of the official opposition made a comment that SCREP wouldnít go out and consult with Yukoners. Itís my understanding that it is fully within SCREPís mandate to strike a select committee and to give that committee a mandate to go out and consult with Yukoners. That would perhaps be a reasonable approach.
The issue with SCREP is something that has certainly been much debated. As the leader of the third party pointed out, there has been talk in previous governments of the scrap at SCREP. That is something that undoubtedly will happen to some extent because discussion of the rules of the Assembly are so critical to what we all spend days doing ó the rights of members versus the time taken versus limitations on that. One can advocate that perhaps in Committee of the Whole there should be a limit to the number of times a member can speak. That sounds great when youíre on the government side. When youíre on the opposition side ó especially if you have a caucus of one member ó if you donít feel youíre getting the answers to the question, that deprives you of your ability as a member to represent your constituents and to ask the questions.
There is a trade-off, and which side of the floor youíre on determines which looks the best in some situations. The issues at SCREP will never be fully resolved, but one thing that I think we need to realize in this Assembly is that members will have disputes on a number of issues. We have to try to deal with them cordially, have to try to avoid the personal attacks that have been descended to at times.
Now, the leader of the official opposition referred to SCREP not being active. I would like to remind the leader of the official opposition that he was the one who walked away from it and that members on this side would be more than willing to reconvene it. I do not want to have my comments get into a bunch of finger pointing here. I would like to talk about how to move forward, but I will not take blame thrown from the other side at members here for not convening SCREP when what did start it was the leader of the official opposition walking away.
That being said, I believe we should move forward.
One comment further that I wanted to make on that topic is, when the Member for Kluane was reading out minutes from SCREP, as it will be noted from there and as I said at the time, I certainly was not unwilling to consider a change to the makeup of SCREP. And the dispute that was gotten into at that point was one whereby I had personally said I was not willing to make changes at that meeting but would consider them at a future one, but wanted to consult with caucus first. The leader of the official opposition did not accept that, and things flew apart from there.
Now, we can decide to get into an argument, which we could probably continue on for days, over who said what or who did what and whose fault it was and whether someone else did something that precipitated that, or we can decide that there is a mechanism there. There is a Standing Committee on Rules, Elections and Privileges. All that is needed is to sit down and have a meeting so we can talk about how to move forward, we can talk about legislative reform, we can talk about changing things to ensure that the standards of decorum and conduct in this Assembly better reflect what Yukoners want us to do.
They do not want us to get involved in petty fights and bickering. Yukoners can respect us for strongly expressing views ó and I think want us to ó on issues that we feel deeply about. They expect, and indeed want, to see differing views brought forward forcefully by members from different areas and different parties, but they donít want to see us do this in a petty manner, to engage in personal attacks and spend all our time arguing over whose fault it was for what, and who did what back in 1996 or 2000 that caused someone to do something else. That simply goes nowhere.
So in conclusion, I would urge members to vote against the amendment to the motion so that we can return to the main motion. I believe that its intent, its mechanism, is the proper way to go about it to achieve the best effect.
With that being said, I look forward to hearing comments from members on both sides of the floor on this issue.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mrs. Peter: It gives me great pleasure to speak to the amendment to Motion No. 435. Iíve listened with great interest to the comments of previous speakers. Iíd like to make my comments and move forward on this issue.
First of all, I would like to say that I have a great issue with and take great exception to some of the comments that I heard the Premier make today and on previous days, using my riding, the riding of Vuntut Gwitchin, as an excuse for not looking into electoral reform.
The Premier, I believe, knows full well that two separate electoral boundaries commissions have recognized the special situation of the Vuntut Gwitchin riding ó two separate electoral boundaries commissions, Mr. Speaker.† Both of those commissions, one by a judge and one by a non-partisan panel of experienced Yukoners, recommended, without hesitation, that there were very good reasons why Vuntut Gwitchin should be a separate riding, even with its small population. The Premier should stop using my riding as a scare tactic to avoid public discussions.
Speaker: Order please. The Chair is not at all comfortable with the Member for Vuntut Gwitchin using the term ďscare tacticĒ. I believe that is inappropriate language and I would ask the member not to use it.
Mrs. Peter: I would like to rephrase that: there is fear being used to address this issue.
Speaker: Order please. Thatís not going to do it, either. The honourable member has to think her way around this one. Thank you.
Mrs. Peter: At least the message is there. My riding, Mr. Speaker, is very aware of what happens in this Legislature.
They watch it on TV every night. I speak to people of my community every day. They hear the various comments through the media, and those are very important to them. They are very well aware of what happens at the territorial level. They are very well aware of the politics that happen on the federal scene.
When I was first elected, I felt very honoured that the people of my community chose me to represent them at this level. I can say that, yes, it was a huge challenge because it was such a huge learning curve. There is so much to learn within this whole process.
Not for one minute did I ever forget why I am in this Assembly or whom I represent. I donít want to forget for one minute how I got here. The Member for McIntyre-Takhini spoke of traditional values. We donít have to talk about it; we need to show it in how we are.
Mr. Speaker, we are representing those who elected us, not the ones who voted for us. We were successful, and weíre here to represent all people in our ridings. That is a huge responsibility, because not all people agree on some of the issues that we have to discuss, and weíre not going to please everybody. But what is important is how we go about that. What we do, Mr. Speaker, in this House and how we go about it speaks volumes. Our behaviour in this House is something that really needs to be addressed, especially at an individual level.
Before I decided to put my name forward to run in the 2000 election, there was a lot of soul-searching, there was a lot of talking to people, especially with my family.
Those are very important because when weíre in this House representing the people of our community, the way we speak, our tone, our behaviour and our attitudes toward people and subjects are shown very clearly.
What we have before us is an amendment to a motion, and in this amendment and in the motion weíd like to improve on ways to conduct ourselves in this House and the decorum that we have.
When I think of the Legislative Assembly, when I think of the various ways that governments represent us across this country, I think about respect. I think about people who acknowledge each otherís opinions and who try to work together fairly. When youíre in a position, as we are, representing people throughout the territory, weíre here in this House to speak on behalf of those people. Mr. Speaker, I believe that we each should have a fair opportunity for input.
We each should have a fair opportunity to represent our ridings, to represent with dignity and to provide information on behalf of our people in this Assembly, and to remember that we always serve the public interest.
Yes, my riding is priority when Iím in here and what comes second is the public interest of the different critic areas that I hold but, first and foremost, the way I conduct myself in this House is on behalf of the people of Vuntut Gwitchin and to make sure that their issues and concerns are addressed in this House and to be able to do that and to be able to be listened to in a fair manner.
What we have before us in the amendment ó and this amendment was brought forward by my colleague ó is to take some of these issues out into the public and to hear what they have to say. Thereís a lot of debate, thereís a lot of dialogue happening out there today about the conduct and decorum of this House.
To tell you the truth, Mr. Speaker, every one of us, no matter whom we try to point at or which party we belong to, we all wear the chain of whatever people are saying out there about us. Itís not fair. I donít want to be wearing that, not on behalf of the people in my community. Thatís not what this House is all about. Itís not how it should be. Mr. Speaker, those are the reasons why the Yukon people should have a say in how they see us perform and conduct ourselves in this environment.
As to the SCREP, it hasnít been meeting on a regular basis as it should. At that level, are we being represented fairly?
When we look at changes within our legislative systems, it seems that, whoever is in government at the time, the government of the day is afraid to give up power.
But if we change the way we see things, the way we look at changes within our legislative systems, we can look at it as empowering each of us. We can be empowered through these changes. If we allow the public to come and have this dialogue and give suggestions and advice to guide us in how we might do a better job, then what is there to lose? What is there to lose? I think empowerment is a strength.
If we use fear tactics to try to drive our messages home to the public, is that effective? What kind of an impact is that going to have?
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Speaker: Member for Lake Laberge, on a point of order.
Mr. Cathers: I believe weíve already ruled the term ďusing fear tacticsĒ out of order.
Speaker: Member for Kluane, on the point of order.
Mr. McRobb: To the contrary, section 19(g) says: ďA member shall be called to order if that member imputes false or unavowed motives to another member.Ē Now, I clearly heard the Member for Vuntut Gwitchin say, if we use such tactics. That is not ascribing the motives to any other member. She was including herself. She was using the collective ďweĒ, so itís not a point of order.
Speaker: I agree. There is no point of order.
Mrs. Peter: I know my time is very limited here, so I would just like to continue by saying that the messages that we put out to people, especially in our ridings, are very, very key. I am going home to Old Crow on Friday and they are going to get a report from me, as usual. A lot of the issues that I have spoken to in the past couple of weeks in this House, a lot of the issues and concerns that were brought forward by my colleagues ó you know, the community is well aware of what happens on a daily basis and they are going to be more informed when I get home. That is what this democratic process is all about: keeping that communications line open, not only with the people in my community but throughout the Yukon Territory, because we are here to represent the people out there. We are here to conduct ourselves on behalf of the people of the territory and it is our responsibility to do that in a good way.
I wouldnít want the people in my community to be ashamed of how I conduct myself here on their behalf, and that is on my mind every day that Iím here. Mr. Speaker, I hope we can move forward in this area and make sure that all MLAs in this House are able to represent their people in a way that they feel is right for them and to have that dialogue with the public and to be able to move forward in a positive way, where all of us will be empowered and strengthened because of that, because we were able to accept advice and guidance from outside of this Assembly.
With that, I support this amendment to the motion. Mahsi' cho.
Mr. Rouble: I must start off with my amazement at the disrespect and lack of credit that members of this Assembly seem to give the Standing Committee on Rules, Elections and Privileges.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Rouble: I hear ďgoodnessĒ and comments coming from the opposition side ó heartfelt comments coming from the opposition side.
The argument seems to be: we donít like this committee; therefore we shouldnít use it. The whole rationale behind liking it or not seems to be: we donít like it because they have a majority.
Well, I know Iím a rookie in this Assembly. Iíve only been here for a couple of years. Iíve given some very careful thought and examination to the Standing Orders, and there are some that Iíve questioned on more than one occasion until I come across a new situation where I kind of go, ďAha, thatís why they put that in the Standing Orders.Ē There was a reason and a rationale for it. I think we need to give some credit to the wisdom and thought that went into the creation of these Standing Orders and not just discredit them or discredit this committee because members donít like the current composition of it.
The electorate decides who is elected and, as the Member for Kluane said, the elected people decide the rules. In our system, decisions are made by the majority.
I know that the members opposite donít like this, but the fact is that the Yukon Party won a majority in the last election. Now, the leader of the official opposition has used the phrase ďmight makes rightĒ and that we will just use our majority. Well, Mr. Speaker, Yukon voters have entrusted decision-making powers to more Yukon Party MLAs than to the opposition members. In all good conscience, we cannot abrogate that responsibility.
The question was just asked as to whether we are being fairly represented. Yes, we certainly are. There were more Yukon Party MLAs elected than opposition MLAs. The decision-making power is therefore entrusted to those in the majority. That is how our democracy works.
Mr. Speaker, we have SCREP ó the Standing Committee on Rules, Elections and Privileges. It is written into our Standing Orders. It is the recognized body that deals with rules, elections and privileges. What we have been debating today are the issues that should be referred to it. It is an existing body. It has a broad membership. It has the ability to call witnesses and the ability to conduct its own road show. But for some reason, the members opposite have said no, we donít like that as a mechanism, so donít use it. I would suggest that it is the appropriate mechanism to use.
Now, we have also heard ó itís such an appropriate quote that I feel obliged to include it again ó when the Member for Mount Lorne said last Wednesday, ďWhat I fail to see, I guess, is the need for another consultation process when thereís a consultation process already happening and itís in place.Ē
Later on in the debate, he added, ďI feel it also injects yet another consultation process into a consultation process that is already underway and it disrespects the process that is already in place and already happening.Ē
Mr. Speaker, we have a system in place. Itís written into our Standing Orders, the rules that govern our behaviour, our actions, our process. Thatís what we should do. We shouldnít just say, ďWell, I donít like that, so Iíll come up with something new.Ē
We have an opportunity here to use SCREP as it was intended to be used. I donít think we need to reinvent the wheel, and I would ask members to get involved. Iím sure that if theyíre not a sitting member on SCREP they can provide a submission to a colleague who is. SCREP could perhaps call all MLAs as witnesses or invite them to produce their comments or concerns to SCREP.
We all have a role to play in this. We all have a responsibility to raise the bar on the level of decorum, but we can also look at entrenching that in our Standing Orders.
I thought that the motion, as it was originally tabled, was quite straightforward and simple. It was just simply calling on an existing committee to do what itís supposed to do. Iím really surprised to hear arguments against that.
A lot of thought went into the Standing Orders when they were created, and I think we need to respect that. We shouldnít just come in and change them overnight, unless thereís a better reason than what Iíve heard so far today.
Mr. Speaker, when a government is elected with a majority, it has the responsibility to do what it was supposed to do. On many of the committees, they should be reflective of the makeup of this Assembly, and the reality is that there are more Yukon Party members in here than opposition members. I havenít heard a good reason to say why they shouldnít have more members on a committee. Because itís not fair? Well, no, whatís fair is what the Yukon people said in the election. They said they want more people in the Yukon Party to go to the Assembly than opposition members.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Speaker: The Member for Southern Lakes has the floor; please respect that.
Mr. Rouble: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Speaker, I cannot support the amendment. I think it hijacks the original intent. It changes it in a way that I as the mover of the motion didnít intend. What I wanted to see happen was that the current Standing Committee on Rules, Elections and Privileges start to do the work that they are obligated and ordered to do under our Standing Orders, and I would like to see them get on with that.
I thank members for their attention.
Mr. Arntzen: I would like to enter into this debate on this proposed amendment to the motion. Mr. Speaker, I believe that the government side made a good start ó and I stress ďstartĒ ó on fulfilling its election promises to promote consensus building, collaboration and compromise rather than confrontation in government and seek all-party agreement on a code of conduct and decorum for the Members of the Yukon Legislative Assembly.
Evidence is found in the fact that during the first sitting of this Legislature, five government backbench motions and five opposition motions were passed. More evidence to support this occurred on December 16 when the Commissioner complimented the members. The Member for Southern Lakes quoted what the Commissioner said, so Iím not going to repeat that.
I donít know what has gone wrong since then. These wonderful first steps have not been repeated since. We have degenerated to a state where we find ourselves today. Iím not very impressed.
The final report of this senior advisor on electoral reform says that our constituents want to see us improve the functioning of the House. Do we really want to improve the decorum of the House and civility? Iím seriously questioning after listening today if it is in our hearts to do that.
As I look around the floor today, I see six members who were first elected in 1996 in Yukonís general election. Five of those members were on a majority government since that time and the sixth is a member of a majority government. So my question is: if legislative renewal and decorum is such a concern today, why didnít the majority governments deal with it when they had the opportunity?
†I fear thatís a lack of effectiveness, and the frustration these members profess to feel in the opposition role today ó the only thing I can think of is itís sour grapes because theyíre no longer in the seats of power. Is this whatís going on? Thatís what I can see.
They had the ability to make the changes when they were part of a majority government, but didnít.
All you have to do is take a quick look at Hansard. It shows that these six members ó of all parties, not just one or two, but all party affiliations ó while in opposition continually asked questions requesting information on any number of topics, and then protested at not having the information provided. It has been going on all that time.
Then they accuse each other ó if I can use the word ďaccuseĒ ó accuse the governing party of working in secrecy and arrogance. Theyíre all doing the same thing.
So, as soon as you get into government, the roles switch. Iím left wondering, isnít that why members on this side of the House are known as ďthe oppositionĒ? Isnít it our job to play those roles and keep the government accountable, and represent our constituents well? I think thatís our role.
Mr. Speaker, the main motion, if implemented, would achieve a code of conduct and decorum for this House and would promote consensus building, collaboration and compromise. I strongly believe that.
I know that was one of the election planks for the government on the government platform. I recall that. And isnít it also what all of us on the opposition side of the House want? Isnít that what we want? Iím sure it is.
This original motion seemed to go a long way toward meeting the objectives of Bill No. 108, called the Legislative Renewal Act, which the official opposition tabled on April 14, I believe it was. It even brings us closer to the original official opposition Bill No. 107, called the Democratic Reform Act, which was withdrawn that very same day.
Both those acts have a lot to say about accountability of members and ministers, sharing of information and cooperation between government and opposition members ó in essence, consensus governing. But what it also does is promotes the destruction of party politics. And should the consensus form of government described by these bills be enacted, we would become wrapped into such a bureaucratic maze that nothing would get accomplished. I donít think thatís what we want, either.
We only have to look to our sister territories to see that consensus government is not an effective way and it is not something that we should desire. In fact, Mr. Speaker, from speaking to some of the members from the Northwest Territories government, I have heard that it has been recognized by quite a few of those members and they are also considering going to a party system of governing. Theyíre talking about it. I think it was the NDP who filled the slate of candidates at the last Northwest Territories election, if I remember correctly.
However, it was not accepted by the electorate at that time.
Mr. Speaker, my constituents and I are not very happy to see the loss of consensus and decorum that we have seen occur in this 31st Legislature. I remember clearly on the doorsteps when we were campaigning in the last election that the number one priority was the economy, or lack thereof, but very high on the list was the decorum in the House. It is very deplorable that this 31st Legislature has been sitting for two and a half years and it has gone right back to where it was before. That was very well recognized by my constituents and, I understand, other constituencies.
We have to do something about it. But the amendment to the motion is not going to solve that problem. When I look at it, it says: ďfrom the three recognized political parties in the Legislature.Ē Well, there are three parties today, but there may not be three parties in the future. There could be 10. So, that alone makes this amendment not fit.
Iím not going to stand and talk about it forever. I will conclude by saying that it is my wish that governing and decorum within this House return to the stature that we had obtained in the first couple of sittings when the Commissioner congratulated us. I hope we can go back there and carry forward in a way that we will be applauded for by all our constituents as well.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Hon. Mr. Lang: I would like to talk to the proposed amendment to the motion. In our discussion on the amendment to the motion, I think what we see here is interesting. Coming close to last in the debate, we, as sitting members, have room to listen to the other membersí concerns. There are also issues on why they are for the amendment or why they are against it.
I come from a background in business ó not politicsó where consensus, partnerships and individual relationships make any business successful. So itís very important that people work as a team, as I imagined this job to be. As far as personal experience of coming into politics as an individual, if you havenít been in the field of politics before, itís certainly different when you are standing or sitting here representing your constituents.
Certainly the point of a majority government is a point. Is it a bad thing or good thing to have a majority government? Is it a situation where the Yukon would benefit from no party politics and members would be elected on our individual merit and we would come and sit in here ó would that improve the decorum in here? I doubt it.
The Minister of Education spoke very eloquently on how we have personal responsibility in here. We not only represent ourselves and our families but, most of all, our constituents, who voted us in. As the Member for Lake Laberge said, we represent our ridings. I represent Porter Creek Centre. I am their voice in this House. I ran on the Yukon Party platform and I acquired more votes than the other guys, so Iím the sitting member. Iím not going to apologize for that.
I donít think we should jerry-rig the electorate because one party got more votes than the other party, nor should we stand up and debate the percentages, or whatever. In the Yukon, when you look at our elections, when we get an 82-percent turnout, thereís a question about youth, that we donít involve youth. Well, I think the Yukon involves youth to a very high level. I know in my campaign we involved youth. I know in my campaign that we had a very stiff competition and that we, myself and my opponents, got out every single vote that was available on that day. We did that. We did that by getting out and working our constituents, and 75 to 80 percent of the people eligible to vote in my riding got out that day and voted.
At the end of the day, when they added up the ballots, I had more than the other individuals, so I have the luxury of sitting in the House representing this riding, Porter Creek Centre. So as far as apologizing for the fact that this is a majority government, Iím not prepared to do that. Iím prepared to do the job I was assigned to do and that was to represent my riding of Porter Creek Centre.
Now on the Standing Committee on Rules, Elections and Privileges, itís an interesting mosaic there. We have three from the government, the majority government; we have two individuals from the opposition; we have one independent member, and we have one Liberal. In fact, that committee does not have a majority: itís four to three. Thatís a fact.
Now when we talk back and forth about the debate on whether this committee is relevant, I think the people of the Yukon voted us in to make it relevant and make it work and get beyond the immaturity of our personal feelings and go to work and do the job that the Yukoners elected us to do.
Iím prepared to do that for the people of Porter Creek Centre. Thatís what I was elected to do. My job, as the Member for Porter Creek Centre, is to do the job that the government has to run and to give direction to the Yukon territorial government. Iím prepared to do that and I feel that, because of the connotation of majority and that the committee doesnít work ó when, in fact, if you were to add it up, we on this side of the House have fewer seats than the opposition does ó then the argument about whether itís a viable committee is up to the individuals at that point, Mr. Speaker. If they wonít sit on that committee and work, what makes you think theyíll sit on the next committee and make it work? I donít think theyíre prepared to sit with us as a government, recognizing the fact that we have a majority government. I donít want to second-guess the members opposite, but I donít think the committee would work if, in fact, they wonít sit on this committee.
Now, if the committee is not prepared, with all the members, to sit and address this issue, then we have to look at our three members as a caucus and ó
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Speaker: Leader of the third party, on a point of order.
Ms. Duncan: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker, Iím troubled by the Member for Porter Creek Centreís references that the members opposite arenít prepared to work on the committee, and I would suggest that 19(g), imputing false or unavowed motives ó from his reference just a moment ago, ďIf theyíre not prepared to work on that committee, then what committee are they prepared to work on?Ē Iím troubled by that and draw it to your attention, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: On the point of order, Member for Lake Laberge.
Mr. Cathers: I donít believe there was a point of order. The Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources did not say that members were not prepared to work on the Standing Committee on Rules, Elections and Privileges. He speculated that if they are not prepared to work on that committee, he would question whether they would be prepared to work on another committee.
Speaker: Member for Kluane, on the point of order.
Mr. McRobb: On the point of order, Mr. Chair, clearly the Member for Porter Creek Centre did accuse us of not being prepared to work on the committee. I would remind you, Mr. Speaker, that, in fact, we have recommended that this committee be formulated through the amendment to the motion, so speculating that weíre not prepared to even sit on the very committee that weíre urging be created is completely ridiculous, and therefore this is a point of order.
†Speaker: †I request that the members allow me to review the Blues on this issue.
Hon. Mr. Lang: In our conversations this afternoon, different individuals have talked about how the Standing Committee on Rules, Elections and Privileges doesnít work and that there was some question about whether individuals would sit on that committee, or have been sitting on that committee, or whether it was an active committee. The member opposite is talking about a new committee set to move forward with their amended motion, which I donít agree with ó again, the argument about starting another process when we already have a process in place. All we as members in the House have to do is prepare to go to work on that committee and make it work.
I think as far as the Yukon citizens are concerned, we have an obligation to go to work ó as a government and as the opposition. As the Member for Copperbelt mentioned, the opposition opposes, and they hold us accountable for what the government does in government. As we have been reminded, that has changed many times. Governments become the opposition. That is the final test ó when we go to the people and they decide who is going to sit on this side and who is going to sit on that side. At that point we get on with our lives.
We were elected as a government with a majority and we went to work, answering and working with Yukoners to make sure that at the end of the day we maximize the benefits to our electorate; I think that is our job. Now, to redefine a committee that we already have ó obviously, as a government, sitting there with three of our members, and if our three members are not diligently working, and if thereís a question about them, in any way, not working as a team with the Standing Committee on Rules, Elections and Privileges, I would like to know it and our caucus should address those issues.
The opposition should come to work and also the independent and the third party. Letís go to work. Letís take a look. Letís work for all Yukoners. Letís see at the end of the day what is a workable thing for us, as Yukoners, to make the Yukon a better place to live and this government, this House, a more productive place. Iím willing to discuss it. Iím not here as an individual member from Porter Creek Centre ó I come from a place of consensus. I come from business.
You know, my commitment to my constituents is a four-year term. Thatís all Iím committed to do and I want to maximize the work I do in those four years. It happens that I was voted in with the Yukon Party, and Iím sitting here with these other members ó more members than the opposition has ó so we form the government of the day. Itís a system that works. It works very well, and every four years we go to the people and we get a report card, and the report card might be good news and it might be bad news, but I hope everybody in this ó
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Speaker: Order please. Leader of the official opposition, on a point of order.
Mr. Hardy: I feel like I have to do what I did for the Premier and remind him what the is in front of him. It is not electoral reform, as they seem to both drift into, and I would like to see him stick to the amendment to the motion thatís in front of him.
Speaker: I can respect the memberís point of order; however, as the Chair today I have allowed a lot of latitude because these are almost intricately woven subjects from my perception, and both very important, so thatís why Iím allowing such wide-ranging debate here. You have the floor, Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources.
Hon. Mr. Lang: So in the debate today on the amendment, I donít agree with the amendment because I think the main motion answers the questions and we have the tools in place to go forward.
I think all we have to do in the House is bury our hard feelings, move forward in a positive way and address some of the issues that are out there on the street, that Yukoners are asking us to review.
We have, as a government, taken steps to get some of the answers to some of the questions. The next step is to get the Standing Committee on Rules, Elections and Privileges up and running. Obviously, there are some feelings that it isnít a productive committee. I say, letís mature, go to work and make it a productive part of government. Weíre prepared to listen to it. Weíre prepared to put our members on it and task them to go to work. We, on this side of the House, donít have all the answers. At the end of the day, weíre all here for one purpose, which is to make life a little easier for our constituents, who happen to be Yukoners.
We have all been elected to come to the House to represent Yukoners. Yukoners are asking us to do something. We have the tools in place to do it. The main motion covered it. I think the amendment was just a way to set up another process ó a duplicate process ó that would do the same thing as the main motion. So, I canít agree with the amended motion. I agree with the Member for Southern Lakes and the motion that was put forward by that individual. Of course, it is a motion from this side of the floor, Mr. Speaker, so it will have to be addressed accordingly, but I say that the amendment is not necessary. The amendment is doing dual tracking. Itís a process that sets up tandem committee to address something for which we already have the tool in the toolbox.
Letís move forward. Letís task the individuals on this committee to do the job that theyíre assigned to do. Letís take that responsibility from our side of the House ó the government side of the House, our three members ó and let the leader of the official opposition and the opposition party task their two individuals. Let the Liberals, the third party, that member, come forward, and, of course, thereís room for the independent. At the end of the day, we have a very good cross-section of Yukoners sitting at the table there to resolve some of the questions that have been brought up today.
So I think if we truly want to do something ó or do we just want to talk about it? Maybe thatís an option, that we just talk about it. But I think the amendment isnít necessary. I think we have a responsibility to Yukoners to get the committee up and running, task it with a job at hand, move it forward. I am fairly confident that our government, our members here, the members we have on the government side, would look favourably at the resolution and what comes out of the committee. But when the members opposite talk about the voting record or weíre limiting who votes, I think that we in the Yukon should be very proud of the turnout on election day.
I was amazed when I actually researched it and found out the numbers, the head count. I never thought about what the turnout was before, except in my own constituency. But when I look at all these ridings throughout the Yukon and the interest there, we donít have an issue with people turning out to vote. That doesnít seem to be an issue out there.
At the end of the day, when you can average 80 percent of your electorate taking the opportunity to go out and vote for us, the members here in the House, thatís a compliment to the Yukon because I think anywhere else in Canada, we would be the envy of any other constituency. Iím not quite sure if thereís a constituency out there ó maybe Prince Edward Island, I think somebody was saying, has a good success rate in electorate turnout.
So I canít agree with the amendment. I think the amendment doesnít do the job. I think the main motion was there, sincerely put forward by the Member for Southern Lakes, to try to make this thing move forward at the end of the day.
We have a Standing Committee on Rules, Elections and Privileges thatís available to us. We have three members, the opposition have two, and of course the independent and the third party sit on that, so thatís seven members. The government, the majority government, has three sitting members on that. Weíre willing to work with that kind of a percentage to get the job done, so letís go to work, letís do what we were elected to do, and letís move forward on this issue.
Mr. Fairclough: I would like to respond to the amendment as moved by the Member for Kluane. Iím quite surprised to hear the words coming from the government side on this amendment because it gives the government side a perfect opportunity to do what is right, I suppose, in bringing forward this motion ó do what is right. Itís all about fairness, and I think thatís exactly what this amendment we brought forward speaks to. Iím surprised that the members opposite were basically disregarding the amendment and not agreeing to it.
Where is the compromise that they promised? Is it here today, when we talk about improving decorum in this House? Itís not here.
The members opposite talked about SCREP and the members that are on there and the independent member. Well, at the time ó and the previous speaker knows this ó he was part of the government when they were appointed, so there is not the equal representation on SCREP the government side thinks there is.
So, basically, the amendment is saying, ďOkay, if the government side is serious about bringing this motion forward, letís talk about equality and everyone having an equal say, instead of government basically having a veto on matters being dealt with by SCREP.Ē Thatís exactly where members opposite have been going with this motion.
This is not a nuisance amendment; itís one that is constructive, it gives the government side things to think about seriously on this matter, and maybe we could have moved forward on it.
Looking at the time ó it being 5:30 p.m. ó I donít believe the government side even wants to vote on this. Letís see if Iím right. After I speak, letís see what happens on that side of the House ó whether another speaker gets up to talk this out, or we actually vote on this matter. I donít think that they would want to put their no vote on something like taking it out to the public for public consultation.
Well, why would you want to vote against that? Why would anyone want to vote against that? Thatís what could happen here.
Itís a special committee, consisting of equal representation from the three recognized parties. We are kind of working a little bit on what government has promised to the public about compromising and consensus. Letís have some consensus on this amendment, Mr. Speaker. Rather than going through SCREP, which has not been functional, has not been meeting and has not dealt with any serious matters, this one does. Really, when we look at it, the act that the official opposition brought before this Legislature was moved out of debate by the Yukon Party. If weíre really serious about making improvements, why donít we do it now?
Letís talk a little bit about how we got to the point weíre at today, with points of order being called more than ever, I think. Even though thereís a promise ó nobody is going to forget the promise the Yukon Party put forward in their election campaign. The big one that people have seen deteriorate in this House is decorum. The Yukon Party clearly campaigned on improvements to decorum in this House. Sometimes it takes a leader to do that.
When our viewers out there listen and watch the House, particularly Question Period, as itís televised the most, they donít see what they expected their elected members to do. Everyoneís on edge. They get defensive. Many times, Mr. Speaker, you have called people to order before a point of order is even brought up. Many of those points of order are on the Premier, who is supposed to show some leadership in this House in ways to improve what has been happening over the last couple of years, and longer, in this House.
So a lot of this does go back to government and how they conduct themselves. With this motion and points of order being called in the House and so on, if anything, each individual in this Assembly needs to have a good look at himself or herself to make improvements. Itís like everything else. When you look at community healing, itís not the community thatís going to go ahead and do this all at once. Everything starts with the individual. I am included in that, and I know I have violated some of the Standing Orders, and sometimes it is out of frustration to hearing, perhaps one of the ministers saying something that is contrary to what I feel is the truth. So I have to say something. I guess it is my duty, Mr. Speaker, to ó
Some Hon. Member: Point of order, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: Yes, there is a point of order. Obviously youíll retract that.
Withdrawal of remark
Mr. Fairclough: Iíll retract that, Mr. Speaker.
There are times that the members opposite, whether they are ministers or not, or we on the opposition side, I guess, rebut in a way that is in violation of the Standing Orders. Much of it, we feel, cannot go by without doing that. It is probably part of so many legislative assemblies across Canada. We have seen some pretty wild stuff happening in the House of Commons. There always seems to be chatter and talk and yelling and shouting. I would say this Assembly is pretty calm compared to the House of Commons. Itís small right now and we can hear each other back and forth quite clearly, and it is up to the individual.
I have to say, Mr. Speaker, that there are a lot of things that have been ruled out of order that had been part of regular debate in this House but are no longer there now. We in the opposition sometimes find it a little frustrating because weíre so used to speaking those words in the House here and now we canít do that any more.
Thereís an improvement in that section. I think a lot of the things that have been said in the past should never have gone on beyond that one person saying it and being ruled out of order on it.
What we ask the members opposite to do is look at the amendment seriously because, the way it reads, this special committee is comprised of, I guess ó what did we call it ó equal representation between the government side and the opposition, so thereís no veto in saying ďNo, this will not happenĒ, basically working on the governmentís consensus-building style. Thatís the amendment put forward and Iím surprised that members opposite have just thrown that out, and yet Iím not, I suppose, because weíve made a lot of good suggestions on this side of the House and they were turned down by the government side.
It is our duty to point out when a promise is made and we feel that a promise is broken or not fulfilled yet, or ask when it will be. For example, this is part of the Yukon Party platform: it says that upon formation of government they would strike an independent committee of citizens to hold public consultations on electoral reform in the Yukon. That was part of the Yukon Party platform.
When there are major decisions of government that affect the citizens, they should be involved in those discussions. They should be consulted. Iíve heard a number of speakers talking about there already being processes in place, that itís common knowledge that a consultation will take place, that there is a process in place.
I know the members opposite referred to another motion being debated here, where the Yukon Party wanted to put consultation into a process where we said that it already existed ó in First Nation final agreements and so on. Their position now is completely contrary to what they are saying in this motion when it comes to consultation and the consultation process.
So where is the Yukon Party going with this? What do they really want to do with this motion? If they donít like the amendment, vote against it. I want to see the Yukon Party put their X against the amendment. I will sit down soon and give the Yukon Party a chance to vote against this, and weíll go back to the main motion. But I hope they are mindful that theyíll be voting against a suggestion that a committee will be comprised of equal representation ó equal representation.
Not only that ó hereís another good one thatís in this amendment: ďto conduct meaningful public consultationĒ. Those words are put in there, in a way, for many reasons.
One of them is: what is the definition of consultation, anyway? We know what the Yukon Partyís definition of consultation is. It is: letís make a decision, take it out to the public and ask, ďHow do you like us now?Ē It happens over and over again.
With the Delgamuukw court case, they defined what consultation was. Part of the wording in this amendment follows that: ďconducting meaningful public consultationĒ. I am hoping that the members opposite will reconsider, because this special committee that has equal representation would go out and do meaningful public consultation on this matter. Guess what happens? If you look at the amendment and how it goes, it comes back to the House.
We considered the findings of what the special committee does and can talk about that once again. So, the process doesnít end there and the elected members get another opportunity to speak to this matter. So why is the Yukon Party so dead against having equal representation on this special committee ó why?
The Member for Kluane has pointed out and given examples of SCREP meetings and the failure to look at matters addressing this whole issue of equal representation. If the Yukon Party believes what they say in their election platform, then we should all be agreeing to this. We should all be agreeing to this amendment.
If they look at it carefully, it is really following some of their commitments to consult and collaborate and compromise and so on. Well, letís see where the proof is. I am going to sit down here because I would like the members opposite to consider voting and approving this amendment, and then we have enough time that we could vote on the motion as amended, or would the Yukon Party want to just talk it out and show their true colours?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: There have been a number of good points today and a number of, actually, very good speeches. I think this is one of the best debates that weíve had in the House today.
The member opposite points out or says that the Yukon Party government does not support equal representation on SCREP, which I find confusing, because when I go back to Tuesday, March 25, 2003, the government motion to create the membership for SCREP ó I obviously canít name the members, but my count and the count of everybody who has looked at this so far, is three members from the Yukon Party, two from the New Democratic Party, one from the Liberal Party, and one from the independent opposition member. Thatís four to three, and weíre outnumbered. So weíre already proposing something that the government does not hold a majority on, and the Member for Mayo-Tatchun wants us to actually reduce the advantage that they potentially have on SCREP.
SCREP has its problems. There is no doubt about that. I donít think any of us would disagree with that. But to create something from scratch and not go back to what we have with its powers that could be reconvened on very short notice ó I think what we offer is to do that and reconvene that and get on with the discussion.
There are a number of things that come to mind in the course of this. Some of the members opposite have had great fun in the last few days quoting various books. One of my favourite authors is Lewis Carroll, and one of my favourite quotes is: ďTake care of the sense and the sounds will take care of themselves.Ē Itís obviously the sense that we have to try dealing with here and work with that.
Some things have come up in there, and I am rather pleased. My initial thought was that we werenít respecting the independent member and the people he represents on this, but obviously, as I say, he is represented there and he certainly represents another facet of our opposition.
I have a number of concerns with some of the various things that come into this whole discussion. I donít necessarily agree with the Member for Vuntut Gwitchin. I too have to admit I have some concerns that that, and other unique constituencies, may lose. We donít have the best of male/female gender balance in the House, but we donít control who gets elected and who doesnít, and I think all parties have tried with that. Out of 18 members, we have four First Nation MLAs ó approaching the representation within the territory. On a wide variety of other things too, we have a reasonably representative number of Members of the Legislative Assembly.
We do have to basically define what is happening or where itís going. If I can go back to another very famous quote from Lewis Carroll, as Alice approaches the Cheshire Cat in the tree, ďWould you tell me please which way I ought to go from here?Ē ďThat depends a good deal on where you want to get to,Ē said the Cat. ďI donít much care where,Ē said Alice. ďThen it doesnít matter which way you go,Ē said the Cat. ďSo long as I get somewhere,Ē Alice added, as an explanation. ďOh, youíre sure to do that,Ē said the Cat, ďif only you walk long enough.Ē
I think that alone speaks volumes in this House. Once determined where we want to go ó and where do we want to go on this? We want to go to a representative government. I donít see huge problems with what we have. I see problems in other jurisdictions with low voter turnout. We have one of the highest voter turnouts in Canada, if not North America. Thatís not a problem we have to get around.
We have some very unique constituencies. The population of Old Crow and members of the Vuntut Gwitchin should be represented and should have their own, and that falls completely out of most other ways that you could try to structure something. There are other constituencies as well. We live in a very unique area and thatís both a challenge and a problem, but itís also probably the reason most of us live up here, and even some of the people who were born here ó Iím suspicious that thatís why the families live here, and Iím suspicious, if we track that back thousands of years, that thatís why the people who originally lived in this area are here. Itís a very unique part of the world and one that I think we all enjoy.
One of the things that came out earlier ó and I very much thank the Member for Porter Creek South for her comments because I think some of them were dead-on, absolutely dead-on. Why would anyone go into this crazy job? I get asked that everyday and I have yet to come up with an answer either, so itís kind of heartening to find out that she doesnít have an answer either. Itís difficult, and politics are difficult at the best of times, but I give some examples of my own background as an example and certainly what has happened over the course of this session.
In going up to ensure that there is an adequate transition in meat inspection totally at my own expense, immediately Iím accused that itís a conflict of interest to try to help in that transition.
In trying to ensure park space and parkland, and lack of development and lack of infill in the Porter Creek area, Iím attacked for it being a personal thing. When the Conflicts Commissioner completely removes that, everyone jumps in and says theyíre on the bandwagon. Iím glad to have them on the wagon. Thatís what weíve been trying to do for a long time.
Last year, I made some comments about West Nile virus and the Conflicts Commissioner likened that to a minister who is a dentist, saying that you should have regular check-ups, or a minister who is a lawyer, saying that people should have wills. Now, with global warming, I see that West Nile virus is becoming a major concern in the north ó or could potentially become one.
Trying to get one of our students into a program, which actually costs less per year than the average cost of keeping a student at Yukon College, blew into a whole thing, and again the Conflicts Commissioner sees nothing in it. Perhaps we could work on the same side, because I think, in our hearts, we have the same interests, and we can accomplish so much more.
There is one thing I would like to comment on, and I have looked forward all afternoon to making some comments. Iíd liken this to SCREP and working within existing rules and structures. Members opposite and members on this side referred to the Standing Orders, and the Member for Southern Lakes ó the beautiful Southern Lakes, which is just down the road from beautiful Porter Creek North. When weíre discussing infill and protection of green spaces in the City of Whitehorse ó Crestview and areas behind Crestview and such, are certainly to be considered part of that.††††††††††††
But when we talk about the Standing Orders and the amount of thought that went into them, the one thing that bothers me is the addendum ó Guidelines for Oral Question Period.
I point this out for members and for the Speaker to give some thought to. It has evolved. Even on the last page of that addendum in our Standing Orders, it says, ďOver the years a practice has developed whereby Speakers will allow questions up to approximately one minute in length, and responses of approximately one and one-half minutes. Speakers reserve the discretion to depart from this practice from time to time should circumstances warrant.Ē Circumstances warrant all the time.
We live with the Speakerís guidance, and we respect it. It becomes difficult for any government of any political stripe to deal with long, involved prologues and long, involved speeches, if you will, ending with a question. I think everyone would understand ó perhaps the leader of the third party better than most ó that after awhile, as people are standing there hammering at you, itís kind of nice to stop hitting your head against the wall and itís very easy to react.
The reaction is a problem that we have to deal with. The setting up of that reaction is something I think the opposition could help us with.
In the addendum (3), ďA question asking for a specific statement of government policy is in order. A question which seeks an opinion about government policy is out of order.Ē We donít deal in opinion. We have to deal with facts on this. That often becomes difficult, Mr. Speaker. It becomes difficult when repetitive questions refer to a program that does not exist or a situation that does not exist. After the fourteenth time one says, ďThe member opposite is wrong; this is not true or dealing with facts,Ē it becomes very easy to take a shot back.
Iíve had that problem. I think all of the members on this side of the House have had the same problem.
Number four is that a question must relate to a matter within the administrative responsibility of the Government of Yukon. Weíve dealt with many questions over the sitting that are federal responsibilities and have nothing to do with the Yukon government. It is reasonable to ask about it, perhaps initially, but once explained that it is not something that involves the Yukon territorial government, then it really does become rather silly to continue to hammer away at it.
Number seven is that a brief preamble will be allowed in the case of a main question, and a one-sentence preamble will be allowed in the case of each supplementary. Weíve had this discussion privately, Mr. Speaker, and we have gotten away from that in the past. But if I might make a suggestion for all members of the House and for the Speaker of the House to give that some consideration as a way of toning down rhetoric on both sides ó and I donít go after any side or political stripe or person with that.
A question must adhere to the proprieties of the House, in that it must not contain inferences, impute motives or cast aspersions upon persons within the House or out of it. That we refer to all of the time, Mr. Speaker, and one of our challenges, and one of the fun parts of this job ó and, yes, there are, strangely, fun parts of this job ó is the humour. Sometimes having a little bit of fun to see what we can get by the Speaker of the House or the Chair of the Committee of the Whole ó we get gonged sometimes.
We do appreciate very much allowing a little bit of humour in the House, because it does break the flow on many occasions.
Number nine is that replies to questions should be as brief as possible, relevant to the question asked and should not provoke debate. How do you do that when someone has stood up for a minute and a half and politely and in a well-controlled way calls you every name in the book? But you have to be relevant to the question asked and cannot provoke debate ó a very difficult thing to do and weíre certainly aware of the challenges with that.
Number 10 is particularly my favourite: a minister may decline to answer a question without stating the reason for his or her refusal. Insistence on an answer is out of order. Yet, over and over when we answer a question, weíre told that we didnít answer the question. Weíre asked five questions, and if we answer, we hope, the questionerís favourite four, weíre accused of not answering number five. That is totally against number 10 in here: a minister may decline to answer the question without stating the reason. Insistence is out of order.
So this is another example I would suggest, with reflection, a way of bringing the level of debate down, dealing within the House, bringing SCREP back, reconstituting it and meeting ó since we already are not in the majority, contrary to the mathematical abilities of some people. We only have four of the seven seats.
So therefore this is just another place where we get very, very frustrated. One of my favourite quotes out of Lewis Carroll, Mr. Speaker, again, is an exchange between Alice and, I believe, the queen. Basically, it says, ďI donít see how he can ever finish if he doesnít begin.Ē Letís begin, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: Order please. The time being 6:00 p.m., the House now stands adjourned until 1:00 p.m. tomorrow.
Debate on Motion No. 435 and proposed amendment accordingly adjourned
The House adjourned at 6:00 p.m.
The following Sessional Paper was tabled April 20, 2005:
Investing In Public Service Ė serving Yukon people† (Taylor)