Wednesday, December 3, 2003 ó 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 Safe Driving Week
Hon. Mr. Hart: Mr. Speaker, I rise today to recognize National Safe Driving Week, which begins today and runs until December 7.
This week is a time to examine our own driving practices and take responsibility for our own efforts to reduce injuries and death on the roads and highways in the Yukon. We live in Canadaís north, far from the big cities like Vancouver and Toronto, but ask any Yukoner and you will find we are very busy and very mobile. While most of us do not encounter serious delays while commuting to work like people in the city do, we often drive long distances to other communities or our favourite recreation spots. Yukoners spend a great deal of their time driving. Sadly, though, Yukon drivers have one of the highest motor vehicle death rates in Canada, and one of the key reasons is the failure to wear a seat belt.
Our statistics are very clear. Of the 88 people who died in Yukon car crashes between 1993 and 2002, 48 individuals, or just over 50 percent, were not buckled up.
We have one of the poorest records for seat belt use in Canada. In fact, we rank third lowest in the country. Failing to wear a seat belt is killing Yukoners, particularly young Yukoners.
Another reason we have a high accident rate is excessive speed. Speeding is considered part of aggressive driving, and aggressive driving means danger, not just to the drivers, but to others on the road as well.
All drivers need time to deal with any traffic hazard they may encounter. They need time to see the hazard coming and time to safely react. When trouble arises on the road it takes 1.5 seconds to respond, and that is if the driver has total attention and is on a road where conditions are perfect. Speeding means the driver may not have time to react properly, and thus, everyone on the road is at risk.
Other unsafe driving practices include tailgating, passing on the shoulder of the road, making rude gestures and changing lanes without signalling.
Mr. Speaker, driving is one of the most demanding tasks that we do, and yet many drivers treat it as a secondary activity. If youíre one of the thousands of people who drive while drinking a coffee, eating lunch, switching radio stations or CDs, or responding to your cell phone, then youíre not paying appropriate attention to your driving.
Experts warn that unless you are always giving the task of driving your top priority, youíre bound to have a mishap sooner or later, and it could be a serious one. Driver distraction in its various forms contributes to about nine percent of the serious or fatal crashes nationally.
Mr. Speaker, our government is working very hard to improve driving in the Yukon, and we are making headway, but we want to make our roads even safer as part of the national initiative called Road Safety Vision 2010. The goal of this program is to make Canadaís roads the safest in the world. Our government is working tirelessly to improve our programs and ensure that unsafe drivers and vehicles are removed from the road so they donít endanger other road users.
As we all know, nearly all the goods and products are trucked into the Yukon by commercial vehicles, so the safety of those vehicles and drivers is also important.
Iím pleased to advise that the Department of Highways and Public Works continues to train both government employees and private mechanics to perform truck inspections throughout the Yukon. These inspections increase road safety, reduce accidents and breakdowns, which can be dangerous and costly to industry and others.
In addition, itís one thing to take responsibility for safe driving but itís also fundamental that you think of the care and safety of those in your car, particularly the youngest passengers. Statistics show that many child safety seats are not properly installed, which means there is a very high risk they will not protect the child in a crash. For this reason my department recently held a training session to increase our territoryís ability to safely install child safety seats as well as detect when they are not properly installed.
We are very grateful to have certified technicians who are able to inspect the proper installation, and we are pleased so many motorists joined us to have their child safety seats inspected and, if necessary, adjusted. The safety of all motorists and their passengers is paramount.
As the holiday season approaches I know people will be on the roads more than ever. I want to remind everyone to buckle up, slow down and drive with additional care in our winter conditions, especially those that we are experiencing in the last few days.
Finally, please do not drink and drive. During the holiday season tan RCMP will be out to enforce Canadaís drinking and driving laws as well as other safe driving laws. If you are stopped by the RCMP officer, remember he or she is working to keep you safe and there is nothing more important.
As a government we recognize that we have a large role to play in making the roads safer. We take this responsibility very seriously because so much is riding on our efforts. Saving lives is about all of us. We all make the difference and we all have a responsibility to drive safely. Please use this week, Safe Driving Week, as a reminder to make safe driving a year-round habit.
Mr. McRobb: I rise today to also pay tribute to National Safe Driving Week, which is from December 1 to 7. All drivers have a responsibility to drive safely, to save lives, minimize injuries and to help keep insurance premiums affordable. Most drivers are responsible, although everyone has occasional lapses. One of the objectives of having National Safe Driving Week is to remind us all to make a determined effort to become better and more attentive drivers.
Driving is one of the most demanding tasks we do, yet some drivers treat it as a secondary activity. Unless drivers always give the driving task their top priority, they and other drivers on the road are bound to have a mishap sooner or later, and it could be a serious one. Driver distraction in its various forms contributes to about nine percent of serious or fatal crashes. Our society has, to a great extent, condoned multi-tasking while driving. Most vehicles have cup holders. Many also have complex in-vehicle systems for navigation and entertainment. Fast food drive-throughs encourage dashboard dining. At times drivers discipline their kids, argue with their passengers, use cell phones and other electronic devices, groom themselves and even read while on the road.
In the 2003 study Nerves of Steel, commissioned by the Steel Alliance and Canada Safety Council, 80 percent of drivers surveyed admitted to multi-tasking behind the wheel. The Canada Safety Council offers drivers a few tips to minimize distractions and focus on the driving task and is offering a free safety CD to help drivers understand their capabilities and limitations behind the wheel. Driven to Distraction shows drivers how to overcome distractions and focus on the driving task. The CD contains a 10-minute video and program guide and is available free of charge to employers, driving instructors, safety associations, insurers, police and schools. To obtain the CD people may contact the Canada Safety Council.
Government can and must do all it can to inform and educate drivers and make our roads and regulations as conducive to safety as possible. Speed limits, especially in areas used by children and youth going to and from school, should be lowered as a safety measure. Itís just common sense.
The appointment of a consumer advocate to ensure public interests are properly represented to automobile insurance companies could help focus concerns and interests on automobile insurance rates.
We must continue to do all we can to make driving safer and reduce the cost of accidents and insurance premiums.
I wish everyone a safe and happy holiday season, and I encourage members and all motorists to drive defensively, keep their hands on the wheel, their eyes on the road and their minds on driving.
Ms. Duncan: I rise today to join with my colleagues in paying a tribute to Safe Driving Week and also paying tribute to the efforts of those who work to keep our roads safe.
As the minister pointed out, we can all remember common courtesy. Nothing is ever lost by showing common courtesy toward those who are working to keep our roads safe.
The police are urging people to think about unsafe driving habits. The RCMP are setting up their first holiday season check stop this evening, and they are also out on selective traffic enforcement, targeting seatbelts and intersection offences due to weather conditions.
Most drivers are responsible. We all have lapses. As drivers we have to do all that we can to ensure that our vehicles are well-maintained. We need to focus and concentrate on our driving.
We all have to make a determined effort to become better and more attentive drivers.
The Canada Safety Council message for the 2003 Safe Driving Week is "Eyes on the road; hands on the wheel," at 10:00 and 2:00, Mr. Speaker. Almost all of us have either observed or been observed ourselves or been guilty of multi-tasking behind the wheel. There are too many activities that take our minds away from a demanding task. It is common, as other members have mentioned, to see drivers on cell phones, dogs roaming freely in the vehicles, persons drinking beverages and eating food while driving, putting on their makeup, drivers adjusting radios, stereos and CD players. Distractions in Everyday Driving, in June 2003, used in-car video cameras to see how 70 different drivers behaved while they were behind the wheel. The tape showed that distraction is an everyday occurrence. Over three hours of driving ó and most of us do that certainly in a day in the Yukon ó all of these drivers were distracted at some point, 90 percent by something outside the car and 100 percent by something inside.
Today in these tributes and this discussion of safe driving, I think all of us recognized ourselves, our friends, our family; weíve all been guilty of being distracted. We need to focus our attention and to recognize that driving is an earned privilege, thanks to legislation passed in this House. Itís not a right. There is also precious cargo aboard all of our vehicles. Per capita, kilometres driven, Yukoners have more accidents than other Canadians. This is a title we donít need. This week and throughout the year, Yukon drivers: eyes on the road and hands on the wheel.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
In recognition of International Day of Disabled Persons
Hon. Mr. Jenkins:I rise today in the House to recognize December 3 as International Day of Disabled Persons. This day was established to promote an understanding of disability issues and to help create support for the recognition of the dignity, rights and well-being of persons with disabilities.
We sincerely hope it helps increase the awareness of how important it is to integrate disabled persons into every aspect of life.
Tomorrow the Yukon Council on Disabilities will host its second disabilities expo in the Elijah Smith Building. The last event was so successful that the organization has moved ahead to host this second one. It provides residents of this city with a clear picture of what it is like to have a disability here in the Yukon. It is impressive the number of services and organizations that are available here to help, but it also points to some gaps.
It would be nice if we could recognize the special needs of individuals all year long and didnít have to host special events to help create awareness and to gain recognition.
The theme of the day is based on the goal of full participation and equality of persons with disabilities in social life and development, and was established by the World Program of Action Concerning Disabled Persons, which was adopted by the General Assembly in 1982.
Weíve come a long way, Mr. Speaker, but I do not believe we have fully integrated persons with disabilities into mainstream society. We still have a way to go. We need to listen more ó not just today, but every day.
Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Fairclough: I rise on behalf of the official opposition to pay tribute to the International Day of Disabled Persons. Worldwide, half a billion persons are disabled as a result of mental, physical or sensory impairment. In Canada, 3.6 million people, or one in eight people, have disabilities; some of them have more than one disability.
There have been great improvements in disabled personsí lives in the last decade in Canada. For instance, businesses and governments have made buildings accessible, computers have been designed to accommodate disabilities, and governments have passed legislation to support the needs of persons with disabilities. However, this progress toward full inclusion has slowed in the past few years, and many obstacles remain.
Many Canadians with disabilities do not have the same opportunities or quality of life as others. Adequate research and data is needed on disabled persons, particularly on aboriginal Canadians. But it is clear that barriers to full participation of persons with disabilities remain. There are obstacles to inclusion in education. Only two-thirds of adults with disabilities have post-secondary education compared with adults without disabilities.
With respect to access to independent incomes, persons with disabilities are only half as likely to be employed as those without disabilities. People with disabilities work for lower wages. The added costs of having a disability can reduce the amount of income available to those who do have work. Women with disabilities are three times more likely to rely on government programs for their main source of income, and men are five times more likely to rely on government programs.
This month, when we focus our efforts against violence, it is important to remind ourselves that people with disabilities experience a much higher rate of family violence, including physical, emotional and sexual abuse. Persons with disabilities are facing deeply emotional questions about euthanasia in recent court cases. Court findings have proposed that the freedom to choose death is more important than the protection of life, being the most basic human right of all ó to live.
It is clear that there is still much work to be done by governments and by organizations supporting the disabled ó and by all of us, as individuals. We need to continue to work with the disabled community to monitor and evaluate programs in the defence of the human and economic rights of disabled persons.
The local Yukon Council on Disabilities is holding a disability awareness expo tomorrow in the foyer of the Elijah Smith Building. There will be over 20 interactive displays to help visitors experience disabilities and raise our awareness of what it is like to be disabled. I encourage everybody to drop by the valuable display.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Ms. Duncan: The United Nations General Assembly established December 3 as the International Day of Disabled Persons in 1982, encouraging the membership to celebrate all that the disability community has accomplished in terms of equal, human and civil rights for disabled people. The International Day of Disabled Persons aims to promote an understanding of disability issues and mobilize support for the dignity, rights and well-being of persons with disabilities. It also seeks to increase awareness of gains to be derived from the integration of disabled persons in every aspect of political, social, economic and cultural life.
Canadaís record of achievement in the disability field is plentiful. There are a couple of points I would like to mention. The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms is one of the first such documents to guarantee the rights of people with disabilities. A national strategy for the integration of persons with disabilities was launched by the Canadian government following the World Program of Action Concerning Disabled Persons. Canada has pioneered new initiatives to support complete integration and full participation of persons with disabilities. The Commonwealth Games held in Victoria, British Columbia, in 1994 were fully accessible and set a new games standard for integration and accommodation. I know the Yukon will also be a showcase for the 2007 Canada Winter Games when we host them.
The observance of the day in 2003 this year focuses on giving a voice to the human experiences of disabled persons. The voice of persons with disabilities is seldom heard in the mainstream media. When persons with disabilities are portrayed, they are either stereotyped or presented as an inspiration for overcoming a disability.
The observance of the day should therefore be used to offer an opportunity for persons with disabilities to speak for themselves. I join with my colleagues in urging all Yukoners to take the time to visit the second annual Disability Awareness Expo at the Elijah Smith Building tomorrow from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. This forum is designed to offer the public a first-hand look at various services available to people with disabilities and to provide an opportunity to experience the reality of living with a disability through several interactive displays. The council is also releasing the first edition of their new resource guide for people with disabilities.
Iíd like to thank the individuals involved in organizing the second annual Disability Awareness Expo, offer them my congratulations and join with my colleagues in paying tribute to the International Day of Disabled Persons.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: Are there any further tributes?
Introduction of visitors?
Are there any returns or documents for tabling?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Hon. Mr. Hart: I rise today to present to the House the Queenís Printer Agency 2002-03 annual report.
Speaker: Are there any reports of committees?
Are there any petitions?
Are there any bills to be introduced?
Are there any notices of motion?
NOTICES OF MOTION
Mr. Rouble: Mr. Speaker, I give notice of the following motion:
THAT this House urges the Government of Yukon to promote employment and training opportunities for persons with disabilities both within the public sector and the private sector.
Mr. Hardy: Mr. Speaker, I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that
(1) increased use of public transit will reduce greenhouse gas emissions and should be part of implementing the Kyoto Accord;
(2) the Government of Canada has agreed to provide infrastructure funding to the Yukon on a 50-50 matching basis; and
THAT this House urges the Yukon government to immediately begin discussions with the City of Whitehorse, the Association of Yukon Communities and the Government of Canada on ways to improve public transit infrastructure in Whitehorse.
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS
Hon. Mr. Jenkins:If I could beg the indulgence of the members of the Assembly and introduce in the visitors gallery someone who has just joined us ó in recognition of International Day of Disabled Persons ó Mr. Jon Breen, the executive director of Yukon Council on Disabilities, and with him is Mr. Rick Goodfellow, the new executive director of Challenge.
Please join me in making them both welcome.
Speaker: Are there any other introductions of visitors?
Are there any notices of motion?
NOTICES OF MOTION
Mr. McRobb:I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that the Yukon government has a responsibility to protect the environment and to protect Yukoners from having to assume environmental liability arising from commercial mining operations; and
THAT this House urges the Yukon government to develop a clear policy on release of security agreements from mine reclamation, in full consultation with First Nation governments and stakeholders.
I also give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that
(1) land use planning is a vital means for society to achieve its goals and objectives on a broad range of issues and land uses, including maintaining biodiversity;
(2) the signing of the Yukon First Nations Umbrella Final Agreement introduced a new process that specifies how regional planning shall be carried out in the Yukon;
(3) there are eight proposed planning regions in the Yukon and planning is proceeding in only four of the Yukonís eight proposed planning regions; and
THAT this House urges the Yukon government to develop a strategy in consultation with other governments and stakeholders to complete all regional land use plans within 10 years.
Mr. Fairclough: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that
(1) the Yukon government could do much to reduce its contribution to the commercial waste stream; and
THAT this House urges the Yukon government to immediately begin discussions with the City of Whitehorse on ways to reduce waste generated by the territorial governmentís operations that end up in the City of Whitehorse solid waste site.
Mrs. Peter: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT this House urges the Yukon government to honour both the letter and the spirit of Yukon First Nation final agreements by working cooperatively and respectfully with the Yukon Fish and Wildlife Management Board, renewable resource councils, Yukon First Nations and others on issues relating to captive wildlife.
I also give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that
(1) climate change is negatively affecting many elements of the environment in the Yukon;
(2) a substantial decrease in permanent sea ice in the Canadian Arctic is causing problems of flooding and erosion on the Yukonís north coast;
(3) climate change will also affect the formal and informal economies; and
THAT this House urges the Yukon Party government to make the development of a comprehensive climate change strategy, in consultation with other governments and stakeholders, one of its highest priorities.
Speaker: Are there any further notices of motion?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Hon. Mr. Jenkins:Mr. Speaker, I donít have a notice of motion, but I missed, under tabling of documents and returns, tabling a new publication that will be made available tomorrow. Itís the Services for People with Disabilities. Itís a Yukon guide book and is compiled by the Yukon Council on Disabilities. I have that for tabling.
Speaker: Are there any further notices of motion?
Is there a ministerial statement?
This then brings us to Question Period.
Question re: Agricultural policy framework agreement
Mr. McRobb: It has been more than a year since the Yukon government agreed to sign on to the agricultural policy framework agreement with the federal government. This is supposed to be a five-year commitment from the federal government to provide $321,000 per year to help boost agriculture in the territory, with YTG putting in about $220,000 of matching funds.
This summer the minister had a quiet little photo opportunity with the federal Agriculture minister and some farmers to reannounce the deal. The Yukon has signed the implementation agreement but the funding seems to be in limbo.
Can the minister tell us what dollar commitment this government has made and why none of this money has been made available to the agricultural industry?
Hon. Mr. Lang: We signed that agreement in July of last year when the federal Minister of Agriculture was here for a visit. We are certainly working with the stakeholders, and we are certainly committing ourselves to work with the fund and move forward with it.
Certainly the stakeholders have been brought together, and weíre working on it.
Mr. McRobb: Here we go again, Mr. Speaker. The minister stands up, but he fails to answer the question. He did not indicate why the money has not been made available. Perhaps he isnít aware that the agricultural policy framework agreement is stalled because Ontario and Saskatchewan havenít signed on. Apparently a lot of the farmers in those provinces have serious concerns that the program seems to favour the huge agribusiness companies, a.k.a. Monsanto and Cargill, instead of the smaller family farms. According to people we have spoken with here, very few of the Yukonís 170 farmers would even meet the qualifications for support under this agreement. What has the minister done to ensure that any programs set up under the agricultural policy framework agreement can be tailored to meet the needs of Yukon farmers?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Mr. Speaker, Iíd like to correct a statement I last made. It was this year, this July, that we signed the agreement with the federal government, and certainly we have signed on. We have committed money, and weíre working with the stakeholders to make sure that they do fit into the programs that are out there. So itís November. Weíre working at it over this winter, and next spring we should have some product.
Mr. McRobb: Thatís disgraceful, Mr. Speaker. The minister failed to answer the first question, why none of the money has been made available. He has failed to answer the second question, which asked what he has done to ensure program money would flow to our farmers. Letís see how he makes out this time.
One item at the top of the wish list for red-meat producers is a second abattoir in the southern part of the territory, including the Whitehorse area. I know the minister has been lobbied quite effectively on this file. I also understand the department is now offering beef producers a transportation subsidy to use the existing facility at the Partridge Creek Farms. Is a second abattoir on the horizon and, if so, can the minister tell us will it also be used to slaughter game-farmed animals?
Hon. Mr. Lang: The member opposite is right. We put a fund together in conjunction with the stakeholders so that they could utilize the existing abattoir in Partridge Creek just south of Dawson. Weíre working with that scenario at the moment. It seems to be working. Weíll see how things work out at the end of the trail, but it is working at the moment.
Question re: Social worker positions
Mr. Fairclough: My question is to the Minister of Health and Social Services. In March of this year the Yukon Employees Union requested, by letter, a response to the burnout of social workers in family and childrenís services. The family and childrenís services percentage of workload is well over the recommended numbers by some 447 percent. There are still 13 vacancies in family and childrenís services, and they are still in the state of burnout. My question to the minister: why havenít these positions been filled?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: For the record, the president of the union requested a meeting with me on issues surrounding the bargaining unit. Iím not in a position to meet with the president, and I referred him to the Public Service Commission. That said, the department has hired 10 more social workers, family support workers since we were last in this Legislature.
Mr. Fairclough: We donít have those numbers, and it certainly hasnít been announced in the public at all, but the ministerís solution to this problem is to move people internally within the department. Several social workers are reassigned in Whitehorse. I believe itís just a band-aid solution; it doesnít solve the problem in the future. We know of two people who have been hired, but they are still to come. Can the minister assure us that the reassigned workers are experienced in child protection matters?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: What we have done as a department is efficiently organize some of the members of the various departments to provide the services that weíre mandated to provide and, through our sound fiscal management as a government, we have hired 10 more social workers and family support workers. So the needs are being addressed. The member would only recognize that there are perhaps two more individuals who havenít been hired. Iíd suggest we do not make an announcement as a government every time we hire people, but we are committed to meeting the needs where the needs arise and doing it in a thoughtful manner and delivering the services weíre mandated to provide. And we are doing just that.
Mr. Fairclough: But I believe the vacancies still havenít been filled. What the minister has done is move people around internally ó his own government department renewal. Thatís not a solution in the long term.
We have heard that some of these people are doing routine paperwork. Positions have been assigned in Whitehorse, taken away from communities. One community social worker will spend half their time in Whitehorse. The other spends a day a week in Whitehorse. The communities are left short at the worst time of the year ó December and January, when there are more social problems.
Will the minister assure rural Yukon that they will not be affected by taking away their social workers at the busiest time of the year?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: The assumptions of the member opposite and the basis of his questioning are completely incorrect. The department has met the demand where the demand exists. We have hired 10 more social workers and family support workers ó five in each category.
We have moved some of the people around inside the department to meet the needs that are evident out there in the communities as well as here in Whitehorse. So to suggest that we are not doing what we have advised that we are doing is totally incorrect.
In addition to that, we have put millions more dollars into the health care system and provided additional programming as well as augmented the existing programs. We have said before that we will meet the demands where the demands exist. We are doing exactly that in a very cost-efficient, effective manner, and it entails hiring additional people, which we have done.
Question re: White River First Nation aboriginal rights and title
Ms. Duncan: I have some questions for the minister responsible for the Executive Council Office.
Yesterday the minister admitted that he has already told the White River First Nation that if they donít like working within the land claim process, he has a better deal waiting for them. He said that he was very interested in sitting down and negotiating a bilateral agreement outside the Umbrella Final Agreement. There is absolutely no incentive now for White River First Nation to settle. The only way to create long-term certainty is a final self-government and land claim agreement. These short-term, backroom deals that the Premier is fond of donít create certainty.
Why has the Premier short-circuited a potential land claims agreement by offering White River a special agreement?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Well, Mr. Speaker, as usual, this member has got it wrong. We havenít made any such offer at all. In fact, our position was made very clear to the White River First Nation some days ago ó that our view is that the ratification process should continue. They have signed a memorandum of understanding, entered into an agreement with the federal government, the territorial government and the First Nation itself. Our belief is that itís the citizens who should make the choice.
However, should we reach a situation where ratification does not take place, we are then dealing in this territory with an Indian Act band. Of course, the government would have to do something in that regard to ensure that we can work with the First Nation in a different way that allows us to deliver programs and services to them. Of course, the federal government would have the major fiduciary responsibility when it comes to an Indian Act band. Thatís all thatís being done here, Mr. Speaker. The ratification process is proceeding.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, no matter how the minister responsible tries to spin it, he has basically told the White River First Nation that itís okay for them not to sign because he has a better deal waiting for them outside the Umbrella Final Agreement. Yesterdayís Hansard confirms that.
The Premier seems intent on creating two groups of First Nations in the Yukon. One group plays by the rules and gets signed land claim agreements, for example ó and there are several signed land claim agreements in the Yukon ó Taían First Nation and Kluane First Nation. The other group doesnít sign an agreement and gets all the benefits of an agreement. Thereís an old expression: why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free? My question for the minister: why has he set up two sets of rules for negotiating agreements with First Nations?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Well, the Yukon government hasnít set up two sets of rules. In the case with the Kaska Nation, the federal government has vacated any mandate to negotiate a land claim. As a government that is focused on delivering product and leading this territory, we moved rapidly to deal with that, so we could at least work with the First Nation on a level that would see us advance things like development.
In the case of White River, the member has it entirely wrong. The White River First Nation is proceeding with the ratification process, as they committed to do in signing the MOU. This member continuously reflects incorrect information for what purpose ó who knows? But at the end of the day, we are committed to the ratification process, as is the federal government, even to go so far as to extend the timelines for the First Nation.
Ms. Duncan: The Premier and minister responsible said yesterday, and I quote: "Our government would be very interested in sitting down and negotiating a bilateral agreement in response and discussion with the White River." Whether the Premier wants to admit it ó and itís obvious by his answers today that he doesnít ó the Yukon Party has set up two sets of rules for negotiating with Yukon First Nations. The minister has told White River that if they donít sign on to the Umbrella Final Agreement, they have a better deal waiting for them outside of the Umbrella Final Agreement.
Why would White River sign? All the incentive has been removed. The government is cheapening and undermining the Umbrella Final Agreement. All the work that has gone into this historic framework agreement has been thrown out the door in favour of special, backroom deals. The minister is sacrificing long-term certainty for short-term political expediency. Why has the Premier short-circuited a potential land claim agreement by offering the White River a special arrangement?
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS
Hon. Mr. Hart:Mr. Speaker, at this time I would like to introduce a long-time Yukoner, Betty Taylor.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Again the member has made inferences here that are entirely incorrect. Letís look at the facts. The land claim process, as committed to, is underway with all First Nations except the Kaska who have no MOU and no federal mandate to negotiate a land claim ó period. White River is proceeding with the ratification process in the agreed-to timelines ó timelines which were extended on their behalf ó and agreed to by the federal government.
Letís look at who works outside the land claim process and the Umbrella Final Agreement. Which government added 50 square miles to the White River land claim through negotiations that we are now dealing with? That is a bigger issue than anything else that the member has brought to the floor.
Secondly, the statement was clear. If we do not get ratification then the Yukon government would surely sit down with that First Nation ó because they are now remaining an Indian Act band ó and work out a bilateral arrangement so that we can interact between the government and the First Nation. That should not be surprising. The federal government, when it comes to an Indian Act band, would have the fiduciary responsibility. Our purpose is to ensure that we as a government can work with that First Nation in a meaningful and respectful manner that helps all the citizens, not only of White River, but the Yukon.
Question re: Communication services
Mr. McRobb:Many others have been adversely affected by disruptions in communication services to the territory. This is an ongoing problem that seems to recur with increasing frequency. This is an ongoing problem and we need to resolve it now. These disruptions have knocked out telephone, e-mail and other Internet services and data information, which includes bank machines, account debiting and credit card use.
The causes of such failures over the years have ranged from problems with a backhoe operator in Dawson Creek to problems at microwave sites near Fort Nelson, to problems at Telus in Vancouver to problems in the Grande Prairie area.
Yukoners are tired of these excuses and deserve action now from this government. Can the minister responsible for communications in our territory tell this House what heís doing to resolve these problems?
Hon. Mr. Hart: For the member opposite, weíre working with a major telecommunication firm in the Yukon and weíre working with them on that issue.
Mr. McRobb: Well, I can tell that Yukoners will sleep soundly tonight with that answer, Mr. Speaker. Our commerce depends on communications with outside financial institutions. This isnít just about e-mail any more.
Any break in this service disrupts our economy. We need a backup route to maintain our connectivity when our single source fails. Building a link to Skagway or Haines and leasing bandwidth on a west coast cable might be a good option. We also need increased bandwidth to the territory.
Why not resolve both matters by tapping into a west coast link? The minister couldnít provide anything worthwhile when I raised this matter back on May 1, and he refused to talk to reporters about it in early September. A Cabinet spokesperson would only say thereís work happening behind the scenes.
Can he tell us whatís happening behind the scenes?
Hon. Mr. Hart: We are working with the major telecommunication provider, Northwestel, on the issue that he describes. Weíre working with all aspects of telecommunication and the Internet, broadband, all issues with regard to telecommunication.
Mr. McRobb: That provides us with very little reassurance. The Internet is more important than ever to our territoryís economy, to our communities, to our people and to our way of life. The government is responsible to uphold services of such import. It should be investing in the Internet and fast-tracking work on the backup connection. Earlier this fall I called on the minister to get the ball rolling, to use existing funds within his department to deal with this matter until the supplementary budget came out. But he came up empty-handed.
Now that the federal government has recently announced major funds to expand high-speed Internet services in the Yukon, what is this minister doing to fast-track a backup connection to our territory?
Hon. Mr. Hart: I will let the member opposite know that we are working hard on that particular issue. Our staff is looking at the backup issues and what our options are going to be, and once we have those weíll notify the member opposite.
Question re: Yukon native teacher education program
Mr. Fairclough: My question is for the Minister of Education. The Yukon native teacher education program offers a four-year bachelor of education degree at the Yukon College, and that started in 1989, and it is also affiliated with the University of Regina. There is over half a million dollars budgeted for a maximum of 20 students.
In the ministerís opinion, has the initial objective of the program of increasing the number of First Nation teachers in Yukon schools ó that is the percentage difference between First Nation and non-First Nation ó been met?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: This government recognizes that the YNTEP is a very valuable program and it does serve its purpose.
Mr. Fairclough: Another question and no answers from the members. They failed to answer the question again. How many times are we going to have to experience that on this side of the House? How many times does the public have to put up with this?
The contract between the Department of Education, the University of Regina and Yukon College states that an evaluation of the Yukon native teacher education program is required every five years. Two evaluations have been done but neither was acceptable to the contracting parties.
So will the minister direct his department to conduct a thorough evaluation of the Yukon native teacher education program before any changes are made to this program?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I put on record today that there has been a very large demand ó a large request ó by citizens throughout the Yukon Territory, including non-status First Nations, as to why they cannot enter this program. I believe wholeheartedly that itís not a bad thing to look at this issue and it will be done in the future.
Mr. Fairclough: Obviously the minister is avoiding the questions ó and important questions too. Either the minister doesnít know or he just hasnít been updated.
Now, the Yukon Party in their platform committed to a teacher education program. In the Yukon, 3.5 percent of the teaching staff is First Nation. In rural Alaska, 30 percent of the teaching staff is native. So Iíd like to ask the minister this: why are the YNTEP grads not getting the teaching jobs?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: For the record, Mr. Speaker, Iíd like to correct the member opposite. The students are getting the jobs, and I believe that the member opposite is somewhat chasing a rainbow here. At the end, heíll find thereís no substance to his questioning.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Question re: First Nations education
Mr. Fairclough:Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Education. Hopefully weíll have some improved answers from the minister.
In March of this year, the minister directed the department to develop strategic plans for First Nation education, and I quote, Mr. Speaker, in Hansard of March 5, "ÖI have started consultation with the Department of Education, the deputy minister and appropriate staff to direct them in developing a strategic plan for advanced education. Iíve also instructed them to start developing a strategic plan for First Nation education."
After the spring sitting, Mr. Speaker, the minister pledged $1 million and announced that he intends to bring forward an education needs assessment. Will the minister tell the House what progress has been made on both the strategic plans for First Nation education and the education needs assessment?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: For the member opposite I can state for the record that I believe the works with the First Nations are going fairly well, as planned. Just recently, the Council of Yukon First Nations appointed an all-chiefs committee to the Education department, which will be very helpful in establishing the working relationships with First Nations.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Fairclough: The minister said in his announcement that over the next two months the data will be gathered. Well, two months have passed. Now, the criteria on how the funds are allocated for the needs assessment will be developed. Thatís what the minister said, but we havenít seen it.
Now, this Yukon Party says they are good fiscal managers, yet they donít know what the million dollars will get them. Implementation of the requests is to begin as early as the new year. Thatís less than a month away.
What is the criteria on how the million dollars is to be allocated, and what are the checks and balances?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Well, our government is really sincere about making a contribution that will make a difference in the everyday lives of our students. Pledging this million dollars to start that is a very good move by this government. To date, I have visited many communities and schools within the City of Whitehorse, and I can report to this House that the acceptance of this whole program is very positive. I look forward to being able to assist these different schools.
Mr. Fairclough: Again, the minister has failed to lay out what the criteria is and tell us what the checks and balances are. It appears that there is very little control, and the department itself is questioning this, so Iíd like to ask the minister this simple question: why is the minister using strategic plans and the assessment process as a way to avoid making a decision on the Education Act review, which is three years overdue?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite appears to really want to know what the proposal for the criteria of accessing money is. Therefore, for the record, I will state some of the criteria: will provide positive impacts on school attendance, retention and achievement of students; enhances the cultural relevancy of current programs and/or facilities in the school; upgrades existing programs and/or recreational facilities, provided that this investment creates no long-term or ongoing funding obligations; creates a partnership between the school and the community and has measurable benefits in the community; enhances the opportunity in the community for lifelong learning opportunities involving the schools ó for example, home tutoring, family literacy; enhances the opportunity for high school apprenticeship programs.
Now, Mr. Speaker, I fail to find anything thatís negative about that, and I think itís an excellent program that this government is bringing forward. I can tell you today, Mr. Speaker, that every principal and school council Iíve talked to is overjoyed at this governmentís generosity.
Question re: Game farming
Mrs. Peter:I have a question for the Minister of Environment. A few days ago, in response to one of my questions about the Yukon Fish and Wildlife Management Board recommendations on captive wildlife, the minister made this statement: "The Fish and Wildlife Management Board drew conclusions before they went out to do that consultation."
Does the minister now wish to correct the record and withdraw that statement?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: The government very much respects all First Nations and their beliefs concerning wildlife and fish and wildlife management and their concerns. And we do appreciate the efforts of the Fish and Wildlife Management Board. This is why we took all the information and all the letters and posted it conveniently on our Web site, so that all Yukoners can read all of the data themselves.
Mrs. Peter: The chair of the Fish and Wildlife Management Board has stated publicly that the board did not prejudge this controversial issue. In fact, they did a very thorough consultation on it and even added an extra day to their discussions about what recommendations to make to this minister. Will the minister retract the statement he made and apologize to the members of the Yukon Fish and Wildlife Management Board for that statement?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: Our government certainly supports the Fish and Wildlife Management Board and all renewable resource councils existing and forthcoming with the signing of land claims agreements. They are key partners in the co-management of our fish and wildlife resources. Thanks to the UFA, First Nations rightly and justly have a major input into the management of fish and wildlife in this territory. And while there has been some discussion around the consultation ó I recognize fully that the recommendations made by the Fish and Wildlife Management Board on the captive wildlife issue are certainly very sincere and well-thought-out ó and while I did set aside some recommendations, again the word "set aside" does not mean "throw away" ó we continue, even as we speak, to seek solutions to the problems and to give guidance and direction to the management of fish and wildlife in this territory.
Mrs. Peter: Many people are very, very concerned about this ministerís relationship with the Yukon Fish and Wildlife Management Board, with the renewable resource councils and with the First Nations. Will the minister confirm that this government has already identified four members of the Yukon Fish and Wildlife Management Board it does not intend to reappoint when their terms are up?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: Given the fact that the government only has six appointments on that board, the number is a bit confusing. Frankly, that issue hasnít come up at this point, because the appointments are not due at the present time. We recognize the importance of the environment and fish and wildlife and that all Yukoners want these resources to be properly cared for. We will continue to work with the Fish and Wildlife Management Board ó again, as we speak ó to come to a good conclusion and to solve these issues. The things that were set aside have not been thrown off the table; they are simply that: set aside. We will continue to work diligently ó both sides ó to solve these problems.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed. We will proceed to Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
MOTIONS OTHER THAN GOVERNMENT MOTIONS
Clerk:Motion No. 105, standing in the name of Mr. Hardy.
Motion No. 105
Speaker:It has been moved by the leader of the official opposition
THAT this House directs the Government of Yukon to prepare and table amendments to the Conflict of Interest (Members and Ministers) Act that would prohibit any person from serving as a Cabinet minister of the Government of Yukon if that person individually, or as a principal of a business or corporation, is more than one year in arrears in payment of any debt owing to the Government of Yukon.
Mr. Hardy: We are often asked to bring forward ideas that would lend to better government. On the opposition side, we consider this on a regular basis. We try to find motions we can bring forward that are not necessarily a condemnation, but often to assist the government on the other side to move forward, especially with respect to public faith in elected members and ensuring that we have better government for the people of the territory.
The official opposition believes that this is one of those motions. What weíre asking is for the Government of Yukon to prepare and table amendments to the Conflict of Interest (Members and Ministers) Act that would prohibit a person from serving as a Cabinet minister. Weíre not asking that a person cannot run in the election or sit as an MLA. What weíre asking, with respect to the position of Cabinet minister of the Government of Yukon, is for that to be restricted, if the person individually or as principal of a business or corporation is more than one year in arrears in the payment of any debt owing to the Government of Yukon.
We believe that one year in arrears is a substantial amount of time for a person to be able to clear up their debt owing to the government ó at least to clear up the arrears payments ó to ensure that they can sit as a Cabinet minister without any conflict of interest and serve the people of this territory in that position.
It seems that, of all the issues weíve had to deal with over the last year with the Yukon Party government ó and there have been many, Mr. Speaker, from the computer use investigation to the captive wildlife issues that are being brought forward, and a multitude of other issues that continue, like the tow truck incident and actions of the Justice minister ó the list just goes on and on ó none seem to resonate stronger across the Yukon, in every community and every walk of life, than this one, which is the fact that two Cabinet ministers owe a substantial amount of money to the territorial government and for many years have made no payments on those loans, but are sitting as Cabinet ministers and not leading by example.
Now, I do want to recognize that one of the members ó the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources ó has made what I would consider a token payment from two of his companies ó $6,000 each ó into the outstanding loans he has.
However, we also have to recognize in that regard that it has been eight years since any payments have been made. So the intent to pay those loans was in question when this member was named to Cabinet. The other minister, the Health and Social Services minister, has made no payments in one case for up to 15 years on an outstanding loan; on the other, it has been probably somewhere around seven or eight years since the last payment was made.
Yes, since 1996 on one of them and 1988, the initial ó I think the payments stopped being made about two years after that ó so about 13 years on one and probably seven years on the other. And we havenít seen any payments since theyíve been made. But it really is distressing to the people of this territory to know that we have two Cabinet ministers who have gone for years and years and years without making a payment. And what does that really point to? It points to a couple of individuals who fundamentally believe that they do not owe money to the government, although they signed agreements and they borrowed that money. We have to question whether that was done in good faith, Mr. Speaker, because good faith is often demonstrated by the actions of a person. And in this case, I do not see either Cabinet minister demonstrating good faith. And it really does raise the question of ethics in regard to the business practices of these people.
Now, that may sound like fairly hard language, but Iíll tell you right now that thatís very soft language compared to what weíre hearing on the streets around this matter. And every single politician in this room is tarnished with this. The fact that the payments have not been made, the fact that these two individuals could pay off these loans tomorrow if they wanted to, the fact that the Premier of this territory, the Minister of Finance, has refused to address this issue ó though he made promises in this House in the springtime, he has made promises in the papers, he has made promises to the public that this issue would be brought forward in this Legislature to be debated, that it would be tabled in here and allow proper debate ó the fact that he hasnít done it yet ó all that points to is a person, the Premier, who is not willing to put it on the table now and have it debated.
On top of that, there have been other issues around these loans. The fact that the Minister of Health and Social Services has tried to block the release of that information ó about the information in regard to what is outstanding and when the last payments were made ó indicates somebody who has a different view on these loans, on what is owed and on how they should be handled than the rest of the public of this territory.
I can assure you, Mr. Speaker, that every single MLA in this room has heard this on the doorstep. If they havenít heard it on the doorstep, if they havenít heard it from their constituents, that means that they havenít been talking to their constituents, because we in the NDP opposition have received calls from members of the public from every single riding, asking us to bring this issue forward, to force this government to deal with this issue in a fair, open and transparent manner. That is why we keep bringing this issue forward, because we are being directed by the constituents of this territory ó by the people of this territory ó to get a resolution to this. This could have been put to bed a long time ago.
We do not have to be standing here today, once again debating the fact that two Cabinet ministers have refused to pay their loans ó loans up to 15 years old, and a substantial amount of money ó over $300,000. We would not have to be standing here today if those two Cabinet ministers would write the cheques to resolve that.
There has been a lot of news in regard to this and a lot of positions taken, and a lot of suggestions brought forward. Iím going to read five guidelines that were offered to us that I am going to offer to the side opposite. Iím sure they have these guidelines. A member of the public had drafted them up, and I think they bear repeating in here or being introduced into the Legislature. Itís to help start loan repayments now for government and debtors.
(1) All debtors shall repay all money they owe to government;
(2) No debtor shall be forced into bankruptcy by the terms of their loan repayment;
(3) The government shall be entitled to charge a fair market interest rate on all outstanding loans ó if it has to be renegotiated, of course;
(4) The terms of repayment shall be determined by the debtorís ability to pay;
(5) All delinquent debtors not able to make immediate payment in full of all monies owed shall be required to provide the government with a full disclosure of their financial situation.
I read these guidelines when they were handed to me and I thought that here is a person who has given some thought around this or maybe looked up some information and helped compile this ó Iím not sure. The impression I got from reading these was that there was consideration of what is owed; there was consideration on ability to pay; there was recognition of interest and the burden of interest, but there was ultimately recognition that these were loans given in good faith that should be paid back in good faith.
I think that they are fairly good guidelines for this government to consider. My understanding was that ó and I believe that the Premier indicated that they had come to an agreement on how these loans are going to be paid, and it was just a matter of when he felt that the people of this territory would have an opportunity to hear what direction they would go on with this. But then very recently, in response to a question, the Premier seemed to indicate that they didnít have a solution yet, they were still negotiating, still trying to figuring out what to do.
That leaves doubt out in the public eye and definitely doubt in the opposition side as to what exactly is happening here. Are there backroom deals being negotiated? What is the Minister of Finance actually doing? He has had over a year to deal with this. Some of these media releases date back to January 21, January 10, 2002, 2003. It is a long time. It is a long time to be in the public ó something that creates a tremendous amount of pressure, and I would say, even disgrace for MLAs in this House.
One of the most frustrating things that we have to be aware of is that the individual actions of the MLAs in this House can often be used to tarnish all politicians. It makes it a more difficult journey in our democracy to convince people that voting does make a difference, that people whom you vote for can and do represent different values, and that we are not all of the same ilk as one or two who may bring disgrace upon the rest.
Stuff like this is unnecessary. We do not need this kind of non-action by these two Cabinet ministers to be over the heads of all politicians. Now, we believe that the collection efforts must be fairly applied, but should also be very case sensitive ó enough that the borrowers who make a genuine effort to pay wonít be forced into bankruptcy.
There are genuine, sincere debtors to the government who are paying their debts ó not the two sitting in Cabinet at the moment, but there are those who are making an effort to pay their debts. In some cases, they are still paying their debts, even though they may be experiencing some very difficult times due to the collapsed economy under the Yukon Party. But they are honourable ó not like some members of the Yukon Party who are wealthy enough to pay the debts but wonít even pay their principal, wonít even pay their interest.
Now, some members on the other side laughed. Some Yukon Party members on the other side thought that was really funny. Well, I can assure you that itís not a laughing matter, and I can assure you that your constituents and the constituents of everybody else in here do not find this to be a joke.
I attended two dinner parties last weekend, and I often enjoy them. We talk about all kinds of things, from families to arts to sports to weather. Most of the people at the dinner parties are aware that Iím a politician and are also aware that itís nice not to have to "talk shop" ó as the term goes ó just as, if I know of their professions or activities, I donít necessarily delve into them and make them "work" at a dinner party.
But, like at a lot of gatherings or dinner parties Iíve been at, the one topic that comes up, invariably in the course of the night, is the fact that two Cabinet ministers ó the Minister of Health and Social Services most particularly as he owes the most amount and has paid the least amount, but also the other minister, the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources ó have not made their payments and not made payments for many, many, many years. And if they could have made some token payments, got on a payment schedule, paid the thing off, the public would be a lot more forgiving. Other than the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources, the token payments are almost non-existent.
Itís time now that the people know whatís going on, and the rules and how we come to the resolution of this has to be transparent because there will be questions around it. When we finally know, when the Premier finally decides that we shall be blessed with the knowledge of his solution to the outstanding loans, especially of the two Cabinet ministers, there will be questions and there will be a lot of questions. How did they come up with this solution? What other options were presented?
Iím hoping that when we have that blessing from the Premier, he will give us the rationale behind the decision being made. I think thatís very important because far too many people in the public want to know, first off, what the decision is but also how the government arrived at this conclusion and who was involved in making this decision, who was involved at the Cabinet table, who was involved in caucus. Because at one point in one of the interviews with the Premier, he indicated that caucus and Cabinet would be involved in making this decision.
We want to ensure that it is Cabinet and caucus minus the two Cabinet ministers ó we have to be assured of that.
Now, at times in here when the questions are asked in Question Period around this subject, we have often seen the Minister of Health and Social Services directing the answers, depending on who is standing up to answer around this. That raises some very serious concerns about his actual involvement in this.
Another area of concern ó another area that we have requested in regard to this ó is based upon the position that has been taken by these ministers ó one in particular: the Minister of Health and Social Services. I shouldnít include the other one because he hasnít indicated this.
But the Minister of Health and Social Services has indicated that he doesnít have to make a payment on the loan because he hasnít made any money off the business that he owns that borrowed the money. So, for 15 years, he hasnít made a penny on one of them.
Well, if you believe that, I have land in Florida that I will sell you ó swamp land. I assure you that thatís about all it is. I can assure you that, if you believe that, you would be susceptible to the telemarketers who are telling you that you have won the lottery and you just need to give them your credit card number to pay some of the taxes as well.
It is impossible for us to believe that you can have a business for many, many years, not make any money, still have that business 15 years later and still continue to develop, grow, purchase and function and still not make any money ó unless you are very, very creative in your accounting practices.
What did we ask for? We asked for an independent audit. If thatís the argument that is being used for why the member doesnít have to make a payment, then put that argument to the test. Letís have an independent audit on the businesses that are owned, that owe money, by this minister. Then we can put that argument to rest. If thatís the case, if it comes up that he hasnít made a penny in all that time, by the agreement he probably doesnít have to make payment on the loans and he can go on for ever and ever in that manner.
There are a lot of other issues in regard to this. Some of them are the figures and I want to go through them just to remind everybody what weíre actually talking about. The Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources ó this is a little bit dated, this is quite a few months ago and the figures can be adjusted, but itís just to give you an idea, and Iíve kind of touched on them all but Iím just going to lay it out a little bit better from what I have in front of me ó has a business Ballard Management, which received one loan in December of 1987 totalling $67,850, and a few months ago the company owed $36,229 on that loan. In November 1988 the company received another loan from the government for $98,685. This company owes $69,079 on that loan. Both of those loans were for improvements to the Gateway Motor Inn.
The third loan is with Watson Lake Hotel, which is owned by Watson Lake Properties, another company of the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources. That loan for $80,000 was handed out in 1986. The company owes $23,033 for that debt, and that debt was for the expansion of the Watson Lake Hotel.
This company, Ballard, last made a payment on its loans in March of 1995, and the Watson Lake Hotel last paid back money in September 1995. Now we do know that there was $6,000 paid from each of those a couple of months ago, but $6,000 doesnít pay the loans.
The last payment was in 1995 and, up until a couple of months ago, there were no payments made. Thatís the information I have. The Watson Lake Hotelís last payment, again, was in 1995 and, up until a couple of months ago, there were no payments. We are at the end of 2003 ó December. It does not show a strong intent to honour their loans, as far as I can see.
Letís look at the Minister of Health and Social Services. Dawson City Hotels, a company owned by him, is behind in its loan repayments by more than $190,000 for two outstanding loans, Mr. Speaker. For one loan, there is still owing $165,523. Of course, as I said, these figures are slightly different because this information is a little bit older. I actually think the member owes more. Thatís whatís unpaid.
Originally, that loan was for $75,000 and was handed out in June 1990. The other loan was given out in February 1988 for $50,000.
The ministerís company owes a total of $99,914 for that debt, but itís only behind in its payments on that loan for $25,890, and that would get this minister back on a repayment schedule. The repayment of the entire $165,000 is required for the other loan to get back on schedule. Now, Dawson City Hotels last made a payment on the 1988 loan in August 1991. Now, it also negotiated a deal to start making repayments in 1997. When we were in government, we attempted to renegotiate a deal with this member, who was an MLA at that time, to start making payments. It was successful; the negotiation was agreed to but ó guess what? Not a single payment, as far as I can see, not a single payment was brought forward. And the last payment on the other loan was September 1996.
Now, the Minister of Finance, the Premier, does not seem to understand that the public sees this as a conflict ó that we have two ministers collecting a government salary, collecting a ministerís salary, in positions of power and in which they are dealing with large sums of money and have influence over funds that impact on peopleís lives. In the case of the Health and Social Services minister, there are actually loans in that department, and there is actually a collection process in that department ó one, interestingly enough, that he supports, but he doesnít support to be applied to himself.
The Premier does not see this as a conflict, even though there is over $300,000 owed and there has been no serious attempt to make payments.
And there is a collection policy. The government does have a collection policy and, interestingly enough, the Premier doesnít think it should apply to these two ministers. Thatís a shame because it wouldnít take much to put this to rest. As we suggested, back in the spring ó I remember very clearly asking the members across the way if they could just make token payments, payments in good faith, until the issue could be resolved, to send a message to the people of this territory that they do honour their debts, that theyíre honourable people, that they recognize the positions they are in, that they are leaders in our communities, that they are ministers and leaders within their critic areas, are looked up to by many people to set a good example ó if they would just make token payments on a regular basis to indicate that sincerity. Instead, almost nothing has happened.
What is a really big concern of ours is that we are now down to just a few days left in the Legislature and there has been no indication yet of when the Premier is going to table a solution to the collection of the loans ó or if there is even going to be a collection or a forgiveness. There is a lot of speculation out there that there might be a forgiveness of the interest, or the principal or all of it ó for all of the debtors.
We donít know, and we may find ourselves without any time to debate this properly, because the Premier has refused to bring this forward early enough to allow engaged and informative debate to happen. There are a lot of questions. Why is the Premier stalling on this? Is the Premier going to let the ministers off the hook? Is it going to be a complete whitewash? Is there going to a substantial amount off on the interest? If you consider the interest, I believe one of the ministers will profit on that by $153,000 ó that is quite a gift. The other minister ó it is just a small amount ó just over $5,000.
A couple of arguments are often made in here: other governments didnít do anything about it. Yes, the Yukon Party didnít do anything about it when they were in. The NDP tried to do something about it initially with one of the ministers. Obviously the minister didnít honour the newly renegotiated agreement, so that failed. The previous Liberal government didnít do anything about it, other than there seemed to have been quite a kerfuffle in regard to accusations that swirled around who was doing what and who was after whom. That actually involved the Conflicts Commissioner, Mr. Hughes, doing an investigation. It was not a resolution to the outstanding loans, and it did not seem to be broad enough in regard to the fact that there are still substantial amounts of the people and businesses who do owe this money.
Thatís not the argument on the table right now. Looking at that does not address what this government is planning to do with this. We have waited for a year, and the promises were made to address this and to address it as fairly as possible. But we absolutely support a fair process in this. My position has been that if a person can pay it, they should pay it. I believe that two Cabinet ministers, especially in positions of leadership, should pay it. If there need to be negotiated payments that do not create a burden or a hardship or collapse a business and force it into bankruptcy, that should be considered.
Now, some of these loans have been forgiven. Often itís because the companies or individuals have gone bankrupt or else they are no longer in existence. All those aspects have to be looked at. It has to be fair ó fair across the board ó and it has to be fair to the taxpayers of the Yukon. Itís not just about being fair to the businesses and individuals who receive this money, knowing full well that itís a loan with interest that they sign on to. It also has to be fair to the taxpayers.
Just to remind you, Mr. Speaker, this is a government that pleaded massive poverty when they came in. If they had moved quickly on the loans and dealt with them, we could have seen up to $5 million ó over $5 million is what is presently owed to the government. That would have been a substantial amount of money that could have gone to a lot of needy people out there and needy projects. It could have put a lot of people to work this winter. $5 million is not chicken feed.
Now, since that time, we found that the government wasnít massively in debt and there was a substantial surplus, but that does not excuse the fact that today ó and there are a few days left in the Legislature ó we are still trying to find out what is going on in regard to what this government is going to do ó what the Premier is going to do ó in regard to these loans.
A lot has been said on this and a lot more is going to be said on it. Iím looking forward to some very interesting debate. I want to remind people what the motion is about so they recognize that this motion is being brought forward to try to ensure down the road that we donít find ourselves in the same situation in regard to ministers sitting in the House owing substantial amounts of money to the government ó and not just owing the money but also just being in arrears. Letís remember that the motion is around the arrears part ó thatís what weíre talking about ó and the Cabinet part. I am hoping that a motion like this can pass and go forward and send a message out to the people of this territory that changes will be made to ensure that we do not find ourselves having ministers in arrears, making major financial decisions that affect many people in this territory and so that we donít all get painted with the same brush.
I am actually looking for support on this motion, and I look forward to the debate on it.
Mr. Arntzen: It is not necessary to debate this motion at this time. As we know, the Premier has stated over and over in this House that he will be proposing a solution to the loans issue during this sitting. That means weíll have a solution proposal within the next seven sitting days. I beg the indulgence of all members of this House to give the Premier the opportunity to present his solution before members propose any action as is being contemplated by this motion.
The loans issue has been over two decades in the making and has not been resolved by successive Yukon governments of all three political stripes.
It has not been resolved because the problems inherent in this loans issue are complicated and very complex.
Mr. Speaker, the present government did not create the loans issue, but we are committed ó and I repeat "committed" ó to resolving this issue once and for all. Therefore, I believe it is not too much to ask all members to allow the Premier to present his solution, as the time remaining in this sitting is relatively short.
Accordingly, Mr. Speaker, I move that this debate be now adjourned.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Member for Copperbelt that this debate be now adjourned.
Motion to adjourn debate on Motion No. 105 agreed to
motion for the production of papers
Clerk:Motion for the Production of Papers No. 18, standing in the name of Ms. Duncan.
Motion No. 18
Speaker:It is a motion for the production of papers, moved by the leader of the third party
THAT this House do issue an order for the return of the following correspondence from the Minister of Justice:
(1) the letter from the RCMP that the Minister of Justice publicly stated existed, saying the RCMP agreed with her decision to release a tow truck from impound, and
(2) the legal case that was presented to the minister by the lawyer acting for the tow truck company.
Ms. Duncan: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. Iím pleased to rise this afternoon to address this issue.
I had hoped to address the previous motion; however, the government has once again, unfortunately, seen fit not to fully debate the particular issue.
With respect to this motion for the production of papers, a motion for the production of papers is quite unusual in our Yukon Legislative Assembly. I believe the Member for Kluane noted that this is the first time ever ó Iím not quite convinced that itís the first time ever that it has been debated; however, I am pleased to work toward a motion that is somewhat different and that may lead to a more productive House on Wednesday afternoons.
The intent of this motion for the production of papers is that this information has been repeatedly requested from the government in Question Period and outside of Question Period by the media, which also, I might add, serves the public ó the fifth estate, as they are referred to ó and does present the public with information. They deserve to have all the information, just as we, in the House, are asked to do our best each day and to speak on behalf of the people we represent. This issue has dogged the government and the Legislative Assembly, Members of the Legislative Assembly ó just like the loans issue. This particular issue has been brought up throughout the summer months, at campfires, when we were at our favourite recreation sites, as well as when we were doing our fall door-to-door. There are many, many questions.
Unfortunately, on this ó like other issues ó we have been stonewalled, in part, by the government in a lack of information. The Minister of Justice has said on a number of occasions that she has acted within the law. On a number of occasions in Question Period she has said ó her exact quote is: "First of all, I would like to be crystal clear. I acted, again, in strict accordance with the law. I acted based on the legal application that was made to our office, which, I add, was submitted to the assistant deputy minister of Justice, to our senior legal counsel. The legal case was made to our senior legal counsel."
Now, itís out of order to ask for a legal opinion, although other governments have provided them. It is not out of order to ask for a legal case. We have asked for that legal case on the floor of this House. When first addressing this issue, the minister has also said that she had a letter from the RCMP but subsequently indicated later that she didnít. If the letter exists, we would like to see it. In all fairness, so would the public.
The legal case that the minister said was presented to her ó we have asked for that. It is entirely within order to ask for that. I shouldnít have had to bring forward a motion for the production of papers. I shouldnít have had to do that. However, the motion has come forward. I regret having to bring it forward.
Like the loans issue ó the loans issue wouldnít have come up if the loans were simply paid back.
This matter of information from the Minister of Justice wouldnít require a motion for the production of papers if we would simply be supplied with the information and the public had the information. Unfortunately, this entire matter is yet another example of Yukon Party government secrecy.
The Church report was not released until it was required to be so done by ATIPP.
The Minister of Finance has been asked, repeatedly, through the last session and through this session, what the surplus is ó no answer. I wrote to the Premier and asked him to please provide the travel information. Well, that was a month and a half ago. I donít have that information. That travel information was routinely tabled in this House by the NDP government and by the Liberal government. Why are matters of routine public information now hidden behind this veil of secrecy? We shouldnít have to ask for motions. We shouldnít have to bring these motions forward for this information. Unfortunately, we do, because there is a pattern of secrecy.
Supporting this motion ó let me allay the fears of the members opposite ó will simply provide the opposition and the public with public information the minister says she has. Make the case; let us see the case.
The legal case ó the Minister of Education says it has already been provided. No, it has not been provided.
The Minister of Justice has said that no, the Minister of Justice shouldnít necessarily be involved; however, she made a decision, she was involved and she has outlined that she based that decision on a legal case. Weíre asking to see the legal case. Itís no different than members opposite have said that, in making capital and budget decisions, they base their decisions on need, on assessment, on meeting community needs ó I think the Minister of Health says or claims to be doing. She has made it based on a case; decisions are made based on reasons. All weíre asking is for the public to know the reasons.
There has been some public information about this particular instance. Weíve had discussions about how the legislation came to be. Weíve had public discussions and ATIPPíd information from officials. Weíve had news stories in the paper that say that the minister cited a letter from the RCMP maintaining that the tow truck was released because it had been wrongfully impounded. The minister has not made the case that the vehicle was wrongfully impounded. That has never been publicly made.
The public release of documentation from the RCMP may support the ministerís decision. So be it. Right now, without that public information, the ministerís decision is not supported in the public. It has been roundly condemned.
The government could ó and should ó support this motion. The government could ó and should ó recognize that secrecy is not the answer from a government, but full public disclosure is.
According to information provided by the government House leader to the House leader for the opposition ó I didnít get that courtesy, but fortunately the opposition House leader has given it to me ó there are many government members who wish to speak on this motion. I would encourage them to support it, and I would look forward to information indicating that they recognize that, as members of this Legislature, full public disclosure is a good thing, and itís recognized by the public.
I would appreciate and welcome the governmentís support, and I would even greater welcome ó I donít think thatís correct English. I would appreciate, to an even greater degree, the lifting of the veil of secrecy and silence from the members opposite and the provision of full and complete information on this particular item of public interest, as well as others that I have requested.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Cathers: Well, inasmuch as the memberís grammar that she corrected herself on was not correct, I would argue that her arguments surrounding this are likewise ó not correct.
Mr. Speaker, the Motor Vehicles Act is one of the largest territorial statutes, with 272 statutes. I donít have the number of pages in front of me, but I can tell you that it is quite considerable. Having personally gone through the majority of this act, I can tell you that it covers a large scope of issues, all pertaining to motor vehicles of course. But it is a very large and complex act, so I can understand why the members opposite may not have taken the time to go through it and look at every clause, as I have taken the time to do.
However, Mr. Speaker, there is a responsibility in this House to do our due diligence, to do our homework, and I think that itís crucial that we as members do not attack each other without making best efforts to ascertain the facts, that we do not state positions without fully taking the time to ascertain what the best course of action is on these issues.
We have a very important role that we are charged with in this House. Our constituents do not elect us to sit in this House and have wonderful theoretical discussions. They donít elect us to feel good if our party happens to be the one that forms the government or to spend our time, if we happen to be in opposition, focusing all our efforts on attacking the government for the sole purpose of attacking. They do expect us to conduct the publicís business, to make the arguments to the best of our ability, and they do expect the opposition to hold the government accountable.
In speaking to my constituents and other Yukoners, I can tell you that the vast majority whom I have spoken to believe that it is the responsibility of the opposition to provide contrast, to provide suggested courses of action that would be preferable, rather than simply spending their time on attack.
The issue surrounding the release of the Capital Towing tow truck made by the Minister of Justice on the grounds of wrongful impoundment was based on the legal case presented to the department, and presented to the minister with advice by her department officials. The members opposite are aware that this was presented. They are aware that the minister made this decision. I would suggest that the members opposite ought to know by now that the Minister of Justice is a very honourable person. The personal attacks on her are not, in my view, appropriate.
The Minister of Justice has been involved in working for government and for the Yukon Party caucus, both in government and out of government, for the last number of years. The members opposite are well-acquainted with her as a person. Anyone who has known the Minister of Justice for even 15 minutes knows that she is a very honourable person. She is very concerned and caring.
The suggestions by the members opposite that the Minister of Justice is engaging in backroom deals or has some hidden or nefarious agenda are absolutely ridiculous and offensive. The members opposite ought to well know that they have no possibility of validity. It is simply, in my view, disgraceful to see them stoop to this level of debate on this issue when they ought to know full well that the Minister of Justice would conduct things with the best of intentions.
The members opposite have not focused their efforts on arguing what changes should be made to the Motor Vehicles Act. They have not suggested where we should go from here. They have focused the entirety of their efforts on attacking the Minister of Justice for a decision that was made.
This is very disappointing to me because, as I said, I would submit to you that every member of this House who has sat here for any time, as the members opposite ó with the exception of the Member for Mount Lorne ó have done, have had personal contact with the Minister of Justice and know full well that she made that decision based on her belief that it was the right thing to do. This government does not have a monopoly on the right ideas, nor are we guaranteed even that the decisions are always right, but I do believe this decision was the right one.
The members opposite would have had some cause in criticizing the decision, but in moving on, but to spend months on slinging mud at the Minister of Justice, based on a decision, and suggesting that there is some secret agenda, is simply disgraceful.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Speaker:Leader of the third party, on a point of order.
Ms. Duncan: I would suggest that the Member for Lake Labergeís spirited defence of his colleague is certainly admirable; however, I suggest that it is in violation of 19(g), likely to cause disorder, and that perhaps his spirited defence could take another tack rather than casting motives or aspersions on the opposition members.
Speaker:Thank you for bringing that point of order forward. It so happens that I happen to agree with the member. I was just about to step in. I would ask the Member for Lake Laberge just to tone it down a little.
Mr. Cathers: Now it seems to me that, from the comments ó I apologize if any of my comments were out of line in tone. But I do think that it is only fair to point out that the members opposite have been engaging in heavy duty criticism, if you prefer that term, of the Minister of Justice for continued periods of months but canít seem to ó let me rephrase that: they seem to find a few minutes of my criticism of their behaviour offensive and in contravention of the Standing Orders.
As I said, the Motor Vehicles Act is a very large and complex piece of legislation. Iíd like to review a few portions of the highlights and the intents of a few portions of the act. Iím not going to read from them but I will summarize the sections to explain what the effect of the legislation is, putting it in laymanís terms for the better understanding of the public and of the members opposite.
Part 16 of the Motor Vehicles Act is called "Impoundment for some offences". The 10 sections in part 16, which are sections 235 to 245, and the impoundment of vehicles regulation set out the rules for motor vehicle impoundment in the Yukon.
There have been over 1,000 impoundments, but this part of the Motor Vehicles Act is relatively new. It was passed by the Legislature in 1997 and proclaimed in force in 1999. Unlike most parts of the Motor Vehicles Act, part 16 does not create offences like speeding, failure to wear a seat belt, et cetera, but it provides for administrative sanction, an example of which is the impoundment of a vehicle.
I would again like to stress that point ó the clear difference between an offence and an administrative sanction. That is, if a certain type of offence is committed, such as driving without a licence, driving while a licence is suspended or drunk driving. The fact that an impoundment is an administrative sanction and not an offence is key to the whole process.
There are three public officials who are granted significant powers under part 16 of the Motor Vehicles Act: the police, in sections 235 and 236; a review officer, under section 237, and a Minister of Justice, under section 243. The Motor Vehicles Act provides each of these public officials with distinct roles. The role of the police is to enforce the impoundment provisions. They have the discretion at the roadside to decide whether or not to impound a motor vehicle. In order to impound, a police officer must "believe on reasonable grounds" that a person is driving with a suspended licence or is driving contrary to certain provisions in the Motor Vehicles Act.
Examples of this could be driving without liability insurance or, in the Criminal Code, an example is driving drunk.
If the attending police officer so believes, then they make a determination as to whether the vehicle should be impounded.
To the role of a review officer: the role of a review officer is to hear and decide upon applications for early release of impounded motor vehicles ó for early release. A review officer is a person who is charged with carrying out an administrative function under section 237 of the Motor Vehicles Act. The administrative function that a review officer must perform in this area is to decide whether or not to grant early release of an impounded motor vehicle. The impoundment regulations provide that all justices of the peace are review officers for the purposes of this act. So the justices of the peace of the Yukon court are automatically review officers, but while the justice of the peace or judge sits as a review officer, theyíre carrying out an administrative, not a judicial, function. Let me say that again for the members opposite because they seem to be missing this, Mr. Speaker: when a justice of the peace or judge sits as a review officer, as provided under the Motor Vehicles Act, they are carrying out an administrative, not a judicial, function.
I hope it isnít necessary to explain for the members opposite the difference between administration and the judiciary.
Mr. Speaker, if a vehicle is impounded by the police, the owner of the motor vehicle or a dependant may apply to a review officer to have the motor vehicle released early from impoundment.
Therefore, a review officerís duties are triggered by an application under section 237(1). There are three types of early release applications: under section 237(6), where the owner of the motor vehicle was not the driver; under section 237(7), where the owner of the motor vehicle was the driver; and under section 237(8), an application by a dependant. Those are the three types of early release applications.
When hearing an application for early release, the Motor Vehicles Act requires a review officer to follow the procedure in section 237, including 237(2), notifying the registrar of motor vehicles of an application, and section 237(4)(a) to (d) ó the information that a review officer must consider when hearing an application is outlined in those sections.
Section 237(5) outlines what the review officer must not consider when reviewing an application for early release and section 237(10) states that the review officer must decide on the application based on the balance of probabilities. There is no appeal from a review officerís decision. This has been a point on which the members opposite have been incorrect and they have made comments on the floor of this Legislature based on this misinformed view.
Again I stress this point: there is no appeal from a review officerís decision. Iíd like to quote from page 1142 of the Blues, November 4, 2003, from a question asked by the member of the third party, which begins with a statement, "It was quite a summer with the minister overruling justices of the peace." Mr. Speaker, there is no ability under this act for a minister to overrule a justice of the peace. The minister may not rule under the same areas that a review officer rules.
Again I stress there is no appeal from a review officerís decision, so this statement made by the member of the third party in leading off her question on November 4 is inaccurate because the minister cannot overrule a justice of the peace when they are sitting in this role as a review officer or in another role, Mr. Speaker. But the Minister of Justice cannot overrule a justice of the peace as was stated by the member of the third party that she did.
Also, the Motor Vehicles Act ó sorry, let me provide some more clarification ó there is no appeal from a review officerís decision except there is a common-law right to have administrative decisions reviewed by the Supreme Court ó and only by the Supreme Court ó under certain situations. The role of the Minister of Justice as set out in section 243 of the Motor Vehicles Act states that the minister may decide if a motor vehicle has been wrongfully impounded. The term "wrongful" is not defined in the Motor Vehicles Act, but the Oxford English Dictionary says that it means "unjust" or "unfair".
Whereas the early release provisions are premised on the initial impoundment of a motor vehicle having been justified, a release based on wrongful impoundment is premised on the determination that there is a flaw with the impoundment itself.
Mr. Speaker, again, the review officer has the sole discretion to rule on whether to allow early release, as clearly provided for under certain sections of the act, and the Minister of Justice is the sole person with the discretion to decide if a vehicle has been wrongfully impounded.
Examples of a wrongful impoundment may include where a policy officer did not exercise the discretion they have under section 235, also where the police thought that a personís licence was suspended and impounded the motor vehicle but the licence wasnít in fact suspended. Thatís another reason for wrongful impoundment ó the examples of wrongful impoundment being a police officer not exercising the discretion they have under section 235 to decide whether or not to impound the vehicle, and another case being where the police thought a personís licence was suspended through a computer glitch and impounded the motor vehicle. Thereís no provision for early release; thereís no provision for a review officer to rule. Only the Minister of Justice can determine something that would very clearly be laid out by the paper trail, showing that the personís licence hadnít in fact been suspended, yet the motor vehicle was impounded.
If the minister is satisfied that a motor vehicle has been wrongfully impounded, section 243(1) provides the minister with certain powers, including the release of the motor vehicle from impoundment. The section 243 process is completely separate from, independent of and distinct from the early release procedures in section 237, where review officers decide upon applications for early release.
So, wrongful impoundment and early release are very clearly separated under the provisions of this act. Section 237, the early release provisions, are concerned with shortening the length of a legitimate impoundment, and section 243 deals with releasing from impoundment a motor vehicle that should not have been seized in the first place.
Now, I hope that the members opposite are paying rapt attention to this because, in the months that this has been debated, they donít seem to have understood these points.
Again, from the member of the third partyís question on November 4, 2003, page 1142 of the Blues, which I assume is the same page from Hansard, the member of the third party stated that the ministerís officials told her not to interfere. That is inaccurate, as has been clearly shown by information that the Justice minister has released, by a long string of comments from various officials, both from the Justice department and the police officer who is in charge of the traffic division. So, I think youíll understand why it dismays me to see that the members opposite donít always seem to be reading some of the information that has been presented.
It sounds like the Member for Whitehorse Centre is offering me a cup of coffee, and while I would appreciate that, I donít believe that we are allowed to drink that in the Legislature.
I have outlined how the roles of the review officer to rule on early release, and the role of the Minister of Justice ó and only the Minister of Justice ó to determine wrongful impoundment under the act, are distinctly separate.
I would like to reference comments from the media that I believe will provide some clarity. We have here a copy of a Whitehorse Star article from Friday, August 1, 2003. In this is Corporal Milward, who is in charge of traffic services for the RCMP Yukon Division. Quoting from the article: "ĎProvision which exists in other Canadian jurisdictions to prevent commercial vehicles from being impounded wasnít included,í said Corporal Ross Milward, the RCMP officer in charge of traffic services."
"ĎAfter that Ďoversightí, there was an agreement between the police and the territoryís motor vehicles branch not to automatically impound commercial vehicles in drunk driving cases, unless the actual owner of the commercial vehicle was the one behind the wheel,í the corporal added in an interview today."
Continuing on just slightly later in the article, again, quotes from this corporal in charge of traffic services: "ĎWe had agreed not to impound commercial vehicles of that type, because the process is to punish the driver, not the company,í said Milward.
"The intent of the legislation was never to punish companies, unless the owner himself was the operator of the vehicle.
ĎFor example,í said Milward, Ďif a grocery delivery driver is found impaired and the truck is held for 60 days, the grocery store would lose all the produce to rotting.
In Capital Towingís case, the impounded tow truck Ďslipped through the cracks.í
"ĎWhen tow company owner Doug OíConnor called Milward, the corporal referred him back to Transport Services.í"
Mr. Speaker, I wonít quote the whole text of the article, but it makes it very clear from the statement from the RCMP officer in charge of traffic services that they were in agreement that the Capital Towing tow truck should not have impounded. That was the information that they provided to the Minister of Justice, and the Department of Justice was in concurrence on their information.
But instead of respecting that obviously the minister was making the decision based on the advice of both the department officials, the senior legal officials of the Department of Justice and the senior police officer in charge of traffic services, we see criticism such as this quote from the leader of the opposition that suggests that the Minister of Justice "is trying to set herself up as the patron saint of drunk drivers."
I think that itís very unfortunate the way that this debate has gotten completely twisted off the track from what I would suggest the publicís business is ó in debating what the act should say and what the provisions should be ó to focusing on what appears to me to be implying that there was some ill intent or poor intent by the Minister of Justice in this process. I think this is very disappointing.
It has been made very clear by our government and by the Minister of Justice that this government and our members of caucus ó as is any reasonable, sensible person, in my opinion ó are in opposition to drunk driving. We do not condone it. We recognize that this is a serious offence. But there are provisions under the Motor Vehicles Act and related regulations that allow for the suspension or removal of a driverís licence if someone has been charged and convicted of drinking and driving.
I would suggest that to argue that companies ó corporations ó are now responsible for the enforcement of laws and the protection of public safety is a foolish and ridiculous argument. Clearly, if an individual should not be behind the wheel of either a personal or commercial vehicle, then the law and the regulations should remove that personís licence and prevent them from being behind the wheel of that vehicle.
It seems to me that, rather than the members opposite focusing on holes in legislation, or possible holes in legislation and regulations, and what perhaps government should do to improve enforcement provisions, theyíre focusing on suggesting that if government didnít do the enforcement, well then, by heavens, the company ought to have protected public safety and done this.
Iíd like to point out one other issue, another example of how this debate, in my opinion, has focussed on things that are not really relevant to the issue. At one point the Minister of Justice said, based on information that she had been given, that the driverís abstract had been clear of any drinking and driving charges for 10 years. That was a miscommunication, which she later corrected when she was given corrected information. It turned out it was nine years, but this seemed to be an issue of focus for the opposition when they ought to be well aware, any of them who have been in government before, that in dealing with such a massive organization as government, as things pass from hand to hand there can be miscommunications and there can be inaccuracies.
I would suggest that, as long as steps are taken to correct those in a most expeditious fashion, there shouldnít be criticism of the person who gave that information for making an error, certainly not intense criticism. Weíre only human. The information was given, it was provided by an individual other than the minister, the minister acted on that and stated that the driverís abstract had been clear for 10 years and it turns out it was only nine. This isnít really relevant to the issue of what the company should have done because the motor vehicles branch, when providing driverís abstracts to a company, only gives the abstracts for three years, a few years previous ó sorry, three years or, in some cases, depending on different sections, for five years.
But certainly in no case would it have covered to that extent of time. Even so, let me again reiterate that if that individual should not have been behind the wheel of a commercial vehicle, then our laws, our regulations, should have removed that licence from that individual.
So this focus by the members opposite on suggesting that the company is now the enforcer of laws and protector of public safety seems not only to be ill-advised but, in my opinion, very much unfair as well.
Now, this government has very clear and strong respect for the RCMP, the judiciary, the review officers ó which as I stated is a clear and distinct role from the judiciary, regardless of the fact that sometimes the same individuals are sitting in those roles. They are two distinct and separate jobs, just as someone might be employed as a grocery store clerk and also be a truck driver, for example. They are two jobs ó same person, but two distinct jobs, with distinct responsibilities.
The minister has made it very clear that she feels that this legislation needs to be clarified. She has made it very clear that she does not feel that the decision over wrongful impoundment should be left to the Minister of Justice. However, the member of the third party should be well aware that her government was the one that removed the ability to rule on wrongful impoundment from the purview of a review officer.
The amendment was made in 2000 removing the discretionary power on wrongful impoundment from review officers. To quote from this section of the Act to Amend the Motor Vehicles Act that they tabled in 2000: "Section 222(3) of the act is amended by adding the following subsection immediately after subsection 3: 3.1: when considering an application under subsection 1, the review officer must not consider and must not review or make any order about whether the impoundment is justified."
I would think that would be clear enough, Mr. Speaker. That amendment made by the member of the third party ó the previous Premier of the Yukon, by her government ó removed the power to rule on wrongful impoundment from the purview of a review officer.
As I said, the Minister of Justice has made it clear that she has concerns with having the Minister of Justice be the one who fulfils the role of ruling on wrongful impoundment under the act. Itís certainly an unusual provision that is not provided for under other pieces of legislation and it is one that ó as the public debate and the comments by the members opposite have made clear ó is subject to confusion and misinterpretation by the members opposite as being a judicial process, which it is not.
But this section put the powers to rule on wrongful impoundment solely within the purview of the Minister of Justice. Again, Mr. Speaker, Iíd like to reiterate that this entire section of the act dealing with impoundment is an administrative sanction and is not an offence so is not a judicial process.
Mr. Speaker, I think you can understand why I have expressed concern about wondering whether or not the members opposite have read through this information, because I think the points I have already outlined have clearly drawn this distinction.
I have a number of points that Iíd like to continue with that I think will further clarify this issue.
I hope the members opposite have been listening with rapt attention to this. If not, I would urge them to review the Blues tomorrow. Since this motion is called for debate and for voting today, I would hope that they are listening, as becoming wise after the fact is too little, too late.
I see that the members opposite listened to that statement, but I hope they were listening to the rest of the arguments.
Mr. Speaker, as Iíve stated, this government and this Minister of Justice have very clear and strong respect for the RCMP, for the judiciary, for the review officers and for the department legal officials.
The RCMP, the judiciary, the review officer and others have made it clear that they want clarity in this act. They feel that it needs to be cleaned up. The Minister of Justice has made it very clear that she agrees with that. A review process has begun in consultation with them and with the Mothers Against Drunk Driving to look at how to clarify this legislation and to make sure that we never enter into a debate such as this, which is detrimental, I would suggest, to all people involved in this.
I would suggest that it is detrimental to the company whose name has been bandied around for months based on this dragging on and on and on, when it appears that they certainly seem to have made efforts to take the due steps necessary. That is not my area to rule on. I have, of course, no authority to make determinations on what is due procedure or due course on this. Certainly it does not seem that there is any evidence to suggest that the company involved was in any way, shape, or form violating any statute or legislation or not taking steps that were required.
The suggestion by the members opposite that there is some sort of subtext in fine print as to what the companyís responsibility is doesnít really seem fair. I would argue that this type of attitude is one of the problems that caused the decline of the Yukon economy and the exodus of the private sector under the previous two governments.
Itís important that private companies, and indeed private individuals, be provided with a clear set of rules when they look at something and not be required to read every piece of legislation, regulation and policy of the Yukon government before doing something, which would be a superhuman task. Rather, they should be provided with the information by a department when they come in to ask for advice about what their responsibilities are as a company, about what steps they need to take, what procedures, the permits they need to get, the licences they must acquire, whatever provisions ó depending on the company ó for their corporate responsibilities and the information they must disclose to the public, whether it be regarding this issue of the driver, environmental liabilities, cleanups, statements, et cetera.
Itís very, very important that the government make it clear to individuals and private companies what the rules are ó that we have a clear and straightforward rule book. In fact, this was one of the things upon which our government was elected ó on making things clear for individuals, corporations and small companies, to anyone ó as to what the rules were, to simplifying the process, removing roadblocks to investment, growth of the private sector and the ordinary affairs of daily life ó to remove roadblocks while maintaining the sensible safeguards to protect the public.
We have a tremendous amount of legislation and regulations in the Yukon, and some of it is very good and very necessary. Some of it is also outdated or ill-advised or complex, in my view. It duplicates other pieces of legislation or regulations. There is overlap between departments, and itís so complex, Mr. Speaker, that there are times when even the government has great difficulty determining what the rules and responsibilities are. We have people employed full time to assess these things ó very good and very qualified people to do this, but it is so intensely complex that it defies the ability of any human to understand what some of our legislation and regulations encompass.
Mr. Speaker, itís very, very important that we cut through the confusion, through the mass and circles and loops of red tape that companies and individuals are faced with and make the rules and responsibilities clear to private companies.
As I stated, the review process has been begun by the Minister of Justice in consultation with the RCMP and Mothers Against Drunk Driving and the motor vehicles branch and others, to look at what changes should be made to clean up this very complexly drafted piece of legislation, specifically pertaining to this, but to clean up this area of the act and make it clear what the rules are. It has been obvious that even the members opposite, paid legislators, to whom I have to give the benefit of the doubt, are taking steps to ascertain what is being discussed, but they failed to understand all the provisions under this. And if they canít understand, and their research staff, which is paid for by the taxpayers.
If the public officials cannot comprehend it, how is one poor little individual running a company and trying to focus on earning a living supposed to comprehend what this means?
Mr. Speaker, itís so complex that I hear comments from the Member for Whitehorse Centre about, "Well, this company hired a lawyer." Well, we get disagreement among the lawyers on what some pieces of legislation mean. And while they do agree on what this piece of legislation means, all the opinions and analyses Iíve heard have made it very clear that as itís written in black and white and not that complex language, which I had read out earlier ó it states that thereís a separation and distinct areas under the act of where a review officer rules and where the Minister of Justice rules ó the review officer ruling in areas of early release and the Minister of Justice ruling on wrongful impoundment.
However, the Member for Whitehorse Centre and the leader of the opposition pointed out that the company in question hired a lawyer, and they did. Thatís true, Mr. Speaker; and they did come to the determination, as Iíve said, that the other lawyers have on this.
But my point, which the Member for Whitehorse Centre seems to have missed, is that before there was this case, before the driver was caught under the influence, this private company owner trying to run his business should have been able to understand very clearly what his responsibilities were under this act and what the provisions were, what he was required to do, and even, Mr. Speaker, what might be expected, perhaps.
There are certain areas where the government does not actually compel a company or an individual to do certain things but does ask that they take certain steps ó an example being with the program run by the Department of Environment where they ask hunters to donate the organs from animals they have killed to science for analysis. They are not compelled to do so, but their assistance in doing that does help with research.
It should have been made very clear to this owner of the tow truck company the first day he walked in to a government department ó whether it be the motor vehicles branch or corporate services or wherever ó to start a tow truck company. He should have been told right off the mark what his responsibilities were: this is what youíre required to do; these are the permits you must acquire; these are the licences you must do; if there were permits and reports that had to be compiled, and to have it very, very clear to him what was expected of him.
Here, weíve had this debate for months among the elected officials of the Yukon about what these responsibilities are and what they mean. So, clearly, this piece of legislation is not appropriate. Itís not a clear set of rules that some poor individual trying to run a business can possibly be expected to comprehend just through knowledge ó although it seems that members of the opposition now seem to think that private business owners are superhuman. Well, I am not even going to comment on that one.
This issue is being dealt with ó consultation with the stakeholder groups, including Mothers Against Drunk Driving and with the departments, is being undertaken right now to look at what changes should be made to make the rules clearer.
When the member of the third party was in government, her government tabled this amendment ó itís my understanding ó without consulting with Mothers Against Drunk Driving or other stakeholder groups, or with the private companies, and thatís why we ended up with this problem, I would suggest. We have been accused by the members opposite of not consulting with the public, which, I would argue, is a ridiculous assertion, Mr. Speaker, because we have undertaken a large number of consultation efforts. I speak very regularly to my constituents. Any member who walks by this office and sees the lights on and some of us working at desks until the late hours of the night know that weíre doing something with that phone in our hand, and Iíll tell you that Iím talking to my constituents. I know other of my colleagues on this side of the House also spend a great deal of time talking to their constituents.
On this issue, as soon as this issue of the tow truck was whipped up in the public, I thought it important to see what my constituents thought of this. I talked to a number of them. I called people up and asked what they thought of this. I stopped by doors. I ran into people on the street and would ask them for their opinion. I raised this issue at one of the public meetings I regularly hold. I can tell you that, out of the dozens upon dozens upon dozens of people I talked to on this issue ó my constituents ó only two of them thought the Minister of Justice had done the wrong thing.
The vast majority agreed that the responsibility to prevent any driver who should not be on the road from being on the road should rest with the government ó with the laws, with the legislation and as enforced by the police. They felt that if the individual who was caught driving the Capital Towing truck should not have been behind the wheel, it should have been up to the legislation and regulations to prevent that person from having a licence to be behind that wheel in the first place.
The vast majority of my constituents to whom I spoke about this, supported the decision of the Minister of Justice, and many of them commended her for doing so. Many of them stated that they were impressed to see someone do this, when she knew full well that there was a good chance that the members opposite would attack her and decry her decision on this. But she did what she believed was the right thing, based on the legal case presented by the Department of Justice to her, no matter what the personal attacks that would ensue in the public might be.
She took the case, as presented by the advice of her officials and the RCMP, and made the decision they recommended, realizing full well that the members opposite might choose not to read all of the information they presented, and might or might not comprehend it, and would attack her and suggest that there was some nefarious purpose behind this.
So, Mr. Speaker, I do find this very disappointing from the members opposite, and I hope Iím not out of order in saying so. But I do ask them to consider the attacks they are making and consider the full range of what they know to be true, or ought to know to be true ó to do their homework and not throw mud at members on this side for ó
Speaker:We had most recently discussed the terminology being used on the floor of the House. Now, I can appreciate that members are approaching these issues with passion and vigour; however, I would ask the Member for Lake Laberge to just tone it down slightly.
Mr. Cathers: I apologize if my remarks have been out of line with the rules of the Legislature, but as you understand, I do feel a fair bit of importance of this issue. I do find this issue to be very fundamental to the heart of the way that we conduct our debate, and I think that it is incumbent on us as elected officials to try to engage in this debate respectfully, to avoid in casting aspersions, particularly when those are not called for. And failure to behave in that manner is much of the reason that members of the public have declining respect for politicians and for the business of politics. Iím sure that all members of this House have heard constituents of theirs and other Yukoners refer to the procedures of this House that they watch played on TV as "kindergarten". I think that is very disappointing to see it go to that level. Certainly, as you raise the point in suggesting that the tone of my remarks was perhaps becoming likely to cause disorder ó I believe that was the term you referred to it with and was raising the tone of debate to too high a level. Certainly no member of this House can really claim innocence or purity on this.
But Mr. Speaker, I do attempt to make efforts to deal with these things in a manner that is, first of all, accurate to the best of my ability and, second of all, that is not casting any aspersions or slights that are not justified. If I do appear to cast any then I would hope that it merely qualifies as a dispute between members.
We all in this House do have very different points of view. We represent our constituents to the best of our ability, or at least I know that I do and that colleagues of mine do. I would assume that the members opposite are making their efforts as well. I have to assume that.
I think that it is appropriate that this debate should be focused not on the motion, which was presented in a way that is focusing on an area that I donít think is really appropriate. It is looking back. It seems to me to be geared at casting criticism on decisions of the past and trying to expose information that has not been presented ó for lack of a better term, that they seem to feel is hidden.
It should be focused on recognizing that the Minister of Justice has spoken on this issue many times. She has provided a very, very wide range of information ó far broader than one typically sees provided by elected members on these things. I would suggest that when the information is presented, there seems to be an attack on every single point of it.
The Minister of Justice has issued a very, very wide range of information but, every time information was released, it seemed that the members opposite tried to look for a hole in it or tried to turn it in a different direction from what it was, Mr. Speaker. This Minister of Justice even went so far as to provide a technical briefing on this to the media. This is a very, very rare thing for a minister to do, Mr. Speaker.
So the attempt was made to provide full disclosure on this, and there has been repeated, repeated discussion on this.
I canít speak for the constituents of any other member in this House, of course, but I can tell you what many of my constituents have said, which is, "For heavenís sakes, will they let the issue die and move on to the issues that really matter to us." The public wants us to get the economy going. They want us to address some of the social problems in our society that have been lingering for years and years and years. Issues have been raised in past days by the members opposite questioning the effectiveness of the justice system and the penal system in preventing offenders from being on the streets. And Mr. Speaker, these are areas that are just cause for great debate within our society and are being debated across our entire nation: the effectiveness of our justice system at ensuring that society is protected from repeat offenders, in particular.
The concern by many members of the public about when early parole and conditional sentencing is used ó all these things are rightly the cause for debate and concern. There are issues that this government has taken action to solve regarding social workers, the health system ó a broad, broad range of issues, Mr. Speaker. This government has committed in this supplementary budget $75,000 to the Mae Bachur Animal Shelter to help them in their efforts to ensure that animals that are abandoned or are running loose on the street are given the opportunity to go to a loving and caring home, rather than simply being put down. There are many, many, many issues across the spectrum that deserve full and thorough debate. There are many issues that need addressing, Mr. Speaker.
Instead, as I said, my constituents have complained to me that it seems some of the members opposite have been locked on this issue and a couple of others for a matter of months. They have expressed their disappointment to me and requested that we deal with this issue ó put an end to it and move on. The issue has been addressed, it has been addressed, and it has been addressed. There has been wide disclosure by the minister on what this subject was, what the grounds were on the case that was presented by the Department of Justice senior legal officials and by the RCMP ó or, in consultation with the RCMP, rather ó on this issue. This has been dealt with.
But it seems that some of the members opposite prefer to focus on the events of months previous instead of focusing on what should be happening in the years to come.
Mr. Speaker, I may also have an example of the full disclosure that was provided by the Minister of Justice to clarify some of the misinformation or mistaken information that had been reported in the media regarding this or had been stated by some individuals about this. The Minister of Justice wrote a letter to the editor, dated August 6 of this year, to clarify this issue.
It is very unusual for a minister to be this open, yet it seems that every time the minister is open and attempts to provide a wide range of disclosure, to be very open and accountable to the public and provide the public with the information, the members opposite attack her for it. As I said, the majority of my constituents Iíve spoken to ó and Iíve talked to dozens upon dozens of my constituents about this issue ó do understand and agree that the minister did the right thing and what she thought to be the right thing.
This government has made it very clear, despite calls from the members opposite for the Minister of Justice to be fired or to resign, that we, the Cabinet, the caucus and the entire Yukon Party government fully support the Minister of Justice in her decision. We believe the right decision was made, and we are confident that she made the best efforts, to the very best of her ability, to determine what the right decision was, that due process was followed and that the right decision was made.
It seems that the members opposite donít want to move forward from this and persist in this motion for the production of papers ó seems to suggest that there is some, some Post-it note or critical piece of information that is out there that says something about the affair ó will reflect it in a different light ó when all the information presented points to the same conclusion.
I donít know what else the Minister of Justice could have done here, how it could have been more fully and openly disclosed. The suggestion and some of the debate has been the implication that the Minister of Justice in some way affected the status of the driver for illegal actions in being impaired while driving. The driver, itís my understanding, was in fact convicted and placed behind bars even for this. It in no way affected the issue of the driver.
There is a very clear distinction between the action of the driver, which is in contravention of the Criminal Code, and the status of the vehicle in question and whether it should be impounded or not. This issue has been dealt with on the basis of simply of companies and other things, but there is the potential that if this legislation is not clarified, it could affect others as well. If an individual who had a friend borrow a car and used it without their knowledge, or other companies that ó what would the members opposite feel if a company hired somebody who had never had a drinking and driving conviction, perhaps never had any conviction or even a speeding ticket?
But it makes me wonder, Mr. Speaker, what they would say if, for example, there was an individual who was driving a tow truck or a taxicab or some other commercial vehicle, who got divorced and was caught drinking and driving. Well, perhaps the members opposite would then suggest that the owner of the company should have known that the employee was going through a difficult period in their life and might be consuming alcohol. Perhaps the members would suggest that, because the owner of the company could know that their employee was going through a difficult or trying time ó through a divorce or the death of a loved one ó that the employee might be prone to resort to the consumption of alcohol and therefore perhaps they should fire that employee. Is that what the members would suggest? I would certainly hope not, Mr. Speaker.
This is the extent to which this can be taken, based on the same standards. And there has to be a clear standard for everything. It canít be an issue of, oh, well, because that tugs at our heartstrings because the individual in question just went through a divorce and is arguing over custody of children and all this that, no, they shouldnít be fired and the owner of a company should put them behind the wheel because they should be compassionate. But, oh, this other guy who appears to have moved on with his life after a previous problem ó no, weíll just kick him out. Is this a political debate here? No. Mr. Speaker, the issue should be very, very clear in the legislation and the regulations what the rules and the responsibilities of a company are.
And again, Mr. Speaker, I would argue that, if a person should not be on the road driving a personal vehicle or a commercial vehicle, that our laws and regulations should prevent that person from having a licence. And there are provisions already to suspend or remove a personís licence based on convictions for drinking and driving.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Speaker:Member for Kluane, on a point of order.
Mr. McRobb: On a point of order, I think that the time for tributes is over. We know itís National Safe Driving Week. This member seems to be stuck at the beginning of the Order Paper and has strayed away from the subject of the motion. What we are seeing is a filibuster to wind the hands of time so that very little is resolved this afternoon.
Already this government has cut and run from the original motion today ó a very anti-democratic move. We are seeing time wasted in this Legislature and we should move on. The member should allow all members to speak.
Speaker:There is no point of order.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Speaker: I am not done yet.
The Chair has allowed a certain latitude to both sides of the House on motion days.
Mr. Cathers: I would like to thank the Member for Kluane for expressing his concerns.
I would urge the Member for Kluane to pay greater attention to the comments I have made. I would certainly hate to have to repeat any of them, but it seems that he has not understood fully what I have been explaining on this issue.
I would like to give some examples from other jurisdictions on how they deal with this issue in their legislation. Manitobaís act, the Highway Traffic Act, section 242.1(5) is referring to an issue to be determined when the driver is not owner.
Iíll read this, and I apologize that it refers to other sections. Of course, the Manitoba Highway Traffic Act is a public document, which the members can quite easily get on-line. I would be happy to provide them with the address for that or they may wish to have the entire act printed off for their perusal and tabled.
This section of the Manitoba Highway Traffic Act ó issue to be determined when driver, not owner, section 242.1(5): "Where after considering an application under subsection 4 by an owner who was not the driver at the time the motor vehicle was liable to seizure, the justice is satisfied that
(a) the driver was in possession of the vehicle without the knowledge and consent of the owner; or
(b) in the case of a seizure under clause 1.1(a), driving disqualified, the owner could not reasonably have been expected to know that the licence or permit of the person to whom the vehicle was delivered was suspended or cancelled, or that that driver was disqualified or prohibited from driving or operating a motor vehicle; or
(c) in the case of a seizure under clause 1.1(b), blood alcohol level over .08 percent; or
(d) refusal to supply sample of breath or blood,
the owner could not reasonably have been expected to know that the driver would operate or have care or control of the vehicle in such circumstances.
Thatís a little bit of confusing language, but Iíd like to step aside from the wording of that, to explain it to the members opposite. I can present them with a copy of this, if theyíd like.
In the case of a seizure under the clause referring to the blood alcohol level or to the driver refusing to supply a sample of breath or blood, if the owner of the vehicle could not reasonably have been expected to know that the driver would operate or have care or control of the vehicle under those circumstances, going back to the wording of the act, it says ó
Some Hon. Member: Point of order, Mr. Speaker.
Point of order
Speaker:Member for Kluane, on a point of order.
Mr. McRobb: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker, the Member for Lake Laberge is well known for asking for copies of documents that are read before this House, and obviously he is reading from a document. He has indicated that he is prepared to offer copies of the document. I suggest that we take him up on that offer so he can table the document and sit down and let others speak.
Speaker:There is no point of order; however, if the Member for Lake Laberge would provide the Member for Kluane with a copy of that document, it would be helpful for the flow of the House.
Mr. Cathers: I will send a note upstairs to ask that the copy of the act be printed for the member opposite. That will unfortunately take a few minutes but the member opposite should be provided with it by later in the debate.
Moving back to the issue that I was pointing out before the Member for Kluane interrupted with his point of order ó the clause in the case of those areas and application to when the driver was in possession of the vehicle without knowledge or consent of the owner, or if the driver was disqualified, or if the owner could not have been reasonably expected to know that ó I trust that it isnít necessary to read through that whole section. That was just sort of a summary of what those clauses referred to ó sorry, in the second case, if the owner could not have been expected to know that the licence was suspended.
Moving back to the rest of the section, and I apologize if the Blues will now be a little disjointed, with the point of order from the Member for Kluane and your ruling, Mr. Speaker, and this subsequent recapping in place.
The rest of the clause reads that in any of those cases, the justice shall
(d) revoke the seizure;
(e) subject to subsection (9), lien, direct that a peace officer order the garage keeper to return the motor vehicle to the owner or to a person authorized by the owner and;
(f) direct that the fee paid by the applicant be refunded.
Iím not sure if the Member for Kluane and the others understood the entire context of that because of the interruption, but just to recap it for them, that under those conditions, with the driver being in possession of the vehicle without knowledge or consent of the owner or having a suspended or cancelled licence that the owner of the vehicle did not know of or if the owner could not have reasonably known that the driver would operate the vehicle while intoxicated ó under those conditions, the justice shall revoke the seizure of the vehicle.
Iíd also like to point out, Mr. Speaker, as that clearly outlines, under this act it is a justice who deals with that area, not the Minister of Justice. And it does seem from reviewing pieces of legislation dealing with this issue from other jurisdictions that itís very, very unusual for the Yukon to have the Minister of Justice being the person and the only person designated with ruling on wrongful impoundment. And, Mr. Speaker, I think thatís actually a situation that occurs in no other jurisdiction in this country.
I would urge the members opposite, if they wonder if there is some other jurisdiction that does allow that, to certainly review that legislation, as I will do if it seems necessary.
I think itís important to point out a few issues regarding this. The members opposite, in debate, have raised the issue at times of how intoxicated the driver was. Certainly the driver was almost three times the legal limit for blood-alcohol level. We on this side of the House are certainly, steadfastly opposed to anyone in that situation ó anyone who is intoxicated, especially to a level as high as that ó of being in control of a motor vehicle. The level of impairment is irrelevant to the issue of whether the impoundment is wrongful, of whether it is the corporation rather than the government that is responsible for ensuring that people who have no business behind the wheel of a vehicle are not allowed to be on the road.
Also, Mr. Speaker, on the issue of whether the impoundment is wrongful or not ó the issue raised by the members opposite of previous driving convictions is not relevant. Again, the crux of the issue is whether the company or the legal system is responsible for ensuring that individuals who have no business behind the wheel of a motor vehicle are legally prevented from doing so.
It has been made clear by the Minister of Justice, on numerous, numerous occasions, that the RCMP stated to her that the officer who impounded the tow truck was not aware that he had discretion about whether or not to impound the tow truck. He believed that he was required to. It was also made clear and presented by the RCMP to her that if that officer had known he had that discretion, and had known about the RCMP policy regarding commercial vehicles, he would not have impounded that vehicle.
The minister made it very clear that that was the expression given to them. The RCMP made it clear that they concurred that that alone was grounds to suggest that it was wrongful impoundment.
So again, I must urge the members opposite to fully consider all of the information presented because I believe that it all points to the same conclusion about what the matters in this situation were. The wide range of information that I have read from this afternoon should alone be evidence to the members opposite of how wide a range of information exists on this subject, that no more information should be necessary, and that they donít need to start digging through the Whitehorse dump to see if thereís an old Post-it note referring to this issue.
It has gone beyond the point of ridiculous, in my opinion. And, as I said, Iíve had numerous constituents say to me, "Why will the elected members not get past this issue and move on to the crucial issues that are affecting the daily lives of thousands of Yukoners, such as the economy, the social front and other issues?" These are issues that our government is taking steps to address.
As Iíve made clear on a number of occasions, as have many of my colleagues, we would welcome the input and suggestions from the members opposite on how we could do things better. We have never claimed ó not one of us ó to have all the answers to any problem, or to have all the magical solutions within our grasp.
But, Mr. Speaker, instead of providing us with constructive input on how we could have done better, the members seem to be focused on this issue and wondering if there exists some phantom Post-it note out there that discloses a hidden agenda and maybe the location of Jimmy Hoffaís body and who killed J.F.K. What else is on this phantom Post-it note?
It has gotten a little ridiculous. Instead of focusing on the publicís business, weíve had the Member for Kluane talking about UFO bases and going on suggesting that members of this government are considering purchasing military hardware. This has gotten absolutely beyond the point of absurd in some of the commentary on these issues from the members opposite where we do not have constructive suggestions on what this government could have done better, because, of course, anyone could have done better on anything.
We have had a number of very, very positive achievements ó whether it be with the agreement with the federal government that per capita funding does not address the needs of Yukoners in areas such as health, particularly, but simply the recognition for the first time in history by the federal government that per capita funding alone is not enough to address the needs of northerners because of our spread-out distance. That was a major achievement ó $20 million over three years. There have been quite a number of positive achievements and commitments followed through on ó creation of a stand-alone Economic Development department, moving forward with First Nations in improving our relations, reinstating the Womenís Directorate to its full status.
I know an issue that the Member for Kluane feels ó
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Speaker:Member for Mayo-Tatchun, on a point of order.
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite is in violation of our Standing Orders 19(b)(i) and (ii), and also (c), as he persists in needless repetition. I ask that the member direct his attention to the motion that is before him. It is about production of papers. We donít need to hear their governmentís history and what they are doing at this point. It is the motion that we are debating.
Speaker: Member for Lake Laberge, on the point of order.
Mr. Cathers: There is no point of order. It is merely a dispute between members and an attempt by the members opposite to interrupt me. I remind them that I do have unlimited time to lay out the full picture as I believe it to be on this. I donít believe that any repetition ó if there has been any ó has been needless, as evidenced by the number of months in which this has gone on with failure of the members opposite to understand the full range of this.
Speaker:Iím going to have to review the Blues on this. I would ask membersí indulgence to read the Blues and come back tomorrow with a ruling. Member for Lake Laberge, carry on please.
Mr. Cathers: I urge the members opposite to pay closer attention to the points Iíve made, because I do feel that they are very, very relevant to the debate that we have at hand about whether papers should be being produced on this or whether there are even these phantom Post-it notes that they seem to think exist.
Iíd like to draw your attention to a transcript that I have in front of me of CHON FM, 7:30 a.m. news from November 12, 2003.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Cathers: I hear a call from the Member for Kluane for a copy of this. I would advise the Member for Kluane that he can access this document through the Intranet services on his computer, through the government Web site; itís open to all members and indeed all government employees. They can access the links and look at the transcript of news.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Cathers: I thank the members opposite for their undoubtedly helpful commentary. This transcript I am referring to references how the Minister of Justice made it very clear that she felt the wrongful impoundment decision should be removed in the legislation from the purview of the Justice minister.
I quote from the Minister of Justice, as presented in the transcript from the radio, "Whether or not I think the Minister of Justice should be involved in this particular area of wrongful impounding, no, I donít think that person should be subjected to this, myself or any other future Minister of Justice." It goes on to make it clear, once again, that the minister took advice from the Deputy Minister of Justice, the senior legal counsel and other senior officials of the Department of Justice on this matter.
Mr. Speaker, I would hope the members opposite would be well aware that we listen to expert advice in government. We have to make our ó ultimately we, the elected officials, are responsible for making determinations, but we do have to rely on those who have expertise in areas we do not to tell us the legal standpoint. The Minister of Justice is not a lawyer, as most Ministers of Justice in this territory and indeed in this country have not been, but advice was taken. Itís disappointing that the members choose to focus on looking for a phantom Post-it note or some other piece of paper, rather than focusing on moving forward.
Again, Mr. Speaker, I point out that, as referenced in that transcript, the minister is the only one who has the power under the act to rule on wrongful impoundment and that it was the amendment by the member who brought this motion forward ó the member of the third party ó an amendment by her government that removed the review officer from being able to rule on wrongful impoundment.
I have no idea about why they made that amendment. I canít conceive of a logical reason, but the decision was made, and I will give them the benefit of the doubt of assuming that it was made based on the best intentions. Itís disappointing to see that the same consideration seems to be very much absent for this Minister of Justice when discussing this issue. In fact, even after reviewing the information she has presented, it leads me to wonder, at times, if theyíve sped-read or if theyíve simply not done their homework. But, as Iíve said, the disclosure on this has been absolutely amazing in its scope.
The intent of this act ó Iíd like to reference the previous debate in this House from the time when this was brought in and when the amendments were made to it at one point here.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Speaker:Member for Kluane, on a point of order.
Mr. McRobb: This seems like a timely opportunity for a point of order, since the member has had some type of mental lapse, it would appear.
Speaker: Order please.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Speaker: Order please. Would the member carry on with his point of order?
Mr. McRobb: The memberís argument has drifted into a snow bank somewhere. We suggest he get it back on the road. This is Safe Driving Week. The quality of his debate is extremely low. When Yukon taxpayers find out what they paid for this, theyíll be demanding their money back.
This is a motion for the production of papers. Why doesnít the government just provide the information instead of arguing about why we donít need it?
Speaker: On the point of order, the Member for Lake Laberge.
Mr. Cathers: There is no point of order. The Member for Kluane seems to feel compelled to interrupt me and provide his debate. I would remind him that, after I have finished laying out the argument, he will have an opportunity to speak, presumably, on this issue. There is no point of order.
Speaker:The Chair actually gets to decide whether thereís a point of order or not. In this instance, there is no point of order, and I would ask the member to carry on.
Mr. Cathers: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
The Member for Kluane certainly seems to have a fair bit of debating spirit and I commend him for that enthusiasm.
But to return to the issue at hand, being this motion for the production of papers, some of the original discussion on this ó this is a piece of legislation that I believe was drafted in 1997 and came into force ó I donít seem to have the paper in front of me stating the year, but I believe it was 1999-2000 when the act came into force. Iíd urge members to review the Blues for my earlier comments on the date of when it came into force.
During the debate ó it was actually a debate on Bill No. 14, First Appropriation Act, 1999-2000, but it seemed to move into the area of drinking and driving and the provisions under the act. Bear with me while I flip through to the proper page.
There was concern mentioned about if an individual did not know if the driver had a valid licence to drive, that they had taken reasonable care to determine that the driver had a valid licence to drive their vehicle or, if you were the driver of the vehicle that was impounded, that you could not have known by reasonable diligence that your driverís licence was not valid at the time. It goes on to say that, as an employer having operating authority, you photocopy the employeeís driverís licence, your insurance requires that you get a driverís abstract on the individual, you have to send them for a medical ó so youíve got copies of his medical, youíve got copies of his driverís abstract and youíve got copies of his driverís licence so you know when it expires. But all this is not enough to ensure that he conforms at all times to the rules and the laws and your vehicle can be impounded.
Now, to apply for an early release of the vehicle from impoundment, as the owner, you must file an application for review, pay a $50 application fee and provide information ó Mr. Speaker, Iíll skip through some of this and members can review previous Hansard to understand this. But certainly the debate here ó I also have somewhere in my pile of papers that have previously been released regarding this issue, as part of the full range of disclosure on this, comments from when the act was originally put into place.
I apologize, Mr. Speaker. I have the wrong page here.
The debate in the House here ó again, it goes without saying that there should be something put into the regulations that says that, if the commercial owner of the vehicle can prove immediately upon notification ó and he should be notified by phone or fax immediately upon seizure of the vehicle ó that a vehicle should be released immediately, within hours, not days, not weeks, not a month, so the individual ó the private sector person ó can put the vehicle back at work.
Speaker:The Chair is not sure what the member is making reference to. I seem to have lost the flow here. Would the Member for Lake Laberge be kind enough to tell the House what document he is either quoting from or making reference to, please?
Mr. Cathers: My apologies for that, Mr. Chair. This is from Hansard. Unfortunately as it is a photocopy I donít have the page numbers attached, but I can provide those later if itís necessary. Itís from Committee of the Whole debate on Bill No. 14, First Appropriation Act, 1999-2000, continued, in the area of the Department of Community and Transportation Services, continued.
Some Hon. Members: (Inaudible)
Mr. Cathers: I thank the members opposite once again for their helpful commentary.
It goes on in that section to say that not being able to get the truck back for two or three weeks could mean the difference of that particular business, particularly in this economy ó particular was my word, Mr. Speaker ó but in this economy, going bankrupt.
It goes on to say, "All weíre saying is that we agree with the principle of impoundment, but there has to be an extremely high priority put on the commercial business, that they havenít done anything wrong and have followed all of the guidelines to ensure that their drivers were competent, safe and have the necessary licences to carry out the job. If thatís the case, then the government should be bending over backwards."
Again it goes on here: "If theyíve done anything in their power to ensure that their vehicle is properly equipped and on the road, has a qualified driver in it, and it was the fault of the driver that this happened, the commercial operator should be able to get their vehicle back immediately."
The minister responsible, in response to this, said "I understand the seriousness of whatís been said. I hope itís just a matter of interpretation, but certainly I will check with the department. These concerns are painted horrifically. We donít want to see these types of issues to arise, but certainly the need for legislation was apparent. Everybody in the House supported it. I will take it upon myself to talk with the department and find out if this can happen ó itís not what I want to happen ó and how I can make the regulations so that it wonít happen. So, weíve got a little bit of work, but weíll do the work."
So it was made clear by the minister responsible of the day, who was at that time, I believe, the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes, that it was not the intention of the NDP government of the day, in introducing that legislation, to have a situation where a company had taken due diligence but was held responsible for the actions of their employee ó actions that were beyond their control when all reasonable steps had been taken.
Mr. Speaker, saying that the minister overruled the justice of the peace is misrepresentation and it is not accurate because she did not overrule the justice of the peace. She considered the questions that section 243 of the Motor Vehicles Act required her to consider ó required her to consider. The minister doesnít have the option to decide whether to rule on wrongful impoundment. The minister canít say, "Oh, Iíd really rather not deal with this issue, so I wonít think about it." The minister is required to rule on wrongful impoundment and to do so based on the legal case as presented, which is exactly what our Minister of Justice did and exactly what should be done.
And the Minister of Justice has made it clear on numerous occasions what the reasons were and a wide, wide range of information on this issue. Yet the members opposite still seem to be looking for a phantom Post-it note. The questions the Minister of Justice is required to decide are different from what a justice of the peace, sitting as a review officer ó again a review officer is an administrative function, not a judiciary function ó but they are different questions.
Subsection 237(5) of the act explicitly directs that the justice of the peace, as review officer, may not consider the sections that section 243 requires the Minister of Justice to consider. I donít know how this could be clearer, Mr. Speaker. And the ministerís comments and rulings on this took great care to avoid interfering or in any way trampling into the area covered by the justice of the peace.
The attention of this was directed only to the questions that section 243 of the act requires the Minister of Justice to deal with, to rule on.
The minister does not have the option of saying, "This is a political minefield. I do not want to deal with it; go away." The minister must make the decision based on whether the impoundment was wrongful or not. The Minister of Justice did that, showing great courage in doing the right thing.
There have been suggestions by the members opposite on numerous occasions either stating or certainly leaving the impression that they were suggesting that there was a backroom deal going on or something that wasnít quite on the up and up. It has been stated in this, it has been stated by the Minister of Justice, it has been stated by officials on this, that the decision was based on the legal case, as presented by the Department of Justice officials and in agreement with the RCMP.
On this motion here for the production of papers, it goes on to ó looking for some phantom Post-it notes here. But we see here ó this has been presented by the member for the third party, showing concern with what is happening with some driver here.
Another one of the issues that I like to point out that I think, again, is very relevant to this case, very connected but isnít debated by the members opposite ó we have here a federal government taking action on reform of marijuana legislation before the procedures or training are in place for police to be able to detect what is referred to as "drug driving" being under the influence of a narcotic or other substance. Because alcohol is a substance that is, of course, detected through the breathalyser test and is very recognizable to many in society because the symptoms of intoxication with alcohol are very apparent.
The federal government is embarking upon this program, and concern has been expressed by a number of the provinces, and indeed this territory, about how they are putting in place this marijuana reform to decriminalize this before drug recognition expertise training is in place and has been provided for. The federal government has provided $910,000 in an agreement that spans a five-year period for the entire country to train police officers in drug recognition expertise. That results ó again the issue of per capita that affects us on so many occasions on so many fronts, Mr. Speaker ó in one police officer in the Yukon, and only one, being trained in drug recognition expertise.
I would suggest that, rather than looking for the phantom Post-it note in this motion on production of papers, the members opposite would be far better to focus their attention ó the member from the third party would be well-advised to use her much-touted connections with her federal Liberal colleagues on this, to impose upon them, to ask them to make sure that the proper methods are in place and to make sure that we donít have people going around stoned on marijuana, driving tow trucks, and doing whatever that the police arenít even capable of recognizing.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Deputy Speaker:The leader of the third party, on a point of order.
Ms. Duncan: I appreciate the Member for Lake Labergeís entreaties to lobby the federal government with respect to the marijuana laws; however, I have a great deal of difficulty in relating that to a motion for the production of papers. All I asked for in the motion for the production of papers was that documents that the minister stated she had be provided to us as members.
So, perhaps you could ask the Member for Lake Laberge to focus on the motion. I havenít referenced the specific part of the Standing Orders. The number escapes me, but there is a number in there that states we should confine our remarks to the subject at hand.
Deputy Speaker: The Member for Lake Laberge, on the point of order.
Mr. Cathers: On the point of order, there is no point of order. The rules of our House allow unlimited time for debate by the first two speakers for the specific purpose of allowing members to present a full range of matters relevant to the debate at hand, as they determine it.
Deputy Speakerís ruling
Deputy Speaker:Order please. While it is correct that the first member responding to a motion does have unlimited time, I would encourage all members to keep their comments focused on the motion before us today. The Chair has allowed some latitude in this discussion, but looks forward to the member bringing the topic back on track.
Mr. Cathers: I apologize if my comments were not understood by the members opposite and their connection to this, but I do feel this is very relevant to the debate. It is entirely relevant, the issue of the matter of the potential of having a number of drivers out under the influence of drugs, particularly when we hear flippant comments by the Prime Minister, such as that he may himself take up smoking marijuana upon his retirement ó have his fine in one hand and a joint in the other.
That is almost being encouraged from the highest level. What concerns me is that if action is not taken to detect the usage of drugs and being under the influence of drugs by drivers ó if thereís a lack of enforcement we may see ó
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Deputy Speaker:The leader of the official opposition, on a point of order.
Mr. Hardy: Yes, thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I believe once again that the member opposite has not listened closely to your direction. Instead, he just went directly back to where he was.
The motion is about the production of papers, not about rolling papers.
Deputy Speaker's ruling
Deputy Speaker:There is no point of order. The Chair recognizes that all members have the opportunity to raise a point of order. However, they donít all have the opportunity to raise a joke.
Mr. Cathers: If the Member for Whitehorse Centre had been patient for another 45 seconds, I would have made it clear to him the relevance of the discussion of being under the influence of drugs to this debate, because I foresee here trying to gaze into the crystal ball of the future that, as I was beginning to state when I was interrupted by the point of order, with lack of enforcement of a law, we tend to see a rise in crime. Or certainly thatís the theory upon which our society has operated. Mr. Speaker, if we see a rise in the number of people who are consuming marijuana or some other drug behind the wheel of a tow truck or some other vehicle, we may be standing here a year or two from now debating issues regarding impoundment of vehicles whose owners were on drugs or who may have been on drugs or who did this and this ó all of this, Mr. Speaker. It has been very clear.
The key point in this is that the minister has provided full disclosure on this issue, has provided so much information on this that ó from my comments today I think I made it clear in my opinion that if the members opposite had read all that information, they would have had no questions and no doubts on this issue.
If we donít address and clarify the act ó this is the problem. The case has been made and it has been made very clearly by the Minister of Justice on what grounds it was done, and all the factors going from up one side and down the other regarding this issue. Yet, the members still want a phantom Post-it note. I would argue that the important thing is to move forward to vote down this ill-advised and, I would suggest ó actually, I canít suggest what I would like to, Mr. Speaker, or you will say that itís out of order, so I will allow members to guess what I would have said.
I donít think that the result of this motion in any way serves the interests of the Yukon public in moving forward in addressing the real issues that are affecting their daily lives, particularly the economy. I think that this is very ó
Mr. Speaker, the opposition is supposed to fill the role ó in our system, we have a parliamentary convention that the opposition is supposed to be the government-in-waiting, but the public expects them to provide alternatives, to provide serious debate on matters that have real effect on their lives, not to get hung up on little details and phantom Post-it notes.
I think that itís very important that we move on from this, that we deal with addressing what changes need to be made ó what if any holes are there in the existing legislation and regulations? Weíve made it clear that we feel that there are problems and lack of clarity in what exists. Itís important to move on in addressing problems instead of spending time in the past and looking for an opportunity to lay blame or to determine if somebody did a bad thing when it was obvious that the steps have been taken to follow the proper procedures. The steps have been taken by the Minister of Justice.
So much information was disclosed that this afternoon it seems to have been almost overwhelming for the members opposite. Theyíre so fired with energy that they have to keep jumping up on their feet on points of order.
Iíd like to close here, but I think that itís important that government provide hope above all else, that government provide a sensible vision, that we do not take actions that are detrimental to the private sector without due consideration. There can be times when the interests of a private individual can simply not be balanced with the great needs of society, but they should never be made without full consideration and proper and fair compensation. This government was elected to turn the territory around, to reverse the economic slide, to bring this territory back on track with the economy moving upward, the right direction. And that is the right direction for an economy. Itís upward economic growth, sustainable and sustained economic growth for the good of all Yukoners for the benefit of all us.
The government must remove roadblocks to the private sector and business while maintaining sensible, reasonable and clear safeguards that safeguard the publicís interest. There has been focus on mining in this House ó and concerns by the members opposite ó and we applaud the concern and the caring, but this government takes steps to ensure ó and thereís legislation already in place to take steps to ensure ó that proper procedures are followed and the safeguards are met.
I would urge the members opposite, rather than focusing on phantom Post-it notes, to focus on the big picture, to focus on the economy instead of ó in this House, weíve had a continuing string this session of suggestions of lack of integrity of members on this side of the floor. Mr. Speaker, I think thatís very disappointing to see. Itís ill-advised, I would suggest, and I certainly feel that it does not properly represent the facts in this issue.
I would urge the members opposite to take a closer look and recognize the true picture and realize that members on this side of the floor are making efforts to be open, to be accountable, to be collaborative, to provide information such as on this tow truck matter, over the period of months and months ó inches thick of information, reams and reams of information that has been provided. We make efforts ó every member of this government ó to be open, to be accountable, to represent the people, to listen to the opposition and to take into account the concerns and suggestions they express.
The comments from the members opposite ó on numerous occasions, it seems that they feel that if we donít accept every line, clause and word of what they suggest we do on any particular subject, that thatís not being collaborative. Well, collaborative means that you have to compromise. We were elected ó the 11 members who sit on the government side ó by the Yukon public to be the government of the territory and to work with the members opposite. But we were not elected to simply accept all policies, bills and motions proposed by the members opposite, without amendment. We did not say at any point in our election campaign that we would accept ó wholesale ó every suggestion by the members opposite ó and that was collaborative government.
Compromise means compromise. Discussion means discussion. Collaboration means collaboration. But at all times, we were charged with the responsibility by our constituents ó by the majority of the areas in the Yukon. We were elected with a large majority, and the public expected us to take into account all sides of things, to be open and to provide information, as has been done in this case with the tow truck issue. But they did expect us, in the end, to make the determination whether the suggestions of the opposition could be accepted in their entirety, be amended, or if they simply did not fit with the greater interests of the public. And we make every effort to do so.
So, this motion for the production of papers, looking for the phantom Post-it note, can go on and on and on. If we pass the motion for the production of papers, then the next thing is ó whatís the next thing? Is it going to be this phantom Post-it note regarding what colour blouse the Minister of Justice was wearing on the day she made the decision and if that could have influenced her, and whether the wind was blowing outside, and what she ate for breakfast that morning.
Mr. Speaker, this is just ó the members opposite have taken this to a point that is beyond the point of reasonable and necessary and required disclosure to the point that the only purpose of this seems to be to try and come up with some spot where a comma wasnít inserted or where a colon wasnít deleted in punctuation or where a word was misspelled that somehow meant something else. And theyíre getting into such finite detail on this when it has been made clear on numerous, numerous, numerous occasions by the Minister of Justice the factors that were involved ó all the factors, the full range of factors in this case.
And if the members opposite want more information on this, I would urge them again to read the media coverage, the statements that have been made by the Minister of Justice, their comments on this, the transcripts from the radio, and the letter to the editor she wrote on August 6 of this year explaining the issue. It fully explains all the areas upon which the minister based her decision. It fully outlines what the legal case was, what the advice was from the department, and itís getting absolutely ridiculous, Mr. Speaker, simply ridiculous ó the levels that the members opposite are taking this to here.
Mr. Speaker, Iím a little distressed by this, as well, that it seems that the members opposite, if theyíre saying that they donít believe that the minister ó at what stage is their problem? Iím baffled, Mr. Speaker. The minister made it clear what her officials told her, what the case presented was. Are the members opposite suggesting that our officials arenít competent in these areas? That, Mr. Speaker, is not respectful of our hard-working public servants.
That is not respectful at all. Itís been made very clear by the minister and by her officials that they gave her advice on this and that she acted based on that advice. Are the members opposite more qualified ó do they think they are more qualified than are our Department of Justice officials on the legal aspects of this? This is becoming simply ridiculous here ó this light that they are casting on our hardworking officials in the Department of Justice in suggesting that they think, as lay people that they have more knowledge of a legal case than the well- and thoroughly qualified legal professionals. What is going on here?
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Cathers: I, as always, make efforts to appreciate the ongoing and continuous commentary from the members opposite in the spirit in which I am sure it was intended.
But, Mr. Speaker, this debate has gotten ó this issue has gone on for months and months and months. The disclosure was provided. When the issue first began the information was presented. Itís been presented again. There has been more presented ó all the little papers and jots and details and all these little things, and background information and all sorts of things on this case. Yet the members opposite still refuse to believe it.
Itís beyond belief. The member of the third party, in particular, ought to know full well that her government made an amendment to the Motor Vehicles Act to remove the review officer ó in which role the justice of the peace sits ó to remove the review officerís power to determine whether a vehicle has been wrongfully impounded or not. I would suggest that those were the most ill-advised amendments to legislation in this territoryís history. And there have been a number in my partisan view, a number of them tabled by the two previous governments, but thatís my personal opinion and Ö
This issue ó it defies belief. It simply defies belief that the member of the third party would not have been aware of the legislation her government was presenting. Is that what is being told to us, that the member of the third party, when she was the Premier, that she and her colleagues did not really know the legislation they were putting forward? I certainly hope thatís not whatís being said. I can tell you that ó I sit on the Cabinet Committee on Legislation, which is a committee that I believe every government for many, many years has had ó and as such, as a private member on there, I have the responsibility of reviewing legislation line by line before we table it. I take that role very seriously.
I have gone over a number of pieces of legislation ó all the legislation actually that was being tabled, that weíve tabled in this session, and gone through it ó at some points staying up late at night, reading through the legislation, making sure I understood what the legislation meant, comparing other pieces of legislation, the legislation it amended, going through all of these things. And weíd go to the committee and weíd have a full and thorough debate on any questions and any concerns with this legislation that I had, and that other members of the Cabinet Committee on Legislation ó we did the full review to the best of our ability, which we are required to do as legislators.
The drafting of legislation is a very important role of any MLA. The understanding of the legislation we vote on is very important. Itís important that we, on this side of the House, donít simply vote for a bill, because our government proposed it, but have no understanding of what it means. I would also argue that itís important that the members opposite donít simply vote against something because the government proposed it, and it would look too good for the government if the members opposite agreed with it. Itís very important that we understand the effect of the legislation.
Iím puzzled, Mr. Speaker. How would the member of the third party not understand that it was, in fact, her government that removed this power to rule on wrongful impoundment from the purview of the review officer. Itís simply baffling. Again, as the leader of the third party said on November 4, "It was quite a summer with the minister overruling justices of the peace," when the member opposite ought to know full well that the Minister of Justice and the review officers do not have the ability under the act to rule on the same areas. Their roles and responsibilities are fully and completely separate. So why would the member opposite make that statement? Itís very, very disappointing.
Her government removed that power. Her government took the steps, and I believe that it was a mistaken step. And the Minister of Justice has given her personal opinion that she believes that it was also mistaken and that to clarify the process and how it affects the stakeholders ó in particular, Mothers Against Drunk Drivers is, as you know, a leading national group on prevention of drinking and driving ó to pull them into the process to make sure that our legislation does address the need to prevent drinking and driving. Itís important that it do that.
But itís important that our legislation not be draconian, that it not cut the legs out from under a private individual because the government failed to do its due diligence in constructing legislation and regulations in a sensible manner. Itís important that our legislation and regulations be fair.
Again, the minister has never overruled the justices of the peace, and the statement that was made by the member of the third party on that was mistaken. I would strongly urge all members to check the facts on this, because this statement again ó November 4, months after this issue started, months it has been dragged on in the media by the members opposite. And after all these months, still the member for the third party did not remember, did not review previous records to note that her government had actually taken away the power of a justice of the peace as a review officer to rule on wrongful impoundment, and stated in the Hansard, page 1142, November 4, that the minister overruled justices of the peace.
That, Mr. Speaker, is not appropriate. In the same question ó the first question on that page, the quote I had given was from one of the supplementary questions ó the member of the third party suggests that there is a lack of integrity in the Minister of Justice. There is no one in this territory who has more integrity. The members opposite ought to know it. We on this side do, and it is disgraceful to descend to this level. They know full well that the Minister of Justice makes decisions on the best information that she can compile. They know full well, if they drive by here at night that the Minister of Justice works here later than almost any member and is in here early in the morning. This Minister of Justice is hardworking, does her homework, assesses all the factors and she makes decisions based on the best information she can compile and with the best of intentions. So to suggest a lack of integrity, as the member of the third party stated, is simply disgraceful.
Itís very important that instead of focusing on phantom Post-it notes and colours of clothing and the Lord only knows what else the members opposite are going to be asking about next, that we move on and deal with the issues of the public, that deal with the serious matters facing Yukoners instead of motions for the production of papers on something that has already been fully disclosed.
There is nothing that they are going to gain from this. No one is going to gain from this. No one is going to gain from going on and asking for phantom Post-it notes. Everything has already been disclosed. All the members opposite are doing is casting aspersions and questioning the integrity of members on this side.
Mr. Speaker, I am just disappointed with this. Let me reiterate, Mr. Speaker, that this government caucus stands fully behind the Minister of Justice. We know that there is no harder-working Minister of Justice in the entire country, and there is no one with more integrity, despite the slurs cast on her by the members opposite, and we would urge the members opposite to engage in constructive debate rather than casting aspersions.
Mr. Speaker, I donít know what else ó
Speaker:Order please. The Member for Lake Laberge has just intimated that the members of the opposition were casting ó I believe the term you used was "casting slurs." I donít believe Iíve heard that in this debate, and Iíd ask the member to retract that, please.
Withdrawal of remark
Mr. Cathers: Mr. Speaker, based on your ruling that that was out of order, I do retract that remark.
Mr. Speaker, I have laid out the case and shown just how wide the range of information that has been presented on this subject is, have shown that the facts all point to the conclusion that the right thing was done and that the Minister of Justice did everything in her power with all due diligence to determine what the right course of action was, and that a wide and full range of information on this subject has been disclosed. I hope that the members opposite have absorbed this. I hope that they will now reconsider the positions theyíve taken on this, that instead of focusing on what appeared to me to be searches for phantom Post-it notes and attempts to lay blame, they will move forward.
Allow me to state once again that this government, this caucus, is against drinking and driving. But why donít we hear debate from the members opposite on issues such as how to improve public education on this issue?
Mr. Speaker, one thing that was done when I was growing up ó I recall watching cartoons on Saturday mornings when I was a little kid and seeing ads against drinking and driving: "Donít put the cart before the horse," "When you drink, donít drive." These messages were consistently played on TV, during cartoons in particular. When I was young and when others of my generation were young, it was on many, many stations ó "Donít put the cart before the horse," "When you drink, donít drive."
Mr. Speaker, about two or three years ago, I recall hearing the statistics that the rate of drinking and driving for those between the ages of 16 and 24 was the lowest it had ever been and that the rate of drinking and driving of those between the ages of 25 and 34 had not really changed. The conclusion of this was that the people who, when the survey was last done, were between the ages of 16 and 24, had gotten older; they continued drinking and driving and hadnít learned a darn thing. But those of my generation and age group had the consistent focus from a very, very early age ó well, from the time kids are old enough to watch the TV set. They saw these messages: "Donít drink and drive. Donít drink and drive. Donít drink and drive." They werenít sucked in by their peer group when they got to school about how wonderful it was to drink and drive. They were instructed from a young age about how important it was to not drink and drive.
Iíve been handed a copy of the Manitoba Highways Protection Act, which is the act that the Member for Kluane has asked me to table earlier. I apologize for the delay in tabling it. It is quite a number of pages and I hope that it is of great edification and interest to the Member for Kluane, so I would like to table it at this time.
To return to my point ó the point was that education of children at a young age with messaging, with advertising targeted toward their age group, was very instrumental in the opinion of those conducting the studies. I believe it was an American study. I can look through my files if members opposite feel it crucial and probably determine who had ó wondering what auspices it was, but it wasnít a government study that had been done to determine the effect of these ads, which had in large part been government-funded at the time. The conclusion was that it was very successful in training people from the youngest of ages about the inappropriateness of drinking and driving. Weíve seen the improvement now, and there are a lot more people who are willing to take the keys from their friends when they are intoxicated.
The great concern that we all have about the need to prevent drinking and driving should not overwhelm our sense of fairness on this. Itís always important ó itís a principle of a fair democratic system ó that there be fair treatment of an accused, that they be treated with due process and that the measures not be draconian or unfair. We only have to look at the Charter of Rights and Freedoms to begin to get an understanding of that.
Mr. Speaker, we must look at this legislation. The process has already been started by the Minister of Justice and the Minister of Highways to have this stakeholder group look at what appropriate changes are. This government is moving forward. We are of the opinion that the problem was with having the tow truck driver drunk behind the wheel in the first place. Itís not an issue of the phantom Post-It note and all these things. Staying in the past leaves you in the past. We have to learn from the past, but we do have to move forward, and the important thing is to take what appropriate measures need to be taken to ensure that we donít get into situations like this again. Itís wonderful that today we had tributes to National Safe Driving Week ó a commendable initiative, and commendable that it be brought to the recognition of Yukoners and, indeed, timely, considering the weather conditions weíre having outside at the moment and the state of the roads.
Mr. Speaker, an endless search for phantom Post-It notes and maybe bogeymen in closets does not serve the Yukon public. The Yukon public would have been well-served if the member opposite had come forward with a motion suggesting what changes to legislation or regulation should be made to address these concerns, to fix any holes in the legislation. But instead of that, we see a motion focused on phantom Post-It notes from midsummer.
Iíve heard comments from the members opposite during this debate that, "Oh, weíre going to send the transcript of this out to your constituents." Oh, wonderful. By all means. I would urge members opposite and all Yukoners to look through the full range of the matters related to this case that Iíve presented this afternoon, to consider how full the case was. And I urge the members opposite to read the Blues tomorrow, to look through Hansard and to consider the numerous pieces of information in this debate and to question themselves about the need to proceed with this motion.
What need is there to look for phantom Post-it notes and bogeymen.
And I hear the Member for Kluane saying something about Iraq. I would certainly hope that that is simply intended as a jest from the Member for Kluane and not as serious debate, like his comments on UFOs and purported bases, and suggestions that this government intends to purchase military hardware, which, as we all know, is a suggestion that holds about as much water as a screen door.
It would be beneficial to Yukoners if, instead of looking for phantom Post-it notes, we got on with dealing with the real issues; if, instead of talking about Iraq, like the Member for Kluane just did, we dealt with issues that we can affect ó if we dealt with matters that the Yukon has jurisdiction over and the power to change them.
With just a brief comment on Iraq ó we have debated this in a motion earlier in the spring on this. Some of the members cast criticism on me for suggesting that there are more productive things we should be debating and we shouldnít be focused on it.
I think some of them confused the difference between ó that I was suggesting that, because it wasnít specifically within our jurisdiction, we shouldnít discuss it, and with what I am suggesting on that issue and on this issue, and on all the issues here ó that we deal with matters, with issues, with initiatives that the Yukon can have some real hope of affecting.
We werenít elected to be a debating club, to sit here in the Legislature and go over discussions of global intervention and whether we support world peace and whether we think that the Government of Canada should be buying new Sea King helicopters or whether they should maybe just dismantle the army ó although, well, certainly thatís something I could see our constituents being concerned about. Bad example, Mr. Speaker, but we shouldnít be discussing military appropriation here. We shouldnít be discussing the deals between the Canadian government and other governments regarding some matter that we have no hope of getting the Canadian government to listen to us on.
I would at no time suggest that this House should limit its debate solely because of a jurisdictional issue, but we have a responsibility to deal with whatever our constituents instruct us to. But there is no benefit in dealing with issues and with matters that we canít even affect. Thereís no value in asking for phantom Post-it notes and for going on at length, as some of the members have over the course of the entire summer, on trying to create a perception that something was done wrongly on this side.
Mr. Speaker, I see no point in continuing further on this. I think the full range has been laid out, and I would urge the members opposite to consider how wide a range of information was disclosed on this.
I would urge them to look past the line that runs down the centre of the floor, separating government from opposition. Instead of casting ó let me restate that. Instead of making statements that question the integrity of members on this side, they would be well-advised to accept our offer to provide meaningful and constructive debate on matters of importance to Yukoners and to provide suggestions about what we should be doing with the Motor Vehicles Act ó whether amendments should be made.
In closing, Iíd like to say a few things. The Minister of Justice is obligated to follow all Yukon laws and has done so. Her decisions are based on what the law says, as they were on this matter. On an application for review about whether or not a vehicle has been wrongly impounded, itís given to the Minister of Justice, and the Minister of Justice is required by the Motor Vehicles Act to consider this application. Itís not a discretionary matter. The Minister of Justice is required to rule on it, based on a legal case, and determine if it was wrongful or not.
The decision was made based on the legal advice given by the officials in the department. Government discourages people from drinking and driving. Weíre committed to the Motor Vehicles Act, the administrative sanctions that have been put in place, and we intend to work together with all who will work together with us in trying to protect the safety of Yukoners to advance their health, safety, economic interests and not be stuck in the past or in a search for phantom Post-it notes.
Another comment that I would like to reference is in the Whitehorse Star, Friday, August 8, an article by Jason Small, in which the member of the third party seemed to have called upon her former Justice minister, who was the Member for Faro and who had been the Justice minister. He stated that itís dangerous to be overruling any member of the judiciary. Again, going back to my point of whether the member of the third party understood what her government was presented, are we to determine from this that the Minister of Justice ó who, I understand, under that government, was also the Chair of the Cabinet Committee on Legislation, as our Minister of Justice is, and charged with reviewing line by line every piece of legislation to be tabled ó didnít even understand that the amendment, which they tabled to the Motor Vehicles Act ó the amendment they tabled in 2000 ó removed the power of the review officer to rule on the matter of wrongful impoundment, that it clearly separated the roles of the review officer and the minister, that in fact the justice of the peace was not sitting as a member of the judiciary in the role of review officer and that the act did not permit the overruling of the review officer anyway by the minister ó that the matters were separate?
Either the members opposite have a short memory and are failing to read their previous notes, or they are not concerned about whether they have done their homework and what comments they make and what questions they cast on the integrity of members of this side of the House.
Theyíre not concerned about what effect those have, and theyíre not really concerned about whether itís correct or not. I would urge them to do their homework and to not make any statements ó
To rephrase that, Mr. Speaker, Iíd urge them to make sure that two things are done: their homework is done; they understand the issue and, once they understand the issue, that they not question the integrity of members here, or the actions of members on this side for doing something that they know ó from reading that homework ó was the right thing to do.
This issue has been more than well-covered over the month that it has been going on. Again I urge the members opposite to consider all the facts that have been presented and to not cast questions of integrity upon the Minister of Justice, whom they know full well ó or ought to know ó is of the highest honour and integrity, and urge them to focus on what measures can and should be taken to correct the problems with the legislation, to move forward for the good of all Yukoners.
Mr. Speaker, the endless commentary coming from the members opposite does not seem to have assessed these points. There seems to be a lack of concern about this issue.
Again, I urge them ó if they are going to question members on this side, I urge them to do their homework first and not, when a case like this fully lays out to anyone who reads all the aspects of the issue ó when it makes the issue crystal clear ó that the minister has disclosed all of the factors involved and the only thing missing is the phantom Post-it note, which is irrelevant. What are they doing it for? Maybe the phantom Post-it note isnít even there. Maybe the bogeyman they seem to be talking about has it. Maybe the Member for Kluaneís UFO base took all the Post-it notes.
So, I would urge the members opposite to move on from this focus on ridiculous matters, not to persist in questioning the integrity of someone they know is honest and honourable, and to get on with the business of the public.
Mrs. Peter: We are speaking to a motion today for the production of papers, and let me say that the Member for Lake Laberge certainly produced some papers this afternoon.
Mr. Speaker, Iíve listened very intently to the comments from the Member for Lake Laberge. I found some of the information he spoke about very interesting, and I actually agree on one point that the member made: that members in this House have a responsibility.
The motion states that the letter from the RCMP, which the Minister of Justice publicly stated existed ó we have asked on this side of the House for a copy of that letter and have never had a copy of that letter produced for us. I have asked on numerous times that the Minister of Justice table the case that they referred to, the legal case that she referred to in making this decision. We have never seen that information. Thatís just one example of what members in opposition have to put up with from the Yukon Party government ó one example. There are many examples that I can refer to.
But let me get back to the motion thatís before us and the case weíre referring to with a tow truck company. Mr. Speaker, when we talk about responsibility, we talk about responsibility with all the seriousness that we can muster. Weíre talking about an owner of a commercial vehicle and that the driver of that vehicle on the day in question was drunk. That person had three times the legal alcohol limit of a person who is supposed to be behind the wheel of a vehicle.
That is very serious. That person could have killed someone ó whether it be a young child or an elder walking across the street.
The Member for Lake Laberge spoke for three hours and said that we are asking too much on this side. We ask the questions on this side of the House on behalf of the Yukon public, Mr. Speaker. They demand answers and I think they deserve the right to have answers.
The Member for Lake Laberge said that members on this side of the House cast aspersions on the Minister of Justice. I take issue with that. I stand here on this side of the House asking questions on behalf of the Yukon public. They would like to know what legal case the Minister of Justice referred to when she made this decision. The precedent that this set for the Yukon public is undeniably damaging.
This Minister of Justice made a decision that, in the public eye, seemed to have overruled the decision of the courts. She overruled the decision of the RCMP. The public perception of that decision caused the Yukon public a lot of concern, especially when we look at the statistics for drunk driving in the Yukon Territory.
Mr. Speaker, the Member for Lake Laberge referred to MADD, Mothers Against Drunk Driving. This decision that was made by the Minister of Justice conflicts with the values of MADD and what they stand for.
Iíd like to share with you a story of how much respect people in the Yukon public have for the RCMP members, for the justice system, when they come to our communities. The community of Old Crow has a rich history with the RCMP, and weíre very proud of that history. That history goes back to when the RCMP still owned dog teams ó and Iíve witnessed much of that history ó because my own people helped to guide many of these members who came to live in our community out and around our traditional territory so that they could make sure that families on the land were safe and that they had all the means of being out on the land for a couple of months with their small children.
My uncle was a special constable with the RCMP, and they helped move my family ó my mother and my sisters ó and they helped us move to Old Crow Flats one spring, and that is a long trek by dog team, Mr. Speaker.
If you could only imagine dealing with the weather conditions, dealing with the terrain that we have to travel on, on toboggan, and it takes about three or four hours. Those types of relationships still hold today with the RCMP in the communities. That is very important.
We have the court system come travel to our communities for many, many years. Now they have elders from our communities, family and friends of people who are before the courts; they allow them to speak to the court system, Mr. Speaker, because they are concerned for their families and family members who are before the courts. And that relationship is building and itís helping everybody who is involved so that everyone can have a better way of life. That is the respect.
I know that many people out there in the Yukon public hold the court system and the RCMP in high esteem. To have a Minister of Justice set a precedent and make a ruling about the kind of situation that she did took away some of that. I heard about it. People have brought that concern to my attention and that is why we asked those questions that we did of the Minister of Justice.
This motion that we are speaking to today, weíve asked over and over again to share some of the correspondence that has been referred to, like the letter from the RCMP. Table the legal case that they refer to, which her decision was based on. The Yukon public deserves those answers so that it doesnít leave questions out there.
People will not be puzzled about why all of this took place. This Yukon Party government campaigned on being, and still today say they are, open and accountable. When we have to bring forward a motion such as this, so that we can have the information to take back to the people whom we asked the questions on behalf of, is that open and accountable ó when we have to listen to a member speak for three or four hours, when they could just simply bring forward the information we request?
Itís not only in this situation, Mr. Speaker. There are many examples we can refer back to because we donít have or get the information on behalf of the people who would like to know.
Then thereís a question out there about the responsibility, and thatís a big word. The laws are in place for a reason, and we need to be responsible to the laws of this land.
I have asked the Minister of Justice if there may be any changes made to the Motor Vehicles Act. Again I wasnít provided with a definite answer.
So that is still outstanding. People are still questioning if there is going to be ó or are we going to continue to have ó these kinds of situations where the Minister of Justice is going to keep interfering with the courts and decisions that have already been made out there.
In closing, I would just like to suggest to the Yukon Party government that they cooperate with members opposite when we ask for written material so that we can share that information with people in the Yukon public. Thatís a simple request, so we donít have to come forward with this kind of motion.
With that, Mr. Speaker, those are my comments.
Hon. Mr. Lang: I enjoyed this afternoon. I thought the Member for Lake Laberge, with his comments, covered it quite thoroughly. I would like to point out a couple of things as far as abstracts and insurance areconcerned on a commercial vehicle. There are three things that a commercial vehicle has to have from the owner, whether itís a Kenworth truck coming up from Texas or it is me driving down from the store. There has to be a pink slip in the vehicle. It has to have a current licence attached to the vehicle, and it has to have a piece of paper showing ownership. Those have to be covered by the owner of the vehicle.
Now the abstract in a commercial vehicle is for the sole purpose of the insurance company knowing who is driving the vehicle. So if I were to hire an individual and put his name on the abstract for driving that vehicle, then the insurance company would bless him. At that point the insurance company polices him.
You get notifications from the insurance company if your man on the abstract has points for speeding or any other issue ó or, of course, for drunken driving. He is outlawed from driving. So the insurance company does it, as well as the individual does it. Now, the insurance company does it, and that doesnít mean that we as owners of the vehicle ignore the fact that we have to manage the vehicle. We certainly do. We in the Yukonís society certainly donít condone drunk driving. I donít think there is anybody in this House or in the Yukon who could sit down and debate the merits of drinking while you drive or being drunk when you go into your vehicle. We as a society have turned our backs on drinking and driving. We have strong laws in place to police the people who do that. So we as a society have decided, justly so, that drunk driving is not acceptable.
Now, when we were elected a year ago, we took over many challenges. Now, a government is elected to do a job. Certainly our Minister of Justice here took over the job as Minister of Justice. Now, there was legislation in place that obviously wasnít done properly, or we wouldnít be debating this issue here today. I mean, obviously, Mr. Speaker, we have a problem with this legislation. Something has to be done with it.
Now, whatever happened to the last government, whether they were in the Palliser Hotel in Calgary and this fell through the cracks of the floor in the hotel there, Iím not sure. We have a problem with the legislation.
We have many issues with what was left for us ó challenges by the last government. We had the Mayo-Dawson power line, a huge problem. Weíre just the guys to fix it up. We have renewal, which was another invention of the last government. Weíre just the guys to fix it up. So as we walk through life here with these challenges, we understand that this legislation was put in place to protect the general public. And certainly the police have a job to do, and when, in the year 2000, the last government took away the discretionary power of the review officer ó his authority ó they created a problem.
They created a problem because, all of a sudden, this thing involved the Minister of Justice. As anybody in this House realizes, do we want to have the Minister of Justice sitting on decisions like this? Certainly not ó not on this side of the House. But when we discovered the legislation the way it was, our Minister of Justice did the right thing, and she had the support of our caucus. Understanding that at the ó well, the member opposite there, now his member, his party, when they were in power and the ó nothing personal at all about this, this is the House.
Here we are at 5:55 on a Wednesday listening at great length, debating something when we have a $95-million supplementary that hasnít been talked about at all. Mr. Speaker, $19 million a day is what weíre going to have to debate and pass in the next period of time so that we can go back to our community and inform the general public what was in the budget.
This, obviously, is far more important. I guess the members opposite, the only way they would be happy is if we jailed the Minister of Justice, if we took the Minister of Justice and we jailed her. Obviously, that is not in the cards because at no point did our Minister of Justice break the law.
The Motor Vehicles Act is one of the largest statutes that we have. It has 272 sections. It is by the tonne, this paperwork.
Okay, now part 16 of the Motor Vehicles Act is called the impoundment for some offences. Now, what does that mean ó the impoundment for some offences? Okay, the 10 sections in part 16, sections 234 to 245 and the impoundment of vehicles regulations set out the rules for motor vehicles to be impounded in the Yukon. Now, while there have been over 1,000 impoundments, this part of the Motor Vehicles Act is relatively new. It was passed by the Legislature in 1997 and proclaimed into force in 1999. Unlike most parts of the Motor Vehicles Act, part 16 does not create offences like speeding, failure to wear a seat belt, et cetera, but provides for an administrative sanction; for example, the impoundment of a vehicle if a certain type of offence is committed. An example is driving while a licence is suspended or drunken driving. The fact that the impoundment is an administration sanction and not an offence is key to the whole process. There are three public officials that are granted significant powers under part 16 of this very thick act.
Now, the police ó very important, the police. The review officer ó now heís under section 237. Of course, the Minister of Justice is under section 243. Thatís what I am saying on this legislation. It has to be corrected for the simple fact that we have three layers of individuals there who have to get some clarification on how this legislation works.
And itís not there. Itís not clear.
The Motor Vehicles Act provides each of these public officials with distinct roles. The role of the police is to enforce the impoundment provisions. They have the discretion at roadside to decide whether or not to impound a motor vehicle. To impound, a police officer must believe on reasonable grounds that a person is driving with a suspended licence or is driving contrary to certain provisions in the Motor Vehicles Act ó for example, driving without liability insurance or, in the Criminal Code example, driving drunk. If the attending police officer so believes, then they make a determination as to whether or not the vehicle should be impounded.
Now, the role of the review officer is to hear and decide upon the application for early release of the impounded motor vehicle. A review officer is a person charged with carrying out an administrative function under section 237 of the Motor Vehicles Act. The administrative function that a review officer must perform is to decide whether or not to grant early release of an impounded vehicle.
The impoundment regulations provide that all justices of the peace are review officers. Okay? When a justice of a peace or a judge sits as review officer, they are carrying out an administrative or judicial function. If a vehicle is impounded by the police, the owner of the motor vehicle or a dependant may apply to the review officer to have the motor vehicle released early from impoundment. Okay? Therefore, a review officerís duties are triggered by an application under section 237.
There are three types of early release applications. Where the owner of the motor vehicle was not the driver ó in other words, heís not the driver of the vehicle. The person who committed the crime was the driver ó thatís number one. Where the owner of the vehicle was the driver ó okay, so he was the driver. He has applied for some reason to get it out of impoundment. An application by a dependant ó in other words, the wife or a family member who depends on the vehicle for transportation. So, under those three applications, a person can apply for an early release of the vehicle.
When hearing an application for early release, the Motor Vehicles Act requires a review officer to follow the procedure in section 237, including ó now, 237(2), notify the registrant of the motor vehicle of an application. In other words, that somebody has applied to release the vehicle. Section 237(4)(a) to (d), information the review officer must consider when hearing an application. What the review officer must not consider ó so in other words, thereís a process the review officer can go through.
Speaker: Order please. The time being 6:00 p.m., the House now stands adjourned until 1:00 p.m. tomorrow.
The House adjourned at 6:00 p.m.
The following Sessional Papers were tabled December 3, 2003:
Queenís Printer Agency 2002-03 Annual Report (Hart)
"Services for People with Disabilities: A Yukon Guide Book" (Jenkins)