Thursday, November 2, 2000 - 1:00 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
We will proceed at this time with prayers.
Speaker: We will proceed at this time with the Order Paper.
In recognition of National Down's Syndrome Awareness Week
Hon. Mr. Roberts: I rise today on behalf of all members in the Legislative Assembly to pay tribute to National Down's Syndrome Awareness Week, which runs from November 1 to November 7.
Down's syndrome is the most commonly identified cause of intellectual disability. Approximately one in 800 births are Down's syndrome babies. Many people know that the incidence of Down's syndrome increases with maternal age, but what is not commonly realized is that most children with Down's syndrome are born to mothers who are less than 30. This is due to a greater number of pregnancies in that age group compared to the older group.
Down's syndrome is a chromosomal abnormality that reveals itself in a set of common physical and mental characteristics. This abnormality is due to the presence of an extra chromosome.
The identification of the chromosomal cause of Down's syndrome in 1959 has done a lot to end uninformed debates over the humanity of people with Down's syndrome. This week's effort to raise awareness supports the ongoing efforts of parents and people with Down's syndrome. The advocacy efforts of people with Down's syndrome and their families have resulted in huge improvements in quality of life and life expectancy of people with Down's syndrome.
Medical professionals are attempting to match these efforts by becoming more sophisticated in their approach to ethical issues, provision of care and more cooperative in their interactions with people who have Down's syndrome and with their families.
On behalf of all members of this House, I encourage all Yukoners to support the national awareness campaign for Down's syndrome.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: If there are no further tributes?
Introduction of visitors.
Are there any returns or documents for tabling?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, I have for tabling the Yukon Development Corporation, Yukon Energy Corporation 1999 annual report.
Mr. McLarnon: Mr. Speaker, I have a document for tabling entitled, A Request for Investigation and Clarification to the Conflicts Commissioner.
Speaker:If there are no further documents for tabling, I'll proceed with reports of committees.
Are there any petitions?
Are there any bills to be introduced?
Are there any notices of motion?
NOTICES OF MOTION
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, I give notice of the following motion:
THAT the membership of the Members' Services Board, as established by Motion #19 of the First Session of the 30th Legislative Assembly, be amended by
1) rescinding the appointment of Trevor Harding; and
2) appointing Eric Fairclough to the board.
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, I give notice of the following motion:
THAT the membership of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts, as established by Motion #20 of the First Session of the 30th Legislative Assembly, be amended by
1) rescinding the appointment of Trevor Harding; and
2) appointing Dave Keenan to the committee.
Mr. Speaker, I give notice of the following motion:
THAT the membership of the Standing Committee on Statutory Instruments, as established by Motion #21 of the First Session of the 30th Legislative Assembly, be amended by
1) rescinding the appointment of Trevor Harding; and
2) appointing Gary McRobb to the committee.
Mr. Speaker, I give notice of the following motion:
THAT the membership of the Standing Committee on Rules, Elections and Privileges, as established by Motion #22 of the First Session of the 30th Legislative Assembly, be amended by rescinding the appointments of Dennis Fentie, Peter Jenkins and Gary McRobb.
Mr. Jenkins: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that the federal Liberal Gun Control legislation, Bill C-68, does not recognize that firearms are an integral part of the lives of northern Canadians and that the need for a firearm differs between Old Crow and Toronto; and
THAT this House urges the Liberal Yukon Government to use its special relationship with the federal Liberal Government to exempt Canada north of 60 degrees on the Gun Control law by tying its application to the northern allowance section of the Income Tax Act.
Speaker: This then brings us to Question Period.
Question re: Beringia Interpretive Centre, purchase of gift shop
Mr. McRobb: Yesterday, the Tourism minister admitted that she did not think it was appropriate for an elected official to be conducting contract negotiations with employees of a department that she/he may be named to head.
I have another policy question for the minister on this same topic. Does the minister think it's good public policy for a government department to buy out the assets of any contractor?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, that is common practice. I remind the member opposite that there is a very clear process for him to follow if he has questions regarding a member's actions.
The Member for Whitehorse Centre has taken it upon himself to start that process. He has written a letter to the conflicts commissioner asking him to clear his name. The member opposite should have followed that process, and he didn't. Instead, he has made unsubstantiated allegations on the floor of this Legislature.
The Member for Whitehorse Centre is taking responsibility and is following the process that is set out by law. He has referred this matter to the conflicts commissioner, and I encourage the member opposite to follow the same process if he has any more questions.
Mr. McRobb: Well, Mr. Speaker, this government is coming across as being very sensitive on this matter. I am merely asking questions. If they're trying to exonerate the member now, it's a little too late. He could have taken these measures before and not wait until they come up on the floor of this Legislature.
Now, my question to the minister: it's a matter of public record that this government did buy out inventory and equipment from an individual or business that held a contract with her department. We appreciate the minister's desire to distance herself from this issue. The minister is right when she says elected officials should not meddle in the day-to-day workings of a department. However, the buck stops at the minister's desk. Ministers are responsible when things happen in their departments that should not happen. That's an established principle of all parliamentary democracies.
Can the minister tell the House when she learned that a buyout of the contractor's inventory and equipment was being negotiated, and what she did to stop it?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, let us be clear from the very beginning. I always take responsibility for what happens in the Department of Tourism, what happens in the Yukon Liquor Corporation and what happens in the Women's Directorate. I take that responsibility very seriously.
Mr. Speaker, as I said before, the Member for Whitehorse Centre is taking this matter up with the conflicts commissioner. He is taking responsibility. He is asking the conflicts commissioner to clear his name. Now, what I would like to know from the member opposite is what responsibility he is going to take for the allegations he has made and if the innuendoes he is making today are not true.
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Speaker, the minister is failing to answer the questions. I asked what she did to stop this, what she knew, not for excuses after the fact. It is clear this Liberal government does not want to be accountable until the information comes forward in this Legislature. Mr. Speaker, that is inappropriate.
According to the disclosure statement of the Member for Whitehorse Centre, the government paid something in the order of $68,000 to purchase his inventory and equipment. The member's disclosure document includes the statement, "Negotiations are completed on contractual buyout at previous business concession at Yukon Beringia Centre - $68,000 for purchase of inventory and equipment, completed May 2000." Does the minister have any knowledge of whether or not that statement is fully accurate?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: As we're all fully aware, this is a matter before the conflicts commissioner. The member opposite knows that there's a very clear process for him to follow if he has questions in this regard. The Member for Whitehorse Centre has taken it upon himself to start that process, and I'll repeat: he has written a letter to the conflicts commissioner asking him to clear his name. That is a public document. If the member opposite wants a copy of it, he's going to be getting it later on this afternoon. And once again, I take full responsibility for what happens in my departments. I take full responsibility and I am accountable.
Question re: Beringia Interpretive Centre, purchase of gift shop
Mr. McRobb: We all just witnessed how this minister is not accountable for what happens in her department. This government hides behind boards and committees. Now they're hiding behind the conflicts commissioner. We can't even get a straight answer to a question in this Legislature if she even knew something happened. I have another question. What we have here is someone holding a contract with the minister's department who is not in a position to complete that contract because he has gone on to bigger and better things. This begs a very simple question: why would the government be buying out assets of this contractor in the first place? Will the minister please explain that?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: As I mentioned three times now, this matter is before the conflicts commissioner. There is going to be an investigation. That investigation will clear the name of the Member for Whitehorse Centre. The member opposite will be getting a copy of the letter where that investigation is being asked for. It's quite clear that's the process that we have to go through right now. The member opposite knows it, like the NDP have always known that. The Yukon Party knows that. The Liberal Party knows that. We're members of this House. We know what the procedures are.
Mr. McRobb: Well, Mr. Speaker, Mr. Hughes, the conflicts commissioner, will not be answering these questions. It is the minister's responsibility to answer these questions and not hide behind the conflicts commissioner. Questions like "When was the minister aware?" will not be answered by Mr. Hughes. The minister should stand up and take responsibility herself and not hide behind somebody else.
The minister knows it appears that there was a purchase of assets from the contractor. Whether or not there should have been is debatable. That being the case, the public has a right to know what the business case is for this purchase.
Will the minister please provide the House with the list of inventory and equipment involved, and will she explain how the true value of this inventory and equipment was determined before they were purchased by this government?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, if the member opposite has something to add to the investigation, I'd suggest that he contact the conflicts commissioner, Mr. Hughes.
Question re: Gun control legislation
Mr. Jenkins: I have a question for the Minister of Renewable Resources on the Liberal gun registration system.
I quote as follows: "This year will go down in history. For the first time, a civilized nation has full gun registration. Our streets will be safer, our police more efficient, and the world will follow our lead into the future." That sounds like Jean Chrétien. In fact, that's a quote from Adolph Hitler in 1935.
Mr. Speaker, $1.8 billion is the estimated cost of gun registration in Canada. The new law will have a very negative impact on our hunting and visitor industries. In view of the fact that the Yukon outfitter industry is largely dependent on American hunters, can the minister advise the House what the Department of Renewable Resources is doing to save this industry?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: I don't have an answer, really, for the member, but I certainly will get an answer for him in writing, on what the department is doing with respect to the Outfitters Association or other resource users, and with respect to firearms and their use.
Mr. Jenkins: It sounds like little of anything, Mr. Speaker.
Let's go to the Minister of Tourism, Mr. Speaker, and my supplementary is for that minister. Americans travelling to Alaska are planning on boycotting Canada because of gun registration. U.S. law requires Alaskan pilots to carry a firearm for survival purposes. I would like the minister to explain how she plans to counteract the impact of this bad Liberal law - Bill 68 - on Yukon's visitor industry, as the majority of our visitors are from the U.S.
Hon. Mrs. Edelman:Mr. Speaker, I'm glad the Member for Klondike thinks I'm so powerful.
Actually, we've had a discussion about this in the past, Mr. Speaker. The Member for Klondike and I talked about the fact that often - and this comes from my experience working for Customs for four years, and it's very, very true - people coming from the United States have very little understanding of what our gun laws are. The Member for Klondike has made the suggestion that perhaps one of the things we could do is put some sort of note in the vacation guide, and that's a suggestion I'm taking very seriously, and we will be doing that next year.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, the rules come into place this year, not next year. What are we going to do in the interim?
Let's go to either one of the ministers, Mr. Speaker. Can either minister explain why they can't convince their federal Liberal counterparts that the gun registration system is not only a complete and utter waste of taxpayers' money, but it is offensive to the aboriginal rights of Yukon First Nations, harmful to the Yukon economy, and designed to make criminals out of law-abiding gun owners?
Why can't they make their federal Liberal counterparts listen and understand that point?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Speaker, the Government of Yukon is continuing to lobby at the political level with respect to the Firearms Act. The Government of Yukon, as the member opposite is well aware, on October 9, 1998, unilaterally announced its decision to opt out of an agreement to administer this legislation. The transfer of responsibilities took place March 31, 1999. The Yukon government has refused to administer this legislation; we do not agree with it. Now, while we may not agree with a law and its impact upon law-abiding citizens, nevertheless it is the duty of the Minister of Justice and the government, as well as the people of the Yukon, to defer to the courts and Parliament. That said, we are continuing to lobby against this legislation.
Question re: Beringia Interpretive Centre, purchase of gift shop
Mr. McRobb: Again, for the Tourism minister. Well, perhaps there was some requirement in the original contract for the Beringia Interpretative Centre gift shop. Perhaps the minister can assist us with that by providing a copy of the original contract with Mike's North. Will the minister undertake to provide that contract as soon as possible?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, I believe that is a public document. I will check again. If it is a public document, I would be more than happy to provide that to the member opposite.
Mr. McRobb: Perhaps the Tourism minister can tell us, is the conflicts commissioner's review of this purchase after the fact, or did he rule on this purchase during negotiations or afterward, and is the minister prepared to table any information in that regard today?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, the rest of us were here and listening, attentively, when the Member for Whitehorse Centre stood and said that he has requested an investigation from Mr. Hughes. That happened during the tabling of documents earlier in the agenda. The Member for Kluane perhaps wasn't listening, but the Member for Whitehorse Centre has tabled a request to the conflicts commissioner to clear his name through an investigation of this procedure.
Mr. McRobb: Well, Mr. Speaker, that begs this question: why did the member or this government or the Minister of Tourism not approach the conflicts commissioner before, to seek his guidance on what approach to take in this matter of buying out a business, because a member of the public becomes an MLA? It could be a new matter to government. I have checked with some people. It doesn't appear there's any precedent of this. Why did this government do it, and why did they not request the conflicts commissioner to guide this process?
I want to ask again and be very clear on this: was anything done in this regard prior to negotiations, and, if so, can the minister table it?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, it's not possible to do any more than we have already done. The Member for Whitehorse Centre has requested an investigation of this matter. He wants to clear his name. He doesn't want any more spurious allegations or innuendoes made about him. That's why he has asked for the investigation.
The investigation is going through the conflicts commissioner. That's the process that we're all familiar with, as MLAs. That's the process the member opposite knows about.
Question re: Beringia Interpretive Centre, purchase of gift shop
Mr. Fentie: Mr. Speaker, my question is also for the Minister of Tourism. I think we have to clear the air here. Yesterday in this House, the minister stated that, in this particular case, the minister deliberately stayed out of the process and the negotiations that were going on. That tells us, on this side of the House, that the minister knew what was happening.
My question to the minister is this: as a minister of the government and of the Department of Tourism, did the minister not think it appropriate to first consult the conflicts commissioner before any further negotiations in a purchase of one of her colleagues' businesses was to continue? Did the minister not believe that a ruling from the conflicts commissioner should have been the first order of business in this matter?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: As I mentioned yesterday, I try to stay out of the day-to-day workings of my department. I do not micromanage. That is not my responsibility. I do take responsibility for the department and for bringing government policy to my department. To be absolutely clear, this matter is before the conflicts commissioner. The member opposite knows that. The investigation will certainly clear not only the name of the Member for Whitehorse Centre, but also mine. But to be absolutely clear, I take responsibility for the Department of Tourism, for the Yukon Liquor Corporation and for the Women's Directorate.
Mr. Fentie: The problem that we on this side of the House are dealing with here is that it's inappropriate for a government department to be buying out a business from an elected member sitting on the government side without due consideration of the conflicts commissioner. This is a serious matter because the Department of Tourism has now used taxpayers' money to purchase a private sector business. I ask the minister again: why did the minister not stop the negotiations immediately upon finding out and get a ruling from the conflicts commissioner as due process dictates?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: This is getting ridiculous. The statement from the member opposite is that somehow or another I knew that the negotiations were happening. The statement from the member opposite says that I could have stopped the negotiations. Why would I do that? That's the day-to-day workings of the people in my department. I don't go down and hand out licences at the VRCs across this territory. I don't do that. That's not my job. I'm the minister, and I take full responsibility for my departments.
Mr. Fentie: Well I'm glad the minister does take full responsibility because, in this case, the minister yesterday stated she deliberately stayed out of this negotiation. I ask the minister again: if the minister is responsible for this department, it was her duty to first find out from the conflicts commissioner whether this negotiation and purchase were appropriate in regard to using taxpayers' money to purchase, not only a private business, but a business owned by one of her colleagues sitting in the government benches.
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, let's go through this again. There is an investigation going on. The conflicts commissioner is doing that investigation. The Member for Whitehorse Centre has asked for that investigation. We're going to clear his name, and I'd like to know from this member - as I want to know from the Member for Kluane - just what responsibility he is going to take for making these spurious allegations and making these false allegations within this House. What responsibility is he going to take?
Question re: Mining industry, commitments to
Mr. Fentie: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Economic Development.
Soon the minister will be going to meet with the mining community - I believe it's in Vancouver - and we all in this territory, the opposition included, are very concerned about the economic situation that we're in. We're in a crisis.
My question to the minister: what is the minister going to be doing at the conference with the mining community - and, more importantly, the investment community involved in mining - to instill some confidence to come back to this territory?
Can the minister tell the House today what she will be bringing to that conference from the Yukon, on behalf of the Liberal government?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Certainly, Mr. Speaker, I'm thankful that the members opposite have recognized that the mining industry is an important element of the Yukon economy.
The member is quite correct. I will be speaking at a luncheon on Monday, and my message to the mining community is a result of the earlier luncheon that I attended this spring and where I outlined a number of key commitments of the Yukon government and our interest in their industry, and I invited the mining community to check against delivery and said that I would be back in the fall for precisely the industry to do that.
In order that members opposite are not feeling somehow slighted, we have also arranged that the speech would be simultaneously delivered to them.
Mr. Fentie: What are those key commitments?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, the key commitments - the main focus around rebuilding the Yukon economy is providing certainty, and the way to do that is the settlement of land claims, devolution, RR2, and the mining community should certainly receive a progress report from us on them.
I would love to be going down to Vancouver and saying that we had completed some of the seven outstanding land claims. I'm not able to do that yet, but I'm looking forward to providing them with the progress report, likewise on devolution.
Another key component that I indicated to the mining community that I would be speaking about would be the protected areas strategy, and I had hoped that the Minister of Renewable Resources would be able to attend with me. Unfortunately, he's required in the House, so I will be providing the mining community with a progress report on that.
I will also be speaking about the MINE program, which was tabled in the throne speech. As well, I will be making reference to the incentives that we provided in the first supplementary budget that we tabled.
Mr. Fentie: Well, if I were in the mining industry, this would be little comfort. Land claims are delayed; that is a progress report. Devolution is delayed; that is the progress report. YPAS is under review, another progress report. And the MINE program, which the mining industry is well aware of, is part of the mineral strategy that was begun a couple of years ago. Furthermore, the incentives that were tabled in the previous budget of the 22-percent exploration tax credit is an NDP initiative. There is nothing new being brought to the mining industry. Will the Premier now stand on her feet and tell this House and Yukoners what it is really she intends to do to try and get the mining industry back in this territory up and running?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Well, Mr. Speaker, first and foremost, you have to establish a relationship with the mining industry. I did that back in May - re-established. The mining community was very familiar in that I, as a member, had been to all of the Cordillerans. I have worked with the mining community in the past. My first opportunity to speak as Premier was this spring. I indicated the areas we were working on and what we were doing. I am providing them with a progress report.
Now, contrary to what the previous member said, the MINE program is not a result of the mineral strategy, which, if the member goes back and checks, was described by me, when in opposition, as "very thin soup indeed". What we have provided in the MINE program is substantially more for the mining community than the previous NDP government had even considered. What we are also doing with the mining industry is working with them. There is information to report. So the member opposite does not think that establishing a common forum on land claims is progress. The member opposite does not think that the target date of April 1, 2002, as a result of the federal election, in part, is progress. That is his opinion. He is entitled to it; he is entitled to air it in this Legislature. I am quite confident it is not the opinion of the mining industry. I believe we have made progress.
Question re: Grey Mountain Primary School, relocation of French immersion
Ms. Netro: My question today is for the Minister of Education.
Yesterday, the minister didn't deny what the Member for Whitehorse Centre has been telling people about this government's plan to relocate the French immersion program to Grey Mountain school and to turn Whitehorse Elementary into a downtown campus of Yukon College.
Would the minister tell us what would happen to the students currently at Grey Mountain Primary and Whitehorse Elementary?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda:What the member opposite is suggesting is purely speculation. I am sure that the members opposite, when they were the government on this side, were aware that there is a continual aspect to looking at the enrolment factors within all Yukon schools. The enrolment and capacity of schools in the Whitehorse area are no exception. We're looking into that study. We're trying to bring balance to enrolment in Whitehorse elementary schools. It's a very, very complex issue. It has many involving factors such as programs made by parents, residents' shifts resulting from the creation of new neighbourhoods, and outdated catchment areas.
So, Mr. Speaker, we're always looking at the dynamics of our school system, and this is no exception, although the situation that the members opposite are alluding to is - and I'll repeat - speculation.
Ms. Netro: Yes, we did hear the minister tell us yesterday that the department is looking at the capacity and enrolment of Whitehorse schools. I hope we're not about to see a repetition of the grade reorganization caper from a previous government, which we're still paying for.
Will the minister please inform the House how the consultation plan for Grey Mountain Primary has been structured, and when parents and school councils can expect an information session and consultation, as the minister stated yesterday would occur?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: As I have just indicated to the member opposite, the capacity and enrolment study has been done and, as yet, there has been no schedule set up for meetings or consultation or information. That will definitely be done, but it hasn't been set up yet.
Ms. Netro: Yesterday, the minister said, "I'm sure that parents are very concerned with respect to Grey Mountain Primary School. That was very, very evident during the election." We agree; parents are very concerned about the fate of their school. The Liberals have made a lot of noise about how they will do consultation better. Their way and the Liberal way. With the Mayo school, that Liberal way was for Cabinet to make a decision, then make the phone calls. Will the minister acknowledge that these plans to rebuild Grey Mountain Primary School are politically driven, and that parents and school councils have not been consulted about the Liberal plan to convert Grey Mountain Primary School to a French immersion program.
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: With all due respect to the member opposite, the lines that she was reading obviously were to keep on theme. There was no suggestion yesterday, no confirmation with respect to the speculation that is being espoused on the other side. I would also like to remind the members opposite that the decision taken by Cabinet to postpone the Mayo school was spread to the members immediately after a decision in Cabinet. Mr. Speaker, the residents and students of Mayo - I'll repeat because it's worth repeating - have been continually jerked around by 25 years of previous government incompetence. In six months, we have a footprint on the ground. We will be building the school starting in early spring, and the students will be in it just after this time next year. That is our commitment to the community of Mayo and we will follow through on it because we are a government that does what it says it will do.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order, Mr. Speaker.
Point of order
Speaker: Hon. Minister of Tourism, on a point of order.
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, I'd like at this time for members to note that Mrs. Hayden, a former member of our Legislature and a minister, is present in the gallery.
Hon. Mr. Eftoda:Mr. Speaker, with the House's indulgence, I would like to take an opportunity to introduce three classes from Yukon College: two from developmental studies classes and one English-as-a-second-language class.
Some Hon. Member: A point of privilege, Mr. Speaker.
Question of privilege
Speaker: Member for Whitehorse Centre.
Mr. McLarnon: Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of privilege, as I have dropped off at 11 o'clock today and pursuant to Standing Orders.
The point of privilege I am raising is, at the first opportunity, to state that my credibility has been attacked in this House, without a chance for me to respond and without the prescribed and proper legislative practices being followed.
I am raising this point at the earliest possible time, as I had to ensure that this fell within the conflict-of-interest guidelines, and I had to review Hansard to understand the depth of the spurious and slanderous allegations made against me.
The Member for Kluane has made allegations in this House that should have been first filed with Judge Hughes, the Yukon's conflicts commissioner. This is prescribed in section 17(d) of the Conflict of Interest (Members and Ministers) Act. By not following legislative procedure, the Member for Kluane has raised allegations that, as a private member, I have no opportunity to refute.
Further to the argument, he has had the opportunity to smear my excellent reputation in this House, while I have had no opportunity to defend myself, based on evidence that he will not bring forward through proper channels.
I believe that these accusations are without evidence, which is why no complaint has been filed with the conflicts commissioner.
The use of this process to investigate conflicts was further given strength by the statement by Commissioner Hughes in the statements after investigating the Byblow-McDonald case in 1996. For everybody's reference, that's page 57, paragraph 4.
To paraphrase Mr. Hughes, he states that the process put in place should allow discussions to be investigated fairly and quickly through the process defined in legislation, and not in the Legislature.
My point, as a private member, is twofold. I have no opportunity to defend myself, because the Orders of the Day do not allow private members to directly answer questions.
If the legally defined procedures were followed, I would have a chance to ensure that my name and credibility were not sullied by foundless, baseless accusations. As it is now, the member has the ability to attack my credibility without my ability to defend it.
Further, I have taken steps to ensure that my name is cleared from this mud-slinging by asking the conflicts commissioner to make a ruling. I've done nothing wrong. I should not be subjected to baseless allegations to which this House gives me no ability to respond.
I ask this House that if the Member for Kluane wishes to continue this form of questioning, he do it through the proper channels in the legislation, which ask that the conflicts commissioner address these issues, so that baseless, groundless and error-prone allegations do not come into the House where a person does not have a chance to defend himself.
This is a question of privilege. I do not feel it is fair, as a private member, to be attacked without having a chance to respond, and the rules of this House do not allow me to respond.
That's what the conflicts commission was used for. This is the same reason that it was put in place to defend the reputations of members such as Mr. McDonald. And I would also like to add the same person who brought this motion also had to go through the conflicts commissioner to clear his name.
What I would ask - knowing full well that the ex-minister of Tourism is there and that he knows full well what that contract is. They know full well what the facts are, but they will not present them, and they will not allow me to defend myself. And I'm asking, since this is a question of privilege and I cannot defend my name in this House, that the Member for Kluane be asked for an apology and a retraction, and also that the Speaker rule that this line of questioning is indeed infringing on my privilege as a private member.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: Given what I have just heard, this is indeed a complex situation for me, and I simply cannot make a ruling right now, sitting here. I will have to reflect on this. So I will take the comments under advisement. I will provide a ruling to the House next Monday, I hope - but sometime next week if I cannot do the research before Monday.
Speaker's ruling re question of privilege raised November 1, 2000
Speaker: Before proceeding to Orders of the Day, the Chair will provide a ruling on the question of privilege that was raised on November 1, 2000, by the leader of the official opposition. The leader of the official opposition met the notice requirement found in Standing Order 7(1)(b) by submitting a written notice to the Office of the Speaker at 10:54 a.m., November 1, 2000.
Standing Order 7(4) states that the Speaker must rule on (a) whether there appears, on the face of it, to be a case of breach of privilege; and (b) whether the matter has been raised at the earliest opportunity.
The normal practice of this House has been that, to meet the "earliest opportunity" requirement, a question of privilege must be raised at the time the event occurred or on the next sitting day. In this matter, the event took place on Tuesday, October 31. The Chair, therefore, finds that it meets the earliest opportunity requirement.
Rulings of the Chair of this and past Assemblies have been consistent in the finding that a question of privilege or a point of order cannot be based on a dispute that has taken place between members as to the facts of a matter or as to the interpretation which should be assigned to those facts. The House will understand that, in situations where members provide differing versions of a particular event, the Chair is in no position to conduct an investigation and render a judgement on which version of the events, if any, is the accurate one.
The Chair has, of course, reviewed the Hansard for October 31 and November 1, 2000. Other members may well wish to review those passages relating to the question of privilege raised by the leader of the official opposition. The conclusion that the Chair believes readers must reach is that the Minister of Education might have been more helpful in explaining the context of the situation when he said that the leader of the official opposition "refused to come up." It was only the day following that the House learned that the bells were ringing and that the leader of the official opposition had responded that he intended to be present in the House and would be available after Question Period. The Minister of Education must recognize that the manner in which he described this situation on October 31 did not cast the leader of the official opposition in a favourable light.
Although this does not qualify as a question of privilege, the Chair would ask that the members reflect on the lessons learned and make better efforts to treat each other fairly and professionally. The Chair would very much appreciate the members taking greater care when attributing actions or words to other members.
We will now proceed to Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Bill No. 24: Second Reading
Clerk: Second reading, Bill No. 24, standing in the name of the hon. Ms. Buckway.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I move that Bill No. 24, entitled the Department of Justice Act, be now read a second time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Minister of Justice that Bill No. 24, entitled Department of Justice Act, be now read a second time.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to introduce the Department of Justice Act. This act brings the Yukon into alignment with the legislative framework adopted by other jurisdictions in Canada to ensure the Yukon has legislation recognizing the constitutional responsibility of the Minister of Justice to act as the chief legal advisor to Cabinet.
This act will strengthen the Department of Justice's role as a central agency for managing and providing legal advice to Cabinet and other departments. It is also intended to strengthen the fundamental role of the Minister of Justice by ensuring the Department of Justice has a strong coordinating role, working with all government departments to continue to provide high-quality legal advice for the betterment of government.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Ms. Netro: I am pleased to rise to speak to Bill No. 24 today. This appears to formalize work that the ministers of Justice have been doing for many years. The Government of Yukon has been seeking the devolution of the Crown attorney for more than 30 years. Previous ministers of Justice have met with federal ministers seeking support for this change.
I would like this minister to tell the House whether she has met with the federal minister on this matter prior to introducing this legislation.
Can the Minister of Justice tell the House what the federal position is? Is the Government of Canada prepared to support devolution of the Crown function? When will the federal government make the necessary changes for this to take effect? Will this be dependent upon the federal election?
I would also be interested in knowing whether the Minister of Justice has discussed this change with the legal community. Does the minister have a model of the prosecutions office that she could share with us?
On the topic of consultation regarding this legislation, under the final agreement and self-government legislation, the first four have the ability to draw down the administration of justice. Could the minister tell us what consultations have taken place with the Yukon First Nations regarding this legislation?
I will be supporting this bill in second reading and look forward to hearing the answers to these questions from the minister before concluding debate.
Mr. Jenkins: I rise in general support of Bill 24, Department of Justice Act, but I do have some questions surrounding the minister as ex officio the Attorney General of the Yukon. I would like to explore with the minister, in line-by-line debate, the issue of Crown in right of Yukon as to where we are standing today and why the minister has not taken it upon herself to apply for a ruling in that regard, to provide a much greater degree of certainty surrounding this area than we currently have.
Speaker: If the member now speaks, she will close debate. Does any other member wish to be heard?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I thank the members opposite for their comments and I look forward to their questions in line-by-line debate in Committee of the Whole.
Motion for second reading of Bill No. 24 agreed to
Bill No. 29: Second Reading
Clerk: Second reading, Bill No. 29, standing in the name of the hon. Ms. Duncan.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, I move that Bill No. 29, entitled Electronic Commerce Act, be now read a second time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. Premier that Bill No. 29, entitled Electronic Commerce Act, be now read a second time.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: The explosive growth of the Internet and computer networks over the last decade has made it possible to communicate electronically, rather than using paper and pen. Entrepreneurs, banks, bookstores, small business, home-based business owners and financial service providers have all seized this new tool and made it possible to transfer money, order goods and services and pay our bills without putting pen to paper.
Electronic commerce - or e-commerce - is altering our economic world, so that the rules that governed the old ways of doing business have to be changed as well.
Currently, Mr. Speaker, the Yukon has limited ways of regulating this new way of business. Therefore, I am moving that the Electronic Commerce Act be read in this House.
What is electronic commerce? E-commerce is any transaction made using digital technology over the Internet or over closed networks, such as bank networks that use debit cards. For the purpose of this legislation, Mr. Speaker, electronic commerce relates to any legal relationship that may require documentation made electronically, such as a bill of sale or an invoice for shipping purposes.
The Electronic Commerce Act will provide a legal framework for e-commerce in the Yukon. Like Ontario and Manitoba - two provinces that have just passed e-commerce legislation - the Yukon will now be well-positioned to take advantage of the new e-commerce world.
The Yukon e-commerce legislation - like that of Manitoba and Ontario - is based on a model bill developed by the Uniform Law Conference of Canada. The Electronic Commerce Act will provide the legal regime necessary for the development of e-commerce and e-government in the Yukon. "E-government" refers to government services provided on-line to the public; for example, the business directory or the Economic Development Web site. The act will give legal effect to the use of electronic communications by the private sector and by governments.
Mr. Speaker, this act recognizes the legality of electronic information, electronic contracts and electronic transactions. It validates electronic transactions and electronic signatures - signatures that can be made with the click of a mouse.
The Electronic Commerce Act, Mr. Speaker, provides an answer to the question, "Can I do this electronically?" Just follow the standards set by the legislation, and the transaction will be legal.
The bill states that there's no requirement to provide information in writing and that information can be in electronic form. The bill creates special rules for governments, because governments have to receive a great variety of information in a variety of electronic formats. The new legislation will help meet the public's demand for more electronically delivered services by government, and by the private sector.
The Yukon government is working to help facilitate the growth of the Yukon's e-commerce sector by providing it with the legal framework it needs to be competitive.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Fentie: We, in the official opposition, have no problem with passing this act in second reading, although we will have a couple of questions during Committee, just for the sake of clarity, to try and clear up some of the items in the act, as we are not really journeymen in electronic commerce in this territory. So, during Committee, we will ask the minister to try, in layperson's terms, to clear up some of the confusion on this side and some of the particulars in the act itself. Beyond that, we will be voting in favour of passing this act in second reading.
Mr. Jenkins: The Yukon Party is in support of Bill No. 29, this e-commerce act. The purpose of it is very straightforward. It's to provide legal certainty to electronic communications of all sorts by government, business, and all sectors of our society, Mr. Speaker, and it parallels a similar legislation brought down in other jurisdictions in Canada, and it was developed by a uniform group in Canada.
We have cross-referenced it to a number of articles that recently appeared in a number of magazines on this topic, the main one being a recent article in the magazine, The Economist, which pointed the way to how e-commerce could assist government and could reduce the cost to government and yet provide a much greater range of service to the population base that it serves.
So, other than a few questions in line-by-line debate for clarification and somewhat of an interpretation on various lines, we are in support of this bill, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: If the Premier now speaks, she will close debate. Does any other member wish to be heard?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: I'd like to thank both of the opposition parties for their support for this piece of legislation, which is positive for the Yukon in providing this e-commerce certainty. I am fully prepared to answer the questions that the Member for Watson Lake has indicated they will have in line-by-line debate. Certainly this is a complex area, and I look forward to that debate.
Motion for second reading of Bill No. 29 agreed to
Bill No. 30: Second Reading
Clerk: Second reading, Bill No. 30, standing in the name of the hon. Ms. Duncan.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: I move that Bill No. 30, entitled the Electronic Evidence Act, be now read a second time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Premier that Bill No. 30, entitled the Electronic Evidence Act, be now read a second time.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: At this time, I welcome the opportunity to speak to the companion bill to the e-commerce legislation, the Electronic Evidence Act. The Electronic Evidence Act provides a legal structure for the development and use of electronic evidence in legal proceedings in the Yukon.
The bill provides rules for electronic records that are produced and stored in a computer or readable at the time of their use only with the help of a computer. This could include, for example, medical, court and criminal records that exist in computer readable form.
Electronic records are data that is recorded or stored on any medium in or by a computer system or similar device. Electronic records include printouts, a display, or any output of that data. The bill applied to data on smart cards or magnetic strips or on cards as well, for instance the electronic data on bank cards. The bill defines the integrity of electronic records that are to be used as evidence. The bill looks at the procedures by which electronic records are created and stored. It also looks at the system that creates and stores these records in order to ensure that the electronic evidence to be used in the legal proceeding has veracity.
The legislation provides rules for storing and retaining electronic records to be used in legal proceedings. The Electronic Evidence Act is another model bill that was developed by the Uniform Law Conference of Canada, and this government is proposing to keep pace with the new technological developments.
Many records are produced on a computer with word processing software and then printed on paper. For example, in the case of business correspondence, that record lives it's life as paper. And paper, of course, can be presented as evidence. This bill allows the electronic record from which the paper was printed to be used as evidence.
The Electronic Evidence Act represents another step that our government is taking to enhance the development of e-commerce and to provide a secure, legal framework for the future of e-commerce in the Yukon.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Fentie:We in the Official Opposition, again, as with the previous act, will be in support of this act. Just in a preliminary view, it seems that this act is strengthening the original Electronic Commerce Act by defining how legal documents are to be used in evidence, so on and so forth.
We will also have a couple of questions in Committee, but beyond that, we in the official opposition will be voting in favour of the Electronic Evidence Act, Bill No. 30.
Mr. Jenkins:I rise in support of the Electronic Evidence Act. We have no questions. It appears to be rather straightforward.
Speaker: If the Premier now speaks, she will close debate. Does any other member wish to be heard?
Hon. Ms. Duncan:I would like to thank the opposition parties for their support for this companion piece of legislation, which will advance the Yukon in the technological age.
Motion for second reading of Bill No. 30 agreed to
Bill No. 22: Second Reading
Clerk: Second reading, Bill No. 22, standing in the name of the hon. Ms. Duncan.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: I move that Bill No. 22, entitled An Act to Amend the Elections Act, be now read a second time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Premier that Bill No. 22, entitled An Act to Amend the Elections Act, be now read a second time.
Hon. Ms. Duncan:Mr. Speaker, this bill is to amend section 7 of the Elections Act. Section 7 contains the terms of reference for the electoral district boundaries commission. In accordance with the Elections Act, section 3(3)(5), the chief electoral officer may be tasked with producing a report to the Legislative Assembly on matters that may improve the administration of elections.
In December of 1996, the leaders of the three official parties of the Legislature agreed that a review of elections legislation was important and that it deserved early attention.
The chief electoral officer was therefore asked to produce a report, with recommendations, on election-related matters. In conducting this review, the chief electoral officer invited all registered political parties to participate on a review committee. While representatives from the political parties were able to provide input, the final recommendations in the report were the sole responsibility of the chief electoral officer. The public was also asked to provide input for this review.
The chief electoral officer's report was tabled in the Legislature in 1997. This report included a number of recommendations in a variety of areas. These included election financing and setting up a process for regular reviews of riding boundaries.
Some two years after the chief electoral officer's report was tabled, the previous government finally tabled amendments to the Elections Act. Unfortunately, the previous NDP government ignored the chief electoral officer's recommendations regarding an electoral boundary review commission. The three political parties, who participated on the review committee, proposed that there should be an electoral boundary review after every second election. This was also the recommendation of the chief electoral officer. Another recommendation of the chief electoral officer was that an independent commission be established to review the area, boundaries and the names for electoral districts.
Instead of following these recommendations, the previous government tabled amendments to the Elections Act that would have put the time frame for boundary reviews at over 10 years apart. Their legislation also had the chief electoral officer, a public servant, unilaterally determining whether a review of the electoral boundaries was required or not.
Yukoners all recognize that, with fluctuating populations in communities and with subdivisions, boundary reviews are required more often than every 10 years. In order to ensure fair representation for Yukon citizens, these should be conducted by an independent commission.
The electorate is quite aware that a number of ridings are currently out of skew. Yukoners told us that a review every 10 years just wasn't good enough. We are once again doing what we said we would do. In light of our election commitment, I have tabled this bill to amend section 7 of the Elections Act. Section 7 contains the terms of reference for the electoral boundaries commission. This bill, in keeping with the report from the chief electoral officer, proposes to expand the electoral district boundaries commission to include: a judge or retired judge from the Supreme Court to be the chair of the commission; a resident of the Yukon chosen by each leader of a political party represented in the Yukon Legislative Assembly, and the chief electoral officer.
Through these amendments, we will have an electoral district boundary commission of five individuals, rather than the present structure of just one commissioner. The purpose of these amendments is that we need good legislation. We need boundaries that are drawn by an independent commission. The boundaries must represent a fair division of the Yukon electorate, and they must be reviewed in a timely manner, prior to an election.
We believe that these amendments will provide a better measure of democracy in how the electoral district boundary commission conducts its review of the Yukon electoral boundaries. These amendments fulfill a commitment that we made to Yukoners during our election campaign, and these amendments address one of the seven priorities that we identified - restoring confidence in government.
Mr. Speaker, this bill will provide the changes Yukon people have been asking for, in how we determine representative electoral boundaries and, in turn, how Yukon people are represented in this Legislature.
Mr. Fairclough:Mr. Speaker, this is a very important amendment to this act. People in the Yukon will definitely be affected by the end result of a commission drawing boundaries in the Yukon. The riding of Faro could be eliminated completely and be joined in, possibly, with another riding. The town of Whitehorse may have two, three, or four more additional ridings. This is a concern to many Yukoners, Mr. Speaker, and I do hope that proper process is followed on this.
There have already been some questions to us with regard to consultation and what took place with the First Nations, for example, on bringing these amendments forward, and there are some people who would like to have input before there's more discussion right now.
Most certainly we'll have a lot of questions with regard to this act in third reading, and one was the one the Premier had raised with regard to a judge, or retired judge, of the Supreme Court who is chosen by the senior judge of the Supreme Court.
Some people want to know how this came up and what was the rationale behind it. Some people are even focusing down to maybe even two, possibly three judges in the Yukon. There are not many people to pick from who could have done this. Should we actually be looking outside the Yukon for someone more neutral in any political and territorial issues out there, which we have had before? I know the members opposite may talk about saving dollars in this respect. I think this argument should be addressed.
We have not had a briefing on this and that could have been beneficial. If government is still willing to do this - I believe there might have been one this morning. We had somebody over, but it may have been over already. So, that's something else to think about, I suppose.
We have questions in regard to the interim report and so on. There's a lot in this amendment to the Elections Act that has an impact on Yukoners and we will be questioning that in Committee of the Whole in detail. I believe this is important. People are thinking about it right now, such as the people in Faro, for example, who are going through a by-election and may be voting for an MLA of their own, not shared with any other community, for the last time. This has been on their minds for a while now and, of course, the people of Whitehorse, again, have the majority of the balance of the MLAs in Yukon.
There's going to be a lot of discussion, of course, with the commission that's put together on what process may take place. Is it a balanced representation of the Yukon? We'll question what that balance is. As far as ridings are concerned, of course, it's Whitehorse, and for rural communities, it is less. Is it fair representation, in that do people out there in the communities, who are far away like Old Crow, Dawson City and Mayo, get good and fair representation?
Many important questions are coming out right now. Where the boundary lines, of course, come into play should be determined by the commission and by presentations that are given to them. So we will have many questions in Committee of the Whole and, at this point, I do not see a reason why this should be held up at this point.
Mr. Jenkins: This act, An Act to Amend the Election Act, brings forward an electoral boundary review here in the Yukon regarding the area size and population served by each of the 17 elected representatives here in this Legislature. It is a much-needed review, Mr. Speaker. It should have taken place earlier. The one section in this act that I am pleased to see is that it is indicated clearly that the review must take place on a continuing basis after every second election.
I do have some concerns that were brought to my attention with respect to how the commission will be formed, who will sit on it, its size, and whether we are justified in having a judge or retired judge of the Supreme Court, resident of the Yukon, who is chosen by the senior judge of the Supreme Court and whom shall be chair. There are not too many people who qualify for that position, Mr. Speaker. We might want to broaden the scope of that appointment to chair. We might want to have an impartial - and I am not suggesting that judges here in the Yukon are not impartial - judge brought in from somewhere else if we choose to go in that direction, or any other individual who is conversant with this aspect of Canadian law. Had this act not come forward at this session of the Legislature, and had it not been completed, I am very sure that, if we held another election without having undertaken this review, we would probably see a court challenge concerning the validity of the riding size and population served.
What this act does not point out is that there is more and more of a focus on the major population centre of Whitehorse, and there doesn't appear to be any mechanism to make adequate representation from rural Yukon, which we've come to know as TROY, the rest of Yukon. Everything is focused on Whitehorse. Everything occurs here. And the old basis of democracy, representation by population, holds true, but it has to be tempered with the reality of the population base we serve and the far and wide regions that we have here in the Yukon, Mr. Speaker.
So, while in principle I have no quarrel with Bill No. 22, An Act to Amend the Elections Act, I do believe we should be paying special attention to some of the mechanisms put in place in some of the areas, because I believe that they should be amended to more accurately and adequately reflect the needs of Yukon.
Speaker: If the Premier now speaks she will close debate. Does any other member wish to be heard?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: I am somewhat dismayed by the members opposite's comments. The reason why we have brought forward this bill - as the members should remember - and why we have brought it forward now is that this is exactly the amendment when we debated the Elections Act that we tried very hard, as the official opposition, to have the then NDP government accept. And they quite simply refused.
At that time, when we brought forward the amendment and in preparing this legislation, all members of caucus have discussed at great length what would be a fair structure for a commission. Certainly, we wanted to go beyond simply placing the onus on one public servant and to have representation from all three parties in this Legislature - all three parties that represent all of Yukon, all of Yukon.
The leader of the third party made reference to how we should perhaps have a retired justice from outside of the territory. While I respect the member opposite's opinion on that particular focus, I would remind the member opposite that it was a retired justice who gave us the boundaries we have now. There are some very strange anomalies in the current election boundaries. The member opposite has perhaps forgotten that, during the Lake Laberge by-election, because that particular riding is divided in such a funny way, it was his own leader who was campaigning in his riding, as opposed to the Lake Laberge riding during that by-election.
The boundaries, for the members who may not be aware, are divided on the Takhini River Bridge and, in fact, Porter Creek North ends at the Takhini River Bridge. Where I live in Porter Creek is considered part of the Laberge riding, as are parts of Fish Lake Road. The boundaries are very strange, and that's why it's very important that we have a very fair commission that looks at these boundaries.
They are not Whitehorse-focused. They are representatives of three parties. As agreed upon by the three leaders - and the member opposite has suggested that a retired judge is perhaps not the best individual. If they feel that there is somehow a better choice for a commission and a better description of a commission that they feel would be more fair, I would invite the members opposite to bring forward an amendment for full debate.
We have tried very hard, and could not come up with a more fair allocation. The boundary review is much needed; these changes are part of an election commitment, and I remind the members that this is not only exactly what we said we would do during the election campaign, but it's also what we tried to do under the previous government.
Thank you very much.
Motion for second reading of Bill No. 22 agreed to
Bill No. 32: Second Reading
Clerk: Second reading, Bill No. 32, standing in the name of the hon. Ms. Duncan.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, I move that Bill No. 32, entitled Municipal Loans Act, be now read a second time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. Premier, that Bill No. 32, entitled Municipal Loans Act, be now read a second time.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, this simple bill is required because of a legal technicality in the Financial Administration Act. That act, in section 40(1), requires that loans by the government only be made under the authority of an act. Every year we appropriate monies for the purpose of making loans to municipalities, and we do this through the normal budget process.
However, we're advised that the appropriation act itself is insufficient legal authority to meet the requirements of the above-mentioned section of the Financial Administration Act, and that a separate act is required, in addition to the appropriation acts.
For the past number of years, we've been loaning to the municipalities under the authority of an old Municipal and General Purposes Loans Act, but we've now exhausted the limit in that act.
The passage of this act will in no way change the present practice of seeking annual appropriation authority for such loans. The $15-million figure included in the present act should therefore suffice for a number of years before a similar act will have to be passed again.
As members know, we normally seek $5 million per year in appropriations for this purpose, but the municipalities seldom require that sum.
Mr. Fairclough: We don't have any concerns with this bill in second reading. We look forward to going through it line-by-line in Committee of the Whole.
Mr. Jenkins: I have concerns with Bill No. 32, Municipal Loans Act. What it says to the public is that we are taking a new tack - "we" being the government; this new Liberal government - with respect to our dealings with municipalities. We are not going to be cost sharing major projects in the future. We're just going to loan the money to the municipalities. Previously, major undertakings were cost-shared 85 percent to 15 percent, like the secondary sewage treatment here in Whitehorse. The Government of Yukon put up the bulk of the money and the balance coming from general revenues of the City of Whitehorse.
But now there appears to be a change in direction being taken by the Department of Community and Transportation Services and the Minister of Finance with respect to how municipalities are going to receive their funding. They're going to have to borrow it. The government doesn't appear to be interested in cost-sharing any more. It doesn't even appear to be interested in budgeting and providing grants.
Also, I'm alarmed that there's a mechanism in place in the Municipal Act that allows only so much borrowing by a municipality. And it's the same as you or I, Mr. Speaker, going to the bank. The bank will say, "Fine, what is your total income?" and tell you that you can only borrow this much for a mortgage for your home - 30 percent of your gross. Well, there's the same formula in place in the Municipal Act for municipalities. They're only allowed to borrow three percent of their total assessment base. And there is a caveat on that also - three percent of the total assessment base - on which grants-in-lieu of taxes are paid. So, it further restricts the total amount that could be borrowed.
And in a lot of cases, municipalities are far exceeding or are being told to exceed their borrowing limits at the request of the minister. Now, there are two ways of exceeding that borrowing limit. The minister can just sign it off and say, "Fine, we can do it," just like the bank can say fine, or they can go to a plebiscite on which the taxpayers must vote as to whether or not they want to assume that additional debt load. But that whole process appears to be usurped today, Mr. Speaker, with this new shift in Liberal direction in not funding municipal projects on a cost-sharing basis, only lending money to municipalities and allowing municipalities to exceed their borrowing limit without going to plebiscite, to a borrowing bylaw, which is authorized by the taxpayers. I see it as a downloading of responsibility.
Now, we all know how much the federal government has downloaded responsibility from the federal level to the territorial or provincial level, but what we're seeing here is a wonderful Liberal mechanism to further download that responsibility from the territorial government level to the municipal government level. It's the same taxpayer, Mr. Speaker; there's only one, and that's you and me - Canadians.
But I would urge the minister - it's being explained as a common housekeeping bill so that we conform to the Financial Administration Act, but it also signals that the amount of borrowing by municipalities is increasing alarmingly and will be increasing alarmingly under this Liberal government, and I have concerns in that regard, Mr. Speaker, and I would like some checks and balances put in place. I would furthermore like the Minister of Finance to explain why, all of a sudden, in this depressed economic state that we are in, municipalities will be required to borrow this tremendous increase. We're going from a limit of $5 million to a limit of $15 million. That's a 300-percent increase. Why?
The economy of the Yukon is on the ropes; it is going down. Municipal valuations are flat. Resale values have tumbled downwards, and yet we are seeing a dangerous trend here today that municipalities will be borrowing up to three times what they were allowed to borrow in the prior years.
So I admire this wonderful, unique way that the Liberals have of financing new projects and new initiatives, taking the load and the fiscal responsibility and downloading it to municipal governments; but as a taxpayer, as an elected representative, I have grave concerns, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: If the Premier now speaks, she will close debate. Does any other member wish to be heard?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: I would like to thank the interim leader of the official opposition for his support for this piece of legislation.
Mr. Speaker, as I outlined in my second reading remarks, the reason that we are passing this particular Municipal Loans Act is because the previous legal authority that was in place has run out of money; it is done. The legislation automatically expires, so we need a new legal piece of legislation in order that we can then put in our budget documents - which are debated at great length in this House - a line for appropriating money for loans to communities, which we have made for many years, even since the Minister of Tourism served on city council. This is simply a legislative requirement in order that the Justice folks are satisfied that the Finance folks are doing the right thing and that we have the legal authority. Every year - every single year, we appropriate money for the purpose of making loans to municipalities. Members opposite should know - they pride themselves on reading the budget documents - that normally that is $5 million per year in the appropriations line and, normally, municipalities never actually require that sum.
All this particular bill does is to say that we have the legal authority, under Justice, to put that line in the budget, which we then vote upon.
Now, I would urge the leader of the third party, the Member for Klondike - a community and municipality, I might note, Mr. Speaker - to undertake a briefing from Finance officials on the Municipal Loans Act, in order that the nefarious plot he seems to be searching for can be revealed to him as not being one. We are simply doing some housekeeping legislation, prior to debate, although I will be happy to debate, at length, with the member opposite.
Speaker: Are you prepared for the question?
Some Hon. Members: Division.
Speaker: Division has been called.
Speaker: Mr. Clerk, please poll the House.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Jim: Agree.
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Agree.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Agree.
Ms. Tucker: Agree.
Mr. McLarnon: Agree.
Mr. Kent: Agree.
Mr. Fairclough: Agree.
Mr. Fentie: Agree.
Mr. Keenan: Agree.
Mr. McRobb: Agree.
Ms. Netro: Agree.
Mr. Jenkins: Agree.
Clerk: Mr. Speaker, the results are 15 yea, nil nay.
Speaker: The yeas have it. I declare the motion carried.
Motion for second reading of Bill No. 32 agreed to
Bill No. 28: Second Reading
Clerk: Second reading, Bill No. 28, standing in the name of the hon. Ms. Duncan.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, I move that Bill No. 28, An Act to Amend the Income Tax Act, be now read a second time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. Premier that Bill No. 28, entitled An Act to Amend the Income Tax Act, be now read a second time.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, the purpose of this bill is rather mundane, and it's unrelated to any initiatives taken at the local level. For the most part, our Income Tax Act has to mirror the federal act, since our tax is a function of the federal tax and all the inputs that go to determining that tax. Consequently, when Canada amends their Income Tax Act, ours has to be similarly amended. This also holds true for most of the provinces, and they, too, will be passing similar legislation for similar reasons.
The legislation that I have tabled and that I am seeking second reading on today incorporates changes that have been made to the federal act over the past several years. In addition, it makes consequential amendments referencing the newly formed Canada Customs and Revenue Agency, the body that has replaced Revenue Canada, as the principal collector of federal and provincial/territorial taxes.
This is not the first time that this House has been asked to pass legislation of this nature, nor will it be the last, Mr. Speaker. Rather, it's routine, it's ongoing, and it's a necessary exercise on the part of all jurisdictions that base their income tax regime on the federal determination of taxable income and tax liability.
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Speaker, we don't have any problems with this bill in second reading.
Mr. Jenkins: Any time any government wants to reduce the tax load paid by a Canadian, I am in favor of it. I only hoped that they would do a little bit more, a little bit sooner, but I guess we have to be thankful for small initiatives, so I rise in support of this act.
Speaker: If the Premier now speaks she will close debate. Does any other member wish to be heard?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: I thank the interim leader of the official opposition for his support. The leader of the third party has suggested that this act will reduce income taxes and this is just simply a mirror legislation of what the federal Income Tax Act changes are. It is unrelated completely to any initiatives taken at the local level, and I look forward to debate in Committee of the Whole.
Motion for second reading of Bill No. 28 agreed to
Hon. Ms. Tucker: I move that the Speaker now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Speaker: It has been moved by the government House leader that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Motion agreed to
Speaker leaves the Chair
COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. Do members wish to take a brief recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: We will take a 15-minute recess.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order.
We will now discuss Bill No. 21, Miscellaneous Statute Law Amendment Act, 2000.
Bill No. 21 - Miscellaneous Statute Law Amendment Act (2000)
Chair: Is there any general debate?
Hon. Ms. Buckway:I would just mention again the rationale for this act. In conducting its own internal reviews and in the course of reviewing legislation for other departments, the Department of Justice occasionally comes across errors in legislation of a non-substantive nature - for example, typographical errors or omissions, inconsistent wording or problems that result from the statute printing process. The amendments in this act correct errors of that nature that have come to the department's attention since the last Miscellaneous Statute Law Amendment Act in 1998. I could just go through the various changes. It would just take a minute, if the members have no objection.
In subsection 68(1) of the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act, the French version is amended by repealing a paragraph. This merely removes an extra paragraph that was unintentionally added to the French text of the act. The English is not changed at all.
Subsection 56 (1.3) of the Assessment and Taxation Act, the word "filed" is repealed, and the word "registered" is substituted. That merely ensures that the documents in question are registered against title in the land titles office, which was the intent of the legislation in the first place.
In the Estate Administration Act, there is a paragraph that is repealed, and the following substituted for it: "there is no trustee for the minor's interest in the estate,". That clarifies the reference to the estate in the existing section 72(1)(b). The intent is a reference to a minor's interest in the estate.
In the Municipal Act, the expression "huit jours" is repealed and "huit semaines" replaces it. That's eight days becoming eight weeks. It corrects an incorrect deadline in the French text to reconcile it with the English text.
In the Oil and Gas Act, there are several cases where the amendment corrects a formatting error that arose in the printing process. The definition has been restructured to avoid a recurrence of the same error.
And in the Pounds Act, the change corrects the French version of the quoted subsection, which misquoted the French title of the Highways Act.
In the Seniors Property Tax Deferment Act, again, the word "file" is repealed, and the word "register" substituted for it.
And in the Workers' Compensation Act, the amendment permits the appointment of a deputy workers' advocate consistent with the intent of the original subsection.
That's it for the changes, Mr. Chair.
Chair: Is there any further general debate? Shall we go clause by clause, or shall we consider this deemed read and carried?
Chair: Do I have unanimous consent to consider this bill read and carried?
All Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: Unanimous consent has been granted.
Clauses 1 to 8 deemed to have been read and agreed to
Title agreed to
Bill No. 25 - An Act to Amend the Interpretation Act
Chair: Is there any general debate?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I would just say that minor amendments to the Interpretation Act are required to ensure that the Yukon legislation mirrors the federal Interpretation Act and reflects changes in the Bank Act of Canada, simplifies enforcement processes by clarifying when and what powers the minister can and cannot delegate, adds a general definition of "minister", recognizes the creation of Nunavut, and incorporates gender-sensitive language.
Chair: Is there any further general debate?
Mr. Jenkins: Could the minister be specific as to the changes in the Bank Act that we're looking at here? Other than including an authorized foreign bank, is there anything else in that area?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: It brings our definition in line with the Bank Act of Canada. That's all.
Mr. Jenkins: But what is the effective change? What are the implications of this change?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, as I said, our definition is now in line with the definition used in the federal legislation - that's all.
Mr. Jenkins: So, what are the implications of this change?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: No more authority and no less authority is granted. It's merely to bring us in line with the federal legislation. The member opposite is looking for problems where there aren't any.
Mr. Jenkins: I'm looking for clarification. Now, obviously the federal Bank Act was changed for a specific reason and we followed suit. What was that reason?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: To the best of our knowledge, the federal definition was changed to allow foreign banks to do business in Canada. Ours was changed merely to comply with the federal legislation.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, foreign banks have been doing business in Canada since before Confederation, just on an entirely different level from what they were originally doing it at. But foreign banks have existed in Canada for quite some time.
So what are the implications of the changes we now have here in the Yukon? What are the implications of these changes for Yukon?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, this change will have no effect on the day-to-day lives of Yukoners.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, obviously the minister doesn't know. I see a way out of this. She could provide us with a legislative return.
The federal Bank Act was changed for a definite and specific reason. Yukon is following suit and paralleling that change. Now, what was the reason for that change? Because foreign banks have been doing business in Canada. We have category A, B and C banks in Canada.
Now, these banks have been doing business in Canada for quite some time. This change to the federal Bank Act was only recent. We are following suit. Why? What are the implications of this change on the federal level that we are following suit?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, we'll be happy to provide a written reply to the member, or a legislative return, if he prefers.
Chair: Is there any further general debate?
Shall we go clause by clause or consider the bill read and passed?
Chair: Do I have unanimous consent to consider this bill read and carried?
All Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: Unanimous consent has been granted.
Clauses 1 to 4 deemed to have been read and agreed to
Title agreed to
Bill No. 26 - Enforcement of Canadian Judgements and Decrees Act
Chair: Is there any general debate?
Seeing no general debate, shall we consider this bill read and passed?
Chair: Do I have unanimous consent to consider this bill read and carried?
All Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: Unanimous consent has been granted.
Clauses 1 to 12 deemed to have been read and agreed to
Title agreed to
Bill No. 27 - Court Jurisdiction and Proceedings Transfer Act
Chair: Is there any general debate?
Seeing none, shall we consider this bill read and passed?
Chair: Do I have unanimous consent to consider this bill read and carried?
All Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: Unanimous consent has been granted.
Clauses 1 to 24 deemed to have been read and agreed to
Title agreed to
Chair: We will proceed to Bill No. 24, Department of Justice Act.
Bill No. 24 - Department of Justice Act
Chair: Is there any general debate on the Department of Justice Act?
Mr. Jenkins: I'd like to explore with the minister, Mr. Chair, the area in clause 3, "The Minister is ex officio the Attorney General of the Yukon," and the implications that flow from that. I'd like to ask the minister, where are we at with respect to the existence of a separate Crown in right of Yukon?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, the Minister of Justice is not the Attorney General for all purposes, just for some purposes, as laid out in this act.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, that gives rise to the question: just where are we at with the existence of a separate Crown in right of Yukon?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, when devolution occurs, this act will be in compliance. Until then, it's only for limited purposes.
The description of the legal duties of the minister have remained substantially the same for years and years, so this is more housekeeping legislation. I know the member opposite doesn't like to hear that, but it's the truth.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, I'm sorry but I'm just not comfortable with the response I received from the minister. What the minister is saying is that she is the Attorney General for specific areas and not for others. Could she be specific? In what areas is the Minister of Justice the Attorney General for and in what areas is she not the Attorney General?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The Minister of Justice is the Attorney General for areas covered by territorial legislation and not for areas covered by federal legislation.
Mr. Jenkins: We got that one right. Thank you, Mr. Chair. Okay, now let's extrapolate from that point. Let's go into the existence of a separate Crown in right of Yukon. Just where is the Department of Justice in defining that role? Has there been any more thought given to a court challenge under the Constitutional Questions Act by this Liberal government?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: There have been some discussions, but we haven't proceeded very far down that road.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, is it on the agenda? When would we see something occurring in this regard?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: It's a priority of our government to finish this stage of the devolution process before we proceed any further.
Mr. Jenkins: So, if I hear the minister correctly, what the minister is saying is that under devolution we will achieve a Crown in right of Yukon. Is that what the minister is saying, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, that goes beyond the scope of the current round of devolution.
Mr. Jenkins: This is growing more and more confusing all the time. I am trying to get my head around it, as to just where we are at, in order to provide some legal certainty. We are waffling back and forth in a number of areas, and I do not believe it is going to be advantageous unless we have some certainty with respect to the Crown in right and our definite responsibilities in that area.
Will this government be pursuing a court challenge under the Constitutional Questions Act to ensure that there is certainty with respect to this area, and could the minister provide some timelines for this undertaking?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, we are dealing today with Bill No. 24, the Department of Justice Act. This proposed act would prepare for the anticipated devolution of the criminal prosecution function from the federal government. The member opposite's questions are beyond the scope of this act.
Mr. Jenkins: Thank you, Mr. Chair. I disagree with the minister, Mr. Chair, in that the questioning is all related, and we are in general debate. So, I would once again ask the minister to answer the question.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, at this point, there are no constitutional questions prepared by government that would address the question of the status of the Crown.
Mr. Jenkins: Are we anticipating any, Mr. Chair? Is anything going to be forthcoming? As the Crown attorney's office for criminal proceedings devolves to the Government of the Yukon, it will certainly give more evidence and credence to the fact that the Crown does exist. We have a Crown attorney's office that will be devolved from the federal to the Government of Yukon, and it begs the question as to the Crown in right for Yukon with respect to all other matters.
We are heading down that path. I would like to know the timelines for us heading down that path and what the government is going to do, because they can certainly establish some certainty with a court challenge under the Constitutional Questions Act. Why isn't that avenue being pursued? It will eliminate a whole lot of uncertainty in a whole series of areas that we are presently having to address and will be addressing under devolution.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, since the member opposite has asked a question about devolution and the member opposite asked a question about a reference to the constitutional court regarding Crown in right of Yukon, as I told the member last session, there is no constitutional reference planned by the Government of Yukon - none anticipated, none planned on that particular subject.
The member opposite has asked for a time frame on the devolution of the Crown attorney function. In opposition, we had looked at the director of public prosecution's model, and certainly there was work done more than 10 years ago on the director of public prosecution's model. That is something that Yukon is interested in. However, to the best of my knowledge, the intent of the Government of Yukon at this point in time is that we would like to successfully conclude our devolution agreement with the Government of Canada, and I have provided members opposite with a statement in that regard, prior to proceeding on a director of public prosecution's model or the transfer of Crown attorney.
Mr. Jenkins: I'd like to thank the new Minister of Justice, the minister of everything, for her response, Mr. Chair. I can see we're not going to get any suitable responses out of exploring with the Minister of Justice the existence of a separate Crown in right of Yukon.
I have a couple of other areas I'd like to explore with the minister. On Bill 24, I'm concerned with a number of the other areas of government as to whether or not they would have to hire their own legal counsel through the Department of Justice or otherwise to address their issues. If we look at, say, the chief electoral officer of the Yukon, do they have to go beyond the scope of this in-house and hire their own legal advisor, and, if so, where are the provisions in the budget for it, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, the intent of the act is that all legal advice to government be channelled through the Department of Justice.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, if I hear the minister correctly, the conflicts commissioner, access to information commissioner, chief electoral officer, even our table officers, have to hire all their legal advice through the Department of Justice here in-house.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, the Department of Justice, from time to time, does hire outside counsel in specific instances. I would not expect that would change. The intent of the legislation, though, is that all legal work be channelled through the Department of Justice, no matter which department it is.
Mr. Jenkins: Thank you. I'm still not able to get my head around that response.
What I'm asking the minister, and what I'm seeking an answer on, is if, say, the conflicts commissioner - Mr. Hughes - wants legal advice, does he have to go to the Department of Justice, or can he go elsewhere? Or does he have to funnel his request through the Department of Justice?
It is the same with the access to information commissioner, the chief electoral officer, and even the table officers here. If they need legal advice, can they go outside of government and obtain that legal advice? Or do they have to go to the Department of Justice, and only to the Department of Justice?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, I say again the intent of this legislation is that all legal advice provided by government should be funnelled through the Department of Justice. There will be occasions when the Department of Justice will countenance the hiring of outside counsel.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, that's the intent of the legislation. Now, what actually happens? Can the minister enlighten me? If Mr. Hughes, as conflict commissioner, currently needs legal advice, where does he route his request?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: In the past, many departments and many individuals, such as the conflicts commissioner, have either provided their own legal advice or hired outside counsel on their own. The intent of this legislation is to change that.
Mr. Jenkins: So, the intent of the legislation is to ensure that all of these areas of government - and some of them are arm's length - must go through the Department of Justice for legal advice. Is that the case?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The word "superintends" doesn't necessarily mean "does" it. It means "supervises" it.
Mr. Jenkins: As the system currently works, Mr. Chair, all of these agencies act at arm's length from government. And if they have required legal advice, like Mr. Hughes might have, as the conflict commissioner, from time to time, or like the access to information commissioner might have from time to time, as indeed the chief electoral officer of Yukon would have from time to time, they have had a very independent way of obtaining that legal advice. But why is this being changed?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Most of the people that the member opposite is referring to - we use them, not for their legal advice, but for their other advice. Legal advice is incidental to their duties.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, if I disagree with the minister, it would probably not be unusual, when she states that legal advice is incidental - usually the legal advice provided by these three individuals - it's a form of legal advice, and it is very pertinent to the area of expertise that they are hired for and it's binding on government. So I again ask the minister why these areas of government are being restricted in their ability to obtain independent legal counsel remote from government now? What is the rationale for this government taking that position and moving in that direction?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, the member opposite seems to be assuming that the Department of Justice would be privy to the content of the advice; that is not the case. The advice is sought from experts in the field.
Mr. Jenkins: Now we are getting into the bafflegab region. I am looking for a specific answer; I am looking for a specific answer. These individuals, arm's-length commissions of the Government of Yukon, involved and established under their own act with their own area of jurisdiction, previously had access to independent legal advice. They did not have to go to the Department of Justice. Why are they now being reined in? I would like to see who in the Department of Justice is going to tell Mr. Hughes he has to come and see his department for independent legal advice. That is a pretty interesting one. Be that as it may, why are these areas being reined in, and they can only proceed if they require legal advice through the Department of Justice? Why is that taking place?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, I doubt that Mr. Hughes would require independent legal advice, having been a lawyer and a judge for over 40 years.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, again, we have a bafflegab answer. Mr. Hughes is not going to be the conflicts commissioner forever, but the conflicts commissioner - as does the commissioner who oversees the access to information, as does the chief electoral officer - has specific functions, and occasionally in the past, they have required legal advice. Even Mr. Hughes will admit that he has sought the advice of other individuals in the legal field for an area that he is exploring and dealing with.
Why does this piece of legislation further restrict those individuals to going to the Department of Justice for legal advice? Why can't it remain as is? What have the problems been with the current way that these individuals have dealt at arm's length with legal matters? What has transpired to make this change?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, this is not an attempt to restrict anybody. It is an attempt to streamline the provision of legal advice to the Yukon government.
Mr. Jenkins: So I can see a friendly amendment coming to this area, so that these areas of government can go outside the sphere of the Yukon Department of Justice for legal advice? Is that what the minister is saying?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: No, Mr. Chair, that is not what I am saying. As I have already explained to the member opposite, the seeking of legal advice through the Department of Justice does not mean the Department of Justice is privy to the content. It is merely an attempt to streamline the provision of legal advice.
Mr. Jenkins: This has to be a very interesting definition of "streamline". You're putting another department in the equation.
Now, if the minister said she was eliminating one department from the equation, I would agree that it's streamlining. But what we're doing is that, now, commissioners have to go to the Department of Justice, who will then probably put them in touch with a lawyer, or suggest where to go.
So, how is this streamlining? It certainly isn't. It's adding bureaucracy - another layer of bureaucracy - to the process, and it can only be construed accordingly.
But more importantly, what has given rise to the need to put this additional step in? And I really will take heed of this new Liberal definition of "streamlining", adding more bureaucracy to the process, because it will come in handy in the future, Mr. Chair.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, what we're looking for is consistency. Individual officers can seek independent legal advice, because they are not heads of departments, but the Department of Justice has an interest in all matters connected with the administration of justice, so it should be aware when these officers are seeking advice.
We are merely attempting to be aware of all the legal advice that is being sought by any part of government. And, incidentally, Department of Justice lawyers are quite qualified in providing this legal advice in the majority of cases.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, if that's the case, the minister might want to have a look at the contract registry, and see how much outside counsel the Government of the Yukon engages in over the course of a year. It is considerable, and in some of the other areas it is also considerable - such as Economic Development and some of these fancy numbered companies that are set up and in incidents like Kassandra - - the amount of money that's going out the window for independent legal advice.
How is it going to apply to companies like that - arm's length companies that are set up and owned by the Government of the Yukon or Crown corporations? Will it apply?
This new ruling, that every area of government must report to the Department of Justice should they need legal advice - that's what we have here. Now, we have some Crown corporations; we have some other numbered companies that are set up through the Economic Development portfolio and through the minister's other portfolios to funnel money to Northwestel on the Connect Yukon initiative. Where do they go for independent legal advice? Do they go to the Department of Justice? Are they mandated to go there also, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, the intent of the legislation is that all arms of government will seek their legal advice through the Department of Justice.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, I think that I and a number of departments probably have a lot of concern with this new initiative, and I don't know how it's going to impact on a lot of these areas where currently these commissioners - if you want to use them as an example - are arm's length from government and must be arm's length from government to effectively address their responsibilities.
What has given rise or what has occurred to make this change and implement this change? There has to be something that has occurred, because it's certainly not streamlining. It is adding another layer of bureaucracy to the conflicts commissioner.
Let's use the conflicts commissioner as an example. Previously and currently, the conflicts commissioner resides in the Lower Mainland of British Columbia, and if he wants legal advice, he just picks up the phone and phones the person he knows is going to provide it to him, just to allay any fears that his thought process is not spelled out quite succinctly and in conformity with existing laws and case law across Canada.
All this is going to do is add another step into what the conflicts commissioner has to do. Why are we doing this?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I refer the member opposite to Bill No. 25, An Act to Amend the Interpretation Act, and the definition of department: "'Department', when used with respect to the Government of the Yukon, means any department of the Government of the Yukon and includes any agency, commission, board, or corporation of the Government of the Yukon." Yes, government agencies, boards, commissions and corporations are included in the definition of department.
Mr. Jenkins: That's exactly my point. All of these areas are included. Why?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: At the risk of repeating myself, it is because we're looking for consistency in the provision of legal advice to the various government departments. We are not precluding the possibility of outside legal counsel being hired in some cases. We just want it coordinated through the Department of Justice, so that one portion of the government knows what legal advice is being sought and received. It's quite simple.
Mr. Jenkins: So, if I understand the minister correctly, we've gone from how it is streamlining the process - which it hasn't - to now, where it provides consistency. So, that's what we're standing behind: to provide consistency.
Could the minister just enlighten me as to how this new system is going to work for, say, the various commissions or some of the agencies of government that currently have their own legal counsel on retainer? How is it going to work now? Are those arrangements going to be cancelled and is everything going to be funnelled through the Department of Justice?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, one can't reduce the use of outside counsel without making some changes. I think that should be fairly obvious.
Mr. Jenkins: Just for the record, how many lawyers are on staff in YTG currently, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Sixteen, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Jenkins: So we have 16 lawyers on staff. I'm sure the minister or the officials with the minister would know how much we spend on outside counsel in the course of a year. Is that number readily available, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, I would be glad to have my officials pull that information together for the member opposite.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, usually anyone in the line of work that this minister is in would have those numbers quite readily at their fingertips - ballpark. You usually know, when you are operating a department , how much you spend on roads and how much you spend on airports and how much you spend on specific areas; but that the numbers have to be pulled together is clearly an indication that this bill has not been thoroughly thought out.
I would just like to go back on the consistency. Can the minister be specific as to what incidents have occurred in the last two, three, four years that have given rise to the necessity of funnelling everything through the Department of Justice?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Referring to the member's previous question first, I would like to know for what year he wishes the statistics for outside legal counsel. The last fiscal year? Okay, we should be able to get that for him fairly quickly.
I am not sure there were any particular incidents that led to this proposed changed legislation. It is merely that the function of the Minister of Justice is responsible for all matters of law, whether or not they are performed by the Department of Justice or by some outside agency. We are looking for consistency, and I do believe that it will be a streamlining, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Jenkins: I'd like to thank the minister for her answer, and it appears that we're digging a bigger hole here, as to how this is going to be effective and how this is going to work, Mr. Chair.
Could the minister outline for my benefit how this system will work under this new act? If, say, the conflicts commissioner is seeking legal advice, what does he do?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, the request would be channelled through the director of legal services, the same as it would be if the minister responsible for the Women's Directorate, or the Minister of Economic Development, or any other ministry or portfolio had a question.
And I have an answer for the minister: for the 1999-00 year, $1,474,000 was spent on outside legal counsel.
Mr. Jenkins: So we spent $1.5 million on outside legal counsel. Is that for all departments, all agencies of government, or is that tracked? Because a lot of the agencies of government deal directly with their own counsel. Is that in this equation, in this number of approximately $1.5 million?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, that figure is for outside legal counsel for all departments.
Mr. Jenkins:What I asked the minister is this: is it for all departments, all agencies, and all commissions?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, I don't believe we have the figures for agencies and commissions at this time.
Mr. Jenkins: So, if the Department of Justice is going to be responsible for funnelling the requests for legal advice, how is the payment for that legal advice to be made? You know, an agency or a commissioner would become comfortable in dealing with a specific firm or a specific counsel for advice, and it knows the amount of dollars. Does this mean that now the Department of Justice is going to dictate where that commissioner must go for outside counsel? And how is the payment going to be made? Is it all going to be funnelled into Department of Justice, or is it just going to be billed internally to the respective department and agency of the government?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, payment will be made through the Department of Justice, and we wouldn't presume to dictate where someone must obtain legal advice if it's determined that they do, indeed, require outside legal counsel.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, I think we're burdening a lot of our very good officials in various agencies of government and various commissioners with an added level of responsibility in the name of streamlining the process. I don't believe we're going to have that effect.
As to consistency, I can't see us having any consistency further than what we have. I see probably the need for another layer of bureaucracy to funnel all these requests.
How many additional FTEs are going to be required now that we have to funnel everything through the Department of Justice? And what is going to be the cost of implementing this new system?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, that would depend on Management Board approval, and a request for same obviously has not got in to Management Board yet, because this is still proposed legislation.
I submit to the member opposite that having consistency in legal advice is better than having 10 sets of lawyers advising government at the same time. It's much better to have consistency.
Mr. Jenkins: Consistency from a legal department - if you have 10 lawyers sitting around, you will get 10 different opinions, Mr. Chair, nine times out of 10, and you can ask your deputy - your officials - beside you.
It's obvious that the Minister of Justice has had very little involvement in the business world in dealing with the law. Even in the simplest application of municipal law, you can phone two different lawyers in the same firm - and I can attest to this because I have done it - and get two different opinions on the same issue, so consistency just doesn't wash.
What we have before us is a new act. I want to know what the cost is of implementing this new act. We know we're spending $1.5 million a year on outside counsel. I know as soon as everything has to be funnelled through the Department of Justice for legal advice, it is going to put an added amount of responsibility on that department. There is going to be a necessity to increase staffing levels. Otherwise, we are going to hear that it is going to be a week or two weeks or a month or six months before we can give you that opinion. We have to research it. And the turnaround time is going to go up and up and up with respect to decisions requested from the Department of Justice. What is going to be the cost of the additional staffing levels to meet the terms and conditions imposed on the Department of Justice by this new act, this Department of Justice Act, Bill No. 24?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, we expect that any cost will be more than offset by the savings in outside legal counsel. The member opposite has made my point for me by saying he has phoned two lawyers and got two different opinions. That is why we want to centralize the provision of legal advice to the government in the Department of Justice. Contrary to the member's opinion, that is what the Department of Justice does. Its job is to provide legal advice to the government. It should be the central agency to do that. All requests for legal advice should be funnelled through the department. So, again, in the interests of streamlining and consistency, that is the reason we are bringing forward this act.
Mr. Jenkins:It still doesn't answer the question. What is it going to cost to implement the terms, conditions and provisions provided for in this act? What is it going to cost the Department of Justice?
For the minister to stand on her feet and say that they're going to be offset by the savings in outside legal counsel just doesn't wash. Now, has there been some sort of a business plan presented, or do we not have those in the Department of Justice? We just deal with legal opinions; the business side of the equation, and the cost of the equation and the cost to the taxpayers are not identified. What will be the cost of implementing the terms and conditions contained in this new act, and what will be the resulting savings? The minister has come out and said there are going to be savings. She has agreed with my position that there are going to be costs. What are they?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: As I've said, we believe that any cost will be more than offset by the savings. Since this government took office, the use of outside legal counsel has been somewhat reduced. We are monitoring the cost-savings, but it is too short of a period to be able to provide the member opposite with the year's figures.
Mr. Jenkins:So what the minister is saying here on the floor of the House is that she expects us to buy into this bill, when she doesn't know how much it is going to cost to implement and she doesn't know what the cost-savings are going to be.
Now, on the surface, I don't have any quarrel with streamlining a process, but this is not a streamlining for all departments. Currently, a lot of the commissions and a lot of the agencies of government deal directly with legal counsel, either inside or outside government. Now there has to be another tracking mechanism and another procedural step instituted under the provisions of this new act. That's going to cost money. It's going to take someone to track it. It's going to take someone to monitor it. And I haven't heard anything about these areas, other than a generic statement from the minister that it's going to cost money but we're going to save it on outside counsel. That's it.
What is the cost of implementing the terms and conditions of this new act? Could the minister be specific in the actual number of employees required and the cost?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, certainly it will be much, much less than the amounts paid to outside counsel in the past. As for process, a department, commission, agency, whatever, makes a request to the director of legal services. It is that simple.
Mr. Jenkins: Oh, I know it's simple, but it has a cost; what is that cost?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, less than the cost of providing outside legal counsel.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, currently, we are spending $1.5 million in outside legal counsel. Is the minister saying we are going to save $1.5 million and add $1.5 million in costs to the Government of the Yukon in payroll, office, and other sundry costs associated with this new act?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, we are already spending less on outside counsel. We expect that $1.5 million to be significantly less by doing the work in-house. The member opposite is asking for an exact figure in dollars and cents, and I can't give him that, but less than the $1,474,000.
Mr. Jenkins: I still haven't got an answer, Mr. Chair. How much?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, the member is asking for an exact dollar figure; I can't give him that, but we expect it will be less than the current cost of using outside legal counsel.
Mr. Jenkins: So, at the end of this session, we will anticipate that, for the next fiscal cycle - the mains that we'll see next spring - there will be a line item in the Department of Justice for approximately $1.5 million more in their operation and maintenance side of it for staffing levels, office and such. Or, let's deal in hundred thousands. I'm not asking the minister to be so specific as to round it off to the nearest cent. Can we deal in terms of $100,000, $200,000, $300,000, $400,000 or $500,000? What's it going to be?
Certainly, there has to be an order of magnitude estimate of what it's going to cost?
The minister has to be fiscally responsible, Mr. Chair, and fiscally responsible means asking what implementing this act is going to cost. Now, does the minister not understand that?
All I'm asking is for those order of magnitude figures. Can the minister not provide them? Does she not understand the business side of the portfolio she holds, Mr. Chair? That's appalling.
We know we spend $1.5 million on outside counsel. What's going to be the net savings in outside counsel and what are we going to spend internally, just to say it's a wash? All we have done under this Liberal government - it doesn't matter what portfolio we look at today - is add more government employees. The exercise of government is to provide the highest consistent level of service to the taxpayers at the lowest possible cost, and we have to have a delivery system that works.
Previously, the delivery system did work when the conflicts commissioner or the access to information and privacy commissioner wanted legal advice. They just picked up the phone and talked to a lawyer. Now we have instituted a whole other step in there.
I want to know what that additional step is going to cost the Government of the Yukon, in order of magnitude estimates.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, I have indicated to the member opposite several times, and I will indicate again, that we expect it to be a cost-saving, not a cost.
In-house lawyers are less expensive than outside legal counsel - perhaps as much as one-half of the cost. There is a saving there. The member again is looking for nefarious plots where there are none.
Mr. Jenkins: Just to set the record straight, I'm not looking for nefarious plots. I'm looking for costs. I'm looking for the business case that was made associated with Bill No. 24.
Does the minister have any analysis done by Department of Justice as to the cost implications? Now, certainly that must be a prerequisite. Has there been a financial analysis done?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, the formal analysis will be brought to Management Board in due course. It will be coming to Management Board in due course.
Mr. Jenkins: So it sounds like we're putting the cart before the horse, or we don't understand what we're doing.
Before a bill is brought forward, I think it would be very prudent of the minister, Mr. Chair, if she spends the time to look at the business case for that bill, especially when there are costs that we're going to incur in the government. Yet we're told here today on the floor of this House that we're going to pass this bill, and the business case is going to be dealt with at Management Board.
Well, obviously there must be - or if there isn't, there should be - a business case plan that currently exists, with respect to the change proposed under this Bill No. 24.
Could the minister table the financial implications, which I'm sure must have been done by the department, with respect to this Bill No. 24, Department of Justice Act?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, the member is well aware that I cannot table Management Board material. He knows that very well. I cannot, and I will not. Almost $1.5 million last year in outside legal counsel is way too high a cost. There is no supervision of the legal advice. The intent of this act is to provide consistency in legal advice to government departments and to streamline the work. I would expect the department could be hiring another three or four lawyers to offset the legal work done outside. The cost of that would be half of that million and a half, or even less. Those are the only numbers I am able to give the member opposite.
Mr. Jenkins: So with the coming into force of this Department of Justice Act we can see job requests go out for three new lawyers to join the staff of YTG.
Mr. Chair, I am dismayed that the minister hasn't got the financial background, and I am well aware that Management Board documents cannot be made public. I'm not asking for Management Board documents, I'm asking for the reasons and some of the order of magnitude estimates. The reasons for Management Board decisions can be made public and are made public on a continuing basis.
I guess the crux of the problem is that this issue hasn't even gone to Management Board. We have no idea as to what it is going to cost. We don't know, and that clearly spells out what this new Liberal government has taken on and their expertise in governing.
It's a sad day for Yukoners, and we don't know even the order of magnitude estimate as to what it's going to cost Yukoners for this new initiative. We do know that anyone in any government department, agency or commission - should they require legal advice - now must go to the Department of Justice for that advice. We don't know how much this additional burden is going to cost us, Mr. Chair. And the minister obviously doesn't have knowledge of it either. I'm sure the business case hasn't been made.
We have an economy that's shrinking. The population of the Yukon is probably now under 30,000 individuals. The number of responsibilities that government has taken on has grown in every sector. A lot of this work would be best left with the private sector. Yukon Housing Corporation has their own legal counsel. Does that mean now that those arrangements are cancelled and they have to go to the Department of Justice for legal advice? Is that what the minister is saying?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: On the contrary, it's a good day for Yukoners. The Department of Justice has already been taking on work that was previously contracted out. We have not, to this point, required the hiring of additional staff. We are saving the Yukon taxpayer money. I have said to the member opposite, and I will say it again, that we expect the result of this will be a cost-saving - probably half of last year's figures for outside counsel. And I would certainly prefer it if outside counsel were required to employ Yukon lawyers, rather than lawyers from outside the territory.
Mr. Jenkins: The Minister of Justice's perspective on the issues we're faced with is interesting, and where we are headed. I can only say I'm extremely disappointed with her lack of understanding of the important portfolio she now is in control of and responsible for.
I won't belabour the point but I see a lot of additional paper burden being placed on the Department of Justice, a lot of additional responsibility as a consequence of this act and the subsequent amendments. I know the Department of Justice will be back for more money very, very soon. The total amount that we spend on outside counsel, I don't think, is going to change appreciably over the long term. In fact, as the economy grows more robust - if it ever does when we change governments next time, Mr. Chair, I mean. The economy will turn around one of these days. I'm hopeful that I'll live long enough to see it, but I can't see anything in the immediate future. On that day, if the economy is on an upswing, outside legal costs will probably accelerate and make this outside legal cost of approximately $1.5 million a year look very paltry.
If that's the total amount we spent on outside legal counsel - that's just in the Department of Justice; there are many others. The legal costs for Kassandra alone, in the Department of Economic Development, were way, way more than $1.5 million, Mr. Chair. Has the minister got an explanation for that? Where are those costs buried?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: We were not the government at the time. The $1,474,000 I referred to was the total cost for the last fiscal year for all the departments. That included everything, with the possible exception of a couple of agencies and commissions that we do not have the figures for yet.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, the minister might want to talk to her colleague, the Minister of Finance, and find out what the legal costs were for the Kassandra initiative alone. That is a numbered company controlled by the Government of Yukon, and it's an agency. Its legal costs alone for its Toronto lawyers would make this $1.4 million look like they could go to the candy store with it.
I really believe, Mr. Chair, that the minister does not have a handle on her portfolio or an understanding of it, but we are not going to get any further. I am just appalled at the understanding that the minister has on these important changes and the impact that they are going to have on the various agencies and departments of government. I do not believe they have been carefully thought out. I don't believe we have looked at the financial implications. I believe that all we have set up is another layer of bureaucracy within government.
Thank you to the new Liberal government for adding more government on our shoulders.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, I would just point out that, as I said, we have hired no additional lawyers in the Department of Justice to this point. The extra layer of bureaucracy is probably an extra pencil in the hand of the director of legal services.
Ms. Netro: Earlier today, I had a few questions for the Minister of Justice, and I would just like to see if she has some answers for me.
One of my questions is, the previous Minister of Justice had met with the federal Minister of Justice, and I just wondered if you had met with a federal minister on this matter, prior to introducing this legislation.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: No, there was no need to.
Ms. Netro: Can the Minister of Justice tell the House what the federal position is?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, this act has no impact on the federal justice system. It merely brings the Yukon into alignment with the legislative framework that other jurisdictions in Canada have already adopted.
Ms. Netro: When will the federal government make the necessary changes for this to take effect?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: No changes are required for Bill No. 24, the Department of Justice Act, to take effect - no changes at the federal level.
Ms. Netro: Will this be dependent upon the federal election?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: No.
Ms. Netro: I was also interested earlier in knowing whether or not the Minister of Justice has discussed this change with the legal community.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The legislation has been sent to the Law Society as a courtesy, but it is basically an internal act of the Government of Yukon.
Ms. Netro: Does the minister have the model on the prosecutions office that she could share with us?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I'm sorry, Mr. Chair. I don't understand the question.
Ms. Netro: I'll just repeat my question. Does the minister have a model on the prosecutions office that she could share with us?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The act doesn't cover that. I believe the member opposite is referring to the devolution of the office of the Crown attorney, and that is not what this act covers.
Ms. Netro: I'll move on to my next question. On the topic of consultation regarding this legislation, under the final agreement and the self-government legislation, the first four have the ability to draw down the administration of justice. Could the minister tell us what consultations have taken place with the four Yukon First Nations regarding this legislation?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Consultation with First Nations was not required for this legislation. As I say, it's an internal Yukon government act. There are consultations ongoing on the administration of justice, which is a separate matter.
Chair: Is there any further general debate?
Shall we proceed on this bill clause by clause, or shall we consider it read and passed?
Some Hon. Member: Clause by clause, Mr. Chair.
Chair: Clause by clause has been requested.
On Clause 1
Clause 1 agreed to
On Clause 2
Clause 2 agreed to
On Clause 3
Clause 3 agreed to
On Clause 4
Clause 4 agreed to
On Clause 5
Clause 5 agreed to
On Clause 6
Clause 6 agreed to
On Clause 7
Mr. Jenkins: It's interesting, Mr. Chair. It says in clause 1, "The department of the Government of the Yukon known as the Department of Justice is hereby continued." That's great. Then we go into clause 2, "The Minister of Justice, appointed by the Commissioner on the advice of the Premier..." Isn't that backwards - appointed by the Premier and anointed by the Commissioner? The Commissioner is actually the resident official responsible to the Minister of Indian and Northern Affairs, and what we're saying here is that this is the same. He's the Lieutenant Governor, but when he was sworn in, it was abundantly clear that he was the representative of the Minister of Indian and Northern Affairs.
Haven't we got the cart before the horse, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: No, Mr. Chair.
Chair: Is there any further discussion on clause 7?
Clause 7 agreed to
Title agreed to
Bill No. 23 - Arts Act
Chair: Is there any general debate?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: As I mentioned before, there is a series of questions that came about during second reading, and I wanted to go through and answer some of those inquiries.
One of the first questions - and I answered it on the day, but I would like to answer it again. The member asked how CDF, TIF and TMF funding vehicles will be replaced. As I indicated earlier in previous answers, these funds are under review. Our consultation with the arts community is to discuss, in the context of that review, how we might meet their needs in a better way.
The Member for Kluane, actually, asked how the fund will be administered, how much money will be allocated, and when new funding vehicles will be replaced. The answer again is that the CDF, TIF and TMF are under review, and new funding vehicles are being discussed in the context of that review. Administration amounts and potential funding vehicles are necessarily part of that review, and they will be investigated in due course.
The member asked how the legislation will address the need identified in a round table on the cultural economy for long-range planning and policy, and the answer, of course, is that the act is not intended to meet all the needs of the cultural community. The act does, however, provide a framework for program delivery and establishes an advisory board for the minister. It is expected that the advisory body participate in and advise the minister on planning in this sector, as well as many other issues that are likely to arise.
The member opposite asked about whether or not we would undertake a study of cultural infrastructure needs. Again, the answer is that we have not committed to such a study, but we do expect these concerns to be raised as part of our ongoing consultations.
The member inquired about our support for a cultural district in Whitehorse for festival types of programs such as the street festival. It is an interesting concept, Mr. Chair, and one that deserves consideration in the context of the broader development plan. As I mentioned previously, we have not received any specific request to participate in any specific planning around this, other than was mentioned at the round table on culture and the economy. However, we would be happy to hear any thoughts the City of Whitehorse has for this notion.
The member asked about specific planning activities as it relates to communities outside of Whitehorse, including their infrastructure planning needs. Again, I reiterate the commitment to work with these communities, through our regional tourism planning activities to ensure that their needs are identified and met wherever possible. As well, the member was perhaps referring to an arts education as a tourism-product study that was just recently completed. We are in receipt of that report, and we are reviewing it in some detail. It is a considerably large report that deserves a great deal of consideration.
The member also raised the question of the convention centre and complained that it is not sufficiently highlighted in the activities of the department. I categorically deny that claim. Our department has had a number of well-established mechanisms in place in Tourism and the arts to work as partners throughout the Yukon. He is, of course, speaking about the convention centre in Haines Junction.
We have participated in seminars and concerts at the centre, and our staff is readily available to work with all community partners on ways to enhance their visibility and viability with respect to our tourism efforts.
The member asked what we were doing for air access in rural communities, and again, I will repeat my answer from the other day. This question may best be directed to the minister responsible for Community and Transportation Services. The question was about paving runways.
However, the Department of Tourism is the lead on air access issues. The member was sitting in the House, and certainly heard the conversations around the air access study that recently was started by the Department of Tourism. We're expecting results in the early spring, and obviously the towns of Watson Lake and Haines Junction will be part of that air access study.
The member asked what public/private partnerships we have in the cultural sector. Now, the member opposite - it came as a great shock to him, actually, yesterday, I understand, that we do have a public/private partnership that we're working on right now, in the film commission, and that's on the electrics package. That public/private partnership is being met quite enthusiastically by the cultural community, and we are progressing on that as we speak.
The member asked about whether the funding authority would be removed from the Recreation Act and put into the Arts Act. The short answer is yes, that's what the act is supposed to do; that's the point of the act.
The member asked about the timing of the regulations, and the nature of the consultations. Once again, we're looking at spring for the act coming into effect. Consultations are ongoing, and I spoke at great length about those consultations. Most of them go through ARTSnet.
The member asked about arts education. Again, we're working closely with the Department of Education, and a group called "pARTners". It's an interest group from the arts community, and we want to ensure that schoolchildren receive maximum benefits from exposure to arts in the school system.
The member spoke at length on a rationalization in the arts policy to work together to achieve efficiencies, and then dramatically concluded that this was actually a short form for cuts. It's an interesting statement from the members opposite. And I remind the member that this policy was, in fact, approved by his government - by the previous NDP government - while they were in office, and if the language of the policy was code words for cutting the arts, then the member might be best equipped to answer his own question.
The language was intended to ensure that we are maximizing our efforts in the arts sector and ensuring that efficiencies are achieved and that overlap is avoided. The member again referred to the arts policy requesting clarification on a principle to eliminate areas of overlap and duplication, concluding that it will result in the elimination of arm's-length bodies - which was an interesting conclusion, although not logical. The answer is the same as it was to the previous question. This was a policy approved by the NDP, and perhaps they should revisit their previous discussions with the previous Minister of Tourism who was responsible for this.
The member asked a final question related to the arts policy with respect to how a biannual review supports the funding deadlines of arts groups. Again, as architects of that policy, the members opposite, the NDP, might be best equipped to answer their own question. We renewed our commitment to this policy by bringing forward the Arts Act, which is a natural progression from policy. Once again, we were working to ensure that our programs are responsive to the needs of the arts community and the arts sector.
The Member for Klondike, I believe, asked the question about administrative costs. And I will read to the Member for Klondike the information that I have on that. The additional administrative costs: if the new board decides that they want to have additional members - and they may want to - then the act provides for a maximum number of people who can sit on this board. If the board decides that they want the maximum number of individuals to sit on the board, then the department is projecting that the additional cost will be approximately $3,000 per year, and that would be for per diems. The funding levels for the administration should stay somewhat the same. Now, I have further clarification, a complete breakdown of those expenses, for the Member for Klondike. And I will have this copied and given to both opposition parties for further clarification.
Mr. McRobb: Thank you to the minister for what information she did provide. I take exception to some of the remarks, as well as some of her remarks in second reading. I find them extremely adversarial. I find them extremely unhelpful. In summary, it simply is not a behaviour that one would relate to as being cooperative in this Legislature or as trying to work together with all parties and especially as modelling professional behaviour.
The answers she gave in second reading last time have been changed substantially in her response this time. Why is that? It is because it's not coming from the Liberal member across the floor. It's coming from the department, which is far more rational in its response. The department has prepared responses to each of the questions I have asked. They have put it into a briefing note, which the minister just finished reading.
There are quite a few discrepancies between what she just put on the record and what she said the other day, and I want to review some of those. Mr. Chair, there are other questions left unanswered.
The temperament of the minister the other day was extremely condescending, Mr. Chair. It reminds me of how this Liberal government really thinks it knows everything, and it takes exception to questions raised by us on this side in the opposition parties. It doesn't want to be held accountable. It says it's open and accountable but it's not.
Members in this government will hide behind boards and committees. They'll hide behind the departments. They will hide behind whatever they can, Mr. Chair, to avoid answering questions in an open, upfront and accountable way. We see this over and over in Question Period. We see it in Committee of the Whole. In fact, I can't think of a situation where we don't see it.
The minister is getting flustered over there, Mr. Chair. She's starting to wave her arms around. I can certainly understand why she's flustered after all she's gone through in the last couple of days. But it's not over yet; it's only just begun. It's only just begun.
It's time to move on and provide some evidence now in my opening remarks. I'm going to ask the minister why she took my questions so personally and attributed my questions to me when I clearly described them as being concerns of the community and the concerns of Yukoners.
One question was about the study. I'll go to that question, and I'll repeat it. "As part of long-term planning, the round table recommended the communities should consider the advantages of creating a cultural district in the City of Whitehorse to focus investment and cultural and heritage-related projects that can support tourism growth."
Mr. Chair, just prior to that, I said that one of the recommendations was that there needs to be long-range planning and policy to address investment in the cultural community. The minister's reply was: "Certainly, it has not been brought forward to me by any other member, except by the member opposite, and he was wondering how this infrastructure study should be funded. Of course, there has been no commitment on the part of this government to even do a study on infrastructure, and indeed, there was just a rather large study finished on education and the arts ..." Well, Mr. Chair, she was wrong.
We heard in the department-prepared response today - and I took notes - that she recognized that this is a recommendation that came from the round table. It came from the round table as part of the consultation process. It wasn't just the Member for Kluane, and she never had heard about this from anyone else. It came from the round table. This is just one example, Mr. Chair.
Before moving on to the others - and I anticipate being awhile on this - Mr. Chair, you may want to call a recess now.
Chair: Do members wish to take a brief recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: We will take a 10-minute recess.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. Mr. McRobb, will you please continue.
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Chair, when we left off, I was taking issue with the somewhat condescending response from this Tourism minister in second reading and how she didn't realize that one of these recommendations actually came from the round table. She obviously was very eager to be aggressive in her response by trying to pin it solely on me. In fact, it came from a number of Yukoners.
I would ask her to try to exercise a little more cooperation. After all, it was she and her party who campaigned on being cooperative, and I'll give her a suggestion. Rather than just reading the departmental response to my list of questions, when she gets up in third reading, what would really be helpful to us on this side is if we're provided with that information in advance. I know that's not a very difficult thing to do, and it should be a very reasonable request.
That way, Mr. Chair, we will have time to screen through it and see how much that addresses any outstanding concerns we may have.
Because trying to do it all in about one minute is virtually impossible, and it's unreasonable to expect us to render a list of questions down in accordance with this departmental response in such a short time frame.
Now, I know the minister was provided this information in advance of the time today in which this came up. It would not have been handed to her on the stairs as she was coming down the stairs, like some of the other ministers claim. She probably had this since this morning. There would have been lots of time to forward it to both me and the leader of the third party. It would have saved time in this Legislature.
But we know, Mr. Chair, that saving time in this Legislature is not a priority of this government. We saw it on Monday; we saw it Tuesday; we saw it Wednesday; and today's Thursday, and we're seeing it again. This government brings new meaning to the old description for Wednesdays. What they've really done is called this "wasted week".
There is tremendous opportunity for improvement on what we saw here in the last week. I would suggest to this minister and to the others that they seriously consider ways to make the business we do here more efficient, and ways to conduct themselves more appropriately and more cooperatively, so that we, on this side of the House, try to work together with them in streamlining these issues and getting to the core of the matter. Because, Mr. Chair, when you cut your way through all the smoke and mirrors, and cut the fat and get to the bone, so much time and energy has been expended that could be spent more productively.
Now, I see the minister looking quite disappointed over there, and I can understand why she's disappointed. After all, she knows what I'm saying is true, and they did campaign on doing things a better way. I think the common Yukoner clearly understood that this Liberal government would do things better, that the Legislature -
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Chair: Government House leader, on a point of order.
Ms. Tucker: Under the Standing Orders, chapter 8 on Committee of the Whole, section 42(2): "Speeches in Committee of the Whole must be strictly relevant to the item or clause under consideration."
Mr. McRobb: On the point of order, what I'm saying is very relevant to the response I got from the minister, and I would say there is no point of order.
Chair: On the point of order, the debate is general at the moment. I would ask Mr. McRobb to eventually get to his point. But I do understand that the debate is general, and right now his opinions can be expressed and he has a right to speak.
Mr. McRobb: Thank you, Mr. Chair. I think that's a fair ruling. I will be general. And the reason I am addressing this matter now is because this young government is early in its mandate, and, simply, this is the opportunity to try to drive this point home because there is time for it to change. There are probably three years left in this mandate, maybe closer to four. And there will be probably six or seven more sittings in this Legislature. That's a total of probably 350 to 400 more days in this Legislature. There are lots of opportunities to reflect an improved attitude, a more efficient system, and a more cooperative method demonstrated by this government.
And I know the government House leader, the Member for Mount Lorne, is looking through the House rules trying to find a reason to shut me down - and that's fine, we all know what she's like. She's their version of the House rules police person over there, and that's fine. We can expect that. But I think what is incumbent on this government, more than anything else, is to listen to constructive criticism and suggestions from us on this side, because we're all here - all 17, 16 at the moment, but soon again to be 17. We're all here elected to represent the people of the Yukon.
Every square inch of the territory is represented by each of our ridings. We have a duty to be responsible and to cooperate and work effectively. To be subjected to attacks, as I was a couple of days ago from this minister, in response to very simple, innocent questions - just asking for information.
I see her shaking her head to this, but I would invite anyone to review Hansard and see for themselves. The questions were very apolitical. They were to the point. They were based on research that I and a staff person did in relation to the Arts Act. We felt that they were reasonable questions.
The minister got up - she just couldn't wait to criticize my questions, saying that half of them didn't even relate to the Arts Act. Mr. Chair, I notice today, in the departmental response - guess what? - that we received some answers that she didn't address the other day. Why would that be, Mr. Chair? Why would that be? Does the department ordinarily prepare a briefing note responding to irrelevant questions? I would hardly think so, not unless it was specifically asked for, which I suppose is a possibility.
I prefer to believe that the department acted in good faith and responded to the other questions because they saw them to be relevant.
And the minister read them, so she must have thought they were relevant, too. But the other day they weren't relevant. It was just this member who didn't know what he was talking about, raising a bunch of questions not related to the Arts Act, and here's one of the terms she used, Mr. Chair. She referred to them as real and imagined from the member opposite. Well, if that isn't condescending, I don't know what is.
This member used to attack members in the previous government for being condescending, so she has been given a chance now. She is still quite young in her role as minister over there. How many days has she sat in this government, Mr. Chair? I don't know. Probably 30 or so. Well, in two to three dozen days, she has adopted a style that one would expect might take years. Already her knowledge is so superior to ours on this side that we are treated like children.
Real or imagined, she said. All those questions are irrelevant, they don't pertain to the Arts Act. Well, Mr. Chair, I'll tell you what. It wasn't too long ago when I was sitting on that side, listening to debate. I was sitting in your chair for many days, many hours, listening to debate, and I'll tell you, a lot of times I wondered.
I see now that some of these members have had a chance to try to do things better, to try to improve upon the very people they were criticizing when they were in opposition, and I see how poorly some of them are performing. That really makes me wonder.
It really makes me wonder if becoming a minister really does something to a person. Maybe a few trips overseas, you know, and maybe cutting a few of those ribbons - and they like to do that, Mr. Chair - maybe eating a few cakes - whatever it is, Mr. Chair, maybe it does something. Maybe it changes the personality, because that's what we see in this minister. That's what we saw the other day in her comments on the Arts Act to both my questions and the questions from the Member for Klondike. I thought his questions were also reasonable. And in her response, she even confused the two of us, and I would ask her to be a little more clear on that in the future. The Member for Klondike is agreeing with me. I acknowledge that agreement.
Anyway, Mr. Chair, I don't want to belabour this point. I think I got it off my chest. I think the minister got the message, and if any other members were listening, hopefully they got the message, too, although one would wonder about that, Mr. Chair, from the messages still coming from this government. Just reading tonight's paper, I see further examples of how some of these members just don't know when to quit - a very, very aggressive style of government. It doesn't necessarily have to be based on fact, the information, Mr. Chair. Just a political attack will do. As long as we get a headline or get a letter in the paper - yes, that will do, because who is going to check into it anyway? Well, Mr. Chair, some of us in here know that when matters are checked into, maybe some real information can come out.
What I'm hoping for here is that the minister, when she gets up, will give us some real information -cut the personal stuff, cut the aggressiveness, and get on with the business of this House.
Now, on the first question I had, which was with regard to funding, the minister claims all these funds are under review, and we'll know "in due course." In due course, Mr. Chair, we'll know the results of all these reviews. Well, I recall reading in the newspapers - it may have been earlier this year - how Yukon arts groups are the best funded in the country - in the country. Well, that's quite an important distinction. It's something to be proud of. It reminds me of the Canadian award we got on the energy policy stuff - best in the country.
Well, Mr. Chair, if it ain't broke, why fix it? What I would like to know here, from the minister, is why they're reviewing these various funding mechanisms when they all work so well?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: After that somewhat lengthy speech - or should I say lecture - from the member opposite, I think I need to respond to some of his comments.
First of all, the questions that the member asked at second reading, during his second reading speech, were not at all relevant to the Arts Act. They were relevant to a general discussion during budget time.
However, despite that, I have had the department prepare additional answers. On my feet, I answered questions that day about things that were not at all relevant to the Arts Act. One of those items was about the paved runways in our communities. That is not at all relevant, obviously, to the Arts Act.
The member opposite originally asked the question, much earlier in his speech, about the minutes from the cultural round table. Those minutes were the brainstorming of the people there. I have not, indeed, heard that idea from any member of this House previous.
The member opposite asked again, even though I have responded to this question seven times now, about what we were doing about reviewing CDF, TIF and TMF. I will respond to him again with the same answer: we are reviewing it, because we have heard from a number of individuals, both when we were in opposition and now that we are in government, that those funds did not meet everyone's needs, that indeed there were real concerns about ongoing funding for specific projects. Certain groups, for example, were not able to get ongoing funding for projects that happen every year. They would have to make up changes in what they did, as an organization, in order to get funding.
The Quest, for example, which does the same thing year after year after year, obviously, would have to dream up new projects in order to get funding from CDF, and that doesn't make an awful lot of sense. So, even though this, again, is not relevant to the discussion of the Arts Act, which is a housekeeping piece of legislation, I have responded again to the member opposite.
Mr. Chair, it's true, I've been in politics, as of last month, for 11 years, serving the people of the Yukon. I do have a certain amount of expertise in that area, as does the member opposite, who has served the people of the Yukon for four years. If he has a problem with that, then that's his problem.
Mr. McRobb: Well, I was hoping for a little more to chew on than that, because the minister's response raises more questions than it answers.
The minister tries to narrow the question down to pertain to the Arts Act, yet acknowledges that funding is an important part. But then she tries to tell us that whatever funding mechanisms are created as a result of these reviews will be sufficient to address funding needs in the arts and cultural communities. Well, one minute the minister has got the window open, the next minute it's closed, and now it's open again. Just what is within the envelope of the arts and cultural communities when it comes to funding mechanisms? Because I know, as a member of the previous government, who created the training trust fund, for example, I think I recall a training trust fund application approved for $200,000 to the arts and cultural communities for training.
There were several applications under the community development fund. There were the trade and investment and tourism marketing funds, and so on. Will the minister provide us with a little bit more on how the arts and cultural community will be able to address all those concerns and have whatever funding mechanism or mechanisms are repackaged by this government address their needs, like they've been addressed in the past, which has led to a great distinction for the territory's arts and cultural communities being the best funded in the country? Can she explain that?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, I think that the member opposite is actually referring to national funding. He's not referring to territorial funding. If he makes the assertion that we're the best funded in Canada, that's true, but that's because of the many national programs that we take advantage of.
The question, I believe - and it's difficult to understand what it is - is this: how are we developing funding mechanisms to replace CDF, TMF and TIF? Number one, we have never said that we are going to replace those funds. What we said was that we were reviewing those funds and trying to make them better. What we have heard from a number of different groups is that they do not meet their needs. Therefore, we have started an extensive consultation with the arts community. Part of that consultation is through ARTSnet. The arts community, on their own, has started a series of round tables, two of which I had the opportunity to attend. Those round tables, as I was saying, are in a lot of ways brainstorming sessions where the arts community is looking inward and asking what some of their needs are. That process is also happening through ARTSnet and with ongoing discussions with musicians, artists, et cetera, through the arts branch.
I have asked the arts community to do two things. The first thing is to help us develop the 2001 budget, and we are in that planning process right now. The second thing that I have asked the arts community to help us with is to develop funding mechanisms that better meet their needs, because we were concerned about the fact that many of these groups are going to be without funding this winter to do their planning, with nothing next summer because the CDF was spent in 17 days in April while that NDP government was still in power. There was virtually nothing left. They left these groups high and dry. There was nothing put in place that met their needs immediately, because we were in the process of assessing these funds. We're still in that process, and we're not going to be able to come up with funding mechanisms that meet the needs of the arts community well, unless we talk to the arts community, and that's exactly what we're doing.
I certainly did mention that to the member opposite on a number of occasions during our previous discussion at second reading, and I mentioned it again in my comments at the beginning of Committee of the Whole.
I think that it's important to remember that we're fortunate in the Yukon - period. We get more money per capita than any other jurisdiction in Canada. We're very fortunate people. And an awful lot of that money goes towards the arts.
I have to tell the member opposite - and I will tell him now, and this, of course, is a much better discussion for budget in the spring, and it's of limited value in a discussion around the Arts Act, which is just a continuation of the policy that was brought forward by the NDP government. But it is my hope that we will come up with funding mechanisms that work in a number of different areas. But they will not replace the millennium fund, for example. We will not replace that funding. That was one-time-only funding. We are not going to replace those monies in arts funding; that will not happen. What we are going to be doing is looking at the dollars that have come - the member opposite is quite correct - from a number of different sources, and we are going to take those figures and try to find out what is a good way to make sure that the dollars get used to the best advantage within the arts community.
Mr. McRobb: Well, Mr. Chair, I am interested to hear from the minister a little bit more about the funding breakdown - federal versus territorial - because I realize there's some federal funding, and we all realize there's territorial funding - I have already identified probably four or five different sources of funding - and all of this combined to make the Yukon arts and the cultural community the best funded in the country, and certainly that has contributed to the high quality of music and art and in other forms that we all appreciate in this territory. That should be continued and promoted and supported by the Yukon government.
But I would like the minister to give us some information on just how that pie, if you will, is put together from the various funding sources.
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, I would be happy to provide a breakdown for the member opposite, in writing.
The member opposite should know that we do show high per capita funding in all areas. We live a wonderful life here in the Yukon Territory, and at times somewhat unrealistic, I have to admit.
The member opposite, in his original speech, went on and on and on about how the NDP government had provided that funding, and that's why we are so blessed here in the territory with arts funding. I think that the member will have an interesting piece of information, when we provide that written material.
Oh, the other thing that the member said was that he wanted to have the information from second reading prior to Committee of the Whole. And, to be absolutely clear, that's not the common practice in this House. That has never happened before; it certainly never happened under the NDP. But if he wants that information ahead of time, then it's just fine, if he can send me a note and tell me that, on the next occasion that I rise on legislation in my departments.
Mr. McRobb: Well, Mr. Chair, just on that last point, how can we notify the minister that we would like some information ahead of when the bill comes up, when clearly this government doesn't even tell us when the bill comes up? Because what I understand from our House leader is that this bill wasn't even supposed to be up this afternoon. I see the leader of the third party nodding in agreement.
So, they offer a more cooperative method, but in reality it's an illusion.
So I would ask the member to try to ensure that her suggestions are a little more grounded in reality. That way, we on this side don't have to get up and respond again to them.
Now, the member made a number of allegations, such as how the previous government spent the community development fund and so on. Well, I want to remind her that that is her view. This is a discussion that will occur. It won't occur this afternoon, because this is the Arts Act. But when it does occur, there will be further information out, and Yukoners will realize that what this Liberal government is saying leaves a lot to be desired. For one thing, if this Liberal government supported people in the community - arts and cultural groups - it would have revoted money, increased the supplementary budget to include funds from the huge surplus we left them and which still exists, as confirmed by the Auditor General in his report tabled the other day.
So, when the minister goes on and points a finger over here, like the other ministers all like to do - "It was them," they like to say, "the NDP, not us." Yet when they stand up in Question Period and Committee of the Whole and say, "We're responsible. We're responsible ministers and a responsible government", I think there's a collision course there, Mr. Chair. Those two positions don't seem to meet. They don't seem to come together and mean anything. Just more rhetoric.
What we've seen from this government is the repackaging of existing programs just for the sake of repackaging. And this Arts Act contains several ideas, initiatives and other things that it's possible to put a different view on. And that's why we're asking about them.
So when the minister stands up and says that the NDP used that word 'rationalization', so they should ask themselves what it means, the member across the way should go talk to the former minister and ask him. But that's not being open and accountable. It's not being a number of things one expects of a responsible government.
Because we all know how words can be reinterpreted, and given what has taken place since the transition, there are countless examples of how things are being reinterpreted by this Liberal government. The CDF is one example. There are dozens of them - Connect Yukon, and you name it.
So, when this Arts Act contains words, we don't want to hear, "Go ask yourselves. Try to remember what you meant at the time." That doesn't mean anything. This government has reinterpreted a number of things. I don't believe it any more when I'm told, "We mean whatever you meant." I don't believe that. There are countless examples.
So, when we ask the minister what her view or the view of her government is on something, we expect to be informed about the position of her or her government, not about the position of the previous government, because it doesn't exist any more. There's no accountability. To be an accountable government means to be held accountable for your position.
If the minister is not prepared to provide her position, then she's not being accountable. So, when we ask questions that could be reinterpreted in a somewhat ambiguous way, we expect a response that clearly outlines the position of this government, not to have our noses rubbed in something that happened in the previous government that no longer exists.
With regard to the information ahead of time, Mr. Chair, I have addressed how it is impossible for us to try to hit an invisible target, because this Arts Act wasn't even on the books for today. So what am I supposed to do - send a memo to the minister, saying, "Gee, Mrs. Minister, if the Arts Act comes up today, I'd sure appreciate your briefing note", and then when it doesn't, just keep repeating that every day? That's an unworkable proposition. What I would suggest to the minister is that we apply some common sense. And why not just forward us the information that she receives and that she's going to read for the record after she screens it, whatever she wants to do with it; but forward it to us. Why should we have to ask for it? Because clearly we're not even being told when these acts were coming up or what days they're coming up on. That's not cooperative, open or responsible.
So to streamline the procedure, I would request the minister to consider undertaking to pass this information on to us when she gets it, after she has had a chance to review it, in order that we may have some time to consider it before the opportunity comes up in Committee to discuss it. Because clearly, how can we be prepared to discuss something when we have no time to consider new information?
So, this is a very simple thing to do. I would like the minister to undertake to provide that information in that way.
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, to be absolutely clear, I have to know what information the member opposite wants before I can provide it, so I guess I'm not clear on what the point is.
However, it is common practice in this House to provide answers at Committee of the Whole to questions that were asked during the second reading speech. That is what I have done. If there is additional written information that the member wants, then that will be provided.
Mr. McRobb: I thought we were all on the same wavelength here, but I guess not. The information we have been referring to for the past five or 10 minutes is her preamble when she gets up on opportunities, as earlier in this act when it was introduced. Her preamble basically is the department's reply to outstanding information requests in second reading. Simple, very simple.
It probably comes to her via e-mail, so she could simply forward it on, cutting out what she doesn't want us to see. At least then, we'll have time to review it, cross off our question list what's answered, and perhaps add on some new questions as a result of that information. But to expect us to disseminate that information and extract new questions from these complicated acts - sometimes we're dealing with several pages - is an impossible situation, Mr. Chair, when no notice is provided.
If the minister is truly wanting to be cooperative, I have identified now clearly what information I'm referring to. Hopefully, she's on the same wavelength. Can I get an answer to that?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, I can't guarantee that I will remember this, because my memory is not what it used to be, I have to admit. But when next I bring legislation to the House, and there are questions at second reading, and the member wants written responses back from the department, if he requests during his second reading speech, I will endeavour to provide that information to him.
Mr. McRobb: I didn't catch everything the minister said there, but let's just go with what we have for now. I'll review the Blues later.
On a question that appears a bit outstanding from the other day -
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Chair: Ms. Tucker, on a point of order.
Ms. Tucker: I rise on a point of order to clarify some information. My understanding is that both the Department of Justice and the Department of Tourism have briefed the member opposite on the legislation, and that the member opposite was there at that time, and he was fully briefed. That was the information that I was given.
Chair: Mr. McRobb, on the point of order.
Mr. McRobb: Well, on the point of order, I'm not sure if the Member for Mount Lorne has ever participated in a departmental briefing or not, but certainly I would suggest that those briefings, at no time and no place, are ever intended to displace questions in third reading or any other opportunities open to the official opposition or the third party. This government should learn from that, and not try to reduce the opportunities available to us.
Sometimes briefings are meant to fortify our questions in order that we may get positions from a minister on political policy, because we can't expect the departments to provide us with information on political policy. That's why we're here, Mr. Chair.
Chair: On the point of order, there is no point of order, so continue, Mr. McRobb.
Mr. McRobb: I want to follow up on the question on cultural economic growth in Dawson, Haines Junction and other communities, and how they should be considered in infrastructure planning. Now, I asked if that would be pursued, and in her response the other day, what she said was: "Then - and this one's really off topic - the member opposite asked about Streetscape, and whether or not there will be future support from this government for Streetscape." Well, Mr. Chair, that's not the question. I only mentioned Streetscape because it was an example of the larger matter of consideration of a cultural district in the City of Whitehorse.
And I would like to just further describe this now for the minister so we can get an answer that is a little more informed and a little less condescending. My question followed recommendations from the round table that recommended that communities should consider the advantages of creating a cultural district in the City of Whitehorse to focus investment in cultural and heritage-related projects that can support cultural tourism growth. The waterfront, Main Street and Wood Street were all noted as examples of areas that might be suited for designation as part of a cultural district.
For example, there was great enthusiasm engendered by this summer's street festival that utilized these locations. My question to her was would such initiatives be supported in the future, and how? I would like her to again respond, but this time in the greater context of the question relating to cultural districts and this recommendation from the roundtable.
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, we'll be looking at - and you have to picture, Mr. Chair, that there are literally hundreds of recommendations now that have come out of these round tables, hundreds of them. And a lot of them, if the member opposite had been at any of these round tables - what they are are brainstorming sessions. They're just ideas and illustrations of what some people want.
There have been no applications to the department to fulfill this program. We will be going through the recommendations from the round tables, and if people in the community want to follow up on those recommendations, then we will be discussing those recommendations at that time. At this point, the cultural round tables are merely reflections of some of the discussion that is happening around the arts in the Yukon Territory. They aren't funding requests. There are no requests for programs or to set up infrastructure. They're just discussions, Mr. Chair - merely discussions, and good discussions, I might point out, as well.
Mr. McRobb: Well, Mr. Chair, the minister seems overwhelmed by the number of suggestions and recommendations from the round table, but I'd like to remind her that she has a department with people very keen in promoting the arts and cultural industries in this territory that might be able to assist her in reviewing those recommendations and suggestions. Based on what I know of the staff, I think they are very capable and highly motivated people serving the best interests of Yukoners, and I commend them for the good job they are doing.
Obviously it shows because, on occasion, this minister does sound like she knows what she's doing. I think these people are doing a heck of a good job over there - a heck of a good job.
So, Mr. Chair, when I hear this type of answer, it leads me to believe that the minister is overwhelmed in her role and it makes me wonder if they're prepared for their positions.
I would suggest to the member that important recommendations such as this one should be treated as a priority and she should be prepared to address and respond to them when asked.
There were a number of other questions not addressed and some others that weren't adequately addressed and are still outstanding. I would appreciate some time to review this and try to cross-reference those outstanding concerns with the information provided at the outset of this third reading.
What I will do is give the leader of the third party an opportunity to get up, because I know he has some questions, but before I do, I would like to point out a typo in the Hansard, since the opportunity has now passed to revise Hansard. Down below the discussion on rationalization, there is a quote that says, "Public arm's length bodies that have provided an adversary function." That should read "advisory" function, so I would ask the minister to correct her copy of that.
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, I'd be happy to do that. I think it's important to point out here that the member opposite has made allegations that I am not prepared for the House, that I don't know my departments. That's an interesting statement. I have certainly never said that about members opposite when they were in government. I never did that. That's something that's peculiar to the side opposite.
The member opposite talks about the recommendations that come from the cultural round tables, and to be clear, once again, there are a number of recommendations, and they may not reflect the consensus of the group. They only reflect the minutes of the group, because there was never enough time at any of the round tables to have full discussions of any of these points. The department is working through these recommendations one by one, and that's going to take quite a bit of time.
As I said, these are brainstorming sessions, and the implications of these recommendations are in the billions of dollars, so it's going to take a long time to go through these and to go back and check with the arts community as to whether or not that's the consensus of what they want. These are brainstorming sessions, after all - only brainstorming sessions.
And once again, I need to remind the member opposite that I never do get involved in the day-to-day activities of my department. Therefore I am not personally going to be going through each one of these recommendations. I certainly respect the abilities of the people in my department to do their job, which is to go through these recommendations one by one, which I know they're doing very carefully, every day.
Mr. Jenkins: On the Arts Act, I have just a few questions of the minister, concerning the new act. I guess, to start things off, we have a whole series of legislation before us. I know that the arts community was instrumental in saying there was a need for a new act, or an act.
At the end of the day, could the minister explain what the benefits will be to the arts community as a consequence of having this new Arts Act in place?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, in a lot of ways this is a symbolic gesture. However, it's also a necessary gesture so that we can grow and look in a more focused way at the way we fund the arts through YRAC.
I need to remind the member opposite that issues around the development of the Arts Act have happened in previous NDP governments and previous Yukon Party governments, as well. This has been a long time coming. I have Hansard back to 1994 on this issue, and it's something that - quite frankly, this is housekeeping. This is only housekeeping. What it does is just clarify that we're moving it from C&TS over to a committee on its own under the arts branch. That's all it is.
It makes the funding a little bit clearer and a little bit more focused, and it's certainly something that has been promoted by both Yukon Party governments as well as NDP governments.
Mr. Jenkins: I haven't added up the total number of acts that we have gone through or the initiatives of these governments, like changing the sitting hours, but we're told that they're all housekeeping. It would appear to me we're going to have a very clean house very quickly, Mr. Chair. Then what do we do?
The main issue and the main reason for legislation and the advent of new legislation is basically to regulate or empower the government to be involved in certain areas. Now, this Arts Act - the minister has stated that it's a symbolic gesture that we now have an Arts Act, and that it was asked for and focused on for quite a number of years.
I'd like to get my head around the advantage - advantages; maybe just advantage. What is going to be the impact on the arts community? Is it going to assist them in growing? Is it going to provide further amounts of money? Really, the major issue the arts community is facing is money. It doesn't matter where you go - in whatever aspect of the arts community or which area in Yukon - they're all looking for money.
Now we're putting all these acts through for housekeeping purposes, and all of the funding mechanisms are being reviewed. Wow, how is the arts community going to survive if we've got basically all of the funding mechanisms that they have relied upon, such as the community development fund - if they continue be under review. We don't have any timelines on the review, which is a concern. We know it's under review. We know there have been some suggestions that the community development fund was used for political purposes. I don't think anyone here would disagree with that statement. It has been. It's just that the Liberals haven't had much of a chance at this pot to demonstrate their prowess at distributing money. We know they're quite capable of political patronage appointments. That's quite evident, and I guess it's becoming more evident as we get further into the Liberal mandate. We'll see who pops to the surface for the next political patronage appointment by this Liberal government.
Let's get back to the crux of the situation. Would it not be advisable for the minister to tie some funding to this new Arts Act to provide some certainty. All we have is the current level of funding in the recreation department. Really, there's no increase in funding, and there's no certainty that that level of funding will even be carried forward or will be increased, or even indexed for inflation.
Mr. Chair, that I have concerns with. So if we're going to do something that's going to benefit the arts community - let me make it abundantly clear. I have no quarrel with us being specific in putting forward an arts act, but it must be meaningful. Symbolic gestures can only go so far. We need, tied to this Arts Act, a level of funding commensurate with the needs of the arts community. They need to parallel each other. I haven't seen any evidence of that in this piece of legislation that has been brought forward by this new Liberal government.
On the other hand, I do see an opportunity for the potential of having a deputy minister of arts. Now there's a political plum if there ever was one, Mr. Chair. Imagine a deputy minister of arts, who would probably be needing five or six directors reporting to this deputy minister of arts, as well as the various arts advisory councils. Hey, we could create a wonderful bureaucracy here. I'm sure that that's not the intention of this government, but will it come to pass? We don't know. It's not really set out, and the explanatory notes are very, very generic. It says: "This Act will establish the mandate of the Minister to supply programs and services to encourage the development of the arts and to enhance the contribution of the arts to the community."
It mandates quite specifically to supply programs and services, which translates into money. Can the minister advise the House how much more money is associated with this Arts Act? How much more money will the arts community be receiving?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, I have to yield the floor to the Minister of Justice.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, I move that you report Bill No. 21, Miscellaneous Statute Amendment Act (2000), out of Committee without amendment.
Chair: This is housekeeping. She's going through all the bills we've already gone through, as far as I understand it, so that we can report them.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Chair: It is so that I can report to the Speaker.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Chair: Mr. Jenkins, on a point of order.
Mr. Jenkins: On the point of order, we went through this hassle before. The Chair is supposed to repeat the motion for the benefit of us all.
Chair: It has been moved by Ms. Buckway that Bill No. 21, Miscellaneous Statute Law Amendment Act (2000), be moved out of Committee without amendment.
Motion agreed to
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, I move that you report Bill No. 25, An Act to Amend the Interpretation Act, out of Committee without amendment.
Chair: It has been moved by Ms. Buckway that Bill No. 25, An Act to Amend the Interpretation Act, be reported out of Committee without amendment.
Motion agreed to
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, I move that you report Bill No. 26, Enforcement of Canadian Judgements Act, out of Committee without amendment.
Chair: It has been moved by Ms. Buckway that we report Bill No. 26, Enforcement of Canadian Judgements and Decrees Act, out of Committee without amendment.
Motion agreed to
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, I move that you report Bill No. 27, Court Jurisdiction and Proceedings Transfer Act, out of Committee without amendment.
Chair: It has been moved by Ms. Buckway that Bill No. 27, Court Jurisdiction and Proceedings Transfer Act, be moved out of Committee without amendment.
Motion agreed to
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I move that you do now report Bill No. 24, Department of Justice Act, out of Committee without amendment.
Chair: It has been moved by Ms. Buckway that we report Bill No. 24, Department of Justice Act, out of Committee without amendment.
Motion agreed to
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: It's so exciting, Mr. Chair. I think I know what has happened here. I haven't given enough information to the member opposite, and I will provide that in written form, and I'll give it to him now.
The money that is given out of the Arts Council is about $500,000 - $240,000 of that is recovered from lotteries. I'm not too sure if the member opposite was trying to tell me that he wanted funding increased for the arts, and if specifically through YRAC or specifically through the Arts Council or the arts branch. And perhaps, when next we speak, we can go through that in greater detail. And I'm not too sure whether or not the member opposite was advocating a growing government by having a DM responsible for arts and culture, and hopefully he will clarify his position on that shortly as well, because it's certainly at odds with what I've heard from the member in the past for all these many years.
The member opposite was wondering why we need an act, and it is to clarify and to focus a lot of the efforts around the arts. It's a coming of age for the arts community. The most interesting thing about bringing forward the Arts Act is that it has actually been brought forward by an all-party committee, Mr. Chair.
The policy was started by the Yukon Party and passed by the NDP, which led to the development of the Arts Act. So that's something that did work. And actually, the parties in this House have worked together very well in the past on a number of different initiatives.
There are no timelines on the review of the funds. However, it's obvious that we will have to have something in place for the 2001-02 budget. So, if nothing else, there will be some clarification or decision made on that in that area, by that budget.
Mr. Chair, I move that we report progress on Bill No. 23.
Motion agreed to
Ms. Tucker: I move that the Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Motion agreed to
Speaker resumes the Chair
Speaker: I will now call the House to order. May the House have a report from the Chair of the Committee of the Whole?
Mr. McLarnon: Mr. Speaker, Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 24, entitled Department of Justice Act, and directed me to report same without amendment.
Mr. Speaker, Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 21, entitled Miscellaneous Statute Law Amendment Act, and directed me to report same without amendment.
Mr. Speaker, Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 25, entitled An Act to Amend the Interpretation Act, and directed me to report same without amendment.
Mr. Speaker, Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 26, entitled Enforcement of Canadian Judgements and Decrees Act, and directed me to report same without amendment.
Mr. Speaker, Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 27, Court Jurisdiction and Proceedings Transfer Act, and directed me to report same without amendment.
Further, it has considered Bill No. 23, the Arts Act, and directed me to report progress on the same.
Speaker: You've heard the report from the Chair of the Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: I declare the report carried.
Ms. Tucker: Mr. Speaker, I move that the House do now adjourn.
Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. government House leader that the House do now adjourn.
Motion agreed to
Speaker: This House now stands adjourned until 1:00 p.m. on Monday.
The House adjourned at 5:55 p.m.
The following Sessional Papers were tabled November 2, 2000:
Yukon Development Corporation/Yukon Energy Corporation 1999 Annual Report
Conflict of Interest Commission (Yukon): letter from Mr. McLarnon, Member for Whitehorse Centre (dated November 2, 2000) requesting Conflict of Interest Commissioner's advice on whether Member for Whitehorse Centre was in breach of Conflict of Interest (Members and Ministers) Act