Wednesday, December 12, 1990 - 1:30 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order. At this time, we will proceed with Prayers.
Speaker: We will proceed with the Order Paper.
Introduction of Visitors.
Are there any Returns or Documents?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I have a number of documents on circumpolar matters for tabling.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I have one legislative return for tabling.
Hon. Mr. Webster: I have for tabling some legislative returns.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I have a legislative return for tabling.
Speaker: Are there any Reports of Committees?
Introduction of Bills.
Are there any Notices of Motion for the Production of Papers?
Are there any Notices of Motion?
Are there any Statements by Ministers?
Creation of a Northern Forum among circumpolar regions
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I rise today to inform the House of the creation of a permanent Northern Forum among circumpolar regions. This fall, at the Northern Regions conference in Anchorage, I joined with leaders from Canada, the United States, Scandinavia and the Soviet Union in calling for such a forum.
The Yukon government believes, as do other northern governments and organizations, that this forum can help northern people formulate their common regional interests. As well as governments, other regional vehicles could include aboriginal people, such as the Gwichin, the Tlingit and Inuit, whose traditional territories are not confined by modern national borders.
Our government believes regional voices are distinct and valuable for at least three reasons. One, they reflect a growing political maturity in the north over the past two decades. Two, they bring to issues their own special perspectives and three, they are more closely attuned to the specific interests of their citizens.
The Northern Forum has agreed to tackle many common concerns: the environment, northern communications, transportation and other infrastructure, northern technology and engineering, culture, education and health, and protection and cooperative management of northern renewable resources.
I have recently written to the new Governor of Alaska offering our governments support in starting up the Northern Forum, which Alaska was charged with organizing.
External Affairs Minister Joe Clark recently announced Canadas intention to propose an Arctic Council of eight circumpolar nations: Canada, Greenland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Finland, the Soviet Union and the United States. Canadas position, as stated by Mr. Clark, is that It is crucial that an Arctic Council allow the voice of northern people to be heard, so that they may contribute to decisions affecting their lives and interests.
Clearly, this initiative is compatible with the proposed Northern Forum. It is our governments intention to help the Northern Forum and the Arctic Council work together productively and address issues of prominence and concern for the benefit of people in the Yukon and across the north.
Accordingly, I have written to External Affairs Minister Clark to offer the Yukon governments congratulations and support for the proposed Arctic Council. I have emphasized the Yukons interest in presenting the voices of northern regions directly to the council.
I look forward to working closely with both Mr. Clark and Governor Hickel in organizing, and participating in, these northern assemblies. I believe they will prove to be useful ways of sharing our northern ideas and experiences, for our common benefit.
Speaker: This then brings us to Question Period.
Question re: Old Crow, prohibition
Mr. Phelps: I have some questions for the Minister responsible for the Liquor Corporation with regard to the bill that was introduced yesterday proposing amendments to the Liquor Act.
We met with Members of the side opposite before the bill was tabled and told them we did not agree with the bill because it does not respect the fundamental democratic rights of Old Crow residents, the right to vote by secret ballot, on this issue and others that may affect them. I would like to know why this government wants to take away the right to vote from the residents of Old Crow.
Hon. Mr. Webster: As the Minister responsible for the corporation, I am responding to this question.
The answer is simply that we do not believe the Oppositions assessment that this is not a democratic process we are using here to get a true feeling from the residents of Old Crow that they want a complete ban, or, prohibition, on alcohol.
We can get into this debate more thoroughly when it comes time to debate the act.
Mr. Phelps: This does affect a lot of people and it is, in our view, a dangerous precedent. I would like to know if the Minister would not agree that there are residents in Old Crow who are not members of the band?
Hon. Mr. Webster: I will be the first to agree that there are some residents in Old Crow who are not members of the band. He is right; it does affect a lot of people. I want to remind him that the vast majority of residents of Old Crow are members of one First Nation. They have a process in place, as defined in their constitution, for resolving matters such as this. They have chosen that process and they have passed along their judgment to me, as reflected in this act.
Mr. Phelps: So the Minister is saying that he feels it is right and fair that people will be affected, in that they will be living with the consequences of prohibition, and not have any voice on that issue. Is that what he is saying?
Hon. Mr. Webster: In this particular circumstance, that is exactly what I am saying: that the vast majority, again, of residents in the community are members of a First Nation; they unanimously passed a resolution at a general assembly that calls for a complete ban on alcohol in the community. I realize there are a few individuals in the community who are not members who indeed may have some objections, but I think in this particular case that the rights of a few individuals - it matters, but I think the overall good of the community at large should be considered first in this particular case.
Question re: Old Crow, prohibition
Mr. Phelps: This may shock the Minister, but I have had a number of telephone calls, as has the critic for the Liquor Corporation, from people who live in Old Crow and are band members, and feel they ought to have the right to vote. These are people who were not at the general assembly this summer. What is the Minister afraid of? If it is the desire of the community, why can there not be a democratic vote by all residents who have a right to vote in normal elections in that community?
Hon. Mr. Webster: I only wanted to reiterate the position that the Village of Old Crow is a band community. A vast majority of the residents of that community are members of the Indian band. They have a constitution that they have followed with a resolution to the general assembly, endorsed by the band council through a resolution, and this is the way the process will be reflected in the bill.
Mr. Phelps: What is the Minister and his colleague, the MLA for Old Crow, afraid of? If it is the strong desire of the community to have prohibition, we will support that. What is wrong with the democratic secret ballot?
Hon. Mr. Webster: Again, the problem with the secret ballot is that it does not follow the constitution, as set out by the people of Old Crow.
Mr. Phelps: I would like to hear from the Ministers boss, the Minister responsible for the Executive Council. Does he feel it is fair and appropriate that there not be a democratic vote by all residents in the community by secret ballot?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: It is a very interesting question being put by the Leader of the Opposition. This may be a preview of a debate we are going to have in the future about aboriginal self-government, because if the Leader of the Opposition is saying that a First Nation cannot decide these matters according to their own constitution, if the legitimate government in the community cannot decide these matters for their community by their own constitution, but must follow standards imposed on them from outside, then I think the Leader of the Opposition and I have very different notions of self-government - radically different.
Question re: Old Crow, prohibition
Mr. Phelps: The Minister is entirely correct because I believe in democracy and the right of one person, one vote in any community - particularly in instances where their rights are being taken away as is the situation with the proposals under the amendments to the Liquor Act contained in Bill No. 22. I would like to follow up a little bit with the Premier and ask him if he feels that since there is no government in Carcross, for example, except for the band, that the band ought to be able to pass laws according to their constitution that will impinge upon the rights and freedoms of all citizens of Carcross no matter where they live in that village?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: The key word used by the Leader of the Official Opposition in his question was the one citizenship. I am sure he would recognize that in our democracy now we may pass laws in this House that may affect residents of the territory who are not citizens. They may be immigrants who may have been here less than a year. In defining citizenship of the people of Old Crow - I will express my views since I am invited to by the Leader of the Official Opposition during debate on this question - if in a community like Old Crow there is an overwhelming expression of will to deal with the horrors of alcohol abuse, then the rights of that community, as a matter of social justice, have to prevail over the rights of the minority to drink and consume alcohol in that community.
Now the Member is asking a question about the community of Carcross. The Member asks what are we afraid of. Does he not give a damn about the rights of children who are abused by fighting and alcohol-abusing parents?
Speaker: Order please.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: Does he not give a damn about the damage and destruction?
Speaker: Order please. I would like to remind the Member to stick to parliamentary language.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: Do you not care that there is a crisis here, and the First Nation can make a recommendation to us about a matter like this? I do not want to see the rights of the whiskey traders put ahead of the rights of the people.
Speaker: Order please.
Mr. Phelps: We do disagree. Firstly, we know that a large number of band members want the right to vote by secret ballot. We know that, and that will become apparent. They will make their wishes known.
I did not get an answer to my question about Carcross. There is no government in Carcross. There is a band. Is he saying that the band has a right to vote on these things and take the rights away from other citizens who live in that community? Is that his twisted and distorted view of democracy? We have more than just a fundamental disagreement. We are at opposite ends on this one.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: Talk about twisted and distorted. We have heard a twisted and distorted notion of aboriginal self-government from the people across the way today. I suspect they will be damned forever for their statements today.
The community of Carcross is clearly not a community that is the exclusive home of one First Nation. If the question came up about whether we were to ban alcohol in a community, we would want a clear expression of opinion from that community.
The Member says there are band members who have communicated with him that they want to vote. The First Nation, the leadership of that community, and the government of that First Nation has communicated with us. They have communicated a clear expression of their will. We are bound to respect that communication, not to suggest that, because there may be some people who have communicated with the Member, the private communications of a citizen or two should outweigh the official communication from the First Nation.
Speaker: Order please. Would the Minister please conclude his answer.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: The place would become ungovernable. Of course, we are concerned about the rights of the minority here, but we also have to weigh the rights of the majority here. The majority wish of a community, clearly expressed to us, must be respected.
Speaker: Order please. Would the Minister please conclude his answer.
Mr. Phelps: Would not the democratic, secret ballot in Old Crow, or in any other area of the Yukon, demonstrate whether or not the majority of the residents in the community want or do not want something?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: There is absolutely no certainty of that whatsoever because, once before, there was a so-called democratic secret ballot put to the people of Old Crow by order of this House, by a decision of the government-of-the-day, and I talked to many people after that vote who said they did not understand the question. Therefore, the results of the question put, according to our rules and our dictates, were not at all clear.
I heard that from people in that community. If the people in this House are going to dictate the question and dictate the process, and say that on a matter of entirely local option, that we, not the First Nation, are going to dictate the rules by which they shall govern themselves, then we are going to have some very, very hot debates during the questions about Indian self-government in the next few years in this Legislature.
Question re: Old Crow, prohibition
Mr. Phelps: It is interesting, normally, that when we have dictatorships taking over, it is because the people do not know what is good for them and do not understand what is good for them. That is the excuse that is used, and normally what they say is that they will simply carry on the dictatorship until the community or the country can understand democracy.
I hear the Government Leader loud and clear. Surely he would agree that the question could be framed in such a way that even his poor subjects, the people of Old Crow, could understand what they are voting on.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: Well, with respect, it is not I who is taking a dictatorial attitude toward the people of Old Crow; it is the Member opposite. It is the Member opposite who says that he does not respect the decision of an annual general assembly. He does not respect a band council resolution. He is saying that he, Willard Phelps, knows betters than the band council. He, Willard Phelps, knows better than an annual general assembly.
We reject that view. He does not know better.
Mr. Phelps: The MLA for Old Crow has indicated that they are not even going to have a democratic vote up there, if they can avoid it, on who the MLA will be. Does the Minister support the notion that it should be band resolution, if only a few people show up and the rest are scared away?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: No, because it is a matter that affects all of the people of the territory. The elected, legitimate representatives of all people of the territory are going to decide that question.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Penikett: The Member of Old Crow is as entitled to an opinion as the Leader of the Opposition is, and has a right to express it in this House, but I will tell the Member what the position of the government is. We are going to be moving, in the next few months and years, to a situation of great change in this territory. We are going to moving to a time where First Nations are going to insist on having some government on their own land, in their own communities, about matters like this, including the situation of the tragic and colossal ills that come from the abuse of drugs and alcohol. They are going to insist on the right, according their own constitution, to make some decisions about those matters.
This Legislature is going to decide whether it is going to respect their decisions and their way of making them or decide that it is going to impose its will. If it is going to decide to impose the will of this Legislature on the matters, no matter what the community says, then I suspect there is not a First Nation in the territory that is going to accept that model of self-government.
Mr. Phelps: That is tough. It is our position that if the First Nations want self-government over their own lands and their own people, that is one issue. It is quite a different issue for them to be dictating to people in any community in their homes. Let us make it clear. We stand for democracy. We do not think peoples rights should be taken away...
Speaker: Order please. Will the Member please get to the supplementary question.
Mr. Phelps: ....taken away because the Minister has some naive, simplistic concept about how the Yukon ought to march in the future. We reject it entirely.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I do not know what the question is there, but I think the situation is analogous to a situation where, if several thousand people arrive in the Yukon tomorrow from another country, and they are not citizens, we may make decisions in this Legislature affecting their lives. They will not have a vote. They may have a voice, but they are not yet citizens. The First Nation may well decide for itself that in matters of local control and matters affecting their people - the Leader of the Opposition is not listening - and the fundamental life and future of their community, that they will make some decisions in their own way.
If the Member says he rejects that, we must impose our Eurocentric model of doing things on them. The Member laughs. That laugh is known as ethnocentrism in the trade.
We are either going to respect the traditions of those people and the modern manifestations of those traditions and the way they make decisions or we are not. If the Leader of the Official Opposition is saying always and under all circumstances...
Speaker: Order please. Will the Minister please conclude his answer.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: ...that this Legislature and the dominant culture is always going to impose its will on First Nations in matters such as this, of fundamental social survival, we are never going to have self-government...
Speaker: Order please. Will the Minister please conclude his answer.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: ...nor social peace.
Question re: Old Crow, prohibition
Mr. Phelps: Maybe the Minister could begin by not putting words in my mouth. I would appreciate that on such a serious matter as this.
What I am saying is that the democratic rights of each and every citizen of the country must be respected. That is the position we start from.
The Member for Old Crow says that is why they are doing it. That is why she does not even want a vote taken on her being elected. That is what she said yesterday morning. That is very interesting.
I want to make it clear where I stand on this: you cannot take away the democratic right of the citizens of Canada through land claims or through this kind of legislation. We will fight it every inch of the way.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: It is an interesting speech and I would be curious to know what democratic right the Member is talking about. If he is talking about the democratic right to drink, I would like him to show me where in the Canadian Constitution says it say that you have a democratic right to drink. Because all over the English-speaking world, there is the right of local community option to make a decision about whether there should be pubs or not be pubs or whether there should be saloons or not, whether alcohol should be sold or not. It is demonstrated by local option by citizens, by the citizens writing their own constitution and deciding how it should be done. It will affect the rights of people passing through that dry county in Texas or that dry community in Alaska. It will affect people who are there for a few months.
Speaker: Order please. Would the Minister please conclude his answer.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: It was designed, and this is the important point, to protect the interests, the lives, the children, the homes, the families of the people who live there on a permanent basis.
Question re: Moose and caribou studies, game zones 7 and 9
Mr. Lang: It is going to be an interesting few months and few years ahead of us if this is going to be the tack the government is going to take over the rights of one group of people over the rights of individuals throughout the territory. This government is going to be seen for what they are if they continue this.
I have a question for the Minister of Renewable Resources. It has to do with the report that was tabled on game zones 7 and 9. The Minister looks confused. Maybe he has not even read it. There was a legislative return tabled in this House with excerpts from the recommendations from the report of the moose and caribou recovery plan subcommittee. With the legislative return, he tabled another document that is very confusing and almost makes it appear as if it is the document referred to as the report of moose and caribou recovery plan subcommittee. There was confusion in the printed media as well last night where they quoted from the report, making reference to the subcommittee that had nothing to do with this report. The report tabled in the House was the report that was done in 1989 for information to the Wildlife Management Board.
Since the question of moose and caribou is a very serious issue in game zones 7 and 9 between Whitehorse, Haines Junction and Carcross, I want to ask the Minister if he would table the report of the moose and caribou recovery plan subcommittee so we know everything that is in that report so we can compare that to the recommendations on the excerpts that have been put forward in the legislative return.
Hon. Mr. Webster: I want to address the premise of the Member that I looked confused when he was referring to the material I tabled in this House the other day on game management zones 7 and 9. That was not the case at all. I thought it was very unusual that he introduced his question with a comment on the previous questions relating to the complete ban of alcohol in Old Crow. He made some reference at the end that this is a course of action we are intending on taking throughout the entire territory. I think that is a gross misrepresentation of the facts, as he knows clearly that this amendment to the Liquor Act pertains only to the community of Old Crow.
Mr. Lang: Mr. Speaker, no wonder you are confused. I am confused too. I asked the Minister about game zone 7 and 9, and with reference to my preamble I was referring to the right of a secret vote.
I would like to ask the Minister if he would be prepared to table the report made by the subcommittee to the Wildlife Management Board, entitled Report of Moose and Caribou Recovery Plan. Would he please table that report, as opposed to the misrepresentation he has brought before this House, which is the Management Board Report dated 1989, that Members had six months ago.
Hon. Mr. Webster: If the Member chooses to introduce a question with a preamble dealing with another matter, I am going to address it, especially when he is making misrepresentations.
In response to the question he has raised, the Yukon Fish and Wildlife Management Board are considering the very question today about releasing the entire contents of the subcommittees report. The Members comments about the introduction of this report prepared for the Fish and Wildlife Management Board by the fish and wildlife branch in November, 1989, has relevance to the recommendations of the subcommittee because the subcommittee refers to this report many times over the course of its overall report and recommendations.
Mr. Lang: Why can that report not be made available to Members of the House? What is so secret about this report? A very serious matter to the people of the territory is the matter of the moose and caribou population in the surrounding areas of Whitehorse. It is affecting hunters and non-hunters. It is time we address it.
Why will the Minister not table that report to all Members of the House and to the media, so we can deal with the most current report that affects that area?
Hon. Mr. Webster: I did not say that I would not table the entire report. The direction from the Yukon Fish and Wildlife Management Board to me was that they would release only the recommendations. The board is meeting again today to give some consideration to releasing the entire report.
If that is their decision, I have no problem with making the whole report available to this House and to the public. It is as simple as that. I want to agree with the Member that it is a serious problem that we are facing right now. The board members are taking it very seriously. I only wish the Member, when he was Minister of Renewable Resources back in 1981-82, had considered the consequences of his actions and dealt with the potential consequences at that time.
Question re: Ambulance services
Mr. Nordling: I have a question to the Minister of Health and Human Resources with respect to ambulance services.
Ambulance services are presently administered through the Department of Community and Transportation Services. I think that we are agreed that it would make more sense for this service to come under the Department of Health and Human Resources. My understanding is that this transfer was to take place some time ago.
I would like to know from the Minister what has happened to that proposal and whether the government has decided to leave ambulance services in Community and Transportation Services?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: No, the government has not decided to do that, nor has the government made a final decision about the matter. If I may speculate, based on the discussions with my colleagues so far, what will eventually happen, we think, is that the ambulance service will be based out of the new regional hospital and that is how it will be organized. The question we have to decide is whether it makes any sense, now, to transfer the ambulance service from Community and Transportation Services to the Department of Health and Human Resources as an interim measure, prior to basing it in the hospital. That decision would have to be made in terms of whether it is economic and efficient or whether it, in fact, would be too costly to have a two-stage transfer like that. We have not reached a conclusion on that question, yet.
Mr. Nordling: I would like to know when the Minister of Health and Human Resources and his colleague, the Minister of Community and Transportation Services, will make that decision. It is going to be a considerable time before the new hospital is built. My understanding of ambulance services is that it is fairly insular and could be transferred without much problem.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: The physical service could be moved and the employees could be moved without much problem; the Member is correct. The reporting relationships and the response systems are very, very important.
The ambulance service has to be seen in the context of the total health system. As the Member may know, the ideas about ambulance services are changing considerably now. In many southern jurisdictions, through the use of highly trained paramedics, ambulances often function now essentially as the emergency room of a hospital: a remote emergency room. We do not have that capacity yet, but it is not inconceivable that will happen in years ahead. The decision will be made by Cabinet, I would emphasize to the Member, and not just by the two Ministers, and will, I expect, be made in the time remaining in this fiscal year. There are some detail questions we have to address before the matter can come to Cabinet but I think it will be sometime between now and April 1.
Mr. Nordling: I am pleased that the Minister has cleared that up because the budget for 1991-92 shows the ambulance services remaining in Community and Transportation Services. We had been talking about an integrated delivery of health services and to me it just makes a lot of sense that that be done now, in anticipation of the new hospital coming onstream.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I am not sure if there is a question there but the Member will understand when I talked about it being based out of the new, regional hospital, we were talking about an ideal arrangement. It may well be, after discussion with Cabinet, that we may decide that it should be based in the hospital, even under our administration, which is a circumstance that could be in place come October of next year. However, we will be discussing the point that I made earlier, about whether it makes sense to do an interim transfer to the Department of Health and Human Resources, whether that will foster integration and the provision of good service or not. We will making public statements about that, of course, once a decision is made.
Question re: Moose and caribou studies, game zones 7 and 9
Mr. Phillips: I have a question for the Minister of Renewable Resources regarding the recently released documents on zones 7 and 9. In the media, the Minister stated that the reason we have a major problem here today - and he stated it in the House today, as well - is that previous administrations did very little to address the situation. The Minister stated in the media yesterday: It is an indication of poor management in the past. Clearly, we had much too liberal hunting regulations and it means we will now have to take drastic measures.
I am concerned that the Minister is bound and determined to blame the non-native hunter, and that is simply is not the case.
I would like to ask the Minister if he knows anything about what his department has done in the last 10 years. Is he aware that in the late 1970s the outfitter was bought out of game zones 7 and 9 and permit hunting for sheep was introduced to reduce the harvest in the area? Is that not a management tool to reduce the harvest in the area of game zones 7 and 9 and was that not done under the previous administration?
Hon. Mr. Webster: I do not think the Member seriously expects me to answer his question with the mistakes he has introduced there.
I am not trying to put any blame whatsoever on the non-native hunter. Let us face it, the blame is on the Minister of Renewable Resource of the day, who introduced very liberal hunting regulations, including an open season on antlerless moose. That is the reason why we are facing this serious situation today. There were completely irresponsible management decisions made by the Minister of the time, so we now find ourselves in the situation where we have very low caribou and moose populations in those areas.
Mr. Phillips: The Minister does not even know what he is talking about. Is the Minister aware that in the late 1970s and early 1980s hundreds of thousands of dollars were spent on wildlife studies in that particular area, identifying wolves and bears as the most significant predator, not man, because hunting privileges in that area had already been severely limited at that time?
Hon. Mr. Webster: I would ask the Member to check the record. Hunting regulations had not been seriously restrictive at that time. There were some in terms of number of days in the season, but still the cow moose season was continued up until 1984. In the minds of many people, this did not constitute a cutback in hunting privileges in that area.
Mr. Phillips: Well, we have him admitting that there were some things done. He also admitted that in 1984 or early 1985, it was changed again by the old administration. In the paper, this is the administration he claimed did nothing.
In the early 1980s, the cow moose season was cancelled on the recommendation of local hunters to protect the moose in the area as well as caribou. There was a permit system in the area. For over six years, this government has not done anything.
Speaker: Order please. Will the Member please get to the supplementary question.
Mr. Phillips: I will, Mr. Speaker. I would like the Minister to retract the statements he made about overhunting by non-native hunters as being the main cause of the problem in zones 7 and 9.
There has been little or no hunting in that area for the last several years. The Minister knows that.
Hon. Mr. Webster: I think if the Member checks the record he will agree with me that there were very, very liberal hunting regulations in the early 1980s in those two hunting areas. I have to take exception to the comments from the Member that we have done nothing in the last few years to further reduce hunting opportunities. In the last few years we have introduced a permit system in those two areas. I told him there were 20 permits in game management zones 7 and 9.
Question re: Moose and caribou studies, game zones 7 and 9
Mr. Lang: Maybe we should get one situation corrected on the record and verified by the side opposite. Back in 1984-85, over $500,000 was spent by the Government of the Yukon Territory in game studies in order to put forward a game management plan for game zone 7 and 9. It was to be put into effect in 1985.
If the Minister was so concerned about the game management in that particular area, and he was part of the government at that time, why was he part of the government that scrapped that plan that was to be put into effect at that time?
Hon. Mr. Webster: Because the government believed very strongly that before predator control programs were introduced - and that is what the Member is talking about when he talks about game management plans - there should be more restrictions on the taking of big game by hunters. That was the course of action that was followed by introducing 20 permits for game zones 7 and 9.
Mr. Lang: We obviously have a Minister of Renewable Resources who does not want anything to do with the non-native hunter. I am very concerned he feels his department is there just for the purpose of passing laws against the hunters when they have a responsibility for management.
In view of the fact that the recommendation has been put forward - does the Minister of Justice want to talk?
I would ask the Minister of Renewable Resources, in view of the fact that recommendations have been put forward: is he going to be implementing these recommendations over the course of this winter?
Hon. Mr. Webster: Before I address the Members question, he made a statement that I want nothing to do with non-native hunters, whatever that means. I want to reiterate that there are 20 permits for moose in place right now for game zones 7 and 9. The Member says, Whoopdedoo. It is very unfortunate but, as I said earlier, mismanagement in the early 1980s has got us into this situation.
With respect to implementing the recommendations found in the subcommittees report, the Yukon Wildlife Management Board will be reviewing technical information as the result of moose surveys in that area and coming up with some further recommendations.
Mr. Lang: The Minister of Renewable Resources has set a track record for game zones 7 and 9 which is complete. So far, it is zero. He is batting zero.
Is the Minister prepared to recommend, through this House, that these recommendations will be put into effect over the course of this winter, and we will not wait for another year to go by? Meanwhile, our moose and caribou populations continue to deteriorate.
Hon. Mr. Webster: I find myself compelled to address the opening remarks the Member made before he posed a question.
I would like some definition and clarification from the Member opposite to what he is referring when he says, The Minister is batting zero in game zones 7 and 9. What does that mean?
Question re: Moose and caribou studies, games zones 7 and 9
Mr. Lang: I recognize the Minister across the way needs help sometimes but, when you are batting zero, it means zero. It means you have done nothing. In the two years he has been Minister of Renewable Resources, he has done nothing. All he has done is talk about consultation.
Is the Minister going to implement the recommendations that have been put forward in this House for game zones 7 and 9? Are we going to see another year or two under the pretext of consultation? Meanwhile, the moose and caribou populations in game zones 7 and 9, and now game zone 5, are deteriorating. Subsequently, major restrictions are being put on hunters throughout the territory.
Hon. Mr. Webster: The Member is wrong when he says I have done nothing in the last year since being Minister responsible. We have reduced the number of permits to 20 in game zones 7 and 9. I have mentioned that before. This year we have conducted the caribou surveys in the area to determine the health of the population, in game zone 5 especially. We have also just finished conducting moose surveys in game zones 7 and 9.
Mr. Lang: If the Minister has been so successful, could he explain to us why the recent surveys of the Aishihik caribou herd indicate that they are in serious decline and need immediate management action as per the recommendations of the Wildlife Management Board. If he is has been so successful, other than the fact that he has gone down to 20 permits, can he explain, if he is doing such a good job, why that particular herd is declining?
Hon. Mr. Webster: I think the Member does not recognize or understand the process involved here. There are various steps being taken according to our policy in big game management and that is first of all to liberalize hunting regulations in some aspects on the predators before, and in addition to that, restricting hunting opportunities before we take the final step of predator control, which, incidentally, may be necessary in this case.
Question re: Moose and caribou studies, game zones 7 and 9
Mr. Lang: Back in 1984-85, $500,000 of taxpayers money was spent on game studies. A game management program was to be put into effect by the government and your government came to power and decided not to implement it. Six years later we have a situation where the caribou herd in the Champagne/Aishihik area has declined. Can the Minister explain to this House why, if he is doing such a good job, that particular herd is declining in numbers, other than the fact that he has put further restrictions on the hunters within the territory so you cannot blame them for doing it.
Hon. Mr. Webster: I can only say again that the obvious reason is that some of the measures put in place to date have not been effective enough to raise the population of caribou in game zone 5.
Mr. Lang: In view of the representations that have been put to the Minister by people, through various organizations, as well as the rural communities around Whitehorse, why did he wait until this past year to do those surveys? Why were they not done a couple of years ago? The local people knew that herd was deteriorating, as far as numbers were concerned.
Hon. Mr. Webster: This year, in the long-range plans of the department, the plan was to do both caribou and moose surveys in game zones 5, 7 and 9, and that course of action was taken.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now lapsed. We will now proceed with Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
MOTIONS OTHER THAN GOVERNMENT MOTIONS
Clerk: Item No. 1, standing in the name of Mr. Phillips.
Speaker: Is the hon. Member prepared to proceed with Item No. 1?
Mr. Phillips: Yes, Mr. Speaker.
Motion No. 30
Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. Member for Whitehorse Riverdale North
THAT it is the opinion of this House that the Yukon government should not provide funds to facilitate the bankruptcy proceedings of any business.
Mr. Phillips: I brought this motion forward here today to raise a strong concern expressed by the local Yukon business community. This concern came about because of the action taken by the Government of Yukon in the bankruptcy proceedings of the Tagish Kwan Corporation. For the first time ever, and probably the first time in Canadian history, the government - in this particular case, the Government of Yukon - used taxpayers dollars in the amount of $50,000 to assist in the bankruptcy of a Yukon business.
There is no question in my mind, nor in the minds of the Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce and the Yukon Contractors Association, that this government has set a precedent. The Minister has sheepishly risen in this House over the last several days and given us several weak-kneed arguments to justify this position.
He has told us that the funds were not given to the Tagish Kwan, that they were given to the Kwanlin Dun, an Indian band: in his words, a government, like a municipal government. The Kwanlin Dun then used the funds to help pay for their legal fees and accounting fees, for the winding down of the Tagish Kwan.
This Minister must feel everyone in the Yukon is really stupid and cannot see through his silly argument. The fact is that the funds were - in the Ministers words, right from the Ministers own document - applied for and used for the winding down of the Tagish Kwan Corporation.
These funds were meant for, and they were used by, the Tagish Kwan business. In every sense of the word - in every sense of the legal word - the Tagish Kwan Corporation is a Yukon business. Obviously, this government, and in particular this Minister, does not understand what constitutes a business, so let me give the Member a lesson.
The Kwanlin Dun Indian Band decided that it wanted to enter the contracting business and realized it would not be a good idea to bid contracts as an Indian band so they formed a separate entity, an entity all on its own, and they called it Tagish Kwan Incorporated. They incorporated this new business on April 10, 1985, and registered it with a local law firm, exactly in the same way that every other new business would. The new corporation, as a limited corporation, had its own identity and was totally responsible for its own actions. This is one of the reasons the creditors of the Tagish Kwan Corporation cannot go after the assets of the Kwanlin Dun: simply, because they are considered legally, and technically, separate, in the legal sense of the word. This also brings into question why the Kwanlin Dun even applied for the grant for the Tagish Kwan. Maybe they have opened up a new can of worms as a result of applying for this loan and the creditors can now go after the Kwanlin Dun on this issue. That might be an interesting question that their lawyers will want to look at.
The Tagish Kwan Corporation built several private homes in the Whitehorse area, as well as apartments, and bid on several government jobs and other private enterprise jobs in the territory, as other contracting companies were allowed to do. The Tagish Kwan Corporation is a legitimate business in every sense of the word, just as are the many other businesses that are owed thousands of dollars by Tagish Kwan.
I would now like to turn to the fund used to pay for this bankruptcy. The fund is called the business development fund. There is a real irony. We have a government that has such a lack of business understanding that it uses funds from a program called the business development fund to pay for bankruptcy proceedings. I would like to know how anyone in ones right mind could consider this to be business development.
One also has to ask, what useful business venture did not receive any funding out of this fund because there was a $50,000 shortfall, which was used to pay for someones bankruptcy.
I would also question the Ministers authority to provide funds, as the Minister says, from government to government. This fund is supposed to be used to develop new business opportunities in the Yukon and not fund governments or, specifically, the bankruptcy of any business.
The bankruptcy of Tagish Kwan has left many businesses with severe financial problems of their own. Some have downscaled their businesses. Some have laid people off and others have sold their own personal assets, including, in one case, their home. This was done just to survive. If they, or any other business, is forced into bankruptcy, is the government going to help bail them out in the future?
This bail-out by the government has left a very bitter taste in the mouths of many Yukoners. The government has clearly shown a distinct and preferential treatment of a native business versus non-native businesses.
That is the word on the street, whether or not the Minister likes it. This NDP government has created this feeling out there. In its attempt to help the Tagish Kwan, as the Minister said he was trying to do, it has discredited the Tagish Kwan Corporation. The business community has a lot of pride, and the business community knows that each and every business is responsible for its actions. If they get into this kind of problem they make personal sacrifices, as some have in this case, to see that their creditors get paid. They do not ask the government to bail them out. It is not the job of the government to be bailing out any business by paying its bankruptcy proceedings.
I do not accept the smoke and mirror approach by the Minister to this issue. Simply put, the Minister paid for the bankruptcy proceedings of the Tagish Kwan business no matter how he tried to smuggle or hide it; he gave the money to the Tagish Kwan Corporation business.
We cannot ever recover the $50,000 in this case, but we can show Yukoners that we care about the way the government is spending their tax dollars. All Members of this House can send a clear message to this Minister, who is responsible for business and does not seem to understand how businesses work, that this move was a hastily conceived bail-out with long-term ramifications and should never happen again.
Yukoners expect this government to treat each and every Yukoner fairly. They want to know that when they are doing business in the Yukon they are all playing by the same rules and are all on the same level playing field. We have heard time and time again from the side opposite, from the Government Leader and the Minister of Government Services, that they want to make sure everybody is on the same level playing field. In this case everybody is not on the same level playing field.
We cannot roll back the clock on this disaster, but we can prevent it from happening again. I would urge all Members on all sides of the House to give strong consideration supporting this motion.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I will begin by thanking the Member for bringing the motion forward this afternoon. Despite the hysterical tone of the delivery, which may not be picked up in Hansard, and despite the fact that he continually lacks understanding of the governments position and did not characterize it well at all, I still thank him for the opportunity to discuss the matter this afternoon. It is worthy of some discussion. I would like to take the opportunity to more clearly explain the rationale for the contribution made to the Kwanlin Dun Band respecting the winding down of the Tagish Kwan Corporation.
The Member made a comment with respect to the governments preference for native businesses over non-native businesses. At the end of my remarks, I hope I can be reminded to respond to that particular allegation. Not only could nothing be further from the truth, but it is something that will have to be more thoroughly discussed, especially given the tone of the Members remarks.
At first glance, the motion might lead one to believe that it says that the government should not encourage companies to go bankrupt. That was my first reading of the motion. Although I support that proposition, I realize the motion is ambiguous enough to read many different things, because it is not well-drafted. I will not take it that the Member is suggesting that we should resolve that the government should not encourage companies to go bankrupt.
The proposition that, as a general policy, the government should not financially assist in the wind-down of companies going bankrupt is something that I can also support. I do support that. In the context of the discussion in the Legislature, and the discussion the Member brought forward this afternoon, we know that the motion, despite its relatively benign nature, is all about the Kwanlin Dun Indian Band and the Tagish Kwan Corporation. It is not at all about general policy. It is about one extraordinary circumstance that occurred this summer.
It is that to which I will address my remarks. What was extraordinary about the situation? What is it that makes it extraordinary? Why should the Yukon government veer from its general policy and undertake this measure of providing a $50,000 contribution to Kwanlin Dun in order to wind down the operations of the Tagish Kwan Corporation?
One must recall the Yukon governments thinking at the time, which has not substantially changed at all, respecting the circumstances and the environment around the obvious collapse of the operations and the obligations of the Tagish Kwan Corporation and consider the general policy questions the Yukon government had to consider at the time that the obvious collapse was taking place.
It did occur to me and to others that Indian people themselves are on the verge of the post-land-claims era. It is a period where there is a high expectation that Indian people will immediately develop entrepreneurial skills, run businesses, compete, make profits, become self-sufficient, buy and sell freely in the larger business community and, ultimately, benefit all and increase economic activity overall. That is the expectation. The expectation is that this entrepreneurial skill will appear throughout the territory and in the offices of the Indian people and among the band memberships of Indians across this territory and that Indian people will ultimately automatically simply behave like business people everywhere and, with access to capital, will simply compete and perform like all people. The reality as it occurred to us is that there is very little entrepreneurial expertise in the aboriginal community. There is very little entrepreneurial experience in the aboriginal community.
It is obvious that fitting into the larger business community will be difficult at best. It is also obvious, if people have not yet recognized it, that doing business on land set aside poses special complications and problems that need to be addressed and will make life even more difficult for an aboriginal business operating in a normal business environment. It is an issue that must be resolved.
It is also a reality that free enterprise and business ethics are not widely practiced, or held, or even much trusted in a large portion of the native community. Nevertheless, there is an expectation, and a legitimate expectation that aboriginal people, Indian people in this territory, will run businesses, compete, make profits and fend for themselves. The reality and the expectation come at odds with each other when one expects that this entrepreneurial experience and spirit will take place overnight.
There was another reality last summer. That was that the Tagish Kwan Corporation was going down. We had storm signals emanating from the failure of the Centennial Street project. We had signals being sent that the Tagish Kwan Corporation could not pay its bills, and could not meet its obligations. It was the largest single Indian business, and the largest band in the largest city in the territory. It had business contacts, suppliers and buyers and subcontractors throughout this community. It was obvious that the business could not recover from the management problems and was ultimately going down.
Prior to that period, the Yukon government had been making a considerable effort to assist the corporation to ensure its survival, but could not, under reasonable terms and within reasonable parameters, provide that help or assistance, and all of this despite the considerable efforts by my colleague, the Minister of Community and Transportation Services.
The corporation was lost. It could not pay its bills. We knew and recognized that creditors would suffer, and that the Indian band membership, which was hoping for a real economic prayer, had its hopes shattered.
They resulted in significant and serious political problems within the band, played out in the media over a period throughout the summer and numerous other businesses associated with the corporations operations would suffer as well.
Now the Yukon government had a number of options. One option was to do nothing and watch. This would have meant, of course, that we could anticipate long, messy, bankruptcy proceedings, lasting for perhaps years. We would have seen the creditors, obviously, fighting it out as they would in any other normal circumstance associated with a bankruptcy, to identify assets and establish their position in line for receipt of the liquidated assets. We would have, most importantly, seen the Kwanlin Dun Band, not Tagish Kwan, left with a protracted legacy of a failed business, facing resentment from the business community and being unable to establish business activities until the bankruptcy proceedings were over.
This would certainly, in our view, set back everyones expectations that this large band in the capital city would be willingly and equally participating in normal business life in this territory for a very, very long time.
The Yukon government had the option to do something to essentially assist in expediting proceedings. The result would not have been to save Tagish Kwan because the option that was ultimately chosen did not financially benefit Kwanlin Dun or Tagish Kwan Corporation. Tagish Kwan Corporation is finished.
It would not eliminate, but it would lessen, the resentment of the creditors and the business community toward the Kwanlin Dun Band. It would certainly improve the bands and the band memberships confidence in using business enterprise to make a living. This all at a time when it is most critical that they do gain entrepreneurial experience.
It would relieve the long-lasting, high-profile examples of business failure that would deter their faith in business activity and would permit, as financial consequence of the contribution by the government, and also an expected equal contribution by the Kwanlin Dun Band, the creditors to have a greater chance at recovering losses, through a sale of assets of the old corporation. This is because we know the lawyers, the accountants and the trustees, under normal circumstances, would ultimately be paid out first, after the liquidation of the assets.
This was an extraordinary circumstance, in our view. It was undoubtedly, and is undoubtedly, a painful and embarrassing episode for the Kwanlin Dun Indian Band. It was, and is, like other bankruptcies, difficult and painful for creditors and others affected by a business failure. So the Government of the Yukon, in the name of the long-term economic health of the territory, acted. The Yukon government acted to encourage faith in Indian enterprise in the long term, and to help, to a limited extent, the creditors.
It is not the Yukon governments general policy to facilitate bankruptcy proceedings but there are, at times, extraordinary circumstances that are unique and which, in our opinion, compel public action, and this was one of those times.
There was also a time, the time surrounding the period of the Centennial Street project, where extraordinary action was again taken. It was extraordinary action not to help the Tagish Kwan Corporation; it was extraordinary action to help small business creditors. It is not government policy to assist creditors or private enterprise suffering from the failure of a private enterprise action, even where there is government loan funding available. It is not government policy to do that, generally.
It was considered an extraordinary circumstance. Under the extraordinary circumstances, assistance was given to those creditors by the Government of Yukon, not insisting that it recover the full amount of the taxpayers dollars invested in the Centennial Street project. It was an extraordinary action, but it was not inconsistent with general policy.
The Government of Yukon has, at times, acted in extraordinary circumstances, and the Centennial Street may be considered a small item. Curragh Resources support would be considered a large item: a large project that was supported. I think most people in the territory would be hard pressed to say that our support for Curragh was a bad move.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The Member for Riverdale North makes the allegation that the government is bailing out a bankrupt company. That is not true. The company is bankrupt; there is no hope and no future for the Tagish Kwan Corporation; there is no second chance for the corporation.
There is a chance for the creditors. There is a second chance for the Kwanlin Dun Band members to accept and to embrace private enterprise activity to support themselves and their operations well into the future. But there is no chance for the Tagish Kwan Corporation, and our contribution does not provide them the chance.
The Member for Riverdale North makes the statement that the government is interested only because this is a native-run business and is providing preferential treatment to native businesses. I would ask Members to look to the business development fund and see who is benefiting from the business development fund. Who benefits the most? Who benefits the most by a wide margin from the funds under the business development fund? Who receives taxpayers money to aid projects where there will be private profit? Who receives that benefit, whether it be a low-interest loan where there is essentially a grant being given to pay for interest or whether it is a contribution to core fund a Chamber of Commerce or whether it be equity funding to support a particular project that will ultimately result in profit for private business? Who receives the vast majority of funding under the business development fund? Without engaging in rhetorical excess, which I am known never to do, it is non-native businesses who receive the vast majority of those funds.
To say that the Government of Yukon is showing preferential treatment through its priority of allocation of funding to native businesses is a wicked thing to say. The Government of Yukon wants aboriginal businesses to support the operations of aboriginal people and the lives of aboriginal people after the land claims settlement is completed. The Government of Yukon recognizes that there will be a period where they must gain entrepreneurial experience and participate in the economy.
There are policy difficulties that must be addressed, with respect to the participation on land set aside, so that there is appropriate security for non-aboriginal business partners. In this particular instance, in dealing with the support given to the Kwanlin Dun Band - and this is this distinction, whether the Member for Riverdale North likes it or agrees with it or not - it is support, recognizing that the membership of the Kwanlin Dun Band must accept and embrace entrepreneurial activity well into the future.
The concept and reality of having bankruptcy proceedings for their governments economic development arm taking place well into the future and acting as a signal to all members of that band that entrepreneurial activity is a negative thing is something we wish to avoid. We want aboriginal businesses to thrive.
It is obvious, under the circumstances, that the financial beneficiaries will not be the Kwanlin Dun Band or the Tagish Kwan Corporation, so there is no hope for the Tagish Kwan Corporation, and the funding is not being given to the Kwanlin Dun Indian Band. They, themselves, have expended money in this process.
The financial beneficiaries obviously will be those who have been dealing with the Tagish Kwan Corporation, those people who suffer from a loss in their business enterprise and will be expecting some assets to be liquidated to pay for at least some of their losses.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The Members opposite, and certainly the Member for Riverdale North and Porter Creek East, simply do not have the civility to let one Member speak at a time. They must speak four or five times during everybodys speech. Perhaps House rules at some point can accommodate that, if we wish, if they will not behave.
For the time being, the position I have stated I believe accurately represents the thinking of the territorial government at the time the contribution was made. It was done, knowing very well, in response to the concerns of some Members, that the contribution was legal in every respect. It was done with the long term economy of this territory in mind. It was done knowing that it was an extraordinary circumstance - and those do come up from time to time - and it was done to promote faith in entrepreneurial activity.
Members opposite certainly will disagree, as they have indicated that they will, but for the betterment of the territorial economy, for the long-term faith in entrepreneurial activity by Indian people and for the sake of creditors, this action was taken.
It is not consistent with general policy of the government but then, sometimes governments do respond to extraordinary circumstances where they feel that it is warranted. I mentioned, at the beginning of my remarks, about the need to understand better what this motion says. As I indicated at the beginning, my initial reading of the motion was that this was somehow a statement affirming the governments desire not to bankrupt businesses by its actions. I thought that was a rather poor way of stating the proposition.
The concern that I have here, with respect to this motion, if one wants to read it the way the Member for Riverdale North has put it, is that the suggestion will take place, if we were to agree with the general proposition, that we somehow were reconsidering our assessment of the extraordinary circumstances of the summer and regretted having taken the extraordinary action that we did. Well, it is our policy to avoid, in the Members words, I guess, facilitating the bankruptcy of any private company. We recognize that it is our general policy, and the government does not wish to be caught in a position where it cannot act when it feels there are extraordinary circumstances and debate them freely in this House, as we are doing now, or, the government does not want to leave the impression that the arguments that the Member has made to date have caused the government to reconsider the action that it has taken.
Consequently, I would like to move an amendment.
I do not believe it changes the intent of the motion considerably at all. The amendment reads as follows:
THAT Motion No. 30 be amended by adding the following words as a general policy after Yukon government.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Minister responsible for Economic Development and Small Business
THAT Motion No. 30 be amended by adding the following the words as a general policy after Yukon government.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The Members opposite asked a rhetorical question whether or not this means that, on occasion, extraordinary circumstances may require extraordinary action and whether or not this means that only New Democrats will receive funding as a result of the change in this motion. I believe objective people - and I am not referring to any Member across the floor because I have qualified my comments - looking through not only the extraordinary actions that we have taken, like helping out that well-known New Democrat, Clifford Frame, or helping out the well-known New Democrats on city council or taking any of the other actions that we have taken to support business through the fund, will know that that was not a fair statement.
If people had a look at the business development fund, and looked to see who had received funds willingly given by the government, often and always based on some subjective analysis of how valuable a project is, one would categorically see that there has been absolutely no favouritism, certainly not during the period that I have been Minister of this department. If one were to perceive it for the first time, and not know what the orientation of this government was, one might suspect that the government was Conservative, if they believed that the government distributed funds on the basis of patronage. There is no question at all who has received the majority of funds through the business development fund.
I will not trade allegations with the Member, because I despise their mentality. I will state only that the actions speak for themselves with respect to the distribution of the funds, and the fairness associated with the distribution of funds speaks for itself.
I believe I have clearly explained the situation, and I will be more than happy to listen to comments made by other Members. I definitely think the actions taken by the government have been wise ones, have been ones that are in the best interests of the territory and, quite contrary to the Member opposites allegations, these actions will be seen in the long term to have substantially benefited the territory.
Mr. Lang: I want to make some observations with respect to what took place with the Kwanlin Dun Indian Band and the Tagish Kwan Corporation and the financing through the business development fund of $50,000 for a bankruptcy.
At the outset, I think it is safe to say that the Government of Yukon is probably the first government in the free world to voluntarily finance the bankruptcy proceedings of a private company. We have made history. I would challenge any Member of this House to bring forward any other business that has been bailed out for the purposes of paying for the bankruptcy proceedings of a private business.
We are talking about a number of principles in the motion that is before us. We witnessed the fact that the government decided, in its wisdom, to grant $50,000 to one private company over and above everyone else. It is called fairness or equal opportunity. But that is not what happened. Let us get down to the nitty-gritty: it is a question of votes.
It never crossed the governments mind once when a number of private construction firms went into bankruptcy over the course of the last four years, that they would even consider loaning, let along granting, money to pay for bankruptcy proceedings. It never crossed anyones mind in this House to pay for such a thing.
If an individual or major shareholder in the company had approached the Government Leader or the Minister of Finance with a request that they grant the money to go into bankruptcy, they would have been laughed out of their offices.
Quite rightfully so. Quite rightfully so. They should be laughed out of office. No, no, we have a different situation here now. All of a sudden, we are starting to count. We are starting to worry about the secret ballot, the one that we are going to take away as time goes on, the right to the secret ballot that we are going to erode, as the Premier stands in his place over the next months and the years to come to tell us how he is going to shape the territory. Oh, yes, we are right back to the secret ballot and it is called votes. Should we do it because there are enough people there that maybe if we pay that money, we will get their votes; we will buy them.
Let us get it on the floor. That is what it is all about. The Minister of Finance and Economic Development stood in his place today and said he did this because he wanted to hasten the bankruptcy proceedings, so they would not leave such a scar in the business community.
The exact opposite has happened, the exact opposite of what the Minister proclaimed was his intent. The Minister should walk out of his office and walk down that street and talk to some people on the street. Maybe he should go swimming at noon hour. Maybe he should go down to an ice hockey rink and talk to some of the people and hear what they are saying in respect to how stupid they think this particular allocation of dollars has been, on behalf of the taxpayers. It has caused real bad feelings because it has brought out into the open who should be preferred over who. That is not what the government is there for. The government is there to represent the public interest. The public interest is not to pay taxpayers money for the purposes of bankruptcies.
The Minister says, on behalf of this condescending government, how he is going to be the big benefactor of the aboriginal entrepreneur. There are Indian people in business in this territory who have been in business for many years. Quite frankly, they have been very successful without any help from the great economic messiah across the floor. They go about their business, they work seven days a week, they work 12 hours a day, similar to the non-native business man who is successful. They do not go to the government asking for money.
He stands up and makes the generalization, in a most condescending way, that he is going to be the benefactor; he is going to be the reason why Indian people get into business. As a long-time Yukoner with a lot of Indian friends, I just find that condescending and patronizing to the Indian people of this territory. How he can stand and say that that is the reason he should allocate $50,000 of the taxpayers money and say to the public it is to help the Indians; it defies any principle of logic.
I realize we are talking about votes, but there are certain principles a government is supposed to stand for. One of those principles is fairness. I guess we are starting to get a real taste of it. We are starting to rock and roll as we saw in Question Period, where the right to the secret ballot is no longer that important to the side opposite.
Now we are seeing the situation where the Minister comes in and has the nerve to bring forward an amendment to a motion that says you should not fund bankruptcy so that he can now, once again, take extraordinary steps if required in his judgment, his judgment, which quite frankly is being very much questioned by not just Members on this side but the general public at large, the arbitrary right to be the economic messiah of Yukon. As he said in his speech, giving the money, giving the money, kind of like Santa Claus. The Minister should have gotten dressed up for this debate because he has the ability to give it.
The arrogance, the absolute arrogance, of the Member to stand in his place and talk about how he is giving the money like it is his money and he has the right to give it to whom he wishes. He will lay the hands on the people as they come by. I am sure at the Commissioners Levee we will see the great economic messiah there dressed up, and all of his subjects can come by and we can all get on our knees and have our hand out and maybe he will have cheques, cheques that we can all take down to the bank and thank Mr. McDonald. Happy New Year. It is a good New Year. We are going to fund all the bankruptcies in the Yukon and then we will send the Premier, the man who would be king, to a First Ministers conference and he can stand in that forum and tell them how he brought all these new policies in and these new initiatives. Then he can tell them in the great city of Toronto or Montreal how we now finance bankruptcies and we could be laughed out of Canada as we spend the taxpayers money from Montreal and Toronto, who happen to be financing this government by over $300 million. This is worse than paying Barry Stuart $65,000 to write a book in Australia for a year. This rivals the stupidity of that decision. It does not just rival it, it distances it by quite a bit. It exceeds it by a large, large margin.
There is another side to this story that the government fails to see in this situation, a very human side I must say. In one particular case, we had a business that did business with the Tagish Kwan and that had a decision to make. They could go into personal bankruptcy or they could sell all their assets and pay their bills. These people are very well respected in the community. They have a family in this community and have worked very hard. It was one of the businesses I was talking about whose owners work seven days a week, 365 days a year, in order to provide for their family. They lost their home. They were out on the street. They had to sell their home in order to pay their bills. But where was Mr. McDonald? Where was the caring government across the way when that happened?
They just turn their back on them, because it is not numbers of votes: that dirty word, votes or secret ballots. No, they are not going to help them. They should have known better. Mr. McDonald was not there to stroke or soothe them, or give them a cheque. Perhaps he is going to do that in the new year. There are different rules, depending on who you are, where you come from and how many votes you can deliver. They do it under the guise of fairness and goodness. It is enough to make you retch.
Then, the side opposite concocted a motion in its caucus today, asking us to approve an amendment so they can go and do the same thing again in these extraordinary circumstances and under the guise of fairness. How stupid do you think the public is? This government wants to ask the general public to have the right to go and finance more bankruptcies, if they feel it is in their political interest, forget financial. This is all politics and votes.
It is one of those things they are afraid of: a secret ballot. It is not a show of hands. You had better put that money there until we get rid of the secret ballot, then they will make the appropriate moves in the name of fairness. What kind of society are we building, when we can expect to go out and see the government finance bankruptcies? There is $50,000 going to lawyers and accountants under the pretext that it is going to help some creditors. Give your head a shake.
The Minister has said that it is very difficult and painful for the shareholders involved in the Tagish Kwan Corporation. I have no doubt that many of them feel very badly about what has happened. I know some of them and they have expressed that view to me.
At the same time, many Yukoners have been hurt very badly over this, to the point that maybe 30 or 40 years of a persons life in the workforce has been wiped out and they have had to start again. All their material wealth is gone. What have we done for them? There are a number of us who will stand back and give our sympathies, but there will be no assistance for them. They are supposed to know better.
I am amazed. The side opposite would not stand here and admit there was a mistake made, and be prepared to support the motion put forward by the Member for Riverdale North.
As the Member for Riverdale North pointed out, what has been done has been done. Contrary to what the side opposite says, if they get away from their friends and talk to some people with strong feelings on this, they will find that this has not enhanced the Kwanlin Dun Indian Bands ability to do business in the future. I would say that the opposite has happened.
Why the side opposite cannot support the principle of the motion is beyond me.
We want to make sure this does not happen again. The side opposite, in not supporting the motion, are saying they can do the same thing again. That is totally unacceptable.
All I can say for the side opposite is that, if they continue down the path they are going, they are going to reap the repercussions of it. The sad thing about it is it is starting to affect our community. It is affecting it very much. When you see this type of favouritism at the expense of others, when you see good people being badly hurt in the community, people losing their homes, if you think that these people feel good about what the government has done, you have another thought coming. Then you wonder why people grow to detest government. When that happens, it is not the peoples fault; it is the fact that the government is no longer providing, in the Minister of Government Services words, the level playing field. Once you eliminate that, then you will not reap, within your community, what the Government Leader talked about earlier, social peace. There will be no social peace, and that is unfortunate. We have a beautiful Yukon; we have a nice place to live but with these types of actions by the government, it makes it less than a nice place to live. That is unfortunate, and I just remind the Members opposite that they are there to protect the public interest and stand up for the public interest and for once, and maybe down the road here, they can take that into consideration instead of counting the votes.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I would like to restore some civility and balance to the debate. I do not think what was done was a mistake. I think the motion as amended actually speaks much better to the intent that lies behind economic development funding support to businesses in the community than what is suggested in the original motion.
I think the amendment does, indeed, allow for the kind of flexibility that we must have, not in order to abuse the use of available funds, but in order to address extenuating circumstances and extraordinary situations. I think this fits into the category of a very special extenuating circumstance, that justifies the flexibility that was exercised. I do not think anyone wants to see a policy where public funds go to help every bankruptcy proceeding that is going on. Clearly, that is not in the cards; that is not desirable; that is not the issue. Clearly, if that were the policy or if that were the standing practice, it would be ridiculous. Clearly, the burden on the public coffers would be extremely onerous but, more important, the bankruptcies that do happen often happen for various and many reasons, and they, in the end, should be allowed to happen.
As pointed out by my colleague, the Minister of Economic Development, the support given in this instance does not prevent the bankruptcy. That carries on. A bankrupt company is bankrupt. It has no hope of revival. It is over. It is a business that is finished.
Again, the issue is not so much the policy as the circumstance that we have before us, referring to Tagish Kwan. It is, as Members have admitted, about that $50,000 that was provided by this government to another government, to a band, to help wrap up the affairs of its corporation.
That is exactly what was done. A band was assisted in an extraordinary, extenuating circumstance to wrap up the business of its collapsed economic arm. It had collapsed. We know that.
The Member for Porter Creek East described some of the damage that is done in a bankruptcy. That is true. There is injury in a bankruptcy, usually quite severe injury. On the fact of it, it looks like a business that has collapsed and a corporate entity that has failed. There are people involved who get hurt because it is people who run these corporate affairs. The smaller a corporate affair, the more injury to an individual person.
The scenario overall is really quite simple. Tagish Kwan, as a business, had overextended itself. It had taken on too many jobs. It suffered from poor management, and it had eroded its financial help. It needed a shot in the arm.
Its owners, the Kwanlin Dun Band, tried to give it a shot in the arm, but not just financially, because to give a financial shot in the arm to a business that is not well-run is not going to revive it. The band undertook a fairly comprehensive restructuring and accountability review of the corporation. It did that for very good reasons.
The band wanted to restore the health and credibility of the corporation, which was severely eroded in the business community. As pointed out by my colleague, the corporation was a very critical economic and social tool for the band. In very simple terms, it built band houses, provided employment, and participated in a very active business community, which also benefited from the construction activity that was going on.
The band was, and is, on the eve of land claim settlement. An economic lever like the corporation would help the band to address its self-sufficiency objectives. It would provide the much-needed employment and services for a fledgling band self-government.
It takes no imagination to recognize the value of the corporation to the band, and it does not take any imagination to recognize the economic spinoff to the rest of the community from the activities of such a corporation. It also takes no imagination to recognize the damage done by the collapse of a corporation.
This government was persuaded to try to help the band. It was persuaded earlier on, late in the spring and early summer. I recall spending nearly two months attempting to put a land package together that would have allowed the band to help the corporation in its severe financial difficulties.
I think Members are quite aware that the Kwanlin Dun Band, as part of its relocation agreement in 1986, acquired various categories of land in the McIntyre/Hillcrest subdivision. In that relocation agreement, year 1 and year 2 lands were ear-marked as settlement lands, specifically intended for immediate housing needs. That is where the band built their homes and where they were living.
There was a block of land known as year 3 lands that were not part of settlement lands, but were held in trust by the federal government for the band. Year 3 lands, not being settlement lands, were for the express purpose of economic benefit of the band. So the band undertook to exchange those year 3 lands for money to help rebuild the Tagish Kwan Corporation. We spent two months attempting to put a land package together. The Yukon government, recognizing the need for land and lots in the future, was quite prepared to purchase a number of lots from the band that would provide the necessary capital to the band, and at the same time provide to the government an inventory of land it could eventually release, so it was a straight business deal we were looking at.
So it was a straight business deal that we were looking at. But unfortunately that deal collapsed, too. It collapsed over a position the federal government took, demanding that the Yukon government assume the federal governments fiduciary responsibility on that land. As I said earlier, the land was year 3 lands held in trust by the federal government. The federal government was quite prepared to transfer that land to the band and we were prepared to buy it: innocent land purchasers and fee simple title. But we were expected by the federal Treasury Board to assume a responsibility that we morally and legally could not do. Somehow we had to sign an indemnification agreement that would require us to save the federal government harmless forever in the event that band members in the future may wish to challenge the right of the federal government to have given up that land that was being held in trust for them to the band, which by resolution voted it to happen.
Unfortunately, and regretfully, I often thought that the federal government deliberately created that condition to collapse the deal, knowing full well that we could not take over that fiduciary responsibility.
Nevertheless, looking back with hindsight, one could argue to say that maybe that is what should have been done to help the Kwanlin Dun Band restore the health of the corporation, but I do not believe, even to this day, that it was right for us to do something that we legally could not do.
There were documents we had to prepare in relation to the land. We were dealing with over 100 lots. There was research required, both legal and financial. Analyses of the corporation were required. I even met with the Minister of Indian and Northern Affairs in Ottawa over the issue, who expressed support for the land transaction. But at the eleventh hour, Treasury Board injected the condition that we could not agree to.
Nevertheless, even after the land deal collapsed, we still demonstrated a willingness to help in whatever way possible. My officials of the Yukon Housing Corporation spent considerable time with officials from Community and Transportation Services, in attempting to work with the coalition that was struck in the middle to late summer. I met with them as well. We managed, out of the series of discussions that took place, to salvage the Centennial Street project. It was not without difficulty.
The Member for Porter Creek East talked about the need for a level playing field. I recall meeting with the coalition. There was no doubt in their minds that the territorial government had some responsibility to make good the debts of Tagish Kwan. I never understood the logic or rationale for that, but as business people, they made their position quite clear. It is not correct that the average business is not looking for a handout.
In the deal of Centennial Street, this government took a loss of $144,000 on the monies that were advanced to Tagish Kwan in order that the small businesses in this town could get some money back, and they did.
I do not hear the Members objecting to that. There is no objection to the fact that we helped all small businesses involved in the Centennial Street project, where we had some influence. The issue of fairness is one that I was challenged on by the Member from Porter Creek East; one that I find annoying. I do not see any New Democrat friends in the coalition, who received financial assistance through our arrangements on Centennial Street. I do not see New Democrat Jack Hogan, who headed up the recovery of the Centennial Street project, getting any special favours. I do not see any special favours being given to New Democrat Doug Thomas, who took hundreds of thousands of dollars of support from the various programs. I do not see Peter Jenkins, of the Eldorado Hotel in Dawson City, being a particular friend of the New Democrats, who has been assisted by this governments funding programs, nor Howard Tracey from Carmacks, who was also supported by the economic development programs of this government.
I find it offensive when the Member opposite would suggest that our support to Kwanlin Dun is strictly for votes and is an unfair injection of money to the business community. The money, the $50,000 that was provided to Tagish Kwan to wrap up the bankruptcy proceedings, was an extraordinary circumstance, was a special case that is not ordinary, normal policy but the money flowed to the small business community in this city. That is a fact. That money flowed to every business creditor of Tagish Kwan whether he is a New Democrat, a Tory or a Liberal.
I find it offensive that someone would suggest that this is an unfair injection for New Democrat friends. If the Member had any decency, he would withdraw those remarks.
The bottom line on the issue of the $50,000 is that, like support we give to the broad business community, it flowed back to the creditors, who otherwise would not get as much. That is the support we are talking about. It happens to be to the support of a particular band in this community, and that was a particularly special circumstance, given the scenario of what had happened leading up to the total collapse.
The business community is benefited by the $50,000 that is injected. That is the underlying measure of economic support. There is a greater support that we did it for, and my colleague, the Minister of Economic Development, outlined that. The Kwanlin Dun Band is on the eve of land claim settlement. They are in a position to provide self-government. Their ability to rebound into the business marketplace is improved by wrapping up the affairs of this bankruptcy faster. I keep repeating that the benefactors are the creditors in the business community, all those New Democrats out there.
I am disappointed in the Member for Porter Creek Easts statement.
Members made a major point about the issue of bankruptcy. From my understanding of bankruptcy, it is basically a term for a company in which the assets are insufficient to satisfy the legal debts of a corporation. Businesses can fail. They can become insolvent, or otherwise have their operations seized, without being put into bankruptcy. In other words we can have business failures without bankruptcy even though they can be much the same. Members opposite chanted when the Minister of Economic Development made reference to Curragh Resources. I do not know how Members would choose to describe what took place in that scenario, but that was a bankrupt community, a bankrupt town, and a bankrupt company that this government went to great lengths to support, to restore to a state of health, both community and company. In the global terms of bankruptcy we support many operations, and it is not unprecedented to help a business that otherwise would collapse. In this case, as pointed out, the support was ultimately to the benefit of the community at large, both the business community and the Tagish Kwan Band, to improve their ability to restore their place in a position following land claims.
I will conclude my remarks. I do not accept that there is anything unfair or unequal in opportunity provided by this assistance.
What we have provided is a responsible, intelligent approach to an exceptional circumstance. It is not standing practice or standard policy, but there must be enough flexibility to respond to a special community situation, which existed in this case.
I do not agree that it is unprecedented, given the support to so many potential business failings that the government has assisted.
Mrs. Firth: I am not going to speak at any great length with respect to this motion or amendment. I simply want to state a few things for the record.
I understand why the government has brought the amendment forward but it is not acceptable in the context of the motion because we wanted to state very clearly a policy principle. I think the amendment takes away from that policy principle and not in a general sense.
I have some observations to make about the debate this afternoon. I listened very closely to the comments from the Minister of Economic Development with respect to encouraging Indian entrepreneurs and businesses. I think the government has done a great disservice to the Indian community, particularly the Indian business community, with this action, just as they did with their activities surrounding the awarding of the contract for the convention centre.
If it is the governments intention to be supportive of Indian businesses and to help in their growth and development, the government has to be more careful in the way it makes decisions and how those decisions impact on the reputations of those businesses.
We were told by that corporation planning the convention centre that they were already suffering from negative impacts because of what had happened with Tagish Kwan and Kwanlin Dun in declaring their bankruptcy. That was before this whole episode started. Then, when the contract was awarded to the Dakwakada Corporation for the convention centre, there was a perception of irregularities and inequalities and unfair treatment.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mrs. Firth: I have my opportunity to speak. The Member, who is complaining and protesting, has had his 40 minutes to stand up and speak. I am not speaking specifically about the convention centre; I am talking about Indian businesses, which is what the Minister of Economic Development did, and about encouraging Indian businesses to grow and Indian entrepreneurs to flourish. That is what I am talking about.
If the governments intentions are really good and come from the heart, which is what they always profess they should have ensured that there could be absolutely no questions raised about the process. They did not do that. They did not do that because the questions were raised. They were raised by the business community, they were raised by the opposition and they were questioned by the general public.
If the government efforts are really sincere when it comes to supporting new businesses, particularly from the Indian bands, they should make a better effort to ensure that people cannot raise questions of unfair or unequal treatment. They did not do that. That organization has now become a victim of the governments poor handling and mismanagement of the way they have tendered their contracts and the way they carry on the management of the government in the Government Services department of this government.
Tagish Kwan went bankrupt, and that created a negative impact on the general business community in the Yukon. There were questions surrounding the awarding of the contract for the convention centre, and that created a negative impact.
If the government is so intent on helping people, can they not sit down and realize that, by giving this money to wind down the bankruptcy of the Tagish Kwan, the people they are really doing the disservice to and are really hurting are the people they are trying so desperately to help: that is, the Indian business people, not just the whole community of the Yukon Territory. Surely they must be able to see that. Everybody else can see it, and everybody else is talking about it.
I do not buy the Minister of Economic Developments argument, when he stands up and professes to have the concern of the Indian business community foremost, but he is putting them in that kind of a compromised and negative position within the general perception of the whole business community of the Yukon.
The previous speaker, the Minister for Community and Transportation Services, talked about flexibility. They wanted to have flexibility. That is why they brought this amendment forward, so that, in special circumstances, they could have the ability to go ahead and do exactly what the motion is requesting that the government have a policy on not doing.
This government does not need any more flexibility, because they just go and do whatever they want anyway. They just do whatever they want to do, whenever they want to do it, to or for whomever they want to do it to, and they just do that at their own whim. The last thing this government needs is more flexibility to do anything. We have to tighten up the rules and the guidelines, and make them stronger. We have to do that in order to protect the public purse.
These people, this government, is just operating indiscriminately with the taxpayers money, with our dollars. This government has expressed an attitude that they know what is right and nobody else does, that they know what is best for people and what is good for people, and nobody else in the community knows what is good for people or is best for people. The Chamber of Commerce has disagreed with it; the business community in general has disagreed with it; the Contractors Association disagrees with it.
I have not heard one person, Indian or non-Indian, come out and say that what the government did was right - not one person has publicly expressed that opinion. Yet, the government says that they are right and everybody else is wrong.
The Minister was asked on the radio this morning about his decision respecting the municipalities. The radio announcer said that not one municipality has come out and agreed and said that what the government did was right. It was exactly the same circumstance with the Minister of Economic Development. Why is that? Why is it that everybody else is wrong and only the government is right? Why is that attitude there now?
I think that governments reach that point in their term of office, or their second term of office, where they become right and they know everything and everyone else is wrong. Other governments across Canada - governments like Ontario, are going to experience this too - have come to that opinion and attitude: that they are right and everyone is wrong.
The time has come to turf these people out of office. Since this issue with the bankruptcy, I hear that more and more and more on the street in every walk of life, from the business community, from the professional community, from the trades people, from everyone. All of a sudden, the all-knowing, always-right government is saying, Nobody else understands; nobody understands what is on a secret ballot; we cannot put out a secret ballot, because they will not understand it anyway.
Nobody agrees with what the Minister of Economic Development is doing. People do not agree with what the Minister in charge of the municipalities is doing. They are right and everybody else is wrong.
The opportunity is going to come for people to express their opinion to the government. People are getting a lot more verbal, and they are getting angrier. People have to get good and mad, and they are getting that way. This issue of bailing out this particular special group has been the straw that has broken the camels back, and this government is going to pay for that.
Hon. Ms. Joe: It is really interesting to sit here and listen to all the comments made in regard to this issue that has been completely blown out of proportion.
Most people know that this government has been very involved in supporting the economic development of the Yukon in many ways since we came into office in 1985. There are a lot of projects and information on record.
We have an economy that is very sensitive to any activity that may affect even a small, local business. Any business that goes bankrupt often has a ripple effect, because we are a small jurisdiction. This is a concern to this government, as well as to all those individuals involved.
The financial difficulties of the Tagish Kwan Corporation were bound to be felt by the whole community.
Many people were involved, and some more seriously than others.
The Minister of Finance - the Minister responsible for Economic Development - chose to support this community by giving the Kwanlin Dun Indian Band enough resources to facilitate the bankruptcy proceedings of the Tagish Kwan Corporation. It is not our policy to facilitate bankruptcy proceedings for businesses; however, what he did was look at the community and what this government could do to provide as expedient a solution as possible.
This government has provided millions of dollars of support to local businesses and local chambers of commerce. It has provided millions of dollars toward training for Yukoners and into the economic diversity. It has provided millions of dollars to small businesses but, because we have proceeded on the expedient and efficient bankruptcy proceedings for one corporation, for the benefit of the local creditors, the side opposite is claiming that we are only providing for them because they are an Indian business.
It has been said by the Member for Riverdale North that we were giving preferential treatment.
I listened to the Member for Porter Creek East on the radio upstairs. I had not done that before, and I finally found out what everybody was saying about how it sounds over the radio.
He talked about the fairness. One of the things I fail to understand is, when this government goes out of its way to develop a good economic development program that affects all kinds of Yukoners, nothing is ever said about the good projects that are done. Of course, it is not the job of the Opposition to go out and do that. It is their job to go out and criticize. What really bothers me about the side opposite is how good they are at dividing people.
The way they do it all the time is to use the aboriginal people of the Yukon. It is an old record of theirs. They do it all the time.
I have spoken to a lot of people on the streets and people have phoned me at home or at the office. What is really surprising is that I spoke to a person the other day who was very angry at what this government was doing. She had heard what the Opposition was saying. She was asking what this government was coming to. What she did not know and what the Members opposite never say is that the amount of support that goes to other businesses. She did not know about that.
The Member for Faro talked about names. They did not like him naming names. They can name races, but they do not name names. He talked about owners of businesses who are able to take advantage of millions of dollars available to help them improve their businesses. I named some of those businesses to this woman. This government has also supported a number of other businesses in town to the tune of many millions of dollars.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Ms. Joe: I did not open my mouth when the Member opposite was speaking. He is a very rude person.
The woman could not believe me. She said that does not ever come out. I said that it is a fact.
Not everyone is saying what the side opposite is saying. Many people out there understand the kinds of things we have to deal with. When the people of the Yukon express their concerns to us, they do not all think like the Members opposite say they think. They have their own ideas about how things are done. We have a very knowledgeable group of people out there who know the kinds of things this government has been involved in, not only in social programs but also in the economy of the Yukon, and what we have supported.
What really surprised me is that we have a situation here where the Opposition is charging us with giving preferential treatment in order to obtain votes.
Many individuals take advantage of our programs whom we know we do not have a hope in heck of getting support from. We know that, and so do the people who are able to take advantage of our financial resources. When I became a Minister and started to support a lot of the groups and organizations that were taking advantage of some of the things we had, I had people tell me that they did not think they would get it under a Tory government. This was said to me by Tory people. It was very evident because they were very familiar with the people who were running the government at that time.
It has been talked about how this government says they are always right and everybody else is wrong, but very often this government has to defend itself because of the allegations and the misinformation from the other side - misinformation they swear by, and the kind of information that is given out provides only one side of every story. In order to rebut that misinformation and those allegations that are coming out from the other side, we have to go on the radio; we have to do that. It is very important that we do because there are always two sides to every story.
I am going to be here for another two years and I know that I am going to have to put up with the Member for Riverdale North making statements about preferential treatment; he will always use that. He has a record of that and most people know it. He probably is a nice guy and does a lot of good things in his own riding, but every single chance he gets he uses that. He talks about dividing people. I would like to say once and for all that we have financed many, many businesses. We have given millions of dollars to those companies that were already named and they objected to us naming names. Why not? They name names. They make allegations. That was just a small list. We are also prepared, and the information is public, to name the people who sit on our boards and committees. I am sure that there would be hundreds of those individuals who would be offended if they were accused of being NDP - many of them. That is a fact.
We had a bit of problem, as I said, with the motion as it stood, and we did not really understand it. There were many interpretations of what it really meant. It did not make sense to a lot of people. I have no problem speaking to the amendment to this motion. I am sure that I will have to stand up here again and we will have to talk about the reasons why many motions are made, the reasons why many allegations are made, the reasons why many stories are blown out of proportion. There are, however, hundreds of individuals out there who see things in a different way than the Opposition does - and many of the Oppositions friends as well. We talked to those people, too. We deal with them all of the time. We give loans and grants for their businesses but nobody on the other side ever objects to that.
We did not do it to get votes. We did not do this because it was an aboriginal business. We did it because it was the proper and helpful thing to do, not only for the business but for the other people involved. We helped many people - we did. We did not help the Member for Riverdale North, but it is not the last time he is going to stand up here and do something like this.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Ms. Joe: The Member for Riverdale North is sitting there mumbling again while I am talking; he does have a bad habit of that.
I would like to say again that there was no preferential treatment there. There has been criticism about it from the Chamber of Commerce and the Contractors Association, but not all people are saying the same thing. A lot of people understand what it is that we are trying to do and I think that we have a very good record, despite what the Opposition is saying.
Speaker: Are you prepared for the question on the amendment? Division has been called. Mr. Clerk, would you kindly poll the House.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: Agree.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Webster: Agree.
Hon. Ms. Joe: Agree.
Mr. Joe: Agree.
Ms. Kassi: Agree.
Ms. Hayden: Agree.
Mr. Phelps: Disagree.
Mrs. Firth: Disagree.
Mr. Phillips: Disagree.
Mr. Lang: Disagree.
Mr. Devries: Disagree.
Mr. Brewster: Disagree.
Mr. Nordling: Disagree.
Clerk: Mr. Speaker, the results are eight yea, seven nay.
Speaker: I declare that the yeas have it. I decare the amendment carried.
Amendment to Motion No. 30 agreed to
Speaker: Is there any further debate on the motion as amended?
The hon. Member will close debate if he now speaks. Does any other Member wish to be heard?
Mr. Phillips: I just have a few closing comments on the motion as amended. I am disappointed that the side opposite has taken the tactic to change the intent of the motion. In fact, I think they have even changed the position that they took several days ago, when the Minister stood up in the House and argued that this was just a government to government transfer of money and it was not to facilitate a bankruptcy, it was just a government-to-government transfer of money. Well, here today we have changed the intent of the motion that they are going to now finance some bankruptcies if they are an exceptional case.
That is a change from the position they took the other day. This is not really inconsistent or surprising, because the Minister has changed his reasons on this three or four times now as he really does not have any concrete reasons for giving this grant to this particular group.
I would like to address some of the comments made by the Members opposite, particularly those of the Minister of Economic Development, who gave a pleading message about the entrepreneurial spirit taking place overnight. He had a concern that native groups - the Indian band, in this particular case - should be given a chance because they are not used to the business community and they did not become an instant business, and we should not presume that they would.
I can tell the Member that this is how all businesses start. No one starts out as an instant business expert. Many people start out small in business. Many who are good, survive. Those who are not and make bad business decisions do not. Some businesses must fold.
I started into business 12 or 14 years ago. I can tell the Members that my first attempt at business failed. I made some poor business decisions in the riding of the Member for Faro. I did a massive project there and hired a lot of people. I had some difficulties in the project and lost a lot of money. As a small Ma and Pa business, I lost over $30,000.
I did not come to the government and ask for money. I borrowed some money on my house and paid every single one of my debts. It took me three years to do it. It is a matter of pride that when you get into something, you get out of it yourself. You do not ask someone else to bail you out.
The government does not understand that appreciation of business and how business works. They do not know anything at all about business, nothing at all. A good example of that is what they did in this particular case. I was totally surprised, absolutely surprised, to see the Member for Faro, who is supposed to be a businessman himself, stand up and defend this when he has been so close to this very thing himself and had to make personal sacrifices. He paid all his creditors, but he did not come whining to the government-of-the-day and ask for money. He did not ask the government to bail him out.
At that time, not now, but at that time he had integrity. He had business pride. He had business pride where he said that he got into this thing and there are some hard times in the community and that he would get himself out of it and when he got out of it he would not owe a cent in this town.
Did the Tagish Kwan do that? They ran to the Government of the Yukon. The Government of the Yukon, in one day - they applied on the 9th and on the 10th received $50,000.
The Member for Mayo suggested that they give grants to non-native groups as well as native groups. I am not questioning that. What I am questioning is the way they did it.
In that situation, this particular government showed favouritism. They cannot show me anywhere in the history of the Government of the Yukon where a government gave funds to bail out a business that was going bankrupt. That is the issue here, not who they gave money to from the business development fund. There were some good projects here and some good businesses got onto their feet and carried out some good projects, but not one business ever asked for money for bankruptcy, and if they did they were denied, other than the Tagish Kwan Corporation. They were treated differently. They were separate and different from everybody else, and does the Member for Whitehorse North Centre say we should not question that?
The Chamber of Commerce should not question that? The Contractors Association should not question that? The taxpayers in the Yukon should not question that? They should be questioning that and they are questioning that. That is why we are debating the issue here today.
The Member for Mayo, the Minister of Economic Development, the Minister responsible for business, said he gave them the money because he did not want a bad legacy left in the community or a bad taste in the peoples mouths because of the thing that happened. I can assure that Minister, as sure as I am standing here and he is sitting over there, he did not do the Tagish Kwan Corporation one little favour. The feeling out there today is more bitter about that corporation than it ever was, and it is directly as a result of the money the government gave the Tagish Kwan Corporation to bail them out of the bankruptcy proceedings. I challenge any Member on that side to say anything different. They created the feeling that one group is getting preferential treatment over another; we did not and they should not try to blame it on anybody else in the business community or anybody on this side of the House. The responsibility lies directly on the shoulders of the Minister of Economic Development and the Government Leader, who is ultimately responsible for everything that happens in that government.
This type of funding of the Tagish Kwan is patronizing at best. It is a form of genocide at the worst. When you thrust a solution on a business without allowing the business to learn from it, you just simply do not have the business, just a loose collection of going through the motions. That is what this government did. When the Member for Faro rose in his place I thought in the beginning he was going to agree with us, because he said that we cannot afford to finance all business bankruptcies. I agree with that. I would go one further and say we cannot afford to finance any business bankruptcies. I would have expected that from that Member who has been so close himself. It was quite surprising to hear him vote for the government on this motion today. He also made a profound statement, A bankrupt company is bankrupt. That is pretty profound. He said: It is over. It is a business that is finished.
It is a business that is finished. The Tagish Kwan Corporation will never exist in the territory again as a credible business in the eyes of most business people in this territory, because of what has happened. They may start up another corporation, give it another name or number, and it will be judged on its merits at that time. There will be a lot of people who will be cautious about entering into any agreement with it. They will be very nervous about entering into any agreement or doing any work for it, and that is unfortunate. That is sad for the Kwanlin Dun Band, as well as for other Indian bands in the territory that are going to be working cooperatively with the non-native construction community to build a future in the territory.
That is the saddest part of the whole episode we have dealt with here today: the trust that has been lost of working with the native bands. Many people are now questioning whether they should get into projects with some of these bands, simply because of what has happened. Some people have even suggested to me that perhaps they should go into partnership with an Indian band because, if you go bankrupt or want extra money, you have the foot in the door. Your application will be better received and you will get your money on a days notice. You will get your 50 grand right now.
I will bet this is one of the fastest turnarounds of money a business development office has ever completed on any application. I remember debating with the Minister in this House, many times, that it took three to four months, sometimes, to get an application through. Some people lost interest in pursuing their business opportunity and went on their own or cancelled it, because they could not get their money from the government. It took too long.
Kwanlin Dun took one day. They said, I am going bankrupt, and I need money. Piers, give me some money. You got it, right now, no problem. By the way, what is it for?
That is the attitude people think this government has. It is starting to come true. Every day, they say or do things that show people that that is coming true. I hear this at every door I knock on in my riding; time and time again, people are telling me about what this government is doing wrong.
The Member for Whitehorse North Centre said she fails to understand why the Opposition does not talk about the government when it does good things in economic development. She said we never commend them when they do good things; we always jump on the bad things. I have stood up in the House many times, as many other Members have, and we have talked about economic development programs that have been carried on in this territory reasonably well.
We are talking about a specific issue. We are not talking about money being given, as the business development fund says, to develop business. We are talking about a fund to develop bankruptcies. That is what it has been used for. It is totally contrary to what the whole fund is for.
If the Minister had introduced this fund in the Legislature, or to the Chamber of Commerce or anyone in the business community, and said that we have a new fund that is going to build businesses in the territory, give people the opportunity to expand and create new business in the territory, and finance bankruptcies, he would have been laughed out of the room by everyone who was there. The Minister knows that.
The Minister made a mistake. Again, it goes back to what I have said in the House before. When the government makes a mistake, what is wrong with admitting it? What is wrong with standing up in the House today and saying that it was not a good idea, and admit that they thought they were helping the community, but that it did not work out that way. Contrary to the feelings of the Member for Whitehorse South Centre, the creditors did not see one penny of this $50,000.
This government has a strange understanding of business in this territory.
The Member for Whitehorse North Centre talks about dividing people in this territory. In the last year and one-half, or two years, the actions of this government have divided people in the territory like I have never seen before. It separates people, and then deals with them.
The Government Leader says my eyes are not open. The Government Leader seems to have his fingers in his ears. He is not listening to the people or to what they are saying out there.
Perhaps the Government Leader should consider an election and, then, we would see what the people have to say about what is going on. Right now, the people out there would do the same thing to him as they did to the Government of Ontario. He would be out on his butt.
I am extremely disappointed that the Minister, in his smoke-and-mirrors coverup, brought forth an amendment that changes the whole intent of the motion and allows the government to bail out select friends of the NDP, or select groups or people of the territory. It is unfortunate that they have chosen this route.
I will not be supporting the motion, as amended, because I do not think the government should be bailing out any business that is going bankrupt. I do not think any government funds should be paid to any business that is going bankrupt, and I will be voting against the motion, as amended.
Speaker: Are you prepared for the question?
Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Disagreed.
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: The Chair cannot determine from a voice count. The Chair will call division.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: Agree.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Webster: Agree.
Hon. Ms. Joe: Agree.
Mr. Joe: Agree.
Ms. Kassi: Agree.
Ms. Hayden: Agree.
Mr. Phelps: Disagree.
Mrs. Firth: Disagree.
Mr. Phillips: Disagree.
Mr. Lang: Disagree.
Mr. Devries: Disagree.
Mr. Brewster: Disagree.
Mr. Nordling: Disagree.
Clerk: Mr. Speaker, the results are eight yea and seven nay.
Speaker: The yeas have it.
Motion No. 30 agreed to as amended
Clerk: Item No. 2, standing in the name of Mr. Devries.
Speaker: Is the hon. Member prepared to proceed with Item No. 2?
Mr. Devries: Yes, Mr. Speaker.
Motion No. 28
Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. Member for Watson Lake
THAT it is the opinion of this House that the federal government should maintain the existing Ministry of Transport services at Watson Lake Airport.
Mr. Devries: I thank my colleagues for allowing me to bring this motion forward. As the Members are aware, Watson Lake has experienced many setbacks during the past years, and just when we thought things were getting better, we get another setback. The federal government wants to cut back operations in the flight services and air radio department.
The Watson Lake Airport is a vital link in the North American air traffic system. For example, the Yukon and northern B.C. rely heavily on this facility. In 1989, there were 62 medivac flights out of Watson Lake. Downgrading will dramatically increase the risk of medivac flights landing in Watson Lake and could cost lives. Without the instrument landing system in place, pilots will be restricted to much higher visibility limitations, leading to more overflights by Time Air and Air North, the regional carriers, and Canadian Airlines will not have an alternate instrument landing system airport when they cannot land in Whitehorse.
Just recently, a medivac jet almost crashed coming in during bad weather. Just last summer, while flying with a friend, we heard air radio directing a lost pilot toward Watson Lake Airport. Further research shows that this airport is one of the top two in Canada in loss-orientation communication. This means that more pilots get lost in this area than any other area of Canada. If the existing service is cut, more aircraft will be lost, resulting in more crashes, more fatalities, and an incredible increase in search and rescue costs.
We are not talking about some backwater facility, here. In 1989, there were 365 local take-offs and landings, 7,265 itinerant movements. The air radio service made 10,291 enroute contacts. Six hundred and ninety jets landed in 1989, 303 turboprops, 5,824 piston engine planes, 443 helicopters and 10,496 passengers used the terminal in 1989. Approximately 250 aircraft used the instrument landing system to land in 1989. Those are 250 flights that may not have been able to land if the flight service station was not operating.
Hillsborough Resources based their operations in Watson Lake in part because of the easy accessibility by air. Recently they just purchased their own plane to service their work in the Yukon and northern B.C. The shutdown of flight services will increase our dependence upon Whitehorse and flight services also injects much needed cashflow of approximately $360,000 into the Watson Lake economy. There are estimates that up to 100 aircraft could be landing at Watson Lake on some days during the 1992 celebrations. This would be unsafe without a flight service station. The pilots would not get weather, flight planning, or ground control. It would be a nightmare. The accident rate will no doubt increase because visiting pilots, many of them flying vintage aircraft, who do not know the area may be heading into bad weather and high mountains without proper briefing from the people who know the area well.
Watson Lake is located strategically at the halfway point on the Alaska Highway between Fort Nelson and Whitehorse. Without flight services, it would make this preferred route from Watson Lake to Prince George a much higher risk. Watson Lake sits at the entrance to the Rocky Mountain Trench, at the junction of Highway 37, and the entrance to the Campbell Highway.
Downgrading this airport to a class B will be a step backwards for Watson Lake. The federal government is planning to build a $1.8 million bomber tanker base with one hand and reduce flight service stations with the other. How are the bombers supposed to find their $1.8 million tanker base when the smoke is thick and the visibility is low: We need a fully manned Arctic airport in Watson Lake, the gateway to the Yukon.
Taking this away from Watson Lake is a step backwards for them, and a step backwards for the Yukon. This cutback involves approximately six person years. The air radio people have become an integral part of our community. Many of them have turned down transfers because they want to stay in Watson Lake, because they are involved in the community; they are involved in sport and recreation. We do not want to see them leave, because if they leave they will be taking a part of us; they will be taking a part of the Yukon with them. These are all things that we in Watson Lake do not want to lose. I ask all Members to support this motion.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I appreciate the Member bringing the motion forward. It does allow an opportunity for the House to state its point of view about the proposed reduction in services to the community of Watson Lake in the area of air navigation.
We are going to support the motion, to put the Member at ease, but I want to share with the Member some of the frustration that I encountered in the course of finding out about the reduction of services, and my subsequent communications.
The first knowledge of the reduction of services came in a letter sent to the executive director of the Northern Air Transport Association, commonly known as NATA. In that letter, one of the paragraphs advises NATA what they are doing at Watson Lake. The letter advised that because there are major capital investments required at the Watson Lake Airport over the next year, they have decided to enter into consultation with the objective of closing the flight service station and providing the service by other means.
The letter goes on to address the lack of justification to maintain the instrument landing system, and concludes by saying they will be entering into consultation with the intent of decommissioning this facility, as well.
That was the announcement made in this letter from the acting director general of the air navigation system in Edmonton to the director of NATA in mid-November. It was the first awareness anyone had of it.
My office subsequently contacted Edmonton and we were assured that there was no final decision taken. In subsequent communications from my office, we discovered that it was being proposed but the budget was not set. Then, confronted with this letter that stated they were intending to decommission the airport, they were no longer able to deny that a decision had been made.
I was quite concerned because the Yukon government had not been informed - not to suggest that it had to be, but, as a matter of protocol, it ought to have been. We had just finished negotiations this year to transfer 10 B and C airports to us throughought the territory, on which we have taken over the management of 10 airports in all those categories other than category A, which is what Watson Lake and Whitehorse fit into. These category A airports have a different level of service and are operated by Transport Canada.
That bit of background information is to point out some of the frustration that I encountered. I found it annoying, disturbing and certainly inappropriate for Transport Canada to have made a decision to reduce the level of service to Watson Lake without any discussion with this government. They advised, in an offhand way, the Northern Air Transport Association, which is an appropriate organization to communicate with, but that correspondence clearly indicated that the decision was already made. What was worst about this was that they are decommissioning and reducing the airport to less than the service of a typical Arctic B or C airport.
In other words, according to their proposal to decommission the instrument landing service and knock out the FSS, the level of service at Watson Lake is technically going to be less than at Faro, Mayo or Dawson. That is what is being said here, because there is no flight service being provided through personnel at the airport, and there is no instrument landing support.
The Member for Watson Lake has already articulated the importance of instrument landing, and there is no question that Watson Lake fits a category of high need for instrument landing because of the high fog and generally poor terrain. There are a number of other factors that come into play, as well. The Member has mentioned some of those.
We have increased economic activity going on at Watson Lake. Definitely, everything is on the upswing and looking positive, with increasing economic activity and movement, so the airport faces a need for increased usage, as opposed to elimination of usage. One could argue and say that does not prevent the airstrip from being used but, when you have no flight personnel, no radio service, and no instrument landing service, you are flying into an emergency strip situation like the 17 we have scattered around the territory with windsocks.
It is unfortunate that there was no meaningful discussion or consultation with people in the Yukon prior to Transport Canada making this decision.
I also had the opportunity to meet with a couple of representatives last week from the Northern Air Transport Association. They expressed, in no uncertain terms how, as the industry, they were opposed to what was happening. They wanted to stress emphatically that there should not be a reduction of service at all, but that there should be a maintenance of the current level. Their position was that it required a 24-hour service, as is currently provided, and that the navigational aids and support through personnel should be maintained at the present level.
I did suggest to them that, given the fiscal reality facing the country - and certainly Transport Canada would be part of that restraint exercise - we can anticipate that Transport Canada wants to reduce their expenditures and they want to reduce a level of service. I suggested to the Northern Air Transport Association that perhaps the position ought to be a reduced level of service but a full service for at least a period of the day. In other words, perhaps it could be reduced from 24 to 12 hours if you want to save some dollars. Perhaps the community can survive that way and perhaps the industry can survive and perhaps the economic activity could survive and perhaps the movement of air traffic could survive. The industry position was quite strong, that their first position was full service and that is fine. They made a number of points that were very important, I thought. They pointed out that Watson Lake is critical to the flight patterns of air traffic in the north. In other words, next to Whitehorse, the first Canadian point where large planes could land would be Fort Nelson and next would be Anchorage and that Watson Lake was critical as a back-up for Whitehorse, not to mention the extensive activity that goes on, not just on the ground but overhead. Watson Lake is often a talking point for air traffic moving through the north.
From my minimum knowledge of the technical, finer points of air technology and navigation, I was quite persuaded that Watson Lake plays a critical role in the flight service of the north in general.
I guess the point that the industry made with me was that, clearly, a reduction of service to less than that of a typical Arctic B or C airport,, was, indeed, a hazardous situation. In other words, safety would be placed in jeopardy.
The fact that no weather reporting was being provided from this airport would have an impact on commercial traffic. Certainly, nobody would try to land there without knowing the local weather conditions, and eliminating instrument flight facilities would prohibit any effort to land in a condition where the weather was not next to perfect.
I think the Member for Watson Lake raised the point that NATA emphasized that there is a considerable amount of small aircraft traffic in that area that occasionally do become lost. Indeed, it is one of the higher areas in the country where traffic gets lost or crashes. Eliminating ground to air communications and eliminating any opportunity for weather reporting would increase that hazard.
On the instrument landing matter, it was simply a point to emphasize that Watson Lake is the only decent alternative airport to Whitehorse for aircraft that are operating on instruments. Next to that would be Fort Nelson or across the border into Alaska.
It did raise the issue of the amount of fuel a plane coming into Whitehorse could carry. If they could not land in Whitehorse, the Cousins strip or Watson Lake, would they have enough fuel to go back to Fort Nelson? Granted they would not come up if they did not have enough fuel to go back. NATA did emphasize the risk involved.
Subsequently, I wrote to the federal Minister of Transport, Mr. Lewis, and expressed my astonishment at the decision. I expressed my concern that this government had to learn about these reduced services through a second-hand letter and that there have been no communication to date with this government. I feel somewhat offended by that, given we had had lengthy negotiations on the transfer of the other airports.
What I anticipate is going to happen if Transport Canada gets their way is that they will shut the airport down as they have no instrument landing capability or ground to air communications, and limited maintenance.
The onus is going to fall on the Yukon government because the community will lobby for the Yukon government to upgrade the airport. That is clearly going to be a tough position to deal with. We are not going to be able to do it without the funds. If that is their plan, they should have included it in the transfer negotiations we have just concluded.
I am hoping this government is not being set up for filling a vacuum of federal expenditures here. Nevertheless, I expressed those concerns to Mr. Lewis, reminding him that we just concluded negotiations for the transfer of 10 airports. It is disappointing that the excellent discussions we had on those negotiations did not continue to the reduction of services of this airport in Watson Lake. I expressed some of the reasons why I felt the Watson Lake Airport should keep the level of service it has now and invited the Minister to reconsider his decision. I opened my doors for any discussion he may wish to have related to possible transfers. I had no mandate or authority, but I was prepared to listen to Transport Canadas reasons for the reduction of the service and whether or not they are prepared to pay for that service to be provided by us, since we already have 10 airports in our bailiwick. This was just an invitation for discussion. I only sent that letter off on Monday of this week. I will await a response from the federal Minister.
We do support the motion. We are actively pursuing support of the communities for the maintenance of flight services and radio and instrument landing services. I have communicated with the federal Minister in the hopes of inviting some discussions in an effort to persuade him to reconsider the decision.
Mr. Brewster: When I see this motion, it kind of reminds me of the Alaska Highway and the good old government and the white fathers down in Ottawa who are bailing out on us again. I do not know why it is, but every time we seem to progress in the Yukon, governments take us backwards. I guess that is what governments are for, to continually interfere with progress and continually stop private business from going ahead.
Airports in the Yukon are just as important a part of the infrastructure as highways, sometimes much more important. If you look at where Watson Lake sits, it is 300 miles from Fort Nelson and 300 miles from Whitehorse. With the figures my colleague from Watson Lake quoted, I would not be surprised if more airplanes, including the bush planes, land there than at the City of Whitehorse, with our big monstrous $11 million building.
But that is the way governments work and I guess we, as politicians, should be sticking together. I was a little scared of this motion coming up now after the ruckus that has been going on here all day but maybe we can settle it if we do not get into another motion unless it is a nice, peaceful one where everybody agrees for once and we can go back to the big white fathers and say come on, smarten up, let us turn around and not keep taking things out of the Yukon.
Right now in Watson Lake, Cassiar mining depends on it and all of northern B.C. The Mt. Hundere mine is coming onstream very shortly. Our infamous sawmill undoubtedly used this for a long time. I think all you have to do is drive through the community and compare that community to Haines Junction and see all the little businesses that started up there, while Haines Junction does not have any of them. One of the reasons is because of the convenience of getting airport cargo in to be able to service the mines and to not have to come into Whitehorse. Freight can be shipped directly from Calgary, Edmonton or Vancouver into that area and not have to come to Whitehorse first.
I think I could point out another difference. Kluane and Haines Junction, in particular, lost the whole Windy Craggy support operation because we had no lights and we had nothing at our airport. We are now getting that airport and we are very grateful but our chances of getting that mining company back to Haines Junction after they are established here in Whitehorse is very slim, and it makes sense.
The amount of money they spend is very large. For instance, when they were flying the camp in, for two weeks they were flying 24 hours a day out of Haines Junction.
They do that most of the time because they do not have lights and things. Another very important part of the situation at Watson Lake is that many, many little planes flying to Alaska seem to get lost in that area. I do not know what the attraction is, because there is no comparison between the number who get lost between Watson Lake and Fort Nelson and Whitehorse, and who are rescued from Watson Lake, in most cases, and those between Whitehorse and Beaver Creek or Tok, or even into Fairbanks. There seems to be something in that area that drags them down.
I can recall that one famous case where, I believe they were lost for 32 days. A friend of mine, Alec Van Bibber, was out on that hunt and he still cannot believe they lived 32 days with what food they had; however, they wrote a book so I guess they did live.
It is very, very important that we keep our infrastructure, and air, as I have said before, is one of our most important by far. In fact, in some cases, I would say it is much more important for the private business people in the area than the businesses are. Anyway, I see my colleague from Riverdale is getting all excited to speak, here, so I guess what I am talking about is dull.
I am very glad to see the support we are getting on both sides of the House. It certainly helps the small business people in the rural Yukon and, as I said before, the Whitehorse Airport is probably the busiest, if not the busiest in the Yukon, and I urge everybody to support this.
Mr. Phillips: In light of the time, I am going to cut my speech a little short. I had intended to relate a personal story of drama and rescue that happened in the Yukon one time. In fact, I was one of the principals involved in that story and came close to meeting my maker, so to speak. In fact, as a result of that particular incident, Whitehorse got some updated, sophisticated equipment that would allow pilots to navigate properly and make instrument landings to the Whitehorse Airport, which was not available prior to that incident in 1972.
In the time that I did fly, I made many trips to Watson Lake, and it was very important to have that facility there and a facility with the proper radio equipment and technical equipment to provide a service to the pilots who fly up and down the Alaska Highway. I think it is important because, as the Member from Kluane says, it is obviously a stopping-off point for most small airplanes. Almost every small aircraft that comes through has to refuel in Watson Lake. It is 300 air miles from Fort Nelson and 300 air miles from Whitehorse, so almost everyone has to stop in Watson Lake and fuel up, if you have a small aircraft. We do note that many search and rescue operations that are launched are launched from the Watson Lake area and the tower people in Watson Lake play an integral part in those search and rescue operations. I think that is important to remember.
My other concern, as the economic development critic, and the critic for small business, is the effect this will have on the future of Watson Lake. I share the concerns expressed by the Member for Watson Lake and urge the federal government to seriously reconsider the decision on downgrading the facilities at the Watson Lake Airport.
Speaker: The Hon. Member will close debate if he now speaks. Does any other Member wish to be heard?
Mr. Devries: I just wanted to make a few closing comments. One of the reasons why many of the small aircraft use the Watson Lake Airport and stay overnight is because, at the end of the runway, there is a nice little campground and they park their planes there. They spend a lot of time camping beside Watson Lake. Some of them have inflatable boats and go fishing. Many of them have stayed for two or three days.
I have talked to people at the Whitehorse Airport, and they feel they are going to have to put in a campground to accommodate people for 1992, but by the same token they always hear many compliments about the wonderful facilities at Watson Lake. The people of Watson Lake are very proud it is there.
Another thing nobody mentioned is that the Minister of Renewable Resources should try to focus on what they mean by this $1.8 million tanker base. There seems to be a commitment to build it this year, but whether or not they are changing their mind on this I do not know. We will have to research that. That is the fire bomber base.
Presently, there are a lot of water bombers working out of Watson Lake. They are the initial attack base for the B.C. Forest Service that is also stationed at our airport. I believe they are also going to be the initial attack base for Yukon in the Watson Lake area.
I appreciate the amount of work the Minister of Community and Transportation Services seems to have done on this issue. I look forward to working with him as we pursue this issue further.
Motion No. 28 agreed to
Clerk: Item No. 3, standing in the name of Mr. Phillips.
Speaker: Is the hon. Member prepared to deal with Item No. 3?
Mr. Phillips: Yes, Mr. Speaker.
Motion No. 7
Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. Member for Riverdale North
THAT this House urges the Minister of Tourism to establish a Yukon Ambassador-at-Large Program for Yukoners who travel outside the territory and who wish to promote tourism travel to Yukon.
Mr. Phillips: This is another motion that is intended as a friendly motion to the government. We think it would be very positive and hope the government takes it in that vein.
Before I introduced the idea to the Legislature, I ran this by several people in the tourism industry. Everyone I spoke to felt this could be a very worthwhile project. Each year, many Yukoners travel to other parts of the world and inevitably end up talking about the Yukon to the people they are visiting. Some of these people have approached the Government of Yukon and asked them for tourism information and pins to pass out on their trip. It seems there is no policy on this type of thing.
I believe that a program such as this would be very cost-effective. Let me explain to the Members of the House how I would see the program working. Each year, probably in the fall, the Department of Tourism could offer a Yukon ambassador course. It could be as long as five evenings or as simple and short as one. People who take the course would be given a brief summary on Yukon tourism adventures and opportunities. A Yukon ambassador handbook could be provided with answers to the 10 most asked questions. I would suggest to you that many Yukoners who would take advantage of the course would be long-time Yukoners who travel in the winter to RV parks in the south and would already be very knowledgeable about Yukons history. The course could just bring them up to date on upcoming tourism attractions and events in the Yukon.
Each graduate of this short, informal course would be provided with a Yukon ambassador kit. It could include the ambassador tips handbook, several pins, possibly a VHS tape of the Yukon as most large RV parks in the south have the facilities to play these tapes and Yukon brochures, Milepost guides and things of that nature.
As well, each Yukon ambassador would receive a decal for their vehicle or suitcase, which would identify them as a Yukon ambassador. You may even want to charge a small fee for the kit. From the people I have talked to, I am sure they would be willing to pay something.
Many tourists plan their next trip by discussing their travels with other RVers. Some of these people tell me they have spent literally hundreds of hours talking to 20 or 30 people at a time, all very curious about the Yukon. All they said they needed was a little more cooperation from the Tourism department so they can pass on this information.
We could easily keep track of this program by giving the ambassadors attractive mail-back cards that they could hand out in the RV parks and at other activities. These could be sent back by the interested tourists requesting information. The cards could be marked in some way so that the Department of Tourism could identify that these cards actually came from the Yukon ambassador program.
When I looked into this proposal, I examined similar projects in other jurisdictions. Nova Scotia and New Brunswick had similar programs in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Manitoba is considering this very idea at the present time. In Alberta, the Alberta Motor Association provides a package to people who are travelling outside Alberta. In examining our options, we may decide that TIA could possibly be the agency to monitor and manage the program, or the Department of Tourism could do it itself. With tongue in cheek, I could suggest that they could ask Integrated Tourism Strategies to do the program. They are doing most of the tourism work for the Government of Yukon now.
The one province we may want to examine closely is Saskatchewan. They have a very successful program in place. Participants are required to watch a short tourism video called Shine on Saskatchewan. Each ambassador is given a certificate, 20 pins, a tourism booklet, some Saskatchewan lily decals, and a Shine on Saskatchewan sticker. Manitoba is considering following the basic program that Saskatchewan has in place.
I brought with me a Saskatchewan ambassadors kit, which I will turn over to the Minister, if he would like to see it, and for other Members to look at. Included in this kit is a nice certificate that says Saskatchewan Ambassador, and it is signed by the Minister of Tourism. It could be framed and put up in the home or the RV. The type of cards they have are these Tourism Saskatchewan cards. They are just a postcard of Saskatchewan with a picture of the Mountie on the front. People fill those out when they talk to the Saskatchewan ambassador, and they send them back to the Department of Tourism. That department sends them a booklet.
It comes with a nice covering letter from the Minister. Ministers always like to do that. It is a nice congratulatory covering letter. It comes with a road map of Saskatchewan, so they can show people where they actually live and how to get there. It comes with a nice Saskatchewan pin that the ambassador gets to wear to identify them as ambassador. It comes with the latest Saskatchewan vacation book so that, if people are interested in what is happening in Saskatchewan in the upcoming year, they can avail themselves of the information in this book and tell the people they are talking to exactly what is happening in Saskatchewan.
I think it would be a very worthwhile program for the Government of the Yukon to undertake. It would be one that would be of great benefit to the Yukon and would be of very little cost. It is a program that would pay back many times over in the future, when people come to the Yukon to visit us.
We pride ourselves on the friendly nature of northerners, and I can think of no better way than to tell the world what a great place this is to travel to and visit.
I would urge all Members to support this motion.
Ms. Hayden: I had hoped we would not get to this motion this afternoon because I have mixed feelings about it. However, I rise to speak very briefly.
It is my understanding that the Yukon Tourism Marketing Council is a body that would make a recommendation about a Yukon ambassador program, if its members thought such a program would be cost-effective and otherwise advisable to put in place.
The Tourism Marketing Council was set up so that the tourism industry would have input into marketing programs. In other words, the role of the council is to guide our marketing programs. I understand that this council has previously made a decision, I believe twice, that an ambassador-at-large program is not part of the marketing strategy for Yukon tourism. So, I bow to their decision.
It does not make sense to me to put a board in place and, then, not pay attention to what they have to say.
I know and understand that the people of the Yukon want a say in what is done in the territory about tourism and other matters. The mechanism for that say in tourism is through the Marketing Council; the Tourism Industry Association of the Yukon participates in that council. Individual Yukoners travelling outside the territory already do spread the word about the Yukon as a great place to visit. We all have access to pins, brochures and other publicity materials. There really is no logical reason for institutionalizing this ad hoc promotion into a program that would ultimately cost money that could be spent on other tourism programs.
Mr. Brewster: If I was not such a nice man, I would really say what I think; however, I will try to control my temper but I am sure my grandfather, my father, my uncle and all of my great uncles in Banff would be turning over in their graves if they heard a stupid remark like that.
It is quite apparent, and this was one thing I was going to disagree with my own colleague on, we do not want a bunch of bureaucrats in there. That is what the trouble is with tourism; there are too many bureaucrats. You want to get down to the people who live here and can go out there and talk on their own and feel what is in the Yukon, not a bunch of bureaucrats who sit in an office and get $100,000 to make up a plan. That is not the way to go.
Time after time, when I travel out to my daughters place, my grandsons, I come back with a list of five to 10 names of people who want me to mail literature from here. It did not cost $100,000 for me to understand that they want to come to the Yukon. I just told them what I knew and it did not cost the government a cent until they had to mail those brochures.
The other one they do not seem to be able to get into their heads was the licence plates. How many people have actually driven in the south and had people drive by, honk their horn and wave at you because you are from the Yukon? How many?
I have been told of a lady who was stopped at a traffic light when she saw the gentleman behind her jump out. Being in a strange country and in a rather large city, she did not know what was going on. When he did not show up - he had disappeared - she finally decided to look out and here he was taking a picture of her Yukon licence plate. That was the plate that we had to fight this government to get back in. It was a free advertisement; it did not cost a cent.
No wonder our tourism dropped when we have that type of attitude, like that of the Member for Whitehorse South Centre, who says that the bureaucrats can do it better. They do not know what they are talking about.
I have even seen others who have courtesy. This happened just lately to me when I was in Calgary. A car apparently stopped about 10 cars up from me and of course, being a dumb driver in the city, I got too close to the other one and I could not get out. The traffic on the other side was pulling out but I did not have enough nerve to. When they saw I did not have the nerve, a car stopped and signalled me and then he blinked his lights because I was still not coming out, and that, I know, was because of the licence plate I have. It means a lot and it did not cost this place anything. They saw something from the Yukon and it is very, very important.
I still will have to disagree with the Member from Riverdale; we do not want these people to go in here and get a whole bunch of training from bureaucrats because it does not work. Just the other day, I came in and asked for 10 pins to give to a gentleman who is going to Ontario. He could not believe that someone would give him those. He did not know that he could come and get them from the government; I do not expect he could. I had to come around and work on the Clerks office over here but I have a pretty good relationship with them there and I got them. But most people do not know about it. He took those to Ontario and I bet every one of them is really liked.
The only other thing I would say about what the Riverdale Member mentioned concerns the mail-back cards. I think that is a very good scheme but I would suggest that not only do we mail it back but that we keep track to see how many of those people actually come, not simply recieve the literature and then not come.
We are mailing out an awful lot. Statistics say that we have sent them out to so many hundreds of thousands of people, but none of those people show up here. I know that from my experience in hunting. I would probably send 1000 brochures out and I was lucky if I got 14 people; they liked the brochures and they liked the pictures in them. They like the pictures that this government gives in the brochures because they are very beautiful. Their advertising, as far as the brochures are concerned, is good, but an awful lot of those people are in universities and other places and they just write to get the pictures. No record is kept of how many of those that are mailed out bring someone to the Yukon to actually visit.
Hon. Mr. Webster: I want to thank the Member for Riverdale North for bringing forth this motion today. I listened very closely to his remarks, as well as to those of the Member from Kluane.
Before I get into my remarks, I would just like to correct for the record some misconceptions the Member for Kluane has about some aspects of tourism. The Member for Whitehorse South indicated it was a decision of the Yukon Tourism Marketing Council not to proceed with such an ambassador program some time ago, at one of their meetings. The Member for Kluane suggested that we should not be listening to these bureaucrats anyway, because what the heck do they know?
I want to point out to the Member for Kluane that the membership of the Yukon Tourism Marketing Council is comprised of 14 members from the industry. There are two additional people on the council that I guess you could call bureaucrats: the Deputy Minister of Tourism and the director of marketing. So, you can see the decisions made by that marketing council are really, to a large degree, representative of all aspects of the industry. There are people from the hotel business, restaurant business, and from the wilderness adventures sector. You can also determine that the bureaucrats are vastly outnumbered by a ratio of seven to one.
Because of the decisions made by the Tourism Marketing Council, the Member for Kluane was suggesting that this was the reason for the drop in tourists coming to the territory. I want to point out to the Member that is not the case. In the last two years, we have not had a decline in the number of tourists in the territory. There has been a modest increase for each of the last two years.
I guess that statistic of one percent increase in tourists is really important to our economy. We find now, from research, that tourists to the Yukon are staying longer. They are making the Yukon their destination and are spending more money as they take in more activities and special events, such as recreation and tourist attractions.
Finally, the Member for Kluane made a good suggestion when he said we should spend more effort determining how many tourists or potential tourists, who request information about the Yukon, actually become real tourists. We have been doing a lot of work in this area over the last five years, and we have found that the conversion rate is slightly increasing each year. We are very much encouraged by this. It is an indication that the marketing material we send out each year is well done. We have placed some initiative on the prospective tourists to do some work themselves. They have to provide their own stamp if they want to request some tourist information from our department, and we are finding there are more people out there who were thinking of making the Yukon their destination and are now actually doing so. It is up around 20 percent now.
With respect to the motion to establish an ambassador program for Yukoners who travel outside the territory who want to promote tourism travel to the Yukon, the Member for Riverdale South, who introduced this motion, said he had talked to a number of people who felt it was a good idea. I have not heard that from anyone, either in TIA - who have not really discussed it in any of their meetings - or from the Tourism Marketing Council. I do not mean to suggest that that is not the case. I think there are a number of people who think it is a good idea.
The Member for Riverdale North suggests that long-time Yukoners, especially those who habitually travel outside every winter, would be most likely to be involved and interested in such a program. I think he is quite correct.
Beyond that, I do not know if we are talking about which specific Yukoners would be eligible or appropriate to be Yukon ambassadors: if it is any Yukoner on business or holidays, those taking part in sporting events outside, or if we are talking about adults only.
We also want to raise the question of who should qualify and how one should qualify to become a Yukon ambassador. I am pleased the Member for Riverdale North brought up some suggestions in this regard. He suggested people may be required to take a short, informal course to become more knowledgeable about the Yukon: its geography, the people, our history and the economy of the territory. He suggested a handbook should be developed with responses to the 10 most often asked questions by prospective tourists. I think that is a good idea.
We also have to address the question of what is actually involved in this program. The Member opposite suggested we should devise a kit similar to the one developed by the Saskatchewan government-run ambassador program. I thank the Member opposite for his offer of a kit. I have had one for quite some time, and I am quite impressed by it.
It should contain the information he suggested: the latest travel guide for the territory, brochures, a decal for the vehicle, so an ambassador can be identified, and cards that are handed out to prospective travelers so they mail them back requesting information.
He also mentioned something quite interesting: a video on the territory you could pass around when you are in an RV park down south.
This is going to cost some money. I know you can reproduce videos for about $10 or $12. It would not cost a great deal for a kit. The one from the Saskatchewan government runs in the neighbourhood of $20. Add to that a video, and you are looking at approximately $30. The Member suggests that we could even charge ambassadors something for the kit, which is something that could be looked into, as well.
What are the benefits of this program? More people may be enticed to come to the Yukon. Individuals would benefit from being enriched by tourist experience in the Yukon, as would all Yukoners. A question was raised as to whether the benefits are measurable. This is something the Member for Kluane brought up. It is a good question. It is very difficult to track through the program that Saskatchewan has in place just how many people do visit the province once they receive tourism information they receive from an ambassador.
That is one of the acknowledged difficulties of an ambassador program. I would imagine that is why other jurisdictions that have had it in the past have dropped it while others are just examining the options right now.
As I have already mentioned, the Province of Saskatchewan is still involved in providing a kit and materials. Most of the items are already produced for other marketing activities, such as the vacation guide, the highway map, a certificate folder and an ambassador pin.
The kit basically allows them to show some of the materials and hand out a few plastic pins but essentially they pass out visitor information inquiry cards, which potential visitors then send in for a vacation guide. What they are receiving is the same kind of form that Tourism Yukon inserts in large publications that have wide exposure.
Those involved in the Saskatchewan program I think might have some relevance to our program. It is interesting that in Saskatchewan, it must be a Saskatchewan resident of more than two years residency and who must be 18 years of age. They do have some very interesting exceptions that we should possibly consider. Exchange students travelling out of Canada are eligible at 16 years of age and husband and wife may receive one ambassador kit together, although an additional ambassador pin will be added to the kit. A designation of Saskatchewan ambassador is done once in a lifetime, which I find very interesting. You have to go through the information course to gain more knowledge on the province. They only permit people to be a Saskatchewan ambassador once.
Also, they do not give ambassador kits to large groups travelling out of the territory, such as school groups going to exchange visits. The rationale is that the cost would be prohibitive and groups that large do not likely use the kits and are mainly interested in the lapel pins.
How many are we looking at in a year? The Department of Tourism in Saskatchewan receives over 3,000 inquiries a year from residents. They average about 1,500 registered ambassadors per year. In 1989, the number was just under 1,300.
The question of the cost keeps coming up. As I mentioned earlier, it is about $20 for the Saskatchewan kit. The Member opposite has identified most of the items involved. The cost is not substantial, multiplied by approximately 1,300 people, and it is certainly a marketing program, the cost of which could be considered here in the Yukon.
The question in Saskatchewan is whether or not the cost of the program, the trouble of the program, the administration cost of the program - and not knowing the real benefit in terms of conversion rates for the program - is really worthwhile. Most people in the industry conclude that it is not, from the standpoint of attracting tourists to the Province of Saskatchewan. They feel that the real value of the program for Saskatchewan is to improve the awareness among residents in the province - small businesses, tourist-oriented operations - that this is part of tourism and that there is a need to offer a quality product in a hospitable manner.
As a result of their program, I think more have become members of the industry association. They have made a commitment to achieve common goals with tourist interests in the province.
The ambassador program is really an educational tool in Saskatchewan for all residents. This is one of the responsibilities, of course, of the Tourism Industry Association of the Yukon.
In many ways we already have an effective tourism ambassador program here in the Yukon. The tourism action plan endorsed by TIA and the industry at large clearly states that we expect visitors to stay, to return or themselves promote the Yukon as a good vacation destination. They must go home satisfied that they have received quality and value for their money. After all, satisfied customers are the best ambassadors of the Yukon. There is no doubt that the best promotion for Yukon is a satisfied customer. Quality service is particularly important for todays more experienced travellers and high standards are one way in which to differentiate Yukon in the very highly competitive international market that we find ourselves in today.
Attracting and satisfying tourists is more than a matter of improved service from the tourist industry. Particularly important is the reception tourists get from Yukoners. Publicizing the importance of a successful tourist industry in the territorial economy as a whole, and developing among the public-at-large customer service mentality, will improve the general reception and service given to visitors and customers.
This is one of the roles of the good-host program that we have had operating in the territory for quite some time now. It is to impress upon Yukoners to be friendly and efficient hosts.
In the last couple of years, we are pleased that so many people are taking advantage of this course and becoming enrolled, and it is to the benefit of our industry and the territory as a whole.
I should bring to your attention that this program is being enhanced by the Tourism North agreement. You may recall earlier this year, in May, there was a training seminar for the visitor reception centre staff from Alaska, British Columbia and the Yukon. It was successfully held in Whitehorse. Incidentally, this is the first time such training was held internationally. The same program this year will be held in the community of Haines, Alaska.
Incidentally, this training program is a modified version of British Columbias super-host program, which has received worldwide recognition, and is now being adopted by many countries. In addition, we have discussed a program with TIA entitled, We want to hear from you. This is a program whereby we invite our tourists to record their compliments and criticisms of our tourism industry, so we can get some good feedback.
Speaker: Order please. The time now being 5:30, I will now leave the Chair until 7:30 p.m. tonight.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: 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 Hon. Government House Leader that the Speaker do leave the Chair and the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Motion agreed to
Speaker leaves the Chair
COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
Chair: I will now call Committee to order.
Bill No. 16 - First Appropriation Act, 1990-91 - continued
Committee of the Whole Motion No. 2
Hon. Ms. Joe: I ask unanimous consent of the House to move that at 8:30 p.m. Reggie Newkirk, Tor Forsberg, Debra Fendrick and George Henry appear as w-witnesses before the Committee of the Whole during debate on Bill No. 16.
Committee of the Whole Motion No. 2 agreed to
Department of Health and Human Resources - continued
Hon. Mr. Penikett: At the time of adjournment yesterday, I was busy confusing everybody on the subject of the chronic diseases expenditures. I confused the issue by using the number $673,000 to describe the drug component of the chronic disease program as the total amount, when the drug component that represents about 90 percent of this part of the chronic diseases budget is $673,000 of the costs associated with the chronic diseases legislation, which includes appliances and drugs. That number totals $739,839, but on top of that are the costs associated with chronic mental health patients that we previously reported in the chronic health line. Those have been budgeted this year and last at $226,390.
I should point out to Members that we are budgeting a little bit less than last year in this area, because the expenditures have not been as high as we anticipated; therefore, the budget has been decreased by an expected amount of $88,000. So, last year, the Member for Riverdale South is quite right, the total in these two areas was $1,045,015. This year it is $88,000 less than that.
Mr. Lang: Does the Minister have an answer to the question I asked the other day about the ambulances charges?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I am sorry. I do not have an answer to that. I will have to report it back to the Members as soon as I can.
Mrs. Firth: Could the Minister give us some idea of just how many claims are made? On the information page, on page 237, there are four frequent claims diseases listed: asthma, hypertension, diabetes and arthritis. That totals over 8,000 claims just for those four, and it is for 2,168 subscribers from last year. What are we looking at in the area of total claims? It must be in the thousands.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I do not have the breakdown on the numbers here, but I am happy to provide it. I am darn sure that number is readily available from the computers.
Mrs. Firth: I would appreciate that. When we debated this particular item last session, the Minister was going to look at some initiatives to get the costs down. Is that still happening? There was talk of making an announcement about it.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: Yes, as I indicated in my opening statement, I intend to be coming to my Cabinet colleagues in a matter of days with some proposals along that line. I should tell the Member that they are not likely to produce radical reductions in the total cost, but they will have some amelioration of the costs. The proposals I am bringing forward for Management Board and Cabinet decision are ones that are based on our examination of what is going on in every other program in the country.
Mrs. Firth: I do not imagine we will be in the Legislature when that decision is made. If we are, I would appreciate the Member giving us the information. If not, perhaps his department could send it to our offices.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I am quite prepared to make an undertaking, as soon as a decision is made, to communicate it to Members of the House, whether we are sitting or not.
I still hope to have the decision made before Christmas. I just do not know which day.
Operation and Maintenance in the amount of $33,741,000 agreed to
On Northern Health Services
Mr. Lang: Could the Minister enlighten us on this subject?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: This project provides funds, as I have described before in previous budget years, for 70 percent of the eligible costs for capital expenditures by Health and Welfare Canada in the territory to meet the Government of Yukon obligations as established by the 1954 funding agreement with Canada.
I will just run through the list of the projected $720,000 of expenditures by the federal government. I will say to the Member, as every previous Minister has said, the federal government does not always fund exactly what they say. This is a projection. We will pay 70 percent of whatever they spend. Not everything on this list will be spent.
First of all, there are, as the Member knows, facilities throughout the territory. There is $147,000 budgeted for renovations to some of those facilities. These facilities are nursing stations and so on.
We have minor equipment replacement and acquisition for health facilities, community health, environmental health, dental health, mental healthand health education services administered by the Northern Health Service, including medical office electronic data processing equipment and furniture for $140,000. We have vehicle replacement for transportation requirements in locations throughout the Yukon for $217,000. That adds up to the $504,000 that the Member is asking about.
Mr. Lang: The Minister touches on mental health and I may as well ask a question in this section because the way the headings are it may be passed by. What is happening on the home for the handicapped that was going to be made available? I know there was talk by the Yukon Housing Corporation. I am wondering what is happening through his ministry with respect to that situation.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: The Member is correct. The Yukon Housing Corporation made arrangements with the Mental Health Association for two housing units. I understand these are not going to be staffed units so we do not incur any costs directly through our department as a result of that program. There is a review about mental health services going on in the federal system right now in MSB. The Health and Social Services Council in the Yukon has recently received a presentation on what was going on. We have not yet, ourselves, had a chance to formally receive that review for our input at the senior level of government, but that is what is going on and we are looking at it in anticipation of being responsible for those programs in a relatively short period of time.
Mr. Lang: When can we expect those homes to be operating?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I apologize. I have now told the Member almost everything I know about the particular arrangements. The Minister responsible for the Yukon Housing Corporation is not here at the moment, but I can take the question as notice on his behalf and make sure it is answered by one of us, when we can.
Northern Health Services in the amount of $504,000 agreed to
On Communications Disorders Equipment
Communications Disorders Equipment in the amount of $6,000 agreed to
On Extended Health Benefits - Seniors
Extended Health Benefits - Seniors in the amount of $18,000 agreed to
On Chronic Disease Benefits
Hon. Mr. Penikett: On the capital side of the chronic disease program, as I have said before in previous years, the dollars are for the purchase of major equipment items required for the support of individuals with chronic and debilitating diseases, with the aim of minimizing required hospitalization. These kinds of things include manually operated hospital beds, specialized wheelchairs, grab bars and support rails, respiratory equipment, patient lifters, and other specialized aid pieces.
Chronic Disease Benefits in the amount of $20,000 agreed to
On Macaulay Lodge Renovations
Macaulay Lodge Renovations in the amount of $20,000 agreed to
On Macaulay Lodge Equipment Replacement
Macaulay Lodge Equipment Replacement in the amount of $40,000 agreed to
Capital in the amount of $608,000 agreed to
Health Services in the amount of $34,349,000 agreed to
Chair: Are there any questions on allotments and person year establishment?
On Juvenile Justice
On Operation & Maintenance
On Program Management
Mr. Lang: Are there any new initiatives in this particular area?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I do not think we have any new initiatives. In the supplementary, we have described most of what is going on here. The Member did ask some questions that I tried to answer, but I do not think there are really any new initiatives here at all.
Program Management in the amount of $20,000 agreed to
On Community and Court Services
Community and Court Services in the amount of $618,000 agreed to
On Residential Rehabilitation
Residential Rehabilitation in the amount of $2,375,000 agreed to
Operation & Maintenance in the amount of $3,013,000 agreed to
On Equipment - Operational
Equipment - Operational in the amount of $50,000 agreed to
On Young Offenders Facility
Hon. Mr. Penikett: This is basically for capital and maintenance in the young offenders facility, Na Dli, and the juvenile justice open custody facilities. I could only speculate what kinds of equipment has to be replaced that gets broken or needs repairs during the course of the year.
Young Offenders Facility in the amount of $25,000 agreed to
Capital in the amount of $75,000 agreed to
Juvenile Justice in the amount of $3,088,000 agreed to
On Regional Services
On Operation & Maintenance
On Program Management
There is not in this year any major new initiative or change. The budget shift is, in fact, a result of the transfer of a secretarial position from regional services to support the director of family and childrens services, but we are involved right now in a number of communities in talking about their priorities and their needs and how we can actually respond to those service needs.
Program Management in the amount of $1,375,000 agreed to
On Family & Children Services
Family & Children Services in the amount of $748,000 agreed to
On Social Services
Social Services in the amount of $974,000 agreed to
On Juvenile Justice Services
Juvenile Justice Services in the amount of $29,000 agreed to
Operation & Maintenance in the amount of $3,126,000 agreed to
On Group Homes
On Construction & Renovation
Construction & Renovation in the amount of $35,000 agreed to
On Equipment Replacement
Equipment Replacement in the amount of $12,000 agreed to
On Safe Homes in Rural Yukon
Mr. Devries: I am sure the Minister has been made aware that, for the safe home that was planned for Watson Lake, the tenders came in considerably higher than anticipated, I believe somewhere between $50,000 and $100,000 higher than anticipated. They are going back to the drawing board. Has the Minister been approached by them on anything?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I have not had a detailed briefing but, of course, in a situation like this, as the Member knows, our officials have to meet with the people in the community to talk about where we go next. We have, as the Member knows, in this line, provided $125,000 for the safe places in the territory that we have operated and intend to operate in Watson Lake and I hope we will be able to work out some acceptable arrangement soon.
Safe Homes in Rural Yukon in the amount of $125,000 agreed to
On McDonald Lodge: Seniors Services Equipment
Mr. Lang: I am just wondering if the Minister could update us with respect to the status of that particular hospital. I believe the question of the status of it came up a number of years ago, and I was wondering if anything has been done in respect to upgrading it so that it can meet the demands in the community of Dawson during the summer months.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: It is not going to revert to its hospital status; in fact, we are going to be talking in that community, as in others, about what kinds of more modern health facilities they will need in the future. The Member is quite right that the facility is in very bad repair right now, which is why we have this budget allocation here. It is going to take a fair amount, both in terms of roof and foundation repair, porch reconstruction and equipment, in order to bring this facility back into some kind of good shape.
McDonald Lodge: Seniors Services Equipment in the amount of $120,000 agreed to
On Operational Equipment
Operational Equipment in the amount of $6,000 agreed to
Capital in the amount of $298,000 agreed to
Regional Services in the amount of $3,424,000 agreed to
Chair: Are there any questions on the other pages?
Department of Health and Human Resources in the amount of $57,842,000 agreed to
Department of Justice
Chair: On Justice, is there any general debate?
Hon. Ms. Joe: I am pleased to present the Department of Justice combined operation and maintenance and capital estimates for the 1991-92 fiscal year. The mandate of the Department of Justice is to ensure that all Yukon citizens can exercise their legal rights and responsibilities in order to assist in the economic and social development of the Yukon and to protect societys values.
For the coming fiscal year, the Department of Justice estimates are as follows: the operation and maintenance estimates are $22,132,000; the capital estimates are $270,000.
It is a continuing challenge in times of fiscal restraint to ensure that the people of the Yukon continue to be well served by the justice system. Ongoing programs and services must have support, and there is a recognized need for new means to correct the imbalances and help reduce the human misery that pervades a rapidly changing world.
As always, the needs expressed exceed the resources available to meet them. Difficult decisions must be made. The Department of Justice estimates fund many vital programs and services to the public. These include policing by the RCMP, cost-shared with the federal government, corrections centre and probation services, legal aid, native courtworkers, the family violence prevention unit, the victim/witness assistance program, court services, the maintenance enforcement program, the risk reduction program, the crime prevention program, justice services, which include occupational health and safety and the risk reduction program, labour services and consumer and corporate affairs, compensation for victims of crime and the Human Rights Commission.
All Justice programs and services will continue but in some cases with little or no significant increases in funding. At the same time many areas have and will likely continue to experience increased demand for service by the public. An example is justice services. The number of requests for assistance and complaints concerning consumer goods, securities, wage claims and registering of land has increased significantly since last year.
I will now outline several new and ongoing initiatives to further the commitment of this government to reducing workplace hazards and injuries. The risk reduction program, in partnership with the Workers Compensation Board, will continue in the next fiscal year. Funds in the amount of $225,000 are allocated for workplace risk reduction. The cost of the three new person years required for the risk reduction project is fully recoverable from the Yukon Workers Compensation Board.
Devolution of the mine safety program will be completed in the next fiscal year. An additional two person years and $200,000 in base funding will be devolved from the federal government in 1991-92.
This government is also commited to advancing the participation of Yukon First Nations in the justice system. In the coming fiscal year we will be introducing two initiatives directed at developing and implementing the aboriginal justice programs.
The Department of Justice has allocated $55,000 for the establishment of a position of aboriginal justice coordinator. This position will be within the corrections and law enforcement branch. A First Nations person will be recruited for this two-year position to commence April 1, 1991. This position will be responsible for developing, implementing and coordinating programs directed toward aboriginal justice.
Funding in the amount of $93,000 has also been approved for aboriginal justice projects. The objective is to encourage Yukon First Nations to assume more control in the delivery of justice programs. There is a need to increase both the flexibility of the department in dealing with non-violent offenders and to expand corrections options in the administration of justice.
New capital monies of $80,000 have been allocated for a pilot project that will employ electronic home monitoring techniques. Electronic home monitoring will be a voluntary option for selected non-violent offenders.
A pay increase for the justices of the peace has been approved. Their last salary increase was in 1983. JPs will now be paid hourly rates scaled to the level of responsibility assigned by theCchief Judge. The cost of these increases is $71,000.
The victim/witness assistance program will now be expanded to include all circuit court communities. There will be $50,000 provided for this purpose through a funding agreement with the federal government.
Beginning January 1, 1991, all new statutes will be drafted in both English and French. This is pursuant to the French language agreement and legislation passed by this territory. The costs involved will be fully covered by the federal government. The costs include $180,000 for two bilingual drafters, a secretary and a contract for $186,000 to translate the existing body of statute law.
The estimates for the next fiscal year ensure that the Yukon public will continue to have access to all existing programs and services in the Department of Justice. There are also a number of new and ongoing initiatives. These are Justice initiatives vital to furthering social and economic development of the Yukon: an aboriginal justice worker, health and safety, expanded court services, French language services and land claims.
Mrs. Firth: I would like to thank the Minister for the information she provided to me prior to the debate, and also for the information I have received in several of the legislative returns she has provided in response to questions I had during the supplementary budget.
I would like to begin a brief general debate by registering my concern about the lack of a deputy minister within this department. It has been almost a year where the deputy minister has been in an acting capacity. My concern is that it is putting an added strain on the department and on the people working in the department.
I recognize the Minister is not responsible for that particular area, and that it is the Government Leader who makes the appointments. I am just registering my concern, and I will wait and see when we do get a deputy minister.
Does the Minister have anything further to report on the RCMP agreement? Have the Ministers from the provinces had a chance to meet yet, and is there anything new there?
I would also like to ask the Minister if she will be providing me with the further information I had asked for with respect to the compensation for victims of crime. The president of the Workers Compensation Board was researching the question with respect to any observations that the board was making with respect to people being referred to the victims of crime compensation fund for payment. Perhaps I will let the Minister answer those questions and then I have a few more.
Hon. Ms. Joe: In regard to the lack of a deputy minister, as the Member has stated, it is a problem because the employees of the department are overworked. Certainly, we are looking at applications and that will be forthcoming. I cannot give the Member the exact date.
In regard to the RCMP negotiations, I believe the meeting that was supposed to take place between the federal Minister and the two provincial Ministers, happened yesterday. I have not heard anything at all since then, so I cannot give her an update on that but certainly, as in the past, I will make sure that information is forthcoming.
In regard to the compensation for victims of crime, I have not had the opportunity to talk to the people involved in this. The information has been sent over to the Workers Compensation Board in regard to the request. I had not realized until this point in time that we had not provided that information. Certainly, she will receive it.
Mrs. Firth: With respect to the whole program of the victims of crime compensation payments, it has been increasing, and I believe this past year was the first time that the budget was over spent. When I look at the statement of cost that was provided to me by the Workers Compensation Board, I looked through the numbers of awards that were made, anywhere in the neighbourhood of from as low as $826, up to as high as $11,706. The total that is provided in this information is in excess of $46,000.
Is that money just an award for the incident that happened to the victim? I have noticed that there are some pain and suffering awards, or loss of wages, but what exactly does the award mean? Is that just a general lump sum of money that is given to the individual?
Hon. Ms. Joe: It does include compensation for the pain and suffering that that individual has endured, but it also includes other things, as the Member said, for loss of time and work and other costs. She has been given a brief description of all of the victims who have appeared before the board. In most cases there is some time for loss of work. Other costs are incurred. There is the pain and suffering of that individual, but I would just like to let the Member know that I have become concerned about the rise in the costs of awards that have gone out to the victims. I have had discussions with the board in regard to that. We are looking at the amount of money that is made available to us and possibly a change in the criteria for those victims who are before us. That has not been worked out as yet, but there are ongoing discussions between Justice and the Workers Compensation Board in regard to all of the problems or concerns that we are facing right now. Certainly, an evaluation of the program would be in order as well. So we are concerned about the rise in costs. I do know for sure that more people are definitely coming forward, because that kind of information gets out quite quickly and I am sure we will be seeing a lot more.
Mrs. Firth: That is exactly my concern, and that was why I had asked if the Workers Compensation Board had made any observation with respect to, for example, one or two particular lawyers constantly referring people to the victims of crime compensation fund program.
When the Workers Compensation Board does its review, I think it would be very interesting to know what happened to the person who committed the assault, or committed the crime compared to the award that the victim is being given. I would like to know if any of these individual spousal assaults, or other assaults, if they were fined, if they had to do community work, if they had to go to jail. I would like to know what the punishment was, and I think that is something that is very important and should be taken into account in the context of this whole review. I would be very distressed if I found out that the punishments were not suitable for the crime, and we were just paying the victims large sums of money, because that is a very dangerous precedent to be setting within the justice system.
Hon. Ms. Joe: I do share the concern that Member has stated. In regard to the offender, it would be my position that there should be some indication as to what happened to the offender and certainly that concern has been registered to the board. I am not exactly sure what will happen in the future, but we are talking about the very same things that the Member for Riverdale South has mentioned. I will report to her sometime down the road; I am sure, before the fiscal year is over, that we will be able to come to some kind of an agreement. We would like to see the program run more effectively.
Mrs. Firth: I would like to ask the Minister a question about the litigations that the government has. There is at least one that has been ongoing since 1982 and some since 1988. I would like to ask the Minister how long we are going to have these on the books. Is there not some way these can be resolved so that we do not have to pay lawyers and carry on indefinitely with these? Unless there is some indication that the Yukon taxpayer will get some money back because of the government pursuing a lawsuit, I do not see the purpose. I do not see that happening in some of these instances.
Hon. Ms. Joe: I do not think there is a definite period of time for us to keep something in our books. The Member was talking about the Porter Creek C litigation that has been ongoing since 1982. I guess it takes a long time, but I do not see why it would take eight years to receive all of the technical information that is needed. I have not received an explanation that satisfies me, but it might satisfy a lawyer. If we are hoping someday to take it off the books, surely something can be explained to me that would satisfy my curiosity as well, as for others that have been around for a substantial amount of time. I have been given two explanations, but, as I have said, neither one satisfy me.
Mrs. Firth: With all due respect to lawyers and the legal fraternity, I think that if we left the decision up to them we may be doing this for a long time. It may be that the Cabinet has to step in one day and make a decision to weigh the costs against the benefits that may or may not come and make a final decision. It may not be worth the governments time or money and we should draw some to a close. I would like to offer that advice, inexpensive as it may be.
I want to ask the Minister a question about the sheriffs job. Is that job still vacant? If so, why has it been vacant for such a long time?
Hon. Ms. Joe: What we found out in regard to the sheriffs position is that although we have had the people there for a long time, they have sort of learned through the experience of one another and the training in the past has not been as extensive as it is in regard to other jurisdictions. We felt there were certain things that the people who worked in there were not following through on, such as legal procedure in most cases, and using common sense that sometimes is the best way to do things. What we have decided to do in that department is bring in somebody to work with the individuals for possibly two or three months - a training type of thing - because I believe the people who are in there have the kind of experience that is necessary for them to do their jobs.
I was not prepared to bring in anybody from outside to take over that position. I am totally opposed to that because certainly I have respect for the kind of knowledge they gained from doing their jobs, but there were certain legal technical things that, through the normal course of learning on the job, they were not knowledgeable about. That is about as much of an explanation as I can give to the Member at this time, but certainly their work, the services they have offered in the past are respected, so it is just a matter of bringing someone in who has spent much more time in that area who will provide them with more knowledge that will help them in their job.
Mrs. Firth: Do I understand then that the deputy sheriff, or assistant sheriff, would be working in an underfill capacity, with the objective that they would move into the sheriffs position, and the other position would become vacant? Perhaps someone else who is working in an underfill capacity would fill that.
If that is the case, could the Minister tell us approximately how long she thinks it will be before the competitions are out and the individuals are in the new positions?
Hon. Ms. Joe: It is not exactly an underfill. If it were, the salary the acting sheriff is receiving right now would have had to be decreased by a few thousand dollars. It is not exactly an underfill, because we did not want to ask that person to follow through with that.
It is like providing more training. Instead of sending the people out, somebody is brought in to allow them to learn a little bit more about the position. I do not think it will take any more than three months before the person in that position could be exempted into the sheriffs position, but I could not say for sure.
Chair: We will proceed with line by line, on page 262.
On Operation & Maintenance
On Deputy Minister
Deputy Minister in the amount of $203,000 agreed to
On Finance & Administration
Mrs. Firth: Could the Minister give us the increase?
Hon. Ms. Joe: The increase in personnel costs is due to normal merit increments and increased support staff salary costs, particularly in the systems administration unit. This activity is responsible for developing and maintaining in-house systems and is primarily for data collection. It is required to respond to ever-increasing requirements for information.
Finance & Administration in the amount of $528,000 agreed to
On Compensation for Victims of Crime
Compensation for Victims of Crime in the amount of $120,000 agreed to
On Training & Development
Training & Development in the amount of $74,000 agreed to
On Judicial Recruitment
Mrs. Firth: The one position of judge is still open and unfilled because of the sabbatical the previous land claims negotiator and judge is on. How much longer is that position to remain open?
Hon. Ms. Joe: The period of the sabbatical would have lasted for one year, and there was an extension of six months, either prior to that year or after that year. I am not exactly sure what the exact circumstances are. We have not discussed this for such a long time, but there is a six-month period that will be taken for other reasons and, then, the year sabbatical. I cannot remember when the sabbatical started, so I am not exactly sure of the date. I think the whole period of time that person would be away for would be 18 months.
Mrs. Firth: That was what I understood; the sabbatical was for a year and then he was taking an additional six months after that year. That was the way it was reported; perhaps that has changed; maybe he has taken the six months first and the sabbatical did not start until later.
I would like to get some idea of when this position is supposed to be filled again and when we are going to know whether the individual is going to return to the bench or not.
Hon. Ms. Joe: I am not aware of any of the circumstances changing and I have not received any letters or anything from the judge suggesting anything other than what was agreed upon before he left, but I can provide the Member with that information.
Judicial Recruitment in the amount of $1.00 agreed to
Operation & Maintenance in the amount of $925,000 agreed to
On Cash Register Replacement
Cash Register Replacement in the amount of $6,000 agreed to
Capital in the amount of $6,000 agreed to
Administration in the amount of $931,000 agreed to
Chair: Are there any questions on the following pages?
Should we take a break before the witnesses come in at 8:30 p.m.?
Mrs. Firth: No, I do not want one.
On Court Services
On Operation & Maintenance
On Program Director
Program Director in the amount of $529,000 agreed to
On Supreme Court
Supreme Court in the amount of $340,000 agreed to
On Territorial Court
Territorial Court in the amount of $1,338 agreed to
Sheriff in the amount of $233,000 agreed to
On Native Courtworkers
Native Courtworkers in the amount of $248,000 agreed to
On Maintenance Enforcement
Maintenance Enforcement in the amount of $107,000 agreed to
On Victim/Witness Administration
Mrs. Firth: Is this the line that the victim impact statements would come under? If not, is there going to be any cost associated with the working committee that has been established to work on the victim impact statements? Can the Minister tell us what kind of goal they are looking for when that exercise is complete?
Hon. Ms. Joe: The problem with the victim impact statement, and I am sure the Member is familiar with it, was that everybody was trying to work at the implementation of it and at the same time realizing they did have something in place - not quite as effective as the victim impact statement would be.
There was also the problem with Justice realizing there was another matter that had been amended at the same time. I believe that was restitution. They then realized that was not going to be passed at the same time as the other. There was a problem with all of it. The RCMP, the Crown Attorney and our department were trying to put together some kind of a real plan, because everybody was trying to do the job.
As the Member knows, there was a committee struck as a result of the concerns registered through the media. Apparently the meeting held was a meeting to talk about the kind of things they would like to see. I have not had a report back from the established committee, but we do have Mary Carlson in policy and planning who sits on that committee.
I do not think at this point in time it will cost additional money. It might further down the road. I cannot tell you because the exact plan is not in place, nor do I know at this moment how it is going to operate.
Mrs. Firth: I know the Association for the Prevention of Community and Family Violence did an excellent job lobbying government with respect to this issue. I gather that they had a meeting scheduled for November 30, and that meeting went ahead.
Am I asking in the correct area with respect to costs in the future?
Hon. Ms. Joe: Depending on how they plan to implement it, this could be the activity it would be included under. I am not entirely sure right now.
Victim/Witness Administration in the amount of $105,000 agreed to
Operation & Maintenance in the amount of $2,900,000 agreed to
On Court Facilities Renovations
Court Facilities Renovations in the amount of $15,000 agreed to
On Court Administration and Security
Court Administration and Security in the amount of $38,000 agreed to
Capital in the amount of $53,000 agreed to
Court Services in the amount of $2,953,000 agreed to
Chair: Are there any questions on allotments or person year establishment?
On Attorney General
On Operation & Maintenance
On Program Director
Program Director in the amount of $181,000 agreed to
On Solicitors Branch
Solicitors Branch in the amount of $590,000 agreed to
On Legislative Counsel
Mrs. Firth: Could the Minister tell us what the increase is for?
Hon. Ms. Joe: The salary and benefits costs associated with the activity is three term and four indeterminate person year positions. This activity is comprised of two elements, legislative counsel and French language, and of four indeterminate and three term positions, respectively. The legislative counsel element drafts legislation amendments. The French language translates the statutes into French and codrafts legislation and amendments.
The increase in personnel cost over the 1990-91 forecast is due solely to normal merit increments. There are no other changes in personnel costs in this activity.
Legislative Council in the amount of $632,000 agreed to
On Legal Aid
Mr. Nordling: I see the 1989-90 actual was $794,000. For 1991-92, it is up to $818,000. This is a $24,000 increase. When I look back at page 268 of the budget, I see that the charges laid in territorial court in 1989-90 were 12,178. The 1991-92 estimate of adult charges laid was 20,000. We have forecast 8,000 more charges being laid in Territorial Court.
My experience is that a lot of those charges are laid against people who need legal aid. Has the demand for legal aid increased? What are we doing? Are we just turning people away?
Hon. Ms. Joe: The Member is right about the fact that there is an increase in the amount of charges being laid. We are hearing from the legal aid service that there is an increase in those individuals coming to them for assistance. We have not turned anyone away. They have indicated to us that there could be a rise in the cost. We do have a problem and, with the increase in the population of Whitehorse especially, we do not have a good feeling about the financial future of this, because we are experiencing an increase in cost in this area.
Mr. Nordling: Does the Minister see that there will probably be a supplementary in this area to come, rather than a turning-away of people who need legal aid?
Hon. Ms. Joe: That is a possibility. I only met with the group last week, and they have indicated to me that may be possible. There were other things that we had discussed, and that was on list of the things they wanted funding for. One of the things that we picked up on that did cause a bit of concern was in regard to the maintenance, where they were paying the cost for maintenance when, in fact, we provide that service through our department.
It is just a matter of looking at their statistics and finding out whether or not there is some way that we can deal with it in a different manner. It is possible they will be coming to us for additional money in the future.
Legal Aid in the amount of $818,000 agreed to
Costs/Judgments in the amount of $1.00 agreed to
On Litigation Costs
Litigation Costs in the amount of $70,000 agreed to
Operation & Maintenance in the amount of $2,291,000 agreed to
Attorney General in the amount of $2,291,000 agreed to
On Justice Services
On Operation & Maintenance
On Program Director
Program Director in the amount of $154,000 agreed to
On Consumer Services
Mrs. Firth: Could the Minister tell us about the increase?
Hon. Ms. Joe: The increase in expenditures relates to reclassification of an administrative position, a consumer relations officer and normal merits increments.
Mrs. Firth: In the Ministers opening statement, she made a comment that the numbers of requests for assistance and the complaints concerning consumer goods had increased significantly. Is that reflected in a dollar figure or is it just that people are busier handling other complaints?
Hon. Ms. Joe: There was a reorganization and restructuring of the department to determine where some of these activities could be included, and I think it was just the sophistication that was developed as a result of that, and more people coming forward with all kinds of different complaints and the very fact that they did offer a lot of assistance. Through CBC radio, we did have an individual do a consumers report every once in awhile. I think that had something to do with the increase as well.
Consumer Services in the amount of $360,000 agreed to
On Corporate Affairs
Corporate Affairs in the amount of $250,000 agreed to
On Labour Services
Labour Services in the amount of $335,000 agreed to
On Occupational Health & Safety
Occupation Health & Safety in the amount of $898,000 agreed to
On Public Administrator
Public Administrator in the amount of $112,000 agreed to
On Land Titles
Land Titles in the amount of $188,000 agreed to
On Chief Coroner
Mrs. Firth: Could the Minister tell us what the 26 percent increase is, please?
Hon. Ms. Joe: The increase stems solely from increased costs, a combination of increased support staff salaries related to coroner investigations and normal merit increments.
Mrs. Firth: Is it because there are more investigations this year than last?
Hon. Ms. Joe: Yes, that is correct.
Chief Coroner in the amount of $269,000 agreed to
Operation & Maintenance in the amount of $2,566,000 agreed to
On Occupational Health & Safety Equipment
Occupational Health & Safety Equipment in the amount of $3,000 agreed to
On Safety Training & Loss Prevention Equipment
Safety Training & Loss Prevention Equipment in the amount of $2,000 agreed to
On Mine Safety Equipment
Mine Safety Equipment in the amount of $49,000 agreed to
On Coroners Officer Equipment
Coroners Office Equipment in the amount of $3,000 agreed to
Capital in the amount of $57,000 agreed to
Justice Services in the amount of $2,623,000 agreed to
Chair: It is now time to have the witnesses appear.
Hon. Ms. Joe: I would like to welcome to the Legislature our witnesses tonight. We have Chairperson Tor Forsberg sitting in the middle. On her right is Debra Fendrick. On her left is George Henry. They are here to tell us everything they know about the Human Rights Commission.
Chair: Are there any opening statements the commission would like to make?
Hon. Ms. Joe: I will give you the information I have, Madam Chair.
The human rights program provides funds for the operation of the Human Rights Commission and a panel of adjudicators in order to ensure that the objectives of the Human Rights Act are implemented.
The human rights program is comprised of a Human Rights Commission grant and Human Rights Adjudication Board activities.
The 1991-92 budget for the human rights program is, in terms of the total funding level, exactly the same as 1990-91. There is no net increase in projected expenditures for this program. The internal reallocation to cover miscellaneous program expenses in the 1990-91 forecast is not anticipating the 1991-92 budget.
The percentage change in human rights program activities is as follows: the Human Rights Commission activity has a one percent decrease related to an internal reallocation in 1990-91 that is not anticipated in 1991-92. There are no other changes in this activity. The Human Rights Adjudication Board activity has an eight percent increase in funding reflecting the internal reallocation identified above. There are no other changes in this activity.
I would also like to introduce Executive Director Reggie Newkirk. He has just arrived.
Mrs. Firth: I would like to welcome the commission.
I welcome the new commissioners and Reggie Newkirk, the Executive Director, who, of course, has been through this experience before and enjoyed every minute of it from what he told me.
Since we did not receive any information prior to the questioning tonight, I would like to ask the commission if they could make an opening statement for us with respect to their financial position as it stands right now, whether they are operating in a surplus or deficit, and if they could update us on the status of complaints, the number of formal complaints, the number of complaints carried over from last year and the status of those complaints. Then we can proceed with some further questioning.
Ms. Forsberg: To address the first part of the question about our budget to date, the budget was set. There are no increases. I understand we are operating within our budget right now with some surplus.
Mrs. Firth: Could we have specific figures? I realize the report is not due until March 31, 1991, but could the commission give us an accurate position on the status of their figures now and what their surplus is so we can get some idea of their financial position?
Ms. Forsberg: The total budget was $254,250. We have at this moment $77,856.25.
Mrs. Firth: Is the commission anticipating they will be in a surplus, or at least a balanced position, at the end of the fiscal year?
Ms. Forsberg: I think we will definitely be in a balanced position at the end of the fiscal year.
Chair: We have to record everything in Hansard, and it is easier for Hansard if we state who the person is, so we usually go through the Chair.
Ms. Forsberg: Thank you.
Mrs. Firth: Perhaps we could get an update on the number of complaints, the status of complaints, how many are formal and ongoing, and how many have been carried over from previous years?
Ms. Forsberg: To date there are 17 complaints in various stages of investigation. We have 13 so far this year. Three have been settled. Six have been dismissed. One is under appeal and two are currently being considered by the commission.
Mrs. Firth: Could the commission give us some indication of the kinds of complaints or discrimination? I am not looking for specific stories, simply areas of the act that are being violated.
Ms. Forsberg: Would you like to have a breakdown of the figures, like how many complaints have related to which issues?
Mrs. Firth: Yes, that would be helpful.
Ms. Forsberg: We had four complaints on the issue of ancestry; one on national origin; two on linguistic background; three on age; four on sex; five on disability; two on criminal charges; seven on marital family status; and one on association.
Mrs. Firth: Does that total up to 17, or is that in excess of 17? Is that all of the complaints that have been registered this year?
Ms. Forsberg: That is April 1, 1990 to November 30, 1990, plus the complaints carried over.
Mrs. Firth: The complaints carried over justifies it, because doing just a quick calculation, it is considerably more than the 17. Could the commission tell us if they are making any observation about the complaints as to how many are from businesses versus how many from governments versus just individual complaints that are coming forward? Could they give us a general idea of where these particular complaints are generated from - governments, businesses or individuals?
Ms. Forsberg: Most of the complaints are from government. The thing that could be remarked about the complaints that we have received to date is there do not seem to be as many complaints on racism or sexism as I would suspect there might be.
Mrs. Firth: Perhaps the witness could elaborate on that statement she just made.
Ms. Forsberg: On coming into the position, I anticipated dealing with more complaints on those issues than I see and that we have dealt with.
Mrs. Firth: Well, I think that is a positive statement for all Yukoners, if that, in fact, is the case. I think we should congratulate Yukoners on that particular point.
The complaints are mostly from government, the witness has stated. Could she tell us exactly how many of these complaints are from business or individuals, and how many are from government, so we have an idea? Are most of them or just about all of them government-oriented complaints, complaints about the government being discriminatory?
Ms. Forsberg: A percentage, then?
Mrs. Firth: As opposed to a percentage, even numbers. It totals up to the 17 complaints that were received this year and some that are carried over. Of those complaints, how many of them are from government? Would it be 15 of them or 16, 14? I think that would give us a better idea.
Ms. Forsberg: I would like to refer that question to Reg Newkirk. He is more familiar with that.
Mr. Newkirk: It is 17 of the 29 that we have, which is about 54 percent, as a rough calculation, in terms of percentages.
Mrs. Firth: Seventeen of the 29. What exactly does the executive director mean when he says 29 complaints? All of those that were listed, do they total up to 29 complaints?
Mr. Newkirk: We have 16 cases that were carried over from 1989-90 into 1990-91 fiscal years.
Mrs. Firth: What about the 17 complaints that we received this year? Perhaps that would give us a better idea.
Mr. Newkirk: There were 13 so far since April.
Mrs. Firth: Of the 13 then, which are government complaints?
Mr. Newkirk: Five.
Mrs. Firth: I notice that there were five disability complaints. Are those complaints that would be related to, say, the medical testing policy?
Mr. Newkirk: No.
Mrs. Firth: I could assume then that they would be the lack of access to facilities and so on?
Mr. Newkirk: Because of the requirements of legislation, if I say something too precisely, it would give away who is the respondent in the matter and I am not supposed to do that. Let us put it this way: it involves a government agency that is responsible for licensing and because of legislation, certain persons who are seeking licences cannot get licensed if they have certain kinds of disabilities.
Mrs. Firth: I understand that from one of the examples that is used in the pamphlets that were published. I would like to make comment about them later.
I would like to move to issues other than complaints, unless other Members want to pursue the complaints area. Mr. Lang has a question.
Mr. Lang: I am just wondering how many complaints in the past year have been brought forward by government employees about being harassed on the job site. I know of at least a number of times that the Human Rights Commission has been approached and I am just wondering if they would elaborate on that. Where does the Human Rights Commission stand on this because these people seem to have no place to go in view of the presently existing situation.
Mr. Newkirk: Yes, we have had a couple of inquiries where people were exploring with us, at a very preliminary level, about whether or not present circumstances that they find themselves in, employed by YTG, would constitute harassment. We have had two or three conversations that I can think of myself. None of those conversations have resulted in the alleged victims making formal complaints under the act, and it was their choice.
Mr. Lang: If they did make a formal complaint then the commission would follow it up on their behalf?
Mr. Newkirk: Formally, under the legislation.
Mrs. Firth: I would like to move onto another area. It has to do with the internal auditors report and the observation made about the independence of the commission. Is the commission still dependent upon government for assistance with certain services, like renovations, maintenance, photocopying and printing services, or are they completely independent now that they are paying all those costs themselves?
Ms. Forsberg: Yes. We are paying those costs ourselves.
Chair: I would like to remind the witnesses that Hansard can properly identify you if you speak through the chair. We are making history. Thank you.
Mrs. Firth: If the Commission has managed to restore its independence, I think it is good that they are not seen to require government services in the purchase of equipment or for the maintenance services to their facility. I think that should be noted. That was a recommendation of the audit and a very strong one that we debated in this House when the commission last appeared.
Could I ask the commission for an update with respect to the policy and procedure manual please?
Ms. Forsberg: At this point, the policy and procedure manual has been drafted.
Mrs. Firth: Is the draft stage available for us to review? If so, could we have a copy of that?
Ms. Forsberg: At this stage, the commissioners have not yet had time to review it, other than casually. No, it is not yet available.
Mrs. Firth: Could the commission tell us what the objective for having the policy and procedure manual ready is? When it is ready, or when a draft stage is ready, could we, as Members, have access to it? Could they provide that for us?
Ms. Forsberg: It seems that it will be ready about the end of March. Yes, it will be available to you.
Mrs. Firth: That will be consistent with the timing of the annual report to be completed. Could it be provided for the Members of the Legislature, as well as the annual report, at that time?
Ms. Forsberg: Yes, it could.
Mrs. Firth: Could the commission give us a list of consulting contracts they have entered into, and the approximate costs of those contracts?
Ms. Forsberg: Yes, we could make that list available to you happily.
Mrs. Firth: May we have that list now. I would not imagine it would be very lengthy.
Ms. Forsberg: You would imagine it would be what?
Mrs. Firth: I would imagine the list would not be very long. Could it be presented to the House now so that we have an idea of the numbers of dollars that have been spent and the kind of contracts it has been spent on?
Ms. Forsberg: Shall I read it then?
Read and Associates, $10,000 - $5,500 out of the 1989-90 fiscal year and $4,500 out of the current fiscal year by invitation, others invited. It was for the coordination of the Canadian Association of Statutory Human Rights Agencies. The second is Patricia Halladay, graphic designer, $3,977, for the annual report, phase 2. The third is JM Consulting, $5,000, by invitation, others invited. Headman and Associates, Brian McLaughlin, for the employee-related medical testing policy, also phase 2. The total cost of that contract was $6,100 and $1,100 was paid in the previous fiscal year. Isosceles Enterprises for $200; that was a position analysis and evaluation of the intake clerical support position. Another one was with Yukon Public Legal Education Association for $2,600; that was for help with the two brochures that have been released recently. I would like to point out that the total costs have gone from $52,000 to $17,000 over the last four years.
Mrs. Firth: That is a good figure to point out to the Legislative Members.
I would like to ask what the status is of the program they had to provide grant monies to communities or volunteer organizations for certain initiatives with respect to educational matters in human rights.
Ms. Forsberg: The amount budgeted for the year was $3,000. At this moment, we have, I think, $400 left of that amount.
None of the organizations that were granted funds were fully funded. It was all partial funding. Most often, it was less than what they had applied for as it is a fairly limited amount. The first amount was $775 to the North American Indigenous Games Committee. We also funded the Carcross Tlingit Dancers for $500, the Teslin Neilaseen Wat Cultural Dance Group. We funded Yukon gays and lesbians $426 and the Liard Indian Band for $399.
Mrs. Firth: There was a concern raised during the last budget debate with respect to those organizations getting the money prior to spending it and hanging onto the money until the next year, when they still had not spent the money. Could the commission tell us whether or not that practice has been stopped? How does the program work?
Ms. Forsberg: I will turn this over to Reggie Newkirk as well. I have some experience with some of the money that was given and we do have receipts for it. I am not certain that we have receipts for everything, so I will ask Reggie to address that.
Mr. Newkirk: Thank you. The procedure is quite simple. Usually they are unsolicited. In fact, in every instance they have been unsolicited that I can think of. Letters come in to the commission asking for a community grant, or that they be considered under that particular program. They usually set out a budget, and if they do not, we ask them to set out a budget. We ask what the money is for, when it is going to be used, when do they need to spend it, what it is going to be spent on, and so forth. If it is approved, they are told in the letter that goes out acknowledging they have been successful in getting a community grant that they are expected to provide the commission with a report on their activities: what they did, how the money was spent, and their participation in whatever project they were involved with. I can say that to date, with the four or five grants that the commission has given, we do have on record letters itemizing how the money was spent and reports on the activities that ensure that the money was spent on what it was requested for.
Mrs. Firth: I want to raise the issue of the medical testing policy. I understand that the status of that policy right now is that it is in a draft stage. Various groups and organizations have seen it and discussed it. I have a copy of the draft stage, and I understand there have been some changes made to it.
The program for the medical testing policy is that the commission wants to meet with these groups again to discuss and finalize the policy and, then, come forward in the spring sitting of the Legislature with that policy. Do I have the correct time table?
Ms. Forsberg: We hope to have the medical testing policy brochure made available to the public by mid-January or the end of January.
Mrs. Firth: I would like to follow up on that end-of-January deadline. Could the commission give me some indication about when the final policy will be ready? Could all Members have a copy of that prior to it being made public?
Ms. Forsberg: Some of the consultation activities have happened, but there are more to go through yet, as a result of those. January 31 is our deadline, and the policy brochure will be made available to you. At this point, it is in its second draft, as the result of a meeting attended by the two commissioners and Reggie with the private sector and some concerns that they had.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: Could I change the pace slightly, and ask a question to each of the commissioners? I would begin with Ms. Fendrick. The question concerns the amount of time each of you has to contribute to the work of the commission. Perhaps each of you might give some indication to the House about how that time is spent. I have in mind a curiosity we may have about the amount of time it takes to prepare for meetings of the commission, the extent to which you may be involved in discussion of cases or policy arising from cases before the commission and, while we value your contribution, how much it costs you in terms of your own precious time and energy.
Ms. Fendrick: Being a commissioner on the Human Rights Commission is somewhat time consuming, I imagine, in comparison to other boards. I have not sat on other boards, but this one involves legal concepts and for me it is not so difficult to catch up on those, although I can benefit a lot from the training that we expect to get in January.
I think that it is more time consuming to the chairperson, given that she is living out of town and does not have the legal background. In terms of the preparation for a business meeting, we receive a large number of publications and written materials almost every week from the commission. The office is very active and is always trying to keep us up to date on recent decisions in the rest of Canada, as well as background to the cases that are put before us at the business meeting.
Of course, you try to get through as much of that material as you can. It is difficult. A lot of it is compendious and difficult to go through, the legal material, et cetera. I would say that it probably takes a couple of hours to properly prepare for a business meeting. The business meetings take place once a month and they traditionally take three to four hours. We usually try to schedule it over the dinner hour and go straight through.
As well, there are other speaking engagements, such as the employment-related medical testing seminar that we held last week. That took approximately three and one-half to four hours. To properly do credit to something, you do have to give that amount of time. So, on an average, I would say that a commissioner, speaking of George Henry and me, not the chairperson, would spend about 10 hours a month, roughly, with commission business. That would increase, depending upon whether or not there is a special activity. I will let the chairperson speak for herself. I know that her job is is a lot more time consuming.
Ms. Forsberg: It is a lot more time consuming. I would estimate closer to 40 hours a month. There is a lot of reading just to get some idea of what the commissions mandate is. I am looking forward to the training in January as well. It is a lot more hours than I anticipated, plus I have travel time built in there. On a good day, it is five hours between Watson Lake and Whitehorse. But on my last trip up to be here, it was six and a half. That is a lot of time. Also as Debra Fendrick mentioned, the legalese is really difficult to sift through if you do not have the training of a lawyer, so I am still fairly astounded at how many of hours of work it is. I probably do, with the stuff I get on the fax machine, two hours a day easily just reading and trying to keep up.
Mr. Henry: The work that is being carried out by the commission also includes a healthy portion of public education work, especially when you are dealing with sensitive issues such as the medical testing policy and looking at the education process needed for understanding human rights legislation in general, both in the public and private sector. We concern ourselves quite a bit with work like that.
Although the executive director does do quite a few presentations, it is also sometimes advantageous for one of the commissioners to be present to look at what the overall direction of the commission is. As a result of that, we spend a fair amount of time just looking at what kind of objectives we could put in place that deal entirely with public education because one of the things that the commission does not want to do is be looking for cases. Our position is that a better informed work environment as well as individuals means a healthier environment and fewer complaints. So we go out of our way to make sure that people do have access to the commissioners as well as to the information.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: Perhaps I could ask one supplementary question. Ms. Fendrick and Ms. Forsberg made reference to training in January. I wonder if any of the commissioners would like to elaborate more on their expectations from that training, and perhaps tell us a little bit more about who is doing it and how long it will take, et cetera?
Ms. Forsberg: The training has been set for January 25, 26 and 27. The people who will be training us will be coming from the Human Rights College in Ottawa. We will be going through the act and legislation step by step. This will give us all a clearer understanding of what our mandate is.
Mr. Lang: I would like to make a recommendation to the commission. In the granting of these monies, I think it would be advantageous if there were some public press releases or that type of thing in order to inform the public that money is being spent in this way. I do not recall ever seeing any public statement of how dollars are being accessed through the commission. It would be my feeling the public has the right to know how the commission is spending this money, what they are spending it on and what for.
Mrs. Firth: Is the commission going to respond to that or do they want to carry on with questioning?
Ms. Forsberg: I wanted to know from Mr. Newkirk if, last year, when the commissioners had their training, if it had been made public. I know this year it is being done in combination with the training of the adjudicators.
Mr. Henry: The recommendation is well noted. The commission will look at publicizing the community grants so that people are aware of where they are going. They are published in the annual report.
Mr. Lang: There are probably 20 people who read the annual report. I am talking about the print media and the other media. They are similar to lottery grants or any others who benefit from public money. It is advertised so that people know how the money is being spent.
Mr. Henry: The recommendation is noted.
Mrs. Firth: I do not have much more. I would like to ask one more question about the medical testing policy. Has the commission been getting complaints that have encouraged them to push on with this policy? Could they tell us how many complaints they have received that would be pertinent to this policy and if they originated as a result of government or business discrimination?
Ms. Forsberg: I will have to defer that to Reggie Newkirk.
Mr. Newkirk: I do not think I can say we have had complaints or that the policy is complaint-driven. Thank goodness it is not at this point, but it certainly could be.
We have come across a number of medical forms. There is one in particular in the mining industry requesting an examination for a sexually transmitted disease, but they do not necessarily ask about lung capacity. The lungs and a persons breathing ability are known to be very important in relation to underground mining. Whether or not one has a sexually transmitted communicable disease is not necessarily related to the person doing their job.
There are a number of anomalies like this. In anticipation or, from a preventive point of view, it would seem to be better to have this policy in place.
I might add that what we are going to be also doing is working with the Yukon Medical Association, the Workers Compensation Board, industry sectors such as the mining industry, the Whitehorse business association and a number of other affected groups who have an interest in this to help with the design of appropriate medical questionnaires. That way, those who are involved in and do need medical examinations as a part of their employment process will have exactly what they need that are job related.
We hope to be able to at least have consultations with the Yukon Medical Association and the other groups, beginning by mid-January.
Mrs. Firth: Is the commission saying that the complaints are originating out of the private sector? That was just one example. Are there government-oriented complaints, as well?
Mr. Newkirk: There have been inquiries, and people may complain as a result of the inquiries, but they have not signed a formal complaint, so we do not have them to investigate. Sometimes people call us to ventilate their grievance, but they do not want to go any further with it, and we have had a couple of those.
If you consider municipalities as government then, yes, we have had a number of those kinds of inquiries from government employees.
Mrs. Firth: It is an interesting way of putting it: ventilating grievances. We all get a lot of that as MLAs.
The concern that the business community has with respect to the medical testing policy is that they do not have the ability to question certain aspects of an individuals habits. Yet, once the employment is offered, they are required to rehabilitate people who, for example, have a drug or alcohol problem. Could the commission tell us what the mutual solution is the commission and the business community have arrived at?
Ms. Fendrick: I was chairing that meeting the other evening, and a representative from the business community was there. I do not think that we can say that we have arrived at a solution, because I do not think a solution is possible. One of the difficulties is that there is a lack of communication about exactly what is happening. One of the complaints that we received was that, if a business was losing part of its inventory, it felt deprived because of this policy, insofar as they could not do a drug test on this person because they made the connection between drug testing and theft.
Our mandate is to educate the business public in terms of saying that is not what the employment-related medical testing policy is supposed to do. Simply put, the program stands for the fact that you cannot insist upon medical testing being part of a job offer, unless it is reasonably related to the job. So, if you are hiring an airline pilot, a reasonable requirement is that he pass an eye examination. However, when you are hiring someone to sell widgets in a store, it is not necessarily reasonable that he pass a drug test to show whether or not he has traces of cocaine in his blood.
What we are trying to do is, individually, go to the Rotary Club or the Chamber of Commerce, both territorially and locally, and speak to these people about their concerns and address these concerns, insofar as we can. Again, we are saying that, if they do have a problem with the policy, they have to realize that there will not be a problem unless there is a complaint made by a dismissed employee, and the complaint will be investigated just as any other complaint would be.
So, in answer to your question, we have not come up with a solution. We are hoping to work through consultation and, perhaps, have a definition section in the policy that will help address some of those issues, such as drug addiction and whether that is a disability, or drug abuse and if that a disability. Then, through consultation, we will try and come up with something that will satisfy both sides.
Mrs. Firth: We could be a long time debating the issue. I simply want to put on the record the concern that the business community has. I think it is a valid concern.
The concern is this: when an individual is being hired, the business is not allowed to ask about disabilities like drug or alcohol abuse, which could have a tremendous effect on the performance of that individual. They are not allowed to find out, through a medical test, until after the offer of employment has been made and that person has the job. Then, they find out that there is, for example, a drug or alcohol habit, and the business is required to provide a rehabilitative program for that individual.
The concern is that it will be financially burdensome, and so on. I want to get some reassurance. I have talked to some of the commissioners privately, and I recognize that they realize what the concern is. I would like to get some commitment, or reassurance, on the record of how it is anticipated to come to a solution to that particular impasse.
Ms. Fendrick: Basically, when you are interviewing someone for a job you can ask that person do you have a disability that will affect the performance of your job. It is up to the truthfulness of the person to disclose whether or not they would have a disability that would affect it. Based on human nature, it is unlikely that someone is going to say that they have a cocaine addiction that is going to interfere with their job. The same thing would happen if you asked a person if they had a criminal conviction. It is up to the truthfulness of the person to answer. That is the kind of question you can ask under the policy.
Once you have a problem in the workplace, you can have policies established to govern safety in the workplace, if you are worried about safety to your inventory or to other people. If the person does not fulfill their job performance, then the employer can do what they traditionally do, which would be to dismiss that person. I think that there is a problem in terms of the concerns that the business community has. They may be reading more into this policy than we are trying to achieve. Basically, what this policy is trying to achieve is that you cannot make medical testing that is not reasonably related to the job part of the interview process. That is the bottom line.
Mrs. Firth: From the representations I have had made to me by the business community, I think they understand it very well. They have expressed quite a concern about it so we will have to wait to see what the final policy is and how the business community responds to that.
I would like to finish with my comments. I will just wait to see what the medical testing policy is and I will have some further discussions with people in the business community and probably follow up with some of the commissioners or with the executive director of the commission.
From the question the Government Leader asked, it has been established that the commission and commissioners are working hard. I know the executive director is. Members of the Legislative Assembly can take comfort from the fact that the commission is in a surplus position and has followed up on the recommendations of the audit, with respect to their independence and the policy and procedures manual. There is also a certain comfort in the fact that the consultation contracts are down, yet the educational monies still seem to be available. In general, we can compliment the commission on their performance, and we hope that they will continue on with it.
As always, I like to see more money directed in the area of education. I had spoken to Mr. Newkirk about the brochures, and we had exchanged some ideas as to timing of publication, and so on. When I read the brochures, I thought they were very well done. They are comprehensive. People can read and understand them. The examples are good and general and not complicated.
Those are all the questions I have. I would like to thank the three commissioners and the executive director for their comments this evening.
Ms. Hayden: Since investigations are complaint-driven, how does the Commission ensure on an ongoing basis that those people in our society who are least powerful, and probably most in need of the commissions assistance, learn about the activities of the commission? In other words, how do you advertise yourself? I hear about a brochure, but that will not necessarily reach everyone. I would like to hear some discussion about that.
Ms. Forsberg: Our public education mandate is aimed in that direction. We all feel that it is important to get the information on the commission to the communities, because we do not get a lot of complaints from the communities. Reggie has already conducted workshops in some of the communities. We are going to offer more workshops there and have commission meetings outside of Whitehorse sometimes, as an opportunity for the people to talk to the commissioners and the executive director.
The brochures will be available in all the communities through the human resources offices, the RCMP, shelters and places of that nature.
I would like to give Mr. Newkirk the opportunity to enlarge upon that.
Mr. Newkirk: We were counting just the other day and realized that between the commissioners and the staff we have been involved in some 52 activities in Teslin, Watson Lake and Carcross - which is on the schedule - and so forth, but mostly in Whitehorse. It is true that, even today, the majority of the activities of the commission have been centered in Whitehorse.
The commission decided at its most recent meeting, which was last night, to go to Pelly Crossing and Carcross as part of the initial approach of this commissions outreach into the communities. Eventually, the commissioners will be going to other communities, such as Dawson City, Faro, Mayo and other places, where they will be able to actually talk to the people who are distant from Whitehorse and, in some instances, less powerful, but I think we will talk to the leaders of thought in those communities as well.
That will be part of a communications and public education strategy that the commission will be working on in the next three months in order to ensure that there is significant penetration of the communities outside of the Whitehorse area. We are not relying on those pamphlets to do the whole job for us. They are only a part of that strategy.
Mr. Henry: In recent months, some of the agencies we have worked directly with are the Challenge group, the Status of Women, the First Nations bands, the Council for Yukon Indians, Yukon College, as well as participating in workshops centered around the Whitehorse area dealing with specific issues relating to human rights. As well there was a major conference this summer that dealt with human rights and aboriginal rights and could Canada be a model. There has been good representation directly with agencies to ensure that they do have access to the information as well as understanding what the role of the commission is.
Ms. Hayden: Out of curiosity, is it because of budget restrictions or is it by choice that you do not use radio as one of the mediums for promotion?
Mr. Newkirk: It is not necessarily budget restrictions because what we have not done with the media is try to get the commissioners on various programs with CHON-FM, CKRW, CBC, the Whitehorse Star, the Yukon News, Dannzha magazine, and one other newspaper in Dawson City that we just put an advertisement in for this time of year.
Primarily we have been so busy doing a lot of the other things we really have not had time to sit down to think about how to put together a package of media programs, and announcements and so forth, and what that content would be.
Again, that would be part of the strategy coming up for the next two years that the commission would be working on.
Ms. Hayden: I want to close by saying that I, too, congratulate the new commissioners on their appointment.
Hon. Ms. Joe: I would like to thank the commission for appearing before us tonight. It sometimes appears that what you are going to do here is going to cause an awful lot of problems, and you might be a little bit nervous, but I noticed that they were not. They have been able to identify a number of things that they have been involved in. To explain the kind of hours they spend at their jobs is something that was added information for the Members here.
The Human Rights Commission has not been around that long, but it is a very valuable resource to the Yukon and to the people who take advantage of it. I would also like to commend them on the CASHRA conference this summer. I attended some of it. Madame Chair, you spoke at the conference. A lot of very good things were brought about, at that time, and were made public to Yukoners. As a result of that, there were a number of things identified that told us there is much more to be done. I would like to thank them very much for the time that they have spent doing their jobs so far, and for the time in the future that they will be giving to the commission.
Chair: I would like to take leave of the witnesses now and thank them for coming here tonight.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I move we report progress on Bill No. 16.
Motion agreed to
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I move that Mr. 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 the report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole.
Ms. Kassi: The Committee of the While has considered Bill No. 16, First Appropriation Act, 1991-92, and directed me to report progress on same.
Speaker: You have heard the report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: I declare the report carried.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I move that the House do now adjourn.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Hon. Government House Leader that the House do now adjourn.
Motion agreed to
Speaker: This House now stands adjourned until 1:30 p.m. tomorrow.
The House adjourned at 9:30 p.m.
The following Sessional Papers were tabled December 12, 1990:
To Establish an International Arctic Council, A Framework Report (November, 1990) (Penikett)
Notes for a speech by the Secretary of State for External Affairs, the Right Hon. Joe Clark, at a conference on Canadian-Soviet Relations (November 28, 1990) (Penikett)
Statement of Intent Among the Governors, premiers, Ministers and Chairs of northern regions at the Third Northern Regions Conference, Governors Summit on Regional Environmental Cooperation (Penikett)
The following Legislative Returns were tabled December 12, 1990:
Certified Nursing Assistant program: deferral (McDonald)
Oral, Hansard, p. 536
Tourism: Trips made to Marketing Council meetings by consultant - April 19 & September 25, 1990 (Webster)
Oral, Hansard, p. 367
Use of snowmobiles for hunting near the Dempster Highway (Webster)
Oral, Hansard, p. 362
Yukon Tourism Marketing Council: mandate (Webster)
Oral, Hansard, p. 365
Renewable Resources: Goat count in Rancheria/Marker Lake/North Winds area (Webster)
Oral, Hansard, p. 361
Renewable Resources: Logging and wildlife habitat use in the Liard River Basin (Webster)
Oral, Hansard, p. 361
Ross River Community Centre: Freeze-ups; revenue and expenditures (Byblow)
Oral, Hansard, p. 483