Wednesday, November 23, 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.
Are there any tributes?
In remembrance of George Darbyshire
Mr. Hardy: I rise on behalf of the Assembly to pay tribute to a great Yukoner, George Darbyshire. He came to the Yukon with the army and worked maintaining the Alaska Highway until his retirement. He married here and raised a large family. He was a gardener, a trapper, an educator in the trapping world and a very good friend of many, many people. In his retirement years, he was very active in the Yukon Trappers Association and advocated strongly for the issues that trappers face.
Now, on the surface, this may sound like an ordinary Yukon life to some people but George epitomizes a way of life in an almost mythical way. Living in his cabin in the bush, he looked the part. A friend, Harvey Jessup, said in his letter in the paper last week that he was the poster image of the burly northern trapper.
But George was far more than that. Georgeís devotion to a way of life that is often threatened in our technology-based society has a lesson for us all. His life points out that we cannot take for granted the things that have made this Yukon the envy of many southerners. He was intimately attached to the environment that gave him his livelihood and his freedom. His knowledge of climate conditions affecting animals was invaluable and he shared this with the younger generation who will guide our paths in the future. There are many, many people who have had the opportunity to take trapping courses with George.
The finest remembrance of George we can make will be to continue his keen sensitivity to our wilderness and to protect the great legacy that has been left to us in the Yukon.
Mr. Speaker, Iíve known George for many, many years. I met George on the campaign trails during elections. It was in the riding that I live in, and often I would go to his house, knowing full well that when I knocked on that door, when George came to that door I would be greeted with a smile. He was a very warm, caring person. I believe he did that for everyone who came to his doorstep. However, my wife and I remember him very fondly in that area, and I know many of the other people who were involved in politics remember George very fondly. He felt very passionate about politics and actually believed in something, and he passed that on to many people. He was thoughtful, and he was very, very warm in everything he said and always offered support to us.
I also would like to invite all members in the Assembly to join me in welcoming some of Georgeís family who are here today. Charlotte is here; Dora and her husband Gord; Gary and I believe his granddaughter Maxine are here. Please join me in welcoming them.
In recognition of National Addictions Awareness Week
Mr. McRobb: I am pleased to rise on behalf of the official opposition in recognition of National Addictions Awareness Week, November 20 to 26. For nearly a quarter century the objectives of the NAAW have been to educate with information about addictions and to promote a variety of activities in celebration of addictions-free living. It is a positive approach that doesnít preach or cite the terrors of addictions, and that approach helps explain the success of this important annual event.
The NAAW theme song ďKeep the Circle StrongĒ reflects the idea that this awareness week is hoping to convey. It is the symbol of the circle of support from family, friends and community that helps those who choose it to have a healthy lifestyle free from addictions. Without people who are keeping the circle strong by helping in the struggle, it is almost impossible for someone to fight an addiction. It takes courage and commitment to remain supportive of individuals who are addicted.
We salute those people who, as the song says, can say to someone who needs help, ďCome and walk next to me.Ē Those people include addictions counsellors, AA, NA and Alanon members, and the many unknown people who quietly and patiently deal with the effects of all kinds of addictions in their lives hoping for a better day.† The Yukon has significant problems with substance abuse, and the number of people living with FASD is disturbingly high. There is a high rate of health problems due to cigarette smoking. Heavy gambling impacts our economy and our families.
The NAAW song reminds us that the circle is symbolic of the ideal of balance and harmony. We still have some way to go to keep the circle strong with balance and harmony in our lives but we can choose to start with ourselves.
Education is a powerful tool, and the local committee has several events this week, including the potlatch put on by the Kwanlin Dun First Nation, and its health fair is continuing today at the Nakwataku Potlatch House. Everyone is invited to attend tonightís meeting about crystal meth at the Grace Community Church at 8th Avenue and Wheeler Street, which starts at 7 pm. Last but not least, in Old Crow, the social department and the inter-agency committee are hosting a two-day health fair at the Chief Zzeh Gittlit School.
Speaker: Are there any further tributes?
Introduction of visitors.
Are there any returns or documents for tabling?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Hon. Mr. Hart: I have for tabling the 2004-05 annual report of the Motor Transport Board.
I also have for tabling the following emergency preparedness documents, which provide self-help advice regarding winter driving, winter power failures, earthquakes, storm surges, floods, severe storms, preparing for the unexpected, ďBe prepared, not scaredĒ, basic rescue skills, a guide to business contingency planning and a map of natural hazards of Canada.
Iíve also placed additional copies in the information racks by the reception area and would encourage all my colleagues in this Assembly to let their constituents know about these helpful brochures.
Speaker: Are there any further documents for tabling?
Reports of committees.
Are there any petitions?
Are there any bills to be introduced?
Are there any notices of motion?
NOTICES OF MOTION
Mr. Hassard: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT this House urges the Yukon government to replace the deck of the Teslin River bridge.
Mr. Rouble: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that First Nation housing in many Yukon communities is substandard, and that black mould, which can suppress the bodyís immune system, making people more susceptible to disease, has recently been discovered in 10 homes of the Little Salmon-Carmacks First Nation; and
THAT this House urges
(1) the Government of Canada to ensure that Yukon First Nations receive their fair share of any national funding program that is established to address the dire housing needs of First Nations in Canada; and
(2) the Government of Yukon to work with Yukon First Nations in identifying current deficiencies in their housing stock.
Speaker: Are there any further notices of motion?
Is there a ministerial statement?
This then brings us to Question Period.
Question re:† Northern Splendor Reindeer Farm
Mr. Hardy: Now, early on the morning of Saturday, May 21, officials of the Department of Environment were deployed to begin destroying a herd of over 50 reindeer. These animals had been in the care and custody of the Yukon government since March 30 because the owners had been put into a position where they were no longer able to provide for them. My question is not about the unresolved dispute between the Yukon government and the owners of the Northern Splendor Reindeer Farm. It is strictly about the chain of events leading to the slaughter of these animals. Will the minister who made the decision to destroy the reindeer please stand up and take some responsibility for that decision right now?
Speaker: Next question.
Mr. Hardy: Well, itís very interesting, Mr. Speaker, that not a soul was willing to take some responsibility, so weíll go on.
Weíre trying to bring clarity to a matter that has been shrouded with a lot of secrecy and a lot of conflicting information. For the record, the minister who should have stood up is not willing to take responsibility for the decision to kill these animals. So from our perspective, does that mean that every single person over there was part of a decision for the slaughter? Is the minister ó weíre trying to find out who is responsible for this ó also willing to take responsibility for the way in which the destruction took place? So is there anyone over there willing to stand up and take ownership of an action that from our perspective should not have happened? Is there anyone over there?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Let me help the member opposite. There is not one minister on this side of the House who made a decision to destroy or kill animals, as the member opposite implies. This is a health situation where the Department of Environment was involved in a very, very serious situation involving diseased animals, and the appropriate course of action was subsequently taken by the Department of Environment.
We only have to look at what is going on in the world today with respect to animals, both domesticated and wild. We only have to look at the situation in the Lower Mainland with ducks and chickens that are culled because of disease. The same thing occurred here in the Yukon. We had diseased animals, and the only course of action that could be taken was taken.
Mr. Hardy: Is this minister unnecessarily raising public alarm about the disease that may or may not have been in the animals? Is that what heís trying to do? Is that the message that heís sending out to the public? We are going to continue pursuing this, because there are animals out there right now that contain some of these diseases that the reindeer were accused of carrying.
I want the members opposite to focus on the question, though, not on the spin they want to put on this extremely disturbing event. I would remind the members opposite that I was present that Saturday morning, and they were not. The public is demanding answers and accountability, not the evasions and excuses that we just heard. There is lots of time to go into why the decision was made, but right now I simply want straight answers about who was responsible and how this event unfolded.
Aside from the minister, who has already stood up and admitted that it was the Department of Environment ó he finally did ó what other elected officials were involved in making the decision to destroy these animals?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, this is a matter that was dealt with internally by the Department of Environment. This is a case of animals that were diseased, and the appropriateness of the action that was taken was determined by Outside health authorities that are very, very knowledgeable in this area. After due consultation with those authorities, the determination was made, but there wasnít a minister involved in the decision to put these animals down as a consequence of the diseases that they had.
Question re: Northern Splendor Reindeer Farm
†Mr. Hardy: Now, according to public reports, the order to destroy the animals was issued by the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources under section 6 of the Animal Health Act, contrary to what this minister just said. Under that act, the minister may order an animal owner to destroy, humanely kill or dispose of any animal or thing carrying a disease or any animal or thing suspected of carrying a disease that, in the opinion of the minister, may spread disease. Thatís an abbreviation of section 6(1) of the act, but it covers the pertinent authority. Now, did the minister issue such an order to the owner of the reindeer herd that was destroyed on the morning of Saturday, May 21, 2005? Did he issue that?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, this issue is a very serious issue. We are talking about diseased animals. There is a procedure that is laid out as to what to do in the event of diseased animals. They were in the care and control of the Department of Environment, and all the appropriateness of the action taken was duly reconciled with the federal health bodies. The advice was provided to the department, and the necessary steps were taken. Fortunately, Mr. Speaker, these kinds of situations donít arise too often. But once again, Mr. Speaker, I point out what has happened and is continuing to happen with respect to poultry in the Lower Mainland, what happened with the mad cow disease in Alberta. There is a whole series of issues here. What we do not want to see happen is for these reindeer herds to be allowed to access the wilds and breed with the wild population of, potentially, caribou, which could cause us all other sorts of serious problems. The member opposite might want to look at the whole situation.
Mr. Hardy: This minister did not answer the question. The other minister who was identified in my previous question did not respond to it. This minister is putting very questionable information on the floor.
Now, the Minister of Environment certainly made his position clear in the House on April 7 and May 17 when he claimed that the owners of the Northern Splendor Reindeer Farm had voluntarily surrendered ownership of the animals. Of course, Mr. Speaker, the jury is still out on that. I would like to remind that minister that I was present during that period as well and heard a conflicting story around that. I was actually there.
But let me get back to the decision to kill these animals and the order that brought it about. Was the ministerial order to destroy these animals made under section 6(1) or 6(2) of the act? Which part of the act did this minister follow?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: The appropriateness of the action that was taken with respect to these diseased animals followed all the necessary channels and the authority granted under various pieces of legislation.
Mr. Hardy: Once again, I have to question what this minister is putting on the floor here today. There is a very important difference between these two parts of the act. Under section 6(1), the minister can order the animal owner to destroy an animal that is carrying a disease or is suspected of carrying a disease that the minister believes may spread disease. Section 6(2) allows the minister to destroy, humanely kill or dispose of any animal only if the owner does not comply with an order under the previous subsection.
To clear up the record: will the minister or ministers ó all of them ó do something that hasnít been done so far? Will he or they produce a copy of the ministerial order calling for the destruction of these animals? Will he do that?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: † All the appropriate actions were followed and taken. What we had here was a herd of reindeer that was carrying disease. It was more than one reindeer, Mr. Speaker. The action that should have been taken, was taken. The recommendations of the federal government were carefully followed in this area; they have the overall jurisdiction. We have to follow federal legislation here in the Yukon. It might be unusual for the member opposite, but thatís the reality. We had a serious situation with diseased animals. All the appropriate regulations were followed. It is with regret that we had to take the steps that were taken, but this herd of reindeer were to be released into the wild. They came into the care of the Department of Environment officials and were subsequently dealt with in the appropriate manner, as determined by a federal health inspector.
Question re:††† Contracts, sole-sourcing
Ms. Duncan: About this time last year, I asked several questions about the Minister of Healthís involvement in the development at the new multi-level health care facility in Dawson City. He said at the time he was not involved. He didnít interfere in the department or micromanage decisions. He also said just last week, and I quote: ďPersonally, I havenít handed out one contract.Ē
Documents received under the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act tell a different story. According to an e-mail from the department, the minister personally ordered that the design of the health centre be given to an architectural firm with no competition required. Is the minister now prepared to admit that he has, based on written evidence from his own department, personally handed out the contract?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: My involvement was to get the department moving on two multi-level care facilities. How the contract was awarded ó I believe it was through a government agency. My involvement, as far as I recall with respect to both the multi-level care facility in Watson Lake and Dawson City, was to ensure the room sizes were not coffin-sized, as the seniors had previously conveyed to me, but that they were larger than what were deemed necessary by those who lay out plans for this type of facility. That was one of my involvements. The other one was to keep the design as simple and as energy efficient as possible.
Other than that, I canít recall any other involvement, and I certainly didnít give out the contracts and order them to be awarded to any specific firm.
Ms. Duncan: The e-mail speaks for itself. Minister Jenkins met with the department and an individual and requested the following: sole source the contract to the individual.
The minister interfered in the awarding of a design contract for the new facility. He personally ordered that it be awarded without competition.
It gets worse, Mr. Speaker. After the design was completed, the minister again made several changes to the design. For example, he personally demanded that the bedrooms be expanded by 35 percent; he ordered that the boiler room be moved and that the number of ambulance bays be increased. The only thing he didnít do was pick out the colour of the bed sheets.
The interference cost Yukon taxpayers money and it upset the people who work for the minister. The changes were made, even though they did not conform to good design practices, because ďWeíve been given our marching orders by the minister.Ē
Why is the minister spending his day micromanaging the legacy project in Dawson instead of doing his job as Minister of Health and Social Services?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Well, part of my responsibilities as Minister of Health and Social Services is to ensure that the facilities meet the needs of the individuals who will have to be served in those facilities. I freely admitted that I asked for an increase in the size of the rooms in the care facility. That I was involved in. And I asked that there not be one ambulance bay but two ambulance bays because there were two ambulances in the communities, Mr. Speaker. That was the extent of my involvement. The noise associated with boiler rooms operating right next to a care facility ó it was a simple matter to move it to another end of the building. So these were undertaken, and an overall preliminary conceptual layout of the building, and it did not go beyond that stage, Mr. Speaker.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, the e-mail and the information that was obtained under the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act prove otherwise. The Minister of Health and Social Services made a number of changes: increasing the size of the residentsí bedrooms, providing garages for staff vehicles, providing a central waiting area, revising doctorsí offices ó the list goes on and on. Mr. Speaker, the project manager has said, ďIím quite uncomfortable in the manner in which this program is unfolding. However, I will cover the additional cost as directed by the minister.Ē The minister said repeatedly he doesnít hand out contracts, he doesnít interfere with departments. The facts prove otherwise. This is about ethics and itís about integrity.
My question is for the minister responsible for the Public Service Commission. What actions does the minister intend to take to protect employees from the blatant interference by the Minister of Health and Social Services?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: There is no blatant interference. There is a request to increase the size of the rooms in a care facility. That is a logical request. There was a request to increase the ambulance bays from one to two, and the other vehicle that would have been housed in there would have been the Handy Bus as well as Public Healthís vehicle.
The member lives in a community where garages are quite common, but in the outlying areas where the temperature drops to lower extremes than it does here in Whitehorse, the need for bays for ambulances, the need for heated bays for all sorts of the vehicles that are used by those individuals in the health care system delivering health care to Yukoners is self-evident.
My involvement was to request that the facility be enlarged to encompass these types of undertakings. I believe they are very legitimate, bona fide requests.
Question re: Northern Spendor Reindeer farm
Mr. Hardy: I would like to return to the minister responsible for the decision to destroy a herd of 56 reindeer on May 21. On March 24, an order-in-council was passed under the Animal Health Act prohibiting European reindeer from roaming free. There is no need to go into why that order-in-council was issued; there was one issued but there is one curious thing about it. It is signed by both the Minister of Environment and the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources, even though the act comes under the Energy, Mines and Resources minister. What role did the Minister of Environment play in the order to destroy the animals under this same act?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, the order that was signed by me and the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources refers to prohibiting the owners of the reindeer from letting them run wild. There was a threat that was made by the owners of the reindeer to allow this herd to run wild. There were concerns with contamination of wildlife as a consequence of that occurring and that order was given and the reindeer were subsequently taken into the custody and care of the Department of Environment.
Mr. Hardy: Letís assume for a moment, anyway, that the minister had reasonable grounds, as he has mentioned previously, to believe the animals were carrying a disease that could affect other wild or domestic animals, and thatís the concern about running wild. The minister used the authority of the Animal Health Act to destroy these animals. So, letís take another look at the act. Section 9 says, ďThe minister may, in writing, delegate to any employee of a department of the Government of Yukon the exercise of any power conferred or duty imposed on the minister under this act or the regulations.Ē The question is: did the minister delegate any of his responsibilities under this act to anyone in his department or any other department and will he provide a copy of that written delegation?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: All the appropriate rules were adhered to, strictly followed. This is an issue about reindeer that were diseased, the threat of the owners to release their herd of reindeer into the wild, which is what precipitated the order prohibiting them from doing so. That, I might add, was supported by a number of the renewable resource councils in that area and a request came from the Yukon Fish and Wildlife Management Board. There was a whole series of requests about the contamination of the wildlife by this herd of reindeer. They were taken into care and all the appropriate steps and regulations were strictly adhered to.
Mr. Hardy: Well, weíll get to what the minister said around that. Now, letís look at section 24(1) of the act, which reads, ďEvery order by an inspector under sections 13, 15, 16, 18 and 19 and subsections 17(1) and (4) shall be in writing and shall specify with reasonable clarity the persons who are to comply with the order, the actions to be taken by them and the time limit they have to comply with the order.Ē
The message from the other side of the House is that the extreme action taken by the minister under this act doesnít seem to require a paper trail. Weíre not getting it; and that is not good enough, Mr. Speaker. Yukoners are extremely upset by what the government did, and they deserve the facts. They deserve to see the documentation to back up the governmentís claims.
Will the minister spell out what memos, orders, directives or other documents are in the governmentís possession, and will he table that material at his earliest opportunity? Itís a very simple question.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: The only order I recall signing was the order prohibiting the owners of the reindeer from allowing them to be released into the wild.
Question re: Northern Spendor Reindeer Farm
Mr. Hardy: Before we lose track of whoís who and whatís what, Iíd like to take the ministers responsible for the reindeer slaughter back again to the act. Section 20, titled ďGeneral powerĒ says, ďThe minister may order an inspector to take any action the minister considers necessary to prevent the entry and spread of disease.Ē
If the minister was exercising this general authority, why did he decide that destroying the herd was necessary to prevent the spread of disease, rather than some other measure?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: This minister doesnít make that determination as to whether an animal is diseased or not. The member knows full well that is the situation.
Mr. Speaker, we had a situation that the Department of Environment regrettably had to deal with, and it was a herd of reindeer that were diseased.
Mr. Hardy: Weíre asking how the order was delivered. Who gave direction here? Is he blaming the department now for everything? Itís not uncommon for this government to blame the public servants for everything they messed up on.
Letís move to section 16, which is titled ďActions to stop the spread of disease.Ē
Subsection 16(1) says, ďAn inspector may vaccinate, treat, temporarily quarantine, humanely kill and slaughter or dispose of any diseased animal or any animal suspected of being diseased, or order the animal owner or other appropriate person to proceed with those measures.Ē
Was it the ministerís decision, or did someone else decide to bypass other options, such as vaccination, treatment or quarantine, before moving directly to the most extreme measure of destroying these animals? Maybe now the opportunity is for the minister to take some responsibility for the direction that was given.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: As Iíve said, it was not me who made the determination as to what diseases this herd of reindeer was carrying, but there was a determination made. Regrettably, they had to be put down. This is a situation that is occurring in a great number of areas of the world: diseased poultry, diseased livestock ó any number of species. It is not uncommon, and it is the best practice to put down the animals that are diseased, especially when the owners of the reindeer were threatening to release them into the wild.
Mr. Hardy: Well, we do know that there are animals that are carrying the same disease that this government has kept alive. That begs a very serious question about the actions of this government.
Letís go back to another question, and this is an extremely serious point, Mr. Speaker. The same disease this government wants us to believe was present in the reindeer was confirmed earlier this year at the governmentís own Wildlife Preserve. It was confirmed, yet those animals were not rounded up and slaughtered, contrary to what this minister just said. They were put in quarantine ó a double standard. Will the minister explain why he moved so quickly to destroy the reindeer when quarantine is apparently an acceptable option for the animals at the Wildlife Preserve, and probably somewhere else as well?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: The member opposite is trying to connect the dots for a picture that cannot be connected. These reindeer were diseased. It was not just Johneís disease. There were a number of other diseases among them: herpes, to the best of my knowledge. That is the reality of the situation, Mr. Speaker. Now this is information that I didnít determine but subsequent tests have determined. Itís no laughing matter. If this herd of reindeer was released into the wild and came into contact with wildlife and contaminated that wildlife, that is a major issue and that is why the herd was subsequently put down ó they were diseased.
Speaker: Before the member asks his next question, Iíd just like to remind all the folks in the audience that weíre delighted to have you here. I just respectfully ask you not to participate, please.
Leader of the official opposition, you have the floor.
Question re: Northern Splendor Reindeer Farm
Mr. Hardy: The Animal Health Act gives the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources the authority to order that an animal be destroyed or humanely killed. Mr. Speaker, I was at the killing site on May 21, and that was not a humane kill. Those animals were terrified and the people who looked after them for the past 18 years were not treated humanely and have not been treated humanely by this government.
The members opposite want us to believe the reindeer were killed to prevent the possible spread of disease or diseases. I wish this member would start to table some of the facts instead of just talking off the top of his head.
†At the time of the slaughter and afterwards, why were basic steps to prevent the spread of disease not taken if he is so concerned now?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, to the best of my knowledge, all the appropriate steps were taken.
Mr. Hardy: Well, Mr. Speaker, I was there. On the day of the slaughter, at least 20 people were trampling around in the pen at various times, and I was one of them. There was no provision for disinfecting shoes, clothes, vehicles or anything else that may have come in contact with animal waste or contaminated soil. We were not given any advice about what precautions should be taken. The people who work with these animals on a daily basis were not told to take any precautions whatsoever ó none. If the government is so concerned about the spread of disease, why did the minister who issued the destruction order and the minister whose officials carried it out both fail to take appropriate action ó why?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, all the appropriate steps were taken, to the best of my knowledge. The only order that I recall signing, along with the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources, was that to prohibit the owners of the reindeer from releasing them into the wild.
Mr. Hardy: I wish the minister knew what he was talking about. The pen where the government held the reindeer for seven weeks has not been ordered disinfected under section 15 of the act. It has not been quarantined under section 17. The farm where the animals lived for 18 years has not been ordered disinfected under section 15 or quarantined under section 17. The remaining animals on that farm have not been tested, vaccinated, treated, quarantined or destroyed under section 16. A neighbour near where the slaughter took place was even reportedly given a souvenir piece of antler afterward ó was even given a piece of antler afterward, if you can believe it. The only possible conclusion we can draw is that the government knew full well that these animals did not pose any threat whatsoever to other wild or domestic animals. Can the minister give any other plausible explanation why the most basic precautions were not taken? Will he now admit that the callous slaughter of these animals was not necessary from a health protection standpoint?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: The reindeer were put down according to provisions of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, and all of their regulations to the best of my knowledge were followed.
Question re: Dawson City care facility
†Ms. Duncan: I would like to return to my questions of the Minister of Health and Social Services with respect to the multi-level care facility in Dawson City and the ministerís involvement.
The minister said in response to earlier questions that he had only expressed concern about the garages and the size of the rooms. In fact, the e-mail indicates that the Minister of Health and Social Services directed a number of changes including such items as the foundation system, the floor plan, the number of interior partitions, reversing the allocation of care uses on the site so that the dining and lounge areas face the lane not 6th Avenue. Will the minister now recognize on the floor of the House that what he has done is personally micromanaged this project, not only upsetting employees, but he also micromanaged the department as opposed to doing his job as the Minister of Health and Social Services?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, my involvement in the multi-level care facility in Dawson City was to request that the room size be increased from what seniors refer to as coffin rooms and enlarge them to something much more suitable.
The request to add a second ambulance bay is as a consequence of two ambulances being utilized in the community of Dawson, such as there are in a number of outlying Yukon communities, Mr. Speaker. And I had exception with the dining room opening onto 6th Avenue versus opening up into the cenotaph area looking over the park, which would be much more appropriate. These are all commonsense approaches that one sitting in an office wouldnít know about ó wouldnít know about the landscape of the area, wouldnít know the orientation of the various parks and everything in that area unless one had spent some time on the ground there, Mr. Speaker.
I believe weíve come out with a very worthwhile undertaking. The room sizes are larger, the view out of the front window is to the west, overlooking the cenotaph and all of that area, and as well the boiler room is located away from the sleeping rooms to the other side of the building where it would serve to provide less noise to the building residents.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, the more we talk about this and the more we ask questions and point out what the facts are, the more the minister is revealing how much he has personally been involved in on this particular issue. The fundamental question for the public remains: how can the minister stand on his feet on the floor of the Legislature on one day and say, ďPersonally I havenít handed out one contractĒ, stand on his feet on the floor of the Legislature less than 15 minutes ago and say, ďOh, no, I was only concerned about the garagesĒ, and now reveal all this information? What else isnít the minister telling us ó the fact that his own sole-source architect has said that his changes donít conform to good design standards?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: The member opposite is totally incorrect. We have a number of examples of excellent-looking buildings here in Whitehorse that were constructed under the memberís watch that have some serious problems. There is the school in Mayo where the foundation is slumping. We have Copper Ridge Place where we donít know the extent of the problems, but there are big ice dams on the roof. We will probably have to end up replacing the roof on that.† In a brand new building commissioned under that memberís watch, we have pipes on the outside walls that are freezing in the cold weather. We have electrical outlets around the outside walls where the hoar frost comes right into the building. This is totally unacceptable, Mr. Speaker.
Iím not going to go out and fix it, but the millions of dollars we have to subsequently budget to makes these necessary repairs are very serious costs to this government. What one wants to do with any major project is ensure that it will meet the needs and demands of the people who are going to be residents.
Ms. Duncan: The minister goes on and on and on trying to play the blame game. The fact is, the ministerial interference exercised by the member opposite cost Yukon taxpayers money, time and good relationships with our professional public servants. The changes were made to the Dawson City multi-level health care facility, even though they did not conform to good design practices, because, quote: ďWe have been given our marching orders.Ē
My question remains: why is the Minister of Health and Social Services micromanaging his department and property management branch and who knows what else over there, instead of doing his job as the Minister of Health and Social Services? Why not do that instead of interfering continually with his department and then denying it on the floor of the House?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, my involvement is clearly on the record. My involvement is as a Health minister who is concerned. My involvement with the Department of Health and Social Services is clearly demonstrated across a number of broad areas. Our objective as the Department of Health and Social Services is to provide the highest consistent level of care for those who require it, Mr. Speaker, in the most appropriate manner. We have taken tremendous steps and made tremendous strides to ensure that the buildings conform, they have big enough spaces for the people who are going to be resident in those buildings, as well as adequate parking spaces for those emergency vehicles that are needed and associated with the operation of a multi-level care facility.
So the memberís premise for her questioning is totally incorrect, Mr. Speaker. We have the utmost respect for the department, for the officials who undertake the work, but at the end of the day, there is some direction that is given as to sizes of facilities and what we would want to accomplish with that facility.
Speaker: Time for Question Period has lapsed. We will now proceed to Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Motions other than government motions
Motion No. 398
Clerk: Motion No. 398, standing in the name of Ms. Duncan.
Speaker: It has been moved by the leader of the third party
THAT this House urges the Government of Yukon to examine legislation that requires the taking of blood samples to protect victims of crime, emergency service workers, good Samaritans and other persons.
Ms. Duncan: This particular motion is what being a member of the Legislature is all about. Itís an issue that was brought forward by a constituent of mine, Iíve done some homework on it and I am requesting my colleagues to hear me out and support this idea, asking the government to examine this legislation and bring it forward at a future date.
In the course of their work, people who are police officers, firefighters, emergency medical services ó and by those individuals I am referring to ambulance and volunteer ambulance attendants, and the ordinary good Samaritans are also included, Mr. Speaker. These individuals can come into contact with blood-borne diseases. The example that immediately comes to mind is, of course, HIV AIDS and hepatitis C.
This isnít a rare occurrence; this isnít something that happens to people Outside, as we are fond of saying. If we stop and think about it as members, weíve become very accustomed to seeing ambulance attendants with their gloves on. I think most of us in the Legislature are also old enough to remember seeing our RCMP officers on the street without their bullet-proof vests, which now we see every day. Now it is a matter of course.
What I would like to describe is a situation, and I would like to use a police officer as the example. What happens when a police officer who, chances are, hasnít stopped long enough to don some rubber gloves or other protective gear, and comes into contact with the blood of an individual who, there is good reason to believe, may have hepatitis or AIDS? There are prophylactic drugs that, taken within a short period of time after exposure, can be very beneficial to the police officer who has been exposed. In this example we are using a police officer, but there are a variety of individuals, as I have noted, who could be in that line.
Now, if the individual ó and they are called the ďsource individualĒ ó is willing to provide a blood sample that can be taken and tested and if treatment is necessary, that can be undertaken. As I mentioned, the prophylactic drugs can be taken. If the source individual is willing to provide a blood sample, itís no problem. A blood sample is taken, itís tested, and the treatment can begin, because the key to this treatment is that it has to be undertaken in a very short period of time.
The issue that is addressed in the legislation that Iím asking the government members and my colleagues in the NDP to support is that government examine legislation that allows for the blood sample to be taken in a mandatory way. So, if the source individual is asked and then replies, ďNo, youíre not taking it,Ē then there is no recourse. This way, with this legislation in place, there is recourse and you can have it. There has to be an application process, of course, and I will get into the mechanics of the legislation in a few moments.
What I am doing is asking the government to look at this legislation. Nova Scotia passed the Mandatory Testing and Disclosure Act on October 18, 2004. I would just point out for the benefit of the members of the House that that was a private memberís bill, and it was brought forward by a government backbencher.
Alberta passed the Blood Samples Act, and it too was a private memberís bill that was brought forward by a backbencher, again in 2004. The Alberta act has never been proclaimed.
On November 15 of this year, Ontario introduced and gave first reading to Bill No. 28, which is called An Act to require the taking and analyzing of blood samples to protect victims of crime, emergency service workers, good Samaritans and other persons and to make consequential amendments to the Health Care Consent Act, 1996 and the Health Protection and Promotion Act.
Thatís an incredibly long title for a bill in the Legislature, Mr. Speaker. I think you would be inclined to agree.
That bill is currently under debate in Ontario, but as I said, it includes consequential amendments to the Health Care Consent Act, 1996 and the Health Protection and Promotion Act, which are acts that also dealt with the same subject. So it is enhancing legislation, as well.
Mr. Speaker, before I talk about the substance of the legislation, Iíd like to talk about ó and I believe itís very important. We know of whom we speak. It is very straightforward to say, well, a constituent brought this forward, or we know an individual who is a police officer of firefighter or emergency medical services. But I think the importance of these individuals to our daily lives is also important to recognize, Mr. Speaker. For that, I went back to our tributes that we offer daily in this Legislature. Of whom are we speaking?
I noted in a tribute by the Member for Klondike, in recognition of emergency medical service volunteers, that the member had just attended the annual competition among the territoryís emergency medical service volunteers. He said, ďMen and women who volunteer their time to respond to emergencies and ambulance calls see more tragic events than happy ones. The sights that greet them are not often pretty, and yet they respond in a thoroughly professional manner. They are dedicated to their volunteer jobs, and they show that dedication every time they answer a call and every time they show up to an event, like last weekendís.Ē And the weekend event he was referring to was the annual competition among the territoryís emergency medical service volunteers, and it was held in his home community in the Klondike.
I, myself, recognized the victimsí rescuers and volunteers involved in the events of September 11, 2001. I asked that we pay tribute to the police officers, firefighters and other volunteers who responded to the events of that day. Paying no heed to the dangers they themselves were facing, they cared only about the safety of others, and in the end many of them made the ultimate sacrifice. I also said that many dedicated Yukoners also risked life and limb by placing themselves directly in harmís way for the express purpose of ensuring the safety of others. These are the people of whom we are speaking today ó people who, in ensuring our protection, in dealing with our emergencies, in responding to Canadians, whatever the crisis, have come to the fore; they are there. They have been there and they are there when we need them.
As I mentioned, it was a member of the RCMP who originally raised this with me. I have also spoken with a constituent who is a member of the Whitehorse Fire Department, who is also very supportive of this, and to a former constituent who is involved with the Yukonís ambulance services. They are interested in this issue and they support the government looking at this legislation.
There is a very well-known organization that I will refer to again later as well, Mr. Speaker ó Rotary International. They have a four-way test, questions they are to ask themselves about particular issues. One of those questions is: is it fair? As a member of the Legislature, in asking the government to look at this legislation, I asked myself this: is it fair? What about the individual about whom we are saying, yes, we should have the ability under the law to take a sample from you?
There are some notable organizations that have objected to this legislation and expressed concern about it. One that immediately comes to mind is an AIDS organization in Montreal that had expressed concern about this legislation.
In doing my homework, I spoke with the former executive director of Blood Ties Four Directions, and I brought this issue to her attention and asked that she bring it to the attention of the board. I spoke with the new executive director of the organization and have briefed her on this information as well and indicated that my request today was to simply ask the government to look at it. So, as an advocacy organization, I believe that they should also be aware of what we were discussing.
The issue around fairness and the issue with this legislation around fairness is of course the protection of privacy of the individual. The source individual, is the way Iíve referred to them. In that respect I would draw the membersí attention to the Uniform Law Conference of Canada. The Uniform Law Conference of Canada met in Regina, Saskatchewan, August 21 to 26, 2004. They reviewed the Uniform Mandatory Testing and Disclosure Act and had a paper presented to them ó a draft and commentary of the legislation. There is a Mandatory Testing and Disclosure Working Group.
†I would commend this information to the House. It is readily available on the Web. I am not going to list the Web site or provide the document, although I would be happy to do so afterwards. I am not going to read extensively from it. After reviewing this law and in reviewing the legislation that exists elsewhere, I was ó I donít know how to put this ó tremendously reassured and comforted by the fact that the Uniform Law Conference of Canada has been through the bill, had a look at it, and reviewed it. Does it meet the constitutional requirements? Does it meet the tests of privacy and protection of individual rights?
And the short answer is, yes, it does. And they have specifically recommended a number of key points, including that the act does concern issues that arise when there are criminal laws in effect and that, because itís dealing with the health of exposed individuals and source individuals and the collection, use and disclosure of health information within provinces, this act and this proposal are within provincial jurisdiction. So it is ours as a provincial/territorial legislature to deal with. This issue is ours.
In terms of the privacy of the individual, of source individuals, Charter protected rights to privacy and security of persons are involved in this act. However, the individualís privacy rights are protected, given that there are issues also of the exposed person. So in part, I think, the Uniform Law Conference had to look at this with the wisdom of Solomon. We have the source individual and we have the exposed individual. Both of them have rights. The law and legislation have been drafted and reviewed to ensure that the rights of both have been protected and have been assured.
Mr. Speaker, is it fair to all concerned? I do believe it is. I do believe we have, in all the detailed reading from the Uniform Law Conference of Canada ó and it is detailed reading because it is legislation, which, of course, members are quite well familiar with reading. It is only 24 pages. I would encourage members to have a look at it and to read for themselves that, yes, indeed, the legislation is fair.
Now, itís well and good to have a law on the books, and members opposite remind us quite frequently when we accuse them of having a legislation-lite session that it is better that we have legislation right ó I believe that has been the phrase from the Member for Lake Laberge. I had a quick look and, in the seven books of the Revised Statutes of the Yukon Territory, there are 242 chapters. Thatís a lot of legislation for 30,000-plus people and a small territory.
I would, however, encourage members to look at one more and to look at this. Theyíve also often heard me say you donít need legislation for what you can do; you need legislation for what you canít do, and this act meets that test as well. You canít arbitrarily require a blood sample from someone ó not without this act.
Voluntarily ó and all of us believe that voluntarily would, of course, be the best method of getting a sample, but what happens if the person says no? There we need the legislation.
However, as I said, itís well and good to have it on the books, but how is it practically applied? I say ďwell and good to have it on the booksĒ because I think it would be a benefit to Yukon to have this on the books ó in the 242 chapters of the statutes of the Yukon.
I donít want anyone to take this the wrong way, or I donít want to be politically incorrect, or to be seen to be trivializing this issue. Those individuals who are on the front lines ó the policemen, the firefighters and the ambulance attendants ó see this just the way any of us might see having that spare tire with us. What happens if they are exposed in a situation and come into contact with an individual they have reason to believe may have any one of these blood-borne diseases?
They have a route to go in the mandatory testing. We, as responsible legislators, have to make sure that law works, though. Because what happens, going back to the spare tire analogy, if the spare tire is flat? It doesnít do you any good. Itís no good having legislation on the books if you canít enforce it, if it doesnít work. For example, Mr. Speaker, it is absolutely necessary that the testing occur and the treatment begin in a very short period of time. If the practical application of the legislation means it would take three weeks to get the test, whatís the point? And if there is no ability to quickly test in the Yukon or to have a blood sample from a remote community sent to a lab in Vancouver or wherever and tested and the prophylactic treatment isnít available in the Yukon, there would be no point in having the law on the books. I would be the last person in the Legislature to suggest we have legislation that doesnít work. It needs to be practicable as well as practical.
So, is the legislation that is on the books elsewhere and that has been examined by the Uniform Law Conference of Canada practicable? Well, I think we have to have a look at the legislation. We have to say, ďOkay, the Superior Court Judge is an individual in some cases to whom you will apply to have the test and who orders the test.Ē There is a role for the chief medical officer of health, whom I have also had the privilege of speaking with about this particular issue. That goes to the question as to why Iíve asked to examine this legislation. I could have brought forward a private memberís bill and modelled it on any one of these or modelled it on the Uniform Law Conference of Canada. I didnít do that because I believe in looking at the practical realities and engaging in a consultation process with the individuals involved.
Iíve done my homework as a member of the Legislature. I am not sitting on the Cabinet Committee on Legislation. I am not engaged on a daily basis with the legal drafts people in the Department of Justice, so thatís why Iíve asked that you just look at this act. Will you examine the legislation? Thatís all Iím asking members of the House to support me on today. Iím asking the government to look at this legislation.
As I said, I could have brought this issue up in a couple of different ways. I have asked for a meeting with the Minister of Health with a constituent. I have talked about it with groups such as Blood Ties Four Directions and with the chief medical health officer and with some of these front-line individuals I mentioned.
There are many other issues I could have brought up today. There are issues that may be far more political or more headline grabbing or politically advantageous to some. I could have chosen to bring forward a motion that criticized the government, or I could have talked about a new bridge ó why or why not to do a new bridge. I believe this is the right motion to bring forward today. Itís the right motion because itís what we as members do. We listen to what our constituents ask us. The wonderful thing about being a politician in a small jurisdiction like the Yukon is that you can have a casual conversation and a more in-depth conversation with people everywhere: at the hockey arena, at the pool, in the grocery store. There was an article about a former Premier and how you would see him in the video store. Or conversations at church, as the Member for Kluane has reminded me. We see each other on a regular basis. We are from all walks of life.
The members of opposite political parties can be line mates in old-timers hockey, for example. Weíre a close community, and this was a situation where someone mentioned to me that this legislation was out there and they would like to see it because it does bring a great deal of comfort to those who are on the front lines, to know the legislation is there, to know they have that spare tire, to know they have the backup if they need it.
It was raised with me; I brought it forward; and Iím bringing it forward today after having done the homework as a private member and when I felt I had taken it as far as I could, having a look at it. That meets the test, as I said when I mentioned the Rotary organization. Itís a four-way test: is it the truth? Of course, it is, Mr. Speaker. Iím speaking in the Legislature and, as you remind us in the daily prayer, are these decisions fair and on behalf of all the people we represent? Is it fair to all concerned? I believe it is because the Uniform Law Conference of Canada has looked at this legislation and looked at the privacy issues and looked at the constitutional issues. It is fair.
Will it build goodwill and better friendships? I believe it will. We recognize our front-line emergency service workers regularly in this Legislature, as I mentioned in the tributes. The individuals on the front lines I have spoken to are very interested in having this legislation. Will it be beneficial? I believe it will.
There are a number of practical realities of drafting legislation that have to be looked at and have to be dealt with, and again, thatís why I came to the House and said, ďLook, will the government look at this legislation?Ē, as opposed to bringing forward a private memberís bill?
I donít want to repeat myself continually, Mr. Speaker. Those are the points I wanted to make this afternoon. I want to, as I said, ask the government to look at this bill.
Now, I fully recognize that it may be a different government that is called upon. We may have an election before the next legislative session. And good legislation, like good food and many other good things, takes time to do. However, it would nonetheless be the record of this Legislature that we recommended that the Government of Yukon ó whether itís the current one or a new one ó take a look at this blood-sample legislation. Iím asking for membersí support for that motion today, and I appreciate their time this afternoon in giving it consideration, and I look forward to the debate.
Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Rouble: Mr. Speaker, it is my honour and my privilege to rise today to debate and discuss the motion put forward by the Member for Porter Creek South. First, Mr. Speaker, I would like to acknowledge the Member for Porter Creek South, the Liberal leader, for putting this forward.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Rouble: The member of the official opposition has just asked, ďThe who?Ē The Liberal leader, Mr. Speaker, the Liberal leader in our Assembly and the Member for Porter Creek South.
Mr. Speaker, I think this is an important topic and one that deserves our attention and debate. To begin with, though, Mr. Speaker, as this motion calls for providing assistance to victims of crime, emergency service workers, good Samaritans and other persons, Iíd just like to begin by acknowledging and thanking our emergency services and good Samaritans for the hard work and the dedication they put in. Mr. Speaker, these are people who come to the aid of others, often in the face of known and unknown risks. They literally put their lives on the line to help others.
They are the heroes and the role models in our community and they deserve our societyís acknowledgement, respect, assistance and protection. Rushing into fires or parking a vehicle on the side of a road adjacent to traffic, scrambling down the side of a hill, coming into physical contact with individuals, these people are putting themselves at risk.
I remember once in a first-aid course where, when we were discussing first aid and reacting to an accident, one of the first things to analyze and decide on was whether or not you were going into a safe situation. Were you putting yourself at risk? Were those risks beyond what you were willing to accept?
We knowingly accept a lot of the risks, but many of them are unknown and many of them are unexpected, such as the risk in putting oneself in a situation where one might catch some sort of blood-borne disease by coming into contact with a person infected with such a disease.
Mr. Speaker, just as we need to provide protection, the right vehicle, the right gear, the right clothing, the right respirator, and the right gloves for our professionals and people in these fields, we also need to make sure we have the right legislation out there to provide them with the protection they deserve.
People who put themselves at risk to help others shouldnít be exposed to risks theyíre not willing to take. The risk that is the crux of this debate right now is the risk of contracting a disease. If the individual knows theyíve put themselves at risk, theyíre aware of the disease, and they can take steps to prevent it. Additionally, people who have been exposed to things like hep C or HIV or other diseases must cope with the consequences of exposure, and theyíre not insignificant consequences.
They include anxiety and stress arising from the uncertainty of whether or not theyíve been infected, the impact on their private lives and the changes they would have to undertake in their private lives to ensure that, if they are a carrier, they are not passing that disease on to someone else. They need to take action or conduct post-exposure prophylaxis, which is the medical term for taking preventive steps after youíve come into contact with the disease, to prevent that disease from spreading. This can often include exposures to different drug regimes, some of which can have significant health side effects.
We donít have a great deal of information on how large a problem this is, not only in Canada, but here in the Yukon. We donít know how many people are at risk; we donít know how many people have been exposed. We donít know how many people have been affected through these matters. Much of the information that we have on this is anecdotal. It certainly would be helpful for this debate to have more information about that and more data upon which to base a lot of the decisions.
Mr. Speaker, this motion calls for the Government of Yukon to examine legislation that requires the taking of blood samples to protect victims of crime, emergency service workers, good Samaritans and other persons. This would make it a law that, in certain circumstances, an individual would be required to give up a blood sample that could identify if he or she was a carrier of a disease. The results then would be available to the physician of the exposed individual to assist that person with the management, the PEP, of taking steps to reduce the impact that the exposure would have on that individual.
And it would allow them to manage and help make their own personal medical decisions. This can literally be a matter of life and death. If you know you have been exposed, for example, to HIV, you take steps immediately to reduce the impacts of that.
Now, part of the challenge around legislation like this is that ó well, in the case of HIV, if you think you have been exposed to it or know that you have been exposed to it, in a best possible medical situation you would take action within two hours, and that would have the greatest impact. Thatís what I have been able to glean in the quick research that I have done on this. So it is very important to take immediate action.
If individuals find themselves at risk, or they suspect that they have been exposed to it, they should take immediate actions. There is a whole set of protocols about what type of reaction should be taken, what kind of medication, how extensive it should be, and in a lot of cases it has been argued that you would only then stop the treatment if the results of the testing come back negative, to show that there hasnít been an exposure.
Sometimes in cases like this where you think you have been exposed and you have to go through the process of following this legislation, in most case the legislation says that the request for a blood sample has to be made within one week of the incident and there is a time limit involved in taking it, processing it and getting the results. Often there can be quite a lag in the fear and not knowing whether you have been exposed or not, and then getting the final answer, which would probably only be useful in saying, ďOkay, itís safe to stop.Ē†
It would certainly bring a great deal of comfort for folks to be able to say, ďOkay, itís now safe to stop.† You have not been exposed to one of these blood-borne diseases. You can cease the treatment.Ē
It does point out one of the problems with some of these types of legislation. As weíve heard from the member opposite, several jurisdictions have already passed or discussed this legislation. It has been passed in Ontario and Nova Scotia. Alberta has debated it, and it has been before the House of Commons with Bill C-217, the Blood Samples Act.
It has been debated quite a bit, and as the member opposite did point out, there are many questions about it. There were issues raised by the medical community. Mr. Speaker, I understand that the Canadian Medical Association, the Canadian Nurses Association and the Canadian Association of Nurses in AIDS Care have taken policies on exposure to HIV or other blood-borne pathogens, and that they maintain that compulsory testing or testing without informed consent is unethical and unjustified.
Additionally, Mr. Speaker, the Privacy Commissioner of Canada in a debate on this ó I understand he opposed the bill. In his presentation he noted that compulsory blood testing and compulsory disclosure of the results of blood testing is a massive violation of privacy and the personal autonomy that flows from privacy. He stated that in his view, Bill C-217 met none of the four tests required of any proposed measure to limit or infringe upon privacy, which are necessity, effectiveness, proportionality and the absence of a less-invasive measure.
As the member opposite pointed out, there are strong reasons to do this. It would be very important for an individual to know they had come into contact with a blood-borne disease. It would have a tremendous impact on their life. It would either tell them to, yes, continue taking medication, or no, itís safe to stop, itís safe to remain in contact with your spouse and loved ones, itís safe to maintain some of the normal practices of your daily routine.
What we have here is that we need to balance the individualís right to privacy with an individualís right to know if theyíve been exposed to something. Thatís quite the debate to get into.
Mr. Speaker, in addition to taking many of the steps to lessen the impact of being exposed to such diseases, such as implementing existing guidelines and protocols for professionals at risk, enhancing education and training for people who deal with infectious diseases, introducing engineering safeguards, such as needleless systems, high-quality latex gloves, puncture-resistant gloves, or strengthening post-exposure counselling, support and follow-up for people who have been exposed, additionally improving training and expert support for health care providers. These are all steps we can and should take to help and protect our health care professionals, good Samaritans and the other folks who were mentioned in the motion.
Mr. Speaker, I am going to encourage the government to go forward with this motion and with examining the legislation.
I think it has merit but I am also quite cautious about it. I think itís important to protect peopleís health and give them information so they can make their own health care decisions, but we also need to be very cautious about the privacy concerns and the concerns brought up by different organizations ó federal AIDS organizations have opposed such testing and other privacy watchdogs have opposed such measures. They take the position that itís one more step in eroding the civil rights of individuals and one more challenge to the rights that we as Canadian citizens have. But I think itís important to continue with the debate and examine this further.
So, as I said, I will be encouraging the government to go forward with examining this legislation and do it with extensive consultation with Yukoners. All Yukoners affected by such situations should have an opportunity to put in their input. We should make sure to have appropriate input from the Yukon Medical Association and the Yukon Registered Nurses Association. We need to hear from firefighters, police, emergency measures organizations and the volunteer firefighters. We also need to hear from the public health officer and hear that debate as well.
Additionally, Iím sure we should seek the input of the Yukonís Privacy Commissioner as to what his or her opinion on this matter would be. We also need to discuss this with some of the not-for-profit organizations and non-government organizations that do a lot of great work in this area, such as Blood Ties Four Directions.
Additionally, we need to look at this from a national level and take a look at the national examination that has happened on it. As has been discussed, various legislative assemblies across Canada have looked at this. Indeed, it was put forward to the Canadian Council of Justice Ministers to take a look at this.
Iím getting a quizzical look. According to the notes I have, it was put forward to the Canadian Council of Justice Ministers to be examined in their forum, as well as the Uniform Law Conference of Canada. Unfortunately, I havenít seen a copy of their findings and, if the Member for Porter Creek South does have a spare copy, I would appreciate taking a look at that.
We also need to discuss this with the federal government to find out if thereís going to be federal legislation that would come across all of Canada that may supersede our legislation.
So, Mr. Speaker, as I said before, Iím going to support the motion, but there are more questions we need to answer. We need to give some serious thought as to whether or not we really should do this, whether it is within our moral, ethical, legal, Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms framework. We need to have discussions about what it should be tested for. In some jurisdictions, itís limited to hepatitis B and C and HIV. I think we might need to look at whether that should be expanded or not.
As the Member for Porter Creek South has said, we need to look at the process. We need to identify a process thatís practicable and practical. We need to find one that would work in the Yukon, especially given some of our unique challenges in living up here.
We need to find a process that works, and perhaps we can find a process that deals with a lot of the privacy issues. I am not a scientist used to dealing with these things, but perhaps we could come up with some kind of double-blind process that would give the individual the information that he or she needs but prevent the public release of an individualís health information. Again, we need to find some practical ways to do this, and I donít have all the solutions in here today. All I have are a few questions that we need to have answers to which, I am sure that, given an examination by the government of looking at such legislation, we would come up with many of the answers to.
Mr. Speaker, there are many good reasons to go forward with this type of legislation but, again, there are also reasons to be cautious. As I said, I will be supporting this motion. It is an idea worth looking at. Itís an idea worth having the government invest time, energy and money into examining whatís going on in other jurisdictions, with the Government of Canada, and with what the national and local stakeholders have to say.
Mr. Speaker, in closing, I would again like to thank the Member for Porter Creek South for bringing the motion forward. I think it is an idea that we need to discuss in here and that needs to be looked at in further detail. I would like to thank you for your attention, and I would turn the floor over to others who might wish to debate this.
Mr. McRobb: I thank the previous speakers for their input. Iíll try to refrain from being repetitious; there has been a lot of information put on the record so far. Iíll start with the point on which all three parties agreed, or at least stated at this morningís House leadersí meeting they agreed regarding this motion, so I donít think there is a real need to drag on the discussion very far this afternoon, and certainly I wonít be long in speaking to this motion either.
Now, the motion is focused on the need to examine this legislation, and certainly there are issues around that, Mr. Speaker. Also, there is the issue of when the best opportunity is to debate all the details associated with the issues related to this proposed legislation. I would submit the best time for us in the Legislature to do that would be when the legislation is being tabled. That way we could avoid having a hypothetical discussion, making points that are premature and so on. It would allow us to keep our comments more relevant to the legislation that would be on the floor of the House.†
This is the first opportunity I can recall ever where we actually discussed a piece of legislation that has just been mentioned rather than debating the bill itself. Already the length of debate in this House for discussing a proposed piece of legislation has exceeded the length of many debates around bills in this House. Just look at the many pieces of housekeeping bills that have been passed in the last three weeks. There was one passed yesterday that basically didnít require any discussion. The minister got up and gave a 20-minute speech and everybody agreed, and it was passed.
It does raise some questions about using our time effectively in this Legislature. I do have to wonder about using the mechanism of a motion to bring this issue forward. With all respect to the leader of the third party, I think this issue could have been dealt with just as effectively by way of a letter. That letter could have been copied to every MLA, because this issue is asking the government to examine something. Who is going to argue with that? Who is going to stand up and disagree with this motion? Nobody, thatís who. Nobody is going to say the government should not examine this. So, I think a letter could have been just as effective.
That also raises some other thoughts, such as what we could have been discussing at this opportunity. Certainly an issue that arose yesterday comes to mind about how the government ministers should be doing their job and answering questions in the Legislature. What we saw was quite a spectacle, where the Health minister refused to rise in response to questions.†
So I think a motion debate on good governance would have been much more topical and in the public interest today. But unfortunately itís not our day to call motions. Itís the third partyís day. The member did call this motion, and I will get back to it now.
Essentially this motion could be seen as pitting the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the Privacy Act, versus the need to protect our emergency responders and health care workers. I think that, because of that potential conflict, this legislation, if it is ever brought in, needs to be handled very delicately. The previous speaker mentioned the need for full consultation in advance of the drafting of the legislation, and we certainly echo that concern. We wouldnít want to be dealing with any legislation on the floor where some group or agency has been excluded from the process and whereby they bring fuller concerns outside of the Legislature that cause amendments on the floor. So a full period of consultation is required, and careful drafting of the act is also a necessity.
Now letís take a look at the timing of bringing in legislation with respect to this governmentís remaining mandate.
This seems to be a recurring theme ó it was something I mentioned yesterday and last week. The reason why itís being mentioned with such frequency is because itís very relevant to our work in this Assembly. Whenever we talk about this government bringing in a piece of legislation or doing something or putting something in a future budget, we have to be mindful that it may not be this government that does it. We have to be just as mindful of any opportunities this government has at its disposal before its time runs out and any other factors that are relevant.
We know an election is coming sometime within the next year. It could come as soon as January and as late as next November. In that case, it raises the question of what happens to motions that have been dealt with by this Legislature, which is the 31st Assembly of the Yukon Territory? The answer is that all the motions simply die on the Order Paper; theyíre no longer relevant.
So we must be mindful of that. Anything we pass here today may not go anywhere. It will just be remembered as a distant thought and it will be up to the next government to pick up the pieces and go with it.
We also need to look at what if this government does attempt to bring in this legislation in its only other expected opportunity, which is the spring sitting?
Now, of course, an election in January, February, March or maybe even April, would pre-empt a spring sitting. Letís just assume for a moment that there is a spring sitting. Letís assume all the proper consultation and drafting have occurred for this piece of legislation and the Legislature is able to deal with it during a sitting next spring. Well, even the Premier the other day on the radio said we donít have any more legislative sittings. What did he mean by that? Maybe the untrained ear or the unsuspecting listener would assume that means there wonít be another sitting of the Legislature. But thatís not the case. What the Premier meant was that of the two sittings per year, only the one in the fall is referred to as a legislative sitting. The one in the spring is referred to as a budget sitting. So, he was quite correct in saying there wonít be another legislative sitting under this government because, even if it waits for an election next fall, there wouldnít be a sitting then.
So we have only a budget sitting left. Well, I would say we are overloaded already, because this government hasnít done its work in time and we are bound to be overloaded with last-minute assignments trying to get in before the deadline.
What Iím talking about is pieces of legislation that weíre still waiting for, such as the Workersí Compensation Act, the Education Act, the Childrenís Act, and there are several other pieces of major legislation that require days of debate. Well, Mr. Speaker, we should have been debating them during this sitting. And I say shame on this government for not doing its work to allow that to happen.
In the spring weíll be dealing with another massive budget and, because there is $60 million in lapses in this yearís budget, it is bound to be even larger than the previous two. So we are limited in the amount of time we have available if there is a spring sitting ó extremely limited because, essentially, all the time available should be used to deal with the budget, not legislation. Thatís the purpose of the fall sitting. This government cancelled capital budgets in the fall, so the only purpose of a fall sitting is to deal with legislation and supplementary budgets, if there are any. Well, so far, the only legislation has been of a housekeeping nature. The big stuff has yet to arrive, and Iím quite concerned about what might happen in the spring.
Now, how long can the sitting in the spring be? Well, the answer is anywhere between 20 and 40 days, if itís agreed to by the House leaders. If the House leaders donít agree, it defaults to 30 days.
What happened last spring sitting?
Speaker: Order please. As interesting as the Chair finds this, I am failing to make the connection between length of sitting and the leader of the third partyís motion. I would ask the member just to focus on the motion, please.
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Speaker, may I provide the information you are seeking?
Speaker: The Chair is not really seeking information. What the Chair would like the Member for Kluane to do is focus on the motion as introduced by the leader of the third party. My comment was that I didnít see the relevance of the timing of the legislative sitting or the number of days of a sitting as pertinent to ďThe House urges the Government of Yukon to examine legislation that requires the taking of blood samples to protect victims of crime, emergency services workers, good Samaritans and other persons.Ē That is my request to the member, please.
††††††† Mr. McRobb: Okay, Mr. Speaker, you said you are failing to make the connection. I am asking you, am I provided with the opportunity to explain the connection?
Speaker: Yes, within your time frame, which is about five minutes left. Please do.
Mr. McRobb: The connection is simply that the motion is asking the government to examine legislation, blah, blah, blah. Well, in order to bring in legislation, we have to look at opportunity, and that is exactly what I am discussing. What happened was, both opposition parties agreed on a 32-day sitting. The government House leader disagreed, so it reverted to only 30 days. What happens if the same situation occurs where the government House leader disagrees with the opposition? The answer is that it will revert to 30 days. What will that mean if this legislation is brought in with all the other pieces we are expecting, and another huge budget?† It will be overload, Mr. Speaker; there wonít be time to debate anything.
If you subtract the number of days for the budget speech and the replies to the budget speech, and all the Wednesday motion days and anything else, you would be left with fewer than 20 days. Well, to review a massive budget, Mr. Speaker, you would need about 20 days. But there is more ó there are all the pieces of legislation Iíve identified plus there is bound to be others I havenít identified, plus the one that is the subject of this motion.
So there you have it. Itís rather ridiculous to expect this government to do anything with this proposal because there isnít an opportunity to do it. Thatís the point I was making ó that the motion is rather irrelevant, because this government really doesnít have the capacity to deliver on what the motion is requesting. It can examine legislation, but so what? At election time if this government is tossed out ó and the recent polls indicate thatís exactly what is going to happen ó then all the files this Yukon Party government has are either shredded, thrown in the bucket, or they go with them downstairs.
Thatís the end of my time. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: Order please. You have three minutes left.
Mr. McRobb: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Members across the way demand that I use the remaining three minutes.
A lot of people donít understand that last point. They believe that the Government of Yukon is some entity where any documents it has are sort of an ongoing intelligence.
Well, on matters like this, Mr. Speaker, thatís not necessarily the case. Letís say the official opposition formed the next government and this file was, letís say, in the hands of the Health and Social Services minister, and letís suggest the Member for Mount Lorne was the next Health and Social Services minister ó well, the Member for Mount Lorne would not receive this file from the government Health and Social Services minister in the next government. So, really, any work that is done by this government on this particular cause and many other causes from this point in time on are quite questionable in terms of what they might lead to in the way of production. So I guess thatís where the term ďlame duck governmentĒ comes in, Mr. Speaker.
Now, Iím not accusing this government of being lame duck, Iím using the term ďlame duckĒ in general. Certainly, if the government felt some of the legislation that still needs to be brought in was a high enough priority, we would have dealt with it by now. As I said earlier, this was the opportunity during this legislative sitting, and the last one at that.
Hon. Mr. Hart: Mr. Speaker, unlike the member opposite, I will be brief on this particular subject. Despite the fact that he thought it was redundant, he took 20 full minutes to explain to us all what he wanted to do about the process.
Anyway, Mr. Speaker, I would like to emphasize the fact that I believe that our front-line staff in our emergency measures, through EMS, through EMO, are all very important, our fire line people. I think it is something we have to look at to protect the particular risks that they take every day on our behalf.
I think the Member for Porter Creek South is making an option to let us look at reviewing this possibility from other jurisdictions. We have a couple of jurisdictions in Canada that are looking at this legislation or have legislation in place. I believe that it is imperative for the government to look at the laws that are out there right now and take a look at the options that would be available to the Yukon and put them into the context of a Yukon model.
I also think one of the important things that were brought up was the fact that we need to identify the stakeholder group. The members opposite, as well as my own colleagues, have indicated that that is a big issue. We have to identify who the stakeholders are and who we are going to talk to, to gather up the data and get the information. I think itís important because there are two key issues that have to be identified: the rights of the victims and the rights of the people who are asking ó as the member opposite stated, the spare tire issue ó in other words, when we have to use the law.
I think itís imperative that we go through this process and review the information from other jurisdictions and develop our stakeholder list and go out there and compile this information. Whether itís this government or a different government, they can use the information compiled or the stakeholder list and carry on as they may.
I think the member for the third party is bringing forth her issue. She indicated that she felt she could have brought forth other issues on motion day. This is her issue and we as a government are prepared to support her issue.
Mr. Cardiff: Iím prepared here to rise and give support to the motion by the member for the third party, the Member for Porter Creek South, Motion No. 398.
The motion urges the government to examine legislation. I am hopeful that the government members will take this to heart and actually have a good look at it. It is interesting, Mr. Deputy Speaker, just a few short days ago I asked the Minister of Justice to examine changes to existing legislation, and it wasnít met with all that great a reception. There didnít seem to be any interest in broadening the application of a very important piece of legislation. I think that this piece of legislation that weíre talking about could be important. In some ways it is related, because it is about the protection of victims. The other day I wanted to broaden the application of the Family Violence Prevention Act, and I hope that, even though we disagreed on that the other day, the government will in some way look at what it was that I was proposing the other day and take that to heart, and maybe at some point in the future we can actually examine that legislation again and make improvements to it.
The motion is to examine legislation that would require the taking of blood samples to protect victims of crime, emergency service workers, good Samaritans and other persons, and I think itís important to recognize ó I know even in my riding we have volunteer firefighters and they respond not only to wildland fires, home fires or structural fires, but theyíve been called on as recently as a couple of months ago to respond to motor vehicle accidents. I know that in your riding as well, Mr. Deputy Speaker, the volunteer firefighters there on quite a few occasions have responded to motor vehicle accidents. There is a lot of risk when responding in those situations. The chances of coming into contact with bodily fluids and blood is really great, itís something that is liable to happen in a motor vehicle accident. Itís not just in those areas close to ó we are talking now about areas that are reasonably close to Whitehorse.
I think it was also brought up that, in remote areas, the risk could even be greater, because most of the people who respond to emergencies ó volunteer firefighters or volunteer ambulance attendants or the people who work for the ambulance service here in Whitehorse and in other communities ó to a large degree are equipped to deal with this. But there are always unexpected situations that arise and pose a risk to the people who are responding ó whether because of what it is theyíre involved in or it could be just a plain situation. I know I myself have been placed in instances and I know of other people whoíve been placed in instances of just driving down the highway and you come around the corner and thereís a motor vehicle accident and you are miles and miles from anywhere.
There is nobody; there are no professionals. There are not necessarily people there who have a lot of the training. And almost certainly, there arenít people who have the equipment to deal with situations like that. In those instances, you have to improvise. I believe, as the Member for Southern Lakes said, you have to assess the risks to yourself in those instances.
While I recognize the need to protect the rights of those persons from whom we would be requiring these blood samples, I believe that in most instances, those people would more than likely be happy to voluntarily supply blood samples in order to enable any method of treatment to prevent any blood-borne diseases from being transferred. In most cases, that would be done voluntarily, but in those instances where it was refused, I think that examining a piece of legislation like this is a good idea. You have to think through what it is, and you have to examine what has been done in other jurisdictions. It is in those remote situations that I was speaking of where I think the hazards could be the greatest, because I think when people come upon a situation where somebody has been injured or a tragedy has happened, their first instinct isnít always to immediately assess the risk.
Many people come upon a situation like that where a tragedy or an accident has happened and their first instinct is not to say, ďAm I at risk here?Ē The first instinct is to say, ďHow can I help, what can I do?Ē They go in and they pull the person from the vehicle. People in general ó thatís the reaction they have. The reaction that I have seen in many occasions when I have happened upon instances like that is that people want to help. They donít always ó they may be unaware of the risks that could be posed to them by getting involved in those situations, that they could put themselves at risk by helping individuals whether it is in a motor vehicle accident or an industrial accident, which brings to mind, actually, when we speak about industrial accidents, those persons who work out in the bush ó and those people do have training. It is actually required to have trained people in some of those remote sites, and they should be equipped. As we know, what should happen and what happens isnít always the same thing.
So I think this is a worthwhile motion providing the government actually acts if we pass this motion this afternoon. I would hope that the government actually acts and does examine legislation. I think the protection of emergency service workers and good Samaritans, which is what I was trying to get at earlier, is something that we owe to those people who basically put their lives on the line on a daily basis and are the heroes of our society. They come to the rescue of people who are in distress, in a very selfless way.†
†I believe the Member for Porter Creek South spoke of other pieces of legislation in other jurisdictions. I will just touch on a few Iím aware of. There has been legislation in Ontario that has been proclaimed and is in force. There is another example of legislation that this government could look at in Alberta. I believe the legislation in Alberta has been proclaimed into effect but it is due to be proclaimed in the spring of 2006. As well, there was legislation brought forward in Nova Scotia and Saskatchewan.
I think there are examples of legislation out there that the government could look at that would provide for the protection of these persons and at the same time look at respecting the privacy of those we are asking to provide the blood samples.
In principle, I believe the motion is headed in the right direction here. All weíre doing is asking the government to examine this and bring forward some recommendations. Itís unfortunate that this is probably the last legislative sitting of this Legislature before an election. Hopefully, any future government will also take this into consideration and continue with the examination that we hope this government will at least begin. At some point in the future, we can look forward to seeing a piece of legislation brought in to the House where we can debate it and hopefully pass it unanimously.
Hon. Ms. Taylor: †Mr. Speaker, I rise to provide support to the leader of the third party in recognition of the motion that she has brought forward for debate today. I think that itís really important that we use these occasions each Wednesday afternoon as an opportunity to debate issues of importance not only to us as Members of the Legislative Assembly but, more importantly, issues of importance that have been brought to the forefront by our constituents. That is, after all, why we are here: to work on behalf of our constituents, by whom we were elected.
I think we have used this occasion ó motion day, as it has been come to be known ó as an opportunity to debate some very important initiatives, and many of which we have been able to debate and have been able to pass unanimously ó I think more so than any other Legislature of days gone past.
One initiative that was put forward by a constituent of mine was with respect to the introduction and implementation of the Yukon veterans plate. I think that that was a very good initiative. It was a very good idea, and we debated this within the Legislature and it was passed unanimously. Another initiative that was passed with unanimous consent was the initiative to move forward with a long-term public education campaign on violence prevention, something that our government has recognized as a priority and something that I thank members opposite and all my colleagues on this side of the House for recognizing as priority as well.
The safer communities legislation as well as the substance abuse action plan, which that particular piece of legislation is part of, was also debated one week ago, I believe. It was also subsequently moved forward, and it received unanimous consent as I seem to recall.
The motion put forward by the leader of the third party is a very important one. It is a timely initiative, particularly when we look at the rates of HIV, AIDS, hepatitis C, blood infections, which are increasing at this time. Itís really important to look at the good work done by emergency services workers, volunteer workers ó whether they be working on the front line as ambulance employees or firefighters. Each of these individuals provides an integral service on behalf of Yukon citizens, and we are very appreciative of the work they provide.
As one of the members opposite was just saying, they do put their lives on the line each and every day, and it is incumbent on us as legislators to do our utmost to respect the work of these individuals and to do everything within our power to reduce the risk of harm to these individuals. I think this is one initiative that can certainly to that.
One only has to look at other jurisdictions in the country. I know that many colleagues have spoken to this already, but Nova Scotia, Ontario and Alberta are soon to have legislation. They have already taken initiatives to address this area.
So I certainly concur with the members that this is a good motion. Itís a good initiative, and it does urge the Government of Yukon to examine legislation. I think that it is certainly an initiative where we need to take steps to look at what other jurisdictions have done in the country in terms of how they have addressed some of these questions that have been raised through the course of the afternoon, questions as to who can or should order the test ó whether it be a medical officer, whether it be a court, whether it be an independent body. These are all issues that we have to look at when examining pieces of legislation.
Consultation is, of course, absolutely critical to the development of any piece of legislation that comes for debate in the Legislature. Itís important to talk to not only the front-line workers but also victims and to seek their input and follow up for review. So I didnít want to take too long on this motion. I did want to say, though, that it was unfortunate that the Member for Kluane did take about 20 minutes of the time of the Legislature to not even really address the motion at hand but really took issue with what I thought was the whole issue of motion day and why weíre here and why we shouldnít be talking about initiatives such as this.
I take this opportunity as an opportunity to talk about issues as the MLA for Whitehorse West but also on behalf of my constituents, most importantly. That is my job and I would assume that itís everyoneís job here to respond and to either support or not support initiatives coming forward.
I thank the leader of the third party for bringing forward her motion, and I am in full support.
Mr. Cathers: It gives me pleasure to rise in the House today on this motion, and I would like to thank the Member for Porter Creek South for bringing it forward. I think this motion is very valuable. It is very important, and it speaks to people who are very important to the lives of all of us whether we realize it or not ó the emergency services personnel who put their lives on the line day in and day out, or who stand ready at a momentís notice to charge off and do things such as protect us from fire.
I have become aware of examples in my riding involving the service of the volunteer fire departments in particular and the response times of these individuals who are all volunteers. They respond at ungodly hours of the morning and night, heading off to someone elseís house, in what I found actually to be astoundingly fast response times. This is something that I think that we all appreciate. We probably donít appreciate it and think of it as much as we should, but those individuals are putting their lives on hold at a momentís notice and putting their lives at risk for each and every one of us, if it becomes necessary. The situation discussed and the motion brought forward by the Member for Porter Creek South, particularly her example of a situation such as a police officer being placed at risk through a possible transmission of bodily fluids ó I canít recall if she used an example ó but being bitten is something that could happen to a police officer. For them to be placed in that situation, and then have no ability to find out whether the individual who bit them was carrying a communicable disease, is something that I think most of us would agree is unjust.†
How can you say to this individual who puts their life on the line who has been bitten by someone that because of civil rights and protection of the person who attacked them, they canít find out whether they now have AIDS or hepatitis or some other communicable disease? The fact that there is a Charter issue that can be involved with this is something I think we are all aware of. There is legislation in other jurisdictions that has found a way to resolve the Charter issues and deal with this problem. I think that looking at the examples from there and taking that into context and seeing how we can do that and develop made-in-Yukon legislation to accomplish the same end is something that is very valuable and necessary.
I think the Member for Porter Creek South has pointed out a hole in the legislation. I agree absolutely that it is a problem and a hole that needs to be addressed.
I was disappointed to hear the Member for Kluane spend 20 minutes complaining about House rules rather than debating the motion and suggesting that we shouldnít be debating it today, that the Member for Porter Creek South should not have taken up the Houseís time with this but should have merely sent a letter on this. I have the rare circumstance of agreeing entirely with the Member for Porter Creek South in the manner that she did bring it forward. It was brought forward to raise it to the attention of the public, to make people aware of it, to make all members aware of it ó that this is an issue that the Member for Porter Creek South sees as a concern. The fact that it was brought forward as a motion and not in the form of a private memberís bill with the outcome and solution already determined and creating a debate on individual clauses that could have been unproductive is very appropriate.
In fact, it allows the opportunity for the legislation to be developed with the cooperation and input of the people who are most affected by this. That is also very appropriate.
As I said, it is a rare situation ó I agree entirely ó but I commend the Member for Porter Creek South for bringing it to our attention. This is something that we should indeed move forward on, with legislation encompassing the successes ó some of the legislation that I looked at was the legislation from Ontario and the as-yet unproclaimed legislation from Alberta. As all members are aware, when we get to discussing motions on motion day, we are usually rather short of time to do the research that we would all like to do, and that is something that, as has been discussed in the past, we might wish to consider as far as House rules in the future. But that is another matter and a debate for another day.
The acts that have been developed in these jurisdictions are also added to by, I believe ó the Member for Porter Creek South mentioned it ó Nova Scotia. As well, there was a private memberís bill that I believe progressed only to the first reading stage, tabled by Chuck Strahl, Member of Parliament for Fraser Valley. I believe it was given first reading and passed in 2001 but was not received at the federal level. I would hope that this is a matter that is taken seriously federally and in other jurisdictions from coast to coast ó that we should take action on this. The increased concern over communicable diseases is something that we are all aware of, and I think it is a well-founded concern.
I note that, very briefly, just quoting in part from a couple of excerpts of the act ó I will not read them sequentially. It would be very lengthy and I donít wish to take up too much time here.
I do note that some of the excerpts from the Ontario act pertaining to this, which is entitled the Health Protection and Promotion Act, refer to the ability of the medical officer of health to make a written order on reasonable and probable grounds that the applicant has come into contact with a bodily substance of another person as the result of being a victim of a crime, or while providing emergency health care services or emergency first aid to the person, if the person is ill, injured or unconscious as a result of the emergency, and also if the applicant may have become infected with a virus that caused a prescribed communicable disease as a result of coming into contact with that.
It also notes the concern of some protection of ó Iím not sure what the proper term is in here ó the source individual or the suspect, if you wish to term them that. There is the requirement that the taking of a blood sample not endanger their life or health.
So there has certainly been a lot of thought and work put into this in other jurisdictions. Albertaís legislation specifically refers to firefighters, peace officers and police officers or emergency health care services here. A tremendous amount of work has been done on this. Itís very valuable and appropriate if, in my opinion, we move forward, taking into context the work done in other jurisdictions and, as suggested by the Member for Porter Creek South, beginning this process and having Yukon citizens and Yukon society involved in this and involved in the drafting.
I will be voting in support of this, and I thank members for their attention and look forward to hearing the remaining debate this afternoon.
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: I would like to talk for a few minutes about some of the science involved in this and how the science sort of puts together how I feel toward this. Itís a little convoluted but I think people should know exactly what the whole thing is about.
A lot of the concerns on this obviously come out of the epidemic, for want of a better term, of AIDS during the mid-1980s. I had the sort of misfortune, I suppose, of being in downtown Toronto during that and have six friends who have died of AIDS, including two very close co-workers who passed away while working in the hospitals. It is certainly something to take great concern and care of.
AIDS, or acquired immunodeficiency syndrome, was first reported in 1981. There is a very interesting book, if anyone is interested in the background on that, called The Band Played On. Itís quite an interesting background tracing the AIDS epidemic and how it was traced by the centres for disease control, and who the alpha patient, or primary patient, was who they feel brought it into North America and how it spread from that point.
When you start looking at the number of patients, itís absolutely huge. There are a number of different ways it could be transferred, obviously. People think of one in particular, and that is certainly a big possibility, but over the years weíve found that it is possible to transmit AIDS in a wide variety of different ways ó obviously sexual contact, drugs, needles, syringes, and their improper cleaning. Everyone has sort of looked at this over time ó risky behaviour, infected blood, contaminated needles.
I had the rare honour of serving with the RCMP for about eight-and-a-half or nine years. I can remember when I first started out in M Division in Whitehorse here. I donít even remember seeing a needle container in cells. Maybe there was one there stashed away somewhere, but as an auxiliary, I never saw one. By the time I left, years later, there was a very large container filled regularly in cells and one provided to each police car as well as decontamination kits provided to each car.
I remember at the time that many of the members took the decontamination kits and left them on their desks until it was pointed out that, if there were a problem, this really wasnít the place to have your kit.
You can have transmission from mother to child during pregnancy. Thatís another huge one. Because of the different types of risky behaviour, Mr. Speaker, actually now, worldwide, the majority of cases are heterosexual women, quite contrary to what a lot of people would actually think. There have been a number of studies showing that, and I wonít bore the members with the data on that, but I can assure you it is all there.
At the time, during the 1980s, there was an incredibly active discussion going on that really started looking at the ways of transmission and trying to say how this virus, and certainly hepatitis B, hepatitis C, and there are other, blood-borne diseases that would be in the same class ó but at the time, it was the human immunodeficiency virus that was really getting the play. I can remember a friend of mine who developed very active AIDS and ended up in the Wellesley Hospital, and I remember stopping to visit him and his food trays were piled up outside in the hallway because the nurses refused to enter the room for fear of becoming infected. So they wouldnít go in, they wouldnít change the sheets, they wouldnít feed him. So I ended up there for a few days going in and literally bringing his food to him because I worked at the hospital. No one really knew what the transmission was. They knew the one type of transmission, but nobody else knew really how that would translate.
In those days, Mr. Speaker, the HIV virus was isolated, as an example, in saliva. So it was felt that even kissing someone with AIDS, any kind of mouth-to-mouth contact, talking up close, anything like this, could cause it. The reality, however, is that in worldwide literature there is no recorded case of transmission of AIDS by saliva, whether saliva has natural properties to limit the power of HIV to infect.
Probably more likely itís a term we refer to as ďinfective loadĒ. In other words, there has to be a certain amount of the agent ó in this case, the virus ó to cause the disease. A smaller amount will always be overcome. The problem is, of course, what is that smaller amount and where is the break-even point on this?
So we still have some unknowns on that, obviously, but we do know the amount of the virus in saliva. For example, spitting at police officers is not an uncommon occurrence. I can assure everyone that studies have found no evidence whatsoever that the virus is spread through saliva or kissing. We know that; we havenít been able to prove it. Does that mean it canít happen? No. It means weíve never been able to prove that it can.
So if that happens to you, youíre the one whoís left hanging out and not able to deal with it.
However, should there be open sores, cold sores, a cut to the mouth in a fight or anything else, that certainly changes the picture quite dramatically. Thereís also no evidence that any of this virus is ever spread through sweat, tears, urine or feces. Actually, families of HIV patients have shown very clearly over many years now that casual contact, such as sharing food utensils, towels and bedding, swimming pools, telephones, toilet seats ó all the things we tend to think about on that ó there has never been a recorded case of it.
There has also never been a recorded case by biting insects such as mosquitoes, bed bugs or anything like that. As a veterinarian, we know that equine infectious anaemia, or swamp fever, is transmitted by biting insects so, again, is it likely? No. Is it possible? Yes.
So if you start looking through and back with all the various possibilities, the risk and danger to people at the time is relatively low, and thatís a very good thing. But it still doesnít deal with the fact that if you are the one thatís involved, that leaves you really sort of hanging out there, and thatís not a good place to go at all.
There are a number of places that we have to look at in terms of who this would cover. Is it only police officers ó or peace officers, which is the buzz word in the legislation ó or firefighters? In the Yukon, auxiliary RCMP are handled quite differently than auxiliary police in most other Canadian jurisdictions. In British Columbia, Nova Scotia, and other jurisdictions, auxiliary RCMP officers are appointed under the provincial police act. Of course, we have a contract with the RCMP but we donít actually have a police act, so consequently they are appointed under the Auxiliary Police Act. This has to be examined in the legislation and how to make sure that you cover them.
Going back to some of the potential exposure, when you look, for instance, at hepatitis C and B and others, again are they particularly high transmission? In many cases, no. We know very well couples who live together, for instance, with one partner affected, and the other one is really at no potential risk. However, most of the organizations working with these diseases will advise: do not share toothbrushes, do not share razors, because of the possibility of blood-borne transmission. We should be monitoring blood sources, we should be monitoring all these things as well, and we certainly know that from all those who have been involved at one point or another.†
Once the person is exposed, our technology right now is to simply test for it. Again, I want to talk about a couple very common public misconceptions on this. People think you can do a test, and it will say yes or no. The reality is that virtually all the tests that are relatively available to us at this point in time look at antibody levels. In other words, if you, Mr. Speaker, pick up a cold on the way home tonight, four to seven days later you will develop the symptoms ó it could be as high as 10 with some types of flu ó and shortly thereafter, as your body fights it and produces the antibodies to fight that virus, that is the antibody that we would be testing for.
So, by the time you can test whether or not youíve been exposed and whether you have picked up that disease, itís already too late. There are some retroviral drugs that can be used to sort of lower your possibility, but they are not that good at this point in time, to be really blunt, so we have a real problem in terms of the test. Unless youíve been infected with hepatitis or HIV or whatever, if that test is performed too soon after the exposure and you donít have those antibodies, the test will be negative. It will be negative every time. You could inject pure virus and for a period of time it would be completely negative. Thatís pretty poor comfort to the patient. Itís not helping them at all in terms of that. We have to look at better ways of doing that.
The proposal in the motion asks us to look at this and examine it. I think itís a good thing; itís an excellent thing. Bill No. 105, in the Province of Ontario, has certain restrictions. A lot of groups are against it in terms of protection of privacy. A lot of groups are involved in a number of different ways.
But I would submit that the legislation could be designed in such a way that weíre not running around testing at random, that under certain circumstances when a peace officer or an individual ó possibly even an individual from the public ó is subjected or exposed, through assault or whatever, to one of these viruses, there could be a mechanism to require that test. It could be done in a confidential way; it could be done in a variety of different ways; and these are all the things we should be looking at.
One of the problems that always comes up in a lot of this, and it comes up a lot more now, is that people watch too much television ó probably me included. People watch things like CSI ó that comes to mind. Actually, the one I was watching last night ó the leader of the third party mentioned CSI. People think you can walk down the hall and hand this to a technician and, five minutes later, before you finish your coffee, they have the results. That is so far from true.
CSI is the worst for that, and NCIS isnít a lot better ó thatís another favourite. There is a system called PCR analysis. For the sake of poor Hansard, I wonít actually say what PCR stands for, but if anyone needs to know, they can call me. Basically itís a DNA amplification. It wasnít last night on NCIS; I taped it and watched it probably weeks later; but they actually found a fibre and figured the fibre might be from, I believe, a sweater, and therefore it might have a little bit of sweat on it, so they did a PCR DNA amplification test on it to amplify a little bit of sweat on this little tiny fibre, and therefore solve the case. Again, Mr. Speaker ó possible? Yes. Likely? No, not at all, but itís a nice theory.
The so-called STR, short tandem repeat technology, is probably more used. What are they looking at, really, with these sorts of things? Letís look at that for a minute, because to me this is very important in this whole issue. One-tenth of a single percent of DNA, of about 3 million bases, differs from one person to the next ó one-tenth of one percent. Think about that when youíre talking to somebody, that only by a tenth of one percent are you really that different.
We look at a variety of regions to generate a DNA profile in an individual using samples from blood, bone, hair, any kind of body tissues, products. If youíre a CSI fan, you can imagine some of the bizarre things that you could be looking at. We try to amplify or extract that DNA and look for a specific set of DNA regions. Iíll give some examples of that. If you have an iron-clad witness ó and good studies have shown that a witness is reliable maybe 50 percent of the time ó who says that that individual is blonde, that narrows it down to a huge number of blondes. If you start getting into the DNA technology or into blood typing and the person is O minus, roughly, I believe, 45 percent of the population in North America is O minus, universal donors. So if you have a blonde, maybe, and O-minus blood, that narrows it down a bit more. When you start really narrowing it down with these various strands ó and I notice NCIS is the worst for that ó they hold up the little sheet and it only has five markers. The reality is you can do a profile fairly quickly with those five markers, and that doesnít bring it down to the real extreme odds, but it can bring it down, for instance, with the short tandem repeat analysis, or STR analysis, the odds of two individuals having the same 13 loci, or locations, which is the more common, one in a billion. So now, if you have someone who lives in that part of the continent, maybe is blonde, maybe is O-, and is one in a billion within that small subset, you start getting a hugely restricted database.
DNA is used for a lot of things. At Super Bowl XXXIV and the 2000 Summer Olympics, the NFL used DNA technology to actually cross-match the balls ó in the Super Bowl it was the footballs ó because they wanted to look at sports memorabilia and falsifying sports memorabilia. So you can actually do a DNA analysis of the football and know thatís what it is.
Speaker: I donít meant to interrupt the honourable member; however, the Chair is having trouble making the connection between the very interesting science that the member is presenting to the House and ďTHAT the House urges the Government of Yukon to examine legislation that requires the taking of blood samples.Ē I would just ask the honourable member to focus a bit more on the motion before us.
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: Exactly. I did mention that it was a bit circuitous but to me itís very important that we look at that technology that we have now that we didnít even have five years ago and certainly didnít 20 years ago. We are using this technology to type wildlife, we are using it to do everything, and when youíre doing the sampling now, the sampling is very, very specific. It will get more specific. It is getting more specific by the day in some of these cases, which makes CSI a little bit more bizarre from time to time.
But what it means, Mr. Speaker, is that when we draw blood samples under this legislation, when we do the cross-matching, when we look at people who have assaulted someone or have been exposed to blood at an accident case or whatever ó with all of this technology thatís coming on, we have the ability to know exactly ó exactly ó who that sample came from, what the implications are, and what the antibody levels are.
The Member for Porter Creek South mentioned the Rotary club, and I remember a number of years ago during the election when the Rotary club that Iím involved in ó where one of our great things is that itís not politically active, had, I think, four out of 16 of us running in the election for all different parties. But the Rotary club four-way test is: is it the truth? Right now, I have the confidence in DNA testing that any of this would be definitely the truth. Is it fair to all concerned? Itís certainly fair to everyone in that it protects the good Samaritan, it protects the peace officer, it protects the fireman. Will it build goodwill and better friendships? Darn right it will, in terms of the whole good Samaritan thing. Will it be beneficial to all concerned? It will be beneficial, Mr. Speaker.
And yes, there are groups that have concerns about the private aspect of it and everything else. These are things that have to be looked at for those reasons, and thatís why I tell that story and give that science. I commend the Member for Porter Creek South for bringing it up; I think itís an excellent motion, and I certainly support it.
Mr. Hassard: I rise, too, today to support Motion No. 398, as put forward by the Member for Porter Creek South. I donít have the knowledge that our Minister of Economic Development does in this area, but perhaps I could just spend a few minutes on it and then turn my time over to him, if the members opposite would be so kind. I donít see them jumping up.
By taking the time to examine what legislation suits the Yukonís needs the best, we can develop some legislation that can be truly effective. Personally, I have not had any requests from constituents to bring this type of legislation forward; however, I can fully appreciate why certain law enforcement groups and emergency medical workers would like to see it.
Over the past few years, Iíve been first on the scene, if you will, to some fairly severe traffic accidents. Iíve had first-aid training since I was a teenager and continued on; because of work, Iíve kept it up, whether it was St. John Ambulance or whatever first-aid training. Iíve always felt it was a personís responsibility to respond or do what they could at the scene of an accident. In todayís society, itís a little more difficult to do and, as other people in here today have mentioned, we have to assess the risks when we come on a scene like that.
Iím not going to go on at length. I just want to say that I do agree with the member opposite and I thank her for bringing the motion forward and I look forward to hearing from others.
Hon. Mr. Lang: I rise, too, in support of Motion No. 398, put forward by the Member for Porter Creek South. Of course, like the Member for Pelly-Nisutlin, I donít have the science behind me, but I understand that all of these things in the long run protect our front-line workers, whether theyíre in the ambulance or in the police force or helping policemen, and they are very important because, at the end of the day, they are the ones who have to protect us from things like this.
So, in supporting it, I understand all the other members in the House support it and there are all sorts of questions about what the downside is. Thereís always a downside to whatever we do and we want to minimize that. So I think what the Member for Porter Creek South has said is letís take it forward, letís work on it and, at the end of the day, letís come up with something that we can live with. We have to think of the questions about peopleís privacy, we have to think about people abusing things, all the things that happen in our society, but we do have the luxury, as the member said, of other jurisdictions like Nova Scotia, like Ontario, that have gone forward with the overview of this motion.
So, again, I totally support this motion, and hopefully we will go forward with it and can resolve it in the near future.†
Mr. Fairclough: Iíd like to also speak briefly on this motion. I do support this motion because one of the things itís asking to do is to examine this and not rush right in to develop legislation without doing homework. Many of the previous speakers talked about other areas in Canada that do have legislation in place and others that are looking at putting legislation in place that basically protects victims and those who help injured people.
I havenít had a whole lot of people come forward from my riding to ask us to bring this forward, but it has come up from time to time over the last number of years by those who are taking ambulance training, for example, and by emergency workers, the highway maintenance crews, who often come across accidents, and so on, and thereís the whole scare about AIDS and catching diseases and so on.
Thatís still there today. The problem weíre facing here in Canada and where it originated from, in Africa, is still here. Itís not going away and thereís more and more concern about it. Part of the issue is there are a lot of people in the Yukon who have taken first-aid training as part of their job requirements, whether itís for First Nations, government or whatnot. Once you have this training and you come across an accident, you feel obligated to help. As a matter of fact, I think you have to do something, not just stand by and look.
I just wanted to tell a little story about that. It was a good number of years ago. Letís see, I think it was in 1997, when I came upon this situation. It was in the winter. I believe it was in February or March. I was on my way to Pelly Crossing. I was on the curling team. I think it was in the first Northern Tutchone bonspiel in Pelly Crossing, and I had a good team together. I was Chief of the Little Salmon-Carmacks First Nation at the time. The Selkirk First Nation chief was on the team, and so was the chief from Mayo. Being the younger one, I didnít rank as skip of the team. It happened to be Robert Hager at the time. We had a good team, and we were winning. I was on the way to Pelly and Pat Van Bibber at the time lived in Minto, so he didnít have far to go. He just pulled out in front of me, and we were heading to Pelly, and we came across a truck that had rolled over. It was in the snow, in the ditch and so on. Well, you canít do anything ó you canít just drive past. You have to go and help. There was a person in the vehicle who needed help. He was hurting. He was in pain. There was blood and so on. It was without thinking that I went in there and helped. I had some basic first-aid training.
It seemed like time went by fairly quickly. In no time, it seemed that there was a helicopter there. It landed on the road to take this person away, but it wasnít until after that that it was kind of rubbed into me a little bit. Did you notice the licence plate of that vehicle? It was from the States, and we didnít know who we were dealing with in this accident, and I had blood on my hands, on my face, trying to help to get this person on a stretcher.
It was something to think really hard about: you didnít have gloves, unless you were packing them around in a first-aid kit in your vehicle, as most people should. It really makes you think at the time, which is more out in public about passing on AIDS by contact, whether I was cut in the process and blood was dropped and got into me; but it didnít happen. I got a clean bill of health from the doctor.
But that is one example. By the way, I think that cost us the curling tournament. We missed the game; we ended up missing the game and, of course, losing and getting bumped out of the A events. We had a good team.
Going back to the motion, basically itís giving direction to examine this. There were some interesting points raised by members opposite that could be part of this examination. I donít believe we on this side of the House have any problem supporting a motion such as this, to examine it. Bring it back to the people and to the floor of the Legislature and then letís have a debate about it, once again.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I rise in support of this motion. Itís a motion Iíd like to thank the leader of the third party for ó for her background research and information. I can assure this House that the department will be looking at this area forthwith.
Deputy Speaker: If the member now speaks, she will close debate. Does any other member wish to be heard?
Ms. Duncan: I would like to thank all members for their participation in the debate this afternoon and support for this motion that I brought forward.
I would like to take the time in closing debate to respond to a few of the issues that members have raised and I would like to note that Iíve had the pages deliver a copy of an article of the Uniform Law Conference of Canadaís Uniform Mandatory Testing and Disclosure Act (Draft and Commentary). Mr. Speaker, the Deputy Speaker would have encouraged me, had I more time, to properly cite and source this article. So, I would just advise members that I obtained this article by researching the Uniform Law Conference of Canadaís meetings in Regina, Saskatchewan in 2004. This was a report to them. I had it copied for members and I would like to use it in my closing discussion. So, that is the source, and the Internet has kindly provided this to me.
First of all, there were questions around the federal jurisdiction and an encouragement by the Member for Lake Laberge that, if the federal government has jurisdiction in this matter, they also be encouraged to act. I would just share with members that, in my initial work on this matter, I did a short briefing note that makes reference to Bill No. 17 being introduced, as the Member for Lake Laberge noted, by Chuck Strahl, who was with the Canadian Alliance ó which I believe was the right term for the party at the time. That bill will not be reintroduced. It was given first reading, and this idea wonít come back: because this idea of mandatory testing deals with a health issue, itís considered a provincial responsibility. So we wonít ever see legislation at the federal level.
In fact, the Uniform Law Conference of Canada says that the Uniform Mandatory Testing and Disclosure Act, as modified by discussions, which I have provided to members, be recommended to the jurisdictions for enactment. So it was recommended as they discussed and made changes for enactment. Also, in the report, page 2 of 24, it notes that, because the focus of the act is on the health of exposed individuals and source individuals and the collection, use and disclosure of health information within provinces, the act is within provincial jurisdiction. So itís entirely our responsibility.
There were several points made with respect to privacy issues, and I made them myself, Mr. Speaker, in my introductory remarks. Concerns around privacy have been expressed, and I would draw membersí attention to the report, which notes, for example, on page 10 of 24, that the draft legislation elevates privacy protection for the source individual. In fact, the way the draft act has been looked at, it is better than the Criminal Code protection. So the privacy issues and the privacy concerns have been dealt with in the draft act.
Now, it says quite specifically that it should be noted that the forensic DNA warrant regime in the Criminal Code lacks this particular protection ó and the protection theyíre referring to is the investigative necessity criterion, similar to the Criminal Code.
Evidence is required in the lack of reasonable alternatives. Physiciansí reports could deal with this issue.
Privacy is also dealt with on page 15 in draft section 10(2) of the act. As members will note in the report, this subsection tempers deleterious effects of a testing order on a source individual. We have had several discussions, and anyone who has read the Fisheries Act can talk about deleterious substances in the water. It seems to me that once in this Legislature I referred to wiping the paint off the fridges as a deleterious substance.
The Legislature is familiar with deleterious effects. That section, members will note when they have time to review it, deals with privacy. Most specifically, section 17(1) of the draft act on page 1924 of the report ó and it mentions several others ó protects the source individualís privacy by imposing a confidentiality obligation, a form of limitation on disclosure of the source individualís health information. I strongly believe that the privacy concerns have been addressed. When the Government of Yukon undertakes an examination of the legislation and meets with those individuals who may have privacy concerns, they will have support in drafting that would allow them to meet any privacy concerns.
The Member for Southern Lakes asked at the opening of his remarks: how big is the problem? How big is this issue? I note that the Member for Whitehorse West noted increasing rates of HIV, hepatitis B and hepatitis C, and I notice that we also ó and the Minister of Health and Social Services may correct me ó now vaccinate our children against hepatitis C, which was not done some years ago. Itís a relatively new ó within the last decade ó innovation, so we are improving all of the time.
The Uniform Law Conference of Canada ó again I go back to the introduction of this discussion ó and Professor Renke, who presented the paper, noted that a discussion was undertaken on the application of the act, given the small number of actual situations it covers. Yes, there may be a small number of situations this covers; however, better we do this and cover those small situations and offer, in fact, comfort to our front-line emergency personnel that this legislation is there, than we do nothing.
I feel very strongly that the instances may be very small, it may never be called upon to be used; however, better that it is there than not.
Another point that was raised by the Member for Whitehorse West was the ability of all members on Wednesday, motion day, to bring forward issues of importance to our constituents and the unanimous support for a number of these motions, which has increased over the years. The member mentioned the veterans licence plate issue that she had brought forward. I was reminded of bringing forward the motion that we sit in Mayo on their 100th anniversary. We had, of course, the example of sitting in Dawson City on the 100th anniversary of the Yukon Act. So those are motions that have been brought forward that arenít necessarily the concerns of my or any one specific individualís constituents, but theyíre the concerns of all of us. I feel very strongly that this isnít, as the Member for Kluane might have desired, a discussion of a headline-grabbing debate that is going to have members kibitzing across the floor and fireworks and the kind of exchange that you warn us about, Mr. Speaker. Itís not that kind of an issue. Itís something that we can agree on, that needs a lot of thought, that needs work, and I brought it forward because I want to encourage the government and future members of this Legislature, because I donít believe the legislation will be ready by our next sitting ó although it could. If it is not, then it is on the record that members have expressed concern and were interested in this legislation.
The Member for Kluane says I should have done it. I should have just sent a letter to the Minister of Health and Social Services. Well, I did try that route, not in written correspondence but in verbal correspondence. This is more effective, as a member of the Legislature, because then it is not just a matter between the Minister of Health and Social Services and the constituents, and then, lo and behold, there is legislation that comes forward and then members start talking about it. Weíve talked about it.
Hereís an idea for legislation and members have had a chance to say, well, you know, youíd better make sure you consult with everybody ó agreed ó and the government of the day had best ensure there has been full and thorough consultation and that concerns about privacy or whether or not itís our jurisdiction have been resolved. The other suggestion was to just bring forward a private memberís bill. The Member for Mount Lorne quite rightly pointed out that itís tough to write or amend legislation on the floor of the House. There is usually a lot of background work done by House leaders and others and, sometimes in a negative connotation, Mr. Speaker, politics gets involved. So, best we do this in the open and in the public discussion of the Legislature.
I do appreciate that members have given this their attention and that they have afforded me an opportunity to speak about this piece of ó
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Ms. Duncan: Iím afraid Iím keeping the Member for Porter Creek Centre awake this afternoon, or else Iím putting him to sleep. I will try to speak more quickly, Mr. Speaker.
I do believe this legislation should be looked at. I appreciate membersí support and I would encourage whomever is in government and sits on the Cabinet Committee on Legislation, when this does come forward, to ensure that it is practical for Yukon and practicable, and that they do encourage its development sooner rather than later, and its presentation to the Legislature sooner rather than later.
Again, Mr. Speaker, thank you very much. I thank all members for their time this afternoon. I appreciate their support.
Speaker: Are you prepared for the question?
Some Hon. Members: Division.
Speaker: Division has been called.†
Speaker: Mr. Clerk, will you please poll the House.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: † Agree.
Hon. Ms. Taylor: †Agree.
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Lang: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Hart: Agree.
Mr. Cathers: Agree.
Mr. Rouble: Agree.
Mr. Hassard: Agree.
Mr. Hardy: Agree.
Mr. Fairclough: Agree.
Mr. Cardiff: Agree.
Mrs. Peter: Agree.
Ms. Duncan: Agree.
Clerk: Mr. Speaker, the results are 13 yea, nil nay.
Speaker: I declare the motion carried.
Motion No. 398 agreed to
Motion No. 503
Clerk: Motion No. 503, standing in the name of Ms. Duncan.
Speaker: It is moved by the leader of the third party
THAT this House urges the Government of Yukon to move forward with plans to build a new elementary school in the Granger/Copper Ridge area of Whitehorse on land already set aside on Falcon Drive.
Ms. Duncan: Well, we were doing really well in the Legislature for awhile. I think this motion might not go quite as easily as the last one. The leader of the official opposition finds my sense of humour similar ó
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Ms. Duncan: Delightful, all right.
This is really a simple request and one that two political parties in the Yukon public are already on the record as supporting. I hope all three can support it today.
This was a big issue in the recent by-election. Our candidate heard concerns about it over and over again in the summer months. I raised it here in the Legislature, beginning on October 31.
One area of the city where school enrolment has been increasing steadily is the Copper Ridge-Granger area. The reason why is very obvious. Over the last couple of years more than 200 new homes have gone up in this area. There are new young families and, with them, come children and more babies.
Elijah Smith Elementary School is completely full. It cannot accept any more students. In fact, some children are now being bused out of their neighbourhood to schools in other areas of the city.
I asked, in Question Period, what the governmentís plan was to deal with the lack of school facilities in this part of Whitehorse. The response from the Minister of Education: ďThis is an issue that will be reviewed in the future.Ē Again I asked if the minister agreed that going to an elementary school in your own neighbourhood is far better than putting a five year old on a bus and sending them across town. Children have been turned away from Elijah Smith Elementary School over the last year. Many, many children are being bused or driven from Granger or Copper Ridge to other parts of the city, and that number is going to continue to grow.
What was the Minister of Education going to do about the lack of school facilities in this part of Whitehorse? I didnít get an answer from the minister in Question Period, which doesnít really come as a surprise.
When the Copper Ridge subdivision was being built, land was set aside on Falcon Drive for a new school. The land is still there; itís still available; itís whatís called an educational reserve. The Department of Education, the Government of Yukon, owns the plans that were used to build Holy Family and Hidden Valley schools. The government owns those plans and anyone who has had the good fortune of going into either of those schools will note that, although the same plans are used and both schools are architecturally the same, they are able to put their own stamp on them as neighbourhood community schools.†
I noted that the minister had watched this part of the city grow and the demands increase, and I asked what the Minister of Education was going to do about it. His response was that the department does recognize that there is a growing issue, and the issue would be monitored by the department and decisions would be made accordingly. Clearly, there was no intention on the part of the minister to build a school, and it was not on the agenda.
Letís move on. The next day, I asked the minister in Question Period about the school. The minister said he recognized there is a need and there was a growing issue. He also said he wasnít prepared to actually do anything about it. My question: when is the Yukon Party government going to respond to the needs of young people in the Granger-Copper Ridge area? The ministerís response: he denied that the number of students was on the rise. In fact, he said, ďSurely the number of children needing to go to the school has not increased that drastically in a couple of years that we now have to start building schools in everyoneís backyards.Ē
Finally, I asked the Minister of Education: ďDoes the Yukon Party support building a new school in this area of the city, or are they opposed to it?Ē That was a straightforward yes-or-no question, and the minister said, ďI believe it would be a very nice day for every citizen in the territory if they could walk across the street to school, but thatís not reality. The government will have to look at the catchment areas right now. I know the Elijah Smith Elementary School does have a large number of students. I believe maybe some need to look at going to Takhini. Those are issues the department is reviewing at this point in time.Ē There was no commitment to build a school ó anything but, in fact.
And there are some fundamental points at issue here, Mr. Speaker. Number one, our schools are viewed without exception in the territory ó or I would challenge members to be hard pressed to find an exception where our schools are not viewed as community schools. Theyíre not just a building.
They are an essential part of the community, whether that community is Porter Creek, where Jack Hulland, Porter Creek Secondary and Holy Family are essential parts of that community, or whether it is Chief Zzeh Gittlit School in Old Crow. It had such a beautiful front foyer; I can recall that within the first year or two of when it opened, people had their wedding ceremony there. They are essential parts of our communities.
We move on in my questioning of the government. Day three, when I questioned the government on this issue and raised the issue with the government, things started to change. All week I had asked the Minister of Education questions about a new school in the Copper Ridge-Granger area of the city. The minister said that he was monitoring the situation. He was considering striking an independent committee, one that has no political interest, one that could look at the capacity of the school situation in the City of Whitehorse ó the capacity study response.
While the minister had been busy doing nothing on that situation for three years, the Yukon Party candidate in the Copperbelt by-election was out in the public with quite a different view on the matter. Her campaign material said that if you vote for this individual, she would build a new school. I questioned the Minister of Education about why the Yukon Party was promising a new school when the minister was saying the direct opposite. Who was speaking for the Yukon Party?
The minister responded, ďFirst Iíd like to make it very clear to the member opposite that I respect opinions of any candidate, and Iím not about to go and dictate to any one of them what they can and cannot promise. I wish them all good luck.Ē
It became very obvious at that point that the minister had no idea the candidate had made a promise to build a new school.
It was very clearly thought out. We have been very, very clear in the Legislature and outside of the Legislature where the Liberal Party stands. We support building a new school in the Granger-Copper Ridge part of Whitehorse. Elijah Smith Elementary School is full. It has gone from 220 students to over 300 in the last five years; 200 new homes have been built in the area and there are more to come. The government owns the land on Falcon Drive. It is set aside for a new school. The government owns the plans for the new school. There is no reason why, over a period of three years, the government could not and should not have already started on this school.
I asked who was right. Was it the candidate who was promising this new school or the minister? Is the government going to build a new school or is it not? Who was speaking for the Yukon Party? The minister responded that he is carefully evaluating student enrolment and educational needs and they are working on it. Still, there is no commitment from the minister to build a school. It was obvious that the minister would not commit to rolling up his sleeves and making sure that the dirt was turned for a new school in Copper Ridge. The Yukon Party candidate did. It was very clear that the Yukon Party candidate was out freelancing on her own. She was making a promise that the minister and the government did not know about. She said that she would build a new school. The minister would not say that. The minister said all week that there were no plans to build a school. Does the minister support the building of a new school or is he prepared to admit that these were campaign commitments? The minister said that there would need to be a ďdemonstrated needĒ and that the government would do its best to meet the commitment. If the economy keeps growing and enrolment keeps growing, the government will build a new school. It is all ifs, ands, buts and maybes, and no commitment.
On November 3, the Acting Minister of Education said that the Yukon Party was committed to building a new school. After the government found out that their candidate was out promising a school, suddenly they were all for it and always had been for it. They just didnít bother to tell anyone about it in this Legislature, which votes the money, or to budget for it. It wasnít until I tabled their candidateís campaign flyer, which included a commitment to build new school facilities, that the government was forced to jump on board.
The acting minister went on to say there is a demonstrated need, that a planning exercise will take place and budget dollars will be put aside in the next budget cycle.
When the Yukon Party announced that a new school was being built in Carmacks, $700,000 was set aside in the 2004-05 budget. I expect a similar amount to appear in the spring budget when we reconvene in March of next year. Current enrolment, Mr. Speaker, is 304 students at Elijah Smith, despite Department of Educationís projections that it would only have an enrolment of 287. We are at capacity, according to the school principal. Eventually someoneís going to have to put a new school in this area. The principal estimated the school had to turn away approximately 20 students over the last year because of a lack of space in various grade levels. Thirteen students are bused to Takhini, according to the Department of Education.
On November 7 in the Legislature, the MLA for Mayo-Tatchun asked some questions about the topic, and the acting minister said, ďÖ our government is committed to building a school in the Copper Ridge area.Ē She said they saw ďa demonstrated need for a new school in the Copper Ridge areaĒ. She also said, ďContrary to the members opposite, who may not see a dire need for a school in the Copper Ridge area, we on this side of the House do.Ē
Well, certainly from this corner of the Legislature, weíve been asking for it for a long time.
She said, ďThere has been a significant growth in the population over the last number of years, Mr. Speaker ó unprecedented growth. There has been, I believe, a 22-percent increase in the student population of the Elijah Smith Elementary School. They are busing students out of that area. There is a need; there has been substantial growth in residential home building taking place within the Logan and within the Arkell-Copper Ridge areas.
ďSo certainly we see the need and weíre willing to put the dollars toward a new school in the Copper Ridge area. As well, we are very much committed to undertaking a comprehensive review with our partners in education to assess the existing school structures to see where replacements are needed and able to see where improvements are needed.Ē
Those were comments from the Acting Minister of Education.
The Yukon Party candidate made a commitment in the middle of an election campaign that if she were elected she would see this school would be built. I want, with this motion, to get the government on the record today to commit that they plan to go ahead.
The ministers talked about striking an independent committee to look at the capacity of schools in Whitehorse. That is completely different from what the candidate promised. She said a new school ó full stop ó period. No committee, no capacity studies in the entire city. She said the area needed a new school and the acting minister agreed.
I suspect that there will be amendments to this motion this afternoon, Mr. Speaker. Iím certain that it will come as no surprise. There may be ďifsĒ, there might be ďmaybeĒ, and there might be a whole lot of provisos. Thatís not what was promised and thatís not the commitment that has been made by the Yukon Party.
If the Yukon Party tries to suggest, ďWell, we had better wait till this committee reports. Delay this; delay this until after the next electionĒ, they will be breaking another promise. This is about ethics, integrity, and keeping your word. Itís about what we in opposition do: hold the governmentís feet to the fire and ensure they live up to promises that they have made.
Iíd like to add one more thought to this particular topic of the school and one more element of the debate that has gone on in this Legislature. A public servant from the Department of Education made public statements to the media on this issue, as they were directed to do. The individual spoke as an employee of the Department of Education, doing the job they were requested to do, doing the job they are remunerated for.
On November 8 in this Legislature the Premier suggested ó Iím loathe to use the word ďattackedĒ, Mr. Speaker, because of the violent language ó but that is what it was. He stated this individual was ďthe Liberal Party representative in the public media.Ē The individual was speaking as a member of the department, as a public servant doing their job.
What did they get from the most highly elected official in the territory, from a government that says they respect the independence of the public servants? He was publicly attacked.
Speaker: You are loathe to use the word ďattackĒ but you carry on using it. From the Chairís perspective, this doesnít make any sense. I would ask the honourable member not to use that terminology.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, I was loathe to use it, as I said, because itís violent language. My difficulty, Iím sure you can appreciate, is finding another word to describe the kind of statement from the Premier that criticizes someone who canít speak for themselves, which you have also talked to us about.
Speaker: Order please. The Chair feels that my instruction was relatively clear. I know that the member speaking is very articulate and Iím sure you can find another word.
You have the floor.
Ms. Duncan: The individual was decried. I see the Speaker nodding, and the Deputy Clerk is prepared to send over the dictionary, which has been read on a Wednesday in this Legislature, I might add. However, I will use the word ďdecriedĒ for the moment, for lack of a better term. That public description and unfortunate choice of words by the Premier is not a demonstration of the kind of leadership you ask us all to exhibit in this Legislature and it doesnít demonstrate a respect for the public service. I would encourage the individual who uttered the words to offer an apology and the government to do so, as I believe that individual deserves one.
This issue is about three things: number one, school. Itís not about who built the economy; are you better off today; madness and misery. Itís not about any of those issues. The development in this particular area of the City of Whitehorse has been the result of the work of several governments. The lot development in this area has been the work of several governments.
Several governments have tendered the work and contractors have put in the infrastructure. The economy and the growth in the area is a result of a number of factors, including devolution, the current real estate market, which is not solely in the Yukon, and a complete variety of factors. The Member for Porter Creek North talked about science this afternoon. There is more than just the words about how any one government did this, this and this to improve the economy. Itís the result of a tremendous number of factors.
The bottom line is that more than the Yukon Party, more than the Liberal government, and also the NDP government, had the land set aside for the school. Weíve all seen the need grow for the school and seen the desire for the school. It became particularly acute under the mandate of the Yukon Party. What was required was a commitment to build a school. I have already said that our schools in our neighbourhoods and in our smaller towns, hamlets and villages are places of community. They are not just another government building. They are a safe place for some students. They are houses of learning and places of work for some. They are places where the community can gather. They are very important to our sense of community.
The number one issue is the school. The school is a community place. It needs to be built on the land set aside for it. It needs to be built. The growth is there and the demand is there. The land is there and the money is there, and the Government of Yukon today has the resources that are necessary and should have and could have begun the planning earlier.
The second point I wanted to make with this motion is that this is our job in opposition: hold the governmentís feet to the fire. Iíve expressed that very clearly. The minister wouldnít give me a commitment on the floor of the House. The acting minister made a commitment outside of the Legislature, and the candidate made a commitment. We still have another budget to come from this government perhaps. We will be looking for the money for the school ó absolutely. They made the commitment, no ifs, ands or buts, or capacity studies or maybe we should bus or maybe review the catchment area about it. They promised the school. Weíll be looking for it in the spring budget. That is the second point I wanted to make with the motion.
The third point is that I believe very strongly that we have to be mindful of our words in this Legislature, and I would encourage members opposite to use the opportunity that discussion of this motion presents to offer an apology to the individual who was decried by one of their members in discussion of this particular issue, as that, to me, is the right leadership approach that should be taken. There isnít any one of us who hasnít uttered words weíve later regretted and taken back, and I would strongly encourage members opposite to take back those particular words, as they werenít respectful of the public servants involved with the Government of Yukon, and I donít believe they were fair, as weíve talked about being earlier in this House.
So I appreciate the opportunity to talk about the Copper Ridge school and to discuss a much-needed facility in this area and the opportunity to, as opposition parties are asked to do, hold the governmentís feet to the fire. Iím sure the commitment will be there in the spring. I look forward to it, and I look forward to debate this afternoon.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Hon. Ms. Taylor: †It gives me great pleasure and pride to speak to the motion before us. It is a motion that has been brought forward by the Member for Porter Creek South urging the Government of Yukon to move forward with plans to build a new elementary school in the Granger-Copper Ridge area of Whitehorse on land set aside on Falcon Drive.
Mr. Speaker, this is not just about a school. Itís not just about bricks and mortar. Itís about the future of our children. It is about the future of the Yukon. It is a very important issue to me and I will speak very passionately about it. I am very pleased to have the member opposite put it forward, because it provides me with an opportunity to put our governmentís position on the record again, as well as put my position and my constituentsí perspective on record.
There has been considerable growth in the Copper Ridge area. When my family moved into the Copper Ridge area almost nine years ago, there were not nearly the number of houses that there are now in that area. Just in behind our house, we had a complete greenbelt. It was future land for development, but we really didnít have any neighbours behind us. Likewise, we didnít have a full street of homes. Since that time, there has been tremendous growth. There are homes all around us. There are homes lined up and down every street. There are future homes being built as we speak. Itís a real pleasure to see the growth in the number of young professionals in the riding and the number of young families who are choosing to make the City of Whitehorse, and in particular the Copper Ridge area, their home.
Itís also great to see the number of seniors and elders making that area their home as well. It just shows the value that individuals place upon that area in the City of Whitehorse as a great place to live in the Yukon. The Yukon is a wonderful place to live. As a born and raised Yukoner, I can speak eloquently about the wonderful things that we can boast about living in the Yukon ó the opportunities afforded to us from going to school here, from living in the Yukon, from making a life of living in the Yukon.
On our street alone, I think that there have to be close to, if not over, 20 children on our street alone. Itís not that big of a street. Of course, on the street over behind us and the street just down below ó all the streets in our area are just filled with young families and young children. Of course, there has been significant growth in the newer area of Copper Ridge.
I just have to say that this growth is certainly relatively new. Before the election in 2002, what we saw was a reduction in our population. In fact, we saw primarily a lot of young families moving out of the Yukon, trying to find work elsewhere. Since 2002, we have seen, certainly, a growth in our population. Not only have we seen a growth in our labour force, we have seen a growth in our population, a growth in families. Itís all good; itís great.
It is an indication of the growth in the economy and how things have gotten better. In fact, I know that there have been approximately 2,500 more Yukoners who are employed today than there were before 2002. We have a very high employment rate. It speaks to the number of jobs available. It also shows that Yukon is a lifestyle choice. Itís about living in a community that is safe. Itís about living in a community that speaks to the cultural vitality and we have many opportunities afforded to us. We have seen sales increase. We have seen the prices of homes increase in our area. There are many other economic indicators, factors that will contribute to this growth.
Now I know, going door to door certainly over the last number of years and just over the course of the last summer, the construction of a new school in the Copper Ridge area is a priority with many people. It is a priority that our government recognizes. We see a demonstrated need. I just refer to all the factors that I spoke to earlier. In addition to all the homes being built, we have a continuing care facility. We have another elementary school, l'…cole …milie Tremblay, and, of course, we have Elijah Smith Elementary School just down the road on Hamilton Boulevard.
It is an exceptional school, and I have nothing but accolades for the staff and principal, who contribute to the well-being of that school and make it one that is sought after. As a result, we have seen a growing number of families and a school that has become very popular. As a result, we have seen a school that has seen an influx of student population to just over 300. It is to a point now where students have to be bused out of the riding.
As I have said on the floor and outside of this Legislature, there is a demonstrated need for a new school in that area. We have made a commitment to support building a school in the Copper Ridge area. Our government has made a very strong commitment to providing quality education in the Yukon. Providing quality education includes many things, such as the construction of new schools.
I can assure members of the House that our government is always moving forward in planning for school facilities in the Yukon. In fact, I would just refer to the investments that are reflected in this yearís capital budget. We have about $9.5 million allotted in capital initiatives pertaining to schools in our territory. There is $5.4 million toward Tantalus School in Carmacks. There is $2.65 million toward the Porter Creek Secondary School cafeteria. There is $800,000 toward Vanier and $400,000 toward a Jack Hulland ventilation system upgrade.
So there are many dollars being invested in education on the capital side, and thatís very important because providing quality education involves the provision of suitable facilities where children can learn and grow as members of our communities.
I just referred to some of them earlier which I wonít go into too much, but I did want to say that, for example, the community of Carmacks ó they need a new school and our government is ensuring they get one. In fact, construction is underway as we speak, including the renovation ó the major renovation and expansion of the Porter Creek Secondary School. That was another initiative that was identified as an area of concern and that needed to be addressed. It is our government that is helping to resolve crowding in the cafeteria seating by increasing the seating capacity from 190 to 400 and will also provide, at the same time, a very well-designed teaching kitchen for 16 students, I believe. As soon as that is completed, weíll see the existing cafeteria and kitchen being renovated into additional classrooms to be up and ready for the next yearís school season.
I think that these major capital expenditures, as I mentioned earlier, speak volumes to our governmentís commitment toward providing quality education to all Yukon students here. Certainly the construction of a new school in the Copper Ridge area is yet another commitment that our government has made and the school is very much needed. Itís an important piece of community infrastructure and we want to make sure the new school is done right.
We certainly look forward to working with all our partners in education to ensure a process that is inclusive and will result in the best possible school for our students.
As I mentioned earlier, this is an issue of importance to the residents of not just Copper Ridge but the Granger area, as well as the Logan and Arkell areas and so forth. Without going over the numbers again, the economic indicators do speak to the need for a new school and it has been stated on the floor of the Legislature that we are committed to building a new school. In addition, we have also made the commitment and we see there is a broader need to look at our existing school structures to determine what schools are in need of replacement and what schools are in need of improvements to the existing structure.
Itís important to go through this exercise because there hasnít been a comprehensive review of our school facilities over the last number of years. As I mentioned earlier, much has transpired in terms of growth in our economy and our student population over the last number of years.
I think when you look at this review coupled with the education reform process that is also underway, you will see that this is all about vision; itís about what we want the education system to accomplish; that is, itís about identifying priorities and itís about meeting our goals to provide the best possible education system for our children.
Now, good things are happening in the Yukon, and this review would certainly be part of our commitment to keep pace with a growing economy. And, as we have stated on the floor of the Legislature, together with our partners in education, we will ensure a process that will result in the best possible schools for all our children in the Yukon. And we have seen a lot of beautiful schools going up in our communities ó Old Crow and Mayo come to mind. We are very blessed to have the infrastructure that we do have in place in the Yukon. Planning for schools is always an important element. I think that with the shift in demographics, the shift in the student population, and the shift in the population in general, it is timely that we do undertake this exercise as well.
As I spoke about earlier, I think itís really important to also take note of some of the other initiatives and some of the achievements that this government has been able to accomplish over the last three years.
I think, when we look in terms of improving our studentsí ability to succeed in education, we certainly are committed to addressing this very issue. In this budget alone, our government expanded the full-day kindergarten program to all Whitehorse schools. In fact, the implementation of full-day kindergarten took place this fall, an accomplishment that Iím very proud of and one that I worked on behalf of many constituents in my riding to see achieved.
As members opposite know, the program is completely optional, so parents can decide for themselves whether or not the program is right for their child. I know that research has shown that full-day kindergarten is a key contributor to student success, so our government has committed to providing this particular resource to students.
In addition, we have put dollars toward literacy action math skills plan. It has been incorporated into every school plan. We have undertaken staff training in reading recovery. We have placed numerous dollars in literacy skills, including a coordinator as well as a math skills coordinator. Of course, we continue our early intervention work, as I mentioned, with programs such as reading recovery.
Mr. Speaker, we certainly have had a lot of other success on a number of different fronts. We have developed and implemented the Individual Learning Centre, an alternative path to achieving a high school diploma, a school that was fully implemented just last year, and we saw a record high number of students attend. This year is no exception to last year.
We have established a home school tutoring program in the communities, something that has been asked for, a priority that we have identified, and we have put dollars to the program. We have enhanced the student grants that are available to our Yukon students for post-secondary opportunities. We increased the base funding of Yukon College by $1 million, a very significant investment from which we are seeing many great returns.
We continue to encourage enrolment in our trades and technology programs, and we have done this by expanding the apprenticeship programs. We have added dollars to our community training funds. In fact, we restored them, since the previous Liberal government had taken away funding. We restored it to the $1.5 million with a half a million dedicated to pre-employment trades training. It is a very important initiative and one we need to address and continue to attempt to attract, retain and recruit individuals to take part in the trades.
We have expanded late French immersion to include grades 6 and 7. We have revitalized the Yukon aboriginal languages through the First Voices language program and invested $500,000 into First Nation curriculum development. Furthermore, we have also invested $300,000 for cultural programming in all our schools. It is another initiative that has been very well received.
As I said earlier, we have invested many resources toward raising our literacy skills. In fact, we were just recognized on a national level with respect to our literacy efforts. I commend all officials within the Department of Education and our partners in education for their efforts toward raising the bar when it comes to literacy in the territory.
Overall, we have increased our Education budget by 17 percent ó $105 million over the last three years. This speaks volumes about our commitment toward providing quality education in the territory.
One of the first things that we did as a government was to work with each of our school council partners in education to identify immediate short-term needs. We identified $1 million, and that went toward numerous initiatives. Whether it was a partition, as was the case at l'…cole …milie Tremblay, or whether it was the purchase of materials for making crafts, it was identifying needs that have been identified as needs for many, many years, and our government has actually put funding to address these needs.
We have also increased support in our schools by allocating dollars to the elders in schools program and also establishing a homework tutor program. These are all very important initiatives, not to mention expansion of the Yukon excellence awards to include math, science and language arts in grade 10. Again, I believe it was the previous government to the previous government that had diminished those particular awards.
These are all very important initiatives, and weíre really pleased to assist our students, and we are very pleased to place additional resources to infrastructure, that being our schools.
So when we speak to this very motion, I am in full support of this motion. I take great pride in reiterating this memberís stance on the school and elaborating on the need for a new school and some of the history that has taken place over the years in terms of being able to address this need.
I know from all the people I have talked to in the area ó all the homes that I have visited ó this continues to be a matter of great importance, and it speaks to the need for action. It speaks to the need to proceed with planning and the proper steps necessary to address the very needs of the student population in that area.
That entails striking a building advisory committee. That entails allotting dollars toward planning and so forth. And rest assured, this has been identified as a priority and will certainly be treated as such.
That pretty much concludes my remarks. Again, Iíd like to thank the member opposite for bringing forward this motion, and weíre very pleased to offer our support.
Mr. Fairclough: I, too, would like to speak to this motion. Itís interesting to hear the comments coming from the Acting Minister of Education. It would be nice to hear comments from the Minister of Education on this matter. I would be very interested to hear what the Minister of Education has to say about this.
This was a commitment made by the Yukon Party at the drop of a writ in a by-election. It didnít get them the result they were hoping for.
We have asked the Member for Klondike and the Premier to follow up on commitments made by their candidates in the past. What we heard the Member for Klondike say was that it was a candidateís commitment in an election. Thatís what it was, so there was no follow up on it. I can go back and look at some of the commitments if the members opposite would like. It kind of surprised me. Here was a candidate making a commitment, forcing their government to look at this a little more seriously and forcing them to make a commitment also.
This motion is fairly simple. It says for the Government of Yukon to move forward with its plans to build a new elementary school. I am interested to hear what any other members on that side of the House have to say on this matter, and I would like to know if it was a Cabinet commitment or one that was just announced by the Acting Minister of Education. Was the Minister of Education aware that the Yukon Party was going to announce a school in Copper Ridge? We heard the mover of the motion state in this House in Question Period how the Minister of Education was going to take a little better approach to this, look at it carefully and take an assessment of what needs must be met in the Copper Ridge and Granger area and take it slowly and not just react to what has been said on the floor of this Legislature.
He didnít make the announcement of the school. The Minister of Education did not make the announcement of the school. It was the acting minister that made it. Why? What was the urgency? What difference would a day make in the announcement of the school? Can the members opposite tell us why it wasnít made a day earlier when the Minister of Education could have made the announcement ó or a day later? That begs a lot of questions as to how this government, the Yukon Party government, came to the conclusion that ó in the three years they didnít see this as a priority ó they had to make that announcement when it did. I say that because in the spring there was the Yukon Partyís flagship budget; they were going to follow up and consult carefully with Yukon public and hereís what the results were.
We are dealing with a supplementary budget that is huge ó it has got a huge increase to O&M and a huge increase to capital. Again, was this the result of going out and talking to Yukoners? Was it the result of going out and talking to Yukoners? The budget was only put together in October. The Premier knew he was going to call a by-election at the time. The school could have been included in that supplementary budget ó at least the planning stage. Well, it wasnít, because it wasnít thought of at the time, and there was no commitment. It was not a priority of this government to do it.
One of the reasons for bringing forward this motion is to keep government committed to what they promise.
It is hoped that, if they follow through on their commitment, perhaps the government would do a better job than it has done with the Carmacks school. I heard the acting minister refer to the Carmacks school several times in her response to this motion. Letís go over it a bit. Letís see how well that happened. This is year three of this Yukon Partyís mandate. In less than one year, itís done. What does this commitment mean? Will we see a reflection of the school in the spring budget or in a supplementary for the present budget year we are in now?
I donít think there is the same seriousness for the Yukon Party to continue with this commitment now that the by-election is over. I think it needs to be addressed. There is no doubt about it; that area is growing. If the members opposite could recall when they were on this side of the House, they had a lot to say about the government of the day ó the NDP ó putting money into lot development in the Copper Ridge-Granger area. They said there was too much money going into there and too much lot development and so on. Look at it. It is being filled as we speak. Year after year, there have been more people building and wanting to live up in that area.
It was a couple of years of questioning by the Yukon Party at the time to try to slow down the process of developing lots up in the Copper Ridge and Granger areas.
Now, I know the Yukon Party wants to take credit for every little thing that comes along. It must have been their hard work and reasoning why people are moving back to the territory and how the economy is going. They fail to see what is happening across Canada. They fail to mention the interest rates with the banks. Itís very important. We see a lot more people building houses and renovating their homes when they can borrow money at a lower interest rate. Why isnít that mentioned, Mr. Speaker? We havenít seen 10 mines open up in the territory that are pushing people back here. I havenít seen a railroad go through or a pipeline. Itís just talk by the Yukon Party ó just talk.
This commitment to build a school in the Granger area, Copper Ridge area, is because of a drop of a writ and the Education minister didnít even know ó didnít know. The acting minister made the announcement. I would really like to ask the Minister of Education how he found out about it. How did he find out about this announcement, and why, in only a matter of 24 hours, was the Yukon Party doing the opposite of what the Minister of Education committed to do in this House? Why?
There are a couple of things that this Yukon Party is poor at. One of them is planning. Announcing a school like this ó we had a huge budget in the spring and I donít think that would have been a problem if they had included it at that time. We have a huge supplementary budget that is still not there. We are getting close to the end of this calendar year. Of course, the building season is gone. I remember talking about the Carmacks school at about this same time last year in this Legislature ó about planning, about getting things in order so we could have a summer construction and we wouldnít have to face the cold winters of the Yukon when building a school.
Well, that didnít happen. We are fortunate to have some warm weather giving the companies a break in building the school, and we are faced with a winter construction again. I brought up that issue and the Premier laughed at it saying I donít know construction. I was pretty surprised at the Premier because he himself has talked about how many of these constructions in the territory should take place during the summer months and should not have to be faced with the cold weather and winter building. I know that the Premier, and the Member for Klondike at the time, referred to the Mayo school and how things could go wrong when leaving it alone like that.
The member opposite, the Acting Minister of Education, talked a lot about the quality of education, working with their partners in education. Well, weíve been asking questions in this House. Who are their partners? Are First Nations their partners in education, as defined in the Education Act? Well, they say yes, they say no. Maybe at times they work with First Nations on it, and maybe not.
It seems to me that thereís something wrong with the way in which this Yukon Party deals with First Nation matters. If the First Nations raise an issue about the school system that is under the responsibility of the territorial government, itís like ó no, itís their issue. Itís their kids in the school.
They had a report done up ó and maybe it was a report that was very hard-hitting ó on how the government is providing education to students. I would have expected the government to maybe look at that seriously and deal with the matter, instead of pushing it to the side now ó for how many years has this gone on? Right from the beginning of the mandate of the Yukon Party, it has been pushed aside and never really worked on, as they committed to.
They often say that where thereís a demonstrated need, they will act. Well, I think we on this side of the House could probably come forward with hundreds of demonstrated needs that the government will not and would not do.
We have a year. A lot of debate will take place. I would like to see that itís done right. I think everybody in this House would like to see this done right. I think the Yukon Party would not want to have the process fall the way it did in Carmacks, with governments now having disagreements ó unnecessary disagreements ó to the point where theyíre looking at their own system.
Thatís the unfortunate part because no First Nation in the time that Iíve been elected has ever wanted to draw down education under their agreements, and itís because itís a huge responsibility, and they could have worked with the Yukon government to try to make improvements.
Well, weíre now seeing three First Nations going forward to draw down education.
It is those types of dealings that I am concerned with, so before I go on, I would like to talk more about this. I would like to propose an amendment to the motion.
Mr. Fairclough: I move
THAT Motion No. 503 be amended by adding after the phrase ďFalcon DriveĒ the following: ď, after appropriate needs assessment and public consultation have been concluded, and any statutory obligations on the Government of Yukon have been metĒ.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Member for Mayo-Tatchun
THAT Motion No. 503 be amended by adding after the phrase ďFalcon DriveĒ the following: ď, after appropriate needs assessment and public consultation have been concluded, and any statutory obligations on the Government of Yukon have been metĒ.
Mr. Fairclough: The reason for this amendment is simple. We want to see a good process happen here with the construction of a new school. We want public consultation to happen. There are many reasons why we want public consultation to happen. One is because members on the government side of the House have made amendments to motions to include consultation, so I believe this is not something that they would vote against.
After an appropriate needs assessment ó this is just following the Minister of Educationís commitment. Letís do one.
I donít think the Yukon Party would be against a needs assessment, would they? As a matter of fact, Iíve heard the Acting Minister of Education talk about having to look at all the schools in all the areas in the territory and doing one in detail. We would like a needs assessment done, and also for the Yukon government to meet any other statutory obligations. I havenít heard the Acting Minister of Education, for example, mention the First Nation once. Here the Yukon Party is saying that they want to make the First Nation full partners in economic development. Well, any building like this is economic development. It is putting people to work. So far with the one example that we could use, they havenít done it. They failed in that area.
I also want to make sure that if they make a commitment like this that they do follow it. I want to refer to the Kwanlin Dun First Nation Final Agreement, chapter 22, under number 13 of their specific provisions. Itís titled ďYukon asset construction agreementsĒ.
Two minutes. Thatís too bad. Iíd like to talk more about this, but perhaps the membersí attention could be drawn to that. It obligates the government to put together a Yukon asset construction agreement, particularly with any capital construction thatís over $2 million. So far, I havenít heard any commitment from the members opposite to include talking with Kwanlin Dun on this matter.
With those three points that I raised in the amendment, I cannot see where the Yukon Party would vote against this amendment. It commits them to consultation; it commits them to live up to the obligation under the final agreement, and it commits them to live up to the commitments made by the Minister of Education ó those three things ó and those are all good, and I would like to hear the comments of the members opposite on that.
I thank you for allowing me the time, Mr. Speaker.
Ms. Duncan: I believe that my colleagues from all parts of the House would like to speak to this amendment, and Iíll take the privilege of going first.
I have no difficulty with what the Member for Mayo-Tatchun is trying to do, and one should never take anything for granted, although I do have concern that we have to spell out ďany statutory obligations on the Government of Yukon have been met.Ē
Itís accepted that, of course, we wouldnít break the law and the government would meet all their obligations. My concern with the amendment is that it will delay the start of the school and be used by any government to delay work on the school. What Iím specifically referring to is that after the appropriate needs assessment and public consultation have been completed ó sometimes assessments and studies can cause delays; ďanalysis paralysisĒ is how I heard one individual in the public service refer to it once. We can over-analyze things when we should be turning shovels. Thatís my concern.
Public consultation is important, and work with school councils and the community of Copperbelt is very important ó itís very important who will be going to and using this school. They are community schools. But if we wait for a needs assessment, my concern is that it will be another year or year-and-a-half before we see dirt turned on Falcon Drive for a new school. Thatís my concern with the amendment. If the majority of members feel that it wouldnít delay, then of course I accept that, although my instinct is to suggest that, after appropriate needs assessment has been concluded, what we may end up with is quite a lengthy delay.
I heard the Member for Whitehorse West speak very passionately about our schools. Although I was not born in the Yukon, I was certainly educated in the Yukon. I have children in the school system now and after having had a vigorous debate at my own dining room table with my partner as to which school to send our children to, because there is a wide array of options open to parents. I would like to tell a story for a few minutes, because itís germane to our discussion about schools and about education in the territory.
We had many options open to us as parents. Certainly, there was an argument for French first language. Certainly, there was the eligibility for the Catholic system. Certainly, Jack Hulland is a community school that I am very, very fond of, as members know. And all the schools are excellent. Elijah Smith is an excellent school, in the same neighbourhood as the proposed school. All the schools are excellent, as is our teaching faculty and our teaching community.
Now, not all the facilities are quite what they could be or should be. They need substantial work. And we need this new school. We need to deal with the replacement of F.H. Collins. We need to deal with Whitehorse Elementary. Jack Hulland has had some extensive ó $400,000, I believe, was the budget on the air exchange, and the poor teachers were still standing there, with doors wide open and fans in their hallways in September and October of this year. Itís coming to a conclusion. Itís going to be done, and itís a wonderful addition, but the facilities take a lot of work, time and money.
I think every year that Iíve been a member in this Legislature, weíve seen money for the air-handling system at Whitehorse Elementary School, which some members might recall as the Whitehorse high school.
So, my point ó all our schools need some work, particularly in the Whitehorse area. We need this new school, and I donít want to see this new school delayed because someone says it was the political promise of another party, or because, ďWell, weíve got to study it first.Ē
The need is there. The demonstrated need is there. The neighbourhoods in Whitehorse have changed. This area has developed. The need is there. Letís build the school.
Letís not analyze it to death and in so doing delay the progress.
The Member for Mayo-Tatchun suggests an appropriate needs assessment and that it could be conducted quickly. The member and I have both had experience on the other side of Legislature and know that studies can go on for a very long time, and in the meantime, while the issue is being studied, more issues are cropping up and there are more demands for what become too few existing dollars.
So I will cede the floor to others who wish to speak on this amendment. I donít disagree with the idea that the member has ó the notion that of course the government should live up to its statutory obligations, and of course the school council and appropriate public and governments have to be involved. However, I am concerned about amending the motion by adding the clause ďafter an appropriate needs assessment and public consultationĒ into the mix and that what it does is provide any future government with an opportunity to delay a much-needed project. I would hate to see that happen, because this isnít about any one individual or any one political partyís fortunes. Itís about the need for a school and the need to get the construction underway.
Mr. Cathers: I think itís unfortunate that this amendment has come forward from the Member for Mayo-Tatchun. Itís pretty obvious that any construction of a school has to include planning, and that planning has to include public consultation. The government has to meet any statutory obligations. The amendment to the motion doesnít seem to have added anything materially. What it unfortunately will do is result in extending debate today, so that there wonít be a vote on this issue. It is unfortunate.
It seems that we have a situation where the Liberal member has recognized the need for a school, as it has been recognized by our government. We have stated that we will move forward on planning for the construction of that school to address that need, but the NDP seems to be trying to avoid taking a position on whether or not to build a school. It is their right to do so, but the issue at hand is the interests of residents and the commitments have been made very clearly by our party. The Liberals have expressed their position, as well, on this issue.
The issue of the need for a school in this area is one that we have been aware of for awhile. It has been developing. The MLA for Whitehorse West, in the same area of Whitehorse, of course, whose constituents are affected by this, has been very strong in representing her constituents and has brought this issue to our attention as the economy of the Yukon has improved under this governmentís watch and the population has grown. It is clear that residents want a school and the commitment was made to move forward on building a school.
Mr. Speaker, we are supposed to be here to represent our constituents and to address their needs. I would hope that it is not the NDPís intention to simply talk out this motion and that we can bring this to a vote, and I would therefore urge members to vote against the amendment and vote in favour of the main motion.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: Are you prepared for the question on the amendment?
Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Division.
Speaker: Division has been called.
Speaker: Mr. Clerk, please poll the House.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Disagree.
Hon. Ms. Taylor: †Disagree.
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: Disagree.
Hon. Mr. Hart: Disagree.
Mr. Cathers: Disagree.
Mr. Rouble: Disagree.
Mr. Hassard: Disagree.
Mr. Hardy: Agree.
Mr. Fairclough: Agree.
Mr. Cardiff: Agree.
Mrs. Peter: Agree.
Ms. Duncan: Disagree.
Clerk: Mr. Speaker, the results are four yea, eight nay.
Speaker: The nays have it. I declare the amendment defeated.
Speaker: Is there any further debate on the main motion?
Question has been called.
Ms. Duncan: I think I get the chance to close debate.
Speaker: If the member now speaks, sheíll close debate. Does any other member wish to be heard?
Mr. Hardy: Itís indeed an honour and a privilege to stand here today and speak before the Legislative Assembly. Itís not often that I get this opportunity, so when I do, I try to take advantage of it. And now, I know I have only 20 minutes, and I know the members will appreciate every word I say.
Regrettably, our attempt to amend the motion has been defeated, so weíre back to the main motion, which is regarding building a new elementary school in the Copper Ridge-Granger area of Whitehorse on land thatís already set aside, so we can easily move forward with plans.
My understanding is that the government has already said that they were moving forward in this regard. I could be wrong that a motion is usually withdrawn from the record if a government has already taken action in that regard, so it becomes redundant and of no significance any more. I am guessing that the reason it hasnít been removed is because there actually hasnít been any work done.
My colleague, the Member for Porter Creek South, was looking a little puzzled by my comments, but I think she understands now where Iím going.
The indication we had in the by-election and the discussions around this a couple of weeks ago ó and Iím already on record as saying this ó was that there were actually no plans made to build a school in this area. There was no Management Board directive or money set aside in the budget in this area. There was obviously no cohesive voice from the Yukon Party government in this regard, because we witnessed the Education minister make some good comments. Without a doubt, he made some good comments about the need for planning and assessments and all that ó I believe that that should happen for every project, and especially for one that has an impact on peopleís lives ó before they go ahead, only to see the Acting Minister of Education get up and basically say everything opposite and make the Minister of Education look very foolish.
That points to a couple of things, of course, but most importantly, it points to confusion within the ranks of the Yukon Party government and their willingness to spend massive amounts of taxpayersí money without planning or consultation or engagement of all people of that riding. It was also without looking at the requirements that are necessary due to other agreements, such as the one with the Kwanlin Dun First Nation, before they make an announcement like this.
†None of that was done ó zero, nothing. Now, the NDP does not like to spend taxpayersí money in that manner. The Yukon Party government obviously does. They have a record already that will be discussed a lot over the next while and definitely during any election, when we finally get to it, about their wasted spending, about the millions of dollars being thrown toward projects with almost no public involvement or input, with no thought about where theyíre going, other than that they have a lot of money right at the moment and they feel it is their entitlement and right to spend it.
However, this motion I have a problem with, to a certain degree, although I can see that, if taken in a real general sense, it does meet some of our concerns. But weíd have to really look at it from a general view, because weíre not opposed to building a school in the Granger-Copper Ridge area. Weíre not opposed to building schools anywhere there is a definite need shown and will help with education of families and children in the future and benefit the Yukon as a whole, but not at the expense of other areas, and not for the reasons as this government had, which is use it as a political tool to try to win a seat in the Granger-Copper Ridge area.
Thatís the worst type of politics Iíve ever seen, and I canít support that.
This motion urges the Government of Yukon to move forward with plans to build a new elementary school in the Granger-Copper Ridge area on land already set aside on Falcon Drive. When I read it that way, I say, okay, generally, yes, I can accept a motion like that. I am assuming that when the Member for Porter Creek South says to move forward with plans, she was thinking about the agreement that exists with Kwanlin Dun, for instance. Thatís what I am assuming. I am assuming that this motion also is directing the government to do the proper planning in which consultation, engagement of the people who are going to be beneficiaries of a school up there ó planning, budgeting, design work.
If there is a desire to take one of the models that already exists, as the mover of the motion has indicated, such as the Holy Family School and the MacPherson school, which are, I believe, the two schools. They are basically identical schools on the outside. We own those plans, and they could be utilized there. Thatís an option that they can take a look at, or they can come up with something that meets the different requirements for that neighbourhood ó whichever one they want. They would need to take a look at cost savings, the environmental impact of building a school on that land and future growth óbuilding a school that will accommodate any kind of future growth. I believe there is a fair amount of planning to continue the lot development up there, so we can anticipate more families and more children. That would have to be taken into account.
To ensure that it meets the future requirements and fits the budgets is essential to delivering a good project, and a buy-in by the community is so essential because, what we are witnessing now ó the only project that the Yukon Party government seems to have been able to move forward on of any significance ó is the school in Carmacks, and that has turned into a complete and utter nightmare for so many people who live in that community, as well as this government. It is a project that has completely gone sideways and doesnít have the endorsement or the buy-in of the people of that region and, because of that, that school will always have a checkered history and is starting out on a very wrong footing. I understand that there are problems with the foundation and the footings, as well. So, both on the community level as well as on the material level, there are some serious problems with the school already. In some ways it might be a school thatís cursed.
No way should a school ever be conceived, brought about and built with a cloud like this hanging over it. I think that this is a first in the Yukon. I donít know of any government that has ever built a school in the Yukon that has carried so much controversy and problems. The Yukon Party government brought that to the people of Carmacks and has brought that to the attention of the people of this territory in how they will proceed with projects when they wonít listen to a community.
I am very concerned that they are going to use the same type of consultation and model on the people of the Copper Ridge-Granger area that they used in Carmacks. If thatís the case, I could never support this motion, because if thatís the type of planning and involvement that they use, I donít want to see that model. Maybe the motion should have said, ďusing past models in the delivery of schoolsĒ and not the Yukon Party way ó because the Yukon Party way has a lot of problems.
However, there is very little planning to date, so maybe the government has no intention of building it. Maybe now that the election is over and the people of the Copperbelt riding have chosen their representative, this will fall to the wayside, like so many other projects ó like the bridge, like the projects in Teslin, the projects around the territory, the projects around Whitehorse. It may surface during an election campaign ó another promise.
The NDPís position is pretty simple. We believe in good planning, thoughtful consideration, identified need, buy-in, consultation, good budgeting and visioning for the future. We also believe that school councils should be involved and parents, through their councils as well as on the ground, when the design is being worked on, because the people of the Copper Ridge-Granger area should have some idea of what style of school can be brought there and what they feel would meet the requirements for their childrenís education. We believe very much in the consultative process in coming to a conclusion to build a school.
Iím going to wrap this up. I see nothing wrong with the amendment. It just added some meat to ensure that this government would do the right type of planning. After the Carmacks fiasco, we donít have a great deal of confidence that they will. Thatís our fear and thatís why we felt that the amendment had a place in this. Having said that, I will let whoever else wants to talk go ahead.
Mr. Cardiff: I would like to enter into this debate, as well. I think itís important to note that the motion, as it was put forward, basically is urging the government to move forward with plans to build a new elementary school. I think that the problem is that there was no planning process. What the process appears to have involved is a demand or a desire on the part of residents ó and, I might add, a demonstrated need ó at this point in time for a new school.
I donít believe that the government has looked at all the options, and I donít believe that all the parties have looked at all the options. This is a problem ó the problem with escalating enrolment at the Elijah Smith Elementary School ó and the growth of the area should have been realized, or the government should have been able to have seen that coming. Surely you would think that the minister responsible, the Minister of Education, would have been able to have seen that coming and have looked at the options for addressing the problem that has arisen at this point in time.
One of the ways that that could have been done would have been for the minister to have asked the department to have done a study of the catchment areas. It is my understanding that there are children from as far away as Lobird being bused to Elijah Smith Elementary School. I imagine that if that is acceptable to the Department of Education and to the staff at the school, that would be fine.
I just think that there are other options, that there are schools where the travel distance would actually be less for some student who are attending Elijah Smith Elementary School than what is happening right now. I think that a good look at a study of the catchment areas of the various schools ó Elijah Smith Elementary School, Takhini Elementary and Selkirk Street Elementary School. I understand Selkirk Elementary School has quite a bit of room in it. It would make sense to look at that option before making a rash election promise for a new school.
Now, the other thing that I would like to say about the process is that I believe it would have been better to have involved all school councils in a study to determine where schools should be built, which schools need upgrading, which schools need replacing, as was done under a former government in the late 1990s.
I think there are other things that could have been done rather than basically a survey of one area of Whitehorse and then finding out there was a shortage of space in the school and, without looking at other options, the government just deciding to proceed with building a new school.
As of yet, we have seen no commitment in the budget or the supplementary budget for planning anything. All we see is a promise.
With that, Mr. Speaker, I understand that members would like to vote on this. I will sit down so that we can do that.
Speaker: Are you prepared for the question on the motion?
Some Hon. Members: Division.
Speaker: Division has been called.
Speaker: Would the Clerk please poll the House.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Agree.
Hon. Ms. Taylor: †Agree.
Hon. Mr. Hart: Agree.
Mr. Cathers: Agree.
Mr. Rouble: Agree.
Mr. Hassard: Agree.
Mr. Hardy: Agree.
Mr. Cardiff: Agree.
Ms. Duncan: Agree.
Clerk: Mr. Speaker, the results are nine yea, nil nay.
Speaker: The ayes have it. I declare the motion carried.
Motion No. 503 agreed to
Speaker: The time being 6:00 p.m., this House now stands adjourned until 1:00 p.m. tomorrow.
The House adjourned at 6:03 p.m.
The following Sessional Paper was tabled November 23, 2005:
Motor Transport Board 2004-05 Annual Report (dated May 2005)† (Hart)