Monday, May 1, 2006 - 1:00 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
At this time, we will proceed with prayers.
Speaker: Before proceeding to the Order Paper, the Chair would note for the records of the House that, effective today, May 1, 2006, the Yukon Liberal Party caucus becomes the official opposition.
The rotation in Question Period will reflect this change. Accordingly, the Liberal Party caucus will be allocated those question positions reserved to the official opposition. The New Democratic Party caucus will be allocated those question positions reserved to the third party.
Also, as the Member for Mayo-Tatchun is now a member of the Liberal Party caucus, two question positions previously reserved for independent members, those being position 5 on Monday and Wednesday, will now be allocated to the official opposition.
As for private members' business, Standing Order 14.2(2) says, “At the beginning of each session a roster shall be established for the purpose of determining the order of business on Wednesdays when opposition private members' business has precedence.” The Standing Orders do not address altering the roster during the course of a session.
As we are still in the first session of the 31st Legislature, the House will continue with the allocation of positions between caucuses that is currently in place; therefore, on Wednesday, May 3, the New Democratic Party caucus will have the right to the first two positions and the Liberal Party caucus will have the next two.
Speaker: We will proceed with the Order Paper.
Are there any tributes?
In recognition of Sexual Assault Prevention Month
Hon. Ms. Taylor: May is Sexual Assault Prevention Month. On behalf of all members, I rise today to pay tribute to all the people who work throughout the year to eradicate sexual violence, and to those who continue to educate the public about violence and sexual assault prevention.
Canadian statistics on the incidence of sexual assault should give each of us pause. More than one in three Canadian women report having had at least one experience of sexual assault since the age of 16. Ten percent or fewer women who are sexually assaulted report these assaults to the police. In cases reported to police, 80 percent of sexual assault victims knew the accused. They were friends, acquaintances or family members. These statistics come from the Status of Women Canada and Statistics Canada. We know that here in the north the incidence is even higher.
Violence against women must stop. The health of our communities and our people depend on it. Women's organizations, governments and others continue to work to educate and innovate. This year for Sexual Assault Prevention Month, among other events, the Women's Directorate is sponsoring a workshop for front-line and community workers who provide services for victims of sexual assault or sexual abuse, and the session will be presented by the Nechi Institute, an aboriginal-run training organization.
In 2006, the long-term public education campaign on violence against women and children will focus on the prevention of sexual assault against young women.
When everyone is safe from violence, the job will be done. When everyone is safe from violence, public education campaigns and front-line services dedicated to working with victims and offenders will no longer be required. When everyone is safe from violence, our communities will be healthier. Until that time comes, work toward the eradication of all forms of violence will continue.
On behalf of the Government of Yukon and Members of the Legislative Assembly, I applaud all the people involved in these many important efforts.
In recognition of International Workers' Day
Mr. Cardiff: I rise on behalf of the Legislature to commemorate International Workers' Day, or May Day.
Today workers around the world are joining in rallies and marches demanding living wages and the right to organize and other conditions for workers that respect their dignity. May Day is a reminder to all of us that many of the good things that employees take for granted have come about by many years of hard struggle. It is not only unionized workers who have benefited from this struggle. Union leadership has made significant gains for all workers with minimum wage, labour standards and workplace safety legislation for all.
Today millions of workers are not only demonstrating for safe workplaces and benefits from their work, but this is also a day of protest for other causes - for a global ban on nuclear weapons, against the war in Iraq and for the rights of immigrant workers.
May 1, 1886, marked the day the Federation of Organized Trades and Labor Unions in the United States set as the beginning of a general strike to underscore the idea of an eight-hour work day. A meeting of workers in Chicago was ending when a bomb was thrown at police, killing one. Police responded with gunfire, killing one worker and injuring many others.
It was never determined who threw that bomb, but three workers who weren't at the meeting were hanged. The Chicago incident was used as an excuse to attack the labour movements and North American Labour Day in September eventually replaced what should have been May 1.
During the Cold War, May Day was propagandized as a holiday only in Russia and, to this day, May Day is celebrated in every country except the United States, Canada and South Africa. Covering up this honourable legacy of dissent and suppressing the reality that May Day represents reveals how frightened powerful lobbies are of organized movements to fight for the rights of the common person.
On December 10, 2005, a Canadian workers' bill of rights was signed in Ottawa. The first line of the bill reads: “Democracy and human rights cannot flourish where workers' rights do not exist or are not enforced.”
The right to freedom of association is guaranteed in the United Nations' Universal Declaration of Human Rights and is the basis of democratic representation and governance. There are many workplaces in Canada that are denied the right to unionize, and many other workers have jobs that are threatened or unnecessarily dangerous. Workers still struggle for dignity and respect, especially the working poor of this country.
On this day, we salute their commitment to the dignity of labour and to their contributions to the rights of all workers.
In recognition of Sandra Henderson
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I rise in the House today to congratulate Sandra Henderson in her successful re-election as the president of the Yukon Teachers Association. Sandra has worked very hard representing the YTA in the past year as president, and her re-election represents the support she has from teachers across the Yukon. Her strong leadership has led the YTA to very successful negotiations of a new contract this spring, and I congratulate Ms. Henderson for that work.
Ms. Henderson brings many years of experience, dedication and knowledge to this position. Teachers and administrators will be well served with her as president of the Teachers Association. Sandra has played a significant role in the development of French immersion and French as a first language, and she continues to be an advocate of French language education. As the first teacher in the French immersion program in the Yukon, she continues to support the growth of the French immersion program.
Before taking on the challenges as president of the YTA, Sandra most recently served as vice-principal at F.H. Collins Secondary School in Whitehorse. I am honoured to say that Sandra also received the prestigious Order of Canada for her work in forwarding French language instruction in the Yukon . I congratulate Sandra in her second term as president of the Yukon Teachers Association and for her high quality of representation of the teachers.
I ask all members of the House to please help me welcome Sandra to the gallery today. Thank you.
In recognition of Yukon Invitational Swim Meet and Alexandra Gabor
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, we have had the odd unanimous agreement in this Legislature, and another point we often all agree on in our hallway discussions outside the Chamber is that there is no better place in the world to bring up your children than in the Yukon, and one of the tremendous opportunities available to them is the opportunities in sport.
On behalf of all members of the Legislature, I rise to pay tribute to young people, the competitors in the Yukon Invitational Swim Meet held this past weekend. Over 90 swimmers from the Fairbanks Midnight Sun Swim Team, the Haines Dolphins, the North American Indigenous Games, Special Olympics athletes and the Whitehorse Glacier Bears were in the pool this weekend achieving many individual personal bests. The swimmers, some as young as 6, all deserve our recognition. However, I would like to highlight one swimmer in particular: Alexandra Gabor. Alex swam the 1,500-metre freestyle event on Friday night in 17 minutes 26 seconds. The previous Canadian record set in 1983 for this event was 17 minutes 34 seconds - that's a full eight seconds smashed off a 20-year-old Canadian record for 12-and-under girls in this event.
This is Alexandra Gabor's third Canadian record; the previous two are in the 200-metre free and the 400-metre free. These are Canadian records achieved by Alex among tens of thousands of young swimmers throughout the country. It's a tremendous achievement of this young Yukoner and a testament to the hard work of Alex, her parents, coach Marek Poplawski, who has also been nationally recognized, and the Whitehorse Glacier Bears Swim Club.
On behalf of all members of the Legislature and Yukoners, I would like to offer our congratulations to Alexandra Gabor, and to all the Glacier Bear swimmers.
Speaker: Are there any further tributes?
Introduction of visitors.
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS
Mr. Hardy: I ask all members to join me in welcoming my wife, Louise Hardy.
Speaker: Are there any other introductions of visitors?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Speaker: Under the tabling of returns and documents I have for tabling the report of the Chief Electoral Officer on elections financing and political contributions for candidates and registered political parties during 2005.
Are there any further documents for tabling?
Mr. Cardiff: I have for tabling a document called the Workers' Bill of Rights, which I referred to in my tribute earlier.
Speaker: Are there any reports of committees?
Are there any petitions?
Are there any bills to be introduced?
Are there any notices of motion?
NOTICES OF MOTION
Mr. Mitchell: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that
(1) the Government of Yukon must give a higher priority to the implementation of land claims;
(2) the Government of Yukon must do a better job working with First Nation governments and the Government of Canada; and
THAT this House urges the Government of Yukon to create a new ministry responsible for the government-wide implementation of land claims to enhance government's ability to identify and resolve First Nation issues.
Mrs. Peter: Mr. Speaker, I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that
(1) the major oil spill on Alaska's North Slope this March has raised new concerns about the ability to develop petroleum reserves in the region without negatively affecting its lands, waters, plants, birds and animals;
(2) the new Conservative government has not yet taken a public stand on the need to protect the critical calving grounds of the Porcupine caribou herd within the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge; and
THAT this House urges the Government of Yukon to ask the new federal government to oppose drilling for oil and gas in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, which would do great harm to the critical calving grounds of the Porcupine caribou herd and only slightly reduce America's dependence on foreign oil and gas supplies.
I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that
(1) social conditions in rural Yukon communities are as challenging as those in Whitehorse;
(2) social work in rural communities is made more difficult by distance and lack of supportive non-government organizations; and
(3) attracting committed professional social workers in small communities is difficult; and
THAT this House urges the Government of Yukon to review its policies of employment of social workers in outlying communities with a view to hiring professional social workers in Old Crow and other rural communities where a need is demonstrated.
Speaker: Are there any further notices of motion?
Are there any bills to be introduced?
Is there a statement by a minister?
This then brings us to Question Period.
Question re: Budget estimates and spending
Mr. Mitchell: I have some questions for the Premier on the now outdated budget that we are debating this spring. The ink wasn't dry on the budget before the Premier announced that there would be new money for Dawson City. On Friday, we learned that number will be $4.3 million. The government is also assuming responsibility for untold millions to build the town a new sewage system, and the Premier also said the government will take over responsibility for the recreation centre. In addition to these unfunded commitments, the government recently announced a $6.25 million IOU to Yukon College for pensions, and there is an outstanding bill coming from the Yukon Hospital Corporation perhaps for millions more. This all adds up to millions of dollars in commitments that have been made by the government, and they are all off the books.
What is the total figure of the IOUs that are out there?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: I take exception to the leader of the official opposition making mention that we have IOUs. That is not the case, because, to start with, it would be inappropriate. Governments do not conduct their business with IOUs. Past governments, however, have made decisions that have created IOUs, such as the situation in Dawson, but certainly not this government. Furthermore, these are all elements of what is required for fiscal management. I think it's fair to say, Mr. Speaker, that the leader of the official opposition fails to recognize that is a fundamental part of governing. There is absolutely no question that the government is going to deal with the college's pension shortfall. There is no question that we are dealing with the Hospital Corporation's pension shortfall, as we have with other issues for government employee pensions. There is also no question that we are going to deal with the fiscal situation for Dawson City , and it will be, on an ongoing basis, part of the fiscal framework.
Mr. Mitchell: Mr. Speaker, there are two reasons that the Premier is keeping all these commitments off the books. One is that he can make them without having to pay for them. The other is that if he had put them all in the budget, the budget probably would not have balanced. The Yukon Party government has made several multi-million dollar announcements in the last few weeks that will mean long-term commitments of taxpayers' dollars. I'm asking for a complete list. There is $4.3 million for Dawson that we know about. There are millions more for assuming liability of the sewer projects and the recreational centre. There is $6.25 million to the college, as well. Taxpayers want to know how much all their unfunded commitments add up to. How many off-the-book commitments are there, and how much do they add up to?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Mr. Speaker, let's start with the $3.4 million for Dawson City that this government is going to immediately write off. This is a debt that is directly related to decision making by that member's party when in government and past governments. Of course it should not be a liability for the City of Dawson; nor should Dawson be encumbered with projects such as the failed arena project or a sewer project that is driven by court order. That's why the government has excluded those from the Dawson City fiscal framework. Furthermore, the member opposite, in all likelihood, realizes - at least I hope the member does - that there are no finite numbers on these projects. That's why the government has excluded them from Dawson 's fiscal framework. More to the point, we have gone through budget after budget in this House, showing all the variances that take place during a fiscal year, and I am very proud to say that this government sees clearly. It has the means. It has the financial position, and it has the fiscal management necessary to deal with these challenges not only today but long into the future.
Mr. Mitchell: This Premier likes to continually refer to everything as having been someone else's problem created by someone else, but we're three and a half years into the mandate of this government. I'm not the one here who's making these commitments. The Premier is, and he should just tell Yukoners how he intends to pay for them.
I'll ask the Premier a specific question about one of the many unfunded promises the government has made. The Premier announced on Friday that the government was going to take over both the recreation centre and the sewage treatment project in Dawson . These are each going to be multi-million-dollar projects. What is the financial liability the Yukon government is taking on? Is it $5 million? $10 million? Can the Premier give us a specific number or even a ballpark figure he's operating under?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Let me first begin with the fact that, if the member opposite is sensitive to Management Board minutes that are the result of the Yukon Liberal Party's time in government, that's not something I can help. This is not blame; this is ensuring Dawson City is not held liable or responsible for decisions that others have made, and that's what this government has done in immediately writing off that debt of $3.43 million.
Furthermore, the two projects the member speaks of are already projects that have expended millions of dollars and that's why Dawson is in the shape it's in - decision making by past governments that got us there. This government chose to stop that; this government put a trustee in place; this government conducted a forensic audit. By the way, Mr. Speaker, there's a criminal investigation going on as we speak, and it's this government that has come forward with the fiscal package for Dawson City that ensures that a new mayor and council, elected on or before June 15, can conduct the affairs of Dawson as they should be able to, with the tools necessary to build Dawson's future.
That's what we have done; we fixed the messes created by past governments.
Question re: Conflict of interest
Mr. Fairclough: My question is for the Acting Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources. Last weekend, the Association of Yukon Communities held its AGM in Watson Lake . Many of those in attendance had concerns regarding a land use policy for the territory. The minister sent by this government had to tell those assembled that he had been advised by the Conflicts Commissioner that he was in a position of conflict and that they would have to submit in writing their questions to the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources. Why didn't the government send a minister who was able to answer questions there?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: The minister responsible for the Association of Yukon Communities and for the Department of Community Services was in attendance, as he should have been.
As far as the questions, they are from the floor. If the member opposite thinks that any government in office is going to anticipate what questions might be asked of any given minister, I can clearly see the confusion that would result. We are a government that conducts our business on a broad basis, and the minister responsible for the Department of Energy, Mines and Resources was in the Klondike, where there is a great deal of mining activity happening right now, today, and that is his responsibility.
As far as the question, we all know that under the land claims process there is a land use planning initiative that we must abide by. That is happening in today's Yukon . As far as the southeast Yukon , there is no land claim. But that does not preclude this government from ensuring that responsible development can take place. There is no caveat through the claims process or final agreements that we cannot pursue development in a responsible way, in concurrence with conducting land use planning, which is happening today.
Mr. Fairclough: This government should have anticipated these types of questions coming up at AYC. They were told by the minister to submit their questions in writing to the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources. This is major.
The round table discussion with the minister ended approximately a half hour early due in part to the minister's inability to answer many of the questions from AYC members.
How many ministers do we have who are in a position of conflict? Can we have some indication of who is able to speak to what?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: I see the Member for Mayo-Tatchun, who has recently been recruited to join the official opposition, has been clearly advised on the direction the official opposition intends to take.
I would hope the members opposite recognize there is a conflicts commissioner who advises all members of this House on how they should conduct their affairs, given any personal matters they may have in relation to their duties, and that's exactly what this side of the House has been doing.
The member made a point of something major, and I agree that there is something major going on, and that's called Yukon's developing economy in the mining sector. Under the members opposite a few short years ago, we were lucky to receive $5 million to $6 million in investment. Today the projects are in excess of $100 million.
You know something else, Mr. Speaker? All those investments are happening on existing third party interests that were on the land base all along. The difference is we have a government in power today that has at least provided some semblance of security for investment to come back to this territory.
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Speaker, we also have ministers in conflict who can't answer questions from the public. We're asking for information from the members opposite, and they should have that information at their fingertips. Can the minister indicate when this government will stop ducking its responsibilities and place before all Yukon communities a land use policy so we can get on with the issues facing municipalities and those Yukoners who want to know what the rules are and whether they apply equally to all citizens?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Well, once again, the member opposite - and I'm going to be very patient with this - has made insinuations. The issue of conflict is a serious one, and the members on this side of the House who have conducted themselves in the manner that they have, have done so under the advice of the Conflicts Commissioner to ensure that there is no conflict, because this government, this side of the House, takes very seriously the station of office and the requirement for the highest ethical standards.
But going on, for the member's benefit, does the Land Use Act, the Quartz Mining Act, the Waters Act - do all these acts and regulatory regimes therein resonate with the members opposite? There is a tremendous amount of legal and regulatory overlay to ensure that we conduct ourselves appropriately in terms of making sure that there is responsible development. Over top of that, today in the Yukon there is land use planning and the YESAA regime. Yukon is in good shape to ensure not only that we can develop in a balanced and responsible way but conserve and protect Yukon's environment for future generations. That's what kind of leadership is required for this territory - a balanced approach so all can benefit.
Question re: Conflict of interest
Mr. Hardy: On Saturday I attended the annual convention of the Association of Yukon Communities in Watson Lake. Many of the delegates were stunned to hear the Minister of Community Services say he could not answer any questions about land development on the advice of the Conflicts Commissioner. Land development and land use conflicts are upper-most in the minds of many Yukon communities and many First Nations. The previous Liberal MLA wasn't able to get a satisfactory answer - at least it wasn't satisfactory to this side of the House - so if the minister was in a perceived conflict, why didn't the Premier send another minister to Watson Lake who could answer questions about this government's land development policy, because the members opposite knew that this would be one of the most important issues addressed at the Association of Yukon Communities?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: I think it's a little disconcerting that the leader of the third party would imply that the minister responsible for Community Services is somehow inferior and unable to carry out his duties. When the member opposite points to perceived conflict, the minister responsible is following the advice of the Conflicts Commissioner as he should.
Maybe the leader of the third party should recognize what is happening in today's Yukon . The issue of increased investment and interest in Yukon land base in many sectors is indicative of what is happening in our territory in terms of growth and a turnaround for the Yukon. As far as a land policy, there is one in many forms. Overriding it all is land use planning and the issue of YESAA, but if the member is referring to inside municipal boundaries, let me point out again the member has missed a very important factor, and that is the official city plan. Most communities, like Whitehorse, have one. I would submit, Mr. Speaker, that that is policy.
Mr. Hardy: It's amazing, the kind of answers - or non-answers - we get in here. It's the Premier who makes the Cabinet assignments. The Premier should have made sure someone was there to answer the questions from municipal politicians. That's a respect that should be paid to municipal politicians. On Friday, the Premier also acknowledged that another one of his Cabinet members has been advised by the Conflicts Commissioner not to speak about parts of his portfolio having to do with land. We have a major controversial change in land tenure for big game outfitters, but the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources can't talk because he has interests in an outfitting concession. What is going on over there? Why did the Premier assign responsibility for land issues to these two individuals when he knew their private interests would limit their ability to do their jobs?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Well, limit their ability? Let's talk about the minister responsible for Energy, Mines and Resources. For the first time in 30 years, there is drilling in the Yukon in the oil and gas sector; there is $5 million to $6 million in investment and mining, and a projection of over $100 million for this year. That's a pretty interesting example that I hope the member grasps.
Furthermore, this issue of respect for AYC - is that sending the minister responsible for Community Services is somehow an indication of disrespect for the Association of Yukon Communities? That's highly unlikely, Mr. Speaker. Furthermore, let us talk about this brand new policy that was transferred through devolution to this government - a file that the federal government had been working on for years, had inspected sites on existing concessions across the land base. This is not something that is brand new or something that changes the mosaic on Yukon 's land base. The footprint already existed. I can tell you one thing, Mr. Speaker, this government recognizes the value of the outfitting industry to this territory and to its fabric. The outfitting industry has to have some form of sanctity of tenure, and that's exactly what this policy does on existing footprints.
Mr. Hardy: It's pretty clear why a minister with a vested interest in outfitting shouldn't be involved in land policies affecting outfitters. In the case of the other minister, the situation isn't nearly as clear. The minister has a limited interest in one development in one part of one Yukon community, yet he can't talk about any land development in any part of any Yukon community. It doesn't make sense, does it?
How convenient for a Premier who loves to keep things out of the public eye - maybe that's the answer here. We have a better suggestion.
The Premier should shuffle his Cabinet to remove any possible conflicts. I can assure you that that's what we on this side of the House would do.
If the Premier isn't prepared to do that, will he at least ask his two Cabinet colleagues to table the advice they received from the Conflicts Commissioner so Yukon people have the benefit of the Conflict Commissioner's reasoning as to why they can't fulfill their ministerial duties in full?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Now that the leader of the newly adopted third party wants to talk about shuffling, I agree. The opposite side of the House has been shuffling steadily here over the last month. We have no intention of shuffling Cabinet because the ministers are doing too good a job. One example, one testimony of that, is how they follow the Conflicts Commissioner's advice to the letter.
My advice to the member opposite is this: stop shuffling, establish what you represent for this territory and let Yukoners know what you would do in leading this territory into its future. We already know what we're going to do as a government; we've shown it to Yukoners over the last three and a half years. We intend to build on that.
Question re: Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act review
Mr. Cardiff: Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the Minister of Highways and Public Works that he can answer. Once again, history is repeating itself with this government. On November 22, 2004, the Minister of Highways and Public Works told the House that he was planning a full-scale consultation on proposed changes to the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act. Three days earlier, the minister had announced his review on a local radio station. Well, Mr. Speaker, three days ago, we heard via the radio that the review has been scrapped.
Why has the minister now dropped this initiative?
Hon. Mr. Hart: The Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act serves two purposes. The act provides for access to information held by public bodies, and the act also provides for the protection of personal privacy. The Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act - or ATIPP, as it is known - attempts to strike a balance between access to government records and the protection of personal privacy. Many of the issues surrounding the ATIPP act are very complex and require significant planning and research time before legislative options can be presented to the stakeholders.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased, however, to inform you that the government is moving ahead on a number of non-legislative options at this time.
Mr. Cardiff: Mr. Speaker, here's what the minister said in November of 2004: “We are going out to consultation - full consultation. I repeat - full consultation.” That's what he said in November of 2004. The minister even said there were 23 items to be reviewed and he was looking forward to debating this issue in 2006.
Well, surprise, Mr. Speaker, it's 2006, but not consultation, not the review, not the debate. Why is the minister dragging his feet when he himself described the ATIPP act as being like Swiss cheese - full of holes?
Hon. Mr. Hart: As I previously mentioned, issues surrounding access to information are very complex. We are working on ways to make improvements to the act. There's a significant amount of planning and research work that must be completed before the options for legislative changes can be presented to stakeholders. At this time we're working on several non-legislative items, as I've indicated.
To this end, we're looking at making improvements on ensuring there's a more consistent service provided. We're reinforcing the principle of readily releasing information that is already in the public domain, instead of making applicants go through the ATIPP process; seeking input from internal and external stakeholders on other non-legislative options; and providing additional staffing to provide administrative and policy support in the ATIPP office.
Mr. Speaker, we're working to improve the act and this is exactly what Yukoners would like us to do.
Mr. Cardiff: It's not what the minister said he was going to do. That's not what he promised Yukoners he was going to do. The Yukon Privacy Commissioner didn't mince any words about the critical need to improve this act and to provide necessary resources. His report at the end of 2004 referred to a culture of secrecy within government. Last May the minister mentioned that other jurisdictions are reviewing their access to information legislation. At that time, he said he would like to sit and wait and see what comes out of the other jurisdictions. So we sit and wait. The media sits and waits. The public sits and waits.
Why has the minister failed to even get a start on the consultation process that he promised 17 months ago? Whose interests are being served by perpetuating a culture of secrecy?
Hon. Mr. Hart: Mr. Speaker, as I have said, there are many complex issues and significant planning and research that need to be done with the stakeholders in order to make legislative changes. I will admit to the member opposite that I indicated we were waiting for responses from other jurisdictions about the responses they were getting. The member well knows many jurisdictions are having difficulties with ATIPP legislation. Look at British Columbia, for example. They are going through a process where everybody who signs on the consultation has to write a letter saying they won't talk to anybody about what the consultation was about.
In essence, Mr. Speaker, we are going to look around at these other jurisdictions to see what comes out of it - hopefully we won't have to start from scratch again. In the making of the commissioner's report, he stated the secrecy generally in the form of government, so I refer to that particular aspect.
Question re: HIV/AIDS epidemic
Ms. Duncan: My question is for the Minister of Health and Social Services.
There have been several recent news stories reporting startling news about HIV and AIDS. Dr. Patricia Spittal, the lead researcher in a major new study into HIV/AIDS, has seen the AIDS epidemic erupt in Africa and is warning that all the elements are in place for a similar health crisis to explode in aboriginal populations throughout Canada. My question to the minister is this: is he aware of these news stories? Has he spoken with the chief medical officer of health about this potential health crisis?
Hon. Mr. Cathers: I thank the Member for Porter Creek South for her questions.
In answer to the member's question, I am not aware of the news story, but I am certainly aware of the issue and the potential for an epidemic of transmittable diseases such as AIDS. It is something we are concerned about, and I would welcome any comments that the member opposite may have on that. It is certainly an issue that I have reviewed and will continue to review with the department.
Ms. Duncan: Dr. Spittal, who works at the B.C. Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS said, “If not addressed aggressively in small reserves and rural areas, it is believed that the virus can potentially wipe out whole communities.” This is a very serious issue.
I would be happy to forward to the member opposite these news stories. Would he commit, in turn, to picking up the phone and meeting with the chief medical officer of health and others concerned and discussing these issues, and perhaps even speaking with his counterparts across the country on this very grave concern and warning issued by Dr. Spittal?
Hon. Mr. Cathers: In answer to the Member for Porter Creek South, certainly it is something I will be looking into. As I stated to her, I was not aware of the news stories. The issue related to communicable diseases, including blood-borne diseases, is something that I have reviewed with the chief medical officer of health and departmental staff, and had full briefings and discussions on those matters.
The issue of the news stories - as I said, I was not aware of them. We will have those discussions, and I would say to the member opposite that we are certainly aware of the potential for epidemics or outbreaks of communicable diseases. I will look into that and commit to having this discussion with officials and ask to sit down with the chief medical officer, and I would happy to get back to the member regarding any new information related to this.
I would also point out to the member opposite that, certainly, if there was an issue the department was gravely concerned about, or there was unexpected or new information, they would have raised it to my attention before this Question Period.
Ms. Duncan: Dr. Patricia Spittal is speaking out now in advance of the release of this study, because she is very concerned about it and sees it as an issue that has to be responded to very quickly. In fact, she has said that we have to hit it hard and fast. There has to be a response now. You don't wait for the bodies before you recognize there is an epidemic.
Mr. Speaker, this is a very important issue. While I appreciate that the minister has received his briefings, what I'd like to know is what is he going to do about it? What education initiatives are being undertaken by the department? Is he going to speak with the chief medical officer of health once he receives these news stories, and when might we expect a response from the minister that he is going to act and there will be education initiatives underway in the Yukon ?
Hon. Mr. Cathers: I would point out to the Member for Porter Creek South that there are education initiatives related to this, such as the campaign - the name is failing me at the moment - to encourage Yukoners to protect themselves and their partner in sexual activity with the usage of a condom, and the encouragement of those who engage in the very unsafe practice of injecting themselves with needles to ensure that, at the very least, they're using a new needle. We work both with the initiatives of the department and with groups such as Blood Ties Four Directions to provide a needle exchange; also through the auspices of the Outreach van, we provide that same service.
There are initiatives underway. I would not rule out the possibility of considering new initiatives and, as I stated to the Member for Porter Creek South, this is a matter where we have discussed the issues related to communicable diseases - myself, departmental staff and the chief medical officer - and I have not heard any concerns from them suggesting that this report has created any new information to cause us to believe there's a greater risk than previously thought. But I will commit to the member opposite that I'll be raising that issue and asking for their evaluation of this report.
Also for the member opposite, I would point out that it's probably very difficult to analyze a report until such time as that report has been seen.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed. We'll proceed to Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Hon. Mr. Cathers: I move that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Speaker: It has been moved by the government House leader that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Motion agreed to
Speaker leaves the Chair
COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
Chair: Order please. Committee of the Whole will now come to order. The matter before the Committee this afternoon is Bill No. 67, Safer Communities and Neighbourhoods Act.
Before we begin, do members wish a brief recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: We'll take a 15-minute recess.
Chair: Order please. Committee of the Whole will now come to order.
Bill No. 67 - Safer Communities and Neighbourhoods Act
Chair: We will begin today with Bill No. 67, Safer Communities and Neighbourhoods Act, and general debate.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Bill No. 67, Safer Communities and Neighbourhoods Act, is part of the Government of Yukon substance abuse action plan. Therefore, I will begin by talking about this plan briefly. It is important to seek understanding of the big picture and why the government feels this legislation is necessary in combating substance abuse in the Yukon.
The Yukon substance abuse action plan responds to the harms caused by alcohol and other drug abuse by offering Yukon-based solutions. It is informed by current research on substance use and abuse patterns in the territory and by input from front-line workers, community leaders and concerned citizens who attended the Yukon substance abuse summit in June 2005.
The key characteristics of the action plan are flexibility, sustainability and community involvement. The action plan must effectively address the diverse needs of the Yukon population, and therefore the programs and initiatives of the action plan reflect different models of prevention and intervention that are sensitive to culture, age and gender.
In addition, because there are significant health and social costs associated with substance abuse, the action plan provides a strong commitment to the reduction of legal and illegal substances that compromise the health and well-being of Yukoners.
The action plan will succeed to the extent that it has the active support of all sectors of the Yukon community. Delegates to the Yukon substance abuse summit recognized that substance abuse is intimately linked to unhealthy lifestyles that can be passed on intergenerationally. They described a range of problems associated with substance abuse that often have permanent consequences - illiteracy, fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, problems within schools, poor nutrition, sexual abuse and child abuse and neglect. People who misuse drugs and alcohol are often both the perpetrators of harm to others as well as victims of harm by others.
There is a strong link between alcohol and drug abuse and family violence. The public is particularly concerned about the use of crack cocaine and drug houses in residential neighbourhoods and small communities. These situations create significant unease, fear and distrust, in great part because of the addictive nature of crack cocaine, the volatile behaviour of people under its influence, the criminal elements involved in its sale and distribution, and the criminal acts engaged in to support that addiction, such as breaking and entering and stealing from family members.
I think another very serious drug that people have to be aware of nowadays is crystal meth. One only has to follow the life patterns of a person addicted to crystal meth to really understand the damage and harm that it can create in a society. The unfortunate part of all this is that the young people, the vulnerable, seem to be the ones who are targeted.
I would now like to talk about how traditional knowledge, values and beliefs support this legislation. For example, through the eyes of the Creator, everyone is equal. We must seek understanding of the dynamics that are involved with neighbourhoods being seized by people who are involved with selling drugs. Fear controls most people. There is a lot of fear of those who are involved in the drug trade, because it is clearly demonstrated right across the country that there is a lot of violence and severe physical damage done to individuals who resist people in the drug trade. So, there is a lot of fear.
Why do we need this law of general application? I just stated some of the reasons. Some people just do not respect law, not even the Creator's law. It's a very harsh environment where basically anything goes if you ever dare to resist some people's behaviours.
When we talk about seeking understanding, we must understand that these are man-made substances. The Creator never put those substances on this earth to be abused the way they are. These drugs and alcohol are all man-made, so man must take responsibility for whatever becomes of the abuses of those drugs.
It's vitally important that people understand that these alcohol and drugs are very addictive. People who fall into the traps of alcohol and drug abuse do have a disease. It's not something where a person can snap their fingers and immediately get rid of it. People who are addicted to these substances live a very difficult life. If there are children involved, it's almost a given that the children will have a difficult path through life.
We have to understand that they are poison to the spirit. They will kill the spirit. The spirit needs to be healthy. In our traditional talks, we talk a lot about the mental, spiritual, physical and emotional well-being of a person in order to be a whole person. You must look at each one of those and work on each one to become a healthy individual, one who will walk on this earth with good direction and make a good path.
When people become addicted to money, it becomes number one in their life. They do not care whom they destroy to get that money. So when we talk about the spirit, your spirit is like a flame. Alcohol and drugs will put that flame out, or it will diminish to the point where you will have very little spark.
However, the good thing to note about it is that the spirit can be revived, just like a flame. With the right additives to that flame, it can grow again. Your spirit is like that; it can rejuvenate. It can become strong again. You can become healthy.
Mr. Chair, we as a society must do everything possible to protect the spirits of everyone, especially our children and young adults. It's the most essential thing that we'll be able to do on our time on this earth - addressing these very destructive substances. Alcohol and drugs will and can destroy basically everything on this earth. Mr. Chair, I honestly believe that some of the drugs of today are going to be the epidemic of tomorrow. This crystal methamphetamine, which a lot of the dealers are trying to promote, is problematic because it is such a highly addictive drug. Young people will have no chance with that drug. Once addicted, the possibility of them being able to recover from it, I think, are going to be very minimal.
If we were to practice a custom - the Creator's law, traditional ceremonies - and worked the traditional medicine wheel, I believe that we quite possibly would not need laws like the safer communities and neighbourhoods legislation. The more that people get involved, the better chance we are going to have of dealing with this issue. It's a common phrase, “It takes a whole community to raise a child,” but I can honestly say to everyone who is listening today that it is going to take the whole Yukon Territory to deal with the drug issue. The drug scene is getting to a point that I have never witnessed in my 50 years plus here. I can anticipate from the behaviours and different activities going on in the territory today that they are not going to get any better either.
It is going to take everyone in this territory to get very active in order to save your children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren of tomorrow. There is a great fear in me when I see my young grandchildren today, wondering if they will be able to avoid some of the issues that we're discussing today. They have a long life ahead of them - they are young - and I know there is not always going to be somebody right there at the right time to give them some good advice. In fact, it will be the other way around. It will be people trying to persuade the young kids to get involved in this activity who are going to be plentiful.
It's a big money-making business and the only way I can visualize some kind of rest is if people don't tolerate it. The citizens of this territory will stand up and say to the drug dealers in this community and in the whole Yukon Territory that they are not welcome in this territory.
I want to thank all the staff who worked very diligently to get this bill prepared for this sitting. I also want to thank members of the opposition - both parties - for their sincere dedication for wanting to deal with this issue because, quite often, change does start in the political field.
I also want to thank all the RCMP for the work they do on the drug scene in the territory. I know they have a big job, and this will be another tool that will assist them in dealing with the drug issues within this territory.
Ms. Duncan: I'm pleased to rise in general debate on the Safer Communities and Neighbourhoods Act. I thank the minister for his opening comments.
Earlier when we began our sitting this afternoon, I noted that many of us have agreed there's really no better place in the whole world to bring up your children than the Yukon . We have tremendous opportunities available for our children - in music, in the arts, and I was particularly speaking of sports earlier this afternoon.
This legislation will help make the Yukon a better place for our children. I'm pleased to rise in support of it. I won't be lengthy in my questions. I do have a few questions for the minister.
Just as in the land claim agreements, we often note that we have to give life and meaning to those words. They aren't just words on paper. The same applies to the legislation we pass. It is more than what is on the paper. I would like to ask the minister if he can outline for us what sort of a time frame he sees for the implementation of the Safer Communities and Neighbourhoods Act. I believe it will be passed. It has been unanimously supported. The next step is proclamation.
It's a very important step, because there are many legislatures across the country where there are unproclaimed acts that have never come into force and effect. An example is the whistle-blower provisions in Ontario. They were introduced in 1993, but the act has never been proclaimed. They exist on paper and that's it.
Does the minister have an intended date for proclamation of this particular piece of legislation? Perhaps he could outline in his answer any additional details as to when and how this legislation is going to be implemented. I would appreciate that information.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I thank the member opposite for the question. The proclamation date really hasn't been discussed yet, but the implementation planning is in progress, and we are hoping to open the office in the fall of 2006.
Ms. Duncan: I appreciate that the minister doesn't yet have a proclamation date, as this will have to go through Cabinet. I presume it's on the agenda.
The minister said the office will be open in September, so I'd like to ask some questions about the director. This is a key position and it's very important to the implementation of the legislation. How is it intended for the director to be hired? Is this a Public Service Commission appointment or is the minister willing to examine any other options? I'll give the minister two suggestions.
When the Ombudsman was chosen, it was an interview selection process by three members of this Legislature, each representative of a different party in the House. It was a true all-party committee that selected the Ombudsman. It has also been known to happen in the past on deputy minister hires, for example, that a member of the private sector has been involved in the interview of candidates. In this instance, perhaps with this legislation, we might ask the RCMP for assistance in the interview of candidates for the director - that's if it's a Public Service Commission hire.
Could the minister outline for us what the government's intention and direction is on the hiring or putting into place the director - perhaps of appointment without competition? I would appreciate that information.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: In short, it will be a Public Service Commission appointment.
Ms. Duncan: I thank the minister for that information. Would the minister take under advisement my suggestion that we add a representative of the RCMP to the interview panel, and/or perhaps a community representative, as they have been very supportive of this legislation? The director is critical to the success of the legislation, so I would ask the minister to take that suggestion back to the Public Service Commission in hiring the director. Will the minister do that?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Yes, it will be a recommendation that we can take forward.
Ms. Duncan: Thank you. I appreciate the minister's response to that suggestion.
I would ask the minister's indulgence - I've gone through the legislation, but I don't see in here any sort of annual reporting mechanism. Have I missed it, or is it in the legislation? If it's not in the legislation, could the minister outline if that is a consideration or if that idea of an annual reporting by the director to the Legislature has been discussed?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Mr. Chair, the member opposite is correct. It's not in the legislation, but, yes, the department will consider review and evaluation options, including the possibility for this information to be made available on the Department of Justice Web site.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I'd ask the minister to consider this idea: we haven't included in the legislation - the minister has just confirmed this - a requirement for annual reporting to the Legislature. It isn't included in this legislation. However, in the Ombudsman Act and in other pieces of legislation - the Lottery Commission comes to mind, and the victims of crime and prevention trust is another example. All of those submit an annual report that's tabled in this Legislature. That's an important piece of information, not only for members of the Legislature, but for the public as well. It provides an opportunity to report, in the case of the Ombudsman, on the number of investigations open, the number of investigations that have, for one reason or another, gone on for several years, the number of files that have been able to be closed. In the case of the Lottery Commission, it's a very important tool because that's the only opportunity the public has to see that kind of information. So I can understand that it's not included in this first cut, if you will, or first attempt at legislation. It is an important issue. I wonder if the minister could just outline if there have been discussions, if the idea of an annual report was discussed by the members of the group that drafted this, and if there is such a requirement in Saskatchewan or Manitoba - I don't have their legislation at my fingertips, but I'm wondering if they have a requirement in their legislation - and if it was discussed at the drafting stage.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Apparently the other two provinces don't have anything legislated for reviews; however, I believe the government can commit to doing an annual report on this legislation and how it's operating. I also believe it's critical to review, just to ensure all the benefits from this type of legislation can be noted and tracked and monitored. If, in the future, something needs to be looked at again, then it's possible to look at the reports, review them and say that maybe this section should be beefed up a little bit.
It's good practice to do reviews on any new initiative that comes into government. I believe, whether it's this government or another, you're compelled to look at how this legislation is working and monitor it.
Ms. Duncan: I want to be clear with the minister that I'm talking about something other than an annual review. I spoke about a review when I was responding in my second reading speech. I appreciate that there should be a review. At the time, I also said, “Let's not legislate it, because there's never agreement as to how a review should be done.” I agree with the minister that it should be done.
What I'm talking about is a specific report on this legislation. One of the problems I could see with it is that we have to protect the anonymity of complainants, so it's going to be a carefully constructed report, and we would have to do some work with the Ombudsman.
I would lobby for two things: (1) an annual report to this Legislature; and (2) an ongoing review, perhaps with the neighbourhood associations. I'm specifically thinking of the ones in Whitehorse that wrote in support of this bill. We should be able to go back to them in two years' time with the RCMP and ask, “Is the legislation working?”
I want to be clear with the minister on the record that I'm lobbying for both those things with respect to this legislation.
I am lobbying for annual reporting and then a subsequent review perhaps in 18 months or two years' time that involves the - dare I say it - stakeholders. It's a bit of an overused word, but I mean those who have clearly worked with government and parties on this legislation.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Apparently the real success of this act in the other provinces is the confidentiality around issues that are reported. I would tend to believe that any kind of report that is done with regard to different uses of this act would involve a lot of statistical figures, for example. I don't believe that we would be able to put in any report that Don Joe made this complaint and go right into specific detail of everything that happened.
Any kind of report would have to be very well crafted and the reviews would be very beneficial in ensuring that the act is doing what it was meant to do.
Ms. Duncan: I just have a follow-up question and a couple follow-up points on the reporting. One of the issues, of course, is that Yukon is such a small place that we couldn't outline geographical distribution or anything like that. We would have to be very mindful of the report in that respect because we want to protect the anonymity. In that regard, the Yukon has different ombudsman and different freedom-of-information and protection-of-privacy legislation than does Saskatchewan and Manitoba. Did the legislative drafting committee go through our other two pieces of legislation to ensure its conformity with those two pieces of legislation, in particular - especially the freedom-of-information and protection-of-privacy legislation that we have in the Yukon ? Were they cross-referenced in drafting this legislation?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Mr. Chair, to ensure that I don't give an incorrect answer to the member opposite, I would have to get back to her with the answer to that question.
Ms. Duncan: I should have corrected myself. In Yukon we have a freedom of information act. We have the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act, which is the correct reference in the Yukon - it's the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act and the Ombudsman Act. I want to make sure that we have cross-referenced with those acts when we are doing the legislative drafting. If the minister wants to get back to me in a written form on that particular answer, that's fine with me.
Lastly, I would like to verify that the minister said the director would be in place in the fall of 2006. Given that we had hail on the weekend in some parts of the Yukon and snow as recently as the weekend before, we really don't know when spring is going to come, let alone summer or fall. Does the minister have more of a definitive date? Fall could be as early as August and as late as November. Could we pick a month in there when he anticipates the office will be open and up and running?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: One thing I love about the weather is that nobody can predict what it's going to do. However, we can predict the fall here. It's from September, October and November. So it's going to be in one of those months, for sure.
Mr. Cardiff: I only would like to give our support, as well, to this piece of legislation. It is something that is very dear to our hearts, and we believe that this will make communities much safer and that it provides the appropriate tools to community associations, to community members, to the RCMP. It gives them the tools to deal with some areas of real concern to people in all communities of the Yukon.
I only have a few questions. When we got the briefing - and I would like to thank the officials for the briefing, because I think the briefing was done so well that I don't have very many questions. The Member for Porter Creek South has talked about dates for proclamation and implementation. We know it's going to happen in one of three months this year. But I was wondering about the budget. The figures we were given include a $340,000 estimate for the start-up. That was supposed to be for 1.5 person-years annually, but there were no figures available for the annual operations and the capital needs of the office of the director in order for this to be implemented.
This was also raised during second reading debate by me and the Member for Porter Creek South. It's about the need for equipment. This office will be required to travel throughout the Yukon. Video surveillance equipment or listening devices will cost money, and I'm wondering if the minister has a figure of what it will actually cost to get this unit up and running.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: We do not have the exact cost for what will be required for this legislation, but the department is working out all the details on the cost at the present time.
Mr. Cardiff: It's the same answer we got the last time we asked the question, so I imagine that if we've heard it that many times, it must be true.
I would just like to take the opportunity, while I'm on my feet, to lend my voice to the idea of annual reporting. I think it's important for the public and for us - if we're going to pass this legislation and it will come into force - to monitor how it's doing and ensure it meets the needs.
I only have one other question for the minister in general debate.
I suppose I could ask this in lines - under section 3, “Actions of Director after receiving a complaint”, subsection 3(4) states, “The Director shall notify the complainant in writing if he or she decides not to act on a complaint or not to continue acting.” That's fine in my mind.
What I don't understand is, “The Director is not required to give reasons for the decision.” To me, if a person has taken the time and has concerns about something that's going on in their community or neighbourhood, and they file a complaint and talk to the director, go through the process of filing a complaint, and the director notifies them - I'm not saying he needs to give detailed information, but he should be able to give some general reasons why he's not proceeding or acting on the complaint.
Can the minister give the rationale as to why the director is not required to give reasons for the decision?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I believe it falls along the line of avoiding the possible risk of an ongoing investigation. The director can give reasons but the more detailed you get, the more risk you would have of a breach in confidentiality. All of those protect the person who is registering a complaint.
Mr. Cardiff: I accept that answer; it makes sense. I just wanted some clarification there.
During the briefing I asked about it and during second reading I mentioned the requirement for regulations under this act. We were told there would be minimal regulations. In order for this act to come into effect, if there are regulations, I believe they would also have to be adopted in Cabinet. I am just wondering two things - one is, what stage are we at with those regulations? The second is - in section 2, “Complaint to Director”, in subsection 2(2), it says, “A complaint must be made in a form and manner acceptable to the Director and include the information that the Director requires.”
I am just wondering, will there actually be a complaint form that lays all that out for people who want to lay a complaint about some activity that is happening in their neighbourhood? Is that going to be part of the regulations?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: In answer to the member opposite, the regulations are still being developed, but they will be ready before the act comes into force.
With regard to a complaint form, Mr. Chair, I believe the director will develop the forms geared to the complaint that the individual may be making.
Mr. Fairclough: I have one question, and I apologize if the minister has already gone through this explanation. In regard to the applications for an order, I would like to know whether there are checks and balances in place to ensure that the system is not abused.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Mr. Chair, the discretion will more or less lie with the director. The complaint will be thoroughly investigated. It will ensure that the complaint is not made just because of a grudge that somebody has with another person. Before there is any action taken, it will have to be totally confirmed that there is an issue.
Mr. Fairclough: I thank the minister for that clarification. I was told that it could be under section 19 here. I will have a look at it. I do believe that this is one area that some of the communities may very well be interested in - the proper processes to be followed. We have always asked those types of questions here in this House.
I would like to know if there are penalties for those who make frivolous complaints over and over again. I wonder what process they would go through and whether or not there would be a penalty. This goes back to the checks and balances, and this is for clarification for those who are interested in the process. I feel that, living in a small community, this could happen - even from outside members of the community.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: To the best of our knowledge, Mr. Chair, the frivolous complaints have not been an issue in Manitoba and Saskatchewan . The legislation does not have provisions making it an offence when a complainant submits a frivolous complaint. However, that's not to say that, if one chooses to repeat that kind of an activity, they are at risk of having a criminal offence laid against them for repeated frivolous complaints. If they're just doing it to abuse the system, then there might be other avenues open to deal with that issue.
Mr. Fairclough: What the minister said is not reflected in legislation, though. I just went over, briefly, section 19 on this, and it does say that there could be a cost to those who are making those frivolous complaints. So that sort of answers some of my questions that I have been asking of the minister. But it still doesn't take care of those who seem to have constant problems and are bringing these complaints forward and could fall into this crack - that they would be labelled as bringing forward frivolous complaints when, in fact, it could be very much a legitimate complaint.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: The member opposite is correct. No portion of this section would deal with penalties for frivolous complaints. However, we must look for a balance here also. We certainly do not want to discourage people from making the complaint either. It will be part of the director's responsibilities to ensure that if frivolous complaints are repeatedly coming from one person, it will be looked into more closely to see what is really happening there. It is critically important to find that balance where people are not going to be afraid to make a complaint when they need to.
Mr. Mitchell: I want to preface my remarks, which will be fairly brief because I have basically put on the record most of my thoughts on this legislation during second reading. As well, I want to ask some questions. I want to basically commend all members of this Legislature for moving forward so expeditiously with this legislation. The Member for Whitehorse Centre, who was extremely active in first bringing the idea of this legislation forward, deserves all our thanks for that, as does the minister, for responding by taking such quick action to move forward. Finally, the officials deserve thanks for keeping their noses to the grindstone, so to speak, to bring it forward in a timely manner so we could deal with it in this session.
We are certainly supportive of it.
I do have some questions. My colleague, the Member for Porter Creek South, asked some of them and I heard some of the answers. I understand the minister, in terms of issuing an annual report - or a report every 18 months, or what-have-you - indicated it was an important part of this legislation to maintain confidentiality, and I certainly understand that. However, while protecting the identities of individuals, it should still be possible to issue a report that gives numbers of times that the act had been brought into use and how the results had been, and whether or not it seemed to alleviate the problem or just relocated it - that sort of information. I do recognize, in the case of some of the smaller communities, we have to be very sensitive to the fact that even statistical information can be interpreted to reveal personal information. In terms of the larger communities and certainly Whitehorse, that wouldn't be the case.
I would ask if the minister might be able to commit to issuing some kind of report so we can better understand how the legislation is working and if we need to make changes to it.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Yes, the department will consider review and evaluation options, including the possibility for this information to be made available on the Department of Justice Web site. Again, I believe that all parties in the House have had some input into this. In the future, I would not discourage any member from giving some recommendations they feel might be of benefit to this act.
Mr. Mitchell: I thank the minister for those comments, and I think that the sort of debate that we have had on this legislation is, in fact, the tone of debate that I believe the public expects and deserves from us. It's unfortunate that the first 30 minutes of the afternoon perhaps is the view that the public has of us, and not perhaps the balance of the day when the tone is different and the rhetoric is usually absent and we actually get some good work done.
Now, I did have a couple of specific concerns about the legislation. There are clauses in the legislation - for example, in section 60(1), where it says, “The owner of a building that is the subject of a closure order shall, on demand from the Director, pay to the Government of Yukon the cost of removing all fortifications and closing the building in the amount certified by the Director.” I raised this issue during my second reading speech, and I did discuss it with officials during the briefing. But I'm still looking for some answers to the fact that I think there are, in many instances, landlords and owners who are unwitting and unwilling victims of drug dealers and other perpetrators of criminal activity. While it's quite simple perhaps to feel good about directing the owner of a building to pay the cost of removing fortifications, for example, when we know or believe that the owner is a willing participant, I've personally spoken to at least one owner who found that his trust in a tenant had been abused and, in fact, his investment was put at great risk and his own personal reputation was also at risk because he's the owner of record of a residence. So I'm wondering if there's any thought about how to differentiate between willing and unwilling perpetrators, I guess you would say, in terms of covering these costs?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I would like to bring to the attention of the member opposite that fortifications are, to the best of my knowledge, a permanent structure. It is highly unlikely that someone who is renting a unit is going to go through all that to fortify the establishment. If they did, I believe they may run into problems with the owner. Mr. Chair, this is something that will be taken under advisement, though, and which can be monitored to ensure that it is not being abused.
Mr. Mitchell: I thank the minister at least for responding and saying that it is something that will be considered and monitored. Similarly, I did mention this in my previous remarks, but I am wondering if the minister has had time to consider how legal aid might become available to owners and landlords who are not perpetrators but end up involved in court actions - and are probably all too happy to have activity to close down illicit use of their properties - but nevertheless will incur costs. Is that something that would be naturally available to them?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I would like all members to keep in mind that this legislation will be new to the Yukon and, quite possibly, things will transpire where the government of the day will have to have another look at different sections. But, when it comes to legal aid, we also have to keep in mind that legal aid is there for those individuals who really can't afford legal counsel, per se. I would tend to believe that most people who own property and houses may not fit under that criterion.
However, that's not to say that the legal aid department doesn't watch - and they always watch for needs to ensure that needs are met. I'm quite confident that, if legal aid witnessed something with this legislation where there may be a need to apply to legal aid, they would make sure that somebody is not being represented because they don't have the funds to do so.
Mr. Mitchell: Just for the minister's benefit, I'll provide a theoretical example of the sort of situation I'm thinking of. One would think that property owners - by the time you can make that kind of a significant investment - would be able to hire lawyers from the private sector, but for example, if someone bought a second residence as a rental property and rented it out but unfortunately they did a poor job of screening their tenants or they were misled by prospective tenants, one of the effects might be - although I'm speaking theoretically, I'm aware of one such situation that actually did occur - that there might be misuse of the property but the arranged-for rent might not be forthcoming. So you have a situation where the revenue stream that is theoretically supporting the ownership of the property could disappear; therefore, the person might not have the resources left to deal with all the legal ramifications. That's the example I would bring forward as something that might happen.
Again, it's less a question than a comment. I think if the minister is open to the idea, even property owners who appear to have means may find themselves extended, and that would be sufficient. That's all I was trying to achieve.
With that, most of the other questions I had were raised by my colleagues in our caucus, as well as by the Member for Mount Lorne , so I don't have any further questions at this time.
I too commend this legislation to the House.
Chair: Is there any further general debate?
Hearing none, we will proceed with line-by-line examination.
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Clause 16 agreed to
On Clause 17
Clause 17 agreed to
On Clause 18
Clause 18 agreed to
On Clause 19
Clause 19 agreed to
On Clause 20
Clause 20 agreed to
On Clause 21
Clause 21 agreed to
On Clause 22
Clause 22 agreed to
On Clause 23
Clause 23 agreed to
On Clause 24
Clause 24 agreed to
On Clause 25
Clause 25 agreed to
On Clause 26
Clause 26 agreed to
On Clause 27
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I would like to move an amendment regarding Clause 27(1)(e). The text of the amendment is being distributed to members. As members can see, the amendment is to the French text of that clause. The reason for the amendment is to make the French text consistent with the English. I would ask the unanimous consent of the Committee to proceed with debate on the amendment and have the text of the amendment entered into Hansard as if it had been read in the usual way.
Unanimous consent re amendment to Bill No. 67
Chair: Mr. Edzerza has requested the unanimous consent of the Committee to proceed with debate on the amendment and have the text of the amendment entered into Hansard as if it had been read in the usual way. Is there unanimous consent?
All Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: Unanimous consent has been granted.
It has been moved by Mr. Edzerza
THAT Bill No. 67, entitled Safer Communities and Neighbourhoods Act, be amended in clause 27 at page 21 by deleting paragraph 27(1)(e) in the French text and substituting for it:
“(e) communiquer, à sa discrétion, des renseignements obtenus en vertu de l'aliné a a), b) ou c) et des documents pré parés en vertu de l'alinéa d) à une personne, à un tribunal, à un tribunal administratif, à un organisme public, à un minist ère, à une agence gouvernementale, au gouvernement d'une Premi ère nation, à une municipalité, à une administration locale au à un organisme chargé de l'application de la loi.”
Amendment agreed to
Clause 27 agreed to as amended
On Clause 28
Clause 28 agreed to
On Clause 29
Clause 29 agreed to
On Clause 30
Clause 30 agreed to
On Clause 31
Clause 31 agreed to
On Clause 32
Clause 32 agreed to
On Clause 33
Clause 33 agreed to
On Clause 34
Clause 34 agreed to
On Clause 35
Clause 35 agreed to
On Clause 36
Clause 36 agreed to
On Clause 37
Clause 37 agreed to
On Clause 38
Clause 38 agreed to
On Clause 39
Clause 39 agreed to
On Clause 40
Clause 40 agreed to
On Clause 41
Clause 41 agreed to
On Clause 42
Clause 42 agreed to
On Clause 43
Clause 43 agreed to
On Clause 44
Clause 44 agreed to
On Clause 45
Clause 45 agreed to
On Clause 46
Clause 46 agreed to
On Clause 47
Clause 47 agreed to
On Clause 48
Clause 48 agreed to
On Clause 49
Clause 49 agreed to
On Clause 50
Clause 50 agreed to
On Clause 51
Clause 51 agreed to
On Clause 52
Clause 52 agreed to
On Clause 53
Clause 53 agreed to
On Clause 54
Clause 54 agreed to
On Clause 55
Clause 55 agreed to
On Clause 56
Clause 56 agreed to
On Clause 57
Clause 57 agreed to
On Clause 58
Clause 58 agreed to
On Clause 59
Clause 59 agreed to
On Clause 60
Clause 60 agreed to
On Clause 61
Clause 61 agreed to
On Clause 62
Clause 62 agreed to
On Clause 63
Clause 63 agreed to
On Clause 64
Clause 64 agreed to
On Clause 65
Clause 65 agreed to
On Clause 66
Clause 66 agreed to
On Clause 67
Clause 67 agreed to
Title agreed to
Chair: That concludes the examination of Bill No. 67, Safer Communities and Neighbourhoods Act.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I move that Bill No. 67 be reported with amendment.
Chair: It has been moved by Mr. Edzerza that Bill No. 67, Safer Communities and Neighbourhoods Act, be reported with amendment.
Motion agreed to
Chair: The Chair understands we'll be moving on to Bill No. 20, First Appropriation Act, 2006-07, Executive Council Office. There has been a request for a few-minute recess to switch folks over. We will have a 10-minute recess.
Chair: Order please. Committee of the Whole will now come to order. We will continue with Bill No. 20, First Appropriation Act, 2006-07, Vote 2, Executive Council Office.
Bill No. 20 - First Appropriation Act, 2006-07 - continued
Executive Council Office
Hon. Mr. Fentie: I'm very pleased to introduce the Executive Council Office budget for 2006-07. The Executive Council Office budget forecasts overall operation and maintenance spending of $20,243,000 and capital spending of $794,000. As members are aware, the budget for the Executive Council Office includes monies for several areas where activities are undertaken by various departments across the government. The total of these corporate funds in the operation and maintenance budget amounts to $8,165,000, representing 40 percent of the total operation and maintenance budget. These program areas in operation and maintenance include land claims implementation, devolution implementation, YESAA implementation and implementation of the substance abuse action plan, which is a new program in 2006-07.
In capital, $198,000, representing 24 percent of the budget, is for initiatives related to land claims activities in other departments. The key changes in the operation and maintenance budget for Executive Council Office for 2006-07 include the following: new funding for YESAA implementation from Canada and funding from Canada for boards and councils associated with Kwanlin Dun and Carcross-Tagish First Nation final agreements; resizing the development assessment branch after YESAA implementation to reflect the transfer of responsibility for conducting environmental assessments from Government of Yukon to the YESAA process, either by the board's executive committee or by district offices; and inclusion of new funding in the amount of $2 million for initiatives that will be focused on the four substance abuse pillars of harm reduction, prevention and education, treatment, and enforcement.
The budget allocation for the land claims and implementation secretariat is $8,311,000, representing approximately 43 percent of the total budget. The planned expenditures clearly indicate that this government is focused on working with First Nation governments on a number of fronts: implementing land claim agreements, building government-to-government relationships with First Nations, and supporting preservation and revitalization of First Nation languages. This funding will support activities across government related to implementation of land claims, negotiations around program and service transfers, and development of stronger relationships between our respective governments.
The allocation for intergovernmental relations is $1,048,000 to carry out their work of developing positive working relationships with other governments. This year we will see major work on implementation of the northern strategy, as we work with our northern territorial partners toward a common vision for a sustainable north. I am pleased to inform members that this summer, Yukon will host the diplomatic forum - the first time this event has been held north of the 60th parallel. This event will give heads of mission the opportunity to expand their network of Canadians contacts and to gain a better understanding of the issues facing Yukon and Canada's north. The diplomatic forum provides a unique opportunity for the Canadian government and heads of mission to discuss Canadian policies while also examining provincial and territorial interests.
Mr. Chair, while a majority of the devolution work is completed, activities continue in a number of departments related to the transfer of programs from Canada . The core budget for 2006-07 remains unchanged from last year to support this work at $648,000. This year represents year 4 of five designated as transitional years following conclusion of the devolution transfer agreement in 2003. All the funds voted in this line are managed corporately by Executive Council Office and distributed to line departments for approved work during the fiscal year.
Major work continues in record management relating to devolved programs, both in departments and at the Yukon Archives. Monies have been allocated in 2006-07 to support the successor resource legislation working group involving First Nations and type 2 mine-site planning, which also involves Yukon First Nations.
I am pleased to confirm that Executive Council Office will continue to support a number of youth organizations providing services directly to Yukon youth with this budget. Three principal organizations - Bringing Youth Toward Equality, Youth of Today Society and the Boys and Girls Club of Whitehorse - will each receive contribution funding in the amount of $110,000 this year. As well, the francophone youth organization, Comit é Espoir Jeunesse - I hope I have done justice to that particular pronunciation - will receive a contribution of $25,000 to support their activities - focusing specifically on youth in our active francophone community. This was a new era of support in 2005-06, and we are pleased to continue this support in the coming year.
In addition, the Youth Directorate supports eight, smaller rural communities to offer youth activities during the summer with a contribution of $5,000 each upon application from said community.
Seventy-six percent of the total budget for the Youth Directorate in O&M directly supports the work of organizations in the communities with youth, and in addition to direct financial support, the Youth Directorate organizes the youth leadership training program and provides support to communities in the development of local youth councils, as well as the territorial event supporting bringing youth from across the territory together to discuss issues of common concern. In Whitehorse , the Youth Directorate provides direct support to a network of 30 youth service providers who share information, provide updates and develop partnerships for youth initiatives.
The very valuable work of the stats branch will continue this year with a combination of corporate research providing statistical indicators used by all departments as well as numerous projects supporting the mandates and strategic plans of individual departments. With the federal census taking place in 2006, our territorial Bureau of Statistics will be involved in verifying records prepared by Canada in order to identify information shortages.
This detailed verification work can have direct impacts on the financial position of the Government of Yukon, an important focus in the latter part of the year.
The capital budget for Executive Council Office is being directed toward three principal areas: $114,000 under corporate services is for office equipment, furniture, computer equipment and systems development for all operational units in the department, plus the Cabinet offices and the Office of the Commissioner; $480,000 under land claims and implementation; $290,000 for First Nation support agreements; and $190,000 for various implementation projects across government.
Also, $200,000 under youth strategy initiatives is for the winter activities program, which provides contributions directly to communities to deliver youth leadership or recreational activities to youth. Mr. Chair, the reduction in forecast spending in capital is directly related to the land development costs of $3,141,000 for the Kwanlin Dun and Carcross-Tagish First Nations' expense last year, reflected in the 2005-06 forecast.
It is with these comments, Mr. Chair, that I would stand down and look forward to answering any questions the members may have in general debate with respect to the budget and, of course, line-by-line for the Executive Council Office.
Mr. Mitchell: I certainly agree with one thing that the minister has said, which is that perhaps the most important aspect of this department has to do with land claims and implementation and the land claims and implementation secretariat - $8.7 million - and the minister said some 43 percent of the operation and maintenance budget should reflect that importance.
But in particular, in terms of addressing the responsibility of relating to First Nations, we are concerned as to whether or not we are maintaining a healthy working relationship in a day-to-day basis on day-to-day matters. Any such relationship needs to be built on respect and confidence. Confidence is earned over a period of time where trust is extended and where respect is the order of the day. I am concerned that our day-to-day working relationship with the First Nation community is not as healthy as it should be.
We see and hear on almost a regular basis one First Nation leader or another challenging this government on matters that seem to spell anything but a relationship built on respect and confidence. Just recently the Chief of the Kwanlin Dun First Nation voiced some very strong criticisms of the Premier. We see communities that are beginning to look toward drawing down their rights to education, which certainly is their right to do. If they are doing so out of a desire to see positive improvements, none of us should be criticizing that. But if it's done out of frustration over a deteriorating reality, then that is a concern.
Those are some of the concerns we have. We see continuous concerns, conflicts and disagreements over land dispositions. I know some of these matters are being referred to the courts. I would hope we could find a way, in terms of addressing the spirit and intent of the land claims and the implementation process, not to always have to be viewing things in a strictly legalistic manner where it pits neighbour against neighbour and First Nation community against the Government of Yukon in court disputes. That should always be the last resort and not the first option.
If you don't have clear policies, then you invite dissention and controversy over misunderstandings and interpretations, or perhaps misinterpretations. That's why today we introduced a motion that we think might go a long way toward renewing and extending that bond of trust, by putting a greater emphasis on this - as opposed to the land claims and implementation secretariat being part of ECO, looking at it as being perhaps its own ministry. Therefore, we might have a more cross-government, even-handed approach to these things.
Those are some of our concerns.
In looking at some of these areas, what have we seen recently? We saw the Kwanlin Dun First Nation officially withdraw from discussions on revamping the Children's Act. They were unhappy about things that were being done. We saw the acting chair of the Aboriginal Pipeline Coalition speak up and say that, for the most part, the Government of Yukon was trying to get them to join a pipeline commission. They said no because they didn't see the government was truly representing their issues in that and that their issues might be sublimated to other issues.
Then we saw the Northern Tutchone Council assembly actually advising the Government of Yukon that it would no longer take part in the Yukon forum, which is the very forum we hoped would address many of these issues. We saw the Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in coming forward to say they were going to intervene, and they did, in terms of Water Board hearings on the proposed bridge across the Yukon River. Again, these First Nations have the right to do that. They have the right to do interventions, but perhaps if we had sufficient consultation and a better communication, these issues could be resolved short of the final legal processes.
We saw the Kaska chiefs speaking to the fact that they were outraged about the proposed new disposition for oil and gas, the new way of doing it, without first having consultation on changing that way. There wasn't public consultation; there wasn't consultation with First Nations on a government-to-government basis.
The minister then responded by saying he doesn't consult with First Nations, that the officials do that. In point of fact, I think First Nation leaders are looking to see the Premier do just that - to consult with First Nations.
To the best of my understanding - and the minister could correct me if I am wrong - the Kwanlin Dun First Nation hasn't signed on to participate in the Yukon forum. If not, why not? Why are we having this lack of participation by one of the largest First Nations in Yukon ?
Just last week, the Chief of Kwanlin Dun had this to say: “We think it's a clear message to us that they're not representing our interests. That's the other point. The Premier holds out that he speaks on behalf of Yukon First Nations; he only speaks on behalf of certain Yukon First Nations, not all Yukon First Nations. He always holds out that he has a great working relationship with First Nations, which is absolutely misleading.”
Chair: Order please. I will remind the member that he cannot do indirectly what he can't do directly. To make a comment that another member is deliberately misleading is contrary to our Standing Orders. When citing another's notes, he may paraphrase but still must remain within the Standing Orders.
Mr. Mitchell: I correct that statement and say, “which is absolutely disappointing” rather than the previous words. Would that be acceptable? The tone of what was being said was a disappointment.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
I think there is certainly room for improvement.
I have some specific questions. On the Yukon forum, I am wondering if the minister could provide us with an update in terms of what was on the agenda for the last meeting on April 3 and perhaps what has been accomplished on that.
I will let the minister respond and perhaps we will do this question by question.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Well, the leader of the official opposition went into a long dissertation on many things. It is pointless of responding or rebutting them because they simply are not within the realm of what it is the government is doing. Therefore, I will focus on what the government is, in fact, doing with First Nations. That is essential to the territory because it is in keeping with our commitments in the election, in partnership, and the plan has been unfolding and evolving since that time.
The member makes the comment that a relationship is based on trust. Yes - and many more things. In today's Yukon, a government-to-government relationship is based on trust, respect, recognition of jurisdiction, and collaboration in areas of mutual concern and interest.
Those are some of the elements of this evolving and growing and improving relationship between Yukon First Nations, their governments and the Yukon government given the status of where we are at with land claims in this territory after 30 long years of land claim negotiations.
We have been very successful on a number of fronts that are important because it shows clearly and provides the evidence that that partnership is indeed taking place. It is no small wonder why, when things like the Children's Act review, education reform and correction reform take place, we have formed partnerships. We have formed a partnership on a railway feasibility study. We continue to resource the Aboriginal Pipeline Coalition, which represents, for now, First Nations on the pipeline corridor that we all know exists, but we also are, as the member obviously doesn't understand, a public government who must represent the broader public interest, and that includes all First Nations in the Yukon . That is the process we would conduct because any regulatory assessment under YESAA would require that we do exactly that.
Furthermore, our interest is in maximizing benefits for Yukoners, diminishing the impacts that we may face environmentally or socially, and ensuring that we have an expedited project that will lend itself, or contribute to the project overall, providing regulatory certainty and working with our neighbours - Alaska, British Columbia and Alberta - in partnering and strategizing and creating a pipeline strategy and plan so that we can work better and more effectively with Canada, who is going to be the decision maker on what regulatory regime would apply.
It goes on to where we are sharing in developing our economy - including an economic agreement in north Yukon with First Nations there - how we are ensuring that the First Nations and corporate community are coming together. There are many examples of that, whether it be Teck Cominco in the southeast Yukon, what is going on at Minto today, the activities in other mine sites that have the participation of First Nations, the partnership that was created in the Kotaneelee to drill the first gas well in the last 30 years on Yukon land base - another partnership that was definitely a positive one considering what had transpired with somewhere between $20 million and $30 million invested here on Yukon soil.
That also includes the northern strategy and the sharing of investment through joint planning, which the Yukon forum is the mechanism for, and the targeted investment program - once again, another example. It is this government that managed to conclude the issue of Fishing Branch, in which we set the boundaries and actually implemented an implementation plan. This was in the hands of the member opposite's government that failed to get anywhere with this because of a very counterproductive relationship with First Nations. The same holds true with Tombstone. We have set the boundaries for Tombstone with OIC and are working collaboratively now with Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in First Nation on finalizing the management plan for Tombstone . We've also reserved or protected the land base for Kusawa park. We've also, as a government coming into office, had to deal with memorandums of understanding - not concluded land claims, by the way - that have the Yukon government do a tremendous amount of work. And here's where the land claims and implementation secretariat deserves a lot of credit - not something the member opposite is promoting, of furthering the government renewal process that the former Liberal government conducted, throwing the corporate structure of the Yukon government totally upside-down and into disarray at a time when our economic fortunes were very bleak, eradicating the Department of Economic Development, which no longer had any purpose within the corporate structure of government or direction and no support from the executive arm of government, which was then the Liberal Party government.
It also reflects this member's adoption of those policies by his comments here and his so-called motion that he tabled today. So, there are a lot of statements made, but we, as a government, will continue to work on this ever-improving relationship. The most recent forum we had, once again, was unanimous in agreement that we should forge ahead with our implementation framework for the northern strategy and also for the targeted investment program - formerly known as the economic development fund. Of course, we are also working very closely with First Nations on the nine-year review and the new federal mandate, which must be constructed for the implementation of land claims and self-government agreements in the territory. We also share tax room and income tax with the First Nations. We share royalties under YOGA.
Mr. Chair, these are but a few of the many examples of the change for the better between the Yukon government and Yukon First Nations governments. There will always be disagreement, which is exactly why governments must represent their citizens' interests with every possible option and tool available. We seek clarity in court on certain items, and this is one of those tools. Those who choose to avail themselves of that process have the right to do so. In that process, the government will present what it has done, in conjunction with land claims and the agreements that we have signed. We will not deviate from our obligations or responsibilities, and I'm sure that Yukon First Nations will not deviate from theirs. Collectively, we intend to ensure that Canada does not deviate from its roles, responsibilities and obligations under land claims and self-government in the territory.
Much of what has transpired over the last three and a half years in this particular area is important because it has lent itself to more certainty. When the member talks about the spirit and intent of agreements and relationships, we have countless examples of what that means under this government's watch, not by talking about it here in the Assembly, but by actually doing it with First Nations out there in Yukon communities and across this territory.
We are extremely encouraged in how the relationship has developed and evolved but, more importantly, we're very encouraged at how many of the self-governing First Nations today are evolving and advancing on behalf of their citizens, in dealing with their citizens' interests, and that definitely bodes well for the future of the territory. Essentially, the land claim itself was about Yukon 's future, the collective nature of our approach that is essential and the claims were for the benefit of all concerned.
There's much more to do and a lot of work ahead, and it can only be done with a relationship that is fostered by governments with vision, commitment and plans, recognizing each other's jurisdiction, refusing to deviate from roles and responsibilities, regardless of the issue, allowing due process to take place, not interfering and not trying to find resolution in some knee-jerk reaction because it becomes the issue of the day. That's to the credit of departments and government, of the First Nations and their officials, and of Yukon government officials, ministers and all who are involved in this area. Things have certainly progressed and we intend to continue that progression as we go forward.
As I pointed out, the Yukon forum the member asked about was all about our joint implementation framework - not one we dictated to First Nations. It is one jointly developed by First Nation governments with the Yukon government. There again is another example of a relationship built on trust, respect, recognition of jurisdiction, dedication and commitment, collectively to Yukon and its future.
Mr. Mitchell: I certainly enjoyed the minister's - I'm not sure I would say “lecture”, but his desire to present a tutorial on the interests of public government versus First Nation interests. I think, on this side of the House, we are well aware that the Government of Yukon is responsible for public government, but the issue at hand was some comments about concerns about relations with First Nations. As far as the motion that we tabled earlier today, it was to the contrary of looking to throw government into disarray; it was quite the opposite. It was looking at elevating the secretariat and providing additional resources - not eviscerating but elevating. It certainly wasn't meant to throw anything into disarray but rather to place increased emphasis on it.
As the minister will probably agree, in this new era we are not focused so much on negotiating land claims, although we still have three outstanding, but the land claims Yukoners have focused on for so many years and that all governments have worked over the years to achieve together with First Nations are just the doorway. Perhaps too often Yukoners have focused on it like a checklist - when we settle land claims, everything will be great and we will all move forward again. It's sort of like getting hung up on your college entrance exams and saying, if I could just do well on the college entrance exams, then life would be great.
Well, the whole point of the exam is to actually then go out and get an education, and we're now entering the era of implementation. That is the important aspect where [power outage occurs].
Was that one of those loose squirrels? I'm not sure. There was a slight dimming there.
They move forward with their own responsible government, and hopefully we can all build a better Yukon based on that.
The minister did make some comments regarding - finally, when he got to the question - an update on the Yukon forum, and he said it had to do with join implementation agreements, and he made some reference to the northern strategy, trust funds and the prior northern economic development funds. I'm wondering whether he can give us some information. I believe there is some $10 million this year and $15 million next year and $15 million the year after that in the northern strategy. Has the Premier, together with First Nations, come up with some priorities for this funding? Does he have some information that he can provide us so that we'll have a better understanding of where we're heading?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: The priorities are based on what Canada required as the objectives for the northern strategy. There are seven of them. I won't be able to list them verbatim, but I can go over a number of them.
We have to meet these objectives, because that's the condition for us to enter into this partnership with Canada on the northern strategy. Those objectives include culture, for example, economic development, infrastructure, science and research - for instance, climate change - community development and investment. Those are generic examples of the objectives we must meet.
As far as the implementation framework, which is something we have agreed to with First Nations, that framework simply allows both governments - public and First Nation - to conduct their affairs with respect to the northern strategy trust so we meet the objectives Canada demands.
Furthermore, it's done through a joint body, where we have two First Nation members on the committee - it's like an oversight committee, if you will - and two Yukon government members. It's a joint working body that will report to the forum, to the governments, to the principals and to the elected people of government who are ultimately tasked with making the decision. It's all about meeting the objectives Canada laid out, and I'm very pleased to say that, through the Yukon forum, we were able to work with First Nation governments to develop this joint implementation plan.
Mr. Mitchell: I know the minister, after discussing it further with officials, may come up with more details he could provide, and I look forward to that.
The minister mentioned climate change as one of the objectives. When I attended the Association of Yukon Communities annual general meeting this past weekend in the minister's home town of Watson Lake, one of the ideas brought forward by one of the representatives there - which I believe was going to be forwarded to the government, but probably hasn't been sent yet - was that a number of the municipalities thought that there was value in the participation that they were enjoying in the One-Tonne Challenge. This is a program that the current federal government did not see fit to carry forward.
The Association of Yukon Communities representatives talked about asking if the Government of Yukon might be willing to partner with the communities so that a Yukon-based one-tonne challenge can be created. It can be called something else if the government likes another term that doesn't bear the connotations of former federal governments. The minister mentioned climate change, and I wonder if the minister might think some of the money that's in this trust fund might go toward some of these kinds of programs. I wonder if he has any thoughts on that.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Actually, the member makes a good point. There is a very real possibility that some of these things with respect to climate change definitely fit into two of the objectives, depending on what the initiative may be. Those two are environmental protection and research and science.
I think we should go back a bit to this One-Tonne Challenge and other programs that are under review now by the federal government.
We as a government are going to monitor very closely what the federal government is doing about that. I can understand that they want to review these programs because I believe that evidence shows that, over the course of time, many of these programs had been implemented and significant monies invested, and Canada 's emission factor actually increased. Obviously there might be a problem here. Furthermore, I think this review is going to flesh out in detail what has been working and what hasn't. Certainly the federal government has indicated clearly that they will be, through their Minister of Environment, in short order coming forward with their plan for addressing global warming and climate change and emissions therein with respect to Canada's role in that regard. One of the things Yukon government is doing already, though, outside of our green energy programs and other efficiencies that we are certainly seeking, is looking into matters like the beetle kill. I think something that we all have to recognize is that the massive infestation of spruce bark beetle in the southwest Yukon, which is, as I understand it, the largest infestation on the continent, is now increasing Yukon's output of carbon because the dead trees are releasing the carbon that they have stored over the course of that forest's lifetime. So our work with the Department of Energy, Mines and Resources, Champagne and Aishihik First Nations and the federal government is targeting how to address to some degree this problem, whether we can get economic return out of it, come up with some adaptation or mitigation - all this is part of lending itself to addressing the issue.
But for us in the Yukon , research and science must also include the issue of adaptation because the majority of determinants or contributors that are causing this phenomenon globally - which are having significant and, in some cases, severe impact in the north - are coming from the global community, not the Yukon Territory. We, though, are experiencing these impacts. Therefore, it is reasonable to consider that work on adaptation measures is very important because we have to work through a time period where the global community, more and more, must reduce the emissions and contributing factors creating this phenomenon. But it's also true that the phenomenon of climate change has been part of this planet of ours - third rock from the sun, it is - since its inception or beginnings.
I'm not a scientist; I am merely taking my lead from all available information and scientists have clearly articulated for quite some time now that climate change has happened before. The new occurrence is the level at which man - the human factor - is accelerating or changing how that cycle has progressed over the life of our planet.
There is so much to this that it is hardly reasonable to think that our northern strategy is going to be sufficient to get us to where we have to be. But it's a good start, and that is why, again, in partnership, Yukon First Nation governments and the Yukon government have clearly committed to ensuring this is but a first instalment of this overall initiative in addressing the north in governance, environmental protection, economic development, research and science, and ensuring we have healthy and sustainable communities.
Mr. Mitchell: I think the minister mentioned he thought that, under the One-Tonne Challenge, emissions had actually increased and that things had become worse. Just to correct the record, my understanding is it is not necessarily under the One-Tonne Challenge, because it hasn't been in effect for that long, but rather there has been the assertion that since Canada became a signatory to the Kyoto Accord, Canada 's emissions have increased. That doesn't necessarily mean that being a participant of the Kyoto Accord was a bad thing; rather, it was insufficient. We don't know what would have happened had Canada not been a signatory to the Kyoto Accord. I don't think it was specifically under the One-Tonne Challenge that that occurred.
I agree with the minister that these are global issues. There is only one atmosphere and one planet. Those slash lines at the 60th parallel and elsewhere don't extend into the heavens. We all have to recognize that we are part of a global community and it is everyone's problem. I would be a bit concerned about the suggestion that we don't have much effect because we are so small, that it is really other people. By association, we could say that there are only 30,000 of us and we really don't have much impact, and other countries could say that there are only a few million of us, and so on and so forth, until everyone just points the finger at the biggest offender. Really, the corollary to what the minister is saying is that we all have to assume responsibility for our own actions.
People move in and out of the Yukon. We all have to do whatever we can do, even if it is only one small part, to have some effect, and I think that's why the municipalities and their representatives at Association of Yukon Communities were saying that they would like to see a program move forward. The minister did say it was a possibility and I appreciate that.
A question that I would ask the minister is this: the new money was announced a little over a week ago and will be announced formally in tomorrow's federal budget, but since the minister did sort of pre-announce it - presumably it was based upon good information for housing. Does the minister have any knowledge of when we might get it and how much would be flowing in what period of time and how the decisions will be made together with First Nations? Since the minister has made reference to being the public government - obviously it isn't only a decision to be made together with First Nations because I believe that housing money was not specifically only First Nations targeted money, although we know that a great majority of the substandard housing may be within First Nation communities in Yukon. Has the minister received any indication from his communications with the Prime Minister as to whether this $3.3 billion is instead of the $5.1 billion that was anticipated in the Kelowna accord, or is this new and additional money and does he expect that some form of funding of the Kelowna accord will also be occurring?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Before the Premier answers, I listened to some of the previous debate here, and I think it's important that I put some things on the record with regard to Kwanlin Dun. The member opposite would like the public out there to believe that Kwanlin Dun has had no invitations - no consultation whatsoever. However, I would like to correct the record by stating that this government has, basically, really gone out of its way to involve Kwanlin Dun with several initiatives within government.
And I believe it is no secret that partnerships are very important and valuable. Collaboration - I know we have sent written invitations to Kwanlin Dun with regard to the Children's Act review, and it is very important for Kwanlin Dun, because it's the largest First Nation in the territory, right in the City of Whitehorse. This has always been an issue, and it dates back many, many years. I know the first time I did advocacy work on behalf of Kwanlin Dun members who were having difficulty with their children being taken into care, dates back to 1980. So, this was an issue 25 or 26 years ago.
I was very disappointed that Kwanlin Dun refused to be a part of the Children's Act review because this is critical - very critical. Again, the invitation was there, but it was refused. I think everyone would have to agree that you can make offers, and it's up to the one who's getting the offer to find the will to be able to move and be involved in that area.
I heard several concerns from our First Nation members about the boycott of the Children's Act review. They were all very concerned that, at the end of the day, there may be a new Children's Act put in place without any input from the Kwanlin Dun and without the consent of all the membership. This is critical. It is very important that we do, as a First Nation, get involved with the things that really affect our citizens, families and children.
Another example is the Education Act reform. Again, this is a very important undertaking. I believe that it's instrumental in creating unity among the people in the territory - native and non-native alike. It is critical to have everyone in the territory working in conjunction with each other, especially when it comes to education. That is not to say that First Nations do not have the authority to draw down on education; they do. However, to say that the Kwanlin Dun has been ignored on all these issues is not totally accurate. There were letters written to the Chief of Kwanlin Dun. There was a letter from the chief, which was answered promptly - to assist in the whole process according to their wishes.
So again, the Education Act reform is very important. It's a process that I believe has the potential to keep everyone involved with education in the territory. I stated before and I'll state again: I don't believe that the Yukon has a population to have five or six different schools. The amount of capital it would take to run these different schools - I don't believe that we would be able to do it. It would be very difficult to take down education.
I think one has to really be 100-percent positive that it's going to be a definite gain.
Then when we talk about gain, are we going to diminish the education system of other people? These are questions that have never been answered, and I think there has to be a lot more discussion on this area.
Another area we can go into is justice reform. Again, First Nations have the largest representation in the justice system. We need to be involved. Everyone should be involved, but again, it's the choice of each First Nation. If you choose not to, that's your choice. I just wanted it to be known on the floor of the Legislature that there have been invitations to the Kwanlin Dun First Nation. I happen to be a member of the First Nation. The majority of my family members are beneficiaries of the First Nation claim. As a First Nation, we want to be involved in these big programs that are going to affect us as a nation.
We want to be able to say no, we don't want our members just thrown into jail and locked up over and over and over. We want there to be intervention. We need to be able to feel comfortable that our voices are being heard.
The invitation has been there. I don't know what else to say, Mr. Chair. When it comes to important programs like this, it is up to the leadership in Kwanlin Dun to be able to come and have the discussions needed. If they choose not to, then there is no mechanism to force anybody or any government to have discussions around these issues. I just wanted to make sure that was put on the record.
Chair: We have reached the time for our afternoon recess. Do members wish a recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: We will take a 15-minute recess.
Chair: Order please. Committee of the Whole will now come to order. We will continue with Bill No. 20, First Appropriation Act, 2006-07, and Vote 2, Executive Council Office.
Mr. Mitchell: Thank you to the Minister of Education for his comments. I am a little perplexed because I don't believe I made any reference to the Government of Yukon not attempting to consult with the Kwanlin Dun First Nation, but rather that the Chief of the Kwanlin Dun First Nation - it was the chief who was speaking, not me - was expressing concerns. I presume that the chief speaks for the Kwanlin Dun First Nation. I certainly don't and the minister certainly doesn't. I presume the Minister of Education isn't speaking on behalf of the whole First Nation either, but rather that the chief would be the person who would have the authority to do so.
The comment I made earlier to which he referred was just that it is a concern when we hear First Nation chiefs and leaders indicating their concerns about the Government of Yukon. They are not my concerns.
For the Premier's benefit, I will just remind him that I was asking whether he could provide some clarity on the relationship between the presumably new money - the $3.3 billion to the provinces and territories - that we expect to see in the budget tomorrow. But, having made the announcement in a press conference last week - presumably he has good information that led him to do that - and its relationship to the former commitment of the Government of Canada - granted, it was a commitment made before an election, but there has been indication by the new minister that, while he didn't have the details worked out yet about the funding, he remained committed to the cause of the Kelowna agreement. Perhaps he could answer the question at this point.
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: Mr. Chair, I would like to pick up on a couple of things. Before I forget, we all anxiously await the budget tomorrow. I believe that the announcement the member opposite was referring to was actually made by the Globe and Mail. God knows we can always trust what the media has to say. I would rather wait and see to confirm from the federal government budget exactly what is happening with that and what the terms of reference are. I am sure that the member opposite recognizes that any such sum of money for any program always comes with some kind of caveat or restriction, although the Member for Mount Lorne still struggles with the definition of “affordable housing” and the fact that it is a federal program and therefore comes with federal requirements.
We on this side certainly want to wait and see what comes out of the budget announcements. To backtrack a bit to the Member for Copperbelt's comments on climate change, this is an area that I find very fascinating. For many years, scientifically, it was not known whether or not something was really happening. There are ebbs and flows and ups and downs in any kind of a cycle, be it weather or anything else. It's always difficult to make that determination. Our memory only goes back, in some cases, decades or centuries in knowledge of what's happening. We get more and more information with better scientific understanding of the more distant past, which helps us begin to understand that perhaps there is something to this. I think I would have to agree with that part of the scientific community that says that weather is changing and there is climate change.
I would agree that when these things change and shift, whether natural or not, the biggest effect of it is felt in the north. We catch the greatest effect, but we're not necessarily the largest cause. That's where people get very, very confused with this.
I certainly agree with the member opposite that we should do our part. We should take it seriously. We should get involved, whether it's the One-Tonne Challenge or whether it's anything else, but we should certainly not take it lightly - no pun intended, of course. But the reality is that we're a very small population. While we receive the largest effect of climate change, we probably have the least of anything to do with it. That is our frustration.
To give you an example, Mr. Chair, a couple of years ago, there was a document that was produced by a committee that stated that 4.7 percent of the greenhouse gas emissions in the Yukon were due to the gas wells in the Kotaneelee. That struck me as very strange, when I saw that report, because of course the gas comes out and goes in a pipe straight out of the territory. So is that what is potentially generated but not really generated, or is it a mistake? I asked that committee to go back and take a closer look at it, because it made no sense to me whatsoever. It took a couple months to finally get the information, which was frustrating enough. But when information finally came out, it turned out that the committee in the Yukon was only utilizing statistics generated by the federal government and other agencies, and it was determined that it was not 4.7 but something like .0047. They missed the decimal points by two places.
In fact, to go out and check the well, you put out more greenhouse gas than the wells would produce in that year. What made it even more humorous was the person who actually wrote that original report admitted that he had never in fact been to the Yukon and was simply extrapolating from wells in totally different areas under totally different circumstances. It's very easy to play with some of these statistics and think that we have a lot to do with it - in reality, we don't. Again, that doesn't mean we shouldn't be getting involved in it, support it, downsize cars and use energy efficiency where possible, or support the green-home program that Yukon Housing Corporation promotes - better insulation and on and on and on. The reality is, we don't have a lot to do with it, and that's very difficult to deal with.
One of the things that we hope to utilize in the future - and it will come through a variety of different departments when it does come - is a cold-climate cluster or research cluster. A cluster where you take an area of expertise, or an area of research, create a facility and bring in experts from the field - government, private sector, this sort of thing - and utilize that expertise in that area. There is one in Regina. There is one in a number of other places, but there isn't one in the north.
One area we would like to look at - certainly involving climate change and the things the member opposite was talking about - would be to look at cold-climate technology. People always forget that, while we are trying to keep the cold out, you go a couple of thousand miles south and they are trying to keep the cold in. It is the same technology - the same problem - be it a better design of windows, better insulation or better anything like that. The National Research Council has been in support of this. We don't have the financial part of the support yet, but we are coming. We do have a group in the Yukon working on this at the present time and we are, I believe, looking for a director of this cold-climate cluster. I believe we are down to three potential applicants.
We're looking forward to getting someone on the ground and starting to develop that in terms of climate change, and how that will impact on the housing problem.
We have huge problems with housing here, Mr. Chair. We know that. There are a number of different ways that this came about. Getting the building materials to fly-in communities such as Old Crow - and you get into the Northwest Territories and Nunavut and the high Arctic - becomes horribly, horribly expensive.
I'm very happy to be hosting the minister responsible for housing from the Northwest Territories in the next couple of days and spending some time chatting about common problems with that. But these are constant challenges.
If the $50 million is, in fact, in the budget, as announced by the Globe and Mail, if we have the ability to use it in a variety of different ways, then certainly these are the areas we have to look at. But we've made no plans at this point, because we don't know what the requirements will be and what the stipulations from the federal government will be.
To clarify this for the member opposite, one of the problems we have with the housing stock is that a conscious decision was made - I can't say whether it was good or bad - over the last decade or two by the previous federal Liberal government to begin to cut health care funding and to put that burden on to territories and provinces. As I say, Mr. Chair, I can't say if that was a good idea or a bad idea. I tend to think it was fairly stupid, but only time will tell what the reality is with that.
But by putting more and more problems and more and more financial responsibility on to the territories and provinces, we had to make cuts in other areas, and one of the areas that all provinces and territories cut was the construction of housing - particularly remote housing and social housing. So we now have a large housing stock out there that is not well-constructed - to be polite - and that has problems and difficulties. These are potentially things that we're going to have to look at with the financial package the member opposite is talking about.
Is that repair? Is it purchase? Is it construction of new homes? All of that is part of the package that we are discussing. Part of that certainly might have to be repaired, because due to that decision of the federal Liberal government, we got a good reduction in the federal deficit. A lot of good things happened with that. I can't prejudge that but I can certainly give a personal opinion that I don't think it was a wise decision. Guess what, Mr. Chair? Now, all of a sudden, there are big surpluses. Now we can turn around and say, gosh, we've got these surpluses; we can put more into health care. Nobody mentions that it came out in the first place. It was our money to start with. So, of course there are large surpluses. Looking at that history, I can't say whether that was a good or bad decision. As I say, I leave history to judge that.
If, in fact, we have $50 million to work with, we will do that in consultation with other orders of government - the First Nation governments - we will do it at the Yukon forum, we will bring it to a common discussion, with one caveat: that is, clearly at the present time, the federal government has responsibility for First Nation housing. I think that no one would dispute that. So, we always have to look at what sort of precedent is going to be set. If the territorial government, if any provincial government, is to take over First Nation housing and take over that responsibility, you had better believe that we ain't ever going to get rid of that puppy. We know that.
We are going to have to do this in a way that certainly keeps the federal government, of whatever stripe, in the discussion and at the table to look after that. But there are creative ways to do that and I have every faith that working with the First Nation governments and working with the Yukon forum, there is a mechanism to do that. I have no doubt in my mind about that.
We hope to have better announcements once the federal budget is tabled tomorrow and once people have had a chance to chew on it a bit, so to speak, and come up with some ways of utilizing it. We are pleased to receive the money. We are pleased that $200 million goes to Nunavut. They really do have the biggest need. In discussions with Minister Simailak in Nunavut , they are as desperate as we are, compared to some of the southern regions. They are that far ahead of us. The distribution would appear to be good. We look forward to coming to some reasonable conclusions as to how that money will be spent.
Mr. Mitchell: I never cease to be fascinated by the run-on sentences and interesting logical connections that the minister responsible for the Yukon Housing Corporation can string together. I know that he is passionate about his portfolios and likes to take any opportunity to speak about his responsibilities.
I fully expected to hear some quotations from Lewis Carroll, perhaps Alice in Wonderland or Through the Looking-Glass at any moment. I know it was going through my mind, because what was down was up and up was down, and everything seemed to be quite backward.
I would respond to the Economic Development minister's comments by reminding him that it wasn't the article in the Globe and Mail, which we all read, but rather it was the Premier who called the news conference. Presumably, he doesn't call a news conference just because he opens up the Globe and Mail or Maclean's magazine or any other journal or newspaper, and finds what he reads to be noteworthy but rather because he has information of importance to relay to Yukoners.
We were relying on the Premier to have some good information regarding the $50 million in housing the minister responsible for Yukon Housing Corporation referred to, and the total of $52.6 million that was pre-announced last week by the Finance minister. I don't think you can have it both ways, Mr. Chair. You can't say we know nothing, let's wait for the budget to be announced by the federal Finance minister if, the week before, you're issuing statements to the media in some detail about it.
To go back to the question I asked - and I never know who will be popping up to answer, but I will address it to the minister responsible for Executive Council Office because I thought that was the department we were discussing today. I know, Mr. Chair, I saw you looking at the budget with great fascination to see why we've wandered off in this direction.
To bring it back, does the minister have anything he can clarify with us as to the Kelowna commitments? I know he attended down there and took the Grand Chief with him. He seemed to be quite supportive of what was going on and quite pleased when he came back that there was good news coming. The funding announced last week - are they separate funds or is one in lieu of some of the other? Can he answer that question?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Let me first point out with respect to the wandering the member has brought forward. It is general debate in Committee of the Whole and all individuals in this House have the right to engage in the debate, regardless of department. I always encourage our members on this side of the House to do so. As we all know, within the corporate structure of Yukon government, the Executive Council Office oversees virtually all departments within that structure. In many cases, the debate that is forthcoming from the members opposite wanders considerably across the corporate structure of government, issue by issue, statement by statement.
The member also got into issues of quotes, and I would hope that the member doesn't want to bring up recent history, but I will point out that when it comes to quotes, the member opposite has been quoting things in this Legislature, as we all know. One of the quotes came from a letter from the Ombudsman, but only a partial sentence was quoted, which created a great problem for a citizen of the territory and many others. These are not the kinds of quotes this government participates in or involves itself in. The Globe and Mail article - who knows where it came from, and I could care less where it came from. That's a given. We made an announcement last week based on the fact that we know that there is going to be a trust fund set up for northern housing. We know that to be a fact. The trust fund for northern housing totals $300 million. It's even a part of a bill, called Bill C-48. We were sensitive to the federal government's processes and, of course, the tabling of a budget is part of those processes; however, there is no reason why we could not announce to Yukoners the fact that this housing trust had been set up and that we were going to get a portion of it. That's exactly what we did. As far as questions with respect to what this means to Kelowna and other matters, that should be something directed to the federal government. What we're dealing with here is obvious. There is a recognition and commitment to close the gaps with respect to issues faced by First Nations in the Yukon . One of them is the gap in housing. This investment is certainly a great step forward in addressing that.
But as the minister responsible for housing pointed out, this area is not an area that any provincial or territorial government is going to occupy. Housing for aboriginal Canadians is the direct responsibility and obligation of the federal government and will continue to be. What we're going to do is work in partnership with the federal government so that we can demonstrate to them that, in the Yukon, we are going to jointly proceed with First Nations, we are going to ensure that affordable housing is available, and we're going to do it in a manner that is contrary to the member opposite's position that, with First Nations, we don't work in a relationship of respect and trust and so on.
Again, we are demonstrating that we are going to do exactly that, and we are going to do that through the Yukon forum, which is legislated through the Co-operation in Governance Act. It ensures that we conduct ourselves on a government-to-government level that is meaningful - if you look at the agreement that gave rise to the Co-operation in Governance Act, it is about mutual respect and trust. It is about “by agreement” with Yukon and Yukon First Nation governments, and it is about recognition of each other's jurisdiction. But it is also clearly recognizing the value and the merit in a collaborative approach by removing the barriers between the First Nation governments and the Yukon government, and in doing so, we create a much more cost-effective, constructive form of governance for the whole territory and all its citizens.
But I don't think we should get into quotes of any kind here with the member opposite. We would not want to start to articulate factually what's in Hansard these days. But what we'd like to do is move ahead with the member on the Executive Council Office, in matters pertinent to the department.
Obviously this housing trust is not something that would fall within the realm of the Executive Council Office; the Yukon forum does, but housing is not something that the Executive Council Office is mandated to deal with or build or anything of the sort.
With that said, Mr. Chair, we look upon this as an opportunity - a tremendous opportunity - to deal with some immediate needs in the Yukon, and that is the issue of housing and how it relates to all Yukon communities. Yes, First Nations in all likelihood have some of the most pressing needs in their communities. We understand that, and that is why we will jointly work with Yukon First Nations on this trust. We will also ensure that both Yukon First Nations and the Yukon government engage with Canada on what they are going to do to complement this tremendous opportunity in the northern housing trust on a go-forward basis, because the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development has that responsibility. They have existing programs. One of the first questions we will ask is how those existing programs and the resources that go with them relate to the northern housing trust on an ongoing basis.
Mr. Chair, the Executive Council Office is up for debate. The wanderings are only relative to the statements and questions being asked by the leader of the official opposition, who has been busy recruiting incumbent MLAs - working very hard at it - but forgetting about what it is in terms of the business of governing, the vision and planning and what we stand for. These are all important - at least on this side of the House, Yukoners know what we stand for, and many Yukoners across the territory are experiencing what that vision and those principles and that plan is all about.
We are yet to experience the recruitment of incumbent MLAs. We don't even have trade deadlines or drafts in government. I guess that was the only option the member had. There was no draft available and no trades available. Recruitment was the only choice - so be it.
We are very pleased to see the Liberal Party moving rapidly to the left of the political spectrum in adopting the views of those recruited members. It certainly leaves the New Democrats in this territory standing firm and, in all likelihood, they still represent official opposition status. We can't ignore the Member for Klondike , who is very much in opposition - with himself and all others.
With that, I will stand down on my dissertation.
Mr. Mitchell: I think the Premier had one statement that was spot on, and that was that he presented a dissertation. It is interesting. I would remind the Premier of some of his own words, which were that one cannot have it both ways. I am not certain what happened when we asked the question about the Kelowna funding - which this minister is responsible for, and it was this minister who went to Kelowna to help negotiate the agreements. If he recalls this anywhere in the perambulating dissertation, the question was about whether or not he felt that the agreement he was so proud of just last fall was still going to be in effect.
That was where the question came from, but we're clearly not going to get an answer. There's probably not much point in pursuing it, because we won't get answers. As far as the debate ranging free and wide, I believe earlier in the Premier's dissertation, I think - was that the word he used? I'm not certain if he used “dissertation”, but in any case I believe it was he who said that we're in general debate and he encouraged all members to participate. Certainly, his Minister of Economic Development, who is also responsible for the Housing Corporation, eagerly jumped in to make it even more free-ranging than anyone had anticipated it would be. So perhaps we'll look at some other areas.
Let's ask about ANWR, Mr. Chair. That falls within this minister's purview. He mentioned last week that he had lobbied the Governor of Alaska - I believe he said he had done so, so excessively and so convincingly, that he was fearful that the governor would fall into a heap upon the floor. I think it was sort of a Wizard-of-Oz kind of scenario of just perhaps melting. Perhaps that would be the effect of global warming as he collapsed. Since the Governor of Alaska has embarked upon looking for funding for a new $3-million public relations campaign in Alaska , I'm wondering if the minister has had an opportunity to call the governor, who hopefully is not in a heap on the floor, and again express his concerns on behalf of Yukoners, as he indicated a little while ago. He expects First Nation leaders to express concerns about the issues important to their citizens. He refers to “public government”, and I know this is an issue that many, many Yukoners - certainly none more than the Gwich'in, but not only the Gwich'in - are concerned about.
Has he contacted Alaska and the new Prime Minister to reinforce the Government of Yukon's position and express his concerns and look for alliance in expressing those concerns?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: We've gone far beyond that. We have articulated this matter to the Governor of Alaska on an ongoing basis. We have brought this matter before the President of the United States in a discussion with the president himself. We have presented this at the national press gallery in Washington. Recently in Anchorage, Alaska , we articulated this issue to the media, with the governor standing right beside me, Mr. Chair.
We have recently raised this matter with the new Prime Minister, not only in correspondence but at the northern premiers meeting with him at 24 Sussex Drive in February. We have consistently maintained that Canada must pursue all available diplomatic and other avenues pursuant to the 1987 Canada-U.S. agreement. There's already an agreement between Canada and the United States that is clear with respect to conservation of the Porcupine caribou herd.
We continue to support the Vuntut Gwitchin by investing in their ability to continue or consistently bring their issue forward in Washington, and we will continue to liaise with the federal Department of Foreign Affairs and the Canadian Embassy in Washington and American non-government organizations in support of the Yukon, Vuntut Gwitchin and Canadian positions.
That was by far the better approach than that of the members opposite - the leader of the official opposition, who clearly articulated in the media that he spent some time in Washington talking to all those who opposed drilling in ANWR. I would submit, Mr. Chair, that that's probably not a good investment of time or an airplane ticket. The idea here is to impress upon those who support drilling in ANWR of the value, merit and concern that we protect the critical habitat for the herd itself, as the 1987 agreement stipulates.
So, Mr. Chair, once again the leader of the official opposition is somewhat behind on this issue - considerably behind - and I would encourage him to recognize that it is not a productive or constructive approach for this territory to engage in political discussions around this issue. We must continue to represent a strong and united front in the Yukon Territory that this is our position and it will continue to be our position. It's not about whether I phoned the governor, or whether we have recently talked to the governor; it's about the ongoing work, dedication and commitment that we all must bring to this issue to ensure that the protection of the Porcupine caribou herd is maintained.
So, that said, I would encourage the leader of the official opposition to now get a meeting with the President of the United States to relay that very same message, to get a meeting with the Prime Minister of Canada to relay that very same message, to immediately trek to Alaska and sit down with the governor to relay that very same message, to go to the National Press gallery in Washington and relay that very same message.
These are examples of how we can be compatible in our approaches to dealing with the protection of the Porcupine caribou herd.
Mr. Mitchell: I guess when we cut through all the rhetoric - am I allowed to say that?
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Mitchell: Okay. Well, when we cut through all the -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Mitchell: I think it's a good word.
When we cut through all the excited statements, I think what I heard was no, because I'm sure if the Premier had picked up the phone recently since the news of the public relations campaign to call his good friend the Governor of Alaska, he would have been very quick to stand on his feet and say so. Having heard no such statement, I will accept that the minister is telling me that no, he has not.
As far as what has been done in Washington - and the minister was talking before about being careful with partial quotes - I would advise him to also be careful about partial quotes. We talked to members who were supportive of our position because they were under great lobbying efforts to change their vote. They were looking for reasons to stand fast. We did that. We also spoke to members who had not necessarily been supportive of that position. People far more eloquent than I did most of the talking.
The lead, as the minister has frequently stated is proper, was taken by the Gwich'in and other First Nation people that would be affected. My sole role being there was to try to indicate that it wasn't only a First Nation issue but that there was general support of that issue. That would be the reason why we went. I don't think that purchasing a ticket to go was a wasted effort, which is what the minister might have suggested. I think it was good use of a ticket.
As far as the other quotation the minister referred to - the Ombudsman - the minister's colleague has tabled the letter and I have no problems with that. There are general comments in the letter, and we could have read the entire thing out at the time, but Question Period is limited to a minute, which is why we quoted a portion of it - a minute for each question that is strictly enforced by the Speaker.
The letter clearly said that the Ombudsman found that the Workers' Compensation Health and Safety Board was not in compliance. He did make a suggestion on how once they were able to implement a new computer system - which had been previously promised but then cancelled by one of the several former ministers and acting ministers responsible for Workers' Compensation Health and Safety Board who, as this Premier says, is pretty much opposed or in conflict with his opposition with most everything - that system didn't go forward. So once again, the workers were waiting.
As for the individual in question who took philosophical or ideological opposition to the question being raised, he did indeed express his concerns quite vociferously in the hallways, as we all know. I have spoken with him more recently because I have known him for some time, and I know that he did not intend anything by his strong words other than to express his opinion. I certainly took no offence. I appreciated the fact that he was passionate in his views. I have also had the opportunity to speak to his employer about those same issues, and I appreciated that opportunity and the fact that his employer came to raise the issues with me.
I thank the minister for reminding me of that. Since the minister likes to bring it back to the issue at hand, and I agree with him, perhaps he should provide us with an update on any possible progress on land claims. We know that, for the Kaska to move forward, we require a new mandate from Ottawa. Has the Premier been in discussions with Minister Prentice, the INAC minister or the Prime Minister about what might be done to make that happen? I would suggest that if the minister is going to say it's Ottawa 's responsibility, we certainly recognize that, nevertheless, we've seen that when all parties are working together there can be progress made. There was progress made recently on the issues of the timber harvest between Canada and the United States. Perhaps there could be progress made here as well.
Similarly, White River, and any transboundary negotiations with the Acho Dene Koe First Nation, we know that a mandate from Ottawa is required, but this is certainly at the heart of this particular portfolio, so I know the minister will want to eloquently tell me how things are proceeding. I look forward to his doing so.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: I must begin my response to the leader of the official opposition by going back into the quote debate. The member has just stood on the floor and relayed the quote I made; he openly admits it was the exact situation that developed, but I would caution the member on his response with respect to the Ombudsman's office and somehow relating that to a time issue in Question Period. I won't bother reading the full sentence of the letter that was partially quoted by the member opposite, and I'll leave it at that.
Mr. Chair, land claims is unfinished business - as we put it to the federal government. Recently, Minister Prentice, the minister responsible for the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs Canada, was in Whitehorse and engaged with the media and First Nations and, indeed, the Kaska First Nation. I think he clearly demonstrated that the federal government has a priority in this area, is committed to concluding the unfinished business; but, as the minister said, it requires getting another mandate to do exactly that. But we have taken some steps in lieu of the fact that there is no land claim, for example, in southeast Yukon by pursuing an initiative early in the mandate that the members opposite - especially the third party then, now the official opposition - opposed, making all kinds of claims. Mr. Chair, it has proven to be a worthy initiative, given what is transpiring now in Kaska traditional territory and all their involvement in those processes, whether it be oil and gas, forestry or mining.
They are involved and we are progressing.
As far as the mandate, that is not a decision we make. We will continue to press upon the federal government the urgency of the unfinished business here and the need for them to move quickly to develop that mandate and step forward to include those negotiations with White River First Nation and Liard First Nation, and of course the Ross River Dena Council.
Now that the member is on to the land claims issue, we must not forget that, under the Umbrella Final Agreement, Yukon has an obligation with respect to transboundary claims, which is also unfinished business. This again is an issue of the federal government, and the federal government must bring forward the mandate to do that. Yukon is only one of three parties at the table, given whichever First Nation has decided to proceed with a transboundary claim. There are some of those for the Yukon and they include a First Nation on our border.
Those are areas of land claims we want to see advanced to their successful conclusion. It will require a federal government that recognizes that this is ultimately the only option of choice and pursues that with an acceptable mandate.
Another area of land claims that is very important and of the highest priority is implementation of the agreements here in the Yukon. We are in the nine-year review. That review should be concluded some time this summer, I believe.
All parties are working on that diligently. It is from there that a process will proceed to develop a new federal mandate for implementation. For now, we are working with what has, I guess you could say, been allocated to the territory for the implementation of the agreements. We have been successful once again and an example of working in partnership with First Nations and getting adequate resources being made available for the implementation of the final agreements and self-government agreements. We have been successful in that regard, as partners - both Yukon and Yukon First Nations - to get Canada to change its policy. Originally, in the nine-year review, adequacy was not on the table. It is today, so that's another example of the relationship that we have been working on and building. It is critical that adequacy in the resources necessary to implement the final agreements and self-government agreements are made available by Canada .
That is a bit of an overview as to where we are at with land claims in their entirety. It is clear, at least from this side of the House, that we are in a position where we are awaiting Canada to make its decisions. I think it's fair that you give a newly elected government that has not been sworn into office very long now the time necessary for their officials, resources and agencies to step forward and get on with the task at hand.
Mr. Mitchell: I thank the minister for actually answering something I was going to ask about, which was the nine-year review. I would agree with the minister that it's a good step to have adequacy included.
The minister made some reference to agreements with the Kaska. Basically, I think he was referring to the bilateral agreement. I find that interesting, because during the first year or so of this government's mandate, the bilateral agreements that the minister engaged in with the Kaska were something we heard a great deal about.
It was going to be the be-all and end-all to moving forward and solving all kinds of issues outside of the Umbrella Final Agreement, and we haven't heard a great deal about them more recently, so I'm wondering if the minister has gone back to that approach because I know he didn't renew, together with the Kaska, the bilateral agreements. Perhaps he's considering doing that now, and I'm sure he may want to address that.
As far as the minister urging me to meet with the President of the United States and the Governor of Alaska and the Prime Minister, I appreciate his confidence in me and appreciate his suggestions that that would be a good idea. In fact, shortly after the election, I wrote to the new Prime Minister, urging him to continue to support the long-held position of the Government of Canada regarding not seeing development in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
Also, when I was attending the legislative exchange in Alaska, I did take the opportunity to speak to the governor's staff about the concerns about ANWR - in a very respectful way, because they are our friends, and we don't gain much by doing it in a confrontational way. I know that is the minister's view as well. So I have done those things, and I appreciate the minister's endorsement of those activities.
To move to another area, the substance abuse action plan funding - the $2 million that is in the minister's department. I understand from the briefing that this was felt because this was a new program, and it wasn't certain exactly what the funding would be spent on, but it might be simplest to put it in Executive Council Office and then, as it was spent, it would be accounted for.
Now, according to the minister's officials, I know two possible approaches were being considered: one would be a book transfer through the departments at the time money is being spent on particular programs, if it seemed appropriate to be in Justice or in Health and Social Services; and the other was to spend the money directly out of Executive Council Office.
I'm wondering if the minister, in terms of future budgets, has a particular approach that he would take, or, perhaps in the future when there has been more clarity about how the monies will be spent, might he anticipate directly putting them in as line items under departments, or does he think it is best to keep it in Executive Council Office?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: The member touched on a number of areas. Let me begin with the comment about outside the Umbrella Final Agreement with respect to a bilateral agreement with the Kaska. No, it is not outside the Umbrella Final Agreement. There was no further mandate from the federal government to negotiate land claims in the southeast Yukon - the Kaska's traditional territory. The bilateral agreement committed the Kaska First Nation and the Yukon government to ensure that land claims and the settlement of the claims were a priority. Attempts were made to do that with Canada, but also the agreement was intended to advance economic development in southeast Yukon and that's exactly what transpired. But the agreement ended - it was for a two-year period and it's over. Without a federal mandate to conclude the land claim process in the Yukon, it's pretty hard to conclude the one remaining element in the bilateral agreement, which was the unfinished business. There was no reason to renew. What we are doing now is urging Canada to get back to the table.
The bilateral agreement brought a great deal of opposition from the opposition benches and, as it turns out, the facts show that it was successful. If you look at the activity now in the southeast Yukon - even in the absence of a land claim - one can recognize quickly that the investment community and the resource sector are comfortable. There is a better degree of certainty, and the relationship that has evolved through the bilateral is one of understanding, respect and trust. That is why we have been able to forge ahead.
Mr. Chair, I think it's important that when we discuss the substance abuse action plan we always begin with that discussion by understanding the broad scope of what this is all about. The fund that has been set up in the Executive Council Office is the start of implementing the many, many areas and elements of the substance abuse action plan that are quite extensive.
It made sense in these initial stages to set it up in the Executive Council Office because of the number of departments that are relative to substance abuse action and the delivery of initiatives, and to start addressing and implementing the plan itself: departments include Education, Health and Social Services, Justice, and there are possibilities of Women's Directorate and Youth Directorate also. So when you look at that, at this stage of our process of implementing the substance abuse action plan, it's clear there will be a necessity to understand more fully the longer term implementation here and what line departments should be receiving what resources necessary to continue this on an ongoing basis, because it won't be implemented in one short mandate - or one short fiscal year, I should say. It's going to be an ongoing initiative, and this is a good starting point, because it allows us now to target areas that we can deliver on immediately but also plan on how we can implement and deliver on other initiatives on an ongoing basis into the long term.
The issue of the fund, in terms of its level, is based on an amount of money that is reflective of the overall fiscal framework and all the other balancing that must be done to ensure that we are dealing with the litany of issues that we need to deal with here in the territory. It is significant in terms of the dollar value. It's going to allow us, obviously, to begin moving ahead with a number of these initiatives.
We have just debated a bill brought forward by the Minister of Justice that is very much a part of substance abuse action, which is the Safer Communities and Neighbourhoods Act. I am going to assume here today that it has unanimous support to proceed. An example of what may transpire with the fund itself is when one considers the outcome of implementing - bringing into force and effect - the legislation. It could touch on areas of harm reduction and enforcement. It is important when we consider this, because of what's happening in communities and neighbourhoods when substance abuse is prevalent. It will give us an added tool to address those matters, over and above the criminal system.
In all likelihood, an investment will be required. I will leave that to the Minister of Justice to complete and put together how we will now enforce the Safer Communities and Neighbourhoods Act. It's going to happen, so here's an investment that would target, as I said, harm reduction and enforcement.
There are a number of other examples. Let us look at education and how critical it is that we especially educate our young people on the tremendous downside and damage done by substance abuse. If we can engage with young Yukoners through an education initiative to give them more tools and insights into making the right decision - the positive choices in life - then we are in a downstream approach where young Yukoners now moving into adulthood are more likely to be individuals who are not involved in substance abuse in any way. It's a wise investment early on that will reduce tremendous costs to the health care and justice systems and many other areas that are indicative to substance abuse in communities and neighbourhoods and the damage that accrues from this type of activity.
It is a social behaviour that is a major challenge in every community in the country. All we have to do is look to the national news on any given evening to recognize what it is we are up against in dealing with this matter. But here in the Yukon we have a great opportunity to put in place measures now that will hold us in good stead over the long term. This investment is the beginning of that process.
There are other areas that have to be looked at. In Health and Social Services, treatment is critical. This is an area where I would say we have to do better, because much of this finds its way into our justice system. You can measure that by the recidivism rate in our Correctional Centre, in our corrections system. The issue of treatment is so important, and I want to point out some examples in recent history.
There was a past government that closed down Crossroads, a detoxification centre. In fact, the member just recruited one of the Cabinet ministers responsible for that decision. The decision to close Crossroads was folly because it removed any ability in the Yukon to break the cycle, at least with a facility. Beyond the detoxification, there must be a focus on treatment, and that is part of the substance abuse action plan.
Then we went to a Liberal government here in the territory that wasn't interested in treatment or detoxification or anything else, but were creating - through their renewal process or something - a secretariat, where they were renting offices and putting in desks and phones and all this stuff, while substance abuse was ongoing here in the City of Whitehorse and in Yukon communities.
It took a new government and communities in this territory standing up and saying, “We have to do something about this.” It took the engagement of the members in this House, and it progressed into a major summit, where many, many stakeholders were involved and expertise was brought in. It went on from there to what we are dealing with today and the substance abuse action plan and the legislation I spoke of. Correctional reform is progressing at a tremendous rate because of how in-depth and detailed this process is.
On many occasions the official opposition has berated the Minister of Justice over the Correctional Centre and tried to draw a parallel that all this work was done. I find it astounding that the leader of the official opposition and the Member for Porter Creek South would engage in that kind of debate with the Minister of Justice. All they have to do is look at the size of the report, never mind getting into it and going through all the detail and the information available in the report and the substance of what all that is about and the tremendous input from stakeholders and experts and First Nations and others into this area of what it is we must do. It includes the building of a new correctional facility, but it includes much more. The members opposite - and I will single out the official opposition on this matter - have constantly maintained that building a new warehouse would have solved all the problems because they had a new conveyor belt system, much more efficient, so that the entrance and the exit of inmates was handled in a manner where they were back sooner so that the bunks would be filled, and the rest of it.
The Minister of Justice already made moves on initiatives to deliver programming in the existing facility but, more importantly, in taking a very comprehensive approach to corrections in this territory by reforming the correctional system in the Yukon .
Let me make a point about relationships. In the correctional system in the Yukon , the majority of cases are First Nation individuals who are put in our correctional system. Our purpose in reforming the system is to recognize that in many cases the sentencing of individuals need not always be incarceration. Here is where treatment and problem-solving court come in. There are examples, again, of reforming a system to make things better and address the problems that First Nation people in this territory experience. We have done no good over decades here in the Yukon in doing what we've been doing in our correctional system.
Quite frankly, we have contributed to the problem. The correction system has been part of the problem. It has never remotely been part of the solution. The Minister of Justice is ensuring that the correction system will be much about solutions, healing and reforming how we deal with individuals who wind up in our system.
Packaged together, Mr. Chair, this includes all facets of dealing with substance abuse. The fund that we have set up today is merely one part of that bigger, broader approach that the government has embarked on. It is a challenge of enormous proportions. I think we all recognize that. We all have a fundamental duty to address this issue in a manner that will achieve results.
It certainly is not about building warehouses. Results are about truly addressing the determinants - again, I'll use the word “determinants” because there are a number of them: it may be economic, it may be health, it may be community well-being, it may be housing needs, it may be nutrition, it may be education. There are a number of determinants that are part of the full equation that result in people entering the system itself. Some of these issues date back in history to a time when there were governments, especially federal governments, that made mistakes. That is something that they are trying to address today. I speak of the mission schools, the residential-school approach, and there are many more factors contributing to what we are dealing with in today's Yukon .
So overall, Mr. Chair, we appreciate the support that opposition members have given the government side with respect to safer communities and neighbourhoods legislation, substance abuse action. We are a little concerned about how they've missed the boat on the Correctional Centre in not recognizing what the process really is and how we're putting it all together and how important that is, not recognizing, in their haste to try and criticize the relationship with First Nations, how much our system has contributed to a very negative and counterproductive relationship with First Nations in the Yukon because of our ridiculous, useless and antiquated corrections system. It has to change. That's what the Minister of Justice is doing, and he is doing a tremendous job at it, but so, too, are so many individuals who have been involved in this process. To get to where we're at today in the short period of time that has transpired, I think you can see the product on the table. It's measurable, it's significant, and it is giving Yukon the tools to better manage and deal with this social ill and all that goes with it in our future.
It will take a tremendous amount of effort and commitment yet. It will require an elected government with the insight, vision and plan to address it. So, maybe as we continue on, the official opposition, the Liberal Party and their new members will recognize what that means and they, too, will stand down and not remain part of the problem, but become part of the solution in dealing with this issue for the betterment of Yukon and all its citizens.
Given the time, Mr. Chair, I move that you report progress.
Chair: It has been moved by Mr. Fentie that we report progress.
Motion agreed to
Hon. Mr. Cathers: I move that the Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Chair: It has been moved by Mr. Cathers that the Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Motion agreed to
Speaker resumes the Chair
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
May the House have a report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole?
Mr. Rouble: Mr. Speaker, Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 20, First Appropriation Act, 2006-07, and has directed me to report progress on it.
Also, Mr. Speaker, Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 67, Safer Communities and Neighbourhoods Act, and directed me to report it with amendment.
Speaker: You have heard the report of the Chair of Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: I declare the report carried.
The time being 6:00 p.m., the House now stands adjourned until 1:00 p.m. tomorrow.
The House adjourned at 6:01 p.m.
The following Sessional Paper was tabled May 1, 2006
Election Financing and Political Contributions, 2005: Report of the Chief Electoral Officer of Yukon (dated April 2006) (Speaker Staffen)