Monday, November 30, 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?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Hon. Mr. Harding: Mr. Speaker, I have for tabling, in response to the Liberal leader's questions of last week, a letter to the Yukon Public Service Staff Relations Board on the status of negotiations between the Public Service Commission and the Yukon Teachers Association.
As well, I have the Yukon government implementation plan for the final report of the Cabinet Commission on Energy.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Mr. Speaker, I have for tabling today the Motor Transport Board annual report.
Speaker: Are there any reports of committees?
Are there any petitions?
Are there any bills to be introduced?
INTRODUCTION OF BILLS
Bill No. 70: Introduction and First Reading
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Speaker, I move that Bill No. 70, entitled An Act to Amend the Human Rights Act, be now introduced and read a first time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Minister of Justice that Bill No. 70, entitled An Act to Amend the Human Rights Act, be now introduced and read a first time.
Motion for introduction and first reading of Bill No. 70 agreed to
Speaker: Are there any further bills to be introduced?
Are there any notices of motion?
Are there any statements by ministers?
Energy commission final report: implementation
Hon. Mr. Harding: I am pleased to advise the House of our government's response to the final report of the Cabinet Commission on Energy. In short, we are accepting the 56 recommendations in the report and will act on all of them within the suggested timelines.
Yukon people told the energy commission they wanted affordable, stable power bills. They said they wanted to reduce environmental impacts through efficiency and renewable energy; and they said they wanted government to be more open and accountable. They said they wanted access to options and tools to make their own decisions about energy use.
We consulted, we listened, and we acted promptly.
We introduced a $10 million rate stabilization fund to keep electricity bills stable and affordable, for at least the next four years. We set $3 million for green power, and $1 million for energy efficiency initiatives, and we earmarked $2 million for a major wind-generator purchase.
The document I tabled today provides a comprehensive, broadly based policy framework for the Yukon's energy sector. It is founded on the guiding principles of sustainability, stability, efficiency, affordability, and accountability.
We are proposing made-in-Yukon solutions to energy issues, based on short, medium, and long-term recommendations in the energy commission report. For example, the 16 short-term actions in the implementation plan include
This implementation plan represents the collaborative efforts of 10 government departments and corporations and they will outline specific initiatives at the appropriate time.
Mr. Speaker, the Yukon faces many unique energy issues, such as greater seasonal fluctuations in electricity demand, isolation, high transportation cost, complex governance issues and rapid shifts in industrial demand for power.
Our goal has been to find appropriate solutions through strategic analysis and planning. Imbalances between demand and supply can't be resolved simply by expanding our grid or developing huge sources of supply and waiting for someone to come along to use it.
We must develop our resources in such a way that future generations will also benefit from the decisions we make now. Many of the energy commission recommendations arise from the principle of sustainable development, which also guided our government's response.
The implementation plan reflects this. It is an ambitious plan and one that we can achieve by developing and managing our resources wisely and efficiently.
Although this is the government's implementation plan, we believe the most effective solutions will come about through working in partnership with Yukon people. A number of agencies outside of government also have a vital role to play. For example: the Yukon Utilities Board and energy stakeholders guide regulatory processes; communities take the lead in community energy management; independent power producers can make an important contribution to green power and planning for energy supply options; utilities play the lead role in supply planning and electricity management; and, all of us can help by using energy more efficiently.
The Yukon's energy issues will not be resolved overnight. Many challenges remain. The commission's work and this implementation plan provide the foundation for positive action to meet those challenges.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Speaker, it's little wonder that Yukoners are demoralized and have lost confidence in this government's ability to do anything right. Once again, we have a document patting the government on the back for the great job they did in putting out the report to start with, a report that's lacking greatly in detail, and the implementation statement follows along the same line.
Mr. Speaker, we have a government that pats itself on the back for a rate stabilization fund and for a rate relief fund, when in fact it was they who eliminated the rate relief fund to start with. They raised the power rates and are now going to freeze them there for four years. They brought back a new rate relief fund that isn't going to be any better, and not quite as good as the one that was in place when they first came to government.
Mr. Speaker, this implementation report is contradictory in many areas, and leaves me to believe that this government has given up on their ability to solve the energy needs in the territory.
One of the major decisions that this government made was not to use the full licensing range of Aishihik Lake. That alone cost the ratepayers $4.5 million in expensive diesel fuel, to say nothing of the damage it did to our environment.
Mr. Speaker, I just want to point out one clause in this report that shows that this government is a government that says one thing and does something else. Clause 34 says that rates gradually move toward the long-term objective of actual costs for different customer classes, as directed by the Yukon Utilities Board. Members of government today, when in opposition, severely criticized the Yukon Party for even going ahead and working on that recommendation by the Utilities Board, and said that there was absolutely no way that they should move closer to the cost of service for different rate classes, yet we have now, in their reply, totally the opposite. They are saying that they are going to do it, and they are going to do it over a long period of time, when, in fact, we stated quite clearly in this House many, many times that we wanted to do the same thing over a 10-year period.
It was totally wrong then. Now it's all right because it's got the NDP spin on it, Mr. Speaker.
I haven't had a chance to go through the report in full detail, but I can point out numerous areas in here where they are doing what previous governments were doing. They've done absolutely nothing new to solve the energy needs of the Yukon.
In fact, some of the things in the minister's statement point out that they have given up on being able to solve Yukon's energy problem, and that's quite clearly stated when he encourages Yukoners to move away from electric heat in their homes to other energy sources, which come at a very high cost to consumers and do nothing for our environment.
What we need is a government that is going to have a vision and a plan to bring on cheaper energy sources. It is the only way that we're going to have reasonably priced power in the Yukon and we need to develop our own energy sources, which would create some much-needed jobs in the Yukon.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask the minister in his summation - we know that the report was written by the energy commission - who wrote the implementation plan, what input different people had into it, and was it some of the same people who wrote the energy commission report?
Mr. Cable: The energy commission was set up two years ago to sort out energy policy, one of the major public issues at that time, two years ago, and still. The commission made a number of recommendations that it identified as short term issues that could be dealt with on a two-year timeline.
Many of the short-term recommendations didn't plow new ground, could readily have been anticipated by the government, and don't require a further two years to be dealt with. This government went to the people two years ago, promising stable, affordable rates, and it got elected, in part on that promise. The people are still waiting for a long-term solution to the energy rate problem.
Now, next time around, it will be actions on which the government is judged, not promises. The short-term recommendations of the energy commissioner can all be acted on well before two years roll around.
Will the minister stand in this House today and commit to implementing the short-term recommendations well before the next election?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, Mr. Speaker, when this legislative session began, the opposition put out their press releases to kick it off, and they said that energy was going to be a huge issue and they were really going to hold the government accountable on energy issues. They were really going to take us to task.
Of course, Mr. Speaker, we announced on the very first day of this sitting major, new initiatives in energy, never before seen in this territory: ground-breaking in the area of a rate stabilization fund, what we did on green power, energy efficiency; the desire we had to promote wind-generated power.
Mr. Speaker, what you've seen is not one question in Question Period since this session started on energy, as a result of the fact that those initiatives - never before seen in this territory - had extensive, grounded support in the public of this territory, because of the work of the energy commission, and the fact that they were born - not on the negativity of Mr. Doom and Ms. Gloom in the opposition - but because we knew what the problems facing Yukoners were, and we knew how they wanted their government to respond.
Mr. Speaker, you'll notice that in the general public there's been very good support for the initiatives we've brought in. For four years they've sat back and watched the Yukon Party trip over themselves, failing miserably to develop any kind of comprehensive energy policy. They made no advancements on grid extensions, on supply options for producing power, even though they promised Yukoners they were interested in alternative energy sources.
Of course, the leader of the official opposition is still focused in on 50-megawatt coal projects. I would say, Mr. Speaker, that had Yukoners let them do that, they would have seen monstrosities for power bills before them now, because those big power-generating projects - that were his so-called "vision" - come with great, big reality checks called mortgages.
Mr. Speaker, I also want to say that that type of mentality is part of the reason that, when we lose major industrial customers off of the grid, like the Faro mine, we still have bills to pay. This government has managed two Faro mine shutdowns, a major fire at the utility and direct management, through the good work of the board of directors of the Energy Corporation and the administration. I think they've done a very admirable job managing some very challenging and difficult circumstances and bringing in something that's actually going to lower power bills this winter for consumers across all classes, but hold them at that for at least the next four years.
We didn't stop there either, Mr. Speaker. We went beyond that. Now, the leader of the official opposition said we've raised the rates. I think that, given that when he was the government leader and they had to deal with one Faro mine shutdown and a 58-percent increase rate application came before the people of the Yukon and the Utilities Board, it's pretty clear to show that if you measure out on a relative basis how this government and the corporation of this government managed those particular challenging times versus what they did, we measure out tremendously well. I think that that's the reason that people have received these reports so well.
I've got letters from the Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce and other organizations about the rate stabilization fund saying that it's an effective solution, an economic generator and contributor for this territory, for business and for families who have homes to heat.
Mr. Speaker, we don't just judge what we do by policy. The Liberal critic identified the action steps. Surely, the investment of $16 million in the economy and in energy in this territory is an action step. Surely, the member could at least concede that in his negative critique of the ministerial statement.
Mr. Speaker, this government hasn't stopped there either, as the members opposite heard from the Energy Corporation, the board of directors is very aggressively pursuing options to try and improve and further stabilize the system. As well, we've worked very hard on numerous initiatives like devolving oil and gas to provide future energy alternatives for this territory.
Mr. Speaker, we believe that the direction that we've set, the course that we've taken, was grounded well in public opinion as a result of the good work of the energy commission ...
Speaker: The minister has 30 seconds.
Hon. Mr. Harding: ... and the energy commissioner. We believe that it is a stable long-term solution, and, Mr. Speaker, we have provided a very detailed comprehensive response today on how we are going to deal with all of the issues identified in that report, and I commend it to this House.
Speaker: This then brings us to Question Period.
Question re: FAS/FAE testing
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the Minister of Health and Social Services. It's on FAS screening.
Virtually everyone is in agreement that FAS is a serious problem. There was recently an additional $48 million, Mr. Speaker, provided to this government. Now, $48 million is an awful lot of money, yet we see no initiative by this government to identify FAS. This government has failed to do anything about this serious problem for fear of labelling a child.
In view of the facts that early detection is crucial and that FAS screening can be done without labelling a child, will the minister finally take some action and devote the proper financial resources to address the Yukon's serious FAS problem?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I won't bother dealing with the fictitious $48 million - is it now? - that supposedly has dropped out of the sky like mana. However, what I will say is that I have indicated before in this Legislature that while we are opposed to the idea of labelling children, that doesn't mean that we have not done anything.
I have indicated before that the Minister of Education and I have discussed with the stats branch what a reasonable approach to this issue is, what can reasonably be done, what kinds of data we would be seeking, what kinds of parameters we can be working within, what kinds of restrictions there are in terms of confidentiality, as well as what kinds of materials we'd need to do an appropriate screening.
Mr. Jenkins: It sounds like we're studying the issue again for another few years before anything happens, Mr. Speaker. We've heard from our doctors, medical specialists, community leaders, teachers, some First Nations, who all have to deal with FAS on a day-to-day basis. Something has to be done in this area.
The previous Yukon Party government tabled an FAS/FAE prevention plan in April of 1995 and was supportive of FAS screening being done.
Can the minister advise the House if he has rescinded this strategy and, if he hasn't, what is the timetable for this screening to take place?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Mr. Speaker, we haven't rescinded anything. What we're doing is investing rather heavily in a whole variety of ways of dealing with prevention, dealing with treatment, dealing with providing services for people. I can go through, if the member would like, a fairly exhaustive list of the services that we are providing. The fact is that, as I indicated to the member, we have taken a look at this issue, but I'm not sure what his idea of a proper study is. Maybe it's lining people up and throwing darts and hoping that it hits the right person, but we feel that, if you're going to do a study, if you're going to do an inventory of what the degree of the problem is, what the probability is, you have to do it in the appropriate way, and that's why we've sought some advice from the stats branch in how to design such a study.
We also have to be very frank with the folks in stats branch as to what we're trying to get at, what we're aiming at, and that's why we've had discussions with them. We've asked them to bring back a sense of what they can do and, from there, we'll move on.
Mr. Jenkins: We have prevention programs, we have treatment programs, and if anyone is throwing darts it's the minister himself because, before you can implement treatment or prevention programs, you have to know where to aim. And in order to target the group, you have to identify them, and this fear of labelling a child is being used as a convenient smokescreen to divest itself of financial resources elsewhere.
Of the millions of dollars being spent on health and social services, can the minister advise the House how much is being spent on FAS screening and what is the time frame for implementation of this program?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I can go through that list of the kinds of things that we are doing, everything from the healthy child initiative to such things as special needs daycare to such things as our support for the Child Development Centre, and on and on and on.
What the member's really talking about - it's quite obvious that he's shooting in the dark. He doesn't have a clue of what kinds of services are offered in schools. He doesn't have a clue what kind of diagnostic services are offered by health centres. He doesn't have a clue on the role of physicians in this. He doesn't have a clue, period.
Now, if he had any understanding at all of how the education system works, of how IEPs work, how the determination of services to children works within the educational system, then there might be a shred of credibility in his questions. But, once again, he doesn't understand the issue.
Question re: Grey Mountain Primary School
Mr. Phillips: I'm going to direct my question to the Minister of Education if I don't get a condescending lecture from the Minister of Health, Mr. Speaker.
My question is to the Minister of Education regarding the Grey Mountain Primary School. At a recent meeting of the school council chairs, the Department of Education unveiled a document, Prioritization of Capital Projects, which refers to the consolidation exercise and proposal to close Grey Mountain Primary School. Needless to say, this news came as quite a surprise to all, and even a bigger surprise and shock to the Grey Mountain Primary School council, which weren't even given so much as a simple phone call.
Mr. Speaker, in discussions I've had this weekend with people in the education field, I'm also aware that the teachers and YTA were not given the courtesy of a call and were not involved at all in the discussions as well.
I'd like to ask the minister what she meant when she rose in the House last Thursday and said that the study is proceeding and is done with the full involvement and participation of the partners of education. Who is she talking about, when they haven't had any discussions with the parents of the students or the teachers of the students with respect to Grey Mountain Primary?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, Mr. Speaker, what we have here is the Member for Riverdale North joining in on a completely irresponsible and completely inaccurate allegation.
Mr. Speaker, at the meeting of the school council conferences, where school councils from Riverdale as well as from around the territory were present, the list of potential capital priorities was discussed with the school councils. That's a commitment that we made and a commitment that we're continuing to do with the school councils.
The school councils were also told at the meeting that what was being undertaken was a review of the Riverdale capacity for students. They were told that we are not planning to close the school.
The member is wrong. The member is stirring up a lot of alarm unnecessarily and inaccurately.
Mr. Phillips: Well, Mr. Speaker, people who are stirring up a lot of alarm are the minister's officials, who are going around, and the minister herself, talking about closing Grey Mountain Primary.
Mr. Speaker, the minister rose in the House today - the minister who talks about consultation - and said, "The school councils were told..." That's the idea of the NDP consultation. You are told that there is going to be a study of the Riverdale schools and that the chances of Grey Mountain closing are probably relatively high.
Mr. Speaker, I'd like to ask the Minister of Education: what changed her mind? Back in 1994, that minister, when she sat on this side of the House, voted in support of allocating over $5 million to Grey Mountain Primary, regardless of the numbers in that area, for a new school. What changed the member's mind now that she wants to do a study on the numbers in Riverdale instead of building the school that she wanted to do when she was in opposition? What changed her mind?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Speaker, first of all, let me respond to the member by saying that what I have been doing in this House is denying the false accusations that the member opposite is making that we've taken a decision to close the school. We have not made a decision to close Grey Mountain Primary School. The members are alleging that, and it's completely false.
Now, Mr. Speaker, what's happening in Riverdale? There have been a number of changes. As the members know when they brought forward the grade reorganization project, there were a number of capital renovations made to several elementary schools in the City of Whitehorse. There are now five schools in Riverdale, and there have been some changes with Christ the King Elementary School having been relocated to Riverdale.
The elementary school capacity in Riverdale is being reviewed by the department, and the departmental officials applied notice up front, in advance, that the Department of Education will meet with all Riverdale school councils and the school administrations. The work has not begun. We have indicated that we will be taking that work on, and the school councils were involved from the very start in telling them in advance that this work would begin over the next year.
Mr. Phillips: Well, the interpretation of the school councils is a lot different than the interpretation of the minister. The school councils didn't feel like they were consulted on the issue.
Mr. Speaker, I want to go back to the issue that I raised a few moments ago. The Minister of Education, when she was on this side of the House, supported the building of Grey Mountain Primary School, irrespective of the numbers. The motion was put forward by the Member for Riverdale South at the time, Mrs. Firth. All the members of the NDP caucus who were sitting on this side of the House supported the motion to put the $4.5 million into the education budget to build Grey Mountain Primary School.
Why, Mr. Speaker, has the Minister of Education today changed her mind? What event happened that changed the minister's mind? The numbers didn't matter in 1994, but the numbers matter today. What changed the minister's mind?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Speaker, I just can't believe the question coming from that member. That's the Member for Riverdale North, who in 1992, campaigned that he would build a new school in Riverdale North, in his riding, and he campaigned on that in 1992 and didn't build the school. He didn't build much in the way of schools at all.
What this government has done, Mr. Speaker, has made a commitment to building schools in the Yukon. We have a long-range budget where we are putting significant capital resources into building one school a year over a period of years, and we are also involving school councils in that decision in setting the priorities for which school should be built first. I think that's a record to be proud of, Mr. Speaker.
Question re: Grey Mountain Primary School
Mrs. Edelman: Well, Mr. Speaker, I have some questions for the Minister of Education. This is the minister responsible for consultation and decisions that affect parents, teachers and students.
The minister has a habit of saying things in this House that later she wishes she hadn't. Like last Wednesday, when the minister told the House that she was working with the full involvement and participation of her partners in education on the Riverdale consolidation project. This is a project that ends with the closure of Grey Mountain Primary School.
Mr. Speaker, the Grey Mountain Primary School council set the record straight on Friday when they said, "This partner in education is not involved nor participating in any study at this time. Nor have we been asked by anyone to participate in that study."
Can the minister explain to the House why she said consultation was occurring when, clearly, it was not?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, Mr. Speaker, I really have to thank the Member for Riverdale North for being the one who has completely, falsely, stated that the government is planning to close the school, when the government is not planning to close the school.
That member has -
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Speaker: On a point of order, the hon. Member for Riverdale North.
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Speaker, she was talking of the Member for Riverdale South, and mentioned the Member for Riverdale North, and I'd like the member to clarify who she's talking to.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Speaker, on the point of order, the Member for Riverdale North and the Member for Riverdale South are both standing up and making false allegations in the House. There is no point of order.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Speaker: Order. Order please.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Speaker: Order. Order. Order please.
The Chair will review the Blues, and we'll continue with the Question Period.
The Minister of Education.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, at the school council conference - a couple of weeks ago now - the Department of Education met with school councils around the territory, and I believe that there was a member for Grey Mountain Primary School council in attendance at the meeting when the discussion of a number of projects that will be underway, either in the current year or coming forward in the new year, were discussed, and that included the Riverdale capacity review.
Members from Grey Mountain Primary - and all the other schools in Riverdale - were in attendance, and were given notice in advance.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, I'd like to read something to the minister from last Wednesday in this Legislature. The minister said, and I quote: "There is a survey being done on the needs in Riverdale." That was Wednesday.
Now, in a local paper on Friday, the minister was quoted as saying the review had not yet started. Again, we have the minister with two different stories - "We're consulting," but, in fact, they weren't consulting. Then, this case, that the survey is being done, and then, of course, the survey's not being done.
Mr. Speaker, she said one thing on Wednesday, and had a new story on Friday. When is the minister going to find out what's going on in her department? Which story is she using today?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, Mr. Speaker, I sure hope people aren't relying for their facts on what's happening in the Department of Education on the false allegations that the Member for Riverdale South and the Member for Riverdale North make.
The review of the Riverdale capacity and the changes because of the grade reorganization and the relocation of Christ the King Elementary School into Riverdale will be taking place beginning next year. The notice of the study was given to school councils at the school council conference meeting just over a week ago. The study has not yet taken place. Department of Education officials will meet with each of the school councils in Riverdale who will be participating in this review when it gets underway.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, I think we should note that the minister once again called the Member for Riverdale South a liar. We know that the NDP are planning to close down Grey Mountain Primary School. Would the minister state for the record, when this consolidation study is done, will Grey Mountain school cease to exist?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Speaker, the member is making a false allegation. I'm not calling her a liar. What I'm saying is that her drawing the conclusion that the Government of Yukon is closing Grey Mountain Primary School is completely false and is completely irresponsible. We have people who are worried about losing their jobs when, in fact, no decision to close the school has been made. That member should be more responsible.
There is a study of the Riverdale capacity in the elementary schools that will be starting next year. School councils will continue to be involved. We served notice at the meeting over a week ago that this study would be underway. The Department of Education officials will meet with the school councils of all of the schools affected, and will continue to work with them.
Question re: FAS/FAE in schools, individual education plans
Ms. Duncan: My question is for the Minister of Education.
This minister has said in this House, "I see the effects of alcohol in our courts, in our jails, in probation services, and in a number of other program areas." One of the program areas the minister has to be referring to is in our schools, where our teachers see the effects of fetal alcohol syndrome and fetal alcohol effect. The minister has steadfastly refused to undertake any programs that would diagnose children with FAS or FAE.
The minister says a diagnosis labels a child and that the answer is in our education system, the individual education plans. Will the minister tell this House what is the average age that a child has an IEP developed and how long is the waiting list to develop an individual education plan?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Assessments are done in a whole variety of disciplines in special education, and they start at different ages, depending on the individual child, and depending on the school. What is done is that a school-based team involves the parents and professionals from the Department of Education, in some cases, and others, in looking at what the psychological and educational needs of children with special needs are.
Ms. Duncan: Well, the University of Washington School of Medicine issued a study on clients with FAS and FAE. Mr. Speaker, 415 individuals with FAS were studied: 94 percent had mental health problems, 43 percent had a disrupted school experience, 42 percent had trouble with the law, and 45 percent exhibited inappropriate sexual behaviour.
The key to reducing these numbers, according to the study, is, and I quote, "A diagnosis before six years of age; every effort should be made to provide an early diagnosis for every child with FAS or FAE."
How long is this government going to ignore the experts in the field and refuse to diagnose children at an early age?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, since the member has made reference to "before six", it's probably more appropriate that I address this.
I indicated earlier that we are developing a whole variety of ways of addressing this, including the healthy family initiative, which is really designed to identify children at a very, very early age, and actually identify mothers who are at risk, and try to provide services to people to prevent the problem of FAS/FAE. As well, we have a whole variety of things, such as we support the Child Development Centre, where there can be early identification and early remediation of some of these problems.
We also support such things as special needs day care. In addition, we have a family support worker who is dedicated, primarily, to FAS, who works with a clientele of high-risk families, including families that have had at least one FAS child and have a history of alcohol abuse. This family support worker works exclusively in that regard.
As well, there are child care support workers working with children at a very early age, so I think what we are doing is we're trying to address this as soon as we can, with children.
In school, I can tell the member that, by my experience, very frequently -
Speaker: The minister's time has expired.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, this four-year study done by the University of Washington's School of Medicine doesn't seem to be good enough for either of these ministers or this government that promised to foster healthy communities. The conclusion of the study says that the magnitude in cost of these disabilities is huge.
Now, the minister seems to have backtracked a little in his last answer. He actually used the word "identify children." Will the minister stand on his feet and confirm that this government is, in fact, making every effort to identify those afflicted with FAS or FAE? How much are we dedicating in terms of resources to that specific program, this specific recommendation of an early diagnosis, which has been made by others? Experts in the field have recommended early diagnosis. Is the government funding it? Are they going to do early diagnosis?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Mr. Speaker, I would suggest that early diagnosis is already done. It's done very frequently by physicians. It's done frequently by public health nurses. It's done frequently by parents, who will notice a cognitive or a developmental delay. When those issues are brought forward, we provide the medical services for such diagnosis. We provide services and resources such as CDC and others to help do remediation. The fact is that there is a great deal that is being done at a very early age.
What I'm somewhat leery about is having people who maybe do not have the range of expertise making instant diagnosis.
As I was trying to say earlier, from my experience in education, developmental problems are discovered prior to children coming into school. There is often a very clear sense of children coming into school who have developmental problems, and the programs have to be adapted for them.
Certainly, within kindergarten, some of the early testing that's done -
Speaker: The minister's time has expired.
Question re: Economic climate in Yukon
Mr. Ostashek: My question is to the Government Leader on the Yukon's economy or lack thereof.
Mr. Speaker, over the weekend, I was in Watson Lake, and people there are very demoralized, and the community is very depressed, and there is certainly no optimism for the economic future of the Watson Lake area.
Mr. Speaker, on returning to Whitehorse, I am greeted by the news that one of the oldest engineering firms in the Yukon is leaving, because they don't see any future in staying in the Yukon.
Last Wednesday, I asked the Government Leader to support a two-day economic summit so that Yukon businesses, First Nations and other interested parties could have their say with the government, and he refused. He basically said, "Don't worry, be happy. The economy is not as bad as the opposition is trying to make it out to be."
Mr. Speaker, my question to the Government Leader: on behalf of the Yukon companies that wish to remain and work in the Yukon, when will the Government Leader and his government get the message that Yukon companies are having a tough economic time, and many will be forced to leave the territory soon if this government doesn't act?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, Mr. Speaker, first of all, it would be a mistake for people to be left with the impression that I have said or I am saying, "Don't worry, be happy." What I have said is that we, as a government and as a community, have worked very hard on a whole series of fronts to expand our economic fortunes, to improve our economic performance, and we can do that through many different mechanisms.
The fact that in tourism we're taking direct action, not only on strategic developments but also on everything from new charter airplanes to expansion of the Whitehorse Airport and mining. We are working with the mining industry to expand programming. We've even, in the last week, been talking about exploration tax credits. We initiated a round table on taxation. We have initiated discussions around the regulatory regimes.
I've asked the Yukon Council on the Economy and the Environment last month to hold meetings around the territory to talk to people. We have taken many different actions, everything from in the Watson Lake area, supporting the mill construction through the training agreement to the devolution of oil and gas. We established a new forest policy. The list goes on and on and on and on and on and on with respect to the actions being taken.
The reason why we cannot wait, Mr. Speaker, until next spring for the one-day or two-day conference the member wants us to convene is because we are already working with people and we've been working for months -
Speaker: The Government Leader's time has expired.
Mr. Ostashek: Well, Mr. Speaker, we didn't ask him to wait till next spring; we said to the first quarter of 1999 - 30 days away. Thirty days away is what it is, Mr. Speaker.
We've quite clearly heard one businessman say last week that they can talk the talk but they can't walk the walk. There is a serious lack of economic leadership by this Government Leader and his government.
In talking to the business community this morning, the building sector business is down by about 20 percent in 1998, and when you ask them what it's going to be next year, they're looking at another 10 to 15 percent drop. Quite clearly, whatever this government is doing isn't working.
I ask the Government Leader: what new initiatives is his government exploring to build some optimism for the Yukon's future?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Mr. Speaker, because so little was done by our predecessors, everything we're doing now is new. We are building upon the lousy reputation of the Yukon Party in terms of tax increases. We are talking about tax decreases and working with industry and the business community and others to talk about how we can use the tax system to excite more economic activity.
We have announced today that we're responding favourably to the energy commission's report to stabilize energy rates. This is something that is new, that is concrete, that is happening now, and is going to improve the economic fortunes of the territory in time.
Mr. Speaker, we have done many things in the tourism industry, many things with the mining industry, forest industry, oil and gas, the devolution. There is new activity, never before having taken place, on trade and investment. The supplementary budget we're about to pass has $500,000 in marketing funds for tourism and for trade and investment.
The list is long. What we can't do, which is what the Yukon Party wants us to do, is spend our way out of the economic malaise, which is largely driven by the fact that the -
Speaker: The Government Leader's time has expired. Final supplementary.
Mr. Ostashek: We know how envious this Government Leader is of the economic track record of the Yukon Party government and wishes he could pick up on it a little bit, but it appears that they just don't have the right stuff, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Speaker, this Government Leader is living in a dream world. He's living in a dream world if he thinks his government is actually doing something to address the Yukon's very serious economic crisis.
My question to the Government Leader: is he prepared to continue to sit on his hands and watch our long-time businesses and long-time trades people leave the Yukon for greener pastures?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Mr. Speaker, I would never want to emulate the Yukon Party's performance, the highest taxing government in modern memory. Not only that, but the spending that the Yukon Party championed was largely driven by agreements that were determined by the NDP government for hospital construction and the Shakwak construction.
Mr. Speaker, they had the ability to spend $500 million - they did very little in actual work to support the mining industry, other than to attend the Codilleran Roundup. No new programming; no new initiatives on that front whatsoever - literally none - taking advantage of worldwide, economic positive indicators; and they claim that we want to emulate their record.
Mr. Speaker, we are much more active as government. We want to see things happening now; we don't want to wait till next spring. We've started already - we started this last year. Mr. Speaker, we're taking concrete steps now that will help our economic performance, and we will not wait - as the Yukon Party wants us to - till next spring, so we can have a one-day wonder conference.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed. We will now proceed to Orders of the Day.
Orders of the day
Hon. Mr. Harding: I move the Speaker now leave the Chair and the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Speaker: It has been moved by the government House leader that the Speaker do now leave the Chair, and the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Motion agreed to
Speaker leaves the Chair
committee of the whole
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. Is it the members' wish to take a brief recess?
Some Hon. Member: Agreed.
Chair: Fifteen minutes.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. Committee will be dealing with Bill No. 69, Municipal Act. We are on clause 152.
Bill No. 69 - Municipal Act - continued
On Clause 152 - continued
Chair: Is there debate?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: When we concluded debate, I was asked a question for an example that might show more than one question on a ballot, and that would be, in that type of a case, it could be, the first part of the question could be, should the municipality build a new rec centre? An ancillary question that might be incidental to that would then be, could the municipality pay for the new rec centre within the amount within the recreation reserves?
So therein you'd have two questions. That's an example I was asked by the Member for Riverdale.
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On Clause 153
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On Clause 178
Clause 178 agreed to
On Clause 179
Clause 179 agreed to
On Clause 180
Mrs. Edelman:Now, on clause 180(1)(b), we're talking about the roles and duties of the mayor, and it says that the mayor will provide leadership and direction to the council and the chief administrative officer. Mr. Chair, I had a little bit of a problem with that wording. Why have a council if the mayor is giving direction and telling everybody what to do? What's the point of having a council? I wonder if the minister could give us a little bit more information on this particular clause?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Mr. Chair, it is not predominantly to say that the mayor makes nothing but the decisions, because I certainly agree that it would be awfully autocratic. It's simply meant to mean that they would perform the duties of a member of council, that they would preside at the meetings, they would provide leadership and direction to the council and chief in administration. So, it's meant in that generic type of manner, not specifically that thou shalt do this and nothing else. It's just meant in that light.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, I know there were a substantial number of changes between the act that was agreed to by the MARC and the one that was tabled: well over 50 changes. Was this one of the changes? And was this the wording that came from AYC or was this wording that came from the government?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Absolutely no. I would ask the Member for Riverdale - the table and the version that I had worked on with the Association of Yukon Communities in the eleventh hour is the one that is before us here. Certainly, that type of wording came from the committee, and the Municipal Act Review Committee is certainly knowledgeable of the desire, and it did come from the AYC in their committee. And I'll leave it at that.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, I suppose I have a problem with this particular clause because it says "to provide leadership and direction to the council and the chief administrative officer". The chief administrative officer is the administrative arm of that level of government. So the mayor gives direction to the CAO as well as to the council. Then it gets done the way the mayor is doing it. Now, there's nothing here that says that the mayor has to go back to the council and discuss whatever that direction is, and I suppose that that's where I'm really confused, because certainly it is a democracy still here in the Yukon, even on the municipal level, and if the mayor is going to be going out and giving direction to the entire administrative arm as well as to the council, then it's not a democracy. Then it's one person saying the way they want to have it done, and I have real concerns with that.
Where is the check and balance here? This is obviously the check. Where is the balance in the act?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Well, Mr. Chair, the checks and balances are provided and built within here to provide leadership. If you are running for the responsibility of being the mayor, well then you feel that you can provide that type of leadership to the council. We know that councils have been, over the last few years - over the last 10 years predominantly - as I said earlier, building capacity in the communities. Certainly, I feel that they're to that point now where they have that capacity within the community.
When it says the mayor, whether it's man or woman, is to provide leadership or direction, it does not say that the only direction will come from the mayor, but that they should provide the direction to the council so that they would run the meeting according to whatever the rules of order might be in that particular situation.
Then it's up to the council and those guys to enact those types of rules and organization, but it's meant in a generic sense to provide leadership. So as you are mayor, you will provide the leadership of all to come together and provide good government for the benefit of the municipality.
The mayor is also given the responsibility of conveying that to the CAO. So, I would encourage the member to look at it in that light because it's certainly meant in that light; it's not directly saying that only what the mayor says goes and that is all that shall happen. It does not say that. It says the mayor is provide leadership and direction to the council and for the council to come up with those decisions.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, I suppose the concern that I have is that on the municipal level of government throughout the Yukon, the mayor is the one who's in the office all the time. It doesn't matter which municipality you're talking about, there is a mayor's office in every municipality in the Yukon. But there isn't a council one, because the mayor is there most of the time, particularly in the larger communities.
Now, my concern is that something might be going through the mayor's office, directions given to the CAO - the council may not know anything about it, and the council may not agree to what has happened with the mayor. Not that I'm saying that this is happening within our municipalities; what I'm saying is that this opens up that possibility. And I know that there have been mayors in the past that - maybe not in the past, but there may be mayors in the future - that would take full advantage of that. And that's what I suppose my concern is.
Is there something in here that says that he or she cannot go out and give direction to the CAO without the council knowing about it? Because the way I read this now, that's a real possibility.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Well, Mr. Chair, all decisions that come from the municipal arm of government must be made by a vote of council, and certainly therein would give comfort to the member, so that the member would have a better understanding. But certainly, it must be all done by a vote of council. And certainly they can bring things forth for discussion, and bring things back and forth for discussion, until the voting procedures come forth.
Mr. Jenkins: If we look at clause 178 in the old Municipal Act and look at clause 180, which replaces it, what was the concern with clause 178 and what went wrong in that clause that necessitated this significant change as proposed in the new act? What gave rise to it, and what problems did we encounter under the old act under clause 178 on duties of the mayor that led to this change?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Well, Mr. Chair, there was not one specific incident that gave rise to it to say, well, this happened in Teslin or Haines Junction or anything, and we're going to fix this. It certainly wasn't brought forth. The municipalities, through MARC, wanted a clearer statement of the roles and responsibilities. There were questions asked and questions brought forth, and the committee made proposals. So, these are simply from the Municipal Act Review Committee, but I'd like the Member for Klondike to take comfort in the fact that there wasn't an example, per se, but it was based on discussion on how to make things clearer and easier.
Mr. Jenkins: And yet, Mr. Chair, if we look at the duties of the mayor, as described in the old act in clause 178, they were much more succinct and flowed much more readily and were very specific - specifically, they were task oriented - whereas clause 180 under this act that we have before us is quite generic. Is that the intent, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, Mr. Chair, it was the wish and desire of MARC.
Clause 180 agreed to
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On Clause 191
Mrs. Edelman: Clause 191, is that the one we're on?
Chair: Clause 191.
Mrs. Edelman: Okay, this is a discussion on boards and commissions. It talks about boards and commissions, and it says, "For any committee, board or commission established by a council, the council may by bylaw..." and then there's a series of provisions.
One of the things it doesn't seem to talk about is attendance. Now, is this included because, quite often, particularly at difficult times of the year, like around Christmas and that, you end up with board members who cannot attend regularly, and then the board becomes dysfunctional.
Now, we do have that provision for councillors, that they do have to attend, but I don't see this in here for committees or boards.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, Mr. Chair, if the member would look under (c), where it says, "prescribe the manner in which the chair and the members of the committee, board or commission are to conduct meetings and the procedure for their voting on any matter."
Mrs. Edelman: So am I to understand that attendance is one of those issues, because I know it was very clear for councillors, but it doesn't seem to be clear here for members of a commission or a board. Why is it not as clear here as it is for councillors?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I would say that that would have been up to the municipalities. It might be something different from municipality to municipality, but certainly it is up to municipalities.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, this may be a small point but, having had to wait for long periods of time for the reports from boards or commissions over a period of years and having sat on a number of boards and commissions over the years as well, it seems to me that that particular point about attendance is a very important one. I wonder if we could notate it for the MARC as well, as one of the things they might just discuss briefly or at least have it noted? There's no reason why you couldn't just add another subclause and talk about attendance as well, because it's really not clear in (c). The word "attendance" is not even in there, where it is very clear for councillors.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, certainly, I hear what the Member for Riverdale is suggesting. I would ask the member, though, that where it does say boards and committees in 191(1), "The council may by bylaw establish committees, boards, and commissions and their functions", I would suggest certainly that that is captured. Attendance would be captured, as we say, "prescribe the manner in which the chair and members of the committee, board, or commission are to conduct the meetings and the procedure ..." I would suggest that's in there but, certainly, I can ask for legal clarification as a first step, and if it can't be legally clarified then I would be accepting to put it on a notations list. But certainly I would take that step.
Clause 191 agreed to
On Clause 192
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, first of all in subparagraph 192(3), dealing with the emergency measures commission, is there a typo? It says "therefor in the annual budget". In our copy, there is no "e" on "therefor". Is this perhaps one of these nouveau English spellings?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I thank the member for bringing that typo forth because it is, certainly. I have just been informed that that's not a new word. We're not inventing new English here, although, certainly, sometimes on the floor of the Legislature we do, but that was not the intent, so I thank you and we'll have to put forward an - yes, I wonder if we may have unanimous consent from the House that we might do this?
Chair: I have been informed that it may not be a typo and we'll check with the Department of Justice on that.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Well, there you have it. It might not be and we might be inventing a new English. So certainly, I think the Clerk wins.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, I always bow to the decisions of the Chair.
The emergency measures commission - I just thought that I would point out here that this is a dramatic improvement over the old way of dealing with emergency measures.
Now, this doesn't specifically talk about declaring an emergency, but it talks about the commission itself. In the old act, the surviving members of council would have to meet and decide that yes indeed, there had been an emergency. So, even if, as one former mayor put it, it were raining rocks, you would still have to decide that yes, there was an emergency and this would be a dramatic improvement on that particular way of doing business in the event of an emergency in the Yukon.
Clause 192 agreed to
On Clause 193
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, there's quite a number of changes in this section of the act, vis-à-vis the previous conflict of interest guidelines.
I have a number of concerns, Mr. Chair, in that we are being very, very specific. Could the minister advise why we have put in so many different categories when, under the previous conflict-of-interest guidelines, we virtually captured the essence of any conflict that could or might occur? Now we're getting into specifics and all of the other aspects of the legislation appear to be more enabling and broad and yet in this one, we're going the other way.
Now, what is the reason for that, because I was just running through my mind a number of situations. In the smaller communities a lot of the members of council are involved in small businesses and do provide services to the municipal government in one form or the other, either through their involvement on their board of directors or in a non-profit society or organization or directly through their business. So, I'm interested as to why we saw fit to really expand on this section, when all the other sections are going the other way, Mr. Chair.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, Mr. Chair, it's the wish of the municipal folks, as represented by the Municipal Act Review Committee. These are the guidelines that they desired - they wanted very consistent guidelines to come up. I think - as I talked with the department on this, and asking somewhat the same questions - it was more in the light to let folks have an understanding so that they would not be caught in a conflict. Because at the community level, while there's not a village or city or hamlet or anything at this point in time, they're definitely categorized, but still that doesn't enhance the capacity of a community.
So it was meant just to have very consistent guidelines, so that folks would know right up front what was there and what was not required of them, but mostly, just to be up front with them, so that we would not put ourselves into these situations.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, then, why did we include judges as being disqualified, because they're disqualified by virtue of the fact of their being a judge. Why did we have to enter into the act that a judge can't be a member of council?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Well, certainly, Mr. Chair, I can think that judges are - by their special position in society - preempted, but would have to check into the old act to see why it's there now, at this point in time, so if the member will allow me to get an explanation that pertains strictly to the judges, I surely will, because that I don't know.
In the section 193(9) it further clarifies just what a judge is: "The expression 'judge of a court' does not include a justice of the peace, a youth court judge, or a deputy judge of the Small Claims Court." It is strictly just to the larger sense of a "judge".
Mr. Jenkins: I can see, you know, the definition there quite well, Mr. Chair, but judges on their own, when they receive an appointment, are precluded from holding political office, so why are we going both ways?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, Mr. Chair, I would suggest that that is a legal matter, and I will, by way of legislative return, get a legal explanation to the Member for Klondike.
Mr. Jenkins: In the same vein, Mr. Chair, I notice that we're precluding a lot of other individuals from being able to hold political office. Can the minister tell me why a chief or councillor of a First Nation here in the Yukon is precluded from holding political office? What was the rationale there?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Mr. Chair, as we move through the Municipal Act, we will come to the beginning as we get to the end, I guess, with the preamble. You'll see in there that we have the reference of respect as a government in that sense.
Certainly, that is the sense that the First Nations, with their inherent jurisdiction, come to the table with us also, and it's meant so that you might have two governing bodies that would come together and act in a government-to-government type of relationship, and it's in the same light as either I or you would be as an MLA within that light.
Now, we did leave room. I talked about this with different folks in the First Nation community and asked about this, and they felt that that was the right way to move, but they further clarified that in saying that with some of the new emerging structures that come out, there are different types of governing bodies. In the case of Teslin, they have a general council that is mandated by each of the clans, represented by five people. It's okay for them because, in a broad policy sense, they set the policy, so we didn't want to preclude any of the leaders, but with the wishes of the Association of Yukon Communities and the First Nations, we thought that this would best represent the government-to-government relationship.
Mr. Jenkins: So, on one hand we're allowing, or empowering, the establishment of regional governments. And, if we want to use the example of Teslin, we allow in Teslin a village council. So we can envision, down the road, let's say, a regional government encompassing the First Nation and municipal government. Yet, under the provisions of this act, the councillors and the chief of the First Nation there can't be members of the government. That doesn't make any sense. I would see it as being very beneficial to have all of these people involved in the same municipal government.
Now, I understand we're setting up this regional government by regulation, so we don't get to deal with it in this act, whatsoever, and we don't know how we're going to fund it at all. We're just setting up another level of government. I don't know where the funding's going to come from, or how we're going to afford it, but we've excluded that group that I would envision be a major component of that regional government. Why?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: They can participate in the regional government structure, and certainly that would be most desirous, I'm sure. It's specifically the municipal mayor and council who cannot be elected to serve.
Mr. Jenkins: What sections of this act apply to a regional government? Because I would imagine a regional government would also have a mayor and council. Or does a regional government not have a mayor and council?
We can't have it both ways. If we set up a regional government, there has to be some governing body and, if it's consistent with all other sections of this act, we'd have a mayor and council. Yet, are we not applying this new act to the regional government, or are we, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, Mr. Chair, through consultation and talking with folks, the regional government established will be established through the order-in-council process. Certainly, who represents them or speaks for them or how their governance is depicted, I guess, would be the word, through consultation and what they want. So, certainly, the situations could be very, very different from the regional government process, if there is one and the Klondike could be a mirror of it, or it could be different. I would suggest that it would be different from, maybe, the one from Teslin, if there was one. So, each would be different and it would be done and established by Cabinet through the OIC and certainly those types of issues would be brought forth.
Mr. Jenkins: So, it sounds, Mr. Chair, like we're going to establish a regional government and we're not going to make it subject to most of the provisions, or a lot of the provisions of this act we're dealing with. Now, why would we want to do that?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, Mr. Chair, through talking with people and consulting with people and finding out what their unique circumstances might be in that particular geographical location of the Yukon, it may or may not be, but certainly this is the bible for the mayors and councils. And the mayors and councils are not going to be going out and trying to find an alternative way. A regional government is more to be established through the sharing of whatever it is that the communities that are affected would like to share. So, certainly, though, the guidelines will be looked at in the bible for good governance for municipalities, as the bible for good government is the self-government act for the First Nations. It allows them to come together on this.
Mr. Jenkins: It sounds like the minister knows not of what he's speaking because, really, this piece of legislation that we have before us is, as the minister stated, the bible of the municipal government. I don't like to call it that, but the minister referred to it as such, and let's accept that.
And flowing from this legislation is the establishment or the potential establishment of regional governments. Now, my understanding of regional governments, as explained here by the minister, was that it's going to encompass First Nations and various municipal governments. Now, I would see it as being paramount that members of the respective councils of both the municipal governments and the First Nations be sitting together at this regional government level.
Yet, we're told this section of the act only applies to municipal governments. Well, the regional government is a municipal government. It's another form of government established under this act. The only thing is, the bureaucrats have carefully hidden virtually everything out of the range of the legislators and they're going to hide it behind regulations. So, until such time as we know what is before us and it's succinctly spelled out, like I believe it should be, we're at a loss.
If you start looking at this act applying over that type of government and how it's going to work when you're excluding the First Nations, I can't see it happening. You're cutting off one of the total participating groups completely from being allowed into the scenario. Furthermore, what's wrong with a member from a council of a First Nation sitting on a municipal council? What's wrong with that?
In my opinion, there isn't anything whatsoever, Mr. Chair, and I've had quite a number of years in municipal government. The minister himself has had quite a number of years as a leader of a First Nation. Is he aware of any problems with exchange back and forth? Why do we need that whole section?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I thank the Member for Klondike for the advice that is provided, and I certainly understand that the Member for Klondike has been a past mayor of the municipality for many years.
Let me again try to explain, because certainly it is my incumbent duty to explain now. We have two governments - and they certainly are governments, as we respect them as a government, and I know the official opposition and the third party do respect them as governments; this enables them to come together with other governments, First Nation or whatever other government might be there - that come together to establish common administrative or planning structures. So, in some cases, there might not even be a mayor or council, but there certainly might be a joint administrative or planned structure. It would remain under the control of the participating governments. So, if there's a First Nation and a municipal government coming together, it would be under their control, and it would include, certainly, the direct representation by the governments that are participating.
So I would suggest that it's not a new form of government, where you have to go out and have a new election for the new mayor and the new council for that district government, because that's not it. The government situation will be applied within the Municipal Act, as we're talking here, and within the First Nation's self-government bible, which is within their jurisdiction, and certainly they'll come together then, and resource and pool the new structure, whichever it might be. Again, it would be established by the order-in-council and through lots of consultation and talking with the folks in here.
So I would suggest that it is needed here, because certainly the municipalities are desirous of this so that they can provide a better service to all folks within the targeted area, whichever that area might be.
Mr. Jenkins: So, if I read between the lines, it sounds like the government is anticipating setting up regional governments and appointing all of the members by order-in-council who are going to sit on the regional councils - so much for democracy at work. Is that the case, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: No, that is not the case, Mr. Chair. The people affected would definitely have the say in here through consultation talk about what process they would so choose.
Now, in the situation that we're using, well, the Teslin Tlingit have a different type of system. These would certainly all be taken into consideration through the consultation reflected within the OIC.
Mr. Jenkins: So, in (4)(c), what would be the downside of eliminating that clause and permitting a chief or councillor of a Yukon First Nation to run for municipal office? Why can't we allow that to happen?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Well, Mr. Chair, as I said earlier, in light of a government-to-government relationship, the immediate folks in governance on the First Nation side would not to be eligible to run as a councillor or a mayor under this scenario. Now, that is the desire of the Municipal Act Review Committee and the municipalities, as depicted by the MARC. Certainly, that is what they want, and we've found it not be an encumbering tool but certainly an enabling tool. Some of the chiefs whom I have spoken to have absolutely no problem with that. None whatsoever.
Mr. Jenkins: So what's the downside of eliminating that section? Get rid of this whole section (4) (c).
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I would suggest that the positive side of it is that it states what can and cannot be done, and it certainly allows different structures of First Nation governments to be reflected within here. I'd say that's the positive side.
Mr. Jenkins: But what we're saying is that someone from a First Nations government, which is really on the same level as probably the government of the Yukon, because they report directly to Ottawa can't sit on a municipal council, which is a lower level of government. And yet it's in the best interests of municipalities to empower all their citizens to run for political office, whether they be First Nations or otherwise. And there's only so much of a pool of leadership ability in our smaller communities, and I can see tremendous advantage to having a member of a First Nations council sit on a municipal council.
I don't think the minister can cite me an example of anywhere in the Yukon where this has occurred; where it's had major negative connotations. I think it would be a progressive and an enabling step, that would best benefit us all. I'd ask the minister to think with his heart on this issue, and with his background in municipal government. I'll have to write it out, but I'd like to move that (4) be amended to delete (c) in clause 193, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, I'd like to move
THAT Bill No. 69, entitled Municipal Act, be amended in subclause 193(4) at page 96, by deleting paragraph (4)(c).
Chair: Is there any debate on the amendment?
Mrs. Edelman: On the proposed amendment, I wonder if the minister can give us an example where there would be a conflict of interest between, say, a councillor on a First Nation and a councillor on a municipal level of government.
We could even use Whitehorse. Is there going to be a case where a councillor for the Kwanlin Dun, for example, would have difficulty trying to figure out, in some way, which was the more important, or which was the one that you would follow? For example, are the interests of the Kwanlin Dun going to be substantially different than the interests of the City of Whitehorse? Is there an example that the minister can give us?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Well, I guess the first one, off the top of my head - and I would ask the department to get me some examples, if they could - but certainly, within land claim negotiations and setting a mandate for land claims negotiations, or something, we certainly felt that, within the realm of being a government and recognized as a government, and it's very important now that we, as legislators here - and I say we, it doesn't matter who within this House, but we as legislators - recognize and honour municipalities as a form of government in the character that they would have. Also, with First Nations governments being in the same vote with a government-to-government type of relationship, they have an inherent right. It's covered by the Constitution of Canada. The municipalities have a legislated right that is covered by the Municipal Act.
Certainly we respect them as a government, within their legally defined mandate. So, as I said, land claims negotiations come to mind, and certainly there may be issues surrounding funding negotiations among the three.
So it's in that light that it was looked at, that a chief or a councillor might have a perceived conflict of interest, and we just cut off the immediate chief and council, so that we would not restrict other forms of government that are emerging, and the folks who are within the community with a lack of capacity. We would not hamper it.
So I would hope that the members would think on that, and go through with that.
Certainly, I'm expecting that this explanation is warranted and comes from the First Nations and from the municipal folks would suffice, but I could check with First Nations and with the municipal committee again to ensure that this is what they are desirous of.
Mr. Jenkins: On the amendment, Mr. Chair, what I would suggest we do is just maybe stand 193 and the amendment aside until the minister's had a chance to consult. We can probably clear it up by this evening or later on this afternoon, as long as the minister's agreeable.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, Mr. Chair, I don't foresee an election happening here for another couple of years, so I know there's no time frame or pressure on us. I will check with the municipalities to make sure that what we're doing is the right thing.
Thinking with my head and leading with my heart, because I do understand where the Member for Klondike is coming from on this. There is a lack of capacity in some communities, but certainly I would ask the Member for Klondike if he'd allow me the ability to talk with the folks in the process that we laid out last week so that we might be able to provide good governance and to go forth. I'd like the Member for Klondike to consider it in that light.
Mr. Jenkins: So, if I could sum up what the minister has said, he's going to go back to MARC and he's going to go back to the First Nations to see what their feelings are in this regard. I guess my point still stands. We can do that almost immediately. I see the potential for a regional government coming in a lot quicker than the next municipal election, Mr. Chair, and how these sections will dovetail, I do not know, and there's no information presented here. Had the officials been more forthcoming in providing, under the regional government, all that information, I would have been much more comfortable, as I'm sure many of the elected officials in the various municipalities would be, and probably, as well, the First Nations who will have access to another form of government that can better serve the needs of all.
So, I think that could be done very quickly, Mr. Chair. I'd like to see this move on. We could stand aside clause 193 until probably right after the evening recess, and we can probably move on from that point.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I don't know if I would wish to rush it that much, but certainly, we will check with First Nations' chiefs and councils. It might be difficult to do within just a couple of hours, but I certainly understand where the member is coming from.
I would like to again reiterate that the regional structures we're talking about are not governments. The envisioned structures are to be partners. Again, I stress that it's a partnership deal between two governments - a municipality or a First Nation-type of government.
What would they do? Well, they could work with, again, recreation and fire services. For some of these, there would not be an OIC required. It just gives the ability of the partners to move on with it and to work cooperatively as administered. Now, it might be administered by elected or non-elected individuals.
So, certainly, someone would have to be assigned to oversee it, but that's not going to happen quickly.
I would ask the Member for Klondike if he would indulge the processes that I've laid out. I will certainly give this a very best effort so that it will not hamper an administrative structure from emerging, but will simply clarify whether that's what municipalities are desirous of or First Nations are desirous of.
I would not want to make a decision in the absence of those people, and I do feel that a couple of hours is just not giving me enough time to do that. I will personally try to work the phone myself to speed up this process to ensure that the member's concerns are looked after.
Mr. Jenkins: On the amendment, I guess we can do two things at this juncture. We can put it to a vote, and I'm sure, with the government's majority, it'll be defeated and the records will reflect that First Nations will be precluded from joining in on municipal elections if they are a member of council of their First Nations. Either that, or stand it aside. I guess the minister wants me to withdraw it, and I'm not prepared to. I believe this is a very, very important issue, Mr. Chair.
Chair: Does the amendment carry?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Mr. Chair, I would ask the member to consider the process that we laid out. I mean, we've worked for two and a half years within this process. People have been talked to on both sides of the equation. Certainly, it is up to us as legislators to respect them, but it is certainly up to us as legislators to critique, as the member opposite is doing.
Now, the member opposite has a unique situation in mind. I would ask that the member consider the amendment that he's proposing within the process that I've laid out, and I will make the very best efforts to get this particular one done the soonest, although I do feel that it might be very difficult within even the next 24 hours or the next week to get a hold of the people who are required to get a hold of. There are 14, I believe, different First Nations within the territory, and we would have to certainly talk to some of the governments around there and explain it to them.
So, this process that I've laid out would give us the ability and the time to make a good decision now, and I would also cover it further by saying that I will not allow this to hamper an emerging administrative structure that's triggered by the Municipal Act.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, on the amendment, I believe we have before us a very, very important issue. The minister seems to misunderstand the issue of regional governments. Regional governments are another level of government, and they will require a guiding body. How that is to be structured, or not structured, it can't just be a "group of the folk getting together", as the minister terms it. It is another form of government, and I believe it is very important - in fact critical, Mr. Chair - that First Nations be allowed opportunity to sit on that regional government. There isn't anything in this act to preclude members of councils, wholly elected, or their mayor, from sitting on a regional government - according to the information we have before us. And yet, on the other side of the ledger, First Nations chiefs and councillors will be precluded from sitting on that side, involving themselves in that type of government. Unless the act is amended somewhere else, and I've been through the act - I can't see it anywhere.
So we have two choices. We can stand this section aside and come back to it later, or we can vote on the amendment. And if we vote on the amendment, we can move on, Mr. Chair.
Chair: Are you prepared for the question?
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, I think that we're talking about regional governments. We're talking about different - say, three or four - governments that come together and decide that they will be a regional government. I've given some thought to the idea of what would be different in the aims of, say, Kwanlin Dun and the City of Whitehorse. One perfect example of that is waterfront development. The Kwanlin Dun has said there should be no waterfront development until that issue has been settled with the Kwanlin Dun. And the City of Whitehorse has consistently said, "We've got to plan for it for the future; we've got to do it now." Sometimes with the First Nation, sometimes without the First Nation.
Now, even if we had a regional government, Mr. Chair, you might have the Hamlet of Mount Lorne, you might have the Ibex Valley council, or whatever they happen to be at the time - you might have the City of Whitehorse council, you might have the Kwanlin Dun, you might have Tr'ondek Hwechin, you might have all five of those - I think five of them - together as a regional government, so I'm not too sure that I see the point of withdrawing this, because obviously if you were already sitting on the Kwanlin Dun and representing their interests, why would you even have a desire to sit on, say, the City of Whitehorse, which has an entirely different point of view.
I guess I can see the concern about maybe having too many interests - or some people feeling that one level of government has way, way too many ways to influence, but I'm not too clear what the problem would be on the regional government. And I wonder if the minister could be a little clearer on that issue?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Well, we're talking about a regional structure. It's a common, administrative type of structure for something that is depicted by what folks want within that area, and within, of course, the jurisdiction that they have.
Now, we're not talking about excluding aboriginal peoples. Definitely, we're not talking about excluding aboriginal peoples. The regional governments could be, and would be, made up of First Nations, municipalities, the territorial government, or whomever. They certainly could be made up and included within there.
Where it would lie now, at this point in time, is that, in the immediate front lines they are not to be allowed to be a mayor or council if you're a chief or council, because of a conflict. Certainly, in the political world it could be a political reality where they might be needed.
So, in the political world, the political reality is that it would be a perceived conflict in the political world. Now, when it came down to points whether there would be a conflict of interest, as examples I gave and the Member for Riverdale gave, regarding the waterfront, et cetera.
So I guess there are two options here now. We could vote on this, if we so choose, but I'm asking the Member for Klondike to allow me to put this into the process that we've said that we would, of establishing a new way of doing things, I guess. I will talk with the First Nations chiefs and councils, and I will talk with the municipalities.
But, again, it's based on the relationship of a government-to-government type of relationship. MLAs cannot serve on council or can't be a chief. So certainly we're here to look at it in the aspect of a government-to-government relationship.
So that's what I would like to do: I would like to notate this from the Member for Klondike, and be able to talk to the people who need to be talked to about this, to see if it would flow and what their further reason is, and I certainly can't do that in just a matter of hours, so I would ask the member's concurrence, if I may.
Chair: Are you prepared for the question on the amendment?
Some Hon. Members: Disagree.
Some Hon. Members: Agree.
Chair: I believe the nays have it.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, if we're going back to the whole section 193, I wonder if I could get the minister's attention on 3(b), which says, "Despite subsection (1), a member of a municipal council may provide goods or services to the municipality where ... (b) the member does note at a meeting of the council on a question affecting the contract for the goods or services."
In 193(1)(a) it talks about not participating in the council's consideration of the question. Generally, what that means is that you leave the room. It doesn't say that in here, but generally that's what happens - you have to leave the room. You can't sit there and glare at everybody while you're discussing an issue that's near and dear to your heart.
Clause 3(b) says that you can't vote but it doesn't refer to not being able to participate in the discussion, and I think that's a very, very important point and I think it's something that we're missing here. So that maybe you can discuss what sort of a great deal you can give a municipality on that particular good or service, but then if you don't vote on it, that somehow is supposed to negate the importance of your conversation during the discussion of the issue.
Can the minister be a little bit clearer on that particular point? Can the person participate in the discussion or not?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, Mr. Chair, that is one of the issues that the municipalities would have to bring to the table as to the rules of process. As to leaving the room or participating in a discussion, that is certainly and simply up to the municipalities.
Mrs. Edelman: In clause 193(1)(a), it's very clear. It says that they cannot participate in the council consideration of the question if they are "a shareholder, an officer or director of a corporation, other than a society, that has dealings of contracts with the municipality, they vote at a meeting of the council on any question in relation to the corporation, or participates in the council's consideration of the question." So here, you're disqualified, but in (3)(b), you're not. It's pretty clear to me that you shouldn't be discussing this any more than you should be voting on it.
I'm bringing that forward to the minister's attention. I wonder if he could talk to the legal people upstairs and get some clarification on that.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, Mr. Chair, I have been advised that the authority would flow through or carry over, but I will check with the legal people at the break to make sure.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, I have two more points. First of all, this is an act. It's not a holy book. It is certainly not a bible.
Also, Mr. Chair, in the clause prior to this, we talked about attendance at boards and committees or commissions. Now, in here it's very clearly spelled out that, "Where a member of a council is continuously absent, except because of illness or with leave of the council, from the meetings of the council for a period of three consecutive months, they are disqualified from holding office for the remainder of their term of office." Now, that is extremely well spelled out for councillors, but there is nothing spelled out for these boards and commissions, which, in some cases, give recommendations to council that are extremely important that can be held up because of a lack of attendance and a lack of quorum. Now, it's extremely well spelled out for councillors, but it's not for boards and commissions.
Now, in the City of Whitehorse, for example, the planning board is an extremely important board. The variance board is a quasi-judicial board, and it's important that you have attendance. This is not spelled out under boards and commissions, but it's extremely well spelled out under councils.
I'm just pointing out to the minister again that if this goes back to MARC, there needs to be some consistency. The act is not in plain English if it's not consistent.
If nothing else, the word, "attendance" should at least be somewhere under boards and commissions and the rules that may or not be brought forward by the council for their consideration.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Well certainly, we've gone over this at this point in time and will stick with the process I've laid out.
Clause 193 agreed to
On Clause 194
Clause 194 agreed to
On Clause 195
Clause 195 agreed to
On Clause 196
Clause 196 agreed to
On Clause 197
Clause 197 agreed to
On Clause 198
Clause 198 agreed to
On Clause 199
Clause 199 agreed to
On Clause 200
Clause 200 agreed to
On Clause 201
Clause 201 agreed to
On Clause 202
Clause 202 agreed to
On Clause 203
Clause 203 agreed to
On Clause 204
Clause 204 agreed to
On Clause 205
Clause 205 agreed to
On Clause 206
Clause 206 agreed to
On Clause 207
Clause 207 agreed to
On Clause 208
Clause 208 agreed to
On Clause 209
Clause 209 agreed to
On Clause 210
Clause 210 agreed to
On Clause 211
Clause 211 agreed to
On Clause 212
Clause 212 agreed to
On Clause 213
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, Mr. Chair, I'd like to bring to the attention of the Chair that there is a typo in 213(1). At the end of "council" in the second sentence, there is an extra addition. I'd like unanimous consent, so that we might be able to correct that.
I'd like to bring to the attention of the House a typo within 213(1), at the end of the second sentence at the word "council". There is a typo. "Everyone is entitled to be present at council meetings and council-committee meetings..." I do believe we have to strike the dash "...conducted in public unless the person presiding at any meeting expels a person for improper conduct."
Chair: Is there unanimous consent to delete the hyphen?
All Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: Hyphen deleted.
Clause 213 agreed to
On Clause 214
Clause 214 agreed to
On Clause 215
Clause 215 agreed to
On Clause 216
Clause 216 agreed to
On Clause 217
Clause 217 agreed to
On Clause 218
Clause 218 agreed to
On Clause 219
Clause 219 agreed to
On Clause 220
Clause 220 agreed to
On Clause 221
Clause 221 agreed to
On Clause 222
Clause 222 agreed to
On Clause 223
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, this talks about copies of bylaws. It says, "Copies of the bylaws shall be open for inspection by any person and that person may make copies of them upon payment of a fee established by bylaw of the council." Of course, that makes sense, because I do remember photocopying some of the bylaws that had hundreds and hundreds of pages, particularly OCP amendments or changes to the official community plan. What about posting these on the 'net, because, certainly, that would be a way of saving everybody a lot of time and trouble? Is that in the foreseeable future? I know that the City of Whitehorse has considered it. Are they going to be doing that for the other municipalities as well?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, that's a duty that could be required by the municipalities, and I think it might just be a good idea, although certainly not all the municipalities, I believe, have websites, but certainly that is something that should be talked about, there.
Mrs. Edelman: I hope that that goes forward for some discussion somewhere, because it would save a lot of extra administrative time.
Clause 223 carried
On Clause 224
Mrs. Edelman: Now, in 224, it's under "Other duties of a municipality". It says, "The municipality has a responsibility to ... administer oaths and take and receive affidavits and declarations and affirmations within the municipality that are required to be taken under this or any other act relating to the municipality."
Now, are we going to specifically designate an officer to do the administration of oaths or affidavits?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: The duties that are listed under this section are statuary, and they must be carried out by the municipalities.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, the reason I'm wondering about this is that, typically, you try to get somebody in your administrative arm to be that particular officer, and it used to be that it had to be the chief of finance - the chief financial officer - and the CAO who could do this. You were very specific about who could do it in policy, and it made a lot of sense, because you can't just have anybody who works for the municipality able to take oaths and affidavits.
Now, for example, I've been trained as a notary public - and as a justice of the peace as well - and you have to be careful about whom you allow to do this. This is a very important office, and it needs to be taken seriously.
Has there been any discussion around, specifically, designating an individual to do that particular order of business?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, it does say here that the municipalities do have the responsibility and understand the dynamics of the position, and that must stay within the statutory forums and carry it out in a professional manner.
Mrs. Edelman: I am to gather, then, that there is not a specific officer designated to do this particular duty for the municipality.
It's just a thought, but it's something that we may want to think about. It's an honour, and it's a responsibility to do this, and I hope the municipalities, at some point, at least consider this in their policies. I wonder if the minister could convey that message back to the Association of Yukon Communities.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Will do.
Mr. Jenkins: One of the areas that I've been a proponent of for quite a number of years, Mr. Chair, is, under the duties of the municipality, that a uniform accounting system be adopted for all municipal governments, so that we can compare apples to apples. I see the same old clauses here. Why are we not headed for a uniform accounting system for all municipal governments?
I've heard the rationale that everybody has their own computer system. Well, we've been through that exercise, Mr. Chair, and they have to be updated on a continuing basis and, in order to get timely and accurate information, it might be prudent if the Government of the Yukon just buys everybody the module for the uniform accounting package, so that everyone is on the same playing field. Because you get different forms of reserve accounting, you get different forms of accrual, and they all conform to standard accounting practices, but all in a different format.
Then the officials get in there and they can make black look white on the territorial level and start comparing things. It's very, very difficult for municipal governments to start comparing themselves to other areas. You have to be very conversant with accounting practices.
So, why doesn't this act contemplate heading in that direction, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Well, to add to the intellectual debate here, Mr. Chair, we are comparing apples to apples. I do know that the member opposite would do his best to get it right down to what is the fibre content of a Macintosh apple as compared to the fibre content - I don't know if that would work with any other apple.
I can say, though, that the accounting standards for the private sector are set by the Canadian Institute of Chartered Accountants for the public sector. Municipalities want flexibility, certainly, to select within these standards and select a system that works best.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, other regions of Canada have gone to a uniform accounting system. Now, I'm not talking about a reporting system, because as soon as we get into a reporting system, it brings into another level of accounting functions and we don't need that, Mr. Chair.
What we need is a way of comparing all of the municipalities around the Yukon so that the accounting system is the same. The excuse that the minister offered for not implementing this is because it gives all the municipalities the flexibility of choosing the accounting system that they want. There are very few accounting packages out there for municipal governments - very few. It would save a great deal, Mr. Chair, if we could implement some sort of a uniform accounting system for municipal governments.
Now, the only exception that would need a different one is Whitehorse because of the intricacies of their accounting, but all of the other municipal governments around the Yukon could function on the same accounting program. Why isn't it being done, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: On this side of the House, we don't offer excuses, Mr. Chair. We offer explanation, and that explanation is based on consulting, it's based on a process that has been laid out for over two years in cooperation with other partners. So, certainly, the explanation for this one is again that the municipalities want flexibility to select within the standards that are set for them by the Canadian Institute of Chartered Accountants, and they will simply pick up the system that works best. It is, again, a municipal responsibility to choose and to implement their own accounting system. If they agree which system they all want, that could certainly be a total possibility.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, tied to municipal block funding is a requirement by the Government of the Yukon that certain funds have to flow this way, and certain funds could only be used for this purpose. There is a set of handcuffs out there, and various municipalities arrange their finances accordingly so that they can maximize the benefits that accrue to that municipal government. There is not a consistent way for this process to be evolving, and it's not reasonable, Mr. Chair, and the playing field is not reasonable. I'm sure that if you consulted with your officials, you would find that to be very much the case.
What I'm looking for is some kind of consistency in this function. Now, to hide behind the Canadian Institute of Chartered Accountants is not a reason. We have accountants all over Canada that are familiar with municipal accounting, and there are a number of provinces that have become consistent in their application of rules.
Why can't we do it here in the Yukon? We're a small jurisdiction; we've got very few municipal governments. It would best serve the interests of both the municipal governments and the senior level of government, and it would be most cost effective as more and more people become familiar with the same program.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Well, Mr. Chair, I know that the member opposite dismisses the Canadian Institute of Chartered Accountants, but certainly we can't and won't.
Again, though, this isn't between what fibre content should add up and what fibre content is from this sample. This is based on a system that has been put together. The Municipal Act Review Committee has done an admirable job in thinking of a lot of different issues.
Mr. Chair, I would suggest that this enabling legislation does allow the municipalities to get up and to make decisions based on good input, and certainly standards are set within this process at this point in time. So, I do believe that it can work and it will work if everybody puts their best energies to it.
Again, we can discuss the merits of this with the municipalities, because certainly I'm always here to work for and beside municipalities and with municipalities to make life better.
Mr. Jenkins: Wow. Thank you, Mr. Chair. I haven't heard an explanation like that in a long time, that makes little or no sense whatsoever.
The fact is that there is not a level playing field in the Yukon with respect to municipal accounting, and the minister is hiding behind the Canadian Institute of Chartered Accountants in saying all they have to do is conform. Well, there are many, many ways to conform.
Audits go through on a continuing basis, and they're all done, to the best of my knowledge, and all municipal governments conform to standard accounting practices. But standard accounting practices vary.
Then, when you plug in to the scenario, Mr. Chair, the requirements that are attached to municipal block funding as to how funds can be disbursed from those amounts, various municipal governments come up with various ways of treating it, and there's not a consistent and level playing field in municipal accounting.
All I'm looking for is a level playing field, Mr. Chair, and the best way to have that level playing field is to have a uniform accounting system.
Can the minister give me one good reason as to why the Yukon, unlike other provincial governments, doesn't have a municipal accounting code and a municipal accounting policy in place, here in Yukon?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Maybe the Member for Klondike did say that the Canadian Institute of Chartered Accountants' standards vary. That's kind of what I heard, but I don't think that's what he meant. I can say that they are standards that are set by a group of professionals, if I could.
I spoke earlier, I think, in the debate last week, in my opening remarks, as to the formula, and my pledge to work with the committee to find an easier way, or a smoother way, of readjusting segments of the act so that folks would have the ability to spend as they choose, whether it's capital or O&M. That is going to happen. Well, I'm going to have that discussion. I surely will, and than we'll try and work to a mutual agreement to find ways to make life even better for the municipalities.
Now, what's been suggested by the Member for Klondike is in place within other jurisdictions. It's the standard reporting. The municipalities - MARC - did look at that and deemed that there was lots of work to it. They did not want that to happen, and certainly therein is the reason why it is laid out as it is in this section now.
Mr. Jenkins: If I did imply that the standards of the Canadian Institute of Chartered Accountants vary, I apologize. What I meant is the ways that various organizations and firms use to conform to the rules vary. There are a whole multitude of ways that you can express numbers, Mr. Chair, and accounts, and assets, and liabilities, and an accepted accounting function that will conform to the rules that the chartered accountants have in place. And they're all acceptable.
But I'm telling the minister that they're all different. And one only has to get the financial statements from Watson Lake, Haines Junction, Dawson and Faro, and have a look at them.
Can the minister tell me the last time he looked at the financial statements for the various members of the Association of Yukon Communities?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Well, Mr. Chair, I do believe that if we leave the standards - and I'm not a chartered accountant or member of it, but I will certainly accept the apology on behalf of them because I know that they would accept it. And so certainly I accept the apology from the Member for Klondike for his slur to the Canadian Institute of Chartered Accountants, if I have that ability.
What I'm saying here again is that this is what the municipalities want. They don't want lots of work, as required in other jurisdictions - they don't want it.
If the Member for Klondike is asking the territorial government to pay for a uniform accounting system, well then he should stand up and say so.
Mr. Jenkins: I'd just like to correct the record once again. There was no slur on the Canadian Institute of Chartered Accountants. There was no slur intended whatsoever, and the minister has almost exceeded what would be considered a point of order in suggesting so.
Now, let's move on. I asked the minister a question: when was the last time the minister looked, if he ever has, at the year-end audited financial statements of any of the members of the Association of Yukon Communities?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, Mr. Chair, I think that the Member for Klondike is playing games with the House and will continue to play games with the House. Certainly, that's what has come to be expected from the general electorate - that we would end up playing games within this House - so it certainly is no surprise to the general electorate or to any of the members here. We're here to discuss clause 224, I believe it is and we shall continue to do so.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, if the minister, Mr. Chair, would fulfill his role and take the time to look at the year-end audited financial statements of the various members of the Association of Yukon Communities, he will see that there are considerable variances in the way everything is expressed. There is not a consistent format.
Then, you couple the way that the various communities use into municipal block funding and the formulas that the Government of Yukon has in place and there are quite a number of differences as to how the interpretations of the formula are arrived at. And that, Mr. Chair, is not fair.
What I'm looking at is a uniform accounting practice. I'm not looking, as the minister just suggested, for reporting functions, just uniform accounting practices and policies that all municipal governments are to follow.
Now, there would probably be two or maybe three levels. One for the City of Whitehorse, which they'd probably be telling the government how it works because they are probably much more familiar than anyone in municipal affairs is about how the City of Whitehorse works. But for all the other governments that are on the same playing field - and I'm referring to Watson Lake, Faro, Haines Junction and Dawson, and, to a lesser extent, Teslin and Carmacks and Mayo - there should be a uniform accounting policy in place. Why is this government refusing to implement such a policy?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Because nobody has asked for the policy, Mr. Chair, and especially not the Association for Yukon Communities, which we've worked with in partnership for that. So, I do believe that it's the Member for Klondike who is playing the game again, as so well the Member for Klondike can play the game.
But certainly, this act that has come into existence because the process is one that has been a long and a good process, and again, I thank the people for being involved in it, because that is the goodness of it. It's an enabling document, and certainly, for the policies that have to come out of it, the responsibilities are reflected here. It says to safely maintain all the assets, administer oath, keep an accurate count of all monies received or disbursed and all assets and, again, all transactions reflected in the financial possibility. Those are the guidelines contained within the act.
Now, I get back to my point again. Is the Member for Klondike suggesting that we buy for the municipalities an accounting system? Certainly, that's not what the intent of this particular part of the act is for. It's to set in place some standards, some duties and the powers, and it says what they should be. So, I don't see how the member's question is pertinent here. I thought it was in the beginning, but I've been going around this now for about 15 minutes, saying the same thing, and I don't see how it's pertinent at this time or will be any longer.
Mr. Jenkins: I guess the minister was going around in circles because he doesn't understand the issue of municipal finance and he doesn't understand how it dovetails into municipal block funding and he doesn't understand the variances between the various accounting policies and practices used by the various municipalities around the Yukon.
There is a considerable difference among what each municipal government does. They all conform to this act, to the best of my knowledge, and they are all audited and the Institute of Chartered Accountants, the CA or the CGA, that overlooks the books says they conform. But, all one has to do is look at each one of the financial statements for each of the municipalities in the Yukon and note the differences.
The minister has virtually acknowledged that he hasn't even looked at the audited financial statements of any of the Yukon municipalities - they're probably just collecting dust on some shelf somewhere - and the minister doesn't have an understanding of municipal finance. But the minister is responsible and it's in the best interest of Yukon if such a unified accounting system were in place.
I can't see any problem with having that being a part of this act, other than that the minister is running around saying this has been dealt with by MARC and everything and no one has even suggested it or brought it up. I can't believe that. It's been on the books of the Association of Yukon Communities. It was a resolution quite a number of years ago. I don't know where it is now, whether it's been retired or not, but it -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Jenkins: Oh, I'm sure the minister didn't even know it existed.
Mr. Jenkins: Anyway, we know that the minister hasn't a clue about municipal financing and he's confirmed that in the House today, Mr. Chair. They're just going to bull through this, so let's move on.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I know I should sit down, Mr. Chair, but it certainly galls me to no end that we can stand and we can be such pompous people. We can stand and talk about the goodness that one does and, while we talk about the goodness of myself, the hon. Member for Klondike, we just run down civil servants, we run down citizens, we run down processes. So, my god, where does it end? Well, who knows where it ends. We certainly will find where it ends one day, though, because there is an election coming up in two years' time, and I know that the people of the Yukon are looking at the silliness that comes out of certain members' portions of this House. So we'll let the people be the judge.
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair. I much appreciate the opportunity.
Clause 224 agreed to
On Clause 225
Mrs. Edelman: I'd like to pass on the same concern that I had with the previous clause. In the last clause, there is no specific designation of an officer as an administrator of oaths or affirmations. Now, I didn't get a chance to look this up in the non-existent index, but is there any specification about who can use the seal for a municipality?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: That is information that I will have to get for the member opposite. We don't know.
Mrs. Edelman: You know, there are 371 clauses in this act. It might be in here somewhere, but I think it's important to designate a specific officer for this particular responsibility. The corporate seal is something that should not be used lightly or inappropriately, and I hope that the minister can get back to me to set my mind at ease at his earliest convenience.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I'd love to set the member's mind at ease at my earliest convenience.
Clause 225 agreed to
On Clause 226
Clause 226 agreed to
On Clause 227
Clause 227 agreed to
On Clause 228
Clause 228 agreed to
On Clause 229
Clause 229 agreed to
On Clause 230
Clause 230 agreed to
On Clause 231
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, this clause refers to "Agreements with Government of Yukon or Government of Canada". It says, "If authorized by bylaw, a municipality may enter into an agreement with the Government of the Yukon or the Government of Canada for the provision of a municipal-type system or service by either party within the boundaries of the land held by the municipality."
It doesn't say anywhere in here that they have to pay, and that's been a continual problem. I can give a very high-profile case, for example, in the City of Dawson, with the federal government, that the minister may remember. One of the problems is that, number one, there haven't been agreements with either one of those governments, usually, for services. Number two, there's nothing in there that says what you could possibly do if they decide not to pay. That's a very big issue; it has been with municipalities for many, many years.
What sort of discussions have gone on so that municipalities can get payment from those levels of government?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Well, certainly, if we're going to have agreements with other governments, then the two folks certainly have to get together to agree, even if it's simply to agree to disagree. But they can't have an agreement unless the two parties agree.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, I agree with the minister on the agreements. However, my point was, what happens if the agreement is broken? What sort of recourse does a municipality have to try to get their money?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, Mr. Chair, it should and could be the dispute resolution mechanism within the agreement itself, so that we could come to an agreement.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, am I to understand then, if a municipality enters into a agreement for provision of services with the territorial government and if that provision of services is not being paid for, then the territorial government or the municipality could go back to the territorial government and enter into some sort of mediation agreement? Is that going to be the way that these issues are dealt with, similar to under the UFA?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: That's one possibility, but we could also specify that when the agreement is negotiated. That is another possibility.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, typically what happens is that a senior government does not have to pay and there is nothing that a junior government can do to compel that senior government to pay unless perhaps you bring heavy equipment on to the property, which has happened in the past.
So, Mr. Chair, a real concern I have with this clause that talks about agreements is that it doesn't speak about junior governments being able to get payment if there is an agreement that is broken. It's an area that we will continue to have problems with.
First Nations, which are a senior-level government as well - there is nothing. Except under the UFA, they do spell out that it has to go to mediation, and it doesn't say that here. That's why I have a very, very grave concern about this particular section. I'd love to hear a little more detail on that from the minister.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Well certainly, Mr. Chair, if two parties have agreed in the beginning, in the honeymoon stage, then certainly at the divorce stage you know that there is not an agreement. Should there be a dispute resolution in between? Certainly there should be a dispute resolution within the agreement itself.
I would suggest that that's what should happen, that the municipalities could specify that - when the agreement is being negotiated that they negotiate that it does be in the agreement, and it could certainly be, at that point in time.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, regardless, there is nothing a municipality can do to compel a senior level of government to pay, even if there is an agreement, unless they go to court, and that doesn't seem to be the most productive way of dealing with these issues. I thought that this act would be a little bit better than the current situation, which is not good.
Now, in the second clause, we talk about the agreement with the Government of the Yukon and the Government of Canada where, "If authorized by bylaw, a municipality may provide a service that it would otherwise not have power to provide within the municipality if it does so in accordance with an agreement with an agreement with the Government of the Yukon under a program established and administered by the Government of the Yukon." Can the minister give us an example of one of those programs?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, with fire protection that's outside the municipalities or anything to do with mutual aid. So, fire protection again is an example.
Mrs. Edelman: Fire protection within a municipality is one of the services that a municipality can offer. I suppose that I need an example of something that only the Government of the Yukon could allow the municipality to do in the way of provision of services within a municipal boundary.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Mr. Chair, I would certainly ask the member to give me just a bit of time and I will find an example of a special circumstance. I know that something had to be thought of to allow them to do that, so I will, after the break, hopefully have something.
Clause 231 agreed to
On Clause 232
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, am I to presume that this would be like a mutual aid agreement, like fire, for outside the boundaries that we were discussing in the previous clause? The minister has indicated yes. Thank you, very much.
One of the issues here is the mutual aid agreements that we have for fire or emergency measures. While we're here anyway, can the minister update this House on where we sit with mutual aid agreements on the EMO? I know there was a real push under the previous EMO officer to get mutual aid agreements going between municipalities and First Nations. Where do we sit with that now?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I'll bring back the information to the member.
Clause 232 agreed to
On Clause 233
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, I'm on a roll. Clause 233 is about privileges and exemptions and it says, "Except where it is otherwise provided by an act, a council does not have the power to grant to any person, institution, association, group, or body any privilege or exemption from the ordinary jurisdiction of the municipality, or to grant any charter bestowing a right or privilege, to give any bonus or exemption from any tax, rate, or rent, or to remit any tax or rate levied or rent."
Now, I know that some of the municipalities at least give municipal grants to non-government organizations. Is this covered under this, or are municipalities no longer able to do that?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: As we go further on, you'll find that clause 245 provides a municipality with the ability to provide grants and loans.
Clause 233 agreed to
On Clause 234
Clause 234 agreed to
On Clause 235
Clause 235 agreed to
On Clause 236
Clause 236 agreed to
On Clause 237
Clause 237 agreed to
On Clause 238
Mrs. Edelman: In clause 238, we're talking about annual operating and capital budgets. Under subclause (2), it says, "On or before April 15 of each year, the council shall cause to be prepared the annual capital budget for the current year and the capital expenditure program for the next three financial years and shall by bylaw adopt these budgets."
Typically, the territorial government does five-year capital plans, and municipalities in the past have done five-year capital plans. Was this a change that came from municipalities, or was this a change that came from the department?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: That request came from the municipalities, but it does not say that they cannot do a five-year plan. They certainly can, but the thrust is for a three-year plan. The change did come from the municipalities.
Clause 238 agreed to
On Clause 239
Clause 239 agreed to
On Clause 240
Clause 240 agreed to
On Clause 241
Clause 241 agreed to
On Clause 242
Clause 242 agreed to
On Clause 243
Clause 243 agreed to
On Clause 244
Clause 244 agreed to
On Clause 245
Clause 245 agreed to
On Clause 246
Clause 246 agreed to
On Clause 247
Mrs. Edelman: This is under other revenues. It says that, in accordance with provisions of this act, the council may by bylaw impose a collection business licence. Then it talks about a bunch of different things, and talks about revenue and fines and interest.
Does this mean that municipalities do not have the ability to collect a sales tax? Is that totally precluded from this section?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, it is.
Mrs. Edelman: This is a sales tax or hotel tax. I know that this has been an issue in the past, but that is definitely precluded in the act, that municipalities do not have that ability and cannot develop that ability.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: That is absolutely right.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, that was definitely part of the earlier discussions at MARC. I wonder what happened to that?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: This does not come forth as a final recommendation of MARC. I think they realized that there's an awful lot of work that has to be done if something like that were ever to come into place, and they do realize the work that has to be there. But certainly, it is not one of the recommendations that the committee has brought forth.
Clause 247 agreed to
On Clause 248
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, Mr. Chair, I have a proposed amendment to the bill:
THAT Bill No. 69, entitled Municipal Act, be amended in clause 248 on page 115, by deleting subclause (3) and substituting the following subclause for it:
"(3) A municipality may own and operate a public utility as defined in the Public Utilities Act, but only with the approval of the Commissioner in Executive Council and if not prohibited under that act or any other act."
Chair: I believe that would be on page 115.
Is there any debate on the amendment?
Mr. Jenkins: This is an amendment our party would support, and you have our concurrence, Mr. Chair.
Amendment agreed to
Clause 248 agreed to as amended
On Clause 249
Clause 249 agreed to
On Clause 250
Clause 250 agreed to
On Clause 251
Clause 251 agreed to
On Clause 252
Clause 252 agreed to
On Clause 253
Clause 253 agreed to
On Clause 254
Clause 254 agreed to
On Clause 255
Clause 255 agreed to
On Clause 256
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, this is the clause under "Division 4 - Financial Statements and Auditor," and particularly the clause under "Auditor" in clause 256, this comes up periodically. Recently, it has just come up in the City of Whitehorse again. Most organizations have a bylaw that says you have to have a new auditor every, say, five or 10 years, and you do that so you get a new perspective on the books, and you get up to date on what the latest and the greatest is in that particular field that your organization is in. Has there been any thought given to bringing in a new auditor, say, every 10 years, at least, on the municipal level?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, the member is quite correct that there is no time on the length of the length of time that the auditor may work. It's certainly up to the municipalities.
Mr. Jenkins: I have a little concern, Mr. Chair, with going to the singular in this section. Previously, the auditor's position was that "the council shall, by bylaw, appoint an auditor, one or more persons, or a firm of auditors: and now we're going to "The municipal council shall by bylaw appoint as auditor a person qualified to practise as an auditor." Why are we going to the singular, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I've been told that "auditor" equals a person or a firm, so it includes both, Mr. Chair.
Clause 256 agreed to
Chair: Is it the members' wish to take a brief recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: Ten minutes.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. We are dealing with clause 257. I believe clause 256 carried before the break.
Mr. Jenkins: I still have some concerns, Mr. Chair. I didn't hear that we cleared clause 256. I was still looking it over when we discussed it and I asked a question on it and didn't complete.
Chair: Is there unanimous consent to go back to clause 256?
All Hon. Members: Agreed.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Mr. Chair, I recall a time last year when I did go back on an honourable mention and I was there for three hours, but in this case I would take it from an understanding of the member opposite that that is not going to happen at this point. He says no, it won't happen, so I concur that, yes, I give consent.
Mr. Jenkins: Thank you. What I'm concerned with in this section, Mr. Chair, is that -
Chair: Order please. Unanimous consent has been granted.
On Clause 256 - revisited
Mr. Jenkins: Thank you. We were referring to clause 256(1). It says that the municipal council shall by bylaw appoint an auditor, but it also goes on to say "...a person qualified to practise as an auditor", which would lead me to conclude that we're dealing in the singular, and I do have concerns with that, Mr. Chair.
What I would suggest is to either cross off "a person qualified to practise as an auditor" or add something to it, similar to the old act, where it said, "The council shall by bylaw appoint as auditor, one or more persons or a firm of auditors."
Because I am sure if we look at this it specifically deals with one person, which I don't believe is the intent. Now, if you look up the definition of "auditor", it does mean a firm or a group, but it goes on to say, "a person qualified to practise as an auditor."
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Mr. Chair, that's something that I will have to seek legal confirmation on. If it does turn out that it can be read the opposite way, well then, we could certainly put it into the notations, but I'd ask the member opposite to allow me the ability to seek legal clarification.
Mr. Jenkins: I'm somewhat concerned as to why that was changed, too, Mr. Chair, because I've gone through a lot of acts and any place where it requires an auditor or an audit, it specifies an auditor or a firm. Now, would the minister conclude from this section that that would preclude a firm doing it, that we'd have to appoint one individual?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: No, Mr. Chair, it does not preclude it.
Mr. Jenkins: So, I understood the minister to say he'd bring back a legislative return or some information - a letter, a legislative return - confirming that that statement would include an auditor, or group of auditors, or an auditing firm.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, Mr. Chair, I will seek a legal clarification.
Clause 256 agreed to
On Clause 257
Clause 257 agreed to
On Clause 258
Clause 258 agreed to
On Clause 259
Clause 259 agreed to
On Clause 260
Clause 260 agreed to
On Clause 261
Clause 261 agreed to
On Clause 262
Clause 262 agreed to
On Clause 263
Clause 263 agreed to
On Clause 264
Clause 264 agreed to
On Clause 265
Mrs. Edelman: This is on areas of general jurisdiction, the general jurisdiction to pass bylaws. Clause 265 says that, "A council may pass bylaws for municipal purposes respecting the following matters:" and then, in subclause (a), it says, "the safety, health, and welfare of people and the protection of persons and property, including fire protection, fireworks, other explosives, firearms, weapons or devices, ambulance services, emergency services and other emergencies,".
Just to be clear about that, these other emergencies, if it was a state of emergency, then you don't have to go back and pass a bylaw to designate those officers then.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: No, you would not.
Mr. Jenkins: On clause 265(a) - a lot of these clauses are covered by other legislation. Why are we duplicating it? For some of them, the federal legislation takes precedence - with respect to firearms - and other legislation takes precedence with explosives and fireworks. So, why would we include these, or is it just something that hasn't been omitted from the previous act?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Mr. Chair, I have been informed that it simply confirms the municipal jurisdiction in these areas. The Municipal Act Review Committee realizes that in some cases in emergency situations it might be different, but they've confirmed that it's within the municipal jurisdiction. An example might be fireworks on New Year's or something like that. I've been told that that's the type of thing they were thinking of.
Mr. Jenkins: Could the minister give me a reasonable explanation of firearms or weapons? You know, that area is specifically under different legislation, and the discharge of firearms within the municipal boundary is different legislation. All of that area is covered somewhere else, Mr. Chair.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, as the member said earlier, it was in the old act. It has been accepted again by the Municipal Act Review Committee, but certainly I can definitely seek - and I will - the legal clarification for the Member from Klondike.
Clause 265 agreed to
On Clause 266
Clause 266 agreed to
On Clause 267
Clause 267 agreed to
On Clause 268
Clause 268 agreed to
On Clause 269
Clause 269 agreed to
On Clause 270
Clause 270 agreed to
On Clause 271
Clause 271 agreed to
On Clause 272
Clause 272 agreed to
On Clause 273
Clause 273 agreed to
On Clause 274
Clause 274 agreed to
On Clause 275
Clause 275 agreed to
On Clause 276
Clause 276 agreed to
On Clause 277
Clause 277 agreed to
On Clause 278
Clause 278 agreed to
On Clause 279
Clause 279 agreed to
On Clause 280
Clause 280 agreed to
On Clause 281
Clause 281 agreed to
On Clause 282
Clause 282 agreed to
On Clause 283
Mrs. Edelman: This is "Effect of plans". It says in 283(1), "Council shall not enact any provision or carry out any development contrary to or at variance with an official community plan."
Who decides what's at variance, and what is the penalty?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, Mr. Chair, as depicted by the municipality itself and, of course, as the Member for Klondike has said, it's enabling legislation and it's meant to be in that light. Certainly myself, as the minister, certainly could take action. The public, through the processes - whether it's a referendum or something - could certainly ask for it.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, I realize that this is enabling legislation, but who decides? Is it the senior level of government that decides that a development is at variance with the official community plan, or is it the council that decides? And if something is at variance with the official community plan, then what's the penalty? If, for example, Yukon Housing puts up some development that's totally at variance with the official community plan, who decides that it's at variance, and what is the penalty for Yukon Housing in that particular hypothetical case?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Mr. Chair, we will get back this evening on this issue, if I may.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, we're entering into a whole section that differs considerably from the present legislation to what is here into direct controlled districts. This whole section has been expanded upon considerably. Does the minister have an overview of what has changed and the reason for it that he can read into the records, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, I do, and I will. This part of the act addresses the use and development of land within the municipalities. It provides the councils with the authority to assume responsibilities for the planning, the development and subdivision of land, and establishes a consultative review process to ensure the rights of the Yukon government, First Nations and the public to have access to the information and participate in planning the future shape of Yukon municipalities.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, this still doesn't answer the problem. Later on in the act we talk about development plans that we're going to be having with First Nations, for example, or senior levels of government, and those plans may or may not comply with the official community plan. If they don't comply with the official community plan, right now there doesn't seem to be any sort of penalty for that, and no one takes on the responsibility of deciding whether or not the person is in violation or working contrary to the official community plan.
This problem's going to be prevalent throughout the next few clauses. I don't know whether we can have a good discussion in that area unless it's clear. For example, if a First Nation, for example, which is another senior level of government much like the territorial government, puts up a gambling casino in the middle of Riverdale, what do you do? Can you seize the property? No. Can you fine them? No. Who's going to decide that you can't put a gambling casino in there?
There's no conversation here about penalties. There's no conversation in here about who decides where there's been a break. There's no conversation about what the jurisdiction of the official community plan is, and whether there is going to be any follow-through from the senior levels of government. I'm very, very concerned about that issue and I don't know if we can go any further in our discussion until we get some answers on that particular point.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly I can see the concern for a casino within Riverdale. Certainly, through the First Nations' laws and processes, they have a lot of work to do, too.
Those types of situations are looked after within the self-government agreements, so they have to be compatible and have to be looked after within zoning. I can get that back to the member.
Regarding the OCPs of municipalities, they must develop a community plan within three years of the formation with the requirement to have periodic reviews. There's also a requirement for a formal phase, with a mandatory public hearing, whereby the public and the YTG can review and comment back on the plan.
To carry out any development, there must be a development agreement with the municipality and approval of the appropriate permits. That would be starting with the sections defined within clause 338.
Mrs. Edelman: So am I to understand, then, that if the Yukon Housing goes in and builds a trailer court, hypothetically, and it hasn't met with all the criteria that the council has set out, and it's developed anyway, the municipality can take some sort of action under this act, as opposed to having to go to court? Is that my understanding of what's going on here?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, Mr. Chair, we'll see as we move further on that it is laid out within the act.
Mr. Jenkins: I guess the concern I have, Mr. Chair, is that, irrespective of all this procedure, the minister can grant an exemption to Yukon Housing Corporation to go ahead and do what they want to do. Is that not the case?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Well, it certainly would not be done without meaningful thought or anything like as such, but as we talked earlier, within the process, it's done by Cabinet, not by the respective minister, and the Cabinet would definitely make sure that everything was on the up and up, and as long as it's within our mandate.
Mr. Jenkins: So, what the minister is saying, Mr. Chair, is that anything goes that we approve at the Cabinet level, and we can virtually do anything, irrespective of all these rules and regulations. We can exempt ourselves, or we can exempt any agency of the government, be it Yukon Housing Corporation or Yukon Energy Corporation or Yukon Development Corporation. Is that not the case?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, Mr. Chair, that is what we said, but that's the cut and the short of it. Yes. But the process of how we would arrive at it is something that we should talk about, and it's one that this government would talk about. We would want to know, as we go through making decisions for people, how we should make those decisions. So, certainly, it's a matter of process also.
Mrs. Edelman: I understand the minister's point about process. Once again, we're going to come back to the point that there are still no penalties.
A First Nation or a senior level of government like the territorial government, even if there is - for example, in the next clause, it talks about a joint development plan where there is a procedure used to resolve, or attempt to resolve, any conflict. Even if they decide that Yukon Housing Corporation shouldn't have developed the mobile home park, for example, how do you get the penalty out of the territorial government? I mean, you're not going to be able to seize property. You still haven't dealt with the issue of how junior levels of government deal with senior levels of government when it comes to payment or when there are fines for not adhering to whatever those municipal bylaws happen to be.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Well, certainly, Mr. Chair, the whole purpose of this legislation is to recognize more mature governments, if I could say at this point in time. We would have a defined process, whereby the Cabinet would ask that these things happen.
Now, the Member from Riverdale asks how we would punish ourselves, I guess. Well, I guess that would be a decision of the court. So, we certainly would not like things to get that far, but the court would say, "Yes, this had happened," or "No, this has not happened," and yes or no, and that this is the punishment or requirement of the guilty party.
Mrs. Edelman: This was my concern. This is no better than going to court, which is exactly what the situation is right now.
So, Mr. Chair, I still can't see any major improvement on those issues. Who decides who is at variance? What is the penalty going to be?
For example, you cannot seize assets from a First Nation. For example, if there's a service agreement between the First Nation and the municipality to provide sewer services or water services - water services, I think, is a better example - what do you do if the First Nation doesn't pay? And how do you decide?
The only thing you're going to end up doing is going back to court. And going to court doesn't necessarily solve the problem. And this act was supposed to be talking about a better way of doing things. And I don't see any difference whatsoever. You're going to end up back in court again.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Well, certainly, Mr. Chair, the member is correct, but we should look at the process, because there are processes of compatibility, of zoning and development agreements with municipalities. It's a two-way street, with government going - First Nations government or municipal government - back and forth.
What the penalty is, and who decides? Well, certainly, the court, but I would not think that it would get together, because with people coming together mutually to provide assistance - or a service, or an aid, or whatever it might be - are doing so together. But, certainly, the member raises questions, and I have committed to getting back, and I will.
Mrs. Edelman: I suppose that that's my point; it's not a two-way street. If a First Nation has contracted with the local municipality to provide water services, for example, if the First Nation is not happy with that service, they can go to another vendor of that service and they don't pay, whereas the municipality doesn't have that option. It's not a two-way street. If they don't get their money, then they have no recourse except to go to court. This act doesn't make that situation any better, and that would be my concern.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Well, this act could not bind a First Nation because simply there are so many aspects as to accessibility to First Nations' land. We're really talking after the fact, because I know that in the case of some First Nations, from first-hand experience, those are moot points. They are very much willing and desirous to work together to get their lands recognized, whether through a banking institution or whatever type of institution it is - they're very willing.
Those type of things are on the table. It's not as if they weren't on the table, because the First Nations will put their money where their mouths are in terms of delivering services. So, the whole intent is to come together to provide a better service.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, I suppose it's not just the issue of First Nations. You know, once again, we can use the example up in Dawson City about the federal government and the municipality. I mean, what options does a municipality have for water and sewer? Are they going to cut you off? If you cut off a federal building, for example, then that building is in a lot of peril, particularly in the middle of winter. Municipalities don't have a lot of options, and I suppose that that's my concern.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: This might bring some comfort to the member regarding what the penalty is for someone who goes against an official community plan. The legal advice that we've received is that municipalities can stop the building or the development of a building by getting an injunction from the courts, and the municipality would also issue a stop-work order.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, that's great when you're developing. However, when it's already a service that's existing within a community, it doesn't address that issue at all.
I'm quite willing to move on to the next section if the minister will get back to me with details.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, Mr. Chair, I will get back with details.
Clause 283 agreed to
On Clause 284
Clause 284 agreed to
On Clause 285
Clause 285 agreed to
On Clause 286
Mrs. Edelman: Just to point out that I do have the same concern with this particular section.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Point taken. We'll take that under advisement.
Clause 286 agreed to
On Clause 287
Clause 287 agreed to
On Clause 288
Clause 288 agreed to
On Clause 289
Clause 289 agreed to
On Clause 290
Mrs. Edelman: This talks about the content of zoning bylaws. Under subclause (j), and there are quite a number of clauses, it talks about, "Without restricting the generality of section 289, a zoning bylaw may establish districts, areas, or zones within the municipality and regulate any one or more of the following matters within any or all of the districts, areas, or zones ... (j) the location, layout, and standard of services for campers, trailers, mobile homes, campgrounds, trailer parks and mobile home parks and mobile home subdivisions."
One of the issues that has come up over the years, over and over again, is the issue about having playgrounds, for example, in pre-existing trailer parks. They have been substandard, they haven't been safe, they haven't existed, they've been hanging off cliffs. There have been a number of different issues around playgrounds within existing trailer parks. Is this going to deal with that issue at all, or are we only talking about new developments?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, I'm not sure if they would be grandfathered or not. That is something I definitely have to seek clarification on.
Mrs. Edelman: This is an issue that's been near and dear to my heart over quite a number of years, and I wonder if the minister could get back to me with some detail on that, at his convenience.
Mr. Jenkins: I'm not jumping ahead, but in 291, we refer to direct control districts but, in section 289, we can only establish district areas. Now, are they synonymous, or what's the difference?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I've been informed that no, they are not synonymous.
Mr. Jenkins: So, what is the difference? We're allowed to establish district areas under zoning bylaw regulations, or under the zoning bylaw, and yet, if we look after that, I can't find reference made to that area or type. I can only find reference made to direct control districts.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: The municipalities are very desirous, as I've been told, of the general areas, and they did want the councils to be able to set different development standards. They found it to be useful where they wanted to exercise a greater level of control over the use and development of land and buildings in critical or high profile areas - again, such as the waterfront here in Whitehorse.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, where does it flow from, Mr. Chair? The content of the zoning bylaws is specifically spelled out in clause 290 as "the bylaw may establish district areas", but then if you flow through after that to clause 291, all they refer to - and even going on - are direct control districts. Now, where did direct control districts come from?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, Mr. Chair, this was brought forth by the committee, and we do believe that it was in reference to the Whitehorse waterfront, but that is something that I would have to ask about and get back about, because I don't know. That's a supposition of mine, but I would have to ask the committee if that was the specific case, if that's what the member is asking for as an example.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, we spell out in "Division 2 - Zoning Bylaws," and you spell out in clause 290 what the contents of a zoning bylaw will encompass, and one of those areas that it encompasses is that a zoning bylaw may establish district areas.
Now, if you follow through the rest of that clause, you do not find any reference to district areas, but you find reference to direct control districts. Where did direct control districts flow from?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: It's been brought to my attention here as we read it that "Without restricting the generality of section 289, a zoning bylaw may establish districts, areas, or zones within a municipality." So, I'm saying there's a comma in between, and it doesn't flow from anything.
Clause 290 agreed to
On Clause 291
Clause 291 agreed to
On Clause 292
Clause 292 agreed to
On Clause 293
Clause 293 agreed to
On Clause 294
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, 294 replaces 316, and there are a number of changes in there. When it finally wraps up, 316(3) is very encompassing, as to the notice that should be given and how it should be given. Yet we've reduced it to the area of just "All persons affected by the zoning bylaw or amendment".
Why has there been such a change? Are we going to just say because of MARC?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, Mr. Chair, that is because of the municipalities' desire to determine the best way to let people there's more flexibility at the community level for certain local community circumstances.
Clause 294 agreed to
On Clause 295
Clause 295 agreed to
On Clause 296
Clause 296 agreed to
On Clause 297
Clause 297 agreed to
On Clause 298
Clause 298 agreed to
On Clause 299
Clause 299 agreed to
On Clause 300
Mrs. Edelman: This section talks about the withholding of interim building and development permits and clause 300 says, "From and after the first public notice by a municipality under section 294, until the implementation of the interim development control resolution, the council of the municipality may withhold the issuance of development permits or building permits for any land, building, or other structure in the area affected by the proposed resolution."
Mr. Chair, what happens in this case if a building is partially built and it's not clad to the weather and winter sets in? Does the municipality then become liable?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I've been informed that they cannot stop the construction if the permits are in place.
Mrs. Edelman: So, if a permit has been issued, then the municipality can't stop that development.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: It's certainly true of the period for which the permit is valid.
Mrs. Edelman: These are interim building and development permits we're talking about here. I suppose that I know of a very recent, quite high profile case, for example, that had something to do with, I believe, Yukon Housing, where a building permit was issued, and the building had to be stopped by the building department at the City of Whitehorse, for example.
Now, this building was halfway done, and there was a problem, because winter set in, and it wasn't clad to the weather. There was a really injurious effect on the people who were trying to build.
Now, is the minister saying that if the city, say, gives it a building permit and whatever it is that's going up doesn't somehow meet the building permit's original criteria, then the city can't stop that?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: No, Mr. Chair, it must meet the standards. It absolutely has to, so, if it doesn't, it could be stopped.
Mrs. Edelman: So, the building has now been stopped because it didn't somehow or the other meet the criteria, which, of course, is not appealable within a certain period of time, because you would just have to go with whatever the building inspector says. What if that building is halfway done, weather sets in and it's not clad - what do you do if you're the person who's trying to develop it? I mean, it's not clear whether the case is cut and dry. I can think of this recent high-profile case where it wasn't cut and dry at all. It was mired in uncertainty. I can't see where the protection is for the person who's trying to develop.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Mr. Chair, for one thing, it's not possible to cover in this act. What would happen in here is that it would be up to the court to decide. Certainly, if the municipality is right in stopping the work in the first place, then no, that might not answer completely the weather concerns and whatnot, but that is the process that this is based on.
Mrs. Edelman: I suppose, then, that I have the same concern I've had for about 40 of the clauses prior to this. This is no improvement on what we already have. You still end up going back to the courts to try to resolve the issue, and I wanted that registered again, Mr. Chair.
Clause 300 agreed to
On Clause 301
Clause 301 agreed to
On Clause 302
Clause 302 agreed to
On Clause 303
Clause 303 agreed to
On Clause 304
Mr. Jenkins: This section, Mr. Chair, is a section that's being covered now by bylaw insurance for a number of businesses. Now I can understand the intent of this section, that if a building is non-conforming in that area and it's substantially destroyed by fire - 75 percent; most other bylaws are 50 percent that I'm aware of - that they have to be torn down and rebuilt.
Now if it's to that level and it's destroyed, it has to come down, and if it's a non-conforming building, it cannot be rebuilt on that non-conforming basis.
But what happens to the business that might be contained in that building? Is that out also? Does that business go along with it if it's non-conforming? There are a lot of non-conforming businesses that are in non-conforming areas, according to bylaws, but the bylaws have been changed over time and superimposed on the area where that non-conforming building and non-conforming business exists. They were originally in conformity; now they're not.
So I can understand the building, but does the business go out the window, too?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: This section here, 301, of course, provides for the grandfathering in, and there certainly is a 12-month grandfathering clause for the business.
Chair: Order please. The time being 5:30, Committee will recess until 7:30 p.m.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order.
We're dealing with clause 304.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Mr. Chair, before the dinner break this evening, I told the House that I would get back as soon as I could on clause 256 on page 119, so I would like to see if I could seek unanimous consent to go back and open up this clause to correct it.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Chair: Is there unanimous consent that we reopen clause 256 to deal with an amendment?
All Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: Unanimous consent has been granted.
On Clause 256 - revisited
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Mr. Chair, I move
THAT Bill No. 69, entitled Municipal Act, be amended in clause 256 on page 119 by deleting subclause 256(1) and substituting the following subclause for it:
"(1) The municipal council shall by bylaw appoint as auditor one or more persons or a firm of auditors qualified to practise as auditors."
and deleting subclause 256(2) and substituting the following subclause for it:
"(2) The council may not appoint an auditor who has been a member of council or an employee of the municipality within the preceding financial year, or an auditor who has or has had, directly or indirectly, any share or interest in any contract with or on behalf of the municipality, other than for services within their professional capacity, within the preceding financial year.
Chair: Is there any discussion on the amendment?
Mr. Jenkins: Well, I've seen a lot of poor drafting in my time, but I think this act is probably going to take the credit. I think the draftspeople should be taken to task for the amount of errors we have in here. It's not something that goes unnoticed, Mr. Chair.
So, I thank the minister for researching it and bringing it back. I only wish he would have taken the time to go through a number of other clauses that probably will come back to haunt the department and the minister for not being accurate or reflective of what we had intended them to do.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Amendment agreed to
Clause 256 agreed to as amended
On Clause 304 - continued
Chair: We will now continue with clause 304. Is there any debate?
Mr. Jenkins: When we left this line, we were discussing or debating the issue of a business in such an area and I'm aware that a business would be allowed continuance for one year. Very rarely in a fire of any substance is agreement reached between the insurers and the owner to rebuild and very rarely does the business get back into operation within a one-year period.
Most businesses have business interruption insurance. A lot of them have replacement clauses on the assets, so if they get paid out in the event of a substantial loss, they get paid out considerably less than they would if they rebuilt. This is to encourage rebuilding. And most businesses carry bylaw insurance, which in the case that bylaws change during the course of their occupancy the insurance kicks in with additional money so that they can conform, in most respects, to reconstruct the building.
But that doesn't take into consideration the location of the business or the fact that the land on which the business operates could be operating in a non-conforming area or zone, with respect to municipal bylaws. I would suggest to the minister there should be another clause in there that could extend that period of time for that business, or some discretion could be granted.
Is the minister prepared to consider such an eventuality?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, Mr. Chair, the Municipal Act Review Committee did put forth the time frame. It used to be 18 months, and the recommendation now is to make it 12 months. I feel that the process now is working. I know that they did seek advice as to why it should be 12 months. I know that they feel that it is certainly desirous to have it changed from 12 months to 18 months.
I could go forward to seek clarification from the Municipal Act to see if it is within that, and if it isn't, well, certainly, at that time, if there is a good reason, I could, but I would like to proceed with the 12 months, but I will ask for clarification.
Mr. Jenkins: What I'm referring to, Mr. Chair, is not so much the residents, who can be dealt with expediently, but businesses and business operations that take place in a structure that's destroyed by fire. I know of a number of occasions where mobile homes have been destroyed by fire, and mobile homes are no longer permitted in that section of the community. The bylaws have changed for that area, but that has not been an issue in that most of these individuals have had appropriate insurance in place that allowed them to construct a home to acceptable standards. But I am really concerned with the businesses, and I am really concerned with them being denied the opportunity to reopen. They have a gun to their heads both ways in the event of a damaging fire loss: one, to settle with the insurers, and, two, to rebuild and get back into business as soon as possible.
So, with a one-year time frame, is the minister aware of examples that existed that precipitated this change from an 18-month to a 12-month time frame?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: No, I'm not aware of any examples. As I said, I will get back to the member opposite in light of the business and the way the member is certainly raising it. I will talk with the association and see if this is one of the things that we could clear up or if there is a good reason, but certainly I will put it into the process.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, the Member for Klondike brought up a point earlier and he talked about where the 75-percent figure came from. Usually it's 50 percent and I'm wondering if the minister could give a little bit more clarification on where that figure came from.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, Mr. Chair, I will put that into the discussion paper also.
Clause 304 agreed to
On Clause 305
Clause 305 agreed to
On Clause 306
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, this is about the board of variance in division 5. It says, "A board of variance established under section 290 shall be composed of persons who are not members of the council..." and on and on it goes. What it doesn't say is about the support that the municipality will give to the board of variance. The board of variance is, for example, a quasi-judicial board and, on occasion, needs to have word-for-word transcripts made of proceedings and that's a very expensive process. They also need per diems, of course, for the members, secretarial staff and minutes if required. Now once again, this is back to the issue of local advisory committees. Is there somewhere in the act where it's spelled out that there will be that type of support for the variance board? I know it is for other boards and committees, but it doesn't seem to be for the variance board, and I just want to be absolutely sure that they were getting that type of support.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, it's covered under section 191, boards and commissions.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, the additional expense of getting the word-for-word transcripts would also be covered under there, would it? That is a very, very substantial cost usually.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, and by bylaw.
Clause 306 agreed to
On Clause 307
Clause 307 agreed to
On Clause 308
Clause 308 agreed to
On Clause 309
Clause 309 agreed to
On Clause 310
Clause 310 agreed to
On Clause 311
Clause 311 agreed to
On Clause 312
Clause 312 agreed to
On Clause 313
Clause 313 agreed to
On Clause 314
Clause 314 agreed to
On Clause 315
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, we're talking about "Dedications for public use" in a development, and under (1)(c) it says - you're talking about, "Every applicant who applies for subdivision of land shall make provision for the dedication to the public use, in addition to streets and lanes, of ten percent of the land to be subdivided, except that the requirements of this section does not apply to land to be subdivided into lots twenty hectares or larger in area unless the subdivision authority directs otherwise."
Wouldn't that be smaller than 20 acres - or hectares; pardon me - I haven't gone completely metric yet, Mr. Chair.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, Mr. Chair, it's at the request of the municipalities, and their figure for 20 hectare cut-off - smaller lots seemed to need more public areas, but certainly I can check with the municipal folk and find out the reason for the 20 hectare. But smaller, it's just much easier because you can do walkways and parks, that type of thing.
Mrs. Edelman: Well, Mr. Chair, it just seems to me that in a very large development it would be even more important to have land set aside for public use. If the minister could get back to me with some sort of explanation, I'd be very, very pleased.
Now, also on the same clause, under clause 315(5), it says: "Not withstanding subsection (1), where the land to be subdivided contains ravines, swamps, natural drainage courses, or other areas that in the opinion of the approving authority are unsuitable for building sites or other private uses, the approving authority may require that those areas be dedicated to the public use as parks, natural areas or areas for public recreational use..." One of the areas that's not covered - and there are an awful lot of them in the Yukon - are cliffs, particularly unstable cliffs. I'm thinking in particular in the City of Whitehorse.
Try to picture a certain trailer park, for example. Now, when I was on city council, I do recall that there was an extension of a development that hangs right over a cliff right next to a very large intersection in Whitehorse, and the applicants that did the extension said that they were told that they could have the extension but that the people in the homes that were hanging off the cliff weren't allowed to water their front lawn, because the cliff might slough.
Indeed, I still find it hard to believe that that was passed, but it was. All I'm saying is that if we're talking about some natural sections that are common in the Yukon but are also very dangerous that need to be protected - and particularly the cliffs, because the Trans Canada Trail goes right along that particular cliff - we should at least mention it in here, or is it perhaps mentioned in some other way?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: That's covered as we go on, and it says, "or other areas that in the opinion of the approving authority are unsuitable." So, it's covered within there.
Clause 315 agreed to
On Clause 316
Clause 316 agreed to
On Clause 317
Clause 317 agreed to
On Clause 318
Clause 318 agreed to
On Clause 319
Clause 319 agreed to
On Clause 320
Clause 320 agreed to
On Clause 321
Clause 321 agreed to
On Clause 322
Clause 322 agreed to
On Clause 323
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, it's been a long day already. Can the minister give me a timeline for this notice of refusal and within how many days? I know that we have timelines for just about every other type of rejection. What is the timeline for this? Perhaps I've missed it, earlier or later on.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, there is no time frame reflected, but certainly best efforts. The applicant is - pardon me. It is to be processed within 90 days.
Mrs. Edelman: I guess I didn't get where that was - the 90 days.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Section 320.
Clause 323 agreed to
On Clause 324
Clause 324 agreed to
On Clause 325
Clause 325 agreed to
On Clause 326
Clause 326 agreed to
On Clause 327
Clause 327 agreed to
On Clause 328
Clause 328 agreed to
On Clause 329
Clause 329 agreed to
On Clause 330
Clause 330 agreed to
On Clause 331
Clause 331 agreed to
On Clause 332
Clause 332 agreed to
On Clause 333
Clause 333 agreed to
On Clause 334
Mr. Jenkins: It looks like the minister is slipping in some tremendous powers under this section once again, and I was wondering why, under the inspector of municipalities in the previous act, it was quite succinct and quite descriptive as to his roles, but if you look at 334(8) and (7): "If, because of an inspection, the minister considers that the municipality has not acted in a manner consistent with this or any other act, or with the bylaws of the municipality, the minister may direct the council of the municipality to take any action that the minister considers appropriate in the circumstances."
Now, that's pretty straightforward. But then we go on and say, "If the council of a municipality, or any member of it, does not act on the direction of the minister to the minister's satisfaction..." - to the minister's satisfaction I might add - "...the minister may dismiss the council or any member of it." Those are pretty broad, sweeping powers, with no recourse. What's the recourse here, or the right of appeal, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: It is the desire of the municipalities that did bring this forward. It is broad, sweeping. Well, not broad, sweeping powers. I wouldn't say that because, certainly, it would never happen unless it was an extreme, and it would have to be an absolute extreme, but certainly this is what the committee had said that they wanted under the proposals; it was quite bold and explicit in saying that they would like that, so I do feel that the processes they've laid out are that they do want somebody around to help out from time to time, and this would be one of those cases. But, again, I would reiterate that that would be a case of last resort and would certainly follow due process all the way through so that we might be able to not come to that point.
Mr. Jenkins: Could the minister advise the House what precipitated such undertaking, such a tremendous step empowering the minister with a tremendous amount of authority? The minister is now all-empowering over municipal governments. The minister can, if he doesn't believe it's necessary, circumvent any municipal bylaw, rules or regulations for his government or government agencies. Now, if some member of council of the municipality does not act on the direction of the minister to the minister's satisfaction, the minister may dismiss the council or any member of it. I really have some concerns there.
Could the minister spell out what the next step of recourse that individual would have?
If the minister dismisses them, is it a Supreme Court matter or is there a right of appeal? Every rule should have its due process and should have its day in court, but this one doesn't appear to; it appears to have everything in favour of the minister.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Mr. Chair, it's not quite as the member has laid out. It's not the minister lying in wait or anything like as such; not that at all. In the previous act, the only action available was to dissolve the entire council and that was described within the discussion paper. Now, the Municipal Act Review Committee, in its wisdom, I would take it, has said that this is what they would like now as it's reflected within the act. I can say that no, there is no formal appeal set out within the act. There isn't one, but certainly legal action could be their final recourse. Again, I would reiterate that there is a process to follow and that the minister would follow that process.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, I'm aware that the minister has a process and he has the big stick and he has the hammer, but why isn't there a section in here pointing out the recourse that an individual, so identified by the inspector of municipalities, has? Why doesn't he have a recourse spelled out here? And does the minister really believe that he needs this section, "to the minister's satisfaction" in there?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Well, Mr. Chair, when you say "to the minister's satisfaction", it's not whether I like the words or not. The words simply set out that there are standards and a process and that's definitely what they would adhere to at that point in time. So, as I say, I will talk on this particular section, but certainly that is the desire of the review committee. In their wisdom, they have accepted that. So, I will take it upon myself to get a further explanation to share with the member. I will do that and if there is something that significantly jumps out, then we could look at it again.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, the only time we're going to look at this, Mr. Chair, is when something occurs when the minister invokes that section, and then we're all going to be standing there wondering what happened. I do have some tremendous concerns with that amount of power without recourse, and that amount of power granted "to the minister's satisfaction".
Now, if there were a section there, "to the extent of the act," or "to the extent of the provisions of the Municipal Act," I wouldn't have any quarrel with it. But "to the minister's satisfaction" can be interpreted to mean anything, Mr. Chair. What assurances do we have that the minister's going to interpret that to the extent of the Yukon Municipal Act?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Well, as it is outlined by the member opposite, it would be extremely unusual - extremely unusual. It certainly refers to the professionalism of the - well, the intent of the act - that the minister would not act outside of the act - so the minister would like to have it "to the minister's satisfaction as per the act". Now, that's certainly in there. It refers specifically to the direction that's provided under subsection (7) - not really general "satisfaction", if I could say. But again, that is one of those issues that was brought forth by the committee, and I will - as I have said - seek clarification.
Clause 334 agreed to
On Clause 335
Clause 335 agreed to
On Clause 336
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, once again - it's been a long day - can the minister tell the House about 336, which is the appointment of a trustee, "Appointment, powers, and duties", it says, "The minister may by order appoint a person, to serve at the pleasure of the minister, as trustee of the municipality where ...", and then it says, "On the appointment of a trustee for a municipality, the council shall be deemed to have retired from office and to be no longer qualified to act for or on behalf of the municipality or to exercise any of the powers and duties vested in the council by this or any other act."
Now, how much time has elapsed there? What is the timeline?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, Mr. Chair, when a trustee is appointed, it replaces the council. Therefore, there is no real time between the trustee and the council deemed to have been retired, so it's the continuation of good business.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, that's wise, but I guess I wasn't really clear. Like I say, it has been a long day. In how much time does an election have to be held after that appointment?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: That's addressed in subsection (13). It simply says, "Where the minister considers it advisable to provide that the affairs of the municipality shall again be conducted by a council", so we would bring in, and then you'd go out and talk with the communities so that you would be able to - because I don't want to be in place in governance. I want the communities to be in place in governance. So, therefore we would go out within a process, we'd talk to people, get people together, and try and find a council again that would provide good governance.
Mrs. Edelman: I'm looking back at subsection (13), and it doesn't give a timeline, either. I mean, how long is the minister going to be responsible there? There must be some sort of "after 90 days", or "after two years", or there has to be some sort of figure - you know, some sort of end date. That's what I'm wondering about with this.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, shorter is better in this certain situation, and sometimes it might - and we could fulfill the responsibilities quickly, within 30 days or 60 days, but in some cases, it might take a bit longer. But, certainly, I would say that the territorial government is not desirous of being within the municipal government any more than it has to be, as depicted by this act. So, certainly, the best efforts would be to get out there to find folk that could do the job.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, I don't know if it's unreasonable to put a timeline on this. Certainly, the government doesn't want to do the governing, and it's best to have a municipality come back. If there was a timeline, then people would know that it has to happen within such and such a time period, and they would know when to come forward if they're thinking about timing.
I wonder why there isn't a timeline in here, and as a suggestion, if this ever goes back to MARC, if there is discussion about the discussion that happened around this act when it was brought forward in the House, maybe they need to think of a time period - a year. I mean, surely to goodness, if YTG is still in charge after a year, there's something terribly wrong. Six months, that's also probably not unreasonable. Anything less than that is probably a working limit, and I'm wondering if, when the minister speaks to MARC or refers issues to them, that putting on some kind of timeline might be one of those areas that the people consider.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I would reiterate that yes, we're not desirous of being in the business. Certainly, we would aggressively pursue with the community new ways of doing things with new folks, I guess you could say. Certainly, I could talk to the municipalities again and get an understanding of their reasoning on this and a constriction, I guess. Because I'd hate to say that we're going to do something that we're not quite ready for at this point in time, even if it were a year, because we would certainly go out and aggressively pursue that. We would definitely do that. A time frame of a year might be way out of hand, but then, gosh, it might not be in some types of situations, and I'm sure that the committee looked at extreme circumstances from the extreme right to the extreme left. I will get that information and I will share it with the member opposite and discuss it among the deliberations.
Clause 336 agreed to
On Clause 337
Mr. Jenkins: I do have some concerns once again with this type of an area, Mr. Chair. My concerns arise with the inquiry, with the sweeping powers that are vested once again with the minister.
An inquiry can be called to look into the conduct of any member of the municipality. You go on to clause 337(7): "If, because of an inquiry, the minister considers" - "considers."
If this read, "If, because of the inquiry, it is established..." or "...it is found that the municipality is managed in an irregular or improper or improvident manner", but to "consider" - I can't buy that, Mr. Chair.
Would the minister consider a change there to "If, because of an inquiry, it is established..." rather than "...the minister considers..."? That is a sweeping, sweeping power, Mr. Chair.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, Mr. Chair, I would say that, in this case, as it's read here, "If, because of an inquiry, the minister considers..." then it would be more than just to consider. I certainly would never hope that the minister would be in a position - whether it's a he or a she minister - to act as judge, jury and trial. I will seek legal clarification on that, because if that's what it does say then I have concerns with it also. But I would think that that's not what it said and it might be captured within the definition of "consider", so I will check on that and will certainly work with it.
Mr. Jenkins: I did spend a little bit of time researching some of these sections, and this is too broad and too sweeping, Mr. Chair. Can we stand that aside and then come back to it when the minister gets his legal advice? Actually, in all fairness, it should read, "If, because of an inquiry, it is established" and then even the basis on which it is established, "irregular, improper", it doesn't say anything about illegal. "Irregular." Now, there are all sorts of occurrences in municipal governments that are irregular and they occur on an ongoing basis. Most bylaws could be ultra vires, or they are ultra vires until tested. If you read through that whole section on procedure for an inquiry, I think we're heading down the road on a collision course of disaster as soon as somebody reads this section.
What we have here is the basis for a recall initiative that's not spelled out as a recall, because all we're doing is investigating the conduct of a member or a council or an agent of a municipality. We could go on a witch hunt very easily, and all it would take to trigger that is a petition signed by 20 percent of the population.
I really don't believe, Mr. Chair, that this area was really carefully thought out or considered - as to the ramifications and implications of its implementation. And given the amount of times that an inspector of municipality is used and the power that was there invested with the inspector previously, compared to what we have now, it's a dramatic change.
We might as well say, "We'll give him a fair trial, and hang him," because that's what this section says.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: No, that's not what the section says at all, Mr. Chair - not at all. But certainly I've said that I would seek a legal clarification on that, and then if those - and I can agree - the purpose of this is not to create an instrument for somebody to go on a witch hunt with. That is absolutely not the purpose of this act. The purpose of this act is to let the communities go forth so that they can provide good government.
But in this situation, the member has said something, and I will check it out for the legal clarification of "considers". And then if that does not start it, well then, certainly, I will sit with the municipal people and we'll work it through so it brings more clarity to it.
Mr. Jenkins: I'm sure the minister's officials are listening in and will probably have an answer for him after the break. Can we just stand that line aside and go on to it after the break, Mr. Chair? And I ask the minister not to take advice from the Minister of Justice or the Member for Faro or we won't even get through this act tonight.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, I would consider holding this aside until after the break, when I can get a clarification on this, but it will come back after.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, if the minister is putting this aside, then on (2)(c), where it talks about the minister's initiative, where does it say that that has to be reasonable? Under procedures it says, "An inquiry may be conducted into..." and then it tells you who they can conduct it on and it says, "The minister may order an inquiry..." and then it says in (c) "on the minister's initiative". Where does it say that there has to be a reasonable cause for the minister to initiate the inquiry? Is it just on the minister's initiative because it's a nice day or because he feels like doing it - like there needs to be some reason for the minister to start an inquiry on his own initiative. There should be some reason for the minister to start an inquiry.
If the minister could bring back that information, as well, I would greatly appreciate it when we come back to this House after the break.
Chair: Is it agreed to stand this clause aside?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Clause 337 stood over
On Clause 338
Clause 338 agreed to
On Clause 339
Clause 339 agreed to
On Clause 340
Clause 340 agreed to
On Clause 341
Clause 341 agreed to
On Clause 342
Clause 342 agreed to
On Clause 343
Clause 343 agreed to
On Clause 344
Clause 344 agreed to
On Clause 345
Clause 345 agreed to
On Clause 346
Clause 346 agreed to
On Clause 347
Clause 347 agreed to
On Clause 348
Clause 348 agreed to
On Clause 349
Clause 349 agreed to
On Clause 350
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I move
THAT Bill No. 69, entitled a Municipal Act, be amended in subclause 350(1) on page 170 by deleting paragraph (d) and substituting the following paragraph for it:
"(d) the 14 day period under section 349 respecting the order has passed or, if a request to the council to review the order has been made, the review has been done, and a decision made by council that the municipality is to take the action or measures."
Chair: I would just advise members that this proposed amendment is for the purpose of changing the reference from 348 to 349 only.
Amendment agreed to
Clause 350 agreed to as amended
On Clause 351
Clause 351 agreed to
On Clause 352
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, this is a section about the liability of municipalities. This was a concern that was brought forward by the Association of Yukon Communities. Perhaps this is being dealt with in a later amendment. I wonder if the minister can tell this House whether this issue about joint and several liability is being dealt with in any of the amendments?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, in discussion with the association's president and vice-president, I believe - maybe it's the vice-chair of MARC and the executive director of the Association of Yukon Communities - we've said that we'd like to examine this in a bit more detail and get some real good, legal clarification on this. There are other examples out there.
I've discussed this with them, and we're going to put together a committee that would look specifically at this issue and this issue only, so that we can bring forth a recommendation that would encompass a good change for all. People just didn't feel comfortable all around until we decided to focus on the liability question with a mini task force, just to make sure it's done in the right and proper manner.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, am I to assume from the minister's comments that at some point in the future there will be a willingness on the part of this government to amend this clause or the appropriate clause to deal with this issue about negligence?
I'm getting from the minister that indeed there is a willingness to do that. Thank you, Mr. Chair, that's all I needed to know.
Clause 352 agreed to
On Clause 353
Clause 353 agreed to
On Clause 354
Clause 354 agreed to
On Clause 355
Clause 355 agreed to
On Clause 356
Clause 356 agreed to
On Clause 357
Clause 357 agreed to
On Clause 358
Clause 358 agreed to
On Clause 359
Clause 359 agreed to
On Clause 360
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, this is back to the issue of indemnification by a municipality. It says: "A municipality must indemnify a current or former member of council, a municipal officer, volunteer workers, and their heirs and legal representatives for reasonable costs incurred in a civil, criminal, or administrative action or other proceeding, as a result of the actions of such person done in the performance of their duties, if the person was substantially successful on the merits of the defence of the action." Now, what about if the council cannot afford to pay? If it's a multimillion-dollar suit, what happens if the council can't afford to pay? Does YTG then step in?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I've been informed that it should be covered by municipal insurance.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, it's an interesting piece of legislation that we've got, called the Environment Act. Here is a municipal example - a totally municipal example - a town - say, Carmacks - has a need to increase the size of their dump. Now, they go to increase the size of their dump and they find out that lo and behold, in order to do that, their new cell has to be lined. Now, lining a new cell in a dump is an extremely expensive process, and if the town decides they cannot afford to do that, they go ahead, they build the cell, they don't line it, and the Environment Act regulations say that they, as councillors, can be charged because they are not protected under the Environment Act.
Now, MLAs are protected, but municipal officers are not protected from this type of senior legislation. What do you do as a municipality? You can't afford to pay the cost of this particular piece of senior legislation, and it's going to be a real problem. You're talking about downloading the responsibilities over and over and over again without offering the money for councils to do that. I have a real concern here that you're indemnifying municipalities for everything else but what's going to affect them the most, which is that senior legislation.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, Mr. Chair, I've been informed that the people would be indemnified under this. But there might be a reason why the municipality itself would not be indemnified from that.
Now, I've just been informed that the municipality is a "responsible person", so it's quite a complex issue, but I will have to seek clarification, because I don't want to just go over this, I want to get a good understanding. But I feel personally assured that they would be covered from here, but I would like to clarify that.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, why can't municipal officials have the same indemnification as our government sector employees in the Government of Yukon?
We've recently passed an act in this sitting of the Legislature, dealing with the Canadian blood agency - the justification for it was, in part, to ensure that we have a workforce that we can attract and retain to the specific function.
Now, that's just for blood. Municipal government is all-encompassing, Mr. Chair, and there are a lot of decisions made at that level that could come back to haunt elected officials. And the Member from that sunny part of Riverdale - Riverdale South - brought up exemptions under the Municipal Act. Municipal governments are in the same category as businesses - you can't get liability insurance covering a liability arising out of environmental issues, i.e. oil spills - whether intentional or not - into a storm sewer that eventually ends up in a watercourse. That'll be prosecuted, and there's no such thing as any insurance coverage for something like that.
We see fit to indemnify and save harmless those working in the blood industry; those working for government in virtually all categories; the ministers - look at the powers that we have just given the minister in this act, and he's not even responsible for them.
He's indemnified and saved harmless for all his actions, so he's not even responsible for his actions, and you want to make the lowest level of government - that right next to the people, those individuals - more responsible? That doesn't appear to be fair. Could we look at an amendment in here, Mr. Chair, at the break - and we're coming up to it pretty quick - to indemnify and save harmless municipal officials or elected officials to the same level, at least, as the Government of Yukon?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, Mr. Chair, I will, as I have said, check it out with the legal folk after the break, and I surely will do that. The last thing we want is for that to happen; it would be a terrible situation.
Again, though, I would have to talk to the municipalities on this statement, and I will talk to the municipalities within the process that we've laid out. So I would ask the concurrence of the members if I could take the time to talk to the municipalities on this important issue, because I do want them to be indemnified.
Mr. Jenkins: In my polling of the municipal people that I have spoken to, without exception they're desirous of that kind of a clause, to indemnify and save harmless municipal elected officials to the same level as to the Government of the Yukon, and I didn't hear any dissention anywhere from any of them in that regard, Mr. Chair. I don't think it's an issue that we have to go back and consult and consult and consult on. It's something that they all wanted and all desired, pretty well from the onset, from my understanding of it.
Chair: Is it the members' wish to take a brief recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: Ten minutes.
Chair: I now call Committee of the Whole to order.
On Clause 337 - previously stood over
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I promised that I'd get back with information for the member on 337(7). I got this from our legal counsel, Howard Kushner. He says that any time that the minister uses discretionary power, the power has to be for a proper purpose and it must be based on the relevant considerations within the law. The minister would only act under this section if the inquiry found out that there was a problem. If there is doubt as to whether there is a problem or not, therein the minister will have to decide.
If the minister takes action, the minister has to act within the powers provided by the law. The remedy by a person who is affected by the minister's decision and who also disagrees with that decision can ask for a judicial review by the courts. If the minister exceeded his power under the law, then the courts will overturn the minister's action.
So, in essence, it can do it within a properly laid out system and specifics.
Chair: As a point of clarification, is it clause 337 that you are referring to?
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Chair: Yes, it is.
Mr. Jenkins: Other than the title, maybe we should call it instead of the "inquiry," the "wing-nut clause," because, boy, this is a broad, sweeping amount of power vested in one individual, Mr. Chair. You know, when you look at the reasons for which the minister can conduct an inquiry, it's basically just on conduct of a person, the conduct of a member of a council or an agent of a municipality, or the conduct of a person who has agreements with a municipality. It doesn't look like we're going to meet with much success to change it at this juncture, Mr. Chair.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, the minister's response to the inquiry that we had about what is reasonable for a minister to initiate an investigation satisfies the concerns that I had, and it's on the record now, and I'm quite pleased with that response, Mr. Chair.
Clause 337 agreed to
On Clause 360 - continued
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Mr. Chair, in the case of the Member for Klondike, I've been assured that yes, everybody is indemnified. It's done there. So, that should look after the concern on the personnel issue. Could I just get a nod, if that was the issue? Thank you.
I like the "Sunny side of Riverdale" line, I've got to say. It was specifically about the structure of the municipality being indemnified; the municipality is not indemnified. I guess that the reason would be that if the municipality went out and did something knowingly, I guess - using the case of Carmacks and the liner, and if they did it knowingly - well, then they would be subject to the points of the law, but I would think that before we got to that point, there would be lots of discussion that takes place, because those types of regulations - I don't like the term "downloading." I just don't like that term, because that's not what it's about. It's about meaningful regulation, and there's got to be ways that we can work together, and I will work with municipalities to find those types of ways. But if a municipality goes out and knowingly damages the environment and knowingly does it, then the municipality is not indemnified, and the municipality will be subject to the law, but certainly, the persons will be indemnified.
Mrs. Edelman: I suppose that's where I have the concern. Municipalities have had their block funding frozen for the last 13 years and their responsibilities under various pieces of legislation continue to increase. The example of the liner at the proposed extension to the Carmacks dump is a perfect example, because that municipality could not afford to line a new cell on their dump, and this doesn't speak to that issue at all.
I voiced this concern quite a few times throughout the reading of this act and I'd like to voice that concern again, for the record. Municipalities are not protected from senior pieces of legislation, and they cannot comply unless they have adequate funding.
I'll leave it at that, Mr. Chair.
Clause 360 agreed to
On Clause 361
Clause 361 agreed to
On Clause 362
Clause 362 agreed to
On Clause 363
Clause 363 agreed to
On Clause 364
Clause 364 agreed to
On Clause 365
Clause 365 agreed to
On Clause 366
Clause 366 agreed to
On Clause 367
Clause 367 agreed to
On Clause 368
Clause 368 agreed to
On Clause 369
Clause 369 agreed to
On Clause 370
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, in clause 370, I wonder if we can get an example from the minister on this clause. It talks about the costs in court proceedings.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly. If the lawyer representing the municipality is a salaried officer of the municipality - so if the lawyer is a salaried officer of the municipality - any costs awarded to the municipality cannot be reduced because the municipal representative was a staff member.
Clause 370 agreed to
On Clause 371
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Mr. Chair, I would move
THAT Bill No. 69, entitled Municipal Act, be amended in clause 371 on page 177 by adding the following subclause:
"(2) This act repeals the Municipal Act published as Chapter 119 of the Revised Statutes of the Yukon, 1986."
Chair: Is there debate on the amendment?
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, I wonder if this amendment goes far enough. Now, our caucus has brought forward this issue on a number of other bills this session and previous sessions. Certainly, we have to get rid of the old act in order for the new act to take precedence, but what about the idea of a mandatory review? The partners in education in the Education Act for the Yukon talks about a 10-year review. The Children's Act, for example, which is an equally large act as this act - and certainly has quite a few sweeping powers in it as well - needs to be reviewed and updated regularly as well, but it's not. I think that when we start to think clearly as legislators, we have to realize that things change over time and it makes sense for us to build a mandatory review into our legislation.
Now, I know that there is a revision of statutes, which sometimes happens every 10 years, but lately hasn't been happening every 10 years. In that revision of statutes, all that you do is you bring that legislation up to date legally. It doesn't mean that it's a reflection of the times. This whole issue of mandatory review in our legislation is also supposed to be one with our bureaucrats. Our bureaucrats are supposed to find time in their day to regularly review all the pieces of legislation that they're responsible for in their department. Now, the reality of that is that just does not happen.
If we have mandatory reviews built into our larger pieces of legislation - this is an example, the Children's Act is another example, the Education Act is yet another example - then I think that we bring it forward, we go back to Yukoners, we talk about whether it makes sense to them any more. I respectfully ask the minister to consider putting a mandatory review period into this act.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Well, certainly, the suggestion is one that was thought of by the New Democrats many years ago when the present Government Leader, then Education minister, in his wisdom, brought forth the idea of a review.
I can safely say that I'm going to be talking with the municipalities on other issues here and that's certainly one of those issues I can raise with them. Certainly I know that I'd said it's the bible and I was corrected and was told it was not really a bible, it's an act. Certainly, when I said "the bible", I meant that it's something that should be definitely followed and used because it's meant with a lot of goodness in it, such as the Bible. Not to bring religion into this, but certainly just to speak to the idea that it has come from the Member for Riverdale, I'll certainly consider talking about it with the municipalities and with caucus also so that there might be something coming.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, I greatly appreciate that type of consideration. If we're going back to the whole bible analogy, and bearing in mind this is not the bible - that we have moved on from the King James version. There have been updates of even the Bible. I hope that does gain serious consideration at the caucus level. Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Chair: Does the amendment carry?
Amendment agreed to
Clause 371 agreed to as amended
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I move that Bill No. 69, entitled Municipal Act, be amended in the Preamble on page 16 by adding the following text as an indented paragraph immediately before the first indented paragraph:
"That the Government of Yukon recognizes municipalities as a responsible and accountable level of government."
I sincerely believe that in my heart, and I know that all members of this House do. Thank you.
Amendment agreed to
Preamble agreed to as amended
Title agreed to
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I move that Bill No. 69 be moved out of Committee with amendment.
Motion agreed to
Chair: Committee will now proceed to Bill No. 53, an Act to Amend the Employment Standards Act.
Bill No. 53 - An Act to Amend the Employment Standards Act
Chair: Is there any general debate?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Thank you, Mr. Chair. There are a couple of points that I wanted to make on the record, in response to some comments that were made in second reading on Bill No. 53, amendments to the Employment Standards Act.
There were, in particular, questions about classifying people as contract workers, and I would like to discuss a couple of scenarios which might explain to members opposite where a person would be an employee and where they would be an independent contractor.
The example that I'll use is for, first of all, a welder-fabricator who is an independent contractor. The welder has his or her own vehicle and welding equipment, they perform work for a number of different operations during the course of the season, and are paid either by the hour or by the job. The operator tells the welder what needs to be done and by when. The welder then determines how they're going to perform the task, and sets their own hours.
The operator has no right to tell the welder how to do the job nor which hours to work, and the operator has no right to fire the welder. The only control the operator has is to approve the final project, prior to payment. The welder has other, similar jobs for other contractors and he's not economically dependent on this one operator for the majority of their income. That welder would be, and is, an independent contractor, and remains an independent contractor.
A contract worker would be someone who is also a welder or fabricator, who has their own vehicle and welding equipment, but is engaged to work exclusively for an operator for an entire season. They're paid by the hour or on a piece work basis; they're required to be on-site at 6:30 every morning ready to work, and are told what work is to be done every day. Even though the welder is an experienced and highly skilled worker, the operator retains the right to tell the welder how to do the work, and set priorities. The operator also has the right to discipline or fire the welder.
The welder is economically dependent on the operator for all of the income other than odd, small jobs they may do after work or on days off. There are legal definitions of a contract worker, and the employment standards branch in the Department of Justice has a handout that is used by both employees and employers to set out the test for meeting a contract worker definition. I did spend some time going over that in second reading, but I also have copies for the opposition critics and for the clerks' table of the employment relationship, and that provides some further information for members.
In addition, as I indicated in second reading, the Department of Justice has had a number of meetings and briefings with various employers' groups and labour groups about the specific amendments before us, and we have covered some of the ground that has been discussed in second reading. I would again make the point that, as we indicated we would do when we published the Yukon hire commission report and published the government's response to that report, we have prepared amendments in keeping with the recommendations to codify the definition of "contract worker" and to offer some administrative penalties for violations of the Employment Standards Act.
These violations are only an issue in the few cases where employers are not operating under the law and are, in fact, creating an unfair competitive advantage over employers who do abide by the law.
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Chair, did the minister receive the letter, as we did, from the Dawson City Chamber of Commerce raising some concerns with respect to the definition of a"contract worker"? I just wonder if any official from the minister's department or the minister herself had met with the Dawson City Chamber to discuss the matter, and what has happened as a result of those discussions? Have they come to some resolution or is the Dawson City Chamber now happy with the definition of a contract worker?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Yes, Mr. Chair, my officials in the employment standards branch did speak with the Dawson City Chamber and reviewed the bill during a briefing. They understood the reasons and effect of codifying the definition of "contract worker," and recognized that it was no major departure from the traditional analysis that has been employed by the department and by Revenue Canada, and indicated that they were satisfied with that explanation of contract labour, and accepted the economic dependence and subordination as roots of the employment contracts. The member will find further details of that particular definition of "employment contracts" and "contract workers" in the handout that I just provided to him.
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Chair, the other question that I have for the minister: how does this affect the Government of the Yukon with respect to its contract workers? Is it bound by this as well?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: The employment relationship between the Government of the Yukon and employees is covered by the Public Service Act and the Public Service Staff Relations Act. There are also a number of provisions in the contract administration guidelines. These particular changes to the Employment Standards Act will not affect the Yukon government.
Mr. Phillips: Let me give the minister an example: the CARS workers at our airports. They are contract workers. They work regular shifts. They work under direction of the Government of the Yukon, but they are contract workers. Will this affect them now? Will the Government of the Yukon make deductions and cover all aspects of employment as an employer would have to do with respect to the CARS workers at all of the airports in the territory?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: The workers will be covered by the normal laws that are imposed with Revenue Canada, with Workers' Compensation Board coverage, and there would not be an impact.
Mr. Phillips: Well, Mr. Chair, is the minister sure of that? Is the minister absolutely certain that this change in this legislation will not affect individuals, like the CARS workers? I thought they were contract workers.
I would maybe like the minister to take some time, if the minister isn't sure, but, to me, it seems like it would affect workers such as that. I'd like to know for sure because it certainly would change the way these workers were paid and supervised in the future, if it did have an impact on them.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, Mr. Chair, my advice is that Yukon government workers, as the member knows, are regulated by separate legislation, such as the Public Service Staff Relations Act and the Public Service Act. I can take notice of that question and come back with an answer tomorrow with specific reference to the CARS worker, but I do not believe that there is an effect.
Mr. Phillips: Well, I understand what the minister is saying with respect to the Public Service Act and other such acts, but I mean some of these employees are called contract workers. The CARS employees are called contract workers. So, now we're changing this to say that a contract worker, by definition, is in fact a CARS employee - they are employees. So, I look forward to that from the minister.
Mr. Chair, we also received a letter from the Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce. They raised some concerns in, I think, three areas where they see amendments to this bill. One or two of them are technical, and one of them is fairly critical with respect to wages, and I wonder what the minister's response is to the Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce with respect to their suggested changes.
I know they consulted them. I don't think it changes the bill a lot. I think it clarifies it with respect to where they're coming from, and I'd just like to know from the government if it's prepared to make minor amendments to their bill in front of us so that we can accommodate the concerns raised by the Whitehorse Chamber.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: There were three items raised in the letter and we can go over each of them.
The levy of the penalty - there was a concern that it was based solely on the discretion of the director. Now, as the member would be aware from his previous experience in administering this act, there is not a discretion where it is found that there is a violation of the act. The labour services branch does an investigation where they consult with both the business and the employee. They ascertain the facts and they do give the employer a chance to act if they believe that there has been a violation or to warn the employer that a certificate may be issued if wages are owing.
On the second concern in relation to the 10-percent penalty being collected as wages and being done ahead of the employees, the debt owed to the government does not take priority over wages. The 10-percent administrative penalty as a sum of money that is owed to government is paid after the employee or the worker receives their wages.
Thirdly, on the levy of an administrative penalty where an employer has kept improper records, this is a recommendation that has come forward from previous and present employment standards boards as well as in the Yukon hire commission report - that an administrative penalty should be imposed where an employer has not kept the records that they need to keep in order to ensure that the employees are being paid properly.
Again, as in the previous concern, the levy is not wages, and so is not enforced ahead of payment to the worker.
Mr. Phillips: Well, that's precisely the problem that the chamber has. The minister says that the levy is not wages, but it's going to be enforced as wages under a certificate. That's what it says in the act. It bears interest and has priority and may be enforced as wages under a certificate. So, it's going to be treated as if it's wages, even though it isn't wages. That's the concern that the chamber had, that the government will be putting it forward in that manner.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: The wages, by definition, does not include the levy of an administrative penalty. The levy only has the characteristics of wages for enforcing the payment of the penalty. We do need to be able to enforce the payment of the wages that are due and to enforce the payment of the administrative penalty that is being charged where an employer has been found to keep improper or inadequate records.
Mr. Cable: The minister indicated that the penalty would not have priority because the wages would have already been paid. I think the situation that perhaps the Chamber of Commerce is dealing with - and what I think we should be dealing with - is an instance where a company is going under and there are wages owing to other employees and other contract workers.
We're going to be proposing an amendment when we get to that section indicating that the certificate, which is basically a fine, will not have priority over the wages owing to other persons, other than the complainant.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Under the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act, where you have wages that are due and you have an employer who is going out of business, wages are paid fifth and debts to government are paid sixth. So, the Employment Standards Act would provide that the wages that are owed to an employee would be paid in advance of a debt to government.
Mr. Cable: I don't think that's very often. In the case, though, where there's formal bankruptcy proceedings, I think the vast majority of people go under in this jurisdiction simply - poof! - disappear, and if in fact the government's there with its hand out under a wage certificate, ahead of other employees, then there could be court fights. So I think it's desirable to make sure that the other employees' wage claims come ahead of the government's penalty.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, again, the situation that the member poses is that there may be a court fight, and where there is a hearing before the courts, of any money that is collected, the wages that are due to an employee would be paid before any money was paid into the employment standards office for administrative penalties.
Mr. Cable: What sets that up if there's no formal bankruptcy proceedings? Is there something in the Employment Standards Act itself that would govern it?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Yes, Mr. Chair, I would refer the member to section 82 of the Employment Standards Act, which sets up the priority of wages.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I just would like to formally request some information from the minister. Could the minister provide us with any specific information obtained during the local hire - Yukon hire - workshops regarding these particular amendments?
For example, in the different workshops there was occasion for facilitators to take notes, and so on. Any specific notes or questions of these recommendations - I think 7 and 35 are contained in this act. Are there any notes available to us on that?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I can check into that and come back with information that may be available for the member.
Ms. Duncan: Just to clarify - I understand that the consultations were synthesized into reports, but the original documents must have been kept. So I'm looking for any sort of background on these specific recommendations that then made their way into the act.
The other question that I would just like clarification on - the Member for Riverdale North raised the letter from the Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce and mentioned their three concerns. The minister has dealt with concerns number 2 and 3, but I haven't really heard an explanation for concern number 1, that is to allow for the grace period between when a determination is made that wages are owing and when the certificate with the attendant penalty is actually issued.
Now, to clarify, you can read this recommendation in two ways. One is to allow for a grace period, presumably, which would allow an employer to pay the wages owing, and therefore the certificate wouldn't have to be issued. Or, you can read it as having the same sort of grace period where you are charged with a fine - a speeding offence, let's say - and sentenced and then given an opportunity to pay it.
So, the minister and her officials have obviously had a good, solid opportunity to digest that first concern. My first question is: have there been conversations with the chamber regarding this letter that we received.
Mr. Hardy: I just want to go back to the question that you did ask earlier on just to make sure that you have the right information.
At all the workshops, there was recording. It was fairly extensive, and after the workshops there were papers sent back to all of the people who participated to ensure that their comments were incorporated into the gathered information and that they weren't missed or misquoted. So, I believe that stuff was public, and it is just a matter of if the minister wants to get it for you or find it and make it available.
Ms. Duncan: Yes, Mr. Chair, that's what I was looking for, and if it's possible - for example, in the collecting of the report for the workshop activities, if they were grouped on a computer by section, and there are two sections that are particularly in this act, if there were any comments. If they are not readily sorted, then I realize that it may take some time, but I'm just looking for that background information.
Mr. Hardy: Actually, I think they were grouped. I can't be sure. It's been a while since I looked at it, but I remember we did a lot of work, and it was all put in a computer, and we tried to put it into categories, such as what issues were raised and what the responses were.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I want to respond to the member's question about a request for a grace period of 10 days, and I want to explain what the present practice is.
At the present time, where a complaint is received about wages owing, in contravention of the Employment Standards Act, the director of labour services does an investigation. After they have done that investigation, they contact the employer and say, "Here's the evidence that we heard. Here are the records that we found. Here's what our findings are."
Then the employer is told that if there are any inaccuracies or if they have any problem with that, the employer has a minimum of 14 days to contact the employment standards branch to correct the record.
Prior to the 1989 amendments, they had to issue a demand for payment of wages, which presented an unnecessary, additional delay in securing wages for the employee. I think it's important to note that not once in the last nine years has the director been accused of acting arbitrarily or capriciously when issuing the certificate of wages. The labour services branch performs their duties conscientiously. They do present the evidence and the findings to the employer and give the employer a minimum of 14 days to respond before a certificate of wages is issued.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I just want to clarify what I believe I heard the minister say. Essentially, once a complaint is received, the director of labour services does the investigation and advises the employer. The appeal process for the director of labour services' findings is to the Employment Standards Board. So, it's the director's findings that are then appealed to the Employment Standards Board, and then there's an opportunity to correct the record. And what the minister is saying is that, in the past nine years, there has been no suggestion by anyone that the director has not acted in anything but a fair and forthright manner. The 14 days to correct the record - that's strictly a minimum. Is that correct? That's what I understood the minister to say.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Yes. Also, to clarify, the employer is contacted before the certificate of wages is issued, and the employer has the ability to say, "Well, if that's the evidence that you're basing a certificate of wages on, we don't believe that that's accurate," and to correct it if they feel that there is a mistake. It is after the certificate of wages is issued that an employer can appeal to the Employment Standards Board. Before the certificate of wages is issued, the director of labour services conducts their investigation and presents that evidence to the employer before they ever issue the certificate of wages, at which time an employer can make their case for correcting the record or taking other facts into account.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, what is the process for tracking the situations that come before the Employment Standards Board? Is there a summary report that's tabled in this Legislature that says the Employment Standards Board heard 16 cases, et cetera, et cetera? Is there any sort of tracking? How do we assess the effectiveness of this legislation and how do holes, if you will, or problems such as have come before us come to the attention of members of the Legislature?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: The decisions of the Employment Standards Board are a matter of public record. Those decisions are kept in the law library and in the Department of Justice. As well, the office of the employment standards branch reports to the deputy minister and ultimately to the minister. In addition, the board normally meets with the minister once a year, or more or less frequently, depending.
Mr. Cable: Just to clarify the last and third concern from the Chamber of Commerce. I think that may have been dealt with earlier, but is it the minister's position that the $500 administrative penalty would be - if, in fact, it's shown that there are improper or inadequate employee records - on top of the $100 administrative penalty that would then flow if there were a wage claim found? Would the two administrative penalties piggyback on backs of each other?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: They are different. The amendment to 76.2(10) is an administrative penalty for keeping improper or inadequate employee records. The amendment to 75(1) is a 10-percent penalty only where it's found that wages are owed and that enforcement is required in order to collect those wages.
Mr. Cable: I think the question the chamber was asking is, in that instance where there are improper records and an administrative penalty is levied, assumedly, as a consequence, of some wage earner making a complaint, would there then be, as part of the same transaction, another $100 fine or administrative levy against the employer?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, perhaps the best way that I can explain it to the member is to say that there is a difference between an employer failing to keep proper employee records. Under the Employment Standards Act, an employer is required to keep adequate and specific employee records of hours of work. If an employer fails to keep those employee records, then there now can be an administrative penalty for failing to keep adequate employee records.
There is also a requirement under the act to pay the wages that are due to an employee because of the hours that they've worked. Where an employer is not paying the wages that are due to an employee, then an administrative penalty can be levied. There could be a case where an employer is not keeping the proper records according to the Employment Standards Act but where they are, in fact, paying their employee and not violating the wage provisions of the act.
Mr. Cable: I understand that. It's just that in some situations, it may be looked at as double jeopardy if, in fact, the administrative penalty under the one section, the $500 for failure to keep accurate records, is as a result of a complaint. So, when the records are brought forward, and it's found that wages are owing, then another administrative penalty is added on top of it.
But I hear what the minister is saying. A single complaint could, in fact, in the minister's view, trigger two administrative penalties.
Perhaps the minister would like to think about that overnight, and something else I'd like to get some information on - I see it's just about 9:30 p.m. - is that the administrative penalty for those clauses - 8(1), 10, 60, 61 and 62.1 - are shown as $500. Could the minister tell the House tomorrow what the usual fine is that comes out of the court for infringing those clauses?
Mr. Phillips: In light of the time, Mr. Chair, I'll ask the minister to bring this back tomorrow as well, and I asked it earlier, but could the minister bring back any impact that the clause regarding contract workers will have on any department of the Government of the Yukon with people who have contracts with it? I just want to make sure that there isn't an impact, or, if there is one, what is the impact on the Government of the Yukon?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft:Mr. Chair, in view of the time, I move that you report progress on Bill No. 53.
Motion agreed to
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I move that the Speaker do now resume the chair.
Motion agreed to
Speaker resumes the Chair
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
May the House have a report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole?
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Speaker, Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 69, Municipal Act, and directed me to report it with amendment.
Further, Committee has considered Bill No. 53, An Act to Amend the Employment Standards Act, and directed me to report progress on it.
Speaker: You have heard the report of the Chair of Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: I declare the report carried.
The time being 9:30, this House now stands adjourned until 1:30 tomorrow.
The House adjourned at 9:30 p.m.
The following Sessional Papers were tabled November 30, 1998:
Status of negotiations with Yukon Teachers Association: letter dated November 27, 1998, to Gilles Brisson, Assistant Secretary, Yukon Public Staff Relations Board, from Megan Slobodin, Director, Staff Relations, PSC (Harding)
Energy commission final report: implementation plan (November 1998) (Harding)
Motor Transport Board 1997-98 Annual Report (dated May 1998) (Keenan)