Whitehorse, Yukon

Wednesday, November 18, 1998 - 1:30 p.m.

Speaker: I will now call the House to order. We will proceed at this time with prayers.



Speaker: We will proceed at this time with the Order Paper.

Are there any tributes?

Introduction of visitors.

Are there any returns or documents for tabling?


Hon. Mr. Sloan: Mr. Speaker, yesterday, the leader of the official opposition asked me about the number of Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation members working on the Old Crow school project. At the time, I was taken aback, and I accepted his allegations at face value. I sought confirmation of my numbers from the contractor and the project manager, a person well known to this House, Mr. Esau Schafer, and staff in Government Services.

The leader of the official opposition, I'm afraid, has maligned both the people of Vuntut Gwitchin and the general contractor. What I have -

Speaker: Order please.

Hon. Mr. Sloan: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Speaker: Speeches are not permitted -

Hon. Mr. Sloan: I apologize.

Speaker: Just table that document please.

Hon. Mr. Sloan: I apologize, Mr. Speaker, but I have here for tabling the figures, the true figures, of the involvement of Old Crow residents in -

Some Hon. Member: Point of order please.

Point of order

Speaker: The hon. Member for Riverdale North, on the point of order.

Mr. Phillips: The member can say, "I have a document to table." He can't give a long speech about it, Mr. Speaker. You've made a ruling on that and the member should recognize the ruling.

Speaker's ruling

Speaker: The member can describe the document but cannot make a speech about it.

Hon. Mr. Sloan: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I had no intention of making a speech. I was merely setting the correct parameters for these figures.

Hon. Mr. Keenan: Mr. Speaker, I have a legislative return.

Hon. Mr. Harding: I have the Auditor General's report on the accounts of the Workers' Compensation Health and Safety compensation fund and all the attached financial statements.

Speaker: Are there any reports of committees?

Are there any petitions?

Are there any notices of motion?

Are there any statements by ministers?


Russian Duma: Yukon presentation to

Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Speaker, I rise to inform the House of recent advances in our government's policy of looking within and beyond our borders to identify economic opportunities for Yukon business people.

As members know, the Yukon Housing Corporation is a very active partner in the Yukon government's trade and investment diversification initiatives. Corporation officials have accompanied the Yukon business people on several successful trade missions, particularly to Latin America and Alaska. These efforts to strengthen and diversify our economy by sharing Yukon expertise in home construction and financing includes major development work in Russia. The corporation also took a high-profile role in the circumpolar housing forum in Yellowknife in September.

As a result, the Yukon was invited to make a presentation to the Parliament of Russian Federation, the Duma, on mortgage and housing issues. We were one of only three Canadian jurisdictions invited to the parliamentary hearings. We were also invited to participate in an international conference on implementing the housing mortgage system for the Russian federation.

Yesterday, the president of the Yukon Housing Corporation, and one of her senior officials, took part in a meeting of the Russia-Canada intergovernmental committee on the economy. This meeting was examining opportunities for cooperation in construction.

When I spoke to the corporation president from Moscow yesterday, she reported that interest in the Yukon's experience in home construction and mortgaging is even higher than expected. For example, Mr. Speaker, Canada's National Building Code has now been translated into Russian. There is ongoing work to adapt it as a national code for Russia. This could open a new window for Yukon exporters in building technology and products.

Our officials also met with the vice-governor of Kamchatka. The region has now established a mortgage system, and the vice-governor expressed an interest in Yukon cooperation in construction products.

The Yakutsk region has expressed a similar interest. It's important to note that Yakutsk is closer to Yukon than it is to Moscow. Our easy access to a deep water port in Skagway gives Yukon exporters a definite advantage in supplying homes and building products to that region.

Mr. Speaker, we know that Russia's going through a difficult transition, and we are pleased to respond to the country's request for input and advice, based on Yukon's experience and expertise in the areas of mortgage, lending and housing programs.

We also recognize the need to avoid unnecessary risks in the light of Russia's current economic difficulties. The Housing Corporation will exercise due diligence before undertaking any cooperative initiatives. It will also take advantage of the advice and support of the federal Export and Development Corporation.

At the same time, we believe that the solid relationship that we are building with our northern neighbours promises major benefits to our economy.

The Yukon has been an entrepreneurial community. Yukon expertise in remote and rural housing technology is widely recognized, and we have excellent resources, including a skilled workforce.

Just as we are doing with the BST road-surfacing technology, Mr. Speaker, our government is working with Yukon business people to export housing technology. Through productive partnerships, we can help Yukon business people take advantage of growth and export opportunities.

We have good reason to be proud of the dynamic leadership that the Yukon Housing Corporation is demonstrating, and I look forward to advising members of further developments in this regard.

Thank you.

Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the Yukon Party caucus and office of the official opposition, I am pleased to take this opportunity to respond to the ministerial statement regarding Yukon Housing's presentation to Russia's Duma.

Promoting trade and investment abroad is a laudable initiative and is something that each government practises. While we on this side of the House welcome every opportunity to identify economic opportunities for Yukon business people beyond our borders, we believe that opportunities should also be made available for Yukoners in the Yukon.

Since this government took office two years ago, Yukoners have seen our economy take a complete nose-dive. In simple terms, Mr. Speaker, it's in the toilet. Mining exploration is down $40 million. Wholesale trade between August 1997 and August 1998 is down 27 percent. Housing starts have dropped between 50 and 60 percent. Real estate transactions are down 30 percent.

So, when I hear the minister and members of his government speak of export and trade initiatives involving mortgage and home construction in trouble-stricken Russia, I have to shake my head and wonder just what is going on with this NDP government.

Contrary to what this government believes, the Yukon economy is in trouble and no matter how many ministerial statements and how much spin is put on trade initiatives, selling homes to other countries with troubled economies isn't the answer to our sagging economy.

Housing starts in the territory have slowed dramatically, which is a very sure sign of a bad economy. When the construction industry slows, a wide range of related trades disappear. Over the last year, over 2,000 Yukoners have been forced to leave the territory seeking work elsewhere. Yukoners, who include many of our skilled trades people and those in the construction industry, are leaving the territory daily, indicating that people have lost all confidence in this government's ability to get this economy back on track.

If we keep up this momentum, it is my fear that we will have nothing left in this territory other than government jobs to offer. While we are well aware that the government is growing at an alarming speed, I believe even this government would have a tough time to employ the entire Yukon.

Only a New Democratic Party government whose eyes are glazed and who refuses to accept that we are experiencing an economic crisis in the territory would see economic opportunities in one of the most economically depressed countries in the world as being an opportunity. It is no secret that the Russian economy has been in some trouble for some time. With its stocks and currency market collapsing, the Russian government recently devalued the national currency, placing a moratorium on repayment of some debts and closing banks. The International Monetary Fund refuses to lend any more money and aid until it sees a more sound economic plan from this country.

Despite these problems, here comes the Yukon, wanting to do business.

Again, I can't help but wonder what this government is thinking, and where they want to take us next. Have we not learned from the mistakes of our neighbours, the Northwest Territories, who were involved in Russia? Their joint ventures fell into receivership.

Missions to Moscow to promote trade and investment between the Yukon and the troubled Russian economy will produce de nada for Yukon. Ladies and gentlemen, members of this Legislature, the Yukon economy is in the toilet, and it's just around the corner from being flushed completely.

When will this government start acting responsibly?

Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to respond to the minister's statement, on behalf of the Yukon Liberal caucus.

Let's look at the pros and the cons of this statement. Now, the Housing Corporation has been a very active part of the NDP's trade diversification strategy - and that's true. The downside is that the Yukon Housing Corporation has been virtually the only active part of that strategy. We've had two years of talk, no jobs, and more Yukoners have had to leave the territory looking for work.

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased that the Yukon Housing Corporation has been sharing expertise with the Russian far east, and I'm also pleased that there's an interest in Yukon's experience in home construction. I would be even more pleased if there was a deal to be announced - some actual jobs created for real Yukoners.

We're still talking about our competitive advantage and our easy access to the port at Skagway. When are we going to use that competitive advantage?

We are talking about cooperation in construction projects. When are we actually going to cooperate with somebody?

The news that Russia is looking at adopting Canada's National Building Code is good news also. The minister goes on to say that this could open more opportunities for Yukoners.

Mr. Speaker, I'm glad that the minister has acknowledged that Russia is going through some hard times, and I'm not sure that heading into Russia at this time makes much sense. For one thing, Mr. Speaker, it would probably be a better idea to look at opportunities in a country that has some currency. After all, it was reported just last week that Russia is now paying its teachers in vodka.

Mr. Speaker, a news story earlier this summer outlined the problems that Ferguson Simek Clark, an architectural firm in Yellowknife, was having in Russia. They've done a lot of work, and they haven't been paid for it, and I quote from the story, "The Russians really don't have any money, so the money that is owed to us hasn't been forthcoming, and we're currently having to finance some of the projects ourselves."

Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the minister. When other businesses are currently losing their shirts, why are we rushing to join in? Let's be cautious in moving into a country that has a collapsed economy. Even better, let's examine options in countries that are just a little bit more stable.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Hon. Mr. Fairclough: There have been a lot of negative comments coming from the opposition, and that is to be expected, Mr. Speaker. In talking to Yukoners, Yukoners know the economy's down, and they have been giving direction and giving advice to this government to diversify its economy, and that's what we are doing. The Housing Corporation has been very much part of this initiative that the government has been involved in, and we have been on several trips. This is one of many that we have been on. We had success in other trade missions to Alaska and Chile, Mr. Speaker. There are things happening, and the industry is responding to the initiatives that the government is putting forward, and it's giving hope to some of the people who are out there.

There are opportunities for us to export housing and housing technology and products elsewhere, and Yukon has been a place of interest to many people. We've taken a big part in this trip to Russia on the Canadian part, and we've been invited to do presentations, and so on. People are interested in our mortgage system and the way we have things set up here, Mr. Speaker.

Why would we let that go? Even though the economy there is not very good, we did say that we would look very carefully and with due diligence at the proposed products and agreements that we could be working on.

Mr. Speaker, I think that we have a lot of positive things happening in the economy in the Yukon.

We cannot rely on the boom and bust of mining. The Yukoners have stated that to us. They have asked us to go out and diversify a bit more. We had a record year in tourism. I am sure that members can't deny that. We feel that the tourism market will be up next year. We have new flights and a runway extension, and these are promises that are very good for more businesses coming to the Yukon.

In export and trade, there were a lot of successes, like I said, in both Chile and Alaska. We have the devolution of oil and gas, Mr. Speaker, and land sales to come up soon. There's a lot more discussion happening with all Yukoners. We've had a lot of successful meetings. A conference was held in Watson Lake, attended by many, many people. We have a new mill in Watson Lake, a copper mine in Minto that could very well be ready to go as soon as copper prices rise. We have tax reform underway. We're cutting red tape. We have a lot of things that are happening. We have an effective working relationship with the industry from housing and tourism and in the mining sector.

One of the things I should mention with this whole trip to Russia is that the U.S. has contributed $1 billion to establish a mortgage system in Russia, and, Mr. Speaker, Canada is very much involved and has a good system in place, and Yukon has demonstrated that we have a good system in place. We have opportunities out there, and I think Yukoners want to see us doing something in that field.

Speaker: This then brings us to Question Period.


Question re:  Carpenters union, award of building contract

Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Speaker, my question's to the Minister responsible for Government Services.

Last Thursday in the House, my colleague raised the issue of the carpenters union hall winning the bid to supply 16,000 square feet of office space to the Department of Health and Social Services. We, on this side of the House, raised our concerns about whether there was a level playing field for the contractors bidding on government contracts, Mr. Speaker.

Now, we have the Yukon Chamber of Commerce writing a letter to the minister raising a very similar concern about an unfair playing field where the union is tax exempt while other contractors are taxpaying entities.

Mr. Speaker, the minister refused to answer the question on Thursday, so I ask him again today: does the minister believe that it is appropriate for a union with its tax-exempt status to be bidding on government contracts in competition with independent contractors who are taxpaying entities?

Hon. Mr. Sloan: Mr. Speaker, I suppose we could stretch that analogy a bit more. I am presuming that the member opposite doesn't feel that we should do any kind of deals with NGOs - we shouldn't rent space from them. I suppose if we extrapolate from that, we shouldn't be renting space in First Nation buildings, so I guess the first step would be to pull out of the Sport Yukon building, because I understand that's done by an NGO, and I guess we'd have to pull out of, say, the Teslin Tlingit First Nation building.

I was a bit taken aback by Ms. Mercier's letter, because she didn't have the decency to contact me directly and ask to discuss this. I tried to follow up with a phone call today. I made the phone call. I haven't had any return on it.

Quite frankly, when I look at some of the comments there, she's made some inferences which I find, frankly, scurrilous and potentially libelous. I am somewhat dismayed that this is how an organization such as the Yukon Chamber would choose to do business.

Mr. Ostashek: Well, Mr. Speaker, I don't think for one minute that we are saying that the government ought not to do business with NGOs.

What we are concerned about here, Mr. Speaker, is a level playing field for competitive bids. That is what we're trying to find out - this government's position on a level playing field and if, in fact, they believe it is level. The minister once again has refused to answer the question as to whether he believes it is a level playing field or not.

Mr. Speaker, the Yukon Chamber of Commerce stated further in their letter that there is a widespread perception of the Yukon government bending the rules in favour of a key supporter. Now, the Chamber of Commerce has said in a public document that this is the perception.

I would ask the minister if he's prepared to answer the Chamber's question today: why should independent contractors waste their time bidding on a contract such as this if one of the bidders is a tax-exempted society? Does not the minister believe that a tax-exempt society has a competitive advantage in the bidding process?

Hon. Mr. Sloan: Does the member not believe that NGOs or First Nations have the right to bid on projects? Is that what he's suggesting?

Mr. Speaker, this is exact the same policy that has been in existence. So, in other words, any organization could have bid on it. I suppose the only thing that we've done is we haven't decided to exclude Yukon bidders, the same way that they did on the hospital project.

Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Speaker, I'm seeking information on behalf of Yukoners. The minister is being very, very defensive in his replies. I am asking legitimate questions on behalf of Yukon taxpayers. I have made no allegation. I have asked what this government's position is, if they feel it is a level playing field.

Mr. Speaker, my final supplementary to the minister on this question is that the whole issue revolves around there being a level playing field and we on this side, like the Chamber of Commerce, believe there isn't in the awarding of this current contract. The minister has not said anything to make us think otherwise. Can the minister advise this House if the carpenters union's previous track record was considered in the awarding of this contract in the same manner as the track record of independent contracts are considered?

Hon. Mr. Sloan: Mr. Speaker, I don't know where we get this tax-exempt business. As I understand it, working people pay taxes. The carpenters union pays GST. The carpenters union pays income tax. The carpenters union pays business tax. So, where do we get this tax-exempt status? The really very, very interesting thing is that what the Yukon Party is doing - and I suppose like-minded people are doing - is trying to narrow the field. We heard these guys over here talk about skilled trades people leaving the territory. We've got a group of skilled trades people who are using their own skills, their own initiative to go out and try to create some work for their members. They are staying here. They're keeping their money here. What's the matter with that? What's the matter with that? Do they not believe that people should have the right to work and make a living here or is it only certain people who have the right to make a living here? Is that what he's saying? Is that what he's saying?

Question re: FAS/FAE research program 

Mr. Jenkins: I have a question for the Minister of Health and Social Services. The previous Yukon Party government placed a major emphasis on FAS/FAE and, in April of 1995, tabled in this House an FAS/FAE prevention plan. Part of that plan was a $200,000 FAS/FAE research project to undertake to answer some fundamental questions regarding the effects of prenatal alcohol abuse, and to help policy makers and program staff understand the extent and nature of the problem in Yukon.

The study was undertaken by Carleton University and the Yukon Bureau of Statistics in the spring of 1995 and was initially slated for completion in February 1996, but was delayed somewhat by a funding complication. Nevertheless, the study has been completed for over two years, yet the results have never been released.

I want to know when the study will be released, and why the study hasn't been released to date, Mr. Speaker.

Hon. Mr. Sloan: If I ever saw an argument for not standing outside during a meteor shower, that was it. They must have been struck on the head, because that's the most inane question I've heard.

I have said in this House that the Kellner study, which he's referring to, will be released. We're trying to get the availability of Dr. Kellner to come up to work with us in terms of interpreting it for the media. There's nothing surprising there.

We're projecting for December to have Dr. Kellner here. We're trying to make those connections right now. The study was given to us in August - I can check the date for the member. There's nothing amazing in it. It's a high-risk alcohol study.

The original parameters of the study - if he even had a modicum of understanding and perhaps paid attention in this House, tried to stay awake with us, stay with us, he would realize that that study, the parameters of that study, were changed by my predecessor, Mr. Phelps - if he understood that.

Now, I've said we're going to release it. We are going to release it. Try to stay with us.

Mr. Jenkins: The next thing we'll hear from the minister, Mr. Speaker, is he's venturing over on a trip to visit Sibuba to get some more advice - I'm sure that's going to happen next.

Mr. Speaker, in the November 1998 newsletter of the Yukon Teachers Association, the Minister of Health and Social Services is criticized for saying that the identification of FAS/FAE is wrong or unnecessary. Today, the acting chief of the Kwanlin Dun First Nation has said the government must stop shirking its responsibility for children with FAS.

Can the minister explain his statement, that only a small component of the study now deals with revealing data on the dimensions of the FAS/FAE problem, when originally this was to be one of the primary focuses of the study. What's gone wrong? Has the minister's fear of FAS/FAE labelling caused the delay and changed the focus of this most important study?

Hon. Mr. Sloan: Mr. Speaker, I'll try it again. The study was originally funded by Health Canada. It originally had a focus on FAS/FAE.

At that time there were no existing research tools. Subsequent to that, my predecessor, Mr. Phelps, changed the parameters to expand it to high-risk alcohol abuse. That's how the study was done. We have received the information. The report focuses on high-risk alcohol study, as the previous minister had directed. Now we have it back.

Now, if he's asking, "Why doesn't it focus on FAS/FAE," would he not be well advised to consult with the previous minister?

Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, this is the minister today. He is responsible for that area, he is responsible for the implementation, if he so chooses, of the contents of the report. What we have is a minister in denial.

Before this government can deal with this serious Yukon FAS/FAE problem, the minister must recognize he has a problem. Will the minister now listen to Kwanlin Dun, the Yukon Teachers Association, Whitehorse Correctional Centre, and to this side of the House, that FAS/FAE is one of the Yukon's most serious social problems? Will he now, even at this late stage, determine the true extent of the problem? Because if you don't know who the people are who suffer from the affliction, how do you know how to tackle the problem? If you can't identify those people, how do you know how to deal with them?

Hon. Mr. Sloan: Mr. Speaker, I have described what the original study was. I've described why it was changed. I've also said that, flowing out of that, there are some concerns that have emerged with regard to FAS/FAE. Subsequent to receiving the report, the Minister of Education and I sat down with our departments, we sat down with the stats branch, we asked them what kind of information could be provided; we asked them for the kind of parameters that we needed for a study, and they asked us some questions. We're certainly willing to do this. I'm not really sure if the member is listening to what's being said in this House. I suspect he isn't. I also suspect that he's trying to steal some of the thunder from our Liberal friends there, because he obviously lacks originality. These guys over here can't get any facts straight. I mean, they can't get their numbers straight, they can't get their facts straight; now they can't even get their questions straight. They've got to steal other people's questions. How pathetic.

Question re:   Alcohol and drug treatment programs

Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, I have a series of questions for the Minister of Health and Social Services about the government's alcohol and drug program. Let's start with the intensive outpatient program at Alcohol and Drug Services.

At a recent addictions workshop, one of the minister's officials stated that this program has been up and running for three years. Now, the official was asked by one of the participants about the success rate of the program, and he answered that he didn't have any official statistics but he thought it might be around 40 percent.

Mr. Speaker, apparently we have spent over $1.5 million on alcohol and drug programs but we don't keep any records on how well they're working. Can the minister explain why?

Hon. Mr. Sloan: Mr. Speaker, I'm not quite sure where the member gets her figures or her information, because I've got a list here of the number of courses that have been run; I've got a list of the number of participants, and I've got a list of the number of referrals. I've got a list of a whole variety of things. We're treating, on average, 45 cases and 56 youth. I've got information here that suggests we're running quite a variety of programs. Now, I'm not sure where the member's getting her information.

Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, I think that somebody should tell the Minister of Health and Social Services what a success rate is.

Our office has received - and the minister has also received - a number of letters and complaints from people who've had rather unpleasant experiences, both at detox and at alcohol and drug services. I've also heard there are a number of complaints from staff about how the program is run, and we certainly all saw the picket line out front at lunch.

Can the minister tell the House how many complaints have been received by the government, both from clients and from staff, and what action has been taken?

Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, we have received some complaints from folks at detox regarding, quite frankly, some of their treatment by detox staff. We have taken the steps to respond on each one of those complaints. We have followed up individually with every person who has brought a complaint to our attention, and I can say that some of those concerns revolve around personnel matters, and they're being dealt with.

Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, they must be dealt with very well if there was a picket line out front of this building at lunch - from the staff. Now, Mr. Speaker, at that meeting that we talked about earlier, there was a question about facilities for people coming in from the communities for alcohol treatment, and the specific question was that, if a single woman and her children came into town, could they stay at the Sarah Steele Building, or at detox, and the minister's official replied, "No, they could not stay there."

Mr. Speaker, I thought that was why we set up this type of program. Why would these women be refused a place to stay, and where would the minister suggest that she stay?

Hon. Mr. Sloan: We're not really set up for children over at the Sarah Steele Building, but I'm sure that my department can make alternate arrangements for individuals. We are concerned about providing a safe and proper environment for individuals, and I'm not really sure that the member's portraying the problem correctly. If it's a problem of women with children, and someone from the outside, I'm sure that we can make the necessary accommodations.

We have had a number of women participate in our day program, and it becomes easier for them. What I've heard, as a matter of fact, from some women is that it is easier for them, because they do have child care arrangements in town.

Now, the member has raised a valid point about someone coming in from outside the community. We're certainly interested in trying to see what we can do in that regard. If an individual has a concern, I would suggest that they bring it forward to us, and we'll take a look at it.

Question re:  Whitehorse Correctional Centre, working environment

Mr. Cable: I have some questions for the Minister of Justice on the Whitehorse Correctional Centre.

I understand that there is a widespread feeling at the Whitehorse Correctional Centre that the centre's physical environment is to blame for much of the illness experienced by both staff and inmates. A number of the staff apparently had respiratory problems that occur only at work.

Does the minister share the concern of the staff relating to the working environment at the Whitehorse Correctional Centre?

Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Speaker, as the member opposite knows from discussion in this House, the facility at Whitehorse Correctional Centre is a concern. We are working with the staff as well as with other groups and agencies to have the best possible facility we can in what is an ageing correctional centre.

Mr. Cable: Well, let me be more specific. Has the occupation health and safety branch of Workers' Compensation recently raised any concerns relating to the health of the staff and the inmates?

Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Speaker, we have an ongoing working relationship with the occupational health and safety branch as well as with the union at Whitehorse Correctional Centre and the union health and safety committee. I am not aware of a recent concern or letter from the occupational health and safety branch, but I know that we are working with them to make the best of the facility that is there.

Mr. Cable: I think the staff and the inmates deserve more than platitudes. I had thought that the minister, earlier this year, had said that the problems at the jail were being dealt with and that it was going to be a safe and healthy place to work. Yet I hear, as late as this summer anyway, that there are still problems with poor air quality, ventilation, lights and equipment, such as locks, cameras and electrical equipment.

Does the minister say today that as of today there are no problems at the jail relating to poor air quality, ventilation, light and equipment, such as locks, cameras and electrical equipment?

Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Speaker, the problems at Whitehorse Correctional Centre are being dealt with. There is a lot of money in the budget for improvements. There are a number of those improvements that have been made and are continuing to be made during this fiscal year under the present budget.

As I've said to the member before, we're aware of the age of the facility and we're dealing with it by putting money in to make the necessary improvements for it to continue to function.

Question re:  Carpenters union, awarding of building contract

Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Speaker, once again to the Minister of Government Services on the awarding of the government office space contract to the carpenters union and concerning the issue of the level playing field.

Mr. Speaker, in the media article last week, the manager of the carpenters hall stated the union has, "The same tax benefits as any other non-profit group."

This is the crux of the problem: the union has the tax benefits of a non-profit group; the independent contractors bidding on it do not have those tax advantages. Does the minister believe this is a fair and level playing field?

Hon. Mr. Sloan: Mr. Speaker, I'll repeat again that the policy has not changed. I would also suggest that any NGO that does business with the government works within a particular framework. Presumably, an NGO is not there for profit, therefore they're willing to take, perhaps, a lower return on their money, and I would suggest that in this case this is likely what the carpenters have done.

I would also suggest that if the member is suggesting we extrapolate, it's going to make a number of NGOs very unhappy. It's going to make a number of, I suspect, municipalities very unhappy. It's going to make a number of First Nations very unhappy, because if he is saying that only certain people, only certain groups are allowed to do business with the government then he is narrowing the field tremendously.

Mr. Ostashek: I'm not suggesting anything of the sort. I'm trying to find out what this government is doing and how they're going about getting their office space. I'm trying to find out. It's a legitimate question for the opposition to ask the minister, and I want to continue on the financing of this project, Mr. Speaker.

In 1992, the then-NDP government used almost $500,000 from a community development fund to finance a new college residence, which I understand was a make-work project for the carpenters hall. One of the first tasks upon us coming to office in 1992 was to pass a supplementary budget, which included $150,000 of government money to complete the project.

Mr. Speaker, this was a budget that had already passed the NDP Cabinet, but hadn't been acted on because of the upcoming election.

My question to the minister is, can he assure this House that no other government money, such as the CDF or training trust funds, are going to be used to backstop the union bid?

Hon. Mr. Sloan: My colleague from Whitehorse Centre, who has more familiarity with that project than I, advised me that the $150,000 was actually a separate contract and designed to bring over the heating system from the college.

So, once again, I guess ...

Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)

Speaker: Order please.

Hon. Mr. Sloan: ... we're striking out on our information again. Mr. Speaker, I will repeat that all the bids were evaluated in a fair tendering process. It's the same policy the Yukon Party handled. This was the low bid. I have not sat down and asked, "Where did you get your money from?" I wouldn't do that with a private contractor. These people submitted their bid. They will have to have such things as their financing, and all of their licences, in place. I'm presuming that they're going to be doing that. When those things are resolved, there'll be an intent to lease. They'll go ahead with the project, and that will be it.

But it appears that the member only agrees with the low bid policy when it excludes other people. I really have to ask, if the -

Speaker: The minister's time has elapsed.

Mr. Ostashek: Well, Mr. Speaker, the minister's wrong. We understand the project was bid on a two-envelope system. The qualifying bid and the price were considered, and we fully agree with that system. But in a media statement, the manager of the Carpenters Hall stated, "At this point, there are no plans to use the training trust fund as collateral for financing. However, if there is work on a project that fits with the training fund's mandate, the fund would be used." Does the minister think this is fair when he's bidding against independent contractors who would not, in my understanding, have access to that training trust fund?

Hon. Mr. Sloan: Mr. Speaker, private companies have used training trust funds. Private companies use such things as BIP. We've increased the BIP to try and encourage apprenticeship hiring. We've increased the BIP to try and encourage youth hiring. So, there are financial incentives for both private corporations and for, I suppose, organizations such as NGOs and AYC and others, that get into this kind of development. So, I'm really having trouble understanding where the member is going.

Once again, it comes down to the fact that he wants certain people excluded. Now, that's very consistent with the Yukon Party's policy of excluding Yukon contractors on the hospital, but I really think that, in this case, we have to allow people the chance to prosper in this environment. They've talked about skilled trades people; this is a project which I presume will keep skilled trades people here. Of course, they may not be his skilled trades people, but they're here.

Question re:   Kindergarten busing

Ms. Duncan: My question's for the Minister of Education. Yesterday, I asked the minister about kindergarten busing. The issue, Mr. Speaker, is that, in order to save $100,000 on the school busing contract, the minister proposed this spring that noon-hour kindergarten busing be cancelled for seven Whitehorse area schools. That proposal meant that kindergarten would change for these specific schools from half-day to full day, a fundamental change in education programming. That proposal was last spring.

There was a memo in April from department officials. It said, "The purpose of consultations this fall will be how to determine how each school can address the change in kindergarten bus service."

It sounds like the decision was already made.

Yesterday, the minister said that there has not been a decision made to change kindergarten busing for September next year.

Mr. Speaker, the officials say it's gone. The minister says it isn't. Who is right? Will there be a change in kindergarten bus service or won't there?

Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I suppose that I should thank the member for asking the question again so that I can have an opportunity to tell her that what I advised the House yesterday is, in fact, correct.

The assistant deputy minister of public schools has been in correspondence with school councils, and the Whitehorse Busing Committee has been meeting with the Department of Education. On October 14 last month, the Whitehorse Busing Committee asked the department to consider other options in order to continue kindergarten noon-hour busing. At the present time, the Department of Education is considering other options and is working with the Whitehorse Busing Committee.

Ms. Duncan: I am sure the officials appreciate the minister's support. It's essential that this question be absolutely clear for everyone. The minister has just said that there has been no decision made on kindergarten busing for the 1999 school year. That's what I understood the minister to have said.

Now, Mr. Speaker, I'd like to ask the minister to put this issue where it properly belongs. Will she do what should have been done in the first place? Will she and her officials go back to the Busing Committee, the parent volunteers from Yukon school councils, and ask them how best to save the money?

That's something new, I realize, to listen for the NDP to listen to the people, the people who are really involved. The Busing Committee meets tonight, Mr. Speaker. Will the minister ask this committee to make recommendations on these two questions: how can Yukon taxpayers save money on school busing and safely get their children to school, and should those savings come by eliminating kindergarten busing?

Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, Mr. Speaker, the member is standing in the House today and asking the department to do what the department is already doing. She is asking me to do what I am doing and what our government is already doing. Our government - the Department of Education in this case - is working with the Whitehorse Busing Committee and has already asked the Busing Committee to bring forward options on the kindergarten busing.

Ms. Duncan: Well, Mr. Speaker, we've seen the minister reverse decisions by officials before in this House. Is the minister prepared today to commit that she will abide by the decisions put forward - and recommendations put forward - by the busing committee, or is she intending to reverse those as well?

Will she abide by the decision put forward by the busing committee on kindergarten busing?

Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Speaker, I believe that the member is aware that the Whitehorse Busing Committee is a group of the Whitehorse school councils and represents all of the Whitehorse school councils. As the member may already know, the busing service for kindergarten students is inequitable. There are some schools with full-day kindergarten, there are other schools with half-day kindergarten.

The Whitehorse Busing Committee is looking at various options on whether or not to retain noon-hour busing service and how we can identify other possible cost-saving measures in transporting students. I think that's something that we can receive good advice from the Whitehorse School Busing Committee on, and that's why we've asked them to do that.

Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed. We will proceed to Orders of the Day.

Orders of the day

government private members' business

motions other than government motions

Clerk: Motion No. 142, standing in the name of Mr. McRobb.

Motion No. 142

Speaker: It is moved by the Member for Kluane

THAT it is the opinion of this House that the recommendations of the Final Report of the Cabinet Commission on Energy and the subsequent major investments in green power, energy efficiency and applied research for wind generation and the provision of affordable and stable electricity bills will have positive economic and environmental benefits for all Yukon people into the next millennium.

Mr. McRobb: It gives me great pleasure to rise today in support of this energy motion.

Mr. Speaker, many Yukoners are now aware of our government's tremendous commitment to energy. This has been demonstrated in the recent allocation of $16 million to the Yukon Development Corporation for the purpose of electrical rate stabilization, bill reductions, green power initiatives, energy efficiency programs and the installation of a commercial-sized wind turbine.

Never before, Mr. Speaker, has the Yukon government given so generously to the people through the Crown-owned utility. In my recollection, only once before has anything even remotely similar occurred, that being back on April 1, 1997, when the hon. Tony Penikett paid $19.5 million on behalf of the Yukon territorial government toward the purchase of the federally owned Northern Canada Power Commission which, on that day, became the Yukon Energy Corporation.

Sixteen million dollars is a substantial investment, Mr. Speaker, and a substantial injection into the Yukon economy. Ten million dollars will flow directly into the hands of our citizens in the form of power bill subsidies. Indirectly, all people will benefit from lower prices when patronizing Yukon businesses, but will also benefit from this strategic investment.

Mr. Speaker, that means lower cost passed on to consumers in Whitehorse and every community in the territory. More on this shortly, when we explore the rate stabilization fund in more detail.

Action is what Yukoners want, Mr. Speaker, and action is what they're getting; not knee-jerk reaction conjured up in the back rooms of government, but action that is carefully thought out and developed in cooperation with Yukoners through a very respectful public consultation process.

As the former energy commissioner heading up the Cabinet Commission on Energy - or energy commission - I'm especially pleased to have been part of such a worthwhile process.

Much has been proven through the commission's process, Mr. Speaker, and the actions taken so far testify to this proof. This proves our government listens to the people. This proves the importance of public consultation done right. This proves that it's worthwhile to get involved in public processes. This proves our government Cabinet listened to its advisory body, the energy commission. This proves that our investment of time and resources to the energy commission has been very worthwhile. And this proves we take our campaign promises seriously.

Soon Yukoners will enjoy even more returns in the government response to the balance of the 56 recommendations contained within the energy commission's final report toward a comprehensive energy policy.

Perhaps there will be time later to review some of these recommendations, but I want to focus on the action taken so far by way of the major announcement of $16 million invested in the Yukon economy.

Before doing so, I'd like to thank each and every Yukon citizen, business, organization and other levels of government who contributed to the commission's report. More than 1,000 Yukoners took part, Mr. Speaker. Wherever our public meetings were held, whether it was in Old Crow, Mayo, Faro, Teslin, Carcross, Watson Lake, Haines Junction, Destruction Bay, Burwash Landing, Beaver Creek, Dawson City, Carmacks, Pelly Crossing, Keno City or Whitehorse, people found it worthwhile to take part and contribute to the process. Nearly 900 Yukoners took the time to respond to the energy questionnaire. Our energy stakeholders were very interested in our technical meetings and it was not uncommon to have upwards of two dozen people at these workshop-type meetings.

But our consultation didn't stop there, Mr. Speaker. In addition, I travelled to some Yukon communities, such as Faro and Watson Lake, to discuss energy issues and collect feedback for the purposes of developing our recommendations. Several others chose to send their comments in to us.

There were also other public events, such as last year's energy awareness month, which blazed the trail for this year's energy week in what will hopefully become an annual event with several guest speaker presentations and a workshop on community energy management.

Not only did we listen to Yukoners, Mr. Speaker, but we treated them with respect by preparing several discussion papers for them in advance of our meetings, dealing with important topics across the energy spectrum.

Mr. Speaker, in total I believe there are 23 discussion papers, all of which I'd like to table at the end of the day. I'd also like to enter the titles of these papers on the record. There was: Discussion Paper on Electrical Rates and Relief, September 1997; Technical Background Paper on Electrical Rates and Relief, September 1997; Energy Options for the Yukon, March 1998; Green Power Fund, March 1998; Principles of Supply Options for the Yukon, March 1998; Electricity Risk in the Yukon, April 1998; Energy Efficiency for the Yukon, April 1998; Opportunities for Community Energy Management in the Yukon, April 1998; and, Rate Stabilization Fund, April 1998.

There were also four reports on our consultations: Comments from the 1998 Energy Options for the Yukon Questionnaire, June 1998; Report on Community Consultation, June 1998; Results from the 1998 Energy Options for the Yukon Questionnaire, June 1998; and, Summary of Discussions: Energy Policy Working Meetings, June 1998.

In addition, Mr. Speaker, there were also six energy resource papers. They were on the topic areas of wood, coal, wind, hydro, oil and gas, and alternatives.

The magnitude of this information is impressive. Not only has it provided a sound foundation on which to build the recommendations in the commission's final report, not only has this information led to sound decisions in the government response to those recommendations, not only will it lead to further sound action when the balance of the response is released, but this information builds on a sound foundation for knowledge - energy knowledge - which is sure to contribute to sound decisions far into the future, Mr. Speaker. This is further proof that our government has taken a long-term approach to resolving the territory's most pressing, troublesome and complex issues.

A rather simple, but too often ignored, key ingredient to this successful formula is respect: respect for the people, and respect for the process. We showed our respect by respecting the intelligence of Yukoners, by respecting their input and respecting them in our recommendations and in our decisions to those recommendations. Providing them with proper information, proper process and proper opportunity to voice their suggestions - that is respect, Mr. Speaker.

Fortunately, my colleagues and I were assisted by several very capable people from within this government. This included my deputy commissioner and his two staff, the hardworking people from within the energy resources unit of the Department of Economic Development, the tireless efforts of our policy people in the Executive Council Office, our public consultation team, and several others.

You all deserve recognition for the good work you did, and I thank you very much. I'd also like to thank the representatives from both electric utilities who participated and assisted in the process, and I'm speaking of people from both the Yukon Energy Corporation and the Yukon Electrical Company Limited. Similarly, I'd like to thank the members and staff of the Yukon Utilities Board, with whom I met to discuss a regulatory process, and who were represented at some of our working meetings.

Before getting to the meat of my discussion, Mr. Speaker, I want to clarify the role of the commission and my former role as energy commissioner, to try to clear up some of the confusion propagated by members opposite and their keyboard-junkie spin wizards who, in their downstairs lairs, have no conscience about whacking out unfounded news releases that are designed to intentionally mislead the public and conjure up feelings of mistrust, disappointment and failure toward government.

Unfortunately, Mr. Speaker, all too often this counterproductive rhetoric makes its way into the media unchecked. Too many times the stories contain only one source without response from the person victimized. I have many more thoughts on this concern, but will focus today on the energy motion.

The energy commission was a short-term policy-making task force, made up from people within government, funded by monies existing from within government, to develop, through public consultation, a framework for a comprehensive energy policy.

Note the term "policy making", Mr. Speaker. Contrary to political propaganda repeated in the media, the energy commission did not set power rates. That task is the responsibility of the Yukon Utilities Board after due consideration to applications received from the electric utilities. Neither the energy commission nor our government sets power rates.

In addition, neither did we cancel rate relief; we improved it, based on input received through our public processes which involved hundreds of Yukoners.

The commission has now wrapped up, and quite successfully so, Mr. Speaker. Not only did we receive praise from stakeholders, such as the Utilities Consumer Group, but even the Liberal energy critic was magnanimous enough to give us credit. And for the record, I thank him for his benevolence - much more appreciated than the negativity coming from the official opposition.

Let us move on now to discuss some of the exciting actions from the government response to the energy commission final report.

The rate stabilization fund, Mr. Speaker, is the first area I'd like to explore. There are several aspects to this vehicle to decrease power bills for Yukoners and hold them stable for the next four years at least. This program applies to all non-government residential customers in the territory. Regardless of whether they reside in Whitehorse, Carcross, Watson Lake, Dawson City or Old Crow, they're all eligible for the benefits of the program. This program includes business customers and municipalities, but not until the spring when the benefits from the diesel contingency fund expire, as per the instruction of the Yukon Utilities Board.

It's planned that legislation for the rate stabilization fund will be incorporated into legislation next fall and be debated on the floor of this Legislature. I look forward to that discussion as well.

This program is designed to be a long-term, self-financing initiative. It fulfills our government's commitment to provide affordable and stable power to Yukoners.

The rate stabilization fund will stimulate the economy by providing certainty to the investment climate and by putting more money into the pockets of Yukon consumers and businesses.

Let me take a moment, Mr. Speaker, to explain how the program is perceived to work. It's based on consumption on your power bill, and it's designed to apply universally to all residential customers, at this point, and, as I mentioned previously, to all business and municipal customers later on.

It applies to the fixed customer charge, which I believe, Mr. Speaker, is currently $11.90 on your power bill. It also applies to the first 1,000 kilowatt hours per month of consumption. For the winter months, when the use of electricity and bills are highest, typically in October through to March, the fund will have no limit or clawback on it.

The amount of benefit applied at the peak point of 1,000 kilowatt hours per month will start off in the neighbourhood of a $10 benefit per month and increase thereafter, correspondingly, with any future rate increases.

For general service or business customers and municipal customers, it will apply to the first 2,000 kilowatt hours of consumption per month, regardless of total consumption. Now, this financial benefit, Mr. Speaker, will not decrease as it did in the previous rate relief program, which was called a clawback, at which point it resulted in no benefit at all to send a conservation signal. This program will be designed quite differently in that the maximum benefit at 1,000 kilowatt hours per month for residential and 2,000 for business and municipal will remain on the power bill, as will the subsidy to the monthly fixed charge.

There are some major differences between the rate stabilization fund and the old rate relief program. Longevity in design of the program is a major difference, Mr. Speaker. The previous rate relief program was a short-term, stop-gap measure that was intended to last only a short period of time. As mentioned in discussion the other night, the previous government had full intention to terminate this program and would have done so shortly after re-election but, fortunately, Yukoners had a different idea on that.

The program is planned very carefully in consultation with Yukoners and our stakeholders during technical working meetings. It's not a knee-jerk reaction, as it was back in 1993, Mr. Speaker. As I mentioned, it's developed in consultation with several Yukoners, not just insiders, as was the original program.

I recall, Mr. Speaker, as a public advocate a few years ago, writing to the former government leader asking him for some input on design into the previous rate relief program, which they were about to have. They decreased the funding for that program by about half. I wrote to the government leader requesting an opportunity for input into that process, but was refused, Mr. Speaker.

Our government took a completely different approach. We opened up the process; we opened up the doors to the decision-making rooms of government. We produced information, we were fair to our stakeholders, and we laid the cards on the table and developed this new program with their assistance. I'm sure that as a result, Mr. Speaker, we'll stand the test of time.

The design of the program is universal in nature, and will apply fairly across the consumption spectrum. This balances several concerns, such as the potential to discourage energy use through fuel switching.

It also addresses affordability - I know, for example, there were certain sectors of society who felt they were treated unfairly, such as what's typically called "the working poor". These people were typically customers who would consume in the neighbourhood of 1,300 to maybe 2,000 kilowatt hours a month. Perhaps they had electric heating; perhaps they had large families. In any event, the benefit they received under the previous program was very minimal at that point, and this was identified as a concern to us early on in the development of this fund.

We took that into consideration in designing the new fund which, as mentioned, has no clawback point. Every consumer who consumes an amount of electricity over 1,000 kilowatt hours per month will be able to keep the maximum benefit provided under this program, which, as I stated, was $10 in the immediate future, and about $16 starting next spring.

That amount will increase, in parallel to any future rate increases as approved by the Yukon Utilities Board, whether the rate increase is through general rate applications or rate riders. Mr. Speaker, this fund will pick up all future rate increases until at least March in the year 2002.

I mentioned bill switching, Mr. Speaker, as one of the concerns addressed in the design of this program. Let me take a minute to explain that.

As mentioned, one of our stakeholders was the Yukon Electrical Company Limited and, being on the front line of customer service, as they have the majority of customers in the territory, one concern they expressed to us was that customers in the area of the clawback or termination point, which was 1,500 kilowatt hours per month, were seeking other methods to heat their homes or heat hot water in their homes, for instance, and it was feared that if this trend continued it could affect the baseload requirements of the utility to the point where it would have caused rate spiralling because of the way the system works.

Currently, Mr. Speaker, in the situation with the Faro mine closed, we have a significant hydro surplus on the system - maybe not this year, because of poor meteorological conditions. Normally at this time we would have approximately 100 megawatt hours of excess electricity per year, which, at current market rates, is in the neighbourhood of $10 million of electricity.

So, if people started to fuel-switch in order to take advantage of a rate relief or rate stabilization fund program, that would decrease revenues collected by the utility and increase the amount of electricity currently wasted on the system.

Operating as a regulator utility, this would result in higher electricity rates for all other customers. So, in recognition of this concern - and I'd like to thank the representatives from YECL for contributing their time to the process in making this point clear - in recognition of this point, we took that into consideration and decided to do away with the clawback measure in the wintertime.

Let me speak about the seasonal component of the rate stabilization fund, Mr. Speaker. We decided to have two different methods of delivering the benefits of this program. I've elaborated already on the wintertime program, which has no clawback and applies universally to all customers. The summer program is designed differently. Its design is very similar to the previous rate relief program, in that there is a clawback between the 1,000 kilowatt hour point per month and the 1,500 kilowatt hour point per month. So, in the immediate future, Mr. Speaker, come next summer when the maximum benefit is in the neighbourhood of $26, people using 1,000 kilowatt hours will be entitled to that full benefit, but it will reduce with increased consumption to 1,500 kilowatt hours, at which point the benefit will be zero.

It was felt important to introduce this measure for purposes of sending a strong energy conservation signal. One of the concerns we tried to address with this clawback feature in the six months of summer was to avoid paying rate relief to customers with electric heat in the summertime when their total consumption came down and was within the consumption window.

I'll try to elaborate a little bit more about why we particularly targeted electric-heat customers, Mr. Speaker, a little later when I discuss the energy efficiency portion of the government response to our recommendations.

The electric-heat customers, however, won't be left out in the cold in the summer, Mr. Speaker. We will be tailoring existing programs, such as the REMP, which is residential electricity management program, to meet their needs. I believe it's anticipated that thresholds for this program will be lowered to correspond with consumption in the neighbourhood of 1,000 kilowatt hours per month for customers six months of the year, rather than the 1,500 that it is now.

There has been a terrific public response to the REM program. It's encouraging that people are taking advantage of these very worthwhile programs while they exist. We can thank the Yukon Development Corporation and Yukon Housing Corporation, Mr. Speaker, for programs like the REM program.

The rate stabilization fund is, without a doubt, the flagship component of a much broader rate stabilization initiative, which was recommended in the energy commission's final report.

There are many other stabilization initiatives that will be deployed as a result of the rate stabilization initiative, such as connecting more customers to the grid to take up hydro surplus, which was explained just a few moments ago, Mr. Speaker.

Before moving on, I'd like to reflect on the history of the diesel contingency fund, the DCF. This was explained a bit the other night when our witnesses were before this Legislature, Mr. Speaker - the president and the chair of the Yukon Development Corporation.

The reason I want to explore it is to try to clarify some of the confusion around the DCF, as propagated by members of the official opposition, especially those who were in the previous Yukon Party government. To make it clear, Mr. Speaker - and contrary to many, many misleading news releases - the diesel contingency fund was not funded by the Yukon Party. As mentioned in my opening remarks, aside from the $16 million injection through this government's response and aside from Mr. Penikett's $19.5 million to buy NCPC, I'm not aware of any other government injections into the utilities or into the revenue requirement of the utilities that would offset electrical rate costs by Yukon consumers.

Despite that - excuse me, Mr. Speaker, I'm going to have a drink of water.

Despite that fact, Mr. Speaker, the official opposition seems to find great pleasure in taking credit for the diesel contingency fund. As a matter of fact, they tend to even misname it. They call it the rate stabilization fund, and they try to inject the notion to Yukoners that, somehow, the fund we're introducing is some kind of a reincarnation of Yukon Party ghosts from past years. But I can assure you, Mr. Speaker, that is completely false, and I challenge the members opposite to bring forward evidence to prove otherwise.

It's a simple matter of trying to take credit for something they didn't do and trying to take away credit for something we're doing, and that's the typical politics, the confrontation, shown in this Legislature by the members opposite, particularly the members of the official opposition. I'm getting tired of it, Mr. Speaker, and maybe it's time for me to start speaking up a little bit more on this and bringing the truth out in this Legislature about the dirty politics practised by those members opposite.

Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)

Mr. McRobb: Mr. Speaker, the former government leader says I don't even know what I'm talking about. Well, maybe he would like to maybe show some of his courage outside the Legislature and engage in a public debate on energy with me sometime.

Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)

Mr. McRobb: "Any day," he says. I accept that invite - any day.

Some Hon. Members: (Inaudible)

Speaker: Order please. Order.

Mr. McRobb: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The energy minister reminds me of the fact that the members of the official opposition chose not to ask questions of the energy commissioner during Question Period. They also chose not to engage in debate when there was the commissioner's statement. Instead, they chose to remain sitting in their chairs while their spin wizards downstairs cranked out those news releases as if the typewriters could speak for them, as if the typewriters could somehow replace the courage they were lacking. They were silent, shamefully silent, shamefully silent.

You call that recognizing and representing the interests of Yukoners, Mr. Speaker? I say not. They were scared to put their concerns on the floor of this Legislature in a process that could be responded to.

Instead, they chose to crank out the news releases, get them out the door, knowing that, in some cases, the media would simply repeat them, and knowing that, in most cases, nearly all cases, Mr. Speaker, when the attack was launched on me personally, I chose to stick with the work of the energy commission and not be detracted from the goal of developing the framework for a comprehensive energy policy for the Yukon, not be detracted from that, because I knew that the results of my hard work and the hard work of all others who were in this energy commission would benefit Yukon people, and that's the legacy we would leave, Mr. Speaker, not a few letters to the editor, not a few clips on the radio. We stuck to what's important, and it's a benefit to people in this territory.

Mr. Speaker, the former government leader is over there chuckling to himself, and his face is red, and it's like he's at a loss for words, but I know he'll have something to say, because he always has something to say, no matter whether there is intelligent content or any factual content - those points don't seem to detract from what he has to say. I'll be looking forward to responding to what he has to say, because I'll be here in my chair, and I'll be taking notes, and I certainly hope to have the opportunity to respond to his rhetoric for a change.

I'd like to move now to discuss the green power fund - to which our government has contributed $3 million - for the benefit of some of the people listening or some of the readers of Hansard, and particularly the former government leader, who may not be aware of what green power is.

I'd like to read the first couple of paragraphs from our discussion paper on the green power fund. "Green power is electricity generated from renewable energy sources that have little or no environmental impact on air or water. Renewable energy sources are constantly replenished by the earth's natural processes. While large hydroelectric projects are based on a renewable resource, they have a more complex set of environmental impacts and are typically excluded from this type of initiative.

"For the purposes of a green power fund, green power is clean, renewable power that is generated by harnessing the energy of renewable resources, such as the sun, wind and flowing rivers. Green power also includes the use of heat found deep within the earth's core -

Some Hon. Member: Point of order.

Point of order

Speaker: Point of order.

Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Speaker, I believe Standing Orders say that a document's not supposed to be read in debate verbatim. It can be referred to, and paraphrased. I can remember when we stopped the lone member of the Liberal Party from reading a phone book into the records in debate one day.

Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)

Speaker: Order please. Order.

Mr. McRobb: I'd like to comment on that. If we eliminated reading from this Legislature, Mr. Speaker, our Question Periods would be silent, because they wouldn't know their questions.

Mr. Speaker, I'm clearly - for the benefit of Hansard and other people listening - I'm trying to explain what green power is here by quoting from this reference.

Speaker's ruling

Speaker: Order please.

When a member rises to speak to a point of order, I would remind them that the Chair would be looking for advice as to which rule has or has not been broken. It does not help the Chair when a member simply states that there is or there is not a point of order. When that is done, it sounds like members are giving the Chair direction rather than advice.

On the point of order raised by the leader of the official opposition, notation 496 in Beauchesne states: "A member may read extracts from documents, books or other printed publications as part of his speech provided that in so doing, no rules are infringed. A speech should not, however, consist only of a single long quotation or a series of quotations joined together with a few original sentences." The Chair would direct that while quotations from documents are in order, they must be short and to the point.

The Member for Kluane.

Mr. McRobb: Thank you very much for that ruling, Mr. Speaker, and where was I before I was so rudely interrupted?

Oh, here I was. I was explaining what, essentially, was geothermal energy. This was part of the definition of what green power is. It also includes converting the energy stored in plant matter, which is biomass, and capturing the methane gas - not from the member opposite - that otherwise escapes from our landfills and contributes to global climate change. Efficient technologies, such as fuel cells, can also be considered clean power sources because they are able to operate under a variety of fuel sources and emit minimal levels of pollution. This description is from page 1 of the green power fund and, as I mentioned, I think it's probably heard for the first time by the members opposite, particularly the former government leader who was bent on coal and had no time for anything else, despite the rhetoric.

I recall, I think it was November 1995, Mr. Speaker, when the former Minister of Economic Development came out with his top 10 greenhouse gas reduction list. On that list, there was a four-megawatt wind farm. Well, I can recall a discussion with the president of Boreal Alternate Energy Research, and somehow that press release lifted his hopes that there would be a wind farm in the Yukon, but I assured him that that top 10 list was merely a public relations ploy to really distract public attention away from their true agenda, which was the coal plant.

I believe that none of the points in that top 10 list were ever implemented by the previous government, despite the rhetoric they chose to repeat over and over again.

The green power fund - or green power program, as it may be called - is envisioned to be the centrepiece of the green power initiative, much the same as the rate stabilization fund is to the rate stabilization initiative.

The green power fund, or program, will be developed in further consultation with stakeholders. This could overcome one of the long-standing problems in the territory, and that is the ability of green power sources to compete with diesel generation.

I would like to talk a little bit about that, Mr. Speaker, because of previous personal experiences in that type of a situation.

The territory reviewed some options for hydro sources back in the fall of 1992 in a process that was called the Yukon Utilities Board 1992 YEC/YECL capital hearing. In the extensive documents that were tabled, there were four small hydro projects. I believe they were located at Moon River, Morley River, Lapie Canyon and Drury Creek, and each one of these ranged from a couple of megawatts - I think the largest was about, four or five megawatts.

In the comparison, the threshold that would have to be met in order for those projects to receive further clearance by the regulator, the Yukon Utilities Board, was referred to as the diesel yardstick, or the cost threshold of diesel generation, which was capitalized to approximately 15 cents per kilowatt hour at the time.

So, when these projects were compared, most of them didn't compare very favourably with the cost of 15 cents per kilowatt hour, Mr. Speaker. Most of them, if I recall, were slightly over that, and that gave a basis for the board to reject those options.

In fairness to the board, there was also a significant other option. That was called "investment risk", which I'll get to a little later on in this discussion when I refer to the coal-plant mentality exhibited by the former government, Mr. Speaker, which was completely void of any consideration of investment risk.

The investment risk at the time was due to the possible collapse of the Faro mine, which actually did happen in December, and the hearing was held near the end of October. So, in fact, the concerns of the board did prove to be true.

It was a wise decision not to proceed with any further capital options at the time, because the territory, in the absence of this large industrial customer, would have a major hydro surplus, so adding any more energy to the system would only increase that surplus.

Of course, Mr. Speaker, any added costs in the system are shared by all existing customers, which, in the case of the absence of a major industrial customer such as the Faro mine, would be focused to a greater extent on the remaining customers. I believe that some of the information brought out during the hearing was to the effect that in a downturned economy, rate spiralling was a double whammy and very careful consideration of the impacts of any decision would have to meet the test of the economic implications for all Yukoners in such a downturn, Mr. Speaker.

Well, as I understand how this fund - or green power program - is envisioned at this time, it's to help make the difference in the comparison to the diesel yardstick. And if that difference can be met, as it is in this case through government funds, then ratepayers are spared the added cost of making green power choices. Mr. Speaker, we all know the benefits of green power versus non-green power - although, Mr. Speaker, looking across at the puzzlement of the former government leader, perhaps I should explain this a little bit.

By choosing green power sources over other sources like coal or diesel generation, Mr. Speaker, there are many positive environmental benefits, such as cleaner air. In the case of a coal plant, there are other forms of environmental impact, such as thermal pollution used in the cooling systems; disposing of the slag waste and, of course, in the mining of the coal - which, from what I understand, amounts to about the same amount of carbon dioxide emissions as in the actual burning of the coal itself, in addition to the "nox and sox" emissions - the toxic emissions - from burning carbon-based fuels, whether it's coal or diesel.

So, by promoting green power, Mr. Speaker, we're avoiding the environmental impacts of traditional types of power supply.

In addition, there's a benefit to the Yukon economy, in t the jobs that are produced here. Instead of exporting outside the money to pay for imported petroleum products, such as diesel fuel - the investments tend to be much smaller than a massive coal plant and, quite often, can be handled with local investors, thereby avoiding the need to finance large capital projects from outside the territory.

These all contribute to local economic growth and, for these reasons, promoting green power is very attractive to the territory and will help sustain the Yukon's economy, albeit not in large proportions, but as a contributing factor and as an aid to diversifying the economy, these benefits can be very long-lasting.

The green power fund responds to comments and suggestions we heard from several Yukoners. By proceeding with the green power fund, it demonstrates, once again, that our government listens to the people, despite the rhetoric from members opposite that we don't listen. Mr. Speaker, we do listen.

As mentioned previously, our stakeholders were treated very fairly. Good information was made available in advance of our meetings. In this particular case, on the green power fund discussion paper, I found it to be very helpful, and I heard some very positive comments from our stakeholders and other Yukoners about the paper.

As mentioned, we treated the stakeholders fairly during the meetings - certainly, something that was lacking in my time as a public advocate involved in government-sponsored meetings. I found them to be very confrontational, inadequate, and I had a sense of feeling, as did nearly everyone, that we were all wasting our time because the decisions had already been made in the back rooms of government.

Well, I know how that feels, and I won't soon forget that feeling. That is why I used what influence I had to ensure that our public consultation process was meaningful and respectful to all our participants.

And it has paid off, Mr. Speaker. This is an example of how public consultation, done right, can really work and can really benefit all Yukoners, even though some of them, like the members opposite, failed to contribute to the process. They failed to hold me as energy commissioner accountable in this Legislature by failing to rise during opportunities in the process, such as on commissioner's statements or asking questions during Question Period. They failed on those counts, but aside from that lost scrutiny, I am confident our product is a very excellent one and will withstand the test of time.

Much of the input received from our stakeholders is included in the Cabinet Commission on Energy's final report in the "What we heard" chapters, which are in shaded print, Mr. Speaker, to separate them from the explanation and recommendation parts of the report.

In reading the report, Mr. Speaker, a person can quickly discover that no attempt was made to remove comments that were critical of government, that were skeptical of the commission, that were doubtful of the process. No attempt was made to edit that type of input. To the contrary, we felt it would benefit the process to include those comments in the report and, in cases where those comments weren't reflected in our recommendations, we tried to give reasons to explain why, because in nearly every case there is a very good reason or good reasons that explained why.

The field of energy, Mr. Speaker, as many people in the territory know, is a very complex one. There are several very complex areas, such as rate setting, regulation, power supply. Those are a few, and each one of them can consume a lot of time just developing a basic understanding.

As mentioned, the discussion papers we've produced will provide a benefit to Yukoners in the future. It provides a basis on which to build a strong foundation for energy knowledge. When I started at this, back in the fall of 1990, Mr. Speaker, I certainly would have appreciated having access to this type of information. It would have given a big head start. I know, from previous examples, there are people in the territory, particularly students in Yukon College, who might want to do a thesis on energy, for example, that this information will prove very helpful to. Certainly, building a future knowledge is one of the reasons we decided to take the route of developing several discussion papers.

The green power initiative will lead to the reduced use of diesel fuel for generating electricity in the territory. It will displace the need for diesel generators and reduce the requirement for diesel generation by replacing them with renewable environmentally friendly power.

Mr. Speaker, I'd like to respond to another allegation from the official opposition that somehow the current NDP government favours diesel generation and is somehow notorious for diesel generation. I'd like to point out that the highest ever diesel-use year in the territory was back a few years ago when the Yukon Party was in government.

The reasons for the exceptionally high diesel use were a combination of two or three factors. Among these factors is their failure to develop non-diesel sources of power, and I say "failure" as if there was some responsibility on their part to do so, because I remember the four-year plan tabled by the Yukon Party government during the 1992 election campaign. It clearly stated: "We will reduce diesel use."

Did they, Mr. Speaker? No. A couple of years later, the highest ever diesel-use year on record in the territory. Yet they have the audacity to finger point at us. Perhaps they're unaware of the old adage that whenever you point a finger, there are three pointing back at you, and certainly in this case, that old adage is certainly appropriate.

Not only did they ring up the diesel bill - I believe it was in excess of $12 million that year - but they left a diesel legacy in the territory because there was a complete lack of other options to displace diesel on the table when we came to power. Instead, we were left in the unfortunate situation of having our only winter storage facility, which is at Aishihik Lake, in a rather depleted scenario.

Mr. Speaker, this removed any reasonable capacity for flexibility in meeting the territory's energy needs. This was a direct consequence of the failure of the previous government to develop any other sources of power, or to at least get anything moving in that direction. They did focus on one area, however, and they did make some progress in one area, but it turned out to be completely futile as nothing was ever done and it's unlikely that anything will be done unless there is a major change in the set of circumstances that govern the types of energy decisions of a major capacity in this territory.

The Yukon Party had, and probably still does have, Mr. Speaker, a mentality that's called the "build-it-and-they-will-come mentality". This mentality is borne out especially in the field of energy, but it's also borne out in other capacities of the economy, such as wanting to build the railroad to Carmacks, wanting to develop expensive roads into the Casino mine, which never, ever happened. The very expensive megaprojects in infrastructure that are very unlikely to ever come to fruition were the focus of their short time in government.

The fallacy, of course, in adopting such an approach, Mr. Speaker, is the investment risk and the punishment that must be forced upon all remaining Yukon taxpayers or, in the case of energy, ratepayers.

The danger of this short-term, unsustainable approach to infrastructure development was made clear in the commission's review of investment risk associated with major capital projects.

Mr. Speaker, had the former government leader been successful in building his 40-megawatt coal plant, it would have resulted in rate increases in excess of 100 percent. That's more than doubling the power bills of every person, every business, every industry, regardless of location in the territory. Whether they're in Whitehorse, Beaver Creek, Watson Lake, Dawson City or Old Crow, everybody would be paying now for a big mothballed eyesore along the highway near Braeburn.

I'll give the opposition energy critic, Mr. Speaker, the opportunity to scrutinize these comments by providing a few figures, and in due course I hope to have the opportunity this afternoon to respond to his scrutiny.

The coal plant was estimated to cost upwards to $300 million, Mr. Speaker. In addition, if it were ever in operation, there would be significant costs associated with operation and maintenance. Well, simple arithmetic on this reveals that the capital cost recovery - which is typically over 30 years for such a major plant - would be $10 million per year.

Even more significant, Mr. Speaker, would be the rate of return or profit and the interest on the debt servicing, which in round figures would be about $25 million per year. That adds up to about $35-million a year, which is what the total revenue requirements of both electric companies are currently.

In case the former government leader isn't aware, the total revenue requirement is the total amount of revenue collected through electricity bills in each year. Typically, when the Faro mine was operating, it would be $50 million a year. Without the mine, it's $35 million a year. As well, Mr. Speaker, to collect the $35 million shortfall in the energy cost equation would require a doubling of the component of that equation that is your power bill.

Power bills would have doubled had the coal plant been built. My analysis excludes several additional costs that would serve to increase the tremendous rate impact caused from such a short-sighted decision. Additional costs would include insurance, security, taxes, maintenance, mothballing costs, any residual contracts, et cetera. Mr. Speaker, that type of an approach was something, very early on in the process, we had the foresight to avoid. We saw the short-sightedness in it. We wanted to represent Yukoners in a responsible way.

We chose not to go the route of short-term gain for long-term pain. Now, sometimes, Mr. Speaker, to speak quite honestly, it's very tempting for politicians to take that route because, when you get out the charts, employment figures and everything else, everything goes up. Can you imagine the amount of activity of developing a coal mine and a great big thermal plant? Well, in a small economy like this territory, that would be a significant short-term influence. In fact, it's very nearly comparable to the total annual operating budget of the Yukon government - $300 million versus about $450 million. It would have a significant impact. But a responsible government must avoid those types of temptations, regardless of the consequences.

We know the opposition will be holding the charts up, and we all know how good it was back in 1996, when the Faro mine was running. Unfortunately, it was barely a month later when things started to turn down, due to many reasons beyond our control. Regardless, we chose to refrain from that mega-project mentality - the megaproject mentality that would have resulted in a big, white elephant - some people may call it a black elephant - an albino, up on the highway, that would be completely useless to Yukoners in the current state of the energy grid. The plant would be shut down. It would prove to be useless. I can just imagine what the opposition energy critic would be saying in this Legislature, had his government been re-elected, in defence of that decision. But there is no defence. One must not ignore the downside risk, and that's why we developed a discussion paper on investment risk - to get these factors out on the table so they can be considered very fairly when making very important decisions with long-lasting effects.

We're not prepared to sell out the interests of Yukoners. Whether they're taxpayers or ratepayers, we want to protect their interests and represent them with responsible government. We have the ability to refrain from short-term decisions that might give us a little spike on the charts.

We can handle that. What's more important to us is listening to Yukoners and making responsible, long-term decisions. As former energy commissioner, Mr. Speaker, I am proud to stand here today and say how well our government has managed to achieve those laudable goals.

I'd like to turn now, Mr. Speaker, to the area of energy efficiency. This area is of great interest to a lot of Yukoners, particularly those in the green community, but as there is with many decisions related to energy, they all have economic effect. In the case of energy conservation, there's a positive economic effect when it can lead to reduced diesel use. Primarily in the current state of the electrical grid, the best target for energy conservation is in the diesel communities. These are communities not located on the Whitehorse-Aishihik-Faro grid, or WAF grid. These communities include Dawson City, Stewart Crossing, Pelly Crossing, Beaver Creek, Destruction Bay, Burwash Landing and Watson Lake. These communities are served entirely through diesel generation, so any reduction in diesel generation will save at least 10 cents per kilowatt hour for diesel fuel, plus deferred capitalization on the need to replace the generators, plus any hidden subsidies on the system. In the case of Old Crow, your community, Mr. Speaker, I believe the true cost of power is about triple what people there are being charged.

So, in that case in particular, Mr. Speaker, if diesel generation can be reduced, there would be significant savings in excess of 30 cents a kilowatt hour. This saving contributes to the economics of energy conservation and proves its viability. Now, there are many different types of programs and mechanisms that are available for energy conservation, which is sometimes called demand-side management. These can range from power-saving light bulbs to block heater cords that are on timers, and so on, for automobiles. They can range to refrigerator replacement programs, such as is currently deployed in British Columbia. They can range to programs to replace electric baseboard heating.

Mr. Speaker, whatever it takes to reduce consumption, there are a range of mechanisms to achieve that. Now, the feasibility of these different options is dependent on each specific situation. I know that, at the same Utilities Board hearing in 1992, demand-side management, or DSM, was explored and, at that time, only a few options received approval of the regulator, while other options were on the back burner for the future, depending on the situation.

The reduced costs of diesel generation, Mr. Speaker, again help to retain money in the territory's economy.

We're a small economy, Mr. Speaker, let's not make any mistake about it. Every dollar we can retain here is going to benefit somebody, sooner or later. So in the case of sending thousands of dollars outside for diesel fuel, it can have a very positive effect, especially in some of the smaller communities.

Another major advantage of conservation is in the avoided capital costs required for new power supply. If reduced power demand can result in deferred replacements, Mr. Speaker, this will result in lower costs for areas served by those replacements. It must be noted, Mr. Speaker, that those costs are shared by all Yukoners. For example, if the diesel generator in Old Crow can be delayed from replacement for a few years, due to energy conservation, then people paying power bills in Whitehorse will be saving costs as a result, because those types of costs are shared by everybody in the territory.

Earlier on, I referred to the targeting of customers with electric heat, and I think this is an appropriate time to just explore that for a moment. I'm going from memory here.

Electric heat is undesirable, Mr. Speaker, mainly because of the energy capacity required to deliver the electricity for that type of heating service. We all know, Mr. Speaker, that our cold winter days require additional heat to keep our homes warm. During those periods, homes with electric heat will use a considerable amount of electricity.

When looking at the Yukon system as a whole, Mr. Speaker, at least on the WAF grid, we're talking in terms of 50 megawatts with the Faro mine off and something like 80 megawatt hours - pardon me, not hours, but 80 megawatts with the Faro mine on to meet the demand at any given point in time.

Mr. Speaker, you might say, well, we have at least 80 megawatts of power. In fact, in the last annual report of the Development Corporation, you'll find that it's over 100. But, Mr. Speaker, what it doesn't say is that there's a reserve requirement ordered by the Yukon Utilities Board that requires an excess capacity for reasons of contingency.

Last year's fire certainly showed how important it is to have some backup energy available in case it's needed. We certainly want to avoid the type of situation they'll be experiencing in Alberta this winter, Mr. Speaker, where sections of the grid will be disconnected due to a capacity shortfall, a result of the recent increase in the economy in Alberta.

The cost of new supply - and now we're getting to the crux of the matter for electric-heat customers - is, I recall, somewhere in the neighbourhood of $20,000 per household served - $20,000, Mr. Speaker. Well, there are probably a few people listening who would want to take the $20,000 and do away with their electric heat, but it doesn't quite work that way.

When supply options are built, they're certainly built for more than one household in mind and are built for several thousand, but that's the cost. It's in the neighbourhood of $20,000. So, this capacity shortfall, if it can be delayed, would result in a significant benefit to deferred costs, which will save increased costs, which everyone would have to pay. And that's the principle behind energy conservation, Mr. Speaker: the ability to defer the costs of new energy generation.

There is also an environmental component and knowing that each consumer can take pride in knowing they are living within their means at a responsible rate and doing their part for the environment.

While we're on the topic of capacity, Mr. Speaker, I'd like to talk a little bit about the Whitehorse/Aishihik/Faro grid - or WAF grid - because the other night when the witnesses were before this House, I detected some confusion on the part of the members opposite. The confusion seemed to result around the issue of Aishihik Lake and the decision by our government to not use the bottom two feet in the licence range. It was clearly explained twice, I believe, by the witnesses that, had our government not taken that action two years ago, that water would be gone today.

I see the Member for Porter Creek North chuckling over there, and now he's grabbed his pen and he's writing this down. So, I know I'll have the opportunity to respond to whatever negativity he's conjuring up now in, hopefully, about an hour and a half.

I'll challenge the member to bring forward any information that he has that he feels would disprove my statement, and I will eagerly respond to any such evidence. The truth is that the water would have been gone, the lake reservoir would be bumping up against the bottom limit later on this winter, and they would not be able to draw down the lake any further, according to the restrictions of the water licence.

In terms of lake elevations, the lake is still very low. Anyone visiting the lake last summer, flying over it or fishing on it, would have noticed that it is several feet below its natural levels. In fact, it rose only about a foot last summer from the low point in the spring, and the low point in the spring was only about a foot or so above the two-foot mark that we protected.

Simple mathematics - and I'll do them for the members opposite - are that there are about two feet of water available in the lake for power generation between now and the spring turnaround, which typically happens in mid-April or early May. Well, Mr. Speaker, because of the current situation - the dryness and the unavailability of Whitehorse units 1, 2 and 3, and so on - there may be a necessity to use some diesel later on this winter that could have been filled by water from the lake, but the lake would have had no water to contribute had we not saved the bottom two feet.

If the members need a diagram or graph, I'll be pleased to provide it. I can table some water level records, if they like, to back it up. But I'd appreciate if they'd expand their awareness of the situation to recognize these points and to refrain from issuing those negative news releases - that somehow, if the water could be used, power rates will go down, that somehow that decision is made for the personal benefit of the Member for Kluane, that somehow only the Member for Kluane cares about the lake. Mr. Speaker, those allegations are completely false, as is nearly every allegation coming from the Yukon Party's side, not only on energy, but practically on every other topic area of this government - the Old Crow school, contracting out, local hire, forest policy, the DAP process. The list goes on and on. It's all the same kettle of fish, and the fish used by the Yukon Party, in particular, happen to be red herrings, because there's no truth to these types of allegations at all.

It's too bad, Mr. Speaker, the opposition parties didn't decide to make a worthwhile contribution to the process the energy commission used to develop its final report. It's too bad they used the process of writing news releases to criticize us, instead of being more constructive. It's too bad they tried to give the commission, our government and myself a black eye publicly.

Instead of representing the interests of their constituents, instead of representing the benefits of all Yukoners, of future Yukoners, and the future Yukon, they chose to go for the immediate splash of a news release and a headline - much in the same way as the greater school of thought of the coal plant and the immediate blip on the employment and economic activity charts, to the detriment of a sustainable economy, and to the detriment of all future ratepayers and taxpayers, in a situation like we have now. The big white elephant along the highway would have been a real eyesore and a real embarrassment had it gone ahead and been built.

Mr. Speaker, I'm going to wrap up very shortly, because I'm very interested to hear what the leader of the official opposition has to say. I'll be taking some notes, and I'll be looking forward to responding - I'll gladly respond. And if I don't get a chance to respond, I know there'll be another day, and another way, in which the truth can come out, just like there was today. Even though it took two years - two long years - of getting hit by the negativity, getting hit by the meanness, getting hit by the unfounded press releases and the political attacks. Just as I have the opportunity today to respond, Mr. Speaker, I'll look forward to the next opportunity.

Thank you very much.

Mr. Ostashek: Well, well, well, so many things to say and so little time to say them in. I could never accomplish it in an hour and a half, Mr. Speaker. I could never begin to accomplish it in an hour and a half.

There must be one segment of the Yukon society that is really smiling since this government came to power, because it's probably the only sector of society that's making any money. And I would say that it would have to be the chiropractors who are working on these guys' arms that they're throwing out of joint by patting themselves on the back because nobody else will pat them on the back.

It's unfortunate that they are so sensitive that they don't get any praise from any sector of society. They don't get any praise from society -

Some Hon. Members: (Inaudible)

Speaker: Order please. Order.

Mr. Ostashek: - so they have to praise themselves. And I would say to the Member for Kluane, he ought to be very, very careful when he gets up to speak in this Legislature because, when he opens his mouth to speak, he reinforces his constituents' and other Yukoners' worst fears: that he knows precious little of what he's talking about. He either doesn't want to know or he is very naive in thinking that he has a simplistic solution to the energy needs of the territory.

But his statements today, Mr. Speaker, ought not to have surprised me. They ought not to have surprised me at all because this statement is consistent with a motion he put on the Order Paper last year, patting himself on the back - I think it was for the Shakwak project - and went on the public record as saying that we ought not to allow exploration because they might find a mine.

They might find a mine, then what would we do? We would have to put Yukoners to work. We would have created some jobs. There would have been money coming in taxes to fill the government's coffers. God, we wouldn't want that. We can't let people explore because they might find an ore body. That's the mentality that we're dealing with, Mr. Speaker, and it's very, very sad.

Mr. Speaker, I suggest to the Member for Kluane that he's a one-issue man, one issue: the water levels in Aishihik Lake. When the previous administration decided to restructure how the Utilities Board went about holding public hearings - and we had stakeholders meetings - the Member for Kluane wouldn't participate because it was going to take his soapbox away - a paid soapbox, I may say, Mr. Speaker, to intervene on every issue that the Energy Corporation put forward.

He was incensed. He was incensed. How dare they do that. How dare they reduce the costs to the power consumers by having a negotiated rate agreement rather than going to a trial like he wanted - his one day in the sun, his one day in the sun each rate application.

So, then he decided to run for politics and, with the help of the Liberal Party, was successful in being elected, but now his constituents assure me that it won't happen again two years from now. So, we will not have to listen to that tirade over there with very little thought going into it.

Mr. Speaker, the Member for Kluane tries to pat the energy commission on the back. Well, I think he's premature, very premature, because the energy commission has accomplished precious little at a very great cost to the taxpayers of the Yukon.

It's what we said from day one, and it has been reinforced by a rearranging of the deck chairs on the Titanic with the recommendations that are being put forward by the energy commission. The energy commission, in the recommendations that are just being recycled from a previous NDP government - all the information was available. They didn't need to go out and hold public hearings again. They didn't need to go out and buy private sector endorsements by giving them a little bit of money to participate. They didn't need to do that. All of the information was already there. All they needed to do was act on it.

Mr. Speaker, the Member for Kluane says that we didn't add one kilowatt of power other than diesel. My, we've got short memories. We can go back to 1987 when an NDP government took it over, and there hasn't been any power added except diesel.

We would have done something about it. We were well on the road to doing something about it, Mr. Speaker, but there are many, many issues that I have to deal with today. I'm trying to get some of the contradictions that that member put on the floor of this Legislature.

On one hand, he says the coal plant was bad. He inflates the price of it three-fold to make it look bad. That tells me that he didn't even read the report.

He goes on to say that we should reduce the amount of diesel fuel we burn, but at the same time - back to the one-issue man who wants to control the water levels in Aishihik Lake - they passed an OIC not to draw down the last two feet of their licensing range but to burn diesel fuel instead - in excess of $5 million of extra diesel fuel last winter and CO2 emissions from a government that thinks they're environmentally friendly.

Those are contradictions.

He say, "Green power will create Yukon jobs." He's right, but so would any energy source that we develop in the Yukon. And, I daresay, there are other energy sources that could be developed that would create far more jobs.

I don't have anything against green power. We should utilize it to the best of our ability - but at what premium? I believe that until we get into a situation where we have competitive utilities, where people can make real choices about who supplies them with power, green power is going to do very, very little to reduce the overall cost of power to consumers in the Yukon. In fact, it may add to the cost except, as the Member for Kluane pointed out, in isolated communities where, if they could utilize wind to reduce some of the diesel fuel they're burning, they may be able to have some savings.

The fundamental premise that they've done a good job by retrenching, by not doing anything, by freezing everything for four years and throwing the problem into the lap of a new government coming in is morally wrong and is not being truthful with the Yukon public.

Mr. Speaker, there is only one, simple way we can solve Yukon's power needs and the price we're paying for power. There is only one way, with two parameters to it. One, we need to have a bigger baseload. Two, we need to find a cheaper source of energy - not a more expensive source of energy; we need to find a cheaper source of energy.

Mr. Speaker, the member can go on and on and on about all the great things he's done. He hasn't convinced me, he hasn't convinced Yukoners, and Yukoners are still waiting for something concrete that they can sink their teeth into, other than saying, "We're going to solve our power problems by conserving energy."

Well, Mr. Speaker, I, for one, cannot figure out how we're being environmentally friendly if we're paying people to get off electric heat and asking them to burn propane or diesel fuel. That just doesn't make sense to me. Or wood, which causes pollution as well. There is no logic in that argument, none whatsoever. In fact, I suggest to you, Mr. Speaker, that we would be doing more environmental damage.

There's no doubt that this government has boxed themselves into a corner when it comes to power. Why? Well, first of all, they let the economy go down the tube. We don't need any power now and, until some government, some day in the future - because it isn't going to happen under this administration, that's clear to see - comes out with a policy and takes the responsibility that they are there to provide that power without all the upfront costs going to somebody who wants to come in and invest their dollars in the Yukon, we are going to be in serious trouble.

Some Hon. Member: Point of order.

Point of order

Speaker: Point of order.

Mr. Cable: I don't believe we have a quorum in the House.

Mr. McRobb: Mr. Speaker, on the point of order.

Speaker: On the point of order.

Mr. McRobb: I believe the lack of people in the House is due to the content of the speech from the leader of the official opposition.

Speaker's ruling

Speaker: There is no point of order.

Quorum count

Speaker: Order please. According to Standing Order 3(2), if at any time during the sitting of the Assembly the Speaker's attention is drawn to the fact that there does not appear to be a quorum, the Speaker will cause the bells to ring for four minutes and then do a count.


Speaker: I've shut off the bells and I will do a count.

There are 17 members present. A quorum is present. We will now continue debate.

Mr. Ostashek: I think members opposite ought to thank the Member for Riverside. He was so concerned that they would miss some very important points that were being made in this ...

Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)

Speaker: Order please.

Mr. Ostashek: ... they should have been here to listen to them. I thank him for that. I really forget where I was, Mr. Speaker, but it doesn't matter, because I can -

Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)

Mr. Ostashek: Shall I start -

Speaker: Order. Order.

Mr. Ostashek: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. We heard the Member for Faro. Well, we'll get to him in a little while. We don't need to worry about it.

I have a whole lot of areas I want to go through this afternoon on the comments made by the Member for Kluane. I want to go back to a letter he wrote to the editor back when the NDP was in power yet. Let's see if his thoughts are the same today as they were then.

I want to talk a little bit about what we ferreted out from the president and the chair of Energy Corporation in the two hours the other night, which was basically to add a lot of weight to the positions that we've been putting forward in public, that power rates today under the NDP government are higher than they were under a Yukon Party government.

Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)

Mr. Ostashek: We hear the kibitzing from the Member for Faro about the Faro mine shutdown. Well, I'll get to that when I get to that part of the presentation.

There are some things that the Member for Kluane said that I really take exception to and one of them is the $300 million for the coal plant, because that simply is not true. That simply is not true.

Members opposite are very selective about what figure they use to enhance their arguments. The fact remains, Mr. Speaker, a 20-megawatt coal plant was going to cost somewhere in the neighbourhood of $75 million, not $300 million as was suggested by the Member for Kluane. It's just ridiculous that they haven't got any good defence for their positions so they have to inflate figures to make their arguments. It's just totally ridiculous.

He said the coal plant would have been an eyesore now and he said had this Yukon Party government been re-elected and went ahead with it, it would've really been devastation for Yukoners. Well, I would suggest to the Member for Kluane that, had the Yukon Party been re-elected, the economy of the Yukon would have been a vibrant economy and would've kept going up, and not going down as it is under an NDP administration. We had one of the healthiest economies the Yukon has ever enjoyed in 1996.

Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)

Mr. Ostashek: The Member for Faro says, "You didn't have the mine shut down." Yes, we did. We had it shut down in 1992.

We had a shutdown in 1992, but we didn't put all our eggs in one basket, like the members opposite - on the Faro mine. We went out and attracted investment to the Yukon. We were very successful at it - and we weren't exporting BST applications to Bolivia, or wherever it is. We weren't exporting our miners to Chile, Mr. Speaker - we were putting people to work in the Yukon, and we were very, very successful at it.

There is just so much information put out by the Member for Kluane that he cannot substantiate. I have to be careful of the verbiage I use here, because I'm very incensed by some of the information that he put out. It certainly is not accurate.

He talks about the rate relief fund, and what a great job they've done in providing rate relief to Yukoners, and how those bad people in the Yukon Party were going to kill rate relief. Oh, he knows that the statements made by this party, on the public record - if he chose to look at them - say quite the opposite. I said in this Legislature - it's recorded in Hansard, if the member opposite would care to look it up - that we weren't getting out of rate relief. We had been renewing it one year at a time. I said that the goal of the Energy Corporation and the government was to get out of rate relief some day. When I was asked, "Over what time period?", by the then-Member for Riverdale South, I said, "Seven to 10 years."

That was the position of the Yukon Party, which was taken by the NDP in the last election - he even went so far as to take a petition around door-to-door - not being totally truthful with Yukoners, and telling them that we were going to get rid of rate relief.

Speaker's statement

Speaker: Order please. I'd ask both sides of the House not to suggest that anybody is not telling the truth. That is not parliamentary.

Thank you. Continue.

Mr. Ostashek: I think the members opposite got the message.

At any rate, what they were saying was reality was two different things, Mr. Speaker, and a big gap in between them. So what did they do when they came to power? What did they do? They got rid of rate relief, and then they bring it back. The minister responsible gets up and gives a big statement about all the great things they're doing, and how much cheaper it is for Yukoners now that they got rid of that bad old Yukon Party, and we got these good fuzzy guys at the NDP in, and how great they are to all these people, when in fact the president said quite the opposite the other night. He said quite the opposite. He said -

Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)

Mr. Ostashek: "Why do we have to go to Question Period" is right. We don't get any answers in Question Period.

Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)

Mr. Ostashek: The rates are going to be higher, even after the rate relief program kicks in - substantially higher - and that's sad, because it wasn't necessary.

What did they do? Why did they arrive at that? Here's why they arrived at it: because when they came to power, they saw about $8 million sitting in a fund in the YDC that was set aside. They saw a good rate relief program that was giving relief to Yukoners -

Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)

Speaker: Order please. Minister of Economic Development, would you stop your heckling please?

Mr. Ostashek: They made a foolish decision to not draw down the bottom two feet of their licence at Aishihik Lake, and I relate that as much as political interference, because that licence was issued by a board and signed off by the Minister of DIAND after full public consultation.

Did they have public consultation about whether they should use the bottom two feet of Aishihik? No, they didn't. They made a unilateral decision. And whether you're making a unilateral decision to increase or decrease something without public input is political interference. The one reason for it was to satisfy the Member for Kluane, who wanted to maintain a water level in Aishihik Lake.

Was it environmentally responsible? No, it wasn't. We had the minister responsible for the environment going to Kyoto and saying that we ought to reduce greenhouse gases. At the same time, they're making a decision in the Yukon to increase greenhouse gases.

Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)

Mr. Ostashek: Green power is right. I hear another kibitzer in the background who, I think, knows precious little about producing power - or sound business decisions, for that matter.

I was on the topic, Mr. Chair, before I had all these rude interruptions by the people who can't stand to be criticized. They know how to hand it out, but they can't take it.

Mr. Speaker, they took over a process that was working well. All of the building blocks were put in place. Even if the Faro mine shut down, there was no need to raise power rates again. There was no need to raise power rates again.

Just in case the members weren't listening when the president and the chair were in here, they confirmed exactly what I said at the time and exactly what I'm going to say to the members opposite again today, that in 1995, when the Faro mine came back into production after being shut down for two years, the corporation decided not to lower the power rates. Why did they do that? To get rid of the gyrations of up and down power rates.

There were some very simple principles involved there. First of all, the Member for Kluane says no government money went into that. He's wrong. He's 100-percent wrong. He's wrong.

Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)

Mr. Ostashek: The president did not say so.

The fact remains that the Yukon government picked up the outstanding liability from the Energy Corporation by buying that one power bill from them and then collected the money from the receiver. When they collected the money from the receiver, rather than putting it back into general revenues, they took that money and put it into the diesel contingency fund.

That's where the start-up money came from: the diesel contingency fund, from the receiver. And it was government money, not YEC money, because the government had already paid YEC for that money.

Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)

Mr. Ostashek: Wait a couple of weeks.

Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)

Mr. Ostashek: Oh, I'll make it.

Mr. Speaker, the Member for Kluane said he could respond any time in the future, so I'm taking him at his word that he can respond at any time in the future.

So, the process was already put in motion. What this government did when it came to power was shuffle the building blocks, put different names on them and say, "Look what a good job we've done for the ratepayers of Yukon". Up went the rates another 20 percent, when it wasn't necessary.

Then they killed rate relief, because they used up all the money buying diesel fuel. Where's the money going to come from to pay this rate relief?

Boy, I should've gone back and pulled the comments from the Member for Faro when he was on this side of the House - in direct quotes from him - on rate relief that was being implemented by the Yukon Party government and the tirade that we listened to from him.

They didn't do anything different. They didn't do anything creative. All they did was take a Yukon Party policy, rename it, dab a little pink on it and say it's NDP - that's what it is. That's the creativity that they put into it.

When you look at the rates - in September 1996, a person using 500 kilowatts of power, and this is with all rate relief and everything else, would have been paying a power bill of $54.08. They are currently paying $64.17 and, Mr. Speaker, in December of this year, they will still be paying $58.95, which is substantially higher than what they were paying in September of 1996 - way more. The same holds true for a 1,000 kilowatts; the same holds true for 1,500 kilowatts and the same holds true for 2,000 kilowatts.

Some Hon. Members: (Inaudible)

Speaker: Order please. Order.

Mr. Ostashek: So, Mr. Speaker, that clears the record on that and we don't need to listen to that rhetoric any more - that power rates are cheaper under an NDP government, because they certainly aren't.

Mr. Speaker, we heard the Member for Kluane go on about green power and independent power producers. I thought it was timely this morning that somebody was interviewed on the radio about independent power producers and what impact they would have on power rates. He said quite clearly that wind power was too expensive to replace other sources of power. It was too expensive. He said that. This is somebody who's got 10 years' experience. Now, these guys are going to spend $2 million on it.

Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)

Mr. Ostashek: "A good experiment" is right and it still is experimental in the north.

Mr. Speaker, as I said, I believe that you need to have a different environment if you're going to get any benefits from green power so you can sell it directly to the people who want it and it doesn't impact the other people's power bills. It may work then.

It may work, but - and, you know, this is the same time the Member for Kluane is going on about all these jobs we can create with this. But he didn't think we could create any jobs with a coal-fired plant. They say one thing, and they do exactly another. They're importing more and more diesel fuel. Even this winter, when we don't have a major customer, such as the Faro mine, on the grid, we're still going to use diesel fuel. I don't think you need to be a rocket scientist to figure out that we are short of baseload power. We don't need to wait four years to do anything. We should be doing something now.

Now, Mr. Speaker, if the NDP government maintains their economic platform and keeps chasing people out of the Yukon, then we won't need any more power. The last one to leave can turn out the lights.

Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)

Mr. Ostashek: They'll reduce consumption - conserve energy. As I said earlier, Mr. Speaker, we've got two problems. Energy conservation is good. We ought not to be wasting energy. But energy conservation goes much further than just electricity. If we are going to tell a homeowner, "You can't burn electricity", and we're going to pay that homeowner to burn diesel fuel, we have done absolutely nothing for energy conservation. What they have done by doing that is delayed facing the problem that's facing us - not enough baseload power to satisfy the demand.

That's what they've done.

Mr. Speaker, one of the ways that we could reduce our power costs, even in the Yukon right now, without any major project going on, is to replace the other energy uses with cheaper electricity. Then we would be doing something. We would be creating some jobs in the Yukon.

The Member for Kluane spoke long and hard about the money being recirculated. We could do that. We should be encouraging cheaper energy sources, not changing from a homegrown energy source to an imported one.

Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)

Mr. Ostashek: Coal was one of the options. Natural gas is an option. There are all kinds of options. It's what this government wants to do -

Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)

Mr. Ostashek: Yes, your government, 10 years down the road. There will be nobody here to enjoy it if we keep going the way we are.

Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)

Mr. Ostashek: Yes, he won't even have a riding is right, Mr. Speaker.

So the principles and the premises that this administration is operating on to supply the power demands of the Yukon are flawed, seriously flawed - seriously flawed. They are so flawed - and, Mr. Speaker, the sad part about this is that they know they are flawed. They know they are flawed, or they would not have put off making the decisions until after the next election, because that is what they've done. With their energy commission and with their recommendations, they've put off making any decisions until after the next election about to how we're going to meet our power needs, and they've compounded the problem by putting a rate freeze on for four years, keeping the rates low and doing absolutely nothing to find cheaper sources of power. If they want us to draw them a picture, we will - cheaper sources of power.

Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)

Mr. Ostashek: We were getting there. We were getting there.

Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)

Mr. Ostashek: Yes, look at the economy then and look at it now.

Some Hon. Members: (Inaudible)

Mr. Ostashek: The mentality appears to be, on the benches opposite, that we've got a shrinking economy, we just have to retrench, we have to pull in our horns. There's no vision over there for the future, absolutely none.

I hear comments from members opposite about a major industrial user comes along, then he has to pay all the upfront costs. That isn't going to fly. We're not going to attract them.

Power is some infrastructure that needs to be reasonably priced if we're going to be competitive.

We have that government hung up on trade and investment abroad, manufacturing. Good stuff. Very good stuff, but in order for that to succeed, the companies that are involved with it have to be competitive. In manufacturing, power is a major cost. The whole principle of how we supply power to industrial users needs to be changed. We can't be asking industrial users, if we want to attract investment to the Yukon, to pay all the upfront costs on grid extensions, all of those basic costs, and then charge them an ungodly price for power. That doesn't make sense to me in attracting investment to the Yukon.

That is one of the major hurdles that whatever government's in power has to face and should be facing now, and doing it quickly.

"Why didn't you do something," the Member for Watson Lake says. Well, we put a plan out - or maybe it was his colleague from Whitehorse Centre beside him - one of the back-benchers was chirping over there why we didn't do something. Well, we put a plan in front of the Yukon people in the last election.

We put an energy plan in front of him, Mr. Speaker -

Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)

Mr. Ostashek: Here we go again. I want to just remind the Member for Faro, he'd better be nice to the third party. He'd better be really, really nice to them, because the only reason he's sitting on those government benches is because of that third party.

So he'd better be very, very nice to them.

Some Hon. Member: Point of order.

Point of order

Speaker: Point of order.

Hon. Mr. Harding: I remind the leader of the official opposition that he won with 36 percent of the vote, when he was government leader.

Speaker's ruling

Speaker: There's no point of order.

Member, continue.

Mr. Ostashek: And, Mr. Speaker, if that Liberal Party collapses, that New Democratic Party is turfed out, for sure.

I'd just suggest to the Member for Faro that he should tone down the rhetoric and be a little nicer to them, if he ever hopes to be in power again.

So, Mr. Speaker, I believe that the premise that this government in power is operating on is seriously flawed. The same process was there when I was there, and it was one of the concerns that we had. We were looking at how we could change it.

I just want to draw to the members' attention a situation that occurred in the final year of our mandate, where a small operator in the Yukon wanted to be creative, and start a new business in the Yukon - a pellet plant. He was sitting right underneath the power line, and he started out with the power suppliers at an ungodly amount of money, somewhere in the neighbourhood of $60,000 or something like that - don't quote me on that, it's not the exact figure, but it was very, very high - he could get that reduced to still a very high cost, if he guaranteed he was going to buy a certain amount of power for the next 20 years.

Now, Mr. Speaker, that company went out and bought their own plant, and set it up right underneath the grid.

Their idea was that, if the venture failed, they could at least sell the light plant. That type of regulatory process, that way of producing and supplying power to consumers, is not going to attract investment to the Yukon. It's very, very simple. There is a risk involved, and it has to be a calculated risk. There's no doubt about it. But the risk does not have to be entirely on the backs of the ratepayers. It can be a shared risk.

The people who said they had all the answers - they were in government; the NDP was in government for seven and a half years before the Yukon Party got there. They did absolutely nothing about power, except let the rates go up. They built a grid extension to Henderson Corner on a phony premise of the grid from Mayo to Dawson to win the seat for the member that time around. Then, after the election was over, we find out that even if they wanted to build the grid from Mayo to Dawson, they can't put it through there because you can't put a high-power grid through a residential area. So, this was an election ploy. That's all it was.

Now, what do we have? We have the Yukon Party, who came out before the last election and said, "If we're re-elected, we're going to move quickly on extending the grid from Carmacks to Mayo. We're going to tie that dam into the grid, the dam that's wasting a million dollars of water every year - water that could replace a million dollars' worth of diesel fuel and has been doing so since 1989. Well, the NDP said, "That's a stupid idea. We can't afford the capital costs, we can't afford anything else." Now, what do we find out? Well, I think we've got an even stupider idea. We're going to have a grid to nowhere - a grid between Mayo and Dawson that has no tie-in on either end. It's unbelievable.

Some Hon. Members: (Inaudible)

Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Speaker, this is unbelievable. Well, it is good to know we're in between there. There's nothing else to do. Furthermore, I understand ...

Speaker: Order please. Order.

Mr. Ostashek: ... that in Dawson the power demand peaks in the summertime now, not in the wintertime. It peaks in the summertime.

Their argument, when the Yukon Party suggested a grid from Carmacks to Mayo, was that it was all wrong because there wasn't enough power in the dam and something was going to start up in the Mayo area and what would we do then? They never realized that you could ship power both ways on a power grid. They never understood that.

I think that was basically the premise that the Minister of Economic Development was operating under when he put $100,000 aside in his budget last year to look at the pros and cons of the grid extension to hook up to B.C. Hydro. His was a different idea and it was a bright idea because they weren't going to export power, they were going to import power.

Mr. Speaker, I still have to ask the question in the House to see if they spent that $100,000.

So, what we have is a government that has absolutely no idea how to deal with the power needs of Yukoners.

Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)

Mr. Ostashek: I'm going to say it 10 more times in the next 45 minutes, Mr. Speaker. I'm going to say it 10 more times until the member understands it, because it seems like he can't understand it. He can't understand it. He can't understand it.

Mr. Speaker, what we have is a government that took our ideas - they have no new ideas; they condemned everything we did - then they took them, repackaged them and sold them as their own. I think that the grid expansion to hook up with B.C. Hydro is one example of that.

Mr. Speaker, I said earlier in my comments that the Member for Kluane was a one-issue man. The only issue he was concerned about was Aishihik Lake. His biggest problem was that he had a soapbox taken away from him under the new OIC of negotiated rates, rather than being able to stand up and have his day in court, so he didn't like that very much. But he is now a member of the NDP. Yet this is what he had to say about the NDP on February 25, 1992, in a letter to the editor, and he's going on about the NDP not knowing anything about power. Some of the same accusations he's making against the Yukon Party now from the government benches are the same accusations he made at the former government under the stewardship of the hon. Tony Penikett. They are some of the same things, the same allegations, the same rhetoric, nothing new, but it was interesting to see. Here is one of the quotes he said: "Instead they give us falsified energy demand projections, misleading advice, secrecy and lack of openness." That's what he said - near-sighted decisions, squandered dividends in the millions, and jack up the power rates. There we are. Now he's a member, and everything is all well and good.

Mr. Speaker, I can remember the Member for Kluane in his private life before he got to be a big politician here, and how he used to come and brief our caucus, and the condemnations he had for the NDP and their handling of the power situation in the Yukon, with all his charts and graphs. But, at that time, as of now, there was only one issue - Aishihik Lake is all it was.

That's all it was, all it was. That seems to me like -

Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)

Mr. Ostashek: You got it. Mr. Speaker, it was the Member for Whitehorse Centre who said that, not me.

He condemned them; he was very bitter toward the NDP, and then he ends up running for them. Now he's espousing the policies of the NDP, which haven't changed since the previous administration. Absolutely not. They couldn't solve Yukon's power problems then, and they can't solve them today. They can't.

There was a report. They did this big energy commission thing without the big title on it. They did this - thousands and thousands of dollars consulting with Yukoners, in pre-1992 - 1991, I believe. They had a report published. What happened to that report? Well, so I understand it, the party that believes in consultation with Yukon people didn't like what Yukon people said. They didn't like it at all. So, where did the report go? On the shelf in the Energy Corporation and sat there.

Instead of setting up another expensive energy commission, they could have gone there, dusted that report off and looked at it, because they didn't hear anything new when they went back out for public consultation. They didn't hear anything new at all. Absolutely not. I think the premise of that report was in three recommendations, if I recall off the top of my head. I don't have it here in front of me right now. The people wanted a stable source of power. They wanted reasonably priced power, and they really didn't care who produced it.

I think that was what came out of the public consultations. That cost the taxpayers of the Yukon a lot of money but, instead, no, they go out and do another expensive study, hoping that they'd hear something that could make them put their own political spin on it. That's unfortunate, because they dilly-dallied away for seven and a half years in government before and did absolutely nothing. They've just wasted two more years, and it looks like they're going to waste the rest of their mandate, and we're not going to be any closer to having reasonably priced power in the Yukon than we were in the past, and that is not necessary.

They can condemn the coal project all they want. I wasn't hung up on the coal project, but it was another alternative that we had to look at. They can condemn any of those things, but I don't think they can condemn the fundamental principle that, in order to get a reasonably priced source of electricity, we need to develop our own resources and to quit importing them. We need to do that.

We're not going to solve the problem entirely by telling people to cut back and not use power. It's not going to work. I say to the members opposite, just think how much diesel fuel we could replace in the City of Whitehorse if we could provide reasonably priced electricity for heat. Think about it. Let's think about how many jobs it could create, Mr. Speaker. How many jobs could it create? Many, many jobs.

They talk on one hand about keeping the wealth in the Yukon and, on the other hand, they do absolutely nothing to get us off our addiction to diesel fuel - nothing.

I don't think they've even thought about how they're going to supply the energy to industrial users in the future. I don't think they've even thought about it, outside of all the rhetoric about "Let them pay their own costs." Well, I'd suggest the members opposite, if that's their attitude, maybe better get out of the utility business altogether and let somebody handle it who can do a better job, because those aren't the answers. Patting themselves on the back because they've published a report is certainly not the answer at all.

Mr. Speaker, I don't think I can stress enough the importance of finding our own energy sources, and we certainly aren't lacking for them. The Member for Kluane says, "Oh, the Yukon Party had this philosophy of build-it-and-they-will-come." Well, build it and they will come. I suggest to the members opposite that if they don't start building some energy infrastructure, nobody's going to come.

Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)

Speaker: Order please.

Mr. Ostashek: I'm standing here this time, Mr. Speaker, with the blessings of the Liberal Party.

The Member for Kluane went on at great length about risk, and how they have to weigh the risk of developments, and how, if we took on a major project, it would be a great expense to the ratepayers.

Well, there is a risk involved any time you do anything, but it needs to be a calculated risk, and it need not be a risk where the burden is going to be carried by the ratepayers if it's well thought out. We need to have a policy in place that is going to allow independent power producers to sell power to the utility, and the utility is going to have to bite the bullet and go into some long-term contracts if they want to encourage this type of thing, and they're going to have to look at how they handle that power and resell it. One of the ways that I believe we can encourage building demand for our energy and how we could encourage more uses of electricity into the future, while at the same time bringing on other sources of supply for baseload to lower the cost in the long term, is to look at secondary sales. Now, we were moving along quite a ways with that, but I haven't heard much about that lately. In fact, I believe the college has been retrofitted. I believe the Justice building has been, or was in the process of being retrofitted.

Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)

Mr. Ostashek: And the school? I know that both the hospital and the visitor information centre here have the capability of having dual-fired heat sources. I believe that if the Energy Corporation, on instructions from the government and with help of the government, was to embark on a development now of some major source of power - you can't wait until somebody wants the power to start planning and building it, because these projects take some time to get on stream. But you could possibly defray not the capital costs but the operating costs of that facility by having secondary sales until such time as that power was needed.

I don't believe there's any other jurisdiction that supplies power that waited until the demand was there, before they built the supply. We need to think about how we're doing this. We need to have supply options available. We need to be able to keep a certain amount in reserve, and that amount that we're keeping in reserve could be sold in secondary sales at a very nominal cost, which would probably be far more competitive, far more cost efficient than using propane or diesel fuel, or some other heat source.

We can do that with our population base right now, Mr. Speaker. We could do that. And we could be moving toward more self-reliance, to when we wouldn't have to be hauling diesel fuel up the highway to heat our homes, to run our light plants, and creating an excessive amount of pollution in the air.

We haven't heard anything from the energy commission on that - not a word. We hear about conservation, retrenchment, we hear rate freezes, we hear all of these things that are doing absolutely nothing to solve the fundamental problem that we have.

Mr. Speaker, we need grid extensions, but I think it's a very foolish move to be putting a grid between two communities that are not tied to the major grid. I don't believe that's a good investment of ratepayers' money or taxpayers' money, for that matter. A grid expansion - maybe to the Member for Watson Lake's community - is in order before that type of expansion - grid expansion for wherever the power is needed, but it needs to be off the grid, so that when we do have a new, major supply source, it doesn't matter where it's at - it can be tied into the grid, and we can move the power wherever it's needed. But to go and build an isolated grid between two communities is just wrong.

I don't know where you could even begin to pay for it. We heard the president say that the cost ballparked at $21 million. Well, how is that going to be capitalized? We didn't hear anything from the members opposite when they got up to speak. All they were doing was refuting the points we were making and trying to get their comments on record because they'd been shot out of the water on so many issues that they were being very defensive, but they didn't talk about how the funding was done. Well, the Member for Faro says, "They worry." Well, I suggest to him that he ought to worry.

Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)

Mr. Ostashek: No, I'm glad to hear he isn't.

Mr. Speaker, we have a blooming economy right next door to us in Alaska. They create a lot of their own power, most of their own power. I don't think they have any grids coming in from other sources. They also have some different rules and regulations. They have some very strict environmental rules. Yet, with those strict environmental rules that they have in the State of Alaska, they have what they call a low-sulfur exemption where we could use a lot of fuels. We could do with something like that in the Yukon. If we look at Alaska and take -

Some Hon. Members: (Inaudible)

Speaker: Order please. Order.

Mr. Ostashek: Here we have the Minister of Economic Development looking for something negative in another area to make him look good instead of doing something good here to put Yukoners to work. In one day, from the amount of fuel they burn for heating oil, diesel-power generation, jet fuel, diesel-powered trucks, equipment and watercraft, Alaska puts more emissions into the air than what we do in a whole year.

We do it all year. And it's good to be environmentally conscious but we have to be realistic about what we can do in a developing society where we're trying to compete with societies in southern Canada that have infrastructures in place, that have all their coal plants in place now, have gas turbines in place now, have hydro facilities in place now, and all of a sudden we have to compete with them. We're doing it in almost every other segment of our society, yet when it comes to power, we're going to do ours in an environmentally friendly manner and not worry about what the cost is.

That is not going to foster economic growth in the territory. None whatsoever. Neither are trips to Moscow, Mr. Speaker.

Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)

Mr. Ostashek: Or New Zealand.

I find it somewhat ironic that the NDP would use the example of my trip to New Zealand as a waste of taxpayers' money when, in fact - why didn't they use the example of their own minister who won the trip the year before and went to Mauritius?

Some Hon. Members: (Inaudible)

Speaker: Order please. Order.

Mr. Ostashek: I mean, these members are very, very selective in what they use for examples. No common sense at all.

Some Hon. Members: (Inaudible)

Speaker: Order.

Mr. Ostashek: And they talk -

Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)

Speaker's statement

Speaker: Order please. Order. I would ask the members to stop their heckling, please.

Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Speaker, they get really incensed and they talk about low blows. They talk about low blows. Well, that is a low blow - a low blow. They were incensed because they lost the battle on televising Question Period. They were incensed, so they got to shoot back, even if it isn't relevant to the topic.

They didn't use the Member for Whitehorse West's trip to Mauritius the year before. They didn't use that as an example. No, they didn't use that at all - unbelievable. The low blow of low blows.

Mr. Chair, I just wanted to state a little more about the coal project so the Member for Kluane could educate himself a little bit on it. Some of his constituents were very, very interested in that coal project. Some of the people who helped put him in office were very, very interested in it and very supportive of it. So, he ought to be cautious about how much he condemns it.

We just need to look at the Member for Watson Lake's community and how it's suffering because there's no economy activity and could probably -

Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)

Mr. Ostashek: Thanks to me, he says. Well, we'll leave that for another day, Mr. Speaker. I'd gladly debate that issue with the member opposite at any time.

A lower cost of power there would probably be a great help to that community to get some economic activity going. But, no, there is nothing on the horizon for them - nothing whatsoever.

So, Mr. Speaker, for those members to stand over there and lecture us or to go back and blame all of the challenges they face now on the Yukon Party just does not hold water - absolutely not.

Mr. Speaker, I want to get back, just for a few minutes, to the topic of Aishihik Lake.

Anybody who maybe doesn't know the Member for Kluane and know the political rhetoric that he puts out on the floor of this Legislature might think he knew what he was talking about. He says that the bottom two feet wouldn't be there in Aishihik Lake. If they hadn't made this great decision, the president said -

Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)

Mr. Ostashek: The president's a good soldier. He'd fall on his sword for the ministers. I don't have any difficulties with that. I'm talking about the people who made the decision - caucus and Cabinet over there. They made the decision not to draw down the bottom two feet of Aishihik Lake, but the water wouldn't be there to use anyhow.

Well, Mr. Speaker, they're not using it anyhow. The president said that he is following the OIC and he won't draw down that two feet. It wouldn't be there. The water only goes out of the lake, I guess. None comes in. None is replaced.

What they've done is just raised the parameters so they can't draw as much water. That's all they've done. Now, what they've done by that, is they are causing the ratepayers to pay more for their power than what they did, just to satisfy the one-issue man so he could launch his boat without too much difficulty. I should say, just to suggest it, he could probably use the exercise, even if he had to go four or five miles to the lake to launch it.

But the fact remains that they did make a political decision not to draw down the bottom two feet, a decision that was not thought out well, and it is costing the ratepayers - the users of electricity - money.

Some Hon. Member: Point of order.

Point of order

Speaker: The government House leader, on a point of order.

Hon. Mr. Harding: Mr. Speaker, under the rules of debate, chapter 3 of the Standing Orders, section 19(1)(c) says that, "A member will be called to order by the Speaker if that member persists in needless repetition."

Now, Mr. Speaker, the member opposite is dramatically persistent in needless repetition, and further to that, he told the members of this House that he was going to repeat something 10 times more in this debate. So he freely admitted to the Speaker that he intends to "persist", as the Standing Orders quote, in needless repetition.

Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Speaker, I want to draw to your attention - I don't believe, if you review Hansard since I've been speaking, that you can find anywhere in my previous comments, where I referred to the Member for Kluane's boat. So I'm not repeating myself, Mr. Speaker, I am talking about another issue. I'm talking about the water levels of Aishihik Lake.

Mr. McRobb: On the point of order, Mr. Speaker. I don't own a boat.

Speaker's ruling

Speaker: There is no point of order, and the Chair recognizes that.


Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Speaker, I just need to take a minute to gather my thought, since I was so rudely interrupted by the Member from Faro on a frivolous call on a point of order.

So, Mr. Speaker, we also heard that one of the supply options that's being investigated again - and I believe this is something that the Member for Kluane, before his reincarnation as a politician, was totally dead against - and we heard the president of the Energy Corporation tell us the other night, that they're investigating the third wheel at Aishihik Lake.

Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)

Mr. Ostashek: Well, there's a wheel missing somewhere, there's no doubt about that, but I believe that the Member for Kluane, in his past life, was totally against that. Mr. Speaker, we're talking about a party here that's supposed to be the protector of the environment. That's a bit of a joke, but that's what they try to tell Yukoners, that they are environmentally conscious.

Yet the Member for Kluane, who participated on the energy commission, who participated - or should have participated, maybe he was just a messenger between the commission and the Cabinet, I don't know, a delivery boy. He brought the package over when it was completed. I'm sure he must remember that, when this topic came up some 20 years ago, I believe, about putting a third wheel at Aishihik - maybe our colleague from Riverside was involved with the corporation about that time - there was going to be a major diversion of water from other lakes to be able to maintain the water levels that would be required. That seems to me to be a very far-out idea to be resurfacing at this time, to divert water for quite a few kilometres, if I remember. I think two more lakes were going to be funneled into Aishihik Lake. And that is what they're looking at as an option.

I was somewhat disappointed in our questioning of the president and the chair of the Energy Corporation when they really didn't have any ideas about what to look at for supply options. I didn't hear anything new from them at all. In fact, some of the viable options, I didn't even hear them being followed. They reiterated the inventory, as did the Member for Kluane, of the hydro sites that are in the Yukon. My god, that took place back in the late 1980s, and early 1990s.

Mr. Speaker, while I'm on that topic, we had an NDP government who, at that time, was even investigating putting hydro facilities in British Columbia. They couldn't look in the Yukon; they had to go down and look at the Atlin Road. They said, "We're going to put one down there. Well, it looks viable; we're going to do it down there."

Yet the question was asked, I believe, by the Member for Riverside - and I believe I may have touched on it in our short two hours with the president and the chair - and there really was nothing that came out of there that gave me any encouragement that we are going to be able to tap into a cheaper source of hydro in the term of this government, or possibly even in the term of the next government if this government doesn't do some of the groundwork.

And all this time it's going on, I can remember debates in the past where Skagway was looking for the Yukon to supply them with power. They got so frustrated dealing with an NDP government that they commissioned their own hydro plant, and it's working very well, and they're quite pleased with it.

Missed opportunities, missed opportunities of the government

Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)

Mr. Ostashek: Well, that four-year blip - be careful because you might see another blip, and it might last a lot longer than four years.

Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)

Mr. Ostashek: Every indicator has gone down under this government. Sorry, one's gone up: government employees.

So, Mr. Speaker, we heard this energy commissioner - I'm going to start wrapping up here because we're running out of time - we heard this energy commissioner stand here today, pat himself and his colleagues on the back about the great job that they had done. I was hopeful - not for long, not long into his speech - when he put the motion on the Order Paper that he was going to enlighten us and give us some new vision of how to address the power needs of Yukoners, how to plan for future expansion of the Yukon economy, how to provide reasonably priced power and how to create more jobs in the Yukon by doing that.

But I didn't hear any of that. I didn't hear any of that. What I heard was a long and struggling tirade of trying to justify green power. He didn't like our press release. It was a long and tiresome tirade of how he developed, and his caucus developed, a better rate relief program than the Yukon Party, how the new energy conservation plan was going to solve our power needs and be energy efficient, how the $2 million of Ottawa's money - not their money, Ottawa's money - was going to make wind power competitive in the Yukon.

The Member for Kluane is making a face.

They took all the money that was in the Energy Corporation, bought diesel fuel with it, and waited until they got a one-time payment from Ottawa that they weren't expecting to replenish the thing so they could bring in their rate relief program. I wonder where that rate relief program would have been if that influx of money hadn't come from Ottawa.

That bad Liberal government that they're always condemning - federal Liberals. We haven't heard anything which, I think, is further evidence of what we said all along - the energy commission, as were the other commissions, were a waste of taxpayers' money and time.

Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)

Mr. Ostashek: I was supportive of the commissions? I think we need to take up a collection for a hearing aid for the Member for Faro, if he says that the Yukon Party was supportive of the commissions, because nothing could be further from the truth. I'll tell you one thing, Mr. Speaker, where there's a real difference between us and the Liberal Party - the Liberal Party supported those commissions at the start. We did not. From day one, we did not support those commissions - not once.

Some Hon. Member: Point of order.

Point of order

Speaker: Point of order.

Hon. Mr. Keenan: Mr. Speaker, I'm absolutely appalled that the opposition leader would speak to buying hearing aids for the Member for Faro. I do not think that we should be running down people's physical capacities or deficiencies in this House. I do believe that is one of the most awful things I've heard.

Speaker: On the point of order.

Mr. Phillips: Mr. Speaker, I believe, according to our Standing Orders, it's a dispute between members. The member was pointing out to the Member for Faro that he doesn't listen very well, and that's about the extent of it.

Some Hon. Member: On the point of order.

Speaker: On the point of order.

Hon. Mr. Harding: Mr. Speaker, the Standing Orders are quite clear, that a member may be called to order in the debate if there is a feeling from the Speaker that something has been said that is out of the decorum of this House. The statement that was made by the leader of the official opposition was completely outside the decorum of this House, in his attack on people with hearing disabilities. I think that a simple thing for him to do would be to withdraw that comment.

Some Hon. Member: On the point of order.

Speaker: On the point of order.

Mr. Ostashek: I believe the Member for Faro is being very ridiculous in this. He knows exactly what I said. There was no slur on people with impairments. It was just a comment to him that he wasn't listening very well to what was being said.

Speaker's ruling

Speaker: Order please. Order. The member should not make comments that are personal or insulting. The member can continue.

Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Speaker, as I said, I want to wrap up here, and I want to point out to the members - especially to the Member for Kluane, who put this motion on the Order Paper today and was going to prove to us that this energy commission was worth the money that was spent on it - I believe he has failed. There is nothing in that report.

Mr. Speaker, I was on the topic of them having a windfall of money from Ottawa. I shudder to think of what Yukoners would have been faced with had they not got that windfall of money to top up the coffers.

It wasn't necessary, because if they wouldn't have spent the money that was there on foolish things, they would have had money for rate relief. But, Mr. Speaker, the point I'm trying to make is, that is a one-time infusion of money that they got, thanks to the policies and hard work of a Yukon Party government, that boosted the economy to where we had an influx of people come in. Now, the population calculation has caught up, and the NDP government is benefiting from it. That's what happened.

It's only a one-time payment. Some of it's ongoing, but here's what we're faced with, Mr. Speaker - after this administration is turfed out of office by the taxpayers, a new party coming in is not only going to be faced with the challenges of trying to get our electrical system on track, they're also going to be faced with the challenges of smaller transfer payments, because of the outflow of people from the Yukon now. That will catch up with us two or three years down the road, and payments will be adjusted, and there will be a negative impact on the transfer payments, not a positive one that was enjoyed by the members opposite.

Mr. Speaker, when the president of the Energy Corporation was here the other night speaking to the energy issues, I raised the issue of the rate freeze for four years and what impact that would have on consumers' bills when the rate was lifted in the year 2002. The message that I took from what the president said was that the Energy Corporation was very, very concerned with what would happen. This administration isn't because there'll be an election between now and the year 2002 and a lot of Yukoners are saying, "Thank God there's going to be an election", and they're counting the days.

The fact remains that a new administration, because of lack of direction that had been given to them by two years of dilly-dallying around by that administration and a big highfalutin consultation process under the auspices of the energy commission that went around and asked Yukoners once again what they thought should happen to our power and have done nothing and have come back with no recommendations, and now we're going to be sitting here wondering what's going to happen.

The Member for Faro says it's hilarious. To be truthful with you, Mr. Speaker, I have grave concerns right now of what would happen if somebody bought the Faro mine and wanted to put it in production when they can't even supply power this winter with the mine off the grid. What are they going to do? Go tell them, like they told the last one, to buy a diesel and produce your own topping power to get your bills down? That's how they addressed the power needs of industrial users in the territory, industrial users who create jobs for Yukoners - good, high-paying jobs, as the Member for Faro used to say time and time again when he was in opposition. High-paying jobs. But their answer to the power needs of Anvil Range was, for them to reduce their cost, they ought to be producing a whole bunch of their own power and not depend on the utility to do it for them.

Well, I think that's a disgrace.

It's a sorry state of affairs when we have a government that hasn't made any progress at all. In fact, they've gone backwards. The Member for Kluane, who spoke, has done absolutely nothing to give Yukoners any assurance that this government is any closer than their predecessors were -

Speaker: It is 5:30 p.m. The Speaker will leave the Chair until 7:30 p.m.


Speaker: I will now call the House to order.

Government Bills.


Bill No. 53: Second Reading

Clerk: Second reading, Bill No. 53, standing in the name of the hon. Ms. Moorcroft.

Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I move that Bill No. 53, entitled An Act to Amend the Employment Standards Act, be now read a second time.

Speaker: It has been moved by the Minister of Justice that Bill No. 53, entitled An Act to Amend the Employment Standards Act, be now read a second time.

Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Fairness and equity in employment are fundamental rights that affect all workers and their families. To that end, the objective of the Employment Standards Act is to protect the interests of employees and employers by instituting reasonable and uniform minimum standards in Yukon workplaces.

Mr. Speaker, the purpose of the Employment Standards Act is to make sure that everyone in the Yukon knows what the rules are in the employment field, and everyone is expected to operate by the rules in a fair and consistent manner.

This serves the public interest and serves the interest of business and of labour. The Yukon hire commission did some very good work when it held discussions across Yukon communities about how best to increase employment opportunities for Yukon residents. Both employers and workers saw the need for all businesses to treat their employees according to the standards set out in the Employment Standards Act.

It's important to set minimum standards, Mr. Speaker, and it's very important to update those standards to acknowledge the realities of the current climate.

All too often, employers will engage a worker and misclassify that worker as an independent contractor rather than an employee. As a result, the employee forfeits minimum rights to overtime pay, general holiday pay, vacation pay and protection from unjust dismissal. In addition to these monetary losses, a terminated employee may find difficulty when applying for employment insurance benefits, or in the case of a workplace injury, workers' compensation payments can be unnecessarily delayed.

Treating employees as independent contractors when they are, in fact, employees can also negatively affect employers as they run a significant risk of being faced with unexpected liabilities for unpaid wages, income tax, employment insurance and Canada Pension Plan premiums, as well as workers' compensation assessments.

This bill, Mr. Speaker, will help to reduce the incidence of workers being treated as independent contractors by clarifying the definition of "employee." It will now reflect that where the elements of economic dependence and subordination exist, so does an employment relationship.

Mr. Speaker, the great majority of employers in the Yukon do comply with the minimum requirements of the Employment Standards Act. Indeed, their employment policies often exceed the minimum standards, but unfortunately there are also employers who refuse to live up to their obligations to employees. It is those employers who will, at the expense of their worker, try to gain an unfair advantage over their competitors.

For example, some employers will not maintain records regarding their employees' terms and conditions of employment. That is a requirement of the law. And where those records are not maintained, that is a problem, because some of them do not keep the records with an eye to frustrating a potential investigation and making it difficult to prove an employee's claim for unpaid wages.

Mr. Speaker, employers cannot be seen to benefit by their failure to comply with the Employment Standards Act, and in this case with the record-keeping provisions of the act. If the only sanction which employers potentially face is an order that they pay those outstanding wages, then those employers will have little incentive to comply with the law.

This bill will then provide the director of employment standards with the authority to levy a $500 penalty against an employer for a record-keeping violation. The director will be able to take this action as an alternative to a prosecution before the Territorial Court, which is an expensive and time-consuming process.

Mr. Speaker, on average there are over 200 investigations initiated annually under the Employment Standards Act. In the course of these investigations, my officials enforced the payment of approximately $250,000 in unpaid wages. In resolving these complaints, there is no incentive for some employers to voluntarily comply with a finding of outstanding wages. Moreover, the longer that they delay paying the employee the wages that they are legally due, the longer that the employer has free use of the employee's money.

This places the director into enforcement action and requires that a certificate of wages be issued. This can result in significant cost to the taxpayer and unnecessary delays in the worker's receipt of their outstanding wages. In response, this bill will encourage voluntary compliance with the law by requiring the addition of an administrative fee, where the director is compelled to issue a certificate for unpaid wages. This fee will be in the amount of $100, or 10 percent of the wages found owing, whichever is greater.

Only an employer who is breaking the law will be affected by this provision. This measure helps protect all of us against abuse of power on the part of someone who wants to not obey the law and not treat their workers as they should. Occasionally, there are persons or organizations that have knowledge of an employer who is violating the provisions of the Employment Standards Act. These amendments will provide for the filing of third-party complaints with the director. To protect against frivolous or vexatious third-party complaints, a new offence for knowingly making a false complaint will also be created.

Lastly, the fair wage schedule under the Employment Standards Act sets out the minimum wage payable to workers engaged to work on Yukon government construction projects. This bill provides for the review of the fair wage schedule at least once every three years to ensure that the provisions reflect market and fiscal conditions.

In conclusion, Mr. Speaker, many of these amendments were suggested by a wide and diverse collection of Yukon people during the Yukon hire commission's public consultation.

Business has told us that people who operate outside the law compete unfairly in the marketplace.

I would like to thank the Member for Whitehorse Centre for the constructive work that he and the Yukon hire commission staff have done, and I'm very pleased to be sponsoring these amendments in the House. This bill will help to ensure that minimum standards in employment apply to as many employees as possible and without imposing unreasonable burdens upon the employers.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Phillips: Mr. Speaker, I'm rising today to speak to this bill that's before us, the amendments to the Employment Standards Act, and I am somewhat concerned about the process that the minister has adopted for this bill. The bill was tabled this last Monday. I had an opportunity shortly after Question Period to fax the bill to the various chambers of commerce and businesses around town to get their impression or ideas on the bill and whether it conformed to the consultative process that the minister said she undertook.

One of the chambers, I believe the Whitehorse Chamber, met last night to discuss the changes and agreed, I understand, to have other members look at it tomorrow and get back to us then. The Yukon Chamber is doing the same thing. I have spoken to officials from both the Yukon Chamber and the Whitehorse Chamber this evening and unanimously they both said they needed more time.

The bill that is in front of us they saw just on Monday, and this bill, although it is a bill to protect the worker, is also a bill that affects the employer. In fairness to those employers, Mr. Speaker, we should be giving them an opportunity to at least review new changes to legislation.

The minister herself in her closing remarks said, "What we don't want to do to employers - although we want employers to conform to the minimum standards - we don't want to impose an unreasonable burden on employers." I can tell the member right now that because of the haste in which she is proceeding with this act in the House, she is imposing an unreasonable burden on the employers to review the legislation.

In fact, I have asked the minister personally this evening, before we entered the House, to consider deferring second reading until Monday so that the employers of the territory could have an opportunity to at least review the proposed changes, and again, I don't think that's an unreasonable request. This is going to affect them.

Mr. Chair, the member says that this came out of the recommendations of the Yukon hire commisson. That's fine, but the minister makes it sound like everyone agreed with those recommendations, and I don't think they did. I think all kinds of people disagreed with many of the recommendations in the Yukon hire report.

My concern, Mr. Chair, is that we are proceeding with all haste, not listening to people whom this is going to affect. Quite frankly, I am going to have great difficulty in supporting this bill in second reading, based on the fact that there hasn't been adequate consultation. It's been unfair.

You can't expect the business community to drop everything in these tough times, call a meeting, sit down and go over a government bill and have an answer in 24 hours. That's unreasonable. That's imposing an unreasonable burden on the business community, and I appeal to the minister to put the bill aside.

We have lots of work in front of us. We've got all kinds of work that we could do tonight and tomorrow. We don't need to be dealing with this bill. We could wait until we hear back from the business community.

They may support some of the initiatives in this bill. I support some of the initiatives in this bill, but I think in fairness to the people it's going to affect and are going to have to abide by it - I mean, some of this may not be as workable as the minister thinks it is. Maybe there are ways to improve some of the clauses that are in the bill, but right now we don't know that because the businesses that are going to be affected by it just saw it a day or two ago.

So, Mr. Speaker, I find it difficult to be in a position where, although I would like to support changes to the minimum standards of employment in this territory, I can't support it because the government, who prides itself on consultation, and says it consults the people all the time and listens to the people, in this case has done what a previous NDP government used to do: just go out and get one side of the story - the side it wants - and not worry about what the other people have to say, and tell us that it listened to the business community in the hire commissioner's consultations.

But the minister didn't say anything about the parts of the hire commissioner's recommendations that were issued and which ones the business community didn't support. Maybe some of the new parts of the bill are parts that the business community had difficulty with. Surely to goodness, Mr. Speaker, we should give the business community the time to respond. I don't think that is an unreasonable request of the minister and the side opposite.

We could adjourn debate on this item tonight, move into Committee of the Whole on the other issues we have before us, and spend the rest of the evening doing that, and give the business community, which is going to be meeting on this matter tomorrow morning, I understand, a chance to respond to the minister and to the bill. It would give them some opportunity to do so.

Mr. Speaker, I would plead with the minister to consider doing that. We could avoid all kinds of problems here tonight if the minister would, in the spirit of cooperation, just stand this aside, or defer debate on the bill, until possibly Monday. I don't think that's an unreasonable request, in light of the concerns that were expressed to me tonight by the local business community. They are going to have to be the ones who abide by the new regulations, to ensure that minimum standards are met. With that, Speaker, I would hope that the minister would listen to my plea, on behalf of the other half of the equation, and consider standing this item aside so we can deal with it on Monday.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Cable: I have similar reservations on the -

Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)

Some Hon. Members: (Inaudible)

Speaker: The Chair has recognized Whitehorse Centre, then Riverside.

Mr. Hardy: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Well, just to pick up where the Member for Riverdale North left off, he likes to talk about consultation, something his government wasn't very good at, but they have become the experts since they were in opposition, and experts at criticizing us for consultation. That's fine. Their record stands for how much consultation they did and the results that were accorded to them.

Not enough consultation, they say. Not enough, eh? We did a year-long consultative process in which we met with many, many businesses - over 800 people, businesses included - on these very changes. There was tremendous input in the Yukon hire paper, and we met with and had input from the chambers.

Even though I don't consider them the end-all for advice, I consider them a part of the puzzle that we're trying to put together to ensure that workers and employers are treated fairly by our regulations.

There was a tremendous amount of consultation; there was a tremendous amount of participation, but I guess that's not enough. And that's fine in his eyes. Maybe they would have consulted for 10 years without making a change.

As well, the board that recommended the changes to the Employment Standards Act has representation from business, as well as from labour, but I guess that doesn't count either. Maybe because they're sitting on the board now they don't represent anyone. Well, that's not true.

One of the points that I heard from many businesses, time and time and time again, was that they want strong enforcement. They wanted us to take the regulations and ensure that there's strong enforcement of the regulations that we bring forward. They don't want to see regulations that are not enforced, because it doesn't address the problems within the industry - the construction industry, for instance.

One of the biggest problems in the construction industry, of course - and we heard the words used a lot today by the Yukon Party - is "level playing field".

Now, a level playing field in a construction industry is based on a wage that's paid by all businesses to the workers, based upon the level of their apprenticeship, and a standard wage that can be recognized and is paid.

Most businesses I talked to - and they were asked, "Do you want us to remove that? Do you want us to drop the fair wage schedule? What do you think of that?" I never heard a single business tell me that they wanted that removed, and it became very obvious why not.

It ensures that when they compete, they are not competing with the cheapest labour force that can be bought, which may come from another province. When they're bidding on contracts, they're not dealing with a labour force that's being brought up, stuck into backs of pickups and are working for dirt cheap wages, and there's no control over it. They have a basis that they know that competitor, when they put a price in, is paying a fair wage as well.

Unfortunately in the industry, something that's recognized throughout Canada - it's a huge problem - is what they call the underground economy. The underground economy has grown quite substantial in construction - it's always been there, and it probably always will be there, to a certain degree. But in the last while, you can say it's gotten out of hand.

But the underground economy allows the labour contract - independent contractors; labour contractors - and there are jobs where you can have 12 - just as an example, I remember a few years ago there were 12 drywall workers working for a drywall company. But they weren't working for the drywall company, because they were all independent contractors, Mr. Speaker.

Now, that meant that supposedly they all had their own workers' compensation, they all paid their proper coverage and they also were the directors of their own work, even though they all showed up at work at the same time, they all had a foreman who directed them, they weren't on the payroll of this company.

Interestingly enough, he didn't have to pay the fair wage, so that was one way to get around it. So, now you have companies - very legitimate, ethical companies - that have been in the Yukon a long time trying to compete against other companies that were basically undermining a fair wage that they were bidding under by naming what you'd call independent contractors and having them work for $12, $13, $14 or $15 an hour. They'd pay in cash because, you know, $5 or $6 difference in the taxes and it works out cheaper. So, now you have the ethical companies - and there are quite a few of them in the territory - that were faced with this.

So, what's the alternative? The alternative ultimately - and this has happened throughout Canada - is that they have to start doing that themselves to stay in business. So, the wages spiral down for the workers and, in a lot of cases, the profits spiral down for the companies, as well, as they compete to the race to the bottom, and it's all underhanded. Actually, it's a violation of the federal labour standards as well, but they're getting away with it. What happens, of course, is it erodes the ethical companies. I've known quite a few companies that have just given up, saying they can't compete with these other businesses, these fly-by-night outfits that roll into town, and some that are local start to do this. So, they close their doors and we lose long-time businesses. Others have to do it to stay alive.

When I went around that year I spent on the Yukon hire commission, I put that question to them: "Do you guys really want this?" Here's the scenario. If you want, we'll put it in the paper. It's not a problem with us. You want to remove the fair wage schedule? Sure, I'll write it down. We'll pack that around the territory and see how it flies. Not a single one of them wanted it.

I met with the Contractors Association over in Riverdale at a restaurant. I laid it on the table. There were about 22 or 23 of them there. I said, "Do you guys want us to remove the fair wage schedule?" Not a single one of them wanted it. What they asked for was stronger enforcement. What they asked for was a definition of what an independent contractor was - locked up, sealed up, so that the action could be taken. What they wanted were penalties so if there are violations, they can be dealt with. They wanted something to deter this kind of action, because they did not want to be competing with each other on that basis. Most of them wanted to pay their employees properly. Most of them wanted to give them benefits. Most of them want to give them a good wage that they can be proud of. Every one of them said, "The better you pay these guys, the harder they work for you." They like to pay them a decent wage. They don't want to lose them to other companies. A lot of them have been trained. A lot of the companies have invested a lot of money into training their workers, and they knew that was going to erode it.

So what did they ask for? They asked for stronger penalties. They asked for a better definition of independent contractors and employees/employers. They asked for the strengthening of fair wage and the policing of it. They wanted better followup on the bid to ensure there is not violation there. They were all fairly strong measures from the Contractors Association.

What are the causes that come out of an underground economy? One is the erosion of legitimate contractors, which I have just been talking about. It leads to an uneven playing field, at which legitimate contractors who play by the rules effectively are shut out of the bidding for construction contracts, because they have to pay the normal cost of employing workers and they have to pay the going wage.

There was a report that was done up for Canada. It was done up in Ottawa. It's called the Dunwoody report. It's an interesting report. I think people, if they get a chance, should take a look at it.

It states in the Dunwoody report that there is avoidance of legitimate charges which contractors must pay for their employees, and they pay lower wages to workers who may not declare the income for tax purposes, which is quite common.

The legitimate contractors lose the contracts, not because they are inefficient - and actually, in the study they found they were way more efficient. They lost because they played by the rules established for construction contracting, whereas others do not, and the rules are not adequately enforced. And enforcement is definitely something we can look at ourselves and say we failed in that regard.

We sometimes pass rules and regulations for an industry, but we don't have the proper enforcement in place to ensure that they're abided by. So, you set a speed limit of 90 kilometers an hour, but you never, ever enforce that speed limit. Eventually, that 90 kilometers becomes 100 and 110 and 120. Some people like that speed. I got a few tickets at 150 kilometers an hour. But if no one ever enforces it, it starts to run away because they know it's not being enforced, and they know they can get away with it.

And if the penalties in place are so weak that if you get caught, you just have to pay, for instance, what you got caught for - well, then, they're going to break it anyway, and if they got caught, fine. If they don't get caught, it's gravy for them. On a very small penalty, it's worth paying the penalty because you're going to save a lot more money, anyway - very weak penalties.

Another thing is poor quality construction. This is an interesting argument. The studies I've read pretty well supports the fact that if you have 100 people independently doing the job, all on their own direction and independently putting a road or a building together, compared to a coordinated team effort with a general contractor working with subcontractors who have employees and are being directed in proper channels, the quality of the building will stand with the team effort any day.

Lost income taxes - what are the lost income taxes with independent contractors? The revenue losses stem from two sources: the use of deductions in income splitting by the independent contractors, which are not available to normal employees. This results in significantly lower taxes accruing to the government, even if the independent contractors declare their income for tax purposes - and many of them don't - and non-declaration of income for tax purposes.

Many independent contractors never declare. In this case, of course, no income tax is paid at all, so basically these so-called single, independent contractors are not paying for the water and sewers, not paying for the hospitals, medicare, the roads, not paying for the job that they're working on. It's very serious.

We had a study done in 1996 by economists when I was with the carpenters union - the "baaad" carpenters union. We had a study - the Yukon Party's "baaad" carpenters union. The tax-exempt carpenters union. Maybe they should look up what tax exempt is and find out how much tax that they do pay.

Once again, I believe it's misinformation being distributed by the other side. It's kind of like in Old Crow, you know. They hear a rumour that there are only three Old Crow residents working on a project. Therefore, it's media time - "Let's spread that out there."

Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)

Mr. Hardy: Well, the facts don't count. Not at all, brother, not at all.

So, let's talk about tax exemptions. Unions? They don't pay any taxes. Really? Really? That's from the mouth of the experts who tell us that there are only three people working in Old Crow. The research is so deep it's amazing. A phone call. Maybe they didn't get a phone call. Maybe they were sleeping at night and this came to them - that unions don't pay taxes. NGOs don't pay taxes. Unions don't pay taxes. Churches. It must be like the churches, too.

Anyway, that's trailing off a little bit here. I don't want to talk about the misinformation that's spread by the Yukon Party. But what about these individual contractors, these non-employees - even thoug they work for a company, these non-employees.

Many of them don't contribute to workers' compensation. Contractors avoid having to make contributions to WCB, since it is an obligation; and what happens if they get injured? What happens there? Who does WCB go after, when you have 10 independent contractors all doing the same job, working for a sub-contractor who's giving directions - but he's not, because these are independent contracts, they have their own contract. And no one's paying WCB. Who does WCB go after?

Well, I'll tell you who they go after, ultimately. They find out who's the employee and who's the employer, and invariably it becomes that these 10 guys are really employees, and unfortunately the employer gets hit with it, and gets hit hard. There are all kinds of penalties, and WCB can be quite ruthless in their collection, when there's been violations.

Unemployment insurance - no one can file for unemployment insurance, since they're all self-employed, but not self-employed; they're employees but not employees. So, when they leave that job, they have no options. If there's a period where they don't have work, they don't have an opportunity to collect UIC, nor does UIC have an opportunity to meet its mandate, even though we are having trouble trying to identify what that mandate is in the last few years. The money's being siphoned out of there quite readily.

Canada Pension Plan - starves the CPP fund of needed revenue for investment to provide for future benefits, for pensions, and ultimately robs the workers of the financial security that they require for their retirement.

And there's an erosion of the funding for construction industry training. That's one that really hits home. There's no money going into training, nor is there any training happening, because everybody's working for themselves, or supposedly are.

What we see is the erosion of the quality of work that we get, and it goes back to the concepts and structures, the historical structures, of construction, and it's based around teams. It's based around working contractors or subcontractors to employees, all working together to deliver a fine product.

Speaker: The member has two minutes.

Mr. Hardy: So, that's just one of the areas.

As for consultation, as I said at the beginning, we spent a year consulting. We heard a lot and we included that in the Yukon hire report. Employment Standards are just acting on some of the recommendations that came forward from many of the businesses that we talked to, as well as the labour unions.

But ultimately we want to ensure that the ethical companies, the companies that want to have employees, that want to pay a fair share, that want to spread the wealth and ensure that their employees are treated well - they have benefits, they have good wages, they have a future - have an opportunity to exist in the construction industry, and I believe that the changes to the Employment Standards Act is one step along that path to ensure we have a consistent construction industry that everybody feels they can bid fairly on.

Mr. Cable: The contentious clause, or most contentious clause in the bill, is the definition of contract worker. It's not apparent from the explanatory note to the bill or from the minister's remarks as to whether the definition is simply a codification of the case law - judge-made law - or whether it enlarges that law, and if it is different from the present judge-made law, in what respects. I think it is fairly important for us to know that and what sort of advice the minister got when that definition was brought in.

Now, I'm sure the minister has belonged to many voluntary organizations in the past, as have many of us, and those volunteer organizations just don't jump up and snap to attention because somebody in this Legislative Assembly asked them to do so. We have sent the bill over to the two chambers, the Whitehorse Chamber and the Yukon Chamber, and we would like the opportunity to solicit their views and hear what they have to say. It may be that when all's said and done, this bill is the best thing since sliced bread, or it may not be. There may be some improvements that we can make. So, we would like to encourage the minister not to proceed further with the bill until we have some reasonable opportunity to get some input.

Hon. Mr. Harding: I hear the discussion from the other side and I have listened to my colleagues and I think the members have a point. There has been some discussion about consultation and whether there was enough on this particular issue, but I think, Mr. Speaker, that the local hire commission, as the commissioner said, went through extensive consultation on this particular issue.

Having said that, there will be ample time through Committee and third reading to further discuss this bill. In Committee the opposition has a chance for extensive exchange on these issues.

The Member for Riverdale North said that the business community was going to be meeting tomorrow morning. I have a meeting with a large portion of the business community on Friday at lunch. There is no rush to ram this bill through Committee. We intend to have a full discussion and full airing of these issues, but the general principles contained in this bill were very widely consulted on; they were very widely discussed when the local hire report was announced, when the government announced its action agenda and in terms of implementing the local hire report to create more jobs for local Yukoners, to try to ensure that employers who are not living up to the spirit and the law in the Employment Standards Act were to be brought to a level playing field. That consultation was extensive.

So, I hear what the members are saying, but I also want to point out to them that, number one, we don't intend to ram this bill through Committee. There will be a full exchange in this Legislature, a full debate. We will have an extensive discussion about the provisions of this act. I would be disappointed if the members opposite were to vote against this act because I think it speaks to issues for working people that are very important. We should not condone those who abuse the law.

I see the leader of the official opposition shaking his head. I know he'll probably get up and give some inherently right-wing speech about some provisions that he supports of people not supporting the law, in terms of the Employment Standards Act, Mr. Speaker, but that's typical of the Yukon Party. However, I will say that working people were extensively consulted, as was business. There will be a full debate on this particular issue in Committee of the Whole and at third reading. I will make the point, once again, that there was extensive consultation with the Employment Standards Board, with the business community, with labour, and with the local hire commission on the aspects and principles contained in this bill.

So, I look forward to a full and productive debate in Committee, and I've enjoyed the debate tonight. I think it's important that we move on with the important principles that we, as legislators, I believe, should all support in this bill and have a good exchange in Committee on this bill, as well.

Mr. Ostashek: Well, this is typical NDP in the way they go about this. On the one hand, they stand in front of this House and say, "We're in no hurry with this bill. We're absolutely in no hurry. We have lots of time. We can debate this bill in Committee. We have all the time in the world." But what they are doing by forcing this bill through tonight, Mr. Speaker, is asking us to support this bill in principle when, in fact, we're not sure that we can until we have had consultation with more people in the community. If there's no hurry, then they ought to stand this bill aside and come back to it Monday. We have lots of work to do in this Legislature. We didn't need to be debating this bill tonight.

The Yukon Party House leader made a reasonable request of the Minister of Justice. Stand it aside until Monday. We have a lot of work to do. The Member for Faro laughs. I want to speak a little to the consultation on this bill because the members -

Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)

Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Speaker, I will just ignore the kibitzing from the Member for Faro. He had his chance to speak, and it's now my turn to speak.

Mr. Speaker, the Member for Whitehorse Centre went on about the extensive consultation and the requests that were made of his committee. He talked about the broad support that he had. Well, I suggest to the Member for Whitehorse Centre that he didn't have that broad support for his local hire recommendations. In fact, about 10 of them were dismissed outright by the construction industry and by the business community. They were dismissed outright, so he cannot say that because they consulted, they had full support for the recommendations that were brought forward.

Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Justice talked about fairness and equality, and we in the Yukon Party believe in fairness and equality, but I'm concerned about the tone of the debate. The Member for Whitehorse Centre has branded all independent contractors as lawbreakers, that they don't pay their taxes, they don't pay their workers' compensation, they don't pay their EI. I think he's painting them with a very broad brush, because there are a lot of very responsible independent contractors. My concern with that specific clause in here is that, without more detail, without hearing what employers have to say about what impact this is going to have on the legitimate, independent contractors -

Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)

Mr. Ostashek: It certainly will have some, because the wording of act, Mr. Chair - and if they weren't afraid of it, they wouldn't be bulling it through in second reading.

The Member for Whitehorse Centre kept all his remarks on the independent contractors to one single industry - the construction industry. There are many, many people out there who are going to be affected by the changes in this act, and they ought to have the right to have their say on this before we're asked to agree with the bill in principle.

Another point I want to make, that the Minister of Justice said, they don't pay taxes, they don't pay their compensation, they don't pay their - the employer's not having to pay all that and he's hiring these people cheaply. The Minister of Justice ought to remember that the independent contractor is probably getting a lot more than what they would be paying a salaried employee to offset those things. And an independent contractor is used where employment won't fit. Now, if somebody's abusing it, I believe there are probably enough provisions under the act now to deal with it, but if there isn't and it needs to be tightened up, I would be fully supportive of that.

Another point that I'm concerned about in this act, in some of the points that are made in the explanatory notes, is introducing an automatic penalty for 10 percent of wages where wages are found to be owing. I don't have any difficulty with that part of it at all. That's fair.

But what about the fairness to the employer who is dragged into court - or an employee goes to Employment Standards and all of a sudden there's a writ issued against the employer, and I've seen it happen. I'm not talking just hypothetically. I've seen it happen time and time again. A court date is set. The employee doesn't show up to defend his case.

There's a cost to the employer in that. Why is he not reimbursed or she not reimbursed for some of their costs, if we're talking about equity in this Employment Standards Act? We address the concerns of wages that are owing but we don't address the concerns where there are no wages owing or if the employee doesn't follow through with the suit that they started. And it's happened, and I'm sure members opposite know it's happened, too.

Where is the fairness for the employer? Where is that protection that the Minister of Justice spoke so strongly about?

I don't see it in this act, and that's another part that I have some concern with. These are the areas where I think we need some input before we agree with this bill on second reading, Mr. Speaker. We haven't had it so far.

I mean, when we hear the Member for Whitehorse Centre talk about the recommendations of his commission and the support that was for him, I didn't hear very much support at all from the business community for his union hiring hall that he wanted to put in place. It's one of the recommendations but there wasn't a lot of support for that. In fact, there was a lot of negative comment on it after his recommendations were made to this House.

So, in fairness to the people who haven't had a chance to look at this bill, and in fairness to us, on this side of the House, Mr. Speaker, I would move that debate be adjourned on this bill at this time.

Motion to adjourn to debate

Speaker: It has been moved by the leader of the official opposition that debate be now adjourned. Are you agreed?

Some Hon. Members: Disagree. Division.


Speaker: Division has been called.

Would the members please take their seats.

Division has been called. Mr. Clerk, would you poll the House.

Hon. Mr. McDonald: Disagree.

Hon. Mr. Harding: Disagree.

Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Disagree.

Hon. Mr. Keenan: Disagree.

Hon. Mr. Sloan: Disagree.

Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Disagree.

Mr. McRobb: Disagree.

Mr. Fentie: Disagree.

Mr. Hardy: Disagree.

Mr. Livingston: Disagree.

Mr. Ostashek: Agree.

Mr. Phillips: Agree.

Mr. Jenkins: Agree.

Ms. Duncan: Agree.

Mr. Cable: Agree.

Mrs. Edelman: Agree.

Speaker: Order please.

Clerk: Mr. Speaker, the results are six yea, 10 nay.

Motion to adjourn second reading debate on Bill No. 53 negatived

Speaker: Order please. Order.

Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Speaker, why am I not surprised that this government would use its overwhelming majority to try to bowl their way through this Legislature. It's a government that accuses everybody else of not cooperating and yet, when we ask for some consideration to make things work in this House, it's a constant battle. Whether it's on this bill or any other bill, whether it's on reasonable amendments or asking for reasonable explanations, we get absolutely no cooperation from the members opposite. That's fine. The voters will judge them on that when we get into the next election. We will see what happens. Again, it's the use of their overwhelming majority; they're going to have their way regardless of what anybody else says in this Legislature.

It's unfortunate, Mr. Speaker, because I don't believe that we are opposing the second reading of this bill just for the sake of opposing it. We're speaking out on behalf of constituents. We're speaking out on behalf of employers who have not had a reasonable length of time to review this bill.

Mr. Speaker, my understanding is that two of the main organizations that represent employers in this community were faxed this bill on Monday night. As my colleague from Riverside said, these are volunteer organizations. They don't get paid for their time. They're working in the best interests of the community, the best interests of their members, and they do need a little time to get together. They need time to take a look at the proposed amendments and to make some comments on them.

Maybe they won't find any difficulty with them. The members opposite don't know that at this point. Neither do we. So I think it's very unfair of this government to use their majority to try to bully the opposition into supporting this bill in principle on second reading.

Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)

Mr. Ostashek: The Member for Faro says we have all the time we want in Committee. Yes, we do. We can ask questions. We can go back and forth, but we're talking about how the bill will work, and we've already given it our blessing in principle, and I don't think that's fair. I don't think that's fair at all.

If there was a rush to bring this bill forward at this point, I would be fully supportive of it. Nobody is trying to defer this bill so it doesn't go through this session. All we asked was for a little consideration from the sponsor of this bill so that the bill could be critiqued. We in the opposition could hear the comments of the people in the community, and we could relay those comments to the members opposite on the floor of this Legislature, as well as a direct submission that the Minister of Justice would probably get from the business community on the bill.

So, I don't believe that it was unfair to ask for that.

It's very, very difficult to debate the principles of this bill, based on the information that we have in front of us today. We believe in fairness, as I stated earlier, but we believe in fairness for the employer, as well as the employee. They count too, whether the Minister of Justice wants to believe it or not. They count too, and their voices ought to be heard.

As I pointed out earlier, there are clauses in here that are going to protect the employee, but there's no protection to offset that for the employer, if in fact they have to spend time and money to defend an action that may be frivolous. There is an offence for making a false claim, but there are many times that procedures are started and never followed up on.

My biggest concern here is, we are saying - it appears what this bill is saying, and what this minister and his government is saying is - that anybody who works for somebody has to be an employee, and the employer has to prove that they're not an employee. There are many, many independent contractors, who don't fall under the scenario that was put out by the Member for Whitehorse Centre who do legitimate contract work, who are trying to get in business for themselves and start by doing small jobs.

The minister's saying in this bill now, from my interpretation of it, that they can't do that any more. As the Member for Riverside said, it's not really explained how this is going to work. I just need to draw the minister's attention to the broadness of what she's saying with this bill, and that's in clause 1(b), where she says, "The relationship between the worker and that person more closely resembles the relationship of employee and employer than the relationship of an independent contractor to a principle or of one independent contractor to another independent contractor;".

In her second reading speech, she didn't refer to that at all. She never did give any examples about what the department is thinking about, how that would work, or how it would be interpreted. This is an act that gives a lot of powers to a bureaucrat to interpret. We need to know what that means. We need to know what is seen in that relationship. I can understand what the Member for Whitehorse Centre said - don't get me wrong. Somebody comes to work at 8:00 every morning, works alongside employees that are on the payroll, does the same job, or does a job instead of employees - certainly. But I think that's already been covered in the act before. It didn't need this amendment to do that. This seems to be putting more parameters on people doing contract work.

A lot of people like doing contract work because they don't have to work the regular hours that somebody else works. They might want to do their job in the evening. They're paid to do a job. They bring their own tools. They bring their own transportation. The minister is saying that none of that counts as a contractor any more. It doesn't count at all. How are people supposed to get a track record as an independent contractor if the minister won't allow them to take on small responsibilities under the auspices of a subcontractor, if the person has to be classified as an employer - regardless of what they supply here, is basically what it says. It says a "'contract worker' means a worker, whether or not employed under a contract of employment, and whether or not furnishing tools, vehicles, equipment, machinery, material, or any other thing owned by the worker..." My god, a small business hires a renovation job, they're going to have difficulty qualifying that as a subcontractor because the worker - they might only hire one person because it's not a big renovation job - might have to go out and buy material to do the job.

The minister is saying that doesn't qualify as a contractor. Well, what does qualify as a contractor? What does qualify a contractor?

I don't think we have much quarrel with what the minister said, Mr. Speaker. We have a lot of quarrel with what the minister didn't say - didn't say. And then they want us to give them approval in principle for this bill.

We can go round and round the horn and round the loop in Committee of the Whole, back and forth, and the track record that this government has got in Committee of the Whole and the opposition being able to make any points and be listened to has been very, very slim in the two years that this government's been in power. So, we don't hold much faith in that.

But I would feel, if the minister wanted me to support this bill in principle, Mr. Speaker, I would have -

Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)

Mr. Ostashek: Yes, the Member for Faro says they want us to vote against it. This is the politics. It's not the bill. It's the politics. That's all he's worried about. It's the politics of it. Force the opposition into a place where they can't support the bill - for political reasons - then we can put out a press release, "Yukon Party's against workers."

Maybe the minister would like me to draft it for him, Mr. Speaker? We may go back after this and put one out, "NDP is against employers - and consultation."

Mr. Speaker, it's grossly unfair for the members opposite to ask us to support this bill in principle without us having time to consult with people and see how it's going to affect them.

Mr. Speaker, the definition of "contract worker" is the one clause of this bill that really bothers me, because -

Speaker: The member has two minutes.

Mr. Ostashek: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I know many, many very qualified contractors who started out by doing little renovation jobs. They used their own vehicle. They did supply some of their own materials and billed the business for them. That's legitimate subcontract work. I don't know where the minister's coming from on that.

They sometimes do rent equipment to the person whom they are doing the contract for. I don't know why that wouldn't qualify as legitimate subcontract work.

It appears to me that the minister and her party have some difficulty or believe that all people are dishonest, and that if we allow them to do contract work - because her colleague mentioned it, what about the taxes? What about the EI payments? What about workers' compensation?

Well, Mr. Speaker - I believe I am right on this - under a subcontract, unless they are an incorporated company - they're doing subcontract work on their own, they're doing the work for themselves, they don't have any employees or anything - I don't know that they even have to pay compensation on that. They may in the construction industry, as the Member for Whitehorse Centre said, but I believe there are other areas where they wouldn't have to. But the member opposite seems to think that they ought to pay all these things and that they are scamming the government, and that's why they're going to tighten up this act and bring this in.

Mr. Speaker, as does my colleague from Riverdale North, I will have great difficulty trying to support this on second reading.

Ms. Duncan: I wasn't certain whether or not the Member for Watson Lake wanted to speak, as the usual rotation is this side of the House, that side of the House, and he had also stood.

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to speak at second reading on this important piece of legislation.

The point that this piece of legislation was presented to this House on Monday has been made. Our caucus has elected to review it with not simply the Whitehorse and Yukon chambers of commerce, but with a number of small and independent business people as well. My colleague has made the point that we have, on our benches, a former president of the Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce and a former manager of the Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce, and our experience with these organizations and many other volunteer organizations, as my colleague from Riverdale South notes them in the House on other occasions, is that these organizations are made up of volunteers, and they do not turn around on a dime.

Their job is not to be focused on what piece of legislation is coming down next and what item of government policy or what political piece of information they are going to be asked to assess next. That's not their sole function; that's not their mission statement and it's not their purpose. It's something that they do as organizations and as individuals, but they need an opportunity to do that and to fully review what we've asked them to.

My point, Mr. Speaker, is that these organizations need time to do that, and 48 hours or so is not a sufficient length of time to go through a piece of legislation.

Bear in mind, as I'm sure all members will, that reading legislation is not a simple task for people. It's written in legal terms. There are legal implications, there are clauses, there are amendments and sections and so on, and people need time to think about this, to review other things, to ask their company lawyer or their individual lawyer about it and what it means to them and get their input and if they had an opportunity, what would they say in coming forward with an amendment.

So, the point is that people reviewing a piece of legislation over a two-day period need a length of time to do that and our party has put forward the point, as have others in this House, that there hasn't been sufficient time to do that.

The government's argument is, well, yes, there has been sufficient time and the Yukon hire commissioner stood up. Now, Mr. Speaker, I have to be absolutely clear with the House. I received this Act to Amend the Employment Standards Act, I read it, I looked at it, I thought about it and gave it consideration and began the consultation process, and it was only at the mention of Yukon hire that I went, wait a minute and went back through the files and had a look. Yukon hire commission's - Why a Yukon Hire Policy; the first consultation paper - the job of the Yukon hire commission is to review existing government policies and develop new policies where needed. That was the thrust of the Yukon hire commission.

I don't ever remember anyone saying the Yukon hire commission was about changing the Employment Standards Act; however, I also recall standing in this House and praising the work of the Yukon hire commissioner and his volunteers and his staff. In some respects, I felt they had done a very good job and made a point. I've said that many, many, many times in this House, and publicly, for the Minister of Justice's edification, Mr. Speaker. Many times.

The Yukon hire commission did some very good work. There were some very clear recommendations that people in the community, some of those consulted, disagreed with. And that's their right, Mr. Speaker, and I applaud that, as all people applaud their right to disagree with them.

I went back through the Yukon hire commission final report to look for the recommendations that specifically said, "We are going to amend the Employment Standards Act." It took some digging, Mr. Speaker, because there were many recommendations on the list in the Yukon hire commission report. Most of them were, as the commission had set out to do, focused on government policy: ensure that hiring is limited to Yukon applicants; ensure Education department maintains up-to-date inventories; the definition of a "Yukon resident".

I particularly applauded the Member for Whitehorse Centre for being able to reach consensus on even achieving that particular definition, although I recall asking at the time about its implementation, and I have found that the reassurances have been somewhat hollow in the ability to actually enforce that decision.

The youth hiring program - we've seen some movement on that. Business incentive program, definitions. These were all recommendations that the business community thought about. None of the ones I have mentioned are ones that the business community took issue with in the final report.

It wasn't until recommendation 7 that I found the reference to the Employment Standards Act.

And recommendation 7 was, "Amend the definition of 'employee' in the Employment Standards Act so as to include contract workers", which is exactly what we have.

The other recommendations that are contained in the act are indeed in the Yukon hire commission final report.

So, Mr. Speaker, I went back to see if those particular recommendations had been of concern to the business community.

Some Hon. Member: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker.

Point of order

Speaker: On a point of order.

Mr. Cable: We don't have quorum.

Quorum count

Speaker: Order please. According to the Standing Order 3(2), if at any time during the sitting of Assembly the Speaker's attention is drawn to the fact that there does not appear to be a quorum, the Speaker will cause the bells to ring for four minutes and then do a count.


Speaker: I have shut off the bells, and I will do a count.

There are 17 members present. A quorum is present, and we will now continue debate.

Ms. Duncan: I appreciate the opportunity to speak to such an attentive and full Legislature, if only briefly.

The point that I was trying to make, Mr. Speaker, is that in beginning second reading on this particular piece of legislation, An Act to Amend the Employment Standards Act, the point being made by several members in this House was that there had not been ample opportunity for consultation and thorough, sober second thought to this particular piece of legislation. Sober, first - a good, thorough look at the legislation.

The point that there had not been thorough consultation was suggested to me to be less than precise, as there had been consultation about these amendments during the Yukon hire commission report, consultation, process and recommendations.

In reviewing the Yukon hire commission report underneath my important information, I learned that indeed these specific recommendations were contained in the Yukon hire commission report. They were indeed there.

Now, that being said, I reviewed the praise and criticism of the Yukon hire commission's final report and took an opportunity to review the notes I had from discussing the Yukon hire report with businesses, with individuals with the chambers. In reviewing those notes, Mr. Speaker, the recommendations of the Yukon hire commission report that specifically pertain to An Act to Amend the Employment Standards Act were not judged or thought to be the controversial points from the Yukon hire commission report by the business community.

That is, no one in the business community or the contracting or employment or union community stood up and said, "Those sections of the Yukon hire commission report that they're going to implement in the Employment Standards Act, I don't agree with." That hasn't been said by anybody anywhere.

I do believe, though, that the business community and the contracting community and independent businesses are not focused on this every single day. They're not focused on reading legislation. They're not focused on reviewing what the government is or is not doing. Mr. Speaker, they need an opportunity to go back again and look at these specific recommendations as they're contained in legislation.

Now, if we were to presume - and I would not like to do that - because the government wants to put forward a specific legislative agenda and is not prepared to reconsider it, and if we're to presume that the business community supports this and the contracting community supports these recommendations of the Yukon hire commission report and, I think my colleague would say, therefore supports the Act to Amend the Employment Standards Act, we could then consider giving our support to it as well.

However, there's a very important point that my colleague has noted to the minister, and I would like to re-emphasize -

Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)

Ms. Duncan: The Member for Faro is asking me to specifically outline what I mean by "colleague". The fellow member of our party, present to my right, the Member for Riverside, the only member of this Legislature who had a practice in law -

Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)

Ms. Duncan: - when I asked -

Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)

Speaker: Order please. Order.

Ms. Duncan: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. For the record, we like him too.

The point is that my colleague asked if the minister was prepared to stand up and absolutely - not one of the usual answers - but give us absolute, clear assurance that the definition of "contract worker" and "employee" did not go further than what existing case law does. That's what the Member for Riverside asked the minister to do.

If the minister is prepared to give us that assurance, then we're prepared to offer qualified support at second reading for the Act to Amend the Employment Standards Act. That qualified support, Mr. Speaker, also makes note of the fact that we - various members of this House, including members of the Liberal Party - have asked the minister to simply provide a little more of an opportunity before going into second reading for us to do some further research work of our own and some further consultation.

If nothing else, let's give the Yukon community and the hundreds of people who participated in the Yukon hire commission an opportunity to go back, revisit their incredibly well-thumbed and highlighted copies of the report, look at those recommendations and say, "Yes, that's right, I remember that discussion. Yeah, I agree with them, and yeah, they're putting it in the Employment Standards Act, okay, fine."

Just give a chance to go back, look at their file on it, look at the report, and say, "Yes, I'm prepared to support that, and I agree with it."

A little bit of time, Mr. Speaker, isn't a huge request to make of government. It's not a negative request. The members would not be interpreting it correctly if they were to say we were trying to in some way delay this legislation. That's not what various members have asked for. Members have asked for an opportunity to go back, look again at the Yukon hire commission's recommendations, and revisit the discussions that they have had on these sections that have been brought forward.

That's all that people are asking for. It's not an onerous request. It's unfortunate but, like many requests, it seems to be mired in the he-said/she-said/they-said debate as opposed to returning to the first principles to say, "All right, what's the right decision here?" We should be making changes to the Employment Standards Act that meet the needs of Yukon workers, Yukon employers - Yukoners.

So, what are those changes? If these are the changes, and they're not anything more extensive than what is in existing case law, we in the Liberal Party are prepared to support them. If they are more than that, all we've asked for is a reassurance from the minister, since the government seems totally unwilling to provide us with more of an opportunity to consult, and then we are prepared to support them. I've said that to the minister, and the minister, I hope, has taken careful note and is able to provide an answer, that this is not an expansion of existing law.

I'm disappointed that the Yukon hire commissioner doesn't also feel that this is an opportunity for the community to revisit these recommendations.

It's an opportunity to dig out that recommendation book and have a look and say, "Well, how are we doing?" Perhaps when the government members dig back through their files, dig out that report and dig out the comments that were made in this Legislature and in the media, they'll see that those comments were supportive of a good many of those recommendations, particularly from this party. They were fair criticisms and fair praise.

This party never said in this Legislature or outside of it that we were against the recommendations that made changes to the Employment Standards Act. We never said that. I've said tonight we're prepared to support and further the Yukon hire recommendations report, the recommendations that are in the act, provided the minister will give us a clear assurance that the act, when it was written, didn't go further than what's already out there.

Mr. Speaker, I think it's also very important in the minister's response to this particular piece of legislation at second reading that she actually -

Speaker: The member has two minutes.

Ms. Duncan: - give consideration to a couple of points. The point made by members of this House that they'd like more opportunity than two days to do second reading on a bill. That gives us more of an opportunity to have a full and fair and thorough look at it. When she was a member of the opposition, Mr. Speaker, I think she would have expected no less from the government. Whether or not she got it is an old battle I don't even want to discuss any more.

On the second point: I would like the minister's assurance that the act that's before us doesn't go further than the existing case law. On these points, Mr. Speaker, I look forward to the minister's response and, depending on her response, we would be prepared to support the bill.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, I suppose that one of the things that I find particularly difficult about this discussion is the fact that people don't understand at this level what it's like to really run a business every day.

You wake up in the morning, and you have to get the kids off to school. You run around like an idiot trying to get your car started. You finally get to work. You get to work, and there are customers lined up at the counter. As soon as you're in the door, the phones start to ring. Usually, you find out that at least one staff person, for some reason or another, can't make it in, or they're late, and you've got all of their responsibilities, as well, to deal with. Sooner or later, by about 11 a.m., you find out you didn't have time for breakfast, you didn't have time for a coffee break, and you still have to deal with the orders from out of town, the constant suppliers, somebody from the government who wants to do yet another survey, you've got to get your displays ready, you've got the new orders ready, and you've got customers phoning you constantly.

It is like this all day, and if you're the owner of a business, you don't work five days a week, and you don't work 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. You work 10- and 12-hour days, and you work six days a week. And, in our family's case, you do it for 20 years. It's really difficult work.

Now, on top of that, you add your volunteer activities, you add in whatever you have to do with your kids at the end of the day, whether it's hockey or whatever. Sometimes you try to get some exercise in, if you haven't broken your back at work trying to move stuff around, and you end up absolutely exhausted. And then, if you're lucky, you might get to the fax machine to see that there's yet another fax from the Chamber of Commerce.

Now, in our family's case, my husband was the president of the Chamber of Commerce for a year. I'll tell you, there wasn't time to breathe that year. When we sent out those faxes to all the other businesses, if we got a response back, it was a miracle, and we understood why so many people did not have the time to give those responses because they're working. In our family's case, we ended up with just two of us working, trying to keep that store afloat, particularly in the early 1980s. In a lot of cases now, it's the same situation. People are barely making it. They don't have time. They truly do not have time to sit there and spend time looking over pieces of legislation for the government. They're just trying to survive.

Of course, one of the members from up top who has never run a business in his life is saying that this is not important and that this isn't valid. This is a very valid concern of business people in the Yukon, and you have no idea how hard people work every day trying to put food on the table, and on top of that, they are demeaned by people in this Legislature because they have the audacity to make a profit so that they can feed their children.

It is not disrespectful to ask for a little bit of time for these people. They don't have time for their families. You're expecting them to have time to do this legislative work for this government as a favour in their non-existent volunteer time. I don't think it's unreasonable for us to take a little bit of a breath here and look back and think that maybe there is a chance that, if we want the very best input we can get on this legislation, which very much affects the businesses in the Yukon, we can take some time and give respectful thought to this legislation. I'm sure that people out there in the business community want to do that. I don't think it's unreasonable for us to take some time now to go back to the two chambers, who have now just sent the faxes out tonight to all of the businesses in the Yukon. I know that our business was one of the ones that was surveyed. We're short-staffed right now, on top of everything else. It makes it very, very, very difficult to get to these issues, and I'll tell you something. Dealing with government issues, and with people who have got all the time in the world, is not a top priority with businesses.

If there is any way that this government could at least consider putting this off for a little bit of time so that all of the parties here in the Legislature can get some input back, I don't think it would be unreasonable.

I know that all of us want the very best legislation for Yukoners. That's our job. That's what we're here to do. We're legislators. We want to have the best legislation possible for Yukoners. If we want that, we have to go out and listen to people. In this case, the people who are the most affected are business people, and it makes sense for us to go back, listen to them and take some time. What's wrong with taking some time? The MARC committee for the Municipal Act took three years to develop it - a very substantial bill, I might point out, but it took three years of consultations to develop that act.

Even so, there were problems at the very last minute when things were withdrawn and, now I understand, added back in.

I know it's difficult for people who have never been in the private sector and who have never worked such long hours for so many years to understand what that does to a person, but I'll tell you, you have to get your priorities straight. And your priorities are: number one is going to be your family after work, and the number-two priority, I'll guarantee you, is not going to be reviewing legislation for a bunch of bureaucrats down at the government building.

We ask a lot of the people in the Yukon. I'll tell you, as a business person, we have somebody at our door every single day of the week, "Can you sponsor this? Can you pay for that? Can you put this in the draw? Can you pay for this advertising? Can you do this? Can you do that?" It's not like Yukon business people don't put a lot back into this community already. I think that, if people on the street only knew half of what they do in their volunteer time on top of everything else, they'd be quite surprised, and I think that they'd be quite impressed.

Now, the chambers of commerce do elect people to their executives and those executives are very hard-working people, and a lot of them, I have to tell you, are single. They're single and they don't have an awful lot of other obligations. Even so, they are making time out of their schedules to review this legislation for us, and we have to thank them for that. It only makes sense.

It would be respectful for us and I think that it would be good for us, as legislators, to give those people a little bit of time to review this legislation for us.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, I rise to speak to this act that we had presented in this Legislature on Monday of this week. Upon receipt of it - shortly thereafter - I faxed this Act to Amend the Employment Standards Act to the Dawson City Chamber of Commerce.

I followed up with a number of phone calls. The one message that came back from all those that I spoke to was, "Where did this come from? What precipitated these changes?" And really, I didn't know. I didn't know, Mr. Speaker, until this evening when it was pointed out that the driving force behind these amendments to the Employment Standards Act was the Yukon hire commissioner. Then, everything more or less fell into focus as to where this government was headed and why it was headed in that direction.

The Member for Whitehorse Centre elaborated on his overview of these amendments and why they were required, pointed out his involvement in the construction industry and mentioned the subsequent drywallers and carpenters who operated as contractors and had been apparently abused in the system or not treated fairly. When you cast the net out there, Mr. Speaker, and take contract workers - I guess that's the area that's raised the tremendous amount of concern with constituents of mine who I've spoken to - most business operators - and a number of them contract workers - have very high reservations with how a contract worker is defined.

"Contract worker means a worker, whether or not employed under a contract of employment or whether or not furnishing tools, vehicles, equipment, machinery, material or any other thing owned by the worker who performs work or services for another person for compensation or reward on such terms and conditions ..." and then it goes on.

Well, I really wouldn't have trouble with that, if the minister could provide assurances that we were going to conform in this respect, to what the Income Tax Act has spelled out as "a contract worker" who doesn't appear to be arms' length from whoever is engaging that worker; or when they derive virtually all of their income from that one source.

The Income Tax Act is quite specific in this regard. Also, Mr. Speaker, case law has defined "contract worker". But when we amend the Employment Standards Act such as we are being asked to do here, that information hasn't filtered out to the general public, as to what the implications are going to be on case law. We're going to have to re-establish case law, under these new amendments.

When one starts to look, Mr. Speaker, at all the other areas that are affected - contract workers - one of the first ones to come to my mind are welders - welder-fabricators. There are a number of these individuals; they're contract workers. They operate their own truck, usually with a welder-unit - their acetylene units - fully equipped, and they pride themselves as being contract workers. They pride themselves on the job they do, and they're Yukoners, Mr. Speaker.

And yet, in a lot of cases, they're going to be looked upon, and could be classified as contract workers. We looked at heavy-duty mechanics that fall into the same role. They come up here for the summer - and I know a number of them. They drive their own vehicle, they have their own tools, some of them even have welding equipment - and they come to the Yukon - and yes, they don't have to change their driver's licence over, thanks to the Minister of Community and Transportation Services.

But, they usually go to work for one firm for the summer as a contract worker. They are usually with that one firm for the whole summer. And they pay their taxes, and they cover themselves, usually through that employer, who must cover them or ensure that they're covered by WCB.

I don't know if the members opposite recognize that, as an employer, WCB comes through your firm about every two years to do an audit of your firm. One of the first questions, after they go through your payroll, is for a list of people you have hired on a contract. Then they cross-reference that list of individuals or firms back to what they have fully covered at the main office through another policy. They must ensure that workers are covered, either directly by their own coverage or through the employer - through the firm that hires the contract worker.

Now, that's a reality of the situation, and it is in place. Occasionally, it is not adhered to. Some of the individuals or firms that hire contract workers have had to pay the cost of WCB to cover those workers.

But I reiterate, Mr. Speaker, that these workers pride themselves in being contract workers, prefer to work that way, prefer to go out and negotiate their own deal and prefer to remain autonomous. That's what has built this country, that entrepreneurial drive and enthusiasm.

Mr. Speaker, we can go on -

Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)

Speaker: Order please.

Mr. Jenkins: We can go on to a number of other areas that I am quite familiar with. Painting contractors are another one. That's another group of individuals who work quite extensively - the exteriors in the summertime; if they can get the work and obtain the work, the interiors in the winter. They pride themselves once again on the quality of the work that sells them, and you're talking about the individual whom we want to term, in most cases, a "contract worker," Mr. Speaker.

Now, for all intents and purposes, that individual could or may not be a member of a union. It's his choice, or her choice. Usually, their background and their track record at undertaking their specific skill or trade is what sells them in the marketplace, and they want that autonomy of being an independent contractor.

In a lot of cases, a firm will hire a contract painter, who could stay with them for two or three or four or five or, in some cases, six months. Start looking at some of the government contractors that take painting contracts, Mr. Speaker. They might have to finally go out and buy a business licence. Prior to that, they could have been working for themselves as a small-time contractor, and they come up through the ranks, but they've done so as a contractor.

Are we deliberately setting out to destroy this, entire group of entrepreneurs by classifying everyone here as a contract worker, Mr. Speaker?

I hope that's not the intent of this legislation, Mr. Speaker, but until such time as we have had the opportunity to go back and hear from those individuals we've consulted with - our party has gone out to quite a number of organizations, chambers of commerce, individuals and firms to obtain their feedback. We haven't had it yet.

Not one firm or individual I spoke with had any idea that the driving force behind this was the Yukon hire commission and the Yukon hire review that took place. A lot of them said, "Well, my gosh, how did we get from the Yukon hire, which I thought was about me getting a job here in the Yukon, to amendments to the Employment Standards Act? Isn't that a stretch?

We could go on, Mr. Speaker, and look at renovation contractors, which is usually one carpenter who has skill in painting, drywalling, finish carpentry, floor laying - a number of different skills.

I'm willing to wager, Mr. Speaker, that in this House many of us have hired this type of an individual to perform work for us as a contractor, paid them as a contractor and I'm sure that, without exception, none of us asked for the business licence of that individual, none of us asked if he was covered by workers' compensation. Yet, when it's a firm that hires that same contractor - in fact, in a lot of cases, the firm that hires one of these contractors has them swear an affidavit at the end saying that they've paid all their subtrades, they've paid their WCB remittance and they're free and clear of any encumbrances related to this job they're performing for you.

Now, that would suggest to me, Mr. Speaker, that a lot of the firms deal with a lot of different contractors and would like to continue to do so.

We could go on to furriers; we could go on to all of the new, home-based businesses.

We could go on to the equipment operator who owns a small backhoe or a BobCat that we contract to plow out our driveways - and I'm sure we're going to have a heck of a snowstorm because we're getting a snow job from government of the day in many respects.

When we look at those of us who have long driveways and who are hiring an equipment operator with his own piece of equipment to come clean our driveway, do we ever ask them if they have a business licence? No, I doubt it. Do we ever ask him if he's covered by WCB? You just automatically assume it, and we usually go on the reputation of that individual for what work he's done and performed for our neighbours.

Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)

Mr. Jenkins: The relevance is, Mr. Speaker, that all the evidence supports clearly that those jurisdictions in Canada with the highest growth and markets have flexible labour relations. Just look to what the Province of Ontario has done to turn around their economy after they saw the demise of the NDP there.

And look at B.C. It's in the toilet also, with its NDP policies and micromanagement of everything. B.C. was the leading area of Canada for decades, and look at what has happened now. Any time that they elected an NDP government in British Columbia, I used to welcome that in the Yukon. It was almost called the Yukon development act, but now we've made the same mistake here in Yukon and we're seeing opportunities eliminated left, right and centre - mining opportunities gone, forestry opportunities gone. You just have to name them.

Let's go on, Mr. Speaker. Most individuals in the Yukon today in the private sector are focused on trying to make a living.

What I'm asking, Mr. Speaker, is that the minister give ample time for us to go out and consult, to bring back an overview of the opinions -

Speaker: Order please. The time being 9:30, this House now stands adjourned until 1:30 tomorrow.

The House adjourned at 9:30 p.m.

The following Sessional Paper was tabled November 18, 1998:


Auditor General: Report on the Yukon Workers' Compensation Health and Safety Board Compensation Fund (Yukon) financial statements as at December 31, 1997 (Harding)

The following Legislative Return was tabled November 18, 1998:


Speed limits on Yukon highways: reasons for reducing in unposted areas (Keenan)

Oral, Hansard, p. 3506 to 3508 and 3515 to 3527

The following Documents were filed November 18, 1998:


Old Crow school construction project: local hire (Sloan)


Energy Commission: documents related to (McRobb)