Thursday, May 16, 1991 - 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 for tabling?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Hon. Mr. Webster: I have for tabling a couple of legislative returns.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I have for tabling information relating to asbestos-related diseases produced by the Workers Compensation Board. I also have for tabling the Yukon Staff Relations Board Annual Report and the Yukon Public Service Staff Relations Annual Report.
Hon. Ms. Hayden: I have a legislative return for tabling.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I have for tabling a document entitled, Memorandum of Agreement between the Government of the Yukon and the Government of the Northwest Territories on Principles for Oil and Gas Arrangements in the Beaufort Sea.
Speaker: Are there any Reports of Committees?
Introduction of Bills.
Notices of Motion for the Production of Papers.
Notices of Motion.
NOTICES OF MOTION
Mrs. Firth: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that the Government of Yukons Department of Education, include in the new capital budget 1992-93, funds to build a complete and new school for Grey Mountain Primary School.
Speaker: Statements by Ministers.
Memorandum of Agreement sets stage for oil and gas accords in the Beaufort Sea
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I rise today to inform the House of the signing of a memorandum of agreement on oil and gas arrangements in the Beaufort Sea. As you may be aware, this memorandum was signed late yesterday by the Premier and me on behalf of the Yukon, and by Government Leader Dennis Patterson and the Hon. Nellie Cournoyea, Minister of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources, on behalf of the Government of the Northwest Territories.
I tabled the document moments ago.
For the past two years my predecessor, the Minister of Education and I, have worked closely with Northwest Territories officials to reach this northern memorandum of agreement.
This cooperative agreement means we are now one step closer to negotiating final northern oil and gas accords between each territorial government and the federal government. But most importantly, this agreement fulfills our outstanding political commitment to become a legal presence in the Beaufort Sea. It also represents significant constitutional progress made by the government and the government of the Northwest Territories.
The most tangible result of this agreement is a mutually-agreed upon administrative line in the Beaufort Sea.
Following international and national legal precedent, the administrative line bisects Mackenzie Bay in a northwesterly direction and then extends due north. The line represents a compromise between the Yukon claims to the offshore and a formal, legal Northwest Territories right to our offshore. It also recognizes fundamental Inuvialuit interests. Essentially, the administrative line signifies a legal certainty of presence for the Yukon in the Beaufort.
With Yukon jurisdiction in the Beaufort Sea, there will be certainty on benefits and royalties flowing from activities on either side of the line.
The territories have agreed that part of the full share of royalties extracted from one side of the Beaufort Sea will go to the territory on the other side. It has also been agreed that the territories will jointly cooperate in the development of benefit strategies to ensure that employment, training and local procurement will be available to all northerners.
This agreement also means that the Yukon will have a guaranteed role in development in the Beaufort Sea. In addition to receiving a fair and equitable share of royalties and benefits, the Yukon will play an equal and key role in the nature and pace of development in the Beaufort.
The territories will share expertise and resources and will cooperate in implementing their oil and gas agreements, including the development of legislation and policies.
The principle of cooperation is at the heart of this agreement. The territories agree to cooperate and jointly develop strategies that will ensure a northern approach to oil and gas development in the Beaufort Sea.
Mr. Phelps: I would like to begin by thanking the Minister and the Government Leader for sharing this information with me last night and briefing me on the agreement. I am very pleased about the signing of this agreement by the territorial governments. I am also concerned because I hope we will not relax and rest on our laurels. This is only the first step, albeit an important one, toward the ultimate goal of securing Yukons presence and territorial jurisdiction over the Beaufort Sea north of Yukon.
The issue of jurisdiction arose back in 1898 when the Yukon was carved out of the Northwest Territories. The language defining Yukons boundaries and the Yukon Act made it less than clear whether the Yukon Territory extended north of our coastline and off Herschel Island. It became a hot issue in 1978 when the COPE agreement in principle was negotiated and signed without any Yukon input, and that agreement alienated Herschel Island and our entire north coast by directing that the area become a national wilderness park.
In the years following we struggled to undo the wrongs that the COPE agreement in principle presented, and ultimately Yukon negotiated a final settlement agreement, which was passed into law in 1984 and which gave Yukon Herschel Island, made a territorial park there and moved the national park to the west one-half of our north slope.
On July 18, 1985, we heard about a court case launched by the Government of the Northwest Territories for a declaration on their jurisdiction north of our coastline. Most Members here will recall that I moved a motion then of urgent and pressing necessity. An emergency debate was held on July 18. We unanimously supported a motion that, in effect, asked the feds to take steps to clearly define our boundaries, so our jurisdiction over the Beaufort, north of Yukons coast would, once and for all, be established.
Mr. Speaker, you sent a copy of that motion to the Prime Minister of Canada, and he replied. In effect, he said the federal government would be happy to discuss the issue, but that the territory should get its act together first.
Finally, now, we have started the process. Yesterdays signing is an important step. I liken it to the finals of the Stanley Cup series that we are now watching almost nightly on TV. We are like Minnesota. We may be ahead, two to one, after the first period, but we have to hustle for two more periods to win the first game, and there are three more to win after that, before we have finally secured the objective.
I hope the government will make the task of follow-up on this memorandum of agreement its second top priority, after land claims, in the months and years ahead.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I want to say to the Member that I appreciate his support of this achievement in the Beaufort and we also appreciate the Members constitutional history lesson on Beaufort Sea matters. Suffice it to say that this is an historic milestone in the restoration of our jurisdiction in the Beaufort that we have not had since the formation of the territory. I want to provide reassurance to the Member that we will not relax. The real work is yet before us and there is much to do.
This agreement is essentially a set of principles by which bi-lateral discussions will now take place between Ottawa and the respective territories on a common set of ground rules. We intend to proceed quickly on those negotiations and to put forward the principles that we have signed, upon which we will develop our respective oil and gas agreements in the jurisdiction of the Beaufort Sea. We will be doing that immediately, and certainly we will be doing it onshore as well as offshore.
I thank the Member for the support and can provide to him an assurance that much indeed lies ahead to do.
Speaker: This then brings us to Question Period.
Question re: Beaufort Sea oil and gas accord
Mr. Phelps: It will be no surprise that I have a few follow-up questions with regard to the Ministerial Statement, in order to get an idea or to obtain a grasp on exactly where we are to go from here. Could the Minister tell us whether or not we have a negotiating team in place at this time, or at least a negotiator, with regard to moving ahead and negotiating the accord with the federal government?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: It is our intention to establish the negotiating team required for pursuing discussions and development of the agreement. We intend to have such a team in place within the next couple of months. Preliminary discussions are taking place and will be taking place, and a full negotiating mandate will be spelled out in detail over the course of the next few months. I might remind the Member that approximately a year ago we tabled in the House our position with the federal government.
Mr. Phelps: Am I to take it that we are in the process of obtaining a negotiator on a more or less full time basis and are putting together a team to work with him or her?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: The short answer is yes.
Mr. Phelps: Has the Ministers department established a rough budget? Does it have any idea of the cost of the negotiations?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: The elements of negotiation will, in part, be treated as a devolution exercise. Clearly, we are in a stage of progress on the prospective jurisdiction management regulatory regime to be put in place, offshore and onshore, in the same format as would be any devolution exercise. In any devolution exercise, we expect the costs of devolving those responsibilities will be provided through the program transfer. Therefore, in basic principle, we expect costs to be borne by the federal government, who are now bearing those costs for oil and gas management in the Beaufort.
Question re: Beaufort Sea oil and gas accord
Mr. Phelps: Could I get a handle on which offices of the administration the negotiating team would be responsible to report to? Would it be the people in charge of devolution in the Executive Council Office?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: Perhaps I could respond to this question. As the Leader of the Official Opposition well knows, this not just simply a question of economic development and energy. This is a profoundly important devolution question, and it is also one with very important constitutional dimensions.
For that reason, throughout this process, we have had a deputy ministers group, which includes the Deputy Minister of Economic Development, as well as senior people from the Executive Council Office. As you know, the devolution coordination role has been carried out in the Executive Council Office, and the constitutional role is in that office, as well.
There will be a joint venture on all the hard economic and energy management questions, and those things. The work on those will be done almost entirely in the Department of Economic Development. When it deals with questions of intergovernmental relations, constitutional development and devolution questions, the Executive Council Office will play the lead in that.
The overall lead on this question will be played by the Minister of Economic Development, but I intend to continue, in terms of my responsibilities, to play a role, as I have done in the past and will in the future, especially when we blend into the area of constitutional and devolution questions.
Mr. Phelps: It strikes me that this is very much like land claims. It involves several departments, including Renewable Resources, as well as Economic Development and the Executive Council Office. Therefore, I would take it that the responsibility for coordination at the first level will be the Executive Council Office. Is that correct?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: This has been a joint venture inside the government. The Leader of the Official Opposition asked if we had assigned a single negotiator at this point. We have had a group of people involved from both departments. We may well be advised to have a team led by a person who may well come from either department. No decision has been made yet, but as the Minister of Economic Development has indicated, we have had quite substantial negotiations already and a lot of policy work has been done to developing positions of mandate. As he also indicated, these questions all have to be revisited in light of the agreement signed yesterday, because we have a new perspective on the question and new momentum as well.
Mr. Phelps: As the Government Leader pointed out last night, it was interesting that Nellie Cournoyea was one of the signatories of the agreement with the NWT. I am wondering whether or not there has been any reaction yet from the Inuvialuit that make up the COPE beneficiaries.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I have met with the Inuvialuit. They are aware of what is taking place. They are clearly in communication more directly with the NWT. This is an agreement of principles that sets our negotiations in place with the federal government for a devolution exercise. It is an agreement between two jurisdictions: the NWT and us.
The extent of involvement of the Inuvialuit is simply the constitutional framework under which they have specific rights and recognitions in the area of the north coast. This is an agreement between two jurisdictions and the Inuvialuit are fully aware of what was signed yesterday.
Question re: Beaufort Sea oil and gas accords
Mr. Phillips: The Minister of Economic Development announced today that the Government of Yukon and the Government of the Northwest Territories reached an agreement on the division of the Beaufort Sea and signed a memorandum of agreement on the Beaufort Sea oil and gas arrangements that will enable the two territories to cooperatively manage the oil and gas development. In view of this agreement, can the Minister advise the House if the government is amending its position regarding the oil and gas development on the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge lands?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: No, and for a very good reason. One of the dimensions of management is the hope that one day all people of the Yukon will have a say in the management of the Beaufort Sea, onshore and offshore, and included in those management regimes will be a proper concern for the environment.
Our concern with ANWAR is one that is about the environment, a wildlife resource and protection for the aboriginal people who have lived there for thousands of years. Those same kinds of protection and interests will govern our behavior in the developments with respect to the Beaufort Sea, as well.
Mr. Phillips: The Governor of Alaska has stated recently that he is concerned that we in Canada are asking the Government of Alaska to hold off on developing the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge development. This particular announcement today may signal to Alaska that we are considering developing our North Slope. There may be a contradiction there; we are asking them not to move forward with development, while at the same time we are developing ours.
I would like to ask the Minister if he has communicated with the Governor of Alaska and explained the situation fully, so that he understands the situation and does not misinterpret what the agreement that we signed has done?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: As I believe the Member opposite knows, I had a very long conversation with the Governor of Alaska on the question of energy, environment and on the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge issue in particular. To the extent that his question amounts to a representation, I think it is a good point and I would be more than happy to arrange for a briefing of the Governor of Alaska, so that the Governor and Members of the Alaska State Legislature, and indeed the congressional delegation, understand fully that the agreement signed yesterday does not mean that the production of oil and gas in the Beaufort Sea is imminent.
Question re: Whitehorse Correctional Centre, new facility
Mrs. Firth: I have a question for the Minister responsible for the Whitehorse Correctional Centre. In an interview yesterday the Minister said essentially that we needed a new jail here in the Yukon, that the entire centre is inadequate and needed to be replaced. We have been hearing this same story from this Minister for two years and from the previous Minister of Justice.
The Minister of Justice also told the reporter in the interview that Yukoners could look for money in the next years budget for design work, but could not promise that the money would be there.
I would like to ask the Minister just what is being done and what the governments intention is in this area?
Hon. Ms. Joe: As I have already told the House in debate on the budget, I have given the Member an update in regard to the jail and the problems that we have there. It is a well-known fact that we have problems there and the Member knows it because she has toured the jail and knows that it is inadequate and that it does not meet the needs of the people who are incarcerated there.
I think that it is unfortunate that the jail is in the condition that it is, but because the population of the inmates has rising drastically, it is not able to meet their needs. We are going to have to look at an alternative, and we are doing that right now. I cannot say if there is going to be money in the budget for next year; that is something that has to be decided by Cabinet and it is a long process.
Mrs. Firth: This is the same Minister that built the Na Dli Youth Centre. We have a great deal of concern on this side about this Minister going ahead with a new facility for the Whitehorse Correctional Centre.
We are looking at a huge expenditure here of probably about $10 million. The Minister keeps referring to a facility study that they have reviewed. I would like to ask the Minister what the governments intention is regarding this new facility after they have reviewed this study.
Hon. Ms. Joe: As the Member knows, we have had that study for a number of months. We are using it right now as a working document. That was the purpose of the study. The study has told us many things. We have to decide in the end what we are going to do.
I would like to mention to the House that things are happening within that facility that helps to deal with some of the problems. We have a good system in place. We have a very hard-working person running the place, who has developed a lot of new programs. This person has certainly built up the morale in the institute, which is a very hard thing to do.
I cannot stand here on my feet and tell the Member that we are going to build a great, big jail next year. That is a decision that has to be made by Cabinet. She knows that.
Mrs. Firth: The Minister has not stood up and told us anything, nor did she in the budget debate.
On December 13, 1990, in Hansard, the same Minister said, We have the facility study that was done. We have had a chance to go through it...
Speaker: Order please. Would the Member please get to the supplementary question.
Mrs. Firth: Yes, I will. It is important that I remind the Minister of what she said.
The Minister said as a Cabinet, they have had discussions with regard to the facility. Perhaps the Minister could give us a copy of the facility study so that we could review it and draw our own conclusions. Will she present us with a copy of it?
Hon. Ms. Joe: Of course I will not let her have a copy of that. As I said earlier, it is a working document. Discussions in regard to any plans for what this government is going to be doing is ongoing.
We continue to discuss the things that have to be done by this government, and that is one of them.
Question re: Whitehorse Correctional Centre, new facility
Mrs. Firth: I have a question with respect to the same issue. The Minister has a study that we cannot have. We have just been through an inquest regarding a fatality at the Correctional Centre, and it was determined that the facility was understaffed and underfunded. The Minister came to the House and talked about some shift changes that she had all wrong. This wrong information was also communicated to the media.
What are the governments plans? Is there a plan or is there no plan? What is going to happen with respect to this facility? We cannot just let it go on for another two or three years, or four or five.
Hon. Ms. Joe: The Member has already indicated that a new facility is going to cost a great deal of money; it could run in the area of $9 or $10 million. We do have a plan in place; we are looking at alternatives and that kind of planning is ongoing. I cannot make an announcement to her today, unfortunately, in regard to what that plan is because there has to be a definite decision. Anything regarding plans for next year, of course, as I said, has to be included in a budget. We have not even begun to put together our budget for next year; that will be done very shortly. At that time, there will be plans for different things, and that may or may not be included. The people who are responsible for running that facility continue to try to make it a better place to work and a better place for those inmates who live there.
Mrs. Firth: I, too, agree that the people who work at the Correctional Centre do an excellent job. The Minister just stood up and said, We have plans in place; they are ongoing. We have plans for different things. I am simply asking what are the governments plans? From what she said, there is no plan. Surely, the Minister can give us some indication of what the governments plan is to relieve the crisis situation that is going on up at the Whitehorse Correctional Centre.
Hon. Ms. Joe: We have a jail that is inadequate; we are trying to deal with the situation right now without building a new facility. She used to be in Cabinet once. She knows that any procedure that we have to go through in order to put some kind of a plan together includes money. You just do not make announcements in the House regarding what the plan is for the next fiscal year.
Mrs. Firth: Perhaps the Minister could just tell us what they are doing? She keeps coming in here and asking for more money; she refers to some shift change, yet she does not even know what shifts are worked up at the jail. Then she expects us to just accept all that. How long are these people expected to work under these kinds of conditions?
Hon. Ms. Joe: It does not matter what I tell the Member opposite, she is not going to believe anything we say, anyhow. I have said as much as I can say in regard to future planning for it. One does not announce something in the House without knowing whether or not it will be in the budget for the next fiscal year, and the Member knows that.
Question re: Mayo town council
Mr. Brewster: Just before I ask my question, I would like to correct something the Government Leader said last night. He called me an old gentleman. I am a gentleman, but I am not old.
My question is to the Minister of Community and Transportation Services. Has the Minister noticed that the workload of mayors and municipal councillors has increased dramatically, mainly because of all the things the government is now asking them to do? It is becoming increasingly difficult to get people to run for municipal office, because the workload now amounts to a full-time job.
I am in receipt of a copy of a letter dated May 8, 1991, from Mayor Hutton of Mayo announcing his resignation; since this is the second resignation from the Mayo council in a relatively short period of time, I would like to know what the Minister is going to do about this problem.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I, too, have seen the letter referred to by the Member, from the former Mayor of Mayo. Under the provisions within the Municipal Act, a request has to come from the municipality for purposes of holding elections, should their first attempt not procure a candidate. In other words, a municipality can proceed directly into a by-election on its own under provisions of the act. Should no candidate come forward, they can seek approval for a second round of candidate selection, that is an election procedure, or they can seek an appointment to an office. Those provisions have been used in the past.
In the case of the mayoralty resignation, I am waiting for some signal from the municipality as to whether or not they wish any direct Yukon government involvement.
Mr. Brewster: The Mayor of Mayo, in announcing his resignation, was very critical of this government. I would like the Minister to explain why there have been two resignations, both critical of this government, from the Mayo council.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I do not have an answer for the Member. The Mayor was certainly critical of this government, as was a councillor previously. Those criticisms come without any explanation or foundation in fact.
If we try to relate some disgruntlement of the Mayo council with this government to the financing arrangement, there is absolutely no connection. Mayo benefited immeasurably from the new financing arrangements that we approved in this House less than two weeks ago. Mayo gained close to $100,000 a year in the new financing arrangements, so it is not a financial matter.
At the same time, my staff from municipal services have been in close communication with the Mayo administration. We have provided substantial support to the municipality in dealing with some of the problems relating to their infrastructure development. I have to say that I am entirely puzzled by the criticism leveled at this government. I can only conclude that it may be motivated by other reasons, possibly political.
Mr. Brewster: That is one way of getting out of answering the question. Perhaps the Minister of Renewable Resources would like to answer my last supplementary question.
One of the Mayors reasons for being disillusioned concerns the manner in which the government consults the village council. It also relates to the recent Environment Act, wherein the councillors were asked for their comments on the original draft bill and, then, were kept in the dark about changes made to the original draft. Did the Minister send copies of the new legislation, that is now before the House, to all the municipalities?
Hon. Mr. Webster: I would like to inform the Member that the Association of Yukon Communities picked up a number of copies of the final act that is before the House and distributed those copies to their members. So, I do not think that would be a valid criticism, raised by the Mayor of Mayo.
Question re: Alcoholism treatment
Mr. Nordling: I had hoped the new Minister of Health and Social Services and her deputy would not simply adopt and adapt to the programs that are presently in place in that department, but would bring some vigour and innovation to the department, which has not been accomplishing the goals that were set out by the former Ministers.
One of the major goals was to get the problem of alcoholism in the Yukon under control. Yesterday, I asked the Minister questions relating to the treatment of alcohol and drug addiction. Her non-answers caused me concern.
Would the Minister now tell me what programs are available in the Yukon for young people who are hooked on alcohol and drugs?
Hon. Ms. Hayden: I indicated yesterday that there are a number of ancillary programs, such as anger management, family resources workers, support workers in communities, counselling programs, teen programs, including both alcohol and other kinds of issues.
If the Member would like a litany of all the programs, I would be happy to bring that back in a legislative return.
Mr. Nordling: I would appreciate that litany and the evaluation of how the programs are working that the Minister has offered to bring a list of. I understood that more staff were being hired.
Hiring staff is one way to deal with the problem, but it does not solve the root of the problem. What are the Ministers plans to get to the root of the problem and solve it?
Hon. Ms. Hayden: The problems surrounding alcohol are much broader than the actual drinking of alcohol or using another illegal substance. There are many programs available around the territory.
As I indicated when we were talking about other issues, not the least of those has to do with the land claims process where there will be some future for many of the young people of the territory. Much of what is happening in the rural communities is happening within the First Nations themselves. The First Nations are offering self-esteem building programs, healing circles, wellness workshops, and life skills programs. All of those programs deal directly with the larger problem of self-esteem and some of the history of the young people in the territory. It is my understanding from both working with people and the reading I have done that that is primarily the way to deal with problems such as the Member asks about.
Mr. Nordling: My concern is that the programs that have been in place are not accomplishing much. We are no farther ahead now than we were five years ago.
I would have liked to have seen a little bit more passion from the Minister, rather than passive concern. In the words of the Government Leader, we have already had the most caring and concerned Minister in charge of the department. The Government Leader himself took over the department, but was too busy, in my estimation, to accomplish anything.
I would like to know if this new Minister has anything specific in her mind - any programs that she has - to combat and solve the alcohol problem to get to the root of it, other than building a new jail and hiring auxiliary staff.
Hon. Ms. Hayden: My predecessors have done a good job in their departments. One of the programs and issues that are being dealt with, that we will soon have for release, is a drug/alcohol study that will tell us much about who drinks, how much and when - not necessarily why, but we hope to find that out, too. Alcohol and drug services within the department will be using that tool to develop many new programs. It would be very premature of me to try to second guess what those programs will be until they actually have this very extensive survey and the results to work with.
Question re: Mt. Hundere access road
Mr. Devries: As the Minister for Community and Transportation Services knows, I am becoming very concerned about the stretch of the Campbell Highway from the airport in Watson Lake to the Mt. Hundere turnoff. This road is not in the condition that it was in when the tungsten mine was operating. Since then, the road has been sinking and deteriorating with minimum routine maintenance being performed. A survey took place last winter, and I would like to know if, as a result of that survey, the Minister has determined if the road is adequate to meet the demands that the Mt. Hundere Mine ore haul will place upon it?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: As I indicated to the Member during budget debate and also in private discussion, it is our estimation that the road will not stand up over any length of time to the Mt. Hundere ore haul. The road is quite capable of handling this years estimated traffic should the mine come into production as it is expected to later this summer. I have indicated to the Member that we have budgeted for an increased level of maintenance. It comes to mind that we budgeted for some additional $400,000 for that section of road to increase the level of maintenance to accommodate the ore haul.
Clearly, over the long term, we are going to have to do some capital upgrading. I am sure the Member will appreciate that this is a matter that will fall to budget preparations in due course.
Mr. Devries: Is all the allocated funding for the Faro-Campbell section of the highway being used, since the ore trucks are not presently running?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: To clarify this, the Member must be talking about maintenance dollars in respect to the Faro ore haul, because the capital dollars are ear-marked for specific construction, which is proceeding as normal.
I cannot tell him, on my feet, the extent to which maintenance dollars may be reducing at this time because of the shutdown of operations at Faro. I can estimate that there may be some reductions, but, from my experience travelling the road over the last two weekends, there is a fair amount of maintenance activity, in terms of resurfacing, on the Faro ore haul.
I would have to take notice on the question in general terms as to whether any maintenance dollars are being saved by the current Faro shutdown.
Question re: Tagish campground water pump
Mr. Phelps: I have a constituency question for the Minister of Renewable Resources; it concerns the Tagish campground and the pump there. I was in communication with the Minister yesterday because, apparently, that pump has had the tap and nozzle changed, making it difficult to get an adequate water supply from the pump. It is relied upon very heavily by residents of Tagish at this time of year when the water is low and there are no other really adequate and safe sources of water.
Has the Minister looked into this problem, and what is being done about it?
Hon. Mr. Webster: I thank the Member for his question. It is true that we have put a new type of nozzle on the well. The Tagish campground has an automatic spring closure, which stops the flow of water, of course, when it is not being operated manually. We found this necessary, because there was too much wastage of water from this artesian well, and that is the reason we went to this new type of nozzle.
I assure the Member that it is still possible for people living in the area to fill up their containers of water, and that situation will exist until some time next month, when the Department of Community and Transportation Services installs a new well in the area.
Mr. Phelps: The difficulty right now is that the residents use fairly large volumes of water. It takes them hours to fill up their containers. These containers are some 100 gallons or more. I am told by residents of the area that many of them are resorting to going to nearby creeks to fill up with water. This poses a health hazard, given the incidence of beaver fever in the area.
Would the Minister instruct his department, for at least the short term, to replace the nozzle and tap with something more convenient for residents there?
Hon. Mr. Webster: Considering it is only one month until the new valves are put into place, we will consider it.
I want to make it clear to the Member that the only reason we decided to change the nozzle on this pump was because we found there was too much abuse of it. There was too much wastage of water, to the point that people were coming to the campground to wash their trucks and RVs. The runoff was found to have a detrimental effect on the bodies of water. However, we will consider his request.
Mr. Phelps: I thank the Minister for that. I appreciate the fact that he has finally convinced his officials that health concerns are sometimes more important than whether or not, in their view, people are using too much water.
Hon. Mr. Webster: I would like to remind the Member that one of the reasons for the new type of nozzle was health concerns.
Question re: Victims of crime compensation payments
Mrs. Firth: I have another question for the Minister of Justice. This time it is with respect to the victims of crime compensation payments.
Last year, January 1 to November 30, 1990, the Minister gave me a statement of what these costs were. The total was $46,500. We just did a supplementary budget. The money the Minister asked for was for over $286,000. I have been raising concerns about this program. When we last debated it, the Minister told me they were looking at the amount of money, as they were also concerned about it, and they were looking at a change in the criteria for the victims before them. She talked about ongoing discussions and so on.
What has happened since that time, in light of that extremely high increase in the funds that are being paid out? That is quite a remarkable increase.
Hon. Ms. Joe: Nothing has happened in regard to that program. People continue to be assaulted and they continue to come to us for compensation. That is an ongoing thing. Over the years, the information about the program has increased and more people are coming to us. I suspect that it will happen a bit more than in the past and, as a result of that, the costs have gone up.
As I said in the House, prior to today, we are very concerned about the cost. We do have to pay 25 percent of it; the other 75 percent coming from the federal government. I do not think there is much we can do in regard to stopping those people who come to us, because we are obligated to deal with every situation that comes before us. The numbers have increased. We cannot stop people from being assaulted, battered or whatever.
It is unfortunate, but that is the way it is.
Mrs. Firth: Why did the Minister tell us they were going to do something about it, that they were going to review the criteria? Now, she tell me they are concerned, but nothing is being done. We are paying the bill. I do not care if it is coming from Ottawa; we, as taxpayers, are paying for this.
The costs are going from $46,000 to over $286,000. Where does it all end? Do we just keep paying and paying, or is the Minister going to review the criteria, like she originally told us in this House?
Hon. Ms. Joe: That is exactly what I told the Member, and that is exactly what we are going to do. We are making some changes in the manner in which this is awarded. We will review the criteria, but the biggest problem now is that we do have these victims. They do have problems; they do come to us and we cannot turn them away.
There are some very large awards made, and there are some that are small. We have to take into consideration the amount of money we do have available, and the amount of money we are spending, and try to work from there.
Mrs. Firth: The Minister said that changes were going to take place; it is going to be reviewed. I just want to know when. Do we wait for it reach $500,000? Do we wait for it to reach $750,000? The Minister has told us once that they were going to review it; she says they have not reviewed it. We just want to know when something is going to happen with this program. Are we just going to let it continue escalating in costs?
Hon. Ms. Joe: We talked about this two weeks ago, and certainly we have all been busy. The Member for Riverdale South has been busy.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Ms. Joe: Of course the costs have gone up. We do have these victims who come to us for some kind of compensation. We are legally obligated to deal with those situations; we cannot turn them away. If the Member is against it, she should just say so.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now lapsed.
We will proceed to Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Notice re witnesses to appear before Committee of the Whole on the Environment Act
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I would like to give notice to the House of an arrangement regarding witnesses on the Environment Act that the House Leaders, the Minister responsible and the Opposition critic have reached. It will be our intention to have 14 witnesses appear before the Committee of the Whole on Tuesday afternoon, May 21 and Wednesday evening May 22.
Witnesses will include all those people who had communicated the desire to appear before the Committee of the Whole by 10:00 a.m. this morning. No further witnesses will be considered.
The appropriate motion will be moved in Committee once the House has given the Environment Act second reading and the bill has been referred to Committee of the Whole.
Speaker: We will now proceed to Orders of the Day, Government Bills
Bill No.20: Second Reading - continued
Clerk: Second Reading, Bill No. 20, standing in the name of the Hon. Mr. Webster.
Amendment to motion for Second Reading moved by Mr. Lang. Adjourned debate: Hon. Mr. Penikett.
Speaker: The question before the House, as moved by the Hon. Member for Whitehorse Porter Creek East is:
THAT the motion be amended by deleting all the words after the word THAT and substituting for them the following:
Bill No. 20, entitled Environment Act, be not now read a second time but that it be read a second time this day six months hence.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: When I was interrupted last night by the adjournment gavel, I promised to respond to the Leader of the Official Oppositions intervention into this bill. I intend to use most of the time remaining to me for that purpose.
Before I do, I want to make sure that I do not fall afoul of your ruling. I want to speak very directly to the amendment that is before us. I want to reiterate my view and my conviction that the purpose of the Opposition motion before us is to kill this bill.
I believe the Opposition wants to kill this legislation - the purpose of which is to ensure that the resources of this territory are available to all those who wish to use them today, tomorrow, and on and on until the end of time.
I was also making the point yesterday - believe it or not - the environment and the environmental problems existed long before they were discovered by certain Members of the Opposition in the year of our Lord, 1991. It is like the discovery of North America. There were people here before Columbus came along. So too, is the case for the environment. There was an environment and environmental problems.
A number of us on this side have had reason to dwell deeply on the change in the attitude of the Member for Porter Creek East, who moved this motion, in terms of his convictions, passions and feelings about the environment. He gave a speech about that. We have had reason to plumb the depths of his mind on the question of the environment and to do some research.
I have some compelling evidence that I think will speak exactly to that point. I do not need to introduce it, as they are documents from this House.
Mr. Speaker, if you will bear with me for a moment, I will present it to the House.
These are the Hansards from this Assembly over the last 14 years. I am going to present them as, if you like, Exhibit A in my speech. This contains the record that led to this debate, going back to 1974. We studied this record quite carefully for evidence of the sincere interest in environmental questions of the Member for Porter Creek East. The Member for Porter Creek East must not misunderstand; he complains that this is an attack on him, but it is not. This is done with all the Christian love that I can bring to this occasion.
I want to point out that, in all the dozen or more volumes, in all the thousands of pages of debate here, as far as we can find there is not a single motion, not a single substantial speech arguing for protection of the environment or in defence of environmental interest or protection of the Yukon wilderness.
Point of Order
Mr. Lang: A point of order, please, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: Point of order to the Member for Whitehorse Porter Creek East.
Mr. Lang: I know my conscientious parliamentary confrere would not want to give information in this House, or a portion of information in this House, that might be incorrect. Without reading through those many mighty volumes - and I hope the Member does not huff and puff while he sits there, in deference to the Clerk - I would point out for the record that there are a number of environmental ventures of which this individual was a part - such as the Watson Lake sewage lagoon, the sewage lagoons in Whitehorse, the sewage lagoons in Dawson City...
Speaker: Order, please.
Mr. Lang: ...the ones in Mayo, and...
Speaker: Order, please.
Mr. Lang: ...Mr. Speaker, I realize I do not have all the time in the world, but I hope he will talk about those in his speech.
Speaker: Order, please. I find there is no point of order.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I remember once when the Member opposite was being questioned or criticized about some of his sewer and water initiatives. I remember he, very proudly, stood on this side of the House and said he was the only one here responsible for ensuring such works in this House. That was true.
We are talking about the principles of protecting the environment and public trust - the kinds of values embodied in this bill. You will not find speeches or motions on that subject by the mover of the motion to kill this bill, notwithstanding his intervention earlier, which he claims makes him a friend of the environment.
Members opposite would have us believe that the purpose of their amendment is not to kill the bill or to have it shrivel up and fade away on the Order Paper between the end of this session and the next throne speech. It is to allow them and the people they know to review areas of concern. We do not find that tactic of delay very convincing. My point is that it is time to get the bill into Committee and to debate the concerns there.
This government is committed to a process of consultation. The proposed Environment Act is the most recent example of our commitment to the process of public consultation. The Education Act, the Child Care Act and the Health Act are other examples of this commitment.
By ensuring that the public has the opportunity to participate in the process of making regulations, we are not, as Members have said, usurping the duty of Members in this House. Instead, we are ensuring that the government is obligated to listen to and consult with those who are affected.
One might well compare this process with other acts that have been passed in this House. We can point to some that were passed before we came to government. I am sure the Member for Kluane, that fine gentleman on the other side of the House, would have noted that there are acts, such as the one we recently looked at in the statute book - which is a two-page act - that is accompanied by a three-inch thick folder of regulations. That was passed before we came into office.
There was no public consultation about development of the regulations in this act, there was no discussion of regulations in the House. I want the Members to know that we understand the concern about the possibility of that kind of thing. That is why this act commits the Minister to consult with affected interests during the development of regulations.
It has been suggested that we are beginning to undermine democracy by this process. Well that is simply humbug. The process of consultation and the processes that we have engaged in on this legislation and on others I would argue, is not only democratic but it contributes to a strengthening of the democratic process through public consultation. We have done that because we are committed to both the environment and to democracy and these are not mutually exclusive propositions.
I want to turn and deal with the point made by the Leader of the Official Opposition. Because I take the Leader of the Official Opposition seriously. I want to try and respond as seriously as I can to what he had to say.
If I can summarize his two points, they are that the regulation-making power in this bill is so broad, wide and deep that it would have the potential to assume unto the Executive the ability to make regulations that amount, not only to policy but in essence statute law, and that they would do so without any debate in this Legislature.
I think the Leader of the Official Opposition probably recognizes that there is a legal obligation in this bill to consult with the public, but that is not what concerns him. The concern, I think, is about the legislative process. I think that he knows - and this is the second concern - that we have already stated intentions to bring in, for example, forestry legislation and, by way of the settlement legislation, to enshrine the development assessment process contemplated in the umbrella final agreement and anticipated in this legislation.
I regret, but I do understand, why that political commitment to bring in legislation on those scores is not sufficient to satisfy his concern about the extensive regulation power he believes is contemplated in this act. In a non-partisan way as legislators, we can all appreciate that there is a concern about the growth of administrative power relative to the Legislature. This is not unique to this Assembly; it is a phenomenon that has been going or with the sophistication and complexity of governments in the 20th century, certainly all over the western world and perhaps all over the whole world.
How can we, in a reasonable way, expedite the governments business and expedite the publics business while addressing the concerns of the Leader of the Opposition?
I am not going to make a precise recommendation at this moment but I would like to offer up to the other side some suggestions.
My first suggestion, which comes out of something that I will make as a commitment on behalf of the government now, is that we are more than willing to commit ourselves, in a way yet to be defined, to bring regulations that result from the public consultation contemplated in this act, back to the House for debate and for some formal approval. I suspect there are all sorts of ways to do that. One would be to simply say to the House that, following the consultation with the particular interests about particular sets of regulations, we will in this act, commit ourselves to always bring the regulations to the House for approval. The problem may be that if there are regulations needed to deal with an emerging situation - and that often happens in the environmental field - and if the House were not to be sitting, there might be a problem in terms of calling the House in order to get approval.
The second possibility that might suggest itself is that, following public consultation on some regulations, the government commit itself to, within a certain fixed time of proclamation of the regulation - say, perhaps, six months; that seems to be a time period that attracts us, and it seems the other Members here find that appealing - to have to bring them to the House for debate and approval.
Some people - not the Leader of the Official Opposition, but there may be some people in the House - would be worried about whether that was a good enough commitment. They would worry whether there would be enough goodwill and good faith in the House to accept that commitment or might feel that there was not enough trust to accept it. Some might want it further enforced and might want to consider an even tougher proposition, which I will throw out to the Members, but in throwing it out, I would say to the Leader of the Official Opposition that it is problematic for reasons I think will immediately be clear to him. But it is something that we would be willing to discuss, and that is that we could go through the process of public consultation, bring the regulations to cabinet for approval and, having previously agreed in this House that there would be a six-month or one year sunset on such regulations, and in that sunset period if they had not then been subsequently blessed by the Assembly, they would die.
The Minister will explain why there are some risks for such a proposition. It would be one that we might want to consider.
Another option might be to develop the regulations as a result of the public input and agreement and then bring them to cabinet for review. The regulations could be approved either in principle or adopted. Then we would commit ourselves to either that they would not have final approval until they had been approved by the House or they would have conditional approval until they have been approved by the House, either with the sunset provision or some other such fail-safe mechanism.
Speaking on behalf of the government, we have no certain view as to what the right method may be to do this. I hope that the Leader of the Official Opposition will understand that we will make a sincere effort in the days ahead as we discuss these matters to find an appropriate mechanism that will allow us to get on with the work of passing the act and developing regulations in this area but which will commit not only us, but perhaps even future governments, to some process that would require, at some stage, legislative approval for regulations contemplated under this act.
I do not ask the Leader of the Official Opposition to respond at this stage. I simply make the proposal on my feet for consideration and discussion, perhaps, between the Minister responsible and the opposition critic and others.
Having said that, I want to come to my concluding point. It is that no one on this side has any illusions that there are no differences of opinion about such an important question. There are community people in my constituency who probably feel that this legislation does not go far enough or fast enough. There are people who...
Speaker: Order, please. I would like to remind the Member that he has three minutes to conclude.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: ...have interests and who are potentially affected by this act under some circumstances and have proper concerns. We want to make sure that those concerns are addressed under the regulation-making process.
I want to conclude by saying that I think the principles of this act are good. A number of Members opposite have conceded that. At second reading, we are debating the principles. The particular concerns of people should be addressed in the clause-by-clause reading. I think we should get on with giving this bill second reading, get it into Committee and get on with the discussion of the particular concerns of, not only the witnesses that will come here, but also by all Members of the House.
Mr. Phillips: I listened with interest to the Government Leader and his proposal to look at the area of process in the bill and deal with it over a period of time. I have some difficulty accepting that process. It will be interesting to hear a little more about it when the critics possibly discuss it or when we discuss it more on the floor of this House.
It seems to me that if the Government Leader feels that the process itself is so important that we deal with it in legislation - as the Leader of the Official Opposition argued the other day: we do deal with it in one bill itself - then to do anything but deal within the bill would not be appropriate. To put it in regulations and bring it back six or eight months hence would not be right. If it should be in the bill, it should be there in the first place. If we have to delay the bill for a few months until it is there, then perhaps that is what we should do.
I am going to support the motion put forward by the Member for Porter Creek East. This is a motion that is consistent with the concerns expressed by the coalition and others who have asked for more time to study this important bill and its implications for the future of the Yukon.
There is no doubt in my mind, nor in the minds of many Yukoners, that we need an environment act. What we do not need is a poorly drafted environment act, and that is what we have before us here today.
The motion that has been brought before us by the Member for Porter Creek East will allow all concerned Yukoners more time to examine the new act and make constructive recommendations to the Minister. When you consider all the factors, this is a more sensible approach.
First of all, as it stands today, and even if it is passed now, this act will not be able to affect a great deal of the Yukon, because most environmental areas are already covered by federal government legislation. Until devolution takes place, which will be a lot more than six months down the road, this act will have no effect.
As well, Members from the other side rose and told us that, when they draft regulations, that some regulations will take a year to three years to put into place. We are not talking about a year or three delay on the bill; we are only talking about six months, and I think that is quite a reasonable amount of time.
The Government Leader, and other Members on the other side, talked about the approach we have taken with this amendment, and that its definition of a six-month hoist is that parliamentary records show that that means we want to kill the bill. I can tell the Government Leader that I have no intention of killing a good environment bill. I do not think anyone on this side does. The intention of the six-month delay is purely to give people more time to examine the bill and have more input into it, and correct the very things the Government Leader admitted were wrong with the bill before us now.
There are a lot of uncertainties in this bill. One is the uncertainty of how the act will relate to First Nations land. It is a problem I have, because one of the objectives of the bill is to recognize the interests of Yukon residents in regional, national and global environmental wellbeing. Yet, in the act, it exempts First Nations land until there is an agreement. Why are we creating any kind of an environment act in the territory that would exempt any lands in that territory? If we are worried here, and one of the objectives is protecting the national and global well-being with this act, then we certainly should not be segregating, or allowing certain areas of the Yukon to be exempt from it so that one group can put in their own environmental controls and regulations.
Wildlife and pollutants know no borders. That is the problem with exempting any lands from the act.
What happens in the future if First Nations lands have some development on their land and decide to relax, for one reason or another, their type of regulations to allow for that development? Maybe down the road the First Nations will need some money for one reason or another, or they see an opportunity to develop the land and that development could affect other lands. I would like to know and understand how that would work.
I do not think that we are going to understand that until we see the First Nations agreements. I think having the next six months could be useful in the land claims talks to help clarify the uncertainty in relation to this act. I think that would be a wise use of that time.
There seems to be a rush by this government to push through this newly drafted act, in the land claims talks to help clear up some of that uncertainty in relation to this act. It makes one suspicious when they took so much time and spent so much money in explaining the first draft and then are only letting a select few review the changes in the new draft.
What major environmental concern do we have today that would cause us great environmental damage, that is not already monitored? The Member for Whitehorse North Centre made a comment that it was terrible to go camping in the bush; there was all of this terrible stuff out in the bush and this act would help clear that up. We do not need the act to clear it up. We can go and clear it up now.
We could have taken some of the $600,000 that we spent on the propaganda tour for the act, maybe $100,000 or $200,000 and we could have had various groups in the territory going out to all of these areas that the Member talked about and cleaning those areas up.
We can do things, we do not need the Environment Act in place to go out and clean up some garbage. Do we need this act now to solve the litter problem that we have in the territory? I do not think that we do. We can do anything that we want to solve that problem today and we do not need this Environment Act in place.
We passed a motion in this House on April 19, 1989, asking the government to set up a year-round program to combat the litter that we see each year. Very little has been done on that issue. This is an area that many Yukoners, who spoke to the various committees, raised concerns about at the meetings. They talked about the garbage that was in the Yukon River; they talked about the garbage along the highways and how a new Environment Act would help clean that up. Again, we do not need that Environment Act to clean that up, we can take those steps now to deal with this.
I would like to talk a little bit about that motion, which was presented on April 19, 1989. It was a motion I brought forward into this House to deal with the severe litter problem we have in the Yukon, and it contained five points. Five points that, if put into action, could lead to a cleaner environment. That motion was amended on April 19 by the Minister of Renewable Resources, Mr. Webster, and the only change made to the motion was removal of the name of the program. I had suggested naming the anti-litter program Yukon Pride. Mr. Webster did not like the name but, in politics, I can understand it was not his suggestion so it was not a good idea. I did not disagree with the amendment. I thought it was more important to put a program into place and that the name really was not important at all. The main thing was to get an anti-litter program in place. It really does not matter what it is called as long as it does its job.
I spoke earlier about the lack of action. Let me give you some examples: in 1989, everyone in this House agreed to a motion that read, THAT this House urges the Government of Yukon, in conjunction with municipalities, Indian bands, businesses, groups, and individuals, to continue its anti-litter initiatives and consider others, which would include: (1) development of environmental awareness and anti-litter educational programs for use in Yukon schools; (2) establishment of year-round anti-litter advertising and promotional campaigns; (3) development of an assistance program to help individuals, groups and communities carry out clean-up campaigns in specific areas; (4) create an awards program to recognize individuals, groups, businesses and communities who have contributed to a litter-free Yukon; and (5) preparation of a feasibility study regarding the establishment of a recycling depot in Yukon.
Let me talk first about the first one I listed: development of environmental awareness and anti-litter educational programs for use in Yukon schools. What have we done in this area? I believe this is one of our most critical areas. This is where we have to start - with our children - and the current government has made really only what can be called a token effort in this regard. This effort has had no impact. If anyone on the side opposite or, for that matter, anyone in the Yukon believes otherwise, they should take a walk around the Yukon schools these days. It looks like a garbage bomb has gone off. It really is disgusting.
Just this morning we launched a program called Aunti-Litter in the schools in Whitehorse. I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Minister of Education for this.
I came upon this program last summer when I was working in Wolf Creek. There I met an elderly couple from Aiken, South Carolina. They were walking up and down Wolf Creek and we had a little chat. We started talking about litter and the problems of litter in the territory. The lady, Mrs. Jean Norton, told me about a program that they had in Aiken. The garden club had developed an Aunti-litter program.
In Aiken, South Carolina, Aunti-litter comes into the classroom dressed up as a highway, complete with a centre line going down the middle, green on either side, and is covered with trash. Elementary school students take a piece of trash off the outfit and they are told what its use is and what type of garbage it is. They are also told whether it is recyclable.
Students throw the trash into either a trash can or a recycling can. Then they pick a flower off Aunti-litters helper. The flower, a frog or a butterfly is put back on to the costume.
What you have in the beginning is a highway full of litter - the Alaska Highway full of litter - and at the end, you have a beautiful highway with the natural surroundings.
This program was kicked off this morning at Selkirk Street Elementary School, with the permission of the Minister of Education. Hopefully, it is going to go to every school in the Yukon, not just one week a year, acknowledging anti-litter week, but go around to Yukon schools throughout the whole year.
I think this is a positive start, but I would like to see a lot more. I think that our students are the type of people whom we have to reach in dealing with this particular problem.
We do not need a new environment act to deal with those types of issues and to do those types of things.
About one month ago I had an opportunity to address the student body at F.H. Collins High School about the environment, but more specifically about litter. I decided that I would do something a little dramatic to get their attention. Ten minutes before I spoke to the assembly, I walked around the school and filled up a garbage bag. During my presentation I dumped the bag on the stage. All the students clapped and cheered. I am not sure that it was because I had cleaned up a part of their school yard or that it was cool to spread the garbage all around.
The message I gave appeared to be well received except for one thing. Today, almost one month later, there is more trash around that school than there was when I made my presentation.
Anti-litter education in schools is either non-existent or, at best, is simply not working. We have to do more in that area. We do not need an environment act to do that. We are going to do it with or without an environment act.
The second point is to establish a year-round anti-litter advertising and promotional campaign. This is another area where the government is making a half-you-know-what effort. In the last few months, we have started to do more in this field.
Speaker: Order, please. Will the Member please speak to the amendment.
Mr. Phillips: I am speaking to the amendment. I am talking about programs that could be put in place with or without the Environment Act. The amendment we are talking about here is to delay the Environment Act for the next six months. I think that I am totally in order.
We have to instill some pride in Yukoners to keep the Yukon clean. So far, we are failing the test. We have carried out some programs and advertising, but it is not enough. It is only within the last few months, where we have advertised the new Environment Act, talked about how valuable it is and what it can do for the litter problem and other things in the territory, where we have actually dealt with it. But it has not been a year-round program. It is just a promotional program that will, I believe, probably end once we have our act in place and we have spent the $600,000.
The third area is to develop assistance programs to help individuals and groups in communities. This is another area where we do not need to have an environment act. We could develop this program today. I do not see any type of awards program in any community that rewards people for the work they have done with litter. The only semi-awards type of program we have is where the government pays every group of six people who go out and clean up a section of highway. This is not really an awards program. This is a reward program. It is not something that recognizes people for their work in this field.
The fifth point is the one area where I believe the government has an above-average grade, and that is the area of establishing a recycling depot. The motion we dealt with at that time talked about a feasibility study, and the government has now gone ahead with the recycling depot. It has taken a while and, again, we do not need this new Environment Act right now to encourage people to recycle more.
We could be putting incentives in place for them to do that, and we do not need the act. We do not have to have a section in the act that deals with it. I like that section, and I think it is a good section, but we do not need that section in place in this particular act to deal with that.
As you see by the points I have made, a six-month delay would not have much of an effect on any of the items I have mentioned. I think a six-month delay is in order. There should not be a fear that the Member for Whitehorse South Centre cited, or the Member for Faro mentioned, about environmental disasters or problems that might crop up if we do not have an act in place. I do not share that fear as much any more. Mining companies and developers have a much higher respect for the environment than they had several years ago, and the general public is much better educated on environmental matters and is quick to react to environmental concerns.
I do not share the fear that the Ministers on the other side have, that we have to act now to stop new disasters before they happen. I believe, in most cases, there are rules and regulations in place federally that would handle almost every situation we might have in the territory.
Last night, I listened to the speech made by the Government Leader. He mentioned there were several areas in his own riding where there was a problem because we did not have a new environment act. However, he did not list any particular areas that were a problem right now.
When the Government Leader has an opportunity to speak again, I would be interested in his telling us what those problems are, and why we cannot deal with them now because we do not have an act in place. In most cases, I think there are avenues and ways we can deal with almost any environmental problem we have.
Another problem we have that I think we can deal with now, and do not need a new environment act for, so there is no rush to get to this new act in the next six months, is the problem of raw sewage being dumped into the Yukon River. A new environment act will not cure Whitehorses sewage problem. We are dreaming if we think it will.
Thirty to forty million dollars and a commitment from the City and the federal governments will help cure the problem, not a new environment act.
For many years we have all known that we are violating the water licence in pumping raw sewage into the Yukon River. What we have to do, what we can do, and what we should do, with or without the new Environment Act, is turn up the lobbying on all politicians for all three governments and force them to deal with the problem once and for all.
I listened closely to the Ministers comments about the bill presented here today and I can agree with many of them, but I remind all Members what the Minister of Renewable Resources said. He has told us clearly that if we pass this act today, it will not come into full force until we have control over land, water and forests. That is not going to happen in the next six months. So what is the rush? For the most part, all of the lands that we are talking about affecting with this particular bill are currently protected under existing federal legislation. All that we have to do is force the governments involved to enforce that existing legislation, if we need to. While that is happening and while we are waiting, we can get our House together with this bill in the next six months and allow the public input, put the processes that are lacking in the bill back into the bill and bring it back into the Legislature six months from now so that we can deal with it. I think that it is a reasonable request.
One of the last issues that I will deal with is that the government promised to listen to the people. The act contains a section that deals with regulations that will be developed for this act. The Minister told us that through that process he will listen to Yukoners and yet, last week he ignored and dismissed out of hand 1647 names on a petition. He told us and those people that the problem they had was that they did not understand the act. I do not accept that argument and I respect the views of those Yukoners, as I respect the views of every other Yukoner.
We on this side of the House support a good environment act, an act that the Yukon public feels is balanced and one that all Yukoners will have a chance to have input into. This new draft and the process surrounding it has not been adequate. This piece of legislation is far too important to rush. Let us do it right and take the short time needed to do this right.
I talked earlier about the position that the Government Leader and some of his colleagues on the other side of the House have taken, and before I close I would like to - when they talked again about the six-month hoist and what our intent really was on this side - again give that side assurances that I have been concerned about the environment for quite some time, and I want to see an environment act in the Yukon. I think that it is important that we get an environment act in the Yukon as quickly as possible.
I am, quite frankly, embarrassed that we are the last jurisdiction to get an act. We have been pressing on our side of the House for almost six years, asking the government to bring an act forward, but by the same token I am not so eager to just pass an environment act for the sake of an environment act.
I do not think we should be so hasty to do that. We are in the embarrassing position of being the last to have an environment act. I do not want to be in a more embarrassing position down the road as having the worst environment act. I think that is what we have to be careful of here; we have to be sure that this act strikes a balance between development and protecting the environment.
The Member for Faro made a couple of comments about people being concerned about the environment and I take offense to those comments made by the Member. We, on this side, are concerned about the environment and the record will show that we, over the past six years, have raised this issue several times.
In closing I would like to urge all Members to give very serious consideration to delaying this for six months, not kill the act, postpone the act forever, but to delay the act for six months. I am prepared, as are my colleagues, to delay the act, to come back here in six months and get a new environment act in place in the Yukon as quickly as possible. But, let us put all the right provisions in the act that should be there for legislators to deal with, especially the process provisions that the Government Leader says are absent from the act and admits that they should be there. Let us do it right. Let us get one of the best environment acts in the territory, but let us do it right.
Speaker: Are you prepared for the question on the amendment? Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Division.
Speaker: Division has been called. Mr. Clerk, would you kindly poll the House.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: Disagree.
Hon. Ms. Joe: Disagree.
Hon. Mr. Webster: Disagree.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Disagree.
Hon. Ms. Hayden: Disagree.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: Disagree.
Ms. Kassi: Disagree.
Mr. Joe: Disagree.
Mr. Phelps: Agree.
Mr. Lang: Agree.
Mr. Phillips: Agree.
Mrs. Firth: Agree.
Mr. Devries: Agree.
Mr. Brewster: Agree.
Clerk: Mr. Speaker, the results are six yea, eight nay.
Speaker: I declare the amendment defeated.
Amendment to Bill No. 20 negatived
On the motion for Second Reading
Hon. Ms. Joe: The people of the Yukon have repeatedly told us that they want laws in place to protect the Yukon environment. With the tabling of this act, we are fulfilling our election promise of 1989 and giving the Yukon people what they desire.
I want to commend my colleague, the Minister of Renewable Resources for his vision and commitment in bringing this act before this House.
The time to protect the environment is now. The sooner we have the Yukon Environment Act passed, the sooner we can ensure that the rights of Yukoners to a healthy environment will be protected.
The Minister of Renewable Resources has ensured that the Environment Act will truly be an act of the people. Through public meetings, workshops, consultations and written submissions, we will have an act in place that will become a model for others in Canada and for other countries.
This is an act that will serve people of all walks of life, and which will allow protection of the Yukons land, water and air for our children, our grandchildren, and for generations to come.
It does not stop here with the passing of the Yukon Environment Act. Public participation will continue in the drafting of the regulations. This act is unique in that people of the Yukon are guaranteed a voice in developing the type of regulations they want to see in order to protect their right to a healthy environment. The people will have input into setting standards that they are willing to accept for the Yukon environment.
The introduction of this act is long overdue. We made a commitment to Yukon people, and we have honoured that commitment. In other jurisdictions of Canada, time and money is being spent to clean up what has already been destroyed or polluted. I am not saying that there is no pollution in the Yukon, because we all know it exists, but the Yukon Environment Act is aimed at prevention of further pollution and destruction.
The Yukon does not have the resources to deal with a tragedy on the scale of the Exxon Valdez disaster; therefore, we must eliminate the possibility of environmental disaster from ever happening here. We must anticipate where something could be environmentally harmful, and ensure that preventive measures are taken prior to the event.
The major reason our tourism industry is so strong is that people come to the Yukon to enjoy the beauty of the mountains, the clear lakes and the clean air. The less we look after our environment, the more we will lose that revenue we receive.
The Yukon cannot afford to let this act sit on the shelf for another year, or six months. It is never too soon to do something for the environment. After months of consultation, and after receiving input from various interest groups, such as the Yukon Conservation Society, different municipalities, the First Nations and the general public, the Minister of Renewable Resources has heard repeatedly that people of the Yukon want laws in place to protect the Yukon environment.
The Minister responsible for the act should be congratulated for listening to the people and tabling, as was promised in our Speech from the Throne at the beginning of the session, the Yukon Environment Act at this time.
I am excited about the Yukon Environment Act. We should be proud that we will have an act that ensures that future generations of Yukoners will have the same right to the healthy environment that this generation will enjoy.
Mr. Devries: I was slightly amused by the Government Leaders criticism of the Member for Porter Creeks environmental conscience. I would suspect that, in his effort to be cute, he forgot all about the department he used to be in charge of, the Yukon Development Corporation. When they started up the sawmill, nobody asked us to order a catalytic-type burner to be built at the mill to prevent the huge amounts of smoke and ash from going into the air. He did not recommend the installation of water purifier boilers so that huge volumes of caustic soda and sulphuric acid would no longer be needed to keep the steam plant in operation. Nor did the Government Leader talk about the thousands of trees that were sacrificed due to poor decisions made both by management and by government as well as the department under his charge.
In my opinion, the Government Leaders record is on the verge of criminal. Perhaps he should practice what he preaches. I cannot believe he stands there with a straight face and says that we wish to kill this bill.
I sat in on all the meetings we held with regard to the bill, and I can assure every Yukoner that we want an environment act just as badly as everyone else does.
Is this act we have before us going to prevent litter and garbage on the roads and in the parks? Is the threat of a fine going to stop children from dropping a candy wrapper? No, this is all a frame of mind - education; a genuine concern for the environment embedded in every students mind. I have had a brief preview of some of the Department of Educations new environmental studies and it is a step toward the development stage of an environmental conscience for our students - the kind of program launched today by the Member for Riverdale to beautify our countryside.
I want an act that, when I look at it, I know it is going to do what we want it to do. This act is vague and will need a lot of amendments. The bill we have before us is a 100 percent improvement over the draft released a short time ago.
There is still room for another 100 percent improvement. Then and only then will it be fit for debate before this House.
I had to page through this act several times to even find a reference to forestry. It is much easier to find the regulations sections that give all the power to government, yet the government is not even applying the act to itself. Maybe this is poor wording or a misinterpretation, but then the intent of this side is certainly being misinterpreted by the side opposite.
I want an environment act that I am sure we can all live with.
I found the Justice Ministers comments about the accident in Valdez, Alaska very interesting. Alaska has some of the most stringent environmental policies in place in the world, but there will always be accidents.
If we go beyond second reading, I look forward to the debate and I will certainly be involved in putting forward many of the amendments that are going to be needed in this act.
Hon. Ms. Hayden: When the draft Environment Act was first published, it was done to give the people of the Yukon the opportunity to comment on what they wanted in a piece of legislation designed to protect the environment. The consultation process undertaken by the Minister and his department at that time was a broad one that included many individuals and groups. Those consultations led to many significant changes being made to the draft Environment Act, changes that have brought the act that is before us today.
We have seen that the principle of consultation, as first tested extensively during the Yukon 2000 process, once again gave Yukoners the opportunity to make recommendations on a major piece of legislation in this territory.
When people said that they were concerned about the powers of the director, those powers were removed from the act. When people said that they were concerned about the power to search, that section was changed. People said that there were parts of the draft act that were difficult to comprehend, so definitions, for example, were simplified and made more precise. People expressed concern about the development-assessment process, so that section was rewritten to remove any appearance of conflict with land claims and overlap of the existing environmental assessment review process.
Sections have been added to the draft act so that in its final form the Environment Act emphasizes the role of municipalities and private business in the implementation of the provisions of the act. Waste management provisions have been simplified in the final legislation and many, many other changes were made at the request of the people who worked with the department to make this act one that will work for the people of the Yukon.
The Environment Act was developed from a draft paper open for discussion and comment. This is an auspicious beginning to what promises to be an act of the people; each of us can take on responsibility for the environment around us. If we were to wait for some vague time in the future, who knows what environmental damage might occur in the meantime? Now is the time to act. I commend the Minister responsible for bringing this bill forward, for his courage and for his foresight.
Mr. Brewster: The debate going on here today reminds me of the old farmer who was going to pull some logs. He hooked two mules up, but he made a mistake when hooking them up and had one mule was going one way and the other mule going the other way. Consequently, he did not go very far.
I see that Mr. Speaker enjoys my jokes, even if the other people do not.
It takes very good people to admit that perhaps they have gone too far and perhaps they should slow down a little. It takes good people sometimes to admit that they have to humble themselves. It really proves what kind of a person you are if you can admit that sometimes that you have made a mistake. In this world, there are not very many good people who admit these things. I hope that in this House, we are in a position where we have a lot of people who can admit that they were very sincere in what they were trying to do, but somewhere along the line things went astray.
I am going to read a couple of points that were in a letter that was sent to me. These points cover quite a bit about what we are talking about today. The first point says that the federal environment act covers us all in the territory. We do not need two acts. That is interesting. The act that has been drafted is much too stringent for the Yukon Territory. It will only apply to part of the population. That too, is very interesting. It would cost the Yukoners too much money for what it will accomplish in implementing it and trying to enforce it.
That point has never been brought up here.
These are some of the people who the Minister claims do not understand the act or did not read the act because they protested. These people said, We do not think we need all this. I find it very interesting when the Minister says that some of those people out there do not understand the act. I find it funny, because these people are going to have to obey that act. This is the big problem with governments. Governments are always putting in bills that people do not understand, but they are right there with their inspectors to work them over.
It is the same old story. I have repeated it and will continue to repeat it. We were put into this Legislature by people who thought differently from what the other side thinks; therefore, naturally, it is our job to look at these bills, criticize these bills and try to make a better bill. If the two sides worked together, we could have a better bill. I am sick and tired of being told that because we disagree with this we are not environmentalists and we do not want the country saved.
I think it is criminal. That is the only defence they can put up: There is something wrong with us on this side because we do not agree with you.
I would like to give a very real example of what can happen here. No one has ever given me an answer to this. I hope the Minister takes this down and can answer it.
When we were in government, I was privileged to fly with one of the Cabinet Ministers when we were doing the placer mining studies. I recall going over the Forty Mile River in Dawson. The pilot showed us where they had shut down three placer mines. When he told us this, I said that even though those were closed down, it is all muddy on the other side of the river. How did the mud get up there if the mines were closed down? He said, That is the Alaskans. The Canadians were all closed down by the environmental officers and inspectors, but the sediment was pouring down from Alaska. We had closed ours to protect the fish that spawned there. We get one percent of the salmon and the Alaskans take the rest.
No one has answered that. Is that going to happen with the First Nations, who apparently are not going to come under this or do not have to? If they get a good deal with a mine and bring their pollution down where the boundary does not exist, but is marked on a piece of paper, are we responsible for cleaning up that mess? There is no way that part of the Yukon should be under an environment act and the other part not. Boundaries on paper mean nothing to sediment or contamination.
I had dinner with a miner last night. One of his first statements was that already the inspectors with the federal government are very different from the way they were years ago. They are getting really unreasonable and throwing the book at them. One year ago, they would have talked about it and had some sense. I guess this is part of what we are doing.
He also told me about one or two miners who are leaving the Yukon. I know of three others who are not operating this year, because they do not know what laws govern them. They do not have a clue. They are under a federal environment act, but they do not know where this one will lead. They do not know if one will supersede the other or anything about it.
I would like to talk a little bit about the former Mayor of Mayo. He was born and raised in the Yukon. He had a lot of problems; they were not just with the Environment Act. But the one thing he said to me was that they went around and insulted everyone. They made up a draft act and he made it very plain that, in Mayo, they asked to see the revised act before it went in the Legislature. He asked the Minister about this and he was told they had been sent to the Association of Yukon Communities. For the Ministers information, the AYC is here in Whitehorse.
They do not have them at the information bureau yet, although these are supposed to be in Mayo.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Brewster: Did they get there last night, when we were not here? I am sorry, and I take it back. They did arrive, because someone on this side brought the fact up that they were not there.
Let us look at this thing. They go to the AYC. They take at least three days to get out of this building, or maybe two. Perhaps there is efficiency now, and it only takes two days. How long does it take the AYC to get them up there? They do not have a large staff, so they are going to mail them.
All they asked was a very simple thing, that they be able to look at this legislation to see if they adopted any of their recommendations. That is all they were asking. Yet, we are supposed to vote on this act, but maybe they have not yet been received by those who want to read them. We do not know what some of the people said.
I have been to a number of these so-called meetings, where they come and listen to the people. They bring everything and tell you what they are going to do. We do not know whether they have changed that or not. In most cases, they are not going to change it.
I think this person in Mayo is very sincere. I talked to him for about 20 minutes, and I think he is a very sincere and upset individual. He has a pride in the Yukon, and he has a real problem with where things are going.
Another thing that bothers me is that we are pitting neighbour and children against each other, where children can turn around and lay a complaint against you.
I can tell you a little story about that. On the Tatshenshini, they were trying to run a little placer mine, which obeyed all regulations. Every time I talked to the federal government, they had done everything they were told to do. They kept it clean, they left barrier trees between them and the river. When they went away one weekend, they came back and there was oil spilled all over the place. Whomever did this forgot one thing. We do not know who did it. The oil cans they left there were not even the same type of oil that he used, and he could prove it by the oil he had bought. It was from a completely different company. This is the type of thing that can happen more and more often, especially when you have laws where they can turn around and prosecute people.
A lot of people are not going to work under these circumstances. Every day, into my office comes another report that is critical of certain parts of the act, and these are not even anti-environmentalists. They are just asking what the government is doing about these things. Nobody is telling them. There is nothing in the law about them, because it is all going to be in regulations.
There we go again, back into regulations.
This same government has been talking about the environment for years. They went out to Haines Junction and cut acres of land they need not have cut, and now they are going to plant grass. There is supposed to be a lot of gravel there, but they are going to plant grass. I guess it must grow on gravel but I do not know, and I am interested in finding out what will happen. They did not bother to clean up; they burned all their trees and there was an awful row before we finally got them to leave some trees for wood.
To speak about diesel fuel, they are putting up extra light plants to run diesel fuel because somebody goofed at the Aishihik power dam and there is not enough power. They say they cannot look three years ahead; most other outfits can look three years ahead.
I am very concerned that we are making it so easy. Most of the people who talk to me are people who have been in the Yukon for a long time - they are not born and raised here, but they are just as concerned as anybody else about the Yukons environment. They also want to be able to live here and be able to continue doing a few of the things they have done without fear of someone going after them.
I found it very interesting when I went to a meeting of the Haines Junction Chamber of Commerce with the Economic Development people. I did not ask questions there, because it is for the people to do the asking. The question was asked of the government people: how much input did they have in this bill. It became very uncomfortable, as we could see the three of them look at each other and each one was wondering which one was going to say what - it was quite apparent that they were concerned. The people were very concerned, and I have never seen an economic report of what is going to happen. I found that interesting.
Before we pass laws like this, we should find out what is going to happen to the economy of the Yukon. Are we going to lose all the placer miners and some of the mines? They say there is no problem, we are under the federal act right now. That is correct, but the idea of this act, they tell us, is to turn around and eventually get it from the feds and put it under their control.
We should watch what we are doing and not get too carried away or say that we have the best act in Canada. It is not always the best that is needed; it has to be suitable for everybody who lives with it.
Mr. Phillips: First of all I am disappointed that the government did not allow more time for Yukoners to examine the bill, that they voted down our motion to delay debating this bill at second reading a few moments ago. I have been told by Members on the other side that one of the reasons that we need the bill now is that we are the last jurisdiction in Canada to have an environment act and I am quite embarrassed by that, as I said earlier. By the same token I do not want it to be known in the future that we have the worst act because we rushed through it.
The public has had just over one week to look at this new draft and already 14 individuals and groups have requested that they appear before us in the House to state their views. I should add here that although I am disappointed that the government decided to proceed now I am pleased that we were able to come to a reasonable compromise and at least hear some witnesses here next week.
I strongly support the development and passage of a good Yukon environment act and many Members know I spent most of my life dealing with environmental concerns. I have raised the issue in motions and in many questions in this House over the past six years.
I had the opportunity in 1984 to sit on a task force on northern conservation which had the mandate to develop all the framework for the creation of a comprehensive conservation policy for the Yukon and the Northwest Territories. This strategy was to help ensure the wise use of all land, water and other natural resources.
The strategy tried to establish a careful balance between large industrial undertakings, small sustainable community developments and the traditional pursuits of hunting, fishing and trapping that depend so heavily on the continuing protection of the environment. It was very difficult to have half a dozen people in a room from the various sectors strike that balance.
I am sure you are never going to make everybody happy, no matter what we do with this act or any other environment act that comes into this House. The report that was tabled in 1984 has become a background document for the Yukon Conservation Strategy and is referred to by many groups today. I would not be surprised if even in the drafting of this act that particular document might have been referred to by people who were doing the research on developing the act.
That exercise was a great learning experience for me, in understanding the complexity of allowing development and at the same time protecting our fragile environment. I watched the environmental consciousness of this House develop rapidly over the past six years, and I believe that there is a very strong will in this House now to see a good environment act in the Yukon. I hope this concern is genuine and not politically motivated.
One has to wonder why we are rushing this legislation through when it delegates our legislative powers to the bureaucrats. If this act passes the way it is, I think we will live to regret it. I listened closely today to the comments of the Government Leader and I fail to understand his logic. The way that I interpret it, he now believes that as legislators we should be dealing with the processes in legislation rather than in regulations, but because it is not in the bill, he wants to propose some kind of a deal where they will develop the regulations, but it will be mandatory that they bring the regulations back into the House for our perusal later.
I wonder why we would do that? It would be interesting to know if those processes will come into effect prior to our approving them or will they come into effect after they are made into regulations and there is an order-in-council? I have some problems if it is done by order-in-council; the regulations will come into effect before we have seen them. What is the point of bringing them here if the government has already put them into effect? Is the Cabinet just going to sit up there in their offices and in their own little way say, This is what you are going to have whether you like it or not, and then bring it back to us to rubber stamp it? I do not think that is the right way to do it. We have an obligation to our constituents to deal with those types of matters. The Leader of the Opposition said that he had no idea what he was going to tell constituents when they ask about the process of the bill and how we deal with that process, because it is not in the bill and that is very unfortunate.
It is not as if it is not in other bills; it is in almost every other bill that we have had in the House. Almost every bill has those types of processes involved in it and we have an opportunity to debate them. I do not think they are that complicated and involved, and I would hope that something could be done about that.
If the Government Leader is as serious about this as he claims to be, then I would suggest that they put the people who are drafting this bill on overtime and bring in amendments on the process and put it into the bill before we pass the bill.
We can debate that during Committee of the Whole. Or, as I see it, another option is to remove those sections that involve processes completely from the bill and bring in amendments to the bill involving those processes next fall.
I will be supporting a good environment act. I look forward to the debate that will take place in Committee.
Mr. Phelps: I wanted to say a few more words on the subject of the principle of the bill. I address, in part, some of the remarks made by Members of the side opposite, and particularly, those of the Government Leader, which were directed toward the comments I made earlier in this debate on the amendment.
Before I respond to those specific issues, I wanted to go back to a concern I have. I know that politics, in part, is an art of gamesmanship. It is trying to convince the public that somehow or other there are good guys and bad guys and that the party that is speaking at any given time is the good guys in white hats and the others are bad guys in black hats and so on.
I am somewhat concerned so I wanted to say a few words on the record about the sincerity on this side regarding the environment. I was going through a lot of the campaign literature for the last general election that was used by our party and by me in particular. I was, by no means, the only person speaking out about issues concerning the environment.
I am not going to read all this material out, but there is a lot of it. During the campaign, among other things, we announced a nine-point plan to beat the environmental problems facing the Yukon. We went on to say that this nine-point program will: (1) develop a program of financial assistance, in cooperation with municipalities, to upgrade sewage treatment facilities; (2) develop a comprehensive Yukon conservation strategy; (3) introduce a land use and environmental screening and development assessment process; (4) regulate the use and storage of hazardous chemicals; (5) introduce an environmental protection act; (6) offer a rural septic system installation loan program; (7) establish environmental disaster contingency plans; (8) establish a territory-wide anti-litter program; (9) establish a recycling depot in the Yukon, if feasible.
At that time, we were critical of the lack of action during the first nearly four years the NDP were in power, and rightly so, in my view. We stated that the PC government, prior to the 1985 election, had gone a long way toward meeting environmental concerns. The fact is that we had prepared legislation. We prepared a pesticide control act, an environmental protection act, a land use planning act, and we were taking initial steps with the federal government in developing a Yukon conservation strategy.
It was the PC government, in cooperation with COPE, that was instrumental in creating the first territorial park on Herschel Island. It was also the PC Party that enacted the first territorial Parks Act.
It has been a long time with very little action from the side opposite. Suddenly, they come along and play the game of being the only party in the Yukon that is concerned about the environment. It was the previous administration, the PC government, that was involved in appointing people to the task force on northern conservation. This was a very comprehensive report that, in part, was authored by my good friend, the Administrator of the Yukon and, as well, the Member for Riverdale North.
We have heard people speak out, loud and clear, from this side with regard to environmental concerns, generally and particularly. Of course, the same Member of this party has had a lot to say with regard to issues close to home, the obvious problems of litter, and he has spoken out about various programs, some of which this government has adopted.
I thank you for that, and I thank in particular the Minister with the unusually long forefinger that he was pointing and waving up and down at me just now. For the record, that happens to be the honorable gentlemen who has lately become in charge of the Department of Community and Transportation Services.
Thankfully, he seems to have a double standard. On the one hand he seems to show genuine concern in that portfolio with regard to some of the waste disposal problems facing areas of the Yukon. He certainly made a genuine offer to the City of Whitehorse with regard to the dumping of practically raw sewage into the Yukon River.
Unfortunately, it is a schizophrenic position that he must occupy because at the same time he now carries a cross on behalf of the biggest polluter in the Yukon at this time. This corporation is the heaviest, largest consumer of diesel and is apparently willingly doing everything it can to kill Aishihik Lake, which is of significance not only to sports fishermen and conservationists, hikers and lovers of the natural environment of that part of the Yukon, but of course, has a very deep and spiritual significance to the original peoples from that area.
I appreciate the quandary in which that particular Minister finds himself. I understand why at times, with the various pressures on him, and the double standards that he...
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Phelps: There you go. That was Mr. Diesel, the Minister responsible for Yukon Energy Corporation speaking. I am sure that, like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, the other half will come out in due course and say that he really did not mean it.
I can recall a time that his predecessor, who fulfills various functions on behalf of the Government Leader, the Minister of Education, in his previous role had similar internal struggles. In a burst of outrage, as I recall it, he said that if this government was expected to throw a bunch of extraordinary funding into meeting the sewage treatment problems of Whitehorse there would not be a school built at the Carcross cutoff. It is now known as the Golden Horn School. He managed to control the internal struggles for a while and did the right thing for the parents who live in the region, and for that I am extremely thankful.
I will be extremely thankful to the Minister of Community and Transportation Services when he reconsiders what he just said about no sewage treatment facilities for Carcross and does the right thing for not only the people who live in Carcross, but also for all the downstream users of the water resource including, I am sure, from time to time, the good Minister himself.
Everyone in this chamber is genuinely committed to taking appropriate steps to safeguard the environment. The real issue that we have on this side is a fundamental one. It is one about which I have spoken at some length in earlier debate. It has to do with the act itself and the way it is crafted.
I do not want to prejudge this, because I understand we will be hearing from numerous witnesses in the next few days, when we move into Committee of the Whole. However, in large measure, the anxiety is the concern about the unknown: the sweeping regulations in this act, and the powers given to the Minister, the Executive-in-Council and the administration to bring into law, through regulations - albeit in consultation with interest groups and the public - those very structures or principles that are appropriately dealt with in the act itself.
My concern, which I think is fairly well understood by all Members, is that I would be failing in performing my duties here were I to report to my constituents that we had allowed a bill to pass through this House wherein I had no idea at all what would make up the most important aspects of the bill. The real heart of any comprehensive environmental act has to do with the balance between conservation and development, the way in which development might be mitigated, the rights of an opponent to development with regard to having a hearing in a reasonable time frame, the rights of the proponent to an appeal process, the make-up of the board that would hear from the proponent, weigh evidence, and determine whether or not a project ought to go ahead, as well as what conditions should be placed on development.
I find part 6 of this bill to be particularly offensive, because it dismisses the whole heart of the bill itself in a mere sentence or two. The bill states - and I want to quote part 6, section 81 correctly, development assessment process means any or all of the procedures specified in the regulations and carried out under this part in conducting an assessment of a major development or activity. It goes on to say with regard to major development means any development or activity which is of a type prescribed by regulation...
These two definitions, which are relegated out of the act, swept out of the act and out of this House into the confines of the bureaucracy and the administration, are two of the most important areas of any kind of environmental legislation. I cannot imagine leaving these Chambers, having passed a bill with these types of regulation-making powers in them and going back to my constituents, whom I ran on behalf of and whom I represent to the best of my ability in this House, and have to face them and try to answer some questions.
Imagine, for example, if I was asked to speak to a convention put on by the Chamber of Mines or the Klondike Placer Miners Association. When these groups questioned me about this bill as to how it works with regard to them, when they have a development in effect - and this could be any matter or group - I would be forced to say, Well, yes of course if it is a major development, so that means you would have to go before an environmental assessment review process.
They may ask me what a major development is. Well, I do not know. We left that up to the bureaucracy. Of course, they are going to consult with you. It is something that we did not deem necessary for us as your legislators to have any input into whatsoever.
If I was not thrown out of the meeting by then, because I bloody well should have been by then - but somehow or other the refreshing types that we have grown to love in the Yukon, the entrepreneurs and individualists, seem to be rapidly vanishing - I would fear for my life when I was asked the next question. That question would probably be, What then is the development assessment process? Who sits on it? How many people? What is the turn-around time? What is the appeal process? And so on.
I would whisper urgently to my comrade or possibly my friends, Could you possibly get a car running outside so I can run out and jump in it before I got lynched? as I would say, We did not bother with that. We just sort of swept it out of the Assembly. We will let the bureaucrats look after that. Of course, they are going to consult with you on the matter.
If I were still there and still alive, they might ask, Can these things be changed like other regulations, without coming before the House - to people who were elected by the citizens of Yukon to safeguard us and debate the merits and principles involved here? These are principles that will affect our very livelihood and our chance for investment. These are principles that will have a tremendous impact on the industry in the Yukon.
I would say, Oh yeah. The regulations get changed all the time.
It is not because I am against the environment that I used the Chamber of Mines in my example. I could be out in Carcross speaking to the numerous conservationists who live in my riding and receive exactly the same kind of shock reaction to what I have to say. I would not be doing my job. Not only that, but I would be a person who had set a truly unholy precedent, and we would be starting down the very steep and slippery slope to total control by the administrative branch of government.
My concern is not only about part 6. There are other areas of regulations that concern me as much, and there are a lot of regulations that are ancillary to most legislation that comes before the House these days, and I have no real problem with that.
In essence, part 5 does not even spell out a process for planning. Again, for me, the process is so important, because it is in the process of the assessment review, and the process of land use planning, and planning for the other resource areas delineated in that part, that one comes to grips with how fair and balanced the entire act is with regard to all the interest groups. Many of us form part of more than one.
I find that those parts of the bill are virtually impossible for me to pass in the present form.
Having said all that, I want to say that I appreciate the remarks made by the Government Leader earlier. He certainly did speak to the concern that I just raised. I am not going to respond to those concerns here in any kind of substance because I want to consider them carefully.
After a cursory look at the remarks made, it seems that one problem is that we still seem to be tied to regulations. There must be some other solution that could be sought. Surely if there is a desire to develop a process, why bring it back with regulations? Why not bring it back, at least for the substantive portions, as part of this act? Why not put off the passage of part 5 and part 6 until we have all the bones that make up the skeleton with the minimum amount of flesh and blood to allow the animal to live?
I certainly do intend to have discussions, I hope privately, with the Minister responsible on this issue to explore in some detail avenues to get around this problem so that we can get on and pass the parts of the act that do not offend the principles I have just stated.
Having said that, I do not mean that every clause, aside from parts 5 and 6, are completely as they should be. Undoubtedly, we will have debate on other sections. Undoubtedly, we will be proposing numerous amendments.
That is really the process that, under parliamentary tradition, is supposed to bring the best possible legislation to the people that we serve. I feel, for example, that the Historic Sites and Monuments Act, which did spell out the makeup, boards and the process to be utilized and the appeal and so on - the basics - was an act that we were able to debate as some length and each and every amendment - in my view, and I am sure in the view of everybody who voted for the amendments - made the bill better for the people, the voting public of the Yukon, whom we serve.
Those are the few remarks that I want to make. I think that part of the reluctance of some members of the public and some interest groups to see this move ahead quickly because is that you really cannot make value judgments about what to them will be the most important features.
I think that is largely the problem and I can sympathize with them because when the part of a bill is dismissed in two definitions of one sentence long each, and we are supposed to look to the regulations for answers, the concern is real, it is understandable and it is certainly shared by us on this side.
Mrs. Firth: I had an opportunity to speak to the amendment to the motion, but I found myself somewhat restricted in my debate because I had made a commitment to give this rather non-partisan, bland speech, with the good intentions that I had, to try to convince government that we had a good point here that we wanted to raise something we thought we could cooperatively work together on to bring in some changes and have a good bill come forward. However, it fell on deaf ears. So, I cannot let passage of this second reading go without standing up and expressing my point of view as to what I think the real problem is here.
As far as I am concerned, this piece of legislation is just another piece of legislation this government has brought forward to appease their own little group of people. The NDP Universe is, I believe, the reference being made. Those are the people who support the philosophy of this party, and it is that percentage of undecided voters who might be sympathetic toward the New Democratic Party. That is who they are directing and focusing their attention on, and this legislation is just another example of that.
I view this legislation as exclusionary for particular groups within the Yukon; it does not represent or respond to, in any way, the concerns of the majority of Yukon people. In fact, one of the Members got up and sneered and made fun of the Member for Porter Creek East because he was representing the mining industry, and he tried to make allegations that his interests were only to represent the mining community. That was absolutely incorrect and an absolutely wrong and false accusation to make.
We have previously watched this kind of legislation come forward to this Assembly. For example, there was the Human Rights Act, which encouraged neighbours to spy on neighbours, to report on neighbours, and made employees responsible for the actions of their employers. It encourages people to abdicate their responsibility for themselves and for their own actions. This act does the same thing. It is just another example of the NDPs socialist agenda. The Government Leader always gets incensed and offended when we use that term.
He says he is just amused. I do not see him laughing now. The traditional bottom lip is there.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: Point of order.
Speaker: Order please.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: My bottom lip was not doing anything at all, until this moment when I got up to speak. I wish the Member would stop making these chippy, personal remarks when she is making a speech. If she has something to say about the act, why does she not say it, sit down and let someone else speak? This personal comments add nothing to the debate.
Speaker: Order, please. I find there is no point of order.
Mrs. Firth: I never attack the Government Leader, because he is much bigger than I am, although I do not know if he is stronger than I am. I suppose we would have to test that. I do, however, want the opportunity to make my point at second reading of this bill. Everything I am saying is relevant to the bill that is before the House.
As I was saying, in this bill people are rewarded for reporting on your neighbor and watching your neighbor. The Minister responsible for the Environment Act shakes his head. Wait until we get to line-by-line debate in Committee. There are rewards for people who effectively report on their neighbor and follow through with court action.
We do not want anyone to be responsible for their actions here in the Yukon, so we make the employer responsible or the city - someone else responsible. This act does that again. This act, the Environment Act, encourages that attitude.
Do you know what is really interesting about the attitude that we see over on the other side of the House? I get the feeling that they do not even care when I stand up and make these comments. There are confident, arrogant that they have their little universe of support in the electorate allowing them to bully, and intimate people and buy votes. All their whiz-kid pollsters tell them that this is all that they have to do is appeal to this particular segment of society and it will be a cake walk at the next election. That is where this government is coming from.
We used to listen to the Government Leader stand up in this House about three or four years ago and go on and on about how we were ranting and raving about socialism and saying that the socialist bogeyman is coming. Socialism everywhere; it is running rampant. He used to challenge us about giving examples. Well you know I have not heard him give that speech for a long, long time, and do you know why? The reason is because socialism is here and it is here for as long as these people are here. We see it in everything that they do, everything. In every policy direction, in every bill that comes forward, in every attitude that is expressed by this government, in their ability to give more and more power to the bureaucracy and to themselves, and to take it away from the Legislature. That is what we are discussing here, and it gets worse and worse every day, until we have people coming down to our offices and telling us that the way this government is operating is the reason they left Europe. They are not making that up. People who come and tell us that have first-hand experience with that style and type of government.
We raised a concern about the process and the legislators losing their ability to be able to communicate new laws to their constituents. I know it fell on deaf ears. I know it did, because they made all kinds of speeches about us wanting to kill the bill and all of these things that we were attempting to do and the Government Leader offered some kind of alternative that we have yet to follow up on.
They were not listening to what we were saying, any more than they listen to the public out there or to the people who come to see them. We get these patronizing speeches about good legislation and good government. This government is going to bring in an act called the Good Government Act, or something. That is one of their goals and objectives.
We had the Minister of Education talk on and on about good legislation. I do not think they are any more interested in changing this to be good legislation, to respond to a broader view of the Yukon, than they are of flying to the moon. Otherwise, they would be listening to some of the recommendations we made. We would not have had to bicker about how many witnesses could appear. We would not have had to go with the six-month hoist motion. We would have been able to come forward with some reasonable solutions, like we did with the Historic Resources Act.
Their ears were closed. There was absolutely no indication that they were prepared to do that.
It is interesting that the New Democrats used to say they were the party of the people. They used to call them the ordinary people, until some whiz-kid computer person in some research company in Manitoba told them that people in Canada did not like to be referred to as ordinary.
Now, not only do they not refer to people as ordinary, they have also stopped listening to them and they have stopped asking their opinions about things. If they do ask their opinions, they disregard them, unless it is self-serving to their agenda and objectives.
I think Yukoners are getting fed up with that approach and that style of government. That is why this Environment Act has been met with so much controversy, criticism and antagonism.
The Minister responsible for this act is shaking his head and saying no. There are people out in the smaller communities who have some very strong feelings about what this government is doing. All the Ministers can sit there and shake their heads and say no, but I remember what it was like to be on that side of the House, as government, and have those Members over here, as Opposition Members, saying exactly the same thing to us when we were government, as I am saying to them today. They have become arrogant, distant and out-of-touch with the people.
You cannot get in to see a Minister here, unless you go through three or four executive assistants, secretaries, phone calls and, then, when you see them they have exactly the look on their face that the Minister responsible for the Environment Act does now. They look at you and shake their head. They look at you like you are some poor, pathetic individual who just cannot understand what admirable goals this government has.
My comments are not intended in a malicious way. I am sure that the Members opposite have just as good an intention to do what they want to do as we would when we were government. The point that I am trying to make is that there is a philosophical difference, and a philosophical difference of style, between that side of the House and this side of the House. That was reflected in the comments that the Member for Watson Lake made yesterday in his speech about O Canada. There were philosophic differences reflected in the patriotic versus unpatriotic attitudes that were expressed in this House yesterday afternoon; in the rights of individuals, as opposed to the rights of the State; in who knows what is best for whom. We think people know what is best for them. That side of the House thinks that only the State knows what is best for people.
All the pollsters in western Canada can tell these people that they are going to be successful at the polls if they stick to their little line of keep the NDP universe happy, but we will see what happens here in this territory in the next election campaign.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: The Member opposite has given some nasty little speeches before in her career here. That was just one more.
It is interesting that she managed to speak to second reading of the Environment Act without actually saying anything about the Environment Act. We had a lot of her malice, resentment and personal accusations about the attitudes of the people on this side. It does make one wonder why the Member is incapable, even today, of reflecting on how her attitude appears to people on this side of the House and to the public.
The Member talks about arrogance and refers to that little NDP group. What could be more arrogant than talking about the 46 percent of the Yukon population that voted for this party and re-elected it in 1989 as that little group? Can you imagine anything more arrogant than that?
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Penikett: The only reason I am looking at the Member for Riverdale North is because that is the closest I can get right now to Riverdale South. The person to whom I wish to direct the remark is unavailable to me at the moment.
Let me deal with the Member for Riverdale Souths comments before I deal with the question of substance from the Leader of the Official Opposition. She said that this is just another piece of legislation to appeal to that little group - that little group of 46 percent of the Yukon population who happened to vote for these people. Human rights was another example where they claimed we encouraged people to spy on their neighbors. I would like someone to show me where in the Human Rights Act is says we encourage people to spy on their neighbors. The word is spy - something nasty, insidious and evil-sounding.
There is nothing in the Human Rights Act that says that, and I take it the Member was opposed to the human rights legislation and, clearly, from what she said today, she is still opposed to it. But let us be clear as to what the Human Rights Act did. The Human Rights Act was enacted in Parliament. It said that people who had suffered discrimination or abuse from arrogant attitudes - such as those who refer to 46 percent of the population as a little group - whether they were people of colour or whether they were women or whether they were gays, had redress. They had a right to receive the basic civilities in life: eat in a restaurant, stay in a hotel, and have job. This was just catering to that little group of people - perhaps that little group of people, women who form 50 percent of the population, aboriginal people who may comprise a quarter, and linguistic minorities.
What Tories are going to have to understand is that the world has changed. The world in Canada is not the property of middle-class, white people or prosperous people. Politics does not just belong to the well-to-do any more. It is not the plaything of the merchant class, as it once was.
She resorted to the nasty, chippy little stuff about Big Brother and socialism, because she did not have anything to say about the Environment Act. In a few minutes we are going to find which Members on the other side - perhaps it will not be today - support the principles of this bill. They will have a chance to vote on that.
The Member opposite talks about pollsters, which I find kind of interesting, because I expect the NDPs expenditures on pollsters is a tiny fraction of the money spent by the Conservatives on pollsters. I can recall that the Conservative Party had commissioned a pre-election poll by a Tory pollster, a very famous Tory pollster, a multi-millionaire I am sure, Allan Gregg, who does polling for every Tory government in this country. In fact I understand he does polling daily.
The interesting thing about the poll that the Member opposite did in the government that she was part of, unlike the government here, is that they did the pre-election poll at public expense and then made sure it was secret. It was never made available to the public; it was secret. They even went to court to prevent the citizens who paid for it, from seeing it.
The survey research that the Members have taken interest in will be made public, by this government as we are committed to. That is the big difference between us; that is this horrible, evil, socialism because the public are going to be able to know what the results of the research are, unlike the work done by the Members opposite, by the Tory pollster.
There has been a lot of ugly rhetoric around this bill, as there was ugly rhetoric - and some of it very stupid rhetoric - about the Human Rights Act. I mention that only because the Member for Riverdale South mentioned the Human Rights Act. I think the Opposition said that every business will be shut down; they will all leave the territory if this act passes. Well, of course, that is not true, any more than the claim of the Opposition that if the Human Rights Act was passed, there would have to be separate washrooms for gays.
Their rhetoric is false. It is angry and emotional, but it is not true.
The Member complains about the consultation process. I will say that the record is clear. I will stack the consultation that this government has done with the people of the Yukon against the record of the previous administration.
She talks about the tiny, little group. I guess the tiny, little group is the 46 percent of the people who voted for us. Let us admit that perhaps they are disproportionately the have-nots of the people. They are not the privileged people, for the most part, in this community, but they are the have-nots.
They are people who were and have been for the first time, given a voice by this government.
I will stand on this floor any day of the week and compare the extent to which we have consulted with how our predecessors consulted. I will compare the extent to which we have consulted with women and listened to them. I will compare the extent to which we have listened to working people. I will compare the extent to which we have listened and responded to the concerns of aboriginal people, with their record. I would even compare, in real terms, what we have done for groups like the mining industry, compared to what they did. I will do this any day of the week.
The reality is very different from the rhetoric of the Member for Riverdale South, who failed in her speech to even address the act that is before us.
The principles of this legislation - the idea of trusteeship; the idea of responsibility of citizens, not just to spy on your neighbour, but the responsibilities we all have and share for the environment - have been addressed. The idea of consultation and the idea of the empowerment of people has been discussed extensively.
The Leader of the Opposition, in a speech which I compliment him on - because it was a wonderful example of recycling - did talk about the black hats and the white hats. He did at one point talk through his dark-complected hat. He talked about the campaign commitments on the environment that his party had made at the last election. He neglected to mention that prior to the last election, we had made many important initiatives on the environment, not the least of which involved the Yukon 2000 process, the economic strategy that came out of it, and the conservation strategy that followed. This led inevitably to the Environment Act.
He did not mention the energy alternative initiatives. What he did talk about was a number of things that the Conservative government had been considering. I think he talked about land use and pesticides and other projects. It is a matter of record that pesticide legislation was put into place by this government.
Land use planning has been advanced a long way under the present government. This government has spent substantial sums on sewer and water, to speak to the concern of the Member for Porter Creek East. He regards that as an important environmental initiative and that is fair enough.
The Leader of the Official Opposition spoke about diesel. It was interesting that the most significant thing this government is doing is to reduce the consumption of diesel in the territory and, in fact, take a whole town off diesel - the second largest town in the territory - which was a very important environmental initiative that was initially opposed by the Leader of the Official Opposition and the side opposite. I want to say to him, with respect to Aishihik Lake, that, lest he wants to have all hats seen in black and white - and perhaps we can agree that there are some gray hats in this movie too - we share his concern about that lake. I believe that we are responding appropriately.
The one thing that I want to make sure of is that we do not have the impression left on the record that somehow this government built the dam at Otter Falls or were involved in its design and planning. The Leader of the Official Opposition knows that I know a lot about the public debate and reflection on that project that has occurred over the past many years. I believe the way that we are assisting, through the Department of Renewable Resources, in assessing the situation there that there is responsible behavior.
The Leader of the Official Opposition responded appropriately on the question of regulations. It is fair enough that he said he wanted to think about what I suggested. I hope he understands, as I take it the Member for Riverdale North did not, that I am not suggesting a specific proposal or amendments. What I am suggesting is a willingness to engage in dialogue, prior to completion of this bill, about how we can address what I am conceding is a legitimate concern of all legislators. I am speaking in generic terms.
I have had discussions with the Minister of Renewable Resources. He agrees completely with this approach. He has indicated during discussion on a previous bill that he is not quite the draconian Stalinist monster that he has been painted to be by the Member for Riverdale South. Those who know and love the Member for Klondike find it quite ludicrous that he would be described in such monstrous terms.
He is a civil person and has an open mind on these questions.
I am not going to speak at much greater length, but I do want to make one point in closing. In the end, I do not think it does much credit to this place to suggest that the legislation that we have before us - which, like many other pieces of legislation, empowers communities, which enhances the rights of citizens to behave responsibly toward their world - is somehow evil and dictatorial. I think that is irresponsible rhetoric. I want to say it is a pity to get into that kind of discussion, because it is one that is patently not true, and also does a discredit to the facts.
With respect to the rights of citizens, duties of the Minister, the responsibilities of officials, issues that might be addressed by the courts and the right of industry to have a voice in the way regulations will affect them, the provisions of this bill are all principles that are consistent with the best democratic values but, also, are present in legislation that has been passed by governments of all political stripes,including governments that may even describe themselves as conservative. I am sure there is federal legislation, passed by the present national Conservative government, which, in its particulars, resembles some of the parts of this legislation, as there is legislation in other provincial jurisdictions and legislation in the American states.
I only want to conclude by saying that there is much left to debate about this bill in the clause-by-clause discussions, but I think the principles of this bill are eminently defensible, and I shall support them.
Speaker: The hon. Member will close debate if he now speaks. Does any other Member wish to be heard?
Hon. Mr. Webster: It has been a very long debate, both on the motion and the amendment. A lot of interesting things have been said. A number of points have been raised that I think have been taken in a very constructive way. The Members on our side, as we have recently heard, as recently as the Premiers speech, have made some offers to talk about the regulations section. Also, a lot of comments were made by the side opposite that very much concern me, in a number of ways. In some ways, it is very obvious that some Members still have not read the bill or, if they have read it, they have misinterpreted it.
I would like to address a few of those comments at this time, beginning with the Member for Riverdale North. He said today, in his speech, that he is concerned about the environment; he wants an environment act; he said it was an embarrassment that we are the only jurisdiction in the country without an environment act; he told us how he has been ranting and raving for six years now for this government to come forward with an environment act. It is not true at all that the side opposite has been calling for an environment act for the last six years, since we came into government. I want to make that very clear. There are people on the side opposite who really are not in favour of introducing an environment act at this time, and that was very obvious from the speech by the Member for Riverdale North, following a very lengthy argument, in which he cited example after example of environmental disasters in this territory that could not be helped with an environment act in place. He came to the conclusion that we do not need an environment act now, and we can wait six months; for that matter, we do not really need an environment act at all.
With such a contradictory position, I am surprised he is not running for leadership of the Yukon PC party, the party of perpetual contradiction. It was the most contradictory speech I have ever heard in this House.
With respect to the Member for Riverdale South, she spoke at length yesterday on the amendment, but did not really speak about her personal concerns on it. She raised some concerns of the Yukon Council on the Economy and the Environment. She went through quite a few legitimate concerns raised by the Yukon Council on the Economy and the Environment in their report.
When the Member concluded her remarks, I found it interesting that she made no reference at all to the final recommendation of the report of the Yukon Council on the Economy and the Environment. That was basically that, having raised some legitimate concerns, they came to the conclusion that this is a very important task we have at hand, and putting forward this Environment Act is very important to the territory, at this time, and we should not delay it.
I find it curious that she overlooked that very important point. The Yukon Council on the Economy and the Environment wanted to get on with the job of introducing an environment act now.
As for her remarks this afternoon on the main motion, I am very disappointed in the comments. While she did not speak at great length on her personal views, she did raise some objections, which we will deal with in the clause-by-clause debate. I heard her very distinctly claim that this particular Environment Act is being put forward at this time to appease NDP supporters - the little clique, the little gang.
I want to remind the Member that there are a number of Yukon-wide organizations that are in support of this act, and they are not calling for a delay. They include the Tourism Industry Association of Yukon, the Association of Yukon Communities, the Council for Yukon Indians, the Yukon Outfitters Association, the Yukon Conservation Society, Whitehorse recycling group, the Yukon Fish and Game Association, the Yukon Federation of Labour, the Yukon River Commercial Fishermen Association, the Downstream Coalition, and some Whitehorse city councillors, even though the City of Whitehorse is a member of the so-called coalition, not that they actually had a resolution on the matter.
It is a very strange mix of individuals representing Yukon-wide organizations that are apparently all part of this little so-called NDP clique.
That is very interesting. I will look forward to discussing in clause-by-clause debate with the Member from Riverdale South, many of the concerns that she has raised. The Member also, in a very broad way, talked about the great deal of opposition to this act, all of the criticism out there.
Well, let us look at who is criticizing this act, who has been criticizing the act all along and who has joined this coalition. Many of the - and I want to stress many, certainly not all of them -, organizations never took part in the consultation process, in stage 1 or stage 2, and at the last moment they join a coalition to oppose this act for reasons that we do not know.
The Hougen Group of Companies, the Dawson City Chamber of Commerce, the Watson Lake Chamber of Commerce, the Downtown Whitehorse Business Association, the Yukon Transportation Association, all members of this coalition, submitted nothing at stage 1, did not submit anything at stage 2; there are no written comments from any of these groups. We do not know why they object to this act, but I think they joined the coalition because it is a politically partisan organization.
It became very evident to a lot of people, who eventually dropped out of the coalition for that very reason: Curragh Resources, Northwestel Inc., the Champagne-Aishihik Band. They dropped out of the coalition because they saw what it was really standing for - a politically partisan organization.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Webster: Let us take the example of the Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce. There is a group that did nothing in stage 1 at all. In stage 2, after the draft act was tabled in this House, what happened? We repeatedly offered them many opportunities to sit down with us in a private meeting and discuss the intent and principles of the act, and they refused. We had public meetings at which they expressed their opinion and the President of the Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce stood up - the Member for Porter Creek East was at that public meeting - and said, I have not read the act, I do not understand it and I am asking for a delay for a year; if we do not get a delay for a year, you are rushing it. That is the kind of input that particular organization - which is spear-heading this coalition - has had in this process. The April 5 deadline was another opportunity for them to participate in this process, to really put their concerns down on paper, in a legitimate and constructive way, like the Chamber of Mines did.
I do not call a two-page letter being critical of the process and the bill a substantial submission. I do not, but who was one of the first ones to line up here to appear as a witness? The Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce.
The Member for Kluane raised some questions on the process involved. Last night, in speaking to the amendment, he said he had received a letter from six people. They make it very plain in that letter, said the Member for Kluane, that they do not agree with a lot of things. They ask questions. They said nobody listened to them, and is that consultation? Again, the Member for Kluane is raising something that is wrong with the process.
He mentioned it again today, and actually quoted from the letter. I have a copy of that letter here. It says, We Yukoners would like to see the Yukon Environment Act discontinued and forgotten. They provide six reasons. I wish the Member had read them into the record today. The first one was that the federal act covers all of us in the territory. We do not need two acts, which is obviously not true.
That was very well explained in quite a lot of detail in the discussion paper. It is also quite evident in the draft act. The letter also says that most of the issues we touched on already have acts in law that pertain to them. That is not true for air quality or for litter, which the Member for Riverdale North is always complaining about. It is not true for waste management.
The conclusion is they do not want a Yukon environment act. Now that we are going through with the Environment Act, they are protesting because we have not listened to them.
I do not know if you could claim that they have listened to us in the first or second stages of the consultation. It is obvious that they have not, because they still have these misconceptions. I find it very interesting that one of the six people who signed this letter I have in front of me did not say a word in opposition to the Environment Act when the Tourism Industry Association of Yukon debated a resolution at its annual general meeting that came out in support of the Environment Act. That individual said nothing in contradiction.
Unfortunately, the Member for Porter Creek West did not speak today to the main motion. Yesterday, he said a few words. I want to thank the Member for Porter Creek West for not being so irresponsible as he was about a month or so ago, at which time he came out saying that the NDP government is out to strangle Yukons number one industry: mining, the mother of all Yukon industry.
After I responded to the Member for Porter Creek West to point out that this was not the intent of the bill at all for a variety of reasons, I am pleased to see that he is taking a more reasonable approach to this. The fact is that the Yukon Environment Act, when passed, will have no direct impact on the Yukons mining industry. I am reading this also for the benefit of the Member for Porter Creek East, who says that we have four mines in real trouble right now and we do not need an Environment Act at this time. It is as if the price of gold, silver or zinc have nothing to do with it.
Mining remains under federal control, as does water management and the land use permitting system. Not until these responsibilities are transferred to the Yukon government will mining operations be affected by the act. When that does happen, perhaps in five or 10 years from now, miners lives will be simplified. They will only have to make applications to one body for permits. They will not need separate water licences or land use permits and so on as they require now.
I am pleased that the Member for Porter Creek West did not raise that matter yesterday. The Member for Porter Creek East raised a number of concerns yesterday. Some were legitimate and some were not. I would like to address a few of these at this time. He had some problems with the rule-making section. The rule-making section clearly eliminates the possibility of significant regulations being made behind closed doors, the way he made regulations. The public and stakeholders must be involved in the preparation of draft regulations. Once completed, the draft regulations must receive a minimum of 60 days of public review.
He made some comments about municipalities. He was suggesting that we were forcing this legislation down the throats of municipalities and that they would not be able to take on any responsibilities because they would not have the necessary funds. I want to inform the Member for Porter Creek East that we are not going to be forcing any new programs on the municipalities. But where changes are proposed, such as with the example of waste management, these will be discussed and phased in over time according to the agreement-making section.
The Member for Porter Creek East also laid the complaint about the heavy use of consultants who would be involved once the act is passed. I remind the Member that the review of the Yukon Conservation Strategy and the preparation of the State of the Environment Reports are already commitments of the Yukon Conservation Strategy. They need not be expensive; a lot can be done in house. This act simply legislates that commitment.
The Member raised other points but with the shortness of time I will leave them for now and get back to them in clause-by-clause debate. I want to assure the Member opposite that I am very much looking forward to that debate.
The Leader of the Official Opposition, on the main motion, raised a number of concerns. He started off talking about our environmental strategy that was articulated five years ago, and he claimed it was not being followed. I will tell the Member for Hootalinqua that I think we are doing a very good job of following our environmental agenda, our strategy, as articulated about five years ago, beginning with the Yukon Conservation Strategy - the implementation of it, bringing on stream some new programs such as the fish fund, and the demonstration projects, which have benefited many organizations in the territory dedicated to recycling, dedicated to protecting our environment, dedicated to enhancing habitat for wildlife and fish. The implementation of the Yukon Conservation Strategy has been acted upon not only by the Department of Renewable Resources and Tourism, for which I am responsible; there has been a great deal of work done in Education. The Minister of Education, as you know, has introduced a lot of programs for the benefit of our school children. Government Services have done a great deal of work in the last two years - in recycling, especially. The Community and Transportation Services department has been involved in programs for a number of years and has recently introduced some new initiatives. The Yukon Liquor Corporation, which I used to be responsible for, has done a great deal in assisting organizations to recycle glass and other materials.
I think it is also reflected in our legislation. Last year, we brought forward the Pesticides Act and now there is the Yukon Environment Act. We made a major financial commitment to water and sewer systems in almost every community in the territory in the past four years.
I see the biggest problem facing Yukons environment at this time as being that of the Whitehorse sewage treatment. We have just recently made a substantial financial commitment, in the order of $10 to $16 million to finally deal with that problem.
I want to address some comments made by the Leader of the Official Opposition in his address to the main motion today. He had a lot of concern with part 6, the development assessment process. He wanted to know what the development assessment process is all about. I think the Member knows that the idea of the development assessment process is to replace the environmental review panel guidelines that are presently in place.
You are no doubt aware that this is a procedure that will determine the effects of a major development on our environment and propose measures to mitigate any potential damaging effects.
The Member raised all kinds of questions because he does not know what the development assessment process will be all about. I want to assure him that people are still asking questions of the EARP guidelines, and that is why the federal government was been working these last three years on bringing forward Bill C-78, its own legislation for environmental assessment.
Everyone is still asking what can take place under EARP guidelines. Last year the placer miners got a real shock when they found out that all their projects were subject to EARP guidelines, regardless of the size of their operation, how much water they used, how much dirt they moved, whether or not their operation had been in the same spot for 20 years, or if it was a new operation. They are all subject to EARP guidelines. There is a lot of uncertainty. We want DAP to replace that uncertainty.
This DAP legislation, which is called for in the land claims agreement, will be developed jointly by the federal government, our government and the Council for Yukon Indians, and will be equivalent to Bill C-78. It will have a very clearly established process involved and a clearly established process for time frames. The process will also be clear as to appeal processes, if necessary; setting out how permits are issued - not in the manner that they are now where you have to go to the water board to get a permit for water and another board to get a land use permit.
The development assessment process will be established to allow Yukoners to set up their own process, to be managed by Yukoners, run by Yukoners and which will have a one-window process where you can get one permit to cover all your activities. People in the mining industry, with whom we met extensively on this act during the review, appreciate that fact; they are very aware of that and they think that this is what the Yukon needs. It will be for Yukoners, established by Yukoners and be equivalent to the federal governments legislation. The federal government will recognize it and it will have this one-window approach.
The Member also raised the matter of regulations. Indeed, a number of Members from the side opposite have suggested that regulations, for example, should be tabled with the act. This reveals to me their failure to understand that this bill lays out an entirely different approach to regulation than has previously been the case in this territory.
More than once the Member for Porter Creek East referred to the regulation-making powers under this act. He suggested that the development of regulations would take place in the same manner as they were when he was in Cabinet. That is behind closed doors in secret meetings. There is a world of difference between the regulation process proposed in this act in the rule-making section, and the way the Opposition handled regulations when they were in government. I want to emphasize once again that the rule-making process that this act establishes will bring regulation drafting out of the bureaucracy and the Cabinet room and into the public eye. The act obliges the Minister to consult with any affected interest group in developing regulations.
I submit that when are talking about the environment, we are talking about all affected interests, because it really does affect all Yukoners: special interest groups, business groups, major organizations and individuals. This act establishes public consultation as a prerequisite to the development and passage of regulations.
Regulations that are eventually considered and passed by Cabinet will be rules that have been thrashed out with all people who express any interest in their development. I want to emphasize that the regulations are not going to emerge from the bureaucracy one day and become law the next. This government recognizes that the standards and processes established by regulation under this act must be widely understood and accepted if they are going to do their job. It is because of our commitment to public involvement in implementing this act that we have listed the kinds of things that can be dealt with by regulation.
Because the regulation process can be driven by the public, we felt that we should let them know what regulatory tools are available to them. It would have been entirely possible to have used a one or two line legal phrase to give government all of the power that it might need to make regulations under this act and only the bureaucrats would have known what possibly might be in the regulations.
Since people wanted an act that would evolve and be administered in a cooperative manner, we have provided more information and regulations in the act itself than has ever been the case in Yukon. Let me remind Members that this is not a two-page act designed to give Cabinet a blank cheque to write regulations, as has been suggested by the Member for Porter Creek East. It is a broad, comprehensive piece of framework legislation that is designed to give people in the Yukon a real say in how we will look after the environment on which we all depend for our livelihood, our health and our enjoyment.
Having said that, I would like to take a moment to address some of the comments made by the Leader of the Official Opposition.
Yesterday and today, he spoke with some eloquence on the role of the Legislature and individual Members of this House in scrutinizing the laws that govern the citizens of the Yukon.
He spoke yesterday, in particular, about the evolution of parliamentary democracy, and the fact that elected assemblies, such as ours, have, over time, assumed the responsibilities that were once the exclusive prerogative of the Crown. He went on to suggest that, by introducing this act with its regulation-making powers, we were, in some manner, turning legislative responsibilities back to the administration and undoing several hundred years of the evolution of parliamentary democracy.
It is my belief that this bill represents a big step forward for democracy. Like the Member, I believe that the people, and the representatives of the people, should direct the activities of the administration; not the administration telling us what is good. That is the reason for writing individual rights into this bill. This is why there is a rule-making section in this act that requires peoples involvement in the development of regulations that will help give this bill effect. That is why the Yukon Council on the Economy and the Environment - a council of members of the public, not the administration - will reporte to the Legislature on the efforts of the administration, as established by this act.
I believe that this is one of the most democratic and most publicly empowering pieces of legislation ever to have been introduced to this Legislature. To suggest otherwise is nonsense.
Having made those points, I do want to say that I did listen very carefully to remarks made by the Leader of the Official Opposition. As I have already mentioned, I am prepared to entertain proposals from the side opposite, in Committee, to address any concerns he has about this bill.
In my view, it would be entirely appropriate to amend the bill to require publicly developed regulatory proposals, for example, to go to the Legislative Standing Committee on Statutory Instruments for final review, once they have been approved in principle by Cabinet. The Premier, in his speech today, suggested other options for consideration, and I am pleased to see that the Leader of the Official Opposition has responded favourably to some of those suggestions.
I am obviously prepared, either in this Chamber or in opportunities outside in private meetins, to discuss these matters. I do not want any suggestion that this Legislature is about to relinquish its hard-won responsibilities to the public over the years.
I see I am running short on time. I would like to conclude today by touching once again on the strength of this act.
Over the last several years, all people of the Yukon have become increasingly aware of how fragile our environment is. Progress and development, and a bigger population, have put pressure on an environment that most of us once thought was so vast, so beautiful, and so pristine. Now, the actions of man are becoming very significant on that environment.
At one time, it always seemed to us that there was an untouched view around the corner, over the next hill. Our waters flowed clear and cold, and we could drink from any stream or river. This is no longer true, as we are all aware. We have left our traces in the back country. Great lakes in the southern Yukon have become contaminated by human waste. The burbot and lake trout in Lake Laberge carry chemicals in their flesh that make their consumption a risk to human health.
The same may be true of the fish in Wye Lake, near Watson Lake, that are contaminated with DDT.
Waste dumps abandoned by the federal government forty years ago may be leaking toxic chemicals into our ground water, and only blocks from where we sit the Marwell tar pit may be exuding substances that may threaten human health. A few miles from there, at the Whitehorse dump, the successor to the pit is still collecting waste oil and chemicals, making a brew that, if it does not cause problems for us, will indeed threaten future generations.
This land deserves protection. The people of Yukon who place a very high value on their environment deserve a say in its management and protection. There is no time to waste.
The bill before us proposes a comprehensive and carefully thought out framework for the protection of our environment. The bill before us offers an unprecedented opportunity for people who are concerned about our environment to become involved in its management. The government has an obligation and a responsibility to manage the environment for this and succeeding generations and faces and accepts that responsibility without equivocation and without escape clauses.
The environment is a public trust and it is our conviction that any individual who makes their home in the Yukon has the right to call the government to task if that trust is violated.
The environmental rights established in this legislation are each and every persons guarantee that trust will be honoured: the right of action to the courts; the right to complain about the abuse of authority and to have those complaints followed-up by an independent council and have them reviewed by the Legislature; the right to prosecute crimes against the environment; and the right to be involved in establishing the laws that will govern our environmental behaviour.
I have been disappointed by some of the comments made by some of the Members opposite. I am accustomed to hearing them speak about the rights of the individual. They are all for the little guy over there. They have been silent about the rights recognized in this legislation, which very much surprises me.
Some Members have gone so far as to suggest that the right to operate a business should be placed above the right to act on behalf of the environment.
I am proud of this legislation, and I know my caucus is. I am looking forward to the support and advice of all Members of this House as we continue debate in Committee of the Whole.
I want to say to the Members opposite that I am looking forward to this debate over the next few days, or weeks, to come. I am looking forward to hearing what the witnesses have to say over the next couple of days, and responding. As I have already mentioned to the Leader of the Official Opposition, and to others who are concerned about the regulations, I think there is some compromise we can make in that regard.
When we are through this process and finished the debate in this House Yukoners will be very proud of this piece of legislation. From everything I have heard in the public consultation rounds, I know they are looking forward to an Environment Act coming forward now, one which will protect our environment for our lifetime, as well as for many generations to come.
Motion on second reading of Bill No. 20 agreed to
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. Tuesday next.
The House adjourned at 5:28 p.m.
The following Legislative Returns were tabled May 16, 1991:
Habitat enhancement work in the Ross River area (Webster)
Oral, Hansard, p. 913/914
Dempster Corridor study cost, 1988-1991 (Webster)
Oral, Hansard, p. 916
Social Assistance Cases 1989/90 and 1990/91 (Hayden)
Oral, Hansard, p. 920
The following Sessional Papers were tabled May 16, 1991:
Asbestos related diseases information, April 1991 (McDonald)
Yukon Teachers Staff Relations Board Annual Report, 1990-91 (McDonald)
Yukon Public Service Staff Relations Board Annual Report, 1990-91 (McDonald)
Memorandum of agreement between the Government of Yukon and the Government of the Northwest Territories on principles for oil and gas arrangements in the Beaufort Sea (Byblow)