Wednesday, November 8, 2000 - 1:00 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.
Introduction of visitors.
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Speaker, I would like to welcome to this Legislature two constituents from my riding, from Mayo: Doug Van Bibber and Melinda McGinty, who is a councillor of the Nacho Nyak Dun and responsible for education.
Speaker: Are there any returns or documents for tabling?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, I have a legislative return for tabling regarding the James E. Almstrom contracts.
I have for tabling a letter to the MLA for Klondike, and I have for tabling a letter to Mr. Patrick Palmer, president and CEO of Aeromax Lodestar.
Speaker: Are there any reports of committees?
Are there any petitions?
Are there any bills to be introduced?
Are there any notices of motion?
NOTICES OF MOTION
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Speaker, I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that:
(1) the immunity from legal action for statements made in this House are a privilege that should not be taken lightly by any Member of this House; and
(2) recent statements by the Member for Whitehorse Centre casting doubt on the honesty of former government employees who were not in a position to defend themselves would, if repeated outside of this House, be probable grounds for action by the unnamed persons to whom he referred; and
(3) when called to order, the Member for Whitehorse Centre failed to apologize unequivocally, or to distance himself from these offensive and inflammatory remarks; and
(4) allegations of the sort made by the Member under the privilege of legislative immunity have the effect of bringing the proceedings of this House into disrepute; and
THAT this House urges the Member for Whitehorse Centre to apologize without reservation to this House for the statements made on the afternoon of Wednesday, November 1, and to apologize in writing, without delay, to all persons to whom his comments in question referred.
Mr. Jenkins: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that a true indicator of interest by resource investors in Yukon is their willingness to attend events promoting resource exploration and development which take place in Yukon; and
THAT this House urges the Liberal Government, through the Department of Economic Development, to host a "Welcome Back to Yukon" conference on resource development in Yukon, rather than in Vancouver.
I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that the existing health care facilities in rural Yukon do not meet the needs of our Yukon seniors and that there is an urgency to address these requirements in light of the growth of our senior population; and
THAT this House urges the Government of Yukon to initiate planning for the construction of multi-level health care facilities in the City of Dawson and the Town of Watson Lake.
Speaker: Are there any further notices of motion?
Are there any statements by ministers?
B.C./Yukon reciprocal fishing agreement
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: It is my pleasure to advise the House and bring all members up to date on our policy surrounding the B.C./Yukon reciprocal fishing agreement.
It is this government's policy to come up with an agreement with the Province of British Columbia to manage border lakes, rivers and fish stocks as single stocks and management systems.
This is a major benefit for anglers from the Yukon and northern British Columbia who use border lakes, such as Teslin and Tagish, and various transboundary rivers.
I will soon be announcing the formal details with my counterpart from B.C., but in the meantime, I will outline some of the issues that we have been trying to resolve.
We are bringing in a system that will allow anglers to fish the entire lake with one licence. This will require us to set uniform catch and size limits, and recognize each other's licences. This is a system in which anglers would only be allowed one limit of fish from a border water, regardless of the number of licences held or whether the fish were caught in Yukon or B.C.
The change to the federal/Yukon Territory fishery regulations that allowed for licence reciprocity on the Yukon portion of border waters was implemented on April 1, 1999.
We are now looking to see this new licence reciprocity and harmonization of catch and size limits in B.C. being in place for April 1, 2001. We have already initiated a regulation proposal so that this new plan can be in place on Yukon waters.
There is an exception that has been proposed and agreed to by both governments. At a public information meeting held last May in Atlin, anglers expressed some concern about the reciprocity proposal and the potential to increase fishing pressure on Atlin Lake.
We have agreed with B.C. that Atlin Lake will not be included in the licence reciprocity arrangement at this time, but it could be added to the list in the future, once harvest and stock assessment surveys are completed.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. McRobb: I would like to thank the minister for the progress report on the B.C./Yukon reciprocal fishing agreement that the past NDP government initiated and negotiated with the British Columbia government.
Mr. Jenkins: I rise to thank the Minister of Renewable Resources for his update on the B.C./Yukon reciprocal fishing agreement. Any initiative that help cuts down on government red tape and licensing requirements, while ensuring equal treatment for Yukoners and B.C. residents on border lakes and rivers, are welcomed by the Yukon Party. It is prudent to manage fish stock in these waters as single stocks, because the fish do not recognize our jurisdictional boundaries anyway. It is unfortunate that this agreement was not in place earlier, so that it would have prevented an embarrassing fishing situation involving a minister of the previous government fishing on Teslin Lake.
Now, the exercise of this fishing agreement is to allow equal access and treatment for Yukon and B.C. residents, Mr. Speaker. I want the minister, in his response, to confirm that he has no intentions of establishing a Yukon reciprocal fishing secretariat or anything of the kind and staffing it in a million-dollar new headquarter. The exercise is a simple one. Let's keep it that way.
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Speaker, I do appreciate the comments of the leader of the third party, and I will assure him that there will be no million-dollar palace built to administer this.
I thank the members opposite for their comments. It is my understanding that a joint press release will be issued in the next week or so on this issue.
Speaker: Are there any further statements by ministers?
This then brings us to Question Period.
Question re: Alcohol and drug services secretariat
Mr. Keenan: Today I have a question for the Minister of Health and Social Services, Mr. Speaker, and it's on this proposed alcohol and drug secretariat.
Yesterday the minister tabled a report from the Alberta Alcohol and Drug Abuse Commission. We will be reviewing that report in detail and will be asking the minister a number of questions in the supplementary budget debate; however, there are several questions that arise right away about the minister's statement in the House yesterday and outside of the House.
The minister has indicated that work on the proposed new secretariat started before the report was received. I'd like to know exactly what community consultations the minister will be conducting before setting up the secretariat, or does the minister intend to move directly to implement the model described in his ministerial statement?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Mr. Speaker, the objective here is to ensure that we have a program that addresses the needs of Yukoners, and it's very important that consultation takes place. I find it rather amusing that the side opposite talks about consultation as being a waste of time - reviewing and all this, yet now they're asking for more consultation and more reviews. So, I'm pleased that they're starting to hear us about what consultation means, and it does take time.
Mr. Speaker, we will be moving toward that. We will be spending some time in the communities. We will be asking communities for their input and their feedback.
Mr. Keenan: Nothing is amusing, I would say, about the alcohol and drug addictions in the Yukon Territory, so I find the language of the minister to be in very poor taste.
Now, the minister's statement recognizes the need for increased staffing in services such as the mobile treatment program and more outreach workers. That has been recognized. It also discusses the need for adolescent programming. When we look at the organizational structure that's proposed, it looks pretty top-heavy to me. There are lots of management personnel and only two new counsellors in the sum number of the consultants.
Of the extra $1 million or so that the minister said this secretariat will cost, can he tell us exactly how much will go directly into program spending and how much will be for administration?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Those are rather hypothetical questions at this point. For me to prejudge what will come out of the discussions with communities would be out of order.
I know for a fact, Mr. Speaker, that we will be working with communities and responding to the recommendations that were put forth by the expert from Alberta. We're hoping that this will be a plan that will work for the long term. We are trying to build together, and I invite the member opposite to be part of that plan and try to work with us, so that we can have something that hasn't been in place here for a number of years.
Mr. Keenan: Well, it's amusing - hypothetical. I mean, the minister should get out from underneath the briefing books and show some leadership. I think that's what is required here.
Mr. Speaker, having increased programs and staff does require money. A new corporate entity requires money. In the private model, a CEO does not come cheap. Now, the minister said yesterday that any new money required would be well-spent. That's a hypothetical answer, if you ask me.
Can the minister assure the House that none of the extra costs to set up this new agency will be at the expense of community-based programming, established and run in cooperation with First Nation governments?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: The gloom and doom that the member opposite always talks about and the issue of trying to be honest and upfront isn't always acceptable - I know that, Mr. Speaker. But what we're trying to do is to set the stage here so that we can work together. What we're trying to do here is to follow recommendations of a person who was brought here to provide us with some expertise that we did not have. And I would hope that we will be taking these ideas and these thoughts and building them together. We have already decided, from the point of view of looking at some of the recommendations, that consultation is still number one.
I think it is very important that we continue with this process - and we're not going to be spending a long time doing this, Mr. Speaker, because if we do, the wheel has already been invented. We don't have to reinvent it. But we will be going back to the communities, we will be working with the communities, we will be looking at programs that are already in place. Communities will work on what they feel their needs are, and it will be part of the total package, Mr. Speaker. We're not eliminating anything. Again, I'm not prejudging what's going to happen, but I would hope that communities will be very much a part of this picture. It's not coming from the top down; it's coming from the bottom up.
Question re: Klondike group home, transfer to Health and Social Services
Mr. Keenan: Again, I have a question for the same minister. Yesterday, the minister spoke of the government's new policy to separate service delivery from direct government involvement. Now, recently, we witnessed his own department moving in exactly the opposite direction, taking over service delivery of a group home. Can the minister explain which of these contradictory directions represents this Liberal government's true position on service delivery - or is that hypothetical, Mr. Speaker?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: The question of trying to prejudge the future is always something that's hypothetical, Mr. Speaker, and I suppose we can try to look at it and surmise with a crystal ball that this may be where we want to go or what we want to do. And those are good exercises, but the exercise, Mr. Speaker, is to try to come up with ideas that are currently working. We have ideas that are already in place. We're already building our capacity to work in the system, but it means doing far more than that.
There are times, Mr. Speaker, when the government must intervene. And if that means that we have to take over operations that are not working, then we have to do that. That's very clearly the case in the incident that the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes is talking about.
Mr. Keenan: Well, Mr. Speaker, before the election the crystal ball did not have any fog on it. Today, their crystal ball is very, very foggy.
We have already mentioned that the ministerial statement referred to the proposed secretariat being headed by a chief executive officer. The minister still hasn't clarified if the CEO will have the status of a deputy minister under the Public Service Act. Has the department established the terms of reference for the secretariat and the CEO, and will the minister provide them as soon as possible?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Thank you again for the question. The answer is yes. Once they are established, and once the decisions have been made, we will clearly provide that for the members opposite.
Mr. Keenan: Well, the ministerial statement also refers to a "panel of experts and professionals" to support and advise the CEO. How will this panel be chosen, and who will be consulted in drawing up the terms of reference for this panel?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: I appreciate that question because it's a very important one. This will be the panel that will work with the CEO and the organization in order to make what we feel are the very important decisions to ensure that we're going down the path we all want to.
The panel itself will be composed of people who have expertise in a variety of fields. How that is going to be done at this point - again, we're not prejudging how that should be done. We haven't come up with the plan. We are not imposing a plan at all. We are going to wait for the communities and wait for input. We're going to look at a short turnaround here so that we can move quickly. We don't want to reinvent the wheel. We have a lot of issues and concerns out there, and we have a lot of ground to make up.
The government of yesterday did not address this issue, Mr. Speaker. They left it - that's both the former Yukon Party and NDP governments. We're taking action within six months of our taking office. I would have to say that we're making great progress on a very major problem, one that I call a plague in the Yukon. So, I think we should be applauded for our energies and our courage to do this.
Question re: Alcohol and drug services secretariat
Mr. Jenkins: Same minister, same topic. Yesterday, the minister revealed that he is prepared to spend an extra $1 million on the new alcohol and drug services secretariat, which he says will likely need a new building.
Can the minister explain why he is more interested in spending an extra $1 million on a building rather than on improving the programs to help Yukoners afflicted with alcohol and drug problems? Where is he going to find this extra million dollars? In part by cancelling the Mayo school project, Mr. Speaker?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: As I mentioned earlier, the Member for Klondike is very good at fear-mongering. It's one of the traits the Member for Dawson has.
The idea that we would take it from anything that's already in line; we would not do that. That may be the role that that particular person might play if they were government, but we don't do those things.
And Mr. Speaker, the important part here is that if the report were read and understood, that question probably wouldn't be asked. We're not talking about spending $1 million on a building. We're talking about providing service, Mr. Speaker. We're not interested in a building at this point in time. That is one of the suggestions down the tube, but it's not something that's going to take place tomorrow, or even next year.
Mr. Jenkins: This minister has no sense of direction, Mr. Speaker. He's more concerned with the vehicle that delivers the service than he is with the service. No sense of direction when it comes to dealing with the most serious Yukon problem of alcohol and drug abuse.
Under the Liquor Act review, this government will, in all likelihood, make alcohol more accessible, and now this minister is more interested in constructing a million-dollar staff headquarters than improving programs to help curb and deal with alcohol and drug abuse.
So I'd like to ask the minister to commit here today to spend this extra million dollars on re-establishing a Crossroads-type residential treatment centre.
Will the minister commit to that, Mr. Speaker?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Mr. Speaker, to clarify the record, we are not spending $1 million on a building. Again, if the Member for Klondike would read the document, there might be some understanding as to what we are going to do. On one hand, we're spending $1 million on the building and we shouldn't be doing that; on the other hand, let's go back to a building and spend the same amount. So, I'm not sure where the Member for Klondike is coming from. We can't have it both ways.
We are delivering services. That's the whole objective of this exercise. We want to deliver first-hand support. We're not interested in the building at this point, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, that's not what came through loud and clear in the interview that the minister had with the press, Mr. Speaker. On the contrary, the focus was more on the vehicle to deliver the programs than on the programs themselves. Of paramount importance are the Yukoners who are afflicted with drug and alcohol problems. That's what we have to pay attention to. This minister is more concerned with the vehicle. He's going to design a Cadillac out there.
Now, the Yukon Party's five-step action plan to deal with FAS/FAE was very, very succinct. Will the minister quit wasting his money on another government building that's not needed, and implement that plan? Will he do that, Mr. Speaker?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Mr. Speaker, for some reason, the Member for Klondike has the idea that we're building a building. We're not building a building. A structural building is not even in our plans at this point. That may come down the tube a couple or three or four years down the way, but it's not part of the initial plan.
The vehicle, as the member opposite talks about, is a vehicle to help people. That's what it's all about, Mr. Speaker, and we want to do that now. We don't want to reinvent the wheel. We have a lot of programs in place right now that are working, but we also have some problems with programs that are not connected. If one reads the report, they will see that that's one of the objectives that we have to start moving toward - connecting all these programs that we have now in place, and we need some help in doing that. That's why we have to move it out of where it's at, so we can work on specifically highlighting that plague, the concerns that all Yukoners have. This is what I heard in the communities. They want to address this issue. They want the issue to be highly profiled so we can build on it. It's very important that we work together.
We have to be critical of what we're doing at all times, but let's be constructive, Mr. Speaker. That's what's going to get us answers, not negative criticism.
Question re: Beringia Interpretive Centre, purchase of gift shop
Mr. McRobb: I have a question for the Minister of Tourism on the government's purchase of inventory and equipment from Mike's North Communications. Perhaps she can shorten her reply by not bothering to say, "here we go again" and just answer the question.
The original contract between the government and Mike's North Communications stipulated that the owner, meaning the government, will select any work information or material to be retained and shall pay all substantiated costs. My question is: will the minister tell us how and by whom the selection of any work information or material was done?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, you know, at one point I used to feel like the Maytag repairman, because no one ever called on me. Lately, I have really enjoyed the number of questions that I have received from members opposite.
The member opposite, once again, is asking for fine, fine detail. Just for his information, the Member for Whitehorse Centre wears a size 11 shoe and I can certainly get the Department of Tourism officials to go out and measure the table that the negotiations took place on. What I will also happily do, of course, is provide the information as I always have, to the member opposite, in the extreme level of detail that he would like.
Mr. McRobb: Well, Mr. Speaker, I won't bite on that one. We are trying to determine if the public's best interests were served in this $68,000 transaction. That's why it's important for the minister to be forthcoming about the whole chain of events.
The letter the minister provided yesterday says clearly that the corporate services branch completed negotiations with the contractor. Will the minister advise this House exactly when the corporate services branch became involved and what mandate the branch was given to conduct negotiations?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: The thing about being called on, you know, it is enjoyable, I have to admit. I enjoy this very, very much, but, on the other hand, it is somewhat repetitive. So, I will get back to the side opposite with the information he's requesting again.
Why don't we get to the point here, Mr. Speaker? What's the point of this exercise and the line of questioning? Obviously, the member opposite feels that there has been some sort of wrongdoing. He feels perhaps that the Tourism staff is not doing their job or that there are questions about the negotiations. I challenge the member opposite to make those allegations here on the floor of the Legislature and, even better, outside the walls of this Legislature.
Mr. McRobb: Well, Mr. Speaker, the only one making allegations is the minister. I'm asking questions. It would be nice if we got some answers. This matter is not funny. The member is laughing and joking about this matter. It's a very serious matter.
Now, the minister has assured us that this buyout was done in the normal way that all such transactions are done. Is it a matter of policy within the minister's own department that such negotiations are normally conducted by the corporate services branch? If not, why was this transaction handled differently?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: It depends on who the contract is with. What I will do - and what I have been doing with the member opposite, very carefully doing my job - is get back to him in writing with responses to the questions and with the minute detail that he keeps asking for every day. I, quite frankly, am really enjoying this.
Question re: Beringia Interpretive Centre, purchase of gift shop
Mr. McRobb: The minister complains that I'm asking questions about minutia, but she knows they are policy questions of substance and she refuses to answer. So, once again, my question is to the same minister on the same subject.
It now appears that, at some point along the line, the Executive Council Office became involved in these negotiations. Last week, the minister told the media that she didn't know the government's policy about the Executive Council Office being brought into contract negotiations. Can the minister now tell us when the Deputy Minister of Executive Council Office got involved in this situation and at whose request?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Perhaps if the member opposite would stray from his script for just a minute, he would note that I have answered every single one of the questions he has asked. Those questions will be answered in writing. Once again, I will get back to the member opposite in writing.
Mr. Hughes is arriving here on Monday. If the member opposite feels that there's a problem with this negotiation - and apparently he does, because he asks about it over and over and over again - then perhaps he needs to talk to Mr. Hughes. Mr. Hughes will be here on Monday. I realize that it is a statutory holiday, but he will be here on Monday and he will be provided with an awful lot of the information - although not to the level of detail that the member opposite is looking for - that the member opposite is asking for.
If there is further information that Mr. Hughes needs to have, I hope that the member opposite provides that to him, because that's the proper avenue. That's where the inquiry is going to take place; not on the floor of this Legislature, but with Mr. Hughes.
Mr. McRobb: Well, Mr. Speaker, this minister still seems to be sticking to her policy of deliberately staying away from this issue.
I'd like to address a question to the Premier, who is responsible for the Executive Council Office. Did anyone from the Premier's office refer the matter of these Department of Tourism contract negotiations to the Deputy Minister of Executive Council Office? This is a matter for the Premier.
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, the member thinks it's a matter for the Premier. The negotiations took place with the Department of Tourism. Therefore, we will get back to the member opposite, in writing, with the answers to his questions.
Mr. McRobb: Well, Mr. Speaker, under previous governments, at least, it would certainly be considered unusual if the Executive Council Office got intimately involved in the affairs of a line department without some sort of direction. These negotiations concern a $68,000 public expenditure for materials belonging to a business that was owned - at least until the day after the election - by an elected member sitting in the government caucus. Did the Premier, or any of her staff, take any steps to assure themselves that these negotiations were being carried out in the most appropriate manner?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, the questions are starting to change now. It's a little hard to see where we're going. Last week, the member opposite agreed that it was not right for the ministers to be involved in the day-to-day operations of their departments. Now, the member opposite is clearly saying that that was normal operating practice under the NDP, because that's what he's expecting us to do now. It's not going to happen.
The Minister of Executive Council Office and myself, as the Minister of Tourism, did not get involved in the day-to-day operations of our departments, and we did not get involved in the negotiations that the member asks minute details about every few minutes.
So, what we will do for the member opposite is get back to him. We have always answered his questions. That has never been a problem. We have nothing to hide, and we would be very, very happy - extremely happy, even - to answer his questions in writing.
Question re: Hamilton Boulevard, cost overrun
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Community and Transportation Services.
The minister has been quoted in the media as saying that the overrun on the Hamilton Boulevard upgrading project is simply the cost of doing business today. She has also attempted to justify most of that cost on the basis of an additional intersection resulting from the City of Whitehorse decision to put the new swimming pool complex in that area.
Can the minister explain why her department would be absorbing the cost of this additional intersection, rather than the city?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Speaker, the problem originated with the NDP in not tendering the project in 1998. There was no way for the department to get around these new factors to lower the project costs, and it is important to note that the costs for the Hamilton Boulevard twinning project stem from land development and, as such, are 100-percent recoverable through the sale of lots.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, Mr. Speaker, the minister is trying to get out of her responsibilities and what she said in public. The minister also suggested that cost overruns will be recovered through land sales in adjacent subdivisions. And the point obviously needs clarification, Mr. Speaker.
Is the minister suggesting that her department will be imposing some kind of local improvement fee to recover some of those costs from future lot owners?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I'm not suggesting any such thing, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, the minister needs to be watching her words in the public out there, because she's obviously alluding to that in the general public. A number of people in Mayo have told me that they were disgusted by the minister's attitude on this issue. They wanted to know why the cost overruns are okay when it comes to upscale Whitehorse, but at the same level of cost overrun, it's not okay when it comes to their badly needed school, Mr. Speaker.
Just this morning we heard that Mayo people feel like they were being "tromped on" by this government. Is this minister prepared to apologize to the people of Mayo for her insensitive remark that the Hamilton Boulevard overrun is simply the cost of doing business today?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Speaker, the Mayo school project and the Hamilton Boulevard twinning project are not related. They're in two different departments; they have nothing to do with each other. The member opposite is comparing apples and oranges. The cost of the Hamilton Boulevard twinning will be completely recoverable. Widening Hamilton Boulevard to four lanes will allow us to sell more building lots beyond Granger and the other subdivisions. The member is attempting to create a relation where none is existing. He is attempting to perpetuate the myth of the split between urban and rural, which does not exist. I think it is the member opposite who should be apologizing, Mr. Speaker.
Question re: J.V. Clark, construction delay
Mr. Fentie: I'd like to follow up with the Minister of Community and Transportation Services. We need to clear up some of the confusion. The decision made by the members opposite, this Liberal government, is a matter of choice. It's clear in this case that they chose to accept cost overruns on a street upgraded in Whitehorse - Hamilton Boulevard - and chose not to accept cost overruns on the bids for the Mayo school. So they have put children's safety and health and staff's safety and health in the Mayo school behind a street upgrade in Whitehorse. Can the minister explain why a choice like this does not have comparisons?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite, as I have already said, is comparing apples and oranges. The two projects are not related.
Mr. Fentie: Mr. Speaker, this simply is unacceptable. This Liberal government stated that the reason they were postponing, delaying, possibly cancelling the Mayo school project was because of cost overruns, yet here in Whitehorse, on an upgrade of a street - Hamilton Boulevard - that was not even an issue.
We on this side of the House want to know why this government puts a street upgrade ahead of the health and safety of children and staff in the community of Mayo.
Will the minister get on her feet and answer that?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Speaker, let me correct the member opposite on his NDP math.
The cost of the Mayo school, if we had proceeded, would have been close to $1 million overbudget. That's why the project is being retendered and why it's delayed approximately four months. There was one valid bid. That bid was almost a million dollars overbudget.
Mr. Fentie: I think the minister should read some of the transcripts from the comments in the press, because it wasn't a million dollars. It was a half a million dollars. That was the number that the members opposite put forward.
Mr. Speaker, this is a clear case of this Liberal government taking care of where their support base is and ignoring, in a very cold-hearted manner, the health and safety of children.
Furthermore, I would point out that now there are even more costs involved here in the Mayo school, which may put this well above the half a million dollar mark due to the decisions made by this government.
This minister owes an apology to the people of Mayo, to the children of Mayo and to the staff of the Mayo school. Will she get on her feet today and apologize for this cold-hearted approach to the decision they have made on taking $500,000 from Mayo and putting it into Hamilton Boulevard here in Whitehorse?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Speaker, the leader of the official opposition and I had reached an agreement that we would not ransom, scare or frighten the children in Mayo, because there is a situation up there, regardless of whether the school was being built or not, that has resulted out of 25 years of neglect - 25 years of neglect. And the fact is that it is $1 million, or near $1 million, overbudget.
So, we have gone up to Mayo to explain to the residents there. We took the results with us. We do have the second set of results with us, and there is a group going back up to Mayo to talk to the residents and try to explain to them the results of that. We will again be taking the health officer with us to Mayo. The fact is, Mr. Speaker, that it is $1 million, that the school will be built, beginning this spring, and in just over a year I will be gladly opening that school in Mayo.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed. We will proceed to Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
GOVERNMENT PRIVATE MEMBERS' BUSINESS
MOTIONS OTHER THAN GOVERNMENT MOTIONS
Clerk: Motion No. 9, standing in the name of the hon. Mr. Kent.
Motion No. 9
Speaker: It has been moved by the Member for Riverside:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that the Royal Canadian Army Service Corps is deserving of recognition for the service it provided in supply and transportation for all units of the Canadian Army up to 1976;
THAT this House recognizes that in May 2001, the Royal Canadian Army Service Corps will be celebrating its 100th anniversary; and
THAT the Yukon Legislative Assembly, having previously affirmed its recognition of the service provided by the Royal Canadian Army Service Corps by resolution of this House dated December 1, 1999, hereby reaffirms its request that Canada Post issue a commemorative postal stamp in May 2001, in order to recognize and honour the Royal Canadian Army Service Corps on its 100th anniversary.
Mr. Kent: I'm going to keep my comments brief, as I expect there will be no opposition to this motion from any of the members in this House. At this time I'd like to give a brief history of the Royal Canadian Army Service Corps, to emphasize the important role that they played in our history.
The Canadian Army Service Corps was formed on November 1, 1901, when the issue of General Order No. 141 established the Canadian Army Service Corps as a new branch of the active militia.
The Canadian Army Service Corps drew its traditions from the Army Service Corps of the British Army. In the mid- to late-1700s, as armies became more sophisticated, and ceased to live off the land, their transportation requirements also increased. The need for a dedicated and reliable military transportation organization became obvious. The first unit to be formed was the Royal Wagonners, which existed from 1794 to 1795. This unit served during the Napoleonic Wars during the early 1800s, and the Crimean War in the mid-1800s.
One of the first reorganizations came when the transport and supply services were united in 1869, into the first Army Service Corps. The second Army Service Corps was formed in 1888, which combined the responsibility for both the provision of supplies and their carriage into one military organization. This corps provided the foundation for the formation of the Canadian Army Service Corps and provided it with a partner during the two World Wars and Korea.
The first direct contact with the predecessors of the Army Service Corps occurred in 1861 and 1862, during the Trent Affair, when two battalions of the military train deployed to Canada during the general reinforcements of British North America by over 11,500 troops.
But it took the threat of war with the United States, due to the Venezuela scare of 1895 and the outbreak of the Boer War in 1899 to finally convince the Government of Canada to form support forces. The first to be formed was the Canadian Army Service Corps. The first unit of the Canadian Permanent Army Service Corps was established in December 1904 in Kingston, Ontario.
In June 1906, when the Canadian Army Service Corps took over the Halifax Garrison after the departure of the last British troops, they inherited the two steamships Alfreda and Lily, which were used to supply the outlying forts. This was the beginning of the water transport section that continued until 1948.
When war broke out in August 1914, the Canadian Permanent Army Service Corps and Canadian Army Service Corps had about 3,000 members. By 1918, this had increased to over 17,000. By 1918, the Canadian Army Service Corps was supporting 400,000 men, 150,000 French civilians, and 25,000 horses in the European theatre.
Recognition of the Corps' outstanding work during the war came in November 1919, when His Majesty King George V awarded the designation of "Royal" to the Canadian Army Service Corps.
Of the over 17,000 members of the Canadian Army Service Corps who served in World War I, 482 died due to enemy action or disease, and 767 honours and awards were won. The first Royal Canadian Army Service Corps members to see action in World War II landed at Brest in June 1940 as part of the first Canadian brigade to assist France against the German blitzkrieg.
Other action in the Second World War was seen at Hong Kong, the Aleutian island of Kiska, Sicily, central Italy, Holland, the D-Day landing. During the bridgehead breakout, the corps moved more than 80,000 tons of supplies and equipment in one and one-half days in addition to troop carrying and many other general transport tasks.
During the Second World War, a war in which my grandmother's brother also served with the corps, 1,006 members of the Royal Canadian Army Service Corps died due to enemy action or disease and 1,156 honours and awards were won.
The corps' next major action was the Korean War, which began in June 1950 and ended in 1954. During the war, 24 members of the Royal Canadian Army Service Corps died and 33 honours and awards were won.
When the corps celebrated its silver anniversary in 1951, it was truly operating on a global scale and that role continued to expand. Number 56 Transport Company served in Egypt and the Middle East from 1956 to 1967. Corps personnel also served with the United Nations in India and Pakistan, the Congo, Cyprus and Indochina. Seven members of the corps died while on United Nations service.
When the corps celebrated its diamond jubilee in 1961, almost one solider in seven was a member of the Royal Canadian Army Service Corps. The 18 static companies and five field companies were supporting army, navy and air force personnel in Canada and overseas. There were also militia transport companies located across Canada in the various army commands.
The Canadian Forces Reorganization Act was proclaimed on February 1, 1968. This also marked the formation of the logistics branch, which incorporated the supply, transport and finance services of the Royal Canadian Navy, Canadian Army and the Royal Canadian Air Force. Although the corps no longer formally existed, corps training continued until 1969 when the logistics branch training superseded it.
This is from a letter from one of the 100th anniversary event organizers. It is a sentiment that I echo, and I hope all members of this House do, as well.
"Please pause for a moment and reflect on the history and traditions of this once proud corps. Think what it did for many of us personally. Our plans call for that same esprit de corps and support as we organize the events for our 100th anniversary in Camp Borden on May 3, 4, 5 and 6, 2001."
A resolution of this House dated December 1, 1999, and reaffirmed in my motion of October 24, 2000, requested Canada Post to issue a commemorative postal stamp in May 2001 in order to recognize and honour the corps on its 100th anniversary. Canada Post has seen fit to issue stamps for 2001 dealing with issues such as hockey heroes, Canadian art, postal history, the Toronto Blue Jays 25th anniversary, world athletes, hot air balloons, religious beginnings and Christmas lights. It is not my purpose here to lessen the importance of these issues but, rather, to point out that I feel the Canadian Army Service Corps deserves to be included in this list. These men and women provided invaluable support for our military, both in times of war and in times of peace, for nearly three-quarters of a century. While their unit no longer exists on paper, their past accomplishments are no less noteworthy. They deserve recognition, and what better timing or setting than to issue a commemorative stamp on the Corps' 100th anniversary?
I'm disappointed that Canada Post did not see fit to issue a stamp as we, and no doubt many others across Canada, requested.
In conclusion, I would like to thank 19-year corps veteran Wayne Wannamaker from Whitehorse for the tireless effort he has put into this cause.
Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. McRobb: We in the official opposition have no problem whatsoever in supporting this motion. It is a similar motion to one we debated in the previous session, which I believe received unanimous support from all members of this Legislature.
Mr. Speaker, the Member for Riverside did a very good job in reviewing the history and purpose of the Royal Canadian Army Service Corps and, instead of reading into the record my prepared notes, which greatly overlap the ones he read in, I will just update members on the celebrations, which will be taking place next summer. I have a brief schedule and an update on events.
They start Thursday, May 3 and extend until May 6, which is a Sunday. Camp Borden, I believe, is hosting this service. Also, on the RCASC, I notice that the corps has an extremely ambitious schedule and agenda for various functions; however, they have been declined federal funding. So, we have a situation where this organization, which is very deserving of the respect of Canadians and Yukoners, alike is being turned down for its very reasonable request to be honoured with a stamp and to be provided with some funding.
So, I would suggest that, when we pass this on to the appropriate destinations, including the federal government, I presume, we perhaps also mention that this organization is very deserving of some core funding in order that it can carry out its activities with due respect and honour.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, I rise in support of this motion to recognize the 100th anniversary of the Royal Canadian Army Service Corps. This motion is identical to a motion that was dealt with on December 1, 1999, by then Yukon Party leader, Mr. Ostashek. It received the unanimous consent of this House at that time. Mr. Sloan, on behalf of the NDP, and Mr. Cable, on behalf of the Liberal Party, spoke very eloquently and at length about this motion.
In a subsequent letter sent to Mr. Ostashek from the director of stamp products of Canada Post, it is interesting to note what Canada Post has recognized as anniversaries for the forthcoming year - very interesting indeed. The letter, in part, reads: "Our stamp program for the year 2001 has been finalized and approved, and I wish to inform you of the chosen subjects, as you had submitted a stamp suggestion on the Royal Canadian Army Service Corps."
They chose to recognize the 150th anniversary of the transfer of postal authority from Great Britain to Canada. They chose to recognize the 25th anniversary of the Blue Jays. They chose to recognize the 100th anniversary of the Canadian Medical Protective Association. They chose to recognize the 125th anniversary of the Royal Military College. They chose to recognize the 50th anniversary of the Montreal Théâtre du Nouveau Monde and the 100th anniversary of the London Grand Theatre. Also chosen was the 1,700th anniversary of the Armenian Apostolic Church and the 150th anniversary of the YMCA. At the bottom of the list was the 75th anniversary of the Royal Canadian Legion.
It must be pointed out that under previous federal Liberal governments, the Canadian military has been virtually rendered into pieces of its original self, with their ability to cut the funding to the military in Canada. This is a group of individuals and bodies of individuals that allowed democracy to continue through their efforts in numerous conflicts so that we can have this Legislature that we have here today, Mr. Speaker. It's the federal Liberal governments that have chosen to destroy that military presence in Canada and bring it down to what it is today - the same way they have destroyed health care, but now they have reversed it and are taking credit for putting money back into it. This is the Liberal way.
The issue that we have before us is how to recognize the Royal Canadian Army Service Corps on their 100th anniversary, and I would call upon this Liberal government here in the Yukon to use its special relationship that they have with Ottawa. We in this House have tried before to bring it to the attention of the federal government and their agency, Canada Post, but unfortunately this group of individuals, the Royal Canadian Army Service Corps, who served Canada so well, will not be recognized. In fact, they can't even obtain federal funding for their events planned for next year. That's the shame of the situation that the federal Liberals have put this group into.
So, I'm in support of this motion once again, as our party was previously. I'd like to see something occur. I'd like to see a commemorative stamp. I'd like to see the Royal Canadian Army Service Corps have funding from Ottawa so that they can go ahead with a series of events to celebrate their 100th anniversary and can continue to serve Canada in the manner that they have served Canada so well in the past. But it's going to take a political direction, and I call upon the Liberals, who are currently in power in the Yukon, today to use this wonderful, special relationship with their Liberal colleagues in Ottawa to see something accomplished for all of us and for the Royal Canadian Army Service Corps.
I'd also like to recognize Mr. Wannamaker for his continuing efforts on behalf of this organization. It was Wannamaker who brought it to the attention of the House previously, and he is constantly lobbying a number of us here, Mr. Speaker, and I hope he continues to do so, because this is a group, the Royal Canadian Army Service Corps, that deserves to be recognized, and this is one small token of our appreciation that we can do for that body - a stamp.
I look forward to all-party support, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. McLarnon: I rise on behalf of this motion. I would like to discuss how this motion affects me and how this week has affected me. This is Remembrance Week, and I ask all members to join with me in remembering our fallen, remembering the people who fought for us and died for us. Why I am standing and talking to this is because this week affects my family, and it affects who I am in a larger way than most people realize.
My family history goes back to and ends, as far as we can tell, with World War I. In World War I, my great-grandfather and his two brothers died in the field at Ypres. They fell in 1916 in the first German gas attack. They were found five days later, according to their military records. The seven children that my great-grandfather had were left to their mother, who subsequently died in the 1919 influenza. From that point on, my family was scattered to adoption homes and to families that would take them. They never found each other until three brothers were able to meet through the unification program of the Canadian army in World War II. My uncle, my grandfather and my grandfather on my other side were active in Europe and were casualties. My uncle fought with the Princess Patricia Canadian Light Infantry.
My grandfather - and his history of the war I go by - was in the Royal Canadian Mechanical and Electrical Engineers. He was working side by side with the people from the RCASC. He would go out and collect the dead tanks. He would go out and help clear the bodies out of them. Then, when they had repaired them, the RCASC would bring him the parts to put those tanks and young men back in the lines.
My grandfather and one of my uncles fought in Korea, again, side by side, as pictures of them standing with men in the RCASC whom he said subsequently died. So, it is for this sacrifice that I rise and ask this House to support this motion. It's for this sacrifice that I rise and ask that we put aside all political bootlegs, all statements, and understand this.
Because of the family history that I understood from my grandfather, I paid attention, when I was growing up, to the cenotaph and the Yukoners who died there and the people who died here. When we go along the highway - when I was younger, there would be the markers along the roads where people had fallen and where people had died in our defence, where they had died in the maintenance of our roads, where they had died helping us.
When I walk through Selkirk and get an idea of the first Canadian troops on our soil, the Royal Canadian Yukon Field Force, the graves that are there, lonely, only tended by Selkirk First Nation with the respect that they have - very few people except for a few tourists and then the people from Selkirk First Nations go through that area. It's a very lonely, sad, but beautiful place to be buried. There are graveyards like this all over the world that have members of the RCASC there and have graves of some of our grandfathers and our uncles and our fathers and mothers and aunts in there.
My grandfather continued his service, as the RCASC did up in the Yukon Territory - maintenance of federal projects and maintenance of the roads until that turned over to the federal government. As a kid, I remember watching members of the units of the RCASC play with the army in the army/air force game at the Jim Light Arena.
It is that sacrifice that we must recognize today. It's that sacrifice today, being so close to Remembrance Day and in Remembrance Week, that we must remember our veterans. We must put politics aside and join in this motion.
I remember my grandfather, and I understand by looking at him that war is not won. War is truly a tragedy that people endure. When I looked at my grandfather and asked him to talk about the war, he would get a distant look in his eyes, his throat would have a small lump, and he would say that he could only talk about the fun times. There weren't many of them. He remembers having a few beers after work. He remembers going to Paris. He remembers being there a couple of days after the liberation - and on the Scheldt in Netherlands.
You will see this same emotion - and I invite everyone here to see it - when you go to the Canadian Legion on November 11, when you see veterans start to cry when they do take the time to remember - when they allow themselves to feel the pain. When you see the look of pain and sorrow in the eyes of the wives who went through the loneliness while the men were gone, who went through the deaths of friends and who had to lay and wait, lonely, here in Canada - wait, in the hope that the news would not come. That pain does not disappear. That pain stays with you for the rest of your life.
That is what they're asking us to remember. That is why they are asking us to honour the fallen. It's not just the fallen. It's the people who lived, who survived, who have had to carry this for their entire lives. It's to help the living, as well as to help remember the dead.
Now, whenever we are asked to assist in the remembrance of these fallen, whenever we are asked to assist in helping Canadians understand how our country was changed, what sacrifice these people gave to allow us the freedom to stand in this House today and remember, to allow us the freedom to do what we want democratically - this is what we are asking for, this is what we need in this motion. This motion is simply one way to remember. When Wayne Wannamaker brought it forward, it was because, as a corps, many of the people who fought - 1,600 men - have no regiment now to go to. They have no historical way that they can touch their past.
This anniversary is a way for them to come together. Our Canadian government should recognize that. Our Canadian postal service should give it the due that they deserve.
I thank the members on the other side for not making this a political issue. I thank the members for understanding the depth of the pain that other people feel about this, and the depth of pride that the people of the RCASC deserve.
Thank you very much. I appreciate the motion. Good job, Mr. Kent, for bringing it forward. I support this, and I ask all members to.
Speaker: If the member now speaks, he will close debate. Does any other member wish to be heard?
Mr. Kent: I would like to thank all members of this House for their support of my motion. I hope unanimous support is granted for all the motions that I bring forward on private members' day, but I somehow doubt that that will happen.
I'd also encourage all members of this House to contact the president of Canada Post, Andre Oeullet, in an effort to have this stamp added to the list for 2001. This is something that we owe to Mr. Wannamaker; we owe this to my Great-Uncle Hugh, and to all those who served and all those who died, as members of the Royal Canadian Army Service Corps.
Thank you very much.
Speaker: Are you prepared for the question?
Some Hon. Members: Division.
Speaker: Division has been called.
Speaker: Mr. Clerk, please poll the House.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Agree.
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Agree.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Agree.
Ms. Tucker: Agree.
Mr. McLarnon: Agree.
Mr. Kent: Agree.
Mr. Fairclough: Agree.
Mr. Fentie: Agree.
Mr. Keenan: Agree.
Mr. McRobb: Agree.
Ms. Netro: Agree.
Mr. Jenkins: Agree.
Clerk: Mr. Speaker, the results are 14 yea, nil nay.
Speaker: The ayes have it. I declare the motion carried.
Motion No. 9 agreed to
Ms. Tucker: Mr. Speaker, I move that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Speaker: It has been moved by the government House leader that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Motion agreed to
Speaker leaves the Chair
COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
Chair: I now call Committee of the Whole to order.
Do members wish to take a brief recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: We will recess for 15 minutes.
Chair: I call Committee of the Whole to order.
Motion re appearance of witnesses
Ms. Tucker: Mr. Chair, I would like to give notice of the following motion:
THAT Ray Wells, chair of the Yukon Development Corporation, and Rob McWilliam, president of the corporation, appear as witnesses before Committee of the Whole from 4:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. on Thursday, November 9, 2000, to discuss matters related to the Yukon Development Corporation.
Chair: It has been moved by the government House leader
THAT Ray Wells, chair of the Yukon Development Corporation, and Rob McWilliam, president of the corporation, appear as witnesses before Committee of the Whole from 4:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. on Thursday, November 9, 2000, to discuss matters related to the Yukon Development Corporation.
Motion agreed to
Bill No. 22 - An Act to Amend the Elections Act - continued
Chair: We will now continue general debate on Bill No. 22, entitled An Act to Amend the Elections Act. I believe Mr. Fairclough has the floor.
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Chair, I was not satisfied with the answers I was getting yesterday to my questions on the amendments to the Elections Act from the Premier, and I would like more clarification on this regarding the consultation that took place on the amendments to the act.
I would like to know from the Premier whether this is a normal thing that the Liberal government will be doing - taking the studies and documents from the past, rather than going out and doing public consultation. In other words, they are basically using that as their basis for public consultation on amendments to acts.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: The practice followed by this government has been no different from the practice of any other government of any political stripe. What we have done is tabled the amendments to the Elections Act, as recommended in the chief electoral officer's report as tabled in this Legislature.
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Chair, I guess this is what I'm getting at: I wanted to know if this was a normal thing for the Liberal government or not, or is it unusual that they would be taking recommendations from a study three years ago, recommendations of the chief electoral officer. Is this normal? Will this be a normal way of doing things for the Liberal government?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, this is not a study. It is the report of the chief elector officer to the Yukon Legislative Assembly. It is entirely in keeping with an outstanding recommendation to the Legislative Assembly that it be a recommendation to amend legislation, that it be brought forward by the government, no matter what its political stripe.
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Chair, does the Premier then feel that there was sufficient consultation put into this report from the chief electoral officer? Does she feel that there was sufficient consultation with the general public out there?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I feel it was a fair, thorough, and complete recommendation from the chief electoral officer, in answer to the member opposite's question.
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Chair, that wasn't my question. I asked whether the Premier felt that there was sufficient consultation in that report.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Yes.
Mr. Fairclough: And has she gone through the consultation that led to the recommendations - basically questions answered from the general public, First Nations and so on?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Yes, Mr. Chair, I have reviewed the report in its complete form. I have reviewed the matter.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, Mr. Chair, I know from page 11 of the report that not everybody she listed the other day in the back of the report made comments. Questions went out, and there wasn't feedback.
Does the Premier understand that?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I understand completely that there are occasions when some Yukoners choose not to comment on specific issues, or choose to comment at a later point in time. I also understand fully that this was a complete, full and fair report from the chief electoral officer, as he was charged to do by all three political parties in this Legislature. It was a complete report. I have reviewed it. We have put forward the recommendation.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, what I'm trying to get are some answers from the Premier about consultation. Obviously, we are questioning some things in the amendment here. We feel that people need to know about it, rather than pass it through this House, give the terms of reference to the commission and then out it goes. Maybe it would be of interest to the rest of her caucus to know who really responded to the questions.
The report is fine. It is a fair report to come back, but it does not list a whole lot of people here who commented on the questions given to them. Now, the Premier wants to move forward and make amendments to the Elections Act without that consultation.
Now, this was years ago. People need to be refreshed and reminded about what is going to take place and should, in a proper manner, have the ability to have a say on this. Does the Premier not agree with that?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I do not agree with the member opposite's supposition or line of argument. The member opposite is trying to suggest that this government is not being open and accountable to the public, because there was an outstanding recommendation made to this Legislature by an independent officer of the House, the chief electoral officer.
There was an outstanding recommendation that was made after that individual had been charged by all three parties in this House to make recommendations. That individual performed the appropriate consultation. Yukoners were asked for their input. There was a recommendation submitted to this House. That recommendation was not acted upon. We, as a government, are acting upon that recommendation.
That recommendation and this bill will be fully and thoroughly debated in this Legislature, which also hears and airs and represents the views of Yukoners on this particular subject. This recommendation requires specific consultation with Yukoners on this issue.
Does the member opposite not agree that some members of the public out there would like to comment to the body that is going to make decisions, as opposed to just the body making recommendations. Does the member opposite agree with that?
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Chair, I ask the Premier to keep focused and not lose sight of what I'm trying to get at here. Of course, the public should be making comments, then and now. What effectively the Liberal government is doing is laying out the terms of reference without talking to the people in the Yukon.
Its a shame, because yesterday she listed off a whole number of First Nations and organizations in the report and they did not comment back on the questions. That's why I asked the member opposite whether she takes consultation seriously, because there was no consultation and something new has come out with the Liberal government here. She has not gone out and asked for the opinions of the people in the Yukon on the terms of reference.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: The member opposite should remember that when this consultation - this piece of legislation - was tabled in this House, for the Elections Act under his government, it was based on the report of the chief electoral officer. There was no public consultation process on their Elections Act. It was tabled in this Legislature and we, as legislators, were asked to debate it. We did.
We're doing exactly the same thing, except that we are acting on the one recommendation in the chief electoral officer's report that the NDP didn't. What we're doing is finishing the job. So, we're doing the same level of consultation that the previous government did.
The member opposite is trying to suggest that we are doing something wrong by tabling this bill. We're doing it in exactly the same manner that the previous government did when they tried to enact the recommendations of the chief electoral officer. We're doing business the same way.
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Chair, the report is three years old, and the Liberal government is coming out with something new here, and it's limiting the choices that are out there for Yukoners, and I asked the member whether or not she felt that there was sufficient consultation. Yesterday there was, and today there isn't and we don't need it. Is that what the member's saying?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I have said all along that there has been consultation, and I have said that what we are doing is not new. And the member opposite seems not to want to hear that. What we are doing is not new. What we're doing has been through an appropriate public consultative process - yes.
Mr. Fairclough: So the member opposite is saying that the Liberals feel that the appropriate consultation would be to take information out of studies or reports done - those were old reports - and make amendments to the act and not take it out to the public. Are amendments to acts not going out to the public or stakeholders first, then? Is that how it's going to be now?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, each piece of legislation that comes before this House is unique. Each piece has its own processes associated with it. Amending the Elections Act is based upon the recommendations of the chief electoral officer of the Yukon. We are putting forward those recommendations, and we're doing them in the same manner that previous governments have done.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, Mr. Chair, that doesn't satisfy the concerns that I raised here yesterday, that people know that there are amendments to this Elections Act and would like to comment before it's debated and passed through this House. Quite obviously, it could be pushed through because of the majority that the Liberals have.
So, is the Premier saying that those people would not have the opportunity to have preconsultation on what could basically be developed to drive the commission?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I have said in this House repeatedly that we are doing exactly what the report of the chief electoral officer of the Yukon recommended to this House that we do. We are doing that in this bill. This report has been out in the public for some time. The recommendation has been out in the public for some time. To suggest that the Liberal government is doing anything other than what we said we would do, which is to follow the recommendations of the chief electoral officer, is factually incorrect.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, Mr. Chair, members said that they will do thorough consultation on decisions that affect them, and they have not done that here. It hasn't happened. They haven't talked to CYFN about this; they're one of the people who are concerned about this. They haven't talked to those people about the changes to the act that are going to give terms of reference to the commission. That's a pretty big step. What took place in the last electoral boundaries changes - there were some tools that the commission could use. That was put forward and now I am asking the member opposite whether she feels that's important, to make sure that organizations out there First Nations, senior governments, CYFN, all the NGOs should be contacted about these possible changes and maybe have their input into giving some direction here.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the act allows for input. Pardon me, the way the Elections Act is currently written, there is no requirement for the input of First Nation governments. There is no requirement for the input of Yukoners on this particular issue. The amendment to this act does exactly what the member opposite is asking us to do. It requires that input.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, Mr. Chair, the Premier's not letting that happen. Amendments here, no consultation, take sections out of a report to put forward, when she knows that there were only a few people who actually made comments to these questions - not CYFN, not First Nations, not organizations like the Chamber of Commerce and so on. They did not. And do the Liberals not feel that this is important enough to bring it forward and get some feedback from them before they move on to this?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, everyone was given the opportunity to comment. I feel that this matter is so important that I have brought forward a bill that requires that input, unlike the previous government.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, Mr. Chair, it wasn't important enough to ask the people at large about their input on this. It wasn't important enough.
And what has been presented to us - and we've just brought up one issue, basically, with regard to who would be chairing this commission, and it's such a narrow field to pick from. And what the Premier is saying is that's okay, we don't need to have the input of the general public, and let's move on with this. Is that it?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the member opposite made reference to a narrow field, and my suggestion that that was okay. I would advise the member opposite - as I should have done yesterday - that, contained in the electoral district boundaries commission report of 1991, the point with respect to a judge or retired judge being able to do this sort of commission is that never in history has someone refused to do this. So the member was asking a hypothetical question yesterday, and I just want to advise him that that hypothetical situation has not in history happened.
The member is trying to make a very circular argument, and I have repeatedly said that the report of the chief electoral officer of the Yukon was based on the expertise of the chief electoral officer, who is an independent individual. Everyone in Yukon had an opportunity to comment on it. The report has been out for three years - tabled in this Legislature for almost three years as it was in December 1997. It has been out there for comment. That recommendation has been out there in the public. This government has chosen to act upon an outstanding recommendation made to this House, and, in so doing, we have required that there be consultation with Yukoners on this very important issue. That's an amendment to an act requiring consultation, which is needed on this particular issue. The member opposite is trying to portray himself as a great defender of public consultation, and that is what the bill is doing. The bill is supporting his argument and supporting the need to hear from Yukoners. I would encourage the member to get into the debate during the clause-by-clause.
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Chair, the Premier is not answering the question at all. Now, great report - that's good. A few comments came back, including comments from the Premier herself when she was on this side of the House. There were comments from her, a couple of other individuals and the NDP. Those were the groups that commented. That's not a very big field.
Now, one of the big things that the Liberals are saying is "full consultation", "good consultation". They are bringing an amendment to an act for us to pass here, and it narrows the field. I'm saying to the member opposite that we are getting calls about this amendment and the fact that people have not commented, but would like to, on this before it is brought here. The Premier is saying that no, we will not give Yukoners that opportunity. Is that correct?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: No, Mr. Chair, it is not correct. I have never refused to listen or speak with Yukoners of any political stripe, any First Nation government, any municipal government, or any person at the door. I don't refuse to speak to people; I don't refuse to listen to people, nor does any member of this government.
What we have before us is a bill that was tabled by this government. It has been tabled and it has been done in exactly the same manner that the member opposite's government did. The member opposite tabled a bill in this House. It was subsequently debated and passed. It was not held for public consultation. It was not carried over between sittings.
The member opposite is pursuing a line of questioning that is not correct. It's factually incorrect. There were consultations held when the chief electoral officer submitted a recommendation to the House. We're acting on a recommendation. We're putting forward an amendment. That amendment, since the member seems to be focusing on public consultation, requires public consultation.
The way the act is written now, under his government, there was no public consultation - none, on a very important issue. Now, if the member opposite is hearing concerns, I would invite him to debate them fully and fairly in the clause-by-clause. I've said we're open to debate. I've said we're interested in debate. The member opposite is not making his argument.
Mr. Fairclough: What it is, Mr. Chair, is that the Premier's not listening - not listening at all.
I said that there are people coming forward, now that this amendment is out in the public and can be read, who have concerns with it and how this commission is going to be steered. They would like to comment on it before it gets passed through the House. Basically, what the Premier is saying is, no, that's it. I'm taking it from the report. No more consultation. She said she has done it, but, really, Mr. Chair, she hasn't done the consultation - any preconsultation to this amendment at all. I have not had the feedback, other than what was in the report that she constantly refers to.
I'm asking, on behalf of the people that have called me to try to get, I guess, the attention of the Premier, for her to take this seriously. There are concerns that they have and would like to comment on and possibly make suggestions. And the Premier is not willing to do that. Why is that?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I'm asking the member opposite to bring forward those concerns.
Mr. Fairclough: I asked the Premier for all the consultation her Liberal government has done on this and she said it was extensive and that they went all over the Yukon. Yet I have not read or seen any report at all about any commission or group that was formed that went around the Yukon to do this. But, all that time, she was basically hiding behind the report. Maybe it was one of her recommendations that was put forward and not anyone else's. This is pretty serious.
People have concerns about the small pool that would be chosen from for the chair and what effects this could have in the Yukon, and the Premier won't budge on that at all. She won't take it to the people and that's a shame. I'm asking her if she will take it back to the people?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: We took this to the people on April 17, page 9 of our election platform. The people spoke.
Mr. Fairclough: Who spoke to this? We never heard in the election campaign that this was a priority. Government right now is not talking about the economy. They don't bring anything serious to debate on this side of the House. They don't talk in motions that affect Yukoners tremendously, such as on the economy. Nobody wants to talk to that at all. They bring a motion in here to shorten hours and call it housekeeping, but there were only a couple of members who spoke to it, in very short speeches, Mr. Chair.
My questions are from people who have called me and asked about this, and I've raised the narrow pool of the chair selection. The Premier would not take it back to the people and ask for comments; rather, she's sticking to a report. What is this - no-consultation government?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, we consulted throughout our term as opposition. We spoke to this subject in great detail. We spoke to this specific amendment from that side of the House. We're now speaking to it, having consulted with Yukoners on every single doorstep. We consulted with Yukoners, and they spoke. They spoke loudly and clearly on April 17, and they spoke about our platform. And that platform, on page 9, included a clause which said that we would do an electoral boundaries review. We are putting forward the amendment to the Elections Act, which would allow that to happen and which would allow the full consultation with Yukoners. We are putting it forward in a timely and appropriate manner.
Does the member have concerns with the way the bill is written?
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Chair, what the people out there heard was that the Liberal Party would consult with the people in bringing this type of amendment forward, and they haven't. Other than the report, nothing has come forward by this Liberal government out to the general public for a response to their amendment. So, it hasn't happened.
Mr. Chair, you can't hide behind elections on this. I mean, these are promises made in the platform of the Liberal Party, about consultation, about being open and accountable, and it's not happening. Over and over and over again, we bring up every day in this House that it's not happening. Look at Question Period today. The ministers cannot even answer the questions. They're hiding from something. It's sad.
The member knows that there have only been a very few people who responded to the questions in this report. So, are we moving away, then, from being open and accountable, and having proper consultation?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, this government is open and accountable. We in this government, through the 30 days of an election campaign and through three years in opposition, talked about an amendment to the Elections Act. We talked about this during the 30 days of an election campaign. It was such an important issue that we included our proposed action in our election platform. This government is open and accountable; we're doing what we said we would do. This is a very public forum. It's a very public forum. And we were charged with the responsibility, on April 17, of representing the public, and that's what all of us are doing. And we are debating an amendment to the Elections Act.
Does the member have concerns with the way the bill is written?
Mr. Fairclough: Obviously, Mr. Chair, otherwise I wouldn't be bringing this up. One of the concerns I have is the consultation process by this Liberal government. If they say they're going to do what they said they were going to do, why didn't they do it properly? Why didn't they talk to the people? Why didn't they talk to organizations out there? It didn't happen.
And every day since the election, people have been coming forward - even their supporters have been coming forward, even in the papers - about being mistreated, about things not happening like the government said it was going to do. It's just not happening. Every day in Question Period we ask questions, and being open and accountable is just not there any more. Doing what they said they were going to do - it's just not there any more.
I'll give you the example of the Mayo school - in the budget, budgeted for, the money is there. Is a school going to be built? No. It was cut and delayed. Sure, it will happen a year from now, but that's not the understanding that people had.
Is the member saying that everything that they've cut out of the NDP budget will be in future years? I don't think so. So really, in my view, Mr. Chair, the Liberal government is not doing what they said they were going to do. And this is not bringing certainty to people out there.
So anything that comes forward, out of this Liberal government, is questioned by the public out there. You didn't get 100 percent of the vote, and your own constituents are calling and questioning this - people who voted for you, Mr. Chair.
They want to know if they can have a say. Right now, they're not going to, but later on, they can. What's important is to set up this commission, and the Premier is not letting anyone else comment on that.
Chair: Is there any further general debate on An Act to Amend the Elections Act?
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, let's go into this a little bit and look at the history of where we're at. If we go back to the Elections Act that was assented to in 1987 and consolidated with the Elections Act amendment in the spring sitting of 1992, there isn't any part of the Elections Act at that time that calls for the establishment - or how to go about reviewing - the electoral district boundaries. That only comes into force with the Elections Act amendment in the 1999 fall sitting.
Currently, what we have before us, if we look at that act, the existing legislation, the preliminary report by the commission - it states that following the 2001 census conducted by Stats Canada, the commission shall make a preliminary report to the Legislative Assembly respecting the need for a review of the boundaries of any or all of the electoral districts. Okay, it's set out there as to when it occurs.
There isn't anything in our current legislation, other than that, that demonstrates that there is a requirement to conduct an electoral boundaries review. That's a fact, Mr. Chair. I'm sure the minister responsible for this area will agree. Will she agree with that, as far as we have gone?
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Jenkins: She doesn't. Okay, perhaps she can tell me where I have gone wrong.
As I understand it, there isn't any requirement, in any of the existing legislation, to bring forth an electoral boundaries review at this time. The only requirement is set out in part 7, section 408, the Electoral Boundaries Commission, which says that the Commissioner in Executive Council shall, as required by this act, appoint an electoral boundaries commission consisting of an independent individual, who may be a member of the judiciary.
I just want to get my head around this, Mr. Chair, as to what's driving the requirement for the electoral boundaries review at this time. What piece of legislation - or where does it say we have to have it at this time? This act, as amended, states that it has to be held at a certain time after an election, which has to be called. Is that what the minister is relying upon?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the member is focusing on a timing issue - what's the driving force between the requirement to have a commission. That's what the member opposite is asking.
Under the previous act that we debated - he and I were on that side of the House at the time - the driving force then or the trigger was the census. And what the trigger is, in this bill, is the passage of this act; and following that, the trigger on timing is later on in the sections. The exact section of the bill is after so many elections, as opposed to census.
So, what's driving it, as opposed to census data, is, first of all, the recommendation from the chief electoral officer that this should be done and, secondly, what drives it thereafter is a period of time, as opposed to census data, and that period of time between elections.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, I'd like to ask the minister what current piece of legislation currently in force is driving the requirement for this Act to Amend the Elections Act coming forward? Because the driver in the current Elections Act, which is the current law of the Yukon Territory, is the census in 2001. Now, what legal requirement is there to perform this review at this time?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: The legal requirement to perform the review at this time is not an outstanding legal requirement. It is the chief electoral officer's report to the House and an outstanding recommendation that it be done.
Following passage of this act, it's in section 411.(2). What piece of legislation is requiring that we stand up and table the amendment to the Elections Act? There isn't a piece of legislation. It's the chief electoral officer's report, and it's an outstanding recommendation made to this House that the previous government didn't follow. I might add that this is also an amendment that the previous leader of the party opposite, to which the member also belongs, supported.
Mr. Jenkins: So, to make it abundantly clear, there is nothing legal driving the requirement for this act coming before this House today. There's no legal requirement. Could the minister confirm that, please?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: No. I'm confirming for the member opposite that, no, there is no piece of legislation that is saying we have to do this. Where I believe the member is headed is, is there an outstanding lawsuit or an outstanding legal requirement in terms of the Vertes decision? Certainly, that is a factor in making sure we brought forward this piece of legislation, in that it's an outstanding recommendation. We don't want to end up in a position of having to defend this against the courts.
Mr. Jenkins: The minister has gone around in circles. I'd just like to pin this right down. Currently, there is no legal requirement to entertain this bill before us. There's no legal requirement for it to come before the House - yes or no.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the member opposite may be - I'm trying to determine what the member opposite is really fishing for. The requirement for a change to the Elections Act - there is no legal requirement, unless there was something in the Vertes decision that says that our Elections Act is against some piece of law somewhere that I'm not aware of. But there is no legal requirement and no piece of law that says, "You have to amend the Elections Act once every so many years." No, there is no legal requirement there.
Mr. Jenkins: I thank the minister for her response. So, just to follow up on the Member for Mayo-Tatchun, there is a window of opportunity to provide additional consultation, should it be deemed necessary. Yes or no?
There's no legal requirement that this An Act to Amend the Elections Act be brought before the House at this time. That's number one. That has been agreed to.
Now, number two is that that would also support the contention that there is a window of opportunity to have additional consultation before this An Act to Amend the Elections Act comes into this House. Yes or no?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, what the member is not recognizing is that there is a timing issue in bringing this forward to the House now. The timing issue is that, if the bill is passed by January 2001 and the first commission is so appointed, there is then a time period for appointments, because it's an all-party appointment, and we certainly want to allow everyone plenty of time. There is then a period of time to do the consultation work. There is a period of time for the interim report to the Speaker, then there's a period of time for public hearings, and then there's a final report and a discussion, and then there may or may not be legislation that has to be introduced. And then there is time also for that legislation to be debated.
In order to accomplish that within our time frame of the term of a government, there is a timing issue to having this completed.
There is always an opportunity to provide input. Individuals can always speak, either through the members opposite or through the government or through written submissions or through the media. There's always an opportunity for public input.
Mr. Jenkins: What the minister failed to do was answer my question, with a simple yes-or-no answer.
Given that there are no statutory requirements to bring this Act to Amend the Elections Act before the House at this time, there is still a window of opportunity to go out and obtain additional consultation around the Yukon before this comes back to the House. Yes or no? A simple yes or no.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I'm not going to provide the member with a yes-or-no answer. Can the member answer the question: is the member asking when this would be done? Is the member asking when date of assent might be? What is the member really asking for?
Is the member asking that there be a commission established in advance to review potential amendments? What is the member asking for?
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, An Act to Amend the Elections Act, which we have before us - the minister has agreed that there is no legal requirement that this be before the House at this time. She has agreed with that position.
So, given that position, Mr. Chair, the corollary to that is that there is a window of opportunity to consult with Yukoners on the contents and intent of this act, before it is presented in the House. And I was just looking for a simple yes or no, Mr. Chair.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I'm just looking for a simple yes or no from the member opposite. Does the member opposite support the amendment to the Elections Act as he did when he was in opposition in the last term?
Mr. Jenkins: For the record, Mr. Chair, I'm here to ask the questions; the minister's here to answer the question. And I've posed a question, and I have yet to receive an answer. I would appreciate that the answer be more forthcoming from the minister.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I, too, would appreciate a forthcoming answer. And in general debate, it's about the opportunity to exchange full and fair debate.
The member is asking if there is an additional - the member says "window." It's an additional window for consultation on a particular recommendation that has been put forward to this House. Is there time for a further chief electoral officer's recommendation? No, the chief electoral officer hasn't been charged with that responsibility.
The member's right - there's no legal reason to bring this forward. We're bringing it forward because we were elected to do so, because we campaigned on it for 30 days, and we spoke about it extensively as opposition members - this specific amendment. We campaigned on bringing it forward. We may not have a legal obligation to do so, but we have a moral obligation to Yukoners to do so, and we're fulfilling that. That moral obligation and our contract with Yukoners were that we would bring this forward, and that's exactly what we're doing.
I don't understand why the member is opposed to bringing this forward. I don't understand why the member is opposed to a review. I don't know why he's disagreeing with his former leader, and I don't know why he's asking for more public review. It does not speak to consistency of his party or consistency of his own actions. This is an amendment that was previously debated, to some extent, outside of this Legislature, in that as opposition members we asked the government to bring it forward. They refused to do so.
It's an outstanding recommendation that was tabled to this House. We're acting on it. There has been public consultation and there is ample window for consultation during debate on this legislation.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, for the record, I'm just trying to define the parameters of where we're heading and how we're going to achieve what we should be setting out to achieve. It's abundantly clear why the previous government didn't bring forward an electoral boundaries review. It was purely for political reasons. It would have resulted, in all probability, in the Faro riding being redefined. Currently, the Liberal government is looking upon it favourably because it will probably create an additional or expanded role surrounding Whitehorse, which is their strong point and strong feature. So, the reason for it not coming forward before and the reason why it's coming forward now are one and the same. It's purely for political reasons. Let's make that abundantly clear.
But I go back to my original question of the minister, Mr. Chair. There is no legal requirement to bring forth this amendment at this time. The minister has agreed with that position.
Now, if there is no legal requirement to bring forward this act at this time, there is still a window of opportunity to go out and consult with the general population about the terms and conditions contained in this bill. That's a fact. And the minister, at the end of the day, would have to agree with that position and would have to respond "yes".
But when you look at the act that we have before us, there are no timelines associated with how long the commission has before it reports. There are timelines as to how long after it reports - after this act comes into force, the commission shall be appointed within six months of the polling day. That's a fait accompli. But how long the commission has to carry out its duties and responsibilities is not really that well spelled-out.
The other area that I have some concerns with is the narrow definition with respect to the commission. Now, it was well-thought-out that Yukon judges would be the main choice, being unbiased, with no political affiliation - no current political affiliation; that's rather obvious of these individuals. We all know that some of the current judges have had political affiliations but the independence of the judiciary seems to hold and be recognized. But to narrow it down as we are to three individuals, I don't believe is reasonable and fair, Mr. Chair.
Previously, the Elections Act referred to the commission and that the chair may be a judge. Every time we appear to get into a problem in the Yukon, we appear to solve that problem by creating a bigger and larger board, commission or bureaucracy, Mr. Chair.
If you look back a few years ago, the Lysyk Inquiry that was commissioned to deal with the electoral boundaries back in 1991 was one individual. We had some reservations with the outcome of the Lysyk commission and we reviewed it, and it looked like we would get a judge to head it up, a member from the elections office and a member from each of the three political parties that currently exist here in the Yukon. So, now we're up to a commission of five members to oversee an ever-dwindling population here, I might add.
I have some reservations as to how we can form a commission with three members, recognize all three political parties and their views, and yet show no partisan, political favour, Mr. Chair. That's going to be a difficult task. So maybe in hindsight a commission of one is the optimum. Just expanding it to five members doesn't mean that we're going to achieve the desired results.
And what are the desired results that we're hoping to achieve? Just an equal and fair representation of electoral boundaries to adequately represent Yukoners' interests in this Legislature. Even the Lysyk Inquiry, the last one, was only the fourth Yukon electoral boundaries commission that was established - the fourth one.
If you look at the terms of reference for the Lysyk Inquiry, for Justice Lysyk, they're not altered or changed appreciably from what we should be focusing on today. And while it is desirable, and will probably result in not having a court challenge to the electoral boundaries in Yukon, everyone must have their say. It doesn't appear that everyone has had their say, Mr. Chair.
The report tabled by the chief electoral officer back in November of 1997 is quite an interesting report, quite comprehensive, and it spells out the need for electoral boundaries review. The occurrence in the Northwest Territories basically sends a message to us that, if we don't do it, we're going to be before the courts very quickly. Well, let's do it, Mr. Chair, and let's do it right.
Now, I again go back to the minister and ask the minister: given that there's no legal requirement to have this An Act to Amend the Elections Act before us at this time, the earliest time that it would be before the House would be triggered in the current Yukon Elections Act and would be after the census is completed in 2001. Now, that's probably too late, so that we would have everything completed by the time the next election rolls around in the Yukon if it's a four-year term. If the Yukon Act is changed and we go to five-year terms, we could probably squeak it through; but if we go to five-year terms in the Yukon, it's possible to squeak it through and get everything through in time for the next election.
Mr. Chair, I probably stand corrected on the change of the sitting of this Legislature - that it can't go to a five-year term until after the next election - but given that, we can't rely on the census to trigger it. But we still have a window of opportunity to go out and consult more with the people. And I'm sure that, at the end of the day, the Premier has to agree with that position. It's a simple yes or no.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the member is trying to make a legal argument, and he talked about there being no legal requirement. If we do not take action, we are bound by the existing legislation. If we don't amend the legislation with the bill we have before the House, we're locked into the way the act is written now. With the way the act is written now, a review is triggered by the census, which will take place next year. If we get locked into that, we are following an act that would require that the review be done by the chief electoral officer alone, and that is exactly why we're trying to broaden the responsibility. We would also be locked into - and down the road - following an act that doesn't require the input of Yukoners. We're trying to avoid that by bringing forward - doing what we said we would do - this amendment because it is what we were elected to do.
Now, the member mentioned timing in his preamble, and I would draw the member's attention to section 411.(2) which references that the first commission shall be appointed within three months of the coming into force of this act. Section 415.(2) says that, within seven months of the date of the appointment, that commission will report, and furthermore, that report, within five days, will be provided to the Legislature. Section 417.(1) says that within five months of the date it submits an interim report, which I just mentioned, it submits a final report. So there is a very clearly spelled-out time frame and time requirement in the amendment.
The member opposite also suggested that Justice Kenneth Lysyk's report - he mentioned that he agrees with that report and that Justice Lysyk's boundaries review is why we're in this situation. The member opposite suggested that there was some kind of an issue with respect to a specific riding. Repeatedly, repeatedly, repeatedly we have spoken about the need - and that there are needs throughout Yukon - for boundaries.
The member opposite's former leader, and other members on the other side of the House have found themselves not having the boundaries right. The former leader of the Yukon Party, in a by-election, was campaigning in the Lake Laberge riding in his own riding, because of the way the boundaries are drawn. They don't make sense to the reality of Yukon life today. We are trying to act upon that. We are doing what we said we'd do.
The member asked about the desired outcome. The desired outcome for us on this side is for Yukoners' voices on boundaries review to be heard and for Yukoners to have an opportunity to be able to stand in front of representatives of all three parties and two independent people - the chief electoral officer and a judge or retired judge - and say, "This is how we think the boundaries should work." That's why we're bringing this forward. It's what we said we'd do, and we'd like to do it.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, at the end of the day, there is still an opportunity for some consultation before this act is presented to the House, even given the timelines that the minister just lectured me on.
Mr. Chair, let's look at some of the other issues. The definition of a Supreme Court judge - it's not contained in the act itself. Could the minister enlighten me about where the definition of a Supreme Court judge is contained? Is it in the Interpretation Act, or where is it located?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I'll take a moment to provide the member opposite with that information. But first I will apologize. It was not my intention to lecture. It was my intention to provide information, and I will provide the subsequent information in just a moment for the member.
That definition is contained in the Supreme Court Act, section 3.
Mr. Jenkins: If we look at a judge or retired judge of the Supreme Court and we eliminate the words "resident in the Yukon", it would broaden the opportunities and choices for us. And when we get into line-by-line debate, I'll be proposing a friendly amendment that would deal with the elimination of those four little words, "resident in the Yukon". I believe that would broaden the scope.
Why does it have to be a judge? Previously it "may be" a judge, now it "must be" a judge, it "shall" be judge chosen by the senior judge of the Supreme Court. We again narrow down our focus considerably. Can the minister provide an explanation of why we have to be so specific and so definitive at this juncture? There is only one senior judge of the Supreme Court here in the Yukon, and that senior judge is restricted to three individuals from whom he may select to chair this commission. Do we really want to narrow our focus that much, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, that specific section is taken word for word from the recommendation of the chief electoral officer.
If the member wants to propose something in line-by-line debate, then we shall debate it. I would caution the member opposite, however, that "resident in the Yukon" was a debated topic when we talked about this amendment last session, and the reason it was in there was because of Justice Lysyk's report.
Mr. Jenkins: Let me ask the minister, Mr. Chair, if she agrees with narrowing our focus for a chair of this commission to this degree.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, yes, I do, because this commission has always been chaired by a judge or senior judge.
Mr. Jenkins: I have no quarrel with a judge or senior judge. I just have a quarrel with narrowing it down to three individuals. That's the concern I have. Do we want to narrow our focus to just three individuals? There are many, many other judges who have been on the bench here in the Yukon and who have moved on to bigger and better things and retired. I can think of one right off the top - Judge Faulkner. There are some excellent individuals out there who have previously been on the bench here in the Yukon and are out of the loop altogether. Why would we want to narrow our focus this much for this very important responsibility?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, first of all, again, this is word for word the recommendation of the chief electoral officer. I have said to the member that I support that narrow focus, because I, too, in looking at this and in bringing it forward, went through wrestling whether or not that person should be a resident in the Yukon. And I feel very strongly that a person making decisions or chairing a commission of this importance should be resident in the Yukon. That's why it's written that way, for those two reasons. It is the recommendation of the chief electoral officer, and also because I feel residency in the Yukon is very important.
I don't believe it's too narrow a focus. Such commissions have always been chaired by a judge or senior judge, and I believe that they are impartial and that they are acting as the chair and could do a very fine job in this respect, when asked.
Mr. Jenkins: There have been four electoral boundary reviews in Yukon. Can the minister confirm that all four of them have been chaired by a judge?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Yes, Mr. Chair, the Yukon's electoral district boundaries commissions: the 1974 commission consisted of Mr. Justice H.C.B. - Harry - Maddison, as chair; the 1977 boundaries commission, Mr. Justice Maddison was again appointed as chair; the 1984 commission was the third one, with Mr. Justice Maddison as chair; and the 1991 commission was the Lysyk commission, which was conducted by the honourable Mr. Justice Kenneth Lysyk. So, all of them have indeed been chaired that way.
Mr. Jenkins: Again, Mr. Chair, we come down to the narrow focus. We look at who has chaired these electoral boundary reviews prior. Retired Justice Maddison comes to the forefront, three out of four times, and he could possibly be up to bat again, along with two other choices. Do we really want to narrow our focus, Mr. Chair, to only three individuals?
As to the residency requirement, if it's okay for the Executive Council Office to hire individuals for advice and information from individuals who used to live here, whom they have brought back, what's the problem with dealing with a judge who used to live here, who used to be a justice here in the Yukon, and has moved on? What's the problem?
Why can we do it on the one hand, through Executive Council Office and sole-source contracts to these individuals and Department of Justice sole-source contracts? And the minister knows exactly whom I'm referring to: it's an individual who used to live in the Yukon, and is coming back now at the request of the government of the day. Why can't we do the same with a judge from somewhere else? Why is there a reluctance?
The minister says she supports the requirement that it be a resident of the Yukon. That doesn't appear to be demonstrated by the new Liberal government of the day, Mr. Chair. Prior residency here seems to fit the bill, and that's all I'm suggesting.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the member opposite is making the same argument that he will be making in line-by-line debate. The amendment to the Elections Act, clause 401.(a) is the recommendation of the chief electoral officer. It is a recommendation that we have put forward. We agree with the recommendation; we support the recommendation. I have outlined for the member opposite that previous electoral district boundaries commissions have been consistently chaired by a judge or a retired judge of the Supreme Court. Residency in the Yukon is important to us; it's important to Yukoners because Yukoners want Yukoners making decisions and acting as chair and acting in this senior capacity.
The focus is not narrow. The focus is broadened from previously written legislation. It is much broader, in fact, because it allows for representation from the political parties, which the existing act does not allow for. And certainly our political party would look forward to being represented by a seat, and I'm certain the New Democratic Party would look forward to being represented by a seat on this commission, as they responded in the chief electoral officer's report. And if the member's party continues to exist, I'm certain he would like to be represented, as well.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, what I'm getting at is the double standard of this government. The minister gets up and goes on about the requirement that this individual be a Yukon resident, and yet prior Yukon residency appears to be all the requirement for a number of the sole-source contracts that are currently given out by her own department, Mr. Chair. So there appears to be a double standard. Why do we have this double standard? Is it, "Do as I say, don't do as I do," Mr. Chair? What's the reason for this?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, there is no double standard. The member opposite is trying to argue a point that is outside of the bill before us. And the member opposite stood on his feet a few short days ago and commented that he immediately sought advice from outside of the territory on the Income Tax Act. I think it is well within the right of any government to seek advice from wherever they choose. The advice given to this Legislature came from the chief electoral officer, and the advice was that there should be an electoral district boundaries commission and that it should be composed in the way that is in the bill before the member opposite. If the member opposite would like to debate the bill, I'd be happy to do that.
Mr. Jenkins: With respect to the outside advice I obtained - or my personal review of the Income Tax Act - I paid for that personal advice. I didn't pay for it with taxpayers' money, Mr. Chair, unlike the government of the day. They're using taxpayers' money, and they have a double standard.
They have a double standard for a lot of the sole-sourced contracts that are issued through Executive Council Office, and the minister has the ability to get on the floor of the House and argue that that's okay, that we can hire Yukoners or prior Yukoners to come back to the Yukon and provide us with advice to Executive Council Office. And the contracts were actually tabled here today. And there are other sole-source contracts that have been given to prior Yukoners who have had to move away to find work. I'm only saying to the minister that if it's good for one thing, why can't it be good for another area of government?
There's an opportunity to hire, for this review, retired judges or former judges who were here in the Yukon. I guess it's okay for the Executive Council Office to issue sole-sourced contracts. Some of the costs that, when totalled up - $60,000, $60,000, $134,000. Probably at the end of the day we wouldn't be paying this judge or retired judge anywhere near a sum of money approaching that $134,000 when he's charged with this responsibility. But it's okay for the minister to do it on one hand, and that's just one of many sole-sourced contracts.
Again, I'll ask the minister: why does it have to be a judge resident here in the Yukon? The government of the day can currently seek all kinds of advice and issue all kinds of sole-source contracts for individuals. Up to the time the election finality was known, and they needed advice, they sought out former Yukoners to provide them with advice and paid them substantial sums of money. Now, what's wrong with former Yukon judges? Why aren't they in the same category?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, there is no double standard. This is the recommendation of the chief electoral officer of the Yukon in his report of December 1997 to this Legislature. We are following that recommendation.
This amendment was also put forward when the previous Elections Act was put forward and debated. At that time, it had the support of the member opposite's former leader of his political party. Is the member suggesting that he no longer supports this amendment, as his leader did?
Mr. Jenkins: Well, the question is for the minister. I am not here to answer questions on this act. I am here to debate it. I'm here to ask questions of the minister, and I'm looking for an answer.
Why can the current government of the day create a double standard by sole sourcing ECO contracts to former Yukoners, bring them back to the Yukon, and pay them substantial sums of money? Why is it okay in that respect, but not okay with respect to a judge or retired judge? Why can't we bring retired judges, or judges who previously sat in the Yukon but who now sit elsewhere, back to undertake this initiative? Why can't we do that?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: There is no double standard in existence at all. The Yukon Liberal government has put forward to an amendment to the Elections Act as recommended by the chief electoral officer. This is the amendment as it was written in the 1997 report and as it has been put forward by this government.
Our contract with Yukoners was that we would put this forward and that we would bring this motion and this amendment forward. We're fulfilling that contract with Yukoners.
The member opposite is not asking a question. The member opposite is saying that there is a double standard. There is no double standard. The member has asked why this recommendation is written the way it is. The member has asked who has previously chaired such electoral district boundaries commissions. I have answered that question numerous times.
Mr. Jenkins: I also want to know why the area of the appointment of a judge or retired judge cannot be expanded upon to include judges that have practised here in the Yukon, have retired or are still practising elsewhere - why they can't chair this electoral district boundaries commission. That's my question. And I again point out that there is in fact very much a double standard, Mr. Chair, given that this government goes out of its way to obtain advice, including legal advice from ex-Yukoners, for the Executive Council Office. That's the practice of this government. Now, why can't we do it in this area? What is the minister doing? Creating a double standard. Why can't she focus on the issue? The issue is to get the best from the broadest field, and that appears to be the opinion taken by the minister, Mr. Chair, with respect to a lot of the sole-sourced contracts.
The minister has gone out of her way to contact those individuals whom she worked with on different occasions, who have been residents here in the Yukon but have gone elsewhere. Now they're back here, working for the Liberal government on sole-sourced contracts. It's the same type of situation, because basically this is a contractual undertaking between the Yukon Legislative Assembly and a judge or retired judge. What is the minister's objection to expanding the field of choice of these individuals?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the expansion that the member is asking for is an expansion to non-residents of the Yukon, and I and members of our party believe that it's important that this individual be a resident in the Yukon because Yukoners make the best chairs on behalf of other Yukoners. We believe in Yukoners, and we believe in their ability to hear from one another, and that is why that amendment is written the way it is. We believe in Yukoners. We want the person who is chairing this commission to be a resident in the Yukon, and we also want that because it's our contract with Yukoners that we would do this and bring forward this amendment, and because it's exactly the outstanding recommendation that was not paid attention to by the previous government.
Mr. Jenkins: Then, why can't that same train of thought carry over to other areas of government where contracts are let, specifically sole-sourced contracts from the Executive Council Office? Why is this minister creating a double standard?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, we're not debating the contracts of the Executive Council Office. We're debating, in general debate, the amendments to the Elections Act. The amendments to the Elections Act have been put forward by the chief electoral officer in 1997 to this House. An outstanding recommendation was made that the previous government did not follow.
If the member wants to debate each and every contract under the Executive Council Office, I'm prepared to do that. I'll do that in the upcoming supplementary debate and budget debate. I'll debate it in the budget in the spring, and I'll debate it over the next term of this government with the member opposite.
I stand behind the actions of this government. I stand in front of them. I stand with them. We work together. And one of our commitments to Yukoners was to bring forward changes to the Elections Act. My former colleague, the present Commissioner, spoke very eloquently about this in the Legislature and the need for it. The chief electoral officer's report is crystal clear, and the section the member's debating at length is, word for word, the recommendation of the chief electoral officer. I don't doubt that recommendation. I believe in it, and that's why we brought it forward.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, if the minister believed in that recommendation and believed that it was in the best interests of Yukoners, why is she creating this double standard with respect to the sole-source contracts? They're related. We can't use one set of reasoning to hire somebody for one set of responsibilities and another for a similar set of responsibilities. We can't have a different rule of engagement for the hiring of individuals for those responsibilities.
Why can't the minister at least be consistent in the application, or is there some underlying motive? These are purely political patronage appointments, hired through the Executive Council Office, and that's the reason for them. There has to be some rationale as to why it's okay on one hand to broaden the field and hire ex-Yukoners or former Yukoners. Because I believe what the minister is saying by doing that is that individual is the individual we want. We believe him to be the most responsible and able to react to our requests.
Fine, but on the same hand, when you look at the application of a judge and the broadening of the field to include judges who have formerly served on the bench here in the Yukon - or formerly served on the bench and then subsequently retired - all I'm suggesting is that we include them in the field. The choice is up to the Chief Judge. The choice is up to the senior judge of the Supreme Court here in the Yukon, Mr. Chair. But what we've done is narrow the choice down to three individuals.
I don't really want to do that, Mr. Chair. I don't think that's fair, especially given that if we were to take some of the other areas of government and narrow it down to three choices - I guess for the ECO the first and fundamental requirement is that they have their red power suit on, and have Liberal blood flowing through their veins. But we have to look at what's in the best interest of not just the party of the day, but all Yukoners.
I'm just suggesting, Mr. Chair, that we might want to broaden the scope and broaden the opportunities that the senior judge of the Supreme Court here in the Yukon could select from, with respect to the chair of an electoral district boundaries commission. It makes an abundant amount of sense. Why can't the minister entertain the broadening of the field? Why is the mindset so severe that she can't even entertain the issue of treating this in the same manner that ECO treats the hiring of consultants?
It's a double standard, Mr. Chair, that's all I can conclude, and anyone looking at this would conclude the same. It's very much a double standard. There's one for political patronage appointments and hiring for the Executive Council Office. We can do whatever we want there - how we want, when we want - even exceeding sole-source limits, not just by one or two, but by a multiple of four. There are $25,000 sole-source limits, and we start looking at the number of sole-sourced contracts coming in and they're ridiculous. Government's breaching its own regulations, signed off by the minister, I'm sure, but the justification is also very, very weak.
But we can hire former Yukoners for these roles. We can't broaden the role of the commission's chair to include former judges and former retired judges that sat here in the Yukon. Why not, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: The member opposite is making reference obliquely, somewhat, to contracts made and contracts entered into with Mr. James Almstrom. The reason that this government sole sourced those contracts is precisely the reason the previous government sole sourced those contracts to the same individual. The member himself is employing a double standard. He didn't ask once why the previous government sole sourced this individual. He didn't once question this individual's abilities.
This individual has specific legal expertise in a given area. The previous government sole sourced him to provide advice in that area. This government did the same because we recognize that ability, and it is well within this government's right to sole source legal advice. The member is suggesting that it is not our right, as a government, to bring forward recommendations and, word for word, what the chief electoral officer has recommended. It is entirely the right of government to do that. And not only that, it is the responsibility of government to do that.
When the chief electoral officer tabled his report in 1997, all members of this House had a responsibility to act upon it, and that is exactly what we are doing. We're acting upon that responsibility by bringing forward a very good recommendation. We're bringing it forward, and what we would like to do is enact it and amend the Elections Act.
Mr. Jenkins: Acting on it - that probably sums it up. Unfortunately, Mr. Chair, this is not the Yukon Arts Centre; this is the Yukon Legislative Assembly. And I would hope we could deal with this in a more forthright manner. Given the majority of the government of the day, they're going to stickhandle this through any way they want it. The debate is rather pointless at this juncture, Mr. Chair.
The Liberals have grown to be quite insistent, in a very short period of time, as to how to achieve their own way. Sole-source contracts are but one example. Double standards are another example. Their ability to take money from rural Yukon, like the Mayo school, and move it to Hamilton Boulevard, to find a million dollars to build a new building for the drug and alcohol commission or secretariat, Mr. Chair - these are vast sums of money.
And, again, we are charged with the responsibility of overseeing it. I guess all we can do is point these out and see where we're headed - the few Yukoners who will remain here for the next while, given our population drop. It's disappointing that our government can't see a clear and focused vision of economic development and the operations of government, including having as much input from Yukoners as possible. The window on this bill still exists, Mr. Chair, to go out for added consultation. That appears to be at the bottom of the pile of reviews or undertakings that this government will do at this juncture, and to broaden the number of individuals who could actually chair this commission appears to be off the table even for consideration by this minister.
So, ram the bill through in your usual manner, Mr. Chair, and we'll move on.
Chair: Is there any further general debate on Bill No. 22, An Act to Amend the Elections Act?
I see no further general debate. We will proceed with clause-by-clause.
On Clause 1
Clause 1 agreed to
On Clause 2
Mr. Jenkins: On clause 2 - did you want to go into just clause 2 or the definitions, and go to section 407, section 408? Are you going that way, Mr. Chair?
Chair: On your suggestion, I can do it. If you prefer to go through the definitions, I will do it that way, Mr. Jenkins.
Mr. Jenkins: I would propose an amendment under 408.1(a), Mr. Chair.
Chair: Okay, we'll do it clause by clause then. We'll get right to that, Mr. Jenkins.
On Section 407
Section 407 agreed to
On Section 408
Mr. Jenkins: I'd like to move a friendly amendment to 408.(1)(a), "a judge or a retired judge of the Supreme Court". I would like that to be amended to remove "resident in the Yukon", and I propose the following:
THAT Bill No. 22, entitled An Act to Amend the Elections Act, be amended in clause 2 at page 1 by deleting the words "resident in the Yukon" where they appear in paragraph 408.(1)(a).
Chair: It has been moved by Mr. Jenkins that Bill No. 22, entitled An Act to Amend the Elections Act, be amended in clause 2 at page 1 by deleting the words "resident in the Yukon" where they appear in paragraph 408.(1)(a).
Is there any debate on the amendment
Hon. Ms. Duncan: I would just like to draw to members' attention that this would have the effect, under the Supreme Court Act, in their definition of "judges", of having deputy judges who are clearly not residents in the Yukon and only do some work from time to time, who may be considered. And I would remind members that the concern, as evidenced in earlier general debate on this particular part of the bill is that residents of the Yukon be asked to chair. There are individuals, and my note from members of the caucus - there are notes that most judges don't spend or have not spent most of their lives here.
Some of them have put in a number of years and left again. The territory has changed a great deal in recent years, and there is concern that a former judge may be out of touch with the current Yukon reality. Now, I certainly don't mean any disparaging comments to members of the judiciary, and I'm hopeful they won't take them that way. However, there is a great deal of concern that this individual be a resident in the Yukon, as evidenced by Mr. Justice Lysyk's previous boundaries commission that doesn't take into reality some elements of Yukon life.
Chair: Is there any further debate on the proposed amendment?
Do members wish to take a five-minute break while we circulate the amendment?
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS
Mr. McRobb:I draw your attention to the gallery and a couple of constituents from Beaver Creek. Please join me in welcoming Glenn Stephens and his daughter Jesse.
Chair: Do the members wish to take a brief recess in lieu of the one we'll take in 15 minutes?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: We'll take a 15-minute break.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order.
Is there any further debate on the proposed amendment to Bill No. 22, An Act to Amend the Elections Act?
Mr. Fentie: Well, firstly, I am actually questioning why we are even changing the way the original clause is written, and I think it's worthy that we discuss this proposed amendment and look at possibly amending this further.
I have a question for the minister. What is the significance and why is it such a priority that we must change section 408.(1) as it is written - and if I may, I'll just read it verbatim: "The Commissioner in Executive Council shall, as required by this Act, appoint an Electoral District Boundaries Commission consisting of an independent individual who may be a member of the judiciary." Now, I think leaving it in this broader context is much better and would probably serve us much better than narrowing it down to what the changes in the amendments brought forward by the government are intending to do.
Can the minister enlighten us as to why there is the need to narrow this down? Because I believe the way it was written originally is probably a lot more efficient in the long haul.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the way the act is currently written in section 408, subsections (1), (2) and (3) - the way the act is now, it describes an electoral district boundaries commission. The way the act is now is not the recommendation of the chief electoral officer. That is why there is an amendment before the House. The member is asking about the changes.
First of all, there is a change from a commission of one to a commission of five, and there is a change in the role of the chief electoral officer from providing advice, information and assistance to actually being a member of the commission. Those are the differences between the two, so it's a difference in the commission itself, and the differences are as a result of the recommendations of the chief electoral officer.
Mr. Fentie: With all due respect to the chief electoral officer, I'm wondering, when it comes to Yukoners, if this is something they desired. I understand it says in the report from the chief electoral officer that this recommendation is what was brought forward. What did Yukoners bring forward?
I have not talked to anybody, nor do I know of any of my colleagues who have talked to any Yukoner who is really overly concerned and revved up about this particular clause in the act.
The narrowing down of the amendment in the government's legislation brought forward, I believe, does little to improve the existing clause. I would prefer to see that we leave this broader and then maybe this government should go out to the public with this instead of just jumping at the report. There's a lot of groundwork, I believe, that is missing here to make these amendments. That groundwork means going out to Yukoners and finding out what it is that they believe should happen in the context of fair representation in this Legislature throughout this territory. Beginning with this change and narrowing it down, one can only wonder. Is the minister prepared to just set this clause aside for further discussion?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: What we're debating is the amendment of the member opposite's colleague to the far. And it's not my choice whether or not to set aside the amendment put forward by the Member for Klondike. It's the Member for Klondike's. We are certainly prepared to debate the amendment that has been brought forward by the Member for Klondike. Does the Member for Klondike wish to stand aside his amendment? Then we would go back to debating 401.(a). I am not prepared to set aside section 408, because it is fundamental to the whole establishment of the commission. I'm not clear on what the member is trying to do.
Mr. Fentie: In the context of trying to get to the fundamentals, then, I would ask my colleague from Klondike if he's willing to set aside this amendment for the time being, and possibly look at this section further before we pass it or agree on how this particular clause should read.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, in the interest of moving ahead with the business of the House, I don't have any quarrel with what is being suggested. I was just looking at an avenue that would not provide as much restriction on the senior judge in the Supreme Court in the selection process.
If you look at what exists in the current legislation under section 408.(1), it's very straightforward. It states, "The Commissioner in Executive Council must, as required by this Act, appoint an Electoral District Boundaries Commission consisting of an independent individual who may be a member of the judiciary." Now, subsequent reviews and subsequent input from all political parties and from the chief electoral officer indicated that a judge was the choice. Previous history of the four electoral boundary reviews have always been handled by a judge. I don't have any quarrel with a judge being the chair or handling this undertaking.
The impartiality of a judge speaks for itself. I do have reservations with the focus being narrowed and the selection processes being made by the Chief Judge of the Yukon Supreme Court, whereas previously it was the Commissioner in Executive Council who made the choice, after consultation with all registered political parties. So, the decision to make the appointment was made, in fact, by the Premier of the day, after she consulted with all three political parties. That's how it used to be.
Now, what is being proposed under this amendment is that the minister or the Premier can hide behind the senior judge of the Supreme Court here in the Yukon, and that individual is charged with the responsibility for the selection of the chair of this committee.
Well, what was wrong with the issue and the way it worked before? It obviously did work. We obviously selected a judge on four occasions. We have to have a process that's simple and that works and produces results that are acceptable to all. I don't care who the judge is; we're not all going to agree with his outcome, and there are going to be boundaries where one side of the street votes in one electoral riding and the other side of the street votes in the other electoral riding. That's going to continue to happen, under any boundary delineation.
If it's in the best interest of the House, Mr. Chair, I will withdraw my motion. I thought it was a very simply motion that would open the field to an amendment that would provide a broader field of individuals from which we can select from. If it's in the interest of the House, we can move ahead. I will withdraw my proposed amendment to this bill, Mr. Chair, and we can move forward and see what we can do.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: The two previous speakers have spoken on this and my understanding was that the Member for Watson Lake wanted to stand aside the section. The Member for Klondike now wants to withdraw his amendment to the section without debating it. I have said that we are not prepared to stand aside section 408. We are prepared to discuss the amendment as put forward by the Member for Klondike. We would like to discuss it.
I must say, Mr. Chair, I wondered why they were delaying the House in discussing this because the Member for Watson Lake just repeated the same old arguments. The members opposite have raised a hypothetical situation that might happen if one of the three resident judges in the Yukon potentially were to refuse. And the Member for Klondike, in hearing those, has brought forward an amendment. Why aren't we discussing it?
Chair: Order please. To withdraw the amendment requires the unanimous consent of the House.
Chair: Does the House have agreement to withdraw the amendment on Bill No. 22, entitled An Act to Amend the Elections Act, brought forward by the Member for Klondike, Mr. Jenkins: deleting the words "resident in the Yukon" where they appear in paragraph 408.(1)(a)? Do we have unanimous consent to withdraw this amendment?
Some Hon. Members:Disagreed.
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: There is disagreement, so it cannot be withdrawn.
Mr. Fentie: Mr. Chair, is there any reason why the members opposite won't agree to set aside this amendment?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Yes, Mr. Chair. We'd like to vote on it.
Mr. Fentie: Well, Mr. Chair, then we'll propose an amendment. The official opposition will amend the amendment. Is that acceptable?
Chair: I'm just going to consult. Please allow me two seconds.
Mr. Fentie, I was wondering if I could first see the amendment to the amendment. I have to just ensure that it's in order.
If members would grant me an indulgence, the amendment as proposed will be proposed under a different format. The amendment to the amendment that was proposed by Mr. Fentie will be proposed under a different format.
So, we'll go back to the original question. Is there any further debate on the proposed amendment put forward by Mr. Jenkins? It is:
THAT Bill No. 22, An Act to Amend the Elections Act, be amended in clause 2, page 1, by deleting the words "resident in the Yukon" where they appear in paragraph 408.(1)(a).
Are we all agreed on the amendment?
Some Hon. Members: Agree.
Some Hon. Members: Disagree.
Chair: Division has been called.
Chair: I now call the Committee of the Whole to order. The proposed amendment to be voted on is proposed by Mr. Jenkins:
THAT Bill No. 22, entitled An Act to Amend the Elections Act, be amended in clause 2 at page 1, by deleting the words "resident in the Yukon" where they appear in paragraph 408.(1)(a).
All those in favour, please rise in Committee of the Whole.
Some Hon. Members: (Inaudible)
Chair: The ayes have it.
Amendment to Clause 2 agreed to
Chair: Shall we continue with clause-by-clause debate on 408.(1)? Is there any further debate?
Mr. Fentie: Now that we're through that little bit of a kerfuffle, I still haven't received from the minister the rationale for why the changes are even being made from the original act as it was written. Before, though it has now been amended, so we've deleted the words "resident in the Yukon," it wasn't necessary that this member of the commission be a judge. It was broad to the point where it could have been anybody appointed to this commission.
Can the minister give us the rationale, other than the fact that this recommendation was made by the chief electoral officer, on why the government so rapidly jumped to that recommendation versus going out, before making the changes, and finding out what it is exactly Yukoners may desire in this particular case. This is a huge issue, given the fact that Whitehorse holds the base of the population. It's called fairness and representation.
This is a big issue in this territory and getting bigger, especially under this Liberal government. Can we get some rationale from the minister on why the changes are being made?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the changes are being made because they are the recommendations of the chief electoral officer as tabled here in 1997, and the previous government failed to act upon them. This government is acting upon them because they are necessary.
The member has asked for rationale. The member has asked at great length for rationale. I provided that to his interim leader yesterday for some period of time. I have provided the rationale to the leader of the third party a number of times, and I will restate it again. In December 1997, the chief electoral officer made a report to the Legislature. It contained a recommendation with an electoral district boundaries commission. The previous government brought forward an Elections Act without consultation to the people of the Yukon, which contained an electoral district boundaries commission that did not follow the recommendations of the chief electoral officer. We have bought forward the recommendation. That is the rationale.
Mr. Fentie: We did not in all cases follow the recommendation of the electoral officer, but we certainly discussed this whole issue with Yukoners, and that's reflected in the act.
So, in the spirit of cooperation, the official opposition has an amendment to propose for this particular section in the act.
Mr. Fentie: The amendment goes as follows:
THAT Bill No. 22, entitled An Act to Amend the Elections Act, be amended in clause 2 at page 1 by deleting the clause 408.(1) subclause (a) and substituting in its place, as subclause (a) the words, "The Commissioner in Executive Council must, as required by this Act, appoint an Electoral District Boundaries Commission consisting of an independent individual who may be a member of the judiciary."
Chair: It has been moved by Mr. Fentie
THAT Bill No. 22, An Act to Amend the Elections Act, be amended in clause 2 on page 1 by: deleting 408.(1) subclause (a) and substituting in its place, as subclause (a) the words "The Commissioner in Executive Council must, as required by this Act, appoint an Electoral District Boundaries Commission consisting of an independent individual who may be a member of the judiciary."
Mr. Fentie: The reason that we're bringing that amendment forward is that the official opposition believes that this particular section should be kept broader, and not narrowed down to one or two or three individuals. There may be a need to expand this, and it's probably going to prove itself to be a much better way to do this in this territory from now into the future, given the demographics here.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the government accepted the hypothetical argument put forward by the opposition in yesterday's circular arguments - that 401.(a) could be broadened - by accepting the friendly amendment proposed by the MLA for Klondike. We have already broadened 401.(a), so the member is factually incorrect in that statement.
The member is restating the act. The amendment is the old act, and what we're doing here is amending the act. A judge provides assurance - or a retired judge - of neutrality and independence. That is why 401.(a) is written the way it is. We have broadened it to meet a perceived need already, in the previous amendment.
Mr. Fentie: What we are saying is that it doesn't have to be a judge to be impartial and to be neutral. That's what we're saying. That's the reason for the amendment. Back to the old section 401 in the existing act where it says that it may be a member of the judiciary - not "must be" or "will be", but "may be", because other people could very well be neutral and impartial in this matter. That's the reason for the amendment.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Perhaps the member opposite missed the lengthy discussion between the MLA for Klondike and me, wherein we refute each of the four electoral district boundary commissions to date. All four have been chaired by a judge or a justice, which is why that is in 408.(1)(a) and is written to be a judge or a retired judge. It is also, again, the recommendation of the chief electoral officer.
Mr. Fentie:I'm not negative toward the chief electoral officer's report or anything else. I'm saying that it doesn't have to be a judge. The official opposition believes that this particular clause is important because we don't need to make sure it is a judge. There are other people who can fill this particular position and, I think, do the job justice. So, why are we narrowing it down to a judge?
You may have gone around with the leader of the official opposition, with the leader of the third party, but we're here in line-by-line, and it's open debate line-by-line. So why are we narrowing it down to just judges?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, it's not narrowed to just judges. The judge is the chair of the commission, and it's the chair only. In fact, what we have done is to broaden the commission from the previous legislation by including those esteemed members of the public as representatives of the political parties.
Mr. Fentie: Why couldn't it be a doctor? Why couldn't it be a chief of a First Nation? Why couldn't it be a plumber? Why can't it be a mechanic? It can be anybody. What your changes to the legislation are doing is to narrow it down to a judge, and that's not something we agree with. We believe that this particular piece of legislation should be amended in a manner that reflects the fact that other Yukoners should and can be involved and do this job justice.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the chair is expected to be, and shall be, always impartial. As the former Chair of Committee of the Whole knows very well, a chair is always expected to be impartial. Individuals seen in our society as impartial are members of the judiciary.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, I see this amendment to this clause as broadening the ability of the Commissioner in Executive Council to make an appointment to this very responsible commission - in fact, the head of the commission.
If you look at the existing legislation, the Elections Act that we currently fall under, it's quite specific there: the Commissioner in Executive Council must, as required by this act, appoint an electoral district boundaries commission consisting of an independent individual who may - and I underline "may" - be a member of the judiciary. It doesn't say "shall". It says "may". So, there's an option.
Usually, to be enabling, legislation has the widest degree of flexibility that it can provide, which usually includes use of the word "may" in a lot of cases over the word "shall". From what I see before us in the form of the amendment that we have coming from the NDP ranks, it appears that they believe that the chair should not be specifically associated with a judicial individual. It should have the flexibility of going outside that area, Mr. Chair. It should have the ability and flexibility of including individuals from other walks of life.
What I hear the minister saying is that the only individuals in the Yukon who are impartial are members of the judicial system. Nothing could be further from the truth. There are other people from all other walks of life who are impartial and can be impartial, and have demonstrated their impartiality in many ways.
I guess that if we look at the established practice, the chair of these electoral boundary reviews in the Yukon have historically been a judge or a Chief Justice.
I'd like to ask the minister if she has taken the time to research who has headed up the electoral boundary reviews in other jurisdictions in Canada. Has it always been a judge or a Chief Justice of Canada? We don't need to go to the Northwest Territories. I'm familiar with their three-person commission that was set up only recently.
And the Chief Justice, the Hon. Mr. Justice Tallis was the chair of that group. But what I'm looking at, Mr. Chair, is what is the established practice in the other jurisdictions in Canada? Has it always been a judge or a Chief Justice?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I don't know what the practice has been in other jurisdictions outside of the Yukon. I know that this is the recommendation that was put forward to Yukoners and has been put forward in the legislation.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, Mr. Chair, usually when we bring legislation into the House, we tend to do our homework on it, and we tend to have an insight into what transpires in other jurisdictions in Canada on which we can rely for case law, if you want to use that as an example. It's done all the time, Mr. Chair.
I was just curious as to why we haven't spent any time researching what other jurisdictions in Canada have done in this regard with the establishment of their commissions. In the Northwest Territories, they have three individuals on their commissions for electoral boundary reviews - three. Mind you, they do not have party politics over there, not yet, anyway, but three is a workable number. Five is getting a little top heavy, but Liberals seem to have the ability to expand the role of government and build temples and monuments to their wonderful regime and themselves in the form of more and more government. The exercise is to provide a consistent level of service to the population in the most cost-effective manner.
The question before the House: do we want to broaden the scope of this clause in this act, or do we want to leave it as restricted as it is? And if the minister could provide some insight as to what the downside is with broadening the scope of the chair, vis-à-vis restricting it to the advice that she has had from the chief electoral officer and the review that was conducted. Do we want to look at broadening it, or do we want a very narrow window on this individual? Which way is the best way to go? Now, there has to be a little bit of thought given to the response, Mr. Chair. The Premier usually just hangs her hat on, "This is one of our election promises" and "This is the way we've done it, and we have a list of our priorities and our good little political masters who guide us are allowing us to tick them off one by one so that we can keep our election promises." We have the same thing emanating out of Ottawa with Mr. Chrétien - "It's in the book. We're just following through."
But the exercise here is to provide good government, Mr. Chair. Now, is it good government to restrict - and restrict it to the degree that we have - the chair of this commission?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, for the member opposite's information, Alberta, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, New Brunswick and the Northwest Territories all have judges chairing their commissions. And the member opposite asked us to broaden the list of individuals who could be selected to chair, and he proposed an amendment - an amendment that we discussed and supported - for section 408.(1)(a). That provides a broadening and provides an ability for the senior judge of the Supreme Court to choose a judge or a retired judge of the Supreme Court. We have accepted the broadening by the member opposite. I fail to hear any additional questions.
Chair: Is there any further debate on the amendment? The question has been called on the amendment proposed:
THAT Bill No. 22, An Act to Amend the Elections Act be amended in clause 2 at page 1 by deleting clause 408.(1)(a) and substituting in its place for (a) the words, "Commissioner in Executive Council must as required by this Act appoint an Electoral District Boundaries Commission consisting of an independent individual who may be a member of the judiciary."
All those agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agree.
Some Hon. Members: Disagree.
Chair: It sounds as if the disagrees have it. The amendment has failed.
Amendment to Clause 2 negatived
Mr. Fentie: On 408.(1)(b), is this another recommendation that she finds very comfortable from the electoral officer's report or does she believe this is something that the Yukon public desires in terms of a boundary review? Can the minister clarify that?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Yes to both.
Chair: Is there any further debate on 408.(1)(b)? Does it clear?
Mr. Fentie: I think that in the context of expediting debate in this House, is it possible to deal with 401.(b) and (c) together? Because (c) is one line - the chief electoral officer - and I have an amendment to propose for both (b) and (c).
Chair: Is it agreeable to the rest? Agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Mr. Fentie: I have an amendment to propose for clause 408.(1)(b) and 408(1)(c) as follows:
THAT Bill No. 22, entitled An Act to Amend the Elections Act, be amended in clause 2, at page 1, by deleting clauses 408.(1)(b) and (c).
Hon. Ms. Duncan: May I clarify with the Chair that what the member opposite from Watson Lake has proposed is deleting the representation of Yukon residents, as chosen by the political parties - each political party represented in the Legislature - and deleting the chief electoral officer from the boundary commission? Is that the intent of the member opposite's amendment?
Chair: Before we can have any questions on it, I should read the amendment.
It has been moved by Mr. Fentie, Member for Watson Lake
THAT Bill No. 22, entitled An Act to Amend the Elections Act, be amended in clause 2, at page 1, by deleting clauses 408.(1)(b) and (c).
Mr. Fentie: What about political parties that aren't in this Legislature? How are they represented? Again, there is a flaw in the amendments, and I think the government would be well-served if they did some work on this before they brought the amendments to this legislation into this Legislature. There are political parties here that could very well be registered but aren't represented in this Legislature. Are they to be ignored and not be a part of this process?
Chair: Is there any further general debate?
Mr. Fentie: Mr. Chair, I would ask the minister again, how does she feel about political parties not in this Legislature when it comes to this amendment? Is it the minister's view that they should not be represented?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I'm not obliged to answer questions about the member opposite's amendment. I'm obliged to answer questions about this bill that we have put forward, and I answered previously to the member opposite that I feel it's important, as does our caucus, as do the recommendations, that those political parties that are represented in the Yukon Legislature should be represented on the electoral district boundaries commission.
Mr. Fentie: In that case, Mr. Chair, I take it then that the Liberals don't believe that a party that's not represented in this Legislature should be represented on the commission. Is that correct?
Chair: Is there any further debate on the amendment? Seeing no further debate, the proposed amendment to the bill is:
THAT Bill No. 22, An Act to Amend the Elections Act, be amended in clause 2 at page 1 by deleting clause 408.(1), subclauses (b) and (c).
Some Hon. Members: Agree.
Some Hon. Members: Disagree.
Amendment to Clause 2 negatived
Chair: Is there any further debate on 408.(b) and (c)? Do those subclauses clear?
Section 408.(b) and (c) agreed to
Chair: On section 408.(2), is there any debate on section 408.(2)?
Section 408.(2) agreed to
On Section 408.(3)
Chair: Is there any debate on section 408.(3)?
Mr. Fairclough: Just a question on this: the Premier had said that she was open to suggestions made on this side of the House. We have tried to make some amendments here and she is not willing to debate them. What is the use of doing the amendments? At one time, you say that you're willing to listen and then you just vote against it anyway. What's the use of us making amendments if you're going to ram it through. These are good ones. You're not even thinking about them right now.
Chair: Is there any further debate on section 408.(3)?
Mr. Fairclough: You don't want to answer the question? Why wouldn't you answer the question?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the member opposite has not posed a question to me about the bill. The member opposite has asked if we will support amendments from the opposite side and we've just done that. We just voted in favour of an amendment put forward by the Member for Klondike. There is no question about clause 408.(3) in the member's question. I'd be happy to answer it, but there was no question about that clause.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, Mr. Chair, we would like to make amendments to this act, but that's what I'm asking. Is it just going to be railroaded through? The Member for Klondike tried to withdraw his amendment so that we can look at the bigger picture, and it was blocked by the government. They wouldn't allow him to do that. So tell us: is it of any use for us to even bring forward amendments?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I must advise the member opposite that the words he has just uttered are factually incorrect, that the Member for Klondike did not utter the words "withdraw the amendment". The member opposite from Klondike proposed an amendment. We debated it at some length in the general debate on the bill. We were prepared to debate the amendment. We tried to debate it. We voted on it, and we accepted it. If the member opposite has an amendment to propose to section 408.(3). I would ask that he put it forward.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, it's obvious that amendments aren't being debated here, but the Member for Klondike tried to withdraw it, and it takes a majority to withdraw that amendment. We all know that. And it didn't happen in this House. That's why I'm asking the member opposite: what do we do now? Are you just going to ram it through? Is that the kind of government you are?
Chair: Is there any further debate on section 408.(3)? Does that clear?
Section 408.(3) agreed to
On Section 408.(4)
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Chair, I'd like to enter the debate here with some questions. Can the minister explain under what auspices this commission operates? I'm referring to administrative law, because it seems to me that the decision that sets out the report - I'm familiar with, I believe it was the Vertes report in the N.W.T. And I'm wondering if she can provide some information about that.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, for the member opposite's information, it was Judge Vertes' decision. The rules of administrative law would be that it would operate as a quasi-judicial tribunal, as is standard practice.
Mr. McRobb: Okay, then, Mr. Chair, so whatever decision comes out of the process would be appealable under administrative law. Is that right?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, they don't make decisions, they make recommendations, and those recommendations are tabled in the Legislature. It is in an interim report. There are also public hearings, so the member was asking how those public hearings are conducted under administrative law. It's spelled out in the act, in further sections, as are the requirements for the report.
Mr. McRobb: Thank you for that, Mr. Chair. I'm wondering if any of these reports have ever been challenged, or perhaps a better question would be: are they challengable in a court of law?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, it's not standard practice to challenge a recommendation made to a legislative body, such as this. The member is asking if they would be challenged - or could be challenged - in a court of law. They're not challengeable, if they're recommendations to a Legislature, so it's not a decision.
A decision is something that could be challenged. This is a recommendation.
Mr. McRobb: Well, okay, but what if someone has a problem with the procedure, or process? Do they bring themselves to the Legislature and argue against the report, or can they deal with the report under whatever means are available under administrative law?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, it would be the court of public opinion.
Mr. McRobb: Okay, so, in the previous answer, I believe I heard the minister say it would be unusual for someone to challenge a decision, but is it possible? Can someone do that?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I remind the member opposite that there is no decision. It's a recommendation.
Mr. McRobb: Well, under the principles of natural justice and fairness and Canadian administrative law, if this commission operates like a tribunal, a quasi-judicial tribunal, I'm wondering how secure its findings would be if not all members are present at any of the times when it is hearing evidence on submissions before it, because, clearly, the rules of administrative law in Canada prohibit that and open up the process to legal challenge if, in fact, that takes place.
So, I'm wondering if that would apply to this situation, and if not, why not?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, there are no decisions to challenge. The commission is asked to make recommendations through the Speaker, to the House. There is no decision to challenge.
Mr. McRobb: So, if this commission is operating under the rules of administrative law in the country as a quasi-judicial tribunal, then why is all that necessary if nothing can be challenged and if no decision is made?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Because recommendations are made.
Mr. Jenkins: But 409 says nothing about recommendations. It says, "make proposals". What's the difference between "proposals" and "recommendations"?
Chair: Order please. We are on 408.(4) still.
Mr. Jenkins: But I'm referring to a further section. It's part of the debate we're in. I'm not referring to that specific section, but the commission is empowered to make proposals, not recommendations. What's the difference?
Chair: I would just remind people that we're on clause-by-clause debate right now. When we get to 409, that's certainly within order, but we'd ask that we stay to the clause in question at the moment.
Is there any further debate on clause 408.(4)?
Section 408.(4) agreed to
On Section 409
Chair: Is there any debate on clause 409?
Mr. Fentie: On this particular amendment of clause 409, what really jumps out is quite significant. The commission, in the past, made recommendations to the Legislative Assembly on boundaries and names of electoral districts, but never numbers. Can the minister again explain the rationale for the reason this amendment is coming forward to include the number of ridings in this territory?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the commission is provided in this section with the flexibility to make recommendations. They aren't required to make recommendations on numbers or names. It's just a simple matter of providing flexibility and making sure the mandate was broad.
Mr. Fentie: Well, let me refer back then, to section 409 in the existing act, and I quote, under the function of the commission, "The function of the commission is to make recommendations to the Legislative Assembly as to the area, boundaries and names of the electoral districts of the Yukon." That's it. Can the minister enlighten us on why "number" all of a sudden is broadening this whole concept? Should not the number of ridings be already slated before the commission reviews and makes recommendations on boundaries, names and electoral districts?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: The Yukon Act provides for the number of seats. And the recommendation of the chief electoral officer was that there be standing legislation for the establishment of an electoral district boundaries commission to review the area, boundaries, and names of each of the existing electoral districts and make recommendations respecting any way in which they could be altered.
What this provides for is that - there is no ability right now to increase the number of seats in this Legislature. There is no way to do that. This broadens the mandate, so that there is a way to do that. The commission can look at numbers of seats. It's not a requirement that they do this. It gives the commission the flexibility to do this - to work within other acts and pieces of legislation.
Mr. Fentie: I take the member back to her quote from the Yukon Act. It talks about boundaries, names, so on and so forth - not numbers. We have today in the Yukon 17 ridings; electoral districts - 17 of them. There are exceptions out there. Old Crow, for example, is an exception that does not follow the rule of 25 percent, plus or minus.
There is good reason why Old Crow is an electoral district, a riding. I believe, Mr. Chair, that this warrants a lengthy discussion on allowing a commission to deal with numbers of ridings. I understand changing boundaries and that type of thing. However, when it comes to changing the number of seats in this territory, then we're dealing with fair representation for the people in this territory. And given the demographics here and how this territory breaks down population-wise, that's a big, big factor, especially in rural Yukon.
I would like to get from the minister some comfort in this area, because, being a rural MLA and coming from a rural community and having been in a rural community for many decades, I have experienced first-hand too many times how a centre like Whitehorse can dictate what goes on in the communities. In a lot of cases, it has a very negative impact.
Changing the number of ridings is at issue here. Why are we doing this? Why are we allowing a commission to change the number of seats in this Legislature?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I would love to give the member opposite comfort, and may I do so.
The last electoral district boundaries commission report made recommendations on this subject. The way it is written in 409 is to provide this section with clarity, to ensure the recommendation of the chief electoral officer, and that there be standing legislation for the establishment of an electoral district boundaries commission to review the area, boundaries and names of each of the existing - in legislative law, this is how that recommendation translates, clearly. And it is entirely acceptable with past practice. It was the 1991 electoral district boundaries commission that had section (d), recommendations, the number of electoral districts.
So, in terms of when the electoral district boundaries commission, which is broadened now to be a five-member as opposed to just a one-person show, as the previous legislation had it - this five-person commission can say the area of an electoral district should be X amount of size.
This provides them with the ability to do that. It's another way of doing area. There's no nefarious plot; there's no hidden agenda; there's nothing unforeseen in this. It's clearly written legislation that takes the recommendations of the chief electoral officer and puts it into law. That's what we've done here, and we've done it very consistently with past practice. We're not saying the commission has to deal with any of these issues. The commission may come back and say that the boundaries are fine. We're not prejudging it. We're opening the process, and we're asking members to participate.
Mr. Fentie:Well, nothing in what the minister has just related to this side of the House dealt with number. It dealt with boundaries, so on and so forth, but not number of ridings.
This amendment says "number". It says - and if I may quote the amendment just so we get a perspective here - "The function of a Commission is to review the existing electoral districts established under the Electoral District Boundaries Act and to make proposals to the Legislative Assembly as to the boundaries, number," - I emphasize "number" - "and names of the electoral districts of the Yukon". There is nothing in the act that alludes to the number. Today we have 17 ridings in the Yukon. We're reviewing the boundaries of 17 ridings. Now, would the minister explain how we get the number in the amendment when there's nothing in the original act that alludes to number. It's for the boundaries and the districts themselves, but not the number of seats in this Legislature.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: By discussing boundaries, we end up discussing numbers. I would refer the member opposite to the Electoral District Boundaries Commission report, 1991, which says, "Before proceeding with the task of drawing electoral boundaries, I had to consider", and he goes on to list a number of issues. The whole précis for this argument is section (d), the number of electoral districts, chapter 8 of the Electoral District Boundaries Commission.
Previous commissions have considered this. In considering boundaries, the subject of numbers comes up. Rather than say that you can talk about boundaries but you can't talk about numbers, we made it very simple and straightforward, saying your job to this five-member Yukon group talk about this issue. That's what we've asked them to do, and that's the responsibility we have charged them with. Later in the act are the parameters for how they do that.
Mr. Fentie: Okay, let's go at this another way. This commission could review electoral boundaries and change them and reflect the difference in population, if I may, in different electoral districts but not change the number of seats. What I'm driving at, Mr. Chair, is if we leave this amendment as is, this commission may very well come up with recommendations that are, for example, increasing the number of seats in Whitehorse and decreasing the number of seats in rural Yukon; and that simply is not fair representation in this Legislative Assembly. The issue is "number". They can review districts and electoral boundaries and change them, but right now we have 17 seats. Ten of them happen to be in Whitehorse. Seven of them are rural seats. The issue here is, are we going to have fewer seats in rural Yukon and more seats in Whitehorse? Would the minister explain, then, to this side of the House - she's shaking her head no - why she believes, from the way this amendment is written, that that scenario would not develop.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Because the commission has no ability to make that decision. It's not a decision-making body. Recommendations come back to the Legislature. They go out for public debate, and they're just recommendations. There's nothing - nothing - that says that the Government of Yukon, no matter who is sitting on this side of the House, is bound by this report.
All that we're bound by, as legislators, is to receive the report. It doesn't have to happen. We can say that we reject the report outright, and there's nothing in here - nothing - that says we couldn't end up with any scenario. All we're asking is that there are five, reasoned Yukoners to hear from the public and give us their advice as legislators. There's nothing that bounds us to that advice. There's nothing that binds us to it.
All we're asking is the ability to ask five Yukoners to go do this job, which the member opposite, I believe in his heart, sees the need for. And I would encourage him to step outside partisan politics and to think about this. This is needed - strongly needed - and voters throughout the territory will tell you that. They've certainly told us that. And what this does is to set up a boundary review. It sets it up well. It sets it up clearly. It sets it up so that it can function. And most importantly, it sets it up with respect to all members in this Legislature by saying that these are recommendations to the Legislature.
It respects the member opposite's responsibility and right to represent his constituents, just as each of us has that right and responsibility - just as every member here does. All we're asking them for are recommendations. That's all. And we're asking them to hear from the public and to consider certain things. We're asking them to consider the opinions of First Nation governments, and that's not in the act now. We fixed that with this amendment. I'd like the member to seriously give it some consideration. I believe it's well-written legislation.
Mr. Fentie: Well, I was born at night, but it wasn't last night. Now, I understand fully what's going on here. We have a government here that is solely represented in Whitehorse. We, over here, represent rural Yukon.
The issue is the number of seats. Now, we can talk in circles here until the cows come home, but the real issue in this amendment is the number of seats. Fair representation in this territory - that's what is at stake. Now, if more seats are added to Whitehorse because the recommendations of this commission say that's the way it should be, then what do we do with those recommendations as legislators? Sitting in this Assembly, are we just going to say, "Well, those are nice recommendations. We won't worry about those." No, we're going to act on those. That's the whole point of this exercise.
So, if this commission, with this amendment as it's written, comes back to change the number of seats in this territory and if that's the recommendation - I see a 10 to seven majority - we then change the number of seats, and we increase seats in Whitehorse and decrease seats in rural Yukon. We want to make sure that there is fair representation in this House and not by some commission that says, because of a 25-percent plus or minus rule, this is the way it's going to be.
That's not what this territory is about and that's why there is an exception for Old Crow, and that's why we have to discuss this here before this act passes. The question is the number of seats.
Will the minister provide an explanation of why they want a number in here? The existing clause just says the function of the commission is to make recommendations to the Legislative Assembly "as to the area, boundaries and names of electoral districts of the Yukon." It has nothing to do with number of seats.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I respect the member opposite's passion, because he seems to feel that there is some hidden agenda and ulterior motive on this side of the House. It doesn't matter what I stand on my feet and say, the member opposite will not respect the fact that I'm explaining over and over again that there is no hidden agenda. There's no ulterior motive, and I would invite the member to go back and examine the Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce representation to the boundary commission that involved Ms. Hayden, in 1984, I believe it was.
I wrote that representation, and the Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce argued absolutely, passionately, that there should be a representative and a single seat dedicated to the people of Old Crow.
I firmly believe that. I wrote it, I said it and I believe it. And I would invite the member to go and look at the record.
The member is asking why "number" is in there, and saying that somehow the Legislature is bound by those recommendations. If that is correct, I said to the member opposite that the Legislature is not bound by the recommendations.
In 1997, the chief electoral officer made a recommendation to this Legislature. The previous government did not follow it. The previous government did not choose to accept that recommendation. They had an 11-seat majority, and they chose not to respect that recommendation. There is nothing that binds this Legislature to the recommendations. It is only a report, and previous governments have denied those reports.
There's nothing to suggest that the commission may not come back and recommend that there be two seats for Klondike and two seats for Watson Lake. There's nothing to prevent that; there's nothing to promote it, either. There's no hidden agenda in this bill before the House.
Mr. Chair, in light of the time, I would move that you report progress on Bill No. 22.
Chair: It has been moved by Ms. Duncan that we do now report progress on Bill No. 22.
Motion agreed to
Ms. Tucker: I move that the Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Chair: It has been moved by Ms. Tucker 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 the Committee of the Whole?
Mr. McLarnon: The Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 22, An Act to Amend the Elections Act, and directed me to report progress on it.
Speaker: You have heard the report from the Chair of the Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: I declare the report carried.
Ms. Tucker: Mr. Speaker, I move that the House do now adjourn.
Speaker: It has been moved by the government House leader that the House do now adjourn.
Motion agreed to
Speaker: This House now stands adjourned until 1:00 p.m. tomorrow.
The House adjourned at 5:55 p.m.
The following Sessional Papers were tabled November 8, 2000:
Assessment subject to taxes or grant-in-lieu for Dawson; YTG municipal loans and related matters: letter (dated November 8, 2000) to Member for Klondike from Pat Duncan, Minister of Finance
Aeromax Loadstar: letter (dated May 17, 2000) to President and CEO, Aeromax Loadstar, from Pat Duncan, Premier, regarding consideration of Whitehorse as a site for an aircraft/aerospace manufacturing plant
The following Legislative Return was tabled November 8, 2000:
James E. Almstrom Contracts: copies of 3 contracts dated from April 18, 2000 to September 30, 2000
Oral, Hansard, p. 282