Wednesday, April 18, 2001 - 1:00 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
We will proceed at this time with prayers.
Speaker: We will proceed at this time with the Order Paper.
Introduction of visitors.
Are there any returns or documents for tabling?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I have for tabling six legislative returns from the Department of Community and Transportation Services, and I have for tabling the Yukon Lottery Commission's annual report.
Speaker: Are there any further returns or documents for tabling?
Are there any reports of committees?
Petition No. 2 - response
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 67, I rise in the House today to respond to Petition No. 2 whereby the petitioners have asked that the Yukon Legislative Assembly support the establishment of a public cremation facility in Whitehorse, Yukon.
As legislators, it is incumbent upon us to be aware of the acts and regulations in place in the Yukon and to pass appropriate legislation when and where required.
There are no acts or regulations in place in the Yukon governing the establishment and operation of crematoriums. There is a Cemeteries and Burial Sites Act that has been in place without amendment since 1967. However, it does not include any reference to crematoriums.
In both 1992 and 1996, there were inquiries from the public about the possibility of setting up a crematorium. In 1997, the chief coroner for the Yukon prepared a discussion paper on the disposal of human remains in the Yukon. At that time, the legislation in place in other Canadian jurisdictions relating to the disposal of human remains, including crematoriums, was reviewed. All Canadian jurisdictions, except the Northwest Territories - which, like the Yukon, did not have any legislation - incorporate the regulation of crematoriums in their cemeteries legislation.
The legislation relating to crematoriums normally covers topics such as the following: permitted locations; licensing of the facility and the operator; standards relating to health and environmental safety and emissions; applicable fees; requirements for a registration of death; disposal of unclaimed remains; record keeping; technical requirements, such as the removal of radioactive devices; and enforcement and penalties.
It's important that the Yukon have in place legislation and regulations prior to the establishment of a facility in the Yukon.
A crematorium would be a welcome and beneficial alternative in the Yukon. There are also significant health and safety concerns. Our primary concern should be protection of the public. It would be hazardous to allow the development of a crematorium without the appropriate regulatory framework in place.
In 1997, Mr. Speaker, the chief coroner also recommended that the Cemeteries and Burial Sites Act be reviewed and updated to more current legislative standards. Accordingly, I am advising the House today and the public and respondents of the petition that I have tasked the Department of Justice with reviewing and updating it to more current legislative standards. While the crematorium is a legislative issue, it is also an economic issue, and I have asked the Department of Economic Development to work closely with other departments on this particular issue.
We are committed to working with the entire community and with our fellow legislators with respect to this issue, taking into account the concerns of the people of the Yukon.
Again, Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the petitioners for their patience and for their dedication regarding this particular issue.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: If there are no further petitions, are there any bills to be introduced?
Are there any notices of motion?
NOTICES OF MOTION
Mr. Kent: Mr. Speaker, I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that the Official Opposition's objection to the proposed amendment to the Yukon Utilities Act conveys a strong anti-business message; and
THAT this House urges the Official Opposition to abandon its anti-business campaign and join the Government in welcoming private sector investment to the Yukon.
Ms. Tucker: Mr. Speaker, I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that the Official Opposition's refusal to vote on a minor housekeeping change to Bill No. 43, An Act to Amend the Fuel Tax Act, is a reflection of their anti-business attitude and their lack of support for small tourism operators;
THAT this House recognizes that the change to Bill No. 43 was requested by the Wilderness Tourism Association to help reduce red tape and put money back in the pockets of small tourism operators; and
THAT this House urges the Official Opposition to support small tourism operators and work with the Government to help reduce red tape and put money back into the pockets of Yukoners.
Mr. Fentie: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that:
(1) continual delays by the federal government in resolving outstanding issues with respect to stable, long-term access to forest resources have impeded the development of a sustainable forest industry in the Yukon, and have had a negative impact on the Yukon's overall economy;
(2) Yukon people have demonstrated patience and good faith in the face of these delays and have taken many opportunities to participate in discussions aimed at developing a made-in-Yukon forest policy that will meet the needs of Yukoners for years to come; and
(3) the anticipated devolution of responsibility for lands and resources from the federal government to Yukon control within less than a year makes it imperative that processes and policies are in place that are acceptable to Yukon people and that meet Yukon needs; and
THAT this House urges the federal government to show leadership by allocating the necessary resources to resolve outstanding issues without further delay, and to get on with the job of developing appropriate and acceptable policies that will support the development of a sustainable forest industry in the Yukon in accordance with the principles of the Yukon Forest Strategy.
Mr. Keenan: Mr. Speaker, I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of the House that:
(1) in a majority government, there are few opportunities for private members on the government side to express their view or to raise matters that they consider to be of interest to their constituents;
(2) during both the First and Second Sessions of the 30th Legislature, various MLAs on the Liberal back benches have introduced motions that they believed, with or without good reason, to be matters worthy of debate on the day set aside for consideration of motions other than government motions; and
(3) by repeatedly declining scheduled opportunities to call government private Members' motions for debate, the Liberal Government has further marginalized Liberal MLAs who do not hold Cabinet portfolios; and
THAT this House urges the Yukon Liberal Government to demonstrate a sense of teamwork by following the schedule agreed to by all parties and allowing government backbenchers to present and defend the motions that they put forward and which they believe, with or without justification, are worthy of thoughtful consideration and debate by all Members of the Yukon Legislative Assembly.
Mr. Jenkins: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that:
(1) the current Yukon Liberal Government is the most secretive government in the history of Yukon by refusing to divulge a position on land claims that should be public information;
(2) the refusal by the Premier to state the position of the Yukon Liberal Government on transboundary land claims by non-resident First Nations, such as First Nations in British Columbia represented by the Kaska Nation, is contrary to the position stated publicly by all previous Yukon governments; and
(3) the Yukon public has the right to know if 1,000 square miles of land in southeast Yukon is to be granted to settle the transboundary land claims of First Nations resident in British Columbia; and
THAT this House urges the Yukon Liberal Government to live up to its commitment on page 9 of the Liberal Election Platform, "to create an environment of open and accountable government."
Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: If there are no further notices, I'll proceed.
Are there any statements by ministers?
This then brings us to Question Period.
Question re: Whitehorse elementary schools
Ms. Netro: My question today is for the Minister of Education. Last week, the Department of Education announced that due to declining school populations, they would be holding information sessions about school capacity. Following the information sessions, the department will develop options for managing Whitehorse elementary schools. Will the minister tell us who is setting the priorities for the options that will be developed?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: I do thank the Member for Vuntut Gwitchin for the question. It's a good advertisement because we are continuing our consultations with school councils, schools and the public at large. This process is still going on.
Nobody is setting the priorities, to directly answer the question. We are just conducting our first phase of the enrolment capacity studies for Whitehorse schools - I believe there are 10 - and it falls in line with the good work that the Education Act Review Committee is doing. I mean, it all has to do with education, how we do it more efficiently and how we provide a superior product to our students in the territory.
Ms. Netro: While the options have not yet been developed, a number of options were outlined in a news release, including school closures, school expansions, moving programs and changing the attendance areas. School councils, as the minister just mentioned, will be affected by these discussions, and consultation with school councils is very important. When will the consultation with school councils take place?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Again, I thank the member opposite for her question. It's certainly of public interest to the residents of Whitehorse. I believe that this week and next week, Mr. Speaker, the consultations with school councils is occurring. Again, it's a broad spectrum within the Whitehorse area - Whitehorse schools - that consultations are occurring. So, the department is conducting those. There are no preconceived ideas of what the outcome of the consultations will be at this time.
Ms. Netro: These public information sessions are to build support for the upcoming changes. The numbers suggest that it may be efficient to move Grey Mountain and the Whitehorse Elementary English language students to Selkirk. Will the minister confirm that rebuilding Grey Mountain, as was promised in the Liberal platform, is not in the cards?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: As I have just indicated to the member opposite - and I will repeat it - the fact is that there is declining enrolment in our elementary schools. Yukon is not unique in this feature at all. There is declining enrolment in elementary schools in all of Canada, even in Calgary, which is a booming city.
So, before the department makes any decisions, the school councils, school administrations, the staff, public and parents are all being consulted on this. There will be a thorough examination of the outcome of the information that's gathered. Again, offering an answer to the member opposite, we will wait and see. When the consultations are completed, we will analyze the information and then a plan and strategy will be determined.
Question re: Liquor inspections of community events
Mr. McRobb: Some of my constituents are concerned about government harrassment toward local businesses and community events. The latest example occurred during the weekend of April 7 and involved government liquor inspectors at the Burwash 27 Ice Race, a popular annual event sponsored by the privately owned Burwash Landing Resort. We acknowledge that work done by the inspectors is important and difficult; however, the minister must also balance that with the needs of local businesses that hold such community events.
I've been told that the establishment was staked out for three consecutive days while the inspector searched everywhere for the slightest infraction, going so far as to scream at the employees in the bar and the restaurant.
Is the minister aware of this situation, and what is this so-called business-friendly government planning to do about it?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, I think we need to get back to the facts of the matter. There were concerns raised last year about the event in Burwash that the member opposite is alluding to. Those concerns were relayed to the RCMP, and the RCMP responded by bringing in extra RCMP for the event as well as bringing in a liquor inspector, as requested by the community.
Those individuals and those two groups of people went out there and did their jobs, and they brought order into a very difficult situation. I'll have to tell the member opposite that some of the comments made during this event were very indicative of an event that had been totally out of control in the previous years and that it really was a little bit better by having extra RCMP and by having extra liquor inspectors there this year. It certainly increased the safety of the individuals who took part in this event.
Mr. McRobb: Well, the information I have received contradicts what the minister just outlined.
Now, community events in the Kluane region are suffering under this Liberal government. I'm aware that some have been cancelled, some are forced into limbo because of stalled funding, and now others are being driven to extinction as a result of government harassment. In fact, Mr. Speaker, the organizers of the race are so concerned that they might cancel the event. It's the same with other similar events in the region, such as the miners ball, held at the Kluane Wilderness Village, and the mud-wrestling event at the Pine Valley Motel and Café. These events really are depended upon for boosting local economies and providing recreation throughout the region.
Mr. Speaker, this is no laughing matter. The members opposite think this is funny.
Will the minister commit to looking into these concerns, and does she have any ideas about how to improve her government's approach toward such businesses and events in rural Yukon?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: This is absolutely ludicrous. The RCMP and the liquor inspector are working now to try to prevent some of the disasters that have happened in that area in the past. That is why there was a request for extra RCMP and extra liquor inspectors to be there this year.
I will read you some of the comments that I have heard, and these are recorded by the RCMP. They say that it was about time inspectors had been there and that the bar should have been closed down long before Sunday. I want to remind the member opposite that the owner of the Burwash Landing Resort voluntarily closed the bar on Sunday afternoon because of concerns for safety of the individuals who were taking part in the events in that community. Mr. Speaker, this is a very, very serious matter. This is an event that has become out of control. There was a request made by the members of that community to have extra enforcement during that period of time. This government and the RCMP voluntarily went in there and worked long hours to try to maintain some sort of control during that event. They were requested to do it. They went in there and they did their job.
Question re: Economic situation in Yukon
Mr. Jenkins: I have a question today for the Premier. Now, the Premier and her Liberal colleagues are under the delusion that the Yukon economy is turning around and that it is improving. The Minister of Justice made that claim in this House as recently as yesterday.
Recent statistics for the month of March, however, should jar the Liberal government back to reality. Unemployment for March 2001 is 12.4 percent compared to 11.9 percent a year ago, with a loss of 500 jobs. Yukoners are continuing to leave the territory in droves, with a drop in the labour force of 600 between March of this year and last.
My question to the Premier: does the Premier still claim that the Yukon economy is turning around when the statistics released by her own Bureau of Statistics prove that she is wrong?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: The member opposite makes many claims in this Legislature. Earlier, in reading his motion, the member claimed that we were a secretive government. Today the member claims that I am wrong. Well, that is pretty standard from the opposition, I suppose.
The fact of the matter is that we are seeing a reflection of hope and optimism in our community. We are seeing growth and we are seeing employment in our community. We are seeing it as a result of actions by this government, and they include the Alaska Highway gas pipeline promotion that I have been undertaking, much to the chagrin of the members opposite. The member opposite criticized me soundly for working with the North Slope producers and said over and over again in this Legislature that Yukoners will never get jobs.
That's not what has happened. That's not the fact. The fact is that Yukoners are employed this summer in projects and requests for proposals awarded by the North Slope producers. The fact is that there are people employed by Anderson Exploration in north Yukon this winter. The fact is that WesternGeco have been here and hired Yukoners, and they are working in and out of the Yukon. They are treating the Yukon as their home base, and they are employed. They have jobs, and they have training opportunities. And that's just one sector.
The member opposite can hardly stand on his feet for his next question to tell me that the $35 million spent on road construction isn't going to help Yukoners.
Speaker: Order please. Would the Premier please conclude her answer.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, I'd like to thank the Premier for pointing out that I deliver nothing but accurate facts in this Legislature.
Now, Mr. Speaker, before this Liberal government can begin to address Yukon's current economic crisis, it must recognize that it has one. Does the Premier refute the employment statistics for March and the information contained in the Yukon Economic Outlook 2001, all of which show that the Yukon is headed for a continuing economic decline? Are the statisticians and economists all wrong and the Premier right? Is that the case?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, does the member opposite still claim that we're wrong and that we're a secretive government? I'd like to file with the Clerk today a letter received from the member's own constituent, which speaks directly to the member's comment in this Legislature. It says things like, "I truly wish you would make some of your unthinking remarks outside of the Legislature." I file this with the permission of the writer. I would encourage the member opposite, who may not have read his own mail, to examine it.
Yes, this particular Premier speaks with accuracy and with fact and speaks to the knowledge that there are Yukoners who are going to work and that this government has worked hard to rebuild the Yukon economy. What's more, we're going to continue to do that for the next three years.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, the letter that the Premier just tabled was written by someone in her own staff or other staff for the betterment of this individual.
Mr. Speaker, I predict that there's going to be a further population decline once school is out.
Does the Premier not recognize that a 34-percent elementary school vacancy rate is an indicator that the Yukon economy is in crisis and that she had better change her current disastrous economic policies? I'll give her an example: the protected areas strategy. That's a collision course with disaster.
When is the Premier going to wake up and address the poor economic situation and outlook here in the Yukon, Mr. Speaker?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, when is the member opposite going to recognize that it was his own constituent writing to him, sending a copy to the Minister of Community and Transportation Services and me, who directly asked the member, as an MLA, to think about his remarks in the Legislature and to give them careful consideration, and who spent two pages and a great deal of time and effort decrying the efforts of the member opposite? It is exactly that sort of question that that constituent objects to.
This government has worked hard on rebuilding the Yukon economy and we have seen the results. It's just that the member opposite refuses, in his typical fashion, to recognize that fact.
Yes, we agree that there is more work to be done. That's why the electoral mandate is four years long. We have made a darned good start in a year - $35 million in road construction this year in a previously decimated road construction budget, and work on the Alaska Highway pipeline project, which the previous government ignored. The member opposite doesn't think we're doing enough, yet the results and the jobs are there to show for it in the oil and gas sector. Let's talk about North American Tungsten sending letters to the Watson Lake Chamber of Commerce saying thanks to the work of the Yukon government, yes, we're going to continue working on this project.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Question re: Children and youth in care
Mr. Keenan: Wow. I would like to thank the Premier for that speech. I certainly hope I don't get a speech like that from the Minister of Health when I talk about a very difficult subject for the minister in this House.
Now, our concerns are about children. It's about children and youth in the care of government. It's about kids in group homes and kids in receiving homes. It's about kids in open custody and about kids in foster care.
Now, does the minister understand that the issue we're concerned about is the broader issue of children and youth in government care?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Mr. Speaker, that's exactly why we as government have to, at times, intervene. It's why we have to protect those children for whom we are responsible. When communities, parents and groups can't do what they're supposed to be doing, then government has to step in. That's exactly the role that government plays. We're a last resort. We're not there to move in before issues are issues, and hopefully we can continue to be that way - to try to help mend and heal the wounds that exist in many of our families and in many of our communities. That's the whole objective that we as government should be promoting.
I am 100 percent behind that, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Keenan: Again, we're skating on thin ice there with the minister. It is springtime. It is going to melt. I'm hoping that the minister will finish his skate. I will ignore the issues of last resort.
I asked the minister if the minister understands that the issue that we've been talking about for a couple of weeks now is the broader issue of children and youth in government care. I don't think the minister doesn't know the answer. I think the minister refused to answer.
I'm not asking about a review of a group home. I'm not asking what the government's mandate is, or if it is a government of last resort. Many Yukoners are starting to share that feeling with the minister. I'm asking if the minister understands the problem that is being brought to his attention.
I'm asking here for a public inquiry. Again, I ask that question: does the minister understand that we are not asking for a review, but that we are asking for a public inquiry into the broad issue of children and youth in government care? And please, just give the facts.
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Mr. Speaker, the member talks about the facts; I always give the facts. I present them as they are. Hopefully, we can all do that. I think it's very important that we do that for the public. We know we have problems in our society; we know we have problems in our families. The objective of government is to try to help mend these problems, but it's not going to be the sole responsibility of government. We have to work with communities; we have to work with families, and we have to work with politicians in a positive way in trying to build that positive environment. But it's obvious at times that some of us are not willing to do that. We're more interested in other things. For me, it's doing the job and doing it right. Does that mean that we are going to solve all the problems today, yesterday, tomorrow? No, they're always going to be with us, but we've got to keep working on them. We are committed to trying to build together, and I invite the members opposite to work with us. The problem that we've had with children has been with us for years - throughout my whole career of 32 years working in schools. I've had children in the schools who have had problems, and obviously they're still with us, but we've got to continue working on the issues. I recognize we have problems, and that's what we're trying to do, trying to build for the future.
Mr. Keenan: Well, Mr. Speaker, out of the mouth of the Premier just a few short moments ago, the Premier talked about hope and optimism. The Premier also spoke about doing a darn good job and having three more years to continue doing that darn good job. Well, Mr. Speaker, can we not share a little bit of that hope and optimism with the people out in the communities who need it the most? Take it out of this Legislative Assembly and take it out there where it belongs.
I agree with the minister; the problem has been around, but is the minister waiting for a tragedy trigger? Is that what we're waiting for, that point in time? I'm asking, and I'm extending my hand in friendship, an olive branch. Let's start. I will walk that path with the minister; that is not a problem. Let's start working on that issue right now.
I'm very concerned about the system, and that includes the needs of the children, the youth and the staff who work in there. It includes the entire community. Now, by asking the minister to understand these issues, I'm not asking that the minister micromanage any of these issues. It's coming down to this -
Speaker: Order please. Will the member please get to the question.
Mr. Keenan: Absolutely, Mr. Speaker, because it's a question and it's a directive. I do believe that the minister has two choices. Now, will the minister finally do the right thing and commission a public inquiry into the broad issue of children and youth who are in government care, or else will the minister do the honourable thing and resign and let somebody else do the job?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: I guess there should have been many ministers over the years who should have resigned because, according to the member opposite, they didn't do the job. When they were government these problems were there. They persisted. A little patchwork was put on them, Mr. Speaker, and nothing was done. So I guess those ministers should have resigned. Did they resign? No, they carried on. They continued to try to work on the issue. They tried to build the problem, not create the problem.
If the member opposite cares deeply about children, then why does the member persist in targeting children living in group homes? I have already indicated that we are going to move ahead on a review, an inquiry or whatever it is called. We haven't put a definition on it at this point, but we are going to do that within this year.
So I don't know how many times the member has to hear that. We are committed to doing that. So I sort of leave in the minds of the members opposite that we are still going to go down that track. It should have been done long ago, Mr. Speaker.
Of course, I think this is very important for all of us to work in a positive light. Let's leave the issue, in the sense of trying to build together. That is where I am saying we should go. Let's not continue to work on the negative. Let's work on the positive. That is what my olive branch is. I have extended it many times, but every time it is extended, it is whacked off because obviously it doesn't fit the political picture.
Question re: Hydrogen project, sole-source feasibility study
Mr. Fairclough: I have a question for the Premier. Last November 7, the Premier gave written instructions that the Minister of Community and Transportation Services was to act for her in all matters involving business relations between the Yukon government and the Premier's brother. Can the Premier advise the House of any subsequent changes to those instructions?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Speaker, I see the members opposite still haven't put their fishing poles away. Even though the ice isn't even off, they're continuing to pursue a line of questioning that's totally inappropriate.
The minister has indicated that the issue they are continually pursuing is dealt with by the conflicts commissioner. I offered responses to the member opposite earlier this week and last week along the same line: if there are any issues that they feel warrant an investigation, then we invite them to do so. We also invite them to make these allegations and innuendoes outside the House where they aren't afforded legislative privilege, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, Mr. Speaker, we seem to have a problem here unless there has been another mini Cabinet shuffle the government hasn't announced yet. We don't really know or believe the minister in charge of Education, Renewable Resources and the Public Service Commission has added Community and Transportation Services to his workload. All this raises a perfectly logical question, which I understand was also on the minds of the media yesterday.
Why are questions concerning the unfulfilled contract between YTG and Total Point Inc. being answered in this House by the Minister of Education rather than the minister who has been given the responsibility for dealing with such matters?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Speaker, I'll try and make it clear for the member opposite. I do believe, in the absence of the Minister of Community and Transportation Services, that these issues did come up and I did respond, and I am continuing to respond along those lines, trying to present fair and equitable answers for the member opposite.
The Minister of Community and Transportation Services was, yes, through a letter, directed to answer questions on a specific issue. The members opposite are asking questions again related to the Premier's brother.
I would just like to clarify questioning from yesterday, Mr. Speaker, where they were wanting clarification on a commitment that was made by the federal government. Well, we do have a letter in hand and it was written by the deputy minister to Industry Canada and it specifically states, "The Yukon government committed $150,000. A matching contribution was expected from Industry Canada. Mr. Drake then met with the hon. Trevor Harding, Minister of Economic Development, to discuss the matter and follow up with a letter dated April 28 that suggested financial assistance for Total Point and that it may be available."
Mr. Speaker, yesterday, the Member for Watson Lake tried to allude that there was no commitment made or no agreement reached between the territorial government and the federal government. Well, we do have sound evidence here that not only did the deputy minister -
Speaker: Order please. I have to ask the minister to please conclude his answer.
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: The Deputy Minister of Economic Development wrote a letter directly to the federal government, Mr. Speaker.
Question re: Hydrogen project, sole-source feasibility study
Mr. Fentie: Well, it's unfortunate that the Premier or the minister didn't bring out this so-called information previously. The reason we're asking these questions is because of the secretive way in which the members opposite have handled this issue.
I have a related question for the Premier or the Minister of Community and Transportation Services, who has been charged with this issue on behalf of the Premier. The Premier's letter of November 7 was a belated response to clear advice that the Premier received from the conflicts commissioner on May 25 of last year. Did the Premier receive any background information from the Department of Economic Development, such as a briefing note, regarding the unfulfilled contract between the department and Total Point Inc. between May 25 and November 7, 2000?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Again, the members opposite continue their fishing derby. The Premier is absolutely clear and has been cleared on this issue. Because it was an issue that involved the conflicts commissioner, it is only right that the Premier not speak on these issues in the House.
The fact too, Mr. Speaker, is that the Minister of Community and Transportation Services was away for awhile, as was the Premier, and I was charged with their responsibilities in their absence. The questions came up in the House, and I answered, as we always try to do on this side of the House, to provide the best answer we can.
So, Mr. Speaker, I will continue to answer these questions with respect to the subject at hand.
Mr. Fentie: Well, I asked if there was a briefing note, between those dates, issued to the Premier from her department. No answer. Now, the minister should well know that we could access this information through ATIPP. But we shouldn't have to. This is the government - the members opposite - who claim that they are open and accountable. We're giving the government the opportunity to prove that to the Yukon public and to this House.
Mr. Speaker, did the Premier take part in any discussions with senior officials of Economic Development about this contract between the dates of May 25, 2000, and December 7, 2000?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Speaker, the Member for Watson Lake isn't getting the message at all. The Premier has reported this to the conflicts commissioner and has been advised accordingly. We are trying to provide the answers to what the member opposite is asking.
I would suggest that maybe the members opposite contact the former Minister of Economic Development or the former Deputy Minister of Economic Development to get clarification on this, because they supplied erroneous information yesterday to the press. The fact is, Mr. Speaker, I have a letter here that clearly indicates that not only were there meetings with the Minister of Economic Development, but there was also certain correspondence between the deputy minister and Canada clarifying and requesting that the federal government own up to its obligation to supply their contribution to this partnership.
So, we have the full evidence here. I wish the members opposite would take it at face value, instead of looking for surreptitious aspects to this proposal. The conflicts commissioner is completely aware. The Premier is doing the right and honourable thing by staying out of this. We will continue to provide answers to the members opposite to the best of our ability.
Mr. Fentie: Well, we are asking the questions because the conflicts commissioner did advise the Premier on May 25, 2000, to take specific action in regard to this matter. It was some five months later that the Premier acted. We are asking the questions because of that fact. The Premier did not act immediately on the conflicts commissioner's advice.
According to our information, it is the Minister of Community and Transportation Services who speaks for the Premier on this matter. But obviously the minister wants nothing to do with this, so the Premier has fobbed it off on her colleague next to her.
Between May 25 and November 7, 2000, did the Premier give any directions to any senior official in the Department of Economic Development with respect to the Total Point Inc. contract?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: They're continuing these allegations and, as I indicated in the House yesterday, if they have any charges or concerns, they should contact the conflicts commissioner directly or they should lay charges outside the House. They are continuing to dig where there is nothing. If they want an investigation, by all means.
I would suggest to the members opposite that we on this side of the House stand up and make corrections to things that we may have misspoken, or whatever. I would suggest to the member opposite, especially the Member for Watson Lake, that he stand up and indicate that he misled the press yesterday when he said that there was no -
Speaker: Order please. "Misled" is not parliamentary. Please continue.
Withdrawal of remark
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Thank you, Mr. Speaker, and I do apologize to the member opposite for suggesting that he misled the press.
I would suggest that he follow through and own up to providing factually correct information to the press and that there was dialogue between the previous government and the federal government on funding of this project and that they also decided that the proponent could proceed forward. The fact is that they allowed that on their side of the House when they were government and now they don't see fit to allow it to happen on this side of the House.
The proponent is making best efforts to follow through on the commitments of that contract that they signed.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Ms. Tucker: Mr. Speaker, I move that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Speaker: It has been moved by the government House leader that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Motion agreed to
Speaker leaves the Chair
COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
Chair: Good afternoon. I now call the Committee of the Whole to order. We will take a 15-minute recess and return at 2:00.
Chair: I now call Committee of the Whole to order.
We will continue with general debate, Bill No. 37, An Act to Amend the Territorial Court Act.
Bill No. 37 - An Act to Amend the Territorial Court Act - continued
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Just to continue what I was saying when we were discussing the amendments to the Territorial Court Act last, these amendments are being introduced now because the Government of Yukon is obligated to protect judicial independence on an ongoing basis. If the amendments do not move forward, certain provisions in the Territorial Court Act and the independence of the judiciary may be challenged in court.
In December 1998, the Yukon's Territorial Court Act was amended to comply with the Supreme Court of Canada's 1997 decision known as the P.E.I. Reference Case. In that case, the Supreme Court of Canada established new constitutional requirements in support of the principle of judicial independence. Most notably, the court ruled that every Canadian jurisdiction is required to have an independent, objective and effective commission to consider and make recommendations to government regarding judicial compensation.
This fact, along with developments in the law in the last three years, mean that it is now a matter of some urgency that the Territorial Court Act be amended. Some of the 1998 provisions now appear to be unconstitutional.
When you look at the question of why it is important that the judiciary and the full-time justice of the peace be independent of the government, Mr. Chair, the public must be assured that the members of the judiciary are independent of the government. It's the constitutional right of all citizens to have their matters heard by judges who are independent and impartial.
The P.E.I. Reference Case requires that an independent, objective and effective commission be struck to consider and make recommendations to government regarding judicial compensation. A major aspect of judicial independence is financial independence. So where the members of the judiciary or the full-time justice of the peace preside in court without being independent, their decisions could be found to be null and void.
Recent court cases from the provinces have found that the presiding justices of the peace are not independent of the government, unless their compensation is determined by an independent commission. To date, the Yukon's only full-time justice of the peace has not gone before the Judicial Compensation Commission. That's a matter of some urgency to me that he do that.
Thus, it's important to have the full-time justice of the peace's compensation determined by the Judicial Compensation Commission this year rather than wait until 2003. By convening the next Judicial Compensation Commission this year, the full-time justice of the peace will have his independence confirmed.
The amendments before us in the Act to Amend the Territorial Court Act address four things: the age of retirement of Territorial Court Judges; the timing of the next Judicial Compensation Commission; the inclusion of the Yukon's only full-time justice of the peace at the next sitting; limitations to the Yukon government's liability for costs of the judiciary's participation in the Judicial Compensation Commission process, and minor housekeeping changes that have been made to support the main amendments to the act.
Now, on the issue of retirement, the proposed amendment changes the age-of-retirement provision in the Territorial Court Act so that the present judges of the Territorial Court will remain eligible for a full pension. From 1988 until 1998, the Territorial Court Act didn't specify the age at which a judge must retire. However, the 1998 amendments changed the age of retirement for judges to 65. As the existing members of the Territorial Court will not be eligible for a full pension at age 65, to impose a retirement age of 65 has the effect of unilaterally changing their compensation package, which offends the principles set out in the P.E.I. Reference Case.
The 1998 amendment that imposed a retirement age of 65 years is contrary to the Supreme Court of Canada ruling that the government cannot change judicial compensation without first conducting a hearing before an independent commission. The proposed amendment to the Territorial Court Act clarifies that existing judges are entitled to retire at the age they would have had to retire when they were appointed. Newly appointed judges will be required to retire at the age of 65.
The amendment to the timing of the Judicial Compensation Commission is because the Territorial Court Act presently provides that the next Judicial Compensation Commission be convened in 2003 and every five years thereafter.
The proposed amendments will comply with the request of the Territorial Court Judges that the next Judicial Compensation Commission convene this year and every three years thereafter. The amendments are necessary to protect the judiciary's constitutional right to financial security, which is a key element of judicial independence, as I've stated. The proposed amendment to section 5 and section 6 of the Territorial Court Act will support this request, and, if approved, the act will designate this calendar year for the next sitting of the Judicial Compensation Commission and then every three years thereafter.
And it's further important to have the full-time justice of the peace's compensation determined by the Judicial Compensation Commission this year, rather than wait until 2003.
The law pertaining to compensation for presiding justices of the peace has changed significantly in the last few years. Recent court cases have found that justices of the peace who have similar responsibilities to the Yukon's full-time justice of the peace aren't independent unless their compensation is determined by an independent commission.
At present, the Territorial Court Act requires the government to pay 100 percent of the costs incurred by the judiciary in preparing for, and participating in, the commission process. The proposed legislation will limit the government's liability for judges' costs to 65 percent of the total. This amendment is necessary because the costs of preparing for and making a presentation to the Judicial Compensation Commission can be very expensive.
There is no constitutional obligation for government to pay the costs that the judiciary incurs from its participation in the commission process. That's very important to note. The amendment is an appropriate balance that recognizes the public benefit of judicial participation in the commission process and, at the same time, establishes reasonable limits on such expenditures. This approach is consistent with the action taken by the federal government in response to the recent commission process for federally appointed judges.
The ruling of the Judicial Compensation Commission is binding on the Government of the Yukon. The Government of Alberta challenged the recommendations of its Judicial Compensation Commission but ultimately lost in the Court of Appeal of Alberta, and Alberta then was required to implement the recommendations. I'm speaking about our three Territorial Court Judges and one full-time justice of the peace who will be affected by the amendments.
The housekeeping amendments that I've mentioned include changes to the French version of section 65 of the act, replacing the expression "same" with "some" in section 80(3) of the act, and replacing "permanent" with "full-time" in the definition of "deputy judge" in section 1 of the act.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Ms. Netro: We're talking today about amending the Territorial Court Act, and after the information that I received this morning in briefing, I've heard the term "housekeeping" used in referring to making the amendments to this act. I was very surprised because this is a major amendment that we do need to pass, and there are very serious issues around the passing of this act.
With saying that, I do have some questions for the minister. Also, the passing of this amendment to the Territorial Court Act is of an urgent nature. So by saying that, we usually address most of the bills and amendments to acts in the fall sitting of the Legislature. That's one of the questions that we have: why are these bills being brought forward in the spring session when in our agreement it states that we have time to address them in the fall sitting?
There have been up to 50 other amendments identified by the department as necessary. My question to the minister is this: why are none of these amendments coming forward in this bill?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: These amendments that are before us now are the ones that are considered to be of an urgent nature and are considered to be housekeeping. Many of the other amendments would go beyond the definition of "housekeeping".
Ms. Netro: The housekeeping nature of these bills and the urgency of the amendment itself tells me that we need to do this right now. We have some time limits on these bills. The information that I received earlier today states that the information that was given to us is of an urgent nature and that the department is under pressure to make a decision.
I find that hard to believe, Mr. Chair. I would like to know from the minister what the real time pressure is on these amendments.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The real time pressure is the possibility of court action if these amendments aren't brought into law.
Ms. Netro: Could an MOU not be drafted that would obligate the government to bring forward a more detailed and more carefully thought-through bill in the fall?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: No, a memorandum of understanding wouldn't prevent court action sooner.
Ms. Netro: When we're bringing this bill forward today, why does this bill not deal with the status of part-time JPs? Is there not a similar problem with the way in which their salaries are determined?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Part-time JPs aren't captured by the court ruling as yet. It's the full-time JP who is affected.
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Chair, the minister said this was simple housekeeping. How does the minister define "housekeeping"?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, we went through "housekeeping" the other day. They are simple, obvious matters that don't require any change in government policy.
Mr. Fairclough: If an amendment to a bill has all kinds of questions around it, does that not constitute it as substantial, rather than housekeeping?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: That would depend on the reason for the questions. This side of the House is satisfied that these amendments before us are housekeeping. And I could speculate that the members opposite are seeking to delay the House, but I won't go there.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, the minister is wrong. We on this side of the House, along with the Premier, signed an agreement together that we may look at housekeeping bills in the spring sitting but that the fall sitting goes to bills that require a lot more attention.
I think what the minister is trying to do is ram some bills on the agenda so that we do not debate the budget that is presented before us. That is what is taking place, and they are therefore breaking the rules that they signed.
So what good is the Premier's signature on an agreement? What good is it if, two weeks after the agreement is signed, the government breaks their word and breaks their agreements? What good is that?
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Chair: Ms. Tucker, on a point of order.
Ms. Tucker: Mr. Chair, I believe that the members of the opposition are charging another member with false motives, and they are also implying that our leader lied when we signed the agreement.
Chair: On the point of order. I won't take any more representations.
"Breaks their word" is clearly against the rules of the House and, Mr. Fairclough, I would ask you to - there is no different context for that. I would ask you to withdraw that.
Withdrawal of remark
Mr. Fairclough: If it pleases the Chair, I will withdraw "breaks their word". Maybe the Chair can give us another descriptive word on how the agreements that we have in place, in our minds, which aren't part of the rules of the House, but rather between governments, are not adhered to by this Liberal government. It's fully three lines in a row, on page 2. It's right there.
Chair: Continue Mr. Fairclough. That's fine.
Mr. Fairclough: I believe this Liberal government would not, and did not, honour the agreement that they put their signature to, and that's the important thing to point out on this issue.
Chair: Mr. Fairclough, the context in this case would be - "not following the agreement" is acceptable. Saying that they had done anything dishonourable by not honouring the agreement is imputing false motives. So, it's a fine line here, and an extremely fine line. Since this will control the demeanour of the debate, I will be watching that line very closely today.
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Chair, how much more do you need to say about what the Premier's signature is worth on a piece of paper?
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Chair: Ms. Duncan, on a point of order.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: As a member in this House, I find that extremely offensive. That is wrong, and the member knows it. The member has called me a dishonourable member, and I challenge that. Mr. Chair, it is out of order.
Chair: Mr. Fairclough, on the point of order.
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Speaker, it's obvious that the Premier is upset about this matter, as we will be too, because we expected that when an agreement was signed it would be honoured and it wasn't.
Chair: On the point of order, I'm going to call a 10-minute recess. I'm going to ask to speak to all the House leaders, and we will resume at 2:30.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order.
Chair: As I have just stated, we are here to discuss Bill No. 37. If it is asked that Committee of the Whole consider the MOU at a future date, we will consider it. Before that, discussions on the MOU are certainly allowed to be heard in this respect, but any further insinuations of breaking words, any further insinuations of dishonourable conduct by any member of this House will be dealt with directly and immediately.
Mr. Fairclough: It's obviously a very touchy subject and certainly brings into question why we are debating legislation in this budget sitting. I asked the minister about the definition of housekeeping and housekeeping bills and, to the minister, this is simply housekeeping and does not need any substantial debate around it.
Is that the feeling of the minister?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: That's correct. These amendments are necessary because of rulings of the Supreme Court. This Legislature is bound by the order of the court and has no ability to change its orders regarding judicial independence. The Supreme Court has made an order and we are bound to follow it.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, Mr. Chair, the minister said that it was because of threats from a lawyer. Is this now new Liberal government policy - to react to threats from lawyers in this manner?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: What the Territorial Court Judges are saying is that we have to follow the law. So we need to make these amendments to the Territorial Court Act to bring the act up to date.
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Chair, there were threats from a lawyer to make government make amendments to this bill. When were these threats made?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, I don't believe that I ever said that a lawyer was making threats. There are threats of court action because the Supreme Court has made an order and our legislation is not in line with it.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, court action is a threat, Mr. Chair. That's what I'm asking. When did this take place?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, does the member opposite want to take on the Supreme Court of Canada? The Territorial Court Judges have said that this legislation needs to be changed because it is now not in line with the Supreme Court order. Does he want to take on the Supreme Court of Canada?
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Chair, I want answers to my question. I asked when this threat of court action was made on government to have it react this way - to make an amendment to legislation. When was it made and by whom?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: This started over a year ago, before this government took office. The previous minister was well aware of it.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, Mr. Chair, the members opposite said it was urgent for this to take place. This is our third sitting, and the minister didn't bring anything forward in the last sitting, which was a legislative sitting. So why is it so urgent now versus then? And why can't it wait until the fall?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: We tried last year to get all the amendments to the Territorial Court Act done. Because of the amount of legislation in the fall sitting, it proved impossible. We took the urgent housekeeping points out and introduced them at the first opportunity, which is this sitting.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, if you want to be a government that rams things through, this is the first opportunity. If you wait until the fall, which is the legislative sitting, that is the first opportunity. But it depends when the minister has the first opportunity. It could have been last fall, but nothing came forward. I don't see why this minister cannot wait until the fall. What is the repercussion to government if we are to wait until the fall?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I don't really wish to take the risk that our court may be shut down by a challenge.
Mr. Fairclough: So the minister does not want to take any risks. That's what the minister has said. Then why didn't she bring this forward last fall, when the first opportunity did come forward? Why does she have to wait until this budget sitting to bring forward the legislation? It wasn't just one that came forward; it's about a dozen bills that are on the table for debate, and the minister knows full well the number of bills coming forward in this spring budget sitting. So why didn't the minister bring it forward in the fall?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, I have already answered that question. The member opposite is obviously not listening to the answer, or he doesn't like the answer.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, Mr. Chair, we're trying to get answers out of the minister, but I guess the minister does not want to take a risk. That's what it's all about. The slightest threat that comes forward to this minister, she'll react to it by proposing amendments to the bills, and this is incredible, because this bill needs a lot of debate. There are a lot of questions around it, maybe not in the minister's mind, but there are people out there who are asking us to ask the questions - her own constituents.
So what is the risk? Is it of going to court? Is it backpay for compensation? What is the minister so worried about in bringing this amendment forward this spring instead of five months from now, in the fall legislative sitting?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, I have already answered that question. The member opposite obviously doesn't like the answer, or he isn't listening to the answer. The risk is that a court challenge could shut down our court system.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The member opposite thinks that would be wonderful. I can't believe what I'm hearing from the side opposite. This is the most inane line of questioning I have ever heard.
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Chair, I'm sure that you would agree with me about the answers I get from that side of the House. Ask simple questions, and everybody wants to pop up like a Liberal jack-in-the-box to answer questions during Question Period.
So, Mr. Chair, these are simple questions that the minister cannot answer, and I find it absolutely incredible because they're skirting the reasons for bringing this legislative amendment forward in this budget sitting. By bringing this legislative amendment forward in this budget sitting, is the minister at all concerned about not abiding by the process laid out?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, these are housekeeping amendments to the Territorial Court Act and, as such, it is perfectly logical that they be introduced in a budget sitting.
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Chair, the minister is obviously hurt by this line of questioning. They are very simple ones - housekeeping, and the reason why it's being brought forward. There are no clear answers from the minister opposite. A variety of different answers have come forward, but nothing clear at all from the member opposite. Can the minister tell us what this means - what would it clear up by bringing this legislative amendment forward now versus the fall?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, for about the twentieth time, these are housekeeping amendments to conform with the rulings of the Supreme Court of Canada.
If our full-time justice of the peace's independence is challenged, he will have to cease hearing cases until a superior court rules on his independence. That would delay justice for a great many Yukoners, Mr. Chair, which the members opposite don't seem to care about.
We already know because of the P.E.I. case, which I have mentioned several times, that the court will rule that he is not independent until a commission is established to determine his compensation. That is why we are bringing forward this amendment.
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS
Mr. Jenkins: I would like to draw the members' attention to a guest in the gallery. It is the former Member for Watson Lake, Don Taylor, an hon. member from 1961 to 1985, and Speaker from 1974 to 1985.
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Chair, is there a written definition of "housekeeping" that we can get on this side of the House? I'm wondering where the member opposite is going with defining bills as housekeeping.
I think this could get this Legislature into trouble in the future if the minister is deeming all bills to be housekeeping. What does that say to the general public who have all kinds of questions with regard to this - the effects that this could have and so on. Is there something that we can get in writing that we can use as a guideline from the members opposite when they bring forward housekeeping bills?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The definition of "housekeeping" has not changed from when the NDP was in power or when the Yukon Party was in power, so the member can look up his own definition.
The member is holding up the Legislature. Why is he so opposed to getting on with working on behalf of Yukoners, which is what we're supposed to be doing?
Mr. Fairclough: Exactly, and that's what we're supposed to be doing. This is a budget sitting, so why is the minister coming forward with amendments to bills that she doesn't even understand?
Some Hon. Member: Point of order, Mr. Chair.
Point of order
Chair: Ms. Buckway, on a point of order.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: That's an attack on me personally and I take offence to that.
Chair: Mr. Fentie, on the point of order.
Mr. Fentie: There is no point of order here. What the member is alluding to is that the minister should probably have attended the briefing this morning, and then would have had a much more comprehensive view of what really is taking place with regard to these amendments.
So the member has only stated that the minister does not understand the very piece of legislation that she is sponsoring in this Legislature. That is unacceptable and that's why we shouldn't be debating this legislation here today. We should be debating the budget as this sitting is supposed to be for.
Chair: Mr. Eftoda, on the point of order.
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: On the point of order, Mr. Chair, I believe that the members opposite are expressing an opinion - a negative opinion at that - and they should just recognize that we're wanting to get on with the business of the day. They had their briefing with respect to this bill, so in a constructive, positive manner, if they would respect the minister and ask her questions, we can get this job done appropriately.
Chair: On the point of order, it would be abusive, I would say, if this were said a number of times. The member is clearly just stating an opinion and it is his opinion. We have to understand this is a place of opinion so there is no point of order.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, thank you, Mr. Chair. A rude interruption by the ministers opposite, again and again on this matter.
This issue of bringing forward these legislative bills is obviously touchy to the members opposite. We would like answers to some of those very simple questions that we have been asking. I asked the member what housekeeping is. She refers it back to past practices. I believe that if you look at past practices and if a bill requires some debate and some detail and if the public would like to look at it, then it would be bumped back to the fall, and that is where we would see this bill being dealt with.
I know that the member opposite knows that and should be withdrawing this bill and putting it forward in the fall. I don't think it would make any difference. The members opposite feel that threats from lawyers about going to court on this whole thing are there. Have there been threats in the past that the minister knows about? In the past, on this particular issue, have there been threats before the one most recently announced to the minister?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The lack of understanding of these amendments is clearly on the side opposite. I have explained again and again that these are housekeeping amendments. They address existing provisions; they are not new sections in the act; they are simply being refined. The themes that the amendments are dealing with are not new to the act, and there is no change in government policy.
On the basis of the principles of judicial independence that are set out in the P.E.I. Reference Case, which I have mentioned several times, if the amendments are not made, the independence of the Territorial Court Judges and the Yukon's full-time justice of the peace could be challenged in court.
They could be challenged in court. If the full-time justice of the peace and the Territorial Court Judges were found not to be independent, then they would not be able to hear cases in court. If this came to pass, the Territorial Court would all but close. This seems to be a situation that the members opposite would welcome.
Mr. Chair, the amendments are important, but they are housekeeping in nature.
Mr. Fentie: Well, I have to take exception to that comment, because these aren't housekeeping amendments; they're simply not. By the minister's own reaction to this, this is obviously an extremely controversial set of amendments. The minister, last week, made the comment on the floor of this Legislature that it took a great deal of work to draft these amendments. We know from the briefing this morning that there is a tremendous amount of work on this act that is ongoing at this moment. Now, I'm positive that the judges, in all their wisdom and how they care for this territory deeply, are not going to throw this territory on its ear because of something like this.
I'm sure the minister, in handling this matter in an objective way, by showing leadership, could have certainly sat down with the judges on this issue, in the context of all the work that is being done on this bill, and addressed this issue so that we did not have to be dealing with it this spring. These amendments could have been dealt with in the fall. There would be no reason to worry and get into such a panic-stricken situation that the minister's in over the courts being shut down. I'm sure anybody who has stood before a judge in this territory or anywhere else knows full well the independence and the impartiality of the judiciary. That's a well-known fact.
The minister has just stated that this is not a change in government policy. Explain then the change on the issue of commission.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Could the member clarify what change on the issue of commission?
Mr. Fentie: Government policy, in the broad context, includes many things. Obviously, dates and times that certain things are supposed to take place would probably constitute government policy. Under this amendment, there is a date change on the commission. Can the minister explain how that relates to there being no change in government policy?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I have explained this several times already. Rather than wait until 2003, when the Territorial Court Act requires that the next commission be convened, this bill allows it to be convened in 2001 and every three years thereafter.
The Territorial Court Judges, I believe, used to have an annual review of their salary. It was changed to every five years without their consent. This brings it into line and will prevent our courts from being shut down by a challenge. Any litigant in the court has the right to challenge the independence of that court.
The Member for Watson Lake saying over and over again that these are not housekeeping amendments doesn't change the fact that they are housekeeping amendments.
Mr. Fentie: Well, the minister and I will disagree continually. We will disagree on this fact if we stand here until next spring. So there's no point in even discussing that any further.
We're debating this because we believe that these are substantive changes. Defining "housekeeping" is important here. In this matter, this is not housekeeping. I think that the minister has been buffaloed.
The big concern here now is compensation for the judiciary. We all are intent on making sure that our judges are compensated fairly, but there's no need to get into such a state here, in a budget sitting, with the biggest budget ever tabled in this territory and to be taking up the time of this Legislature on these matters when they could have been done in the fall sitting, where they should be done. And we should get on with debating the budget and those expenditures on behalf of the Yukon.
Now, I want to go back to the commission and the date. We have witnessed in this Legislature over the last couple of weeks how the members opposite ignore the advice of the conflicts commissioner. They flat-out ignore it. Well, the date of 2003 to strike the commission didn't fall out of the sky. It wasn't invented. It was the conflicts commissioner himself, one of the judges' own, who brought forward that date for this territory.
So the minister is being buffaloed here. The minister is in charge. This is the minister's show. The minister has the duty to the Yukon public that their needs, their issues and their priorities are being dealt with. In this regard, the priorities for our judiciary could certainly have been dealt with in the fall sitting with all the rest of the amendments. All you would have needed is an arrangement with the judiciary that that is what would take place.
Even in the face of the conflicts commissioner's own report - his own advice to this territory's government - this minister has contradicted that, moved unilaterally to take this action, and brought forward these amendments.
Can the minister explain how and why they choose to ignore the conflicts commissioner's advice and findings on this matter, and change that very advice?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: In the first place, an arrangement with the judges, as the Member for Watson Lake suggests, would be called political interference.
The amendments in 1998 did not conform to the court ruling and were never agreed to by the judges. The new term of every three years does meet with their approval and consent and would stand up to a challenge. The five-year term likely would not, Mr. Chair. The member obviously didn't hear me mention that any litigant in the court has the right to challenge the independence of the court and, with the fuss that the opposition is making about these housekeeping amendments, I would say sooner rather than later.
Mr. Fentie: It's interesting to note, for the record, that the minister is not too concerned about the fuss Yukoners are making about the economic plight they're in and is really focused on compensation for the judiciary. We all agree that that has to take place. What we're questioning is why now? With all the other work in this act that has to take place, all the amendments that must be brought forward, this could have been done in a different manner, in the appropriate manner, through due process and brought forward in the fall. There's no reason to be taking up the time of this House on this matter instead of debating the budget.
Mr. Chair, when the minister states that an arrangement with the judiciary in this territory on these amendments, on this act, constitutes political interference, I say, "Rubbish." That's complete rubbish. These aren't unreasonable people. Why is it, then, when this very same issue was on the table in 1998, almost three years ago, there was no court challenge brought forward? The amendments that were brought into this House and passed at that time laid out a commission to be set in the year 2003. Funny how, when a new government takes over, all these things come back and this minister is now dealing with them.
The difference is that this minister seems to not be able to manage the issue in the appropriate fashion, as the Liberals have shown on many issues. The duty of this minister is to act on behalf of all Yukon people.
So I ask the minister again: is the minister saying categorically that it is not possible that the judiciary would accept the government's will to make changes, to amend the act all at once in the appropriate manner and in the appropriate session, and take care of all these issues? Is the minister saying that the judges of this territory simply refuse to accept a government working on this in that manner?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: For the third time, or maybe the fourth time, any litigant in the court has the right to challenge the independence of the court.
With respect to the full-time justice of the peace, since 1998 and since the last amendments, a series of court cases have ruled that presiding justices of the peace are not independent unless their compensation is determined by a Judicial Compensation Commission. Our full-time justice of the peace has never been before a Judicial Compensation Commission. That is a great part of the urgency. We have to protect judicial independence on an ongoing basis, and if we don't move forward with the times and comply with the Supreme Court ruling, there are provisions in the Territorial Court Act that may be challenged in court and the independence of the judiciary may be challenged in court. It's not just the Territorial Court Judges who could bring an action; it's any litigant in the court.
Mr. Fentie: Well, I don't want to spoil the minister's day, but I can tell you this: we could pass these amendments today. Tomorrow morning there could be another Supreme Court decision going through all this again. Our point is that it is not necessary to be dealing with this in this sitting. Obviously the minister's arguments only prove our case - substantiate the opposition's case - that this isn't housekeeping, that there's a tremendous amount of work that has to be done on this act here in this territory in regard to our judicial system.
Now, the minister has a duty here to make decisions. We're saying the minister has made the wrong decision in this regard; we're saying the minister could have done a little more work with the judiciary and not have this House dealing with this particular set of amendments when we could have dealt with the whole act, all the necessary changes and improve the system across its spectrum in the appropriate manner. Doesn't the minister find that even remotely possible?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, anybody who believes that sweet story from the member opposite, I could sell them a nice bridge somewhere.
Mr. Chair, these are housekeeping amendments. Yes, there is a great deal more work to do on the Territorial Court Act that will come forward. The rest of the work on the act, however, does not deal with questions of judicial independence. Those are urgent and must be dealt with now. The department has been working with the Judicial Council since 1998, and they have been trying to fix these issues. The amendments in 1998 were drafted in haste. I do not want to repeat that mistake of the previous minister. These are housekeeping amendments; these are urgent, and I would rather not do all Yukoners a disservice by having the Territorial Court shut down because the members opposite are standing in the way of this legislation.
Mr. Fentie: Well, the minister is putting a lot more stock in the members of this House than the facts will bear out. This fear that our whole judicial system is going to come crashing down on our heads over a couple of amendments simply doesn't wash. This is not how the business of government operates. These are the same issues that government after government after government deal with.
This minister is the minister that is developing amendments and trying to ram amendments through this House in haste, and I would submit, Mr. Chair, that that is a serious problem because it reflects how the Liberal government is acting on all fronts - flying by the seat of their pants.
Now, Mr. Chair, let's forget the argument about whether these are housekeeping amendments or substantive amendments, and let's focus on the big issue - the judicial system in this territory. The act needs work. The minister admits that. Then why is it that we cannot deal with it on that basis, in a manner that this Legislative Assembly should be dealing with it? Why is it that the minister will not give consideration to the fact that there are a number of options open to the government side to deal with this, without ramming things through in haste that we may again be changing this fall in the legislative sitting? Can the minister answer that?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: These amendments deal with judicial independence. These amendments are urgent. The other amendments that will come forward in the future do not deal with judicial independence. We will not be changing these again in the fall because they were not drafted in haste. We are not trying to ram anything through in a hurry. We have plenty of time. These are housekeeping amendments. They speak to the independence of the judiciary, and it is in the interest of all Yukoners that we proceed with these amendments.
Mr. Fentie: Well, let's go about it this way, then. Who said to the minister and who convinced the minister that these were so urgent that they must be done immediately or the whole system is defunct, verschimmelt, kaput, over? Who said that to the minister?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: This is ground we covered last week as well. There has been discussion of this, as I said, when we dealt with these bills previously. I explained that we had planned to bring everything in at once but we couldn't get the work done in time. So these are the amendments that are urgent. This was my decision, in conjunction with the Cabinet Committee on Legislation and with my caucus colleagues. The Cabinet Committee on Legislation includes a number of deputy ministers and other ministers, and it was obvious to us that these are the amendments that need to be done now.
Nobody is buffaloing me or pulling the wool over my eyes, thank you very much. That may happen to the members opposite but not on this side.
Mr. Fentie: I disagree again with the minister, because other governments have been faced with this very issue. Other governments did not react in the way this minister and this Liberal government have reacted. Other governments looked at things more objectively. Other governments did things in a manner that was more comprehensive - not in haste but looked at the big picture - and went to Mr. Hughes, sought advice. Who did this minister get advice from on these amendments?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I have already answered that question.
Mr. Fentie: Mr. Chair, unless I had a vapour lock in my cranium, I didn't hear the minister say directly who advised the minister on these amendments.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I think there must have been a vapour lock, Mr. Chair.
I have explained that I discussed these amendments with the Cabinet Committee on Legislation and with my caucus colleagues.
Mr. Fentie: Well, now that I have recharged my cranium with the appropriate air pressure, I am trying to ascertain from the minister: where did the advice come from that led to these amendments? Did she seek advice outside of Cabinet?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Yes, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Fentie: Now we're moving. We've just broken the log jam, Mr. Chair. Who did that advice come from?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The Cabinet Committee on Legislation includes people who are not members of Cabinet. I have explained that to the member several times. The department seeks advice from a number of sources and passes that advice on to me.
Mr. Fentie: Well, it has been known throughout history that people have predicted that the world is going to end. I ask the minister: outside of Cabinet - so let's define this a little further - outside of the department, outside of all that connects to those areas' agencies that are in the minister's control, did the minister seek a second opinion?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: There were a number of opinions that ultimately reached consensus that these were the amendments that we were bringing forth in this session because they were urgent and because they were housekeeping.
Mr. Fentie: Whose opinions? Just the judges? Or were there other opinions, second opinions, objective opinions, people who could advise this minister on these issues in a more comprehensive manner than it appears the minister has been advised.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Once again, members opposite are insulting my department and I wish they would quit it.
Mr. Fentie: Well, I must again disagree with the minister. I'm not insulting anybody in the department. I'm asking the minister if she took the time to seek some advice. Why didn't the minister go to Mr. Hughes, knowing full well that it was Mr. Hughes who brought forward advice in 1998 on the same issues? Why didn't the minister go back to Mr. Hughes and get the advice on how he sees the landscape here with our judiciary, now that certain other elements have entered the equation? Why didn't the minister seek the advice of the conflicts commissioner?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, Mr. Hughes has no role to play in this. We are following the direction of the Supreme Court of Canada, which the member opposite obviously doesn't think is worthy of belief.
Mr. Fentie: No, that's not the case at all. We, as legislators in this territory, have the right to try and find out what the urgent and pressing need is in this regard. I have stated already that we are all very concerned, and we want to ensure that our judges are compensated fairly and in a timely manner, but what we want to know is this: is the minister ensuring that she is getting all the appropriate advice necessary?
I know that the minister isn't a lawyer. I know that these types of issues are difficult to go through, because of the pressure that's brought to bear on ministers like the member opposite and, every time that these issues come up, every Minister of Justice in the government goes through the same pressure. I can see through history that ministers have reacted differently - differently from this minister.
So I want to know why the minister, with all the facts and with all the elements of this occasion, chose to press ahead without seeking more advice on this matter in the context of doing the amendments to the legislation - the whole act in its entirety.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, I am satisfied that the advice I have received from the Cabinet Committee on Legislation, from my caucus colleagues and from everyone in the department, in following the direction of the Supreme Court, is the appropriate advice.
Mr. Fentie: Well, let the record show that the minister now will follow only the advice of the Cabinet Committee on Legislation, will not seek advice from the public, will not seek advice from outside professionals and journeymen on these matters, and did not take the advice of the conflicts commissioner on other matters, as we all are aware. These are serious issues. This isn't some nonsensical stuff that is brought forward to the floor of this Legislature. This also has a big impact on the finances of this territory.
The minister has a duty here to perform her job in the appropriate manner. In this case, that did not happen. The fact that the minister didn't even go outside the Cabinet Committee on Legislation to seek other advice in this regard, knowing full well that there was a tremendous amount of amendments being dealt with on this act, is testimony to that fact.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, these amendments have no direct financial impact on the Government of Yukon. When the Judicial Compensation Commission is convened, it will likely make recommendations about the compensation of full-time justices of the peace and the Territorial Court Judges that will result in a pay increase for judges and the full-time justice of the peace. This government has no control over the Judicial Compensation Commission's recommendations.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, I have not heard so much diatribe in such a long time. It never seems to amaze me. Just look at what we have before us. We have an act to amend the Territorial Court Act. By way of an explanatory note, it states as follows: "This Act enables a Judicial Compensation Commission to be established in the fall of 2001, establishes ground rules for the financing of representation expenses incurred by judges before the Commission, restore judges to the retirement status they enjoyed before the Territorial Court Act was enacted in 1998, and facilitates the hiring of deputy judges on a full-time basis if needed. Lastly, a typographical error that might have increased the liability of judges has been corrected."
Mr. Chair, we were extended the courtesy of a briefing on this act earlier today. Further to that, I had an opportunity to review Hansard. I'm very, very concerned with the action the Minister of Justice has taken, in that I believe that the Minister of Justice for Yukon should represent, equally and fairly, all parties. That is simply not the case in this legislation that is being presented here today.
We learned, Mr. Chair, at the briefing this morning, that there are some 40 or 50 amendments that are required in this Territorial Court Act to bring it into compliance with existing or current case law. Fine. A number of these areas are typo errors but, by and large, we were told that there are between 40 and 50 amendments required.
This is the second kick at the cat that the Government of the Yukon has taken on this very same initiative. The last time, we were advised virtually the same thing - it was housekeeping. Fine.
Then, after that has been passed, Mr. Chair, the current Minister of Justice makes the statement that the past amendment was drafted too hastily. Now, if that isn't a criticism of the minister's own department, I don't know what is. We certainly have a minister who is trying to pass the buck backwards. The minister is suggesting that the legislation was drafted too quickly.
Well, Mr. Chair, perhaps we have the same problem this time in that someone has to look after the interests of all this legislation and not single out and protect what appears to be amendments that are drafted and are here solely for the benefit of the judges or the JPs. Other than addressing their specific and direct interests in this act, nothing else is being looked at.
Given that this is the second kick at the cat by the Yukon government on the same issue, Mr. Chair, why are we just putting a band-aid on a band-aid when we require radical surgery? This act should be dealt with in its totality. Why is the minister once again erring the same way as the previous minister and just putting a band-aid on this legislation? Why can't we do it once and do it properly? What's the problem with the minister not addressing her responsibility? Why is she solely seeking to protect the judges and the JPs and not doing her job of protecting all interests in this Territorial Court Act?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, these amendments are required as a result of direction from the Supreme Court of Canada. They relate to judicial independence. The amendments that will be dealt with in the future do not relate to judicial independence.
As I had explained previously, I was not criticizing the department, and I was not criticizing the previous minister. It is a fact that the 1998 amendments to the Territorial Court Act were introduced to the Legislature too quickly, when they were still, basically, in draft stage. These amendments have been carefully considered and relate to judicial independence. As such, they need to be addressed now. These are housekeeping amendments, Mr. Chair.
I would like the member to set the record straight. I do not believe that he learned at the briefing this morning that there are 40 or 50 amendments required to bring this legislation into line.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, I would ask the minister to correct the record. She misspoke herself. We were clearly told at the briefing this morning that there are 40 or 50 amendments required in this act. If need be, I can bring the official opposition back into the House.
I previously urged the minister to perhaps attend the briefing herself so she could become more conversant with this legislation and with the concerns the opposition has with this legislation, because this is certainly not housekeeping legislation. This is of greater depth and is more encompassing than what is being suggested by the minister, and it involves a great deal more.
Well, it should, because there are many, many other areas of this Territorial Court Act that need to be addressed but all we're focusing on is the protection of judges and JPs - that's all.
The rationale for that, Mr. Chair, is because of Supreme Court decisions. Well, Mr. Chair, since the last time this legislation was changed, to the current day, how much more case law and how many more cases have come to light, establishing the position that the minister has stated here in the House? What are we talking about here in the number of cases?
Now, I know it is a number, but we have to recognize that there are more important issues here than just the single issue we are dealing with. Why can't we address the totality of this act and make the changes necessary to bring it into full compliance and address the 40 or 50 other amendments that are necessary, along with these amendments that are necessary here? Why can't we do the job once and do it properly? Is this the new Liberal way of better government? We only take a little bit and correct that; we don't do our jobs properly, thoroughly and completely, Mr. Chair? Is that the course that this minister and this new Liberal government - this novice Liberal government - is taking?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The Member for Klondike wants it both ways. The fall amendments to the Territorial Court Act could not be introduced this session because all the amendments are not of a housekeeping nature and, according to the process that we are following, only housekeeping amendments are dealt with in this session.
Therefore, we are bringing forward the housekeeping amendments, the urgent ones that deal with judicial independence. Since 1998, there has been a series of court cases; I don't know how many. The member next will ask for a legislative return - yes. He wants a legislative return outlining how many. We'll get to work on that, Mr. Chair. It will take some time. There has been a series of court cases ruling that presiding justices of the peace are not independent unless their compensation is determined by a Judicial Compensation Commission. If they're not independent, then their positions could be challenged, and that would have the potential to close the Territorial Court, which is a situation I would really like to avoid, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, the likelihood of that happening, if we're demonstrating that we're addressing the totality of the issue is, on a balance of probabilities, somewhat remote. For the record, could the minister table a legislative return showing the number of cases that occurred since the last amendments to the Territorial Court Act were assented to, and could she further table the correspondence from - I believe it's some lawyer in Victoria representing one of the parties outlined in this Territorial Court Act as to threatening litigation, which is, I believe, the way it was conveyed to us at the briefing this morning, which I'm disappointed that the Minister of Justice missed, Mr. Chair.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I have been involved in many briefings on this legislation, Mr. Chair. The member can have his legislative return on the series of court cases, and I'll seek legal advice on whether he can have a legislative return on the other material he has requested.
Mr. Jenkins: I'm not asking for a legislative return on the other advice. I'm just asking for a copy of the correspondence from the firm in Victoria acting on behalf of one of the parties covered in this Territorial Court Act - one or more parties in this Territorial Court Act - stating that they're going to litigate if it's not changed.
What I would like to ascertain is if there were some timelines for changes to the act that were imposed or suggested in this letter. As long as we're behaving in a proper and forthright manner, addressing the issue, putting it in place and bringing it forward - and it's clearly indicated that it will be in the fall session, and we're dealing with the totality of this act - we're probably more than reasonably safe. I would probably ask the minister to obtain legal advice. If she's going to get some legal advice on one side of the equation and if she wants to pay for it, she can have 180-degree opposite legal advice on the same question. It's readily available, Mr. Chair.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The amendments that are of interest to the Territorial Court Judges are the ones that are before us - the housekeeping amendments that deal with judicial independence.
As I've stated several times, any litigant in the court has the right to challenge the independence of the court, and until we resolve problems that we have with the act, that possibility exists.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, would the minister answer this question? I'm not asking for legal advice, Mr. Chair, but even if we approve and pass these amendments that are contained and somebody challenges the independence of the judiciary - some litigant - that case could still be successful, could it not?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: If these amendments go through, we would have adhered to the Supreme Court of Canada direction, and it is unlikely that a challenge on the basis of judicial independence in the territory would succeed.
Mr. Jenkins: I was looking for a simple yes-or-no answer to the question. Once again, I'll direct the question to the minister. Let's make the assumption that this act has been assented to, it's in place, and a litigant comes forward and launches a case against the Crown - I don't know who they'd sue in this case; probably they'd have to take leave and sue - questioning the independence of the judiciary.
Is there a chance that they could be successful, even after this act is assented to? A simple yes or no.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, I've already answered the question. The member either wasn't listening, or he didn't like the answer.
Mr. Jenkins: Let the record reflect that the minister failed to answer the question. She has waffled all around it, danced all around it, because she has received instructions from her deputy minister not to answer. That appears to be the case, but the issue is an important one, Mr. Chair.
After we give assent to the amendments to the Territorial Court Act and some litigant comes forward and questions the independence of the judiciary - even after all this is said and done and passed - I want to know from the minister if there is a chance that they might be successful in their case. Yes or no?
There is still a chance, Mr. Chair.
Chair: Order please. The member is asking the minister for a legal opinion, and the minister does not have the ability to give an answer on a legal opinion, so that question is out of order.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, Mr. Chair, it's a question that deserves an answer because it's a very important issue, and the answer to the question is an emphatic yes - they may still be successful.
The minister should probably be asking her officials that same question because, at the end of the day, there's still an exposure and there's still potential for litigation. That's the reality of the situation. That's the reality of our justice system, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Chair, when we look at the areas we're focusing on and should be focusing on, there is ample reason to stand down this legislation and bring it forward in the fall session.
Mr. Chair, I move that this legislation be stood down to the fall session of the Legislature.
Some Hon. Members: Agree.
Some Hon. Members: Disagree.
Chair: Order please. We have to formally do this. It has been moved by Mr. Jenkins that this legislation be stood down until the fall session.
Some Hon. Members: Agree.
Some Hon. Members: Disagree.
Chair: Order please. We will take a five-minute recess while go through this.
Chair: I call Committee of the Whole to order.
A motion has been put forward by Mr. Jenkins, asking for a deferral of this bill in Committee until the fall.
Without prejudice - and that will be with further review, but the motion will stand now. This motion is in order but, at the same time, without prejudice, this motion is non-debatable. So we will continue. I will read the motion back.
It has been moved by Mr. Jenkins that Bill No. 37 be deferred until the fall sitting.
Are we agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agree.
Some Hon. Members: Disagree.
Chair: The nays have it.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, the motion has moved and passed - is that right?
Chair: No, the motion has not passed. The motion is defeated.
Mr. Jenkins: The motion was moved and passed previously, Mr. Chair.
Chair: No, it was not. I called a recess to see if the motion was in order.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, if you look at the motion as it was put forward, the motion was -
Chair: I have the Blues, Mr. Jenkins. Do you want me to read this back to you so I can tell you exactly what happened?
"Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, I move that this legislation be stood down to the fall session."
"Some Hon. Members: Agree.
"Some Hon. Members: Disagree.
"Chair: Order, please. We have to formally do this. It has been moved by Mr. Jenkins that this legislation be stood down until the fall session."
That was me.
"Some Hon. Members: Agreed
"Some Hon. Members: Disagreed.
Chair, "Order please. We'll take a five-minute recess while I go through this."
There was no vote, no agreement.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Chair: Mr. Jenkins, on a point of order.
Mr. Jenkins: Obviously, at that time, there were six members in opposition who agreed and there were four members in the government benches who disagreed and called division.
Now that, in my opinion, Mr. Chair, would make the motion very much in order. I don't want to question the impartiality of the Chair, but certainly the methods that have been undertaken in the past certainly conform to the way it was proceeded with. There was no formal count done, and division is not part of Committee debate. That wasn't called, and there is room to call for a deferral on the vote, but that was never requested by the government side, Mr. Chair. That would have been the way for the government side to proceed, to request a deferral on the vote. That was never requested, Mr. Chair.
Chair: Can I refer -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Chair: Sure, go ahead, Ms. Tucker, but I already have the answer to this.
Ms. Tucker: I was going to reference a previous situation where this arose, and the members on the opposite side were very concerned that the motion had not been read back to them before any call for a count or a vote was taken. So, in this particular case, the circumstances are reversed, and I believe the motion had not been read back at the time Mr. Jenkins was referring to.
Chair: Order please. We will go through a number of things. First of all, counts can be taken in the House in Committee, and the government had a right to ask for the count. Deferrals, on the other hand, Mr. Jenkins, cannot be used in this case because a deferral is only for a money bill. Since this is not a money bill, the deferral could not have been used.
Now, if we are going to go right back to the strictness of these motions, I want them in writing when they are moved. If we are going to be holding that as the standard, from now on any motion brought forward has to come in writing for the Chair to review or we will wait until that motion is in my hand. Until that point, I am standing right now saying that I needed to make sure that this motion was in order, and that took the time. I am happy to say that I am confident that the motion is in order. Until I was comfortable with that, no count was taken. I did reach my comfort level and I have just now asked for the count. The count has been taken. The nays have it. The motion is dead.
Is there any further general debate?
Mr. Jenkins: We were dealing with An Act to Amend the Territorial Court Act, and the minister was attempting to answer a number of questions, and she appeared to lack the understanding or background information necessary to make the decision.
Mr. Chair, I'm very, very concerned about that. I think it would be more appropriate if this legislation was brought back in its entirety because it is certainly more than a housekeeping bill. Even in its present format, it's much more than a housekeeping bill. I'm sure anyone and everyone should have a problem with the way this novice Liberal government is proceeding.
Mr. Chair, it is inane to consider a number of amendments to this bill without considering them all. We were told at the briefing this morning that there are some 40 or 50 amendments to this Territorial Court Act that are required. The current amendments that we have before us are more than of a housekeeping nature. The ones that we certainly have to address, must address and should address go beyond that also, Mr. Chair. So I would submit that it is in the best interests of Yukon and justice if the minister were to address her responsibilities in totality and not just hone in on a few specific areas, but to make this legislation so that it satisfies all parties.
In all probability, Mr. Chair, it will enjoy speedy passage this fall. I don't believe that that's the case at this juncture, because it goes beyond the Standing Orders, the memorandum of understanding that's next to the Standing Orders of this Legislature, and it deviates from them.
I guess what the Minister of Justice has to weigh is which area does she bend to and which rules does she break. It appears that she is prepared to break all the rules with respect to this legislation, Bill No. 37, and that she is not addressing the interests of all parties, either the judges or the aggrieved who come before the court system, or even the memorandum of understanding attached to the Standing Orders. So, it looks like everything is down the toilet with respect to understandings between the government of the day and the opposition, Mr. Chair.
That's sad. That's very sad, especially when we focus in on the rights of individuals, but in this case we're not singling out the rights of all individuals. We're specifically catering to one small group in society and I'm sure, if they had the indication that their needs were going to be addressed, Mr. Chair, what's the problem? What's the issue?
The last time the reason that the amendments to this act weren't acceptable was because they were drafted in haste. Drafted in haste, Mr. Chair.
Those are the minister's own words, Mr. Chair. And that would confirm that the minister is slighting her own department and her own officials who are drafting this legislation in haste. That's sad. That's disappointing that the current Minister of Justice and the current deputy minister at the briefing today seem to have a new tack. We were advised at the briefing this morning by the deputy minister that there are some 40 or 50 amendments required.
I'm sure that the department has moved along on drafting some new amendments and looking at a total review of this act. Just how far along are we on this initiative?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, the work is substantially complete, except for one area.
It is the rights of all individuals that are being protected - that means all Yukoners - by amending these sections to ensure that our judges and our full-time JP are independent. The issue is judicial independence. That's three Territorial Court Judges and one full-time justice of the peace.
I am not breaking any rules, Mr. Chair. These are housekeeping amendments, and that is within the Standing Orders.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, I think that as we progress in this act, we will probably find that it is much more encompassing than housekeeping amendments. Could the minister be specific as to what these 40 or 50 other amendments required in this act are?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, I'm not going to give the member a copy of the draft amendments. I'm sorry.
Mr. Jenkins: I didn't ask for a copy of the draft amendments. I asked for the minister to outline what other 40 or 50 sections of the act can be called into question, or are incorrect, or are wrong, or require clarification, or require redrafting and rewriting. What are they?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: We are dealing with Bill No. 37, An Act to Amend the Territorial Court Act. We are dealing with a specific set of amendments here.
Mr. Jenkins: I thank the minister for being so focused but, until you have the big picture outlined in front of you, it's pretty hard to become focused, Mr. Chair. So could the minister please provide an overview of the 40 or 50 other areas that require amendments?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, we are dealing with a small number of housekeeping amendments relating to judicial independence. We are not dealing with the other amendments to the Territorial Court Act, which will be introduced at a future date.
Mr. Jenkins: So the way the minister has elected to proceed is to cherry-pick a few of the areas and spoon-feed it to the Legislature. That's what's happening, Mr. Chair.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, I have explained several times - and the member either isn't listening or doesn't like the answer he's getting - that these amendments all relate to judicial independence. The other amendments that will be introduced at a future date do not relate to judicial independence. These are the amendments that are urgent, and these are the amendments that affect the independence of our courts.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, how would we know if these 40 or 50 other amendments do or do not relate to the independence of the judiciary? Could the minister confirm that of these 40 or 50 other amendments, there's not one chance that they relate, in any form or fashion, to the independence of the judiciary? Could the minister just confirm that for the record?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, I have explained that these are the amendments that relate to judicial independence and that the amendments to be introduced in the future do not relate to judicial independence and the independence of our courts.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, I just asked the minister to confirm that none of the other 40 or 50 amendments will, in any way, relate to the independence of the judiciary. Can the minister just confirm that?
Chair: Is there any further general debate? Mr. Jenkins.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, I'm just very disappointed. Let the record reflect that the minister once again has failed to answer the question, because there is probably great likelihood that, of those 40 or 50 other amendments, there is some component in one, many, or all of those amendments that may or may not refer to the independence of the judiciary. Now, the minister has just cherry-picked a few specific points, but if we stand back and take an overview of the whole equation, we can certainly conclude otherwise, Mr. Chair - there may be some component in these that refer to the subject matter that we're told is of a housekeeping nature.
Let's put the question a different way, Mr. Chair. If the minister has any other of these 40 or 50 amendments that are going to be forthcoming that affect the independence of the judiciary, will the minister do the honourable thing and resign?
This might be considered to be a stretch, but what we have is a minister who has cherry-picked a few specific clauses. There is much, much more to do on this act. This act should never have been presented in this spring session, Mr. Chair. It is not of a housekeeping nature. It's implications and ramifications are much greater and much more extensive, and well they should be, because given the number of areas that have to be addressed in this act, it's not of a housekeeping nature. Even given the number of points we are addressing in the bill that we have before us today, they're not housekeeping; they are much more than that.
Let's look at the worst-case scenario, where there is a successful challenge and the court systems are shut down - the JP court system specifically. What is to preclude the government from bringing in a judge from outside of the Yukon to sit on these cases? Is there anything?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The member can conclude anything he wishes. That doesn't mean he is correct. We are not going to come to the point where our Territorial Court is shut down. The member is speculating.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, I am not speculating. I am just repeating what the minister has said. I am just repeating, almost verbatim, what the minister has said - that if we don't do this, there is a potential for the courts to be shut down.
Mr. Chair, there is a very, very important precedent that must be set here, because even if the court system were shut down by a challenge of this very specific issue, can the minister confirm that we can bring in judges from outside of the Yukon Territory to sit and hear cases here? Could the minister confirm that?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, it's the court that lacks the independence, so bringing in anybody else wouldn't solve the problem. These amendments are designed to deal with the difficulty and these amendments will deal with that difficulty.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, the minister has once again failed to answer the question. There is a way, should this act not pass. Even if we have to go right to the British Columbia Court of Appeal, there would be judges that would be in place who could hear these cases. Is that not correct?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: No, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Jenkins: So, Mr. Chair, what has been the contingency plan of the Government of the Yukon for these past three years? Because a challenge could have come at any time since 1988, since this act was assented to. What backup position and contingency plan has the Government of the Yukon had in place in the eventuality of this occurring?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, the totality of the situation has not existed for the last three years. There has been a series of court decisions and we are in a position now, and have been for some months, where the independence of the court could be challenged.
With the concurrence of the Judicial Council and the undertaking of my office to introduce these amendments, the danger has been somewhat lessened, but again, any litigant in court could challenge the independence of the court.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, what has been the department's backup position in the eventuality that that occurs?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, the department's plan is to introduce, and have passed, these amendments so that the problem no longer exists.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, the question has been posed and ruled out of order, but it remains quite evident that even a litigant who challenges this act, after it's assented to, still has a measure of likelihood of success as far as challenging the independence of the judiciary. There's still a measure for potential success there. Case law is evolving on a continual basis. Case law is what is driving these amendments that we have before us, which are certainly not of a housekeeping nature.
Given that there is a whole series of amendments that must be addressed, can the minister confirm that the government had no backup position as to what they were going to do in the event that there is a successful court challenge with respect to the independence of the judiciary?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, there is virtually nothing the government could do, because if a challenge finds that the court is not independent, then the court cannot sit until the problem is solved. Bringing in another judge is not going to solve the problem.
With these amendments, we are solving the problem, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, Mr. Chair, I disagree with the minister. She's not solving the problem. She's addressing a few points in the act that need to be addressed. But the problem still remains, in that we're addressing just a minor number of sections in the act - actually, a substantial number of sections in the act. I stand corrected. A substantial number of sections in the act, and omitting a great number of them - some 40 or 50 further amendments that are required.
What is the total number of amendments that we have before us today, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, there are a total of four amendments. There are 11 clauses in the Act to Amend the Territorial Court Act.
Mr. Jenkins: There are 11 clauses, Mr. Chair, but some of them are specific to more than one section and refer to more than one section, and some of them expand on it by adding a number of other subsections to the main section. You know, if you just want to look at how substantive the amendments are that are being proposed, it is quite extensive. About the only area that is self-explanatory is section 10 of the French version. That's about it. One has to spend a considerable amount of time on everything else, going back and researching the previous section to see what it said and cross-referencing it to what is being proposed here today.
Housekeeping bills are not usually of a substantive nature, Mr. Chair, in that you can usually do that cross-referencing and view the changes very, very quickly.
Mr. Chair, I'm getting reasonably quick at cross-referencing this material, but even given the time - it is some two hours of time that it takes just to go through these sections, and many of them I have to ask others about for an understanding of what they mean or what the intent is. What they say and what the intent is are usually two different things, or sometimes they are.
So it gets back to the basic question. This act, Bill No. 37, that we have before us can in no way be considered a housekeeping bill.
Mr. Chair, once more I'll go to the minister and ask her for a review or an outline of the 40 or 50 other sections that require amendment. Can the minister table that information? Because I think it is imperative to have an understanding of just how many areas of this existing legislation is in non-compliance or has errors in it or doesn't conform to current case law.
Now, I probably can hear the minister's response that we're not dealing with those 40 or 50, but we have to have an understanding of where we're heading. Sooner or later, a government has to address the shortcomings in this act that we're led to believe exist. Do they in fact exist, and if they do, can the minister provide a copy of them?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, the member will have those amendments when they are tabled in a future session.
The member insists that these are not housekeeping changes to the act. They are housekeeping in nature. They address existing provisions. They are not new sections of the act, and the themes that the amendments are dealing with are not new to the act. These are housekeeping amendments. They deal with judicial independence.
Mr. Jenkins: I would have thought, Mr. Chair, that the minister would have an understanding of the difference between housekeeping and housecleaning, because this is a complete sweep of the plate for many of these areas of the act. They appear to be just spoon-feeding small sections of it in our favour and just ramming it down the throat of the Legislature and using their novice Liberal majority to succeed. That's not the intent of this Legislature, Mr. Chair.
Now, when we look at the MOU, there are provisions in there that you can introduce the legislation in the spring and we can deal with it in the fall, and that should clearly demonstrate to the judiciary that there is an intent on the part of this Legislature to deal with this matter. But because we should be dealing with the totality of the issue, I think it is important that we have a look and see if any of these other areas that have been identified by the department as being in non-compliance, one way or the other, actually reflect back on the issue that we have before us for debate.
The minister says no. Law is a pretty interesting subject, Mr. Chair. It's probably the only area where there is black and white and every shade in between. If you want a legal opinion one way, you can have a legal opinion 180 degrees the opposite way quite readily. It's done all the time. That's why probably the only profession that is still thriving here in the Yukon is the legal profession. I guess we have become an area of litigants.
No one is denying that we should be treating our judicial officials in an independent and right and just manner, but who is protecting everyone else in the equation that is covered by this act? It's obviously not the Minister of Justice; she seems to be very uncomfortable in doing so. She is just taking the small amount of information provided her and spoon feeding that small amount of information into the Legislature and ignoring the totality of the act.
I will refer back to our briefing earlier today, at which it was clearly identified by departmental officials that there are some 40 to 50 additional areas in this act that should be addressed. The minister won't identify them. What is the minister's reluctance to identify these other areas so that we can have a look at them, cross-reference them and see if they, indeed, do not reflect on the independence of the judiciary? I mean, by her own admission, the minister says that previously the legislation that was drafted was done in haste. I wonder what the excuse of the minister is going to be next time, Mr. Chair.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: There will be no excuses next time.
Mr. Chair, the member is saying that it would be nice to have judicial independence. We have to have judicial independence - not should, must. There are three Territorial Court Judges and one full-time justice of the peace affected by these housekeeping amendments.
Mr. Jenkins: What about everybody else who should be affected by these amendments? Why aren't they being looked after? Why is the minister remiss in her responsibilities?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, the people who should be affected by these amendments are three Territorial Court Judges and one full-time justice of the peace.
Mr. Jenkins: That wasn't my question. What about all the other individuals here in the Yukon who may or may not be affected by this legislation? Who is looking after them? Is the minister ignoring them, too?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, these amendments affect three Territorial Court Judges and one full-time justice of the peace.
Mr. Jenkins: Let the record reflect that the minister has failed to answer the question, Mr. Chair. I'll be very hopeful that she can provide an answer to the question.
What about the rest of the population or everyone else who is affected by this legislation? Who is looking after them, Mr. Chair? Is the minister ignoring them? Don't they have equal rights, or is there a multi-tiered justice system that the Minister of Justice has just created, or is creating or working on?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, these few housekeeping amendments, which deal with judicial independence, affect three Territorial Court Judges and one full-time justice of the peace.
Mr. Jenkins: I thank the minister for repeating her scripted lines, but the answer to the question that I posed to the minister is not forthcoming.
I want to know from the minister who is looking after the balance of the Yukoners who are covered by this act, because it extends far beyond just three or four individuals. There are other parts of this act. If we look at the totality of this act, it translates across a broad spectrum. We have a series of problems that must be addressed here in the Yukon.
If you want to just look at the JP court system, we really only have one full-time JP, level 3. There is a whole series of JPs out there. Some of them are active and some of them are inactive. Some of them are only qualified to perform weddings. Others haven't practised for a long time. Some of these individuals are eminently qualified.
What's taking place there? Why are we only singling out and protecting one individual when we have a whole series of problems in the JP court system? That is my question to the minister. Why are we just focusing on and cherry-picking one specific area? We might as well refer to this legislation as cover-thy-butt legislation, Mr. Chair, because that's really all it's doing. It's not addressing the needs of Yukoners in totality. This minister is failing in meeting her responsibilities as Minister of Justice to Yukoners.
Now, the Liberals are famous, Mr. Chair, for creating multi-tiered systems. We've got the Minister of Health and Social Services who's delivering a two-tiered health care system. We've got the Minister of Education who is delivering a multi-tiered educational system. Now it would appear, Mr. Chair, that we've got the Minister of Justice on her way to delivering a multi-tiered justice system.
Now, what's the rationale for that, Mr. Chair? Why? Does the minister not recognize that there's a whole series of problems in the area that I just outlined? Why aren't they being addressed? Why can't we fix this problem once? Why do we have to put a band-aid on an open wound? Why can't we stitch it together, treat it, make the appropriate amendments, Mr. Chair, and then move forward? The only way we can do that is if we accept the premise that we will bring forward these other amendments that are required - which the minister won't identify for the benefit of the House, either because they don't exist or it's just a political play, but there's a whole series of problems there. Why can't we do it once and do it right?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, I've explained several times that the total amendments to the Territorial Court Act would not be considered housekeeping. These few amendments are housekeeping; they deal with judicial independence. They protect all Yukoners by ensuring that we have an independent court. Other JPs are not encompassed by the P.E.I. Reference Case, as I've mentioned. Only the one full-time JP is. In that P.E.I. Reference Case, the Supreme Court of Canada said that the level of independence that a tribunal requires varies with their responsibilities. The amendments do not apply to the part-time justices of the peace because they do not perform the same level of judicial functions that are performed by the full-time justice of the peace. In fact, many justices of the peace do not perform judicial functions at all, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Fentie: Let's get back to the big issue for the minister, and that's ensuring that we have independence and impartiality of the judiciary in this territory. It seems to have the minister quite exercised. I'm looking at the amendments, and I want to bring forward a question to the minister: under the definition of "deputy judge", and changing the act from "full-time" to "permanent", have to do with independence and impartiality?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: This is one of the housekeeping amendments to reflect that when deputy judges sit in the Yukon, they are working as full-time judges, even though they are not permanent judges of the Territorial Court.
Mr. Fentie: What does amending this particular area in the act have to do with impartiality?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: It's a housekeeping amendment. It's a clarification of the role.
Mr. Fentie: Okay, so the minister states that this is a housekeeping amendment to clarify the role, but we have already clarified the role by defining "deputy judge" as full-time. But now, to ensure impartiality, we are changing "full-time" to "permanent".
Now, I find it very hard to even remotely agree with the fact that this has something to do with impartiality. Can I ask the minister this: under the definition of "deputy judge as full-time", certain things accrue to the deputy judge. What changes, in terms of what accrues to a deputy judge, by amending the act to change "full-time" to "permanent"?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, nothing in the function or the role of the deputy judge changes.
Mr. Fentie: Then why are we even dealing with this amendment? Why are we wordsmithing this particular area of the legislation? Why is it on the floor of this Legislature? Why isn't it in a fall sitting where it belongs, with the rest of the amendments to this act?
The minister hasn't convinced me that anything here, in this particular regard and in this particular section, has anything to do with impartiality or independence.
Can the minister attempt again to provide something that would lead us to believe that this amendment definitely does focus on impartiality and independence of the judiciary?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, the spring sitting of the Legislature, according to the Standing Orders, is for housekeeping legislation. These are housekeeping amendments to the Territorial Court Act. This is a housekeeping amendment.
It really doesn't matter what I say because the member is not going to believe it anyway. I could repeat myself, but to what point?
Chair: Order please. The time being 4:30, do members wish to take a brief recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: We'll take a 15-minute long recess and return at 4:45 p.m.
Chair: I now call Committee of the Whole to order. We will continue with general debate, Bill No. 37, An Act to Amend the Territorial Court Act.
Mr. Fentie: Before the break, I was questioning the minister and trying to get information from the minister on particular sections of this act and the amendments, and how they pertained to impartiality and independence of the judiciary. We failed to reach any consensus in that regard.
The minister has stated over and over and over and over again that the reason for the urgency around these amendments taking place is because of that one fact, the impartiality of our judges. So what we on this side are trying to determine is whether these amendments, in all cases, truly are related to the impartiality of judges.
So let's look at this act a little more closely. I ask the minister to be open-minded, to just maybe step out of the script for a moment and tell us in her own words how she believes amending what is already defined as a "deputy judge", by expressing it as full-time to permanent, relates to impartiality.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, I explained the four amendments and also explained that the remaining amendments in Bill No. 37 are intended to correct wording in the French version of the act, some typographical errors and other minor changes that are housekeeping in nature. Some of those amendments are not related to judicial independence - it's independence, not impartiality, by the way - and the one relating to deputy judges is to clarify the role of the deputy judge.
Mr. Fentie: All right. Now we have come to this point where a number of the amendments in this act just simply aren't that urgent and they are of housekeeping nature. We agree that they're grammatical corrections, mistakes in the French version and those types of things. We agree wholeheartedly that that can be defined as housekeeping. But let's get back to how the minister came to this point in bringing forward this piece of legislation in a hasty, hasty manner, Mr. Chair, because we know there are a lot of issues surrounding this and how the minister, who I believe has been spooked into doing this under the guise and the threat - because I believe there are a number of other ways the minister could very well have handled this issue, done the appropriate thing and brought the legislation forward in the fall, because it wasn't that pressing in the last sitting, the fall sitting, which was the legislative sitting.
I see no reason why a few more months would make a whole lot of difference to the independence of our judiciary and, if somebody did, for some obscure reason, launch a challenge, I want to remind the minister that the Yukon government and Yukon taxpayers have every right to due process under the law.
So, what I want to get back to now is, sections like this "full-time" to "permanent" have a direct impact not on independence, but on what benefits accrue. Is that the case, or not?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: No, Mr. Chair, and I have not been spooked into doing these amendments. As I have explained several times, the full body of amendments was not ready in time for the fall sitting. I couldn't introduce them all at the spring sitting, because this is the housekeeping sitting; therefore, we are introducing the housekeeping amendments to the Territorial Court Act.
Mr. Fentie: Well, let's clarify something. This isn't a housekeeping sitting. This is an extremely important sitting of this Legislature. It's to deal with a financial bill - a money bill - and a big one, too. It's the biggest one ever. It's the largest budget ever in the history of this territory. So, it's a budget sitting. I think the issue is here, by agreement, that some legislation may be brought forward by the government side in the budget sitting, if it is housekeeping in nature.
If it's substantive in nature - because obviously the amendments to this bill are substantive if you take them in their total context - the minister can very well table, for first reading, amendments to any particular piece of legislation, but it must sit on the Order Paper until the fall sitting. It's not that difficult to grasp those facts.
I'm more concerned with the minister's position here.
Now, I believe that every minister, at some point in time, is pressured in this regard or faced with these issues. It's evident, if you look through the act, that ministers handle these things in different ways. I want to point out to the minister that recommendations can come forward from a number of areas to assist the minister in making a very objective decision about how to proceed.
One of those vehicles, as the minister pointed out, is the Cabinet Committee on Legislation. But surely the minister must have thought, "Here we are, dealing with these issues. I have annotated notes to go through, but I need to get a better read on this situation, on exactly what my options as a minister are in performing my duty for the Yukon public." So let's go back to amendments that have been slid in here, which we have already determined have nothing to do with independence and have a whole lot to do with other things.
Why is it so important to take the definition of "deputy judge" as it is expressed in the existing act and change it from "full-time" to "permanent"? Why is that so important? Why is that so urgent here today?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The legislation that I have introduced this session is, without exception, housekeeping in nature. Therefore it is proper to introduce and deal with it during this budget session.
Mr. Fentie: This is going to be a long, arduous debate if the minister is not prepared to stand down on her briefing note, step up to the plate and, as minister, provide this side of the House with some discourse on why she is doing these things.
We have already determined that we don't agree with the members opposite on what they have defined as housekeeping. That is already established. There is no need to go there. I am asking a specific question. Why the urgency, right now, in these amendments to change the expression "full-time" to "permanent" as it relates to the deputy judge?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, I have already answered this question and the member's other questions several times.
Mr. Fentie: Mr. Chair, I take exception to that. That response by the minister can only lead me to conclude, as usual, that this Liberal government - this closed, secret Liberal government - is unwilling to provide this House with acceptable answers and appropriate information. This government is obviously fearful of debating its very own budget by stacking the agenda in this Legislature in this sitting with what they call housekeeping amendments - and we're faced with 11 pieces of legislation.
Now, the opposition agreed with the members opposite that the amendments to a number of the bills were housekeeping, and we did our duty and we passed those bills. We even convinced the members opposite to do it in a manner that would expedite the business of this House.
The minister has not answered the question. The minister simply reverts to her briefing note because the minister doesn't really know, for sure, if she's really defending the right position.
There's a big public out there. The people we work for. A big public, broad views, differing views. I think the minister did get spooked. The minister's reactions on the floor of this Legislature lead me to conclude that.
So, I ask the minister again now, and let's not go down this road about, "I have already answered the question" and all this yada-yada-yada. Let's find out from the minister why she believes that changing the expression "full-time" to "permanent" is such an urgent and pressing matter that it's brought to the floor of this Legislature today. Could it not wait for the fall sitting to have the total package brought in here, and do the job properly and bring forward the amendments to the Territorial Court Act properly, and not in this hasty manner? Why the urgency to change the expression "full-time" to "permanent"?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The problem here is that the member opposite doesn't like the answers he is hearing. I have already answered this question.
Mr. Fentie: No, the minister is wrong. That's not the problem at all. The problem is that the minister refuses to answer, or does not know, or really doesn't care what this amendment means. The minister has not answered the question on why it's so urgent and so necessary that the Liberal government is prepared to extend this sitting, to try and muzzle the opposition in its ability to debate the business of this House on behalf of the Yukon public, as we are charged to do. The minister has not answered the question. The minister refuses to answer the question.
I, on the other hand, am trying to give the minister a way to move this along, and by answering questions in a forthright, accountable manner and by being responsible for what the minister has brought to the floor of this House is certainly a way to expedite the debate on this bill.
Will the minister please advise this House why there is the urgency in amending the expression "full-time" to "permanent"?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, the only way the member opposite would like the answers he is hearing from me is if his staff wrote them.
This budget session permits housekeeping legislation. This is housekeeping legislation. These are housekeeping amendments. Many of them deal with judicial independence, and there are some other minor matters. I have already answered this question.
Mr. Fentie: No, the minister has not answered this question. Furthermore, if I am to follow the minister's logic, about the only way that I on this side of the House would accept the minister's answer or the amendments is if our staff on this side of the House wrote the amendments, then that leads me to believe that it is the minister's staff or the Liberal government's staff who wrote these amendments. And we know that is not the case.
Now, how can the minister stand on her feet - and I want to advise the minister that people will read Hansard, read the question, read the answer, and will wonder. They will be left wondering why the minister won't answer this simple question: what is the urgency of changing the expression "full-time" to "permanent"?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: My point is that it doesn't matter what I say. The Member for Watson Lake is going to object. His objective is not to move this bill along. This is a housekeeping amendment of a minor nature, and I have already explained it.
Mr. Fentie: Well, I can see that we are not going to get very far today, thanks to this minister's refusal and stubbornness to debate in an open and accountable manner.
Now, Mr. Chair, the members opposite have time and time and time again espoused on the floor of this Legislature that they are an open and accountable government, and yet, with every action, every answer and everything they do on the floor of the Legislature, they contradict that statement. It's almost as if they keep repeating that statement, listening themselves to that statement, and trying to convince themselves that that's truly what they represent.
Here's another example, Mr. Chair. A minister who refuses to answer a simple question, a simple question about why the urgency in changing this expression - why wasn't it so urgent in 1998? If we look back at the debate when the amendments were passed in 1998, there didn't seem to be a lot of a problem with this expression. Why has it become so urgent today that we must spend the time in this House debating these amendments, when they should be brought forward in the fall? Why is it so urgent to change "full-time" to "permanent"? Why is it so urgent to have this amendment brought forward?
Chair: Is there any further general debate?
Mr. Fentie: Well, let the record show that the minister is getting really stubborn now - really stubborn. The minister is now remaining in her seat and maintaining silence and is in fact making a concerted effort to muzzle the opposition, as the Cabinet on that side has muzzled the backbenchers of the Liberal government.
Muzzle, muzzle, muzzle - muzzle is all the Liberal government does. They want to muzzle the media, they want to muzzle the opposition, and they refuse to allow their backbenchers to stand on the floor of this Legislature and speak and represent their constituencies. They constantly act in a manner that is very secretive and goes against any grain of democracy. This isn't a dictatorship, Mr. Chair; this is a democracy. The members opposite were elected to follow that very doctrine, and yet they choose to attack it.
Will the minister do the right thing, and if she cannot answer this question, I'll be very fair. Bring forward an amendment deleting this amendment, and then we can move this bill along. What's so difficult about that? Will the minister bring forward an amendment then, if she can't answer why there is the urgency in changing this expression?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, the member either isn't listening or he doesn't like the answers he hears. I have explained that this is a housekeeping amendment. In defining "deputy judge", the word "permanent" should be used instead of "full-time". The problem with the word "full-time" is that when a deputy judge comes to Whitehorse and presides in our courts, he or she will sit on a full-time basis, even though their stint in Whitehorse may be only a week or two.
That is the reason. The member is looking for a hidden agenda. There isn't one, Mr. Chair. There's no monster hiding behind the bush. This is a simple housekeeping amendment in this budget session where housekeeping legislation is permitted.
Mr. Fentie: Well, if I could provide some advice to the minister, I would suggest that going down the road of arguing with this side about what is housekeeping and what is not is only going to upset the minister, as it's already doing. There's no reason to get so exercised about this. It's not me who brought this amendment forward. It's not this side of the House that brought 11 pieces of legislation into a budget sitting. It is the members opposite, ill-advised, who brought forward all this legislation.
I think that we are starting to show that there is little understanding of why they're doing it. I think there is a big difference between "full-time" and "permanent", what the ramifications are when it comes to a deputy judge, and how that will relate to benefits or whatever else happens in the context of deputy judge.
Now, that is why we are asking these questions. We want to have the minister provide answers that bring assurances that these things can proceed and that there are no impacts on the Yukon public that will be long lasting and far reaching. And how we can move and expedite the business of the House is by the minister providing those answers. If the minister refuses to do so, I can stand here until we get hit by an asteroid, asking the same question. If the minister wants to stand there and provide the same answer, well, so be it, but bring a sleeping bag, Mr. Chair, because we could be here a long time.
Will the minister please provide, in her own words, why it is necessary to make this amendment? And, if it's not really a big deal, why don't we just delete this? The minister can bring forward an amendment to this particular amendment, deleting it, and we can move along. Will the minister do that?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: As I have said before, the problem is the member opposite doesn't like the answers he is hearing, so he wants me to give a different answer. I am not going to give a different answer. It's an editorial change for clarity.
Mr. Fentie: Okay, thanks, Mr. Chair. Well, we might have had a bit of a breakthrough. Clarity. So, how does "clarity" enter into this equation? Has the minister looked up "full-time" and "permanent" in the dictionary? And, can she explain, then, how the deputy judge will administer his duties in this territory in a clearer fashion by changing this expression?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Deputy judges are permanent judges in other jurisdictions. They are not permanent judges in the Yukon. When they are sitting here, they are full-time for the period of time that they're here, but they're paid by their home province. If the member is looking for financial impact, there isn't any. This clarifies the role of deputy judges from the provinces when they sit here. There is no hidden agenda with this housekeeping amendment.
Mr. Fentie: Well, we're really revving up now and moving along. The minister just stated that it's because, in other jurisdictions, that's how the act is defined. That's how the expression -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Fentie: Yes, the minister said - the minister is shaking her head and pulling her hair out now. There's no reason for that, Mr. Chair. The minister has just said that, in other jurisdictions, that's how "deputy judge" - this expression - is laid out in their legislation. Would the minister, just so we can try and move along here, confirm that that is how this is laid out in the legislation of other jurisdictions?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: They aren't deputy judges in other jurisdictions, Mr. Chair. They're permanent judges in other jurisdictions. They're judges in other jurisdictions. They're deputy judges here. They come here to work on a temporary basis, but it's a full-time basis for the period of time that they're here.
What is it about this that the member doesn't understand?
Mr. Fentie: Well, Mr. Chair, if I'm not able to understand this piece of legislation, it's because the minister can't provide appropriate answers to assist this side of the House to understand it.
We went to a briefing today, and the minister should know that there were many questions around this legislation, and the officials, to the best of their knowledge and ability, provided answers. Quite frankly, the minister should try to do the same thing.
Now we get to what may be a crossroads here. The minister has now stated, "In other jurisdictions, they are not deputy judges. They are permanent judges." Well, how does that relate to the Yukon then? Why are we suddenly deciding that we don't want any more deputy judges, we want permanent judges? Can the minister explain that?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, it would have been helpful if, in the technical briefing this morning, the members opposite would have asked these questions. They did not ask about deputy judges in the briefing this morning. They might have learned something.
There will still be deputy judges here, Mr. Chair. The point is that we borrow judges from other jurisdictions. They are full-time, permanent judges in their own jurisdiction, whatever they are called there. They are deputy judges in our jurisdiction. They are not permanent here. They are not here 52 weeks a year. They're here for a couple of weeks at a time and, during that time, they're sitting full-time. What part of that does the member not understand?
Mr. Fentie: I understand it completely, and that's why the expression "full-time" - there's a big difference between "full-time" and "permanent" in my mind. I'm saying to the minister that this amendment isn't even needed.
So, now that we have established the fact that this amendment isn't really needed, why won't the minister, in order to expedite debate on this bill, agree to simply delete this amendment and leave it as it is? Will the minister do that?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: No, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Fentie: Why not?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, the members opposite should have asked for their own clarity when they had their technical briefing this morning. The definition of "deputy judge", as it exists in the act, wouldn't allow the appointment of a full-time deputy judge, even though we were already employing a full-time deputy judge at the time, for a period of one year, when the act was passed. Deputy judges can't be permanent because they serve time-limited terms.
The member has me going to the point now where I'm confusing "full-time" and "permanent", and I apologize if I misspoke myself earlier. The member is smiling because that was his objective all along.
Mr. Fentie: Well, the minister is giving me far too much credit. I would never, ever, ever try to confuse the minister. I take my job seriously, Mr. Chair, and quite frankly, an accusation like that from the minister is simply not what a minister should be doing on the floor of this Legislature. It's not acceptable behaviour by a minister. But now we know - I think, at least, that we have come to another juncture with this particular amendment. What it is is that the minister, in amending it in this manner, will now open the door - instead of a deputy judge, as defined with the expression "full-time" - so there can be an appointment of a permanent judge. Is that the case?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: We have three permanent judges. They live here. We have a number of deputy judges coming in on a rotating basis, as needed, for a couple of weeks. Once in awhile, when one of our permanent judges is on sabbatical, we get a deputy judge for a slightly longer period.
We already have three permanent judges; we don't need to appoint any more permanent judges. The member is in error.
Mr. Fentie: Well, now the minister has me confused. Because I am listening to what she is saying and now she has contradicted that, at least in my mind and in my humble opinion. She has contradicted what she is trying to tell me.
I have a suggestion to make. Obviously we are not getting very far here, and maybe a good course of action to take would be for the minister to stand down this section, section 2, and we could go on to further general debate if she agrees to just set that aside, and we can come back to it when we go to wrap up debate on this bill. Will the minister agree to set aside this clause until later on in the debate of this bill?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: No, Mr. Chair, if the member opposite doesn't understand it now, I have no great hope that he will understand it later.
Mr. Fentie: Well, what an insult. I can't believe it's coming from a minister of the Crown. That's an insult. I am taken aback, Mr. Chair. I am crushed that the minister would say such a thing to this humble member. It's not appropriate behaviour. I am serious; it's not appropriate behaviour.
Now, this Liberal government - and here's another one of their major contradictions - constantly espouse, "Let's work together. Let's deal with issues for Yukoners in a cooperative manner."
Well, I am a little confused again by the minister's reaction to my offer. It was offered very cooperatively. It was meant to be constructive. The minister and I might even take the time to sit down and discuss this privately and see if we can put our collective heads together on this issue, and the minister comes out with such an insult.
I want to ask the minister again, because I want to give the minister a second chance. I believe in being cooperative. I believe that a positive attitude will conquer all heights. We can climb the tallest mountain if we're positive about what we're doing.
The minister refuses to delete the amendment, but she may, at a later date, come to her senses and decide that deleting this amendment, in the context of getting this piece of legislation through this House, may be the wise move to make. Will the minister set this clause aside so that we can complete general debate, move this bill along, and try to get to where we should be - debating the budget on behalf of Yukon people? Will the minister do that?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: We will not set this clause aside.
Mr. Fentie: Well, I find that a little difficult to take. So we're not going to be able to move along in general debate. The minister is taking, I believe, a very antagonistic approach to this debate, and there's no need for that.
What we are trying to do on this side of the House is determine, on behalf of the Yukon public, what it is the minister is really trying to accomplish here, if indeed the minister is trying to accomplish anything other than being directed by her department. Because I think that, in all probability, the minister has bought into something here that may not have been necessary to bring forward at this time. In all probability, the minister could very well have set up some sort of situation, or condition, or whatever you want to call or label it, Mr. Chair, to deal with this whole act in a manner that fits with the proceedings of this Legislature and in a manner that would have been a cooperative, constructive approach to this Legislature.
I don't have to explain to the minister how this legislation came to the floor of the Legislature, in what manner it was brought forward by the Liberal government - the members opposite - with a heavy-handed, ram-it-down-your-throat attitude. That in itself says to me there's more here than meets the eye.
Now, we're trying to be very accommodating on behalf of the minister and to help the minister because the minister doesn't have a really good grasp of this. The minister doesn't have a really good grasp of her department. We know that, in debate in C&TS - and it was proven out - that is the case, that the department that this minister sponsors, and is in charge of, impacts every Yukoner in this territory.
And the Department of Justice is also a department that could very well, from time to time, impact many Yukoners, if not all of them.
I think the minister should have a much better understanding and a much better approach to this, a much more constructive and cooperative approach to this. We can't keep arguing the fact that the members opposite believe this to be housekeeping and we don't.
Now, I don't see any reason why the minister can't delete a clause like this, if it means nothing anyway, or can't set the clause aside so we can move debate along. That would show us a willingness by the minister to debate in a cooperative, constructive fashion.
Will the minister at least agree with what I'm saying, that you'll attract more flies with honey, if I could use that expression? I see the Premier making faces at me, which I think, Mr. Chair, is an inappropriate action by a Premier, a member of this Legislature charged with the highest possible -
Some Hon. Member: Point of order, Mr. Chair.
Point of order
Chair: Mr. Eftoda, on a point of order.
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: I just had to stop for a minute, Mr. Chair, because some things are harsh on the ears. But I take exception to the comment the Member for Watson Lake just made with respect to the Premier making faces at him. That was totally inappropriate and factually incorrect. She was reading a letter and documentation here on this side of the House.
Chair: Mr. Jenkins, on the point of order.
Mr. Jenkins: This is just another rude interruption in the debate in this Legislature by the Liberal government and their ministers, Mr. Chair. There is no point of order. That's abundantly clear. It's just their way of stalling meaningful debate in this Legislature.
Chair: Mr. Fentie, on the point of order.
Mr. Fentie: Mr. Chair, I'll accept the Minister of Renewable Resources' comments in that the Premier wasn't making faces at me. It's just a nervous twitch.
Chair: On the point of order, there is no point of order. I would remind members that, as it's getting late, I'll now be enforcing the interjection rule - one person on the floor at a time.
Mr. Fentie: Mr. Chair, I would ask you, though, to deal with naming a member in this House. I distinctly heard my name being called across the floor.
Chair: If it were on record, then it's a point of order. If it's not on record, it's an interjection, and it doesn't end up on the record. I have made one ruling already that I won't take any more interjections. Please continue.
Mr. Fentie: Well, obviously, at the displeasure of the Premier, we will continue with this debate. I know how the Premier thinks this is frivolous, but then again, she believes that most issues that impact Yukoners are frivolous, as their record across the floor shows. In the 12 months that they have been in power, this territory has been in a downward spiral that has never, ever been experienced by the people of this territory in the past and probably never will be again because in the next election, the unemployment line is going to be larger. It will be full of Liberal ex-MLAs and Cabinet ministers. But fear not, because we don't discriminate on this side of the House, and we may very well hire them to fill some sort of job as we proceed forward, leading this territory to its rightful place in this country.
Will the minister now come to her senses and either delete this amendment or set it aside, so we can expedite debate on this bill?
Chair: Is there any further general debate?
Mr. Fentie: Well, let the record show that the minister refuses to be cooperative and refuses to be constructive. She refuses to answer very simple, straightforward questions, refuses to debate in a manner that she is charged to do, refuses to exercise her duties as a minister and ensure that she is representing and protecting the interests of all Yukoners. And with that, I will turn this over to my colleague from the Klondike.
Mr. Jenkins: We haven't progressed one iota on this bill, and the responsibility is, in large part, completely vested in the Minister of Justice. I am extremely disappointed that she has been unable or unwilling to respond to the questions posed to her here in the Legislature. That's her job and that's her responsibility. But it just bodes well for the novice Liberal government that we have before us, that their ministers are not thoroughly conversant with the portfolios that they have been charged with. They are not as well-briefed on the departments and the areas as they should be. That is manifesting itself in prolonged and probably needless repeated questioning of the minister as a consequence of her failure to answer any specific questions, Mr. Chair.
I just don't know what we can do. Perhaps tomorrow we can look at a different act for general debate, since the government of the day is adamant that they want to move ahead on these non-housekeeping bills we have before us. I am just disappointed that they see fit to conduct the business of the Legislature in the manner that they are doing, Mr. Chair.
If this Act to Amend the Territorial Court Act is of such major consequence, but it's a minor number of amendments, the fact that the minister will not entertain any amendments to it doesn't bode well for the government of the day currently.
Why will the minister not entertain any amendments to this legislation?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: These are minor housekeeping amendments. Many of them deal with judicial independence, and there is no need for amendments to them. The members opposite are seeking only to delay progress in the House.
Mr. Jenkins: On the contrary, Mr. Chair. Nothing could be further from reality. The reality of it is the minister is not aware of the total implications of not dealing with this bill in a complete and thorough manner. This legislation is only part and parcel of the bigger picture.
Now, I'm sure, Mr. Chair, if this legislation that we have before us is tabled, and it will be amended and dealt with in a more thorough manner this fall, we would be able to satisfy any potential court challenge that may or may not come our way.
So could the minister advise the House what the downside is of proceeding in that manner? Do it once, do it thoroughly, do it completely, do it this fall, and encompass these amendments into the legislation this fall, rather than attempting to spoon-feed dribs and drabs of legislation onto the floor of this House without fully apprising the opposition of the total implications and total number of areas in this act that need to be amended. We were advised at the briefing this morning that we're looking at some 40 to 50 amendments - rewriting in this one act alone.
This is not an old-act syndrome, Mr. Chair. This is a relatively new act about which the minister slighted her officials by stating that the previous amendments were done in haste, which implies that they weren't thoroughly and thoughtfully considered and looked at before they were brought forward to the floor of this Legislature.
Now, Mr. Chair, I have concerns with that kind of statement coming from a minister of this or any government. I would urge the minister to consider a proposal that would see this legislation tabled to the fall and brought back with all the amendments necessary to bring this act into compliance. What's the downside to undertaking the business of the House in this manner and moving forward?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, the member opposite doesn't like the answers he's getting, so he keeps asking the same questions. I have explained several times that any litigant in the court has the right to challenge the independence of the court. It's not just the Territorial Court Judges; it's anybody who is in court.
I have explained that these are housekeeping amendments, brought forward in the budget sitting, which permits housekeeping legislation. They deal with judicial independence. I have explained the reasons for the urgency several times. The member is either choosing not to listen or asking the question again and again because he doesn't like the answer.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, Mr. Chair, even if we passed this bill and if it were given assent, it wouldn't preclude a litigant from moving forward with a challenge. We have been down that road before. The minister must recognize that that's also a possibility.
Further to that, Mr. Chair, there is a possibility that the litigant proceeding in that manner may be successful, even after this act is amended in the manner that's being proposed.
Mr. Chair, we're not privileged to be provided with the information as to the other 40 or 50 sections of this act that are being called into question, and that in itself is significant.
Mr. Chair, this is not a massive act, and to have 40 to 50 sections of the existing act called into question and requiring amendments in addition to what is being presented here today is in itself extremely significant.
Now, what's the problem with the minister, Mr. Chair? Why can't the minister grasp her department and grasp her responsibilities and fix this act once and for all? Why can't the minister proceed in that manner?
Chair: Is there any further general debate?
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, let the record reflect that the minister either doesn't know the answer or is unwilling to answer. I don't know which. It's probably a combination of both, but more likely the first. So she has failed to answer.
The minister is supposed to be charged with the responsibility for her department, and the buck is supposed to stop at her desk. Obviously, that isn't happening. Such a disappointment this Liberal government is proving to be, Mr. Chair. They come to power with all sorts of money in the bank - some $60 million-odd of surplus, which has been subsequently augmented by another $40 million-odd. That's over $100 million in the kitty. In addition to that, we have a shrinking population as a consequence of the poor economic performance of this government - their inability to address the economic problems and do something to stimulate the economy, instead of building more parks in the Yukon, like the Minister of Renewable Resources is doing.
We have one series of parks from one end of Yukon to the other. There is no opportunity whatsoever, Mr. Chair, for mining, forestry or oil and gas. All we have is a series of parks, with a whole series of gates across those parks and not many opportunities for Yukoners, other than being the keeper of the gates - a wonderful occupation. All our traditional roles of hunting, trapping and the lure of the outdoors, and the wonderful opportunities in the mining sector - all of these are totally disregarded by this Liberal government. They are thrust into the wastebasket, and the wastebasket is turned upside down and flushed down the toilet. No wonder we have to spend so much time on sewage treatment plants here in the Yukon.
They're totally filled with Liberal trash.
Mr. Chair, this should be a simple situation, setting aside these proposed amendments to this Territorial Court Act to the fall and bringing it back, encompassing all the changes that are needed to address the shortcomings in the existing act. Instead, the minister must have somewhere along the line taken a course in first aid, and she has learned to put a band-aid on things - nothing further. So now we have a band-aid on top of a band-aid because, as the minister said previously, the previous changes of addressing this area - the legislation was done by her department in haste, implying that they made a mistake, that they erred.
I haven't heard too many ministers slight their departments, but I have to recognize that when this minister is scripted in her response, she is excellent in the delivery of that scripted response. Those are the words that were scripted for the minister, and she delivered those scripted words in a very passionate - almost a manner that one would understand to be the exact rendition of what transpired. Well, Mr. Chair, reality is proving to be something else.
At the end of the day, we have a minister who is disappointing not only her own caucus, but Yukoners, far and wide.
We have a minister -
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Chair: Mr. Eftoda, on a point of order.
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: It is very inappropriate for the Member for Klondike to assume something so wrong that this caucus, on this side of the House, does not support its members or other caucus members. That is totally incorrect, wrong, and very inappropriate to say, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, once again, there is no point of order. There are no rules being broken. The Standing Orders are quite specific and it just appears that the minister is very uncomfortable, because his minister can't respond - his colleague. He's having a difficult time accepting that.
Chair: Okay. On the point of order. There is no point of order.
I would like to point out for members, however, that when they are asking - and this is consistent with when the Speaker sits in the House - for a point of order, I am only looking for instruction on where the point of order is and why the rule has been broken. We don't need editorials on whether or not there is a point of order. That is a decision of the Chair and the Speaker, when we come up with them.
At this point, there is no point of order, although I will caution the Member for Klondike that I have been loose on abusive and insulting language. The reason why I have been loose on that is that because, when it is said once or twice, it is an opinion. When it is said a number of times, it's abuse. I will go that far and ask the member to please watch himself. There is no sense in belittling people and I will stop it when I feel it has gone that far.
Mr. Jenkins: Thank you, Mr. Chair, for a very just and understanding ruling. I appreciate the position you're placed in, and it's a very difficult one, from time to time, and I concur with your thoughts.
What we have, Mr. Chair, in the Liberal government is, by all appearances, a minister who must stand up for every minister and answer for every minister in that caucus. It's becoming more and more evident that the minister stands up and answers for the Premier and now, for the Minister of Justice, to defend her.
But that's probably some internal caucus discussion and probably to assist the minister with his advancement. I notice in tonight's newspaper that there's some advanced babysitting courses, Mr. Chair, but there might be some likelihood that they could be useful to the minister in these undertakings and for standing up for everyone over there, Mr. Chair.
Let's get back to the issue at hand. It's an important one. We are dealing with Bill No. 37, An Act to Amend the Territorial Court Act, and it must be pointed out that the minister has failed to provide any logical answers to a whole series of questions in general debate, and I find that extremely disappointing.
We have a number of areas that should be questioned. We look at five years as not reasonable and yet three years is. That is predicated on some previous decision somewhere else. If the minister could kindly table these decisions that led to the conclusion that five years was not reasonable and yet three years is a reasonable period of time, that would probably assist us in our deliberations.
The briefing today gave one an eye-opener in that there are many, many problems with the existing piece of legislation, the Territorial Court Act - so much so that it is going to require a complete rewrite. But before we do the rewrite, we are asked to enshrine in the amendments a number of changes that will transfer an individual from being a part-time to a full-time deputy judge with all of the wages and benefits so associated.
So there's a whole series of areas that are called into question in general debate, and these questions are going unanswered at some length, Mr. Chair, and why? I don't know.
Once again, I would ask the minister to give consideration to bringing forward, this fall, amendments in total to this act so that we can have a piece of legislation that we can all be proud of, that will address the responsibilities of the Justice department and meet the needs.
This, as it currently stands, just singles out and addresses one situation, and that one situation, given the number of changes that are being proposed, Mr. Chair, is of a magnitude that far exceeds housekeeping legislation.
This is almost "housecleaning" legislation. So, rather than get into a spring cleaning of this legislation, Mr. Chair, why can't we just stand this aside and leave it sit on the Order Paper until next fall and deal with it? In the interim, I'm sure the Minister of Justice may be, or may not be, in a position to send over a copy of the other amendments that we're led to believe are almost in their final stage. They haven't just been drafted; they're almost in their final stage. Then we can move forward.
Mr. Chair, we can go around this issue for days, and we will probably be doing so, in light of the lack of responses from the Minister of Justice.
Now, as I understand our respective roles, it is the responsibility of the opposition to keep the government accountable. How can you keep the government accountable when their ministers won't even stand up and answer a simple question?
One would only conclude that they either don't know the answers to the questions or they're hiding something. What else can it be? Could it be that they're ashamed or something? I don't know.
And then for the minister to slight her officials by saying that they drafted the previous legislation in haste, that I find extremely disappointing, Mr. Chair. There's an opportunity here for the minister to come clean with the House and bring forward legislation that is going to address the needs, but not just the needs of a small sector that is covered by this Territorial Court Act. The Minister of Justice has a responsibility to address all Yukoners' needs.
The minister is not doing that. She's failing to address her responsibilities. One can only seek the minister's resignation, but that will probably be forthcoming in due course.
It has been suggested that maybe the Member for Faro should take over the Justice portfolio, but then again, the Member for Faro is probably not nearly as capable as the Minister of Justice at reading a script. He wouldn't read his lines as well as the Minister of Justice does, Mr. Chair. He is probably much more capable, but that is open to deliberation and debate.
At the end of the day, Mr. Chair, what have we accomplished? The Minister of Justice has failed. She has failed to respond to any questions in a succinct, formal, forthright and knowledgeable manner.
If the response wasn't contained within her scripted lines, she had a tremendous degree of problems trying to respond, and indeed couldn't respond and didn't respond and failed to even stand up on a number of occasions, Mr. Chair. That's disappointing.
I am sure that quite a number of Yukoners will be listening to what the minister has to say and they will be kind of disappointed that there is no substance to the party that 40 percent of the Yukon electorate voted for. That in itself is disappointing.
But I guess we will have the Minister of Renewable Resources jump up and respond for the Minister of Justice in due course. It looks like someone has to rush home and cook supper, so seeing the time, I move that we report progress.
Chair: It has been moved by the -
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS
Chair: Ms. Duncan, on a point of order.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: I would like to ask the members of the Legislature to join me in welcoming some unexpected visitors - my children, Kirsten and Craig.
Chair: It has been moved by Mr. Jenkins 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?
Mr. McLarnon: Mr. Speaker, Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 37, An Act to Amend the Territorial Court Act, and directed me to report progress on it.
Speaker: You have heard the report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: I declare the report carried.
Ms. Tucker: 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 5:59 p.m.
The following Sessional Paper was tabled April 18, 2001:
Yukon Lottery Commission 1999-2000 Annual Report (Buckway)
The following Legislative Returns were tabled April 18, 2001:
Water licence requirements for construction camps: status (Buckway)
Oral, Hansard, p. 1425 & 1426
Motor Vehicles Branch cash handling: security procedures (Buckway)
Oral, Hansard, p. 1331 & 1332
Supervisor for the City of Dawson: explanation of appointment; travel costs (Buckway)
Oral, Hansard, p. 1426 & 1427
Land Use Permits and Water Licences: listing and status of each (Buckway)
Oral, Hansard, p. 1425
Burwash forest fire recovery: expenditures (Buckway)
Oral, Hansard, p. 1475
Ministerial and MLA travel for Community and Transportation Services; departmental FTE increases or decreases (Buckway)
Oral, Hansard, p. 1489
The following document was filed April 18, 2001:
Highway enforcement staff: letter (dated March 29, 2001) to Mr. Jenkins, Leader of the Third Party, from G.W. Hunter, Weigh Station Operator (Premier)