Whitehorse, Yukon

Monday, November 27, 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.



In recognition of Adopt a Family Christmas Drive

Mr. McLarnon: Mr. Speaker, I rise today to ask all members of this Assembly to join me in paying a tribute to the people and businesses that remember the true spirit of Christmas. "Peace on earth, good will to men" is truly the phrase that comes to mind when I think of the charity behind the Adopt a Family Christmas Drive that is now going into its seventh year.

Over the past six years, this organization has helped over 344 families, totalling over 1,725 people, by buying Christmas presents and trees for those who cannot afford them. Through cash donations and the generous assistance of Yukon businesses, there is always a hope of something under the tree for our less fortunate neighbours. Over the last six years, over $207,000 has been given in Christmas cheer through cash and donations from business in this city.

This organization donates both to urban and rural Yukon. This community effort has been completely dependent on its own volunteers and takes no administration fees and asks for no government involvement. The only government involvement I can attribute to them is that I donated my hair on Saturday night, in a fundraising effort, to put more money into the Christmas drive.

In recognizing the outcome of their generosity, we must recognize the volunteers who have been active throughout the year and over the last seven years to bring this about. When members of this House get a chance to meet Donna and Ed Isaak, they should shake their hands. Other people that deserve our recognition of thanks are Bobby Bazzet, Jackie Kuselt, Sandy Olynyk, Steve Robertson, as well as Doug Inglis. Special recognition should also go out to Vanier high school, which last year adopted 17 families and this year is striving to adopt 18 families.

Yes, Mr. Speaker, there is a Santa Claus. Thank you and season's greetings.

In remembrance of Alice LeLievre

Mr. Kent: It saddens me today to talk about the passing of one of our human links to the historic gold rush. Alice Grace Ruth LeLievre, whose father and other relatives came over the Chilkoot Pass in search of fame and fortune late last century, passed away last Thursday at age 85, after a short illness. Alice leaves behind four daughters and one son, Allan, who lives in my riding with his wife Lorie. She also leaves behind nine grandchildren and five great-grandchildren, three sisters and numerous nieces and nephews.

Alice was born in Dawson City in 1915. She later met her husband-to-be, Charles, in Dawson. The two married there and began raising a family. Until 1952, the couple owned and operated the Palace Grand Bakery and General Store. They moved to Whitehorse that year, and ran the army store at Camp Takhini until 1961, when Charles started up Whitehorse Beverages.

Alice and Charles owned and operated the soft-drink business until 1980, when they retired and moved to Nanaimo, B.C. Charles passed away in 1994. He was also a child of the gold rush, as his father and other relations also negotiated the Chilkoot in the late 1890s in search of Yukon riches.

Yukon pioneers are the salt of the earth in the Yukon. They made us what we are today. They set the groundwork for what we have today, and they deserve special recognition for all that they accomplished. Alice Grace Ruth LeLievre or Yukon Alice is one of those people, and I ask all members this Legislature and all Yukoners to join me in paying tribute to her.

Thank you.

Mr. Keenan: On behalf of the official opposition, I, too, rise to pay a tribute to Adopt a Family. As the holiday season approaches, many social agencies are working to alleviate the hardships experienced by those families who cannot afford to celebrate the holiday season throughout this country. In Yukon, over 100 families received support through Adopt a Family last year, and this year there are a number of fundraising activities to allow Yukon families to receive support this year. These include a celebrity waiter night, a breakfast with Santa, a comedy night, a jigs dinner evening, an auction and raffle. There also will be donation boxes around town. We urge all Yukoners who can afford to do so to support one or more of these events this holiday season. And we also want to recognize the important role of all those who work to ensure those who are less fortunate have a quality Christmas throughout their efforts in planning and implementing these events.

Thank you.

Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the Yukon Party caucus, I, too, would like to join with members in paying tribute to Adopt a Family. For the sixth consecutive year, the Adopt a Family program has helped cash-strapped families have a merrier Christmas in the territory. Each year, Yukon businesses come together to help raise money for deserving families who are trying to make ends meet but, for various reasons, are having a tough time. Throughout the month of December, several fundraisers are held in Whitehorse, in which funds raised from each event goes to the purchase of goods worth approximately $500, which are presented to each adopted family.

Since its inception, the number of adopted families has risen from approximately nine to well over 10 times that number in recent years. A huge thank you has to go out to Donna Isaak, who started the Adopt a Family program along with her husband Ed when they ran the lounge at the Bonanza Inn. Thanks to their hard work and efforts over the years, many more Yukon families are able to enjoy Christmas with toys, clothes, games, and enough food to see them through the holidays. Public support for the program has been very strong, and events such as the celebrity waiters event, in which people from all professions wait on tables, have been especially well-received.

For many families, this holiday season will be a tough one indeed in the Yukon. Thanks to the Adopt a Family program, however, more Yukon families will be able to celebrate and enjoy Christmas without having to carry the burden of worries as to how to make ends meet through the holidays. The Adopt a Family program initiative is a great one, and I am pleased to take this opportunity to recognize and thank everyone involved in helping to make the holiday season a memorable one.

Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

Speaker: If there are no further tributes, we'll continue to introduction of visitors.

Are there any returns or documents for tabling?


Hon. Mr. Roberts: Mr. Speaker, I'd like to table the statement of revenue and expenditures for the health care insurance programs, health services branch.

Speaker: If there are no further documents for tabling, are there any reports of committees?

Are there any petitions?

Are there any bills to be introduced?

Are there any 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 Yukon faces severe economic hardships as a result of the Liberal Government's failure to provide leadership to improve the Yukon economy; and

(2) The Liberal Government's refusal to commit to continuing popular and successful programs such as the Community Development Fund, Fire Smart, the Trade and Investment Fund and the Tourism Marketing Fund is adding to economic uncertainty by failing to create badly needed jobs this winter; and

(3) The Liberal Government has been in a strong financial position from the beginning of its term, inheriting an accumulated surplus of $64 million from the previous government; and

(4) In spite of the obvious need, the Liberal Government tabled a supplementary budget that will leave a healthy accumulated surplus at the end of this fiscal year, yet failed to address the employment needs of Yukon people this winter; and

THAT this House urges the Yukon Government to follow the lead shown by the Official Opposition, and immediately introduce a supplementary budget to spend at least $7 million on winter works and training initiatives through both new and established programs, as well as to extend and increase the benefits available to older Yukon people through the Pioneer Utility Grant.

Mr. Fentie:I give notice of the following motion:

THAT it is the opinion of this House that:

(1) construction of a natural gas pipeline from Alaska through the Yukon, following what is known as the Alaska Highway route, could provide substantial economic benefits to Yukon people in the future; and

(2) the Yukon Government has a responsibility to ensure that Yukon workers and businesses will derive the maximum benefit possible from such as pipeline, in both the short and long terms; and

(3) the Yukon Government also has a duty to ensure that the rights, needs and wishes of Yukon people are fully respected at all stages of development and maintenance of such a pipeline; and

(4) it is in the best interests of all Yukon people for federal, territorial and First Nations governments to begin working without delay to address issues such as land use and access, social impacts, environmental protection, job training and employment agreements; and

THAT this House urges the Yukon Government, in concert with the federal and First Nations governments, to establish a high-level, properly-funded, intergovernmental task force to address these issues in a comprehensive manner, including public consultations with Yukon people as required.

Mr. Jenkins:I give notice of the following motion:

THAT it is the opinion of this House that the Government of Yukon work with communities to develop and implement a standardized water testing program to ensure that the potable water supply is safe in Yukon.

Speaker: Are there any further notices of motion?

Are there any statements by ministers?


Protected areas strategy process review

Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to advise the House and bring all members up to date on this government's policy to review the Yukon protected areas strategy process. Work is now in progress to review the Yukon protected areas strategy process and the manner in which the strategy is to be implemented in the future.

We have established a steering committee made up of senior officials from the Yukon government departments, as well as from federal and First Nations governments to coordinate the Yukon protected areas strategy implementation review for goal 1 protected areas.

As part of our review policy, we have asked the YPAS Public Advisory Committee to reconvene to assist with this new review. Stakeholders, who were represented on the original committee, have been invited to participate. First Nations will also be asked to provide recommendations on refinements to the YPAS process.

We have gone outside of the government to obtain the services of an independent consultant, who will be working with the advisory committee to provide recommendations to the Yukon government. The steering committee is drafting an implementation review paper to present to the advisory committee, so that they have a starting point. They will review the paper, discuss those options and others, and make recommendations to this government.

The implementation review paper will address three major questions that have been asked in the past: how should we prepare resource ecological and socio-economic value assessments for an area to be protected; how should we legislate the strategy itself, and what should we do to clarify roles and responsibilities needed to implement the YPAS process fairly and transparently.

It is our goal that this review will help build the public's confidence in the YPAS process. We will not begin any new goal 1 public planning initiatives identified under this strategy until this review has been completed; however, we will continue our planning work on goal 2 initiatives, such as wetlands and habitat protection areas, as outlined in the strategy.

The government is committed to providing a clear process that will balance protected areas with responsible development, this being one of our platform commitments. We recognize that conflicting land issues will always exist, but by following the Yukon protected areas strategy, informed decisions about land use can be made. We will continue to work in partnership with stakeholder groups, industry, communities and the public to ensure we have a strategy that will benefit all Yukoners.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. McRobb: Well, it has been more than half a year since this minister obtained this very important portfolio of the Department of Renewable Resources, and we've seen very little in the way of action. This ministerial statement today certainly doesn't qualify as a ministerial statement in terms of substance. It probably doesn't even qualify as a press release. Yet this Liberal government considers it to be a high enough priority to put ahead of the economic needs of Yukoners.

Now, the first step outlined by the Premier in her throne speech was to prepare an options paper on three areas for the advisory committee. It was quite clear from her Speech from the Throne that this options paper was already being worked on at that time. But it still isn't finished. What has the minister and this government accomplished?

For all intents and purposes, the Yukon protected areas strategy has been shelved. There is no certainty for either the development community or the environmental community. There is no message to stakeholders. There is only confusion, Mr. Speaker, and plenty of ambiguous statements on behalf of this government on where they stand. There is no message for Yukoners. Everything is on hold. Cancel, review, delay - it's the Liberal way.

All I get from this ministerial statement is that this minister has taken seven months to finally get this review rolling. The YPAS Public Advisory Committee is being reconvened. Does this mean that the entire strategy is under review?

What assurances can the minister give to ensure this won't occur, and who is the independent consultant? This ministerial statement is very short on substance and details. What is the makeup of the advisory board? What are the terms of reference for the advisory committee? What are the timelines of the review? If it took seven months just to set it up, Mr. Speaker, how long will it take before recommendations finally come out of this advisory committee, and how much longer after that before this government gets around to dealing with them? When can we expect this strategy to be entrenched in legislation? Will there be any goal 1 protected areas established before the legislation is created? Why are there no goal 1 protected areas being worked on at this time?

There are lots of questions to be answered, and this ministerial statement certainly doesn't answer any of them. The process is stalled, and so is this government's ability to move forward on the strategy and create protected areas that Yukoners can be proud of. We owe it to both the development community and the environment community to get this review done as quickly as possible.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Jenkins: The Yukon protected areas strategy is one of the major reasons why mining exploration and development in the Yukon has reached an all-time low. The protected areas strategy process has been so fundamentally abused that the minister is going to have a very tough time trying to get the mining industry and other resource developers involved in the process again. The reinstatement of the YPAS Public Advisory Committee, comprised of representatives of the original stakeholders, will likely produce similar results. The mining and resource industries are going to be totally outnumbered and will be reluctant to have their voices drowned out yet again. It has been said, "Once burned, twice shy," Mr. Speaker.

While the protected areas strategy was supposed to be based on the concept of multiple use, in practice this has not been the case. The protected areas strategy and land claims have both been used to create territorial parks with the total exclusion of any and all development. If the Yukon government wants to create a territorial park, it should use the territorial Parks Act, not secretive land claims talks or the protected areas strategy. The Yukon simply cannot afford to have the 23 goal 1 ecoregions protected through the creation of massive territorial parks, as happened with the Fishing Branch and the Tombstone areas.

At present, there are three national parks in the Yukon: Kluane, Ivvavik and Vuntut, with a fourth being planned for Wolf Lake in the Teslin area. Territorial parks have been created for Herschel Island, Tombstone and Fishing Branch. The mining and resource sector is becoming increasingly concerned as more and more land is being withdrawn from all development.

In his response, I'd like the minister to state how much land within the Yukon is going to be withdrawn from development. Will it be 40 percent? Will it be 50 percent? Will it be 60 percent? What is the figure, Mr. Speaker?

These are the questions the resource sector wants to have answered, rather than the question the minister has posed. Developers want to know: if they invest millions of dollars finding a mineral deposit, will they be able to develop that deposit within fair, responsible and reasonable environmental laws and regulations in a timely process? They want to have access to proper permitting procedures that won't keep the project tied up for three, four or five years. They would like to see the protected areas strategy enshrined in legislation and embody the concept of multiple use so that resource development and environmental protection can be achieved.

These are the issues that the minister should be addressing. They aren't addressed in this ministerial statement. Until they are, the Yukon economy is going to continue to decline and Yukoners will continue to leave the Yukon to find work and a future elsewhere.

Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Thank you, Mr. Speaker, and thank you for the comments from the opposition.

First of all, it was as a result of the NDP's interference with the YPAS process that it is now up to this government to set the record straight and provide appropriate guidelines, through the appropriate consultation with those people who put it together in the first place. We are referring only to goal 1 areas that are being proposed. The Member for Kluane did have a number of questions, which have been previously answered by me, on timelines for the review process. The Member for Klondike is absolutely right. The NDP, in implementing the process and usurping the appropriate guidelines steps in implementing goal 1 protected areas, did scare away the mining community. I have met with the mining industry directly through several series of meetings, as well as the Premier, to assure them that we want their input in the review. They are willing to come back and participate in the discussions, as well as other industry sectors that will be evident in the advisory committee.

The process as it is to occur now, Mr. Speaker, is that the options paper will be presented to Cabinet very shortly. The department has done an excellent job in putting this option paper together. Cabinet will review the paper and then the Premier and I will be attending a meeting with the YPAS Public Advisory Committee during the early part of next year. In early December, the documents will be sent out for review by all stakeholders. That will give them adequate time during the Christmas season, as well as a short period in January, to have a good look at the content of the options paper before the Premier and I convene the advisory committee for a couple-day workshop.

We will be working hard to see this process fixed. We do want to restore the confidence of the public and industry in this government. We will ensure that the process is open and transparent.

The mining industry has raised concerns about how badly the NDP mismanaged the process. It is one of the reasons why exploration dollars are low, and the Member for Klondike is right on that fact.

Fixing the damage by the NDP is part of our plan to rebuild the Yukon economy. The mining industry is vital to this territory - we recognize that - but we know that doing the protected areas strategy is right and necessary to bring investment back to this territory.

Thank you.

Speaker: This then brings us to Question Period.


Question re: Alaska Highway pipeline, government preparedness

Mr. Fentie: Mr. Speaker, my question today is for the Premier in her capacity as Minister of Economic Development. Under repeated questioning in this House recently in regard to what this Liberal government is doing to ensure that Yukoners maximize their benefits from the pipeline project, should it happen, and that we don't compromise the environment, the Premier's only answers have been that we are aggressively promoting the pipeline and that there are existing agreements.

Beyond stating the obvious, what Yukoners want to know is this: what is this government doing to ready this territory and its people to ensure that we do maximize our benefits, both in the short term and the long term, and that we are not compromising the environment with this possible megaproject?

Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, I thank the member opposite for the question. It's interesting to note that one day the NDP supports the Alaska Highway pipeline, the next day they don't, and then the next day they aren't sure. However, the member is quite consistent in wanting to know what the government is doing.

As the member is well aware, there is additional money in the supplementary budget that augments the pipeline unit and that there is existing work going on in the pipeline unit. We have environmental liaison underway, as well as engineering contracts. As well, the director is actively coordinating our efforts in terms of lobbying for the route and laying out a game plan for Yukon's preparedness.

If the member would like a more detailed briefing, I am certain that we'll get into that as we are discussing the supplementary budget which contains these funds.

Mr. Fentie: Well, same old again - saying that the NDP doesn't know what they are going to do about the pipeline project, so on and so forth. But I would point out again that, once this project became a reality again after 20-plus years, because of the price of crude oil and natural gas, the NDP government was the first one to trigger the very initiatives that the Premier speaks of today. Today the Alaskans are making ready; they are actively pursuing, within the State of Alaska, initiatives that will address environmental issues immediately and up front that will ensure that they maximize their benefits right up to management of this project and beyond. Northwest Territories is making themselves ready by putting a substantial amount of money toward training.

Mr. Speaker, what is this Premier - this Liberal government - doing on the ground today to address some of these issues for Yukoners? We so far have heard nothing but, "We are going to aggressively promote the pipeline and these agreements are in place." What is this government doing to address those issues that Yukoners are concerned about?

Hon. Ms. Duncan: First of all, according to the NDP, in their own words, "The Alaska Highway pipeline was a far-off dream and a big black hole." As of November 23 in this Legislature, Mr. Fentie, the hon. Member for Watson Lake, started promoting the Mackenzie Delta route and never ceases to compare the Yukon with the Northwest Territories. The fact is that this government is working very hard on behalf of Yukoners. In terms of selection of the Alaska Highway route, there are four key players - three of the four are now on side. We are working hard on getting the fourth, and determination of the Alaska Highway as a project. In terms of preparedness in the Yukon, there is additional monies in the supplementary budget. There is a pipeline unit which consists of individuals who are working on the environmental context, the engineering context, as well as, in the overall oil and gas unit of Economic Development, individuals working on coordinating training programs with the First Nations and the Yukon College to ensure Yukoners' readiness. We are working very hard on this particular project as well as other oil and gas initiatives, and we will continue to do so.

Mr. Fentie: Well, I'm crushed that the Premier would think that we're promoting the Mackenzie line, and the Premier knows better. What we've stated in this House is that the Mackenzie line and the Northwest Territories are getting ready, and there are millions of dollars being spent there. In fact, Mr. Speaker, there are Yukoners over there right now working on pipeline construction and rights-of-way. That's happening right now in the Northwest Territories.

So let's get down to the brass tacks. Will this Liberal government immediately - immediately, Mr. Speaker - convene a high-level, properly funded intergovernmental task force to address the issues that are so important to Yukoners, and that will ensure that we maximize our benefits, short-term and long-term, and that we do not compromise our environment. Will the Premier commit to that today in this House?

Hon. Ms. Duncan: Well, Mr. Speaker, it's fascinating how the member likes to think and mix his messages. The real message is that the NDP, both territorially and federally, clearly do not support these major economic initiatives, and once we've made that public, they've been back-pedalling ever since.

Mr. Speaker, in Yellowknife as recently as November 23, on CBC radio, a representative from West Coast Energy, who is one of the owners of Foothills Pipe Lines, said that their conclusion is that there are two great Canadian projects that produce tremendous benefits for Canadians, and the industry needs both of them. Here's a great case where two pipelines are better than one, which is what I've been saying.

Mr. Speaker, this government has seriously augmented the pipeline unit budget. We've added $600,000 to the measly $100,000 the previous government had put in. That $600,000 is being spent on aggressively promoting the Alaska Highway route, as well as coordinating our efforts, re-examining environmental as well as socio-economic issues. We are also working at the federal level in several assistant deputy minister committee meetings that are dealing with pipeline issues on a national basis. We have made representations to that committee on no less than two occasions. We will continue to work hard on this issue, and we will work effectively for Yukoners.

Question re: Contracts with government, sole sourcing

Mr. Fairclough: I am hoping that the Premier will be able to listen carefully and answer this question.

Earlier, the government tabled the Government Services contract registry that purports to list all government contracts from April 1 to September 30. There are several discrepancies between this list and the electronic list on the department's Web site. The printed registry for the Executive Council Office lists no fewer than 83 general service contracts for the first six months of this year. Every single one of those contracts was sole sourced.

Can the Premier tell us if this Liberal government plans to sole source all ECO contracts, and how this creates a level playing field?

Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite is referring to contracts issued in the first six months of this year. Well, in the first six months of this year, we were only in office for two of them.

Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Speaker, the Premier is not answering the question. It was a very simple one and I can't see how she could be sidetracked from it at all.

There are many interesting contracts on the books for the Executive Council Office, and I'd like to ask the Premier about one of them. It's a sole-source contract for $8,800 to Jayme Aylward Consulting for research from May 6 to August 30. Did that research contract include writing the Liberal propaganda letters to the editor during this time, and will the minister provide a copy?

Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, caucus and Cabinet offices are entirely within order to be issuing contracts to individuals and hiring individuals. We didn't tell the NDP, when they became government, whom to hire, and we didn't make accusations about them on the floor of the House. The minister has asked a question about what the details of Mr. Aylward's work included, and I can advise the member opposite that it included, as is stated on the contract, research work.

Mr. Fairclough: I was hoping the Premier could show some patience here. According to the City of Whitehorse, Jayme Aylward Consulting doesn't hold a business licence, which is supposed to be a government requirement. Neither does Alastair Campbell, who picked up his sole-source contract, through Executive Council Office, on October 27, 2000. This $30,000 contract is for MLA research, which surely should be going through the Legislative Assembly budget and not Executive Council Office.

The Yukon phone book doesn't list any Alastair Campbell; perhaps he's the expert who was brought in to give the Liberal MLAs a workshop on dealing with the media.

For the Premier: and listen carefully, will the Premier tell us why Mr. Campbell's contract was billed to Executive Council Office rather than through the Legislative Assembly, and will she provide a copy?

Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, will the member opposite listen carefully. Mr. Allistar Campbell is contracted to do some work for the government out of the Ottawa office. If the member has a charge about an individual who has received a contract, or a question about a specific contract - the Executive Council Office, Mr. Speaker, is whom we should contract to do work out of the Ottawa office.

Question re: Water testing

Mr. Jenkins: I have a question today for the Minister of Community and Transportation Services. Canadians and Yukoners alike have virtually taken for granted the fact that we have clear, clean drinking water. That was until the Walkerton, Ontario outbreak, which killed almost 16 people, and Yukoners were still under the belief that a Walkerton situation couldn't happen here in the Yukon, until a water advisory was issued for Watson Lake, on November 23, 2000.

Now, it appears from media reports that Watson Lake tests its water for faecal coliform - a bacteria count - once a month; whereas Dawson City performs the same test twice a month. Can the minister advise the House if there is a standard water-testing program for all Yukon communities, and why is there a discrepancy in the amount of testing?

Hon. Ms. Buckway: Municipalities test water on a regular basis. The municipalities choose how often that testing is done. That is my understanding.

In the case of Watson Lake, the preliminary test for E.coli and coliform are negative. The first 24-hour test on samples that were sent to Alberta are negative. We're waiting the complete 48 hours to be conclusive about those samples sent to Alberta.

Department officials have decided not to lift the water advisory in Watson Lake until the results from the samples sent to Alberta are conclusive, and there have been no further complaints of gastric upset in Watson Lake.

Mr. Jenkins: Well, the minister is wrong. It's not the communities that set the amount of water testing. She might talk to the Minister of Renewable Resources, who might have an understanding of it through his involvement in the water boards.

It is set. It is established. In fact, the only test that's carried out daily is the amount of chlorine in the water. From there, the tests for bacteria are done on an irregular basis, and it varies.

Now, why isn't there a standard procedure in place? Why isn't there a lab here in the Yukon that is able to conduct these tests?

Hon. Ms. Buckway: Since the Walkerton, Ontario situation arose, there has been much discussion of water testing in the Yukon. We are always working toward improving it.

Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, I am amazed - much discussion, no action. In the Yukon, we are regulated to perform a whole series of tests on the effluent discharge. We spend more money testing the discharged water than we do testing to ensure that our potable water is safe. Now, when it the minister going to address this area?

Labs are used in Fairbanks. Labs are used in Alberta. We don't have an adequate and consistent testing application. The only test that is done on a continuing basis by the municipal governments is to test for the chlorine levels in the water. However, there isn't a test that's consistently applied across the Yukon's potable water supply. Why not? All the minister can say is that there's much discussion going on. This is serious, Mr. Speaker.

I would urge the minister to address her responsibilities very, very quickly in this regard to safeguard the health of Yukoners.

Hon. Ms. Buckway: Because it is a serious matter, there is discussion going on. Conditions of a water licence, I'll remind the member, are a federal responsibility. A local water-testing lab is something that has been discussed, and the possibility of that is being looked at. We take the quality of our drinking water very seriously, Mr. Speaker.

Question re: Community development fund, continuation of

Mr. Fentie: My question is for the Minister of Economic Development. This territory's economy is now under this Liberal watch - devastated. There is no mining, no forestry; there's nothing happening in oil and gas either, other than some small investment compared to other jurisdictions. The pipeline project is a maybe, somewhere in the future. We need something now.

For over half a year, we've urged this government to put money into the community development fund for job creation. It targets money to where it is needed. Now we find out that this Liberal government has suddenly found a quarter of a million dollars for community development fund projects.

Will the minister now retract her statements about the community development fund money all being pre-spent and admit that she had lapsed funds to work with from the previous year. Will she do so?

Hon. Ms. Duncan: This is not new money. Earlier this year, we told Yukoners that we would give fair consideration to community development fund projects that were received by the August 15 deadline. That's what we've done. Some projects did not spend all the money that was previously approved under the previous government.

Money had been returned from other projects that didn't go ahead. We took that money, which was voted by this House, for the community development fund, and that's where it was spent.

Mr. Fentie: Well, this government, upon taking office, has lots of money, and it still does. And, in its cold-hearted, stubborn approach to governing this territory, it's forcing Yukoners to face hardships that they don't have to face. It takes a little leadership from this Premier and this minister. The claim was that the money has been all pre-spent, and we know there's lots of money. This government has merely made a political choice in standing down on the community development fund and helping Yukoners this winter. Will the minister, given the fact that there's lots of money in the bank, now commit to revote the full amount of unspent community development fund, tourism marketing fund, and trade and investment fund money and top up these programs with additional funding to create work this winter for Yukoners who so desperately need it?

Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, will the member opposite recognize the fact that when we took office, because the NDP hadn't budgeted enough money, hadn't paid all their bills, and after we paid the bills and passed the NDP budget, we were left with a $33-million deficit. That's the reality of the situation.

We were also left in a situation with respect to the community development fund where the money had been previously spent by the government. We also had a number of people who had worked very hard on applications, submitted them up to August 15. We said to them, "If the other projects don't spend all their money, we'll allocate it." I do understand this issue, Mr. Speaker. I understand very well that we have issues that need to be dealt with.

Mr. Speaker, I'm trying to address the member opposite's question. The member opposite needs to recognize that the kind of spending that was put forward by the NDP was unsustainable. There was a $33-million deficit that we're dealing with. We're trying to take the best of the programs and make them better. In the meantime, for this fiscal year, the money has been spent. And we're working on the big issues of our economy.

Mr. Fentie: Spin, spin, spin. This Liberal government is spinning out of control and taking this territory with it. Mr. Speaker, the Liberals are working on one issue, and that's a maybe - the pipeline. Furthermore, the Premier and the ministers claim that there was no money, but the Auditor General has brought down his findings - a $64-million surplus. There's lots of money.

Mr. Speaker, Yukoners need work today. Yukoners need to put food on their table. Christmas is coming. There are families that can't even afford to buy presents for their children. There's no reason for this with the kind of money that this government is sitting on.

Mr. Speaker, with her Finance hat on, will the minister follow the official opposition's lead, immediately introduce a supplementary budget with at least $7 million in it for job creation this winter, and help these people out? This is a priority. We need to help Yukoners out this winter.

Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, with my Finance minister hat on, I can advise the member opposite that there is $7.2 million in the supplementary before this House for a key, number one priority of Yukoners, which is health care.

We understand the Yukon economy needs help. Yukoners have understood that for the last four years under an NDP government that did nothing. There is a $33-million deficit this year. The Auditor General has recognized that as well, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, there's no question that we committed to Yukoners to rebuild the Yukon economy, and that's what we're doing - rebuilding the Yukon economy after four years of NDP economic devastation. It's going to take longer than six months.

Question re: Fire smart program

Mr. McRobb: Well, that's not what the Auditor General says.

My question is also for the Minister of Economic Development. Earlier in this Liberal government's term, the Village of Haines Junction submitted an application to the fire smart program. The project was approved but the government later reversed its decision and cancelled it. Can the minister explain why she backtracked on this, and how many jobs were lost?

Hon. Ms. Duncan: I did not backtrack on any fire smart applications. There was no call for fire smart applications this year. Haines Junction and three other communities submitted applications under the community development fund for fire smart. There were no fire smart applications called for this year, and furthermore, the NDP had spent all the money.

Mr. McRobb: Well, the minister is wrong, Mr. Speaker. I challenge her to look in her pile of briefing notes and get the right answer to this question.

There have been many success stories through the community development fund and the fire smart program. Hundreds of jobs have been created through the fire smart program. This has given much-needed employment to Yukoners as well as making communities safer from wild fires. Will the minister provide a full list of applications to the fire smart program, along with a status report on each approval during the past seven months?

Hon. Ms. Duncan: I have already committed to the member's interim leader that I would supply this House with a list of all of the community development fund applications that were dealt with prior to this government taking office and since this government took office on May 6. That information will be made available to the members opposite. I expect to be able to have it for the members opposite tomorrow, with respect to the community development fund.

Now, with regard to the fire smart, the Member for Riverdale South and I have stood on that side of the House and this side of the House over and over and over again and expressed our support for this fire smart program. The difficulty is - and the member should pay close attention and look through his briefing notes for this - the NDP spent all the money before we got to office.

Mr. McRobb: Well, the member is wrong. We didn't spend all the money. The Auditor General proved it by tabling his report indicating that there is a $64-million surplus and this government doesn't have the compassion to cough up even a half a million for the fire smart program. It is shameful.

Rural Yukon is suffering from the lack of compassion demonstrated by this Liberal government. Throughout the Yukon, jobs are disappearing and this government has refused support to valuable programs such as fire smart, despite sitting on a $64-million surplus.

Last week, we tabled a document that showed that this government could easily afford to invest $1 million in the fire smart program. Will the Premier set aside her right-wing agenda and do the right thing for Yukon people by putting some money into job creation through fire smart this winter?

Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, will the Member for Kluane set aside his rhetoric and recognize the fact that the Auditor General has also recognized that there is a deficit budget? There is a $33-million deficit and that kind of spending, as tabled under the NDP, is completely unsustainable.

We have recognized that particularly the fire smart program has some very admirable qualities. There are some very key ingredients to that program that we would like to see continue. However, for this fiscal year - thanks to the NDP who went spending crazy in their last short period in office, April 1 to 17, spending $2.5 million - we don't have the money to put into fire smart, until we start dealing with next year's budget.

Question re: Ross River school demolition

Mr. Keenan: Mr. Speaker, today I have a question for the Minister of Education.

Recently, the Education department decommissioned an old school in Ross River and they authorized its demolition. Now, Mr. Speaker, this is despite a 200-signature petition from the community to look at other uses and other issues for this building.

Now, there have been some concerns raised about how the department disposed of the many materials from the school. Can the minister confirm that a considerable amount of material that could have been recycled was simply taken to the community dump and burned?

Can the minister confirm that, please?

Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Speaker, this particular subject is the responsibility now of the Minister of Government Services, and I will have to confer with him in order to get a fair and equitable answer to the member opposite.

Mr. Keenan: Well, Mr. Speaker, I'm absolutely appalled that that is the case, because last week that wasn't the case. It was the Department of Education that led and bungled this within the community. So, Mr. Speaker, I cannot take that for an answer.

Earlier in this Question Period, there was some grandstanding - or grandstaging, as the Member for Porter Creek North likes to say - about the environment and what we're doing about the environment and fixing the damage. Well, Mr. Speaker, I say that the government does have blinders for the immediate future and only looks to the far distant future - in the macro, not the micro - as opposed to what is happening right now. I'm sure that a lot of the people in Ross River, in the Yukon, who voted in the last election in support of the opposite side, thought they were getting a government that believed in the 3Rs. Now, according to the local folks in Ross River, this is reusable material, which includes computer tables; it includes clothing; it includes windows, lumber, boilers -

Speaker: Order please. Would the member please get to the question.

Mr. Keenan: Absolutely, Mr. Speaker. Electric heating systems. Again, can the minister explain why this material was not made available to people in the community, as was their desire, and how this action reflects this government's environmental objective?

Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Again, this is an issue that is not within the jurisdiction of the Department of Education. It is under Government Services, and they are looking after the aspects to which the member opposite's questioning should be directed. As I indicated in my previous answer, I'd be more than willing to provide a written response to the member opposite on his questions.

Mr. Keenan: Certainly, Mr. Speaker, I deserve an answer, and certainly the people of Ross River deserve an answer, whether it's written or oral, and again I'm absolutely surprised that the Minister of Education, who is also the Minister of Renewable Resources, is not briefed on this.

Just last week, in the minister's absence - pardon me. I'm not allowed to refer to an absence. Just last week, Mr. Speaker, the Premier stood on her feet and referred - if you'd like a briefing, then we can give that to you. Yet here we have, on a microproject, the Liberal government again breaking the rules.

Mr. Speaker, there was enough material in there to frame as many as 12 residential structures that are badly needed in that community. We could have even provided wood for home heating. We could have done so many things, yet it was crushed, moved to the dump, lit and burned.

Mr. Speaker, I'd like the minister to first accept that there was a booboo - if I may say it in that light - and that he will commit to working with the other departments to ensure that every effort is made to salvage those reusable materials and future demolition projects? Will the minister give that commitment on behalf of his caucus?

Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Yes, Mr. Speaker.

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



Bill No. 22: Third Reading

Acting Deputy Clerk: Third reading, Bill No. 22, standing in the name of the hon. Ms. Duncan.

Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, I move that Bill No. 22, entitled An Act to Amend the Elections Act, be now read a third time and do pass.

Speaker: It has been moved by the Premier that Bill No. 22, entitled An Act to Amend the Elections Act, be now read a third time and do pass.

Mr. Jenkins: For the record, the passage of this bill is long overdue. Yukon's electoral boundaries should have been amended long before the April 2000 territorial election. It is ironic that we're only giving third reading of this bill today, the very day that we're holding a by-election in Faro.

There are 248 Faroites listed on the voters list, and they will be going to the polls to elect an MLA, whereas ridings such as Mount Lorne and Whitehorse West have over 1,500 and 2,000 electors respectively. There is no way that Yukon's present electoral boundaries would be found valid if they were challenged in court. Unlike other jurisdictions in Canada, the fundamental right of Yukoners to one person and one vote is being seriously eroded.

I cannot blame the situation on the current government and commend them for acting so quickly to rectify this serious problem. I thank them for accepting my amendment on the makeup of the electoral boundaries commission and look forward to the commission coming up with recommendations on electoral boundaries that will ensure a proper balance between rural and urban ridings without adding more government, while respecting the fundamental rights of Yukoners to one person, one vote.

Mr. Fairclough:This is a very important bill that is going through this House and passed by the majority Liberal government. We have had so many questions on this particular bill, questions about fairness and fair representation for Yukoners. We believe that what has been presented here does not address fair representation to all Yukoners.

Mr. Speaker, I believe that the questions that we had asked in this House in that regard were fair, and we did not get proper answers to them. We again tried to amend the bill to reflect a more fair process for the communities, and it was voted down by this Liberal government, and we will not be supporting the bill, Mr. Speaker.

Speaker: If the member now speaks, she will close debate. Does any other member wish to be heard?

Hon. Ms. Duncan:I'm pleased to rise to speak, for the final time, with respect to these amendments to the Elections Act. This is a historic act for the Yukon and for the democratic process in the Yukon.

With these amendments, the Yukon will have a truly representative electoral district boundaries commission that Yukoners can trust. All the parties in the Legislature will be entitled to nominate people to sit on the commission.

Concerns were raised by the members opposite that this commission would somehow disadvantage rural Yukon. I would like to respond to suggesting that there is ample opportunity to nominate rural Yukoners to sit on the commission. I hope they do.

The bill was based on the recommendations of the chief electoral officer of the Yukon - an impartial official, whom we all respect and who is also a member of the Electoral District Boundaries Commission. I am confident that we have captured his recommendations in the bill, and I am confident that the new commission will do a conscientious and thorough job when they canvass Yukoners for their views on electoral boundaries. I look forward to seeing and debating their report in the future.

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: Disagree.

Mr. Fentie: Disagree.

Mr. Keenan: Disagree.

Mr. McRobb: Disagree.

Ms. Netro: Disagree.

Mr. Jenkins: Agree.

Acting Deputy Clerk: Mr. Speaker, the yeas are nine, the nays are five.

Speaker: The ayes have it. I declare the motion carried.

Motion for third reading of Bill No. 22 agreed to

Speaker: I declare that Bill No. 22 has passed this House.

Bill No. 28: Third Reading

Acting Deputy Clerk: Third reading, Bill No. 28, standing in the name of the hon. Ms. Duncan.

Hon. Ms. Duncan: I move that Bill No. 28, entitled An Act to Amend the Income Tax Act, be now read a third time and do pass.

Speaker: It has been moved by the Premier that Bill No. 28, entitled An Act to Amend the Income Tax Act, be now read a third time and do pass.

Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Speaker, we certainly support the amendments to the Income Tax Act. And I'd like to thank all the staff in the departments out there who have put a lot of time into this and others, like the Chamber of Commerce and Chamber of Mines, who had input into the creation of these amendments. It is certainly an NDP initiative and I thank the members and the government opposite for carrying out that good work.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Speaker: If the Premier now speaks, she will close debate. Does any other member wish to be heard?

Hon. Ms. Duncan: I believe that the Member for Mayo-Tatchun was referring to a subsequent bill that makes reference to a reduction in taxes and extends an increase as the mineral exploration tax credit. This bill simply keeps Income Tax Act current with the federal act, and it's something we must do periodically, Mr. Speaker, if we do wish to remain a part of the tax collection agreement with Canada, which we do.

Many portions of this bill simply modify our act to reflect the creation of the Canada Customs and Revenue Agency. The remaining ones are consequential amendments to reflect federal definition changes and other modifications.

So, Mr. Speaker, Bill No. 28 is simply the amendments required by the federal legislation and the federal tax collection agreement.

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.

Acting Deputy Clerk: The yeas are 14; nays zero.

Speaker: The ayes have it.

Motion for third reading of Bill No. 28 agreed to

Speaker: I declare that Bill No. 28 has passed the House.

Bill No. 29: Third Reading

Acting Deputy Clerk: Third reading, Bill No. 29, standing in the name of the hon. Ms. Duncan.

Hon. Ms. Duncan: I move that Bill No. 29, entitled the Electronic Commerce Act, be now read a third time and do pass.

Speaker: It has been moved by the Premier that Bill No. 29, entitled Electronic Commerce Act, be now read a third time and do pass.

Motion for third reading of Bill No. 29 agreed to

Speaker: I declare that Bill No. 29 has passed this House.

Bill No. 30: Third Reading

Acting Deputy Clerk: Third reading, Bill No. 30, standing in the name of the hon. Ms. Duncan.

Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, I move that Bill No. 30, entitled the Electronic Evidence Act, be now read a third time and do pass.

Speaker: It has been moved by the Premier that Bill No. 30, entitled Electronic Evidence Act, be now read a third time and do pass.

Motion for third reading of Bill No. 30 agreed to

Speaker: I declare that Bill No. 30 has passed this House.

Bill No. 32: Third Reading

Acting Deputy Clerk: Third reading, Bill No. 32, standing in the name of the hon. Ms. Duncan.

Hon. Ms. Duncan: I move that Bill No. 32, entitled the Municipal Loans Act, be now read a third time and do pass.

Speaker: It has been moved by the Premier that Bill No. 32, entitled Municipal Loans Act, be now read a third time and do pass.

Mr. Jenkins:I felt I must rise and speak to this bill at third reading, Mr. Speaker, because the concerns I raised about this bill at second reading still stand. While the Premier has presented this bill as a housekeeping bill, the people in the communities know differently.

This new Liberal government, like the federal Liberal government in Ottawa, has adopted a policy of downloading financial responsibility onto the junior jurisdictions - in this case, to the backs of municipal governments. Whereas previous Yukon governments were prepared and took it upon themselves to cost share major projects on an 85:15 split, the position of the new Liberal government appears to be to encourage the communities to go and borrow the money that previously they would have received from the Yukon government.

The Premier can still deny this all she wants, but this is the reality that many Yukon communities are facing today. In light of the season, Mr. Speaker, what we have is a Minister of Finance, a Premier, who dresses like Santa and behaves like Scrooge.

The Yukon government is protected against going into debt by the Yukon Taxpayer Protection Act. The communities have no such provisions, Mr. Speaker. The debt load that they will be assuming is almost three times their borrowing limits, and it is a sad day when communities, in order to meet their obligations, are being forced into this position by this government.

So, as I said earlier, the concerns I raised about this bill at second reading still stand, still haven't been addressed, and we're told this is just simply a housekeeping bill. Such is not the case.

I support the bill; the money is needed. But I would urge the government to go into cost-sharing undertakings with the respective communities with regard to the amount of money that is being anticipated by these communities to meet their ongoing obligations.

Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

Speaker: If the Premier now speaks, she will close debate. Does any other member wish to be heard?

Hon. Ms. Duncan: Well, Mr. Speaker, in spite of the references to the festive season and the protestations from the member opposite, this simple bill is required because of a legal technicality in the Financial Administration Act. Municipalities, communities and Yukoners know and respect that fact very clearly, Mr. Speaker.

The Financial Administration Act, section 40(1), requires that loans by the government only be made under the authority of an act. Every year, this Legislature appropriates monies for the purpose of making loans to municipalities.

We are advised that the appropriation act itself is insufficient legal authority to meet the requirements of section 40(1) of the Financial Administration Act and that we require a separate act. That's why we have brought forward and passed through and answered fully all the questions in second reading. For the past number of years, we have been loaning to the municipalities under the authority of an old Municipal and General Purposes Loans Act. We simply have exhausted the limit in that act, Mr. Speaker, and we require a new one.

Our arrangements with communities will continue to be a cooperative working effort, Mr. Speaker. The passage of this act in no way changes that present practice of seeking annual appropriation for authority for such loans, nor does it change our good, ongoing relationship with all Yukon communities.

The $15-million figure included in the present act should suffice for a number of years before this House is required to pass a similar act. The members opposite know that we normally seek $5 million per year in appropriations for this purpose but that municipalities seldom actually require that sum, and the Minister of Community and Transportation Services has an excellent relationship, as do all members of the government, with Yukon communities.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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.

Acting Deputy Clerk: The yeas are 14. The nays are zero.

Motion for third reading of Bill No. 32 agreed to

Speaker: I declare that Bill No. 32 has passed this House.

Bill No. 23: Third Reading

Acting Deputy Clerk: Third reading, Bill No. 23, standing in the name of the hon. Mrs. Edelman.

Hon. Mrs. Edelman: I move that Bill No. 23, entitled the Arts Act, now be read a third time and do pass.

Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. Minister of Tourism that Bill No. 23, entitled the Arts Act, be now read a third time and do pass.

Does any other member wish to be heard?

Are you prepared for the question?

Some Hon. Members: Division.


Speaker: Division has been called.


Speaker: Mr. Clerk, would you 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.

Acting Deputy Clerk: Mr. Speaker, the yeas are 14, the nays zero.

Motion for third reading of Bill No. 23 agreed to

Speaker: I declare that Bill No. 23 has passed this House.

Bill No. 21: Third Reading

Acting Deputy Clerk: Third reading, Bill No. 21, standing in the name of the hon. Ms. Buckway.

Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Speaker, I move that Bill No. 21, entitled Miscellaneous Statute Law Amendment Act (2000), be now read a third time and do pass.

Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. Minister of Justice that Bill No. 21, entitled Miscellaneous Statute Law Amendment Act (2000), be now read a third time and do pass.

Does any other member wish to be heard?

Motion for third reading of Bill No. 21 agreed to

Speaker: I declare that Bill No. 21 has passed this House.

Bill No. 24: Third Reading

Acting Deputy Clerk: Third reading, Bill No. 24, standing in the name of the hon. Ms. Buckway.

Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Speaker, I move that Bill No. 24, entitled Department of Justice Act, be now read a third time and do pass.

Speaker: It has been moved by the Minister of Justice that Bill No. 24, entitled Department of Justice Act, be now read a third time and do pass.

Does any other member wish to be heard?

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.

Acting Deputy Clerk: Mr. Speaker, the yeas are 14, the nays zero.

Motion for third reading of Bill No. 24 agreed to

Speaker: I declare that Bill No. 24 has passed this House.

Bill No. 25: Third Reading

Acting Deputy Clerk: Third reading, Bill No. 25, standing in the name of the hon. Ms. Buckway.

Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Speaker, I move that Bill No. 25, entitled An Act to Amend the Interpretation Act, be now read a third time and do pass.

Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. Minister of Justice that Bill No. 25, entitled An Act to Amend the Interpretation Act, be now read a third time and do pass.

Motion for third reading of Bill No. 25 agreed to

Speaker: I declare that Bill No. 25 has passed this House.

Bill No. 26: Third Reading

Acting Deputy Clerk: Third reading, Bill No. 26, standing in the name of the hon. Ms. Buckway.

Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Speaker, I move that Bill No. 26, entitled Enforcement of Canadian Judgements and Decrees Act, be now read a third time and do pass.

Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. Minister of Justice that Bill No. 26, entitled Enforcement of Canadian Judgements and Decrees Act, be now read a third time and do pass.

Motion for third reading of Bill No. 26 agreed to

Speaker: I declare that Bill No. 26 has passed this House.

Bill No. 27: Third Reading

Acting Deputy Clerk: Third reading, Bill No. 27, standing in the name of the hon. Ms. Buckway.

Hon. Ms. Buckway: I move that Bill No. 27, entitled Court Jurisdiction and Proceedings Transfer Act be now read a third time and do pass.

Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. Minister of Justice that Bill No. 27, entitled Court Jurisdiction and Proceedings Transfer Act be now read a third time and do pass.

Motion for third reading of Bill No. 27 agreed to

Speaker: I declare that Bill No. 27 has passed this House.

Bill No. 2: Third Reading

Acting Deputy Clerk: Third reading, Bill No. 2, standing in the name of the hon. Ms. Duncan.

Hon. Ms. Duncan: I move that Bill No. 2, entitled the Fourth Appropriation Act, 1999-2000, be now read a third time and do pass.

Speaker: It has been moved that Bill No. 2, entitled Fourth Appropriation Act, 1999-2000, be now read a third time and do pass.

Mr. Jenkins: This again is one of those bills that I feel compelled to respond to and speak to at third reading. The current newly elected Liberal government is by and large not responsible for any of the expenditures contained in this supplementary bill, and accordingly are not going to provide any critique of it. The outgoing NDP government, who are responsible for incurring all of this indebtedness or supplementary expenditures, are equally not going to rise to the occasion and offer any constructive criticism on these expenditures, as they are responsible for them.

So, that leaves myself in the third party to provide the only possible critique of these supplementary expenditures.

It's a sad day, given the tremendous amount of money that this government is spending primarily on government. We have not seen any change under this new NDP-clone government called the Liberals, Mr. Speaker, as to their course and direction of expenditures. It still continues to be the same.

I would have thought that, after spending some time critiquing the bill that we are going to give third reading to, they would have had the foresight, after clearly having an opportunity to look backwards, as to how to change and get the Yukon working, to provide incentives, to do something that is going to encourage development, to do something that's going to put Yukoners to work; but they have not. All we see under this new Liberal government is more and more expenditures on government itself. We don't see any winter works projects; we don't see any initiatives that are going to put Yukoners back to work. We're hanging all of our hats on a pipeline that may or may not come in two, three, five years, or a decade, Mr. Speaker. That seems to be the only hype and opportunity that Yukoners are being presented with today.

Mr. Speaker, I can't really support this bill, but the money has already been spent. It could have been spent a lot more wisely and a lot more constructively to create a lot more opportunities for Yukoners, but it hasn't been. It has been spent primarily on creating more government, and it's a sad day because that trend continues at an increased rate, Mr. Speaker, at an increased rate that is not supportable and can't be maintained. The umbilical cord attaching the Yukon Liberals to Ottawa has a considerable number of dollars flowing through it.

But at the end of the day, that money is not being spent wisely. It wasn't spent wisely under this bill that we have before us, and it continues to be spent in a manner that is not creating opportunities for Yukoners. It's a sad day, Mr. Speaker, but we have elected what we have elected, and we have to live with the consequences until the next election.

Speaker: If the Premier now speaks, she will close debate. Does any other member wish to be heard?

Mr. Fentie: I can no longer sit back and listen to the Yukon Party ramble on about this cloned NDP government across the floor. Nothing could be further from the truth.

I'd also like to point out to the Member for Klondike that, if the Yukon Party's fiscal management and spending practices were so wise, then why is it that, out of 17 seats in this territory, the Yukon Party has one? Something tells me, Mr. Speaker, that the Member for Klondike has missed a very important point.

Furthermore, Mr. Speaker, we in the official opposition will support this bill. It's a good bill. It had a great balance in terms of expenditure throughout this territory. It was addressing the needs of Yukoners, and that's why the Yukon public said to this Liberal government, "Proceed with that budget. Proceed with that budget to bring certainty to the people of this territory." They knew what was in it. What was in the budget was there because of the people of this territory, through some very, very good consultation on pre-budget tours by the former Minister of Finance and Government Leader, and that's why the budget was so well-received.

Getting to the clone comment by the Member for Klondike, I would point out that one of the distinct differences between us in the official opposition and the Liberal government is that we always brought in a fall supplementary budget that targeted winter works.

The Liberals did not; they, on the other hand, brought in a $37-million supplementary budget that targeted expenditures on themselves.

Thank you.

Speaker: If the Premier now speaks, she will close debate. Does any other member wish to be heard?

Hon. Ms. Duncan: Well, Mr. Speaker, that was quite a stellar performance by our friends opposite. The facts, as the Member from Watson Lake has so eloquently pointed out, and the results of the last election speak for themselves, as the Member for Klondike pointed out, as well.

This bill before us closes the 1999-2000 fiscal year. It provides after-the-fact House approval, legislative appropriation authority, for several votes that were overspent at year-end. In total, the departments were underspent by a fairly large sum for the year, but individual authority is required for the few that are overspent. The year ended with an annual deficit of over $16 million, which has subsequently increased in the 2000-01 fiscal year to a $33-million deficit, Mr. Speaker. Clearly, this level of spending cannot continue.

The member opposite's supplementary comment with respect to the NDP in fall supplementaries - I would challenge the member opposite on that. I and Yukoners believe that the NDP's record on the economy and putting Yukoners to work speaks for itself, Mr. Speaker.

We're doing our best to repair four years of NDP's devastation of our economy. We're doing our best to lure Yukoners back and to promote a sound economic basis in the Yukon. We work on it every day. We're continuing to do so, and we're starting to see some results from that, Mr. Speaker.

Over the next several years, as a government, we intend to eliminate annual deficits and get the finances of the Yukon onto a firm, solid foundation.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I look forward to passage of the Fourth Appropriation Act, 1999-2000.

Motion for third reading of Bill No. 2 agreed to

Speaker: I declare that Bill No. 2 has passed this House.

Ms. Tucker: 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


Chair: Good afternoon. I now call Committee of the Whole to order.

Do members wish to take a brief recess?

Some Hon. Members: Agreed.

Chair: We will take a 15-minute recess.


Chair: I now call Committee of the Whole to order. We'll continue with general debate on Bill No. 31, An Act to Amend the Motor Vehicles Act.

Bill No. 31 - An Act to Amend the Motor Vehicles Act - continued

Mr. Jenkins: Over the past few days, I have had a chance to review Hansard, and I have had a chance to do a bit more research, and it has raised alarm bells in my area, and I have a series of further questions for the minister in general debate on An Act to Amend the Motor Vehicles Act.

I guess we can start with the area that was of biggest concern when I started looking on the contract registry, Mr. Chair. The licence plates, here in the Yukon - could the minister confirm that the contractor that produces them is Astrographic?

Hon. Ms. Buckway: The Member for Klondike is correct, Mr. Chair.

Mr. Jenkins: Well, there are two recent contracts listed under Community and Transportation Services for Astrographic. One is for $9,413 and it's for licence plates. The other is for $10,028 and it's for groceries. Could the minister confirm what type of groceries they are purchasing from Astrographic?

Hon. Ms. Buckway: We'll check on that and get back to the member, Mr. Chair.

Mr. Jenkins: I've just noticed quite a number of areas where the description - no one in the department paying attention to what is listed, especially the minister who is responsible. And I would urge her to have a look at some of the contracts that her department is responsible for.

Some of the concerns I have with respect to licence plates, since we are spending $19,000 on them, is why there is a dual registration system in place with respect to snow machines in the City of Whitehorse? Why is there a Whitehorse registration system and why is there a Government of Yukon system?

Why can't we just have one system, and why can't it just be the Government of the Yukon system? What's the reason for the duplication?

Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, I do not have the information at my fingertips. We are in general debate on An Act to Amend the Motor Vehicles Act, and I do not believe there's anything about snowmobile licence plates in the amendment, so I will have to get the information for the member.

Mr. Jenkins: Well, it's a motor vehicle, and it's classified accordingly, and we're dealing with licensing, and that area came up quite extensively, Mr. Chair. There's a whole series of licence plate issues that have been brought to my attention that I have concerns with.

The same holds true for four-wheelers. Why is there a dual system of registration with respect to four-wheelers here, in one system put in place by the City of Whitehorse and another system put in place by YTG? Why do we need two similar systems, Mr. Chair?

Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, it's my understanding that we would have a system for the territory anyway, and if the member has questions about why the City of Whitehorse has a system, I direct him to the City of Whitehorse to answer questions about their snowmobile and four-wheeler registration.

Mr. Jenkins: The City of Whitehorse doesn't get into registering automobiles. Why do they get into registering motorcycles? Why are they permitted under the Motor Vehicles Act to register snow machines and four-wheelers and not automobiles? So, it does come under the minister's umbrella and it is one of her areas of responsibility, and yet she's failing to address it, Mr. Chair. Why?

Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, I have said I would provide information to the member as soon as I get it. It's not information I have here at my fingertips.

Mr. Jenkins: The more succinct and positive and definitive answer was, "I don't know." That's what the minister should have stood on her feet and said.

Mr. Chair, Old Crow - there was an amazing initiative just a short time ago to register snow machines, four-wheelers and even three-wheelers that are precluded from being registered anywhere else in the Yukon. Why was that distinction made by the motor vehicles branch, and why was that initiative made?

Hon. Ms. Buckway: Again, Mr. Chair, I will get that information for the member.

Mr. Jenkins: Well, if I have many more of these types of responses, I'm going to move that we set this aside until the minister gets a briefing and gets up to speed on it. Now, I'm just simply amazed, Mr. Chair, that she has little or no understanding of the issues before us.

One of the other areas dealing with licence plates, Mr. Chair, of a very grave concern - and, again, YTG should be the lead on and should be doing something with respect to the issue of plates in this regard - is handicap licence plates. Why doesn't the Government of Yukon's motor vehicles branch issue handicap plates? The only initiative in this regard is, again, by the City of Whitehorse. And anyone from rural Yukon coming into Whitehorse must go to the City of Whitehorse and obtain a handicap plate or placard from the city in order to use the handicap parking places.

Here's a government, Mr. Chair, that was supposed to be doing things better, and they were supposed to be improving the lives of Yukoners. Well, here's an initiative that the minister hasn't even given a thought to. And yes, it's an extremely important and very valuable initiative.

Now, if the minister is prepared to stand on her feet and say, "We will bring in a system of handicap licence plates, and we'll institute it in the next six months," then we won't belabour the point. And that's what I'd like to hear from the minister, but I'm sure she's going to waffle all over and find all sorts of reasons why they're not going to undertake such a very valuable initiative.

So if the minister wants to respond with a very positive response - that we will put in place a system of handicap licence plates that will be in place in the next six months - we can leave this one alone. And I hope she responds in that fashion, Mr. Chair.

Hon. Ms. Buckway: Thank you, Mr. Chair. Well, I'm pleased to say that we will be issuing handicap plates. The initiative is already well underway, and within the next year they should be in place.

Mr. Jenkins: Thank you. Well, we just have the wrong timelines. Why can't it be done in the next six months? Why is it going to take a year to initiate such a system? Why has there not been an initiative before this point?

The minister is well aware that the only jurisdiction that requires them in the Yukon is the City of Whitehorse, and the only place that you currently have to use a handicap licence plate in the Yukon is within the City of Whitehorse. That will probably change and will probably be coming more into focus in some of the larger rural municipalities, but currently Whitehorse is the lead player.

What's taking so long and why can't we do it in six months? What's the hangup to doing something like this in six months?

Hon. Ms. Buckway: Well, Mr. Chair, I have said within a year. That could be shorter and I will check to see if it can be done in a shorter time. This government has been in office for less than seven months, so this is one initiative, as I say, that is well underway.

Mr. Jenkins: Well, Mr. Chair, we were told that these were all housekeeping initiatives in this act and such is certainly not the case.

Let's go back to Old Crow. What drove the tremendous drive there to license all the snow machines and four-wheelers? Could the minister advise the House why three-wheelers are currently being licensed there? They are not permitted to be sold now in any North American jurisdiction. They're not permitted to be licensed anywhere. Now, if we make exceptions for Old Crow - in fact, I don't even believe they need to license any vehicles in that area, Mr. Chair, given the number of kilometres of highway that they have.

Could the minister advise the House what precipitated this tremendous drive to license all snow machines and four-wheelers in that community?

Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, I will check for the member and get back to him as soon as I can. As for three-wheelers, the member alleges that they are also being licensed, and I will check on that.

Mr. Jenkins: So, we don't know why Whitehorse has a dual system or why the Motor Vehicles Act permits a dual system of licensing, because the City of Whitehorse certainly doesn't license motor vehicles. So, there has to be some impediment in the Motor Vehicles Act to say to the City of Whitehorse, "You can't license motor vehicles. That's our jurisdiction."

So, how did they get into both areas? How did the City of Whitehorse get into the licensing of motor vehicles, and why does the act currently permit it?

Hon. Ms. Buckway: There must have been sour milk on the member's cornflakes this morning. I have told him that I will get information for him. He persists in continuing a line of questioning where I have said I will get him the information. I will get him the information, Mr. Chair.

Mr. Jenkins: One of the other areas that we were asked to consider as minor housekeeping was the expansion of the number of individuals permitted to enforce the Motor Vehicles Act and extending, by order-in-council under the changes in this enabling legislation, the number of officials allowed out on our highways to get themselves involved in this area.

Well, apparently, Mr. Chair, if the minister were to go once again to the contract registry for her department, she will find a contract awarded to BA Evans & Associates for some $23,500.

It is my understanding that this is a Winnipeg-based firm, and they are doing a task analysis and risk assessment with respect to the weigh station officials. And in conversations I have had with individuals who have been interviewed by the individual from this company, it all seems pointed in the direction of expanding the role of the weigh station officials and the officials within the department, and creating another level of police here in the Yukon.

Now, perhaps the minister can share with us an insight - if she knows, Mr. Chair. I will qualify it. And her officials have just handed her an overview of this area, and I'll give her an opportunity to quickly read it, and then she can stand on her feet and tell the House what this initiative and what this contract is all about. Because it's my understanding that the information that the minister previously provided in this House - this enabling legislation - wasn't going to be utilized until she consulted with the industry.

Well, I submit, Mr. Chair, that what we have is the minister currently out there consulting with the industry. So it's pretty well a fait accompli as to where they are heading and where they are taking us. And I want to know why she carefully couched her presentation in the House previously - with respect to, "We're not going to enact it until we consult with the industry" - when I just learned that consultation program is currently underway, Mr. Chair. And we could end up with another level of policing out on our highways, according to the work and the questions being posed.

Is the minister aware of some of the questions being asked by this firm, BA Evans & Associates? And how did we even attract them to the Yukon from Winnipeg? I believe it's Manitoba where they are based. How did we find them? Is it because of a Liberal connection somewhere along the line, or are we going to find that out later, Mr. Chair?

Hon. Ms. Buckway: For the seventy-fifth time, I think - no expansion of powers, no increase in the number of officials. I know the Member for Klondike would love to be out there enforcing traffic regulations, but it isn't going to happen, Mr. Chair.

The Department of Community and Transportation Services is performing a risk assessment to address safety concerns expressed by enforcement officers relating to their personal safety while carrying out compliance enforcement duties in isolated areas. The risk assessment will determine, based on the results, what tools and training are required to undertake the work safely. The study, we expect, will be completed in December or January, and staff members, as the member has indicated, are being actively involved in the analysis and risk assessment.

Mr. Jenkins: So what one could conclude, Mr. Chair, is that under the federal Liberals' Bill C-68, all of the guns are being taken away from Canadians and registered. And the same group of bureaucrats that has enacted that type of legislation are at the same time enacting the legislation so that all the bureaucrats will be armed. That bodes well for Canadians that this appears to be the direction we are heading.

If you want to look at the agencies that currently carry firearms in the course of their responsibilities, it's growing alarmingly in Canada. There was a move afoot a few years ago that the highway enforcement officials within YTG be provided with side arms. Fortunately, that was turned down.

Now, that risk analysis is concluding today that there might well be a need for firearms at this level, as well as indeed other levels. Mr. Chair, all you have to look at is the federal government and the Fisheries officers when they go out in the heat of the summertime into a mining claim wearing their flak jackets and packing their pistols and everything. It's as intimidating as all get-out, Mr. Chair.

Or when they walk into your business and ask you where you buy fish from. No wonder they have become known as the fish cops. That's on the federal level, under a Liberal initiative for C-68, Mr. Chair.

When you start looking at the number of side arms being provided to all of the other enforcement areas within the government - the Renewable Resource section, and next, under the minister of towns and trucks - one of the issues could very well be side arms. We have an ongoing assessment and a risk assessment. Could I ask the minister what precipitated this risk assessment initiative?

Hon. Ms. Buckway: The other agencies the member is referring to enforce Criminal Code matters. Our officials do not.

The Yukon Employees Union and the affected employees have had some concerns about officer safety, and that is the reason for the risk assessment. It is not related to the amendments before us. There will be no expansion of powers, no increase in the number of officials, and they certainly will not be carrying side arms, Mr. Chair.

I can see the news release from the Yukon Party caucus already, but the member is heading down the wrong trail.

Mr. Jenkins: Thank you very much. For the minister's information, the federal Department of Fisheries enforces the federal Fisheries Act, not the Criminal Code. And the Renewable Resources people, who are equipped with side arms, enforce the provisions of Yukon legislation, not the Criminal Code.

Under the provisions of the enabling legislation that is before us, Mr. Chair, I'm sure the minister, after she asks her officials, will find out that through order-in-council, that very well might mean the outcome - that side arms will be allowed to be procured and carried by these officials - the very same officials that the minister is saying there's no issue about and that they're not going to be packing side arms.

This reared its ugly head quite a number of years ago, when the highway enforcement people asked for side arms. That was denied, and rightly so, Mr. Chair.

Now we see enabling legislation that could expand on that, and by a very simple order-in-council that could in fact be the case - that side arms could be provided to not just the highway enforcement people, but to the weigh scales. Could the minister table a copy of the list of questions that the risk assessment firm was asked to review?

I would very much like to get that on the record. I know she can't provide it now, but I am looking for the BA Evans & Associates' list of questions that they are going around asking. And I would urge the minister to table the questions that they are currently asking of all parties.

Hon. Ms. Buckway: Our officials will not be carrying side arms. I'll say it again, in case he didn't hear me. Our officials will not be carrying side arms either on the highway as mobile enforcement officers or at the weigh scales.

The survey being done is being done by BA Evans & Associates. It is not being done by the Government of Yukon. As such, I don't know if a copy is readily available or not. It's not our survey; it is their survey and there may be confidentiality issues.

Mr. Jenkins: Well, I have heard a lot of bunk coming out of this minister, who doesn't understand or have knowledge of her portfolio or her areas of responsibility. But the questionnaire was developed in concert with the government, Mr. Chair.

Obviously, there's an understanding on the government's side of what questions they wanted answered, because it's a task analysis and a risk assessment. That is the title of the contract, and I'm asking the minister to table a list of the questions that were developed by the Government of the Yukon, in concert with this consultant, and are currently being asked of quite a goodly number of people in and around Whitehorse.

Will she do so, Mr. Chair?

Hon. Ms. Buckway: No list of questions was developed by the Government of the Yukon in conjunction with BA Evans & Associates. This is their survey, their questions, which have been used in other jurisdictions. The Government of the Yukon had no input into these questions.

Mr. Jenkins: Well, I disagree with the minister once again, Mr. Chair. I find her response very, very interesting, because the information I have is that the questions were vetted through the Government of the Yukon and they gave their approval of them.

So, obviously they're aware of them; they had knowledge of them before they went out into the public domain in the Yukon, and I would urge the minister once again to table a copy of the questions that are currently being asked.

What is the problem? She said that no one will be carrying side arms and we're going to conduct a review. Mr. Chair, it has been pointed out that this review is underway currently. We want to see the type of questions that are currently being asked. That's all.

It's a very straightforward request. The Government of Yukon is very much aware of the type of questions and the number of questions that are being asked. Can the minister please table those questions?

Hon. Ms. Buckway: We will seek the permission of the consulting company to table the list of questions. I repeat: they are the contractor's questions, not the Government of Yukon's questions. Yes, officials in the department are aware of what the questions are, but it is not our survey to table.

Mr. Jenkins: Not our survey to table. We hired this firm, we engaged them to perform a specific task, we looked over the areas and established the terms of reference for this contract, but the questions aren't ours. That's pretty far-fetched now.

This government has to be accountable for what it's doing in the public domain, Mr. Chair. It's not anyone other than the Government of Yukon Department of Community and Transportation Services that has engaged BA Evans & Associates to do a risk assessment and a task analysis of weigh stations. That's a fact, Mr. Chair. Now, what could be confidential in the list of questions that are put together to address that contract? The contract's being done for the Government of the Yukon, Mr. Chair.

Perhaps we have currently the list of questions and the minister can read them into the record. I do not know, but at the end of the day, we want to have an understanding of where this government is heading. Given the federal Liberal initiative under Bill C-68 and gun control legislation in Canada, and given the amount of additional individuals that we have in the enforcement section of all governments that are equipped with firearms today, I find that alarming.

We see the same type of situation arising again and again and again. The minister carefully couches her words - that there are not going to be changes in the roles of these individuals until such time as we have consulted with the industry. Now, if it hadn't been for the fact that I found out that the minister's department is currently out there consulting with the industry, this wouldn't have been an issue.

There had to be some kind of fear raised, Mr. Chair, in order for us to look at a risk assessment of weigh scale operators. I'd say that probably closely resembles the risk associated with ministers attending public meetings. They're there to do a function, and they're not always going to be accepted at face value, but they have a role to fulfill and a job to complete. Politicians can change the weigh scale operators, and the highway enforcement people have an act to uphold and enforce. Their interpretation of it has a degree of flexibility, and usually when they get into a problem with a trucker or anyone who stops at the weigh scale, it usually is a consequence of an overzealous-type official.

Is that the reason why we want to equip these officials with side arms, Mr. Chair?

I go back to my original question. Could the minister please table a copy of the questions that were approved by the government for this survey? I think we can get to the crux of where we're headed on this survey and what we intend to do if we had a look at these questions, Mr. Chair.

Hon. Ms. Buckway: I will have the department ask the contractor, BA Evans & Associates, if we may release a list of the questions. I will not do so without the permission of the contractor, because they are their questions.

For the seventy-seventh time - no expansion of powers, no increase in the number of officials and the officials will not be carrying side arms, Mr. Chair. The member opposite is fear-mongering. I am sure the news release from the Yukon Party caucus is already winging its way to the media, who thankfully won't pay much attention to it today, it being election day.

Mr. Jenkins: Unlike the minister, I am more concerned with the ongoing viability of the Yukon as an entity on its own, not with reattaching the umbilical cord to Ottawa and regaining our colonial status. I am more concerned with creating a viable entity here in the Yukon where the rules are fair and reasonable. Can the minister point to any other jurisdiction in Canada where the highway enforcement people are equipped with firearms? Not just side arms, but firearms?

Hon. Ms. Buckway: I am not aware of any, but I will certainly check.

It's not something that I intend to see officials here doing. They will not be carrying side arms. The staff at the weigh scales brought specific safety concerns regarding their work to the attention of Workers' Compensation, the Yukon Employees Union and the Department of Community and Transportation Services. A task analysis and risk assessment was recommended to determine if there were risks associated with their current work. This task analysis and risk assessment, I say again, has nothing to do with the amendments before us. The member has a very good imagination, but he is incorrect in this case, Mr. Chair.

Mr. Jenkins: Well, the minister must agree that this kind of a survey could result in her being able to stand up, Mr. Chair, and say, "We have consulted with the industry." Because that's very much what they are currently doing. They are consulting with industry and the various other enforcement agencies, Mr. Chair.

Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, our commitment was to consult when we want to expand their powers. We have no intention at this point of expanding the powers of the officials. We have no intention of hiring any more officials, and we certainly have no intention of equipping them with side arms, Mr. Chair.

Mr. Jenkins: So if that's the case, we really don't need this amendment before us, and we can move a motion in line-by-line debate to delete it. Would that be the case, Mr. Chair?

Hon. Ms. Buckway: We've been through this a number of times as well. This is enabling legislation, and upon consultation with the Yukon Transportation Association, we would seek to vary the powers if necessary. At this point, no change in their powers is contemplated - no increase in the number of officials, and no side arms.

Mr. Jenkins: Well, Mr. Chair, just before we leave this, I'm seeking the minister's concurrence that we could have the information requested - in the various questions that I've raised today - provided to us by tomorrow so we can stand the department aside and go into the next item on the agenda while we await the arrival of this information that's so pertinent to this debate. Which way would the minister like to proceed?

Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, I will undertake to seek permission from BA Evans & Associates to release the questions as soon as possible. I can't say how quickly that can happen, but, at the rate we're proceeding, I'm sure it won't be a problem receiving the information before we're out of general debate on this bill.

Mr. Jenkins: It's not just the request of information with respect to BA Evans & Associates. It is the totality of the questions that I posed earlier today with respect to licence plates, the issue surrounding the double plating and why it's permitted in the Motor Vehicles Act so that Whitehorse can get involved in licensing snow machines, four-wheelers. I really don't see a need for a dual system, and that's exactly what we have, Mr. Chair. Why is this permitted under the Motor Vehicles Act? It could be another simple amendment. Enabling legislation is all that's needed, because it certainly must cover all other facets of highway vehicles. Why this one remains, I do not know, if indeed it remains.

So, I'm looking for some answers in a broad sphere of areas, because if we're doing some housekeeping amendments of the Motor Vehicles Act, I think it's very important, Mr. Chair, that we all have a very clear understanding of where we're heading and what we're doing. Because the initial appearance of just a housekeeping bill that's going to make our roads safer is pure bunk, because, as a consequence of these amendments, we're not going to reduce drinking drivers on the highway. We're not going to change that one iota. There's still going to be the chronic drinker who is still going to drive, irrespective of the punishment that is accorded that individual. That's still going to occur. We haven't addressed it. There's still going to be the problem of those driving on our highways without insurance. The minister hasn't addressed that. She hasn't fixed the problem. She is not even prepared to entertain any kind of a look-see at it. Yes, she'll take it back, take it under advisement.

Then we get into the basic things, Mr. Chair, like licence plates. I'm very much aware that licence plates are duplicated, given out, and the same licence plate number has been put on two different vehicles. That's a fact.

The minister just had it confirmed by her officials, and we now have a problem with snow machines, a dual registration system. Why? I don't know. Why can't we move an amendment that would require just one vehicle registration? Why do we have to have two? I can't get an answer from this minister. That's because she doesn't have an understanding of her responsibilities, and she has had this portfolio for quite a period of time. And she is also Minister of Justice, so it should be an easy task to address the legalities surrounding the departmental initiatives. That hasn't even been done. And I'm just very, very disappointed, Mr. Chair.

The only area we appear to have gained some kind of a handle on is that we are going to be coming out with licence plates for those who are handicapped in our society. And that will remove the need for the City of Whitehorse to have to get into handicap licence plates, or plaques, here. And why it is going to take a year to do, I don't know. They can issue sole-sourced contracts, bring in people from all over, and have these changes done in a matter of just a few little meetings. But a very positive, beneficial initiative like instituting or bringing in handicap licence plates - and I should put a caveat on that, Mr. Chair: by not removing the miner from the plate, but probably removing one of those digits or numbers that we have too many of. Maybe go to four digits or letters instead of the five that we currently have, because we really don't need them all. And get that well-recognized and well-known symbol - that handicap symbol - on our licence plates here in the Yukon. Yes, it's underway. Yes, we are going to see some results, but it may be in a year.

Maybe the Minister of Health and Social Services has it in one of his 10-year plans, Mr. Chair.

Why does an initiative that will produce benefits for Yukoners take so long, and why does an initiative that's going to place an added burden or cost on Yukoners get implemented in so short a period of time? Which way is this government headed?

Hon. Ms. Buckway: I'm hearing a lot of misinterpretation of the facts from the member opposite. Bill No. 31, An Act to Amend the Motor Vehicles Act, will strengthen our laws that deal with those who abuse their driving privileges by driving impaired, driving uninsured, or driving without a valid licence.

Some time ago, Yukoners told government to get tough on these drivers, and that is just what Bill No. 31 will continue to do. The bill also contains some general housekeeping-type amendments that are needed.

Now, the handicap licence plates that will be coming out within a year won't be a licence plate, Mr. Chair. There will be a placard that you hang on your rear-view mirror, because otherwise handicapped people will be targeted. Their vehicles will be targeted. This is as a result of consultation and that's what's going to happen.

During general debate last Thursday, the Member for Klondike asked a number of questions or made requests for additional information, and I would like to provide that now, Mr. Chair.

The member asked if an ignition interlock device could be overridden by the use of a command start remote starting system. The manufacturer of these devices has been consulted and advises that at the present time, the ignition interlock system cannot be used with a command start remote starting system. The administrators of the ignition interlock programs in both Alberta and Quebec have been consulted and have advised that overriding the system is virtually impossible.

Any attempt to tamper with the system is recorded in the unit's data logger and the vehicle is recalled for servicing immediately.

The Quebec administrator has also advised, in response to a request by the Government of Quebec, that the manufacturer is now developing an ignition interlock device that could be used in conjunction with a remote starting system, like command start. This device will be manufactured with anti-circumvention safeguards specific to remote starting systems.

The member also asked me to explain who would be in care and control of a vehicle when the impaired driver has started it using a remote starting system, like a command start. The Department of Justice has advised that the courts have given a very expanded scope to care or control and, as such, an impaired person who operates the command start is in care or control of the vehicle.

The Member for Klondike asked me to explain how the same vehicle licence plate could be issued to two different vehicles and he has just referred to it again. In my response last week, I indicated that the duplication of licence plates was likely a manufacturer's error and the department has confirmed this to be the case. The manufacturer mistakenly duplicated one order and these plates were distributed for issuance. The duplication was noticed when the motor vehicles licence clerk attempted to enter the plate number into the motor vehicles computer system. The computer system would not allow the duplicate plate number to be assigned, as it has a safeguard built into it to prevent this from occurring. The clerk simply issued another plate to the customer at the counter, setting the duplicate plate aside to ensure it was not issued.

If the computer system was to be down and a duplicate plate was somehow issued, the error would be caught as soon as the clerk tried to enter the plate number in the vehicle registration system. If a duplicate plate were discovered through this process, the clerk would immediately recall the plate and it would be replaced, free of charge.

The department was not aware that duplicate licence plates had in fact been issued. As I stated, the manufacturer was at fault in this case and did replace the duplicate plate, free of charge. Motor vehicles branch was able to prevent the actual issuance of the plates to customers and became aware of the problem while they were attempting to enter the plate number in the computer system.

The Member for Klondike advised that licence plates in rural Yukon seem to have a shorter lifespan than those in Whitehorse. The department indicates that all Yukon licence plates have an expected lifespan of 10 years under normal wear and tear conditions. It is true that some licence plates seem to suffer from more wear and tear than others, and these plates will need to be turned in for replacement sooner than others that suffer less wear and tear. Anyone can have a damaged licence plate replaced without charge at the time of renewal.

During the 1999 calendar year, 44 licence plates were replaced in Dawson City, 42 were replaced in Watson Lake, 19 in Haines Junction, eight in Mayo, three in Faro, and 554 in Whitehorse. So, Whitehorse-area people seem to have more need to replace their licence plates than those in rural Yukon.

The Member for Klondike also inquired about vehicles being impounded at RCMP detachments or Yukon government highway yards, Mr. Chair. The department has confirmed that no vehicles impounded under the vehicle impoundment program were stored at RCMP detachments or highways yards. The department is, however, aware of some situations in the past where the RCMP have stored, at their detachments, vehicles involved in accidents or investigations, or requested that they be stored at Yukon government highways compounds. This occurs only when, in the opinion of the RCMP officer, it is the best solution to the problem. The vehicle is moved to an alternate location as quickly as possible. The liability insurance of the vehicle owner covers any damage that might occur to the vehicle while it is parked there, just as it would if the vehicle were parked in a parking lot or along the highway.

The member was also concerned about how vans and buses are registered in the Yukon. The department confirms that the definition of "bus" is found in section 48 of the motor vehicles regulations and is described as, "A motor vehicle of a weight, when uploaded, of more than 2,724 kilograms, and which is designed, constructed and used for the transportation of more than 11 passengers."

If the owner of a 15-passenger van intends to use the van for non-commercial purposes, it can be registered as a van and the driver would require a class 4 licence to drive it because of its size. If the owner were intending to use it for commercial purposes, the vehicle would be registered as a bus. Again, the driver would need a class 4 licence because of the size of the vehicle. The registration requirements are slightly different for smaller 12-passenger vans, for example.

The Member for Klondike has made some good suggestions on how insurance requirements could be improved and I have said that the department will do some further analysis on these matters. This will include consulting further with the insurance industry and with Yukoners. It is possible to return to the Legislature with some amendments to these sections during the next round of amendments to the Motor Vehicles Act. The member has also suggested that it may be time to look at a zero blood-alcohol content level for professional drivers in the Yukon. I indicated in debate last week that I would be prepared to investigate this.

I firmly believe that Yukoners are saying it is time to clearly separate drinking from driving. So this may be a matter whose time has come. I have just learned that the Province of Quebec is currently investigating whether a lower blood-alcohol content should be established for professional drivers. Quebec has offered to share their results with the department when their study is complete.

I would like to clarify some information provided to the Member for Klondike as well. I had indicated that Canada and the United States were working on removing the requirement for professional drivers to carry both a driver's licence and a medical fitness certificate when travelling internationally. I had indicated that this requirement would no longer exist in 2001, but I stand corrected on this. The member is smiling - he already knew this. As of April 1, 2000, all medically fit commercial drivers no longer will be required to carry a medical fitness card. All Yukon commercial drivers received notification of this in March 2000. I am surprised that the member bothered to ask about this, as he was obviously aware of it, as I believe he has commercial plates on his van.

While the Member for Klondike would like Yukoners to believe that the Yukon government could send first-time impaired drivers to jail, as the member indicates is done in the State of Alaska, I wish to remind him that criminal penalties for drinking and driving are established under the Criminal Code of Canada, which is the responsibility of the federal government. It's too bad the member didn't make a presentation to the Parliamentary Committee on Justice last year, when they were working on the Criminal Code.

This proposal is one that the third party perhaps should have presented, as I said, to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights. Those hearings were to review the sections of the Criminal Code that deal with impaired driving in order to enhance deterrence and ensure that penalties reflect the seriousness of the offence, so the member may want to put his proposal in writing and forward it for future consideration. Again, that's the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights.

This past weekend, I attended the Association of Yukon Communities meeting in Haines Junction and was able to provide information to those in attendance on the amendments contained in Bill No. 31. Of those municipalities in attendance, only one representative expressed any concern about the powers of officers, and this was predicated on information received by telephone earlier last week. After explaining the intent of the amendment, that person indicated no concern with the amendment. I've offered to discuss it with any representative who has concerns, but I have not heard from anyone else.

I conclude, Mr. Chair, that the president and the membership of the Association of Yukon Communities clearly understand that government will consult with them prior to making changes to the powers of officers that would affect them. They are satisfied that the amendments are enabling legislation and that regulation development would include consultation.

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Mr. Jenkins: I'd like to thank the minister for the responses to some of the questions of the other day and point out to the minister that she is the minister, and if anybody should be making representation to any federal parliamentary initiative, it should be her or her officials. That's her role and her responsibility.

You can't duck behind someone all the time, Mr. Chair.

With respect to some of the questions that have been answered - or the minister attempted to provide answers - let's just go through them. I jotted down some notes but, upon reviewing Hansard, I'm sure I'll have many, many more questions arising out of her response.

On the duplicate licence plates, I can provide her with the names of the people they were issued to. They were both picked up in Whitehorse and they were issued to a Mr. Schmidt in Dawson City, who was subsequently called into the motor vehicles branch and asked to return his plate, because there was another vehicle with the same plate number on it. He was asked to exchange his plate for another plate.

So, the fact that this may have happened and that it was a manufacturer's error - it did happen. It occurred in Whitehorse. The same plate numbers were issued to two different vehicles, and it was almost three weeks later before Mr. Schmidt in Dawson City was advised that, when he purchased his new vehicle in Whitehorse, he had the same plate on it as someone else and he was asked to come into the motor vehicles branch and exchange it. The minister might want to check with her officials before she goes on much further.

With respect to the medical card, I guess it's our position, Mr. Chair, to hold the government accountable. It's amazing to find out what this minister does not know or is not aware of. Usually before one answers a question in this Legislature, they either know the answer or they have a very good understanding of the answer. That is not the case with this minister. She has proven time and time again to not be aware of the answer or not even be aware of the implications of the questions.

I go back to my original question with respect to licence plates and the City of Whitehorse and the issuing of licence plates to motor vehicles. What provision in the Motor Vehicles Act precludes the City of Whitehorse from issuing additional licence plates to motor vehicles, Mr. Chair?

Hon. Ms. Buckway: I have already answered that question for the member.

Mr. Jenkins: Well, it's a new twist on a different question. What provision of the Motor Vehicles Act precludes the City of Whitehorse from issuing a duplicate licence plate for a motor vehicle? What provision?

Hon. Ms. Buckway: To save us from sitting here while I go through the Motor Vehicles Act, I have said I will get back to the member on questions relating to this area, and I will do so.

Regarding presentations to the Parliamentary Committee on Justice, the member should be aware that in 1999 I was not the minister; therefore, I could not have made a presentation to that committee.

And as I indicated to the member when I was talking about duplicate licence plates, I said that if the computer system were down and a duplicate plate was somehow issued, then the clerk would catch that error and recall the plate. I suspect that is what happened when the computer system was down. The member opposite is saying "bunk". He says "bunk" a lot, Mr. Chair, but that is the case.

Mr. Jenkins: With respect to the issue of the duplicate set of licence plates, it was some three weeks, if not longer, before the individual in Dawson City was notified - three weeks. Now, the computer system wasn't down for three weeks or more, Mr. Chair. I am sure that the minister could get a better handle on her responsibilities and what the department is doing, because a new vehicle was purchased in Whitehorse, the appropriate requirements were brought to the motor vehicles branch, a plate was issued. And it was three weeks or more later before the individual in Dawson City was notified that they had the same plate number on their vehicle as someone in the Whitehorse area, and that they could come into the motor vehicle branch, the territorial agent in Dawson, and get a changed plate. I have provided the minister with the name of the individual. The computer system wasn't down for three or four weeks. It didn't take that long to find out.

I'm just disappointed in some of the responses we're receiving here. It's just amazing. In the course of business, if a mistake like that was noted, the results would be changed very, very quickly. That was in most sectors of the private industry, but here we're dealing with a very, very important area, and it takes that long for the motor vehicles branch to deal with a simple, straightforward manufacturer's mistake of two plates with the same number.

Mr. Chair, I can understand and appreciate why the motor vehicles branch doesn't want to take it upon themselves to have the responsibility for tracking and ensuring that insurance is in place on private motor vehicles.

But let's go back to the question. What section of the Motor Vehicles Act precludes the City of Whitehorse from registering vehicles and is there a section in there that does that?

Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, I said I'll get back to the member on that, and I will.

Mr. Jenkins: Well, Mr. Chair, we could probably use the time in this Legislature to a better purpose if we went on to another bill and stand this one aside until we get some information. Could we have some agreement on that, Mr. Chair?

Some Hon. Members: Agreed.

Chair: It has been moved by Mr. Jenkins that this bill be stood aside.

Some Hon. Members: Agree.

Some Hon. Members: Disagree.

Chair: The disagrees have it. The bill will not be stood aside.

Motion to stand aside Bill No. 31 negatived

Mr. Jenkins: Well, Mr. Chair, if we're not going to stand aside the bill, the minister should have the answers there and ready to provide them. So, if she could probably take some initiative and ask her officials to provide her with the information to the questions I've asked, I'll ask the question once again: what provisions of the Motor Vehicles Act preclude the City of Whitehorse from registering vehicles? What provisions of the Motor Vehicles Act preclude them from registering motor vehicles, like cars and trucks?

Hon. Ms. Buckway:Mr. Chair, we heard the member when he asked the question the first time. My officials will provide me with the answer as soon as they can.

Mr. Jenkins:If we extrapolate that section, there has to be a provision under which the City of Whitehorse registers snow machines and four-wheelers. Why can't the provision of the Motor Vehicles Act that precludes the City of Whitehorse from registering cars and trucks be just extended to include all classes of vehicles, such as snow machines and four-wheelers?

Hon. Ms. Buckway:We also heard the member the first time he asked that question. I'm sure the officials are working on that. If it's the member's intention to keep asking the same question until the answers are available, so be it.

Mr. Jenkins: Well, Mr. Chair, we're not left with many choices here in opposition. It's our responsibility to keep the government accountable, and the minister constantly hides behind her inability to respond to questions. It doesn't matter if it's in Question Period or in general debate - I'll get back to you, I'll get back to you, I'll get back to you, I'll get back to you. That's what we hear all the time, Mr. Chair, and it's really not fair.

After being in office and holding the position that this minister has for as long as she has had it, she should at least, Mr. Chair, have an understanding of the area that is on the floor of this House for debate. It becomes blatantly obvious, Mr. Chair, that this minister doesn't have an understanding of what's on the floor of this House for debate or the areas that she's responsible for. As we go further into clause-by-clause debate, I'm sure that will become more clear, Mr. Chair.

In order to expedite the business of the House, I encourage the Liberal government of the day to give some consideration to moving into the supplementary budget, where we can probably accomplish something today, because obviously we can't accomplish anything today on the amendments to the Motor Vehicles Act because the minister doesn't understand the amendments, the implications of the amendments or much of the other components in the act itself, Mr. Chair.

That is very, very disappointing, and I'm sure Yukoners will find it extremely disappointing. As the officials are working on scripting the responses for the minister who is so capable of reading answers into the record, Mr. Chair, we still have a lot of questions remaining unanswered.

So the issue before us is one of duplicate licensing. Does the minister believe it is necessary to have a duplicate licensing system for snow machines and four-wheelers - yes or no?

Hon. Ms. Buckway: This is not new, and I'm not quite sure why it has so suddenly become an issue for the Member for Klondike. The City of Whitehorse has had the ability to create bylaws for some time.

Mr. Jenkins: Well, that's what I want to know and the minister can't provide me with an answer. Why is the City of Whitehorse precluded from writing a bylaw licensing vehicles - like the minister's vehicle, like my vehicle - whereas they can license snow machines and four-wheelers? And what section of the act contains that information? There has to be a section in the Motor Vehicles Act that specifically applies to this area. That's what I am asking from the minister. I want to know if she believes it is necessary to have a duplicate system of registration for snow machines and four-wheelers - yes or no?

Hon. Ms. Buckway: The member is asking for my opinion, which I am not going to give him. As soon as the information is available, the member will have it.

Mr. Jenkins: Well, is it government policy to have a duplicate system of registration?

Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, the Motor Vehicles Act, as the member well knows, regulates the use of vehicles on highways. In many cases, the vehicles the member is referring to are operated exclusively off-highway; therefore, the Motor Vehicles Act would not apply. But the City of Whitehorse and other municipalities may well have an interest in licensing those vehicles.

Mr. Jenkins: Perhaps, Mr. Chair, it would be in order to take an early recess so the minister can get a briefing on this area and bring back the appropriate information. Can we entertain that?

Chair: It has been requested by Mr. Jenkins that we do now recess - take our recess early. Are we agreed?

Some Hon. Members: Agree.

Some Hon. Members: Disagree.

Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, I guess we go right back to the same question and put the minister on the record with respect to why there is a need for a duplicate policy with respect to the licensing of vehicles, especially when we look at a community like Old Crow. Why is there a need in Old Crow to license all the snow machines, four-wheelers and three-wheelers there, given the number of roads and given the amount of highway?

Hon. Ms. Buckway: I have explained to the member that the information will be provided to him as soon as it is available.

Mr. Jenkins: What the minister is, in fact, stating is that she doesn't know, she doesn't understand, and she is asking her officials to put it in place.

I was interested to note the issue surrounding plates for the handicapped and the minister's position that putting the handicap symbol on the licence plate did pose a problem in that the individuals could be identified and that would have an adverse effect on them.

Is there some study to this effect? And could the minister provide that information to the House, Mr. Chair? And what are we talking about - downtown Los Angeles or New York City? What areas?

Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, it was a result of public consultation here in the Yukon. People indicated that they preferred a placard to a licence plate.

Mr. Jenkins: So this arose just specifically in the Yukon? Because I notice the handicap symbol on licence plates in many, many jurisdictions in Canada. Has there been a similar concern raised in other jurisdictions that the minister or her officials are aware of?

Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, there have been concerns raised. A personal example - an uncle of mine who has the right to have a handicap plate prefers a placard instead, so that his vehicle isn't targeted.

Mr. Jenkins: Targeted for what? Because usually in my experience, Mr. Chair, any time I noticed a handicap licence plate, I usually give that driver every courtesy and extend him every courtesy that I possibly can. I would have thought that that would have been the case for virtually everyone, maybe save and except the minister herself. I don't know that for sure. But you see it, you identify it, and it could aid in the system with parking or, when handicap parking isn't available, things to that measure; whereas if you have to wait and see the placard hanging from the rear-view mirror in the front of the vehicle, it's usually only put in place after the fact.

There is also the issue that I've been made aware of, which is how readily transferable these placards are in other jurisdictions, and that poses a problem. So the placard on the licence plate is readily identified with. The courtesies that could be extended to the operator of that vehicle would go above and beyond the normal courtesies of just access to parking.

And I would see it, not from a point of view of targeting that individual, but of assisting that individual and providing an added measure of support for that individual, Mr. Chair. Now, why is the minister taking a different tack and approach to it?

Hon. Ms. Buckway: A handicap licence plate would serve to indicate that anybody driving the vehicle is handicapped. That may not be the case. There may be several people in the family who use the vehicle, only one of whom is handicapped. Therefore, the placard is in place when the handicapped person is driving the vehicle, as it should be. The person may own several vehicles and just carry the placard from vehicle to vehicle. I think it's a relatively obvious solution and one that Yukoners themselves have suggested, and the Member for Klondike is once again suggesting that all the rest of the Yukoners are wrong.

Mr. Jenkins: No, to the contrary. I am not suggesting that the rest of Yukoners are wrong, I'm just exploring with the minister the reason for this direction or tack. And the minister stated that it was substantiated by a number of studies and initiatives. Would the minister be kind enough to table those studies and reports that concluded that that would be the way to go? And I'm looking for initiatives, not just in the Yukon, but elsewhere, because these type of licence plates are quite prevalent in virtually all of the jurisdictions that I have driven in, Mr. Chair. And if there is going to be a problem with targeting a handicapped individual, I would say that the chances of it occurring would be much, much greater in a big centre or major city in North America than it would be in the Yukon. I would say that we probably, by and large, extend a lot more courtesies to individuals with an impairment than are extended in a lot of the major cities.

I could stand corrected and I'm asking the minister to provide that information that would substantiate the position that she has taken.

Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, I have said we will be using placards rather than licence plates because Yukoners have asked for it. I will undertake to provide the member with the information he wants.

With regard to double registration, the City of Whitehorse issues an identification decal or permit for use inside city limits for snow machines. It's not a vehicle registration under the Motor Vehicles Act. It has four numbers and it's applied to the snow machines. It appears the purpose is to regulate off-road snowmobile use in the municipality, as I said, Mr. Chair.

Mr. Jenkins: Well, it does lead to a duplicate registration system, one operated by the City of Whitehorse and one issued by YTG. By and large, most of these snow machines that I have seen carry both plates. They carry a City of Whitehorse registration and a YTG plate. We don't really need them both. Can the minister explain what the advantages are to Yukoners for having this duplicate system of registration?

Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, the department doesn't register snowmobiles in Whitehorse unless they are going to be used on the road. The member appears to be creating a problem where none exists.

Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, it has been brought to my attention, so obviously there is a concern out there as to the need for a duplicate registration, one through the City of Whitehorse and one through the motor vehicles branch. By and large, with regard to the snow machines, even if a company that I owned had snow machines registered and it's head office was located in Whitehorse, the way the Whitehorse city bylaw is set up, it doesn't have to be physically present here, but it has to be registered to an owner here in the City of Whitehorse.

So there could be a lot of additional cost. I take it from the minister's explanation, or puzzled look, that she doesn't understand what I'm getting at.

Mr. Chair, you could have a company. The head office of that company has a Whitehorse address. The physical assets and all of the assets of that company are outside of Whitehorse. They're in any other part of the Yukon. But the way that the bylaw is written, the snow machines owned by the company must be registered in the City of Whitehorse. Now, that doesn't make any sense. It makes a lot more sense to have, Mr. Chair, one system in place that would register all snow machines. Why can't we aim in that direction?

Now, the minister can hide behind it and say that the City of Whitehorse has this ability under their bylaws, but really, what's the advantage? There's no advantage, Mr. Chair. There's no advantage whatsoever, because for anyone who owns snow machines, even if they're running them out in the bush, if they're financed, they have to have insurance in place, or, by and large, they have public liability and property coverage in place to the minimum limits. So, they have insurance, by and large. There are a lot who do not in rural Yukon because they never see a highway because the minister doesn't cut the brush down and you wouldn't know where the highway was. So we have that problem to contend with. So they don't really get on the highway, and they're allowed to cross the highway, at right angles to it, without having to have insurance or licence plates, so there's not a need.

But if we're going to get into a duplicate system of registration, it begs the question, what has precipitated this need, and what has precipitated this requirement?

Why let the City of Whitehorse get into it at all? Because it not only applies to snow machines, it applies to four-wheelers. I can't seem to get an answer from either entity.

Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, as I said previously, this is not new. The City of Whitehorse has had the ability to create bylaws for some time, and I'm not an official of the City of Whitehorse so I can't speak for them. Our registration of such vehicles is territory-wide.

Chair: Order please. The time being close to 4:30 p.m., do the members wish to take a brief recess?

Some Hon. Members: Agreed.

Chair: I believe the agrees have it. We'll take a brief recess.


Chair: I now call Committee of the Whole to order. We will continue with general debate on Bill No. 31, An Act to Amend the Motor Vehicles Act.

Mr. Jenkins: Well, I was anxiously awaiting the break so that the minister could go back to her office, obtain a briefing and be brought up to speed by her officials on areas that she should be aware of and should have an understanding and a bit of background knowledge of, but she has obviously and clearly displayed that she does not. So, we'll give her an opportunity to set the record straight with the information she has gleaned in the last 10 minutes.

Hon. Ms. Buckway: Regarding Old Crow, the snowmobiles and four-wheelers are being used on the road, so they are not exempt. The RCMP had some concerns about the way they were being operated. They also had some insurance concerns. I point out that this has been enforced in Old Crow for almost 10 years. It's nothing new.

As well, the member asked about double vehicle registration by the city. I had explained this to him, but he wanted it to be official, so the officials have confirmed it. Section 119.3 of the Motor Vehicles Act, as the member well knows, shows that the only place that a municipality may regulate motor vehicles is off-road in the municipality. The City of Whitehorse has chosen to do that. That is their authority.

The Motor Vehicles Act doesn't affect people driving snow machines off road, for example, and the city's identifier permit helps bylaw officers for the City of Whitehorse identify snow machines operated within city boundaries.

The order for groceries to Astrographic - there have been three contracts made to Astrographic for licence plates. The contract registry information at the Government Services Web site says "Astrographic groceries". This is clearly an error and will be changed.

Mr. Jenkins:Well, there was a whole series of other areas that I would have hoped the minister had an opportunity to obtain some information on, or are these other questions not as important as the simple easy ones, Mr. Chair?

Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, 10 minutes isn't very long. The call of nature and a glass of water took up some of it.

Mr. Jenkins: I think this House will find that 10 minutes with this minister in her response to be extremely long, Mr. Chair, especially given the information that is forthcoming.

Was the minister able to find out - if we go back to Old Crow - how three-wheelers, which are currently - you can't manufacture them any more, and they no longer can be sold in North America - are currently being registered? Some of them were just recently registered, Mr. Chair.

Hon. Ms. Buckway: No, Mr. Chair, I don't yet have that information.

Mr. Jenkins: The issue that the minister said was surrounding Old Crow was that this has been in effect for some 10 years. Well, recently, there has been a flurry of activity and initiatives undertaken - I'm sure the department can substantiate it - and more and more snow machines and four-wheelers have been registered in probably the past year than ever before. And I'd just like to know what changed, if something has been in place for 10 years? What occurred that precipitated this sudden requirement that virtually everything be registered, given the tremendous network of roads that the minister has to maintain in Old Crow? I mean, it's just tremendous, the wonderful length of roads that she has to maintain there.

I would be inclined to proceed the other way, Mr. Chair, and that perhaps it's a community that vehicles other than motor vehicles don't need to be registered, because there's not an extensive system of highways or roads in Old Crow. It's an allotted added responsibility on the community citizens in that, in a lot of cases, they don't have the bill of sale for the snow machine or the four-wheeler. They have to have insurance, so they have to tell the insurance carrier and fill out an application for insurance. In a lot of cases, for some of them, it's the first time they've ever obtained insurance.

The Northwest Territories has a different set of rules with respect to the operation of snow machines and four-wheelers, and I don't really hear that many concerns being raised in that area, Mr. Chair. In fact, it's a simple system there, whereas here, the requirement for all of the appropriate paperwork to flow into the motor vehicles branch and have insurance in place - is it really serving the purpose that all of these requirements were initially laid out and imposed upon society? I am asking the minister, is this just for the citizens of Old Crow to impose this kind of requirement on them, given that similar types of communities in other parts of northern Canada - just because they are in a different jurisdiction, one would see them as being treated the same. Well, why is the minister choosing to impose this much regulation on Old Crow at this time?

Hon. Ms. Buckway: As I have already said to the Member for Klondike, the RCMP have expressed concern to the department about how the vehicles are being driven on the roadway and have requested assistance to ensure these vehicles are registered and insured. The department has employed an Old Crow resident to assist the residents with registration and insurance matters in the community, and the RCMP are pleased with this arrangement. The only one not pleased with the arrangement seems to be the Member for Klondike.

Mr. Jenkins: Obviously, given that it has been brought to my attention, there are probably a number of people who are concerned with it. It has been brought to my attention as one of the issues surrounding this Motor Vehicles Act. Does the minister not recognize that there is a different lifestyle in Old Crow than in Whitehorse?

What really precipitated this accelerated situation was when an RCMP officer went out to stop a snow machine and was injured. After that, everyone was made to pay the price, Mr. Chair. That's what the minister has done.

Now, is that fair, in light of how other northern communities in similar isolated situations to Old Crow's are treated? One only has to look just over the border in the Northwest Territories.

Hon. Ms. Buckway: I'm aware of a couple of pretty horrendous accidents recently involving snow machines in the Northwest Territories where people were killed, Mr. Chair. I'm sure the Member for Klondike isn't suggesting he'd like to see that here in the Yukon.

The safe operation of vehicles on the roadways is the goal of the department, Mr. Chair, and the goal of these amendments to the Motor Vehicles Act.

Mr. Jenkins: Perhaps we can just explore with the minister the order and magnitude of the problem we are facing. What is the total length of all roads and highways in and around Old Crow that the minister is responsible for maintaining?

Hon. Ms. Buckway: As the member has already said, it's not large. I don't have the exact number of kilometres at my fingertips, but I'm sure I could get it, if the member wishes. Again, the safe operation of motor vehicles is the goal, Mr. Chair.

Mr. Jenkins: Well, that's what we're told about this Motor Vehicles Act amendment - that it's going to improve safety on our highways. I would suggest to the minister that those who are drinking and driving today will continue to do so, irrespective of any changes in the law and irrespective of any additional penalties imposed on those individuals. It is a chronic problem that we're faced with, and this isn't going to change it. If we want to do something, let's address the problem head on.

But I agree with the minister that we do have some horrific accidents. Is the minister suggesting that by imposing all of these requirements on the citizens of Old Crow they will not be involved in any accidents? Is that what the minister is suggesting?

Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, the Member for Klondike is playing with words and making frivolous suggestions. Compliance is a goal, certainly, and any number of motor vehicle accidents are too many. Anything that reduces motor vehicle accidents is something I will support.

Mr. Jenkins: That's a very broad statement, Mr. Chair. Anything we can suggest or implement to reduce motor vehicle accidents should get support.

Well, let's start eliminating motor vehicles. Is that what the minister's suggesting? Because that's not an approach that's practical, reasonable. It's just not practical.

But, in a lot of cases, what I'm pointing out for the minister is that we have more government pouring more regulations on us than ever before, and no benefits are accruing to the general population, Mr. Chair. No benefits are accruing to society. The only benefits that are being accrued are that we have more people employed by government filtering through this maze of paperwork, and there's more chance of coming into conflict with the law because you're unaware of recent orders-in-council or recent amendments or recent changes, even though they're well-advertised and well-published. Because in law, ignorance of the law is no excuse.

But even the best of lawyers are hard pressed to keep up with the constant flurry of amendments, especially in the regulations of this and many other Liberal governments in Canada, Mr. Chair, especially the federal Liberal government. And it is a hard task to keep on top of these amendments and regulations.

So in the last little while, Mr. Chair, we've seen a tremendous increase in the use of regulations, and we have seen a tremendous number of changes in the direction that government is taking and no change to the legislation, or minor, enabling changes to the existing legislation. That's what we have right across the board here - minor tinkering and changes in the legislation, making it more enabling.

But, what we have to get to is the extent to which the regulations can go under the enabling legislation. I have a great deal of difficulty accepting the minister's position that we're not anticipating any changes or that we're not going to be doing that.

At the end of the day, Mr. Chair, the only area that we as legislators get to look at, see and debate is the actual enabling legislation. We have to go and look at that enabling legislation as to how various scenarios could plug into it and be applied. If we suggest something that's a little bit too much one way, we're told we're fear-mongering or that we're grandstaging or grandstanding or inflaming the debate. They have got all the catchwords over there now. They've got them down pat. That's all they have down pat. The realities of their responsibilities, they don't.

At the end of the day, we have to make laws that are fair, reasonable and practical. We have to look at removing duplications and we have to look at being cognizant of lifestyles that currently exist. The minister is not being cognizant of the lifestyle that currently exists in Old Crow. A snow machine is a tool there. It's more often than not used as a tool. Just like a rifle is, that these federal Liberals are taking away from everyone, imposing all sorts of harsh requirements upon the general population of Canada.

So what we have before us, Mr. Chair, is virtually the same type of situation as Bill C-68 imposed on the residents of Old Crow. This has been in place for 10 years; you haven't all been complying; there's a problem; this is how we are going to fix it. Virtually everything has to be registered; everything has to be insured. Well, we have problems with handguns used in the commission of crimes. Handguns have been registered in Canada since the 1930s, and to get a permit to own or carry one today is just about an impossibility. But an illegal handgun - I am told they are readily available. But under the Liberal government, because handguns are used in the commission of crimes more often than not, the solution is register all rifles, seize all the ones that are not in use or not properly locked up. It fails to recognize that a rifle is a tool used in the outlying communities. The minister is doing the same with this Motor Vehicles Act. And why?

I suggest to the minister one little thing before we leave the handgun, Mr. Chair. If she asks the question at the caucus meeting tomorrow as to how many handguns and how many firearms are owned and possessed by people within the Government of Yukon - officially sanctioned handguns, especially in the Department of Renewable Resources - she would be amazed at how many guns there are owned by the Government of Yukon. She would be simply amazed, Mr. Chair. And we are headed down the same path with respect to our highways enforcement people.

About the only one in the caucus who might have an appreciation of the number of handguns is the Minister of Renewable Resources, because if you want to see, next to the RCMP, the biggest collection of firearms in the Yukon, ask the Government of Yukon about it. Ask the Government of Yukon. And that number has been increasing, Mr. Chair. It has not been decreasing. Such is the Liberal way.

Let's look at Old Crow. I'm going to be interested in seeing what kind of licence plate the minister puts on the bus when she finally gets it up there - the community bus. That should be an interesting exercise. At the end of the day, the number of vehicles - and the accelerated program that was put in place in Old Crow, where virtually everything in the way of snow machines and four-wheelers and three-wheelers must be registered, has served very little benefit to the people in that community. Can the minister point out one advantage in that regard?

Now, bear in mind that there is a prohibition on alcohol in Old Crow, but from time to time it has been known to be available there in that community, and individuals have been known to operate snow machines under the influence, and I am advised that that's what precipitated this last initiative.

So, what you have is an alcohol-related incident, which there is a ban against, precipitating virtually everyone - all of the law-abiding community members - having to register their snow machines, having to be licensed.

Thank you very much for providing this wonderful ability to make our roads in Old Crow safer - all X number of clicks of them.

Mr. Chair, I'm still waiting for responses on quite a number of the areas. The one that I'm very, very concerned with is BA Evans & Associates and the analysis they currently have underway with respect to a risk assessment.

I was wondering if the minister, at the same time she explores the questions they're asking, which were vetted through the department, could advise why this firm, originating in Manitoba, is the only one with the expertise in this area.

Hon. Ms. Buckway: Old Crow residents are just as entitled to safer roads for their elders, children and pedestrians, as are residents in other communities. It is my understanding that the registration of off-road vehicles there became commonplace several years ago.

The firm that is doing the risk assessment, BA Evans & Associates, was awarded the contract as a result of a tender. There was nobody locally who could do the work, Mr. Chair.

Mr. Jenkins: Well, I'm somewhat amazed that the closest individuals to have this knowledge, undertaking and ability are in Manitoba. Can the minister confirm that that is the case?

Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, there's no requirement in a tender that the person be the closest to the Yukon.

Mr. Jenkins: Well, what I'm looking at is that, given the state of our economy, one would think that we would have the ability here in the Yukon to address an initiative of this order of magnitude, Mr. Chair, but such doesn't appear to be the case.

What is the linkage to this company? What other contracts have they bid on in the past in the Yukon, and how did they suddenly become aware of this type of contract?

Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, nobody in the Yukon bid on this contract. Therefore, chances were pretty good it was going to be awarded to somebody from outside. I have no idea how this particular company happened to hear about it or happened to bid on it.

Mr. Jenkins: Well, given the contract size - $23,500 - there has to be some Yukon component to it, in my opinion, Mr. Chair, and there has to be probably someone in the Yukon who has headed up some of the tasks that must be performed under the terms of this contract. With whom is this firm associated?

Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, there was no requirement for anybody in the Yukon to be associated with them for the purposes of this contract.

Mr. Jenkins: So the minister doesn't really have any concerns that, given the tough economic times here in the Yukon, we have to tender a contract of this size and order of magnitude to a firm from Manitoba.

Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, if we put out a tender and nobody in the Yukon is qualified to do the work, it would seem reasonable that we would get someone from somewhere else to do the work.

Mr. Jenkins: Thank you, Mr. Chair. Is the minister sure that that is the case and there's no one in the Yukon qualified to do this type of work? She'll stand by that statement?

Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, there was nobody on the government source list and nobody we were aware of who does that type of work.

Mr. Jenkins: Yes, I can probably see my way clear now. Given the risk assessment, she has to investigate the potential for packing a side arm because of the hazard associated with their job. I can see where there's not too many people in the Yukon - probably not too many other than Liberals - who would have an understanding of that kind of a risk assessment. I would see it as probably needing someone from outside the Yukon to do an assessment of the risks associated with it.

I'd like to get a little bit further with the minister on this requirement to expand the role of the highway enforcement officers, and ask the minister if she could table all of the background information with respect to the Workers' Compensation Health and Safety Board review and what precipitated this contract being awarded? There had to be a number of initiatives and there had to be something that brought it to a head. So, if the minister could give an undertaking to table those documents in the next few days, I'd appreciate it, please.

Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, I'll table anything I can, subject of course to confidentiality requirements. Thank you.

Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, there has to be something that precipitated this risk assessment or requirement for a task analysis and a risk assessment. Somebody must have said my life is in danger doing this job. I need some added help. That's usually what precipitates a risk assessment.

I want to know from the minister - there has to be something, and she mentioned a Workers' Compensation Health and Safety Board report. Surely that couldn't be confidential at this juncture. Could it be - the Workers' Compensation Health and Safety Board report on the comings and goings of the weigh scale operators and the risk that they have up there?

Having spent a little bit of time at the weigh station - not in the recent past little while, but prior to that - the biggest risk associated while they were doing their job was probably to get burned with scalded coffee. There's not a great -

Some Hon. Member: Point of order.

Point of order

Chair: Ms. Buckway, on a point of order.

Hon. Ms. Buckway: Once again, the Member for Klondike is insulting my staff, and I wish he would stop it.

Mr. Jenkins: There is no point of order. I am not insulting the staff. I am saying that the biggest risk associated with the weigh scales operations is probably getting burned with scalded coffee, unless you expand the terms of reference.

There is no point of order. The minister is just looking for some straws to clutch at the last possible moment.

To make it abundantly clear, I am not insulting her staff. I am searching, with the minister, for what this risk assessment is all about. And she can't give me an answer because she doesn't have an understanding of it or a clue. There is no point of order, Mr. Chair.

Chair's ruling

Chair: On the point of order, there is no point of order. What Mr. Jenkins was doing was expressing an opinion that he has the right to hold in the House. So there is no point of order.

Mr. Jenkins still has the floor unless he has given it up.

Hon. Ms. Buckway: I have answered this question for the Member for Klondike several times. I have said that the staff brought specific safety concerns regarding their work to the attention of Workers' Compensation, the Yukon Employees Union, and the department. There is no report from the Workers' Compensation Board, but the staff had specific safety concerns and, as a result of that, a risk assessment is being performed.

Mr. Jenkins: Specific safety concerns. Normally, when a safety issue is brought to the attention of the supervisor, that safety issue is fixed or addressed, Mr. Chair. That's the way they're treated.

Now, these couldn't have been small safety issues, if they required an outside consultant from Manitoba because there was no one available in the Yukon who had the experience or the background. That's basically what the minister has said: there's no one here in the Yukon, and we had to go outside the Yukon. In fact, we had to go all the way to Manitoba to find a consultant who was able to complete a task analysis and a risk assessment on the weigh station operators. That's what the minister is saying.

What are the actual safety concerns that were brought to their attention? Because we're spending some $23,500. Obviously, we're headed somewhere, and this consultant was hired either to prove or disprove something. You don't go spending $23,500 because there's a chair with a wobbly leg or there's not a hard hat or safety-toed boots available, Mr. Chair. Safety-toed boots are a requirement in a lot of occupations, as are hard hats. That should be self-explanatory.

So it would appear that the minister is giving a brush-off to issues that have raised the ire of someone and are quite critical and quite important, Mr. Chair, given that we have hired a consultant at some $23,500 to complete a risk assessment and a task analysis of these employees. There has to be something there, and all I'm asking is for the minister to share with us what that is.

I might agree with the minister that this magnitude of expenditure might very well be necessary. To the contrary, if it's done for political purposes, to achieve a political end or motive, I'm not going to be nearly as sympathetic, Mr. Chair. Just what is driving this issue?

Hon. Ms. Buckway: We are taking the concerns of the staff seriously. That's why the assessment is being carried out.

The Member for Klondike is well aware of the issues raised, and his party provided an opinion to the Yukon News on April 12, 2000, suggesting that defensive equipment be issued to these staff.

Mr. Jenkins: Let's carry it one step further, now that she has received advice from the Minister of Renewable Resources. Maybe he has provided her with an insight, Mr. Chair, so the minister can stand on her feet and carry on about what this all pertains to.

Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, during the election campaign a question was asked of all the parties: if elected, would you be willing to ensure the safety of Yukon highway enforcement personnel by agreeing to issue each officer with (a) the same defensive equipment as already carried by Yukon conservation officers; (b) a communication system that works in all areas and allows vehicle driver licence checks 24 hours a day, and (c) adequate training and equipment use in self-defence?

The Yukon Party response was that the same defensive equipment as already carried by the Yukon conservation officers, a communication system that works in all areas and allows vehicle driver licence checks 24 hours a day and the health and safety of our employees is of utmost importance, and we will strive to work with all employee groups to ensure that adequate training and tools are provided to ensure their safety is not compromised.

I believe the Member for Klondike thinks that side arms should be issued. I happen to disagree.

Mr. Jenkins: Well, the minister accurately reflected the position that the Yukon Party took in response to that. What was the Liberal Party's response to that question, Mr. Chair?

Hon. Ms. Buckway: The Liberal Party's response was that a Yukon Liberal government would be committed to providing highway enforcement personnel with the necessary tools to ensure their safety. With regard to the defensive equipment already carried by Yukon conservation officers, we would review, in consultation with PSAC, what is being practised in other jurisdictions before making any final decisions.

Mr. Jenkins: And, for the record, what was the NDP's position on that matter?

Hon. Ms. Buckway: I'm so glad you asked. The Yukon NDP value the work and expertise of public employees and are committed to providing a safe work environment. Currently, Yukon conservation officers are provided with a firearm that may only be used for bear protection. In the event of a serious altercation with people, conservation officers are required to contact a peace officer. The Yukon NDP will continue to apply this policy. We believe that highway enforcement personnel must be provided with proper safety equipment, and this should be defined through discussion between workers and management.

Mr. Jenkins: Well, Mr. Chair, at the end of the day, there's not too much of a dissimilar opinion with respect to these positions. So let's just back up a little bit further. What incident or series of incidents precipitated this kind of question arising from these individuals?

Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, as I said, the employees had expressed a concern about their safety. That's what precipitated it.

Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, something has to happen for an employee to feel threatened. Now, just because the minister feels threatened because she doesn't have the wherewithal to respond to these questions today, I'm sure she's grasping the fundamentals of where I'm going and the questions I want responses to. And hopefully, at the end of the day, we'll ferret out all this information, Mr. Chair.

The issue before us is that we have a number of employees who are concerned with their safety while on their job. Something occurred - some series of events must have occurred - to precipitate those individuals feeling intimidated or threatened, if we can use those words, Mr. Chair. Just for the record, what were they?

I'm not looking for the answer that the employees felt threatened. I'm looking for the specific instances that gave rise to this kind of request and this input going into, not just Workers' Compensation Health and Safety Board, but to their union and, I'm sure, to their supervisors. It was a three-way thrust. There has to be something there, Mr. Chair.

Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, as the minister, I am not aware of any specific incidents that prompted this decision to address their safety concerns. I am not aware of any specific incidents.

Mr. Jenkins: I'm not comfortable with that answer, Mr. Chair. These are a group of dedicated, intelligent people. A lot of them have been in their respective positions for quite an extensive period of time. Now, all of a sudden, they feel threatened. Something has changed. Something has transpired to make them feel threatened. Just what is that or what was it?

The minister says she doesn't know. I'd say that, before I go out and spend $23,500, Mr. Chair, I would find out if that is a worthwhile expenditure of government money. That's really where we're at. It can't be just because one individual felt threatened and it can't be just one incident. It has to be a series of things.

Is there any kind of a paper done on that issue, Mr. Chair, that supports the position that we have to go out and hire an outside consultant before we arm all these highway enforcement people? Is that what the minister is suggesting?

Hon. Ms. Buckway: There is no plan to arm all of the highway enforcement people. I am not aware of any specific incidents. I do know the concerns predated my government taking power, and we have moved to address those concerns with the risk assessment.

Mr. McRobb: Well, I have heard quite a lot of the debate that has gone on on this act between the Member for Klondike and the minister. And I am quite appalled at the lack of understanding by the minister and this Liberal government.

It was not too long ago - I would like to recall back to when the Liberals were on this side and they chastised our ministers for not knowing the least amount of detail in their departments. On issues like street lights on the airport extension, why didn't the minister know? There were issues like this: why is a photograph out of focus in the visitor magazine? Mr. Chair, we can go on and on. There are hundreds of examples. They are all found in Hansard - countless examples.

Now, this government can't stand up and answer basic questions they should know. Furthermore, on top of that, they are not willing to provide an opportunity so we can have that information in order to consider it before the opportunity is lost. We asked them to set the bill aside. They said no. We asked them to get information during the recess. They failed to do that. They say they are an open and accountable government, but we know that is not factual, based on their own behaviour.

They don't want to be held open and accountable. It's as simple as that.

Mr. Chair, when we first started looking at this bill, I pointed out that it's amazing what information comes to light when you start to pry beneath the top layer of defence. Mr. Chair, as we were doing so, I recall the minister accusing us of being paranoid - accusing us of thinking there was some kind of a nefarious plot.

Well, Mr. Chair, in addition, the minister would hurl plenty of insults toward us when answering questions. That is not a sign of an open or accountable government. Why don't they just answer the question, Mr. Chair, and provide the information instead of running and hiding.

Now, I listened to the debate this afternoon and I'm particularly interested in this risk assessment study, because when we were discussing this before about the added risk in British Columbia to officers given these responsibilities - these greater powers of enforcement on the open highway - the minister was anything but candid about any knowledge whatsoever in this area. There was no mention of this contract, no mention of this study and no acknowledgement of risk to these employees. Instead, we were chastised for thinking there was some kind of nefarious plot. I'm not sure if this meets that definition, but certainly it's not as innocent as the minister would like us to believe.

Now, I'm a little concerned about the safety of these employees. I would like to ask the minister: what level of concern do the employees have about all of this?

Hon. Ms. Buckway: Compared to what, Mr. Chair?

This risk assessment has nothing to do with the amendments before us. The purpose of the study is to determine if there is risk. We are taking the employees' concerns very seriously, and that's why we are doing this risk assessment.

Mr. McRobb: Well, there's a circular answer if I ever heard one, Mr. Chair. First, she wonders what concern and then refers to the concern.

Now, she mentioned the purpose of the study. I'd like her to be quite exact when she explains exactly what that purpose is. I also want to hear what the concerns of the employees were.

Hon. Ms. Buckway: I have already explained that to the Member for Klondike. Perhaps the Member for Kluane wasn't listening at the time. I will say again that, as the minister, I am not aware of what the specific concerns of the officers are. We are performing the risk assessment to address their safety concerns, and the results should be available in December or early in January.

Mr. McRobb: Well, Mr. Chair, they expect the former minister to be aware of street lights off in the bush, beside a runway extension. But this minister can claim innocence and try to justify her lack of knowledge about the concerns of government employees by being given broader powers of enforcement on the open highway. It doesn't add up. At the very least, the minister must have been given an overview of these concerns. Can she stand up and say point blank that she was not given an overview of the concerns. If she was, can she please tell us what those concerns were?

Hon. Ms. Buckway: There are no broader powers, no additional officers and no side arms. I was aware that they had safety concerns of a general nature. I do not know the specifics of those concerns, Mr. Chair.

Mr. McRobb: Well, Mr. Chair, she has an official by her side. There are others tuned in to the radio coverage here who can fax down an answer if the official by her side doesn't have it. But I would find it very surprising if she doesn't, because the official is a very capable official. Now, can the minister please consult with her aide and give us a response? We want to know why they were concerned? Can she tell us just roughly why the employees were concerned?

Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, I am aware in general terms that they had concerns about their safety; beyond that, I am not aware of the specifics of the concerns. I have already said that to the Member for Kluane.

Mr. McRobb:And the government spent some $23,000 or $24,000 on a study to look at the situation. Well, there must be legitimate cause for the study, Mr. Chair. Were these concerns significant or minor?

Hon. Ms. Buckway: I have said that I had awareness that they had concerns about their safety. I know that as a general thing. I do not know the specifics. The department obviously is taking these concerns seriously, because that is why the risk assessment is being done.

Mr. McRobb: Well, Mr. Chair, it sounds like the minister is dismissing the safety concerns of departmental employees, because otherwise why would they spend more than $23,000 on a risk assessment study? And the minister won't admit that these concerns were significant enough to justify this study. She is skating around the answer. Are these concerns something the minister believes to be significant or are they just minor?

Hon. Ms. Buckway: The Member for Kluane contradicted himself so many times in that question that I was having a hard time understanding it.

But I will say again that I am aware that there are safety concerns. I do not know the specifics. We are concerned enough that we wanted to do the risk assessment to look at their safety concerns. I would say that that shows that the department is taking the concerns seriously.

Mr. McRobb:So why didn't the minister consult with the Yukon Employees Union about these amendments?

Hon. Ms. Buckway: The amendments before us have nothing to do with the risk assessment that the member is talking about.

Mr. McRobb: Well, Mr. Chair, it has everything to do with the amendments. Clause 20 refers to expanded powers of enforcement. The risk study being looked at by BA Evans & Associates looks at the safety risk to employees in similar situations. I can't believe how the minister can stand up there and declare that there is no comparison. There are all the comparisons in the world.

Now, I would like to know why the Yukon Employees Union was not consulted about these amendments.

Hon. Ms. Buckway: Again, the risk assessment that is being done has no relation to the amendments before us. There are no broader powers contemplated for enforcement officers, no additional officers contemplated, and no side arms.

Mr. McRobb: Well, if the risk assessment has no association with this bill, then why are they doing it?

Hon. Ms. Buckway: The risk assessment is being done to address safety concerns expressed by enforcement officers relating to their personal safety while carrying out their duties.

Mr. McRobb: The connection seems so obvious that this bill contains amendments, such as clause 20, which expand some powers of enforcement beyond municipal boundaries - in other words, the open highway, and if anybody looks at the map of the Yukon, it's 99.99 percent open highway. Yet she stands there and says there's no connection. Mr. Chair, I would suggest that the only non-connections are possibly the synapses in that thinking. There's obviously a connection.

The minister is embarrassed, embarrassed to stand up and explain why the Employees Union was not consulted.

Mr. Chair, that's not open and accountable. That's a sign of a know-it-all government, contrary to what they said at election time, that they're open to better ideas because they don't have all the answers. Here we have another example of how this is a know-it-all government. This is a classic case of where this government should have consulted, because these changes are significant concerns.

Now, I asked the minister on November 21 about the situation in B.C., and we heard the MLA for Watson Lake describe how these highway patrolmen, with the added duty, don't go anywhere without a police officer because of the safety risk, and I asked the minister about that.

She didn't offer any information or any knowledge at all.

I asked the minister why wouldn't the government consult with the Employees Union to get their feedback. In her answer, the minister said that this is a minor amendment and, as such, there was no need to consult. No need to consult - just a minor amendment. Oh, just a minor amendment, yet they spend $23,500 on a study to try to evaluate the risks to these employees on the open highway.

What we're talking about here, Mr. Chair, is maybe somebody in a white and orange truck pulling over a highway tractor maybe with Texas plates on it, out in the middle of a dark night on a lonely highway somewhere. Some weigh scale operator pulling over an American trucker in the middle of the night, telling him that he was speeding or his taillight was out or his muffler needs to be fixed and that his vehicle should be impounded. Well, Mr. Chair, you don't have to be a rocket scientist to figure out potentially there could be a risk to that employee, especially if they're not armed, as the minister has stated. Of course, there's a risk.

But, the minister can stand on her feet, again and again, and say that this is just a minor amendment and, as such, there is no need to consult. Well, Mr. Chair, I can't believe it. I can't believe that for a government that prided itself on knowing how to consult properly - not like the previous NDP government, according to the Health minister from Porter Creek North over there. He stands up and beats his chest and says, "We know how to do it right, Mr. Chair. We know how to do it right, not like the NDP." Mr. Chair, this is one for the record books.

I can talk about consultation in my former role with the Cabinet Commission on Energy. We did a lot of consultation - meaningful consultation - discussion papers, stakeholder groups, information and feedback. We even did minutes of meetings, records of meetings and rolled them all up. If I have ever seen a government consultation process done right, that was it. That had to be it. And it produced excellent results. Look at the rewards. The Yukon is getting the highest marks in the country. Well, the commission was part of that.

Now, I know the Liberals cough at that one, Mr. Chair, because their line all along was that multi-million-dollar commissions were useless. They don't want to admit they weren't. They don't want to admit that good work was done, because it would make them pale in comparison, especially this so-called good consultation that this government delivers.

Well, with a bill that affects practically everybody in the territory and some people very significantly, this government packages it up, masquerades it as a housekeeping bill, puts up a first layer of defence - along with an aggressive attack on anyone who dares ask a question about it, insulting them at every opportunity along the way - and then denies everything.

Well, Mr. Chair, I guess we have to be tough on this side of the Legislature in holding them accountable and being persistent when we get examples like this, making sure they don't forget it.

But it's not easy. It's not easy being persistent, but already the rewards are plenty because of what we see exposed behind that first layer of defence, Mr. Chair. And what we see exposed are contradictions - contradictions in what the Liberals promised and what they can't deliver.

Check on delivery in the fall, they said. Well, Mr. Chair, it's more like bounced cheque and no delivery. It's sad. Given the financial situation of this government and the paltry handouts to Yukoners in the way of winter works, Mr. Chair, it's really sad. And I hope that Yukoners remember this when this government drops the writ and that they hold them accountable, just like we're trying to do now. It's embarrassing.

Mr. Chair, we see a situation here where we asked the minister nicely, on several occasions last week, if she would pull back on this bill, develop some process and bring it back in the spring, because there simply isn't time to bring it back this fall after any process. And, Mr. Chair, she had to insist on having things her way - her way or the highway.

Now, Mr. Chair, as we explore more and more into this bill, we see that there's more and more this government should have consulted about. We see that there are more and more concerns to Yukoners, more and more of a need to consult.

Because in essence, just on this one particular clause 20, by the expansion of enforcement powers to these government employees, what we have here is a situation that makes their jobs more dangerous. It's as simple as that, and I hope that the minister remembers the example I gave and doesn't get on her feet and accuse me of not being able to provide a relevant example again, because I think that example is very relevant. It's very real, and it could happen. It has probably happened in lots of other jurisdictions. The department has that information, and the minister should have that information. If she doesn't, she ought to be asking for it, because what we need here is some common sense. We need some leadership by this Liberal government to stand up and stick up for Yukoners.

Instead, this political level of government is more like just another broken cog in the wheel. They don't have the ability to pull the lever and stop the machine. They are not assuming the leadership. They are not assuming the responsibility. They are just along for the ride. We see it by the priorities of the government, in not addressing what is important to Yukoners - just sitting on a big surplus, hoping to hold on to it, hand out the goodies before the next election, and get re-elected, because it's becoming more and more apparent that that's the most important thing to this government.

They care about themselves. If you take a look at their performance record, Mr. Chair, and examine it, you'll see that most of it has to do with looking after themselves, looking after their friends, and making their jobs easier. That's not what government is all about. You're supposed to put aside yourselves and do what's best for the people in the territory.

For a government that campaigned on consulting and subsequently reiterated the importance of good consultation, what's happening here is shameful. Not only was there no consultation, but the first Yukoners heard about this was four days after the day we first debated this bill. On the Monday morning newscast, Yukoners heard that the Legislature was dealing with the Motor Vehicles Act. That's it. The minister has admitted that. No forewarning at all. They heard it on the radio.

One station even had it inaccurately, saying that the amendment was already passed. Well, a lot of people probably just shrugged their shoulders and thought, well, they're probably just housekeeping measures and it's too late to look into it. It's a done deal anyway, so why bother?

Well, Mr. Chair, it's not very open and honest of this government to behave this way.

And I know it's not nice for them sitting over there to listen to me going on like this.

Well, maybe some of them do enjoy it, Mr. Chair. You know, the Minister of Renewable Resources seems to be quite entertained. He wants more. Well, I'll give more. There are about another seven or eight minutes here. We'll see if we can satisfy him.

But Mr. Chair, when you look at the performance record of what has been delivered and what was promised, think about how this government should be graded on this performance. Is it an A, B, C, D, E or F? How would you grade the government on this one? Would you give it a check on delivery?

I know that some of them are entertained listening to this because they don't take it too seriously. They're just along for the ride. The Minister of Health over there, he's sailing down some river in his canoe right now.

Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)

Mr. McRobb: He's paddling down the river in his canoe. Sorry about that. He says he's on a 10-year canoe trip, Mr. Chair.

Some Hon. Members: (Inaudible)

Mr. McRobb: Now I'm being entertained, listening to members on the floor.

But anyway, the bottom line to this point I'm trying to make is that if the members across the way don't enjoy listening to me rail on about how they're not doing it right and not keeping their promises and so on, then smarten up. Because there's time - time to listen, learn, change and do it right. You have another few years in this mandate.

So, the next time you're developing bills or deciding whether to have public consultation on something, think about this: do you want to hear us on this side again point the finger across the floor?

Chair: Order, please. I would remind the member to refer through the Chair and not as "you." I don't set any agendas or write any bills.

Mr. McRobb: Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Anyway, think about it the next time that, collectively as a caucus, you decide whether to have public consultation on any bill or initiative, if the government ever develops any. Think about what might happen if there is no consultation, because, sure as anything, we'll be standing up over here holding the government accountable again. So, let it be a deterrent to any more examples like this one, because obviously, this is not a minor amendment. This is not a minor bill. This is not strictly a housekeeping bill after all. It was disguised as one, but it's not, because endangering the lives of our government employees is a serious matter. Mr. Chair, I see that they have reached their saturation point, and I can certainly understand why. I know it hasn't been pleasant to all of them, so I move you report progress.

Chair: It has been moved by Mr. McRobb that we do now report progress.

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 Committee of the Whole?

Chair's report

Mr. McLarnon: Mr. Speaker, the Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 31, An Act to Amend the Motor Vehicles 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 5:56 p.m.

The following Sessional Paper was tabled November 27, 2000:


Health Care Insurance Programs, Health Services Branch: Statement of Revenue and Expenditures for the years 1997 to 2000 (Roberts)