Wednesday, March 31, 2004 1:00 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order. We will proceed at this time with prayers.
Speaker:We will proceed at this time with the Order Paper.
Introduction of visitors.
Are there any returns or documents for tabling?
Are there any reports of committees?
Are there any petitions?
Are there any bills to be introduced?
INTRODUCTION OF BILLS
Bill No. 43: Introduction and First Reading
Hon. Mr. Fentie:I move that Bill No. 43, entitled Act to Amend the Income Tax Act, be now introduced and read a first time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. Premier that Bill No. 43, entitled Act to Amend the Income Tax Act, be now introduced and read a first time.
Motion for introduction and first reading of Bill No. 43 agreed to
Speaker: Are there any further bills for introduction?
Are there any notices of motion?
NOTICES OF MOTION
Ms. Duncan: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT this House recognizes that the Yukon Party government has undertaken a review of the Children's Act; and
THAT this House recognizes that the existing act was amended as a result of a private member's motion put forward by former MLA Sue Edelman to recognize the role and rights of grandparents;
THAT this House urges the Yukon Party government to recognize the unanimous recommendation of the 29th Legislature regarding the role and rights of grandparents in the lives of Yukon children; and
THAT this House urges the Yukon Party government to ensure that this unanimous recommendation is not omitted from the current review of the Children's Act.
Speaker: Are there any further notices of motion?
Is there a ministerial statement?
This then brings us to Question Period.
Question re: Dawson City bridge
Mr. McRobb: The benchmark for this government's accountability is its own platform document. In it, the Yukon Party makes a commitment to the people of our territory to plan that's "plan", not "build" the construction of a bridge at Dawson City to replace the current ferry system when it is economical to do so. So this government's recent announcement to build the bridge has raised a number of red flags. One flag is the complete lack of a business case to justify this bridge and to justify to Yukoners that the time for it has now arrived. In typical fashion, this government prefers to leave Yukoners in the dark while it forges ahead with whatever goes at the budget table.
Mr. Speaker, it's time to pry open the back door and shed some light on what's going on in there. Will the minister give us the number he used to argue for this project at the Cabinet table? And can he tell us what makes this project economical now?
Hon. Mr. Hart: For the member opposite, we have been announcing this bridge ever since we were campaigning to be elected. It is no secret; it has been in our platform, and we indicated that it was part of the issue we were going to get elected on.
Mr. McRobb: I wish the minister would listen to the question. I clearly was referring to the government's platform document and not whatever took place between the candidates and people at the door, of which we have no record. This government has not presented a sound business case. It would have been reasonable to expect the government to bring forward its case in this Legislature for debate before proceeding with a project of such magnitude and such implication to all Yukon communities. There is a void of information and perhaps logic here. The government's silence and lack of leadership has forced people to draw their own conclusions.
We need to get a firm figure from this minister on what he expects this bridge to cost. For the record, will this be a $30-million bridge, a $40-million bridge, or will this minister just write a blank cheque as he will in the case of the multiplex?
Hon. Mr. Hart: The member opposite is doing very well in his tirade. I would like to indicate that we have an estimate to build this bridge of between $25 million and $30 million. That's what we estimate the bridge will cost. Part of the aspect of dealing with the bridge is we'll have to go to design. Part of that design is consultation with the community on what that bridge will look like.
Mr. McRobb: It would be nice to get some of these bits and pieces on the table where we can look at the big picture. Of course, any business case must consider other factors, aside from the cost of the bridge; for example, it must consider the local impact from losing 16 ferry workers who will no longer be employed and spending their wages in Dawson's economy; workers who build and maintain the ice bridge will lose their contracts and ability to contribute; tourists will have no reason to shop or buy meals while waiting for the ferry. These are only some of the factors that must be considered in a business case.
When will this minister be tabling his business case in this House for discussion, and what dollar figure will he put on the loss to the local economy?
Hon. Mr. Hart: There will be no jobs lost, as he indicated, in the process. These jobs will be assumed in the rest of the department where they go along. That is how it is going to take place. Nobody is going to lose their job on the ferry; it will be assumed in that process. Part of the issue we are dealing with is the replacement of that ferry. It is going to be a substantial cost. That is scheduled to take place in 2007 or 2008, and we will be dealing with that when we get there.
Question re: Social assistance rates
Mr. Hardy:In the budget address of March 25, the Premier said, "Our social agenda is as ambitious, exciting and progressive as our economic agenda." He went on to say, "It is no secret that there are more health and social problems created by a depressed economy. The 2004-05 budget will go a long way in implementing our social agenda."
Now there are 44 percent of social assistance recipients in the Yukon who are classified as the working poor. In Yukon, a couple with two children receives $12,253 a year. In the N.W.T., as a comparison, this same couple would receive $23,036 quite a substantial difference.
My question for the Minister of Health and Social Services is: will the minister implement the government's claim to an ambitious, exciting and progressive social agenda and bring in a supplementary budget to immediately increase social assistance rates?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: We certainly stand by what we're doing on our social agenda as a government and as a party. It is very progressive and we take pride in what we have initiated in that area.
It might interest the member opposite in fact, everyone to recognize that the expenditure for social assistance has increased by $1 million in this last fiscal period over the budget. There were a number of changes made in programs in other jurisdictions, and about 70 percent of SA payments went to single males, 40 years of age or under, who are employable. When you look at where they originate, they're primarily moving from British Columbia. So the member doesn't make his case that we need to increase SA rates. They're already attracting people to the community.
That said, Mr. Speaker, we do identify with the needs of the handicapped, the single parents and seniors and elders; and we are currently in the process of examining SA rates in those categories.
That said, Mr. Speaker, we hope to move forward very quickly on some amendments to the SA rates after the consultation process has been completed.
Mr. Hardy: Well, Mr. Speaker, this minister, this government, has bragged ad nauseam about how great their social agenda is and how they have dealt with all the problems in this area. Frankly, it doesn't carry water when you look at it.
Now, the minister continues to make the statement that we have this tremendous influx of employable, single people who come pouring into the Yukon because we have great social assistance rates here. That doesn't carry. I would like to see the statistics; I would like to see the minister share those statistics with us that that is what it really is, that that influx is really happening. I don't believe that they exist, and I believe that this minister owes an apology to people who are looking for work, people who are struggling.
Now, will the minister correct this impression of this invasion of single, unemployable people coming to the north and state what the true facts are?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I'll be happy to share with the entire House and the media the actual stats and breakdown as to where SA is going and to what categories. Our government is very cognizant of single-parent families and their needs and, to that end, we've increased the tax credit per child from $25 to $37.50 per month. We've upped the minimum from $16,000 to the $25,000 threshold. This is a positive move.
Mr. Speaker, in addition to that, if an individual on SA a single parent is in Yukon housing and social housing and receiving support payments, those support payments are not included in the rent calculation. So we've identified what we can do to improve the conditions for a number of categories, and that's just an example of one.
Mr. Hardy: I happen to agree with the minister opposite; it is only an example of one because there really is only one area he has targeted. Now I applaud this government on the other side for addressing some of those concerns that's long overdue but this government could quite easily have addressed the needs of our seniors. They could have addressed some of the serious impact with the growing situation of food kitchens and those people having to go to soup kitchens and food kitchens to get a little bit extra food for their families, to go to Maryhouse to get a bag of groceries, because they can't make it to the end of the month. They're the working poor. They're trying their best and, through no fault of their own, through illnesses or disabilities, the situation around changing workforces and a depressed economy, they are in this situation.
A change in the social assistance rate across the board would have addressed some of those issues across the board. These people should not be punished because this minister has the impression that we're being swamped by people from Outside because our rates are so great. I do not believe that.
Why won't the minister do the right thing and help our elders and people with disabilities and those others in need, and increase the social assistance rates?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: For the record, in the Yukon, the rate for single employable is $12,145. In British Columbia, the rate for single employable is $6,251. In Alberta, it's $4,824 per annum. We are the highest of any jurisdiction across Canada. That is an issue.
With respect to our seniors, our government initiated a major change when we increased the pioneer utility grant and indexed it against inflation. There is another example. Further to that, I indicated to the House that we are moving forward and currently examining the rates for the handicapped, the single parents, and the two-parent families, which would include seniors. So those are currently under examination, and we are moving across the board on a number of categories.
In all fairness, there has not been a government since the early 1990s that has examined the social assistance rates, and that member was a member of a previous government that had an opportunity to meet this obligation, but failed to do so. We have budgeted a tremendous amount of investment here in the Yukon on this budget, and I'm sure the member opposite will be voting against this budget.
Question re: Thomson Centre, future use
Ms. Duncan: I have some questions for the Minister of Health. He has developed a well-earned reputation as someone who only consults with himself before making decisions.
The minister was sitting in his corner office one day last winter and made a unilateral decision to close Macaulay Lodge. He had to back down from that ill-advised idea. Now he has decided, all on his own, that he wants to put detox patients, mental health patients, and Yukoners receiving physiotherapy the bulk of whom are seniors into the Thomson Centre, all at the same time.
Before any changes are made at the Thomson Centre, the minister should be consulting with the people who will be affected by these changes most notably, the Yukon Hospital Corporation Board.
Will the minister confirm that, in fact, there has not been a formal proposal submitted to the board of the Yukon Hospital Corporation regarding the future of the Thomson Centre?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: What I can confirm is that this minister has met more frequently with the Yukon Hospital Corporation Board than the two other previous governments did and their ministers of Health did, both the Minister of Health under the Liberals and the Minister of Health under the NDP, in their entire term in office.
Ms. Duncan: I will remind the member opposite that self-praise is no honour. The minister is getting ready to put mental patients into the same facility as senior citizens, and the only person he has consulted with is himself. There has been no proposal submitted to the board of directors of the Hospital Corporation, and that is very typical of how the minister operates.
Another example is the minister's announcement on March 2 that the Yukon Hospital Corporation Board had agreed to accept the transfer of ambulance attendants. Again, a decision was made to transfer these people without any consultation typical of how this minister and the Yukon Party government operate. This decision is the first step in the Yukon Party plan to privatize parts of our health care services and will also result in new ambulance fees that will be paid by the public. Will the minister confirm that in fact the hospital board has not agreed to accept this offloading in services because in fact the proposal has not come before the board?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: What I want to make abundantly clear to all is that this government has no intention whatsoever of privatizing any part of the health care system, no intention of increasing any fees in the areas. All we are looking at doing is delivering an efficient service, and that is the exercise. We have no intention of placing seniors with mental health patients. What is being examined is the issue of medical detox and mental health in a wing in the Thomson Centre to address those needs here in the Yukon.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, there is a very obvious pattern here. The minister makes decisions and does any consultation if he does any at all after the fact. The Yukon Hospital Corporation is the board responsible. The pattern here is really obvious. He sits in his corner office and doesn't get advice from anyone who might actually know what's going on, such as the people who work at the Thomson Centre, who work at the hospital or ambulance attendants when he makes decisions. The results of this "minister-knows-best" attitude are painfully obvious to everyone.
Ambulance attendants are deeply concerned about their jobs. Yukoners are going to have to pay more for ambulance services if this transfer goes ahead. Will there be a combination of detox, mental health and physiotherapy at the Thomson Centre? In order to avoid these obvious mistakes, there is a very obvious solution. Will the minister stop making unilateral decisions from his corner office and actually consult with a formal proposal to the board of the Hospital Corporation, and will he share that formal proposal with Yukoners on the floor of this House? Will he do that?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: In case anyone hasn't noticed, the Thomson Centre was closed except for the physiotherapy unit some two and a half years ago. It is probably another year before it will reopen. You only have to look at our budget to identify the costs that are going to be incurred by the government because of the ways that previous governments addressed the issue of the construction of the Thomson Centre and the need for its repair. That is the issue. As to what is being examined, we are presently in the consultation stages, and we welcome the member opposite's input, but the jump to conclusions is more like a leap to conclusions by the leader of the third party.
Question re: Ambulance services
Mr. Fairclough: My question is for the minister responsible for the Public Service Commission.
Mr. Speaker, on March 2, the government's news release announces a transfer of EMS to the Hospital Corporation. On the same day, the deputy minister meets with the Whitehorse crew and advises them that the transfer will be done by August with no choice in the matter. The day before the announcement, the union was handed a letter stating the government's intention. Does the minister define these actions as adequate consultation with its union and its employees?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: The issue of the transfer or the assignment of the management of the ambulance to the Whitehorse Hospital is following all the appropriate channels, and we're very, very careful and cognizant of the rights of the union, and we are doing what we are required to do in all respects, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, Mr. Speaker, then the minister must have felt that that was adequate consultation. Here's what they're doing: you really have no input; the decision has been made.
On March 16 and this is for whichever minister wants to answer the question, I suppose the deputy minister announces the reduction from two to one ambulance being available for calls in the winter months. The standard practice, Mr. Speaker, is to send two ambulances to vehicle accidents. On March 15, the Minister of Health and Social Services in an interview stated this, and I quote: "The staffing level at the ambulance station is more than adequate." Mr. Speaker, the number of call-outs has gone up from 800 from a number of years ago to about 3,000 a year. Now, 12 staff in Whitehorse are permanent, and 12 are auxiliary with full-time hours with no benefits and four of those auxiliary staff earned more hours than the permanent staff. Mr. Speaker, the stress levels are very high. There are 39 grievances to be heard
Speaker: Order please. Will the member ask the question, please?
Mr. Fairclough: Thank you. There are 39 grievances to be heard for over 18 months. Will the minister clarify for the employees and the Yukon public when this confusion and the grievances will be cleared up? Will it be before or after the sell-off?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: The member opposite correctly pointed out that there have been grievances outstanding for over 18 months and that's exactly correct. These grievances go back to a previous administration. There is a due process that's in place to be followed and that process is being adhered to and followed. It's part of the collective bargaining agreement.
Mr. Fairclough: Once again, the minister avoided answering the question. He has been the minister for over a year and a half now, Mr. Speaker, and he cannot run away from his responsibilities. Let's try another one and see if the minister can answer this one.
In a news release on March 2, it states that employees can be transferred from their existing bargaining unit. On the same day, the deputy minister advised the crew that they will be given three months to accept or reject job transfers to the Hospital Corporation. On the 11th of this month, the CEO of the Hospital Corporation meets with the Whitehorse crew and advises they will be given one week to accept the job transfer. As we understand it, the Hospital Corporation policy is that after three months, if a position is not permanent, then the position will disappear.
What guarantee does the minister have for the employees that they will not lose their jobs three months after the sell-off?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: The assumptions being made are exactly that assumptions. There's no issue of loss of job or loss of employment. The collective agreement is being adhered to. What there is is a change in management. The management of the ambulance emergency medical services will be undertaken and overseen by the Hospital Corporation.
Question re: Game farming
Mrs. Peter:I have a question for the Minister of Environment. In previous sittings, when we asked the minister what he would do to prevent Yukon game animals from ending up on hunt farms, he suggested that there was no way the government could prevent this. Last week, at a meeting with First Nation chiefs, he promised that no wildlife from the Yukon will be sold to hunt farms. What has changed for this minister?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: Obviously the member opposite only heard part of the story. Under normal circumstances when an animal, a car or anything is sold outside our jurisdiction, we lose the ability to control that. What has changed is that tomorrow we get the keys to the Yukon Wildlife Preserve. Part of that, and the board of directors and the non-profit society that we will be organizing to run that, will be accreditation with the Canadian Association of Zoological Parks and Aquaria. That is a peer-reviewed and very thorough accreditation process. Part of that is to require that any such accredited facility only sell animals to another accredited facility. None of these accredited facilities, and part of that process, would permit them to be sent to a hunt farm. So by restricting the number of animals and where they go, we now have that ability. I am very happy that the member opposite pointed that out.
Mrs. Peter: This minister has earned a reputation in the Yukon for saying one thing one day and something else the next. I hope the position the minister takes today is the correct one and we do not hear another one tomorrow. The Yukon Wildlife Preserve officially begins operation under the Yukon government tomorrow. The minister was very clear that none of the animals there would be sold to private collectors or to hunt farms. What specific steps will the minister be taking to prevent that from happening?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: I appreciate the member opposite's ability to completely not pay attention to what I was saying. That has been a problem as well; the questions continually change and, unfortunately, the script doesn't. So I'll take this opportunity to once again answer that and wait for the scripted reply.
Once the Canadian Association of Zoological Parks and Aquaria accredits the facility and we now make the assumption that it will be no animals will be sold outside of that accreditation scheme. Therefore, nothing will be sold to private collectors, et cetera. One of the nice things about a farm is that surplus animals are sold. Any business has to have a product to sell. This will be a non-profit business. If we need four offspring, we will breed four offspring. We don't have to breed for forty to make an income because that income is not part of the scheme; it is not required.
Again, I thank the member opposite for allowing me to repeat that.
Mrs. Peter: We need to hear the answers twice from this minister in order to believe him. The whole debate about private ownership and sale of animals is still not resolved. The minister has reassured us that he is taking First Nation concerns into consideration. He has assured us that he is consulting in the proper manner.
When the minister finishes his consultations and finally brings forward regulations on captive wildlife, will those regulations include provisions that would prevent animals raised on private game farms from ending up on hunt farms somewhere else?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: Again, I thank the member opposite for reading the third scripted question and paying absolutely no attention to the first few answers. She's concerned that answers change; we never have to have that concern about her questions, Mr. Speaker.
The Canadian Association of Zoological Parks and Aquaria will not permit
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Speaker: Please carry on, but with temperance.
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: One always tries on this side to have temperance, Mr. Speaker, however difficult that is sometimes.
The accreditation process of the Canadian Association of Zoological Parks and Aquaria does not permit animals to go elsewhere. For the third time, Mr. Speaker, that is the way we can get around it by accrediting a facility that is now publicly owned and privately run by a non-profit board of directors, as recommended by the Fish and Wildlife Management Board, as we continue to agree with them.
Mr. Speaker, I would point out at this time that the Fish and Wildlife Management Board has requested that we get on with passing those regulations, and when the consultations are done, then we will address the matter.
Question re: Game farming
Mr. Hardy: I have a question for the Minister of Environment as well. Last week during a meeting with the First Nation leadership, the minister made a very strange comparison. Before the Premier has to rescue the minister one more time, which has happened in the past, will the minister tell us if he still believes that pet goldfish are Yukon wildlife in captivity?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: According to lawyers within the government and the very poor wording of the act, which came into effect in 2001, yes, Mr. Speaker. If the member opposite has a pet goldfish, it would be considered captive wildlife.
Mr. Hardy: Does that not give us a great deal of confidence in this Minister of Environment. He truly believes that pet goldfish are captive wildlife. It might not have occurred to this minister that many people who have heard him speak felt he was belittling their serious concerns about captive wildlife. I do not intend to make light of this issue, but I do intend to point out how ridiculous the minister's statement was. Last year the minister said that there was nothing he could do to prevent Yukon game animals eventually ending up on hunt farms outside the territory, and we have already heard him criticize the member opposite. Now he has been talking fairly recently about using microchip technology to track them. Maybe. But what about the goldfish? Does the minister intend to implant microchips in goldfish, or will he use ear tags instead?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: If the member opposite has a goldfish, I doubt that an ear tag would be plausible, since ears are a limited commodity sometimes.
Unfortunately, we did not write the Wildlife Act. The Wildlife Act was passed under the Liberal government. It is a flawed definition, and that is something we will have to look at. The microchip technology and again I thank the member opposite for allowing me to get into this. Our government has bought into ISIS, the International Species Identification System, which allows microchip technology and registration of these animals with an international body. That allows us to track these animals through any Canadian Association of Zoological Parks and Aquaria facilities and tell exactly where these animals go. This is something that I thought the member opposite was asking us to do before, but maybe he has changed his mind.
Mr. Hardy: Actually I am kind of concerned that this minister is going to be going into people's houses to take a look at their goldfish and putting regulations on them, saying that they are captive. I want the minister to realize that this really is not a joking matter. I am trying to impress on the minister the importance of thinking before he makes embarrassing and insulting statements. I would like the minister to explain another statement that was said and reported recently. When the minister was talking to the chiefs about the Yukon Wildlife Preserve, he referred to jobs that could be created "for their FAS people". What did he mean by that statement?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: That is something that I absolutely never said. One of the things that we do look at, however, is the utilization of adult FAS/FAE patients to possibly provide employment, to at least provide a job and something to hold on to. This is a concept that we have discussed with a number of different groups, and the White River First Nation health director has actually expressed quite an interest in this. I hope he and others continue with it.
But I find the member opposite's trying to put words in my mouth as being somewhat distasteful.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: And he's continually yelling at me from across the floor. So I would like to see that in print, Mr. Speaker.
Unfortunately, the members opposite seem to hold most dear to their hearts that, "A friend of mine has a friend who knows somebody who said something." Mr. Speaker, it's about time we dealt with facts in here. This government deals in facts, not innuendos.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed. We are now prepared to receive the Commissioner, in his capacity as Lieutenant Governor, to grant assent to the bill that has passed this House.
Commissioner enters the Chamber, announced by the Sergeant-at-Arms
ASSENT TO BILL
Commissioner:Please be seated.
Speaker: Sir, the Assembly has, at its present session, passed a bill to which, in the name and on behalf of the Assembly, I respectfully request your assent.
Clerk: Interim Supply Appropriation Act, 2004-05.
Commissioner: I hereby assent to the bill as enumerated by the Clerk.
Commissioner leaves the Chamber
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
We will now proceed with Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Mr. McRobb: I would like to bring the attention of all members to the agreement reached regarding the bill up for discussion today. We have all agreed that it should proceed.
Speaker:The Chair thanks the House leaders for coming to this agreement. As they are aware, at our meeting this morning, the point of order raised by the government House leader posed a very difficult decision for the Chair. The Chair, of course, respects and agrees to follow the wishes of the House leaders in this matter. However, the Chair, through this point of order, has been made aware of some serious issues that the House should address. The Chair will therefore provide a statement to the House on those issues at a later date.
OPPOSITION PRIVATE MEMBERS' BUSINESS
BILLS OTHER THAN GOVERNMENT BILLS
Bill No. 104: Second Reading
Clerk:Second reading, Bill No. 104, standing in the name of Mr. Hardy.
Mr. Hardy: I move that Bill No. 104, entitled Act to Amend the Public Service Act, be now read a second time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the leader of the official opposition that Bill No. 104, entitled Act to Amend the Public Service Act, be now read a second time.
Mr. Hardy: This bill is long overdue, and I want to make it very clear to the House today that we, the NDP on this side, have brought forward the bill in good faith. It's a bill that we've written. We've looked at a lot of the legislation out there across Canada and the many attempts to deal with whistle-blower legislation.
We've looked at past practices and efforts made by the governments of the Yukon Territory for example, the Liberals had been working on whistle-blower legislation the promises made, of course, during the election campaign by the Yukon Party, in which they had promised to implement effective whistle-blower legislation.
It protects the anonymity of public employees who report abuse within the government and provides a clear process for full and fair investigation.
We took those comments seriously, just as we hoped the Yukon Party took their promises seriously. But 16 or 17 months have passed now, Mr. Speaker, and we have asked on numerous occasions if the whistle-blower legislation was going to be coming forward.
In the past, the NDP has also worked on whistle-blower legislation in the Yukon, as well as in Ontario, where they drafted up some. This is an issue that goes beyond just the Yukon, beyond just Ontario. Every single province, and possibly even the neighbouring territories, has looked at whistle-blower legislation and is looking at it.
Of course, as most people know right now, one of the pieces of legislation coming forward, proposed by the Liberal Government of Canada, is whistle-blower legislation. Of course, many people believe that's a reaction to the scandals that are rocking the foundations of the Liberal Party at the present time on a federal level.
Whatever the reasons, fundamentally I believe in this House we all agree that whistle-blower legislation is necessary and timely. Far too many situations in the past have arisen in which, if there had been protection for people who report wrongdoing and if those people, in seeing it, had known they would not have had to face repercussions, they would have come forward and reported the wrongdoing and we would have been able to avert or deal with issues before they got too big.
The very recent past can point to some of that as well. Now, in bringing forward this bill, it is my hope that the Yukon Party government and that the third-party Liberals will support it, will support the concept of it, will support the very genuine, serious effort that we're trying to make on our part to contribute to better legislation, to the amendment to the Public Service Act that we feel would address at least, in many of the areas, some of the concerns in this regard.
Now this bill is not perfect. We're the first ones to say that, Mr. Speaker, as most bills aren't. That's why I look very much forward to a debate that we will have out of this when we move it into the Committee of the Whole and the suggestions and the progressive ideas that will come forward, possibly amendments, which will strengthen the bill in areas that we may be lacking, we may have put in it. We will welcome that. The NDP on this side will welcome that. And it won't be the first time that an opposition has brought forward a bill and the government of the day looked at it, debated it and at the end of the day recognized that it's time and it's good, and it's time to move forward. We can only look back when the NDP was in power from 1996 to 2000. And it was already mentioned earlier, Mr. Speaker, grandparents' rights, a bill that was brought forward by Ms. Edelman, and there was debate in the House. At the end of the day, the NDP government felt that this was a legitimate bill and would serve the public good. It moved forward. So this is not and should not be considered a criticism of the government opposite, other than possibly my feeling is they could have moved on this a little sooner.
They did not have to be tardy on this issue. That, to me, is a very important part of it, but we are bringing it forward, and we are open for the debate that surrounds it.
Throughout Canada the majority of people want to see whistle-blower legislation. The poll done was 89 percent. A massive majority would love to see whistle-blower legislation. We in the Yukon, in our very small jurisdiction, have an opportunity to bring forward some form of whistle-blower legislation that the others, who are struggling, can take a look at and maybe be able to incorporate into the provinces and territories, as well as the federal government. We have the ability to do it in this city. We have the ability to work together to find the resolutions around this bill that we brought forward.
In the past, in regard to whistle-blower legislation Pardon me, not necessarily in regard to whistle-blower legislation, but in regard to employees who have come forward and reported wrongdoing and have often ended up being the ones who have been punished being the ones who have, in many cases, lost their jobs, been dismissed, ostracized within the workplace, made it almost impossible for them to continue working very few recourses for them. Often the only recourse they do have is to go to lawyers and seek legal recourse to protect themselves when they feel what they have done is in the public good by reporting a wrongdoing.
Now, governments in Canada at both the federal and provincial level have thus far generally declined to enact broader whistle-blower protection that does exist in other countries. This is not alien. We're not trying to create something brand new in this matter. Other countries have been leading on this but, in Canada, there seems to be a fairly strong resistance to it, Mr. Speaker, and we really do have to wonder why.
I believe every time we see a situation where the employee has been injured and we don't see many of them; there are a lot of times when people, with good conscience, bring forward very legitimate concerns about the operations of a government, possibly about the way their own colleagues are conducting business within government and they have often been the ones who have been targeted, which sends a message throughout the workplace that, if you have the courage to stand up and say what is being done wrong, you will be the one to pay the price.
That's the message that has been sent out year after year after year. No wonder we have people who have a conscience and belief that wrongdoing should be reported and dealt with, but they do not step forward, because the punishment ends up on them in many cases. It destroys their lives; they lose their jobs. Often it affects their family dramatically. The thing is, it even goes beyond that. A lot of people don't realize this, but it actually goes beyond that.
What happens if the person loses their job, or they're forced out of their job due to the internal pressures they feel within their own workplace for standing up for something that was wrong within that workplace?
And they no longer work in that environment, but they have no recourse and no protection, so they lose their job. Well, in a small community, guess what? It doesn't stay within the workplace. Their name is now attached to something that says this person has ethics and they will report wrongdoing. If you hire them and you do something wrong, they will probably stand up and report it. So an ethical person is now targeted, or "blacklisted," as the old term used to be. And I've seen that. I've seen that in the workplace. I saw that when I was the representative of working people. I've seen where somebody stood up against the employer or even against some of their own colleagues when something was being done wrong, when it could have been just unsafe work conditions not that this applies necessarily here, but that person becomes targeted. Then they try to go and get a job somewhere else, and that stamp is on them. And they did the right thing, Mr. Speaker. They did the right thing, and, guess what? They're the one who carries the burden. Often the wrongdoing is not addressed; it's shovelled under; it's hidden. Or they're told to just stop; they'll get rid of the troublemaker. Well, I would like to make it very clear that being a whistle-blower is not about being a troublemaker. People do not, in most cases, feel that to come forward is something that they would enjoy. No one that I know would enter into reporting wrongdoing within the workplace happily. It's not something that you like. They're not troublemakers, but they are people with a very strong conscience about right and wrong, and they are people who contribute so much to ensuring that our workplace and the work that is being done is done for the public good. That is what our role is as MLAs, and that is what our role as employees is.
I would like to talk a bit about that. If you do not mind, I would just like to read a bit from an article from The Senate. It was prepared in regard to Bill S-13, Public Service Whistleblowing Act, and it was prepared in January 2000.
"Whistleblowers in both the public and private sectors are forced to rely chiefly on the protection offered by common law." This is where I go into what happens to them. It goes: "As noted in the Ontario Law Reform Commission Report on Political Activity, under the common law an employee owes his or her employer the general duties of loyalty, good faith and, in appropriate circumstances, confidentiality. Loyalty embraces the obligation to perform assigned work diligently and skilfully, to refrain from any sort of deception related to the employment contract, to avoid any relationships remunerative or otherwise that might give rise to an interest inconsistent with that of the employer, and to conduct oneself at all times so as not to be a discredit to one's employer.
"Good faith requires an employee to perform assigned tasks according to the best interests of his or her employer. Finally, confidentiality may give an employee a duty to keep certain information confidential until released from that duty by the employer. This duty may arise by contract or it may be imposed by equity whenever the employer entrusts an employee with confidential information on the understanding that it is not to be disclosed without authorization. A general duty of confidentiality may arise by virtue of a particular relationship between the employer and the employee."
Now, when an employee breaches these duties and reveals a confidence or some information believing that to do so is in the public interest, the employer routinely takes disciplinary action, which may include dismissal.
In the face of such punishment, some employees have sought protection from the courts, and that seems to be in many cases and jurisdictions the only course left for these employees who have come forward, or else they can use the collective agreement and the small protection offered there. In many cases, it's not successful.
When the wrongdoing has been serious, and the public's interest in disclosure is clear, the courts have permitted a very limited public interest offence in these cases. They have emphasized a need for the employee to use internal remedies first, to be sure of the facts and to exercise good judgement in his or her actions. In general, it may be said that, at present, employees have only a narrow range of protection and may seriously jeopardize their careers by breaching their duties to their employers.
So, that was prepared for The Senate in studying whistle-blower legislation, and I think it makes it fairly clear that there is very little protection for employees, and whistle-blower legislation is necessary.
And we all know the many cases that have been out there. Some of these are quite striking and quite powerful. Hollywood movies have been made based on people who have stood up to corporations and environmental situations you know, the Karen Silkwood story. It's a very, very good example of somebody who spoke out. A more recent example is Erin Brockovich, which I believe most people are familiar with. Again, that was another person who would be called a whistle-blower.
Another one I have seen recently it has been out for awhile and is really powerful is The Insider. That was about the tobacco industry, and one employee finally started to challenge and present evidence in a more public manner to get the message out that what was being said was not necessarily true.
It is a very current topic. Some people look at those three examples that these movies were made about as troublemakers, but the majority of people look at them as heroes. The majority of people should look at those who will report wrongdoing and put their careers on the line as heroes too and not as somebody who should be punished.
We have introduced this bill, and there are some areas in it where I would welcome some discussion and debate. I would welcome members opposite who may want to strengthen it. Some areas we may have not caught exactly, areas that may not be reflective of the thoughts from the Yukon Party or the third party. I look forward to that kind of debate. I look forward to the suggestions and amendments that will be brought forward to strengthen this, to serve as duty to ensure that the employees do know there is protection for them if they step forward, to know that this government and all MLAs in here care for them and have put in place this kind of legislation that will be strong enough that they can come forward.
I can go through this, but I am not going to at this present time. I look forward to the responses and then some more comments in this regard, but the opportunity for the employee to go to the Privacy Commissioner I believe is one step that will give some confidence to the employee.
It should give some confidence to the government as well because, in the end, we will be stronger in here if we allow people who have very legitimate, very strong arguments of what they're reporting we will be stronger in here.
We've tried to cover as much as we can in this, so I look forward to the comments made by the other parties, as well as the debate issuing from it.
Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I would like to start out by correcting the record of statements made by the leader of the official opposition. This government has always stated we would work in cooperation with the opposition. To date, in my opinion, they have just refused the offer. I'd like to thank the opposition for tabling this bill and providing their input toward this very important piece of legislation.
This is an issue that is very important to us. In fact, we included a commitment in our platform related to this.
Mr. Speaker, I would also like to say that I have the utmost respect for all Yukon government employees, and the intention of this bill is to provide an avenue for a Yukon government employee who wishes to complain about a government violation of a territorial enactment, a criminal law, or a policy or practice posing a great threat to public health or public safety. I support these intentions.
Mr. Speaker, the subject is complex and needs extensive study. The federal legislation will be commented on and debated extensively, and it would be irresponsible for us to move ahead without being informed by, and considering, that debate. There is similarity of issues; there is even similarity of unions whose employees are involved. Great Britain and other jurisdictions have whistle-blower legislation and the opposition itself obviously thinks that more time and study and discussion are needed to have effective whistle-blower legislation.
The section 214 that their Bill No. 104 proposes would not have the legislation in effect until regulations are prepared. It is also clear that they would leave to the regulations a lot of substantive matters that should probably be dealt with in the act.
Several issues generate debate and difference of opinion and still need to receive careful study and consideration in the Legislative Assembly. For example, whether and how to bring the whistle-blower complaint to the public body and, if so, then in what circumstances; whether and how to incorporate a process for mediation of the circumstances that give rise to the complaint in other words, is the purpose of the legislation limited to investigating complaints and exposing only proven wrongdoings, or should it include a process of mediation and remedial issues or measures to improve conditions or resolve workplace disputes that give rise to the complaint? By what process and in what circumstances should it be possible for the employee to make a complaint anonymously for investigation by a body independent of the government? Whether action should be taken, and if so, what action and by what process? In situations where there is no wrongdoing but the employee has used the whistle-blower law as a way of obstructing or protecting a decision or action that they disagree with or oppose?
Mr. Speaker, I would like to say that when we develop this type of legislation, the Public Service Commission would be directed to consult all departments, unions and appropriate parties.
The Public Service Commission would then provide the consultation results to an all-party committee. The all-party committee would then have an opportunity to provide input into the development of the legislation. Only after the consultation and the input were complete would we then support drafting and tabling the legislation. In the meantime, the political pressure for legislation seems based on the idea that there is no protection for employees now. In fact, there is a lot of protection for employees now. The Occupational Health and Safety Act and Environment Act have protection for employees who report hazardous conditions under them. Those acts cover extensive fields of government administration.
An abuse of authority is already addressed with the Yukon government workplace harassment policy. The Ombudsman Act protects the anonymity of people who complain under it, and the complaints under it can refer to virtually any aspect of government administration. The Charter of Rights and Freedoms ensures substantial protection to employees. The law on disciplinary action against employees and the dismissal of employees includes important protection for employees against retaliatory action. Disciplinary action must be justified and there is a process of grievance and adjudication to require that justification be proven.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Therefore, I move:
THAT the motion for second reading of Bill No. 104 be amended by adding the following: "and that it be referred to a select committee of the Assembly; and
"THAT the membership and mandate of the select committee be established by a separate motion of the Assembly following consultation between the House leaders."
Point of order
Ms. Duncan:Mr. Speaker, could I first ask for clarification on how you amend a second reading address, please? My understanding is that second reading speeches are for second reading, and the motion to Committee would come after second reading speeches have been concluded. Could I just seek your clarification on that?
Speaker:It is in order that the reference to a committee be made at second reading stage; therefore, I'll read the amendment as proposed.
It has been moved by the hon. minister responsible for the Public Service Commission
THAT the motion for second reading of Bill No. 104 be amended by adding the following: "and that it be referred to a select committee of the Assembly; and
"THAT the membership and mandate of the select committee be established by separate motion of the Assembly following consultation between the House leaders."
Speaking to the amendment, minister responsible for the Public Service Commission.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Mr. Speaker, I think it's very important that this amendment be accepted by the members opposite. Once again, I believe it's a very clear demonstration of how this government is prepared to move ahead in unison with the opposition on such items as this. I believe that it is an important issue with respect to all citizens in the territory.
This amendment, I believe, would put a lot more thought into this important legislation, plus it would also give the point of view of all parties. I would encourage the members opposite to accept this amendment.
Ms. Duncan: I rise to address the amendment and not the substance of the bill. As I understand it, once we have dealt with the amendment, we will be able to address the substance of the bill.
I have a great deal of difficulty with the amendment, quite frankly, Mr. Speaker. Justice delayed is justice denied. The members opposite and the other governments have not had a great deal of success in establishing all-party committees to review legislation. It hasn't happened very often, and I'm concerned that hiving this bill off to a committee, players to be named later, will delay indefinitely the debate that should take place on this legislation. We have an opportunity today to thoroughly discuss the thought behind the idea of whistle-blower legislation. We have the opportunity in second reading speeches to discuss that idea. We have an opportunity to fine-tune and look at the legislation in detail in Committee of the Whole as legislators in this Legislature. That's what we're asked to do by the public to do this very hard work of crafting legislation.
I don't disagree that there should be and we should have witnesses, individuals provide us with input. There is time to do that and still engage in healthy debate on the floor of this House. We are asked by the people when we put our names forward, we agree that we're willing to come here to work on the best laws we can for Yukoners. That's what the work of this bill is. It's about discussing it clause by clause. There is nothing to say that it all has to be done in this session, Mr. Speaker.
We could include additional consultation with individuals outside this House during Committee debate and/or in future sessions of the Legislature. We have the time. If we send this off to a select committee, we have taken the discussion out of the public forum of this Legislature and put it behind closed doors. That is not what the public asked us to do. They asked us to discuss the points in this legislation and to deal with it.
Other legislation has come forward. There are many examples of good legislation that have been brought forward and that have been discussed. They are not all the work solely of the government side. I mentioned one today in my motion, the private member's bill with respect to grandparents' rights. That was brought forward, that was worked on with the government of the day, and the Legislature passed it. We discussed it on the floor of this House, and it was passed. We discuss legislation all the time. We have three pieces before us for this session alone. We can do this on the floor of this House and in Committee, and that work can include the input of the public, the Public Service Commissioner and the union representatives. We have the ability as a House to call them as witnesses. We can reach agreement and work as a committee, and we can do that work in the public and end up with good, well-crafted legislation. That work does not have to be done behind closed doors by a select few. It can be done and it should be done by this Legislature.
The Member for Mayo-Tatchun has pointed out that all parties are here. They're represented. It is the responsibility of all of us, on behalf of our constituents, to review this legislation, to talk about it, and to amend it. The sponsor of the bill has indicated that he's prepared to accept amendments.
Let's craft good legislation for Yukoners. It can be done in Committee of the Whole, in this Legislature. We have the time. We don't need to send this off to a select committee. So for that reason I do not support the amendment, and I would appreciate an opportunity to hear from others about why they think that all members can't engage in the very public work we were asked to do. Why do they feel that this bill has to be sent off to a committee? None of the others are.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: On the amendment, our government recognizes the importance of this bill. It is certainly an issue that we've clearly identified in our party platform, and it's an issue that we were looking forward to addressing.
What we, as a government, are looking for is that big "C" word that the members opposite constantly demonstrate a need for in this House, and that we are insisting upon for this issue that's consultation. What we see a need for is to perhaps place a caveat on what we're doing so that we include the union, the Public Service Commission and all the departments, as well as an all-party committee on this consultation.
The easiest way to proceed is through a select committee. This suggestion that we have put forward is done in a sincere manner. We want to work with the opposition and we want to see a piece of legislation that is going to be workable for all.
From past experience, legislation that is amended on the floor of the House and dealt back and forth is usually not a thoroughly thought-out process. I would encourage the members opposite to take our sincere offer as a government that we are quite prepared to look at a select committee an all-party select committee and that all-party select committee includes the union, Public Service Commission and all departments. That is a genuine, sincere offer because we as a government want to see something work, and it's in the interest of all of us. By proceeding in this way, we'll have an opportunity to move forward on this issue in a very timely manner.
Mr. Speaker, we are well aware of the bill that was prepared by the previous Liberal administration. It was bandied about. It never came to the floor of this House. We know what's going on in the bill that's currently tabled in Ottawa. So there has been some background work done, and the official opposition has taken the time to take the input from the Liberal initiative, the prior government of the Yukon, and dovetail it into the existing. Now, whether that's a good mix and whether that's going to bode well for us is yet to be determined.
I would encourage the members opposite to have a serious look at this sincere offer to move forward on this initiative, because it is a good initiative.
It is a good initiative. It is an initiative we want to proceed with, this type of legislation, the Act to Amend the Public Service Act. So that said, we can hear what the official opposition have to say on this amendment and move forward.
Mr. Hardy: I would like to thank the minister for his supposedly sincere offer. Just as we brought forward this bill with sincerity, we would also expect their willingness to debate in the Legislature with all-party participation, all-member participation, and not a select few, in the Legislature, in the public forum and allow the public to listen to the debate and understand where each and every member of the Legislative Assembly is coming from when they talk about the whistle-blower legislation. All this does is hide it in the back rooms again, slide it back there.
Now the Yukon Party on this side says this is a sincere offer. I challenge that. If it is a real, sincere offer, are we going to expect that with their bills when they bring them forward? Are we? Are they going to put bills on the table and then we can suggest that they go into an all-party committee, and we look at it before we bring it back? It has not happened yet. Why is all of a sudden our bill, the one we bring forward, that they have not addressed for over 15 months, not acceptable? Why do they want to move it into the back rooms? Why do they want to hide it? Those are the questions we have to ask about this amendment. Are they scared of the employees? Well, I think they should be because they are doing things that maybe some employees would like to be able to speak about but are too afraid of these people. We only have to look at last year, with the computer use investigation. This whistle-blower legislation we have brought forward could have dealt with that, possibly years ago. It would never have ended up in the witch hunt conducted by that government.
What are they hiding? What are they scared of to bring forward this silly amendment? To shut her down, or is it ego? Are they so afraid, are they so shallow, Mr. Speaker, that they do not want any other name upon a bill unless it's theirs? Is that working together? Is that collaboration? Is that consensus-building?
I made it very clear when I stood up here, Mr. Speaker, that I was willing to entertain any suggestions, share anything to make this bill good, to make it strong. The work we have done addresses most if not all the concerns, but it's not their bill so they cannot accept it. Why?
When you look at it, I think it's base emotions causing it.
I have a very hard time with what they're trying to do here, Mr. Speaker, because they do not apply the same standard or same request they're putting on us the same mode of operation to themselves.
I do not expect them to bring any of the bills they have forward right now into this Legislature and then say, "Now, let me see, the Act to Amend the Income Tax Act I think we should go into an all-party committee and review this, and we should make sure it has the input of the business community, workers, single mothers that's the way a bill should be done."
Is that what I'm going to expect with this one? Is that the same offer that's being made, Mr. Speaker? I don't think so or the other bills they've brought forward. But guess what? We take the initiative on this side to do something that that minister will not do and they can't accept it. They're not big enough to accept it.
They are not even big enough to allow a debate on the floor in regard to the act that was brought forward. They immediately throw in an amendment to stop the debate on the act. They don't even allow the process for all members in here to stand up and talk about the bill that was brought forward. They don't even allow that. The first thing they do is try to shut it down the first thing. We didn't even have a chance. The backbenchers of the Yukon Party we still haven't heard them express an opinion on whistle-blower legislation. They've been muzzled, Mr. Speaker, because the minister decided to shut it down before all members from all parties had a chance to speak and say their piece and represent their constituents the pros and cons. I, for one, would love to hear from some of the backbenchers. I believe they have a right to speak in this House as much as I do. Maybe they should move over to this side of the House, Mr. Speaker, so they can ask questions of their own government, speak on the bills, instead of always being silenced.
Now, I'm not asking them to join our party absolutely not, Mr. Speaker, but possibly we would have some other voices in here and not just one or two that are always speaking for the government and the other ones: "Hear, hear." That's about all we ever get. I don't know; I'm sure the constituents must wonder what they pay them for if that's the only thing they ever do in the Legislature. And when we see actions as we just witnessed today, where if they really wanted to bring this amendment forward they could have brought it after we've had some informed debate from all members in the Legislature. But no, God forbid, Mr. Speaker, that you would actually allow freedom of thought in the Legislature from some of these members who don't have a portfolio I'm sorry, I should include the other ministers, because a lot of them don't have a chance to even speak on this, as well, and they might have some very interesting contributions to make.
My esteemed colleague beside me indicated that the backbenchers might like this bill, and that is true. They might want to blow the whistle, too, on their own government. They might need this protection. But obviously they can't, because they have to go back up into caucus and face the wrath of the leader.
What we have here, unfortunately, is once again the Yukon Party government trying to act like they are all knowing, all wise, all generous and shutting debate down. That does not match. That does not work. It is not going to wash with the public. It is not going to wash in here. We do not accept this. The leader of the third party has already indicated that she has a very difficult time with the actions of this government in regard to whistle-blower legislation. What we are witnessing here is members opposite shutting that debate down; it's basically an attack on democracy, and they're not allowing the debate to happen on the floor. So what is the problem? We bring forward whistle-blower legislation. We have debate. We have first-off responses. The members can respond. Pros and cons. Their viewpoints. Possibly they would have a view that might differ from the leader of the pack. I have not heard it yet. I have not heard a single line yet come from all 11 of them over there who may think slightly differently, almost like a cookie cutter thought wave here. An acceptance of this. But how would we know, because the democratic right to speak in this Legislature has been silenced. None of them can speak to this bill.
Now, they can speak to the amendment, which is where we're forced to now, and I know the Member for Lake Laberge is panting to get at it. I'm sure we're going to have a nice little chat about that.
But in all of this the fact that we're not going to have it on the floor, the fact that we're not going to go into Committee of the Whole, the fact that we're not going to bring it forward we're missing one very important element put aside democracy, put aside all that stuff they've already done. They're forgetting that there are people out there who need this protection, and they can't wait for when the Yukon Party government decides they can have it or not.
The minister responsible for the Public Service Commission has indicated they have lots of options, lots of protection. How would he know? How could he justify it after the attack we witnessed last year on the Yukon employees with this computer use investigation? How could he say that? How did the Charter of Rights and Freedoms protect any of them, Mr. Speaker? How? He uses that the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Can you believe that? How?
It didn't. What avenues did the workers have? Who can come forward and report anything without the thought that there are serious repercussions they could face? I've had people come into my office in the last year. They have come into my office and talked about the workplace and when they have stood up and spoken out and what has happened to them. They have faced serious consequences. That's why we're bringing it forward.
We're bringing it forward not just because it will make government better that's one of the reasons but we're also bringing it forward so that those with that conscience, with that will and desire to see the goodness and the right thing done have that protection. We're not sending them out there to get shot down, to get their lives destroyed, to lose their jobs, to become ill and not be able to get work again and have to leave the territory.
That has happened. There is no denying that that has happened in the Yukon Territory, in the provinces and federally. That is why 89 percent of the people of this country say, "Start putting in whistle-blower legislation." Start somewhere.
So, what is the response we get? "Well, let's hold it here. We have to watch what's happening at the federal level." Well, since when has the Yukon Territory and its elected members ever, ever played second fiddle to the federal legislation? When have we ever said, "Oh, we'd better not do anything because the feds might know what they're doing." Well, that's a wish.
We already know what they're doing. It has been out there, it has been highly criticized, and it's full of fault. The minister responsible for the Public Service Commission has already indicated that it probably won't even pass that it's going to fall off the Order Paper, that an election will probably be called, and it will disappear like all of the other Liberal promises. But you know what? We're going to wait and watch. Well, we can apply that to just about anything we do.
And then, you know what? If that's the attitude and if that's the argument that that minister makes, then resign, because you're not a leader. You're following the Liberals. And I thought you ran for a different party that had a stronger fortitude and willpower. Instead, you say, "No, the Liberals."
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Speaker:It's being dealt with. Address the Chair, please.
Mr. Hardy: The Yukon Party government has indicated that they want to wait. That is incorrect, because that is following a faulty process. It is also following something that we should remember very clearly: there was a promise made, I believe it was in 1993, by the Prime Minister that there would be whistle-blower legislation, and there was some work done on it. But guess what? That was going to happen right away. It's now 2004, 11 years later, and there is a promise made that they're going to have whistle-blower legislation. But guess what? There's going to be an election called. That will fall off the Order Paper and it might be another 10 years. So if the argument being used is that we will wait and see what happens federally, we will never see whistle-blower legislation. The chances are we will never see it.
Mr. Hardy: Now, Mr. Speaker, I'd like to make an amendment to the amendment to the motion for second reading of Bill No. 104:
THAT the amendment to the motion for second reading of Bill No. 104, standing in the name of the minister responsible for the Public Service Commission, be amended to read as follows: " and proceed to Committee of the Whole for initial debate, following which it may be referred to a three-person select committee of the Assembly that is comprised of one member from each of the parties in the Assembly, that is chaired by a non-partisan chair, appointed by mutual agreement among the three parties, for the purpose of inviting and hearing submissions from interested persons and organizations, and that will report back to the Legislative Assembly no later than the fall 2004 sitting of the Legislative Assembly."
Speaker:The amendment proposed by the leader of the official opposition is not in order as it presents a totally separate proposition to the amendment moved by the minister responsible for the Public Service Commission.
We will continue debate on the amendment. Is there any further debate on the amendment, as moved?
Subamendment ruled out of order
Mr. Hardy: That is a shame because I believe that the amendment the attempt, I guess, the one that was not accepted did try to accommodate the Yukon Party's position in which they do want to take it into a committee to allow debate. We did try to flesh out that committee, the structure, to make it clear for everybody in here so that when we did cast the vote, we would understand what the committee, the structure and everything was.
It was trying to assist the debate around the bill to allow it to happen on the floor, which we feel is so important. I personally want to hear from every member here. I do not necessarily want to go into an all-party committee, where there are just one or two representatives, and just talk in that field. I much prefer in just about any situation to be here where the public expects us to be and to be having that debate on the floor and not having that debate stifled. Unfortunately, that is really what has happened. In this case we have lost the ability to have that debate and we have curtailed democracy.
As I said earlier, the amendment brought in by the minister responsible for the Public Service Commission actually, I do not have a copy of it in front of me. Has it been circulated yet?
Thank you very much. I have a copy now so I can refer to it more clearly.
The amendment itself does not describe what a select committee of the Assembly is. It does not tell how many people would be on that select committee. It does not indicate if it will be an all-party committee whatsoever. It does not ensure that there will be a balance among the parties to ensure each person in it will feel their voice is weighed equally. It does not have timelines about when it would report back to the Legislature or if it even would, or if it would only report back to the minister. It does not indicate to me that the select committee has any validity, any power.
I'm not a person who likes to participate in activities that do not necessarily mean that anything will be accomplished. There's no substance there; there's no direction given.
It goes on to say that the membership and the mandate of the select committee would be established by separate motion of the Assembly following consultation between House leaders. Well, again, that's taking it one more step down into a select group of people making decisions.
So I do have some very serious concerns. I do not support the amendment as it has been drawn up. I believe it basically curtails participation in the public eye by all members of the Legislature and, as far as I'm concerned, Mr. Speaker, it's done for the wrong reasons, the kind of things that the public has found to be disgusting about our parliamentary procedure and indicated to us two years ago on the doorstep.
I can't support this there's no way in the world.
Mr. Rouble: It is indeed my privilege and honour today to speak to the amendment that is before our Assembly.
Mr. Speaker, when the Yukon Party took office, we made many commitments to the Yukon people. We committed to conduct genuine public consultation on matters of importance to Yukoners, with an emphasis on proposed legislation. We made a commitment to promote consensus-building, collaboration and compromise. And it was a platform commitment to implement effective whistle-blower legislation, which protects the anonymity of public employees who report abuse within the government, and provide a clear process for full and fair investigations.
I'd like to thank the member opposite for bringing forward this legislation. It's a piece of legislation that we have been working on and examining, as we committed to do. In the full term of our mandate, which is not quite half over yet, I fully expected to see the issue brought forward. Unfortunately, the plate can only carry so much at once.
However, we now have an opportunity because the issue has been brought forward. And we have the opportunity to all work together for the betterment of all Yukoners on this very important piece of legislation.
As the member opposite said, this piece of legislation is important to people. Many, many people have raised the issue and want to see this type of legislation because it's important. It ensures an open and accountable government, and ensures a government that is transparent. It does all of the things we are striving to do in government.
Mr. Speaker, I'd like to clear up some of the confusion that there seems to be about this amendment. This amendment is put forward so that we can create a legislative committee, as we have many committees of our Assembly, to sit down and specifically look at this. Mr. Speaker, I've had the pleasure of working with the members opposite in the Public Accounts Committee, a committee of this Assembly that is tasked with looking at specific issues. What's the rationale behind having the Public Accounts Committee? Why don't we do that as just a matter of course of our whole Legislative Assembly? Well, again, it's a matter of time. We don't have the time to fully analyze, construct, see witnesses, think about ideas, toss them back and forth, and worry through a lot of these issues. That's why we create other committees made up of members of our Assembly. In the Public Accounts Committee, we take matters that are very important to this Assembly and put it to the Public Accounts Committee. Members then work on it, call witnesses, as we saw some months ago here in our own Assembly. And, Mr. Speaker, it was a very positive and constructive experience. I thoroughly enjoyed sitting down with members of our party and members from the opposition as well as from the Liberal Party, working together, working toward consensus-building, working in collaboration, compromising on issues, to get the job of the Assembly done.
And, Mr. Speaker, that's what this amendment is intended to do to give us the time, the room, the space to properly explore this issue. Mr. Speaker, in my efforts to further review this last night, one of the important comments that I found was that whistle-blowing systems, frameworks and schemes and models abound in diversity and scope.
There are many different models to look at and many different models to debate back and forth. It could be that the model put forward here is not a suitable one for our jurisdiction, and amending that on the fly in Committee of the Whole would be an unwieldy type of exercise to go through. What would we do? Say that in the first clause of the act, rewrite everything or send it back out for rewriting. Well, I pose to you that that would not be an efficient or effective use of our Assembly's time. We have a committee structure; let us put it to our committee where they can work with witnesses, work with the unions that are part of our government, work with the departments, work with other legislatures to look at other pieces of legislation.
The member opposite, when he tabled this, said that this bill is not perfect. We need some darn good legislation for people. We need some legislation that is going to work and I propose that the best way to do this is to put it to a committee where they can devote the time and energy to properly analyze and discuss this matter and bring it back to our Assembly. Then, when it is in a more perfect form, we will again have the opportunity to debate the piece of legislation. Members will not lose the opportunity to then stand up and share another point of view and debate it back and forth in our very public Assembly. Additionally, if further amendments need to be made, they can again be debated in our very public forum. But it will be a much more perfect piece of legislation than the admittedly flawed piece of legislation put forward to us today.
Again I stand in support this amendment. I believe it is important for all of us to recognize that we can work together. I trust that the members opposite and our Yukon Party team can work together to draft a better piece of legislation.
This is a good solid amendment, Mr. Speaker, and one that I would ask all members to support.
Thank you for your attention.
Mr. McRobb: On the amendment to Bill No. 104, listening to the new member across the way, it strikes me that his voice is really the voice of inexperience. It's rather amazing to hear how someone
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Speaker:Member for Laberge, on a point of order.
Mr. Cathers: Mr. Speaker, I believe yesterday you ruled terms such as "rookie" out of order and, in this case, the usage by the Member for Kluane of terms such as "new" are casting suggestions, I believe, that are contrary to 19(i) of the Standing Orders. Using abusive or insulting language by suggesting inexperience of members is contrary to our Standing Orders.
Speaker:There is no point of order. Please carry on, Member for Kluane.
Mr. McRobb: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
The backbenchers on the government side have an extremely high opinion of their relatively short period of experience in their jobs as MLAs. I find it rather startling how they're so set in the opinion that all members of this Legislature should do whatever they think is best. It leaves a lot to be desired.
In the case of shuffling this matter to a committee, there indeed is a lot to be desired. In most cases, Mr. Speaker, committees are not an effective approach to deal with any type of process and they lead to a lot of delay. There's an example in the Standing Committee on Rules, Elections and Privileges, known as SCREP. There is a major issue before that committee right now on the makeup of SCREP. The government side enjoys a majority in the membership of SCREP and, therefore, can dictate anything coming out of that committee.
Mr. Speaker, that is indeed a problem. The government has the ability to even out membership on SCREP but has not followed up on that suggestion, even though the Premier and the government House leader, when in opposition last term, advocated evening out the membership of SCREP. So that's one example that proves that these committees are not an effective way to deal with matters such as this.
I think the Yukon government employees and the Yukon public would ask the question, "Why delay?" There is no need to delay this important legislation. Our employees are this government's watchdogs, and those watchdogs need to be protected. Those watchdogs should be encouraged to speak out not punished for speaking out. In order to ensure that, legislation is required.
A good government that believes in open and accountable government should be in favour of bringing in whistle-blower legislation that will protect employees. But this government has had a chance. It has had a year and a half to bring in whistle-blower legislation but hasn't done so.
As a matter of fact, what legislation has this government brought in? Well, there have been a number of house-cleaning bills. And, if I recall correctly, the first order of business was an act to repeal the Government Accountability Act. What can be said about a government whose first matter of business is to repeal government accountability?
And now we see a second stunning development, and it's putting up roadblocks and delays in the path of whistle-blower legislation that any reasonable person would deem to be in the interests of accountable government and the public good. Well, where is this government going? Well, obviously, if the latest DataPath Systems poll is any indication, Mr. Speaker, it's going in one direction, and that is down in public support. And it is matters such as this, not living up to its promises of being a good government, that are drivers in that down trend.
Now, there are several reasons to speak in favour of whistle-blower legislation. I would have expected all parties to support it. On principle, we believe that a government should live by the same provisions it sets for its successors. There is no reason to delay the legislation toward the end of this government's term. I say that, Mr. Speaker, looking back to the previous Yukon Party government, in how it dealt with the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act. That particular act was at the very end of its calendar in government, so that government didn't have to abide by the same provisions it set for successive governments. Now I know that some of the same people are still driving this Yukon Party, and they acknowledge this point. Probably, they have whistle-blower legislation set up for the very end of this government's term, knowing full well that the provisions it will bring in will apply to successive governments. And the way things go in the territory, Mr. Speaker, this Yukon Party won't be the next government.
We all know that voters are very fickle, and for good reason. They have tossed out the past four governments. They have not elected the past four. They tossed out the past four. In case any of the members have lost count, currently we are in the drive for five and they are doing amazingly well at that. So maybe all parties can agree to bring forward this legislation as soon as possible, which is today. Let us at least get a start on it. After all, the other parties both promised they would. So let us put our collective heads together and work cooperatively for the public good. After all, is that not in itself a Yukon Party election promise? Look here, in the Yukon Party platform, it says in a section that is called "Open, Accountable, Fiscally Responsible Government", it has a bullet that reads: "Promote consensus-building, collaboration and compromise rather than confrontation in government." Well, how would you describe today's actions? Certainly by putting up a roadblock and detour in front of the official opposition's bill, clearly that is a confrontational approach. That is 180 degrees away from what the public was promised merely a year and a half ago. Maybe what we should be debating is recall legislation because the reasons for recalling this government are adding up fast.
Our bill is open to change, and that point has been made clearly. Hopefully the other parties will contribute in a constructive way, and hopefully all members of this Legislature will end up supporting the final product. That's what it's all about. That's how you seek consensus-building, collaboration and compromise, rather than confrontation. This is a perfect example of how to do it, and the government has given us, again, an example of how not to do it. That's a shame.
The government side has had a briefing on this bill already, as has the third party. Our office held a briefing yesterday afternoon. So the government side has taken this bill seriously and knows what it's about. There is no reason why we can't continue on today and all help to develop this whistle-blower legislation, instead of shuffling it off to some committee, the workings of which won't see the light of day as far as the public is concerned.
We need to proceed on this matter in an open and transparent way. The Legislature is probably the best forum to deal with it, since all our proceedings are transcribed; therefore, this is an open and transparent process and, of course, there is full accountability for what anybody says.
We brought this forward on our motion day, which is today, as a top priority in this sitting. Therefore, it would have been respectful for the government side to accord it some respect instead of trying to kick it out the back door.
Mr. McRobb: So, Mr. Speaker, I would like to propose an amendment to the amendment to the motion for second reading of Bill No. 104, and my amendment reads as follows:
THAT the amendment to the motion for second reading of Bill No. 104, standing in the name of the minister responsible for the Public Service Commission, be amended after the phrase "committee of the Assembly" by adding the following: "should Committee of the Whole fail to complete its study of the bill by the end of the current sitting day."
Speaker:The amendment is not in order as presented, as it is offering a different proposition than posed by the mover of the amendment. The central point of the amendment moved by the minister is that Bill No. 104 stand referred to a select committee. The subamendment recommends that the bill go first to the Committee of the Whole; therefore, it is not in order. We are speaking on the amendment to the motion for second reading. The Member for Kluane has eight minutes.
Subamendment ruled out of order
Mr. McRobb: It is rather unfortunate that the Rules of this House do not provide for such amendments. It only draws more concern about the intention and the implications of the amendment tabled by the government side, and that is basically to shut down this bill and delay it and defer it to some committee that does not even exist. That committee does not even have any timelines. There are no provisions for openness, transparency or accountability. There is no compunction on behalf of the committee to report back at any point in time, so it is a rather open-ended process that really serves only the needs of the Yukon Party government members and certainly not the needs of the official opposition. It defies the intention of the bill we brought forward today. It also defies the will of the public service and, in particular, those people who want to act in the public good and bring certain matters to light that may improve the performance of government.
Here we have an example where the Yukon Party government has taken great efforts to quash such an honourable initiative. I say shame on this government. I have already pointed out that its first order of business was to repeal the Government Accountability Act. Now it seems that high on the list is to quash other accountability measures that really would help the government maintain high and acceptable levels of accountability to the public, which is certainly a matter in the public eye given the problems at the federal level.
That is a shame, and there is not much we on this side can do about it today. We are limited in number. And in this sad case, the government will predictably use its majority to pass its own amendment and defeat this bill. I guess the final judge will be the public at the ballot box, and I certainly hope the public does not forget an example like this.
Speaker: Are you prepared for the question on the amendment?
Hon. Mr. Lang: I would like to speak on the amendment to the motion for second reading.
Listening to the debate this afternoon on a very important motion that we in the government have to a point agreed with in other words, it was part of our commitment to the Yukon people that we would look at this. We were very pleased when we saw it brought forward by the opposition that we could work with this amendment and come back to the Yukon people with a final document. But we have to work with consultation, and consultation means the unions have to be involved because we work with them every day.
Also in the departments we have overlapping situations. If we want a good bill at the end of the day, we can't operate on a knee-jerk scenario; we have to involve everybody who's going to be involved. It's amazing, Mr. Speaker, that the opposition is always talking about lack of consultation. This is full consultation with our employees, with the union and with the opposition and the government as a whole. So as we walk into this whistle-blowing legislation, I think we have to look back and say that this is not an easy document. We have to maximize the input of our citizenship in the government here, meaning the union and the departments. We have to look at all of us as elected members and the input that's going to come from us and, at the end of the day, we have to have the proper thing in place.
Without consultation I say to you that we would be amiss, and without involving our union which we work with and also our departments, I think we would just have to go back and redo this document. I say to you that, with this amendment in place, I think for the opposition to come back to say, "Cut out that part of the scenario," again, why can't we consult? Why can't we put this committee together, send them out there to consult with the people who are going to be involved in this whistle-blowing legislation and, at the end of the day, come out with something that we can all live with?
This is what we're here to do; we're here to work with our employees, also the union and our departments to make sure, at the end of the day, our consultation and the legislation is the proper legislation for everybody concerned.
This is not going to be an easy task. This whistle-blowing legislation has been on the front burners of many governments. This is not for the weak of heart. This is going to take a lot of work. It's going to take a lot of work from our departments. It's going to take a lot of work from our union commitments and also from every member in this House. So for the members opposite to design a bill that shuts out those people is folly on their part. I think, Mr. Deputy Speaker
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Lang: Mr. Deputy Speaker, I have the floor, do I? The place has gone amok.
Anyway, Mr. Deputy Speaker, again, I cannot emphasize enough that we have to look at this whistle-blowing legislation in a positive light at the end of the day. This legislation won't fall into place overnight. This is going to take a partnership involving everybody concerned and other legislatures across Canada that have been put in the same position as we are in today. How does this unfold? How do we address the issues with it? How do we get a buy-in from our employees? How do we get a buy-in from our unions? The 11 of us on this side have a great responsibility. Yes, we have a majority. Yes, we can bull things through the House if we so wish, but to put our hand out to the opposition and say, "We will work with you on this issue with these few amendments that we have," and for them to spurn us, as if we were out of sorts or something, because we want to involve consultation with the people who are going to be involved with this whistle-blowing legislation?
When they say shame on us, it is shame on them shame, shame, shame. What they do now is play politics with it. We were actually getting to the point where we could say we were going to look at whistle-blowing legislation in an honest, upfront way involving everybody. Now, consultation is a foreign word obviously to the members opposite. It is funny if there is an issue, the member opposite says you have not consulted enough. We are willing in this legislation to consult the people who are going to be involved in this legislation, and for us not to do that we have a responsibility as the government. I think that for us not to do it would be our folly. I say shame on the opposition and I say that we should vote on the amendment and move ahead with this and actually be sincere in what we are doing in this House.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Fairclough: I would have expected the government members to speak to this amendment, to their amendment to the motion for second reading. I will be short in my response, too, because I feel that there is one thing that this government wants to do and it is to delay this bill. Otherwise why amend it? It is a delay tactic and the members opposite know this.
Some of the ministers are facing some pretty tough issues in their departments and they know employees want to come out and speak and try to make improvements, recommendations to the minister, somehow. I am quite surprised to hear the previous speaker talk about how the unions, for example, or the employees, will not be involved. If the member opposite just picked up the bill and read it, perhaps he would have realized that there is ample opportunity when regulations are developed to involve the union and the employees on how best to make this bill work for them.
That's how it's designed, so I'm quite surprised that the members opposite would want to have a delay take place.
Besides, Mr. Speaker, every time a bill is presented in this House whether it's an act or whatnot there is always room for improvement. This is a beginning, and that's what we're proposing here in this Legislature. I guess because it has been debated for so long the members opposite said the same thing, that they have looked at it for a year and a half that they wouldn't object to a bill that they themselves had promised to this House.
We're speeding up the process. We are not happy with how this government is handling this, and the proof is in the amount of time that has gone by. It has been a year and a half, and there has been no public mention about their government bringing forward whistle-blower legislation.
They knew full well that this was going to be debated today, and they brought in an amendment. I'm quite surprised that the minister responsible for the Public Service Commission would even make these amendments. Employees can see right through this. The unions can see right through this. The members opposite know that this is a delay tactic.
I can't support the amendment. We want to debate this in Committee of the Whole. I don't believe the members opposite understand what their amendment means. It doesn't go into Committee of the Whole. It goes to another committee that elected members may not be a part of. The committee could be stacked. It's not uncommon for the Yukon Party to do that, as has been proven in the past year.
We want to be involved. We want the backbenchers on the government side and the ministers to talk about the importance of whistle-blower legislation. We want to hear from them. So far, there has been very little. There's talk about doing the consultation. The previous speakers have mentioned that this has been in the works for awhile. Previous governments have done a lot of work on this legislation, and it only makes sense in what has been presented to this House that we go ahead with this bill.
It shouldn't matter if it comes from the opposition, I don't think. We've done a lot of work on this bill with the limited staff we do have, and I believe it's very well-written and easy to understand. It gives a lot of room for improvement and involvement with the union and the employees.
So why not do that? How much difference will there be in this bill if it went to a committee for a review and it came back? The government side has 23 lawyers to review this. I would hope that they fired the last one who defined what "captive wildlife" is, though, because that in itself floored me to hear the minister present that to the First Nation leadership it floored me. They obviously didn't read the Umbrella Final Agreement and the final agreements.
Like the previous Yukon Party, they would probably have to dust it off in order to read it.
So why is the minister making this amendment? Do they really want to see a lot of consultation on this? Do they feel that the consultation that has taken place is inadequate, or do they themselves need the time to wrap their heads around this bill to understand it properly? And maybe that time is needed for them to comment on this bill. Maybe that's exactly what they're saying. We on this side of the House, Mr. Speaker, want to move ahead. The government side has said this before: they want to move ahead. So do we. We don't want these bills delayed. As a matter of fact, Mr. Speaker, like it was said by the official opposition leader, would they afford us on this side of the House the same direction that has been given in this amendment to go to committees on bills? I would think not. I don't know who the advisors are upstairs, but there is a reason why these amendments came forward, and I don't believe it is because of wanting to do more consultation. I believe this government is afraid, and they are afraid of employees speaking out. They have already been threatened, I believe, on a number of occasions by this Yukon Party government that nobody wants to speak out. But they are. In a way, they are. But I think they could be going through proper channels.
Government employees would always speak out, but I think the proper channels, if they were there, in fact could be helping out government in many ways, in decision making or in flawed legislation or direction that has been given whether by a deputy minister or directors or even by ministers themselves. It is bringing attention to a problem quicker instead of letting it be delayed and fester and brought to the floor of the Legislature and to the attention of the ministers.
What surprised me about the amendments and this delay is that even the Premier himself was very much in favour of whistle-blower legislation. The process was starting in the Liberal term and mandate. This has been questioned and so on by the Premier in bringing forward whistle-blower legislation, and yet today he runs the government that is in power and they want to delay it. That only means to me that they are a bit afraid of what is being presented. Why be afraid of the employees and the union getting together and developing regulations? What is wrong with doing that with this bill? That is how it is developed with other bills, or other regulations under other acts.
Regulations, even in the Wildlife Act, go out for a 60-day public review and should involve the people they're going to affect. In this case, we're talking about government employees and I'm sure they will have their involvement in developing and making this bill even stronger than is presented.
I can see changes to the bill, whether it goes to the committee and comes to the floor of this Legislature and passes I can see changes to that bill in a year, or proposed changes or needed changes in a year or two years or three years from now. That type of thing happens, particularly with a new bill that comes to the floor.
I don't know if it's the inexperience of the ministers opposite in not knowing exactly how these types of things can take place in government, but it saddens me to know that, once again, some action that could be taken that might hurt the government a little bit is being delayed and killed, in my view. I don't believe this government would want to see this legislation being dealt with in a committee in a quick fashion at all.
The minister responsible for the Public Service Commission said he couldn't understand the bill as it was written. I would think, does he even understand his own amendment and what it means? We on this side of the House question often how ministers answer questions in the House and whether or not they understand the questions that are being asked of them.
Mr. Speaker, we'll attempt this again. There is one more thing I would like to add, just before I make an amendment to the amendment. Our amendments have been ruled out of order for changing the amendment to the bill. I could see the amendment that originally was put forward by the minister responsible for the Public Service Commission changes the bill that was presented. It's too bad that we didn't spend much time on that, but we're way beyond this. What the amendment means is that we go to Committee, it kills it that this bill does not go into Committee of the Whole, and that's what government wants. I've seen them talking about it in the back.
Mr. Fairclough: So I move
THAT the amendment to the motion for second reading of Bill No. 104, standing in the name of the minister responsible for the Public Service Commission, be amended after the phrase "committee of the Assembly" by adding the following: "whose function will be to develop appropriate whistle-blower protection legislation through an open and accountable process in time for the Legislative Assembly to consider it during the fall 2004 sitting"; and
THAT it be further amended in the final clause by replacing the phrase "House leaders" with the phrase "party leaders."
Speaker: It has been moved by the Member for Mayo-Tatchun:
THAT the amendment to the motion for second reading of Bill No. 104, standing in the name of the minister responsible for the Public Service Commission, be amended after the phrase "committee of the Assembly" by adding the following: "whose function will be to develop appropriate whistle-blower protection legislation through an open, accountable process in time for the Legislative Assembly to consider it during the fall 2004 sitting; and
THAT it be further amended in the final clause by replacing the phrase "House leaders" with the phrase "party leaders."
Mr. Fairclough: I'm glad that this amendment is in good standing and that the House can consider this amendment, because it speaks to a couple of things. The government side has a majority; they can shut this one down, or ram their amendment through the House, and then it goes into Committee. Well, let's bump it up and not have the House leaders deal with it, but rather have the party leaders deal with this matter. That's what we're asking for.
We're asking that this committee, when formed, do its job over the summer and have something to present to this House. That's the time we deal with legislation anyway. The House can consider the work of the committee, and this would not be delayed any further.
I believe that members on that side of the House would be in favour of this amendment, because it speaks to the things they said for example, an open and accountable process.
This amendment states that. We all agree that this has been in the works for awhile now. Well, let's give the committee a real strong mandate and let's get the committee to do their work from now until the fall Legislature sits and present something to the House. Let's get the party leaders to do it. At this point I think we want to make this and bump it up as a higher priority, and there is no reason the Premier and the party leader from our party and the Liberals, of course, who should be dealing with it we have more confidence in that process and we are hoping that members on that side of the House would look at this amendment favourably and vote in favour of this amendment.
Mr. McRobb: I think all members should not be so fast to probably vote down this amendment. I think this amendment is a very good compromise. It basically keeps the whole intention to make whistle-blower legislation a priority of all members. We are willing to compromise that it will not be dealt with today, and we are further willing to compromise that it will not be dealt with in this sitting. These are major concessions.
This amendment also acknowledges this select committee. We have heard the government House leader describe basically who would sit on the committee. We are also asking that it be done in an open and accountable way that is transparent to the Yukon public.
The crux of this amendment is such that the select committee will develop the legislation in time for the fall sitting of this Legislature later this year. We believe it allows enough flexibility for the select committee to deal with its matters as it should, yet it provides the overall requirement that its work be done in time to feed into the government's legislative timetable so it will be introduced no later than the fifth sitting day in the fall Legislature, and we can deal with it from there.
So, Mr. Speaker, after acknowledging your ruling against the first two amendments, regarding their admissibility, we're willing to settle for this amendment for now because it's simply better than nothing, and that's all the government side was willing to give us today nothing.
It was prepared to use its majority to defeat our bill and to sideline this piece of legislation off to some open-ended process. We still feel that is wrong, Mr. Speaker, so we're willing to readjust our sights and we hope the government side, in the spirit of cooperation and inclusiveness of all MLAs in this Legislature, is also prepared to compromise so we can both agree on this amendment.
I'll comment on how much the government needs to compromise to accept our amendment, and it's very little. Basically the only thing it needs to compromise on is to accept our suggestion that the select committee do its work in time for the legislation to be developed and introduced in the fall sitting and, further, to allow the select committee to conduct its workings in a transparent and accountable manner.
That's not a very big compromise. That's quite reasonable. And there was one other aspect, and that was that instead of House leaders dealing with this matter, it should be a matter for the leaders of each party. So these are all reasonable aspects, Mr. Speaker, and it was our last attempt today to try to salvage our bill from being sidelined into never-neverland. And I'm asking the government side to compromise just a portion of what we have compromised and show the public that the politics in this Legislature are not always of a partisan nature and that we can cooperate and collaborate together for the public good, as we have on some motions we dealt with last year.
So that is all I have to say, Mr. Speaker. I will look forward to an indication from the government side on how it intends to deal with this matter.
Mrs. Peter: I witnessed in this House a few times where both the opposition and the government side worked with each other and came out with a positive outcome. I would hope that, for the good of the workers who work for the territorial government or other organizations, this very serious bill that we brought forward today would be taken as such.
In the last few hours we have been dealing with this very serious issue brought to us by many of the people in our constituencies and also in the City of Whitehorse. We are dealing with a matter that affects the public and workers in the workforce, but games have come into dealing with this situation. This amendment that my colleague brought forward will at least, with cooperation from the government side, give us confidence not only us but the people it will affect and impact. It will give them confidence that, yes, the people in the Legislature are bringing forward and making an attempt to deal with whistle-blower legislation that is so badly needed in this territory.
The Member for McIntyre-Takhini mentioned a few days ago that they are waiting for the federal government to bring forward their legislation. Since when have we, as people elected by the people of the territory, waited for the federal government to make our decisions?
We need to address these issues today. We need to be creative and cooperative so that we can make a difference for the people who will be impacted by this legislation. This amendment speaks to that very issue to be open and accountable to the people who elected us so that when decisions are made in this regard, the people of the Yukon will feel confident that the decisions made will be right for them.
I support the idea that the selected group be the party leaders. We know only too well what happens when it might be addressed by the other parties. The Premier, the leader of the official opposition and the leader of the third party are the main people who can deal with this type of issue and, hopefully, in a balanced way and with access to the resources they need to make a balanced decision and accept the suggestions from other resources that will hopefully come forward to address all party leaders.
I heard one of the speakers earlier refer to "consultation". Unfortunately, we have batted that word back and forth in this Legislature all too often, and some of us had to learn some pretty hard lessons on what that word really means.
I believe that we'll find out what that word really means when we actually listen to the people we affect out there, the people who have elected us to bring their voice to this forum so that we can be open and accountable. We brought this whistle-blower legislation forward through the suggestions of people out there and to be open and accountable and have the freedom to address these issues, the freedom of speech, not what has been suggested, that we take it to a select committee and make sure only a select number of people address this issue.
Having said that, Mr. Speaker, I support this amendment to the amendment to the motion for second reading of Bill No. 104 that was brought forward by my colleague.
Speaker: Are you prepared for the question on the amendment to the motion for second reading of Bill No. 104? Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Division.
Speaker:Division has been called.
Speaker: Mr. Clerk, please poll the House.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Disagree.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Disagree.
Hon. Ms. Taylor: Disagree.
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: Disagree.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Disagree.
Hon. Mr. Lang: Disagree.
Hon. Mr. Hart: Disagree.
Mr. Arntzen: Disagree.
Mr. Rouble: Disagree.
Mr. Hassard: Disagree.
Mr. Cathers: Disagree.
Mr. Hardy: Agree.
Mr. McRobb: Agree.
Mr. Fairclough: Agree.
Mrs. Peter: Agree.
Ms. Duncan: Agree.
Clerk: Mr. Speaker, the results are five yea, 11 nay.
Amendment to the amendment to the motion for second reading of Bill No. 104 negatived
Speaker: The amendment to the motion for second reading is what we are speaking to. Carry on please.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Speaking on the motion for second reading of Bill No. 104, as amended?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I've spoken to the amendment. I can speak to the bill?
Speaker: All right. The Chair awaits the House's pleasure.
Are you prepared for a question on the amendment?
Speaker:Division has been called.
Speaker: Mr. Clerk, would you please poll the House.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Agree.
Hon. Ms. Taylor: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Lang: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Hart: Agree.
Mr. Arntzen: Agree.
Mr. Rouble: Agree.
Mr. Hassard: Agree.
Mr. Cathers: Agree.
Mr. Hardy: Disagree.
Mr. McRobb: Disagree.
Mr. Fairclough: Disagree.
Mr. Cardiff: Disagree.
Mrs. Peter: Disagree.
Ms. Duncan: Disagree.
Clerk: Mr. Speaker, the results are 11 yea, six nay.
Speaker: The amendment to the motion for second reading of Bill 104 is carried.
Amendment to the motion for second reading of Bill No. 104 agreed to
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: This Bill No. 104, which was presented by the official opposition party, this type of whistle-blowing legislation, is an initiative on our party's platform. It is an initiative that we identify with. It is an initiative that we are moving forward with, and our side's amendment will allow us the timelines and the opportunity to go out for full consultation on this very important piece of legislation. We accept the bill as presented, and the caveat that we want to put on it is that we include the union, the Public Service Commission, the departments and we do this through a select committee and refer this to a select committee.
The Standing Orders of our Assembly are very specific. I refer you to chapter 9: "At any time, a Special or Select Committee may be appointed to consider any matter referred to it by the Assembly." That's where we're going. "No Standing, Special or Select Committee shall consist of more than seven members without the consent of the Assembly."
With the passing of this motion, it is the intention of our government to sit down at the House leaders meeting and bring forward a motion that the membership and mandate of the select committee be established by separate motion of the Assembly following that consultation between the House leaders.
So, as I said earlier, we accept this bill. We recognize its importance, and it is an initiative we have identified with. We will be moving forward on it, and we look forward to the cooperation of the official opposition and the third party in doing just that. It is in the best interests of all to ensure that if we are going to undertake a review of a piece of legislation, we do so in consultation with all. The timelines and constraints that were being placed on this review were unreasonable.
This is an initiative that we hope to see concluded some time this year. Perhaps after all consultations are completed, it may be something that could be brought before the Legislature next year. I see timelines of that order, but it all depends on how the consultation program goes that we intend to undertake.
Because that, in any piece of legislation, is an extremely important part. Mr. Speaker, that's our party's position; that's the government's position on this bill, and we hope to bring this to fruition.
It's a sincere position, and I look forward very much to the complete cooperation of the official opposition House leader and the House leader of the third party.
That said, I move that debate be now adjourned.
Speaker: It has been moved by the government House leader that debate be now adjourned.
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Some Hon. Members: Disagreed.
Speaker: The ayes have it.
Motion to adjourn debate on the motion for second reading of Bill No. 104 as amended agreed to
MOTIONS OTHER THAN GOVERNMENT MOTIONS
Motion No. 217
Clerk:Motion No. 217, standing in the name of Mr. Hardy.
Speaker: It has been moved by the leader of the official opposition
THAT this House calls upon the Government of Yukon to rescind the loan collection plan previously tabled by the Minister of Finance and introduce a new policy that will not allow Cabinet ministers to evade their financial responsibilities to Yukon taxpayers and that will not have the effect of needlessly forcing Yukon-owned businesses into bankruptcy.
Mr. Hardy: Well, this is an issue that I'm sure the Premier thinks will never go away. And you know what, Mr. Speaker? You're right, it won't go away, because the solution that has been brought forward by the Premier has not satisfied the public. It has not quelled the debate. It has not settled the many outstanding questions in regard to the loans, the outstanding loans, and, if anything, it has created more anxiety and anger in the public.
What we have witnessed from last fall, after a long period of waiting and many, many questions in the Legislature, was a solution that was brought forward that seemed to indicate that the two ministers who are part and parcel of the loans issue and no matter how much the Premier likes it or dislikes it, they are recognized part and parcel by the public seem to have the ability to walk away from what they owe. And there is an ethical question around that, as well: once you're a public servant, once you're elected, once you swear your oath, should you also clean up the debt that you owe to the taxpayers, especially outstanding debt and, in the case of these two, some of them haven't been paid for eight or nine years as an indication of your responsibility and the position that you do now hold?
Now, there are two parts to the solution that was brought forward, and neither of those solutions is acceptable to the public. We continue hearing about the only reason in many cases that we are still trying to assist the government in resolving this issue by bringing motions forward and by having the debate around it is that the public continues to insist that the solutions that have been brought forward are not acceptable to them.
We've had visits from people who do have outstanding loans, small businesses, who are quite upset with the final solution of the Premier. We also have many people call our office, stop us in the streets, talk to us at the functions we attend, and they see this as the Premier allowing the two ministers to get away from what they should be paying. There is no indication from the other side that they will not be able to, or pay a very small portion of what they owe. There is no indication that there is any collection attempt, that there has been any attempt from the government over the last 15 months to collect that money from the people who owe the money, the businesses that owe it, as well as the two ministers.
In many people's eyes, that is neglect on the behalf of the Finance minister to ensure that that is cleaned up. There has been no indication that there has been any attempt of that. One of the ministers has made a couple of payments and, my understanding is, has been trying to pay regularly. I believe financially that that minister has the capability of paying off the loan in one fell swoop if so allowed or so inclined. That would be a wonderful indication of this government's commitment and the government's moral stand in this regard.
We believe the other minister also has the ability to take out a loan if he does not have the money at hand, but also go to the bank, put up his businesses, take out a loan and pay what is outstanding. That has not happened, and we assume that there has been no pressure put on him by his colleagues or the Finance minister to do that to indicate to the taxpayers of the Yukon that what is expected of them, if they have a loan to pay, is also expected of the people in here who are elected.
Now, I know the Finance minister likes to say we're targeting these two people. Well, they happen to be elected members, and they happen to have continued to refuse to pay what they owe to the taxpayers. They happen to be collecting a paycheque that is paid for by the taxpayers. They happen to enjoy the benefits of being a Member of the Legislative Assembly, as well as being a minister. They happen to be responsible to the taxpayers for their actions. So if we question their actions with respect to what is owed, yes, you can make the assumption that they are being targeted to a certain degree.
We have concern that the solution that was brought forward has not met the criteria of public opinion. We also believe that it also hasn't met the criteria of all members of the opposition, and possibly some members that may be in government but are too afraid to speak out about it. They definitely haven't spoken out about their disapproval of the two ministers not repaying their loans in the public forums. They haven't spoken out on behalf of the many businesses that could be forced into bankruptcy by the actions of the Finance minister. They have been very silent about that. Of course, silence in this matter can be construed as acceptance.
They obviously accept the fact that the government will not be collecting money that is owed to them over the next while, but will allow a collection agency to take that on.
That's not acceptable. But there are a lot of questions around the whole proposal that was brought forward, as well, and that is who is actually interested in this solution that has been proposed, who has come forward, who has been talking to the Finance department in regard to picking up these loans, what numbers have been presented that they would consider buying the loans at or basically deciding to be written off what effect that would have on the ministers who we believe can make these payments, who actually can go and borrow the money right now and pay off what they owe the government and the taxpayers, what kind of impact it will have on the businesses that are struggling, that do employ people in many cases over the course of the summer, of course, and have not been able to make their payments but have been diligent in informing the government why they can't and are hoping for a turn in the economy that would allow them to those are very, very legitimate concerns and, of course, the outcome of the fact that some of them may be forced into bankruptcy and not be able to employ people because of the actions taken by collection agencies, and what assurances are in place to protect them from that and many of them feel that there isn't anything there.
Now, the Minister of Finance has stated that there were 1,500 loans, and I stand to be corrected. I haven't looked at the numbers lately, but say there are 68 loans outstanding out of 1,500, that's not too bad. Of the 68, there is a portion that is directly federal money. My understanding is that the federal government has no wish to be a part of the collection agency solution that has been presented. And if that is the case, what kind of discussions have been ongoing with the feds in this regard? So if those are the numbers, I would be very interested to know what the real numbers are after you remove the federal portion of it, because my understanding is that the federal government has decided that they will deal with the outstanding loans in due course on their own. They don't want to be a part of this.
What numbers are we at now? Are we 50, 48, 60? I don't know. I would like to know that and if that is the case, why the draconian actions being proposed by the Minister of Finance? If these two ministers and the other 66, or whatever the number is, people and businesses that owe money are still willing to make payments or have indicated to the Finance department that they are willing to make payments, then why sell to a collection agency? We are giving up a lot of money in this matter. What is the motive behind this?
If it has the potential to bankrupt some businesses that do employ people during the summer, is that a good move? Is that a plus to our economy, especially in some of the outlying areas where many of these loans went? Some of the businesses, whether in Mayo or Dawson City or Teslin, the other communities if that would drive these businesses out of business, thereby lessening the employment in that area, is this a good move? I would say it is not. In this matter, what is the driving factor? What is making the Minister of Finance want to take this kind of draconian action, this final solution other than he just cannot stand having it on his plate to this level when obviously some of those loans are federal government, but the ones that are outstanding to the territorial government are not that many, and my understanding is there is a percentage of them who have been making their payments. They have not fallen into default. There is a percentage of them who have missed some payments but have been attempting to continue making those payments good intentions.
Then there are a few who have decided at some point they're not making any more payments, or they didn't make any payments in the first place, or are directed by government not to make payments. That's another category.
So if that's the case, why this solution?
We have some very legitimate concerns. We do not want to see any business go into bankruptcy, nor do we want to see Cabinet ministers be able to walk away from paying what they owe, and that's in excess of $400,000, Mr. Speaker. We would much rather see the Finance department work with these businesses, work with these individuals in the case of these two and find a solution that enables them to make payments.
One of the ministers has already indicated that he is willing to make payments. Why move this into the collection agency model? At the end of the day, we may be able to collect $160,000 or $120,000, whatever he owes. He seems to have indicated he is willing to make those payments. The other one is a different problem, and maybe more stringent action needs to be taken against him and his businesses to ensure he does pay.
But to lump them all together and to go in the direction that has been proposed to us is not fair to many of the legitimate businesses that are trying to do their best to make payments on the loans they have. If anything, there is a section of them that may need to be separated, taken out of that equation and dealt with as a bank would deal with them if that's what it takes.
There are some who have no intention of paying what they owe the taxpayers of the Yukon, and deal with them in that manner.
There are many others who are trying. Because of that effort, they should be dealt with in a different light. They are trying to resolve their outstanding loans. And then there are others who have made those payments. If there are some due to circumstances totally beyond their control and because there are no longer any resources left to draw from that need to be written off, so be it.
But the solution that was brought forward looks to us, very clearly, like a solution that allows two colleagues to get away without paying what they owe and puts some businesses in this territory in a position where they may go bankrupt. That's not a good solution, and it's not one the people of this territory have accepted yet, nor do they have any plans to accept.
I say that because we continue to hear about this issue, no matter where we go. I'll be going to Dawson City next weekend. I will bet you that there will be two issues that I hear about and I'll come back and report to the House. Pardon me, I'll bet there will be three issues I'll hear about in Dawson City, and they all revolve around one minister, plus the Premier. Those issues include the bridge; what is happening with the legally elected council and the financial and administrative and ability to operate problems they're having because of the supervisor who was hired there there seems to be a conflict that exists between him and the council and, of course, the loans.
Last time I was in Dawson City, I heard about the loans. When I was in Old Crow just recently, I heard about the loans. The last time I was in Ross River, I heard about the loans.
In downtown Whitehorse, I go teach a class, I hear about the loans. Like the Premier, I am tired about hearing about the loans. I would like to see them resolved or at least see some intent of this government to resolve them in a manner that is fair, that is firm, that moves forward on it and not just sells it off to get it out of their hair because it is not going away. I said this earlier on and I will say it again: come election time, whether it is in a year and a half, two years or two-and-a-half years, this will be one of the major issues debated by people.
Now the motion that we brought in is, I think, a fair motion. It is similar to the bill we brought in earlier, but I am going to assume that we will be told that it is not acceptable and the government will use its majority to vote it down. But the motion is: "THAT this House calls upon the Government of the Yukon to rescind the loan collection plan previously tabled by the Minister of Finance and introduce a new policy that will not allow Cabinet ministers to evade their financial responsibilities to the Yukon taxpayers and that will not have the effect of needlessly forcing Yukon-owned businesses into bankruptcy."
Exactly what we are talking about and it is because we believe that the solution brought forward does exactly what the people of this territory do not want. We are willing to work with the government to find a solution around this. We are willing to see, as they forced through earlier on, an all-party committee to look at the solution to this, if the Minister of Finance is willing to rescind what he brought in in the fall, the last day of the sitting.
We're willing to work together. If we apply the same principle that they forced on us in the bill, we will agree to it. We will work together. That remains to be seen, if their position on consultation and collaboration flows to this. I'm sure I shouldn't speak for the member of the third party, but I'm sure that she would consider an all-party committee to look at the loans issue if he agrees to the stop action as it is going forward now, because we really have heard from businesses that say they're going to be in dire shape if this goes forward.
There has also been a report that the Hell's Angels showed up in the territory, as well. We're hoping that they're not considering putting in a bid for the loans, because they do have a reputation for collecting in a manner that would be quite difficult for many of the people in this territory. But we do not know what offers have been brought forward or who has been interested in bidding on this. When this was brought in, a CBC reporter went around to the banks and asked them, "Would you be interested in that?" They laughed in his face. They're not interested, and they talked about the amounts; they talked about the ability to collect, the risk that's involved, the amount of money, what they figure it was valued at 10 cents on the dollar. Well, I think we can do better just working with the people who have these outstanding loans. I think they would be willing to continue working with the government. Fifteen hundred down to 68; that's not bad. It could be even lower now. With the federal government portion taken out, it could be even lower. That's not bad. I think in a couple of years this could be all cleaned up. That's not bad. If there was some leadership shown, some strength shown on the other side, instead of just trying to wash this off the books, get it out of the way, I think we could resolve this issue to the satisfaction of the people of this territory and not just to the satisfaction of the Premier and the Yukon Party government.
We have talked a lot about this and we are going to talk a lot more about it because it is not going away, but we are willing to work together. If the Premier, when he stands up, indicates to us that he would like to meet with us, he would like to see an all-party committee look at it, he would be willing to review the applications, he would be willing to look at options on how to collect
One of the positions we have put out already and it is a question we have asked: has the same offer that will be part of somebody buying the loans, the collection agency or whatever they are
It is interesting. We have used the term "collection agency" before and the Minister of Finance said it is not going to be collection agencies, it is not going to be collection agencies. I think it has become very clear that it will probably be a collection agency.
But has he taken that offer on an individual basis and gone to the small businesses and said, "Look, if the best offer we get from the collection agency is 15 cents on the dollar or 20 cents on the dollar " and that is all we are going to get " would you be willing to pay that directly?" Has that offer been put out? Why go through the hassle of a collection agency, why put these people in businesses that are struggling the legitimate ones why put them in a situation where they are trying to pay it down into the hands of a collection agency? It could jeopardize their business and jeopardize employment in the summer. Why not make that offer to them?
I am not saying that is a good solution, but if this is the same type of offer made to a collection agency, why could it not be made directly to certain businesses that have legitimately tried to make their payments? Some may be behind a few payments and some are current. I do not see what the difference is.
I do not see what the difference is, other than the collection agency can take action against these businesses that could put them in jeopardy and try to collect, of course, a little bit more off them that will not come back to the taxpayers, because once it's bought once it's written off it's gone, that's all we're going to get. If it's 15 cents, that's all we get. The five, 10, 15 or 20 cents more that a collection agency adds to it is a burden that will be put on the small businesses and a profit for the collection agency.
So, we, as taxpayers, will not gain anything by that. So, has that offer been put to them? Why not? That's another approach to it the ones who are trying to pay.
As for the two Cabinet ministers, they brought it on themselves. I don't have a great deal of pity in this case because I believe they can make their payments, or they could have indicated they would make their payments. They can go and borrow the money to pay the loans off and then deal with the banks on a monthly basis, or however they want to work out their relationship. They can do that, and they could have cleaned it up, and we wouldn't have this big debate about the two Cabinet ministers, the outstanding loans, and the fact they refuse to pay. We wouldn't have to do that, and the Minister of Finance wouldn't have to stand here and rail against us about how we're picking on them. They brought it upon themselves.
I think there has to be some acceptance of responsibility when two wealthy businessmen refuse to pay loans they took out. I think the onus and responsibility lies with them. We will ask the questions. I believe the Minister of Finance has the ability to get them to pay. If he doesn't do it, then that is a choice he made, of course.
So I am hoping that the Yukon Party government will take seriously this motion we bring forward. It's in good faith. We believe it's reflective of what we have been hearing over the last few months in regard to the solution that was brought forward by the Minister of Finance and that we can move forward on this and not just have a bunch of rhetoric thrown back at us about how wrong we are for asking the questions that the public asks daily.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Well, let me begin first, Mr. Speaker, by just briefly going over what actually is taking place before we delve into some of the presentation by the leader of the official opposition. And we'll reflect back for a moment.
The purpose of what we have done is to remove a long-standing issue from government. Now, the member opposite mentioned that in the last 15 months this is all that has been accomplished. It is important to point out that it has been 15 years plus that these delinquent loans have been on the territorial government books. The problem with that is that there is a cost to carrying the delinquent loans. That's factual. The problem is: how much longer does government continue to carry forward these debts? In many cases, there has not been any attempt to repay; in other cases, there are questions and some serious inconsistencies in how the loans were structured. And if we really reflect on the beginnings of this whole program, there were serious flaws in how the government of the day went about allocating taxpayer monies to various businesses here in the territory, albeit it was a noble initiative to try to spark some economic development.
We, the government, applaud and commend all those Yukoners, all those businesses, who have paid back their loans. Obviously there was, in those cases, an ability to pay. Obviously there probably were much more solid contracts. Obviously there were issues in regard to those particular files that are somewhat different from the files we deal with today, which are the delinquent files. Having reviewed all that, it became evident that we must establish a solution here that not only stops the cost of carrying these loans but also will determine what the value of the loans really is, will determine, through all these differences and inconsistencies and discrepancies in contractual arrangements in the portfolios, in the files, in terms of conditions, repayment There are even areas where there is a possibility that proponents were given the latitude that only if they showed a profit on the year-end financial statement would they be liable to make a payment. There are so many variances here that the determination was made to move to a solidified package to establish that net worth and put it out into the private sector.
There are some important facets of that decision. Of the significant number of delinquent loans that have not made repayments, every one of those delinquent files have the opportunity until June 30 which was a six-month timeline to come in and renegotiate terms and conditions and also, under existing policy, reduce interest and have a three-year hiatus of interest on a go-forward basis.
But it's important to note that that option allows the government to tighten these files up, to at least get them to a point where collectibility is now much less in question. Again, an important part of that particular area of this initiative is that the two ministers in question do not have the option of renegotiating terms, conditions and/or reducing interest and/or getting a three-year hiatus on the aforementioned their files will go forward in full.
Now, let's just for a moment delve into what the leader of the official opposition has been saying. It's important first to point out that what the leader of the official opposition is saying is 100-percent conjecture. It's an option. We respect the opinion but it certainly cannot bear the scrutiny of the burden of proof because there is no evidence that people will not be paying. Regardless of how much the net worth is determined to be, there is no evidence that people are going to get out of paying. There is no evidence that there are going to be any bankruptcies. In fact, there is no evidence in most of what the leader of the official opposition was presenting.
When it comes to the opinion of Yukoners, we respect to the greatest degree those opinions. We value those opinions. But we say to all Yukoners, as a government this is important also we have made a decision. We will see it through. The government here, on this side of the House the government of the day has the political will to make decisions and see them through, not be deflected by every issue that comes at them, not be deterred from the vision and the plan that they were elected to implement on behalf of the Yukon public.
At this juncture, I want to inject some balance to this whole equation. We openly admit that there are two members of our caucus, two members of this government team, who are involved in corporate entities that are part of these files. We openly admit that. We never have ducked that admission. However, it is also important to realize and put on the public record that these two individuals are making a significant contribution to this territory in another way, and we cannot ignore that fact. The question becomes: is it the right approach to single out two individuals who happen to be involved in corporate entities that are involved in these delinquent files in this manner, given the fact that there is no recognition, no reflection in those dissertations that these individuals are also making a contribution to this territory in an area of quite a high station?
When we look at Energy, Mines and Resources, for example, regardless of the fact that there is a corporate entity that the minister is involved with, which is involved in this solution and process, we must also recognize what the minister is contributing to the territory through his purview and areas of responsibility. First, let's begin with the area of mining. Through the good works and efforts of this minister, we are now seeing a projection of mining exploration to be approximately $30 million this coming season.
Two years ago it was somewhere in the neighbourhood of $5 million to $6 million. Now that is a significant accomplishment by a Yukoner who, frankly, has chosen to dedicate himself to turning this territory around, to improve the lives of Yukoners through their individual efforts. We have charged this individual with some very significant responsibilities. The individual, the Member for Porter Creek Centre, is carrying out those responsibilities, is living up to those responsibilities to the highest level, making best efforts, and that is part of this equation. The government side does not single out an individual for one reason. It is important, it is prudent and it is the correct course of action that we look at the issue in its entirety to ensure that what we do is fair and equitable to all concerned.
We must also reflect on the fact that this same member, through his responsibilities, is increasing our ability to forge ahead with a possible forest industry, improving on the agricultural front, had delivered a tremendous solution to a problem in the placer mining industry when the Department of Fisheries and Oceans had unilaterally made decisions that could very well have seen us in this territory experience a complete annihilation of what has been for well over a century one of Yukon's mainstays not only is it a mining enterprise, placer mining, it is part of our history, it is part of our culture, it is part of the fabric that makes this territory so great.
Also, when we look at the areas of oil and gas, we have recently, through the leadership of this same member, allocated land dispositions in north Yukon. We are moving toward an increase in exploration activity in the oil and gas sector.
We have now an approximate projection by one company of $10 million of oil and gas exploration expenditure in the coming season all to the benefit of Yukoners. Of course, these benefits lead to an improved quality of life, and a better and brighter future for the Yukon.
There's another important issue. This Yukoner, our member responsible for the Department of Energy, Mines and Resources, forged ahead in getting a solution to what was a very difficult problem a sticky wicket, if you will when it came to attracting a major mining company back into this territory. The minister showed a tremendous ability to see through the barriers and problems, to get to the other side, and conclude an arrangement that now has Teck Cominco, a major mining company, back exploring in the Yukon. And further to that, they do it in partnership with one of the territory's First Nations, thanks to the leadership of the Member for Porter Creek Centre. That is something that we as a government promote wholeheartedly.
So there are some examples of trying to balance the equation of singling out an individual on one issue without looking at the much broader context of whom the individual is and what he is contributing to the Yukon Territory.
In the case of the Member for Klondike, there again is no question. The admission open, very public that there is a delinquency of the corporate entity that the member is involved with is on the public record. Again, this same member has been assessed by the government side based on the full equation.
First, it's important to recognize that the Member for Klondike has been charged with one of the most difficult departments in government to manage to be responsible for it. It is a department that experiences a tremendous pressure in the delivery of health and social services and programs to Yukon people. This minister, through this dedication and commitment that the Member for Klondike has brought to bear on the government team, has improved dramatically our ability to deliver health and social services to the Yukon public. It's through his leadership that we are seeing an increase for the hospital in operation and maintenance in this budget of some $3.1 million. It is this minister who insisted through his leadership that we invest some $320,000 in FASD. It is this minister this Member for Klondike who has shown leadership to ensure that we provide the investment for both Macaulay Lodge and Copper Ridge Place to open up more much needed beds for Yukoners who need the service.
It is this minister who has increased the investment in primary health care by some $1.9 million in this budget. It is this minister who has contributed an increase of $675,000 to enhance daycare funding. It is this minister who has ensured that volunteer ambulance attendants will be realizing an increase of honoraria something that has not happened for decades, Mr. Speaker.
It is this minister who is leading the charge to address demonstrated needs in Watson Lake and Dawson City when it comes to our seniors and elders by moving ahead with the plans to deliver multi-level care facilities in those two communities. It is this minister who has shown the leadership to invest in a feasibility study to ferret out if there is demonstrated need in communities like Haines Junction and Teslin for the very same multi-level care facilities.
The list goes on and on, Mr. Speaker, but the point being made is this: we on the government side reflect on issues such as this, no matter what they may be, by ensuring that we assess the full equation. That is what we have done with the delinquent loans. Our assessment showed clearly that there was little reason to continue on carrying bad debt. It showed that there is a possibility that we could, by going out to the private sector, determine the net worth of these delinquent files, which I think is important because then the taxpaying public will understand what exactly it is we're dealing with.
What the leader of the official opposition is saying, in offering forth an opinion, does not help the public understand what the issue is. And I have no problem standing here today, Mr. Speaker, to challenge the members opposite on what motivation brings them to this juncture, what motivates them not to allow a process to take place to its inevitable end, to see if the solution, in fact, is one that we all can understand and that we all can realize that it's time to move on.
We have already engaged with a consultant to design a tender package for this particular process. We anticipate that the tenders will be distributed sometime in April, so we are advancing this issue. Again I repeat that all the delinquencies, all the files that are delinquent, those proponents have the option until June 30 to come in and renegotiate terms and conditions and realize the benefit of an interest hiatus for three years. We are looking at this process moving out of government by sometime in July. To date there have been a number of proponents who have come forward. These proponents have had discussions. Some have indicated they will accept arrangements. At least one is negotiating terms of repayment. These are all signs that we are advancing this process, and it has been 15 years plus where there has been little advancement whatsoever. This does not include those who have been diligently addressing their liability. This is dealing with issues where there has been long-standing delinquency.
Now I would submit to the House that we, the government side, do not hide from this issue. We are not shirking our duties in any way, shape or form. We are not going to be deflected by conjecture. We are not going to be deflected by the fact that the member opposite implies that everywhere he goes this is the issue of the day. I will challenge the member opposite to have covered the same miles and distance in this territory that I have, and I simply do not agree with what the member is saying.
I will tell you that I've had discussions with individuals on this. I have presented the government position, and the government side is more than willing to allow Yukoners to pass judgement, to draw their conclusions, but we present to them the facts. We do not present to them opinion or conjecture that may, somehow, influence that conclusion. We would give them the facts; the rest is of their own choice, whatever conclusion they may draw, and we are very comfortable in allowing that process to happen.
I can tell you that, for the most part, discussions that I and any member of the government side have with Yukoners are far-ranging, on issues of the territory. It's about our economy; it's about where we're taking this territory; it's about programs and service delivery; it's about the efficiencies of government; it's about investment in our territory; it's about lessening our dependence on government and increasing the level of private sector involvement in the Yukon economy; it's about improving the lives of Yukoners; it's about a better and brighter future for our children; it's about many things. It certainly is not about this one issue.
Mr. Speaker, it is counterproductive to have the opposition try so many ways to isolate and attack individuals on this issue. I think it's fair to say that, given the fact that there have been a number of past governments that have had this very issue on their desk, an issue that they decided not to deal with.
I'm not going to offer an opinion here. I am not going to offer conjecture. All I'm going to say is: one can only ask why they did not deal with it.
So let's fast-forward to this government's watch. We are dealing with it. We have brought forward a way to bring closure to this long-standing issue. The members opposite may not agree with it, and that's fine. We accept their criticism where warranted. We accept their criticism when it is constructive; however, if the opposition believes that criticism just for the sake of criticism is going to garner favour with the Yukon public, I simply would suggest that they may want to rethink that strategy, because there is so much more to this territory it's needs, it's issues and what Yukoners want to see than simply this one issue.
So, for clarity's sake, the government side has absolutely no qualms about proceeding with this solution. We are not going to be deflected; we are going to see it through. We will see it through because we believe that governments, when making decisions, must reflect on them before they do, and once made, see them through.
I am going to make another point that is important here, and it should be on the public record: that is a sign of the government's approach to conducting the public's business. We are going to make decisions, and we are going to see the decisions through. We are then presenting to the public a degree of confidence that the public will have in us at least a sense of confidence that they have elected a government that will not be buffeted about, issue by issue.
Now let's look in that past, even to the limited timelines of the last government. There was a tremendous amount of evidence of that particular issue really, really causing a negative impact on this territory.
When governments are buffeted around, issue by issue, cannot stick to a decision, cannot show leadership on issues, cannot manage issues in a way that the public, whether they agree or not, has confidence that their government is there doing the job, problems arise. And in all likelihood, governments get into this area of problem by having no vision and no plan for what it is they intend to do. I think we should discuss for a moment that particular area, because it is about the commitment you make to the Yukon public. It is about that commitment that is essential to what a government does in office. Now, we all know that the former Liberal government committed to the Yukon public that, if elected to government, they would do the same thing the NDP was doing at the time, only they would do it better. We witnessed clear evidence of that taking place on the very first budget of the newly elected Liberal government in the year 2000. They tabled an NDP budget with the NDP ministers still listed as the sponsoring ministers for the departments
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Speaker:Leader of the third party, on a point of order.
Ms. Duncan: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I understood that the point of speaking to a motion was to address the motion, and I would suggest that the debate seems to be wandering away from actually addressing the motion and I suggest you bring the speaker back.
Speaker: On the point of order, the hon. Premier.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Mr. Speaker, I recognize and am sensitive to what the leader of the third party is saying, but we also have to understand that in debating a motion such as this, each side must have the latitude to make its case. The opposition presented its case. We are presenting our case and why, in this instance, it is important that a government makes a decision and sees it through.
Speaker:The Chair feels that there is no point of order; however, during debate, I would ask members to focus on the motion at hand.
The hon. Premier, please carry on.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: The example I brought forward is important, because let's now fast-forward to this motion, and let's look into the hypothetical issue or question. Let us say, hypothetically, that the government suddenly decides, in mid-stream, that it will change course. First, there has already been a lot of machinery put in motion to deal with this issue based on a framework, if you will, for how to deal with it. That in itself creates an issue internally in the machinery of government, but it also sends another signal to the public which is a negative one that the government is losing its political will, and is not capable of seeing it through. We as a government don't want to present that to the Yukon public, because there are many significant challenges in this territory that we must face. And if the public gets the view in its psyche that the government doesn't have the political will to stand up to those challenges, then the public gets a very negative attitude about this territory.
One of the things we want to do is build optimism back into the Yukon's psyche, so that the people of this territory and rightly so again believe that this place of great potential and opportunity is alive and well and heading in the right direction, so we as a government are very conscious of making decisions, sticking to them, and seeing them through, unlike the past governments.
I brought up an example of why that is a problem. If I could just finish that point: if you look into that brief history of the former government and how it was buffeted from issue to issue, you will quickly see that the public lost confidence in the government, and that was reflected in the election of 2002. That loss of confidence to the greatest degree spelled the end of the Liberal government. That is not to say that the member opposite and her team did not come into government with the greatest of intentions. It is the example I am pointing to on why we must stick to the decision made.
The other point here is when we in this House especially the members opposite because it is much more paramount and critical that the government makes its case, given the fact that we have to make these decisions; therefore defending a decision can only be done by making the case. There is an issue here that I think the other side of the House, the opposition benches, should reflect on.
There is a way to do this where the opposition can be more astute in making the case. There are many issues that we face in this territory today that have no political boundaries. There is no need for partisan politics. There is no need to put in the division of partisan politics between the elected members of this Assembly, none whatsoever. What there is a need to do is conduct ourselves in the best possible way in dealing with the public interests.
And that's something that I think we could dramatically improve on in this Legislature. The government side is very committed to doing that. There are examples, many of them. I believe we're up to five-plus unanimous motions now that we have brought forward. We had an example today of a motion where, because of the significance of these amendments to the Public Service Act, it was paramount that we ensured a process that would allow the union and all departments, including the Public Service Commission, to give a full and comprehensive critique of this bill, obviously because there may be impacts on other legislative mechanisms that would require amendments, but more importantly, can it work as laid out in the official opposition's bill, and do the employees, represented by their union, believe that this gives them the protection that they require to proceed with such legislation?
It was a very well-intentioned amendment, and I witnessed a time in this House where I would submit that those partisan divisions ruled the day and we, especially on the other side of the House I want to commend our members for how they handled themselves under that relentless tirade of partisan drivel. I want to commend the members on this side of the House
Speaker:To characterize the opposition's comments as drivel is unparliamentary and I'd ask the Premier to withdraw that.
Withdrawal of remark
Hon. Mr. Fentie:Yes, Mr. Speaker, I will withdraw that. It was a slip of the tongue due to being caught up in the moment, and I apologize to the members opposite.
However, we did have to sit here and be subjected to a great deal of unwarranted criticism criticism that had no burden of proof, criticism that was not of substance. It was criticism for the sake of criticism. We now have the leader of the official opposition saying: oh, by the way, in the spirit and intent of cooperation, the government should simply agree to this motion and everything will be good again.
But what we have just experienced this afternoon on the previous bill really brings to mind a number of questions on what the leader of the official opposition and indeed, the opposition in its entirety is intending to do here. I think that the opposition should come to the understanding that we are not going to change this course of action until it comes to its end. We are going to stick to it. I think I've made myself quite clear on why that is. I want to challenge the members opposite to bring forward solid evidence to substantiate the claims they are making and tell the public why, after 15 years plus, a number of these files have not made payments. Research why that is; bring forward the evidence on what they are maintaining will happen.
I am saying they are being very clear on the assertion that this is what is going to happen. But, Mr. Speaker, how can that be when we have not gotten through the process? That's why we have chosen a process that ensures that, as we go forward, we will start to see, step by step, exactly how this is going to unfold.
We have been on the public record saying that we have no intention of seeing bankruptcies in this territory, none whatsoever. That's not the purpose here. The purpose is to remove from government a long-standing issue, and it's time that it came to an end. It also reflects on why government should not be involved in this particular area. I think the number of decades that the Yukon government has been involved shows clearly that there are problems for government if they get into the lending business.
Now, before the members opposite pop up and demand what's going to happen with Yukon Housing and microloan and all the rest of it, I think they will understand that those are different circumstances. They must know that the microloan program is done with a bank. They must understand that with the venture loan guarantee program it is again the banks that have signed on to that arrangement. So the government does not approve loans; a financial institution does. There's a big difference when a financial institution approves a loan. One of the big differences is that they ensure the ability to pay is there. They ensure the debt-to-equity ratio is sufficient to encourage the ability to pay. It's evident in these files, Mr. Speaker, that that did not happen.
In fact, there is evidence here that past NDP governments, for example, used this loan program in a way to achieve political gain.
That being said, I think now one can understand why there are problems here. There has been in this portfolio in the past not from the time this government's watch started, but in the past political interference in this area. That's a serious problem, and that's probably one of the main reasons we are at this juncture that we are at today with these files.
Now the member opposite makes mention of the federal government. Out of the millions of dollars that we are dealing with here, the total value, as I understand it and these are approximate numbers, not fully accounted audited numbers, but approximate numbers that the federal government is dealing with is somewhere in the neighbourhood of $676,000. So it is not a majority of the overall portfolio.
But I think it is important to note that the federal government, after these many years, through our good works in laying this out for them, have made their decision that on this particular amount they are going to repatriate and that is their choice. When you look at the billions of dollars the federal government deals with, I think you can see this is not something they will spend a lot of their time on if they have not even bothered to check into it in these 15 years plus. Their situation involved, once we started the process, the solution we had brought forward in the fall.
The other issues are, I think, critical to this motion and why it is even on the floor of the House. The leader of the official opposition is determined, as he states, that this will not go away. That is fine. Look, the member opposite, the Member for Whitehorse Centre, can bring this issue up every day. That is obviously the member's choice and prerogative in this House.
I think we should have some discussion about what that really does. What benefits accrue to Yukoners by that approach? Wouldn't it be a better approach to begin addressing the issues of Yukoners on a much broader scale? Would it not be more advisable for the opposition to give serious consideration instead of this to the biggest budget in the history of the territory? Would it not be advisable for the opposition to give due consideration to that budget? There is a need for that.
The government side believes that the best contribution the opposition benches can make in this Legislature at this point in time considering the fact that the public is much better informed on this issue of the budget and its content should be focused on, or directed to, this budget. Now, we say this because there is a challenge here for the opposition. Is it the opposition's intention to deliver these types of things on behalf of the public, or is it the opposition's intention to address the budget in such a manner that they have to come to the decision on whether they vote for or against the budget?
The public, being more informed about what is in the budget, is now actually much more watchful of the debate in this Legislature and what is being said from the opposition benches.
I think that we should briefly delve into I'm making a point here that has a lot to do with this motion and why it's on the floor. I am making the point that the time better spent by the opposition focusing on the budget may very well bring them to this decision that, in this case, the budget is one of merit and value and investment for the territory. I want to point a few things out, Mr. Speaker.
I asked the opposition: how is it that they will vote against or oppose the significant increase in highway construction? Millions of dollars, putting Yukoners to work, providing benefits for Yukoners. How can the opposition vote against the areas in tourism that are seeing significant projections that show the indicators heading in a positive direction? How does the opposition
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, Mr. Speaker, I would ask you to steer the Premier back to the motion and away from his budget. Obviously, he hasnt read today's Yukon News, or he would be more sensitive about going on ad nauseam about his budget.
Speaker: The hon. Premier, on the point of order.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: With the House's indulgence, I am making a point here on the difference between the opposition focusing on the issues important to Yukoners, or do we want to focus on an issue that singles out two individuals who I have earlier in my debate shown clearly, by presenting the evidence, are making a very valuable contribution to this territory?
Speaker:The Chair feels that there is a point of order.
We are moving away from the discussion on the motion. I know that the Premier is perfectly capable of speaking to this motion. I would ask that he carry on in that vein.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: I will just close that area by saying there are significant other issues of great importance to the Yukon Territory and its public that the opposition could be dealing with, but today that did not happen. So here we are.
The opposition is calling upon the Yukon government to rescind the loan collection plan. Well, first off, we are not going to rescind the loan collection plan, as I pointed out. The government has made a decision and will follow it through. But I must say, also, that finally there is a government in office that has actually come forward with a loan collection plan, given the longevity of these delinquencies.
Again, the motion states that previously tabled by the Minister of Finance. And introduce a new policy well, frankly, Mr. Speaker, we have to recognize that this was a decision by a collective. I, as Minister of Finance, am not a dictator. I don't just say here is what we're going to do. We as a government, as a collective, spend a great deal of time addressing, discussing and analyzing decisions we make. And once we make the decision, we all put our shoulder to the wheel and move ahead not backwards, ahead.
Then we get to a big problem in the body of this motion. Because it is making an accusation without providing clear evidence, without substantiating this particular point that the opposition is making. And they say "introduce a new policy that will not allow Cabinet ministers to evade" that's a serious accusation.
I call upon the opposition to reflect on the motivation for this motion because it is obvious, by just reading that one section of the overall motion, that there is an intent. There is an intent and that is where the government side has a problem.
Now if the opposition came forward on this issue with constructive measures on the process that we have engaged in, then we would have a constructive debate, but if you look at the motion itself, there is an intent here that does not lend itself to constructive debate. I am going to challenge again the opposition to try to move away from this type of approach and recognize that there are all these other issues so important to the Yukon public that the opposition has an obligation and a duty to involve themselves in because that is why they were elected. They were elected to represent their respective constituencies in this House and beyond in the best interests of all Yukoners, not to come forward with these types of motions, if you will, with this type of intent.
Again, maybe the members opposite, given the fact that the leader of the official opposition is saying that this issue is not going to go away, would want to rethink that too. The government is not doing something so something will go away. That is not what we are doing at all. We are proceeding with a solution to get rid of a long-standing issue.
You know, it's important to understand how much longer do we carry on with this? Has anybody factored in the cost to date of the machinery of government, the related departments and the officials involved? Has anybody calculated that cost? Does anybody understand the issue of doubtful accounts, bad debt these types of accounting measures that we must adhere to? There is a lot more to this than simply making an accusation that someone may be evading their financial responsibilities. There is much more to it, and that again is another problem that we have with this motion.
We have no problem accepting motions from the opposition benches that are constructive, that reflect the best interests of the public, and are motions that will, through their very intent, improve the lives of Yukoners. This motion does not do that in any way, shape or form. I think it's high time for the opposition really to look into what their strategy involves when it comes to how they are making representations in this House on behalf of the Yukon public.
So we will not support the motion because, frankly, the intent is not for the purpose that we as a government believe should be brought forward. The purpose is to bring closure, a solution, to a long-standing issue not to single people out, but to do it in a way that is fair, given all the circumstances we touched on at the beginning of the debate: the variables, the inconsistencies, the unknowns, past commitments of past governments. The list goes on and on and on.
I think there was every reason for the opposition to bring forward a motion that would help to ferret some of this stuff out and add to a constructive debate that may very well have lent itself to improving what it is we are doing. Therefore, the government side has to forcefully and unequivocally say that we will not be supporting the motion.
The other problem that we have is that, through conjecture, the opposition is needlessly raising an issue of bankruptcy for what purpose, we do not know. Why would the opposition want to take this approach? Because there is, again, no evidence that this indeed would be happening. It puts out there in the public something that need not be. This is a negative approach, and I want to delve into, if I may for a moment, the negativity that the opposition benches seem to be mired in. It's important that we project the Yukon Territory in this Legislature in a positive manner. There can be no other way. Why would we duly elected people continue, on that side of the House I mean, the government side has shown clearly that we will promote this territory in a very positive way, and it's starting to pay dividends in many areas. Why would the opposition benches continue to promote the Yukon in a negative light? For what purpose do they do that?
This motion is promoting the Yukon in a negative light. It's saying that there are certain things that may happen that aren't happening.
That's promoting the Yukon in a negative light. Now, I see the member of the third party somewhat perplexed by what I am saying. When it comes to promoting the Yukon
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Well, the member opposite seems to have difficulty grasping why we would promote the Yukon in a positive manner. And there is every reason to do that. Firstly, the Yukon public should be optimistic because of the potential and the opportunity in this territory, because of the beautiful place we have, because of the standard of living we have. Because of all that is around us, there should be optimism.
So the government side is working diligently to promote and present an optimistic view of this territory. We do so on all fronts, whether it be on the social side of the ledger or on the development side of the ledger.
But the leader of the third party just does not grasp this issue, and I want to say to the leader of the third party that there is an obligation here for the third party and, indeed, the official opposition to make best efforts to promote this territory in the appropriate manner, to present this territory as it should be presented.
Again, there are no partisan boundaries in promoting the Yukon Territory. We do not promote this territory based on political ideology. We do not promote this territory based on partisan politics. Why would we? We promote this territory because of what it has to offer. We promote this territory because of its competitive advantages. We want to invite people to invest in the Yukon Territory. We want to see growth in the Yukon Territory. We want to experience responsible development. And that is why we have brought forward a budget such as the one we have.
That is why
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Speaker:Order please. The leader of the official opposition on a point of order.
Mr. Hardy: Once again we would like to remind the member opposite that he is speaking to a motion and we would appreciate it if he could stay on it.
Speaker: The Premier on the point of order.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: On the point of order, again that is exactly what I am doing by making the case that this type of motion and debate does a disservice to the Yukon Territory. It is of a negative value when we all should be promoting this territory in a positive manner. That is the point I am making.
Speaker:The Chair feels that there is no point of order; however, once again, we are speaking to a motion. I would urge the Premier to carry on speaking to the motion.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: I have no problem sitting down with the leader of the official opposition any day of the week I will sit down with him at his house; he can come to my house; it matters not where to discuss this issue. Does the member opposite, the leader of the official opposition, have ideas that the member wants to bring forward, or does the member want to continue to advance the agenda which I fail to understand why they would in this way, given the fact that it does not in any way produce a positive aspect for the Yukon Territory?
Yes, the Member for Mayo-Tatchun mentions "this House"; well, here we are. The members opposite had an opportunity to bring forward any other kind of motion, any other constructive measure that they thought was in the best interest of the Yukon public. The challenge for them, obviously, is how do we get off this type of motivation and move toward constructive measures that they have all the ability and latitude to bring forward.
Instead, the strategy is to single out, to make accusations and to raise the spectre of negativity through conjecture. Again, Mr. Speaker, that's not acceptable to this Legislative Assembly because it lowers the bar on the level of debate. It's not acceptable to the Yukon public.
The Yukon public, I think, to the greatest degree is watching closely how we conduct ourselves. The Yukon public is measuring not just what the government is doing but what the opposition is doing in the same regard.
The government is delivering. It's delivering decisions; it's bringing forward solutions; it's making investments; it's taking care of the social needs of our territory; and it's forging ahead with responsible development.
The opposition side, however, is tabling motions such as this, attacking, accusing and providing conjecture to try to raise an issue. Why does the opposition continue to operate in this manner and conduct themselves in this manner? There's every reason for them to take another course.
So let's try the member opposite on for size. Given the fact that there is no intention to evade anything, given the fact that there's no intention to force anyone into bankruptcy, given the fact that past governments, when faced with this issue, walked away from it we know the third party made an attempt to attack one individual when it came to this portfolio, and that caused a huge uproar. It really did a disservice to this House and to the Yukon public. It resulted in engaging the Conflicts Commissioner. It turned into a real muddle but again, because there was motivation to single someone out and not take a fair and equitable approach.
So why can't the leader of the official opposition come forward with a motion in this if its this issue they want to deal with that takes the solution and adds to it? Not rescind it not make accusations of evasion.
Speaker: The Chair is uncomfortable with the direction that the hon. Premier is taking, in that the leader of the third party has not had an opportunity to speak to this motion yet. So, I would ask the hon. Premier not to put forth conjecture or opinion expressed by the leader of the third party, when she has not yet had an opportunity to express an opinion.
Carry on, please.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. My apologies to the leader of the third party.
Back to my point: the leader of the official opposition certainly has the skills and the team in the office of the official opposition to flush it out, to come forward with suggestions on how, possibly, to improve where we are going with this issue. Or, the official opposition could come forward with something entirely different, something that focuses on the public interest and areas of the greatest concern for the Yukon public. Maybe we can delve into a couple of those just to make the point that this motion could have been something that today, instead of debating this, we could have debated something of great importance and maybe improve the lives of Yukoners in doing so.
Suggestions to the member opposite would be: would the NDP the official opposition in this Legislature be willing to come forward with their approach to building public/private partnerships in the Yukon Territory? Would the official opposition be willing to come forward on how to streamline regulatory processes, needless repetition in assessments, and focus on mitigating responsible development to further attract investment into the Yukon by increasing our competitive advantage?
Does the official opposition have any desire to work on the competitive advantages of the Yukon Territory? The official opposition might possibly want to come forward with areas of improvement in the delivery of health care. Considering that the government side now has more resources because of the special health care fund, does the official opposition have any ideas on how we can help those in need?
Now, I want to be clear here. The government side will stand and present its social delivery against any other government because we are very confident that we have taken the correct steps and beyond to address the needs of Yukoners. Instead of this motion
Speaker:Hon. Premier, the Chair is again having trouble making the connection between the delivery of health care and this motion. I would ask the Premier to carry on, please.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Well, Mr. Speaker, I understand that you may be having difficulty, but the issue is that this kind of motion there are so many others that the opposition could have brought forward. Instead, they brought forward a motion that has clear intent.
How do we get cooperation in this House with that kind of approach? Really, when we think about it, is this, in approach and the intent in the body of the motion is that going to garner a cooperative approach? Is that going to cause people in this Assembly to come together and work as a collective in the best interests of the Yukon public? No, it's not.
We have to get into these things for the purpose of trying to raise the level of debate. We are very, very serious and committed as a government to making that happen. Today, unfortunately, there seemed to be a misunderstanding on the opposition benches of what it is the government was doing, as led by the minister responsible for the Public Service Commission, but we managed to get through it, and we now have something that may very well turn out to be a very positive initiative.
Again, the opposition could have approached this issue and many others in that light. That would have given us something, Mr. Speaker, to work with. But how, in the best interests of our members and the Chair and this House itself, can we do so when there are these types of intentions in a motion brought forward for obvious reasons and purpose. I have to say here now that I do not have a problem with what the leader of the official opposition is attempting to do.
I am sure that the leader of the official opposition is doing something he believes will provide political gain for his team and his party. However, that approach is not always and in most cases not at all in the best interest of the Yukon public. So we on the government side are urging the official opposition and the third party to leave here this evening, to go home and consider their conduct and their approach in this Assembly as it relates to the public interest, to reconsider what it is they are trying to do. And when they critique this and assess this in the appropriate manner, I can assure you that something will enter their mind and it will be a question: should we join the Yukon Party? That will be the question because the Yukon Party is leading this territory in a new and more positive direction, and if they sit down and give quality time to assessing this, I will say to you, Mr. Speaker, that they will be asking themselves why not.
Why not join a winning team? Why not join a group of people dedicated and committed to this territory and its people and its future? Why not remove the negativity of partisan division and come together as a solid unit in this Assembly to provide a better life for all Yukoners, for our children and a brighter future for all concerned? And, Mr. Speaker, I say to you if the opposition begins to work in that manner, we will see a better and brighter Yukon for all our citizens.
Speaker: Order please.
The time being 6:00 p.m., this House now stands adjourned until 1:00 p.m. tomorrow.
Debate on Motion No. 217 accordingly adjourned
The House adjourned at 6:00 p.m.